Category Archives: The Higher Self

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.


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.


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

(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.

Beauty – Where Spirit and Matter Converge

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.”

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From the Couple to Humanity


“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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Spiritual Atheists

Image result for bioluminescence planktonThe title of this blog might seem contradictory, but in fact this is exactly what I discovered when working with my clients. My findings have recently been published in Pastoral Psychology. In this scientific peer-reviewed article, I describe how psychosynthesis counseling helped to awaken spirituality in three out of eleven clients who identified themselves as atheists. This article in its entirety is published on Open Access and is available for free. I urge you to share it with pastoral care workers that you may know.

Fundamental to psychosynthesis psychology is the idea that we all have spiritual drives as much as we have combative and sexual ones. To determine how well my clients are in touch with the spiritual part of themselves, I always ask during the initial interview “Do you have any religious or spiritual practice?” Most often, my clients say that they have no religious affiliation or belief in God and describe themselves as atheist. The following testimony is a typical response:

“I would call myself an atheist. As a scientist, I know that there is no proof showing that God exists. But I also know that there is no proof showing that He does not exist.”

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