The reason I felt I needed to read this and spend some time teaching about it, is because of its danger. The average person with not enough Biblical knowledge or foundation could easily think, Oprah's a good person. She wouldn't steer me wrong. This book quotes Jesus on every other page. That can't be bad. I might actually grow spiritually through this book. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Oprah might be a good person, but by promoting this book she is leading people down a very dangerous path. Tolle might quote Jesus repeatedly, but he takes Jesus' words and twists them to back up his own message.
For the next couple of weeks, I wanted to highlight some of the heresies of A New Earth. This will also help me process some of my thoughts as I prepare to preach on the need to be on the lookout for false teachers (like Tolle) one Sunday in July.
Let me first say that if you remove all the heresies from this book, you'd have a pretty decent self-help book that occasionally offers some valuable advice. The book would also be half as long because it is full of teachings that are contradictory to Christian doctrine.
In a nutshell, Tolle believes that we are all God. Jesus was God. Buddha was God. I am God and you are God. He uses multiple terms to convey this. Awareness, Presence, I Am-ness, etc... The basis for his overall teaching is evolution. He believes that by being enlightened, learning to live in "the now", and learning to live without the "ego" (his concept of sin), we are literally bringing about the next phase of human evolution. Thus, human evolution would be something like pile of goo - fish - monkey - human - humans enlightened to the fact that they are God.
Here are a couple of teachings from Chapter 1, The Flowering of Human Consciousness:
- Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings' perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. -pg. 4
- The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of mankind. The messengers - Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known - were humanity's early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings. A widespread flowering was not yet possible at that time, and their message became largely misunderstood and often greatly distorted. It certainly did not transform human behavior, except in a small minority of people. -pg. 6
- The second reason is that the act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens. When you recgonize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening. You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against the darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light. -pg. 8
In these three examples, Tolle teaches the need to become aware that you, along with all other matter, are God. Early spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha became aware of this before the rest of humanity was ready to accept it. Their teachings were misunderstood. While Jesus was trying to teach us that we are all God, Christians misinterpreted him and believed that he alone was God. You get a hint of it here in the third example, but later in the book Tolle directly quotes Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." and states that by saying this Jesus was actually teaching that each of us is our own way, truth, and life. Or as he says here, we are our own light.
Hopefully, the heresy here is clear to all Christians. The Bible teaches that there is only one true God and thank God his name is not Jeff. Jesus Christ is literally the only path to salvation. Jesus wasn't just a wise teacher - He was and is God in the flesh. All spiritual teachings do not lead to the true God. Only Jesus. Only the Word of God