Guide Experiencing Hildegard: Jungian Perspectives

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The square as a symbol of the spiritual world is certainly most unusual, but becomes more intelligible when we take Hildegards sex into account. The notion of the transformational integration of the opposites is important here because Jung sees Hildegards vision and a reinterpretation of Christian doctrine as central to the kind of new Christianity he perceived to be necessary for the vitality of the tradition and its evolution to meet the needs of modern consciousness. Mary, and through her all women, and the feminine principle is introduced into the Trinitarian life of God and thus represents a transformation of tremendous import.

Sea of Grace, Seething Lake of Fire This brings one to the place to consider, as Jung would say, the terrible double aspect of God: a sea of grace is met by a seething lake of fire, and the light of love glows with a fierce dark heat. Here one explores the God of Exodus who exhorts Moses to stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt Exodus a; cf. What does one make of the cry of Lamentations, Do not the good and the bad both go out from the mouth of the Most High?

Jung expounds upon the dark dimension of the nature of God found in the Book of Job in his controversial exegesis Answer to Job, which was published on the heels of the promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. While the First Letter of John records, God is light; in him there is no darkness I John , 7, italics added , Jung experienced an inner urge to reconcile this with the tortuous story of Job and the prophetic utterance, I form the light and create darkness; I.

In a letter to Aniela Jaff, Jung writes, If there is anything like the spirit seizing one by the scruff of the neck, it was the way this book came into being. Victor White, who was one of the first clergymen to see the importance of Jungs work for the renewal of Christianity. For Jung, evil must be regarded as part of God and not as something extraneous for which the human person is alone responsible.

According to Lammers, Jung flatly disagrees with the orthodox depiction of God as a perfectly good, unchanging, unified being. Jungs God-image includes unfinished work, change, development, unconsciousness, and even moral contradictions. Jung grounds this conviction in examining the God at work in the Book of Job. Father Zeus did not want to do anything with humans because he had no plans for them. Father Zeus was a figure but not a personality. Lammers, People of early antiquity expected divine inconsistencies.

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Jung reminds, Human beings were a matter of first-rate importance to him. The interpersonal and moral became part of a religious covenant relationship.

Jung is profoundly flummoxed over Gods unwarranted cruel behavior toward the legendary upright and patient Job. During the trials inflicted without justification upon Job, Yahweh displays no compunction, remorse or compassion, but only ruthlessness and brutality. Job Jobs steadfastness does nothing to mollify Yahweh, hence Satans insinuations fall on fertile ground when he drips his doubt about Jobs faithfulness into the paternal ear.

This is the prevailing understanding of Gods nature from the Book of Deuteronomy the good are blessed and the evil are cursed. Yahweh can unloose the forces of blessing fecundity into the world and can also unleash the forces of curse death , such as disease, pestilence, drought, wild animals, sword, and famine. Job keeps insisting that he has done nothing to warrant Gods punishment.

Jung demands to know why God did not consult Gods own omniscience with respect to Jobs true character63 while Job, by his insistence on bringing his case before God, even without hope of a healing, had stood his ground and thus created the very God has pushed Job to his human limits and Jobs relationship with God is now riddled with fear and pain, which he can no longer endure.

God comes into the scene and speaks to Job out of the whirlwind Job It is a tour de force whereby God challenges Job for putting an all-powerful God on trial. Jung comments: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without insight Job ? In view of the subsequent words of Yahweh, one must really ask oneself: Who is darkening what counsel?

The only dark thing here is how Yahweh ever came to make a bet with Satan. It is certainly not Job who has darkened anythingThe answer to Yahwehs conundrum is therefore: it is Yahweh himself who darkens his own counsel and who has no insight For seventy-one verses he proclaims his world-creating power to his miserable victim, who seats in ashes and scratches his sores with potsherds, and who by now has had more than enough of superhuman violence. Job accepts Gods power and invincibility He is handling himself with integrity and tremendous discipline.

One can hear Jungs growl at Gods injustice, Is it worth the lions while to terrify a mouse? Judged by any human standards it is after all unfair, indeed extremely Especially as the difference between a child and a grown-up is immeasurably smaller than that between God and his creatures, whose moral weakness is particularly well known to him.

Jung says, This is an insufferable incongruity which modern man can no longer swallow, for he must be blind if he does not see the glaring light it throws on the divine character, giving the lie to all talk about love and the Summum Bonum [supreme good]. He likely never imagined that contemporary biblical scholarship would be more closely examining the text precisely for the same reasons that motivated him sixty years ago.

Emerging scholarship is now focused on the point in the Book of Job where there is an abrupt transition in the dialogue, suggesting it is God not Job speaking in The voice shifts from Job to God.


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God speaks and says that up to this time he only heard of Job but now I see you, I know who you really are Job In verse 6, God repents of wrongdoing toward Job, and then verse 7 records that God finishes speaking. In verse 10, God offers restitution to Job and restores Jobs fortunes two times over in order to follow the directions for restitution in Exodus: Jung did not have the benefit of any exegetical support beyond his own renderings, yet he had the courage to name the dark side of God.

Jungian psychology contends that people become conscious through conflict and thus gain insight. Job stood on morally 67 In the end, Yahweh acknowledges that the man Job is morally superior. Yahweh repents when Job is finally really seen by the Divine eye. The failure of the attempt to corrupt Job changed Yahwehs nature. Divine unconsciousness is ultimately mended in Gods decision to enter the human experience fully in Christ and by Christs suffering on the cross.

Christs despairing cry from the cross is the moment that, according to Jung, God experiences what it means to be a mortal man and drinks to the dregs what he made his faithful servant Job suffer. Here is given the answer to Job, and, clearly, this supreme moment is as divine as it is human.

To say that the shadow is merely the absence of light is like the famous definition which optimistic people give of evil that is it nothing but the absence of good, only a mistake. But when one sees how things develop in the world, one sees that the devil is really in there, that there is abysmal evil at work.

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One cannot explain the destructive tendency in the world as mere absence of good or as a mistake made in something originally good And so our shadow really exists. However, it is supposed to be the place where we are planted to grow in consciousness through the inevitable conflicts we experience in living the drama we call This is the way the world is: an arena of our actual living in which individuation can unfold.

In Jungs continued effort to heal Christianity by prompting the tradition to deal with its shadow, Jung called God to account for Gods behavior, refusing to consider suffering a meaningless accident or to separate human events from Gods divine finger in human affairs. In this, Lammers notes, paraphrasing Aelred Squire in Summer in the Seed , [Jung] reveals a basic theology not much different from that of the Hebrew prophets who ascribe both good and evil to God, seeing God as the source of all reality.

He goes on to say, Scholastic temptations in theology tend to freeze the relationship and to stifle its dynamism. Victor White found Jungs convictions on Gods dark side more than he could integrate into his scholastic worldview. His theology was predicated on a supernatural, self-sufficient, and perfect deity. It is not surprising, then, that the Dominican priest, steeped in philosophical Thomism, could not make the transition to the sense of a more intimate, even volatile, relation of divinity and humanity, which Jung contended was the face of the human religious future.

Theologian John Dourley says, To make such a transition would have cost White his faith. His failure to make it may have cost him his life. Lammers, , italics added. Others would follow who, like White, could not integrate Jungs perspectives on a divine demonic energy into a Christian theology.

You Are What You Eat

Many found Jungs position an affront to Christian sensibilities whereby any genuine experience of goodness suggests an immediate watching for the other, evil shoe to drop, since evil cannot be far behind Gods goodness and such is the ever-turning, rather grim wheel of life. In Answer to Job, Jung makes the confession that God is as malicious as God is strengthening; God intends, in equal measure, both human well being and capricious devastation. Yet, the biblical God interacts with Gods creatures as the means to demonstrate who they really are.

The biblical God is a character in an unfolding drama. God is a relational figure, often unpredictable and unsettling, in a narrative where God and humans interact, demonstrating who they really are by the way they behave in the living of the actual drama of their daily existence. Embedded in this dialogue is the conviction that any present trouble is not a final destiny. No one is exempt. Enlightenment rationality, in its uncriticized form, teaches that with enough reason and resources, brokenness can be avoided.

Often the Christian church, wrapped in denial, colludes in this illusion. Failing to take seriously the demands of the unconscious, collective reality collapses into an egoistic despair engendering a very large collective shadow filled with unresolved negativities of the most brutal kind. Israel refused such a reading of reality. The biblical commentators in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary note, Although Yahweh is said to be the author of both good and evil, evil is no giant swaggering ruthlessly John A.

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Hyde Boston: Sigo Press, It was the unsettling God he knew that reverberates through his remark, The Divine Presence is more than anything else. This is the only thing that really matters I wanted proof of a living Spirit and I got it.


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This may be due to a number of factors. Hildegard resisted an impending split between the natural and supernatural worlds. Her God was viscerally alive, permitting the wicked spirit to cleanse humanity of its arrogance. She experienced the suffering that the failures of Christianity caused as she listened to and counseled countless people who sought her wisdom, and she knew well the medical, spiritual, sexual, familial, and economic predicaments of ordinary folks.

While Hildegard was outspoken regarding various heretical groups of her time, such as the Cathars, and initially experienced such groups as manifesting the Antichrist, in her later years she experienced the forces of the Antichrist as being within the ecclesial system and embodied in actual lives of the custodians of that tradition. Evil and its symbolic agent, Diabolus Satan , form a central feature of the Christian religious experience. Evil was no stranger to Hildegard; her Play of the Forces Virtues The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed.

Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Speaking more psychologically than theologically, Hildegard would conspire to a certain extent with Jung in accepting the reality that the forces of good and evil must be ultimately reconciled within the source from which they spring.

Hildegard is orthodox in this regard: evil is not ontologically in God. Interestingly, one may see in her Trinitarian illumination the clear presence of the demonic in the right panel where the little demon lurks, as well as the presence of the demon as fiery forces of both creativity and destructiveness at play in the human journey into God. She spoke of God permitting Satan to penetrate Jobs whole body with horror, but doing so while God was guarding his soul and did not permit Satan to touch it for Job had not lost faith in God.

The forces carry valueladen dissimilarity and must be harmonized not denied, avoided, or projected out from one person to another or onto other cultures, religions, or the world stage. Both Hildegard and Jung shared a conviction that devilry inhabits the self. For Jung, God possessed a dark side.