Threshing our Lives Anew

But I shall sing of your strength; and in the morning I shall sing of your love. For you are my defender; and my refuge, in the days of my tribulations. (Psalm 59:16)

Since moving to Italy a year ago, I often hear the word ‘tribolazione’. While rarely used in English, this word ‘tribulation’ often poetically enters Italian conversation when my neighbors are talking about a very long, difficult, and grievous period in their or someone else’s life.

thresh and ox

Farmers in some parts of the world still use a tribulum to thresh their harvest.

Hearing this word more often, I started to wonder about its origins. I soon discovered that it derives from the Latin word tribulum. A tribulum is a threshing roller or sledge pulled by oxen that farmers have used for centuries to separate the corn from the husks, the wheat from the chaff.

How often I have felt trampled by oxen as they yanked sharp flints of cut stone over me. (Well, okay. I am dramatizing, but you know this feeling don’t you?) Something inside me is being purged and discarded allowing my truer self to be freed from its hidden form. Without the tribulum, the seed of new life cannot be beaten away from the wheat, the flail, or the corn. The new seed can only lay dormant and lost.

I know that this tearing and winnowing away of all my old resistance and useless patterns of being is necessary for my soul’s renewal and growth. Tribulations are always required before the next stage of my life can fully begin.

010271 Assagioli on Learning from PainFrom a psychosynthesis viewpoint, change begins at that point when you recognize and decide to accept the deep feelings you have around your tribulation. Assagioli wrote the following about the “joy of suffering”:

“Joy does not exclude suffering. They coexist in us. In order to transcend and destroy suffering, one has to begin by temporarily accepting it. This can be achieved by recognizing that it is temporary and by learning…willing the lessons that it imports.”

In fact, Assagioli clearly states that, as we attempt to fulfill our higher needs, “conflicts, crises of adjustment and growth” are bound to arise, leading us to experience our suffering alongside joy. Usually these conflicts occur between our subpersonalities. For example, while we might feel joy at mastering a particularly unruly subpersonality, this subpersonality might experience this harmonization as painful. A part of us might rejoice in our willful determination to bring a subpersonality into check, even as this subpersonality defensively kicks and screams, making our lives temporarily a painful travail.

Assagioli writes how the great mystics and saints were able to smile as they endured their inner torments and physical martyrdom. He specifically quotes Saint Francis of Assisi with regard to this spiritual process:

“So great is the Good I look forward to, that I take joy in every pain.”

Figure 1 Francis

Fresco painted of Saint Francis during his stay at the monastery of St. Benedict at Subiaco, Italy.

Assagioli is the first to commend us to love and accept our psychological, spiritual, and often physically difficult periods that seem to inevitably accompany our personal and spiritual growth. He clearly describes our tribulations as follows:

They are the result of an attempt to grow, and are of the upward quest; they are a by-product of temporary conflicts and imbalances between the conscious personality and the spiritual energies bursting through from above.

So next time you find yourself seeping in tribulation, try to accept it. Know that your pain will pass. And try to be open to the lessons it might teach you. In this way, suffering can become the husk that holds the spiritual fruits of your life, the shaft that bears the new seeds of promised joy.

Free Will – Fantasy or Saving Grace?

hamburger over truthLast week I heard Robert Sapolsky being interviewed on the radio. Prof. Sapolsky is apparently a renowned and popular U.S. scientist. He is Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, and a big shot in the world of neuroendocrinology. The New York Times has called him one of the finest natural history writers of our time.

Despite all his knowledge, talent, expertise and fame, Prof. Sapolsky left me chilled when he said:

“Free will is what we call the biology that we have yet to study.”

Continue reading

Freedom in Jail – One Year Later

RA Freedom in JailIt’s been a year since the publication of Freedom in Jail by Roberto Assagioli, which I had the privilege to edit and write an introduction to. From its conception to its final release, this project felt like a massive treasure hunt. Some of the 160+ footnotes took me days to research. Others only led me down a dead end with no clear answer in sight.

While I was busy with Freedom in Jail, I was also preparing to make an international move from Germany to Italy. One of the many beautiful and synchronistic events related to this book was that Freedom in Jail appeared in print a few days before my arrival in Italy. In a strange way, the book and Assagioli were here to greet me.

I worked on this book, but this book worked on me, and continues to do so. Gruppo alle Fonti is now preparing an Italian translation for publication in the near future. While helping to prepare for this edition, a number of mysterious footnotes have been resolved and other insights have been uncovered.

Prison was one of Assagioli’s most gratifying experiences

In a 1965 interview with Julie Medlock, Assagioli said:

Continue reading

(Re)Learning to Mother Ourselves

1024px-Mother-Child_face_to_faceRecently I have been taking psychosynthesis lessons from my 3-1/2 year old neighbor Martina (not her real name). She is an only child without many friends who has been wandering over to my garden whenever I happen to be planting or hoeing in the late afternoon. At first she showed up in her electrical jeep, zig-zagging down the country road from her grandparents’ house, alternatively jerking to a halt and zooming full speed ahead, her three dogs chasing after her.

Martina is highly intelligent, strong-willed and precocious. She is an organizer and often explains to me where plants should be placed and what vases and flowers I need to buy and where they belong in the garden. She is also a great storyteller. In true Italian style, her entire body moves while she talks, her hands fly around with precision, and her facial gestures rise and fall with the tone of her voice. Continue reading

Places of the Higher Self

Five-day Journey Through the Green Heart of Italy

September 18-23, 2017

Assagioli at camadoli

We will visit the Camaldoli Hermitage near Florence. Here is a photo of Roberto Assagioli (fourth from the left) outside of this same hermitage (courtesy of Fernando Maraghini).

In our everyday lives we are often too busy, distracted, or caught in the mundane to be open to the places of the Higher Self. Throughout history and across cultures, our ancestors have always created ritual space and time for the transpersonal to enter into the ordinary. Such holy places are often located on mountaintops and deep inside caves, in silent havens and in nature. Churches, temples, and mosques have been built to hold the polar tensions of spirit and matter, inner and outer space and light, as well as the community that shares the transcendent experience. As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has also always played a great part along this journey to our Higher Self.

La Verna, Italy

La Verna, Italy

Continuing with the theme of “Synthesis,” after the International Meeting at Casa Assagioli, we embark on a Journey to the Higher Self. Starting from Florence, we travel east to visit medieval churches and mountain hermitages, allow our souls to soar from La Verna, discover beautiful villages and, of course, enjoy the cucina locale. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – in the forest-covered Tuscan and Umbrian Apennines, the home of many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

The journey is especially meant to be an open voyage of discovery and a direct personal experience of all that presents itself during its various stages. We will go slowly and quietly, allowing you the time and space necessary to directly experience the reality of the Higher Self, the key part of you that connects the personal with the transpersonal and, hence, the personal with the universal.

DSC01520This journey promises to be a fonte of inspiration for anyone seeking the Higher Self in the natural beauty and surroundings of Italy. We hope to provide you with a journey that might help transform and strengthen you when you ultimately return to your daily life.

This trip is organized and hosted by Catherine Ann Lombard and Kees den Biesen, the guides and facilitators.

Cost: € 985.00 per person. For more information and registration, see A Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

The Power of Symbols

010296 Greetings from Fay Pomerance

Painting of a Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley by Fay Pomerance (1912-2001) in Assagioli’s Archives in the folder labelled “Symbols”.

Symbols are constantly appearing in our lives and are often used in an unconscious way. They are powerful tools that can help us to develop personally and spiritually. Assagioli wrote that there are certain symbols that have a specific psychosynthetic integrating value, and therefore need to be brought more consciously into our everyday lives.

Symbols – like the animals and other images that appear in our dreams – are accumulators, transformers, and conductors of psychological energies. Assagioli wrote:

Continue reading

Beauty – Where Spirit and Matter Converge

John
As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has always played a great part along our journey to our Higher Self. Throughout the world, holy places have been built to hold the polar tensions of spirit and matter, inner and outer space and light, as well as the community that shares the transcendent experience within the architectural space.

Assagioli noted that:

“Matter is the highest form of Spirit and Spirit is the lowest form of Matter.”

In this way, spirit seeks matter to express the full beauty of the transcendent. Assagioli also noted that Plato, Plotinus, and Christian mystics have recognized and proclaimed that “beauty is the essential attribute of the Supreme.”

Continue reading