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Roberto Assagioli (Venice, February 27, 1888 - Capolona d'Arezzo, August 23, 1974) was an Italian psychologist, humanist, and visionary. Assagioli founded the psychological movement known as psychosynthesis, which is still being developed today by therapists, and psychologists, who practice his technique. His work in the field of psychology concentrated on spiritual needs, pertaining to the will and Ego.


Life of Assagioli

Assagioli did not like to discuss his personal life, as he preferred to be remembered for his scientific work. Very few biographical accounts on the life of Roberto Assagioli are available, and most are not written in English [1]

Assagioli was born on February 27th, 1898 in Venice, Italy. His birth name was Roberto Marco Grego, however, his father died when Assagioli was two years old. His mother remarried Alessandro Emanuele Assagioli soon afterwards. Assagioli came from a middle-class Jewish heritage, where he was exposed to many creative outlets at a young age, such as art, and music, which were believed to have inspired his work in Psychosynthesis. By the age of 18, he had learned eight different languages, namely Italian (his native tongue), English, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, German, and Sanskrit. It was at this age he also began to travel, mainly to Russia, where he learned about social systems, and politics [2]

In 1922 he married a young woman by the name of Nella, and they had one son together, Ilario Assagioli.

In 1938, Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist government, due to his Jewish heritage, and his humanistic writing. He was placed in solitary confinement for over a month, until he was released and returned to his family. During World War II, his family’s farm in Florence, Italy was destroyed, and both he and his family fled underground. Tragically, his son died at the age of 28 from lung disease, which was accredited to severe stress from the harsh living conditions during the war. Once the war had ended, he returned to his work, and began his legacy, known as psychosynthesis. [3]

The years after the war were relatively calm, and it was during this time that he founded various foundations dedicated to psychosynthesis, in Europe and North America. Assagioli lived a long and prosperous life, and had a happy forty-year marriage, until he died at the age of 86 on August 23rd, 1974. The cause of his death was unknown [4]


Assagioli received his first degree in neurology and psychiatry at Istitution di Studi Superiori, in Florence, Italy, in 1910. It was during this time he began writing articles that criticized psychoanalysis, in which Assagioli argued a more holistic approach.

Once he finished his studies in Italy, Assagioli went to Switzerland where he was trained in psychiatry at the psychiatric hospital Burghölzli in Zürich. This led to him opening the first psychoanalytic practice in Italy, known as Instituto de Psicosintesi. However, his work in psychoanalysis left him unsatisfied. [5]



Inspiration and development

Assagioli is famous for developing and founding the science of psychosynthesis, a spiritual and holistic approach to psychology that had developed from psychoanalysis. Assagioli insisted that psychosynthesis was a legitimate science, which was continuously developing, and which agreed and disagreed with theories formulated by other psychologists, particularly Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung [6].

Having been trained in psychoanalysis, Assagioli was dissatisfied with the field as a whole, feeling that it was incomplete. Assagioli felt that love, wisdom, creativity, and will, were important components that should be included in psychoanalysis. Assagioli’s earliest development of psychosynthesis began in 1911 when he started his formal education in psychology. He continued his work on psychosynthesis right up until his death [7].

He was largely inspired by Freud’s idea of the repressed mind, and Jung’s theories of the collective unconscious. Freud and Assagioli were known to have corresponded, although they never had the chance to meet before Assagioli’s death. Assagioli considered Jung’s theories to be closest in the understanding of psychosynthesis [8].

Assagioli accredits much of his inspiration for psychosynthesis to his month-long incarceration in solitary confinement in 1938. He used his time in prison to exercise his mental will, by meditating daily while in prison. He concluded that he was able to change his punishment into an opportunity to investigate his inner-Self [9].

Psychology Today interview

In the December 1974 issue of Psychology Today [10], Assagioli was interviewed by Sam Keen, in which Assagioli discussed the similarities between psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis:

In the practice of therapy we both agree in rejecting ‘pathologism’ that is, concentration upon morbid manifestations and symptoms of a supposed psychological ‘disease’. We regard man as a fundamentally, healthy organism in which there may be temporary malfunctioning. Nature is always trying to re-establish harmony, and within the psyche the principle of synthesis is dominant. Irreconcilable opposites do not exist. The task of therapy is to aid the individual in transforming the personality, and integrating apparent contradictions. Both Jung and myself have stressed the need for a person to develop the higher psychic functions, the spiritual dimension

Assagioli also highlighted the differences between psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis:

Perhaps the best way to state our differences is with a diagram of the psychic functions. Jung differentiates four functions: sensation, feeling, thought, and intuition. Psychosynthesis says that Jung’s four functions do not provide for a complete description of the psychological life. Our view can be visualized like this: We hold that outside imagination or fantasy is a distinct function. There is also a group of functions that impels us toward action in the outside world. This group includes instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires, and aspirations. And here we come to one of the central foundations of psychosynthesis: There is a fundamental difference between drives, impulses, desires, and the will. In the human condition there are frequent conflicts between desire and will. And we will place the will in a central position at the heart of self-consciousness or the Ego.

Assagioli also asserted about the will:

The will is not merely assertive, aggressive, and controlling. There is the accepting will, yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a feminine polarity to the will –the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the other functions of the personality.

At the end of the interview, Keen himself concluded:

It is hard to know what counts as evidence for the validity of a world view and the therapeutic is entails. Every form of therapy has dramatic successes and just as dramatic failures. Enter as evidence in the case for psychosynthesis an ad hominem argument: in speaking about death there was no change in the tone or intensity of Assagioli’s voice and the light still played in his dark eyes, and his mouth was never very far from a smile.

Continued impact

Since Assagioli’s death in the early 70’s, psychosynthesis has continued to be embraced as a comprehensive psychological approach for finding inner peace and harmony.

The Psychosynthesis & Education Trust [11] center in Britain was founded by Assagioli in 1965, and is currently being run by President Lady Diana Whitmore. The Trust is affiliated with Humanistic and Integrative Psychology Section of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP), and a is founding member of the European Federation of Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy (EFPP). At present time, the group consists of a large group of psychosynthesis practitioners who mediate students. The Trust offers workshops, courses, and a newsletter, to anyone who is interested in learning more about psychosynthesis.

The Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis (AAP)[12] was formed in August 1995, as a non-profit organization in the United States, with approximately two-hundred members across the country. Members of the AAP run programs, workshops, and conferences, to discuss Assagioli and psychosynthesis, and publish a newsletter to discuss new topics related to the field.

The Will Project Wiki [13] was created in 2007, and was based on the Will Project proposed by Assagioli when he was alive. The Will Project consists of over 63 articles based on Assagioli’s published book The Act of Will.

Published works

  • 1906 – Published in Farrari’s Magazine – Gli effete del riso el le loro applicazioni pedagoiche a.k.a., Smiling Wisdom
  • 1909 – Doctoral dissertation, La Psicosintesi
  • 1965 - Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 0-9678570-0-7
  • 1974 - The Act of Will by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 0-670-10309-8
  • 1993 [Published after death] - Transpersonal Development: The Dimension Beyond Psychosynthesis by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 1-85538-291-1

See also


  1. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  2. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  3. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  4. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  5. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  6. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  7. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  8. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  9. ^ Hansen, G. (2009). Roberto Assagioli - His Life and Work. In Kentaur Træning. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from
  10. ^ Keen, S. (1974). The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli [Electronic version]. PsychologyToday. Retrieved November 1st, 2009, from
  11. ^ Psychosynthesis & Education Trust (2008). Retrieved November 15th, 2009, from
  12. ^ Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis (2009). Retrieved November 15th, 2009, from
  13. ^ Wilson, G. (2009). The Will Project. Retrieved November 15th, 2009, from

External links


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