“A New Earth” makes the case that humanity must either evolve into a new ego-free, enlightened state or face possible extinction.
Eckart Tolle, the author, introduces and explains some powerful and potentially life-changing concepts (mixed with some BS interpretation of life and events).
- The ego, or the belief we are what happens to us, is a major cause of pain and suffering
- Past events and pain haunt most people: you must let the past be the past
- Accept things as they are
Eckhart Tolle says that The New Earth will be either a transformative book or it will be useless.
Which one it will be, is up to the reader.
Enlightenment Is Detachment From Materialism & Ego
Tolle says that people identify themselves with their ego and with material possessions.
Transcending both is what all great religions and philosophy have been about, from Buddhism to Christianity.
Fear, greed and a thirst for power have been the driving forces of untold devastation and pain in our history.
And they all originate from our ego: the desire of strengthening our self-image.
Religions Are Failing Us
To be precise, it’s not religions that are failing us. It’s our interpretation of religions.
Religions are great tools to lead people down the path of enlightenment, but the way people approach them today is wrong.
Religions, from tools to help us rise above the human dysfunctions, have become divisive instead of unifying.
Many preachers also have a poor approach towards sacred texts and rituals: it’s “either you believe it, or you are wrong”.
It’s against this backdrop that new movements of spiritual enlightenment have started blossoming outside of religions.
Tolle believes that the big religions should embrace them or else they’ll eventually die out.
I agree with Tolle here and this is what Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion” has failed to address in his scathing text against religions.
Identification With Things
Tolle merges a critic of the human tendency to identify with the things we like and own with a critic to modern consumerism.
He says brands sell us things we don’t really need by lulling us into the false belief that “more” and “more expensive” equals “growth” and “improvement” (for the science of brand marketing read: Brandwashed and Buyology).
There other forms of identification that might seem better but are equally harmful:
- Identification with body
- Identification with gender (a woman, a mother.. )
- Identification with appearance (and we will suffer when looks fade)
- Identification with an abstract construct in our mind (internal chatter)
- Identification with results or what we think of events
There Is No Good Or Bad
Tolle also touches on a key tenet of Stoicism, which is that there is no good and bad events, but only what we make out of them.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it
Waking Up to The Illusion of Ownership
Tolle says most of us sadly only realize the futility of ownership in our deathbed.
We should probably all strive to detach ourselves from material possessions before we are about to die.
But simply giving up things is often not the answer. Some people going down the road feel “superior” for giving up material possessions, and they are still playing the same ego-driven game.
The Core of Ego
At the core of our mistaken approach to ego is the identification between our thinking voice and ourselves.
Such as, we believe that we are the voice in our head.
We then expand from there to believe we are our opinions, our choices, our genders, our cultural background etc. etc.
This is a key concept in Tolle’s philosophy which he also discusses in The Power of Now.
If you are interested in ego, you might also want to check out Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday, Antifragile Ego and Ultimate Power.
Ego Never Stops
The ego “uses” you to get more and more. It’s never satisfied and the power of wanting and desire is bigger than the pleasure of achieving and owning.
That keeps you running and struggling all your life… Until you realize too late how futile it all was.
What Tolle is referring here is a well-known concept in psychology called “hedonic treadmill“.
Being Right & Social Climbing
Eckard Tolle points out a few ways the ego manifests (and reinforces itself) in our life:
- Game-playing (check Games People Play)
- Criticism & underhanded compliments (typical of frenemies)
- “Winning” through our children
- Being right (and making others wrong)
Alpha-male posturing is an example of ego-driven social climbing and social attacks.
Here are a few real-life examples:
Moving Beyond Ego
Our ego creates much pain and many negative emotions that poison our lives.
To move beyond ego you need to become aware of it. And albeit not necessarily easy, that is all that you need to do.
Ego and awareness are incompatible with each other.
Awareness is the knowledge that your thinking self is not you, that your thoughts, your opinions, and your background are not “you”.
You are a part of the universe, and the current manifestations of your thoughts, positions, opinions, victories, and possessions do not define you.
The Power of Transcending The Ego
Eckart Tolle’s philosophical system also touches upon conflit resolution. Conflicts are often precipitad by the ego.
We need to win, we need to defend ourselves, we need to even tings out, we need revenge.
Enligthement instead is about rising above. If you transcend the ego, there is nothing to offend, there is nothing to it, tere is nothing to take revenge for.
This is one of my favorite concept of “A New Earth”.
In a way, “A New Earth” is also a book about power. When you can transcend the ego, you become so much more powerful.
Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.
The Mind In Our Body
Tolle talks about our mind influences our body. The stories that our mind tells us to influence and condition our body, and they often do so in a negative way.
The author also focuses on how we let past events and emotions long affect us even though they are, by all means, gone and dusted and should. He exhorts the readers to let go of past pains and negative emotions.
Tolle calls it “pain body”.
I fully agree with Tolle that old events and clinging on to pain is harmful both for our mind and body. I disagree though that we carry the “pain of past wars and pains” from older generations.
The connection mind/body is also the central tenet in Joe Dispenza’s work as well, check You Are The Placebo, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself and Becoming Supernatural (Note: I personally consider Dispenza a quack and snake oil salesman).
This Too Shall Pass
Realizing that everything is transient and that everything will end does not mean that we enjoy less our pleasures and more easily endure our pains.
It means that we can endure our pain more easily and enjoy our pleasures more.
Because we can finally let go of the fear of losing our happiness, our possessions, our “victories”…
You can lose what you have. But not who you are
Real Life Applications
Stop Expecting All Must Go Well
Tolle says that one of the reasons we are unhappy is that we expect success and things to go well.
This is a deep, entrenched entitlement mindset and it basically predisposes us to anger and unhappiness.
Let go of the belief that things must work out (and read The Happiness Advantage).
I really love Tolle’s work and I loved “A New Earth”. However, I see my task as a critical reviewer to point out all flaws.
So here they are:
- Eckart Tolle’s Reading Voice (Audiobook)
Tolle’s voice is droning and soothing at the same time.
That makes it perfect to read a meditation track or to induce trance-like experience.
But not for reading a text where you want to clearly understand the words.
For that, you need better enunciation.
- Simplistic, Rose-Tinted, Mistaken View of Evolution
Tolle said life took the risk of moving to land from the comfort of the sea.
That really makes no sense: I have no knowledge of life being “comfortable” anywhere. Life was challenging in the sea as much as it was going to be on land.
As a matter of fact, it’s much more likely that life expands where it’s easier to live rather than where it’s more difficult.
- Are We At A Crossroad? Maybe Not…
After a simplistic view on evolution, Tolle says that we are again at a crossroad today.
All our modern weapons and the climate change means that we either enlighten ourselves or we face destruction.
Again, I don’t see simple and well defined “crossroad” of evolution: I doubt there are many well defined “now or never” moments in evolution and, if they are, they only become apparent in hindsight.
Otherwise, saying “now or never” is just another (poor) effort at becoming a bigger pundit, garnering more followers and, as well, sell more. Basically, just another power move.
- National and Racial Pain Bodies?
Tolle says that since we carry the pain of our past, the pain body is larger among blacks, jews, and nations which saw much devastation.
I think this is a big BS and it’s also dangerous victim mentality.
- Opinions for Certitudes = Some Woo-Woo Content
Some of Tolle’s ideas are revolutionary and immensely helpful.
Some others, like the pain body, are made up opinions that deliver no good. He still presents them as unquestionable truths though.
- Bad Scientifical Interpretations = Some BS Content
Some others still, are his own “truths” of what is either not true (his views on evolutions) or the author’s own opinion on debatable scientific theories.
For example, the author says the universe will contract again. But that’s only one theory among many circa the future of the universe and, currently, not the most popular (indeed the universe is accelerating its expansion, possibly resulting in what’s been dubbed “big freeze“).
- “Nature” Is In sync With Universe?
The author also says that “nature”, contrary to humans, is in sync with the universe.
That’s why few animals died during the 2004 Tsunami: animals could “feel” something was amiss.
When I read stuff like this I want to punch stuff :).
Animals die and went extinct by the millions because of natural disasters. There are no proofs that animals can “sense’ impending disasters and then again what the hell does it even mean “nature” and “animals”? that’s so egocentric it hurts.
There are millions of species, some of which for sure can’t feel shit.
We, humans, are part of nature.
And hello, the reason why so few animals died during the tsunami might have something to do with the fact that nobody counted them and/or that there weren’t many animals in the heavily populated coastal areas?
A New Earth presents many ideas and concepts which can indeed lead to enlightenment and, as well, to a happier, more worry-free life.
- You Are Not Your Thinking Voice
I find this concept extremely powerful and potentially life-changing. When you stop believing and behaving like everything you think is “you”, you can acquire an enlightened life poise.
- You Are Not What’s Happening to You
By extension, when you can learn that what is happening to “you” is indeed not really happening to “you”, but just “happening”, you can then learn to step back and become a higher functioning individual.
- Great Ego-Analysis
Very good analysis of the ego and the consequences of our egos.
Also great job in linking ego and some nasty social behavior such as gossiping, social attacks, and frenemy-like behavior.
- The Secret of The Greatest Power Move
Tolle didn’t intend it that way, but if you are able to transcend or momentarily step back from your ego, then you acquire huge mental (and material) power.
Also rad: Ultimate Power.
Video Summary – A New Earth
This is a video summary touching on a couple of ideas I haven’t analyzed here:
To Read After ” A New Earth”
Here are some books you will like:
- Tao Te Ching
- The Power of Now
- The Untethered Soul
- The Four Agreements
- The Power of Positive Thinking
- The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (didn’t like this one)
- You Can Heal Your Life
- Who Moved My Cheese
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (I dididn’t like it)
- The Secret (I hate this one though! 🙂
I really like the concepts and ideas in “A New Earth”. They are revolutionary.
What’s holding the book back, in my opinion, are Tolle’s examples, historical references and own interpretations of evoluion.
To any critical and intelligent reader, they are the equivalent of nails grating a chalkboard.
However, on the overall, I still highly recommend “A New Earth”. Especially to anyone who’s too into consumerism or too touchy.