Table of content
- 1 Education for Responsible Self-Actualization
- 2 Psychosynthesis
- 3 Integration of the Personality
- 4 The Self as the Unifying Center
- 5 The Young Generation
- 6 Self-Actualization and the School
- 7 Physical Education
- 8 Education of the Emotions
- 9 Education of the Imagination
- 10 Education of the Intellect
- 11 Education of the Will
- 12 Education of Higher Functions and Qualities
- 13 Education for Self-Realization
- 14 Education in Right Human Relations
- 15 REFERENCES
By JAMES G. VARGIU, 1971, P.R.F. Issue No. 27, PSYCHOSYNTHESIS RESEARCH FOUNDATION, INC.
Man is becoming the tool of the system. We are being trained to conform to the growing requirements of proliferating social structures and institutions, even though those institutions are rapidly losing their capacity to serve our needs. Traditional education emphasizes competition, scholarship, and the performance of tasks; the quest for higher ideals and values, for the meaning of being human, is considered a superfluous luxury, only incidentally related to the formal educational process.
This state of affairs stems from our past conditions of profound economic scarcity. Man had to compete against man for the possession of adequate means of subsistence, and the completion of a task could mean the difference between life and death. Concern with higher human values truly was a luxury, which men could rarely afford. Yet now that we have finally developed the capability to attain lasting security and material well-being, the same obsolete emphasis on competition and on task performance remains. Paradoxically, this attitude now prevents us from effectively utilizing those abilities and resources which it helped us acquire. Consequently humanity has reached an impasse, and stands irresolute, immersed in a global crisis, which it seems unable to overcome. Teilhard de Chardin warns us: “. . . there finally emerges in our twentieth century human consciousness, for the first time since the awakening of life on earth, the fundamental problem of Action.” (1) A similar point is made by W. W. Harman, Director of the Educational
Policy Research Center of the U.S. Office of Education: “It is strange to observe that at this point in history when we literally have the knowledge and material resource:, to do almost anything we can imagine—from putting a man on the moon, to exploring the depths of the oceans, to providing an adequate measure of life’s goods to every person on earth—we also seem the most confused about what is worth doing.” Harman concludes that “The great problems facing us are of a sort where we need belief in ourselves and will to act even more than we need new technologies, creative social program concepts, and program budgeting.” (2)
To face and solve this unprecedented situation we need new values, new approaches, and a new ideal of what man can be. Education can satisfy these needs by transcending the limitations of the separative cultural heritage and values which originate in our tribal past. These values and this heritage can be preserved, but they must become the foundation of a broader vision . . . a vision inclusive enough to embrace the aspirations of all mankind. Education can generate this global vision through a direct and increasingly profound study of man and of the process of human unfolding, and through a widespread, practical utilization of what is being learned. Education will then increasingly deal with that central core of personal values, qualities, and aspirations that, because they are the most fundamental in each human being, are most likely to create broad areas of agreement between individuals similarly educated, regardless of their background or geographical home.
Education for Responsible Self-Actualization
In the dichotomy between being and doing, we bestow a predominance of interest on doing, on task performance. We value the individual for what he does or can learn to do, more than for what he is or can become. Operationally we neglect the more fundamental functions of the human being, such as feelings, imagination, intellect, intuition, and will, and make little effort to cultivate them directly. We allow them to develop accidentally and unpredictably, largely as the consequence of demands made on them in the process of developing mole specific and objective abilities.
We may study mathematics, or a foreign language, because we consider them important tools to accomplish those task we expect to be part of our future activities. But the knowledge of a foreign language can generate a broader understanding of national differences, and open a new dimension in our concept of humanity and of ourselves. Through the study of mathematics many have discovered different modes of thought, new and unexplored regions of their mind, which they later mastered and utilized in everyday life. Whenever, in our task-oriented striving, we develop a new skill, or acquire a new talent, we also develop further some more fundamental and subjective function of our personality. We make another step in evolving a deeper and more inclusive consciousness of ourselves and of the world. This progressive expansion of awareness, this process of self-actualization, sometimes recognized theoretically as one of the goals of education, is habitually ignored in practice. Yet it is a far more important result of the educational process than the acquisition of any number of talents and abilities, because it changes the individual and his future values, goals, and activities, in the deepest and most permanent way.
Today we need to bring about a gradual but determined shift of the central focus in education: from scholarship and task performance, to the self-actualization of man. The outcome of this shift will not be self-actualization for its own sake. True self-actualization leads to an increasing sense of responsibility and to a deepening desire to serve humanity. Paradoxically, task performance will then acquire greater significance and value, not only as a tool for economic well-being but as a major factor in self-actualization. We find here a subtle but fundamental difference . . . the difference between man’s continuous training for greater and more efficient productivity, and man’s progressive and joyful unfolding through increasingly harmonious activity and more creative achievements. It is education through a task, not for a task.
The role of education in the unfolding of the individual and in the evolution of humanity has been most aptly described by C. Cirinei, Professor of Mathematics and Physics, and Vice-President of the Istituto di Psicosintesi, Florence, Italy: “The psychological evolution of the species indeed parallels and resembles that of single individuals. Following a well-known law, ontogenesis, the evolution of the individual, recapitulates philogenesis, the evolution of the species. In the case of the highly gifted, the former -not only recapitulates but is the precursor of the latter. With the retarded, on the other hand, the individual evolution is arrested at an archaic level which the species has left behind thousands of years ago. In the light of the foregoing, we can grasp the true significance of the word ‘education’. To educate a human being means to help him make his own individual advance beyond the evolutionary stage reached by the species, and to attain that degree and type of development of which he is inherently capable. In other words, education is the art of subjecting evolution to conscious direction—the greatest and most misunderstood of all the arts.”(3)
Psychosynthesis has been developed in this spirit. It is an inclusive and positive conception of man that considers him dynamically, as a being in a process of personal growth within an evolving universe. It aims at facilitating this process and at making it increasingly vital and harmonious, by consciously cooperating with the laws and forces of nature. It fosters the total education of the individual—or when in the context of psychotherapy, his re-education—in the true etymological sense of “drawing out” and “leading forth”.
The process of psychosynthesis includes the overcoming of restrictions, limitations, and conflicts; the balanced and timely development of the emerging functions and qualities of the personality; and the utilization and, when necessary, the transmutation of the many inner energies and drives. It leads to the discovery or formation of a higher center of awareness and synthesis — the Self; and to the progressive integration and harmonization of all the personality elements around this unifying center. In Cirinei’s words, psychosynthesis leads to “. . . an art of healing, an art of education, an art of living.”
Roberto Assagioli, an Italian psychiatrist, developed the initial conception of psychosynthesis in his doctoral dissertation in 1910. Sixteen years later he established the first Psychosynthesis Institute in Rome. Here his activities expanded, until the Fascist Government became aware of the forbidden international orientation of his work. In 1938 they forced him to close the Institute, but after the end of the war he reopened it in Florence. Over the years, Dr. Assagioli has lectured in many European countries and in the U.S. and has written more than three hundred articles, now translated into nine languages. In 1965 he wrote Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and techniques (4) and in 1966 For Harmony of Life: Psychosynthesis (5), in Italian, and has just completed a book on the will, to be published in 1972.
He is President of the Istituto di Psicosintesi in Florence, and Chairman of the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation in New York. Currently his major activity is “didactic psychosynthesis”, the professional training of educators and psychotherapists. Today there are psychosynthesis foundations and institutes in New York, California, Canada, Argentina, Italy, Greece, and other European countries, and affiliations with a number of schools and universities.
Integration of the Personality
Psychosynthetic education aims at developing and harmonizing the fundamental functions and qualities of the human being: physical, sensory, emotional, imaginative, mental, creative, intuitive, ethical, social, volitional, and transpersonal. These basic human functions seldom receive direct attention. In most of us they evolve without guidance, and often quite unevenly, as they are randomly stimulated by more specific and superficial demands. This condition of imbalance then keeps growing, due to our common tendency to value, cultivate, and identify with those functions in which we are stronger, and to devalue and ignore those in which we are weaker.
An extreme case of this lack of balance is found in the highly emotional, sensitive person who is habitually immersed in a sea of feelings and obeys them in his everyday life without questioning or discrimination. He identifies with his emotions, which to him are central, immediate, and real. He generally disregards his mind, which he experiences as “unnatural”, “artificial”, and remote. If questioned about his deepest identity, he might say that he is what he feels, and he has thoughts.
At the opposite pole stands the cold intellectual, the man who prides himself on living strictly by the rules of logic. He represses his feelings and holds them in contempt, viewing them as a source of weakness, or as a cause of irrationality. He gradually cuts himself off from other people, from nature, and from the more subtle and imponderable elements of life. He lives in his intellect and identifies with it. He would say that he is his mind, and he has feelings.
During the development of both of these types of individual, one of their functions became overdeveloped, inhibiting the growth of the other functions, and making the person distinctly one-sided. Such extreme examples are rare, but a similar situation, although to a much lesser degree, exists in most of us. Psychosynthesis stresses that we can prevent this condition, or at least reduce it considerably, with appropriate education beginning at an early age. When this is not done, we can still correct and overcome such an imbalance later in life. We must then resolve the conflicts between our various personality functions, and exercise or cultivate the least developed ones. This is the beginning of a process of coordination and harmonization that will lead us to achieve true personality integration and synthesis.
Those who have developed an integrated personality—and they are still a minority—are active, spontaneous, at ease in most situations, stable, intelligent, warm and understanding’ They value both their feelings and their mind, and are quite comfortable with either (6). They are learning, or have learned, to be aware of their mind and of their feelings simultaneously, and to use them in coordination, just as we use our right and left hands together. They will say, “I have feelings, I have thoughts, I have senses, intuition, imagination, etc., but I am not any of those functions”. They will say “I am myself”.
The Self as the Unifying Center
The concept of the “self”, the “I”, the permanent center of being and awareness within man, is fundamental in psychosynthesis. It is around the self and through the influence of its energy that we integrate and harmonize the personality functions and achieve their synthesis. G. C. Taylor, Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University, Montreal, says: “The self in psychosynthesis is regarded as a reality . .. which it is possible to experience directly. In most cases the unifying center will be first on the personal level—the personal self. After there has been a reasonable degree of integration on this level, there may be a gradual expansion of the personal consciousness towards the transpersonal or universal level. To attempt to shortcut the process of consciousness-expansion, without first having attained integration on the personal level, is dangerous, and this explains some of the LSD casualties.” Taylor goes on to say that psychosynthesis “provides a method of growth which proceeds in a sound, step-by-step manner, enabling [one] to integrate his ‘peak’ experiences. As the personal self becomes increasingly able to identify with the transpersonal Self, there tends to be an integration on a more inclusive or cosmic level … Not all are ready for this stage and most will achieve it only in part. There is no rigid separation between the stages, however, and it is often possible to contact superconscious energies early in the process of personal psychosynthesis (7).
The Young Generation
At the time of adolescence most individuals are willing and ready to take into their own hands the process of their personal growth and self-actualization. Adolescence is a time of stress and turmoil, and of great importance in the formation of the adult personality. In a relatively short period the adolescent must confront several major crises: dealing with his emerging sexuality; choosing his vocation and the adult role he will take in society; accepting his self-image, on a basis that appears permanent to him; attempting to end his dependency relation with his parents, while still retaining his love relation with them; choosing a moral-ethical-religious framework and ensuing sets of values and beliefs on which to base his future actions. Underlying these difficulties is the fundamental conflict between his feelings and his mind, which are often waging a real war of supremacy against each other.
These crises cause great suffering and loss of opportunity, yet with relatively little well-timed help they could become constructive periods of deep introspection and increased self-awareness. In this period the individual could strive to recognize and overcome existing problems and limitations, to build a realistic and effective self-image, and to make a lasting and solid bridge with the human community! (8)
Self-Actualization and the School
It is at this time that we can most effectively introduce psychology and the study and practice of self-actualization as subject matter. We must be careful not to present psychology as a specialized clinical-pathological approach, as is often the case today. The pathology of the psyche is the domain of psychiatrists and psychologists, just as the pathology of the body is dealt with by doctors and surgeons. But just as we are taught from early age the basic principles of a healthy diet, of physical hygiene, of first aid and emergency measures, and most importantly of how to recognize physical conditions requiring professional help—so we need, in school and in the home, to learn how best to deal with the bruises and wounds of our psyche, which often go unrecognized and chronically bleed us of our vitality. The main emphasis has to be on the rapidly expanding ‘positive psychology’: the psychology of health, of optimum growth, of self-actualization. And we can encourage the student to make what he learns alive by relating it to himself, as he is, existentially.
High school is the ideal time to begin such a program. Because of the crises the teenager is going through and of his desperate need for help and self-understanding, the study of his own nature, and of methods and approaches for improving himself becomes a real, practical, and immediately useful subject, in which he is likely to become highly motivated. It satisfies his interest in himself, which is most intense at this time, and allows him to move on to a more inclusive point of view.
Psychosynthesis offers for this purpose a comprehensive and integrative approach which includes such diverse methods as constructive introspection, identification with one’s deeper center, and active techniques and exercises of creative imagination, mental concentration, development of the intuition, training of the will, evocation and recognition of positive qualities and so forth (9).
The psychosynthesis process usually begins with the aid of a “guide”, a person of greater experience. Whether this is a teacher, a psychotherapist, a counselor, or one’s own parent, his role is precisely to guide those he is helping. He does not, symbolically speaking, carry them on his shoulders, unless they have not yet learned to walk. He prompts them to seek guidance increasingly within themselves, and as they are able to proceed safely and effectively on their own, he encourages them to do so. (10)
Psychosynthesis offers basic principles and numerous techniques which the guide can apply as he works with others. It makes available, as well, tools that each can learn to use for his own inner growth. Thus one has the opportunity to become increasingly active in directing his self-actualization, and ultimately to take full responsibility for this process.
Let us now examine in more detail how psychosynthesis applies practically to the main personality functions. We cannot here deal with the many specific techniques, but will rather focus on approaches, aims, and goals.
We must develop and refine coordination, physical expression, the senses and sensory perception, and preserve the innate link with nature. Sports can be used in moderation, provided that the aim is to exercise all parts of the body evenly and that rhythmic activity largely replaces strenuous competition. Rhythmic movement and the best modern integrative techniques of body expression can be of value. They are particularly appropriate for those who are out of touch with their body, and well-suited to maintain balance in the more mental and imaginative types of individual.
Education of the Emotions
It is important to distinguish the finer differences in quality and intensity of one’s own feelings, and to recognize fully and accurately the feelings of others. These are the basic tools for communicating in an affective as well as in a mental mode, and for becoming open, spontaneous, real, and genuinely caring. It is vital to avoid the repression or unnecessary limitation of emotional awareness or expression. But once this is learned, it is just as important not to release our feelings in in appropriate and inconsiderate ways, which can have destructive consequences. When appropriate, we can transmute and redirect the most exuberant unwanted emotions toward a more desirable and effective expression.(11)
Today there is much interest in this field, and a broad range of techniques and models for affective interaction is available. (12)
Education of the Imagination
The training and use of the imagination has a prominent place in psychosynthesis. Psychology has shown that many of our limitations stem from the poor self-image which we have built, consciously or unconsciously, as a reaction to the negative factors in our environment since early childhood. This image-building function — our creative imagination can become a powerful tool for our own growth. We are discovering the great value of “ideal models”,(13) the positive, dynamic, consciously constructed images of what we want to become.
If uncontrolled, or used in a superficial or thoughtless fashion, imagination can produce detrimental effects. But once we master it and learn to use it wisely, it becomes a most effective and versatile means of self-actualization and well-being. Much material, and many graded exercises dealing with this subject are available. (10, 12, 15, 16) This aspect of psychosynthetic education can be most readily introduced in today’s classrooms, or used in counseling situations and in the home.
Education of the Intellect
Contemporary education places much emphasis on the intellect, but this emphasis is usually restricted to the more mechanical, stereotyped, and mnemonic modes of thinking. Only a few learn to use their mind as a true instrument of discovery and self-expression. We can remedy this situation in various ways.
In the school, rote learning and memory work can be reduced, and replaced with training in the use of source material and research tools. Rather than spending time in answering the child’s questions, both parents and teachers can use the inductive method, and meet the demands of the awakening intelligence of the child by asking: ‘Why? Why ask this? Why is it this way?”—throwing the responsibility of answering upon the child, while dropping the solution subtly into his mind by the direction of the questioning.
We can cultivate original, constructive, and creative thinking both in ourselves and in those we are guiding. It is important to develop facility in abstract thinking processes, and to become aware of their relationship to more concrete thought. With this facility we can penetrate beyond the confusion surrounding us, and discover the relations, the causes, and the purpose underlying apparently unrelated events.
One can work toward these goals by purposefully and regularly turning his mind toward some particular task, chosen according to his need and inclination. Such tasks can be graded mental exercises, pondering over specific and stimulating questions, discussing scientific or philosophical problems, the study of General Semantics and of the scientific method, and some of the more serious Eastern approaches to concentration and meditation—or deep thinking—such as Raja Yoga. (17, 18)
Education of the Will
Most contemporary psychologists and educators have paid little attention to the will, even though its development is fundamental for self-actualization. Yet a few give it a central place in the life of man. Otto Rank affirms that “The human being experiences his individuality in terms of his will, and this means that his personal existence is identical with his capacity to express his will in the world.” Erik Erikson tells us: “To will does not mean to be willfull, but rather to gain gradually the power of increased judgement and decision in the application of drive . . no person can live, no ego remain intact, without hope and will.” Recently, Rollo May and Victor Frankl have made similar points. Roberto Assagioli says: “This is the central and most precious function inherent in man, yet it is one that has been neglected most, both in family and in school education. One can say that a widespread — even if unconscious — tendency exists to prevent or discourage the use of the will, despite the crying need for greater self-discipline.”
Psychosynthesis recognizes several stages, or phases, of the will: purpose, deliberation, decision, affirmation, planning, and direction of the execution. Each of these stages is like a link in a chain, so that all are important and all have to be developed. To be well-balanced, the will must also have three qualities: it must be wise, strong, and good. (19, 20, 21)
Education of Higher Functions and Qualities
This includes the highest and best toward which we aspire: intuition, wisdom, a sense of beauty, justice, altruistic love, compassion, a spirit of cooperation, joy, serenity, courage, etc. (22) These qualities exist potentially in everyone, but are manifest and active only in some. Occasionally they are present even at a very early age. They can be “awakened” when necessary, then developed and integrated with the other functions.”
Education for Self-Realization
Self-realization is a central aim and purpose of psychosynthesis. It is the discovery and the direct experience of the self — initially the personal self, then the transpersonal Self. We must not consider this a specific goal to be reached at some definite time in the future. It is rather a continuing process of increasing self-awareness, that leads gradually from the personal to the transpersonal to the universal. This process occurs spontaneously as we proceed to integrate and harmonize the personality functions, but it can be considerably facilitated by means of appropriate techniques and exercises. (24, 25).
Through self-realization we liberate the synthesizing energies that organize and integrate the personality functions around the self. Thus the self becomes more and more a source of inner guidance, of strength, of purpose, of joy, of wisdom, and of love. As we increasingly identify with the self, we find that we become able to function in the world more serenely and effectively, with dignity and respect for others, in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill.
Education in Right Human Relations
This is the aim of interpersonal and social psychosynthesis. Fundamentally, we must learn to balance and then to reconcile our personal needs and aspirations with the needs and aspirations of others. We can do this through the application of two basic and complementary principles. The first is that the state of the relations between the many functions within ourselves is directly reflected in our relations with others. U. N. Secretary General U. Thant stressed that “We can not end the war between nations unless we end the war in the hearts of men.” This points to the central importance of inner harmony and integration as a major prerequisite for right relations between individuals, between groups, and between nations. It culminates in deep self-knowledge, which leads to the realization of the incalculable value of the individual, for what he is and can be.
The second principle is that the same laws and forces of nature that foster harmonious relations and integration between the functions of an individual can foster similar conditions between the members of a group. Thus, besides the psychosynthesis of the individual, we have the psychosynthesis of the couple, of the family, social psychosynthesis, and the psychosynthesis of humanity.
Education for right relations must help us to be increasingly aware that groups, nations, and finally humanity itself, can each be seen as an individual organic entity. We can then understand more fully the motivating values, the purpose, the activity, and the evolution of these supra-individual entities. These factors condition the relations between the human cells or smaller groups within those entities, and the relation between each human cell and the larger entity itself. We can make the first steps toward this wider understanding through service organizations of international scope, travel abroad, exchange programs, and international educational environments. This will foster in each human being a deepening and expanding sense of belonging to the many interlaced groups that make up the fabric of human society. Thus each individual will be motivated to contribute to the furthest limits of his abilities to the life, growth, and well-being of all men.
The future of our world, and of education as a means to implement that future, will of necessity be based on the acceptance of two basic concepts, in all their far-reaching implications: the true value of the individual, and the existence of the one humanity.
In the words of Assagioli: “. .. psychosynthesis can be applied by the individual himself . . . fostering and accelerating inner growth and self-actualization, which . . . sometimes is felt as an imperative inner urge, as a vital existential necessity. Such self-psychosynthesis can well be practiced, or at least seriously attempted, by every therapist, social worker and educator, including parents. Of course great help can be given by didactic psychosynthesis; it is therefore advisable, and I strongly recommend, such didactic training. . . .” He goes on to say that psychosynthesis has much to offer, but that it should not be considered something already fully developed or satisfactorily completed. On the contrary, he sees it “as a child—or at the most an adolescent with many aspects still incomplete, yet with a great and promising potential for growth.”
Assagioli concludes: “I make a cordial appeal to all therapists, psychologists and educators to actively engage in the needed work of research, experimentation and application. Let us feel and obey the urge aroused by the great need of healing the serious ills which at present are affecting humanity; let us realize the contribution we can make to the creation of a new civilization characterized by harmonious integration and cooperation, pervaded by the spirit of synthesis.”(26)
- Teilhard de Chardin, Building the Earth, Dimension Books, Wilkes-Bane, Pa., 1965, p. 68.
- W. W. Harman, “The New Copernican Revolution”, Stanford Today, Winter 1969, p. 6. Reprints available from the Psychosynthesis Institute, 150 Doherty Way, Redwood City, California.
- G. Cirinei, “Three Lectures on Psychosynthesis”, delivered at the 1964 Psychosynthesis Conference, London.
- R. Assagioli, Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques, Hobbs, Dorman, New York, 1965. (Paperback edition, Viking Press, N.Y. 1971)
- R. Assagioli, Per L’Arrnonia della Vita, la Psicosintesi, Istituto di Psicosintesi, Firenze, Italy, 1966.
- A. H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, (rev. ed.), Harper and Row, 1970,
- G. C. Taylor, “The Essentials of Psychosynthesis”, delivered to the Allan Memorial Institute, Montreal, Canada, 1967. Reprints available from Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, 40 E. 49th Street, New York.
- S. Vargiu, “Psychosynthesis Case Studies: Three Gifted Adolescents”, Psychosynthesis Institute, Redwood City, California, 1971.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, part two.
- M. Crampton, “The Use of Mental Imagery in Psychosynthesis”, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Fall 1969, pp. 139-153. Reprints available from Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, New York.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, Chapter VIII.
- H. Otto, Group Methods to Actualize Human Potential, Holistic Press, Beverly Hills, California, 1970.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, pp. 166, f.
- Ibid, pp. 143-163; 177-191; 287-315. 14
- R. Desoille, “The Directed Daydream”, delivered at the Sorbonne University, Paris, 1965. Reprints available from the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, New York.
- H. Leuner, “Guided Affective Imagery”, American Journal of Psychotherapy, Jan. 1969, pp. 4-22.
- E. Wood, Concentration: An Approach to Meditation, Quest Book, Wheaton, Ill., 1967.
- M. Eastcott, The Silent Path, Samuel Weiser, New York, 1969.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, pp. 125-143.
- R. Assagioli, “The Training of the Will”, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, New York, 1966.
- R., Assagioli, The Act of Willing, Viking Press, to be published 1972.
- P. A. Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love, Beacon Press, Boston, 1954.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, Chapter V.
- Ibid, pp. 111-125 and Chapter V.
- R. Assagioli, “Symbols of Transpersonal Experience”, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Spring 1969, pp. 33-45. Reprints available from the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, New York.
- R. Assagioli, supra note 4, p. 9.