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Presence (Primordial Presence)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Presence (Primordial Presence)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Presence (Primordial Presence)

Complete Primordial Presence is Coemergent with the Body

When we fully experience and understand essential presence, we are aware of what some traditions term primordial presence, and this presence includes other aspects of the self. Awareness of the presence of Being does not exclude awareness of the body and its sensations, feelings and emotions, the mind with its thoughts, images, and ideas, and the totality of the functions of the psyche—such as imagination, thinking, planning, and remembering—and the rest of what ego psychology calls the ego functions. Many spiritual teachings, such as Kabala, Sufism, Kashmir Shaivism, and Taoism, share the understanding of the self as a unity that includes the spiritual dimensions and the usual psychological and physical manifestations. The complete multidimensional self can be experienced only in the fullest realization of presence. In this condition of primordial presence, thoughts, feelings and images do exist, but in a different way than they do in the conventional dimension of experience. These aspects of the self are felt to be completely inseparable from presence itself, not in the sense of two things tied together, but in the sense of coemergence. We do not experience the body as the container of the presence; nor do we experience presence as containing the body. These perceptions might appear in the course of spiritual development, but they are incomplete in that they retain the duality between presence and body. When the experience of oneself as primordial presence is complete, this presence is coemergent with the body.

Degrees of Luminosity in Forms of Primordial Presence

The primordial presence, on the other hand, is nondual in all respects. The sense of wholeness means all dimensions of the self—the conventional and the essential—constitute one indivisible whole. We experience everything as presence, including thoughts and feelings. We are a presence coemergent with the body; the body feels like a part of this presence. This is also true of images, feelings, and activities. At this level even the ego structures, with their images and object relations, are seen to be part of this presence. We are aware of these structures of internalized images, but they appear as less luminous patterns within the overall presence. There is one presence, whole, continuous and homogeneous, clear and transparent. Within this pure presence appear many colorful and exquisite forms, but they are manifestations of and within the same presence. These forms are the various essential aspects, the natural manifestations of the flow of Being. But there also appear a different kind of forms, patterns of light, texture, and color. These forms have various degrees of vividness and luminosity, some transparent and vivid, some dull and thick. These are the thoughts and feelings, and also the body and its sensations. Generally speaking, continuing to be present in this condition tends to clarify and purify the areas of dullness and thickness. The process of clarification occurs naturally and spontaneously, but is aided greatly by inquiry and understanding, because there are always areas of the self that remain obscure and unconscious.

Discriminating “Essential Presence” and “Primordial Presence”

We have so far used the terms “essential presence” and “primordial presence” interchangeably, but there is actually a slight difference in meaning. The presence which is the essence of the self can be experienced on many levels of subtlety, or dimensions of spiritual experience. It is always presence, but we refer to it as essential presence, on any of the spiritual dimensions, to point to its truth as the inner ontological core of the self. By primordial presence, on the other hand, we mean the deepest level of the essential presence, what is referred to in some traditions as nondual presence. This primordial presence can be experienced as the true nature of the self only in the experience of full self-realization. We will use the terms “essential presence” and “primordial presence” interchangeably when the distinction between the two meanings is immaterial. However, on the occasions in our discussion where we focus on one of the two particular meanings, we will discriminate the meaning.

From the Perspective of Primordial Presence, Physicality is Simply a Form that Presence Takes

When we experience primordial presence, it is intimately integrated with the various manifestations and dimensions of the self. The body is felt as the same presence as primordial presence, with a specific form. We do not experience the body as a physical object. From the perspective of primordial presence, physicality is simply a form that presence takes. The body is a certain colorful presence within the fundamental clear medium of presence, just as organs are certain patterns that protoplasm take in the human body. In this state, our felt experience is deepened tremendously, and attains a vividness and clarity not possible in even the deepest physical experiences. In full self-realization we are deeply, vividly aware of all manifestations that arise in the self. Thoughts, feelings, sensations and images are experienced as patterns in the presence, rich with aliveness and energy. The presence changes form, manifesting various contents, but the manifestation is never separate from the presence, and in fact, is nothing but the presence transforming its appearance. Thus, we apprehend the view that Eastern spiritual traditions refer to as nonduality. When we are one with primordial presence, its manifestations in the body, thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations, are transparent forms that do not hide the fundamental reality.

Seeing that Presence is a Flow

Primordial presence brings another kind of completeness. The fact that presence includes the various manifestations of the self in a non-dual way, indicates that presence is not a static reality. Seeing that it is always transforming its appearance, we become aware that presence is dynamic. It is not only thereness, but also a flow. Awareness of the transformation of the appearance of presence, or equivalently, the continuous flow of arising manifestations, allows us to experience presence as flowing. In other words, various manifestations and experiences are continuously arising, constituting a continuous flow of forms of perception. We can experience the coemergence of this flow with presence as the flow of presence. The flow of presence is like the flow of a river, which is always creating ripples, waves, bubbles, and so on.

The Fundamental Root of Narcissism

Realization of the whole, nondual but multidimensional self is important for the total resolution of narcissism, because disconnection from any dimension of the self—not only its deepest dimension—creates narcissism. Disconnection from the deepest dimension, that of essential presence, is the fundamental root of narcissism, which gives narcissism its characteristic flavor. Under normal circumstances, the self is more likely to be disconnected from a deeper dimension, and identified with a more superficial one. This is overwhelmingly the most common situation. The reverse can and does occasionally occur, especially for those engaged in a spiritual practice that includes renunciation or abnegation of the surface dimensions of the self (such as the body or the feelings). It is possible to reach deeper dimensions of the soul through some of these methods, but the realization will be incomplete and cannot ordinarily reach the dimension of primordial presence. The dimension of primordial presence alone brings the realization of wholeness. Actually, if the method is powerful enough to penetrate to this dimension and allow a glimpse of it, the practitioner will then have to abandon all suppression and abnegation in order to fully integrate the primordial presence.

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