I haven’t posted a book review here for some time, having moved that part of the operation over to Extraordinary Words.
But, since I’m owner, operator, and often sole practitioner of said websites, it is always my prerogative to bore the crap out of new audiences whenever I get the hankering. You are of course always free to click elsewhere.
I’m rather taken with Mr. McKenna generally but not in a guruish sort of way. I like what he says, though I remain open to the idea that he is just another huckster on the road with a good gift of gab, a reasonable understanding of the newest of the New Age twists, and the marketing talents of a sharp Madison Avenue/Internet bright bulb to pull off a nice living.
That said, he makes some considerable sense. Not all of what he says is new of course, but he does have a way of saying things that rather strikes one as accurate.
His best argument that most of what passes for “enlightenment” teaching is pure hogwash is simply the question: So where are the glowing testimonials of the “newly enlightened?” I mean people have been following some of these “masters” for decades. Why are there no graduates?
Jed on the other hand claims that he “graduates” about two students a year from his make-shift ashram in Midwest Iowa. Of course we have no way of knowing if that is true, since Jed is apparently not his real name, and the location of the ashram is as far as I know, unknown to all but those who somehow “find their way there.”
You can see that I am a skeptic.
All this stuff that Jed talks about is just clear enough to get your attention yet just vague enough to give no real direction. We are to ask ourselves “who we are” and we are to “peel away the false” until nothing is left but the truth. It is a bit like Justice Black and pornography, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.” We will know we are enlightened when we are.
We will lose ourselves, the I of us dissolves into the unity of all. We will not find bliss, so much as “well of course”. It’s better than anything, but really lots of people are having a good enough time in the dream world and shouldn’t bother. It’s okay if you choose not to chase the truth, because everyone is where they should be, things are as they should be, and everybody gets there anyway, some time.
Which means I guess that re-incarnation in some form must be the vehicle.
I’m told that the moment one “takes the first step” (realizing most everything one has learned up to that point is a damnable lie) is usually quite earth shattering. Meaning that for some, the shock sends them into mental hospitals until they have worked it out. As one of his guests, Julie, said, ” I spent fifteen years reading New Age books, meditating, being a vegetarian, doing yoga, and going to lectures, and it’s all for nothing!” She was put to bed and told to sleep.
Well, I can believe all that is true. Which is not to say, and Jed would confirm, that all these things, reading, meditating, yoga, etc,., are not good and laudable in themselves. They all have benefits and are worthy to do if you are so inclined. But lead to enlightenment? No. They won’t do that. At best some meditation may give you a glimpse of unity here and there, but even that is not the true unity–the non-dual type which is our destiny.
Somehow I’m told the universe is a good, decent and supportive place, and I can trust that if I’m reading his book, then the universe figured I was ready.
I read all this stuff that my spiritual practices have gotten me zilch, and I gotta say, I’m not bent out of shape. I mean I’m not feeling betrayed, used, or even a bit wild-eyed and lost. After all, I’m ready so the universe seems to suggest. So what’s to get upset about. If I’ve spent some years doing a lot of things that haven’t brought me an inch closer to enlightenment, why is that upsetting? Apparently I wasn’t ready until now.
You see how you can get around all the skeptical questions?
Worse, Jed says that every path is unique. So his way, which he doesn’t endorse nor push, is his way, not anyone else’s. He’s at best functioning as a series of bumper guards as you careen down your unique path. He just nudges you back on the road when you are threatening to run off a cliff.
Which sounds pretty okay.
Still it leaves one with a lot of questions, and mostly definitely on your own.
Which he says is how it’s supposed to be. No warm fuzzy group hug. You just must be relentless in questioning everything, taking nobody’s answers as true, and focusing on arriving at what is true. Once there, self is gone, and you participate in this grand stage show watching the rest of the world act out their parts, no longer caught up in the drama yourself.
So far I have figured that I think. Whatever I is, I have some ability to think. Whether that is mine, or part of something else is something else again. I figure something created this appearance of material stuff. It would seem this entity (God or whatever you might choose) is benevolent since there would be seemingly no point otherwise. Beyond that, I confess I know nothing.
We are (we ego beings) all afraid because not one of us (save the few who are enlightened) know what is coming. We are sure of only death and we have no clue what happens then. We only have beliefs, theories, and mostly hope.
I am mostly not a supporter of “self-help” books for I have found from my own experiences, and surmise across the board that they all work and they all don’t to about the same degree. Meaning, that if you happen to be pretty much “like” the writer, you might too benefit, but that percentage is indeed small. Books that are focused on helping us achieve enlightenment are no different. The difference in McKenna’s book is that it is unique in telling you that you’re pretty much on your own. That applies to EVERYONE, so ironically, his self-help is perhaps the only one who truly helps all.
I find his book helpful in helping me to focus on what matters. I’ve ordered the other two which with this one constitute the “trilogy”. If nothing else it helps to understand what enlightenment is not. What it is, is the journey we are all on, like it or not, knowingly or not.
Finally I understand exactly what Sheldon Kopp meant in his title: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! McKenna gives us the medicine and he has added no grape flavor. It really doesn’t matter if you decide to take it or not.
How’s that for a review?