The best and worst parts of being a part of a book club is being introduced to works outside of your normal reading spectrum. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now (along with Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper) made me quit my local book club. While this seems like an easy target to criticize, there was something I found very troubling about this book. It’s more than the fact that it’s poorly written, or filled with pseudo-spiritual nonsense.
I found the bio of the author, Eckhart Tolle, to be the most troubling aspect of this book. It claims that he was depressed for much of his life and then underwent an ‘inner transformation,’ a two year period when he was a bum (but in a state of ‘deep bliss’), and then came out the other side a spiritual leader. It reminded me of this post, for some reason.
It seemed his cure for depression was to just snap out of it. (Or perhaps the cure for the depression is to write a best-seller and become a millionaire). This suggestion is troubling at best, dangerous at worst if he is recommending this type of introspection as a treatment for depression. I would implore everyone to go to the Amazon website, click on ‘Look Inside’ and read the introduction where one minute he hates the world and is contemplating suicide and the next everything is awesome because of his new life perspective. It is convoluted, ridiculous, a little unbelievable and involves being sucked into a void.
The spiritual advice is conveniently non-denominational (presumably to appeal to as many religions as possible). The gist is live for today (oh, and don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff)). The interesting part of this book is that while it tries to provide a path to spiritual enlightenment, there is no empirical way to test if someone is spiritually enlightened. You would have to take someone at their word that Tolle’s teachings have enlightened them or gave them peace or happiness in their life. And you could probably assume that such enlightened people would have no need for any other self-help book, ever, and certainly not another from Mr. Tolle. And then you could look at the sale numbers of Tolle’s follow-up book, A New Earth, and it’d be pretty easy to determine how many people he led to enlightenment…