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“Enlightenment… it’s not a visit to the truth, it’s the awakening of truth within you. It’s not a fleeting state of Consciousness, it’s permanent truth-realization; abiding non-dual awareness.”   –Jed Mckenna

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mckennabookJed Mckenna does not exist. The name on the cover of Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing is a pseudonym for the actual author who wishes to remain anonymous. However, what’s more important is this: is the author enlightened? And, even more to the point, will reading this book help me to become enlightened?

The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is yes. Words that emanate from Truth (as opposed to ego) are spontaneously recognized by that exact same pure, undivided, infinite aliveness in all of us. Truth stands on its own and does not need a belief to support it. The wisdom woven into the books storyline of a middle-aged male spiritual teacher living in America’s heartland feels authentic. The writing is direct and to the point, and should prove helpful to any serious seeker whose heart longs for freedom.

“For instance, I myself am enlightened, right here, right now. I am free of delusion and unbound by ego… My knowledge is unflawed and my vision is unobstructed. I am not handing something down that was handed down to me. I’m here, now, telling you what I see in the most straightforward possible terms. If that sounds harsh, then get used to it. My message isn’t that you should believe me about what it’s like here, but that you can come see for yourself.” –Jed McKenna

As you can see from the above quote, Jed is nothing if not confident and direct. As such, more than a few readers have had their egoic identity triggered and trashed the book. Even some “new-age spiritual types” have a problem with McKenna, since he doesn’t follow the popular notion that everyone’s truth is just as valid as anyone else’s. No, in fact he is saying just the opposite: NOBODY has the truth simply because the truth is not something you can possess. Why? BECAUSE IT’S WHAT YOU ALREADY ARE!!! How can the ocean possess the ocean?

Therefore, the idea of seeking is known as the great Cosmic joke: Consciousness getting lost in form, temporarily forgetting itself, so it can have the experience of awakening to itself from every perspective imaginable and unimaginable. As a friend of mine said, “Everyone’s awakening alarm clock goes off at different times,” so it’s impossible to predict when this “self-remembering” of our original nature will kick-in. Until then, we are unknowingly lost in maya; the mind’s dualistic dream where we mistake ourselves for our thoughts.

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“Imagine you’re in the audience watching a play, and you slowly come to realize that the actors don’t know they’re actors. They think that they’re normal people going about their normal lives, unaware that they’re on a stage, performing. You could never even believe such a  thing would be possible if you hadn’t been up there yourself believing the same thing.” –Jed McKenna

Seeing this directly for yourself, that you are not your body or your thoughts, but pure timeless Consciousness (in which the body, thoughts, and the world arise in, i.e., time), is what is called enlightenment.

In the book, Mckenna lives in a big house in Iowa which he calls, “a rural American ashram,” where spiritual seekers visit him. Says Jed: “At any given time there seem to be fifteen or twenty students living in the house. They stay here for awhile, they talk with me, they take care of things. They come. They go.”

Throughout the text, Jed shares the dialogues he has with some of his students. He mostly tries to get them to answer their own questions, since he knows they have to see this for themselves in order for it to have any real power. That said, Mckenna doesn’t shy away from dropping the hammer on common misconceptions. For example, take the belief that something has gone “WRONG” in our Life:

“The truth, though, is that nothing is really wrong. Nothing is ever wrong and nothing can be wrong. It’s not even wrong to believe that something is wrong. Wrong is simply not possible. As Alexander Pope wrote, ‘One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.’ Wrongness is in the eye of the beholder and nowhere else.”  -Jed McKenna

So what Jed is saying is that it’s not possible for Life to make a mistake. That even having the thought, “that’s a mistake” isn’t a mistake! That in WHOLENESS what could be separate to “know” that a mistake had occurred?

That said, he also makes the astute observation that the illusion that “there are things wrong” is what drives the collective consciousness; it’s what keeps the dream going:

 “The perception of wrongness, however, is absolutely critical to the perpetuation of the human drama, right up there with the illusion of separateness and the certainty of free will. Drama requires conflict; no conflict, no drama. If something isn’t wrong, then nothing needs to be made right, which would mean that nothing needs to be done.

Heights need not be scaled nor depths plumbed. Wealth and power need not be acquired. Future generations need not be spawned. Art need not be created, nor skyscrapers erected. Wars need not be fought. Religions and philosophies need not be devised. Teeth need not be flossed. The belief that something is wrong is the fire under the ass of humanity. –Jed McKenna

And so suddenly, you realize that “right” and “wrong” are beside the point. That “right” and “wrong” are stories we tell ourselves about what happened AFTER the fact. The Reality is there’s only whatever is happening. And as Byron Katie says, “When you argue with Reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.”

“Fear, regardless of what face it wears, is the engine that drives humans as individuals and humanity as a species.” –Jed McKenna

Not only does this underlying fear drive almost all our actions, but it keeps the ego constantly busy. For if we keep moving, keep doing, keep acquiring, we avoid stopping long enough to consider who it is we are supposedly doing all this for??  Who is this “i,” I take myself to be? “Are there one of me or two?”, as Eckhart Tolle famously asked himself just before awakening.

 “All fear is ultimately fear of no-self.” –Jed McKenna

Final Thoughts
As you may have guessed, if you like your spiritual teaching warm and fuzzy, Jed Mckenna’s Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing is NOT for you. Like an expert swordsman, he skillfully and ruthlessly destroys one commonly held spiritual belief after another. And yet, unlike most books, the author makes no attempt to try to talk you into seeing things his way. Because then it would still be a belief. Rather, he invites you to look for yourself… that way you will know from your own direct experience:

“My way, the way I point, has nothing in its favor except that its true and its truth can be known directly, which cannot be said about anything else. Everything else about my way sucks, and the truth bit is no pot of gold either. Truth makes for a very uncompanionly companion. Not warm, not comforting, not connected. Just true. –Jed McKenna

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