A New Earth, An Old Deception: Awakening to the Dangers of Eckhart Tolle and His #1 Bestseller – by Richard Abanes – Bethany House – ISBN: 978-0-7642-0664-1 – 2008 – 190 pages – Trade paperback: $4.80 on Amazon.com
“Well, I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.” — Oprah Winfrey, webcast, 2008
So saith a popular icon and would-be arbiter of the culture who enjoys a bully pulpit on national television. Winfrey occasionally uses her cachet to promote dreck such as Eckhart Tolle’s mashup of “Christian” religion and New Age sophistry, A New Earth.
Richard Abanes’ book about Tolle and his thinking completely dismantles every major argument Tolle proffers; in eighty detailed responses, he shows how far from true, Biblical Christianity Tolle has strayed. The sad thing is, Tolle’s sincerity in wanting to help people, which is probably genuine, has led him away from Biblical truth, resulting in self-deception (of himself) and engendering deception of others. Note a possibly relevant Biblical prophecy:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.—1 and 2 Timothy (KJV)
Abanes continually contrasts Tolle’s dubious doctrines with what the Bible says, and in every instance Tolle loses. It’s interesting, as Abanes notes, that Tolle quotes Scripture more than twenty times in his book, with Shakespeare being referred to only twice—and every time, Tolle twists the Bible quotes to fit into his own peculiar philosophy.
So, what can be gained by listening to Tolle? Here’s Abane’s summary of what Tolle claims to offer:
… an end to suffering, solutions to psychological troubles, and even cures for physical ailments. Total peace and happiness are there for the taking as well. Addictions can become a thing of the past, and everything desired can be achieved…. But there is more to be gained. According to Tolle, if enough people become enlightened to his Truth, then humanity will be able to achieve worldwide peace and harmony—i.e., a New Earth populated by “a new species” of human being. Crime will be eradicated. Wars will cease. Selfishness and greed will no longer reign in our governments.
Clearly, Tolle thinks he has the answers to all of life’s problems, and Oprah evidently thinks so, too. This sort of megalomaniacal pursuit of universal altruism has been common throughout human history, and it typically leads to disaster.
As for the sources of Tolle’s knowledge (a word that contradicts his constant injunction to his students to stop thinking), Abanes shows how syncretistic and self-contradictory the writer’s notions are:
Eckhart Tolle is a highly eclectic New Ager whose bedrock belief is that “there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching.” To reveal this one teaching, however, he borrows liberally from a wide array of sources scattered far and wide across the religious-philosophical landscape. He is a remarkably skillful mixologist, in fact, when it comes to using different strains of spirituality and faith, adroitly taking quotes from not only spiritual luminaries of today, but religious leaders of the past…. Indeed, Tolle’s views are very old. To be specific, his spiritual elixir of “Truth” has been brewed using ingredients distilled from Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Mystical Islam, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Taoism. And for an extra kick of pluralistic flavoring, he has added elements refined from the teachings of assorted Eastern gurus, fellow New Agers, ancient holy texts, and modern self-help books [including but not limited to] Marianne Williamson, … Meister Eckhart, … A Course in Miracles, … Ram Dass, . . . the Bible, . . . the Bhagavad Gita, . . . the Tao Te Ching, . . . Ramana Maharashi and J. Krishnamurti, . . . and the Kabbalah. [Emphasis added.]
If Oprah is actually buying Tolle’s snake oil, then she truly does believe “that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.” This is not a trivial, merely intellectual concern. Winfrey’s close friend President Obama has made it known that he shares her belief in the “many paths to God” idea, as noted in a 2004 article in the Chicago Sun-Times featuring an interview with Obama when he was running for the U.S. Senate:
“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition [said Obama]. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.” …. It’s perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith—Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone—know the same God. [Emphasis added]
Yes, it is. Despite Obama’s characteristically equivocal language, it’s plain that the current President of the United States subscribes to at least one of the underlying doctrines promoted by Winfrey and her spiritual guide, Eckhart Tolle. Make of that what you will.
The reviews of A New Earth, An Old Deception on Amazon.com are overwhelmingly negative—which, when considering the sources, I find encouraging. Typical is this one:
Richard Abanes has produced a completely predictable and unsubtle fundamentalist Christian attack on Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. He doesn’t look in much detail at Tolle’s overall work but selects phrases he wants to be quite superior and snide about. He seems to love throwing around the phrase ‘New Age’ as a term of self-evident foolishness. His brief and amateur analysis of Tolle’s experience in terms of near death experience and false self is utterly superficial. His attitude towards Tolle (and by implication towards others like Krishnmaurti) is wholly unloving. Of course, understood from his own framework of Biblical literalism, it all makes sense, and I imagine it appealing only to those wishing to be confirmed in that unintelligent and unyielding framework. Abanes is also highly selective regarding Biblical texts, avoiding all liberal Christian generosity. Tolle is not without his faults (he also has some areas of superficial analysis and a rather facile belief in democratic access to the now) but Tolle gives off far more love and understanding than Abanes.
Behold the ad hominem buzzwords and phrases that are used as substitutes for analysis: “unsubtle fundamentalist Christian”; “doesn’t look”; “superior and snide”; “utterly superficial”; “wholly unloving”; “Biblical literalism”; “unintelligent and unyielding framework”; “avoiding all liberal Christian generosity”; and “far more love and understanding.” I’d say Richard Abanes, in a righteous cause, has struck a nerve: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me [Jesus] before it hated you.” — John 15:18 (KJV)
Richard Abanes’ Amazon.com author page is here.
The Chicago Sun-Times interview with Barack Obama is here.