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Commentary on "Answer to Job" by Carl Jung

Robert Tulip
[1]

This presentation was delivered by Mr Robert Tulip at a meeting of the Canberra Jung Society, on 6th July 2018.

Note: You can listen to Robert's address and the question and answer discussion.

1.        In Answer to Job, Carl Jung provides a psychoanalytical deconstruction of the Biblical theory of God. Rather than the conventional theory of God as a personal entity, Jung interprets God as a psychological construction, an emergent function of the human vision of the order of the universe, existing only through nature rather than as supernatural.  This means for Jung that God only becomes conscious through the existence of mind,   specifically through human thought.  Answer to Job therefore presents an amazing hypothesis on the consciousness of God, that God only became conscious through man, and that before the rise of human thought there was no meaning to the idea of a conscious God.

2.        Jung is immensely sympathetic to spirituality, as the core of human identity, but tries to approach the whole field of religion with a rigorous philosophical focus, looking at how ideas about God evolved in relation to human consciousness.  Jung’s approach is highly controversial, regarded by religious believers as atheist, and seen by atheists as involving an undue focus on the spiritual.  Jung’s starting point for his analysis of religion was his scientific training as a medical doctor and therapist, combined with his deeply intimate knowledge of the philosophy of the modern scientific enlightenment.   

3.        As philosophy developed in Europe, a key debate was the status and meaning of religion.  One of the most important writers on this topic in the nineteenth century was Ludwig Feuerbach, who argued in The Essence of Christianity that God is a projection of human imagination, a fantasy created in man's image. Atheist philosophers such as Marx took Feuerbach’s analysis as an attack on religion.  Jung, by contrast, used ideas of psychological projection to propose a transformation of religion, recognising spiritual construction of myth as essential to human identity.

4.        The Bible says Job was the greatest man of the east, a man of power, wealth and faith, but he lost his livestock to thieves and meteorites, his slaves to the marauding edge of the sword, his ten children to a house roof collapse, his health to loathsome boils, the support of his wife to despair and cursing of God, and his reputation to the assumption of his friends that he must have done something to deserve his horrendous fate. All this misfortune was a result of a bet between God and Satan over whether Job could maintain his faith and integrity through severe adversity. 

5.        How a good God could possibly inflict such unmerited suffering on Job raises a host of major enduring questions about religion and human existence, on topics such as faith, providence, good and evil and the meaning of archetypal symbols in mythology.  Treating God and Satan as mythical forces, Jung applies a psychological approach, based on the emotional and social power that any symbol gains through being believed and used. Jung’s Answer to Job is therefore about the social function of religion, and in this it serves as an excellent guide into the mystery of life. 

6.        Jung’s thesis is that God’s answer to Job was to evolve into a conscious presence as the ideal of human connection to eternal truth, incarnating wisdom on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  While Jung sees the God who hands Job over to Satan as a blind unconscious force of nature, Job’s faith despite his suffering produces a humanising change in God.

7.        The book of Job is a study of psychological types.  We have the stoic acceptance from Job, the certainty from his friends that he must deserve his problems, and the bitter despair from his wife.  As well, there is the shrugging indifference of God and the scheming malevolence of Satan.  I know people who are like Job’s wife, whose faith has been shattered by unmerited suffering, people who see the power of evil as clear simple logical evidence that God does not exist.  It takes a sort of philosophical detachment, the legendary patience of Job, to rise above such attitudes.

8.        The hypothesis that Jung poses is that man possesses something that God does not have, “a somewhat keener consciousness based on self-reflection.” This is a remarkable piece of speculation on Jung’s part, that human self-reflection brings consciousness into the world for the first time, and that God actually learns from Job the meaning of presence in a fallen world, later incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, reflecting the mind of God in nature. 

9.        Jung is a modern prophet. Answer to Job offers prophetic paths to reform spiritual faith to address the meaning of Christianity and its relevance to the real apocalyptic risks of destruction that beset our planetary civilization, seeing Job as a parable for unexpected catastrophe.  The concept of prophecy has a bad reputation due to its links to supernatural fantasy, so for Jung to present such prophetic ideas in a scientific framework, linked to the Biblical tradition, is helpful. His scientific philosophy gives a stronger grounding in truth than religious assumptions about supernatural entities actually existing.  In Answer to Job Jung uses the risks of nuclear and chemical warfare as examples of existential risk.  Today we could focus on climate change.  Such problems show how Jung’s sober prophetic focus on the psychology of the apocalypse uses the ideas in the Bible as guides to address such risks.

10.     Secular philosophy tends to optimism about moral evolution, whereas apocalyptic religion is pessimistic, seeing life on a destructive trajectory and looking toward a planetary transformation for salvation. Jung explores this religious attitude, seeing the story of Job as a parable for the psychological evil that erupted with the Second World War, seemingly from the collective unconscious, leading to the uneasy peace of nuclear weapons as a sword of Damocles hanging over our common future. 

11.     The prophetic dimension in Jung emerges in his controversial analysis of zodiac ages, which provide an empirical framework for the structure of time, as I also discuss in my recent paper on The Precessional Structure of Time. This astronomical framework of time presented by Jung can also link to climate change as crucial to explaining a prophetic stance today, analysing primary collective threats.  The link between climate and astronomy is that the orbital drivers of long term natural cycles are a key to understanding the stable orderly processes that govern life on earth. These orbital patterns provide the physical reality behind Jung’s analysis of zodiac ages, his discussion of Christianity in terms of the Age of Pisces and the Age of Aquarius.

12.     To protect and restore the health of our planetary climate is today as great a challenge as the risks of war that Jung discusses. My view is that climate change is fundamentally a religious problem.  Transformation of spiritual consciousness, recognising our apocalyptic situation in the analytic way that Jung advocated, seems to be essential for humanity to escape collapse or extinction.  This extends the current paradigm of treating climate only in the terrains of politics and science and economics, instead seeing engagement with the psychology of religion as needed to overcome the blindness to the problem. Answer to Job, by looking at the apocalyptic context of religious ideas in a scientific way, treating phenomena as they appear rather than through the lens of traditional authority, presents ideas and methods that are central to such modern political problems.

13.     Job was a good and pious man, delivered by God to Satan to break his spirit.  The religious problem is that we normally expect good people will have safe and peaceful and productive lives, and yet the example of Job illustrates how this expectation can be shattered.  God seems absent, doing nothing in response to prayer, so his friends think Job must have done something to deserve his misfortune.   Even his clean hands provide no protection against unmerited suffering.  That is the problem of evil, why bad things happen to good people, the paradox that a good and powerful God allows the innocent to suffer. That problem, known as theodicy, is what Jung is talking about in Answer to Job.

14.     God does not express any faith in Job, but simply allows the devil to try to destroy him. Satan says to God at verse 2:5 “touch his bone and his flesh, and then you will see whether or not he blesses you to your face,” to which God replies “he is in your hand”.  Jung is perplexed at the apparent amorality of God, whom he sees as “contradictory… eaten up with rage and jealousy… Insight existed along with obtuseness, loving-kindness along with cruelty, creative power along with destructiveness. Everything was there, 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… A condition of this sort can only be described as amoral.”

15.     Jung discusses such paradox in Answer to Job under the theme of the union or balance of opposites, known in Kantian logic as antinomies of reason, or his remarkable word ‘enantiodromia’ as the tendency of things to change into their opposite.    Examples of union of opposites include the relations between love and fear, and between light and dark. Job is a man of light who is cast into darkness, a story that leads to a higher synthesis of redemption. Jung says “Yahweh is not a human being: he is both a persecutor and a helper in one, and the one aspect is as real as the other. Yahweh is not split but is an antinomy — a totality of inner opposites — and this is the indispensable condition for his tremendous dynamism, his omniscience and omnipotence.”

16.     Christians find it comforting to think the God of Reality is Love, and that God will therefore forgive sin. Yet this story of an implacable judge also stands as an object of fear, with Jung saying, like Kierkegaard, “One can submit to such a God only with fear and trembling.”  Jung’s shadow theory of religion sees faith as “a collective, archetypal process”, whereby “the imitation of Christ creates a corresponding shadow in the unconscious.”  This shadow takes the form of visions arising from “an unusual tension between conscious and unconscious.”

17.     The balance of opposites of love and fear is where Jung finds a path to wholeness.  Such balancing has a clear archetypal meaning in Christianity, for example in the integration of the negative of the cross with the positive of the resurrection.  The passion stories of Christ should be understood as symbolic archetypal myths for all the natural processes of death and rebirth.  Against the unbalanced Easter faith of the Risen Lord which can deflect discussion of the pain of the cross, Jung opens difficult issues around how understanding the literal falsity of myth can help us to see its symbolic meaning. He says “’Physical’ is not the only criterion of truth: there are also psychic truths which can neither be explained nor proved nor contested in any physical way.”

18.     It is fascinating in Answer to Job how Jung dances around the problem that by objective standards there is no external evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ, only literary claims. Jung describes Jesus as primarily a psychic reality for believers rather than an actual man, especially once we add in the incredible claims about him.  But the John tradition will have none of that; the epistles say straight up that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is the Antichrist. Such black and white, dark and light, bad and good polarities cover over the symbolic ambiguity that is undoubtedly central to the original intentions of the Jesus movement.  So it is hardly surprising that the persecutors of heresy so loved John, since his ideas gave such clarity for efforts to enforce uniformity.

19.     Analysing the saying in the Biblical Epistle of John that God is light, Jung points out that nature is full of darkness, so claiming that natural dark is entirely separate from God creates a psychological error with bad consequences.  The ignored and denied darkness is repressed, but the shadow returns through the unconscious, in a psychological process called compensation.  Jung gives an example of compensation in discussing John’s talk of a sinless state of perfect love. He calls this an overconfidence that runs the risk of making a counter-position grow up in the unconscious, which can then irrupt into consciousness in the form of a revelation, a subjective myth that compensates the one-sidedness of an individual consciousness.

20.     Jung is highlighting a problem of associative thinking, such as the idea that light is good while dark is bad, based on the simple metaphor of the open and the hidden.  We can extend that metaphor, badly, to say being awake is good while being asleep is bad, neglecting the need for a balance of light and dark in life, since lack of sleep makes us sick.  That seems to be the sort of lopsided literalism that Jung is observing in John.

21.     Part of Jung’s interest in eastern spirituality included how the duality of dark and light in the yin-yang cycle of interpenetration of opposites reflects a very different way of thinking from the dominant linear logic of western philosophy.  Saying we should get rid of all dark and only strive for light is a recipe for madness. The metaphysics of Johannine theology contains some intense powerful images, especially in the apocalypse, like the holy city, the tree of life, and the queen of heaven. Who could forget those memorable four horsemen or the lake of fire? Yet taking these symbols as literal completely misses the point. 

22.     Here we see that religious dogma generates psychological damage from its lack of balance.  In this world we do not know perfection, so pretending that we do generates an unconscious compensation, which includes the propensity to persecute the things we fear. Against John’s focus on a God of light and love, the God described in the Book of Job seems to Jung almost schizophrenic, combining love and power with a willingness to abandon his creation to Satanic destruction.  How we can integrate this paradox is Jung’s big question.  He sees the divine union of love and wrath as something stretching from the book of Job through into apocalyptic thinking, with John’s Revelation presenting Christ as “a savage avenger, the compensating shadow of the divine saviour who contains no darkness.”

23.     As Jung points out, an innocent lamb becoming enraged is an unusual symbol. I find it a powerful myth, in the sense that the lamb represents the earth goddess Gaia, the passive fecundity of nature in a state of peaceful grace, with wrath showing that humanity has lost its sense of connection to nature, drifting away into an unmoored ideological construction.  We can extend that metaphor of lamb as nature, with its meek lack of active power.  The judgement of wrath, the sense of justice at a global level, arises from the disconnect between ideology and reality. The prophetic intuition is that nature could cease its provision of nurture for the world economy, a process equivalent to divine wrath that could overcome all active human striving.

24.     Jung’s analysis seems to be that the angry Christ of the Apocalypse emerges psychologically as a compensating shadow for the lack of balance in John’s theology, without intrinsic continuity to the Jesus of the Gospels. The conscious Christ of the Gospels, full of light and goodness and love and compassion, is balanced by the unconscious Christ of the apocalypse, the shadow, whose character is all about darkness and wrath and fear.  I don’t think this compensation psychology completely works in explaining apocalyptic myths, especially considering that apocalyptic pervades the Gospels. 

25.     Jung’s approach to psychology recognises the inner fragmentation that results from superficial spiritual beliefs. Looking at the problem of wholeness, Jung argues that the conscious image of the ego routinely fails to recognise that it is a fragment of the whole self, and so the unexamined ego suffers from the malaise of spiritual emptiness. Integrating the system of the psyche into a perception of the whole requires study of much that is unconscious.  Analysis can bring the unconscious into consciousness, but this process is painful.  Established social systems and belief structures are built upon treating the appearance as the reality, and often reject self-knowledge on emotional grounds. Instead of honesty and openness, religion and culture more broadly often use ritual and myth to prevent difficult discussion, avoiding enquiry into the real meaning of core ideas.

26.     Answer to Job picks up the theme ‘thou art that’ from Indian philosophy, that Jung recognised as a central claim in psychology with the idea of the unity of self and nature.  Our conscious ego is only a small part of our real self. Enlightened vision sees the soul as in union with God as a spark of the divine, like how every dew drop on a spider’s web reflects the entire universe.  Most of this reflection is unconscious.  Spiritual work consists in bringing the unconscious into consciousness, to achieve a higher vision of the natural reality of God.

27.     The symbolic meaning in Christian language about God can be seen in how the imagined supernatural entity, our Heavenly Father, represents orderly processes of nature that govern human life. To increase God’s authority, and to lend authority to God’s representatives on earth, the transcendental source of order and stability is invested with human traits, including consciousness, intentions, will and morality.  By constructing this metaphor of God, human visions of how life can flourish are given an imaginary absolute status, blessed by the spirit of truth. The social power of traditional dogma rests in its mythological assertion that the transcendental entity is not a metaphor but literal fact.

28.     A simpler and less mysterious meaning of transcendental is that spirit transcends nature in the sense that concepts transcend things.  Spirit includes all language, symbols, concepts, etc, as well as the emotional energy that inspires people in situations of religious worship and any mass fervour.  A great musical concert can be a transcendental experience, lifting the participants out of their material situation into a sublime sense of unity.  At the more mundane level of ordinary language, a thing is not its description. The conceptual description transcends the material object. The traditional idea in philosophy is that the idea does not change, and is therefore eternal or outside time, while the actual thing constantly changes and is temporal. Whatever is eternal is transcendent.

29.     The transcendental is among the most difficult and ambiguous ideas.  Jung says in Answer to Job that “religious statements are psychic confessions which in the last resort are based on unconscious, i.e., on transcendental, processes.” With this identification of the unconscious with the transcendental, Jung is saying that the transcendental includes everything that in principle exists outside our conscious awareness, and within our personal and collective unconscious.  The unconscious is the domain of symbolic and religious meaning, operating in ways that touch us emotionally and intuitively, as in myths of God, Christ and Satan. 

30.     Jung goes on, “We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents… The unconscious holds an archetype of wholeness which manifests itself spontaneously in dreams, etc.”  This theme of wholeness as the central goal of transcendental imagination was Jung’s core idea in his book Aion, presented as a way to investigate the psychological meaning of the messianic call of Jesus Christ.

31.     How Jung deals with transcendental imagination can be seen from his use of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who argued that necessary concepts of experience, including space, time and causality, are inherently transcendental constructions of human logic.  Jung applied a Kantian logical framework to analyse the transcendence of God in terms of the archetypes of the collective unconscious.  Space, time and causality as necessary conditions of experience compare to Jung’s analysis of gender archetypes.  We have an intuitive instinctive sense of gender, extending to the traditional metaphysical associations that ancient cultures developed such as in the mythology of yin and yang as symbols of female and male type energies in the world.  Are these dual energies really less fundamental than space and time?

32.     An example of archetypal power is that the transcendent dimension in art arises from the creative capacity of the work to call to us from a place beyond our awareness, with messages that we can only partly explain. The transcendent meaning in music touches our emotions at unconscious levels. The greatness of religion includes its engagement with eternal symbols of the human condition, which is entirely the point of Bach’s great Passions of Matthew and John.

33.     The Biblical character Job touches us with transcendent meaning because like Jesus, his innocent suffering speaks so deeply to the human condition. Jung’s objective is to analyse this unconscious meaning with rational psychology, asking why God would give Satan such tormenting power.  Jung implies that Satan’s inability to destroy Job’s faith illustrates the moral power of faith and the superiority of human faith over an unconscious God.  In order to become conscious, God has to incarnate in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, who is God’s answer to Job.

34.     Jung seeks to wade through the conflict between religion and secularity by seeing the stories in books such as Job quite differently from how traditionalists portray them, even while the tradition responds to the unconscious meaning.  Religion is different from science; the objective certainty of physical observations is quantitative, whereas moral obligations and religious symbols are always qualitative and psychological, carrying a high level of uncertainty.  If we want to engage with a truly meaningful concept of God, it is essential that we engage with a rational critique of supernatural traditions that have been superseded by scientific knowledge. That means defining God in ways that are compatible with observation, while still respecting the stories.

35.     Eternal divine wisdom emerges in the real hidden order of the cosmos, and in how this natural order provides enabling conditions for human flourishing. Such an approach does not seek to explain the unknown in the manner of traditional religion, postulating an organising intelligence, but rather assumes that culture is embedded in connections to nature.  Constructing myths about God in terms of such orderly natural connections can be a matter of faith in the same sense that to assert “the world exists” is a matter of faith. Such descriptions of attributes of God can operate with the abstract precision of logical system. 

36.     The psychology of faith is a tricky problem.  My view is that all faith is inherently religious, grounded in unprovable processes of trust, belief and loyalty that are central to social cohesion and identity.  The psychology of faith covers seemingly scientific axioms such as the assumption that the universe obeys coherent laws of nature, whose assent involves social processes of loyalty and trust.  Rather than restrict the concept of religious faith to traditional dogmas, the psychological problem is to recognise religious psychology in all intuitions of hidden order, recognising that the word religion means ‘rebinding’.  That would mean religious faith is a reasonable description of all beliefs that are not empirically provable, including all assumptions, values and myths.  

37.     In Answer to Job, Jung wrestles with the problem of how people believe in values and ideas that give comfort while ignoring those that do not give comfort. This feature of human psychology makes truth secondary to usefulness in defining practical commitments.  Jung’s main example of this problem is the relation between love and fear.  He notes a pervasive trend in religion to describe God in ways that we find comfortable, as a God of love rather than wrath.  Considering this comforting trend against the higher values of truth and coherence, Jung sees an idolatry in the rejection of fear of God, a retreat to a soothing fantasy faith where all is forgiven.

38.     Jung’s idea that God only became conscious through human thought opens a path to a new vision of the meaning and purpose of life.  The only place in our universe where conceptual reflection has evolved, as far as we know, is in the human brains on our planet.  This gives the Biblical view that man is made in the image of God a profound significance.  The image of God involves a sense that human destiny is to create the physical presence of the divine, a reflection of the whole, recognising such presence might not exist anywhere else. 

39.     The possibility of an ultimate and absolute purpose beckons with the possibility that human brains are the only location of linguistic and scientific concepts in the universe, constructing ideas as an image of the real. The importance of human flourishing thereby takes on a divine quality, a sense that we can rise above our physical limits to become creatures of pure spirit.  We now stand at an evolutionary threshold, held back by our physical instincts but with the potential future of a constructed world where humans become the intelligent designers of evolution. The theme of human consciousness as the universe awakening is central to Answer to Job, where God is described as awakening in humanity, as evolving from a force of nature to a conscious reflective identity, with the ultimate reflection between the part and the whole imagined in the mediating incarnation of Jesus Christ.

40.     Jung says Christians accept “the burden of being marked out by God. In this way alone can the Image of God realize itself, and God become human.”  Further, he says “One can therefore understand what is meant by the remark ‘you are gods.’ The deifying effect of the Holy Spirit is naturally assisted by the Image of God stamped on the elect. God, in the shape of the Holy Spirit, puts up his tent in man, for he is obviously minded to realize himself continually ... in an indefinitely large number of believers, and possibly in mankind as a whole.”

41.     Ability to reflect upon what we learn is a distinctive human trait at the centre of the myth of man being made in the image of God, and Jung’s converse construction of God being made in the image of man. Overall, a theme emerging in Answer to Job is the centrality of human consciousness to explaining the myth of God.  There is a radically materialist dimension to this idea from Jung with its rejection of theistic speculation about the universe being alive or conscious, separate from human ability to project these qualities onto inert matter. The fact that the universe obeys the rational order set by the laws of physics does not in the least imply there is an eternal God who is aware of that fact.  But the evolutionary utility of believing in God as a creative designer means that we should respect observations of how such utility continues today, even if we analyse it as a construction rather than a description.

42.     Cultural transmission in religion has been enabled by the assertion that a mysterious guarantor, God, validates the process.  Jung’s secular argument that God is imaginary can have the damaging result of destroying the transmission of moral values, because people lack respect for an overtly constructed God.  In Jung’s approach, the story that God really exists as described in myths could serve as what Plato called a Noble Lie, a deceptive popular version used as an entry point to motivate action and learning.  This stratagem of deception recognises that the belief that God exists as an eternally conscious entity is socially and psychologically necessary.  There is scope to explore how this approach works together with mystical initiation.  If the assertions of supernatural reality are a key entry point for the broader public impression of faith, then Jung is constructing a more esoteric secret vision of the meaning of God as symbol, in line with the old traditions of Gnosticism.

43.     For example Jesus Christ said ‘I am the door’.  ‘A doorway passage, knock and ye shall enter, is one that lets us cross a threshold to a new understanding.  In this case, Jung wants to use psychology to gain access to liminal energies in mythology, seeing how imagined symbolic beings that reside in our collective unconscious exercise psychological and cultural influence, helping connect us to eternal truths.  Understood as allegory, this doorway role of Christ is a way of seeing the divine in human presence, providing an eternal connection and intimate relationship to the stable order of the natural cosmos. 

44.     Analysis deepens rather than cheapens our perspective. The purpose of analysis is coherence and consistency.  Without analysis, we remain in a quagmire of incoherence, ignoring the problem of how to make intuitive religious concepts - grace, salvation, atonement, etc - consistent with experience.  ‘Feeling whole’ can be deceptive when it lacks analytical foundations. 

45.     For Jung, his philosophical heritage combined a respect for the logical tradition from Spinoza that equated God with nature together with a psychological openness to mystery. This line of thinking is closely aligned to the modern scientific perspective of Albert Einstein, who also greatly respected Spinoza, and reflected in Jung’s close friendship with the leading physicist Wolfgang Pauli, in their work on synchronicity. In a pure Spinozist faith, the impersonal Deist logic of God as Nature lacks the personal qualities that are central to actual functioning mythology such as Christianity. The messiness comes in as we try to marry the logic with actual religion, as seen in the moral dilemmas arising from study of Job.  

46.     Jung’s hypothesis in Answer to Job that God only became conscious through humanity means our concept of God is intrinsically relational, connected to human long-term interests. Stories of supernatural entities such as God and the Devil have meaning precisely because they resonate with our values and needs, whether consciously or unconsciously.  In Jung’s project of explaining these myths in a rational way, constructing a story of God therefore involves explaining what features of reality match up with the deepest goals and challenges of ongoing human existence, and imputing divinity or demonic power to those aspects of reality. 

47.     We might postulate a God who is indifferent to human existence, but from the human perspective, such a God lacks traction and purpose.  From our point of view as a species living on earth, the ultimate question is what we must do to survive, based on understanding of what features of reality affect us. An indifferent universal God contains features that do make a difference for us, seen in the existence of our planet as a place that is providentially conducive to intelligence.  The set of features of reality that make a difference to human life constitutes the conditions for flourishing.  Such an approach steps back from the claim that our God is the ultimate creator of the universe, toward a view that our God is the aspects of the universe that are relevant to us. 

48.     Seeing God as constituted in relationship helps to put care for others at the focus of faith, trying to limit faith to things that are real and true, while accepting that stories that lack evidence can be valued as parables. Within this framework, the God who allows Satan to torment Job is entirely relevant as a way to explain why evil exists and how people can best respond to it.

49.     Such a relational approach engages with a big tradition in theology, the proof of the existence of God.  That tradition has been corrupted by the church assumption that the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe.  Scaling back our ambition to see the Bible God as only those features of reality that are relevant to human flourishing is a key implication of Jung’s argument in Answer to Job that God only became conscious through human thought. 

50.     Jung’s line is connected to the philosophy of Kant, who refuted the proof of the existence of God from Saint Anselm, that an existing God is better than a fake one.  Jung, aware of Kant’s point that the allegedly real God may be simply imaginary, has a far better method, to simply define God as reality, revealed in unconscious archetypes, rather than postulating a transcendental intentional entity.  The higher value in such an approach to religion is that it accords with statements of principle and logic, even if these statements are clothed in comforting myths.

51.     If we start with what actually exists and define that as God, we can then ask what about existence is good from a human perspective.  Then the messy integration task starts of reconciling knowledge and logic with tradition and mythology, which is where Jung is such an invaluable guide to the perplexed.

52.     Jung suggests that the Bible translates a philosophical framework into a myth. On this reading, the original authors were highly philosophical, but wanted to convey their messages to a wide audience in metaphors that would get attention and be remembered, while also serving as a portal into the hidden wisdom of philosophy, something that only initiates could grasp. As the Gospels say, “To them parables, to you the secrets of the kingdom”.

53.     Religion presents its mythical framework as literal truth, whereas literature is overtly fictional.  This sense that religion presents itself in absolute faith as a revelation of divine reality is a key difference from fiction.  Jung tries to achieve an academic detachment but frequently makes statements that come from a mystical intuition, thereby constructing myths, such as the collective unconscious and the story of astrological ages. When he says God was not conscious, Jung presents a modern covenant, a story to reconcile faith and reason, by placing God as a constructed imaginative fantasy that nonetheless is entirely real as archetypal myth and can respect supernatural tradition as pure allegory and parable.  The new covenant here invites strong continuity with traditional faith, while transforming its intent from ‘what really happened’ to ‘what it means for us’.

54.     Nature is morally engaged through the idea that flourishing and complexity are good. Therefore, natural processes that are conducive to complexity are good, while those which produce barren simplicity are evil. Evolution produces systems of stable equilibrium that gradually become more complex.  Seeing biodiversity as intrinsically good means the natural processes of adaptation contain a deeply moral purpose.  To make a religious metaphor, we could say that evolution blesses emergent systems that are compatible with material causality, and damns to extinction those that are not.

55.     In Answer to Job, Jung equates God with reality.  Rather than the conventional religious piety of literal belief, Jung argues more for a sort of co-creation of the world by man and God, recognising that the human psyche has potential to freely construct our world, rather than any fatalism.  This theme of cultural construction of the world produces a vision of reality grounded in nurture and love, pointing to how the Christian idea of grace can be combined with scientific knowledge.

56.     I discuss my own interpretation of the problem of evil in my essay on The Precessional Structure of Time. The earth has slow natural cycles of light and dark, and the last ten thousand years have been a period of increasing darkness in orbital terms, matching directly to the myth that Jung discusses of God yielding to Satan.  Our planet is a stable cocoon for life, providentially enabling our evolution. But in the religious concept of the grace of God, fantasy about comfort often goes too far, producing an avoidance of reality. The problem is how we work with natural reality to create a better future, not suggesting we submit to reality. Nature operates at different scales.  The planetary scale has important nurturing features.  One of my favourite books, Rare Earth – Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, by Ward and Brownlee, analyses nurturing features of the earth, such as the stable temperature allowing liquid water, the existence of Jupiter and Saturn as shields reducing impact frequency, the role of plate tectonics and heavy metals, etc.

57.     It may be hard to think at the time scale where continental drift becomes linked to the spirit of caring, but such a big perspective is needed to recognise that there is a sort of natural providence at work that aligns our planetary reality and our evolutionary interests in what we can call divine order. The point is that the earth is fundamentally good for humans, so we should develop our theories about the spirit of caring, our analogy for God, that recognise this natural context through a theology of nurturing rather than dominating.

58.     The current situation of climate change provides an example of some of the big psychological problems that Jung describes in Answer to Job, such as the problem of mass delusion.  Emission reduction alone falls far short of what is needed for climate stability, with scientists calling for methods to remove carbon from the air and sea.  And yet that perception struggles to get scientific oxygen, let alone political oxygen.  Looking at such a problem against Jung’s apocalyptic analysis, psychological repression returns in the avoidance of conversation about difficult topics that challenge assumptions. 

59.     Jung says “our whole world of religious ideas consists of anthropomorphic images that could never stand up to rational criticism… they are based on … an emotional foundation which is unassailable by reason.”  This is a key psychological point about the enduring nature of mythological thinking.  Unfortunately, the modern belief that secular humanism provides psychological protection from mythical thinking is false.  Human psychology is riven by delusion, with our public conversation so repressed that we are incapable of even having a rational discussion of climate change. In the framework of Job, a massive catastrophe is looming for the earth, but we don't even have Job's excuse that we are innocent and good and faithful.

60.     The accidental chaos of life is a primary factor in what we could call the Job syndrome, that unexpected dangers can disrupt our placidity.  If life proceeded according to our expectations then Job could be confident of continued prosperity and happiness. That is the basis of what is widely accepted and criticised as the prosperity gospel, with its ‘Matthew Principle’, to those who have will be given.   But unlikely and unmerited risks do occur. This problem of unexplained suffering shows that even those who deserve happiness should be cautious and humble, since if we are certain nothing can possibly go wrong our attitudes are contaminated by arrogance, ignoring unforeseen hazards.

61.     Job presents a cautionary note for the theology of divine providence, since he does everything to justify prosperity but loses all. Providence can be interpreted against the economic analysis of base and superstructure.  In the USA, the seemingly endless frontier inspired the American myths of boundless providence, imagining nature as infinite, until the modern observation of environmental wreckage placed a check on providence theology.  By contrast, the disappointment of the arid centre of Australia supported a much more sceptical social mythology in the settler society.

62.     Climate change is the wrecking ball for providence.  The shift from an infinite to a finite view of the world is associated with a change of religious mythology from supernatural dogma to natural metaphor, as Jung proposes.  The stubborn persistence of infinite mentalities is best illustrated in the denial of climate change, with the assumption that we can foul our nests as much as we like with no worry about repercussions. The modern sense of providence is grounded in the false belief that fossil fuels are infinite.  By contrast, the value system of shared identity and existential recognition of finitude is grounded in gratitude and reverence for nature.

63.     Anyone who respects evidence and logic as the highest values should feel uneasy about how providence functions in the popular religious ideation of prosperity theology with its assumption that wealth is proof of divine blessing. The story of Job suggests a far more circumspect attitude toward the presence of grace, recognising that our world is fallen into corruption and that we should more carefully analyse the attitudes and practices that could support a path of redemption.  Belief in providence promotes a complacent attitude toward nature, suggesting that the all-forgiving love of God will solve any problems.  The reality is that the risk of collapse can only be averted through rigorous empirical analysis, not by supernatural prayer.

64.     The harmony in life that comes from respect for nature involves a mystical sense of oneness.  The Christian doctrine of the atonement provide by Christ on the cross reflects a deeper meaning than the conventional idea of saving sinners.  Atoning means becoming at one, achieving the sense of respectful harmony.  The conversion of this atoning respect into a mechanistic doctrine of salvation through belief is among the deepest flaws in conventional Christian mythology.

65.     The mythology in the book of Job of Satan as trying to break Job’s faith opens the problem of how psychology engages with economic determinism. Looking at the story of Job against the physical framework of long term climate change, climate determinism as a physical context for social existence and cultural evolution presents a way to interpret the evolution of myth, a topic that I have studied in some depth, looking at the stable order of orbital climate cycles as the model for the stable order of God.  The primary long term climate marker is a 21,000 year cycle called the angle of the perihelion.  This cycle directly causes ice age cycles, and these cycles directly correlate with primary aspects of culture and myth. 

66.     The orbital dynamics of the earth provide an objective stable framework of order that encompasses human existence.  Here we see the main scientific marker of this order, the norther summer light over 1.6 million years as calculated by modern astronomy.  The summer light level, shown by the red line, matches to glaciation.  When the red line is high, with strong northern summer insolation, the world is warmer, and when it is low, the world is cooler.  

67.     Looking now at the 50,000 years around the present, the insolation graph shows an interesting correlation with mythology. 4000 BC, traditionally understood in young earth creationism as the start of time at the fall from grace, is in the middle of the natural descent from a warmer to a colder orbital pattern, although this pattern has been masked by human greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and industry.

68.     My hypothesis is that this correlation involves a causal relationship between the natural pattern and human culture.  The chart shows that the last ten thousand years of planetary climate was a period of declining northern summer insolation, while the next ten thousand years will be a time of rising insolation. The physical turning point was in 1246 AD when the perihelion crossed the December solstice.  The problem is that our mythologies are still entrenched in the ideas that emerged in the old period of fall.  The need for a shift of direction from the destructive trajectory that is heading toward climate catastrophe is vividly captured in this astronomical framework, indicating the need for a new paradigm of human spirituality along the lines that Jung pioneered.

69.     The old myth of descent from a golden age into an iron age matches exactly to the slow advance of the perihelion from its date in northern summer at the dawn of the Holocene to its current position at 4 January, in northern winter.  Job sits midway along this path of planetary descent, during the height of the fall, both from warmth and from grace.  This context of fall provides the natural economic base upon which humanity has unconsciously constructed our mythological superstructures. 

70.     The relation of this astronomical framework to the story of Job is that the willingness of God to deliver Job into the hands of Satan is a major story of the fall from grace into corruption, a human superstructure reflecting the orbital base.  This big story of history, the myth of the war between Christ and Satan, encodes the real problem that the evolution of agricultural and metal technology that underpinned writing and civilization also increased the risk and scale of arbitrary suffering. 

71.     To expand on the base and superstructure analysis of the evolutionary economics of mythology, the attached diagram of the dominant structure of terrestrial climate change over fifty thousand years is the natural base within which all life on earth exists, overlaid by the cultural mythological superstructure of the cycle of Golden and Iron Ages. Civilization, the shift of human society from nomadic hunting and gathering to settled agriculture and industry, enabled steady growth of wealth and stability, but the growing scale of population and armies destroyed the peaceful security that had enabled earlier smaller human societies to live in freedom and isolation, respecting wisdom as the source of social power, and respecting the autonomy of both male and female identity and tradition.  Agriculture made food more abundant and reliable, but of lower quality, and produced surpluses that funded kings and priests who established systems of hierarchical control.

72.     The story of Job sits in the middle of the fall period produced by this analysis, reflecting the cultural dislocation indicated in the question of how God could empower Satan.  The answer to this question, on this model, is that when climate is improving, Satan is chained, and when climate is worsening, Satan is released. This myth of Satan can be read as allegory for the natural cycle between times of grace, the cosmic summer, and times of corruption, the cosmic winter, marked by the date of the perihelion, the primary cause of the insolation shift shown in the diagram.  At the annual scale, the comparable model is that the Satanic forces of difficulty and struggle emerge in the fall, and are then confined again in the spring.

73.     Jung’s prophetic vision suggests that just as the human mind is the source of evil in the world, so too can the human mind construct a vision of redemption.  The fateful recognition is that human artifice has constructed the conditions that mythology personifies as wrath.  Jung expands on this idea of fate as the wrath of God by speaking of "the brutal power of the demiurge: "This is I, the creator of all the ungovernable, ruthless forces of Nature, which are not subject to any ethical laws. I, too, am an amoral force of Nature, a purely phenomenal personality that cannot see its own back." ... a kind of fate or justice (Moira or Dike) rules over Yahweh."

74.     The lack of public interest in global material fate illustrates a basic problem of religion.  Surely the question of where we are headed should be a central moral concern? It just goes to show that much religion is a source of comforting fantasy rather than a description of reality or a coherent statement of what we should do about reality.  Fate is a topic that should be central to both religion and science.  The lack of interest in fate shows the weak state of serious dialogue between science and religion. Jung puts this problem of fate well in Answer to Job, saying “the thread by which our fate hangs is wearing thin. Not nature, but the ‘genius of mankind’ has knotted the hangman's noose with which it can execute itself at any moment. This is simply another form of speech for what John called the "wrath of God.”

75.     Seeing God in the fate of the earth presents an objectivity quite different from the myth of an arbitrary, capricious, personal intentional entity as the bearer of wrath.  Objective scientific evidence about natural risk provides a context for the moral framework of human agency.  The current risks of catastrophic climate change place the fate of the earth today entirely in the hands of human choice.  So if we choose to overheat the earth, there is a real moral sense that this would be the result of a constructed reality for which humans are to blame, a framework of free will that can legitimately be viewed with the metaphysics of wrath, just as the converse human decision to restore the climate can be mythologised as a path to divine blessing.


 

Annex

76.     Jung extends the Old Testament idea that God is jealous, saying "Could a suspicion have grown up in God that man possesses an infinitely small yet more concentrated light than he, Yahweh, possesses? A jealousy of that kind might perhaps explain his behaviour.” Here we see the revolution wrought by human consciousness, with our unprecedented capacity to use symbolic images to reflect the nature of reality in words and pictures. The absence of such capacity hitherto meant God had never encountered an obstacle forcing self-reflection.  Now, man is exactly such an obstacle.

77.     The connections of spirit are seen in social interaction between people and more broadly as people engage with nature, as Jung explores in his theory of archetypes of the unconscious. In this light, we can conceive of God as reflecting the stable order of the cosmos, while also seeing cosmic order reflected in language and the changing patterns of the earth, seeing scientific descriptions of natural order as a primary site of the presence of divine energy in the world.

78.     Religious traditionalists do not consider their adherence to evidence-free mythologies as deception, but as revealed truth and the protection of social order.  Believers consider the modern secular scientific culture with its separation of facts from values as devoid of moral compass, and therefore intrinsically nihilistic. 

79.     Jung is remarkably supportive of traditional piety with his analysis of the Virgin Mary, a myth that he sees as embodying a necessary upwelling of the unconscious feminine within a patriarchal culture. It gets back to his main point that religious beliefs cannot be analysed or understood primarily in terms of whether the events described actually happened, but must be first seen in terms of their psychic cultural meaning.

80.     When a society is struggling with neurotic inner fragmentation, lacking any coherent shared explicit agreement on identity, values fall into disarray, and a radical relativistic equivocation between all values is asserted as a necessary result of the primary values of tolerance, freedom and equality.

81.     Criticism is reserved for those who adhere to absolute visions, who insist on a fundamental ontology at the core of meaning.  So deception can equally occur at mass level as well as at the individual scale.

82.     Like the Old Testament prophets, Jung’s prophetic stance was more about presenting unflinching options to society than making specific predictions of the future.  Answer to Job, in my reading, provides a therapeutic analysis that says if people choose one path, these will be the effects, while if we choose another path, quite different results can be expected. 

83.     The Zodiac Age theme is at the core of this prophetic dimension in Answer to Job.   Jung analyses the concept of the divine revealed by the story of Job in terms of the Book of Revelations, the most difficult and central prophetic text in the Bible.  Jung claims, for example, that the apocalyptic myth of locking Satan in the bottomless pit during the millennial reign of Christ (Rev 20:3) “corresponds astrologically to the first half of the Age of Pisces.”  This approach of connecting Biblical prophecies with historical periods marked by precession of the equinox opens a range of controversial historical and scientific claims, such as whether the ancient authors were aware of the Zodiac Ages. 

84.     This question of ancient awareness of precession is a topic I explored in depth in my previous paper at the Canberra Jung Society, on Jung’s Aion, a companion book to Answer to Job. I presented strong evidence that the inventors of Christianity were well aware of precession of the equinox, as that is the only coherent explanation for numerous symbols and beliefs and texts. In summary, astronomer-priests could see for hundreds of years before the time of Christ that the March equinox point in the sky would shift from the constellation of Aries the Ram into Pisces the Fishes in 21 AD.  This physical observation appears to provide the original accurate empirical basis in mythological symbol for Christian cosmology and eschatology, especially of the lamb and fish and loaves, but the astronomical model was severely repressed in the long orthodox campaigns against heresy.

85.     Jung’s discussion of the millennium is grounded in a rational empirical mentality, seeing the myths as symbols rather than facts.  Even so, for him to introduce this notion of astrological correspondence is daunting, unless we just view it as an exploration of what the ancient authors thought and wrote. Debate over millennial theology has long been a central point of division in Christianity between institutional priests and messianic radicals.  Saint Augustine blessed the institutional priesthood of the Roman Church as incarnating the reign of Christ, against the more Biblical messianic view that the Second Coming would occur in the future.  The creationist tradition sees time as 7000 years long, from 4000 BC to 3000 AD, with the last thousand years the Sabbath millennium of rest and peace and restoration.   That convention places the return of Christ in this coming millennium, which in Jung’s astrological timeline equates to incarnating the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.  Placing the imaginative prophetic fantasy within the empirical astronomical framework of precession, together with the objective dimension of psychoanalysis, gives a dose of reality that is missing in the more magical thinking of the fundamentalists. 

86.     To illustrate the cultural issues associated with such prophetic imagination, Jung says “living at the end of the Christian Age of Pisces, one cannot help but recall the doom that has overtaken our modern art.”  This statement looks to support the conservative view that modern art is decadent and corrupt, having lost connection with the spiritual identity of western civilization.

87.     In his most directly prophetic remark in Answer to Job, Jung says “John… anticipated the possibility of God's birth in man… He thus outlined the programme for the whole aeon of Pisces, with its … dark end which we have still to experience, and before whose … apocalyptic possibilities mankind shudders. The four sinister horsemen, the threatening tumult of trumpets, and the brimming vials of wrath are still waiting; already the atom bomb hangs over us like the sword of Damocles, and behind that lurk the incomparably more terrible possibilities of chemical warfare, which would eclipse even the horrors described in the Apocalypse."  Then, quoting the Sibylline Oracle, he says "Aquarius sets aflame Lucifer's harsh forces," equating the apocalypse with the current transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, arguing that “John correctly foresaw at least some of the possible dangers which threaten our world in the final phase of the Christian aeon.”

88.     Against the context of explaining innocent suffering in the story of Job, as providing the pathway to the incarnation of Christ, these contemporary ruminations provide a prophetic voice about the risks facing our planet, to which today we can add climate change as well as nuclear and chemical war.  The underlying idea that Jung is raising for psychology, philosophy, politics and history is whether human redemption requires the connection to the absolute imagined in Christ.

89.     Jung’s approach as a modern prophet is more psychological than political, predicting that without better integration of the ego and the unconscious, humanity will be unable to achieve the wholeness needed to overcome social difficulties. His status as the father of the Age of Aquarius, as intimated in Answer to Job, provides a framework for this spiritual New Age prophetic position. There are deep trends in the polarities of conservative and progressive politics that operate like tectonic or glacial change. The exact moment when the tension will break is too complex to see, even though the general trend is apparent. 

90.     the Marxist theory that the material base of society causes the cultural superstructure illustrates a deterministic psychology. Marx postulated the essentials of the base–superstructure concept in his Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), where he said “The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

91.     A problem in Job is that God’s attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence and omniscience are major stumbling blocks for theology.  My way of understanding this problem is to look at theology from an axiomatic natural perspective, defining God systematically in ways such as the real hidden anthropic order of the cosmos and the set of enabling conditions for human flourishing.  It is possible to move logically from these axiomatic premises to the inference that God is a universal reality, present everywhere and effective through the natural laws of physics. 

92.     Jung presents a similar systematic argument, saying that “God is Reality itself and therefore — last but not least— man. This realization is a millennial process.”  Comparing God to Reality, we can accept that Reality is omnipresent.  Omnipotence is more complex, but if we can jump that hurdle by defining the laws of physics as the mechanism of reality, with the assumption that the universe obeys coherent consistent laws.  The next two attributes, omnibenevolence and omniscience, are far tougher.  The story of Job indicates that God is not omnibenevolent, since Job suffers undeserved evil.  That is why Jung rejects that attribute, saying that the assumption that God is good creates a psychological distortion in the nature of faith.  His point is that if God is Reality, then God is present in evil as much as in good, in dark as much as in light. 

93.     Omnibenevolence presents the paradox of theodicy, that a good powerful God would not allow innocent suffering, so God must be limited in goodness or power.  Continuing Jung’s theme of God as Reality, it is obvious that reality has many bad features from the human point of view.  But perhaps if we stand back, as Job invites us with his visions of the heavens, the God who made Orion and the Pleiades, we can imagine that the negative events that we deplore are part of an upward spiral toward what Dante called the love that rules the stars.  The belief that reality is good can only be sustained through a focus on the belief that the prospect of long term flourishing outweighs suffering.

94.     It seems cruel to consider the current suffering of the world, with Paul, against a big picture of how suffering builds endurance, character and hope.  And yet, the scientific reality is that the universe has provided us with our planet as a four billion year anthropic cocoon for the emergence of consciousness. We can see the ultimate goodness of that evolutionary context as justifying a view of God as the conditions for human flourishing.

95.     The centrality of trust for social cohesion raises an interesting problem for the goodness of the world and God.  Job is in effect saying that despite God’s betrayal of him, he will continue to place his trust in God.  On the surface this seems an irrational example of blind faith, but perhaps it displays a deeper rationality, a sense of the values that are needed to hold a society together, a sense that the accidents that happened to him are against the run of expectation.  If we allow cataclysms to produce the attitude of Job’s wife, who tells Job to curse God and die, then our society will inevitably fracture and collapse.  But it seems Job takes a deeper strategic view, that faith in an orderly world will help to construct such a world.

96.     Finally, on omniscience, with its paradox of the combination of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, Jung presents a highly ironic analysis in Answer to Job of stories where God is surprised.  He accuses God of “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 forbade them to eat of it. In this way he precipitated the Fall, which he apparently never intended.”

97.     It is absurd for an all-knowing deity to be surprised by accidents that turn out differently from expected.  Even accepting for a moment the God hypothesis that reality is personal and alive, the uncertainty principle in quantum theory suggests that divine omniscience can only be about the past and present, not the future, which has an unavoidable character of free randomness at the micro level, even while major trends are deterministic.

98.     Jung further illustrates the paradox of divine omniscience in the story of Job, saying God’s “faithful servant Job is now to be exposed to a rigorous moral test, quite gratuitously and to no purpose, although Yahweh is convinced of Job's faithfulness and constancy and could moreover have assured himself beyond all doubt on 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?”

99.     I prefer to say the test of Job is a mythological illustration of the arbitrary chaos of the fall from grace into corruption, and of the redemptive power of faith.  The collapse into pitiless cruelty is a way of saying God has retreated from the world, giving secular power to Satan.  Jung’s line about God taking counsel with his own omniscience is a memorable irony. Jung says “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.” This pitiless abyss is a perfect description of the fall from grace.  The suffering of the faithful innocent is inflicted by the God of Reality, whereas Christianity has largely shifted its faith to the idolatrous God of Fantasy, trusting in blind comfort over logic and evidence.

100. Jung describes Yahweh's behaviour as “so revolting that one has to ask oneself whether there is not a deeper motive hidden behind it. Has Yahweh some secret resistance against Job? That would explain his yielding to Satan.” Attributing such personal motives to God is unlike the unconscious power of fate that Jung suggests characterises the divine unleashing of the attack on Job.  But as long as we remember this personification is an exercise in archetypal myth, the question Jung asks retains its power.

101. What are our practical and idealistic considerations regarding the apocalypse? The Biblical images of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ on the clouds of glory are certainly idealistic.  And yet even this supernatural story, with the image of the division between the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, is remarkably practical in its insistence that salvation depends primarily on performance of works of care. Preventing apocalyptic collapse goes further than prophetic imagination. If it is possible to prevent collapse, such action becomes a moral duty that the world must do.  In the climate collapse scenario, the observation that removing dangerous carbon from the air and sea is possible entails the moral duty that we must do everything in our power to restore the climate.

102. The key arguments of Answer to Job is that God becomes conscious in man, that divinity is constructed in myth, and that this act of deliberate idealistic construction becomes the dominant aspect of reality for the community of belief. 

103. Jung references this sense of individual effort in discussing the possible existence of Jesus, saying “it is perfectly possible, psychologically, for the unconscious or an archetype to take complete possession of a man and to determine his fate down to the smallest detail.” His suggestion is that a person in ancient Jerusalem was aware of the archetypal myth of the advent of an anointed Saviour, a Christ Jesus, and did everything he could to live out that dream. That model does not involve literal acceptance of any myths such as pre-existence, incarnation or the miraculous, and yet it does offer a path to make an idea of messianic presence real.

104. As a scientist, Jung recognised that the Gospels are propaganda and do not provide evidence at the level normally expected of historical facts. His comment on this problem of the Christ Myth Theory is worth quoting: “[In the Gospels], the commonplace is so interwoven with the miraculous and the mythical that we can never be sure of our facts. Perhaps the most disturbing and confusing thing of all is that the oldest writings, those of St. Paul, do not seem to have the slightest interest in Christ's existence as a concrete human being. The synoptic gospels are equally unsatisfactory as they have more the character of propaganda than of biography.” 

105. But that does not at all mean that Jung saw this uncertainty as undermining the legitimacy of faith in Christ.  He suggests this syndrome of archetypal possession as the basis of the Jesus story indicates how “the fact that the life of Christ is largely myth does absolutely nothing to disprove its factual truth.”

106. The Second Coming could equally involve the same process of ideal construction, in a situation where a social demand wants to make a perceived necessity happen. Just as with the alleged first coming of Jesus, such hope giving birth to belief could gain a social compulsion beyond the well-known mental illness of the Jerusalem Syndrome.

107. Such a social compulsion around belief in the Second Coming could primarily arise in the event that a compelling scientific analysis of apocalyptic myth is presented that involves acceptance of the Biblical framework of salvation through the presence of a Jesus Christ figure as a mediator between the world and a vision of eternal truth.

108. The morality of core gospel ethics contains an ambiguity in its teachings that the last shall be first and the meek shall inherit the earth.  These ideas involve respect for people who are broken and damaged and incoherent.  At the same time, these ideas are a moral goal to work towards, without using that goal as a way to enforce absolute compliance. 

109. In modern terms, Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem, with the famous line ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’, is a way to see this ambiguity in morality, the interplay between the broken cracks and the pure light.

110. The constructed nature of values that Jung assumes comes from Kant’s distinction between analytic statements of fact and synthetic statements of value.  Inevitably, any religious or social idea is a synthesis, a cultural construction of value, such as democracy, love, salvation, truth, rights, reality or grace.  These ideas are metaphysical in that their meaning involves normative beliefs about values, not just descriptive knowledge of physical facts.  By contrast, analytic statements admit of clear objective material definition.  Despite this constructed psychology of values, compelling ideas about what is good can provide abstract precision about ultimate concern.  The superstructure of religion as a constructed set of values would then need to correspond to a material reality.  My interest is how the stable cycles of the earth provide such a precision for the unconscious emergence of shared values in religion and myth, presenting the empirical base of planetary cosmo-geology as a heuristic to work toward this goal of explaining the evolution of values in mythology.

111. It seems reasonable to say that human survival and flourishing are ultimate concerns. A scientific model of value does actually rest upon absolute facts such as that the earth orbits the sun and night follows day.  This approach, emerging from Jung’s analysis of imagination in Answer to Job, is entirely different from the flawed fundamentalist model of spiritual absolutes that assumes the actual existence of imagined supernatural entities.  Such traditional religious assumptions are better explained by psychological projection than divine revelation, on the lines of Feuerbach’s thesis in The Essence of Christianity that God is made in the image of man. 

112. Jung’s weirdest idea is probably his concept of synchronicity, which he described as an ‘acausal connecting principle’ in his essay introducing the Chinese oracle the I Ching. Rather than the weird idea of acausality, I prefer to see synchronicity as indicating the existence of natural causal energies and processes that our scientific methods have not yet been able to detect, such as the idea that all events at one time share a common quality.

113. The difficulty of such a theory of values is seen in the question whether what makes life worthwhile is more fundamental than what we must do to survive as a species.  On the Maslow hierarchy of needs, the physiological needs of existence are more basic than the self-actualisation needs of making life worthwhile.  But from the religious perspective that without vision the people perish, physical needs require the spiritual framework of faith, inverting Maslow's pyramid.  A balanced approach should use a scientific model of physics as the context for idealistic aspirations. In this regard, Jung is exploring a natural concept of God, whereby the myth of God as an intentional personal being is deconstructed to apply to an actual referent rather than an imaginary one. 

114. The unusual thing about God is that the actual referent is the human imaginative construction of the source of cosmic order, with all the actual intelligence and consciousness projected from human ideas onto an imagined supreme being, imputing deliberate will to unconscious natural processes through the religious concepts of blessing and wrath. Such imputation has proven to be a practical way to simplify and explain more complex moral ideas, while containing risks of distortion.

115. A further aspect of the distinction here between the creator of the universe and the aspects of the universe that are relevant to us is the old myth from Plato of the demiurge, the subordinate divinity responsible for creating the world. Jung mentions the demiurge in connection with Yahweh. Demiurge has been a fraught concept, partly because “world” is a highly ambiguous concept, referring both to natural planet and to constructed culture. So critics have taken the Gnostic observation that the world is evil as a criticism of nature rather than culture.  It seems more coherent, including as a way to see Jung’s continuity with Gnostic thought, to say the original meaning of the Gnostic belief that the world is evil was that prevailing culture was lost in delusion and could only be rescued through the enlightenment of knowledge.

116. The old idea of God as universal creator evolved long before knowledge arose of the immense scale of the cosmos.   The only cosmic scale that is relevant to human evolution is the solar system, as I discuss at some length in my recent essay, The Precessional Structure of Time.  The solar system provides the orderly context for the evolution of the earth as a stable cocoon for life and the emergence of human consciousness.  The effect of the galaxy and larger scales are just too remote, setting the initial conditions but having no ongoing direct influence on the evolution of life on earth.

117. Putting Jung’s metaphysical language in the context of the scientific epistemology of the philosopher Karl Popper, with his concept of three interconnected worlds, is a helpful way to proceed in a systematic method. Popper's world three is objective knowledge while world two contains beliefs, feelings and motivations.  Subjective concept resting on values, even including our ideas of reality and truth. Even though these ideas seem to underpin scientific knowledge, reality and truth contain such ambiguity that they are not in themselves scientific or physical concepts but are metaphysical. Any meaning that we invest in universal abstract concepts like reality and truth involves unproveable assumptions that have the character of faith.

118. The extent to which belief in the afterlife is corrupt is complex.  To demand obedience under threat of hellfire or promise of heaven does present a simplistic morality.  And yet it is not simply corrupt.  Weber argues in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that the deferred gratification produced by the Calvinist theories of heaven and afterlife was a decisive moral impetus to the rise of the investment culture that enabled the modern creation of wealth through thrift and education.  The pious merchants of Amsterdam cared enough about the threat of hellfire to focus on living lives of strict probity, hope and austerity, despite their hypocrisy in the colonial conquests of assuming that their Biblical ideas of predestination justified racial prejudice.

119. The converse of the threat of damnation is the promise of predestination, a theme Jung discussed in Answer to Job as a key point regarding why God would let Satan allow such torment. Jung says that “taken psychologically, as a means to achieving a definite effect, it can readily be understood that these allusions to predestination give one a feeling of distinction. If one knows that one has been singled out by divine choice and intention from the beginning of the world, then one feels lifted beyond the transitoriness and meaninglessness of ordinary human existence and transported to a new state of dignity and importance, like one who has a part in the divine world drama. In this way man is brought nearer to God, and this is in entire accord with the meaning of the message in the gospels.”

120. Integration of knowledge with values is a fundamental theme connecting philosophy, politics and economics, the great modern Oxford subjects, raising the whole central social problem of how policy can be guided by evidence, how ethical goals, our theory of the good, relate to empirical theory of change.  When we claim that something is intrinsically good, such as care for others, we assert a factual status for that claim, beyond a mere statement of subjective sentiment. And yet the validity of such moral statements is entirely different from the truth of scientific facts.  A difference between science and moral theory is that science, in its classical empirical method, aspired to be free of all values, even though that aspiration breaks down as soon as we need to make any decisions on priorities.  Empirical methods avoid speculation about what is good, preferring pursuit of just the facts.  By contrast, religion and all morality insist on a theory of value, always placing facts in the context of beliefs about what is good. 

121. Science that adopts a value-free stance tends toward political disengagement, having no basis to influence action.  The paradox in a purely empirical factual approach, reduced to logical absurdity, is that we can value having no values. This approach is actually seen in the modern relativist confusion about the fundamentally mythological nature of cultural stories about what is important, and its resulting tendency toward nihilism, the belief in nothing.  These modern cultural problems of nihilistic relativism illustrate why Jung’s approach in Answer to Job is so useful, in that his topic is the empirical psychology of spirituality, how our beliefs about what is good and evil emerge in mythology and guide our cultural values.  

122. Faith in reason is precisely the myth that inspires atheism.  The moral basis of this atheist rational worldview is based on the primacy of ensuring that claims are factually true, and the need for a humility before what empirical investigations can find.  An example of the importance of this factual method can be seen in the critique of predestination, which has functioned historically as a mythology of cultural superiority.  So while a sound religious faith might have the goal of representing the complexity of relationships, such myths can easily serve instead to conceal and distort true relationships under a false moral veneer. 

123. The great myth of Christianity is that all the events of the Gospels actually happened as described, justifying the miraculous supernatural cosmology of the church.  This mythical thesis is the object of derisive mockery by the antithetical modern rational myth of atheism that logic and evidence are the highest values.  The interplay between the religious thesis and the atheist antithesis produces the need for the type of synthesis that Jung is suggesting in Answer to Job.

124. Jung’s synthesis of science and religion emerges in his rather startling approach to the mythology surrounding the Virgin Mary. Shortly before Answer to Job was written, the Roman Catholic Church promulgated a dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the teaching that Mary went bodily to heaven when she died. Jung argues that analysis of this teaching focussed more on its apparent mythological nature than on what he says was “undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely, the popular movement and the psychological need behind it... the living religious process.” Arguing that visions of Mary involve the collective unconscious at work, he says this teaching responded to “a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the "Queen of Heaven and Bride at the heavenly court."

125. The emotional comfort provided by Mariolatry in the Catholic tradition meets a popular psychological and cultural need that cannot be rebutted simply by a focus on scientific evidence.  The image of the blessed virgin emerges from her great hymn recorded by Luke, in which her status as the mother of God is magnified in humility, scattering the proud, feeding the hungry and exalting the faithful.  No mere facts can destroy the power of this image, which as Jung says, exists in the psyche rather than in evidence.  His analysis of how Mary exists in the collective unconscious emerges from the psychological need for balance, that the patriarchal tradition of Father Son and Holy Spirit has excluded the divine feminine, especially with the apparent change of gender of the Holy Spirit in the teachings of the early church from female to male. 

126. Jung suggests that the celebration of Mary as Queen of Heaven helps to formalise a recognition of feminine principles.  He places Mary in the Old Testament context of Sophia, the feminine divine Wisdom, who was with God before the creation.  Seeing the story of Mary as having evolved from earlier religion, he notes a similarity with the ancient Egyptian theology of the need for God to become man by means of a human mother, and the prehistoric belief that the primordial divine being is both male and female.

127. Jung describes the Catholic proclamation in 1950 as psychologically significant for uniting the heavenly bride, Mary, with God as the bridegroom, reflecting the divine marriage between Christ and the church as the mythological basis for the incarnation of God in Christ. The story of divine marriage between the father and mother serves as an unconscious metaphysical archetype for a whole series of binary relationships. The duality of day and night, sun and moon, active and passive, order and nurture, heaven and earth, spirit and matter, light and dark have all traditionally been interpreted on a metaphysical basis, including with the common Christian assumption of male superiority. However, as Jung argues in Answer to Job, such binary themes are complementary rather than opposed. Each side is also in some way present within its opposite, serving as tendencies rather than absolutes.

128. Jung argues against the old patriarchal church teaching of woman as the source of original sin. His analysis of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is that the purely male concept of God embodied in the traditional teaching of the trinity was a pathology in need of correction at the archetypal level of popular myth, a process that only happens very slowly as culture evolves toward gender equality.  He says “a longing for the exaltation of the Mother of God passes through the people. This tendency, if thought to its logical conclusion, means the desire for the birth of a saviour, a peacemaker, a mediator making peace between enemies and reconciling the world.”

129. Crucially, Jung says “arguments based on historical criticism will never do justice to the new dogma; on the contrary, they are lamentably wide of the mark, failing to understand that God has eternally wanted to become human. [Such arguments] ignore the continued operation of the Holy Spirit, … the tremendous archetypal happenings in the psyche of the individual and the masses, and the symbols which … compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today.” The primary question for psychology in analysis of religion is therefore the social impact of Christian teachings, what they mean for our world today at a symbolic level, rather than their literal historical evidence. The Holy Spirit works in the hidden places of the soul, revealing the divine drama through the operation of unconscious archetypal mythology. Calling such statements mythological does not in the slightest mean that psychic happenings vanish into thin air by being explained.

130. Sophia, or the wisdom of God, is defined by Jung as feminine nature that existed before the Creation, as described in the hymn to wisdom at Proverbs 8. “set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was by him, as a master workman, and I was his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in his habitable earth.”

131. Jung says “the reappearance of Sophia in the heavenly regions [in the person of Mary] points to a coming act of creation. She is indeed the "master workman"; she realizes God's thoughts by clothing them in material form, which is the prerogative of all feminine beings. Her coexistence with Yahweh signifies the perpetual divine marriage from which worlds are conceived and born.”

132. The metaphysical duality of male and female involves the idea that “Heaven is masculine, but the earth is feminine. Therefore God has his throne in heaven, while Wisdom has hers on the earth.” The great vision of hope of the union of heaven and earth appears in the story of the new Jerusalem coming down like a bridegroom.

133. For psychology, Jung emphasises that “God is an obvious psychic and non-physical fact, i.e., a fact that can be established psychically but not physically.” So the meaning of all this language is symbolic rather than literal, providing the basis for Jung to state that he considered the dogma of the Assumption to be “the most important religious event since the Reformation.” Those who find this a stumbling block are prey to what Jung calls “the unpsychological mind, [with their obvious question] how can such an unfounded assertion as the bodily reception of the Virgin into heaven be put forward as worthy of belief?” Jung’s answer to this objection combines observation of the evolution of faith with traditional views. We observe the psychic phenomenon of belief, and “it does not matter at all that a physically impossible fact is asserted, because all religious assertions are physical impossibilities… religious statements without exception have to do with the reality of the psyche and not with the reality of physics.”

134. The "heavenly bridegroom" must now “have a bride with equal rights” or Christianity is “nothing but a man's religion which allows no metaphysical representation of woman… , anchored in the figure of a "divine" woman… The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation.”

135. Jung recognises the problem that such mythological dogmas remove Christianity further than ever from the sphere of worldly understanding.  He also cautions against casting cheap aspersions against dogmatic assertions, calling instead for religious analysis to weigh the priority of efforts to come to terms with the world and its ideas against efforts to come to terms with God, and analysing dogma against that complex problem of its impact on our values.

136. Imagining the place of Mary the Mother of God in the heavenly bridal-chamber involves what Jung calls “the great task of reinterpreting all the Christian traditions.” Truths which are anchored deep in the soul need the freedom of the spirit, which he notes has been a focus of Protestantism. Jung says “The dogma of the Assumption is a slap in the face for the historical and rationalistic view of the world, and would remain so for all time if one were to insist obstinately on the arguments of reason and history. This is a case, if ever there was one, where psychological understanding is needed, because the mythologem [or source of myth] coming to light is so obvious that we must be deliberately blinding ourselves if we cannot see its symbolic nature and interpret it in symbolic terms.”

137. The myth of a heavenly marriage links to the psychology of individuation whereby every child becomes an adult. Jung sees this process as dependent on symbols which make the irrational union of opposites possible, produced spontaneously by the unconscious and amplified by the conscious mind to form the totality of the self, symbolised by the divine child.

138. The dogma of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven reflects this unconscious archetype of divine wholeness in the symbolic images we have of God as unconsciously related to our self-image, which in the human ideal approaches the messianic vision of incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jung says the religious need longs for wholeness, and therefore lays hold of the images of wholeness offered by the unconscious, which, independently of the conscious mind, rise up from the depths of our psychic nature. Rather than the scientific secular perspective that sees the dogma as meaningless because it lacks empirical evidence, Jung calls on us to engage with the psychic and social realities indicated by religion in terms of what the stories mean for us today.  Even in the light of science, the power of religious stories can remain central to our ethical concerns, our hopes in faith and love to create a new heaven and a new earth, reconnecting our fallen world to the eternal truths of God.

139. Philosophy

140. This comment is on Kierkegaard's analysis of the relation between aesthetics, ethics and faith.  Heidegger used Kierkegaard as his primary inspiration for his core idea that care is the meaning of being, that existential ontology requires a 'jump into the circle' of what science critiques as the circular reasoning of faith. 

141. For Heidegger, this focus on care is a faith statement, like your most recent comment that your "system" conceptualizes God as the Spirit of Caring.  Care is what Heidegger calls the basis for a ‘fundamental ontology’, a primary concern that grounds any thinking about ethics and beauty.  Without such systematic logic, our moral and aesthetic ideas are bereft, drifting without anchor.  The sense of wholeness achieved through care illustrates a shared goal between Heidegger and Jung.  Both aimed for systematic reasoning, but ironically both have been celebrated by people who reject systematic reason.  Heidegger and Jung are father-figures respectively for postmodern philosophy and the New Age movement, both of which are defiantly relativistic.

142. The philosophical point is to be systematic in our logic, to recognise that some ideas only make sense in the framework of other ideas.  An example of unsystematic aesthetic philosophy is the fashion industry, where ideas of beauty emerge from unconscious sentiment, rather than from any rigorous framework of ethics and faith.  [quote="Harry Marks"]

143. Kant’s ethical maxim, which equally influenced Jung and Heidegger as giants of twentieth century thought, was to treat other people as ends and never as means. Kant called this the categorical imperative, our highest duty.  It is a rather fraught and messianic teaching, since worldly success is so thoroughly enmeshed with the conflicting ethical view that we should use other people as means to further our own interests.  The spiritual rejection of worldly amorality creates a sort of enlightened detachment that gives less priority to traction and engagement, preferring instead to see things under the eye of eternity.  The Gospels present this problem in terms of Jesus Christ returning from the mountain of transfiguration to the plain of worldly suffering, from divine contemplation to the confrontation of the cross. 

144. The irony is that Jung probably does a better job than anyone of showing how Biblical texts deserve respect from rational philosophy. 

145. The doyen of modern atheism, Richard Dawkins, showed himself clueless about this whole topic of spiritual psychology by pronouncing Jung a religious extremist on the atheism-believer spectrum.  Dawkins caricature in The God Delusion failed to see that Jung completely rejects literal supernatural claims.  The twinkle in Jung’s eye when he told the TV interviewer that he knew God existed showed he was discussing God in a metaphorical constructed sense, not as a personal entity, but this distinction seems to have escaped Dawkins’ narrowly scientifically trained reading.

146. A central problem for atheism is that the logical argument that the universe consists of matter in motion misses the point of the social function of religion, how the concept of God serves an essential purpose of recognising that reality is mysterious, and yet we can talk about the mystery anyway, including through parable and story.  In conversations with secular scholars, I have encountered an emotional repugnance toward religious practice and belief, a methodological view that anyone who participates in religion is thereby barred from commenting on religion because prayer and worship contaminate scholarship with bias. The root of that atheist prejudice is a proper rejection of fundamentalism, but the problem is that the secular rejection can become a religion itself, when it involves unquestioned emotional belief that a life of prayer and worship excludes a person from objective scholarship.  

147.   

148. However, Jung is not adopting the common methodology of psychological disdain for religion that is often seen in sociology and some other academic fields. 

our children have little prospect.  The primary world problem is that carbon emissions are cooking the planet.  Economic growth through fossil fuels has induced a psychological complacency, even though the increase in emissions is spectacularly dangerous.  The primary security risk for our planet is that we now add about six times as much carbon to the air every year compared to 1950, increasing the cooking rate like the proverbial frog in the pot.  The failure to stop climate change shows that humans have become less advanced on the criterion of biodiversity, with the great genetic inheritance of our planet under sustained concerted assault by our species. 

149. Redemption is a core theme in Answer to Job, understood as deliverance from evil, opening the problems of the relation between good and evil in a stark way, asking how we can be saved.  Redemption has traditionally been interpreted by church dogma as meaning that good believers will go to heaven for eternal life, while the evil and lost, who also need redemption in this way, will fail to obtain it and will instead be damned to eternal torment in hell.

150. This old myth of personal salvation or perdition does not cohere with scientific knowledge, indicating that the Biblical language should be analysed differently, as metaphorical symbol for phenomena that do make sense.  Psychologically, the emotional comfort of belief in personal afterlife has tended to take priority for believers in understanding salvation.  Against this, Christ in the Bible places as much emphasis on saving the world as on saving the individual, for example at John 3:17 “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him,” and at The Last Judgement in Matthew 25, where salvation is only obtained through works of mercy for others.

“There's a blaze of light in every word, and it doesn't matter which you heard, the holy, or the broken, "Alleluia". This line from Leonard Cohen is a great example of enantiodromia, the paradoxical transformation of things into their opposites, with the vision of Jesus Christ as holy precisely because he is broken, having gone through cross to resurrection as the basis of the Hallelujah.

151. God can be defined as the absolute fate of the earth, in a way that opens Jung’s problem of how the Christian moral vision of a God of love can be reconciled with the old ideas of fear and wrath.  If human civilization departs from a path of compatibility with the natural fate of the earth, then the absolute end result of this departure can be experienced as the wrath of God, even if God’s love hopes that we avoid such a fate.  I think of the absolute in terms of fate, an inexorable causality.  For example, the absolute fate of the sun is described by the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram of stellar evolution.   Scaling down from that cosmic fate, similar absolute models can be developed for the earth, and then with decreasing certainty aligned with scale, for life on earth.

  Jung suggests in this light that "irritability, bad moods, and outbursts of affect are the classic symptoms of chronic virtuousness."

152.  

153. Jung has a highly provocative discussion about the Blessed Virgin Mary that relates well to this problem of the secular derision of emotional comfort provided by religion. Firstly, we should be clear that Jung is aiming for a scientific perspective in his psychoanalysis of the Mary cult.  And yet, he finds that the secular derision completely ignores the unconscious meaning of the myth:

a.        “Mary, the blessed among women, is a friend and intercessor for sinners, which all men are. Like Sophia, she is a mediatrix who leads the way to God and assures man of immortality. Her Assumption is therefore the prototype of man's bodily resurrection. As the bride of God and Queen of Heaven she holds the place of the Old Testament Sophia [Goddess of Wisdom]. Remarkable indeed are the unusual precautions which surround the making of Mary: immaculate conception, extirpation of the taint of sin, everlasting virginity. The Mother of God is obviously being protected against Satan's tricks. From this we can conclude that Yahweh has consulted his own omniscience, for in his omniscience there is a clear knowledge of the perverse intentions which lurk in the dark son of God [Satan]. Mary must at all costs be protected from these corrupting influences. The inevitable consequence of all these elaborate protective measures is something that has not been sufficiently taken into account in the dogmatic evaluation of the Incarnation: her freedom from original sin sets Mary apart from mankind in general, whose common characteristic is original sin and therefore the need of redemption.”

154. In this comment about ‘the dark son of God’, Jung was referring to Satan, not Jesus.  He takes the Adam-Abel-Cain triad as a type for God-Jesus-Satan, viewing Jesus and the devil as brothers. Cain's question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ expresses the scorn that the corrupt have for grace.

155. When Jung wrote Answer to Job, the Pope had recently announced the infallible dogma of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven.  Moderns considered this a medieval throwback, but Jung describes it as having an ignored powerful motive: “namely, the popular movement and the psychological need behind it, brewing in the collective unconscious, a deep longing for a [feminine] intercessor.”  He calls arguments based on historical criticism ‘lamentably wide of the mark.’  “The tremendous archetypal happenings in the psyche of the individual and the masses… are intended to compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today.” 

156. This sense that popular culture resonates with unconscious responses to apocalyptic currents seems to me a particularly important theme in the psychology of religion, especially as a way to link together the Christian myth of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ with the apocalyptic risks of climate change.

157. That atheists see no need for religion well illustrates the absence of serious dialogue.  Religious believers are mired in unconscious signals which both they and atheists quite reasonable consider as literal and honest, so the failure to discuss real objectives means the two sides talk past each other.  Jung’s example of the Catholic Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a great case in point for such symbolic thinking in religion, as I quoted above.  This ‘virginolatry’ is an exercise in pure mythmaking, in the construction of comforting memes that resonate in popular piety.  But such psychological deconstruction is an intellectual exercise, and should not be a statement of contempt for its adherents, since the question of whether the myth is good is separate from whether it is literally true.

158. Only the pious react with fury at this psychoanalysis, but as Jung argues, they are in the grip of unconscious sentiments.  Claims about Gospel Truth have social functions whose merits and failings are both conscious and unconscious.  Analysis can try to separate out these elements.  Just saying that religion is pernicious, as the new atheists have done, is a superficial argument.  Atheist alternatives to mass religion are not realistic.  Far better to reform religion so that it provides rational messages, mixed in with comforting myths and rituals, in ways that engage at a popular level.  The atheist idea that societies can sustain social ideals and moral values without local processes of community meeting, as provided by churches, is fraught with risk.

159. The collapse of religion is sometimes linked to the modern epidemics of loneliness and mental illness. This paper explains how regular church attendance protects against depression.

160. However, public debate on religion tends to occur through a lens of contempt. By contrast, Jung’s attitude in Answer to Job is respectful to both atheists and believers, while arguing that they have not entered proper dialogue about their real objectives, and that both have legitimate complementary aims. The problem of mutual incomprehension is still the same. The two sides act as though they are talking about the same thing when in fact they are not. They present a polarised attitude that seeks to convert people to or from religion. 

161. By contrast, Jung recognises that religion operates at the level of unconscious symbol and that this can be good and therapeutic.  This approach would produce a far more sophisticated and productive intellectual conversation if it were more widely explored. Part of the challenge of philosophy is precisely this problem of seeing ideas that appear non-rational, and discerning a hidden rationality within them.

162. One might hope for a reconciliation between rationality and spirituality, recognising that is a slow process.  The sense that ‘feeling at home’ involves rationality is again more a process of the rationalisation of myths.  We feel at home in situations of trust, loyalty, belonging and faith, where a story gives us a meaningful sense of place.  Rationality in a pure sense is an abstract form of logic that tends to bring these myth-based tribal instincts of comfort into question, as for example in Jung’s exploration of how we can use reason to assess the apocalyptic problems of the world.

163. Jung was strongly anti-communist.  These issues are discussed in The Politics of Myth by Robert Ellwood.    The monolithic academic politics of critical progressivism tends to impugn anyone like Jung with complex or mystical views who are seen as supportive of European heritage. The secular objective of conscious social reform is a contestable political objective, with some risk of imposing a fashionable collective group-think mentality that assesses scholarship on the basis of political tribalism rather than intrinsic merit.  Academic rationalism has close links to atheism, whereas Jung’s more mystical psychology presents a sophisticated religious and philosophical critiques of atheism and materialist political philosophy, which naturally led to him receiving harsh criticism from the political left. Scientism, in its cruder forms, explains moral progress in terms of the view that spirituality is false consciousness.  As a theory of human psychology that materialistic rejection of spirituality is superficial and damaging. As an abstract logic, it may seem true to argue that reality consists of matter in motion, but reconciling that with the operation of culture rapidly breaks down, since the chain of causality between mind and brain is far too complex to explain spiritual causes.  We have to view mind as autonomous from matter in order to explain ethical values, which makes materialism inadequate.

164. One of Jung’s key themes is that the role of imaginative sentiment in the construction of stories is heavily influenced by unconscious factors.  Such intangibles as taste, tone, fashion and style emerge from a psychological resonance with an unconscious causal process.  Dynamic issues are often difficult to put into words, but our stories and symbols and art more generally can capture an inchoate dimension of meaning. There is suggestion that the happy ending of the Book of Job was a later addition, since readers could not cope with the bleak prospect of divine indifference to innocent suffering.

165. Meditation on the ground of being is central to an authentic life of contemplative prayer.  Regular practice focussing on the unity of all things opens the sense of how the ego is encompassed by the soul, leading to a selfless emptying, what the Bible calls kenosis, expressing this sense of unity and reflection. But always the problem in Answer to Job is that the world is anti-kenotic, viewing kenosis with incomprehension and derision.  Yet Job’s attitude of kenosis provides an unshakeable faith in God, despite the torments of Satan.

166. For Jung, theological concepts such as salvation and grace are explored using the philosophical method called phenomenology, the analysis of how concepts appear to us in the light of evidence and experience, rather than simply accepting traditional meanings.  Tillich’s Ground of Being concept drew from Heidegger, who analysed the meaning of Being as a pupil of Edmund Husserl, the key phenomenologist.  So Tillich’s analysis of grace and forgiveness is basically phenomenological and existential.  This method treats God as a metaphor rather than as a supernatural entity.  In my MA thesis on The Place of Ethics in Heidegger’s Ontology, I summarised Heidegger’s theory of care as follows: “the triadic temporal structure of Dasein as care; anticipating the future in existential projection, we retain the past in our thrown facticity, while in the present we decide whether to be authentic: whether to resolutely take a hold of our temporality.”  Heidegger’s theory of Dasein, German for human existence, is a systematic way to analyse the temporality of existence as care, a heuristic to assess authenticity.

167. Walter Brueggemann in The Prophetic Imagination provides analysis that helps to see Jung’s perspective.  Brueggemann says  “The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks from imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.”

168. Carl Jung is suggesting that the prophet Job saves himself through his imagination of God, which protects him and us against the wiles of the evil one.  Meanwhile the Satanic ‘princes of this world’ maintain what Brueggemann suggests here is a frenzy of implementation without vision, a scorning rejection of any creative imagination.  The imaginative work of the mind is central and victorious, despite the appearance of its weak ethereal invisibility and the literal implausibility of its constructions.

169. Brueggemann’s use of ‘futuring fantasy’ as a way to describe prophecy is ambiguous, given the tendency of the fantasy genre to involve an escape from reality into a suspension of disbelief that would be delusional myth if taken seriously. The great fantasist novelists use their imagination to construct allegorical worlds that have a satirical parabolic relation to our world, thinking here of writers such as Tolkien, Doris Lessing and Bulgakov.

170. In religion, prophetic visions of the future may have the appearance of indulgent fantasy or unduly harsh critique, depending on how they relate to our prior assumptions.  Yet, the grounding of prophecy in prayer about the will of God makes prophecy entirely realistic and necessary in principle as a method of discernment.

171. There is a key distinction about the meaning of prophecy.  The more important meaning is a deep understanding of the trajectory of a society.  The more popular meaning is linked to magical fortune telling.  The reason for the confusion is that a real prophet, with deep understanding, is better able to make accurate predictions of the future, in the sense of a pundit, than someone whose analysis is based on error. So the Biblical prophets like Jeremiah were able to say accurately to Israel that if they continued to behave unethically they would lose their national independence, as occurred with the Babylonian captivity. 

172. Prophecy was primarily a question of the role of religion in providing a strategic framework for military security. The interesting thing for Israel was the idea that as a tiny state wedged between large empires their only hope for freedom rested in building alliances based on a good reputation, but they failed to achieve that goal.  To my view this strategy was the key to the theory of monotheism, that belief in God would generate ethical conduct. The modern problem is that prophecy is now seen exclusively in terms of supernatural revelation, and is therefore the object of mockery and derision, whereas the Biblical prophets like Jeremiah also included secular prediction based on political insight.  While allegedly inspired by God, he could predict with no divine guidance that Israel would be conquered unless it changed social direction. 

173. A modern example that equate to this secular Biblical role of prophecy include predictions by George Kennan of the collapse of the Soviet Union based on his observations.   Political scientists don’t want to see Kennan as a prophet, and yet there is a similarity.

174. The Exile can be interpreted more coherently using Jung’s approach of seeing religious myth as psychological symbol. This prophetic myth of wrath rests on the realpolitik claim that if Israel had been faithful to God, it would have been able to build alliances of trust and non-interference with neighbouring empires, but due to its infidelity such security arrangements were impossible, leaving Israel totally vulnerable to invasion.  Speaking of “the wrath of a deity” is a way to personalise such historical processes for a mass audience. 

175. In a psychological reading, as Jung presents, there is no need to posit a conscious intentional personal God as making deliberate decisions of will based on observation of events on earth. 

176. Jung says “This apocalyptic "Christ" behaves rather like a bad-tempered, power-conscious "boss" who very much resembles the "shadow" of a love-preaching bishop.”  The bishop in this example puts on a distorted public persona.  Jung’s psychology suggests that when we deliberately put on a show, the parts of our personality that we hide will emerge in our private conduct. 

177. Jung says “In all this I see less a metaphysical mystery than the outburst of long pent-up negative feelings such as can frequently be observed in people who strive for perfection.”  This effort to explain mythology in terms of psychology essentially says that the underlying prophetic claim, that the world is heading toward a catastrophic crunch, is secondary to how such seemingly febrile language makes its proponents feel emotionally.

178. Jung’s key statement about the shadow is that “this [apocalyptic] Christ-figure may… have more of the human John in it, with his compensating shadow, than of the divine saviour who, as the light of lights, contains "no darkness."… seen in the light of the gospel of love, the avenger and judge remains a most sinister figure.”  That may seem hard to square with Jung’s earlier equation of God with Reality. 

179. “The purpose of the apocalyptic visions is not to tell John, as an ordinary human being, how much shadow he hides beneath his luminous nature, but to open the seer's eye to the immensity of God, for he who loves God will know God. We can say that just because John loved God and did his best to love his fellows also, this "gnosis," this knowledge of God, struck him. Like Job, he saw the fierce and terrible side of Yahweh. For this reason he felt his gospel of love to be one-sided, and he supplemented it with the gospel of fear: God can be loved but must be feared.”

180. In The Universe Story, Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry say “The eye that searches the Milky Way galaxy is itself an eye shaped by the Milky Way. The mind that searches for contact with the Milky Way is the very mind of the Milky Way galaxy in search of its own depths…  “I” am what the whole universe is doing right here and now … the eco-crisis is not only a technological and economic emergency, but a spiritual challenge to realize our oneness with the Earth.”    

181. Picking up on Jung’s theme of religious statements as psychic facts, a theology of the cross can be transposed into an inadequate secular vision, accepting the death of Christ but not the rising.  The scientific impossibility of the resurrection makes it easy to assume the return from death is pure myth, while the initial plausibility of the death story retains a historical quality.  But this belief that the death of Christ was primarily a historical event rather than a symbolic archetype ignores the essential message and meaning of the story. 

182. The continuity with the age-old myths of dying and rising saviours illustrates the real intent, while the numerous anomalies in the gospel accounts give reason to see the historical event as dubious.  But these anomalies do not touch on the real intent.

183. Finding the real meaning of the story, what it can mean for us today, sets the cross and resurrection as equally symbolic and equally powerful.  Stories like the seed that must die in order to create new life illustrate that for faith the return to life is the key theme, the victory of life over death, with the inability of death to overcome life.  Creativity, symbolised by spiritual rebirth, is the reward for self-emptying, symbolised by the death on the cross.

184. Jung makes an excellent comment on this theme of real meaning in story: “The spirit and meaning of Christ are present and perceptible to us even without the aid of miracles. Miracles appeal only to the understanding of those who cannot perceive the meaning. They are mere substitutes for the not understood reality of the spirit.”  The meaning is purely spiritual, not historical.  An emphasis on signs and wonders represents a degraded consciousness, as Christ himself explained in discussing his miraculous feeding of the four thousand at Mark 8:12. Like the resurrection, the meaning of even this remarkable miracle is not a physical sign from heaven, but something we must seek in a deeper spiritual meaning.

185. The symbolic meaning of rebirth is an unconscious archetype that is only partly reflected in conscious awareness.  The goal of holism, integration with reality, is reflected in a range of stories about becoming at one with God that underpin the concept of atonement.  These stories are reflected across the whole range of processes of healing and restoration, as well as in all the natural cycles of earth such as the day, month and year.

186. If the original intent was to celebrate such universal processes of life, then we could expect any but the most damaged of fundamentalists to see the parable of cyclic return, restoration, recovery, restitution, regeneration, recurrence, rebirth, redemption, etc.

187. The centrality of the annual cycle of the seasons for ancient subsistence agriculture provides the cultural framework of time. The timing of Christmas and Easter is essentially determined to celebrate when the day starts to get longer and when the day becomes longer than the night each year.  The time to sow and the time to reap become deeply symbolic rituals of annual recurrence of the same events. This solar symbolism appears throughout the Gospels, presenting Jesus as a human image of the sun, our source of light and life, illustrating how natural processes of the day and year had a deep sanctity in ancient myth, even while that natural process does not exhaust the full spiritual and cultural meaning.

188. The theology of the cross, with its myth of the triumphant victory of the despised and rejected, tells a historical story of human psychology that is far deeper than the order of nature alone.  The construction of spiritual myth has an autonomy from nature, a sense of cultural transcendence, that cannot be reduced in some Marxist fashion like an epiphenomenon, as the mere superstructure of an economic base.  I don’t think we can explain the Christian mythos by reduction to solar allegory, but nor should we ignore that meaning, with its strong connection to such central solar archetypes as order, stability, glory, power, light, life and rebirth.

189. An excellent recent book touching these themes is The Memory Code by Lynne Kelly, showing that the ancient mixing of spiritual and symbolic language was highly complex, linked to processes of knowledge and initiation.  A range of social, political, psychological and economic agendas are involved in the mixing of spirit and metaphor in myth. The importance of this connection between spirit and metaphor is that the later Christian insistence on literal dogma, seeing spirits as entities, involved a corrupted degradation of the original intent of spiritual language, which was intended more to construct a working myth than to insist on an objective supernatural truth that excluded other interpretations. 

190. The trouble with metaphor, in my reading, emerged with the use of Christianity by the Roman Empire as a universal faith, with its aim of banning spiritual dissent, placing religion in service to military security and stability.  The psychology of dogmatism now has a deep hold in religious practice, to the point that adherents reject the description of their beliefs as one myth alongside others, but instead assert a privileged objective status for their claims. 

191. By contrast, ecstatic traditions tend to be mystical and even shamanistic, linked in to far more ancient cultural practices, especially the veneration of knowledge as a source of social power, as described in The Memory Code.  To use beliefs and rituals as means to an end, as instruments for social purposes, is historically linked to sustaining hierarchical control by the alliance of throne and altar, kings and priests. That pervasive historical practice involves a corruption of the meaning of the sacred away from an openness to mystery toward a validation of shared dogma.

192. The church focus on control suppresses freedom. That is Dostoyevsky’s argument of the Grand Inquisitor against Christ, that Christ emphasised freedom in a way that is destroyed by the power of imperial stability.  A covenant has come to mean a legal agreement backed by state powers of enforcement.  And yet the new covenant presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible is more about a sense of meaning than a system of control.  Again, these problems illustrate the dialectic between messianic transformation and stable order in religion.  Order is like what SJ Gould called equilibrium in evolution, whereas transformation punctuates the stability.  So normal time values order, but the redemptive vision always points toward an uneasy sense that our order is only provisional, and in need of messianic change. Jung’s claim that the Bible vision of God is imaginative rather than literal points to such a transformative perspective.  Micah 6:8 is a concise summary, “Do justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

When nature does prove providential, it provides the resources and incentives to expand discretionary activities of worship.  The natural abundance that inspired thanksgiving as a secularised religious festival in the USA helps to explain why America remains so much more religious than other western countries.

193. The shamanistic practice of gratitude to the spirit of a killed animal involves a critique of illusory control, seeing modern western society as suffering from a delusional theory of reason that fails to embed the cognitive desire for control in a humble sense of an encompassing mysterious reality. This story about giving thanks to a deer emphasises the ability of such respectful practices to confront the alienation of modern butchery, with meat understood as a product of Styrofoam wrap rather than a living animal.

194. Jung says this whole story makes sense only on the psychological terrain of what it means for the reader.  The psychological demand that suffering only occurs as punishment for evil reflects a widespread primitive magical belief in moral causality.  The whole point of Job is that this magical moral framework does not work, that innocent suffering is common.


[1] Robert Tulip has a Master of Arts (Honours) Degree from Macquarie University for a thesis on The Place of Ethics in Heidegger’s Ontology.  This essay was written from dialogue at booktalk.org with Harry Marks, whose help is gratefully acknowledged.

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