Sunday, January 30, 2005

February 3, 2005

In this course, we are going to take up one of Jung’s most controversial works, his Answer to Job. First, some background. Jung wrote Answer in 1951. On May 29, 1951, Jung wrote to Aniela Jaffe’: "So it goes all the time: memories rise up and disappear again, as it suits them. In this way I have landed the great whale; I mean "Answer to Job." I can’t say I have fully digested this tour de force of the unconscious. It still goes on rumbling a bit, rather like an earthquake. I notice it when I am chiselling away at my inscription (which has made good progress). Then thoughts come to me, as for instance that consciousness is only an organ for perceiving the fourth dimension, i.e., the all-pervasive meaning, and itself produces no real ideas." [Letters, Vol. 2, pp 17-18.]

Again, on July 18, 1951, he wrote to Aniela Jaffe’: "I am especially pleased that you could get into such close relationship with the second part of my book (Answer). So far most people have remained stuck in the first. I personally have the second more at heart because it is bound up with the present and future. If there is anything like the spirit seizing one by the scruff of the neck, it was the way this book came into being." [Letters, Vol. 2, p. 20]

Clearly, Jung felt more that his "Answer to Job" wrote him not vice versa. And he valued the second part of the work more than the first part. Let’s keep that in mind as we read and discuss the book. Which parts hold meaning for us?

In a letter to "Dr. H," dated August 30, 1951, Jung wrote: "You must pardon my long silence. In the spring I was plagued by my liver and had often to stay in bed and in the midst of this misere wrote a little essay (c.a. 100 typed pages) whose publication is causing me some trouble." [Letters, Vol. 2, p. 21]

Even before his "Answer" was published (in 1952), it provoked a firestorm of controversy, criticism, and rebuke. What was the firestorm all about? Jung’s biographer, Vincent Brome, writes:

"If one understands Jung’s thesis correctly, Job reveals a hubris which involves a higher form of justice than God himself and the challenge is met by the incarnation of Christ. In this interpretation Christ appears as a deliberate attempt to set right the balance between good and evil, to redeem the injustice God has committed toward Man. This perfection of God is achieved by union with Divine Wisdom or Sophia, the feminine counterpart of the Holy Spirit which reappears under the image of the Virgin Mary." [Jung, Man and Myth, p. 254]

Only two years earlier, the Catholic Church had issued a papal pronouncement on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, an event Jung saw as an expression of the collective unconscious that was a sorely-need feminine compensation for the patriarchal one-sidedness of Christianity. As we shall see, Jung thought it was God’s estrangement with, or ‘forgetting’ of, Sophia that allowed him to treat Job so harshly.

Again, I quote from Brome’s biography:

"There were those who felt that Answer to Job simultaneously committed the sins of blasphemy and arrogance: blasphemy that he should attempt to unravel the metamorphoses of the Holy Spirit in the manner of a neo-Gnostic and arrogance in making it conform to his own theories. Fierce controversy followed, with one school reading the book simply as a psychological explanation of Man’s conception of God, while others recoiled from the notion that any imperfection had ever appeared in the Holy Spirit. Ellenberger believed that the book could also be understood ‘as a cry of existential anguish from a man desperately seeking for a solution of the greatest of all philosophical riddles, the problem of evil’

"There remained a hostile handful who claimed that Jung had now appointed himself psychiatrist to God, diagnosed a divine sickness and successfully cured the Patient by applying his own theories. Eric Neumann, his old friend in Israel, wrote on 5 December 1951, "[Answer to Job] is a book that grips me profoundly. I find it the most beautiful and deepest of your books. In a certain sense it is a dispute with God similar to Abraham’s when he pleaded with God on account of the destruction of Sodom. In particular it is for me–for me personally–also a book against God who let 6 million of his people be killed, for Job is really Israel too.’" [Brome, p 254]

Jung’s reply to Neumann (January 5, 1952) clearly shows that he recognizes just what his "little essay" displays: ". . . the arrogance I had to summon up in order to be able to insult God? This gave me a bigger bellyache than if I had the whole world against me." [Letters, p. 32]

There were many reactions to Jung’s Answer. Victor White, a Dominican priest and close collaborator/friend of Jung’s, wrote a scathing review of the book. His views were so counter to Jung’s that the difference eventually ended their relationship. "As one critic put it succinctly if inelegantly, the two scholars (Jung and White) were able to maintain a respectful and cordial tone to their disagreement until Jung ‘cornered God the Father, pinned him to the nearest couch and promptly set about psychoanalysing him.’ Jung found God ‘guilty of being unconscious, having projected his shadow upon humanity, and of perpetuating a considerable amount of injustice and evil.’ When Jung concluded that Christian theology deprived God of the possibility of having a shadow, White was bound by the tenets of his faith to declare him wrong." [Bair, Jung, A Biography, p. 546]

For anyone interested in God, or in the nature of God, or in one’s relations with God, Jung’s ‘little essay’ raises disturbing questions. How does one reconcile the sometimes warring, vengeful, dangerous God/Yahweh of the Old Testament with the loving, compassionate, merciful Son of God of the New Testament? How is it that God could forget the covenant he made with God’s People and turn against them with such wrath at times?

In our readings course we will be revisiting one of the early issues of Christianity, the Marcion heresy. Marcion lived in the second century CE and held beliefs that were counter to those prevailing in Christian circles at the time. He believed there was no way to reconcile the Gods of the Old and New Testaments; their differences were just too great. He also believed that Jesus had revealed certain ‘truths’ that were available only to a select few (Gnosticism). And he believed that Christ’s nature was divine without the human element that the early church insisted upon. All three of these beliefs were eventually declared heretical.

As we study Jung’s Answer, we will be revisiting these ancient heresies and examining them for ourselves. Did the early Church Fathers settle these issues once and for all? Why are they important today? What do they have to do with us? Why should we care? What is the true nature of this entity we call God, the nature of the Christ/Man? Can we know?
I think exploring these kinds of questions and considering possible answers for ourselves is important because such exploration can be of help in our uncovering, i.e., making conscious, and possibly reformulating a living myth for our own lives.

If our myth is of a kind, loving, compassionate Father God, how do we reconcile a world in which evil runs rampant? If we are made in the image and likeness of this God, from whence evil? What about this God who allowed six million of his chosen people to die in the Holocaust? Elie Weisel has said the holocaust should make us revisit everything we ever thought about God. And what of the recent Tsunami?

If, as Jung suggests, the role of the conscious human being is to stand with God against God, what does that mean for us? Of course, a kind, loving, compassionate, all-knowing, all-powerful God had no need for such a posture on our part.

One way of looking at our Judeo-Christian scriptures is to see them as the ‘story’ of an individual and collective and unfolding/development of consciousness. It begins with the evictions from the idyllic garden of Eden, that state of not-knowing and innocence of childhood. There is the Moses kind of consciousness that unifies the personality/culture with law and order, leads it out of bondage, through difficult and dangerous passages. What about the God that strikes Moses down for a simple act of disobedience after decades of faithful service? That Moses consciousness cannot enter the ‘promised land.’

We will be examining the Job-type consciousness that keeps insisting God remember his better nature and the covenant God has made. Job does indeed stand with God against God. But what kind of God is it that needs a human reflection to remember his nature? What is the level of consciousness of the human person who does not question, does not reflect, does not accept any mirroring that would crack his/her belief system? Such a one is in dire need of a ‘Job’ to expand the controlling myth of his/her life.

And there is the Jesus-type consciousness that stands all prior understanding of the nature of God on its head. Where Yahweh would flatten the enemy, destroy it totally, this new God-Man shows and lives out a totally different kind of victory. As Jack Miles’ explains, ". . . Christians who have bound themselves to Christ sacramentally in his death will find themselves bound to him as well in his glorious resurrection. Their victory and God’s will be over death itself rather than over any one death-dealing human enemy. God will have achieved this victory for them not by defeating his human enemies but by allowing himself to be defeated by them and then triumphing impersonally over the defeat itself rather than personally over he enemies who inflicted the defeat." [Miles, "The Disarmament of God," p. 3, ]

Or, put more succinctly by Anthony de Mello in his little story, "The Coconut":

"A monkey on a tree hurled a coconut
at the head of a Sufi.
The man picked it up, drank the milk,
ate the flesh, and made a bowl from the shell.

Thank you for your criticism of me." [The Song of the Bird, p. 163]

If we view our actions, both personally and collectively, in the light of a scriptural mythology of developing consciousness, those actions tell us a great deal about the state of our consciousness. Do we focus on defeating our enemy and raining fire and shame on their heads or do we focus on defeating the defeat our enemy has visited upon us?

I started this introduction with background and will return to background here. Jung wrote Answer in 1951 when he was 76 years old. He spent three months of intense effort revising it. Deidre Bair in her recent biography writes about the last two decades of Jung’s life. (He died in 1961.)

"In the last two decades of Jung’s life, coinciding with the isolation and introspection imposed by the war, those who were close to him noticed changes in his attitude toward the world at large. In one of her succinct pronouncements, Jolande Jacobi described the major one: ‘He really wasn’t interested in anyone’s private life anymore. He was only interested in the ‘Big Dreams,’ in the collective archetypal world.’ Using his two infarcts as his excuse, he curtailed public appearances and refused to meet most new people. He . . . cut his analytic calendar drastically, seldom seeing more than four persons in any given day and then mostly for fifteen-minute conversations . . ."

His behavior created concerns for those around him. Jacobi put it this way: "‘When journalists came we were trembling and hoping that Muller the gardener gives the interviews because he is closer to reality. Jung lived now in another world.’

There were more visible extremes in his behavior as well. During the three months he took to revise the original text of Answer to Job, he closeted himself away for long hours each day, writing to the point of exhaustion. Jacobi described him as ‘moody in a rude and crude way, like a peasant . . . furious all the time.’ The usually fastidious Jung sometimes went several days without shaving or (as some of his intimates inferred) bathing, but Emma was always there to see that he wore clean clothing." [Jung, A Biography, p. 528]

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