Actress and potential Democratic Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Ashley Judd has said that her spiritual beliefs were largely shaped by the teachings of controversial “spiritual guide” Eckhart Tolle, raising even more questions about Judd’s ability to connect with voters in a state where the majority of residents are Christian.
Tolle, who gained fame with a 2008 series of webinars with Oprah Winfrey and whose theories about living “in the now” have won him millions of book sales and Hollywood followers like Jim Carrey, has been criticized for his lucrative brand of spiritual teaching by prominent Christian scholars.
“Eckhart’s philosophy is basically about the idea that the present moment is all we have. All there is, and all there ever will be. And, uh, most of us live, uh, trapped or lost in the movement of thought,” Carrey explained in a 2009 video endorsing Tolle’s book A New Earth.
Judd, the daughter of famous country music singer Naomi Judd, told Esperanza magazine in 2010 that she struggled as a young person with depression marked by sadness, anxiety, and insecurity. Judd told Esperanza that “her road to recovery started with the writings of self-help guru Eckhart Tolle.”
“He is such a profound presence,” Judd told Esperanza, in reference to Tolle. “And he makes a great argument for the idea of choice—not that having a disease is a choice, but the way you approach your disease is a matter of choice, and that gives you back some element of power in your life. That’s incredibly important because the powerlessness pushes you under.”
Judd told the magazine that she “found God” through a combination of Tolle’s writings and the Alcoholic Anonymous 12-step process, but not “in any formal religious way.” Judd also reportedly benefited from “pharmaceutical intervention when necessary.”
“You have a wonderful life, you touch me every time you tweet,” Judd replied to Tolle on Twitter one year ago.
Tolle’s teachings have generated criticism from some prominent Christian scholars.
“I finally lost trust in God,” Tolle said in an interview last year. “I was without a formal religion. In a way, I still am.”
“He gives a certain segment of the population exactly what they want: a sort of supreme religion that purports to draw from all sorts of lesser, that is, established, religions,” Regent College theology professor John Stackhouse said in 2009.