Two Jobs

Many people do not realize that the Bible can be thought of as an occult book, full of esoteric lessons and instruction. However, through bad translations, deletions, and misinterpretation, the Bible has been misread and misunderstood for centuries. I believe the Book of Job is a lesson illustrating what we think of as the Hindu principle of Karma, the doctrine of "what you sow you shall reap" taken in a larger context in which karma is worked out throughout many human lifetimes.

The dilemma of Job, presented both in the Bible and in Archibald MacLeish's play "J.B." (1958), is that of a man who has been faithful to God and good all his life. Yet all of a sudden, "God" seems to turn on him and he loses all his riches, his family, and his health. The question is why? Much of the Book of Job features Job lamenting his innocence and questioning why the wicked, who never cared for God or doing good, have seemingly escaped God's punishment. MacLeish shortens this part considerably, saving it for the end, and he instead gives us an insight into his view of Job, who seems to be a man who is pious only because of the rewards it will earn him, who is good to others only for the good he will receive himself. Both Jobs are full of pride and it is hard for them to accept their new situations. Because of this, both Jobs are revealed to be men who perhaps did good only because things were going so well for them up to that point.

So the question is raised in both versions, was Job guilty of a sin that deserved this kind of punishment? In both works, Job searches his past actions and can find nothing deserving of the disasters that have befallen him. MacLeish echoes some of the Bible's implications that Job's guilt is that of just being human, that being human stamps us with a procilivity for the bestial or sinful, despite all conscious efforts. But this argument is not satisfying for either Jobs. They, like us, want to feel that they are individuals and special to the creator, and that he would not visit on us more than our just deserts.

The Bible version of Job's story suggests a different answer. A young man speaks up after Job has convinced the three older men of his innocence, and he speaks of the magnificence and omnipotence of God. He says "if a man is bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; then God sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded" (Chapter 26: 8). This implies that God employs a system of justice, and that if a man finds himself in difficulties it must be through his own actions. But Job was good all of his life. But if one looks at this in the context of reincarnation and karma, the point is clear: many things that happen to us in this life may be results of acts done in other lifetimes, and thus we must accept them as our own just dessert. The point of the Bible's Job seems to be to learn to accept our circumstances, or karma, without turning against God because external conditions are the result of complex precesses, most of which we do not understand, but we cannot let the external be the basis of our spirituality. To illustrate how many religions echo each other, Buddhists believe that when suffering comes, one should accept it without complaining because we are working off our karmic debts and to accept makes the suffering pass faster. When we fight our circumstances, it only mires us deeper in its clutching morass.

MacLeish makes a similar point. In "J.B." he argues that we have to believe in a greater order than we can see or we would go mad and that suffering helps us learn (186), but he attributes the guilt men harbor for which they deserve punishment to the original Fall in the Garden of Eden and not to Men's own actions. MacLeish changes the ending of Job in "J.B." when he adds a final scene in which he expresses his feeling that Job humbled and degraded his own humanity by accepting God's wrath even though he did not understand God's reasons for why he deserved his punishment. MacLeish is making the point that one should fight against fate rather than meekly caving in beneath it and his point is a good one. We should always take care of ourselves and better our circumstances when we can. The Bible says that "God helps those who help themselves." MacLeish believes Job should be true to his own feelings of innocence and make the most of his own humanity, and I agree with him up to a point. But when things in our lives seems so bad that we begins searching for a larger explanation of why, the concept of karma helps fulfill a person's need to understand why he suffers and gives him the capability to endure. Endurance is also a great trait of humanity and has made our evolution possible.

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