The Story of Job as a Story of the Self

The story of Job long confounded secular and religious scholars who have attempted to interpret this biblical enigma. William Blake, in 1825, published a series of twenty-one engravings re-enacting the story of Job. Dr. Edward F. Edinger, a psychiatrist who has written extensively on the religious implications of Jung's thinking, uses these engravings to present an interpretation of the story of Job as a struggle between the ego and the Self. In his new book, Encounter with the Self: A Jungian Commentary of William Blake's "Illustrations of the Book of Job" (Inner City Books), Edinger introduces the ego as the lesser subjective personality, in contrast to the Self or individuality, which is the transpersonal center and totality of the psyche and is the God-image within the psyche. This equation is similar to Cayce's statement that the human soul is a miniature model of creation.

Edinger describes the encounter between the ego and the Self as the Job Archetype. It typically has four phases of manifestation: (1) an encounter between the ego and the Greater Personality (God, Angel, Superior Being); (2) a wound or suffering of the ego as a result of the encounter; (3) the perseverance of the ego which endures the ordeal and persists in scrutinizing the experience in search of its meaning; and (4) a divine revelation by which the ego is rewarded with some insight into the transpersonal psyche.

Examples of the Job Archetype are seen in stories, such as Goethe's Faust between Faust and Mephistopheles; Melville's Moby Dick, between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick; Arjuna and Krishna; Saint Paul and Christ; Moses and El-Khidr; and Nietzsche and Zarathustra.

Blake's engravings are exquisite pictures that portray the story of Job. The account begins with Job happy and prosperous in his initial state of contentment. Here is an initial innocent state of the ego, feeling secure in its unconscious assumptions. Doubts erupt as the urge to individuation and greater consciousness disrupts the status quo. The destruction of Job's children and their families represents the onset of bad dreams and neurotic symptoms, as in a person entering a spiritual emergency.

Job's body is racked with boils, representing festering, neglected complexes erupting into consciousness. Job then falls into his dark night of the soul, but remains convinced of his innocence and unconscious of his shadow. The shadow is represented by inner criticisms; but, if Job were to give in to the criticisms and decide that his misfortunes were all his own fault, he would miss the possibility of the manifestation of the spiritual experience. Fortunately, a new aspect emerges, representing his totality, the part nearest our subconscious: the child. When Yahweh answers Job out of the power of the whirlwind, the full numinosity of God manifests and Job discovers the autonomy of the psyche. Job hereby gains a new conception of God, and there is a regeneration of the personality. The aspects of God are integrated into a union of opposites. Job's relation to God is healed. The sacrificial attitude brings a unity of the ego and the shadow. Job is now restored in family and in wealth, in a conscious relation to the reality of the Self.

The feminine factor is introduced as Job instructs his daughters. The final engraving shows Job rejoined by his wife and with his new family, representing the person in a conscious relation to the Self (God).

(Digest by Sharon McLean, Atlantic University.)


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