Good morning, seekers! As you’ll remember, we were trying to stir up a new Oprah Book Scandal, for the crass purpose of blog ratings, involving the great
Eckhart Tolle and some dusty old monk …
Jean-Pierre de Caussade was a French Jesuit who hosted retreats for his brothers and lay people in the countryside in the mid-1700’s. Some of his groupies
were impressed enough to keep detailed notes of the talks – notes that were copied and passed around for a century, until an enterprising priest named Henri
Ramire compiled, edited, amended and published them in 1861 to immediate and lasting success.
That compilation, now called “The Joy of Full Surrender,” is a lovely little thing, and its primary insight is . . .
Well, let’s ask Eckhart Tolle – he’s back! – straight from the green room at Harpo Studios: “ Once you have made peace with the present moment, see what happens, what you can do or choose to do, or rather what life does through you.” [ANE p115]
De Caussade: “The present moment is always filled with infinite treasure. It contains more than you have the capacity to hold.” [p28]
But beware, says Tolle: “The voice in the head has a life of its own. Most people are at the mercy of that voice.” [ANE p129]
De Caussade: “The mind with all its powers would like to hold first place among all the instruments employed by God.” [p13]
“Do you think that you will find peace in struggling with the Almighty?” he continues. “Is it not, rather, this resistance, this struggle . . . that is the
cause of all our inward agitations?” [p15]
Tolle: “Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life …. It is to relinquish inner resistance to what
is.” [PN p171]
But don’t worry, Americans: “Surrender is not weakness. There is great strength in it.” [PN p69]
Or French people: “We must not be cowardly, but entirely free.” [p147]
Their thesis is the same: Surrender to the present reality – the real reality, not the noise in our heads – brings a certain detachment, which can free us to
act. That present reality is what de Caussade – although not, usually, Tolle – calls “God’s will.”
So when olde tyme and/or spiritual/recovery types talk about “God’s will,” it’s often just another name for (as my co-worker Aki would say): “That’s
So where’s the Scandal? Sorry, girls, not this time. It’s true Tolle doesn’t mention de Caussade in either “The Power of Now” or “A New Earth.” And it’s true very few people (except intrepid British theologian Andrew Ryder) noticed the, um, similarities. These phenomenon are related.
My guess is that Tolle wasn’t aware of de Caussade for the same reason none of the book’s reviewers were either: Nobody reads spiritual classics anymore.
Centuries of deep, hard-won thought has been abandoned. Thanks, Nietzsche!
But we are always happy. As Tolle – or de Caussade – says: “All negativity is caused by … a denial of the present.”