I guess I’m about as six of one, half a dozen of the other about this one as the first. Enjoyable read on many levels, but the same nagging thoughts continue: is this just another scam?
Probably true and probably not.
See? I can be ambiguous.
Everything in this book lends itself to just about everything one would say of the first. Jed thrives on being non-verifiable. In this one, much of the book is taken up with his analysis (he claims the first) that Moby Dick is really nothing more than the story of Melville’s own harrowing journey to enlightenment. The whale is but the usual barriers of our own making that must be slain if we are to reach non-dual reality.
While arriving at this conclusion, Jed stays with a family friend, Mary, whose husband has died some years before and who is writing a book on Melville and his epic novel. Her husband and her had both been obsessed with the book and it’s meaning for years, and we are made aware that Mary teaches (presumably at the college level), and especially enjoys teaching this novel. We therefore assume she is a lit-professor.
Mary, once aware of Jed’s hypothesis, blanches in a very real sense, and ultimately declares that all she has written is for naught. She will have to start again and write a very different book. The out is: “or she may not write it at all.” So those who wish to verify may well search in vain for a “Mary” who teaches lit at some Eastern school near the Hamptons, who maybe wrote a book on Moby Dick, but maybe didn’t.
After that we run into Jolene who appeared briefly in the first book. She’s come to New York where Jed is now staying in a loft (house sitting) and makes her foray into “step one” realizing that she has bought a one-way ticket to enlightenment. Interspersed throughout is the ongoing Autolysis of Julie who we met in the first book as well. She started out interviewing Jed and then realized in one stunning moment that all her years of enlightenment work were for naught and a waste. She’s now in process, writing furiously of all the “stuff in her attic” and how awful it is discovering that almost nothing “up there” is actually her.
Julie and Jed run into each other in Toronto I believe near the end of the book, and as is typical of the “enlightened” have little to say to one another. I mean what could enlightened beings have to talk about?
All these folks appear to be sufficiently independently wealthy as to not have to work, thus they can’t be identified in any way that would lead a seeker to them. Jed explains that this is by design, because the whole point is that no “teacher” can teach you. It’s a self-revealing journey in your own head.
Part of me invariably (from time to time) thinks that Jed is really just a character created in this magnificent sci-fi story. If so, it’s a damned good one. If not, well, it’s not without merits. Hell, it’s not without merits even if it is a trilogy of a made-up man who gains enlightenment and then proclaims it, (sort of).
As to the merits. Jed is clear, and it seems reasonably so to me, that each and every journey is singular. Meaning, that what is Jed’s is really Jed’s and can’t be mine. Jolene seems to take that first step without all the “taking to one’s bed” with catatonic spliced with crying fits that were the hallmark of Julie’s experience. Everyone need not, it seems, have to leave everything and everyone behind in some careless, shoeless trek to one’s personal Bodhi tree.
Which all comes down to what I think is the real way to read this stuff. With tongue firmly planted in cheek. There is wisdom to be gained. We do make the journey alone. We don’t need teachers–we are just trying to find out who we really are. We all have our attics stuffed with junk and it’s all our personal junk, not someone else’s. Only we can sort through it and but a fire to what is worthless. Meditation, reading books, seeking your guru and all that stuff won’t do it for you. There is no magic incantation, no magic heat lodge, no magic anything that will lead you to the place.
There is no place. It’s in your own head.
Jed of course makes the whole thing not at all appealing. He thinks most people just want to go far enough to be adults, not enlightened ones. And there is much to be said if what he is, is real. He is unattached, having no emotional ties to anyone or anything. Most of us would not wish that. We have spouses, children and so forth that we have passion for. We have gifts that we are passionate about and don’t want to feel indifferent toward.
Still, we are on the quest. Some of us at least, and it’s the “little bastard” inside (as Jed calls it) who doesn’t let us rest for long, but urges us forward.
It is fine that for some of us that is clear. For others, they sort of laugh at the little guy, and say they are too busy for such unpromising pursuits. For others, a life-long process of drowning out the bastard has ensued so terrifying is his question. We are all along the spectrum somewhere. As Jed would say, there is no right or wrong decision here. Only what one feels pulled toward.
If you search for the magic bullet here, you won’t find it. But then, I’m fairly certain no such thing exists. It’s just forward, always, relentlessly forward, sometimes with plenty of stops to smell the roses. But that’s just my take, and my journey.