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Assagioli cast new light on his understanding of subpersonalities in this dialogue with a student in which he asserts that some subpersonalities stem from our past lives.
Translated from Italian by Gordon Symons, Assagioli Archive Florence (original title: Subpersonalita-intuitive-di- B.C.)
R.A. :(Referring to the question asked by B.C. about subpersonalities which include feelings of inferiority), I agree that they are mainly due to the distorted intuition of the relative perfection of the higher realms, and not to the oedipal situation. Oedipus is only something additional, but for the most part, it is due to that intuition of perfection. And the reaction of inferiority for not having it is wrong, and so is the sense of guilt, self-punishment, etc. Then she projects it on the family, on the siblings, on her parents – but this is a secondary projection at the psychological level; the real root is that the vision of perfection, of glory creates a reaction in the personality.
(B.C.: In general, do non-intuitives often have problems of this kind?)
R.A.: I would almost always say so. Non-intuitives more easily accept themselves as they are. And they are often satisfied with themselves. “I’m a smart person.” They don’t see the upper levels.
(B.C .: If intuition can be learned, does that mean that intuitives learned it in a previous life?)
R.A.:I wouldn’t use the term “learned”. Awakened. Remember that it is latent in everyone, and that it is a question of awakening it from potentiality to actuality. It cannot be “learned”.
Past life subpersonalities
(B.C .: So intuitives awakened it in a previous life?)
R.A.: Yes. All the resources we have are, so to speak, the wealth we bring from previous lives. They are deposited “in the bank of the soul”, in the eternal memory of the soul. All the faculties developed by each personality, or rather their essence, become part of the soul. And every time we return we have it at our disposal. And this is very encouraging. If it took us 10 or 20 years to develop something, this is acquired for eternity. Think about it. It’s a good deal! So, always remember. We build for eternity. It is inserted in the soul consciousness. This explains the huge difference between individuals after the first years of age. And the proof is given by the fact that children born of the same parents and raised in the same environment react in a completely different way.
B.C.: Even with twins, like me!)
R.A.: Yes. How would these differences be explained if they were not due to the history of previous lives? Hence the whole issue of environmental and hereditary influence is fundamentally illusory because the first and main element is not taken into consideration. That is, the story of the soul from other lives. Thus, he understands that poor psychologists and people, in general, are in a sea of illusion and fog because they lack the spiritual key. You always remember it. (Don’t tell the others! They won’t understand, and they will come up with all kinds of theories.)
This is the true esoteric understanding of each individual’s uniqueness. Fundamentally unique, precisely because they have a history of hundreds of incarnations behind them, all different for each one. You see how the esoteric key is magical. It explains so much.
Some subpersonalities have roots in previous lives. Or at least tendencies, which then developed into subpersonalities. There is a diversity of impulses in different people, and these are the root of all the subpersonalities.
(B.B.: Is there always a direct correlation between a previous personality and a current subpersonality?)
R.A.: Well, there are correlations of all kinds, but keep in mind that people in previous lives often didn’t have a real personality. There was only a tangle of complexes and subpersonalities – and a great influence from the collective.
(B.C .: If 100 years ago I had a 1st ray personality, would I now have a 1st ray subpersonality?)
R.A.: I’m sorry, but it’s not that simple! First of all, the ranges are typically much more extensive. There are very clear differences. As a general criterion, in the first part of evolution the intervals are much longer, then they become shorter, and in advanced humanity and aspirants there may be frequent incarnations, but the rules of all of this are unknown.
Subpersonalities are built around important roles or relationships
(referring to the part about roles) Yes, a subpersonality is formed by the accumulation of traits organized around a role. This role can have various origins. One of these could come from impulses. But often a subpersonality is determined by the environment and the parts we have to play in life. It is not a “mask”. It is a necessary function that must be carried out. We must play the role of child, then companion, then parent, and then, so to speak, professional or employee – these are part of personal life. So it is not so much an impulse as the roles we naturally and necessarily play in life and through which we develop and acquire skills and develop functions. So, they are authentic. Of course, one can perform them badly, unconsciously, rebelliously, and so on. I would rather say that impulses ride on the roles we play.
(B.C .: How would you define a role?)
R.A.: You don’t need a definition. Function. Certain precise functions in life: the function of son, daughter, husband, wife – relationships, human relationships. We could define roles as ways of human relationship, if you want a scientific formula. Modes of human relations. It is not the impulse that creates the role – roles give impulses the opportunity to express themselves.
(B.C.: Is it possible to have the free will not to play a role?)
R.A.: Oh yes. One can go to a monastery, and for example, reject the role of husband, wife, or parent. Certainly. One can escape from life, refuse the role of citizen.
B.C .: So can roles be seen as tools, as a means to a certain end?)
R.A.: I wouldn’t call them tools. They are something more; they are human relationships, true human relationships. The role of husband or wife is a true, precious human relationship, but one is free to refuse it. You may have the old idea of roles as something negative, manipulative, non-authentic behaviour. No. Experience and human life require roles. Of course, the word “unfolding” is misleading. It is a bit misleading to say “play a role”. I would prefer to say fulfil a human function. Or try to.
(B.C .: How are these functions determined?)
R.A.: Don’t ask how. They exist; they are an existential reality. If you want, they are in the Plan, the evolutionary Plan. Under the title of human relationships. Man is a “social animal”, and human life implies human relationships. It would perhaps be better to call the “roles”: human relationships. When we talk about real roles, they are human relationships, but then there are artificial roles. This is another matter to distinguish between real roles and artificial fake roles. These of course are manipulation, self-affirmation, etc.
B.C .: Could you then say that human relationships – or roles – are stabilized expressions of energies?)
R.A.: Yes, but this means little, because everything is an expression of energy. I would say more or less coordinated, organized. “stabilized” is too static. More or less organized expressions of energy.
(B.C .: The part I am missing is an abstract generalization regarding the function and origin of roles)
R.A.: Forget about abstract generalizations. They are not needed. It is abstract thinking and not necessary. Be existential. Things exist; we begin to interpret them, to use them wisely. A certain overview is fine if you really need it, but I think I have given it a good one: “more or less organized expressions of energy”. That’s it.
Where do the impulses or basic needs come from?
(B.C .: Okay. Now, can impulses come from previous lives or do they originate in this incarnation?)
R.A.: Both. There are the normal impulses that every human being has, the basic needs of the hierarchy of needs, but their strength, their intensity is very different whether or not they are reinforced by previous lives.
So, I wouldn’t call those of animals roles. For example, that of a wolf is the function it performs. The roles, in the most concrete sense, are assumed consciously – or semi-consciously. If she is a daughter, she knows that she is a daughter and that she should behave like a daughter. It is something one is more or less aware of.
Of course, there are all types of reactions – one can tend to refuse, to evade, to use every function – but the fact, the existential fact is that there are certain functions – and that one is aware of them as human beings. Remember, always start from the existential facts and experience, and then the reactions to them.
(B.C.: The scientific method?)
R.A.: Yes, in the current broad sense. It is a simple existential attitude. Maslow’s, for example.
There is nothing to say in general, only that all observations are more or less distorted. As always, the question is: is this observation distorted? How much, in what way? With every observation, there is a concrete problem.
Perhaps more can be said. An observation can be attenuated but not distorted. Naturally attenuated, restricted – but not distorted. It’s different. For example, the reflections of the sun’s rays on a mirror are not distorted. But of course they are very attenuated, and only certain rays arrive through the atmosphere, and so on. But those which arrive are not distorted.
On the other hand, if you put a stick in water, you see that a portion of the stick is tilted. This is distorted. So, each case is different. There is attenuation, there is distortion, there is perversion – which is more than distortion – and there is coloring.
(BC: What I wanted to say is that I think it would be important for me to bring the qualities of my personality back to a less attenuated, less distorted, less perverted, less colorful source, because I have a sense of what these personal qualities could become )
R.A.: Well! This is constructive psychosynthesis. Instead of “could become” I would say they are becoming. Even if you don’t want them to. Remember the vine! But you want it and so stay with it.
The structure of the subpersonality is destroyed
Subpersonalities must be assimilated; that is, not repressed or denied or expelled, but assimilated in a biological sense. That is to say; their constituent elements are absorbed in a higher synthesis, but not the subpersonalities as such. The structure of the subpersonality is destroyed, but the elements are preserved.
Undesirable elements that cannot be assimilated can be discarded, as happens with digestion and stools. But even if each element can be assimilated, the “structure” of the subpersonality is destroyed. That is, the impulse remains, but not all the concretions that surround it.
(B.C.: Does the energy that held the aspects together go away?)
R.A.: Yes, in a sense. It would be as in “complexes”. The complex is dissolved, and the energy contained in the complex is used.
(B.C.: In this essay on the self-affirmation on which I am working, I have not made this very clear, especially in the orchestra analogy)
R.A.: The analogies are all partial. The orchestra analogy is also excellent, but it does not cover everything. This is a general principle: analogies are illuminating and sometimes highlight a point perfectly, but they are never complete. It’s not that everything matches exactly. It is good to be aware of it. Appreciate the method of analogy, use it, but with discrimination, as for everything else!