Roberto Assagioli about the conscious “I” and our identity as the inner observer
Here comes a compilation of quotes from Roberto Assagioli about the conscious “I”, defined as the inner observer and actor. Assagioli described the “I”, the ego, the personal self (terms pointing toward the same reality according to Assagioli) as a centre of pure self-consciousness and will.
The experiential fact behind this terminology is our ability to be a detached, loving observer, to what arises in consciousness, when we are disidentified from sensations, emotions and thoughts. However, we are not only capable in becoming an observer, when disidentified, but we also have the potential to become the master of our inner psychological world through our will. According to Assagioli:
“We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.”
The observer in clinical work
“The [personality] assessment requires on the part of the patient a certain degree of the attitude of the observer. In the first stage, the subject assumes this attitude unconsciously, obliged by the task itself or—during the sessions —aided by the therapist. Later, in the course of therapy, the attitude can and should be assumed more and more consciously, deliberately and fully. By “attitude of the observer” we mean an attitude analogous to that of the scientist observing an experiment through his instruments, or the attitude of a detective observing the scene of a crime and noticing the objects existing in the room where the crime happened.
This means that the patient begins to realize that his psychological experiences and functions can be looked at objectively. Also, it means a certain dis-identification of the self from the contents of the conscious personality. This develops an increasing self-awareness which is the chief characteristic of the personal I or self. A clear and full experience of the self gives, at first, such a strong sense of self-identity that it is felt as something sure, permanent, unchangeable, and indestructible. It is realized as such an essential reality that all other experiences and so-called realities appear, when compared to it, as changing, impermanent and of less value and significance. Such a realization is accompanied by a sense of inner independent, self-reliant security, which is deeply satisfying and gives rise to a feeling of peace, serenity and quiet joy.
Therefore, while being used and developed in and through the work of assessment, this dis-identification serves also as a technique for acquiring pure self-awareness, the pure sense of self-identity (see p. 112). This—in a sense —means the “I”, or point of self-awareness, observing one’s foibles, one’s abilities, difficulties and conflicts in as detached and unemotional a way as one can achieve, recognizing that, of course, we are bound to be emotionally concerned, since we are dealing with ourselves; but little by little we may acquire more of a scientific attitude, and emotion may become less of a disturbing and distorting element.” (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 69)
Disidentification as a way to discover the observer
“The procedure for achieving self-identity in the sense of the pure self-consciousness at the personal level, is an indirect one. The self is there all the time, what is lacking is a direct awareness of its presence. Therefore, the technique consists in eliminating all the partial self-identifications. The procedure can be summarized in one word, which was much used formerly in psychology but which recently has been more or less neglected, i.e., introspection. It means, as its terminology clearly indicates, directing the mind’s eye, or the observing function, upon the world of psychological facts, of psychological events, of which we can be aware.
Through introspection we acquire a more focussed and clear awareness of what William James called the mind-stream, ceaselessly flowing within ourselves. It could also be called the attitude of the observer, the inner observer. It is an attitude quite similar, even identical to that of the natural scientist who objectively, patiently and persistently observes the natural phenomena occurring around him, be it a Fabre, observing the behavior and habits of ants, or an astronomer patiently observing a star through a telescope. If we turn our ability to observe inwards we realize that there is actually an inner world of phenomena, at least as manifold and varied as the outer world, and that through the development of observation it becomes more and more definite to the observer.
The first field of observation is that of the sensations, produced by bodily conditions. These can be the sensations determined by the activity of the five senses, or the more obscure and undefined kinesthetic sensations of the organism. The observation, the calm dispassionate, objective observation of the flow of these sensations makes us realize how fleeting or impermanent many of them are and how easily they alternate (and sometimes one is substituted by its contrary). This gives us the certainty— let us say scientifically demonstrates— that the self is not the body, is not the sum of the sensations which it produces and projects, so to speak, into the field of our conscious awareness.
The second field of inner observation or introspection is the kaleidoscopic realm of emotions and feelings. It is much more difficult to observe objectively and in a detached way these contents of our consciousness, because our attention is apt to be carried away by the waves of the iridescent flood of our emotional states. But with patience, practice and a true scientific attitude and objectivity we can train ourselves to observe our own emotions and feelings in a detached way.
After a certain period of practice we come to the realization that the emotions and feelings also are not a necessary part of the self, of our self, because they too are changeable, mutable, fleeting and sometimes show ambivalence. Here the use of the previous technique of Critical Analysis is relevant.
The third field of observation is that of mental activity, of the mental contents. This, in a certain respect, is easy to observe, because it does not have the pull which emotions and feelings have on our attention. On the other hand it is more difficult because it is more subtle, the distinction between the self and the mind being at first less evident. Yet, here too the same criterion applies: mental activity is too varied, fleeting, changeable; sometimes it shows no continuity and can be compared with a restless ape, jumping from branch to branch. But the very fact that the self can observe, take notice and exercise its powers of observation on the mental activity proves the difference between the self and the mind.
In respect to mental activity, we can observe that it is linked with emotional activity in varying degrees, from the purely mental, abstract, mathematical thoughts— almost devoid of emotional content or overtones and undertones unless it involves the pure joy sometimes felt by highly developed mathematicians —to the emotionally loaded and derived rationalization, where, although the activity appears to be essentially mental, it is to a great extent motivated from emotional levels. So, although it may not, at times, be possible to distinguish and differentiate between the mental and emotional aspects of the thought processes, the important point to remember for this particular exercise is that there is within an observer who observes this succession of emotional and mental states, and that this observer is to some extent detached from them.
There is, as a matter of fact, a constant interplay between sensation, emotion and mental activity —and the distinction we have made is only a question of emphasis, of focussing the attention of the observer. The important point to be emphasized is the difference between these three interrelated fields of psychological activity and the observer as such. This objective observation produces naturally, spontaneously and inevitably a sense of dis-identification from any and all of those psychological contents and activities. By contrast the stability, the permanency of the observer is realized. Then the observer becomes aware that he can not only passively observe but also influence in various degrees the spontaneous flow, the succession of the various psychological states. Therefore, he feels himself different, is dis-identified from those contents.
Thus, one has to actively discriminate between the contents of the field of consciousness and its center —that which creates it, the self. The technique to be used is that of successive dis-identifications from the various groups or layers of contents — physical, emotional and mental, adapting the technique in terminology and language to the cultural level of the patient. The general formula of the technique is given in the following Exercise in Dis-identification.” (Psychosynthesis, p. 114-116)
“These forces are “not-I”, as is demonstrated by the fact that we can observe and study them, note their dynamics, and transformations, and most importantly, influence them with the will. Our ability to modify these forces means that they do not form an integral part of the I’ or self. “However, we are so accustomed to identify ourselves with those psychological forces that if we are to free ourselves from their control—to use instead of being used by them—we must cultivate a continual vigilance and maintain what has been called the “consciousness of the observer,” or, in modern theatrical terms, the director. Symbolically, the theater, or the stage itself, can be said to be the body, while the actors are the psychological forces that appear therein, to be given direction by the director. An effective help in recognizing this fundamental distinction between the ‘I’ or self, and the various elements, or contents, of the psychological world is provided by the Exercise in Dis-identification and Self-identification described in my book Psychosynthesis (Assagioli , Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques, N.Y.: Hobbs Dorman, 1985. Paperback-Viking Press, 1971, P. 116-125,).” (The Resolution of Conflicts & Spiritual Conflicts and Crises)
Exercise in Dis-identification
“The first step is to affirm with conviction and to become aware of the fact: “I have a body, but I am not my body.” That seems evident. This body is something material and changeable (it has been stated that within a few years all the cells of the body are renewed). Nevertheless, we mistakenly identify ourselves all the time with our body and attribute to the “I” our physical sensations. For instance, we say “I am tired,” which is nothing less than a psychological heresy: the “I” cannot be tired; the body is tired and transmits to the “I” a sensation of fatigue—which is something very different. This distinction is of great practical importance, because every time we identify ourselves with a physical sensation we enslave ourselves to the body.
The first step is comparatively easy; but the second step is much less so. It is the realization: “I have an emotional life, but I am not my emotions or my feelings.” When someone says: “I am irritated,” “I am content,” or “I am dissatisfied,” it is also a case of false identification of the “I” with those psychological states which are changeable and often contradictory. To say “I am irritated” is to commit an error of psychological grammar. Let us say instead: “There is in me a state of irritation.”
The third step consists in realizing: “I have an intellect, but I am not that intellect.” Ordinarily we identify ourselves with our thoughts, but when we analyze them, when we observe ourselves while we think, we notice that the intellect works like an instrument. We can look at the logical or illogical connections, at the working of the mind, observing it from above, as it were. This indicates that we are not our thoughts. They also are changeable: one day we think one thing, the following day we may think the opposite. We get ample proof of not being our thoughts when we try to control and to direct them. When we want to think of something abstract or boring, our mental instrument often refuses to obey us; every student who has to learn something that is annoying has that experience. If the mind is rebellious and undisciplined it means that the “I” is not the mind.
These facts give us evidence that the body, the feelings and the mind are instruments of experience, perception and action — instruments that are changeable and impermanent, but which can be dominated, disciplined, deliberately used by the “I”, while the nature of the “I” is something entirely different.
The “I” is simple, unchanging, constant and self-conscious. The experience of the “I” can be formulated as follows: “I am I, a centre of pure consciousness.” To state this with conviction does not. mean one has yet reached the experience of the “I”, but it is the way which leads to it. And it is the key to, and the beginning of, the mastery of our psychological processes.
This exercise can also be done in group formation. To do it in this way is in certain respects easier, because of the aid which comes from direction and reciprocal stimulation. The stimulus received and the results obtained will encourage the participants to continue to do the exercise regularly, each one by himself. It should become a daily psycho-spiritual health measure. One should begin the day by “entering into oneself.” To enter into oneself: let us ponder on the deep significance of these words. Generally, we live “outside” ourselves; we are everywhere except in the “I”! We are constantly attracted, distracted, dispersed by countless sensations, impressions, preoccupations, memories of the past, projects for the future; we are everywhere except in our self-consciousness, in the consciousness of that which we are in reality.
The exercise can be done as follows (when it is performed by a group, the one who directs the exercise naturally speaks in the first person, but each one can apply to himself what is said): I put my body into a comfortable and relaxed position with closed eyes. This done, I affirm: “I have a body but I am not my body. My body may find itself in different conditions of health or sickness; it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my self, my real ‘I’. My body is my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well; I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not myself. I have a body, but I am not my body.”
“I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. These emotions are countless, contradictory, changing, and yet I know that I always remain I, my-self, in times of hope or of despair, in joy or in pain, in a state of irritation or of calm. Since I can observe, understand and judge my emotions, and then increasingly dominate, direct and utilize them, it is evident that they are not myself. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.”
“I have desires, but I am not my desires, aroused by drives, physical and emotional, and by outer influences. Desires too are changeable and contradictory, with alternations of attraction and repulsion. I have desires but they are not myself .”
“I have an intellect, but I am not my intellect. It is more or less developed and active; it is undisciplined but teachable; it is an organ of knowledge in regard to the outer world as well as the inner; but it is not myself. I have an intellect, but I am not my intellect.”
“After this dis-identification of the “I” from its contents of consciousness (sensations, emotions, desires and thoughts) I recognize and affirm that I am a Centre of pure self-consciousness. I am a Centre of Will, capable of mastering, directing and using all my psychological processes and my physical body.”
When one has practiced the exercise for some time, it can be modified by a swift dynamic use of the first three stages of dis-identification, leading to a deeper consideration of the fourth stage of self-identification, coupled with an inner dialogue along the following lines:
“What am I then? What remains after discarding from my self-identity the physical, emotional and mental contents of my personality, of my ego? It is the essence of myself —a center of pure self-consciousness and self-realization. It is the permanent factor in the ever varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me the sense of being, of permanence, of inner security. I recognize and I affirm myself as a center of pure self-consciousness. I realize that this center not only has a static self-awareness but also a dynamic power; it is capable of observing, mastering, directing and using all the psychological processes and the physical body. I am a center of awareness and of power.”
In therapy the technique of self-identification should be used as early as possible, because its use by the patient facilitates and fosters the use of all the other techniques of psychosynthesis. Generally, it is introduced in an early session; first a preliminary description and explanation is given to the patient, anticipating and answering his questions. Second, it has been found effective for the therapist to do the full exercise, speaking it aloud, ignoring the presence of the patient. This eliminates possible adverse reaction of subconscious or personal emotivity on the part of the patient. This is the most superficial psychological reason; the deeper reason is that as the therapist goes through the exercise in a concentrated intense manner, the “feel” and reality of the technique is subtly conveyed to the patient. To intensify the concentration it is helpful for the therapist to close his eyes, really forgetting the patient for the time being.
As the technique of self-identification is a basic technique not only for therapy but for education and personality integration, it can be considered also as a defense mechanism against the constant stream of influences, inner and outer, which try to capture the ego and demand identification. This technique can also be considered as a matter of everyday psychological and spiritual hygiene; and in therapy it is needed even more. Therefore, we advise the patient to use it as frequently as he feels is possible; once a day is sufficient, but that is a minimum. As mentioned above, it should precede the use of the other techniques because it helps the patient to use them more effectively.” (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 116-120)
SELF-IDENTIFICATION EXERCISE – DISIDENTIFICATION AND SELF-IDENTIFICATION
We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate, direct, and utilize everything from which we disidentify ourselves.
The central, fundamental experience of selfconsciousness, the discovery of the “I,” is implicit in our human consciousness.*
* “Self-consciousness” is used here in the purely psychological sense of being aware of oneself as a distinct individual and not in the customary sense of egocentric and even neurotic “self-centeredness.”
It is that which distinguishes our consciousness from that of the animals, which are conscious but not self-conscious. But generally this self-consciousness is indeed “implicit” rather than explicit. It is experienced in a nebulous and distorted way because it is usually mixed with and veiled by the contents of consciousness.
This constant input of influences veils the clarity of consciousness and produces, spurious identifications of the self with the content of consciousness, rather than with consciousness itself. If we are to make self-consciousness explicit, clear, and vivid, we must first disidentify ourselves from the contents of our consciousness.
More specifically, the habitual state for most of us is to be identified with that which seems, at any one time, to give us the greatest sense of aliveness, which seems to us to be most real, or most intense.
This identification with a part of ourselves is usually related to the predominant function or focus of our awareness, to the predominant role we play in life. It can take many forms. Some people are identified with their bodies. They experience themselves, and often talk about themselves, mainly in terms of sensation; in other words, they function as if they were their bodies. Others are identified with their feelings; they experience and describe their state of being in affective terms, and believe their feelings to be the central and most intimate part of themselves, while thoughts and sensations are perceived as more distant, perhaps somewhat separate.
Those who are identified with their minds are likely to describe themselves with intellectual constructs, even when asked how they feel. They often consider feelings and sensations as peripheral, or are largely unaware of them. Many are identified with a role, and live, function, and experience themselves in terms of that role, such as “mother,” “husband,” “wife,” “student,” “businessman,” “teacher,” etc.
This identification with only a part of our personality may be temporarily satisfactory, but it has serious drawbacks. It prevents us from realizing the experience of the “I,” the deep sense of self-identification, of knowing who we are.
It excludes, or greatly decreases, the ability to identify with all the other parts of our personality, to enjoy them and utilize them to their full extent. Thus our “normal” expression in the world is limited at any one time to only a fraction of what it can be. The conscious—or even unconscious—realization that we somehow do not have access to much that is in us can cause frustration and painful feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Finally, a continuing identification with either a role or a predominant function leads often, and almost inevitably, to a precarious life situation resulting sooner or later in a sense of loss, even despair, such as in the case of an athlete who grows old and loses his physical strength; an actress whose physical beauty is fading; a mother whose children have grown up and left her; or a student who has to leave school and face a new set of responsibilities. Such situations can produce serious and often very painful crises. They can be considered as more or less partial psychological “deaths.” No frantic clinging to the waning old “identity” can avail.
The true solution can be only a “rebirth,” that is, entering into a new and broader identification. This sometimes involves the whole personality and requires and leads to an awakening or “birth” into a new and higher state of being. The process of death and rebirth was symbolically enacted in various mystery rites and has been lived and described in religious terms by many mystics. At present it is being rediscovered in terms of transpersonal experiences and realizations.
This process often occurs without a clear understanding of its meaning and often against the wish and will of the individual involved in it. But a conscious, purposeful, willing cooperation can greatly facilitate, foster, and hasten it. It can be best done by a deliberate exercise of disidentification and self-identification.
Through it we gain the freedom and the power of choice to be identified with, or disidentified from, any aspect of our personality, according to what seems to us most appropriate in each situation. Thus we can learn to master, direct, and utilize all the elements and aspects of our personality, in an inclusive and harmonious synthesis. Therefore this exercise is considered as basic in psychosynthesis.
We then become clearly aware of and can examine their qualities while maintaining the point of view of the observer and recognizing that the observer is not that which he observes.
In the form which follows, the first phase of the exercise— the disidentification— consists of three parts dealing with the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of awareness. This leads to the self-identification phase. Once some experience is gained with it, the exercise can be expanded or modified according to need, as will be indicated further on.
Put your body in a comfortable and relaxed position, and slowly take a few deep breaths (preliminary exercises of relaxation can be useful). Then make the following affirmation, slowly and thoughtfully:
“I have a body but I am not my body. My body may find itself in different conditions of health or sickness, it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my self, my real ‘I.’ I value my body as my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well, I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not myself. I have a body, but I am not my body.”
Now close your eyes, recall briefly in your consciousness the general substance of this affirmation, and then gradually focus your attention on the central concept: “I have a body but I am not my body.” Attempt, as much as you can, to realize this as an experienced fact in your consciousness. Then open your eyes and proceed the same way with the next two stages:
“I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. My emotions are diversified, changing, sometimes contradictory. They may swing from love to hatred, from calm to anger, from joy to sorrow, and yet my essence—my true nature—does not change. ‘I’ remain. Though a wave of anger may temporarily submerge me, I know that it will pass in time; therefore I am not this anger. Since I can observe and understand my emotions, and then gradually learn to direct, utilize, and integrate them harmoniously, it is clear that they are not my self. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.”
“I have a mind but I am not my mind. My mind is a valuable tool of discovery and expression, but it is not the essence of my being. Its contents are constantly changing as it embraces new ideas, knowledge, and experience.
Often it refuses to obey me! Therefore, it cannot be me my self. It is an organ of knowledge in regard to both the outer and the inner worlds, but it is not my self. I have a mind, but I am not my mind.”
Next comes the phase of identification. Affirm slowly and thoughtfully: “After the disidentification of myself, the ‘I,’ from the contents of consciousness, such as sensations, emotions, thoughts, I recognize and affirm, that I am a center of pure self-consciousness.
I am a center of will, capable of observing, directing, and using all my psychological processes and my physical body.”
Focus your attention on the central realization: “I am a center of pure self-consciousness and of will.”
Attempt, as much as you can, to realize this as an experienced fact in your awareness. As the purpose of the exercise is to achieve a specific state of consciousness, once that purpose is grasped much of the procedural detail can be dispensed with. Thus, after having” practiced it for some time—and some might do this from the very beginning—one can modify the exercise by going swiftly and dynamically through each of the stages of disidentification, using only the central affirmation of each stage and concentrating on its experiential realization.
I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.
I have a mind, but I am not my mind.
At this point it is valuable to make a deeper consideration of the stage of self-identification along the following lines:
“What am I then? What remains after having disidentified myself from my body, my sensations, my feelings my desires, my mind, my actions? It is the essence of myself—a center of pure self-consciousness.
It is the permanent factor in the ever varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me a sense of being, of permanence, of inner balance. I affirm my identity with this center and realize its permanency and its energy, (pause)
“I recognize and affirm myself as a center of pure self-awareness and of creative, dynamic energy. I realize that from this center of true identity I can learn to observe, direct, and harmonize all the psychological processes and the physical body. I will to achieve a constant awareness of this fact in the midst of my everyday life, and to use it to help me and give increasing meaning and direction to my life.”
As the attention is shifted increasingly to the state of consciousness, the identification stage also can be abridged. The goal is to gain enough facility with the exercise so that one can go through each stage of disidentification swiftly and dynamically in a short time, and then remain in the “I” consciousness for as long as desired. One can then—at will, and at any moment— disidentify from any overpowering emotion, annoying thought, inappropriate role, etc., and from the vantage point of the detached observer gain a clearer understanding of the situation, its meaning, its causes, and the most effective way to deal with it.
This exercise has been found most effective if practiced daily, preferably during the first hours of the day.
Whenever possible, it is to be done shortly after waking up and considered as a symbolic second awakening. It is also of great value to repeat it in its brief form several times during the day, returning to the state of disidentified “I” consciousness.
The exercise may be modified appropriately, according to one’s own purpose and existential needs, by adding stages of disidentification to include other functions besides the three fundamental ones (physical, emotional, mental), as well as subpersonalities, roles, etc. It can also begin with disidentification from material possessions. Some examples follow:
“I have desires, but I am not my desires. Desires are aroused by drives, physical and emotional, and by other influences. They are often changeable and contradictory, with alternations of attraction and repulsion; therefore they are not my self. I have desires, but I am not my desires.” (This is best placed between the emotional and mental stage.)
“I engage in various activities and play many roles in life. I must play these roles and I willingly play them as well as possible, be it the role of son or father, wife or husband, teacher or student, artist or executive. But I am more than the son, the father, the artist. These are roles, specific but partial roles, which I, myself, am playing, agree to play, can watch and observe myself playing. Therefore I am not any of them. I am self-identified, and I am not only the actor, but the director of the acting.”
This exercise can be and is being performed very effectively in groups. The group leader voices the affirmations and the members listen with eyes closed, letting the significance of the words penetrate deeply. (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 211-217)
The experience of the observer
“This Exercise in Dis-identification enhances a sense of selfhood, a sense of being; and one finds it is really one of the essential techniques which enables one to experience what existential analysts have talked about so much—and provided so few techniques for reaching!—viz. the sense of identity, the sense of being, the sense of a center within oneself, the center of an essence within oneself. When this center has been experienced — which can come through the application of this exercise in self- identification—then it is possible to synthesize the different aspects from which one has dis-identified oneself. In other words, one becomes a self who uses the body, the feeling-apparatus and the mental abilities as tools, as instruments, in the same way as a car is the extension of a driver, but with the driver in control. This is analogous to the engineering concept of the man-machine complex, that man and machine make a unit and have to be considered as such. In the same way the self and its mechanism (and by mechanism we imply not only the physical body, but also the feeling-nature and the mental processes) can form a unity, and yet the self can always be aware that it is something over and above each constituent part of this whole.” (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 121-122)
The observer and education
“Another exercise, a more difficult one, is self-observation, but adolescents have the capacity to carry it out and are readily interested in it. It consists of assuming the position of the observer of one´s own inner world, making note of and describing (as they occur) impulses, feelings, images and thoughts that spontaneously emerge from the unconscious into the illuminated field of consciousness.” (Notes on Education)
“In order to strengthen and make stable the pure self-awareness of the observer, it is necessary to have periods of inner silence, gradually longer, to make what is called the void in the field of consciousness. Then one discovers another important function of the self: that it is not merely an observer, but it can also be active in modifying the personality. That is, it can direct and regulate the various functions of the psyche. It can be a will-er.” (Height Psychology — Discovering the self and the Self)
The witness, observer, spectator
“The will is not merely assertive, aggressive and controlling. There is the accepting will, the yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a feminine polarity to the will – the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the other functions of the personality.
I can state the same point in another way. At the heart of the self there is both an active and a passive element, an agent and a spectator. Self-consciousness involves our being a witness – a pure, objective, loving witness – to what is happening within and without. In this sense the self is not a dynamic in itself but is a point of witness, a spectator, an observer who watches the flow. But there is another part of the inner self – the will-er or the directing agent – that actively intervenes to orchestrate the various functions and energies of the personality, to make commitments and to instigate action in the external world. So, at the centre of the self there is a unity of masculine and feminine, will and love, action and observation.
Keen: This technique is similar to the Buddhist vipassana meditation in which one merely observes passing thoughts, sensation and images.
Assagioli: Yes, and it leads to the affirmation that the observer is different from what he observes. So the natural stage which comes after disidentification is a new identification of the self: I recognize and afirm that “I am a centre of pure self-consciousness. I am a centre of will, capable of ruling, directing and using all my psychological processes and my physical body.” The goal of these exercises is to learn to disidentify at any time of the day, to disassociate the self from any overpowering emotion, person, thought or role and assume the vantage point of the detached observer. (The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli)
“We ought to try to create a dual consciousness. We must learn not to identify ourselves with the contents of our momentary consciousness: one part of us should always remain free, a sentinel, an observer, a judge: the “Spectator”. (NOTES ON PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL WORK)
The transpersonal Self is unchanging
“In this same way the Self is unchanging in essence, yet it sends out its energies, which are stepped down in intensity and transmitted through the Superconscious, and received, absorbed and utilized by the personality. It is interesting to note that the German philosopher Herman Keyserling talks about intensity as the specific characteristic of the Self. And Jung says that archetypes and symbols (which are important elements of the superconscious) are transmitters and transformers of energies. (1)
From another point of view, it is as if the Self were the sun. The sun does not move relative to the earth. It is at the center of the solar system, and remains there. But it pervades the whole solar system with its radiance, and at the same time sustains it and holds it together through its attractive force.
So the pure experience of the Self – of contact and eventually of identification with the Self – is very different from superconscious experiences or expanded states of awareness. We can begin to grasp this difference through a basic and most important analogy: The Self is to the superconscious as the “I”, or personal self, is to the elements and functions of the personality, with the difference that the “I” is often identified with the personality elements, while the Self is not identified with the superconscious.
The experience of the Self might be reached in the measure in which the “I” – which is a projection or emanation of the Self – ascends toward the Self, identifies with it, and is temporarily absorbed into it.
So the first step toward the experience of the Self is to achieve the experience of the “I”. The “I” is the personal center of awareness and will. It is the observer and the director, and is distinct from the contents of consciousness. To reach it, one must first disidentify from feelings, thoughts, desires, drives, sensations, impulses – from the myriad contents of the personal consciousness. In other words one must relinquish the mistaken sense of being any of them. This of course does not mean in any way to abandon or suppress any of the personality functions. On the contrary, rather that being identified with, and therefore following, one or a few of them at a time, according to their whim, one can now direct and regulate them at will, and utilize any or all of them, at any moment, as means of expression in the world.
Achieving this condition of identification with the “I” and of inner mastery and harmony is a major aim of personal psychosynthesis. (The Superconscious and the Self)
Resistance toward dis-identification
“Among some patients, particularly Americans, there is a great deal of resistance to the idea of dis-identifying oneself from one’s body, feelings, and thoughts; and a deep fear of becoming split into different parts by so doing. However, on the contrary, many patients like the idea of fully experiencing a center within themselves, a center from which they can find the strength and the wisdom to withstand the stresses of modern life. Life in America, in some of the big cities, is particularly strenuous, so that the motivation for doing this exercise is enhanced.” (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 122)
The observer and the function of the will
“In both methods the exercise can be useful in bringing forth and developing the “I-consciousness,” since in the first method it is the willing self which decides to include or exclude certain psychological processes from the area of consciousness; and it is also the willing self which observes the flow of images, both visual and auditory, as it occurs in the second method. However, in the exclusion there is an emphasis on the will, and in the admission there is an emphasis on the eye as a detached observer.” (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p.153)
“Daily life, with its many tasks and occupation presents countless opportunities for developing the will. Most of our activities can be helpful in this way, because through our purpose, our inner attitude, and the way in which we accomplish them, they can become definite exercises of the will. For instance, the mere fact of rising in the morning at a definite time can be of value, if for that purpose we rise ten or fifteen minutes earlier than usual. Also, getting dressed in the morning can be such an opportunity, if we accomplish the various necessary movements with attention and precision, swiftly but not hurriedly: “calm rapidity” is a useful watchword. To make haste slowly is not easy, but it is possible; and it leads to greater effectiveness, enjoyment, and creativeness without tension and without exhaustion.
It is not easy because it requires a dual attitude and awareness: that of “the one who acts” and simultaneously that of the one who looks on as the observer. (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 42)
“If the various stages, qualities, and levels of the will, the corresponding ones of love, and the complex interactions between all of them are taken into account, as is indeed necessary, it will be apparent that the successful endeavour to achieve a synthesis between love and will demands much skill in action. It calls for persistent vigilance, for constant awareness from moment to moment. Various current spiritual movements and approaches rightly emphasize it and it has been widely practiced in the East.
But this awareness, this attitude of maintaining a conscious inner “presence,” does not stop with the observation of what “happens” within oneself and in the external world. It makes possible the active intervention and commitment on the part of the self, who is not only an observer, but also a willer, a directing agent of the play of the various functions and energies. This can be done by utilizing the principle of self-identification (see the exercise of identification in Appendix One, page 213).
From the vantage point of the self, it is not a compromise between love and will which is being attempted, but a synthesis. The two elements are absorbed into a higher unity endowed with qualities which transcend those of either. (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 101)
“To make haste slowly is not easy, but it is possible; and it paves the way for efficiency and productiveness, without tension and without exhaustion. It is not easy because it requires of us that we be almost dual: the one who acts, and the one who simultaneously looks on as the observer; yet simply to try to do this constitutes a good way of developing the will.” (The Training of the Will)
The observer and meditation
“There are various ways of obtaining mastery over the mind. The first, indicated by Vivekananda, consists in maintaining the steady, patient attitude of the observer for a certain time, until the mind tires of its restless activity. This can be practiced, patiently, for a short period each day.” (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 229)
“The most important, indeed, the indispensable, subject for meditation in achieving personal psychosynthesis is reflective meditation on one’s self. By means of it one is able to distinguish between pure self-consciousness or awareness of the SELF and the psychological elements or parts of one’s personality at various levels. This distinction has already been spoken of, but your attention is recalled to it because it is a fundamental requisite for acquiring consciousness of the SELF.
This awareness, this possibility of observing one’s own personality “from above” and “from a distance interiorly,” should not be confused with egocentricity and preoccupation with self. These in reality reflect just the opposite, being identification with the personality elements and concern with personal defects and the opinions and judgments of others about ourselves, which often arouse an acute sense of distress.
Finally, reflective meditation on ourselves is not to be considered simply a passive process of observation, like making an inventory of facts. It aims at understanding, interpretation, and evaluation of what we discover in ourselves.( The Act of Will, 1974, p.223 )
“The first stage, which in one sense corresponds to the preparation mentioned earlier, is that of attention or concentration, starting from the outside and working inwards, a conscious stepping back from one’s outer identity and working inwards – in other words liberating the conscious mind from its everyday contents. Our consciousness is generally dispersed across various areas of our conscious mind; in addition it is continually receiving messages or ‘information’, to use the current computer terminology, from various levels of the unconscious and from the outside world. Therefore, above all it is necessary to ‘get back into oneself’ – to pull back one’s consciousness into the conscious ‘ I’, to the very centre of the area of consciousness, at its normal level.
For this, it is necessary to be silent, not only in the sense of an outer silence but also within oneself, and to illustrate this I quote a witty response by one teacher. When a disciple of his said, ‘I shut my eyes and no longer see the outside world; I shut my ears to all speech and sound – but I don’t achieve anything whatsoever.’ The instructor answered: ‘ Try keeping your mouth shut as well so that you have internal as well as external silence.’ Indeed, if we observe ourselves, we realize that something is always talking inside us – there are incessant voices from our subpersonalities or from our unconscious, a nonstop inner uproar. So external silence is not what is important. In fact, it is possible to have perfect mental composure in the midst of external noise. (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 35)
“… we have to recognize the psychological complexity within us and the various sub-personalities in our being we might say that each human being is a character out of Pirandello. The first step then is to become aware of everything within us that causes a sense of restlessness. The second step is to discover what we really are: the Self, the spiritual ‘I’, the Observer of the human tragicomedy.
The doctrine and practice of ‘ awakening’ dates back to antiquity. Buddha placed particular emphasis on it in his teachings, to the extent of being called the ‘Perfectly Awakened (One)’. To promote this ‘ awakening’ there is an effective spiritual exercise one can use: having woken from sleep in the morning and entered the so-called ‘waking state’, move on to an equally real second awakening to the world of spiritual reality. We might express this in the form of an equation: sleep gives way to the ordinary waking state as the latter gives way to spiritual awakening.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p.87)
The Peace of the observer and meditation
“What is the real peace, then, and how do we obtain it?
There is a beautiful chant containing the illuminating phrase: ‘There is a peace that transcends all understanding. It resides in the hearts of those who live in eternity.’ This tells us that peace is a spiritual experience that cannot be understood by the personal mind. It belongs to another plane, another sphere of reality: that of eternity.
It is therefore pointless to look for it in the ordinary world, in our personal lives that contain neither stability nor security. It is vain self-deception to earnestly seek it in that place. Peace is only to be found when it is deliberately sought in the higher spiritual world and when a person succeeds in firmly remaining at that level.
That sort of peace – far from leading to inertia, to a static tranquillity, or to impassive acceptance – gives new energy. It is a dynamic, creative peace.
It is from this inner place of peace that we direct all our personal activities, provide them with strength, and make them effective and constructive, because they are then free from ambition, fear or any sense of attachment. In other words we are able to live as masters, and not as slaves.
The touchstone of this peace is our daily life, the way we react to life’s continual struggles and adversities, the pinpricks, the countless irritations that come our way every day. Spiritual peace must be able to resist and stand firm against the daily onslaught from the outside world.
This true peace must stand firm in bad times, when a person is suffering physical pain, or in the midst of various kinds of attacks. It can co-exist with inner pain. It is not a state of full joy until we have allowed our personality to be completely regenerated, until that full peace is ‘incarnate’ in us and our whole being is permeated with peace and has actually become peace.
This is the goal, and we will be well on our way when we have established an unassailable ‘centre’ of peace within that is able to withstand any test, whatever the cost, for this centre will be an inner fortress from which we can direct the whole of our life. This peace is the possession of the Spectator within us. One Teacher has said, ‘Learn to observe yourself with the calmness of an outsider.’
In the initial stages, before regeneration of the personality, the inner centre of peace allows a person to stand firm despite the raging battles of his human nature, during the period when the purifying flames are burning, and when pain is performing its work of purification and redemption. It is here that one becomes aware of the value and meaning of all such tests.
Whether we are aware of it or not, there are things that produce bitterness, resentment, rebellion and fatigue inside us, and these can rob us of our joy and serenity. But in the peace of the soul all this is appeased, brought into harmony and illuminated: one is shown the meaning and value of life, both its tangible aspects and its unrevealed aspects, as well as the meaning and value of pain itself, which is then transfigured as a result and becomes bathed in joy. It is then that the cross ‘becomes bright’, and then – as Tagore said in one of his lyrics – ‘Your light shines in my tears.’
Let us see how we can meditate in order to make this peace a reality.
It is useful to begin with enlarging our inner horizon, turning our thoughts to the contemplation of infinity and eternity. We then remember and realize that we are spiritual beings and that our spiritual essence is indestructible.
This broadening of our perspective will help us to re-establish a true sense of proportion and to see the relative significance of so many of the little things that can preoccupy and upset us. In this way we will gradually begin to truly experience the peace of eternity, the peace of the spirit, the peace Christ referred to as ‘my peace’. (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 272-273)
Relaxation and observation
“Much of the success of meditation depends upon right and careful preparation. To begin with, as quiet a place as possible should be chosen – at least until we are used to meditating – where we can feel that our privacy will not be disturbed. We should sit in a comfortable position. While the Eastern way of sitting cross-legged has the advantage of keeping the spine erect, it is a difficult posture for those who are not accustomed to it, and is not necessary. An effective introduction to meditation is to read or study something connected with the theme we will be meditating on, and if there is time we should do this as it greatly facilitates the tuning in of the mind.
Next, we should try to eliminate all physical, emotional and mental tension, because such tension is a quite useless expenditure of both nervous and muscular energy.
Relaxation is an art that has to be worked at, and it is not as simple as it may appear. In trying to achieve it, we are apt to fall into the opposite extreme – a state of passivity which ends in drowsiness. The aim is to eliminate all superfluous tension, while retaining that nervous and muscular tone necessary for alertness and for full attention to what we are doing.
One of the most effective ways of achieving relaxation is through slow, rhythmic breathing. But breathing exercises should be done with caution, for they can be harmful if carried out too strenuously. An adequate exercise consists of ten deep breaths taken rhythmically and slowly, with short pauses held at the end of each in-breathing and each outbreathing.
There should be no sense of strain, either in breathing or during the pauses, steady rhythm rather than length of time being the aim. The respiratory muscles should be relaxed with the out-breathing; this’ ‘letting go” of tension can then be diffused to all the other muscles of the body and a general relaxation achieved.
Physical relaxation is a first and necessary step to the more important one of psychological relaxation. The latter comprises emotional and mental relaxation, which have to be achieved in two distinct phases corresponding to the two different levels of the inner worlds on which we will be working – the emotional and mental. Each has to be handled separately and in its own way.
If, after relaxing physically, we begin to observe ourselves psychologically, we generally find that various feelings come and go. These emotions have to subside. It is not good to repress them forcibly, but the very fact of calmly observing them from what might be called “above” , without being identified with them, causes them gradually to lose their hold and their intensity, so that they cease to sway us and quieten down – if not complete at least to a degree in which they no longer constitute a serious obstacle. And that is good enough.
This forms the first part of psychological relaxation; the second part is mental relaxation. By nature the mind is restless and in continuous activity, and this is increased by the high tempo of modern life and also by emotional stimulation. If we have managed to exclude for the moment the activities of ordinary life and have quieted the emotions, it will be less difficult to deal with the natural restlessness of the mind itself.
This cannot be done completely in the preparatory stage; it will be the chief task in the first part of the actual meditation, which is concentration. In the preparatory stage it is enough to reach a certain degree of dis-identification, or detachment, from the mind’ s activity, and to resist being carried away by it in all kinds of directions. The mind is naturally active, and this activity has to be distinguished from the consciousness of the self, whom we might call the ‘ ‘ Observer’ ‘.
This brings us to the question – what part of us is the meditator? We do not always realise that human nature is made up of several different aspects, and that each has its own kind of life and fulfils its own role in the total personality.
Each therefore makes its own contribution and also has its own requirements. Each also has to be controlled by the central “I”, just as a team of horses must have someone holding the reins who knows the direction in which they are mutually to go.
In the case of meditation, we have to recognise that it is not the mind which is the meditator, as might at first be supposed, but the “I” at the centre – which uses the mind.
The following Technique of Dis-identification and Recognition of the Self will be found of great value in reaching a real inner awareness of this. It could usefully be made the first exercise we practise, before going on to meditation, for it is an excellent method of orientating ourselves and establishing a sounder balance between the different aspects of our nature. After practising it for a time we discover the deep implications of each statement; we get a new picture of ourselves and also of others, and reach fuller understanding of the psychological problems with which almost all are faced. …
“Although this exercise appears to be simple, it involves deep recognitions and is not as easy to carry out as might be thought. We have habitually identified ourselves with the different parts of our nature, and to stand back from them and observe them, recognising the reality that we are not them – and to hold this attitude throughout the vicissitudes of everyday living – takes time and persistence. But daily use of the technique will gradually build in the attitude and establish it in the unconscious as well as the consciousness. Before long we shall find we are able to stand with much greater detachment in the maelstrom of life, and hold the quiet attitude of the observer of the actions and reactions of the various aspects of the personality, eventually becoming their controller. Above all, we begin to realise our own essential nature; it becomes clear that it is the centre of self-consciousness which is seeking to meditate, and through meditation reach up to the higher Sources which it senses, and occasionally responds to, but as yet only dimly knows. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
“There is a yet higher and more important form of concentration – that of the Observer or inner Spectator who, perfectly concentrated himself, observes the flowing panorama of the psychological life – called by William James the ” mind stream” – and in a detached way perceives it, assesses it and, when needed, intervenes to change it. Such an inner attitude is not at all easy to maintain consistently.
Being what might be termed “on the bank” of the mind stream, we tend to be drawn into it by its currents. The attention is easily caught by some surge of emotion, by some interesting idea, by some impelling drive, and we have to draw it back continually to the centre of concentration, to the self, the awareness, the part in us which is persistent and unchanging throughout all the variations of the psychological flow.” (Meditation Group for the New Age)
“Another point is that we should not be discouraged by failure, especially failure to maintain concentration for a certain time. At first it is good enough if we can achieve real concentration for ten and then twenty seconds; a minute or two is quite long. So it is better to carry out repeated short exercises with some success than try forcibly to keep the attention fixed for a longer time.
Finally, there are two helpful attitudes which, as the Observer, each of us should try to maintain. The first is patience with ourselves or, more accurately, with our mechanism – the attitude that we would adopt towards an unruly child whose co-operation we hope to gain in the end.
The other attitude is confidence that persistence will bring success, and the following words of Hermann Keyserling – from his Travel Diary of a Philosopher -will reinforce our confidence as well as emphasise the value of what we are attempting to achieve:
“Undoubtedly the power of concentration is the real propelling power of the whole of our psychic mechanism. Nothing heightens our capacity for performance as much as its increase; every success, no matter in what domain, can be traced back to the intelligent exploitation of this power. No obstacle can resist permanently the exceptional power of utmost concentration. Attention forces every problem sooner or later to reveal all of its aspects which are capable of recognition by a specific nature.” (Meditation Group for the New Age)
“The development of concentration – which is, as we have seen in this first chapter, a primary requirement for effective meditation – is linked with right relationship. This law, woven as it is through every part of daily life, is the basis of all co-operation and constructive interplay. It is necessary in all our attitudes, and to practise it in all our contacts means holding it constantly in mind, maintaining it within ourselves, that is, between emotions and mind, and between these and the Observer or controlling Self.” (Meditation Group for the New Age)
“Reflective Meditation on the Self.
Using one’s own personality or self as the subject for meditation necessitates, more than does any other subject, holding the attitude of ” Observer “, or ” Spectator “, as mentioned in the study of Concentration (see Chapter I ) . It requires clear discrimination between pure self-consciousness and the psychological “contents” of our personality; and it means the observation of the various psychological factors in us (such as sensations, emotions, images, ideas), our various activities, our functions and our drives. Some knowledge of psychology is a great help in this, particularly an understanding of the findings of depth-psychology and of dynamic psychology.
This higher self-awareness and ability to observe one’s personality from above, from an ” inner distance” – or what one might call at arm’s length – should not be confused with what is commonly called being selfconscious or self-centred. Self-consciousness is quite the opposite, it is a painful identification and pre-occupation with one’s personality and its shortcomings, and an overconcern with the opinions and judgments that others may have of us.
Reflective meditation on one’s personality should not be considered as simply passive observation, or as the making of an inventory or mechanical collection of data; it includes analysis of the facts observed, understanding of their meaning and consequent evaluation of them, and this requires thought, consideration and interpretation.
It is therefore true reflective meditation, and is both a preparation and an incentive to other kinds of meditation and inner action. Realisation of our personality deficiencies, problems and conflicts urges us to bring about order, harmony and wholeness in ourselves, and stimulates the will to do this – and it can be achieved because the Self is not only the Observer, but is the Doer as well, the One who has the power to decide, to will, to direct and to rule.
Reflecting on all this we can see the value of the Exercise in Dis-identification and Self-realisation outlined in Chapter I (p. 21 ) . Its continued use is recommended, especially as a preliminary to this kind of reflection on one’s self, for the exercise has a more subjective and lasting effect than might appear as we repeat it. That very repetition has a cumulative transmuting effect at a deeper level than we may be aware, and we shall find that in time it brings about genuine change and more detached attitudes. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
Stages and Methods of Receptive Meditation
As the first condition of safe receptive meditation is the ability to keep our consciousness steadily on the mental level of awareness, it should be done only after the preparation described in Chap. II as necessary for reflective meditation.
That means we must go through the stages of relaxation, mental preparation by means of appropriate reading, dis-identification of the self from the body and the emotional life, the elevation of the centre of consciousness and the achievement of the inner attitude of the Observer. This is a condition of positive, wide-awake awareness. It is also advisable at this point to make whenever possible a short reflective meditation; this will consolidate the positive inner attitude and develop the ability to use the mind as an obedient tool.
To realise the difference between reflective and receptive meditation it is useful to consider the mind as an inner eye “, which in a certain respect it truly is. In reflective meditation the eye of the mind is directed, figuratively speaking, horizontally, trying to see beyond the apparent, or rightly interpret what has entered the field of consciousness. On the other hand, in receptive meditation we direct the mind’s eye ” upwards ” and try to discern what is “above “, on a higher level than that on which we are aware.
This can also be described in terms of hearing – we try to catch some inner sound or message coming from a higher or subtler region.
This stage should be defined carefully, because there are various kinds of silence. The safe and true kind needed is a positive silence, that is, the maintaining of a positive inner stillness for the desired period, in which we eliminate as much as possible of all the spontaneous activity of the mind.
This phase of silence is a necessary condition for receiving and registering higher influences. Someone endeavouring to reach this inner silence once wrote of it in the following amusing way: ” I was in deep meditation and knew I had reached a very clear and lucid place and – like a flash came the thought -‘ I know that I am in a very real inner place and yet I am deaf and blind, seeing and hearing nothing ‘, Another split second and there came a sort of humouring response -‘ If you were also dumb you might possibly see and hear ‘.”
To achieve and maintain the inner silence is a difficult task which calls for persistence and a firm determination; it is a sustained act of the will. Our psychological mechanism is not accustomed to such discipline, it resents it and tries in every way to shake it off. A flood of impressions, sensations, emotions, images and thoughts invades the field of consciousness and a fierce fight for mastery begins. It seems we will never succeed in expelling the intruders which appear to come in from every side at once.
But it is not necessary to be drastic; too strenuous an effort is undesirable and defeats its own ends.
There are several techniques we can use; one is to repeat over and over a phrase or word; another is to evoke an image and keep it clear and steady at the centre of the consciousness. The best words and images for this purpose are those which suggest a state of calm, of peace, of silence.
An effective phrase for example (from a Hymn used in the Greek Mysteries) is: ” Be silent, 0 strings, that a new melody may come to me “. Images such as the following are helpful in stilling the mind: a quiet lake reflecting the blue of the sky; a majestic mountain peak; the starry sky in the stillness of the night.
Those who have already had some training or practice in meditation will be able to use the technique of watching the flow of the mental stream in a detached, dispassionate way, as something objective and not belonging to oneself.
If we succeed in maintaining this positive watching attitude long enough the stream of emotions and thoughts becomes slower and slower until the ” psychic waters ” become still.
An opposite condition, that of drowsiness, sometimes occurs. This is to be firmly avoided because it is not conducive to the receiving of higher impressions and, instead, it may bring about a psychic mediumistic condition which is undesirable and even dangerous.
The achievement of a true inner silence is well worth the effort and persistent training which it takes. Besides being necessary for receptive meditation it has a spiritual value of its own; it is conducive to a condition of harmony, peace and quiet joy, and it produces a sense of expansion of consciousness; it is also essentially restful and refreshing.
The value of silence has been emphasised not only by mystics and contemplatives, but by ” lay ” writers such as Carlyle and Maeterlinck. Much has been written on the different ways of practising silence, the different qualities of silence and also the difficulties of truly entering it and maintaining it. Exercises in silence are included in the Montessori educational method, and a welcome new emphasis has been brought to it by the present interest in meditation.
When a state of silence has been reached, that is, after a period of effort and struggle to achieve silence, then we are ready for the further stage of reception. The inner attitude is one of quiet watchfulness and patient waiting; it can also be described as a state of keen but unemotional interest in what may happen and what we may become aware of. The source from which we await impression, and to which therefore we direct our one-pointed attention, should be the Self or Soul. That is the sure source of true impression. But it is not the only source; impressions from other sources, if these are high and true, are often channeled or conveyed through the Self to the conscious mind.
The methods of reception are various; spiritual impression may reveal itself to our consciousness through seeing, hearing, contact, urge to action and in other ways.
The most frequent is perhaps through seeing or illumination.
The mind is indeed symbolically an inner eye, and the symbolism of vision is often used; we speak of insight, of illumination, of ” seeing ” in the sense of realising the meaning or significance of some fact or event, and we talk of ” seeing ” the solution of a problem and of having a “bright” idea. Sometimes a geometrical figure or some other symbolic form enters into the field of consciousness.
Also a series of concrete images and forms and colours may appear, but these are the product of the imagination and are not mental in character. This flow of images should be stopped, or at most observed quietly for a short time without undue interest.
A higher form of spiritual “seeing” can be called intuition. This word may be misleading because it has been used in different senses. Etymologically it is connected with vision, it means “seeing into”. Intuition in its higher and purer sense can be considered to be a direct suprarational understanding or comprehension of the true nature and reality of something – comprehension of its true quality, purpose and essence. It is quite different from what are called “hunches”, which are psychic impressions about people or events of a personal character and having personal interest.
The attitude of trying to see inner realities has sometimes been termed contemplation, or the contemplative attitude, but this word is also often used in the more general sense of quiet expectancy, and in this sense it is synonymous with silence or silent expectation. Sometimes it is also used in the sense of holding before the mind’s eye an inner object for meditation. The highest form of inner seeing is illumination, which can be called the revelation of the Divinity immanent in all things – the Presence of God in manifestation, in nature, in every existing being. But we will not dwell on this as it is beyond the scope of our theme which is reception of definite inspiration.
Therefore, after meditation we should always keep an inner attitude of watchfulness and attentiveness – what is called, when developed, a ” meditative attitude “- during the whole day. We can train ourselves to develop a state of dual consciousness, that is, being normally concentrated on our outer activity while at the same time keeping a part of our attention turned towards the inner world. This is the ” attitude of the Observer “, watching both what happens in the outer world and on the various inner levels of life. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
At this point it might be as well to dispose of two queries which sometimes arise regarding the “as if” method. Is it not a pretence, some ask, the cultivation of a non-reality, an untruth ? And also, does this method not induce the glamour of believing that we have mastered something when in reality we have not?
These queries overlook a fundamental of the technique -the fact that as the observer we have recognised the glamour and decided on the technique to adopt to counteract it, and also that this attitude of the detached observer, the controller, has to be maintained to carry out the experiment successfully. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
The Technique of Indifference
This is a very effective technique for achieving freedom from all the types and aspects of illusion, and especially from the glamours we are most subject to, or, one might say, are immersed in most if not all the time.
By inducing the gradual elimination of our emotional reactions to the external and inner conditions affecting us, it establishes inner freedom and creates efficiency in action.
The principal requirement is dis-identification from the constant flow of the psychological elements (thoughts-images-desires-urges-emotions) and the physical sensations which normally, by occupying the field of consciousness, hold our attention captive. Dis-identification implies the assumption and maintenance of the inner attitude of the Observer; in other words, the achievements of true self-awareness, i.e., the awareness of That within us which, permanent and immutable, lies behind, or rather above, the endless variety of transient psychological states. The attitude of the Observer is of special importance. It is acquired by practising the Exercise of Dis-identification and self-identification. (Meditation Group for the New Age)« Back to Glossary Index