Table of content
- 1 I. The Lower Subconscious
- 2 II. The Middle Subconscious
- 3 III. Higher Subconscious or Superconscious
- 4 IV. Waking Consciousness
- 5 V. The Normal Conscious Self or “I”
- 6 VI. The Spiritual Self
By Robert Assagioli, M.D. 1934, published in the Hibbert Journal and The Beacon
(Director of the Institute di Cultura e di Terapia Psichica of Rome.)
When we observe the most obvious characteristics of contemporary civilisation, we are struck by its extreme extraversion, its desire to know and master the forces of nature, in order to satisfy its ever growing needs and demands. This is indeed the dominating trend of our age—but by no means the only one, as a closer study will reveal.
In the course of the last forty or fifty years a group of inquirers, which was at first very small but gradually grew and became more and more active, has turned its attention to the investigation of the phenomena and mysteries of the human “psyche.”
The most important results in this field have not been achieved by academic psychology, but by independent investigators, nearly all of whom were physicians, driven by the practical necessities of their patients and aided by the greater evidence that certain psychological phenomena acquire when they are emphasised by a morbid condition.
The first scientist to contribute original discoveries in this field was Pierre Janet. Starting with the phenomena of “psychological automatism,” he discovered that there are series of mental activities taking place independently of the patient’s consciousness, and even real secondary personalities living behind, or alternating with, the everyday personality.
Soon after Janet, a Viennese doctor, Sigmund Freud, inaugurated a campaign of psychoanalytical research. The starting point of Freud’s investigations was a certain method of psychotherapeutics, namely Breuer’s cathartic method, which consisted in recalling to the consciousness of the patient the forgotten shock or impression which had produced the symptoms, and releasing, by means of an adequate outlet, the strong emotions associated with them. In this way Freud succeeded in demonstrating that many nervous derangements are due to impulses, emotions, fancies, buried in the subconscious and retained there by inhibitions and resistances of various kinds.
The second step in the development of psychoanalysis is marked by a group of works published by Freud between 1895 and 1905, in which he explains many incidents of our normal life, such as dreams, fancies, witticisms, forgetfulness, mistakes and lapses in behaviour, etc., by means of the same psychological mechanisms which determine morbid symptoms in the sick.
He lay great stress on the struggle between tendencies, impulses, instincts, desires, on the one hand, and fears, inhibitions, repressions on the other. For instance, the curious forgetting of well-known things or words is due, according to Freud, to some connection existing between the forgotten word or fact and some painful emotion or disagreeable event. He gives an amusing illustration of this: One day he could not remember the name of a well-known resort on the Italian Riviera, namely, Nervi. “Indeed,” he writes, “nerves (in Italian nervi) give me a great deal of trouble.”
In the course of his studies Freud discovered that in many cases the link between the cause and the effect, between the impulse and the manifestation, was not immediate but indirect, masked, symbolical. This led him to formulate a series of hypotheses and symbolical interpretations which constitute one of the most discussed and disputable parts of his system. Equally discussed and rightly questioned is the preponderance he gives to sex in its various transformations and masks. On the other hand, among his more useful and plausible contributions are the demonstration of the profound influence of childhood impressions and experiences, particularly of the emotional attachment of children to their parents, in shaping the later life and in producing nervous troubles, and the study of “fixation,” that is to say, of arrested development in some section of the psyche, with the consequent persistence of reactions of a childish character; also the discovery of “images” dominating the subconscious, that is, of veritable inner “ghosts” that frighten and disturb our personality.
Of particular value also are his studies on the transformation and sublimation of the instincts and emotions. Therefore, it seems a matter of regret that these contributions to a knowledge of ourselves are confused and mingled in the psychoanalytic doctrine and practice with concepts obviously erroneous, dangerous and sometimes pernicious, such as a great incomprehension or negation of the spiritual aspects and an excessive insistence on the lower sides of human nature, coupled with an excessive letting loose of repressed instincts and passions; and all this without mentioning the abuses to which psychoanalysis has been subjected by incompetent or unscrupulous persons.
Two other movements, it is well known, have branched off from the tree of psychoanalysis. One is the “Individual Psychology” of Dr. Alfred Adler, also of Vienna, who has emphasised the importance of the tendency to personal self-assertion, of the will to power, while the other is that of Dr. C. G. Jung, of Zurich. Dr. Jung made a special study of the deeper levels of the subconscious, and there he has found elements, images, and symbols of a collective and ancestral character. He has also made original and valuable contributions to the classification and description of, the various psychological types. In contradistinction to Freud, Jung recognises the importance of the constructive phase of psychological treatment and even admits a transcendental Self between the ordinary and subconscious selves, though he does not seem to attribute to it a definite spiritual reality, considering it, rather vaguely, as a transcendental function.
Besides this main current of research, others must be mentioned which, though independent, complete and enrich it. One of them is psychobiology, which, through the studies of Ad. Wagner, H. Driesch, W. Mackenzie, etc., has demonstrated the undeniable psychological element existing in all the phenomena of life, even the most elementary.
The second, that of the two “Nancy Schools” (Liebault, Bernheim, Coue), developed with greater scientific precision by Baudoin, which has demonstrated the great power of suggestion over the mind and the body and has discovered the methods for using it effectively for healing and education.
The third is that started by Frederick Myers, with his studies on the sublimal Self, on supernormal psychic phenomena, on inspiration and genius.
A fourth line of investigation, extending from William James to Evelyn Underhill, has dealt with the manifestations of religious experience, and more especially with the mystic states.
A fifth cultural current aims at bringing about a new connection between soul and spirit, and emphasising the creative power of spiritual understanding and of inner significances. It deals with the ways and means of perfecting the human personality and endeavors to bring about a synthesis between Eastern and Western wisdom. This movement has been originated chiefly by Count Hermann von Keyserling, with his School of Wisdom in Darmstadt, and by his former co-workers, Dr. Erwin Rousselle, C. G. Schmitz, and others.
This vast amount of studies and researches offers enough material for an attempt at co-ordination and synthesis. If we assemble ascertained facts, positive and well-authenticated contributions and well-founded interpretations, ignoring the exaggerations and theoretical superstructures of the various schools, we are able to arrive at a conception of the human personality, which, though far from perfect or final, is, I think, more inclusive and nearer to reality than any of the previous formulations.
To illustrate such a conception of the constitution of the human being in its living concrete reality, the diagram below may be helpful.
Of course, I am quite aware that this is a crude and elementary attempt, that can give only a structural, static, almost anatomical representation of our inner constitution, while it leaves out its dynamic aspect, which is the most important and essential. But I am of the opinion that here, as in every other science, gradual steps must be taken, progressive approximations must be made, and, especially, dealing with a reality so plastic and elusive as our psychological life, that it is important not to lose sight of the main lines, as well as of the fundamental differences; otherwise the undominated multiplicity confuses the mind, the wealth of particulars hides the picture as a whole and prevents our realising the respective significance, purpose and value of its different parts.
With these reserves and qualifications, I give the chart.
- Lower subconscious.
- Middle subconscious.
- Higher subconscious or superconscious
- Field of consciousness.
- Conscious Self.
- Higher, spiritual Self.
I. The Lower Subconscious
This contains, or is the origin of:
(1) The elementary psychological activities which direct the life of the body: the psychism of cells and organs; the intelligent co-ordination of bodily functions.
(2) The various instincts and lower passions.
(3) Many “complexes” charged with intense emotions, the product of our recent and our remote past, both personal and hereditary (childhood impressions, family tendencies, remnants of the collective subconscious).
(4) Dreams and imaginations of an inferior kind.
(5) Lower psychism and mediumship.
(6) Various morbid manifestations, such as phobias, obsessive and delirious ideas.
II. The Middle Subconscious
This is formed of psychological elements similar to those of our waking consciousness and easily accessible to it. This inner region is the seat of the elaboration of our experiences, of the preparation of our future expression and of our average mental and imaginative activities.
III. Higher Subconscious or Superconscious
From this region we receive our higher intuitions and inspirations, either artistic, philosophical or scientific. Here is the source of genius and of the mystical states of contemplation, illumination, ecstasy. In this realm are latent many spiritual energies and the higher psychic powers.
IV. Waking Consciousness
Many use this term, which scientifically is not quite accurate, but which is clear and convenient for practical purposes, for that part of our personality of which we are directly aware: the incessant flow of sensations, images, thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, which we can observe, analyse and judge.
V. The Normal Conscious Self or “I”
The self is often confused with our conscious personality just described, but in reality it is quite different from it. Anyone who has had some training in introspection can ascertain this beyond any doubt.
The changing contents of our consciousness (the sensations, thoughts, feelings, etc.) are one thing, while the “I”, the Self, the centre of our consciousness, is another, which contains, so to speak, those elements and is aware of them. From a certain point of view, this difference can be compared with that existing between the white lighted area on a screen and the various cinematographic pictures which are projected upon it.
But “the man in the street,” and even many well-educated and intelligent people do not take the trouble to observe themselves and to discriminate; they allow themselves to drift on the surface of the “mind-stream,” and identify themselves with its successive waves, with the changing contents of their consciousness.
VI. The Spiritual Self
The conscious self is not only generally merged in the ceaseless flow of the psychological elements, but it often seems to disappear and sink into nothingness at such moments when we fall asleep, when we lose consciousness in a swoon, or when we are under the effect of a drug or the influence of a hypnotist. And when we awake, our self mysteriously reappears and does not know how or whence: a fact, that, if closely considered, is truly baffling and disturbing. This, and many other considerations too numerous to mention at present, lead us inevitably to the admission that “behind” or “above” the conscious self there must be a permanent spiritual Centre, the true Self. This spiritual Self is fixed, unchanging, unaffected by the flow of the “mind stream” or by bodily conditions; and the personal conscious self should be considered merely as its reflection, its projection into the field of the personality.
Using our analogy of the cinema, the Spiritual Self corresponds to the source of the light, the lamp, which projects the white light upon the screen. On the diagram this relationship is indicated by the point representing our normal self, situated in the centre of the field of consciousness, which is connected by a dotted line (representing the descending ray or thread) with the star indicating our Spiritual Self. This diagram helps us to reconcile two facts which at first appear to contradict and exclude one another:
(1) The apparent duality, the apparent existence of two selves in us. Indeed, practically it is as if there were two selves, because the normal self generally ignores the other, both actually and theoretically, even to the point of denying its existence; and the other, the true Self, is latent and does not reveal itself directly to our consciousness.
(2) The real unity and uniqueness of the Self. There are not really two selves, two independent and separate entities. The Self is one; only it manifests itself in different degrees of consciousness and self -realisation.
The reflection is distinct from the luminous source, but has no reality by itself, no true and autonomous substantiality; it is not a new and different light.
This conception of the structure of our being, while it includes, co-ordinates and arranges in an integral vision all the data obtained through various observations and experiences, permits of a wider and more comprehensive understanding of the human drama, of the conflicts and problems that confront each one of us; it indicates the means of their solution, the way of our liberation.
In our ordinary life, that is to say, as mere conscious personalities, we are limited and bound in a thousand ways, the prey of a thousand illusions and phantasms, the slaves of a thousand inner demons, tossed here and there by countless external influences, blinded and hypnotised by many deceiving appearances.
No wonder that man, in such a state, is often restless, discontented, uncertain and changeable in his moods, thoughts and actions; feeling intuitively that he is “One,” and finding that he is “divided unto himself,” he does not understand himself nor others.
No wonder that, not knowing nor understanding himself, he has no self-control and finds himself continually involved in his own errors and weaknesses. No wonder that so many lives are failures, or are at least limited and saddened by diseases of mind and body, or tormented by doubt, discouragement, and despair.
No wonder that man, in his passionate and blind search for liberty and satisfaction rebels violently, at times, and at times tries to still his inner torment by throwing himself headlong into a life of feverish ac¬tivity, constant excitement, violent emotions and reckless adventure.
Let us examine whether and how it is possible to solve this central problem of human life, to heal this fundamental infirmity of man.
Let us see how man may free himself from this slavery and achieve peace, harmony and power.
The task is certainly neither easy nor simple, but that it is possible to accomplish it has been demonstrated by the good results obtained by those who have employed adequate and appropriate methods.
The stages for the attainment of this great goal may be tabulated as follows:
(1) A complete knowledge of one’s personality.
(2) Control of its various elements.
(3) Realisation of one’s true self, or at least the creation of a unifying centre.
(4) Psychosynthesis: the formation or reconstruction of the personality round the new centre.
Let us examine each of these stages in order.
(1) Complete Knowledge of One’s Personality.
We have recognised that in order to really know ourselves it is not enough to make an inventory of the elements that form our conscious being. An extensive exploration of the vast regions of our subconscious must be undertaken. We must first courageously penetrate into the pits of our lower subconscious in order to discover the dark forces that ensnare and menace us; the “phantasms,” the ancestral or childish images that obsess or silently dominate us, the fears that paralyse us, the secret inner vampires that sap our life, the conflicts which waste our energies. It is possible to do this, thanks to the knowledge and to the methods of psychoanalysis.
This search can be undertaken by oneself, but more easily with the help of others. In any case the methods must be employed in a genuinely scientific manner, with the greatest objectivity and impartiality, without preconceived theories and without allowing ourselves to be deterred or led astray by the covered or violent resistance of our fears, our desires, our emotional attachments.
The work of Freud and his followers generally stops here; but, as we have already seen, it is an arbitrary and unjustified limitation. The middle and higher subconscious regions should likewise be explored. Thus we shall be discovering in ourselves hitherto unknown abilities, our true vocations, our higher powers which seek to express themselves, but which we often repeal and repress through lack of understanding, through prejudice or fear. Also we shall discover the immense reserve of undifferentiated psychic energy latent in every one of us: that is, the plastic subconscious at our disposal, the infinite capacity to learn, the faithful inner servant that can work for us and already does so without our knowing it, but that would work much more and better if we but learn to appreciate its nature, its laws and rhythms, and enter into harmonious co-operation with it
(2) Control of the Various Elements of the Personality.
After having discovered all these elements, we have to take possession of them and acquire control over them. The fundamental method by which we can achieve this is that of disidentification. This is based on a basic psychological principle which may be formulated as follows:
We are dominated by everything with which our Self becomes identified.
We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.
In this principle lies the secret of our slavery or our liberty. Every time we identify ourselves with a weakness, a fault, a fear or any other personal emotion, we limit and paralyse ourselves. Every time we admit : “I am discouraged,” or “I am irritated,” we become more and more dominated by depression or anger. We have accepted those limitations; we have ourselves put on our chains. If, on the other hand, in the same situation we say: “A wave of discouragement is trying to submerge me” or “An impulse of anger is attempting to overpower me,” the situation is very different; then there are two forces confronting each other: on one side our vigilant Self, and on the other the discouragement or anger. And that vigilant Self does not submit to that invasion; he can objectively and critically survey these impulses of discouragement or anger; he can look for their origin, foresee their deleterious effects and realise their unfoundedness. This is often sufficient to withstand an attack of such forces, disperse them and win the battle.
But even when the inner enemy is momentarily stronger, when the conscious personality is at first overwhelmed by the violence of the attack, the vigilant Self is never really conquered; it can retire to an inner fortress and from there prepare for and await the favorable moment of counter-attack. It may lose some of the battles, but if it does not give up its arms and surrender, the ultimate issue is not compromised and the victory will be his in the end.
Then, besides repelling one by one the attacks that come from the subconscious, we can apply a more fundamental and decisive method ; we can tackle the deep-seated causes of these attacks and cut away the roots of the evil. This radical cure may be divided into two phases :
(a) The disintegration of the obnoxious “images” or complexes.”
(b) The control and utilisation of the energies thus set free.
Psychoanalysis has demonstrated that the power of those “images” and “complexes” lies chiefly in the fact that we are unconscious of them; that we do not recognise them as such. When they are unmasked, understood, resolved into their elements, they often cease to obsess us, and in any case we are much better able to defend ourselves from them.
To disintegrate and dissolve them, we must use the methods, already mentioned, of objectivation of critical analysis and discrimination; that is to say, cold impersonal observation, as if they were something outside of ourselves, mere natural phenomena, creating a “psychological distance” between ourselves and them, keeping these “images” or “complexes” at “arm’s length,” so to speak, and then quietly considering their origin, their nature . . . and their stupidity !
It is well known that too much criticism and analysis are apt to paralyse and even kill our emotions and feelings. The power, which is often employed indiscriminately and perniciously against our higher sentiments and creative powers, should be used instead in freeing ourselves from undesirable passions, impulses and tendencies. But such analysis and criticism are not always sufficient. There are certain instinctive forces, certain vital elements in us which they fail to conquer entirely. There are attachments which, though we disparage and condemn them, obstinately persist. And there remains, moreover, the problem of the emotional and impulsive energies which, when detached from the complexes or diverted from their previous channels, create in us a state of agitation and unrest and may find fresh undesirable outlets.
These forces, therefore, must not be left to themselves, but should be disposed of in harmless ways or, better still, used for constructive purposes: to rebuild our personality, to contribute to our psychosynthesis. But in order to be able to do this we must start from the centre; we must have stabilised and made efficient the unifying and controlling Principle of our life.
Let us thus proceed to the third stage:
(3) The Realisation of the True Self: the Discovery or the Creation of an Unifying Centre.
On the basis of what we have said about the nature and powers of the Self, it is not difficult to point out theoretically the solution of such a problem. What has to be achieved is the expansion of the personal consciousness into that of the Spiritual Self; to climb along the ray, the thread, up to the Star; to unite the lower with the Higher Self. But this, which is so easily expressed in words, is in reality a tremendous undertaking; it means to transcend altogether the human kingdom and to become true spiritual beings. It is a magnificent endeavor, but certainly a long and arduous one, and not everybody is ready for it. But between the starting point in the lowlands of our ordinary consciousness and the shining peak of spiritual self-realisation, there are many intermediate phases, many plateaus of various altitudes, on which a man may rest or even make his temporary abode, if his lack of strength precludes, or his will does not choose a further ascension.
In favorable cases the ascent takes place to some extent spontaneously, through a process of natural inner growth, determined by the manifold experiences of life; but often this process is very slow. However, in all cases it can be considerably fostered and accelerated by our deliberate conscious action.
The intermediate stages imply new identifications. The men and women who cannot reach their true Self in its pure spiritual essence must remain within the realm of human life and activities; they must create a picture and an ideal of perfected personality adequate to their calibre, their stage of development and their psychological type, and, therefore, practicable in actual life.
For some it may be the ideal of the artist who realises and expresses himself as the creator of beautiful things ; who makes of art the most vital interest and the animating principle of his existence, pouring into it all his best energies, subordinating and, if necessary, sacrificing to it all other interests and desires. For others it may be the ideal of the seeker after Truth, the philosopher, the scientist. For yet others it is a still more limited and personal ideal, but one which likewise is difficult to realise; namely, that of the perfect father or mother. These “ideal models” imply, as is evident, vital relationships with the outer world, with other human beings, hence a certain degree of extraversion. Then there are people who are extremely extraverted and go so far as to project, as it were, the vital centre of their personality outside themselves. The following are two clear and typical examples of such projection. One is the ardent patriot who gives himself up entirely to his beloved country, which becomes the centre of his life and interest, almost his very self. All his thoughts and feelings are polarised towards this object and he is willing to sacrifice even his life to it. The other (a frequent case . . . in the past) is that of the woman who identifies herself with the man she loves, lives for him and is absorbed in him. The ancient Indian wife made her husband not only her human master, but worshipped him also as her spiritual teacher, her Guru, and almost her God.
This outward projection of one’s own centre, this excentricity (in the etymological sense of the word) should not be underrated. Though it does not represent the most direct and highest path, it may, despite appearances, for the time being constitute an adequate form of self-realisation. In most cases the individual does not really lose and merge himself in the external object, but frees himself in that way from selfish interests and personal limitations; he realises himself through the external ideal or being. The latter becomes thus an indirect but true link, a point of connection between the personal man and his higher Self, Who is reflected and symbolised in that object.
A similar difference may be observed also in the religious field regarding man’s conception of his relationship to God.
Some religious souls make God the centre of their interest, of their love, their worship, conceiving Him as endowed with a glorified Personality, and trying to establish a direct connection, so to speak, between their conscious personality and His.
Others, instead, have a more impersonal conception of God, considering Him essentially as the Supreme, the Absolute, the Ineffable, with Whom union may be achieved only through a previous realisation of one’s own Spiritual Self.
Others, again, emphasise the oneness, the essential identity of the individual Spiritual Self with the Universal Self, often using the analogy of the drop and the ocean.
This is, of course, only a broad generalisation. There are many subdivisions and nuances of these conceptions, and it would be worth while to examine them in detail and to show their various bearing on the theory and practice of psychosynthesis. But this would require an essay, if not a book, by itself.
(4) PSYCHOSYNTHESIS—the Formation or Reconstruction of the New Personality.
When the unifying centre has been found or created, we are at last in a position to build around it a new personality, a coherent, organised, unified personality.
This is the actual psychosynthesis, which also has several stages. The first is to decide the plan of action, to formulate the “inner programme.” We must visualise the purpose to be achieved, that is, the new personality to be developed and have a clear realisation of the various partial tasks which must be undertaken.
Some people have a distinct vision of their aim from the outset; they are capable of forming a clear picture of themselves as they wish and intend to become. This vision is a force and a help; it facilitates the task, eliminating uncertainties and errors, concentrating the energies, and giving the help of the great suggestive and creative power inherent in definite “pictures” held in the mind’s eye.
Other individuals, on the contrary, whose mentality is less developed and whose psychic nature is more plastic, who live spontaneously, following indications and intuitions rather than definite plans, find it difficult to formulate such a programme, to build a pattern; they even positively dislike it. Their tendency is to let themselves be led by the Spirit within or by the will of God, leaving Him to choose what they should become. They feel that they can best reach the goal by eliminating as much as possible the obstacles and resistances inherent in the personality, by widening the channel of communication with the Higher Self through aspiration and devotion, and then letting the creative power of the Spirit act, trusting and obeying it.
Both methods are effective, and each is adapted to the corresponding type. But it is well to know, appreciate and use both of them to some extent, in order to avoid the limitations and the exaggerations of each, correcting and enriching it with elements taken from the other.
Thus, those who follow the first method must be careful to avoid making their ideal “picture” too rigid: they must be ready to modify or enlarge it, and even change it altogether if later experiences, wider outlooks, new illuminations indicate and demand this change.
On the other hand, those who follow the second method must guard against becoming too passive and negative and from accepting as intuitions and higher inspirations certain promptings which are, instead, determined by subconscious desires and fancies. Moreover, they must develop the power to stand firm during the inevitable phases of inner aridity and darkness in which the conscious communion with the spiritual centre is interrupted and the personality is abandoned to itself.
The “ideal models” or “images” one can create are many, but they may be divided into two principal groups:
The first is formed of those representing a harmonious development, an all-around personal or spiritual perfection. This kind of ideal is chiefly aimed at by introverts.
The second group is that of specialised efficiency; the purpose here is utmost development of a faculty, a quality or power, corresponding to the particular line of self-expression or service which the individual has chosen; the ideal of the artist, the teacher, the apostle of a good cause, etc. Such “models” are chosen by extraverts.
Once the choice of the ideal form has been made, practical psychosynthesis, the actual construction of the new personality begin.
We can divide this work into three principal parts:
(1) The utilisation of our energies: of the forces released by the preceding process of analysis and disintegration of the subconscious complexes and attachments; and of the powers, aptitudes and tendencies latent, and up to now neglected, which exist at the various inner levels.
Such utilisation demands a transformation of many of those elements and forces. Their fundamental plasticity and mutability makes this possible. It is a process that is continually taking place within us: just heat is transformed into motion and electric energy and vice versa, so of emotions and impulses are transmuted into outward actions or imaginative and intellectual activities; ideas stir up emotions, or are transformed into plans and then into actions, etc.
Instances of such transformations have been observed and recognise by many people. When the Latin poet says : “Facit indignatio versus, he proves that he has understood how an emotional wave of indignation if denied a natural outlet in external action, is transformed into poetic activity. Again, when Heine says: “Aus meinen grossen Schmerzen mach ich die kleinen Lieder” (Out of my great suffering I produce my little songs), he clearly realises that his pain is sublimated in his poetry, and thus transfigured into beauty.
Important teachings and examples concerning the doctrine and practice of the transformation of the inner energies may be found in the Yoga of the Indian, in Christian Mysticism and Ascetism and in works on spiritual alchemy, while some new points have been contributed by psychoanalysis. There are, therefore, sufficient elements for the formation of a veritable science of the psychological energies which may be called psycho-dynamics, and a reliable adequate technique by which to bring about the desired changes in ourselves and in others.
(2) The second part of psychosynthesis lies in the development of the elements which are deficient or inadequate for the purpose we desire to attain.
This development may be carried out in two ways, namely, by means of direct evocation, auto-suggestion, creative affirmation, or by methodical training of the weak or undeveloped faculties, a training very similar to that used in physical culture or in developing technical skill, as in singing or playing an instrument, etc.
(3) The third part of psychosynthesis consist in the co-ordination and sub-ordination of the various psychological energies and faculties, in the creation of an inner hierarchy, a firm organisation of the personality. This order and rule presents interesting and suggestive analogies with that of a modern state, with the various groupings of the citizens in towns, social classes, trades and professions, and the different categories of municipal, district and state officials.
Such is, in brief outline, the process by which psychosynthesis is accomplished. But I would like to make it clear that all various stages and methods which have been mentioned are closely interrelated and need not follow one another in a rigid succession and distinct periods or stages. We have often spoken of the “construction” of the personality and this analogy is true enough, but it must not be pushed too far or given a too literal or material meaning. A living human being is not like a building, for which first the foundations must be laid, then the walls erected and, finally, the roof being added. The accomplishment of the vast inner programme of psychosynthesis may be started from various sides and angles at the same time; and the different methods and activities can be wisely alternated through shorter or longer cycles, according to circumstances and inner conditions.
All this may appear rather formidable at first, but there is no reason for doubt or discouragement. Of course, the help of a competent teacher or adviser can make the task easier, but on the other hand one gains fuller and deeper knowledge by one’s own unaided efforts and through one’s own mistakes.
When one has received the preliminary theoretical instruction on the psychological principles and laws involved and knows the technique to be used, the rest is a question of experience, intelligence and intuition, and these grow parallel to the need and the steadfastness of the endeavor.
Considering now psychosynthesis as a whole, with all its implications and developments, we see that it must not be looked upon as a particular psychological doctrine, nor as a single technical procedure.
It is, first and foremost, a dynamic and, I would almost say, a dramatic conception of our psychological life, which it portrays as a constant interplay and conflict between the many different and contrasting forces and an unifying centre which ever tends to control, harmonise and utilise them.
Psychosynthesis is, further, a plastic combination of several methods of inner action aiming, first, at the development and perfection of the personality, and then at its harmonious co-ordination and increasing unification with its Spiritual Self. These phases may be called, respectively, “personal” and “spiritual psychosynthesis.” According to the various fields of activity in which it is used and the different purposes which it may serve, psychosynthesis is, or can become:
(1) A method of psychological and spiritual self-development, for those who refuse to remain any longer the slaves of their own inner phantasms and of external influences, who refuse to submit passively to the play of the psychological forces which is going on in them, but are determined to become the Kings of their inner realm.
(2) A method of cure for nervous disease and psychological disturbances. This will prove to be necessary when the cause of the trouble is a violent and complicated conflict between groups of conscious and conscious forces; or when it is due to those deep-seated and tormenting crises (not generally understood or rightly judged by the patient him-self) which often precede the awakening of the soul-consciousness or some important phase of spiritual development.
(3) A method of integral education, which tends not only to favor the development of the various faculties of the child or the adolescent, but helps him to discover and realise his true spiritual nature and to develop under its guidance a harmonious, self-reliant and efficient personality.
Psychosynthesis may be considered also as the individual expression of a wider principle, of a general law of inter-individual and cosmic synthesis. Indeed, the isolated individual does not exist: he has intimate relations of interdependence with and subordination to other individuals and to the spiritual, superindividual Reality.
Thus, inverting the analogy previously mentioned, every man may be considered an element or cell of a human group, which in its turn forms associations with vaster and more complex groups: from the family group to urban and district groups, to social classes; to workers and corporate associations and to great national groups; and from these to the entire human family.
Between these individuals and groups arise problems and conflicts which are curiously similar to those we have found existing in each individual; and their solution is pursued along the same lines and with the same methods which have been indicated for the achievement of individual psychosynthesis. An ample and concert study of this parallelism might, we think, prove very illuminating, and help us to discover the profound significance and real value of so many different attempts at organisation and synthesis both of a practical and a spiritual nature between the various national, social and religious groups.