Me and Jed McKenna

My Favorite Self Portrait

OUTSIDE MAGDALENA, NM—I recently finished Jed McKenna’s Theory of Everything, which ironically came out around the time I was re-releasing A Simple Explanation for Everything (two very different books though).

As I read it, I found myself in the odd place of being both in agreement with some of his conclusions, while at the same time in disagreement with most of his logic.

He’s basically coming at enlightenment from the I AM perspective made famous by Nisargadatta: All is Consciousness and all manifestation is illusion (which from the Emptiness Level, I agree with).

But his reasoning for arriving at this conclusion is flawed by a simple assumption: If I don’t know something to be true, then it must be false. He doesn’t say that outright (I don’t think) but it is the assumption behind all his logical analysis. “I can only know that Consciousness exists (true), and I don’t known if anything else exists (true), therefore Consciousness is true and all else is not true (false).”

That’s like saying, since I don’t know that Pluto exists, therefore it doesn’t exist.

But as I said, I agree with his conclusion that all is Consciousness (but only from the Emptiness Level).

What I do not like about this focus on Emptiness is that it leads to nihilism which is just a short step from amorality which is just a short step from all the horrors that amorality can lead to (rape, mass-murder, etc.). To quote McKenna, “how laughing babies and child burn wards were no different to me.”

Where I try to focus on the integration of the Fullness with the Emptiness—the Paradox—McKenna says (as do many enlightenment teachers) that all these things we see and experience are an illusion, just dream-stuff of Consciousness. In other words, Emptiness is truth, all else is a persistent dream.

BS as far as I’m concerned.

Emptiness is All and Fullness is All. Unity is true and Separation is true. Both conflicting sides are equally true (ergo the Paradox).

Still, McKenna for all his rationality, exhibits the wonderful duplex personality. What I call Her, McKenna calls Perfect Intelligence, and it is almost like reading about myself when he says his life is almost magically guided by this Perfect Intelligence:

I perceive over lighting intelligence and I operate in alignment with it. I may not understand it, and I could be wrong, but for more than twenty years now this has been my sole mode of navigation, and it has been not just constant and unerring, but magical.

And you probably thought I was crazy because I’m always talking about listening and surrendering to Her.

Anyway, a useful read if you are into trying to prove to your silly mind that “Consciousness is All,” but it rubbed me a bit wrong on his flawed logic (even if I do (partially) agree with his conclusions).

If you do read it, and afterward you are convinced that “all this” is just a dream, then I ask you to do a simple experiment to prove it to yourself: Just slam a hammer down on your finger and—since it’s just a dream—shatter the dream hammer with your dream finger. Piece of cake in a dream. Do that and then maybe I’ll revise my opinion on this so-called illusion.

Though it can’t be grasped with the mind, Unity and Separation (Emptiness and Fullness) together are the Truth… two oddly conflicting yet equal truths.

Two wonderful truths—with the mystics of the ages swimming in between them.

PS: The photo is from back in 2009 when I had the sneaky suspicion that I was killing celebrities.

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30 thoughts on “Me and Jed McKenna

  1. Hi Wayne

    I have been reading your references to “Her” and i must admit that i am intrigued by your description of something that i have been feeling for a long time. Do you mean an inner knowing or gut feeling that guides your decisions?

    I have previously been heavily involved in Vajrayanna Buddhism and i was wondering if you have previously practiced Buddhism as this description feels to myself like the description of one of the Tantric deities (Vajrayogini).

    Do you experience “Her” as an inner Knowing that guides everything that you do and encounter? This is the way that i experience what i call “Her”.

    I love reading your blogs and regard them as a real source of inspiration.


    • I could probably write a whole book on how She/We/I interact and communicate, but the simplest analogy would be that She feels like an intimate lover. Separate but One with me—which ironically, is kind of my main point of this post. 😀

  2. Isn’t the fourth Sutra, the so called Diamond Sutra along the lines of: form is emptiness and emptiness is form. I’m not a Buddhist by trade but I think that is pretty close.

  3. Very interesting Wayne. I had similar issues with Jed’s book ‘Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing’. He seemed to be indicating there is a ‘final enlightenment’, whereas as you suggest, Rob indicates above, and Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many mansions.” I just took it as where the author is at for now, but, as I don’t know anyone else who even knows who ‘Jed’ is, your sharing adds another perspective. Thanks as always.

  4. Although it deals with universe/big bang science, geology, human orgins, etc., instead of mysticism, Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is a funny and informative read for the curious to add to the collection.

  5. Interesting, I read his current book as well. If he is truth realized nor enlightened, then to me the book is almost pointless, which I think he would probqbly agree with as well. By that I mean if he is truth realized and his reality paradigm changed, then he is describing a reality out of our level of comprehension. That seems to be the difficult if not impossible part of being enlightened. He can describe it all he wants but until we get a taste its a rather pointless case to make. To me all that can be said is this my reality and how i live it and based on memory this is how u live yours. Even me saying this is wrong and proving my point. I’m not enlightened and dont really know what I’m talking about. Aint irony sweet?

  6. I have never related to the notion that the world of physical manifestation is illusion. I can only speak from my own experience and make three statements from my own truth: I am not my thoughts (yet they exist), I am not my body (yet it exists) and I am not separate from the universe around me. It is this sense of “unicity” with the world (Balsekar) that prohibits me from denying its existence, separate from me. To deny the world, would be to deny myself, a completely absurd denial. There is both the self and other, the illusion is not “the other” but rather the separation of the two.

  7. I have found Niss’s book “Pointers” by Ramesh Balsekar, to be the most elucidating book about Non-Dualsim available. (As opposed to “I Am That” which seemed very scattered and undirected).

    Also. The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism (which describes the willing descent of the all-knowing Shiva into our own individual selves of un-knowing) offers an excellent view of “us”.

  8. ” I ask you to do a simple experiment to prove it to yourself: Just slam a hammer down on your finger and—since it’s just a dream—shatter the dream hammer with your dream finger. Piece of cake in a dream. Do that and then maybe I’ll revise my opinion on this so-called illusion.”

    When you hurt yourself the information received through your sensory organs are sent to your brain which gives you the perception of pain. If the nervous system is not operating then you don`t feel the pain. Same if after you stub a toe on the coffee table and put pressure on it the pain is diminished or even gone. So where did the pain gone and how was it real?
    As to dreams, not sure about others but I did wake up some days feeling physical pain after dreaming of being hit.

    I`m not saying everything is just a dream as I`m not enlightened or truth realized or whatever, I am saying though that everything you perceive in this dual world can be negated with facts, hence not true.

    If you can prove me otherwise please do so, I would love to be wrong and find something worthy in this plane.

    • My silly experiment was not meant to be about perception being “in the mind or not” ( it is), but about the consistency of this supposed dream-life. In a dream, the finger could easily shatter the hammer… not so likely in the physical world.

        • Totally understandable. I wrote a poor example… Two things for the mind to latch onto: The pain and the shattering of the hammer. I should have focused on the shattering. Ie: Hit a nail with a hammer, and see if you can get the hammer to shatter.

  9. Your review of Jed’s work in general is so valuable. Nihilism, even though it wear the cloak of non-dual enlightenment, is merely another illusion. It’s just that this particular illusion gets trotted out as though it were the truth so often that it’s ridiculous.

    Thank you Wayne.

    • Thanks Nathaniel and welcome to the blog. You hit it on the head, nihilism is often confused with nonduality and one of the reasons why I put so much attention on the Fullness.

  10. Wayne,

    I think your fullness and emptiness point is summed up well in the Buddhist definition of Emptiness from the Heart Sutra…

    Form = Void and Void = Form

    Best wishes, Jeff

    p.s. I think some often confuse the concept of “void” as emptiness in Buddhism.

  11. Agree with your take on emptiness AND fulness. This seems to fit what Ken Wilber is talking about when he says “transcend & include.” It also reminds me of a saying that’s something along the lines of: By resolving (integrating?) a paradox we find spiritual truth. This also seems to be what Adyashanti is talking about when speaking of being awake at the level of mind (emptiness – which I experience) and at the level of heart = fullness. I’m not fully there yet, but am getting tastes of it – at least that’s my current illusion.

    To me, this “reality” isn’t a dream (unreal), but I definitely see how it’s like a dream – all subjective. It’s relatively real AND it takes place in my mind, as well as the minds of others (in consciousness).

    Thanks for all that you share.

    • My experience: Life is LIKE a dream. Not life IS a dream. Big difference that one word.

      So I’m in full agreement with you and I think this perspective makes awakening a hell of a lot easier for seekers.

  12. On the “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” question, you should check out the work of Nassim Haramein. He shows scientifically– albeit a radically new scientific approach– how form and formless are connected and are constantly moving in and out of each other, at the level of the atom and at the level of galaxies. Watch his argument from beginning to end if you really want to get it: Black Whole, or Crossing the Event Horizon (DVDs). I think he’s onto something and it was helpful to me spiritually to counter the nihilism of the non-dualists.

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