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Origins of The New York Psychosynthesis Institute

In 1307, the Catholic mystic poet Dante was exiled from Florence with a death sentence on his head. Married with four children, he was never able to return home again. Sometime during his exile, he underwent an emotional and spiritual transformation that lead to his enlightenment. He spent the next eleven years writing his spiritual masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, to give "future generations" a map of the enlightenment process that leads "from misery to bliss."

Six hundred years later, the Florentine psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli, a colleague of Freud and Jung, left the Freudian movement because it neglected the spiritual aspect of human nature. Inspired by Dante, Assagioli wanted to map the path of human development to include discoveries of higher states of consciousness. He called his work psychosynthesis (psicosintesi in Italian). A spiritual scholar as well as a leading doctor, he opened the first institute, Istituto di Psicosintesi, in 1928 to begin to offer his work.

Imprisoned in 1940 by the Fascist police in Rome, Assagioli experienced enlightenment in jail and vowed from that moment on to help free people from their "inner prisons." During World War Two, he was under Nazi police surveillance, his home was bombed, and his only child died from an illness contracted while hiding from the Nazis in the Tuscan hills. Despite his severe losses, Assagioli resumed his work after the war and re-opened his institute in Florence. By then, he had expanded psychosynthesis to include many pragmatic meditation and mental imagery practices, consciously drawing upon his personal experiences with Eastern and Western spiritual methods.

By the 1960s, his work began to attract doctors, psychologists, nurses, psychotherapists and educators to study with him. He continued to teach and see patients until his death in 1974 at the age of 86. His original contribution to human development has inspired others to open psychosynthesis institutes around the world. Psychosynthesis is one of the European Union-approved schools of psychotherapy training for psychiatrists and psychologists.

In 1972, while training in Zen and mindfulness, Bonney and Richard began to look for a meditation practice that integrated Western psychology - and found it in Assagioliís work. In 1981, they co-founded the first psychosynthesis institute in New York and have since trained hundreds of health professionals internationally. Their Florentine connection deepened in 1990 when they developed bonds with Assagioliís original students in Florence and conducted extensive research in Assagioliís private library. Among many things, they discovered his deep bond with Dante, which led to their own immersion in Dante.

Throughout the 1990s, they also led Sacred Art retreats to Florence, where they taught their travelers to utilize sacred art as visualization meditation. In 1999, they became faculty members of the postdoctoral psychotherapy training at Assagioliís original Florentine institute. Completing a circle, they authored Danteís Path (Penguin Putnam) and taught Danteís path to enlightenment to an audience of Italian psychiatrists and psychologists in the very room of the Florentine palace where Dante and his colleagues gathered over seven hundred years ago. They have published five books, three CDs and many professional articles on psychosynthesis (www.florencepress.com) and continue to train professionals internationally.

Psychosynthesis remains the most thorough and time-tested outlook and practice for health professionals who want to responsibly awaken their patients and clients to their innate spiritual nature.

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