A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle

First, I really recommend you start by reading Eckhart's previous book, The Power of Now, first. A lot of ideas glossed over in A New Earth were fully explained back in The Power of Now. This makes sense to me. You don't want Eckhart to write two books with the exact same content. It's like reading Harry Potter #2. You assume you know the relationships of people, their fears and goals and go from there.

You have to start out by separating the message from the messenger. Yes, Eckhart can be a bit pompous at times. Yes, he can blatantly state things like "this book is for spiritually awakened people - like those who read my previous book!" :) He talks about the pain-body as if it's an alien living in your stomach, ready to poke its head out. He talks about all corporations everywhere being evil, being all about profit. I know many corporations which do have very great aims. A corporation is just a legal structure. It depends on who runs it, as to what they are about. Heck, some of my friends have incorporated their small businesses to protect their homes. They're not about profit at all, they are very charity minded.

Eckhart has many factual errors. He perpetuates the extreme notion of 5 million women slain in a period of 300 years. Yes, I'm female and I abhor some things the church has done to women, but this 5 million slain number is just not reality. It makes people doubt the actual problems which did happen. He claims that the average 60 year old has watched 15 years of TV. This means the average person watches 6 hours of TV a day - EVERY single day - for their entire life from birth. It's scary enough that kids under age 18 average 3 1/2 hrs a day, and adults a bit more, but NOBODY (male or female adults included) averages 6 hours a day. When you know the first 18 years are 3.5 hrs, Eckhart's number is simply not true. Related to this, he seems convinced that men are responsible for all negative history events and that if women ran things we would be a land of peace and joy and plenty. I find both views to be a bit extreme.

Eckhart talks about few animals being killed in the Tsunami, but again, he's perpetuating a rumor. As the deputy managing editor of Science scoffs, "I have heard rumors that none of the animals were killed, but how do they know that? Did they take a census?" It's just that we KNOW when people are missing - but we rarely know (or worry about) wild animals missing after something like this. Yes, animals might hear the subsonic noises and be nervous - but to say animals weren't killed makes no sense. I'm sure even if a lot of animals "sensed something wrong" that they would be incapable of moving far enough inland to escape the torrential flooding. Or maybe Eckhart only worries about large, identifiable animals like elephants ...

My biggest issue with both of these books is that Eckhart is trumpeting a message of despair. He talks about how our whole world is mad, how we are surrounded by crazies, and that we better rise up against them and claim our minds or we're all going to go insane. It gets a bit much. He talks about the madness accelerating, when really if you look at history things are MUCH calmer now than pretty much any time. People actually try to talk out issues now. Yes we have a few wars - but look back to when EVERYTHING was settled by war. We are making huge progress. But that wouldn't sell books.

So that all being said, I do want to say this book has MANY good points, if you take it all with a critical, open eye. He talks about how Buddhism seeks to make us aware of the troubles in daily life and how we must learn to accept the way life is. He says that sin in the original language of the Bible was not "evil", it was about "missing the mark". People were being advised to learn from their mistakes and correct their path as they went.

He warns that all possessions fade over time, just as beauty and strength does. Taking pride in these things is setting yourself up to feel sadness when they are no longer there. It is better to be content inwardly, rather than based on external objects. He includes branded name objects in this category, and groups.

He points out that your internal frame of mind shapes how you view the world. "Complaining is one of the ego's favorite strategies for strengthening itself," he warns. It's about making you feel better by putting down someone else. He elaborates later - "Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn't necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior." So it is about standing up for yourself, certainly, but not by abusing others.

He talks about how some people feel they can't be happy until something in their current life changes (I get a new house, I get a new job). He says other people feel they can never be happy because of something in their past (maybe the DISTANT past). He says both sets of people are mistaken. You can choose to be happy NOW. Not that you resign yourself to your situation necessarily - you can strive to better your life. But you can accept that you are where you are, that you will find serenity where you are while you work to improve things.

He says that every moment we're in we should either be thinking of acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm. If we really don't want to be changing a flat tire in the rain, simply accept it, do it as best you can, and move on. Being stressed and angry isn't going to make the tire change more quickly, and will add stress hormones and bad health to your list of problems.

I definitely think the key messages of this book are important. If Eckhart is phrasing them in a way which most people "get" - even though there are numerous other books on this same topic with this same message - then more power to him. It goes to show that people react differently to phrasing and that a writing style that makes sense to one person does not to another. Sure, a lot of this book is Buddhism - but I'm sure many of these readers have never been in a Buddhist temple and would not have gone to talk with a Buddhist monk. A lot of these concepts are basic psychology, but a person who doesn't read psychology tomes would never know that. Eckhart has made the information palatable to a large group of people. That's a well done task. My complaints are just that he didn't need some of this "incorrect junk" in here - and that his book would have been that much better if it left those things out.

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