Carl Jung, Father Victor White and the Book of Job

AuthorPeter Charleton
PositionBA (Dubl), BL, Judge of the Supreme Court
[2020] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 4(2)
Abstract: this article concerns the nature of friendship and of that between Carl Jung and Victor White and of
their philosophical discourse on the nature of God. While this piece cannot answer the question of how evil as well
as good came into the world, that dialogue is instructive as to the realms of thought on that issue. Central to this
is the text of the Book of Job and what it may mean in enabling speculation as to the Divine nature.
Author: Peter Charleton, BA (Dubl), BL, Judge of the Supreme Court. Former lecturer in criminal law in
Trinity College Dublin, adjunct professor of law NUI Galway and lead author of Charleton & McDermott’s
Criminal Law and Evidence (Bloomsbury 2020). His book on the nature of evil, ‘Lies in a Mirror: An
Essay on Evil and Deceit’ was published by Blackhall Publishing in 2006.
There were two men with whom the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung could speak about
matters which touched him personally; Earnest Newman, who lived in Israel, and Father
Victor White, an English Dominican priest who, despite living in England, visited Jung and
stayed with him over several successive summers from 1946 in the intimate setting of his
primitive tower by the lake in Bollingen. That friendship ended in what Jung regarded as
betrayal and Father White thought of as pique. The overt cause was a review that the
Dominican wrote in Blackfriars Magazine in 1955 of the psychologist’s book Answer to Job.
This article considers the dynamic of this unlikely friendship and how philosophical
disengagement on a principle close to two brilliant men can undermine affection. Here, the
rift was deep and irreparable, but the chasm that opened up was over the deepest cavern of
all, the perplexing nature of the Godhead as considered from the aspect of the dynamic of
evil in the world.
The dynamic of any friendship is mysterious. On the surface, those two men could not be
predicted to be likely to share their deepest feelings. Jung was unconstrained by doctrine and
whatever faith he held, it was certainly not that of any denomination, despite which he
described himself as a dyed in the wool Protestant. Father White subscribed to Catholic
doctrine and on successive occasions had sworn the anti-modernist oath declaring that what
Faith proclaimed as true was true as a matter of factual reality. Jung was the elder by nearly
thirty years. He was a medical doctor and psychiatrist, while Father White was principally a
teacher of theology. Faith had not saved Father White from a nervous breakdown in 1940,
ostensibly brought on by a crisis of belief connected with that anti-modernist oath.
Following psychoanalysis, his unconscious mind announced the way out in three waking
visions of a dazzling white sun, a revolving disc and a windmill. His therapist interpreted
these as mandala symbols, a signal of return to wholeness, and advised that he return to
teaching at Blackfriars College, the Dominican seminary, in Oxford. Two years later,
See the following biographical note on Father White: Ann Conrad Lammers and Adrian Cunningham, The
Jung White Letters (London, Routledge 2007) 315ff.

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