About the Author(s)

Zacharias Kotzé Email symbol
Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Kotzé, Z., 2022, ‘A post-Jungian reading of the Book of Baruch’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 78(2), a6679. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.6679

Note: Special Collection: The Contemporary Study of Religion: Philosophical Perspective, sub-edited by Mohammed (Auwais) Rafudeen (University of South Africa).

Original Research

A post-Jungian reading of the Book of Baruch

Zacharias Kotzé

Received: 01 Apr. 2021; Accepted: 07 July 2021; Published: 28 Feb. 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is often claimed that the use of depth psychology in the interpretation of ancient texts is irrelevant and methodologically unsound. Several typical Jungian archetypes, such as the shadow, the primordial mother, and the hero, were identified, interpreted and commented on from a post-Jungian perspective. The apocryphal Book of Baruch has typically been studied as a prime example of penitential prayer in the late Second Temple Period. In this study, the book was approached from the perspective of post-Jungian literary criticism. While Jungian literary criticism has become unfashionable as a result of Jung’s anti-feminist and anti-Semitic ideas, the usefulness of his theory to criticise itself was demonstrated. Although Jung’s work is haunted by racism, anti-feminism, and antisemitism, his work may still be useful for literary criticism from a psychological perspective.

Contribution: The article demonstrated the value of the depth psychological approach to the interpretation of biblical material.

Keywords: post-Jungian literary criticism; Book of Baruch; archetypes; shadow; anima; mother; individuation.


It is often claimed that the use of depth psychology in the interpretation of ancient texts is irrelevant and methodologically unsound (Kenaan 2019:5). Recent scholarship has, however, witnessed a renewed interest in the potential value of depth psychology for the elucidation of ancient writings. While both Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Carl Jung (1875–1961) claimed that their theories could illuminate literature, Jung’s analytical approach has received comparatively little attention. Rowland (2019:1–3) suggests that Jungian psychology and literary theory are complementary since both focus on creativity and imagination. Among the many reasons why Jung should be used for the interpretation of literature, she mentions his extraordinary creativity, which influenced numerous writers, artists, filmmakers, and philosophers through the years. In addition, according to Rowland, Jung is a major pioneer of working with the unconscious and his theory allows for the exploration of personhood, the role of relationships, and the lost and marginalised aspects of culture through the study of literature. Several scholars have pointed to the usefulness of Jung’s theory in the interpretation of religion and myth (cf. Segal 2010:361–384). Similarly, Rowland (1999:198–199) points out that Jung’s theory is particularly useful to study biblical and religious texts because of its focus on the numinous as a metaphor for the self, and the fact that it does not privilege reason.

However, Rowland (1999:24–28) also emphasises the need to go beyond traditional Jungian literary criticism, which regarded Jung’s ideas and theories to be authoritative. Whereas traditional Jungian literary criticism focused on the identification of supposed transhistorical and transcultural archetypes, such as the great mother, a post-Jungian approach emphasises aspects of cultural difference and uses contemporary insights from, for example, feminist criticism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and even Jung’s theory itself, to criticise and deconstruct his ideas. In this study, such a post-Jungian approach will be adopted in a reading of the Book of Baruch.

The apocryphal Book of Baruch, to be distinguished from the Book of Baruch written by the gnostic Justin, known only from Hippolytos’ Refutation of All Heresies in the early third century CE (Buckley 1985:328–344), is similar in content and structure to the penitential prayer in Daniel 9 (Venter 2005:406–426). The Book also borrows notably from Jeremiah, certain Psalms, Deutero-Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Kings. In fact, it has been suggested that no sentence in the apocryphal Book of Baruch is original (cf. Marttila 2011:321). It probably had a Hebrew Vorlage, which, due to the book’s dependence on existing Old Testament texts, is easily reconstructed (cf. Kneucker 1879:351–354; Tov 1976:1–51). The artful way in which diverging Old Testament traditions were combined in the text suggests that the Book was probably written by professional theologians (cf. Steck 1993:306). The falsified historiography of the Book identifies the author as Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. The introduction artfully and fictionally places Baruch and those with him in Babylonian exile by the river Sud (Σουδ), or Ahava (אהוא), as it is known from Ezra 8:15, 21, and 31 (Bewer 1924:226–227). They are supposed to live under the shadow (ὑπὸ τὴν σκιὰν) of Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Balthazar, which are clearly Decknamen, since Balthazar was the son of Nabonid, who reigned subsequent to Nebuchadnezzar. This study will identify prominent archetypes in Jung’s theory, such as the shadow, and the anima, which will be read as metaphorical descriptions rather than transcultural and transhistorical universals. Most importantly, Jung’s antifeminist and anti-Semitic ideas regarding these archetypes and their relation to the process of individuation will be critiqued.

Post-Jungian literary criticism

Before taking a closer look at contemporary critical uses of Jung’s analytical approach in literary criticism, it may be helpful to briefly consider the major tenets of his theory. According to Jung, the psyche is divided into a conscious and unconscious level, with the latter further subdivided into a personal and collective unconscious (cf. Efthimiadis-Keith 2010:48). The ego represents the core of the conscious and aids in structuring and analysing one’s experiences (cf. Jung 1959:3–7). The personal unconscious is made up of individual experiences and contains repressed and painful memories from a person’s past. The most significant part of the psyche, according to Jung, is the collective unconscious, which developed over time because of the repeated experiences of our ancestors and pre-human ancestry. The instinctual energies of the collective unconscious leads to the creation of archetypes, which are typical primordial concepts that are expressed in dreams, fantasies, delusions, and hallucinations. Typical archetypes include, amongst others, the divine child, the double, the wise old man, and the primordial mother. The major structures of the personality, such as the ego, shadow, anima, animus, and self, are also archetypal.

Jung defined individuation as the step-by-step development of the self, conceptualised as the total personality which cannot be fully known, from an unconscious state to a conscious one (Jung 1959:5, 263). Any kind of self-knowledge is hard to come by and requires painstaking work extending over a long period. He suggested that the shadow, anima, and animus have the most frequent and most disturbing influence on the ego, and consequently played a most central role on the psychological growth process (Jung 1959:8). The shadow constitutes the dark characteristics of the personality that correspond to primitive instincts and uncontrolled emotions (Jung 1959:8–10). To become conscious of these inferior aspects they need to be acknowledged as present and real.

Unfortunately, many shadow aspects offer obstinate resistance to moral control and are almost impossible to influence, since they are often routinely projected onto other people instead of being recognised as personal qualities. As a result, a person becomes isolated from his environment, since instead of a real relation with his environment there is now only an illusory one. The projected malevolence further leads to feelings of incompleteness and sterility, resulting in intensified isolation. Naturally, the more projections are utilised, the harder it becomes for the ego to see through its illusions. Jung has observed that it is often tragic to observe how people could destroy their own lives and the lives of others while remaining ignorant of the fact that the tragedy originated in themselves (Jung 1959:10). In Jungian psychology the first step on the path to psychological growth, or individuation, is becoming aware of and integrating the shadow archetype.

Rowland (2019:17–18) suggests that poststructuralist approaches to literature present various useful tools for a new era of Jungian literary criticism. Feminist and queer theories, for example, can be used in close reading and hermeneutics of suspicion of Jung’s theory. For example, Hillman (1983:1) has adopted an approach to archetypal psychology that aligns with the spirit of poststructuralism by refusing to adopt Jung’s ideas as unquestionable theory, challenging binary oppositions in his thought, and questioning the monotheistic archetype of the self. When Jung posits human essence or a universal, collective unconscious insulated from cultural influence, such ideas need to be questioned and corrected. Jung admitted that archetypes are mere potentials and that they are dependent on and incorporate elements from the cultural environment. These ideas need to be foregrounded and negative feminine and cultural stereotypes criticised. In the ensuing part of the study, the usefulness of such a post-Jungian reading of the Book of Baruch in the spirit of poststructuralism will be considered in relation to several prominent archetypes and their relation to the process of individuation as described by Jung.

Shadow integration

Goldstein (1979–1980:182) has suggested that Baruch was most likely composed in the late winter or early spring of the year 163 BCE with the intent of discouraging participation in the Hasmonean revolt against Seleucid oppressors. Since the authors were in favour of submission to Seleucid rule, Steck (1993:306) suggests that they were scribes in Jerusalem who were in regular contact with the Seleucid sanctioned high priest, Alkimos. Thus, it was most probably written after the reestablishment of the cult and rededication of the Temple in the summer of 164 BCE, and before the murder of Antiochus V in the autumn of 162 BCE (cf. Steck 1993:303). However, in view of the lack of definitive evidence, the more sensible approach is to regard it simply as a late Second Temple composition (cf. Floyd 2007:51).

The Book’s theology is decidedly Deuteronomistic and contains all the classical themes of Deuteronomistic theology, such as the struggle against idolatry, the exodus, covenant and election, the monotheistic creed, the observance of law, the inheritance of the land, divine retribution, and the fulfilment of prophecy (cf. Marttila 2011:342). Apparently, the only notable Deuteronomistic topic that is lacking, is the continuation of the Davidic kingship, which is not surprising in view of the book’s support for foreign rule (Marttila 2011:342). Baruch 4:1 characteristically identifies the Law as the source of life, while disobedience leads to death:

This is the book of the commandments of God, and the law (ὁ νόμος) that endures for ever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα): everyone who keeps it will come to life (εἰς ζωήν); but those who leave it will die. (4:1)

From a psychological perspective, the search for scapegoats and the identification of perceived inferiority in others are dangerous in that it prevents a person from recognising his/her own moral deficiencies (Jung 1959:147). Constantly focusing on the faults of the others, causes a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world; thereby insulating and harming the individual. When suffering is interpreted as a result of the sins of the fathers in the Old Testament, this may well be read as an allegory for psychological projection-making in an individual (Cf. Ex 34:7, Nm 14:18; Dt 5:9; etc.). In Baruch, too, there is the occasional allusion to the iniquities of the fathers, which is cited as the cause of the exile and its associated misery:

We remembered all the iniquities of our forefathers (ἀδικίαν πατέρων ἡμῶν), who sinned against you. We are still in exile, where you scattered us for a reproach and curse and to penalties because of the sins of our fathers, who departed from the Lord our God. (3:7–8)

Such references to the sins of the fathers could be read as an allegory for shadow projection in Jungian terms. However, it needs to be noted that the Book also contains repeated references to personal responsibility, which may be read as a metaphor for the encounter with the personal shadow, which initiates the process of individuation:

Pray for us unto the Lord our God, for we have sinned against him; and until today his anger has not been turned away from us … 17: For we have sinned before the Lord 18: and disobeyed him. We haven’t listened to his voice to walk in the commandments that he gave us … 22: But every man followed his own evil heart (ἐν διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτοῦ τῆς πονηρᾶς) to serve strange gods (θεοῖς ἑτέροις), and to do evil in the eyes of the Lord our God (τὰ κακὰ κατ̓ ὀφθαλμοὺς κυρίου θεοῦ ἡμῶν)… 2:8: Yet, we haven’t prayed to the Lord that we all may turn from the imaginations of our wicked hearts … 12: O Lord our God, we have sinned, we have done ungodly, we have acted sinfully with respect to all your ordinances (δικαίωμα). (1:13)

From a Jungian perspective, therefore, the contrite spirit of the exiles serves as an allegory for that stage in individuation where a person experiences his or her own shadow. At this point, it seems necessary to distinguish between the experience of the shadow and neurotic guilt resulting from insufficient self-knowledge. One is reminded, in this instance, of Jung’s realisation that he at times experienced guilt even for potential deficiencies (Jung 1961):

I knew so little about myself, and the little was so contradictory that I could not with a good conscience reject any accusations. As a matter of fact I always had a guilty conscience and was aware of both actual and potential faults. For that reason I was particularly sensitive to reproofs, since all of them more or less struck home. Although I had not in reality done what I was accused of, I felt that I might have done it. I would even draw up a list of alibis in case I should be accused of something. I felt positively relieved when I had actually done something wrong. Then at least I knew what my guilty conscience was for. (p. 43)

This seems most relevant to a Jungian reading of Baruch as a penitential prayer and its plentiful confessions of sin and guilt. Jung (1920:172–173) suggested that the fear and dread of the paterfamilias gave rise to the excessive severity of the Mosaic Law as a ceremonial constraint of the neurotic. In his earlier work, he severely criticised what he called the inner instability, inferior consciousness, and immorality of Yahweh as symbol of the paterfamilias in the Old Testament (Jung 1973):

The absence of human morality in Yahweh is a stumbling block which cannot be overlooked … We miss reason and moral values, that is two main characteristics of a mature mind. It is therefore obvious that the Yahwistic image or conception of deity is less than that of certain human specimens; the image of a personified brutal force and of an unethical and nonspiritual mind, yet inconsistent enough to exhibit traits of kindness and generosity besides a violent power drive. It is the picture of a sort of nature demon and at the same time of a primitive chieftain aggrandised to colossal size. (p. 434)

Echoing the ideas of anti-Semitic authors of his day, Jung concluded that only the prophets succeeded in freeing themselves from the constraints of the irrational spiritual insecurity as reflected in Deuteronomistic law. Although Jung dropped the section on the paterfamilias in Jewish thought quoted above in his 1948 revision of the text, his anti-Semitic ideas continue to cast a shadow over much of his work (Rowland 1999:54–59). After his break from Freud, he would characterise Freudian psychology as a Jewish psychology; and he often made use of African and Jewish stereotypes. Most alarmingly, he voluntarily participated in Nazi politics and supported the anti-Semitism and imperialism of national socialism. It would be fair to suggest, therefore, that, although Jung never commented on the Book of Baruch, he probably would have diagnosed the authors as suffering from neurotic weakness, especially in view of their compulsive confession of guilt and sin.

However, these confessions could also be interpreted as an important step in the psychological growth process of withdrawing projections and becoming aware of real faults and inadequacies. Recognition of the shadow as the first stage in the process of individuation is set in motion by the breakdown of a person’s social mask, or persona, leading to a descent into darkness (cf. Bar 1:12; 3:11). When a person attempts to acknowledge his or her shadow, it often leads to feelings of shame and intense anxiety (cf. Bar 2:6; 3:11, etc.). Potentially, the shadow can overwhelm a person and enslave the ego, leading to stagnation, defective moral decision making, and depression. Jung (1967:357) was of the opinion that every descent into darkness was followed by an ascent, an enantiodromia, which makes the reincorporation of the shadow possible. Without this initial stage of the psychological growth process, recognition of the anima and animus in the subsequent stage of the process is impossible (Jung 1959:22).

The primordial mother

The shadow, whose nature can in large measure be inferred from the contents of the personal unconscious, is more accessible and easier to experience than the anima and the animus, which are much further away from consciousness, and therefore are seldom if ever realised (Jung 1959:10). According to Jung, the anima represents the female contra-sexual archetype residing in and projecting from the collective unconscious of a man, while the animus constitutes the male contra-sexual archetype of a woman. In men, the projecting anima is often identical with the image of the mother.

In his theory, which has been shown to be paternalistic, he suggests that a man often experiences a deep wish to regress to an anxiety-free state, reminiscent of the nurture, protection, and comfort of the womb and a paradisiacal state of unconsciousness (cf. Jung 1967:420). This wish to return to the great mother represents a universal psychological tendency to experience a state free from anxiety and loneliness. Conceptualised as primary narcissism and the good breast, this longing to return to the womb is a dominant motivation in all human psychological life (Collins 1994:31).

When the unconscious starts to dramatise this regressive psychological state, the son seeking the protection and caring presence of the mother is conceptualised as fleeing from a cold and cruel world which denies him understanding (Jung 1959:11). According to Jung, while the man desires to be drawn in and comforted by the mother, to live happily and be released from every care, the mother often appears beside him working tirelessly to prevent her son from growing up. Man’s unsatisfied longing for life and the world is therefore crippled by her presence. His desire to touch reality, to mature, and to reach his potential is sabotaged by the belief that the world and happiness may be obtained as a gift from the mother.

In Baruch, eternal and divine Jerusalem is repeatedly used as a metaphor for the mother imago, associated with ease of living and abundance. In Baruch 4:8, for example, ‘the everlasting god’ (Gr. θεὸς αἰώνιος) is juxtaposed with Jerusalem, which nursed and raised the exiles. The return to Jerusalem as the great mother is idealised as the absence of effort and overwhelming abundance. In terms of Jungian depth psychology, this can be read as an allegory for the regressive desire to return to the womb:

Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high, and look about toward the east, and behold thy children gathered from the west unto the east by the word of the holy (ῥήμα τοῦ ἁγίου), rejoicing in the remembrance of God. For they departed from you on foot (πεζός), and were led away of their enemies: but God brings them to you exalted with glory as the throne of the kingdom (μετὰ δόξης ὡς θρόνον βασιλείας). For God decreed that every high hill and unending dune be levelled and valleys filled up to make the ground even so that Israel can travel safely in the glory of God. In addition, vegetation and all fruit trees (ξύλον εὐωδίας) will provide shade (σκιάζω) for Israel by divine decree. For God will lead Israel with joy in the light of his glory with the mercy and righteousness that come from him. (5:5–9)

According to Jung, the regressive belief of man that life and happiness should be provided by the mother strips him of staying power and initiative, and prevents him from applying his courage and resolution to conquer that part of reality that may be rightfully his (Jung 1959:12). Staying true to the virtues of faithfulness, devotion, and loyalty inculcated in him by his mother, the son often fails to relinquish this first love of his life and thereby loses the masculinity and ardour he needs to live successfully. In this context, the mother archetype no longer stands as a metaphor for life and protection, but as a dangerous threat. This, according to Jung, explains why the mother has also been portrayed as the devouring mother since time immemorial. She becomes the one who holds the child back and destroys him/her (cf. Lacocque 1984:222). One is tempted to read the references to infanticide and cannibalism in Baruch against this background:

… as it happened in Jerusalem, according to … the law of Moses, that a man should eat the flesh of his own son (σὰρξ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ), and the flesh of his own daughter (σὰρξ θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ). (2:2–3)

According to Jung, every mother and beloved are forced to embody this tragic ageless image as the deepest reality in man. Anima projection can only be overcome when the son realises that his psyche also contains images of the daughter, the sister, the beloved, and the heavenly goddess, which, in the interest of life, must sometimes be released (Jung 1959:12–13).

Much has been said about the antifeminism of Jung’s ideas (Rowland 1999:32–37). Jung often stereotyped women describing them as dominated by erotic desires, desperately dependent on men, and incapable of spiritual perception. Despite this misogyny, Jung often describes archetypes as gender fluid and regularly associates the metaphysical and divine with feminine symbols. In the Book of Baruch, this release of the mother imago as symbol of the projected anima is allegorically described in a paradoxical way. It is not the son who deserts the mother as typified in Jung’s theory, but the mother letting go of her children, encouraging them to be courageous. Contrary to Jung’s characteristic view of women as dependent on men and spiritually insecure and the devouring mother as suffocating and overprotective, the mother figure in Baruch is strong, independent, supportive, and encouraging of male independence:

Go children, go, for I am deserted. I took off the clothing of peace, and clothed me with the sackcloth of my petition: I will cry unto the everlasting in my days. Be courageous (θαρειν), children, cry unto the Lord, and he will deliver you from the power and hand of the enemies. (4:19–21)

Sophia and individuation

Jung lamented the fact that Protestant theology had always neglected the positive aspect of the mother archetype described at length in some apocryphal texts as Sophia (σοφία; cf. Bar 3:23, 28), or wisdom (cf. Gates 1994:316). In this positive aspect, she acts as the much-needed compensation for risks, struggles, and sacrifices that end in disappointment and the comfort for bitterness in life (Jung 1959:13). For Jung, the goal of human existence is the quest for wholeness through inner knowledge (Pennachio 1992:237). The most dreaded state people could find themselves in is being unconscious – living in obscurity and being unaware of who they are. Unawareness means having no grounding and leads to terror, instability, doubt, and division. Ignorance is responsible for darkness, suffering, and evil acts. Unfortunately, humans have been conditioned to be content with being ignorant (Pennachio 1992:240). The inability to get to know the deeper aspects of the self and to confront inner impulses leads to a life of illusion and destruction. True to its gnostic nature, Baruch emphatically associates ignorance with destruction:

Those who make and protect silver and whose works are unsearchable vanish and go down to the grave (εἰς ᾅδου κατέβησαν) while others replace them. Young men saw the light and lived on earth, but they did not know the way of knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) nor understood the paths thereof. Neither did they attain it. Their children were far off from that way. It has not been heard of in Canaan, neither has it been seen in Theman. The Agarenes that seek knowledge (σύνεσις) on earth, the merchants of Meran and of Theman, the authors of myths (μυθολόγοι), and seekers of knowledge (σύνεσις) – none of these have known the way of wisdom (σοφία) or remembered her paths … There were the giants famous from the beginning who were of such great stature and so expert in war. Those the Lord did not choose (ἐκλέγω), neither did he give them the way of knowledge (ἐπιστήμη). Rather, they were destroyed because of their lack of prudence (φρόνησις) and they perished through their own recklessness. (3:18–23; 26–28)

In Jungian theory, adequate exploration of the innermost reaches of the psyche, or experience of the self, leads to psychological growth. This experience is synonymous with transcendence and inner illumination (Pennachio 1992:238). Truth is not found through intellect or belief, but through the experience of the inner self, which is divine. The Book of Baruch illustrates the divinity of this experiential knowledge by juxtaposing various Greek words for knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) and wisdom (φρόνησις, σύνεσις, and σοφία) with light (τὸ φῶς), which is a common symbol of the divine in Gnosticism (cf. Burkes 1999:254–276; Jung 1959:222; Pennachio 1992:239). This passage beautifully illustrates various elements of the individuation process, such as the efforts involved in the quest for self-knowledge, the transcendent nature of the self, the elation accompanying growth in self-awareness, and the incarnation of the divine Sophia as a fitting symbol for self-integration and psychological growth:

Who went up into heaven and taken her, and brought her down from the clouds? Who went over the sea and found her, and will bring her for pure gold? No man knows her way, nor thinks of her path. But he who knows (γινώσκει) all things knows her, and has found her out with his understanding (σύνεσις). He who created the earth long ago filled it with cattle. He who sends forth light and it goes, calls it again and it obeys him with fear. The stars shined in their watches and rejoiced. When he calls them they say: ‘Here we are’. And so with cheerfulness they shine light to him who had made them. This is our God and no-one is worthy of comparison to him. He found out the way of knowledge (σύνεσις) and gave it to Jacob his servant and to Israel his beloved. Afterwards he appeared on earth and conversed with men. (3:29–37)

Jung (1958) suggested that the goal of psychological development is individuation, corresponding to growth and self-realisation in biological terms. In metaphysical and religious terms, it can be described as an incarnation of the divine:

But since man knows himself only as an ego, and the self, as a totality, is indescribable and indistinguishable from a God-image, self-realisation – to put it in religious or metaphysical terms – amounts to God’s incarnation. (p. 157)

Rowland (1999:11) regards this teleological understanding of the process of individuation, where the self is experienced as divine, as an example of how psychology can make use of theological concepts. Psychological growth can be described in religious terms, but it does not require a transcendent reality for the experience to be authentic.

Death and rebirth

In addition to incarnation, the archetypal image of death and rebirth serves as an image for the process of individuation in Jung’s theory. Depth psychology teaches that death anxiety is unequivocally linked to introspection and the search for identity (cf. Lacocque 1984:218). Attaining selfhood through individuation typically involves suffering and devastation as a prelude to death and rebirth. Confronting the fear of death as our most primitive fear is often portrayed in myth by means of the image of the hero being swallowed by a monster of some kind and the ensuing rebirth into immortality (Van Heerden 2003:717–729). The hero typically goes through a near-death experience to find cohesion and personal integration. Lacocque (1984:) regards the ancient Mesopotamian myth of Marduk defeating the evil goddess Tiamat, his grandmother, as a representative example of the mythological hero’s quest:

Marduk kills Tiamat in a duel by entering her mouth with seven winds. He cuts her insides into pieces and makes mincemeat of her heart. By eating a vital part of a monster, archaic man believed a hero acquired wisdom. He could then understand the language of birds and other creatures that had contributed to the making of the dragon. He won magical powers and strengths previously held by the slain creature; and as a result he became invulnerable and immortal. (p. 219)

The heroic narrative is sometimes interpreted as a model for the ego who endlessly battle to conquer and suppress otherness and especially the terrible mother as the opposite of the male hero. However, Rowland (1999:12) warns against such literalism in the interpretation of the myth. Instead, individuation, as symbolised by this myth, represents unions, or sacred marriages of opposites as a result of the numinous nature of the unconscious, which may manifest itself as divinity. The slaying of the monster symbolises the quest for ultimate knowledge of the self which leads to mystical transformation and corresponding psychological maturation. As Eliade (1967:225) famously said, ‘[o]ne goes down into the belly of a giant monster in order to learn science or wisdom’. The hero’s descent into the underworld with its accompanying archetypes of death and rebirth are indicative of the internal journey of self-integration that is both transformative and divine. Following this inward path to self-knowledge constitutes rebirth and serves as the key to escaping evil and darkness (Lacocque 1984):

The hero is now a person who knows. He has learned the mysteries surrounding life and is one who was given revelations that are metaphysical in nature. To face one’s demons and to succeed in taming them implies that one no longer fears the disintegration of the self. Such initiation is tantamount to transcending death anxiety. (p. 222)

The authors of the Book of Baruch conceptualised their state of exile as a life in the grave (ὁ ᾅδης) where they were constantly defiled by the dead:

How does it come, Israel, that you are in your enemies’ land, that you age in a foreign country, that you are defiled by the dead (συνεμιάνθης τοῖς νεκροῖς)? That you are counted with them that go down into the grave (ὁ ᾅδης)? (3:10–11)

Divine knowledge, which in Jungian terms is inseparable from self-knowledge, however, enables them to conquer their fear of death and to find new life and joy amidst suffering and persecution as demonstrated in Baruch 3:18–23 and 26–37, quoted above.


Although Jung’s work is haunted by racism, antifeminism, and anti-Semitism, his work may still be useful for literary criticism from a psychological perspective. Jung suggested that religious and alchemical texts reflect psychological processes and constitute a kind of metaphorical writing. It therefore makes sense to interpret such texts from a psychological perspective. It needs to be remembered, though, that Jungian archetypes are non-human representations, and that implied oppositions are interchangeable. In the process of individuation, which essentially is a deconstructive process, the ego is challenged and required to sacrifice its tendency to subordinate. Read from a post-Jungian perspective, the Book of Baruch is more than a confession of sin and petition for deliverance. The penitential spirit of the book may well serve as a model for overcoming the repression and projection of shadow qualities, which is the essential first step in the process of individuation. Similarly, the image of the mother sending her children out into the world and encouraging them to be courageous serves as a metaphor for the anima releasing the animus and vice versa in the process of psychological growth. The Book also presents divine knowledge, corresponding to self-knowledge as individuation in Jungian theory, as the key to wholeness, rebirth, and transcendence of the physical world.


Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.

Author’s contributions

Z.K. is the sole author of this article.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

The research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the author.


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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 78  issue: 2  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v78i2.8059