I intend this piece to be other than another fraught polemic, cunningly wielding nothing but rhetoric and emotion, authority figures and scriptures, straining to convince you that a cherished teacher was dealt something less than a full deck of cards.
But instead, a method will be proffered for anyone capable and so inclined, to ‘scientifically’ investigate and ascertain the validity of the high claims put forth by the character known as Jed McKenna in the series of books on the matter of true Enlightenment, and presumably, by extension, the realization of the author of those books at the time of their publication.
Is such a thing possible? I believe it is. Please read on a little further and I will explain.
If you are reading this, you probably either are, or were, a fan (or perhaps even an enemy) of the Jed McKenna series of books (or someone you know was). The Jed character, to put it in Hollywood terms, has thrilled and delighted us for many a long year, and has served many of us extremely well in terms of helping us to eliminate mountains of cultural, religious, and spiritual accretions and misconceptions. That is what I can say his work has done for me.
And let’s not forget, he is a truly magnificent storyteller!
As further motivation, on the rare occasions when I have gotten around to reviewing the traffic statistics on this Jed Blog, the article titled “The Realization of Jed McKenna” is always by far the most heavily trafficked, indicating to me people’s ongoing need to get some perspective on the grand claims of the Jedman. My sincere hope is to provide something of that to the interested reader using the technique I will outline below. And even though I clearly have my own opinion on the topic of Jed’s qualifications to refer to himself as “Enlightened”, there is no reason why you can’t ignore that fact and use the technique to decide for yourself, using a method other than your best intuition or mystical experiences (this article replaces the old version that formerly resided here, which was published 8 years ago, which can still be accessed via this link (1).
The Key Issues in the Dispute about Jed’s Way
Yet as you must also be aware, many of us have had sincere and well intentioned doubts about the full efficacy and wisdom contained in the Jed books, in spite of its obvious brilliance, humor and wisdom. I’m sure most of you know what I’m referring to here. It’s the matter of his profound aversion, and some would say, disdain, for the feeling dimension of Being.
This is the classic “what about Love, Jed?” question, to which he typically replies, “I don’t do heart!”
Additionally, his disdain also extends to the dimension of energy (if that is indeed distinct from the feeling dimension), and is just as truculent. The notion that full realization has nothing at all to do with an exquisite energetic ‘state,’ often referred to as ‘bliss’, is just as seriously dismissed by Jed.
Furthermore, the disregard or even disrespect of the Feminine – Feeling – Love dimension of being is such a profound flaw in Western Civilization, starting at the very least with the Abrahamic religions, moving through to Descartes and his ridiculous conceit about ‘thinking’ (or, to be precise, “doubting”), and on to modern science and psychology, that Jed’s assertions can be seen as carrying the added weight of being, directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently, playing a part in the continuing suppression of the feeling dimension and capacity within all human beings. At such a critical point in human history as this, I suspect that we cannot afford to blithely ignore the ramifications of allowing one more assault upon the feeling dimension to go unchallenged (and notice please, I did NOT say the emotional dimension, although by extension, Westerners of the Northern European variety have often been saddled with that obstruction as well!).
And even further, I suspect that those attracted to the Jed POV, like myself and others that I know, are by ego-tendency, acutely oriented to a predilection for mental masculine awareness, with a limited, and often relatively minor association (and even capacity), for the feeling dimension. This alone must raise the red flag of concern and suggest some serious self-examination.
All of which is decidedly not to declare that those ‘Feminine’ qualities are, after all, in themselves, the true criteria of enlightenment; and that the “Present/Presentness” of pure Consciousness is not a true quality of full realization, but that Jed in his proclaimed ‘abiding non-duality’ can thus be seen to abiding dualistically in opposition to the Divine Feminine.
But fear not! Trust that the method I will be suggesting is one which utilizes the core strengths of the mental, masculine capability to succeed in its mission of discovery, and may enable you to rationally decide for yourself whether his pronouncements on this topic are valid and true, or not. No lovey-dovey, devotional, bhakti, or new age rituals will accost you here!
To those on the oppositional side of the Jed fence, this exercise has the potential to provide a person with more than their intuition, or spiritual or mystical experiences, to base their conclusion about this core issue. Those experiences of theirs, which yield conclusions which are no doubt valid from their POV, but which often sound to outsiders so intellectually inchoate that they are often dismissed as merely emotional, twinky or even delusional pipe dreams. To those coming at this issue from a spiritual perspective, a specific understanding of the process described below may provide an intellectual platform from which to make their case, when and if they feel the need arises to challenge what they perceive is an overly mental proposition about the nature of Reality.
The Cultural Obstacles
Several years ago I attempted to challenge this problem with his teaching from an intellectual and psychological perspective in the original article “The Realization of Jed McKenna”, suggesting that his was apparently a conceit based on his own personal developmental weakness in experiencing the fullness of the feeling or emotional dimension, and consequently, a rejection based on the very emotional reactivity, fear, and limitation which he apparently wished to negate in his books.
What I did not attempt to do was to criticize his POV from, shall we call it, a spiritual POV. Although many of us have a strong intuitive sense that all is not well in the Jed Universe, yet finding a specific technical means to focus and articulate that doubting intuition is what I didn’t have in sufficient quantity to take the next step forward with a spiritual critique of the Jed materials.
Therefore, I wasn’t interested in pursuing this topic again, unless or until I had something, not only technical and quite specific to point to, but more, something that could potentially be replicated by anyone (the scientific method). I did not have the means at hand to confidently recommend a method for others to use, so that they might themselves be facilitated in heightening their discernment of the truth or fallacy of the Jed worldview.
Normally the doubt or skepticism of such an endeavor as I plan to offer here comes down to this – how could an unenlightened being such as yourself, find a reliable and genuine means to assess or challenge someone claiming a quantum level of superiority (Butterfly v. larvae, or Vampire v. human, Superman v. Clark Kent). Such a supposition is either explicit stated or else implicitly embedded in most traditions, included Jed’s work, as well as in common spiritual parlance.
Now, I will be the first to concede that one could NOT use the Scientific Method to prove that an individual is indeed ‘enlightened’. But the inverse, insofar as it is confined to correlations with a person’s phenomenal manifestations as actions or speech, may prove reasonable expedient at the task of revealing a lesser attainment. So, if Jed’s confession of realization can be demonstrated to fall within the parameters of mundane, subtle or casual phenomena, then we can safely assume that that is where he belongs, a great and mighty Dualist, and not elsewhere.
So, is it possible to avert or overcome the classic kill-shot that spiritual masters and enlightened realizers (as well as their acolytes) routinely impose upon anyone challenging their game in terms of their quantum superiority argument? This suppressive traditional tactic is especially odious when it issues forth from within a Monist or Non-Dualist tradition, because of how it, in a fundamental way, contradicts it’s essential and core Dharma point – of Unitary Existence and Reality. The stated fact that you are always-already The Divine, at least in nature, but are merely playing at ego-unenlightenment, seems to get lost somewhere along the line.
After all the eternal sermonizing about how the student IS ALREADY ONE with the Absolute, Monists and Non-Dualists of every stripe can often be found dismissing any serious criticism by virtue of this ‘quantum superiority’ trope. While it’s probably a good idea for novices to keep their mouths shut for a good long time, and just listen, because they are so highly programmed with bullshit upon arrival that the probably do need to learn more than they can teach, this injunction gets institutionalized and petrified into a crushing dogma from which no one is ever liberated, at least not by the institutions.
In this construct, everything that the master says is sacred and precious beyond human reckoning, and everything that the questioner says is ridiculed as tragic ego-drivel, or dismissed as delusional or neurotic excretions.
So it boils down to this: can a human being, assuming that it is indeed constructed out of the Ultimate Divine Identity, even while usually playing at limited consciousness (as ego), at least on occasion, reassert his/her true identity for a moment, in order to sense and identify the inherent qualities of Itself, in its Ultimate Wisdom and State. And by extension, identify that which is lesser?
Are we permitted to examine the ‘source code’ from which we issue, or is it a binary system in which common folk are not permitted to examine the system for possible bugs, or for a virus? To me it seems altogether reasonable that Consciousness would allow and even facilitate this maneuver, if for no other reason than for It’s own inspiration and forward movements when they are desired.
Pursuant to that possibility, could a specific exercise, followed through in a step by step methodical fashion, gradually ascending through the continuum of increasingly subtle levels of self as ego, finally deconstruct and identify everything, including the Causal level of self or ego, and stand on the threshold of the quantum leap (from self-contracted ego self, to, Source Being itself), and inevitably, experience the fluctuations of consciousness, from ego to oneness, and back again.
Would not such a finely tuned experiment provide the user with a surer sense of the qualities that inhere at Source as well as It’s supposed representatives? And once located there at the threshold, give a person the ability to compare those qualities which he/her experienced in that exercise, with the qualities which a given teacher or master says is characteristic of one allegedly abiding as such, and decide for himself what to make of the claims of a given superman-teacher.
My Role and My Point of View
It is my hope that this article and its exercise may offer one possible means to ascertain the truth about this great matter, using a technique I was given many years ago and which works for me – and therefore — it could work for someone else! I am fulling aware that this exercise is ‘not for everyone’. That most will have either no interest, no inclination or even in some cases, no capacity to follow it through to completion. Such is life.
Since rather clear results of this sort have issued forth as a result of using this technique on innumerable occasions, I became convinced that it behooves me to pen one more essay on the subject of the Jed McKenna phenomenon, in the hope that it could indeed to useful for a few others to help them decide whether or not they want to discard the quality of heart or energy from their own pantheon of Divine Principles.
And so while my interest in Jed or his teachings is mostly just an enjoyable nostalgic memory nowadays, I do feel a certain obligation to articulate and share what I have seen, so that others may have an added advantage insofar as they choose to use Jed’s ideas to arrange their lives.
Such an exercise as will be suggested here could possibly provide a temporary satori to the user, but of course, it wouldn’t likely ‘enlighten’ anyone. Frankly, I suspect most of us already have had many such experiences. But we usual stumble into such ‘experience’ without much notice or care for how we arrived at a sense of our divinity. Or else routinely ascribe our good luck to the blessings of a god or master.
The thrust of my critique of Jed’s stand are that although the author has, at least at the time of the writing of those books, no doubt penetrated successfully to a level of the Witness, the Soul, (the still fundamentally contracted experience of awareness itself) but he has evidently not been able to directly experience the release of that self-aware self from the delicious gravity of its implosion in on itself. Because once comfortable or familiar in that condition, one does experience a profound level of freedom from the whole drama of higher and lower mental, emotional and sensate perceptual limitation that most of us struggle with.
Yet the evidence and his testimony reveal that he has not experienced and reported the – dare I call it- blissfulness and universal love as a consequence of the deliberate and conscious release of that witnessing position as it moves from the concentrated witnessing self, felt (and seemingly located in the chest), to the more diffuse realization of ‘Mere Being’ itself, which underlies it. And beyond that, has not experienced the expansion of that Pure Being-ness into reunion with It’s Essential Feminine Divine Radiant Manifestation, as Shakti-Creation-Love.
The Practice itself
This exercise I will propose is a rapid tour through the many layers of divine refraction, identification and attraction, and eventually, for most of us who live predominantly as ‘ego’, distraction, so that we may develop a keen sensitivity to the cascading levels that we as egos identify with, and seemingly, become trapped in.
And through intimate recognition with those layers, we may gain critical insight into the ways that we may begin to deconstruct these layers until they are perceived as a single Causal identity or dynamic. That identity is the one you and I call “me”. By this precise examination we can gain a knowledge of exactly what the qualities, dynamics and limitations of ego perception are, and by dismissing identification with each, they are seen and understood anew in their seminal or root form. When that summary understanding and perception is in place, we may begin to move deliberately and consciously beyond that contracted state to what is not the ego’s domain, if only for a while.
The fundamental error of “the Jed” was to conflate the liberation of the Witness Position – (with its senior and inclusive freedom from subjugation to ALL external authorities or Deities) as being a non-dualistic state, a state of ‘Completion’ as they say in the Orient. In this context, his prime directive: “the only thing that you can know is yourself” gives the impression of finality which it doesn’t warrant.
While although the subjugation of the witnessing soul or self to the mind & body may have been successfully resolved, the remaining self-division between the Witness and Consciousness, and more, between Consciousness and its Radiance and Manifestations – (as flowing feminine love bliss) is NOT resolved in the Witnessing position, either in its early stages or even as it matures and begins to expand into mere Being. And probably, not even noticed as an outstanding issue!
This understandable error occurs because when one is more or less comfortably established in and as Witness, one has a deep sense that he is now located in The Great Depth, and can operate as somehow above gross and subtle things. So rich is this breakthrough that it can blind a person from noticing he is as yet missing much much more.
The Exercise & the Proof
This exercise is taken from instructions which were publicized back in 1986 by a famous spiritual teacher. The personal references to him that were previously contained within it I have removed so that the reader may proceed without the distraction of a personage alien to them getting in the way of the process. The author would insist, I suspect, that such an omission would invalidate the power of the exercise, but I have found that to be, quite not the case. (The origins of this exercise are referenced below)
Steps 1 – 9 are prelude, and eventually, once mastered, can be combined into a single instruction or observation. Yet they are essential to the next steps and shouldn’t be bypassed (in my opinion) if you want to actually make this process work for you, (and secondarily I would assume, get to know clearly where the Jedman is coming from).
Step 10 is the jumping off point which I believe represents the best that Jed has realized, (but to what extent I do not know) (although, I don’t doubt his claims of enjoying grand mystical experiences on occasion).
Steps 11 and 12 are where the sublime Reunion begins to occur. In these last steps you may experience the intense gravitational pull of the imploded witnessing self releasing, and will have gained experiential certainty of a quite exquisite immanence beyond it. Furthermore, it may well be a rather gradual transition to where Mere Beingness begins to expand until it notices that it is now capable of touching the Divine Feminine. She was there all the while, but the lower and even the higher ego didn’t notice Her, so mightily distracted was it by ‘my precious’. Now you may notice that you as Being sits calmly in the eye of a gentle, lovely, radiant and benign Field, sitting in the midst of a vast expanse of Life, Love and Creation. What is not to love now? What is not Love now?
And a very happy reunion that is, although whatever success you may have with this experiment, if you are as resolutely unenlightened as I am, you will likely fall right back into your familiar ego-home soon after you are ‘done with it’. You may retain some residue of the good stuff but I have found that my apparent ‘free will’ has never been sufficient to hold on to any great spiritual ‘attainment’ at all. So be it. But you may get to see something you hadn’t before which also bears directly on the assertions of that one known as ‘Jed McKenna’.
I presume that once the latter part of this meditation experience is confirmed in yourself, any Jedish hyper-masculine presumptions will probably fall into irrelevance for you.
So here begins the exercise:
- In every moment & in every Meditation, Stand tacitly as Mere Feeling-Awareness.
- Merely Observe and Feel every “thing” or experience, or knowledge, that arises.
- Merely Observe or Freely Feel, without avoidance or reaction.
- Merely Observe, or only Feel, without seeking after any state, or other, or thing, that arises.
- Merely Observe or Feel whatever arises, and directly realize that Feeling Awareness is the Witness, of whatever arises.
- Merely Observe or Tacitly Feel, that all experience and all knowing, is, in and of itself, only self-contraction – the ego effort of separation and separateness and separativeness.
- Merely Observe and or tacitly Feel, the moment to moment effort of separateness and thereby observe, that the Witness Consciousness, makes no efforts at all.
- Merely observe the moment to moment effort of separateness until that effort (of separateness) is Directly Felt-Observed in its original form, which is the Root Feeling of Relatedness, or as the Act of Attention.
- Merely observe the feeling of Relatedness, or the Acts of attention, and thereby locate its inherent feeling-vibration, its Causal Stress, in the right side of the chest.
10- Find the Self there, (in the right side of the Heart) where You Stand, deeply prior to the feeling vibration of relatedness or attention, by “Locating” your Self as the Native Feeling of “Mere” Being Itself.
11- Merely feel the Native Feeling of Being Itself, and by persisting in this feeling, of surrender, be inherently Identified with the Divine Self, until the Under Current of Love-Bliss is most deeply revealed.
12- Deeply & Persistently Feel the constant “Heart Current” (in the right side of the chest) until all things, and even the sense of “difference,” is relinquished in the Source Feeling of Mere Being Itself, & Dissolves in boundless Love-Bliss.
The experiences represented in the final two steps are a ‘No Man’s Land’ for the Jed character. About this it might be said: ‘he knows not whereof he speaks’.
This exercise has the potential to prove to anyone interested, that Consciousness and Love are inextricably linked, and that any supposition to the contrary is fatally flawed. This exercise has the ability to disprove one of Jed’s key theses, which is the false dichotomy that mystical experience is radically distinct and inferior to the realization of Enlightenment. Although I completely agree with Jed that mystical experience alone, however grand, are certainly NOT Enlightenment either, and are often a major cause of delusional beliefs.
I therefore must conclude that Jed’s realization is limited to the self apart, or even, Self apart, confined to the lower realization of the Witness Consciousness, or at best from an attunement to the realization of ‘Mere Being’ itself, yet still quite divorced from Love and Life.
This conclusion, arrived at even when using the quintessential masculine tools of discrimination and the conceptual mind, can prove to a person that Love & Bliss are not neurotic, emotional or mystical manifestations of simply ‘higher (or lower) human development’, but integral to the Enlightenment experience or realization.
Jed may be correct in asserting that all emotions are inevitably based on, what did he call it, delusion or fear? But I would assert that- ‘Love’ is an integral aspect of Source, not the sign or emblem of ego-contraction. “Love’ resides at the Source and it is from “Love” that the emotions may be stepped down or even distorted into any number of ‘emotions’ by eager egos, but Love is not radically separate from or inferior to Consciousness.
In very much the same way, this phenomena happens with Consciousness as well, which gets stepped down and often profoundly debased into lesser forms as every level of mind, philosophy, attention, and thoughts.
As far as I can understand it, the process by which Source creates these notorious distortions is through the act of identification with lesser manifestations and sensations of “Attention”, (as Mind) and the “feeling of Relatedness” (as emotion, and ego’s inevitable love-hate sensations), but that is another topic altogether!
As the traditions say, Source, Truth, Reality is fundamentally composed of formless, motionless consciousness, AND, it’s feminine aspect, moving and creating love and energy.
My humble suggestion is this: don’t miss out on half the ‘fun’ because of some inherited or assumed conceit based upon too much mind. Go further than Jed.
References: The Love-Ananda Gita, by Swami Da Love-Ananda Paramahansa Avadhoota, Page 243, Paragraphs 468-479, Dawn Horse Press, 1986. (Later revised as “The Lion Sutra”)
The Comments below dated up to January 2016 refer to the Old Realization of Jed McKenna page here (1). WordPress does not facilitate the moving of Comments from one page to another.