Accompanying the stirrings of spring are the stirrings of what life will become after the COVID-19 crisis. To be honest, nobody really knows. But then, nobody ever really knew. We often like to think that we are entirely in control of our lives, our surroundings, our future. But if nothing else, the virus has taught us that we cannot control everything around us. However, we can take responsibility for our inner attitude towards everything from adversity to discomfort to death, and for our own outer actions in how we choose to live our lives. Continue reading
Today I read a beautiful account by Jennifer Toon, a 41-year-old woman who spent half her life in prison. Just as she was finally given her full freedom, she found herself living once again under the Covid-19 lockdown. She writes about her time in prison:
“The most important lesson I learned during this time was that I had to accept my circumstances as they were, then change my perspective about them.”
Toon continues to explain how a change in her attitude totally changed her prison experience. Her moving account resonates with that of Roberto Assagioli.
What better time to read Freedom in Jail than when we’re all locked up at home? Roberto Assagioli intended that his “prison diary” might become an account of the time he spent in Regina Coeli prison under the fascist regime in 1940. Throughout his testimony, Assagioli offers a personal example of how to use difficult life events as an opportunity to develop one’s personal and spiritual psychosynthesis.
As most of us know by now, you don’t need to be incarcerated to feel imprisoned. Part of the human condition, at different points in our lives, is to find ourselves enslaved by some uncontrollable situation to which we feel bound. Freedom in Jail shows us that we always remain free and responsible for choosing how we actively accept the situation and what attitude we take. The mystery is that these circumstances can also lead us to our Higher Self.
Okay. Sounds good. I’ve convinced you, but how can you get a hold of a copy? Of course, as the book’s editor, I would love you to buy a book. Not only does it contain Assagioli’s writings, but 160+ footnotes, numerous photos, transcribed citations from Keyserling’s From Suffering to Fulfillment, copies of Assagioli’s official prison records, and a detailed “Introduction”.
But did you know that the handwritten notes that were compiled into Freedom in Jail are actually available online through Assagioli’s Archives?
A Guide to Finding Freedom in Jail
If you are unfamiliar with how Assagioli’s Online Archives work, now’s a great time to explore this treasure trove. I have written a short Guide to Finding Freedom in Jail to help you get started. Now you too can discover the world of Assagioli’s Archives and see how you can find Freedom in Jail.
For those of you who already know your way around the archives or who already have a copy of the book, there some suggested readings from Freedom in Jail at the end of this reflection.
Buying a Copy of Freedom in Jail
Even with all this material available online, I still hope you consider buying the book. Here’s what Piero Ferrucci, Psychotherapist and Philosopher, Author of What We May Be has said:
I am impressed with the splendid work you did with Freedom in Jail. You have turned it into a microcosm, with useful psychological, spiritual and historical material that will benefit many people. Assagioli often would have the inspiration for a book, would write the outline perhaps, then leave it because he was too busy already with something else. But this book represents a milestone in his life and a crucial theme of his teachings. So I am very glad you took care of it in such a precise and complete way. The editorial level is first-rate.
To purchase a hardcopy of Freedom in Jail, please contact the Istituto di Psicosintesi in Florence at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Books are also available from the Psychosynthesis Trust London by contacting email@example.com.
Below are some suggested readings from Freedom in Jail. To find them in Assagioli’s Archive, just enter the Doc # in the Quick Search field.
Proposed Readings from Freedom in Jail by Roberto Assagioli
In Jail and Freedom
Assagioli also had to accept his situation and figure out what he wanted to do with this time in jail. Like those of us under quarantine during the Covid-19 crisis, he too faced the uncertainty of how long he would be in jail and even if he would survive. These passages reflect his coming to terms with the uncomfortable situation he suddenly found himself in.
In Jail: Doc # 7670, Acceptance: Doc # 9274,
The prisoners: Doc # 9303, Freedom: Doc # 7664
An Incident and a “Test”
Assagioli did not really spend time in solitary confinement as we might understand it today. At that time, more affluent prisoners, like Assagioli, could pay for private and more comfortable cells as well as better food. Assagioli actually writes about his personal struggle when his money nearly ran out and he faced the possibility of having to share a cell with other prisoners and the idea that he might lose his “‘freedom’ … of solitude and of privacy!”
An Incident and a “Test”: Doc #7687
Assagioli described some of his transpersonal experiences while in prison, including Love, Joy, and a deeper realization of the Joy within himself.
Love: Doc #7785, Joy: Doc # 7787, Joy – A deeper Realization: Doc # 8438
Not long ago, I reflected on the process of forgiveness and how much time it can take. Recently, I heard a fascinating interview of the playwright and author Eve Ensler about her new book The Apology. Throughout her childhood, Ensler had been physically and sexually abused by her father. Decades after his death, she decided to write an apology for him – the apology that she had yearned to hear all her life. The book is written entirely from his perspective. In its “Introduction”, she talks about using her imagination to create the words she needed to hear her father say:
“My father is long dead. He will never say the words to me. He will not make the apology. So it must be imagined. For it is in our imagination that we can dream across boundaries, deepen the narrative, and design alternative outcomes.”
It’s been a week since the closing of the Bonn Climate Change Conference. A small victory occurred with the passing of a global insurance plan that by 2020 will help protect 400 million poor and vulnerable people around the world. The project, called the InsuResilience Global Partnership, aims to provide insurance against damage caused by global warming.
Naturally, this project is fraught with controversy. Instead of having the richer nations, who are generally the bigger polluters, pay for climate disaster relief, this initiative actually pushes poor people in poor countries to pay an insurance premium.
It’s been a year since the publication of Freedom in Jail by Roberto Assagioli, which I had the privilege to edit and write an introduction to. From its conception to its final release, this project felt like a massive treasure hunt. Some of the 160+ footnotes took me days to research. Others only led me down a dead end with no clear answer in sight.
While I was busy with Freedom in Jail, I was also preparing to make an international move from Germany to Italy. One of the many beautiful and synchronistic events related to this book was that Freedom in Jail appeared in print a few days before my arrival in Italy. In a strange way, the book and Assagioli were here to greet me.
I worked on this book, but this book worked on me, and continues to do so. Gruppo alle Fonti is now preparing an Italian translation for publication in the near future. While helping to prepare for this edition, a number of mysterious footnotes have been resolved and other insights have been uncovered.
Prison was one of Assagioli’s most gratifying experiences
In a 1965 interview with Julie Medlock, Assagioli said:
Imagine being at home and the police come to arrest you without any criminal charges. You are taken to headquarters and interrogated; they ask you to describe your work. You answer by offering an elaborate and lengthy description of psychosynthesis. After you finish, the interrogator shouts, “You are a pacifist!”
You try to explain that you are not a pacifist in any political or legal way. “I don’t believe that peace can be secured by making war on war. I am deeply convinced that peace is fundamentally a psychological problem.” More questions come, but you decide to stay present to yourself and remain silent. At that point, you are handcuffed and put into solitary confinement. However, you are allowed to read.
What books do you choose?