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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Illusion?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Illusion

An Illusion Tantamount to Denying Our Real Poverty

As we progress on the path, we discover and experience many things, both painful and wondrous. We discover how we are living our mental structure and how essence can increasingly characterize our experience. Such movement and progress will usually make us think that we’re working hard, and because of this hard work, because of all the devotion and sacrifices, we are moving toward the Guest, toward the Secret. We will ordinarily think that we are choosing to move toward it or not choosing to move toward it, that we are orienting ourselves toward it or longing for it. We believe we love it and, because we love it, we go toward it. But in time, as the Guest draws nearer, we realize that this way of perceiving what is happening is not accurate; it is an illusion tantamount to denying our real poverty. This is one of our illusions and delusions about what is going on. We believe that without such motivation we won’t progress on the path. In the beginning of spiritual work, we recognize our suffering, and our mind wants to find the Secret to relieve ourselves from suffering. After a long time we realize that the wish to eliminate suffering is not the true motivation. We begin to feel that to love truth for its own sake is the true motivation of the heart. Our heart begins to recognize its love for truth as the truth unfolds and the heart loves every form of truth that appears. Yet even this is still not the true objective perception of the situation. We do not move toward the Secret because we love it. That’s how we see it at some point, that’s how our mind formulates it, but that’s not the truth about what’s happening. When the heart moves toward the Secret, when you move toward the Guest, it is because you are pulled. You are attracted, as if by a magnet, the most powerful magnet there is. From within the heart itself, from the depths of the heart, from the innermost chamber of the heart, the pull originates.

Distinctions that are Illusions and that are Not Ultimately Real

So according to the Idea of Holy Truth, reality, when seen objectively, has no divisions in it. It exists, it is now, and it is nondual. There is no me, no you, no other, no universe separate from God; no universe separate from the Void; no you and Essence, no personality and Essence; no physical body and soul—all these distinctions are illusions and are not ultimately real. There is only one thing, and it cannot even be called “one” because if you call it one, you are comparing it to two, and it is not one in contrast to two. It is nondual, an indivisible existence, no matter how you look at it or think about it. While the different teachings may emphasize different qualities of this unity, seeing it from the perspective of love or awareness, for example, the assertion here is that fundamental to reality is the fact of unity. All the religions assert this sense of the all-inclusiveness of reality. Another way of saying it is that God is everywhere, omnipresent. Holy Truth is the way that the teaching of the Enneagram of Holy Ideas expresses this understanding.

Facets of Unity, pg. 84

If you Dissolve the Constructs in Your Mind, What Remains is the True Structure of the World

So when people say the world is an illusion, we want to understand what that means. Is the world really an illusion? Or is it that we hold onto an illusion that makes us see the world in a false way? Because the people who hold that the world is an illusion, they believe that nothing exists apart from the ultimate truth, and the world you see is just your beliefs, your ideas, constructs in the mind. A lot of modern thinkers think that way, that if you dissolve the constructs in your mind, there’ll be nothing left. But what we see is that if you dissolve the constructs in your mind, what remains is the true structure of the world. We recognize that those constructs of the mind are just a layer that has been overlaid on the appearance of the universe. As a result of that overlay, we start to see the universe in a way that is no longer direct and objective. It’s the same as with our soul; when we overlay a self-image on it, we start seeing it in a way that is not true—it’s distorted.

It’s the Representational World that’s the Illusion

When we experience ourself as empty, as a shell, we’re recognizing that we’ve been seeing ourself through an image, a representation created through time by the mind. And when we see that the world is empty, it means we are penetrating our image of the world. But we’re still not really seeing the world, because the real world is not empty; it is not an illusion. It’s the representational world that’s the illusion. Throughout history, when mystics and spiritual seekers have come to feel that the world is an illusion, that it’s not real, that it’s all empty, it’s understandable that they have taken this emptiness to be the nature of the world. But it’s not the nature of the world; it’s the nature of the images that we have in our mind.

The illusion of the world is a much more difficult one to penetrate than the illusion of ourselves, because it’s an illusion that our whole society supports with great conviction. Society says, “Yes, of course, this physical world is real and it’s easy to prove it. The world is not just composed of our images of it. If you don’t believe it, I’ll just throw a rock at you. And that really hurts, doesn’t it? See, reality is physical!” And we’re satisfied with that kind of “proof.” But what about the reality in your dreams? When you’re dreaming and somebody hits you with a rock, it hurts, doesn’t it? People can wake up from a dream like that because the pain is so strong. But was there a rock that hit you? Of course not. So you see, it’s easy to poke holes in the physical, materialist theory. Not that we’re trying to poke holes in anything. We’re not trying to make a case. We’re just trying to understand reality.

Many of Our Problems and Illusions Come from Past Experience

To see things as they are is to see them without filters, without veils. To see what is means to perceive objectively. Objective perception requires that we apprehend or perceive without the usual filters, without the projections of the past onto the present. What is, obviously must be in the moment—now, because only now exists. Only this very moment exists. You can see that logically for yourself. I am not saying anything esoteric here; what exists is now. The past reality is not here. The future hasn’t come yet. To see what is means to see the now, as it is. But to see the now as it is means to see without the influence of the past. In the various aspects of the work we’ve done, we have seen that many of our problems and illusions come from past experience. We have seen how we project our patterns on our interpersonal relationships, how we project our relationships with our parents and others in our early childhood onto our present life, how we react in ways that have nothing to do with the present. This is one way of seeing some of the more obvious psychological and emotional filters. We don’t see people the way they are; we see them according to our past experience. We are always projecting images and patterns of relationship that do not actually exist now. The most fundamental and subtlest of these projections is the projection of concepts. Concepts actually constitute the material of our experience. They constitute the content of our minds. We have seen how the mind is inseparable from the world we live in—that the world we believe we live in and our minds are not two things. We can come to a direct perception of this fact—it is not an idea. You can discover that the world you live in is determined by what you believe the world to be.

Not Seeing the Indivisible Boundless Ground of Everything

This realization, and many others on this dimension, erode the soul’s attachment to worldly things. For the soul can clearly see that all richness belongs to the divine presence, and all abundance is of the very nature of truth. Attachment is based on the separateness of self, which is one side of a larger illusion, the belief that the world is composed of discrete objects. Not seeing the indivisible boundless ground of everything, the soul sees manifestation as composed of discrete objects. One can then possess or lose one object or another. And since this dismemberment reflects the absence of the unity of Being, with its richness and abundance, it is bound to be colored by a sense of impoverishment. Impoverishment becomes desire and greed, and possessiveness develops into grasping and attachment. Therefore, instead of the soul experiencing herself living in abundance and seeing richness everywhere, she inwardly feels, consciously or unconsciously, that she is deprived and empty. She ends up being ruled by desire, greed, possessiveness, and attachment. Instead of the beautiful and rich display of love, the world of dismembered objects becomes the promise of possessions, power, and objects of gratification. The boundless Good is dismembered into material goods, to be attained, possessed, and hoarded. The natural richness and its associated spontaneous generosity becomes an economy of scarcity, where each is for his own, each is looking out for himself, and each fights and competes with others for as big a piece of the pie as one can get through cunning or brute force.

Our Ego Experience of Isolation and Helplessness is an Illusion

Basic trust is the soul’s way of attuning to a fundamental law of reality, the fact that our sense of existing as a separate and isolated entity is false, that our ego experience of isolation and helplessness is an illusion based on identification with the world of physical manifestation. Knowing that we are all part of one reality means that our true nature is not defined by ego experience or the physical body and cannot be fundamentally hurt or destroyed. If the individual soul is in touch with this reality of nonseparateness, then it will reflect that by functioning in a way that expresses this knowledge. However, to someone who has lost touch with nonseparateness, the first person’s actions will appear trusting in a way that seems unjustifiable. Even to the conscious mind of the first person, her own actions may appear mysterious if she is not in touch with the experience of nonseparateness. For this reason, she can only feel that she simply trusts things will work out, but trusts so implicitly that she almost feels she knows. When the soul’s experience is consciously that of being a separate individual, it can only experience the contact with implicit nonseparateness as the sense of the benevolence of life, as basic trust. Most people do not have a lot of basic trust; they feel that it’s okay to trust in some situations and not in others. Certain conditions have to be met in order for them to trust. This is not an inherent trust in life. This is conditional trust. When basic trust is prominent, it affects one’s life globally.

Facets of Unity, pg. 24

Our Thoughts are Familiar and Give Us an Illusion of Security and Control that Binds Us to Them

Until we question, analyze, and reassess the concepts we use to express ourselves, we are restricted to only one set of interpretations for our experiences. Whether they accord with the reality of what is happening or bring us unnecessary pain, we leave ourselves no choice but to live in this limited realm. This means to keep living in a world that is a creation of our own mind. Even if our mental world is lonely, and we gain little pleasure from our experiences, our thoughts are familiar and give us an illusion of security and control that binds us to them. We may see no alternative to this way of understanding ourselves and our world.

 . . . because we believe it’s reality. How can we think of an alternative? Even if we think of and long for freedom, we think of freedom within that world.

But when even such thoughts as these depend upon concepts we have never deeply examined, how would we know there are no other possibilities? Can we even think about something for which we have no concept? If we had no concept of love, could we form expectations of what love is like, become disappointed when our experience did not match these expectations, or fantasize about people we love? If we had no notion of love, could we hate? What if we had no concept of ‘I,’ or of ourselves as somehow separate from others? Then what would be love or hate . . .

. . . if there were no concept of a separate entity? What would it mean to love or hate somebody? Could we become attached to people or things, experience insecurity, or fear rejection? If society could not present us with ideals that did not match the reality of our situation, would we feel guilty that we could not live up to them?

That’s showing you here that if there are no concepts, there are no psychodynamic issues.

Soul Caught by the Illusion of the World, Believing the Reified World Can Satisfy Her Needs

The emergence of divine love challenges this view and highlights the ego structures that embody it. A major form that becomes highlighted at this point is that of a greedy, power-hungry, fat self, a separate self fattened by objects of the world, and interested only in what the reified world promises. Such a self has no spiritual aspirations, and no appreciation for subtlety and refinement, except perhaps for objects that signify material wealth. It is a level of the animal soul, but more exactly a higher structure of this animality. It is an animal in a human form, or almost human. But it is one that loves excess, that simply wants more and more of all material things, for its own material wealth, pleasure, and power. It is selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, gross, and primitive in its interests and aspirations. All ego-selves include this structure; human beings differ only in the degree to which it dominates their overall sense of self. It is the ego structure expressing exclusive cathexis of the physical world, where the soul is caught by the illusion of the world, believing the reified world can satisfy her needs. We can say that in some sense it is the ego’s counterpart of the divine being, the boundless richness and abundance of the dimension of divine love. It is an attempt to be rich and self-sufficient, to have abundance and plenitude but from within the materialistic worldview of the ego.

Surrendering the Illusion of a Separate Self and Her Own Will, the Soul Will Find this Goodness

The fact that true nature is fundamentally characterized by goodness means that the manifest world possesses an inherent goodness. There is goodness in the world—not in the discrete and reified forms of the world, which are obscured expressions, but in the depth of the world, in its ultimate nature. The soul can see this only when she is denuded of her obscurations, and surrenders completely to this perception. Denuding herself from the false garments of ignorance and identification, surrendering the illusion of a separate self and her own will, the soul will find this goodness. If she lets herself truly fall, all the way, not into the hands of one person or another, one form or another, but absolutely and fully, she will be received with grace and love. Unfailingly. The dimension of divine love is the experience of true nature in its fullness, in its richness, in its abundance. The ocean of love is a rich and richly textured medium, like a boundless ocean of ambrosia, fluid and outflowing. Its outflow is manifestation, an unfolding juicy womb constantly birthing the universe. It is a total generosity, a giving out of substance, existence, life, forms, qualities, capacities, all as manifestations of love. The universe is so rich, so abundant with goodness and wonderful qualities and forms, that when the soul beholds it she cannot help but be completely fulfilled and satisfied, overflowing with deep and sweet gratitude. She now recognizes how impoverished her normal world has been, how empty and barren, and how unreal. She recognizes that this inherent abundance and richness has always been lying in her depths and at the base of all manifestation, but she did not see it because she was looking through filters that specifically filtered out the ground true nature. Belief in her separateness and pride in her independence have functioned as the primary obscurations that disconnected her from this heavenly world. Heaven, it turns out, is always here, but only the purified and sincere soul can enter it. And the price is her head, her independent selfhood.

The Absolute Erases the Primary Illusion, the Illusion of Who You Are

Even after experiencing the Absolute, things remain in the unconscious that are not necessarily clear. When we truly realize the Absolute, the things that remain obscure will arise on their own. You will experience them as some kind of lack of understanding, but not necessarily about the Absolute. The Absolute erases the primary illusion, that is, the illusion of who you are. But the Absolute does not erase attachments. These attachments are habitual and will have to work themselves out. But now the attachments are not supported by the illusion of what reality is and the illusion of who you are. Consciousness is like a spring, uncoiling as obscurations arise and are revealed, and the obscurations simply dissipate. The things that need to be worked out are parts of consciousness that are still somewhat compacted and need to be opened and relaxed. Also, even though the Absolute is the ultimate natural condition, human beings will want to experience everything that is possible as consciousness unfolds from the Absolute. As our consciousness becomes clarified, all kinds of things will be revealed, such as perceptions of essence, of dimensions of reality, and perceptions of the so-called ordinary world, which are new and unfamiliar to our ordinary mind. Our lack of understanding may be experienced as a kind of opaqueness or obscuration. As an unfamiliar and unexpected state of consciousness arises, you might experience a subtle contraction against it because your mind resists the new experience. The resistance to a new manifestation may get connected to something in your past that reminds you of this new experience. You may see a personal issue about it. Although the personal issue might not be what’s most relevant, it still needs to be worked out and made transparent.

The Greatest and Most Devastating Ignorance of Humanity is Perpetuated in the Daily Lives of Families

Negative merging is one cause of most individuals being cut off from, and unaware of, their Being. The mother’s (parents’) lack of contact with, and ignorance of Being is internalized by the infant, through negative merging. The child grows up completely ignorant of his true nature. The greatest and most devastating ignorance of humanity is perpetuated in the daily lives of families. Most of us do not want such knowledge or perception; it is too painful and frustrating to confront our fears and illusions. But our love for our children and for the human race might give us the courage to face these issues and allow us to look inward to find the true harmony of Being. Negative merging is a powerful force in the personality. It is the core of suffering, the basis and the fuel of all emotional conflicts, of all negative object relations. It is in the deepest core of the unconscious, in the merged representations, manifesting in the more superficial layers of the personality as the various conflicts and distortions specific to the later stages of ego development. 

The Individual Sees Only Illusions, Follows Only Illusions, for He Takes these Illusions to be the Reality

The loss of essence, the repression of the subtle organs and capacities, the shutting off and distortion of the subtle and energetic centers, and the overall resulting insensitivity, all lead to a general but devastating loss of perspective. The individual no more knows the point of life, of being, of existence. He no longer knows why he is living, what he is supposed to do, where he is going, let alone who he is. He is in fact completely lost. He can only look at his personality, at the environment that created it, and live according to the standards of his particular society, trying all the time to uphold and strengthen his ego identity. He believes he is not lost because he is always attempting to live up to certain standards of success or performance, trying to actualize the dreams of his personality—yet all the time he is missing the point of it all. It is no more the life of being; it is only the life of the personality, and in its very nature it is false and full of suffering. There is tension, contraction, restriction. There is no freedom to be and to enjoy. The true orientation toward the life of essence, the orientation that will bring about the life of the harmonious human being, is absent or distorted. This loss of perspective and orientation leads to the loss of reality. The individual sees only illusions, follows only illusions, for he takes these illusions to be the reality. We are not talking here only about the neurotic or the pathological individual. Such a person, it is true, does not see the reality of the average and adjusted citizen of society. But this means he does not see the reality of the personality; his personality is incomplete, distorted, or too rigid. 

The World that We See is Revealed to be a Mental Construct

It is true that the world we see every day is not the real world. From the perspective that is more fundamental than our mental constructs, the world we have been seeing is revealed as an empty illusion. Just as our individuality is revealed on the inner path to be an empty illusion—not ultimately real, only a mental construct—so the world that we see is revealed to be a mental construct. We define through the mind not only ourselves but the world. In the course of our realization, as we go beyond ourselves to discover our true essence, we also need to go beyond the image of the world to discover the true nature of the world. Just as the soul is reborn with its essential qualities when the ego dissolves, when the world construct dies, the world, too, is reborn as an oversoul, a universal soul with essential qualities. This is what Christ represents. So what I see in Christ is not the rebirth of an individual but the rebirth of the totality of all existence as reality. This perspective is different from simply looking at reality from beyond the mind and seeing the whole world as an illusion. From this perspective the world is not exactly an illusion. Although the perceived world is not the absolute reality we have naively assumed it to be, it is nevertheless animated by the absolute reality. With the understanding of Christ, the world can be known as the expression of the Father, or the face of the Father, or the heart of the Father, or the manifest part of the Father. The world is the Father appearing as the universe, the ultimate truth manifesting in form.

There are Illusions in Our Individual Minds that We Haven’t Penetrated Yet

The perception of reality—which is more objective than the perception of separateness—is the perception of oneness: the direct knowledge that there is only one, one beingness, one existence, indivisible, eternal. If we do not see that, if we do not experience that, if we do not live according to that, then we are still believing certain lies. There are things we do not see about reality. There are illusions in our individual minds that we haven’t penetrated yet. So the goal of someone who is sincerely doing inner work is oneness, or unity, which means that it is not just for you. It is everyone and everything, and it is for everyone and everything. The nature of this oneness is absolute goodness. It is the source of all love, compassion, color, beauty, peace—all inner richness and fulfillment. The oneness is the source of all the Essence that you know, all the goodness, all the beauty you’ve experienced in your life. In fact, it is the source of everything. It also is everything. So to believe that you are an individual little thing, and you are going to get your share of life, of reality, is to isolate yourself from this rich, immense reality, and to make yourself poor, small, and insignificant. Oneness is not something you are going to accomplish one of these days; the oneness is already you; it always has been, and it always will be. What is needed is to wake up, to see things the way they are, instead of viewing them through distorting lenses. Oneness is absolute freedom, absolute release, absolute delight. It is a newness that is ever new. So wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you see, you see yourself. Whatever you touch, you are touching yourself. Whoever you talk to, you are talking to yourself.

Understanding that Duality is an Illusion of the Egoic Mind

So when you say, “I,” it is always the Absolute saying it. No one ever says, “I” without it being the Absolute saying it. The “I” is always uttered by the Origin. No one can say, “I” except for the Origin because of the mere fact that there is only one thing. If you really understand Holy Truth, you understand that there are not two, that duality is an illusion of the egoic mind. You might not be aware that you are the Origin when you utter the word, “I,” but nonetheless, it can only be the Origin that is saying “I.” We have a case of mistaken identity when we take the “I” to be something that our mind defines as us. When the mind defines what is “I,” we have a fake center, a superficial center, a fabricated center, which we refer to as the pea. That is the normal identity, the identity of the personality, which functions as the center of our lives, of our actions, of our experience. We may feel that we are at the center of our experience, but for most people, that center is the ego identity. When we see through this, we initially realize our center to be the Point, the Essential Self. (See Almaas, 1996.) Then we see that the Point is nothing but the reflection of Being in the mandala of appearance. To put it another way, the Essential Self is nothing but the appearance of Being when you see it in everyday life. When we see this, we become more awakened to the nature of Being, and progressively let go of our subtle concepts until we realize Being’s absolute nature. Then we know that we are not connected to the Origin; we are the Origin.

Facets of Unity, pg. 191

We Need to Stop Running After the Illusion that Truth is Inside

Your own soul, your consciousness, is the organ of truth, the window to reality, and that’s why you look inside. This does not mean that the truth of reality is inside; but for a long time the way we experience it is through the reality that’s inside. We tend to believe that that’s how things are—that essence is inside, spirit is inside, truth is inside. At some point, we need to begin to see things more objectively. We need to question our assumptions about inside and outside. We need to wake up at a more fundamental level. We need to stop running after the illusion that truth is inside, and start waking up to the objective truth that is everywhere. For a long time, for many levels and dimensions, the Work of the truth has to do with experiencing things within you—Essence, essential aspects, spiritual experiences that are transforming, exciting, intriguing, and fulfilling. These experiences can bring a lot of excitement and joy into your life, which is very good. If we allow this process to continue, and if we are truly interested in the truth, whatever the truth is, it won’t stop there. Unfoldment won’t just stop at any realization that remains internal, because internal experiences are limited. They take place within the mind, as part of your knowledge. Thus your experience remains governed by the perspective of personal mind, rather than by the perspective of the truth. So even though our inner experience might become more full and rich, without the perspective we are working on now, the world we look upon, our reality, will remain plain, ordinary, drab. We look around and see people, the sky, the trees, the cars, the street, and we feel, “I’ve known this for years and years. This is not the spiritual world. This is not what I want.”

When the Illusions Dissolve, what is Real, Your Nature, Will Surface and Remain

Of course, when you let yourself be, as you let yourself sink into reality, you might experience unpleasant things; but these are simply the barriers that stop you from being. In time, with presence, they will dissolve. You might experience discomfort, fear, hurt, various negative feelings. These are the things that you’re trying to avoid by not being here. But they are just accumulations of what has been swept under the rug of unconsciousness; they are not you. They are what you confront on the way to beingness. When we acknowledge and understand these feelings while being present, they dissolve, because the idea of ourselves that they are based on is not real. When the illusions dissolve, what is real, your nature, will surface and remain. You go through a process of purification, not because Being itself is sullied, but because you have so many accumulated assumptions and beliefs about reality. If you continue to hope, and tell yourself stories, you will remain asleep, because reality is still the way it is whether you like it or not. The mirage hasn’t worked for you yet and it will not work with more persistence. Would you want it any other way? Would you want your happiness to depend on something other than your nature?

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