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Essential Nous

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Essential Nous?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Essential Nous

Becoming Aware of the Essential Nous

Within this experience I begin to feel a gentle throbbing at the area of the forehead, a forehead that seems like a mirage. I begin to be aware of the glittering radiance of the essential nous at the area of the forehead. It feels as if a portion of the bubble has transformed into a faceted, variegated diamond-like presence. It feels like a faceted liquid luminosity, glittering and shining. This glittering manifests in cognition as insights related to this new development. I recall a concern, which occasionally becomes a fear, that complete absorption into and unification with the absolute means cessation of all experience and loss of everything. I thought that total merging with the absolute might mean total and permanent cessation of consciousness, and hence all perception. I could not anticipate what total integration with the absolute might be like. This experience of soul coemergent with the absolute answers this concern and resolves the fear. Everything remains, is not lost, does not disappear. But it is seen not to exist; nonbeing is its ultimate condition.

Seeing the Essential Nous

One day I become aware of a subtle contraction of the mobius center at the sternum. Being subtle, it does not affect my sense of presence or my capacity to function. Retaining this impression in my awareness in the course of the day’s activities, I realize at some point that it is part of a larger condition. I become aware of a small hole at the location of the solar plexus. My interest is stimulated; I have not experienced a hole in this location for a long time. An easy, spontaneous inquiry into this experience arises. The light-hearted inquiry intensifies the throbbing at the center of the forehead. The throbbing has a sense of quietness and peace, a radiating stillness. I see the essential nous, the discriminating intelligence or diamond guidance, mostly black. A black presence of stillness glimmers with faceted radiance, as it is activated by the curiosity and questioning. The contraction at the mobius relaxes and dissolves, and sadness and emptiness arise. The sadness develops into deep black tears. The tears are deep and warm, and seem to drench the totality of my inner conscious field. The sense of teary sadness comes and goes; I realize there is some difficulty in staying with the experience. This intensifies my curiosity, and adds a silvery glimmer to the diamond blackness of the nous, expressing steadfastness in inquiry.

The Capacity for True Discrimination

The Diamond Guidance also functions as a capacity for true discrimination. Because each aspect is now discriminated objectively and precisely, the Guidance, which is the vehicle formed of these aspects, has a profound and precise capacity for discrimination. It can discriminate the false from the true, and it can distinguish various shades of truth as well. We already have a capacity for discrimination in the conventional dimension—we call it intellect. That capacity for discrimination deepens and becomes much sharper when the Diamond Guidance affects our consciousness. In some very real sense, our ordinary capacity for intellectual discrimination arises from the Diamond Guidance. The degree to which our discriminating intelligence has developed, however, depends on how in touch we are with this diamond manifestation of Being. The farther away from it we are, the less sharp our capacity for discrimination is. Intellectual discernment is an expression of this inherent discrimination, but the capacity for discrimination that the Diamond Guidance provides is not only on the intellectual level. It is on the feeling, experiential, sensing, and perceptual levels as well. The discriminating capacity of the Diamond Guidance can be seen and appreciated as the prototype of the capacity for discrimination at all levels. It is the essential nous, the expression in the soul of the universal nous—the wisdom of discrimination.

The Discerning Capacity of the Higher Intellect

This brings us back to the discerning and knowing capacity of presence itself—the higher intellect, essential nous, or what we call “diamond guidance”—which reveals that freedom has other meanings and other horizons. The thing that we need to understand about this discerning capacity is that it discriminates not only our knowledge and the content of our mind but also our direct experience. It discriminates the immediacy of what we are experiencing by discerning, seeing, and revealing what is there. It can extract the meaning and the implications of the experience, which in any experience of true nature are countless and varied. When I say “higher intellect” or “divine mind,” many people misunderstand and consider these to be mental faculties. But the heart is vital to this kind of creative discrimination. The functioning of this capacity actually happens through the unity of mind and heart because without love, there would be no compassion or sensitivity to the mind’s discernment. The creative discrimination of presence is activated by the participation of the heart. This discrimination arises according to true, deep, existential need and only when we have the right orientation—a loving desire to know the truth.

The Essential Nous Can Operate in Conjunction with the Soul’s Normal Intellect

The essential intellect or nous operates not only with the enhanced intellectual capacities of discrimination and synthesis, but even though it is essential presence it can operate in conjunction with the soul’s normal intellect, with its logic, reason, and ordinary knowledge. Here, instead of ordinary knowledge obscuring our basic knowledge, the nous uses it to reveal and unfold the infinite potentials of basic knowledge. The essential nous can also operate in conjunction with reason and logic, applied to spiritual experience in all its dimensions and subtlety. The essential nous is one of the natural secrets of the wisdom teachings; it was mentioned and discussed a great deal, but most contemporary investigators miss it for they do not understand it. They cannot understand it because they are subject to the dissociation of knowing and being.

The Individual Soul’s Version of the Universal Nous of the Greeks

I sometimes call the Diamond Guidance the essential nous, the individual soul’s version of the universal nous of the Greeks, as described by Plotinus. In Sanskrit, the essential nous is referred to as prajna, while the discriminating awareness—the universal nous—is called jnana. It is known in both Buddhist and Hindu teachings that you use prajna to arrive at jnana. Prajna is referred to as discriminating insight and jnana as inherent knowingness, or discriminating awareness. So prajna is the recognition of patterns, understanding, insight, realization, while jnana is the inherent self-knowing of pure awareness. Jnana is not the experience of a specific insight or understanding; it is the recognition that all experience is knowledge, and that you exist as knowingness, as knowledge. Now, as I said, true nature is also dynamic, and its dynamism is creative. It is always creating new forms, and this creation of new forms is a development, a change. So the Diamond Guidance implies a dynamism, a creativity. With this creativity, what is known is an evolving, changing knowingness. You do not just know something and that’s it: “Oh, I’m sad,” and nothing more. You can relate to a feeling in that way, but not much will

The Introspective Soul Utilizes Her Essential Nous in Her Inner Investigation

This capacity is thus important for the soul’s eventual self-recognition of her true nature. Through self-reflection we can find out that we do not know ourselves; without it we cannot explore what we know of ourselves, what we believe we are, which is a necessary requirement for undergoing the spiritual journey. The journey is to a large extent a form of introspection that is a development of the capacity for self-reflection. Furthermore, this introspection goes through a development in which it ultimately becomes the soul’s recognition of her true nature. At the deeper stages of her inner journey home, the introspective soul utilizes her essential nous in her inner investigation. This gives her introspective consciousness a discriminating capacity with objectivity, precision, sharpness, and brilliance that enables her to make very subtle discriminations in her awareness of herself. This reveals essential presence to her in various degrees of subtlety and objectivity until she finally discriminates both its ultimate truth and its completeness.

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