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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Consciousness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Consciousness

1. Recognizing Consciousness as the Underlying Ground of Everything

Student: What do you mean by consciousness? Almaas: One way to understand consciousness is as the experience of pure existence, which is the beginning of your mind, the seed of all experience, the root of all concepts. Such existence is actually a presence, a conscious presence. When we experience it fully, we recognize it as pure consciousness, a field of awareness that includes our capacities of perception and experience. And furthermore, we recognize consciousness as the underlying ground of everything. Everything turns out to be a manifestation of and within this field. We find out that this consciousness is the ground of mind too, of all concepts and knowing. Although pure consciousness is nonconceptual, it is the ground of all concepts and all kinds of knowing, both the ordinary and the gnostic. We also experience consciousness as presence and being, as the realm of the day. To move to the realm of the night, the absolute dimension of our true nature, consciousness needs to dissolve, needs to thin out till there is no existence at all. For consciousness to consume itself means that consciousness realizes that its existence isn’t really ultimate. For consciousness to consume itself means that consciousness realizes its own nonexistence.

All of Existence is a Manifestation of Consciousness

One realizes that all of existence is a manifestation of consciousness; that ultimately everything is made out of consciousness. This can happen only when one transcends identity with the body. There are many ways that this realization appears. One is the perception that there is an infinite and boundless ocean of Presence-Consciousness-Love, and that all physical forms appear to arise out of this substratum. One's body and the rest of the universe appear as forms arising out of this primordial substance. One feels direct affinity and divine Love for everybody and everything.

As We Recognize that Consciousness is Fundamentally Presence the Knowledge of Our Depth Begins to Open Up

When we apprehend consciousness in itself, independently of the function of consciousness of objects, we experience presence. The term field of consciousness is an attempt to describe the ontological presence of the soul, her being. Furthermore, as we recognize that consciousness is fundamentally presence, the knowledge of our depth begins to open up. This is because our inner depth is nothing but the experience of our consciousness, and presence is nothing but the nature of this consciousness. Recognizing presence teaches us a great deal about consciousness, soul, and essence of soul. In this recognition, we can know ourselves in our fundamental mode of existence. We begin to see, perhaps for the first time, that what we are is more fundamental than all the content of our experience. We are more fundamental than our sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, images, symbols, ideas, concepts, and so on. We awaken to our essential nature, which is more fundamental and more basic than our body, heart, and mind. We experience the fabric that is ontologically fundamental, necessary for the existence of all that we have taken to be ourselves. We begin to recognize our real self, our soul. More precisely, by recognizing presence we become aware of the fundamental ground of our soul; we discover the inner fabric that holds all of our experience; we are enlightened to what we are beyond time and space.

Cessation of Consciousness

Cessation can also happen as part of the love affair that the soul has with her true nature. As she opens up and becomes fully present, without defenses or pretensions, she may feel her intimate love for the absolute. Such love may appear as an ardent desire and longing, or a resistance and unwillingness to keep living in manifestation. She feels she would rather dissolve in the absolute and disappear than experience the various realms. Such longing may lead to a complete disappearance into the unmanifest absolute, as the soul feels enveloped by its delicious darkness, and caressed by its infinite mystery. This intimate embrace can reveal to the soul that she is like a cloud of consciousness particles. As she dissolves she feels only a few particles, conscious of themselves and of black nothingness. As consciousness thins away it disappears in the nothingness. All perception and sensation are lost. There is then not even consciousness of nothing. It is as if unconsciousness. There is absence of consciousness. There is absence of existence, absence and no awareness of absence. It is as if the consciousness thins away like air and the awareness itself disappears. When there is no consciousness at all, there is no experience whatsoever, and no awareness of no experience.

Conscious and Unconscious Prejudice

In contrast to the fully conscious individual, the average human being suffers from conscious or unconscious prejudices, whether they are racial, social, or personal. These prejudices not only color a person's perceptions and actions, but also his relationship to others, since relationships involve both perception and action. He does not see a situation or a person as it is, but rather through his own filter of prejudices and biases; and this leads to inappropriate responses and actions. The result is suffering and frustration, and ultimately a dampening of life.

Consciousness and Growth

Man's ordinary state of consciousness leaves him falling far short of what he could be: a fully conscious and fully alive human being. This ordinary state falls somewhere in the middle of the continuum between the pathological and the fully conscious, and has no clear demarcations. Growth, as we see it, is a movement or evolution from that middle range toward more consciousness and more life, and is the actualization of more of man's inherent potential.

Consciousness can Develop Whereas the Absolute Does Not

Let’s see if we can understand the relationship of the Pearl to the Absolute. Pure consciousness, or conscious presence, manifests in different forms such as love or peace. It can also manifest as a person, a true person, an essential person. We call that the Personal Essence. It is a certain manifestation of pure consciousness or aspect of essence. But as I said earlier, the Absolute, although it is the ultimate reality, is not the complete development. It is true that it is the inner nature of everything and the ultimate experience; it is where we are going and where we came from and where we come from all the time. However, realizing the Absolute is not the entire story of the inner path. In order to complete the story, consciousness as pure presence becomes inseparable from absence. Consciousness can develop, whereas the Absolute does not. So, in a sense, the development in consciousness is the work. Much of this development can happen before the discovery of the Absolute or after it. It depends on the person. Some people don’t embark on the development of consciousness until after the recognition of the Absolute. Others do a lot with the development of consciousness before the realization of the Absolute.

Consciousness is not a Product of Matter Because Matter Itself is a Certain Level of the Organization of Consciousness

What arises from understanding the relation of world to Being can be summed up by saying that matter is not what we think it is. Matter is one way we experience the appearance of the universe, namely through the use of our senses. It is the particle side of reality, which appears to our perception this way because of our route of approaching it. Approaching it differently, from the inner subjective side, we can experience its wave aspect. This application of the metaphor of the complementarity principle reveals that the wave aspect of matter is pure consciousness. From this perspective all the theories about the arising of consciousness need to be revised in a radically different light, for consciousness is not a product of matter because matter itself is a certain level of organization of consciousness. Pure consciousness is more fundamental than and ontologically prior to matter. Therefore, inner or subjective consciousness is a further organization of consciousness, and not something that suddenly arises when brain neural networks reach a certain high degree of organization. The evolution of the brain seems to be necessary for this property of consciousness to emerge, but it does not depend only on brain complexity. The inherent pure consciousness is its necessary ground. Hence, the AI theory, and possibly the emergence theory, proves to be inadequate. This is to be expected, for both are expressions of our modern thought that has dissociated the basic triad. And since consciousness and its relation to matter lie at the very heart of this dissociation, we will be fooling ourselves if we believe that theories grounded in this dissociation can give us an adequate understanding of the relation of matter and consciousness.

Consciousness Itself is Directly Aware of the Fact of Its Existence

The presence of Essence implies that the consciousness itself is conscious of its presence. This means that the consciousness itself is directly conscious and aware of the fact of its existence not through inference but by experiencing the existence directly, by being its existence. So to be present as Essence—to experience oneself as presence—is to experience oneself as a self-existing consciousness, as a consciousness whose presence is identical with its consciousness of its presence. Thus, the consciousness of the presence is the same thing as the presence; the awareness of the presence is not separate from being the presence. This is a mysterious perception to the normal mind of ego, which does not experience things that way. The normal mind is always an “I” aware of something, whereas the experience of presence has no subject/object dichotomy. But because it is possible for an “I” to be aware of the experience of presence, it is also possible to mistake that experience for the direct experience of presence. An “I,” for example, could be aware of the presence of essential Joy or Strength, but that would still not be a complete knowing of the experience of the presence of Essence. The latter occurs when the Joy or the Strength is aware of itself as presence. This, then, reflects the reality that the consciousness of presence is indistinguishable from the fact of presence itself. Beingness and consciousness are inseparable, are coemergent. This means that at the moment presence is present, who you are is simultaneously indistinguishable from the fact that you know you are presence by feeling, sensing, touching, tasting yourself as presence. The touching of yourself as presence is not different from the presence itself. The touch, the taste, the texture—in other words, the perception of the presence—is the presence.

Brilliancy, pg. 42

Cosmic Consciousness

Another way of seeing this fact is the direct perception that everything is made out of Love. The body, the walls, the air, the space, the atoms, all seem to be made out of the same continuum, which is this Cosmic Consciousness. There is unity and oneness, although there is variety and difference.

Fluctuations in the Flow of Consciousness that is the Soul

The variegated radiance of the absolute manifests at my physical locus as a flow inseparable from movement. I experience the silence and stillness of the absolute as the center of experience, and the soul as a flow of changes, movements and functioning. More accurately, the movement and functioning appear as fluctuations in the flow of consciousness that is the soul. The stillness and silence are coemergent with the flow. This indicates the integration of the soul’s functioning with the absolute. The absolute emptiness is so completely united with the flowing consciousness of the soul that the visual effect is that the movements are very subtle luminations of the absolute. At my locus the black vastness seems to flow with a dynamic luminosity. The absolute displays not only an inherent luminosity but also a magical dynamism.

Identity Locates the Individual Consciousness

In addition to identifying with a particular self-representation, we also experience ourselves within the overall self-representation because we are always identified with it, partly consciously, but mostly unconsciously. This locates individual consciousness within a general background patterned by the overall self-representation and its world. The overall self-representation is the background of any particular moment-to-moment experience, the foreground of which is determined by shifting component self-representations. So the identity locates the individual consciousness both in the particular component self-representation the individual happens to be identifying with in the moment, and within the overall self-concept with its representational world. Thus, the identity determines the self’s domain of experience, by locating the awareness within the self-representation. Under normal circumstances, this domain is the conventional realm of experience. In James’s last statement above, we see that when his identity dissolved and he did not resort to identifying with other self-representations, the location of his experience moved from the conventional dimension to the dimension of essential presence. This perspective illuminates both ordinary experience and the experience of self-realization. The functions of self-recognition (feeling of identity), recognition of the self-pattern (identification), and of locating the experience of the self all combine to locate the sense of self in whatever dimension of experience the self-representations involve. It is not only experience that is located by the identity, but the self itself, so far as a person is aware of himself. In any identification, the “I” is experienced as being located within the particular realm associated with the representation the self is identified with.

Knowledge is a Particular Mode of Consciousness in the Sense that Love is a Mode of Consciousness

Knowledge is not only recognition of forms; it is more basically a particular mode of consciousness, in the sense that love is a mode of consciousness. This mode of consciousness is what makes it possible for our soul to know, and to manifest forms of knowledge. In other words, the forms are literally forms of knowledge, constituted by knowledge. The forms are sculpted knowledge. It is as if knowledge is the potential of the dark room that can manifest, lighting up in a display of forms of knowledge. It is difficult to envision this kind of knowledge, mostly because what we have for a long time taken to be knowledge is only a subset of a much larger field of knowledge, a subset that has become increasingly alienated from its ground of pure knowledge. When we are able to experience our soul directly, and recognize the knowledge dimension of consciousness, that of basic knowledge, we may have the opportunity to discern the nature of its mode of consciousness, the essence of knowledge. This is a particular experience of the soul, where we experience the soul as pure knowledge. This is not a matter of experiencing and cognizing a form arising in the field of the soul; it is experiencing the field itself as knowledge. It is presence, and the presence is knowledge. The soul experiences herself as a presence aware of its presence, with an awareness inseparable from and coemergent with presence. Simultaneously with this awareness of presence there is, inseparable from and coemergent with this awareness, the recognition of this presence as knowledge. It is like a medium, such as a perfumed oil, made out of knowledge.

Metamorphosis Into the Indestructible Inner Spiritual Body of Freedom

The individual consciousness is the organ through which true nature expresses and realizes itself. As individual consciousness transforms, it develops its own sense of individuation as a personal presence, which is the sense of being a person of true nature, a person that expresses true nature in the world. But there is more to the development of human consciousness than individuation. It can develop in terms of its realization, as well as its capacities of discernment, of freedom, of dynamism. In this path, the full development and maturation of individual consciousness is the metamorphosis into the indestructible inner spiritual body of freedom. This is the full realization of being an individual human being and being the totality of being as two sides of one reality; they are no longer experienced as two at all.

Presence is the Essence of Pure Consciousness

Many traditions conceive of Being as ontological or nonconceptual Presence. But some schools, such as the Hindu tradition, conceive of true nature as pure consciousness. There is actually no difficulty between this view and that of Presence because Presence is the Essence of pure consciousness; expressed in a different way, when consciousness is experienced in its purity, it is experienced as Presence, the ontological and phenomenological reality of consciousness.

Pure Consciousness

In order to understand cessation of consciousness, we need first to understand consciousness itself. We can understand not only the experience of being conscious of one thing or another, but also the experience of pure consciousness, the underlying sensitivity that makes it possible for us to be consciously aware of anything at all. Sometimes pure consciousness is referred to as cosmic consciousness, but I think this makes it more difficult to understand. Pure consciousness is consciousness that is experienced directly and purely, instead of being inferred through the objects of consciousness. Since consciousness includes everything you know, you have nothing with which to contrast it except the absence of consciousness, which is a rare experience.

Qualities of Consciousness that Take Forms that Feel or Look Like Natural Phenomena

For a long time my inner experience has included a dimension that can best be described as alchemical. “Alchemical” describes the sense of my own presence as different substantial qualities which transform. It began when I first discovered that I could experience presence instead of only feelings and thoughts. I saw also that I could experience this presence as the substantial existence of various inner forms. The presence sometimes takes the form of naturally occurring substances, like lead, iron, gold, mercury, wood, water, air, clouds, bone, diamonds, pearls, and so on. The experience is not exactly the same as seeing or touching these naturally occurring manifestations, but of qualities of consciousness that take forms that feel or look like these phenomena. I experience inner sensations of texture and temperature, taste, sight and sound, which correspond exactly to the naturally manifesting substances, although it is clear that they are manifestations of consciousness. This kind of experience is unusual in our everyday awareness, but this realm of experience becomes available at a certain depth of spiritual development, and in time becomes a normal part of ongoing experience. This dimension of perception greatly enriches our understanding, and endows it with a definiteness and precision not available in normal experience, for each form expresses a specific meaning. Some of these forms are the basis of metaphors in various languages. For example, when we feel “crystal clear” it is possible to perceive that this is the effect of an arising presence in the form of a faceted diamond in the head. These meanings can be known precisely only through the operation of the diamond-like nous.

Realizing that All Consciousness Comes from a Dimension Deeper than the Body

That’s what you assume. But from the perspective of divine love, you recognize that the body is not as fundamental as presence. As long as you identify with the body, the body seems to be the fundamental ground and everything else happens to it or from it. But when you are on deeper ground, when you’re seeing on the level of divine love or a deeper dimension like the supreme dimension, the absolute dimension, then your identity is in a place that holds the physical but is deeper than the physical. And then you realize that all consciousness comes from that deeper dimension. Not from the body. One way of seeing it is to imagine that the physical body perhaps adds more discrimination and differentiation to the soul than the soul can have on its own. However, while we are living physically and learning to realize ourself physically, maybe our soul can develop a capacity for discrimination and experience which it didn’t have before, which it can then use after the body is gone. So you then have the body of light that I talked about earlier. It’s another body, a spiritual one.

Seeing Consciousness

Consciousness is an aspect of Essence … Consciousness is a substance, although not as dense or substantial as will or love. The substance of consciousness is the substance of light. Seeing consciousness is like seeing the actual photons that constitute the inner light.

Self-Existing Enlightened Consciousness

I am focusing on the presence itself, the experience of presence, which is the experience of Essence, of true nature, of liberated nature, of enlightenment. It is the experience of the enlightened consciousness that is the self-existing consciousness. The consciousness is enlightened and has always been enlightened. It doesn't become enlightened because it is itself enlightenment, liberation, freedom, reality, and truth. And what makes it be free, liberated, and true is that it is not produced by anything else. It is here right now as itself. It is self-generating. And you can't even say that it is self-generating - it just is; in some kind of absolute, fundamental way, it is now, this very instant, and this very instant is nothing but that.

Brilliancy, pg. 46

The Personal Essence is the Real Individuation of Cosmic Consciousness

A third way is in relation to the Impersonal Emptiness and the Personal Essence. One is aware of total emptiness, and out of this emptiness there manifests, as if from nowhere, this divinely beautiful consciousness that then condenses in one drop, which is the incomparable Personal Essence. All beings and physical forms are seen as condensations from this Love that is sometimes experienced as Grace. This third way of perceiving the nature of everything as consciousness has many implications: The manifestation of Cosmic Consciousness as a human being appears in the form of the Personal Essence. The Personal Essence is seen directly here to be the real individualization of Cosmic Consciousness. This is in contrast to the ego individuality which is cut off from everything else by separating boundaries. It is obvious from this perception that the Personal Essence is the real human person, the true development, which is nothing but the individuation of the divine... In this perception it becomes clear that the physical body is an external extension of the Personal Essence. This is in contrast to the ego individuality, which is an extension of the body. One experiences oneself as a continuity starting from the boundless conscious Presence, individuating as the Personal Essence, and manifesting physically as the body. The relationship between the Impersonal background and the Personal Essence is Love. The Impersonal becomes personal through Love, as an expression of Love. The universal Love is the continuum between the Impersonal and the personal, and hence, it partakes of both.

The Way Consciousness Works

You see, the way consciousness works is that when a deeper consciousness meets a more superficial consciousness, they will always come toward an equilibrium. This means that if two people get together and one of them has a brighter and more intense light than the other, after a while their levels of light will converge. So I might introduce something that makes you feel, “Well, this isn’t relevant to me—it’s way beyond my level of understanding and consciousness.” But if you work with it, if you try to understand it, it’s bound to affect you in a way that leaves your light closer to that more brilliant light. The things I’m introducing here may not be completely understandable, relevant or approachable for each individual. But every single person can benefit from them; it’s just that each person will benefit differently, to a different degree.

We Can be Conscious of Consciousness Itself

In addition to the property of being a field, the other fundamental property of consciousness is that it can be conscious of itself. In other words, we do not need to be conscious of something to be conscious. We can be conscious of consciousness itself; that is, not the property of being conscious but of the field or medium that is consciousness. The experience of pure consciousness is the experience of consciousness without an object. It is simply consciousness directly sensing itself. It is consciousness aware of itself as a field, a field characterized basically by the fact that it is conscious of itself.

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