THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC BOOK REVIEW, BY JAMES MYERS
A NEW EARTH: AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE
By Eckhart Tolle
Published by Plume Trade Paperback, An Imprint of the Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: January, 2008
Four Star Rating ****
SPIRITUAL TEACHER AND AUTHOR WAS BORN IN GERMANY AND EDUCATED AT THE UNIVERSITIES OF LONDON AND CAMBRIDGE. AT THE AGE OF TWENTY-NINE A PROFOUND INNER TRANSFORMATION RADICALLY CHANGED THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE. THE NEXT FEW YEARS WERE DEVOTED TO UNDERSTANDING, INTEGRATING AND DEEPENING THAT TRANSFORMATION, WHICH MARKED THE BEGINNING OF AN INTENSE INWARD JOURNEY. LATER, HE BEGAN TO WORK IN LONDON WITH INDIVIDUALS AND SMALL GROUPS AS A COUNSELOR AND SPIRITUAL TEACHER. SINCE 1995 HE HAS LIVED IN VANCOUVER, CANADA.ECKHART TOLLE IS THE AUTHOR OF THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER THE POWER OF NOW (TRANSLATED INTO 33 LANGUAGES) AND THE HIGHLY ACCLAIMED FOLLOW-UP A NEW EARTH, WHICH ARE WIDELY REGARDED AS TWO OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL SPIRITUAL BOOKS OF OUR TIME. ECKHART’S PROFOUND YET SIMPLE TEACHINGS HAVE ALREADY HELPED COUNTLESS PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD FIND INNER PEACE AND GREATER FULFILLMENT IN THEIR LIVES. AT THE CORE OF THE TEACHINGS LIES THE TRANSFORMATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS, A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING THAT HE SEES AS THE NEXT STEP IN HUMAN EVOLUTION. AN ESSENTIAL ASPECT OF THIS AWAKENING CONSISTS IN TRANSCENDING OUR EGO-BASED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. THIS IS A PREREQUISITE NOT ONLY FOR PERSONAL HAPPINESS BUT ALSO FOR THE ENDING OF VIOLENT CONFLICT ENDEMIC ON OUR PLANET.ECKHART IS A SOUGHT-AFTER PUBLIC SPEAKER AND TEACHES AND TRAVELS EXTENSIVELY THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. MANY OF HIS TALKS, INTENSIVES AND RETREATS ARE PUBLISHED ON CD AND DVD. MOST OF THE TEACHINGS ARE GIVEN IN ENGLISH, BUT OCCASIONALLY ECKHART ALSO GIVES TALKS IN GERMAN AND SPANISH. IN ADDITION TO THE POWER OF NOW AND A NEW EARTH, ECKHART HAS WRITTEN A BOOK DESIGNED FOR MEDITATIVE READING ENTITLED STILLNESS SPEAKS. A BOOK CONSISTING OF SELECTIONS FROM THE POWER OF NOW IS ALSO AVAILABLE, ENTITLED PRACTICING THE POWER OF NOW.
“The books main purpose is not to add new information or beliefs to your mind or to try to convince you of anything, but to bring about a shift in consciousness, that is to say, to awaken...This book is about you. It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless. It can only awaken those who are ready. Not everyone is ready, but many are, and with each person who awakens, the momentum in the collective consciousness grows, and it becomes easier for others.” (Pp. 6-7).
Eckhart Tolle broke into the national scene with his original work, The Power of Now, where he discussed the individual process of achieving enlightenment. In his new book, an Oprah Book Club selection, he poses the question, are we as a species or group ready for a collective awakening? Is mankind in general ready to experience a shift on consciousness? He believes that this awakening of man as a species is not only possible but necessary at this point in history if we are to survive. In A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose, he directs our attention to the source of what he identifies as previously called “original sin” or “a collective madness”, which he refers to as the ego. Mankind cannot achieve this enlightenment without the recognition of that part of our sub consciousness he calls the ego and the manner in which it, “thinks, speaks, and acts.” Tolle theorizes that knowledge of the ego’s basic mechanisms and recognition of the ego at work is the arising conscious or awakening. The ego is our inherited dysfunction. It is living unskillfully, blindly, in an “I suffer so you must suffer” mode of thinking. That as a group humanity has used advanced science and technology to inflict destruction on the planet, other life forms and humanity itself. Wars, domination, violence, greed, fear, the desire for power are all driven by this ego-madness. This collective manifestation of insanity lies at the heart of the human condition, and is responsible for all the suffering that exists in the history of humanity. This leads to a misinterpretation of the motives of other, and the need to satisfy this emotion can never be filled.
It is this “collective delusion” that prevents us from finding the goodness in ourselves and anyone else. Enlightenment, salvation, liberation and awakening are all terms that can be used when we undergo a radical transformation of the human consciousness. The collective recognition of this inherent dysfunction is the main theme of this book. Tolle believes that because of technological advances in destruction, we must “evolve or die” in overcoming the ego and permitting the emergence of a new dimension of consciousness. This collective human consciousness is his “new heaven”, the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness and “a new earth” is the reflection of its physical realm.
The book first focuses on the identification and recognition of what this ego is. Tolle calls it “the illusory self” that is detected by use of the words, “I”, “me”, “mine,”
and “myself”. Whenever that voice in your head starts a sentence with the word “I” that is the ego. The identification of things, property, ownership, the body, gender, race, and self are all identifications of Tolle’s ego.
The ego at its core is obsessed with a sense of self. Complaining, resentment, wanting, fame are all manifestations of this ego. The ego forces us to play a role that thrives on gratification, the attention of others, and a self over all others type of philosophy. We then fall into roles such as the villain, the victim, the lover, or other pre-established roles, with an interest only in our problems.
Another way the ego manifests itself in what Tolle refers to as “the pain-body”, emotions that cause us to relive painful moments in our lives, over and over again to the point that it actually causes pain and makes us ill. A pain body is carried not only by individuals, but collectively but historical pain re-lived by members of the same race, sex and religion.
Tolle then tells us that breaking free of the ego is relatively simple. By recognition of the ego itself and the pain it inflicts, and accepting life as it comes, we achieve a conscious presence that severs the link between the ego, pain and destructive behavior. This brings us true peace and self-knowledge in the acceptance that there are things we cannot change or control in life, and rather that experiencing anger or fear, we embrace and accept those things. This in turn leads to balance, serenity, and wisdom. It is a “this too will pass” attitude. Only through awareness and consciousness without thought can true inner peace be experienced. This also leads us to our true inner purpose. This selfless society is what Tolle envisions as the new earth.
This book is not easy reading, but requires more time and study to grasp concepts. It definitely has the flavor of Zen philosophy, and as Oprah picks go, this is the most esoteric book she has ever selected. However, Tolle makes valid point and gives concerte, worldly examples that help to illustrate his points. He tells stories or what Christians refer to as parables to make clear complex areas of thought. This book is not for everybody, but it is well-written and there is plenty of food for thought here. If it is peace of mind that you seek, Tolle is a great teacher to point you in the right direction. Oprah plans on holding live webclasses with Tolle for a 10 week period, beginning March 3rd. Between the classes and the book itself, there is just enough guidance that you may have your own series of epiphanies. Based on the coupling of the book and online instruction, I can recommend this book.