Jed McKenna: I am not Jed McKenna

Jed McKenna is a spiritual dude. He plays video games, he rides a Jed McKennamountain bike, he skydives, he reads Walt Whitman. Jed McKenna is an enlightened teacher. He had an ashram in Iowa, numerous students (several of whom became enlightened), and has several books to his name: Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, Spiritual Warfare, and Dreamstate.

A lot of folks criticize Jed McKenna because he doesn’t fit their image of a spiritual teacher. Fortunately, Jed likes to talk about himself, so we can see he’s not such a bad guy:

All eyes are watching me expectantly. “What’s the wisefool gonna say?” they wonder. That’s part of the drama.
A few pockets of resistance pop up, but I plow over them. Their indignation is as meaningless to me as the growls of little pink puppies. I’m indulging myself with a somewhat more forceful manner of communicating now, mainly for my own amusement, and their reaction at this stage is not a factor.

Jed has a stark vision of the quest for Truth:

I like happiness as much as the next guy, but it’s not happiness that sends one in search of truth. It’s rabid, feverish, clawing madness to stop being a lie, regardless of price, come heaven or hell. This isn’t about higher consciousness or self-discovery or heaven on earth. This is about blood-caked swords and Buddha’s rotting head and self-immolation, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something they don’t have.

Yet this stark, no-nonsense approach garners praise for shattering imprisioning images of teachers and the spiritual search.

The emperor has no clothes, and sooner or later everyone is going to see what’s staring them right in the face. When that happens, perhaps, there will be a major shift—a mass exodus away from the complexity and futility of all spiritual teachings. An exodus not outward toward Japan or India or Tibet, but inward, toward the self—toward self-reliance, toward self-determination, toward a common sense approach to figuring out just what the hell’s going on around here. A wiping of the slate. A fresh start. Sincere, intelligent people dispensing with the past and beginning anew. Beginning by asking themselves, “Okay, where are we? What do we know for sure? What do we know that’s true?”

Here’s a simple test. If it’s soothing or comforting, if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy; if it’s about getting into pleasant emotional or mental states; if it’s about peace, love, tranquility, silence or bliss; if it’s about a brighter future or a better tomorrow; if it makes you feel good about yourself or boosts your self-esteem, tells you you’re okay, tells you everything’s just fine the way it is; if it offers to improve, benefit or elevate you, or if it suggests that someone else is better or above you; if it’s about belief or faith or worship; if it raises or alters consciousness; if it combats stress or deepens relaxation, or if it’s therapeutic or healing, or if it promises happiness or relief from unhappiness, if it’s about any of these or similar things, then it’s not about waking up. Then it’s about living in the dreamstate, not smashing out of it.

On the other hand, if it feels like you’re being skinned alive, if it feels like a prolonged evisceration, if you feel your identity unraveling, if it twists you up physically and drains your health and derails your life, if you feel love dying inside you, if it seems like death would be better, then it’s probably the process of awakening. That, or a helluva case of gas.

There is truth in McKenna’s books, yet it is wrapped in fantasy. I criticize McKenna, but praise his first book Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing.

Who is Jed McKenna? Jed McKenna doesn’t exist (I’m sure “he” would agree with this on one level!) — there is no teacher named Jed, no Iowa ashram, and no students as described in his books. It is all a fake. What evidence do I have for this? the fact that there is no evidence for any of it. No photos, no face-to-face meetings, no one saying they have ever met the man or been his student (I welcome any evidence to the contrary). McKenna expertly diffuses this objection:

Q: We’ve received many questions about you personally. People want to know about your history, your relationships, your finances, everything. For instance, do you have friends? Do you socialize beyond the student/teacher relationship?

JM: This whole thing really has nothing to do with me personally and it would be counter-productive to shift the focus onto me.

Q: It’s easy to understand why people would be curious.

JM:I’m not relevant to anyone’s search. I’m just a finger pointing at the moon. There’s nothing to be learned from the finger. Everybody’s eager to find a distraction from the real work of waking up, but that’s all it is, a distraction.

Whoever writes under the name “McKenna” is not a teacher and probably not enlightened, as evidenced by this wishful thinking:

That’s why it might seem like I never give a straight answer to a straight question. Rather, I use the question, or the first few words of the question, to determine the next thing the student needs to hear. The student has no idea what the next thing they need to hear might be, but I know exactly what it is because I’m looking down from an elevation that lets me see exactly where they are, where they want to be, and where they have to go to get there. It’s all perfectly clear to me, but because they don’t have that overview, students cannot effectively chart their own course. That’s the role of the teacher, otherwise everyone could just pick up a book and, as Jolene puts it,bam!

Yet, the mystery writer has interacted with some hard-hitting teachers and understands many of the misconceptions that seekers labor under. There is some great advice in the first book:

Your moments of blackest despair are really your most honest moments—your most lucid moments. That’s when you’re seeing without your protective lenses. That’s when you pull back the curtain and see things as they are.

Self-realization isn’t about more, it’s about less. The only construction required for awakening is that which facilitates demolition.

If I were to reduce this book and my teachings to their essence, I would say it all comes down to nothing more than this: Think for yourself and figure out what’s true. That’s it. Ask yourself what’s true until you know. Everything else in this book, everything else I have to say on the subject, turns on that center.

I never thought of waking up as a spiritual pursuit, I just wanted to get to the truth. Looking back, I can see where I might have used the word “infinity” in a koan-like manner; kind of a Western version of mu. Infinity is beautiful; it destroys everything it touches. It annihilates all concepts, all beliefs, all sense of self. No teacher, teaching, book or practice could ever be as effective as simply allowing the thought of infinity to slowly devour you.

If you wish to make this transition in your own life—to awaken within the dream, to shuffle off the egoic coil—my suggestion would be that you combine Spiritual Autolysis with fervent prayer, using each to advance the other. Use the writing to locate and illuminate your falseness and thereby develop a healthy self-contempt. The strength of that emotion will then empower your prayer, which should be for the courage and ability to locate and illuminate your falseness, and so on.

Why ruin good advice with fiction? Because of the very things Jed rails against: people love drama, the story. McKenna spins the story of his self, the teacher, expertly disassembling the belief systems of all he meets. Just as people became enthralled with Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, so too will they be with Jed.

Why care that it is fiction? Because Jed places great emphasis on the lack of success of spiritual teachers.

Don’t you think it’s reasonable to ask to know a teacher’s success rate? The proof is in the pudding, right? Didn’t you ask them about the fruit of their teachings when you started with them?”

He claims that he has a number of enlightened students. If this is all fiction, then his teaching and method is a suspect as any other with a success rate of zero.

Jed McKenna’s second book Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment is forgettable. It features a series of encounters with stock, clueless spiritual seekers, of whom the wisest become awed by Jed. Combine that with a lot of U.G. Krishnamuti quotes, the ranting emails of one of his students, and Jed’s self-proclaimed breakthrough interpretation ofMoby Dick, and you have … well, I’m not sure what you have besides a paean to Jed Mckenna.

I’ll leave you with one more quote from the first book:

“Spiritual awakening,” I continue, “is about discovering what’s true. Anything that’s not about getting to the truth must be discarded. Truth isn’t about knowing things—you already know too much. It’s about un knowing. It’s not about becoming true, it’s about un becoming false so that all that’s left is truth. If you want to become a priest or a lama or a rabbi or a theologian, then there’s a lot to learn—tons and tons. But if you want to figure out what’s true, then it’s a whole different process and the last thing you need is more knowledge.”

Read Jed McKenna’s first book, then if you’re ready to make the First Step away from the false, investigate some real people like Bob Cergol or Bob Fergeson who are living the stark truths that McKenna eloquently speaks of.

If you like a good story, check out Dave Gold’s book, After the Absolute. It is an entertaining read about his life with the teacher Richard Rose. Filled with great quotes and true stories, it is time better spent than with Jed McKenna’s fiction. By the way, a couple of people have speculated on the Internet that Jed McKenna and Richard Rose are the same person. That is definitely not true. I knew Richard Rose, and he was not Jed.  Also confirmed as “not Jed McKenna” are: August Turak, David Scoma. has four articles by Jed McKenna you can read for free.

Lastly, in case you were wondering, I am not Jed McKenna.

32 thoughts on “Jed McKenna: I am not Jed McKenna”

  1. I kind of liked reading Jed McKennas books. At least the first one.
    I was open to him being the real deal…
    …Then came “Theory of everything”. I’ts sad that the whole premise of the book is based on a really weak argument.

    Truth is All
    Consciousness Exists
    Consciousness is All”

    He says “Check your assumtions!” and its obvious it is exactly what he himself should do.
    Too bad.


    Listening to August Turak speaking on youtube
    and after seing him in the film “Mr Rose” I really get the sense that he is Jed McKenna.

    1. Hi Tommy. Thanks for stopping by. I just talked with August Turak a couple of days ago and he commented how people keep asking him if he is Jed McKenna. I am confident he is not.

      1. Thanks for getting back.
        OK, I trust your judgment on that. But still…:)
        After “Theory…” though, to me that question about the pseudonym isn’t as interesting anymore.
        BTW, Thanks for all the great work you have been doing running this website!

      1. Imagine if August Turak read Jed McKenna’s book after people, as Shawn mentioned above, brought him to his attention.

        Here’s a guy – Turak – who writes about selflessness, who’s been known to skydive, who knew an enlightened teacher from Virginia, who had a dog named Dharma, and who knows someone named Pete Reilly.

        And he comes across these books by someone who writes about selflessness, who’s been known to skydive, who knew an enlightened teacher from Virginia, who has a dog named Maya, and who knows someone named Pete Reilly (who has the copyrights to McKenna’s books).

        What a coincydink … I’d be a bit spooked, to say the least!

    2. Clearly Tommy you did not get ‘it’, I’ll get to Verena later on. There was no need for anyone to get anything, so in that respect the material clearly succeded. The process described in all books is a purely logical one mainly derived from deductions. Whatever stands after all is dead, burned and buried must be true. There is no other way and things could not be simpler. Who cares who McKenna is? What the face lookes like? Why? So you can judge whether or not he says is true or not?! It’s all about you! Didn’t you get that yet? It’s irrelevant, simply because killing the Buddha also meant killing McKenna. Knowing comes from within. Wanting to know that face proves your attention is aimed at the ‘has been processes’ seemlingly occuring outside of ‘you’. Mis-take. You’re looking in the wrong place, you’re asking the wrong question. You weren’t reading some books; you are writing the story as you go along. Same goes for Verena: all is consciousness, including the Universe, your ego, your opinion, whatever. Switching the labels simply helps you under-stand that not the Universe is (ever) leading, but that it is a playground which sprouted from and within consciousness. Feel the change by placing the dot on a piece of paper, and then looking at it first from the perspective of the human looking at it as if it represented consciousness (as most humans look at it btw) and then – feeling the change of the widening perspective – switching the labels from human in U-rex to consciousness in C-rex looking at it’s creation, the Universe. Again; it could not be simpler. I suggest you both do the work, dig deeper within; – or not, because it is useless anyway – then you will know there will be questions no more. Then you are truely done. Adios!

      1. Wisely spoken!
        I loved the book and understood most of it while reading. That says enough I guess. It helped me getting trough my last answers, and I wasn’t even looking for them. I’m on the start of writing my own first book now as being a noobie in “all this”, but certain of sharing some unique experiences in the context i’m gonna write them down.

        Good luck everyone!

  2. Well, if August Turak really is Jed McKenna- why on earth should he lift the curtain? That said, he or anybody else who is- or is not Jed McKenna is kind of bound to say ‘no’ when being asked- right?

    What I really would like to ask you, Tommy, is why you think the mentioned assumptions are weak?
    The only flaw I detected in this Theory of everything is, when he comes to the idea of switching labels, regarding the universe an consciousness.
    That is, in the ‘U-rex’ paradigm, nobody would say, that consciousness doesn’t exist only because it is located in the body, which is located in the universe.
    But after switching labels he falsely concludes that the whole universe wouldn’t exist, only because now it is ‘located’ within consciousness.
    A kind of non-dual, nihilist trap, that is already being pointed out in the term ‘neti, neti’ -neither this, nor that. As I see it, he kind of tries to kill the living paradox that becomes apparent in realization. That too me, is a poor understanding, since nothing is won by simply changing the content of the claim. E.g. claiming there is someone in a sense is the same thing as claiming there is no one.
    Still, the core assumptions too me seem to be fairly accurate. Thus, I’d love to hear from you, what exactly is wrong about them.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. May well be. In the Mckenna books it has a very ‘American’ syntax structure to the writing, yet in Jed Mckenna’s online forum he writes in somewhat of a style that suggests he is from somewhere like Inda. I only suggest this as his writing in English is slightly disjointed and reminds me of someone from that part of the world who has English as their second language. Unless of course this style is just another double bluff.

  3. Here is a photo of August Turak with Richard Rose:
    Here is a purported photo of Jed:
    Chances are that the guy that writes the forum in not the author of the books.
    In addition, the books are licensed to Peter Sweeney at Wise Fool Press. Could Peter Sweeney be the brother to Anne, who has a long relationship with Turak?:
    Then there is this:

    1. As I pointed out above, there are interesting similarities between the two. But there are also interesting discrepancies: McKenna writes about his aversion to places “where the greed and vanity of the people seem to permeate the air”. Turak is a salesman, now selflessly slaving away at his Twitter feed to push his service schtick, and as a salesman, he would naturally, in fact inevitably and constantly find himself in situations and places where ego and money is the name of the game.

      But who knows? In his latest boon to humanity, “Dreamstate”, McKenna writes: “Advertising is […] the art and science of monetizing fear”.

      Perhaps the salesman and the enlightened teacher converge after all, sharing a laugh or two on the way to the bank …

      1. Look at the marketing of the McKenna books, the bonus content in the PDFs, the republishing of the bonus content in physical book form as a bonus for buying the trilogy in physical book form, etc. Wisefool Press is McKenna. That strengthens the Turak connection for me rather than diminishing it.

    1. That forum is a testament to the intellectual capabilities of his readership.

      In other words, that’s not him.

        1. Well, that’s that, then – at least as far as you are concerned. But it most definitely is not; however, believing anything you want is your prerogative.

          For the more curious I’ll mention that he makes a reference to impostors pretending to be him on the Internet in his next to latest book, “Dreamstate”. Make of that what you will (as if anyone could stop you!).

    2. I know. I have been a member of his forum for some time. I tried to take the Navigator
      series but he said I was not ready yet. After going further he let me taken the series and it changed my life. He might be mad at me for sharing this, he told me to get of all kind of social media like Facebook and Twitter, but I feel I have to. I can not be certain this man (or woman) is Jed McKenna but after the series I do not even care. I went so far as to go to Cambodia in search of this great man just to thank him. No luck so far but at least I’m over my lifelong depression.

      1. Surely someone could have hooked you up with some drugs, street or legal, to overcome your “lifelong depression”. Couldn’t cost all that much more than a (fruitless?) trip to Cambodia …

  4. When i first woke up inside a dream i approached a dream character and asked whether he knew he was in a dream i was having. He laughed at me, said i was crazy, and walked away.
    If someone came up to me in waking life and told me that i am a character in their dream i would laugh at them, tell them they’re crazy, and walk away.

    1. What if someone told you you were dreaming that you had woken up?

      Would you laugh at them, too, or would you get your thinking cap on and actually consider the statement honestly and truthfully?

  5. Jed McKenna is a salesman who believes he woke up, and is now catering to a non-spiritual demographic within the spirituality marketplace.

  6. I agree with those that believe Jed is Adyashanti. Reading Emptiness Dancing recently, that are various sections with sentences almost verbatim from Jed’s conceptual staple – ‘no belief is true’ and ‘dreamstate’ are two of them. The lectures from that book are from 2001 and I believe Jed’s first book is from 2003-2004 perhaps? In the End of your world there is the same underlying message and view of enlightenment as radical demolition and deconstruction, which few other contemporary teachers spouse, Jed being one of them. I have a feeling that Jed might be a hard-hitting voice that perhaps Adya couldn’t integrate in his formal teacher role. This is not unusual with writers and poets. Perhaps if it turns out to be him in the near future, he could integrate these two facets and become a completely new teacher. Well, who knows.

  7. I have no idea who Jed McKenna is, nor do I have an idea if the guy moderating the JedMcKenna forum is indeed Jed or just some guy or girl claiming to be him.
    I would advise people to stick to what they know to be true and not stick to what they don’t know to be true.
    Seems to have helped all the enlightened folk…

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