Here comes a compilation of quotes by Roberto Assagioli, from his articles.
Psychosynthesis presupposes psychoanalysis
Psychosynthesis presupposes psychoanalysis or, rather, includes it as a first and necessary stage. There is in this respect a close analogy with chemical processes—both with those produced in the scientific laboratory and with those, even more wonderful, which are consistently going on in the human body. For instance, the complex molecules of the proteins contained in food are subdivided into the simpler molecules of peptones by the biochemical analytical processes of digestion. Through a process of synthesis, these are combined to form larger molecules constituting the specific proteins of our own organism.
The same thing occurs in the human psyche, in which processes of dissolution and reconstruction are being carried on incessantly. Sometimes these processes of psychological assimilation (one might say of ingestion and digestion) take place easily and spontaneously, but often psychological indigestion and toxic conditions occur and psychopathological abscesses and tumors are developed in the unconscious of the individual.
The need for studying and curing these troubles has led to the creation and use of new methods of investigation and treatment, and to varied theories and interpretations, the most generally known being psychoanalysis.
The lot of psychoanalysis has been peculiar. What has happened we must deplore because of its many unfortunate consequences, but which, with our psychoanalytic knowledge of human nature, should not surprise us. The more questionable, excessive and dangerous aspects of psychoanalysis have been those most emphasized and widespread. The sexual theory (or the alleged sexual origin of most manifestations of human life) and a system of often arbitrary and far-fetched interpretations have had a great vogue among the public, arousing unwholesome curiosity and frequently furnishing a pseudo-justification for an uncontrolled indulgence of the instinctive nature. At the same time the higher aspects, the fine flowerings of human nature such as express themselves through religion and art, have been subjected to a destructive analysis that misses their true and deeper essence.
In consequence of these excesses and deviations, a number of psychologists and psychiatrists have been led into a wholesale denunciation and condemnation of psychoanalysis, and a rejection of the important elements of truth it contains and the useful psychotherapeutic and educational techniques it has developed.
We may say that its most fruitful contribution 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.
As Freud (2) stated, psychoanalysis can aid us in passing from the “pleasure-pain principle,” from the unceasing oscillation between these two poles in vain attempts to cling to the first and avoid the second, to the “reality principle,” that is, to the recognition and the conscious acceptance of reality—with its laws and just claims. Thus a well- understood and applied psychoanalysis may help us to pass from the world of passions and emotions, of vain imaginations and illusions, to the realm of healthy reason, to an objective and scientific vision of ourselves and of others. But sometimes this help, even when given by the best kind of psychoanalysis, proves inadequate for the solution of man’s psychological and spiritual problems. It has been observed again and again that, while the bringing into the light of consciousness of the diverse tendencies at war in our unconscious may eliminate some morbid symptoms, it is not sufficient to solve the conflicts. Sometimes, as when the patient is unable to stand too sudden or premature a revelation, it may even complicate the condition. Furthermore, a too insistent and one-sided delving into the lower aspects of the human psyche can be definitely harmful.
Therefore the practice of psychoanalysis requires much caution and should be kept within definite bounds; but above all it should be integrated by active psychosynthetic procedures. This integration enables therapists to help patients, and educators to help the young, to utilize, transmute and sublimate their exuberant vital and psychological forces. (Psychosynthesis – Individual and Social)
Keen: What are the major differences between psychosynthesis and psychoanalysis?
Assagioli: We pay far more attention to the higher unconscious and to the development of the transpersonal self. In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behaviour modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs. We deny that there are any isolated human problems. Take sex for example. There is no sex per se. Sex is connected with every other function. So-called sexual problems are often caused by power conflicts between two persons and can only be solved by unravelling the complex interactions between them. Keen: The features you have mentioned so far are largely theoretical. Is your therapeutic technology any different than psychoanalysis? (It was always a shock to the reader of the rhetoric of logotherapy and existential psychotherapy to discover that they introduced no noticeable innovations in therapeutic practice – which may mean they made no practical difference.)
Assagioli: Psychosynthesis makes use of more exercises and techniques than it is possible to list here. We have systematic exercises for developing every function of the personality. Initially we explore all the conscious and unconscious aspects of the personality by having patients write autobiographies, keep a diary, fill out questionnaires, and take all types of projective tests (TAT, free drawing, etc.). As therapy proceeds, we use relaxation, muysic, art, rhythmical breathing, mental concentration, visualization, creative imagination, evocative visual symbols and words, and meditation . But I want to emphasize that every individual is different and no techniques can be applied automatically.
Keen: Did psychosynthesis develop from psychoanalysis?
Assagioli: Yes. In 1910 Freud was unknown in Italy. My doctoral committee was reluctant, but they finally permitted me to do my doctoral thesis on psychoanalysis. I went to Zurich to study with Eugen Bleuler, the inventor of schizophrenia. When I returned, I practiced psychoanalysis in Italy but I soon discovered its limitations.
Keen: What was your relationship to Freud and Jung?
Assagioli: I never met Freud personally but I corresponded with him and he wrote to Jung expressing the hope that I would further the cause of psychoanalysis in Italy. But I soon became a heretic. With Jung, I had a more cordial relationship. We met many times during the years and had delightful talks. Of all modern psychotherapists, Jung is the closest in theory and practice to psychosynthesis. (The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli)
“As is well known, in the course of the last seventy years a group of inquirers, which was at first small but which gradually grew more active, turned its attention to the investigation of the phenomena and mysteries of the human psyche. The most important results have not been achieved by academic psychologists, but by independent investigators. Nearly all of them were clinicians, driven by the practical needs of their patients and aided by the greater evidence that certain psychological phenomena acquire when they are accentuated by a morbid condition.
The first scientist to contribute original discoveries in this field was Pierre Janet (27).
Starting with the phenomena of “psychological automatism” he found that there are many mental activities taking place independently of the patient’s consciousness, and even real “secondary personalities” living behind, or alternating with, the everyday personality.
Soon after Janet a Viennese doctor, Sigmund Freud (15), began his investigations of the unconscious psychological processes. His starting point was Breuer’s cathartic method, which consisted in recalling to the consciousness of the patient the forgotten trauma or impressions which had produced the symptoms and releasing by means of an adequate outlet, the strong emotions associated with them. Breuer used hypnosis for this purpose, but Freud soon found out that the same result could be reached by the use of free association and by the interpretation of dreams, which became the specific techniques of psychoanalysis.
Freud demonstrated that various physical symptoms and psychological disturbances are due to instincts, drives, phantasies, buried in the unconscious and retained there by resistances and defence mechanisms of various kinds. He also found that many manifestations of our normal life, such as dreams, fancies, forgetting, mistakes and lapses of behaviour, and even some kinds of artistic and literary production, are due to the same psychological mechanisms which determine morbid symptoms in the sick. For instance, the curious forgetting of well-known things or words is due, according to Freud, to some connection existing between the forgotten word or fact and some painful emotion or disagreeable event. He gives an amusing illustration of this: one day he could not remember the name of a well-known resort on the Italian Riviera, namely, Nervi. “Indeed,” he writes, ‘nerves’ (in Italian nervi) give me a great deal of trouble.”
On this basis Freud developed a wealth of conceptions on the genetic processes and on the structure of the human personality which it is impossible to summarize, the more so because they underwent considerable changes during the many years of Freud’s copious production. But his psychoanalytic doctrines are at present well-known and have been expounded or summarized by various writers. (A comprehensive and objective exposition of Freudian psychoanalysis is that by Ruth L Munroe in her book Schools of Psychoanalytic Thought (41) which also contains a clear exposition and critical comments on the other main exponents of psychoanalytic thought.)
Freud had many pupils and followers, some of whom contributed various developments and modifications, while remaining in the main stream of the psychoanalytic movement; such were Karl Abraham (1), Sandor Ferenczi (13), Wilhelm Stekel (55), Melanie Klein (30), etc. On the other hand, some of Freud’s original pupils and co-workers took independent and even antagonistic positions and developed conceptions, methods and even Schools of their own. The more important among them are: Alfred Adler (2) who, in his “Individual Psychology,” emphasized the importance of the drive to personal self- assertion, or the will-to-power; C. G. Jung (28), who investigated the deeper layers of the unconscious, where he found images and symbols of a collective character, and also made original contributions to the classification and description of psychological types; Otto Rank (46), who put particular emphasis on the problem of separation and union, and on the function of the will. Later, specific contributions were made by Karen Homey (25), who pointed out the importance of actual conflicts and of the need for security. Erich Fromm (16) put the accent on the social pressures on the individual.
Various contributions have been made by French psychoanalysts such as Allendy (3) and Hesnard (24). Mention should be made also of “Existential Analysis,” put forward and practised by Binswanger (9) and Frankl (14). (Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis)
Focus of interest
The observation of procedures such as hypnosis and suggestion, and of manifestations such as psychic dissociation, led to the discovery and investigation of the extensive region of subconscious, or unconscious activities. In these studies, Charcot and Pierre Janet were pioneers, followed very soon by Freud. Thus were laid the foundations of the psychoanalytic movement, whose development has greatly extended and enriched our knowledge of the human psyche, a movement that can be said to have marked the inception of investigations directed along the third dimension of psychology, that of depth.
But since the field studied by its proponents was the pathological, and their approach predominantly materialistic and deterministic, they placed the accent on the lower and instinctive aspects of human nature and neglected the healthy and higher aspects. This neglect resulted in investigations being consistently directed “downward” and on this point we have a significant statement by Freud. In one of his letters to Binswanger he admitted: “I stay always on the ground floor of the building.”1 So we may say that this psychological conception is two-and-a-half-dimensional. Freud’s analogy is interesting for its implication that the “building,” which is man’s psychic structure, comprises floors above the foundation, basement and ground floor. Furthermore, in many residential buildings there are roof-terraces, from which one may contemplate the sky or enjoy the benefits of exposing oneself to the health-giving rays of the sun. (No explanation of the analogy is needed.)
This, then, has been the course taken by the development of depth psychology, which includes not only Freudian psychoanalysis, but also currents branching off from it, such as the Jungian. It is true that Jung did not limit himself to the study of the underworld of the psyche. Indeed he applied himself vigorously to the investigation of the higher aspects of the unconscious and asserted the existence and importance of spiritual experiences and values.
However, in his conception of the individual and collective unconscious, Jung does not clearly distinguish the different psycho-spiritual levels. In his theory of archetypes, for example, he considers them to be both of archaic, collective origin, and prototypes related to Platonic “ideas.” It therefore seems justified to apply the term “height psychology” (as others have already done) to the field of investigation constituted by the higher levels of the psyche, its upper “stories”; thus contributing to the formation of an integral psychology that is truly three-dimensional.
The investigation of these levels has proceeded parallel with, and independent of, the principal currents referred to above. Although the work of various investigators is conducted in different ways, it may be given the general name of “Humanistic Psychology,” since its point of departure and the aspect to which it ascribes maximum importance is the human being in his living reality, and since it makes use of the methods of introspection, biographical data and various techniques of inner action.
I do not propose on this occasion to examine the contributions made by many writers in this field as I have dealt fairly extensively with them in my study, “Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis,” later incorporated as the second chapter of my book, Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques (New York: Hobbs, Dorman, 1965; Paperback edition: The Viking Press, 1971). I will merely suggest that this ‘human” psychology has been and still is neglected and looked upon with distrust or even hostility by the academic “scientific” psychology entrenched in the universities. Proof of this is provided by the fact that in the broad classification of the different branches of psychology published in the Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms, by Horace B. and Ava C. English (1958), humanistic psychology is not even mentioned! (The New Dimensions of Psychology: The Third, Fourth and Fifth Forces)
b) Music and Psychotherapy. The two main objectives of psychoanalysis – namely, that of bringing into the light of consciousness psychological elements hitherto confined to the unconscious, and that of releasing and transmuting instinctual and emotional energies – can be greatly promoted by the use of appropriate music. The same can be said concerning the awakening and activation of the superconscious spiritual elements and the integration of the personality aimed at by psychosynthesis. (Music as a Cause of Disease and as a Healing Agent)
“Jung fosters the patient’s awareness of the contents of the unconscious and their assimilation in his conscious personality by means of dream analysis and free drawing. The analysis of dreams is the basis of psychoanalytic therapy, but this implies their interpretation and here arises a substantial difference between orthodox psychoanalysis and Jungian “analysis”. In psychoanalysis the interpretation tends to “reduce” everything to infantile impressions and traumas, and to instinctive urges. Jung instead, although admitting the existence of dreams of this type, says that there are dreams of very different kinds, particularly those he calls “prospective” or constructive, i.e., dreams containing true messages from the unconscious (I would say from its higher level, the superconscious), which indicate to the conscious personality of the patient certain situations, certain facts, of which he was not aware, and point to the solution of his conflicts and the way leading to integration. In his work, Jung gives many examples of dreams of this type and their interpretation, confirmed by the patient’s recognition and by the curative effects. In reality, dreams fall into many different categories, and one must be on one’s guard against stereotyped interpretations of the “dreambook” variety. But too often therapists succumb to this facile procedure, ignoring the fact that the same symbol can have as many meanings (some of them contradictory) as there are patients. Of this Jung was well aware.” (C. G. Jung and Psychosynthesis)
“In psychosynthesis the problem of building good relations between patient and therapist is rendered easier—or shall we say less difficult—by the therapist’s not only pointing out and suggesting to the patient, as Jung does, the goal of his “individuation”, but encouraging and educating him from the outset to practice active methods of acquiring an increasingly clear self-consciousness, the development of a strong will and the mastery and right use of his impulsive emotional, imaginative and mental energies, and to avail himself of all means of gaining independence of the therapist.
In spite of the variety and complexity of relationships created between patient and therapist, in the practice of psychosynthesis one can distinguish four principal ones; and each is utilized, directed and regulated with the cure and well-being of the patient in view:
a. The transference—in the strict sense originally attributed to it by Freud, i.e., the “projection” onto the doctor of the patient’s impulses, attachments and emotions felt in childhood towards his parents. These attitudes can be positive (loving) or negative (hostile). The projections have to be analyzed and dissolved. Here there is agreement between Jungian therapy, psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis.
b. The specific relationship created by what may be termed the therapeutic situation. In it the therapist represents and exercises an essentially “paternal” function. He must, to some extent, take on the role and task of protector, counselor and guide. In dream symbolism, says Jung, he frequently appears under the aspect of the “wise old man” and corresponds to what the Indians call “guru”. This relationship is very different from the unconscious projection that happens in the transference. It is conscious, factual, real.
“RA: Psychosynthesis started and is still used as a therapy for nervous and psychological disturbances and their psychosomatic repercussion on the body. But it is becoming more like preventive medicine. One might call it “mental hygiene’. Another important field of application is that of self-actualization, in the sense of the full activity of the various functions of the personality.
RA: A further field of application is that of interpersonal relationships. The individual is not isolated. It is within a network of personal relationships. In psychosynthesis we have developed extensively the study of interpersonal relationships. The first basic interpersonal relationship is that of couples. The original couple is mother-child, the infant. Later comes the man-woman couple.
Another personal relationship is that of therapist-client and teacher-pupil. Here it is good to clarify that there can and should be a genuine interpersonal relationship which is not the transference of which psychoanalysis speaks, that is, projecting infantile drives and fantasies on the therapist. This may exist at the beginning. But what can actually be developed is a genuine constructive relationship between therapist and client. The various stages of this interpersonal relationship are described in my pamphlet on “Jung and Psychosynthesis” (PRF Issue No. 19).
“(a) The transference—in the strict sense originally attributed to it by Freud, i.e., the projection onto the doctor of the patient”s impulses, attachments and emotions felt in childhood towards his parents…
(b) The specific relationship created by what may be termed the therapeutic situation. In it the therapist represents and exercises an essentially “paternal” function. He must, to some extent, take on the role and task of protector, counsellor, and guide…
(c) A human relationship which is developed as the treatment proceeds and creates psychological reactions at various levels and of different kinds. … The transition from the second to the third type of relationship is valuable, even indispensible, for a variety of reasons; above all to promote the patient”s growing autonomy…
(d) The resolution of the relationship at the conclusion of the treatment. This is a critical point and needs to be handled with wisdom. I have said “resolution” and not termination of the relationship because the positive relationship can continue afterwards in some form, either as a friendship or collaboration or both…” (Height Psychology — Discovering the self and the Self)
R: What are the characteristics of the whole, healthy person from the point of view of psychosynthesis? What would I be like?
A: I don’t think one can list these qualities because each of us is different and has the right to be healthy in his own way. This is another basic point in psychosynthesis: the uniqueness of each individual; at the present stage of his life and also at different stages of evolution, of development; no generalizing, no labeling. What is healthy for an adolescent is no more healthy for a young man or for a mature man. So it’s very individual; according to the make up of the individual and his stage of development, both outer physical age and inner age, so to speak—the stage of realization. Psychosynthesis is very “individualistic” in this sense. It tries to deal with the present unique situation in the interplay between therapist and patient. R: Must be some kind of general idea—
A: This is a point of major importance: the emphasis on the therapeutic interplay, the rapport, and not so much on the technique. As you well know, there are many techniques, but they are only “instruments” and should not become an end. In psychoanalysis much stress is put on transference, but this is only the beginning of the rapport. I deal with four stages of the therapeutic rapport, the basic human relationship between the therapist and the patient. (The Gentle Synthesiser)
1. Thorough Knowledge of One’s Personality.
“We have recognized that in order really to know ourselves it is not enough to make an inventory of the elements that form our conscious being. An extensive exploration of the vast regions of our unconscious must also be undertaken. 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.
Psychoanalysis generally stops here; but this limitation is not justified. The regions of the middle and higher unconscious should likewise be explored. In that way we shall discover in ourselves hitherto unknown abilities, our true vocations, our higher potentialities which seek to express themselves, but which we often repel and repress through lack of understanding, through prejudice or fear. We shall also discover the immense reserve of undifferentiated psychic energy latent in every one of us; that is, the plastic part of our unconscious which lies at our disposal, empowering us with an unlimited capacity to learn and to create.” (Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis)
The principle aims of Psychosynthesis
Psychosynthesis has evolved naturally, and I would say spontaneously, from the ground, or out of the main stem, of psychoanalysis, as a method of psychotherapy—or, more precisely, as a body of techniques and methods coordinated and directed towards the achievement of a complete and harmonious development of the human personality. Its principal aims and tasks are:
1. The elimination of the conflicts and obstacles, conscious and unconscious, that block this development.
2. The use of active techniques to stimulate the psychic functions still weak and immature.
But the practice of psychosynthesis very soon revealed the necessity of including the body, that is to say, of recognizing and making use of the close ties that knit body and psyche, and the reciprocal actions and reactions between them. This has received full acknowledgment from both the theoretical and the practical standpoints, and for this reason the proper name of psychosynthesis is bio-psychosynthesis. (In practice it is usually more convenient to employ the word “psychosynthesis;” but it must be understood at all times that it includes the body, the bios, and that it always stands for “bio-psychosynthesis.”) (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)
I think it might be useful to give a short and clear view of the two methods of psychotherapy now most widely practiced: that is, suggestion and psychoanalysis, and to give some idea of a new and more comprehensive method, called psychosynthesis.
Suggestion and autosuggestion have been called during the last years to the attention of the public chiefly through the sensation stirred up by the wide propaganda and the many cures made by Emile Coué. These have aroused many animated debates among the doctors and the general public. I think that an objective and impartial consideration of the matter should lead to the following conclusions:
Suggestion is a powerful means of mental influence and treatment, which was known and practiced before Coué.
Coue’s undeniable and startling successes were due not only to the technical value of his method, but also to his personal qualities, to the faith, to the great human sympathy and love which animated him, and also to the favourable psychological atmosphere created by his popularity.
Coué’s theory and method, while they are too simple, crudely expressed and very one-sided, do yet contain a vital germ of truth.6 This good seed, as it has been ably developed by Professor Charles Bandoin in his book Suggestion and autosuggestion, has become an important part of scientific psychotherapy, which has its proper field of application and can give very good results when suitably and ably used.
6 The true meaning of Coué’s paradoxical denial of the power of the will, and the right relationship be-tween will, imagination and suggestion, will be discussed in a chapter of my book on The training of the Will (in preparation)
Suggestion can be very efficacious in all the simpler cases of nervous and bodily troubles, the chief cause of which is to be found in the worry and depression of the patient and in his fear of his own illness, a fear which causes an intensification and fixation of his troubles, determining a real vicious circle. The use of suggestion can eliminate that worry and fear, change depression into serenity, pessimism into optimism, awaken courage and confidence. Thus the vicious circle is broken and the 443
natural recuperative powers of the body, helped by other medical and hygienic measures, bring about a rapid recovery.7
7 I want to emphasize the fact that psychotherapy does not in any way exclude proper medical treatment of a physical nature; on the contrary both kinds of treatment can and do very well co-operate and help each other and the wise doctor, by an appropriate and varied combination of psychological and physical influences, will obtain much better curative results than these who use exclusively the one or the other means.
8 The most impartial and reasonable statement of the better aspects of psychoanalysis and of their application to constructive ends (although falling short of a true understanding and appreciation of the spiritual side of human nature) is contained, in my opinion, in Dr. B. M. Hinkle’s book The re-creating the individual (New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co.1923).
The deepest and most searching discussion of psychoanalysis from the metaphysical and spiritual standpoint has been made by the great German philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling in his new book Wiedergeburt. (Darmstadt, Reichl, 1927). See chapters: Psychoanalyse und Selbstvervollkommmnung and Heilkunst und Tiefenshau.
On the other hand suggestion fails in bringing about a real and permanent cure in cases which are more complicated, being due to deep disturbances in the subconscious life, to serious inner conflicts. For such cases finer and more subtle methods are needed. One of these is psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis has been and is even more passionately discussed than suggestion — and that is well, because, while it has some very fruitful and genial aspects, it is also dangerous, and, when indiscreetly used, is apt to cause very real harm.
The great value of psychoanalysis lies in the fact that it offers an ingenious and efficient method of exploring the subconscious, of recovering the hidden conflicts which cause the trouble, of removing the harmful repressions, of liberating ‘useful energies. But unhappily Professor Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis, and even more many of his followers, has associated it with a mechanical and “positivistic” conception of life, have given a most exaggerated importance to the sexual element, have arrived at absurd excesses in their fanciful symbolic interpretations of dreams.8 And even in its better and saner aspects psychoanalysis cannot deal with all the cases.
Against the troubles due to the deepest and most fundamental problems of human nature psychoanalysis fails. To discover the conflict is often not sufficient in order to solve it: sometimes the discovery makes it even more acute; to liberate repressed energies is not enough: if proper measures to have them duly utilised and harmonised are not taken, they might cause more trouble than before. And there is a whole series of problems and conflicts connected with the spiritual nature of man, which require a broader, higher, more comprehensive method.
Psychosynthesis aims at being such a method.
Psychosynthesis, as its name indicates, is founded upon the principle of organisation around a central point, of ordered, hierarchy, of synthesis.
While descriptive, experimental and behaviourist psychology, as well as psychoanalysis, are directed towards the analytical and objective study of psychological phenomena as such, and consider mental life as a mechanism ruled by fixed laws, psychosynthesis starts from the human centre of the living being, from the self; and studies all psychological facts in their vital relationship with that centre.
Psychosynthesis considers — reviving the old conception of Plato — the human being as a state, composed of many citizens, groups, and lesser organisations. The troubles which take place in the human being can be compared to those which rise in a nation which is badly or inefficiently governed, and in both cases the solution, the cure, can be found only in an improvement and strengthening of the central power.
This psychosynthesis is based on the study and the action of the self. (A NEW METHOD OF HEALING: PSYCHOSYNTHESIS)