J Job & Lilith

CG Jung CW 10, para 310. ‘Even if the whole earth will fall to pieces, the unity of the psyche would never be shattered. And the wider and more numerous the fissures on the surface, the more the unity is strengthened in the depths’.

On our flight down to Plettenberg Bay from Johannesburg this morning, I was wondering about what to say about Lilith and the J headline and words for this post. I had been thinking of jewels, judgment, justice, and some other words that I forget right now. I am missing a talk that Dr. Deon van Zyl is giving this Friday evening to the Jung Centre here in Johannesburg on ‘Job’ from the Old Testament; I would have loved to attend but since I’m not there, this is of course impossible.

I’m in a small study group that meets most Monday evenings. We’ve been meeting for the last 15 years or so. Last year we tackled Job, initially reading straight from the Old Testament in our bibles and thereafter studying C.G. Jung’s “Answer to Job”. We actually read ”Answer to Job” about 10 years ago and I remember feeling very, very disturbed by it. Even ill at ease. I was out of sorts for a long while during and after the reading of it. To me it seemed blasphemous at times. We decided to tackle it again last year and see if and how our perceptions had changed. It took the whole of last year.

So, why Job and Lilith?

Lilith is first put through the fire by a judgmental and vengeful G.d; Job finds himself face to face with the most high and he too goes through the fire losing his livelihood, his family, his health. Like Lilith, Job questions ‘why’? Job dialogues with G.d; Lilith does not.

Both stories or myths belong in the archetypal realm. Lilith and Job had different responses for the suffering imposed upon them. Is there any relevance to these existential issues in understanding or coming to terms with the nature of human lived experience?..

Jung, in his book Answer to Job, presses upon the reader that he writes as ‘.. a modern man with a Christian education and background (who) comes to terms with the divine darkness which is unveiled in the Book of Job, and what effect it has on him” Jung, C.W. 9, par. 561.

Lilith does that too – with the Patience of Job –

In spite of the fissures of earthquake magnitude, the unity of the inner depths is strengthened. The divine darkness is revealed.

Each of us has different ways of experiencing and responding to the slings and arrows that life brings. We are many times required to have the Patience of Job as the amoral cycle of creation & destruction, change & re-creation is iterated.

Thank you for reading!




38 Comments on A – Z J Job and Lilith

  1. I studied Answer to Job, including reading the biblical version, ~30 years ago with a Jungian therapist and professor. We did 6 sessions. I found it very disturbing. I still do, although I’ve learned how true the perspective is. The world is brutal. We are mortal. God (even when you see God as Divine Mother, as I do) can feel like an indifferent force. Just ask Vic’s mother who was so sure God wouldn’t take her son from her. She was wrong. Thank you for pointing out that Lilith questioned in a very different way than Job. I’m not sure what to do with this information. There seems to be unbearable suffering either way.

    • Thanks for coming by Elaine. If that is a summary it’s a brief and real one. The Lord – however we imagine the source to be – giveth and taketh. We are mortal, and we are brutal are my thoughts that come to mind ..

  2. Hi, Susan – It is true that each of us has a different way of interpreting and responding to the experiences that life brings. It is also remarkable how we ourselves often respond differently to the exact same stimulus, when presented at different times. Thank you for another thought-provoking post. I still cannot believe that you are creating them fresh daily. Very impressive!

    • We must have been reading each other’s posts at the same time! Just been to yours! Yes, still flying by the seat of my pants .. different responses to same stimuli is an excellent measure of our differences …thanks for coming by Donna ..

    • Are you referring to my reading Job 10 years ago and then again more recently Beth? It’s like that with other books – eg Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game which I’ve read a few times and am enriched each and every time. Thank you for coming by!

  3. What a stimulating post susan and so interesting to read the comments which are actually discussions. I am familiar with job’s story in the old testament . I heard of Lilith from you and comparing these two personalities… need a lot more of thinking to understand… thanks for sharing:)

    • Thanks Genevive – I’m not sure that I really knew of Job as a much younger woman; even today I find it a very heavy slice from the Bible. I’m glad you read the comments, I too enjoy them so much and learn so much from them 🙂

  4. There’s so much I don’t understand as I have not read Jung or his books. There’s so much to learn.
    Thank you Susan.
    The quote at the top of the post sums up today’s world though. Doesn’t it? Or perhaps, the world has always been full of fissures and unity. Maybe, I’m noticing it more now.
    J is for Jam

    • Jung’s philosophy and psychology have similarities to ancient ones Arti, from far and wide, including living ancient eastern ones .. both see reality as it is with it’s fissures and cracks … which reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s song ‘There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in ..’
      Thank you coming by ..

  5. Thank you for this pairing of the Job and Lilith stories. I have to wonder about Jung’s declaration concerning the unity of the psyche though. Can it not be shattered, as in schizophrenia, extreme anxiety?

    I wonder, Susan. Maybe you can shed some light on my understanding here. Thanks!

    • Thanks Marian – I put myself out on a limb making this comparison, not sure it’s been done before. Both Job and Lilith went through a shattering. Many of us do … many come through the shattering, many not. Regarding schizophrenia: when Jung was starting out as a psychiatrist, he saw many patients at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital in Zürich, and was struck that some patients had dreams and conversations that were ‘impossible’ because of what they portrayed in their depth and breadth. The patients could not have known that in their everyday lives they were in the grip of archetypal realms. From this he deduced that the archetypal realm runs through all of our lives .. many are shattered by the archetype. Extreme anything, whether addiction, anxiety, and/or within the family realm and genetic predisposition, MAY have its roots in the archetypal realm ..

          • For 20 years, I worked in an environment that brought me into close contact with adolescents with diagnoses across the ‘personality disorder’ spectrum, some with strong schizoid characteristics.

            Some of these kids (I’m thinking of one young man in particular) rambled off things they couldn’t possibly have known, personal details (past, present and future) about staff members, their lives and conversations. Sometimes the one young man spoke using archetypal imagery. His therapist, who was a good friend of mine, would relay his string of thoughts, often about ME . . . as witch, wife, and seductress. All very Lilith-based themes, though this was several years before I became aware of Lilith.

            What I came to believe ~and I don’t think I’m alone in this~ is that a lot of these folks are like open portals to both the collective unconscious and personal unconscious of the people around them. They carry a heavy load, constantly picking up on a lot of the dark, unconscious stuff most of us repress.and deny.

            • I often wonder whether some carry the ‘heavy load’ of the collective LB –
              and whether an individual/s within the family or wider are made a scapegoat which we know does and is happening. Thank you for sharing this …

  6. What a interesting connection Susan! Apart from exploring Lilith through this lens, I’m particularly curious to know how this round of study of “Answer to Job” lands.

  7. Hi Susan – so much to read … and so much to learn … I’ll be back – cheers Hilary

  8. I appreciate this post, Susan. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Making the connection between the suffering of Job and Lilith, while comparing and contrasting the different ways each experienced God in their suffering, is very insightful.

    In one version of the Lilith myth (the one I’m most familiar with), God initially sends three angels to invite Lilith back to the garden, but she refuses. It’s then she’s cast out and becomes identified with sexuality, the demonic, and the death of newborns.. So whereas Job remains *obedient* and in conversation with God throughout his ordeal, Lilith *chooses* to remain isolated from both God and man, knowing it will bring great suffering to herself and all of her ‘creations’.

    This morning as I was waking up, and wondering which word you’d chosen for the letter J, I opened a favorite book beside my bed to a random page and read these words by Jungian author, John A. Sanford, in “The Kingdom Within: The Inner Meaning of Jesus’ Sayings”:

    ” . . . the kingdom’s demand is not for obedience but creativity, not for a religion of outward observances but for consciousness. . .”

    “At some point in our inner development, there may come a desire on our part to stop the creative inner process, to decide, “This is enough; I need go no further.” Often there then sets in a time of darkness ad confusion worse than the first. Such an experience is a sure sign that the creative process of the kingdom will not be denied ~ that if one turns aside the demands of the creative, and seeks to return to a life of unconscious obedience, one’s fate will be worse . . .”

    Though I’ll need to think about it some more, this seems to tie in with the point you were getting at about Lilith and Job’s suffering as symbolizing their answering the call to know God and Self in a deeper, more conscious and creative way, beyond the limited and superficial relationship offered through superficial obedience. Maybe it’s also about an evolving, mature, psycho-spiritual wholeness that embraces the dark and understands suffering, no longer wishing to ignore or inflict pain on others.

    Thanks, Susan.

    • A phrase that Paula Reeves (also a Jungian) used in an Body-Soul Intensive I attended in Ireland many years ago was of the necessity for women to embody ‘creative disobedience.’ This may speak to what you are saying…

      • Thanks, Andrea. And yes, I love the idea of embodying ‘creative disobedience’ ~ in relation to family, employer, tribe, nation and any other person or system that limits, exploits or oppresses our thinking, imagination and creativity. It’s a challenge most of us (men and women) face daily, as we’re bombarded with outside (and internalized) messages.

        Thanks also, for sharing the link to your beautiful thoughts on “The Great Mother.”

        • It means being alert to those subtle messages, and speaking out when we hear or see them within our own small sphere of influence and in the wider world .. ‘creative disobedience’ – what a lovely phrase!

    • Thanks very much LB for elaborating on this and highlighting Job’s choosing to be obedient, ultimately surrendering, and Lilith’s choice of isolating herself from God, knowing the repercussions for all ..

      John Sanford’s quote is very powerful … reminds me of Elaine Pagel’s quoting St Thomas: (in the apocrypha I think) “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

      Lilith’s suffering may well have brought her to the point of herself doing no rejecting, doing no harm – although parts of her ‘story’ show her wreaking vengeance here there and everywhere, spawning devils …

      Comparing Lilith and Job was a stretch …am not sure these two have been compared. But, as the comments illustrate, it’s a fair one –

      • I think your comparison of Job and Lilith was brilliant.:) And yes, Lilith’s journey to consciousness is not an easy, or a linear one. A fully redeemed inner Lilith is rare. I know I’ve still got my issues.

        Astrology was how I found out about and first got interested in the Lilith archetype and ‘energy’ ~ which doesn’t show up as clearly or strongly for everyone. To make things more complicated, in astrology, there are several astrological points named after or associated with Lilith, each representing a different aspect of Lilith.

        • Thank you for the thumbs up LB! I really appreciate this, and how you’ve made comments which broaden the topic of Lilith.

          There is a planet named Lilith I believe discovered around 2005. I plan to mention this in the P posts ..

  9. Dear Susan, Thank you for sharing more insights on the wonderful and wild Lilith! Hmm, I feel a reread of Job coming on, as it’s been years since I read any of the Old Testament stories. Your post has piqued my interest! Neither have I read Jung’s book, “Answer to Job” although I did pick it up once in a book store ten years ago, had a flick through but quickly put it back on the shelf as I sensed at the time it wasn’t for me … perhaps now is the right time. I know Skip has posted lots of videos on the book itself so maybe I’ll start there. Enjoy your holiday! I’m sorry to hear you’re missing your Jungian talk, although I’m sure the beautiful Plettenberg Bay will more than make up for it. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

    • Thanks Deborah for coming by! Skip has done a great and courageous ‘job’ on AtoJ – I confess I haven’t listened to them but I look forward to the time when I’ll have the time! There is much in the literature about Job and his trials and tribulations – it was a flier (since I was in the air at the time) while wondering re comparing the two, one woman, one man –

      Plett is lovely thank you! First morning here out the balcony, watching and listening to the crashing waves –

  10. Thanks for telling it like it is. We need the very helpful reminder that we are all a part of life, an amoral, living reality which effects us all, blesses us all, and pains us all with utter impartiality. And we each hang in the balance at every moment between light and dark, good and evil, life and death. How could it be otherwise if we are to unite the opposites in ourselves to become one with the universe?

    • The amorality of life and its impartiality are hard issues Jeanie. The experience of the world of duality, its opposites and paradoxes takes a lifetime to come to grips with, maybe many life times. You’ve highlighted the most important, life-death, good-evil, light-dark … how can one be without the other – they’re two sides of the same coin. Thank you for coming by ..

  11. It is interesting to wonder if Lilith suffered. She certainly survived and Job did as well and even prospered after all the sorrow. In both stories there is the element of survival and life.

    • Thanks Susan – it’s worthwhile for me to put myself in the shoes of an other, and to feel that jolt of recognition even if in a vicarious way, yet relating to such stories. And especially to hear of their going down, coming through and becoming in the process –

  12. I so agree with Jung’s statement: “the wider and more numerous the fissures on the surface, the more the unity is strengthened in the depths.” This is the perspective that allows us to deepen into the necessary patience with ourselves (and God) to continue investing in the foundations of our body-souls and the restoration of the sacred web of life. Looking forward to more… and thank you again!

    • Thank you Andrea. Jung’s statement is very bold. For many of us, including me, patience is not a strong suit. Well, I had to learn it almost 5 years ago when a truck slammed into me, failing to stop at a stop street, and upended my car which was written off. My right writing hand was unbelievably damaged, operation that afternoon to save it – and recuperation thereafter. I HAD to learn patience – and with all these writes, rights and written off, I used my left hand. Actually, something I had done over the years just to see how it was writing with my left hand, an interesting exercise in itself 🙂 –

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