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Spiritual Materialism

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Spiritual Materialism?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Spiritual Materialism

A Dualistic Split Perspective on Experience

Look at your experience right at this moment. At this very moment of your experience of yourself, what is happening? What do you see? You’ll see there is an experience of what is happening, and another part of the experience that does not want what is happening. Am I right? That part of you which does not want what is happening wants something else, like freedom or happiness. There is what is, and there is a part that says, “I want something other than what is.” Doesn’t that mean you’re divided? Doesn’t that mean you are in conflict with yourself? Doesn’t that mean you’re setting yourself against yourself? Part of your mind is opposing another part of your mind. That part of your mind opposing the other might be full of ideas and wonderful spiritual knowledge that says, “I want my essence. I want God and freedom.” But, what is that part saying? Isn’t it saying, “That other part of me is yucky; who wants it? I wish it would go to hell. I want to get away from it. I want to understand it so it will disappear.” This is what is called spiritual materialism, which is a dualistic, split perspective. There is a split in your mind, in yourself. There is what is there, and there is the part that doesn’t like what is there, that wants something else. How are you going to arrive at harmony, integration, happiness, and freedom when there is a war inside you, when you are acting according to division and conflict? How can there be healing? How can there be harmony inside you when one part of you is against another part? Is it possible? Look at it logically. Look at your experience.

For Many People in the Modern World the Dominant Orientation is Materialistic

For many people in the modern world, and for virtually all thought that is considered scientific, the dominant orientation is materialistic. When the soul is considered to be and experienced as a self, an objectifiable entity whose most fundamental identity is the physical body, we are bound to be materialistic, caring for material well-being, wealth and possessions, security and comfort more than inner depth and fullness. Materialism is naturally the central philosophic position of our science, for our science is first and foremost a study of matter. Even the study of life involves the consideration of exclusively material components and physical processes. This orientation is actually a logical necessity for the separation of cosmos/world from the rest of Reality. It is clear that if we sincerely desire an amelioration of the rampant materialism of our times, we need not only to become more spiritual—namely, to regain our soul—but also to realize the unity of our Reality. And since the closest and most accessible facet for us is that of soul/self, we need to begin there.

Objectification of the Aspects Can and Does Lead to Spiritual Materialism

Seeing essence in its various aspects, seeing these aspects as different and distinct, and giving each one a specific name, can lead to some difficulties for the student. This discrimination of aspects, and naming them, in a sense concretizes them. This specificity and delineation can lead to a certain form of attachment. It becomes easy for the personality to be attached to some of these aspects. The individual might want to experience the same aspect over and over. He might try to hold onto it and become afraid of losing it. He might develop the attitude of hoarding, of collecting more and more substance, or collecting various kinds of aspects. Essence is then being treated like any material possession. In other words, the objectification of the aspects can and does lead to spiritual materialism. This materialism, this attachment can then strengthen, instead of weakening, the rigid grip of the personality. This is counter to what is needed for inner work, where the personality must learn to let go, especially of its attachments. In fact, the personality's basic characteristic is attachment, which is the main cause of suffering. Systems that are aware of this fact are usually very cautious—in fact, paranoid—about the possibility of spiritual materialism. Essence is referred to very vaguely. The aspects are not mentioned nor even conceived of. The whole thing is left formless, vague, and even referred to as unknowable.

Our Belief in the Fundamentalness of Physical Reality, In Any Authentic Spiritual Work, Must be Confronted, Shaken and Dismantled

So materialism is not only a matter of having materialistic values. Materialism is the conviction that the physical universe is the only universe, and that what we perceive through the senses is all of reality. If you believe only in natural science, you become a materialist. Some forms of spiritual training attempt to detach the consciousness and the perception from the physical channels. They involve developing the ability to perceive without being restricted to those channels alone. It does not mean not valuing or disbelieving physical perception. Spiritual perception, perception of what is real, puts sensory perception in its place as part of the information that is possible for us. To be imprisoned by the senses means to be solidly convinced that physical reality, or reality as we see it through our senses is absolute reality. The prison is the belief that this reality is the most fundamental, everlasting, solid reality—the most real. If you consider the way you conduct yourself, the way you think, feel, and behave, you will see that you have this underlying conviction. The way you think of yourself and the way you live your life are very much influenced by this conviction. It is the strongest conviction in your mind. Even our spiritual experiences, perceptions of the transcendent or essential, which are clearly not physical, do not shake this conviction. Our belief in the fundamentalness of physical reality remains solidly entrenched in our souls. In any authentic spiritual work, this conviction must eventually be confronted, shaken, and dismantled. It must be shattered before we can perceive totally, completely, what is actually there.

Spiritual Materialism is Not Avoided in the Diamond Approach

Spiritual materialism is not avoided in the Diamond Approach. It is allowed to surface, to come out into the light of consciousness. Then the attachments are studied and understood like any other characteristics of the personality. In fact, essence itself will make sure that this happens. Attachments to essence or to some of its aspects cannot be ignored, especially not in the Diamond Approach. This attachment will be revealed naturally as a contraction or a restriction. The purity of essence and the process of its expansion will expose it as such. The individual will not be able to be attached and still experience essence freely. Attachment is personality, and it will manifest as a conflict that leads to suffering. In fact the more essence is manifesting, the more this conflict will be obvious. Essence will reveal the attachments. There will emerge specific essential aspects whose particular effect on the individual is to expose these attachments. There will also emerge other essential aspects that will give the understanding that will specifically lead to nonattachment, to the freedom from all attachments. In fact, the deepest essential aspects cannot be realized and freed without dealing with the issues of attachment and spiritual materialism.

Wanting to Collect Essential Aspects

However, this experience is not enough to resolve the issue completely. Many of you are aware of this. The desire for love, and the manipulations around it, may get subtler, but they don’t disappear. This is because you do not have the implicit understanding. You have not approached your experience of love or space or any other essential aspect—will, compassion, pleasure—from the perspective of implicit understanding. You experience essential love, which is sweet, intense, and fulfilling, and you say, “This sweet feeling of love is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt. If it goes away, I won’t have it. I want to hold on to it forever.” Who’s talking here? What have you learned? You have had an experience of love, but that love has not transformed you. You have treated it exactly like any other object your personality wants. “If I have all this wonderful love, then people will see how radiant and loving I am and they’ll think I’m wonderful and they’ll fall in love with me and I’ll live happily ever after.” Nothing has changed. What you wanted from the outside, now you want from the inside, in order to get it from the outside! This is not implicit understanding. This is materialism. Before, you wanted outer material; now you want inner material. It’s all the same, all material. Before, you wanted to collect money, clothes, lovers; now you want to collect essential aspects: love, joy, will, strength. “Look at all these wonderful things I have! Now I can go and show them to my mommy and she’ll finally see who I am and she’ll have to really love me and then I’ll be happy.” It’s the same thing. We didn’t really go anywhere. That’s where we started.

Wholeness is When the Completely Material Endeavors Become Completely Spiritual Endeavors at the Same Time

The perception of balance and harmony is simple, common sense, very practical, down to earth. It is the truth behind the falsehood. In other words, it is the truth that the falsehood is trying to imitate. The personality is trying to imitate the real life but doing it wrongly because it is disconnected from Being. But the personality is trying to do the real thing. It is trying to live a certain life, have a certain kind of work, certain accomplishments, certain relationships—that is part of the real life. But the personality cannot go about it correctly because it is missing an element. The balanced life is a life that involves human interactions, human relationships, work, creativity, all kinds of activity and enjoyment. All that the personality has developed like sports, arts, literature, recreation, philosophy and science: all these are true human activities but they need to be filled with the human Essence for them to be real. A true human life is not a life devoid of these things. If we are living, what we do can be done in a real way. You can be married in a real way or in a false way. You can do a certain job in a real way or in a false way, and the false is usually an attempt to do it the real way. But because there isn’t the necessary knowledge and experience, the person cannot do it the real way. I do not go along with the usual spiritual perspective that you have to renounce your life, live simply, and forget about living well or doing things in your life. It is not true, you can be successful. You can live in a comfortable way, you can live in a refined way, enjoy the good things on earth, and still be one hundred percent spiritual. The real integration is a complete integration between materialism and spirituality. Wholeness is when the completely material endeavors become completely spiritual endeavors, at the same time—when there isn’t the slightest distinction, completely, not the slightest distinction. Otherwise, you are still not a complete human being. You are half. You are one way or the other.

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