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Oprah winfrey's recent promotion of Eckhart Tolle has put the German-born author's latest work, A New Earth, on the bestseller lists with the largest reprint run in the history of Penguin Books. Tolle, in turn, has given Oprah a new sense of purpose. She calls her work with him the most important and exciting thing she has ever done. This spring she hosted 10 Monday-night web seminars with him. As many as one million people watched them live, and 27 million more downloaded them afterward.

Tolle claims no specific religion and states that his teaching fits with the essence of all spiritual paths. While he quotes freely from Jesus, Buddha, and others, he focuses on the divinity in all beings. "How 'spiritual' you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness," he writes in A New Earth.

To his credit, Tolle is quite good at recognizing human folly, which is significant given New Age tendencies to deny evil outright. A New Earth states, "If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder, and acts of extreme violence and cruelty."

Tolle is also sharp in his critique of false paths to freedom. He warns about "outer riches and inner poverty." He states that "the absurd overvaluation of fame is just one of the many manifestations of egoic madness in our world." He also provides some telling commentary about the dangers of grounding identity in the external roles of society. Further, his writings are seasoned with sensible advice, such as, "It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living," or, "If you delve into the ...

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August 2008

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