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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Differentiation?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Differentiation

All Differentiations Arising Out of the Absolute Considered to be Universal Concepts, Thoughts in God’s Mind

From the point of view of ego, it is difficult to comprehend that boundaries are ideas or concepts. This insight arises when you experience space on the nonconceptual level. It is a different understanding than seeing that concepts are boundaries, which is a more accessible perception. From the perspective of Holy Omniscience, we see that compassion and steadfastness, for example, are different qualities of Being, but both are nonetheless Being—one thing. You could say they are God’s concepts, thoughts in God’s mind that appear different but that arise out of one source. This is why we consider all differentiations arising out of the Absolute to be universal concepts, thoughts in God’s Mind. (For a more extensive discussion of universal concepts, or noetic forms, see Diamond Heart Book 4, Almaas, 1997.)

Facets of Unity, pg. 106

All Differentiations Occur in the Expanse of Pure Presence, as Its Differentiating Self-Structuring

In the soul’s realization of this dimension she dies to being an individual soul and recognizes herself as the infinite and boundless expanse of pure presence, whether in unity or oneness. But this presence, because it is the ground of all differentiations and forms, is also the ground of all change and movement. Movement is basically the flow of differentiations, the succession of different forms that the moving body takes or perceives. Movement is actually a type of change, which is also the flow of differentiations, the succession of different outlines that the particular changing form assumes. All differentiations occur in the expanse of pure presence, as its differentiating self-structuring. Hence, all change occurs in pure presence. This is the case for all kinds of change: action, movement, expression, transformation, evolution, development, growth, maturation, decay, living, and dying. In other words, not only objects but processes occur as the self-structuring of true nature.

As Long as You are Looking with the Mind You See Knowable Differentiations

It is possible to go beyond identifiable differentiations, if you go beyond the mind. But as long as you are looking with the mind you see knowable differentiations. It is possible to go beyond the past and still see differentiation, but the differentiation then does not have the labeling, does not have the past put in it. It just looks like a picture. There is differentiation without separation, without knowing.

Basic Trust is Preconceptual, Preverbal and Pre-Differentiation

When this trust is deep, it manifests in how you live your life, not necessarily in what you feel or what you think. Basic trust is experienced as an unquestioned sense of safety and security that is intrinsic to the way you act and live. When deeply present, this trust is so much a part of the fabric of your soul that it is not something you think about—it is preconceptual, preverbal, pre-differentiation. Furthermore, it is so basic that events and circumstances in your life cannot disrupt it. For this reason, basic trust is different from our usual psychological sense of trust. Our ordinary confidence in people and situations is highly conditional and dependent on familiarity and reliability. Painful experiences or personal betrayals can disrupt our trust in the external and internal elements of our life. So ordinary trust is of little value for stepping into the unknown because those elements are always subject to change.

Facets of Unity, pg. 23

Before Differentiation and Conceptualization

Before differentiation and conceptualization, before there is memory of the past or thoughts of the future, there is just the pure fact, the pure actuality, of presence with its complete radiance. Here the consciousness is aware of itself completely outside of time—consciousness and presence as the same thing. Timelessness, which is the full and complete experience of Brilliancy, becomes the entry into the now, which is universal presence. We can think of consciousness being aware of its own actuality as a loop of self-reflection. But a loop implies time, right? Now suppose that the loop gets smaller and smaller—infinitely smaller until the loop disappears. This would mean that there is no time between actuality and the awareness of actuality. There is no longer self-reflexivity or the passage of time. It is a singularity of presence that is a singularity in time. It is completely self-aware right now; its self-existence is its self-consciousness. It is completely timeless.

Brilliancy, pg. 48

Being Presents Itself, or our Experience in a Differentiated Form

We have seen in chapter 15 that understanding implies a differentiation in experience. Being presents itself, or our experience, in a differentiated form; it does not normally present us with undifferentiated experience. It gives us specifics: anger, sadness, sickness, health, emptiness, fullness, and so on. Knowingness means not only the ability to differentiate these elements, but also the capacity to experientially recognize them for what they are. This kind of knowing is always implicit in experience. In other words, real understanding implies the possibility of knowing through intimacy, instead of only through mental and conceptual operations. You can know your body through being intimate with it, you can know your feelings through being intimate with them, you can know your inner state by being intimate with it. Intimacy means that no barrier exists between you and whatever you are knowing. It’s a direct in-touch-ness, a direct contact. More than that, it is a mixing of your consciousness with whatever it is you’re knowing. There are no barriers, no walls, between you and what it is that you are knowing.

Creations of the Dynamism of Our True Nature

We refer to these qualities as essential aspects, or aspects of essence. Each is presence knowing itself as presence, but also and simultaneously recognizing this presence as the particular quality. Each essential aspect is actually the presence of essence, qualified with a particular noetic quality. It is the presence of essence, with the addition of one of its implicit perfections, now made explicit in experience. The noetic quality is not separate from the presence; it is completely indistinguishable from it. The knowingness of presence is now simply inseparable from the recognition of the quality. The knowing here is that of basic knowledge, so it is pervasive throughout the presence, not a recognition apart from it. The differentiations are not man-made, not constructs of the individual mind, not even products of a cultural or collective mind. No person’s mind is able to come up with such perfect differentiations. The direct perception of noetic forms shows us that the abstractions of ordinary mind are relatively gross and vague. The differentiations we perceive directly are the creation of the dynamism of our true nature, manifesting its perfections in explicit forms for the recognition and functioning of the soul. They are universal also in the sense that they manifest the same to all souls.

Differentiation Does Not Mean Separation

In reality differentiation does not mean separation. My lungs and my heart are different, but not completely separate. The cells of the body are finely differentiated, but the cells are not separate from each other. They constitute one body. It is more fundamental that they constitute one thing, the whole body, than that they can be seen as separate. And the unity of reality is more fundamental than the separate existence of tables and chairs on their own. In other words, the dimension of unity is more fundamental, it is a more inclusive reality, than the dimension of the physical.

Differentiation is a Step Prior to Discrimination

In this experience, there is only true nature, for all forms are nothing but true nature, as its own differentiation. Conceptually, we can discern true nature as the pure undifferentiated awareness that is the ground of everything, and everything as manifestation, but in immediate experience there is no such discrimination of the two. Reality is what is, in its thusness. We describe this situation by saying that nonconceptual Reality is inherently differentiated as the world we normally see, but in the immediate experience of pure awareness we do not recognize the elements of our world, even though we clearly perceive them. In other words, differentiation is a step prior to discrimination. To put it more analytically, true nature manifests as a nonconceptual ground that differentiates into all the forms of appearance, and its dimension of pure presence develops these differentiated forms into discriminated ones. Differentiation creates differences, but discrimination makes these differences knowable. The new point for our discussion is that the nonconceptual ground functions as ground by differentiating into the various forms. If that were not the case we would then have a ground that is separate from the world of differentiation, which is a contradictory position from the point of view of the perception of the nonconceptual ground.

Differentiations Exist but Not Ultimate Divisions

The most important understanding of Holy Truth is that physical reality and true existence are not separate. Physical reality is made up of objects which can be discriminated. If you perceive the world exclusively through the physical senses, you perceive only discrete objects, such as people, trees, animals, rocks, clouds, oceans, earth. If you experience this level only, which is the basis of the egoic perspective, the universe that you see is dualistic. But if your perception is unobscured by your beliefs, your inner perception becomes unblocked, and the universe looks quite different. If your perceptual capacities are clear, you recognize that other dimensions exist in addition to physical reality, such as love, Beingness, and awareness. At this level of perception, you see that there is only one existence, one homogeneous medium. This medium encompasses physical reality, which is one particularization of it. Objects are seen as objects, but they are not discrete—they are more like waves on the surface of an ocean, lacking existence without the whole of the ocean. So differentiations exist, but not ultimate divisions.

Facets of Unity, pg. 86

Experience is Differentiated and the Differences are Identifiable

The interesting thing about perception, and about experience in general, is not only that it is differentiated, but that the differences are identifiable. They are conducive to being known. So, for example, when I look around and notice different colors of shirts or different styles of hair, not only do I know that they are different, I also know what those differences are. So I don’t only know that this shirt is a different color from that one, but I know that this shirt is green and that shirt is blue. If I just see differences, there will be no knowledge, only perception. Differentiation is necessary for perception, but my perception will have no meaning until I begin to recognize what these differences are. For instance, sometimes I might have a feeling of love, and at another time a feeling of joy. These are not just different feelings. When I experience them as distinct feelings with specific characteristics, I can understand a lot about my experience. So we are seeing that differences have identifiable qualities, and the human consciousness is capable of recognizing those identifiable qualities.

Experiencing the Presence of True Nature Inseparable from the Present

We experience the presence of true nature here inseparable from the present. The present is a differentiation of time, which is a differentiation of pure presence. Thus we experience pure presence as the presence of the present. The presence of the present is now, the nowness of the present. In the self-realization of pure presence, when we are aware of the passage of time, we experience presence as the now. Now includes all differentiations, and hence all the changes in differentiation. Now, therefore, includes all time. It is the now of all time, which we experience as pure presence at any time. The now is not only this instant, it is all instants. More accurately, an instant is a snapshot of differentiation, the next instant is the next snapshot of differentiation, and so on. All these snapshots are differentiations, a flow of differentiations where the awareness of flow depends also on differentiations. All time flows in the now. All time passes now. Now is always, for it is pre-time. It is pre-time because time is differentiation; and now is pure presence, which is pre-differentiation. Being pure presence, one is present at all times, just as one is present at all places. Time and space are coordinates differentiated within the now. Time-space is the self-structuring of now, which is Being.

In Its Absolute Transcendence the Absolute is Beyond Any Qualities and Beyond Differentiation

In chapter 21, we differentiated between the absolute and the absolute dimension. In discussing the absolute dimension we did not differentiate between the various dimensions of descent, so our examples ranged over a few of them. We saw, however, that the absolute in its absolute transcendence is beyond any qualities and beyond differentiation. Yet it contains all possibilities of manifestation, including all essential qualities and forms. The absolute implicitly contains all the qualities and dimensions of true nature, unmanifest and undifferentiated. Recognizing this fact, we can begin to see the relationship of the absolute to all manifest forms. The soul may become aware of a mysterious intuitive grasp of the indeterminable truth of the absolute possessing simultaneously one of the essential qualities, like love or clarity. We experience our nature as completely the mysterious truth of the absolute, beyond being and nonbeing; yet we somehow know we are love. We can almost taste the sweetness of love and feel its soft texture, as if there is a hint of the love quality in the absolute; but there is actually no color of love and no explicit love quality. We are the absolute but we are also, implicitly, love. We can have the same experience and insight with compassion, clarity, truth, joy and so on. It is as if the qualities are present in the absolute, in their fullness, but not explicit and not manifest.

Knowable Differentiations in Reality

So far today we have seen that as manifestation goes from the nonconceptual level to the conceptual, what first arises is what is called the realm of noetic forms, or universal concepts—knowable differentiations in reality. We can have differentiated perceptions without naming them, without separating one thing from another. If I am the nonconceptual perceiving the differentiated world, I won’t say, “This is a chair, this is an arm.” I just see the variations in differences without separating things out. At the next level we discriminate things out so we can deal with them functionally, and also communicate about them. Mental concepts can be more or less aligned with true noetic forms. As you know, the process of becoming objective in our perception of ourselves and the truth of reality is a long and arduous one. It involves an orientation toward truth and objectivity, in which we consistently question the content of the personal mind with its beliefs and reactions, and attempt to see what is actually true and real in our experience. This process involves not assuming that we know the truth, which supports our experience of space and openness. The process continues into the realm of conceptual reality, in which the concepts of personal mind no longer determine what we perceive.

Knowing Begins as Completely Inseparable from what is Known

Since there is no differentiation in pure presence, its knowing is the first knowing, the origin of cognition. We see that the origin of cognition is the experience of being, or more precisely, the dimension of pure presence. Knowing begins with being, which is the knowing of being. It becomes clear to us in the realization of the dimension of pure presence that the origin of the cognitive capacity of mind is the knowing of Being. This means that knowing begins as immediacy of experience, a directness of consciousness with a discrimination of the condition of consciousness. Knowing begins as completely inseparable from what is known. Even more, knowing begins with the nondifferentiation of known, knower, and knowledge. Furthermore, knowing begins with the knowing of Being, where Being is known, knower, and knowledge. The timeless truth here is that fundamentally the knower is Being, the known is Being, and the knowledge is Being. We see of course that as cognitive differentiation develops and expands, knowing tends to develop in the direction of discrimination so completely that what is discriminated is experienced as not only discriminated but separate; ultimately this separateness develops to such an extent that knower, known, and knowledge become three distinct things.

Love is a Differentiation Out of Pure Conscious Presence

The soul can be aware of herself as pure consciousness, and then she is like essence, for she is then essence. The soul, however, can know herself as any of the aspects of essence, for all of these aspects are elements of her potential. On the other hand, an essential aspect is only itself, without the potential to be anything else. Its knowledge is similar to the soul only in the fact that it is capable of knowledge. It is capable of basic knowledge, but knowledge only of its own particular quality. This is clear when we experience essence in one of its aspects. Take for example the quality of personal love, whose affect is that of liking and appreciation, of recognizing what we love as wonderful and precious. This love is a manifestation of pure consciousness. It is a medium of consciousness conscious of itself. Its experience is the experience of a conscious presence, a presence that knows itself by being itself. Its knowingness is not discursive representational knowing; yet this presence is not only aware of itself as presence, but is also aware of itself as love. Love is a differentiation out of pure conscious presence, where presence now possesses a quality that distinguishes it from other essential differentiations. It is analogous to the differentiation of colored light from white light; it remains light, but manifests as one quality from a spectrum that is implicit and nondifferentiated in white light.

Perception of No Differentiation Between One’s Usual Manifestations and Boundless Presence

In primary narcissism the infant is capable of little differentiation between the self and other, inside and outside, thus calling it “primary narcissism” does not imply isolation from the environment. In fact, the absence of differentiation reflects one of the main attributes of the full experience of self-realization. This is the perception of the oneness of Being, in which the primordial presence is experienced not only as one’s personal inner nature, but as the nature of the totality of existence. One experiences oneself as part and fabric of the one infinite presence which is the totality of the universe, or as this totality itself. In this development there is no differentiation, or more precisely, no separating boundaries, between one’s usual manifestations and boundless presence.

Pure Being is Nondifferentiated Presence

Pure being is complete being because it is transcendent being, the source of all. It is the original and primordial presence of true nature, before it manifests through the display of its qualities, qualities that it possesses totally but implicitly in its completeness. As transcendent being, it is not differentiated into qualities. Pure being is nondifferentiated presence, presence before differentiation. Pure presence is simply true nature before it differentiates into its discriminated aspects of presence. The central insight here is that pure presence is nondifferentiated presence. The implication is that it is like white light, and the aspects are like its prismatic colors. However, pure presence is not white, but colorless. It is clear light. It is clear light because it is not a reflected light and not a refracted light. It is a self-existing light, which appears directly in awareness as clear light, and is experienced as pure transparent presence.

The Basic Cognitive Dimension of Pure Presence Differentiates Into the Various Forms of Phenomenal Appearance

First, we will return to the question of differentiation. We saw above that essential aspects form a special type of differentiation. The level of boundless presence presents another type of differentiation, a more general one, which comprises the totality of manifestation. In other words, boundless pure presence differentiates itself into the various forms that populate manifestation, on all levels of manifestation. Essential aspects are a special category that embodies the perfections of Being. However, just as in the differentiation of essential aspects the original simple knowingness differentiates into the various recognizable qualities, the same happens in the differentiation of the myriad forms of manifestation. The basic cognitive dimension of pure presence differentiates into the various forms of phenomenal appearance. What is new in this differentiation is that because we now know that pure presence possesses a cognitive dimension, the forms that manifest are not only differentiated outlines in the manifold of presence. This Riemannian manifold reveals now that it has a cognitive dimension, which points to the important realization that these forms are also cognitive forms. On the dimension of pure presence, all forms can be discriminated.

The Difficulty that Arises from Confusing Consciousness with Life

The distinction between essence and soul is not easy to make, because it is a subtle differentiation. The main difficulty arises from confusing consciousness with life. When one experiences essence as a conscious presence it is not usually easy to recognize that this is different from aliveness, for one has not differentiated life from consciousness. In our normal experience, consciousness and aliveness are inseparable. We rarely, if ever, experience one without the other. And when we experience pure consciousness we cannot differentiate it from life, because we tend to believe that to be conscious is to be alive. Even researchers interested in death experiences, or out-of-body experiences, tend not to explore the question of whether in these conditions the soul experiences herself as alive or only as conscious. These researchers generally believe that life ends with death, and that even though some kind of awareness survives the death, there is no curiosity about whether this awareness will be experiencing itself as only conscious, or conscious and alive the way it is in the body. The implicit assumption seems to be that the awareness will continue to be imbued with the sense of aliveness, as it is in physical life, even though the belief is that life ends with death. The main reason behind this situation is that even though everyone knows the soul, albeit not explicitly, the experience of essence is rare. When we experience essence we know what pure consciousness is, that it is beyond the sense of aliveness, more fundamental than life.

There is Consciousness, then there is Differentiation, then there is Discrimination and then Comes Labeling

Experience ordinarily includes various kinds of psychic operations, all simultaneously present and functioning at different levels in experience. There is consciousness, then there is differentiation, then there is discrimination, and then comes labeling. They all go on at the same time but are interrelated in a nearly instantaneous chain of arising. As soon as labeling begins, ordinary knowledge comes into operation. The act of labeling creates the link that associates information from the past—ordinary knowledge—with what is occurring now in your experience, that is, with basic knowledge. When you recognize that your consciousness has inherent in it a discrimination that is inseparable from the capacity to discriminate and is prior to labeling, you are recognizing basic knowledge, which is the ground and the basis of all experience. From basic knowledge arises every kind of knowledge, experience, insight, and action.

True Nature has No Recognizable Differentiations

It is questionable to think of true nature as having characteristics, for it is completely indeterminable. It possesses no explicit qualities, no recognizable differentiations. We know that we are experiencing true nature in its full self-realization in that we feel a state and its impact, but we cannot describe it in positive terms. The tendency is to describe it negatively, in terms of what it is not. More precisely, to attribute to it a particular quality gives it a determination from which it is actually free. Any quality or attribute can only be a form it momentarily displays. It cannot be delimited, though people have attempted to describe it throughout the ages. Therefore, the classically given characteristics are such things as its lack of determination, limitation, quality, color, size, shape, form, duration, etc. This approach to describing true nature does avoid various pitfalls, but it is not completely faithful to the experience. Since it is possible to experience true nature, it is possible to say definite things about it. Our understanding of true nature leads us to see that we can say much about it, but what we say can only be a pointing, a path toward greater penetration and precision of experience. In others words, our description is functional and not delimiting, pointing to nuances that direct our mind to become even subtler in its experience. A discussion of the characteristics of true nature is, then, only an attempt to communicate a direct experience, and not one of packaging it in a conceptual wrapping. Any such description will inevitably be tentative and open, and will be transcended by a more subtle description that itself is not final. There can be no final and complete description of true nature, only attempts to point it out to the reader or listener. And in fact this is all that is necessary, for what is important is its direct experience and realization.

Two Kinds of Differentiation of Pure Presence

We see here two kinds of differentiation, making up two levels of manifestation. The first is the differentiation of true nature into its own qualities, aspects, and forms of essence. True nature is perfect in all ways, but it has special perfections that are eternally present in it in an implicit way, the way white light inherently contains the colors of the rainbow. These are the perfections of love, truth, compassion, contentment, peace and so on, the diamond vehicles and other essential forms and dimensions. Being timeless qualities, they are independent of human mind, history, and culture. True nature presents these depending on historical situations, but the qualities themselves are timeless and primordial. True nature manifests them by differentiating its own field into the forms, colors, and flavors implicitly inherent in its pure presence. Such level of differentiation is purely spiritual, forming the objective and true universal realm, and hence hidden to the physical senses.

The second kind of differentiation of pure presence is differentiation into the myriad recognizable forms—the physical, emotional, and mental forms. This is the totality of physical manifestation, in all of its levels of structure and process, plus the ordinarily experienced inner forms. So it includes the physical universe with its galaxies, stars, planets, atmospheres, elements, atoms, elementary particles, forces, the bodies of all living creatures, plus the normal experience of these creatures, their sensations, feelings, thoughts, images, and so on. Strictly speaking, the ordinary inner mental forms can be classified as a third level of manifestation, but since they are not timeless and do not reflect the perfections of true nature we include them with the physical forms in one level of manifestation. These two levels of manifestation are coemergent with pure being, which forms the ground level of manifestation, as a pure transparent infinite expanse.

Unity Has Patterns in It, Differentiations and Differences, Which, While Not Separating, Make a Pattern

This perception of the unity and the inseparability of all change and transformation can take many forms. First, it can be the experience of seeing all of existence as a presence that is patterned. This presence is not static but is, in its unified totality, in constant flow. This unified flow occurs in such a way that its pattern is continuously changing and evolving. It happens in this way because first of all, the unity according to Holy Omniscience, as we have seen, has patterns in it, differentiations and differences, which, while not separating, make a pattern. This pattern is always changing as the flow is unfolding. So, the unfoldment or flow of Being manifests as the changing of the pattern of the unity, continuously changing the patterns of how things appear. It is like seeing the whole universe as one river that is constantly changing as it flows. We not only perceive this change as changes, transformations, movements, and evolutions in the cosmic pattern, but we also see that these changes and movements include what we ordinarily perceive as our actions and the actions of other living beings.

Facets of Unity, pg. 260

Without Differentiations there Would be No experience, No Knowledge, No Action, No Life, No Universe

Without differentiations, there would be no experience, no knowledge, no action, no life, no universe—nothing but the unmanifest Absolute. This is why understanding the nature of boundaries is significant in terms of understanding reality. Someone who experiences only Holy Truth, only unity with no differentiations—without even the concepts of experience, unity, or differentiations—for all practical purposes is not alive. Such a person would be in a kind of coma, a divine coma. When you reach the true essence of the truth, this ultimate reality is in a coma in the sense that it doesn’t know itself. It is unconscious because it has no boundaries, no distinctions. Differentiation is completely gone, so there are no differences. Therefore, there is nothing to see, nothing to experience. This is what makes it the unmanifest Absolute. If you experience yourself exclusively as the Absolute with no concepts, you cannot function in the world. If you are in deep meditation, you can sink into it, but you can’t walk around that way since you wouldn’t be able to discriminate a truck heading your way, for instance. A truck is nothing but differentiating outlines and boundaries—the Universal Mind heading toward you with a certain density and at a certain speed! So it is important to perceive the Holy Truth because that is the ultimate nature of reality, but it is also important to know Holy Omniscience because without it, there would be no life, nor anyone to know the Holy Truth.

Facets of Unity, pg. 106

You Cannot Say Anything About Ultimate Reality Because there is No Differentiation

But when we know reality, we know that you and I are completely the same thing: We are made out of the same substance, we are the same consciousness exactly. No difference at all! The difference is only what appears on the surface, and to see this is to see that the difference is good; it is beautiful to see that appearance is a multi-faceted expression of reality, of love and joy. Now, things become more colorful. The different appearances—manifestations, differentiations—are all beautiful. Ultimate reality does not have a color. You cannot say it is beautiful, and you cannot say it is ugly. You cannot say anything about it because there is no differentiation. But appearance is full of colors and all kinds of amazing things. These different appearances are what we see; they are the content of life. When you see the appearances from the perspective of fundamental reality you know that you were never born, that the appearance merely changed—the ocean has another wave of a different color. You know then that each person will never die, not because we as individual entities are eternal or immortal, but because we are not something that can die.

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