Today’s Solutions: June 09, 2023

Eckhart Tolle offers us hope

Tijn Touber | Jan/Feb 2006 issue

Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is what you’d call the right book at the right moment. A lot of people are feeling a sense of urgency right now, as if something has got to happen—as if something must change before it’s too late. But what, and how? These are the readers for whom Tolle writes. His book is not only a practical handbook to bringing about such change; it offers philosophical inspiration. It gives the reader hope because the disease and the cure are so clearly analyzed here– all that is left to do is act.

The disease—Tolle calls it “the insanity”—humanity suffers from is an utterly crazy self-image. Humans have forgotten their essence—pure consciousness— and we identify instead with things that are not us: our thoughts, our mental concepts of ourselves. Tolle, a German now living in Vancouver, whose bestseller, The Power of Now, has been translated into more than 30 languages, unravels the madness, which he simply calls “ego,” with the precision of a microsurgeon. He defines ego as “an identification with form, mainly meaning thought forms.” An example of a form might be I am “a man,” or “a Christian,” “a journalist,” “a victim,” “a worthless person,” and so on.

Most people do not live in reality, but in a conceptualized image of it, Tolle believes. They look at reality from within a limited perception of themselves and the other. They look at the world from within their beliefs. The identification of the ego with mental images and external things like work, car, possessions or relationships causes humans to get attached to and dependent on things outside themselves. “I have, therefore I am” could be the ego’s motto. “Wanting to have” becomes an obsession continually stimulated by the consumer society.

The underlying emotion controlling all the ego’s activities is fear—the fear of being nobody, of not existing, of dying. The fear in which most people live, according to Tolle, is easy to explain: “Deep down, every human being knows that no form is lasting, that all forms pass away. So the ego always knows a feeling of insecurity. Many people therefore live in a permanent state of unease, restlessness, boredom, fear and dissatisfaction.”

To survive, the ego needs a great deal of attention. It is addicted to power, recognition and conflict, and stays busy comparing itself to other egos. It sees itself as separate from the other and the world. It thinks in terms of “better than,” “less than” and “higher than” and lives by the grace of attack and defense. Tolle says, “Egos differ only on the outside. Deep down, they are all the same. They live on identification and separation. Every ego is continuously fighting to survive, trying to protect and expand itself. However the ego manifests itself, the hidden, driving force behind it is always the same: the need to differentiate itself, to be special, to be the boss; the need for power, for attention, for more. And, of course, the need for a feeling of separation: that is, for opposition, for enemies.”

The more you derive your identity from your thoughts and beliefs, the more you become cut off from yourself, the other, and the world around you. Even (or in particular) many so-called religious people are stuck on this level. They equate “truth” with their thoughts about reality. And because they identify totally with their thoughts, they claim, in an unconscious attempt to protect their identity, to be the only ones who know the truth. [Some changes made to copy before this without tracking changes. JW]

The emotions that are the consequence of living from one’s ego give rise to “pain-bodies” which we carry around with us. These bodies can be activated by people or situations (when someone “pushes our buttons”). At such times one is completely overwhelmed by emotion. Tolle writes, “A pain-body is a semiautomatic energy form that resides within most people, an entity consisting of emotion. Like all forms of life, it must regularly feed itself—take in new energy—and the food it needs to replenish its supply consists of energy that corresponds with its own energy: that is, energy with a comparable frequency.” For the pain-body, every emotionally painful experience can be used as food. That is why it thrives so well on negative thinking and drama in relationships. The pain-body is an addiction to being unhappy.

Tolle, who was almost overwhelmed years ago by the pain and stress created by his ego, knows the way out of the labyrinth of reason: “Only through awareness—not through thinking—can you see the difference between fact and opinion (belief). If you do not cover the world with labels and words, a feeling for the miraculous will return in your life that was lost long ago, when humanity stopped using reason and became possessed by it.” According to Tolle, recognizing one’s own insanity marks the beginning of spiritual healing. When you can look at one’s ego—when you are conscious—you become free of it. Consciousness and ego cannot coexist. Every time the ego is recognized, it becomes weaker.

If more people acknowledge their egos and choose consciousness—which means being present in the here and now without being swept away by the ego’s mental images and emotions—the transformation to a new earth may happen more quickly. Tolle writes: “People without egos embody the awakened consciousness that changes every aspect of life on our planet, including nature, because life on earth is inseparable from the human consciousness that perceives and interacts with it.”

Tolle concludes with a warning to those whose egos are grasping for a new “truth”: “You cannot make liberating your ego a goal to achieve in the future. Only Presence, being in the Now, can free you from ego; not yesterday or tomorrow.” In other words: The new earth is already here, now, if you want it.

Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Dutton Adult,October 2005, ISBN 0525948023

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