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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter VI
The district had been at one time the center of the Black Mass in Central Europe and evidences of this could be found on the country roads. The little villages around had been largely deserted by their inhabitants owing to economic conditions and had been purchased by groups from Germany and France whose aims and ideas were anything but nice or clean. The few years preceding the war, particularly in Germany, were peculiarly nasty. All kinds of vices and evil were cultivated and a lot of those who practiced these undesirable modes of life hied themselves to the Italian lakes during the summer. Some day the place will be cleaned up and real spiritual work will go forward. One of the things we had to contend with was the spirit of evil which permeated the place and the peculiarly decadent and objectionable people who lived on the shore of the lake.

As soon as I found the kind of place it was, and that in spite of all its beauty there lurked much evil, I simply sat down and told the girls all about it. I was determined that they should not be so innocent that they would get into danger and I pointed out the types of people on the roads who were plainly the undesirable kind. I did not dress up the information in beautiful language. I told them baldly and straight just what it was all about, including its degeneracy and its homosexuality, so that they passed unscathed through a great deal which might have damaged them. You see, there were no secrets withheld, there were no peculiar sins and unholy performances that I had not told them had existed. I pointed out to them the type of people who indulged in these kinds of things and they were so blatantly obvious that the girls knew that it must be so. I have never believed in keeping young people free from the knowledge of that which is undesirable.

I have allowed them to read what they liked, provided that if it was a book that I felt was pure dirt I would tell [224] them about it and ask them why they wanted to read it. My experience was that if you were perfectly frank and yet perfectly willing to let them read even what you yourself felt was unwise, their natural cleanness and their natural fastidiousness were full protection. We never had any reading under the bedclothes, as far as I know, because they knew they could read what they liked, and that I would express myself freely. Anyway, the girls passed through three summers of Ascona and knew much that was going on and got no harm.

The first summer at Ascona we stopped with Olga in her own home but after that we occupied a small cottage overhanging the lake which she had built on her property. Close to our own home she had built a beautiful lecture hall where the meetings were held morning and afternoon. The grounds were lovely. The swimming and boating were ideal and the opportunity at first presented seemed to us Heaven sent, and to have in it the promise of wide future opportunities for expansion. The first year we were there the group was somewhat small but the last two years it steadily increased in size and I think it could be said that the work was a great success. People of all nationalities met there and we all lived together for weeks and got to know each other very well. National barriers seemed non-existent and we all spoke the same spiritual language.

It was there for the first time that we met Dr. Robert Assagioli, who had been our representative in Italy for several years, and our contact with him and the many years of work with him constitute one of the outstanding happy factors in our lives. He was at one time a leading brain specialist in Rome and when we first knew him was regarded as an outstanding European psychologist. He is a man of rare beauty of character. He could not come into a room without his essential spiritual qualities making his presence known. [225] Frank D. Vanderlip in his book "What Next in Europe" makes a striking comment about him. He calls him the modern St. Francis of Assisi and says that the morning he spent with Robert was a high-water mark of his European trip. Dr. Assagioli is a Jew. At the time we met him at Ascona and later visited him in Italy the Jews were well treated in that country. The approximately 30,000 Jews in Italy were valued as Italian citizens and were subjected to no restrictions or persecution.

The talks by Dr. Assagioli were outstanding features of the Ascona conferences. He would lecture in French, Italian and English and the spiritual power which poured through him was the means of stimulating many into renewed consecration in life. For the first two years he and I carried the bulk of the lecture work though there were other able and interesting speakers. The last year we were there the place was overrun by German professors and the whole tone and quality of the place altered. Some of them were most undesirable and the teaching given shifted from a relatively high spiritual plane to that of academic philosophy and a spurious esotericism. 1933 was the last year that we went there.

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