Authors like Eckhart Tolle always get my Inner Philosopher worked up. He could have named his book “Ways to Be Happy While Getting Screwed Over By Your Boss, Family, CoWorkers, Strangers and God” and I’d buy it. Because there’s a tiny, tiny subset of those Self-Help books that truly are life-changing, and they are well worth the volumes of Trite-Shite and Atlantis-Nonsense that you have to sift through to find them.
Eckhart Tolle’s previous work includes a book entitled The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, which is a fantastic exploration on the human perception of time. The book focuses on how to stop dragging the past along with you, and stop thinking that Someday you will be happy. Instead, the book describes how to ‘Live In The Now’, and I highly recommend it.
His latest release, A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose is a profoundly life-changing book… for the right people. But I don’t think I can really recommend it for four reasons:
1-Americans are self-centered already
First, I think the core concept is a bit much for many people, but especially Americans. The core idea is to step back and take an objective look at yourself. Doing this will make you realize that the Real You is not bundle of needs and desires that always go unsatisfied. Letting go of ‘wanting’ and physical things is an old practice, and at the core of Buddhist thought. Tolle tries to sugar-coat it for Americans to make it easier to swallow, but I don’t think your average American is capable of processing this idea.
Worse, I suspect many people who hear about the book will run out to buy it because they Really-Really-Want to let go of their Wanting. Its these people who need the book most, but its not going to help them, because they simply won’t comprehend it. Meanwhile, those who buy the book to make themselves better are already conscientious and self-aware (because they are buying a book like this), and don’t really need the book. Choir. Preaching.
2- You just read it
Second, I’ve basically just told you the entire book, so save your money and your time. To Tolle’s credit, he gives lots of advice, examples, and points of view on the matter, and ties it well to Christianity and other world religions (he claims to cater to no particular world religion.)
3 – It should be free
Thirdly, if Eckhard Tolle really practiced what he preached, he would license the book through Creative Commons and make it available online for free.
4 – Bad Juju?
Fourth, and most difficult for me to explain, is that the book could be dangerous in the wrong mind(s). The advice Tolle offers people to create a third-person viewpoint of themselves can, if used as intended, separate the Real You from your desiring, unhappy, habitual False Self. However, it can also be used to create a refuge or buffer from which you can watch your False Self rob a liquor store for drug money. It could allow a person to remain calm, cool, and collected in the face of performing terrible things. Then they could go to sleep without the slightest guilt saying, That wasn’t The Real Me!
Learned Multiple Personality Syndrome? Certainly not for everyone who reads it, but that’s my point. Information is power and power can be dangerous. In this case, the danger is to your *self*. Tough to put a warning label on such a thing…
Alternative to A New Earth
Do yourself a favor and read “The Power of Now”. Then read this outline of Buddhist philosophy, and put the two together for yourself. If you see how the two fit together, you don’t need to bother with “A New Earth.”