How I See It

I have absolutely no interest in pop psychology, nor the latest “gurus” being touted by the media.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen even a segment of Oprah’s show, for instance.

What I am interested in, and desire to share, is anything that can bring the truth and the teachings of Catholicism into better focus for people.  The media can label Eckhart Tolle any way they please, but there is no question in my mind that he is a mystic.  One of my pet peeves (well, deep frustrations, actually) is that, because the secular media and also many “spiritual practitioners” themselves have no knowledge of our Catholic contemplative/mystical tradition, they have no foundation, no basis, no frame of reference in which so-called “new” knowledge and practices can be properly placed.  Ultimately, everything and everyone gets slotted into “New Age”.  It would be laughable if it weren’t so very sad.

Quite frankly, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I had never heard of Eckhart Tolle before I accidently came across some sound clips, which prompted me to check for YouTubes.  I had no idea he was even popular let alone famous, and I had no idea he was being touted by the celebrities as the “new” spiritual guru, because I don’t watch television and rarely frequent anything other than Catholic bookstores.  I simply recognized him as a mystic; I recognized the Catholic contemplative/mystical teachings within his message, and realized he was someone I could “use”.  I have no qualms about using a teacher from any religious tradition or even no religious tradition if I can do so to elucidate our Catholic faith.  If celebrities are embracing Tolle, so be it; perhaps it is an indication that their spirits are crying out for a deeper relationship with the Divine.  Perhaps, through Tolle, they may experience a conversion of heart, experience metanoia; perhaps even find their way to Christ our Lord.  I cannot even say that I would embrace Tolle’s message in its entirety, because I do not know it in its entirety.  What I have used on my blog I have used for a specific purpose.

I did a bit of googling late last night, afraid that perhaps I had gone offtrack, been deceived, and was perhaps leading others to be deceived.   Many places I looked, Tolle popped up with the label “New Age”.  But not everywhere.  For instance, we can find Eckhart Tolle’s, “The Power of Now”, listed on the Basilian Fathers’ website as Recommended Reading.  They write:

“This book is quite similar in concept to “Practicing the Presence of God” ; however, it does approach our ability to live in the “now” using a more intellectual and scientific method.  It could best be summed up like this:  Start with Brother Lawrence for the spiritual understanding, then turn to Tolle for the “how”.”

The Redemptorists also list Eckhart Tolle’s, “A New Earth”, on their website under Recommended Reading.

I opened my previous post with quotations from The Cloud of Unknowing and from Abandonment to Divine Providence.  I did not use these Catholic writings in order to validate Eckhart Tolle.  I used Eckhart Tolle, because he is here and now and available on YouTube, to help explain our own Catholic contemplative/mystical teachings.


28 thoughts on “How I See It

  1. Gabrielle, There was a book in my family home for years. a gift from a visit to USA, the book was Song of the Bird by Anthony de Mello. This book is filled with short wrtings from a wide variety of spiritual writers. My view would be akin to yours: If I come across a piece of writing that engages my mind and appeals to my heart, I’ll take it onboard….and unless we’re talking heresy Id also share it with others if and when a certain subject or topic came up. I think it is important as Catholics to let it be known that our hearts and minds are not closed, that we warmly embrace and have our own lives enriched by the writings of those of other faiths..and sometimes none.

  2. Some of my sweetest moments and times of life were not Catholicly-based. Some would gasp to know all of what that was; others would nod to know how it solidified my direction to (and love for) Catholicism all the more — and still does. Somebody said all roads lead to Rome, and for me, it certainly seems true. I find all my answers in Catholicism.. where else is Mass and the Eucharist and all the graces whose little spiritual cells divide again and again like ours to build a life within? But it’s funny what led me there as adult. I am done with Protestantism wherever it denies dogma, but I am never done with contemplation of any flavor, which spans East to West the four corners of the earth.

  3. thank you for sharing “how you see it.” i very much appreciate your balance. it reminds me of a quote from Buddah.
    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
    it is quite a journey to develop what our own reason looks like!

  4. I explained something of the sort on one of my recent posts regarding Paulo Coelho, who is accused of being new agey, but I find many things he writes to be quite simple and true, even for a traditional Catholic. I think there are many Catholics who are mature enough to venture out beyond the horizon, without risking losing their faith because of a tape they hear or a book they read. How will we ever continue on the path of Ecumenism if we have no idea of what is “out there?” I don’t mean that now I should start reading the Quran, or Buddhist writings, but if I run into something that sounds interesting, why should I not listen to or read it? I believe the formula is as Pope John XXIII encouraged: we must concentrate on what unites us with those who have other beliefs, rather than concentrate on our differences.

    The search for God is one of the most exhilarating and important paths a human soul can take, and not everyone has the courage to actively take up this search, and I think religious indifference(different from Atheism, which is almost a religion in my opinion) is much more dangerous because it leads one to thinking he or she is God, or worse yet, that money, or power or health are God.
    It is a winding path, which is often very narrow and hazardous; it can rise or descend; there may be a fork in the road where you need to make a decision as to which direction to take. These paths are all are an expression of our humanity – something all human beings share, no one excluded, lol.

    I believe it is God’s voice, any sign of His presence, that we are untiringly looking for. I am lucky to have found in the Catholic faith the path that God prepared for me, but I cannot condemn others who practice a different faith, for following the paths God prepared for them.

    When I read something “different”, I know deep down inside when I see something that is not quite right, but I don’t necessarsily throw the book out unless it is just too preposterous or offensive. For example: Recently a cousin of mine from Toronto sent me Nino Ricci’s book “Testament”. I thought it would be similar to Gibran’s “Jesus, Son of Man”, which I thought was great. I knew that Testament is written from the view point of several of His followers, just like Gibran’s work, but when it described Jesus as the son of a wanton woman who’d been raped, I shut the book and never opened it again.

    Gibran on the other hand, I believe was a Maronite Catholic, thus his writing reflects, among other things, the Sufi tradition of Lebanon and the Middle East. I am sure there are some aspects of that Tradition which many Catholics would find “odd” or even heretical, but it is fully in line with Church teaching.

    Last but not least, the idea of celebreties following gurus does not really phase me. St. Pio of Pietrelcina has (and had, when he was alive) a great following of celebrities here in Italy. And there have been some clamorous conversions through the years. There was once a famous actress who was having an affair with a just as famous, but married, actor- It was quite the scandal back then in the 50’s. She went to confession to Padre Pio, and he sent her away after giving her a good scolding. She ran out of the church in shame, but came back that night after thinking about what he said, and waited for the church door to open at 4:30 am on her knees in the pouring rain. She left S. Giovanni Rotondo in peace with herself and God, and took the path He had indicated through Padre Pio.

  5. PS Sorry for the typos and for the lengthy reply.
    When I wrote: “I don’t mean that now I should start reading the Quran, or Buddhist writings, but if I run into something that sounds interesting, why should I not listen to or read it?” I meant to say that if I should discover that there is some part of those writings that appeal to me, perhaps I will read them one day.

  6. Oh I am so thankful you wrote this today, Gab. It seems that people are so quick to label anything even slightly hinting at mysticism and contemplation as “New Age” these days. I ran across some very harsh off- the -blog emails on my old blog when I posted about the writings of Sr Tessa Bielecki.
    St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross ran into this type of judgement from those who do not know or understand back in their day. They are good teachers, those Doctors of Our Church!
    If God gives the understanding, then I must follow in that path within the Church. There will always be those who just do not know and will label everything “New Age”.
    I remember a while back when everyone was reading Frank Perreti’s fiction and finding…no, looking for demons under every bush. He had to write and say that he was just writing FICTION and that his fiction was not a message to beware of demon inspired New Age mysticism infiltrating the church world.
    I remember Constance Cumby and her Rainbow back in the 80’s…everyone found the clues of the identity of AntiChrist hidden in Government, societies, and above all in New Age
    spirituality. That too faded.
    ‘Scuse me while I bring up my patron saint again, but…..
    St Teresa speaks of being so afraid of the devil that it becomes a focus and robs the soul from its true priority…God!
    Fear is an awful thing, and those who are constantly SNIPING everything with the phrase “New Age” are in fear. Period.
    Of course we are to follow Holy Mother Church’s teaching and test everything by our Cathollic tradition and Scripture. Yet there are some wonderful things to glean from other religious traditions which do not conflict with our own. …for example, this: “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness ;the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
    Dalai Lama

  7. A heartfelt thank you to all of you. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the time and trouble you took to leave these thoughtful comments. Each one of you is someone whose opinion I trust and whose experience/wisdom gained through experience would lead me to weigh very carefully what you say. If any of you had expressed doubts or concerns, I would have taken that very seriously, and done more soul-searching, even though my heart and conscience tell me that what I am doing here in no way betrays my Catholic faith. I was concerned and self-doubting last night. It would be bad enough to be going astray myself, but to take anyone along with me would be horrendous. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” You have no idea how much your comments have eased my mind.

  8. I don’t think we need to be afraid. We simply need to be cautious, to see all things in the light of Christ.

    As has been said already, the fact that there is truth everywhere points to the fact that God is calling everyone, and He is good enough to speak whatever language we will understand. The deep needs of the human person are universal, and so every religion or system of belief holds some truth. We are blessed to know that the fullness of Truth can be found in the Catholic Church, but we do not deny the truth that can be found elsewhere.

    No one here is going to abandon their faith because of something said by Tolle or anyone else, so there is a freedom to listen for what truth is present. Your fear, Gabrielle, of leading others astray would not be unfounded if you were teaching beginners who might not understand how to listen, but you are conversing and sharing with friends.

    Tolle expresses at least part of the truth. Whether his ideas lead him away from the truth at any point, I don’t know. His “acceptance of all things that ARE” might well lead him (and others) to an attitude of “whatever makes you happy is good” or “we cannot judge actions.” These attitudes are not fully correct, of course. But what you have shared here has been a kind of psychological description of a correct spiritual attitude, which is good. Another perspective is not harmful, and can be very helpful, as you pointed out.

    Kids calling me, but there’s my .02, for what it’s worth.

  9. Well, there’s not doubt in my mind that there are a lot of “false prophets” out there, and many of them make it onto the Oprah show (somehow she has a way of attracting this ilk).

    So you’ve got to be careful 🙂

    I read Eckhart Tolle’s first book, THE POWER OF NOW, some years ago, and recognized that he had something authentic to give. The same with Meister Eckart, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dag Hammerskjold and other “non” Catholics (I have a problem with that label – isn’t there something about “Catholic” that means “all of us”?)

    Merton says that Zen Buddhism was like holding up a mirror, and helped him to see the deeper graces and goodnesses of Christianity.

    I am not a dogma person, and can’t get even the slightest bit interested in that side of religion, but I do tend to judge spiritual teachers by their humility.

  10. I am a dogma person. There seems no greater reason to be Catholic, for it’s not about me, but as you say, it’s about us. That is what dogma indisputably signifies, it seems to me. Whatever varies from the Creed (for me, it’s the Nicene, for others, the Apostles’, for yet others, the Athanasian) has only a small place on the sides of our tongues. The center is Traditionally reserved for Him, both Bodily and in Word.

    At any rate, I found a sweet Sufi story quite by accident (ah, the caveat.. it comes from chatting with non-Catholics and pagans and wiccans and apostates for years in of all places, Catholic Chat rooms. And if anyone here has heard what I’ve heard in religion classes from our children from Gr. 4 thru 10, we know there is truly great worry to be had about what we state is okay to explore, etc.) However, a Boanerge CAN be a bit knee-jerkish in blogs, so here, a sweetness I wasn’t looking for, a blessing I would share.

  11. I meant to say “a Boanerge (like me)..” and I do think any Boanerge we know from here actually means well and speaks more from passion than malice.. it is, after all, both frustrating and shaking to encounter the anti-Catholicism which is growing up all around us like weeds in a parable, and perhaps that would seem even moreso to a converted pastor who has even sacrificed a family’s means of living for this great pearl. We are seeing anti-Catholicism more and more in every large country, and not only in text. Anyway, I’m trying not to be reactive, but I’m always already leaning that way–I have so many friends and family members who left the Church to go find Him. What swayed them is of the same thing that sent Apostles to sleep when Christ needed their support the most.

  12. KT, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts here. I know how busy you are. I appreciate what you are saying about my conversing and sharing with friends here, but there is also the chance that beginners in the spiritual life may be looking in (as with all of us, I imagine, I have people I don’t know from many parts of the world looking in, but only a handful of regular commentors). I will have to keep that in mind, I think, and probably do better at explaining my position in certain posts. I also do not know if all of Tolle’s attitudes are “correct”, and that is why I would select only what I was comfortable with. Thanks again for sharing “how you see it” with us.

    Pia, thanks for the hugs! I wasn’t worked up, though; just having some doubts about myself and the way I’m doing things! KT mentioned beginners, and that’s what I was worried about. I became concerned that I might be leading someone offtrack, if they weren’t sufficiently aware of the Catholic contemplative/mystical teachings to recognize and understand what Tolle was talking about. I really appreciate your earlier comment, and I know now that I will continue to use whatever I feel helps, but as I said to KT, perhaps expand on my thoughts a bit more.

  13. Beth, thank you. Great to see you here. I think we know each other well enough now from our blogs and comments around the blogosphere to realize we differ greatly re belief in dogma and doctrine, but I truly appreciate your input on this subject. The contemplative and the mystical is found in all the great major religions, and there should be no reason for not discussing these truths. In my own case here, my purpose in using them is to highlight, explain or deepen an understanding of the Catholic, and so I must say, my experience has been similar to what you have mentioned about Merton; I also agree with you about the aspect of humility. By their fruits ye shall know them.

    JustMe/Boanerges Fan, please excuse me while I run and make supper. I’ll be back!

  14. I seemed to have caused real offence when none was intended. I was meaning to be a tad silly with tongue in cheek and instead seem to have offended someone I care about only to find out today in this post. My apologies.

  15. I should add that I am all for truth where we find it as all truth is God’s truth. Gabrielle, I would have been fine with you reaching my e-mail and sharing your thoughts but it’s good you did the follow up post and where able to hear from other folks too. God willing I have not also offended them, a number of whom, I know as you, a friend.

  16. JustMe, what a lovely blog you’ve given us the link to. Immediate feeling of peacefulness; I’ll have to go read up! And whether I’m speaking to any one of your fifty-odd online names, I truly do understand what you are saying about the spirit of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian in the world; I don’t think any of us could have missed it, especially in recent years. 😦

    Owen, thank you for this sweet apology, but really, I did not take offence; I began to question what I was doing, though, and then realized that perhaps I should explain my intentions more clearly. Your comment made me realize, once again, that I don’t “get out enough”. A while ago, in the post about “10 Things About Me”, or whatever, I mentioned that my teenage son had asked me why it was that I seem to know so many things that nobody else knows(from his viewpoint), but I never seem to know anything that everybody else knows. If you had asked me for an example at the time, I probably couldn’t have given you one, but this is a perfect example. I suppose everyone knew of Tolle except me, the one who was “using” him! (But truly, I don’t think I am sheltered; I have no idea why I’m like this). Anyway, no harm done; just the opposite, I think. KT mentioned beginners in the contemplative life, and I think I have to be more careful to explain myself properly, in every post if need be. I can’t just assume that everybody will know what’s going on inside my heart and head, and what my intentions are!  (I don’t mean you as a beginner; I mean anyone who is, and happens to drop in).

  17. 😐 Criminy, am I up to 50 already?? Darn, that was my goal. I should maybe just go with Carol the Impaler, for that is often as true as it is false. Most of my nicks are tongue in cheek.. I should’ve stayed with Sir Russell Stover. But it’s always my heart, whomever I am, that is trying to defend the Defendable rather than to sanction what ought not be sanctioned. I was thinking yesterday, tho’, that it may be that my responses are at times that of an apple to oranges, for we aren’t always talking about ecumenism or Catholicism per se, but simply.. simply.. simply of contemplating HIM!

    That is a most joyous thing for us who have stumbled to the bottom of such a magnificent mountain and cannot imagine how we could possibly ascend. Beginner? You bet I am, tho’ some may think not, and even if the Church were to also say I’m not. I am always a beginner. I was thinking yesterday, too, of the writings of Leo XIII and other Popes (oh, yes, JP II especially, God love his contemplative, poetic soul) through whose own contemplation I have not, though enjoyed, have not yet even begun to climb up a bit through. Sheltered? You bet I am.. I only get a handful of tv stations which I don’t watch because if I’m free to do something, I come here to muse the gospel in some way or to muse others’ musings, and I do not listen to the radio, and I do not any longer view or read the news (unless asked to by a certain young man), for none of it is new. It is as old as sin and disorder. I want to read of the redeemed and redeemable and how to help, and obviously there is only one Way: to first be as close as possible to Him, and it may be possible to be a lot closer than I ever dreamed was possible!! The thrilling thing is, HE wants this! We can have no doubt, for the soul of one little nun who never left the convent and died at 24 knew Him intimately through the tiniest most possible ways imaginable! She is STILL helping the world, in His name. Trust me, you are not the only one who hadn’t heard of Tolle before the other day, and it’s only by the grace of God that I ever head of Merton, or Solzhenitsyn, or Saul of Tarsus, or Francis..

    My soul was baptized into His life, death and resurrection, and I could no more leave Catholicism than I could expect to live without breathing.. but my heart for Him was shaped by the love of many others besides the Church. And that’s the gift I can give, even to Him: love. Greater love. I will cling to my Mother’s skirts while I explore, but I may safely explore what will by default speak even more gloriously of my Mother. So to speak.

    I feel like I’ve just said everything in riddle, as opposed to parable. I’m sorry. But I know for me, it’s a matter of either speaking bafflingly, or not at all. Bear with such as me, please.

  18. Owen. I’d pay $90,000 for such humility as yours. But I’ll have to work my way toward it. You jewel.

  19. It’s a tad visceral, hence, not overly credible to those who suspect I’ve rooted for a downed bat stuck in a snow footprint to climb out and go his way. But if I need not create a new email addy to go with it, let me just say, Maybe. That is one of my favorite words.

    How about, “Maybe the Impaler”?

  20. I was reading an article today about an Italian missionary, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped a while ago by a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda in the Philippines and released on July 28th. He said that he was amazed that the one, true point of encounter between them was religion. When they prayed, he prayed with (and for) them every time. When they marvelled at this, he asked them what there was to marvel about – after all, they were invoking the One True God. And they agreed and ultimately released him without getting the ransom they had asked.

    I would never take offense where offence was not intended and I usually don’t even take offence when it IS intended (I’m kind of dumb that way, in the sense that thankfully, I just don’t get it as it’s happening).

    Anyway, I dream of the day when no one will get excited or upset, or uptight, or even slightly irked by religious dialog. I think there can never be enough of it. Elasticity and being faithful to God and man are the key, I believe. That’s one of the things I recall from the Catechists’ course I took a few years ago.

  21. Pia, When it comes to being slow in the uptake as my mother would call it, I’d say I’d outshine most!
    Gabrielle, enjoy the coffee..and the croissants.

  22. Wow! I’ve been away for a while and look what I come back to. Can’t I leave you guys alone for a few days?

    Actually, I never heard of Eckhart Tolle before. I did check out his videos on YouTube and, maybe it was late and I was tired, he twisted my brain up like a Pennsylvania Dutch pretzel. But he’s in good company. St. John of the Cross does the same thing to me. St. Teresa of Avila I can get my arms around. Meister Eckhart I love but I can only take him in sound bites.

    Yet I am still fascinated by the pursuit of Divine Union. I can’t explain the process and I get cross-eyed when I read a lot of explanations about what is happening behind the scenes but I still treasure those single flashes of insight that occur periodically.

    I have a cousin that is about as Catholic as you can get. She even works in the rectory typing the parish bulletin each week. But she loves to read books by the New Age-y guru-types and she seems to get a lot out of it and applies it to her Catholic Christian view. I, on the other hand, need to stay close to home with my reading. I need to see “Jesus” and “God” and the “Holy Spirit” and hopefully the “Blessed Mother” in the mix or I get uncomfortable.

    That’s just me. It’s where I am and likely where I’ll stay. Those stable and secure enough in their Catholic faith can absorb just about any other perspective there is and remain firmly planted in the faith. But I am sure there are those whose faith is fragile that embrace philosophies that offer something that fits their world view or seems more accessible.

    Ultimately, there is no other path to the Father but through Christ. How and at what point those that don’t acknowledge this will become aware of it I haven’t a clue. But become aware of it they will, that is certain.

  23. Yes, but it’s not just ourselves seeing what Catholics put up, that’s the thing. If blogs were not visible to 55 bazillion folks, it’d be one thing. But of course, that’s my hope rearing its silly head again, for I must think there ARE 55 bazillion folks looking in on things contemplative. Hope so, anyway. He’s got room for them all.

    And now, I’m drooling for a Penn. Dutch pretzel with lots of yellow mustard, warm, from a packet. Two packets, even.

  24. I have read the last two that you have mentioned, but never heard of the others. I am not ashamed either to admit my simplicity in not being knowledgeable of a lot of reading material. I lack so much that I am inept to often comment in a sphere of well learned people who are well read and versed. But that’s okay because I am me and not perfect. It is from the faith of others that shines the light that enables me to see. When I thirst I go in search of water to quench the desire to drink from the fountain of faith. I am thankful for all those who share the wealth of their knowledge for others. God bless you Gabrielle, for letting me be me.

  25. Pia, thank you so much for sharing that story about Fr. Bossi, and it is a great relief to know that he was released. This story fills me with hope, that love and respect and Truth will ultimately hold sway.

    Thanks Ann, but now that I take a second look, they do seem a bit on the burnt side, don’t they…

    Terry, never leave us alone for too long. You see the results. But thank you so much for your thoughts about this whole thing. I am very sorry about your brain, though, so I’ll see what I can do to smooth it out!

    Ms. Pseudonym, I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting a Pennsylvanie Dutch pretzel, but from your comment, I have an idea of what I’ve missed…

    MC, thank you. And I think we have to remember that “book knowledge” and “head knowledge” is indeed a good thing, but the Holy Spirit works in whatever way He chooses. The gift of contemplation/contemplative prayer, and the growth in union with the Lord can come to everyone, no matter what the formal level of education, no matter how much reading is done in private, because it is a gift, given with His grace.

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