Throughout, this is supposed to be the last book. Of course, it is not. There is another, published last year, and I think some collections of “notes”.
In the end, I find McKenna to be a fraud. Not a terrible fraud, but a fraud nonetheless.
It comes from all the things he says and doesn’t say, and how they simply don’t add up.
Which doesn’t mean that reading the books (especially 1 and 3) are not useful. It is useful to the seeker.
Let me try to explain.
I don’t believe McKenna is “enlightened”. Why? Because his version of enlightenment doesn’t make any sense. You become “non-duel” destroying the ego. What is left according to McKenna is a mind that in some sense automates a living body. There is no love, no relationship, no interest of any kind about anything. There is no opinion regarding anything. There is no desire to change anything.
McKenna claims he does nothing at all that he doesn’t enjoy doing. Conveniently he has the funds to hire people to do all those silly mundane things like cleaning houses, mowing lawns, making travel plans, and so forth to others. He has no relationship with others that mean anything to him. No family ties, no sexual desires apparently. Even relationships with other “enlightened” people are a waste of time since there is nothing to talk about.
There is nothing to think about either. And he claims he doesn’t.
He admits this is all rather unappetizing and he doesn’t recommend it, except that he would not give it away for anything in the universe. It’s grand, but we are apparently too limited to understand why. So he advises, don’t try, just try to grow up into an adulthood of consciousness wherein you know that it’s all a grand play being played across the planet and be aware that you are playing a part. The upshot is to play the part smartly I guess.
There is value in realizing that most of what passes for spiritual enlightenment is but a grift, designed to line the pockets of those who propose to “teach”. And frankly that includes his books as well. I’m not sure he would disagree with that either. The difference (so he claims) is that his only purpose in writing is to go with the flow of a universe which desires him to do so. His book is full of such convenient answers, answers that can never be wrong because the structure of the question doesn’t allow for it.
McKenna suffers a motorcycle accident. In the couple of seconds that he flies through the air, he concludes he will come out okay. Why? Because his split-second analysis of the situation suggests that there was nothing in the events leading up that suggested that this was his time to die. And as we should know, we don’t die until the universe says its time, and nothing can change that.
He suggests that if one is in a burning car, one should surely attempt to exit. Why this is so is not clear. If the universe says it’s my time, than my attempts will fail; but if it’s not, I will succeed. But! Would it not be true that if it’s not my time, than my inaction can’t change anything either? You see the problem?
He tells us that the universe (rightly understood) stands ready to grant your every wish. The kicker is of course that your wish must be the “right kind” of desire. If I get what I want, close to what I want, or remotely what I want, it’s because the universe granted my request. If I don’t get it, well, my request was wrong.
McKenna in his “meetings” with other seekers constantly asks them, “why are you here”? meaning what are you seeking here? They offer the standard, “peace”, “knowledge”, “happiness” and of course he shoots them all down. But he never identifies what they are there for, and the answer is obvious.
What is the question we all want to know?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE? IS IT OVER, OR DOES SOMETHING MEANINGFUL THAT I CAN CALL “ME” CONTINUE IN SOME FORM?
McKenna does a masterful job with the concept of our fear of death. He rightly (I think) points out that we have three ways of dealing with death. (1) We put it off to the distant future. We’re young, or youngish. We take good care of ourselves. We have a good 50,40,30,20 years ahead of us. All of this is contrary to fact. Babies, adolescents, prime of life people die all the time. (2) We create scenarios where death is not the final act. Heavens, nirvana, reincarnations, etc., all are beliefs we adopt to tell ourselves that death is not death, and (3) we constantly seek to distract ourselves. Out of mind, out of mind, keep death out of mind. We over schedule, we fill every waking hour with “things” to do and see. We focus on family, career, sports, hobbies, addictions.
In this he is spot on right I think.
Yet at no time does he EVER state the truth, and to an enlightened person it must be obvious.
He says life is meaningless. He says the universe controls things. That means the universe is intelligent, and has a plan. He suggests that we all one thing: the fabric of universe. But he no where says, “oh, when you die, your mind continues, in awareness, and is off to some other aspect of the “plan”. He doesn’t say “oh, when you die, you die, in terms of your awareness. Your atoms of course are reconfigured into other matter.”
And that’s why I don’t think he’s enlightened.
There is no way to locate any of his “students”, those who have followed his path and found the truth. The very idea that no person ever steps forward and says, I’m he is obviously a convenience.
Why wasn’t he directed to say all that needed to be said in the first book? Why a third? And now a fourth?
There is much here that is worth reading. We need to face and embrace that which stalks us day and night–our own mortality. We need to live fully simply because every moment may be our last. Avoiding the topic only wastes our time.
I don’t recommend or not recommend these books. There is valuable learning here, but frankly much of it is pretty old school “be the observer of your thoughts; you are not your thoughts” sort of stuff. By all means read books 1 and 3. The second isn’t worth bothering with. You will pick up some decent ideas. But like every single “enlightenment” book out there, they won’t do it for you. You, in the end, must find your own way.