New Atheism and Eckhart Tolle

Sam Harris interviews Dan Harris, a journalist who is into meditation. Well, it’s not so much of an interview as it is a chance for Harris to preach about his meditation. The blog entry clearly shows this is Harris’s true passion in life. It’s also quite the little gold mine, so I will be extracting some nuggets from this one.

Let’s begin with this interesting quote from Harris:

It’s interesting that you mention Tolle, because when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”

Since I am not into the guru/New Age scene, I had to google Eckhart Tolle. Here is his home page:

“The realm of consciousness is much vaster than thought can grasp. When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are.”

Isn’t this a “deepity?” (as the New Atheists call it)

And here is a YouTube of Eckhart Tolle. As you are watching, remember the Harris quote – when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”

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27 Responses to New Atheism and Eckhart Tolle

  1. Dhay says:

    “…when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people.”

    Odd that, because Sam Harris declares relative ignorance of what Eckhart Tolle is teaching: I haven’t read much of Tolle, but I suspect that I largely agree with his view of the subjective insights…”, and ”…from the little reading I’ve done of Tolle…”. (My boldening.)

    On his own testimony, Harris has read little of Tolle’s writings, so little that he can but hazard a guess as to how much he would agree with Tolle – he nebulously “suspects” he would “largely agree”, but doesn’t really know. And then there’s:

    Dan: Correct. I think I say in the book that I had no questions about whether Tolle was authentic, although I had many questions about whether he was sane. It was the reverse with Deepak Chopra.

    Although Harris then rushes to defend (the possibility, at any rate, of) Deepak Chopra’s authenticity, he omits – possibly simply forgets, but certainly omits – to defend Tolle’s sanity.

    The clue as to why Harris might want his book to be thought of as, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”, is to be found in interviewer Dan’s, …Eckhart Tolle, who has sold millions of books and is beloved by Oprah”, and ”[Tolle] has sold millions of books about ‘spiritual awakening’”, and ”…despite the fact that [Tolle] has sold millions of books.”

    So, Sam Harris – bearing in mind that you declare yourself pretty ignorant of his teachings, and that you don’t defend his sanity – what exactly attracted you towards self-identification with the millions-selling author, Eckhart Tolle?

  2. Dhay says:

    Dan: “If [Tolle] were truly useful, we should have a reasonable population of awakened people walking around, and I’m just not seeing them.”

    “By his fruits shall you know him.” What applies to Tolle will apply to Sam Harris, too. If Harris’ coming book proves to be ‘truly useful’, we should see ‘a reasonable population of awakened people walking around’. Let’s give it a year or two then see if we can see all these awakened people.

  3. TFBW says:

    Given how this teaching (be it Tolle’s or Harris’) is steeped in mysticism, do we even have a clear set of criteria for the “awakened” state by which we may judge its efficacy? Do we have anything better than the subjective reports of people who put the teachings into practice, and then declare themselves “awakened” or not?

  4. Dhay says:

    It does indeed look as though the awakened will be hard to detect. Sam Harris finishes off the blog by first talking about Deepak Chopra’s possible but evidently non-obvious enlightenment:

    ”…a person like Deepak could have authentic and life-transforming experiences in meditation that nevertheless failed to smooth out the quirks in his personality. If he spends most of his time lost in thought, it will not be obvious to us that he enjoys those moments of real freedom. We will inevitably judge him by the silly things he says and the arrogance with which he says them.

    So Sam Harris says awakened people can be silly and arrogant.
    Then Harris continues …

    But I’ve learned, as a result of my humbling encounters with my own mind, to charitably discount everyone else’s psychopathology. So if a spiritual teacher flies into a rage or even does something starkly unethical, that is not, from my point of view, proof that he or she is a total fraud. It’s just evidence that he or she is spending some significant amount of time lost in thought. But that’s to be expected of anybody who’s not “fully enlightened,” if such a rarefied state is even possible. I’m not saying that every guru is worth listening to—I think most aren’t, and some are genuinely dangerous. But many talented contemplatives can appear quite ordinary. And, unfortunately, cutting through the illusion of the self doesn’t guarantee that you won’t say something stupid at the next opportunity.”

    So Sam Harris adds, presumably from his own experience of them, that awakened people – spiritual teachers and gurus – can, and presumably do, despite their awakening, fly into a rage, or do something starkly unethical or blurt(?) out something stupid. Most spiritual teachers and gurus aren’t worth listening to, and some are genuinely dangerous.

    And the “fully enlightened” state, in which the awakened are completely free of these defects, is probably not even possible.

    Of “talented contemplatives”, many appear quite ordinary, so presumably one cannot tell them from the unawakened.

    But the interviewer, Dan Harris, reckons “a reasonable population of awakened people walking around” ought to be expected, and to be detectable, and Sam Harris doesn’t contradict him; I therefore look forward to a favourable progress report by either Harris, reporting the increasing number of awakened people.

    Um, “psychopathology” – I looked it up in the dictionary, and it looks like Sam Harris thinks our ordinary mental activity is a mental disorder.

  5. Dhay says:

    I overlooked this, earlier:

    “Dan’s new book, 10 Percent Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story, hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list.”

    So, Sam Harris, what exactly attracted you towards associating yourself with the best-seller list author, Dan Harris?

  6. Dhay says:

    In November 16’s blog, there’s:

    ‘Peter Boghossian has a YouTube video where he defines faith as “Pretending to know things you do not know.” According to Boghossian, when I say that I have faith that God exists, I am pretending to know that God exists when I do not.

    Now, Boghossian also claims that this topic has occupied virtually every moment of his waking thought for the past 22 years.’

    Apparently Boghossian has been tormented by twenty two years of mental turmoil, where thoughts about the (alleged) Christian definition of faith have occupied virtually every moment of his waking life. This poor man has obviously acquired the “faith” mind-virus, comprising endlessly repetitive thoughts about faith, and the result is that he has become mentally sick.

    But help is at hand to pacify his mind and restore his mental health – this very blog page deals with some of the main Western proponents of how to calm the endlessly chattering monkey mind: he could achieve instantaneous non-dual enlightenment by adopting Eckhardt Tolle’s ‘practice of the presence of what is present’ – that’s my potted summary of his awareness teaching, not his, and with a passing nod towards both Saint Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of the Presence of God” and Tolle’s “The Power of Now”.

    Or he could wait until Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” is published in the Fall, then follow Harris’ instructions on how to use vipasyana meditation to achieve (freedom from these troubling thoughts about faith, and) 100% enlightenment.

    Or he could buy Dan Harris’ book, as an interim measure, and achieve 10% enlightenment right now.

  7. Dhay says:

    A boatman is poling his sampan across a busy river; when an empty boat bumps his, he pushes the boat away and carries on; when an occupied boat bumps his, he is outraged and screams at the occupants: why not, asks this Buddhist Teaching Story, let all boats be to you as empty boats.

    Overheard: “it’s an ultra-conservative congregation, perhaps too ultra-conservative; their new minister is very conservative himself, but he’s just what they need if they are to change; because you can move a congregation 10%, but if you try to move them 20% their barriers go straight up.”

    It is probably a mistake to focus on Sam Harris’ ideas on no-self and no-free-will as being bad philosophy – even if they are such; Harris is, I am convinced, primarily a teacher of Buddhist practice; the materialist-determinist rationalisation/justification of no-self and no-free-will that he has seized on is for him a fortunate coincidence that he, as a Buddhist missionary, can use to push his real agenda. In addition to explicitly teaching meditation, Harris is implicitly and rather sneakily teaching Buddhist visualisations.

    Harris wants to teach visualisations to us that would elevate our levels of loving-kindness; but most of the traditional techniques – such as envisaging that the people who really annoy you (or that you detest, or that serial murderer lately in the news) have probably been your mother in one of your many many previous lives – most of these traditional visualisation techniques will be rejected out of hand by his projected Western reincarnation/rebirth rejecting readership; and Harris himself will likewise be rejected as a teacher, if he tries teaching anything like that.

    “No-free-will/no-self” (or “he had no choice but to be as he is”) is a very materialist-determinist form of “empty boats” type visualisation technique – and probably all the more effective for slipping under the materialist-determinist adherents’ skeptical radar – and it is one of the very few loving-kindness promoting visualisation techniques that Sam Harris can conceivably sell to his strongly New Atheist readership.

    Eckhardt Tolle is far too obviously New Age and Neo-Eastern in his ideas and their expression to reach out to Western atheists, but Harris, by the skilful means of de-emphasising differences and emphasising similarities of viewpoint, is positioning himself to make a difference.

    Even Buddhism is probably but a means to an end for Harris: his vivid and lasting-impact life-changing sudden-conversion experience all those years ago was of universal love, and he has chased that ever since, using the increasingly unreliable tool of drugs, followed by the more gentle and reliable tool of Buddhism; his primary goal is still to teach universal love, which is a worthwhile aim, and a Christian virtue.

    I wish you every success, Sam Harris, in your efforts to move your readership 10% closer to a habitual mentality of loving-kindness.

  8. TFBW says:

    … why not, asks this Buddhist Teaching Story, let all boats be to you as empty boats.

    I think you’re being overly charitable in describing this teaching as a promoter of loving-kindness, rather than, say, universal indifference or solipsism. How do you express loving-kindness to an empty boat? It might move them 10% further away from a knee-jerk rage reflex against their ideological opponents, but I don’t think that implies a step towards a mentality of loving-kindness.

  9. Dhay says:

    TFBW > “I think you’re being overly charitable in describing this teaching as a promoter of loving-kindness, rather than, say, universal indifference or solipsism.”

    I am taking Sam Harris at his own word, as expressed in the last two paragraphs of his blog entitled, “Free will and the reality of love”.
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-and-the-reality-of-love

    Although you might not be convinced, Harris is convinced, aligning himself with ancient Buddhist teaching and tradition.

    TFBW > “How do you express loving-kindness to an empty boat?”

    And, at that, what’s the point of mitigating suffering when there’s nobody there?

  10. Dhay says:

    Sam:…In criticizing this kind of [gradual] practice, someone like Eckhart Tolle is echoing the non-dualistic teachings one finds in traditions such as Advaita Vedanta, Zen (sometimes), and Dzogchen. …
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind

    Dan:

    Sam: Not at all. Though I think you could be well served if you ever had the opportunity to study the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Dzogchen.

    Dan:

    Sam: Yes. Looking for the mind, or the thinker, or the one who is looking, is often taught as a preliminary exercise in Dzogchen, and it gets your attention pointed in the right direction. …
    … …
    …That’s why Dzogchen practitioners tend to meditate with their eyes open. …

    And there’s a fair bit more in that blog about the non-dualistic teachings one finds in Eckhart Tolle – who Sam Harris knows little of – and which one also finds in Advaita Vedanta, in Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism’s Dzogchen. Sam Harris seems quite fond of Dzongchen, and it is this that he dwells upon.

    Ngak’chang Rinpoche comments:
    “It was through … that Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche received the Dzogchen teachings which had such an exceptional influence on his life and teaching. …One can read Dzogchen in all his books – it shines through the descriptions of the most basic teachings… … to read his books and to gain a direct insight into the non-dual state.”
    http://aroencyclopaedia.org/shared/text/r/rct_ph_03_eng.php

    Perhaps Harris is too young to remember Dzogchen master teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who Wiki describes as, “Recognized both by Tibetan Buddhists and by other spiritual practitioners and scholars as a pre-eminent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, he was a major, albeit controversial, figure in the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism to the West…”.

    Very controversial: this major leading figure from Tibetan Buddhist monastic life “had been having sexual relations with women since he was [a young monk of] 13”, “ drank, smoked, slept with students”; he allegedly “used $40,000 a year worth of cocaine, and used Seconal to come down from the cocaine”; he was “an alcoholic” served “big glasses of gin first thing in the morning”, and he died in 1987 “of an alcohol-related illness”. (Source, Wikipedia.)

    It is probably a rare Rinpoche (Buddhist abbot) who is like this dissolute wreck; what it does illustrate is that mastery of Dzogchen does not necessarily lead to good physical and mental health.

  11. woctor says:

    Shadow To Light,

    You obviously don’t like the New Atheists, including Harris, but your emotions are clouding your judgment. Quote mining Harris makes you look petty and dishonest.

    Here’s the full quote, including the crucial parts that you omitted:

    It’s interesting that you mention Tolle, because when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”—that is, people who suspect that something important can be discovered about consciousness through introspection, but who are allergic to the pseudoscience and irrationality that generally creeps into every New Age discussion of this truth. I haven’t read much of Tolle, but I suspect that I largely agree with his view of the subjective insights that come once we recognize the nature of consciousness prior to thought. The self that we all think we have riding around inside our heads is an illusion—and one that can disappear when examined closely. What’s more, we’re much better off psychologically when it does. But from the little reading I’ve done of Tolle, I can see that he also makes some embarrassing claims about the nature of the cosmos—claims that are unjustified both scientifically and philosophically.
    However, in the man’s defense, this lack of usefulness you mention is not unique to him. It’s hard to talk about the illusoriness of the self or the non-dual nature of consciousness in a way that makes sense to people.

    [Emphasis added]

    It’s telling that you were afraid to quote Harris in context.

  12. Michael says:

    LOL. I see you found the “quote in context” from the link I provided. You are confused. Can you quote where I claim or imply Harris agrees with Tolle’s views about the nature of the cosmos? Nope. Did you watch the video? If so, did I pick a clip where Tolle is advocating his views of the cosmos? Nope.

    Harris invites comparison to Eckhart Tolle. When he says he wants his book to be viewed as Eckhart Tolle for smart people, what you do think he means?

  13. Crude says:

    Woctor obviously is beholden to the New Atheists, so his emotions are clouding his judgment. Misrepresenting Mike’s words makes him look petty an dishonest.

    It’s telling he was afraid to quote Mike in context. 😉

  14. Dhay says:

    It’s hard to talk about the illusoriness of the self or the non-dual nature of consciousness in a way that makes sense to people.

    and,

    …In criticizing this kind of [gradual] practice, someone like Eckhart Tolle is echoing the non-dualistic teachings
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind

    I suspect the context is, that Sam Harris is declaring he wants to teach these messages, which Eckhardt Tolle is already teaching, but minus the woo.

    (To be fair to Tolle, the woo is not evident in the video of how to distract yourself from disturbing thoughts eg in the middle of the night; but if you look at his books you soon come across “raising your vibrational frequency”, other New Age nonsense, the Tibetan Buddhist notion of “hungry ghosts”, etc etc; so I judge Harris’ criticism of Eckhardt Tolle’s “pseudoscience and irrationality”, and his “embarrassing claims about the nature of the cosmos—claims that are unjustified both scientifically and philosophically”, is valid.)

    Whether Harris can dispense with the woo or not – and for many Shadow to Light readers Harris’ physicalism/hard determinism is woo – while also getting across Tolle’s non-dualistic teachings in a way that makes better sense to people than Tolle has managed, has yet to be revealed.

  15. Crude says:

    As said, I don’t think Harris will be giving any teachings ‘minus the woo’. Just a different form of woo, rather like how Scientology tried the same. Hey, they don’t believe in ghosts and such – they believe in science (it’s right in the name), and aliens. All quite naturalistic. All woo.

    We’ll see, but really, Harris’ track record so far on just about every topic he’s written has been oversimplified, poorly thought on rehashings of things others have already written. I suspect he’s going to produce a book which amounts to woo, but tacking on at the end ‘None of this is woo!’

  16. woctor says:

    Michael,

    It’s obvious that you are trying to mock Harris, but mockery only succeeds when it is directed at something worthy of mockery. Harris’s statement about Tolle doesn’t qualify, especially not when taken in context. Even your quote-mined version doesn’t really qualify.

    Harris invites comparison to Eckhart Tolle. When he says he wants his book to be viewed as Eckhart Tolle for smart people, what you do think he means?

    I think he means what he says in the full quote. He agrees with Tolle on certain specific ideas, but not with Tolle’s “pseudoscience”, “irrationality”, or “embarrassing claims”. He is mocking Tolle by describing his own book as “Eckhart Tolle for smart people”, thus implying that Tolle’s books are “Eckhard Tolle for stupid people”.

    Harris succeeds in mocking Tolle, while you fail at mocking Harris.

  17. woctor says:

    Crude,

    As said, I don’t think Harris will be giving any teachings ‘minus the woo’. Just a different form of woo, rather like how Scientology tried the same. Hey, they don’t believe in ghosts and such – they believe in science (it’s right in the name), and aliens. All quite naturalistic. All woo.

    Scientology isn’t naturalistic. Ever hear of a thetan?

    We’ll see, but really, Harris’ track record so far on just about every topic he’s written has been oversimplified, poorly thought on rehashings of things others have already written.

    Says someone who writes about Scientology without understanding it at all.

  18. Dhay says:

    woctor > [Sam Harris] is mocking Tolle by describing his own book as “Eckhart Tolle for smart people”, thus implying that Tolle’s books are “Eckhart Tolle for stupid people”.

    I assume you are making a point by strong (exaggerated) contrast rather than casting aspersions at Tolle’s readership – it is generally a mistake to assume that people who hold views different from one’s own, or with whom one disagrees, with must therefore be stupid. And in the interview you will see praise for Tolle, as well as censure, from both of the Harris’.

    An author has to write for a readership: Tolle pitches his books towards the New Age and Neo-Eastern Philosophy end of the readership spectrum, probably assuming – probably correctly – that these are the most receptive to his ideas because they are already inclined towards his own end of the ideas spectrum; by pitching to this readership, speaking in their language of New Age and Neo-Hindu (and of Buddhist, sometimes) ideas, Tolle better reaches them.

    This is a problem all authors have: who to pitch to, and how to write in their language so as not to alienate them.

    Tolle alienates those who – like both of the Harris’, Michael, and me – hear woo. And Tolle’s message is not getting across well to people in general: Tolle “has sold millions of books about ‘spiritual awakening.’ If he were truly useful, we should have a reasonable population of awakened people walking around, and [Dan Harris is] just not seeing them.”

    Sam Harris is aiming for a different readership, towards a different end of the readership spectrum, aiming away from those who accept those New Age, Neo-Eastern (and also, I have no doubt, religious, including Christian) ideas which he thinks of as woo, and towards “smart people”.

    Who are these “smart people”? Well, because Harris is a prominent New Atheist Horseman, and a very active champion of hard determinist and materialist views, I suspect that he is using a flattering term that many of his like-minded existing readership will think means themselves; that the alternative two-second summary of “Waking Up” is, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for ‘Brights’”.

    And of course, he is implying that predominantly it will be smart people who will read his book, and that one will be smart to do so – so the reference to “smart people” functions as a marketing ploy to plug his book.

  19. Michael says:

    It’s obvious that you are trying to mock Harris, but mockery only succeeds when it is directed at something worthy of mockery. Harris’s statement about Tolle doesn’t qualify, especially not when taken in context. Even your quote-mined version doesn’t really qualify.

    Whether I was mocking the Awakened One was not the issue. You originally attacked me as being dishonest, petty, and cowardly for “quote-mining.” Such accusations would have substance only if I had tried to make it look like Harris bought into Tolle’s views about the cosmos. But I did not. Your personal attack thus fails, so you try to change the subject.

    You note that Harris “agrees with Tolle on certain specific ideas.” Indeed. So much so that Harris himself invites comparison. So it would help if you could spell out the “scientific” and “rational” points that Tolle makes.

    Harris succeeds in mocking Tolle, while you fail at mocking Harris.

    Yeah, right. Gnu’s always think their leaders are oh so clever. What you see with Harris’s comparison is a marketing ploy infused with Harris’s swollen sense of arrogance.

    BTW, the fact that your first comment on this blog was a personal attack simply means I have to put your comments in moderation from now on. I suggest you meditate before commenting in the future. Harris has some recordings on his blog where he will guide you in this.

  20. woctor says:

    Dhay,

    This is a problem all authors have: who to pitch to, and how to write in their language so as not to alienate them.

    It isn’t just a language issue. Tolle’s unwarranted pseudoscientific assertions are a problem regardless of the language in which they are expressed.

    Like Harris, I am a long-time meditator who is frustrated that meditation has become so linked with woo in the public consciousness. I suspect that I would have tried meditation much sooner had it not been so. Science is what actually motivated me to start — specifically, Richard Davidson’s experiments in the early 2000’s.

  21. woctor says:

    Michael,

    You originally attacked me as being dishonest, petty, and cowardly for “quote-mining.” Such accusations would have substance only if I had tried to make it look like Harris bought into Tolle’s views about the cosmos.

    No, it’s sufficient that you abruptly truncated your Harris quote:

    It’s interesting that you mention Tolle, because when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”

    …because you knew that including the rest of the sentence would undermine the point you were trying to make:

    It’s interesting that you mention Tolle, because when someone asks me for the two-second summary of my new book, I’m often tempted to say, “It’s Eckhart Tolle for smart people”—that is, people who suspect that something important can be discovered about consciousness through introspection, but who are allergic to the pseudoscience and irrationality that generally creeps into every New Age discussion of this truth.

    [Emphasis added]

    The full sentence would have undermined your attempt at mockery, so your solution was to truncate it.

    BTW, the fact that your first comment on this blog was a personal attack simply means I have to put your comments in moderation from now on.

    No, it doesn’t. My accusation of quote mining was correct, and you are choosing to put my comments in moderation because true accusations make you uncomfortable.

  22. Michael says:

    I originally noted, “You originally attacked me as being dishonest, petty, and cowardly for “quote-mining.” Such accusations would have substance only if I had tried to make it look like Harris bought into Tolle’s views about the cosmos.”

    Woctor replied:

    No, it’s sufficient that you abruptly truncated your Harris quote because you knew that including the rest of the sentence would undermine the point you were trying to make

    Notice the sense of certainty, where woctor thinks he can read my mind – “because you knew that….”

    Notice how the sense of certainty is built on flimsy evidence – “it’s sufficient that you abruptly truncated your Harris quote”

    Woctor’s logic works like this: Because I truncated the quote, I MUST have known that including the rest of the sentence would undermine the point I was trying to make.

    Nonsense.

    First, the completed quote does not undermine the point I was making. As I noted before, “Can you quote where I claim or imply Harris agrees with Tolle’s views about the nature of the cosmos? Nope. Did you watch the video? If so, did I pick a clip where Tolle is advocating his views of the cosmos? Nope.” Since my point was not to argue that Harris shared Tolle’s views of the cosmos, the completed quote does not undermine it.
    Woctor doesn’t seem to understand the mere fact that Harris compares himself to a strange New Age guru itself is sufficiently funny. It probably has something to do with him being “a long-time meditator.”

    Second, woctor is oblivious to the fact that I did indeed acknowledge the quote was not complete and did provide the completed quote. Three days before woctor showed up, I wrote:

    However, when I quoted Harris to document this, I left out part of the quote. Let me rectify this:

    I then provided the very quote that, according to woctor, I was afraid to provide.

    I think woctor needs some spoon-feeding at this point. Yes, the quote was truncated. But this was so I could first have some fun highlighting the fact that Harris likens himself to a New Age guru. Woctor should pause to consider if he, and other Gnus, would find it humorous if Francis Collins had said about his book, “It’s Ken Ham for smart people.”

    With the fun part out of the way, the next blog entry then provides the completed quote so we can focus on the substantive point – Harris abandons scientism.

    The full sentence would have undermined your attempt at mockery, so your solution was to truncate it.

    Wrong. The full sentence does not undermine the hilarious nature of Harris’s self-comparison and the sentenced ended abruptly because I had a particular follow-up post in mind that was built around the second half of the quote.

    My accusation of quote mining was correct,

    Your accusation has been refuted.

    and you are choosing to put my comments in moderation because true accusations make you uncomfortable.

    Confused, arrogant, simple-minded accusations do not make me uncomfortable. They annoy me.

    As for choosing, you seemed to have forgotten that according to Harris, I make no choices.

  23. woctor says:

    Mike,

    Do you seriously expect your readers to believe that you weren’t attempting to mock Harris, and that your abrupt termination of the quote mid-sentence was purely innocent?

    Please.

    Mike:

    BTW, the fact that your first comment on this blog was a personal attack simply means I have to put your comments in moderation from now on.

    woctor:

    No, it doesn’t. My accusation of quote mining was correct, and you are choosing to put my comments in moderation because true accusations make you uncomfortable.

    Confused, arrogant, simple-minded accusations do not make me uncomfortable. They annoy me.

    If they merely annoyed you, you wouldn’t “have” to put them in moderation.

    As for choosing, you seemed to have forgotten that according to Harris, I make no choices.

    Unsurprisingly, you’ve got that completely wrong. Harris does not deny that we make choices. From his book Free Will:

    And the fact that our choices depend on prior causes does not mean that they don’t matter. If I had not decided to write this book, it wouldn’t have written itself. My choice to write it was unquestionably the primary cause of its coming into being.

    If you wish to mock, it pays to understand what you’re mocking.

  24. Michael says:

    Woctor,

    Your accusation that I must have dishonestly and cowardly quote-mined has been refuted in my previous comment. As a long time meditator and fan of Sam Harris, I can understand your discomfort and need to lash out. But such emotional attachment is not a rational justification for clinging to refuted accusations. Apparently, all that meditating you do is rather useless given the ease at which your mind is held captive by hostile thoughts.

    So let’s move on.

    You claim:

    Harris does not deny that we make choices. From his book Free Will:

    And the fact that our choices depend on prior causes does not mean that they don’t matter. If I had not decided to write this book, it wouldn’t have written itself. My choice to write it was unquestionably the primary cause of its coming into being.

    Whether or not choices matter is not the issue. I am sure it matters to you that your comments have been placed in moderation just as it matters to me whether it rains today. The issue is whether a “choice” truly exists. If my actions are determined by prior causes, it makes no sense to refer to those actions as “choices.”

    Consider two statements:

    A: You are choosing to put my comments in moderation because true accusations make you uncomfortable. (emphasis not added)

    B: You put my comments in moderation because true accusations make you uncomfortable.

    You chose A. Please explain why you chose statement A over statement B.

  25. Sam says:

    If you had read Tolle’s books, you would not be arguing with each other like ten-year olds in adult bodies with adult brains flinging adult-sounding words at each other in a pathetic attempt at intellectual posturing which clearly does nothing to shed light on any truth, but which is slathered in ego, under the pretense of defending some kind of position which, obviously, none of you has experienced for yourselves, or else you wouldn’t be in here doing what you are doing. All you have are your empty words and your empty posturing and your empty positions with which you have identified your petty egos. Stop reading and listening to what other people have written and heard about other people, and read and think for yourself. Go straight to the source and decide for yourself what you want to believe, because the truth is that when all is said and done, we believe what we want to believe. Atheism, theism, new age, libertarianism, whatever- all religions and philosophies thrive on the ego-identification of people who are too lazy to think outside the box, and even thinking outside the box can be a trap if that’s the only thing you ever do all the time. “Think for yourself and question authority” – Timothy Leary……..whether that authority is Sam Harris or Eckhart Tolle or Timothy Leary or anyone else.

  26. Kevin says:

    Do you go around looking for debate sites and tell them all this?

  27. Dhay says:

    @ Sam
    Michael wrote, “Since I am not into the guru/New Age scene, I had to google Eckhart Tolle. Here is his home page: “The realm of consciousness is much vaster than thought can grasp. When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are.” Isn’t this a “deepity?” (as the New Atheists call it)” — so Michael has here acknowledged his lack of knowledge of Tolle, and pointed out that New Atheists would criticise Tolle, hence by implication would also criticise a book which Sam Harris seems to want to be seen as “It’s Eckhart Tolle [deepities] for smart people”;

    And Michael later referred to Tolle as a “strange New Age guru”, which is mild criticism indeed, and probably an objectively accurate description. If you follow the link to Harris’ blog post, you will find that it is Harris — he’s quite snide and nasty there — who has pilloried Tolle, not Michael, and certainly not me. (I find Tolle guilty of repeating New Age woo — eg “raising your vibrational level” comes to memory — and he uses a lot of Buddhist ideas and terminology, but I like him when he is original and my criticism of Boghossian in a response above, though humorous, expresses a measure of respect for Tolle.

    I like Tolle a lot more than I like Harris, and one of my reasons why is exemplified by the story of the Zen Buddhist Abbot who declared that he had spent the last decades “selling water by the river” — this being one way of expressing the frequently-expressed Buddhist idea that Buddhist enlightenment and ordinary life are the same; it is instructive to imagine the contrast between how Tolle and Harris would answer an enquirer about that water: Tolle would (listen to the linked video) tell them to stop, take a few deep breaths, and taste the water for themselves, right now; Harris would tell them that it takes decades of counting breaths and other mindfulness exercises even to begin to taste the water, which only appears when thoughts disappear; and Harris would also tell them that water is LSD-flavoured and MDMA-flavoured, so they won’t know how to taste water until they ‘preview’ its taste by tasting mind-altering drugs.

    Give me Tolle any day.

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