According to Tolle, the root of our problems is the big, bad ego. We
identify with the ego, which is the false self, and become trapped in a
false identity, which skews our perception of reality. This idea is
hardly groundbreaking; it is a well-worn adage of the New Age with
origins in Gnostic and Eastern thought.
One of the ways to transcend identity with ego and the false self, Tolle advises, is to "let go of thought," because "Thinking isolates a situation or event and calls it good or bad" (194-96). Tolle also instructs the reader to focus on the present moment, the "Now," which is "the end of the ego" (200-01). In fact, Tolle posits that there is no real time, only an illusion of it (205). When we "awaken within the dream" and see who we really are, "This is the new earth" (210).
Tolle approvingly quotes many Buddhists and uses Buddhist terms. Concepts from Buddhism underlie Tolle's views throughout the book. Tolle's depiction of the ego (false self) could be equated to the Buddhist concept of self, which is believed to be a temporary construct resulting from feelings, bodily sensation, memories, and thought. Identification with this self keeps man trapped in a cycle of illusion and suffering.
The answer to this problem is to cease identification with the ego. This is one of the purposes of Buddhist detachment-a practice that eventually allows one to realize the self (ego) is not the true identity (Buddhist meditation practices play a large role in developing this detachment). And Tolle's "Being" could be parallel to the Buddha nature, which is the ultimate and only reality in Buddhism.
The Gnostics taught that man is pure spirit but through the machinations of an evil god or intermediary (accounts differ), these spirits came to earth and became trapped in bodies. They began to identify with the physical body, and a self separated from God, and forgot they were pure spirit. Tolle's teaching regarding the ego being the false self echoes these ideas.
It is not difficult to find Christian blogs where comments such as,
"I don't agree with Tolle's spiritual views, but he has some good things
to say" are common. Some have even said that Tolle can be helpful. But
teachings contrary to those of Jesus will almost always "have some good
things to say" or will even quote from the Bible right and left.
Deception at its best is often a mixture of lies and truth, because the
true parts give validity to the false. The New Age is a blend of
beliefs, and is therefore quite skillful at embracing and using
Christian terms in order to appear compatible with Christianity.
Tolle does address some symptoms of the problems in society - drugs, addictions, suicide, selfishness, fear, hatred, insecurity, anxiety, wanting control, jealousy, greed, etc. But the source of these problems, according to Tolle, is our identification with the ego, which is not our real self.
What Christians need to realize is that Tolle's beliefs are not just non-Christian, they are anti-Christian. The true source of the human problems discussed by Tolle is sin, not identification with a false self such as the ego. If the source of the problems is identification with the ego, then the solution is merely to become aware of this and alter one's perception and thinking. Indeed, this is the view of the New Thought Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries based on their false teaching that Jesus came to correct "wrong thinking."
The old New Age line -- we are all energy and how solid things are
really energy -- is trotted out by Tolle (146). But this is a New Age
urban legend. Indeed if this true, we would all be part of a nuclear
explosion! Matter simply is not energy "in ceaseless motion" (146). To
become energy, matter must be converted to energy via something like a
nuclear bomb. And we certainly would not continue to walk around as
though we were little streaming beads of light!
Ironically, considering Tolle's supposed enlightened teaching on man's basic nonmaterial spiritual nature, views that reduce man to molecules is actually a very materialistic view. He is saying that we are merely a mass of molecules packed together, a view which would gladden the heart of any Atheist. The energy which science speaks about in relation to matter is not the "mystical" energy of the New Age, nor is it the chi or qi of Taoism. Chi and qi as spiritual concepts derive from Taoist terms for a force or energy that underlies and connects all living things (see these links for an explanation of energy from the scientific viewpoint: http://explorepdx.com/bitofsci.html and http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6a.html).
The Bible reveals a God who is both immanent (present in the world)
and transcendent (existing beyond the world; see Deut. 32:39; Job 33:4;
Ps. 33:13-15, 83:18, 139:7-10; Is. 55:8-9; 57:15; 63:11). But God is
always distinct from His creation, not a part of it. God created the
world out of nothing, not out of Himself (Gen 1:1). Since humanity is
created by God, distinct from God, we do not have a godlike or divine
nature (Job 9:32). People often confuse the idea of God's omnipresence -
that God is present everywhere - with the idea that God is present in
everything, including man.
Only man is made in the image of God, and this means that man, as opposed to animals and to nature, reflects attributes of God such as will, intelligence, language, and awareness of moral rights and wrongs.
The biblical teaching on man is that on the one hand, man is a "little lower than God" and "a little while lower than the angels" as well as being "appointed over the works" of God's hands (Ps. 8:5, Heb. 2:7). On the other hand, man fell into sin by believing Satan over God, thus corrupting his relationship with God, and separating himself from God (Gen. 3:17-24;
Rom. 5). Accordingly, we see that while man is created in God's image, that image has been eroded or marred by sin and man is born into this state of separation from God. Tolle equates man with God by taking the Biblical titles identifying God or Jesus and applying them to man.
Tolle believes that man is basically good since he is part of God (13). He asserts that we are all "I Am," (which he equates with the word "God") expressed in form. "When I no longer confuse who I am with a temporary form of 'me,' then the dimension of the limitless and the eternal - God - can express itself through 'me' and guide 'me,'" declares Tolle (251). Tolle says that "God .... is formless consciousness and the essence of who you are" (219). This is the spiritually lethal premise of Tolleâ€™s message: man is equal to God.
Tolle rejects the historical Jesus of the Bible, and recasts Jesus
as an enlightened, awakened teacher like Buddha. Tolle completely
disregards the prophecies and context of Jesus as the prophesied
Messiah. Eastern enlightenment and liberation are the same as salvation
taught by Jesus, declares Tolle. This statement is a brazen and boorish
denial of the biblical text as well as 2,000 years of Christian teaching
Tolle claims that when Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Jesus was saying we are all the Truth (71). If anything, Jesus was saying the opposite: He was claiming to be the prophesied Messiah, the Redeemer, the unique Son of God (which means he had God's nature), and the only way to God. Tolle ignores the overriding theme of Scripture about man falling into sin and the resulting separation from God through this sin.
Throughout his book, Tolle violates the biblical text, reading his own meaning into the words. For example, Tolle announces that when Jesus said, "Deny thyself" (Matthew 16:23-25), Jesus was really saying, "Negate (and thus undo) the illusion of self" (79). Even a schoolchild studying the context of this comment can see this is not what Jesus meant. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24). Jesus is explaining the cost of discipleship to his hearers; not that they must deny the existence of a "self."
Ironically, Tolle would know nothing about what Jesus said without the Bible, yet Tolle refuses to see the plain meaning in it.
The Bible's message is not to realize one's inner divinity but rather to recognize one's sin and the need for redemption. Truth is not recognition of a natural unity with God, but rather admission of one's inherent separation from God.
The good news is that the separation between man and God is ended when one puts his or her faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins on the cross: "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10).
The biblical Jesus, thankfully, is not the ethereal Jesus of the New Age -- an amorphous mouthpiece of esoteric enigmas. Jesus, God the Son in a human body, felt hunger and thirst, ate with sinners, healed the sick, spoke concrete truths for everyday people, shed real blood on the cross, and bodily rose the third day, victoriously defeating death itself. He lived love, not a wimpy permissive love, but rather real love that judges and overcomes evil.
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:26
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Luke 21:33
SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSION WITH READERS OF TOLLE
For Tolle fans, some of these questions and points might be helpful:
1. On what basis should we assume Tolle is enlightened and not self-deceived?
2. By what authority does Tolle teach?
3. What does enlightenment mean anyway, and who is defining this term?
4. If you had not read Tolle or any other ideas like his, would you think that your self is not your true self?
5. Do you believe man is divine? If so, what evidence is there for this?
6. If we are divine, why did Jesus pay the penalty for our sins on the cross? Please read Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 to understand this.
7. Why is Jesus called the Lamb of God? Why the numerous references to the blood of Jesus in the New Testament? Tolle never refers to or explains this.