Tag Archives: Balancing Opposites

Divine Supply

thumbnail_image1(1)The cherry trees behind our house are bursting with fruit. More cherries than we can pick, eat, turn into jam, give away, or freeze. We still have jars from last year – plump cherries bloated by the pure alcohol bath they sit in, waiting to be plucked from the jar, soaked for a few hours in local spring water and eaten. Each fruit tree in the back bares a different type of cherry – white and sour, round and sweet, watery with too much pit.  We are doing our best to collect what we can, but many will inevitably feed the birds, ants and insects, or drop to the ground and nourish the grassy knoll which they now adorn.

During my last visit to Casa Assagioli, lockdown was a distant tsunami of fear yet to overwhelm us. Cocooned, I spent hours going through a file labelled “What is Synthesis?” My task was to read and summarize each document in this file, note the sources Assagioli quoted, and enter this data into the online archives. February is a quiet time in Florence, and I punctuated my time in the archives with walks to the local pasticceria to indulge in frappe (strips of fried dough popular during carnivale), window shopping and strong cups of cafè. Meals of baked pasta and tiramisu were shared with others from Gruppo alle Fonti, along with silly jokes and all kinds of advice. (Did you know that walking backwards helps your digestion?)

But I digress… What amazed me that weekend while studying the many notes and typed manuscripts in this file “What is Synthesis?” was how Assagioli was continually developing his ideas and looking for new ways to express them. His article “What is Synthesis?” is a rough translation of a 1933 lecture that he gave in Rome and appears in Per l’armonia della vita published in 1966. But many concepts that do not appear in this fundamental essay can be found in his archives. For example, Assagioli notes the stages of synthesis as: interrelation, interplay, regulation, attraction-love, cooperation/ordered activity, and subordination/organization/hierarchy. He also explores three clearly differentiated kinds of synthesis: ‘combining’ synthesis, ‘balancing’ or ‘regulatory’ synthesis, and ‘organising’ synthesis.

025262 Divine supply 3But what profoundly struck me was one diagram tucked away at the bottom of the pile of papers. Assagioli often illustrated the process of synthesis with triangular diagrams. Opposites appear at each endpoint of the triangular base, and in the center is their combined point of neutralization. In this middle point, neither polar opposite is dominant. But at the top of the triangle, right above the middle point, is the synthesis of the polarity. Synthesis occurs through the transformation, sublimation and re-absorption of the two polarities into a higher reality.

Despite having seen many of these diagrams before, this particular one was new to me, and it seemed to carry great meaning for our times. The polarity being balanced and synthesized is ‘Poverty’ and ‘Material Wealth/Luxury.’ Its neutral state is ‘Sufficiency.’ But what moved me that day when I first saw Assagioli’s diagram was ‘Divine Supply’ staring (nearly screaming!) at me from the top of the triangle.

Let’s take a closer look…

cherries hangingAs demonstrated by the multitude of cherries tangling from the trees in my backyard, Nature is abundant. Add to this abundance, our technological ability to collaborate with Nature and distribute her fruits, and – provided we limit ourselves to what we need (not what we think we need) – there is certainly enough for all. Poverty, as Assagioli notes, is the fault of humankind. Excessive poverty, he continues, is a direct consequence of our will being directed towards the ill use, waste, and abuse of what we have and our sole desire for (more) material riches.

Collectively, we need to circulate and distribute the wealth and goods in a more equitable way. Individually, we need to take responsibility for our own use of material goods by first disidentifying from our fear of poverty – and secondly by appreciating all the natural abundance around us and the goodness it can provide. In other words, to see and receive the Divine Supply that surrounds us.

As Gandhi famously said:

“The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”

And Rabindranath Tagore poetically explained:

“We do not have to run to the grocer’s shop for our morning light; we open our eyes and there it is; so we need only give ourselves up to find that Brahma is everywhere.”

And

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.”

HarvestThe key is to recognize our true needs and what truly belongs to us, and then to gratefully receive it. Perhaps during this time of COVID-19, we’ve had chance to experience ‘Sufficiency,’ and we might want to try practicing it more, in simple ways… By gratefully growing our own food or supporting local farmers, preparing our own meals, learning to stimulate and entertain ourselves and others by means of our creative lives.

And then, with pure consciousness and the will of the Higher Self, we will have a chance to synthesize our attempt at a balanced and harmonious life of ‘just enough’ into an experience of Divine Supply. We will meet ourselves and our God in the flood of morning light, the whirlwind of birdsong, and (with a bit of luck) cherries ready to be picked from a nearby tree.

Bread and the Art of Synthesis

bread with kitty

My cat Kitty is not impressed with the fresh bread from the oven. © Catherine Ann Lombard, 2018

Synthesis occurs when a pair of opposites continually interact until they are brought into equilibrium. Ultimately the opposites are transmuted into a transpersonal quality. But synthesis is even more than the balancing of opposites. Assagioli writes that:

“Synthesis is not just between two opposites, but between multiple and heterogeneous endpoints. All syntheses of polarities are true but partial syntheses. Complete syntheses unite several elements into one organic unity.”

In this light, bread becomes a beautiful metaphor for synthesis – the unification of many diverse ingredients into a higher organic form that gives life. Bread unites a multitude of opposites – dry, earthy flour with the fluidity of water. Sugar (to help the yeast rise) with salt (for taste and preservation). Air within the dough is heated by the fire in the oven. Finally, the baker’s two hands, one heart and skillful will bring them all together so they might ultimately be transformed into nourishment for body and soul. Continue reading

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

Collect Your Mind

martha-and-mary

Assagioli’s note from Freedom in Jail

In his book Freedom in Jail (now available for purchase), Assagioli referred twice to the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, and even indicated that he wanted to have an Appendix that would reflect upon it. This appendix was never written, but later his eloquent essay was: “Martha and Mary: The Active Life –The Contemplative Life.” [1]

In this blog and the next, we will take a closer look at his essay. First of all, Assagioli asks that we read this gospel story with an open mind. So let’s begin with the story:

Continue reading