Jed McKenna is a pretentious asshole

A friend requested I read Jed McKenna, so picked up a Dutch copy of Enlightenment – the Darndest Thing! Unfortunately, this friend has a high hat of Jed, whereas I, after reading the book, concluded that Jed McKenna is a pretentious piece of shit. So part of me feels bad to pour out a bloggal takedown, but, in all honesty, another part of me will enjoy this.

Let’s start at the beginning. Who is Jed McKenna?

Well, nobody knows! There’s a couple of pictures on the internet of people of who one is  likely to be Jed, but he avoids the spotlight enough for us to call him anonymous. A white middle-to-old aged man is all we know.

What’s Jed’s deal?

Well, Jed says he is enlightened. He’s very down to earth about the whole thing. It’s like, he’s just a dude who likes video games and skydiving, but, y’know, he’s also enlightened. He lives in a charming countryside house in Iowa where visitors seek his wisdom and guidance.

What is enlightenment according to Jed?

Jed explains that enlightenment is merely a state of permanent non-dualistic consciousness. Of course, getting that into the thick skulls of his pupils is easier said than done. People have all this ego bagage, people think that achieving enlightenment is supposed to be fun, and don’t even get Jed started about all the fake teachers out there selling snake oil! As Jed explains, gotta ask for results, and Jed has at least ten enlightened pupils to show for it (none of them live with him).

Is Jed crazy?

No. Jed is very perceptive, in the book at least. He knows how to treat his guests, they all have a good time. For instance, one night, they all sit around a spontaneous bonfire. Rain trickles down, and amid murmurs Jed talks about religion and meaning and consciousness. You must’ve  felt the electricity in the air if you were there, and even as a reader you had the sense that something special was happening, perhaps some kind of spiritual revolution lurking behind the corner. I’d say that, as far spiritual teachers go, Jed McKenna is in a similar ballpark as our friend Baghwan.

What did I think of Jed McKenna?

Well I gave it away in the title. Thing is, I was bamboozled by the book’s title, which translated to Dutch as: ‘Spiritual enlightenment? Forget it!’ So I thought: oh, it’s a book by a dude who tells us all this spiritual New Age stuff is nonsense. Sounds interesting. But then it turned out to be a book by a dude who totally believes all this spiritual New Age stuff, only he believes everyone else gets it wrong. Dear lord!

Jed is a laid-back guy by all accounts. He is good in his role as teacher; a very Socratic feel to his conversations. Lots of metaphors, surprise twists, intriguing questions… You can tell he impresses people who are into this kind of stuff. And truth is, there is something to Jed’s way of life. He is a free flowing individual who goes with the flow and pretty much does whatever he feels like. Kind of like Feynman. That sort of lifestyle attracts adventures. One day Jed goes mountain biking by himself, when he runs into a teenage girl who knows him, since he’s a bit of a local celebrity. She likes him, so they go biking together and have a picnic. That’s just nice. No one can say that isn’t nice. Who wouldn’t want to bike and picnic with a cute fan?

Then, what’s the problem?

So I thought about this. I dislike his teachings, but what exactly do I dislike? Why?

Well, here’s a picture. I am too lazy to look up the exact quotes, but paraphrasing, the book goes like this:
pg 14: ‘… I am of course enlightened, so I do not care…’
pg 35: ‘… Being an enlightened being, I saw the events play out quite differently…’
pg 83: ‘… She did not see it, but then again, she was not enlightened..’
pg 142: ‘… I achieved enlightenment after years of searching…’
pg 241: ‘… I really don’t want to press the point, but did you know I am enlightened?’

At first, I gave him the benefit of doubt, and thought: well maybe he is simply taking the red pill metaphor very serious. I mean, everyone can get behind a red pill metaphor no? But I was not able to trust him. It felt like conceding frame to something… childish.

I mean, c’mon. For a grown man to say: ‘I am enlightened’. It’s just gay. It’s not cool. Everybody thinks they are enlightened! And those who do not secretly still believe they are enlightened, just that the universe for some strange reason has not acknowledged their enlightenment yet.

Enlightenment, if you get down to brass tax, is just optimized human experience. It’s a mechanical thing, where you do the things that your genetic code incentivizes you to do. Like, just the stuff men do and like. Build things, spend time with family and friends, have hobbies whether it’s gaming or watching birds or having a boat. Just… stuff that makes you enjoy life. That’s all there is to ‘enlightenment’. It’s really not rocket science.

So the real answer is: enlightenment is just fetishizing the experience of having a good day.

So I started to ignore what Jed said and looked at what he did.

The answer is: not so much. He was just chilling. Flirting with cute girls, playing video games, enjoying the sound of his own voice. That’s all there is to Jed. He talks about this deep and eternal truth, but quite frankly, I find more truth in a single comment over at Jim’s blog than I found in McKenna’s entire book.

I could leave it at that, but let’s go one level deeper still.

The problem is that a guy like Jed bases his teachings on enlightenment thought that reaches back two hundred years. Jed draws from the actual Enlightenment movement, by  18th century American/European intellectuals. This is not trivial: no man can reinvent the universe by himself. We build our knowledge on top of our forefathers, using their generations of experience to expand our own.

Now, in these spheres, we pat ourselves on the back because we draw upon more than eight thousand years of thought. We have very little respect for the enlightenment forefathers – guys like Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire. Basically, we think they were scum. A bunch of lying charlatans. We reject the Enlightenment, which is why we are also known as the Dark Enlightenment.

Jed is not scum. I’d say Jed has two central strands of teaching: one is Western individualism (his teaching that two enlightened beings have no reason to stick together), the other is Eastern zen. The problem with the first is that it is entirely derived out of the Enlightenment. Perhaps Jed made some modifications, but from barren grounds no fruit shall bear. The problem with the second one is, and forgive me for sounding like an asshole, that it is the philosophy of losers. Look at the historic track record of Buddhism: where are the successful Buddhists? Where are the successful Buddhist countries? South East Asia? You mean the South East Asia we colonized for centuries? I mean, if we really want to look at Asian civilizations that stood up to whites, how about we look at Chinese philosophy. Oh, they have a God of money? How un-zen…

Jed does not turn to zen because it is the best thought in the history of man, he does so because he has to. Buddhism is innocent in the eyes of 18th century Enlightenment, whereas Christianity was official enemy from day one. Jed is peddling a watered down version of reality because that is the only thing he is allowed to sell.

Which, in all fairness, is completely understandable. Talking the capital T truth has been illegal for quite some years now. Like, you could probably only pull that off if you’d get off the grid completely, with fake passports and everything. But what madman would possibly do that.

So, short answer concerning consciousness and enlightenment: turns you never needed Jed’s path to enlightenment – the enlightenment was in you the whole time! Wow. Mind blown.

At the end of the book, Jed helps a pretty female interviewer on her way to permanent non-dualistic consciousness. Want to know how he does it? Well, being a journalist for a new age magazine, she was elbow deep into the vegan meditation new age spirit crystal scene. Jed made her realize that this scene is full of fake and pretentious people. My God! Is there anything this man can’t do?

21 Comments

  1. Buddhists tend to think this non-dualistic consciousness happens only if you spend 30 years meditating alone in a cave like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milarepa and when or rather if you ever come out you will need a translator because you forgot how to speak and you mostly just grunt.

    I used to be big on Buddhism. I am not sure where I am on it anymore. But I can say that even if this non-dualistic consciousness is attainable at all, it requires this kind of very hard work and sacrifice.

    Any guy claiming it is easy and he can teach people how to attain it easily is a scammer. There are only two possibilities. One is that it is not possible at all. Another is that it requires this extreme level of hard work and sacrifice. This is the range of it. Getting it easy, teaching it easy, no way ever that could happen.

  2. if anyone would have read ‘ In search of the miraculous ‘ and ‘ all & everything ‘ by g.i.gurdjieff all this endless discussions and nonsense books about this topic would have been considered as ‘ waste of time ‘
    this endless state of confusion still comes about from being ignorant about the fact that everything which could be thought about this ‘issues’ has allready been given to the western world nearly 80 years ago and how many who are claiming they are searching for truth have ever studied this material?
    no wonder that this endless confusion will go on and lots of ignorant books will be written about

  3. you dont sound as critical of the guy as your title suggests.

    I found the book to me useful in a few ways.. mostly how he outlines the confusion and the inner workings of his students which can potentially relate to your own journey. and then also his teaching (if you want to call that) of ‘dont take the things you read in any books as gospel’ which if you see the teaching for what it is, needs to be applied to jeds book itself… but i can agree that there were times in the book which caused a little iritation in myself. I can also agree with your views on his use of deeming himself ‘enlightened’ therefore his view is rubber stamped and does need to be fully justified, it reminded me of dumber and dumber, ‘its okay im a limo driver’ or a neighbourhood watchmen showing his self made laminated badge to a teenager to justify his authority to aid in getting a cat down from a tree….

  4. Lmao, you need to be a little bit more subjective in order to just post something for the sake of venting your hatred towards a writer who you clearly do not know or understand but just hate by mere stereotype. Jed Mackenna is Peder Sweeney.

    1. I don’t hate the guy, despite the clickbait title. I’m just done with these Alan Watts / Terrence McKenna / Jed McKenna types whose wisdom is out of date. The 2000’s dark enlightenment changed too much.

  5. Why did you bother writing this? It’s clear that your friend has a deeper understanding of this stuff and maybe they see how Jed McKenna’s words could help you even if they flew right past you without making the right kind of impression.

    What about the process of Spiritual Autolysis? Take a go at that even though you didn’t mention it, he gave it a name so if you’re going to be a scum and name-call Jed McKenna, atleast bother to include a few key things in there and use the correct terminology.

    He didn’t just reach enlightenment after years of searching.. where do you even go off quoting these ridiculous ASS FUCKING THINGS.

    People who actually go through the process of enlightenment know that there is roughly a 2-3 year period where you go through this process… which he talks about in the book (specifically the second of the trilogy and says how it is always with you after you get rid of the spiritual and emotional debris that surrounds your spirit [lol I recommend you do that using the process of SPIRUTUAL AUTOLYSIS he talks about since you like writing about your opinions anyway, you just couldn’t edit and copy and paste so much to make it look as pretty as this article of yours, you write the truth and the truth only even if it’s ugly]). You are so in over your head. My comment may be all over the place because I am suppressing the urge to sit and educate you in an uncalled manner about a few of the delicate topics Jed tried to communicate to us.

    “… but in all honesty, another part of me will enjoy this” . what are you trying to say by that? Your criticism of this person is so uncalled for and so incompatible. I keep suppressing the urge to break down everything you wrote line by line and dissect it the way you didn’t do Jed McKenna justice. But that’s rude and I’ll tell you that I like your writing and your REAL perspective which I only saw in one place of your writing where you write about enlightenment just being “optimized human experience”. Also, you are WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS that is why you wrote the way you did. You may think that the parts where you write about Jed not being all that bad or a scum makes the rest of your writing ok but it does not.

    You are a human child (funny how you didn’t mention that anywhere in your writing because the second you mentioned it your readers would automatically recognize you as one…) To quote your own writing, “where are the successful Buddhists” and so on… lol…

    ULTIMATELY, IT IS NOT ABOUT JED, OR YOU, OR ME, WE ALL SHARE THE SAME MIND, AND INFORMATION IS JUST THAT. NOT JED’S OR YOURS OR MINE. MAYBE YOU ARE NOT DEVELOPED IN YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO STOP IDENTIFYING WITH THE FACAD OF PERSONA/EGO AROUND YOUR BEING LONG ENOUGH TO SEE THE WISDOM BEHIND JED MCKENNA’S WORDS, BUT DO NOT UNDERMINE THEM AND DO NOT BELITTLE THEM IN THIS SHIT WAY BECAUSE THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO DO UNDERSTAND IT AND EVEN THE ONES WHO DON’T AGREE WITH HIM WOULD NEVER ACT IN THIS CHILDISH MANNER AND WRITE THIS GULLIBLE REVIEW ABOUT THIS MAN.

    ALSO. THIS STUFF IS NOT FUNNY. THERE REALLY IS NO POINT TO DOING ANYTHING SO DO NOT UNDERMINE OR RIDICULE HIS WRITING FOR THE FACT THAT HE FLIRTED WITH GIRLS OR PLAYED VIDEO GAMES AND JUST CHILLED. YOU ARE A LIVING BEING, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT. WHAT IS THIS CONCEPT OF HAVING TO DO THIS OR THAT, HE IS CLEARLY ENLIGHTENED AND YOU ARE NOT.

    1. Oh man triggered fanboy alert.

      I wrote this because I was asked to, because I have always taken an interest in prophets, or spiritual leaders if you will.

      Some of those leaders are scammers. I had a piece on Owen Cook on my previous blog; he gives incidental drops of wisdom in a sea of nonsense. Scammer. Naturally, even though the piece attracted (relative to my blog) lots of attention, it also attracted fanboy hate. Well, people have a right to be scammed.

      With Jed it is a bit more subtle. He is not a scammer, he is just slightly wrong in a very understandable manner.

      Collective consciousness evolves, but for the past 200 years, has evolved in a downwards, degenerate manner. We have lost important knowledge our elders knew. We have only come to understand that in the early 21st century, meaning that anyone who claimed to have found the answer in the late 20th century was slightly wrong.

      What is the answer?

      Well, very very roughly, the answer is that Christianity is the closest we have come to the truth of human existence. So not Buddhism, not new age, not eastern philosophies… Just Christianity. This is a strange pill to swallow, and I blame neither McKenna nor his followers for not rejecting it, but thats the way it is.

      1. Whoa whoa whoa Diana, take a chill pill sistah … And listen to Finn …. For what it’s worth Alfie I think your opinion of Jed I.. (pun intended) was a far more convincing path to the *truth*, than that of which the wizard himself hath taken. But, that said, if we are to take anything on board, as one does naturally, when the power of suggestion is in full swing. You get the 5 star pupil badge for doing exactly as we the reader is advised, and to quote the master and knower of all things himself “Think for yourself. That’s the golden rule. Think for yourself.
        Make it your mantra. Tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids.” Jed McMuffin (whatever) .. He had me at hello ( metaphor) chapter 1 to 3 .. Until he started picking on poor Sarah. Call it a nothingness if you will, but I (unlike you Diana) as hard as I try, am unable to suppress the urge to dissect, what looks to me like contradictory bollocks .. example.. “There are no butterfly experts among the caterpillars, despite innumerable claims to the contrary, and I encourage my students to at least consider” … Ending …” An easy way to distinguish between caterpillars and butterflies is to remember that the enlightened don’t attach importance to anything, (3 books in)..and that enlightenment doesn’t require knowledge. “… unquote.. … “It’s not about love or compassion or consciousness.” .. Translated Its all about me me me, and since I’m none of the 3, I’ll sell bi-polar to the likes of Sarah, and Diana (seemingly) and label it enlightened, my complete lack of self worth can be labelled self cannot achieve no self, and no self is me. My intention to attract young female disciples can be guided under the morality sermon, no right or wrong, in no self.. But.. all this anology little old simpleton me, invested, before reading the instructions on reading the dribble. That in itself is the first clue to what an absolute twat of a narcissist JedI, jesus, jamirquo whoever this smoker of all shit grown weed is.. Because heres the thing, and my conscious state of awareness has discovered, uncovered an undeniable fact, which is. All those and there arent that many, but enough to have noticed, AWAKENED ENLIGHTENED KNOWER OF ALL THINGS have here, in common is, a dependency on bud. Not on a little smoke before bed level. A proper stoner.. For want of a better description. And that’s okay. Nobody has ever died from a weed overdose, all good. But.. The cross contamination in seeds, the food supplements toxic contents and the lacing, together with pure old fashioned years of smoking hash, all contributes to a multitude of pyschotic episodes. By design, the radicals will claim?. Possibly.! By whichever arrow its shot, that isnt the point. The point I’m.making is, without question, our subject here, I would bet my last fiver on,him being a proper old stoner. Not in the least questioning could my delusions or illusions be drug induced. But if you’ve known any of these awakened ones, you’ll know that their defence in not only the amount they smoke but from where its sourced.. And .. like it or not but a reality check for Mr know it all, weed ain’t good old fashioned weed anymore. The messiah complex is a common and growing complex, and the awakening to which they claim to have GONE THROUGH, I dont believe is spiritual, genuine or validated, as much as I, in reality want to believe otherwise. The world is waking up, to all sorts of possibilities FACT .. and a lot of contaminated pot is being smoked too, fact.. The one thing we all know is, is that WE DONT KNOW. Unless of course you are Anita Moorjani.. And there are others .. Not on drugs.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Moorjani

        No gimmick. Truthsayers, are just what they are .. Out there exposing themselves, open to conflicting debates, giving their truth.. A bit like us .. ho ho ..
        On that note, I’ll take a bow. Note to Diana.. Did I read you give a chastising to my mate Alfie on immaturity, and end your own sentence with a LOL.. Really? Did you do that? Tut tut ..

  6. I find it entertaining and mildly perplexing how you and everyone else who writes about this author seem to take the book for fact rather than fiction. It’s even stated in the preface that the whole book is fiction.

    Is first person storytelling really that confusing? Have you not read other fictional books that are told from a first person perspective? Did they make you annoyed as this one?

    What I’d recommend to you and anyone else reading this book is to ponder: why the focus on Jed – the character? Why are you mad at him and make such a point out of calling him a scam? Do you get critical toward Huckleberry Finn if you think that he’s behaving like a pretentious asshole or if his insights are “last season”?

    Do we need to hear a live author say: Listen, my books are entertainment. Don’t take them so seriously!

    If a fictional book presses buttons inside you I’d recommend to look at that a bit more closely and find out why it’s pressing all those buttons. Why do you get annoyed by the book or people who like it? Why will “another part of you enjoy” bashing the the main character (or maybe the author)?

    To me the book was a story that got me to do some work on my own. It turned out to be hard but pretty useful work. I also enjoyed the pristine writing and the subtle humor, especially in his second book. I’m not sure how well that translates to Dutch, though.

    All the best to you and keep up the writing! I really like you choice of font over here 👍

    1. Do you get critical toward Huckleberry Finn if you think that he’s behaving like a pretentious asshole or if his insights are “last season”?

      Of course I do. Judging people is fun!

      Do we need to hear a live author say: Listen, my books are entertainment. Don’t take them so seriously!

      Spiritual enlightenment is a serious topic, which deserves a serious reply.

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