Eckhart Tolle and the source of consciousness

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Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher, i.e. teaching about the art of living, rather than a metaphysician. But it's interesting in this video to hear him spell out his beliefs/knowledge about consciousness existing outside and prior to the physical realm (including the brain).

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(2022-06-18, 03:01 PM)Ninshub Wrote: Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher, i.e. teaching about the art of living, rather than a metaphysician. But it's interesting in this video to hear him spell out his beliefs/knowledge about consciousness existing outside and prior to the physical realm (including the brain).


I don't have a high regard for Tolle and his impractical "live in the now" philosophy. A few remarks to get a feel for this, which I would term the quintessence of starry-eyed New Age thinking:

For instance, Eckhart says suffering plays an important role in the evolution of our consciousness. He says without it, we would not grow in awareness. Maybe so, but does that mean that presumably suffering is OK? I guess we just need to realize that and we'll be all right (!).

Somebody says, "I'm having difficulty coping with cancer". Then Eckhart explains how illness can open the doorway to awakening. Sure.

My cynicism does not indicate any lack in belief in Spirit, reincarnation and the afterlife (for which there is a boatload of good evidence) - just in claims to have easy and miraculous solutions to the problems of suffering and evil.  In Tolle's case, he seems to automatically assume the perspective of the soul on human suffering, rather than the human perspective.

Of course, many of his other beliefs regarding Spirit and soul and the spiritual realm have a lot of validity; my problems are mainly with some of his teachings regarding how to cope with life, which I regard as impractical New Age.
(This post was last modified: 2022-06-19, 11:07 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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Personally I'm not too interested in arguing the merits of his "philosophy", but I'd argue with you attributing it to the "New Age". It's Buddhist to the core and very similar to all the modern day mindfulness psychotherapeutic treatments (the 3rd wave of cognitive psychology). Mindfulness stress-reduction programs help people deal with cancer and other illnesses. This is well-researched and established. Mindfulness is meant to be "practical".

To some of your points, though (if it matters), I will say that I don't think Tolle, if you look at the breadth of his teachings, argues for an "easy and miraculous solution" to the problem of suffering (and evil), unless you think Buddhism does the same. In people with trauma, for example, he'll lucidly tell them they are possibly likely having to deal with the fear all their lives (what he calls the pain body - the suffering and fear energies accumulated in the mind/body) - but awareness (mindfulness) can help carry it, and perhaps transmute it, partially or totally, over the long haul.



The spiritual principles of acceptance, etc., and having an observer's stance towards one's emotions and thoughts (and physical pain), without repressing those realities, are part of general psychological principles in helping cope with suffering (illness, depression, anxiety, etc.).

What are other alternatives as psychological support for someone living with cancer?
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But I do think you raise an interesting question regarding using the soul perspective vs. the human in helping cope with suffering. And I understand where you're coming from and I'm struggling with these questions myself.

I do think Tolle seems to bring us to identify with what you call the soul's perspective (what he usually calls "being" or "awareness"), while not denying the human one. Enlarging the human identity you could say, to make carrying the human one a little easier (my interpretation). Regular, non-spiritual mindfulness therapy programs do the same, practically, but without using words like the "soul" (which I don't think Tolle does that much himself) or the "transcendent dimension". But I think the practice is basically the same.

I'm reading Jon Kabat-Zinn, a (the?) founder of mindfulness, and his books also talk about the awareness when you meditate, or when you try meditative living (being in the now, observing your thoughts and emotions and sensations without completely being lost in them, which is an incredibly hard, continual process, he will say outfront and repeatedly), and he will describe that awareness as the deeper "you".
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(2022-06-20, 01:13 AM)Ninshub Wrote: ... observing your thoughts and emotions and sensations without completely being lost in them ...

This reminds me of an idea I read of when first encountering Buddhist concepts. Some advanced practitioner was saying that the ideal state, something to aim for, was to be a 'spectator' in one's life. That thoroughly confused me and I objected to it most strongly. It seemed to me that one must engage in life, be a participant.

The difficulty with these ideas is not whether they are right or wrong, but that they are very, very hard to describe and explain. I think I eventually understood what the meaning of that 'spectator' concept was, not through rational thinking, just through years of being alive. It makes some sort of sense to me now, but I doubt that I in turn could explain it to anyone else.

One thing which did help me, curiously enough, was a popular when I was growing up tv series called "Kung Fu" with actor David Carradine. Perhaps to some it was the martial arts and fight scenes which were the highlight. That certainly featured prominently. But there was a lot of food for thought in the spiritual aspects too, which influenced me more.
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I believe we've got...or maybe I should say, we get... so used to identifying with our physical form, that we forget it isn't really us. But it's so counterintuitive to think like that (it isn't us) that we are arguably forced to (believe it really is). This is the way I've always seen it but hardly anyone else (don't mean on here) ever seemed to be thinking like that. (maybe they of were course but just didn't say anything) so having such a perspective is not particularly helpful.  

I think once we leave here, we'll instantly understand that this was all just something secondary to our ultimate purpose, maybe even wanting to "kick ourselves" that we actually took it all so seriously. I think we would all be happier if we didn't take everything so seriously but life is like a stampede of galloping horses that you just can't stop or ever really bring under control.
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(2022-06-20, 08:31 AM)Typoz Wrote: This reminds me of an idea I read of when first encountering Buddhist concepts. Some advanced practitioner was saying that the ideal state, something to aim for, was to be a 'spectator' in one's life. That thoroughly confused me and I objected to it most strongly. It seemed to me that one must engage in life, be a participant.

I think Tolle, which I'm using because I'm more familiar with him but he's certainly not unique in this type of Eastern-derived "philosophy", would encourage participation, engaging fully in life (in fact not doing so usually means your spirituality will be less fortified, thinner through not meeting constant challenges), but doing so with part of you that is not entirely identified with the mind, so that you have less reactivity and are not entirely absorbed as that being your identity. (Because it leads to lack of awareness, suffering for self and others.) It actually creates more compassion rather than less.
On the topic of cancer and mindfulness, this an example that quickly jumped out when I did a youtube search.

Just listen to the first 15 minutes and it's the same general principles, including acceptance and observing your mind.

(This post was last modified: 2022-06-20, 01:36 PM by Ninshub. Edited 2 times in total.)
(2022-06-20, 01:17 PM)Ninshub Wrote: I think Tolle, which I'm using because I'm more familiar with him but he's certainly not unique in this type of Eastern-derived "philosophy", would encourage participation, engaging fully in life (in fact not doing so usually means your spirituality will be less fortified, thinner through not meeting constant challenges), but doing so with part of you that is not entirely identified with the mind, so that you have less reactivity and are not entirely absorbed as that being your identity. (Because it leads to lack of awareness, suffering for self and others.) It actually creates more compassion rather than less.

Exactly. This is what I meant when I said it was very difficult to describe these things. The difficulty in this case is that 'spectator' and 'participant' are not separate or contradictory. They are both taking place simultaneously within the same person. Language doesn't help much I'm afraid. I'm not in any respect a teacher of these things so though I know what I mean I doubt that I am able to convey what is my understanding.

I would recommend a book but it was so many years ago that I read these things in many books that I didn't record by title or author so they are effectively untraceable now for me.
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This is a bit related to what you've just said, maybe a bit tangential, on the question of Acceptance with Disentification vs. Engagement, I refer back in my mind to this exchange by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, where accepting life as it is, with its suffering, and saying Yes to it (identifying with the "eternal presence in the world"), can combine with engaging rather passivity, leading to the fascinating story or legend of the samurai warrior who at once engaged in his murderous mission of vengeance (I'm not saying killing is an ideal!) and dis-identified with it on an ego-level.

It's between 26:33 minutes and 30 minutes.

(This post was last modified: 2022-06-20, 03:02 PM by Ninshub. Edited 3 times in total.)

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