The essential goal of Psychosynthesis is an ever-increasing communication, an ever broader and more intimate union between the conscious self and the spiritual self
By Roberto Assagioli, undated unrevised notes, from the Assagioli Archive in Florence, docs. #23326 and 1452. Original Title: Esercizi Interiori. Translated and Edited With Notes by Jan Kuniholm
Before beginning the psychological experiments and exercises I mentioned in the program of our meetings outlined last Sunday, I think it appropriate to indicate more broadly their meaning and value, framing them within the whole of psychospiritual development.
Making use of the outline already used in past years and which has been found clear and demonstrative, it can be said that the essential goal to be achieved is an ever-increasing communication, an ever broader and more intimate union between the conscious self and the spiritual self.
But the way is not clear: many obstacles stand in the way; external and internal elements tend to grab the ordinary self, to draw it to itself and distract it from the Spirit.
How to free ourselves from those obstacles? How to break the bonds? How to implement communion with our Spirit?
TWO BASIC METHODS:
- The Religious, Devotional, Mystical Method.
This can have various aspects. The main ones are:
Communion with God in a completely inward way — “vertical” elevation or uplifting.
“Expansive” communion with God as universal life.
(There would be much to say, but I will not dwell on it).
The Method of Love.
- The Method of Mastery, of Conquest
The conscious “I” or self, having recognized its own powers, arouses them, develops them, uses them methodically, gradually mastering the various psychic elements, creating a growing communion with the Spiritual “I” or Self with conscious discipline. Here are all the methods of psycho-spiritual self-discipline of the past and present: from Buddhist, Taoist, Indian, to those of Stoicism, to Christian ones. Among these the best known and most typical is represented by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; and onward to the various modern psychagogical methods of educating the will: New Thought, Right Thinking (Rawson), the Schools of Silence, etc.
Each of these two great paths of spiritual realization corresponds to one of the two great human types: the devotional and the mental-active. It cannot be said that one of the paths is in itself superior to the other. I believe it is good to know and appreciate both. While mainly following the one more consonant with one’s inner constitution, [one can] also follow the other to some extent. Advantages are: one avoids the dangers of one-sidedness and imbalances. I believe that for full, integral development, for approaching the ideal of the perfect man, it is necessary to be a master of both methods.
Let us dwell on the second: The deepest and most complete, and so far unsurpassed exposition of it that we have are Patanjali’s Raja Yoga Aphorisms (Yoga Sutras). What is YOGA? It comes from yug = to join, to unite, from which also comes “yoke,” to yoke: so it very well sums up the goal and the way: joining, union with Spirit, and joining, mastery of the psychic elements. The second Aphorism states, “This union (or Yoga) is achieved by means of subduing the psychic nature and the mastery of the mind.”
It is stated here in quick and clear summary all the work:
- Mastery of the emotions and passions.
- Mastery of the mind (thought, imagination, etc.).
It is not we who think, who feel what we want. Thoughts, images, feelings, impulses arise and unfold spontaneously; independent in us; we undergo them. It is then a matter of reversing the relationship: of being active rather than passive, of becoming masters rather than slaves, of dominating and directing rather than being dominated and overwhelmed. It is about sweeping away everything that stands in the way, creating the clear way, removing every veil and every inner object so that the Light of Spirit shines and illuminates consciousness — Creating the inner silence, so that the voice of Spirit can be heard.
How is this done? Here is the useful and necessary function of psychagogical methods. Psychagogy is (similarly to pedagogy) direction and mastery of the psyche. One cannot suddenly acquire mastery by violence. It is a training; a gradual exercise. (There is an analogy with the gymnast’s or player’s mastery of muscles and nerves).
Secret: START SMALL, from ELEMENTARY EXERCISES, from the FIVE NOTES. Here few have the patience and constancy. It is something that seems boring, small, but without the small boring things nothing big is accomplished; there is not enough momentum. Doing it together can facilitate things, get things started. One cannot suddenly suppress imaginative and mental activity; however one can begin to direct it, at least at some time — to channel it. Choose an image or a thought, and stop it, fix it. Here we come to the first exercises. The simplest and easiest are those of Visualization.
We will do some preliminary experiments: one with geometric shape and one with color.
1st: Let us close our eyes and after a moment of recollection let us try to visualize, that is, to imagine in front of us, a few inches from our eyes A SQUARE DRAWN IN BLACK ON A WHITE BASE.
2nd: Color: (Use of colors, see indirect suggestion).
A BLUE DISK ON A WHITE BACKGROUND
I will then ask someone to report [on results].
 Diagram to illustrate the obstacles: adapted from a hand-drawn sketch by the author in Doc. #1452. —Ed.
 The Italian word used here is slancio. —Tr.
 The Italian words used here are preghiera e orazione. —Tr.
 psychic is used in the broadest sense, to indicate all inner, mental, psychological and spiritual elements. —Tr.
 “New Thought” is a spiritual movement that coalesced in the United States in the early 19th century. It was seen by its adherents as succeeding “ancient thought,” accumulated wisdom the various cultures, primarily regarding the interaction among thought, belief, consciousness, and the effects of these within and beyond the human mind. William James referred to the various groups in this movement as having profound agreements, so that he treated them as a single movement, in his book Varieties of Religious Experience. —Ed.
 Right Thinking: The Basis of True Prayer by Frederick Lawrence Rawson (1859-1923) Oxford, date unknown. —Ed.
 Psychoagogy is the subject of a separate essay by Assagioli. —Ed.
 “Five Notes” is a reference to an elementary beginner’s exercise in music. —Ed.