Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Intellect?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Intellect

Confronting the Intellectual Mind

The exploration we’ve begun today is the exploration of reality beyond mind. To know reality and to discover who we are beyond the ideas that we learned in childhood, we must confront those ideas. On this level the Work is not a matter of exotic experiences, but of seeing the reality of the things we already know. When we see through the concepts that we already know, we can see the truth that is always there. To see through the concepts that have calcified our minds and our perceptions is to see reality freshly, immediately, to see it the way it is, not the way our minds have defined it. At the beginning, this might sound like an intellectual exploration, but actually we are confronting the intellectual. We’re confronting the mind itself. We’re challenging our mental notions so that we can see through them. So, in this phase of the Work, you might feel more mental than usual for a while. We will come to appreciate, however, that the mental knowledge is not just knowledge in our heads—it completely determines what we experience. If we believe that we know reality, and we act and we react according to what we believe we know, there is no possibility of knowing or experiencing something new, something fresh. We will continue to rearrange our old world. What we want is to be able to live and participate in a world that is completely fresh, completely new, not determined by the past.

Intellect is a Certain Capacity that We Have

Student: Could you say something about intellect? Almaas: In some sense, it has to do with intelligence. Intellect, however, is not an essential aspect; it is a certain capacity that we have, that the soul has—the capacity for reasoning and arriving at understanding. Intellect questions, ponders, investigates, contemplates, discerns, discriminates, and so on, as a process of arriving at insight. This capacity can use or embody intelligence or not. The intellect can function more or less intelligently, with more or less intelligence. However, there is a higher intellect, which is a traditional name for the quality that I call Diamond Guidance.

Brilliancy, pg. 115

Intellect Taken to the Essential Level

If we learn to connect with our essential presence and experience, and investigate it not through our ordinary knowledge, but with the enhanced capacities of discrimination and synthesis, we will have the opportunity to understand this presence more precisely and completely, which will then unfold it to reveal its further possibilities of depth and subtlety. This unfoldment is actually nothing but the essential or spiritual development of the soul, as we will discuss in the next few chapters. This way our intellect will operate in conjunction with essence, allowing the soul to open up to the manifestation of essential intellect. The operation of essential intellect is nothing but the intellect taken to the essential level, where the soul can now inquire and understand with the help of essence and its various aspects. This is actually a manifestation of an essential form, a dimension of essence where all essential aspects function in the service of the intellect. We have referred to this essential manifestation as the essential nous in Luminous Night’s Journey, and as the diamond guidance in Spacecruiser Inquiry, which is a book devoted completely to its exploration. 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.

Meaning That is Not an Intellectual Meaning

The soul reads the truth as truth is revealed. Seeing and experiencing one’s unfoldment is like reading reality, reading the truth. Self-revelation is similar to reading what’s on your computer screen as it is scrolling: As you read, the print appears and disappears. Reading in this way is the same thing as the unfoldment of understanding. What do you do when you’re reading? For the reading to be a real reading, you have to get the meaning of what you read. Isn’t that true? Otherwise, the reading isn’t accomplishing its purpose. It’s the same thing with inquiry: The point is to get the meaning. But in this case, it’s not an intellectual meaning that you give to the experience. It’s a meaning that’s inherent in what is experienced. It’s a lived meaning. It’s about getting the import of the experience, experiencing directly the significance of what’s happening. From this perspective, the unfoldment of life’s inherent meaning is a natural part of real living. Linguistically, the word “meaning” has to do with getting to the inside of things, to the essence of things. To get to the meaning of what is happening can also be described as getting to the heart of the matter. That occurs when we have an insight and the whole experience is integrated and unified in a certain way; all the elements make a tapestry that is meaningful. Understanding isn’t present until we get to the meaning, until we get to the heart of the matter, until we get the point of what’s going on.

Personal Essence Enhances the Integrative Function of the Intellect

We can see the Personal Essence as the prototype, on the Being level, of an integrated and integrating capacity. So when it is present its integrative function is felt not only on its own dimension, that of Being, but on all other dimensions. It tends to enhance the integrative capacity of the body, the nervous system, the intellect, the intuition, the energy system, the emotional tendencies and so on. Even the tendency of ego structure to move towards greater integration, under optimal conditions, is greatly enhanced by the presence of the Personal Essence. So we believe that when it makes its appearance in childhood it facilitates the integration of ego identifications. The capacity for integration exists on all levels of organismic functioning: physical, mental, emotional, and on the Being level. But since the Being level is the deepest, when it is present it enhances all dimensions of integrative capacity. It also integrates all these dimensions into a whole, individuated presence, the essential person. One feels one, and not composed of parts. The Being, the body and the mind are all experienced as one presence.

The Discriminating Capacity of the Diamond Guidance

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. To effectively and fully operate using the Diamond Guidance, we need to be able to function on all levels of discrimination. It is important to have intellectual discrimination, for example, not because we are primarily intellectual, but because intellectual discrimination is necessary for describing a feeling, a sensed discrimination, or a perceived one. It is also necessary to have emotional and sensate discrimination to appreciate the subtleties in our lived experience.

The Inner Guide for the Spiritual Journey is not the Intellect in the Domain of Common Experience

The intellect considered the inner guide for the spiritual journey is not the intellect in the domain of common experience. This latter is only a reflection of what is called the real or higher intellect, the “nous” of the ancient Greeks, which is the appearance of the primordial discrimination, the wisdom of discrimination, in an essential form, a form of presence that can appear in the midst of the dimension of conventional experience. The essential or real intellect, the “nous” of the ancient Greeks, is actually the wisdom of discrimination, viewed from a limited perspective because of the incompleteness in our understanding of ourselves. At this point of spiritual development, we are able to have experiences of essential presence, but we are still not in the full self-realized state. As the spiritual development progresses towards the dimension of primordial and nondual presence, with the assistance of the inner guidance, it reveals progressively the true nature of this guiding presence until it finally reveals it as the wisdom of discrimination at the point that the development reaches the primordial presence.

The Knowingness Inherent in Presence

The knowingness inherent in presence, referred to earlier as the Divine Mind, was called by the Greeks nous, or higher intellect. When the Greeks, as in the case of Plotinus, used the word “intellect,” they did not mean discursive thinking. In fact, in Western languages, the word “intellect” originally meant “the inherent knowingness.” However, this changed mostly in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, when “intellect” began to refer to the representational knowing that goes on in our mind. Now “intellect” is applied only to mental knowingness, the egoic reflection of true knowingness. The inherent knowingness, or nous, was called the logos by some Christians, total intellect by the Sufis, and discriminating awareness by the Buddhists. Now, this discriminating awareness or knowingness is the source of all experience—the various impressions, forms, and colors. Whether they are ordinary physical experiences or unusual spiritual experiences, they are all the same to the inherent knowingness—they are all knowingness, at different levels and intensities of brilliance. The ego experience is just dull knowingness, while the essential experience is a bright knowingness, a luminous presence.

The Perspective of the Diamond Approach is Always an Expression of Experiential Reality, Not an Intellectual One

The understanding of human development we have been evolving in this book, related to the realization of the Personal Essence, is the core of a whole perspective which we refer to as the Diamond Approach. We use the term “diamond” for many reasons. The approach has some of the characteristics of a clear and cut diamond. It has an exactness and precision that becomes extremely sharp at critical points of understanding. There is a clarity and objectivity to it that can cut through emotional barriers and biases. It is multifaceted; it is an integration of many perspectives that make up a larger overall perspective without losing the specificity of the various smaller ones. Each perspective is a reflection or an expression of a certain aspect of Essence, and is complete on its own. The realization and understanding of any aspect allows one to see reality from a certain angle. We can look at everything, for instance, from the perspective expressing the aspect of Love. The perspective is always the expression of an experiential reality, and not an intellectual system.

When Ego Death is a Meaningless Thing

An individual who is working to achieve ego death will be stymied in his endeavors if he does not first see very clearly and very definitely what ego is. Ego boundaries will first have to become ego-alien. The fact that a student intellectually believes that he needs to lose his ego, does not mean that he does believe it in the depths of his heart. In the depths of his heart he does not understand why he needs to let go of ego boundaries. The issue does not seem relevant to his mind, to his heart to his life situation. In fact, ego death is a meaningless thing unless a very high and refined level of inner realization is reached. Ego is not seen as the issue until the individual is close to the state of cosmic consciousness.

You Cannot Understand Love Intellectually

To really see that love is beingness, is-ness, is not easy. You cannot understand it intellectually. The way to understand it is to experience it, to taste it, to be it. You will be able to understand its qualities only when you experience it. Love is not an idea or a concept. If you’ve never seen a coconut, never tasted a coconut, someone could explain to you the taste of a coconut forever, but you would never really know what coconut tastes like. If you taste essence, you know it. If you don’t taste it, you don’t know it. Everything is like that. When people say essence or Being or love is something mysterious, it means they have never tasted it. It isn’t any more mysterious than anything else. To say that love is a beingness doesn’t mean anything to someone who doesn’t know what beingness is. Being is not an emotion. It does not even feel the way your body feels. Beingness means knowing that I am, that I exist as an is-ness, without reference to anything else. You know your body exists because you can feel it, see it, but that is not the way essence is. Essence exists not because you can feel it or see it. It is more intimate than that. The knowing of existence, the feeling of existence and the existence itself are all one thing. This category of experience is not available to the personality. To know an atom, you look in the microscope and see its shape and color. If you were to know the atom the way essence is known, you would need to be the atom itself and know what the atom feels like. There is no true knowing the atom by looking at it.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach