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’.
Another quote by Assagioli from Il Cammino Spirituale, Assagioli Archive Florence, translated by Jan Kuniholm and Francesco Viglienghi:
“In a certain sense, every spiritual development can be considered as a sort of disidentification from lower elements, and identification, through affirmation, with higher and higher elements, up to the spiritual Self, to what we really are.
The human spirit, coming out of its unconscious undifferentiated perfection in the Absolute, descends from plane to plane of manifestation, identifying itself with various instruments or vehicles down to matter and the physical body, and then gradually ascending again.
The symbolism of ascent is universal in religions: the sacred mountains, the ascending path, the ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross, the revelation to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai, and other images. Ascent is the very principle and method of evolution, but man can take his own ascent into his own hands, determine it and accelerate it with his will.
Let us vividly imagine this ascent of consciousness, which then translates into forms more and more suitable for the expression of consciousness itself; let us visualize cosmic evolution and our full participation in it.
It is very appropriate, indeed necessary, to turn our attention to the glorious goals of human, planetary and cosmic evolution and keep it fixed there firmly. The living vision of these goals gives us the strength to endure suffering and overcome the difficulties of life in the world, especially in the present one.
It is not only a matter of hope or an act of faith; these can and must be confirmed and corroborated by a clear mental conviction and intuitive certainty.
Mental conviction is based on the great Law of Evolution, which operates at every level of manifestation. This law has now certainly been demonstrated and generally accepted with regard to both biological and psychological evolution.
The individual and collective spiritual evolution of mankind is less evident and less recognized; but there is valid evidence of even this for those who do not have materialistic or pessimistic preconceptions.
Clear evidence of the wonderful possibilities of development and implementation inherent in human nature is given by the lives and works of the great men who have existed in every field: the geniuses, the heroes, the saints, the Initiates and the Beings who are called divine, the great Founders of religions.
Therefore, as we said at the beginning, the path of consciousness has two great phases. The same will that drives immersion into matter leads — in the end — to emergence, resurrection from matter and glorious consummation. This is accomplished through a series of cycles, each of which constitutes a new beginning.”« Back to Glossary Index