Jed McKenna Trilogy Notes

Jed McKenna Trilogy Notes

Spiritual Enlightenment is the Damndest Thing

Plato's Cave Analogy. Level I, slipping your chains and realizing the shadows are only being created by the fire. Equivalent is like realizing humans are toyed around by their beliefs for no reason, its all an illusion, the only thing is I AM.

Level II is realizing you can walk out of the cave, aka, the individual realizing that the ego itself does not exist, there is only no self, all is one, and already perfect.

  • The fear of no-self is the mother of all fears, the one upon which all others are based. 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.
  • “The truth of the situation is that eventually, there’s nothing. Infinity. Eternity. The void. The abyss. Eventually, every water-treader has to deal with the fact that it’s just him, the infinite ocean and nothing in-between.”
  • A poem by Ryokan comes to mind: Too lazy to be ambitious, I let the world take care of itself. Ten days worth of rice in my bag; a bundle of twigs by the fireplace. Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.
  • Here’s the most directly I am able to say this: The one and only truth of any person lies like a black hole at their very core, and everything else—everything else—is just the rubbish and debris that covers the hole. Of course, to someone who is just going about their normal human existence undistracted by the larger questions, that rubbish and debris is everything that makes them who they are. But to someone who wants to get to the truth, who they are is what’s in the way.
  • The power of our devotion to teachers and teachings is not a reflection of their value, but of ego’s will to survive. It’s ego—the false self—that exalts the guru and declares the teaching sacred, but nothing is exalted or sacred, only true or not true.
  • “You’re looking for an exact map and these great texts are thick bundles of pages covered in scribble. Yes, some of the lines in all that scribble are actually somewhat accurate, as far as they may go, but you’re not going to have any way of knowing which ones are right until you’ve made the journey yourself, by which time, of course, you’ll no longer need the map.”
  • I don’t mean to diminish the transformative impact of the mystical event. There can be no doubt that if all one knows of fire is the dance of light and shadow on a wall, then the direct perception of a roaring blaze will radically transform one’s views of reality and one’s place in it.
  • “And that everything else is a lie.” “Basically, yes. The body is just a rental car and this planet is just a motel. This is nobody’s home, though some treat it like a permanent residence; as if the worst thing that can possibly happen is that you pick up and move on. How absurd, and yet, how absolutely vital to the experience. Look at things in this light and you’ll see the countless ways in which society encourages the externalized self and mocks, discourages and combats the very notion of turning inward. Alan Watts called it the taboo against knowing who you are. In order to break with one’s false self, one would have to break with…” “…everything.” Julie says. “Family, friends…” Her voice falters as she considers the ramifications. “Everything. Everything you are… everything you know… everything… Really everything.” I decide I’d better back it off a notch.
  • “I’m done.” I smiled as warmth poured through my heart. Warmed by the memory of the day I came to the same startling and improbable conclusion for myself, and warm for the times I had heard it from others. Warm knowing the journey one takes to arrive at such a place and warm knowing what lies ahead.
  • What is enlightenment? No-self. Okay, what is no-self? Abiding non-dual awareness. Okay, what is—? I can’t tell you what it is; no one can. It’s not a thing, it’s not a concept, it’s not a place. There’s no explaining fire to someone who’s never seen fire; no description can do justice to the direct experience of fire. I use terms like abiding non-dual awareness and no-self and truth-realization not because they capture it, but because they seem the least misleading.

  • “It’s like you’re a ghost wearing a mansuit, complaining about the rain. The rain is making you miserable, so you call the rain evil, but rain isn’t evil, it’s just rain. The rain isn’t the problem, the problem is that you’re wearing a mansuit. Take off the mansuit and the problem is gone.”
  • “Karma and hell and suffering aren’t things in their own right but disturbances in this flimsy substance of false self. The problem isn’t in the disturbing things but in the thing disturbed. The thing disturbed is the false thing and if it weren’t there, there’d be nothing to be disturbed. Nothing to get pierced or burned or dried out. Nothing to be wounded or slain.” “Nothing to be wounded or slain,” he repeats. “In truth, there is no book wherein our records are kept. There are no karmic ribbons that need to be burned. There is no one sitting in judgment. There is only what we think is true and whatever happiness or suffering arises from that belief. The self is false and it is the self that carries the burden of its own ignorance; that suffers or is happy, that is subject to external, non-self forces. The belief in the reality of the false self is the origin of all suffering and all happiness.”
  • Ahab has already jettisoned most of himself. He is streamlined for the hunt; his ego is stripped to the bone. He is no longer wasting his lifeforce on projecting an outward self. In his more normal days he must have been very conscious of presenting himself as pious, honest, honorable, dependable; worthy of a ship, worthy of marrying, worthy of sailing under. Now, all such considerations, except as necessary to his plans, are forgotten. He no longer maintains a religious, national, community, professional, or family identity. He is no longer burdened with the need to fulfill his role. “Let what will befall,” says Ahab. He is resigned to his fate. He knows it’s out of his hands, as shown when he parts from recently befriended Pip, knowing that death may be near for them both: “True art thou, lad, as the circumference to its centre. So: God for ever bless thee; and if it come to that,—God for ever save thee, let what will befall.”
  • One thing I am beginning to see is that nothing is really a thing apart. Everything is intertwined and forms part of something larger and something larger than that, some energetically interconnected labyrinth of self. This is the complexity of the fabric of self, and the threads don’t run in neat lines, but in chaotic, multidimensional, swirling patterns, some visible, some deep and unseen. This is my attic. This is my tapestry, my fabric. The fabric is me but I am not its weaver. Looked at as a whole it seems to represent me, but as soon as I get close and see what it’s really made up of and distinguish the component patterns, the millions of threads, then “I” disappear and all that remains is a haphazard patchwork of memories and emotions. That’s what I am. That’s all I am.
  • That exact point, the point where the person who fell becomes the person who gets back up, is the exact line of division between two beings. Ego may desire enlightenment, but ego can’t cross that line. The person who stands up is not the person who fell. It’s the primary death/birth process, and nothing proceeds until it happens.
  • I’ve lived a beautiful, lovely, blessed life. What do I do? It’s not just junk, it’s not all bad. This is the scariest part of all. What about the good? Friends! Love! Dance! My heart! Isn’t all that real? Aren’t these memories real? Isn’t my heart real? What of that? What? This isn’t where the battle is fought, this is where the battlefield is first fully apprehended. The person who arrives at this point is not the person who goes beyond. In this process, resistance is conquered and non-resistance takes its place; acceptance, recognition, surrender. The segregated self is slain and the integrated self is born. Death and resurrection, caterpillar and butterfly, human and vampire. To the onlooker it looks like one becomes the other, but to the participant it is quite unmistakably the end of one thing and the beginning of another. I
  • Questioner: So he spends a lifetime and finally discovers that he’s discovered nothing. Nothing. That’s the discovery. So-called self-realization is the discovery for yourself and by yourself that there is no self to discover.
  • In this sense, freeing ourselves from attachment is indeed the process of awakening, but such attachments aren’t what we have, they’re what we are.
  • Some egos are more cluttered, some less, but the idea that a true self lurks within the clutter is just one of the little vanities that keeps us walking in small, purposeful circles. There’s no such thing as true self.
  • So what is the point in trying to experience that moment which you call ‘now’? The now can never be experienced by you; whatever you experience is not the now. So the now is a thing which can never become part of your conscious existence, and which you cannot give expression to. The now does not exist, as far as you are concerned, except as a concept. I don’t talk about the now.
  • We must constantly project the illusion of self because if we don’t, we aren’t.
  • The process of awakening looks like it’s about destroying ego, but that’s not really accurate. You never completely rid yourself of ego—the false self—as long as you’re alive, and it’s not important that you do. What matters is the emotional tethers that anchor us to the dreamstate; that hold us in place and make us feel that we’re a part of something real.
  • Ego is a bird’s nest, haphazardly collected and carelessly placed, shaped by every bit of debris and every breeze that has ever passed its way. Once you start tearing it apart, you’ll actually find very little to identify with, and even less that was consciously placed there by you.
  • Realizing that you have no idea who you are is the beginning of finding out who you are. The idea of the individual self, valid and separate, unravels very quickly under any serious scrutiny. All beliefs do. What takes time and effort is becoming the person who chooses to put the idea of self under such scrutiny, and making sense of what’s left after the belief is gone.
  • All I am is a frightened little bundle of opinions and memories and desires. That’s all anyone is. I’m just amazed that everyone isn’t like me, doing what I’m doing, ripping away their bullshit as fast
  • Everyone who means anything to me, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, is here. How do they all fit? How could I have not seen them right away? Of course they’re here. This is where they are. My attic is me, there is no place else. Whether or not they have physical counterparts out in the real world is meaningless to me, just as the fact that I might be a real person in the real world is meaningless to them. Perception is reality. I am possessed by my own perceptions; not by things and people, future and past, but by my perceptions of them. These are my connections, my attachments. Maybe all I really am is the sum of all these connections, these fearful longings and graspings. What is an attachment anyway? It’s a belief, that’s all. A strong one maybe, but just a belief. And yes, Jed, I know: No belief is true.
  • The false self must be constantly asserted, like a leaky balloon that we have to keep blowing into. But what if we stop blowing into it? What then? What then? We’ll see what’s left when life support is unplugged. That’s how we find out what’s real, who we really are and aren’t. How simple it is, really. This doesn’t require philosophy or religion or white-bearded old men. It just requires honesty.
  • I suppose I’ll be able to fake my own personhood for as long as I live, but the veneer is getting pretty thin. Q: It’s only in interacting with people, with ego, that this is a problem? Yes. I have no other reason to slip into character. It’s not really much of a problem, though. Not interacting with people is no great hardship for me.
  • All attachments to the dreamstate are made of energy. That energy is called emotion. All emotions, positive and negative, are attachments. Humans are emotion-based creatures and all emotions derive their energy from one core emotion; fear. Fear cannot be confronted or slain because it is fear of nothing, of no-self. The desire to slay fear is itself a fear-based emotion. Fear can only be surrendered to; the thing feared, entered. You can spend your life hacking away at the million-headed hydra of attachment and never make any progress, or you can follow emotional energy back to its source, its lair, and see Leviathan, enemy of light, for what it really is: Your heart. That’s what Arjuna saw. That’s why Arjuna fell.
  • “Good. Find out. That’s how you know where to go. Follow the fear. Go into it and light it up. Inside your fear is the next door, the next thing holding you in. Let fear be your guide.”
  • Depression is fear with hope removed. It arises as we discover that something we thought could be ours will never be ours. Unhappiness is when we worry about not having something, depression is when we realize we’ll never have it, and freedom is when we realize that nothing is ours and nothing can be ours, so that, in effect, nothing isn’t ours. Our own lives are not our own, so what is?
Truth & Morality
  • And here I’ll say that the usual disclaimers apply. There is no right and wrong, no better or worse. Truth isn’t good and delusion isn’t evil. No one is ahead or behind. The worms won’t care how your epitaph reads and the truth of you will outlive time itself. All is vanity. All.
  • “Truth hath no confines.” This perfect statement is the diamond heart of both Captain Ahab and Moby-Dick. It’s one of those Golden Keys, like not-two or tat tvam asi, that unlocks the entire mystery. If truth hath no confines, then all confines are false. One who dedicates himself to striking through all confines must eventually arrive at truth. Hence, further.
  • I have discovered that it is useless to try to discover the truth. The search for truth is, I have discovered, absurd, because it’s a thing which you cannot capture, contain, or give expression to.
  • A ‘moral man’ is a ‘chicken’. A ‘moral man’ is a frightened man, a chicken-hearted man – that is why he practices morality and sits in judgement over others. And his righteous indignation! A moral man (if there is one) will never, never talk of morality or sit in judgement on the morals of others. Never!
  • In Damnedest, I said that the only real spiritual teaching is think for yourself and figure out what’s true, and that’s what I’m saying here. I mean, seriously, what else is there to say?
  • Am I pro-truth? No. Do I hate delusion? No. Do I consider the dreamstate evil? No. I’m not opposed to all the teachers and teachings that keep us so effectively narcotized. I don’t think anyone or anything is other than perfect. I’m not a warrior for truth. I’m not at war with the armies of the lie. I like the lie. I’m all for it. Maya and her magnificent Palace of Delusion have no greater fan than I. Having myself escaped from the confines of delusion, I’m able to appreciate its strengths and its vulnerabilities. Its greatest vulnerability is that it has no mass, no substance. There’s no it, and all you have to do to see that for yourself is look for yourself. Its greatest strength is that looking is the last thing anyone, say what they may, really wants to do.
  • You, the reader, are at the exact center of the universe; your universe. It’s all yours, it’s all about you, and you are all alone in it. Anything that tells you otherwise is a belief, and no belief is true.
  • There’s no place for another being to connect with. I don’t understand all this even in theory. Humans connect ego-to-ego. The heart is a part of the ego. The ego is the external self, the false self, the self that doesn’t survive this awakening. I remember literally hundreds of discussions by spiritual seekers and teachers, and I remember reading about this in books and magazine articles, but I don’t remember it ever making sense, and now that I’m here, now that it’s me, it still doesn’t. So I ask again and again, if I had a child, would I bond with it even though I no longer have a bonding surface? Would I love my own child? I am certain the answer is no and I am certain the answer can’t be no.
  • What prevents you from understanding what you want to understand is this very thing which you are using to understand things. This is not my teaching or anybody’s teaching, but this is the only thing: You are trying to understand something through an instrument which is not the instrument to understand.
  • The entirety of mankind’s science can be summarily discarded by anyone who understands the First Law of Objective Reality which states: There Ain’t None.
  • The one is the source of the many, returning is the motion of the Tao, and the science guys got it ass-backward. The universe isn’t flying apart, it’s flying together.
  • “I’m just playing the devil’s advocate here, thinking out loud. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your lives are pretty much,” I make a gesture indicating our current setting, “this, right? I mean, you make money, raise kids, socialize, fulfill your roles, just like everyone else; basically ambling in small circles toward your own graves while pretending you’re not. Sure, you all meditate and do whatever spiritual practices, but you know that’s not really going anywhere, right?”
  • Now you, on the other hand, reading this book, might take a moment to consider how your thread weaves through this section of the tapestry. It’s our little conceit that we possess free will, so you might want to exert some now. You have either left your cell already or you’re sniffing around at the open door, so this might be a good time to stop and ask yourself what you want, and what you’re willing to give for it. Not all fires are started by conscious intent according to convenient schedules. Sometimes they just flare up where you didn’t even know it was getting warm, and then you learn two things fast; fire doesn’t negotiate and nothing doesn’t burn. What do you really want? If you’ve got the kids and the house and the cars and the career, or any sort of life you’re fond of, and you’re looking at the subjects discussed here as a way to spiritually enhance your existing lifestyle, then I should remind you that dreams are highly flammable things and suggest that you ask yourself, really ask yourself, why you’re reading books about setting your world on fire.
  • “Ahab doesn’t want to be cured,” says Govinda thoughtfully. “He’s waking up,” I say. “He doesn’t want to be drawn back into sleep. His madness is necessary. Pip threatens to douse Ahab’s flame. What did Ahab say earlier? The boy is tied to him by cords woven of his heart-strings. What does that refer to?” I look pointedly at Govinda. He doesn’t have to think about it for long. “Attachment,” he says.
  • This disclaimer business always leads to the same paradox thing so let’s get there and move on. Jed McKenna is not the enlightened being. There is no such thing as an enlightened being; there is only awakeness, which is undifferentiated. It’s not my reality, it’s reality. Jed McKenna is not the awakeness itself but an experienced trailguide and qualified spokesman for awakeness. It might not make sense, but it’s true so it doesn’t have to. The paradox is only visible from one side, so if you want to make sense of it, come see it from the other side. End of disclaimer.
  • We need the boundaries ego provides. They’re a necessary part of life in the amusement park. Self is the complex, shifting set of dimensions that give us shape and form and which distinguish us from other shapes and forms. The amusement park isn’t come-as-you-are, it has a dress code. It’s a costume party, and who you come as doesn’t matter, only that you come as someone. You can’t come as no one.
  • Julie is in the park and has slipped off into a quiet corner in order to divest herself of the costume she wears. No simple feat, this, as the wearer has no hands to use nor will to use them. It is effectively the costume itself which must summon the will to ruthlessly rip itself away. Ego must slay ego. Only ego can. Who else? Physical suicide is just a shadow of this true self-destruction.
  • You can say fear and ignorance are bad and that Maya is evil, but that’s a low-level perspective. For this whole dualistic universe thing to work, it’s important that everyone doesn’t just go wandering off; that they stay on stage and play their role. Fear is the glue that holds the whole thing together and keeps everyone in character. Julie understands that, intellectually at least.
  • Take a close look at Captain Ahab, the Break-Out Archetype. Are you ready to play that role? It doesn’t matter how you answer because it’s not a role we choose. Ahab didn’t choose the role. Julie didn’t choose it. I didn’t. Who would? Who could? It’s idiotic, but what’s more than that, it’s silly.
Hero's Journey
  • “Whatever that is, whatever happens to smash your life to bits, you will someday look back on with the profoundest gratitude. You will look back on it like a birth from the womb. The womb is lovely and insular and safe, but it isn’t life. The distance between the womb and life may appear to be a few inches, but it’s really the difference between two different orders of being. It’s easy to see people as children, but it might be more useful to say they are unborn. They live unborn and often die unborn. When Thoreau said the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, this is what he was talking about.
  • There’s the part of you that wants to be agitated, to bust things up and see what they’re really made of, and there’s the part that keeps that part swallowed down; fear. Fear of losing what you have, but you don’t really have anything. That’s what the little voice is telling you. Nothing is yours and nothing you do matters.
  • This is life’s wake-up call; misery, suffering, loss, death. This is where people are forced to get real and where understanding can occur.
  • No matter how absolutely certain someone might be that something is wrong, and no matter how terribly wrong it may appear, I am absolutely, unshakably certain that it’s not. I am incapable of perceiving error. I reside in a perfect universe where nothing can ever be wrong. We all do, I just happen to know it.
  • that life isn’t a spectator sport, that each of us is in it as much as anyone has ever been, that stories like Star Wars and the Bhagavad-Gita aren’t someone else’s stories, they’re our stories. That we are our own heroes, the heroes of our own lives.
  • “I think one of the reasons for this artificial distancing is the godlike quality of the people we see as heroes, and the mythic dimensions of their journeys. The best examples of this are men like Jesus and Buddha, who have been caricaturized like comic book heroes, far removed from anything a regular person could ever dream of becoming.
  • “This next part, marked Mass of Men, is just that. This is where most everybody is. This is the line that you could isolate as its own spectrum of awakeness and place yourselves and virtually everyone you know along it somewhere. I marked it Mass of Men because of Thoreau’s statement, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’
  • “Here’s where it gets good,” I say, circling the point at which the downward slanting line turns straight down and where the dotted vertical line divides the board into flesh and spirit. “This is where real life begins, where we get into our true potential.”
  • so I finish the diagram quickly by saying that the steep ascent is the infancy and childhood of the newborn being, and that the more gradual upward line is the life of development and discovery.
  • after all the struggle to break out of her humble beginnings, after working her way through college and graduate school, after beginning on her career path, she was suddenly overwhelmed by the,” I search for the phrase she uses, “‘inauthenticity of it all.’
  • she realized her life and her success was ‘just a facade,’ that everything she’d been working for and everything she accomplished was ‘false and illusory.’ ‘The bottom dropped out from under my whole world,’ she says. See what she’s saying about her experience at this stage? She’s in a slide and there’s nothing to do; nothing to grab hold of, nothing to cling to. She can no longer hold the black cloud at bay, can no longer deny its blackness. She’s in it now, enveloped by
  • That’s the process, that’s what’s happening. Nothing has meaning and she can no longer pretend otherwise. It takes time, it’s a transition, but this is what it is. The end of denial.”
  • “The point is, that’s where everybody really is, living with some degree of doubt and fear and denial. How can you not be? It’s not a matter of shame or inadequacy, it’s just a matter of living in the dark. You see how this Mass of Men line angles down? That’s where gravity is taking us, this is where life naturally goes, yet we spend our lives fighting against it, fighting against life. Instead of going along and trusting, we throw all our might into resisting. Why? Because we’re afraid of what’s down there; change, disruption, the unknown.
  • Her relationships open her eyes to the fact that no one else can bring meaning into her life. Her successes now appear to her as failures. She says, ‘I was becoming soulsick, and I saw no way out of it.’ No way out. That’s the core of this experience. You’re trapped. Can’t go back, can’t go forward, can’t stay where you are.”
  • This perfectly parallels the real birth process; one minute all is well, your ignorantly blissful in your cozy little paradise, then the walls start closing in and crushing the life out of you.
  • Anyone else want to guess what Jessica’s event was?” No one else guesses. I read it straight from the letter: “‘I was in a car accident and my neck was broken.’”
  • “‘In every way, it was perfect,’” I read. “That’s what she says about the accident. You see how she’s operating on a different level now? She’s in a place where she can see a car accident and a broken neck as perfect.” I read the entire passage. “‘In every way, it was perfect. I have always thought of it as a perfect transition, even before I had the benefit of time and perspective to consider its meaning.’”
  • Eventually, two doctors come to explain her situation to her; the possibility of permanent paralysis or death. They tell her that her neck is broken and that they need her consent so they can operate immediately. It doesn’t get much heavier than that, right? And what does she tell them?” I walk to the whiteboard and point to the word Spirit to the right of the vertical dotted line. “She tells them no.” I
  • I want them to see for themselves that there is such a thing as life beyond fear.
  • It’s not just that vertical drop of the death experience, it’s also the phoenix-like ascent out of the ashes, the birth of the new being into a new world, a different world where different rules apply.
  • You’ll find this exact transition in every version of the Hero’s Journey because this is the heart of it.
  • That’s the transition. The old way is fully exited and the new way is fully entered, not by word but by deed, when it matters most, when everything is on the line.”
  • She must have been a strong, forceful person, accustomed to carving her way through the world; willful, self-determined, someone we’d all respect. Then, after the event, she lets go. Unconditional surrender. Not mine, but Thy will be done. Brahma is the charioteer. She releases the tiller and lets the ship of her life find its own course, calm in the understanding that it will sink or sail. Either way, resolution.”
  • “You remember that in her Mass of Men days she entered the healthcare profession. She had an urge to help people, to heal, but found that the course she had chosen didn’t fulfill this desire. Some of you might be familiar with shamanism; with the ordeal a person undergoes to become a shaman and the way that the shaman is henceforth set apart from the tribe,” again I indicate the line behind me. “There are no shamans on the Mass of Men line. This whole thing she’s going through is her process of becoming a shaman, a true healer. She doesn’t get to be a healer because the gods bestow powers upon her, but through the prolonged, rigorous, all-consuming struggle of her own self-healing. See what I mean?
  • She had to learn a new way of living and of learning. Over the next decade she worked with many types of healers,” I refer to the letter, “‘chiropractors, osteopaths, myotherapists, cranio-sacral therapists, acupuncturists, many kinds of energy healers, many neuromuscular therapists, therapeutic yoga practitioners, neo-shamans, homeopaths, and many more. I knew that my healing was my responsibility, my process. I traveled all over the country and in every situation I was a participant and a student, not just a patient. I took what I needed from each and moved on, following my inner guidance rather than prescribed courses of treatment, and deepening my powers of intuitive awareness. I learned about energy and emotion; that body, mind and spirit are not three things, but one. My freeform course of treatment worked superbly as I always seemed to move effortlessly into just the right thing at just the right time. My healing went far beyond recovering from the accident. I was able to correct many problems and rid myself of many physical and emotional toxins I was harboring, so that my health is probably closer to perfect now than it’s been since I was a small child, maybe ever.’”
  • “There is no final destination,” I say. “Her journey continues to this day. Now she’s a genuine healer. Her practice has clients all over the world. Her journey has brought her to this place of mastery and service and growth, and even now that journey continues. She says she realized that her own healing was her own responsibility, and that’s a huge step for anyone to take. We might equate surrender with abdication of self-responsibility, but it’s really just the opposite. It’s where we dispense with intermediaries like priests and doctors and government, and take our lives into our own hands.
  • “Absolutely. Very good. There’s the reality, the truth, but Jed McKenna can’t express it and no reader can grasp it. And that’s why I said in the book, come see for yourself. That’s the only possible response. I know it doesn’t make sense. No one who knew what they were talking about ever said it did. It’s the paradigm gap. Jed McKenna might do a good job talking about the part that can be talked about, but Jed isn’t any more real than this table and he can really only talk about what’s not, not what is.” “But something is, right? I mean, like, not nothing?” “I don’t know. Maybe nothing is everything.” “Like nothing is something?” “You got something against nothing?” “It sounds, kind of, I don’t know, unsatisfying.”
  • That first sentence deserves a chapter of its own. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” I will fight whatever enemy is before me,” Ahab is effectively saying. “I am moving forward and whatever stands in my way is therefore my enemy and I will throw myself unreservedly against it.” The battle is absolute, and because the goal is always forward progress, whatever is in the way is always what the battle is against. The goal is not survival or happiness or continued well-being. There is only one goal and it is always the same: Further.
  • this chain of events certainly doesn’t have to be just one thing, like me realizing that I have a blind spot regarding other people’s mastery of higher navigation, or that many people are living their own lives as impartial observers. It can also be, and certainly is, about Govinda and his progress, and I’m sure there are many other threads woven into this small section of the tapestry as well. Infinite intelligence means just that; as vast and incomprehensibly complex as the workings of things may appear to us, there is no such thing as big or small, simple or hard, many or few, to the perfect intelligence that governs all and is all, and I think the thing I might have failed to notice is the fact that not everyone knows this and lives their life in accordance with it. I think the thing I might have forgotten along the way is that most people, including many of those around me, operate from the level of the finite brain rather than infinite mind.
  • Observe this state. Make a study of it as it appears in yourself and others. Turn the light of your mind upon it. See it everywhere. Learn to recognize the workings and reasonings of ego. Dissect thoughts, words and actions to find the kernel of fear within. To know the lie is to hate it; to see it is to slay it. There is no nobility in spiritual poverty. If you desire release from this state, you should pray for it. If you don’t desire release from this state, you should pray for the desire. The nest isn’t life, as anyone who has taken wing will attest.
  • Look for yourself. Look at yourself. Look at the news, at politics, at religion. Look at education, healthcare, business, entertainment. Look at the why, and the why of the why. All you’ll see is greed and vanity, the offspring of fear, all fear being, ultimately, the fear of no-self. Thumb through any magazine, flip through the channels of the TV, go wherever there are people, and you’ll see nothing but a morbidly juvenile, fear-infected, stunted, runtish race over which Maya reigns supreme and unchallenged.
  • Those who have slipped their chains may be more effectively confined yet, thinking themselves free merely because their cell is larger and others are less free. Thinking themselves free, they don’t seek freedom. They are content in their captivity.
  • It may look black and white, as if a sane, responsible man suddenly snapped in the heat of battle, but Melville hints at a series of grays leading up to it, things involving fire and sacraments and the mysterious Parsees and Fedallah. In terms of Plato’s cave allegory, by the time Ahab made his lunge at the whale, he had long since rejected one layer of reality, and was now declaring war on another. He had already slipped his chains and quietly explored the cave. Now, with the First Step, he was rejecting the cave itself and bolting for the exit.
  • Look here, I want to experience God, truth, reality or what you will, so I must understand the nature of the experiencing structure inside of me before I deal with all that. I must look at the instrument I am using. You are trying to capture something that cannot be captured in terms of your experiencing structure, so this experiencing structure must not be there in order that the other thing may come in. What that is, you will never know. You will never know the truth, because it’s a movement. It’s a movement! You cannot capture it, you cannot contain it, you cannot express it. It’s not a logically ascertained premise that we are interested in. So, it has to be your discovery. What good is my experience? We have thousands and thousands of experiences recorded – they haven’t helped you.
  • The process of Spiritual Autolysis has three basic parts: Seeing what needs to be killed, killing it, and cleaning up the mess. Seeing is really the first stage of killing, but the third part is just as important as the first two; you have to clean up after yourself. You must process the loss. That’s not a rule like no sweets before bed, that’s a rule like gravity. That’s how it works.
  • Every step in the process of awakening has all three components. A step begins with seeing and understanding. That seeing and understanding becomes the very thing that destroys the thing seen and understood. But it doesn’t end there. Just because you killed something doesn’t mean you killed your attachment to it. Seeing the thing is the beginning of killing the thing, and killing the thing is the beginning of detaching from it. The third step isn’t therapeutic; it’s the point.
  • Ahab survived. Ahab is Ishmael. Moby-Dick isn’t the story of one ship’s voyage over the course of months, but one man’s voyage over the course of his life.
  • “Yes. Herman Melville decided to go and keep going, come what may. That’s what the book is. It’s not about fictional Ahab and Ishmael, but about the real man who made the real journey. It’s the real break-out of a real man.” “Ahab doesn’t die. He doesn’t lose. He doesn’t fail.” “No,” I say, “he succeeds. His success is absolute.” “It’s not a tragedy. It’s not dark.” “No. It’s about victory. Freedom. Truth. Beauty. The good stuff.”
  • After the First Step, one shoots like a missile straight at the planet’s center, heedless of consequences, only to discover at the moment of impact that there’s really no planet, no gravity, no self, no nuthin’.
Human Adulthood
  • It’s the distinction between self and Self; between Human Childhood and Human Adulthood. Human Childhood is petty and fearful and grating. Human Adulthood is open and easy and in tune with all rather than just itself. Human Adulthood is not the same as truth-realization, but just in case there’s any question in your mind, it’s the one you want. No one wants truth-realization. It can’t be wanted. Human Adulthood, however, can be wanted and can be had, and is, in fact, what all seekers of all times and all places have, knowingly or not, truly sought.
  • I swung wide of this topic in Damnedest. That was a book about spiritual enlightenment, which I interpret as meaning the supreme state. Human Adulthood is not truth or truth-related, it exists wholly within the dreamstate and contains, unlike the black and white truth, countless shades of gray. Truth-realization, abiding non-dual awareness, spiritual enlightenment; these terms apply to the supreme state. Supreme as in ultimate, beyondless. Human Adulthood is not the supreme state; it’s the natural state.
  • Our true state is one of playfulness, innocence, lack of guile, unboundedness of spirit, robust health and inner light, a natural confidence and unerring sense of right, imperturbability, grace, a calm eye and easy good humor, balance, freedom from malice and pettiness, the absence of fear, the presence of largesse and a permeating sense of gratitude. Creativity. Connectedness. Correctness. This is the clear and rightful state of the human being, and to arrive at it, one must die of the flesh to be born of the spirit. One’s life energy, formerly squandered by ego, can then be turned to the higher purposes and potentials of life in the magnificent amusement park of duality.
  • We hope that our children might grow up to be president, or a rich doctor or a powerful lawyer, as if that were any sort of success. Rather, we should hope that they grow up to be grown-up human beings, and redefine our notions of success accordingly.
  • As long as you depend upon somebody, some authority, you are not an individual.
  • Human Adulthood is the real prize. Anyone who is involved in spiritual pursuits is actually pursuing Human Adulthood but probably doesn’t know it.
  • What I’ve called Human Adulthood in these pages, however, is something we can choose. Human Adulthood is what all seekers really want, and it’s not silly.
  • Once born into this adulthood, all of life becomes about growth and discovery. The universe is the playground of the Human Adult.
  • In the movie The Matrix, there’s a scene where the adept Morpheus effortlessly glides through throngs of people on a bustling city sidewalk while inept Neo bumbles and collides and apologizes. Flow and non-flow. Having no preferences, having no ego that requires constant monitoring and reinforcing, having a calm, untroubled mind, most of my life resembles Morpheus’ smooth navigation rather than Neo’s manic, pinball mode.
  • Everyone navigates in this higher mode to one degree or another, and anyone can learn to do it better and more often. Actually, most people would function a lot more smoothly and easily a lot more of the time if they’d just learn to breathe correctly. Practically everyone restricts their breathing to the upper part of the lungs, so that the chest expands and not the belly. The result of this shallow breathing is that we operate in a perpetual panic mode, as if all of life was a fight-or-flight situation. This causes the mental state of dis-ease that we accept as normal and from which we seek escape through addictions and distractions. It disrupts our activity during the day and our rest at night. When we breathe into our entire lungs by expanding the diaphragm, we automatically create a mental state of composure and ease, which is then reflected in our environment. How telling is it that we are a society of people who don’t even know how to breathe? Hello? At what more basic level could we possibly fail? And what’s more than that, how telling is it that when we are made aware of this crippling flaw, most of us will do absolutely nothing to correct it because our vanity won’t allow us to expand our tummies?
  • It’s not that a better way is available and that most people fail to take advantage of it, but that a better way is at all times in full force and effect, and to function from the level of the puny separate self is to work feverishly against it. In other words, it works in our lives not to the degree that we harness it or master it, but to the degree that we stop resisting it.
  • Maugham said that the thing about asking for the best is that you’ll most likely get it, which is practically the golden rule of dreamstate manifestation: Ask and ye shall receive.
  • My ambitions, my desires, my connections to people, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs, the very things that I considered the very essence of me, are now reduced to hollow lifeless corpses, so dead it’s like they were never alive, so fragile, they collapse in heaps of ash when touched by a gaze. I come across more of them every day. “Oh, there are my career ambitions. They were such a big part of me, so important. Funny I didn’t notice them missing. Now I can’t even remember what they really were or why I really had them. I can’t even imagine having such a thing as a career ambition now.” “Oh, there are my girlish childhood dreams; man, wedding, house, babies. Was I that little girl? I no longer feel that connection, so it doesn’t really feel like a loss.”
  • Q: That doesn’t sound so good. I never said it was. Q: Are you saying it’s not? No. The lifeforce I’m not using to project a false self is now available for much more fun and interesting purposes. It’s a whole different universe once all that petty self crap has been left behind.
Free Will/Control
  • It cannot be clearly determined whether Ahab chose his destiny or was chosen by it, even by Ahab: “Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, or God, that lifts this arm? If the great sun moves not of himself, but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I.” Ahab
  • Ahab is overwhelmed. He is driven, as if possessed, to an incomprehensible fate, far beyond human bounds: “What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare?”
  • This isn’t really an enlightenment thing so much as a human development thing. This was discussed in Damnedest, but it can’t be overemphasized—not mine, but Thy will be done; the will of Allah; Brahma is the charioteer—if you don’t get this, you don’t get anything. If this isn’t your living reality, then you are, like most people, stuck in the ego-clad, nestling state.
  • “Don’t make it about Melville,” I tell her. “It’s not just Melville. There’s another author, we might as well call it the ocean. Melville didn’t get what he wanted from Moby-Dick, but that other author always gets exactly what it wants. If you try to approach the book through Melville, you’ll miss. The ocean is the true author, but the ocean has no hands. It operates through us.”
  • I have only noted one omission worth mentioning: Elation. Lunatic joy. Stark, raving happiness. Transcendental exultation. Ahab appears at different times to be enraged, insane, reasonable, tormented, heartbroken, and introspective, but never radiantly triumphant, which he would most certainly be. He has every reason to be leaning off the prow of the Pequod, arms flung wide like Jack Dawson in the 1997 film Titanic, shouting “I’m the king of the world!” But what Jack Dawson was playing at would, for Ahab, be true. For Ahab, all the uncertainty, fear, doubt, mediocrity, pettiness, striving, ambiguity and myriad other chains that bind us and weigh us down have been sliced away. His fate is known, his success certain. He is hurtling at thrilling velocity into perfect freedom. He knows it, and he would be unspeakably happy about it.
  • Courage is to brush aside everything that man has experienced and felt before you. You are the only one, greater than all those things.
  • the way I figure it, dogs are the most advanced beings on the planet. They’re fully, uh, self-realized. They possess unconditional love. They forgive instantly. They’re empathetic and sympathetic. They’re incapable of guile or dishonesty. They’re always in the moment, not carrying the past or fretting about the future. Everything’s always new and wonderful. Every place is always the best place to be.”
  • What separates you, what isolates you, is your thought – it creates the frontiers, it creates the boundaries. And once the boundaries are not there, it is boundless, limitless.
  • I wonder if this isn’t really the one thing Whitman said again and again, “A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”
Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment

  • But you are waiting for something to happen or for some grace to descend upon you – you are still depending upon some outside agency. I can tell you that there is no power outside of you – no power. This does not mean that you have all the attributes that you read about of the super-duper gods; but there is no power outside of you. If there is any power in this universe, it is in you.
  • Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here.
  • I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
  • While it’s true that done means done, it also means beginning. As I’ve said, the newly awakened can expect to deal with about a decade of adjustment, and it’s not at all what you might suppose.
  • The post-awakening process taking place since then is like the protracted effects of radiation poisoning. Your nose doesn’t fall of in the first instant, it stays on for awhile. You know it’s not going to stay on for long so you enjoy it while you can. You know what’s coming, you know it’s inevitable; you don’t fear it or seek to avoid it. On the other hand, you’re fond of your nose. I have a fondness for my nose so maybe I staple it on or use a little duct tape so I can keep it a little longer.
  • The unenlightened state is the magical, mysterious, incomprehensible state. Awake is just awake. It’s not something more, it’s everything less. My state is natural and easy. I carry no baggage. I labor under no delusion. I don’t spend my lifeforce animating a fictional persona. All paradox lies with the unawakened state. The awakened don’t have something that the unawakened are missing, it’s the other way around.
  • The unawakened possess massive structures of false belief. They create and maintain these vast realms of past, present and future; of great meaning and importance; of a deep and wide emotional range; all woven together out of sheer nothingness.
  • Look at Hercules in the Augean stables. He could have picked up a shovel and spent his entire life shoveling shit, never making any progress because they’re always making it faster than anyone can shovel it. What does he do instead? He reroutes a river so it flows through the stables and with this one act all the muck is washed away once and for all. That’s the solution; don’t try to do battle with confusion and mediocrity. The solution to a problem does not exist at the level of the problem. Rise above the level at which confusion and mediocrity exist. Think for yourself. Look for yourself. See the big picture. Life is a one-man show. Turn up the houselights and see for yourself, directly, without the obstruction and distorting filters of interpreters or middlemen. What could be simpler?
  • At that point I can provide some simple guidance: Open your eyes. Look. See why it smells so bad. Nourish your discontent. Cultivate negative self-esteem. Elevate self-loathing to a spiritual practice. Proceed on the hypothesis that everything you are is a lie and everything you know is wrong and try to disprove it.
  • Religion and spirituality are all about not going anywhere. Enlightenment is all about going and never stopping. Human Adulthood is all about wandering and exploring and playing. It’s about living life and fulfilling potential and expanding without limits.
  • manifestation of desires, flow and effortless functioning, positive emotions that are not fear-based such as awe and gratitude and agape, which reflects an understanding of the connectedness of things.
  • I have practically no memory of what it means to believe anything.
  • The exact distortion of the lens is what makes the exact individual; distortion itself is self. All personal attributes, understood this way, are flaws; imperfections in a lens that exists to be imperfect.
  • the perfect lens is no-lens; no imperfections, no lens, just what is.
  • The point of finite and imperfect lenses is to create artificial realms of finiteness and imperfection in which to play.
  • And if it appears to line up nicely and then falls through, then I won’t suspect that something didn’t work, but that something bigger and better is at work.
  • Reality is beyond our wildest dreams and it can all be yours because it already is. The only thing in the way is you.
  • For a few hundred dollars you can jump out of an airplane two miles high and probably live. For under a hundred bucks your local flight instructor will take you up in a Cessna and let you drive. For less than a thousand you can take a night flight over one of the world’s great cities at its most radiant and splendid in a privately chartered helicopter. Bungee jumping, supercoasters, whitewater rafting, at ten times the price these experiences would be among the greatest bargains one can strike in life; the most memorable and cherished. These are the things that will be with us on the deathbed, not the money we didn’t spend. The cost of this night flight isn’t going to put a dent in my lifestyle, but even if it was my last nickel, to what better use could I possibly put it?
  • In the long term, however, the overthrow of Maya is certain. Truth is and delusion isn’t. Ultimately, duality is an artificial construct and when it’s gone, truth is what remains. Viewed this way, the idea that Maya is evil, that delusion is negative, that the dreamstate is a prison, or that the dualistic universe is anything other than the grandest and most wonderful of all blessings is laughably absurd. Why hate Maya? Where would you be without her?
  • “Freedom? I don’t know what that means; it’s just a concept word. Freedom isn’t a thing itself, it’s an incomplete idea. You have to be free from something. What do you want to be free from?”
  • We’re all treading water in a shoreless sea and we huddle together into groups to convince ourselves that our situation is other than it is. That’s make-believe. Serious people want to confront the real situation. To do that they have to leave the group and stop treading water, surrender to the inevitable rather than live a life of pointless struggle. They have to go off by themselves and allow themselves to sink. This is the point no one goes beyond.
  • It’s that simple. The emperor has no clothes. It’s all just make-believe. When we want to stop playing make-believe, we become serious people. Of course, everyone sinks alone anyway, but the serious person can’t stand the lie of pretending the sea isn’t shoreless or that the darkness isn’t absolute or that death isn’t always a breath away. The urge to attach is the survival urge; the urge not to drown, not to sink into the blackness.
  • “The pain of the transition will pass, not the aloneness. The aloneness actually becomes very comfortable.”
  • I lift her chin. “You have to go beyond the place where death is a morbid and evil thing. It’s about liberation, not at the end of life, but during, when it matters. Now. Look up. Look at me. I am happy to die at any time. Makes no difference to me. Now, later, whatever. I love the fact of my death; it’s what has made my life possible. It’s how I’ve known what my life was and what to do with it. If I knew that helicopter was going to crash tonight I’d step aboard with a joyous and grateful