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Give a small boy a hammer and he will find that everything
he encounters needs pounding.
- Abraham Kaplan

Critique of A New Earth
By Michael Armstrong
Updated: 02/17/2020

The book is authored by Eckhart Tolle (ET), who has also authored and published at least 3 other books, one of which is the #1 NY Times bestseller The Power of Now.

In chapter one titled The Flowering of Human Consciousness, and in the section called Evocation, ET lays a foundation for his book which comprises an uncritical acceptance of some of the worst and most fallacious evolutionistic concepts that current scientism is promulgating. Not to put too fine of a point on it, ET does NOT have a clue as to what actually happened in the ancient times and how the human race got to where it is now. This is a very bad foundation and a most unimpressive start. Is this just a “weakness”, or is this a fatal flaw?

In chapter two titled Ego: The current State of Humanity ET makes the usual glib and vague spiritual pronunciamentos and quickly indulges in intellectual chicanery. One example will suffice:

"When a young child learns that a sequence of sounds produced by the parents' vocal cords is his or her name, the child begins to equate a word, which in the mind becomes a thought, with who he or she is. At that stage, some children refer to themselves in the third person. 'Johnny is hungry.'"

I and my friends not only have never experienced this in raising our children and grandchildren, but we have generally never even heard of such a thing. But on to the “slight of hand”:

 "Soon after, they learn the magic word 'I' and equate it with their name, which they have already equated with who they are. Then other thoughts come and merge with the original I-thought. The next step are thoughts of me and mine to designate things that are somehow part of 'I' This is identification with objects, which means investing things, but ultimately thoughts that represent things, with a sense of self, thereby deriving an identity from them. When 'my' toy breaks or is taken away, intense suffering arises. Not because of any intrinsic value that the toy has–the child will soon lose interest in it, and it will be replaced by other toys, other objects–but because of the thought of 'mine.' The toy became part of the child's developing sense of self, of 'I.'"

This is nothing short of modern psycho-babble! The upset or “suffering” arises–as it always does–not because of any identification of self or even primarily ownership (“mine”), but because the desire or need of the child has been violated. Whether or not this desire or need is infantile and transitory is beside the point; we have desires and needs–we always have and we always will–, and when they get violated or unfulfilled, we experience some pain and/or frustration, and possibly some suffering. This is ultimately the only definition of evil that holds up in a general way–not getting what we want and/or need. The above example of a child being upset HAS NOTHING TO DO with ego or self mis-identification, and ET misconstrues the whole issue.

ET seems to be telling us that we have an ego problem. This is news? How can a human NOT have an ego problem when we are born and raised into and live in a reality where the constant message is one of relentless indifference. And, can we imagine for one moment that ET wouldn't have a problem if we stole his new car, took his new picnic table from his yard or took money out of his bank account? ET has something even more deleterious than an ego problem; he apparently can't think straight!

All the confusion dealt with above is the result of conflating two different things: having a self, and having an ego problem. It is axiomatic that we have a self, and that we accept that! See: Intellectual Responsibility

This is such a simple yet profound issue and illustration, and the misconstruing is not trivial but indicative. At the very least the indication is of sloppy thinking and careless analysis, and at the worst is an earmark of having an agenda to persuade to a point of view that overrides the search for truth. If you cannot see this, please do not attempt to communicate with me further about philosophical or spiritual issues!

We are born into an insane, troubled and dangerous world under a sentence of death. Ernest Becker wrote two or three books–one a Pulitzer prize winner–elucidating this issue, and this is the single most important fact that influences how we think, feel and behave. Upon ET ignoring this crucial context, demonstrating a lack of rigorous critical thinking while indulging in misconstruction, laying a fallacious foundation for his thinking further in the book, and failing to relate a defensible paradigm to us in the book, why is it that we should be impressed by his “spiritual” pronunciamentos?  I don’t get it! I am sorry, but this is “mush for the masses”, "flummery for the foolish".

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