Ian Gordon-Brown, a long time friend of Assagioli, speak about the core elements of psychosynthesis and what he consider to be the most valuable aspect of psychosynthesis
Original title: Ian Gordon-Brown talks to June Posey, translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Author June Posey
Ian works at the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology. He knew Roberto Assagioli from 1949, and shared an interest with him in spiritual growth processes, a love of mysticism, and both eastern and western philosophy. We shall deal with the transpersonal perspective in psychology in a later issue. But Ian includes psychosynthesis ideas and techniques in his work, and believes that the contribution of Psychosynthesis to the development of a new age psychology will become increasingly important in the future. Ian met Assagioli periodically down the years, and an interview with him belongs in this issue.
What do you feel is the most important contribution of Psychosynthesis?
I wish Roberto had written more. He is underestimated because he put so little down on paper, but I think he will be remembered long after many of the current and more popular figures have been forgotten. For me the affirmation of a Spiritual Centre in the human being, as an existential and experiential reality, is his primary contribution. I know it is commonplace for many to accept this today, but Assagioli started saying so sixty years ago. What is more, he shows how this Centre actually works as a creative operational energy within the psyche. I also greatly value his emphasis on synthesis. He did not reject analysis, either as a technique or approach, but placed it in a larger perspective. If he had done no more than coin and popularise the concept of psychosynthesis, his contribution would have been significant.
Many people find bits and pieces of other systems in Psychosynthesis.
Yes, Roberto “borrowed” from all sorts of sources, both within and outside psychology. He was amazingly eclectic and inclusive. But he put things together so well that he produced something new, a genuine synthesis. I find his basic map, the “Egg Diagram”, one of the best models for showing how the different branches and streams within modern psychology all fit into a single whole. It is very useful in many ways.
Psychosynthesis seems to have an intellectual stance, compared to other branches of the growth movement. Does this limit its applicability?
I hear what you are saying, but I would not put it like that myself. For example, psychosynthesis is concerned with the whole person, the total psyche. In appropriate cases it emphasises the need to develop the intuition; meditation will often be encouraged both in therapy and to facilitate the growth process; psychosynthesis practitioners have been among the front runners in developing guided imaging and fantasy techniques, not to mention the use of the observer chair in Gestalt – you could hardly call that “intellectual”. However the methods and imagery of Psychosynthesis do appeal primarily to those who want to “raise consciousness”. It is “height” psychology primarily, placing emphasis on Self, Direction and the Will. Although I would not push the contrast too hard. Psychosynthesis, so it seems to me, is oriented towards expressing the masculine principle (I am not referring to gender). It can usefully be contrasted with the Depth Psychology imagery and techniques of the Jungians, which I feel to be more oriented to the feminine principle in all life. Together the two make a beautiful blend.
What do you feel about the relationship or the various groups in the growth movement? Should they not cooperate more?
I welcome variety, and am a great believer in people doing their own thing. In practice the different branches of the growth movement emphasise different things. Many Encounter groups for example are emotionally polarised. Then there are those who focus on body energies and awareness. All this is good, because people are different with very different needs. It would be disastrous if we were all the same.
Cooperation is an attitude which may or may not work out in common activities. I would like to see each of us cultivating our own patch, and helping those who come our way to find what suits them, and this may mean pointing them away from what we are doing. I would also like to see us cooperate on the big issues, like the development of a valid new psychology. There is a common purpose that joins us all – the growth of a true art and science of humanity. That is what Roberto Assagioli was about, it is what Psychosynthesis is about, and it is the fundamental perspective of Transpersonal Psychology. There is value in many approaches. There are many different roads to the Centre.
Source: “Self and Society” – Volume 5 – Number 1 – January 1977