Addendum to: "The Truth Shall Make You Free!"

By Lenora Grimaud

Perhaps the greatest discrepancy between Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is his understanding of who God is and who the Self is. His understanding of this central truth of the Gospel distorts his understanding of what self-knowledge is; what love is; what equality is; and what our purpose in life is. Gnosticism and Pantheism have many different variations and beliefs, but none of them are compatible with Christianity. They are all opposed to the distinction between God and humans, and opposed to creation. Creation is the enemy of Satan. His greatest ambition is not only “death” to creation—to destroy creation—but also to blot out the memory of creation; to return to a state of being before creation began; to return creation to a state of non-existence—no thing.

Eckhart does not distinguish between the true self and God. For him, God is being, essence, and presence; and the self in all humans is also God. God is not personal and humans cannot enter into a personal relationship with God—humans can only be absorbed into God. For Eckhart, “God is not love” because love implies separateness and relationship; love is only a human attribute for humans—part of the world of illusion and a tool for overcoming the ego.

For the Christian, equality does not mean “sameness.” In God, there are three distinct persons in one being. God is a relationship between those persons, and that relationship is love. These three persons are equal, but not the same. They are distinct persons who share the same value and dignity. As unique persons, they each have a different purpose, yet, they are one in being and never separated. This is a mystery. God created all humans as equal in dignity and value. All humans are loved equally by God, but he did not create us the same; man and woman, he created us; individual and unique persons, he created us. We are not replicable. We cannot be cloned or reincarnated. Eckhart says:

It has been said “God is love” but that is not absolutely correct. God is the One Life in and beyond the countless forms of life. Love implies duality: lover and beloved, subject and object. So love is the recognition of oneness in the world of duality. This is the birth of God into the world of form (pg. 106). About love, he says: Only beyond form, in Being, are you equal, and only when you find the formless dimension in yourself can there be true love in that relationship. The Presence that you are, the timeless I Am, recognizes itself in another, and the other…feels love, that is to say, recognized….To love is to recognize yourself in another. The other’s “otherness” then stands revealed as an illusion pertaining to the purely human realm, the realm of form (pg. 105).

The Christian understanding of love is very different. The Christian does not love others because he sees himself in them—that is narcissism. The Christian loves others because he sees what is missing in himself. He loves them for themselves. He recognizes their uniqueness. Adam exclaimed when he saw Eve, ‘This at last is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman, for this was taken from man.’ This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body. (Gen.2:23-24). The first account of creation says: God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27). In both accounts, man and woman are equal but not the same—they are uniquely different persons, as well as different genders. What was taken from Adam is no longer his, and the new creation never was his. If the ovum from a woman and sperm from a man are united, it can grow and develop into a new creation. This new creation is a separate and unique person, with its own identity and its own human rights. It is not an appendage of the parents, but its own person.

A Christian recognizes that all other human beings come from the same source as he does—from God—which makes everyone his brothers and sisters. He recognizes the relatedness. Humans are not all part of one soul—they are unique and individual souls, created by a God who is completely “other.” If there was no separation between God and creation, there could be no God; there could be no separation between God and humans, between heaven and hell, between good and evil, or between light and darkness. Eckhart believes that there is no separation.

Jesus came to reveal a very different kind of love. He revealed it in word and action. Love is always active—it goes out to others in self donation. Love is a grace that God gives to us; a gift that we receive by giving away to others—receiving and giving are one act. Jesus taught us to love in the form of a commandment: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself (Mat. 22:37-39). This is to say, that we treat others as we would like them to treat us. It does not imply that we love others because they are ourselves. Jesus taught by example by laying down his life for us: Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus taught his disciples: This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13). The Apostle, John, clarifies this kind of love for us: My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth and be able to quiet our conscience in his presence, whatever accusations it may raise against us, because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything….My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. (1John 3:18-20; 4:7-10). Every created being fails to love, many times, every day. It is only when we are in Christ, in union with him, that we can love and know God, because he is the only begotten Son of God, and the only human being who fully knows God--He is God. He is love. This is why we continue to need the Sacrament of the forgiveness of sins. Our union with God will not be complete until Jesus returns and we are resurrected and transformed.

Eckhart writes a lot about “self-knowledge,” but what he says is very confusing and ambiguous; certainly not the understanding of the Saints or spiritual masters of the past. He states: Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind (pg.186). Who you are requires no belief. In fact, every belief is an obstacle. It does not even require your realization, since you already are who you are. But without realization, who you are does not shine forth into this world. It remains in the unmanifested which is, of course, your true home (pg.189). Knowing yourself is being yourself, and being yourself is ceasing to identify with content. (pg.193). It is ambiguous because “knowing” is related to form. We cannot know something without human understanding; using our reason and intellect, our feelings, or our senses. For instance, God is Spirit; we cannot know God unless He reveals himself to us. He reveals himself through nature, through word, through symbol, through his works, through love, through relationship, and most perfectly, through Jesus Christ. We cannot even know our own self, except through how we reveal our self—through our actions, thoughts, feelings, desires, will, and experiences. Our knowledge will always be imperfect. As St. Paul says: Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known. In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1Cor.13:12-13). Without faith, hope, and love, we would not even have a desire to know ourselves or God—except out of curiosity, which does not lead to knowledge of the truth.

For the Christian, self-knowledge presupposes the knowledge that we are loved by God, freely and unconditionally; and because we are loved, we want to love in return—it is the nature of love. If we truly love, we will be aware of what is not love in us, and when we are not loving others. Sin is simply the failure to love. The requirements of love have been revealed to us through the Commandments and Beatitudes. Self-knowledge is knowing our weaknesses and our strengths; knowing when we are authentic and real, and when we are pretending to be something we are not; knowing when we are truly motivated by love of God and others, and when our motives are rooted in self interest. Self-knowledge is the awareness and honest appraisal of our actions, words, thoughts, and feelings—wants, desires, and passions; the knowledge of what comes from God, from our ego, and from the evil one; knowledge of what we need to take responsibility for, what we are unable to take responsibility for, and what is not our responsibility. Self-knowledge is a “knowing” that is on the periphery—like spell-check on a computer program. It is there when we need it. But, the one who loves is self-less—always focused on others, not the self. Self-knowledge presupposes that we know who God is and who we are—that God is the lover and we are the beloved. A Christian knows he is loved by God, and that makes all the difference. If we know we are loved, we don’t have to think about “if” we are loved—we can just love in return. We don’t have to seek to be loved. We don’t even seek self-knowledge, we are given it. It is the result of loving God and others.

Self-knowledge can also mean that we know ourselves well enough to know what we want to do, what we are capable of doing, and what we are not capable of doing. Self-knowledge is important in order to discern a vocation in life, a career, Education Major, and also in order to choose a compatible mate. Self knowledge is important to our ability to make good choices.

As Christians, our purpose in life is union with God and union with others—not absorption into God or others. This union is lived out in accordance with the Commandment—“to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” Our purpose is a two-fold commitment: union with God and to build the kingdom of God—in heaven and on earth; to “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it.” (Gen. 1:28). This commitment is reflected in the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a “New Covenant” in the blood of Jesus Christ which was poured out for the forgiveness if sins (Mat. 26:28). It was not written on tablets of stone, but on our hearts. What is written on our hearts witnesses to—confirms—what is written in Scripture. It cannot be improved upon. There is no other Gospel; no third covenant. This covenant is a marriage between Jesus Christ and the Church; between God and humanity. It is an invitation to a personal and intimate relationship with God.

What is a personal relationship with God? If we have a personal relationship with God, we experience his presence, his love for us, his mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. What marriage could last without forgiveness? What relationship could be healthy without forgiveness? If we are loved by God, we can love ourselves, and love others. If we are forgiven by God, we can forgive ourselves, and forgive others. If we have a personal relationship with God, we know that we can never be alone; that we are always in relationship—always part of more. This “knowing” comes from faith; from experiencing what we believe. We have the hope that everything has a plan and purpose—nothing is left to chance, nothing is in vain—death is never an end. We have hope for the world, for others, and for ourselves—life is not static; it doesn’t stand still; there is always new life. It is the hope of a mother who looks forward to the birth of her baby and the miracle of life within her—to see this new life, face to face; to hold it, touch it, and kiss it—to delight in it.

If we have a personal relationship with God, we know by faith that we can pour out our hearts to God and he will listen—he will hear us. We know that he will respond, he will acknowledge us. We know by faith that he fully knows us, fully understands us, without our even having to say a world. He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. We know by faith that God speaks to us and we can hear him. We know by faith that God sees us and we will also see him, because we already have an awareness of his presence that is beyond what we can perceive with our senses. We can already see him in all of life. We know by faith, that God is always our help and consolation whenever we are in need—that “should a mother forget her child, he will never forget us.” We will never be forgotten. We will always be. Life is eternal! He will never abandon us. With this faith, we have a peace that surpasses all understanding, and the joy of victory. God is victorious over all his adversaries through his only Son, Jesus. Justice would require that God had to become one of his creatures in order to conquer Satan, who is merely one of his creatures. Justice will reign and evil will be conquered. We have the joy of knowing that we are fully loved, and that our life has meaning and purpose, including our losses and suffering. We have the joy of freedom from fear, guilt, condemnation, despair, and hopelessness.

Eckhart often mixes truth with lies in his book, which is what makes the book so confusing. Time, space, matter, and form are gifts from God—not curses, not illusions. They are blessings that should move us to praise and give thanks to God. We appreciate this gift of time the most when we live in the present moment—when we savor the present moment. We cannot deny the past or the future, because they are also part of time. But, they are always on the periphery. We can’t be present, or really live, in the past or future; and if we try to we will not be able to live the present moment—we lose life instead of fully living life.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God because he proved that he has authority and power over all of life, and even death; over time, space, matter, and spirit; over heaven and earth. Because we believe that he is God, we can believe in everything he said. God is not a liar and our faith will not be in vain. God spoke the Word, and all of creation came into being. God stands by his Word. We are only as good as our word. If our word is a lie, it makes us a lie. If our word is good and we stand by it, we have integrity. Words are a gift, not a curse, unless we make them a curse. Our word is our signature.

This Addendum, and the previous reflection, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” are written, primarily, for those who have read “A New Earth,” and those who are planning to read it.

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