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Many years ago, I had the great honor of speaking with Elie Wiesel in a private interview. When he asked what I would like to discuss, I mentioned the theme of forgiveness. He said that between two people, forgiveness is a relatively simple matter. But, he explained, the hope of forgiving many people for their collective transgressions is not a personal issue but belongs “in God’s hand.” It was an example of Wiesel’s brilliance that he could capture, in just a few words, the profundity of this deeply complicated issue of forgiveness.
Forgiveness involves recognizing transgressive behavior that we have committed against others or that has been committed against us and our family. The search to expiate guilt has been with us since the beginning of time, starting with the scapegoat, the sin-eater, and the confessor. Each speaks to the challenge of living with our transgressions and to the hope of expelling and exiling their disturbing contents. It is the universality of this seeking and fleeing that allows us to see that forgiveness exists within the Psyche as an archetypal imperative.
As Jung writes, "Morality is not imposed from the outside, we have it in ourselves from the start -- not the law but our moral nature without which the collective life of human society would be impossible” (CW 7, par. 30). After 40 years of clinical practice, I see that it is our denial of transgressive acts that often settles within the Psyche as unconscious guilt and manifests as deeply disturbing behaviors and life situations.
Especially as we age, it is imperative to find a way to face the deeper issues of forgiveness and to live with our actions. In this presentation, I will discuss the archetypal nature of forgiveness: what it is that we may be truly looking for when we ask or long to be forgiven for our actions.
Suggested reading and viewing:
The Forgotten, by Elie Wiesel
Eva Kor, “Surviving the Angel of Death"
Dr. Michael Conforti is a Jungian analyst and the Founder and Director of the Assisi Institute. He is a faculty member at the C.G. Jung Institute - Boston, the C.G Jung Foundation of New York, and for many years served as a Senior Associate faculty member in the Doctoral and Master's Programs in Clinical Psychology at Antioch New England. A pioneer in the field of matter-psyche studies, Dr. Conforti is actively investigating the workings of archetypal fields and the relationship between Jungian psychology and the New Sciences. He has presented his work to a wide range of national and international audiences, including the C.G. Jung Institute - Zurich and Jungian organizations in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and Venezuela. He is the author of Threshold Experiences: The Archetype of Beginnings (2007) and Field, Form and Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature and Psyche (2002). His articles have appeared in Psychological Perspectives, San Francisco Jung Library Journal, Roundtable Press, World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, and Spring Journal, and his books has been translated into Italian, Russian and a soon to be released Spanish edition of his work.
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