Jung’s “Answer to Job”

In recent years I have come across many references to the book Answer to Job, by C.G. Jung. Job is a gentile man in the Book of Job of the Hebrew Bible.

Job

Painting of Job, by Léon Bonnat

I sometimes hear the phrase “the patience of Job” but, until reading this book, I was unaware of the story that gives rise to this phrase. But what could be so important about the story that C.G. Jung would write a book about it—published when he was age 77—calling it the only book of his he would not change? Further, a learned Jungian Scholar, Edward F. Edinger, wrote a companion book explaining the implications of Jung’s assertions in Answer to Job about Yahweh, God, Jesus, Mary, Sophia, Satan, the female and the male principles, the conscious and unconscious in man, St. John and other Biblical persons, and other items of historical, religious, mythical, philosophical, and psychological interest. His book is Transformation of the God Image: An Elucidation of Jung’s “Answer to Job.”

As Alan Watts points out in his lecture  “Who is it Who Knows There is no Ego,” all the words and  concepts used in this essay are created and used by Man to distinguish among imagined parts of the undifferentiated Whole so he (Man) can do things with them and to be less frightened of the unknown. With this in mind, I will boldly summarize Jung’s book:

  • Job’s job was to “humanize” Yahweh/God who was formerly amoral and unselfconscious.
  • A further implication is that the story appeared in the Old Testament to show Man he could hope to emulate God (in fact, contained God within him), but Man must restrain himself in the use of the powers revealed to him—those that formerly were attributable only to an external and amoral Yahweh/God.

I place these quite imperfectly formed words and thoughts in front of you in the hope of stimulating you to read at least the Jung book; but the Edinger book will clarify and modernize some important portions of Jung’s language and its translation from the German. Also, you will get insights into the precepts and work of Jungian psychologists.

Last, as I read through both books I was reminded of soulfully poetic passages along similar lines (as distinct from Jung’s academic approach) in Nikos Kazantzakis’s autobiography, Report to Greco:

Now for the first time since the world was made, man has been enabled to enter God’s workshop and labor with him. The more flesh (man) transubstantiates into love, valor and freedom, the more truly he becomes Son of God….

What a fearful ascent from monkey to man, from man to God!

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate Californian living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
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10 Responses to Jung’s “Answer to Job”

  1. I get the sense that the idea behind Answer to Job is that God is not some unchanging being, but is changed by interaction with his creation — with his creatures. Job demonstrates to God the dark side of God’s actions — which brings God to a greater consciousness, and leads God to put limits on God’s own future actions.

    At first glance this idea seems ridiculous, but the farther one goes into it, the clearer it becomes. Humans can influence God, as well as vice versa.

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    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Yes, I agree with the interpretation that God evolves as man becomes more conscious of his own powers and capabilities (which are God’s in man). The word “God,” in my view, is inadequate (actually, none will do) to describe the entity or force that is at the center of creation. As we have learned, with power comes responsibility; we are still learning, as a race, how to balance these. I perceive a great deal of Hubris (or Hybris) around and abroad in the corridors of power. This does not bode well. Our (human) world is too far out of balance (see the film “Koyaanisqatsi“). Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Pingback: Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II « The Pavellas Perspective

  3. Pingback: Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II | Cultivating the Corpus Callosum

  4. That is a great work by Jung. I read it back maybe in my early 20s. And it was eye-opening at the time.

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    • Ron Pavellas says:

      As I have written, I ‘found’ Jung in my 20s (‘discovery’ had to wait until I read the Red Book in my 70s), so I have come late to the party. Now at 82, I am still trying to catch up on all I missed or explored shallowly while working/studying at the U/marrying and getting children. Despite having a master’s degree, I was mostly trained, not educated. You seem to have started much earlier in your education and have a depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding I feel I might be able to approach if I live at least another 20 years. However, I am ‘orienting’ (no pun intended) in another direction currently, toward Zen, finding great wisdom in the writings of D.T. Suzuki, about whom I will write in this blog (I wish there were a less ugly term) within year 2019, probably.

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      • My readings of Jung have been random. His writings are so immense and diverse. I’m not sure I’ve yet discovered him. But I have appreciated reading him when I took the opportunity.

        Here is the secret to my life. I hated school but I love learning. I almost flunked out of 7th grade because I read books I enjoyed instead of doing homework. And later I dropped out of college for similar reasons. My life largely revolves around reading books. No career, no kids, just a large library of books. I have my priorities.

        Orienting toward zen is perfectly fine. I sort of went in the opposite direction. I was raised in a very alternative spiritual church, the New Thought Unity. I grew up with that kind of thing. And I was seriously pulled into spiritual practices for many years, including meditation. But it was always a struggle with depression. I eventually found my peace with life. And these days what spiritual practice I have is informal.

        I might be better off if I kept a more of an actual practice. I’m sure meditation would be helpful for me. I guess my plate is full enough as is in my present equilibrium. My exercise routine works well enough for me in maintaining a sense of balance.

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      • Ron Pavellas says:

        From age 14 on, I hated school, considering it a prison. Hated history, as presented–I called it the Injection Method of learning, no real understanding, just memorization. The only class I enjoyed and got an ‘A’ in was an English class on semantics. I was fundamentally a drop-out, present but not attending, with abysmal grades. Math was my forte, but I had completed high school math early.
        Re: Suzuki’s writings on Zen (also, those of Alan Watts who may have been influenced by him) ‘meditation’ in the popular sense is not necessary, sometimes even counter-productive.
        I’ve been situationally/clinically depressed, but have learned how not to enter the event horizon of that black hole. I just won’t go there. Taking a walk, doing physical things does the trick.
        I have no spiritual practice; perhaps writing short poems on Nature and my relationship with it is my version of such:
        http://www.blurb.com/books/2536408-the-pavellas-perspective

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