Many years ago a book came out called The Art of Inner Listening. by Jessie Crum.
It is long out of print. In it she described how she had asked questions of herself, and then learned to go very still and listen deeply for the answers. These she wrote down, and published in the short guide book. The answers were often in beautiful language and full of insight. She provided a useful step by step approach as to how to do this.
Anyone who has tried this, or done many of the various forms of journalling that use similar techniques, will know how rich the response can be. The words that gently settle in the mind are often poetic and have a subtle beauty. Read later, they can appear as though someone else entirely has written them.
The source appears wiser than we are.
So what is the source?
The current writer trained in Psychosynthesis and was fortunate to get to know two practitioners who studied closely with Dr. Assagioli himself. The diagram below shows one of his most powerful models of the psyche, which is enormously valuable. Although we will diverge a little from his terminology, the essential ideas are very useful.
The blue sphere, in the middle, is the current awareness (2); this contains all we are conscious about in this moment of time. As you read, it is the words you are reading and the diagram you are looking at that is in your awareness. However, if we mention a pink crocodile named Tex, you now, willy nilly, are thinking about that particular reptile. You are not thinking about your breakfast this morning, except as you read those words you probably are.
The current awareness is an ever fluctuating kaleidoscope of experience. It is the foreground of our mind and feelings. It will be the most likely trigger for our next action. But where was your breakfast experience before you read those words? That was in the zone around the current awareness, namely the middle unconscious (3).
Who or what is aware?
The centre of awareness is the 'I' (1) at the centre of the Egg. This is that point in the awareness that is aware that it is aware. It is that self-reflective nucleus of consciousness that observes. And, as most know, as it turns its awareness towards its own centre, so the I appears to elude the eye of conscious awareness. It is always at one remove. Assagioli, offers the reason for this. The 'I' (1) is itself an outpost of the Self – or what Assagioli initially called the Higher Self (6). This is represented by the star at the periphery of the Egg.
Notice that the Egg and all its boundaries, are marked with a dotted line. This recognises the fact that awareness and consciousness is permeable, and although it has borders, these are easily penetrated. Ultimately consciousness is boundless.
There are two other zones we have not looked at yet. The lower unconscious (5) is not that unfamiliar. It is similar to Freud's idea of the region of the ID and the zone where complexes lurk. It is also equivalent to Jung's idea of the personal unconscious, which – of course – shades into the Collective Unconscious. It is in this realm that the events no longer available to voluntary memory lurk, and have an effect on our actions. Impulses and drives bubble up, without our necessarily knowing their cause. The sudden loss of confidence we may feel going to an interview or when called to speak in public will have long tendrils going down into these murky depths.
Where Assagioli showed his brilliance, was he recognised that the unconscious has another aspect that he called the higher unconscious (4). This is close to the Self. It has the ideals, the possibilities, the potentialities for wise thoughts, altruistic actions, cosmic consciousness and so forth.
In psychosynthesis, if you go for a session with a therapist, then there are times within that one and a half hour process (longer than the '50 minute hour' of Jungians and Freudians) when you will access both the lower and higher unconscious. This is often done through various forms of visualisation that Assagioli developed into a fine art.
Anyone who is interested in following this up in a do-it-yourself mode, should get the wonderful book by Piero Ferrucci called What We May Be. It is currently in print, and has many exercises that give direct experience of what has been described above,
There is no unconscious mind
It is a truth asserted in these posts, that the very essence of the universe, is awareness. The smallest point in the universe – the most particular point – is a point of awareness. Therefore, to speak of the unconscious mind is to introduce a falsity into the heart of our experience. Our reality is woven out of awareness. (See here and here and here.) However, there are parts of our greater nature which we cannot access directly when we so choose. These are usefully called the Super Conscious and the Sub Conscious.
The Sub Conscious
The sub-conscious mind deals with the autonomic responses of the body. It is the realm of the habitual which has fallen below the threshold of normal awareness. This mind has a close affinity with the neural cells of the digestive system and hence is related to our 'gut sense'. It is here that information is stored, to be accessed when needed, but not necessarily voluntarily. When we dream, it is the subconscious that provides the material, of often very short dreams, as information is sorted for deeper and longer storage.
The content of the sub-conscious mind can be accessed through the Inter-conscious mind.
The Super Conscious
The Super-conscious mind has no connection with a neural system, unlike the conscious mind which is most closely associated with the brain. It is therefore without limits. Of this mind it is true to say that it instantly 'touches' what it thinks of, knowing no spatial or temporal limitations, except those that are self-imposed by its own structure of knowledge (beliefs).
It is this mind alone that has direct contact with the individual divine spark or nous that is the essential spiritual element of the individual.
The Higher Self or Super-conscious can only be accessed through the Inter-conscious mind.
Accessing the mountain top and underworld of consciousness
It handles the short term memory and also classifies and sorts the experiences that pass into the long term memory. This occurs when we sleep and dream. it is why adequate sleep is needed. It is the inter-conscious that takes over when we go into a state of deep relaxation.
The inter-conscious operates through imagination, emotion, instinct, felt sense, inner voice, intuition and inspiration.
Underworlds and Overworlds
We can see from the description of the inter-conscious (above) that our experience of the minds below and above our normal plane of consciousness, will be through various characteristics of that intermediary mind.
The sub-conscious will express itself in habits, mannerisms, emotional states, feelings and sensations, instincts and dream-like images and lower imagination. From this we experience out own 'underworld'. That is fine when remembering a dance step or a foreign language. It is less so, when we are crippled by a traumatic episode in our childhood.
It is worth noting here, that even our perception of the 3D world around us is mediated by the inter-conscious. We do not directly see, hear, touch, taste or smell anything ... rather we project what we think we experience into our 'environment' (our mentally created world) creating in our normal consciousness a pretty good replica of the 'world out there'. the inter-conscious can be seen as part of our personal CAD* system! We live in our own subjective 'virtual reality' - our own matrix, if you will. And depending on how we are educated, socialised and how we act and respond, so that can be a prison, a hell or a heaven.
(*Computer aided design)
The super-conscious mind will express itself through higher imagination (creative imagination), intuition (not instinctual), inspiration, inner voice and the higher emotions.
Our access to our divine spiritual Self, can only be through our super-consciousness. This in turn can only impinge on our consciousness through the inter-conscious mind. And the feeling states, images, imaginations, intuitions and 'voice' must be discerned.
Conversation with our Overworld
To be aware of our Higher Mind and of the Spiritual Mind (Nous) that lies beyond it, and is divine, rests on certain requisites.
*The mind virus of materialism, that penetrates much of current science, and the essential nihilism of aggressive atheism, is as effective a block to accessing the higher mind as is the taking of narcotics. Our free will is such that if we assert such a reality as our higher mind cannot be, then we are much less likely to have a personal experience that indeed it is entirely real, and there for us.
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
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