Roberto Assagioli’s “prison diary” Freedom in Jail is an autobiographical account of the month he spent in prison under the fascist regime in 1940. His conclusion is entitled “A Hymn to Inner Freedom” where he writes about every man and woman’s power to inwardly free themselves.
One does not 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 no matter what our condition – be it catastrophe, ill health, old age, and even pending death – 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.
In the garden at Casa Assagioli in Florence, the olive trees are flowering and bees are humming around the acacia tree. Recently, I and ten other guests had the opportunity to spend one afternoon with Piero Ferrucci, author, philiospher, and psychosynthesis psychotherapist, asking him questions about the five years he spent with Assagioli as a student from 1969 to 1974.
After Assagioli’s death, Ferrucci was the first person to work with Assagioli’s material, and he spent two years compiling stacks of paper into what is now part of Assagioli’s archives. Ferrucci recalled sitting at two tables in the kitchen of Assagioli’s home, surrounded by many folders. Many were in a mess. While working his way through them, Ferrucci sensed Assagioli’s presence and energy. He said that he could feel Assagioli blessing each small piece of paper, each a separate, distinct insight.
A labyrinth has often been used as a metaphor for a soul’s spiritual journey. Unlike a maze, labyrinths are usually circular in shape and have one, and only one, continuous meandering path that eventually leads to the center. This single path threads itself over the maximum amount of ground, without treading the same trail twice. There are no dead-ends, no intersections.
Labyrinths can be found in almost every religious tradition around the world. The design is mysterious and mythic, its origins unknown, yet primordial. It is an archetypical design, appearing across continents and cultures. The Hopi medicine wheel, Tibetan sand paintings, Troy dances, and the Tree of Life, found in the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbala, are all examples of labyrinths. Even DNA, which encodes the genetic inheritance that defines our unique identity, could be viewed as a labyrinth, the double-helix strands spiraling around each other.
You may already know Roberto Assagioli (1888-1874), the visionary founder of psychosynthesis, was an Italian medical doctor from Florence who studied under Freud. He was also the first psychoanalyst in Italy and a colleague of Jung’s. But what else do you know about him?
For those of you in the London area, please join us on Sunday, 3 July, for Assagioli Appreciation Dayhosted by the London Wellspring Group. You can learn more about the man and his life, including a premier showing of a film about him. I will be one of the speakers and hope to meet you there.
For tickets and more information, contact Sue Fox or click here.
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
Recently I ran right into God’s sense of humor. As always, it quietly snuck up on me. Even as I write this, I am shaking my head and smiling at how clever and creative God can be at broadening my inadequate perspective on the world.
It all started with an idea I had for the Sunday School at the local Syrian Orthodox Church where I have been helping out for the last two years. The entire functioning of the Sunday School is chaotic. Five dedicated women have been trying to offer guidance to the children who descend on them every Sunday morning. Sometimes there are only one or two women to supervise, guide and handle more than 30 children of all ages (4-12) who show up at irregular intervals during the two-hour mass.
Most of us have experienced two or more events that seemed to converge in our lives in a peculiar and perhaps disturbing, yet wondrous way. For example, you might be thinking of someone you’ve lost touch with years ago, and suddenly she contacts you. Jung, along with the physicist Pauli, defined such instances as synchronistic events, a series of meaningful coincidences of events that go beyond the probability of them actually happening.
Jung and Assagioli had a long-term professional and friendly relationship that began in 1907 and lasted until Jung’s death in 1961. Assagioli acknowledges Jung’s term ‘synchronicity’ in his unpublished notes found in his archive. He mentions synchronicity as a way to understand the “correspondence between the date of the positions of the stars [astrology] and the psychological characteristics” of a person.
Jung, along with the physicist Pauli,developed the idea of synchronicity.
While counseling clients, I have often experienced synchronistic events and have come to understand them as spirit seeking matter. Many people believe that spirit and matter are dualistic in nature – that spirit is ‘higher’ than matter, which throughout various cultures and time has inevitably led humankind to identify matter with evil. From my own experience, I believe that spirit actually needs matter to express itself, and the two are best when joined together in a higher revelation of universal life meaning. Synchronicity is one form of that higher expression, as are symbols and symbolic thought. Continue reading →
A discarded ship container is recycled into a children’s library.
One of my friends in Japan emailed to wish me a happy birthday. “In Japan, turning 60 is a special birthday,” she wrote. “We call it “Calendar Round” or 還 暦 (kanreki).”
“More like Body Round!” I wrote back jokingly. But this idea of coming full circle intrigued me. Calendar Round comes from the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar dating back to 2000 B.C. This calendar has 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches. Since 60 is the first number that both 10 and 12 can divide, the cycle is considered complete after sixty years.
Tomorrow I will turn 60. What a surprise to softly land at this decade of life after so many turbulent years! I’m afraid that I cannot take any credit for it happening. My arrival has come all by itself with God’s grace.
I am happy to be on the threshold of old age. One of my friends recently said, “Oh, you are entering the age of wisdom.”
“I don’t know about wisdom,” I replied, pointing to my grey hair. “But I am certainly entering the age of whitedom, wrinkledom, and forgetfulness!” I understand this birthday as the beginning of another part of my life which is about to unravel.
As Brigitte Bardot said, “It’s sad to grow old, but it’s nice to ripen.” Old age may be the time when your body starts to fail in strength, energy, and functionality. But it is also the time when the soul starts to ripen. In old age you finally have the time and perspective to weave the various threads of your life into a more comprehensive understanding of yourself. Old age is the time to harvest all your experiences into a synthesis of Joy.
Ravenna is cold in February, but the sun still manages to warm the ancient stone archways. I place my cheek against a rough granite surface and feel the heat and energy collected over time. I have just spent the morning sitting in the Orthodox Baptistery, staring up at mosaics so carefully placed in the ceiling during the 4th and 5th centuries. The apostles march in procession above us, each carrying a triumphal laurel. In the center, John the Baptist is pouring the water from the River Jordan over the head of Jesus, who stands naked in the rippled pool. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove dives into the blessing held aloft by John. To one side stands the pagan water god with a reed in one hand and a garment in another.
While admiring the intricate images, we are joined by two groups of Italian children. One school excursion after another quietly fills the domed building as a teacher explains the history and imagery that envelopes us. The octagonal room is relatively small and the space intimate. At one point a teacher asks, “Why did they use so many symbols in their art at that time?” Her answer: “Because the symbols conveyed la saggezza, the wisdom of that age.”