Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Encouragement on the Journey

It is always encouraging to find fellow travelers on the journey of life.  Anyone who knows me knows that I do not like comparing people's experiences.  It can tend to universalize an experience, and exclude those who do not share them.  There is nothing wrong with learning from others though, as long as we maintain the intersubjectivity between us and respect the experiences of the other.  Jean Raffa has an excellent blog post that resonates with me.  My experience is similar to her's that she describes in the first few paragraphs.  Take a read:

Gated Religions - Jean Raffa

I especially love this, as I could have written it myself if I could find the words:

For many years, literal belief in the doctrines of my religion (Christianity) was enough to satisfy my spiritual hunger. But the strain of containing my beliefs in a tightly enclosed, left-brained compartment labeled “Religion” while repeatedly coming up against a Mystery that encompasses the entire universe eventually wore me down. At the age of 37 my ego waved a white flag and surrendered its need to feel safe and in control. In leaving the gated community of my religion, I entered a Dark Night of the Soul that lasted nine years.

I returned from the desert with a new way of seeing and living.

For me, I am still learning what that new way of seeing and living could look like.  I know what I'm letting go of (inherited God images, etc), but I only have a glimpse of a new way at this point.  Depth psychology and the mystic tradition are helping to paint the picture of the future, but I'm still, daily, filling in that picture on the path of individuation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Answer to Job - 1

Jung prefaces the book with a section called Lectori Benevolo.  He starts this section with this, which lays the groundwork for the rest of the book:

…For, in what follows, I shall speak of the venerable objects of religious belief.  Whoever talks of such matters inevitably runs the risk of being torn to pieces by the two parties who are in moral conflict about those very things.  This conflict is due to the strange supposition that a thing is true only if it presents itself as a physical fact…”Physical” is not the only criterion: there are also psychic truths which can neither be explained nor proved nor contested in any physical way. (LB, 553)

It is interesting to me that we still see this battle between two camps: literalists who claim that we can’t have faith UNLESS it is backed up by physical facts; and atheists who claim that we can’t have faith BECAUSE it cannot be backed up by physical facts.  I would not presume to think these are the two camps Jung had in mind, but it is something I see today.   Jung continues to describe the psychic nature as autonomous of the physical, and thus of religious experience and language arising out of transpersonal, unconscious processes.  These resultant religious statements…

are filtered through the medium of human consciousness…That is why whenever we speak of religious contents we move in a world of images that point to something ineffable.  We do not know how clear or unclear these images, metaphors, and concepts are in respect of their transcendental object.  If, for instance, we say “God”, we give expression to an image or verbal concept which has undergone many changes in the course of time.  We are, however, unable to say with any degree of certainty…whether these changes affect only the images and concepts, or the Unspeakable itself…There is no doubt that there is something behind these images that transcends consciousness…(LB, 555).

Jung is drawing the distinction between the conscious expressions of unconscious God images, and the ineffable God that these images point to.  He concludes this section by clarifying that he is addressing these images, these metaphors that we see in Job, and doing so not as an objective intellectual, but as an emotionally involved subject.  He concludes with an important statement for my theologically minded friends: “I do not write as a biblical scholar, but as a layman and physician who has been privileged to see deeply into psychic life of many people”.

Answer to Job – Intro

So as my first foray back into blogging after some time, I decided to go easy on myself and blog through C.G. Jung’s Answer to Job.  Actually, this will be quite a challenge (both in the material and in the blogging), and I am going to really work at being consistent in my writing of new posts.  

A little about Answer to Job from the back cover:
Considered one of Jung's most controversial works, Answer to Job also stands as Jung's most extensive commentary on a biblical text. Here, he confronts the story of the man who challenged God, the man who experienced hell on earth and still did not reject his faith. Job's journey parallels Jung's own experience--as reported in The Red Book: Liber Novus--of descending into the depths of his own unconscious, confronting and reconciling the rejected aspects of his soul.

Some preparatory comments on style and language are in order.  The book is broken up by section (I, II, III, etc) and by paragraph number (557,567, etc.).  When I quote the book, I will use the following designation: (VII,643).  Also, Jung, as a product of his culture, uses exclusively masculine pronouns.  When quoting, I will use Jung’s words, with the caveat that I personally avoid the use of such pronouns in my own writing.  He also refers to God with masculine references.   Same caveat applies for me in this case as well.