Assagioli continues to expand on the different synthesizing centres concerning individual psychosynthesis, vocation, and the social roles of husband and wife are dealt with here.
By Roberto Assagioli, translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Original Italian title: Tipi E Gradi Della Psicosintesi II – (Types And Degrees Of Psychosynthesis II). From the Assagioli Archive in Florence.
We started talking about the various types of individual psychosynthesis, and we examined those determined by a passion and created by an activity, by a function performed in life. We will now continue to examine the latter, studying the various types and deepening the considerations on their value, their limits, their drawbacks and dangers. And therefore, the value of one’s particular task, and its spiritual meaning, as they have been more or less recognized in all times.
In the East, the Indians, while giving supreme value to inner life, detachment and liberation from the world, have with great equanimity and wisdom fully recognized the dignity of the various social functions and activities, and have shown that when lived spiritually they are not an obstacle but can indeed constitute a way for the highest spiritual achievement, for union with the Supreme.
So, they have the deep concept of Dharma, which is difficult to render with one word. It is both law and life, individual duty and a particular ideal to be implemented in one’s condition.
Thus, there is the Dharma of the child, the warrior, the merchant and so on. There is the Dharma of each age: of the young man, of the scholar of spiritual truths; then the Dharma of the father of the family who gets married, performs all his social and family functions until he has an older son who gets married. Then this Dharma of his ceases and begins that of “he who dwells in the forests”. In mature age, the Indian was in fact freed from family duties, which were assumed by his eldest son, and he retired to the forest to await his spiritual improvement and to educate young people. Every age, every age had its Dharma.
Finally, at least a minority even went to a state of life free from any bond, even from that of teaching.
The Indians, among the various Yogas or methods to bring about inner unity – we would say psychosynthesis – and to achieve union with the Supreme, which for them – as coherent and integral spiritualists – is the same thing, they place next to the Yoga of devotion (Bhakti Yoga), to the Yoga of wisdom (Jnana Yoga) and to royal Yoga (Raja Yoga), the Yoga of action (Karma Yoga).
According to them, man, following his impulse to act and continuing to work actively in the world, can achieve union with the Supreme, provided that he purifies and elevates the motives of his action, makes it selfless, renounces attachment to its bear fruit, and does it as Dharma, as a duty for the sake of his fellow men, to collaborate with the Supreme.
This is said very well in the Song of the Lord (Bhagavad Gita), the philosophical and religious text in which the various currents of Indian spiritual thought are synthesized and harmonized. Arjuna, Prince Kshatriya (warrior) who is the head of the army, is taken over, at the moment of battle, by anguish and doubt. He confesses these doubts, his dejection, to Krishna, who is the embodiment of the Supreme Spirit, in the form of a charioteer. Krishna reproves Arjuna and spurs him on.
I will read you some characteristic verses:
“Reject this despicable softness of mind and arise.”
To this first generic incitement Krishna adds profound reasons and continues to incite him to fight. First of all, he says that:
“Death does not touch the immortal soul”.
“The spirit that dwells in everyone’s body is indestructible … therefore you shouldn’t be sorry for any creature.”
“Furthermore, as regards your duty, you should not hesitate because for a Kshatriya (warrior) there is nothing better than a legitimate war.”
“Happy are the Kshatriyas that are given so spontaneous a war. The door of heaven is opened to you “.
“Not a war that they started for violence, for cruelty; but when the war has arisen, the warrior has a duty to fight. “
“But if you refuse to fight this just war, then by abandoning your duty and your honor you will fall into sin.”
“Action alone concerns you, never the fruits of it. Your motive must not be the fruit of action, nor must you have in you any tendency to inaction.”
” In the following song he continues: “Man does not obtain liberation from activity by refraining from action, nor does he obtain perfection by renouncing action alone.”
“Nor can anyone for a moment remain inactive, since all are involuntarily led to perform some action, driven by the energies inherent in nature.”
“That deluded man, who while holding back the means of action continues thinking about the objects of the senses, is called a hypocrite.”
“But on the other hand, those who, curbing their feelings with their mind, and with the instruments of action devote themselves to the devotion of action, they, being without attachment, are superior to the others, oh Arjuna”.
“Do that which is ordained, since activity is better than inactivity, and even body sustenance would not be possible without activity.”
“This world is linked by actions, except for sacrifices …, therefore always do what needs to be done, but without attachment.”
“Because the man who performs an action selflessly, achieves the Supreme”.
“Only through action did Janaka (an ancient king) and the others achieve perfection; you should act also for the well-being of the multitudes. “
“What a great man does, others do the same; people take what he does as a rule”.
“O Partha, there is nothing left for me to do in the three worlds, nor is there anything to be achieved that has not been achieved, even though I am committed to action.”
“If you do not act, these worlds would perish, you will cause the mixing of the races and destroy these creatures.”
“As the ignorant act in the interest of action, so the wise, eager for the well-being of the many, freed from mental fever, fights …”.
I should point out that there is a deeper symbolic interpretation of this episode. An inner and entirely spiritual sense, according to which, the battlefield is the soul and the enemies are the various parts of the personality itself. But like all the great symbolic and spiritual poems, such as the Divine Comedy and Faust, the various interpretations are not mutually exclusive, but each one is true in its own plane. Dante explicitly tells us this in his Convito about the Divine Comedy. It has various meanings and different levels of interpretation, and each one is true.
In the West, Christianity affirmed, especially in the early years and in the Middle Ages, the excellence of monastic life, but then recognized that religious life can be done in the service of God in any social condition and with licit activity, that is, by accomplishing perfectly those which were called “the duties of one’s state”. The clearest and wisest expression of this attitude of harmony between religious, social and individual activity in a coherent psychosynthesis is found in the admirable “Introduction à la Vie Dévote” of that great saint and man, Francis de Sales.
During the gray materialistic period, these psychological and spiritual problems were not even raised. Man was the fatal product of play of forces, a puppet, an automaton without inner freedom. According to the elegant and poetic expressions of the time “thought is a simple secretion of the brain”, like the bile of the liver, and consciousness an epiphenomenon, an unnecessary consequence, a vague phosphorescence of physical-chemical processes in the body.
But now these petty, insufficient, arbitrary and slanderous conceptions for human dignity, depressed and desperate, are beginning to be put aside. Now we are understanding and reaffirming the spiritual value and meaning of the various human tasks and functions. It was Keyserling who did it in the most decisive and extreme way. In several of his books, particularly in the last one, “Méditations Sud-américaines”, in the final chapter entitled Divine Comedy, which is a true spiritual symphony, he sees his career and his existence in the character that represents the most real part of his life.
Anyone can have an inner vocation for the social function he performs; whoever feels himself more deeply in his life as King, as statesman, as judge, than in his private life. If what matters most to a man is the meaning of life – which is not confused with life itself – then his role and function is in his eyes his truest reality …
For him, everyone is an actor who plays his part, and when a man takes on meaning in the eyes of a group, his life itself becomes a public spectacle. The poet feels himself representative of the Spirit of his Nation; the scientist the representative of science; the doctor of the soul is the representative of the consciences that turn to him. The private man becomes in this or that field an authority that is not a fiction, but precisely his own spiritual sense that has become autonomous. So that men who fulfill their destiny in this way have no other relationship with each other from an essential point of view other than as “roles” and “functions”.
This is not always done satisfactorily. In most cases we see that something different happens. We see people who perform their task in a miserable and restricted way, who become sterile and dried up in it, or who swell with ridiculous vanity and presumption for the real or pretended social importance of their position.
Keyserling too could not fail to observe it, and according to him the causes are varied. These individuals are too spiritually superficial to live at the spiritual level; too incapable of creating suitable forces to fuse their life functions together, and too cowardly to fight and to conquer the function that would really suit them. For the most part in other cases, they are too cowardly to give up a part that they don’t believe in, but which provides them with sustenance.
Then there are other causes of a social and psychological nature, which have been highlighted and examined by Jung. These, in the book “The Relationships of the Ego with the Unconscious” accentuate the downside, that is, the limitations and constraints of the part that must be played in society and the mutilations that it imposes. First of all, when one has accepted a function, one is then forced by society to represent that function, and only that one. If an individual is a poet, society says he cannot be anything other than a poet. If he is also a shoemaker, he is not taken seriously either as a shoemaker or as a poet.
This bizarre example can sometimes come true. Hans Sachs, immortalized in the Nuremberg Masters Singers, was a good poet and a good shoemaker. But society would not accept this, they said he is an amateur, a good-for-nothing, not knowing where to place him and not valuing him. Perhaps because society is made up of mediocre people, who can barely do one thing well enough and does not admit that others know how to do two well …
Furthermore, those who identify themselves completely and exclusively with their own function, however noble it may be, however much it gives proof of virtue, necessarily tend to repress in the unconscious, to leave undeveloped and atrophied other parts of the psyche that do not fit into that function but which are also vital, and would have the right to adequate development and appropriate expression. Hence the imbalance and inconsistency between public and private man. A man can perform his function very well in public, in a mature and elevated way, and instead as a private man he can even be in a formless, chaotic and primitive state.
He can behave in the family in two ways: one is the aggressive way. The magistrate, the officer, the official who had to repress their impulses during all office hours, unloads them in the family, without restraint and without control. It is there his aggressive tendencies manifest themselves. But it can also happen, on the contrary, in a negative way. That is, a person who has struggled to carry out his task in the office or in society, who has spent all his virile energies on it, returns home and lets himself go into a state of almost passivity, weakness and infantilism, subjected to the will of his wife, and allows himself to be tormented by his children, unable to educate and direct them.
Another expression of inconsistency between the public and private man is the boredom that a man who does not know what to do when he is out of that … A typical example is the American businessman, all polarized on trade, who has no culture and is not interested in art, and so when he is out of the office he is bored, and is a burden to himself and to others. So, for many active men Sunday is a terrible day, they don’t know what to do, and they provide themselves with superficial amusements.
But in this field, there is a particularly serious crisis, which arises when one’s work ceases.
Even general practitioners, without being psychologists, speak of “retired neurasthenia”.
This means something deeper: it is a psychological crisis.
In general, the high official who used to be in command, to have prestige, to be feared and respected, suddenly becomes an ordinary bourgeois, who no longer counts for anything in a social sense, and who feels he has lost everything that was propping him up. He experiences confusion and depression, his energies remain unused, and so he looks for some makeshift occupation that does not satisfy him.
His vanity, pride and self-love are injured. Hence follow neurasthenia, insomnia, digestive disorders, moral abatement, etc. How can this be repaired, or better, prevented? The answer is precisely this: with psychosynthesis. But not a partial psychosynthesis, which is that of one’s functions, one’s office, the part rooted in the social world; but a broader and more integral psychosynthesis – of which we will speak – which includes the whole personality.
I would mention that although they do not make a conscious and active psychosynthesis, many professionals perceive the danger we have talked about and try to avoid it. I will give as an example the fact that many doctors take to literature, art and music.
These days, in Italy too there is a lot of activity in this field. We have the association of Italian doctors and musicians, and the magazine Nicia where doctors make their literary side known. I’m not saying they are all top notch. In fact, they are naive, often sentimental productions; they show uncultivated affectivity and emotionality, at the level of the personal abilities of their authors; but from a psychological point of view, they are still a counterweight to their hardest and most virile, professional activities.
So far, we have only talked about men. In reality this problem exists and is just as, if not more important and serious for the woman as it is for the man. Women also have functions that they perform and that they can and should perform in society. Let’s see what they are: the first, the most natural and normal, is that of a wife. A contemporary Italian writer, not a very profound one, who has no spiritual sense or synthetic power, but who sometimes makes some acute and witty psychological observations, Lucio D’Ambra, has published two books entitled respectively: “The Profession of Husband-hood” and “The Profession of Wife-hood “. In this different designation is the indication of a psychological truth, that while for man his part and main function, his profession, is outside the family, it is of a social character, for the woman instead her most important activity, her true profession is generally and mainly within the family. To use a less modern, but gentler and more suitable expression, she is the queen of the house.
But in general, women tend to manifest naturally and to embody the qualities that remain mostly repressed the in man, driven back into the unconscious, or in any case still at a formless and primitive stage: that is, imagination, feeling, psychological awareness and intuition. These qualities and activities have great human value. Indeed, the value of sensitivity is very great, especially in its main and central form: love, in its manifestations and best aspects. It implies dedication, abandonment and sacrifice to transcend selfishness. Selfishness is imprisonment of the small personal and separate self.
Sensitivity is expressed in tenderness and goodness, which are of very great human and social value. Imagination also has considerable value. It colors, revives and idealizes life, and creates an inner world. Then, the value of intuition is supreme. It is a means of knowledge superior to intelligence.
While intelligence mainly makes known the external characteristics of things for practical use, intuition instead penetrates the intimate nature of objects, their deep life, be they things or human beings.
In recent times there has been a reassessment of intuition.
This specific difference, this complementarity of the qualities developed and manifested differently in men and women, makes possible their mutual integration and enrichment. Everyone sees what is missing but expressed in the other, and seeing it expressed learns to know and appreciate it, and this helps him to develop it in himself, to bring it out, to express it.
And so it should be, and so it is in ideal cases. But unfortunately, in the vast majority of people this is not the case. In fact various shortcomings and complications prevent this harmonious and fruitful integration, and create painful misunderstandings and painful conflicts that lead to an internal annihilation, and sometimes to external separation.
I cannot deal with this complex and vital problem now, which is as much important as it is overlooked. Even novelists deal with it rather too much with their infinite variations on the topic of marital strife, but they describe particular cases, do not draw general, scientific conclusions, much less offer solutions.
It would indeed be useful to have instructions and writings on male and female psychology, on what could be called psychology and marriage therapy. A lot of suffering and dramas would be avoided.
I will limit myself to mentioning some of the main limitations, the main errors made by women in the expression of their femininity, in my explanation of their functions as a man’s companion, of her “profession of wife-hood”. What I say about the wife – which is the typical and central case – naturally applies to every action and mutual collaboration between men and women. I should add that what I am about to say does not mean that I blame the woman more. In fact, the same could be said of men, the other way round..
The first mistake is that of being too much and only a woman, of identifying completely and exclusively with her female part. Hence come many problems and dangers.
The exaggeration and degeneration of female qualities when they are not counterbalanced, corrected and disciplined by male qualities are: feeling, when it becomes sentimentalism. Love when it becomes blind, exclusive, overwhelming, possessive and jealous passion. Vain imagination, reverie and fantasy that can make you live in an unreal and fictitious world.
Of course, this inferior expression of femininity can lead to the man distancing himself and leads him to devalue femininity itself. In addition, the misunderstanding of man and manly qualities, their devaluation, and on the other hand the glorification of their qualities, even when they degenerate into defects.
I repeat that the same could be said of man in parallel …
How can this be corrected? It can be done because neither of them is ever psychologically completely male or entirely female, one hundred percent.
Fortunately, in fact, in every woman there are always psychological elements of a male type: there is either more or less intelligence, reason, objectivity, interest and will. And therefore, there is the possibility of self-correction. But even in this case inconveniences often arise. For example, there are women who go too far in this self-correction, devaluing the female elements. This happened in exaggerated feminism, especially in the Nordic countries.
I believe this was a violent, and perhaps necessary, reaction to the excessive and exclusive femininity of before. Just think of the situation of women in the East, or in the southern countries, sometimes even today. But as with every violent reactive movement, it has in turn gone too far. The consequence is: distorting the woman, which leads to profound dissatisfaction, rivalry with men, and therefore the struggle between the sexes.
How can all this be avoided? Each sex should predominantly develop its own qualities, which are necessary. Those of the opposite sex should have two functions: first that of self-correction, and as we have seen, this is easier in communion with a partner of the other sex. In fact, by demonstrating other qualities, it serves as an inspiring model, helps to make them arise from the unconscious, serves as a ferment or – with a chemical comparison – as a catalyst. So, it happens in the easiest and most natural way, in harmony with the partner and with other men, and not in conflict with them.
Furthermore, the heterosexual secondary qualities have another important function, that of serving as a means of communication with the partner and with other men, to create with them a trait link for mutual understanding, and thus to form common ground for fruitful collaboration.
However, if this is the normal and most common way, it is certainly not the only one, and even women and men who have not found their integrating partner, can also have a full and satisfying life.
First of all, self-correction is very possible – that is, implementing the psychosynthesis of female and male qualities – even without the help of a partner. Then there is the maternal function, that often supersedes the former, both in the explicit expression of physical and moral motherhood, and in the indirect one – which can be even broader and higher – that of spiritual motherhood.