This is a short compilation of quotes on desire, by Roberto Assagioli. Desire or Impulse are one of the psychological functions according to psychosynthesis theory:
“Another group of functions that must be accorded a similar consideration are the dynamic or “hormic” functions (from the Greek word “orme” meaning tendency or impulse). This group includes the instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires and aspirations, in fact all that impels to action. Desire has been included among these hormic activities, though desire is generally conceived in terms of only, or at least principally, its subjective aspect – desire as something one feels, an emotion one has. But this is solely its subjective aspect; in reality desire is or has a dynamic energy that impels to action. It has been said of it that it is a primordial tendency, the attractive impulse towards the not-self. The Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms by H. and E. English (New York, Longmans Green, 1958), an excellent compilation of marked objectivity, defines desire as something active to which the terms “want”, “need”, “craving” to possess something are applied. The Lexique de Philosophie by A. Bertrand comments: “According to Spinoza, desire is the fundamental tendency to persist in being.
It may seem surprising that, among these active tendencies, the will has not been included. But a fundamental difference exists between the drives, impulses and desires, on the one hand, and the will on the other. We can all verify the difference, even the opposition between them; and one might say that the “human condition” is a constant conflict between drives, impulses and desires and the will.” From Jung and Psychosynthesis
“Jung differentiates four functions: sensation, feeling, thought and intuition . Psychosynthesis says that Jung’s four functions do not provide for a complete description of the psychological life. Our view can be visualized like this: We hold that imagination or fantasy is a distinct function. There is also a group of functions that impels us toward action in the outside world. This group includes instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires and aspirations. And here we come to one of the central foundations of psychosynthesis: There is a fundamental difference between drives, impulses, desires and the will. In the human condition there are frequent conflicts between desire and will. And we place the will in a central position at the heart of self-consciousness or the Ego.” From The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli
“Law IX—Urges, drives, desires, and emotions tend and demand to be expressed.
Drives and desires constitute the active, dynamic aspect of our psychological life.
They are the springs behind every human action. But their origin, nature, value,
and effects differ widely; these must therefore be recognized and then examined
with the same objectivity with which one studies a natural object. The procedure
necessitates disidentification from them, at least temporarily, and this in turn
means acquiring awareness of the self, the conscious “I,” as distinct from these
psychological elements and forces; and from that central point observing their
flow. An act of will is called for here, and the will, as we have seen, is the most
immediate and direct function of the “I.” From: The Act of Will, p. 60
“The inner world of emotion and desire, with its corresponding drives, is immense, and its many different expressions need to be carefully evaluated and handled with discrimination. There is a great difference, for example, between animal desire and spiritual aspiration, between selfish possessive attachment and selfless love, between the wild excitement of crowds watching a game and the elevated feelings evoked by the music of Bach . Yet they all belong to the same ” world .. , they all have the same basic quality, just as one colour has many shades – red, for instance, extending from the darkest, lurid colour to the most delicate light rose.” From: Year One of Meditation for The New Age,
“Selfishness, instead, is the result of the fundamental urges to self-preservation and self-assertion, of the outcome of the desire to possess and to dominate; and as such, continually finding obstacles that prevent its satisfaction, it arouses aggressiveness and violence, the impulse to destroy that which interferes with the attainment of the desired objects. Selfishness is inherent in man and has always existed; but in our present day it assumes more accentuated and dangerous forms, because modern life provides stronger stimuli, fewer restraints and more powerful destructive instruments. The control of selfishness is therefore not only a moral exigency; it is a necessity for social safety.” From The Training of the Will
“Previous reference has been made to the fact that the effects of creative expression are very different according to the level from which they originate. Their most common and frequent sources are the drives, urges, desires and emotions that spring from the lower and middle levels of the unconscious. Two of these basic drives, the sexual and the combative or aggressive, demand special attention, since they give rise to serious and urgent educational problems.
An examination of the present world situation from the psychological angle clearly reveals that most of its evils and dangers are due to the lack of proper control and constructive utilization of these compelling energies, which motivate and often actually obsess both individuals and groups. Therefore the exploration of appropriate methods of bringing them under control, providing them with harmless outlets, and exploiting them to the utmost for useful and constructive purposes is an urgent educational sociological and even political task. This entails the transformation, and whenever possible, the sublimation of these energies.
Such transformations should be recognized as not being something artificial, something to be achieved by imposition. The process is a natural psychological one and, to some measure, often comes about spontaneously. The sublimation of sexuality has been described and dealt with by psychoanalysis and literature, especially biography, abounds in instances of the transformation of sexual into emotional, romantic and idealistic love. Equally obvious is the satisfaction of combative drives vicariously derived from watching others in aggressive situations, such as bull-fights, boxing and competitive sports, and in fights in films, such as Westerns. On a higher level many evidence instances of the use of combative energies for fighting injustice and social ills and in the service of humanitarian causes could be pointed out.
But such transformations are not easy or exempt from undesirable consequences; and, apart from this, the need to extend the process, to promote and guide it by every possible means, is indeed a pressing one. Such means exist and are available. What is required is to spread the knowledge of them and teach and encourage their application in all departments of human life (See Transmutation and Sublimation of Sexual Energies, by Roberto Assagioli).
“Among these means, a very effective one, extensively applicable in education, is creative expression. Its first direct result is release or catharsis. Aristotle has described the catharsis produced by the participation of the spectator in. the emotions expressed in drama or tragedy in the theatre. But the catharsis that results from creative techniques is achieved in a more direct and satisfactory manner. …
The creative expression that originates in the higher, super-conscious level of the unconscious is of a different kind. It proceeds from the activation or awakening of potentialities that, while they exist in the average human being, are often dormant. They at times are aroused under the powerful stimulation of some unusual stress or emergency, or in response to some strong appeal. Among these higher urges, desires and aspirations, which have lately been recognized by a number of psychologists, are: the urge to self-expression; the need to know or understand the meaning of life; love in its higher aspects of compassion and altruism; the aspiration to commune with a larger whole and with higher realities and beings; the realization and expression of higher values of an ethical, aesthetic and religious nature. ” From Creative Expression on Education.
“There are many kinds of inner action; all thinking, hoping, imagining, all aspiration and desire, are activities of this type, but they are generally carried on without conscious intention and without a sense of responsibility.” From Meditation
“Human love itself is, in a certain respect, a desire and an attempt-more or less conscious—to “come out” of oneself, to transcend the limits of separate existence and enter into communion, to fuse oneself, with another being, with a “thou.” The devout and mystics of every age have spoken of their experience of communion with Cod or with Higher Beings, employing the symbolism of human love. One may recall the Song of Songs in the Bible and the expressions—sometimes of a surprising audacity—used by St. Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross.” From Symbols of transpersonal experience
A fourth kind of psychological poison can be entered under the general heading of greed. Greed is an expression of selfish desire which, according to Buddha’s teaching is at the root of all suffering and unhappiness. Such suffering occurs not only because many desires are unrealistic, and thus can never be gratified, but even more because of the very nature of greed, which is such that no satisfaction lasts for long; it always demands something more.
There are many kinds of desire. One, the drive toward; excessive and unbridled self-assertion, is one of the major causes of aggression and violence. Another is excessive sensuality, in the broadest sense an inordinate craving for’ physical pleasures of all kinds. Of this, gluttony—to employ an old-fashioned but expressive term—is a typical expression. The intake of food and drink greatly in excess of bodily needs or unsuited to individual constitutions is too frequently responsible for ill-health and premature loss of life.” From: The Act of Will, p. 73
“Purification of the Emotions, Instincts and Impulses. This is most important, owing to the great vitality which the emotional nature has, not only among ordinary humanity, but often in advanced individuals. This purification consists, first of all, in the re-orientation and elevation of conscious desires, in the transferring of the longings of the heart from earthly and human things to things spiritual and divine. This can be summed up in the beautiful Indian saying:
“If you still desire to see, long to see Him in every form; if still desire to hear, long to hear Him in every sound.”
But this does not complete the work of purification. There is another, a more subtle and difficult part to be accomplished, concerning the sub-conscious passions and longings. We must get rid of the various attachments, fear, attractions, and repulsions to individuals, things and places which bind us in so many ways and hamper our inner development and outer adjustments, and which retard our spiritual growth. All this field has been dealt with extensively in psychoanalysis and similar lines of psychological research, and if we eliminate the exaggerations, the undue generalizations and the materialistic trends which make the Freudian psychoanalysis an unsafe and dangerous method, we shall find much that is useful and illuminating. The higher aspects can be found in Dr. Jung’s books and in the good presentation of these matters made by Dr. B. Hinkle in her book “The Recreating of the Individual.”
It would be well worth while to select from these studies and methods those which are the most applicable to the Yoga and the New Age.” Source from: PRACTICAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO A MODERN YOGA, By Roberto Assagioli, The Beacon, Oct 1933, Vol 12,
“Purification of the Emotions
It is here that we urgently need a thorough application of the purification process. It might be said that the suffering, illnesses and problems that beset humanity have their origin primarily in selfish desires, and
in the search for personal satisfaction. This was clearly shown by Buddha in the Four Noble Truths he formulated to show the causes of suffering and how to be free of them.
All people are moved – we might even say possessed – by a desire of some kind, or indeed by desires of many kinds, ranging from those relating to sensual pleasures to more idealistic aspirations. Desire is the common root of three causes of attachment and slavery: the attraction of material things, the confusing effect of jumbled emotions, and mental illusions. All these culminate or combine in creating a fundamental attachment to one’s personality and to identification with the personality, which is mistaken for the true ‘I’. From Transpersonal Development, p. 158
“Selfishness constitutes the fundamental obstacle. Selfishness springs from the desire to possess and to dominate, which is an expression of the basic urges of self-preservation and selfassertion.
Inevitably it comes into collision with obstructions that block its satisfaction; aggressiveness and violence are thereby aroused, and the will used to destroy whatever is interfering with the attainment of the desired objects. Selfishness is inherent in man and has always existed; but in our present day it assumes more accentuated and dangerous forms because modern life provides stronger stimuli, fewer restraints, and more powerful instruments of destruction.
The control of selfishness is therefore not only an ethical exigency; it is a necessity for the very safety of mankind.
A skillful use of the will can greatly assist this curbing of selfishness. Techniques abound; a number are described in Chapter VIII of my Psychosynthesis and can be applied to the curbing and to the transformation of aggressive drives. The problem with such a fundamental difficulty as the elimination of selfishness is not the lack of techniques, a number of which are available or can be developed by the thoughtful person. The problem, rather, is mobilizing the will to good so as to devote the required energy to this necessary aim.” From The Act of Will, p. 87
“I have already discussed the subject of transmutation and sublimation of the sexual and combative energies. Here I may add that this process is based on the close reciprocal action between emotions and feelings on one side and desires and drives on the other. Every painful emotion and feeling arouses the desire and urge to eliminate its cause. Conversely, pleasant and happy emotions prompt the perpetuation of what has produced them. The will can take advantage of this fact to orient, direct, and transmute desires and drives.
All this is valid, however, only for cases in which the emotions, drives, and desires are not excessively intense and respond more or less rapidly and easily to the action of the will. But at times their intensity is such as to arouse resistance, or even a state of violent rebellion against the direction that the will tries to impart to them.
Here the will must employ other methods, for if it sets itself in direct opposition to those energies, it frequently fails. And even if it does succeed in controlling them by an act of imposition, it arouses conflicts that are wasteful of energy and can have harmful consequences. In these cases, the will’s first task is to discharge the intense and excessive tensions of the emotional and propulsive energies. This can be done by means of the various ventilating techniques (catharsis), symbolic satisfaction, and, if appropriate, a measure of actual gratification.
In this way the will can succeed in eliminating opposition, or in reducing it to a lower level of intensity, so that the energies can now be used in the manner first mentioned. Naturally, no instrument, no “psychic voltmeter,” exists for measuring the potential of emotional and impulsive charges, but introspection and observation of spontaneous manifestations can give an approximate idea of their intensity.” From The Act of Will, p. 194
“The unanimous teachings of both Eastern and Western schools involved in developing true, pure spirituality are quite different.
They tell us that every passion and every selfish desire is like a ball of lead tied to the feet of anyone eager to climb the spiritual heights; they represent a state of slavery to lower forces and elements. They teach us that every manifestation of selfishness, however subtle and well hidden, is by nature divisive, whereas spiritual development involves the gradual, successive overcoming of every division and the harmonization of various conflicting elements into a higher synthesis, as a necessary preparation for conscious union with the universal Principle, and this unity becomes a reality at all levels and in all aspects.” From Transpersonal Development, p. 154
See also devotion« Back to Glossary Index