10 Spiritual Enlightenment Books that cut Through new age Bullshit

Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge
of oneself. – Alan Watts

The greatest achievements of man’s capacity for thought lies in books. But what about beyond thought – the source of beingness in which the thoughts arise. What is that? Sages throughout the ages have pointed towards self-realization or enlightenment as not only the end of suffering, but the greatest service you can render the world.

Spiritual enlightenment is shrouded in new age bullshit and spiritual materialism that does a disservice to what is otherwise a very scientific method of exploring the self. Here are 10 spiritual enlightenment books that cut straight through the crap in no particular order:



“The Truth is the only thing you’ll ever run into that has no agenda.” ~ Adyashanti

More and more people are “waking up” spiritually. And for most of them, the question becomes: now what? “Information about life after awakening is usually not made public,”. The End of Your World is his response to a growing need for direction on the spiritual path. Consider the book you hold in your hands Adyashanti’s personal welcome to “a new world, a state of oneness.”



“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

In this modern spiritual classic, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.” His incisive, compassionate teachings serve to wake us up from this trick we all play on ourselves


“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.”

I Am That (first published in 1973) continues to draw new audiences and to enlighten seekers anxious for self-realization. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj was a teacher who did not propound any ideology or religion, but gently unwrapped the mystery of the self. His message was simple, direct, and sublime. I Am That preserves his dialogs with the followers who came from around the world seeking guidance in destroying false identities. The sage’s sole concern was with the human suffering and the ending of suffering.



At the root of human conflict is our fundamental misunderstanding of who we are. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world. In The Book, philosopher Alan Watts provides us with a much-needed answer to the problem of personal identity, distilling and adapting the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe.

Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself. — Alan Watts



“Don’t believe every thing you think.”~ Byron Katie

Byron Katie shows us how suffering can be ended by questioning the stressful thoughts that create it. Encouraging us to discover the freedom that lives on the other side of self-inquiry. Stephen Mitchell–the renowned translator of the Tao Te Ching–selected provocative excerpts from that ancient text as a stimulus for Katie to talk about the most essential issues that face us all: life and death, good and evil, love, work, and fulfillment. With her stories of total ease in all circumstances, Katie does more than describe the awakened mind; she lets you see it, feel it, in action.



“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”

The TAO TE CHING by Lao-tzu is a classic work of Chinese philosophy that talks about the art of living, embracing an inscrutable, eternal Way (Tao). Stephen Mitchell presents it in a free translation, with endnotes that offer literal translations in some cases, short commentaries, and examples.



“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside” ~ Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi was one of the most significant spiritual teachers to emerge from India during the first half of the century, and remains widely admired. His concern throughout his long life of imparting his experience to others was to convince his listeners that self-realisation – or enlightenment – is not an alien or mysterious state, but the natural condition of man. This state can be easily discovered by undertaking the self-investigation clearly described in these talks. The lucid instructions to each section provide further illumination of this greater seer’s message.



“I don’t have something you don’t; you believe something I don’t” ~ Jed Mckenna

The mark of a true master is that he can express a subject of the utmost complexity with uncanny simplicity. Jed McKenna is such a master, and spiritual enlightenment is his subject. Jed McKenna’s books aren’t for everyone. They’re for people who are tired of the spiritual merry-go-round and ready to confront the unadorned reality of the awakening process. If you like your teachers with all the spiritual trimmings and trappings, Jed may not be right for you, but when you’re ready to jump off the merry-go-round and begin your journey, Jed McKenna is the guy you want to see standing there — waiting for you.



“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”

Krishnamurti shows how people can free themselves radically and immediately from the tyranny of the expected, no matter what their age-opening the door to transforming society and their relationships. This is a straight to the point spiritual enlightenment book where upon the true realisation of its simplicity and meaning you will look upon life with newborn eyes.



“Here it is–right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.” ~ Huang Po

This complete translation of the original collection of sermons, dialogues, and anecdotes of Huang Po, the illustrious Chinese master of the Tang Dynasty, allows the Western reader to gain an understanding of Zen from the original source, one of the key works in its teachings; it also offers deep and often startling insights into the rich treasures of Eastern thought. Nowhere is the use of paradox in Zen illustrated better than in the teaching of Huang Po, who shows how the experience of intuitive knowledge that reveals to a man what he is cannot be communicated by words.

If anyone wants a pdf version of any of these books, send me a digital pigeon mail via one of my socials connections below.

Your Turn!

Which books help clarify your understanding of enlightenment? Check out our bookshelf, and if you’d like to contribute, comment below with your recommendations.

  1. This is actually an incredible list of unforgiving straight-talking books on enlightenment. I was expecting a collection of new age woo but it’s writers like Jed Mckenna that really doesn’t mess around. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Osho ~ And then flowers showered.
    Opened my eyes and brought me on the path of self realisation and discovery.

    1. Thanks Jose, I’ve not actually read anything from Osho except the occasional quote. He seems very direct and to the point but admittedly rumours around his teachings put me off a bit

  3. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. Challenging and absorbing personal account by the author, of his struggle to regain a lost purpose and coherence in life through a unique confrontation with the “East /West” divide in world views.

  4. My favorite book:
    Ultimate Reality, the New Paradigm of Life Eternal by Béla Balogh

    “Ultimate Reality overcomes the abyss between the
    materialistic, idealist and esoteric worldview. After the review of our
    scientific results and experiences the idea that our thoughts are
    created by the brain and the assumptions concerning beginning of the
    evolution can not be kept. The opportunity of the post mortem life and
    of the life before the birth already is not a question of faith anymore.”


  5. Great article, thanks for sharing, I will have to add them to my list, recently read the Alchemist and really liked it. Next book on my list is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as I’ve heard good things.

    I too am trying to change the world in my own small way here: http://www.knowthyselfnow.org – Check it out if you have a moment, currently a work in progress but I’m admiring the shape of the stepping stone 🙂

  6. Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Bachelor. Excellent framing for people, like me, who shy away from eastern trappings that are culturally unfamiliar.

  7. “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. This book could or should be written for all and called “People Who Run With the Wolves”. Even though it is geared towards women, in that it “reflects the myths and stories of the wild woman archetype”, I would highly recommend this book to ANY gender who seeks enlightenment and personal evolution. And I see you already have “Prometheus Rising”. I’m a huge fan of R.A.W. I’ve had that book for 20 years. I never closed that book without first laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face. And one more, or a bunch of books that is, Carlos Castaneda’s books. Except the first because it was more a scientific manual on psychotropic plants written in the field while he was working as an anthropologist. I actually condensed the best parts of each book he wrote about a very wise character, don juan Matus’ (philosophy/wisdom) from all the books, typed them all out and made one volume that filled up a very large binder. Regardless of whether the characters and stories are true or not, there is a wealth of knowledge in Mr. Castaneda’s books that was very helpful to me.

  8. Great list. Trungpa is a favourite, as is Nisargadata. I would recommend Kabir Helminski’s Living Presence.

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