Enlargements of consciousness can occur in three directions: 1. Downward; 2. Horizontally; 3. Upward.
Roberto Assagioli, 12 February 1972, Published in La Cultura Nel Mondo, Anno XXVI, Maggio – Agosto 1972 No.3-4, pp.11-20. Also Saved as a Typed Manuscript in the Assagioli Archives Doc. #23481 of Lezione 1 — 12 Febbraio 1972. Original Title: Espansioni della Coscienza:Conquista ed Esplorazioine dei Mondi Interni. Translated and Edited with Notes by Jan Kuniholm 
At present, humanity is in a state of serious collective and individual crisis: there is a general sense of dissatisfaction, of discontent with ordinary life; there is a search for something different, for “something else.” There is no need for me to insist on this, as it is well-known and is continuously unfolding before our eyes. This search for something else, this rebellion against ordinary life happens in two ways, and in both cases it tends toward and leads to the expansion of consciousness:
The first leads to the growth of knowledge of the outside world and, above all, to the exploration, conquest and domination of space, by aviation and space flight. In parallel with these are the activities to master and use all the forces of nature, up to the powerful subatomic energy.
The second way for the expansion of consciousness is that of knowledge of the inner world, indeed of the inner worlds. Hence, the growing interest in psychology and (especially the exploration of the unconscious), investigations into the nature of psychological energies, the laws that govern them, and their use and (frequent!) misuse.
Therefore, we thought it appropriate to hold a Course of Lectures on this subject, proposing to make some necessary clarifications; to take stock of the present state; to show the directions and developments taking place; to indicate the ways that can be followed, and the techniques to be used. Today I will give an overview and outline a program. In the following lectures the various themes will be developed in a more specific way.
Enlargements of consciousness can occur in three directions: 1. Downward; 2. Horizontally; 3. Upward.
- In the downward direction there is an inclination to explore the lower unconscious, or to allow it to emerge into the field of consciousness. This is the task of “depth psychology,” and particularly of psychoanalysis. This is done, and can be useful for practical, therapeutic or educational reasons. However, there is also the attraction to the lower regions; there is the “fascination with horror,” the fascination exerted by the primitive and instinctive aspects of human nature. This is clearly revealed in the interest and spread of writings, films, and shows dealing with topics of violence and morbid states. Here, unfortunately, a vicious circle is formed; that is, interest turned downward is nurtured, indeed exacerbated, by those who, for motives of economic interest, out of thirst for profit, cultivate these tastes and offer ever worse readings and shows. The depiction of horror is also found in many paintings and drawings by modern artists.
- Another direction in which consciousness tends to expand is its participation and identification with other beings, with nature, with things, which can be called horizontal. This is the tendency to escape one’s personal self-consciousness and immerse oneself in the collective consciousness. Let us remember that collective consciousness preceded individual self-consciousness; we find it in primitives, children and — to a lesser degree — in various human groups: the social, military, professional classes with which the individual identifies. The best aspects of this horizontal broadening of consciousness are identification with nature in its various aspects, and with cosmic life in general; a sense of participation in life and universal becoming.
- The third direction is upward, toward the levels of the superconscious and trans-personal levels. This broadening of consciousness can take place in two different ways; the first by raising the center of consciousness, the “I” or self, toward those levels; the second by opening it to the influence of energies from the higher levels. Thus an increasing interaction takes place between the conscious “I” or self and the superconscious levels. Its highest aspect is contact with the transpersonal Self. Recall that the conscious “I” or self is a “reflection” of the Self, and thus is essentially of the same nature, however attenuated and “colored” by the contents of the middle level of personality. When through certain exercises (especially that of disidentification) one succeeds in eliminating those contents, the conscious “I” or self tends to rise back toward its origin.
The differences between these three directions of consciousness expansion are often not recognized and there is still much confusion about them. Today I will limit myself to this suggestion about the three directions, but in future I will mainly talk about the upward direction, the relationship with the transpersonal levels, with the superconscious, and especially about the receptive mode; that is, the descent — which is sometimes a real irruption — of the superconscious contents at the level where the conscious “I” or self is ordinarily found. 
This descent can take place in two ways: spontaneous or provoked. The best known type of the spontaneous one is inspiration. I discussed this extensively in the lecture given here in 1969 on “Artistic Creation and the Superconscious.” Superconscious contents may enter consciousness in very different degrees: they may be almost formless, in a raw state, or partly elaborated; or in other cases already well structured, in final or nearly final form. This often happens in musical inspiration: a typical example is Mozart, whose compositions came to his consciousness complete, needing no elaboration. When, on the other hand, the material arrives in its raw state, it is often expressed verbally in a strange style that does not respect rules of syntax or grammar: a typical example of this is surrealist literature. But this literature comes from different levels of the unconscious, including the lower one.
The simplest mode of descent from the superconscious occurs in the form of intuition. It can be compared to a flash of light that illuminates the waking consciousness, momentarily or for a longer or shorter time. Insights can be received in all fields, including the philosophical and scientific. I will quote a beautiful expression by Einstein about intuition. He says, “Inductive physics asks questions, which deductive physics cannot answer. Only intuition, similar to the relationship established between lovers, is capable of enabling knowledge beyond all logical value.”
But in general, great artists, writers and poets then worked on the material that surfaced or descended in their consciousness, consciously processing it. A typical example is that of Dante. Responding to Bonagiunta, he made it clear that he was inspired:
And I: “When Love inspires me with delight,
or pain, or longing, I take careful note
His appeals to the Muses in the Divine Comedy are actually symbolic appeals to the superconscious and the spiritual Self. However, afterwards, he consciously constrained this inspired material within a set format, the rhymed tercets of the Divine Comedy, and the number of cantos in each of the three canticles. He makes this clear at the end of Purgatorio:
Reader, had I the space to write at will,
I should, if only briefly, sing a praise
of that sweet draught. Would I were drinking still!
But I have filled all the pages planned
for this, my second, canticle, and Art
pulls at its iron bit with iron hand.
There are various methods to actively promote or foster the descent of transpersonal elements into waking consciousness.
One of the simplest, but which is very effective, is free drawing. The unconscious expresses itself mainly through symbols, and drawing is a direct method of representing these symbols. Recall that the earliest writing was ideographic, by means of concrete images. (These are still found in the ideograms of Chinese writing). The alphabet could be called a kind of shorthand, of simplifying ideograms into letters. Free drawing often gives surprising results, real “messages” from the superconscious. A proof of their origin is the fact that not infrequently the waking consciousness of the sketcher does not understand their meaning. It takes an expert in these psychological processes to interpret them and reveal it to the subject, and generally the subject [then] recognizes the rightness of the interpretation; he realizes that it is so but on his own would not have arrived at it.
Another method is writing. This seems a simple, obvious thing, presenting no great problems, but in fact it is a varied and complex psychological process. Many times it happens that one begins to write something one had already thought of; but then gradually new ideas come: the thread, the current of thought takes unexpected directions, and something comes out that amazes the writer. It can be said that in such cases the unconscious “takes over” and itself begins to write! A very conscious writer and psychologist, Herman Keyserling, describes this fact thus, “I generally do not write because I know, but for the purpose of learning, elevating subconscious knowledge into the field of conscious vision.”
Here, however, a warning, a caution, is needed. One can shift from various degrees of this sort of collaboration, between the conscious and the unconscious, to a state of “automatic” writing, in which the conscious self participates only minimally or not at all, falling into a state of trance or hypnosis, while the hand writes. This has drawbacks, even real dangers: it is opening a door, and one does not know what may enter. A large amount of material has been obtained by automatic writing, and their value is very diverse. There are some that have literary value, long novels. There are, sometimes, elevated instructions of a spiritual character or useful warnings; but in most cases the quality of automatic writings is poor: it is clearly the lower unconscious that “takes over.”
Here the question arises whether the origin of these manifestations cannot also be extra-personal; that is, coming from sources or centers other than the personality of the writer. This is a very obscure and complex field, which I cannot deal with on this occasion. I will only say that the existence of sources other than the unconscious cannot be ruled out, partly because of the fact that the personal unconscious at all levels is in continuous interaction with the collective unconscious (by what I would call “psycho-osmosis”). So it is very difficult to say whether this is something strictly individual or whether certain influences come from the collective unconscious. Again, this happens at all levels: from the lowest to the highest. Therefore, great caution must be exercised. In any case, the provenance, the origin of the messages, has nothing to do with their intrinsic value.
The other mode of higher transcendence is that of active exploration of the superconscious levels; that is, voluntary elevation of the conscious “I” or self to ever higher levels. There are various methods of encouraging or producing these elevations of consciousness: prayer, meditation, and various special exercises. I will only say that in all the various modes and stages of consciousness elevation, the use of the will is necessary. The will is needed to remove obstacles; to maintain the state of receptivity; it is needed as a propellant for ever higher elevation and to stabilize consciousness at higher levels; and finally to direct and use the energies released.
Among the specific exercises are those of Raja Yoga. The ascent is aided by the use of anagogic symbols; e.g., that of internal mountaineering. An easy and very productive method is that of “guided imagery.” By this expression, I mean to speak of Desoille’s “rêve éveillé” and its various developments and modifications, such as Leuner’s “Guided Affective Imagery” (GAI); the various forms of onirotherapy described by Virel and Frétigny; those used by Robert Gerard; etc. Through guided imagery, rich symbolic material often emerges, and this can produce great expansions of consciousness in subjects when the material is well interpreted by those leading the exercise. Giorgio Fresia will talk about this method in the next lecture [at this Institute] to be given on Feb. 26.
One of the most important themes is that of the elimination of obstacles. These can be likened to “weights” or to ballast that prevent the ascent of consciousness; or to “ropes,” symbolic of attachments to the ordinary contents of the personality that hinder ascent. Such obstacles may be physical in nature; or emotional; imaginative; mental; “volitional;” or environmental.
Especially important are obstacles of a volitional nature. Often, the conscious “I” or self does not want to launch itself upward; it resists. It is afraid of the unknown, of the heights it has glimpsed. This has been felicitously called “The Represson of the Sublime” by Dr. Frank Haronian and is described by him in an article with this title. Not infrequently this reaction may be due to the feeling that certain spiritual realizations are too challenging, and present demands which the egoistic, self-centered “I” or self avoids. Thus a real struggle takes place between the personal “I” or self and the spiritual Self. This has been effectively described by various mystics, and in particularly dramatic ways by St. Paul and St. Augustine.
Very often there are strong obstacles due to the environment — both the most direct environment, consisting of the family, and the social and general environment. We are immersed in a heavy and dense, agitated, oppressive psychic atmosphere, which can be called a real psychic smog. One should not make excuses for this fact, however. There is a tendency in many to place all the blame on social structures, on the present materialistic way of life, and to say that it makes spiritual realization impossible. But this is not right. One can rise above these obstacles. Here above all the irreplaceable function of the will is revealed. It is necessary not to blame external influences entirely — but to resist them and, rather than fighting them directly, to protect oneself and rise.
The ways to expand consciousness upward are very different according to various psychological types and individual constitutions. Seven main ways can be pointed out. I will say at the outset that these ways are not separate, and in fact often overlap to some extent, and that an individual may follow more than one of these ways at the same time. But the fact remains that they are different from each other, and that, at first, for the sake of clarity, one must describe and get to know them separately, and only then moving on to their possible combinations.
- The Scientific Way
- The Illuminative Way
- The Ethical-Regenerative Way
- The Aesthetic Way
- The Mystical Way
- The Heroic Way
- The Ritual Way
(A brief exposition of the Scientific Way is attached to this article as an appendix).
Let us now consider the effects that expansions of consciousness have on personality. It is good to keep in mind that these effects can be harmful, and that this is also true of upward expansions of consciousness. In fact, the sometimes sudden and even violent irruptions of the contents of the unconscious into an inadequately prepared and grounded consciousness can produce exaltations: the personality feels filled with new powers, and becomes aware of the higher potentials inherent in the superconscious and the Self. The realization of a Self essentially of the same nature as the Supreme Reality, something divine, can give a sense of exaltation to the personality, which deludes itself into thinking that it is itself already on the higher level — before the necessary long process of transmutation and regeneration, which it has perceived, of which it has become aware in the monument of enlightenment. An extreme expression of this exaltation is the statement, “I am God.” Such a fundamental delusion and error can be regarded as a confusion between what is potential and what is actual. It would be as if an acorn, having the intuition of what it will be able to become — that is, a great oak tree — were to say, “I am an oak tree.” Potentially, it has in itself all that is necessary to become one, but presently it is not, for the whole long process of sprouting, developing, and assimilating elements from the earth, water, air and sun is needed. So it is with the human being who, having had a vivid awareness of what he may become, of what is latent in him, must then — returning, as is inevitable, to the level of ordinary consciousness — realize the whole long, complex and even painful work of moving from the potential to the actual, and putting those potentials into operation. Other negative effects are excessive nervous and psychic tension produced by the bursting energies and the conflicts that arise between the middle and lower contents, both conscious and unconscious, and the new energies.
But more important are the positive effects that expansions of consciousness in the higher direction generally have. These can be divided into temporary effects and more or less lasting effects. The temporary effects are what taken together may be called “ecstatic states:” vivid illuminations, communions with the larger Reality, contemplation of what exists in the higher worlds; horizontal expansions in the cosmic sense. They are accompanied by joy, by a sense of empowerment, love, inclusion, and increased understanding; they arouse impulses of dedication and consecration to the higher Reality or Being with which one has come in contact. From the point of view of the will there is a merging, a unification of the personal will with the transpersonal will.
But these states are temporary, and not infrequently they are followed by not only a descent to the ordinary level, but also by negative states of consciousness. This is very distressing and arouses intense nostalgia for those beautiful and joyful states of consciousness. All this prompts one to try to repeat those experiences, which are appropriately and effectively called “peak experiences” by Maslow. But they are like a flight made in an airplane to the top of a mountain. The airplane cannot stop there, and it returns to the plain. However, the repetition of these flights, and the gradual broadening of waking consciousness and contact with higher contents causes the overall level of the personality to gradually rise. The personality is able to remain for longer and longer periods in what a modern Indian, Dr. Asrani, who had similar experiences and described them, calls “the plateaus” — an expression taken up and developed by Maslow.
Then there are effects that could be called active, or extroverted; they can be summed up in the word “creativity.” This can be artistic, poetic, literary, or even scientific and philosophical, with the various means of expression that human beings have.
Let us see, now, what the psychosynthetic tasks are; that is, what the personality, the conscious “I” or self can and should do after the enlargements and expansions of consciousness. They can be thus briefly summarized:
- Understanding and right interpretation of what happened, thus avoiding exaltations and “inflations” of the ego, and interpreting what happened in the right way. To do this one greatly benefits from knowledge of the experiences of others, the study of the lives and writings of the “host of witnesses” who achieved the expansion of consciousness.
- Assimilation; that is, integration into the conscious personality of the new contents that have come to enrich it, but also to complicate it. This assimilation must lead to a balancing between elements of all natures and levels: to individual psychosynthesis. To achieve this integration and synthesis, and also for the utilization of the energies that have flowed in, we need:
a. The disintegration of the complexes, of the pre-existing formations;
b. The transmutation and transformation of the lower energies. A regeneration of the whole personality.
- As a whole, it can be called a process of “death and resurrection” which is the specific task of one of the main paths: the “Ethical-Regenerative” one.
After all this, but practically also during the process of assimilation and regeneration, the use, the utilization of the new energies and abilities acquired through the enlargements and elevations of consciousness takes place. This utilization, can take place in two ways: through internal action and through external action.
Internal action consists primarily of irradiation. Energies emanate and radiate from the personality just as light rays are emitted from a light source and spread into the environment. This irradiation already happens spontaneously, I would say inevitably, and this explains the action that the mere presence of someone who has had transpersonal realizations has on the people with whom he comes in contact. It has been repeatedly noted and described and can be called a form of “psycho-spiritual catalysis.”
But there is also voluntary irradiation, the deliberate action of emanations of energies, of beneficial waves. It is a form of what can be called psycho-spiritual telepathy, which consists not only of sending specific content, as much as this can be done, but above all in a general action of willing good, of blessing. This was, (and still is) used in the religious field, but it can also be done whatever one’s philosophical and religious beliefs. Recent studies on telepathy and telekinesis give a scientific basis for this action.
The other kind of action is the external kind. Those who have had elevations of consciousness in the higher sense feel naturally, I would say irresistibly, driven to share their inner riches with others. This activity can be called “service.” It can be carried out in different ways, depending on individual aptitudes and interests. The most direct one is to help others to obtain their own expansions and elevations of consciousness, and this can be carried out individually or in groups.
Then there is social action: this is aimed at changing the existing [social] conditions and structures when they are inadequate and restrictive, and above all at creating new forms of social life, of education, of art, of culture: to be pioneers of a new and better civilization with planetary dimensions.
APPENDIX: THE SCIENTIFIC WAY
At first it may come as a surprise that expansion of consciousness in a higher direction can be produced or fostered by science, since — until quite recently, and for many still — science was regarded as the study of matter, of the objective world, without reference to consciousness, and thus led to a materialistic conception of reality.
But for the past few decades what can be called a real revolution has taken place, especially in the field of physics. New discoveries in physics have shown that “matter,” as we perceive it with our senses, simply does not exist. Matter appears to us as solid, static, inert; but this is only an illusion due to the limited tools of our senses, such as sight and touch. Physicists have shown that the so-called material atoms are actually made up of minute and powerful electrical charges, positive, negative or neutral, condensed in various centers or points and moving through space according to laws and modes based on mathematical formulas. And these imply — of necessity — an intelligent Principle or Being, a cosmic Mind, that formulated them and makes them operate.
This conception was expressed clearly and effectively by Albert Einstein:
the wise man, he says, “is possessed by the sense of universal causation” (i.e., the law of cause and effect). . . “His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection (The World As I See It, p. 39).”
“The individual feels . . . the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.”(p. 43).
“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.” (p. 47). The need for the expansion of consciousness; and transcendence from the limits of the personal self, could not be expressed more decisively and concisely.
 Some typographical errors in the published version have been corrected for this translation by reference to the typed manuscript, and some sentences in the typed MS have been inserted here that do not appear in the published version. The typed MS has been taken here as authoritative. —Ed.
 Editorial interpolations are indicated by [brackets]. —Ed.
 It must be noted that Assagioli’s use of the term “psychoanalysis” here is not limited to Freudian or neo-Freudian approaches, theories, or groups, but is a more generic term that includes practitioners of all types of analytic psychology. —Ed.
 This attraction to evil has been acutely described by Erich Fromm in his book The Heart of Man (Roma, Carabba). Rollo May also speaks of the charm of the “demonic” in Love and Will, Rome, Astrolabe), but without clearly distinguishing its different levels. —Author’s Note.
 The various modalities and effects of transcendence, especially in the higher direction, have been very well presented by Maslow, who distinguishes 35 forms or aspects, in his article “Various Meanings of Transcendence,” published in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (Spring 1969) and reprinted in the book The Further Reaches of Human Nature (Viking). —Author’s Note.
 The French writer J. Wahl in his study on existentialism, has, with a happy play on words in French, spoken of the two types of transcendence: “trans-ascendance” and “trans-descendance.”—Author’s Note.
 Dante, (Purgatorio, XXIV, 52-54), English translation by John Ciardi. —Tr.
 Ibid.. XXXIII, 136-141. —Tr.
 French: “waking dream.” —Tr.
 This is the method used to apply Initiated Symbol Projection (ISP) developed by Hanscarl Leuner of the University of Gottingen. Discussion of these techniques is found in the appendix of Assagioli’s book Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings, The Synthesis Center 2000. The topic was also addressed in the second meeting of Psychosynthesis Seminars, 1965-66 Series, presented at the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation in New York. —Ed.
 Onirotherapy is a term used in psychiatry that was invented by Roger Frétigny, psychiatrist, and André Virel, doctor of psychology. It is the use of dream thinking for a therapeutic purpose. This term refers to all the techniques implemented by Roger Frétigny and André Virel after 1945.—Ed.
 Robert Gerard, PhD, was a psychologist associated with psychosynthesis in the United States, who assisted Assagioli in the preparation of his first book, Psychosynthesis. He presented a paper titled “Symbolic Visualization – A Method of Psychosynthesis” at the Fifth International Conference for Psychotherapy in Vienna in 1961 and a paper titled “Symbolic Apperception and Integral Psychology” at the Ninth Conference in Oslo in 1973. —Ed.
 The imagery here is evocative of regulation of ascent and descent in a hot-air balloon. —Ed.
 “Repression of the Sublime”was published in 1972 by the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, New York, as Issue No. 30 and is available online. —Ed.
 The seven ways enumerated on this page appear to have some connection with the psychological types mentioned earlier, and there is a correspondence between them. For reference seeAssagioli’s Psychosynthesis Typology published by the Institute of Psychosynthesis, London, and The Seven Types: Psychosynthesis Typology by Kenneth Sørensen, Kentaur Publishing. —Ed.
 U. A. Asrani was an Associate Professor Emeritus at Banares Hindu University, from whom in 1967 Maslow adopted the term “plateau experience,” according to a previously unpublished letter. Asrani provided an academic exploration of the plateau experience from an Indian perspective, grounded mostly in yogic philosophy and Buddhism. He, like Maslow, came to the plateau experience following a dangerous and emotionally challenging situation: Asrani as a political prisoner, and Maslow as the victim of a severe heart attack. See “The Plateau Experience: An Exploration of its Origins, Characteristics, and Potential” by Nicole Gruel, M.A. in Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2015, Vol.47, No.1, 44-63. —Ed.
 This section of the essay was presented as shown in the typed manuscript in the Assagioli Archives, and was presented as a footnote (but without a specific antecedent) in the published version. —Ed.
 Albert Einstein (1879-1955) wrote Mein Weltbild in German in 1934, and it was translated into English by Alan Harris and published as The World As I See It in 1935. More recent editions are available. The text given here and following is taken from an online edition (at https://zlibrary.to) of the Harris translation, but the page numbers are from the edition that Assagioli used. —Tr.