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Paradoxes Mythology and Emotion in Western Religion

Jung embarks upon a psychological discussion of religion through means of analysis, comparisons, and critiques of Western and Eastern tradition in hopes of finding a medium ground between the two cultures and a more stable, more fulfilled and healthy, spiritual self. As we shall discover, Jung, a Western Christian, places a great emphasis on enlightenment on the religions of the East while pointing out the inherent problems of Western discourse.

The disjuncture between Jung’s biography and status as a 20th century European and his apparent praise of the Eastern self point to an inherent problem in the reliability of Western ideas for this particular Westerner. While we will take the time today to outline the basic tenants, as Jung sees them, of Western and Eastern religion, I shall begin with a discussion of Jung’s analysis of the Book of Job so that we might all be on an equal footing for the proceeding comparisons and analyses of the East.

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If we take Jung’s rather lengthy comments on the Western God, and more specifically of Yahweh (the Old Testament version), in comparison to the people of the Pre-Common Era world, we will see how Jung deviates from the standard psychological analysis in favor of a literary one performing a character study of Christian mythological figures. Taking Job as his text, Jung applies the criticism of psychological thought to get at the literary, figurative, and performative aspects of the relationship between the God of the Old Testament and his most notable creation, man.

While the “Answer to Job” is quite different from the style of Jung’s discussions to which we have become accustomed, let me suggest this text to represent Jung’s old age, his failure to reconcile his religious beliefs earlier, and the necessity to find the spiritual next step so common of elderly people. While not seeking to discredit this work, let me merely suggest that we take this text not as a precise and innovative psychological discussion but rather as a religious epithet of a man facing the Ever Lasting.

That said, let me now turn to the summary of Job Jung provides and attempt to outline the conflicts of the text as Jung sees them. In brief, Job is the story of Yahweh’s approval of Satan to tempt a righteous man so that Yahweh might justify his creation, prove the loyalty of his subjects, and claim his almighty power in the presence of his fallen angel. Jung provides the Biblical mythological background necessary for understanding this text, namely the ancestral heritage of the first family so that we might understand the similarities between the heavenly relations of the pre-creation period to the post-sixth-day relations of mortals. According to legend, Yahweh’s companion throughout the creation was a mortal woman, Sophia-later becoming Wisdom-with whom God acted out his masculine, passionate, and omnipotent lust.

Sophia is likened to the first wife of Adam, Lilith, who, after refusing to bow before Adam’s masculine domination, was exiled, along with her children (the whores of the East) from Eden and promptly replaced by the more submissive and domicile Eve. From Yahweh’s relations with his first wife and his second, Jerusalem, he begat two heavenly sons: the elder Satan and the younger Jesus. Satan is obviously a heavenly prototype of Adam’s eldest, Cain, just as the perfection of Jesus comes through the murder of the innocent and favoured Abel. The status of Satan as a banished son of Yahweh and the status of Cain as a banished son of a man obviously point to the reliance of literary prologue and foreshadowing so inherent in the Old Testament works.

The problem here lies in the fact that although Yahweh has banished his first son, Satan, he is still compelled to listen to his temptations and play along with his evil games. Jung points to the fact that just as Yahweh “is everything in its totality…total justice, and also its total opposite” (Campbell 534) he has a “terrible double aspect: a sea of grace is met by a seething lake of fire, and the light of love glows with a fierce dark heat of light” (627). The paradoxes of Yahweh’s love and justice coupled with his anger, violence, and injustice are problems Jung identifies as issues of the universal moral law to which Yahweh refuses to abide. Jung continually reminds us that “Yahweh is not split but is an antinomy-a totality of opposites” in an attempt to not reconcile but only accept the inherent conflicts within the image of the Old Testament God. Perhaps we might find a better, while slightly heretical, description of Yahweh in the archetype of the Trickster as opposed to the standard Universal Father.

Jung holds particular contention with Yahweh’s inability to stand up to Satan and simply state that a Job is a righteous man, end of discussion. Instead of confidently defying Satan’s question as to whether anyone righteous man exists through means of his omniscience, Yahweh allows himself to be led into a cave of uncertainty in which Satan easily conjures the truth as he wants it to be; the unconfident Yahweh buys into Satan’s tricks and allows the torture of an innocent man to begin. The moral problem here is whether a being (man, god or otherwise) has the authority to interrupt the peaceful existence of another being (again, man, god or otherwise) in order to calm its own insecurities.

Yahweh’s disruption of Job’s life can be seen, as Jung would have us believe, as the retreat into insecurity-acting as a child-leading to an abandonment of enlightened, confident, and secure adult reasoning. Furthermore, we must understand the abandonment of moral code on Yahweh’s part to be even more consequential as we understand God to be omniscient. Couldn’t Yahweh have easily consulted his omniscience in order to find the answer to Satan’s accusation?

The failure of Yahweh to fully utilize his omniscient powers while allowing the suffering of an innocent man causes great opposition in the image of a loving and caring God. While Yahweh is obviously interested in the state of man, as opposed to say, Zeus who may be a figure but is definitely not a personality, Jung calls attention to the inconsistency of his nature and questions the reliability of the Western God. If Westerners put all their faith, which they do, in an external force-God, Grace, Fate, etc.,-they set themselves up for a continual state of disappointment when the force abruptly changes its mind or otherwise decides to withdraw from its covenant.

The state of Westerners as being particularly reliant on the external, as opposed to the internal reliances of the East, is seen through the example of Job’s faith in Yahweh’s ultimate purpose even as he loses all his earthly property, his loved ones, and his own health. The problem with Western religion, as Jung sees it, is this very inconsistency of action by God and the failure of man to recognize their own powers because of the blindness of faith in the external force; “With us, man is incommensurably small and the grace of God is everything; but in the East, man is God and he redeems himself” (Campbell 486). This reliance upon the external is, as Jung believes, the innate difference between the West and the East: “You cannot be a good Christian and redeem yourself, nor can you be a Buddha and worship God” (489).

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Paradoxes Mythology and Emotion in Western Religion. (2021, Feb 24). Retrieved July 31, 2021, from