In these extracts from the Huber biography Piercing the Eggshell, Bruno Huber tells the story of his first visit to Roberto Assagioli and Florence, and the subsequent period of time he and Louise spent working there, which resulted in their system of astrological psychology.
“In the early spring of 1958… I was hit by a psychological whirlwind from Florence. Professor Roberto Assagioli, whom we had met in Zürich, invited us to take part in a seminar in August on Psychosynthesis… We simply didn’t have the money for such a long journey… so I got on my trusted bicycle, and, with my own muscle power, covered the 700 kilometres to Arezzo, across the Alps and the hot plain of the river Po… The seminar… opened the door to the most dramatic experiences of my life, and to its most decisive phase of learning and growth…
I don’t retain a clear memory of the seminar… but what evoked a really strong psychic and mental reaction in me was the personality of Roberto Assagioli, his library in which I spent many a happy hour looking for spiritual treasure, the countryside surrounding the manse, and the surrounding area which I explored with my bicycle…
My searching in the library had uncovered a considerable number of jottings in Assagioli’s handwriting, casually placed in various books and forgotten. Occasionally he had tried to retrieve one or other of these notes, but had seldom been successful. So he was very pleased that I had found them and asked whether I might be willing to tidy up his books, and gather together his various writings.
So I stayed an extra two weeks. The result of my bookworm activities so impressed Roberto that he suggested I should stay on and help him to write a book for which the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation in America had been asking for some time. Negotiations with the Foundation resulted in Louise and myself being offered stable positions as Assistant/ Secretary.
The Psychosynthesis Institute
So in February of 1959 we moved to the headquarters of the Istituto di Psicosintesi, the winter quarters of the Assagiolis.
Here we led a totally different life: intensive involvement with Roberto’s patients; personal friendships with people from all over the globe; learning and practising the people-friendly (and very successful) therapy of psychosynthesis; working under the wings of a truly wise person, whose jovial charisma withstood the drag of daily routine and of living and working together; quite unforeseen possibilities of research into the basic tenets of astrology resulting from Roberto’s encouragement and support; being immersed in the world of art; the new and the old town of Florence, steeped in culture…
Our first task was compiling the textbook of psychosynthesis. For this we had to collect the various papers and essays Assagioli had written over the years… We had to collect them, put them in order, edit and modify them, at times translate them from Italian and German into English, at times augment them from taped interviews or transcripts. Louise did the lion’s share of this work.
A further task arose from Roberto’s clinical work, evolving quite naturally. We called it aftercare, follow-on therapy. Assagioli’s clients came from all five continents, for therapy sessions lasting from 3 to 5 weeks. After a daily consultation of about 50 minutes with Assagioli they spent the rest of the day near us. They didn’t rightly know what to do with their time, and were brimful of problems. So we turned into parent-confessors and occupational therapists. Often Louise had to cook for them, and occasionally they even slept at our house. Of necessity we developed a form of group therapy – which was quite unknown at the time in therapeutic circles. This gave us concentrated schooling in psychotherapy. We learned a lot, and discovered new ways of conducting therapy, which we were then able to share with Roberto, which in turn enriched his budding book.
In the evenings I was more and more occupied with basic research into astrology. Roberto encouraged me in this. In fact he almost ordered me to do it because his own attempts to make sense of astrology had come a cropper, and he found that most astrological literature was full of contradictions and psychologically superficial – catastrophically inappropriate and helplessly antiquated.
I had told Roberto about my earlier astrological research, which he thought was more useful than anything else he’d come across in the astrological literature. He suggested sensible tips for further work. From a psychological point of view he felt that all people had the same basic abilities, based on their common humanity. But each individual was given a slightly different combination of these possibilities, and in different proportions, which explained our individuality. He saw our basic potential in the planets, and thought that here the relevant definitions could be very useful. But what was lacking in his opinion were reliable and unambiguous rules for interpretation, so that we could select the individually appropriate statements for a chart. Which means that for each planet we should be able to determine its effective strength within a chart. Our attempts to work this out with the existing rules came to nothing, as the classical rules for the strengths and weaknesses of a planet simply did not coincide with the actual case histories of the individuals concerned.
These discussions helped me to formulate the concept for my as yet most comprehensive examination of the house systems. Here and there in astrological literature I’d found attempts to tackle this problem which I had found to be quite hopeful. These were statements suggesting that planets near the cusp of a house were stronger in their effect than in other positions. But how near was near? Different authors quoted different orbs. Some said the effect was only noticeable when planets were placed after the cusp, others stated that planets before the cusp were just as strong. I deduced from this that the house cusp was the strongest possible position. And consequently I began to look for the weakest area in each house.
At that time I hadn’t yet made up my mind which house system was the best available, and I always worked with the three different methods, Campanus, Placidus and Koch, conducting all the work three times over. Roberto granted me access to the archives of the institute where I found a great number of case histories which were liberally annotated. I selected those people whose exact time of birth I was able to obtain and whom I could interview personally to check on the results. The project took me all of two years, but yielded three-fold results, much beyond my expectations.”
[Bruno goes on to describe the development of the House Chart, Dynamic Energy Curve with Koch houses, Low Point, and Age Progression.]
Louise Huber describes the unique characteristics that made Roberto such an effective mentor for the young couple during this period at the Institute.
Roberto Assagioli was at the same time our friend, an affectionate father and helper. He resolved mental doubts, insecurities or conflicts on the highest, mental level. For me he was the archetypal wise man, he was unbelievably tolerant, benevolent and highly intelligent. You could never fool him, as he immediately saw through any veil of deception and tore it to shreds. That was his greatest quality. He solved all kinds of problems easily, suddenly they disappeared, were no longer troublesome or important; they were cleared up by his very presence. This healing influence also made him famous as a therapist. That is why so many people came to him after being failed by other psychologists or psychiatrists. He discovered the cause of their crises in their spiritual development and sorted things out by showing them the laws of the path of spiritual development.
His clarity of mind was invaluable for Bruno’s astrological research. He could spot and immediately rectify any potential or hasty wrong conclusions of Bruno’s research. This was naturally encouraging for us, and gave us the security to be more and more convinced of our cause. The knowledge that we had found something that would change the entire world of astrology motivated us to put all our energies into it. Assagioli often said that every young person who felt responsible for the world and its development had to construct his own area of responsibility, and that ours was the field of astrological psychology. We only felt ready for this great task after three years of training. With Roberto Assagioli’s blessing, we then felt we had the courage – if not the means – to return to Switzerland and begin our risky but creative enterprise.
Was this wise man simply facilitating the development of Bruno & Louise in a direction that aligned with his own professional and altruistic interests, or was there more to it than that?
Many have observed that there is a striking similarity in the physical features of Roberto and Bruno, and that there is a strikingly broad range of intelligence in each of these exceptional human beings. Also there were rumours of an affair between Roberto and Bruno’s mother, Frau Anny Huber-Wuhrmann, both members of the Arcane School in Zürich. Could Roberto be Bruno’s biological father? Although plausible, this is all rumour and speculation, albeit fuelled at times by both Bruno and Michael Huber.
The truth of the matter is not known.
Bruno & Louise did tell the story that, when they came to leave Florence, Roberto gave them each his blessing – specifically blessing Bruno’s head and Louise’s hands. The wise Roberto understood their key strengths that would ensure success in their future ‘area of responsibility’.
This is an abbreviated version of the text in the Huber biography Piercing the Eggshell.
Featured image shows Roberto Assagioli and Bruno Huber, each taken in later life.