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Eckhart Tolle

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Eckhart Tolle
Tolle in 2003
Tolle in 2003
BornUlrich Leonard Tölle
(1948-02-16) 16 February 1948 (age 76)
Lünen, Germany
LanguageEnglish, German, Spanish
Alma materUniversity of London
GenreSpirituality, metaphysics, self-help
Notable worksThe Power of Now (1997)
A New Earth (2005)

Eckhart Tolle (/ˈɛkɑːrt ˈtɒlə/ EK-art TOL; German: [ˈɛkhaʁt ˈtɔlə]; born Ulrich Leonard Tölle, 16 February 1948) is a German-born spiritual teacher[1][2] and self-help author. His books include The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (1997), A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (2005) and the picture book Guardians of Being (2009).

Tolle came to prominence as a self-help author in the U.S. and internationally beginning in 2000, after Oprah Winfrey promoted his books in 2000 and 2005 and created webinars for him in 2008.

Early life[edit]

Ulrich Leonard Tölle was born in Lünen, a small town north of Dortmund in the Ruhr region of Germany in 1948.[3][4][5]

In 1961 he moved to Spain to live with his father, where he "refused all forms of formal education between the ages of 13 and 22, preferring instead to pursue his own creative and philosophical interests".[4] At 15, he was "heavily influenced"[4] by a gift of the five spiritual books by the German mystic Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken.[4]


When he was 19, Tolle moved to England and taught German and Spanish for three years at a London language school.[6] After attending the University of London, he enrolled in a postgraduate program at the University of Cambridge in 1977.[7]

Spiritual experience[edit]

One night in 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of depression, Tolle says he experienced an "inner transformation".[1] That night he awakened from his sleep, suffering from feelings of depression that were "almost unbearable," but then experienced a life-changing epiphany.[8] Recounting the experience, he says,

I couldn't live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the 'I' that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn't know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or "beingness," just observing and watching.[6]

Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning, and finding that "everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic."[8] The feeling continued, and he began to feel a strong underlying sense of peace in any situation.[2]

He stopped studying for his doctorate, and for a period of about two years after this he spent much of his time sitting, "in a state of deep bliss," on park benches in Russell Square, Central London, "watching the world go by." He stayed with friends, in a Buddhist monastery, or otherwise slept rough on Hampstead Heath. His family thought him "irresponsible, even insane."[6] He changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart; according to some reports this was in homage to the German philosopher and mystic, Meister Eckhart.[4][9] A 2012 interview article states that he saw the name Eckhart on one of a pile of books in a dream, and knew he had written the book; soon after in real life he ran into a psychic friend who called him Eckhart out of nowhere, so he changed his name.[10]

Career as spiritual teacher[edit]

Former Cambridge students and acquaintances began to ask Tolle about his beliefs. He started working as a counselor and spiritual teacher.[1] Students continued to come to him over the next five years. He moved to Glastonbury, a center of alternative living.[6] In 1995 he moved to Vancouver.[11]

The Power of Now, Tolle's first book, was published in 1997 by Namaste Publishing.[2] The book was republished on a large scale by New World Library in 1999.[1]

In 2000, Oprah Winfrey recommended The Power of Now in her magazine O.[9] In August 2000, it reached The New York Times Best Seller Advice, Miscellaneous and Hardcover list,[12] reaching number one two years later.[13] By 2008, the book had been translated from English into 33 languages.[1][2][14] In July 2011, it had appeared on the list of the 10 best selling Paperback Advice & Miscellaneous books for 102 weeks.[15]

His second book, Stillness Speaks, appeared in 2003.[16] That year, he stated that he had no intention of creating "a heavy commercial structure", nor of setting up an ashram or centre. He believed one "could develop organically"[6] and said "one needs to be careful that the organization doesn't become self-serving".[2] Nevertheless, his website sells his books and "a dizzying range"[4] of materials offering spiritual guidance,[4] and a separate website streams video of monthly group meditations and sells photographs and fundraising courses.[2]

In 2005, Tolle published A New Earth.[3] In January, Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club, and high sales followed.[1] In the four weeks following the announcement, 3.5 million copies were shipped.[17] It was ranked number one on The New York Times Best Seller list 46 times by the end of 2008.[18]

In 2008, Tolle partnered with Winfrey to produce a series of webinars,[17] each one focusing on a chapter from his books, with discussions, silent meditations, and questions from viewers via Skype.[4] The third webinar attracted more than 11 million viewers.[4] By October 2009, the webinars had been accessed 35 million times.[2]

In September 2009, he appeared with the Dalai Lama at the Vancouver Peace Summit.[19][20] The same year, he published Guardians of Being, a picture book illustrated by Patrick McDonnell.[2][21]



In 2008 The New York Times stated that Tolle was "the most popular spiritual author" in the United States.[3] By 2009, total sales of The Power of Now and A New Earth in North America were estimated at 3 million and 5 million copies respectively,[2] and In 2011, the Watkins Review put him at number 1 in a list of "The 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People".[22]

By the press and others[edit]

The books have received a wide range of praise and criticism from reviewers. In 2000, Carter Phipps wrote that "Tolle's clear writing and the obvious depth of his experience and insight set it apart".[23] In 2003, Andrea Sachs characterized The Power of Now as "awash in spiritual mumbo-jumbo",[24] while in 2008, an article in The New York Times stated that Tolle is "not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the Bible".[1]

Some critics have characterized his books as unoriginal or derivative. James Robinson in The Observer in 2008 called his writings "a mix of pseudo-science, New Age philosophy, and teaching borrowed from established religions".[25] A 2009 article in The New York Times stated that he is "hardly the first writer to tap into the American longing for meaning and success".[3] Sara Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, said Tolle's writings had been successful due to surging public interest in self-help books.[3]

Others have praised his re-working and synthesis of traditions. New Age writer William Bloom wrote that "Tolle is offering a very contemporary synthesis of Eastern spiritual teaching, which is normally so clothed in arcane language that it is incomprehensible", thereby providing "a valuable perspective on Western culture".[4] Publisher Judith Kendra says, "The ideas [that Tolle is] talking about have been in existence for thousands of years in both Eastern texts and with the great Western mystics, but he's able to make them understandable".[4]

By Christian theologians[edit]

In 2008, an article in The Independent noted that "Tolle's theories are certainly seen by many as profoundly non-Christian, even though Tolle often quotes from the Bible", but that "Tolle does have fans in academic, even Christian, circles".[4] It cited Andrew Ryder, a theologian at All Hallows College in Dublin, who wrote "While he may not use the language of traditional Christian spirituality, Tolle is very much concerned that, as we make our way through the ordinary events of the day, we keep in touch with the deepest source of our being."[4]

James Beverley, professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at the evangelical Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, says that Tolle's worldview "is at odds with central Christian convictions" and that "Tolle denies the core of Christianity by claiming there is no ultimate distinction between humans and God and Jesus".[2] John Stackhouse, former professor of theology and culture at evangelical Regent College in Vancouver, says that Tolle "gives a certain segment of the population exactly what they want: a sort of supreme religion that purports to draw from all sorts of lesser, that is, established religions".[2] Stackhouse has described him as one of several spiritual teachers who "purport to have investigated the world's religions (quite a claim) and found them wanting, who routinely subject those religions to withering criticism, and who then champion their own views as superior to all these alternatives".[26]

Conversely, Stafford Betty, scholar of religion at California State University, Bakersfield, finds common ground between Tolle's worldview and that of Christian mystics. He notes that "one of the key elements in Tolle's teaching is that deep within the mind is absolute stillness in which one can experience 'the joy of Being'".[27] Roman Catholic priest and theologian Richard Rohr credits Tolle for helping to reintroduce ancient Christian mysticism to modern Christians: "Tolle is, in fact, rather brilliantly bringing to our awareness the older tradition...both the ground and the process for breaking through to the theological contemplation of God, and acquired contemplation of Jesus, the Gospels, and all spiritual things."[28]

In popular culture[edit]

Tolle and his teachings take a central role in Kendrick Lamar's 2022 album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Throughout the album, Tolle is positioned as Lamar's spiritual teacher.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1995, after visiting the West Coast of North America several times, Tolle settled in Vancouver, British Columbia. There he met his future wife, Kim Eng.[1][11]



  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Namaste, 1997. ISBN 978-0-96823-640-6.
  • Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now. New World Library, 2001. ISBN 1-57731-195-7.
  • Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now. New World Library, 2003. ISBN 978-1-57731-400-4.
  • A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Dutton, 2005. ISBN 978-0-52594-802-5.
  • Oneness With All Life: Inspirational Selections from A New Earth. Penguin, 2008. ISBN 978-0-45229-608-4.

Graphic novels[edit]

Children's books[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Times Topics: Eckhart Tolle Biography". The New York Times. 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ken MacQueen (22 October 2009). "Eckhart Tolle vs. God". Macleans.ca. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e McKinley, Jesse (23 March 2008). "The Wisdom of the Ages, for Now Anyway". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Walker, Ether (21 June 2008). "Eckhart Tolle: This man could change your life". The Independent. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  5. ^ Rottgardt, Beate (27 May 2008). "Amerikas Guru stammt aus Lünen" [America's guru comes from Lünen]. Ruhr Nachrichten. Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e Scobie, Claire (29 September 2003). "Why now is bliss". Telegraph Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  7. ^ Walker, Ether (21 June 2008). "Eckhart Tolle: This man could change your life". The Independent. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  8. ^ a b Parker, John W. (2000). Dialogues With Emerging Spiritual Teachers. Fort Collins, Colorado: Sagewood Press. ISBN 978-1440116315.
  9. ^ a b Cathy Lynn Grossman (2010-15-04). 'Life's Purpose' author Eckhart Tolle is serene, critics less so. USA Today. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  10. ^ "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Eckhart Tolle | PositiveLife.ie | Positive Life Magazine". PositiveLife.ie. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  11. ^ a b Todd, Douglas (27 September 2009). "Douglas Todd's backstage report from the Vancouver Peace Summit". The Vancouver Sun.
  12. ^ Best Sellers. The New York Times (12 August 2000). Hardcover advice. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  13. ^ Best Sellers. The New York Times (12 January 2003). Hardcover advice. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  14. ^ "KALIMA publishes Eckhart Tolle's 'A New Earth and the Power of Now' in Arabic as well". WAM: Emirates News Agency. 1 April 2010. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  15. ^ "Paperback advice: Best Sellers". The New York Times. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  16. ^ "Stillness Speaks. Eckhart Tolle, Author. New World Library $17 (160p) ISBN 978-1-57731-400-4". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  17. ^ a b Oprah Winfrey Book Pick 'A New Earth' Shatters Records. Associated Press via Fox News (28 February 2008). Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  18. ^ "Paperback Advice: Best Sellers". The New York Times. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  19. ^ Todd, Douglas (28 September 2009). "Dalai Lama in Vancouver: Pursuit of peace and compassion a complex path". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  20. ^ "History". The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  21. ^ "Eckhart Tolle Books: Guardians of Being". Eckhart Tolle's official website. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  22. ^ "100 Spiritual Power List by Watkins, 2011 | Esoteric News". Watkins Books. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011.
  23. ^ Phipps, Carter (2000). Time is the Enemy Archived 15 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Enlightenment Next magazine. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  24. ^ Sachs, Andrea (21 April 2003). Channeling Ram Dass. Time magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  25. ^ Robinson, James (9 March 2008). "Penguin borne aloft by the power of Oprah's persuasion". The Observer. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  26. ^ "Eckhart Tolle: Does the Mask of "Stresslessness" Hide a Deep, Bitter Anger?". John Stackhouse. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  27. ^ Betty, Stafford (18 April 2008). "Eckhart Tolle's message is positive, but is it Christian?". National Catholic Reporter. 44 (17): 22 (2).
  28. ^ Rohr, Richard. "Eckhart Tolle and the Christian Tradition". EckhartTolle.com. Archived from the original on 7 February 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  29. ^ Curto, Justin (13 May 2022). "A Big Guide to Kendrick Lamar's Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers". Vulture. Retrieved 14 May 2022.
  30. ^ Cills, Hazel; Pointer, Ashley (13 May 2022). "Kendrick Lamar returns, 5 years later and a world away". NPR. Retrieved 14 May 2022.

External links[edit]