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Runaway Realization

A reflective understanding through an inter-disciplinary lens

In this ground breaking work, by challenging the idea that reality can have a bottom or a top that is
fixed and final, Almaas does away with the notion of reality either as a container or as containable. It
can accommodate various views and remain still indeterminate, which indeterminacy is not
ambiguity but rather, radical openness. From the vantage point of totality, we can discern not only
the distinctness, the validity, and the experiential universe of a particular view but also the
relationship of one worldview to another. In many ways, the messages of this book synchronize with
the news disciplines of complexity thinking, quantum mechanics and process philosophy.
The insights from the book are presented below as some key questions which have personally come
up for me and for many co-travellers, which I find dealt with in refreshingly revelatory ways.

1. What is new in this book?


Previous teachings of Almaas Diamond Approach have a progressive (higher, deeper etc.) or
hierarchical (or holarchical1) dimension to mapping or understanding reality. This does away with
that construct and presents a radically pluralistic understanding of reality, richly context-sensitive
and paradigmatic both in its nuancing and in its inclusivity. As such, it does not negate the
progressive path or construct, but places it as one of many possibilities of practice and
understanding; it is in many ways both Newtonian and non-Newtonian and holonomic2 and more in
its epistemology of totality. The Vajrayana metaphor of turning the wheel is used to describe four
broad movements or turnings on the freedom vehicle, where the first two deal with the stages of
realization, and the latter two with the kinds of realization.
Almaas himself likens this teaching to the scientific equivalent of post-classical physics including
relativity and quantum mechanics, which accepts classical physics as a useful approximation but
which runs out of steam in the edges of ordinary reality, namely the domains of the very large and
1
2

Wilber
Bohm, Wade

the very small. Likewise the classical spiritual teaching which deals with emptiness, non-duality,
timelessness, presence, Being, Becoming etc. is sufficient for feeling blissful and free and
enlightened even, but, according to Almaas, falls short of getting a relatively surpassed glimpse on
the multifarious nature of reality itself. As a matter of fact, this teaching is the mystical equivalent of
Gdels Incompleteness Theorem, which proves that any self-consistent system cannot be complete.
Various assumptions underpinning the classical nondual teaching are examined carefully and seen
to be unnecessary and/or prematurely conclusive. For example, the nature of motivation in the
classical teaching progresses from self-centric to mutual to other-centric, but we begin to intuit that
true practice need not require a motive of any kind whatsoever, just abiding in the delight of
unfoldment and love of Truth for its own sake is enough. Even though I think classical teaching
cannot be boxed into a monolithic descriptive category as the author tends to indicate, it is fair to
think of the authors own classical teaching as the box which is undone here.

2. Is there a recommendation to follow a specific spiritual path?


No and Yes. No, as in no specific path is prescribed for everybody, even the Diamond Approach or
the teaching in this book. Yes, as in the suggestion that every person follows and adopts one
specific path for some time, without much of dilettantism. Almaas refers to the logos or logic of a
teaching which needs to be engaged comprehensively for the practice to receive the holding,
support and guidance of the larger field of the teaching. Only after a certain level of freedom has
been achieved in the phenomenological realm of the practitioner, it is okay reach out and explore.
Too wide too early- is thus not recommended. It also shows how it is possible to be committed to a
particular path and simultaneously be aware of the possibility that the path may not be the best, or
the ultimate one, but may be still be adequately appropriate at a point in time.
My own experience has been a bit different. In my early days of this process, whenever I came to be
very impressed or wowed by any particular teacher, once I had absorbed what there was to absorb,
somehow circumstances came in the way of my latching on to him/her for too long. I somehow
never felt compelled to keep my entire vista of experience subservient to one teachers prescription
or even logos. Reflecting back I can now explain this as an innate orientation to listen to my own
inner compass, which drew on a wide variety of teachings and conducted its own filtration,
synthesis, and personalization to suit my unique nature. Even discipline was self-determined, fluid
and unencumbered by a fixity of routines or to-dos. It seems to me that commitment to the process
mattered more in my case than commitment to a teaching. My own definition of dilettantism, then,
becomes allowing oneself to get waylaid in the organic process due to discursive flits for spiritual
sugar-highs.

3. How is the dynamic of realization presented here?


The usual notion of cause and effect between practice and realization, embedded in the linearly
progressive paradigm of time, is questioned in terms of its usefulness to explore how:
Some practice for several years and only then attain some kind of realization
Some practice of several years yet nothing happens

Some dont practice much, yet something happens (Sri Ramana Maharshi, for example)
Some things happen without and outside of conscious volition or even intention

A recursive relationship is described between practice and realization, both in terms of ontological
status and causality, until they fuse into a single thing with two windows of sensing it. Formal
practice (such as subtle body work, meditation etc.) is distinguished from and subsumed within
continual practice which is more a permanent attitude of engagement and discovery, energetically
associated with the enlightenment drive expressing itself through the belly button or Hara. Practice
does not end with realization, because there is NO end-point to realization, practice is NOT engaged
with a final destination orientation, and the one practicing is NOT apart from the reality that she is
attempting to grok. Letting go of the notion of any kind of ultimacy in the realization journey
automatically allows for the process to be end-less and goalless, including letting go of the state of
no-goal as an end.
Realization happening when Being wakes up to itself (the spontaneous and unpredictable descent
of Grace), and the role of individual agency working hard and attaining it, are harmonized from the
usual paradoxical structure of understanding and rescued from the relative ambiguity of
conclusiveness. In Programming the Universe Seth Lloyd imagines the universe as a gigantic
quantum computer which computes itself to evolve and reduce its entropy. Likewise, realization can
be viewed as Living Digital Reality practicing, through individuated units of consciousness (how else
could it do it?!), to reclaim self-understanding. This unfolds through a non-linear, mysterious and
chaotic process of ongoing information processing, with randomness (God does play dice!) and
path-dependence (experience depends on history).
In my own life, I remember a transcendent experience of about 8 hours under the influence of
psilocybin as one of the most deep and profound, something I had never experienced before.
Within a short time after that event, I found myself beginning to lose compulsive attachment to
things of normal material life that seemed to have held sway over me, I started a meditation practice
(albeit intermittent) and my life conditions started changing quite dramatically. It is possible that the
brief experiential glimpse of transcendence served as some kind of attractor to reorient my life
(mostly below the level of conscious awareness or volition). If that is not coincidence, then the causal
arrow between practice and realization could reverse a small spark of light, however incipient and
diffused, sets the ball rolling for an increasing focus on practice towards deeper domains of
realization. Clearly then, there is a both-and dynamic in operation.
Practice and realization could thus be one dynamism manifesting in different ways in dialectic
communication; one is manifesting as the action of the soul, the other as arising of True Nature.
These are two complementary expressions of one force, whose intensifying feedback loop
culminates in conscious insight.

4. How is doing and non-doing associated with the realization dynamic?


The paradox of non-doing is presented in its subtler aspects, such that even the notion of getting
out of the way is not something which is wilfully done. The dynamic interaction of apparent

opposites, at a certain stage of maturation of practice, becomes riding the razors edge of our
responsibility and our openness to revelationnot interfering with and not trying to change our
experience is a non-doing and, at the same time, there is an active engagement of exploring,
questioning, and challenging. As this harmonization progresses in degree, the inner attitude of
inquiry and the unfolding of discernment becomes a single, ongoing movement.
In my personal experience, I have, for a few years, felt that my life is not really in my control. While
personal autonomy in the way I make choices seem to have increased and the influence of external
deadlines and to-dos has reduced, I also find myself drawn to, and immersed in questions and
subjects which come up spontaneously from somewhere that were not a part of the mornings plan!
Each such bifurcation point leads to a new trajectory of exploration, which, a few days later, begin
to make sense at a macro level in piecing together a fuller understanding of a subject or a set of
interrelated subjects. In the language of complex adaptive systems, it is said that actors or agents in
the whole of the system can influence almost everything but control almost nothing3. The dynamic
of non-doing exemplifies that for me.

5. How is the subject of psychological work dealt with, in and as part of the realization
process?
Psychological work, in spiritual parlance, refers to ones attention to, and work with obscuration,
obstacles, contaminations and impurities that constrain ones full understanding of, and relational
harmony with the dynamism of reality.
Almaas classifies these structures in three categories, in decreasing order of traceability or
detectability:
a. Conceptual: These are accumulations of learned constructs, beliefs, identifications, memories
and impressions from the past, patterns and dynamics that repeat and recycle old object
relations and tendencies. These structures which first manifest in the work are called
representational, in the sense that the superego, self-images and object relations all involve
representations that is models that the mind puts together. Working with these structures
require a certain degree of cognitive development.
b. Libidinal: These are structures with less definition, more amorphous, where the living
presence pf the soul is more apparent. These usually involve partial and fluid elements that
were repressed or split off from the central ego, and in an earlier stage of development than
cognitive representation. They were formed as a result of direct impressions and indirect
representations. The libidinal soul with its drives and instincts its animal aggression and
hunger for pleasure- is revealed. Working with these structures requires a level of psychoemotional maturity and inquisitiveness in addition to cognitive development.

Fullan (2003)

c. Pre-cognitive: These are structures that are not constructed through conceptualizations but
direct impressions only, because they developed before one was able to know or to think, at
a time when the soul is in its raw and most impressionable state. These pre-verbal and nonconceptual impressions are not constructed by the mind, but are nevertheless imprinted
onto ones consciousness. They form the basis on which the later libidinal and conceptual
structures are built.
The individuated unit of consciousness mistakes all three categories of impressions as important
features of reality and holds onto them as if they are what it is, and moreover cannot usually
distinguish between the three categories of structures because they constellate to form the usual
sense of self. Traditional psycho-spiritual approaches normally deal with the first and second
category of structures, and goes by the names of therapy, shadow work, integration work etc. A high
degree of astute self-observation amidst daily life experiences can reveal the patterning of the first
two categories of structures, which constitute the narrative self. The third structure, however,
requires the experience of what the author calls Total Non-conceptuality, that is not the opposite of
concepts, a non-conceptuality that transcends both the concepts of the conceptual and the nonconceptual. Total non-conceptuality is shown to transcend the polarities of time and timelessness,
spatiality and boundlessness.
6. How is non-duality placed in the realization journey?
Firstly, a distinction is made between nondual experience and nondual view. It is possible to have a
nondual experience and have a dualistic view, just as it is possible to have a nondual view from a
dualistic base without a nondual experience (Wilbers state and structure distinctions). In the process
of that distinction, the very notion of the individual having the experience and/or view is revisited as
done during the practice-realization relationship exploration, such that we can view the individual
and awareness itself (personified) waking up simultaneously.
Secondly, a view is put forth that highlights some shortcomings of the nondual view, as understood
cognitively. In the non-dual view, all particulars are an inseparable part of the same unity. But the
particulars are supposedly all equal, and no single particular, including the individual self, stands out.
Thus, the nondual enlightened condition of realizing true nature, tends not to reveal the uniqueness
of the particular and the particularity of the particular. The nondual condition shows that all
particulars are background and what is foreground is pure awareness or presence of true nature.
Everything is a manifestation of the same thing; all forms are ephemeral and transitory, and they
have equal value in terms of perception. That sense of equality tends to be an important part of
nondual realization. We know, however, that if we take everything in life to have equal value - even
though we might perceive it that way when our heart is full of love - we will end up with a lot of
trouble. We need to discriminate that some things are more important than others, there is a
holarchy of values, and we need to set priorities. Without priorities, it is difficult to live life. The
nondual condition tends not to focus much on matters of daily life. It tends not to recognize that we
need to prioritize in order to live in a mature way. And for that to happen, we need to understand
the uniqueness of the particular.

This limitation of the nondual view can be likened to the problem with the Systems View as
highlighted by Edgar Morin in his paradigm of complexity. General Systems Theory tends to invoke
the principle of holism which seeks explanation at the level of totality only, in opposition to the
reductionist paradigm which seeks explanation at the level of elementary components. Holism turns
out to be a partial, one-dimensional, simplifying vision of the whole. It reduces all other system
related ideas to the idea of totality, and as such, arises from the same simplifying principle as the
reductionism to which it is opposed.
Finally Almaas, drawing on some earlier insights such as those of Plotinus and Dogen Zenji and the
holographic universe model, contends that while the microcosm contains the entire macrocosm, the
particular does not simply replicate the whole in miniature; the particular is the whole and is also
every other particular as particular, not as an agglomerated whole. So, the individual and Living
Being or True Nature are not two things, and, at the same time, they are not one thing. Reverting
back to Morin, the view of totality does not commit the simplification error of holism, by neglecting
or abstracting the particularity of any part of totality, and creates space for celebrating its
uniqueness at the highest necessary level of granularity. Totality then is a unitas multiplex4, where
the whole is effectively a macro-unity, but the parts are not fused or confused therein; they have a
double identity, one which continues to belong to each of them individually (and is thus irreducible
to the whole), and one which is held in common (constituting, so to speak, their citizenship in the
system). Marc Gafni intuits this through his Unique Self thesis and teaching, even though he comes
from a different purpose and angle.

7. How is the relationship between freedom and creativity expressed?


The fundamental nature of reality is investigated as uncertain both in ontological and
epistemological sense, as Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle establishes, which allows reality to
manifest itself in any way awareness, love, the physical world, dual, nondual etc. without any
injunctive limitation, constraint or programming (Seth Lloyd), unless chosen that way!
Almaas notion of freedom is similar to Whiteheads processual understanding of reality as a
continuous unfolding. As we know, Whitehead criticized monistic philosophies which allow the
ultimate an illegitimate final eminent reality beyond that ascribed to any of its accidents.
According to Whitehead, not God but creativity is the ultimate reality
1. God is real, but not more real than the many entities in the world
2. The World is real, but not more real than God
3. Both God and World are actualizations of creativity
Thus Whiteheads creativity and Almaas freedom both see the ultimate as an interminable verb
rather than any conceivable noun. The processual verb has infinite degrees of freedom to actualize,
and accommodate many kinds of ultimates (both verbs and nouns). Also, while the nouns (such as
realization, or enlightenment) tend to convey some kind of end to delusions, the verb is not
interested in believing that there is an end to delusions. The verb is in a perpetual playful

Morin, Paradigm of Complexity translated by Sean Kelly

engagement with obscuration, ignorance and delusion recognizing them as aspects in the
unfolding, even as they become subtler and more fine-grained.

In summary, we can see how the loosening of fixity in views, however compelling and definitive they
may appear to be, unleashes the inherent freedom of reality, and reality shows its delight by leading
us to other views and further mysteries. This is the upshot of uncertainty: we are loosed from the
search of final meaning into a life of limitless adventure.