In 1933, Assagioli (2000, p. 15) first published an English translation of his classic psychosynthesis ‘egg-shaped diagram’ below:
- Lower unconscious
- Middle unconscious
- Higher unconscious or superconscious
- Field of consciousness
- Conscious self or ‘I’
- Collective unconscious
The I-Self connection depicts our human-divine nature
According to Assagioli, the Self is a transpersonal center, a “unifying and controlling Principle of our life” (p. 21, author’s italics). The Self is represented as a star, and appears as 6 at the top of the diagram.
In relationship with the Self is the “I” (5) which is the “inner still point that we experience as truly ourselves” (Hardy, 1987, p. 28). The Self and the “I” are ideally aligned as indicated by the dotted line connecting them in Figure 1. One can think of the “I” as a pale reflection of the full potential of the Self, and the connection between them is referred to as the I-Self. Both the Self and the “I” have two central functions: consciousness and will.
Our life journey is to align the I-Self connection
From a psychosynthesis point-of-view, our life’s journey is to seek, reconnect, and synthesize the consciousness and will of the Self with the consciousness and will of the “I” – in other words, to synthesize the transpersonal with the personal. What distinguishes psychosynthesis from most other psychologies is the understanding that the Self relates to the higher qualities within human beings that allow them to foster their I-Self connection and grow towards their authentic personality. One’s authentic personality is an “expression of the natural, authentic sense of self, of who we truly are” which is more than the sum of one’s social roles (Firman & Gila, 2002, p. 48).
Wounding of the I-Self connection occurs during childhood
For nearly all of us, this I-Self connection is wounded in early childhood and becomes buried underground as we attempt to survive in a familial, social, and political environment that may not nurture or, for that matter, recognize or understand this deeper connection that exists for every human soul (Firman and Gila, 1997, 2002). Cultivation of the personal self is achieved through psychosynthesis and, in particular, by identifying and then dis-identifying from one’s body, emotions, intellect, and personalities (Assagioli, 2002, pp. 211-217). This healing of the I-Self connection occurs via first identification and then dis-indentification.
Three levels of unconsciousness
The personal unconscious, marked 1, 2, and 3, is subdivided into (1) lower, (2) middle, and (3) higher. All unconscious material is interfacing with what Jung called the “collective unconscious” (7). Assagioli states that the lower unconscious contains:
The elementary psychological activities which direct the life of the body; the intelligent co-ordination of bodily functions. The fundamental drives and primitive urges. Many complexes, charged with intense emotion. Dreams and imaginations of an inferior kind. Lower, uncontrolled parapsychological processes. Various pathological manifestations such as phobia, obsessions, compulsive urges, and paranoid delusions (2000, p. 15).
The middle conscious contains that awareness that lies within the periphery of our consciousness and remains “easily accessible to it” (ibid.). This is where memories are held that are easily retrievable and where “imaginative activities are elaborated and developed in a sort of psychological gestation before their birth into the light of consciousness” (ibid.).
The higher conscious or superconscious holds our greater human potential and is the region from which we receive our:
higher intuitions and inspirations— artistic, philosophical or scientific, ethical “imperative” and urges to humanitarian and heroic action. In this realm are latent the higher psychic functions and spiritual energies (ibid.).
The superconscious relates to our higher human qualities
What distinguishes psychosynthesis from most other psychologies is the understanding that the Self and superconscious relate to the higher urges within human beings that allow them to grow towards their spiritual essence. In this way, spiritual drives and urges are as real and fundamental as, for example, sexual and aggressive drives (ibid.).
As individuals are able to integrate and synthesize material in their lower and middle unconscious, energy is freed that can then access inner talents, like scientific and artistic gifts, as well as higher qualities, like love, forgiveness, and acceptance, which are all available in the higher unconscious. Maslow (1968) called people in touch with superconscious material transcending self-actualizers, who were not only successful in the world, but also able to grow in spirit to experience meaning and purpose in life.
Assagioli, R. (2000). Psychosynthesis, A Collection of Basic Writing. Amherst, Massachusetts: The Synthesis Center, Inc.
Assagioli, R. (2002). The Act of Will. London: The Psychosynthesis & Education Trust.
Firman, J, & Gila, A. (1997). The Primal Wound. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Firman, J. & Gila, A. (2002). Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of the Spirit. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Hardy, J., (1987). A Psychology with a Soul. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Maslow, A.H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. New York:Harper & Row, Publishers.