Ali Hameed Almaas (A.H. Almaas) is the pen name of A. Hameed Ali, an author and spiritual teacher who writes about and teaches a mystical approach informed by modern psychology and therapy, which he calls the Diamond Approach. Almaas is originally from Kuwait. He is the spiritual head of the Ridhwan School. Depending on one's perspective, he might be termed, among other things, an Integral theorist, mystic, spiritual teacher or an exponent of the perennial philosophy.
Almaas' books were originally published by the Ridhwan School, under the Diamond Books publishing title, but are now published by Shambhala.
The Diamond Approach is a contemporary spiritual path integrating the teachings and practices of the ancient wisdom traditions with modern depth psychology. The Diamond Approach is derived from the experiences of Almaas, along with Karen Johnson and Faisal Muqaddam (who split off early on to develop his own approach). They were among the first students of Claudio Naranjo, an early pioneer of the integration of spiritual and therapeutic work.
The curriculum of the work draws upon the founders' backgrounds in Sufism (both Ali and Muqaddam are natives of Kuwait), Platonism, Buddhism and the Fourth Way. Teachers of the Diamond Approach focus on the students' specific perception of their own immediate work issues. Presentation of a canonical body of knowledge and practice is introduced over time as required.
A. Hameed Ali was born in Kuwait in 1944. At the age of eighteen, he moved to the USA to study at the University of California in Berkeley. Hameed was working on his Ph.D. in physics when he reached a turning point in his life and destiny that led him more and more into inquiring into the psychological and spiritual aspects of human nature.
Hameed's interest in the truth of human nature and the true nature of reality resulted in the creation and unfoldment of the Diamond Approach:
The Diamond Approach Edit
The Diamond Approach is a teaching developed by A.H. Almaas that shows an integration of a variety of mystical teachings, including Sufism, Buddhism and modern depth psychology. It is described as a synthesis of the spiritual and psychological, using psychological methods and insights to gain understanding of the personality and the ego, with the aim of spiritual unfoldment and integration. For example, the method of inquiry is used to explore aspects of the self. Object relations theory is used to examine the development of the personality and the ego. The Diamond Approach also utilizes the Enneagram of Personality, the concept of the lataif (subtle capacities or organs of perception in the Sufi tradition) and various forms of meditation.
Diamond Approach work typically involves a combination of group work, breakout exercises with one or two other students and private, one-on-one sessions with teachers of the Ridhwan School.
Spiritual practice as a phenomenology of being Edit
The Diamond Approach is described as 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... 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." (A.H. Almaas)
The Diamond Approach, according to its followers, can be called a Phenomenology of Being that offers a precise description of the various aspects and dimensions of Spirit or Being and is also a very efficient spiritual psychotherapy, healing the wounds of the soul by reconnecting it to Spirit.
Principal ideas Edit
Structure of reality Edit
In the Diamond Approach, reality is seen as consisting of three important elements: God / Being / Spirit -- Soul / Self -- and World / Cosmos. The world is the outer manifestation of reality, the multitude of physical forms that we are all familiar with. Being is the inner source and true nature of reality which is the focus of the great spiritual traditions of both East and West. It is known as Dharmakaya, Shunyata, Brahman or Tao. The Diamond Approach describes Being as consisting of five co-emergent "boundless dimensions": Divine Love, Universal Mind, Pure Being, The Logos, and The Absolute. The soul is the individual consciousness that connects the world with Being, an idea that we also find in ancient Chinese philosophy. The soul can be experienced as a living presence that contains the thoughts, feelings and sensations we usually call our self.
Essence and the essential aspects Edit
While most spiritual paths conceive of Being as universal, the Diamond Approach also pays a great deal of attention to a more individual way of experiencing Being, called Essence. The concept of Essence is similar to the Hindu idea of Atman. While Being is the true nature of all of reality, Essence is the portion of it that forms the true nature of the soul. It is experienced as a substantial fluid Presence which can differentiate into various qualities or Aspects, such as Compassion, Strength, Will, Joy, Peace, Love, Value, Humaness, Personalness, Identity, Space, etc.
Theory of holes Edit
As our soul develops it is faced with a double challenge, it must learn to function in the world while staying connected to Spirit. For various reasons, some innate and others environmental, we slowly become alienated from our Essence through the development of fixed patterns of perception and behaviour known as the personality or ego. Each of these patterns or ego structures disconnects us from a specific Essential Aspect. In other words, it is built around the "Hole" of this aspect. By exploring the structure, both cognitively and experientally, one eventually comes to the Hole and by going through it the lost aspect is retrieved.
The Diamond Approach uses methods which its founders learned from Claudio Naranjo. Almaas' scientific background (he studied physics at Berkeley) helps explain the emphasis on rigorous (self) inquiry. Several contexts for participation are provided, including regular one-on-one sessions with a trained teacher, seminars and participation in various formats of organized ongoing groups.
The practice referred to as "presence" is based on two methods, learning to sense one's body (especially one's arms and legs) in an ongoing manner and regularly focusing one's attention on a point in the belly called the "kath center" (known in Chinese philosophy as the tan tien). These methods help a person to become more grounded in the body and in physical reality and also, in time, to develop the ability to experience oneself as the presence of Essence.
The Diamond Approach centers on practice of investigation of the self, experience and perception. "Inquiry" answers the question posed by Socrates: "How does one set up as the object of one's investigation, that about which one knows nothing?" One starts by wanting to find out, living a question, while recognizing preconceptions, preconditions and expectations as to the nature of what one may learn and instead attending to one's immediate or present experience. While not explicitly acknowledged as such, Inquiry in effect combines the practice of Edmund Husserl's "transcendental phenomenological reduction, or epoché", with Sigmund Freud's psychodynamic exploration. An important feature of inquiry is that a person learns to be aware of both the content of experience (emotions, thoughts, sensations) and the attitudes and reactions towards it. In this way the subject-object dichotomy is transcended and one learns to relate to oneself without having to create inner splits. Open-ended Inquiry is both a path to, and the state of, a realized person and in time is understood to be a self-revelation of the mysteries of Being.
The main motivation for embarking on the spiritual journey in this approach is love for the Truth. "Truth" refers to seeing things as they really are, which ultimately comes down to recognizing Being as the true nature of everything. Love for the truth therefore combines the traditional bhakti and jnana perspectives on spirituality.
In recent years the work of Almaas has received high praise from important spiritual teachers and explorers such as John Welwood, Brant Cortright, Jack Kornfield and Ken Wilber. Wilber, while tentatively supportive of the Diamond Approach, disputes some details. For example, he does not agree that infants have essential experiences, maintaining that the infant exists purely in the physical, material world - "instinctual, vital, impulsive, narcissistic, egocentric; living for food, its God is all mouth." Almaas has responded that Wilber's critique demonstrates a misinterpretation based on Wilber's own linear, 4-stage categorization of spiritual development. Almaas' perspective is that infants experience a type of true nature/Spirit, but one that is very distinct from, and less integrated than, the experiences of essentially realized adults.
The Ridhwan School Edit
The Ridhwan School is a loosely-knit affiliation of ongoing spiritual groups founded in 1976 by Hameed Ali (pen name: A. H. Almaas). The school is dedicated to the teaching of the Diamond Approach. It is principally based in Berkeley, California and Boulder, Colorado with other groups throughout North America and in parts of Europe and Australia. Hameed Ali is the spiritual head of the school and individual groups are taught by qualified Ridhwan teachers. The name of the school derives from the Arabic word for "contentment":
"Ridhwan is a kind of contentment which arises when you're liberated. Your personality becomes contented when you're free. Your personality itself is free from its suffering and conflict."
The school rejects "quick fixes" and graduation, and the students are engaged in learning and therapy for an indefinite period.
- The Elixir of Enlightenment, 1984, Red Wheel Weiser, ISBN 978-0877286134
- Essence: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization, 1986, Red Wheel Weiser, ISBN 0877286272
- Essence with The Elixir of Enlightenment: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization, 1998, Weiser Books, ISBN 1578630444
- Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0-936713-14-4
- Luminous Night's Journey: An Autobiographical Fragment, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0-936713-08-3
- The Inner Journey Home: Soul's Realization of the Unity of Reality, 2004, Shambhala, ISBN 978-1-59030-109-8
- Diamond Mind Series
- Diamond Heart Series
- Diamond Heart Book One: Elements of the Real in Man, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0936713014
- Diamond Heart Book Two: The Freedom to Be, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0936713045
- Diamond Heart Book Three: Being and the Meaning of Life, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0936713052
- Diamond Heart Book Four: Indestructible Innocence, 2000, Shambhala, ISBN 978-0936713113
- Diamond Body Series
See also Edit
- ↑ http://www.ridhwan.org/school/faqs.html "Q: Who can teach the Diamond Approach?"
- ↑ Almaas, A. H. Essence. WeiserBooks, Boston MA, 1986.
- ↑ Essence & Spiritual Presence
- ↑ Ch. 2 - "The Theory of Holes." Almaas, A. H. Diamond Heart Book 1, Shambhala, 2000.
- ↑ A.H. Almaas - Hameed Ali
- ↑ Ridhwan School - How to get Involved
- ↑ http://www.ridhwan.org/school/faqs.html - "Q: What is the goal of the Diamond Approach?"
- ↑ Truth
- ↑ Wilber, K. Eye of the Spirit Shambhala: Boston, 1997 (372-373)
- ↑ Wilber, K. Eye of the Spirit Shambhala: Boston, 1997 (362-363)
- ↑ Appendix D in Almaas, A. H. The Inner Journey Home, Shambhala: Boston, 2004.
- ↑ Diamond Heart, Book 2, pg. 11 - http://www.ridhwan.org/school/school.html
- ↑ "Treating the Soul for Life: School rejects `quick fixes'". The Gazette (Colorado Springs). 23 October 1992. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=NewsLibrary&p_multi=CSGB&d_place=CSGB&p_theme=newslibrary2&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0F34BBA41766BD2A&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- A.H. Almaas' website
- The Ridhwan School
- Shambhala Publications author page
- Lighting Up the Now, a Free e-chapter from The Unfolding Now