Here comes a compilation of quotes by Roberto Assagioli about the Lower unconscious.
The Lower Unconscious
- The elementary psychological activities which direct the life of the body; the intelligent co-ordination of bodily functions.
- The fundamental drives and primitive urges.
- Many complexes, charged with intense emotion.
- Dreams and imaginations of an inferior kind.
- Lower, uncontrolled parapsychological processes.
- Various pathological manifestations, such as phobias, obsessions, compulsive urges and paranoid delusions. (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 17)
“In this part are contained, or originate in:
1. The psychic activities, elementary but admirable, that preside over organic life; intelligent coordination of physiological functions.
2. Tendencies and primitive impulses.
3. Many “psychological complexes” with strong emotional tones, remnants of the near and remote past: individual, hereditary and atavistic.
4. Dreams and imaginary activities of the elementary and lower type.
5. Various pathological manifestations, such as phobias, obsessive ideas and impulses, paranoid deliriums.
6. Certain spontaneous parapsychological faculties, uncontrolled.” (The Mystery of the “I”, Assagioli archieve)
The Lower Subconscious
This contains, or is the origin of:
(1) The elementary psychological activities which direct the life of the body: the psychism of cells and organs; the intelligent co-ordination of bodily functions.
(2) The various instincts and lower passions.
(3) Many “complexes” charged with intense emotions, the product of our recent and our remote past, both personal and hereditary (childhood impressions, family tendencies, remnants of the collective subconscious).
(4) Dreams and imaginations of an inferior kind.
(5) Lower psychism and mediumship.
(6) Various morbid manifestations, such as phobias, obsessive and delirious ideas.” (Psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis)
“We have first to penetrate courageously into the pit of our lower unconscious in order to discover the dark forces that ensnare and menace us — the “phantasms,” the ancestral or childish images that obsess or silently dominate us, the fears that paralyze us, the conflicts that waste our energies. It is possible to do this by the use of the methods of psychoanalysis.
This search can be undertaken by oneself, but it is accomplished more easily with the help of another. In any case the methods must be employed in a genuinely scientific manner, with the greatest objectivity and impartiality; without preconceived theories and without allowing ourselves to be deterred or led astray by the covert or violent resistance of our fears, our desires, our emotional attachments.” PS-21
“We may say that its most fruitful contribution [Psychoanalysis] has been the demonstration that there can be no real health, no inner harmony and freedom, and no unimpaired efficiency without first a sincere, courageous and humble acknowledgement of all the lower aspects of our nature, all the impulses, passions and illusions, plus their manifold combinations and deviations, which dwell and seethe in our unconscious and which delude, limit and enslave us.
Psychoanalysis, in its best aspects, is effective in helping us to overcome the resistances and repressions produced by our ignorance, our fear, our pride and our hypocrisy; these prevent us from seeing clearly the dark sides of our nature. Their recognition is a prerequisite in dealing with them satisfactorily and thus laying a sound and stable foundation for all our subsequent work on the psychological building-up of our personality.” (Psychosynthesis – Individual and Social)
“Jung maintains, the unconscious has no “personal centre”. This is in agreement with psychosynthesis, which warns against the tendency to make an “entity” of the unconscious, almost a personality, more or less in accord or in contrast with the conscious. “Unconscious”, as I have stressed elsewhere, should be considered an adjective, not a noun, and it indicates a temporary condition of the “psychic contents”, many of which may have been conscious and may become so again.” (C. G. Jung and Psychosynthesis)
“…the effects of 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.” (CREATIVE EXPRESSION IN EDUCATION)
“The lower level corresponds to what Freudian psychology calls the unconscious: the fundamental drives, complexes charged with intense emotions and so forth.” (The Rebirth of the Soul)
“The lower encompasses, first of all, the psychic activities, elementary but most skilful, that govern the organic life. A number of biologists are now talking of a bio-psyche and regarding life and intelligence as inseparable. This zone also is the seat, or origin, of the instincts, or fundamental drives, such as sexuality, self-preservation and aggressiveness. Within it, as well, are found the complexes having a strong emotional charge that are produced by traumas and psychic conflicts.” (Psychosynthesis Medicine and Bio-Psychosynthesis)
“2. The second group of symbols is composed of those associated with deepening, with the descent to the “ground” of our being.
The exploration of the unconscious is symbolically regarded as the descent into the abysses of the human being, as the investigation of the “underworld of the psyche.” This symbol has come into use particularly since the development of psychoanalysis—although not discovered by it. Its origin is remote and, indeed, in antiquity it carried a deeper meaning. Let us recall the descent of Aeneas into Hades in Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s description of hell. Furthermore, many mystics have spoken of the “abysses of the soul.” Beside psychoanalysis in the strict sense, there is the “depth psychology,” represented by Jung and others. Its fundamental principle is that man must courageously become aware of all the discreditable and obscure aspects of his being, those which have been called “the shadow,” and then incorporate them into his conscious personality. This recognition and this inclusion are acts of humility and, at the same time, of power. The man who is willing and courageous enough to recognize the lower sides of his personality, without allowing this knowledge to overwhelm him, achieves a true spiritual victory. But this carries its own dangers: The allegory of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice contains a warning of how easy it is to make the “waters” gush out, but how difficult then to control them and command them to retreat.
In this connection the practice of Robert Desoille (1945), with his method of the “rêve éveille’,” is valuable. He makes use of the symbol of the descent, but puts greater emphasis on that of the ascent. Of the descent he observes that it is to be used prudently and “fractionatedly,” i.e., commencing by seeking to activate the higher realization and then, as the subject becomes stronger, cautiously exploring the zone of the lower unconscious. The aim is the elimination of the dissociation between the consciousness and the lower unconscious, which has been produced by repression and condemnation on the part of the conscious ego and his unwillingness to admit, from pride or fear, that there exists this aspect of the personality. To repress it serves no useful purpose; far from eradicating it, it exacerbates it, while it is man’s task to redeem it. But to accord it recognition does not mean surrendering oneself to its demands; it is preparing the way for its transformation.” (Symbols of Transpersonal Experience)
“As regards the downward direction, there are those who explore the lower unconscious or allow it to well up into the conscious mind.
Depth psychology, and psychoanalysis in particular, deal with this area. It is done for practical, therapeutic or educational reasons, and can be of some use. But there can also be an unhealthy attraction to the lower realms – a fascination with horror, exerted by the primitive, instinctive aspects of human nature. This is clearly indicated by the interest shown in widely available books, films and shows which deal with violence and the darker side of the mind. Here, unfortunately, lies a vicious circle: the interest in the lower aspects of human nature is fed, and indeed intensified, by those who, for reasons of economic gain and the consuming urge to make money, cultivate these tastes and offer people increasingly horrific books and films. The portrayal of horror is also seen in many paintings and drawings by modem artists. This attraction towards evil has been perceptively described by Erich Fromm in his book The Heart of Man. Rollo May also speaks of this fascination with the ‘demonic’ in his L’amore e la volonta (Love and Will, Astrolabio, Rome 1971 ), but without making a clear distinction between the different levels.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 39)
“The other aspect of inner revelation, in contrast to the above, is the coming to the surface of the lower, darker parts of the personality, which previously may have been unknown, unrecognized, or denied and repressed in the unconscious. These are what Jung called the ‘Shadow’. This revelation, when it is sudden, can be very disruptive and produce states of depression, fear and even despair. In order to reduce such effects, prior psychological knowledge – an awareness of ‘depth psychology’ – can be very helpful. Preparing in this way can lessen the shock of surprise and help an individual to accept the revelation by showing that this dark side is part of the common human condition.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 68)
“Let us attempt to go back to the source of these forces with the help of Hermann Keyserling who, more than anyone else, I believe, made a study of the hidden, earthly roots of those aspects of the human personality, which have developed from the bottom level – the animal, vegetable and mineral aspect of human nature. But let us do so without falling into the error committed by other explorers of the depths, namely the failure to recognize things that have a higher level of origin, and one that is completely independent of the rest: what he so aptly refers to as the ‘breaking through of the Spirit.’
In his Meditations Sud-Americaines, which is perhaps his most profound work, and then in his compilation Intimate Ways, Keyserling clearly shows that there are two primordial tendencies at the very roots of life. The first is Original Fear, about which he says something very significant: “This Original Fear does not refer to death, but to want.’ By this he means the fear of not having enough food, the fear of hunger. He says:
“It is likely that behind this fear is an obscure, yet intense memory of the pressing search for food, an all-consuming concern of primitive man. As a safeguard against this Original Fear the safety instinct is the first active impulse of every living being.”
It is from this safety instinct, he continues, that the instinct of ownership or possession has evolved.
The other basic tendency rising up from the depths of the unconscious, as a dynamic opposite of the first, is what Keyserling calls Original Hunger, though in order to avoid confusion it would be better to call it Original Greed. According to Keyserling:
“This is the primary motive of all growth. Now growth, by its very nature, is a quest for the infinite; from the outset it recognizes no boundary as fixed. As a result this initial Hunger is basically aggressive and insatiable.
It is opposed, by nature, to any safety instinct; risk is its element; at any given moment it strives for what is infinite and unlimited. This produces a fundamental conflict with all that belongs to the order of Ownership and Law. In the depths of the unconscious there is an ongoing battle between Hunger and Fear; there can be no lasting harmonious balance.
It is not difficult to see how in our own materialistic civilization both these tendencies manifest themselves in that frenzy to acquire and keep the largest possible amount of money and material goods.
The power of these impulses, despite the thousands of years that have passed and despite the way human life has been refined to a certain extent, is still so strong that it usually prevails – either in the form of violent confrontation, or in less direct, underhand ways, covered up by hypocritical justifications – over any other urge or higher restraint. Indeed it can often overcome the self-preservation instinct.
If we only knew how many crimes, betrayals, thefts, how much bullying, physical and moral prostitution, and how many base deeds of every kind are committed daily by human beings, overtly or in secret, out of the hateful greed for money, we would be deeply disturbed, indeed terrified. And if we were then to take an honest
look at ourselves in this area, I am afraid we might be in for an unpleasant surprise.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 207-208)
“There are five main forms of fear, and these underlie the five fundamental instincts:
– The first is the instinct of self-preservation, the root of which is the fear of death.
– The second is the sexual drive, arising from a sense of incompleteness and the fear of loneliness.
– The third is the herd instinct, again caused by the fear of being separated, weak, insecure. This fear causes us to seek support and security by associating with other people.
– The fourth is the tendency to affirm oneself. This might seem the total opposite of fear, but careful analysis shows that at least one of its roots is the fear of not being appreciated, recognized and respected as much as we deserve (or believe we deserve! ) and therefore not having the power we would like to have over others.
– The fifth is curiosity, the thirst for knowledge based on fear of the unknown or of mystery.
We have to acknowledge that these instincts or tendencies have spurred us on to useful, indeed necessary, activities, so even fear has had and can have a useful function. On the other hand, what a huge amount of harm it does! We could say the same about it as Alessandro Manzoni said about love: ‘There is six hundred times more of it than is needed !’
Here I will deal only with the morbid forms of fear (for otherwise the subject would require its own special study). These are anxiety, anguish, phobias and collective fears. (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 167)
The Lower Unconscious, From the article by Kenneth Sørensen: The Psychosynthesis Model of the Personality
At the bottom of the diagram (1) we find the Lower Unconscious. I prefer to call this the Basic Unconscious to avoid any negative associations connected to the word “lower”. This area corresponds to what psychoanalysts call the unconscious. Physical well-being, discomfort, hunger, sexual needs, desire, aggression, and many pleasant and unpleasant urges all flow up from the lower unconscious and into the field of consciousness affecting the behaviour of the self. Many of these drives are blind and instinctive. They control our habits such as, sleep, eating, and a wide range of physiological processes. Here we store repressed and traumatized experiences from childhood. Certain circumstances re-activate these memories and they emerge as fear, anxiety, shame, pain and various inexplicable inhibitions. These energies are egocentric. They ensure that our basic survival, protection and security needs are met. These are physical drives such as basic instincts, emotions and fantasies related to early childhood. This level of consciousness therefore represents the consciousness of our inner child and other basic patterns – for good or ill.
The Lower Unconscious is incredible vital, and it is essential for us to draw on its vitality as our lives unfold. Through it we create intimate relationships. It is the source of our spontaneity and playfulness. It enables us to face the world confidently, and gives us the energy to fight for what we need. The Lower Unconscious therefore is the foundation upon which the personality rests. In our Personal Psychosynthesis we explore this level of consciousness and learn how to develop and integrate its valuable resources in our lives.
Insofar as the self is identified with energies of this region, it will be dominated by its requirements, needs and values. Someone whose sole focus is on material security and the safety of the family will draw his or her identity mainly from the Lower Unconscious. Read more here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/the-psychosynthesis-model-of-the-personality/« Back to Glossary Index