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Personal History

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Personal History?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Personal History

Awareness of Presence Qualified by Personhood

Thus, the ordinary sense of being a person is the experience of the self patterned by the structures that give it the sense of being an individual entity with a particular identity. The Personal Essence, in contrast, is the sense of being a person independent of ego structures. It is the awareness of presence qualified by personhood. This sense of personhood is independent of one’s personal history; it is a direct recognition of a pure form of Being. This form of Being feels personal, and gives the self the capacity for immediate personal contact. It is an individuated experience of presence, arising from the unique development of the self into a person with essential qualities that provide the self with various capacities, skills, and talents. It is the integration of the development of the self on the essential dimension. The Personal Essence, then, is the essential counterpart to the sense of individuality that Mahler describes as being established through ego development.

Can You Look at Your Experience Right Now and See How You are Identifying with Your Personal History?

Is it possible to look not only at your body and see your identification with it, but also to look objectively at your personal history without having to identify with it? Is it possible to look at the totality of your personality at once? Most of the time you identify with that totality; you are in the middle of it, as if in a medium like a cloud, and you let the atmosphere of that cloud define you. Is it possible to become aware that you are doing that? Can you look at your experience right now and see how you are identifying with your personal history? Are you aware of how hard it is to disengage from those thoughts and memories and ideas about yourself? Don’t try to disengage. Just be aware of how you are not disengaging. We are not trying to do anything, we’re just trying to see. We just want to see what is really there. And all I’m doing is guiding you to look here and here and here. That’s all. As I said, we are exploring. We don’t necessarily assume that there is a definite answer or that the answer can even be found. We’re just exploring, and so far I haven’t told you anything. When you look at the totality that way, you will see that there are patterns that seem to be unchanging. You’ve always thought of yourself as the same person. You may have changed a little—maybe you like different things, maybe you’re happier; but you’re generally the same. You still think the same way. You still feel similar feelings, or you react to things the same way that you’ve reacted to them before. Personal history has a vague sort of consistency and continuity that gives us a sense of identity. The sense of identity is nothing but a tag, a feeling that comes from a collection of memories.

Conventional Experience is Virtually Determined by this Thick Veil of Personal History

We have seen that in order for us to be authentically and fully ourselves, our identity must include the ontological depth of the soul, essential presence, and that to be presence means simply to be. When we are simply being, our experience of ourselves is direct, immediate, spontaneous, and natural, free from the influence of the thick veil of accumulated memories, ideas, ideals, and images. We have also seen that conventional experience does not allow the experience of self-realization because conventional experience is virtually determined by this thick veil of personal history. We have noted that ordinarily the self cannot experience itself separately from the self-representation, and that, in fact, it experiences itself from within, and through, that representation. If it has not already been clear to the reader, it now becomes clear that the veil of personal history is the self-representation. Regardless of how realistic the self-representation is, it cannot contain the true reality of the self.

In the Experience of the Personal Essence, Personal History is Irrelevant to Being Oneself

This is in great contrast to the experience of the Personal Essence, where personal history is irrelevant to being oneself. The person of Being has no sense of age; number of years cannot apply to him. Time to him is conceptual, and only the present is real. The person of Being is independent, in terms of being himself, from his physical parents. He does not need to refer himself to parents or to anybody or anything. It is clear from the findings of object relations theory, why the sense of being a person of the man of the world cannot be independent from mind, memory, past experiences, age, sex, parents, environment, body and so on. As we have seen, the man of the world’s sense of being a person is explained by object relations theory as a psychical developmental achievement: the achievement of a separate individuality with a sense of self, or as Mahler would describe it, the establishment of a unified self-image. This individuation is primarily a development in the mind, and thus is seen from the perspective of Being as ephemeral and undeserving of the label of reality.

Individuality is a Continuation of the Past, Part and Parcel of the Personal History

The process of moving from the personal to the Impersonal is subtle and profound. One must see oneself and the totality of one’s life, all at once. This can happen only when the real personal—the Personal Essence—is completely realized. The psychological issue here is that the ego individuality is not separate from the totality of one’s life, and also it is dependent on, and in continuity with, one’s personal history. So far, we have explored how to go beyond the ego individuality in the process of the realization and development of the Personal Essence. Now we see that this cannot happen in a final way unless one is detached from his personal life, and free from his personal history. This of course accords with the object relations view that the individuality cannot exist separately from its past, since that individuality is a product of the integration of past object relations. It is a continuation of the past, part and parcel of the personal history, and cannot be separated from its world and its personal life.

Integrating One’s Personal History and Learning Into the Ground of the Soul

The next step is for the soul to continue this journey of individuation by including more dimensions of the soul’s potential. This happens by integrating her ego achievements into the essential ground of the soul. The sense of being an individual, which is based on identification systems of images and object relations, can now go through a transformation. The structures that constitute it can go through a process of clarification in which they are consciously understood. The soul can inquire into her ego structures, recognize them as structuring through mental impressions, and metabolize them into her essential presence. The structures are based on memories and impressions that constitute the history of the life of the soul. By becoming aware of this history, recognizing its content as it actually was, and understanding instead of identifying with it, the soul can metabolize the important experiences in this personal history. The soul digests the truth and learning in this history rather than using it to define herself. This metabolism, which can happen only if the process of inquiry occurs in the presence of essence, integrates one’s personal history and learning into the ground of the soul. The structures lose their structuring power and the learning and skills synthesized in them now become integrated into the soul directly, instead of indirectly through images and identifications. This process of essential metabolism develops the soul into an individual of essence. The sense of being an individual with unique qualities and skills does not disappear, but appears in the soul now as an essential presence that has a personal quality.

Integrating the Person Into the Absolute

Integrating the person into the Absolute is more difficult than experiencing the Absolute. Integration requires that you deal with and metabolize your unconscious and your personal history. You have to really let all of the unconscious come out, to face all of your specific issues and areas of conflict and ignorance. Many traditions don’t care about integration but strive only to reach the Absolute. They don’t care about the personal life. The point for them is to know the Absolute and leave. In other traditions, and in our work, the point is to know the Absolute and live in the world as an expression of it. So how can you live a human life from the perspective of absence? That is the realm of development, change, and transformation within consciousness.

Man of the World: His Sense of Who He is as a Person Cannot be Separated in His Experience from His Personal History

The man of the world experiences being a person as a mental-emotional physical phenomenon. He conceives himself as a person via his body image. His sense of himself is inferred from his perception of his body, his mind and his behavior. His sense of being a person cannot be separated from, and cannot exist without, his memories of himself in past interactions. He sees himself as a person who was born as an infant to a certain set of parents, and who has grown and developed and had many experiences throughout the years. His sense of who he is as a person cannot be separated in his experience from his personal history, from all that has happened to him. He cannot separate his sense of who he is from his relationship to his environment, and the people in it. He cannot separate who he is from what he thinks, and what other people think of him. In other words, he cannot just be who he is, independent of his mind. Who he is and who he thinks (consciously or unconsciously) he is are inseparable for him.

The Self Experiences Itself Through the Content of Personal History that has Been Integrated Into the Self-Representation

We could say, then, that the self experiences itself from within the self-representation, through the totality of what constitutes this representation. The various images, impressions, and beliefs—the content of the personal history of the individual—which have been integrated into the self-representation, become the lens through which the self not only conceives of itself but, more significantly, experiences itself. The self-representation functions not only as the lens through which the self sees itself, but actually as an inseparable part of the very eye which is the capacity of the self for experiencing itself. In fact, the self-representation is even more intimately linked to the self ’s experience of itself than the metaphor of the lens and the eye suggests. The experience of the self is actually determined by the self-representation. The phenomenology of the self ’s experience presents itself through this representation, and hence, what the self perceives and experiences as itself, in its present experience, is greatly determined by it. The self-representation actually sculpts the forms that arise as the phenomenological particulars of the self’s experience of itself.

The Student May Experience the Totality of the Personality as Outside of Him, Separate from His Pure Being, but as a Content of a Personal History

Then the student’s perception may expand to reveal that the totality of the personality, with all its thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, and so on, is a part of a larger whole. It is an inseparable part of a universal network that includes all of his life, involving every person he has any relation to. It feels like a heavy network of images, representations, affects, and thoughts that pervades all his life, comprising an interconnected totality. It is a heavy, dark, and complicated network. He is now experiencing the totality of his self-structure, seeing that it includes everything and everyone his mind remembers and thinks about. He experiences the totality of his personality as outside of him, separate from his pure being, but now as a continuity of a personal history. He can see that the totality of his personality is not only continuous with all of the situations of his life, but also continuous with all of his past history. He sees that it is part of the continuity of this totality as a dynamic network of psychic structures. If the experience continues to expand, the student recognizes that the network that comprises the totality of his personality is actually not separate from the totalities of all the people he knows and has known, and they in turn are connected to others, and so on. It becomes clear that his total personality is a part of a universal network that includes all of humanity, like a psychic network covering all the earth. This universal network includes all of human knowledge. Parts of the network are darker than others, with some brightness here and there. But it is generally dull and dark, heavy and complicated, in contrast to the simplicity, purity, and lightness of being the Essential Identity. One comes to realize that all the spiritual knowledge of humankind is included in this network. This knowledge is the uppermost, subtlest, and brightest layer of this network, but nevertheless still dull and complicated. As long as it is knowledge in memory, it is not the presence of Being, and hence lacks the true luster of direct realization. He experiences all these teachings, including his own previous insights and discoveries, as artificial, external to the simplicity of being.

There Cannot be Freedom from Ego Structure as Long as One Continues to View Himself as an Extension of His Unique Personal History

Thus there cannot be freedom from this ego structure as long as one is attached and completely lost in his personal life, and as long as one continues to view himself as an extension of his unique personal history. For complete freedom from this ego individuality, which is the same as completely establishing the Personal Essence, one must be free from the supports of this ego structure, the personal life and personal history. Only when these supports are exposed and then transcended does the true support for the Personal Essence arise, through the action of the Impersonal aspect. In other words, just as the Personal Essence exposes the individuality of ego, the Impersonal aspect exposes the support of such individuality. One could say that the full realization and understanding of the Personal Essence shifts the sense of being a person from ego to Being. This then exposes the deep supports for the individual ego structure, which is seen as inseparable from the personal life and history. This latter perception is possible only from the Impersonal aspect. It is interesting to notice that this transition happens only through the combined influence of the full realization of the true Personal Essence and the transcendent awareness of the Impersonal aspect.

Using Memories to Define You

So now you may be aware of identifying with that personal history and its collective sense of selfhood. All this has a tag that you call “me.” What is this tag? When you take the personal history to define you, all of your experiences are included, even experiences of self-realization, enlightenment, and Essence. You also use these memories to define you. For instance, you might remember an experience that you had about two months ago in which you experienced your true self, and now you think that must be you. It became food for your personal history. You’re trying to generate an identity now by remembering it. Who says that is who you are now? Are you always the same? When you take a memory to define you, it doesn’t matter what you remember—good, bad, fundamental, superficial, true or false; it all accumulates in your personal history. Even an experience of your true self can be remembered and added to the collection. But your true self is not an accumulation or a collection.

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