Psychosynthesis Experiences – 8

Transpersonal Self: our guiding star

It is undeniable that the concept of transpersonal Self proposed by Psychosynthesis lends itself to comparison with many spiritual traditions. All mystical and metaphysical traditions have engaged with this mystery giving it many different names: Anima, Ruach Adonai, Pneuma, Brahman-Atman, Dharmadhatu and so on.

Assagioli considered these terms as different symbols of a single experience which has always been present in all cultures.

It is with such experience that Psychosynthesis is primarily concerned, focussing in particular, on its powerful transformational effects on psychic life. Rather than dwelling on intellectual disquisitions around how we may satisfactorily define the Self, Psychosynthesis highlights the importance of Self as “a true phenomenological” experience, an inner reality which can be empirically verified and deliberately produced through appropriate techniques” (Assagioli, 1965).

To those pressing him on providing a precise definition of the Self, Assagioli would reply:

“I believe we need to focus on the experience. (…) it is no use to debate intellectually on what it is, as if it were an object. It is a direct and subjective experience. To know who we are is, after all, the most important thing, and those who want to discover that, with all its consequences, like, for instance, the unleashing of transpersonal energies, must undergo a special training. It is best not to attempt any further explanation. Experience is one thing, doctrine another.”[1]


Words cannot capture Self. It is direct, immediate, non-verbal awareness whose profoundly paradoxical nature defies the logical-rational mind. It is at once transcendent and immanent; it is empty of any specific quality and synthesis of all qualities. For this reason, it can only be glimpsed by way of intuition. Different expressive forms may be better suited to convey its qualities. First among them is poetry:

“Through many years,
At great expense,
Journeying through many countries,
I went to see high mountains,
I went to the oceans.

Only I had not seen at my very doorstep,
The dew drop glistening
On the ear of the corn…”
R. Tagore

Or metaphors:

As wise as an old man
As pure as a child
Is the Self, the soul of the human being.”

Seeking to define Self is an arduous feat; it may be easier, therefore, to list some of the effects that its experience produces on the field of consciousness. Significantly, these effects are best expressed through symbols and analogies whose characteristics are diametrically opposed to how we may describe psychic and psychosomatic symptoms, thus stressing the therapeutic value of the experience of Self (Alberti, 1994).

[1] R. Assagioli, unpublished interview, 1973

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Characteristics of the experience of Self Positive Affirmation Opposite Affirmation
Feeling of depth I come to the root of my being, beyond the surface I reach the “foundation” of who I am. I have no roots, I belong nowhere, I have no secure base.
Feeling if internalisation I move from the periphery to centre of my being, I am centred, I am in balance I feel shallow, inconsistent, I feel empty inside
Feeling of elevation I rise to new heights, I ascend, I am uplifted I sink into the abyss, I am falling
Feeling of expansion I expand, my consciousness is far-reaching, I am part of the vastness of reality I feel small, meanspirited, selfish, self-absorbed
Feeling of growth I blossom, I come through, shedding veils and entanglements which block and hinder me, I express myself and show my face. I feel trapped within myself, enclosed in my cocoon, I hide
Feeling of being on one’s own path I follow my way, I am on the right path, my own path I feel lost, floundering, disoriented, I don’t know where to go
Feeling of empowerment I exist in fullness, I am here, I feel strong, energetic, dynamic I feel weak, tired and powerless
Feeling of awakening I awake to a new reality; I feel alert and focussed I feel sleepy, bleary, muddled
Feeling of illumination I see reality in a new light, I understand clearly, I am sure of my perceptions I feel uncertain, doubtful, confused as if I were in a fog or even worse, in pitch-dark.
Feeling of joy I am serene, content, ecstatic I feel anguished, in pain, tormented
Feeling of renewal I am renewed, I feel new, reborn I am in decline, fading, dying
Feeling of resurrection I come back home, I return to my original forgotten state I feel removed from myself, I forget who I am
Feeling of liberation I am free, liberated I feel trapped, oppressed, imprisoned
Feeling of purity I feel innocent, transparent, genuine, uncontaminated I feel impure, guilty, dirty

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