“The six-million-dollar question is, “What is this God that Jung is talking about? What is Yahweh?” In effect, he’s putting Yahweh on the couch. That perhaps the entire genius of what Jung’s doing is putting God on the couch. As also, if one were to look at it from a faith perspective, that’s the entire problem. It’s that you don’t put God on the couch.”—Paul Bishop
(0:23) Jakob Lusensky: Welcome back to Psychology and the Cross. In this episode, I had the great pleasure to welcome back Paul Bishop for a conversation about Jung’s late work Answer to Job. After finishing writing it in May 1951, Jung wrote in a letter to Aniela Jaffé: “I had landed the great whale. I mean Answer to Job. I can’t say I have fully digested this tour de force of the unconscious. It still goes on rumbling a bit, rather like an earthquake.”
Paul Bishop is probably the scholar who most deeply delved into and tried to understand this provocative work of Jung. His book Answer to Job: A Commentary was published in 2002 by Routledge. In this episode, Paul helps us unpack this important work of Jung and understand its importance for today. I hope you will enjoy this episode.
(1:20) Jakob Lusensky: It’s great again to sit down and talk to you, Paul. I really appreciated our last conversation. As I think I told you after that, you should have your own podcast, because there’s so much to talk about. I could imagine already a few more episodes together with you.
(1:34) Paul Bishop: Well, thank you very much (laughs). That’s kind of you to say, Jakob. Good to be in conversation with you again. I certainly think you’re addressing yourself to really important topics at the moment, so it’s a pleasure to have this discussion with you this morning.
(1:48) Jakob Lusensky: I thought we should address what Jung called “the great whale.” Jung did write in a letter to Aniela Jaffé from Bollingen that “I finally landed a great whale,” and he was referring to Answer to Job. A podcast about Jungian psychology and Christianity is not worthy without really addressing this whale, and this great work of Jung, but also this greatly criticized work of Jung, and maybe also greatly misunderstood work. Let’s see. I know, Paul, that you are probably one of the people in this world who’s spent the most time really digging into the book. I would want to start by asking you, how would you describe this book of Jung, and what type of book is it?
(2:33) Paul Bishop: I think it’s a very good question. Of course, it’s the question we can also ask now about The Red Book, Black Books, which weren’t available when I was writing the commentary on Answer to Job. Obviously, what sort of a book is this is a very good starting point. And in the case of Answer to Job, I think the first thing is to think about what’s there in that title in German. Because I think it loses something in translation. And the German title is, as you’ll know, Antwort auf Hiob. And the “Antwort auf”is just so much more dynamic than “Answer to,” because it’s kind of—well, it’s both an answer to, but it’s also in the sense of a response and a reaction. It’s a much more dynamic kind of interaction, I think, with it. And I think that’s typical of other aspects of Jung’s thought, which get lost in translation, as it were, simply to do with the [. . .] path of these fine points of language. I think, for example, of the phrase, “confrontation with the unconscious,” which loses that interactivity which is there in the German, “Auseinandersetzung mit dem Unbewuss.” “Auseinandersetzung,” as in the sense of a dialogue, an engagement, a working with. “Confrontation with the unconscious,” as if you’ve sort of gone around a corner too quickly and suddenly bumped into it. “Auseinandersetzung” is a much richer kind of term and I think it’s there, with Antwort auf Hiob,is this sense of it’s a response to Job. It’s not simply an answer. It’s a response to—well, if it’s an answer, what’s the question? I suppose. What is it that Jung is responding to in that work? And I think that then raises the question about its genre. What kind of work is this? Is this a work of, to put it in its most banal terms, is this a work of psychology? Is it a work of philosophy? Is it a work of theology? And, of course, again, that’s a typically Jungian kind of mixture of all of those things moving around, and, on my reading of it, and going back, looking at what I had written in 2002, I both kind of agree and disagree with myself in relation to it.
It seems to me that it shows Jung doing this trick that he has, of moving from one stepping stone to another, that when somebody says, “Well, that’s not right theologically,” he says, “Well, I’m doing psychology.” And when somebody says, “Well, that’s not right psychologically,” he says, “Well, that’s because I’m doing theol—”. So he’s constantly moving around there, and that makes Answer to Job such a fascinating, such a kind of tricky book as well, because it’s—it’s interstitial work—it’s between these areas. It’s interdisciplinary, in a preeminent sense, it’s intercultural as well, it really is just a fantastic piece of writing, and I think that’s one of the things, which Jung doesn’t always get the credit for—that he is a great writer in this particular work. He’s produced something which is a fascinating text, and it’s a very, very clever piece of writing. And I think that’s kind of fed into some of the discussion that’s been there around it: that what Jung wanted to do with it is to get our response to what he’s talking about in Job.
(5:55) Jakob Lusensky: Hmm. And where should one fit this in in Jung’s own life? Where did this come from? Do you have any information on that biographically?
(6:04) Paul Bishop: The other thing, it’s 1952, I think, when he works on it. I think one of the things that we can see now is that it fits into a continuity of the project of analytical psychology, if you like, which begins with The Red Book. And there are points of contact between what’s going on in The Red Book—if, anyway, I understood it correctly—and what he’s doing all these decades later in Answer to Job. That’s not to say they’re saying exactly the same kind of thing. Only that the The Red Book is a personal work, in a different sense from Answer to Job, because Answer to Job situates itself in the biblical tradition in a very clear and obvious fashion. And at the same time, of course, it’s also situating itself in a very German cultural context as well, because, of course, the opening scene in the biblical Book of Job, where Satan and Yahweh, Satan and God, are talking to each other, is the basis for the prologue in heaven at the start of Goethe’s Faust. And I think we can see there how Jung’s perception of Goethe, Jung’s engagement with theology, are different aspects of a similar problem that he’s working through, and that goes all the way back, if we’re to believe Memories, Dreams, Reflections, to some of his earliest experiences as a young child as well.
(7:31) Jakob Lusensky: Hmm. So then God as sending the devil as a temptation, or there’s a tempting aspect of—or God also as someone that can tempt you into development.
(7:41) Paul Bishop: Well, that’s right. The basic premise of the opening of the Book of Job is this conversation that takes place, this kind of divine wager, as a thing that would be presented in Goethe’s Faust, between God and one of the sons of God, who is a tempter, or who is an adversary. So who is not tempting so much in the sense that we might think about it, but as someone who is there to provoke, who’s going to test, prufen,as one might say, scrutinize, if you like that translation. And that really sets up the theological context for the work, which is, to answer the question, “Where does evil come from?” And that’s, I think, the purpose of the biblical book—which is part of the wisdom literature in the Hebrew bible, in what Christians like to call the Old Testament, and therefore as a piece of wisdom literature—it is trying to reason, it is trying to reflect, on the nature of wisdom itself. That’s to say, also God—because, with God is wisdom, or wisdom is an aspect of God—and it’s answering the question, or trying to answer the question, or explaining why you can’t answer the question, “Why is there evil? Why do bad things happen?” Of course, such a timeless question, and founded then and valid now, “Why do bad things happen to innocent people?”
So it’s a genuine problem there, and it’s one which, again, if you were to believe Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung says, at a very early stage, and he relates it again to his reading of Faust, which is, “Why is there evil, why is there Mephistopheles, why does Faust have to go to the mothers, why is there evil, and in what sense is good dependent on evil?” And I think it’s a very tricky formulation, it’s a very difficult idea that Jung’s trying to engage with there, and a problematic one, a dangerous one, in some ways. We might have to come back and reflect on it there. But it’s fitting into this biblical tradition of wisdom literature. To use a philosophical term, it’s an act of what Leibniz would call theodicy, the justification of God.
(10:01) Jakob Lusensky: And what would be Jung’s attempt at answering that question, then? Why is there evil, and if this is a working through of that question, is it possible, what would be Jung’s reply?
(10:14) Paul Bishop: I think the answer is to do with the dynamic that’s worked through in the case of the Book of Job, there is a psychological dynamic that Jung wants to trace in that work, which is part of an overarching dynamic, which he sees across the biblical text, the biblical period as a whole. And one of the first things that I wanted to do in the commentarywas just to try and sort out some of the chronology, because the way that the work is structured—which is, I think, it’s structured in a very clever way—almost starts in media res, with the Book of Job, and then launches back to look at earlier biblical texts, and then forward, to look at the New Testament and in particular the apocalyptic tradition of the New Testament. And so what Jung is trying to do is to track the psychological development that goes on in the Book of Job, and place that within the terms of a larger development, as he sees it, as he describes it in this configuration which is called Yahweh. And that’s why the six-million-dollar question is, “What is this God that Jung is talking about? What is Yahweh?” In effect, he’s putting Yahweh on the couch. And that seems to me, if you think about it in that way, that’s the entire genius of what Jung’s doing—you know, putting God on the couch—as also, if one were to look at it from a faith perspective, that’s the entire problem. It’s that you don’t put God on the couch. It’s just not what you do (laughs), you’re not able to do it.
In a sense, it’s what Job tries to do as well, or Job and his friends. It’s to put God on the couch, it’s to try and think their way through, and in turn, make their own accusations of God, until the point, the turning point comes where God speaks out the whirlwind and puts Job, as it were, back in his place. But Jung, I think, rightly draws attention to this pivotal moment, this shift that he thinks that’s taken place, both in the way that Job views Yahweh, and in the way that Yahweh views Job. Because even if you can’t put God on the couch, you can try to do that. Even if you can’t accuse God, you can try and do it. Even if you can’t understand God, you can try and work out rationally what is happening. That’s often the whole point about scholasticism, that’s the whole point about the Judeo-Christian theological tradition, isn’t it, that you can bring ratio to the theological table, as it were? And so in that sense, Jung makes the point that God himself changes by being put—by being tested morally—within this narrative framework. There is something that changes not only in Job, and in the way that Job sees God, but in the way that God sees man as well. And that, then, I think, looks forward to the way that Jung wants to provide an analytical-psychological understanding of the incarnation, of Christianity, of God becoming man, and the sense in which God becomes man in a way which is common to the Western mystical tradition, that we can all have God born within us—thinking that about “My Sermon on Christmas Day,” which Jung refers to in several places—the sense that God is born in various ways: historically, in the incarnation; liturgically, on Christmas Day; and mystically, within the soul of the believer.
(13:49) Jakob Lusensky: Hm. And in what way changes God, from Jung’s point of view, in the Book of Job?
(14:01) Paul Bishop: I think the change is that God realizes that he has a thinking creature, and a creature that’s able to ask moral questions as well, like, “Where does evil come from?” Of course, that question only makes sense in terms of the narrative that one has in the Book of Job, or in terms of the theological tradition of Judeo-Christianity. In other religious traditions, I don’t think the idea of good and evil is necessarily as polarized, as opposite, as one finds—it’s a different question to ask about evil in Hinduism, evil in Buddhism, evil in Shinto. It’s a very Judeo-Christian problem. And so to ask the question about where does evil from is immediately to situate oneself within a particular intellectual historical tradition—which is, to be fair, the major dominant one in the West. That’s the tradition which Jung, for the most part, sees himself as working in.
Let me give you a point of comparison that might help, Jakob. It’s, I think we can see that what Jung’s trying to do in Answer to Job is very close to what Hegel tries to do in his writings on religion, and his writings on Christianity. And if we go to the lectures that Hegel gives on the philosophy of religion, on the philosophy of history, Hegel wants to present Christianity as representing a significant shift in human consciousness, a significant shift in the way that the spirit, as he would say, manifests itself. And without wanting to get caught up in the technicalities of Hegel’s argument, what Hegel seems to be arguing is that, in Christianity, there is an approximation of the divine and the human in a way which he thinks is not reflected in Judaism.
Now, people of Jewish faith may want to take issue with Hegel around that, but I think that’s the kind of argument that we can see in Jung, in an entirely non-Hegelian—and as we know, Jung doesn’t have a lot of time for Hegel, and has some rather negative comments to make about him. And I don’t think he takes his argument from Hegel. But one can see that he’s offering something which is in line with what Hegel is trying to do.
And remember, what Hegel is trying to do is—I think he’s trying to do—is to save religion. It’s that he’s trying to intellectualize—in a demythologized way, in a kind of turbo-charged philosophical way—what is happening in this great Christian tradition that he’s received but which is for various reasons in the eighteenth and nineteenth century simply seen as not working anymore. And partly that’s to do with changes in church authority, it’s partly to do with the work that’s done by the Tübingen School of theology, and understanding how the bible has come into being, as well as the historical moment: that you can’t in the nineteenth century have a medieval view of Christianity, simply because we’re no longer medieval human beings. It seems to me that Jung is saying something that is structurally similar to it, which is to say, in the twentieth century, and in the context of all the evils that have happened in the twentieth century—even though Jung doesn’t actually have an awful lot to say about them, and doesn’t specifically refer to them—given all the evil that’s happened in the twentieth century, can we still believe in God? It’s a bit like, to paraphrase Adorno’s remarks about how you can’t write poetry after Auschwitz, it’s you can’t do theology after Auschwitz. Significant, of course, that Jung never talks about Auschwitz.
(18:08) Jakob Lusensky: Looking at Hegel and Jung as wanting to save Christianity or save religion, would you also say that it is an attempt to reform? Is it Jung is a reformer coming out in his Answer to Job? Shamdasani writes in Lament of the Dead: “Incorporating evil into the godhead is the great theme of that book.” And he says that, “it was in Answer to Job that the theology first articulated in the Liber Novus found its definitive expression and elaboration.”
(18:39) Paul Bishop: I think Sonu’s right in his encapsulation of Jung’s endeavour. In this way, the argument that’s put forth in The Red Book, and which is then explored in Answer to Job, about incorporating evil into the godhead, is a very strange idea, but I think that’s the kind of phraseology that we find from Jung. So what is he doing there with it? In part I think it’s tied up with Jung’s obsession with this question of the third and the fourth. And we notice that—and maybe that’s another topic that we can pursue on another occasion, but he’s insistent in several writings, including in the Collected Works and Psychology of Religion—the idea that the trinity is somehow incomplete, and that it needs to be completed by being turned into a four, they’ve been turned into a quaternity, by reintegrating, or integrating for the first time, something which has been excluded or shut out or ignored or repressed, I suppose you could say, in the trinitarian, in the formulation of things in terms of three. So if we map that onto the Christian tradition, well, it’s very obvious what the trinity is, there it is, God: Father, Son, and Holy . . . So what is that fourth going to be? And it seems to me that Jung has various goes at proposing what’s going to turn that trinity into a quaternity. And one of those repressed things is, well, if all of these things are—these three terms are—masculine, then that fourth occluded term is going to be the feminine. If the three terms are good, then the fourth term is going to be evil. If the three terms are light, then it’s going to be dark. And so that’s what I think Sonu is trying to draw attention to there.
But of course, that seems to me a highly problematic set of things that are occluded, on Jung’s account, not least by saying, well, on one account, what’s missing from the trinity is something feminine, that is to say, the feminine is the fourth element. But it also seems to be very strange if you’re saying, well, on another way of looking at it, what’s occluded is evil. So does that mean that the feminine is the evil? And that seems to me to be one of the curious questions that arises in Answer to Job.
(21:06) Jakob Lusensky: Would you agree that this is the book where you most clearly can see Jung’s theology being expressed in Answer to Job? That there’s a line between The Red Book and his personal experiences, and this book and his attempt at presenting some sort of reformation of Christian ideas, or—
(21:23) Paul Bishop: Well, I think a very good question is, is it really, in the stricter sense of the term, a theology at all? And remember that there’s an occasion, and when people say, “Well, you can’t say that about God,” well, Jung says, “Well, I’m not saying it about God; I’m saying it about the God-image, I’m saying it about the God-archetype.” If all we have is God-archetype or God-image, then, you know, you might as well be saying, it’s human understanding of God. Again, thinking about it in a Hegelian way, or a Feuerbachian way, to say that God really is only an idea that you have, and so, if you talk about God, then theology is essentially psychology, or theology is essentially philosophy. I think the lines that Feuerbach and Hegel would put would be very, very similar to what Jung does when he says, “Well, if it’s not theology, then it’s going to be psychology,” but it’s the psychology which uses an awful lot of theological language, and also, of course, reflects a lot of theological understanding as well.
It’s clear that Jung has reflected, meditated, on the Book of Job, and as we know, in that text and in the Collected Works, is immensely learned, immensely erudite. So he brings the full force of his learning, the full force of his emotional responses, to this text, with its provocative question, “Well, if God is good, where does evil come from?” And Jung’s even more provocative answer, which is that, “Well, evil has in some way to be incorporated into God.” Again, I think I’d want to ask, in what sense is that actually a valid notion of God, or in what sense is that a valid Christian or Judeo-Christian understanding of God?
I think, for example, Augustine says in his Confessions, he says, in Book VII, he says, “I surveilled the things below you,” he says, speaking to God, “and I saw that they do not wholly exist, nor wholly not exist. They exist, being from you, but they do not exist, not being you.” But this Augustinian conception of God would preclude evil—he expressly says it precludes evil. That’s why he can talk about God as a thing of perfect beauty. Augustine says—again, in Book VII of the Confessions—he says, “There is simply no evil in you,” he says. “Not only for you, but for the world of all creation. For nothing is able to break in from the outside and wreck the order you have set in place.” Now, that’s the Christian conception, let’s say. Let’s equate Augustine’s view with the Christian tradition, and you can see Jung certainly disagrees with that. If we’re talking about integrating evil into God, it’s simply not playing the same ball game. I think there are Hegelian and Feuerbachian elements which would say that it is. Or is it a psychological game—and again, Jung himself says, that’s the kind of response that he makes to Victor White, doesn’t he? He says, “Well, I’m explaining what I go through with my patients, with my clients. I’m explaining what I went through myself.” He’ll say in other ways as well, and we can see that that’s true of what’s going on in The Red Book. But for me that question is, if we’re talking about incorporating evil into God, does that in any way make sense from a Christian point of view, bearing in mind what Augustine clearly and expressly says—I think we can take him as speaking pars pro toto for the Christian tradition as a whole—does it make sense to talk about integrating evil into God? Or, in that sense, does it make sense to talk about integrating the feminine into God? In a way, the feminine is already there: through the Holy Spirit, who is said to have feminine characteristics; the idea of Sophia, divine wisdom, associated with the Holy Spirit, associated with logos, with the Son of God, therefore with Christ as well.
And I know that Jung gets very excited, doesn’t he, in 1950—’50 or ’51—with the proclamation of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. He often wondered at the time, how many people got as excited about it as Jung did, but he really does crack open the argumentational champagne, and says, “Look, bingo, this is what I have been going on about. Here is the integration of the feminine into the trinity.” Except, it would seem to me, well, as much as I can understand the doctrine—well, it’s not as if it’s something that was invented in 1950; it’s confirmed as a doctrine in 1950—and anyway, the idea of an assumption is not to say that Mary becomes God—that’s a very interesting question as to what it actually means to say Mary is assumed into heaven—but it would seem to me that any Roman Catholic would say that it’s a misunderstanding of the doctrine to say that it means that Mary becomes God. That’s not what’s going on in the doctrine. Interesting to note as well, as a kind of related element, and Jung never mentions it, which is, aside from the biblical Book of Job, there are other apocryphal texts which talk about Job, including the Testament of Job. And the Testament of Job concludes with Job being ascended into heaven, so, on the one hand, Mary goes up into heaven, Job going up into heaven, they can all meet up there and have a nice conversation about theodicy, I guess.
(26:55) Jakob Lusensky: Well, I’m still curious about, what did you imagine Jung’s reply to be to that question, “Why is there evil?”
(27:05) Paul Bishop: Yeah. I think it’s because Jung frames it in relation to this almost obsessional question that he has about the offices, and the problem of the offices. And of course Jung would say in relation to those passages that I was talking about from Augustine, he would say, “Well, look, there we go, this is precisely my whole point, it’s why putting emphasis on the goodness of God, the lightness, the light quality, the positive, the creative aspects of God, where does that leave those other opposites, destruction, evil, and darkness?” And of course, Augustine’s question to that is to say, really, those things don’t exist. They exist only inasmuch as they are, in this famous doctrine of privatio boni. It’s merely a privation of goodness. And I think it’s a difficult argument for us to understand today, but I think you can see why Augustine would get very upset if he were to read Answer to Job, because he would say, no, the whole point is that those dark elements are going to be redeemed in the sense of falling away. They’re not going to be redeemed in the sense of being integrated. I don’t think from an Augustinian or a more general Christian point of view it makes sense to talk about incorporating evil into the godhead. And of course, that’s why I think Jung’s—this shifting that he does between the theological and the psychological: It’s partly an argumentational tactic. I think it’s also partly being honest about it as well, and he’ll say, “Well, I’m talking about God, the image that we have, the image of the totality or perfection. So what does that say about the evil that’s in our own life, or what does it say about the evil aspects of ourselves?” Or, to use another term, he talks about the inferior functions, the inferior side of the selves, but what does that say about, to use the other Jungian term, where does that leave us in terms of the ressentiment that we might feel, and also then, where does that leave, to use the term that theology does, where does that leave us in relation to evil? The evil that is within us? And I think that, on this point, we have to salute Jung for raising this question, in the twentieth century, raising this question of evil, even though, as I say, he seems to be curiously reluctant to point to what would be very obvious examples of evil in his own time. And it strikes me as strange, possibly problematic in some ways, that in the works that Jung writes after the 1940s—so, in the ‘50s—he approaches the question of evil, he approaches the question of darkness, he approaches the question of negativity, but increasingly and exclusively through alchemy.
Where it seems to me that the problem is, okay, it’s there, but it’s less critical than if you’d think about it in terms of the Second World War, in terms of the Holocaust, in terms of the concentration camps. And Jung seems reluctant to want to point to those as evidence of the urgency that he’s saying, “Well, it’s human beings that did these things. How do we explain that human beings can carry out such monstrous and barbaric acts?” And I think that’s his question. The theological question is, “Why does God allow that to happen?” And I think that’s just another way of asking this question, which is, “Why do good people do bad things? Why does a good God allow evil to happen?”—can be retranslated as, “Why do good people do bad things?” And of course that’s one of the most shocking things about the Holocaust, of tales of guard camps, quite happily going into work to these places where people are systematically brutalized, dehumanized, and murdered, and then going home for supper and putting on some Beethoven and listening to the record player.
(31:19) Jakob Lusensky: I’m reminded of Etty Hillesum. I’m not sure if you’re aware of her.
(31:22) Paul Bishop: Oh yeah.
(31:24) Jakob Lusensky: Yeah. Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz but who wrote her famous diaries at the Westerbork Camp in Holland in 1941, around there. And she was also inspired by Jung through her analyst Julius Spear. And she says somewhere, and I’m not going to quote it, unfortunately, perfectly, “There is no savior God.” She knew where she was going. She knew her whole family was going to Auschwitz, she knew exactly what were there—
(31:49) Paul Bishop: Hm.
(31:50) Jakob Lusensky: There’s no saving God. There’s no savior God. But what we can do is to cultivate a place inside of us, to hold, we have to carry God, we have to carry him inside of us. That’s our work for this time. It’s also this: Jung’s statement that to be unconscious is evil. But he’s saying, if I understand it right, that God is unconscious in this story. God becomes conscious through the interaction with the human, through Job, so the work of incarnation now has to be done by individuals, or by humans. Humans have to do the work of God. It’s not only about evil, no? It’s also about a new type of responsibility for the individual to carry God forward.
(32:29) Paul Bishop: Well, I think you have given a very good summary, if I may say so, of Jung’s argument in the work, and, I just want to say that, but that’s fine as an argument. But to me, that sounds so much more like a Hegelian–Feuerbachian approach than one from any existing theological tradition with which I’m familiar. You know? Again, we go back to Augustine: “No, it’s God who’s the creator and we are the creatures.” Pretty clear line management there, we might say. Jung absolutely confuses that, you’re quite right. He inverts it by saying that not only has Job changed throughout this encounter, but crucially, Yahweh has changed as well. And I think that’s the point that Murray Stein makes as well, that when Murray is talking about God, he says, there is a new relationship that comes between God and his creation.
Now, I suppose that theologically, one would say that Christianity sees a new relationship existing between God and his creation. In fact, that’s expressly there, I think, isn’t it, in the Gospel of John, when Christ says that his disciples, “Look, I’m now going to talk to you as friends, as brothers,” and he talks of them as brethren, so there’s a greater approximation between the divine and the human. But of course, as I understand it in standard Christian theology, that comes about through God’s initiative. It is through God becoming man, in line with, thinking of Paul’s letter, I think it’s to the Ephesians, where he talks about God having this plan, which he’s worked out in advance, that he’s going to send the Son to earth, and save us. So that comes out of God’s initiative rather than the human initiative. But it seems to me that’s the crucial difference between, is this something philosophical or theological—is there something philosophical or psychological, or is there something theological? It’s the question of initiative, because, it seems to me, from a theological perspective, what the incarnation shows is God’s initiative in saving humankind, rather than the human one. Sure, it calls upon us, going back to Meister Eckhart, that we allow him to be reborn within us, or that we ask that he be reborn within us. But, of course, (chuckles) Meister Eckhart, famously accused of being a heretic. One might say it’s a kind of heretic Christianity, or maybe a kind of Gnostic Christianity, that Jung’s wanting to propose in this text. But I don’t think it’s anything that Augustine, at any rate, would recognize.
(35:10) Jakob Lusensky: But I think that also Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he writes that the problem with Job was foreshadowed by this dream he had about his father. And that is the dream in the temple, and the question that we discussed before, where Jung’s father is kneeling and kissing the floor, and Jung is imitating, but he cannot, yeah, this one millimeter—something that also Wolfgang Giegerich has discussed—Jung cannot surrender, so he imitates his dream father, and he gets to understand—he doesn’t see it—but he gets to understand that there’s another level here, where the higher presence is, and that’s where you see the Uriah, yeah?
(35:52) Paul Bishop: Absolutely.
(35:54) Jakob Lusensky: In that dream, there’s also this interpretation about the creature versus the creator, and he feels that the creature has to sometimes overwin or go further than the creator. There’s almost a competition, it seems like, between the creature and the creator, in Jung’s mind. But somehow, his understanding of that dream seems somehow to play into his theology in Answer to Job.
(36:17) Paul Bishop: Yeah, no, I think that’s very helpful. To my mind, it certainly indicates that Jung takes these problems very seriously. And even though there is a kind of, a certain kind of playfulness, in Answer to Job, and I think there are flashes of humour, there are flashes of sarcasm. It’s a very emotional . . . kind of text as well, as well as one which operates at a high intellectual level. There are flashes of a dark kind of humour, sort of sarcastic outbursts, which are in there as well. But it’s actually taking these problems seriously. And I think that that’s something that, even if the relation between Victor White and Jung came to grief, it’s something that one respects, and can see the significance of Jung today, which is taking these theological questions about evil seriously, and trying to, within terms of the system which he is developing, just in the same way that Hegel and Feuerbach do, and formulate some kind of a response to it.
So we’re very far away from the kind of popular expression of religion, of everybody clapping hands and singing kumbaya, and everything’s going to be fine, and God loves us all, and that kind of banal Christianity. And Jung, you can clearly see, has no time for that, that he’s wanting to actually understand what’s going on in this religious dynamic, and he thinks he has, again, like Hegel, like Feuerbach, “Oh, I’ve got a very handy intellectual system which I’ve just been working out, which we can translate that into, and which give us answers as to what we’re meant to do next, or point to what we’re meant to do next.” And again, I think, maybe we can see in Jung the same kind of question arising that one would find with Hegel and Feuerbach, which is to say, okay, well, fine, you’ve translated Christianity into your German-idealist terms, but then what does that then look like in terms of religious practice, what does it look like in terms of liturgy, what does it look like in terms of praxis? Same thing one would answer to Feuerbach, in the essence of mankind, of humankind, okay, well, where does that now take us? And of course it’s significant that the German Idealist tradition that one finds in Hegel and in Feuerbach, actually then shifts into, as we know, Marxism, and it takes us into a very materialist dimension—actually then, in the case of Marxism, I suppose it would be fair to say, a kind of atheist tradition. With Jung, it doesn’t go that way, not only because I think Jung, kind of as a rather bourgeois individual, doesn’t like leftwing politics and doesn’t like communist politics and Marxism, but also because he’s much happier talking with notions of Geist and spirit and archetype and keeping things working at the spiritual-psychological level in a way that, it turns out, that isn’t the way that it went with Hegel and Feuerbach.
(39:36) Jakob Lusensky: Well, that’s a great difference, no? He also developed techniques, dreamwork, active imagination, and he was also delivering the tools for people to go on a path similar to his—their own path, but still. Although Jung always says he was not a theologian, and although he’s often criticized for not being a great theologian, in a way he is delivering a theology, and that theology is implicit in the Jungian corpus. And there are so many believers. There are many people, not praying, but doing active imagination and such. This is also part of the critique, Buber—and I would like to discuss that with you—Buber’s critique of this work as a Gnostic work.
(40:15) Paul Bishop: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, just to briefly pick up on something you were saying at the beginning, there is, I suppose it would be fair to say that there are many very different Jungs as well. And that there is one which is more, how shall I say, a lot closer to the aspect of a church—I’m hesitating to use the word cult for obvious reasons—which does have a, let’s say, offers a kind of spiritual exercise (let’s talk about it that way), or spiritual exercises in the sense that talks about it, so that those kind of tools of active imagination and so on, that you were referring to. But that Jung’s system could also be used—and still also, I understand, is used, because of his writing on typology—as tools, not for self-discovery but of management—I’m thinking of Myers-Briggs and this very different kind of way that Jung could be received as well. So he’s a multifaceted figure. Not too keen on the Myers-Briggs kind of aspect, I have to say. But nevertheless, there it is, and it’s obviously going to stand as party to that tradition as well.
In regard to the reception of the work, I mean, there is this remark, that I think it’s Anthony Storr quotes as well, from Jung, isn’t it, where he says, “What I’ve produced is pure poison. But I owe it to my people.” It’s a great quote, and it has the kind of ring of truth about it, and it’s the kind of thing Jung would say. Because in a way, it is pure poison, certainly it would have been pure poison for Victor White, on the Roman Catholic side, because, from the Catholic perspective, you just can’t talk about God like that. It doesn’t make sense to talk about it. And I think it’s very poignant of the relationship that was there between Victor White and Jung, where they start off and they think they’re talking about the same thing, and then it becomes clear, as the conversation goes on, that they’re really talking about completely different things. That’s leaving aside the whole question of the . . . mystico and all that aspect of a very strange kind of friendship that goes on. Of course these days, they wouldn’t have been writing letters to each other, they’d be sending emails, so we would have had even more material because they would have been able to send several emails and so on in one day, and probably attachments as well and things like that. So I wonder what an email correspondence between Victor White and Jung might have looked like. Would it have gone in a different direction, would it have stopped the break from taking place in some way, or would it have speeded it up maybe?
But that sense of, “But, we’re really playing a different kind of game,” I think is there in relation to [Buber] and his critique of Jung, and Jung’s response, which, at first sight, is rather surprising, isn’t it, because Buber accuses Jung, or Buber describes—I shouldn’t say accuse—Buber doesn’t think of it so much as an accusation. It’s a description. Buber thinks, “Well I’ve seen this before, and what Jung is talking about looks to me very much like Gnosticism.” And that was a very fair description, because after all, Jung does quote lots of Gnostic writings and you’ve got the Jung codexes kind of floating around, people are buying him Gnostic scriptures and launching the [. . .] Institute and so on, so it doesn’t seem such a strange accusation or description to make, and yet Jung immediately goes into reverse gear, by saying, “No, no, absolutely, Gnosticism has nothing to do with me. I am the last person that you could describe as a Gnostic,” even though he has this Gnostic ring on, that he used to keep on his finger and so on. And I suppose in some ways that seems a bit of a surprising response. Except perhaps it isn’t, and it’s a very Gnostic response, which is to hide and to disguise and to refuse to fall into line with the interpretive schemas that are offered to one. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that Jung would say, “Well, no I’m not, because I’m not going to allow myself to be categorized by somebody else.” He feels the description of himself as a Gnostic is a kind of categorization, but also, that he might say, “Well, look, no, again, you’ve misunderstood me. Just as I’m not trying to offer a Christian theological response which is in line with what the Vatican is going to teach, or in line with what the Tubingen-Stift is going to teach in terms of Protestantism, I suppose, just as I’m not going to fall in line with what those organizations are saying, nor am I going to allow myself to be told, well, this is what Basilides says, so it must be true, or this is what Valentinus says, so it must be true. In other words, he wants to use Gnosticism in the way that he uses all those other intellectual sources, sometimes mystical—Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius—sometimes philosophers—preeminently Nietzsche. I don’t think Jung would be happy to be described at a Nietzschean, though he is spending years and years commenting on Zarathustra in great detail. So it’s a rejection of this description of him by saying, yeah, you’re simply lining up with what these other folk are doing. In a way, I think it’s Jung trying to say, “No, I’m trying to work out my own answer, and I’m Jungian, thank you very much. I am sui generis.” But even then, as we know, at one point, he says, “Well, thank goodness I’m not a Jungian,” because he doesn’t like the way that he sees his system as being systematized, or presented in a popularizing systemic way, and he thinks that’s missing the authentic—prophetic, I suppose—I think we can say, aspect of what he’s trying to do. So I think if we see it in terms of, any time somebody comes up with a label for Jung and tries to put it on him, he says, “No, I’m not that, thank you very much.” And that applies to Gnosticism, too.
(46:01) Jakob Lusensky: But what I find so remarkable in Jung’s response there is that he disowns Seven Sermons of the Dead. He says it’s the sin from earlier in his life. I wonder, again, because that’s the question about, what did Jung try to build, you know? A theology or a new system of sorts? Because at times it seems like that, although he all the time, mostly in Answer to Job, says, “No, this is just my experience.” But at other times, and also as Shamdasani understands, there’s a lineage here between his early experiences until here, and he had that experience and he wanted to convey that. And he used theological language to speak of God as needing to be completed, with, you know . . .
(46:42) Paul Bishop: Yep, yep, yep.
(46:43) Jakob Lusensky: This disowning his experiences, in a way, Seven Sermons of the Dead.
Paul Bishop: Yeah, no, I think that a good point. I suppose we ought to remember, oughtn’t we, that Jung had no idea, did he, that his Red Book was ever going to be published. He originally published the Seven Sermons, and it was given to a very small number of people, and I suppose that if he regards it as something which is intensely private, and intensely personal, only for sharing with a few people. So, that’s true of the The Seven Sermons, it’s true of The Red Book as well, isn’t it? It was shown to a very select number of people. That he’s going to say, well, hang on, Mr. Buber, this is not for you, or, this is for myself, primarily, and for the few people that I choose to share it with. And I suppose describing it as Jugendsuende, a sort of sin of his youth, is, in a way, a kind of collective gesture. It’s that he’s anticipating some of the critique that would be made if The Red Book were to be published, or that indeed, has indeed, taken place subsequent to the publication of The Red Book. And whilst I’m delighted the The Red Book has been published, I would be more delighted if I understood what was going on it, I think. At the same time, it is intensely personal, intensely private. I think it was when I was first reading The Red Book that I did have the sense of, “Ought I to be here? Ought I to be looking at this?” Tread softly if you tread on my dreams, and so on, tread softly if you tread on my visions. And, that might seem a bit rich from someone who’s published on The Red Book, and talked about The Red Book, but there are moments when I suddenly have a twinge of conscience and think, well, actually, I don’t know, should we be doing this? At the end of the day, well, one, it’s out there now, so it’s too late. And I think it actually bolsters Jung, it supports Jung. I think the worst position would be the one that we were in for many years, where we knew there was The Red Book, but we didn’t know what was in it. I don’t think that that’s going to be a sustainable position, but I wonder if that response to The Seven Sermons is to say, look, I can see that I’m going to be profoundly misunderstood, if all of this stuff gets out there, and bear in mind, some of the comments that people have made about The Red Book—well, maybe Jung was right. Maybe he could foresee some of the criticism that was going to come his way, if the The Seven Sermons of the Dead, or indeed The Red Book itself, were to be published.
(49:05) Jakob Lusensky: Why do you think it was so difficult for Jung to be Gnostic? Why was he fighting that so hard?
(49:12) Paul Bishop: Yeah, well I think part of it is in terms of this, in this way, that Jung presents himself in various ways, depending on the audience that he has and depending on the kind of mode of self-presentation that he’s in at particular times, and again I think it’s, you know—Peter Kingsley is quite good about bringing this out in his book Catafalque—where he says, well, look, Kingsley’s view is that Jung was a prophet, and that Jung saw himself as a prophet. But one of the things that prophets do is not simply to go around prophesizing, prophesying all the time, it’s that Isaiah or Jeremiah or some of the other prophets do prophetic things which have to be understood, so they play with a clay pot, or . . . so they do things which we wouldn’t say, “That’s prophetic,” we would probably say, “That’s pathological.” And so there’s that whole fear of being misunderstood, which is part of prophecy, or which is built into prophecy. It’s actually cauteryed. And that, I think, is, this line in Isaiah, which Christ himself quotes, where the disciples ask, “Why do you go around talking to everybody in parables?” He says, quoting Isaiah, “So that they may look, but not see, that they might hear, but not understand.” And so this whole question about how do you transmit the message is built into that prophetic tradition.
(50:51) Jakob Lusensky: Hmmm—
(50:52) Paul Bishop: And I think, certainly, that Kingsley writes that Jung is prophetic, at least in this sense, but maybe others, too. In the sense of how you go about communicating the message, and how are you, if you want to say, how do you package it, how do you present it, how do you market it? That is terribly formed.
(51:17) Jakob Lusensky: But isn’t there also something in his reaction that has to do with the view of God that he’s presenting in Answer to Job? This is a God that has the dualism integrated, so to speak. It has both sides. While, I guess, Gnosticism is also the idea of good and bad forces fighting over the human soul, or there’s something that goes beyond the all-loving God. Isn’t that a part of this argument, that God is double-sided, that God has these two sides, and that’s—true monotheism is to see that God holds also the evil aspect. Otherwise, we’re splitting things into God is all good, and evil is all bad.
(52:00) Paul Bishop: Yep. Yeah, no, I think that’s right, you know, one of the responses that Jung could have made to Buber, would be, well, what kind of a Gnostic do you think I am? Because, I mean, it is a very broad label, isn’t it? And one might have wanted to go back to Buber and say, well is it Basilidian or Valentinian? What particular school do you think I belong to? And I think you’re right, that there is this—I’m thinking of the fact that the Vatican produced this document, “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age” and it’s, I suppose, the moment when the Vatican engages with Jung and accuses Jung, not so much of being a Gnostic, but of being New Age. So. And I think that one can sympathize with the Vatican’s response, inasmuch as it’s saying, “Look, what these people are doing is not what we’re doing. And there is a problem for us, potentially a problem for us both, if people get mixed up and confused about what our respective projects are, and what they’re meant to be, and what they’re meant to be doing.” And I think that Jung himself would resist having the label “New Age” applied to him, just as he objects to the label “Gnostic” being put on him, just as he objects to the label “Jungian” being put on him. Because in all cases, that’s people trying to circumscribe what he’s doing, control him, contain him, pop him in this neat little box, rather than allow his texts, his techniques, his ideas, to work on one, and I’m thinking of that remark that he makes about how each of us should have our own Red Book, should have our own cathedral for the soul, have our own kind of projects of existential authenticity.
Of course, that’s at the heart of the problem. I suppose it’s there in Nietzsche very, very clearly when Zarathustra says, “the way” is something which doesn’t exist—Den Weg gibt es nicht—there isn’t the one way, and you can’t present a gospel of existential authenticity as something where you have to present this, that, and the other. If you’re going to be authentic you’ve got to go and do it for yourself. Thinking of the moment in the Monty Python film where they all say, “Yes, we’re all individuals.” Well, that’s precisely undermining what the idea of an individual is. I think that’s why Jung, as a strategic move, doesn’t want to have labels applied to him, because that will simply get in the way of what he wants to do, which is evoke a response from us, either, I suppose, in a therapeutic mode, as patients—as patients or clients—or, in the way that a lot of people, including myself, have come to—which is true—the effect of his texts, the effect of the Collected Works, and now the experience of reading The Red Book as well. And that, when one reads The Red Book, it seems to me that it is profoundly useful as a text, you can be sure of that, but it’s not going to be a work which will leave you alone, which you will remain neutral to. So if Jung is trying to produce an answer to Job, we are all trying to produce our answer to The Red Book.
(55:08) Jakob Lusensky: Hm. You ask yourself in the conclusion of your book, “Does Answer to Job tell us how Jung finally ceased to be a Christian and became instead a believer in a different religion, perhaps the first Jungian?” I was curious how now, twenty years later, how would you answer that question yourself?
(55:28) Paul Bishop: Well, I think I wouldn’t have formulated it in those terms in the first place, twenty years on. I suppose it’s worth reflecting that, what I really wanted to do in the commentary, was to kind of help it on in that way. Obviously what I didn’t know was what was going to be in Red Book. And I think that The Red Book—I don’t think I would necessarily take away anything that I wrote about in the commentary, but I’d want to add a kind of third part, I think, which is about situating Answer to Job, not only in terms of preceding books, like Aion, perhaps. Some of the writings on alchemy—but say, look, we’ve got this amazing thing with Jung, that he begins, if you like, with The Red Book. The Red Book comes after all the work that he’s done in Transformation and Symbols of the Libido. That’s another kind of discussion: What’s the relationship between those two books? But if we take The Red Book as representing some kind of a starting point, or a second starting point, after Transformations and Symbols of the Libido. The concern that we have there, again, which is, a kind of repost to Nietzsche: “God is not dead, he is as alive as ever.” That’s an inversion of Nietzsche. The whole question of Izdubar and turning God into an egg. What does Jung say? It’s not about if God can save us, it’s if we can save God.
So we’ve got an extraordinary inversion of theological tradition there. It’s all about how Jung, or humankind, can redeem God. That’s the big thing which is in the work, isn’t it? We get that at the beginning. But then, I think, past a new light on what’s happening, at the end, if you like. Not quite the end, but one of the late works in Answer to Job, where he reworks through this issue we’ve touched upon at various points in our conversation, the notion of salvation, the question of evil, the problem of the opposites. If in The Red Book everything is reflected inwardly, because it’s to do with his vision, then in the question of the Answer to Job, it’s reflected outwardly by engaging with these, with the biblical texts of the discussions and indeed the visions, the encounter that takes place between Job and Yahweh in that biblical text. And I suppose that what I would want to do, if I was able to write the book again, would be to try and bring out and tease out what defines the difference between the Christian reading and the Jungian reading. And I think I’d try to formulate it in this way, and say that on a Christian reading of the Book of Job, what really matters is that Job comes to understand Christ as being wisdom, as being logos, this moment, this famous moment, where he says, “I know that my redeemer liveth,” a beautiful manuscript inflection where you can see Job seeing this kind of figure, and on a Christian reading, I think the reason why this book is important is because Job understands that his redeemer is going to come, that Job is there as a witness to the logos, as a witness to Sophia or wisdom. But I think the Jungian view of Job is significantly different, that on the Jungian reading, why Job is significant is because he is a kind of prefiguration of the suffering Christ. Not that he sees Christ, but that in his sufferings, he is a prefiguration of the suffering which has been described as the redemptive act of Christianity in the New Testament.
(59:12) Jakob Lusensky: So when you make this distinction between the Jungian reading and the Christian reading, and also you say in this question, maybe you wouldn’t formulate it the same way twenty years later. Yeah, I’m still curious about, do you view Jung as a Christian? Or being a Jungian is not being a Christian, or how do you understand it?
(59:31) Paul Bishop: Well, I know there are lots of Christians who are Jungians
(59:35) Jakob Lusensky: I’m thinking Jung.
(59:37) Paul Bishop: And Jungians who are Christian. So claiming that they are compatible in that way. As a matter of fact, I think I would have a hard job reconciling them. Just cause it seems to me that ultimately the game of theology and the game of psychology, you have crucial points of categorical difference between them. Cause I think it certainly shows that Jung is someone who takes religion seriously, and perhaps that is, at this particular moment, the greatest resource and the greatest help you can do with religion, either religion in general or with Christianity in particular, is to take it seriously, engage with it, is to present it at a time, at a historical moment, when knowledge of the bible, knowledge of traditions, knowledge of what biblical symbols mean, seems to be disappearing very, very fast. There’s a moment, talking to the Guild of Analytical Psychology in London, where Jung says with great pathos, he says, “You know, I want to believe all these things, but I’m just unable to do them anymore.” And I think he’s talking there in the ‘50s. That, really, in my mind, anticipates the loss of the symbol that we have at the moment. Bread and wine aren’t automatically seen as eucharistic symbols, but more kind of like picnic items. But the image of somebody suffering on a cross, suffering on a cross—you know, we have these debates about whether British Airways stewardesses are allowed to wear crucifixes round their neck and so on. That is such a trivialization of “How do we understand the suffering God?” And that it seems to me that Jung is an immensely useful figure for our time and an immensely uncomfortable one as well, because he keeps on reminding us of this question of suffering. And that, I think, is part and parcel, it’s tied up with, the problem of evil, isn’t it? The problem of evil is putting a theological gloss on this question of something which can be very, very visceral. Why is there suffering? Either one’s own personal suffering, or it might be even worse, seeing the suffering of other people and being unable to help them. So, in our very, very happy caffé sterilizing kind of world, which wants to look away from things that are very difficult, I think one of the ways that I can see Jung, at any rate, being reconciled with theology, is through this insistence on the problem of suffering and the meaning of suffering, if it can be said to have a meaning. I think that, you know, if you think about any pain that you’re in, talking about pain having a meaning becomes a very, very difficult idea. But that seems to me central to the theology of Christianity, and its image of the crucified Christ. And it’s central to Jung as well in The Red Book, which does talk about suffering, loss, the sense of immense isolation, and bereft, and yet fighting one’s way through to some kind of reconciliation with that shadowy figure that he meets in the garden at the end of the Scrutinies.