A Criticism of Eckhart Tolle

This article is about one of the most popular spiritual gurus of all time. Eckhart Tolle is a multimillionaire who preaches letting go of needs. The star of his own video website named after himself, he also tells us to let go of ego and any mental attachment to ourselves.

Notice any possible contradictions? Okay so maybe I am making fun of him a little here but I personally believe that his message is a profound one in many ways. It has certainly helped me deal with things and continues to be a source of some inspiration.

However, his philosophy is not immune to criticism and I believe that it is worth examining those in order to get the most out of what he has to offer.

Every human being experiences thoughts and feelings which often react to the world around them, wanting things to be a certain way and getting disappointed when they are not as expected. Eckhart tells us that these thoughts and feelings are not who we really are and that identifying with any mental image of ourselves is what causes problems.

His solution is to become a detached observer of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings through a process he calls disidentification. We can do this by focussing much less on those sensations and much more on the raw experience of each moment.

Eckhart takes this to a mystical level by insisting that connecting with the present allows us to become one with the universe! The more we do this the more we let go of the self and all its reactions. It is a beautiful and powerful idea that offers humanity a new way of being conscious and thereby liberates us all from all forms of suffering – yay hoo!

Let me begin with some popular criticisms of Eckhart Tolle before moving onto his message and whether it really works.

Continue >> A Criticism of Eckhart Tolle – Part 2


Eckhart Tolle Criticism Article Index > 1 2 3 4 5 6

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[Posted by John on May 7, 2013]

23 thoughts on “A Criticism of Eckhart Tolle

  1. I would like to thank you for finally giving my husband–the fool that he is a reason for not doing anything or caring about anyone in his life. He has left after 40 years of marriage because of your ridulous book. It fits into his not care do nothing attitude that I have choosen to endure all of my married life. I know that you are laughing all the way to the bank. Perhaps you did not mean to cause such a stir but for people like do nothing husband — you gave him a good reason to be the way he is!!!
    I put up with more than any sane woman would have put up with only to be abandoned without any money (because according to you & him money is not important) running around trying to find help.
    Thank you and thank you again—NOT. Karma is a bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!! May you end up in Hell with my husband.

    Sheri from Allison Park, PA

    • Sheri, I am so sorry for your situation, but surely you must see that giving people a reason to abandon those they love and hurt those in their lives was not the point of the book. The responsibility lies with your husband. He chose to leave and chose to use this as the reason rather than say he had always felt this way. Your husband looked for justification of his feelings rather than taking responsibility for them himself. You said yourself he always had a do nothing attitude. If it wasn’t this boom it would have been something else, but the source stays the same, your husband. You will find better, someone who deserves you and will make you happy because they want to be there with you. Good luck dear.

    • Tolle’s book doesnt propagate any conception about what to do in your life. He says – if you’ll stop identifying yourself (unconsciously) with your ego (your image, life story, your future needs etc.) you’ll become very free inside, living in a deep peace and this state brings automatically better decisions into your life – more conscious more responsible. Maybe your husband is in a period of becoming aware of his burden created by his mind and this first step brings often confusion and lost of ego-based identity.

    • I can totally understand why you are angry about this! And I do think it’s true that Eckhart Tolle unknowingly encourages a kind of apathy that may have been a contributing factor to what happened there. Not all relationships are meant to work out but I hope you find someone who is better for you and who deserves you too. Take care 😉

  2. Thank you for a great article. I have been reading and listening to A New Earth for a number of years. I have gone from a hellish state of mind to semi-bearable, a major achievement, maybe (being conscious of labels). So I found the points you raised very interesting and relatable. I was surprised to read later that you weren’t a professional, guru or whatever. Not that you aren’t either. I’m going to reread and possibiliy utilize to enhance my understanding and practice. Thanks!!!

  3. Simple answer is that his teaching is a tool not means to an end.
    And if someone wants to be guided by one “spiriual teacher” (LOL ) in their whole life, than they are pretty dumb.
    Also “arriving here” is the best part of his teaching..and also the only really good part..at least rest is just rubbish to sell some books..he arrived “here” himself and look at him now..a success. So take it lightly my vegan/spiritual/hippy friends….
    “You are out of your depth, Donny”.

    • A point well made!

      I would go even further and suggest that Eckhart’s teachings carry a danger of becoming egoically identified with the man and what he has to say. Isn’t that kind of ironic?

      A poem for all Eckhart disciples:

      There is a lot of good in what he has to say.
      But it’s good not to get too carried away…

  4. well, seems at least he has stirred up things and has people asking questions and thinking which in my book is always a good thing! the problem here as far as i can see it is, looking outside of yourself for other “guru” or someone/something that is going to be the sole reason we decide to do this or that. forgetting while we are putting this other human up on his pedestal that guess what? he is human just like us and no matter what he says or how he behaves in front of you for an hour or so, he has his own demons to work with and so our desire to constantly look outside of ourselves is always going to bring about these guru types that seem like at the time they have the solution for your problem. each one of us are so unique that no scientist or doctor working 24/7 his entire life could ever figure us out. now i’m not saying that some people past present or future can’t help us along our path, i’m just a firm believer in being responsible for my own destiny and looking within and asking for divine guidance that is perfectly suited for me! i don’t think it’s wise or healthy to place all your trust and faith in any one person place or thing, feeling emotion or action! the only way you learn is through experience, so try new things but don’t forget yourself along the way and get lost in all the distractions. always always always come back to yourself and do go and feel what is right for you in that moment. anything you ever need to know in your life to help you, is right there inside of you and all you have to do is ask and seek. it is a process that beckons all of us and it is no easy task, there is no easy button folks but if done responsibly can be less painful :) i hope i have been helpful!

  5. Why study for years to master the technique of “letting go” of all your suffering?
    A simple prayer and “offering it up” will give you the peace of mind you’re craving for.

  6. I found your comments about Eckhart’s teachings to make for interesting reading. I, too, have sometimes wondered about Tolle’s wealth and what it might be being used for – particularly since he seems to live a fairly unassuming life style by North America standards. However, that is not the reason for my posting here. Rather, I would like to address a couple of points you made, as I feel they demonstrate a slight misunderstanding of Tolle’s teachings. To quote:

    “His solution is to become a detached observer of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings through a process he calls disidentification. We can do this by focussing much less on those sensations and much more on the raw experience of each moment.”

    and, further

    “He offers us an inspiring place to be and tells us that it is right here and right now.”

    Of course you are correct that Tolle’s urges us to be in the “Now”. What I have finally, and relatively recently, come to understand, though, is that he is not so much referring to the “Raw experience of the moment” as he is about the awareness within which that experience emerges. The distinction might seem subtle, but I feel it is quite profound. Let me see if I can say it in another way… the common interpretation of “Being Here Now” tends to be being utterly conscious of everything that is arising in the now, without thought or judgement (which, of course, are the same thing)….. Accepting and allowing this ever-changing now to Be. But at the heart of Tolle’s teachings (as well as those of the Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Lao Tzu, Peace Pilgrim, the Christ, and countless other awakened ones throughout the ages) is not to be aware… but to Be the awareness itself. That is the true “Now” or “Tao” or “Kingdom of Heaven” or whatever name one wishes to give it.

    As Peace Pilgrim put it in her prayer….

    “Peace, be still and know that I Am God.

    Peace, be still and know that I Am.

    Peace, be still and know.

    Peace, be still.

    Peace, be.


    Namaste’. :-)

  7. Dear judges,
    Stop judging. Eckhart is selling no medicine that you are supposed to buy and apply letting your careful mind shut dominated by beleif and hope.
    Many church and temples are built big and made rich, people are there to say why so big expensive and rich instead feed the poor. Non of the argumaents match with fact. You cannot say instead of sending the sattelite in the space we can use that money to built the house for the homeless.
    Eckhart is talking on your true self, you can pay to watch live or download free to litsen and read or see.
    Dare to know you “Self” have no fear or doubt because you are not going to follow him you are going to follow your true being. You are not entering the building of religion to become so called religious.

  8. Some judges are commenting that there is nothing new with Eckhart’s sayings. Everything is as zen masters,buddhist teaching, or bible or whatever.
    So you are in the market to buy the Brand New Thing ? mmmmh!
    Universal teachings remains universal only teachers or preachers lips keep changing. Some experts play with words for buyers brand new satisfaction. But ultimately the truth is no one’s product.
    Its free from new or old.
    Yes you can find yourself New by listening those you called the ” same old”

  9. Just finished “the power of Now” and found it to be rather interesting. Interesting in the sense that every page was deja vu. I enjoy reading or hearing others’ thoughts and opinions on faith, religion, etc. however it still amazes me how writers will take what has already been said, written, taught or otherwise and relabel it and say OMG I have just discovered something new….And to make matters worse, people with influence in the media will jump all over these items and what I find most disturbing of all is that you can always count on the human race to pad your pockets either through their gullibility (mostly) or their curiosity. I too do not have the answers but hey I bet if strung a line bull long enough, I too could build multi million dollar empire or belief system…just saying.

  10. Wow, I didn’t know he was Rich. Or what his wife looks like. What part of you, or any of us, is concerned enough about such things as to discern, discredit, or even discuss those aspects of the man’s life. The Ego perhaps? Not this article, so much as the comments, has me believing with even More conviction that the Ego is not only useless but destructive. Eckhart is an author with a positive message that may or may not be helpful for those of us (all) who suffer. Oh, But he’s not a very sharp dresser, so I don’t think his advise or guidance will help me? Come on people leave the messenger alone and consider the message. It’s one of peace not prosperity, and if he or any-one else can make a buck spreading it, Good for them.

    • Thanks for your observation and I like your point about not shooting the messenger.

      It’s probably fair to say that there are egotists who oppose Eckhart and also egotists who support him. I represent both since I have an ego, agree with some of what he has to say and also have my doubts too.

      I’m not persuaded that his wealth is entirely irrelevant. He’s made millions off his seminars, books, CDs, DVDs and other merchandise: you can’t deny his business empire simply by using the word “Wow”.

      We all agree that ego is something that causes problems and is good to overcome. The question is how?

      I would suggest that there are many aspects largely missing from Eckhart’s writings that might help people with this: empathy, humanity and maybe the renunciation of wealth too?

      You’ll find those missing elements in the words of others teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh who says: “The affluent society and the deprived society inter-are. The wealth of one society is made of the poverty of the other”. It seems fair to point this out and to question where the man is really coming from…

      • Fair enough; a bit inspiring as well, since Eckhart’s teachings are the only one of this kind that I have taken the time to read. He’s certainly got me started on a good path. and I’ll look forward to the benefits of other teachings as well moving forward.


  11. The purpose of these lines is to be helpful. The ego loves to write and explain, debate, contrast, compare, discuss, be right. It could not cope with silence as long as there are thoughts to throw out there. Silence is the challenge precisely because it shuts down the tendency to blah, blah and elaborate more thoughts, which are almost always the same.
    From serenity to understanding to silence to splitting ego from this expression of life that is writing. All the books in the world cannot create the understanding and the experience: it is a path of merging the I AM with TO BE. When silence is your natural and unconflicting response you will be, because there will not be anything outside of it.
    So many traditions have spoken about this, and this is another chance, but only through a journey of self-honesty. Let him who has ears hear.
    Whatever your reaction to these lines, it may mean the gates of heaven or the gates of hell. Take the chance.

    • It’s true that silence, stillness, peace and serenity can sometimes only be achieved letting go of thoughts, rationality and debate. If all your mind is telling you is the same thing over and over again – and if that causes you great suffering – then finding some way to forget about it can obviously help. Living in the moment is not the only way to deal with negative thoughts but I would never deny that it is often part of the solution.

      However, to imagine that thinking always causes pain or does not have its uses would be going too far. Eckhart himself uses logic, analysis and mental observations to make all of his points. And yet sometimes he adopts a somewhat hypocritical position which suggests that anyone who dares to disagree with him must be wrong just because they are also using their brain.

  12. This thought comes from long ago and encompasses the idea of each soul housing three elements within our beings… the Child who never grows up, the Reasoning mind or Adult mind that is always busy trying to tame the child, generally be in charge and or enlist help from the Divine, and the Spirit who is in direct contact with the Divine. The idea is to become FRIENDS with the Child in order to gain peace and get co-operation from the Child. The Child is innocent and in contact with Spirit but the Child never grows up and always needs encouragement to do the best thing for self……..Child always wants too much chocolate……. so to speak.
    ….. Spirit can be reached by becoming friends with the Child within, NOT turning it out. I agree with this commentary in the site. Eckhart has taught me much, but does not touch the ever nagging question of WHY is this Child a part of me IF it is not suppose to be? The Trinity idea works for me. We can be too clever, too smart and too sure of what we think we know. The Spirit resides within me, I must be worthy, need only to learn to reach it consciously through my innocence which is represented by my Child and that will only happen if my Child is a happy camper and that is up to ME….. and ALL that I am made of, pass the chocolate.

  13. Thank you for your piece, as I have just recently read The Power of Now and found it very profound, it is comforting to see how you ‘level out’ Eckhart’s philosophies to make them more realistic or normalised – as an aside, I would say that, coming from a Christian background, he actually makes Christianity more ‘normalised’ by quoting Jesus whilst not being restricted by religious or literal confines. This merging of Eastern and Western beliefs speaks to me of more of a holistic way of life, which I am very much in favour of – the old institutions, in and of themselves, like old wineskins, don’t work anymore. We need something new to really affect change in the world! Thanks again.

  14. Here here, I agree with all the comments on the disadvantages of blindly following Tolle as if he was a God. The apathy of actually NOT living in the here and Now, simply because someone follows the words religiously, is a path towards self destruction. I believe in taking responsibility for you actions, not just waving them off because they happened yesterday and not here and now… what a crock … No one person should make so much money from other peoples pain… just not right.

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