Appendix B. Notes on Psychosynthesis and Transpersonal Psychology
From Unconditional Forgiveness
Unconditional Forgiveness has its foundations in psychosynthesis, the life work of Italian psychiatrist Dr. Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974). My mentor, psychologist Dr. Edith Stauffer, studied with Dr. Assagioli for several years near the end of his life, and she was tremendously influenced by his comprehensive model of transpersonal psychology.
Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness. It attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience with modern psychological theory, and to formulate a new theory to encompass such experiences. The pioneers who laid the groundwork for this field earlier in the last century include William James, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, and Roberto Assagioli. More recent contributors include Ken Wilbur, Jean Houston, Stanislov Grof, and Robert Sardello, among others. Dr. Assagioli was appreciated by his many colleagues and students both for his brilliance as a theorist in the rapidly developing field of psychology, and for his steady, soul-illumined personality. As Edith described it, ”His eyes always twinkled with humor, kindness, and joy.”
Dr. Assagioli referred to psychosynthesis as “the psychology of the soul.” When asked by his colleagues in the field why he presumed to put the soul into the science of psychology instead of leaving it in the hands of the churches, he replied: “I did not put it in. I never took it out in the first place.” His model hypothesizes that we exist on two levels, soul and personality, and that the job of psychology is to strengthen, heal, and clarify the personality, so that the light of the soul can shine forth into the world. This model lays out a path of self-development in which a healthy human being first masters the tasks of each of his developmental stages, the building blocks from infancy to early maturity: infancy, toddlerhood, school age, puberty, etc. and then as a mature adult, consciously conducts a synthesis (“or bringing together”) of our various parts into a working whole. First, we harmonize the different components of the personality – body, emotions, and mind, and we heal and organize our various “subpersonalities” under the directives of our central basic self, in support of its goals and purposes. (See further reading resources below for more information about subpersonalities.)
Once the personality is integrated, we synthesize it with the life and energy of the soul, or Higher Self, achieving a high state of awareness and functioning — the state which Dr. Abraham Maslow referred to as “self-actualization.” As this union takes place, we become aware of our desires for true service to society, which is also in a process of an evolutionary awakening. This leads us into greater synthesis as we gain an even wider sensibility of ourselves as a citizen of humanity and the Universe.
In 1938, Dr. Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government because of his Jewish heritage and his humanistic writing. He was in solitary confinement for over a month; during this period he spent much time in meditation and study, developing his spiritual psychology. After his release and his return to his family, Dr. Assagioli endured more losses and ravages of war, but he re-entered his interrupted professional projects with joy and vigor as soon as the war was over. In addition to being a widely respected theorist in the twentieth century milieu of Western psychology, he was a long-term student of Eastern mysticism. Long before yoga meditation made it into popular awareness in the 1960’s, Dr. Assagioli and a group of colleagues were making their own experiential investigations as students of a Tibetan meditation master. Though he never named it as such, it is easy to see that his model and his book, Psychosynthesis, is a blend of Eastern wisdom and Western psychology. He also had a passionate interest in the life and development of the will, and his book The Act of Will thoroughly explores this topic from different facets: the levels of will, the stages of willing, and the development of the will.
Each of Dr. Assagioli’s works is a sophisticated tome delivering a visionary message about humanity’s ultimate potential. Since his death in 1974, psychosynthesis theory and practice continues to be developed by many hundreds of individual practitioners around the world. See resources below for more information about Dr. Assagioli’s life and work, and other articles, books, and papers written by today’s students and teachers of psychosynthesis.
Further Reading Resources on Psychosynthesis:
Assagioli, Roberto. Psychosynthesis A Collection of Basic Writings. Amherst, Massachusetts: Synthesis Center, 2000
Assagioli, Roberto. The Act of Will A Guide to Self-Actualization and Self-Realization. Great Britain: Turnstone Press, 1999
Ferucci, Pierro. What We May Be. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1982
Association for The Advancement of Psychosynthesis www.aap-psychosynthesis.org
Roberto Assagioli biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Assagioli