Eckhart Tolle, whose real name is Ulrich Leonard Tolle, was born in Lünen, Germany and grew up between there and Spain but received his college education in London, England.
Tolle, while being one of the most influential and interesting spiritual figures in contemporary times, does not subscribe to any specific religion and seems to draw from almost every religious tradition in history for his own teachings.
This mix of religions could be why Tolle has become so popular with a generation of people looking for something that takes the good things out of the old, tired religious doctrines and leaves out the dogma. Tolle himself once said:
[Religions] have become so overlaid with extraneous matter that their spiritual substance has become almost completely obscured… [Religions are,] to a large extent … divisive rather than unifying forces… [and are] themselves part of the insanity.
But the heart of Tolle’s teachings seem more Buddhist than anything else with their focus on the present and “The Now” and the quest to find the “inner stillness” that supposedly exists inside the minds of every person. He said:
Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.
Tolle has been criticized by many devoted religious figures and scholars for his “Big Tent” approach to spirituality and hailed as a brilliant spiritual leader by celebrities such as Oprah, Jim Carrey, and Meg Ryan. He is a controversial religious figure and his influence seems to continue widening. He has even begun to throw his viewpoint into political matters.
Tolle’s spiritual teachings deal a lot with the ego and that people are better off when they suspend their ego. This topic often comes up when Tolle is asked his political opinion. For example, he said:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Republicans and Democrats in America or protestors on the streets of Paris criticizing changes in the French retirement age. All of it comes from ego, who’s mantra is: “I’m against it. What ever it is, good, bad or otherwise,… I’m against it.”
I would say that this assessment is a drastic over-simplification of incredibly complex issues–but I’m not in Oprah’s book club, so… what do I know?
In the end, however, Tolle believes that human spiritual evolution cannot be stopped and has very little to do with political events, trends, or ideologies. Our spiritual selves are much greater, more powerful, and resilient. He said:
Because the present moment is not in time, the evolutionary impulse of our planet cannot be stopped by policies, wars, or even beliefs. As we humans leave the pain body of the ego these “conditions on the ground” become more and more meaningless.
Initially, I would have agreed with Time Magazine book reviewer, Andrea Sachs, who said that Eckhart Tolle’s ideas are “awash in spiritual mumbo jumbo.” But after reading the criticisms and praises of Tolle and his message, I’ve decided he’s just a guy trying to help and he’s got a few good ideas. Still, it’s hard to take him seriously for some reason. You be the judge.