Category Archives: Daily Meditations

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 Virtuous Circle of Gratitude and Abundance

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Abundance. This is a difficult word for most of us to swallow. Our entire economic system is based on our desiring what we don’t possess. We often feel like we need more, that we never have enough, that tomorrow we will nothing left. As Assagioli wrote we are driven by Original Fear – fear of not having enough food, fear of hunger – and by Original Greed, which fundamentally is the desire for unlimited growth. So we consume and purchase, possess, save and hoard.

I live in a small Italian village that is slowly dying from the effects of globalization. This story is not new nor limited to the confines of Italy. Only 40 years ago the town was thriving with 1000 inhabitants, a shop, cafe, and school. Now only 100 people live here, many of them over 80 years old. The shop, cafe, and school are all gone. Only the church remains open (just because the 73-year-old priest has chosen not to retire). Continue reading

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:

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Upon Entering Every Home…

assagioli-service-010192Recently, I have discovered a box of notes labelled Service in Assagioli’s Archives. This box is a treasure trove of inspiration and direction, especially as we enter this year of tremendous responsibility. What is special about most of these notes are that many of them are dated, a rarity among his archive material. Titles of folders inside this box include: “How to help” and “Simple ways of serving.”

The majority are written in Italian and first person, giving the impression that they were meant to encourage and direct himself as he began to integrate and synthesize his own life of service in the world. One of the notes is simply:

Servizio – (Mia) preparazione (Miei) compiti

Service – (My) preparation (My) tasks

Dates of the notes range from 1921—1931. This decade of Assagioli’s life was very fertile – personally, professionally, and spiritually. Assagioli was to become a mature man of 33-43 years. In 1922, he married Nella Ciapetti, and a year later became a father for the first time to his son, Francesco Ilario.

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Tuning into Spiritual Airways

PrayerflagsOn September 20th, those of us who have been touched by Roberto Assagioli’s vision are celebrating the first World Day of Psychosynthesis. The day is meant to establish a spiritual connection between everyone who is generating and working with psychosynthesis concepts and techniques. Each of us is encouraged to take time during the day to reflect on how psychosynthesis is a living, evolving idea that can be successfully applied through many formats and in various contexts.

Ultimately, psychosynthesis allows us to integrate all our human dimensions – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – into a harmonious and synthesized whole so we can fully express ourselves and live life creatively. Beyond our individual psychosynthesis, Assagioli also urges us to seek personal and spiritual synthesis within couples, groups, and even nations.

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Walking the Labyrinth of Your Soul

labyrinthgeneral

A labyrinth has often been used as a metaphor for a soul’s spiritual journey. Unlike a maze, labyrinths are usually circular in shape and have one, and only one, continuous meandering path that eventually leads to the center. This single path threads itself over the maximum amount of ground, without treading the same trail twice. There are no dead-ends, no intersections.

Labyrinths can be found in almost every religious tradition around the world. The design is mysterious and mythic, its origins unknown, yet primordial. It is an archetypical design, appearing across continents and cultures. The Hopi medicine wheel, Tibetan sand paintings, Troy dances, and the Tree of Life, found in the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbala, are all examples of labyrinths.  Even DNA, which encodes the genetic inheritance that defines our unique identity, could be viewed as a labyrinth, the double-helix strands spiraling around each other.

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Dark Days before Christmas

Light in the darknessIn northern Europe the days are growing shorter. Except for the oak trees with their withered sienna-brown leaves, most of the trees are bare against a bleak landscape and gray skies laden with cold, damp winds. The Dutch have a saying for this time of year: De donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. The dark days before Christmas. Indeed, every day is shorter and the nights seem to stretch out like a long, endless dream.

We are in the season of Advent, which mark the days before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival. We freely use the word advent to simply mean “to come into being.”  This is the time of year that we await the arrival of light when the Earth will once again begin to tilt towards our sun. The days can then slowly “come into being,” promising their full splendor of sunshine and warmth at the summer solstice. For Christians, this is the time during which they await the birth of Jesus, when the Divine comes into being.

Darkness Inside

For most of us, these days are more than just physically dark. We can also become lost and overwhelmed in all the expectations of the season. The shopping, planning, cooking, baking, wrapping, cards, music, school plays, church concerts. The running and stress, travel and traffic, not to mention all the money worries.

Typically, we are expected to spend time with our families, with the idea that everyone should be happily singing songs around a piano or opening perfect presents or eating gourmet meals. But our reality may actually lead us to feeling only more lonely and unsatisfied. Under pressure by the media and our own unreal expectations, many of us become depressed this time of year and some of us may even feel suicidal.

Assagioli's notes on polarities.

Assagioli’s notes on polarities.

Darker still are the constant reminders, between the tinsel and flashing lights, of the pain and suffering in the world. Not to mention, of course, our own pain and suffering. How can we possibly feel Joy? The entire season can feel like a sham. Bah Humbug! Where is the Higher Self in all this tragic mess?

Balancing Darkness with Light

Simon and Garfunkel once recorded a song called 7:00 News/Silent Night,” in which the familiar carol is quietly and beautiful sung. At first dimly, then more clearly and loudly, we simultaneously hear the voice of a newscaster dispassionately announcing the kind of violent and terrible news we are all too familiar with. Even though, at the end, the voice of the announcer seems to overwhelm the song, the tender voices unceasingly sing – they are not even faintly shaken.

One could experience this song as another symbol of despair – the submergence once again of peace and joy in the harsh violence of our day. But when listened to in its wholeness, the song expresses the reality that light does shine in the darkness. If we tune into the song of peace, we will be able to hear its still small voice singing clearly under the din of the crowd.

Light and dark. Joy and hatred. These are two of the many polarities that exist in the world. Our job is to learn to live with their tension in order to transform and synthesize their energies into a higher reality. Assagioli says that this process is analogous to a chemical combination when two elements are absorbed into a higher unity endowed with qualities different from what each individual element has.

Transforming Opposites into a Synthesis

The idea is to balance these opposites, hold their creative tension, and give space for a completely new and higher entity to be born. You do this by first being with the violent darkness but not identify with it. Then be with the joyful light and not identify with it either. Finally, we need to be with all that is and hold an objective understanding of the tensions between them in order to creatively seek wholeness.

Assagioli insisted that the mid-way point between two opposites is not static inside us, but rather in “a state of continuous oscillation.” We can actually experience this oscillation between Darkness and Light when we listen to the song “7:00 News/Silent Night.”

Once we can hold onto this mid-way point, then psychosynthesis can occur. It is a wise person who can play with opposites and watch with awe as they awaken and manifest into a complete formed higher quality.

So during these dark days before Christmas, practice hanging on and letting go. Hang onto the dark, and then let it go. Then hang onto the light, and let it go. Try to stand in the mid-way point by expressing Human Affection during this season. Then wait quietly and patiently for the advent of Spiritual Love that is quietly, calming, and ceaselessly singing in the world’s chaos.