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“I propose that the founding father of Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) has written his psychology into a philosophical tradition known as Evolutionary Panentheism.
By Kenneth Sørensen, MA in Psychosynthesis, (In 2020, I discovered an Italian article where Assagioli writes about his belief in Panentheism, it has been translated and are available here: Roberto Assagioli about Panentheism)
This compilation of quotes from Assagioli’s work is meant to supplement the information in my book The Soul of Psychosynthesis. Here I propose that the founding father of Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) has written his psychology into a philosophical tradition known as Evolutionary Panentheism.
According to Assagioli Psychosynthesis is not trying to give a ”metaphysical nor a theological explanation of the great Mystery” (1975, p. 6). This statement is often cited within the Psychosynthesis milieu. Although Assagioli undoubtedly remained open to different metaphysical approaches, we find metaphysical opinions and statements in his work that seem to point in a certain direction. I will in here try to show how evolutionary Panentheism constitutes Assagioli’s overall metaphysical philosophy. My intention is not to make a case for Panentheism per se, but to explore if Assagioli was inspired by this philosophy.
Panentheism is a term Ken Wilber and the co-founder of Esalen Institute, Michael Murphy, also use to describe their philosophy. In his article on Panentheism Murphy shows how some of the great geniuses in history have reached the same conclusion (Murphy, 2012). Murphy mentions Johann G. Fichte (1762- 1814), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854), G.W.F. Hegel (1770- 1831), Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Paul Tillich (1886-1965), Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950).
It is important to distinguish Panentheism from “Pantheism”. According to Pantheism there is no difference between God and nature, whereas pan-en-theism adds the One (God, Brahman, Spirit) who permeates and transcends the universe. The One is both transcendent and immanent in creation. The One is in everything, but is greater than the created universe.
It is through evolution and thus humanity that God’s inherent potentials are made manifest. According to this theory the human soul and all other beings emanate from God or “Pleroma,” or psychologically from the Self. The word “emanation” comes from “emanare”, which means “flow from” God’s abundance or density. All creatures thus emanates from the same divine source down through various (inner) levels of consciousness to the physical world, where humanity forget its divine source or origins. It is the unconscious/subconscious yearning to return to source, which, according to this theory, is the driving force of evolution. Hence the purpose of human existence is to awaken to our divine potential that we are here to manifest. That the One is immanent in nature and man does not imply that perfection, perfected love, is a reality. The One is present as life and as divine potential that is hidden and we are here to unfold it.
Murphy is saying that: ”though these forerunners framed their visions in different ways, they agreed that cosmic history was impelled by God’s inexorable desire to manifest in the physical world.”
According to Murphy evolutionary Panentheism “is based on just a few fundamental principles, among them: first, that evolution is a fact (though its discovery has given rise to various theories about it); second, that our universe arises from and is constituted by a world transcending supernature, call it the One, God, Brahman, the Absolute, BuddhaNature, Allah, Geist, or the Tao; and third, that humans have a fundamental affinity or identity with that supernature, which can be known through immediate experience either spontaneously or by means of transformative practice.” (Murphy, 2012)
The question I am trying to answer is whether this metaphysical perspective is similar to that of Assagioli’s. There can be no doubt that Assagioli himself was familiar with the concept. In his booklet Meditation for The New Age, vol. 3, booklet one, Assagioli writes the following:
“The balance and synthesis between transcendence and immanence, as two aspects of the One Reality, have been recognised and proclaimed by a number of great intuitives—Philosophers, mystics and poets— throughout the ages.
This conception—which, in contradistinction to pantheism, has been called a panentheism. (that, is, “ all in God ”) — is the basic teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna’s well-known words illustrate this:
“ Having pervaded this whole universe with a fragment of Myself, I remain.”
In the West it has been voiced in neo-platonic philosophy:
“ The One is eternally with His manifestation, which eternally proceeds from Him.”
“ God is not external to any one, but is present within all things, though they are ignorant that He is so.” (Plotinus)
In the early Christian tradition, we find the same inclusive view. In an extra-canonical saying attributed to Jesus (found in an Egyptian papyrus), we find the affirmation: “ Lift the stone and you will find Me, split the wood and I am there.” Paul uttered the same truth in clear terms: “ He is above all and through all and in you all.” (Ephesians, IV, 6), and in the simplest and most direct affirmation: “ In Whom we live, and move and have our being.” (Acts, XVII, 28)
Later on, and particularly in the Middle Ages, the dualistic theological conception became prevalent, and its greatest exponent, St. Thomas Aquinas, emphasised God’s omnipresence:
“ Since God is the universal cause of all Being, in whatever region Being can be found, there must be the Divine Presence.” (Summa contra Gentiles, I, III, cap. 68)
Many mystics, and with particular boldness Meister Eckhart, have expressed the same truth. In modern times the recognition of this reality has been voiced by several poets and writers, but perhaps the clearest expression of it has been given by Rabindranath Tagore:
‘ ‘ The Infinite, in order to express Himself, descends in the multiplicity of the Finite, and the Finite, in order to realise itself, must rise into the unity of the Infinite. Only then the cycle of truth is complete.” (Creative Unity)” Download the booklet here
And in another quote from the same source:
“The Divine Presence in the whole universe is only one aspect of the Supreme, Who remains, in His essential Being, transcendent, free and uninvolved in His manifestation within time and space. In the Ninth Book (of the Gita), Radhakrishnan says in his illuminating commentary,
“The Gita does not deny the world, which exists through God and has God behind, above and before it. It exists through Him who, without the world, would yet be in Himself no less what He is. Unlike God, the world does not possess its specific existence in itself. It has therefore only limited and not absolute being. The teacher inclines not to pantheism which asserts that everything is God but to panentheism that denotes that everything subsists in God. The cosmic process is not a complete manifestation of the Absolute. No finite process can ever finally and fully express the Absolute, though this world is a living manifestation of God.” (The Bhagavad Gita, by Radhakrishnan, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970, p. 239.)” Download the booklet here
In the following I will present a number of quotes from Assagioli and relate these to Panentheism.
I will explore the following in Assagioli’s work:
- A reality that transcends creation – the universe.
- This transcendent reality creates the universe through emanation or involution. More specifically, creates many inner worlds that culminate in the material world where the divine is immanent. (text marked in red below)
- A transcendent reality that maintains and develops the universe through evolution. The divine (life), will through its embodiment in the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdom return to its source enriched with consciousness from its experiences within the many worlds.
- The Transpersonal Self or the soul is an integral aspect of this involution and evolutionary journey, whose purpose is to manifest the divine (life) on earth.
Creation of the Universe
In the article ‘The Balancing and Synthesis of the Opposites’ (1972) Assagioli writes:
1) ”Polarity is a universal fact; it is inherent in cosmic manifestation. It is true that the Ultimate and Supreme Reality is the One, the Absolute, the Transcendent; but it can only be defined by what it is not. From the very moment that cosmic manifestation begins to unfold, duality is horn. The first fundamental duality is precisely that between manifestation and the Unmanifest. In the Bhagavad Gita this is expressed in the words: “Having pervaded the whole Universe with a fragment of myself, I remain.” In the process of manifestation the fundamental polarity is that of Spirit and Matter.”
1a) “But then coming back to Transcendence of human Spirit – I will quote three expressions coming from different sources, one of which belongs to the Modern World.
The first one, and the deeper in its meaning, is to be found in the BHAGAVAD GITA, the “song of God”, the religious theme of India, in which all the conceptions below are exposed and synthesized, being symbolized in KRISHNA, the supreme Spirit incarnation, when he speaks to his disciple Arjuna and says: “Having permeated all this Universe with a part of myself, I remain” This is a fantastic formula for co-existence, for union and communion of Immanence and Transcendence.” Source: A Brief Adress on the Self, Assagioli Archive Florence.
Here Assagioli argues that the source of everything is a transcendent reality that can only be defined by what it is not. This transcendent reality creates the manifest universe with a “fragment of itself and remains”. From a Panentheistic point of view this means that the transcendent reality is greater than the created universe and, as a matter of fact it has only penetrated the universe with a fragment of itself. This relates to point a. above.
In the next quote Assagioli describes what he means by Spirit and here he argues that Spirit is immanent in creation and that it awakens certain qualities in us and motivates us to seek union with the “Supreme Reality”.
2) ”In our attempt to accurately define the meaning of the word ‘spirit’, we need to make a clear distinction between what is in essence its ultimate reality, and what are its various manifestations, i.e. the characteristics by which it is revealed to us, the ways in which we perceive it and recognize it in ourselves, in others, in nature and in history.
In itself the Spirit is a Supreme Reality when looked at in transcendent terms. In other words it is absolute, free from any limitations and concrete definition. The Spirit transcends every restriction of time and space, every material limitation. This Spirit is essentially eternal, infinite, free and universal. This supreme, absolute Reality cannot be perceived with the intellect because it transcends the human mind; it can however, be postulated in rational terms, cultivated intuitively, and experienced mystically to a degree.
In light of the above let us now consider those manifestations of the Spirit that are more accessible to us and concern us more directly.
The Spirit is that element of transcendence, superiority, permanence, power, liberty, inner reality, creativity, harmony and synthesis in every manifestation, both individual and social. In people, therefore, the term ‘spiritual’ (to varying degrees) can be attributed to everything that compels them to transcend their selfish exclusiveness, fears, inertia, and love of pleasure; everything that urges them to discipline, control and direct those untamed forces, instincts, and emotions that seethe within; everything that indices the recognition of a greater, superior reality, social or ideal in nature, and to become one with it, extending the limits of the personality.
In this sense the following are – to an extent – spiritual manifestations:
- courage, in that it overcomes the self-preservation instinct;
- love and devotion to another human being, to one’s family, country or humanity in general, in that overcomes selfishness;
- the sense of responsibility;
- the sense of cooperation, social conscience, solidarity;
- disinterest, and even more devotion and sacrifice;
- the will in its true sense, as the principle and power of self-control, choice, discipline and synthesis;
- understanding, i.e. the widening of our sphere of awareness, sympathetic identification with others, with other manifestations of the universal life – and above all an understanding of this universal life, a recognition of its meaning and purpose, recognition of the intelligent, wise and loving Will and Power from which the universe originates, by which its evolution is directed, and which is guiding it towards a glorious goal. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 188-189)
In the next three quotes Assagioli describes the transcendent and its manifestation:
3) “All that has been said concerns only Reality in manifestation, or in the process of manifesting, where there are degrees of transcendence. Of the unmanifest, or transcendent Reality in an absolute sense nothing can be said. It can be indicated or hinted at only through negations: not – this, not – that, no – thing, the “Void.” This aspect of Reality has been emphasized by some schools of Northern Buddhism and in the West by Meister Eckhart.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 129)
4) “All is One in essence, in Being; but in becoming, in manifestation, in that process of life, there are countless many. I don’t enter into that problem. “All life is One” has chosen to reflect itself in countless ways.” (Assagioli, Undated 2)
5) ”It may be true that the pure Spirit, or to be more exact the Absolute Being who cannot be perceived by the senses, is essentially without, which means that among other things it is above good and evil. But since the first movement of cosmic manifestation of the Eternal One has been two – that is to say there appeared a polarity, an infinite series of opposite, one of which is good and evil.” (2007, p. 153)
6) ”Finally, there is love of God, or whatever designation may be preferred to represent Universal Being or Beingness: The Supreme Value, Cosmic Mind, Supreme Reality, both transcendent and immanent. A sense of awe, wonder, admiration, and worship, accompanied by the urge to unite with that Reality, is innate in man. Present in every age and every country, it has given birth to the many varieties of religious and spiritual traditions and forms of worship, according to prevailing cultural and psychological conditions. It reaches its flowering in the mystics who attain the lived experience of union through love.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 95)
In the next quote Assagioli elaborates on the creation process through emanation, called involution. Involution is the movement down into matter, whereas the movement back to source, through the many planes of consciousness, is evolution. Ken Wilber (1999a: 626) describes it in this way, and his diagrams may help us to understand the process: the process where spirit incarnates in the universe and become manifest in matter is involution and emanation. Involution is the downward movement, and the further spirit sinks into matter it forgets its source and thus becomes immanent in nature. Spirit’s immanent presence in nature is only a pale reflection of the original spiritual source, and when it becomes manifest on the physical plane, which is the heaviest and least conscious level of spirit, then it is hardly recognizable. (Wilber, 2003, p. 5-6)
With this in mind let’s see what Assagioli writes:
7) ”As we consider the subject of love we need to bear this overall spiritual framework in mind. First of all we have the original unity, free from any form of differentiation, i.e. the Absolute, Transcendent, Unmanifested. It is from this that we have obtained the manifestations of differentiation we might regard as the projections, emanation or self-expression of the Supreme. The great cosmic process has various stages. The first is that of duality: the One becomes two. The first fundamental difference has been introduced: spirit and matter, the subjective and the objective aspect, energy and resistance, activity and passivity, a positive pole and a negative pole, a male aspect and a female aspect. So far we have only spoken about the objective aspect of matter, undifferentiated. We have not spoken about matter already differentiated as we know it. This is the primordial stage which we can call the relationship between the two.
The two great aspects of being do not remain separate, as though they were indifferent to one another. Exchanges take place – there is action and reaction – and the effect of this vital attraction is the creation or the manifestation of this fully developed, concrete universe. It did not reach its present form in a moment: there were successive stages of differentiation at the heart of creation. There was the expression of ever more concrete and material planes or levels of life and ever more limited states of consciousness. And at each level countless new, successive differentiations took place until we reached the present highly divided state of separateness and difference between creatures in the widest sense of the word.
This then is the framework, or the stage on which we must come to terms with an understanding of love. Beneath the present state of division, difference and separation, in their various ways, and to different extents, these creatures have a distant, dim recollection of their original unity, a vague sense of common origin and an unconscious, though powerful, longing to return to that origin. Every creature, every separate being, feels incomplete, inadequate, unsatisfied: it lacks peace and searches for something, though it does not know what that something is. As it searches it makes mistakes and suffers one disappointment after another, but cannot help continuing to search. It is spurred on relentlessly, and its thirst is never quenched, indeed there is no alternative because the urge, this yearning, is an expression of the great law of evolution.
This gives us a glimpse of the secret nature and the function of love. This earnest desire to be made complete, to become one, to merge with something else or with someone other than ourselves, is the very essence of love.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 250-251)
Here Assagioli describes the emanations from the Supreme. The Supreme is creating the different levels of consciousness as well as the yearning to return to the source, via evolution. In relation to the process of involution Assagioli writes the following about motherhood:
8) ”Motherhood, considered in its broadest and deepest sense, was a cosmic principle before it was a human function. Matter, the substance which received the creative impulse of Spirit and then elaborates it and expresses it in myriads of beings, is the Universal Mother. It – or she – makes the existence of the manifested universe possible. In our planet, this Universal Motherhood is called Nature, the terrestrial mother, which moulds and nourishes all creatures.” (Assagioli, Undated 10)
Here it becomes apparent that Assagioli explains both the transcendent aspect of the spirit and its manifestation in the universe in terms of emanation and involution. He also describes the ascent of spirit through evolution. The following quotes will focus on immanence and transcendence.
1) ”We have already referred to the two main aspects of divinity: immanence and transcendence. They are both real and necessary, but taken individually they are one-sided: they need to be integrated or merged. When the aspect of immanence is given the upper hand there is the danger of diminishing or debasing the idea of the Divine and all its manifestations. Thus in the aesthetic field, when this aspect of expression and form prevails we have the graceful, the pleasant, the elegant and the cold perfection of the Parnassians and the Neo-classicists. In the religious field we have the sentimental mysticism and the personal love of God become human: too human. In the area of thought we have the deification of human beings as human, as it is expressed in certain idealistic trends. When there is an exclusive emphasis on the transcendent aspect, on the other hand, there is too great a dualism: nature and God are placed in opposite corners and an artificial opposition is created between them – between creation and Creator. There is then too wide a gap between humans and God.
What is needed is integration – a synthesis between the two, and in order to achieve this in practical terms, we must accentuate the aspect most needed in ourselves or in the age in which we live. The prevailing tendency today is clearly on the side of immanence. It is the age of science, an age which to all outward appearances gives us an expandable sense of the sublime.
As the prevailing trends are extroversion and the search for truth and beauty, as well as for power, both in the external world and in nature, the need today therefore is to accentuate the other aspect: we personally and mankind in general need to be called back to a sense of the transcendent, to feel again the shiver caused by mystery and by a sense of the infinite” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 248-249)
2) ”In general terms we can say that intuition is a flash of illumination on a particular aspect or manifestation of Reality. Enlightenment, on the other hand, is broader and longer-lasting. It is a vision that shows the essential nature and synthetic unity of all Reality, or of significant aspects of that Reality. It is the perception of a light that is different from its physical counterpart, a light emanating straight from Reality itself.
This type of enlightenment may be regarded as a revelation of the divine immanence, and as a revelation of the unity of Universal Life expressed in myriad forms. The most effective description is the one contained in the Bhagavad Gita, which refers to it as the ‘revelation of the Universal Form’.
Many poets have experienced this enlightenment and have attempted to express it. The greatest among them is Dante. His ‘Paradise’ is full of expressions of light. At the beginning of the book he states quite clearly that he has had the indescribable experience of the supreme light, the light that shines in the highest heave, closest to the Supreme Reality, God:
“The glory of him who moves everything
Penetrates the universe and shines
In one part more, and in another, less
I have been in the heaven which takes most of his light,
And I have seen things which cannot be told,
Possibly, by anyone who comes down from up there:
Because, approaching the object of its desires
Our intellect is so deeply absorbed
That memory cannot follow it all the way.”
(Translation CH. Sisson, Pan Classics)
This manifestation of light takes on various aspects in the conscious mind of the person to whom it is revealed. These aspects are not separate but interpenetrate and merge with one another to varying degrees, some aspects prevailing over the others, depending on individual differences between those who perceive it. Sometimes the dominant factor is beauty, as with Rabindranath Tagore; in other cases it is the cognitive aspect that occupies the conscious mind, e.g. Plotinus and Meister Eckhart.
For Christian mystics, as well as for Eastern ones, this phenomenon involves feelings of love and reverence. For others the main emotion aroused by enlightenment is one of joy reaching the point of ecstatic bliss. I would nevertheless repeat that we are dealing with a situation in which one aspect is being stressed above others: in general they are all present to some degree. Dante gave fine expression to the way in which they blend together.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 66-67)
So it can be concluded that Assagioli includes the idea of the divine immanence in his work. The following 19 quotes are examples of how he is using involution, emanation and evolution in his theories. I will let the quotes speak for themselves.
Involution – emanation – evolution
1) ”In order to fully understand the nature and power of beauty we need to remember the spiritual concept, which states that everything that exists externally, in concrete form and individually, is the manifestation, effect and reflection of a higher, transcendent, spiritual Reality. It is the great principle of involution or emanation. From a basic, original absolute Reality a series of levels of life, intellect, feeling and material life have developed, through gradual differentiation, to the point of inorganic matter. Thus every quality or attribute of the external world, of matter itself, and of the countless different creatures, is but a pale, obscure reflection of a quality or attribute of the spiritual Reality, the Divine Being. This is particularly true when it comes to Beauty”. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 241)
Here Assagioli is in agreement with Ken Wilber and the theory of emanation, when he mentions that the qualities of the external world are only faint reflections of a spiritual reality. In the next quote Assagioli describes the “The Great Chain of Being”.
2) ”Q: Are the terms individual self and group self just terms, since all is one? Do we have to experience individual then group on the way to be One?
Assagioli: Now that gives me an opportunity to take up another essential point of psychosynthesis, that of the various levels of reality. There are various levels of reality, or if you like a modern term – energy fields. Each has its own qualities and laws. For instance, certain chemical laws at the atomic level are no more valid at the subatomic level but they are not abolished, not superseded; only at the other level other laws work. Here comes a jump, leaving aside intermediate steps which you can find out – “All is One” is a deep metaphysical truth at that level, but unfortunately many bring down that wonderful reality at human levels, or other levels in manifestation where it simply does not operate, and many of the so-called metaphysical movements, and also some Oriental approaches don’t take into consideration the basic difference.
All is One in essence, in Being; but in becoming, in manifestation, in that process of life, there are countless many. I don’t enter into that problem. “All life is One” has chosen to reflect itself in countless ways. If He did it we may surmise He had very good reasons, but it is His business not ours. What we can say is that the great process of involution culminated in the mineral, as far as we know, and then started the contrary movement or process of evolution. We perhaps optimistically can say that we are at the middle point. We have passed through the mineral, vegetable, animal and partially human. So we have to proceed in this evolutionary work towards the “One”, but it is still far off. And here comes the confusion between the two selves which creates so much mischief. When we say “I am that Self” – quite true, I am the One, but we are not that in daily life at all; that would be paranoia.
As I have written, some paranoiacs just take that literally, and when they have a glimpse they think they are God. So you see all this fits with the levels of reality”. (Assagioli, Undated 2)
3) ”Everyone is a little world, a microcosm in which all the kingdoms of nature are represented: the mineral, in bones, etc; the vegetative life; the animal instincts; then the “human conditions,” from primitive man to the highest human possibilities. At the present time we represent the sum of all the evolution of the past from the mineral kingdom on; but evolution does not stop with so called Homo sapiens: evolution is continuous, and our task is to carry forward and foster this great evolutionary impulse, without, however, repudiating the preceding stages!” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 145)
4) ”What Nietzsche had felt intuitively was the cyclical nature of the cosmic manifestation or of its process of evolution. This is the oriental concept of the great cycles of appearance, disappearance of worlds, of the periodic emanation of matter and its evolution in countless forms, followed by its subsequent re-absorption into the formless spirit. Recent discoveries in astronomy concerning the formation and disintegration of the stars and galaxies fully support this idea. According to Eastern philosophy, this also applies at a human level in terms of a cyclical manifestation of souls in a series of bodies (reincarnation). But this does not mean an identical return, rather a reappearance in ever higher forms – evolution in the form of an ascending spiral. Nietzsche’s ideas are a clear example of the wrong interpretation of a valid intuition.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 70)
5) ”The existence of different levels of being having different values is an evident and undeniable manifestation of the great law of evolution, as it progresses from simple and crude stages to more refined and highly organized ones. Applying this to the sphere of love and disregarding here the question of the relationship between sexuality and love, it is evident that a love that is overpowering, possessive, jealous, and blind is at a lower level than one that is tender and concerned with the person of the loved one, that seeks his well-being and desires the union of the best aspects of both personalities. At still another level we find altruistic love, with its broad humanitarian perspective, animated by compassion and the urge to mitigate the sufferings and ills that beset humanity – the love called caritas or agape. How, then, can the differences in evolution, level, and value of the various kinds of love be ignored? The same is equally true and evident in regard to the will, which, as we have seen, can at its lowest level be hard, egotistical, bent toward power and domination, ruthless and cruel. At higher levels, on the other hand, the will is directed toward objectives and purposes devoid of egotism and egocentric content.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 98-99)
6) ”Maslow has presented an illuminating progression of five stages of evolutionary development. The types belonging to the first two stages are under Theory X. They are primarily determined by deficiency needs. The third and fourth types come under Theory Y. They are primarily determined by drives to self-actualization. The fifth type is under what he calls Theory Z. This is the person who aligns his life with transcending values.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 120)
7) ”All is relative to the individual, to his evolutionary stage, to his environmental circumstances, and to many other factors. To state it in an oversimplified way, what may be “good” in one is “bad” in another. The great Renaissance philosopher Tomasso Campanella observed, “In God we shall see who did and said the better thing.” Thus it is the course of wisdom to follow Christ’s injunction, “Judge not.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 147)
8) ”Finally, there is a higher and broader kind of planning, which is in reality the most important; it is that of integrating the individual plan in the Universal Plan, to which I referred earlier. While we are unable to be aware of the complete scope of that Plan in its great mystery, we can at least know something of it and glimpse its broad lines and especially its evolutionary direction, and thus recognize it is the direction of the greatest good. This is what counts! Our first goal is not to discern the point of arrival, but to place ourselves in the right current, on the right road. Here also, and above all here, wisdom is necessary for harmoniously interweaving the individual plan in the Universal Plan; and will is needed for retaining a firm control of the rudder and proceeding on a straight course.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 188)
9) ”Humanity now finds itself at the ascendant stage of its evolution. After descending into the depths of materialism, it is now rising up, slowly and painfully, to the spirit, towards its eternal home land.
Having reached the furthers point of separateness, self-sufficiency and selfishness, each one of us must now gradually extend the limits of our personal identity, and enter into a harmonious communion with our fellow human beings, with the universe and with the Supreme Being.
When we begin to experience this deep need or duty, an intense, savage battle begins within us: the impulse and surge towards the broadening or expansion of the mind comes up against the hard, rigid barriers of separateness and self-centeredness. The soul then feels like a bird shut up in a cage, or like a prisoner locked up in a tiny cell, and it struggles and suffers. This is the critical, painful stage that we have to go through before there can be release- or to be more exact, release of the soul.
In this present period of spiritual awakening it is precisely at this stage that many people find themselves today. In light of this composite concept, which shows us that suffering is necessary and inevitable in the great process of evolution, we will be in a better position to understand more deeply and to accept more readily the various meanings and specific functions of pain.
In the first place, we can see that suffering is a form of atonement, linked inevitably to the law of cause and effect. But this atonement is not the only function of suffering, nor even the most important or essential one. Suffering has a direct and powerful effect in helping the soul to ascend and to become free. It purifies, burning away with its beneficial fire a lot of worldly dross. It sculpts the soul, releasing the god that has been locked up inside a shapeless block of matter, just as in the saying: “The gods are formed by hammer blows”.
Suffering can toughen and strengthen us, developing in us that remarkable and difficult ability of inner resistance, a prerequisite for spiritual development. Many people fail to realize that the spirit is awesome in its power and that we do not yet have the strength to sustain or contain it. This strength and resistance is developed primarily though pain.
Suffering also develops and brings to maturity every aspect of our being, particularly the deeper less obvious ones. Pain forces us to withdraw our attention from the illusions of the external world; it frees us from our attachment to that world, and causes us to return to ourselves. It makes us more aware and forces us to look inwards, to the spirit that is within, to find comfort, light and guidance. In other words, it awakens us and reveals to us what we are.
Finally pain enables us to better understand and feel for others in their pain. It makes us more sensitive and ready to help other people. To quote from the fine poetry of Virgil: “Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco”, or “Not unacquainted with ills, I am learning to help the unfortunate”.
One might object here, however, asking why it is that pain often has the opposite effect. Why does it sometimes enrage people, hardening them and causing them to do wrong, to engage in hate and violence?
That this happens, and happens all too often, cannot be denied, but it should not be regarded as pre-ordained, inevitable effect of pain. Closer psychological examination will show us quite clearly that these effects are dependent on how we react to painful events
An extremely important fact deserves our close attention: the quality and consequences of suffering depends above all on the attitude we adopt towards it, in our inner acceptance and our outward reaction. It was St Paul who summed up this truth in the words: “Pain that lifts up and pain that puts down”. Let us take a look, then, at the attitudes we can adopt in the face and the consequences of each of them”. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 169-170)
10) ”Sometimes Roberto would offer a subject for our meditation: “The great process of evolution, of return, enriched and powerful to the source, with joy.” Or, radiating energies to all quarters of the earth – Love, Compassion, Joy, Serenity, “to all beings, north, south, east, west, above, below; And so let it be, And help us to do our part.”
Once, when I complained of feeling lonely, he said, “Excuse me, its nonsense. One cannot be alone in the universe. It’s a delusion, a basic delusion of separateness, one cannot be alone. That’s a great conquest, to rise above the sense of loneliness and separateness…Hundreds of thousands of millions of suns and all related with each other. They are not lonely. No. The radiation from the most distant reach here. There is an enormous interplay of current, not psychic. What appears to us as immense distances, don’t count. The cosmic rays arrive from more distant regions. These, the stars, are only the bodies. There are billions of entities living in the cosmic rays in constant interplay, and probably, sometimes,” I saw a smile begin, “fight, too.” (Freund, 1983)
11) ”Spiritual education has two main aspects. The first concerns the meaning of life, its evolutionary development and its aims. These are far wider and higher than is ordinarily assumed. A number of scientists have recently affirmed the reality of evolutionary progress and have correctly noted that it cannot stop at the “not-too-lofty” stage currently reached by humanity, but must continue toward new and higher levels.
The meaning and purpose of existence, and the wonderful potential achievements of humanity can be presented in school, using words suitable to the different ages of the students. The second aspect of spiritual education makes use of the tendency toward unification and synthesis in order to widen the outlooks of the young people and to shift their interest from their own egocentric personality to cooperation, solidarity and to union with ever more extensive groups, until all of humanity is included.” (Assagioli, 1968a)
12) “Moreover, the great need for a special type of education shows itself in pupils who are from eleven to eighteen years old. It is during these years that a child’s evolutionary level manifests itself with clarity. These are not only years when exceptional gifts become apparent, but when under inner stress and strain, the “personality” is being formed in all the young. This difficulty is considerably enhanced in superior children; because the richness of their natures and endowments complicates the process of their psychosynthesis.” (Assagioli, 1960)
13) “This immense power of good, inherent in loving understanding, should awaken in us a strong determination to achieve it; and as for other spiritual realizations, what we have to do is twofold; to cultivate that quality and to eliminate the obstacles which prevent or make difficult its growth in us.
Therefore, we must endeavor to develop, on the one hand sympathy, love, and insight and on the other disinterestedness, self-forgetfulness, and emotional detachment. In this way we shall achieve one of the main purposes of our evolution – a wise love without attachment, a truthful love which gives freedom and makes us free.” (Assagioli, 1934)
14) “Before helping someone, study him thoroughly
The better our understanding of our fellowmen the more clearly we realize how much they differ from each other. Modern scientific psychology, with its discovery and description of the various types, such as extraverts, introverts, etc., has done useful work in this direction, but it is as yet only in the pioneer stage, and very incomplete. Fortunately, valuable teachings in the field of esoteric psychology enable us now to begin to consider and study each human in terms of:
- The stage of evolution attained and, consequently, of his prevalent polarization (physical, emotional, mental).
- The Rays which qualify his soul, his personality, and his mental, emotional and physical bodies.
- The Zodiacal signs which condition the individual.
- The points of cleavage or lack of integration in his personality existing at various levels.
- Methods of co-ordination and synthesis (integration and fusion) suited to each individual case.
- His life tasks (vocation, avocation, service).
This is a fascinating and fruitful line of research, not only for spiritual workers, but for every doctor, teacher, parent – in fact, everyone who realizes the responsibility and the opportunity inherent in the influence we have on our fellowmen. (Assagioli, Undated 6)
15) “Blessing and healing are also linked and a real blessing can have a healing effect. This is not necessarily physical, but can be psychologically and spiritually beneficial. Also in healing, however, there is need for caution. For instance, concentrating the attention on the patient’s illness, or on the parts of the body affected, might have undesirable effects.
Under the Law of Cause and Effect the release of divine energies emerges as radiation, and the redemptive process of evolution is thus carried out. So blessing becomes part of the redemptive process of evolution.
When radiation has a spiritual quality, when it emanates from a man who has achieved a high point of Self-realization, its effects are potent.” (Assagioli, 1968b)
“From the angle of human evolution, it might be stated that only when the soul aspect is dominant does the response apparatus (the form nature of man) fulfill its destiny, and only then does true radiation and the pure shining forth of light become possible.
The creative faculty works by means of radiation and magnetism. These bring to its possessor the material for creation and a magnetic capacity which arranges in due form and beauty that which radiation has evoked. Creativity is a consequence of a particular state of mind and a specific state of being; it signifies a point in evolution wherein the person is definitely “radioactive.”
Radiation and magnetism are an expression of the energetic or dynamic aspect of love, and our attempts to realize spiritual love may be helped by the recognition that it is a magnetic energy.
Each of us can and should be a “centre of radiation,” affecting other centres and lives and in this way fulfilling our part in the redemption of the planet. We each have our sphere of radiation; it is our area of responsibility, and within that sphere-which is larger than we think-we can serve in an effective way the Purpose of Divinity.
“The sense of the earth opening and exploding upwards into God; and the sense of God taking root and finding nourishment downwards into earth. A personal, transcendent God and an evolving Universe no longer forming two hostile centres of attraction, but entering into hierarchical conjunction to raise the human mass on a single tide. Such is the sublime transformation which we may with justice foresee, and which in fact is beginning to have its effect upon a growing number of minds, freethinkers as well as believers: the idea of the spiritual evolution of the Universe. The very transformation we have been seeking.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Future of Man.) (Assagioli, 1968b)
Blessing the Lower Kingdoms
This blessing is based, first of all, on recognition of the gifts of the lower kingdoms to us and is an expression of the gratitude we owe to them. In a wider sense, from a universal point of view, it is prompted by the realization that they are all part of Divine manifestation, that they are unconsciously proceeding on the way of evolution, and that the function of humanity is to help them on that way, and finally to redeem them. An effective means towards this is blessing.” (Assagioli, 1968b)
16) “This second phase of learning completes and crowns the first, and is its natural outcome. Such sequence in the study of languages corresponds to a general principle of evolution and growth which rules, or should rule, all aspects of human life. First direct experience, living contact and assimilation, then deliberate reflection and a clear mental grasp of the materials previously assimilated; first, subconscious receptivity, then self-conscious possession; first practice, then, theory. All teaching should aim first at facilitating and diversifying the pupil’s experience and contacts with actual life, his “field of knowledge,” and afterwards at helping him to harvest all the fruits of experience, knowledge, and wisdom which those living contacts are capable of yielding.” (Assagioli, Undated 5)
17) “One of the most important and general polarities in the three kingdoms of organic life vegetable, animal and human) is the sexual. The positive pole is represented by the masculine element, the negative by the feminine element. This does not mean that the former is active and the latter passive. Both are active, but in a different way, the masculine element being the dynamic, initiating pole, while the feminine element is the receptive, “gestative,” elaborative pole. This type of polarity extends far beyond the man-woman relationship to innumerable manifestations in life. It has been particularly and deeply emphasized by the Chinese who regard these two principles as the foundation both of cosmic evolution and of every aspect of human life. The creative aspect, symbolized by the father and Heaven, they call Yang, while Yin is the receptive and elaborative aspect, symbolized by the mother and the Earth. The well-being of Man depends, in the view of Chinese philosophy, on the harmonious accord between Man and the cyclic evolution of the Universe, woven from the innumerable relationships and interactions of Yang and Yin. (Assagioli, 1972)
Next we will look at how Assagioli understand the levels of energy or existence:
Levels of Energy and the inner worlds
1) “We must recognize that there are, in addition to the external world, a number of inner worlds, and that it is possible, indeed incumbent on us, to get to know, explore and conquer them. This is a prerequisite for balance and wholeness”. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 82)
2) “If we turn our ability to observe inwards we realize that there is actually an inner world of phenomena, at least as manifold and varied as the outer world, and that through the development of observation it becomes more and more definite to the observer.
The first field of observation is that of the sensations …
The second field of inner observation or introspection is the kaleidoscopic realm of emotions and feelings …
The third field of observation is that of mental activity, of the mental contents. …”
Assagioli calls them “the various groups or layers of contents”. (Assagioli, 1975 p. 115-116)
3) “The third group of symbols, a frequently occurring one, is that of elevation, ascent or conquest of the “inner space” in an ascending sense. There is a series of inner worlds, each with its own special characteristics, and within each of them there are higher levels and lower levels. Thus in the first of these, the world of passions and feelings, there is a great distance, a marked disparity of level, between blind passion and the highest feelings. Then there is the world of intelligence, or the mind. Here too there are different levels of higher, philosophical reason (nous). There is also the world of the imagination, a lower variety and a higher variety, the world of intuition, the world of the will, and then higher still, those indescribable worlds referred to by the term “worlds of transcendence”. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 84)
4) “The psychiatrist Urban talks about the “spectrum of consciousness” and says that we are only aware of a limited range, similar to that of the spectrum of light from red to violet; but he says there are also psycho-spiritual regions corresponding to infra-red and ultraviolet. It is possible for our area of consciousness to expand or broaden to include ever larger regions of psycho-spiritual impressions and ideas. This expansion may be understood in “spherical” terms, implying expansion in all directions, both vertically and horizontally from the individual to the group, to society and to the whole of humanity”. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 85)
5) “Viewed in terms of energy, we may consider the contents of the superconscious as energies having higher frequency than some of the contents of the lower unconscious. We could say, more definitely, that psychodynamics and its laws – and in part the methods derived from them – are the same for the three levels of the unconscious. (Assagioli, 1975, p. 198-199)
6) “It is quite possible, although at this time we do not have scientific proof, that the different unconscious levels are in reality different fields of energy which interpenetrate, but which would be almost impossible to present in a two-dimensional diagram.” (Assagioli, 1975, p. 200)
7) “It is very difficult to distinguish what comes from the individual superconscious and what comes from even higher spheres or from the levels of the superconscious outside the individual. The higher one ascends, the more the limits of individuality tend to disappear; the higher one ascends, the more the individual becomes united with the whole.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 75)
8) “The collective unconscious is a vast world stretching from the biological to the spiritual level, in which therefore distinctions of origin, nature, quality and value must be made.” (Assagioli, 1967b)
9) “To avoid misunderstanding, however, it should be pointed out here that these ever wider spheres of spiritual life do not cancel or exclude the preceding ones, indeed they assume them. It is only by progressive stages that we are able to recognize and realize the various forms of spirituality.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 190)
10) “The transformation of energies is a natural process going on at all times, both “horizontally,” within each level – physical, biological, and psychological – and “vertically” between all levels, where it can be seen as sublimation or degradation, according to whether energy is carried to a higher or lower level.…” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 62)
11) “It is also important to note that these various levels do not remain in isolation, but there are continuous chains of action and reaction between them. This means that the activities at one level affect and act on the activities at another, and so on. One can easily see how such interaction will be a source of confusion, misunderstanding and error. But at the same time it is a source of great scope for transformation, regeneration and sublimation, having practical implications for our spiritual advancement and development.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 255-256)
12) “The discrepancies in experience are perfectly natural because: “No realm of reality is homogeneous and simple; rather it is a real, varied “world” of many facets, abounding in fullness and life. It should be no surprise, then, that the many aspects of the reality we are discussing have led to such different perceptions.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 18)
In the following quotes, we see how Assagioli understand the principle of emanation as starting from the universal self emanating down to the transpersonal self, and from the transpersonal self to the personal self.
The Transpersonal Self in relation to the Universal Self and personal self.
1) ”The Transpersonal Self of each is in intimate union with the Transpersonal Self of all other individuals, however unconscious they may be of this. All Transpersonal Selves can be considered as “points” within the Universal Self.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 260)
2) “A relationship (between man and God) is always present, recognized or unrecognized, conscious or unconscious. The individual is never absolutely alone and God (or the spiritual reality) is never pure transcendent, but always in living relationship with the manifestation.” (Assagioli, 1975, p. 205-06)
3) “We will now turn to the spiritual elements that come down like rays of sunlight into the human personality – into our personal consciousness – and form a link between our ordinary human personality and the Higher Self, the spiritual Reality. They are like rays of light pouring down, taking on various shades of colour and dispersing, depending on the permeability of the transparency of our personal consciousness.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 241)
4) “The transpersonal Self is “outside” time and above it. It exist and lives in the dimension of the Eternal.” (Assagioli, 1973)
5) “Time and time again one is brought up against the paradoxical duality and unity of the Deity. The personal “I” comes down from the star, or from the spiritual “I”, in the form of a reflection. This fits one of the interpretations of the parable of the prodigal son. The personal “I” is the prodigal son who has descended to the level of the material world and forgotten his origin, to the point where of his own free will he resorts to all the foolishness he is capable of, all the errors (”errors” both in the sense of making mistakes and of going astray), and only then feels a longing for his father’s house, sets out in search of it and eventually finds it.
It is not enough, however, merely to admit or give intellectual assent to this duality in unity: this needs to happened, but it is only one step. One must then make it a reality by living it out. Before attaining reunification there is a time of dramatic ‘inner dialogue’- appeals, questions and answers- following by a gradual coming together and by ever more frequent and vivid sparks between the two poles as they approach one another until the point where they meet. They then separate again until that moment of great peace when the two become one.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 78-79)
6) “We have now reached the fifteenth group of symbols, that of resurrection and return, what in the gospels is referred to as the return of the prodigal son to his father’s house. This is a return to a previous state and points to a return to the original, primordial Being. It presupposes an emanatistic theory of the soul, descending, becoming one with matter, and then returning to its “home”, the heavenly homeland – not as it was before, but enriched by the experience of self-awareness which has come to maturity in toil and conflict.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 94)
7) “There is a basic difference between the flow of manifestation, the great working out of the cosmic plan, and the Transcendent. The Transcendent doesn’t flow – the core, the inner jewel, the real center-does not flow, it radiates. For instance, considering only the solar system which is a small thing, the sun is at the center and radiates on all the planets. It is the planets which move in orbit circles around the sun. For them, the sun is static. Of course, the sun is moving and rushing in the wider universe, but within the context of the solar system, the sun can be considered a center of radiation and the planets moving around. And so it is the same with the – with the Self.” (Freund, 1983)
8) “The Self has a sense of what is eternal- or, to be more accurate, it lives in eternity. But it is the eternal “now” that it inhabits, not merely a transcendent eternity, cut off from the evolutionary process of development.
“Eternal now” is a paradoxical expression only to be appreciated intuitively; but it provides us with a key to a fundamental truth, and that is connected to the relation between the transcendent and the immanent, being and becoming. Both of these should be present, conscious and at work in us.
We need to live our lives with a keen awareness of each moment, but against the backdrop of eternity. Now the synthesis of the moment and of eternity is the cycle. Life proceeds in cycles, and these cycles are moments linked organically by something transcending them: eternity. A synthetic expression of this is the phrase “the glorious, eternal now.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 77)
9) ”What the Self reveals is consistent with what is truly good, but it can be contrary to our wishes or personal preferences. The Self does not call for sacrifices in the usual erroneous sense of forced, demanding renunciations; it calls for them in the sense of a consecration which results in the gradual elimination of a number of habits and activities that are harmful, of no use, or of less importance, in order to create space for us to devote our time to things of greater value.
Furthermore, the Self-in its wisdom and understanding love – does not require that we do this at a stroke and in a perfect fashion. It is patient, prepared to wait, knowing full well that, however slowly, we will reach the high goal for which we are destined, a goal on which the Self has kept its sights since the start of our evolutionary pilgrimage. In other words, the Self has a sense of what is eternal – or to be more accurate, it lives in eternity. But it is the eternal ‘now’ that it inhabits, not merely a transcendent eternity, cut off from the evolutionary process of development.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 76-77)
10) Aristotle spoke about ‘entelechy’, and others have spoken about “models” or “archetypes”. One has to admit some pre-existent reality, an immanent Intelligence guiding the various stages of development from the seed to the tree, from the germinal cell or cells to the complete organism.
The other symbol, one that has been used extensively from the earliest times, is that of the flower, particularly the lotus, our water lily (India) and the rose (Persia and Europe). The symbolism of the lotus comes closest to what takes place in humans. The lotus has its roots in the earth, its stem grows in water, and its flower opens up in the air from the effect of the sun’s rays. Oriental thinkers have seen this as symbol of the human being, with a physical body, or earthly base, which then develops psychologically in the sphere of the emotions (the water) and the mind (the air). Reawakening of the spiritual consciousness corresponds to the opening up of a flower produced by the life-giving powers of the sun, a symbol of the Spirit. Eastern philosophers also maintain that that the human soul is like the lotus flower, and that it has nine main petals, divided up into three groups. The first group stands for spiritual knowledge, the second stands for spiritual love, and the third for spiritual strength. At the centre is the ‘Jewel of the Lotus’, the divine Essence, which is only revealed when an individual’s spirit has fully developed. (Assagioli, 2007, p. 89-90)
11) ”Our spiritual Being, the Self, which is the essential and most real part of us, is usually concealed, shut in or ‘ensnared’. The main reason for this is the body with its many sensory perceptions. In addition to this there are many emotions and impulses (fears, desires, attractions and repulsions etc), and the underlying restlessness of activity in the mind. We need to remove the tangles and iron out the folds so that the Spiritual Centre can be revealed.
Both in nature and in the human soul this comes about on the basis of the amazing, mysterious effect of a biological and psychological vitality having an irresistible power to motivate from within. It is for this reason that the symbol, or indeed the principle, of growth, development and evolution has been and is still used in psychology and education; and it is on this that the concept and practice of psychosynthesis is based.” (Assagioli, 2007, p. 96)
If we have focused our inner eyes on the light, we have already begun to travel the path that leads from slavery to freedom; in other words we have to a certain degree, consciously or otherwise, applied the science of purification. Thus, although the following overview contains ideas many of you will already be familiar with, it may be useful to list the various tasks involved in purification. It will also be an incentive for us to use these means which will enable us to fall into step with the unfolding of that great evolutionary plan. Purification can and must be applied at all levels in that process.” (Assagioli, 2007 p. 157)
Universal Will versus Individual Will
1) ”In contemplating the greatness of the universe, we realize that it is not only a wonderful physical mechanism, but that it is pervaded by and pulsating with Life; that it is evolving under the guidance of intelligent laws; that it must have significance and purpose. Even those who may not have a religious faith or a definite philosophy of life can hardly deny that the universe is ruled by a law of evolution and progress. We perceive in the stars and in the insect, in the atom and in the heart, the same trend towards a mysterious goal. When we have become aware of the power of this universal law it becomes clear to us how foolish it is to oppose it; we discover that the true cause of so many failures lies in the unconscious and ignorant violation of that law. Then there arises in us spontaneously the impulse to obey it and co-operate with it. And here again, a paradox: the individual will, in freely submitting to the universal Will and merging with it, is neither annihilated nor diminished. At the very moment in which it would seem to die or cease to exist, it rises with new power, transfigured.
When the individual wills to co-operate harmoniously with the Will that governs the Universe, then that Will co-operates with him and puts at his disposal Its own infinite energies. In the Laws that rule the Cosmos man discovers the laws which should regulate his own actions.
Thus the will, in becoming good, becomes at the same time strong and wise, and this union, this synthesis of the three, creates the complete will – the Perfect Will.” (Assagioli, Undated 12)
2) ”Teilhard de Chardin gives ample evidence of this law, which is at the basis of all evolution -biological, psychological, and spiritual—and produces what he calls “complexification” and “convergence.” He describes the various stages of this process of synthesis—which in humanity becomes conscious—toward and including a superindividual and cosmic center which he calls the omega point. If we consider this process “from within,” we find that we can have a conscious existential experience of it. We can experience it as an intelligent energy, directed toward a definite aim, having a purpose. These are also the specific characteristics of the will as an expression of the synthesizing self. We need not discuss how the unifying, synergetic force operates at the biological levels. What matters is to realize that we can be aware of its higher manifestations in the conscious human being, and also at transpersonal levels. This quality of the will operates in various ways. First, as an inner synergy, coordinating the various psychological functions; it is the unifying force which tends toward, and enables one to achieve, personal psychosynthesis. It is also active at the transpersonal level and works toward the unification of the personal center of consciousness, the “I” or ego, with the Transpersonal Self, leading to the corresponding harmonious cooperation of the personal will with the Transpersonal Will (transpersonal or spiritual psychosynthesis). The will demonstrates synergy also in the outer activities of the individual, in his acts of willing, both in coordinating and organizing those activities through Planning and Programing (the fifth stage of the will in action) and in Directing and Regulating the successive phases of their Execution (sixth stage).
Teilhard de Chardin, adopting the terminology generally used by Christian writers, uses the words “personality” and the process of “personalization” to describe the higher aim above and beyond the “individual.” The operation of the laws of cooperation, organization, and synthesis is evident not only in the intrapersonal realm but also in the large field of interpersonal relationships, from the couple to all social groups and finally the whole of humanity. Its expressions have been variously called empathy, identification, love, social will.
It tends to transcend the opposition between the individual and society, the selfish¬ unselfish polarity. Maslow called the transcendence of this dichotomy “the creation of a superordinate unity.” Finally, there is the planetary and cosmic synergy which – by analogy – can be surmised to be the expression of the deliberate action of the will of corresponding transhuman principles or entities, as Teilhard de Chardin asserts. This, according to him, is the logical, necessary goal of the whole evolutionary process.
I had arrived at the same conclusion before knowing Teilhard de Chardin’s writings, and had expressed in my paper “Psychoanalysis and Psychosynthesis,” published in 1934 in the Hibbert Journal, and later included in my book Psychosynthesis under the title “Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis”: From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life itself appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity – a labor and an aspiration towards union. We seem to sense that – whether we conceive it as a divine being or as a cosmic energy – the Spirit working upon and with all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty, uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving – slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly – The Supreme Synthesis.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 32-34)
3) ”This is the realm or dimension of the Transpersonal Will, which is the will of the Transpersonal Self. It is also the field of the relationship within each individual between the will of the personal self or I, and the will of the Transpersonal Self. This relationship leads to a growing interplay between, and ultimately to the fusion of, the personal and transpersonal selves and in turn to their relationship with the ultimate reality, the Universal Self, which embodies and demonstrates the Universal, Transcendent Will.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 18)
It can be said that particularly the stages of intention, evaluation, and choice can be effortless. Moreover, there is another and higher condition in which the personal will is effortless; it occurs when the willer is so identified with the Transpersonal Will, or, at a still higher and more inclusive level, with the Universal Will, that his activities are accomplished with free spontaneity, a state in which he feels himself to be a willing channel into and through which powerful energies operate. This is wu wei, or the “taoistic state”, mentioned by Maslow in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 21)
4) ”The third stage of SELFrealization is the communion of the Transpersonal Self with the Universal Self, and correspondingly of the individual will with the Universal Will. Here we find the highest mystics of all times and places.” (Assagioli, 1974, p. 122)
Conclusion about psychosynthesis and panentheism
Based on the above, can we conclude that Assagioli’s work is Panentheistic? Before reaching a conclusion I should point out that I have not found in Assagioli’s writings anything that’s contrary to the quotes I have presented, so the question we must ask is whether we can find the following in Assagioli’s work:
- a. A transcendent reality that is greater than creation – the universe. Assagioli describes several places how the transcendent creates the universe. This quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “Having pervaded the whole Universe with a fragment of myself, I remain”, is particularly relevant in this context. So it is a “yes” here.
- A transcendent reality that creates the universe through emanation or involution, that is, creates a number of inner worlds, culminating in the material, and where the divine is immanent in creation. Assagioli is frequently referring to emanation or involution, both at the universal level and at the individual level. For example, he is arguing that the personal self is an emanation of the transpersonal self. The conclusion here must be another “yes”.
- A transcendent reality that maintains and develops the universe through evolution; the divine returns to the Godhead via the mineral kingdom, plant kingdom, animal kingdom and human kingdom infused with experiences from the different realms. Yes, there are numerous quotes above showing that Assagioli includes the theory of evolution in his work.
- The transpersonal self or soul is an inherent aspect of this involutionary and evolutionary journey, whose purpose is to manifest the divine on earth. It must be another yes here, as there is ample evidence from Assagioli’s work that he believes the purpose of spiritual development is the synthesis of man and of the cosmos. Also see Chapter 2 in The Soul of Psychosynthesis.
Kenneth Sørensen, Copenhagen, 2016
References (are all available on this site)
Assagioli, Roberto, 1934, Loving Understanding, The Beacon *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1960, The Education of Gifted and Super-Gifted Children, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation. Issue No. 8 *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1963, Creative Expression in Education (It’s Purpose, Process, Techniques and Results) Psychosynthesis Research Foundation *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1967b, Jung and Psychosynthesis, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation. Issue No. 19 *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1968a, Notes on Education, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1968b, The Science and Service of Blessing, Sundial House *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1970, The Technique of Evocative Words, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Issue No. 25 *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1972, The Balancing and Synthesis of Opposites, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Issue No. 29) *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1973, The Conflict between the Generations and the Psychosynthesis of the Human Ages, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Issue No. 31 *
Assagioli, Roberto, 1974, The Act of Will, Psychosynthesis & Education Trust
Assagioli, Roberto, 1975, Psychosynthesis, Turnstone Press
Assagioli, Roberto, Undated 2 Talks on the Self, Handed out from The Psychosynthesis and Education Trust, London*
Assagioli, Roberto, Undated 5, A Psychological Method for Learning Languages, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Issue No. 3
Assagioli, Roberto, Undated 6, Discrimination in service, (The Institute of Psychosynthesis, London)
Assagioli, Roberto, Undated 10, The Psychology of Woman and Her Psychosynthesis, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation. Issue No. 24 *
Assagioli, Roberto, Undated 12, Training of the Will, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Issue No. 17 *
Freund, Diana, 1983, Conversations with Roberto, Psychosynthesis Digest Spring issue *
Murphy, Michael, 2012, The Emergence of Evolutionary Panenteism: http://www.itp-international.org/library/print/emergence-evolutionary-panentheism
Wilber, Ken, 2003, Excerpt G: Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies
 Murphy, Michael, The Emergence of Evolutionary Panentheism: http://www.itpinternational.org/library/print/emergence-evolutionary-panentheism
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Read the intro article about The Seven Types
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