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Eckhart Tolle
Tolle in 2010
Tolle in 2010
Born Ulrich Leonard Tölle
February 16, 1948 (1948-02-16) (age 73)
Lünen, Germany
Occupation Writer, public speaker
Language English, German, Spanish
Genre Spirituality, psychology, metaphysics
Notable works The Power of Now (1997)
A New Earth (2005)

Eckhart Tolle ( ek-ART-_-TOL; born Ulrich Leonard Tölle, February 16, 1948) is a spiritual teacher and best-selling author. He is a German-born resident of Canada best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. In 2008, The New York Times called Tolle "the most popular spiritual author in the United States." In 2011, he was listed by Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world. Tolle does not identify with any specific religion, but he has been influenced by a wide range of spiritual works.

Tolle said he was depressed for much of his life until age 29 when he experienced an "inner transformation." He then spent several years wandering "in a state of deep bliss" before becoming a spiritual teacher. He moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1995 and currently divides his time between Canada and California. He began writing his first book, The Power of Now, in 1997 and it reached The New York Times Best Seller list in 2000.

The Power of Now and A New Earth sold an estimated three million and five million copies respectively in North America by 2009. In 2008, Tolle joined television talk show host Oprah Winfrey for 10 live webinars, and by October 2009 they had been accessed 35 million times. In 2016, Tolle was named in Oprah's SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.

Early life and education

Born Ulrich Leonard Tölle in Lünen, a small town located north of Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley, Germany, in 1948, Tolle describes his childhood as unhappy—particularly his early childhood in Germany. His parents fought and eventually separated, and he felt alienated due to a hostile school environment. He also experienced considerable fear and anxiety growing up in post-war Germany, where he would play in bombed-out buildings. He later stated that pain "was in the energy field of the country." At the age of 13, he moved to Spain to live with his father. His father did not insist that he attend high school, so Tolle elected to study literature, astronomy, and various languages at home.

At the age of 15, he read several books written by the German mystic, Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bô Yin Râ. Tolle has said he responded "very deeply" to those books.

At the age of 19, he moved to England and taught German and Spanish for three years at a London school for language studies. Troubled by "depression, anxiety and fear," he began "searching for answers" in his life. In his early twenties, he decided to pursue his search by studying philosophy, psychology, and literature, and enrolled at the University of London. After graduating, he was offered a scholarship to do postgraduate research at Cambridge University, which he attended in 1977 but dropped out soon after.

Inner transformation

One night in 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of depression, Tolle says he experienced an "inner transformation". That night he awakened from his sleep, suffering from feelings of depression that were "almost unbearable," but then experienced a life-changing epiphany. Recounting the experience, he says,

I couldn't live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I' that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn't know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or "beingness," just observing and watching.

Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning, and finding that "everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic." The feeling continued, and he began to feel a strong underlying sense of peace in any situation. He stopped studying for his doctorate, and for a period of about two years after this he spent much of his time sitting, "in a state of deep bliss," on park benches in Russell Square, Central London, "watching the world go by." He stayed with friends, in a Buddhist monastery, or otherwise slept rough on Hampstead Heath. His family thought him "irresponsible, even insane." He changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart; by some reports this was in homage to the German philosopher and mystic, Meister Eckhart. A 2012 interview article states that he saw the name Eckhart on one of a pile of books in a dream, and knew he had written the book; soon after in real life he ran into a psychic friend who called him Eckhart out of nowhere, so he changed his name.

Career

After this period, former Cambridge students and people he had met by chance began to ask Tolle about his beliefs. He began working as a counsellor and spiritual teacher. Students continued to come to him over the next five years. He relocated to Glastonbury, a major centre of alternative living. In 1995, after having visited the West Coast of North America several times, he moved to and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he met his future wife, Kim Eng.

Tolle's first book, The Power of Now, was first published in 1997 by Namaste Publishing. Only 3,000 copies were published of the first edition. He said he and his friends personally delivered some copies of the book to bookstores in Vancouver and the surrounding area. The book was republished on a large scale by New World Library in 1999. In 2000, Oprah Winfrey recommended it in her magazine, O. In August 2000, it reached The New York Times Best Seller list for Hardcover Advice. After two more years, it was number one on that list. By 2008, the book had been translated from English into 33 languages; He published his second book, Stillness Speaks, in 2003. In July 2011, The Power of Now appeared on the list for the 10 best selling Paperback Advice books for the 102nd time.

In 2005, Tolle published his third book, A New Earth, which assumed the number one position on The New York Times Best Seller list several times between March and September 2008. By the end of 2008, it reached the list for the 46th time. The high sales of A New Earth in that year followed its selection by Oprah Winfrey for her book club in January. In the four weeks following the announcement, 3.5 million copies of the book were shipped. Tolle partnered with her to produce a series of webinar sessions beginning in May 2008. The weekly webinar sessions included discussions between Winfrey and himself, silent meditations, and questions from viewers via Skype. Each webinar focused on a specific chapter of A New Earth. The third webinar attracted more than 11 million viewers.

He formed a company to sell products related to his teachings called Eckhart Teachings. He created a website called Eckhart Tolle TV, with streaming video of monthly group meditations and other videos. He gives speeches and workshops in English and occasionally in German or Spanish. He also travels for various speaking engagements, such as seminars and retreats. In a 2003 interview with the Telegraph Magazine, Tolle indicated that he had no intention of creating "a heavy commercial structure", nor of setting up an ashram or centre. He believes one "could develop organically" and said "one needs to be careful that the organization doesn't become self-serving".

In September 2009, he appeared with the Dalai Lama and other speakers at the Vancouver Peace Summit. The same year he published Guardians of Being, a picture book illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the comic strip Mutts.

In 2017, British contemporary artist Alexander de Cadenet interviewed Tolle about art and the spiritual dimension. Tolle commented on his interest in landscape photography and said "both art and nature can serve as portals into the transcendent dimension, your essence identity." In 2018, Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine produced the first ever publications of Tolle's nature photography.

Teachings

See also: The Power of Now and A New Earth

Tolle writes in the introduction of his second book, Stillness Speaks:

A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information, beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth ... The words are no more than signposts.

He says that his book The Power of Now is "a restatement for our time of that one timeless spiritual teaching, the essence of all religions". He writes that religions "have become so overlaid with extraneous matter that their spiritual substance has become almost completely obscured", that they have become "to a large extent ... divisive rather than unifying forces" and become "themselves part of the insanity".

Tolle writes that "the most significant thing that can happen to a human being [is] the separation process of thinking and awareness" and that awareness is "the space in which thoughts exist". Tolle says that "the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it".

According to his official website, "at the core of Tolle's teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. An essential aspect of this awakening consists in transcending our ego-based state of consciousness. This is a prerequisite not only for personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic on our planet".

In his book A New Earth, he describes a major aspect of the human dysfunction as "ego" or an "illusory sense of self" based on unconscious identification with one's memories and thoughts, and another major aspect he calls "pain-body" or "an accumulation of old emotional pain".

Influences

According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, Tolle is "not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible". He has said: "I feel actually that the work I do is a coming together of the teaching 'stream', if you want to call it that, of [Jiddu] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi." Tolle has mentioned texts such as the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu texts, the Buddhist texts, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and A Course in Miracles; he has mentioned various individuals such as Zoroaster, Laozi, Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Jesus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, Hafez, Linji Yixuan, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Barry Long, and Carl Jung; and he has emphasized the mystical schools within religions such as Gnosticism in Christianity, Sufism in Islam, Hasidism and Kabbalah in Judaism, Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism, and Zen and Dzogchen in Buddhism.

Books

  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Namaste Publishing, 1997
  • Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN: 1-57731-400-X
  • A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Dutton, October 11, 2005 ISBN: 0-525-94802-3
  • Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now, New World Library, October 10, 2001 ISBN: 1-57731-195-7 (HC) - expands on the Power of Now
  • Oneness With All Life: Inspirational Selections from A New Earth, Penguin Group, November 2008 - Expands on A New Earth

Graphic novels

  • Guardians of Being, New World Library, October 2009 ISBN: 978-1-57731-671-8

Children's books

DVDs

  • The Flowering of Human Consciousness: Everyone's Life Purpose, Namaste Publishing, Inc., 2001 ISBN: 1-59179-154-5
  • Practicing Presence: A Guide for the Spiritual Teacher and Health Practitioner, Eckhart Teachings, 2003 ISBN: 1-894884-45-0
  • Eckhart Tolle's Findhorn Retreat: Stillness Amidst The World, New World Library, 2006 ISBN: 1-57731-509-X
  • Finding Your Life's Purpose, Eckhart Teachings, 2008 ISBN: 1-894884-52-3
  • The Doorway into Now, Eckhart Teachings, 2009 ISBN: 1-894884-37-X
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