We all possess an innate tendency to evolve to a higher level of personal development. It is natural for all living beings to unfold and grow to be more. For example, a child, goes through various stages of stumbling, walking, running; and later races to young adulthood, then becomes a full-fledged adult, and subsequently an elderly. This is an evidence of Life’s progressive nature. Nothing in Nature stays the same, or remains stagnant. Every living organism is constantly evolving to a higher level of organization.
However, when we consciously choose to employ this inborn tendency to unify our psychological and spiritual aspects for the attainment our highest growth, we enter into the domain of Psychosynthesis. The process of aligning one’s Personal self (Personality self) with one’s Higher Self (Divine Self) is known as Psychosynthesis.
Definition of Selves – Higher/Divine Self & Personal/Personality Self
We are all made up of many diverse, dissimilar selves or personalities – angry self, frightened or fearful self, sad or tearful self, ugly envious self, venomous hateful self, lowly insecure self, and loving and kind, beautiful, blissful self. All these selves fall under two categories: a. Higher/Divine Self, the Superconscious Self; and b. Personal or Personality self, the ego-conscious self.
According to Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred scripture, the Personality self/the Ego-self (lower self) is merely limited to the mortal body. However, The Higher or Superconscious Self is aware of the freedom of a soul encased in a spiritual body of Divine illumination and consciousness. They are like two rings revolving around one another. The larger ring, the Superconscious Self, encircles as it were, the smaller ring, the Personal/ego-self. According the Holy Bible, “One is born of flesh, the other is born of Spirit.”
When we express passions such as: rage, jealousy, and animosity, we are connected to our Personal self. When we exude altruistic characteristics such as, awesome creativity, generosity, mercy and service to humanity, we are acting from the realm of our Higher Self.
Higher Self/Divine SelfIn accordance with the concept of the Self (atman) and self (ahamkara) expounded in the Bhagavad-Gita and the Bible, Psychosynthesis takes root in the truth that each human being has a vast undeveloped potential, which is largely unused due to lack of recognition and application. It just lies dormant and suspended in our personality. The doctrine of Psychosynthesis strongly believes that we all possess the incredible power within ourselves to access this unused potential, hidden from our conscious selves.
In order for this process known as Psychosynthesis to succeed, one needs to have a conceptual understanding of the nature of evolution and the purpose of relevant techniques.
The principle of Psychosynthesis provides these elements and integrates them into an all-inclusive, ever-growing framework designed to support individuals, groups and the world at large on their way to realizing their fullest potential (Self-realization).
As an approach to self-realization, Psychosynthesis first found its niche in 1911 in the work of Roberto Assagioli, an Italian Psychiatrist, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
In the course of his studies, Assagioli observed that Freud had not fully given credit to the “higher” aspects of human possibilities. He felt the need for a more thorough approach and research, which embraced this prospect.
Assagioli also realized that repression of our higher, Superconscious impulses (“repression of the sublime”) could be just as detrimental to our psyche as that of the repression of material from the lower unconscious (our Personal self). In other words, if we lose touch with our higher consciousness, it could just be as damaging to our well being, as suppressing material from our subconscious. The blockage or barrier does not allow us to be aware of our true make-up. Naturally, there would be no opportunity for true expression of our selves.
Yogananda, the renowned eastern seer and the founder of Self-Realization, taught that the most conceivable grandeur abides within us. It goes to prove that we can attain our paramount goals, using our own divinity as our principal tool.
To quote Yogananda, “When of the Divine descends on the soul and heart of man, the nobler self opens its gates and lo! In floods a torrent of inspiration…” He goes on to say, “Inspiration pouring through a man is not of himself. His fleshly self, but of the Divine, who dwells within him.”
This self-realized Master contends: “Psychological observation makes it hard to resist the conclusion that many divergent selves or personalities make up each individual …yet all these selves can be broadly classified into two: the higher self and the lower self. In work-a-day affairs of your life you show your different selves at different moments of different occasions. Why not weld the nobler aspects together into one Divine Self? Why not unite all your smaller lights, letting them shine forth in one splendid effulgence to illumine the bodily house in which you dwell?”
“In those who have banished ignorance by Self-knowledge, their wisdom, like the illuminating sun, makes manifest the Supreme Self, ” declares the Bhagavad-Gita.
Assagioli apparently concurs with this when he observes, “From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life itself appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity – a labor and an aspiration towards union. We seem to sense that – whether we conceive it as a divine Being or as a cosmic energy – the Spirit working upon and within all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty, uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving – slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly – the Supreme Synthesis.”
Traditional psychoanalysis acknowledges a primitive, or “lower” unconscious – the source of our atavistic and biological drives. But it overlooks the existence of a higher unconscious, a Superconscious – a sovereign realm from which we initiate our more highly evolved behaviors: benevolent love and will, humanitarian gestures, artistic and scientific stimulus, philosophical and spiritual awareness, and the vigor toward purpose and meaning in life.
Since Assagioli’s findings, an on-going number of psychotherapists, physicians, social workers, educators, and the clergy have been busy at work, developing this all-inclusive perspective.
Over the course of past sixty years, many theoretical characteristics and insightful methods have contributed to this concept, creating the fundamental framework of Psychosynthesis.
Psychosynthesis is mainly interested in integrating material from the lower unconscious with that of the Superconscious (higher). It uses various techniques for contacting the Superconscious in order to establish a link with that part of our self where wisdom in its truest and fullest form.
The otherwise dormant Superconscious is hence made available to us at varying degrees as a permanent source of providing boundless energy, unimaginable inspiration, and precise direction.
Psychosynthesis enables us to manifest this part of ourselves as completely as possible in our day-to-day lives.
Personal/Personality self (lower self)
The Higher Self is an autonomous entity, independent of and predominant to various aspects of a human being, such as body, feelings, and mind. When we free this concept of the Self from any doctrinal setting, and examine it empirically, we will find a center of awareness and will. This is the “Personal self,” the “I,” or center of personal identity, from which the various aspects of our personality can be recognized, reorganized, and integrated.
The Personal self, however, is different from the “Higher Self,” which is the focal point of the Superconscious realm. It is a profound and all-encompassing center — of identity and being — where individuality and universality blend; where the Personal self is intermingled with the Higher Self.
To illustrate this point, let us envision an orchestra, where the musicians represent the different parts or aspects of us. Without a conductor in place, undoubtedly, each one of them would attempt to get their own favorite music played per their own interpretation. Whereas, acceptance of and submission to the conductor would result in the integration of the orchestra, which would subsequently be reflected in the sublime music. We could look upon the conductor as representing the Transpersonal Self, and the musicians as the Personal self. Without the conductor, the Transpersonal Self, the music could become discordant and lacking in rhythm.
The two main functions of the Personal self are: consciousness and will. The consciousness of the self enables one to be clearly aware of what is going on within and without one’s self, so s/he could perceive the truth without distortion or defensiveness.
This step is called the inner “attitude of the observer.” When one reaches this point, the claims of one’s personality and its tendency to self-justify no longer come in the way of a clearer vision.
In Psychosynthesis “will” is considered a direct expression of the self and so is given a principal place. By releasing and surrendering the will of the self, we acquire the freedom to choose, the power to make decisions on the choices made, and the ability to actively execute these choices into feasible actions.
This freedom releases us from the shackles of reacting helplessly to random impulses and to the undeserved expectations of others. We become truly “centered,” and in time, gain the capacity to follow a track that is in perfect harmony with what is supreme and absolute within us.
When our will develops to its highest possible level, we cannot but persevere to align our personal will with that of a universal will. This lends us the opportunity to find a deeper meaning and purpose in our personal lives and our social responsibilities. We become a viable part of the whole rather than remain a singular entity. This stage of evolution grants us to function in the world more effectively and serenely, in a spirit of service and good will, thus fulfilling our lives’ finest and utmost opportunity.
The paragons who exemplified these pristine attributes to the fullest and showed us that these feats are indeed possible through their own lives are, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela, to name a few from recent history. Expansion of the smaller self, merging into the oceanic vastness of the Higher Self found its fullest expression in these amazing beings.
Acting from the Center
To be always “centered,” and act from that center is not always easy, is it? Why is it so difficult? What prevents us from doing so? Why is it such a big challenge? Due to the formation of age-long habits and their repetitiveness, we have learned over time, to falsely identify with some specific traits, which abide within us. These impulses control us and come in the way of our being able to act from the center.
For example, when an incident affects us, we may identify with it from a temporary state of anger or fear, and thus twist or distort its reason and origin while losing our authentic perspective in the process. Or else, we may become identified with one of our “sub-personalities” which are semi-autonomous and often are contradictory aspects of ourselves. They follow a predictable pattern and a pre-programmed routine when provoked by a familiar set of circumstances.
Fundamentally, the process of Psychosynthesis aims at recognizing and harmonizing (reconciling) these sub-personalities. It enables us to no longer be helplessly controlled by them, but empowers us to bring them increasingly under conscious direction.
To arrive successfully at this state of evolution, it is essential to learn the crucial process of “dis-identification” from all that which is not part of the Self. This will steadily lead us to “self-identification,” or self-realization, namely, consciously realizing who we truly are. The Holy Scriptures refer to this phase thus: “When the “I”(personal/ego self) shall die then shall I know who am I.“
Psychosynthesis employs a wide variety of methods to meet varying needs arising from very diverse population and situations.
Each one is treated as an individual, and an exerted effort is made to determine the methods, approaches and techniques most suited to a person’s particular situation, psychological profile, needs, objectives and the passage of expansion. The methods most commonly used are: meditation, guided imagery, body awareness and movement, journal-keeping, dream-work and analysis, symbolic art work, strengthening of the will, setting goals, development of imagination and intuition, gestalt techniques and ideal models.
Psychosynthesis focuses on treating the individual as a whole, although any one session may focus on a specific level or aspect peculiar to the person concerned. As it combines and balances the components of body, feelings, and mind, the goal of
Psychosynthesis is to foster an ever-growing growth process. By applying its fundamental principles and techniques, we can become increasingly in tune with our selves and as a result attain a tranquil, cheerful, contented, and peaceful actualization of our lives.
Stages of Psychosynthesis – Personal & Transpersonal
We are all unique in our makeup as individuals, and the integration of each one of us takes on an unparalleled and rare route. Even so, in the overall process of Psychosynthesis, we can differentiate two consecutive stages – Personal and Transpersonal.
In the Personal stage, the integration of the personality takes place around the personal or lower self. One attains a level of performance in terms of one’s work and relationships that would be measured as optimally healthy by current yardsticks of mental health.
In the Transpersonal stage, one learns to align, and to express the vigor of the Transpersonal Self, thus demonstrating qualities such as, a greater social commitment, a flowering spirit of cooperation, an overall global perspective, loftier selfless love, and a broader transpersonal purpose.
Quite often, these two stages of development overlap, and there may be an evidence of a sizeable amount of transpersonal undertakings long before the stage of personal Psychosynthesis is completed.
In the final analysis, Psychosynthesis focuses on tracing and removing the embedded psychological elements that block individuals from living the fullest and most fruitful life and leading them gently on the road to their fulfillment by tapping their own ingrained spirituality. It entails giving outward expression to the indwelling spirit via moral values and ethical principles for a well- blended, all-rounded growth.
This process has proven helpful to numerous individuals in identifying their wants, needs, and desires (personally and professionally) and has successfully orchestrated a viable plan of action to a life they were born to lead, thus fulfilling their true destiny.
The supreme purpose of Psychosynthesis is to accomplish a well-balanced integration of body, mind and spirit for the attainment of self-realization.
* * * * * * *
Quotes on Psychosynthesis
“From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life itself appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity – a labor and an aspiration towards union. We seem to sense that – whether we conceive it as a divine Being or as a cosmic energy – the Spirit working upon and within all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty, uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving – slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly – the Supreme Synthesis.”
– Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, 1976, p. 31.
“The factors that contributed to my growth were many – finding someone who understood me, exploring the unconscious, awakening my latent love . . . but one star is brightest among all: the self. I found the source of livingness inside me, something I didn’t even know existed.”
– Piero Ferrucci, What We May Be, 1982, p. 16
“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.”
– Roberto Assagioli, The Act of Will, 2002, p. 6
“Psychosynthesis brings the matter to a point of extreme simplicity, seeing the self as the most elementary and distinctive part of our beings – in other words, its core. This core is of an entirely different nature from all the elements (physical sensations, feelings, thoughts and so on) that make up our personality. As a consequence, it can act as a unifying center, directing those element and bring them into the unity of an organic wholeness.”
– Piero Ferrucci, What We May Be, 1982, p. 16
“The quality of the helping relationship, based on unconditional love and close attunement to the client, is the indispensable context without which techniques are mere mechanical gimmicks which will lack true healing power. The level of the guide’s personal integration is a crucial element which determines the amount of clarity and love he/she is able to bring to the traveler on the Path.”
– Marsha Crampton, Psychosynthesis: Some Key Aspects of Theory and Practice,
1977, p. 50
“Almost any method can be useful in the process of Psychosynthesis if it is consciously chosen by the guide and client, and is in harmony with what is already occurring naturally. Rather than being ‘eclectic’ in methodology, a term which implies a grab-bag approach, the guide can seek to synthesize the various methods with guidance from the Higher Self of both guide and client.”
– Molly Young Brown, The Unfolding Self, 2000, p. 64
Roberto Assagioli: Psychosynthesis, Dynamic Psychology and Psychosynthesis, Self-realization and Psychological disturbances, The Balancing and Synthesis of the Opposites, Unknown, In Memoriam,
Piero Ferrucci: What We May Be, The Power of Kindness, Lessons in Joy, love and Awareness, the Gift of Parenting, Beauty and the Soul.
Penelope Young Andrade: Fire, Ice and Shadow in Psychosynthesis
Molly Young Brown: Psychosynthesis and Deep Ecology
Michael Brown: Mandala Minnow and Transformations of Consciousness
Sam Keen: The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli, Psychology Today
Molly Young Brown: Psychosynthesis in the Global Age
Robert Turner: Sacred Circles: Working with Mandala Drawings Homeopathy: A Natural Complement to Spiritual Psychologies
Josee DiSario: Re-Claiming, Re-Connecting, Re-Membering: An Exploration
Marti Elvebak: Empathy
Cherie Martin Franklin: Drinking from the River: The Immanence of the Divine
Lois Hamon: Psychosynthesis…The Soul’s Journey to Recovery
David Klugman: The Process of Synthesis: Two Aspects of the Same Power
Rhoda Levin: Wrestling with My Shadow: Willing form My Heart
Michael Lindfield: Casting Shadows
Gary Riestenberg: A Shadow Management Technique for Organizations and Communities
Chris Robertson: Psychosynthesis and its Shadow
Brad Roth: Dancing with Disabilities