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Jung’s Answer To Job – Part 1

Carl Jung – “Answer to Job” in “The Portable Jung” Edited by Joseph Campbell (Penguin 1971)

p. 526

In what follows I shall attempt just such a discussion, such a “coming to terms” with certain religious traditions and ideas. Since I shall be dealing with numinous factors, my feeling is challenged quite as much as my intellect. I cannot, therefore, write in a coolly objective manner, but must allow my emotional subjectivity to speak if I want to describe what I feel when I read certain books of the Bible, or when I remember the impressions I have received from the doctrines of our faith. I do not write as a biblical scholar (which I am not), but as a layman and physician who has been privileged to see deeply into the psychic life of many people. What I am expressing is first of all my own per­sonal view, but I know that I also speak in the name of many who have had similar experiences.


The Book of Job is a landmark in the long historical development of a divine drama. At the time the book was written, there were already many testimonies which had given 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 up with rage and jealousy and at this knowledge was painful to him. Insight existed long with obtuseness, loving-kindness along with cruelty, creative power along with destructiveness. Everything was here, and none of these qualities was an obstacle to the other. 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 mote or less adve­ntitious phenomenon. A condition of this sort can only be described as amoral.

…[snip] …..

. I hope to act as a voice for many who feel the same way as I do, and to give express­ion to the shattering emotion which the unvarnished spec­tacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness produces in us. Even if we know by hearsay about the suffering and dis­cord in the Deity, they are so unconscious, and hence so ineffectual morally, that they arouse no human sympathy or understanding. Instead, they give rise to an equally ill­ considered outburst of affect, and a smouldering resentment that may be compared to a slowly healing wound. And just as there is a secret tie between the wound and the weapon, so the affect corresponds to the violence of the deed that caused it.

The Book of Job serves as a paradigm for a certain experience of God which has a special significance for us today. These experiences come upon man from inside as well as from outside, and it is useless to interpret them rationalistically and thus weaken them by apotropaic means. It is far better to admit the affect and submit to its violence than to try to escape it by all sorts of intellectual tricks or feet by emotional value-judgments. Although, by giving way to the affect, one imitates all the bad qualities of the outrageous act that provoked it and thus makes oneself guilty of the same fault, that is, precisely the point of the whole proceeding: the violence is meant to penetrate to a man’s vitals, and he to succumb to its action. He must be affected by it, otherwise its full effect will not reach him. But he should know, or learn to know, what has affected him, for in this way he transforms the blindness of the violence on the onehand and of the affect on the other into knowledge. For this reason I shall express my affect fearlessly and.

ruthlessly in what follows, and I shall answer injustice with injustice, that I may learn to know why and to what purpose Job was wounded, and what consequences have grown out of this for Yahweh as well as for man.

p. 537

The Book of Job places this pious and faithful man, so heavily afflicted by the Lord, on a brightly lit stage where presents his case to the eyes and ears of the world. It is amazing to see how easily Yahweh, quite without reason, let himself be influenced by one of his sons, by a doubt­-thought, and made unsure of Job’s faithfulness. With his touchiness and suspiciousness the mere possibility of doubt was enough to infuriate him and induce that peculiar double-faced behaviour of which he had already given proof in the Garden of Eden when he pointed out the tree to the First Parents and at the same time forbid them to eat of it. In this way he anticipated the Fall which he apparently never intended. Similarly his faithful servant Job is now to be exposed to a rigorous moral test quite gratuitously and to him, and to no purpose , although Yahweh is convinced of Job’s faithfulness and constancy and more­ over have assured himself beyond all doubt a this point had he taken counsel with his own omniscience.

Why, then is the experiment made at all, and a bet with the unscrupulous slanderer settled, without a stake, on the back of a powerless creature? It is indeed no edifying spectacle to see how quickly Yahweh abandons his faithful servant to the evil spirit and lets him fall without compunction or pity into the abyss of physical and moral suffering. From the human point of view Yahweh’s behaviour is so revolting and that one has to ask oneself whether there is not a deeper that motive hidden behind it. Has Yahweh some secret resistance against Job? That would explain his yielding to Satan. But what does man possess that God does not have? Because of his littleness, puniness, and defencelessness against the Almighty, he possesses, as we have already suggested, a somewhat keener consciousness based on self-reflection: he must, in order to survive, always be mindful of his impotence. God has no need of this circumspection, for nowhere does he come up against an insuperable obstacle that would force him to hesitate and hence make him reflect on himself. Could a suspicion have grown up in God that man possesses an infinitely small yet more concentrated light than Yahweh, possesses? A jealousy of that kind might per­haps explain his behaviour. It would be quite explicable if some such dim, barely understood deviation from the defi­nition of a mere “creature” had aroused his divine suspi­cions. Too often already -these human beings had not be­haved in the prescribed manner. Even his trusty servant Job might have something up his sleeve. . . . Hence Yahweh’s surprising readiness to listen to Satan’s insinuations against his better judgment.

Without further ado Job is robbed of his herds, his servants are slaughtered, his sons and daughters are killed by whirlwind, and he himself is smitten with sickness and ought to the brink of the grave. To rob him of peace together, his wife and his old friends are let loose against m, all of whom say the wrong things. His justified com­plaint finds no hearing with the judge who is so much raised for his justice. Job’s right is refused in order that Satan be not disturbed in his play.

One must bear in mind here the dark deeds that follow one another in quick succession: robbery, murder, bodily injury with premeditation, and denial of a fair trial. This is further exacerbated by the fact that Yahweh displays no compunction, remorse, or compassion, but only ruthlessness and brutality. The plea of unconsciousness is invalid, seeing at he flagrantly violates at least three of the command­ments he himself gave out on Mount Sinai.

Job’s friends do everything in their power to contribute his moral torments, and instead of giving him, whom God has perfidiously abandoned, their warm-hearted support, they moralize in an all too human manner, that is, in the stupidest fashion imaginable, and “fill him with inkles.” They thus’ deny him even the last comfort of sympathetic participation and human understanding, so at one cannot altogether suppress the suspicion of connivance in high places.

Why Job’s torments and the divine wager should sud­denly come to an end is not quite clear. So long as Job does not actually die, the pointless suffering could be continued indefinitely. We must, however, keep an eye on the background of all these events: it is just possible that some­thing in this background will gradually begin to take shape a compensation for Job’s undeserved suffering-some­thing to which Yahweh, even if he had only a faint inkling of it, could hardly remain indifferent. Without Yahweh’s knowledge and contrary to his intentions, the tormented

though guiltless Job had secretly been lifted up to a supe­rior knowledge of God which God himself did not possess. Had Yahweh consulted his omniscience, Job would not have had the advantage of him. But then, so many other,things would not have happened either.

Job realizes God’s inner antinomy, and in the light of this to realization his knowledge attains a divine numinosity. The possibility of this development lies, one must suppose, in man’s “godlikeness,” which one should certainly not look is for in human morphology. Yahweh himself had guarded against this error by expressly forbidding the making of images. Job, by his insistence on bringing his case before God, even without hope of, a hearing, had stood his ground and thus created the very obstacle that forced God to re-veal his true nature. With this dramatic climax Yahweh abruptly breaks off his cruel game of cat and mouse. But if anyone should expect that his wrath will now be turned against the slanderer, he will be severely disappointed. Yah­weh does not think of bringing this mischief-making son of his to account, nor does it ever occur to him to give Job at least the moral satisfaction of explaining his behaviour. Instead, he comes riding along on the tempest of his al­mightiness and thunders reproaches at the half-crushed human worm:

Who is this that darkens counsel

by words without insight

In view of the subsequent words of Yahweh, one must really ask oneself: Who is darkening what counsel? The only, dark thing here is how Yahweh ever came to make a bet with Satan. It is certainly not Job who has darkened, anything and least of all a counsel, for there was never any’ talk of this nor will there be in what follows. The bet does not contain any “counsel’ so far as one can see-unless, of course, it was Yahweh himself who egged Satan on Job 38 2 (ZB).


More to come later ……….Mark


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