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Soul (Essence of)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Soul (Essence of)?

 In the initial stages of self-realization, in which presence is experienced as the core and inner essence of the soul, this presence transforms from one quality to another. It manifests sometimes as love, sometimes as will, other times as intelligence, truth, or individuation, or as combinations of these qualities.

— A. H. Almaas

When I say that Essence is the essence of the soul, I am describing the initial experience of it. At the beginning, it feels like there is a soul and there is Essence inside it, like a container with its content. This is not really the situation, but it feels that way initially because of the limitations imposed on our experience by our identifications. If our minds are not identified with anything, we see that Essence is completely coemergent with the soul, just as the molecules are coemergent with your body. Essence is inseparable from the soul; it is part and parcel of it. 

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Soul (Essence of)

Discovering the Pure Presence of the Essence of the Soul

It is central to our view that the self can be known in its essence. Further, this insight into the essence of the soul can reveal the deepest roots of narcissism, making it possible to actually resolve narcissistic issues. In fact, in the experience of spiritual realization, we discover that the pure presence of the essence of the soul can be known more directly, more intimately, and more precisely, than can the more external manifestations of the self. This is because the latter are usually experienced through self-reflection and thus indirectly. Self-perception is further obscured by the various contents of the psyche, whereas the essential presence of the self is cognized by being it, without the intermediary of extraneous mental content.

Essence is the Ultimate Existential Mode and Ground of the Soul

What does it mean that essence is the essence of everything? To be the essence of something means it is its ultimate substance, its final nature, its most absolute level of existence. To use a physical metaphor, we can see that the essence of the body is protoplasm, but this is not its ultimate substance. To find the most fundamental level of existence of the body we have to go to the most elementary particles composing it, where these building blocks are the final and ultimate ones. Essence also means the simplest level of existence of something. Essence is the essence of the soul in this sense, and it reveals itself at this point to be the essence of everything. But “true nature” has another significant meaning: the true nature of something, as we are using the term, is the most absolute and objective truth about what it is. When we have penetrated all that obscures our direct knowledge of anything, including the essence of the soul, when we have seen through all our inaccurate ideas, beliefs, positions, projections, and distortions, everything that obscures our awareness and knowing of it, we find anything we contemplate to be characterized by this true nature. We have seen that essence is the true nature of the soul in both of these senses: it is her ultimate existential mode and ground, and it is the most objective truth of what she is. In the same way, essence reveals itself at this juncture of the inner journey as the essence and true nature of everything. Essential presence is the ontological ground of all phenomena. It is their ultimate substance. It is the true nature of plants, animals, rocks, atoms, elementary particles, energy, light, oceans, planets, galaxies, whatever universes exist, and so on, and the true nature of all thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, and all processes involving any of these objects. Nothing is outside the compass of true nature.

Experiencing the Ground of the Soul as Pure Presence of Consciousness, We Experience Our Essential Nature

Essence is the essence of the soul, her true nature, which we have seen to be her ontological dimension and ground. Essence is pure consciousness, which is experienced phenomenologically as presence. So when we experience the ground of the soul as pure presence of consciousness, we are experiencing our essential nature, essence. Essence and soul meet as pure consciousness. As we have seen, though, soul is not simply pure consciousness. We have seen that consciousness is to the soul as protoplasm is to the body. Hence, essence is the substance of protoplasm, a medium of pure consciousness. However, as discussed in previous publications, essence manifests in various qualities we have termed aspects. These aspects are particular differentiations out of the basic presence, pure consciousness. They are differentiations only in quality, so they always remain as presence. Each aspect is a presence capable of being self-aware, and the only difference from the protoplasmic presence is that this awareness is also an awareness of the particular quality. These qualities are usually implicit in pure nondifferentiated presence, but manifest explicitly in the soul as aspects like love, compassion, joy, peace, truth, strength, impeccability, sincerity, and so on. They are the perfections of our true nature, whose presence is necessary for the soul to develop and function fully and completely.

If We Investigate Our Soul, We Find Her as this Essence, which is this Presence

In other words, if we investigate what the final essence of the soul is, the essence beyond particular manifestations, we find it to be this presence of pure consciousness. Therefore, we refer to this presence of pure consciousness as essence, meaning the essence of the soul. So essence is the ultimate ground of the soul, her final nature, her absolute purity. We also refer to it as the true nature of the soul, meaning that if we investigate our soul and are able to penetrate all of our beliefs and prejudices about her, and are able to behold her with total objectivity, without the slightest subjective posture or position, without any obscurations or veils, we find her as this essence, which is presence. Essence and true nature are the same thing, but viewed from different perspectives: when we view the ultimate and simplest ground of the soul from the perspective of its most basic constituency we refer to it as essence, just as the essence of water is H2O molecules; and when we view it from the perspective of its final and most naked truth we refer to it as true nature.

Transformations when Presence is Experienced as the Inner Essence of the Soul

The abiding flow of experience in self-realization is neither “driven” nor “led”; it is the natural and spontaneous flow of presence. The soul unfolds as the manifestation of its essential forms and qualities. This dynamic property of the self is the basis of all its action. In the initial stages of self-realization, in which presence is experienced as the core and inner essence of the soul, this presence transforms from one quality to another. It manifests sometimes as love, sometimes as will, other times as intelligence, truth, or individuation, and so on, or as combinations of these qualities. These forms of presence function as our sense of being, and also as the center of initiative and action. The presence is the center of the self, from which all creativity, initiative and action arise. This centeredness gives us the sense of purpose and orientation, and the changing forms provide the specific motives for action; that is, our action is based spontaneously on love, compassion, truth, intelligence, and so on. We might have ideals, but they are not what orient or drive our action.

What is the Ultimate Nature of the Soul?

Our love for these forms that veil the Beloved is actually our love for the mystery itself. At some point, we can recognize that directly. But what does that reveal? It reveals that it is in our nature to love the mystery. But the mystery is not only the ultimate mystery of reality; we do not call it “the Beloved” simply to mean that it is beloved by the soul. That mystery, that Beloved, is the ultimate nature of the soul. This has very deep, far-reaching implications. That the mystery, the Beloved, is the ultimate nature of the soul means that it is the ultimate identity of the soul. It is actually the true self, the true essence of the soul.  We just said that the soul is naturally, completely enraptured by the Beloved, and that this is something natural to the soul, not something learned. As we have seen, disturbances in our childhood create barriers to our knowing that, but the heart knows it whether the mind does or not. So I'm not saying this is something we should know in our minds . . . which is why many of these poets tell you to get rid of the head—because the head believes it knows when it doesn't. The knowledge of the heart is direct; it is not conceptualized knowledge. It is like a magnet that pulls you in a way that other things don't. It is a very simple phenomenon.

Love Unveiled, pg. 107

Where are Soul and Essence Identical?

The central and most important potential of the soul is her essence, for essence in its various aspects and dimensions forms the ground and provides the Platonic forms for all of our higher states of consciousness, and the higher faculties of experience and action. We need to understand this particular potential to understand the nature and fullness of the soul, and to understand Reality and the relationships between its triad of facets. We discussed in chapter 2 that soul and essence meet at the level of pure consciousness. They are both pure consciousness, that is, they are identical at this level. This is the reason we use the term essence to refer to the true nature of the soul. They both come from the same ground, where essence constitutes this primordial ground and nature of the soul. Essence, hence, can be considered the deepest potential of the soul, her spiritual potential, the richness of her depth. Essence, therefore, does not have potential the way the soul does. Potential is a quality and characteristic of the soul, and hence soul is always growing and developing. We cannot say the same about essence, which is primordially pure and complete; our realization and understanding of it grows and develops, but this does not mean essence does.

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