By Jed McKenna
(This article may be freely shared and reprinted. Text version here.)
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.
My perspective is basically this: You are a human juvenile who wrongly believes yourself to be a human adult. That explains pretty much everything. 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.
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 gathered under the heading of the 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 macro (herd) level, but not at the micro (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, through the power of fear and the intelligence of ego, who 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.
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 booby-prize.
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 — not-two — with apocalyptic implications. It’s a universal falsifier, a tool that can disassemble 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 creative expression with the universe as your playground, workshop and amusement park. That’s adulthood and that’s the rightful life of which you’ve been wrongly deprived.
The benefits package that comes with your promotion to 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 grow 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.
My usual piece of 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 close 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 spaces 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. Your brain is no place for serious thinking because it is overwhelmingly dominated by your heart. 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. If it doesn’t hurt, you didn’t do it. Attachments are pieces of yourself, so each detachment is an emotional amputation. Quitting something is not the same as cutting away the part of yourself that doesn’t want to.
I guess those two pieces of advice — revisiting assumptions and severing attachments — are just different ways of saying the same thing.
You might not understand your life this way, but 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.