Roberto Assagioli: Biography of the Scientist of the Spirit

Roberto Assagioli was the founder of the school of psychosynthesis thinking. An approach that started from the empirical foundations of psychology, but that completely departed from the parameters of scientific psychology. I studied the person as a personality and as a soul.

In the therapies that Roberto Assagioli developed, the unconscious played an important role, but in balance with rational and conscious work. In addition, his theories on the interaction between the psyche and the body formed the basis of psychosomatic medicine.

His main idea is that the individual is in a constant process of personal growth. The achievement of all its hidden potential is the ultimate goal and its method seeks the transformation of all these potentialities.

Assagioli argued that the human personality has substructures or subpersonalities that alternate in the psyche of the individual according to their circumstances.

The purpose of the psychosynthesis would be to identify each substructure first and then integrate them so that they work together harmoniously. Assagioli was also interested in the spiritual development of the human being and the problems that may arise in each phase of spiritual development. In this sense, psychosynthesis is deeply linked to transpersonal psychology.

His early life and youth

Roberto Assagioli was born in Venice in 1888. He grew up in a family with interests in art, music and literature. It seems that the theosophy studies of his mother had a decisive influence on his great interest in Oriental philosophies.

As a teenager he traveled a lot and aroused a special taste for the ideals of freedom of non-violent and non-dogmatic social movements. His trips taught him that the human being is the same, no matter where he comes from. Since he was young, he defended that in all human beings there is a desire to develop his maximum potential.

He studied at the Faculty of Medicine of the Institute of Higher Studies of Florence. He completed a doctoral thesis entitled Psychosynthesis that contemplated a holistic approach to psychology with special attention to human growth and experiences of spiritual dimensions.

Although his view of psychology was sustained in many of the foundations of psychoanalysis, his approach tended to distance himself from him by his closeness to the pathological side of the human psyche. An idea shared by many humanistic psychologists.

He also considered that human consciousness had more layers of consciousness than the model proposed by Freud. Assagioli was attracted by a psychology that also contemplated the love, will, wisdom, creativity and spirituality of the human being. In 1911, he began to formulate the basic concepts of psychosynthesis, work to which he devoted his entire life

Professional career

After finishing his medical studies, Assagioli was trained in psychiatry in Switzerland by the prestigious Eugen Bleuler, the pioneer who defined schizophrenia and one of the first to accept psychoanalysis.

There he met Carl Jung and they became friends. Assagioli thought that Jung’s psychology was the closest to psychosynthesis. In 1926, opens the first Institute of culture and psychic therapy in Rome. In 1928, he offered a series of lectures entitled Latent energies in us and their use in education and medicine.

Psychosynthesis works from the premise that any emotion or reaction has an opposite and that the task is to create a synthesis between the two. What would produce this synthesis would be the active self, the observing self, the controlling factor and the higher Self. It coincided with psychoanalysis in that the healing of childhood traumas and a healthy ego were necessary conditions for the psychological development of the individual, but he did not stop there.

Assagioli argued that a healthy person has a growth potential, which Abraham Maslow later called self-realization. In addition, he contemplated all of the above with the added addition of the spiritual and transpersonal dimension. This is why psychosynthesis is considered a precursor of humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

Roberto Assagioli after the war

The Second World War was an especially difficult period for Assagioli, due to his Jewish origin and his humanistic ideas. He spent some time imprisoned and isolated and he took the opportunity to study the will, the meditation and the investigation of the different internal areas of consciousness.

It seems that the experiences lived during the war considerably reduced his health. Even so, after the war ended, Assagioli returned to work on his research and maintained contact with people who significantly influenced his work, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Viktor Frankl and Alice A. Bailey.

In addition, to all his research work he also added a deep knowledge of Hindu philosophy and Buddhism, since he studied for a time with a Tibetan lama.

His life was the best example of his teachings. He showed great respect and love for the human being and the kindness that inhabits all individuals. Everyone who knew him remembered him as a person who radiated joy and love and who enjoyed great inner peace.

During the 70s and 80s, psychosynthesis spread throughout Europe and North America. Numerous schools were created that trained professionals in this specialty. Currently, it can be studied as a master’s degree in two institutes in the city of London.