Assagioli: I neither desire nor fear the death of my body, since I am profoundly convinced not only of survival, but above all of the perenniality of life.
Interview by Ms. Solange de Marignac of Roberto Assagioli, 1970, From the Assagioli Archive Florence. Translated from Italian by Jan Kuniholm and Francesco Viglienghi. Original Title: Vecchiaia e Morte.
Interview granted by Dr. Roberto Assagioli to Ms. Solange de Marignac in January 1970. Translation from French to Italian was revised and corrected by Dr. Assagioli.
S. de M. – Many people fear that old age will bring them physical limitations and that this will adversely affect their moral and intellectual capacities. May I ask you, who have been severely affected in your health, how you view this problem?
R.A. – Moral and intellectual capacities are not necessarily affected by physical limitations, even severe ones. And this is true at any age. Numerous examples attest to this: I will mention only Charles Darwin, who could work only one or two hours a day; William James, who had precarious health all his life; and above all I will recall the luminous example of Adele Kahn who, while confined to her bed by a disease of the spinal column, carried out a beneficial missionary work for numerous sick people by her words and her writings.
As for me, the considerable physical limitations due to age do not seem to affect my abilities, as I will say shortly. On the contrary, I take some advantage of some of these limitations, such as deafness, which prevents me — it is true — from listening to the music I love. But it spares me from listening to the music I do not love and — above all — to a lot of … nonsense! In my opinion, a lot depends on our attitude. A serene acceptance of limitations (and this goes for all — even non-physical ones — and who doesn’t have them?) greatly eliminates their negative influence. They can be seen as a challenge to overcome, and thus encourage us to compensate and — perhaps — overcompensate.
S. de M. – We often hear this observation: “I am too old to change”. You, who deeply believe in evolution — what is your opinion on this point? Do you personally feel that you can continue to perfect yourself? And that you still need to modify or develop certain aspects of your thinking?
R.A. – I sincerely declare that it is possible for me to continue to perfect myself, and I apply myself no less actively, and perhaps even more so than before. My thought is in continuous development; new aspects of Reality often present themselves to my mind. This arouses joy and enthusiasm in me, but it is not without its drawbacks, for I feel impelled to modify and improve (at least I hope so!) what I had written in the past, however much I realize that I would do better to use the time I have left on earth to produce something new.
S. de M. – If you don’t mind me asking, can I ask you how you think about death, and yours in particular?
R.A. – I neither desire nor fear the death of my body, since I am profoundly convinced not only of survival, but above all of the perenniality of life. I’m convinced that the “spiritual nucleus”, which is the essence of ourselves, is immortal and that its manifestations will be renewed with an ever-increasing awareness and creative power.
S. de M. – What would you have to say to someone who asked you how to age well?”
R.A. – In order to age well, one should do what I have called the “psychosynthesis of the ages”; that is, to some extent keeping present and alive in us what is best and most valid in each age:
The simplicity, the openness to the world, the sense of admiration of the child.
The fervor of the adolescent.
The impetus and dynamism of the young person.
The balance and maturity of the adult.
The manifold fruits of the experiences — and the gift of wisdom that comes with them — of old age.
In this way, the elderly person has the privilege of being able to become again, from time to time, a child with the children, and a youth with the young; and to communicate with benevolent understanding with people of all ages. Thus, while gradually withdrawing from his active participation in external life, the elderly person can become a solid point of support and a center of beneficial radiation around him.
 Elisions are in the original transcription. —Tr.