How Eckhart Tolle took me to the brink of suicide
Posted by: PowerofNo ()
Date: November 15, 2016 02:28AM

Hello everybody. This is my first post here. I wanted to share my experience with the so-called 'teachings' of Eckhart Tolle. I know ET has been discussed on some other threads on here, but those discussions seem to have died down which is why I'm doing this as a new topic. I apologise if that's not the protocol.

This is going to be quite a long, rambly personal account. Again, apologies!

About two and a half years ago, having struggled with depression and anxiety since the age of about 13, being at that time 21, I reached a very low point as a result of which I ended up seeing a psychologist. Her 'prescription' was that I learn some mindfulness meditation practices, following an eight-week course. I was initially skeptical, but gradually as I practised some mindfulness every day and continued to see her, I felt much improved. Things didn't become rosy - by no means - but the attitude of kind acceptance I learned to take towards myself helped me to persevere through difficult moments and find more enjoyment in my life.

Fast forward six months, and a good friend tells me that a mutual friend of ours has had his life completely transformed by this book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. My mum, as it turns out, had also recommended this book to me on a previous occasion, and so hearing it mentioned again I guess my curiosity passed a certain threshold. So, reading it went on my list of things to do.

One morning I woke up after a night of heavy drinking - which, on reflection, I think might have made me more suggestible than usual - and decided to dig it out - I was at my mum's house and she had a copy - and read it. I was immediately captivated. In the book, Mr. Tolle asks you to pause after certain passages and reflect on the truth of what you have just read, and doing this I really did feel it, it was all true, every word. By the time I'd finished reading it, I was convinced of two things: 1) that Eckhart Tolle was enlightened; and 2) that my life from hereon out would be painless and filled with ecstatic joy.

As it turned out, the initial ecstasy that I felt upon reading the book didn't last longer than a couple of days. But I remained convinced of the core message, and of Mr. Tolle's enlightenment and hence also his infallibility. Clearly, if things were happening in my life that did not fill me with the 'joy' of which he spoke, it was my own fault for not maintaining a state of 'conscious presence'. Thus, very subtly, very innocuously, I began to blame myself for anything that went wrong in my life, any moment I didn't enjoy. It was my thinking that made it so. I needed to stop thinking, to never think. For unless I did, I would be contributing to the collective human "insanity", as he calls it, of 'ego', the source of everything evil. What a burden!

In any case, for the next 18 months I lived in the belief that I could make life blissful just by suppressing my thoughts. My mind was my number one enemy, the only real enemy. I continued to meditate, but my meditation became more about suppressing thoughts and chasing bliss than about noticing and being with whatever arose, as it had been before. Generally I lived in a state of ecstatic mania, but there were some big 'crashes' as well. But, rather than investigating what these were, I just tried to erase them. I already knew all the answers. If I was suffering, it was because I was thinking. My manic happiness soon returned after these 'crashes', and I essentially just pretended to myself that they never happened.

Then, about 6 months ago, although I was and remain mostly teetotal, I decided to take LSD at a music festival. I was under some pressure from a friend, but I also believed that I was at such a level of 'enlightenment' that I was incapable of having a bad trip, because I was incapable of suffering - yes, that's how much of a narcissist I'd become. I also reasoned that even if I did have a bad trip - even if it was bad enough to destroy my life - it wouldn't matter, because nothing bad can ever really happen in infinity; the self that suffers didn't really exist, and so it didn't matter what I threw myself into. It horrifies me now that I could have such a reckless disregard for my own wellbeing, and justify it based on some hokey philosophy. But I was in deep.

I did have a bad trip, very very bad. I felt like I had no control over anything: not my thoughts, not my body, nothing. Everything was just happening and I couldn't affect it in any way, just watch. I also experienced the agony of solipsism, of everything and everybody being merely a figment of my imagination. I guess I saw the hellish implication of some of my guiding beliefs, courtesy of Mr. Tolle.

Since that experience, things have remained pretty hellish. I've had almost constant, horrible depersonalisation and derealisation. People look unreal, like they're made out of plastic or something, and sometimes they twitch like images on an old TV with a bad signal. It's so terrifying that I often find it impossible to be in the company of others. I've become very solitary. I had to quit my job because of the fear. I've also been extremely depressed. I've been thinking about suicide a lot.

Through this intense suffering, I've been constantly trying to get back to the state of 'conscious presence', which I know is the answer to all my problems. In desperation, I turned back to some of the most obscure passages of Mr. Tolle's books, such as where he talks about the need to (paraphrasing) "keep some awareness in the inner body at all times". I've been driving myself crazy trying to apply that particular nugget. But whatever I do, my awful suffering remains, making me feel tremendously - cosmically - inadequate.

Only recently, having started psychotherapy and also discovered this forum, have I started to reevaluate the core belief behind this thinking. Why do I think that I am responsible for all my suffering, and that there's something I can do to make it all stop in an instant? The answer I've arrived at is this: because Eckhart Tolle says so, and he's enlightened. How do I know he's enlightened? Because... he says so. Or, to be exact, he says he lives in a state of "continous presence", which in his language is enlightenment.

But if I doubt his infallible teachings - or, 'the' teaching, as he arrogantly calls it - that's my wicked mind trying to deceive me. Isn't it? What a perfect trap Mr. Tolle lays for his victims. They're not allowed to question a word he says, because the very act of questioning is a kind of supreme evil.

Apologists for Mr. Tolle might refer to the passage in the Power of Now where he says not to take his words too literally, but rather to 'feel the truth behind them' or somesuch. Fine. But why the hell go to the trouble to write multiple books and give endless lectures laying out this complex belief system if we're not supposed to take the words seriously? And surely, if he's enlightened, it's reasonable for us to think there must be SOME sense behind his spiels - otherwise why would he be sharing them with us?

Going forward, I'm trying to be more accepting of myself, mind and all. But it's hard. The internalised voice of Mr. Tolle continually rears up and tells me I'm submitting to the evil will of ego, and so sealing my fate. This... person has really done a number on me. Of course, I recognise that it's because of my own vulnerability that I allowed him to take advantage of me in this way. It's my wish to escape from my problems and from the parts of myself that I don't like, that motivated me to believe this garbage. But that doesn't excuse Mr. Tolle, I don't think.

Another big struggle for me at the moment is to separate all these destructive beliefs and assumptions from anything that might be of value underneath. For now, I still practice mindfulness every day, but it's hard to reclaim it from all the perversions of Tolle. I'm starting to think that part of the reason his manipulation is so successful is that he mixes in some sound pieces of wisdom and advice along with all the sick-minded stuff. Nasty trick.

I'm sharing this story to warn other people who might have some of the same vulnerabilities as me - don't give your mind away to this cruel, self-annihilating philosophy! Please, please think critically about it. It can lead you to some truly horrible places.

As a last word, I want to thank everybody who posts on this forum, and everybody involved in the website generally. You provide such a necessary and humane service. I've got a long way to go in my recovery, and to be honest, I'm still not convinced I will make it, but reading some of the posts here encouraging critical thought has given me hope - where before there was none.

Thanks for reading.

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Re: How Eckhart Tolle took me to the brink of suicide
Posted by: PowerofNo ()
Date: November 16, 2016 03:00AM

I wanted to lay out some of the tricks that I've started to become aware of Mr. Tolle using.

Tolle's Tricks

Trance Induction and Hypnotic Suggestion

In the Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle encourages you to not think about what you are reading, but instead to (paraphrasing) "feel the truth" of it. If your mind raises any doubts or concerns, he says that you should cast these aside. His teachings are not meant to be understood on an intellectual level, he says. All of this, it seems to me, is geared at lulling the reader into a trance-like state, in which Mr. Tolle's suggestions are more likely to sink deep into their psyche.

Throughout the book, he consistently talks about his ideas in a detached way, in keeping with his assertion that they are not 'his', but rather are universal truths. He continually puts to the reader that they already know everything he is saying is true, deep down. This disguises the fact that they are subjective interpretations, and again makes them more likely to penetrate the resder's psyche, especially if he succeeds in putting them into a more suggestible state.

Threat of Hell

Eckhart Tolle says that 'ego' is the source of all evil. If you are in the 'ego' state, true happiness is unattainable, and everything you do will be tainted. You will be part of the (paraphrasing) "collective insanity" that led to events such as the Nazi Holocaust. Scary stuff. He gets the reader into a state of fear of this condition of 'ego', then offers to liberate them from it by teaching them how to live in a state of "no mind". Classic fear-mongering tactics, no different in kind to what you'd get from a 'fire and brimstone' fundamentalist Christian preacher.

Promise of Heaven

As well as threatening us with this terrible stick, Eckhart also dangles a lovely carrot. If we disidentify from the 'ego' by living in a state of 'no mind', we will experience permanent joy. Everything in our lives will be transformed in a positive way. He talks about how, for example, in conversations with people we will spontaneously come out with witty and brilliant things (as somebody who has struggled with social anxiety, this especially appealed to me).

I notice that by detailing how sexy and zen we'll become if we follow his teachings, he's appealing directly to what he terms our 'ego' - ironically. Likewise by threatening us with how horrible our lives are sure to be if we don't follow his teachings.

Reflected Credibility

Mr. Tolle continually invokes Buddhism and mindfulness meditation. Since his readers are predominantly Westerners, and Western festishisation of Eastern religion being what it is, they are likely to associate these things with 'authentic' spirituality - as well as knowing very little about them. Thus, Tolle is able to bask in the reflected glory of Buddhism, as well as claim that his ideas are a valid interpretation of what it teaches.

Another trick is that he mixes in sound advice and ideas from Buddhism and other religious and spiritual traditions with his own nihilistic, masochistic garbage - and then claims they are all getting st the same thing. Thus, the reader comes across a passage which seems to describe a fairly benign approach to meditation, for example, and then assumes that Tolle's more ostensibly counter-intuitive - not to mention dogmatic - teachings must be similarly benign.

Self-Deification

Mr. Tolle intimates that he is enlightened. He says that he lives in a state of 'continuous presence', and 'presence', he says, is the state referred to be Eastern religions as 'enlightenment'. Thus, he encourages the reader to see him as infallible, and therefore beyond reproach and doubt. He does say not to take his words too literally, but only because words can never capture reality, "only point to it" - so not because he is untrustworthy, or even just fallible like everybody else, but for theoretical reasons to do with the nature of language. As a perfect, egoless, enlightened being, the reader is encouraged to believe that nothing Eckhart Tolle does could be anything other than perfectly benevolent and well-judged. If his teachings cause them pain, it must be their fault, not his.

----------------–--------------------

I'm sure there's much more to be said, but I'm still pretty terrified of going back to look at his books or listen to his pontifications at this point. Hence, also, the paraphrasing. I'm pretty confident that they're accurate, but if anybody wishes to challenge me, feel free. Also feel free if you wish to add another trick to the list.

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Re: How Eckhart Tolle took me to the brink of suicide
Posted by: PowerofNo ()
Date: November 16, 2016 04:21AM

Another one I forgot to include.

Lovebombing

Eckhart Tolle says that only those who are "ready" for his teachings will recognise their truth. This makes the reader think that if they believe the teachings, they must be special. If you are prepared to give your mind away to Tolle, you must be more evolved and more enlightened than the average person.

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By the way, I should say that I've taken some of these insights from things other posters have said in different threads on the forum, although some of them are my own. I just thought it would be useful to compile them all in one place.

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Re: How Eckhart Tolle took me to the brink of suicide
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 17, 2016 11:45AM

What "powerofno" has written is fascinating.

Quote

Lovebombing

Eckhart Tolle says that only those who are "ready" for his teachings will recognise their truth. This makes the reader think that if they believe the teachings, they must be special. If you are prepared to give your mind away to Tolle, you must be more evolved and more enlightened than the average person.

Three years ago, this was noted by another visitor to the message board:

[forum.culteducation.com]

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Re: Eckhart Tolle "advaita"

Date: July 28, 2013 10:28AM

Something Tolle says at the beginning of one of his books, I think it's A New Earth, seemed like an innocuous sentence until I started seeing it elsewhere and noticing a pattern:

"If you are [ready/awakened/enlightened] you will [hear/resonate with] these words as true."

Like "the emperor's new clothes"? If you're one of the cool kids you'll be able to see them?

So we have not only social pressure to be part of the "enlightened in-crowd", but also a convenient logical loophole to dismiss doubters. If someone comes in and says "this is bunk", the reply can be "well, you're just not enlightened enough to understand it yet."

Here is another possible hazard:

Getting involved not only with ET's material, but with the with the social scene that has condensed around Tolle's teachings.

We are tremendously influenced by the company we keep, both in person and via social media.

Once one socializes and then forms friendships with others who use ET as their source of guidance, any doubts one has may be stifled for fear of losing these new friends.

This is also a social milieu that, though interested in ET, is guru-centered, guru-hungry.

Which means a hunger for authority figures and specialness.

If you cannot be a guru yourself, you can be nearly as special by believing in gurus. You can smile at the inferior folk who do not venerate gurus.

You also become part of the entire tribe of persons who venerate gurus. It is a very warm and cozy environment with an insta-intimacy.

Anyone who dares express doubt, misgivings or reports harm is written off as egotistical and inferior, so people will often feel afraid to speak up and challenge this status quo.

In the guru scene claims of enlightenment are welcomed and anyone who questions such claims is written off as inferior and negative. Worse, there is a habit of submissiveness to anyone making claims to special status via alleged enlightenment.

This is also a ready made scene that can be exploited by recruiters for gurus more dangerous than Tolle.

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