What She Said

I was getting set to organize my thoughts to say something intelligent about Richard Rohr’s article (actually taken from his Web site) on Eckhart Tolle (Oprah’s current co-teacher on “spirituality”) when lo and behold, a comment came in from a reader who says precisely what I had hoped to say! I thought I would post her comment here in additon to its place with last Friday’s post. Thanks, Maura!


After reading both your article and the Rohr article on Tolle I had just a few thoughts.

I believe I tend to agree with your concern about Tolle’s popular appeal among those without “mature” faith.

1 thing from the Richard Rhor article that I found particularly troubling was his quote that “He (Tolle) is teaching process not doctrine or dogma.” How hollow and empty to have a process without connecting to a specific meaning. It seems to me that the 2 simply can not be separated. The Sacramental vision that is at the very foundation of our Catholic Christianity does not just call us to recognize generic value in our daily experience. It calls us to recognize that our lives have meaning because of the presence of a God who loves us and wishes to have a personal relationship with us thru the world around us.

Is our goal as Christians to be ““low maintenance” people who can relax and enjoy life” or to engage the world, by seeking to know and be known by the God who loves us?

I believe that “processes” that are an end unto themselves and do not guide us along our journey toward a personal relationship with God are not worthy of our time and attention and can infact distract us from the development of our faith. While great mystics may have found value in simular processes ultimately their process was never abstracted from their purpose of Communion with God.


So, what do I (joe) think? What she said!

About Joe Paprocki 2757 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

8 Comments on What She Said

  1. I am kinda coming in on the middle of this discussion, and I have to admit up from that I have not read Tolle’s book. However, I did just skim Rohr’s article. Does this analogy work?

    There are two ways that I can come to know a story: hearing someone tell it or reading it myself. Over time, society stops teaching people to read and relies entirely on oral tradition. As a result, most people forget how to read. Then, someone (Tolle) comes along and points out that there is this other avenue for coming to know a story, and teaches people HOW to read books. He points out that learning to read does not rely upon the subject matter of the book. Any book will do. That is because he is teaching how to read a book, not what the book is about.

    As with any analogy, I am sure this falls apart on some level. But does it shed any insight?

  2. Joe M., I think your analogy is helpful. Tolle is teaching a process that is part of many traditions, including Catholicism. However, it is imperative to know to what end this process leads! For Catholics, we believe it is to deeper communion with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.

  3. Joe M.

    I guess I would call reading or even learning this process a skill or a tool. Like any tool in and of itself it does not create and connect us to meaning.

    Last year my son was in preschool. He learned all his letters and the sounds they made but because they were not yet connected he did not yet realize they had meaning. This year in kindergarden he has begun to learn to read. He understands “how” to read in other words how to sound out words but he still doesn’t have the expanded vocabulary or comprehension that he will as he gets older and that will lead him to new worlds of imagination and understanding. While I am very proud of the fact that he is learning how to read I want more for him. I’m looking forward to his being able to engage in what he is reading to understand it and to take it and let it shape his imagination.

    I guess the whole debate about Tolle and Opera’s class on spirituality comes down to wanting more for the people I love and work with. Once we have drunk from the sweet deep wellsprings of the Lord’s love why would we want to give people a teaspoon of distilled water? It may quench their thirst but it hardly satisfies the soul.


  4. Joe & Joe, The discussion over process vs. dogma is ancient. A person on a pilgrimage concentrates on the preparation, the walking, the co-travelers along the way. And the exhilaration from sights, sounds, conversations, and even the pain and suffering. He doesn’t necessarily know exactly what is at the end of his journeying. He may have been told. It may have been described by others. But, he puts all of that into a compartment of his mind, as something useful for making later comparisons to what he found at his own end. He disdains the suggestion from someone (while in the middle of some very difficult traveling) that he could just catch a bus and “get there” without all of that pain and time. For him, the pilgrimage itself is “the thing.”

    An ancient Buddhist riddle: “What does a traveler do when he finds the Buddha standing in his path?” The answer: “Kill him.”

    Have a good day, Joe! When I visit your own blogging traveling, I always find something that catches me.

  5. Frank, I love your thoughts about pilgrimage…a great metaphor (i.e. sacramental) for the spiritual journey of life.

  6. Maura, thanks for the thoughts about your son learning to read. A very apropos image since we, in essence, learn the language of mystery along the way on our spiritual journey.

  7. While I think it is good that people are engaged to start thinking about their lives in a spiritual way, it concerns me that there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of “there” there in the process. The point of a pilgrimage is to journey discovering oneself on the way, yes, but to eventually get somewhere. The Lord had the Iraelites walk in big circles in the desert for 40 years so they would come to know and depend on him, but they did eventually get to the Promised Land. Where does Tolle’s process take his travelers?

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