Phases in the Process of Transmutation in Spiritual Awakening

Last time we looked at the crises that can happen in reaction to a spiritual awakening on the path towards Self-realisation. In this final post we explore exactly what it takes to transform yourself and to embody the potential glimpsed during your awakening. The following notes are taken from Psychosynthesis by Roberto Assagioli:

“We now have to deal with the stage in which it has been recognised that the necessary conditions to be fulfilled and the price to be paid for the high achievement of Self-realisation are a drastic transmutation and regeneration of the personality. It is a long and many-sided process, which includes phases of active removal of the obstacles to the inflow and operation of superconscious energies; phases of development of the higher functions which have lain dormant or undeveloped; phases in which the ego must let the higher Self work, enduring the pressure and the inevitable pain of the process.

“It is a most eventful period, full of changes, of alterations between light and darkness, between joy and suffering. The energies and the attention of the individual are often so engrossed in this task that his power of coping with the problems and activities of normal life may be impaired. Observed from the outside and gauged in terms of ordinary efficiency he seems to have deteriorated and to be less capable than before.

“He is not spared unfair judgement on the part of well-meaning but unenlightened friends or physicians, and he is often the target of pungent and sarcastic remarks about his ‘fine’ spiritual ideals and aspirations making him weak and ineffective in practical life. This sort of criticism is felt as very painful, and its influence may arouse doubts and discouragement.

“This trial constitutes one of the tests on the path of Self-realisation; it teaches a lesson in overcoming personal sensitiveness, and is an occasion for the development of inner independence and self-reliance, without resentment. It should be accepted cheerfully, or at least serenely, and used as an opportunity for developing inner strength. If, on the other hand, the people in the individual’s environment are enlightened and understanding, they can help a great deal and spare him much unnecessary friction and suffering.

“In reality this is a period of transition; a passing out of the old condition, without having yet firmly reached the new; an intermediate stage in which, as it has been aptly said, one is like a caterpillar undergoing the process of transformation into the winged butterfly. The insect must pass through the stage of the chrysalis, a condition of disintegration and helplessness. But the individual generally does not have the protection of a cocoon in which to undergo the process of transformation in seclusion and peace. He must – and this is particularly so nowadays – remain where he is in life and continue to perform his family, professional, and social duties as well as he can, as though nothing had happened or was still going on.

“His problem is similar to that which confronts engineers in the reconstruction of a railway station without interrupting the traffic even for an hour. It is not surprising then that this difficult and complicated task, this ‘double life,’ is likely to produce a variety of psychological troubles, such as exhaustion, insomnia, emotional depression, aridity, mental agitation, and restlessness. These in turn can easily produce all kinds of physical symptoms and disorders.

“Sometimes the trouble is caused, or at least aggravated, by an excessive personal effort to hasten the higher realisation by the forceful inhibition and repression of the sexual and aggressive drives – an attempt which only serves to produce an intensification of the conflict with resultant tension and neurotic symptoms. Such an attitude often is the outcome of moral and religious conceptions too rigid and dualistic – which engender condemnation of the natural drives, viewed as ‘bad’ or ‘sinful.’

“Then there are people who have abandoned consciously that attitude, but who are still unconsciously conditioned to some extent by it and manifest either ambivalence in this respect, or oscillation between the two extreme attitudes – that is, suppression, and the uncontrolled expression of all drives. The latter, while cathartic, is by no means an acceptable solution, from either the ethical standpoint or the medical, because it inevitably produces new conflicts – between the various basic drives, or between these drives and the restrictions imposed not only by the conventions of the social order, but also by the demands of interpersonal relations, and right social integration and adjustment.

“The solution lies, rather, along the lines of a harmonious integration of all drives into the total personality, first through the proper subordination and coordination, and then through the transformation and sublimation of the excessive or unused quota of energy.

“The achievement of this integration is not only not impeded but can be greatly facilitated by the activation of the superconscious functions, by the realisation of the Self, because those larger and higher interests act as a magnet which draws up the ‘libido’ or psychic energy invested in the ‘lower’ drives. Moreover, when one of the specific functions of the Self, the will, is recognised and utilised, it too can contribute effectively, by means of its regulating and controlling power, to the harmonious integration, to the bio-psychosynthesis of the whole human being.

“A different and, in a sense, opposite difficulty confronts the individual during the periods in which the flow of superconscious energies is easy and abundant. If not wisely controlled it may be scattered in feverish excitement and activity. Or, on the contrary, it may be kept too much in abeyance and unexpressed, so that it accumulates and its high pressure may injure the nervous system, just as too much electric current may burn out a fuse. The appropriate remedy is to use the inflowing energies constructively and harmoniously in the work of inner regeneration, in creative expression and in fruitful service, in such ways as the individual’s capacities, conditions, and opportunities may determine.

“The subject of this [section] has made it necessary to stress the darker and more painful side of spiritual development, but it should not be inferred that those who are on the path of Self-realisation are more likely to be affected by psychological disturbances than ordinary men and women. The stage of most intense suffering often does not occur. The following points should, therefore, be made clear:

  1. In many individuals such development is being accomplished in a much more gradual and harmonious way than that which has been described, so that the inner difficulties are overcome and the different stages passed through without causing severe reaction or provoking definite symptoms.
  2. The neurotic symptoms and the emotional disorders of the average man or woman are often more serious and intense, more difficult for them to bear and for doctors to cure, than those connected with Self-realisation. They are mostly due to violent conflicts between the various aspects of the personality, or to unreasonable rebellion against circumstances and people. … It is often difficult to cure them satisfactorily because – the higher psychological levels and functions of these patients being not yet activated – there is little to which one can appeal to induce them to make the necessary sacrifices or submit to the discipline required in order to bring about the needed adjustments.
  3. The nervous, emotional, and mental problems arising on the way of Self-realisation, however serious they may appear, are merely temporary reactions, by-products, so to speak, of an organic process of inner growth and regeneration. Therefore, they either disappear spontaneously when the crisis which has produced them is over, or they yield more easily to proper treatment.
  4. The sufferings caused by periods of depression, by the ebbing of the inner life, are abundantly compensated for by periods of renewed inflow of superconscious energies and by the anticipation of the release and enhancement of the whole personality produced by Self-realisation. This vision is a most powerful inspiration, an unfailing comfort, and a constant source of strength and courage. One should therefore make a special point of recalling that vision as vividly and as frequently as possible, and one of the greatest services we can render to those struggling along the way is to help them to keep the vision of the goal ever present before the inner eye.

“Thus one can anticipate, and have an increasing foretaste of, the state of consciousness of the Self-realised individual. It is a state of consciousness characterised by joy, serenity, inner security, a sense of calm power, clear understanding, and radiant love. In its highest aspects it is the realisation of essential Being, of communion and identification with the Universal Life.”

Read the whole series: The Psychology of Awakening


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