Each nation has a soul and personality, according to Roberto Assagioli and plays a key part in the psychosynthesis of humanity. In this article, Assagioli gives an overview of his thoughts on this issue.
By Roberto Assagioli, translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. The article is from the magazine La Cultura nel Mondo – N. 3 – mag-giu 1968. See also this article: Psychosynthesis – Individual and Social
Each psychosynthesis presupposes an analytical phase, an examination of the psychological characteristics and their interpretation from a psychodynamic point of view. This is just as true for nations as it is for individuals.
In order to make a well-founded and truly scientific psychological analysis of nations, their physical and material aspects must also be taken into due consideration, since as in individuals, so in nations there are close relationships and interactions between “body” and psyche.
Therefore, in the study of nations one must take into account their geographical, economic and commercial characteristics, since often important psychological reactions derive from them. For example, the least favored nations in terms of size, position and possession of raw materials can easily have reactions of envy, jealousy and resentment towards others; they can have a sense of inferiority and react to this with hyper-compensation in the form of exaggerated self-affirmation or self-glorification. On the other hand, rich nations, which have material advantages in terms of size, raw materials, etc. often have a “superiority complex”, a sense of self-satisfaction, a more or less overt claim to special rights and hegemonies.
Another element that must be taken into proper account is the historical-genetic one; the history of a people should be taken into consideration, as its past can explain many of its present attitudes.
Then we must move on to consider the characteristic traits and qualities of the nation, its various stages of development: mental, emotional and spiritual as well as the internal conflicts existing in each of them. Not infrequently, as occurs in individuals, an internal conflict is projected outwards, aggressive impulses are attributed, knowingly or not, to other nations. It is necessary to ascertain the degree of integration which a nation has achieved. Finally – an important and generally overlooked point – it is necessary to find out what is the nature of the national Soul, of the upper part that corresponds to the spiritual self of the individual.
This general psychological study must be followed by what can be called “differentiation”, that is, the analysis of the psychological type of nations: sensory, emotional or mental; extrovert or introvert, etc. In doing so one must avoid any schematizing and any simplistic generalization. For example, just like an individual, a nation can be extroverted on one level and introverted on another: for example, the English people are extroverted on a material level, in their external activities, while they are introverted on an emotional level. Southerners in general, and Italians in particular, are extroverted at the sensory and emotional levels.
The psychoanalysis of a people is very difficult, not only for itself, but also for reasons concerning the personality of those who are about to carry it out. It has often been pointed out how much the analyst’s subjectivity, his mentality, his theoretical conceptions and his emotional complexes can be the cause of incorrect interpretations and evaluations. If the scholar belongs to the same people that he is examining, he is easily led to underestimate, or to ignore or justify its deficiencies. Or, finding that his people are inferior to the “ideal model” he has of them and which he believes they should embody, he is led to make harsh criticisms, to give too severe judgments. If, on the other hand, the scholar belongs to a different people, it is difficult for him to divest himself of the psychological characteristics of his own group. (1)
Therefore, it would be appropriate for these studies to be done by groups of scholars from different countries.
The psychosynthesis of each nation must precede that between the nations, just as the psychosynthesis of the individual must precede its harmonious integration into the various human groups; disharmonious individuals cannot form harmonic groups, and the same is true of nations; this does not require demonstration.
Just as for an individual, an action plan, a program should be made for a people to regulate and make good use of existing and sometimes exuberant energies; to develop deficient qualities; to integrate them all in a harmonious synthesis. The methods to be used to implement this psychosynthesis are basically the same as those used for individual psychosynthesis – but, as is done for the former, they must be chosen, combined and used differently, case by case, given the specific problems presented by each “national entity”.
This is a vast field of research and action that can be said to be still unexplored, but the usefulness and indeed the need for these is evident, and I express the hope that this sector of interindividual and social psychosynthesis will find fervent, competent and active adherents.
Psychosynthesis between nations is an urgent need. As there is no isolated individual, detached from his close and multiple relationships with other individuals and human groups, so there are no isolated and self-sufficient nations. But psychosynthesis between nations presents great difficulties, the same that hinder cooperation between individuals.
In addition to the general ones, there are those deriving from the still backward psychological evolutionary stage of the “national entities”.
The methods for implementing, or at least promoting, psychosynthesis between nations are those used for interindividual psychosynthesis and that between human groups of all kinds. But there are some specific applications of them that could and should be made, and whose implementation have had a start in some cases – however small and insufficient.
One of the greatest difficulties for the harmonious synthesis between nations, indeed one of the greatest dangers that threaten world peace, is the strong tendency towards self-affirmation and the consequent aggressiveness. The most effective means to use towards this is its transformation and sublimation from material and hostile self-affirmation into psychological and spiritual self-affirmation. A nation can fully satisfy its desire for prestige completely independently of the size of its territory, its military strength and its material resources; that is, through the specific contributions that it can and wants to make to the formation of the new civilization and the new world culture that is already underway. In other words, a nation, even a small one and materially weak, can assert itself and receive respect and appreciation from others for what it can contribute to the common human heritage, that is, with the mission it can take on and carry out.
The fact that each nation has, or may have, a special mission has been recognized and affirmed also in the past. One of his most fervent and enlightened proponents was Giuseppe Mazzini, who, over a century ago, intuited with admirable clairvoyance other characteristics of the future world civilization, such as sociality, cooperation, and, in the political field, continental groupings (Young Europe). (2)
This mission is inspired by the national Soul; from it can come the recognition of the mission and the urge to carry it out, just as from the spiritual Self comes the light and strength to man to carry out his own task, his own individual mission.
Keyserling says it clearly: “Peoples have historical existence only when they live, and to the extent they live, for a mission, and therefore pursue spiritual ends.” It is not necessary for everyone to be aware of it, it is enough for an elite to recognize it, proclaim it and send the people towards that goal.
Soloviev said the same thing in religious language, but one that can easily be translated into psychological terms: “The idea of a nation is not what it thinks of itself in time, but what God thinks about it in the eternal”. That is, the task, the mission, is not the one that consciously at the ordinary, “personal” level, a people believe or do not believe they have, but it is that which their Soul, their spiritual Self, knows and tries to implement. It can be called the purpose or the will of the spiritual Self, of the Soul of the national Entity.
Every people, from the smallest to the largest, has a task to perform, a contribution to make, just as every individual has in the family and in society; it can be said that the set of nations is similar to a vast orchestra in which each instrument has its function; so in the concert of the nations each of them has its part to “play” in the great human symphony. (It could be said – a little too pessimistically – that we are currently rather in the moment before the performance, in which each player tries and fine-tunes his own instrument, with the resulting cacophony!).
The most suitable and effective psychosynthetic technique that those who inspire and guide a nation can use is that of the ideal model. It consists of projecting the vision and creating the image of what the nation can become by implementing its best possibilities, of what it can give to humanity. This “model” or image must be defined, vivid and arousing; then the other suitable techniques to implement the event must be indicated.
An interesting attempt to encourage the recognition of the tasks of the various nations and to promote the will to carry them out was made by an American publicist, Julie Medlock, who was inspired by the concepts and methods of psychosynthesis. It asked politicians and writers of a given nation what the specific qualities of their people are and what the contribution it can make to humanity in the current initiative towards a global synthesis. The answers were published in a special supplement to a newspaper published in the country, with the title: “What this people can give to humanity.” This was done in Pakistan and Ghana. (3)
It may be surprising that Medlock first chose two minor and newly formed nations, but it can be said that the task is easier for a new people who have faced the problem of their own identity, and who have become independent somewhat on this basis of self-awareness, as it is for the major nations, loaded with history, dominated by a sense of superiority, and composed of conflicting groups.
Various circumstances prompted Medlock to discontinue the implementation of that program, but we hope that she and others can continue the work which is far-reaching and which will require extensive collaboration. But the mere fact of proposing such a dynamic and innovative cooperation program is important; it draws attention to a well-defined way to sublimate and give expression to national sentiment, to the properly understood patriotism of every people.
It also represents an incentive to carry out the preliminary work of self-analysis and internal synthesis of each nation, and from this may derive a mutual appreciation among the various peoples, since each of them will be informed of what the others offer. This will establish a common platform, a good basis for exchanges and mutual integration.
Individuals generally participate and cooperate in the psychosynthesis of their nation not directly, but through the various cultural, political and social groups or associations to which they belong. Similarly, among nations there are, and it will be possible to form more and more, groupings formed by geographical proximity, by ethnic or psychological affinities, by common problems and purposes. These “blocs” of nations are useful, indeed necessary, and in any case already in place, but they present internal and external difficulties, and above all the danger of conflicts between one block and another.
One of the most important groupings is that among the European nations. Europe is a “psychological entity” based on a centuries-old commonality of traditions, mentality, relationships (even conflicts are a form of relationship!), And mutual influences between its various components or “organs”. It is difficult to define “the European spirit”, to indicate the specific qualities of the “Entity of Europe” and its current mission and future one. Among the various attempts to do so, I will name those who, in my opinion, are among the best. First of all, Keyserling in the long final chapter of his book “Analyze Spectrale de l’Europe”. According to him, a specific characteristic and the main task of Europe is to safeguard and promote the individuality of men, as opposed to the leveling and conformist tendencies of mass civilization. It is remarkable that the two most fervent supporters of this defense and affirmation of the individual were C. G. Jung and E. Fromm, living in America but of European origin.
I will also mention that, among the Geneva Rencontres Internationales, that of 1946 had as its theme L’Esprit Européen. In it the relationship between man, European man and humanity were examined and discussed. Francesco Flora, after reaffirming “the universality of man and his complete participation in cosmic life”, said that the European spirit recognizes in man, the author responsible for his actions and thoughts. Denis de Rougemont expressed his faith in Europe’s “vocation” but concluded that a European Federation cannot be imagined except in view of a World Federation. The
intervention of Amrouche was interesting, an Arab imbued with European culture, who expressed severe but fair criticisms; he pointed out the danger that Europe “would collapse under the weight of its history” and affirmed the need for “militant wisdom”. This wisdom, combined with a profound humanistic and humanitarian spirit, was demonstrated by Stephen Spender, who was shortly thereafter appointed UNESCO Secretary General.
The other groupings or blocs of nations, continental or sub-continental – Asia, America and Africa – or intercontinental (Commonwealth), can only be named. Moreover, they are now in a “fluid” state of rapid change and renewal.
A confirmation of the vitality and vastness of the movement towards union between nations is given by the numerous existing federalist and “globalist” associations.
I will also have to limit myself – for reasons of space – to mention only very briefly other aspects and problems of humanity’s psychosynthesis:
- The racial problem. “Racism”, a sense of superiority, contempt and hostility among men of different races is one of the lowest and most shameful manifestations of a part of humanity, which can truly be called “inhuman”. There is no need to recall the tremendous genocides it has produced and the injustices and violence it is still producing. (4)
- Religious ecumenism. One of the causes that in the past has most created separations and conflicts between men has been the struggles between religions, or more precisely between the large human groups belonging to the various religious denominations (remember the so-called “holy wars”).
Now also in this field a broad and active movement has begun towards peaceful coexistence, a growing understanding and also, in certain fields, a cooperation between the various religious groups. These ecumenical manifestations are so recent and known that there is no need to illustrate them here. We will only say that they constitute one of the most effective and necessary contributions to the synthesis of humanity, since the recognition of the essential spiritual unity – above the different expressions and forms in which it manifests itself – constitutes a very effective incentive for the implementation of the other syntheses in the various fields of human life.
I will dwell somewhat on political, social and economic synthesis given the importance of what is being done in these fields and the urgency of a broader, more decisive and enlightened action.
In the political field, the greatest thrust toward union was and is given by the enormous suffering and destruction produced by the Second World War, and by the danger of a third. This led to the creation of the United Nations (UN) organization. This has so far corresponded only in part to the hopes that had been placed in it, for various reasons which need not be examined here; but I believe that the positive action that it has carried out in various moments of threatening tension and initial conflicts, which without its intervention could have extended in an unbridled way, is not sufficiently recognized and appreciated.
But perhaps even more than with its direct action, the UN has contributed to the union and cooperation between peoples through the world organizations promoted and financed by it that operate in the social, medical and economic-financial fields. (5)
In this regard, it is interesting to note that interdependence and economic solidarity have been more recognized than those of other fields. Financiers and economists have proved more clairvoyant and willing to cooperate, not only than politicians, but also than certain rigid and exclusive idealists. A demonstrative example is that of the International Monetary Fund which in the last few years has subsequently saved, first the dollar, then the lira and then the pound, through large loans to the United States, Italy and England, with means drawn from an international fund to which many nations had contributed to varying degrees. This was done in the interest of all nations, as the collapse of the dollar and pound, and also that of the lira, would have been harmful to everyone, and would have disorganized world trade. There is such a network of connected interests which requires monetary stability in every nation. So global solidarity is already practically at the most material level, that of money. It is a little shameful that this has been recognized and implemented at this level much more than at political, psychological and spiritual levels!
Naturally, solidarity and cooperation require renunciations and sacrifices, but not of an essential nature, which would then be amply rewarded; for example, the renunciation of the idol of absolute “national sovereignty”, an anachronistic idol – which indeed could be called stupid – could have existed in the past, but now it no longer makes sense.
In addition to this solidarity based on interest, generosity must also be developed by those who have towards those who do not have, generosity properly understood, that is, not the generosity of almsgiving, of pure material help, but that of helping every people to help themselves, by only giving him the means to start his own reconstruction; therefore technical and cultural as well as economic aid, civil support for peoples who need it, etc .; an altruism, a wise generosity, for the true good of the various peoples and for the common good which, I repeat, are inseparable.
This offers unlimited opportunities for the use of young people’s energy and idealism; in fact, young people feel much more than adults, and there is a growing number of organizations and initiatives in this regard. (6)
The work that UNESCO has carried out and is carrying out is so vast and varied that it is not possible to give even a brief summary of it. (7)
I will then mention the intercultural and “interdisciplinary” integrations that are carried out within and outside UNESCO. They combat excessive specialization and separation, indeed sometimes hostility, existing between the representatives of the various cultural activities and promote synthesis between the various sciences of nature and man, and between them and philosophy. One of the most fervent advocates of this unification is the philosopher Oliver Reiser who has addressed it extensively. (8)
Of course, not even UNESCO, like any human institution, can be considered perfect, and we believe it appropriate to point out a deficiency that concerns precisely the field of our studies and applications: the psychological one. Julian Huxley had rightly stated in drawing up the program:
Julian Huxley had rightly stated in drawing up the program:
“Another point that UNESCO should include in its program as soon as possible is the study of the applications to education of psychoanalysis and other schools of “deep psychology”. Although a certain amount of repression in the unconscious seems indispensable for the child to be able to develop a moral sense normally and a full personality, it is equally obvious that too strong and one-sided repression can produce various character deformations and frustrations that prevent normal development – above all a hypertrophic sense of guilt that can be disastrous for the individual and for society. If we could discover the means to regulate the repression process and its effects, we would certainly be able to make humanity happier and more efficient”. (9)
This field has so far been overlooked by UNESCO, while it includes the diffusion and large-scale application, individually and in various groups, of one of the most effective methods of preventing or mitigating conflicts and eliminating one of the major obstacles to cooperation and union: the transmutation and sublimation of combat energies. We therefore express the hope that this gap will be filled, and that UNESCO will give dynamic, individual and social psychology the broad place it deserves.
The spiritual psychosynthesis of humanity
All the integrations of which I have spoken, the formation and development of the unitary “organism” of humanity, constitute the necessary preparation for its highest unification and synthesis, the spiritual one.
And conversely, spiritual psychosynthesis, intuited and proclaimed by a minority, still small but growing, can very effectively foster synthesis in all the fields mentioned. Once again, the analogy with the individual human being is indicative. Acquiring awareness of the spiritual self and identifying with it produces or favors by itself the solution or elimination of conflicts. This has been said very well by J.L. Henderson:
“A human being is potentially made up of a body, an ego, the center of his conscious personality, and another third element. Analytical psychology has called it the “Self” … (This) has a constant character: unlike the ego it casts no shadow … This means that to the extent that an individual has become a “Self” … he no longer needs enemies to satisfy his internal needs and possesses a power that absorbs and dispels the hostility of enemies”10.
The same is true and may happen for nations and for all humanity. Among those who have had a vision of the spiritual synthesis of humanity, Teilhard de Chardin is perhaps the one who proposed it in the most fervent, original and arousing way. So, I think it is well to conclude with his words:
“Humanity, being a collective reality, can only be understood to the extent that … we try to determine the special type of conscious synthesis that emerges from its concentration”.
And with regard to the future, he foresees “a harmonized collective of consciousness, that is, a kind of super-consciousness … an organic aggregate of souls … Mega-Synthesis”
(Le Phénomène Humain).
1 The difficulties and the numerous causes of error in the study of the psychology of peoples have been exposed in a broad and acute way by A.N.J. den Hollander in the article Problématique de la description de la réalité sociale (Revue de Psychologie des Peuples, 21ème année, N. 1).
2 Nationality lives for us in the purpose, in the common goal, in the idea that the peoples, all subjected to the Moral Law, are called to constitute the unity of the human family. The Nation is … an organic whole by unity of purpose and faculty, living by a faith and a tradition of its own, strong and distinct from the others with a special attitude to carry out a secondary mission, intermediate degree to the general mission of the Humanity”. (Mazzini: Nationalism and Nationality in Philosophical Writings, Vol. II, p. 227).
3 Cfr. The Pakistan Times, 18 February 1962
4 Its causes have been well studied scientifically, among others, by Allport in his book The Nature of Prejudice (Boston, The Beacon Press, 1954) and psychoanalytically by Robert Maistraux in the article Psychanalyse du contact humain dans les civilizations différentes (Revue de Psychologie des Peuples, 21ème année, N. 1).
5 It was recognized that the problems existing in those fields could only be addressed on a global scale; therefore the activity of the ILO (International Labor Organization – Bureau International du Travail, based in Geneva) was strengthened and the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), the WHO (World Health Organization – World Health Organization) were created ), the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which have carried out and are carrying out far-reaching actions, albeit always insufficient for the immense and growing needs.
6 The International Civil Service with its labor camps has had a very wide development, which is not known and appreciated enough. There are more than 300 organizations that implement it – connected by a Coordination Committee if they belong to the UNESCO Youth Section – and in which more than one million volunteers work.
7 Its general program has been organically exposed by the eminent biologist and sociologist Julian Huxley, the first Director General of Unesco, in his Unesco book: Its Purpose and its Philosophy (Public Affairs Press, 1947). What he has implemented results from his numerous publications, and what he is doing and proposes to do is reported gradually in his periodicals: Il Corriere dell’Unesco (published in various languages) and the Chroniques de l’Unesco. I will only name his grandiose 10-year East-West project, as it constitutes a direct large-scale contribution to world psychosynthesis. See his book The Integration of Human Knowledge (Boston, Sargent, 1958). See Unesco: Its Purpose and its Philosophy, p. 33.
8 Cfr. His book The Integration of Human Knowledge (Boston, Sargent, 1958).
9 Cfr. Unesco: Its Purpose and its Philosophy, p. 33.
10Psychological Implications of an alternative to War, nel libro Alternatives to War and Violence, Ed. T. Dunn – London, Clarke, 1963.