Penguin Books
A New Earth

Eckhart Tolle


A NEW EARTH

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Create a Better Life

PENGUIN BOOKS

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Copyright © Eckhart Tolle, 2005, 2016

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ISBN: 978-0-141-90876-2

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Contents

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About the Author

By the Same Author

Preface

CHAPTER ONE

The Flowering of Human Consciousness

Evocation

The Purpose of This Book

Our Inherited Dysfunction

The Arising New Consciousness

Spirituality and Religion

The Urgency of Transformation

A New Heaven and a New Earth

CHAPTER TWO

Ego: The Current State of Humanity

The Illusory Self

The Voice in the Head

Content and Structure of the Ego

Identification with Things

The Lost Ring

The Illusion of Ownership

Wanting: The Need for More

Identification with the Body

Feeling the Inner Body

Forgetfulness of Being

From Descartes’s Error to Sartre’s Insight

The Peace That Passes All Understanding

CHAPTER THREE

The Core of Ego

Complaining and Resentment

Reactivity and Grievances

Being Right, Making Wrong

In Defense of an Illusion

Truth: Relative or Absolute?

The Ego Is Not Personal

War Is a Mind-set

Do You Want Peace or Drama?

Beyond Ego: Your True Identity

All Structures Are Unstable

The Ego’s Need to Feel Superior

Ego and Fame

CHAPTER FOUR

Role-playing: The Many Faces of the Ego

Villain, Victim, Lover

Letting Go of Self-Definitions

Pre-established Roles

Temporary Roles

The Monk with Sweaty Palms

Happiness as a Role Vs. True Happiness

Parenthood: Role or Function?

Conscious Suffering

Conscious Parenting

Recognizing Your Child

Giving Up Role-playing

The Pathological Ego

The Background Unhappiness

The Secret of Happiness

Pathological Forms of Ego

Work—With and Without Ego

The Ego in Illness

The Collective Ego

Incontrovertible Proof of Immortality

CHAPTER FIVE

The Pain-Body

The Birth of Emotion

Emotions and the Ego

The Duck with a Human Mind

Carrying the Past

Individual and Collective

How the Pain-Body Renews Itself

How the Pain-Body Feeds on Your Thoughts

How the Pain-Body Feeds on Drama

Dense Pain-Bodies

Entertainment, the Media, and the Pain-Body

The Collective Female Pain-Body

National and Racial Pain-Bodies

CHAPTER SIX

Breaking Free

Presence

The Return of the Pain-Body

The Pain-Body in Children

Unhappiness

Breaking Identification with the Pain-Body

“Triggers”

The Pain-Body as an Awakener

Breaking Free of the Pain-Body

CHAPTER SEVEN

Finding Who You Truly Are

Who You Think You Are

Abundance

Knowing Yourself and Knowing About Yourself

Chaos and Higher Order

Good and Bad

Not Minding What Happens

Is That So?

The Ego and the Present Moment

The Paradox of Time

Eliminating Time

The Dreamer and the Dream

Going Beyond Limitation

The Joy of Being

Allowing the Diminishment of the Ego

As Without, So Within

CHAPTER EIGHT

The Discovery of Inner Space

Object Consciousness and Space Consciousness

Falling Below and Rising Above Thought

Television

Recognizing Inner Space

Can You Hear the Mountain Stream?

Right Action

Perceiving Without Naming

Who Is the Experiencer?

The Breath

Addictions

Inner Body Awareness

Inner and Outer Space

Noticing the Gaps

Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

Stillness

CHAPTER NINE

Your Inner Purpose

Awakening

A Dialogue on Inner Purpose

CHAPTER TEN

A New Earth

A Brief History of Your Life

Awakening and the Return Movement

Awakening and the Outgoing Movement

Consciousness

Awakened Doing

The Three Modalities of Awakened Doing

Acceptance

Enjoyment

Enthusiasm

The Frequency-holders

The New Earth Is No Utopia

Notes

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PENGUIN BOOKS

A NEW EARTH

Eckhart Tolle is a contemporary spiritual teacher who is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition. In his writing and seminars, he conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual masters: There is a way out of suffering and into peace. Tolle travels extensively, taking his teachings throughout the world.

ALSO BY ECKHART TOLLE

The Power of Now

Practicing the Power of Now

Stillness Speaks

Oneness With All Life

PREFACE

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A New Earth—Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, A New Earth was first published. Since that time, the book has been read in forty-four languages by countless people all over the world. The in-depth webinar I did with Oprah Winfrey, during which we explored the main themes of the book, has been watched thirty-five million times. So the question naturally arises: Ten years later—where are we? Is a “new earth” arising, a world where the egoic state of consciousness in its insanely dysfunctional manifestations, both individual and collective, has dissolved or at least subsided, and where humans no longer create unnecessary suffering for themselves, one another, as well as other life-forms on the planet? Or does a fundamental change in human consciousness remain an unrealistic utopian vision, as one reviewer of the book suggested?

If we go exclusively by the information we receive on a daily basis through the news reports and the mainstream media, then our assessment of the state of human affairs in this new millennium will necessarily be overwhelmingly negative, and we will most likely come to the depressing conclusion that nothing has changed. After all, it continues to be true for millions of people that the greater part of human suffering is not due to natural disasters, but is inflicted by humans on one another. What we consume as the daily “news,” as well as the commentaries on the news, however, is not the whole picture. Not infrequently, the way in which the news is reported and commented upon, even by the so-called respectable news outlets, already contains bias and distortion, and so, without realizing it, our worldview becomes conditioned. More important, the news tends to focus mostly on incidents and areas of our planet that represent the most extreme forms of human unconsciousness, which more often than not means violence and warfare, or at least severe dysfunction. Of course, there is no denying that dreadful things happen on a daily basis, and also that we are facing an increasing number of crises, but that is not the whole story.

There are many positive things occurring that are not considered newsworthy, but are in fact of much greater significance than any of those daily acts of unconsciousness. Those changes in fact started to arise long before A New Earth and The Power of Now were written. Those books were written to speed up the process of spiritual awakening that had already begun, as well as to enable greater numbers of people to become part of that process and thus find a deeper meaning in their lives that transcends the merely personal dimension of existence.

In many parts of the world, there is an emerging sense of social justice that our ancestors couldn’t even have dreamed of. The subjugation of one race by another, the domination of women throughout thousands of years of patriarchy, and the devaluing of people based on social class are for growing numbers of us nightmares of the past. People of different gender orientations find themselves increasingly accepted simply as people. The races marry and intermingle with less and less judgment. There is a growing awareness of the intrinsic oneness of everything that exists, so that more and more we are seeing an awareness of and deep concern for our fellow humans, the countless animals that are our traveling companions, and the planet itself. Such awareness implies that there is indeed a lessening of the ego in a growing number of people, and in some parts of the planet more than in others. This diminishment of the ego gives rise to empathy and compassion beyond tribal, racial, national, or religious affiliations. It is those qualities that make us truly human. As we no longer identify with our mental positions, we are able to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and perspectives. We can temporarily shift our own perspective and see things through their eyes. With this comes the ability to compromise in our interactions with others, which is a prerequisite for any peaceful coexistence. In fact, it is precisely in those parts of the world where most people are as yet unable or unwilling to compromise that most of the dysfunction or violence occurs. The ego, and particularly the collective ego, strengthens itself through emphasizing the “otherness” of others. In other words, the ego needs an “enemy” for its continued survival. Hence its refusal to compromise.

Until the new consciousness, which is awareness-based, grows and becomes more firmly established in the human psyche, temporary regression to the egoic state of consciousness (or rather unconsciousness) can easily occur. I have noticed with concern, for example, that not only certain politicians, but also some commentators in respectable publications are increasingly portraying Russia and/or China as the “enemy.” Thoughts can spread like a virus, and if thoughts proliferate in the collective psyche, they distort our perceptions and cause us to act as if they were true, and so subsequently they manifest as our reality.

Just as the caterpillar becomes dysfunctional shortly before it undergoes its metamorphosis into a butterfly, the egoic state of consciousness, which is still more prevalent than the awakened consciousness in most countries and organizations, will likely become increasingly dysfunctional and cause a growing number of acute crises affecting many parts of the planet, as well as turmoil and breakdown. To some extent, this is already happening. This is nothing to be afraid of. If you stay present and do not succumb to fear, if you do not believe the media when they tell you that you should be afraid, these things will not affect you deeply. Acute crises and dysfunction always precede or coincide with any evolutionary advancement or gain in consciousness. All life-forms need obstacles and challenges in order to evolve. In the case of the ego, most of the challenges it encounters are self-created through its unconscious patterns. Eventually, the ego brings about its own demise. In that sense, it can be considered a necessary precursor for the next stage in human evolution, which is the awakening of consciousness. We are at present in the early stages of this awakening process, but it is accelerating. If you are reading this, you are already an essential part of this process.

The primary factor in all of this is your state of consciousness in the only time there is: the Now! Make sure the present moment is your friend, not your enemy. Honor it by giving it your fullest attention. Appreciate it by being thankful for it. Become internally aligned with it by allowing it to be as it is. That is the arising of the new earth.

—Eckhart Tolle

October 2015

CHAPTER ONE

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The Flowering of Human Consciousness

EVOCATION

Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet—if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it.

Much later, those delicate and fragrant beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them. As the consciousness of human beings developed, flowers were most likely the first thing they came to value that had no utilitarian purpose for them, that is to say, was not linked in some way to survival. They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics. Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it. After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile. He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon. According to legend, that smile (that is to say, realization) was handed down by twenty-eight successive masters and much later became the origin of Zen.

Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit. Using the word “enlightenment” in a wider sense than the conventionally accepted one, we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants.

Any life-form in any realm—mineral, vegetable, animal, or human—can be said to undergo “enlightenment.” It is, however, an extremely rare occurrence since it is more than an evolutionary progression: It also implies a discontinuity in its development, a leap to an entirely different level of Being and, most important, a lessening of materiality.

What could be heavier and more impenetrable than a rock, the densest of all forms? And yet some rocks undergo a change in their molecular structure, turn into crystals, and so become transparent to the light. Some carbons, under inconceivable heat and pressure, turn into diamonds, and some heavy minerals into other precious stones.

Most crawling reptilians, the most earthbound of all creatures, have remained unchanged for millions of years. Some, however, grew feathers and wings and turned into birds, thus defying the force of gravity that had held them for so long. They didn’t become better at crawling or walking, but transcended crawling and walking entirely.

Since time immemorial, flowers, crystals, precious stones, and birds have held special significance for the human spirit. Like all life-forms, they are, of course, temporary manifestations of the underlying one Life, one Consciousness. Their special significance and the reason why humans feel such fascination for and affinity with them can be attributed to their ethereal quality.

Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings’ perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. Until this happens, however, most humans see only the outer forms, unaware of the inner essence, just as they are unaware of their own essence and identify only with their own physical and psychological form.

In the case of a flower, a crystal, precious stone, or bird, however, even someone with little or no Presence can occasionally sense that there is more there than the mere physical existence of that form, without knowing that this is the reason why he or she is drawn toward it, feels an affinity with it. Because of its ethereal nature, its form obscures the indwelling spirit to a lesser degree than is the case with other life-forms. The exception to this are all newborn life-forms—babies, puppies, kittens, lambs, and so on. They are fragile, delicate, not yet firmly established in materiality. An innocence, a sweetness and beauty that are not of this world still shine through them. They delight even relatively insensitive humans.

So when you are alert and contemplate a flower, crystal, or bird without naming it mentally, it becomes a window for you into the formless. There is an inner opening, however slight, into the realm of spirit. This is why these three “en-lightened” life-forms have played such an important part in the evolution of human consciousness since ancient times; why, for example, the jewel in the lotus flower is a central symbol of Buddhism and a white bird, the dove, signifies the Holy Spirit in Christianity. They have been preparing the ground for a more profound shift in planetary consciousness that is destined to take place in the human species. This is the spiritual awakening that we are beginning to witness now.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection? Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones, so to speak, transparent to the light of consciousness? Can they defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns them to imprisonment within their own personality?

The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of humankind. The messengers—Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known—were humanity’s early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings. A widespread flowering was not yet possible at that time, and their message became largely misunderstood and often greatly distorted. It certainly did not transform human behavior, except in a small minority of people.

Is humanity more ready now than at the time of those early teachers? Why should this be so? What can you do, if anything, to bring about or accelerate this inner shift? What is it that characterizes the old egoic state of consciousness, and by what signs is the new emerging consciousness recognized? These and other essential questions will be addressed in this book. More important, this book itself is a transformational device that has come out of the arising new consciousness. The ideas and concepts presented here may be important, but they are secondary. They are no more than signposts pointing toward awakening. As you read, a shift takes place within you.

This book’s main purpose is not to add new information or beliefs to your mind or to try to convince you of anything, but to bring about a shift in consciousness, that is to say, to awaken. In that sense, this book is not “interesting.” Interesting means you can keep your distance, play around with ideas and concepts in your mind, agree or disagree. This book is about you. It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless. It can only awaken those who are ready. Not everyone is ready yet, but many are, and with each person who awakens, the momentum in the collective consciousness grows, and it becomes easier for others. If you don’t know what awakening means, read on. Only by awakening can you know the true meaning of that word. A glimpse is enough to initiate the awakening process, which is irreversible. For some, that glimpse will come while reading this book. For many others who may not even have realized it, the process has already begun. This book will help them recognize it. For some, it may have begun through loss or suffering; for others, through coming into contact with a spiritual teacher or teaching, through reading The Power of Now or some other spiritually alive and therefore transformational book—or any combination of the above. If the awakening process has begun in you, the reading of this book will accelerate and intensify it.

An essential part of the awakening is the recognition of the unawakened you, the ego as it thinks, speaks, and acts, as well as the recognition of the collectively conditioned mental processes that perpetuate the unawakened state. That is why this book shows the main aspects of the ego and how they operate in the individual as well as in the collective. This is important for two related reasons: The first is that unless you know the basic mechanics behind the workings of the ego, you won’t recognize it, and it will trick you into identifying with it again and again. This means it takes you over, an imposter pretending to be you. The second reason is that the act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens. When you recognize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening. You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light.

OUR INHERITED DYSFUNCTION

If we look more deeply into humanity’s ancient religions and spiritual traditions, we will find that underneath the many surface differences there are two core insights that most of them agree on. The words they use to describe those insights differ, yet they all point to a twofold fundamental truth. The first part of this truth is the realization that the “normal” state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness. Certain teachings at the heart of Hinduism perhaps come closest to seeing this dysfunction as a form of collective mental illness. They call it maya, the veil of delusion. Ramana Maharshi, one of the greatest Indian sages, bluntly states: “The mind is maya.”

Buddhism uses different terms. According to the Buddha, the human mind in its normal state generates dukkha, which can be translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, or just plain misery. He sees it as a characteristic of the human condition. Wherever you go, whatever you do, says the Buddha, you will encounter dukkha, and it will manifest in every situation sooner or later.

According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of “original sin.” Sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering. Again, the term, stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations, points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition.

The achievements of humanity are impressive and undeniable. We have created sublime works of music, literature, painting, architecture, and sculpture. More recently, science and technology have brought about radical changes in the way we live and have enabled us to do and create things that would have been considered miraculous even two hundred years ago. No doubt: The human mind is highly intelligent. Yet its very intelligence is tainted by madness. Science and technology have magnified the destructive impact that the dysfunction of the human mind has upon the planet, other life-forms, and upon humans themselves. That is why the history of the twentieth century is where that dysfunction, that collective insanity, can be most clearly recognized. A further factor is that this dysfunction is actually intensifying and accelerating.

The First World War broke out in 1914. Destructive and cruel wars, motivated by fear, greed, and the desire for power, had been common occurrences throughout human history, as had slavery, torture, and widespread violence inflicted for religious and ideological reasons. Humans suffered more at the hands of each other than through natural disasters. By the year 1914, however, the highly intelligent human mind had invented not only the internal combustion engine, but also bombs, machine guns, submarines, flame throwers, and poison gas. Intelligence in the service of madness! In static trench warfare in France and Belgium, millions of men perished to gain a few miles of mud. When the war was over in 1918, the survivors looked in horror and incomprehension upon the devastation left behind: ten million human beings killed and many more maimed or disfigured. Never before had human madness been so destructive in its effect, so clearly visible. Little did they know that this was only the beginning.

By the end of the century, the number of people who died a violent death at the hand of their fellow humans would rise to more than one hundred million. They died not only through wars between nations, but also through mass exterminations and genocide, such as the murder of twenty million “class enemies, spies, and traitors” in the Soviet Union under Stalin or the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. They also died in countless smaller internal conflicts, such as the Spanish civil war or during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia when a quarter of that country’s population was murdered.

We only need to watch the daily news on television to realize that the madness has not abated, that it is continuing into the twenty-first century. Another aspect of the collective dysfunction of the human mind is the unprecedented violence that humans are inflicting on other life-forms and the planet itself—the destruction of oxygen-producing forests and other plant and animal life; ill-treatment of animals in factory farms; and poisoning of rivers, oceans, and air. Driven by greed, ignorant of their connectedness to the whole, humans persist in behavior that, if continued unchecked, can only result in their own destruction.

The collective manifestations of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness. 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 against his perceived “enemies”—his own unconsciousness projected outward. Criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals.

Fear, greed, and the desire for power are the psychological motivating forces not only behind warfare and violence between nations, tribes, religions, and ideologies, but also the cause of incessant conflict in personal relationships. They bring about a distortion in your perception of other people and yourself. Through them, you misinterpret every situation, leading to misguided action designed to rid you of fear and satisfy your need for more, a bottomless hole that can never be filled.

It is important to realize, however, that fear, greed, and the desire for power are not the dysfunction that we are speaking of, but are themselves created by the dysfunction, which is a deep-seated collective delusion that lies within the mind of each human being. A number of spiritual teachings tell us to let go of fear and desire. But those spiritual practices are usually unsuccessful. They haven’t gone to the root of the dysfunction. Fear, greed, and desire for power are not the ultimate causal factors. Trying to become a good or better human being sounds like a commendable and high-minded thing to do, yet it is an endeavor you cannot ultimately succeed in unless there is a shift in consciousness. This is because it is still part of the same dysfunction, a more subtle and rarified form of self-enhancement, of desire for more and a strengthening of one’s conceptual identity, one’s self-image. You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge. But it can only emerge if something fundamental changes in your state of consciousness.

The history of Communism, originally inspired by noble ideals, clearly illustrates what happens when people attempt to change external reality—create a new earth—without any prior change in their inner reality, their state of consciousness. They make plans without taking into account the blueprint for dysfunction that every human being carries within: the ego.

THE ARISING NEW CONSCIOUSNESS

Most ancient religions and spiritual traditions share the common insight—that our “normal” state of mind is marred by a fundamental defect. However, out of this insight into the nature of the human condition—we may call it the bad news—arises a second insight: the good news of the possibility of a radical transformation of human consciousness. In Hindu teachings (and sometimes in Buddhism also), this transformation is called enlightenment. In the teachings of Jesus, it is salvation, and in Buddhism, it is the end of suffering. Liberation and awakening are other terms used to describe this transformation.

The greatest achievement of humanity is not its works of art, science, or technology, but the recognition of its own dysfunction, its own madness. In the distant past, this recognition already came to a few individuals. A man called Gautama Siddhartha, who lived 2,600 years ago in India, was perhaps the first who saw it with absolute clarity. Later, the title Buddha was conferred upon him. Buddha means “the awakened one.” At about the same time, another of humanity’s early awakened teachers emerged in China. His name was Lao Tzu. He left a record of his teaching in the form of one of the most profound spiritual books ever written, the Tao Te Ching.

To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence. A new dimension of consciousness had begun to emerge on the planet, a first tentative flowering. Those rare individuals then spoke to their contemporaries. They spoke of sin, of suffering, of delusion. They said, “Look how you live. See what you are doing, the suffering you create.” They then pointed to the possibility of awakening from the collective nightmare of “normal” human existence. They showed the way.

The world was not yet ready for them, and yet they were a vital and necessary part of human awakening. Inevitably, they were mostly misunderstood by their contemporaries, as well as by subsequent generations. Their teachings, although both simple and powerful, became distorted and misinterpreted, in some cases even as they were recorded in writing by their disciples. Over the centuries, many things were added that had nothing to do with the original teachings, but were reflections of a fundamental misunderstanding. Some of the teachers were ridiculed, reviled, or killed; others came to be worshiped as gods. Teachings that pointed the way beyond the dysfunction of the human mind, the way out of the collective insanity, were distorted and became themselves part of the insanity.

And so religions, to a large extent, became divisive rather than unifying forces. Instead of bringing about an ending of violence and hatred through a realization of the fundamental oneness of all life, they brought more violence and hatred, more divisions between people as well as between different religions and even within the same religion. They became ideologies, belief systems people could identify with and so use them to enhance their false sense of self. Through them, they could make themselves “right” and others “wrong” and thus define their identity through their enemies, the “others,” the “nonbelievers” or “wrong believers” who not infrequently they saw themselves justified in killing. Man made “God” in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, and unnameable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as “my god” or “our god.”

And yet … and yet … in spite of all the insane deeds perpetrated in the name of religion, the Truth to which they point still shines at their core. It still shines, however dimly, through layers upon layers of distortion and misinterpretation. It is unlikely, however, that you will be able to perceive it there unless you have at least already had glimpses of that Truth within yourself. Throughout history, there have always been rare individuals who experienced a shift in consciousness and so realized within themselves that toward which all religions point. To describe that nonconceptual Truth, they then used the conceptual framework of their own religions.

Through some of those men and women, “schools” or movements developed within all major religions that represented not only a rediscovery, but in some cases an intensification of the light of the original teaching. This is how Gnosticism and mysticism came into existence in early and medieval Christianity, Sufism in the Islamic religion, Hasidism and Kabbala in Judaism, Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism, Zen and Dzogchen in Buddhism. Most of these schools were iconoclastic. They did away with layers upon layers of deadening conceptualization and mental belief structures, and for this reason most of them were viewed with suspicion and often hostility by the established religious hierarchies. Unlike mainstream religion, their teachings emphasized realization and inner transformation. It is through those esoteric schools or movements that the major religions regained the transformative power of the original teachings, although in most cases, only a small minority of people had access to them. Their numbers were never large enough to have any significant impact on the deep collective unconsciousness of the majority. Over time, some of those schools themselves became too rigidly formalized or conceptualized to remain effective.

SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION

What is the role of the established religions in the arising of the new consciousness? Many people are already aware of the difference between spirituality and religion. They realize that having a belief system—a set of thoughts that you regard as the absolute truth—does not make you spiritual no matter what the nature of those beliefs is. In fact, the more you make your thoughts (beliefs) into your identity, the more cut off you are from the spiritual dimension within yourself. Many “religious” people are stuck at that level. They equate truth with thought, and as they are completely identified with thought (their mind), they claim to be in sole possession of the truth in an unconscious attempt to protect their identity. They don’t realize the limitations of thought. Unless you believe (think) exactly as they do, you are wrong in their eyes, and in the not-too-distant past, they would have felt justified in killing you for that. And some still do, even now.

The new spirituality, the transformation of consciousness, is arising to a large extent outside of the structures of the existing institutionalized religions. There were always pockets of spirituality even in mind-dominated religions, although the institutionalized hierarchies felt threatened by them and often tried to suppress them. A large-scale opening of spirituality outside of the religious structures is an entirely new development. In the past, this would have been inconceivable, especially in the West, the most mind-dominated of all cultures, where the Christian church had a virtual franchise on spirituality. You couldn’t just stand up and give a spiritual talk or publish a spiritual book unless you were sanctioned by the church, and if you were not, they would quickly silence you. But now, even within certain churches and religions, there are signs of change. It is heartwarming, and one is grateful for even the slightest signs of openness, such as Pope John Paul II visiting a mosque as well as a synagogue.

Partly as a result of the spiritual teachings that have arisen outside the established religions, but also due to an influx of the ancient Eastern wisdom teachings, a growing number of followers of traditional religions are able to let go of identification with form, dogma, and rigid belief systems and discover the original depth that is hidden within their own spiritual tradition at the same time as they discover the depth within themselves. They realize that how “spiritual” you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness. This, in turn, determines how you act in the world and interact with others.

1“A new heaven” is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, and “a new earth” is its reflection in the physical realm