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Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,382 ratings  ·  134 reviews
From a spiritual master unlike any,
a spiritual masterpiece like no other.

AUTHOR, TEACHER AND SPIRITUAL MASTER Jed McKenna tells it like it's never been told before. A true American original, Jed succeeds where countless others have failed by reducing this highest of attainments — Spiritual Enlightenment — to the simplest of terms.

Effectively demystifying the mystical,
Paperback, 296 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Wisefool Press (first published 2002)
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 ·  1,382 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book talks endlessly about spiritual enlightenment, but I just kept hearing the line from the movie The Princess Bride: "You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." The author is elitist and arrogant--more than once he says, "the difference between you and I is that I am enlightened and you are not."

What he calls enlightenment sounds more like apathy. By trying to show that we're all just wrapped up in some elaborate movie, he tries to demonstrate what someo
Daniel Jeffries
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is not for the casual seeker. Be warned. It is a spiritual neutron bomb and it can be a shattering experience. This is for people who have spent their lives looking to understand why they were different and why they were compelled to seek the mythical state of "enlightenment" while their friends and family seemed so much more at home in the world. I spent much of my life on the seeker's path and this book was the final trigger for me. It is not to be approached lightly. Also the author ...more
Martin Velinský
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
After reading lots of Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch, this is a good wake up call from all the spiritual and enlightenment business.
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book about one man’s experience of enlightenment and his life teaching others about it at a small Iowa ashram is a fantastic exercise in critical thinking. Well-written and entertaining to read, it offers a valuable perspective on the difference between the kind of yummy, mystical unity experience that most people assume is enlightenment, and what McKenna refers to as actual truth realization, the rather less comfortable process of losing complete identification with your sense of self.

Matt Neputin
Nov 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book was introduced to me through the Author of "Busting Loose from the Money Game," Robert Sheinfeld.

I have to say that it has turned my world upside down. I can't explain where I am exactly, but I find myself questioning everything. That's always good, because change is a constant.
Where do I go from here? I don't know. Everything I believe is up for review.
Fureto San
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great, but not fun at all.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! I love everything about this book. AND I think I know who the real Jed McKenna is, but I’ll never tell. I totally get why the author would remain "anonymous". Both my husband and I devoured this book – so well written and entertaining. I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy as well as the 4th book by Jed. ...more
Frans Baars
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: further
In essence a non-dual approach to spirituality, exposing all the ego-constructs that pose as spirituality for what they really are
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last series of books you will ever need to read.
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Only two disappointing things:

1) I wish it was longer, deeper, meatier. Because the sequels, as Mr. McKenna slips away from what most people consider to be reality, become less...engaging? Complete? Fulfilling, I guess.

2) I was hoping for light bulbs and gut punches. Instead, I found my deep, dark inklings confirmed much more eloquently than I could have mustered--which is great, but not so helpful if you're into the acute psychosis brought on by truth being beaten violently into your skull.
Antti Värtö
This is a story of an enlightened master in an ashram, although said ashram is in Iowa and the master is not exactly a master: there are a couple dozen people living in his house, trying to advance on their spiritual path, but he's not very interested in being their guru. He's definitely enlightened, though.

This was an interesting book. I'm not sure how to categorize it: the whole story about an ashram in Iowa is obviously fiction, but the main point of the book is not the story, but the descrip
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: waking-up
My head hurts, I'm not sure who I am anymore or if I even exist, but I guess that's the point. If there is a point in anything at all. Not sure about that either.

Can't really say much else than read it yourself and find out. It's a journey. But maybe you shouldn't take it if you're not interested in truth.

This book is full of stories about seekers. I used to be a seeker, too. Gladly it's harder to continue being one after reading this. What's the point of seeking something that's been under your
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga-and-zen
This book is a must-read for any person who considers him/herself to be on a serious spiritual path to enlightenment. But be warned--McKenna is not here to congratulate you on your progress. In fact, he systematically tears apart many of the beliefs spiritual practitioners hold most sacred, and he ruthlessly explains why common spiritual practices are probably holding you back from your professed goal of enlightenment.

A brutally honest wake-up call and a much needed kick in the ass, this book is
Steven Lee
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't share this book with most people, like Jack Nicholson said "You can't handle the truth!" and so it is with 99% of humanity. If you think yourself to be in the one percentile then maybe you should read this book, any poor review you read about it is just written by someone who shouldn't have picked it up, "One does not just walk into Mordor" and one does not lightly pick up Damnedest and start perusing it like a bit of light reading.

Mark Mulvey
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Students, quite naturally, think that it’s important to understand. They think that it’s vital that their information be correct and precise. They think that this is like school where you have to understand one thing before you can understand the next thing. But all that is about knowing and this is about unknowing.”


“If you want to become a priest or a lama or a rabbi or a theologian, then there’s a lot to learn; enough to fill a lifetime and more. But if you want to figure out what’s true, t
Sam Klemens
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book ever written. I realize that's a tall claim and I'm going to have to back it up. I'll do my best. But let's start with a few things.

1. The characters, the story, the ashram in the corn field, it's all made up. It did not happen, at least not in the way Jed writes about it. The best way to think about it is in comparison with the Fountainhead. It's a story that's only real purpose is to convey a message and philosophy.

2. In order to get the benefit of this book, you have t
Allegiance to any spiritual teaching or teacher--any outside authority--is the most treacherous beast in the jungle. The first thing we want to do when we begin our journey is find thee companionship and validity that comes with an established group, and in so doing we effectively end the journey before it begins....Anyone familiar with the process of deprogramming someone who has been brainwashed by a cult will be able to appreciate what's really involved in breaking free of this kind of allegi ...more
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't know whether Jed McKenna actually exists, much less whether or not he's an enlightened being. I do know how deeply this resonated with me. As an unenlightened being, myself, I was stirred more by the descriptions of the unenlightened students (and pre-enlightened Jed) than by the descriptions of what enlightenment is like. Jed nails the feelings that come from having nagging questions that won't go away, of perceiving that vast dark cloud and knowing the only way out is through, and the ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spirituality, 2012
Another one of those books that makes me want to write my own book in defiance of these books. I like the author's style, tone, and voice, but he's just another self-proclaimed enlightened guy, who in my opinion isn't very enlightened at all. There is no end Jed. If you think you've arrived, you haven't. To simply unplug is not living. It's called Autism. The author would say there is no wrong, that it doesn't exist. You could not be more wrong. UPDATE: I forgot. I am with you on the one prevail ...more
Aug 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I can't remember exactly what led me to this book except a "list your favorite book ever" thread someplace. I could tell from the title and description that I would likely hate it. I tried to get through it as a Humbert Humbert-esque deconstruction of the narrator, but it's no good. Two hundred plus pages of an egotist saying how he has no ego. DNF at like 80%. After I put it down, a weight was lifted; I'm going to credit myself for this one. When I Googled a little to find some more info, I alm ...more
Nick Arkesteyn
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not sure how to say this...this is an amazing and dangerous book. I highly recommend you read the entire serious. But be will not come out the other side the same ;)
Ivan Hrvoić
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me immediately spoil it for you, do you get enlightened by reading it? No, you don't.
Is book worth reading it? Yes, it is. Should you read it? I’ll come to that at end of review.
Well, I stumbled upon a book by friend’s recommendation. He said he wouldn’t recommend it to the others because it can make you quite self-destructive, but that he thinks it will go fine with me. So, little bit tempted by that I’ve added it to to-read list and wait it for, I don’t know, maybe half a year before start
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
you need to interpret this book the right way, if you misinterpret it oh well..... it basically about what happens when you kill your ego. This book is a harsh book, it's about cutting through the old bullshit ladders that we have internally with ego - it's about decoding yourself so you can build whatever you want. In the beginning he put the book like "there's no meaning in life" kinda sadistic approach y'know, and then you're like if there's no meaning in life why the fuck should i believ in ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
This is one of those books that can radically alter your perception of yourself and the world and the people in it. Full of profound, self-evident insights, the author, Jed, weaves prose, storytelling, and super clear self-analysis on his own process and the process of students who are constantly surrounding him, asking him questions. This is all in the book.
He does this like no other that I have read. Perhaps he could be compared with J. Krishnamurti with his shining insights into the deeply hi
Christopher López
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I finally found a book that I can relate so hard on its concepts. I've been dealing with understanding existence since I was a kid without knowing it and I discovered myself on a process of enlightenment described by the author.

This book is fun, easy to read, and full of knowledge. I'm glad to know I've never been more on track than before. I'm glad to know I'm not crazy.

If you you have doubts of your own beliefs, this book can help you with that. Great book indeed!
Omar Diego
Aug 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
A clear message in a fun format, bullshit free.
Dora Tolstoy
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gave me my first real existential crisis à la Jean-Paul Sartre in his book la nausée. Don't know where ill go from here, but I hope I can approach it with more curiosity than fear ...more
St Fu
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jed says he doesn't socialize because he doesn't have anything in common with others. I think he's wrong about this, but that's just coming from my ego (as will most everything else I say in this review.)

I have a lot in common with him. For one, like him, I am enlightened. For two, I did it on my own without a formal teacher. For three, I like reading books on the subject because it gives me good ways to explain it. It's why I read his book. (For four, I'm fond of Emerson's essays. For five, I u
Jasun Horsley
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The books do seem to be fiction of a sort - like Castaneda's except that "Jed McKenna" - the guru/don Juan - is the author, but perhaps as much an invention as "Carlos" the author? There is much contradiction in the books, though sometimes that seems as much a good thing as not... For example, how can a person who claims to have no preference for living over dying have a preference for NY over LA? Really?! Does that compute?

When McKenna says he hates LA, maybe that is him, the enlightened being,
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When author TJ Klune was growing up, he never saw queer characters in books in a way that felt true to his experience.  “They were the...
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“Listen! Here’s all you need to know to become enlightened: Sit down, shut up, and ask yourself what’s true until you know. That’s it. That’s the whole deal; a complete teaching of enlightenment, a complete practice. If you ever have any questions or problems—no matter what the question or problem is—the answer is always exactly the same: Sit down, shut up, and ask yourself what’s true until you know. In other words, go jump off a cliff. Don’t go near the cliff and contemplate jumping off. Don’t read a book about jumping off. Don’t study the art and science of jumping off. Don’t join a support group for jumping off. Don’t write poems about jumping off. Don’t kiss the ass of someone else who jumped off. Just jump.” 23 likes
“Here’s the most directly I am able to say this: The one and only truth of any person lies like a black hole at their very core, and everything else—everything else—is just the rubbish and debris that covers the hole. Of course, to someone who is just going about their normal human existence undistracted by the larger questions, that rubbish and debris is everything that makes them who they are. But to someone who wants to get to the truth, who they are is what’s in the way.” 17 likes
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