Category Archives: Balancing Opposites

Resting on Angel Wings

Mother of Horus Isabelle Bagdasarianz-Küng without saying

The Mother of Horus. (Photo by Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng)

How can we cope with the overpowering images and messages from the daily news? Hurricanes, fires, mass murder, nuclear threats, and crazed world leaders can be overwhelming, pushing us towards a spiral of negative thoughts. Naturally, we want to be informed about what is going on in the world so we can make clear decisions and activate change. But we also need to find the right balance in our lives so we don’t feel lost in the constant swell of bad news.

The key is to seek equilibrium. Like feasting on salty food all day, when we only nourish ourselves by munching on the news, we can make our hearts and minds ill. We need to refresh ourselves with the taste and sound of spring waters, waters that might help us flush the salty taste from our mouths and renew our bodies and souls.

Fra_Angelico Angels and Mandorla

Christ surrounded by a mandorla and angels. (Detail from The Last Judgement by Fra Angelico.)

Psychosynthesis holds the principal that we are not only made up of our instinctual natures – sexual and combative – but we also consist of higher qualities like courage, patience, and compassion. You might view the media as feeding your lower tendencies. In a similar way, you might want to consider how and in what way, on a daily basis, you are feeding your higher nature.

Spending time in nature, contemplating art or music, being in silence and allowing for inner reflection or prayer are all good ways to renew our souls. Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng, a student of Assagioli’s and a pioneer teacher of psychosynthesis at the international boarding school that she co-directed, recently told me that in his office was a photograph that she had taken. The photo, which is still at Casa Assagioli, is of the Mother of Horus (the original is at the Louvre in Paris). When she asked why he had placed in 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 writes about how viewing a picture of certain symbolic images is actually a technique for “stimulating and ‘enticing’ the activity and expression of the superconscious”. The symbolic image you choose to help you relate more readily to your spiritual self is, of course, dependent on your background. For some the Buddha or the Mother of Horus is meaningful while for others the Inner Christ, Old Sage, or Inner Master or Teacher would be easier to relate to.

ANGELICO,_Fra_Annunciation

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

In one of his many archive notes, Assagioli does specifically recommend us to engage with the paintings of angels by Fra Angelico (1395-1455). (He also mentions pictures of high mountains, stars and nebulae.) Having lived right up the road from the National Museum of San Marco in Florence, Assagioli would have been familiar with Fra Angelico’s paintings. As a Dominican monk, Fra Angelico painted a series of frescoes in the cells of the convent of San Marco. Each cell painting was designed for the monks to meditate on. These humble works are painted in clear bright colors with a quieting simplicity. Softly feminine in nature, each pastel painting is yet fierce in its emotional impact.

Fra_Angelico_Transfiguration

The Transfiguration by Fra Angelico. Assagioli notes that this is a subject for us to meditate on. A copy of this painting is in Casa Assagioli today.

Assagioli must have found these frescos particularly stimulating as a copy of one of them, The Transfiguration, still hangs in his house today. Those familiar with Assagioli’s model of the human psyche will be struck by the similarity of his egg diagram to the almond-shaped mandorla around Christ in Fra Angelico’s painting. Transfiguration, in general, symbolically represents the visible form of divinity (also expressed in the Buddha shedding light for three miles around and the manifestation of Krisha to Arjuna.).

graphic mandorlaThe mandorla around the Christ represents an idea similar to the transfiguration. It is a geometical symbol of the intersection of the two spheres of Heaven and Earth. If you take two circles (two distinct worlds) and allow them to intersect, their union is this mandorla. This intersection can also represent the point where opposite poles embrace. The forces inside the mandorla can be seen as regenerative and creative, where all polarities (visible and invisible, divine and human, light and dark, etc) synthesis into new and higher forms of energy.

I found the following typed note in Assagioli’s archives that perhaps best expresses his sentiments upon viewing Fra Angelico’s work:

004957 Assagioli Note about Seeing the Paintings

So if you are feeling down about current events, take one of Fra Angelico’s angels and contemplate its glorious wings of light. Know that these angels are nearby and ready to help you. They are the messengers of your Higher Self, the part of you that sits inside the mandorla of space and time. Go there and renew your weary soul.


Much gratitude to Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng for her generosity in sharing her story and photo.

 

The Poem that Crossed Borders

Lotus flower 3

Assagioli writes that the Lotus is a symbol of Synthesis.

Next week I will be at Casa Assagioli in Florence, helping Gruppo alle Fonti host their International Meeting. The theme this year is “Synthesis,” a mighty big concept to come to terms with in less than a week. In anticipation, I have begun to reflect on what Synthesis means. The word comes from the Greek word syntithenai, in turn deriving from syn meaning “together” and thtehnai meaning “to put, place.”

Assagioli Triangle Equilibramento

One of Assagioli’s triangles from his Archives.

The concept of Synthesis is complex because it is not only a quality or a state of being, but also a continual process, an attitude, an approach. I have written a number of blogs about Assagioli’s ideas on the synthesis of polar opposites. Basically, synthesis occurs when a pair of opposites continually interact until they are brought into equilibrium. Ultimately the opposites are transmuted into a transpersonal quality. Assagioli liked to draw triangles to illustrate his idea of balancing and transmuting these opposite energies into higher spiritual qualities. Continue reading

From the Couple to Humanity

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“Psychosynthesis of the Couple” from Assagioli’s Archives

On Saint Valentine’s Day, we recently celebrated ‘the couple’. In fact, Assagioli viewed marriage as a work of art – a canvas where the husband and wife can learn to alternate in a variety of roles. He believed that psychosynthesis of the couple was fundamental to achieving psychosynthesis of humanity. He wrote:

“When talking about the consciousness of a group, talk above all about the human couple: man and woman and their synthesis, and about their central importance as a fundamental basis and model of inter-psychics at its most vast and complex.”

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Stop Saving the World

saving-the-worldThe title of this blog might be a strange one for Christmas week, a time when many of us make a special effort to help those in need, donate money to charity, and volunteer our time to a deserving cause. Given the state of our world, you might argue that “stop saving the world” seems incongruent with what the world really needs today.

To better explore what I mean, we once again turn to Assagioli’s essay “Martha and Mary: The Active Life –The Contemplative Life.” This time we focus on his ideas about service. [i] Assagioli writes:

“If we examine our motives with all sincerity we often discover that the reasons for our preoccupation with helping others are not as pure and noble as we thought. We begin to realize that the shining alloy, mixed with gold, also contains the base metal of vanity, presumption, proselytism, and – most subtle and concealed of all – the desire to appease our conscience so that we will have some excuse for not undertaking the hard work of inner purification.”

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Transforming Walls and Bridges into Love

Wall over Bridge

Palestinians and international activists use make-shift bridges to cross the separation wall between Qalandiya and Jerusalem, November 14, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

There’s a lot of talk about walls lately. They seem to be going up everywhere.

In Hungry, refugees are cutting through and climbing over the 4-meter high barbed wire fence that extends along the Serbian border for 110 miles. British Prime Minister Cameron has recently received EU approval to control Britain’s own borders. And Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu announced this month his intention to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to protect the country from infiltration by both Palestinians, whom he described as “wild beasts.”

Perhaps the best known wall-builder today is the U.S. political candidate Donald Trump. On numerous occasions, he has boasted about building a wall along the Texas-Mexican border and “getting the Mexicans to pay for it.” Recently, however, he was firmly, but indirectly, admonished by Pope Francis during his visit to Mexico. The Pope said:

“Anyone who thinks about building walls … and not building bridges, is not a Christian.”

popeWhat struck me is that Pope Francis seemed to say that a Christian builds bridges AND walls. He did not denounce the walls, but simply added the bridges.

But this simple addition actually requires us to perform an extremely difficult, but necessary act of love and will.

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Irresistible Love

Nabascha

© Copyright Nabascha

We talk a lot about romantic love around Valentine’s Day. When romantic love devours us, we can find ourselves joyfully lost, frightened, and overpowered by intense feelings of belonging. And when this romantic love-bubble bursts, we seem to deflate into a mess of hurt, broken, and overshadowed feelings of failure and unworthiness.

It seems that love, from our human perspective, is inherently limited. The love we feel for another, as partners, family and friends, seems to come with all kinds of conditions. Some of these conditions may seem quite reasonable. For example, you might feel perfectly justified to say to your spouse: “I love you, but not if you have an affair/physically harm me/gamble away all our money.” Other conditions may be more dubious: “I love you, but only if you agree with me/let me have my own way/have enough money, beauty, fame/share my beliefs/keep me from being lonely…” This list can go on and on, depending on the deep inner needs that are unmet in the individual lover.

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The War Paradox

good and evilHe was a big, well-built man with thick thighs like huge whales, breaching towards the airplane seat in front of him. He ended up sitting in the aisle next to me. We were thrown together that afternoon, only after some confusion and switching of airplane seats. Because of his size, I thought he wanted more space, but he quickly confessed he needed to sit in the aisle because he was claustrophobic.

“My doctor says I should see a psychologist, but he also gave me some drops to calm me down.” The words rushed out in a torrid as he jumped up to retrieve the prescriptive drug from his jacket in the overhead bin.

“Well, you’re in luck,” I said smiling once he settled down (sort of). “I’m a psychologist!”

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