At every level of being — from animal biological nature to the highest spirituality — there are corresponding classes of supernormal or metapsychic or parapsychological phenomena.
By Roberto Assagioli, 1965, from the Assagioli Archive in Florence, Doc. #23489. Original Title: Gli Influssi Psichici[i]Transcript from tape of a meeting held in 1965 on this subject. Translated and Edited with Notes by Jan Kuniholm.
- Abstract by Jan Kuniholm: People are like cells in that they are semi-permeable to psychic influences from the environment. Before the formation of individuals there was a collective psyche or interpsychism. There is two kinds of interpsychism: sensory and extra-sensory or metapsychic. Of the latter there are three levels: lower or elementary; middle which is an extension of normal conscious faculties; and higher, which has a spiritual character. All three levels may be present in a single person. Some people leave themselves open to influences, which may cause disturbances. Some disorder are caused not by these phenomena but by their reactions to them. Some phenomena should be studied more, such as trance. Even beneficent faculties, such as healing, can have negative repercussions. There is no good reason not to perform metapsychic experiments, for the healthy and regulated use one’s faculties can eliminate disorders. There is a need for psychics to understand themselves and to become masters, first of their normal faculties and then of the metapsychic ones. This often requires help. One path of solution is to sublimate the sensitivities; followed by the regulated use of will. The environment is of great importance to protect these delicate good people, who should place their abilities in service to humanity. Scholars and physicians have the great task of assisting for the good of all.
Dr. Assagioli shows the chart commonly referred to as the “Egg Diagram,” above, and explains:
The line delimiting the oval is dashed: it does not represent a rigid limit or a boundary that cannot be crossed; it can be compared to the membrane that surrounds a cell. The membranes surrounding cells have the function or the quality of being semi-permeable; that is, the vital nutrient comes from the blood through these membranes into the cell, and in turn the cell’s products comes out through this membrane and go into the circulation. This is typical of the internally secreting glands; but just as all the cells in our body have a similar function, so also every human being, each of us is, so to speak, semi-permeable to the psychic environment around us. Influences [that originate outside us] continually occur within us, both desirable and undesirable, both wanted and unwanted. And — whether we realize it or not, whether we want it or not — those influences continually emanate [from us] onto others and into the psychic environment. That is, the psychic interaction between the individual and other individuals and the environment is not something added and secondary, but this is the original psychic state.
Before the formation of the individual who was self-aware and conscious of its own distinction from others, there was a collective psyche, an interpsychism.[i] This is demonstrated for example in the animal kingdom by a number of facts, about which Dr. MacKenzie[ii] has written and spoken a great deal on the radio recently. He has held a series of very interesting conversations on termites and other animal colonies in which he shows that there is an interpsychism: a collective psyche of the termite mound, the hive, etc., in which the interpsychism or the psyche of the tribe dominates, while on the contrary individuality is a specifically human factor.
There are two kinds of interpsychism: there is normal interpsychism that takes place through the five senses, but above all that there is extra-sensory interpsychism; that is, what could be defined as the continuous telepathic relationship between individuals and the community or collective. Already from this fact it can be deduced that metapsychic[iii] interpsychism (i.e., certain metapsychic faculties) is not superior in the ethical and spiritual sense; these faculties are possessed by animals and by primitive peoples. This is something to be made very clear.[Metapsychic] faculties are by no means proof of human superiority, but they are something we have in common with the animal kingdom. Now you could say that at each level there is a particular interpsychism:
- There is an interpsychism that can be called inferior [or lower] — without any implication of condemnation, but “lower” only in the sense of being primitive or elementary — that we have in common with animals, with primitive people, etc.
- Then there is what can be called middle interpsychism, which is what is manifested in ordinary experiments in telepathy, or extrasensory perception, and that is an extension of the normal conscious faculties of man.
- Finally, there is a higher interpsychism, which has a spiritual character, and is what mystics, initiates, great founders of religions, prophets, etc. have often demonstrated.
If you read the biographies and history of the founders of religions from the metapsychic perspective, you will find a similar amount of metapsychic phenomena. They were almost all healers, they appeared [remotely] from a distance, they predicted the future, they had regenerative influences, and on crowds they exerted powerful spiritual irradiation. They even produced physical phenomena of materializations. Thus beings of high spiritual development correspondingly had supernormal powers quite different from the unconscious or subconscious interpsychism of primitive people.
Therefore, it is good to know that at every level of being — from animal biological nature to the highest spirituality — there are corresponding classes of supernormal or metapsychic or parapsychological phenomena. There is a complication, however, in the fact that faculties and phenomena of various levels can coexist and intermingle. This explains the strange contrasts that are not infrequently noticed in the personalities of psychics: that is, the mixing of higher and lower manifestations, genuine phenomena and fantastic or erroneous manifestations.
This overview of the metapsychic faculties will be able to orient us and make us better understand the nervous and psychic disorders that arise in psychics and in metapsychics.[iv] It is easy to understand how these disorders can produce imbalances even in the average man. For man often does not know how to master the forces existing within him and those acting on him by normal means, let alone the psychic influences of others and the environment. Everyone knows how easily these conflicts arise, along with the related formation of psychic complexes. All of psychoanalysis is aimed at trying to uncover and cure them.
But those persons who, in addition to normal psychic influences, are affected by personal and metapsychic ones, can be disturbed, shaken and overwhelmed even more. These individuals may be victims of suggestions or actual psychic invasions, from either the currents of collective influences or of specific influences: thoughts projected by others or possibly by entities existing in the invisible planes. They are like people who, in a big city, live not with the doors of their house locked, but with the doors of their house always open. Thieves with false keys and lock picks often open doors that are locked, but it is much easier to get in when they find the doors open; the same happens with psychic influences. But then there is also another fact: namely, that even higher spiritual influences can produce psychic disturbances, when they are too intense for the resistance and endurance of those who are unprepared to receive them, and for the reactions and conflicts they provoke. This is a subject I have dealt with on other occasions when discussing spiritual development and nervous disorders.[v]
Other neuro-psychic disorders are due to the subject’s emotional reactions to the phenomena: often those reactions include excessive credulity, emotional [or ego] inflation due to the fact that certain subjects believe that they are superior to normal people, or that they are something extraordinary because they experience such metapsychic phenomena; whereas, as I have said, these are not proof of superiority at all, but reactions to the different level of the phenomena.
Other people are gripped by fears, always fearing that they are being influenced, even when they are not, to the point of having so-called “delusions” of being influenced. They often suffer from hypersensitivity or abulia;[vi] they hear voices, have visions, and can never distinguish between what is their own unconscious imagination from what is truly metapsychic. Some may suffer morbid influences, impulses of hypsomania (self-adoration), frenzied impulses to drink, etc. Finally, there are some cases that appear to be possession by real external forces, entities that momentarily or even for a long time take possession of the psychics. There are even some who consider epilepsy as a phenomenon due to metapsychic facts and influences.[vii]
One aspect of such phenomena which should be studied more from the metapsychic side is the “trance,” which easily gives rise to imbalances, and in itself constitutes a psychic dissociation; it thus [can be considered] an abnormal state that can easily give rise to exhaustions and imbalances, and foster psychic invasions. On the other hand, there is also the opposite case: that is, several psychopaths who were studied not by ordinary materialistic means, but from the metapsychic point of view, turned out to be unrecognized psychics and mediums, perhaps themselves unaware of the faculties they have. This subject is dealt with by the eminent Prof. Urban,[viii] who has had the courage — at the psychiatric clinic in Innsbruck — to study his patients from the metapsychic point of view and to do metapsychic experiments with them with very interesting results. But, again, even here in Florence, studies continue.[ix]
Even in the case of beneficent faculties, such as the healing faculty, there is a danger of exhaustion by those who use them too generously, or even of psychic infections contracted by the patient; there is a phenomenon known as “repercussions,” in which the healer suffers in himself the pains and symptoms of those he heals. Generally these repercussions are fleeting and do not take root, but they can even cause serious problems.
Now given the above, we come to what might seem to be a solution: that of not doing metapsychic experiments at all, and to stifle and avoid all activity in that field. Now this is not right and it is not even possible. It is not right because these faculties exist and cannot be suppressed. The therapeutic practice in the neuropsychology is to bring the abnormal disturbing elements to light and make them conscious, and possibly utilize them — but certainly not suppress them. This is precisely what psychoanalysis does in its best aspect. For if an attempt were made to suppress these metapsychic faculties, they would remain in the unconscious and act automatically. Then there is the fact that many subjects do not want to give them up, do not want to suppress them, for various reasons, right or wrong. In fact, trying to eliminate faculties does not solve the problem; some times, on the contrary, regulated and healthy use of faculties can eliminate disorders.
I quote the following from an article by Dr. Cassoli of Bologna:[x] “Often these subjects who pass from doctor to doctor, from query to query, prey to an ill-defined mediumship, are victims of neurotic projections, which in certain subjects are perhaps nothing more than the expression of a potential charge, of something that has not found a way to discharge itself in its proper sense. Of the three great mediums I had already had occasion to examine, two had indefinite and incurable ailments, which disappeared as soon as their uncontradicted or misdirected mediumship was discontinued.” (this is a medical doctor speaking).
So, as we see, these are complex things: on the one hand the exercise of these faculties can cause disorders, on the other hand it can take them away. It all depends on the mode of action; how then can one avoid disturbances and use these faculties?
First of all, a work of clarification (also in healing) is needed, and that is precisely what we are doing here, so that the psychics understand themselves and have the orientation we have now outlined taking into account the nature, level and type of their faculties. After understanding comes mastery, and then to exercise that mastery requires psychospiritual education of these psychics. That is, it is necessary for them to strengthen their conscious personality, to become masters first of all of their normal faculties, and then to be able to master their metapsychic faculties as well; it requires that process which Jung calls individuation: the discovery of themselves, of their higher Self. That done, it will be much easier for them to create pathways to use the metapsychic faculties. Here the work of competent medical scholars can be of great help. Often these psychics cannot do it themselves, but if well guided and cared for they can get there.
Then there is what might be called “substitution,” or “sublimation.” That is, the gradual shifting of their sensitivities from the lower to the higher levels; that is, putting aside the lower psychism and developing the higher psychism (the perception of the spiritual level) by suitable experiments, and also by the invocation and attraction of Higher Forces, either from their own superconscious or from the psychospiritual environment. These higher aids can also manifest themselves in the real or symbolic form of guides and intelligent helping forces. This can be of great benefit.
Then comes the supervised and regulated use of will: not to suffer these faculties, but to use them if and as one wishes.
Finally, the environment is of great importance. These experiments should be carried out only in psychically suitable and useful environments with well-adjusted groups, and not in an indiscriminate way. They are almost always done so haphazardly, without realizing how these psychics are exposed to danger in groups that are animated by personal curiosity, selfish desires and the play of habitual low-level psychic forces. Therefore, it would be very useful to create uplifting environments and groups that would protect these delicate goodinstruments; and teach them to make selfless, altruistic and humanitarian use of them.
This is perhaps the greatest safeguard for psychics: I would say that they should place their faculties on the altar of service for God’s use, for the good of humanity. This attracts help and protection to them, and puts them in a domain in which inconveniences and minor ailments can gradually disappear. Here metapsychic scholars, and especially physicians, have a great task. It is up to them to direct and discover, and I would even say educate and guide the psychics, and this is one of the main purposes of the Metapsychic Center [in Bologna]: to do work for the psychics, on the psychics, for the good of all. If this is done on a large scale, then instead of being subject to painful disorders and constituting a difficult problem for themselves and others, psychics can become useful and valuable instruments both for investigating the mystery and for benefiting humanity.
[i] Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines interpsychic: “involving, relating to, or arising from the interaction between the psyches of two or more people.” This concept of interpsychism is directly analogous to Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. Assagioli discusses this concept further in his 1961 essay “Parapsychological Faculties and Nervous Disorders,” (Archive Doc. #23408, published in the magazine Uomini e Idee) where he also points out that Jung’s concept was not clearly defined. —Ed.
[ii] William Mackenzie, PhD. (1877- c.1960?) was a British biologist who lived in Italy. He conducted research into parapsychology and published articles on parapsychology in Italian and English. —Ed.
[iii] Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines metapsychic: “of or relating to phenomena outside the range of orthodox psychology.” See also note 5 below. —Ed.
[iv] Assagioli in another essay asserted that certain psychic activity such as telepathy is part of a normal psychology and that this is a subject for personal psychosynthesis. Metapsychic activity refers to activity that is beyond the usual inner range of the average “normal” person, such as mediumistic activity. —Ed.
[v] see Transpersonal Development, Part Two, Chapter 10: “Spiritual Development and Neuro-Psychological Disturbances.” Inner Way Productions, 2007, page 109. The first version of that essay was published in 1933, and it was reproduced several times thereafter. —Ed.
[vi] Abulia is an abnormal lack of ability of act or make decisions. —Ed.
[viii] Dr. Hubert Urban (1904-1997) was an Austrian physician, psychiatrist and author who investigated areas of parapsychology as professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Innsbruck. —Ed.
[ix] Assagioli himself organized and participated in some of these studies. —Ed.
[x] Piero Cassoli, MD (1918-2005) was an Italian physician and parapsychologist, particularly interest in healing, and his book Il Guaritore (The Healer, 1979, 1985) is considered a modern classic in its field. He founded the Center of Parapsychological Studies in Bologna in 1954. —Ed.
[i] This text is taken from the website psicoenergetica.com, at which slight typographical changes had been made to the original text. —Tr.