By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

  “I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself
and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!”

Mark Twain

In order to get same-day service from Goober, I have to bring multiple items in need of his attention. The only real problem I had this time was a gummed-up chainsaw carburetor, but he would have kept it for a week if I hadn’t brought in other items which include a string trimmer that works fine and two chainsaw chains in need of resharpening, even though I do a better job by hand than he does with a grinder.

Goober is with another customer at the moment so I’m out playing with his energetic black lab who shares a name with a restaurant chain that failed due to its name. I just call him Sammy. After some energetic playtime, I sprawl out on the sun-warmed grass and try to recapture the feelings of childhood, but Sammy’s not having it. A stick-thrower that doesn’t throw sticks is broken, so he’s trying to fix me. He tries pouncing, licking, nudging, tugging, nipping and shrill barking, but makes the evolutionary leap to tool-usage when he drops the stick on my face. Soon he’ll be doing crossword puzzles. I throw the stick into a pile of brush, but that will only buy me an extra few seconds. I keep hoping he’ll get tired and lay down, but that could be years away.

When the other customer drives away, Sammy and I head back into the shop. There’s an old leather chair in a corner with a standing glass ashtray on one side and a small table on the other with a pipe rack, some catalogs, a county newspaper and a travel coffee mug. Ashtray, table, pipe rack and chair seem to be from the fifties, the mug is modern. Sammy dives into the chair and falls into an instant coma. Goober comes in, taps his pipe on his pant leg and — once burnt, twice shy — checks it closely before putting it back in his shirt pocket. He pauses for about ten seconds before resuming work on my chainsaw and our conversation.

“What would it even be, though?” he asks. He’s talking about a mysterious power humans might possess but not know they possess, or even know exists, like eyesight, lost and long forgotten, for the people in a TV show he and his wife watch.

“That’s where I can’t figure it. We got eyes, right? So it’s not that.” The missing faculty, he explains, must also conceal the fact of its own existence, like being blind would prevent us from learning about our sighted forebears.

He looks to me for a nod so I nod. This is more than a casual conversation for him. He seems vexed, as if he’s determined that there must be some lost or undiscovered human faculty and it’s fallen upon him to find it for the rest of us. Not your typical small engine guy conversation, in my experience.

“It can’t be just anything,” he says. “It has to be something that holds us back; keeps us from some deeper understanding, see?”

“Like how?” I ask. 

“Well, it’s no good if it’s just an improvement of somethin’ we already got. It can’t be better hearing or better sight because we already know about them. It’s gotta be somethin’ we don’t know about. That’s why it’s hard to figure.”

Goober,  real name Edwin, seems years older than me. His wife too. They seem like my grandparent’s generation. I feel like a teenager around them. I’m actually older in human years, but they were older at eighteen than I’ll be at eighty. Our developmental trajectories have taken us in opposite directions. Maturity is generally reckoned a process of settling into fixed personhood, but my development goes the other way; while others become more solid and focused, I become more fluid and diffused. I’m not saying that liquid is superior to solid, but I sure like it a shit-ton better.

I’m always baffled by how in-character people are, how themselves they are, how good at being who they are they are. “Wow,” I’m often tempted to say. “You’re so you!” It’s like living in a wax museum and marveling at the realism of everyone you meet. Personhood is very mysterious to me. I myself am not very me, in fact, I’m barely me at all. I could change my planet, species, gender, nationality, community and family without blinking an eye, but I can’t imagine Goober changing his brand of pipe tobacco. He’s totally locked into character; there’s no way he’ll be changing any of the beliefs, opinions or preferences he wears like a suit of armor. His identification with the character he plays is absolute and inflexible. I am fond of my character but I don’t identify with it. I have no beliefs, opinions or preferences to give myself shape and definition, no distortions to project or illusions to cling to, nothing but a thin emotional tether to keep me from floating away. 

I could comfortably swap characters with someone else; insert my awareness into any person, any time, any place. Is such a thing possible? Perception is the only reality, so why not? Everything is either awareness or appearance; what rules apply to awareness? What can’t appear? What can’t be dreamt? We take it for granted so we don’t appreciate the fact that our living reality is so fantastically, insanely, mindbogglingly wondrous and dreamlike that simply adding a new dimension would hardly make a noticeable impact.

If we could have some unknown and unsuspected power, the ability to transfer your consciousness into a different vessel for awhile would get my vote, but why limit it to people? A whale, a bacterium, a leaf of grass, a non-corporeal entity; whatever is aware, it seems, can host awareness. In fact, why limit it to this dreamstate venue? What better way to visit other worlds and discover new species than by transferring your consciousness into them? It makes a lot more sense than flying through space in a tin can with fire shooting out the back. 

Why read books or watch movies about the lives of ancient, primitive or powerful people when we can just become them for awhile. Why can’t we pass through the little door, not into John Malkovich’s mind, but into whatever mind we choose? Instead of going to a spa for relaxing vacation, you could park your body in a regeneration station while your consciousness spends a week in utero. Your personal trainer would move into your body and work it out while you spend time in the amniotic bliss of a cultivated hosting womb.

Jean-Luc Picard collapsed on the bridge of the Enterprise and lived for decades as someone else during the twenty minutes he was unconscious. Was his experience real or hallucination? What’s the difference? What we call hallucinations from this side are often called realer than real by those who report back from them. If lifetimes there can be minutes here, what better version of immortality and reincarnation might we hope to achieve? Elwood P. Dowd might have lived hundreds or thousands of years through Harvey’s friendship. Perhaps the day will come when a lifetime spent as a single person in a single body in a single timespace theater will seem absurdly primitive.

As remote or improbable as the transfer of consciousness may seem, it’s possible that we’re doing it already. Since we can’t trust our memories, anything is possible. As with dreams, you might pass from one vessel to another with little or no recall. Would that make your experience less real? Would Picard’s other life have been any less real if he hadn’t remembered it afterward? Maybe it’s what we’re all doing all the time; bouncing around from vehicle to vehicle in an endless cycle of dreams. Maybe we possess total recall in some in-between state, but who remembers one dream from within another? 

It all starts sounding like reincarnation, but what if we had total control over the process so we could move freely within the amusement park of infinite appearance? No bullshit enslavement to rules and karma, just greater freedom to explore our own potential. What sense does it make to inhabit a fixed point in an infinite dreamstate? Why should we be stuck in a single perspective? What a waste for dreamers in an infinite dreamspace to be confined to so small an orbit. Consciousness is not limited by time, space, energy and matter, so to what actual restrictions are we truly subject?  Maybe we’re only confined because we think we’re confined. Perhaps the only rules are those enforced by our own self-limiting beliefs. Our shackles might be of our own forging, as seems to always be the case.

This is all just playful speculation, of course, but one thing I’ve found about the outer boundaries of this dreamstate playground is that I haven’t found any. As far as you go, it keeps going. Wherever you go, you’re always in the exact center of your universe. Sure, body-hopping would eventually get boring like anything else, but it would open up a whole new area of the amusement park for us to play in. And really, it’s just a variation on a theme of Adventures in Consciousness, so why not? 

Before you dismiss all this as the ingenious musings of a fantastically gifted author, there are three facts you should consider. One, though you may think you’re a sane, rational person with a pretty good handle on things, the truth is that you have no idea who, what or where you are. Two, although you might feel you can trust your memory, you can’t. And three, the only thing you can be sure of is that you are consciousness, and it would be the ludicrous to think that infinite consciousness is as finite as we believe ourselves to be.

So, my answer to Goober’s question is free-range consciousness, but I don’t tell him that. It’s not the answer he’s looking for. The real thing that eludes him isn’t pushing the boundaries of his dreamstate but waking up within it. He’s as blind as the people in his TV show; not because his eyes don’t work but because they’re tightly shut. He doesn’t see because he thinks he does. Lucidity and clear-seeing don’t exist for him even as concepts, but I don’t tell him that either. It would make no more sense to explain such things to Goober in his shop than to Elvis in a wax museum. I tell you because somehow you asked, but Goober hasn’t.

Edwin “Goober” Pease is the full expression of a unique pattern. Whatever else he might create or do or become in life, he himself will always be his own crowning achievement. In one sense he’s just one of billions, but in another sense he’s sui generis; a class of his own, the only example of his kind. If everyone is special, then, of course, no one is special, and yet, by golly, everyone is special. There will never be another Edwin. He is perfect and perfectly himself, as are we all.

“Maybe it’s some emotional thing,” I suggest. “Maybe it’s not a sense or an ability but an emotion, or an emotional range or dimension.”

“I ain’t thought of that,” he says, as if I’d just earned a good mark in his book. “What’d you say you did again?”

“Forex day-trader,” I recite. “Global currency arbitrage. High-frequency trading. Millions of algorithm-based micro-transactions per second with a focus on dollar-based trading pairs. Emerging markets, capital liquidity, political turmoil. It’s actually pretty interesting…” 

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” he cuts me off impatiently, which is the desired result. I don’t know anything about Forex or if it involves emerging markets or split-second micro-transactions. It’s just a bunch of jibber-jabber to make people sorry they asked.

“Enlightened spiritual master,” I could tell him. “Hope of nations, theme for poets.”

“Oh yeah?” he would say. “I don’t think I ever met one of them before. We got a preacher over the next hill, does a thing with snakes. You do anything with snakes?”

“Not so much,” I’d reply. “More of a dog person, really.”

“Yeah, dogs are good,” he would say. He would finish my carburetor free of charge out of deference and I would tip him twenty bucks out of nobility. Instead, it’s six bucks for the sharpening, nothing for the trimmer and ten for the carb. I hand him a twenty and he slowly counts four singles into my hand. As I’m leaving with my stuff, Sammy leaps up to follow his stick-thrower. What if we could transfer Sammy’s consciousness into my body, I wonder — let him throw his own sticks — and I realize that the whole thing is starting to sound like an overdone movie plot.

Forget it Jed. It’s the dreamstate.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

  “Nothing exists; all is a dream. God — man — the world — the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars — a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space — and you!”

Mark Twain

If I bring Goober one tool to fix, he’ll put it aside and tell me to come back in a few days. If I bring him three or four, he’ll work on them right away. The difference is my time. If I want something fixed today, I have to bring other stuff for him to work on and wait around while he works on it. If I don’t have two or three hours to kill, I just drop one thing off.

Besides his personal chair, the only place to sit in his shop is on a greasy, plastic-cushioned stool with an auto parts store logo on top. I tried it once but it’s set between chair height and short-guy height which is an awkward height for me, so now I just stand around while he works. We usually engage in idle chat, but today he’s proving almost suspiciously interesting. I feel like I’m not speaking with the actual Goober but with a playful entity wearing Goober like a sock puppet.

Today he’s talking about a TV show called See, which I haven’t seen. He finds it interesting because the people in it are not only blind but doubly blind; they have not only lost their sight but the concept of sight. They don’t know they’re blind because they’ve forgotten there’s such a thing as vision.

As I stand and pace and snoop, he works on my stuff, pausing occasionally to fiddle with his pipe, answer a phone call, or deal with someone else dropping off a problem item. Problem items often come in on truckbeds and trailers and need to be offloaded and discussed. Including obligatory breeze-shooting, every interruption takes ten or fifteen minutes during which I go outside and play with his black lab, a friendly boy with a racist-sounding name who loves to fetch sticks. I don’t bring Maya here because she doesn’t identify with dogs, and because the one time I did bring her she found something disgusting to roll in and it took an hour of stinky hose and brush work to get her sorted out.

Everyone around here seems to have grown up together. They know each other in a way I’ve never known anyone. They nod to me and I nod back, or we wave when we pass on the road, but I’m not one of them and they know it. What that means is that I don’t get engaged in conversation. No one visits me, no one is neighborly and welcoming, no one invites me to their church or to stop by for a beer. No one is overtly hostile, but I’m clearly an outsider. Everyone seems to like and respect Lisa, an attorney for the state who sits on the “good side” of the table. She’s my friend, kind-of former landlord, and only close neighbor, so my connection to her seems to get me a pass, but mostly I get the cold shoulder. Just one of many reasons why this is my perfect place.

When it’s just us again, Goober picks up where he left off.

“What would that even look like?” he asks. “Like maybe we got wings we don’t know about, or maybe we can snap our fingers and make somethin’ happen. I don’t even know what it might be, but it might be somethin’, ya s’pose?”

“I s’pose,” I say. I have to be careful not to imitate the local speech or I’ll sound even dumber than normal.

“I guess you never know. Maybe that’s the deal. You just never know.”

I nod but he’s not looking so I grunt in the affirmative.

“But what happens if all of a sudden, one of ’em can see? I think that’s where they’re goin’ with it, with the show, I mean. I think someone’s either gonna get their sight back or maybe there’s gonna be a baby born who can see. We only seen the first episode, but I bet that’s where it’s goin’.”

Me too. The kingdom of the blind is just setting the stage. It’s the one-eyed king that will drive the story. Probably two one-eyed kings in opposition, setting the stage for a great battle, though only a shadow of the one true conflict; the Hatred of False Self versus the Fear of No-Self. That’s the only battle that matters; anything else is couple’s badminton. I make a note to watch the show but, as of now, I haven’t.

“I wonder what that would be like,” I say to encourage him, “to be the only one who can see.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the thing, I guess. Could be kind of a messiah, and we seen how that works out. Could be kind of a blessing and a curse if you think about it.”

He checks to see if I’m thinking about it. I am.

Another pleasantly alienating feature of my life here is that Lisa’s house and my cabin are the highest homes on the mountain. The road goes no further and there are signs below that say dead end and no outlet, so almost no one ever comes up. Even courier services don’t come up, which is annoying. That remoteness, combined with being outsiders and a bit well-to-do for the area, might give us an air of social superiority which could be a problem, but Lisa has formed friendships with Goober’s wife and a few others that make her okay, and that makes me okay by association. Comfortable alienation is a goldilocks deal. Too much and not enough are both bad, but just right is just right. Asia, Mexico, South America and Europe have been too much. Wealthy neighborhoods and gated communities have been not enough. So far — ten years in — this place is just right.

I’m starting to wonder about Goober. I wonder if I’m selling him short somehow. I’ve known him since I’ve been up here, but we’re still at the same polite, impersonal level we were on day one, which suits me fine. I’ve heard him in many conversations with many people and I’ve never heard him say anything like he’s saying now.  This isn’t just an anomaly, this is an entire dimension I haven’t seen before. That can happen with me. I don’t pay much attention to people so they can sometimes sneak up on me.

“You think messiahs know what they’re in for and go ahead anyway?” I ask, but what I’m really asking is who I’m really talking to.

He looks up from his work to answer me directly.

“Yep, that’s what I think. That’s why they’re messiahs.”

“You’re saying Jesus was a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind,” I say.

“I don’t know how many eyes he had,” replies Goober, “I’m saying, what if it’s a real thing? What if there’s a whole ‘nother thing goin’ on we don’t even know about?”

“Yeah,” I muse, “what if?”

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
The Search Is Over. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

   “We have comraded long together, and it has been pleasant —
pleasant for both; but I must go now, and we shall not see each other any more.”

   “In this life, but in another? We shall meet in another, surely?”

   Then, all tranquilly and soberly, he made the strange answer:

   “There is no other.”

Mark Twain

“Have you seen see?” Goober asks. See? Sea? C? I have a hard time understanding Goober sometimes, so I just sort of shake my head to encourage him to continue.

Goober is my small engine repair guy, and one of the few people I talk to anymore. Everyone seems to calls him Goober except his wife who calls him Edwin. I can’t call a grown man Goober, so if I have to refer to him at all I use buddy, which is fairly acceptable in these parts, as in “Hey, I think you might be on fire there, buddy.” (Pipe smoker, really happened.)

He’s not called Goober because we live in a Mayberry-esque region of Southern Appalachia or because he’s good with engines, he’s called Goober because his last name is Pease. He runs a busy business which is surprising because it’s almost impossible to get to. The road to where I live is full of signs warning 4-wheel drive only and not state maintained and use of chains advised, but to get to Goober’s place I have to go halfway down my road and then turn back up on a much worse road for almost two miles. So much for location location location.

Some of the roads on the mountain started out as narrow-gauge logging rail lines a hundred years ago. When the trees ran out, the tracks were removed and the railbeds were used for summer daytrippers in Model A Fords coming up to enjoy the views and cool temperatures. The converted roads were only wide enough for one lane so everyone had to go up before a certain time and come down after a certain time. You can still find remnants of food stands and scenic overlooks, but the roads are now uneven bedrock that is even challenging for four-wheel drives with raised suspensions.

“See? I ask.

“TV show,” he says. “New thing. Watch it with the wife.”

“Okay,” I say.

“It’s post-apocalyptic,” he glances at me to see if I understand and returns to degumming my chainsaw carburetor. “Couple hundred years back something went wrong and most folks died. The ones that survived lost their sight, so now they can’t see no more.”

“Guess not,” I say.

Interesting premise. Loss of vision would not just be a major bummer, it would mark a species-wide turning-point. Thus rendered a literal kingdom of the blind, mankind would veer off into a whole new storyline. The major themes would remain the same, but it would be like playing soccer with a bowling ball; same rules, but a very different game.

“They can still do a lot of things, you know. Form into communities, fight battles, get around pretty good. They can record words on string using knots. They have a lot of the stuff they find from, you know, our world, so the way they use it is pretty interesting. They got no words for colors or to say how things look. They don’t know there’s such a thing as the moon. They can’t read old books or write any new ones.” 

He takes a break from my sadly abused chainsaw to fill and tamp and light his pipe.

“But what’s interesting ain’t that they lost their sight but they don’t remember ever havin’ it.” He peeks out from under his oily ballcap to see if I’m keeping up. “After a few generations I guess, they forgot there ever was such a thing as bein’ able to see, or maybe now it’s just a magic power in a children’s story. Can you imagine?”

I can. I write books about that magic power in this children’s story. He doesn’t know I write books, of course, he thinks I’m a city guy who, for whatever shady reason, has sought refuge on his mountain. That’s not completely untrue; the refuge part anyway. If I lived up here for a hundred years I’d never belong, but I don’t want to belong, I want to be buffered from the things of man without being apart from them. You always need a friendly waitress and a good small engine guy and a few others. There’s also Lisa and her kid, Maggie; they’re my only real people anymore, but I can go weeks without seeing Lisa and months without seeing Maggie, who’s not really a kid anymore anyway.

“They get along just fine,” Goober continues, “like not being able to see is normal, which I guess it is for them. But think about it for a minute,” he checks to see if I’m thinking about it, “what if that was us? I mean, what if that was us right now?

Yes, I think. Don’t stop, Goob. You’re on a roll.

“My goodness, how can you ever know what you don’t even know you don’t know? If you don’t know you don’t know, what chance do you got? I mean, it’s just gone, right? But listen, I’m talking about us now.” He punctuates the air with his pipe stem. “What if there’s somethin’ important we should know but we don’t even know we don’t know it? You ever think about that?”

“Thinkin’ about it now,” I say.

“Yeah, you oughta.” 

His wife sticks her head in. “I’m leaving now, Edwin. I’ll be home by six. Anything down the hill?”

That’s a standard goodbye when down-the-hill is such an ordeal and cell phone coverage is spotty. Nobody wants to make a special trip because they forgot to do the banking or pick up a prescription, and anyone who doesn’t return when expected has to be looked for. Goob says something about picking up something he ordered somewhere. She blows him a kiss and gives me a little wave and departs. 

He seems more like an Ed than a Goober to me, like the nickname came with the last name when he was a kid and now he’s grown out of it, but he’s still stuck with it. I decide to call him Ed should the need arise, as in “Hey, I think you might be on fire there, Ed.”

He taps out his pipe in a glass ashtray and returns it to his shirt pocket. He turns his attention back to my chainsaw, which he calls a power saw. My eyes linger on the heavy glass ashtray. It’s green, made for pipes. He’s probably had it forever. Probably got it from his dad. I bet it’s a part of him, like if I smashed it on the cement floor right now he’d be emotionally wounded. I’d feel that way if someone hurt Maya, but I could snap out of it on a dime. Could he? Bet not. People are weird. That’s the kind of stuff I think about when I’m around people. I’m weird. It’s not even weird to be weird. We’re all weird. This whole deal is weird and the weirdest thing is pretending it’s not. Like I’m some great spiritual expert or something? Like that’s not weird? Gimme a break.

Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.

“Think about that for a minute,” he says. “What if we’re like them folks right now? Why should we think we ain’t? We wouldn’t even know, that’s the point. We’re just goin’ along like everything’s fine, and maybe everything ain’t fine. Maybe we got some sense or ability or something we don’t even know about. Like the folks on that TV show, how would we even know? Can you even imagine such a thing?”

I’m amused to think he’s unknowingly speaking with the world’s leading authority on such a thing. The alignment is too pronounced and suggests a big playful puppy at work behind the scenes. The universe is funny that way. Am I summoning or animating this Goober character, or is it just a coincidence? Ultimately, I guess, it all coincides.

“It’s like 1984,” I contribute, forgetting to keep my stupid mouth shut but too amused by the setup not to play along. “They keep down-sizing the language so, eventually, people won’t know they’re enslaved because freedom will no longer exist even as an idea.”

“No, it’s not like that,” he says, a little slower so I can follow. “It’s like they don’t even know they’re blind because they forgot there was such a thing as sight. Nothing at all to do with freedom.”

“Okay,” I say. He gives me a sideways look. 

“It ain’t about the TV show, see? It’s about us. We could be like them right now. We could be missing out on some big thing and not even know it. I just think that’s a pretty interesting thing to think about.”

“Yeah,” I say, “me too.”

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the  treacherous, slavish shore?

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“Am I an asshole?”

Lisa doesn’t answer right away, which might be answer enough. We’re sitting in Adirondack chairs at the formal firepit, feet up, drinking a good white wine in her case and a peasant red in mine. Her stemware could cut diamonds, mine could pound nails. I started the fire an hour earlier so it would be settled by the time we sat down.

“A bit of a curmudgeon, maybe.”

“Ouch. That’s how mommy calls grandpa an asshole in front of the kids.” 

“Why do you ask? It’s all this truck business, isn’t it? You’re not used to all that facetime, are you?”

“Thirty seconds is about my limit, and this was almost thirty days.”

It was probably only fifteen, but it felt like a lot more.

About a month ago, a storm knocked a tree onto my truck and I spent a very unpleasant period in something like 25% outward, worldly, hylotropic, character-animating mode; living and interacting at the waterline between worlds, dealing with insurance and banks and the body shop and the car rental place, buying and using a disposable phone, finding and buying another truck, being lied to and manipulated from behind smiling faces and friendly voices, dealing with notaries and documents and overnight couriers, and all sorts of tiresome little activities that normal people consider normal. It’s not the activities that tire me, it’s being in the waterline environment.

A person swimming in the ocean far from the shore deals exclusively with the world of waves and does not get into trouble no matter how big they are. If the same individual climbs up high on the shore and is facing only the world of solid forms, there is  again no problem. It is the waterline, where the two worlds mix and neither of them can be experienced in its own right that presents the difficulties.

Dr. Stanislav Grof, The Adventure of Self-Discovery

It was a very fortuitous accident, as accidents tend to be when one lives in alignment with energetic pattern. It put me into an ideal truck at an auspicious time so I was grateful for it, but the time I had to spend in character among characters took a toll. The universe seems so accommodating in so many respects that I’m surprised it didn’t spare me this experience, but I’m sure it has its reasons. You don’t just wave a wand every time you need a nose job, there’s still an actual surgery to undergo.


“You’re not an asshole,” says Lisa, “you’re a sigma male.”

“Is that the Jeremiah Johnson thing or the Great Pumpkin thing?”

I was trying to make wine come out her nose but all I get is a smirk.

“Self-sufficient, independent. not caring how you’re perceived; a lone wolf, not running with the pack. You said in one of your books that if you needed anyone else’s respect, you wouldn’t have your own. That’s pure sigma.”

“Well, that’s better than asshole, I guess.”

“Let’s not rule anything out,” she says, making me laugh in mid-sip with unsightly results.


So a tree fell on my nice old truck and totaled it. That made me sad, but endings are beginnings so I stiffened my resolve, girded my loins, hardened my… Okay, yeah, I see how that sounds. Anyway, I braced myself for a period of time spent downhill dealing with people in their various workplaces full of bad air, bad light and bad energy; my senses and personal energetics under constant assault and no one to complain to because it’s all just so damn normal. 

My solution to dealing with people in their workplace is to minimize contact when I can and retreat behind a dull, glassy-eyed facade when I can’t. It’s not an act. The only reason I usually deal with people at all anymore is in the context of their job, so I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and let them do it.


The term uncanny valley refers to the point on a graph at which our upward-trending reaction to humanoid robots spikes suddenly downward. Before this point, we find them appealing, beyond this point, appalling. The more real they seem, the more we’re skeezed out by them. How much skeezier when the humanoid robots are actually human? That’s how most people appear to me. I believe that they must be thinking, feeling, fully aware beings no different from myself, but up close they seem more like life-sized animatronic dolls or computer-generated non-player characters, and I get caught in that uncanny valley where I am disturbed by their artificial resemblance to authentic humans. 

The deeper revelation of Grof’s waterline metaphor is that there is no land, there is only water. On the shoreless sea of the infinite dreamstate, land is invariably a mirage or an artificial construct. In this case, the illusion of a continental landmass is created by the tightly-packed herdmass held together and afloat by fear. In my natural environment I’m a dolphin, but on land I’m fish out of water. I am out of my natural element; weak and awkward. It’s like the gravity of an alien world. It would be nice if it differed in my favor so I could run like a gazelle and drive a golfball half a mile, but it goes the other way. It oppresses me, makes me tired and wobbly and doltish, which is not a good look for me.


Lisa has provided a warm brie with cranberry chutney with chopped walnuts, sliced apples and pears, and crackers. She forgot the little napkins and doesn’t want to go back to her house for them. She asks if, just this once, we can lick our fingers between helpings, but I can tell she doesn’t like the idea. She’s wearing a nice dress and a sweater but I’m wearing grungy work clothes, so every time she takes a bite I extend my leg so she can wipe her fingers on the cuff of my pants, and every time she says thank you.


In the entire world, the only thing that can be considered not-right is ego; the false self. This is the single source of all not-rightness in the universe and the sole obstruction to spiritual progress. The society of ego-bound human juveniles is so unnatural that it defies comprehension, even for one who has spent decades in that state and decades more studying it. I can handle it from afar as a sort of abstraction, and I can watch it on screens like a movie or TV show, but up close and personal it discombobulates me. I am rendered semi-catatonic by prolonged exposure to eyes-closed, fear-based, ego-clad juveniles. Fatigue sets in and my brain fogs over as if exposed to radioactive materials. I don’t know if I’d start losing my hair in clumps or bleeding from my eyes because I’ve never stayed long enough to find out, but it feels like it’s going in that direction. 

I try to explain all this to Lisa but, despite my super-awesome communication skills, I still sound like a pathetic whiner.

“Maybe instead of a waterline between land and sea,” I suggest, “we’d do better to think in terms of a skirmish-line between humans and zombies. Sometimes, a former zombie like myself has to smear himself in zombie goo and make his way back into the horde; to replace a totaled truck, for instance.”

“What the hell is zombie goo?” asks Lisa.

“It’s their scent. You smear handfuls of their blood and guts on yourself so you can walk among them without being detected and eaten. Didn’t they teach you anything in law school?” 

“I guess I was out that day.”


So why are we talking about me? We’re not. This is all about you and what might lie ahead for you. I spent thirty years as a land-based creature just like you, but now my former environment is chaotic and disruptive to my subtle energy system. This fragility and discomfort is not unique to me, this is how your current world will affect you after you’ve transitioned out of it. Right now you’re a normal person in a normal world, but if you manage to resuscitate your aborted development and transition into adulthood, you’ll find that normal is not so damn normal after all.

If you don’t like the Zombie Horde metaphor, the Borg Collective metaphor works just as well. Maybe, whether zombie or Borg, you have some vestigial awareness of your core humanity. Maybe you’re reading this because you want to know if your condition can be reversed, if you can undo the damage and reclaim your full humanity. You can. It’s your dreamstate, you can do whatever you want, but what do you really want?

Asking if you want to open your eyes and see isn’t incidental, it’s the single defining question of your existence. How much do you want to know and understand? What price are you willing to pay for that level of awareness? How much emotional ballast are you willing to cut away to achieve that level of perspective? Do you want to know who and what and where you really are, or are you content to stay who and what and where you currently are? Despite the confusion we all experience at the waterline, land and sea are different paradigms and you can’t inhabit both.

There is no mystery. Nothing is hidden or withheld. Everything is just sitting right out in the open, but you can’t see it through closed eyes. If you want to know you have to look, and if you want to look you have to open your eyes. If you do open your eyes you will see, but by seeing what is you destroy the illusion of what’s not. Do you really want to set yourself apart by awakening from the shared dream of the collective? Do you really want to be mocked and scorned and banished by your tribe? Not until your answer is an emphatic and unequivocal yes, that you’d rather die than continue life as a zomborg, is your head really in the game.

What we’re looking at now is this confusing waterline area where the personal and transpersonal paradigms meet and overlap. Right now, you’re wondering if and how you can make the leap from one to the other, but your head is full of all sorts of whackadoodle spiritual bullshit that’s calling you back to the comforting illusion of land. 

But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God – so better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

By being here and reading this, you are asking one question, and the death-rebirth transition from the sleeping dreamworld to waking dreamstate is the one answer. Maybe you don’t like that answer, why would you? We don’t really want to awaken from the dream, we just want to dream we’re awake. That’s the service the spiritual marketplace provides, but you wandered out of the carnival and onto the rocky shoreline, so here we are.


I’m not an asshole, I’m a nice guy. I don’t dislike eyes-closed, fear-based, halfborn, herdbound, ego-clad humans, I just like them at a certain distance. I see developmentally disrupted juvenile adults as the single most wonderful and wondrous thing in creation. Delusion is the most interesting, amusing and redeeming aspect of the dreamstate. Human Children are the fun ones, the interesting and amusing ones, the ones who take it all so seriously and make it all seem so real. Without them, there’s no drama, and without drama, there’s really no point to any of this. The dopey Bodhisattvas want to end suffering for all sentient beings, but suffering is just delusion and delusion is the spice of life; without that there are no love stories or shoot-em-ups or sitcoms, just twenty-four hour nature programming. 

Billions of brave, sincere, intelligent seekers never opened their eyes because they didn’t know they were closed. That’s how Maya deceives us, by making us see what’s not and not what is. Now, however, there’s a chance you can discover and express your own unique and authentic spiritual DNA. You’ve never been closer than you are right now, here at the waterline. Thought is the key. Thought is the undiscovered sense, the unsuspected superpower, the one we all possess but none of us use. If you want to open your eyes and learn to see, you must discover this sense in yourself and bring it into focus. The light of the focused mind is the destroyer of all illusion. 


Lisa holds a cracker with some stringy cheese with chopped walnuts and cranberry chutney on it. I know what she’s thinking; zombie goo. She shrugs and eats it anyway. Good spirit. I hold out my leg. She wipes and says thank you.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely shared, translated, reposted and reprinted.)

A person swimming in the ocean far from the shore deals exclusively with the world of waves and does not get into trouble no matter how big they are. If the same individual climbs up high on the shore and is facing only the world of solid forms, there is again no problem. It is the waterline, where the two worlds mix and neither of them can be experienced in its own right that presents the difficulties.

Dr. Stanislav Grof, The Adventure of Self-Discovery*

Dr. Grof distinguishes between two modes of human consciousness; hylotropic and holotropic. I, having formerly inhabited the former and currently inhabiting the latter, will try to explain these two worldviews in light of my own experience and understanding.

The hylotropic, or matter-oriented, mode of consciousness is the term I am using for the normal, everyday experience of consensus reality. The holotropic mode of consciousness, or consciousness aiming toward wholeness and totality of existence, characterizes certain nonordinary psychological states, such as meditative, mystical, or psychedelic experiences.


Hylotropic refers to the mundane consciousness of nearly everyone nearly all of the time. In this mode, I experience myself as separate and distinct from my environment. The world seems mechanical and materialistic, matter seems solid, time seems linear, space seems fixed, duality seems universal, causality seems to govern events and reality seems real. This is a stagnant state with only room for lateral growth. In short, hylotropic consciousness is the mundane reality of the Segregated State of Human Childhood.

In the hylotropic mode of consciousness, an individual experiences himself or herself as a solid physical entity with definite boundaries and with a limited sensory range.


In the holotropic mode of consciousness, the mental-emotional barrier that separates me from my environment in the hylotropic mode is no longer in place. Thoughts and feelings seem to influence events and outcomes, time seems flexible and causality seems optional. My environment acts like a natural extension of myself and my reality takes on an interactive dreamlike quality. This is a dynamic state with unlimited room for further development. In short, holotropic consciousness is the dreamstate reality of the Integrated State of Human Adulthood.

In contrast to the narrow and restricted hylotropic mode, the holotropic variety involves the experience of oneself as a potentially unlimited field of consciousness that has access to all aspects of reality without the mediation of senses. -ibid.

A Fragment of Reality

The wall that divides these two modes of personal reality is the protective egoic shell of the human child who has yet to undergo the second-stage birth transition to human adulthood. Within the artificial and finite environment of the juvenile shell, the world seems to exist independent of self and we are merely guests or trespassers in it: Self and other are two. Once liberated from that eyes-closed, fear-based, herdlevel perspective, our worldview shifts from materialistic and mechanical to idealistic and dreamlike. We merge with our environment and form a cocreative partnership with it: Dreamstate and dreamer are one.

In the hylotropic mode of consciousness, we experience only a limited and specific segment of the phenomenal world or consensus reality from one moment to another. The nature and scope of this experiential fragment of reality is quite unambiguously defined by our spatial and temporal coordinates in the phenomenal world, the anatomical and physiological limitations of our sensory organs, and the physical characteristics of the environment.


From the hylotropic perspective, the holotropic perspective might seem magical and mystical — or like total bullshit — but from the holotropic perspective, holo seems normal and hylo seems like a hobbled and blindered state more befitting domesticated livestock than self-aware beings. From my perspective, the holotropic perspective is the natural state of consciousness of the Human Adult, and the hylotropic perspective is the stage-one birth consciousness of normal children and juvenile adults.

A person whose entire existence is limited to the hylotropic mode, even if free from manifest clinical symptoms and thus mentally healthy from the point of view of traditional psychiatry, is cut off from these inner resources and incapable of drawing on them.  his leads to chronic frustration of higher transcendental needs and a sense of lack of fulfillment.


The difference between hylo and holo is not spiritual but developmental. The undiscovered truth is that holographic consciousness is the goal of all spiritual seeking, but it’s not the sole province of Buddhists or Taoists or New Agers; it’s the process that all humans must undergo to become what they really are. Nor is it the exclusive vacation destination for trippers and adventurers; it is the full-time consciousness-of-residence for those who complete their birth process. The juvenile ego, however, is committed to its own survival and erects complex defenses against the threat of change.

An average, “healthy” individual has a sufficiently developed system of psychological defenses to protect him or her from holotropic intrusions.


In theory, everyone everywhere everywhen should prioritize the second-stage birth transition to adulthood to the exclusion of any other concern including survival, but in practice, you and I are the only ones who know about it. Even Grof seems to view it as a special state, but it’s only special because it’s rare, not rarefied.

Holotropic consciousness is not a lofty spiritual ideal, it’s simply the result of the second stage of birth you were meant to undergo at the age of sexual maturity but didn’t. Maybe it’s too late for you now, but maybe it’s not. Of those I know who have achieved holotropic consciousness as a living reality, none did it on nature’s schedule.

Unseen Agency

With regard to the hylotropic and holotropic modes, nobody is all one or the other. Those in the juvenile state are generally around 98% hylo and 2% holo. It’s in that 2% mode that we are open to good weirdness. That’s when we peek behind the narrative veil to see the structural pattern beneath.

If you think about it, you’ll find that the validity of the 2% disproves the 98%, just as proving the truth of one disproves the possibility of zero. Once you confirm subjectively, to your own satisfaction, any non-ordinary phenomenon in your life — any instance of extra-sensory awareness, any confluence of events revealing unseen agency, any combination of fortune and timing that defies random chance, any act that can only be explained as manifestation or wishcraft — then you have effectively falsified the mechanistic, materialistic, hylotropic model and verified the idealistic holotropic model for yourself.

Incidentally, you will also have reclaimed the self-sovereignty you have abdicated to the Church of Scientism which is wholly based on a materialistic, mechanistic worldview.

The One and Only Way

There is no other spiritual path to follow, teaching to embrace, or level of consciousness to achieve except the progression toward and transition to adulthood. (You are somewhere in the progression stage right now. That’s how you got this far, but where will you go from here?) Nothing else matters, there is no other option to choose, no secondary objective, only a multitude of consolation prizes; work, money, power, love, family, duty, belief, sports, hobbies, shopping, games, entertainment, society, etc. Thanks for playing, better luck next time. In fact, the reason we embrace the idea of a next time is so we don’t have to get serious this time.

Anyone who fails to achieve second-stage birth at the age of sexual maturity (everyone) is effectively halfborn and living at a caterpillar level of the butterfly life they were born to live. Any objective other than second-stage birth transition into our full and rightful lives is an egoic diversion meant to keep us trapped at the tawdry level of melodramatic tragicomic spectacle.

What we seek in spirituality is simply the reconnection to our natural development. There is nothing else for a child to grow into but adulthood, nothing else for the segregated being to aspire to but integration, and nothing for an eyes-closed being to do but open their eyes. All else follows from that.

The nonsense they peddle in the spiritual marketplace is nothing more than shiny baubles, pretty distractions and flowery trappings to lure you away from the serious work of becoming what you really are. Forget enlightenment, bliss, contentment and compassion, and focus on resuming your natural growth and development. Any other goal is just fool’s gold luring us deeper into the dungeon we’re trying to escape.

Transition to adulthood is what you, as a spiritual seeker, are really trying to achieve. You do this by opening your eyes and learning to see, which you do by thinking free of emotional influence, which you do by externalizing the thought process, which you do by writing. Adulthood is the destination, lucidity is the path, and thought is the process of steps by which you travel. That’s it, the search is over. You’ve found the map to the treasure. “I” marks the spot. All that’s left now is the hard work of digging it up and claiming it for your own.

Slaying the Dragon

As a practical matter, we move toward adulthood through the progressive slicing away of attachments. All attachments are elements of the false self, pieces of you, so all detachment is self-mutilation; death by a thousand cuts. The more you cut away, the less attached you are. The less attached you are, the more you ascend and elevate your perspective. The more you ascend, the more painfully aware you become of the attachments dragging you down. Hacking and peeling away elements of the false self is how actual progress is made, and why it so seldom is.

Holotropic consciousness is the mode of being that awaits you, the estate to which you are rightborn heir, the winning lottery ticket in an unchecked pocket, but you have to escape herdlevel consciousness to claim it. This is easier said than done because you’ll want to hold something back, and you can’t. To hold anything back is to hold everything back. All attachments must be cut and you can never really know what everything means until you’re standing in the cave, mortally exhausted, bloody sword in hand, and you can’t believe the goddamn dragon is still alive. If you didn’t get the head, you didn’t get anything. But that’s just a metaphor. Dragon-slaying is like navel-gazing compared to ego-slaying.

This is the true adventure of self-discovery, and look! Here you are.

*Grof, Stanislav. The Adventure of Self-Discovery. State Univ. of New York P., 1988.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reposted, reprinted, translated.)

Few people have the imagination for reality.


The last time I looked — probably in 2004 when What the Bleep Do We Know? came out — there was a lot of interest in manifestation by a variety of names; law of attraction, power of prayer, creative visualization, positive thinking, mind over matter, affirmations, wishcraft, and so on.

I don’t know if manifestation is still a hot topic, but why shouldn’t it be? It’s a power that you actually possess, magic that you can actually do. How cool is that? The same way you can physically grow and heal without really knowing or doing anything, you can shape events and participate in the creation of your reality without really knowing or doing anything. You do have a role to play in the process, but it’s mostly just getting out of the way and not screwing it up.

Your mileage may vary, but in my experience of adult-level manifestation, there’s really no doing involved. When you authentically need or desire something, the process of manifestation is natural and organic; no effort or procedure or technique is required. You don’t have to know or learn or perform anything, you just have to bring a desire into focus and let it go.

I suspect that human children like to use manifestation to conjure inauthentic desires which, though it kinda-sorta-maybe works, requires a bit more finagling and jumping through hoops. In other words, adult and juvenile manifestation are two related but dissimilar processes. I’m sure some people are very good at manifesting and that it can work very well even in the juvenile state, I’m just sharing my experience of the adult version which is closely related to…

Effortless Doing

I know about manifestation because I do it. All the time. Without even trying. As a well-developed human adult well-established in the integrated state, effortless-doing is my normal mode of operation. As the name implies, I don’t make any effort in this regard, I simply live in alignment with the subtle energetic currents of my being and all this manifestation stuff just takes care of itself. I don’t have to perform any techniques or plead my case or tape messages to my bathroom mirror, I just maintain my state of energetic alignment and my cocreative dreamstate does the rest.

Of course, if I go out of alignment with my authentic nature and try to manifest something inauthentic like a Jet-Ski or a giraffe, I will be disappointed, but why on earth would I go out of alignment with my authentic nature? Once one comes into alignment, misalignment becomes, literally, unthinkable. 

I don’t really have wants, per se. That might be an important thing to mention.  The few examples I provide below are sort of environmental and mechanical in a way that certainly pleases me, but it’s not like I want to go to prom or close the big deal or go to Aspen for a week or tamper with the natural order of things. All I really want is to perform my function, and for that to happen I can’t get bogged down in all the minutiae of a somewhat challenging living environment. This world, this body and this character are not me or the point of me, they’re just a platform on which my function can be performed. Things in my environment have to do their job or be replaced, and I don’t want to get bogged down in a lot of getting and spending busywork. Cocreative manifestation spares me that. If I find that I can’t live without the latest squeegee or the hot new color of M&M, then I just go downhill, hand over some money and manifest the old fashioned way.

A casual aside…

Any even moderately aware person must see this cocreative dynamic at work in their own life in a way that doesn’t lend itself to clinical, testable, reproducible results, but which is nevertheless as undeniably real as anything else in the dreamstate. What this means to those who acknowledge it is that the objective mechanical worldview is falsified and replaced by the subjective idealistic worldview. Just that easily, you can defrock all scientific pretenders and reclaim authority over your own dreamstate experience. Let the science children keep playing in their sandbox, but don’t let them convince you they have any answers. Not a single one. 

Poor Ol’ Truck

Just as one recent and visible example of manifestation, a tree fell on my good old pickup truck and killed it, so I had to claim the insurance and get a better, more appropriate, even older truck. I was aware that I had to make a change regarding my truck soon; the need was kind of closing in on me and I was kind of ignoring it. It was getting close to becoming a real issue when my better half — the cocreative universe — took care of things with a bang and a crunch. Events were set in motion and two weeks later I had a much better truck just in time to meet a pressing need.

Another example involves that same truck. A year earlier, a woman backed into the truck causing minor frame and cosmetic damage to the right rear. It was her fault and she was very sorry, but I wasn’t upset; I know how these things work. The check from her insurance company came within twenty bucks of the exact amount I needed to have a new woodstove delivered and installed. This was a stove I had already picked out after hours of pleasant research. Winter was getting close but I had forgotten about the stove and my attention was elsewhere. Now, as if by magic, presto!, there it sits, a few feet away from me, keeping me toasty and snug. 

I would have been happy to pay cash for both stove and truck, but the universe doesn’t seem to care who pays, it’s more results-oriented. It does seem to have a thing against insurance companies, so that’s nice. On the other hand, it didn’t cover replacement of my Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Grateful Dead CDs, so nothing’s perfect.

These are hi-vis, several-a-year examples, but they come in all sizes from the mega few-in-a-lifetime size to the easily overlooked many-times-a-day ones and everything in between, plus all the subtle stuff we fail to notice. Then there are the navigational ones that don’t really manifest anything more than a sense of where things are going. This is how I knew in Warfare, while in the first split-second of a 70 mph motorcycle accident, that it wouldn’t be fun but it wouldn’t be serious. This is how I always know where things are going and, often more importantly, where they’re not going. 

I’m not some big wishcraft expert, I’m just describing my own experience of the integrated state. The above examples of getting money for new stuff in a timely manner are fairly vanilla compared to the fancy stuff. The point is not that these truck examples are so special but that they’re not. They were practically routine, like growth and healing, like the autonomic system that never lets your heart skip a beat or like the mechanism of balance. This is how my life does work and how everyone’s life can work, most notably, yours. 

Set It and Forget It

Once a mentally clear and emotionally empowered idea has been formed, my part is done and I let it go. A virtual request has been made and I trust that the best will occur. I spent a pleasant hour every day for a few weeks coming up with the right woodstove solution, brought the matter into clear focus, then forgot all about it. This isn’t like a new dishwasher or garbage disposal for me (I don’t have either), a woodstove is the heart of my cabin and closely tied to my own comfort and happiness. Once rightness regarding a woodstove came into focus for me, I was done with it. I don’t have to carry photos of trucks and woodstoves in my wallet or post them on my fridge. Once I set the desire and set it free, my part in the process is done.

Manifestation is going on all the time, just like physical healing and growth are going on all the time. Integrated adults, being more harmoniously aligned with their environment than segregated juveniles, tend to manifest more smoothly and effortlessly, especially where it involves the exploration and expression of their unique spiritual DNA, but this stuff works for everyone to whatever degree they don’t tie it up in an emotional web of egoic entanglement.

Manifestation is not something you have to perform like a magical incantation, it’s your essential nature as a creative being in a cocreative dreamstate. You can shape reality and alter events and make stuff appear because that’s getting to the heart of who, what and where you really are. 

A Prayer for the Living

We think of prayer as an inferior entity asking a superior entity for special dispensation. We plead, make promises, strike bargains, wheedle and cajole like children nagging Big Daddy for some toy or prize or reprieve, but there is no child/parent dynamic in manifestation. We may also think that prayer has something to do with worthiness or merit, but this too is part of the eyes-closed, fear-based, child/parent mindset. It’s your dreamstate, you can have whatever you can want, the trick is right-wanting in alignment with your unique energetic pattern which, for anyone established in the integrated state, is no trick at all. 

This process of manifestation scales up and down to all levels. Sometimes it results in wondrous life changes or acts of creative intelligence, sometimes it’s as mundane as finding your keys or getting a good parking spot. Once you enter into this energetic flow, it becomes integrated into your life experience and is only conspicuous by its occasional absence, like when all the stoplights are against you. Yeah, shit happens. Wah.

Be Careful What You Wish For

By waking up and coming into alignment with the underlying structural pattern of your dreamstate reality — your spiritual DNA, rather than the DNA of the herdbeast organism — thought, desire and manifestation merge into a single, organic, effortless process so that, without knowing the first thing about Taoism, you become a living master of it, i.e., a well-developed human adult well-established in the integrated state. Herd-shuffling is over and we learn to stand and walk and run — and maybe more — on our own. Right-knowing, right-action and effortless-doing become the new normal once the artificial barrier of the juvenile shell has been dissolved and one has developed into a functional adulthood.

It’s through mind and heart working together like film and light source that your authentic desires are projected onto the screen of your dreamstate reality. There’s a bit more to it, of course. For instance, you shouldn’t wish for a negative. If you pray that it’s not cancer, you’re empowering the cancer part, not the not part. Similarly, though I haven’t tested this, I suspect that if you wish ill toward another, you’re effectively summoning it into your own environment. Also, you have to walk the talk; if you pray for perfect health and keep subjecting yourself to hyper-toxicity, you’re just uttering fearful words outweighed by opposing actions. 

A word to the wise, don’t get locked into a specific outcome. Trust your cocreative counterpart to come up with the best result. That’s what the release part looks like.

Surrender vs Abdication

The point of a caterpillar is to dissolve into the chrysalis stage, and the point of the chrysalis is the birth of the butterfly. The caterpillar is a birth stage and the chrysalis is a transition stage, but the butterfly is what it’s all about. The caterpillar doesn’t need to learn to fly, it just needs to follow its natural course, undergo its natural transition, and flight comes naturally. Similarly, children don’t need to act like adults, they just need to follow their natural course, undergo their natural transition, and emerge into the adulthood for which they were born. The key, as always, is surrender. You can release the steering wheel and press the gas and trust in something larger than yourself — it doesn’t matter what — or you can cling to the illusion of control and keep reading about the life you could be living. 

Behind the appearance of the timespace energymatter universe is the truth of infinite consciousness and perfect intelligence.  Brahman is mind, dreamstate is mind and you are mind. There is only mind, and that thou art.

Emotional detachment from ego is the key to everything, and that entails a death-rebirth process which, if I were you, I would be praying, manifesting, attracting and affirming my ass off to achieve. In my opinion, the only worthwhile purpose of manifestation in the juvenile state is transition to the adult state. To manifest your authentic desires you must first transition to your authentic self. All else follows from that.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
The Search Is Over. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

I had a dream that I was awake
and I woke up to find myself asleep.

Stan Laurel

I just finished speaking to a group of people in a small bookstore located two hours and one state away from my mountain home. Now I’m sitting in a nearby coffee shop jotting down some notes from the talk as a reminder for when I take more complete notes later. 

At this particular talk, I was asked a question I wasn’t really prepared for and my answer was a bit incoherent. It is my jealously guarded little secret that I am not fast on my feet when it comes to thinking. I speak fluidly and expertly on subjects that I’ve already brought into focus by writing them out, but if I wander into territory I haven’t pre-explored, people get a glimpse of how the sausage is made, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Despite having chosen a secluded corner booth in which to sip my retro black coffee and make my archaic pen-and-paper notes, several attendees from the talk find me. I invite them to push a table up against my booth and we pick up where we left off. 

We’re in a chain coffee outlet with a gas fireplace set in faux-stone, surrounded by a wall of glass looking out onto a vast field of cars sparkling in the sun, a gently flowing highway, and a forest of stoplights and utility poles set against a backdrop of tiered condos and excavation equipment consuming a mountain from the bottom up. And the whole place smells like urinal tablets. And the fluorescent lights are making my brain buzz. And the coffee is shit. I had only planned to be here for five minutes and already the urge to flee is churning within me.

The question I fumbled was about the overall direction of humanity. It’s a good question. Where are we as a group going? Is humanity evolving? Is there some grand storyline, some bigger picture? How far along are we? Does some greater adventure await us? Are we headed to the moon and stars? Are we all becoming beings of light? Is life about to get all good and no bad? Something like that. The answer is simple, but expressing it simply, isn’t. The main thing to remember is that as long as you’re in the herd, you’re going where it’s going, and the herd is always going in circles.

The true answer is that no one’s going anywhere because, on a shoreless sea, there’s nowhere to go. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a timespace, energymatter, causalistic, dualistic universe, the simple insight of nonduality conclusively falsifies it. Nothing Forever is true and nothing trumps truth. Mic drop, peace out.

The dreamstate answer is that you can dream whatever you can dream. What we think of as I is nothing more than a unique set of artificial limitations to your true, infinite nature. You can operate within your boundaries or try to overcome them to explore the fuller dimensions of your personal reality. We dwell in the dreamspace of Maya’s palace where little boys can grow up to be mommies and little girls can become dirtbag politicians, so if you want to dream we’re all turning into ascended masters and beings of light, sure, dream that. 

The spiritual answer is that you’re making wonderful progress and fantastic things lie in store for you because you’re a loving and unique being. Just keep doing your twice-daily fifteen minutes of navel-gazing, guru-adoring, sacred-syllable intoning and alternate-nostril breathing, and you’ll become spiritually enlightened and be super happy all the time and never get a pimple or die. 

The actual answer is that if you want to break out of the herd and reclaim your stolen development, it might be possible, but it’s a now-or-never, do-or-die sorta deal. It may not even be up to you, who knows? As with everything in the dreamstate, no one knows anything.


Those are my prepared and well-worn answers, but as I translated the where’s-it-all-going? question this time, it was about the herd’s dramatic arc. Where is the roadshow of mankind actually headed? What is the ultimate destination of the herd itself? That got me fumbling around with ideas of peak drama and terminal emotion and limited dynamic range, and the fact that the heaven-hell spectrum between misery and joy is already populated; our dramatic potential is already at full realization. As much heaven or hell as there can be, there already is. We can alter quantity but not quality. Something like that.

Where is an oak tree going? Nowhere really, it is what it is and it does what it does. Its potential is maxed out. It has achieved its full expression. It’s the same with the human herd. Our set and setting can change, but as far as dramatic and emotional range go, we’re maxed out. We have plumbed the depths of sorrow and ascended to the heights of joy, so all that’s left is costume and scenery changes to convince the audience that something new and fresh is happening. The human race is in full expression now, and effectively always is, so the appearance of progress is really just background change as the herd follows its long, circular path.


The sole beholder — infinite consciousness — is not subject to the constraints of time and space, so whatever ever was always is. From Brahman’s perspective, so to speak, there can be no mystery, and therefore, no drama, no amusement and no point to any of this dreamstate hoopla. Therefore, consciousness must first render itself fractured, finite, ignorant, half-blind, halfborn and emotionally inebriated in order to be able to enjoy the show. Hence, us.

I myself have not actually become anything in life. I am an adult and I am enlightened, but both represent the overcoming of artificial barriers. I have not achieved enlightenment, I simply stopped being unenlightened; I escaped the bondage of wrong-knowing so I see all that is and nothing that’s not. It’s the same thing with adulthood. It’s a natural condition which was stolen from me and which I stole back. Enlightenment and adulthood are natural and rightful conditions.  Nothing was really achieved, false obstructions were simply removed. 


Human Children are designed to maintain the tricky heart-mind balance required to populate and enliven the earthstage venue. The eyes-closed, fear-based, herdbound, ego-clad state of human childhood is not a cosmic fuck-up, this place is a playground and is meant for children. Perpetual childhood is an unnatural state that has to be constantly generated and maintained through the double whammy of emotion and ignorance. We are a special blend of infinite potential and artificial limitation crafted by perfect intelligence to produce and behold the tragicomic spectacle we call humanity, the only point of which is to distract from the reality of Nothing Forever. The Human Child is custom-tailored to play this exact role on this exact stage in this exact production for the exact reason of alleviating boredom. 

That’s the answer I was struggling with during the talk. I don’t think it reflected the actual question, but I was trying to take a bland question in a more amusing direction. Let fear be your guide and always go into the darkness are good mottos for spiritual autolysis, but not for public speaking. 


“Nothing is going anywhere,” I tell my little posse. “This is it. We may be chasing the carrot or avoiding the stick, but either way, we’re just going for the sake of going. There’s obviously nowhere to go and nothing to achieve, but our dense emotional shielding protects us from that truth because the show must go on.”

“Yeah, I don’t really agree with that part,” says a biggish, blondish guy named Sean.

“Thank you for your disagreement,” I say with no trace of irony or sarcasm, I hope. “What in particular?”

“Well,” he continues, “you make it sound like everything is, like, uh, what’s the point, right? Like we’re born and we live and we die and none of it means anything.”

By we he means I. If he were to write out his question and attack it, he’d first boil it down to; Do I have meaning?, and eventually to; Who, what and where am I?, and ultimately to; Who am I? Like all questions, it’s not to be answered but destroyed. We destroy questions by challenging the assumptions on which they’re based. In this case, is the culprit. No-self is true self.

The truth is never hidden or withheld, we just don’t always like it. The dreamstate is not a place of truth but an escape from it. It’s an amusement park for the drama and play and fantasy of children, and ultimately for the amusement of the sole beholder we represent. I’m not suggesting that this playground is wrong or should be other than it is, I’m just a sign pointing curious outliers toward some of the lesser-known amenities the park has to offer like adulthood over childhood, integration over segregation, and pattern over narrative.

The dreamstate is a system of many systems, a house of many mansions, a park of many playgrounds. It’s not really intended for adults, but adulthood — awake in the dreamstate — is one of the games we can play. There’s also a game called enlightenment — awake from the dreamstate — but that adventure takes us out of the park altogether, and where’s the fun in that? The only thing to do outside the park is get back in, but continuing a dream you’ve awoken from is not as easy as it sounds.


“Then why should we even get out of bed in the morning?” asks Sean. 

His question suggests that we’re searching for an answer we like rather than liking the answer that’s true. That’s a polarity issue. Sean’s objection makes sense in the no-sense sense in which something is true or untrue based on your feelings about it, i.e., there must be a God because life would be pointless and meaningless if there wasn’t, and life can’t be pointless and meaningless because that would be a major bummer. 

When I don’t feel like answering someone’s question, I just put the ball back in their court.

“That’s a very good question,” I say. “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?”

“Because I’m not a nihilist,” he says after a pause. “I don’t believe in nothing, I believe in something. I believe we’re here for a reason. I believe there’s something important we’re supposed to do. I don’t know exactly what it is, but maybe that’s what I came here looking for, maybe that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I believe I’m on a journey, that we all are, that we’re learning and growing, evolving, growing closer to God or merging with the primal energy of the universe or, I don’t know, something like that.”

All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle, said Emerson, and all the thoughts of a juvenile are juvenile. Adulthood is like a scaled-down enlightenment; the fake one we all want, not the real one nobody wants. Just as there is no enlightenment in the dreamstate, there is no adulthood in the juvenile state, and just as enlightenment requires dying from the dreamstate, adulthood requires dying from the juvenile state. 

I only meant to be in this faceless, soulless coffee dump for a few minutes. I only bought the coffee to rent the table. Now I can feel a shortening of breath and dulling of wit setting in. If we could all get out into a park or make a fire on a sandy river bank I could stand and pace and talk for hours, but this human-zoo space is sucking the vitality out of me.

“You’re embracing and reinforcing your false narrative,” I tell Sean. “You cling to spiritual fairytales because you have yet to open your eyes and discover your authentic pattern. That’s what you really came here looking for, that’s what you’re really trying to figure out. The good news is that, though you can’t have meaning, you can have purpose, but it’s not until you puke all that sugary, fear-based spiritual crap out of your system that you can understand your real situation and discover the unique path that is yours alone to follow. You’re not on a journey right now, you’re trapped inside the comfort zone of your own false narrative and mistaking motion for progress, but the only real progress you can make is toward your own realization, the expression of your unique pattern, and that’s what spiritual fairytales about evolution and progress and meaning prevent you from doing.”

He starts to object but I push forward. 

“The dreamstate is a false construct in which we can’t distinguish between true and false because the structure itself — Maya’s Palace of Illusion — is false. We can, however, distinguish between artificial and authentic. Your artificial narrative is that of the herd; shuffling along, eyes shut, eating, reproducing, trying to keep up with your herdmates without bumping into them too much, pretending you’re going somewhere and that there’s some great meaning or importance to it all.”

“Then what’s my authentic narrative?” asks Sean.

“I don’t know. What is it?”

Another pause.

“I guess that’s what I’m trying to find out,”  he says.

“Your authentic narrative — your unique pattern, your spiritual DNA — is not being hidden or withheld from you, but you won’t find it in any classroom or textbook, or get it from any so-called spiritual teacher, and you certainly won’t find it in the herd.”

“Then where do I find it?”

“You can only discover your unique path by traveling it. Awakening within the dreamstate is ot a one-and-done deal, it’s an on-going journey. Every step is the revelation of a new vista. It’s a process of continuous unfolding, but to discover your unique pattern you must first break out of the herd’s pattern and find your own way. That’s the death/rebirth transition no one likes to hear about, but there can be no adulthood without first dying out of childhood.”

“But what if someone is evil?” asks a girl who may or may not be related to Sean based on nose and forehead shape. “Are they supposed to explore their authentic nature?”

“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,” I reply, happy to be on solid ground again. “We can’t all be Dudley Do-Right, we need Snidely Whiplash too. If no one ties Nell to the train tracks, then Dudley is just a meter-maid and the dramatic production becomes boring and therefore pointless. Dudley may be the good guy, but it’s Snidely who drives the story forward. Dudley and Snidely are the equal and opposing elements of the yinyang symbol. Neither is better or worse, good or evil, right or wrong; they’re both essential and there can be neither without the other. Ultimately, all duality exists within context and all context is false. Excuse me, nature calls.”

They make room for me and I slip out of the booth and out the side door. Five minutes later I’m heading out of Everytown USA and back to the mountains where I can breathe again.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

Let me tell you why you’re here. You know something. What you know, you can’t explain, but you feel it. You felt it your entire life. There’s something’s wrong with the world. You don’t know what, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?


At the beginning of The Matrix, Thomas Anderson is roughly where you are now; still a juvenile, still asleep in the matrix/dreamstate, but struggling with doubt. For Neo, it’s a splinter in the brain. For you, it’s somewhere between an itch and an icepick. Maybe you’ll learn to live with it, or maybe it will propel you into a different paradigm of being.

Or maybe you’ll get hit by a cab or choke on a chicken wing. As Al Pacino teaches us, you can get killed walking your doggie.

The Matrix (aka Plato’s Cave Allegory) is a useful model of reality and our place in it. If we think of Thomas/Neo/The One as representing the three stages of human development, then we can better understand where we are and where we could be going. Thomas Anderson is asleep in the dreamstate. After a death/rebirth transition, Thomas becomes Neo, who is awake in the dreamstate. After another death/rebirth transition, Neo becomes The One, who is awake from the dreamstate. Juvenile, Adult and Enlightened. 


We know where you are in the matrix model, the question is, where do you want to go? Do you want to remain asleep in the matrix, or do you want to wake up in the matrix? 

My guessumption, since you’re reading this, is that you want to transition from asleep to awake, from child to adult, as a human being is meant to do. I guessume that awake-in-dreamstate is what everyone really wants since it has all the good stuff and none of the bad, and since the alternative is staying in the eyes-closed, fear-based, herdbound, ego-clad, halfborn, juvenile state, which is a lot less good and a lot more bad.

That’s the benefit of a model; it provides a map-like overview of the terrain in which you find yourself so you can choose your destination and plot your course. And also so you can rule out less desirable destinations like enlightenment, which is not what anyone really wants, and like adventures-in-consciousness, which are really just carnival rides that let you off right where you got on.

Some folks have pierced the veil by arriving at a conceptual grasp of nonduality, but as Morpheus informs us, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Watching The Matrix is no substitute for being awake inside the matrix. 

The One

Don’t worry about enlightenment. If you were gonna get hit by that bus, you’d’ve done it by now. The truth is that there’s only one One. The One is Brahman — infinite consciousness — and that thou art. You’re already the One. You’ve always been the One. You can’t not be the One. The reason you’re here in the dreamstate/matrix is not to become the One but to pretend you’re not the One for a little while. To pretend you’re a person.

You’re not in reality, you’re taking a break from reality. Relax. Eat a sandwich, kill some enemies, save the planet, get a massage. Playtime will be over and you’ll be at one with The One again before you know it. 

Adequate Discontent

In the first act of the movie, Thomas Anderson undergoes second-stage birth from child to adult. He chooses the red pill and the wild ride begins. That’s roughly where you are now; somewhere before that transition but after the first stirrings of not-rightness that started you on this journey. The degree of your discontent is what determines your rate of progress, and in the context of transition, the worse it gets, the better it is.

You are offered the redpill/bluepill choice in every moment, but as long as you’re not adequately discontent with being asleep in the dreamstate/matrix, you’ll passively choose blue by not actively choosing red. When you choose the red pill, it won’t feel like a choice any more than being underwater and swimming toward the surface feels like a choice. 

There Are No Bullets

Chela Neo asks Guru Morpheus if he’ll be able to dodge bullets and is told that when he’s ready, he won’t have to. This is a clear parallel to the new mode of operating that becomes our primary way of knowing and navigating once we are well-established in our adult state. 

Once we disengage from the artificial narrative and come into alignment with the authentic energetic pattern of our dreamstate environment, the barrier between vehicle and environment dissolves. You are not in the artificial environment, you are the artificial environment. You are the matrix and the matrix is you. Self and dreamstate are one. 

Newborn Neo has not become something more, he’s become everything less. His eyes are open for the first time and now he knows who and what and where he is. Second-stage birth is not an acquisition but the dissolution of a false perception. The barrier between self and other is a product of the eyes-closed, fear-based worldview, so the real transition means opening your eyes and seeing your reality for the harmonious, unified, dynamic whole it has been all along. 

Wind doesn’t move. Flag doesn’t move. Mind moves. 

There is no spoon.

Lucid Dreaming

It is remarkable how similar the pattern of love is to the pattern of insanity. 

The Merovingian

The mantra of the eyes-closed, fear-based juvenile is: We’re all in it together. The mantra of the eyes-open, gratitude-based adult is: I am alone. It appears that there are people in your nighttime dreams, but if you were to become lucid in them, you’d know there was only you. Same here. This is the truth the fearful heart seeks to deny by sending out emotional tendrils to create unnatural attachments. Whether these tendrils feel like love or hate or something in-between doesn’t matter, only that they tether us to an imagined reality and keep us earthbound, herdbound and egobound. 

Ego survives by forming emotional attachments. These attachments allow us to maintain negative buoyancy so we can remain submerged in the sleeping dreamstate. If it weren’t for these tendrils, we would naturally float to the surface and emerge into the sunshine of lucidity. 

When we make the polar shift from heart to mind, these tendrils are cut off from their power source and we begin transitioning out of the juvenile shell and into the life we were born to live. It’s not spiritual, it’s developmental.

That Mortally Intolerable Truth

Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore? Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Compare Jeremiah Johnson to Chuck Noland from Cast Away. Johnson can’t get far enough away from the herd and Noland can’t get back fast enough. What’s the difference? Personal polarity. Noland is attracted, Johnson is repelled. Noland was ripped out of one context and never found another. Johnson found another but couldn’t escape the first. Johnson seeks the authentic, Noland longs for the artificial. They are squeezing past each other in the prison’s sewer pipes; Johnson struggling to get out, Noland struggling to get back in. 

At the beginning of Cast Away, Chuck’s inner black hole is plugged with all the emotional baggage and artificial structure of work and family. When all that gets torn away, he shoves a bloody volleyball into the void, maintaining his false narrative for four lonely years. At the end of the movie, standing at the crossroads, he smiles in the direction the angel-wing artist-lady went, meaning he just found something new to shove in his hole; his next Wilson. 

Compare Chuck Noland to Joe Banks. Joe sails away from the things of man while Chuck sails back to the herd from which fate expelled him.

Jeremiah Johnson unplugged his hole before the start of the movie and fought to keep the open independence of his sea, while Chuck paddled madly for the slavish shore.

In, Not Of

Given your options — segregated Thomas Anderson, integrated Neo, and The (enlightened) One — you’d wisely choose to be like the protagonists Neo or Trinity in their RSI — residual self-image —  but without all the dickhead agents trying to kill you to death. 

Trinity and Neo look insanely cool and they know kung fu, but what really sets them apart is lucidity. They know they’re in a simulation. They are in the world but not of it. They walk among the herd but apart from it. Compared to the mass of unaware matrix inhabitants, they are beings of an entirely different order. They have a whole different way of operating and navigating in their environment because they know that who, what and where they are, are all the same thing.

Right-knowing, right-action, effortless doing, energetic alignment and all that wu wei stuff represent an entirely different user interface with your dreamstate environment — integration — which is largely unavailable to those still curled up in their pods. For us, it is not a pod but the emotionally powered egoic shell that makes this unnatural state of segregation possible.

Life in Peacetime

If the war ended and Neo and Trinity were free to live in the matrix without the pesky agents trying to kill them all the time, what would they do with themselves?

The first thing you might expect is that they’d go their separate ways; those shipboard romances never last. What is the basis of love when you know the object of your affections is actually a hairless slug curled up in an embryonic pod? So Neo and Trinity would go their own ways, but to do what?

Once you awoke from the dreamstate, what would you do? Like Neo and Trinity, you’ve hacked reality, but the great war is over, so now what? You won’t want a career and kids. You won’t want to mingle with the juveniles any more than you want to mingle with children or goats now. You won’t devote yourself to saving the whales or fighting city hall or keeping up with the Joneses. You won’t care about vanity or fame or power or wealth, so what will you care about when all the standard dramatic themes have come up empty?

That’s what we must each discover for ourself, or so I guessume. Everyone lives in their own dreamstate universe and no two are alike. You are a creative being in a cocreative playspace. You have an indwelling energetic pattern that seeks outward expression. You can only find out who you are by becoming who you are. The only way to discover your path is by walking it. You don’t decide, you allow. This writing thing I do is as stupid as anything else, but it’s my stupid and I like it. If I didn’t have this I wouldn’t have anything, so I’m grateful to you, my imagined reader, for letting me wallow in the illusion of purpose and meaning.

Worry about escaping your embryonic pod first, then you can worry about what you’ll do when you’re out. Think in terms of the expansion, exploration and expression of your own unique pattern, and discover the one thing you can create that no one else can.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
The Search Is Over. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc)

Don’t sweat the drama, and it’s all drama.

Dear Imagined Reader,

A recent email from one of my human-interface facilitators ended on this note: “P.S. You’re getting a lot of questions about current events.”

To which I now reply that current events are, in the context of awakening in or from the dreamstate, completely irrelevant, and the most important thing you can do is not get caught up in them. Waking up is all about focus. If you start descending into petty drama – and all drama is petty – then you will lose coherence and your journey will stall.

Maintaining a steady mind through pleasure and pain,
gain and loss, victory and defeat, engage in this battle,
indifferent to the outcome. Thus you will incur no sin.

Bhagavad Gita, 2:38

The only sin is ignorance and the only absolution is clear-seeing. The real battle of awakening is between your heart, which tells you the world is real and meaningful, and your mind, which tells you the world is of no more substance than a soap opera reflected on a soap bubble.

We might think that extinction-level events – pandemics, riots, nukes, asteroids, zombies, twerking – are more than mere drama, but they never are because the world is never more than mere theater and we are never more than mere characters; it’s only your emotional infusion that brings it to life.

Willfully unsuspend your disbelief, bring your critical-reasoning faculties back online, and you’ll view even the most dire world events like you now view an episode of SquareBob SpongePants. This is not a matter of concept or theory or belief, but of clear-seeing from an elevated vantage. The only thing you can change is your perspective, and it starts with opening your eyes.

This might be a good time to unsubscribe from sunshine spirituality. If you take refuge in the notion of a higher-self and spiritual evolution, then you might believe you’re living in crazy times because you chose it at the soul level; that there are lessons for you to learn or opportunities for spiritual growth or karmic ribbons to be burned. Such beliefs might help you get through the night, but not to wake up.

Truth isn’t only true when it fits our narrative, it’s true in foxhole and burn ward, at deathbed and graveside. From today’s headlines: “Children Tortured, Raped and Buried Alive.” Providence may have spared you from the darkside of this amusement park, but as history and headlines show, it only takes a second to switch from It’s a Wonderful Life to Apocalypse Now. Every day is anything-can-happen day. Like it or not, them’s the rules.

Countless billions of seekers – more sincere, courageous and intelligent than myself – have failed to become finders, not because truth is so well hidden but because they were looking in the wrong place. That which you seek is not spiritual, it’s developmental, and it’s not found through growth but transition.

To quote myself:

The truth is that enlightenment is neither remote nor unattainable. It is closer than your skin and more immediate than your next breath. If we wonder why so few seem able to find that which can never be lost, we might recall the child who was looking in the light for a coin he dropped in the dark because “the light is better over here.

In truth, you are a point of infinite, featureless awareness which, through the magic of emotional alchemy, has become attached to the world of appearance, but despite what they promise in the spiritual marketplace, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can never be awake while your eyes are still closed. You can never become an adult while remaining fear-based, half-born and herdbound. You are either asleep or awake in the dreamstate, you can’t be both.

If you have a conceptual grasp of nonduality, then you have the power to disprove apparent reality for yourself, but you have not fully processed this nuclear insight and examined its aftermath. Not-two is the thought that destroys the universe, so if you still find yourself living in a soap opera bubble, it means you have yet to unleash the full potential of this weapon.

My universal advice under any circumstances is to get real, snap out of it, wake up. Open your eyes and see who and what and where you really are. That’s what I think everyone really wants – to complete their development and discover their potential – and here you are reading this, which suggests that’s what you want. Maybe this is your chance to make something happen. Maybe alarming events can trigger awakening in the same way a blinking light can trigger lucidity in our nighttime dreams. Maybe the wackier the world gets, the easier it will be to detach from it. Maybe the more nightmarish it becomes, the stronger the urge to escape will become.

We’re obviously in a wonky period now and it might be awhile before things stabilize again. Whether or not you and I live to see equilibrium restored is, like everything in the dreamstate, immaterial. And seriously, who goes to a movie to watch happy people anyway? Who goes to an amusement park to sit on a bench? You pay your nickel and ride the ride, but whatever ups-and-downs and thrills-and-chills occur along the way, you get off right where you got on. Anyone who believes that Armageddon is more meaningful than the popping of a zit has yet to carve memento mori on their heart: Remember your death.

Or, on the flipside: Remember that every day is the best day.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Yours, &c.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
The Search Is Over. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

None are more hopelessly enslaved
than those who falsely believe they are free.


After being redpilled by Morpheus and waking up aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo and the audience believe that he is now out of the simulation and in the real world, but he’s not.

At the end of the second movie, Neo uses his matrix powers outside the matrix, meaning he’s either a real-world superman, or the real world isn’t real. The common interpretation is the former, the correct one is the latter. Neo never got out. Everything in The Matrix is in the matrix.

Handy tip: Any time you’re not in the desert of the real – the infinite white field of Nothing Forever – you’re in a simulation. That’s what nonduality means.


The power of ego is emotion in the pole of fear. Ego forms emotional attachments to dreamstate elements in order to resist change and remain at the juvenile level of development, resulting in perpetual childhood and life in the herd. There are good reasons for that, but you’re reading this because you’re contemplating adulthood, which means shuffling off the egoic coil and leaving the herd behind.

Emotional attachment is how ego ties us to the eyes-closed, fear-based, halfborn, herd-level of perspective in which ego can exist. These attachments are the chains that bind us in Plato’s cave, but which are never locked. The journey of awakening involves undoing these bindings so we can rise into progressively more lucid and less distorted levels of perspective. That’s the spiritual journey in a nutshell. All you really are is awareness, so it’s all about perspective.

Once we transition to adulthood, we stop mistaking the egoic costume for the authentic self. The juvenile shell is cast off, the adult emerges, and our rightful life begins. Should that not occur naturally – and it never does – we become trapped in a state of spiritual neoteny; our bodies grow into adulthood while our mental-emotional-spiritual development remains stuck in childhood. The only reason that doesn’t make us sideshow freaks is because everyone is similarly afflicted. 


Thomas/Neo never figures anything out for himself. Team Morpheus descends from the clouds to drag Doubting Thomas to the starting line and push him across. Thomas takes the red pill and his great escape begins. And ends. 

Neo awakens to a different version of reality and all his doubts and discrimination disappear. He was skeptical about his 9-to-5 metro-hacker life, but he’s totally okay with joining the last band of rebels in fighting their A.I. overlords for the survival of humanity. And he knows kung fu. And he’s in love. And he’s The One. Yeah, nothing weird about that. 

It would have been more interesting, from our perspective, if Neo had thanked Team Morpheus for the assist, wished them good luck with the whole war-with-the-machines thing, and continued with his escape attempt. Instead, he has been tricked back into a herd he thinks broke out of and he’ll never try to escape again because he thinks he’s already free. (Did someone mention the spiritual marketplace?) That’s the intelligence of fear and that’s what you’re up against if you want to transition to adulthood.


At the beginning of The Matrix, Doubting Thomas is roughly where you are now; questioning the nature of his reality. He doesn’t know how or why, but he knows that things aren’t as they seem and he’s starting to obsess on it. It’s not really a splinter in his brain driving him mad, though. Ahab has a white-hot steel whalespike in his brain, Thomas just has an itch that’s disturbing his sleep.

As in the matrix, so in the dreamstate. When we get a little tingle that threatens to wake us, an array of egoic forces come online to guide us back into a deep, itch-free sleepstate. That’s what Morpheus – god of sleep and dreams – does for Neo. The red pill didn’t wake Neo up, it put him back to sleep. 

Neo had a splinter in his brain, now he doesn’t. He has been sedated and reinserted into a less bothersome narrative. His sleep was troubled, but now he accepts the world with which he is presented. He has not escaped from Maya’s Cineplex, he simply took a bathroom break and returned to a different movie. He thinks the old one was a sham, which it was, and the new one is real, which it’s not. 

The 3D theater is no more real than the 2D movie. Zion is no more real than the matrix. The dream of freedom is no more real than the dream of captivity. Once one is disabused of the fantasy, the question becomes, what is the reality? The answer to this question is not found in Plato’s Cave or Maya’s Cineplex, but beyond all opposites. 


Neo zigged when he should have zagged. He left all the amusements and distractions of a robust, full-spectrum simulation for the bone-dry reality of a subterranean shithole. Oops.

Cypher had the right idea. It was a dick move to betray his shipmates, but getting comfortably resettled in the matrix is the only option that makes any sense. When you have to live in caves and eat runny snot in the real world, the fake world starts looking pretty good. The planet is uninhabitable, so what are the humans fighting for? 

Your only decision before climbing into your battery-charging pod would be, do you want to retain your memories or revert to a bovine state of ignorance? Cypher chose to revert. He wanted his disbelief re-suspended so he wouldn’t remember he was living in a simulation. What the question amounts to is, do you want to be a child or an adult in the matrix; asleep or awake in your dreamstate? These are two totally different modes of interfacing with one’s environment, each with their pluses and minuses, depending on your perspective. 

Of course, in our updated understanding, all the humans in The Matrix are in the matrix and always have been. No one has ever been outside the matrix because there is no outside the matrix. 


I called your office. They said you’re real.

That’s very kind of them. Did you ask them what real means?

I didn’t have enough coins to get into that conversation.

Serenity, 2019

In Maya’s Cineplex are many theaters.

At the end of the 2012 version of Total Recall (director’s cut), the protagonist learns that the entire movie was just a memory implant, but decides it’s okay because love conquers all, even if the object of that love is a mirage. The hero is emotionally attached to an element of the simulation. By choosing heart over mind, he rejects truth and embraces the lie. That’s how ego keeps us asleep in the dreamstate. The better outcome would be that he’s never sure if he’s a secret-agent saving the world or a working stiff who bought a secret-agent memory package, but the director sells out the viewer for a cheap twist. 

In Star Trek Generations, Kirk gets unwittingly trapped in the paradise-illusion of the Nexus, a place of pure joy where time has no meaning.

Guinan tells Picard that the Nexus is “like being inside joy, as if joy was something tangible and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket.” She goes on to say, “I would have done anything, anything, to get back there.”

Eternal bliss doesn’t seem like the worst false narrative you could be trapped in. I suppose a lot of spiritual seekers are actually seeking the Nexus.

Picard, emotionally vulnerable due to family tragedy, is seduced by a Dickensian hearth-and-home fantasy but gets out of the illusion, while the villain, Soran, will do anything to get back in. So who’s the real villain? Soran, who just wants to get back to his happy-place, or party-pooper Picard who drags Kirk out of his and gets him killed? The lines are a little blurred so they make Soran a mass-murderer so we know he’s the baddy.

Soran and Cypher are both depicted as villains, but all they really want is to get back into the simulation. If they didn’t kill people and betray shipmates, no one would have a problem with them. Picard offered to find a way to get Soran back into the Nexus. Morpheus would probably drop Cypher off at the nearest pod farm and wish him luck.

For Cypher, reality is bleak and loveless. For Soran, reality is hell compared to the illusion of heaven. They aren’t villains, they just want to be happy. Who can blame them?

Soran was happy in the Nexus until the Enterprise “rescued” him. Kirk is happy in the Nexus until Picard yanks him out. Picard becomes intoxicated by the Nexus until his awareness is pierced by a glint of light and, with help, he sobers up. At key times, Kirk is asleep in the dreamstate, Picard is awake in the dreamstate, and Soran is awake from the dreamstate. Segregated Child, Integrated Adult, and Enlightened Whatever. As I seem fond of repeating, enlightenment is a booby-prize. Childhood is where your artificial self wants to be, adulthood is where your authentic self wants to be, and nobody wants to be enlightened.


Thomas/Neo wakes up from his boring old narrative to a shiny new narrative in which he’s a heroic figure fighting for a noble cause. He rejects his corporate drone persona in favor of a Superman/Savior character. Although he now has a precedent for the reality of false realities, he fully embraces the next one to come along. 

It doesn’t matter what we believe, only that we do believe. Ego doesn’t care what we dream, only that we stay in the dreamstate. It doesn’t matter what film you’re immersed in, only that you remain seated and live vicariously through your character. You’re a nine-to-five schlub by day and legendary hacker by night? Fine. You’re a superman-savior and last hope of humanity? Great. Just please stay in your seat and, above all, keep your disbelief suspended.

Most people die in the theater they were born in, but a glint of light has pierced your awareness and now, with help, you’re sobering up. Maybe.


The search for truth is the greatest failure in the history of mankind because it’s doomed before it begins. We start from wherever we are, not knowing that we’ve been going the wrong way since birth and that to make a start, we must first undo all our negative progress; no rebirth without first a death. That’s where mortal fear kicks in and ego takes over, and that’s how we manage not to find the one thing that can never be lost.

We spend decades spinning the emotional tendrils that hold us down at a pedestrian level of perspective. We want to increase our perspective without cutting ties – have cake/eat too – but it’s these ties that prevent our upward progress into elevated perspective. All this spirituality stuff really comes down to perspective; seeing what is and not what’s not.

The dreamstate is not based on the real world because there is no real world. Outside the artificial context of the dreamstate there is no time or space, no humans or machines, no planets or stars, no duality or causality, no you or me. We are, in truth, the beholder, not the beheld. As a basic understanding of nonduality informs us, the dreamstate is not based on anything else because there is nothing else. The dreamstate isn’t true and doesn’t exist, but it’s the only reality there is. The simulation is not a facsimile, it’s the original. That’s what nonduality means.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely shared, translated and reprinted.)

Whoever you are holding me now in hand, without one thing, all will be useless. I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,  I am not what you supposed, but far different.

Walt Whitman


My perspective is basically this: You are a human juvenile who wrongly believes yourself to be a human adult. By juvenile, I mean halfborn, herdbound, eyes-closed, fear-based child unknowingly stuck in the negative pole of your being, and by you, I mean everyone.

If that offends you, get used to it; there’s serious work to be done and, as Whitman says, after we start, we never lie by again. If you need to go to your safe space and hug your emotional support pony, or if you get triggered by the sound of one jazz-hand clapping, it’s probably best if we part ways now.

Just between you and me, you should accept the revelation that you’re developmentally arrested as good news because it means you can finally stop all your fruitless seeking and start some fruitful finding.

Victim or the Crime

You have failed to undergo the second-stage of your birth process which is not your fault because you never knew there was such a thing. Long story short, there is. This failure to launch has left you in what I call the Segregated State of Human Childhood, which is normal but not natural, rather than the Integrated State of Human Adulthood, which is natural but not normal.

Simply put, you’re a halfling and you don’t know it. This is called Spiritual Neoteny,  at least by me, and it means that you’ve carried the mental, emotional and spiritual characteristics of childhood into physical adulthood. You don’t know you suffer from this manmade malady because everyone suffers from it so it’s normal. You couldn’t do anything about it before because you didn’t know, but now you do so now you can.

Relax, I’m Probably Wrong

If I’m right about this one thing, it means that everyone else is wrong about everything. I mean, what are the odds? I’m comfortable with those odds, but you shouldn’t be. You should probably be thinking it’s the other way around; that humans are dandy and you’re a human so you’re dandy too. This Jed guy is just trying to sell a lot of books with his nutso humanity-is-asleep conspiracy junk, so you should just ignore him and keep doing what you’re doing. After all, it’s gotten you this far, hasn’t it?

On the other hand, this Jed guy didn’t bonk you on the head and drag you into his cave. You’ve been looking for a while and now you’re looking here. Perhaps, despite a history of unsuccessful searching, you still think there’s something to find. Perhaps you’re looking for something more than more of the same. That’s where this Jed guy comes in. I know what you’re looking for and I know how to find it.

The Search Is Over

The reason we’re addressing a developmental issue here is because this is what all your spiritual seeking has really been about. This is the secret you’ve been trying to learn, the level of consciousness you’ve been trying to achieve, and the source of the awesome benefits package you’ve been promised but haven’t received. It’s all real and it’s all really yours, it’s just not where they’re telling you to look. You’re looking for the right thing in the wrong place.

The fact is that you can’t get there from here. You have to go all the way back and start over. That’s what no one is telling you because they don’t know it themselves. Before rebirth must come a death. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly. I know it’s a drag, but that’s the deal.

Wearing hand-dyed free-trade cotton and sitting in a cloud of patchouli smoke with your legs twisted in knots while repeating a meaningless syllable might make you feel super-spiritual, but it has nothing to do with reclaiming your stolen birthright. All your sincerity, dedication, intelligence and heart will do nothing more for you than they’ve done for the countless millions of failed seekers before you.

The Spiritual Marketplace

All the various aspects of spirituality and religion can be grouped under the heading of Spiritual Marketplace. That’s where your dreams of a better life go to die; not because your dreams are bullshit, but because the spiritual marketplace is.

This massive bait-and-switch operation makes sense at the herd level, but not at the individual level. It’s not a conspiracy because there are no conspirators, only victims. The sole puppetmaster is Maya, the goddess of illusion. It is she who, through the intelligence of ego and the power of fear, manages to keep us confined in a prison with no locks; a pretty neat trick considering that the trickster herself doesn’t really exist.

You don’t really exist either, but you do seem to exist, and in the dreamstate we call reality, seeming is everything because it’s the only thing. All you are in truth is awareness, so the only direction for change is toward more lucid and less distorted perspective.

Three States

Right now you’re asleep in the dreamstate, a child. Other options include being awake in the dreamstate, an adult, and awake from the dreamstate, enlightened. The latter includes the former, but it’s really just the former you want, the latter being an over-hyped and universally misunderstood booby-prize.

For almost my first thirty years I was a child like everyone. Now I am awake both in and from the dreamstate, both enlightened and a well-developed adult. The enlightenment thing is binary, one is or one ain’t, but the adulthood thing just keeps going. I know adults further along than myself, but enlightenment-wise, I can have equals but not superiors.

The appropriate time to make the shift from child to adult is at the age of sexual maturity. As to whether you can reclaim your rightful adulthood at this late date, your chances aren’t zero, but they’re not great. Adulthood is not achieved through teaching, devotion, or practice because it’s about transition, not growth, and none of your adventures in the spiritual marketplace have prepared you for that.

Zen vs Taoism vs Advaita

Taoism is about waking up in the dreamstate and Zen is about waking up from the dreamstate. Zen, if it worked, would lead to enlightenment. Taoism, if it worked, would lead to adulthood.

Advaita, or nonduality, is not a teaching, ideology, belief system or practice, it’s just a simple fact with apocalyptic implications. Not-two is a universal falsifier, a tool that can dismantle the dreamstate, leading to our being awake in or from it. Most of those who grasp nonduality conceptually never put it to work practically, which is fine with me because then everyone would wake up and I’d have to go flip burgers.

When you undergo the caterpillar-butterfly transition to adulthood, you become a de facto Taoist sage, even if you’ve never given Taoism a second thought. Once transitioned, you begin a lifelong adventure of authentic creative expression with the universe as your playground, workshop and amusement park. That’s the rightful life of which you’ve been wrongly deprived.

The benefits package that comes with your promotion to adult-sage includes right-action and right-knowing, non-doing and effortless functioning, manifestation of authentic desires, integration with the cocreative dreamstate, alignment with your own unique potential, and a bunch of other cool stuff that you learn about and expand into as you go.

The Little Bastard Within

Somewhere deep inside, you already know that everything I’m saying is true. There is a tiny voice inside you that I call the Little Bastard Within, and the fact that you’re reading this means that tiny voice is trying to get your attention.

That Little Bastard is who I’m really talking to, and the you that you think of as you is actually what’s in the way. The way to win this battle is by opposing yourself. Your awakening depends entirely on the Little Bastard. You wake him up and he’ll wake you up.

Spiritual Autolysis

My advice is that you begin the process of awakening by revisiting your long-held and much-beloved assumptions and see how they stand up in the light of intense scrutiny. This is how you systematically deconstruct the cage of belief in which you have imprisoned yourself, but I think I’ll end now by suggesting that if you’re not living your ideal life, the key to your happiness is not to accumulate more baggage, but to dump the baggage you’re already hauling.

This is the process of detachment. All attachment is emotional and it’s always attachment to lies. The easiest way to sever any attachment is to open your eyes and see it clearly. Light is the universal purifier and clear-seeing is our true power. Lighting up the shadowy areas of our internal space is how we remove obstructions, restore free flow, and resume our natural development. Maybe you’ll make it all the way to sagely adulthood, or maybe you’ll just improve your current situation, but when it comes to hauling your own garbage around, less is always better.

I advocate a process I call Spiritual Autolysis which is really just focused and aggressive writing. Autolysis means self-digestion and I don’t really know what spiritual means. Your brain is no place for serious thinking because it is overwhelmingly dominated by your heart; 24:1 by some estimates. Get your thoughts down on paper where you can see them objectively from all sides without the distorting influence of emotion, and you will come to understand directly that intelligence is unimportant and thinking is all-important.

This is how you open your eyes and see clearly. This is how the severing of attachments can happen in a natural and relatively painless manner. Start small and don’t pretend; this is no time for make-believe and posturing. Attachments are pieces of yourself, so each detachment is an emotional amputation. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it. Detaching from something isn’t the same as cutting away the part of yourself that doesn’t want to, you have get the roots.

I guess those two pieces of advice — revisiting assumptions and severing attachments — are just different ways of saying the same thing. Both are the natural result of spiritual autolysis. Honest thought, undistorted and unimpeded by emotion, is the one true spiritual path, the goal of which is to know who and what and where you really are. All the techniques and teachings of the spiritual marketplace are intended to render you a perpetual seeker, which is why the search for truth — the one thing that can never be lost — is the greatest failure in the history of man.


Whether you understand your life this way or not, you’re on vacation right now. This is all just a creative playtime and you’re free to make a mess and break whatever you want. It’s all the same in the end whether you go to the forest to write shitty haiku (all haiku is shitty, ask your Little Bastard) or press the button that destroys the world. When you’re on vacation, it’s best to pack light, and you can’t do that if you’re hauling around every stupid thing you picked up as a child.

The good news is that your spiritual ambitions have been well-founded but misdirected. You were right to think there’s more to all of this, but you were wrong to follow a path of growth where only transition will do. If any of this makes sense to you, hang around — you’re in the right place.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
The Search Is Over. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna
(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

Well, I am certainly wiser than this man. It is only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of; but he thinks that he knows something which he does not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance. At any rate it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think that I know what I do not know.


What do you know? Really. What, with absolute certainty, do you know? Put aside all opinions, beliefs and theories for a moment and address this one simple question: What do you know for sure? Or, as Thoreau put it:
“Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe… through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin…”

In other words, let’s cut the crap and figure out what we know for sure. The cogito does exactly that, and it’s very simple. The question is: What do you know?

The answer is: I Am.

All other so-called facts are really non-facts and belong in the category of consensual reality and relative truth, i.e., unreal reality and untrue truth.

Cogito ergo sum is the equation that proves the fact. But first, before we go on, let’s ask what else we know. What else can be said for certain?

Nothing. We don’t know anything else. And that’s the real point of the cogito. The importance of I Am isn’t that it’s a fact, but that it’s the only fact.

I Am is the only thing anyone has ever known or will ever know. Everything else, all religion and philosophy and science, can never be more than dream interpretation. There is no other fact than I Am.

The cogito is the seed of the thought that destroys the universe. Beyond the cogito, nothing is known. Beyond the cogito, nothing can be known. Except I Am, no one knows anything. No man or god can claim to know more. No god or array of gods can exist or be imagined that know more than this one thing: I Am.

We can’t avoid letting this topic drift briefly into the Old Testament. When Moses asked God His name, God answered, “I am that I am.” The name God gives for Himself is I Am.

Note that I Am is unconjugatible. It allows of no variation. God doesn’t say, “My name is I Am, but you can call me You Are, or He Is.” The cogito, the I Am pronouncement, does not extend beyond one’s own subjective knowing. I can say I Am and know it as truth, but I can’t say you are, he is, she is, we are, they are, it is, etc. I know I exist and nothing else. Understood thusly, I Am, aka God, truly is the Alpha and the Omega; the entirety of being, of knowledge, of you.

The cogito is the line between fantasy and reality. On one side of the cogito is a universe of beliefs and ideas and theories. To cross the line is to leave all that behind. No theory, concept, belief, opinion or debate can have any possible basis in reality once the ramifications of the cogito have fully saturated the mind. No dialogue can take place across that line because nothing that makes sense on either side makes sense on the other.

Everyone thinks they understand the cogito, but nobody does. Descartes himself didn’t. If professors of philosophy truly understood the cogito, they wouldn’t be professors of philosophy. Alfred North Whitehead said that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato, but all philosophy, Plato included, is rendered obsolete and irrelevant by the cogito. Nothing but the subjective I Am is true, so what’s the point of prattling on? There’s simply nothing else to say.

The cogito isn’t a mere thought or an idea, it’s an ego-eating virus that, if we are able to lower our defenses against it, will eventually devour all illusion. Once we know the cogito, we can begin systematically unknowing everything we think we know, and unraveling the self we think we are. To understand the cogito at the surface level takes a minute or so. To let it devour you from the inside out can take years.

Life is but a dream. There is no such thing as objective reality.

Two cannot be proven. Nothing can be shown to exist. Time and space, love and hate, good and evil, cause and effect, are all just ideas. Anyone who says they know anything is really saying they don’t know the only thing. Any assertion of truth other than I Am is a confession of ignorance. The greatest religious and philosophical thoughts and ideas in the history of man contain no more truth than the bleating of sheep. The greatest books contain no more truth than the greatest luncheon meats.

No one knows anything.

Disprove it for yourself. Anyone wishing to deny these statements about the meaning of the cogito need merely prove that something, anything, is true. By all means, give it a try; smash your head against it, but it can’t be done. The cogito is like a Molotov cocktail with which we can firebomb our own mind, safe in the knowledge that truth doesn’t burn. This, however, is not the end of the journey of awakening.

It’s just the beginning.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

 By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

(This is adapted from a letter Jed wrote in reply to a self-professed “serious seeker” who made an impassioned offer to turn over his belongings and himself in exchange for being accepted as Jed’s student.)

Dear William,

You don’t need to add me to your equation, you need to subtract yourself. Begin by re-examining your assumptions. It’s clear from your letter that you consider yourself a serious person, a serious seeker. That’s the first assumption you’ll want to challenge. You’re sure that a serious seeker is what you are and you think I see you that way too, but this is not the case. I know serious when I see it and I know a handpuppet of Maya when I see it. You think you’re on top of something, but the only thing to be on top of is Maya, and she’s on top of you like a house on a mouse.

I receive many offers from people who want to come be with me. Maybe anyone perceived as a spiritual solution-provider receives this kind of offer, I wouldn’t know. People want to give up everything; their stuff, their money, their very lives, really. They don’t know what to do with them so I guess they figure, why not dump them on someone who seems more qualified, like a mother leaving her baby on the rich man’s doorstep. This may appear to be the ultimate sacrifice, a grand act of selflessness, but it’s really the ultimate entrenchment; fear gone haywire, ego solidifying its hold for decades to come. This isn’t how you surrender the self, this is how you abandon it; abdicate responsibility for your own life. I understand that this can be a very tempting response to a very perplexing challenge.

Nevertheless, your gesture suggests that you’re in an uncomfortable place. Good for you. That’s always the best place to be. Being so uncomfortable means you’ll soon have to move. That’s good. That’s the motivation that drives the journey of awakening. It’s a series of steps, none taken voluntarily, all necessitated by the kind of discomfort that caused you to write your letter to me. The motivation behind your letter is good, but throwing yourself at me is not a solution. What would I do with you? What possible instruction could I give?

Maybe I would tell you to cut off one ounce of your body every day until you can answer the question, “What is true?” Any ounce as long as it’s an ounce. That should bring you quickly into focus; light a fire under you. If you had to do this, cut off an ounce of your body every day, how much time do you think you would waste on meditation? On attending satsang or reading the latest spiritual bestseller? Not bloody much. You would soon become an enlightenment machine. Sleep and food would be reduced to barest minimums. Relationships and activities once deemed essential would be forgotten. You would enter into a burning mania of single-pointedness. Soon, anything other than the question What is true? would seem comically irrelevant. There’s your new-Zen; Zen for the new millennium. It would be interesting to see how many sand gardens and books of pithy aphorisms the self-mutilation approach sells.

What is true? That’s the only koan there is; the only one anyone ever needs. Every day you don’t answer this question, another ounce. Take a moment to think about what it would mean to have to sit down with a scalpel at a certain time every day and amputate an ounce of your body. You would quickly have to learn things about asking and answering, about how the process works and doesn’t work, about how to help it and how to get out of its way. You would have to learn how to unlearn, and you would need access to a tremendous amount of resources in order to accomplish such an unlearning. You would discard clever spiritual concepts for cold facts, pretty Eastern vocabulary for words of scientific precision. The process is one of seeing clearly, not just blindly lashing out. That act of seeing clearly takes time and resources and the mind must work almost ceaselessly at levels far beyond the everyday.

Would this work? Well, let’s say it did. Say it worked in 500 days. There you are after hacking off over 30 pounds of yourself, and now you’re truth-realized. Now you know directly, for yourself, without the slightest possibility of error, the truth. You are free from delusion; awakened from the dreamstate. You have joined the ranks of the spiritually enlightened. You look at your toeless feet, fingerless hands, noseless face, earless head, and what would you say? Here’s what you’d say:

“Well, uh, that was kinda dumb.”

I’m happy to tell you that right up front. Waking up is kinda dumb. There’s no point. It’s not merely pointless, it’s pointlessness. Who would do such a thing? Only someone who absolutely couldn’t not do it. Once you become the person who can’t not do it, it’s a whole different thing, but trying to do it before you absolutely must is as ludicrous as slicing off parts of your body. (Which, by the way, don’t do.)

As barbaric and unthinkable as this ounce-a-day approach may seem, I can assure you that anyone who has ever managed to awaken from the dreamstate was driven by equally unendurable mental and emotional forces, something to consider the next time you hear the pop guru de jour recount the moment of his glorious epiphany: “I was walking in the park, children were laughing, birds were singing, when all of a sudden…”

This is where the process of Spiritual Autolysis comes in. Spiritual Autolysis is ultimately about clear seeing; clearly seeing what is, which is what we do when we stop seeing what’s not. We can use SA to raise the ordinary powers of the mind up to the extraordinary levels necessary in order to see life and the world and ourselves as they truly are. Many people can build nuclear reactors, compose symphonies, conquer nations or perform brain surgery, but very few can see what is.

You mention in your letter that Alan Watts said that we are the apertures through which the universe sees and experiences itself. It might be more useful to say we are the imperfect lenses through which the universe, or the I-universe, observes itself; through which the undifferentiated creates the illusion of differentiation. It’s an amusing idea to play with. Self is distortion: distortion by design. 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. Imperfection does not otherwise exist, so an artificial imperfection is created; ego. Seekers may strive to become a perfect lens but, of course, the perfect lens is no lens; no imperfections, no lens, just what is. Your imperfections are not only who and what you are, but why you are. The finiteness and the imperfection of the lens are the reasons for the lens. No lens means the universe goes unbeheld, so what has been accomplished by this act? Who is served? Who benefits? This reinforces my earlier statement that awakening is pointless — trading segregated self for integrated no-self, finite being for infinite non-being — all this by way of saying not that perfection is unattainable, but that it’s unavoidable. Perfection is. It is what is. There is no other. In truth, there is no such thing as non-perfect or imperfect. The point of finite and imperfect lenses is to create artificial realms of finiteness and imperfection in which to play.

(The original letter cites an Indian saint to bolster an argument and
then proceeds as if the words of the sage were accepted fact.)

Don’t come at me brandishing dead guys like potent allies. It doesn’t help you. They can’t put up a fight. If you can’t make the argument, you can’t summon the dead to make it for you. That’s a logical fallacy called Ipse Dixit: “He himself said it.” In law, it’s called the dead man’s statute and it’s inadmissible. You can’t elect a ghost proxy. You’re borrowing authority from someone who is incontestable not by merit, but by death. Your argument is unassailable because the person making it is unavailable. You’re saying that if he were here, he could make the argument, but he’s not here. You can borrow words and ideas and quotations from the terminally absent to help illustrate a point, but if it’s your point, it’s your problem; your argument to make.

In any case, if he were here, he couldn’t make the argument. I’m familiar with the beloved teacher of whom you speak. I promise you that if he were here I could slice him into a garnish while rubbing my tummy and patting my head. No effort required. No contest. You could do the same by this time tomorrow if you’d stop being lazy and start thinking for yourself.

Your spirituality is just another false garment, another layer of the lie of self. Your spirituality defines the dimensions of your cell and the fact that you don’t see that tells me that you have no idea where you are or whose rules you are living under. You have no grasp of your true situation, of the nature of your captive status. You’re clinging desperately to your lies; shielding them with emotional energy. Why? Because these lies are you. They are who you are. You don’t have imperfections, you are imperfections. Ask yourself why you even write to me? What’s the point? None of what I’m saying is new to you. And yet here you are, writing impassioned letters to me, trying to stand your lies back up on their feet. If you like your lies, fine, but you’re not going to make them true through the power of your conviction. Who you are is a lie; that’s a fact. You’re a fictional character in a state of wondrous denial. What you think of as your uniqueness is really nothing more than a series of randomly set toggle switches, and the particular settings you call “me” amount to nothing more special than the distinctions between any two snowflakes in an endless blizzard.

A serious person must remember at all times where he is and who’s running the show. This is Maya’s house. She controls everything. She has every advantage. We are patients in Maya’s asylum, and all instruction to sit still and quiet the mind come directly from her. Stillness and silence are the antithesis of the awakening process, and those who advocate peace and compassion and a quiet mind are just reselling their preferred sleep potions. There are even popular spiritual teachers and authors who advocate doing nothing at all; they say that effort itself is the problem, that the discontentment that drives the spiritual pursuit is the only thing standing between ourselves and the goal of that pursuit. Is it any wonder that such a message would be popular? Is there any doubt from whom such a message really comes? You indicate in your letter that you believe a teacher’s lineage is important, so there’s the one true lineage; Maya. If you wish to understand any spiritual teacher’s lineage, you need only imagine him dangling from marionette lines of which he is unaware, spouting off about free will, the hand of Maya above, controlling everything.

Even as you write to me and I write to you, we are dissolving in a vat of a corrosive chemical called oxygen. We are genetically programmed to self-destruct. Our lives are being swallowed by time and every inhalation may be the last. The inescapable fact is that we are all practitioners of the New Zen I described above. Every day we lose an ounce or a gram or a pound and someday, poof!, gone as if we never were.

There’s only one koan and it’s the same for all of us:

What is true?

Yours, &tc

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

This article may be freely reprinted. Please retain the footer information and link.

In the knowledge of the Atman,
which is the dark night to the ignorant,
the recollected mind is fully awake and aware.

The ignorant are awake in their sense-life,
which is darkness to the sage.

Bhagavad Gita

KAMIEL CAME PREPARED. He carries a bulging, well-worn, triple rubber-banded notebook full of thoughts, ideas, and questions accumulated during several years of reading spiritual books, attending spiritual gatherings, and participating in spiritual Internet discussion groups.

“A lot of teachers,” he informs me, “say that the necessary first step in awakening is dissatisfaction; a gnawing discontentment on the feeling level. Is that what you mean when you talk about intent?”

Most of Kamiel’s reading in recent years has centered on the works of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramesh Balsekar, Jean Klein and that whole crew. He seems philosophically inclined toward the peculiar brand of nonduality and neo-Advaita Vedanta that attracts a growing audience these days. Its allure seems based on its simple core truth; not-two. While not-two is not exactly true, two is exactly not true, and therefore succinctly marks the endpoint of dualistic thought; you’d think. Where nondual enthusiasts go astray is in trying to erect a philosophical structure atop this simple truth. Truth is always simple and never provides the basis for any philosophy, but Kamiel is determined to believe that his ramshackle nondual philosophy is structurally sound. I’ve explained to him that you can’t build a philosophy of This on a foundation of Not-This, but he is quite attached to his improbable little edifice and not yet ready to decamp.

Which is perfectly fine. Waking up is a stop-and-go journey. It takes a lot of hard work to reach a plateau like nonduality and pausing to rest and acclimate before moving on is part of the process. Nonduality may not be the final destination new arrivals might suppose, but getting there is an impressive and challenging feat and the views are rewarding in all directions. What’s more, I like Kamiel and generally enjoy talking with him. He asks good questions that elicit interesting answers. I’m usually limited to speaking in monologues rather than dialogues, but it’s the student who calls the tune and Kamiel makes a good job of it.

“Well,” I respond after thinking about his question a bit, “I guess it’s a matter of degree. Let’s try out a new analogy. I’m making this up on the fly so bear with me. Here’s the situation: You’re sitting in your skyscraper office a hundred stories off the ground thinking about how successful you are and how your life is just grand. With me so far? In terms of satisfaction, you’re very satisfied. You have it all; fancy office, great views, the respect and admiration of those around you, everything you ever wanted. Okay?”


“So, you’re like that—happy, content, well-satisfied—for however long; months, years, decades. But then one day, for whatever reason, dissatisfaction begins to creep in. Something about your office starts to bug you. It starts with little things. You’re dissatisfied with your curtains; they don’t go with the credenza at all. ‘What was I thinking?’ you wonder. ‘How could I have been so blind?’ And now that you’re looking more closely, it’s obvious that the carpet is a fiasco and the artwork is just an embarrassment. One minute you’re happy, the next minute you’re very dissatisfied. Extremely dissatisfied. This office is simply not an accurate outward representation of your inner professional. You’ve outgrown it.”

“It actually sounds like a pretty cool office.”

“Yes, well, that’s what everyone else thinks; your friends, colleagues, your family. They think you’ve got it made and that you’re nuts for wanting to mess with it. Of course, you’re only dissatisfied when you’re in the office. You pretty much forget about it when you’re anywhere else. Right?”


“And you’re following the analogy, right? These things can be a bit wobbly the first time out. Your office represents your relationship to the larger questions of life and your dissatisfaction represents—”

“Got it.”

“Good. So what’s the answer? What do you do about this very dissatisfying office of yours?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Redecorate?”

“Yeah, that sounds right. But this time you’re going to be very serious about it. You’re going to bring in a top-notch decorator and strip the place down to the floorboards and start from scratch. You’re not going to be a mere dabbler; you’re going all the way with this. You’re a serious professional and you deserve a serious office. See what I mean? See how what started as a gnawing little dissatisfaction has grown into a life-transforming event?”

“Okay,” he says dutifully.

“So that’s what you do. You go out and buy books and magazines on interior design. You talk to people and attend lectures and events. You hire the best decorator you can find; someone you resonate with deeply. You yourself are being transformed by this experience. You yourself are growing, developing, expanding. It’s very challenging, but you’re taking a no-nonsense approach. It’s slow going, but little by little change is occurring. Your office is starting to look and feel like a genuine outer representation of your inner professional. It may take years to get it right, but nothing will stop you. This is too important. In fact, it has become one of the most important things in your life, right up there with home and family. See what I mean?”

“Yes,” he says eagerly. “The master decorator represents the guru and the redecorating process represents the spiritual transformation we undergo when we truly begin to challenge our beliefs and seek higher knowledge. What started out as kind of a gnawing dissatisfaction has grown into the impetus for important change, and although it might seem like a bad thing at first, this is how the process of change works. This is how we develop, how we grow.”

“Exactly,” I say. “Nobody acts from contentment. We need problems to solve or else we vegetate. That great office was once something we strived to get, then it was achieved and enjoyed in contentment, but then discontent sets in to let us know that it’s time to move on.”

“So,” says Kamiel, “that’s what the teachers are talking about when they discuss the dissatisfaction needed to spur us on, right? It might seem bad or uncomfortable, but it’s really a good thing?”

“Sounds right,” I say.

“And that’s the sort of determination and focus that’s required in order to awaken from delusion? To become truth-realized?” He smiles, excited, like he’s just now getting the big picture. “So that’s what you mean by purity of intent!”

I smile back.

“Fuck no. That’s what I mean by recipe for failure.”

His dismay is instantly apparent. I’ve cut him off in the first rush of a new grokking and now he’s confused and hurt. I did this intentionally. I didn’t allow myself to be drawn into this “A lot of teachers say—” conversation just wanting to make a point; I wanted counterpoint. That’s what the dialogue has been up until now because I wanted to make a clear distinction. This is the critical distinction between seekers and finders. This is where the line is drawn; a line the existence of which “a lot of teachers” don’t even suspect.

“That’s the sort of pathetic, half-assed approach that is absolutely certain to keep you confined to your current state. That’s the sort of approach that everyone takes, and that’s why they fail.”

He visibly and audibly gulps. “Oh.”

“The very people and institutions that are supposedly dedicated to waking us up are doing exactly the opposite. They are lulling us into a more comfortable sleep. That’s what we really want and that’s what they really provide.”

He doesn’t seem pleased. “Oh, God… well then… then what drives the process of true awakening?”

“Purity of intent, but what does that really mean? Okay, you’re back in the office again, totally satisfied with everything. Life is great. Okay?”


“Okay. So now dissatisfaction starts to creep in on you, but this time the dissatisfaction stems from the fact that you smell smoke.”

“The building is on fire now?”

“Wake up and smell the coffin, Kamiel. The building has always been on fire, you were just repressing that knowledge until now. But now you’re aware of it and it’s causing you some dissatisfaction. Quite a lot, in fact, and more with every passing moment. Now for the first time you realize that the flames are right outside the door and the temperature is rising. Acrid black smoke is pouring in. The door bursts into flames. There is no exit. Now you’re very, very dissatisfied with your office. In fact, you’re starting to hate your office quite profoundly. See how this dissatisfaction—this gnawing discontentment on the, uh, feeling level—is of a more immediate and compelling nature then the dissatisfaction brought on by the décor?”

He nods mutely.

“Sure. Now your dissatisfaction with your office is quite intense. Searing, really. In fact, your dissatisfaction is so intense that it feels like you’re on fire, like you can’t stand to be in your own skin, like anything would be better than more of this. Now you have no thought at all for career, home, or family. Due to a change in your personal circumstances they’ve all been reduced to complete irrelevance. Beliefs and concepts disappear and even death is suddenly small. You’re very focused now. You’re in the moment, very present. The flames are feet away. Your dissatisfaction with your office is well beyond anything even a master decorator could handle for you, agree?”

He nods.

“And there’s no return, is there? No going back. No do-over. The fire is here. It’s a fact. Do you see that?”

He nods again.

“And you’re completely alone in all this. There’s no rescue. Your office is engulfed in flames and there’s no one here to save you. Not Jesus or Buddha or the Pope or your mama. This is your dissatisfaction. This is your problem. This is your agony. This is you about to burn to death, okay?”


“Okay. So what do you do?”


“Your world is burning. The whole office is in flames. You’re in a hopeless, no-escape situation. The pain has started and will only get worse. I think we can safely say that your dissatisfaction is now quite pronounced. What do you do?”

“Christ, I don’t know. Go out the window?”


“Hell, I don’t know. What else?”

“Yeah, I guess so. You’re in this inferno of an office while outside the window is blue sky, white clouds, and freedom from suffering. That seems like the only possible solution given your very dissatisfying circumstances. But—”

“But what?”

“Well, that’s not Hollywood glass in those skyscraper windows. You start flinging yourself against the window but it doesn’t give. Your dissatisfaction is of such intensity that you might break bones and crack your skull from hurling yourself desperately against the window, all to no avail.”

“Yeah, then what? What happens?”

“Well, the obvious thing is that you might simply perish in the hellish inferno. No law against dying.”

He looks at me desperately.

“Or, maybe you have some object that allows you to break the window out. Or maybe the sheer intensity of your—what are we calling it, dissatisfaction?—allows you to break through the unbreakable window. So, boom!, you blow out the window. Now there’s nothing left in the equation but you, the raging fire, and a hundred story plummet to the sidewalk below. Everything is suddenly quite simple. Perhaps for the first time, your life is perfectly clear.”

“Yeah? Then?”

“Burn or jump, I guess.”

“Burn or jump?”

“Do you see another option?”

“Burn or jump,” he says flatly.

“When you become so dissatisfied with your office that the hundred story plummet and the sidewalk seem like the better option, so dissatisfied that you actually hurl yourself out the window, then you know the level of dissatisfaction necessary to awaken from delusion.”

He is silent for several moments, head bowed, thoughtful. “I guess dissatisfaction isn’t the right word.”

“Maybe not,” I agree. “I call it purity of intent, but that doesn’t really capture it either.”

“And that’s something every enlightened master went through?”

“You say it like there are countless enlightened masters dotting the spiritual landscape, but there are extremely few, and now you know why.”

“Jesus,” he mumbles, seemingly sincere in his effort to truly appreciate what he’s just been told. “Jesus.”

I deliver the moral of the story in three easy pieces.

“The price. Of truth. Is everything.”

“Jesus,” he repeats.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, posted and translated.)

But with the clear certitude of the self’s disappearance, there automatically arose the question of what had fallen away — what was the self? What, exactly had it been? Then too, there was the all-important question: what remained in its absence?

Bernadette Roberts

No man is a prophet in his own country. That line keeps running through my mind as I sit over lunch with my sister who I haven’t seen in several years. These days I’m the enlightened guy, but to her I’m just the bratty kid who couldn’t make eye contact when she wore a bikini.

It’s summer ‘01 and we’re having lunch in lower Manhattan. She read a preview copy of Damnedest and has had a few months to digest it. It was very nice of her to read it because it’s really not her kind of thing. She’s a good citizen; a successful executive, wife, mother, Republican, tennis nut, Christian-ish, and all-round productive member of society. (She once told me she was raising her children to be productive members of society and I winced so hard I almost chipped a tooth.) She’s a wonderful person, but not a member of the demographic the book speaks to.

There’s a plate of chilled pasta in front of me and a salad in front of her. We’re both drinking iced tea. She runs the creative side of a medium-sized ad agency and, I have no doubt, she’s very good at it. She’s taking time out of her very hectic schedule to have lunch with me. After this, I’m going to the park to lay in the grass and watch people play with their dogs.

Visiting your sister and having lunch shouldn’t be a confusing ordeal, but it is. Is she really my sister? What does that mean? We share some history and acquaintances, such as childhood and parents. Are my parents really my parents? Genetically they are related to my body, but the person who lived my childhood is no longer here. The past I share with this person is about as real and important to me as if I’d read it in a brochure.

The problem is that these people, my family, are all related to my shell, and I’m not. They’re looking at the outer Jed McKenna and assuming an inner Jed McKenna. I’m inside Jed McKenna looking out and I can’t really remember what he’s supposed to do or say. It’s all fakery. I’m an actor playing a role for which I feel no connection and have no motivation. There cannot be anything genuine in my dealings with people who are dealing with my outer garment. (The whole thing is further entangled by the fact that there’s no “I” inhabiting my shell, just a fading echo, but let’s not go down that road just now.)

Actually, it’s not really confusing. I possess not the least shred of doubt about who and what I am. The tricky thing is that who and what I am is not related to this pretty, professional, salad-eating woman across from me. By coming to this lunch I have inserted myself into a situation where I do not belong. I am an impostor. I have some residual fondness for my sister and if she died I’d be saddened to think that she was no longer in the world, but the simple fact is that our former relationship no longer exists.

Okay, so why am I telling you this?

Because that’s what I do. I try to hold this enlightenment thing up for display and this seems like an interesting aspect of the whole deal. How do you relate to the people who were most important to you before awakening from the dream of the segregated self?

She asks why I’m in town.

My astrologers told me it was a good time to get away and not try to accomplish anything. They said that ketu and rahu wouldn’t be letting me get anything done for awhile anyway—”

I look up and see that she has stopped chewing in mid-mouthful and is staring at me incredulously.


“My astrologers—”

“You’re not serious. You have astrologers?

Oh yeah, I guess that sounds weird. I was vaguely aware that I was trying to be funny by starting a sentence with “My astrologers told me—” but what’s a little amusing to me is otherworldly to her. Might as well have fun with it.

“I have dozens of astrologers. I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who’s doing my chart or explaining how my future will unfold; advising me on pretty much everything.”

Her expression doesn’t change. “You have astrologers?”

“Lots. Gotta beat ‘em off with a stick.”

“And they tell you… they tell you what the future holds? What you should do? When you should do it? What you should avoid? Is that what we’re talking about?”

“I suppose.”

She resumes chewing but the wide-eyed gaze remains. There’s a chasm in this conversation across which there’s no point trying to communicate. She knows I’m into some serious weirdness, but not how much or what kind. I don’t really have astrologers, of course, but in those days it did seem like I was surrounded by students of Eastern and Western astrology who were always very eager to share their readings.

“What do you do with all that information?”

“Me? Nothing. I mean, I don’t ask for it. It’s not like I wake up and summon the court astrologers to plan my day.”

“It sounds like you do.”

“I was speaking lightly.”

I’m trying to skip playfully along the surface of this conversation. I don’t want to sink down into the kind of answer I’d give a serious student. The truth is that I don’t possess any mechanism that would allow me to be curious or concerned about the future, but saying that doesn’t make for breezy conversation.

“Jesus,” she says, shaking her head. “My little brother has his own astrologers.”

“Well, they’re not really mine. They’re just in attendance, so to speak.”

I’m used to conversing with people who aren’t awake and aren’t happy about it. Everything else is chit-chat; talking for the sake of talking, reinforcing the illusion of self. I’m not against it, I just don’t care to participate in it.

“So, you obviously have a great deal of influence over your students,” she says as she sips her iced tea. I mull her statement over and decide that I don’t have a response. I take another bite of pasta, wishing I’d ordered something with meat.

“I mean,” she says, “they obviously hold you in very high regard. That’s quite a responsibility.”

She thinks, quite understandably, that she’s my big sister and we’re having a nice little catch-up lunch. She’s been thrown a curve with this little-brother/spiritual-master thing and she’s trying to handle it. Does she think I’m a fraud? Does she think I’m running a game? Does she think that underneath it all I’m still really her little brother? I don’t know and I don’t much care. The fact that she’s read Damnedest doesn’t mean that she and I can speak; it means she should know we can’t. She doesn’t seem to be clear on that. Maybe she thinks the enlightenment thing is just my day job and that I can step out of that role to be with someone who knows the real me.

“I don’t know. I suppose it’s a responsibility.”

“You don’t know? Obviously these people are strongly influenced by you. You don’t think that’s a big responsibility?”

I shrug. The first thing she said to me when we got together was that I wasn’t dressed well enough for the restaurant. Such a statement is so alien to me that I could only shrug. Now it seems that every statement she makes is so alien to me that I can only shrug.

In accepting this lunch engagement, my hope was that I could slip back into my old persona enough to manage a civil meal. That was too hopeful. I can no longer impersonate myself and I am simply unable to formulate a reply to anything she has to say; I’ve forgotten my lines. We don’t share a common tongue and there’s no way I can make her see that. From her point of view she’s saying perfectly normal, conversational things.

“Yes, I suppose it’s a big responsibility,” I say, trying to say something that sounds like I’m saying something.

She lowers her voice. “You hear a lot about people in your position taking advantage of that responsibility for,” she lowers her voice, “unsavory purposes. I hope you would never do something like that.”

I could simply tell her what the preview copy of the book was meant to tell her, that we are no longer related because what I am now doesn’t relate. But why say it? To satisfy myself? It wouldn’t. To inform her? It wouldn’t.

“You mean sex stuff? That sort of thing?”

“Whatever. Power corrupts. I just hope you’ll be careful.”

Sweet. Big sister giving little brother some advice on how to shoulder the burden of power. Being in advertising, perhaps she thinks we have something in common; wielding the power to influence people’s thoughts. Maybe she thinks we’re in the same business, I don’t know.

I set down my fork and sit back. “Well, when I walk through the house, I always have someone precede me with a boom-box playing Darth Vader theme music to lend a weighty and ominous air to my approach. And I certainly don’t dress like this. I have, you know, the robes, the beads, and I always carry fresh flowers. Just trappings, all very tiresome, really, but the underlings expect it. There was a little resistance at first to having them call me Shri Shri Shri Shri Jed, but they got the hang of it. And remembering to speak in the first person plural there and singular here can take a little getting used to, but we are—I mean, uh, I am—happy to make the effort. Noblesse oblige and all.”

She stares at me for a long moment, then bursts into laughter. I guess some ice has broken because we are able to continue in a lighter and friendlier manner, and eventually say goodbye with genuine fondness.

I doubt I’ll ever see her again, but I’m happy knowing she’s still in the world.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;
whether there be tongues, they shall cease;
whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13

Being critical of Buddhism isn’t easy. Buddhism is the most likable of the major religions, and Buddhists are the perennial good guys of modern spirituality. Beautiful traditions, lovely architecture, inspiring statuary, ancient history, the Dalai Lama; what’s not to like?

Everything about Buddhism is just so — nice. No fatwahs or jihads, no inquisitions or crusades, no terrorists or pederasts, just nice people being nice. In fact, Buddhism means niceness. Niceism.

At least, it should.

Buddha means Awakened One, so Buddhism can be taken to mean Awake-ism. Awakism. It would therefore be natural to think that if you were looking to wake up, then Buddhism — Awakism — would be the place to look.

The Light is Better Over Here

Such thinking, however, would reveal a dangerous lack of respect for the opposition. Maya, goddess of delusion, has been doing her job with supreme mastery since the first spark of self-awareness flickered in some monkey’s brainbox, and the idea that the neophyte truth-seeker can just sign up with the Buddhists, read some books, embrace some new concepts and slam her to the mat would be a bit on the naive side, (as billions of sincere but unsuccessful seekers over the last twenty-five centuries might grudgingly attest).

On the other hand, why not? How’d this get so turned around? It’s just truth. Shouldn’t truth be, like, the simplest thing? Shouldn’t someone who wants to find something as ubiquitous and unchanging as truth be able to do so? How can anyone manage to not find truth? And here’s this venerable organization supposedly dedicated to just that very thing, even named for it, and it’s a total flop.

So what’s the problem?

Why Doesn’t Buddhism Produce Buddhas?

The problem arises from the fact that Buddhists, like everyone else, insist on reconciling the irreconcilable. They don’t just want to awaken to the true, they also want to make sense of the untrue. They want to have their cake and eat it too, so they end up with nonsensical theories, divergent schools, sagacious doubletalk, and zero Buddhas.

Typical of their insistence on reconciling the irreconcilable is the Buddhist concept of Two Truths, a poignant two-word joke they don’t seem to get, and yet this sort of perversely irrational thinking is near the very heart of the failed search for truth. We don’t want truth, we want a particular truth; one that doesn’t threaten ego; one that doesn’t exist. We insist on a truth that makes sense given what we know, not knowing that we know nothing.

Nothing about Buddhism is more revealing than the Four Noble Truths which, not being true, are of dubious nobility. They form the basis of Buddhism, so it’s clear from the outset that the Buddhists have whipped up a proprietary version of truth shaped more by market forces than any particular concern for the less consumer-friendly, albeit true, truth.

Buddhism may be spiritually filling, even nourishing, but insofar as truth is concerned, it’s just the same old junkfood in a different package. You can eat it every day of your life and die exactly as awakened as the day you signed up.

Bait & Switch

Buddhism is a classic bait-and-switch operation. We’re attracted by the enlightenment in the window, but as soon as we’re in the door they start steering us over to the compassion aisle. Buddhists could be honest and change their name to Compassionism, but who wants that?

There’s the rub. They can’t get us in the door with compassion, and they can’t deliver on the promise of enlightenment.

It’s not limited to compassion, of course. Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of goodies and enticements, practically anything anyone could ever want, with just the one rather notable exception.

If they had just stopped when they had Anicca, impermanence, and Anatta, no-self, then they would have had a true and effective teaching they could be proud of, except there would be no they because Buddhism would have died with the Buddha. They’d have a good product, but no customers.

This untruth-in-advertising is the kind of game you have to play if you want to stay successful in a business where the customer is always wrong. You can either go out of business honestly, or thrive by giving the people what they want. What they say they want and what they really want, though, are two very different things.

Me Me Me

To the outside observer, much of Buddhist knowledge and practice seems focused on spiritual self-improvement. This, too, is hard to speak against, except within the context of awakening from delusion. Then it’s easy.

There is no such thing as true self, so any pursuit geared toward its aggrandizement, betterment, upliftment, elevation, evolution, glorification, salvation, etc, is utter folly. How much more so any endeavor undertaken merely to increase one’s own happiness or contentment or, I’m embarrassed just to say it, bliss?

Self is ego and ego resides exclusively in the dreamstate. If you want to break free of the dreamstate, you must break free of self, not stroke it to make it purr or groom it for some imagined brighter future.

Maya’s House of Enlightenment

The trick with being critical of so esteemed and beloved an institution is not to get dragged down into the morass of details and debate. It’s very simple: If Buddhism is about awakening, people should be waking up. If it’s not about awakening, they should change the name.

Of course, Buddhism isn’t completely unique in resorting to shoddy marketing tactics. This same gulf between promise and performance is found in all systems of human spirituality. We’re looking at it in Buddhism because that’s where it’s most pronounced. No disrespect to the Buddha is intended. If there was a Buddha and he was enlightened, then it’s Buddhism that insults his memory, not healthy skepticism. Blame the naked emperor’s retinue of lackeys and lickspittles, not the unbeguiled lad who merely states the obvious.

Buddhism is arguably the most elevated of man’s great belief systems. If you want to enjoy the many valuable benefits it has to offer, then I wouldn’t presume to utter a syllable against it. But, if you want to escape from the clutches of Maya, then I suggest you take a closer look at the serene face on all those golden statues, and see if it isn’t really hers.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies.
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