Contemplation implies a silence of all faculties — a special state that on the one hand is intense concentration, and on the other is complete receptivity to what is contemplated.
By Roberto Assagioli, Year IV – Lesson XXI – July 21, 1931. From the Assagioli Archives in Florence. Doc.#13567 Transcription from Handwritten Notes by Istituto di Psicosintesi, Florence. Original Title: Meditazione – Contemplazione – Illuminazione. Translated with Notes by Jan Kuniholm.
Various objects of meditation and contemplation.
At the last meeting we talked about meditation and saw how a complete exercise of meditation involves the use of all our normal inner faculties. In fact, meditation requires the successive or simultaneous use of :
And the cycle is fulfilled by action.
But there is another inner exercise by which higher levels of consciousness are reached, deeper and more valuable energies are aroused, yielding more powerful results as much in inner transformation as in efficiency and radiance in life. This inner exercise is “contemplation.” Since, however, even this word has been given different meanings, it is good to specify how we understand it, even though it is something that can hardly be expressed in words.
When in the practice of meditation one has reached the highest and most vital point; that is, of arousing the feelings pertaining to the theme of meditation, one can pause and rise even higher. With a burst of aspiration we can try to almost get out of ourselves and to single-mindedly contemplate the chosen object until we come to empathize with it, to become one with it. This implies a silence of all faculties — a special state that on the one hand is intense concentration, and on the other is complete receptivity to what is contemplated.
In that state we forget ourselves; or more precisely, we forget our ordinary personality with its usual states of consciousness (memories, thoughts, images, feelings). But this does not mean that we become unconscious and idly passive. On the contrary, one is extremely alert, but in a whole different, more subtle, more vibrant sphere of consciousness and inner life: One has at one and the same time a sense of stillness, of perfect peace, and a sense of intense work going on spontaneously within us. Because of the first feature it has been called by the mystics “quiet prayer.”
They also call contemplation, to use the words of St. Francis de Sales ” . . . a loving, simple and permanent attention of the spirit (we would say of the conscience) to divine things.”  And the one who works in us in this state of stillness, in this silence, is the superconscious, the Spirit.
St. John of the Cross expressed this in a bold yet very apt and meaningful way by saying that such action is a kind of conception of God in the soul, in other words a kind of fertilization of the soul by the Spirit. Often during “silence” one has only a vague, indistinct sense of that mysterious work. Sometimes indeed it seems as if nothing takes place. This is because the work is being done at a level that consciousness cannot reach. But the reality of such work is demonstrated by the effects that manifest afterwards. At other times, however, consciousness is able to participate, at least in part, in what takes place in the superconscious, to receive the gifts that descend from the Spirit, and then contemplation produces illumination.
Consciousness finds itself as if bathed in light; and in that light a new faculty of intuition, of direct spiritual vision is awakened by which it discovers new truths, new meanings in the soul and in the universe; or it realizes the true and profound nature, the essence of the thing contemplated, discerns its value, its connections, its place in the great Reality. This light is combined with a sense of expansion, enlargement, of joy, of peace, of security, of power. It is a true inner transfiguration.
[Schema — the original hand-written document contains this word, inserted in red ink at this location, expressing Assagioli’s intent that a diagram would be presented at this point in the lecture. However no diagram has been found. —Tr.]
This heightened state of consciousness lasts for a longer or shorter time, then gradually fades; and with regret we are obliged to descend into the heavy, dense atmosphere of the ordinary levels of daily life. But we are not the same as before; a change has taken place — a “sign” has been imprinted in us.
We can no longer give so much importance and value to the things of ordinary life; ordinary passions no longer have the power over us that they did before; human attachments have loosened their grip, and the ambitions, desires, and goals pursued by ordinary humanity no longer fascinate or exalt us.
We have glimpsed another reality — higher, wider, brighter, truer; and we feel a subtle longing, a haunting call, an irrepressible aspiration toward that spiritual sphere. But this does not make us passive dreamers. New goals, new tasks of goodness excite us; new inner achievements attract us, and we return with increased fervor, with firmer faith, with firmer purpose to act.
This vision of the admirable possibilities, of the precious fruits of meditation and contemplation, induces us to take a more lively and conscious interest in the ways of practicing them. An important thing is the choice of the object of the theme to be proposed.
Such objects are quite diverse and their choice depends mainly on two elements:
- On the immediate purpose we we wish to achieve.
- On the particular psychological type to which we belong.
The consideration of the first element is quite easy; e.g. if we wish to develop a certain quality or virtue (opposite to a defect we deplore in ourselves), this will naturally form the theme of meditation. Thus we may meditate on calmness, courage, trust; on goodness, generosity, love, energy, or gladness. If our aspiration turns to direct realization of spiritual consciousness we will choose the most suitable objects for this, which we will now name.
It is more difficult, however, to know which objects and methods are most suitable and bear best fruit in relation to our particular individual constitution. The study of the various psychological types and methods of inner development most suited to each of them is very interesting and can give valuable guidelines for knowledge and life, but it requires extensive treatment. We hope to devote part of next year’s Course of Lectures to it.
In the meantime, the best method to follow is the experimental one: that is, to try out various objects of meditation little by little, and thus find out which ones best suit our temperament and give us the best results.
Let us therefore see what these themes are to choose from:
- A phrase, motto, thought, or verse (mantram) that we like and fits us
- An abstract idea, a universal principle
- A broader theme that lends itself to unfolding thoughts and evoking feelings
- Imaginative evocation of concrete scenes apt to shake, arouse. Meditation on the Passion, much used by religious. Exercises of St. Ignatius.
- An inner quality, a virtue, a spiritual note.
- [Something] self-endowed with a quality or virtue
- An embodied ideal, a Great Being (The Christ)
- The Spiritual Self, the true I, as the Center of Reality, of Life, of Light. (— its value see Rousselle  pp. 99-100)
- Perfect selves
- Union with all beings, spiritual love. Sense of the Unity of Life.
- The Light of Spirit (Patanjali I, 36)
- A significant symbol
- Jewel in the Lotus
– suggestive – universal
As symbol: School of Wisdom (Rousselle)
Grail cup = center of individuality
Temple of the Grail = the personality
The surrounding landscape = field of work
Scene of the descent of the Grail
 See Amour de Dieu [Treatise on the Love of God] VI Ch. 3. (See [R.P.E.] Lamballe, La Contemplation, [Paris, 1913] p. 48)
 The original hand-written document shows that Assagioli intended to append a footnote to this phrase, but no note is apparent in the document —Tr.
 In Assagioli Archive Doc.#11790 there is a hand-written note concerning nature symbols that explicitly refers to Antonio Salvatore Anile (1869-1943), Jules Michelet (1798-1874), Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949) , and Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915). —Tr.
 Giuseppe De Lorenzo (1971-1957), professor of geology at the University of Naples and author of numerous works.
 Nicolas Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), French astronomer and author of numerouos works and publisher of the magazine L’Astonomie.
 Erwin Rousselle (1890-1949) was a German philosopher and sinologist who taught an interdisciplinary course of studies at Keyserling’s School of Wisdom in Darmstadt. He taught at Chinese and German universities. Assagioli is probably referring to Rousselle’s The Mystery of the Transformation (1923). —Tr.
 Patanjali, Yoga Sutras. Unknown edition.
 This text is also found in the Assagioli Archives as Doc.#23630, which is a typed manuscript, probably a transcription of this document since it matches it at almost every word. The title given to #23630 is Meditazione e Contemplazione – Anno 1931 and indicates that it was a transcript of unrevised shorthand notes (probably Doc.#13567) intended to be part of a course of lectures at the Istituto.