"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tolle and Jung: Collective Insanity, Ego and the Human Psyche

In his insightful and liberating best-seller, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," author, Eckhart Tolle, the recipient of a sudden, profound and lasting enlightenment experience, examines the nature of the human ego and, in the following passages, warns us of the dangerous realities it poses, individually and collectively, to our very survival.
"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 lifeforms, 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 with horror and incomprehension upon the devastation left behind: ten million human beings killed and many more maimed and 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 inner conflicts, such as the Spanish civil war or during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia when a quarter of the 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 lifeforms 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," Tolle notes, "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."

This is not new information, our collective insanity has been brought to our attention over and over again for millennia by sages and enlightened teachers. It is just the acceleration of destructive intensity and deadly methodologies that increasingly threaten us today. Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the great enlightened teachers of the twentieth century who influenced Tolle's work, clearly pointed out that what we collectively face is "a crisis in consciousness." Meanwhile, the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, clearly warned us that the only danger we are facing is that which comes from ourselves and our unexamined human psyche.

"We are the origin of all coming evil," Jung presciently observed, in the following interview conducted shortly before his death, fifty years ago, in 1961.


  1. Interesting.
    I was looking for some articles contrasting or synthesizing Jungian and Tollean views. I was exposed to Jungian materials for well over 5-6 years now, though frankly it amounted to knowing without necessarily practicing. Tolle came into my realm of experience at the right time, and I am currently experiencing a shift from egocentricity (and a frequent recurring lashing back into egocentricity, albeit). I was basically wondering, among other things, whether I should bother trying to analyze my dreams after all or just resume with the meditation. Any pointers would be apprecaited! Thanks. Nice blog =) Namaste.

    1. Jung is all about individuation. The difficult road towards yourself. Tolle seems to recommend escapism. Surrendering and giving up the ego. Jung on the contrary talks about the importance of a strong ego but in balance with the self. Jung is more advanced but individuation is very unpopular today.

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  2. I'd focus on meditation myself . . . and constant recogntion of "thinking without awareness" followed by a recurrence to the "watching" awareness which meditation improves. Thanks for the comment.