What better day than St. Valentines to explore Assagioli’s thoughts on Love from a psychosynthetic point of view? But first we have to start with pencils…
In his dialogs with Bruno Caldironi, Assagioli described the process of reflective mediation. This type of meditation is a synthesis of many elements, most notably attention and concentration. The idea is to consciously direct your thoughts to an idea, problem, or concept and note how your thoughts connect, interpenetrate, and link themselves together into a new understanding.
In Assagioli’s careful didactic way, he first gave the simple example of how you might meditate on a pencil. You might begin like this:
“What’s a pencil? It’s for writing. It’s of wood. It has lead inside…”
After five minutes, you might feel quite finished with these questions, but try to push yourself further by asking:
“Where did the wood come from? What kind of wood might it be? Where does wood come from? From trees…”
And then from there, slowly, consider everything regarding trees… And then the lead…
“What is lead? Graphite? Where do you find graphite? How is it produced? It’s a special state of carbon. What is carbon? What are the different states of carbon? A diamond is also a carbon state. What’s the difference? …”
And so forth… But you’re not finished yet:
“Lead… when was it invented? What are different ways of writing? The computer, a brush, pen, fountain pen, ballpoint pen. What are the differences? Why still use a pencil? What advantage does it have? You can erase a pencil mark. And so, why erase it? What do you write upon? …” And so forth…
Assagioli’s Thoughts on Love
Now let’s take the concept of Love. Here’s what Assagioli said about Love:*
“Before talking about love, and most of all before falling in love, a person ought to meditate for six months on what love is…”
Calidroni immediately interrupted him exclaiming, “But, Professor, they will probably never fall in love again!” Assagioli replied:
“Yes, they will probably fall in love, but in a totally different way. They will fall in love in a better way. Because they will fall in love knowing how to fall in love.
The reflection on love can bring a celebration of love. Absolute Eros… individual reflection of ‘The love that can move the sun and other stars’. My loving is no more than a microcosmic reflection of this great universal force.
You can meditate on various kinds of love, on the different proportions of the different types of love. You need to clearly distinguish sex, passion, tender sentiment, aesthetic appreciation, the communion of the soul, collaboration, commonality of interests, the family, the children. In the love for one person there are all these components, or there ought to be.
And you need to observe the moment in which you fall in love, when you feel attracted to a person, in what percentage are all these various elements present. At the beginning you observe how much happens spontaneously, then the I-consciousness can regulate it, control some of these elements, favoring some of them, in an attempt to bring harmony between the various components.
You could, therefore, meditate on love in general, on this cosmic force, on how it appears in us, in all our emotional relationships, not only towards another individual, but also with regard to all the rest (love of country, love of beauty…), identifying what elements are in play. This meditation is in a vital sense, a reflective meditation.
Assagioli continues to offer us some good advice about how to be in relationship, especially when we find ourselves newly attracted to another person:
When we are attracted to another person, the feeling ‘I’ feels a spontaneous and irrational attraction, or the sexual impulse feels a physical attraction for certain physical merits, but at the same time, there can be contrasting reactions at different levels to the same person, that is, towards that complex of elements that we call Mary or Joan.
In fact Mary doesn’t exist but a mass of aspects — for example, a beautiful body, an attractive sensation, a deficient mentality, an overbearing and egotistical attitude, bad breath – towards which you can have different and contrasting reactions. From here comes the difficulty of the relationships. You need to watch as a spectator to see what attracts you and what repels you in that person and balance it all out.
If the results are positive, then you need to generously accept the person’s deficiencies. If the negative parts prevail, then it will be better to say no and conquer the feelings of attraction. Defects are in everybody. Nobody is perfect.”
Caldironi, B. (2004). L’uomo a tre dimensioni: Colloqui con Roberto Assagioli [The man of three dimensions: Conversations with Roberto Assagioli]. L. Oretti (Ed.). Ravenna, Italy: Edizioni del Girasole. (Note that this translation from the Italian into English is mine.)