Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Conditioning?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Conditioning

Conditioning Can Lead Only to Conditioning

We have already shown that the self-boundaries which form self-image are boundaries that bound space. They structuralize space. We have seen that the dissolution of boundaries leads to the freeing of space, and can be seen as the same phenomenon as the emergence of space. Space always manifests in one’s consciousness as the self-boundaries disintegrate. We can say either that space melts away boundaries or that dissolution of boundaries allows space to manifest. It is one phenomenon. The dissolution of boundaries cannot be separated from the emergence of space. So here we see the role of space in inner change: There is no lasting change without a change in self-image, there is no change in self-image without a dissolution of self-boundaries, and there is no dissolution of boundaries without the action of space. This is a crucial understanding lacking in most circles concerned with effecting changes in the mind or psyche. It establishes that the personality (which is determined by the self-image) cannot change itself. Only space can change it. All the personality can do, or not do, is whatever is necessary for it to be in the condition in which space can manifest and act on its boundaries. This perspective is understood by many of the genuine spiritual teachings. They assert that the self cannot do anything to change itself or its reality. Conditioning can lead only to conditioning. The self or ego can only stop trying, stop doing, stop acting. Then the transformation occurs. This understanding is usually not as detailed as the one we are introducing here. These teachings usually see the process of radical change as giving up doing anything to change one’s inner state. This then precipitates the perception of emptiness. This emptiness may then allow the experience of Being or essence. The importance of space or emptiness is seen by these teachings as a critical factor in spiritual transformation, the turning point towards spiritual rebirth and essential realization.

The Void, pg. 105

The Conditioned Human Soul is a Distorted Soul

Animals do not have this extremely malleable and impressionable potential, so they cannot lose their nature in the way we can. Their impressionability is much more limited, so their consciousness cannot be easily structured in ways that are so alien to them. The human soul, however, can end up with only part of her potential in her conscious experience of herself, by developing a structure that excludes the rest. As we will see in chapter 12, ego development happens mostly by structuring the soul in such a way that leaves her animal potential partially accessible, and her essential potential missing. In fact, her animal soul is the dominant element that becomes structured into the ego-self, at the expense of the essential potential. The result is a humanized animal soul who is constantly suffering the deprivations of her essential nature. The conditioned human soul is, then, to put it bluntly, a twisted and distorted soul, and not just an animal soul. This distortion is what accounts for most human excesses, a distortion that twists power into hatred, strength into destructiveness, love into possessiveness, desire into greed, and so on. This is why human beings can become embodiments of evil and destructiveness, even as they have the potential to be saintly, pure, and totally spiritual and selfless.

The Most Basic Fundamental Conditioning

We are concerned here with the most basic, fundamental conditioning—the automatism of the mind. This conditioning is beyond your personal patterns and issues. Reacting to reality through concepts underlies all your personal patterns and issues and history. Concepts are the building blocks of our reactions, our knowledge, and our cognition. But it happens so automatically that most of the time we think we’re seeing reality. We aren’t aware of that split second of interpretation. The input comes in and we perceive a word or an idea. Otherwise you couldn’t say “This is a chair, this is a person.” Without these ideas pure perception is just colors and sounds. When we perceive through concepts, it’s hard to know how a thing might actually look when the perception is fresh. What is it like? Tarthang Tulku calls it the “open dynamic of the living moment.” The openness of the living moment is dynamic and fresh. But we have lost that freshness because we don’t experience the pure perception in the moment. It’s not as if it’s not available; it’s happening all the time. Perception has to happen for us to have any experience. But our mind instantaneously responds and we instantaneously react. And this response and reaction is completely governed by inherited concepts. To go beyond the mind means simply to perceive without conceptual or cognitive response. It means to put your mind “on hold,” to put that automatic neuro-linguistic response “on hold.” Then you can see what’s actually there. Then what we see becomes a source of creativity so that even our words begin to express that creativity. When we perceive without concepts, our concepts can change. They become more alive; they are closer to the immediate experience, rather than thirty years old.

The Most Universal and the Deepest Human Conditioning

The individuality is composed of ego identifications which have the function of giving it not only its separateness, but its sense of identity as well. There is a recognition of one’s person in it. It reflects one’s personal history, and feels very familiar. It is actually the sense of being the individual that one has been aware of for most of one’s life. It is, in a sense, an imitation of the Personal Essence; for this reason we sometimes refer to this state as the false pearl. This false pearl is actually what one is ultimately afraid of losing; it is what dissolves when one makes the transition to the formless dimensions of Being. It is a universal phenomenon; in a sense it is inherited or transmitted throughout the ages, from one generation to another in human history. It is the most universal and the deepest human conditioning. It is the condition of the overwhelming majority of humankind, ignorantly taken to be the real human element, when it is only an imitation or at best an incomplete development.

The Soul's Experience of Herself is Mediated Through Past Experience

Representations are the stuff of ordinary knowledge, which means the identity ends up being part of ordinary knowledge, not basic knowledge. This means the soul will know herself through representational knowledge. Representational knowledge, especially through memories, is bound to be an indirect knowing. To indirectly know ourselves means, by definition, that we do not know ourselves as presence; to know ourselves as presence is nothing but to know ourselves directly and immediately. The hallmark of our essential presence is immediacy and directness. The development of the ego sense of identity means the loss of this immediacy, which is again a dissociation of the soul from her essential ground. Furthermore, the overall self-representation, with all of its underlying ego structures, patterns the soul by impressing her field with the content of her history. The past ends up determining the forms the soul experiences in herself, conditioning her dynamic creativity to flow in largely predetermined grooves. This again means the soul’s experience of herself is not immediately in the present, but mediated through past experience. This is both a mediation through the past, and a direct loss of the immediacy of the experience of the present moment. Essential presence is both an immediacy of consciousness and a completely present centered consciousness of oneself. This again dissociates the soul’s experience from her essential ground of presence.

The Usual Personality is Nothing but a Conditioned Part of the Soul

But when a person begins taking action according to what they know, what they have experienced, rather than rote, automatic action based on their conditioning and patterns, then those insights and experiences will be integrated into the soul itself. The soul will transform by metabolizing the old personality patterns, and will thus mature. The personality is not something that needs to die or to be thrown away; the personality needs to develop in time, to be refined, and integrated with the sense of beingness. This integration is necessary for wholeness and totality, for an integrated soul in which Being and personality are not at war. The usual personality is nothing but a conditioned part of the soul. This conditioned part can be transformed only as the result of impact from insights and states of being, leading to the integration and maturity of the soul. Otherwise, it is possible for a person to put aside the personality and just develop the state of beingness. Some spiritual systems are oriented in this way so a person has the understanding, the realization and various wonderful experiences, and can remain in those states. But these are people who are not in the world. Such a person might have achieved a mature state of being, but they have to be sitting on their ass to experience it. They cannot go into the marketplace with it.

The Very Existence of the Personality Depends on Maintaining Its Conditioning

As an aspect of essence pushes forward toward consciousness, it acts on the personality. Essence is a force, and the sector of the personality related to the emerging aspect of essence becomes stronger and more forceful in order to be able to resist the emerging essence and to keep it out of consciousness. The very existence of the personality depends on unconsciousness, on maintaining its established patterns and conditioning. The personality does not want to change. As essence emerges, the conflict between essence and personality will be magnified and become more obvious. The conflict between the unconditioned part and the conditioned part becomes the focus of attention. The relevant sector of the personality will manifest more and more strongly now in consciousness, until it becomes imperative for us to look at it and deal with it in a real and effective way. It becomes necessary for us to understand and resolve the issues related to this part of the personality. To avoid or ignore the issues becomes more difficult than to face them.

Unconscious Conflicts, Beliefs and Feelings

These (psychodynamic issues) are the barriers and limitations due to past experience and its repression. Conditioning is the result of impressions from the past, and tends to remain outside of consciousness, functioning automatically. Exploring psychodynamic tissues reveals to the soul how many of its experiences, attitudes, and actions are influenced by unconscious conflicts, beliefs, and feelings. When one inquires into them, they reveal the related unconscious material. The soul then might recall various events in her early experience, including traumas and abuses, wounds and rejections, intolerable conflicts and deprivations.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach

See past editions of the Diamond Approach newsletter