A short compilation on the mind, by Roberto Assagioli
By Roberto Assagioli, from his article Notes on Education:
“This does not only consist of a quantitative increase in mental activity, but refers to different ways of using the mind, bringing about a. change in quality. Up until a short while ago, these ways were the privilege of a few philosophers and scientists but now that they are beginning to be diffused to the general public it is necessary that they be adequately acknowledged, more widely adopted and applied. in the field of education. The various activities and applications of the mind may be briefly described as follows:
- The first function of the mind is to synthesize the sensorial impressions so that the individual may acquire an intelligent experience of the so-called, outer world. In this regard, the mind can be considered, as a sixth sense, a common sense, that coordinates and interprets the messages transmitted by the other five.
- The second function is to collect information, to render the fruits of the experience of humanity one´s own, and thus to avail oneself of the cultural inheritance of the past. This goal is reached through study, and the imparting of this kind of knowledge was the principal task of the teachers of the past.
- The third., and higher type of mental activity is that which elaborates the material gathered during the preceding phases, coordinates it, draws conclusions and applies them; this may be called. to think or to reflect.
- The fourth function of the mind is to be receptive to intuitions, to understand and interpret them with accuracy, and then to formulate them with precision.
- The fifth is the creative function. The dynamic and creative power of thought discovered recently — (it would be more exact to say “rediscovered”) is being more and more acknowledged and put to use, but it is being used. especially for the attainment of personal goals (the achievement of wealth success etc.). One of the tasks of the new education will be to train the individual in the use of techniques. that harness this power for constructive goals and for the service of humanity.
The relationships between the mind and the other psychological functions, impulses, emotions, feelings and. imagination, are all but satisfactory, and pose problems of fundamental importance to education.
In the majority of humanity, the mind is subordinate to the impulses and the emotions and is used to justify them and to aid in achieving; their ends, One can say in such a case that the mind is the servant of desire. But sooner or later the unsatisfactory and often disastrous results of this erroneous relationship provoke a crisis which is then followed by either gradual or sudden changes. The mind reawakens in the individual the understanding of the nature and effects of his/her emotions and impulses. He/she becomes conscious of the distortions of reality of the illusions thus created, and of the errors of judgment, evaluation and behavior caused by them.
It is probable that two results come from this recognition: the first which is “good”, leads to the development of objectivity and of the intellectual capacity that characterize the scientific spirit. Along this line, one of the most recent advances made is in. the refinement of the scientific method, due to the work of the new science of semantics.
The second result, which is not a. desirable one, is an undervaluing of the emotions, feelings and imagination, leading to mental pride, to one-sidedness and to the repressions that characterize the “arrogant intellectual” type.
Education must have two major goals with relation to the mind; to promote its development and active use, and to establish the right proportions as well as a. constructive cooperation between the mind and the other aspects of man. What is most necessary in this regard is the harmonious combination of intelligence and love, leading to loving understanding and to the development of wisdom.” ( Notes on Education)
The Analytical Mind
It is the nature of activity in the analytical mind – all the more if it is stimulated by impressions, impulses, desires and emotions – that it produces a constant and often feverish jumble of thoughts and wrong ideas, often self-centred in nature.
The Higher Synthetic Mind
This gives a correct and clear view of whatever it focuses its attention on. In addition to its capacity for true perception, it has the function of recognizing and correctly interpreting intuitions when they present themselves to the conscious mind. This is the true meaning and function of discrimination. But before it can perform this task, the area of the consciousness needs to be purified, that is to say emptied of the contents with which it is normally occupied and which prevent the free use of the higher mind and intuition. This highlights the need first of all for reflective meditation, which only allows mental activities aiming at the desired knowledge. After this must come the attainment and practice of ‘mental silence’. This removes all obstacles from the channel linking the mind with the higher cognitive functions or intuition and enlightenment. On a broader scale, this means eliminating all impurities from the channel linking the personal “I” to the transpersonal Self. This actually involves a purification of the whole personality and a conscious withdrawal from identification with that personality through the cultivation of a ‘divine indifference’ to its demands, so that one can then identify with the Self.
The achievement of a certain measure of individual purification enables us to participate in the great work of group and planetary purification. This needs to be carried out at all levels. At the physical level the first task is to purify matter from the contamination produced by its use for selfish human purposes. The emphasis now being placed on ecology shows a growing recognition of the importance of this task. It is, however, in its initial stages, and much more needs to be done before the laying waste of nature perpetrated by humanity can be put right.
Another work in this connection involves what we might call the redemption of matter, its refining and transmutation. This means our redemption of the countless beings that make up the three lower kingdoms: animal, vegetable and mineral. At the emotional level purification requires dispersion of the miasma and poisons which are the main feature of the emotions today. This can be achieved in the first instance by the elimination of emotional fog in groups.
Purification of the mental world requires the melting and destruction of old concepts and dogma, and freedom from the false, onesided, fanatical ideologies that the human mind has come up with in the past and actively continues to produce even today (the dispersion of illusions). (From Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 159-160)
“It is interesting to note that, in order to obtain scientific knowledge, the mind must perform two different and even opposing functions; first of all, it must analyse and therefore distinguish and discriminate between the various impressions of the external world, divide objects into their constituent parts and aim to arrive at their smallest and simplest elements. The most obvious examples of this process are chemical analysis and anatomy. The latter takes into consideration an extemely complicated organism and dissects it, first separating its principal organs, then separating the various tissues and parts that constitute each organ and finally studying the single cell of which each tissue is composed, through a microscope.
In the second place, the mind must fulfil a coordinating and synthetic function, reassembling impressions and facts once more into a coherent whole. The first and simplest of these synthetic functions is accomplished unconsciously in every moment of life. From the observations of a certain number of dogs, for example, we abstract all the characteristics that these have in common in order to arrive at the general concept of “dog”. By means of a similar process extended to other animals we form the even more general concepts of “quadruped”, “mammal” and “animal”. Similarly, from the observation of a succession of facts, concepts and laws, the scientific mind constructs theories that aim to clarify or, at least, put into relationship large groups of phenomena and events and more and more extensive aspects of reality, until it finally reaches a global synthesis. The scientific mind generally stops there, thinking it has reached the ultimate level. But there is a step further that the mind, or perhaps the mind in cooperation with the intuition, can go. This is the process of moving from subsidiary laws to the higher laws of Intelligence of the Universal Mind; from the facts of creation to the creative principles from which they originate; or, to use the oriental expression, from the “field of consiousness” and from knowledge to the thinker himself; in a word, from matter to spirit.” (Psychosynthesis Typology, p. 64-65)
“Well, the mind, to put it in an extreme way, has nothing to do with the Self. Animals have some mentality. Sometimes they are cunning and intelligent. This apart from the fact that there is an intelligent mind in our life, and so on, but that has nothing to do with the Self. The mind can function at different levels, independently of the Self. The mind is really an instrument in the higher sense. We can psychologically distinguish the concrete mind and the higher mind which is reason, “nous” in Greek. But psychologically one can say there is the analytical mind, concrete mind, scientific mind, and on another level there is the abstract and more philosophical mind, which deals with the universal, let us say Kant, Plato, etc., but that has nothing to do with the Self. There are very intelligent philosophers who deny or ignore the Self. You say the mind is creative. In a sense an instrument can be a creative organ. It is creative in its own way. The processes of the mind, induction and deduction, are creative.
Moreover, the mind is often associated with imagination and with feeling, sometimes with intuition, so their combination is distinctly creative, but has nothing to do with the Self. Is this clear? The Self is a completely different dimension. The Self is a completely different dimension. There is a mathematical term – “incommensurable”. The Self is incommensurable to any other dimensions of the Psyche.” (Talks on the self)
See also Scientific Knowledge