Transpersonal Development

  • Full Title: Transpersonal Development: The Development Beyond Psychosynthesis
  • Author: Roberto Assagioli
  • ISBN 0953081125 (Other editions: ISBN 1852740620 – ISBN 1852740620)
  • Print Status: in print
  • Publisher: Inner Way Productions (2007)
  • Additional Notes: This edition is a new translation. First published in Italy as Sviluppo Transpersonale by Casa Editrice, Astrolabio, Rome, 1988
  • Book Extracts: sample pages from Transpersonal Development

Note: Contents and quotes below are from the Crucible edition, and may vary slightly from the new edition


  • Preface by Sergio Bartoli
  • Editor’s Introduction

Part One – The Study of the Superconscious

  • 1. The Awakening and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
  • 2. The Superconscious
  • 3. Psychological Mountaineering
  • 4. Expanding the Consciousness: Conquering and Exploring the Worlds Within
  • 5. The Superconscious and Artistic Creation
  • 6. Transpersonal Inspiration
  • 7. Vertical Telepathy
  • 8. Symbols of Transpersonal Experience

Part Two – Spiritual Awakening

  • 9. The Stages and Crises of Spiritual Development
  • 10. Spiritual Development and Neuro-Psychological Disturbances
  • 11. Mysticism and Medicine
  • 12. The Awakening of the Soul
  • 13. Purification of the Soul
  • 14. The Science of Applied Purification
  • 15. Obstacles to Spiritual Development: Fear
  • 16. The Fear of Suffering: Reflections on Pain
  • 17. Obstacles to Spiritual Development: Attachments
  • 18. Emotional and Mental Obstacles: Aggression and Criticism

Part Three – Spirituality in Everday Life

  • 19. Twentieth-Century Spirituality
  • 20. Transmutation and Sublimation of the Emotional and Sexual Energies
  • 21. Money and the Spiritual Life
  • 22. Martha and Mary: the Active Life-the Contemplative Life
  • 23. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: Beauty
  • 24. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: Love
  • 25. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: Joy
  • 26. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: Power and Will
  • 27. Reflections on Peace


  • 1. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: the Moral Sense
  • 2. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: the Desire to Know and the Capacity for Knowledge
  • Bibliographical Notes
  • Index


From Chapter 4. Expanding the Consciousness: Conquering and Exploring the Worlds Within

  • I will just say that in all the ways and stages of raising the consciousness it is necessary to use the will. The will is needed in order to overcome obstacles, to maintain a receptive state. It is needed as a propeller to attain ever greater heights and to stabilize the consciousness at those higher levels, and finally it is necessary for directing and making use of the energies released.” – page 48.
  • Let us move on to the elimination of obstacles. […] The obstacles may have to do with the body, the emotions, the imagination, the mind, the will or the environment. […] Of particular significance are obstacles which have to do with the will. – page 48.
  • Many people show a tendency to blame social structures and the modern materialistic lifestyle, claiming that this makes spiritual self-realization impossible. But this is not true. It is possible to rise above such obstacles. It is here that the indispensable purpose of the will comes to the fore. Instead of blaming outside influences, we need to resist them; not so much tackling them head-on, as protecting ourselves from them and continuing our ascent. – page 49.
  • The first of these are the so-called ‘ecstatic states’ – vivid experiences of enlightenment, communion with that vaster Reality, contemplation of things that exist in higher worlds, and horizontal expansion in a cosmic sense. These are accompanied by joy, by a sense of empowering, love, inclusion and increased understanding. They arouse a surge of devotion and of consecration to the higher Reality or Being with whom one has come into contact. As far as the will in concerned, one experiences a merging or uniting of the personal will with the transpersonal will. – page 50-51.

From Chapter 7. Vertical Telepathy

  • Such a sage or Master does actually exist. He is close at hand, indeed he is present in each of us. He is the Higher ‘I ‘, the Spiritual Self. To reach him does require a journey, but it is a journey through the world within. To reach the place where this Self resides means a climb, an ascent to the heights of the superconscious. It also requires proper psychospiritual preparation so that we will be able to withstand the impact of the force of the Spiritual Self and to pick up its subtle messages, distinguishing them from all the other voices within, so that we can understand and interpret its symbolism correctly. And lastly we need to be prepared to put into effect, with an unswerving, resolute will, what we have been shown. – pages 83-84.
  • We have the gift of free will, and though we make so little use of it, it is the most precious gift we have, because through our experiences, mistakes and suffering, it brings us to reawakening. – page 85.
  • The personal ‘I’ is the prodigal son who has descended to the level of the material world and forgotten his origin, to the point where of his own free will he resorts to all the foolishness he is capable of, all the errors (‘errors’ both in the sense of making mistakes and of going astray), and only then feels a longing for his father’s house, sets out in search of it and eventually finds it. – page 86.

From Chapter 8. Symbols of Transpersonal Experience

  • The third group of symbols, a frequently occurring one, is that of elevation, ascent or conquest of the ‘inner space’ in an ascending sense. There is a series of inner worlds, each with its own special characteristics, and within each of them there are higher levels and lower levels. Thus in the first of these, the world of passions and feelings, there is a great distance, a marked disparity of level, between blind passion and the highest feelings. Then there is the world of intelligence, or the mind. Here too there are different levels: the level of the concrete, analytical mind, and the level of higher, philosophical reason (nous). There is also the world of the imagination, a lower variety and a higher variety, the world of intuition, the world of the will, and then, higher still, those indescribable worlds which can only be referred to by the term ‘worlds of transcendence’. – pages 91-92.
  • The second level of empowering is the one which makes possible the transition from the human realm to the superhuman realm we mentioned earlier. It is here that we see exhibited the various supernormal powers. In all ages these powers, alongside other superior spiritual-ethical gifts, have been ascribed to the enlightened, the awakened, the initiated and the ‘wise men’ from Moses to Pythagoras and from Buddha to Christ, as well as to various other saints. Some of these people used their powers deliberately and consciously, others spontaneously – even against their will – as in the case of the mystics or saints. One might say that these powers are a natural consequence or a by-product of spiritual realization. – page 99.

From Chapter 10. Spiritual Development and Neuro-Psychological Disturbances

  • The ‘dharma’ of this age is the development of the mind and of the independent moral faculties, the affirmation of self-awareness and of spiritual independence, the study of life and the gaining of a broader experience. It is also the active devotion of oneself to a cause or ideal – no longer accepted from some external source, but felt within, so that one gives oneself to it by a free act of the will. – page 110.
  • The higher aspects of this psychological age may be summed up in three words: harmony, balance and effectiveness. At this stage man is able to achieve a balance between spirit and form: the personality is formed and perfected and becomes an instrument of expression for the ‘I’ which is well formed, structurally sound and resistant, but at the same time sufficiently mouldable. It is then equipped for acting out the will of the Spirit in the world. – page 110-111.
  • On “testing by fire, or as washing in the waters” (from Hermetic, initiatory and alchemic traditions) “Understanding the nature and purpose of this testing can make it less severe and not so long: instead of enduring it against one’s will, one can yield to its working both the will and the mind, receiving rather than fighting the awesome and splendid gift it wants to bestow on us. – page 114.
  • When the process of psychospiritual transformation reaches its final and decisive stage, it sometimes produces intense suffering and an inner darkness which has been referred to by Christian mystics as the ‘dark night of the soul’. The characteristics of this condition closely resemble those of the illness known as ‘psychotic depression’ or melancholy. These characteristics are: an emotional state of deep depression which may even verge on despair, an acute sense of unworthiness which in some cases leads to a person’s feeling himself to be lost or damned, a painful sense of mental impotence, a weakening of the will and of self-control, lack of desire and a great reluctance to act. – pages 126-127.

From Chapter . Mysticism and Medicine

  • This attitude towards illness is one of the main areas of difference between the mysticism of old (at least that of Western Christianity) and the new mysticism. The exaggerated spirit of asceticism, the thirst for suffering, sacrifice and abject misery, the hostile attitude to the body and the passive submission meant that many of the mystics of the past not only failed to seek release from physical ills that afflicted them, they actually accepted them with joy – indeed they almost cultivated them – because they saw in them a means of purification. Even though we might admire their strength of will and their generosity and love, through which they transformed weakness into strength and obstacles into stepping stones, we must nevertheless recognize that the attitude they adopted was based on false preconceptions and limited understanding. – page 137.

From Chapter 12. The Awakening of the Soul

  • A hymn of gratitude rises up to the Creator of such magnificence and the heart burns with an unspeakable love for Him and for all his creatures. Totally absorbed in this vision and in these feelings, the soul has forgotten itself; it has, without noticing it, transcended its limitations and hardships, and when it again looks at itself, it realizes, to its great joy, that all the pain, fear and despair that were there before have mysteriously vanished – that burden which so oppressed the heart, that sense of dissatisfaction with oneself, and those feelings of guilt and inferiority have gone. One feels a lightness and expansion of the spirit, pervaded by a new sense of security and power. In the context of this new awareness, this range of feelings, this vision and love, the will now joins in with complete commitment as an expression of the spontaneous desire of the whole being to undergo a transformation that will unite it with the new ideal that has been glimpsed, to purify itself from all blemishes, to undergo a complete regeneration, and from this point on – at all times and in all things – to do the will of the Spirit. – page 148.
  • There is another natural question which deserves a brief answer at this point: what happens to a man once his eyes have been opened to such a spiritual vision? The adventures that ensue are varied, complex and a source of wonder. After the solemn, pivotal experience in which the soul is awakened, it truly begins a new life: it is now driven by an intense benevolence, feeling the need to come into complete harmony with the universal life and obeying in all things the divine will. To begin with, when it is still under the influence of its communion with the Spirit, it believes it can do this easily and directly, by a simple act of the will, but when it sets to work it is sadly disappointed. The lower human nature resurfaces with its habits, inclinations and passions, and the man realizes he must make a pilgrimage across the uncharted waters of his lower nature in order to understand it, bring it under control and transform it. The results of this long, hard work are of great value: a new and deeper enlightenment and greater revelations are the reward of the purified soul. – page 153.

From Chapter 13. Purification of the Soul

  • Anyone who wishes to travel along, or who has already embarked upon, the way of spiritual development must overcome three different types of obstacles: these have to do with the mind, the emotions and the will. We will deal here with the emotional obstacles, partly because they are the most frequent, and partly because intellectual obstacles, such as doubts and skepticism, are often produced or accentuated by obstacles of the emotions and the will. They are smoke-screens or pretexts which we use to hide the fears and the reluctance we are not even aware of. – page 169.

From Chapter 17. Obstacles to Spiritual Development: Attachments

  • From the spiritual point of view, that is to say from the point of view of true value, every strong, exclusive attachment and every instance of moral lethargy is based on false understanding and a distorted vision. They reveal a lack of perspective, an incomplete, distorted view of reality, and a violation of the law of harmony and of the great hierarchical principle which requires the Deity, the Reality, the Source of Good and the Being of Supreme Worth, to have the first place in our minds and hearts, to be the highest goal to which our will is addressed. – page 178
  • The Method of Sudden Separation – “Often life does this to us in various ways, against our will, removing people and things to which we are attached. This is the fastest and most radical method, but it is also extremely painful and can produce serious reactions. After a period of emotional upheaval, however, during which little helps to ease the pain, a person usually comes out of it with a greater maturity and strength.” – page 179.

From Chapter 19. Twentieth-Century Spirituality

  • [The] will in its true sense [… is …] the principle and power of self-control, choice, discipline and synthesis;” – page 197.
  • [Understanding], i.e. the widening of our sphere of awareness, sympathetic identification with others, with other manifestations of the universal life-and above all an understanding of this universal life, a recognition of its meaning and purpose, recognition of an intelligent, wise and loving Will and Power from which the universe originates, by which its evolution is directed, and which is guiding it towards a glorious goal.” – page 197.
  • Let us move on to consider the mechanical and technical developments of our civilization. As we have already mentioned, it is outwardly materialistic. But we need first of all to consider the treasures of intelligence, tenacity and will-power, as well as the hardships, risks, and sacrifices endured by man in order to achieve his present dominion over matter.” – pages 198-199.

From Chapter 20. Transmutation and Sublimation of the Emotional and Sexual Energies

  • This type of sublimation is generally linked with the transformation and sublimation of emotional and sexual energies into creative and benevolent works. […] The first requirement is the aspiration to achieve it, followed by a serious intent, a decision of the will, and affirmation of what one is aspiring to. This acts as an effective spur, an order the psychological energies obey.” – page 211.

From Chapter 22. Martha and Mary: the Active Life-the Contemplative Life

  • In order to highlight and state more clearly the various relationships that operate between external activity and internal activity, we will make a brief examination of the two opposing types of anomaly and aberration that we come across in the area of action, and the methods for correcting them. One of these anomalies takes the form of impulsiveness and the other that of loss of will-power.” – pages 240-241.
  • Quite clearly the highest and truest action such impulsive people need to engage in would be to appear not to act at all, to continuously and strictly control their impulses, to perform a series of acts of will aimed at disciplining their unruly energies, forcing those energies to come under a form of central control and to be brought into harmony with one another so that they might be purified and ennobled, until such time as they are able to express themselves externally in constructive works. This is a clear example of how a reduction in outward activity can serve as an indication of intensified inner action. […] An examination of those who have lost their will-power, who are weak, half-hearted and unable to act, will bring us to the same conclusions.” – page 241.
  • There are many advantages in external activity when it is kept within its proper limits and is illuminated by the light of the spirit. Apart from its immediate use, it is a way-especially for the young – of putting their exuberant energies to work, a fertile field of experience, a training – ground where the virtues produced by inner discipline can be put to the test, or a forge on which the steel of the will undergoes a more thorough toughening process. But this is not all: the spiritual significance and inner effects of any action depend primarily on the underlying motive that inspired it. This is what is at the heart of the action.” – page 248.

From Chapter 26. The Spiritual Elements in our Personality: Power and Will

  • What characterizes true, healthy spiritual development in its pure form is a sense of the unity of life, and a sense of the relationship between individual spirit and universal Spirit. It is overcoming what has been called ‘the heresy of separateness’. Spirit is unity and universality. […]Once this is realized, one will have a new attitude of dependence and obedience towards the Divine Being, very different from the attitude of primitive man. No longer is it a separate, external dependence and obedience, but now something within, in other words it is an obedience to the God within, to the Spirit inside us. It is a response of our personality to the deep Spirit which it recognizes as itself, as its true essence. This spiritual attitude has been clearly expressed in the Christian statement ‘Thy will be done.’ […] This attitude must be correctly understood, however. It should not be regarded as dualist, implying a sad, passive resignation, but as unitarian in the sense of joyful compliance and identification of one’s personal will with the Universal Will.” – page 276.

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