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Direct Perception

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Direct Perception?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Direct Perception

Challenge to the Assumption of a Separate Observer

We generally think of perception, even perception of our inner states, as a subject being aware of an object. I am a subject, an “I” or an observer, experiencing something in my chest, abdomen, head, or some other internal place. Let’s say I am feeling a sense of warm kindness in my chest. From the usual perspective, I assume that the observer is separate from the object of observation, the warm kindness. Often we experience the “I” or observer somewhere in the head or at the back, although we might not notice this sense of location. Thus our typical sense of such an experience is that we are a self that is experiencing warm kindness, without necessarily identifying the self clearly. The self or “I” is assumed to be separate and distinct from the feeling of warm kindness. The feeling might be definite and clear, but the self is vague and in the background. However, in the course of many meditative and some philosophical approaches to knowledge, we begin to move from this conventional view, to challenge this assumption of a separate observer. When we say, “I feel compassionate,” or “I have a headache,” or even “I see a dog,” we know we can become clearer about what is this compassion, where in the head it hurts, or what sort of dog we are seeing. But the “I” who is feeling or hurting or seeing is, as we said, usually vague and in the background. We don’t think to ask, what is this “I” who feels or hurts or sees? This is a central element in many paths: beginning to explore what is the location of experience, and to appreciate the field of awareness itself as the ground and medium of perception and experience. Direct recognition of the conscious presence, which is the soul, gives us a new ability to understand our capacity for inner perception. When we recognize that this field is a presence that is ontologically more fundamental than inner content, we understand that the content must be arising within this field.

Direct Perception of Reality Without Involvement of the Mind

These considerations of the perception of duality and subtle conceptualization, amongst others, precipitate spontaneously the ultimate reality, the truly nonconceptual truth. Here, words will not say anything positive. Nonconceptual Reality is how things are. It is direct perception of reality without the involvement of the mind. It is both presence and absence, but also neither. It is neither self nor no-self, nor the absence of both self and no-self. It is both being and non-being and neither. It is everything and it is nothing. Whenever there is negation or affirmation there is conceptualization, and the true reality is gone. And hence we call reality as it is the Nameless; it cannot be named.

Higher Organisation of the Soul

This organism is all fundamentally consciousness, but in its differentiated manifestation as soul this consciousness can know itself not only in direct perception of its fundamental nature as consciousness, presence, and Being, but also it can know all of its differentiations and manifestations. The soul can know its various qualities and structures directly, as well as reflectively and conceptually. The higher organization of the soul gives her the ability to perceive and experience complex events, but also the ability to reflect on her experience and perception, to think, imagine, remember, feel, will, decide, choose, and so on.

Perception that is So Direct that What Perceives and What is Perceived are the Same Thing

So there is always an inference from some perception. And the inference is of something that we are very vague about. When somebody says, “I think, therefore I exist,” what does this person mean by “I”? Is he clear about what he means? And because there is inference, there is no total certainty. There might be logical certainty. There might be commonsense certainty. But there is no real, deeply felt, existential certainty. The certainty doesn't exist in inference because experiential existential certainty needs direct experience, in fact, the most direct perception and experience. The most direct perception and experience is the one of identity, when we are what we experience, when the perception is so direct that what perceives and what is perceived are the same thing. This is exactly the experience of essence. Here there is no inference from something else. It is the most direct experience. The experiencer and the experienced are the same thing. There is no separation between subject and object. The subject and the object are the same: essence.

Perception When the Inner Capacities of Essence are Functioning

By direct perception we mean what is actually perceived when the inner capacities of Essence are functioning. These capacities are not generally experienced on the ego level, but sometimes a hint of them can be recognized from the perspective of the ego. For instance, the capacity of empathy is commonly recognized, and acknowledged by some psychologists as a valid mode of perception. However from the vantage point of Being, empathy is seen as the first vague glimmer of a capacity of Being. When this capacity is developed, one does not vaguely sense the emotional state of the other person, but one is clearly conscious of the exact inner state of the other. One knows what the other feels, where in the body the feelings are, what tension patterns accompany the state, how the other is interpreting this state, and even what is underneath the state in the unconscious.

Pure Awareness

The recognition, which is a direct perception, is that everything is in me. The body, the universe, essence, personality, everything that can become an object of perception, is not me, but is in me. I am pure awareness, mere witnessing, where everything arises and passes away.

Soul and Body form a Complementarity Similar to Wave and Particle

This can bring up the question of the relation of the soul to the body. From the perspective of our vision the soul and body form a complementarity, similar to wave and particle. This metaphor is not a complete description, but valid for our physically embodied experiences. We also find it to reflect direct perception of soul more accurately than the contemporary scientific theories about consciousness. Physical fields are inseparable from their particles, being two sides of the same reality, but this does not hold completely for the soul and body. It does not hold completely because it obviously does not explain a disembodied soul, which is what individual experience after death means. This is also seen in out of body experiences. To recognize the full complementarity principle in relation to the soul we need to view it from the larger perspective of Reality, where the question is not about the relation of soul and body, but about spirit and matter in general. We discuss this universal complementarity principle of spirit and matter when we discuss the relation of physical reality to Being. (See chapter 23.)

The Crucial Distinction Between Essence and the Mind

That is a very important observation. It reveals the crucial distinction between Essence and the mind. Essential knowing is the same as Essence because knowing Essence is being Essence. It is direct perception, direct embodiment of Essence. When Essence is not there, you try to remember it. However, the mind cannot reach Essence; it will try to remember Essence, but it cannot. Our normal, mental memory can’t remember the state of Essence. There is no way for the mind to do it. You experienced an aspect of Essence a few days ago. You remember it, but not exactly. You can’t remember the most important element. It’s not there. When the Essence is not there, there is no knowledge. The mind is there, and the experience of the mind usually is dulled by skepticism. It’s very good at doubting. You see, the mind does not have certainty about Essence. It cannot. Essence is beyond mind. Essence is not within the realm of mind. Mind only has images of Essence, perceptions of it.

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