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blog - Charles Stanford

Pop Psychology? Jungian Concepts in Popular Music - Answers to Job: Jung and Nick Cave and God

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That was what my father had not understood, I thought; he had failed to experience the will of God, had opposed it for the best reasons and out of the deepest faith . . . He had taken the Bible's commandments as his guide; he believed in God as the Bible prescribed and as his forefathers had taught him. But he did not know the immediate living God who stands, omnipotent and free, above His Bible and His Church, who calls upon man to partake of His freedom . . .

then came the dim understanding that God could be something terrible.
(Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 40)

I saw my imagination as a dark room with a large bolted door that housed all manner of shameful fantasies. I could almost hear my secret thoughts bumping and scratching behind the door, begging in whispers to be let out, to be told. Back then, I had no idea that those dark mutterings were coming from God. (Nick Cave, “The Flesh Made Word”)

Carl Jung's relationship with God may be what sets him apart most decisively from other psychologists of his day. In his psychological writings he fearlessly explores the manifestations of the god image or archetype, always being careful to make clear that he is dealing with such, and not presuming to pronounce any verdict on the existence of a transcendent metaphysical fact beyond psychic images, which are quite powerful and real in themselves.

Jung's Answer to Job explores the shadow side of the god image.

As part of his quest for truth and his openness to God, Dr. Jung wrote Answer to Job in his 76th year. One of his shortest works, it is also perhaps his most controversial. To a traditional believer, the book bursts like a blasphemous bomb, mercilessly shattering the comfortable story of humble patience that so many of us were taught in childhood when we learned about Job in church.

Like so many other watered-down scripture stories, the conventional story of Job can be told in a couple of pages. Meanwhile 90% of the book – and the meaning – is locked in between the beginning and the end. It took me years to get through the whole thing because what I read never matched the meaning I had been taught. And it took me four attempts over a couple of years to get beyond the first few pages of Jung's Answer to Job. In writing the book, Dr. Jung knew he was stirring up a hornets' nest, but in his old age he could no longer withhold the message that had been working in his soul all his life. As if he were one of the ancient prophets, he had to obey the spirit and get the word out. The result is a “little book” that bears repeated readings and deserves serious consideration and reflection from anyone with any background in the Christian tradition who has thought about the problems of evil, morality and divine justice.

 

Nick Cave explores shadow manifestations of the god archetype in through his music and essays.

Exploring these concepts from another angle is the singer-songwriter Nick Cave, whose audacious imagination has produced unforgettably powerful song-stories which bring the listener face to face with the “shadow fanged and hairy and mad.” (“Do You Love Me?” Let Love In 1994) In his essay “The Flesh Made Word,” Cave tells how as a young songwriter he found artistic inspiration in the “brutal and jealous and merciless” voice of God in the Old Testament. He makes specific mention of the book of Job:

I loved to read the Book of Job and marvel over the vain, distrustful God who turned the life of his perfect and upright servant into a living hell.

Nick Cave's experiences with the dark side of God were different than Carl Jung's: after burning himself out with songs that expressed the bilious notions of a vengeful, despotic god, he rediscovered the New Testament and the Jesus of his childhood, “and it was through him that I was given a chance to redefine my relationship with the world.” For Cave, as for Jung, Christ “came to right the wrongs of his father.” Jung sets Christ's incarnation as God's answer to Job:

The victory of the vanquished and oppressed is obvious: Job stands morally higher than Yahweh. In this respect the creature has surpassed the creator . . . Yahweh must become man precisely because he has done man a wrong . . . Because his creature has surpassed him he must regenerate himself. (Answer to Job, trans. R.F.C. Hull, 42-43)

Finding light even in shadow may help us redefine our relationship to the world.

Answer to Job also considers the role of Sophia and the Catholic doctrines concerning Mary, Messianic ideas in the Book of Enoch, and the Revelation of John. There is too much detail to adequately cover in this post; I can only recommend you read it. Cave's essay, much more brief, is a useful companion. Both of these authors in their work remind us of the inadequacy of the ego and our need for connection with the unconscious. As Jung writes:

Jesus . . . preserves mankind from loss of communion with God and from getting lost in mere consciousness and rationality. That would have brought something like a dissociation . . . a “loss of soul” such as has threatened man from the beginning of time. Again and again and in increasing measure he gets into danger of overlooking the necessary irrationalities of his psyche, and of imagining that he can control everything by will and reason alone, and thus paddle his own canoe. (67)

And a last word from Nick Cave:

Just as we are divine creations, so must we in turn create. Divinity must be given its freedom to flow through us, through language, through communication, through imagination. I believe this is our spiritual duty, made clear to us through the example of Christ. Through us, God finds his voice, for just as we need God, he in turn needs us.

~Charles Stanford
Archivist, author, musician
Staff Writer – Jung Society of Utah
Etsy shop: Only Real Quills
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