Roberto Assagioli (1888 – 1974) was an Italian psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Assagioli founded the psychological movement known as Psychosynthesis, which is still being developed today by therapists and psychologists, who practice the psychological methods and techniques he developed. His work, expounded in two books and many monographs published as pamphlets, emphasized the possibility of progressive integration, or synthesis, of the personality.
Assagioli did not like to discuss his personal life, as he preferred to be remembered for his scientific work. Very few biographical accounts on the life of Assagioli are available, and most are not written in English.
Assagioli was born on 27 February 1888 in Venice, Italy, and came from a middle-class Jewish background. He was born under the name Roberto Marco Grego, however his biological father died when Assagioli was two years old and his mother remarried to Alessandro Emanuele Assagioli soon afterward. Assagioli was exposed to many creative outlets at a young age, such as art and music, which were believed to have inspired his work in Psychosynthesis. By the age of 18, he had learned eight different languages, namely Italian (his native tongue), English, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, German, and Sanskrit. It was at this age he also began to travel, mainly to Russia, where he learned about social systems and politics.
In 1922 he married a young woman named Nella Ciapetti, and they had one son together, Ilario Assagioli.
In 1940, Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government, having been accused of "praying for peace and inviting others to join him along with other international crimes." He was placed in a solitary cell in Regina Coeli prison for 27 nights, until he was released and returned to his family. During World War II, his family’s farm in Florence, Italy was destroyed, and both he and his family went into hiding in the Catenaia Alps (in the province of Arezzo) and in the Upper Tiber Valley. His son died at the age of 28 from lung disease, which was accredited to severe stress from the harsh living conditions during the war. Once the war ended, he returned to his work and began his legacy, known as Psychosynthesis.
The years after the war were relatively calm, and it was during this time that he founded various foundations dedicated to Psychosynthesis in Europe and North America. Assagioli lived a long and prosperous life and had a happy forty year marriage until he died at age 86 on 23 August 1974. The cause of his death was unknown.