Introduction and Acknowledgments from
By A.H. Almaas

The universe is a luminosity, a transparency, a robe for you.

About Luminous Night's Journey

This book (Luminous Night's Journey, Diamond Books, 1995) follows a particular thread in the process of self-realization. Each chapter describes a self-contained segment of this process. Thus even though the book as a whole consists of one thread, each chapter is independent. The thread that runs through all the chapters is a chain of processes and experiences I have gone through personally, and selected for this book out of a much larger field of experience. I chose this particular thread partly because of my personal interest in reviewing it, and partly because it illuminates a process rarely discussed in spiritual literature.

Most serious spiritual writings focus on the process of realization of true nature, the absolute or divine essence. This is the ultimate nature and source of ourselves and of everything. The thread I follow in this book sheds light on the obscure process of how the soul, the individual consciousness, becomes integrated into this absolute nature, as and after the source of all experience is realized. I want to relate my experience and understanding of the fact that individual consciousness does not merely die away or get discarded, and to describe how it becomes clarified and integrated. This integration turns out to be the process through which the absolute manifests as an individual human being who embodies this ultimate truth in a personal life in the world.

I began this writing as my own personal contemplation, with a desire to explore this process in the form of creative writing. I was not thinking of publishing. I selected entries from my journal, which are mainly succinct and disconnected notes, and rewrote them in detail, fleshing out the nuances of my experience. In the course of this writing I agreed to give some public lectures, and decided to read some of this material as the subject of these lectures, with commentaries and clarifications. I viewed this approach as an experiment, for it is new for me to talk about my personal experience of spiritual realization in public. I did not know whether such public discussion of personal experience would have much value for the listeners. The response was so consistently positive, with feedback about its usefulness for many individuals, that I finally thought of publishing these writings as a book.

Personal Transformation

The process of my personal opening and transformation began many years before the experiences related in this book. This transformation has been a continual process of revelation of Being, our true nature, in various qualities and dimensions, accompanied by the development of a body of understanding of these manifestations and their relation to the experience of the ego sell These processes, experiences, realizations and insights have formed the major source of the teaching I have formulated, the Diamond Approach, which is the teaching of the Ridhwan School. I think that this book will provide at least a taste of the realizations and their associated processes that generated this body of knowledge, and will also provide a glimpse of how the Diamond Approach works.

I am indebted to many individuals and teachings for my personal transformation and continuing learning. The true source of my personal transformation and realization is Being itself, and its essential guidance. Yet I doubt that this process would have happened without the influence and grace of the various individuals and teachings I have come in contact with.

I was a graduate student in physics when my interest in and search for inner spiritual understanding began. I was studying physical science because I wanted to discover objective truth, truth independent from personal bias. By this time I was becoming convinced that the truth I was interested in was not what is explored by the physical sciences, but had more to do with the nature of being human.

I began with some experiential workshops focused on inner growth and openness, in the late sixties. This led me to undergoing a few years of bioenergetic analysis, with Michael Conant in Berkeley, which contributed a great deal to my opening up emotionally and physically. At the same time I began to study Sufi and Zen thought, reading mainly ldries Shah and D.T. Suzuki.

Spiritual Teachers

In 1971 1 joined a group in Berkeley, where I was going to the University of California. The group was led by the Chilean Psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo. That group was the beginning of my direct contact with spiritual teaching, and the conscious launching of my inner journey. Dr. Naranjo, whom I related to as my teacher at the time, taught spiritual practice, mainly meditation, combined with psychological exploration. He combined his experience from Gestalt therapy and Karen Horney's self analysis with the map of the enneagram to teach the group to do in-depth psychological work. He lectured on many facets of spiritual development, and taught various meditations and spiritual exercises side by side with the intense psychological work. I credit him for teaching me that psychological work and spiritual practice can help each other and work together. I also learned from him various forms and structures for group and interpersonal work, some of which I later incorporated into my work with students. The work I did with Naranjo extended the emotional openness I had experienced with Conant to the spiritual dimension, bringing about my first experiences of Essence, chakra openings and some development of the three centers as taught by Gurdjieff. Dr. Naranjo used the Gurdjieffian concept of the contrast of Essence with personality. This notion had a great impact on the direction of my journey.

My few years of work with Dr. Naranjo provided many rich resources for my inner exploration, as he introduced his students to several excellent teachers from various ancient traditions. Through this connection I had the opportunity to work intensely for a couple of years with Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche. I learned from Rinpoche the basics of the Tibetan Buddhist view of reality, as well as numerous spiritual practices. Rinpoche taught Buddhist philosophy, especially regarding emptiness (sunyata) and Buddha nature, and Tibetan Buddhist psychology and its relation to spiritual practice and enlightenment. I also learned to practice vipassana meditation from Dhiravamsa, an ex-Theravada monk from Thailand. This association with Buddhist teaching and meditation led to various experiences of openness, spaciousness, emptiness and clarity.

The work with these teachers and therapists helped me open to deeper aspects of myself, and I will always be grateful to them. I had many inner and spiritual experiences during this work, but they were disconnected and I did not have much understanding of them, nor of their relation to my usual experience. I view this period of working with various teachers as a stage that preceded the discoveries and transformation that became the source of my work, the Diamond Approach.

Discovering Essence

The transformation began with my discovery of Essence as presence, and my learning to stay anchored in this presence. This personal discovery of who and what I really am was a surprise, for it did not exactly correspond, as far as I knew, with the teachings I was familiar with. This recognition and realization of my essential nature as an ontological presence had volcanic effect on my life and my process. It became the center and meaning of my life from then on. This living presence began gradually to expand and deepen, revealing many aspects of Essence qualities of presence like love, will, truth and so on-and various dimensions of Being. This process was a spontaneous unfoldment, what felt like a magical unveiling, a self-revelation of Being's mysteries.

This unfoldment disclosed not only many of the mysteries of Being, revealed as my nature and the nature of everything, but an amazing wealth of knowledge and understanding. The body of understanding that developed during my process is largely the product of the realization of a particular manifestation of Essence, which I came to recognize as essential guidance. This precise, diamond-like guidance became the inner guide that has functioned more truly than any external guide I have ever known. In fact the functioning of this guidance is so specific to the exact state, situation and understanding of the soul that no external guide could substitute for its realization and functioning as the guidance for an individual's spiritual awakening and development.

The understanding that developed was not merely an experiential comprehension of Essence in its various aspects and dimensions, but also a precise and detailed understanding of how these relate to the various manifestations of the ego self. I had learned that it was possible to do psychological work side by side with spiritual practice. In the course of my own transformation, I came upon a particular path in which the two are inseparable, and function as elements of the same method. It slowly dawned on me that what was happening was not only a personal transformation, but the development of a particular teaching that has a much wider applicability.

Inquiry into personal experience became the main method, in which psychological understanding opens the soul to deeper experiences, and also connects specific elements of the ego self-self-images, object relations, ego structures, identifications, personality patterns, emotional issues, etc.-with specific essential aspects and dimensions. The inquiry is mainly a matter of being aware of one's experience, both inner and outer, recognizing what is and what is not understood, and curiosity about it that expresses a heart-felt love for the truth. An important element in this inquiry is to be present with one's feelings and thoughts without expressing them or acting them out externally, thus opening the way to understanding them and their underlying dynamics.

Development of the Diamond Approach

The knowledge that developed has demonstrated such precision and universality that I have continuously been in awe of it. This awe led me to appreciate that this knowledge was not my personal creation, but the action of the guidance of Being. This knowledge became the basis of the Diamond Approach.

In other words, the Diamond Approach did not develop as a result of an intellectual synthesis of what I read, heard and experienced, but rather as an articulation of the terrain of an actual personal process of transformation. The synthesis is a discovery, not something created by an individual.

Shortly after my discovery of the nature of Essence, and its initial unfoldment, I shared my experience with two friends, who became important supports for both my personal unfoldment and the development of the Diamond Approach. When I discussed my experience with my friend Karen Johnson, who was living at the time in Colorado, she was able to perceive the essential presence in me, and this made it possible for her to begin experiencing it. As I shared my experience with my then old friend, Faisal Muqaddam, who had just come from Kuwait to California, he was also able to connect to and begin experiencing the essential presence. My exploration of Essence intensified and accelerated through the participation of these two friends. It helped a great deal that each of them already had a capacity for inner seeing, more developed than my own. My exploration expanded into intense collaboration and joint exploration with both Karen and Faisal. A couple of years later, when Karen moved to California, the three of us were able to explore the unfoldment together. We spent several years intensely exploring Essence and its development, both jointly and separately.

During these years I was introduced to psychoanalytic developmental psychology by Perry Segal, a friend who was doing his psychiatric residency in Denver. My attention was guided thus to the extensive study of the field of depth psychology, including Freud's work, ego psychology, self psychology, object relations theory, Reichian therapy and others. At the same time I studied the literature of several ancient traditions: Buddhism, Vedanta, Sufism, mystical Christianity, and others. I particularly benefited from the study of the works of, and sometimes contact with, teachers like G. I. Gurdjieff, Idries Shah, Ibn Arabi, Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Tarthang Tulku, Trungpa Rinpoche, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and others. The exploration of these fields and teachings contributed to the development of the Diamond Approach, even though knowledge always arose from personal and direct experience of the perspectives and understandings of these teachers.

The applicability of the developing knowledge was amply confirmed not only by the perception and experience of Faisal and Karen, but mainly by the experiences and realizations of many of the students who worked with it. I began working with students in 1976, using the knowledge that was arising to guide the process of inner awakening in others. Some years later I began training teachers in the Diamond Approach. I have always been surprised by the power and efficacy of this emerging body of knowledge and the method accompanying it.

Continuing Transformations & Gratitude

For close to twenty years now, Being has been continually revealing to me its many facets and dimensions, always in spontaneous and unexpected revelations. This has transformed my consciousness and life in ways I never dreamed of, and led me to states of realization I never imagined existed. The collaboration with Faisal and Karen continued for about eight years, until Faisal decided to go his own way, about nine years ago, for personal reasons and because he felt it important to be on his own. I will always be grateful and indebted to him for his part in my personal unfoldment and his contribution to the development of the Diamond Approach. Karen and I continue the intense joint exploration, which has taken the unfoldment to ever more subtle dimensions and realms, and to a deepening and clarifying of both the perspective and the method. My indebtedness to Karen is not only for her deep friendship, her contribution to my personal unfoldment and the development of the Diamond Approach, but also for shouldering the difficult responsibility of helping me develop and run the Ridhwan School. Our friendship, rooted as it is in the exploration of the truth of Being, has traversed depths and domains unknown in most friendships.

I would like also to express my gratitude to my long-time friend Ronald Kane, for the supportive deep friendship and for the many discussions and exchanges of views and experience relating to both inner experience of Being and work with students. My gratitude also goes to Larry Spiro, Ph.D., who quickly became a friend after I did some classes and workshops for him as part of the Melia Institute. We engaged in many discussions of the logoi of East and West, and he introduced me to the teachings of Dzogchen and Kashmir Shaivism. Coming into contact with these nondual teachings helped me to clarify some of the subtle questions that have emerged in my continuing unfoldment and transformation. This has helped my understanding of the Diamond Approach become sharper and more complete.

Towards the second part of the spontaneously unfolding revelation of Being, my process became focused not on the experience of Being and its essential manifestations, but on the shift of identity to Being. This led to the development of self recognition in increasingly subtler and more profound dimensions of Being, culminating in the realization of the absolute. This then ushered me into the subtle process of the clarification of the soul to the degree necessary for it to be a personal vehicle for the absolute nature, setting the ground for further revelations of unexpected dimensions of experience. After the first few chapters, which set the stage for this process, it is this thread of experience that Luminous Night's Journey addresses. It must be mentioned that this process occurred at the time within a larger process of unfoldment, discovery and understanding. This book focuses on only a small part of the overall process, tracing the particular thread of integrating the soul into the absolute. This subtle process occurred as a thread that lasted for a few years, but my overall process of unfolding continued beyond this subprocess, and still continues.

This book, and all my previous publications, owe a great deal to the various editors who prepared them for publication. My debt to my chief editor, Alia Johnson, is inestimable, for without her and her great dedication, energy and intelligence my work would not have been available to interested readers in such excellent form and quality. I am also indebted to Morton Letofsky for the energy and care he contributed toward the development and structuring of the Ridhwan School and its various organizations. My gratitude also goes to my wife, Marie, and to many of the students and teachers in the Ridhwan School, whose dedication and effort have been a great support for the development of the school and the publication of the books. Many have contributed to making this work available to a widening circle of individuals looking for a fresh outlook on spiritual experience and integration.

A.H. Almaas January, 1994 Kona, Hawaii