How Psychoanalysis Contributes to Spiritual Awakening
What does spirituality offer psychoanalysis? This is a question from the audience that A. H. Almaas addresses. The full talk and other responses to the audience follow.
In February of 2008, Hameed Ali, MS, PhD (A. H. Almaas), founder of the Diamond Approach™ to Self-realization, was invited to speak to the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC).
Almaas addressed the contributions psychoanalysis made to his personal process of awakening along with contributions the discipline of psychoanalysis has made to the body of human wisdom and our understanding of the mind, emotions and personal suffering.
Using examples and personal stories from his life, Almaas brought into focus how his method of Diamond Inquiry™ uses psychoanalytic understanding as well as spiritual wisdom to penetrate ordinary experience to reveal the underlying spiritual ground of any and all experience.
This 90-minute talk is unique in its specificity and personalness in regards to Almaas’s process of awakening, the development of the Diamond Approach and the intimate and elegant intertwining of the psychological and spiritual.
Almaas has authored twenty books articulating his multi-faceted Diamond Approach to Self-realization. Three of these books, which constitute the Diamond Mind Series* may be of particular interest and value for psychoanalysts and others with interest in ‘the self,’ identity, and the ontological nature of the mind.
In a remarkable and direct way, Almaas introduces us to the space or ground of Mind within which mental structures operate. He shows how inner spaciousness can be experienced in somatic, psychological and spiritual ways, details some of the many levels of inner space and, more importantly, illustrates how these experiences of space can lead to fundamental healing and integration of our being. This experiential understanding of non-identification with content, discovering the pattern of object relations and self-representations as grasped images in the mind,, is called the Truth of Selflessness, the central key to the Buddha’s realization and enlightenment. From the experience of the Mind ground (the inherent emptiness of mind and its objects), there spontaneously arises a liberating sense of wholeness and true well-being, as well as strength, compassion and other natural qualities which Almaas calls our Essential State(s). – Jack Kornfield, Dharma Foundation.
The work that you have in your hands is quite extraordinary in that it unfolds a comprehensive theory of personality grounded in a dimension of Being beyond our normal understandings of ego and identity. For here a knowledge of the spiritual path of transformation appears within, and is conjoined to, the modern context of western psychological process. Anyone with knowledge of the sacred psychologies at the heart of the world’s religious traditions will immediately recognize the significance of this major work by A. H. Almaas.
The reader should be prepared for a stretch of the mind as one proceeds through the book. Our usual notion of “psychology” is being expanded through Almaas’ deeper spiritual perspective, namely, his understanding of the essential nature of the human being. – Lawrence M. Spiro, Melia Foundation
Those familiar with Almaas’s body of work tend to think of it as a “synthesis of psychological and spiritual work.” It is not. This work arises from a level of understanding in which it is clear that, in the human being, these realms are truly not separate. They can be discriminated, and Almaas’s work actually contributes to a clearer discrimination of psychological work from spiritual work. However, his unique contribution is his understanding of how these realms are related, how they can be worked with in ways that allow psychological understanding to support spiritual development, and how the discoveries made possible by a comprehensive understanding of the self can contribute to psychological understanding. Further, like many philosophical investigations, this work moves from exploration of the experience of the human subject into the realm of ontology. Almaas’s inquiry powerfully illuminates how the process of freeing the self from incomplete and false identities leads to a revelation of the nature of the human self as Being itself. – Alia Johnson, Editor
What is primary narcissism?
*The Diamond Mind Series
The Diamond Mind Series is a systematic presentation of a particular body of knowledge and its corresponding modus operandi, a way of working with people toward inner realization, which we call the Diamond Approach. The presentation is somewhat technical, and hence will be useful to psychologists, psychotherapists, educators and spiritual teachers, but is also accessible to the educated reader. This work is a response to an important need that is being felt in many quarters, a need for a spiritually informed psychology, or conversely, for a psychologically grounded spirituality. This perspective does not separate psychological and spiritual experience, and hence sees no dichotomy between depth psychology and spiritual work. Through a creative critique and investigation, this system takes some of the elements of depth psychology, particularly those of ego psychology and object relations theory, and extends them into realms of the human psyche which are usually considered the domain of religion, spirituality and metaphysics.
This body of knowledge is not an integration or synthesis of modern depth psychology and traditional spiritual understanding. The inclination to think in terms of integration of the two is due to the prevailing belief in the dichotomy between the fields of psychology and spirituality, a dichotomy in which the Diamond Mind understanding does not participate.
The Diamond Mind knowledge is a multifaceted understanding of the nature of man, his consciousness or psyche, and the potential for expansion of his capacity for experience and inner development. These several points regarding the nature of this understanding will help to place it in context:
- This knowledge includes an understanding of normal psychological functioning which also sheds light on some prevalent mental disorders. It adopts many of the findings of modern depth psychology, situating them in a more comprehensive view of man and also establishing their relevance for the pursuit of deeper truths about human nature beyond the levels psychology generally penetrates.
- The psychological understanding is set within a metapsychological perspective that includes a broad outline of the domains of experience and functioning of the human psyche or soul. This metapsychology is not spelled out in any one of the volumes of the series, but is gradually developed throughout its several books.
- This metapsychology is in turn set within a metaphysical outlook in which psychological experience is situated within a phenomenology of Being.
- This work demonstrates that what is usually considered psychological investigation can arrive at dimensions of experience which have always been considered to be the product of spiritual practice or discipline. The psychological work is seen here not as an adjunct to spiritual practice, but as a spiritual practice on its own. This is the specific contribution of the Diamond Mind body of knowledge which prompted the idea of this series.
- Not only can psychological investigation lead to realms of experience previously relegated to the spiritual, this work shows that when psychological understanding is refined by an openness to one’s spiritual nature, such investigation, if pursued deeply, inevitably will penetrate into the realm of spiritual, religious or mystical understanding. In the course of such exploration one result is that many currently prevalent psychological dysfunctions, such as some forms of narcissism and schizoid isolation, are revealed as direct consequences of spiritual alienation, which thus cannot be truly resolved by traditional psychotherapy.
6. This body of work includes a systematic understanding of the domain of spiritual experience, the realm of Being, that can be described in detail in modern psychological language. Thus it shows that this domain of experience need not be vague, symbolic or incommunicable. It also includes an exploration of the relationships between this domain of experience and the usual psychological dimension of experience, shedding light on the nature of ego structure and identity. Thus the dimension of Being can be included in some modes of psychological research and investigation.
7. The presentation in the various volumes of the series attempts to illustrate methods of investigation, as well as the clinical and scientific bases for our conclusions, within a conceptually logical treatment of the various subject matters. However, because of the nature of the field of inquiry, the reader may well be aware of an experiential impact that cannot always be separated from the conceptual knowledge. This points to a particular quality of the Diamond knowledge: it is an experiential knowledge that is immediate and intimately human, but which can be elaborated conceptually.
Almaas responding to the question: “Are there impurities in Being?”
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