Answer to Job

Answer to Job


On the whole there are three publications which stand out from the work of C. G. Jung’s later years.

These had to do partly with the subject of self-development, represented in alchemical symbolism as the Mysterium Coniunctionis.

This two-volume work, supplemented by a third volume of texts, arranged and with commentary by Marie-Louise von Franz, can be considered the real work of Jung’s old age.

Its author had begun it during the war years, before he had reached his seventieth year.

Thematically the separate volume The Practice of Psychotherapy, which had appeared earlier, also belonged in this context.

Being concerned over and over in this late period with the questions of “Present and Future” (1957), in 1958 Jung published “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth”-“flying saucers” or UFOs being seen in the skies had been the subject of widespread debate for some time.

Among other things, there was heated controversy over the question of whether they were earthly missiles of a potential enemy power or flying machines of some “extraterrestrials” that had to be reckoned with.

But the object of a much more specialized, theological debate was to be Jung’s Answer to Job, a work that with elemental impact raised as no other had done fundamental questions of the image of God, as well as those of human existence in contrast to the transcendental, and the problem of good and evil.

Answer to Job thus stands out from the long series of all the rest of his books in that here the writer is not a researcher concerned with the scientific demonstration of facts.

The floor went rather to one who was profoundly agitated, who in his challenging, almost violent confrontation with the image of the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, felt compelled to write down from the heart everything that had formed an indelible part of his life for decades.

At bottom it had been present for Jung even in the visionary inner perceptions of his early childhood imagination, in which he had felt a powerful dark side in God himself, or more exactly in the image of God.

One thinks also, for example, of his experience before the Basel cathedral and the liberating effect that the dropping a great mass of dung on the “house of God” had produced in Carl Gustav as a student!

One contributing factor in the writing was an illness which had a productive function.

In the spring of 1951 Jung was repeatedly bedridden, as his liver was giving him trouble.

Then, amid fevered states which gave the impression that his whole physical and mental structure was, as it were, collapsing, the patient was seized by the idea of the Book of Job.

The book “came to him,” as he once explained in a letter to his French friend and Eranos colleague Henry Corbin.

The inspired character of the event is unmistakable, albeit clearly different from the earlier “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos.”

And although Jung by his own admission was not an auditory type-one fixated on hearing sounds internally and externally-he perceived what pressed in upon him, and was to be turned into language through him, as a “great music,” like something by Bach or Handel.

“I felt as if l were listening to a great composition, or rather a concert. The whole thing was an adventure that befell me, and I hurried to write it down.”

That it was not a scientific book was already shown by the jacket copy for the first edition in 1952.

Rather it was a “personal confrontation with the world of traditional Christian ideas,” spurred by the dogma of Mary advanced shortly before by Pius XII.

Nor did he speak at all as a theologist, but-as always-as a doctor, who could not escape the many religious questions of his practice and above all his entire personal experience.

Added to this were the great contemporary events of the just-ended world war, with its flash floods of deceit, injustice, subjugation, and mass murder, which had shocked all humanity.

Thus there was reason enough to ask, “What does a kind and almighty God have to say to this?”

Fundamentally, he said, this question, posed thousands and millions of times, was long overdue.

Between the lines was an unstated warning: no one expected dogmatic orthodoxy or the attempt at repeated theodicy-that is, an additional justification of God in whatever form-from a rationally thinking or even ecclesiastically committed theologian!

The very fact that a man of the mentality of a C. G. Jung took up his pen to free himself of the violent emotions that the Book of Job produced in him deserves notice.

This text, assigned in Luther’s Bible to the so-called instructional books, and in Buber’s interpretation to the body of “scriptural works,” is unquestionably among the great religious poetical works of world literature.

And apparently there is more than one Job tradition in the biblical sense.

Job may reflect an explosion that has been renewed from time to time:

Martin Luther acknowledged how much effort the book cost him from the linguistic point of view alone.

Philosophers of the prominence of Johann Georg Hamann were mightily attracted to it.

Probably best known is the relation of the Book of Job to the “Prelude in Heaven” of Goethe’s Faust, with its curious dialogue between God andSatan, as if they were two gamblers betting on the genuineness of Job’s devotion.

The fascination which the biblical Job admittedly or not-has exerted on modern people since Kierkegaard is easily demonstrated.

The Danish Socrates made several attempts to get closer to him in his book Recapitulation:

“If I had not had Job! It is impossible to describe or to shade exactly the meaning and the manifold significance he has for me. I read him not as one reads any other book, with the eye,  after I read the book as it were in my heart, and with the eye of the heart I read it, understand the particulars in the most distinct way as if in clairvoyance …. ”

For the existential philosopher Karl Jaspers, who was in Kierkegaard’s philosophical tradition, it was the ambiguity of the relationship of God to man and man to God that caused unease.

The Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, an atheist of Jewish extraction, could not and would not escape the bewilderment of the sufferer confronted with the avenging god Yahweh, considerable as the misinterpretations could and must be which Bloch bestowed on this book of the Bible.

Thus Jung’s Job theme did not come out of the blue, although he could not have been motivated by the contexts of those named. How could he have been?

But contemporaneity and “simultaneity” (Kierkegaard) marked out the intellectual field from which Jung cannot be disengaged.

Other, more immediate contemporaries belonged here as well.

There was Jung’s in many respects dissimilar countryman, the theologian Karl Barth, who in four exegetical essays in his monumental Church Dogmatics contrasted Job with the crucified Christ and his work.

That the theologian expected no substantial explanatory help of the psychologist requires no special proof.

But at least marginally Barth attested that Jung had written “in human terms a very moving document-and incidentally one extremely revealing of the psychology of the professional psychologist!”

Almost simultaneously with Jung and in his immediate vicinity, in Zurich, a Jewish woman was recording her own Job-experience, an experience vibrating with Jobiads, the numerous and inextinguishable; this was Margarete Susman.

She had drawn upon Job as the book of the destiny of the Jewish people, seeking to obtain from Job a ray of light on an uncertain path.

It is only in historical context, against the background of these interpretations of Job, but above all in clear contrast to them, that the contours of the Jungian picture of Job stand out.

For where others wished to lay open the Old Testament book, to “bring it closer” to themselves and hence to people of today,

Jung’s aim was from the first a different one, at any rate not one of theology or literary criticism, but rather antitheological.

That it would consequently be a “hard nut” for the unprepared, he freely admitted.

Those who found in it too much sarcasm, irony, and “suchlike rubbish,” Jung advised, could simply let it alone and not bother with it.

Or in positive terms, as in a letter from November 1955:

“The book does not pretend to be anything but the voice or question of a single individual who hopes or expects to meet with thoughtfulness in the public.”

Thus it is a thoroughly personal and intimate book, by one deeply troubled and moved, and thus the strict opposite of a scientifically argued biblical commentary.

Jung read the text quite consciously without the aid of critical apparatus, so as not to arouse the slightest impression of wishing to be swayed by prior theological exegesis.

Jung’s provocation was preceded by that of the unknown biblical author who wrote some centuries before the common era.

Job, a blameless man who lives according to the law and the religious order, becomes the victim of an experiment, nay a wager, between God and Satan-in itself already rather a lot to ask of the poor Bible reader!

The question is how much Job’s piety and devotion to God are really worth.

Would hestill remain faithful to God if he lost all he had, his sons and daughters, plagued with leprosy, staring death in the face?

The crushing blows of fate are compounded by the disheartening, nagging remonstrances of his own wife and his know it- all friends.

Heated debates are followed finally by the confrontation between Job and God/Yahweh.

Faced with the omnipotence of the Creator, the tormented human becomes aware that he is a created being and subject to death-and he survives.

But what of the image of God that is uncovered here? What of the “righteousness” of Yahweh?

Does this not reveal a contradiction in Yahweh with which the suffering human being, awakening to consciousness, must come to terms?

Questions upon questions!

With good reason, attention has sometimes been drawn to what Tenzler called the “fundamentally interlocking nature of Jung’s personal and scientific conception of God.”

Only from this point of view is his attitude toward religious reality and the problem of Job understandable.

Of course it is also true that Jung viewed his own experience and perception in the light of other testimony from religious and intellectual history, in comparison for example with those by whom the contradictory and antagonistic in God had been taken into account.

Thus it was not simply a wish to emphasize the admittedly violent face of contemporary history-the state of humanity since Auschwitz and Hiroshima-as the only point if the Book of Job, as seems to be so in other authors, for example Margarete Susman.

Asked about the genesis of his Answer to Job, Jung pointed out that he had been concerned for many years with the central problem involved in it, that of the antagonism of Christ and Antichrist.

In his previous book Aion (1951), which shed deep light on the symbolism of the age of Christ, the Age of Pisces, those questions had still remained unsettled-a further impetus to take up these problems from a new approach.

Jung had long felt that the results of psychology contradicted the ecclesiastical doctrine which saw evil as an absence of good (privatio boni).

Psychological experience shows that whatever we call “good” is balanced by an equally substantial “bad” or “evil.”

If “evil” is a me on-nonexistent-then whatever there is must needs be “good.”

So Jung said, pointing to developments in the history of dogma.

According to dogma, neither good nor evil could have its origin in man, since in Job 1:6 the so-called Evil One (Satan) turns out to be virtually one of the sons of God.

The text reads:

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.”

Satan, then, as Christ was later, a son of God!

Whereas Clement of Rome (first century C.E.), whom Jung often cited in Aion, spoke of God’s ruling the world with a right and a left hand-that is, with Christ and with Satan-this originally monotheistic Christianity would seem to have become dualistic; the part of the one God that is personified in Satan is split off to become the evil that opposes God.

Hence in his letter of November 1955, which was published as a preface to his book on Job, Jung wrote:

If Christianity claims to be a monotheism, it becomes unavoidable to assume the opposites as being contained in God. But then we are confronted with a major religious problem: the problem of Job. It is the aim of my booklet to point out its historical evolution since the time of Job down through the centuries to the most recent symbolic phenomena like the Assumptio Mariae, etc.

But naturally this was not meant to imply that the author intended merely to collect and comment upon historical evidence, as had been done for example even in his study of medieval natural philosophy.

All this pointed to a complexio oppositorum and thus recalled again the story of Job to my mind: Job who expected help from God against God. This most peculiar fact presupposes a similar conception of the opposites ….

For several years I hesitated … , because I was quite conscious of the probable consequences and knew what a storm would be raised. But I was gripped by the urgency and difficulty of the problem and was unable to throw this off. Therefore I found myself obliged to deal with the whole problem and did so in the form of describing a personal experience, carried by subjective emotions. I deliberately chose this form because I wanted to avoid the impression that I had any idea of announcing an “eternal truth.”

Jung read the Bible, and the Book of Job with it, as “utterances of the soul.”

Though this might appear at first sight to be a psychologization of sacred texts, which seems to drag down revealed contents from the transcendent, pneumatic level to that of the “merely” psychic, this notion turns out to be unfounded.

For on the one hand Jung expressly did not speak as a theologian or prophet of a revelation claiming final validity, and on the other hand “soul” is not identical with the ego of everyday consciousness.

What was meant was rather that depth and that immeasurable total range of spiritual reality where out of reach of human discretion and feasibility-archetypes are at work.

What is imparted, often along with great shocks (as a mysterium tremendum), is archetypal images and influences.

They appear on the horizon of human experience.

And only that which “clicks” there, that which becomes clear and is attested to by people, as the recipients of such experiences, in definite situations in their lives, is subject to psychological observation.

Holy Scripture, or “God’s word in the words of man,” is nothing other than such “documents of the soul,” which bear the signatures of those who received them even in their diction and their metaphysical language.

Any other “immediate revelation” which would dispense with passing through an organ of human perception would be imperceptible, and thus also neither certifiable nor understandable.

And is it not so that only the incarnation of God can bring the “wholly other” into existence?

For this reason, here as in many other places, Jung had to stress emphatically that he neither desired nor was able to make any kind of statements about God, but only about images or conceptions of God, as they took place in people in this way.

Thus the human soul, the locus of the theophany, is always “only” the vessel of an ultimately inexhaustible content that is beyond the reach of the ego (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6ff).

Thus there are numinous factors which shape the human intellect as well as the emotional life in all its depth and scope.

For this reason alone Jung could make no use at all of a dissociated objectivity.

He could not leave himself “outside,” but had to include himself, with all his emotions, when reading so demanding a book as that of the biblical Job.

Therefore he repeatedly remarked:

I write not as a scholar (which I am not), but as a layman and a doctor who has been privileged to look deep into the spiritual lives of many people. What I express is of course primarily my own opinion, but I know that I also speak in the name of many who have fared as I have.

These statements of Jung’s, which call to mind his point of departure and his procedure, for example his way of reading the Bible, demanded to be taken into account.

And precisely because not a few of his critics evidently had not read his Preface or had not taken it seriously, Jung’s advice on this point was well founded.

The author pointed out how full of contradictions and practically overflowing with emotions is the picture which the Old Testament draws of Yahweh: the Creator is the angry one, burning with passion, the reckless destroyer of everything that is opposed to God. Hence Jung’s summation:

“A state of affairs constituted in such a way can only be described as amoral.”

This “divine darkness” is revealed in the Book of Job through Yahweh’s allowing the man to be groundlessly hounded out of the land of U z.

On the other hand, in his suffering Job recognizes the injustice of God, and above all that in answer to his love and faith this God finds himself opposed to the people of his covenant (Job 16:19ff).

Nevertheless the tormented Job sticks to him:

“I know that my Redeemer liveth”! (19:25).

Evil exists together with good-in Yahweh.

In the clear knowledge of this contradiction Job hopes in Yahweh (the Redeemer) against Yahweh (the Terrible).

To the extent that Job bases his hope on such a realization, he gains insight into Yahweh’s double nature.

This realization on the part of his creation reacts upon the creator, and hence Jung sees the real reason for God’s becoming man, that is for the incarnation of Christ, in his confrontation with Job .

. . . God becomes man. This means nothing less than the transformation of God which overturns the world. It means more or less what the creation did in its time, namely an objectivization of God.

Here, in the life and suffering of Christ, the other son of God (in contrast to Satan), comes the real answer to Job.

The problem that starts with and through Job, which is expressed in the image of God and reflected in Job’s fate, finds its solution through the “Redeemer.”

For Jung, God becomes conscious of himself in Christ; the son appeases the wrath of his father-a situation that is nowhere more impressively and universally expressed than in the theosophy of Jakob Bohme.

Further, the example of Bohme is significant because it illustrates how this process, radiating from the inner dynamics of the divine to the whole of cosmology, could become a spontaneous experience for a man who with no knowledge of tradition or depth psychology was driven to this staggering inner perception.

For Jung the incarnation, the humanization, of God was by no means ended with Christ, but only begun.

There was a progressive “approximation of the believer to the status of the son of God” wherever the Holy Spirit pitched his tent among men.

The ongoing, immediate influence of the Holy Spirit on those who are called to be God’s children means de facto an ever-widening incarnation.

Christ, the son begotten by God, is the first-born, who is followed by a great number of posthumous sisters and brothers.

Trains of thought such as this should not cause us to forget that Jung continued to speak as a psychologist, who had in mind solely the humanization, or individuation, of man, even when speaking of the coming to consciousness of God.

It is the human being who must attain the goal of life, the meaning of life, his wholeness or Self.

It is a completeness which should not be confused with moral or religious and holy perfection.

The integration of man has always been described and longed for as a hierosgamos or sacred marriage, for example in such forms as the marriage of the Lamb.

It involves not only-as in Jung’s psychotherapy-the integration of the shadow as the sum of the dark, mostly denied and unconscious side of one’s nature, but above all also the elevation of the feminine, the “equalization” of women.

This equality refers not merely to full social recognition of women, but rather is equivalent to a metaphysical and spiritual anchoring of women.

That is to say, if the traditional image of God in the Old and New Testaments carried explicitly patriarchal traits, and if the whole of Wes tern civilization for two millennia has borne the stamp of this, then great attention must be paid to a process that makes, or could make, allowance for the need for the integration of human beings after the elevation of the feminine.

Because the announcement on 1 November 1950 of the dogma of the bodily ascension of Mary immediately preceded the composition of Answer to Job, and the debate among the various theological and ecclesiastical-ecumenical viewpoints had stirred up great waves at that time,

Jung went into this in detail.

His experiences in the field of religious psychology, and in particular the psychology of religion or the contents of  eligion, had encouraged him to take a positive stance toward this recent Marian dogma.

His esteem for it could hardly have been greater. In the dogma of the Assumption of Mary he saw “the most important religious event since the Reformation.”

The method of papal argumentation, he said, which had in the past been compelled (and able!) to do without biblical substantiation, was he said extremely plausible to the psychological mind.

Moreover the logical consistency of the papal declaration was unsurpassed, whereas Protestantism remained “a religion of men” because it did without this metaphysical anchoring of women.


The feminine demands just as personal a representation as the masculine …. Just as the person of Christ cannot be replaced by an organization, so neither can the bride by the Church ….

Jung’s sarcasms, his way of evaluating the figures of God in the Old and New Testaments, are unquestionably a chapter in themselves.

Thus the psychologist claimed to get rid of his aversions by falsely attributing “an unholy fantasy” to the apocalyptist John.

The Christ of the apocalypse “behaves rather like an ill-tempered, power-conscious ‘boss.’ … ”

The psychological critic of John’s revelation strung together a whole series of contradictions and reproaches.

Jung, it seems, did not feel particularly comfortable with himself after the manuscript had been written and a few friends set eyes on it.

A number of theologians appeared to be shocked, and even Emma Jung had misgivings, while younger people were favorably impressed.

To Aniela Jaffe he wrote from Bollingen on 29 May 1951 that he had still not fully digested this “tour de force of the unconscious.”

He spoke of an “aftershock” that still made him uneasy himself.

On another occasion Jung admitted that he had really not yet found the right way to present what he had had to say in Answer to Job in order to be rightly understood.

Early in 1952, to the Reformed theologian Walter Uhsadel of Hamburg, he advertised his book on Job, then in press, as a “polemic.”

And though Jung had expressed concern already months before its appearance, for example in a letter of 30 August 1951, that he had stirred up an “inferno,” a scant year later his astonishment was great. It “causes the weirdest misunderstandings,” reads a letter of 28 July 1952.24

To Upton Sinclair he complained:

“People mostly don’t understand my empirical standpoint.”

But was it only his empirical standpoint, after all?

Should not the very personal confession found in a letter of 28 July 1952, to an Israeli woman living in Tel Aviv, be taken at least as seriously?

This read:

“I am always seeking quiet. I am a bundle of opposites and can only stand myself when I observe myself as an objective phenomenon.”

And after his  capacity for physical effort, at the age of seventy-seven, had perceptibly diminished, he was almost afraid of new inspirations that would exact too high a degree of work from him.

And of course over and over there were, as also in the Job book, “inspirations” that insinuated themselves with an almost compelling power which overwhelmed the recipient, which he was thus hardly able to withstand.

Thus all these letters show something of Jung’s psychic predicament and his thoroughly personal suffering through what the majority of his critics took as simply an intellectual provocation.

This resulted in an extremely lively debate between Jung and his theological critics, or those who argued on behalf of the faithful, although Jung had not really been writing for them.

Because he did not count himself among the fortunate possessors of the truths of faith, but knew very well the suffering of the unbelieving yet still religious seeker, Answer to Job was ultimately written only for those people who like Job suffered on account of God.

More notably, this took place at the time when Rudolf Bultmann’s theory of demythologization was being no less controversially debated.

For a generation of theologians at least, this was to carry the day through a cross-section of creeds and nations, while Jung’s religious psychological and therapeutic contribution was downgraded to a marginal phenomenon as an attempt at a re-mythologizationof Christianity.

At this period of his life the circle of those who were beginning to understand Jung’s intention was understandably small.

There were only a few, such as the Swiss theologian Hans Schar, to whom he could acknowledge soon after the publication of Answer to Job that he had discharged the difficult task of editing it in “very objective fashion.”

Jung felt compensated for “a thousand misunderstandings” by the pleasing letter he had already had from Erich Neumann in Tel Aviv in December of 19 51. For his student Neumann, Jung’s book on Job was the finest and most profound of all that the master had written, insofar as one could call it a “book.”

The Jewish analyst wrote:

“It is a book that moves me deeply …. In a certain sense it is a debate with God, like that of Abraham when he pleaded with God over the ruin of Sodom. It is particularly for me personally-also a book against God, who allowed six million of ‘his’ people to be slain, for of course Job is really also Israel, and I mean this not in a ‘petty’ sense, as I know full well that we are only the paradigm for all of humanity, in whose name you speak, protest, and console. And precisely the conscious one-sidedness, and indeed often incorrectness of what you say, is for me an inner proof of the necessity and justness of your attack-which is of course no attack, as I know very well …. ”

Could the unorthodox nontheologian Jung be supposed to have understood the inner situation, that of the Jews before God, better than the many Christian theologians, from the theologians in his own family down to those for whom a Reformed parson’s offspring had become a traitor to God?

Finally, that friendship could change abruptly to hostility, sparked by Jung’s Job-apology, is shown by the example of the Englishman Victor White.

After his first reading of it, the Dominican father still acted delighted and gratefully excited.

Soon he began to have second thoughts, the misgivings of one who suddenly realized that agreement with psychological insights could lead to conflict with Church dogma.

He began publicly to defame Jung’s work, to insinuate that his friend was naive and poorly informed on theological matters.

It is quite remarkable that statements of this kind came directly from Victor White, for, as Laurens van der Post commented,

“if anyone were in a position to know the extent of Jung’ s theological knowledge, research, and interest in religion, and his grasp of its history and implications for life past and present, it was Victor White. Yet despite this, Jung, up to the end, respected what had brought him and White together and understood Victor White’s situation, committed as he was to a priority of prescribed faith” -as were many others with and after him!

Finally, for the present the official records in the case of Job and Jung cannot be closed, if one considers how closely the two disciplines, theology and depth psychology, referred to each other in intensive collaboration in Answer to Job.

The problem is not historical, but more and more existential, particularly as the suffering of Job does not cease; it multiplies a millionfold.

Not only is this comment found in the letter Jung wrote to a Protestant theologian in 1951; the author also pointed this out:

It seems to me that it is only the person who seeks to realize his humanity who does God’s will, not the one who takes flight before the sad fact “man.” … To become human seems to me to be the intention of God in us …. God has obviously not chosen to be his sons those who hang 01,1 to him as a father, but those who have found the courage to stand on their own feet. Sarcasm is the means by which one conceals injured feelings from oneself, from which it can be gathered how much the knowledge of God has wounded me, and how much I would have preferred to remain as a child in the fatherly protection and avoid the problem of the opposites. It is probably even harder to free oneself from good than from evil. But without sin there is no breaking away from the good father …. One way or another certain questions must be openly asked and answered. I took it as my duty to encourage this. ~Gerhard Wehr, Jung: A Biography, Pages 381-395