“Awakening to Oneness: Active Imagination”

INTERVIEW WITH
Susan M. Tiberghien, B.A.

MAY 2021

INTERVIEWER:
Teresa Oster MS, MSW, CJSSF board member

CJSSF: We are delighted to have you zooming with us about “Awakening to Oneness: Active Imagination”. What first drew you to Jung and why? What part did Switzerland play, where you, born an American, have lived for many years?

TIBERGHIEN: At midlife, married to a Frenchman, having raised our children in Europe, I returned to my love of writing and to my mother tongue. I attended writing workshops in the States, and back home I attended classes in Jungian spirituality at the English-language Catholic parish in Geneva. A door opened to a renewed faith, to a renewed life. I started to read Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections; The Answer to Job, I went to a Jungian weekend conference given by Murray Stein at Einsiedeln, home of the Black Madonna. The path ahead became clear. It brought together spirituality, psychology, and the arts. I entered analysis and started to attend lectures at the Jung Institute at Kusnacht.

I would reply therefore that living in Switzerland, since 1969, facilitated my years of studying and reading Jung. The country has a Jungian soul. I feel it in the ground I walk on each day. I see it in the lakes and mountains. I am grateful.

 

CJSSF: From your bio, it seems you had six children, and then you began writing your gold and never stopped, tapping into a motherlode of creativity that you have shared in your numerous books and workshops. Is the path to oneness or wholeness more fruitful in the second half of life?

TIBERGHIEN: Yes! I had little time to search for oneness raising six children in four different countries while doing part-time teaching. I remember early in my analysis trying to respond to a profile question from a writers association, “Who are you?” A wife— an American wife to a Frenchman—a mother, a writer, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Christian. I was in my mid-fifties trying to figure out who I was. The path to oneness was opening.

 

CJSSF: Your recent book, Writing toward Wholeness, plumbs some of our greatest writers who have dialogued with soul: from Plato and Aristotle to the mystics Hildegard and Meister Eckhart, to of course Jung and his Red Book, to Hillman, and the Zen masters Thich Nhat Hahn and Suzuki, to moderns like Annie Dillard, Maya Angelou, Terry Tempest Williams, Margaret Atwood, Orhan Parmuk, and more! It seemed to me that your favorite (next to Jung) might the prolific writing monk Thomas Merton. Would you say what he means to you?

TIBERGHIEN: You are right! I often say I have two walking sticks, C.G. Jung and Thomas Merton. Together they steady me on my path. Merton, the Trappist monk, taught me that there is a contemplative way outside the monastery. He led me to a silent prayer practice. He revealed to me that “there is in all visible things an invisible fecundity,…a hidden wholeness.” And he did not leave me there, he urged me speak up and bear witness.

 

CJSSF: How did you react when Jung’s ‘confrontation with the unconscious, his astounding process of active imagination that is The Red Book, was finally published after being withheld from the public so many years? What effect did the work have on your work?

TIBERGHIEN: The Red Book was published in November in 2009. I ordered a copy for myself for Christmas. When it was delivered, I was thinking I might look at it sitting in an armchair, maybe even resting on my bed, but it was so large, so heavy, I could barely carry it into our house. I could open it only on the dining table. The first time I read it, I dared not make a pencil mark on the pages. The second time I turned the pages – I hesitate to say I ‘read’ it – I went ahead and underlined and wrote notes in the margins.

As I slowly grew familiar with parts of the book, I realized that

  • Jung’s search for his soul was an invitation to search for my own.
  • His journal entries brought confirmation to the need ‘to put it all down as beautifully as you can.”
  • His encounters with his soul, with Elijah, Salome, the librarian, Philemon, and so many more, were examples of active imagination
  • His commentaries after each encounter were an endless source of self-discovery.

I realized that in continuing to dip into this source, I am finding my way toward wholeness.

CJSSF: What does oneness mean in Jungian work?

TIBERGHIEN: I see oneness as the foundation of the universe. In Jungian work, oneness is the coming together of all creation. It manifests itself in wholeness, in bringing the different parts of our being into one whole. It is the path of individuation: of growing conscious of our contraries and of integrating them into a unity. “The attainment of wholeness requires one to stake one’s whole being. Nothing less will do.” (CW4, par.155)

Hand in hand with this wholeness of oneself is a wholeness of the creation. We experience a feeling of belonging, of being at home in the world around us. Jung summons us to find this oneness. “May each one seek his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community.” (p. 231) Oneness in community and oneness in nature. From his childhood memory of the splendor of the waves of Lake Constance to his much-loved Tower at Bollingen on Lake Zurich, Jung found nourishment for his soul in nature. So it was that near the end of his life he wrote in MDR, “There has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things.”(p. 392)


CJSSF: At your workshop will you invite participants to do some active imagination writing?

TIBERGHIEN: Yes. The workshop will have four parts. Each part will include active imagination writing. Together we will embrace oneness.

Author and Jungian Presenter Susan Tiberghien

Susan M. Tiberghien, B.A. is an American writer living in Geneva. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Philosophy with graduate work at the Université de Grenoble and the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich. She is the author of four memoirs including Looking for Gold: A Year in Jungian Analysis, and Circling to the Center, One Woman’s Encounter with Silent Prayer. She has also authored two books about writing including One Year to a Writing Life; Writing Toward Wholeness: Lessons Inspired by C.G. Jung.

For over 20 years Ms. Tiberghien has been teaching workshops at C.G. Jung Societies, at the International Women’s Writing Guild, and at writers’ centers and conferences in the U.S. and Europe. She has recorded online masterclasses for the Jung Society of Washington DC: Writing to the Soul, Seeing Beauty with Words, and Through Darkness to Light, and also Rekindling the Soul: Active Imagination on the Jung Platform. An active member of PEN International, Ms. Tiberghien founded and directed the Geneva Writers’ Group, bringing together over 230 English language writers.

More about Susan can be found on her website www.susantiberghien.com

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Center for Jungian Studies
c/o Richard Chappell
20533 Biscayne Blvd Ste 104
Aventura, FL 33180-1529

Join Our Newsletter

ABOUT CJSSF

As a Not-For-Profit organization we exist because of the generosity of our friends, volunteers and donors. None of the work that we do would be possible without you.