We are pleased to announce the release of The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening, the latest addition to New World Library’s Eckhart Tolle Editions imprint, which features books personally selected by Eckhart for publication. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the foreword written by Eckhart, and part of the introduction, in which author Steve Taylor shares how he came to study the process of what he sees as a collective spiritual awakening.
FROM THE FOREWORD BY ECKHART TOLLE:
You are a human being. These two words not only describe who you are as a member of a particular species but, if examined more deeply, also point to the twofold nature of your identity. Human is who you are on the level of form; that is to say, your body and mind.
Those two aspects of your form identity make up your conditioned self. That self is conditioned by genetics and the environment, as well as other factors as yet unknown to science. Being, on the other hand, points to the essence of who you are as timeless, formless, and unconditioned consciousness. Human and being, form and essence, are ultimately not separate, in the same way that a wave or ripple on the surface of the ocean is not separate from the ocean or from any other wave or ripple, although it may appear to be so.
Being, or pure consciousness, emanates from the Universal Source of all life — God — as light emanates from the sun. Unlike the sun, however, the Source does not exist in space and time. It is unmanifested and therefore inconceivable, so there is nothing you can say about it. However, your consciousness emanates from the Source, so you can never be separate from it, just as a ray of sunlight cannot be separate from the sun but always remains connected with it. The Source emanation pervades the entire cosmos — which is to say, our dimension of space and time — and it is the intelligence underlying and guiding the evolution of what we perceive as the physical universe. So the universe, including human beings, was not just created in the distant past but is still in the process of being created. It’s a work in progress, so to speak. You need to understand this basic premise to be able to appreciate and derive great benefit from reading this book. As Steve Taylor puts it, evolution is not just behind us, but in front of us as well.
Furthermore, and contrary to the creed of our mainstream culture, there is direction and purpose behind the evolutionary process, as he explains in this book. Where it is going, however, is beyond all imagination. What we can say is that the evolutionary impulse behind the process is the growth of consciousness. The universe wants to become more conscious, and the main life purpose for all human beings is to come into alignment with that universal purpose. Seen from a higher perspective, of course, all that exists is already in alignment with it, even if it seems to be opposed to that purpose, but it is aligned only unconsciously. Entering into conscious alignment with universal purpose is an amazing evolutionary leap. . . .
The fact that enormous collective challenges almost certainly lie ahead for humanity — most of them self-created by the unawakened, egoic state of consciousness that still has the majority of humans in its grip — should not be interpreted as an indication that a more widespread awakening is not going to occur. The opposite is probably the case: the crises we are experiencing, and the greater turmoil to come, may act as a catalyst for a collective shift in consciousness. As Steve Taylor puts it: “The evolutionary leap was already under way before these problems became so serious, but perhaps it has become — and is becoming — more powerful as a result of them.”
Challenges are the lifeblood of all evolution. Every life-form, from plants to animals to humans, evolves as a response to the challenges it encounters. Your comfort zone is not the most likely place where you are going to find spiritual awakening, although the ego may tell you otherwise. If you look to people, places, things, or circumstances for fulfillment or happiness, you will be disappointed again and again. Don’t tell the world, “Make me happy!” You would be placing an impossible demand on it and condemning yourself to perpetual frustration. Instead, allow the world to make you conscious. You may find that every challenge, every obstacle that life seems to put in your path, is an opportunity for awakening, for becoming present, or for deepening the state of presence.
Many challenges you encounter, whether of a personal or collective nature, will have been created by human unconsciousness, either your own or that of other people. Every seeming obstacle to your happiness or fulfillment is a potential portal into presence! Just modify your response to it and see what happens. Your life is not determined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to what happens. Most importantly, don’t add to the collective unconsciousness, which manifests particularly in the media and politics, through your reactivity. Bring the light of consciousness to every encounter, every problem, and every Facebook post!
Life always gives you what you need, and right now it has given you this book to use as a guide or companion through challenging times. It contains a great deal of precious wisdom, expressed in the straightforward, clear, and down-to- earth language that Steve Taylor is so good at. I have a feeling that, by way of a miracle, it may even reach one or two people in the media and in politics!
— Eckhart Tolle, bestselling author of The Power of Now and A New Earth
FROM THE INTRODUCTION BY STEVE TAYLOR:
I used to think that spiritual awakening was out of the ordinary — an extremely rare state that is practically impossible to attain, unless you’re prepared to become a hermit and spend decades meditating for hours a day in solitude and silence. I thought that probably only a small number of human beings in history had ever become awakened, that is, attained an ongoing state of inner peace and wholeness with a sense of connection or unity with the world around them, and a selfless desire to love and support their fellow human beings. I certainly hadn’t met anyone like that, and I didn’t expect to — at least not in this lifetime. It goes without saying that I didn’t consider myself to be awakened either.
I associated spiritual awakening with Eastern traditions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. The term enlightenment conjured images of monks with shaved heads and red robes, or gurus with long beards surrounded by flowers and prostrating devotees. I assumed that if there were any spiritual awakened people alive, most of them were in India, or perhaps Tibet or China. After all, that is where the greatest and purest spiritual traditions and the world’s most profound spiritual texts such as the Upanishads and the Dao De Jing came from.
In comparison, my own Western European culture seemed like a spiritual desert. I liked reading about Christian mystics, and it was clear that some of them had been spiritually awakened (or at least had had glimpses of awakening), but the Christian religion itself seemed too laden with beliefs and concepts to serve as a framework for spiritual awakening. The happiness paradigm of my culture meant doing well at school and college, getting a good job with good prospects, buying a nice house where I could entertain myself by watching television and surround myself with possessions and comforts. Life was all about achievement and entertainment, material goods and fun.
Surely if I wanted to find enlightenment or awakened individuals, I had to go to the East. I was wrong. This book describes how I came to learn that spiritual awakening is far from uncommon. It describes how I came to learn that it doesn’t just happen to Eastern sages but to seemingly ordinary people in all walks of life. It describes how, after a number of encounters with ordinary awakened people, I began to study spiritual awakening as a psychologist.
My study began with the dissertation for my master’s degree, then my PhD, and then my research as an academic. I began to seek out people who had undergone a shift into a higher — a more expansive and harmonious — state of being. Initially, for my master’s dissertation, I sought out people who had undergone this shift following intense trauma and turmoil in their lives. I was surprised how easy it was to find cases, and many more people contacted me to share similar experiences once my initial research was published.
Then I decided to broaden my research and investigate cases of spiritual awakening that weren’t specifically linked to turmoil and trauma. I investigated other types of awakening — people who had undergone a gradual awakening through years or decades of spiritual investigations or practice, and a small number of people who simply seemed to be naturally awakened; that is, people who have been awake for as long as they can remember, without making any special effort or undergoing any transformative experience. . . .
Throughout history, the shift into wakefulness has often happened to people who were part of religious or spiritual traditions, and so it was usually interpreted in terms of those traditions. If it happened to a Buddhist monk, the shift was described as bodhi, or “enlightenment”; if it happened to a Hindu, it might be termed moksha (freedom) or sahaja samadhi (permanent or ongoing oneness); if it happened to a Sufi, it might be described as baqa, or “abiding in God”; if it happened to a Christian, it might be termed deification, or union with God. However, the shift into wakefulness can also occur — and most often does, according to my research — outside these traditions and so doesn’t have to be interpreted in religious or spiritual terms.
Different spiritual traditions explain and interpret this shift in different ways, emphasizing different aspects. It’s as if they offer different views of the same landscape, magnifying, filtering, and selecting certain features. But when the shift occurs outside spiritual traditions — that is, in people who don’t have a spiritual background and so don’t have a ready framework within which to interpret it — it’s as if we’re given a view of the landscape itself, in a more naked and unconstructed state.
Through my research as a psychologist I’ve attempted to identify the characteristics of this shift, the different ways in which it can occur, and the reasons why it occurs. What are the triggers or causes of awakening? Why does it occur to some people and not others? What actually happens inside a person’s being or psyche when they experience awakening? In what way do awakened or wakeful people experience the world differently than others? How are their relationships, values, and goals different? How does wakefulness relate to our species as a whole and to the overall evolution of consciousness?
Excerpted from the book The Leap. Copyright © 2017 by Steve Taylor
Steve Taylor, PhD, is the author of several books on spirituality and psychology, including The Fall and Waking from Sleep. He has also published two books of poetic spiritual reflections, including The Calm Center. He is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. Since 2011, he has appeared annually in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the world’s “100 most spiritually influential living people.”