A psychological definition of the superconscious according to Psychosynthesis
“What distinguishes Psychosynthesis from many other attempts at psychological understanding is the position that we take as to the existence of a spiritual Self and of a superconscious, which are as basic as the instinctive energies described so well by Freud.” (Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, p. 193)
By Kenneth Sørensen, an extract from The Soul of Psychosynthesis
The Superconscious, or the Higher Unconscious, is Assagioli’s 6th core concept. Aside from the will, he has probably written more about the Superconscious than any other topic. In Transpersonal Development, published thirteen years after his death in 1974, he explores in great detail transpersonal states and how we can connect to them.
Earlier we defined the Superconscious as the collected energies that expand our consciousness from the personal to the transpersonal. Many people have testified to experiencing a powerful sense of belonging to or being “at one with” the planet, humanity or existence itself. All truly original scientific, artistic, technological, psychological and cultural innovations have their source in the Superconscious. These are the ideas that push humanity up the evolutionary ladder. These heightened states of consciousness give hope for a world of peace and harmony. Through the Superconscious we experience the unity of nature and man, an understanding that can save both from destruction. This is why it is important to develop our Higher Consciousness. As Assagioli writes:
”One of the greatest causes of suffering and misguided action is fear. This can be individual anxiety or the collective fear which can carry a nation into war. The experience of the superconscious reality does away with fear, for any sense of fear is incompatible with a realization of the fullness and permanence of life. Another cause of error and wrong conduct is the urge to fight which stems from the ideas of separation, from aggression, and from feelings of hostility and hatred. In the calm atmosphere of the superconscious such feelings cannot exists. Anyone whose consciousness has been enlarged, who feels a sense of participation, a sense of unity with all beings, can no longer fight. It seems absurd: it would be like fighting oneself! In this way, the most serious of problems. The ones causing the greatest distress, are resolved or eliminated by the development, enlarging and ascent of the consciousness to the level of Higher Reality. ” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 25-26)
The superconscious and spirituality
The Superconscious is our doorway to the spiritual, but what is spirituality?
Psychosynthesis distinguishes between the “normal” consciousness of the Lower and Middle Unconscious and the transpersonal energies of the Superconscious. This division helps us distinguish between the egocentric and the altruistic. This difference is essential because it is through the Superconscious that we can help solve the most fundamental human problems. Psychosynthesis aims for a world of harmony and peace, but this can only come about through our own will-to-synthesis. So we must start with ourselves. The Superconscious provides us with the energy to build bridges of understanding and harmony, in ourselves and the world.
Yet our own inner lives contain forces that divide us and lead to conflict. As Assagioli remarked: “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 self-assertion. “(The Act of Will, 1974, p. 86)
Assertiveness and aggression can cause inner and outer conflict, but we should not condemn or repress them. They are necessary for our survival. Maslow speaks of “deficiency needs.” By definition, these are “needs” for something we lack, whether it is as simple as food or a place to live. They must be fulfilled if we are to develop, but we must learn to master and refine them so that we can get along with ourselves and others. Maslow also speaks of “being” or “meta” needs, needs of a creative character. Maslow called these growth needs. For Assagioli, they arise from the Superconscious, a source of spiritual plenty.
Assagioli defines spirituality in the following way:
”To be spiritual does not mean only to be able to transcend the little self in a “vertical” direction through realisation of the Self and communion with the Supreme Reality. It includes also a “horizontal” attitude, that is, communion of thought and love and harmonious collaboration with all fellow-creatures. This expansion is achieved through “concentric circles,” which gradually include ever larger groups, from the family to humanity as a whole. ” (Psychosynthesis in Education)
The superconscious and moral development
Ken Wilber describes how moral development follows four stages, in line with Assagioli’s concentric circles. Moral development in this context refers to care and concern, from individual concern only extending as far as “me” and “mine” to concern for all people. Wilber refers to his theory as the spiral of compassion and he bases it on the research of Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan (Wilber, 2000d).
Here the scope of the self widens from self-centric care (me) to ethno-centric care (us), the world-centric care (all peoples and beings) to cosmo-centric care (all). The first two stages include ourselves and the people we like, love and depend on. At the world-centric stage consciousness expands to identify with humanity. Here the transpersonal field begins, with its holistic vision of humanity as one. The idea of human rights and the motivation for many humanitarian movements emerge from this stage, but to believe in these things is clearly not the same as practicing them in everyday life.
Assagioli agrees that spirituality requires the practice of high ethical standards: “All claims of spirituality have to be expressed through a more pure strict and conscious morality than average man …You shall know the tree by its fruits. “Moral purification is the key to understanding the true reason for the long pilgrimage through the inner worlds. “(Transpersonal Development 2007, p. 154) In order to practice a world-centric morality, we must identify with higher values. Assagioli defines spirituality as: “all the functions and activities which have as common denominator the possession of values higher than the average, values such as the ethical, the aesthetic, the heroic, the humanitarian and the altruistic.” (Psychosynthesis, 1975, p. 38)
Transpersonal Consciousness makes us idealists in the broadest sense of the term. Transpersonal psychosynthesis works not “for the purpose of withdrawal but for the purpose of being able to perform more effective service in the world of men.” (Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, 1975, p. 210)