“Self” and “Transpersonal Self”
John Firman and Ann Gila
© 2007

Some earlier theory in psychosynthesis interposed a “Higher Self” or “Transpersonal Self” between “I” and what was termed “Universal Self” (see Assagioli 1973). Here it was implied that if we could identify with this Higher Self we could find communion with Universal Self.

This formulation appears to be an attempt to explain that our usual experience of ourselves, masked by identifications, needs to expand beyond those limitations in order for us to realize our deeper essential nature in communion with the Divine, Spirit, or in our terms “Self” whom can be experienced as universal (see “Self as Universal” in Firman and Gila 2002)

However, the problem with this early formulation of Higher or Transpersonal Self is that there is in fact no “other self” we become: we remain “I” throughout all changes in consciousness, even though the limited experience of ourselves can transform radically as we grow psychologically and spiritually. So, to characterize this transformation as “becoming another self,” although this poetically captures the profundity of the experience, we believe is inaccurate and misleading. What has actually occurred in this transformation is that we have realized who we were all along: “I” in communion with Self, our individuality in communion with universality.

The problem with believing that we must become “another self” in this process makes this “other self” seem an object we can pursue, an “other” with whom we can identify, which has the effect of obscuring the truth that we are always and for evermore “I.” We may consequently begin looking for “I” in all the wrong places.

So for us there is no Higher Self or Transpersonal Self understood in this way. Rather, we posit that over the course of Self-realization human beings can find themselves in communion with Self, often experienced as universal, expressing their unique, essential “I-amness” in the world—the expression we term, authentic personality. For further discussion of this perspective on Higher Self, see the appendix “Individuality and Universality” in Firman 1991.

Assagioli, Roberto. 1973. The Act of Will. New York: Penguin Books.

Firman, John. 1991. “I” and Self: Re-visioning Psychosynthesis. Palo Alto, CA: Psychosynthesis Palo Alto.

Firman, John and Ann Gila. 2002. Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of the Spirit. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.


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