Psychosynthesis is a method of psychological development and Self-realization for those who refuse to remain the slaves of their own inner phantasms or of external influences, who refuse to submit passively to the play of psychological forces which is going on within them, and are determined to become the master of their own lives.
In a recent, 26 February article devoted to Rudolf Steiner, I underlined Steiner’s view that education was the main road to the Higher Self, a flowering of a potential that exists as a seed within each person. Here, I will look at the efforts of Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) to set out a path to the Higher Self with the power of the will. Roberto Assagioli, whose birth anniversary we mark on 27 February was a close co-worker of both Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustave Jung. He was closer in approach to Jung, but as the first translator of Freud’s writings into Italian, he is often cited as the introducer of Freudian thought into Italy. (1)
A short presentation of Assagioli’s view is that “I am what I will to be”. In a sense, the individual does not have a will: rather he is a will, a directing energy, that has taken human form as an individual. The individual will-force is in some way identical to the universal will-force. Assagioli who had studied Asian thought highlighted the Chinese sage becoming one with the universal energy – the Tao (2)
As the individual will starts on its path toward the Higher Self, it must drop off images of its earlier self formed by experiences, memories, feelings and images of the past. Some of these self-images and experiences have been repressed and stored in the subconscious. Thus in many cases, there is a first task of self-discovery of past experiences and emotions stored in the sub-conscious. Only when this is done, can one deal with the current self-images and emotions which make up the current personality.
The process of dropping off current self-images Assagioli calls “disidentification”. Disidentification is needed so that a new identity emerges, one that is capable of accepting and integrating in a harmonious synthesis all the earlier emotions, thoughts and experiences. This is why Assagioli called his approach “psychosynthesis.” It is this fresh, new personality, which Assagioli termed the “I” that can set out on the road to develop the Higher Self. This inner journey is not always easy. Assagioli writes “ Spiritual development is a long and arduous journey, an adventure through strange lands full of surprises, difficulties and even dangers. It involves a drastic transmutation of the ‘normal’ elements of the personality, an awakening of potentialities hitherto dormant, a raising of consciousness to new realms, and a functioning along a new inner dimension.”
Along the way to the Higher Self, the will can be strengthened by what Assagioli calls “transpersonal experiences” and what A. Maslow calls “Peak Experiences”. Such experiences help to stimulate the drive toward the Higher Self. However, some of these transpersonal experiences can be short-lived and ephemeral unless they are grounded through meditation and techniques of visualization of oneself as already functioning as the Higher Self.
These techniques of creating an identity as being the Higher Self is one of the outstanding features of psychosynthesis. Assagioli was an advanced guide on this road to the Higher Self.