Higher and Lower Unconscious

Freud and others at the turn of the century were in the midst of an earth-shaking discovery. This discovery was that the psychological past is not something “over and done with,” but quite the contrary, that the past is an integral part of the present.

Early life experience is not, then, something left behind in a linear progression into the future, but rather forms an abiding psychological substratum to conscious life. In many psychological approaches, this substratum is known simply as “the unconscious.” Assagioli recognized, however, that one may not only repress the realm of trauma in self and world, but may also repress the “higher” or “further” reaches of human nature.

Thus Assagioli’s model includes both a lower unconscious, having to do most directly with our early wounding, and a higher unconscious or superconscious, that realm glimpsed in creative inspiration, spiritual insight, and peak experiences.

According to some current thinking, the splitting and repression of these two domains of experience is caused by primal wounding (see The Primal Wound and Psychosynthesis by Firman and Gila).

Unlike middle unconscious contents, the contents of the lower and higher unconscious are by definition not easily accessible to awareness, and normally remain only potentially conscious. However, material from both areas can be accessed through the use of various methods, or it can move spontaneously into the field of awareness.

But whether or not contents from these two sectors become conscious, they profoundly affect our daily lives; they represent major “band widths” of human experience which are not available to us. To the extent these two domains of our psyche are repressed, we are much less able to engage the heights and depths, the agonies and ecstasies, the joys and sorrows, of human existence.