Tag Archives: psychology

Exploring Assagioli’s Archives – Sept. 16/17

Ahead of World Psychosynthesis Day on 20th September, I will be demonstrating a one-hour session via Zoom on how to navigate Assagioli Archives, home to approximately 19,000 notes and manuscripts from Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.  

Gruppo alle Fonti, part of the Instituto di Psicosintesi in Florence, has dedicated many years to making Assagioli’s notes available, creating this free resource online to share his work as widely as possible. They launched Assagioli Archives in 2015 and have recently added the printed publications of Assagioli’s writings. 

I will be introducing the archives and demonstrating how to navigate them with practical tips such as how to use the search engine and copy images. As a collaborator with Gruppo alle Fonti at the Istituto di Psicosintesi for many years, I have helped to catalogue and scan archive documents. 

Feel free to join me on either day (Note that both workshops are the same).

Friday 16th September 6.00 – 7.00pm (BST) for more information and booking, click here.

Saturday 17th September 12.00 – 13.00 (EST) for more information and booking, click here.

Cultivating Radical Hope As Our Plant Collapses

There is no nice way to talk about this. Our planet is under siege and we are committing collective suicide. June was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. As I write this, fires are scorching Western Europe and California. For the first time ever in the UK, temperatures topped 40° C (105° F). In Italy where I live, 28% of the land is currently turning into desert.

The U.N. Secretary-general, António Guterres, has said:

“Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. … We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

Yes, it is in our hands, but time is slipping away. Our planetary disasters are slowly becoming normalized. Our hearts and minds continue to resist even the smallest personal change. Friends and family still fly off on long-distant holidays. Pineapples and mangos still appear on the supermarket shelves. We are eating too much meat. The planet is water-stressed. Everything is still swathed in plastic.

Yes, we are addicted to fossil fuels, but if we deeply assess the addiction, we see that it is an addiction to consume, to own, and to have power – all driven by a fear of not having enough.

Despite the need for radical systemic global change, our will is constantly twisted and out-maneuvered, sabotaged and stymied. We are being overrun by greed and betrayal. As Grete Thunberg has said, all the proposed mitigation to prevent the climate catastrophe has proven to be a lot of “Blah. Blah. Blah.”

Facing the Collapse

Lately I have been following webinars by Joanna Macy and Jonathan Gustin entitled “Climate Change as a Spiritual Practice”. During one of these events, an article written by ethicists David Schenck and Larry R. Churchill was presented. The article is entitled “Ethical Maxims for a Marginally Inhabitable Planet”. I highly recommend that you take time to read this article.

Based on their bioethics work in intensive care units (ICUs) and hospices, they have come up with six ethical maxims for a time of collapse. These maxims are useful guidelines for what we will need to face. Our world is in free fall, a state that researchers have recently coined as ‘Collaspsology’.

As Schenck and Churchill write: “Maxims are less how to analyze and choose and more how to be.” Maxims are moral virtues which we can start to cultivate now to help us inwardly prepare for catastrophic events.

The authors insist that theirs are not the only maxims, but a bare beginning. Think of them as seeds for the future. They are a place to start. A place to ask yourself: What values do I want to develop, gain some mastery of, and activate during this potential human tragedy and all that it implies?

Here are the six maxims, along with some of my own reflections on them. I also added two of my own. Feel free to do that same, and share with others.

Maxim 1: Work hard to grasp the immensity.

Photo by Leonid Danilov

Just as it is difficult to accept devastating news about one’s health, it is equally difficult to accept the devastation being imposed on the planet and all its living beings. Like any health crisis, we have to grasp all that we are facing before we can choose the best remedy.

While contemplating this maxim, I thought about Wilfred, whom I met years ago in London. Born in Germany in 1928, his father was a high ranking official in the German army. He thought, even though he was Jewish, that he and his family were perfectly safe from persecution. Failing to grasp the immensity of Nazism proved fatal to everyone except Wilfred, who at 13 managed to escape and walk by himself over the Swiss Alps to Milano. There he was able to locate a distant uncle who was working as a tailor. The story goes on, but teaches us not to be shortsighted or feel immune when facing looming disaster, especially while it’s happening to others all around us.

Maxim 2: Cultivate radical hope.

Schenck and Churchill explain that radical hope is the “kind of hope that reappears after optimism has died.” It is not fantasyland or magical thinking. Radical hope is the grace that comes once we hit rock bottom. Radical hope demands that we be courageous.

This maxim immediately brought to mind Dante’s Divine Comedy and his approach at the Gate of Hell. Like most of us, Dante would have preferred to avoid this gate all together, opting instead to ascend directly into Paradise. The inscription on the gate’s lintel stops him in his tracks: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter (Inf. 3. 9).  Dante decries these words, and Virgil, “a man of quick discernment,” exhorts Dante – to not leave behind “all hope,” but rather to leave behind his “sheer black cowardice” (15).

One time while in Assagioli Archives I discovered a note that said “Will-to-Joy”. The words are double underlined with blue and red pencil. We could say the same about hope: “Will-to-Hope / The duty of Radical Hope”. A willful practice to be and create joy and hope.

Lately, I have been consciously practicing radical hope. In the garden, while pulling up weeds – yet again… When meeting someone new and thinking they might become a friend… While stumbling over my Italian – yet again! While praying for rain…(this goes with my Maxim #8).

Try practicing radical hope today and see what new energy it brings – especially when it seems like there’s nothing left to do.

Maxim 3: Have a line in the sand.

This maxim is not so intuitive. Having a line in the sand means coming to some understanding about what you will do and what you will refuse to do. It’s about setting boundaries. For someone who is dying, this maxim determines whether she will continue on life-support or not. For Viktor Frankl and Etty Hillesum, it meant defining their attitude while facing the horrors of concentration camps. In Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela tells of one of his lines in the sand; he refused to escape from prison, even though he had numerous opportunities to do so.

This maxim is a serious one and requires all aspects of will – strong, skillful, good, and transpersonal. In fact, this maxim is so serious that I couldn’t help playing humorously with it (see my Maxim #7). My line in the sand is: When there’s no more food, I will not eat my dog. But I will eat my neighbor’s dog, especially the one that barks all night. hahahaha

But seriously, who knows what I’ll be willing to eat if I’m starving? Like the authors say, drawing a line in the sand demands that we activate our imagination alongside the understanding that the sands are constantly shifting. We are more likely to manage shifting boundaries well if beforehand we imagined the worst and practiced this willful act to its conclusion.

Okay. Let’s try again… If I’m starving, I’ll eat my chicken’s eggs and then my chickens. And if my neighbors are starving, I’ll share my eggs and then my chickens. And if we are all starving…? Well… this obviously still needs some more work!

Maxim 4: Appreciate the astonishing and unique opportunity.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

During the webinar, I was impressed by how Joanna Macy, who is 93 years old, expressed her joy to be alive at this moment and able to witness the transformation we are about to undergo. She said she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Personally, my initial instinct is to run away. But then I have a strong subpersonality who tends to operate in this fashion.

The key word here is ‘appreciation’. Now is the time to practice appreciation of our bodies, feelings and thoughts. Our ability to embody courage and grace. The daily gifts and smallest blessings.

I remember my mother telling me years after my father’s murder how she managed to take hold of her life again. Tragically widowed at 46 years old with four kids to raise in 1970, she spent the first year in shock while trying to contain her anger and sadness. “Then a year later in early spring,” she told me once, “I saw the first crocuses bloom. And suddenly I knew I would be okay.”

Practice appreciating those “blooming crocuses” in your life, both big and small.

Maxim 5: Train your body and your mind.

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

I would add to this maxim that we also need to train our heart, that is our ability to feel. The more conscious and healthy we are on every level –  physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – the more we will be able to deal with the challenges we will need to face.

The better we can cope, the better we can endure the suffering of those around us and help ourselves and others to grow, heal, and yes – even thrive – beyond the inevitable grief and rage. (This spiritual service ties in with Maxim #4.)

This training of heart, mind, and soul is necessary before we can be fit enough to become, like Etty Hillesum at Westerbork, a “thinking heart”. During the three months she spent living amongst the “mud, overcrowding and people arriving every day in truckloads”, she vowed to become the “thinking heart of the barracks”:

“At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, “We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,” I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours letting all the many, too many impressions of a much-too-long day wash over me, and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’ And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”

Maxim 6: Act for the future generation of all species.

The authors urge us to “Act, personally and politically, to limit the damage being done to the biosphere. Speak for the poor, the unborn generations, the forests, seas, and animals.”

For me, this is a tough one, as this maxim runs headlong into “drawing a line in the sand.” I know that in the last 20 years, 45% of the worldwide insect species have died, but I don’t want ants running around my house. I can capture a spider and carry it outside to a nearby flowerbed, but a scorpion on my bathroom floor needs to be stepped on. Mice do not belong in my pantry.

However, I know that here are also times, when I feel completely powerless, like when I watched my neighbor cut down 100-year-old trees.

These struggles forge within us higher transpersonal qualities. They also push us to practice right relations – with all Earthly beings.

The authors insist that:

“It is essential to find creative ways to cultivate an in-depth, emotional as well as intellectual understanding of interconnection, so that…we are acting for everything in the global web.”

The keywords here are “creative ways”. I’m still working on this one! Let’s try together!

Now I introduce my two personal maxims:

Maxim 7: Use humor whenever possible.

Humor can help bring a new perspective to any situation. In Assagioli’s seminal essay “Smiling Wisdom”, he begins by talking about the physical and psychological benefits of laughter. He then explores the spiritual value of laughter, especially as a means of overcoming suffering.

Often when we cannot find anything humorous about a situation, we are too serious and intensely attached to the issue we are facing. Humor can help bring a sense of proportion to any struggle, which in turn helps us to ground ourselves into what is real and eternal.

A beautiful example of humor mitigating tragedy can be seen in the movie La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful). In the film, a father employs his imagination and playful humor to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a concentration camp. Life at the camp becomes a complicated game for the boy, complete with points and a grand prize of winning a tank.

Like everything else in life, humor must be applied to good purpose and in the right proportion, otherwise it can turn into sarcastic criticism. A true humorist is one who can see human life in all its frailty with a compassionate and playful heart.

Maxim 8: Connect with a Higher Power.

The Self is an Experience

I believe this maxim is vital as we cannot depend on our egos alone to deal with this crisis. Whether you have faith in God, Allah, Jesus, the Cosmos, who or whatever – you need to have a connection to a higher source of Wisdom and Light, a connection that you continuously and regularly cultivate. To illustrate this fundamental and essential need, I return to Dante’s Divine Comedy, which so beautifully describes where we are right now and our emphatic need to connect to a Higher Power.

In the epic poem, Dante is guided by the poet Virgil through Hell where they meet shadow souls who are eternally lost because of the choices they have made. Hell is divided into three sections and as you journey downwards, the souls’ transgressions become more grievous.

Dante’s Inferno

While the souls in the upper part of Hell have not consciously chosen to do evil, they are there because they have not consciously refused evil. They are only half-conscious and weak of will.

This is exactly where many of us are right now. During the past decades, we might have known that our actions were effecting the earth’s health, (the first Earth Day was, after all, April 1970!), but we remained only half-conscious and weak of will. We did not consciously choose to pollute, blunder, and destroy our earthly home, but we also did not consciously refuse to do so.

The middle and lower parts of Hell, however, are for those who have consciously chosen to commit acts of violence and fraud respectively. In other words, the souls condemned for violence and fraud have consciousness and will, but they have only directed their attention and action toward darker and negative goals leading them to endless suffering. In psychosynthesis terms, these souls have consciously used their will to completely disconnect themselves from the Higher Self, a Higher Power.

This lower part of Hell could easily accommodate all the oil and gas executives that consciously chose not to disclose their company’s scientific findings on how devastating the exploitation of natural resources would be to future generations. But we also must be honest about our own culpability. At this moment in time, we all stand at this threshold. If we don’t make wise, clear choices right now, we are doomed to consciously commit acts of violence, betraying ourselves, our planet, and our future.

An angel opens the gate for Dante and Virgil, allowing them to enter the City of Dis

Upon reaching the middle circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante are barred from entering the City of Dis (i.e. the City of Satan) by great iron battlements. This gate is guarded by hundreds of fierce demons. To make matters worse, three Furies appear – images symbolic of haunting remorse – and threaten to uncover Medusa’s head. Virgil quickly orders Dante to cover his eyes with his hands and further protects his prodigy by placing his own hands over Dante’s. If a living man catches even the smallest glimpse of the Medusa, he will forever turn to stone – petrified by the destructive forces of evil.

All Virgil and Dante can do is wait for divine help. Soon a messenger from Heaven arrives and the Furies and Medusa vanish. An angel touches the gate with a wand and cries out the will of God. Virgil and Dante are finally unopposed to enter into the middle regions of Hell. 

In this example, both Dante and Virgil require the will of the Higher Self before they can enter deep and terrifying gloom. This is the same for us as we face the crises we are in. Without a connection to a Higher Power, we can too easily be turned into stone (i.e., we gaze upon Medusa), frozen and unable to act, as we become overwhelmed by grief and remorse.

The gate of Dis can only be safely passed by those who have come to the kind of faith and humility which brought the angel to Dante’s aid. Without such faith and humility, looking upon the darkness within oneself and others can, in effect, result in our losing our humanity to insanity or despair or becoming completely possessed and identified with evil.

It is truly a lifetime endeavor to discern how much depends on our will alone to act, and when we need to patiently wait for the moment when our will and the will of a Higher Power are aligned. This alignment will bring us great insight, courage, and immediacy when coming face-to-face with the dark side of reality and helping us to choose against evil itself.

A Guide to Assagioli’s Archives

Archive announcement

Roberto Assagioli, the visionary founder of psychosynthesis, left a treasure trove of thoughts when he died in 1974 at the age of 86. A great scholar, linguist, educator, and philosopher, Assagioli’s creative ideas compelled him to handwrite his reflections onto small pieces of paper, including the back of concert tickets! Often he would stuff these pieces of paper into a drawer and then ask a student to put them into some kind of order. Other times he himself would organize them into “packets” under titles such as “Freedom”, “Joy”, “The Self”.

As part of the Istituto di Psicosintesi in Florence, Gruppo Alle Fonti (The Group at the Well Spring) has dedicated years to making Assagioli’s notes available online. In 2015, they launched the website www.archivioassagioli.org. This month they recently added the printed publications of Assagioli’s writings, typescripts of lectures and conferences, and drafts of articles and books. Everyone can register to access this archive for free and, with the aid of an excellent search engine, delve into Assagioli’s fascinating, invigorating, and moving archived papers.

Courtesy of the

Approximately 19,000 documents have been scanned, transcribed, and sometimes translated, and each one is a source of insight into Assagioli’s heart and mind. His notes and manuscripts appear in Italian, English, French, or German.

Today the archive includes thousands of original manuscripts, typescripts, books, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, photos, correspondence, and personal documents accumulated over the years. But when he died, most of this material was inaccessible, tucked away in the attic of his home or kept in a damp cellar where it remained for years.

Part of these manuscripts caught the immediate attention of Piero Ferrucci, a student and close collaborator of Assagioli. In 1974 Ferrucci assumed the daunting task of cataloging and distributing these documents in specially created folders. In 2006, Gruppo Alle Fonti, an international group of devoted volunteers, continued to systematically reorganize, sort, and catalogue the material. We have them to thank for online access to these documents.

In the words of Gruppo Alle Fonti:

“Access to the archive is not only an educative and cognitive opportunity, but a deep and intimate experience leading to an expansion of consciousness.”

I urge everyone to visit the online archive and spend some time with Assagioli and his “unburdened thoughts.” You will definitely find a rich psychosynthesis legacy and have the opportunity to personally touch Assagioli’s deep humanity.

To help you get started, please feel free to download and share this Beginner’s Guide to Using Assagioli’s Archives.

The Box of Dates

After two years, aren’t we tired by now of hearing, talking, reading about but mostly fearing Covid-19? My biggest heartache is witnessing the disintegration of the social fabric that once united the villagers where I live. Many of the agricultural traditions were already wobbling on creaky foundations. It’s as if the big bad wolf of fear has blown it all down.

Located in the heart of Italy, the village has about 100 inhabitants; nearly 30 of whom are over 70 years old.  The town’s activities revolve around feast days and holidays, mainly associated with the village’s Catholic Church. Nearly every month there used to be a celebration with most of the villagers gathering for a communal meal afterwards.

The spring feast of Ascension had us in procession around the town’s fields, blessing the earth, sun, and rain for providing us with nature’s abundance. In July we honored the local Franciscan Saint Marzio with porchetta sandwiches and homemade wine. August brought the entire village together for the three-day preparing to make gnocchi Sacra di Gnocco. In early December, we climbed the hill out of town at dusk with lit torches, song and prayer to celebrate Saint Barbara, her statue atop the shoulders of four strong men.

But all these celebrations have since disappeared. Even the village’s most famous – the day long Feast of the Madonna of Monte Camera celebrated on the Tuesday after Easter. Ironically enough, in 1647 when the pest was devastating the village population, the town dwellers who were well enough went in procession to this sanctuary (about 6 km away) to pray to the Madonna so that she might intercede on their behalf.

When they returned to their village, everyone who had been sick was miraculously cured. For 372 years, the villagers have returned in procession to this chapel – without fail – to commemorate the miracle. Every year… even during the last century’s World Wars, even during the time of Napoleon. Every year… except for the past two. Even though such a miracle is needed more than ever.

Personally during these past two years, I have witnessed many of the Italians I know tightly close ranks around their family life, walling themselves inside a circle of quiet desperation. Rarely does someone pause to chat with me anymore. What few smiles remain are hidden behind our masks. I am no longer invited in for a coffee and chat. All kisses are gone. The spontaneous touch of a hand is only a distant memory. We stand at a ‘safe’ distance, feeling unsafe.

An Open Door, An Open Heart

And then one afternoon, Maria Grazia[i] deeply touched me and my soul.

Maria Grazia is 91 years old. She grew up in the village, worked with her family on the land, married the village carpenter, had two children and now lives alone (her husband died three years ago). She is one of the few people whose attitude has not changed towards me. Always happy if I stop in to see her (along with my dog), Maria Grazia always insists on giving me something… creamy chocolates wrapped in shiny foil, a few fresh eggs from her chickens, and one time a small pot of honey from her son-in-law’s beehives.

Last week, I decided to pay her a visit. With all the fear that is running wild in the world, and despite her vulnerability, Maria Grazia attends to a quiet fearlessness. The key to her front door is always in the lock. As usual, I rang the bell and before any answer could come, I simply walked in. Maria Grazia was sitting next to her wood-burning stove, her legs up on a chair and covered with a blanket, rosary in hand. Despite my interrupting her quiet prayers of Hail Marys and Our Fathers, Maria Grazia welcomed me inside.

She did not quaver from my touch or worry about my wearing a mask or not. She was simply glad to see me. In fact, I often had to slide the mask to my chin and repeat myself, her slightly deaf ears unable to decipher my heavily accented Italian. We had met briefly the day before when I went to the mass for Saint Anthony Abate, the patron saint of domestic animals. As always, the villagers brought their animal feed to be blessed by the priest after the mass, and I too had attended with buckets of chicken feed, dog and cat food for the ritual sprinkling of holy water.

“I’m always so happy to see you in church,” was the first thing she said. I can’t remember when anybody told me that they were happy to see me anywhere! Slightly embarrassed to be caught with her legs up on a chair, Maria Grazia explained, “I have fibrosis in my legs.” She lifted up the blanket to show me her swollen, discolored calves and ankles, and then, despite my protests, insisted on getting up.

Hobbling to her cupboard while supporting herself against her kitchen table, she brought out a box of dates and insisted I take them with me. “But don’t you like them?” I asked.

“Oh yes, I like them. But I have another box,” she said. “And besides, I want you to have these.”

Maria Grazia put the box of dates into a plastic bag. I gratefully accepted them and thanked her. We kissed each other goodbye on both cheeks and I went on my way. As I was leaving, she sat down again by the warm stove. I offered to help her replace the blanket over her legs, but Maria Grazia insisted that she could do it herself.

The box of dates meant little to me, but her loving attitude of just being present, without terror in her eyes, without my having to feel awkward or afraid to be with her, was her true gift.  Nothing between us had changed, despite the world being so radically altered. It was a moment when everything felt normal… when human relationship once more felt peaceful… We were just two human beings – with all our limitations – together, acknowledging each other’s presence, the beauty of each other’s soul.


Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

The Pandemic of Collective Fear

Assagioli writes how “waves of collective fear and panic” are like a widely diffused psychological poison or smog, he says:

“So often when we feel a sudden fear with no apparent reason, it is not ours at all. It is a psychic infection —like a virus.”

It can be encouraging to know that these virus-like fears are not ours, but energies that we are experiencing from the people and society around us. In order to deal with fear effectively, Assagioli urges us to eliminate or minimize the fear within ourselves. He also warns us of a vicious circle that can occur – our personal fear can open the door to the influence of external fear, and external fear feeds the inner one. Again he says:

“We have so much fear that is not ours. It’s stupid to let these fears invade and dominate our being!”

To break this vicious circle, we need to use our skillful will to withdraw our attention deliberately away from the psychological poison of fear. Assagioli suggests that we dis-identify from the fear by simply saying, “That’s not me.” At the same time we are dis-identifying from the fear, we need to not suppress it. Most importantly, we should not be afraid of the fear! Otherwise we can quickly descend into a vicious spiral of fear feeding fear.

Once we are able to release the energy that is holding and nurturing the fear, we can then redirect this new-found energy to do the most good in our lives. 

You might start today to consciously ‘vaccinate’ yourself against fear. Anytime your fear appears during the day, practice using skillful will to redirect your thoughts to something beautiful and positive that you recently experienced. You can also use the Evocative Word exercise, calling to mind the words: Calm, Tranquility, Fearlessness.

At the same time, try to face your own personal fears. They are the fears that we all must individually examine and exhume in their full force. Transmute and redeem to their full glory. Without being fully realized, personal fear bubbles over and is projected outside, contributing to the psychic poisons that are already whirling around us. 

Let’s face it. There are a million reasons to be fearful. The human condition hardly lends itself to fearlessness! But with patience and Love, along with the guidance of the Higher Self, the virus of fear can be cured.

Assagioli’s note from his archives.

[i] Maria Grazia is a pseudonym.

————————————————-

To read about how two former clients overcame their personal fears, see Starve Your Fear! and The Healing Paradox.

Changing Judgments to Christmas Blessings

goodwill yellowAre you dreading this holiday season? The incessant music. Crowds of anxious consumers. The proliferation of plastic made in China? Unwanted gifts and the duty of buying gifts unwanted? The unreasonable pressure of a perfect Christmas dinner on the table. Forced encounters with others with whom you would rather not? Fake joy…

Rejoice! There is a simple way out. It’s called “Formulating Blessings.” Anyone can play and it’s absolutely free! Continue reading

Books for Winter Nights

My garden is quiet now and the nights are long, so it’s a perfect time to sit on my sofa and snuggle down with a good book. Here are a few that have come to my attention that you might like to explore as well (alongside a hot cup of tea or mug of mulled wine!)

On Angels Wings – My Flight From Trauma To Grace

by Gloria Masters
To order, go to: https://www.gloriamasters.com/

This autumn, I had a visitor from the psychosynthesis community. We were chatting away while enjoying the beautiful clouds floating overhead when he shared how one of his clients had endured terrible sexual abuse as a child. When he had asked her how she had managed to survive, she said, “I heard the angels all around me. They are always singing the psalms.”

Not a week later, Gloria Masters – whom I had never met or heard of before – sent me an email telling me about her book. She too had endured sexual trauma as a child, and she too had found hope and resilience through her relationship with angels.

For me, this felt like a clear affirmation by the angels, whom I believe are constantly waiting for us to call on them for help and guidance. 

On Angels’ Wings is an extraordinary powerful story of how a young girl journeyed from darkness into light and a testimony to the unrelenting power of the human spirit.

The Machine Stops

by E.M. Forster
Free in the public domain.
Click here for pdf.
Click here for audio book.

I read The Machine Stops during lockdown and found it eerily familiar. Written in 1909, this short story takes place in a future(!) where people live underground in isolated cells, never see one another and communicate only via audio and visual devices. In this world, original thought and direct observation are discouraged—“Beware of first-hand ideas!” people are told. Humanity has been overtaken by “The Machine,” which provides all comforts and meets all needs—except the need for human contact. One young man, Kuno, pleads with his mother via Zoom-like technology, “I want to see you not through the Machine… I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.”

The story is about his attempt to escape The Machine. Riveting, chilling and profoundly insightful of mass human psychology, it captures one person’s attempt to discover and hold onto his authentic inner voice.

Know, Love, Transform Yourself 

by Petra Guggisberg Nocelli
€27.00
To order via Amazon, click here.

Petra has once again brilliantly compiled a book full of valuable psychosynthesis theory, techniques and exercises. This book is the first volume in a two-volume series and provides psychotherapists, counsellors, coaches, trainers, leaders, and educators alike with priceless tools and information.

Of course, I’m partially biased as Petra invited me to contribute a chapter to this important work. Other contributors are: Bonney Gulino Schaub and Richard Schaub, Ann Gila and John Firman, Rozana Bažec, Dorothy Firman, Tan Nguyen, Birgit Haus, Joan Evans, Will Parfitt, Michael Wolde, and Ewa Danuta Bialek.

The Anger Makeover

by Walter Polt
€22.58
To order via Amazon, click here.

We all get annoyed and resentful, even with people whom we love. But how about giving your anger a makeover? This book gently guides you to unwind those feelings of anger and reshape them into relationships that are joyful, warmhearted, and honest.

The Anger-Makeover process helps transform the often-negative aspects of raw anger into a constructive resource for growth and healing. This very practical workbook offers an approach to the ‘management’ of anger, not through denial, repression or acting out – but through looking within to find the power locked underneath one’s emotional response.

Walter shows how to garner the anger energy and redirect it to good use – helping us to bring out our best selves.

Assagioli 2021 – Psicosintesi e Letteratura

€25.00
To order, contact: istituto@psicosintesi.it

Finally for those who read Italian, this collection of conference papers on Psychosynthesis and Literature is a rare gem. Contributors include Piero Ferrucci, who writes about the synthesizing aspects of music, and Lucia Bassignana, who gives us a wonderful tour through the artwork at Casa Assagioli. Other contributors are: Francesco Baroni, Katalin Orosz, Zsuzsanna Tóth-Izsó, Paolo Leoncini, and  Gianni Yoav Dattilo.

And then there’s yours truly! I also contributed an article on the spiritual philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore and Roberto Assagioli (in Italian).  You can download my article by clicking on:

CALombard «L’eterno straniero chiama» Estratto – Atti Budapest 2021

For English readers, this article has been accepted and will be published in 2022 by the Journal of India Philosophy and Religion. I’ll be sure to let you know more then.

Happy Reading!

COP26, Tagore, and Human Truths

Franco, who is blind, cuts his grass with a scythe.

After the COP26 ended in Glasgow, and I couldn’t help feeling like a lemming caught in a mass migration off a towering cliff. It’s difficult to stay grounded and hopeful when faced with the empty actions of our political leaders and the 100+ coal, oil and gas company lobbyists and their associated groups who welded influence during the conference.

Even though the U.S. military pollutes more than 140 countries combined, their emissions are not included in any calculations (due to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol decision to exclude them). And since the 2015 Paris Agreement, 1005 land and environmental defenders have been murdered, with one out of three being an Indigenous person.

According to scientist Ken Anderson, “net zero,” is meaningless rhetoric (or more simply Blah, Blah, Blah) that allows us to move the burden in reducing emissions from today out to future generations. He said, “Net zero is Latin for kicking the can down the road.”

On a personal level, I have struggled with watching in quiet desperation as neighbors cut down their trees for firewood. My nearby neighbors are a farming family, four generations that have lived here for more than a century. They own most of the surrounding land and they do not hesitate to cut down trees and hedges, in order to turn fields into plowable acreage, which they mindlessly kill with fertilizers. Continue reading

Freedom under Lock Down

Nearly all of us have experienced some form of “lock down” during the past year of the pandemic. During this time, perhaps you’ve had time to reflect on what ‘freedom’ means to you personally and to all of us collectively.

I will be exploring this concept of freedom in an upcoming Webinar, sponsored by the Psychosynthesis Trust London.


Freedom in Jail: A Reflection on Pigeons, Paper, and Paradise

Date/Time: Monday, October 11, 1900-2100 (London time)

Cost: Free.

To book your free space please email: events@ptrust.org.uk


In this webinar, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Roberto Assagioli’s reflections on the deeper meaning of ‘freedom’ – a word that is bandied about without much thought – from advertising soda drinks to promoting war.

The concept of freedom will be explored through Assagioli’s autobiographical account Freedom in Jail. This book outlines Assagioli’s own experience before, during and after his own imprisonment in Regina Coeli prison by the Italian fascist regime in 1940. Freedom in Jail offers insights into Assagioli’s understanding of true “inner freedom, pure freedom … attained rising above the fetters, a sense of expansion …”

We will begin with a presentation during which I will talk about Assagioli’s time in prison and how he practiced his psychosynthesis concepts and techniques. While in prision, he ultimately experienced his own personally transformation and self-realization.

The presentation will be followed by Q&A. Then we will break up into smaller groups and share our thoughts on a specific excerpt from his book. At the end, we will gather together as a larger group and share whatever insights we might have gained.

I hope to see you there!

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. Continue reading

One Doll’s Advice

Twenty years ago, my husband and I happened to be living in Egypt when we were visiting my family in California. Visiting just in time for 9/11 and what the media described as an “Attack on America.” What a strange time to come home … in time for an attack. Little did I know that in the days that followed Buzz Lightyear would provide me with the best advice.

Buzz Lightyear is the star of the animated feature Toy Story. He has a broad face with a dimpled chin, no neck, and a constant smile. Encased in a plastic space ranger suit, Buzz is equipped with laser beams that can destroy the deadliest enemy (mainly Emperor Zurg), projectile wings what allow him not to fly but to “fall with style,” and a protective bubble helmet.

Buzz’s sidekick is Woody, who is not half as glamorous. Woody is a cowboy who is always losing his hat. Woody is softer, his body being of cloth, which can cause complications like a torn arm. He does not own any high-tech weaponry or protective clothing. Woody does not own a gun. All he has is an empty holster.

Twenty years ago, my two nephews, Frank (5) and Mark (2-1/2), were in love with Buzz Lightyear. Buzz went to bed with them, traveled in the car with them, had long conversations with them.  Frank had a Buzz Lightyear costume that he put on daily to replay all the action scenes from the movie. Mark, as the little brother, was relegated to the Woody part and costume. That is, until Frank left for school and Mark would immediately usurp the costume and role of Buzz, laser beam and all.

Both Buzz and Woody have favorite things they like to say. Buzz speaks when you press one of his dazzling buttons, Woody has an old-fashion string that you pull from behind his back. Woody says things like: “You’re my favorite Deputy.” and “There’s a snake in my boot.” Buzz sayings include: “To Infinity and beyond!” and “I come in peace.”

When I asked my nephews if they knew what infinity was and what Buzz meant when he says he ‘comes in peace’, they grew frustrated with me. Why was I asking these stupid questions? Why wasn’t I just playing my part as Zurg and falling to the floor dead?

“Infinity has no beginning and no end. It’s like God.” I said. “So to say that you are going beyond infinity means that you are going beyond a place with no end. It really doesn’t make any sense, does it?” 

I was instantly liquidated by a laser beam.

Photo by Nicole Avagliano on Pexels.com

When I told them that ‘to come in peace’ is to come to help people, not to hurt them, they stared at me blankly and soon forgot. I kept asking my stupid questions and Mark soon had the answers, mostly to appease me. Frank, on the other hand, was more interested in having me press his laser beam button after which he would jump back and exclaim, “Don’t touch that! It’s strangely dangerous!” (Unwittingly, the kids had misinterpreted Buzz’s remark of “extremely dangerous” as “strangely dangerous.”)

It all did feel strangely dangerous—Buzz and what he represented that is. What was he teaching my nephews and why was he so powerful an image? What archetype was Buzz for these two small boys? Frankie rejected most food except “power drinks” so he could “grow big muscles like Buzz.”  And it wasn’t just my nephews who were captivated by this action hero, but an entire generation of American boys.

When Bush first called the war on terrorism “Operation Infinite Justice,” I had to wonder if the same people working for Disney were writing the President’s military slogans. “Operation Infinite Justice” and “To Infinity and beyond,” what’s the difference? Then America entered “Operation Enduring Freedom,” although I couldn’t be sure whose freedom we were talking about, certainly not the 21 million Afghans whose country we were about to bomb.

After 11 September, it felt as if my American identity was crashing down inside me alongside the World Trade Centers. I felt overpowered by the violent reactions of my fellow Americans, their immediate thirst for revenge, their interweaving of religious righteousness and patriotic fervor into a frightening display of anger. I couldn’t bear to see how my country was responding to the attacks, to listen to rescue workers at the World Trade Center chant “USA! USA!” as if they were at a football match, to hear my president call the war a “crusade.”

Despite being raised as a good Catholic girl and proud American, God and country weren’t connecting for me anymore. I spent most of the week after 9/11 sick in bed.  My identity was fractured, unraveling, dissolving. I simply did not know who I was anymore or what I should do.

The size and number of American flags numbers overwhelmed me. During the week following September 11, more than 800,000 U.S. flags were sold and gun sales doubled. Nearly every other day the local paper would have an article carefully describing the proper way to display an American flag.[1]

Flags were flying everywhere in my sister’s neighborhood, providing people with comfort and expressing unity. My mother took the boys around her neighborhood to “count the flags.” Flags waved from car antennae, rose in popularity at tattoo parlors, and quickly became fashion jewelry.

One day the local paper came with a full-page flag that you could display in your front window and a smaller one for your car. My sister humorously told her husband, “Don’t be putting up any flags around here. I don’t want Osama bombing our house.”

The Friday after September 11th, a vigil was held in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bush climbed to the church pulpit, and declared, “The warm courage of national unity is evident in the American flags which are displayed in pride and wave in defiance.”

In the Catholic church that my family attended, the American flag stood next to the altar, its red-and-white stripes carefully wrapped around a statue of the Pieta. These displays of religious imagery were literally intertwined with the symbology captured by the country’s flag.

At the end of the last mass I attended in the US, Father Wallace announced the need for catechism instructors followed by the news that the U.S. and U.K. had just begun bombing Afghanistan.

The news made me feel sick and I longed to sit in silent prayer, but instead we moved right into the final hymn, a joyous melody whose lyrics were full of Alleluias. How could this be? As the congregation sang the hymn, my soul wretched itself around the words.

“Lift your voices joyfully as one.”
(We are bombing poor starving people.)
“Alleluia!”
(Our country is at war.)
“He brings good news.”
(Smoke’em out.)
“Alleluia. Alleluia.”
(Only American lives matter.)
“We are redeemed.”
(We will soon drive away in our big vans and go somewhere to eat too much.)
“Alleluia!”
(God Bless America.)
“Amen.”

Meanwhile, anomalies kept appearing. Oprah Winfrey jumped into the fray with a show examining the question “Is war the only way?” Sound bites by political experts were interrupted by commercials selling herbal essence breast enhancers.

I felt alienated from my country and estranged from myself. What kind of American am I? I kept asking myself.  Why don’t I feel like everyone else? I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere and kept hoping my voice would appear somewhere.

There were a few. Barbara Boxer, the only member of Congress to vote against war (420-1). “Let us not become the evil that we deplore,” she urged her colleagues in a dramatic address on the House floor. Rita Lasar who lost her brother Abe Zelmanowitz on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center. She wrote a letter to The New York Times urging Bush not to bomb Afghanistan. She wrote:

“It is in my brother’s name and mine that I pray that we, this country that has been so deeply hurt, not do something that will unleash forces we will not have the power to call back.”

As our time in California was nearly finished, my husband and I both struggled with our eminent return to Egypt. Then one morning I heard a woman call into a radio talk show. “What can we do?” she pleaded with the panel of experts. “What can we do in the short run?” And then I knew. At least, I knew what I could do in the short run. And oddly enough, the answer came from Buzz Lightyear.

I could go in peace. As a Christian American woman, I could go and live with Arabs and Moslems and Egyptians. I could shop in their street markets, ride their buses, walk by their mosques, and visit their homes to drink tea. And I could say, “I come in peace.”

I left for Cairo the day after the United States and U.K. started to drop Tomahawk cruise missiles, peanut butter, and flyers of assurance on the people of Afghanistan. Less than two months later, I and my husband would be sharing an iftar meal with Mohammed and his family during Ramadan.


These are the countries who contributed troops or financial backing to the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK, USA, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, North Macedonia, Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine, Australia, Bahrain, El Salvador, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Tonga, UAE


[1] The US flag must never touch the ground, but be received by waiting arms and hands. When putting the flag at half-mast to show mourning, you must first raise the flag to the peak of the flagpole, and then lower it to the half-mast position. Never fly another flag above the U.S. flag. Never wear a flag, or a piece of a flag. When wanting to dispose of a flag, call the American Legion so it can be done properly or retire it by burning.