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Divine Darkness

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Divine Darkness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Divine Darkness

A Condition of Absolute Cessation of the Light of knowledge and Consciousness

As we approach the transcendent light, we see less because we are accustomed to seeing white, colored, or clear light. When we do not see these, we believe we do not see and do not know; in fact, we are seeing black light and knowing the transcendent light. As we are enveloped increasingly in this beautiful and intimate darkness we see less and less of the manifestation, and more of this light, which is pure night. Hence, the increasing darkness can actually be recognized as an increase in the direct and intimate knowing of the transcendent true nature. It is because of this that there is an intensification and deepening of the sense of intimacy, love, contentment, peace, that mystics are known to experience in the divine darkness. When we completely know it, when we are totally one with it, when we are the transcendent light, we see nothing and experience nothing. It is a condition of absolute cessation of the light of knowledge and consciousness, for true nature is beyond such light. True nature is the source of light. What some call a complete lack of knowledge is, in some sense, a complete knowledge of transcendence. What do we expect transcendence to be? It is absolute nonmanifestation, and true nature requires the mirror of forms in order for it to reflect and know itself the way we understand knowing.10 Transcendence knowing itself is simply absolutely being itself, where the beingness of itself is completely absolute, and hence there is no hint of self-reflection, not even self-awareness. Self-awareness is already the beginning of manifestation.

Becoming Increasingly Intimate with the Divine Light, the Absolute Transcendent Truth

Clearly, the nature of this process and its accompanying experience can lead us to the conclusion that the absolutely transcendent truth is unknowable. When absolute transcendence is taken to mean true nature totally apart from any manifest form, this is true. However, we see this as one possible understanding of this process. While it is true that our experience is such that we feel we know less and less as we are enveloped in the divine darkness, we are actually becoming increasingly intimate with the divine light, the absolute transcendent truth. We perceive and discriminate less, but this decrease of discrimination is not an increasing ignorance. It is the increase of a different kind of knowledge, a knowledge that is in its nature beyond discrimination, beyond the recognition of qualities and attributes. It is the simplicity of the source, which is so single that its knowing is an unknowing. As we become more enveloped in the divine darkness we are actually enveloped in divine light, for the divine light is dark. It is black light, the source of all light, not colorless but pre-color. We might think that clear light is the ultimate light, as is asserted by some Buddhist schools. However, clarity is an attribute, albeit a fundamental one. It is the absence of color, but not the ontological antecedent of color. Black light is the luminous divine darkness, the source of all light, and the origin of awareness.

Dark Emptiness Becoming a Luminous Night

To be completely poor is to recognize our true condition as individuals, which is that nothing we have or experience or accomplish is actually ours. It all belongs to the ultimate spiritual truth, the absolute ground of reality. We then experience a phenomenological emptiness, a voidness of all qualities, of everything, including being and existence. When this condition prevails, it becomes possible for the source of all manifestation to reveal itself in this voidness. This is a subtle point. When we recognize our inherent poverty, our sense of self is completely denuded, which makes it possible for the essence of divinity to manifest. The state of poverty is not simply a lack, even though the soul cannot help but see it as such because we are looking through the veils of selfhood. Accepting our total poverty, and not asking for more, allows us to surrender whatever is left of our selfhood. This surrender reveals that the emptiness of poverty is simply the inscrutable darkness of the Divine Essence, which is obscured as lack because of subtle veils. Now, however, the emptiness of poverty reveals itself as the majestic and luminous darkness of the mystery of Being. The dark emptiness becomes a luminous night, the mystical midnight sun, the very essence of divinity, the divine darkness that is the source of all light. From this place all manifestation appears as the grace and fullness of Being, as the resplendent beauty of the face of God. We find ourselves in the kingdom of heaven. More exactly, we recognize that all and everything is the kingdom of heaven, now revealed to us by accepting our emptiness. We perceive tremendous fullness and plenitude, infinite riches and abundance, but none of it belongs to any individual soul. It is all the body and heart of God.

Moving Away from Manifestation Toward Transcendent Truth We Lose Consciousness of Anything

This experience of no perception, internal or external, is reported by advanced practitioners of most wisdom traditions. This indicates that we cannot know true nature in its absoluteness, because as we move away from manifestation and toward the transcendent truth we lose consciousness of anything. Such a conclusion is supported by the fact that the movement deeper into pure true nature, as awareness relieves itself of the perception of manifestation, is an experience of being increasingly enveloped by darkness, a divine darkness that feels like grace. The sense of the experience is that the light of true nature darkens the consciousness of the soul, liberating her from the perception of phenomena, as it draws her nearer. The soul feels increasingly close to the source as she feels more enveloped by darkness. At the point of complete nearness, that of unity, the darkness is complete, and there is no perception or awareness of anything, including darkness.

The Inner of All, the Essence of Everything, the Back of All Fronts and the Ultimate Ground

Thus the indeterminacy of the absolute is the same as the divine darkness, the inscrutable nature of the divine, the ultimate essence of Being. It is not an ordinary darkness and lack of knowing and being; it is the majestic and luminous blackness of the divine essence, the absolute essence of Being, the most intimate truth of true nature. It is the core of all existence, the depth of Being, the inner of all. Whenever we find an inner quality and dimension, the luminous night will be its innerness; whenever we find a deep truth the luminous night will be its ultimate depth. It is the inner of all, the essence of everything, the back of all fronts, and the ultimate ground and facticity of all manifest forms. It is indeterminacy, but it is also the ground of all determinations; it is nonbeing but it is also the ground of all being; it is darkness but it is also the ground of all light; it is unknowing but it is also the ground for all knowing. It is the primal darkness before there was light, and the eternal night that highlights the appearance of the day. We can know it, but to know it is to know it as mystery, the ultimate mystery from which all being and knowledge arise. To feel the exquisite intimacy of its nonbeingness and to see the absolute blackness of its emptiness is to behold a majestic mystery, luminous and deep, awesome and enveloping, yet inviting in its annihilating touch and caressing in its melting embrace. We behold a mystery that we passionately wish to know, and we know that to know it is to cease being, yet we long to be embraced by its annihilation and love, to be taken in by its cessation. To know it is to cease, and to cease is to know it. To know it is to not know it, but to not know is to know it. To know it is to know it as mystery. It is the mystery that must remain a mystery, which cannot but be a mystery. Its being a mystery saves us from the obsessions of our mind, and from the false securities that our false self thrives on. We behold it as mystery, a mystery that by remaining a mystery liberates us from the traps of the manifest world. We learn to live in mystery, to be supported by ultimate insecurity, and to love the flavor of nonbeing.

The Unknowing of the Divine Darkness is Actually the True Knowing of the Transcendent Truth

The understanding that the unknowing of the divine darkness is actually the true knowing of the transcendent truth has been known by many of the Western mystics. Plotinus saw it as knowing through presence, not through intellection, a knowing specific to the knowing of the One, for “the main source of the difficulty is that awareness of this Principle comes neither by knowing nor by the Intellection that discovers the Intellectual beings, but by a presence overpassing all knowledge.” (Plotinus, Enneads, p. 539.) The most well-known Western mystic of divine darkness is Denys the Areopagite, who speaks of the ascent of the soul using the analogy of Moses’ ascent of the holy mount, demonstrating that he saw the divine darkness as the ultimate knowing: “And then Moses is cut off from both things seen and those who see and enters into the darkness of unknowing, a truly hidden darkness, according to which he shuts his eyes to all apprehensions that convey knowledge, for he has passed into a realm quite beyond any feeling or seeing. Now, belonging wholly to that which is beyond all, and yet to nothing at all, and being neither himself, nor another, and united in his highest part in passivity (anenergesia) with Him who is completely unknowable, he knows by not knowing in a manner that transcends understanding.” (Quoted in Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition, p. 173.)

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