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wundayatta's avatar

Who is Eckhart Tolle and why are so many people recommending him?

Asked by wundayatta (58663points) March 23rd, 2010

I have been inundated with recommendations to read him. Why? What ideas does he put forth that people seem to admire so much? What is his philosophy? What is his advice? Why do you think it is so helpful?

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49 Answers

absalom's avatar

Self-help books?

You’re better than that.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The latest in a long line of wanna-be spiritual motivational proponents. His philosophies are mostly genuine, but the typical regurgitation of contemporary Buddhist, Taoist teachings of living in the Now.

I don’t have a problem with the underlying message. It’s the way he presents it that is disturbing to me. It’s the spiritual good vibe book of the month. You’d be better off with Alan Watts, Terrence McKenna, or Robert Anton Wilson.

ucme's avatar

I’ve no idea who the guy is but he’s got a cool name.

dpworkin's avatar

He’s full of crap. If you want to read something useful, read Albert Ellis.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If you want to actually change your life for the better, consider The Artists Way.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Confucius in the Boardroom is a fabulous audio presentation that will get you much closer to the root of Tolle’s bastardized philosophy.

Highly recommended.

And I know it’s not the same subject, but for some s-t-r-a-n-g-e reason, the Kama Sutra did wonders for me in many different areas of life other than the obvious… wink wink.

lloydbird's avatar

Alan Watts, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson. GR (Great Recommends)

Trillian's avatar

@wundayatta have you read The Celestine prophecy and sequels? They had a major impact on my life.

CMaz's avatar

Eckhart Tolle is on my shit list.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


What do you mean by “You’re better than that”? I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that anyone is “better than” or “worse than” anyone else just because they seek knowledge on things that concern them. Even a math book can be considered as a “self help book”.

I must be “worse than” anyone on the planet with all the “self help books” I’ve read.

Just_Justine's avatar

Oh I don’t know, I read half his book in a few hours, I had this feeling that I know all this. But I didn’t if that makes sense? I think maybe I should slow down and try again. I really didn’t want to buy it (I hate buying books that everyone is reading). But so many people recommended it. Oh phooey.

MrsDufresne's avatar

<ducks under desk, peeks out from under to type ^.^>

I have read Eckart Tolle’s book “New Earth/Awakening”. I liked it. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have gotten any of his concepts if I hadn’t had my own life altering experience of surviving a potentially fatal illness. His ideas are about living in the present as much as possible. Here is a video that sums up his ideas in a nutshell.

kevbo's avatar

@MrsDufresne, ha ha! awesome!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@kevbo The MP Monks had this figured out centuries ago.

absalom's avatar


I was not comparing anyone to you; I was not comparing you to anyone.

This was not a personal thing I said.

Do not take this thing I said as a personal thing.

Do not take what I am about to say as a personal thing.

Self-help books are mostly full of shit.

And the whole genre is ironic.

And math books are not in that genre.

And @wundayatta is an extremely intelligent and complex person.

And @wundayatta will probably not be helped by the reductive pop-psychology of most self-help books.

HTDC's avatar

Ask Oprah. She started “A New Earth” web classes with Tolle a couple years ago. I blame her for the rapid rise of recommendations.

MrsDufresne's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies That Monk video hit the nail on the head lol

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@absalom Thank your for the thoughtful reply. I took nothing personal in your comments to me. I personalized my comments to you.

We will have to disagree on whether most self help books are ironic or full of shit. The same can be said about psychologists or medications. People get their help in the best way that suits them, and the issues that pester them. Shall we limit their choices to our own opinions?

I’ve been against Tolle for one simple reason. I feel he has bastardized the teachings of others, at the expense of ancient and well grounded philosophies. Yet, as I am well read on these philosophies, I must admit that others may not be. Tolle therefor, may supply a valid mechanism to introduce western culture to obscure views. Sort of a homogenized Buddhism for beginners. I really can’t complain about that at all. If the shoe fits…

Again, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

ninjacolin's avatar

read it and find out. actually, just download his audio books to listen to while you do the laundry or ride the bus.

he’s good at collapsing stresses into anti-anxiety. he has some great opinions similar to my own that take a Buddhist approach.. but i still like my ideas better. Often though, I do consider what I’ve learned from his way of thinking.

Coloma's avatar

I was exploring Tolles works over 6 years ago, way before the Oprah scene.

I happen to really like his work, most of which I have on disc.

He is, I believe, one of a handful of genuinely ‘awakened’ humans.

He is very calm and soothing in his speaking and has a great sense of humor.

Self help or spiritual teachings of any kind are only for those that are open and READY to explore something deeper than their own very limited neurotic mind.

Quite frankly…..and not surprisingly, the most resistant people to any sort of ‘self help’ or even therapy, are raging narcissists! Often certifiably personality disordered narcissists.
You know…the ones that don’t believe there is anything they can learn because they know it ALL, don’t beleive in anything bigger than themselves.

After all if you are GOD, why would you seek any new information. lololololo

absalom's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: Cool, then we can agree to disagree. If it means anything anyway, Buddhism has always fascinated me.

@Coloma: No one has ever assessed me so accurately, and with so little knowledge of who I actually am. Bravo!

Allow me to evacuate my dormitory immediately to purchase a book written by someone whose sense of self-importance is so inflated, so much greater even than my own, that he has pretended to know more about the secrets of happiness and the human condition than others, has written a book about those secrets, and has charged money for that book.

Perhaps “not surprisingly,” there are people (i.e., you) who will purchase such a book and perpetuate the myth you’ve been criticizing, viz. that there’s actually someone out there who knows these things and can make your life better if you’ll just buy his bullshit.


Coloma's avatar


You assume much for having no firsthand knowledge of the man.

He pretends nothing, he is a human that had an awakening, went from near suicidal depression to a state of inner peace..he is a brilliant writer and speaker and is the most unassuming man I have ever listenend to.

Aaah….I think my assesment then stands correct in your narcissisim…pretty common for a cocky adolescent…the dormitory says it all.

You should outgrow it in another 25 years or so, provided you continue on a linear maturation path. lolol

P.S. Besides you are off topic…the question was presented for those that might actually have firsthand knowledge of Tolles works…not an invitation to debate your views of self-help books.

ftp901's avatar

Eckhart Tolle has helped me. None of his ideas are original, they are all borrowed from Buddhism, Taoism, the Yoga Sutra but the way he combines them and talks about them is useful to me and helps remind of some techniques that I want to use in my life.

These historic sources may be better for you if you’d rather not learn it from contemporary self-help literature. Personally, I like learning about things from several different perspectives/sources so listening to Eckhart Tolle is just a nice way of reinforcing these old ideas for me.

I am a skeptical person and I don’t believe everything Tolle says but I’m intelligent enough to listen/read it for myself and pick out the parts that are relevant and useful to me.

Some basics:
– consider treating mundane daily tasks as a meditation (also emphasized in Zen Buddhism) to bring your attention to the present moment (eg. when washing your hands, focus on the feeling of the water and appreciate it)
– you are not your mind or body, “you” are actually the consciousness/energy inside of your body (also posited in the Yoga Sutra) – the more you can align yourself with that energy and less with your mind, the more you will be effective in your work & relationships
– your mind is only a tool, you should be able to turn it on and off when needed – in most people, it runs a non-stop continuous loop that is sometimes self-destructive
– desire for material goods/knowledge/status will lead to nothing but unhappiness (Buddhism) and you should attempt to free yourself from this false identity
– thinking less about the past & future and more about the present moment will lessen your stress

absalom's avatar

I’m making this small, so as not to diverge any further from the original topic; that’s why I made my response small in the first place.

@Coloma: The man wrote a book. To write is to pretend. To claim to have had an awakening is to pretend. To claim to have had an awakening that other people must know about by paying money is also to pretend. To sit down at a desk and say “My life and my ideas are so important that other people should know about them” is to pretend, and is to feel self-important. I don’t care if he went from a state of near-suicidal depression to a state of inner peace. Other people do that every single day, but they don’t write books about it. And they don’t charge money to tell you about it. I would you tell you about my own states of suicidal depression, but I’m not self-important enough to think you’d care. And I’m definitely not self-important enough to think that it would help you. I don’t even like people knowing. You realize this man is advertising his former depression, right? You realize he’s capitalizing on it? And if we’re talking about assumptions, which confessedly none of us really ever escapes, then let me point out that reading this man’s books and listening to him speak provides you no better knowledge of who he actually is – hardly the first-hand stuff you’re talking about.

ftp901's avatar

I would recommend you read the Tao Te Ching or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra before reading Tolle – but some people aren’t interested in these historic sources so Tolle is a way for some people (eg. housewives that watch Oprah) to access these concepts without having to read these more dense/historic texts.

gorillapaws's avatar

@ftp901 “desire for material goods/knowledge/status will lead to nothing but unhappiness (Buddhism) and you should attempt to free yourself from this false identity”

Which is why this guy offers his knowledge for free and donates all of the proceeds from his book to charity… oh, wait.

Coloma's avatar

He was actually nearly homeless and down to his last few dollars, writing at a friends house in Van Cuover when he completed his book and it was ‘discovered.’

Jeez….so what?

The guy is a scholar that had some sort of breakdown of ego…and has inspired, educated and gave practical help to many…he quit a formal acedemic career at Cambridge to pursuit his spiritual awakenings which included sitting on a park bench for two years.

The man had a breakdown, followed by a waking up and he has shared his experiences and intelligent and talented ‘self’ with the world.

WTF…why does everything on this site become fodder for fanatic, arrogant, pissy people to complain about? I have been here for less than two weeks and I am just about done.

I swear…it’s just insane the amount of BS so many interject of their own accord.

So far the only ‘safe’ non-conflictual questions surround cooking and gardening and sharing personel expereinces..although I am sure that there is someone here that would critique those as well! Bah Humbug! This place sucks!

ftp901's avatar

@gorillapaws whether or not he follows what he has written is irrelevant – I was simply outlining what some of writings are about, not how he lives his life

I don’t think that selling things and acquiring goods is a bad thing (nor does he). He just explains the (originally Buddhist) idea that the more your life is led by these desires, the more you are unlikely to find true fulfillment/happiness because these material possessions/knowledge are a false identity (ego) that doesn’t represent your true self

gorillapaws's avatar

@Coloma I’m sorry it’s taken you this long in your life to come to the realization that not everyone shares the same opinion as you. Furthermore, by attacking people personally who disagree with you by calling them “fanatic, arrogant, pissy people” you degrade the level of debate and discussion to childish mud-slinging which does nothing to advance the conversation.

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you, @ftp901. That was very helpful. I’d give you extra lurve, if I could.

your mind is only a tool, you should be able to turn it on and off when needed – in most people, it runs a non-stop continuous loop that is sometimes self-destructive

I asked my wife what the sentence before that meant. She said it was what happened when we dance, which kind of made sense. Especially in light of the sentence quoted above. It’s the turning on and off that is problematic. I can’t turn it off without going through a pretty significant ritual, and even then, the effect doesn’t last for long after the ritual is over.

My mind definitely runs in loops at times, and some of them have been very self-destructive. I use writing as a way to uncover these loops. Defusing their power is not so easy for me.

The ideas of detachment from ideas and things, and using mindfulness techniques to live more in the moment is also quite familiar and something I am working on.

Anyway, I guess his stuff would sound pretty familiar to me. Perhaps people recommend him because my stuff sounds familiar to them or reminds them of Tolle.

Anyway, thank you. That was particularly helpful.

Coloma's avatar


No need to be sorry..and you assume much.

I have no issue with others opinions, I DO have issues with blanket statements spewed forth from the mouths of those that are ignorant of firsthand knowledge.

Calling all self -help books ‘shit’ is not an is a false statement.

Denigrating the works of another without firsthand knowledge is a falsification of such.

In my original answer Absalom ASSUMED I was speaking of him…when infact, I was not.

After his snotty reply I decided the shoe of narcissism, did, infact fit! lolol

This has nothing to do with acceptance of others opinions, but slathering, biased rabidity is distasteful.

I see no TRUE debate and discussion.

I think the problem with this site is that it is far too open ended in the ages of it’s participants.

I care not to be spit up on by snot nosed, arrogant and yes, PISSY little children.

Diaper the baby that cried out first.

It’s all good…just not a fit for me.

As Eckhart Tolle would say…..

I offer a high quality piss off!

From clarity, not ego.

Coloma's avatar

I mean seriously!

Just take a look at some of the replies to this question!

“Eckhart Tolle is on my shitlist”

Whats the point of that?

If one is not interested in a topic, why troll around just to throw in your inappropriate comments?

For those that are interested, there should not be this sort of interjection allowed.

If I am sharing my experience, opinion, knowledge, a thoughtful and perhaps helpful answer and some ^%*(&^ Lone Ranger blows through with a torch and lights the village on bet I’m going to tell them to piss off!

If you don’t like something, arn’t interested then get the hell out of Dodge and leave the thoughthful & interested people to themselves!

gorillapaws's avatar

@Coloma In my opinion, self-help books are shit.

I’ve studied eastern philosophy and religion extensively back in college I once wrote a paper on the ontology of parinirvana in Thervadic Buddhism and another deconstructing the teachings of Guru Nanak (the founder of the Sikh faith). I’ve lived with a Japanese family in Hiroshima for over a month and had a long face-to-face conversation with a Buddhist monk in a monastery there. I’ve attended a variety of religious services while abroad in Japan as well.

Given my personal experiences and studies with eastern philosophy and religion, I feel justified in my belief that the self-help industry is a cesspool of pseudo-intellectual charlatans who are geniuses at telling gullible people what they want to hear, for the purpose of enriching themselves. I know what I’m talking about, despite your presumption that I speak from ignorance.

In my opinion, you need to get over yourself. Your verbal tantrum comes off as a new-aged version of a holier-than-thou, I-know-better-than-you religious zealotry (who’s the one acting childish). People have different opinions and beliefs, learn to learn from them and life will be a richer experience because of it. If you want to find a community where everyone agrees with you you can go visit an echo chamber, join a cult, or plug your fingers in your ears, close your eyes and make lots of weird noises.

Personally, I find the Fluther community so valuable because it provides a diverse set of opinions, experiences, and expertise that teach me things I don’t already know—it’s incredibly valuable and would be much-less-so if everyone agreed with each other.

Coloma's avatar



I think the mirrors reflection is pointed squarely in your direction.

I think you could easily assimilate my points, but you choose to preach your own holier than thou-ness.

Clearly you are more intent on your next meddling and egoic response than you are in really hearing my sentiments.

Oh..and BTW…I was just in a Buddhist monestary in the mountains at Taroko gorge Taiwan last you see, grasshopper…your immense experience is not so immense.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

You may all point the mirror at me. Please do, the gift is mine. For when I look there, into it deeply, I see you. The me in you and the you in me is the we that be.

To see oneself through eye of foe, the greatest gift a man can know.

Was it Confucius that said, “When dealing with a noble man, I make him my equal. When dealing with fools, I learn from them.”

Coloma's avatar


Learing from fools..that is the challenge. lol

Hey GorillaPaws…..I’m done…how bout’ you..I see your paws are typing…let it be.


gorillapaws's avatar

@Coloma ” was just in a Buddhist monestary in the mountains at Taroko gorge Taiwan last you see, grasshopper…your immense experience is not so immense.”

How does you visiting a monastery in any way diminish the experiences and knowledge that I have? I brought up my experiences in response to your charge that I have no knowledge of the subject not to diminish your experience.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@gorillapaws @Coloma

I’m interested in both of your experiences. A bit jealous actually. @Coloma are the monasteries a beautiful in real life as they are in pictures? I just can’t imagine what it would be like on that mountain top. Is it as peaceful as it seems?

@gorillapaws Your experience with the Japanese family is similar to one I had with a Jamaican family. How did they treat you as an American I presume? And I’m very interested in what prompted your interest in ancient eastern teachings at such an early age in college. Were you searching for something? Did you find it? Is your interest limited to eastern philosophies and religions or is it in general for all world philosophies and religions. The reason I ask is that I’ve found a great deal of underlying similarities across multiple disciplines. I’m wondering if you have as well.

Coloma's avatar


Calling others works ‘shit’ is not very experienced.

No diminishment…just sayin’...there are MANY good works and pointing out your assumptions that ALL self-help books are shit would be simply…untrue. Period.

My experiences do not diminish your experiences..just sharing because of the assumptive nature of some of your words, that I too, can claim plenty of knowledge, study and experience.

Alrighty…this poor horse is down for the count…I surrender my stick.


Yes…absoloutly amazing…spent chinese new year in Taipei city for 2 weeks and then to Hualien and Toroko Nat; Park.

The mountain monestaries were amazingly beautiful…cliffside overhangs and raging waterfalls spilling through the courtyards. Sitting in bliss! Many other beautiful temples all over the island. Wish I could have spent another few weeks.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Coloma I must go one day. That will be with you for a while I’m sure. Can’t think of anything like it in the States to compare. Did you meditate or pray while you were there?

Coloma's avatar


Yes…lots of spaciousness and meditation…but an equal amount of hiking and fireworks and Taiwan beer and dumplings….lolololol

chamelopotamus's avatar

It depends what about his ideas are attractive to you? Because there are superior alternatives left and right as far as I’m concerned. For me, he was just a mutt of ideas, with no clear teaching or specialty

Coloma's avatar


Yes…a combo plate, but I think very good for anyone new to these philosophies.
His popularity is primarily geared to the newbie nowbie. lolol

talljasperman's avatar

because he has audio books that pass the time…I perfer “The Gathering Storm” by Robert Jordan

ninjacolin's avatar

“the more your life is led by these desires, the more you are unlikely to find true fulfillment/happiness because these material possessions/knowledge are a false identity (ego) that doesn’t represent your true self”

this kinda stuff i don’t agree with. i find this very subjective. i’m certain there are people who have achieved the kinda happiness without living their lives according to such extremes of selfdenial. to me this stuff is more of a way to live your life from time to time as an exercise, but not a way to live your life 24/7. it’s an optional thing to do, not necessarily the best way to be.

wundayatta's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Thanks for asking those questions. I think they are quite pertinent. We really do need to know people’s experiences in order to understand their opinions and philosophies. Well, I think so, anyway. Anyway, I think I’m going to borrow one of them if you don’t mind.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

It’s an open bar friend.

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