It is toward this crystal clarity that all authentic spiritual practice points.
I’m a nondualist. I experience reality as a seamless yet infinitely dynamic happening of Aliveness (Chiut in Hebrew) or what others call Tao, Brahman, Kali, the Absolute, God, etc. Everything is the happening of Aliveness. If this is true, however, why do so many of us feel separate from Aliveness?
To answer that question, I turn to the Enneagram as understood by A. H. Almaas, author of Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas and Keys to the Enneagram: How to Unlock the Highest Potential of Every Personality Type. We feel separate from Aliveness because, to borrow from St. Paul, we see the world through a dark and distorting lens (I Corinthians 13:12). Nine of them, in fact. These nine lenses are the nine points of the Enneagram.
While it is common to use the Enneagram as a tool for psychological assessment, the true value of the Enneagram takes you beyond the separate self to the nondual Self that embraces and transcends it. Working with the Enneagram in this way, you cleanse your primary lens (your Enneagram type), correct its distortion, and see reality as it is: the happening of Aliveness or what Almaas calls the Holy Truth of nonduality.
For example, I am an Enneagram 5. The Holy Idea at the heart of a 5 is Holy Omniscience— not that Fives know everything but that Fives are meant to know everything as a unique and precious happening of the One Thing: nondual Aliveness. The distortion we Fives experience is the false notion that to be unique and precious we must be apart from Aliveness rather than a part of it. Since nothing is apart from Aliveness, we Fives are forever seeking the impossible.
The way to cleanse the distorting lens isn’t to move away from it, but to move more deeply into it. Think of a Chinese finger trap: A woven bamboo cylinder into which you place the index fingers of each hand. The more you struggle to remove your fingers from the tube by pulling them away from each other, the tighter the trap becomes. The only way out is in— moving your fingers closer together and allowing the trap to release them of its own accord.
This is what Moses taught when he said that Truth isn’t in the sky or across the sea, but in your mouth and on your heart that you might live it (Deuteronomy 30:12-14). And this is what Jesus taught when he said, “The Kingdom of God does not come with external observation so that you will say, ‘See here is it!’ or ‘Look, there it is!’ For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
In Keys to the Enneagram, Almaas describes his experience of clear-seeing this way: “I felt myself showered with, immersed in, and enveloped by a fluid substance of pure consciousness … I was no more, there was no me, not even the knowing of ‘no me.’ It was the total cessation of individual consciousness to the point of no experience at all … I don’t know how long I stayed in this divine coma, but when I awoke, everything was crystal clear.”
It is toward this crystal clarity that all authentic spiritual practice points. For most of us the clarity is short-lived, and the work continues. Having been a student of the Enneagram and other contemplative systems for many years, I will attest to both the experience of clarity and the on-going nature of the work. If you are looking to deepen your work, you cannot go wrong by adding the Enneagram to your spiritual toolbox.*
Listen to my conversation with A. H. Almaas on the Spirituality & Health Podcast: