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Preverbal Structures

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Preverbal Structures

Illumination of Barriers that Developed before the Arising of Conceptual Knowledge

We see that inquiry can penetrate deeper than the cognitive realm. It can do this when the inner guidance appears on the nonconceptual dimension, as the crystal vehicle of guidance. Crystal guidance not only reveals the presence of reifications, but goes further, pointing to concepts themselves and how they become barriers to pure awareness. By challenging the various concepts and conceptual positions it moves consciousness beyond them, to nonconceptual presence. Crystal guidance functions in another, unexpected way. Beyond the exposing of concepts and dichotomies, its crystalline structure illuminates barriers that developed before the arising of conceptual knowledge. These are the structures of the soul that were established very early in life, before the cognitive capacity developed enough for the establishment of representational structures. We discussed these primitive, prenatal, and preverbal structures in chapter 14. These structures are simply impressions in the soul; they are not cognitive. Because it is the expression of nonconceptual awareness, crystal guidance penetrates these preconceptual structures and challenges their opaqueness. These structures manifest in consciousness and reveal how they are barriers to realization and liberation. Crystal guidance, along with the various aspects manifesting as crystals, brings about the precise and objective understanding of this dimension of obscurations. Such understanding can be simply the recognition of the nonconceptual as the ground, but can also manifest as insight and basic knowledge.

Preverbal Structures are Like Deep Impressions in your Soul that Affect Your Experience

Student: . . . . . . what are we going to do about the preverbal structures or the nonconceptual structures of the soul?

Almaas: Yes, what are we going to do with them? Seeing through nonconceptual structures is a subtler kind of work than dealing with the cognitive structures constructed by mind. Understanding these earlier structures is not a matter of seeing your beliefs and ideas. Preverbal structures are like deep impressions on your soul that profoundly affect your experience. We work with these structures as we work with inquiry in general; as something arises, we experience it, stay with it, feel it as much as possible, and question it. Because they are nonverbal, these impressions are difficult to understand. They appear vague and difficult to know. The understanding of these impressions will happen as we become open to recognizing that this is something we cannot understand with our mind. That allows our being to manifest in a way that is beyond mind, that is nonconceptual. So the nonconceptual qualities of Being, those beyond the recognition of mind, will tend to open up and reveal these structures. As these preverbal impressions and how they affect us are brought to experience, the cognition and discernment of them become possible. We can begin to understand them in a way that we didn’t see before. 

Structures that, if Not Worked Through, Form a Hindrance to the Clear Experience and Integration of the Basic , Mainly Noncognitive, Dimensions of True Nature

The process of working through these structures has the same stages as we have described. One becomes aware of a rigidity structuring experience, which upon investigation reveals an underlying emptiness; the understanding of this emptiness leads to the emergence of essence in one or more of its aspects or dimensions. Working through her early, preverbal, precognitive, or preconceptual structures tends to lead the soul’s experience to very subtle and deep dimensions of true nature. It is these structures that, if not worked through, form a hindrance to the clear experience and integration of the basic, mainly noncognitive dimensions of true nature. However, because these structures tend to block the soul’s openness to such deep levels of presence they also function as barriers to more discriminated aspects of presence, for essence is not organized like a layered cake but more as coextensive interpenetrating dimensions. 

The Capacity for Knowing is Preverbal, Pre-Knowing

Knowingness is more than just perception, for perception alone indicates only the fact of seeing differentiation. To recognize the differentiation—for differentiation to become discrimination—knowingness is required. This knowingness precedes labeling. For example, an infant knows that it is uncomfortable without having the word or even the concept for being uncomfortable. It simply starts squirming. Its body recognizes that something is uncomfortable. Later on, when we develop language, we call it discomfort. So this capacity for knowing is preverbal, pre-labeling. Labeling arises as the next step. In experience, first there is differentiation, that is, awareness that there are various elements and patterns in consciousness. This awareness functions in the same way that a mirror reflects—it reveals the shapes and patterns of our experience but provides no knowledge about what is reflected. The next step is discrimination: recognizing what these elements and patterns are. Knowing implies both their differentiation and discrimination. The third step is labeling, putting a tag on each known element. Thinking assumes all three of these steps in order to proceed. The knowing necessary for understanding occurs in the second step: the discrimination of experience. Labeling may arise—it can be present or not. If it is, it will serve as a tool for articulating the understanding, unless we use the labels as a substitute for the direct knowing. In that case, we end up with only mental understanding. 

The Child’s Experience Includes a Preverbal Impression of the Essential Identity

Consequently, the child’s experience includes a preverbal impression of the Essential Identity and at the same time an objectifiable experience of body and mind. This objectifiable experience of body-mind is what becomes represented in the self-representation, which is then present in his consciousness with the wordless, implicit experience of Self. Since he is not objectively aware of the Essential Identity, the child inevitably connects the feeling of identity to the representation. This explains how the infant comes to associate the representation with the category of self. The Essential Identity is present, and its sense of uniqueness and singularity helps his maturing perceptual faculties to differentiate his representations of himself from those of the object. And because the representation is related not only to the body, but also to a clearly felt sense of self identified with a specific feeling, it becomes a self-representation. The final result is that the child internalizes a self-representation, an image or an impression, that is associated with a sense of self. The representation includes the feeling of identity, which characterizes or colors it. The infant experiences the sense of identity as coexistent with, and in fact as an important part of, the representation or image connected to his body. So self-representations are always connected with, or imbued with, a sense of a differentiated and unique self, colored by a feeling of identity which gives it self-recognition. 

The Experience of Emptiness Frees Us from Conceptual Constructs and Also from Nonconceptual Impressions

At some point, we can recognize that emptiness offers not only freedom from constructs based on memory and concepts but also freedom from nonconceptual structures. Our sense of self includes structures that are not constructed through conceptualizations, because they developed before we were able to know or to think. The experience of emptiness frees us from conceptual constructs and also from nonconceptual impressions, which are not constructed by the mind but are nevertheless imprinted onto the consciousness. So the consciousness mistakes these nonconceptual impressions as important features of reality and holds on to them as if they are what it is. Understanding these preverbal and nonconceptual structures liberates us more deeply from the sense of self and also moves our realization to deeper and more subtle levels. All these kinds of constructs and impressions arise in the process of discovering the emptiness of other. The emptiness of self reveals a deeper understanding of spaciousness, one that underlies experience in general. In other words, spaciousness unfolds from one kind to another until it becomes the emptiness of self, which is a manifestation of the other side of Being, also known as nonbeing. The spaciousness becomes so empty and so open that it is no longer spaciousness—it is simply nothing. So knowing the emptiness of self means recognizing not only that the constructs of the individual consciousness are not reality but also that the individual consciousness itself does not exist.  

Unconscious Material Relating to the Early Months of Life is Considered Preverbal, in Fact, Pre-Personality

There is an inner consistency and order for the process of essential development. There is no need for the mind to direct the process. In fact, directing the process by the mind can only lead to difficulty, for the mind does not know. Commitment to the truth is sufficient for the process to unfold. When the essential aspects are discovered and freed, when the incomparable pearl is realized, the process spontaneously unfolds in the direction of the instincts and ultimately of the survival issue. Here it is not a matter of discovering new aspects of essence. It is a matter of letting go of the ego identity and living from the essence that is already present. In this phase of the work, everything becomes an object of study and understanding. It is no more an inner process. One's life, with all its situations, comes into focus. One's style of life—how one leads one's life in all its aspects—becomes understood and modified accordingly. The individual becomes aware of his environment and ascertains whether it supports or inhibits the life of essence. One's relationships to other people, intimate, sexual, social, and professional, all become clear and objective. Everything, every part of one's life, inner or outer, becomes conscious, no longer under the sway of the unconscious. This is a very deep and involved work. It leads to responsibility and maturity. It would be almost impossible to carry out this deep work if it were not for the presence of essence, with its penetrating power. Most of the unconscious material at this phase relates to the early months of life and even before that. It is material that is considered preverbal and, in fact, pre-personality. The mind cannot function at such depth. Only penetrating intuition and direct perception can be used effectively at such a level of work. Essence does penetrate to these deep strata of the personality. It exposes them to the light of understanding. In fact, essence is the true agent of transformation; it manifests the necessary aspects corresponding to the relevant sectors of the personality, and these aspects make possible the necessary understanding. 

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