A New Earth: Summary & Review

a new earth

In A New Earth Eckhart Tolle teaches spirituality as a must that humans, as species, must be embrace to evolve into a new ego-free, enlightened state. Or else, we will face possible extinction.

Bullet Summary

  • 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

Full Summary

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.

My Note: Good point
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.

Avoid Identifying Yourself With Things

Tolle merges a critic of the human tendency to identify with the things we like and own with a critic of 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.

Also read:

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 to 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:

And, I would add, social climbing is another typical example of ego-driven, socially awkward and low-quality behavior that too many people engage in.

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 conflict resolution. Conflicts are often precipitated by the ego.

We need to win, we need to defend ourselves, we need to even things out, we need revenge.

Enlightenment instead is about rising above. If you transcend the ego, there is nothing to offend, there is nothing to it, there is nothing to take revenge for. 

My Note: This will empower you personally
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”. 

My Note: BS on “past generations”
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.
Why?
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

a new earth

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).

CONS

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 from an evolutionary point of view: 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. 

Our modern weapons and the climate change mean 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 a dangerous victim mentality.
See: why you must stand up to the victim culture framing you as the oppressor.

  • 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?

PROS

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:

Review

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 evolution.
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.

Check the best books collection or get the book on Amazon.

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