Here comes a definition of Liberation and freedom by Roberto Assagioli.
(Source: Symbols of the Supernormal, Part 2. , Conference of Dr. Roberto Assagioli in 1957. Translated by Jan Kuniholm and Francesco Viglienghi. Original Title: Simboli del Supernormale II)
Another symbolism similar to that of development, but more vivid and stimulating, is that of liberation […] development; that is, the illumination of developments, there is the process of liberation. Liberation, first of all, from all those illusions of which we have spoken, from all our false identifications with the body, with the emotions, with the various subpersonalities, with the various masks; that is, with the various autonomous complexes existing within us, with the various idols, and with the various collective entities. This suggests that initially there is a stage of conflict in disidentification, in which it is necessary to experience a dualism, and in a sense this justifies asceticism and mysticism as a process. In fact, at first it is necessary to oppose our body, our emotions and our false self, before we can re-assemble, reabsorb and transmute them. One cannot lift oneself up from the ground by pulling oneself up by the hair, so to speak. Therefore, in order to transmute the body, the emotions and the mind, one must first distance oneself from them; and we have the synthesis only later. Therefore, a process of liberation, of spiritual liberation. Liberation from limitations, and a release in the etymological sense, that is, coming out of prison through the unleashing of the potentials that are latent in us, passing from dependence and weakness to power and mastery.
The liberation which is most important, decisive and difficult is the liberation from our personal self: from our sense of personal identity, not from spiritual identity. Fortunately from the spiritual point of view — but in a very painful way for the human being — the sense of the personal self, that is, of being limited, isolated and opposed to others in the world, gives a sense of anguish. It is what is now called the existentialist experience, understood however in a superior and serious sense, and not the literary masquerades that came out of Paris. It is this sense of anguish and loneliness that now troubles modern man above all, precisely because he has locked himself up in his ego. He has perhaps embarked on the study of his consciousness of self, but in a painful, negative, separative and polemical sense. Therefore there is a yearning for liberation from this sense of the self. In this regard, there is a beautiful poem by Zucca, the one about the steel cabin, but there is no time to read it now; maybe on another occasion. I’ll just say that it begins like this:
I live in a narrow, narrow cabin, without any openings.
A cube measuring two by two by two meters.
The inside of its faces are lined with tempered steel,
and polished, so that they act as mirrors: Me, Me, Me.
It clearly shows this sense of oppression, limitation, and imprisonment of the self within itself. Therefore the symbolism of the practice of liberation has always been proclaimed, and implemented by some.
Here, too, India has insisted much on this […] Brahmanism. An effective phrase of the Buddha’s is this: “As all the water of the sea is saturated with salt, so all my doctrine is saturated with liberation.”
In Christianity, too, much has been said about the freedom of God’s children. The holy concept of free will: no longer the need for external norms, but the holy freedom of the children of God, who only can make good use of it. Dante speaks of “freedom; how dear that is the man who gives his life for it best knows.”
In the modern world the theme of freedom […] occurred during the dark period of the last world war, with Roosevelt’s proclamation to the world of the four freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. These are external and internal freedoms, but the most important is the last one, the internal freedom; that is, freedom from fear, because basically the others represent the fear of need. So whoever is free from fear is truly free.
This irrepressible yearning for freedom is manifested in individual and collective rebellion against individual constraints and collective authoritarianism: individual against parents, especially the father; collective, against totalitarian regimes. A very interesting expression of this yearning for freedom can be found in a surprising way in a modern song: Libero, by Modugno. It really expresses it in a genuine way. I will recall a few lines: “I hear a sweet echo calling me: it’s life calling me”. Now this is interesting; it is not only a rebellion, but he also feels the call of a wider, freer life. He says, “Memories — throw them to the bottom of the sea”; that is, free oneself from all the internal constraints of the past. “My sailboat races, it races along the sea. Who can ever stop it! … with the wind it goes towards freedom. Free, I want to live. It is fantastic, incredible! I am free.” This is a primitive and simple but genuine expression of this revelation of freedom, of the possibility of liberation.
But even here, there is a big “but”; that is, one of those paradoxes and contrasts that constitute the drama of human life. In fact, although there is in the human being this spontaneous and irrepressible yearning for freedom, at the same time there is also the fear of freedom, the evasion of freedom. And why? Because freedom implies responsibility; it implies commitment. Because it implies self-mastery, as has been well said: “the price of freedom is continuous vigilance”. It is not enough to free oneself once and for all; that would be too convenient. Instead, freedom must be regained every day, in every moment; because the enemies of freedom — internal enemies and external enemies — are always ready to attack. Therefore, freedom implies light, it implies tension, it implies the other aspects of spiritual life indicated by the other classes of symbols.
Therefore, even the man who does not clearly realize this nevertheless feels it and senses it, and therefore is afraid of freedom. He has a fear of freedom which, using a different language, manifests itself in a strange refusal to grow: it is as if a small tree did not want to grow. The tree, which is wiser than man, tries to grow in every way. Man does not.
Psychoanalysis at its best sense has demonstrated the importance of the refusal to grow, of the fear of living, la peur de vivre of which the novelist Bordeaux speaks, and of always wanting to remain at a pre-adult stage. Or even of regression to proceeding stages of development: taking refuge in childhood.
And how many men are misbehaving children and brats, who have not actually grown up to adulthood. If we are honest with ourselves with a minimum of self-analysis, we can certainly still find in ourselves many infantile (in a negative sense), childish or adolescent elements. This is actually not a discovery of psychoanalysis. All the symbolism of an earlier golden age, and therefore […] all the nostalgia for various pasts, the most distant or the most recent and coarse, are indicators of what I have called a psychological torticolli. Now, any attempt to arrest the powerful and grand course of life in us or around us is futile. It is useless and dangerous. It is useless because it cannot succeed, and dangerous because it can only produce conflict and neuropsychic disturbances.
 In Italian prigione is prison, and release (sprigionamento in Italian) is literally a coming out of prison. —Tr.
 This is a reference to the French existentialist philosophers, playwrights, and novelists of the time. — Tr.
 Guiseppe Zucca (1887–1959), Poem titled Io or “I.” —Tr.
 Purgatorio Canto I vv.71-72. Translated by John Ciardi.
 Domenico Modugno (1928 – 1994) was an Italian singer, songwriter, actor, guitarist.—Tr.
 Henry Bordeaux (1870-1963) author of the novel La Peur de Vivre or The Fear of Life. —Tr.« Back to Glossary Index