Jed McKenna is enlightened.
There, that's the essense of the book.
Don't expect to find the answer to the question "so what is this 'enlightenment' thing?" The answer is, whatever the heck it is, whether "non-dual awareness" or "discovery of truth" or "being awakened", Jed McKenna is it.
And don't confuse him with other spiritual gurus, either. They are not the real thing. He is. They may be having a "mystic union" experience. Or whatever. Their's is different. In fact, whatever their experience, he has been there, done it. But his is better. You see, he is "enlightened".
But you can't blame Jed McKenna for being vague about it. After all, this "enlightnement" is not something that anybody else can really understand. Everybody else is like a caterpillar, whereas he is like a butterfly. How can a caterpillar know what it is like to fly?
Or everybody else is like a human, whereas he is like a vampire. How can a human understand what it is like to be a vampire?
Which brings up the interesting question, when he became enlightened, how did he know his other state-of-being was to be called "enlightenment". And not, for instance, "satori", "nirvana", "at-one-ness", "super-acidity", what have you? The original words from which the word "enlightenment" was created: "nirvana" or "nibbana" and "satori" etc have been lost for thousands of years, so how did McKenna arrive at this state and said "Ah, this is the state of 'enlightenment'". How did he know it was not a state of permanent foobarisment? In fact, he makes such strong and fine distinctions, that one wonders if there is a hidden school somewhere that maintains the old traditions: "That was spiritual awakening, not non-dualism, McKenna. Drop down and give me twenty! Now let's work on mystical one-ness for the next hour."
Anyway, beyond the question how he knows it was "enlightenment" and not one of a multitude of other words, the more interesting part is "so what next?"
Does McKenna have a philosophy he is going to teach? Absolutely. You see, it goes like this. All the world is a dream. It's like a movie. But the people acting in it are also watching it (or something... the distinction between acting and watching is so confused in McKenna's mind that only a butterfly or a vampire can possibly understand it apparently.) So basically McKenna would like to wake up all the other watchers in the theatre, so they can stop acting in the movie, and go on with their lives of acting in the movie. Or watching it. Whatever...
But wait, that confused rambling of McKenna's (apparently based upon everything from "Row, row, row your boat... Life is just a dream" to Plato's caves to the Hindu concept of Maya) is not the only philosophy he has. You see, he also has more serious philosophies and purpose. The purpose of his life is to "Kill time, until it kills me". There, enlightened enough for you?
Don't get me wrong. McKenna has clearly had some sort of a spiritual experience. But it is also obvious he chose not to derive any meaning from it. Or rather he chose to derive one of the shallowest of meanings: fixation on a particular word.
McKenna says life has no meaning. Yes, life has no meaning. And it has all the meaning. Life balances, and the opposite of zero is infinity. Life can have absolutely all the meaning you choose to ascribe to it. No less. And no more either. McKenna wonders about why "enlightenment" (or whatever) is supposed to be connected to euphoria and escatsy (he seems to thinks it's all a fake.) The real answer is simple. If you could really glimpse all the rides that life is (a metaphor he employs and actually even seems to vaguely grasp), why would you _not_ choose to take a brief and quick trip on the one-time-only ride labelled as "the pleasure-overload", before you get down to more serious and sustaining ones?
McKenna also seems to be good at getting lots of people to say his work is very good. Why not, it's a nice little bargain! He is defending his "enlightenment" strongly. So other spiritually-confused people can get a self-image boost at his coat-tails. It strongly enhances their self image to say the book is so good, because it validates their erudition to themselves; it convinces them that they are clearly "getting it", that they are close to being "enlightened" if not really fully so!
McKenna can defend his shtick of claiming rights to a particular word, very powerfully indeed. Yet all the powerful defending will not make it any more than what it is - a word, and a shtick.
More here: http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Enlight ... addOneStar