Philosophy East

© Jed McKenna

THE MOST VALUABLE CONCEPTS we can take from the East are Brahman, Maya and Atman. There are others, but don’t get greedy or you’ll end up like that monkey who couldn’t get his hand out of the jar because he wouldn’t release the banana. The real fool’s gold is found in the pockets of the drowned.

Most notable among Eastern philosophies for our purposes is the idea that Brahman Is All, where Brahman is without attributes and therefore precisely synonymous with any term we define as without attributes, such as truth or consciousness. Saying Brahman Is All just means we’re using the word Brahman instead of consciousness. Here we’re calling it consciousness because I experience consciousness directly, and I don’t know this Brahman guy from Adam.

Advaita Vedanta is the philosophical pinnacle of Eastern thought (and, therefore, of world thought), but Advaita is like Buddhism and Zen for me; as soon as I enter, everything that lured me in turns into something else. From the outside it looks okay, but as soon as you go in, you find yourself right back in Maya’s house of mirrors. My distinct impression is that many adherents and promoters of Advaita and nonduality completely misunderstand both what it is and what it’s not.

Brahman is Atman, Atman is Brahman. That’s the whole deal. Truth has no teaching, requires no guru, and is not a spiritual pursuit. That bears repeating: Truth is not a spiritual pursuit. A guru may be necessary to follow a teaching, but to make a journey we must cut everything away, gurus and teachings included. We can sit together, but we must travel alone. If you think you see more in Advaita, or any teaching, then look down and watch those vines wrapping around your ankles.

Remember, there’s nothing to know. Kill the guru. No head full of spiritual knowledge or wall full of spiritual books can ever be other than an anchor. All forward motion depends on release, not gain. Only that knowledge which destroys knowledge facilitates progress. Don’t seek external validation, be your own guru. Students don’t make journeys and travelers don’t sit in classrooms. This little caution bears emphasizing because our compelling tendency toward spiritual inertia is why the most spiritually knowledgeable, respected, and dedicated, are not themselves awake.

If you want to understand Maya, if you want to make sense of the dreamstate, if you want to reconcile the irreconcilable, then you are consigning yourself to a lifetime of blind wandering, like countless billions before you. You can believe something new every week, or one thing for the rest of your life, but you will never discover the slightest trace of true knowledge. You’ll be in good company, though, if that counts for anything.

To digress a bit, I feel at times like I’m delivering a message more appropriate to the trilogy than to this theory-of-everything document. That’s probably because I don’t buy into the whole theory thing. Concept-level understanding seems to me like a dream within a dream, but I don’t know why anyone would want to do anything but wake up.

Well yes, I do know, but, as always, I feel that I’m not communicating so much with the reader as with the reader’s little bastard, that muffled shrieker and spiritual anarchist who wants to stage a coup and throw firebombs and blow the dreamstate all to hell. That little bastard is alive in you, and he wants you dead. I see him as the good guy in all this, the scrappy underdog, and maybe someday he’ll make you grab that six-inch knife and jump out of the boat and begin the journey beyond self.

However, to continue this digression a bit more, I will repeat what I said in the books, which is that Human Adulthood is the real prize for everyone everywhere. That’s what all spiritual seekers really want, not truth or enlightenment, and that’s what absolutely everyone should pursue at all costs. No shit.

Here, we take a description of Brahman, and replace the word Brahman with Consciousness:

“Consciousness is the One, the whole and the only reality. Other than Consciousness, everything else, including the universe, material objects and individuals, are false. Consciousness is at best described as that infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, impersonal, transcendent reality that is the divine ground of all Being.”

“Consciousness is often described as “not this, not this” because Consciousness cannot be correctly described as this or that. In fact, Consciousness can never be known as an object of experience because it is the very subject that experiences everything.”

“Consciousness is the origin of this and that, the origin of forces, substances, all of existence, the undefined, the basis of all, unborn, the essential truth, unchanging, eternal, the absolute.”

“How can Consciousness be properly described as something in the material world when Consciousness itself is the basis of reality?”

“Consciousness is the substrate of the material world, which in turn is its illusory transformation. Consciousness is not the effect of the world, but its very cause. Consciousness is said to be the purest knowledge itself, and is illuminant like a source of infinite light.”

“Due to ignorance, Consciousness is visible as the material world and its objects.”

“Consciousness is attributeless and formless. It is the Selfexistent, the Absolute and the Imperishable.”

Another significant concept we can borrow from the East is Maya; that which allows us to see what’s not and not see what is. Without Maya, there is no U-Rex [The universe is all there is], no amusement park, no you and me. Here again we replace the word Brahman with Consciousness:

“Maya is the complex illusionary power of Consciousness which causes Consciousness to be seen as the material world of separate forms.”

“Maya has two main functions; one is to “hide” Consciousness from ordinary human perception, and the other is to present the material world in its place.”

“Maya is also said to be indescribable, though it may be said that all sense data entering one’s awareness via the five senses are Maya, since the fundamental reality underlying sensory perception is completely hidden.”

“It is also said that Maya is neither completely real nor completely unreal, hence indescribable. Maya dwells within Consciousness, but Consciousness is unaffected by Maya, just as a magician is not tricked by his own magic.”

“Maya is temporary and is transcended with “true knowledge,” or perception of the more fundamental reality, Consciousness, which permeates Maya.”

Decades ago, back when I still formed pointless opinions about irrelevant stuff, it seemed obvious to me that everything interesting about India arose from Soma, probably psilocybe cubensis, and that nowadays, without their sacred-potion precursor, India is just the ghost town of an extinct people who were once the coolest hippies of all time. Soma makes Hinduism make sense, and the Vedas rave about Soma, so it seems like we can make that connection. Furthermore, when we look at modern day Hinduism, we see that it is lacking the living sacrament that connects its adherents directly, rather than just providing a bunch of second- and third-hand “knowledge” devoid of living context. So, just another dead religion, but at least this one has some actual basis in the annals of courageous consciousness.

Besides Advaita, the lifetime work of mystic mathematician Franklin Merrell-Wolff should be mentioned here, if only to likewise spare the reader from spiritual tire-spinning. What we’re calling Brahmanic Consciousness, Merrell-Wolff called consciousness-without-an-object, or the Great Space. Of Merrell-Wolff’s 56 Aphorisms on Consciousness-Without-an-Object, we can take 1 and 56, and leave 2 through 55.

01. Consciousness-without-an-object is.
56. Beside the Great Space there is none other.

Truth exists, untruth does not. There is only truth.