Group meditation can be a powerful service to our community and a tool to clear the collective mind of psychological negativity that influences us all in times of crisis. In this article, I look at the practice of group meditation, examining what Assagioli thought about it and looking at how we can use it to influence the present collective mind with positive energies. In particular, I will focus on a spiritual ritual that was an important part of Roberto Assagioli’s life, namely his group full moon meditations.
By Kenneth Sørensen
In times of crisis, as in the current pandemic (2020), it is relevant to investigate how we can influence the psychological environment we are a part of. What remedies do we have at hand as practitioners of meditation and psychosynthesis? In this article, we will hear the thoughts of Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, on this subject.
When we are in the midst of a crisis, we have two options. We can sink into the abyss of the lower unconscious and be overwhelmed by fear, depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, or we can work with disidentification by becoming aware of the mass emotions at play in the media, containing our reaction, and choosing to hold a higher perspective. In the latter, we try to hold our mind steady in the light of the soul, while adopting a realistic and courageous attitude to the many problems building up. In so doing, we are choosing to maintain a positive and constructive attitude by working with our mind and lifting our awareness to the inner levels of love, clarity and courage.
This attitude is particularly important with respect to the coronavirus because we need to strengthen our immune system, which is deeply affected by our psychological state. We know from science that anxious and negative feelings activate stress hormones and lower our immune system. In other words, we need to have a mental health strategy to help clear the psychological smog of fear that is so prevalent during a crisis. This is how Assagioli expresses this idea in his book The Act of Will  – note the pertinence of his thinking with respect to our current situation:
“A campaign against the sources of psychological smog and pollution, parallel to the present ecological campaign, urgently needs to be started. It might be objected that, while one lives in the world, one cannot withdraw completely out of range of these influences; this is true, but it can be done within certain limits. In many cases one can deny them attention and interest.
“Moreover, exposure to them may be counteracted by ‘disinfectant’ measures, during and after. Doctors and nurses working in departments of infectious diseases are not afraid of infection, but take precautionary measures (gloves, masks, use of disinfectants, etc.). Similarly, we can have recourse to disinfectants and precautions against psychological poisons. What methods are to be used by the skillful will to achieve psychological hygiene?
“The fundamental one consists, as I have said, in withholding attention and interest. Most people can do this to a considerable extent, once they understand the advantage of it. So it can be of great help to foresee in clear terms the harmful consequences of absorbing such poisons. An even more powerful approach is the already mentioned method of substitution: the cultivation of other, better interests, the systematic focusing of the attention on constructive things. This tends to give immunity to the negative, harmful, or poisonous influences.
“A most effective method, explained by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, is neutralisation, which entails the active cultivation of qualities that are the antithesis of the harmful ones: harmlessness and nonviolence in the face of violence; courage in place of fear; joy in healthy pleasures instead of depression and despondency; moderation as a substitute for greed.”
Group meditation as a tool for healing
Many of the techniques that Assagioli is proposing can be pursued in meditation. When we strengthen our awareness – which is our ability to observe and know what is going on inside – we can start to disidentify (remove our attention) from psychological poisons and instead direct our attention towards the positive mental states of love, joy, courage, etc.. I will not go into the different techniques of meditation here, but rather recommend a selection of articles by Assagioli. I also offer seven free meditations of my own.
If individual meditation is essential, group meditation can be even more potent. In The Act of Will, Assagioli writes:
“Finally, there is one way of practising receptive meditation that offers many advantages. Group meditation helps concentration (with few exceptions), confers a mutual integration and protection, and, moreover, makes possible a reciprocal verification and sharing of each member’s results.” 
Indeed, group meditation is advocated by all of the world’s spiritual traditions, from Tibetan monks chanting “Om Mani Padme Hung”, to Christian monks praying for healing, to the Catholic rosary “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”.
Assagioli was a dedicated advocate of group meditation, so much so that he initiated The Group of Creative Meditation in England and the beautiful Meditation Mount centre in Ojai, California. Both initiatives promoted group meditation through a three-year study course prepared by Assagioli and his co-workers, who produced three booklets that are deeply profound and a treasure for all who meditate – they can be downloaded here.
Let’s hear more about what Assagioli considered to be the benefits of group meditation:
“There is a way of practising receptive meditation which is of special value and has various advantages – the practising of it in group formation. In group meditation there is a mutual integration of qualities and a mutual protection from some of the dangers of receptive meditation; there is also the great advantage of mutual checking and pooling of results. But there is more than that, a rather mysterious but very real factor exists which is due to the very nature of groups. Using a rather material analogy, we can say that in a group something similar to a chemical combination occurs; the interplay, even if partial and temporary, of various persons creates something. Different from the mere sum of the members.
“Let us remember that at the level of the Self differences and separation are much less marked than at the ordinary human level. The Self has two aspects, an individual one and a universal one. This latter makes possible not only an easy contact and fusion with other Selves, but also a close relationship and contact with the universal Self, with the ocean of the Spirit and with the higher Beings living in that ocean of life.
“This was spoken of by the Christ when he said: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ No wonder then that many, speaking from experience, have testified that group silence and reception are easier and the results both greater and higher.
“There are several possible procedures for group meditation. The first one is free silence – group silence without any agreed subject of meditation. A second method is directed silence – silence with the mind directed towards a definite subject or theme, which may be either a spiritual problem or a question of general interest on which the members try to receive illumination and guidance. Then there is the Quaker method – group silence – which can be interrupted by any of the participants who feel prompted to speak.
“Each of these procedures has its advantages and drawbacks. There is another method of group reception; if it is not possible to meet personally, receptive meditation can be practised simultaneously by each group member in his own home. This method is based on the existence of telepathic communication, telepathic rapport between people attuned in the same way and focusing their minds in the same direction.
“Strict simultaneity, that is, meditating at exactly the same time, is not, however, essential because thought, and more especially spiritual realisation, are not limited by space or time. Thus, if a group meditates on the same subject during a certain period – perhaps a week or a month – interplay and group communication can and does take place, irrespective of whether the members meditate at the same hour. This happens more easily when the members are linked in a close inner communion.”
There many more important insights in Assagioli’s three booklets on the nature of group meditation, so if you plan to arrange such meetings, these booklets will prove to be a rich resource.
Roberto Assagioli about full moon meditation
Let us now turn our attention to a powerful example of group meditation, namely meditation during the periods of the new moon and the full moon.
The time of the full moon is held in high regard by many spiritual traditions and also by Roberto Assagioli. It is considered a potent time for spiritual contemplation, during which we can receive and distribute more spiritual life, love and light than at any other time of the month.
Luisa Lunelli, one of Roberto Assagioli’s closest friends, writes in her article Roberto, Nella and Luisa that full moon meditations were a regular ritual in the home of Assagioli:
“To those who lived in his house, Roberto did not ask for any particular practice of spiritual life; he only offered two occasions. One, daily, by opening the door of his study at noon. It signified the invitation to enter for meditation. It was about twenty minutes of silent meditation, followed by the recitation of the Great Invocation aloud. The other opportunity offered was the celebration of the full moon. He observed it in the dining room around the big table. He read the instruction prepared by himself that, in addition to the description – new every year – of the meanings and influences of the sign, also contained practical references to the present. Forty minutes followed, and also an hour of silent meditation, very good, as sometimes Roberto himself observed with satisfaction. Then we left each other in silence. The group consisted of the family, some occasional guests and some close friends. For the general public, on an appropriate date, the full moon was celebrated by Roberto in the meeting room on the ground floor of the building.” 
In his article The Dual Life of the Disciple, Assagioli writes about an enlightened state of awareness that he calls “Standing in Spiritual Being”, which points to the attainment of “a unified and unbroken spiritual awareness on all planes at the same time”. Of course, being an observer on all levels of awareness – from the physical and psychological to the spiritual – is a high demand and a rare attainment. However, there are according to Assagioli, certain times when this attainment is more likely to happen. So let us see what he writes about meditation during a full moon (Note: Wesak is the Buddhist celebration of The Enlightenment of the Buddha):
“During the period of each Full Moon, and particularly during that of the Wesak [full moon in May], it is comparatively easier (or should I say less difficult?) to achieve or to approach such a state. Thus a real opportunity is offered us, and we should avail ourselves of it to the utmost of our capacity. At the same time, such realisation, even if it is partial, constitutes a definite act of service. I might say of double service. During the days which precede the Full Moon our endeavour to step up our consciousness and to fix it more and more on the plane of Reality helps to intensify that rising current of aspirational and invocative appeal which creates the necessary stimulus and channel for the later downpouring… The meditations which we are going to hold during the Wesak period can be – if you so wish and decide – a good opportunity for making an earnest resolution – that of definitely attempting to achieve “the dual life of the disciple”. [Inner awareness and outer action.] That you may succeed in this high endeavour is my heartfelt wish, for your sake and for that of struggling, suffering, aspiring humanity.”
The astrological energies related to new moon and full moon
Summarising the above, we might conclude that the 12 full moons are occasions when we, as a group, can create a group channel of light, love and spiritual will and distribute it to humanity. Assagioli, like C. G. Jung, was deeply interested in the wisdom of astrology and wrote a lot about it. In his article about the astrological sign of Virgo, Assagioli offers his thoughts on the moon cycles.
“At the new moon as you well know, the sun and the moon are in the same astrological sign; therefore that emphasises the energy of that sign, and we may surmise – this is my hypothesis, I give it with no authority – that as the sun presents the higher aspect, the soul aspect, and the moon the form aspect, that both the higher and lower manifestations of the sign are facilitated. So, let us be aware to tune in with the higher and to control the lower manifestation, especially at the new moon.”
Let me expand on these thoughts of Assagioli. I consider the new moon to be a time when the new and the old collide: the higher solar aspect is related to a new potential type of energy which is ready to be birthed into action in our life. However, this new energy comes up against our old habits and behaviours, as symbolised by the moon, hence there is a conflict between the past and the present during new moon.
In respect of the full moon, Assagioli writes:
“The problem at full moon is different… It is that of the polarity and the eventual synthesis of the polar opposite signs. But at new moon it is the problem of the higher and lower aspects in humanity of the corresponding sign.”
The problem Assagioli relates to the full moon is a tension and conflict between the energies represented by the two astrological signs involved during the full moon: the sun is in one sign and the moon in another. So, at full moon, we can blend and synthesise the two polarities and astrological signs. At new moon, it is the higher and lower energies of the same sign that collide.
It is important to stress that we don’t need any astrological knowledge to benefit from the particular energies that are available here – an understanding of the astrological energies is a subject for specialists.
If our motive is to create a group channel and bring light, love and spiritual will through it, as an act of service to humanity, we have done a great service.
I wish you all a blessed and safe time. Namaste.
 The Act of Will, p. 75, 1974
 The Act of Will, Roberto Assagioli, p. 228, 1974.
 Roberto, Nella and Luisa from the archive in Florence, translated by Gordon Symons.
 The Dual Life of the Disciple by Roberto Assagioli, published in The Beacon, Nov. 1949.
 Jung on Astrology by C. G. Jung. Selected and introduced by Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice, Routledge, 2018.
 Virgo by Roberto Assagioli. Archive, Florence.