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Comparative Psychosynthesis Part 3

Arvan Harvat

Comparative Psychosynthesis Part 2Grudges and Doubts

Egg Diagram 1. The Lower Unconscious
2. The Middle Unconscious
3. The Higher Unconscious or Superconscious
4. The Field of Consciousness
5. The Conscious Self or "I"
6. The Higher Self
7. The Collective Unconscious
The aim of this post is to clarify Psychosynthesis ( personal & spiritual ), putting it into perspective delineated by its own map of mind, the "egg" diagram (left, and see also colour figure at bottom of page and on index page). We may divide spiritual "paths" according the the question: who is the chief protagonist of psycho-spiritual "ascent" ? Following the egg diagram, the three answers are offered:

1. The Transpersonal Self (TS)-the sun presiding over the "egg" of psyche. This is the position of non-dual schools like Advaita Vedanta or Ch'an ( Zen) Buddhism.

2. The "I"-radiant ray of TS. This is the position of various schools, having different goals. For brevity:

3. The psyche- the psychomental complex; in the diagram, it's the "egg" as if cut off from the the sun of TS ( of course, it never happens: just, in this process psyche/soul is an entity longing to contact & fuse with TS/God, who is experienced as "the other"). This is the way of majority of traditional mysyicisms, as well as some modern therapies ( Jung ).

In the 1st approach ( let's say, the Ch'an ( Zen ) school ), the correspondence is:

Transpersonal Self = Hsing, Buddha Nature, Buddhakaya
"I"= manas/mano-vijnana/vijnana ( various terms designating the same entity, principle of consciousness, are used )
"the egg of psyche"= skandhas complex ( psychic conglomerate)

The methodology of this, so to speak, "atheist mysticism", are the set of meditative techniques ( in the branch of gradual enlightenment ) or various "shocks" ( kung-an/koan technique in the branch of sudden enlightenment ), both aiming to "catapult" the aspirant into the TS. " I am the Transpersonal Self" could serve as the credo of this school ( in PS parlance, of course ). As one can see from various authoritative sources ( Hui Neng's "The Platform Sutra", "The Diamond Cutter of Doubts", Blofeld's work on Hui Hai ), "I am Buddha Nature" is the starting point & the goal alike. It differs from the Tantric Buddhism ( or PS ) insofar as it doesn't empower the "I" ( manas/vijnana), nor does it use it in moulding of the psyche. In this respect, it is completely "otherworldly" ( though, its tough humor & non-comformism have wide appeal, somehow dimming the essence & core, which is the awakening to the supra-rational One, who you really are ). "I" is not seen as an entity; just a projection of TS energy "vivifying" the psychomental complex. You either ascend the ladder of dis-identification(d-i) ( simple mindfulness ), passing through a multitude of states of consciousness until you reach the goal of TS/Buddha Mind/Buddha Nature, or you're catapulted through the agency of koan-induced shock into the TS state ( the ray has, as it were, instantaneously returned to the source ).

The 2nd path, that of Tantra or Psychosynthesis, is achieved by d-i technique aiming to isolate the "I", empower it by activating its most essential attribute, will, and with this new, enriched & more efficient "I", mould the psyche & ascend the ladder of more & more heightened awareness, with the final goal of blending "I" with the source, the TS. In contrast to the 1st approach, it is an "activistic" one, projecting the "I" into a variety of states of mind/psyche. In Buddhist Tantricism there is a technique of identifying the dis-identified principle of consciousness/"I" with the multitude of real or imagined objects ( heart of guru; identifying with Boddhisattva of, say, compassion; entering the yantra/mandala signifying some aspect of Trikaya/Buddha Nature ). In Psychosynthesis, especially in the 1st & 2nd books, one can find almost exact parallel to these exercises. "The Act of Will" in particular, offers wide spectrum of imaginal/mental/spiritual objects/symbols as "gates" of various layers of consciousness.

After achieving a degree of d-i and relatively balanced psyche in personal PS, the ascent of crystallized "I" begins, in course of which "I" controls, moulds & expands areas of awareness. On the way to & through the superconscious, the liberated "I" reshapes fields of conscious life, achieving a new position of center of conscious life & widening the channell through which the influx of spiritual energies feeds the psyche.

The Assagiolian approach, as contrasted to orthodox ones ( Tibetan, Taoist, Shaivite,..) has a few novelties to offer:

  1. It is free from culturally conditioned symbols ( better, it uses them freely without being confined to a specific symbolism ).
  2. Its exercises are given in "distilled" form ( especially in "The Act of Will"), hence not burdened with extremely complex & superfluous visualisation trappings which impede the spiritual progress.
  3. In the true Western fashion, TS is not just the target of "I", the impersonal Self-it is the living source, the fount of symbols, messages and the guide. In this respect, Assagioli merges Eastern Tantric tradition ( d-ied "I" who becomes the chief actor of "projective" experiences of identification with various symbols of the superconscious/Bardo) and Western tradition of TS as living guide ( Inner God, Christ, Lapis).Also, Assagioli draws on wide field of experiential material of existential psychology ( Maslow, Frankl,..).

The 3rd path is that of the psyche/soul. I must admit: I see Assagioli's 3rd book, "Transpersonal Development" in this tradition. In this, Hermetic/Neoplatonic tradition, as exemplified by Dante, St.John of the Cross or Rumi, the psyche/soul as a whole journeys towards TS/God. There is a conspicuous absence of dis-identification in Assagioli's third book. The protagonist of the entire psycho-spiritual drama remains soul/psyche, not the d-ied "I", which is different from the first two books.

"Transpersonal Development", a compilation of loosely knit essays, remains Assagioli's contribution to wisdom literature. Not quite a science, nor philosophy, it remains psychology in the vein of Aristotle's "De Anima". As a meditation on life it has precursors in Epictetus, Montaigne, Thoreau or Nietzsche, every writer analyst of man's condition. Among the more professional kin: Freud, Fromm or Jung, in their most essayist and generalizing disposition. This work, however readable it may be, is not a significant step forward, either in theory ( if we define theory as having more explicative value, not being just an inspired reflection on vita religiosa ) or in practice, so my opinion is that it is more representative of Assagioli's personal "journey", than being a guide to self-actualization & realization, unlike "Psychosynthesis" and "The Act of Will". Moreover: I'd say that it remains questionable whether it can be judged as a complement to the previous books or is an "aberration" in a sense that it presents methodology in some ways contrary to that exposed in previous books.

In short, it's the 3rd path, while PS, as defined in 2 books, is an example of modern representative of the 2nd path.

this material originally appeared on the psychosynthesis mailing list, Fri, 26 Feb 1999

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text content by Arvan Harvat
page uploaded 14 December 1999, last modified 22 August 2004