A “New Earth,” an Old Rant
Terrestrial Shangri-la and Man’s Egoic Mind
To some, Eckhart Tolle is a New (or Now) Age visionary, describing a “new earth” that can materialize if mankind, en masse, awakens to the power of Now. But to others, like me, he is simply a histrionic ranter full of empty rhetoric. Tolle’s apocalyptic eschatology, which centers around the destruction of civilization unless mankind awakens to the Now, identifies “madness” or “insanity” as the culprit threatening the world’s existence.
And what, exactly, is this “madness” or “insanity?” According to Tolle, it is man’s egoic mind. In one of his apocalyptic rants, Tolle, in a fusillade of fire and brimstone, informs us that the egoic mind is dangerously insane and threatens the very existence of life on planet Earth:
Most humans are still in the grip of the egoic mode of consciousness: identified with their mind and run by their mind. If they do not free themselves from their mind in time, they will be destroyed by it. They will experience increasing confusion, conflict, violence, illness, despair, madness. Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship. If you don’t get off, you will go down with it. The collective egoic mind is the most dangerously insane and destructive entity to ever inhabit this planet. What do you think will happen on this planet if human consciousness remains unchanged?
Hide the women and children! Call out the Marines! Forget the War on Terrorism. The real enemy is the egoic mind, and we’ve got to take action NOW! If the situation is as dire as Tolle claims—and given his credentials as an “enlightened guru,” how could it not be?—then perhaps it’s time to line up the people and commence with a mass lobotomy program.
Tolle’s modus operandi is empty, hysterical rhetoric. He seems incapable of dealing in specifics. What, exactly, is the major (mind-caused) problem threatening the existence of the planet today? Is it global warming? Communism? Capitalism? Radical Islam? And what, exactly, is his vision for a new Earth? If everyone starts living in the Now, what kind of social, political, and economic system(s) does Tolle envision? Or will the world just somehow, magically, mystically morph into one big hippie love-in, minus the LSD? If Tolle’s Brave NOW World is just a few billion empty-minded naked people lollygagging in a giant planetary Garden of Eden, count me in. (Hey, if the female scenery is as breathtaking as I imagine it, I’ll even agree to desist from munching on the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.) But if the NOW Boss (Meet the Now Boss, same as the old boss) decides to pipe in ’round-the-clock tapes of Tolle’s talks, then be sure to cancel my reservation.
The worldwide madness that Tolle rags about is not caused by the rational, selfish ego; it is caused by the irrational, self-destructive (and other-destructive) ego. The rational, selfish ego is an ethical ego that believes in every individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It believes in the sanctity of both individual rights and private-property rights and in a limited government that protects them. A government that protects these rights cannot initiate force against its citizens or tyrannize them with fascist and/or neo-Marxist policies and laws.
If every country’s government were a constitutional republic that protected its citizens’ individual and property rights, wars would not (and in fact could not) exist. If we examine the countries that most obviously threatened the planet’s existence in the past (Nazi Germany and Communist Russia) and those which most obviously threaten its existence now (North Korea and Iran), we see a common denominator: an aggressive, tyrannical government that denies its citizens individual (egoic) rights. These countries demanded, or demand, sacrifice of the ego for the country’s “common good.” Countries that enslave their citizens always do so via altruistic political doctrines (fascism and/or neo-Marxism) that encourage mind-less, ego-denying existence for the so-called “good of the whole.”
It is my contention that the world could be a perfectly peaceful place sans any spirituality, sans any people living in the Now. A planet of selfish, time-bound, non-mystic atheists could turn the planet Earth into a mundane paradise simply by instituting limited governments based on separation of both church and state and economy and state. Individuals would be free to live their lives as they saw fit, provided, of course, they didn’t interfere with anybody else’s right to do the same. A social system of laissez-faire capitalism within a framework of constitutionally guaranteed individual and property rights would ensure safe and peaceful countries, and thus, a safe and peaceful world.
The egoic mind is not the egotistic mind. The egoic mind is simply the mind that naturally is concerned with the organism’s survival and well-being. Once you make an enemy out of a faculty that should be your friend, you’ve started an unholy inner war. I say unholy, because if you devote yourself to genuine holy, or Spirit-filled, life, you bypass the unnecessary battle with your egoic mind and simply and naturally release superfluous thoughts into the Spirit-current.
I am not an atheist and I am a mystic—though not of the Tolle ilk—and I believe that the egoic mind should be transcended within the context of Divine Communion and reception of the Spirit. But the egoic mind is not a demonic force that dooms you and the world. It is simply a unique form of shakti (energy) with the marvelous ability to measure objective reality from the perspective of embodied existence. If you accept Tolle’s viewpoint of the egoic mind as the de facto devil that threatens humanity’s existence, you are gravely mistaken. The de facto devil is, in fact, none other than those who collectively, in one fashion or another, attempt to deny the full and free expression of man’s egoic mind.
Eckhart Tolle says that the mere fact that we are listening to him is “a clear sign that the new consciousness is gaining a foothold on the planet.” I say that it’s merely a clear sign that his net worth is skyrocketing. The easiest way for a “guru” to gain market share is to push the cosmic significance of his message. The New Age Crowd—hey, it’s not called “New Age” for nothing—loves the idea of the ushering in of a Now World Order. And the less you deal with nitty-gritty specifics and the more you talk in vague, idealistic generalities, the greater the number of bandwagoners you’ll attract to your Now Age following.
Tolle says, “I speak from presence, and as I speak, you may be able to join me in that state.” Presence is indeed a marvelous spiritual practice—it is, in fact (along with power), the foundation of my own spiritual practice—but in no way does this practice alone represent humanity’s salvation. For unless there is a corresponding appreciation of, and allowance for, man’s creative, egoic mind, humanity will never evolve into a species that can transform planet Earth into a terrestrial Shangri-La.
Eckhart Tolle’s Planetary “Devil”
Eckhart Tolle truly despises the human mind, identifying it as an agent of planetary pollution and destruction. If Tolle were a Christian, his name for the mind would be “the Devil.” The following passage, extracted from The Power of Now, exemplifies his hatred of man’s conceptual faculty:
Through surrender, spiritual energy comes into this world. It creates no suffering for yourself, for other humans, or any other life form on the planet. Unlike mind energy, it does not pollute the Earth, and it is not subject to the law of polarities, which dictates nothing can exist without its opposite, that there can be no good without bad. Those who run on mind energy, which is still the vast majority of the Earth’s population, remain unaware of the existence of spiritual energy. It belongs to a different order of reality and will create a different world when a sufficient number of humans enter the surrendered state and so become totally free of negativity. If the earth is to survive, this will be the energy of those who inhabit it.
Tolle’s message is apocalyptic: Only spiritual energy can rescue the Earth from man’s evil mind. Through surrender, humans can bring spiritual energy into this world and save our planet from extinction. Tolle’s message is Dark Age nonsense. It is not mind energy that threatens our planet, but rather, anti-mind energy. This anti-mind energy—in the form of secular and religious dogmas that demand unquestioning surrender to their enslaving dictates and authority—views the rational mind as dangerous. But what endangers the world’s survival is not the rational mind; it is the anti-reason “mind.” For example, consider the case of secular humanists. These well-meaning, peace-loving people, who trust in science and reason rather than in spiritual energy, work hard to make our planet a safer, cleaner, more humane place. Although I am not a secular humanist, their example graphically illustrates the point that rational mind energy can represent the Earth’s salvation, not its demise.
Man is the conceptual animal, gifted with reasoning power unavailable to any other creature. But to mystical “thinkers” such as Tolle, the human mind represents a curse, not a blessing. Instead of praising this remarkable God-given faculty, they denigrate it, blaming it for all the problems in the world. This is tantamount to blaming food rather than overeating for obesity. Just as fatness isn’t caused by food, man’s myriad social problems aren’t caused by his mind; they are caused by its misuse. But Tolle steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the mind’s positive aspects, even denying that it is creative. Instead, true to his colors as a quasi-nihilistic mystic, he throws the baby (the rational mind) out with the bath water (the irrational mind), kicking it soundly before loathingly tossing it down the trash chute.
Two thousand years after Jesus’ death, the meek have yet to inherit the Earth, and unless scientists can bio-engineer a docile cockroach, I wouldn’t advise a wager on the “gentle” inheriting the global turf any time soon. But Tolle, ever the apocalyptic doomsayer, assures us that the Earth can only survive if the “impoverished,” meaning the spiritually surrendered, become the prime movers down here. I’m all in favor of spiritual surrender and channeling Shakti (Divine Power), but without man’s volitional (and creative) mind-energy fully intact, the salvation of the Earth is no more than a pipe dream.
A New and Better World
Eckhart Tolle believes that man’s collective consciousness creates reality, including social reality. He states, “Our collective human world is largely created through the level of consciousness we call mind.” This is a statement right out of the pages of Immanuel Kant (the most evil philosopher in history, according to Ayn Rand, who considered him the archenemy of both the human mind and the idea of objective reality). As Rand puts it, “Kant ushered in the era of social subjectivism—the view that it is not the consciousness of individuals, but of groups that creates reality. In Kant’s system, mankind as a whole is the decisive group; what creates the phenomenal world is not the idiosyncrasies of particular individuals, but the mental structure common to all men.” Tolle, clearly a Kantian, believes that “when the majority of humans become free of egoic delusion, this inner change will affect all of creation” and “you will literally inhabit a new world.”
What kind of “new world” does Tolle envisage? One that is prophesized in the Bible. Tolle hazily describes it:
Since all worlds are interconnected, when collective human consciousness becomes transformed, nature and the animal kingdom will reflect that transformation. Hence the statement in the Bible that in the coming age “The lion shall lie down with the lamb.” This points to a completely different order of reality.
Isaiah 65:25 in the Bible describes this new order of reality: “The wolf and the lamb”—not the “lion and the lamb,” as Tolle has it—“shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat.” And pigs will no doubt fly, I’m sure. But when I informed my cat (regrettably, not a Zen master like Tolle’s) that his mice-chomping days were numbered, that his new diet would consist of straw, he hissed at me. However, when I then told him, “And dust shall be the serpent’s meat,” he began to purr. Straw beats dust, I guess, even in Tolle’s Now World Order.
Fogged-out utopians like Tolle love to allude to a new world, a new earth, but when it comes to specifics, a detailed description of the new reality, they are predictably vague. Tolle continues his bleary attempt to describe this New Age:
What is being born is a new consciousness and, as its inevitable reflection, a new world. This is also foretold in the New Testament Book of Revelation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
Is Eckhart Tolle brainless enough to actually believe in the “new earth” nonsense that he preaches? Or is he simply looking to capitalize on the idealistic gullibility of the New Age masses? Tolle, ever the spiritual idealist (or at least appearing to be so), insists that unless you connect to the transcendental Source, you are incapable of bringing about a better world:
You are in touch with something infinitely greater than any pleasure, greater than any manifested thing… It is only at this point that you begin to make a real contribution toward bringing about a better world, toward creating a different order of reality. It is only at this point that you are able to feel true compassion and to help others at the level of cause. Only those who have transcended the world can bring about a better world.
History does not support Tolle’s assertion that only world-transcenders can make the world better. Untold millions have died and been persecuted by religions stemming from world-transcending saints. Examine the bloody histories of Christianity and Islam and try to make a case that they have brought about a better world. And in India, easily the most spiritual nation in history (if the sheer number of enlightened beings produced is the criterion for “spiritual”), all the great yogis, saints, and sages have been unable to eliminate the terrible poverty and suffering of the masses. Anyone who objectively studies world history would categorically reject Tolle’s notion that only world-transcenders can bring about a better world. The Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, for example, was not championed by world-transcenders, but it led to the birth of science, individualism, and liberty. The U.S. Constitution was not created by mystics living in the Now, but the Founding Fathers who crafted it did more to bring about a better world than all the mystics in history combined. Only a myopic mystic like Tolle could totally ignore the contributions of non-world-transcenders (such as freedom fighters, educators, scientists, and inventors) in bringing about a better world.
It is true that by radiantly being, your very presence spreads peace and joy—but it is more than a stretch to assume that this is the only way to make the world better. Tolle says, “You become the ‘light of the world,’ an emanation of pure consciousness, and so eliminate suffering on the level of cause. You eliminate unconsciousness from the world.” The truth is, you can only eliminate your own unconsciousness; you cannot eliminate unconsciousness from the world. And only the rarest beings ever fully eliminate their own unconsciousness. Therefore, if you want to bring about a better world, do not put all your eggs in the single basket of enlightenment; find other positive ways to contribute to humanity.
Capitalism: A Real-World Solution
Eckhart Tolle asserts, “But who you are is always a more vital teaching and a more powerful transformer of the world than what you say, and more essential even than what you do.” This simply isn’t the case. If you objectively examine world history, you’ll find that Tolle, again, is wrong. It is the words and actions of men, not their character, or lack thereof, that has essentially determined the course of human history. For example, consider The Communist Manifesto, which has powerfully shaped world history irrespective of Karl Marx’s state of being. And it is the actions rather than the character of world leaders that has always made the world go round. Jimmy Carter, for example, was a true humanitarian with a big heart, but his disastrous economic policies paved the way for Ronald Reagan and Reaganomics.
According to Tolle, “Your compassion may simultaneously manifest on the level of doing and effect by alleviating suffering whenever you come across it.” Therefore, he says, “When a hungry person asks you for bread and you have some, you will give it.” Although on the surface it might appear noble to mindlessly and indiscriminately give to the needy, such action is often counterproductive. Instead of benefiting the recipients, it can undermine their strength and independence. In 1960, seventy-eight percent of African American families were two-parent units, but thanks to the gross expansion of the welfare state by liberal Democrats, this figure had shrunk to only twenty-eight percent by the year 2010. By freely giving extra welfare benefits to unwed mothers with children, the well-meaning socialists inadvertently decimated the African American nuclear family.
What Tolle and mystics of his ilk ignore is the role of productivity. In order to be able to give, you first have to produce, to create wealth. And the best way to help the needy, and all of society as well, is to teach people how to be productive. Thus, instead of giving a hungry person a piece of fish to eat, teach him how to fish. When a person is productive, he is strong and independent and has self-esteem. But, of course, to world-negating anti-egoists like Tolle, virtues such as self-esteem are antithetical to the enlightenment process.
Tolle says what really matters when you give bread to a hungry person is the “moment of shared Being, of which the bread is only a symbol.” “In that moment,” he says, “there is no giver, no receiver.” Regardless of what Tolle claims, there is still an objective giver and an objective receiver in that moment. You might experience unity in the Spirit with the recipient of your bread, but it is utter nonsense to insist that the giver-receiver dynamic is somehow voided by your act of karma yoga.
People concerned with the state of the world and its social ills often ask: Why should there even be hunger and starvation in the world? Why not create a better world by first tackling hunger and violence?
Tolle’s prescription for these social ills is no more than a spiritual bromide:
All evils are the effects of unconsciousness. You can alleviate the effects of unconsciousness, but you cannot eliminate them unless you eliminate their cause. True change happens within, not without.
The real answer to hunger and starvation—as proven by India, China, and other emerging nations— is not spiritual consciousness; it is capitalism, a dirty word to most primacy-of-consciousness mystics like Tolle. Awakening people to the Now is a wonderful mission, but it has little to do with feeding and clothing the masses. Anyone interested in an intelligent real-world solution to hunger and starvation should read Ayn Rand’s book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
Capitalism, unbeknownst to most people, is, first and foremost, a social system, not an economic one. And because a capitalist system protects individual rights (including property rights) and encourages free trade among people and nations, it is the real solution not only to world hunger, but to mass violence, too. When people and nations engage in free trade, mutually beneficial interdependence is fostered, which favors cooperation and peace.
What Is Civilization Seeking?
“Resistance to the Now,” says Eckhart Tolle, is a “collective dysfunction” and “forms the basis of our dehumanized industrial civilization.” Statements like this, which Tolle makes throughout The Power of Now, sound as though they were derived from a neo-Marxist pamphlet, and make me wonder to what extent Tolle has been influenced by the European inheritance of Marxism and primitive communistic tribal society.
Contrary to Tolle’s claim, resistance to the Now is not a collective dysfunction. It is entirely an individual one, as is the process of overcoming it. Spiritual collectives and communities throughout history and around the globe have produced sparingly few great sages. In fact, the renowned Indian guru Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887–1963) instructed serious yogis to stay away from ashrams, including his own. The greatest spiritual adepts—such as Buddha, Jesus, and Ramana Maharshi—have almost always been rugged individuals who trod the spiritual path alone, in solitude.
Tolle is also off-base in his depiction of industrial civilization as “dehumanized.” By historical standards, modern industrial society is hardly dehumanized. People can freely live, work, play, study, and worship alone or together. They can choose among privacy, fraternity, and community, and can mix and match them to their heart’s content. They have constitutionally guaranteed individual rights, including the right to own property. Contrast this with preindustrial society, in which man was nothing but an indentured servant to the tribe, the chief, or the ruling cult, whose dictates controlled virtually every aspect of his life.
If modern industrial civilization is as dehumanized as Tolle claims, then why don’t millions of Americans drop out and form “humanized” communes in the peaceful countryside, away from what Tolle calls our “extraordinarily violent civilization?” The fact is, in the 1970s, tens of thousands of young Americans did drop out and form hundreds of hippie-type and spiritual-type communes throughout the country. I visited a few of them. For several years, a spiritual community guidebook (I don’t remember its name) was published yearly, containing information on each of these communes. By the end of the 1980s, however, virtually all of these communes had failed, and the majority of the disillusioned ex-members had returned to mainstream society to seek their fortune.
What does Tolle recommend as an alternative to modern industrial civilization? Predictably, and pathetically, he doesn’t say. He just takes potshots from the peanut gallery and never mentions the inconvenient truth that the small-scale cooperative experiment failed miserably in America. It would also be enlightening if he mentioned his points of view on capitalism versus socialism and individualism versus statism. But if Tolle dealt in specifics instead of in broad generalities, his popularity would be compromised; he would no longer be Everyman’s mystic, and his book sales would no doubt plummet.
Tolle makes millions of dollars hawking his books, CDs, and DVDs, but without modern industrial civilization this wouldn’t be possible—unless you think a hippie living in the Now in a commune could invent, manufacture, and market computers and other electronic devices that play CDs and DVDs. What I don’t understand about Tolle is this: Why does a rich guy like him who hates modern industrial civilization continue to “robe” himself in a confining suit and tie, the signature symbol of the uptight, life-destructive civilization he so despises? You’d think a guy like him, putatively outside the zeitgeist and floating in the Now, would ditch the mainstream monkey suit for less formal attire that reflects his anti-establishment point of view. But what do I know? Maybe GQ pays him to model the formal but stylish threads.
Getting back to serious matters, I want to counter Tolle’s indictment of modern industrial civilization with a quote from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand. Rand’s picture of pre-industrial Europe makes you wonder why Tolle, who hails from Europe, rails so passionately against the current state of civilization. As Rand points out, until the institution of serfdom was abolished and supplanted by modern capitalism’s emergence in the nineteenth century, a man’s life and property were not his own; they belonged to the chief of the tribal state, the king.
The concept of man as a free, independent individual was profoundly alien to the culture of Europe. It was a tribal culture down to its roots; in European thinking, the tribe was the entity, the unit, and man was only one of its expendable cells. This applied to rulers and serfs alike: the rulers were believed to hold their privileges only by virtue of the services they rendered to the tribe, services regarded as of a noble order, namely, armed force or military defense. But a nobleman was as much chattel of the tribe as a serf: his life and property belonged to the king. It must be remembered that the institution of private property, in the full legal meaning of the term, was brought into existence only by capitalism. In the pre-capitalist eras, private property existed de facto, but not de jure, i.e., by custom and sufferance, not by right or by law. In law and in principle, all property belonged to the head of the tribe, the king, and was held only by his permission, which could be revoked at any time, at his pleasure. (The king could and did expropriate the estates of recalcitrant noblemen throughout the course of Europe’s history.)
Tolle’s rant against the “machine” comes to a head in his “state-of-the-planet” summary statement: “The collective dysfunction has created a very unhappy and extraordinarily violent civilization that has become a threat not only to itself but also to all life on the planet.” Tolle’s sophomoric statement is flush with rhetoric and devoid of substance. If modern industrial civilization were as violent and dysfunctional as Tolle declares it to be, why do most underdeveloped nations still seek to emulate the U.S., Europe, and Japan? Finally, regarding the “extraordinary violence,” on the planet, most of it stems not from modern civilized countries, but from backward, uncivilized nations that do not recognize and/or protect individual rights. Perhaps Tolle hasn’t noticed that the current hotbeds of violence in the world—Africa, Mexico, and particular Middle East countries—hardly qualify as bastions of modern civilization. Yes, the very existence of life on planet Earth is in question. But the reason for this isn’t modern civilization; it’s the enemies of modern civilization: brainwashed Islamic extremists who would gladly blow up the world in the name of Allah.
I have no idea what subjects, beyond literature, Tolle focused on while at Cambridge, but I would be shocked if they included political science, sociology, or economics. To put it bluntly, Tolle is utterly clueless when it comes to the world’s political, social, and economic situation. In fact, if he were to give me a call or join me for some tea and crumpets, my advice to him would be this: avoid pontificating on the state of the world. Stick to what you know best—pop mysticism and sharp suits and ties.
A Brief History of a Now Ideology
Eckhart Tolle is a virtual one-man crusade against the, ahem, horrors of psychological time. Psychological time to Tolle isn’t merely a neurotic disorder; it is, in his words, “insanity… a serious mental illness.”
To argue his point that psychological time is a mental disease with grave social consequences, Tolle cites future-driven ideologies that have led to mass enslavement, torture, and death. These ideologies, according to Tolle, include “communism, national socialism or any nationalism, or rigid religious belief systems which operate under the implicit assumption that the highest good lies in the future and that therefore the end justifies the means.”
If mankind is to avoid the enslavement, torture, and death that these evil psychological-time intensive ideologies engender, the solution, it might seem, would be to replace them with an ideology that preaches the virtues of living in the Now. And what ideology could be more ideal for this than Zen Buddhism? After all, as Tolle informs us, “The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of Now.”
Luckily, we don’t have to resort to speculation about the effect of integrating Zen’s Now ideology into a time-intensive sociopolitical system. The case of Japan provides an empirical example that illustrates what can happen when a Now religion like Zen becomes intimately involved with an aggressive, future-oriented state. The following excerpt from Josh Baran’s book review of Zen at War, by Brian Victoria (full review available at darkzen.com), provides an eye-opening look at the Japanese Zen establishment’s complicity with Japan’s imperial war machine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:
Zen at War is a courageous and exhaustively researched book by Brian Victoria, a western Soto Zen priest and instructor at the University of Auckland. Victoria reveals the inside story of the Japanese Zen establishment’s dedicated support of the imperial war machine from the late 1880’s through World War Two. He chronicles in detail how prominent Zen leaders perverted the Buddhist teaching to encourage blind obedience, mindless killing, and total devotion to the emperor. The consequences were catastrophic and the impact can still be felt today…
Victoria identifies Sawaki Kodo (1880–1965), one of the great Soto Zen patriarchs of this [20th] century as an evangelical war proponent. Serving in Russia as a soldier, he happily related how he and his comrades had “gorged ourselves on killing people.” Later, in 1942, he wrote, “It is just to punish those who disturb the public order. Whether one kills or does not kill, the precept forbidding killing [is preserved]. It is the precept that wields the sword. It is the precept that throws the bomb.”
The “precept throws the bomb?” This is an astonishing abuse of Zen language. Kodo also advocated, as did other Zen teachers, that if killing is done without thinking, in a state of no-mind or no-self, then the act is an expression of enlightenment. No thinking = No-mind = No-self = No karma. In this bizarre equation, the victims are always left out, as if they were irrelevant. Killing is just an elegant expression of the koan.
When Colonel Aizawa Saburo was being tried for murdering another general in 1935, he testified, “I was in an absolute sphere, so there was neither affirmation nor negation, neither good nor evil.” This approach to Zen is ultimately a perverse narcissism, or even nihilism. Of course, the obvious question that was never asked—if there is no self, why is there any need to kill?
Victoria has brought to light the actual words of those leaders and the written record of this period. Zen at War contains dozens of similar passages from leading teachers, proving that this distortion was the rule, not the exception. There were some pacifists, but they were few. Some priests who opposed the war may have quietly retired to distant country temples, but they probably left no record.
The marriage of Zen and the Japanese war machine demonstrates how warped a mind-averse Now ideology can become in the heat of a hellish political climate. Because Zen is a tunnel-vision religion that focuses on the Now while disparaging the mind that dwells on the past and the future, it never developed the strong ethical foundation that characterizes most other schools of Buddhism. Hence, while ideals such as compassion and non-violence are emphasized in non-Zen Buddhist sects, in Zen they are dismissed as superfluous concepts to be expunged from one’s mind. The popular Zen saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,” perfectly summarizes the Japanese Zen attitude toward anything mind-based, including the moral ideals so essential to making the world a more peaceful place.
And now a final rebuttal to Tolle’s argument that future-driven ideologies are responsible for mass enslavement, torture and death: Every industrialized nation—regardless of its government’s ideology—is geared toward the future. It doesn’t matter if the country is overtly Marxist, like Venezuela, or ostensibly capitalist, like the United States, the power elite behind the “throne” are constantly shaping and reshaping government policy with the future in mind. Since every modern government is driven by time, the principal reason that an ideology results in enslavement, torture, and death clearly is not a psychological obsession with time; rather, it is the totalitarian nature of the ideology itself. Ideologies that resort to enslavement, torture, and death have one key factor in common: a total disregard for individual rights, including the most important, the right to one’s own life. And as the history of Japanese Zen proves, a Now ideology devoid of a strong ethical foundation can demonstrate just as much disregard for human life as a time-driven one.