Roberto Assagioli always maintained that the Transpersonal Self was a living reality, a fact to be experienced rather than a concept, an archetype or a symbol, or to put it in his own words: “Psychosynthesis regards the Self as a reality, rather as a living Entity, direct and certain knowledge or awareness of which can be had.” (1)
Anyone who has had direct experience of the Transpersonal Self will know as a fact that our essential identity is something completely different from that of our everyday ego or conscious “I” – it is of an entirely different order, it is like waking up in a different dimension as if from a dream.
The experience of the Transpersonal Self
Millions of people have had this experience and know as a fact that their essential identity is a being of light, love and energy. One of the first times I had this experience was during a meditation retreat when I suddenly felt a soft stirring on top of my head, then my awareness fell silent without a thought crossing my mind – just an immense silent space of tranquility – next came a widening, or expansion, of my awareness that liberated me from the feeling of being confined in a physical-psychological container, and I experience myself instead as being pure energy. I was transcending the physical, emotional and mental realms, and I felt a great surge of joy and freedom at the expansion of my being. I felt as if I was looking down from above on my personal identity as Kenneth and seeing how this “reflection” of my true self (or persona) was living in a dimension of familiar worries and limitations that now seemed so small and insignificant.
In this transcendent state, I was not thinking or feeling – there was just a direct knowing, a sense of lightness, and a recognition of my self as an energy-being of light and purpose. I was still me – a sense of individuality was still present – but there was also a sense that this ‘me’ was on a mission and that there was a direction in my life. I realised that I was a centre of purpose, or a force field, a particle on a journey in a limitless space of consciousness, being connected to the whole in the most intimate way possible.
This is how Assagioli explains this experience of transcendence: “In genuine expansion of consciousness, there is no complete loss of self-awareness of the spiritual Self as centre. It can be compared to a sphere which can expand indefinitely; but the Centre of the sphere remains. There is the paradoxical impression of not losing oneself, but being more oneself, while losing the empirical limitations of the ego. It is a synthesis of individuality and universality. The individual feels identified with the universe, but there remains some awareness that he is identified with the universe.” (2)
From the perspective of transcendence, it seems obvious that there is a significant difference between the contracted consciousness of the ego (the conscious “I”) and that of the Transpersonal Self. There are many other observations that could be made about this experience – and I write about them in my book Integral Meditation (3), where I share my meditative experiences through the lens of psychosynthesis.
The Transpersonal Self in the superconscious
In this brief article, I am focusing on the transcendence of the Transpersonal Self; I want to explain why Assagioli placed the Transpersonal Self in the realm of the superconscious, as depicted in his well-known egg-diagram (4). The egg-diagram is not merely symbolic, Assagioli was certain of the reality of the higher Transpersonal Self, with which we can become united by transcending our identifications with mental, emotional and physical experiences and ascending towards the superconscious.
Let me share a couple of quotes by Assagioli to illustrate my point:
“The spiritual Self is a transcendent, glorious reality, and one can have direct, immediate proof of it, that is, one can experience It.” (5)
“The Self, the ‘Soul’, the true spiritual Centre, is, in both nations and individuals, superconscious. It does exist, but in a realm or at a level that is ordinarily above the reach of the personal consciousness.” (6)
“This Self is above, and unaffected by, the flow of the mind-stream or bodily conditions.” (7)
“The transpersonal Self is ‘outside’ time and above it. It exists and lives in the dimension of the Eternal.” (8)
These quotes make it clear that, according to the experience of Assagioli and millions of others in the many religious traditions, our true Self (Soul, Atman, Tao, The Void, Suchness, The Immovable Mover, The Omega Point) is a transcendent being. In other words, we are each a spiritual being living in a transcendent realm having a human experience. This transcendent realm, or heavenly dimension, is an ontological world according to the perennial philosophy, part of which has been called The Great Chain of Being. In my article Why Assagioli Put a Star in the Sky (9), I offer many quotes from Assagioli to show how he supports this concept.
The Transpersonal Self does not descend to the personal levels
The Transpersonal Self, or Soul, cannot be wounded; it is untouched by trauma, it is the unchangeable permanent loving observer in all of us – a fact it is well-worth being reminded of. In an article containing an illuminative conversation with Assagioli, The Transcendence of the Self, he states the following:
“The Self, from a certain point of view, is the highest level of transcendence we can achieve. The difference is this: that the Self does not itself become immanent. The Self radiates in the superconscious but remains at its level. The Self does not become immanent in the sense that I have said. We could eventually achieve Self-consciousness, but that’s another thing. Then it is the personal self or ego that rises like a spider on the web and identifies with the Self. But it is not the Self that becomes immanent. That’s the difference. But the Self is not ‘other’; it is always present, and the personal self is a direct reflection of it, and in a very weak way reflects its nature.” (10)
Assagioli is saying that the Transpersonal Self does not enter the domain of the lower or middle unconscious but remains at the superconscious level. At this level, the Transpersonal Self radiates the superconscious qualities of love, joy and power, which can and do descend to the levels of the conscious “I”, providing us with deep insight and peak experiences. The conscious “I”, or observer, is the representative of the Transpersonal Self, being a projection, or reflection, of its source – something Assagioli explains in this way:
is an ontological Reality, a Being, and is on Its own level a
stable Centre of Life, from which It radiates energies. The
personal self, the self-conscious “I” is a projection or reflection of the Self
into the normal human level.
“An analogy may help understanding, although, as are all analogies, it is only approximate and partial. The relationship between the spiritual or transpersonal Self and the personal self, or “I”, can be compared to that between the Sun and a planet, let us say the Earth. From the sun emanate many and powerful radiations, which affect the planet and all the living beings on it, producing the conditions for evolution, development, growth. In the same way the Self projects a small portion, a spark, a tiny centre of self-consciousness.
“This self grows in self-awareness, intelligence, power to act, etc., under the combined influence of ‘nourishment’ from the environment, the soil where it exists, and from the vivifying impact of the descending energies radiated by the Self. One might say that the Self becomes aware through the [personal] self of what exists and occurs at the personal levels (physical – emotional – mental). The personal self, in its turn, becomes aware of the Self in two ways:
- By opening itself consciously to and recognizing the radiation from the Self.
- By rising towards and eventually contacting and merging partially with the Self.” (11)
It is important to stress that the Transpersonal Self is not a thing, an object in the sky separated from our essential being. The Transpersonal Self is always “me”, never something other, always the loving observer and powerful actor, however, the realisation and identification with our centre as “pure self-awareness and will” undergoes many radical expansions, transformations, awakenings and realisations.
There is so much more to say about the relation of the conscious “I” to the Transpersonal Self, but that must be the focus of the next article. Please, do investigate the collection of quotes by Assagioli that I have compiled here (12), and please make use of my seven free meditations, which you can use as a means to connect with the Transpersonal Self. (13)
Blessings to all.
1. Assagioli in C. G. Jung and Psychosynthesis
2. Dialogue with Roberto Assagioli, with Martha Crampton
3. Integral Meditation by Kenneth Sørensen.
4. See an explanation of the egg-diagram here.
5. Dialogue with Roberto Assagioli, with Martha Crampton
6. Assagioli in Psychosynthesis: Individual and Social
7. Assagioli in Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 19.
8. Assagioli in The Conflict Between Generations and Psychosynthesis of the Ages
9. Why Assagioli Put a Star in the Sky by Kenneth Sørensen:
10. The Transcendence of the Self, translated from Trascendenza Del Sé, Assagioli Archive Florence.
11. Roberto Assagioli. From Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, Newsletter, 34, Oct., 1968
12. The self and Self, a compilation of quotes by Roberto Assagioli
13. Download my seven free meditations here