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Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is a diminutive German man who, as a PhD student, suffered from a severe depression—so deep was Tolle’s despair that he went to bed one night with the sensation that he just couldn’t bear the misery anymore. The next morning he discovered that his mind had “split”—it had cracked open and divided in two.

What had happened is that Tolle had achieved perspective on his internal monologue—he realised that there was some “thing” that watched the constant miserable narrative in his head; and, that morning, Tolle found that he now identified with “the watcher” and not the monologue—the result was that Tolle no longer felt misery. On the contrary, he felt ecstatic—you can take that literally, because “ekstasis” means “to stand outside” and Tolle now stood outside his old miserable monologue.

Tolle’s first reaction was to notice the extreme beauty he found in the sunlight that streamed through his window—but that was just the start, for Tolle was now so blissful that he boarded a London bus and travelled about in utter amazement at how beautiful everything around him was. The condition lasted about two years—during which Tolle spent quite some time sat on park benches lost in rapture at the beauty around him (can relate). Tolle’s spontaneous enlightenment—gnosis—led him to become a spiritual teacher; he adopted the name “Eckhart”, I presume to honour the German mystic Meister Eckhart (eck-stasis eck-hart-stasis).

Tolle’s experience is what it is to have a religious view on the world. It means to disidentify with your internal monologue and only identify with the formless watcher that has no content—so that your monologue becomes another thing “outside” you and not “you”; hence any pain or pleasure or annoyance is outside you—what you have instead is just joy, it is incorruptible and timeless. The “watcher” is empty, you notice—it’s null (it’s a mystery); it’s rather like the idea that the logos is an invisible sound with a shimmer of air around it.

Indeed, could this empty state be connected to such notions as “imaginary numbers” in calculus—which can serve any function you like to achieve a result (Leibniz and the I Ching, where mathematics and mystery meet)? To enter the Academy you had to be a geometer—and perhaps you receive enlightenment if you think about number in an extensive way, so that your perception is no longer arithmetical and you manipulate that which seems to exist and yet is never there.

Shades of Intuitionism, of LEJ Brouwer—of time as that which divides and rebinds into itself, as in the yin-yang symbol. Could that which underpins mathematics itself be the invisible game that divides and recombines in eternal play—two forces that must contend to know each other, as Heraclitus said?

It is related to what Jung means by “intuition”, of course—to listen to the silent speaker means to negate your internal monologue, your ratiocinations, and only listen to the voice of command. It sounds irrational and yet it is not instinct—it is supra-reason. It was this voice that Christ served—man cannot serve two masters, he can only serve the invisible sound (logos). Think not of the morrow, nor look over your shoulder as you plough—in other words, live only in the moment, the now. Let it speak through you. To find it, it helps to go into the wilderness—or to become, as Tolle did, so miserable that the psyche just cannot bear it and so rips “you” apart.

Personally, I have personified the voice from beyond as “Horus” because the Peregrine Falcon has a certain childhood significance for me—Tolle does not, perhaps he calls it “the Now” really. This is what religion is in essence, you have to split your mind and realise that your internal monologue is not you and then only obey the voice that comes from beyond—the voice that is a mystery because it is “no-thing”.


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