Reviewed by Celia Hales. Revised and reprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).
Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Novato, California: New World Library, 1999. (Originally published in Canada by Namaste Publishing Inc., 1997.) 224 pages. ISBN: 1-57731-152-3. Available on the Internet and in bookstores internationally.
Students of A Course in Miracles will want to read Eckhart Tolle’s book because it can deepen their understanding, honed through studying ACIM. In Eckhart’s words, “in essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching. . . .Let me show you how to go more deeply into what you already have.” There is no conflict between ACIM and The Power of Now. Eckhart’s contribution is the amazing truth that he is one who (to use ACIM terminology) has been transported over the bridge, the little gap has closed, and he has awakened. A Course in Miracles reads, “Healing is of God in the end. The means are being carefully explained to you. Revelation may occasionally reveal the end to you, but to reach it the means are needed. (T-1.VII.5:9-11)” For us, ACIM explains the means; but The Power of Now can assist us in our pathway to Awakening.
Did Eckhart learn “our” way? No. His path was the way of pain, a deep depression and anxiety that consumed him until his 29th year. One crucial night all of that suffering was lifted from him through an experience of revelation. Only later did he read and come to understand what had happened to him. And ACIM was part of his study; the influence shows up in both quoted passages and core ideas from ACIM, restated and elaborated in Eckhart’s personal renditions.
Eckhart emphasizes living the present moment as the key to Enlightenment. In this, he echoes ACIM (T-13.IV; T-13.VI; T-15.I), but Eckhart’s message is not a primary focus of ACIM. Because Eckhart learned through pain, he elucidates this way in some detail, calling our propensity for suffering the “pain-body.” In this, he runs counter to ACIM, which asserts, “There is no need to learn through pain. (T-21.I3:1)” Eckhart says that becoming more “conscious” when the “pain-body” has awakened can dissolve it and smooth the way to Enlightenment.
He describes “portals” to the “Unmanifested” (God): going deeply into the body (as a way to bring one to the Now, the main portal); intense present-moment awareness (again, the Now); the cessation of thinking; surrender; silence; awareness of space, and “conscious death” (the final portal). These are concepts described in ways unlike ACIM, but there is one very important concept shared by the two works: the primacy of relationships in our pathway back to God.
Eckhart devotes one lengthy chapter to “enlightened relationships” (what ACIM calls “holy relationships”). He declares relationships as embodying a primacy: There is “no greater catalyst for transformation.” Certainly ACIM students would agree. ACIM writes of “holy encounters” and “holy instants” in which we see no past in our brothers (and therefore are living in the present, something Eckhart extols).
One Cautionary Note
I found it could be depressing when reading Eckhart to realize ever more deeply that I was not yet enlightened (or “awakened,” to use ACIM‘s term). I found ACIM‘s reassurance helpful:
Do not despair, then, because of limitations. . .If you would be heard by those who suffer, you must speak their language. If you would be a savior, you must understand what needs to be escaped. . . .God takes you where you are and welcomes you. What more could you desire when this is all you need. (M-26.4:1,3-4,10-11)”
I also appreciated rereading M-22.2:4-9:
It is only the end that is certain. Anywhere along the way, the necessary realization of inclusiveness may reach him. If the way seems long, let him be content. He has decided on the direction he wants to take. What more was asked of him? And having done what was required, would God withhold the rest?
Eckhart Tolle’s embodiment as one to whom God has reached down and lifted up, to whom God has taken His “final step” (M-28.1:8) makes Eckhart a human authority. He is one for whom it can be said:
It [direct union with God] can, perhaps, be won after much devotion and dedication, and th en be maintained for much of the time on earth. (M-26.3:3)
ACIM students should purchase The Power of Now because it will help us to “go more deeply” (Eckhart’s words) into what we already have.