Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Development?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Development

Development and Actualization of a State

The process of development is the same thing as the process of unveiling or shedding at the same time. The development and actualization of a state is what is needed to go beyond it. They are not two separate things. You cannot go beyond self until you actualize self. For instance, when you finally know your true self, you are it, you realize in the same instant that you’ve gone beyond it. You do not need it any more because you’ve got it. That is the hierarchy of needs – when you do not have it, you need it. You must look for it, but the moment you get it, get it completely, you do not need it any longer; you realize that it is not important. You realize that it is an idea in your mind anyway. But you do not know that it’s just an idea in your mind until you get it.

Development Equivalent to the Integration of All Dimensions of Reality

From the vantage point of each dimension of Being, the more differentiated dimensions appear to be less real. Each dimension both includes the more differentiated dimensions and transcends them. This is experienced from the first dimension of Essence, going through its various levels, to the dimension of the Supreme Reality, and then to that of the Transcendent Absolute. However, all these dimensions make up the true potential of the human being. The human being is incomplete if he identifies with one dimension, regardless of how “high,” to the exclusion of others. The complete man is the integration of all dimensions of reality. We will see in subsequent chapters that this integration is possible only with the Personal Essence. We will see that the Personal Essence undergoes a development which is equivalent to the integration of all dimensions of reality. It is still not the highest experience; nevertheless, it is the highest development. One who has integrated the Personal Essence completely is able to experience any dimension of reality, depending on the requirement of the moment. One who is identified with a particular dimension may be realized on the Being level, but is still not complete in his development, for he is unable to move to different dimensions. The Personal Essence, although it is not as universal or final an experience as the Supreme or the Absolute, is actually a greater miracle. The Supreme is an unknowable reality because it is nonconceptual. However, it is easily recognized when experienced. It is easily understood, though not by the mind. The Personal Essence, on the other hand, is a much more mysterious experience. It is much more difficult to understand or grasp. It is quite a mystery, a miraculous mystery, that Being can feel personal. None of the aspects of Essence, not even the Supreme and the Absolute aspects, feel personal, except for this one aspect.

Development that Has to do with the Spontaneously Arising and Developing Pure Forms of Presence

A second and more fundamental reason is developmental; the way the cognitive and perceptual faculties develop in childhood makes it unlikely for the child to develop with full self-realization. By the time the child has developed her cognitive capacities to the degree needed for the recognition of self-realization, the self-representation will have developed. This makes the development of the narcissism of everyday life an unavoidable element in the development of the self. However, this does not mean this is, or has to be, the ultimate development, a truth attested to by the various spiritual teachings, and experienced in self-realization. The self can develop, although usually not initially in childhood, without that development being a development of the self-representation. This is a difficult thing to envision psychologically, for this development has to do with the spontaneously arising and developing pure forms of presence, the manifestations of the ontological creativity and richness of the deeper potentials of the self. The self becomes spontaneously patterned from within, completely independent from the self-representation, and as a natural response of the self to the developing circumstances of life. We have given an account of part of this process, the part that has to do with the essential individuation of the self, in our book, The Pearl Beyond Price, Beyond Price (Almaas, 1988).

Discipline is Necessary for the Work of Inner Development

Another category of action connected to inner development is that of discipline. Discipline is a basic ingredient in almost all schools of inner development. This is for several reasons. One reason is that the emotional, false personality tends to act and behave in a haphazard way, mainly in whatever way seems to help avoid any unpleasant truth. So without discipline it will tend not to do the work necessary for inner development because this work is largely a process of confronting unpleasant truths, at least at the initial stages. Discipline will force one to confront, and not avoid, the unpleasant truths and sensations necessary for the work of inner development. Discipline is necessary for developing certain attitudes and capacities needed for the work on inner development. For example, it is needed to develop the capacity for paying concentrated attention. In addition, discipline is necessary to carry out the practices that a particular school or system prescribes. Many systems require the discipline of regular meditation. Thus, many people end up with the conviction that discipline is necessary and useful for everybody at all times. This is obviously false; very often we find that a person is disciplined not for the work on inner development but because of the inner authority of the superego. The case of the obsessive-compulsive neurotic who rigorously and ritually disciplines himself and his time is well known. This is an extreme case that well illustrates how discipline can serve the false personality and therefore hinder inner growth. So discipline needs to be exercised with understanding of the individual personality and the person's specific, true, inner needs.

Discovery of One's Own Essential Personhood

The development of ego and sense of personal identity depends, as we have seen, on the process of identification, culminating in the formation of a self-image. We have seen that the formation of self-representations is a process of freezing boundaries in the emptiness of the mind. In contrast, the pearl beyond price, the personal aspect of essence, is a sense of personal identity that does not depend on self-representation, and hence, does not depend on the existence or the defending of boundaries in open space. In fact, its development comes about through the undoing of these identifications. The culmination of the elimination of identifications is the birth of the pearl beyond price, or the discovery of one’s own essential person-hood, one’s personal nature that does not depend on the past. This is an aspect of Being that is not understood or appreciated until it is experienced. When it manifests, one cannot but be filled with wonder at the majesty, beauty, and richness of essence.

The Void, pg. 77

Ego Development and Spiritual Enlightenment are Parts of the Same Process

The Personal Essence can be seen as the integration or absorption of personality into Being, as the synthesis of the man of the world and the man of spirit. However, it is more accurate to see it as the ultimate product of ego development. In other words, ego development and spiritual enlightenment are not two disjoint processes but parts of the same process. The understanding of the Personal Essence shows how they are linked. This point is a radical departure from the understanding of both traditional spiritual teachings and modern psychology. It unifies these two fields into one field, that of human nature and development.

Illumination and Revelation

Practice that is realization discloses two kinds of illumination and revelation. One of them is the revelation of development—the development of capacities and the discoveries of ways of being, ways of action and communication and expression. There is no end to that development. You can never exhaust it. The development of the soul itself, the particular vehicle through which realization happens, never concludes. The other kind of revelation is the discovery of what’s called the natural condition, the discovery of our true nature, of the enlightened condition. At some point, what becomes important in this condition is not what the nature of soul or reality is but the freedom of the soul and reality to manifest whatever it wants to manifest. We might think that we will be in some condition like absolute emptiness or pure awareness, which constantly manifests things in various ways. I mean something different from that. What I mean is that true nature might not manifest itself as the absolute or as pure awareness at all. True nature might manifest itself in ways that don’t have anything to do with the absolute or with pure awareness. You might find out that pure awareness and the absolute are simply way stations and that every condition is a way station. So realization is endless—there is no final destination.

Our Learned Conceptual Knowledge is Really Learned Conceptual Ignorance

It takes time for the mind to develop the capacity for discriminating knowledge, and though researchers may not agree on the exact timing, it is agreed that this development happens in stages. We all start life with inherent ignorance—we know that we are, that we exist, but we don’t know what we are. We experience, but we don’t know what we experience. We see, but we don’t know what we are seeing. In time, we learn what things are, and we also learn how to recognize, how to discriminate, how to tell things apart and know them. All of this develops the capacity of conceptualization. How does this happen? We develop our capacity by coming to know the usual things that people know. Phenomena at the most obvious, gross level—the physical level—are paramount at the beginning. So we begin by knowing our bodies, knowing other people, knowing things in the physical environment, and so on. And this is followed by increasingly more subtle kinds of knowing. As we have seen, by the time we have developed our learned, conceptual knowledge, it is really learned or conceptual ignorance, because it obscures the True Nature we started with. Our learned ignorance veils and disconnects us from who we really are. To recognize True Nature and have it available to experience, we need to penetrate and see through our learned ignorance. But to understand True Nature, we need to overcome our innate ignorance.

The Action of Essence can Lead to a Healthy Separation from Family and the Conventional World

Correlating the stages of development from infancy through childhood with the aspects of essence is one of the Diamond Approach’s unique contributions. Of equal importance, this added to the understanding of the value and place of the individual on the spiritual journey. Comprehending ego from the object relations standpoint was also a major stepping-stone to understanding personal presence. Now it was easier to see how the action of essence can lead to a new and even more radical, but healthy, separation from family and the conventional world. This is a birth into a freshness that is unhindered by the overlays of our history upon ourselves or others. Not only are we freed into the immediacy of the now, but we also perceive and have real contact with others without their becoming walking stand-ins for mommy or daddy, brother or sister. Recognising the value of what is true and real is the amniotic fluid in which the divine person we each ultimately are manifests and grows. A mature heart is one that knows the true value of inner being and equally loves and values the individual who is an expression of it. This knowledge and attitude is necessary for the birth of a human being as a personal essence.

The Jeweled Path, pg. 116

The Development of Consciousness has to do with Living this Life from the Perspective of the Absolute

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. The development of consciousness has to do with living in this life from the perspective of the Absolute. The Personal Essence, the Pearl Beyond Price, has to do with being a human being and still being the Absolute. If you’re just the Absolute, you are not a human being. But you live in this world, you have a physical body and a mind, you have work and relationships. You need the Personal Essence in order to be able to live personally as a human being and still be the Absolute. So the development of the personal aspect has to do with integrating all of these things that are important for our life into the various levels of consciousness, and then into the Absolute.

The Heart is Developed as the Soul Increases its Capacity to Appreciate

We see, then, that the heart is developed as the soul increases its capacity to appreciate. This appreciation of life itself, its beauty, and all that is valuable in life—including the values that are important to another human being—allows you to see beyond your own nose, beyond your own body. Appreciation means that you can see the soul of the other person—what is important to him, what makes him happy, what makes him hurt. You can see his aliveness, his heart, his beauty, and his essential nature. The seeing is the same thing as the loving. The feeling of love and that seeing go together—they are not separate but two sides of the same coin. For a soul to have heart, it must have become clarified and purified enough to be able to have this affectionate perception of the other. This gives us an understanding of how love is inseparable from the perception of truth. It gives us some sense, some intuition, of what love is, what it does for the soul, and why we need it. Like the development of the heart, the development of love is inseparable from the refinement and development of the soul.

Love Unveiled, pg. 10

The Potential of the Human Self

It is of paramount significance for understanding the self, its development, and its disturbances, to include the self’s ontological ground (its essential presence) in our view of the self. The human self is fundamentally a presence of Being whose potential includes not only the commonly known capacities and functions, but also (and most significantly for our study), all the various aspects and dimensions of Essence. The fullness and richness of the essential core constitutes the true source and substance of most of the self ’s qualities: its Love, Pleasure, Satisfaction, Value, Intelligence, Strength, Will, and Nourishment. The development of the self is an expression of the optimizing force of its Being, in which its essential potential unfolds and expresses itself, in part, in unique and real individuality of the self. Thus, the psychic being, the self or soul, actualizes its potential as beingness while functioning in the world of humanity. The process of development of the true individuality, as discussed in detail in our book, The Pearl Beyond Price (Almaas, 1988), includes the process of ego development. This process involves the properties and capacities of the self, both essential capacities and what ego psychology calls ego functions, in developing the self into a sense of being a real person. This personal self develops not only through the maturation of its cognitive, physical, and emotional capacities, but also through the manifestation of the essential forms appropriate for each stage of development.

The Sequence of Development in the Diamond Approach

One way of seeing this sequence is through the structural model of the personality introduced first by Sigmund Freud. The structure of the personality, which he called the psychic apparatus, consists of three structural units, arranged hierarchically; namely, the id, ego, and superego. The id forms the instinctual, mostly psychophysiological basis of the whole structure. The ego, which is mostly based on the id, is the part that comes in contact with the external world. It is formed by the process of contact with and adaptation to the environment, mostly the parents. The superego is a structure that forms the apex of the psychic structure and includes the ideals of the personality and the principles of judgment. It is the seat of what is customarily called the conscience. It develops mainly by internalizing and identifying with the prohibitions, rules, values, and preferences of the parents and society at large. The sequence of development in the Diamond Approach follows the line of regression of this structure. The part last formed and organized, the superego, becomes the first part the individual deals with and understands. Then the ego becomes the focus, and finally the id itself with its instincts and drives.

The Soul Grows and Develops

Understanding soul and essence, and the relation between them, clarifies such confusion. Soul grows and develops. She does this by actualizing her potential. The central potential she needs to actualize is her essence. Realizing her essential nature she is enlightened. Her essence is her deepest and most central potential, but it is a particular potential, one of the elements that constitute her potential. Essence does not have potential, for it is the ground of all potential, the ultimate nature. Realizing essence we recognize we are primordially and fundamentally immaculate and complete. The soul develops, and her spiritual development is the actualization and realization of essence. But in the state of self-realization, development does not make sense, for we are then essence, which is perfection and completeness itself. By realizing and actualizing essence the soul is enlightened, but this does not mean she has no more potential to actualize. Her potential is infinite, in terms of forms of experience, capacities, functions, knowledge, contribution, action, and so on. The realization of essence, however, throws the soul wide open for the development of her potential. There are then no inner inhibitions to the arising and development of her potentialities, but this development depends on actual and particular needs felt by oneself and others. It depends on opportunities and situations in life.

There is No End to the Development and Unfolding of Essence

Every realized human being continues to work on inner development. There is no end to the development and unfolding of essence. This development proceeds by exposing more and more, perhaps in time very subtle aspects of the personality. After the basic identification with personality is broken, the process of dissolving the subtler aspects of the self-image usually becomes easier. It is a continual dissolution of the boundaries of self-image, resulting in more expansion. It is not that personality is gone and now essence develops. It is rather that the more essence develops, the more personality is exposed and its boundaries dissolved. The fulfillment and expansion of essence is endless and boundless.

Understanding that Our Development is Incomplete

In spiritual work, we can progress for some time without fully confronting our narcissism. This is because, for at least a few years, our development deals with issues that do not challenge the deeper structures of the self, such as those of self-identity or self-entity. Pursuing the open inquiry involved in our work brings up issues and conflicts related to the superego, neurotic or character conflicts, the pain and defenses related to early abuses of different kinds, and character distortions. The work challenges our inaccurate beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and reality, and exposes issues of separation and individuation, dependence and independence, and so on. Understanding these issues and clarifying the ego structures underlying them connects us to Essence. (See Appendix G) This process goes on for some time, with varying degrees of accomplishment, depending on our endowment and history, until the connection to Essence becomes more or less established. Then, at some point in our process, we are bound to arrive at the understanding that our development is incomplete because we are still identified with the surface of the self, rather than with its core.

Very Few Adults Exist

So we see that very few people have been able to do the Work, to learn what Essence is and know the fullness of what it is to be a true human being, an adult of the species rather than a baby. Most people are only a few years old in terms of their essential development. Very few adults exist. It is the developments in psychology that have occurred primarily in the twentieth century that allow us to see how people are stuck in, and controlled by, their childhood conditioning. The approach of psychology and psychotherapy, which has arisen in the West, is a new approach to the problem of emotional suffering. Since the time of Freud, much knowledge has accumulated about the unconscious and the personality. Psychology, the science of the mind, provides a lot of understanding that has been lacking in the Work. But those who developed the knowledge and practice of psychology are not, in general, those who are in the Work. They work to alleviate suffering by trying to resolve conflicts on an emotional level. As a rule, Essence is not recognized in psychology and psychotherapy, so the alienation from Essence is not seen. It is seen that people are not in touch with their emotions and their sensations; it is seen that people are controlled by complex structures of unconscious beliefs, fears, and defenses. But that extra dimension, the existence of the true being, is not generally seen or taken into consideration in psychological theory.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach