A definition of ascent by Roberto Assagioli from his book Transpersonal Development
The third group of symbols, a frequently occurring one, is that of elevation, ascent or conquest of the ‘inner space’ in an ascending sense. There is a series of inner worlds, each with its own special characteristics, and within each of them there are higher levels and lower levels. Thus in the first of these, the world of passions and feelings, there is a great distance, a marked disparity of level, between blind passion and the higher feelings. Then there is the world of intelligence, or the mind. Here too there are different levels of higher, philosophical reason (nous). There is also the world of the imagination, a lower variety and a higher variety, the world of intuition, the world of the will, and then, higher still, those indescribable worlds referred to by the term ‘worlds of transcendence’.
The symbolism of elevation has been used throughout the ages. In all religions, temples have been built on high places such as mountaintops, and indeed, many of the mountains of antiquity were considered to be sacred places. Then there are legends such as that of Titurel who climbs a mountain and builds the Castle of the Holy Grail. The symbol of the heavens as the higher region where the gods dwell and as the goal of human aspiration is universal.
It would be useful at this point to make a semantic observation, namely the difference between ‘ascent’ and ‘ascesis’, the practice of self-discipline. These two words are phonetically similar, but they have different roots. ‘Ascesis’ comes from the Greek and means ‘exercise’ or ‘discipline’; ‘ascent’ is from the Latin of ad scandere, to go up step by step. But these two words, in addition to being similar phonetically, are also similar in the spiritual sense, because an ascent is the prize or reward for ascesis, not in the sense of ‘asceticism’, but in the Greek, psychagogic sense of ‘psycho-spiritual discipline’.« Back to Glossary Index