Jung on Job

The previous post presented Kierkegaard’s discovery (1844) of the ethical contradictions in the biblical Abraham — and, by extension, Yahweh, though Kierkegaard does not develop this latter dimension. Just a little over a century later (1952), Jung pursued the similar issue in the biblical Job, a story or myth composed to ostensibly show, like the story of Abraham, the resilient faith of a suffering servant of Yahweh and an assertion of the ethics and faith to be exercised by that servant. But Jung’s brilliant tour de force psychoanalyzes Yahweh and reveals the nature of the god and faith that Kierkegaard had already struggled with in fear and trembling.

The chief dilemma Jung’s Answer to Job addresses is the psychology of Yahweh; the second part deals with the psychological significance of Christ and the New Testament up to the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse.

Biblical texts, notes Jung, have consistently presented “a contradictory picture of Yahweh —

the picture of a God who knew no moderation in his emotions and suffered precisely from this lack of moderation. He himself admitted that he was eaten with rage and jealousy and that this knowledge was painful to him. Insight existed along with obtuseness, loving-kindness along with cruelty, creative power along with destructiveness. Everything was there, and none of these qualities was an obstacle to the other.

Concludes Jung:

Such a condition is only conceivable either when no reflecting consciousness is present at all, or when the capacity for reflection is very feeble and a more or less adventitious phenomenon. A condition of this sort can only be described as amoral. [emphasis Jung]

The story of Job is not unfamiliar. He loses his livelihood, his property, animals, servants, his family, his physical health. He is reduced to disease and dust, scratching horrible sores and wasting away. His trust in Yahweh is expected to be unshaken, as his friends insist, saying that Job must suffer due to bad faith or a secret sin, which Job denies, holding fast to his righteousness and guiltlessness. Job argues his case, telling Yahweh that his innocence is surely known by the Omniscient, that Job holds firm to a trust in divine justice.

But the situation is worsened by two factors: first, that Yahweh lacks self-reflection and is apparently unconscious of his own past acts, that having lied to David Yahweh may well now persist in his tormenting, as Job surely knows, and secondly, that Job (or the story’s author) realizes the scandalous fact that God consults and wagers with Satan.

Jung identifies Yahweh’s unconscious resentment against Job: that Job may well know what Yahweh is all about, that Job has seen the fickleness and arbitrariness, and that he deliberately mollifies God with contrite and self-abasing words. But Yahweh is not finished. He accuses Job of justifying himself, he who has no arm like God, no voice like God, that the proud and the wicked will be brought low. Only then, says Yahweh, will he acknowledge Job.

“Job is challenged as though he himself were a god,” notes Jung. But Job’s soothing speech finally has its affect: “The therapeutic measure of unresisting acceptance had proved its value yet again.”

Hereafter, Jewish authors recalled Sophia, the forgotten feminine aspect of God. The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon reestablishes her influence, introduces new vocabulary, and shifts Yahweh to repentance and the notion of making up for past behavior anticipating its reversal through a divine son made human. The prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel, begin to suggest such a messianic balance, especially the Book of Enoch. One may note the messianic allusions in Isaiah and Jeremiah. Jung offers a review of gnostic and psychological explanations merged with orthodox logic to culminate in the clearly deified vessel into which Yahweh’s son will be poured. The difficult doctrine of God as Summum Bonum, especially in light of centuries of history dealing with Yahweh, means that Christ will have the burden of reconciling many contradictions.

The historical Jesus is a reticent personality, teaching an inward spiritual practice out of the limelight of doctrine, ritual, institutions, and pubic expression, closer to an Eastern tradition. In Enoch, the “son of man” is always associated with a justice and righteousness wholly uncompromising with the past behavior of Yahweh, a steadfast ethics that will reassert the divine in humans, with the gradual withdrawal of Yahweh. The promise of a Paraclete, a Holy Spirit, to succeed Christ is intended to allay the fear of Yahweh, and to strengthen the trust that love, not fear, has triumphed.

But the work of Jesus as Christ is overturned and undone with the Book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, which usurps the Christ of the Gospels for a surrogate of Yahweh. A clue may have been in the fact that Jesus never eliminated Satan, shown in the Gospels in temptations, possessions, and betrayals. But the more telling clue is when Jesus cries out on the cross to the Father, to Yahweh, who has forsaken him. To be forsaken is taken by some dogmatic observers as a human response to a necessary mission of redemption. But the cry shatters the notion of a hypostatic union of human and divine. Instead the presumed divine nature of Christ sympathizes with suffering, not cosmic theological economy, and experiences the insight of cruelty and suffering in bloody sacrifice, as primitive as anything in the Old Testament. The cry on the cross is a fundamental statement that the omniscient and all-powerful must still resort to this willful device as appeasement.

From the cross the logical path goes directly to the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse, where the Christ of the Gospels is transformed into a violent son of Yahweh, merging with the Ancient of Days. “We no longer recognize the meek Lamb who lets himself be led unresistingly to the slaughter; there is only the aggressive and irascible ram whose rage can at last be vented,” notes Jung.

A veritable orgy of hatred, wrath, vindictiveness, and bland destructive fury that revels in fantastic images of terror breaks out and with blood and fire overwhelms a world which Christ had just endeavored to restore to the original state of innocence and loving communion with God.

Christ now weilds a sickle to wage holy war, and presses the wine press containing enemies, not grapes, yielding blood not wine. The final war only temporarily locks up Satan, and “that woman Jezebel,” the Whore of Babylon, psychological counterpart of feminine Sophia, is slaughtered. The book foresees the reign of Christ until Satan is released and the Antichrist consumes the world.

Christianity has largely ignored the Book of Revelation, not explaining how such a return to the Shadow of Yahweh could be countenanced after the Gospels. Early Christianity labor under its psychology, constructing a religion of psychological beseigement. Clearly a psychological response that retains the shadow, this dark side, continued throughout Christian history and still holds sway regardless of the canonical status of the book.

Jung concludes his essay remarking that the logic of the Christian myth demands that God yet become human, or indeed that the human yet become the divine, an active responsibility for contemporaries given the state of the world today. Jung adds remarks on the timely Catholic dogma of Mary’s assumption (addenda notes from 1956), seen in the context of restlessness and fear engendered by the threat of nuclear annihilation, a threat resulting from cultures and institutions ignoring the essential archetypal role of the feminine in psychology and culture, and rejecting the universal message of the historical Jesus.