Eckhart Tolle

There are some characteristic and predictable onesidednesses (if I may use that word), superficialities and omissions in Tolle’s understanding and presentation, not least of the New Age, pop-psychological, and politically correct variety. Given his focus on the analysis of time and the spiritual significance of the Now, his seemingly only superficial awareness of the important analyses of time in modern phenomenology is somewhat disappointing from the philosophical perspective. Still, he gives the impression of being basically a serious, authentic, and intelligent spiritual teacher.

I add that, defending an alternative modernity which selectively affirms tradition, and not being a traditionalist in the Catholic or even, in every respect, in the Guénonian sense, I do not entirely reject the work of people classified as belonging in the New Age category. It often contains much of obvious truth and value, although it has to be approached with critical discernment.

Not least important about Tolle is simply the fact that he is a spiritual teacher of this kind. That he is serious, and that he not only is in the West but is a Westerner, speaking from within a Western perspective while having assimilated also the teachings of the East. This is a new phenomenon and a new kind of social and cultural role and identity, arisen in the twentieth century. And it is, it seems to me, central to the salvation, or spiritual enlightenment, of the West.

At the same time, it seems this situatedness almost automatically brings with it the mentioned, characteristic New Age weaknesses, the general adaptation to various aspects of romantic liberalism (if it can be thus summarized) and, not least, the constant need to present one’s own teachings in terms of a reinterpretation of the long-dominant religion of the West, Christianity, or of Abrahamism in general, a reinterpretation which is inevitably and rightly seen by Christian theologians as simply wrong. Tolle’s superficialities in this area are obvious.

Most modern Indian teachers, and not just those who came to the West, are guilty of it too; they set a problematic example for the Western ones we now see. It is easy to see why this kind of reinterpretation is inevitable in many cases. But it would be much better if teachers like Tolle tried to minimize it, to focus instead of presenting the Eastern teachings more strictly in accordance with their own traditions alone, and, in their necessary effort of cultural integration, to reflect more carefully on the differences between them and the Abrahamitic religions, citing the latter with more discernment, and drawing instead perhaps more directly on aspects of Western idealistic philosophy and forms of Western esotericism that are more independent of Biblical reinterpretation.

Abrahamism should be seen for what it is, and, indeed, partly appreciated for what it is, on its own level, without being twisted to express always the same truths as Hinduism and Buddhism. Traditionalism, or what I prefer to call soft traditionalism, stands for proper discernment, in contradistinction to facile New Age syncretism.

But perhaps the reinterpretation of Abrahamism, even by way of the characteristic New Age and pop-psychological teachings by means of which the Eastern teachings themselves are at the same time reinterpreted, is for many Westerners a necessary stage in the process of going beyond it. We have perhaps moved so far from the historical meanings of the Bible that few understand the theologians’ objections anyway. Even so, there will still be important cases, and perhaps not exclusively among scholars, where it must be stressed that it is  a matter of a new teaching presented by means of seemingly familiar Biblical terminology and Biblical quotes.

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Photo: Kyle Hoobin

4 Responses to “Eckhart Tolle”


  1. 1 Seeker July 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    “There are a few factual errors in Tolle’s books, and some characteristic and predictable onesidednesses (if I may use that word), omissions, and superficialities in his understanding and presentation, not least of the New Age and politically correct variety.”

    Kan du utveckla det här? Tänker framförallt på “ytlighet” och “ensidighet”.

    • 2 Jan Olof Bengtsson August 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Ja, jag utvecklar gärna detta. Din fråga är viktig. Men får jag fråga om du först skulle vilja presentera dig eller åtminstone ange ditt namn? Jag har fortfarande inte vant mig vid det här att korrespondera eller debattera med för mig fullständigt okända, anonyma människor. Det finns vissa som anfört starka skäl till varför de anser sig behöva vara anonyma, skäl som jag godtagit. Men din fråga och det ämne den rör tyder inte på att några sådana skulle finnas i ditt fall.

  2. 3 Seeker August 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Hej, mitt namn är Erik, jag bor i Norge (om det nu är viktigt..). Eckhart Tolle’s styrka är äl den att han pratar ettt språk som “vanliga” människor kan relatera till, det är kanske det du menar med ytlighet? Det var ett tag sedan jag läste “the power of now” men i jämförelse med exempelvis “I am that” är den nog ganska ytlig ja. Men det skulle vara intressant att veta vad du menar med “factual errors”…

    • 4 Jan Olof Bengtsson October 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Hej Erik. Ja, jag tycker det är viktigt både med (fullständigt) namn och, om namnet är okänt, uppgifter om vem dess bärare är, vad han eller hon gör, o.s.v. Det tillför dimensioner som jag saknar i den anonymitetskultur på nätet som alla tycks acceptera som en självklarhet.

      Med ytligheter menade jag, som jag skrev, främst sådana som är att hänföra till New Age-inslagen och den politiska korrektheten. Tolle tror på fullt allvar att mänskligheten för närvarande generellt befinner sig i en process av andlig upplysning, med alla de förbättringar i världens tillstånd som åtföljer en sådan. I titeln på hans andra bok, A New Earth, drar han på åskådningsmässigt problematiskt sätt in den bibliska eskatologins terminologi för att särskilt starkt understryka denna övertygelse.

      Faktafelen i övrigt är bara enstaka och återfinns som jag minns det inte i The Power of Now utan i A New Earth. Eftersom jag inte längre kommer ihåg vilka de är tar jag bort formuleringen om dem. Jag lovar dock att återkomma om dem här om och när jag nästa gång läser den boken.


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