Roberto Assagioli about The Unconscious in his booklet Meditation for The New Age, vol. 3, booklet two:
Before we can recognise Reality we must have recognised the glamours and illusions which prevent us from discovering it. They act as a veil between us and Reality and our task is to become aware of, understand and eliminate them, in order to open the way to the recognition of Reality which is essential for true constructive work. Therefore, as said in Chapter 1, we shall be considering the various glamours rather than Reality in this study, for it is these obstacles which are our problem, not the Reality, which is always there for the seeing and only seems elusive because of the obstacles in us.
A first step in this process of recognising and dispelling our glamours is to reach a clear conception of the psychological constitution of the human being. This was discussed in Chapter III, Second Course and diagrams were included which showed that most of the psychic elements and activities are not within the area or field of consciousness, but exist and operate in inner regions which, in contradistinction, are called “unconscious.” Because it is so important to understand these two aspects of our personality and their inter-relationship, we are going into this subject again a little more extensively now before continuing our examination of the various categories of glamour.
To reach a clear idea of the nature of the unconscious we must realise that there is not actually an unconscious.
We are apt to speak of the unconscious as a definite reality or entity, but this is an instance of how words can distort and lead us astray. The unconscious should be thought of in an adjectival sense, as a temporary and changing condition of psychic elements and activities of which we are not aware for the time being. Things we are conscious of at one moment sink into unconscious levels the next, and vice versa, all the time. Influences and elements from the unconscious appear continually on the stage or field of consciousness. There is continuous exchange between the two.
Moreover, a fundamental distinction should be recognised between the part of the unconscious which is amorphous, or undifferentiated, and that which is organised in psychic structures of various origins and degrees of complexity:
- The Amorphous, Plastic Unconscious
, This is the part of our psyche which is in its original state, that is, undifferentiated, but which is very sensitive to impression, responsive to suggestions, and obedient to commands (provided they are given in an appropriate form). We have its most evident manifestation in hypnosis. It exists in each one of us and may be compared to an inexhaustible store of unexposed photographic film, or unused magnetic tapes.
It is plastic substance ready for modelling, energy ready for utilisation. It is our great inner wealth, but this treasure must, by reason of its nature, be closely guarded from being shaped, moulded and stirred into activity by harmful influences. It is practically inexhaustible, it is the source of our capacity to learn, to develop and to improve ourselves and, in fact, constitutes our perpetual psycho-spiritual youth.
- The Differentiated Unconscious
On the other hand, the differentiated unconscious may be compared to a vast collection of already exposed film or cut records. This analogy is, however, only partly exact. In fact, whereas the pictures on the film, or the tracks on the records, are in a static or fixed state, the psychic elements of the unconscious are endowed with propulsive energy; they tend to consort with, clash with and modify each other by turns, and produce continual activity and turmoil.
Thus are formed groups of impressions, images, urges, tendencies, desires and ideas of various sorts, amplitude and power, which have been termed “ idees-forces,” “ complexes ” and “ psychic constellations These complexes also unite with each other in larger groupings, to the point of forming real sub-personalities. For example, the family self, the professional self, and so on.
They may be compared to body cells which unite in groups to form tissues (muscle, connective and nerve). The various tissues inter-connect to form organs, such as the stomach, heart and liver, and the organs are coordinated in complex systems and apparatus, such as digestive, circulatory and respiratory. The “ psychic systems, ” however, are still far from being coordinated and harmonious like those of the body. Much disorder, dissociation and conflict still exist among them.
Another important fact is that owing to the close interrelation between human beings and the influences they exert on each other and also the common “ psychic atmosphere ” in which they are merged, there is not only the individual unconscious but also a collective unconscious. This, too, can be described broadly speaking as being of two types:
- The archaic and atavistic unconscious.
- The higher unconscious or superconscious.
The first is conditioned by the race consciousness, the race experiences and the archaic images—in other words, by the experience of the race. This has much more influence than we realise; there are the group unconscious, the national unconscious, the race unconscious. All these are sources of glamour.
The second, the higher collective unconscious, is not really collective in the same sense; it is the higher realms which we call in a loose way the spiritual levels. These are •super-personal, or transpersonal, and enter and influence the individual superconscious and through it the conscious personality.
This shows how complex is the nature of the unconscious, and how varied and complicated is the interplay between the conscious personality and the rest of the unconscious which makes up our individuality and our common humanity. This is the general framework, and in this frame of reference the explanation of many of our glamours can be found.