(A humorous, sacrilegious and cynical review of my personal experience of the 2013 Eckhart Tolle Tour).
I have been a fan of Eckhart Tolle for many years, ever since reading The Power of Now, his 1999 best seller. I was excited to be sitting at the feet of such a sage and influential man, hearing what words of wisdom he had to impart.
I learned two things at the Eckhart Tolle seminar at the Troxy Theatre in London: one, Mr Tolle has terrible posture, apparently because he is an academic and spends a lot of time slouching in a chair; two, I seem to have transcended the message that Eckhart was telling us.
I swiftly became bored at having to sit for two hours listening to a rehash of ideas taken from his two admittedly wonderful books; most of which, by the way, I agree with. These two tomes seem to be the sum total of his literary output for the past 14 years, bar a picture book and several ‘workbooks’, all just extracts of his two main works. Eckhart would have told me, if he knew of my squirming disquiet, that it was my ‘mind making me unhappy and that I was not present and in the now.’
Maybe I have spent far too much of my adolescent years experimenting with, nay, devouring psychedelics like a truffling pig, so perhaps had fast-forwarded my spiritual development and long ago come to the conclusion that all of what we perceive as ‘reality’ was an illusion, temporary—and I had witnessed with my own acid-riddled eyes the cosmic web that connects us to all matter and the vibrating particles in the vast, infinite space that is my reality.
The audience were, on the whole: greying, middle-aged, middle class (well you’d have to have some disposable income to be able to afford the tickets), polite and whispering.
Many were there on their own, more than is normal for an event in a Rococo theatre, sitting solo and serious under the gaze of gilded cherubs. They queued quietly, and after eavesdropping on subdued conversations, many about ‘How long have you been into Eckhart?’ and ‘I just want to sit in his presence,’ I felt that they needed to hear this information, needed to know that their dull existences were an illusion, although, judging by my eavesdropping, most already seemed to be veteran ‘Tolle-philes’ and had been following him around disciple-like since he had first been ‘Oprah‘d.’
They laughed politely at every gentle joke our hero made, but there was very little joy in the laughter. I wanted to grab them by their flannel fair-trade lapels and bitch-slap them into awareness.
Now, I generally don’t do gurus, as those of you who know me already understand, but I too was intrigued and drawn to sit in the presence of the man whose books, The Power of Now and (my favourite) A New Earth, are beautifully expressed volumes of what the New Age is all about: how we must be present and live in the moment, how suffering and our perception of reality comes from our own minds, how we must realise we are all connected and that all this is temporary, an illusion, concepts that have been expressed throughout the centuries from avatars as varied as Jesus and the Buddha, both of whom Eckhart quoted liberally.
Yes, I did feel relaxed in his gentle presence, so relaxed that I fell asleep several times, not from fatigue, but from the boredom of having his books quoted at me. I couldn’t see the point of why I was there. I don’t know what I wanted or expected; perhaps I was needing a more street-fighting revolutionary talk. Alright, we know this is all an illusion, a set-up: now let’s hit the streets and take our power back. Eckhart’s revolution was just too wet and inconclusive for me.
Maybe I’m lucky, as I have never struggled with the essence of spirituality—I’ve always seen life as a temporary ride.
What I do struggle with is how to re-balance all the material injustices I witness, how to make a more fair ride for all the inhabitants on the Mother Ship and why the larger proportion of our connected planet wonder where their next bowl of rice is going to come from whilst we navel gaze. That’s my ‘spirituality.’
His jokes were funny, but wouldn’t you be cracking jokes too if you managed to shoehorn 5,000 plus people at £ 50 a throw into an old London East-End theatre as part of a multi-stop sell-out world tour? I would morph into all three of the Marx Brothers for that kind of dosh.
I left the theatre in a herd of quietly shuffling, whispering grey ‘sheeple,’ frustrated that nothing had changed. Children would still go hungry, bankers would still stash away abstract sums of wealth in off-shore accounts and politicians would still lie and manipulate. Eckhart says change comes from within, true, but my ‘within’ is bursting to get out. Deeds not words.
I know I will probably be lynched for speaking like this about a perfectly nice, soft-spoken, well-intentioned man like Eckhart Tolle, but isn’t that the same attitude a fundamentalist Christian, any fundamentalist in fact, would have if you dissed Jesus or their messiah of choice?
For a revolution, give me Russell Brand any day! Now that’s my kind of messiah!
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Assistant Editor: Bronwyn Petry / Editor: Catherine Monkman