The conscious “I” manifests itself above all as a conscious, resolute and tenacious will, directed relentlessly toward the goal; a will that unceasingly works to master the areas of the unconscious.
By Roberto Assagioli, XX Lecture – July 25, 1933. From the Assagioli Archives in Florence, Doc. #24183. Original Title: La Psicosintesi spiritual. Translated by Jan Kuniholm
Last Sunday we presented the highest and most direct method of awakening superconscious psychic energies and coming into contact with our spiritual self.
But such a method is not easy to use, and it can give rise to disturbances, and sometimes even prove to be dangerous. It is therefore appropriate to be well aware of the problems it can produce and how they can be avoided. We will also present other methods that are more indirect, but easier to implement, and see which are best suited to various psychological types.
The main danger of the method of “silence” that we have presented is that of allowing ourselves to go into a state of passivity in which psychic sensitivities of mediumistic character are awakened, or in which elements of the unconscious that can overwhelm our conscious personality may burst in.
The question of mediumship is very complex and still somewhat obscure; but for my purposes it will suffice to mention a general, yet often overlooked, aspect of the issue. When one speaks of “mediumship,” one immediately thinks of the great mediums through whom extraordinary [psychic] phenomena occur, and then the debated problem of “communication with the departed” is immediately raised; but these are exceptional cases. There is, on the other hand, a less apparent aspect of the question, but one that concerns us all: many facts lead one to admit that the extraordinary paranormal faculties of mediums are an amplification of faculties and sensibilities that exist to a greater or lesser extent in each of us. That is to say, psychic exchanges — outside of the connections established by the ordinary means of the senses — habitually take place among all people. These exchanges take place between our unconscious and that of others and, in general, between it and the innumerable psychic forces, influences and vibrations to whose action we are exposed just by living with other people.
Now, putting oneself in a state of passivity and receptivity tends to foster the development of those psychic sensitivities. But this state of affairs is, for various reasons, far from desirable. Opening ourselves without wise discrimination, and without vigilance toward the psychic influences that seek to intrude upon us, would be like leaving the door of our house open to anyone who wanted to enter it. It is easy to imagine how very undesirable guests could easily creep in. Especially now when humanity is agitated, worried, full of doubts, anxieties; often disappointed, embittered, rebellious, it is certainly not the best thing to allow oneself to be assaulted by those emotions and passions, which generate powerful and impetuous psychic currents because of the large number of those who transmit them.
But even apart from the nature of these psychic influences, while we are primarily occupied in the far from easy work of reconciling the many disparate and contrasting elements that are already present in us, it is certainly not advisable that we make our work more complicated and difficult by allowing other elements into us which increase complexity and disorder, even if they are not bad in themselves.
Therefore, let us not be enticed by the fascination of the unknown or driven by the natural curiosity aroused by those phenomena. Let us leave them for now to be investigated by those who study them seriously and scientifically, who take the necessary precautions and consciously accept the risks of those experiments for themselves and others. One may indeed study with interest and sympathy the reports of those courageous investigations and profit from their results, without going unprepared into those little-known and treacherous regions.
It is therefore necessary, I repeat, to always maintain a very careful vigilance and a poised will when doing the exercises of “Silence” and awakening of the spiritual faculties. If we find that a sense of torpor and drowsiness begins to overtake us or if unusual sensations or strange impressions arise in us, we must resolutely stop the exercise; and if those phenomena are repeated in other attempts, it is good to suspend them, at least temporarily.
There are other methods for developing the higher faculties and fostering psychosynthesis, in which active use is made of the normal psychological faculties and which therefore do not have the drawbacks of the method of silence.
Among such methods, the following are the most suitable and effective:
Internal evocation of an “ideal model.” This can be of two kinds:
- Imagining ourselves having attained the fullest and most perfect psychosynthesis we can conceive. Here, too, one begins by putting oneself in a state of physical rest and mental and emotional calm, but then one actively uses the imagination. One tries to “see oneself” as we would like to be, as vividly and concretely as possible. We must distinctly imagine the new expression of our physical appearance — the way we walk, behave, speak; the new feelings and thoughts awakened in us, the new will that animates us, the beauty of our harmonious and unified soul. Whenever we can do this even for a few moments, a real change takes place in us: we move a few steps closer to the goal, and further repetitions of the internal exercise become easier and easier. “Energy follows thought.” Thought is creative. Note well that by doing this we are not deluding ourselves, “imagining” that we already are what we aspire to; on the contrary, the more distinct the ideal model we have fashioned, the clearer we will see the difference between it and what we are now. Moreover, the exercise should be completed by purposefully attempting to express in life the higher gifts and virtues that have been evoked by imagination, at least to some extent. Then, at the end of the inner exercise, let us immediately try to perform some activity differently than usual, to maintain in ourselves, so to speak, an echo and a fragrance of what we have felt to be beautiful and lofty.
- Evoking the image of some historical or mythical figure possessing the higher qualities we would like to develop in ourselves. The method to be used is the same, but in this case we can use help from external images or portraits, the recollection of real or symbolic episodes, acts, and words of the character chosen as an ideal model and then imitate that model as much as possible, in life.
The former method succeeds more easily for introverted types, whose attention and interest are oriented primarily toward themselves [i.e. their own inner life]; while the latter is more suitable for extroverts, for whom it is easier to rely on an external object.
For such “evocations” to be effective, however, it is necessary that they not be done in a cold or mechanical way; they must be imbued with “warmth,” with feeling. This brings us to talk about the function of emotions and feelings in psychosynthesis.
It can be said that pain not infrequently provides the first impetus to the work of psychosynthesis. Grief, especially moral grief, calls us, often rudely, from the scatteredness and activity of ordinary life to a consideration of ourselves, of our inner life. It poses problems, nags us to reflect, to know ourselves. It exposes contrasts of forces, conflicts, and thus makes us recognize the need to settle them, to resolve them; in short, it compels us to undertake psychosynthesis.
But if the reminders, the shocks, and the nagging of pain are initially beneficial; the depressing emotions, fears, discouragement, sense of inferiority, envy, jealousy, and distrust are disruptive and thus directly adverse to internal synthesis.
In contrast, what may be called “dynamogenic” emotions and feelings — hope, trust, fervor, joy, devotion, admiration and spiritual love — powerfully promote unification and psychosynthesis. So those feelings must be aroused by all possible means and nurtured, strengthened, and continuously reaffirmed. This can be done far more than we think, as long as we make up our minds once and for all to stop passively suffering the interplay of our moods, but act decisively to direct and transform them.
But psychosynthesis is not accomplished by internal exercises alone; external action, activity in the world, can and must also be extensively and decisively used as an effective means of personality integration. For it to serve its purpose, however, it must not be rushed, tense, convulsive, disordered, or exhausting, as is too often the case nowadays. We must bring order and discipline into our external activities, and create an appropriate rhythmic and harmonious rotation within the framework of the day, the week, the month and the year. We must alternate the activities so that different faculties and energies are used in them, so that doing one almost gives rest from the other.
It is a matter of creating good habits that will contain us, channeling impetuous impulses and almost automatically summoning dormant and reluctant energies at the right time. This is also helped by the external commitments and duties imposed on us by family and social life. Therefore, we should not grieve over these constraints or rebel against them, but instead use them to “build ourselves up” internally. External order, discipline, and rhythm also help to discipline and reorder the mind and emotions.
For this to happen, however, it is necessary to eliminate the disconnect — indeed almost the opposition — that often exists between inner and outer life, so that they almost constitute two separate and conflicting lives. Instead, we must intimately weave one into the other, so that a clear vision, an ideal of harmony and synthesis informs our plan of life, including external and practical life. Activities in the world are continuous opportunities for internal discipline.
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To conclude with a quick overview the exposition of the principles and methods of psychosynthesis made in this Course, let us recall that psychosynthesis, in its broadest and most inclusive sense, is the result of the concurrent action of two forces, two agents, two internal centers: one personal and conscious, the other spiritual and superconscious.
The former manifests itself above all as a conscious, resolute and tenacious will, directed relentlessly toward the goal; a will that unceasingly works to master the areas of the unconscious, to bring the rebellious and conflicting elements of the soul under firm discipline; a will that settles disagreements, that dissolves complexes, that liberates repressed energies; that transforms, elevates, and utilizes the instinctive, passionate, emotional forces in the best way; a will that decisively directs desires and aspirations upward, awakens spiritual energies, and removes obstacles to the action of the Spirit.
The second force is the Spiritual “I” or Self, the highest and truest Center of our being, which does the work, which completes and perfects what the will has begun. It acts subtly, often unnoticed, from within and from the depths. Actually, not infrequently it happens that the more effectively it works the more we personally feel arid, powerless, or shrouded in darkness. This is because the Spirit must first and foremost dissolve hardness, harshness, and resistance in us; it must burn away impurities and painstakingly transmute lower energies. This work necessarily involves the calling up and employment of negative forces, but this inevitable action of the Spirit alternates with the positive action of regeneration and synthesis.
Spirit by its very nature is above all dualism, all conflict; it is Unity. Where It is present and at work, It renews, coordinates, harmonizes, unifies.
Let us therefore rely with faith on the action of the Spirit; let us open the doors of our souls to It — let us aspire to unite, to merge with It as much as possible, so as to consciously and effectively become what we are in essence: that is, one Being, one Life. Thus we will move from multiplicity, from dispersion, from the wearisome travail of conflicting forces, to peace, to inner harmony, to fruitful cooperation of all our energies, to victorious and joyful psychosynthesis.
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