If theology is ‘the conscious and methodical explanation and explication of the divine revelation’ (Karl Rahner), Jung’s commentary on the Book of Job then is a discourse on the underlying unconscious processes that inspire it. Approaching the Bible as a psychological anamnesis, Jung examines the role humanity (and Satan) has played in the developing consciousness of God. By considering the figures of Yahweh, Satan, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as projections of a collective psyche, he traces the trajectory of Christianity’s own differentiating consciousness. For Jung, the meaning of theology lies along this trajectory. He considers the doctrines of privatio boni and the Trinity, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, and the belief in the imminence of the second coming of Christ, and reflects on their origins and implications in the context of his psychological model of individuation.
Jung sees a relationship between the Christian doctrine of evil as the privation of good (privatio boni) and God’s incarnation in Christ and illustrates this through his interpretation of the Bible as a story of Yahweh’s individuation, a process oriented toward unity or wholeness. His thesis is that the incarnation was the inevitable result of the encounter between Yahweh and Job (spurred on by the urgings of Satan). This encounter created a moral disturbance in the unconscious mind of Yahweh that culminated in the birth and sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus is the ‘answer’ to the suffering of Job – it is in essence the expiation and transformation of God through the experience of human suffering. But the event of the incarnation, according to Jung, has lead to a distorted conception of God – as one who is all (and only) good, the Summum Bonum. This understanding of God gives rise to the euphemistic doctrine of privatio boni, which in effect denies the existence of evil in any real sense. He criticizes this attitude in Christianity and sees the denial of evil as a psychological repression that compromises the mystery because it places limits on our image of God and robs it of the ideal of wholeness. For a religion that claims to be monotheistic, such a position is untenable.
The repression of evil is also reflected in the doctrine of the Trinity, the theology of God as three in one: God (the father), Jesus (the son), and Holy Spirit. Satan stands outside of and in opposition to this configuration, says Jung, because he has been banished from consciousness. But this notion ignores the importance of Satan in the divine drama of redemption, for it was Satan who initiated the events that ultimately necessitated God’s transformation through his incarnation in Christ.
In Jung’s psychological model, it is the inferior function (shadow) that provides the ingress to the wisdom of the unconscious and brings new potential to light. And it is through the integration of the shadow that wholeness within the individual (or religion, in this case) becomes possible.
The feminine (and material) aspect of God also has been repressed in the Christian tradition. Jung thought the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (in 1950) was a movement in the direction of a fourfold symbol, the quaternity, representing the universal archetype of wholeness or unity (his psychological ideal). In this schema, Satan and Christ are equals, representing the conflict of the opposites within God. The Holy Spirit is the factor or symbol that reconciles these opposing forces and restores unity through God’s continued incarnation in man. The Holy Spirit revivifies the lost tradition of Sophia, the feminine nature of God, and grounds the spiritual in the material world (through humanity). Thus Jung’s quaternity, reflected in the Christian symbol of the cross, has as one axis the polarity of Christ and his adversary Satan, and on the other, God as the unity and spirit (the father) and God as the multiplicity who dwells in humankind (the Holy Spirit).
The dissociiation of evil in Christianity, according to Jung, necessitates the theology of the second coming, as foretold in the Revelation to John. The emphasis on piety and virtue in Christianity creates a corresponding shadow in the unconscious that haunts its followers with a sense of imminent collapse. The apocalyptic visions of John represent the great tension between the conscious and unconscious and presage an enantiodromia (a powerful counterposition that bursts forth into consciousness) which Christians understand as the final annihilation of darkness, but which from Jung’s perspective, is meant to open their eyes to the immensity of God.