Understatement: When it comes to spirituality, there is a lot of room for confusion.
So many terms and concepts are thrown around from people coming from so many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, that trying to make sense of all the great teachers and “gurus” in the world can be an overwhelming task. With help from Jed McKenna and his books, I want to sort all of this mess into three categories. If someone is talking “spiritual”, they are working within the framework of one of these three genres. This is all they have to work with.
1. Enlightenment (aka Abiding Non-Dual Awareness aka Truth Realization)
If there was a perceived “Holy Grail” of spirituality, this would be it. When people get into this whole spiritual business, many assume that enlightenment or “truth realization” is the end goal or what they want. This is a permanent awareness that there is no separation in the universe. There is only “one”. This is the end of good/evil and right/wrong. This the negation of all delusion, including self. It is easier to define this by describing what it isn’t. This isn’t a flash of intellectual insight, and this isn’t a peak emotional experience. This isn’t an adding of anything. This is the removal of everything false. This isn’t about becoming true, it is about getting rid of everything that is untrue. Think of burning everything and what you have left is nothing. The is a headfirst dive into the infinite abyss of no-self. This is waking up from the dream of reality and leaving the dream. You don’t get “there” because you want to, you get there because you have no choice.
The funny thing is that enlightenment is heavily sought by the ego, but in the end it means the brutal destruction of ego, which can be a very nasty process. You lose everything and gain nothing. Prepare to lose family, friends, cherished beliefs and opinions, your job, your motivation, your context, and potentially anything else the you that you think is you holds dear. You lose everything about yourself, and you’re not better off for it. Like Jed McKenna says, “if you ordered it off the menu, you might ask for your money back”. This is for those who can’t bear living a lie anymore.
2. Human Adulthood vs Human Childhood
If enlightenment could be described as leaving the dream altogether, Human Adulthood could be described as staying in the dream and being “lucid”. When people say that they want enlightenment, they would probably actually prefer Human Adulthood, as it doesn’t mean leaving the amusement park of reality. You still get to ride the rides, but you know that it’s just a ride, not reality.
Most people don’t make the jump to true adulthood. Most people stop growing at the age of 10-12, and stay at that level of maturity for the rest of their life. This is cause for all the silliness in the world, as people take their ego-bound self too seriously. They mistake the roll they are playing as just a roll. Actors who don’t realize they are actors. All of the evils of society like greed, selfishness, violence are symptoms of Human Childhood. All of these ills radiate from fear, which is a natural byproduct of living with one’s eyes closed. Once one matures into Human Adulthood, the overarching patterns of the dream become more clear. It becomes easier to move into the flow of the universe, as a broader non ego-bound perspective makes clarity possible.
So what is the difference between Human Adulthood and enlightenment? The former could be described as life-positive and the latter could be described as life-negative. Human Adulthood could be recommended for everyone, while enlightenment could be recommended only for those who have no choice.
3. Altered States
Jed McKenna describes some spiritual seekers as people who looking to relive the glory days of drug experimentation of their youth. They are looking for a spiritual path which will get them back to that place of fleeting connection with the “oneness”. It has been said that through meditation that some people have been able to recreate the effects of psychedelic trips. This has nothing to do with waking up from the dream, as all these altered states of consciousness are all contained within the dream. Seeking an alternate state is a worthy goal as any while you are asleep in a dream, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are asleep. It also doesn’t require the ultimate sacrifice of everything that enlightenment does.
When you hear a spiritual guru talking, he is referring to something that is contained in one of these three genres. There aren’t any other games in town.