|Born||Ulrich Leonard Tölle|
February 16, 1948
|Language||English, German, Spanish|
|Genre||Spirituality, psychology, metaphysics|
|Notable works||The Power of Now (1997) |
A New Earth (2005)
Eckhart Tolle (/ / EK-art TOL-ə; German: [ˈɛkhaʁt ˈtɔlə]; born Ulrich Leonard Tölle, February 16, 1948) is a spiritual teacher and author. He is a German-born resident of Canada best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Tolle does not identify with any specific religion, but he has been influenced by multiple spiritual works.
Early life and education
Born Ulrich Leonard Tölle in Lünen, a small town located north of Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley, Germany in 1948 Tolle describes his childhood as unhappy—particularly his early childhood in Germany. His parents fought and eventually separated, and he felt alienated due to a hostile school environment. He also experienced considerable fear and anxiety growing up in post-war Germany, where he would play in bombed-out buildings. He later stated that pain "was in the energy field of the country." At the age of 13, he moved to Spain to live with his father. His father did not insist that he attend high school, so Tolle elected to study literature, astronomy, and various languages at home.
At the age of 19, he moved to England and taught German and Spanish for three years at a London school for language studies. Troubled by "depression, anxiety and fear," he began "searching for answers" in his life. In his early 20s, he decided to pursue his search by studying philosophy, psychology, and literature, and enrolled at the University of London. After graduating, he was offered a scholarship to do postgraduate research at Cambridge University, which he attended in 1977 but dropped out soon after.
One night in 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of depression, Tolle says he experienced an "inner transformation". That night he awakened from his sleep, suffering from feelings of depression that were "almost unbearable" but then experienced an epiphany. 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.
Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning and finding that "everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic." He says the feeling continued, and he began to feel an underlying sense of peace in any situation. 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." He changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart; by some reports this was in homage to the German philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart. 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 says ran into a friend who called him Eckhart out of nowhere, so he changed his name.
After this period, former Cambridge students and people he had met by chance began to ask Tolle about his beliefs. He began working as a counselor and spiritual teacher. Students continued to come to him over the next five years. He moved to Glastonbury, a major center of alternative living. In 1995, after having visited the West Coast of North America several times, he moved to and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he met his future wife, Kim Eng.
The Power of Now, Tolle's first book, was published in 1997 by Namaste Publishing. Only 3,000 copies were published of the first edition. He said he and his friends personally delivered some copies of the book to bookstores in Vancouver and the surrounding area. The book was republished on a large scale by New World Library in 1999. In 2000, Oprah Winfrey recommended it in her magazine O. In August 2000, it reached The New York Times Best Seller list for Hardcover Advice. After two more years, it was number one on that list. By 2008, the book had been translated from English into 33 languages; He published his second book, Stillness Speaks, in 2003.In July 2011, The Power of Now appeared on the list for the 10 best selling Paperback Advice books for the 102nd time.
In 2005, Tolle published A New Earth, which ranked in the number one position on The New York Times Best Seller list several times between March and September 2008. By the end of 2008, it reached the list for the 46th time. The high sales of A New Earth in that year followed its selection by Oprah Winfrey for her book club in January. In the four weeks following the announcement, 3.5 million copies of the book were shipped. Tolle partnered with her to produce a series of webinars beginning in May 2008. The weekly webinars included discussions between Winfrey and himself, silent meditations, and questions from viewers via Skype. Each webinar focused on a specific chapter of A New Earth. The third webinar attracted more than 11 million viewers, and by October 2009, these webinars had been accessed 35 million times. In 2016, Tolle was named in Oprah's SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.
In September 2009, he appeared with the Dalai Lama and other speakers at the Vancouver Peace Summit. The same year, he published Guardians of Being, a picture book illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the comic strip Mutts.
In 2017, British contemporary artist Alexander de Cadenet interviewed Tolle about art and the spiritual dimension. Tolle commented on his interest in landscape photography and said "both art and nature can serve as portals into the transcendent dimension, your essence identity." In 2018, Watkins Mind Body Spirit produced the first ever publications of Tolle's nature photography.
Tolle writes in the introduction of his book Stillness Speaks:
A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information, beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth ... The words are no more than signposts.
He says that his book The Power of Now is "a restatement for our time of that one timeless spiritual teaching, the essence of all religions". He writes that religions "have become so overlaid with extraneous matter that their spiritual substance has become almost completely obscured", that they have become "to a large extent ... divisive rather than unifying forces" and become "themselves part of the insanity".
Tolle writes that "the most significant thing that can happen to a human being [is] the separation process of thinking and awareness" and that awareness is "the space in which thoughts exist". Tolle says that "the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it".
According to his official website, "at the core of Tolle's 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".
In his book A New Earth, he describes a major aspect of the human dysfunction as "ego" or an "illusory sense of self" based on unconscious identification with one's memories and thoughts, and another major aspect he calls "pain-body" or "an accumulation of old emotional pain".
According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, Tolle is "not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible". He has said: "I feel actually that the work I do is a coming together of the teaching 'stream', if you want to call it that, of [Jiddu] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi."
In 2008, an article in The New York Times referred to him as "the most popular spiritual author" in the United States. In 2011, the Watkins Review put him at number 1 in a list of "The 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People". By 2009, total sales of The Power of Now and A New Earth in North America had been estimated at 3 million and 5 million copies respectively.
The books have received a wide range of praise and criticism. One book reviewer characterized The Power of Now as "awash in spiritual mumbo-jumbo", and another reviewer wrote, "Tolle's clear writing and the obvious depth of his experience and insight set it apart".
Some critics characterize his books as unoriginal or derivative. A 2009 article in The New York Times article stated that he is "hardly the first writer to tap into the American longing for meaning and success". Sara Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, said Tolle's writings have been successful due to surging public interest in books that tell you how to be happier, more peaceful and more successful. James Robinson in The Observer called his writings "a mix of pseudo-science, New Age philosophy, and teaching borrowed from established religions".
Others praise 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". 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". Musician Annie Lennox said he "has some kind of special quality that I've never encountered before".
Reception by Christian theologians
Christian scholars have differing opinions on the compatibility of Tolle's ideas with Christianity.
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". John Stackhouse, a 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". 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".
Conversely, Stafford Betty, teacher for Religious Studies 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'". 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."
In 2008, 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". 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."
In a 2003 interview with the Telegraph Magazine, Tolle indicated that he had no intention of creating "a heavy commercial structure", nor of setting up an ashram or centre. He believes one "could develop organically" and said "one needs to be careful that the organization doesn't become self-serving". Nevertheless, he formed a company Eckhart Teachings, to sell products related to his teachings called Eckhart Teachings. He created a website called Eckhart Tolle TV, with streaming video of monthly group meditations and other videos. He gives speeches and workshops in English and occasionally in German or Spanish. He also travels for various speaking engagements, such as seminars and retreats.
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Namaste Publishing, 1997
- Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X
- A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Dutton, October 11, 2005 ISBN 0-525-94802-3
- Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now, New World Library, October 10, 2001 ISBN 1-57731-195-7 (HC) - expands on the Power of Now
- Oneness With All Life: Inspirational Selections from A New Earth, Penguin Group, November 2008 - Expands on A New Earth
- Milton's Secret: An Adventure of Discovery through Then, When, and The Power of Now (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2008), ISBN 978-1-57174-577-4
- Eckhart Tolle Biography. The New York Times (2008-03-05). Times Topics.
- Tolle, Eckhart (2005). The Power of Now (2005 ed.). Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. ISBN 978-0-340-73350-9.
- Best Sellers. The New York Times (2000-08-12). Hardcover advice. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- McKinley, Jesse (2008-03-23). "The Wisdom of the Ages, for Now Anyway". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- Ether Walker (2008-06-21). "Eckhart Tolle: This man could change your life". The Independent.
- Ruhr Nachrichten (2008-05-27). Amerikas Guru stammt aus Lünen ('America's guru comes from Lünen'). Retrieved 2010-06-03.
- Parker, John W. (2000). Dialogues With Emerging Spiritual Teachers. Fort Collins, CO: Sagewood Press. ISBN 9781440116315.
- Douglas Todd (2002-10-05). Profile: Eckhart Tolle – of the present, future and mother. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved on 2016-04-21.
- Claire Scobie (2003-08-31). Why now is bliss. Telegraph Magazine. Retrieved on 2010-02-02.
- Ken MacQueen (2009-10-22). "Eckhart Tolle vs. God". Macleans.ca. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Cathy Lynn Grossman (2010-15-04). 'Life's Purpose' author Eckhart Tolle is serene, critics less so. USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Eckhart Tolle | PositiveLife.ie | Positive Life Magazine". PositiveLife.ie. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Eckhart Tolle Biography. Eckhart Tolle's official website. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- Douglas Todd's backstage report from the Vancouver Peace Summit. The Vancouver Sun (2009-09-27). Retrieved on 2010-03-12.
- Best Sellers. The New York Times (2003-01-12). Hardcover advice. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- "KALIMA publishes Eckhart Tolle's 'A New Earth and the Power of Now' in Arabic as well". WAM: Emirates News Agency. 2010-04-01. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Tolle, Eckhart (2003). Stillness Speaks. New World Library. ISBN 978-1-57731-400-4.
- Best Sellers. The New York Times (2011-07-17). Paperback advice. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
- Best Sellers. The New York Times (2008-03-02). Paperback Advice. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Best Sellers, The New York Times (2008-09-07). Paperback Advice. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
- Best Sellers. The New York Times (2008-12-19). Paperback Advice. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- Oprah Winfrey Book Pick 'A New Earth' Shatters Records. Associated Press via Fox News (2008-02-28). Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- "Meet the SuperSoul100: The World's Biggest Trailblazers in One Room". O Magazine. 1 Aug 2016. Retrieved 5 Jul 2018.
- Douglas Todd (2009-09-28). Dalai Lama in Vancouver : Pursuit of peace and compassion a complex path. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- The history of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. Official website. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- "Eckhart Tolle Books: Guardians of Being". Eckhart Tolle's official website. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- "Watkins Mind Body Spirit Issue 50". Issuu. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
- "Eckhart Tolle's Photographs of Nature | Awakened Artists". Awakened Artists. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
- Tolle, The Power of Now (2005 edition), p. 6
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 15
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 261–262
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 96
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 27
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 29
- Tolle, A New Earth, p. 140
- "The Watkins Review Announces Its Spiritual 100 List". Marketwire.com. 2011-03-29. Archived from the original on December 26, 2011.
- "100 Spiritual Power List by Watkins, 2011 | Esoteric News". Watkinsbooks.com. Archived from the original on December 27, 2011.
- Andrea Sachs (2003-04-21). Channeling Ram Dass. Time magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Phipps, Carter (2000). Time is the Enemy Archived 2010-05-15 at the Wayback Machine. Enlightenment Next magazine. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- James Robinson (2008-03-09). Penguin borne aloft by the power of Oprah's persuasion. The Observer. Retrieved on 2010-11-27.
- "Eckhart Tolle: Does the Mask of "Stresslessness" Hide a Deep, Bitter Anger?". Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- Stafford Betty (2008-04-18), "Eckhart Tolle's message is positive, but is it Christian?". National Catholic Reporter, 44.17, p. 22(2)
- Rohr, Richard. "Eckhart Tolle and the Christian Tradition". EckhartTolle.com. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
- About Eckhart Teachings Archived 2018-06-21 at the Wayback Machine. Eckhart Tolle's official website. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- "Eckhart Tolle Australian TV Interview". Today Tonight, Seven Network (2009).
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