Jung on Job

Jung has a special place in my library.  He is one of a small cadre of authors I come back to time and again as the years go by.  I like to think of Jung as the philosopher’s psychologist and the thinking man’s thinker on thinking and it always amazes me how his work stays with you long after the initial reading, working its way into the background to percolate only to reemerge in new and creative ways connecting long dormant ideas with new possibilities.

On that road to find out I like to travel upon, I’ve always thought Jung took that needle of transcendental idealism poking Kant in the um, imagination, that’s the word, and brought it forward into the 20th century, perhaps not to fruition, but given the quantum mechanical ‘revelations’ at work during  Jung’s lifetime, it reset the giant sundial (or is that moondial) in the sky bringing Plato’s diehold of forms into a new age within the framework of Jung’s world soul.  Now one thing I must emphasize here is the nature of models.  Throughout the years, I’ve received that incredulous eye, from my non pseudo scientist acquaintances, while rambling about this and that which is the universal non verbal catchall for “You don’t really believe all that nonsense do you?.”

For me it has never been a subject of belief.  Philosophy, and to a lesser extent psychology, are a way of generating models in an attempt to understand that organ between our ears and the exterior world we perceive with it.  Always approaching the big UT, ultimate truth, but never quite reaching it.  And these models are like Lego bricks (which reminds me I wonder what Jung would have made of the very gnostic Lego Movie), connecting with each other throughout space and time.  Some form the base of lofty ideals that keep being added to.  Some are broken things only useful for illustrations of how models break down. And some are strange creations we mere mortals have trouble understanding and applying to the world at large, models we don’t recognize yet because we lack the formal language to define the meaning of it in the first place. I refer to Jung as the philosopher’s psychologist because he often dealt with the latter category.  He spent much of his career trying to give form and language to undefined areas of human experience, much of it in that playground of the unconscious within the sandbox of transcendental idealism.

Jung’s Answer to Job is perhaps my favorite essay by the Swiss master.  It is a condensed matter written in an uncharacteristic fiery voice, Jung’s big bang if you will pardon the pun, and you might say it has a ‘red shift’ to it, echoing back to that earlier mysterious mad Jung of the Red Book.    It is a voice I have grown to truly appreciate over the years as I myself have tried to give form and language to the undefined ideas swirling about my wee brain, and a definite must read for any absent minded philosopher on the road to find out.

Answer to Job is an essay I will oft opine on as time goes by, but today, especially in reference to recently discovering Shestov’s In Job’s Balances, I want to focus on this personal state of rebellion from which we rediscover our inner voice if you will. Now it occurs to me, you might ask what do I mean by rebellion?  Am I advocating taking to the streets?  The precursor to revolution, and the overthrow of a state?  Well, not exactly.  My use of rebellion is limited to a personal sense not a political one, concerned with one’s personal state of existence, not the physical political state he resides in. It is an individual state that contrasts the subjugated personal identity with the mask one is forced to wear by the society one resides in.  In terms of ego validation, it is when one stops validating externally and instead turns inward to the self.

Jung’s essay on Job is an excellent example of that process.  I’ve always felt Jung was in a state of suspended rebellion after the Red Book.  I think he scared (and probably scarred) himself with the knowledge of how close freedom and madness go hand in hand.  But what lay dormant for years, he let out again in Answer to Job.  One of my favorite passages:

She is the feminine numen of the “metropolis” par excellence, of Jerusalem the mother-city. She is the mother-beloved, a reflection of Ishtar, the pagan city-goddess. This is confirmed by the detailed comparison of Wisdom with trees, such as the cedar, palm, terebinth (“turpentine-tree”), olive, cypress, etc. All these trees have from ancient times been symbols of the Semitic love- and mother-goddess. A holy tree always stood beside her altar on high places. In the Old Testament oaks and terebinths are oracle trees. David consulted a mulberry-tree oracle. The tree in Babylon represented Tammuz, the son-lover, just as it represented Osiris, Adonis, Attis, and Dionysus, the young dying gods of the Near East. All these symbolic attributes also occur in the Song of Songs, as characteristics of the sponsus as well as the sponsa. The vine, the grape, the vine flower, and the vineyard play significant role here. The Beloved is like an apple tree; she shall come down from the mountains (the cult places of the mother-goddess), “from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards”; her womb is an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, camphire with spikenard, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. Her hands “dropped with myrrh” (Adonis, we may remember, was born of the myrrh). Like the Holy Ghost, Wisdom is given as a gift to the elect, an idea that is taken up again in the doctrine of the Paraclete.

The pneumatic nature of Sophia as well as her world-building Maya character come out still more clearly in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon. “For wisdom is a loving spirit,” Kind to man.” She is the work of all things,” “in her is an understanding spirit, holy.” She is “the breath of the power of God,” “A pure effluence flowing from the glory of the Almighty,” ” the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God,” a being must subtil,” who “passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness,” She is conversant with God,” and the Lord of all things himself loved her.” Who of all that are is a more cunning workman than she?” She is sent from heaven and from the throne of glory as a “Holy Spirit.” As a psychopomp she leads the way to God and assures immortality.

As a wannabe Johnny Appleseed, I like trees, and especially planting those idea bearing apple trees in the orchards of the mind.  Sophia, I think for Jung, was that sacred water from the wellspring of the unconscious that you must break through the bottom of the well in order to get to.   The well in this case, the recognition of the Demiurge for what he is, a gatekeeper and absolute tyrant.  But if you can break through the conditioning of society, and find your own voice again, the waters churning in the unconscious will reach those orchards of the mind and your trees will multiply and be fruitful, as a life of contemplation should be.

Another nice dream for absent minded philosophers to be sure.

Theme Music: Arcade Fire The Well and the Lighthouse


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