Roberto Assagioli on “I” and Center
The following is a conversation with Roberto (RA) about “I” and “center.” I thought others might find it interesting and useful to hear Assagioli speak of the distinction between the two. Notice that in this discussion John followed the custom of referring to “I” as “the ‘I.’” John and I changed this many years later. We believed that using the definite article, “the,” before “I,” makes “I” an object rather than the subject that we are, the living entity that Roberto refers to in this conversation. The words in brackets are inserted for clarity, and several describe what Assagioli was pointing to as he spoke.
RA: When the “I” is identified with a subpersonality off center, it is no more at the center; there is no center. The “I” should be…well the disidentified personal “I,” is at the center, but that is the outcome of successful disidentification. Normally, the “I” is identified with something. So the average person is never at the center. When we say self-centered, that means that it is identified with a selfish, ego-centric, subpersonality, but not the pure personal “I,” the pure reflection of the Self. The “I” is a reflection, but it is never a pure reflection at first, it is always colored and pulled left, right, and downward by subpersonalities.
J: If the Self is always there, is not the center always there, even if we are not at center?
RA: No! Not at all! You see, the personal “I” goes here and here and here, is never at the center. Except during disidentification.
J: So, there is a distinction to be made between the “I” which becomes identified and the center which is disidentified?
RA: No! No difference! When the “I” is disidentified, then it remains there [center], and so the communication [with Self] is easier and stronger. First it [“I”] has to free itself from all identification and coloring, then when it has achieved some measure of disidentification, the pull of the Self is stronger than the pull of the subpersonalities. The existential crisis is that there are all these pulls. These are all subpersonalities who try to pull to themselves - and often succeed - the “I.” And meanwhile the pull of the Self is negligible, then it becomes stronger and stronger, and finally it may win.
J: So the center is something created by the “I”?
RA: But, no. There is no center in the sense you say; the center is a locality, not something existent. What you call the center is the “I,” but temporarily it is eccentric. Center is a geometric; just as in a circle there is a center, a locality, a point in space, not a living entity. The living entity is the “I.” [What is] much confused is the locality with the living creature, the living being. When you say “I am angry,” then this goes here [“I” to lower unconscious]. When you say “I love you” in a personal way, it goes here [“I” to middle unconscious]. When you have a transpersonal experience, it goes here [“I” to higher unconscious]. So it shifts all the time. That is what creates the confusion and the conflict. These are all localities in the inner space, and the entity [ “I”] moves around. All the questions of subpersonalities can be faced this way. And that is the value of recognizing subpersonalities; it is the beginning of detachment.
J: It makes sense that the “I” is a reflection of the Self, is a living entity and thus is distinct from any “locality” within the psyche. The “center” is a conception and a locality?
RA: Yes. That’s basic. In psychosynthesis we always speak of living realities, living beings. All the rest is conceptual, not reality, as something existent. The rest is description, but the “I” is a reality.
J: So the “I” is still a reflection of the Self, even if it’s in the lower unconscious?
RA: Yes, but colored. It is the bulb, colored and shifted here and there. It can be covered by several veils, the veils of maya. It is there, but it is paralyzed, powerless, ignorant, unconscious. In Eastern terminology, disidentification would be to tear off the veils of maya in order to discover, uncover, what is under there.
J: The Self is the light bulb; the center is a place where the light is most clearly seen by the “I”?
RA: No. The “I” is the light bulb, the reflection. Don’t take all this too literally. The Self is a resplendent sun, a star, which creates the reflection which is a bulb. Then the bulb often gets colored, veiled, shifted here and there. It is the “I” that is the bulb.
J: What are the characteristics of the place called “center”?
RA. No characteristics. It’s just a location. It is the place which is in the same direction as the Self.
J: We are also talking about alignment – the “I” or bulb, if off, is colored; if not, then it is clear?
RA: Well, alignment means to bring to the center the “I” which is eccentric and colored. Alignment is also a process, and interaction. The “I” says “I am that Self, that Self am I.” Thus it aligns itself with the Self. In a nutshell, I am not angry, or in love, or this or that. I am a reflection of the Self. Therefore of the same nature of the Self, which is light. That is alignment.