Thinking about the sources of the theology for the chaps in Job, one is struck by Eliphaz’s early mention of the vision, and then of Elihu’s late appeal to dreams. Are we to understand they were prophets? I wonder if it hasn’t more to do with original participation and part of the poetic clairvoyance that seems to have constituted wisdom in their age.
Could it be said that any of the thinking recorded in the long speeches is abstract? It doesn’t seem to me it could. And why was poetry the dominant genre of wisdom literature after all?
It may be that they did not separate the material and the spiritual world the way we do, and that because of that they had greater insight into the latter. They had not cut if off from daily experience and they lived in a world fraught with meanings. We have a great deal of technology because of our attention to the material world, but their attention, being different, would yield to them other benefits. We do not observe in the book of Job a talent for abstract thought, though the exercise of the imagination is clearly present and busy harvesting significances. Why not more abstract thought? That requires a separation that flowered in Greek civilization, the early separation of the perceiving subject from the ideas represented in his perception.
Here is something interesting:
The participation of primitive man (what we might call “original” participation) was not theoretical at all, nor was it derived from theoretical thought. It was given in immediate experience. That is, the conceptual links by which the participated phenomena were constituted were given to man already “embedded” in what he perceived. As noted above, his perceiving was at the same time a kind of thinking; thinking occurred more in the world than in man. Perceiving and thinking had not yet split apart, as they have for us. Moreover, what was represented in the collective representations also differed for primitive man:
Which is followed by something straight from Barfield:
The essence of original participation is that there stands behind the phenomena, and on the other side of them from me, a represented which is of the same nature as me. Whether it is called “mana,” or by the names of many gods and demons, or God the Father, or the spirit world, it is of the same nature as the perceiving self, inasmuch as it is not mechanical or accidental, but psychic and voluntary. (Saving the Appearances)
Which perhaps explains why God’s appearance at the end shakes Job and his friends to the core of a theology whose sources could only have come by way of the assumptions of original participation.
Still more remarkable is the historically unfathered impulse of the Jewish nation to set about eliminating participation by quite other methods than those of alpha-thinking [that is, of thinking about things]. Suddenly, and as it were without warning, we are confronted by a fierce and warlike nation, for whom it is a paramount moral obligation to refrain from the participatory heathen cults by which they were surrounded on all sides; for whom moreover precisely that moral obligation is conceived as the very foundation of the race, the very marrow of its being. (Saving the Appearances)
I think this separation is also important in Job, but it is exactly what the characters in dialogue have to learn. At the end of all that great, amazing, poetic and yet sadly inadequate theology, God comes, the great other, and he speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. And Job says all his former knowledge was secondhand compared to this encounter: he realizes something that apparently never occured to him before. What is it that Job realizes? The unimagineable transcendent otherness of the Creator, and it shakes him and his friends to the core of their theology.
It had apparently, for all their talk of the greatness and power and terror of God, never occured to them that God was so separate, so removed from that which he absolutely posessed. God says one thing to Job with utter clarity: you are the creature, I am not; if you live in a world you cannot understand, how will you understand me? And I think he is implying that the interprenetration that Job and his friends assume does not exhaust God’s relationship with creation. They realized that God was not of their order, but never suspected he was beyond all categories. They had no concept of such a beyondness, you see. As the world is all surface to us, the world was all interior to them, and here came God, unambiguously entering from the unimagineable but unmistakable outside.