Author Archives: Catherine Ann Lombard

From Pencils to Cosmic Love


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…”

4-black-and-white-pencils-blink-imagesAnd 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…”

dante paradise assagioli

Assagioli’s note of the final stanza from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stelle.” (“The love that moves the sun and the other stars.”)

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 suggests that men refer to Dante’s Beatrice as a symbol of the Ideal Woman.

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.

woman puzzelIn 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.)

The Doctors are In!

012373 Freud's confusion between sexual and sensuous

“Freud’s confusion between sexual and sensuous.” Assagioli’s note from his archives

As many of you probably know, Roberto Assagioli was the first psychoanalyst in Italy. However, not long after presenting his doctoral thesis on psychoanalysis, he found Freudian thought to be limiting and went onto becoming the visionary founder of psychosynthesis.

Undoubtedly, Assagioli had great respect for Freud as a pioneer of modern psychology, but he also believed that psychoanalysis actually forced you to live in only two dimensions as opposed to psychosynthesis, which opens up a third, higher dimension of the psyche.

freud-museum-client room 2

Freud’s Client Room in London

One can actually see this profound difference in the two doctor’s consultation rooms – Freud liked to surround his patients with statues of primitive images, while Assagioli prominently displayed a photograph of the Mother of Horus (the original is at the Louvre in Paris).

When Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng, a student of Assagioli’s, asked why he had placed this photo where all his clients couldn’t help but see it, he told her it was there to “see what patients might associate with it, and thus better understand their spiritual inclinations.”



Assagioli’s study in Casa Assagioli, Florence, Italy. (photo by Catherine Ann Lombard)

But perhaps the best summary of the differences between psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis is by Assagioli himself. The following is a note from his archives, in which, in his own clear, simple way, he distinguishes the two:

001322 Differences between PS and PA


PS differs from PA in that:
1. It doesn’t limit itself to the elimination of complexes, resistances and other obstacles, but brings about the training of insufficiently developed functions and of latent energies and possibilities, through the use of active PS techniques.
2. The recognition and awakening of Superconscious facilities.

To read my entire blog outlining Assagioli’s association with Freud and psychoanalysis, visitA Brief History of Assagioli, Freud, and Psychoanalysis.”

Something to Declare

Unconditional love Copyright Simon Carey

© Copyright Simon Carey

Less than a week ago I arrived in the USA after a four-year absence. I am here to visit my 93-year-old mother and a dear friend who has recently become ill. Before leaving Italy, I anticipated that I would experience a clash of subpersonalities. How would the American part of me emerge and what would the European part of me do about her?

Upon arrival, instead of a passport control agent, a machine took all my biometrics and a computer compared them with my passport. I am now in a NSA database somewhere… But a real person in uniform did stop me and asked, “Do you have anything to declare?”

Immediately I felt a subpersonality fight her way forward. She wanted to say: Continue reading

Infinity of the Heart

Frances Brundage New YearNew Year’s Eve is often symbolically imagined as the polarity of death and life, perhaps best pictured as an old man with a sickle accompanying a joyful babe. It is a time of great darkness as we enter winter, and yet, paradoxically, it is also a time of more and more light emerging each day. New Year’s holds the possibility of the numinous, as we clearly mark one year to the next, sweeping aside that which we have lost for all that we have to gain.

It is important to celebrate this time of year with ritual and reflection, remembrances and hope. When we consciously enter this period of great polar energy, we enable ourselves to realize that death and life, dark and light, and the numinous are always available to us – every day and in every breath. Just like the outgoing and incoming years, the old breath goes out and the new comes in. Every moment. All the time. And  nestled inside the old and new lies the eternal now. Continue reading

Formulating Christmas Blessings

goodwill yellowAre you dreading this holiday season? The incessant music. Crowds of anxious consumers. The proliferation of plastic made in China? Unwanted gifts and the duty of buying gifts unwanted? The unreasonable pressure of a perfect Christmas dinner on the table. Forced encounters with others with whom you would rather not? Fake joy…

Rejoice! There is a simple way out. It’s called “Formulating Blessings.” Anyone can play and it’s absolutely free! Continue reading

The Vivid Color of Ixoras

freedom to pollute with bronze statue of refugee

Statue of Liberty carrying the declaration “Freedom to Pollute” next to a bronze statue of climate change refugee, at the Bonn Climate Change Conference.

It’s been a week since the closing of the Bonn Climate Change Conference. A small victory occurred with the passing of a global insurance plan that by 2020 will help protect 400 million poor and vulnerable people around the world. The project, called the InsuResilience Global Partnership, aims to provide insurance against damage caused by global warming.

Naturally, this project is fraught with controversy. Instead of having the richer nations, who are generally the bigger polluters, pay for climate disaster relief, this initiative actually pushes poor people in poor countries to pay an insurance premium.

016705 Dante on greed

Assagioli’s note on greed from his Archives,

Continue reading

From Sexual Instinct to Channeled Love

Fear Less Love More

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at

Let’s talk about sex. The sexual instinct that is… Lately, the media has been giving it a bad rap. Every day there is another report of a woman being assaulted by a Hollywood mongrel, fellow actor, news anchorman, US president, or fashion photographer. This is not new news. Nearly every woman has encountered this type of aggressive behavior (in various degrees) during her lifetime. I still do, even at the age of 62!

Come on guys, grow up! Sublimate and transmute already!

Let’s talk about sexual energy from a psychosynthesis point of view. Assagioli did more than 100 years ago in his article “The Transformation and Sublimation of Sexual Energy.” First, I want to say that this is mainly a male problem. For some mysterious reason, men have more difficulty holding sexual tension. This is a general fact. There are, of course, exceptions… Continue reading