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Perception (Subtle Perception)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Perception (Subtle Perception)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Perception (Subtle Perception)

Awareness of Essence as One’s Consciousness Itself

People who work on themselves develop their inner vision so that they can perceive their essential nature. This is analogous to looking at matter in a microscope: If you look through the microscope, you will see the molecular structure of the material; if you don’t look, you will not see what it is made of. The more people see the essential nature they are made of, the more the actions in their lives are informed by that perception. If you don’t perceive your essence, it does not affect you or your life very much. A lot of work is required to refine one’s perception to become aware of Essence at all, much less to become aware of it as the essence of one’s consciousness itself. Because this is a very subtle perception, most people don’t have the sensitivity to see it or to understand its nature. Those who do perceive it usually think of the experience as a bit of grace that God throws you once in a while, like a blessing that happens to hit you occasionally. To conceive of Essence in this way is not to see objectively. The objective view that the Holy Ideas explicate is that Essence is actually the nature of our consciousness and the nature of everything. The more we see this, the more faith develops in us. That is the work of self-realization—to become aware of, to become certain of, and to become continuously in touch with, the fact that Essence is one’s intrinsic nature. It is difficult work, but that is the Work.

Facets of Unity, pg. 251

Complete Coemergence of Soul and Absolute

Driving to see my friend Karen, I become aware of my presence evolving to a new state. Again, the soul and absolute are integrated as one presence. I am aware of the winding road, and contemplating my sense of presence, awareness reveals the integration of soul and absolute to be complete; it is a total synthesis. Contemplation beholds complete coemergence of soul and absolute. The union is much more complete than I have experienced before. This total coemergence transforms the felt qualities of the presence. The lightness is extreme now; it is as if there is no gravity at all. It is the emptiness of the absolute in its total lightness and transparency. And there is an amazing translucence, a clarity that is itself the lightness. I am aware of soul, aware that I am not experiencing only the purity of the absolute, because there is a subtle perception of a completely clear and translucent bubble of awareness. Along with the indescribable lightness and spaciousness, and inseparable from it, I experience a presence that looks almost like a mirage, an illusory body.

Knowingness Bordering on Cessation

The contemplation of the absolute continues with its own momentum, without my personal prompting. The consciousness finds itself in the mysterious blackness of the absolute, and a process of sensing into its depths spontaneously commences. I keep returning to this mystery, this intimacy, this delicacy, this contentment, this peace, this freedom, this infinity of release. The absolute cannot even be called space, even though it is a vastness. Ordinarily I see it as spacious. But as I plumb this spaciousness, it dissolves into a spaceless or dimensionless nothing. The result is absence, the opposite of existence. Then there is no sense of extension, and also no sense of no extension. Awareness of the absolute remains, but this awareness is free of the concept or sense of extension. In this subtle perception, knowingness borders on cessation.

Perceiving that Ego Boundaries Create a Sense of Isolation and Lack of Contact

Ego boundaries create not only a sense of separateness, but, in a fundamental way, a sense of isolation and lack of contact. This was painfully felt by Penny above. This is also a subtle perception, requiring a great deal of disidentification. As we discussed in the section on contact, the individuality of ego feels like a kind of personal contact, but only the Personal Essence can make real, direct contact. Our present discussion of boundaries makes it clear why this is so. It is not only because ego individuality is a mental structure and not a beingness, but also because its very existence is based on its boundaries. These boundaries separate it from the rest of the world much more profoundly than is usually assumed. When one experiences the quality of contact of the Personal Essence, it becomes clear how thoroughly ego is shut off within its boundaries, as if behind walls. It is painfully isolated from true human contact. 

Seeing Your Ego Ideal on the Level of Subtle Perception

What we call the false pearl, or the personality, is the result of living or trying to live according to the ego ideal. The false pearl is an overall description, whereas the ego ideal can be seen inside you. It is a certain structure that you can actually see floating around. The ego ideal is what I call the “dot.” It is in juxtaposition to the true self—what I call the “point.” When you see your ego ideal on the level of subtle perception, you see a dark dot; and when you open it, you feel that you are an idea. You realize very distinctly that your ego ideal is really just an idea in your mind. The false pearl, the personality, develops as you try to live according to the ego ideal. It’s the activity itself, what you learned to do, what you have developed instead of your Being; it’s what you have become. To put it very simply: the false pearl is what you have become by living or trying to live according to the ego ideal.  

Subtle Perception is an Inherent Capacity in Everyone

Subtle perception is readily available to some people and not others, but it is an inherent capacity in everyone. With regular practice and careful attention, one’s ability to discriminate the perceptual characteristics of inner experience becomes increasingly clear and precise. In time, we can recognize each essential aspect by its texture, color, taste, and so on. Most important, each aspect has a discernible feeling tone—a specific affect or experiential flavor. This becomes more definite and recognizable the more we are able to perceive the other properties such as color, taste, and texture. 

Subtle Perception of Space Pervading Everything

In Mark’s experience, space continued to expand until he felt himself as having no physical boundaries, with the space extending to infinity. Here then is the direct perception that the nature of the mind is really boundless space, literally boundless. Besides directly sensing, intuiting, and being space, he could also see it. He could see it as emptiness, just like empty, physical space, but clear and immaculate. This is one of the common ways of seeing the inner space—as a clear and empty nothingness, the way we would imagine totally empty physical space. With eyes open, the physical environment is seen as it is, but with the more subtle perception of space pervading everything and extending infinitely. It should be noted here that the experience of the column of space and of the mind as boundless space is usually the crown of the process of development of what some systems call the Kundalini. In this process, energy ascends up the spine into the head, causing all kinds of unusual experiences. However, when the process is successful, it culminates in the experience of boundless space.

The Void, pg. 58

Subtly Perceiving that An Identification Cannot Be Absolutely Devoid of Defense

One becomes slowly aware of a very subtle resistance in this personality aspect, against the presence of Being, which makes it feel separate from it. One becomes aware that the structure of this part, its very fabric, is pervaded by an extremely subtle posture of resistance; this resistance is part of its familiar sense of identity. To understand the difference between this subtle resistance and the usual resistances of ego defenses, one can visualize the usual resistance as a block of rubber. If you push against it, it pushes back, it resists you. In comparison to this thick block of rubber, the subtle resistance is like a very thin cloud of rubber. Whenever there is a strong feeling, one part of this cloud condenses and becomes a full-fledged resistance. However, at all times the thin cloud of rubber pervades, so to speak, the withdrawn personality segment It is in such deep and subtle perception that one can perceive directly that an identification cannot be absolutely devoid of defense or resistance. There are many aspects of this experience, but we will focus on what happens next. As usual, when the resistance is seen and understood it begins to dissolve. This resistance is understood to be an attempt to avoid contact with Being, to stay separate from it, untouched by it. As this subtle resistance starts dissolving, one starts feeling oneself becoming absorbed in the undifferentiated Being. The experience of being absorbed by something bigger and unknown is quite definite and clear. There is no fear by now, because there is understanding, but sometimes there is some sadness, as if one is losing an old acquaintance. One feels one is being absorbed, as if one is a liquid being absorbed by a sponge. As the absorption proceeds one becomes less the personality and more the impersonal Being. 

The More Precise Our Experience the More it Becomes Subtle

The drive toward precision and clarity is the action of the Clear diamond. Experience becomes perfectly clear when the Clear diamond manifests and cuts through the clouds of obscuration with the sword of precision. The sharp edges of the diamond function by cutting through the dullness and vagueness of our obscured experience. The diamond has very sharp facets. When these facets touch our experience, they make us see it in a very clear, precise, sharp way. So the sharp edge of the diamond scepter is the clear, precise and specific perception or understanding. This precision can go quite deep, with increasing subtlety. In some sense, the subtlety itself becomes a matter of greater precision. The more precise our experience, the more it becomes subtle. Perception becomes finer, more subtle, more delicate. Hence we see that inquiry proceeds by our being curious and questioning, and the questioning is guided by becoming more precise. This increases the clarity, the objectivity, the sharpness, the subtlety, the refinement, until we arrive home, at the Absolute, the farthest reaches of reality. 

The Presence of the Substance of Brilliancy in the Mind Makes the Person Brilliant

When you see someone who is really brilliant, really intelligent—such as one of the great synthesizers of science—your subtle perception might notice that it is the presence of the substance of Brilliancy in his mind that makes the person brilliant. When we say that someone is brilliant, it is more literally true than we usually think. So to be brilliant is not just to have brilliant thought patterns. There is also luminescence—a radiance or brightness in that person’s functioning that you can actually perceive directly. It is this perceivable brilliance that imparts the qualities of beauty, grace, and elegance. 

Brilliancy, pg. 17

Very Subtle Perception of “Purified” Personality

One of several resolutions occurs at this point, depending on the particular issue. Sometimes the sector of the personality becomes transformed by the action of Essence into some essential aspect. This happens particularly with the identification systems that give one the sense of being separate from the rest of existence. Usually, an aspect of love acts on the boundary structure and transforms it into the Personal Essence. This generally happens only in the most advanced stages of inner realization, in which personality structures are speedily disappearing. At some juncture of this process one comes upon schizoid-like defenses, that seem to operate at the very core structures of the personality. These schizoid-like defenses, isolation and schizoid withdrawal, usually occur after one has seen through the major narcissistic and borderline-like defenses. Finally, and usually after the entry into the realm of undifferentiated Being, one comes upon an ego state of “purified” personality. This is usually a very subtle perception, and to be aware of it one needs to be in a profound state of stillness and attentiveness. One becomes aware of identifying with a kind of personal feeling, which feels very familiar and quite intimate to oneself. This is a state of experiencing one’s personal identity (an ego state) devoid of any defensiveness, which happens after the process of secondary autonomy has gone through its full course with regard to this ego structure. One feels intimate with oneself, soft and cozy. But the most important distinguishing quality of this feeling of self is the recognition that this is what one usually feels is oneself. It is the emotional tone that characterizes one’s personality. One feels, “This is me.” However, one is at the same time aware it is only a feeling, an emotional tone that goes along with some image.

With Subtle Perception We Might be Able to Perceive that Some Kind of Presence Has Left the Body at Death

Death seems to come when the soul vacates the body. The loss of life is identical to the loss of the soul. It is clear then that life is a property that the soul gives to the body. As the soul leaves the body, she takes away life with her, for life is one of her basic properties. If we have subtle perception, we might be able to perceive that some kind of consciousness or presence has left the body. We might be able to sense or perceive this presence, depending on how sensitive we have been to our experience of soul. Individuals who have learned to experience their souls directly will generally be able to perceive the soul when she leaves the body. She is the same soul, whether occupying the body or not.

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