Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. An Inquiry into Values.”

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”

One more completely misrepresented book in our world. This book is typically described as a “travel book”, meaning that it contains a travel description, which it is anything but. This is, au contraire, a philosophical treatise explaining the intellectual path to the enlightenment and the state of human “grown-up”. And as the first quote rightly sums it up, the book is about working on yourself and not about motorcycles.

Pirsig claims that he took the name Phaedrus accidentally, meaning to take the Greek word for “wolf” but ending with “bright” by accident. With all due respect, I don’t believe in accidents. “Phaedrus” stands for “enlightened” and that is who he is. The book contains interesting allegories that explain well how the human awareness comes to existence, how we perceive the world, and how we do it all wrong.

We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.

The book has a lot in common with other philosophical and mystical books in that it also describes the path to the enlightenment that a person must take. The path that results in discarding of ego, discarding the very idea of who you are and unlearning everything you learned to start understanding the world.

He wanted to free himself from his own image. He wanted to destroy it because the ghost was what he was and he wanted to be free from the bondage of his own identity. In a strange way, this freedom was achived.

And all of the wisdom is described in a very natural (for our culture) “scientific” language that rings true to the ears of the modern man. The examples are everyday things that one can easily relate to and analogies have true meaning for the man of today. This scores a lot of points when compared to somewhat cryptic Eastern books or works of Carlos Castaneda.

One of the important things that the book mentions is a clear distinction between the glorified self-interest and the true growing-up, the true desire of enlightenment. That self-glorification is the disaster of the today’s world.

Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in a disaster. […] When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you

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Jed McKenna, “Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment”

The sequel to the “Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing” turned out to be quite entertaining but less well written. Frankly, at times it felt like one of those sequels written purely for the sake of money, knowing that the folks that bought the first one will likely buy the next one. There are some interesting stories but the book feels on one side very commercial while on the other rather undercooked. If the first book left no doubt that the person can be trusted, the second raises the question of whether we are in for some bullshit. That’s the feeling I get, anyway.

Still, towards the end the book things seem to clear up a lot and it gets interesting. Especially I liked the discussion of the essence of the fight for enlightenment:

Fear vs. Hate. Fear of No-Self vs. Hatred of False-Self.

That about sums it up for me. And the other quite interesting discussion was related to the attitude towards death:

That’s what death is, guaranteed absolution; freedom and forgiveness all in one. If you understand the fact of your own death, that it’s always here with you and that it’s a certainty, then you’re free. That’s liberation; knowing that nothing is yours or can be yours, knowing that you have nothing to lose.Other people push death away, deny it, but we don’t have that luxury. We have to pull death close, embrace it, carry it in our hearts and minds. I don’t mean like a college kid getting stoned and having a one-night stand with existentialism, I mean like something you carry in your pocket and always have one hand on.

This looks just like Castaneda’s definitions and discussions. Might be coming from there, might be just true. Anyhow, this state of taking in the death as your friend seems a pretty powerful weapon if you dare take it up.

Overall, less enjoyable than the first book, probably still worth a read.… -->

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