Category Archives: Relationship

Establishing Spiritual Airways

PrayerflagsYesterday was the World Day of Psychosynthesis and more than 150 people interested in Roberto Assagioli’s vision of psychosynthesis celebrated in an event hosted by two Swedish groups, Psykosyntesföreningen and Psykosyntesförbundet along with the European Psychosynthesis Association (EPA).

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.

This day was inspired by a note that Assagioli wrote. What is special about this particular note is that it is dated, something relatively rare to find on his thousands of archived notesA copy of the Assagioli’s original note appears below along with its transcription.


Presentazione standard di PowerPoint     ψς

It is urgent to establish
Spiritual “Airways”
between nations,
institutions, movements,
and across the continents –

Let us give to this work
comparatively
at least as much energy,
determination, desire, time
efforts as those which are
given to establish airplane
communications through-
out the world.

20-IX-37 (September 20, 1937)


The Airways in September 1937

plane-1937To put Assagioli’s note into a historical context, the 1930s was a time of great expansion in the field of aviation – mostly for military purposes. Amelia Earhart was still flying around the world up until July 1937 when she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Italian, German, Russian, and Japanese air forces were just starting to experiment with “carpet bombing” of civilians, with most of these attacks in support of Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In May the German Hindenberg dirigible caught fire and exploded. Records of speed and altitude flown were continuously being broken. Helicopters were coming into existence, and, for the first time, transatlantic flights offered sleeper births to their passengers.

The Airways in September 2021

Assagioli’s use of “airplane communications” as metaphor for “Spiritual Airways” was indeed apt for his time. Perhaps today, in its place, he would use the metaphor of “space communications.” Our communication during the meeting yesterday was obviously over internet space. Just this week four space tourists ended their trailblazing three-day trip into space. And more than ever before, many of us are connecting to family, friends, school and work associates via the internet.

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Connecting to Spiritual Airways

On many levels, internet and space travel are miraculous accomplishments. But what about “Spiritual Airways”? As Assagioli suggests, shouldn’t we also be putting as “much energy, determination, desire, time, and efforts” into developing our ability to tune into them? How do we connect to the Spiritual Airways? And how to we connect to each other over them?

St. Benedict fresco by Fra Angelico

St. Benedict from a fresco by Fra Angelico

We begin by listening.

Obsculta, the Latin word for listen, is the first word of guidance written by St. Benedict, the 6th century mystic and Father of western monasticism. His Rules for Monks is still used today to direct the lives in Benedictine communities. St. Benedict immediately qualifies what kind of listening we need to do.

“Obsculta et inclina aurem cordis tui – Listen by inclining the ear of your heart.”

What could he possibly mean? Our hearts have ears? If that is true, then how do they work?

St. Benedict’s poetic language is asking us to listen, not just with our ears, but with our hearts to all that comes our way – through the “spiritual airways”. While we might hear the words with our actual ears, with our hearts we can deeply reflect, discern, and take action if necessary.

Assagiolis Evocative Stamps

Assagioli’s Stamps of Evocative Words

How can we start to listen with the ear of our heart? Obviously, there is a need for silence, not only outside but also within. Assagioli encourages us to patiently practice being silent for a short period every day. Conscious reflection, meditation, prayer, and contemplation not only calm our continuous inner din, but also inspire and renew us. Time spent in silence is also the necessary preparation for external action. As Assaglioli wrote,

“Talking tends to disperse the energies needed and accumulated for action.”

So to begin … do you meditate, pray, sit in silence, keep a journal, reflect daily on your thoughts, feelings, actions? Do you know and meet the Divine every day in your life through Beauty, Nature, and Love?

Perhaps Psychosynthesis World Day is a good day to start tuning into our Spiritual Airways and start to listen – to our hearts and each other’s.

A simple meditation for the World Day of Psychosynthesis and Prayer for Peace

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You might like to try this meditation for radiating prayers along the spiritual airways, sending them either close to home or out into the world.

  1. Joyfully concentrate on what prayer you wish to radiate outwards. Identify with your prayer – its quality or idea, feeling and energy. The more you embody the prayer, the more it can radiate spontaneously. In this way you can combine both spontaneous and purposeful, directed prayer.
  2. After this preparation, express a word or a phrase that best identifies your prayer. Imagine the prayer being fulfilled by visualizing the person, nation, animal, etc. you are sending the prayer to.
  3. To actually radiate the prayer, visualize a channel or beam of light projected towards the recipient(s). You can also send beams of light in all directions. Be sure to send Love with the Light. Love is a great linking and unifying energy.

Running Against All Odds

According to the Olympic record this year, Marcell Jacobs (26) is the fastest man on earth. He ran the 100m race in 9.8 seconds. (Usain Bolt from Jamaica has the all-time record at 9.58 seconds). Jacobs’ win brought joy to many Italians, especially since this is the first medal for Italy in the 100m race. The odds were 30:1 against him.

As a child, Jacobs always dreamt of winning an Olympic gold medal. He started out as a long-jumper, but after an injury three years ago, switched to running. While training in Rome, he built a team around him that included a chiropractor, nutritionist, and mental coach.

Jacobs is Italian, but he is also African-American. Born in El Paso, Texas, he immigrated to Italy when he was six months old with his Italian mother. At the time, his father, who was in the US Army, was transferred to South Korea, and so ended the marriage. Jacobs said he lost contact with this father after that. “I never saw my dad from that time on,” he told the press.

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Gifting Ashes, Gifting Oil

The Olive Harvest

Lately, I have been attending a series of talks about the Maternal Gift Economy. It’s an interesting concept that challenges our preconceptions of how the exchange of services and products must take place.

Some might say we have an exchange economy, but the reality is (and has been) that the global economy is an exploitive economy. 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. Hence our tendency to consume and purchase, possess, save and hoard.

In contrast, a gift-based economy is grounded in the values of nurturing and care rather than competition and greed. To begin with, we might change how we talk about our services rendered. For example, when speaking about the medical staff who are having to deal with the onslaught of Covid-19 patients, we say they are ‘sacrificing’ themselves. But what changes inside us when we exchange the word ‘sacrifice’ for ‘gift’? Try saying: “Our doctors and nurses are gifting their expertise, care, time, and lives” and see how that feels.

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Lessons from the Classrooms of Tagore and Assagioli

This is a brief excerpt from my article recently published in the AAP Psychosynthesis Quarterly that explores the educational philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore and Roberto Assagioli. To download this article, please click here.

One of the most compelling worldwide impacts of Covid-19 is the abrupt and profound change in how children are being educated. What can psychosynthesis bring to this radical change in education? To start, we might turn to two great figures from the last century: Rabindranath Tagore and Roberto Assagioli.

During their lifetimes, Tagore and Assagioli were both participants in a larger educational movement during the early 19th century, a time of social and political upheaval, technological and industrial revolution, World War I, and the flu epidemic of 1918.

Rabindranath_Tagore_reading_to_others_(1)

Rabindranath Tagore reading to others.

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Bring Me Breath

Suffocate

I can’t breathe. I am the African-American man named George Floyd whose neck you are breaking with the weight of your body. The pressure of your knee is blocking my windpipe. You are crushing the spirit from my soul. I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe. I am the person dying of COVID-19. Grasping for a hand to hold, longing for a comforting word from a loved one. I am alone in my New York City apartment, alone in my prison cell, alone under a plastic tent. I can’t breathe.

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Celebrating Women in Psychosynthesis

Olga Froebe Studio Assagioli

A spiritual portrait of Assagioli painted by Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn and hanging in Assagioli’s studio in Florence.

Assagioli is often criticized for his controversial essay, “The Psychology of Woman and her Psychosynthesis.” in which he describes “womanly functions” such as the maternal function and the wifely function. His recognition of the differences between men and women in this essay can cause anxiety among psychosynthesis psychologists today.

But in a 1965 lecture on the same topic, Assagioli explains why this subject raises our suspicion and/or fear. He says that many people think that when you recognize these differences, that you are implying that men are better than women. These differences, however, do not imply that women are of less value or inferior to men. Assagioli actually said such thinking is “simply stupid”! Continue reading

An Ordinary Extraordinary Christmas

breakfastThe day started out normal enough. Breakfast of homemade bread and jams, creamy sheep cheese from Sardinia, ricotta, and peanut butter from a large jar brought long ago from the Netherlands, all swallowed down with cappuccinos in our usual breakfast cups. That morning we were just a bit more rushed, hurrying out by 8 am to attend the morning mass at the Monastery of St. Luca in Fabriano.

Benedictine nuns in the sober habits sang the psalms in clear – sometimes wavering – voices accompanied by one of the sisters playing the dulcimer. A monk priest said the mass. Afterwards we stood around the 16th century pews listening to Don Ephrem tell stories of when he was first ordained as a priest in Syria. Barely speaking Arabic, he was sent off to a high mountain village to say the Christmas mass.

But first he had to hear confession. The problem was nobody spoke Arabic, they all spoke a mountain dialect. Behind the confessional screen, he begged for mercy, asking the elderly women penitents to recount their sins in a language he might understand. French, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, slowly spoken simple Arabic? No, none of those. Only mountain dialect, a slowing dying blend of indecipherable Arabic and language once carried on the wind.

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Talking to Strangers

Internet AddictionI spend last Saturday talking to strangers. As a volunteer for the charity Caritas, I spent two hours in front of a local supermarket asking people to donate food to the Italian National Food Bank. This experience meant that I wore a plastic yellow bib (which declared my legitimacy) while dangling plastic yellow bags in front of passing strangers.

Those who were interested in helping, took the bag and filled it with rice, pasta, tomato sauce, olive oil (this is Italy after all!), baby food or canned vegetables. The donated goods were then collected, boxed and sent off to the local food bank.

I startled most of the shoppers that day with my distinct American accent. “Buon giorno!” I called out cheerily. “Would you like to participate in our food collection for the poor?” I asked this at least 100 times that morning and, as you can imagine, the reactions varied. Some simply said ‘No.’ Some said they had already donated at another supermarket. One man said that he could actually use the yellow plastic bag, thank you very much. Continue reading

School Bells for Joy

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
(Psalm 34:6)

Joy at School

Joy at nursery school.

Ten months ago, I wrote a blog about a Nigerian refugee family living in Italy who I and my husband are trying to help through the Catholic charity Caritas. In January, Samuel and Rose (not their real names), at the advice of their lawyer, were hoping to marry in order to strengthen their case. With gratitude, we were able to raise the money they needed to obtain the necessary documents and they were happily married on 15 March.

But like most immigrant stories, their lives continue to be difficult.

Samuel has not been able to find work, partly from pride, partly from discrimination, mostly because he doesn’t speak a word of Italian despite living in the country for five years. We have done our best. Kees accompanied him to an interview at the diocese in Assisi that had 30 job placements for immigrants. But afterwards they told the Director of the local Caritas to not send any more applicants who have zero Italian language skills. Continue reading

Rocky’s Prayer

Day of the DeadThis weekend, many Italians are traveling to village cemeteries to pay homage to their ancestors. The Catholic feast of All Saints Day on November 1st is a national holiday followed by All Soul’s Day. It is a time for the living to ritually remember the dead – both saint and sinner alike. In preparation, the (mostly older) women are scrubbing tombstones clean and buying votive candles and pots of chrysanthemums to decorate the graves of loved ones. Coinciding with the beginning of darker days and longer nights, this time allows us to pause and consider our own life and death.

fave-in-fiore

Fava bean flowers

The two days devoted to honoring the dead correspond agriculturally to when Umbrian farmers seed their fields. They are also busy burying onion bulbs and garlic cloves with the hope of enjoying sweet shoots in the spring. There is a local saying among our neighbors that All Saint’s Day marks the planting of fava beans. In fact, eating fava beans was once thought to be a way to be in communion with the dead. The bean flower is white with black markings that take the form of the Greek letter thet or θ, which is the first letter of thanatos, meaning ‘death’. Continue reading