Tolle's book, The Power of Now, is what launched the German-born Tolle into worldwide fame and fortune. A darling of the former Oprah Winfrey Show, both The Power of Now and A New Earth made The New York Times Bestseller list.
The Power of Now, has several main themes, all of which derive from Buddhist, Zen and Taoist teachings. Tolle teaches that the ego-self isn't the true self; that we're all part of "the Great Unity" or "Ultimate Source"; and that time is just an illusion. We need to learn how to live in the present rather than in the past or the future.
He argues that we tend to be preoccupied with either the past or the future, thus taking our focus off of the present - the here and now. The past is gone and the future has yet to arrive, so the only focus we should have that has any validity is the present. The past can keep us in chains while the future often brings us fear or worry. Only the now is real and this is all that matters.
While this all sounds good (and not so little New Agey), his views do not reflect the Christian worldview.
First of all, he claims that once we arrive in the “Now” our problems will no longer exist and we will finally discover our true selves as being already complete and perfect - which essentially eliminates the need for a Savior.
In this article appearing in Christianity Today, James A. Beverley points out that Tolle believes there is no distinction between humans and God since all is one.
Beverley writes: "From this monistic perspective, Tolle scorns common Western usage of the term God: 'There can be no subject-object relationship here, no duality, no you and God.' Not only is there no you and God—Tolle also claims there's no actual you. Pulling a page from Buddhism, Tolle says the human self is an illusion, and belief in it is the main reason for human suffering."
According to Tolle: "If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call him John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish—that's tragic. But it's only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none."
As Beverley writes, Tolle even tries to say that Jesus affirmed this view when he told his disciples to deny themselves (Mark 8:34). "According to Tolle, Jesus meant, 'Negate (and thus undo) the illusion of self'."
The New Age focus on the present moment is nothing like the Christian version. As explained by the late great spiritual director, Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the book, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, this practice involves the realization that every event in our lives, from the most ordinary to the most spectacular, are all manifestations of God’s will for us. It teaches us to experience every moment – such as this very moment as you read these words – as a holy sacrament because God is at work in it. As we acquire this holy practice, God becomes much more real to us, much more a part of our lives, and a true Companion on our journey.
Another good book which complements the above work is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. This Catholic classic teaches us how to converse with God throughout the day, not just at prayer time. Brother Lawrence wrote that this practice brought him such joy in life that he actually begged God to stop it because he couldn’t take so much happiness.
The bottom line is that we don’t need Buddhist practices or New Age techniques to enjoy the benefits of living in the present moment. We can use our own methods to accomplish this in ways that will benefit not just our minds and bodies, but our souls as well.
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