Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Instinct?

Depth psychology formulates and recognizes two instincts: the survival instinct and the sexual instinct. We add to these two a third one: the social instinct. All three instincts involve the physical survival of the human organism.

— A. H. Almaas

Instinct is animal, and “animal” generally means “primitive.” The animal in us is a powerful primitive force that humanity still hasn’t learned to deal with in a completely human way.  When we experience the animal potential of the soul, what we call the animal soul, we are then full of desires, cravings, uncontrollable impulses, lust, and passion for what the world offers.

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Instinct

All Social and Sexual Instincts are Linked to Survival

What’s important to see is that ultimately, all animal instincts amount to the basic drive for physical survival. And all our powerful needs and instinctual drives can become a force that completely eclipses the love of truth. This is true whether the survival instinct manifests as the need for security, support, safety, affection, social contact, comfort, or money. In reality, all social and sexual instincts are linked to survival. For example, you may just want somebody around or someone to talk to on the phone, and it doesn’t matter whether truth is involved. Just talking is what’s needed. What’s really happening is that you can’t be alone; you are operating unconsciously from the assumption that social contact is a survival need, and that takes precedence over the love of the truth. We need to deal with this level of our soul if we are to liberate our heart, for our heart can truly love only when it is free. The heart exists at the level of the human soul rather than at the level of the animal soul. And unless the instinctual drives in the animal soul are confronted, they will confine—and ultimately control—the human soul and heart.

Connection of the Ego with the Functions of the Instincts

There is a very close connection between the structure of the ego and the functions of the instincts. This means that for the personality to let go and for its identity to dissolve, the individual must deal with the issue of survival because it is underneath the functioning of all instincts. Dealing with the survival instinct will lead to understanding death and its relation to the personality and to Essence.

How Does Understanding the Instincts Impact Us?

Every time one of the instincts is understood, all of the aspects develop to another dimension of essence and become established there. A whole new dimension is then opened up and realized. The incomparable pearl, the personal essence, also undergoes a transformation, and its relationship to the new dimensions becomes clear, free, and established. This process is referred to in the story above, “The Hymn of the Pearl,” by the wearing of a robe. The individual becomes even more autonomous than on the ego level. In a sense, he becomes completely autonomous. On the social level, this autonomy does not mean that he does not need society at all. It means he becomes objective about society and its functions. He no longer looks at society as if it were his mother, nor relates to it the way he did to his father or mother. He does not see it as a source of emotional support or emotional protection or nourishment. He does not look to it for admiration, approval, self-esteem, respect, position, fame, identity, and the like. The issues of friendship, trust, and power become clear. His social relations become objective, rather than clouded by the personality's assumptions and hopes about society. Society is seen for what it is, and all social interactions are seen for what they are. Society is neither rejected nor accepted but understood for what it is, what it offers, what it demands, and what it needs. Society's relation to essence and its life becomes conscious.

Looking at the World in Terms of Objects of Gratification

One way that the instincts manifest themselves is in aggression. When getting what we want is blocked or frustrated, we often feel anger, hatred, and revenge. These feelings and our desire to express them can become powerful forces against our love of truth. We’re more interested in getting angry than in recognizing the truth, more interested in making somebody suffer than in inquiring into what’s going on. These tendencies are driven by an instinctual force. Of course, fears are also involved because we are anxious about survival and anticipated losses. So the level of the instincts, the animal level, looks at the world in terms of objects of gratification—going after things that will make us feel good, gratify us, and help us survive. These are real needs for human beings; they are not made up. We need food to survive. We need some kind of security. We need to have some pleasure; human beings can’t survive if all they are experiencing is pain and suffering. We need some kind of company, some kind of social contact, some kind of family. The question is not whether these things are needed, but whether the expression of these needs is more powerful than the love for the truth. When it is, we stay on the animal level. This doesn’t mean that anything bad is going to happen. It just means that we’re going to continue living as animal souls; we won’t take the next evolutionary step toward becoming truly human souls.

Three Instincts

Part of this work is to understand the instincts, to be free from unconscious biological necessity. Depth psychology formulates and recognizes two instincts: the survival instinct and the sexual instinct. We add to these two a third one: the social instinct. All three instincts involve the physical survival of the human organism. They are organized by the nervous system and the lowest three energetic centers, the first three chakras. The survival or preservation instinct is organized by the first chakra at the perineum. The sexual instinct is organized by the second chakra at the base of the spine. The social instinct is organized by the third chakra at the solar plexus. They all function for physical survival but employ different energies and different modes of experience and functioning.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach