So I’ve started reading through Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing for the second time. The first time I read it, it was over a year ago, and it was my introduction to the concept of what “enlightenment” truly is. So many of the concepts were brand new to me, and they were explained so matter-of-fact that I had a fair amount of new insight into the topic. The author, Jed McKenna, basically slices through all the mysticism that surrounds the concept of what truth really is and gets right to the heart of the matter. “Truth realization” isn’t as glamorous as it is sometimes made out to be. It isn’t about a peak experience or feeling at one with the universe, it is more about ruthless self-annihilation, as you dive headfirst into the abyss of “no-self”. It is about taking account everything you know to be true, and unraveling years upon years of bullshit that make up “who you are”. For some, this is basically an impossible task because they have become so invested in their cherished beliefs and views of what the world is, and how they fit into it, that they cannot be awakened from their personal dream.
McKenna claims that only once you stop filtering the world through the dualistic self can you truly see the world for how it truly is. He says that he looks upon Nazi death camps and wondrous works of art with the same eyes. He claims that no good is so good, nor any evil so evil that it transcends his transcendence. Nothing can shake him out of persistent perception that everything in duality is false. There is no good, and there is no evil. There is no such thing as “wrong”. This is a hard pill to swallow because as McKenna claims, “truth talk is heresy in the dreamstate.” McKenna goes on to say that “no belief is truth”, and the inverse is also true, that “life has no meaning”. We all cling tightly to the false dream that we are having, and we refuse the acknowledge to truth that is staring us in the face. This truth is the infinite abyss.
I’ve found so far that I’ve embraced the concept of “no-self”, and that I do believe that there is no such thing as a “person”, but I haven’t quite recognized the pattern for myself yet. They say that knowing the answer isn’t good enough, and that you have to do the math. Simply acknowledging intellectually the truth that there is no such thing as a self can make your ego feel good about being “right”, but that’s not what this is about. Beliefs are stumbling blocks, as they only re-enforce your ego. So holding another belief like “there is no ego”, doesn’t matter until you actually see it for yourself (or so I’m told). McKenna says that his non dualistic view of reality is abiding, and there is no chance he could ever see the dream as truth again. I would say that personally I have more and more frequent glimpses that the “dreamstate” is bullshit, but that I will often fall back into identifying with the character that I’m playing in the production of reality. One moment I will laugh at my own biases and anger with not getting my way, as they are going on, and other times, I will go for weeks blinded to the fact that I am deeply identifying with “myself”.
So on this second read through of the book, I’d say that I “get” the concepts better on an intellectual level, but McKenna says that it isn’t a matter of getting a new concept or feeling a new feeling. He claims it is “further”. He says that this is the mantra of enlightenment, and that when you think you’re doing good or that you’re “there”, you have to keep going, as you’re not there yet. I know I’m not there yet, so I will just have to keep doing that math of ruthless self examination and annihilation.
A question that many people would ask is, “Why bother? Enlightenment doesn’t sound that great. It sounds like some sort of bleak nihilism?” That is an excellent question, and I don’t believe McKenna would claim that taking the red pill is superior to taking the blue pill. For me personally, I believe there is something gnawing at me, and to find the truth is something I want to do. I don’t think everyone is made for waking up from the dreamstate, and I’m unsure yet whether I ever will, but for now, it is a rabbit hole that I can’t resist exploring. Even if the truth isn’t something savory, I am curious to know.