Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. Matthew 23:26
Eckhart Tolle is a hero of people who are “spiritual, but not religious.” The New York Times said that he “is the most popular spiritual author in the United States, “is not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible” and is “hardly the first writer to tap into the American longing for meaning and success.”
His critics say he offers a mix of pseudo-science, New Age philosophy and teaching borrowed from established religions. Catholic theologian, Richard Rohr, credits him for helping to reintroduce ancient Christian mysticism to modern Christians and sees no conflict for a mature Christian because he teaches people “how to see and be present, but not what they should see when they are present.”
I am neither a fan nor a critic, but since I am one who believes that the truth is the truth no matter who speaks it, I was recently grabbed by one of his quotes. “If you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.” To me, that sounds pretty close to the sentiments in Jesus’ own teaching on metanoia, the necessity of going through a radical internal change in the way one sees.
Our culture is certainly searching for meaning, but often we seem to be, sadly enough, guilty of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” We may have a wave of people who are willing to take Tolle’s advice and “look inward,” but the number of people “looking outward” is probably bigger! Their mantra is: “If you get the outside right, the inside will take care of itself.”
Nowhere do see this more clearly than in our obsession with “engineered perfection” in the dramatic rise in cosmetic surgery procedures. In a recent Courier-Journal article, we were told that it is a trend that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future because it is becoming safer, subtler and less invasive: laser hair removal, liposuction, implants and Botox injections, to name a few. Male cosmetic surgery increased 121 percent since 1997 as these macho taboos continue to decrease.
Who hasn’t let such possibilities drift through one’s mind while standing in front of a well-lighted mirror? As far as I am concerned, it is only a real problem when it is seen as a replacement for one’s “inner work:” character building, self-discipline, spiritual growth and true human development. That cannot be “engineered” externally.
Organized religion is sometimes just as guilty of seeking external solutions. It is easy for us to condemn people like Tolle and call his work “spiritual mumbo jumbo,” but the truth of the matter is that he has grown popular because we have lost contact with our own spiritual traditions and how to connect them to our people’s rapacious appetite for spiritual growth. The sterility of organized religion has been brought about by our fixation on its external forms.
Father J. Ronald Knott