Why Eckhart Tolle is a Perfect Spiritual Guru for the Modern Age

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Eckhart Tolle took the spiritual world by storm when he published his first book, the “Power of Now”, back in 1997. Upon the insistence of my then life coach in 2017, I finally gave the book a chance, and I could not leave it once I picked it up. Tolle convinced me to force myself to be in the present. His book convinced me of the Power of Now itself, post which some miracles followed in my life, about which I will be writing soon.

Here’s why I feel everyone should give the book a shot, and why Eckhart Tolle is an unusual character amongst the popular modern self-help/ spiritual authors-

  1. Intellectual roots– Tolle went to Cambridge to study literature, philosophy, and psychology. To have a spiritual “guru” understand the nuances of postgraduate research (the program at Cambridge that he was enrolled in) is not very common, particularly in India, where spirituality is very often associated with irrationality and dogma. Even abroad, there are few spiritualists or spiritually affirmative individuals in the academic world. Tolle also consistently addresses and warns against the dangers of intellectualizing spiritual knowledge, versus directly imbibing and applying it.
  2. Addresses Mental Illness– Tolle struggled with anxiety and depression for decades before he had his own spiritual awakening. Many spiritual teachers deny the existence of mental health issues and try to push the concept under the carpet, even claiming themselves to be emotionally “perfect” due to their philosophies, whereas Tolle shares his struggles with neuroticism as an important part of his narrative. Further, some of us who experience mental health issues, shun spirituality as “too idealistic” for us to apply during our low times, and prefer more practical techniques to help ourself, and rightly so, lest we try to spiritually bypass our feelings. However, Tolle is a living example of how spirituality can indeed help build resilience against mental illness, and he takes it to the level of saying “If you’ve suffered a LOT, use it for enlightenment!”.
  3. Against Victim blaming– Amidst the wave of spiritualists who blame victims of abuse for attracting that situation into their lives, and “asking for it” in some ways, Tolle argues that to blame those who find themselves in a cycle of abuse as being masochistic and “choosing suffering” is a defeated cause, because if someone were acting from a place of consciousness, then they would never actually “choose” to stay in such a relationship. They would clearly not be exercising their agency, not choosing as much as others would be blaming them to, and would hence be acting from an unconscious place. He insists that anyone in such a situation should be empathized with, and not further judged spiritually! This makes Tolle’s perspective a much more gender equal one than most spiritualists around.

    “It is misleading to say that somebody “chose” a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind.”

  4. Addresses Creativity– Tolle addresses the popular “depressed artist” archetype myth and talks about how creativity emerges when one learns to cope with their conflicts and sorrow, versus emerging from the sorrowful state itself. In the Instagram age, where a lot of people, particularly young ones attribute their creativity to their pain, I think Tolle points them to an important message.

The above are some reasons, primarily the first two- which have led me to see Tolle as a credible source of spiritual knowledge for myself, and the modern generation. Ours is a generation that wants facts, and with a lot of people running after intellectual pursuits, experiencing mental health issues as if they’re an epidemic at this moment, I think Tolle’s background helps him become a more relatable spiritual preacher. A generation that is arguably also more feminist in its thinking than the previous, particularly owing to the #MeToo movement, for Tolle to not shame victims of abuse with the argument of choice is also a very progressive step.

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