The Self – definitions of the self and Self by Roberto Assagioli
The Self – an experience
By, Roberto Assagioli, From Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Newsletter When we held the Valmy Conference in May 1958 much discussion took place about the Self and it occurs to us that readers of this Newsletter might like to exchange any relevant ideas they come across during the course of their work or reading. So, if you find anything of significance please share it. The following question and answer from the transcript of the Conference may be of special interest to new readers of the Newsletter: What t from a practical point of view a do we mean by the small, little self, and the Higher Self?” Dr. Assagioli replied: “I come back to the fundamental attitude of psychosynthesis and research. The Self is an experience, not a conception. We can formulate the experience, more or less, in a conception; but it is an experience. Human life is experience; so we should not start, in my opinion, with a “conception” of the Self, but with techniques which can help us to have the experience of the Self. Let us always speak in terms of experience – experience of the little self, experience of the will, experience of the Higher Self, esthetic experience. First the experience, the life, and then the conceptual formulation and the utilisation.”
Roberto Assagioli in C.G. Jung and Psychosynthesis: “Psychosynthesis, on the other hand, regards the Self as a reality, rather as a living Entity, direct and certain knowledge or awareness of which can be had. In other words, it can be defined as one of those “immediate data of consciousness” (to use Bergson´s expression) which have no need of demonstration but bear with them their own evidence—as happens in the case of ethical conscience, aesthetic experience and the experience of the will. There is a considerable body of testimony in support of this. Here, out of many, is the significant contribution of Father Gratry: “We possess an ‘inner sense’ which at special times when we succeed in interrupting the habitual flow of distractions and passions gives us direct and clear knowledge of our Soul…I used to experience an inner form, full of strength, beauty and joy, a form of light and fire which sustained my entire being; stable, always the same, often recaptured during my life; forgotten at intervals, but always recognized with infinite delight and the exclamation, “Here is my real Being·.” (La Connaissance de l’Ame)” “The experience of the spiritual Self is a sense of freedom, of expansion, of communication with other Selves and with reality, and there is the sense of Universality. It fells itself at the same time individual and universal.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis, p. 87)
Assagioli on his own experience of the Higher Self and Superconscious, when he was in jail.
“A sense of boundlessness – of no-separation with all that is, a merging with the self of the whole. First an outgoing movement, but not towards any particular object or individual being, an overflowing of effusion in all directions, as the rays of an ever expanding sphere, a sense of universal love. Then the ability to focalize the radiation towards some object or individual and at the same time to specialize its quality:
- Compassionate love towards the inmates of my prison and towards all prisoners, inmates of hospitals and asylums.
- Tender love to the members of my family.
- Brotherly love towards my friends.
- A love of admiration, gratitude, veneration towards the Great Souls, the wise, the geniuses and particularly towards Christ, that perfect embodiment …
But all these qualifications remained always within the whole, as parts of the identification with the whole of Reality, of Life, as sections of the Universal infinite Sphere. A wonderful merging … no seperation, only diiffering aspects of a same wonder.”
Freedom in Jail, Catherine Ann Lombard, 2016, p. 56, Edizioni Istituto Di Psicosintesi – Firenze
“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-relying security, which is deeply satisfying and gives rise to a feeling of peace, serenity and quiet joy. Another characteristic belonging to the realization of the self is power. It is a sense of concentrated power at rest, yet ready to express itself dynamically either in the mastery over all elements and forces of the personality or re-use in creative activity. This explains why the majority of people (some psychologists included!) have never had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with their own self, and thus they tend to doubt, and even to deny the existence of the self. But there are some who under exceptional circumstances, or as the result of their own efforts, have attained to that higher consciousness and have acquired a profound and unassailable certainty of the existence of the real Self, of the Soul. Indeed, one proof of the existence of the real self, is given by its activity. The law which governs the association of ideas, the mechanical action and reaction on one another of the various psychological factors are quite insufficient to account or the higher operations of the soul. Reasoning, constructive imagination, moral judgment, choice, sets of will, imply an activity which is synthetic, directive and creative. But this activity is not displayed in the everyday self; in the light of ordinary consciousness, we become aware only of its results and fruits. The poet who feels an unknown force dictating within his inspired verses, the mystic to whose rapt and astonished consciousness are revealed the power and grandeur of the soul that loves and wills the highest good, the patriot who hears the voice of conscience imperiously pointing the way to sacrifice for his defense of his country: all those who have felt an inner force operation on their ordinary consciousness, a force which is at one with their highest aspirations, with there most individual feelings, do recognise that it is an emanation from the real “I”, a manifestation of the true self. If we reflect upon that mysterious Being in ourselves, and on its wonderful powers, the ancient inscription of the Delphic Oracle, “Know Thyself”, requires a new and deeper meaning. The discovery of this inner Center, gives us the strong basis on which to reconstruct our personality. It gives us the light, the wisdom to plan and perform this task; it equips us with the power to achieve synthesis. It is a most fascination task, because we are dealing with the very living substance of our being.” (Assagioli, Mystery of The Self, Assagioli Archive, Florence)
“In genuine expansion of consciousness, there is no complete loss of self-awareness of the spiritual Self as center. It can be compared to a sphere which can expand indefinitely; but the Center of the sphere remains. There is the paradoxical impression of not losing oneself, but being more oneself, while losing the empirical limitations of the ego. It is a synthesis of individuality and universality. The individual feels identified with the universe, but there remains some awareness that he is identified with the universe.
G.C.T. There’s no complete loss of awareness of the self?
R.A. No. No loss of self-awareness . . . Or in the reverse experience, when one feels that the universe, so to speak, invades us, there is a joyous sense of acceptance without any fear of losing oneself.
M.L. What would be the difference, if any, Dr A., between your definition of the spiritual Self and Jung’s definition of the Self?
R.A. There is a marked difference. I gave three lectures in Italian on Jung and Psychosynthesis, in which I have dealt with this, but I can give you some points. For Jung the Self is a ”psychological function”, a “point between the conscious and the unconscious”, and he doesn’t attribute to it any transcendent reality. He sticks to the empirical standpoint – the agnostic standpoint – and this shows that he has not had the genuine spiritual experience of the Self. If he had had, he’d speak in a different way. He considers the Self to be the result of a psychological process, of “individuation”.
It is not for him a living Reality which is latent but of which we can become directly, experientially aware. Thus there is a great difference between the two definitions: according to one the Self is a psychological concept; according to the other it is a living reality – even more, a living Entity. The Self is the Subject par excellence. Jung’s Self is merely “psychological”; the spiritual Self is a transcendent, glorious reality, and one can have direct, immediate proof of it, that is, one can experience It. You know the happy expression of Bergson – “les donnees immediates de la conscience”. The awareness of red or green or blue are “donnees immediates de la conscience”. You cannot demonstrate scientifically the existence of blue or convey it to someone born blind. But there is no problem in the experience of blue. There is no problem in experiences of ethical awareness or aesthetic awareness or in heroic awareness. And there is no problem, and no need of proof, in experience of the Self.
Assagioli in: A dialogue with Roberto Assagioli
The self and the Self
By, Roberto Assagioli, From Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Newsletter, 34, Okt., 1968 Arising out of discussions and correspondence on the self, and the distinction between a “personal psychosynthesis” and a “spiritual psychosynthesis,” we received the following definition from Dr. Assagioli which we think will be thought-provoking and interesting to our readers: “The Self is an ontological Reality, a Being, and is on Its own level a stable Center of Life, from which It radiates energies. The personal self, the self-conscious “I” is a projection or reflection of the Self into the normal human level. An analogy may help understanding, although, as are all analogies, it is only approximate and partial. The relationship between the spiritual or transpersonal Self and the personal self, or “I”, can be compared to that between the Sun and a planet, let us say the Earth. From the sun emanate many and powerful radiations, which affect the planet and all the living beings on it, producing the conditions for evolution, development, growth. In the same way the Self projects a small portion, a spark, a tiny center of self-consciousness. This self grows in self-awareness, intelligence, power to act, etc., under the combined influence of “nourishment” from the environment, the soil where it exists, and from the vivifying impact of the descending energies radiated by the Self. One might say that the Self becomes aware through the self of what exists and occurs at the personal levels (physical – emotional – mental). The personal self, in its turn, becomes aware of the Self in two ways:
- By opening itself consciously to and recognizing the radiation from the Self.
- By rising towards and eventually contacting and merging partially with the Self.”
“This personal self is the human core at the ordinary level, the level of personality. It is the centre of our ordinary psychological functions: mind, emotions, sensation, imagination, etc. Likewise, at our higher human level there is an entity that is at the centre of the higher functions – artistic inspiration, ethical insight, scientific intuition. This is our real core: it is there in all of us, but the personality is generally not aware of it at the ordinary level.” (Miller, 1973) “The Self, the “Soul,” the true spiritual Center, is, in both nations and individuals, superconscious. It does exist, but in a realm or at a level that is ordinarily above the reach of the personal consciousness. Its reality is revealed by its manifestations, which usually occur only on exceptional occasions, but which are so vivid, potent and of such a different quality that they bear a sure proof of their higher origin. In individuals this is outstandingly demonstrated by geniuses, mystics, holy men and heroes, in whom we cannot but recognize the manifestation of the “something other” than ordinary human characteristics. It happens also at times that these great individuals become inspired not only from their own Selves, but also from the soul of their nation, which uses them as its instruments and representatives, in order to reveal itself and achieve its group purposes. Examples of such inspiration or “overshadowing” have been Moses, Dante, Joan of Arc and Lincoln.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis – Individual and Social) “The question of the individual or spiritual Self is a more difficult and obscure one, but it has been somewhat elucidated by the modern studies on the superconscious psychological activities which are going on in the human soul. Frederick Myers has been the first to make an extensive scientific study of these facts, in his well-known work on The subliminal self. More recently Evelyn Underhill in her classical book on Mysticism has given us a good, though still approximate, chart of those high inner realms. These and other studies, as well as the direct records and testimonials of many individuals, oblige every unbiassed person to admit that there is in us a higher kind of psychological activity, which habitually transcends the everyday consciousness, but which can make a connection with this on more or less frequent occasions. From these higher levels come the inspiration of the great artists and prophets, the illuminations of the mystics, the flashes of intuition, the great decisions which lead to heroic deeds. This higher inner life must have, as our normal one, a center from which it manifests and which directs and controls it: this center is the individual, or spiritual Self.” (Assagioli in: A NEW METHOD OF HEALING: PSYCHOSYNTHESIS) “Yet all the attributes and qualities of God are Beings; they are His Angels, His Messengers; they are living and conscious Forces. Everything in the Universe is alive, and in all religions the faithful turn to the Angels, Spirits, or Higher Beings. Our Souls, which have been called “Solar Angels,” are Living Beings that work on the higher planes where the qualities, or keynotes, of the Spirit exist as Living Beings. Recognizing this gives us a wonderful sense of the Universal Life that is the One and the Many manifested in myriads of entities hierarchically ordered.” (Assagioli in: The Art and Technique of Silence) “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. ” (Assagioli in: The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli)
The Self and its emanation
In my interpretation, Assagioli is demonstrating his belief that there is a transcendent, unified Spirit that created the external world of matter in the form of a number of levels of reality, from the most complex intellect and feeling to the simplest aspect of inorganic matter. This process of Spirit descending to create levels of reality is the process of involution. According to Assagioli (Transpersonal Development, pp. 85-86), this same process occurs when the soul or Self incarnates from its heavenly abode: “Time and time again one is brought up against the paradoxical duality and unity of the Deity. The personal “I” comes down from the star, or from the spiritual “I”, in the form of a reflection. This fits one of the interpretations of the parable of the prodigal son. The personal “I” is the prodigal son who has descended to the level of the material world and forgotten his origin, to the point where of his own free will he resorts to all the foolishness he is capable of, all the errors (”errors” both in the sense of making mistakes and of going astray), and only then feels a longing for his fathers house, sets out in search of it and eventually finds it.” Elsewhere, Assagioli (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 102) offers further details: “We have now reached the fifteenth group of symbols, that of resurrection and return, what in the gospels is referred to as the return of the prodigal son to his father’s house. This is a return to a previous state and points to a return to the original, primordial Being. It presupposes an emanatistic theory of the soul, descending, becoming one with matter, and then returning to its “home”, the heavenly homeland – not as it was before, but enriched by the experience of self-awareness which has come to maturity in toil and conflict.” Assagioli is claiming that the soul level, or “heaven”, is not merely a symbolic picture but a real existential sphere to be encountered and explored. “The Self is one it manifests in different degrees of awareness and self-realisation” (Assagioli, in Psychosynthesis, p. 20)
The personal self a pale reflection of the Higher Self
“Why does the self at the personality level have this quality? Because it is the reflection of the Higher Self, of the transpersonal Self, and it reflects, however palely, the same qualities of its Source. If you look at the reflection of the sun on a mirror, or on water, you see the light and quality of the sun, infinitesimal, but still the quality of the sun. So that explains why even at the personality’s level the self is stable, sure, and indestructible.” (Talks on the Self)
“…the personal ego is only a pale reflection of the Transpersonal Self.” (Conversation with Roberto Assagioli) “Before completing our examination, albeit brief, of the superconscious, we need to highlight the distinction between the superconscious and the spiritual Self as shown in our diagram of the psychological make-up of a human being. This distinction is often omitted because the contents of the superconscious, particularly at its higher levels, are very close to the Self and therefore share its characteristics. But there is a fundamental difference: in the superconscious there are elements and different types of active, dynamic, changing contents which are involved in the overall flow of psychological life. The Self, on the other hand, is stable, unmoving, unchanging, and for this reason it is different. It is important to keep this distinction in mind, not least because this sense of permanence and stability, however diluted and concealed it may be, is transmitted from the spiritual Self to its counterpart, the conscious personal ‘I’. It is this that gives us our sense of permanence and personal identity throughout all the changes, alternating states of mind and changing contents of our awareness. However much we identify ourselves with different ‘roles’, with the various subpersonalities and emotions successively occupying the realm of the conscious mind, we know that we are always ourselves. Even if at times we might say, ‘I no longer recognize myself’ when some significant change occurs in life, what this actually means is: ‘The thing I identified with before has disappeared and I now identify with something else.’ But even to say ‘I no longer recognize myself’ implies, paradoxically, an obscure, hidden sense of underlying continuity. Otherwise, there could not even be a sense of not recognizing oneself, in that this is based on a comparison, a conflict, between the previous state of consciousness and the present one. Thus the essential characteristic of self-awareness is continuity and permanence, but the self-awareness of the conscious ‘I’ is only a poor reflection of the enduring, immortal essence of the spiritual ‘I’, the Self. The Self in the diagram is placed at the highest point on the periphery of the personality, partly inside it – as it is in a continuous relationship with the superconscious – and partly outside of the personality. This indicates its dual nature: individual and universal at the same time. This seems like a paradox, incomprehensible to the mind, to personal consciousness, yet it is a state of consciousness which can be, and is being experienced, lived, at certain moments of heightened awareness when a person is lifted out of the limitations of ordinary existence. In such a state one experiences a sense of enlargement, limitless expansion and a sense of being pervaded by an intense joy and bliss. It is in essence a sublime experience which cannot be expressed in words. At this point one comes into contact with Mystery, with the supreme Reality. Of this I am unable to speak; it is beyond the confines of science and psychology. However, Psychosynthesis can help us to approach it, to get as far as the threshold. And that is no small achievement.” (Transpersonal Development, 2017, p. 25-27)
“The third direction is the ascendant direction, towards the levels of the superconscious, the transpersonal levels. This expansion of consciousness can come about in two different ways. The first consists of raising the centre of consciousness, the ‘I’, to those levels; the second has to do with opening oneself to the influence of energies coming down from the higher levels. There is thus an increasing interaction between the conscious ‘I’ and the superconscious levels. At its highest this takes the form of contact with the Transpersonal Self. Let us remember that the conscious ‘I’ is a ‘reflection’ of the Self and is thus essentially of the same nature, however much it is weakened and ‘coloured’ by the contents of the middle level of the personality. When one manages to eliminate those contents by means of certain exercises (particularly that of disidentification), the conscious ‘I’ tends to return upwards to its origin.” (Transpersonal Development, 2017, p. 39-40)
“The fact that we have spoken of the ordinary self and the profounder Self must not be taken to mean that there are two separate and independent “I’s”, two beings in us. The Self in reality is one. What we call the ordinary self is that small part of the deeper Self that the waking consciousness is able to assimilate in a given moment. It is therefore something contingent and changing, a “variable quantity”. It is a reflection of what can become ever more clear and vivid; and it can perhaps someday succeed in uniting itself with its source.” (Assagioli: The Self – A Unifying Centre) “Then we have the corroboration of such philosophers as Kant and Herbart, who make a clear distinction between the empirical ego and the noumenal or real Self. This Self is above, and unaffected by, the flow of the mind-stream or by bodily conditions; and the personal conscious self should be considered merely as its reflection, its “projection” in the field of the personality.” (Psychosynthesis, p. 19) “Self-realization, in this specific well-defined sense, means the momentary or more or less temporary identification or blending of the I-consciousness with the spiritual Self, in which the former, which is the reflection of the latter, becomes reunited, blended with the spiritual Self.” (Psychosynthesis, 202)
“The preceding diagram helps us to reconcile the following facts, which at first appear to contradict and exclude each other:
- The seeming duality, the apparent existence of two selves in us. Indeed, it is as if there were two selves, because the personal self is generally unaware of the other, even to the point of denying its existence; whereas the other, the true Self, is latent and does not reveal itself directly to our consciousness.
- The real unity and uniqueness of the Self. There are not really two selves, two independent and separate entities. The Self is one; it manifests in different degrees of awareness and self-realization. The reflection appears to be self-existent but has, in reality, no autonomous substantiality. It is, in other words, not a new and different light but a projection of its luminous source. (Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis)
“The conscious self is not only generally merged in the ceaseless flow of the psychological elements, but it often seems to disappear and sink into nothingness at such moments when we fall asleep, when we lose consciousness in a swoon, or when we are under the effect of a drug or the influence of a hypnotist. And when we awake, our self mysteriously reappears and does not know how or whence: a fact, that, if closely considered, is truly baffling and disturbing. This, and many other considerations too numerous to mention at present, lead us inevitably to the admission that “behind” or “above” the conscious self there must be a permanent spiritual Centre, the true Self. This spiritual Self is fixed, unchanging, unaffected by the flow of the “mind stream” or by bodily conditions; and the personal conscious self should be considered merely as its reflection, its projection into the field of the personality. Using our analogy of the cinema, the Spiritual Self corresponds to the source of the light, the lamp, which projects the white light upon the screen. On the diagram this relationship is indicated by the point representing our normal self, situated in the centre of the field of consciousness, which is connected by a dotted line (representing the descending ray or thread) with the star indicating our Spiritual Self. This diagram helps us to reconcile two facts which at first appear to contradict and exclude one another: (1) The apparent duality, the apparent existence of two selves in us. Indeed, practically it is as if there were two selves, because the normal self generally ignores the other, both actually and theoretically, even to the point of denying its existence; and the other, the true Self, is latent and does not reveal itself directly to our consciousness. (2) The real unity and uniqueness of the Self. There are not really two selves, two independent and separate entities. The Self is one; only it manifests itself in different degrees of consciousness and self -realisation. The reflection is distinct from the luminous source, but has no reality by itself, no true and autonomous substantiality; it is not a new and different light. (Psychoanalysis and Psychosynthesis)
“The use of all these methods, however, presupposes a clear and stable self-consciousness, the employment of a firm and decisive will, and a constant sense of self-awareness, both as subject and, at the same time, as agent. This attitude can be taken at the level of the personal “I,” the ego, but the most effective way is to establish contact and a relationship with the Transpersonal Self, of which the personal “I” is an emanation, or reflection.” (Life as a Game and Stage Performance)
“First of all, it is well to have a clear idea of what self-realization is. The term has been used to indicate two kinds of growth in awareness, of expansion of consciousness, which, although more or less related, are different in their nature and have quite different manifestations. The meaning most frequently given to self-realization is that of psychological growth and maturation, of the awakening and manifestation of latent potentialities of the human being-for instance, ethical, esthetic and religious experiences and activities. These correspond to the characteristics Maslow (1959) ascribes to self-actualization, and it would perhaps be well to use this term in order to distinguish it from the second kind of self-realization. This is the realization of the Self, the experience and awareness of the synthesizing spiritual Center. It is not the realization of the personal conscious self or “I,” which should be considered merely as the reflection of the spiritual Self, its projection, in the field of the personality.” (Self-realization and Psychological Disturbances)
“As we can see in the diagram, fig. A, the “I” is intimately related to the Transpersonal Self. More precisely, the “I” is a projection or reflection of the Self an outpost of the Self in the world of the personality. It is important to realize this, because the attempt to reach the Self by skipping the “I” is an error, due to a misunderstanding. Many, with the best intentions, and at the cost of great pain, try to “destroy” the personal “I”, the ego. Here we find an important difference between psychosynthesis and various other methods.” (The Superconscious and the Self)
“M.L. What is the relationship of the soul and the personality?
R.A. The difficulty in answering this question is first of all a semantic one, due to the very different meanings in which the two words have been and are being used. The American psychologist Allport has quoted about fifty definitions of the personality; I don’t know how many one could give of the soul! Therefore one should always define clearly the meaning in which one uses these words.
Let us consider the word soul. Keyserling and other modern writers use it to indicate the emotional nature or aspect of the personality. Jung’s definition of soul is “a definitely demarcated function – complex that is best characterized as a ‘personality’” (Psychological Types, p.508).
In the Christian usage, the word soul is used in a rather loose way. In some cases it connotes the immortal soul, made “in the image and likeness of God”, but in others it corresponds more to the emotional nature, for instance, in the phrases “My soul is sad”, “My soul invokes God for help”, etc. Evidently this is not the immortal soul but the emotional part of the personality.
I think your question refers to the relationship between the personality and the soul in the spiritual sense, that is, the spiritual Self (the Atman which is one with Brahman, both individual and universal).
This brings us back to the Ego and the Self, because the human personality is characterised by the possession of self-consciousness, or, in other words, the I or Ego is the core of the personality. Now the Ego should be regarded as a projection or a reflection of the spiritual Self. Therefore essentially it partakes of the nature of the spiritual Self, but it is so much veiled by “the 70,000 veils of maya”, that is, by its multiple identification with all kinds of psychic contents (sensations, drives, emotions, thoughts, etc.) that it has lost all remembrance of its origin.
Thus we have the paradoxical situation of the personal self denying its “father”, its origin and source. It can also be called the paradox of duality and unity. This is the deep meaning of the old injunction: “Become what you are”. It could be expressed in modern terms as “Recognise your source, your origin, the spiritual Self, and unite in consciousness as much as possible with It until you achieve an increasing realisation of this identity, until it becomes permanent.” This is the drama of man’s existential situation, the meaning and purpose of human evolution.”
Roberto Assagioli in: A dialogue with Assagioli
The Self and how it affects the personality
“The individual influx descending from the Ego (soul) to the personality may be compared to the solar rays which reach the earth. These rays are variously intercepted, deflected and extracted according to the greater or lesser purity and transparency of the atmospheric strata through which they pass. Thus the subtler ultra-violet radiations are for the most part intercepted in the upper parts of the atmosphere even when this is pure. When there are clouds and mists, the luminous and calorific rays also are partly arrested. When the rays reach solid objects on the earth the reaction is different, according to the nature of the objects. Lustrous objects reflect the rays an opaque objects absorb them; colored objects absorb some radiations and reveal others an so on. Very similar is the fate of the spiritual and higher mental radiations emanating from the higher self, and descending through the mental and emotional levels of the personality to the objective consciousness functioning through the physical brain. The highest and most subtle intuitions and promptings are generally arrested and do not reach the consciousness. When mental mists befog the mind, or psychic storms agitate or obscure the emotional nature, most if not all of the individual radiations are obstructed. Then these radiations are absorbed or rejected according to the ideas, opinions, projections, likes and dislikes, desires, tendencies, and so on, which constitute the variegated (miscellaneous) furniture of our mental home.” (Assagioli, Roberto , 1930, Individual Psychology and Spiritual Development, Vol IX, Nov., The Beacon.: 184-185) The Self pervade the three aspects of personality: “Abstract geometrical symbols are often combined with the symbol of the sun or a star: e.g.; the visualisation of an equilateral triangle which symbolises the three aspects of the personality – physical, emotional and mental – and above the apex of the triangle a sun or star, with radiating rays, symbolising the Self. This is a very apt symbol to illustrate the process towards and the achievement of spiritual psychosynthesis through the action of, the pervasion by, the spiritual Self of the reconstructed or re-newed personality.” (Assagioli in, Psychosynthesis, p. 203) “Our spiritual being, the Self, which is the essential and most real part of us, is concealed, confined and “enveloped” first by the physical body with its sense impressions, then by the multiplicity of the emotions and the different drives (fears, desires, attractions and repulsions), and finally by the restless activity of the mind.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis 214) “Radiation and magnetism appear at first to be contradictory. Radiance, however, evokes magnetism, it effect is magnetic and the recipient of radiation is attracted towards the radiating centre or source. A clear example of this is the response of a plant to sunlight; the sun radiates light to the plant, which is attracted and reaches up towards the sun. The radiation of the sun is thus magnetic. The same is true of the light of the Soul or Self playing upon the personality; the Soul radiates its light and the right reaction of the personality is a yearning towards this source of light; it is its response to the magnetic attractor of the Soul. But the personality does not always react in this positive way; sometimes it is not aware of or repels the Soul’s influence.” (Assagioli in: The Science and Service of Blessing.)
“An important fact that should be realised is that the Soul or Self is endeavouring to infuse the personality all the time. We do not have to “storm” the Soul; it is ever reaching out towards the personality. This infusion can be considered the blessing of the personality by the Soul.” (Assagioli in: The Science and Service of Blessing.)
“There is an important point that needs clarification because there is great confusion among psychologists about it. A basic difference exists between superconscious activities and functions, even of the highest order, and the Self.
In the superconscious intense activities are going on, it is creative, the Self instead is a pure center of spiritual awareness, not active in itself; it projects dynamic influences but remains motionless, we might say. (Aristotle called God the “Unmoved Mover”.) Another image is the sun, which projects rays and streams of energies without “descending” from its position, without coming nearer the earth. Many have had high spiritual experiences, either by raising the center of consciousness, the Ego, up to superconscious levels, or by opening the field of personal consciousness to the inflow of superconscious contents (inspiration). But that is not the realisation of the spiritual Self. The former is typical of poets, writers and artists.
Some of them have given expression to high contents of the superconscious, but with no Selfawareness, like channels, almost like mediums in some cases. This explains the baffling psychology of the artist; how an artist can express at different times the highest and the lowest. It occurs even in the case of very great artists, like Wagner, who wrote the mystical music of Parsifal and Lohengrin, as well as the sensual, erotic Venusberg music in Tannhauser. On the other hand, there have been some high mystics, people who have achieved realisation of the Self without giving It any creative expression, either through lack of the means of expression or lack of interest in doing so, being so absorbed in the Self and the spiritual Realities with which it is in contact that their superconscious was not stirred into expressive activity. But if the pure contemplative does not create, he can and does radiate, and his radiation can be creative, but this is something else.” (Assagioli in: A Dialogue with Roberto Assagioli)
The Self and spiritual development through the higher unconscious
The Higher Self is the cause and source for all the superconscious processes, but is itself not a process, but a point of pure universal being. (Assagioli, The Superconscious and the Self)
According to Assagioli (1963: 4), the Higher Self is able to act through the superconscious “under the powerful stimulation of some unusual stress or emergency, or in response to some strong appeal.” “From these higher levels come the inspiration of the great artists and prophets, the illuminations of the mystics, the flashes of intuition, the great decisions which lead to heroic deeds. This higher inner life must have, as our normal one, a center from which it manifests and which directs and controls it: this center is the individual, or spiritual Self.” (1927, see also The Superconscious and the Self for a complete presentation)
“Identification with higher and higher aspects of the superconscious is useful, as it can constitute a ladder toward the Self” (Assagioli, The Superconscious and the Self ).
“To reach the place where this Self resides means a climb, an ascent to the heights of the superconscious.” (Assagioli in: Transpersonal Development, 1993, p.83) It seems that Assagioli always considers Self-realisation to be a process that goes through the superconscious and not the lower unconscious and his point is: “The contents of the superconscious, particularly at its higher levels, are very close to the Self and therefore share, to some extent, its characteristics” (Assagioli, Transpersonal Development, 1993: 29). And in another quote by Assagioli (Miller, Stuart: 1973):
“…others feel “calls” – to use the old language. They are attracted by the possibility of expanding consciousness into the farther reaches of the Superconscious, up to the experience of the Self. This is true Self realization, what I call Transpersonal or Spiritual psychosynthesis.” Definition of spiritual: “We are using the word “spiritual” in its broader connotation which includes, therefore, not only the specific religious experience, but all the states of awareness, all the functions and activities which have as common denominator the possessing of values higher than the average, values such as the ethical, the aesthetic, the heroic, the humanitarian, and the altruistic. We include under the general heading of “spiritual development” then, all experiences connected with awareness of the contents of the superconscious, which may or may not include the experience of the Self. It should also be pointed out that the reaching up in the realm of the superconscious and its exploration, while approaching the consciousness of the Self, may sometimes even constitute an obstacle to full Self-realisation, to the reaching of the summit where the personal-I awareness blends into awareness of the spiritual Self. One can become so fascinated by the wonders of the superconscious realm, so absorbed in it, so identified with some if its special aspects or manifestations as to lose or paralyze the urge to reach the summit of Self-realisation.” (Assagioli in Psychosynthesis, p. 38-39) In order to achieve self-realisation: “What has to be achieved is to expand the personal consciousness into that of the Self; to reach up, following the thread or ray (see diagram II) to the star; to unite the lower with the higher Self.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis, p. 24 (see more)) “The opening of the channel between the conscious and the superconscious levels, between the ego and the Self, and the flood of light, joy and energy which follows, often produces a wonderful release.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis, p. 43) “There are not in reality two independent selves. There is one Self – but there are very different and distinct levels of self-realisation. Therefore, between the self-identity of the ordinary or normal level of functioning and the full spiritual Self-realisation there are intermediate stages or levels, ever wider, clearer, fuller.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis p. 113) “To be more exact, there are two main ways of arriving at spiritual Psychosynthesis: One could be called the abrupt, dramatic way, as seen in cases of religious conversion and in the forms of sudden illumination or awakening – and the latter is the technique used in an extreme way by Zen-Buddhism. But in many cases, and perhaps at present in the majority of cases, there is instead a gradual development from the integrated personality towards the inclusion of superconscious elements, a gradual approach of the personal self-consciousness towards the spiritual Self, from self-identity in the personal sense to spiritual realisation.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis p. 188-189) “The superconscious precedes consciousness of the Self …” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis p. 198) “Self-realisation, in this specific well-defined sense, means the momentary or more or less temporary identification or blending of the I-consciousness with the spiritual Self, in which the former, which is the reflection of the latter, becomes reunited, blended with the spiritual Self. In these cases there is a forgetfulness of all contents of consciousness, of all which forms the personality both on normal levels and those of the synthesized personality which include superconscious or spiritual levels of live and experience; there is only the pure intense experience of the Self.” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis p. 202) Self-realisation is a process where we must remove the obstacles in the middle and lower unconscious for the inflow of superconscious energies: “… the necessary conditions to be fulfilled and the price to be paid for the high achievement of Self-realisation are a drastic transmutation and regeneration of the personality. It is a long and many-sided process, which includes phases of active removal of the obstacles to the inflow and operation of superconscious energies …” (Assagioli in: Psychosynthesis 49, 54) “When dis-identifying from the contents of consciousness the personal self tends to rise to its source the higher Self” (Assagioli in: Transpersonal Development, 1993, p. 44)
“When we have either flashes of spontaneous illumination, or when we reach, through our inner work of aspiration, meditation and contemplation, a certain decree or level of spiritual consciousness we must be aware not to believe to have attained the full consciousness of the soul, to be really living as souls.
The true soul consciousness is something very high: it transcends the limitations of time and space and of individuality: it is omniscient and group-conscious. (Assagioli in: Some Spiritual Aspects of Psychosynthesis)
Self and the Universal Self
“The Transpersonal Self of each is in intimate union with the Transpersonal Self of all other individuals, however unconscious they may be of this. All Transpersonal Selves can be considered as ’points’ within the Universal Self.” (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 260) The higher Self is a blend of individual and universal consciousness, it “experiences universality but without “losing” itself within the vast Universal Self. It remains at the center, Immovable.” (Assagioli, The Superconscious and the Self)
Assagioli (cited in Besmer, 1973: 7) states: “Such phrases as, ‘I am Brahman, I am The One’, need to be clearly qualified. They may express a metaphysical ontological truth, but the personal self certainly has not reached that level of expansion of consciousness. It is a difference of development.”
In a passage describing the “great principle of involution or emanation”, Assagioli (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 251) explains: “From a basic, original absolute reality, a series of levels of life, intellect, feeling and material life has developed, through gradual differentiation, to the point of inorganic matter. Thus every quality or attribute of the eternal world, of matter itself, and of the countless different creatures is but a pale, obscure reflection of a quality or attribute of the spiritual Reality, the Divine Being.”
“The inner experience of the spiritual Self, and its intimate association with and penetration of the personal self, gives to those who have it a sense of greatness and internal expansion, the conviction of participating in some way in the divine nature. In the religious tradition and spiritual doctrines of every epoch one finds numerous attestations on this subject some of them expressed in daring terms. In the Bible there is the explicit sentence “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” St. Augustine declares: “When the soul loves something it becomes like unto it; if it should love terrestrial things it becomes terrestrial, but if it should love God (we may ask) does it not become God?” The most extreme expression of the identity of the human spirit in its pure and real essence with the Supreme Spirit is contained in the central teaching of the Vedanta philosophy: “Tat Twarn Asi” (Thou art That) and “Aham evam param Brahman” (In truth I am the Supreme Brahman). In whatever way one may conceive the relationship between the individual Self and the universal Self, be they regarded as identical or similar, distinct or united, it is most important to recognize clearly, and to retain ever present in theory and in practice, the difference that exists between the Self in its essential nature—that which has been called the “Fount,” the “Center,” the “deeper Being,” the “Apex” of ourselves—and the small ordinary personality, the little “self” or ego, of which we are normally conscious. The disregard of this vital distinction leads to absurd and dangerous consequences.” (Assagioli in, Self-realization and Psychological Disturbances)
Oneness and individuality “When we consistently consider ourselves and others as being really Souls, which are trying to manifest themselves through more or less imperfect, blind and rebellious personalities, and that this is the most important and immediate purpose of our being here, as far as we are concerned, and if, further, we see that souls are not separate and isolated entities, but that they are essentially one with the oversoul, ever trying to realize this oneness through group-consciousness and group activity, then our attitude and our behavior will radically change. We shall sense behind every individual the imprisoned soul, and our recognition and love will flow naturally towards it; we shall realize how futile and fundamentally wrong are criticism, disparagement, jealously and antagonism and how the only right and rational thing to do is to cooperate with that soul, through pouring out our love and through understanding its problems and its struggles. But the essential unity of all Souls in the One life, in God, does not exclude differences of quality among Souls, besides many differences existing in their personality appearances. Therefore, we must make a serious study of these different qualities, as manifested by the different human types. This study should become more and more a part of the new psychology. We should endeavor to understand the true nature, the underlying function and purpose, the specific problems, virtues, and vices of each type.” (Assagioli in: Loving Understanding)
The transcendent Self
Assagioli (Psychosynthesis, 1975: 19): “This Self is above, and unaffected by, the flow of the mind-stream or bodily conditions” “The transpersonal Self is “outside” time and above it. It exists and lives in the dimension of the Eternal” (Assagioli, 1973: 6). “Realization of the Self The great, the supreme paradox: the “selfless” Self. The three attitudes:
- “non self” (Buddhist)
- Merging in Another, in God (Mystical)
- Realisation of the true Self, of one´s true Being (Vedanta, Raja Yoga)
It is all a question of “identification.” If one identifies “self” with the empirical personality, then the attitudes are 1) or 2), according whether one is a mystical or not. If one identifies oneself with the emerging spiritual consciousness and transfers the self identity to each higher level, then 3). Advantages and drawbacks of each solution. It does not matter much: quote Keyserling who, in his usual paradoxical and extreme (exaggerated) way says: (See from Suffering p. 245-246). What is important is to recognize that the 3 attitudes are 3 ways of realising a same glorious Reality, of attaining the same sublime Goal. Its essential Reality is so far above all mental conceptions, all human reactions … it is inexpressible – it has to be lived.” Assagioli, quoted in Freedom in Jail, Catherine Ann Lombard, 2016, p. 59, Edizioni Istituto Di Psicosintesi – Firenze
See also the articles: Talks on Self, The Self – A Unifying Center, The Superconscious and the Self, Psychosynthesis and Evolutionary Panentheism,« Back to Glossary Index