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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Duality?

When the oneness of reality is not perceived, the delusion of duality arises. This delusion is the perception that the differences and separations between things that exist are ultimate, that this is the true state of affairs.

— A. H. Almaas

In dual experience, we believe that duality is a permanent feature of reality. That is how most people experience life: “There is me and there is you, and we are really separate, and we can go our own way and never see each other again.” But when we experience nonduality, we see that nothing is separate. 

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Duality

Alternation Between Duality and Unity

In the process of realization of pure Being, the alternation is not between the personality and presence, but rather, between duality and unity. In duality, the student experiences herself as the totality of the ego-self, the personality, separate from the presence and resistant to it. She also experiences and understands it by being it. She experiences the movement of her ego-self directly, in all its details. She experiences it from within, in its totality, with a specific understanding of the nature of its functioning. This is in contrast to the experience of the personality in the dimension of the Essential Identity, where she experiences it from the outside, as the other who is struggling and suffering. In the dimension of pure Being, her understanding of the nature of suffering becomes more specific and complete. The result is that the personality is not necessarily transformed in the self-realization of the Essential Identity; there is only the shift of its identity. The complete realization of pure Being involves a process of purification and clarification of the personality, until there is no difference between it and the purity of Being. The final outcome is the condition of unity in which we experience the personality (the ego-self) as an inseparable manifestation of pure Being.

Arising of Duality

As the soul develops as an individual with character and identity, with the normal emotional and mental capacities, she slowly dissociates from her essential ground. A duality emerges between soul and essence that becomes bedrock reality, a duality that naturally and spontaneously separates the original unity of Reality. Soul, originally coemergent with her true nature, turns into a duality of self and spirit, and Reality becomes self, God/Being/spirit and world, three separate entities. The soul becomes self, an ego-self, that may or may not believe it has spirit, soul or true nature.

Discerning the Concepts Implicit in Duality

As we discern the concepts implicit in duality, nonduality, and their opposition, as we penetrate that dichotomy, the condition of realization changes character. Instead of seeing that everything is not separate from everything else and all is one nondual wholeness, what we experience is the absence of thinking of whether things are separate or not, dual or nondual, whether reality is whole or not whole. The notions of duality and nonduality evaporate. We forget that such things exist. And then, when we look at things, when we experience things, we simply perceive them. What is the relationship of a subject and an object? Are they dual? No. Are they nondual? No. What are they? Each is being itself. Everything is whatever it is. In this condition, we realize that the luminosity of reality suddenly attains a multi-dimensionality. In a way, we could say that the nondual condition diffuses the sense of the three-dimensional world. But this condition also goes beyond the nondual without reverting back to the dual. The three-dimensionality of the world arises without becoming dual, arises with the purity of luminosity, with the purity of presence—presence that doesn’t say “this is opposed to that” or “this is connected to that.” It doesn’t say that reality is one; nor does it say that it is two. Rather, the presence reveals each particular in its particularity. Reality be-comes three-dimensional, but this three-dimensionality is enhanced—extremely luminous, concrete, and foreground. This foreground reality is presence itself in its fullness and its emptiness.

Duality Only in Perception but Not in Reality

The Sufi formulation ............. One becomes the immense solidity of the Absolute, totally still and inactive, while dispassionately witnessing the play of all phenomena. He witnesses all phenomena as the dynamic transformation of a cosmic and boundless consciousness, which consciousness arises in his silent immensity as a surface phenomenon. In the vastness of his silence, the world arises in all its multiplicity, but all the world is made out of a conscious presence, a presence which is a consciousness that can reflect on itself. So the world—with its fabric of consciousness—is the surface shimmering of the immensity of the absolute truth, forming only an onion-skin thin layer on its infinite depth. The fabric of conscious presence which is the world is inseparable from the Absolute, within it and part of it, but it is qualitatively different from it. This is like a body of water whose surface (or a bubble within it) is tinted by a color which differentiates it from the body itself, without separating from it in any way. The question of duality and nonduality is not so obvious in this state of realization. It is all the Absolute, so there is no duality, but there is a differentiation between the Absolute and the manifestation, which can be seen as duality. However, it is not the duality of the ego-self, where there is a subject autonomous from an object. The subject in this realization is the Absolute, but the object, which is the surface manifestation, is an inseparable part of it. So we may say there is duality only in perception but not in reality.

How Do We Move Beyond the Duality that Pervades Our Perception?

Nevertheless, the development of the discursive mind is a necessary stage in developing the discriminating capacity of our inherent awareness. And it is useful for performing the tasks of life. But it is not the kind of knowing that is needed for realization. That kind of knowing has to be more of a felt knowing, an experiential knowing. I call it immediate or direct knowledge. In the West, we have a word for it—“gnosis,” which means “knowing.” But gnosis is a knowing through Being, through immediate contact in which the feeling and the experience of the knowing are inseparable. So, we need to refine our language and understand the terms in a way that makes our discernment more attuned and more acute. By seeing the nature of gnosis—the direct knowing that confronts our ignorance—we can appreciate that it is nondual knowing. We move beyond the duality that pervades our perception and our usual knowing of the mind. This in turn makes it more possible to see and recognize True Nature.

How is Oneness Known?

Oneness is not experienced as a something, an object of perception. It is known by being it, directly, without subject and object duality. One is aware of one’s body as part of all appearance, of all the perceived universe. All appearance that one can perceive through the senses is perceived as one and whole; there are differences but no partitions. One, in fact, feels as if the whole universe is one’s body. Everything is one, Pure Being, which is the ground and nature of everything. There is no localization of consciousness in the body. The body is completely in unity with the rest of physical reality. All of physical reality is experienced as a unified whole, which is inseparable from Pure Being, that is the ground, essence and substance of all existence. The condition of oneness is seen as a fact; it is seen to be the objective truth. One is certain that this is not a transient condition, but the actual condition of reality. It is really nothing but the total perception of reality. The perception is at all levels, the physical and the spiritual. This is in contrast to ego perception, where it is only physical, based on the physical, and exclusive of any other reality that is not an extension of the physical.

Loss of the Condition of Total Completeness

So in this study of the Enneagram of Holy Ideas, the first principle that we encounter which holds the ego together is the belief in duality. This is one of the subtlest and deepest principles, without which the ego could not exist and function in the way it does. It arises as a result of the loss of perception of Holy Truth. When a direct perception about reality is lost, which is to say that when one of the Holy Ideas is lost to our experience, what arises is not a particular state, but rather a distorted, erroneous, mistaken idea about reality, which we call a delusion. In other words, the loss of each Holy Idea leads to a specific delusion associated with that point on the Enneagram. So one of the fundamental properties of reality, as described by Holy Truth, is its nonduality. When the oneness of reality is not perceived, the delusion of duality arises. This delusion is the perception that the differences and separations between things that exist are ultimate, that this is the true state of affairs. Because of the way the mind functions, the loss of an Idea leads to a deluded idea about reality. You cannot just not have a principle of reality, because the mind can’t function without one. So if there is no perception of the fundamental unity of all of existence, then there is the perception of duality. If there is duality, there is the loss of unity. The loss of unity is the loss of the condition of the natural state of total completeness. Basically, it is the loss of God Consciousness.

Facets of Unity, pg. 91

Occurrence of Duality Between Personality and Essence

It is this development that is often called spiritual realization: The person is in an essential state, and in some sense identified with it, but the personality remains as it is. In order for the person to embody the essential experience, Essence must impact the personality; it must transform the personality. We can integrate this influence only by working through the actual issues and understanding how they manifest in all areas of our lives, specific and general. When you are working on understanding a specific issue and an essential state manifests, you may notice that the experience doesn’t end your struggle with the issue. There is still a duality between personality and Essence. Spiritual realizations or essential states may lighten and harmonize your daily life or make you feel more fulfilled, but the struggle of the duality continues. You might also notice that you are still engaged in the process of development but from the perspective of personality rather than from the perspective of Essence. This persistent lack of clarity is the hallmark of personality.

Perceiver and Perceived Exist Together as Experience

Usually we think of our experience in terms of the duality we have developed as the experiencer and the experienced, the perceiver and the perceived. In terms of the example of fear, we would say, “There is fear and there is me perceiving the fear.” We think fear exists someplace on its own, and a perceiver is someplace else, looking and thinking, “Oh look, there is fear.” This is the familiar and assumed position that we are in some separate place of observation viewing the world and our experience. But when you experience fear, are you the perceiver separate from the fear? Remember, we are speaking now about the immediate level of direct perception. Can you ever separate in your experience the perception of the fear from the fear itself? It is not possible. The perception of the fear is the same as the experience of the fear, which is the same as the presence of the fear. It’s as simple as that. The perceiver and the perceived actually exist together as the experience. If we set aside the duality of the perceiver and the perceived, then what is actually there is consciousness aware of itself as fear.

Realization that is Neither Dual nor Nondual

We can, for example, experience realization that is neither dual nor nondual. To limit reality to being either dual or nondual is inaccurate; these are concepts invented by human beings. Reality doesn’t think that way. The dual view perceives a separation between subject and object, between one thing and another. And the nondual view sees no separation, sees everything as the manifestation of the same reality. But we can realize a condition in which we recognize that separation is itself a concept that gives rise to the polar opposites of dual and nondual. We begin to see both duality and nonduality as conceptual points of view that frame reality in different ways. From the perspective of this kind of realization, we don’t see things as separate or not separate. The concept of separateness is not present and not perceived.

Recognizing that the Experiencer is the Same Thing as the Field Where Experience Happens

When we recognize the inner vessel, and see that it is the locus of all experience, knowledge of the soul begins to unfold. Since the soul is the field where all experience happens, it becomes possible to see that there is no experiencer experiencing the inner events, apart from the soul. This field is a field of sensitivity; it is the consciousness that is conscious of such experience; so the soul is the experiencer. It is a field of sensitivity—we will shortly discuss this sensitivity in its relation to consciousness, awareness, and knowing—capable of what we call experience. It can experience anything arising within itself, within its field. Soul, we see here, is basically an organ of experience. We normally think of ourselves as the experiencer of our experiences, but we do not know what this experiencer is. When we recognize the soul, it becomes clear that this experiencer is the same thing as the field where all experience happens. The experiencer is the locus; there is no duality between subject and locus of experience.

Recognizing that the Knower and the Known are Each Knowledge

In the conventional perspective, when we are not yet in touch with the inner field of presence, we experience an observer that observes the fear. The knower is separate from the known, maybe the knower is in the head, and the known is fear in the belly. However, in reality there is no duality of knower and known. We think there is duality only because we are not aware of the fabric of the soul. When we are, then we can see that the sense of the knower in the head is a manifestation in the conscious field, but so is the fear in the belly. They are both manifestations of the very same field of consciousness. Seeing this, we can recognize that the real knower is not the one in the head, but the consciousness that discerns the one in the head. We recognize then that the separation of the knower and the known is due to a certain perspective, a belief. Nevertheless, even this perspective is a thought form that the consciousness itself manifests. Nothing occurs in our experience that is not the manifestation of our consciousness, and here we are noting that this manifestation always involves knowledge. So both knower and known, whether appearing unified or as the self-object duality, are knowledge. Even when we are not directly aware of the field of knowledge, it is easy to see that both knower and known are knowledge. Can we separate the knower in our experience from our knowing of it? Can we separate the known in our experience from our knowing of it? Of course not, for all is knowledge, basic knowledge.

Subject and Object are Two that are Always Together

One characteristic of dualistic perception is that it contains traces of nonduality. The separateness of subject and object is never total. What I mean is that you never find a subject by itself. A subject always implies an object. And conversely, you can never only have an object; there is always the experiencer of the object. There cannot be an other without somebody saying, “This is an other.” So, in dual experience, there is no experience of a self or a subject by itself, and there is no experience of an other or an object by itself. Subject and object, although distinct, always arise as a unit; they are always connected to each other somehow. This is a mysterious sort of perception that most of us, when we are experiencing from the conventional view, never even consider. If you are alone in your bedroom, you might notice that you are all by yourself, which is true in a sense, but you are not simply alone as a subject. You are the subject, but your object has shifted from being somebody else to being your bed or being your feeling of aloneness. As we recognize and explore this, we see that a central feature of the relationship of subject and object is not that they are two, but that they are two that are always together, two that never leave each other, two that are part of one. They are intrinsically wedded to each other. Why is this so? How come we never find a sole object or a sole subject? These are good questions. This does not mean that it is not possible, only that it is not possible in dualistic experience.

The Belief in Division

Ego by its very nature assumes duality: the belief that who I am is ultimately separate and discrete, and that all other manifestations are also separate and discrete. This results in divisions in our minds between ultimate truth and the world, spirit and matter, Absolute Truth and relative truth, God and the universe, God and myself, you and I, ego and essence. This belief in division as ultimate is a conviction so deeply ingrained in the soul that it is one of the last things we can ever contemplate confronting, let alone releasing.

Facets of Unity, pg. 92

The Division Within

As we have seen, resistance implies an inner division. It is possible to confront the division itself, to see through the duality, but for most of us, that is not a small step. In fact, it is a huge step—or maybe about the ten thousandth average-sized step—on the path. Most of us still need to take the first step, which is just to allow what is happening, just to let that be. Even though we feel the division and duality, we need to allow that duality. Saying, “No, this isn’t right; it’s dual, it’s divided” is a form of resistance; it is taking a position of pushing away what is.

The Ultimate Cause of Suffering

So we can say that the ultimate cause of suffering is duality, or, more precisely, attachment to differentiated phenomena. If we can abide in our knowledge that the fundamental reality is nondifferentiated, then we might not prefer one thing over another. If our mind does not prefer one thing over another then there is no attachment. Whatever happens, happens. Death, life, good, bad, you, other is all one thing. We know they are ultimately conceptual differentiations; they don't absolutely exist. So there is no attachment to them at all. No attachment means no suffering.

Transcending the Uncertainty Principle

Absolute objectivity doesn’t happen except at the level of the Absolute. At the very moment we reach that level, we transcend the uncertainty principle. This is because we see that the recognizer and what is recognized are one, not two. There is no observer and no observed, no explorer and no explored—only one objective existence. The whole basis of the uncertainty principle—the duality between the observer and the observed—has disappeared. Only on this level of nonduality can objectivity be complete. So understanding continues to deepen as we move through degrees of objectivity. More precisely, for understanding to deepen, we must become more objective, more exact, more precise. We then see things more as they are. We arrive again at the insight about truth stated in chapter 23, “Truth in Understanding”: that truth is a moving point.

What Can Be Recognized with Unobscured Perception?

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 -- more like waves on the surface of an ocean, lacking existence without the whole the ocean. So differentiation exists, but not ultimate divisions.

Facets of Unity, pg. 86

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