The Guy from Jersey Who Found the Secret to Life

The Guy from Jersey Who Found the Secret to Life April 27, 2023
The New Jersey Turnpike via Wikimedia Commons

I fell into something that everyone is looking for. I had no idea it was there. All of my desires were fulfilled; all my mysteries dropped away; all my sicknesses disappeared. ~Lester Levenson

So begins the story of the late Lester Levenson, a regular guy from Elizabeth, New Jersey who—as he entered middle-age—suddenly attained “spiritual enlightenment.” In his book No Attachments No Aversions: The Autobiography of a Master, Levenson claims to have found “the joy everyone in the world is seeking” but “very few people are finding.”

But before we proceed, let’s take a look at how spiritual enlightenment is defined. At the website “Wild Simple Joy,” Dawn Elizabeth does a nice job of explaining what this unique state of mind is all about:

Spiritual enlightenment is awareness of the world (mindfulness) and a release of all pain and suffering. You no longer feel fear or aim to protect yourself. When confronted with something that would provoke negative emotions, instead, enlightened people only feel love and understanding.

I stumbled upon Levenson through an acquaintance, Anna Nimm, who had mentioned him in her writings. A little digging found Levenson to be a fascinating character. In the 1970s, he released a series of popular cassette teachings called “The Release Technique,” a process for letting go of negative thoughts. Its fans included the actress Joan Collins and Norman Vincent Peale who called the teachings “a great contribution to humanity.” Now for his back story.

Levenson was a struggling 43-year old businessman, beset by health and financial problems. One day in 1952, he decided to hole up and escape the world—in of all places, a New York City apartment. His goal was to figure out what was wrong with his life and why he wasn’t happy. For several weeks he saw no one, talked to one, getting his groceries in the middle of the night from a 24-hour supermarket.

Rather than fall into a funk during this self-enforced isolation, he instead came upon some startling insights. Levenson says that he became aware of “a single overall intelligence” and that intelligence is available to all of us. Yet, while we all have a direct line to this intelligence, we were either ignoring it or using it “wrongly.”

By tapping into this intelligence, Levenson developed several key insights.

What follows are passages from No Attachments No Aversions that I’ve edited, in some cases rewritten for clarity, and grouped into categories. It all begs the question: Was Levenson truly a guru and as the subtitle of the book suggests, an “American master”? I’m not sure, but he does speak to several universal truths about life that we all might consider.

On Our True Essence

  • The real “you” is located beyond the ego. The ego has a stubborn conviction that “the little me” knows. Letting go of the ego isn’t easy—but it’s necessary.
  • Move past the ego and you will see you are one with the universe. Identify with the universe and you lose all sense of being a separate individual, an ego. When you really desire to surrender to the universe, you can do it.
  • When you see your oneness with the universe, when you see your real self, you can see your world is just a dream in your mind. You’ll then wake up.
  • We have limitless potential to grow as people and spiritual beings but have imposed upon ourselves unnecessary limitations. We have no limitations. They are only concepts in our minds, learned in the past, and held on to.

On Positive Thinking and Happiness

  • A positive thought can overpower any negative thought. One powerful thought can overwhelm hundreds of negative subconscious thoughts at once.
  • If you hear or think a negative thought, always reverse it with a positive thought. Every time you hear or think one. This is necessary if you want a happy life.
  • I define intelligence as the ability to be happy. We want happiness more than anything else. Shouldn’t our intelligence be based on our ability to get what we want most?

On Love 

  • Love is the most powerful force in the universe.
  • Our happiness is determined by our capacity to love. The most important thing we can do is love others, rather than try to be loved.
  • Love is letting the other have what they want. Not what you want.
  • When we get in tune with life, we love everyone with a great intensity. Our capacity to love is immense.

On Finding God

  • Quiet your mind enough to discover what is just behind your mind. There’s an all-knowing presence there.
  • When you look at yourself as you really are, you will discover that all things are possible. You’ll realize that you have a direct link to an unlimited power, an omnipresence, that is a part of all things and accessible to us all.
  • When you’re in harmony with the universe, it’s a delightful state. You can see God everywhere. You can feel God operating.
  • We are great infinite beings, made in the image of God. Our basic beingness is God. And like God, goodness and love are our inherent nature.
  • When we let go of the ego and let God do it, anything and everything we desire can happen.
  • Let go and let God do it.
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