THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2016
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE
3. WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS?
4. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTE OF THE MONTH – DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF
to be permeable,
to maintain integrity.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
February Greetings, Dear Friends…
This is a photo of my companion of twenty-five years, Merlin, and of my newest grandchild, three year old Xavier. I’ve had them paired like this since shortly after Xavi’s birth , and the quote above has helped me understand why. Xavi is the softness that is “enough to be permeable,” and Merlin is the solidity that is “enough to maintain integrity.”
Lucky has helped me see I’ve held one of elderhood’s most meaningful paradoxes in front of me until I could understand it. I’ve also had help from Abraham Maslow and Roberto Assagioli; this newsletter combines the thinking of all three and has given me a new understanding of Nature and Evolution.
The merging of Lucky’s ‘Evolving Elder,’ Maslow’s ‘Self-Actualized Being’ and Assagioli’s ‘Higher Self’ offers a vision of new possibility — that Evolution is not “a-moving-on-and-leaving-behind,” but “a-continually-including-all-that-has-come-before.” Here is where the illusion of time, or perhaps the necessity of time as illusion, makes sense; it allows us to mature into our experience of selves and Self. I’m drawn back to that last set of images in 2001 where time collapses into BOTH babe AND elder, into BOTH variety AND unity, into BOTH point and infinity…
I saw this incredible movie in 1969 and was mystified by the ending then. Watching it now, the ending means just what Xavi and Merlin have come to mean to me, namely, that we humans are truly BOTH/AND and not EITHER/OR. I highly recommend watching this 2:29 minute video as a reminder before proceeding:
Here’s what its director, Stanley Kubrick, said in a 1970 interview with Joseph Gelmis…
GELMIS: The final scenes of the film seemed more metaphorical than realistic. Will you discuss them — or would that be part of the “road map” you’re trying to avoid?
KUBRICK: No, I don’t mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system. When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny. That is what happens on the film’s simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself.
GELMIS: What are those areas of meaning?
KUBRICK: They are the areas I prefer not to discuss because they are highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, if it stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological and religious yearnings and impulses, then it has succeeded.
(Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar, © 1970, p. 304.)
But between my cultural conditioning and my immaturity, I still have spent most of four decades since in EITHER/OR perceiving and thinking. One must be EITHER young OR old, EITHER right OR wrong, EITHER higher OR lower. And this stage of being kept me consistently imprisoned in the metaphor of “The Journey” — the belief that there was always some place better to be (more grown up, beautiful, intelligent, powerful, spiritual, ad infinitum) and getting to the new place was the point of life.In the 60’s and 70’s many of us sought and found intellectual and psychological reinforcement for this EITHER/OR belief system, even when the teachers’ intentions were to free us from polarizing perspectives. I personally misused Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ in this way for forty years.
It didn’t take much of a stretch to find “Better/Worse” judgments in a framework called a ‘Hierarchy’. Clearly the ‘Deficiency-Motivated Needs’ (D-Needs) were greatly inferior to the ‘Being-Motivated Needs’ (B-Needs), and, if you were still bothered by them, you were obviously an inferior person. So of course I and most other ego-driven psychology students were quick to deny them and pretend we were solely about ‘Self-Actualization.’ I don’t think this was what Maslow meant or intended, but that’s what many of us took from his work back then.
If you’d like a refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy, check this link. It’s captures the essence of his work that impacted me in the 1960’s.
In more recent years, I, like Lucky, have come to believe that being human only comes with all our human needs for survival, security, belonging, status and self-actualization. And, while Maslow stayed away from highlighting sex, Nature’s need for our species to propagate and evolve certainly made that a biggie for many. Fortunately for us, the 60’s opened new possibilities for liberation that our more repressed ancestors were denied, and we reaped both their benefits and costs.
So while I believe Maslow was correct in describing the D-Needs as more powerful than the B-Needs for most humans, this changes as we mature and accept our human wholeness. Repression and hedonism are both forms of immaturity (dependence and counter-dependence) that delay our integration and maturity.
At 77 it now seems nonsensical to have viewed Maslow’s Hierarchy as a ladder to climb so I could leave each level of needs behind. It may be such divine incarnations have occurred, but mine is not one. I continue to experience survival, security, belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs; what intrigues me is to notice how the balance of the five has shifted over the decades — and can still shift from moment to moment.
My belonging and status needs are greatly reduced now, and, while my physical needs are greater, my maturity allows me to manage them so they rarely take up much of my attention. In other words, I spend most of my time at home in an environment that is safe and comfortable. This is not a sacrifice; I love staying home.
The self-actualization level is where I mostly live now, but it is not the ‘Merlin/Jedi Knight’ realm I imagined earlier. Mostly it is a mix of finding my earlier selves necessary for their times and a bit unsuited for my present. Flashbacks come regularly awake and sleeping, some delightful, some cringeworthy. What’s different now is accepting them all as legitimately me. I would not repeat many, and I would expand others. But this self wasn’t those selves, and, as far as I can tell, I was always doing the best those selves could at the time.
And that’s a gift Maslow’s Hierarchy has given me, now that I’m less trapped in EITHER/OR thinking. When I feel a D-Need is threatened, meaning I can behave very stupidly and hurtfully toward others, my best self manages my life so such times are as infrequent as possible. When it doesn’t, the best I can do is to make amends after the fear has passed.
While Roberto Assagioli’s Egg Diagram can look like a vertical model, I suggest you think of it as a circular orchestra with the conductor as the conscious self at the center channeling the Higher Self. Then the different fields of consciousness can become sections of the orchestra, ready, willing and able to be guided by the wisdom of your Higher Self, whatever that means to you…
This metaphor of a conductor with an ongoing orchestra works well for me. Psychosynthesis presents the continuing existence of all our selves — and emphasizes they need to be conducted buy the Higher Self if our personal orchestra is to make music instead of noise.
Vertical EITHER/OR thinking leads us to believe we have to become someone we’re not to become a self-actualized Higher Self — and that we must leave many parts of our old selves behind. But nature presents wholeness as complete with all of its parts; the parts may change form, but nothing is left behind. It is managing the relationships among the parts that is the key.
Lucky’s ‘Slow Lane’ (#2) and more on Assagioli (#3) follow in this newsletter and and you’ll find excellent summary of Maslow’s work here…
2. INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE
BY DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF, WWW.ELDERCULTURE.COM
“The seat of the soul
is where the inner and the outer world meet.
Where they overlap,
it is in every point of overlap.”
I don’t know why I dread writing this piece so much. It seems like the assertion of a naturally occurring kind of integrative process would be good news. The overlap, as Novalis says in his brief aphorism, is the “seat of the soul.” For me, the amazing thing is that Nature seems to be guiding us (by that I mean we humans) towards greater integration as we age, and an increased likelihood of achieving the overlap. That realization thrills me, but something else bothers me. I don’t know what it is.
First, I’ll start with the good news. Aging has an unexpected effect. My guess is that the integrative process, which I have come to see as the principle developmental and instinctual thrust of later life, has languished out of sight, because of the blindness of ageism, and the inability to break wisdom down. Nature, never-the-less, seems intent upon ripening human beings into a fuller expressions of themselves. The instinct of integration kicks in during later life in some unexpected ways. The productiveness of commercial and economic activity gives way to the productiveness of increasing uniqueness and becoming more fully oneself. The outside moves in. Creation seems to matter more, in the long run, than the economy.
Devaluing the old, devalues our own future. The human potential movement reveals just how ageist our culture is. The most experienced, most mature, and ripest of us (humans) have been ignored, and worse yet, mistreated. The present is dominated with either/or thinking of the worst sort, and doesn’t acknowledge the benefit of any form of integration. The overlap is not even a possibility in this kind of polarized world, at least not in our human-made world. Fortunately, Life has a larger agenda. Some people escape the gravitational pull of mass assumptions and become more. They are the true elders. Their lives reflect a kind of wisdom that comes from a higher order of integration.
I can fairly easily grasp the warm pleasure that permeates my body when I consider, and notice within, the compelling attraction of freedom and integrity. These by-products of integration have a gravitational pull of their own. But I notice I still feel some trepidation, an unnamed anxiety starts flooding my being, I feel like I’m walking more deeply into a minefield. There is something dangerous here. What could it be?
I’m not sure. It does occur to me, as I dwell on this uncertainty, that pointing out the natural flow towards integration might be construed as an attack upon the other, earlier in development, positions. Am I doing another version of what is so prevalent in this world? Am I saying that polarization is bad? No. I realize that one has to live fully through each stage, to ever even hope to get to anything like the big picture and actual integration. Aging is fraught with lots of difficulty. Not the least of these difficulties has to do with the question about how to hold the past?
It is so hard to talk about the full-range of human development without giving full and essential recognition to every stage in the process. Being human is all of it. There isn’t a point where one is more or less human. All stages are essential to becoming a full human. What does this mean? I don’t know, I’ve only recently begun to grapple with this picture. I thank God, I have lived long enough to actually see this much of the picture. It’s a marvelous vista I get to behold. But it’s a demanding one too.
For instance, I can see that we (humans) are complex. It obviously takes a while for us to unfold fully. And at each step in the process the world looks different and we become capable of different things. None of these developments is all of who we are capable of being. And all of those stages are favored by some, as the way it should be. Human history is full of conflict. Much of it has had to do with asserting the preeminence of one stage of human development (as embodied by a particular culture or individual) over another. I don’t want to add to that misdirected hostility. I’m not asserting that the aged perception is better, only that is different, and that it adds to the larger picture.
I think a big part of what it adds is the perspective gained from integration. Later life is about the coming together of seeming opposites. Inner and outer, as the poet Novalis points out, and also action and stillness, anger and peace, solitude and relationship confinement and freedom. These are seen as opposites, but can also be seen as single points, spaces on the spectrum that overlap. I think our ultimate ripeness is like that, the places were opposites overlap, places of integration. And, each stage in the ripening process adds to that integration.
This is delicate terrain. I can feel the Great Mystery at work. What I think I know, which comprises the discoveries I am uttering here, are my best attempts to give voice to what I couldn’t possibly know. Integration seems to include not knowing. I wonder if it includes the audacity of expressing what one doesn’t know?
Doesn’t that last paragraph capture another delightful paradox of elderhood? Now we BOTH know that we “couldn’t possibly know” AND feel the audacious responsibility “of expressing what we don’t know”!
3. WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS?
BY THE SYNTHESIS CENTER
In its most basic sense, Psychosynthesis is simply a name for the process of personal growth: the natural tendency in each of us to harmonize or synthesize our various aspects at ever more inclusive levels of organization. In its more specific sense, Psychosynthesis is a name for the conscious attempt to cooperate with the natural process of personal development. All living things contain within them a drive to evolve, to become the fullest realization of themselves. This process can be supported consciously, and Psychosynthesis is one means to do this.
Cooperating effectively with this process can be assisted by a conceptual understanding of the nature of this evolution, and by practical techniques. Psychosynthesis provides these and integrates them into an inclusive and ever-growing framework designed to support the individual, groups, and the planet in their process of unfolding.
As an inclusive approach to human growth, Psychosynthesis dates from 1911 and the early work of Roberto Assagioli, an Italian Psychiatrist. Though one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis in Italy, Assagioli maintained that Freud had not given sufficient weight to the “higher” aspects of the human personality, and recognized a need for a more inclusive concept of humanity. From this beginning Assagioli and an increasing number of psychotherapists, educators, physicians, social workers, clergy, and others have worked to develop and refine this inclusive view of human growth. The task is considered to be an open one, one that will never by finished. Each year, new discoveries in psychology, new developments in education, religion, anthropology, physics and other disciplines add to the principles and to the techniques of Psychosynthesis. Psychosynthesis, by its very nature, is always open to new approaches to human development.
Over the past sixty years, a number of conceptual points and a number of methods have proven themselves to be fundamental. These provide a working structure for Psychosynthesis.
A SYNTHESIS OF MANY TRADITIONS
Any comprehensive psychological and educational approach to the development of the whole person must draw from many traditions. While Eastern disciplines often have tended to emphasize the spiritual side of being, Western approaches usually have focused on the personality level. But humanity must be viewed as a whole and each aspect accorded its due importance. Psychosynthesis recognizes that we have a transpersonal essence, and at the same time holds that the individual’s purpose in life is to manifest this essence, or Self, as fully as possible in the world of everyday personal and social existence.
STAGES IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS
Every person is an individual, and the psychosynthesis of each person follows a unique path. At the same time, the overall process of psychosynthesis can be divided into two stages: personal and transpersonal. In personal Psychosynthesis, the integration of the personality takes place around the personal self, and the individual attains a high level of functioning in terms of work, relationships, and general living that is meaningful and satisfactory to the individual.
In the transpersonal stage the person learns to achieve alignment with and to transmit the energies of the transpersonal Self, manifesting such qualities as responsibility, the spirit of cooperation, global perspective, love and purpose, and having access to inner guidance and wisdom.
Often the two stages overlap: there can be a considerable amount of transpersonal activity long before the stage of personal integration is complete.
METHODS EMPLOYED IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS
Any method that assists in the personal evolution of a human being is a method useful in psychosynthesis. To be maximally effective, we clearly need to have a broad range of methods and techniques to meet the needs presented by different situations and people. As each person must be treated as an individual, an effort must be made to choose the methods best suited to each person’s existential situation, psychological type, goals, desires and path of development. Some of the methods more commonly used include guided imagery, movement, gestalt techniques, self-identification, creativity, meditation, will development, symbolic art work, journal keeping, ideal models and development of intuition, and many more. The emphasis is on fostering an on-going process of growth that can gain momentum and bring a more joyful and balanced actualization to our lives.
As this process goes on, we gain the freedom of choice, the power of decision over our actions, and the ability to regulate and direct many of the personality functions. This entails developing the personal will—the will of the personal self. Through this development we free ourselves from helpless or preprogrammed reaction to inner impulses and external situations and expectations. We become truly “centered” and gradually become able to follow our own path, guided by our inner knowing, or true Self.
As we reach toward the transpersonal Self, we can liberate and encourage the synthesizing energies that organize and integrate the personality. We can make ever increasing contact with the Will of our transpersonal Self, which provides clearer and clearer meaning and purpose in our personal lives and our social tasks. We become able to function in the world more serenely and effectively, in a spirit of cooperation and good will.
Psychosynthesis is a powerful and effective mode of holistic growth and is rapidly gaining recognition in the psychological and transformational fields. It is also a positive and dynamic framework from which to view the evolution of our planet. Psychosynthesis principles and techniques have been used effectively in education, medicine, politics and business, as well as in all forms of counseling and psychotherapy and personal, business and group coaching. It is rapidly growing in its sphere of application, range of techniques, and depth of understanding.
The two most well know diagrams that Dr. Assagioli created to depict the makeup of the Human Psyche and it’s psychological functions, the “Egg” and “Star” diagrams can be seen here.
4. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
DALI & DISNEY CREATE 6 MINUTE FILM
POLITICAL COMMENTARY FROM BETTE MIDLER & JOSEPH HELLER…
THE SELF: IS THERE OR ISN’T THERE ONE?
100 DRONES ACCOMPANY A SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA!
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