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JED McKENNA:Question: You seem to use a lot of quotations from Jed McKenna, who isn’t a real person – or at least that’s not his real name. Do you think he’s actually for real?
Answer: I said Robert Scheinfeld stopped along his path as a scout. I think Jed McKenna also stopped at a certain point to write his Enlightenment Trilogy. He claims to have emerged from the cocoon as a butterfly… “All that scorched-earth wandering wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning. JED McKENNA:I still had my own personal deconstruction to do, which is how I spent almost the next two years, until I got to a place called Done…. My reality now is the awakened, untruth- unrealized state… I spent the next ten years trying to make sense of this new world; a non-world in which a non-I nevertheless seemed to reside.”1 …but I don’t know whether that’s true, for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t believe it’s possible for Jed to write his three books without stopping in the cocoon and delaying the final transformation into a butterfly. JED McKENNA: Maybe in the years after he finished his last book, he went on to become a butterfly. That’s entirely possible, since we’ve never heard from him again. Reason Two… well, I’ll get to that. First I’ll answer your question. When I read The Enlightenment Trilogy by Jed McKenna the first time through, I knew immediately this man – whoever he really was – was totally authentic. He had to have actually experienced what he was writing about or he couldn’t use those words and describe his condition so perfectly. I knew here was a man – another scout – who stood in full view of the Pacific Ocean; and he was expressing the very same thoughts and feelings I have come to know can only be thought and felt when one has reached this point along the journey. For example…. “I am here, live, on the scene, and I have chosen to describe it as I see it. I don’t defer. I don’t rely. If what I describe conflicts with the ten-thousand other reports – no matter how revered those reports and those who filed them may be – then to me those reports are nothing more than fable and folklore and should be consigned to the dustheap of history. The simple fact is that I am here and ‘here’ doesn’t look all that much like anyone says it does and I’m not going to waste my time or anyone else’s pretending otherwise.JED McKENNA: It should be noted that ‘here’ isn’t mist-enshrouded or poorly lit. It’s neither mysterious nor mystical. My knowledge is unflawed and my vision is unobstructed. This is a tricky point to make, but a critical one. I am not interpreting. I am not translating. 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.” “It’s very simple…. Enlightenment is truth-realization. Not only is truth simple, it’s that which cannot be simpler; cannot be further reduced.” “Enlightenment isn’t when you go there, it’s when there comes here. It’s not a place you visit and then remember wistfully and try to return to. 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. It’s not a place you visit from here, this is a place you visit from there.” “The enlightened view life as a dream, so how could they possibly differentiate between right and wrong or good and evil? How can one turn of events be better or worse than another? Of what real importance is anything in a dream? You wake up and the dream is gone as if it never was. All the characters and events that seemed so real have simply vanished. The enlightened may walk and talk in the dreamworld, but they don’t mistake the dream for reality.” “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…. If something isn’t wrong, then nothing needs to be made right, which would mean that nothing needs to be done.” “The enlightened have awakened from the dream and no longer mistake it for reality. Naturally, they are no longer able to attach importance to anything. To the awakened mind the end of the world is no more or less momentous than the snapping of a twig. ‘The wise see the same in all,’ says the Gita. ‘The wise are impartial,’ says the Tao. The enlightened cannot conceive of anything as being wrong, so they don’t struggle to make things right. Nothing is better or worse, so why try to adjust things?” “Once you get past the notion that duality (by any name) is ‘bad’ and unity (by any name) is ‘good,’ you also get past any need to ‘help’ or ‘save’ anyone. I, for instance, don’t do what I do because I think it needs doing. I am moved by no ethical or altruistic motive. I don’t think something is wrong and that I have to make it right. I don’t do it to ease suffering or to liberate beings. I do it simply because I’m so inclined.” “I heard that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was very happy with his reclusive life in the foothills of the Himalayas and may never have rejoined society, but that he began hearing the name of an Indian city in his head. JED McKENNA:It simply appeared unbidden in his thoughts. When he finally mentioned it to someone, they advised that the only way to get the name of the town out of his head was to go there. He did, got swept into a speaking engagement, and the whole Transcendental Meditation movement grew out of it. That makes sense to me. You observe events and you allow the flow of things to do the steering and you go where you go.” “Fear, regardless of what face it wears, is the engine that drives humans as individuals and humanity as a species. Simply put, humans are fear-based creatures. It may be tempting to say that we are equal parts rational and emotional, balanced between left and right brain, but it’s not true. We are primarily emotional and our ruling emotion is fear…. Fear of the hollow core. Fear of the black hole within. Fear of non- being. Fear of no-self. The fear of no-self is the mother of all fears, the one upon which all others are based. JED McKENNA:No fear is so small or petty that the fear of no-self isn’t at its heart. All fear is ultimately fear of no-self.” “This trajectory I’m on will take me as close to non-existence as anyone can get and still have a body. In other words, I will continue to channel progressively less and less energy into my dreamstate being, my teaching will reduce down to its most refined and least tolerant form, my interest will withdraw from the world, and I will become as minimal as a person can be.”
“I had spent years as a closet butterfly moping around with caterpillars and dreaming highly fictionalized dreams of becoming a butterfly. I knew that I was distinctly different from the caterpillars. I knew that an uncrossable chasm separated us, that I wasn’t one of them anymore, that they weren’t like me nor I like they. I knew I was able to communicate with them only in the most superficial sense based on my rapidly fading memories of their language and habits. What it took me a while to understand, though, was that the reason I wasn’t one of them anymore was because I was something else, and that the difference was absolute. I had earned admission to a whole new reality but I hadn’t yet passed into it because no one explained to me that this new order of being I had become was what caterpillars meant when they said ‘butterfly.’” “And then, one day, there it is. Nothing. No more enemies, no more battles. The sword that seems welded to your hand can now be dropped, once your fingers can be pried from it. There’s nothing left to contend against and nothing left that must be done, and there will never be anything that must be done ever again.” “Enlightenment isn’t like graduating high school only to start college, or even finishing college to enter the ‘real’ world. It’s the final graduation. No more hunt, no more chase, no more battle. Now you can go out in the world and do whatever you want; learn guitar, jump out of airplanes, write books, tend grapes, whatever.” * * These quotes are from just the first few pages of Book One, Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, and there are three books in all – definitely worth the read. That being said, it is also clear to me Jed and I took different routes to get to the same place, which results in a disagreement on several key points. I want to discuss those in some detail, mainly to let you know different scouts will have different ways of expressing the path, and that Jed and I are not 100% in agreement except about the end result. For example, his underlying tone when discussing Human Children is one of judgment and criticism for being asleep within the dreamstate.JED McKENNA: “Human Childhood is petty and fearful and grating…. it’s a hideous affliction.” Jed obviously does not share the concept of the movie theater being intentionally designed to create limitation and restriction. If he did, he couldn’t judge the state of being a Human Child, but would instead see it as a perfect part of the Game. Or, for example, Jed’s constant reference to Maya as the “goddess of delusion,” and as the personification of the ego, can easily lead one to believe there is some force “out there,” some entity, some power that is intentionally trying to keep people from joy and abundance and truth. “Maya might best be understood as the intelligence of fear. She is the keeper of the kept, the warden of the Dreamstate. It is Maya who bestows upon us the miraculous and life-giving power to see what’s not and to not see what is. It is Maya who makes the Dreamstate possible and escape from it nearly impossible. She enables the Dreamstate to exist, and if you wish to awaken from it, then it’s her you must destroy, layer by layer.” Which brings me to my third question about Jed – his warlike vocabulary and his attitude that there is an “enemy” to be fought and destroyed…. “Real spirituality is a savage insurrection, the oppressed rising up in a do-or-die bid for freedom. It’s not something people do to improve themselves or earn merit or impress
friends or to find greater joy and meaning in life. It’s a suicidal assault on a foe of unimaginable superiority.” “People who take this stuff seriously have no need of me or anyone else, only of finding the next question, of taking the next step, of finding the next enemy and fighting the next battle. People who don’t take this stuff seriously are invariably looking for ways to occupy and distract themselves so they don’t have to take any real steps or fight any real battles.” His third book is even entitled Spiritual Warfare. So I have to assume the route Jed took across the Rocky Mountains required a lot of fighting to get through; a lot of battles with the elements, the Indians, the wild animals; a lot of machete work to cut through the trees. Whereas the route I took had very little of that. In fact, one of the key steps inside the cocoon is the realization there is no “enemy,” no “out there” out there, no duality of “it” or “them” versus “me.” Jed also makes no mention of quantum physics, or of any real scientific understanding that “it isn’t real; it’s just a game.” Instead, the general tone of his books is to take all this very seriously…. “Personal revolution is fueled by emotional energy of the purest intensity. That intensity comes from focus and that kind of focused emotional energy doesn’t look like love or tranquility or compassion. It looks like seething rage or ugly business, but that’s how it works. Suicidal discontent; that’s how revolutions are won and that’s why they so seldom are. Rockets aren’t launched into space on chanting and prayers, and escaping the ego’s gravity requires an equivalent amount of explosive force. We have to take all the emotional energy we normally blast out in a thousand directions to keep our dreamstate characters animated and focus it on a single point. It’s all or nothing.” But, in fact, it’s all just a game – a wonderfully complex, exciting, challenging treasure hunt for the truth. Finally, Jed uses his first book, Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, to describe his process and transformation inside the cocoon. He speaks of the state of freedom from the movie theater in glowing terms, and the reader should come away from that book wanting to be where Jed is. Then Jed spends half of Book Two, Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, describing how difficult it is to get where he is, giving excellent examples from one of his “students,” Julie, of her own spiritual autolysis process – a realistic look at the time everyone will spend inside the cocoon. (The other half of the book is Jed patting himself on the back for being the first ever to figure out Melville’s Moby Dick.) In the third book, Spiritual Warfare, Jed bends over backwards to try to convince the reader they don’t want to go where he is, but to stay inside the movie theater as a Human Adult instead…. “The most important distinction to be made between these two states is that Human Adulthood makes sense and Enlightenment doesn’t. The main benefit most spiritually inclined people can derive from having a clear understanding of what it really means to be truth-realized is not so they can achieve it, but so they can dispense with it and reset their spiritual sights on something worthier than enlightenment, which is, literally, the biggest nothing of all time.” * * I could mention other smaller areas where I disagree with Jed, but I’m not trying to be picky. I simply want to point out that Jed’s viewpoint is biased by the route he took across the Rocky Mountains; and although his description of the Pacific Ocean is extremely accurate, his way of getting there is not the only way, and not everyone has to go through what he went through. Nor will everyone feel the same way Jed does when he arrives. I don’t, for example. I also want to emphasize that you will find isolated sentences or two throughout Jed’s books that contradict the general tone of his writing, like… “It’s all just consciousness, you are just consciousness. JED McKENNA:There is nothing else.” “Maya, it should be remembered, is not an actual arch-deity thwarting us from on high. Maya is inside us, a part of us… she’s not a she and she’s not external to you. She’s inside you and those layers are the stuff of which your ego is made.” “Instead of adopting a warlike posture, we must, counter-intuitively, lower our shields and defenses. This seems confusing until we understand that we are both the protagonist and the antagonist in this conflict, both attacker and defender.JED McKENNA: This is the paradoxical nature of the struggle. We can’t win by fighting. The very thing that fights, that resists, is the thing we seek to overthrow.” And Jed does, occasionally, express his appreciation for all the things he seems to judge and criticize so frequently, even Maya…. “I can’t think of anything more fascinating or lovely or worthy of appreciation than Maya; the architect of delusion.” “The idea that… the dualistic universe is anything other than the grandest and most wonderful of all blessings is laughably absurd.” So if you read Jed’s books with a discriminating eye, overlook the general tone and be watchful for the key sentences, you are in for a real treat. In my opinion, the Enlightenment Trilogy is required reading for anyone who wants to become a butterfly.
FOOTNOTES 1. All quotes in this chapter are from McKenna, Jed. The Enlightenment Trilogy – Back to reading