The will as expressed in man, I would say, in an individual or a group, embodied in time and space, is a conscious will.
By Roberto Assagioli, January 18, 1972, English Title: A Conversation About the Will between Roberto Assagioli and Renzo Giacomini. Taken from a Typed Transcript of R. Giacomini from the Assagioli Archive in Florence, Doc. #23518. Translated and Edited with Notes by Jan Kuniholm.
Assagioli: First I will give a general epistemological outline. What are the tools of knowledge? — the mind, in its function as a coordinator and interpreter of sense impressions that come from the so-called external world (now let’s call it that: “the so-called external world,” without elaborating); then the rational mind (one can call it the abstract, or philosophical mind) that elaborates concepts, theories, doctrines; but then — in my opinion, and that of many others (I am in good company) — there is also intuition. Now intuition is super-rational, not anti-rational per se, and however much it may contradict certain theories or certain materialistic doctrines, it is not against reason per se, only it operates in a higher, meta-rational sphere. Corresponding to this are “levels of reality:” I [affirm as a] premise, to avoid misunderstanding, that I consider that reality is one (a unitary conception), and also that energy is essentially one. However, within this essential and substantial unity, there are distinctions (but distinction does not mean separation, does not mean contrast, does not mean . . . ) — distinctions that could be called, in a way that is perhaps not rigorously exact but useful for understanding, “different levels of reality;” and for each level of reality there are corresponding laws, functions, and mechanisms; this already happens in [the disciplines of] physics and chemistry. Certain laws which are valid at a certain level of reality, i.e. at a certain dimension, are no longer valid at another. Thus Avogadro’s laws, the laws governing atomic combinations, are valid at that level, but at the subatomic level they are no longer valid. This does not mean that they are false; it means that they operate relative to that certain level of reality and that they function — I would say, they are functional — that is, they correspond to data and they coordinate data: they allow us to predict and use those data at one level, but they are no longer valid at another.
Now what happens in the field of chemistry happens on a much larger scale for all other orders of reality, distinct but not separate within the bosom of the universal supreme reality. So the laws of logic and, I would say, rationality are valid at a certain level: in fact they work and they allow us to know [things] and to predict [phenomena]. So pragmatically they are valid at a certain level, but they are no longer valid at a super-rational level, where everything is different.
Now the point and the difficulty is to keep things distinct — distinct, I repeat — but not to separate these various levels. What can be easily done in chemistry is not done in philosophy and science in general. Science (ordinary, academic science) wants to bring certain of its concepts, certain of its laws, into a field that is not its domain; and so [also] philosophy, with some of its concepts, intends to bring “rationality” into a field that is not its domain; that is, the field of spirituality and intuition.
Coming to the will, one must distinguish the will in its essence from the will in its manifestation; and in other words, we generally always distinguish transcendence from immanence. That is to say, the supreme reality and the spirit are in themselves transcendent to every limited manifestation which is concrete in time and space: they are extra-temporal and extra-spatial. However, from the moment they enter into immanence, that is, into becoming, into the flow of manifestation, then at the various levels they become, so to speak, subject to the laws of the corresponding level.
Little can be said of the will in the transcendent sense, that is, of its essence: only that the will is there, it is free, it is not subject to any laws of the other levels.
But having said that — which is, however, the most important thing — we must see how the will is “articulated” at the various levels; and then I no longer speak of the will but of the volitional act — that is, of the various stages of the volitional act from the initial impulse to the external actualization, and this is what matters for psychology, for psychotherapy, and for education.
Once it is admitted that the will is there, and that by itself it is essentially free — this is the basis: for if not, there is no will. Either the will is free, or it is not there at all — and that is determinism . . .
Giacomini: What [others] often object to me is that since we did not choose to come into this world and since we have a body that is made of matter, that was not chosen by us, then, they say, you are determined; whereas I affirm that the will was already expressed in the sperm that joined the egg, and even earlier.
Assagioli: Then again we have to distinguish (not divide, but distinguish) that this, I would say, is will taken somewhat in Schopenauer’s or Hartmann’s sense; that is, it is a universal, impersonal will, of which we are neither conscious nor the subjects. Now I think it can be confusing to call that “will” ( I always speak as a psychologist ). The will as expressed in man, I would say, in an individual or a group, embodied in time and space, is a conscious will.
Giacomini: On the other hand, here I very often tend to say that our volitional act, the manifestation of the will in this world, is unconscious. There is a famous example: if I have a letter in my pocket and I forget to mail it, that happens by my will, although it is unconscious. That is, I forget to mail it, I commit a slip — but it is a slip of mine, of my will, even though an unconscious will leads me to commit that slip, or to utter one particular sentence instead of that other, or to forget the letter in my pocket.
Assagioli: Yes, this is a psychoanalytic conception. 
Giacomini: But in psychoanalysis everyone talks about the will, but none defines it.
Assagioli: Yes, but here is precisely the point of divergence, but it is more of a semantic divergence than a substantive one: I find that if you call what you are talking about “the will,” then one must distinguish the conscious will from an unconscious will.
Giacomini : — if there were a boundary between conscious and unconscious. I’ll go back to an example: when I gave that long talk about “k/k can also be different from one,” I mean that for a child, for example; for a child does not have the mathematical-rationalistic conception of the world; and according to what Klein said, there are, for example, two mothers: one good mommy and one bad mommy ( so, two breasts, two daddies ) and that is really just as valid as our statement. That is, taking it further, a schizophrenic, a crazy person, is just as right as we are, only he is not right in this world — for our world — because it is we who set the standards.
Assagioli: It seems to me that here we have again what I call the confusion of levels of reality, and — I repeat — in my opinion, with my terminology (it is always better to put things in semantic terms), the will as such, in its true essence and freedom, is outside of time and of space: it is pure spirit. Spirit is freedom and will, will is freedom and spirit; however, when will is expressed, structured, articulated in time and space, it is gradually limited from level to level. Then one could say, for example, that this increasing limitation of will from level to level is never absolute; and one can arrive at the concept of indeterminacy, whereby even the motions of the smallest particles are not rigidly determined, but can only be predicted statistically. So, I would say, a modicum, a remnant, an infinitesimal amount of freedom remains even at that level. However, all of this is [presented], I would say, in a theoretical way; that is, in the way we can conceive of things; but once this is said, if we go instead to what in English is called a “frame of reference,” which can be called existential — that is, of internal, direct, immediate — experience, then it is a whole other matter: not opposite to the point just made, but different: from another angle. And then we start from the internal experience of the subject, who wills and knows that he wills.
Giacomini: “I am a will,” and not “I have a will.”
Assagioli: Yes! Now this subject, if he is lucid and aware, knows that he is will, but he knows all the gradual limitations to which his will is subjected in the various stages from “I will” to actualization. Both from the existential cognitive point of view, and especially the existential humanistic point of view — that is, of the obvious, concrete problems of human beings — this is what it is important to study, to know, in order to be able to safeguard the maximum of freedom at all levels, the maximum possible will at all levels, and this is precisely what I do, or attempt to do, in the study of the various stages of the will.
For example in the stage of decision, I fully admit that decisions are made by unconscious motives, but I no longer call them volitional acts. I might say they are “pseudo-volitional acts,” because the essential quality of the will, i.e. the freedom, [is missing]; and then it is an illusion of will and freedom, as one is unconsciously determined by so many things. This — I repeat —is the language that I use, and that works both in the psychotherapeutic field and in the case of self-training and education. So, I would say, they’re two different angles that don’t overlap; they don’t exclude each other, but they also don’t overlap.
Giacomini: So at a certain moment the will decides to enter a certain body and consequently has to accept all its laws. But then there would be the problem: whether a person who is born in India or a person who is born in Italy has the same potentiality of will; and why did one take a certain body?
Assagioli: For me, you see, this is an artificial problem, in a way — a problem that is either artificial, or part of a mystery: why is one born here or there at a given time and place? This is a mystery. Neither the conception, let’s call it your metaphysical concept, nor the existential concept, as I set it out to you, solve this problem.
Giacomini: You therefore do not accept the theory of reincarnation?
Assagioli: I do, I fully accept it, but independently of the individual will. You see, at a certain level, at a certain order of reality, the law of cause and effect — what the Orientals call karma — operates, and so my incarnation, your incarnation, this time, now in 1972, is but one of a number of individual and non-individual influences from the past. But this is all within the scope of time and space.
Now I would say that the laws that govern all of that, all of the mechanism of cosmic becoming, the mechanism of manifestation flowing in time and space, contains a lot that is mysterious, and we cannot claim to know it. One can intuit some aspects, but there is, one might say, a third angle, which does not contradict, but which is distinct from those concepts — let us call yours metaphysical and mine existential humanistic, for convenience.
That remains a mystery: the Orientals say that there are great beings who know this aspect, and esotericism — at least what they have revealed of esotericism — tries to give very interesting explanations and justifications of this; however, they too say that at a certain point the mystery remains. Now — again for semantic convenience — let’s call this the esoteric angle, which is different from a metaphysical and also from an existential humanistic point of view . Now what is important, to avoid useless and fictitious discussions, is not to mix the various points of view and the various angles; to be well aware in which frame of reference one speaks and stands.
 Editorial interpolations are indicated by text in [brackets]. Elisions . . . shown are found in the original document. —Ed.
 Relating to the philosophic theory of knowledge. —Ed.
 From a scientific point of view, “validity” refers to how accurately a method measures what it is intended to measure. If research has high validity, that means it produces results that correspond to real properties, characteristics, and variations in the physical or social world. High reliability is one indicator that a measurement is valid. This is not the same as the way this term is used in philosophy, logic, or other disciplines. —Ed.
 In this instance, it appears that Assagioli uses the term “psychoanalytic” to refer to the teachings of Freud and his followers, or derivatives of them. —Ed.
 This may be a mathematical example to be used to explain some non-Euclidean concepts. Mathematically, any number divided by itself (“k/k”) is 1, or “one.” But the mathematical concepts of unity, identity, and non-contradiction do not necessarily apply in the inner, psychological or spiritual, worlds. —Ed.
 Melanie Klein (1882-1960) was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst known for her work in child analysis. She was the primary figure in the development of object relations theory. Klein suggested that pre-verbal existential anxiety in infancy catalyzed the formation of the unconscious, resulting in the unconscious splitting of the world into good and bad idealizations. —Ed.