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Tolle tells us there is good news, however. There is an alternative to this potentially dire situation. Humanity now, perhaps more than in any previous time, has an opportunity to create a new, ...
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Tolle tells us there is good news, however. There is an alternative to this potentially dire situation. Humanity now, perhaps more than in any previous time, has an opportunity to create a new, saner, more loving world. This will involve a radical inner leap from the current egoic consciousness to an entirely new one.
In illuminating the nature of this shift in consciousness, Tolle describes in detail how our current ego-based state of consciousness operates. Then gently, and in very practical terms, he leads us into this new consciousness. We will come to experience who we truly are--which is something infinitely greater than anything we currently think we are--and learn to live and breathe freely.
According to Tolle, who assumes the role of narrator as well, humans are on the verge of creating a new world by a personal transformation that shifts our attention away from our ever-expanding egos. This idea is well realized through Tolle's remarkably well-paced narration. Naturally, the author understands his material so thoroughly that he is able to convey it in an enjoyable manner, but Tolle's gentle tone and dialect begs his audience's attention simply through its straightforward approach. Something about this reading just seems profoundly important, whether one agrees with the material or not, and listeners' attention is sure to be captured within seconds of listening to Tolle's take on the universe in which we live. Originally released in 2005, both book and audiobook were reissued when Oprah Winfrey chose the title for her book club this year. A Penguin paperback. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Flowering of Human Consciousness
Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet—if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it.
Much later, those delicate and fragrant beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them. As the consciousness of human beings developed, flowers were most likely the first thing they came to value that had no utilitarian purpose for them, that is to say, was not linked in some way to survival. They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics. Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it. After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile.
He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon. According to legend, that smile (that is to say, realization) was handed down by twenty-eight successivemasters and much later became the origin of Zen.
Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit. Using the word “enlightenment” in a wider sense than the conventionally accepted one, we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants.
Any life-form in any realm—mineral, vegetable, animal, or human—can be said to undergo “enlightenment.” It is, however, an extremely rare occurrence since it is more than an evolutionary progression: It also implies a discontinuity in its development, a leap to an entirely different level of Being and, most important, a lessening of materiality.
What could be heavier and more impenetrable than a rock, the densest of all forms? And yet some rocks undergo a change in their molecular structure, turn into crystals, and so become transparent to the light. Some carbons, under inconceivable heat and pressure, turn into diamonds, and some heavy minerals into other precious stones.
Most crawling reptilians, the most earthbound of all creatures, have remained unchanged for millions of years.
Some, however, grew feathers and wings and turned into birds, thus defying the force of gravity that had held them for so long. They didn’t become better at crawling or walking, but transcended crawling and walking entirely.
Since time immemorial, flowers, crystals, precious stones, and birds have held special significance for the human spirit. Like all life-forms, they are, of course, temporary manifestations of the underlying one Life, one Consciousness.
Their special significance and the reason why humans feel such fascination for and affinity with them can be attributed to their ethereal quality.
Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings’ perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. Until this happens, however, most humans see only the outer forms, unaware of the inner essence, just as they are unaware of their own essence and identify only with their own physical and psychological form.
In the case of a flower, a crystal, precious stone, or bird, however, even someone with little or no Presence can occasionally sense that there is more there than the mere physical existence of that form, without knowing that this is the reason why he or she is drawn toward it, feels an affinity with it. Because of its ethereal nature, its form obscures the indwelling spirit to a lesser degree than is the case with other life-forms. The exception to this are all newborn life-forms—babies, puppies, kittens, lambs, and so on. They are fragile, delicate, not yet firmly established in materiality. An innocence, a sweetness and beauty that are not of this world still shine through them. They delight even relatively insensitive humans.
So when you are alert and contemplate a flower, crystal, or bird without naming it mentally, it becomes a window for you into the formless. There is an inner opening, however slight, into the realm of spirit. This is why these three “en-lightened” life-forms have played such an important part in the evolution of human consciousness since ancient times; why, for example, the jewel in the lotus flower is a central symbol of Buddhism and a white bird, the dove, signifies the Holy Spirit in Christianity. They have been preparing the ground for a more profound shift in planetary consciousness that is destined to take place in the human species. This is the spiritual awakening that we are beginning to witness now.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK
Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection? Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones, so to speak, transparent to the light of consciousness? Can they defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns them to imprisonment within their own personality? The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of humankind.
The messengers—Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known—were humanity’s early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings. A widespread flowering was not yet possible at that time, and their message became largely misunderstood and often greatly distorted.
It certainly did not transform human behavior, except in a small minority of people.
Is humanity more ready now than at the time of those early teachers? Why should this be so? What can you do, if anything, to bring about or accelerate this inner shift? What is it that characterizes the old egoic state of consciousness, and by what signs is the new emerging consciousness recognized?
These and other essential questions will be addressed in this book. More important, this book itself is a transformational device that has come out of the arising new consciousness. The ideas and concepts presented here may be important, but they are secondary. They are no more than signposts pointing toward awakening. As you read, a shift takes place within you.
This book’s main purpose is not to add new information or beliefs to your mind or to try to convince you of anything, but to bring about a shift in consciousness, that is to say, to awaken. In that sense, this book is not “interesting.”
Interesting means you can keep your distance, play around with ideas and concepts in your mind, agree or disagree.
This book is about you. It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless. It can only awaken those who are ready. Not everyone is ready yet, but many are, and with each person who awakens, the momentum in the collective consciousness grows, and it becomes easier for others. If you don’t know what awakening means, read on. Only by awakening can you know the true meaning of that word. A glimpse is enough to initiate the awakening process, which is irreversible. For some, that glimpse will come while reading this book. For many others who may not even have realized it, the process has already begun.
This book will help them recognize it. For some, it may have begun through loss or suffering; for others, through coming into contact with a spiritual teacher or teaching, through reading The Power of Now or some other spiritually alive and therefore transformational book—or any combination of the above. If the awakening process has begun in you, the reading of this book will accelerate and intensify it.
An essential part of the awakening is the recognition of the unawakened you, the ego as it thinks, speaks, and acts, as well as the recognition of the collectively conditioned mental processes that perpetuate the unawakened state.
That is why this book shows the main aspects of the ego and how they operate in the individual as well as in the collective.
This is important for two related reasons: The first is that unless you know the basic mechanics behind the workings of the ego, you won’t recognize it, and it will trick you into identifying with it again and again. This means it takes you over, an imposter pretending to be you.
The second reason is that the act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens. When you recognize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening.
You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light.
B&N.com: The theme for your new book is consciousness and overcoming our ego's struggle for power. Although you say the key to happiness is simple, why do you think it's so difficult for people to see through the ego's tricks?
Eckhart Tolle: Because the ego cannot recognize itself. To recognize the ego in oneself, another dimension of consciousness needs to arise. We may call it awareness or Presence. The arising of awareness is spiritual awakening. As long as there is no awareness, you are the unobserved mind, which is the ego. By definition, the unobserved mind cannot observe itself.
But more humans than ever before are now ready to awaken. Books such as A New Earth are here to accelerate the awakening process and are themselves part of that process.
The ego looks to the future for happiness and to the past for its identity: a recipe for continuous frustration and unhappiness. In its search for identity and happiness where they cannot be found, the ego obscures the only point of access to happiness and your true identity: the present moment.
In the section "A New Heaven and a New Earth," you say, "The inspiration for the title of this book…seems more applicable now that at any other time in human history." Why is this so?
A long time ago, some people already foresaw that the dysfunction inherent in the human mind would eventually bring about havoc on our planet and lead to a global crisis that would threaten the very survival of our species. We are reaching that point now. For the first time in history, the dysfunction of the human mind is threatening not only our survival but that of all life on earth. This is because science and technology are magnifying the effects of that dysfunction to such a degree that it is becoming an ever-increasing threat to all life on the planet.
Some people also foresaw that such a radical global crisis would act as a trigger for a shift in human consciousness. This is described in the Bible as an arising of a new heaven and a new earth. Heaven here refers to the inner dimension of consciousness, whereas earth is its outer reflection.
Describing the New Earth, you state: "…as the old consciousness dissolves, there are bound to be synchronistic geographic and climactic natural upheavals in many parts of the planet…." Can you explain a bit how human consciousness and the planet are interwoven? How can we make sense of difficult natural events like Hurricane Katrina?
One of the greatest insights that has come out of modern physics is that an event is not separate from the consciousness that perceives it. That is to say, the observer and the observed are not separate, and every act of perception is also an act of creation. Ultimately, what we perceive as external reality or the world is an outward reflection of our state of consciousness. This is to say that whatever happens on planet earth is a reflection of collective human consciousness. And when the old structures in the collective consciousness break up, as they are now, this is reflected outwardly in the breakup of external structures, both man-made as well as natural ones. This means we can expect many more such disasters as Hurricane Katrina and last year's tsunami. There is always another side to such events, which on the surface look entirely negative. Through the disruption of their lives, millions of people who otherwise would not be ready to awaken are being initiated forcefully into the awakening process by such disasters. They are forced to dis-identify from form, which is what awakening is. Many others experience the arising of compassion and the joy of egoless giving and helping. And what of those who don't make it, who die? There is not death, only the dissolution of form, which in any case is just around the corner for every human being and every life form.
Can you describe the difference between awareness and thinking? Is our essential being constant, or can it grow or even change over time?
Awareness is consciousness that has become conscious of itself. It is formless and unconditioned. Thinking is form, and form is conditioned by the past.
The arising of awareness is the dis-identification of consciousness from form. This is spiritual awakening. You can sense it as an alert inner stillness in the background, while thinking, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences happen in the foreground. The only way you can really understand awareness is by being aware, that is to say, present -- not by thinking about it or trying to define it.
Our essential being is consciousness. It is constant, eternal, that is to say, not subject to time. However, from our human perspective, it appears that it can grow over time because it is only gradually coming into this world. "Spiritual growth" means realizing and manifesting more and more fully who or what you already are in the depth of your being.
Ultimately, there is no spiritual growth, only the gradual (and sometimes sudden) dissolution of illusion and ignorance, which occurs when you stop identifying with the incessant stream of thinking.
In the book, you have tips for parents on how to raise spiritually healthy children. Do you think everyone is born with an ego that can get stronger over time; or, are people ego-free at birth, and it's created later?
Children are not born with an ego but with pre-existing mind-structures -- a blueprint as it were -- through which the ego later comes into existence. As humanity is awakening, an increasing number of humans who are coming into this world now, instead of being stuck in ego for the rest of their lives, will quickly outgrow the egoic stage of human evolution. On the new earth, many people will have outgrown the ego by the time they reach their early 20s. Ego will be recognized as no more than immaturity associated with childhood and adolescence.
You say that "the ego in search of a stronger identity can and does create illnesses in order to strengthen itself through them." Can you elaborate, and what are some examples of illnesses that the ego creates?
The ego's underlying fear, its sense of lack and incessant wanting, its resistance to or denial of the present moment create enormous stress, anxiety, and other forms of mental-emotional negativity. Even mainstream medicine is beginning to recognize that such stress and negativity weaken the immune system, create toxicity in the body, and adversely affect the heart, cell reproduction, and countless other functions. Many diseases are, therefore, an inevitable by-product of the egoic state of consciousness.
In addition, an illness can serve to strengthen one's conceptual sense of self, the ego. You then define a significant part of your identity as a "patient," a "sufferer" of this or that disease, or a victim. The ego grows through seeing yourself as being "more" seriously ill than someone else. ("You are in pain? That's nothing. I've been in far more pain for years. Don't talk to me about pain.") The mind can and does make the body ill. The ego, the unobserved mind, will sometimes use what would otherwise be a passing physical weakness or imbalance, attach a concept and a sense of self to it, and thus give it a solidity and permanency that it didn't have before. And so it grows into "my illness." Some people may feel angry upon reading this -- a sign that they have some unconscious ego investment in the concept of illness.
In other interviews, you have described your spiritual awakening and how the world changed for you, literally overnight. Do you ever ponder your life prior to your awakening, and if so, what are your thoughts about that time in your life versus now?
It is like a distant memory of a past lifetime or a dream, and I rarely think about it. I am, however, grateful for the suffering because there would have been no awakening without it. When I reached a point when I couldn't live with myself any longer, the self that created so much suffering and that I couldn't live with turned out to be no more than a phantom. I woke up from a bad dream. That's what it feels like. But if the dream had not been quite as bad as it was, I might still be dreaming today.