Jason Wright uniquely analyses William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job (1826) to reveal their relevance in clinical psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, especially with patients who have experienced trauma and addiction.
Jason Wright, a transpersonal and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, writes on Trauma and Addiction, topics that we can relate to through psychotherapy or reading the News. This book left me feeling convinced of its timeliness. Wright speaks to the power of empathy and justice, while acknowledging the damage of despair. He allows us to find hope for a better future in a world that seems to be getting darker by the day.

BLAKE'S JOB offers sensitive guidance to practitioners, and insightful analysis to the general public, as Wright studies each illustration and how they chart the breakdown of Job’s life, twining them with a clinical vignette. In this way, Wright brings Blakean theory into the 21st century to propose a collective dynamic shift from a consciousness of exploitation to one of resonance.

Jung, Job and Healing

What is astonishing is how Wright uses Blake to discuss healing. Wright argues that Blake allows Job to achieve true connection with the Divine in Illustrations of the Book of Job as “the understanding or experience of God is open to dialogue” (my emphasis, 30). With a background in theatre, Wright commits to a Jungian analysis and criticism, “the archetype of death and rebirth” (4), drawing on Kathleen Raine’s The Human Face of God (1982). He agrees with Blake that “the solution to the ills of the world” is not social (11) but spiritual and “participatory” (99) and takes Jung to task over individuation, a process that can result in isolation: “I think we are moving towards recognising our group needs more consciously” (my emphasis, 189). Wright continues to illuminate on his own practice which combines groupwork with addicts and creativity.
For Wright, Job’s story represents what must be changed or relinquished to become whole and a worthy member of a creative community. Wright includes examples from patients and ex-addicts, distilled through the Jungian lens. One could say that Wright applies or appropriates Blake (like Jung) but that would be missing the point. Everything, according to Wright, is happening everywhere and at the same time, as visualised in the full circle drawn by Plates 1 and 21, and so Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job illustrates a coming to terms and redefining of the Divine.

Blake's Obsession: Job and God

In the Bible, Job is a pawn in a God Game. His story was a lifelong obsession or Blake who sketched and painted several watercolours, including the Butts and Linnell sets. In Illustrations of the Book of Job Blake condenses his mythology into a visual narrative told in twenty-one plates. He comments on Job’s trials and extends the Old Testament story to include Job's wife. His focus, however, remains on Job’s relationship with God and the core question: why would God punish a righteous person? The engravings expose this God as Urizen, a symbol of material rationalism, and depicts Job’s revelation on Plate 11. Wright interprets Job’s waking from his nightmare as the beginning of his becoming, because it is “through Job’s experience that God is changed” (3). For both Blake and Wright, when "Job is also meeting himself in this demonic form. Job and Yahweh appear as reflections of each other; God is inside" (111), as discussed in relation to Plate 11.

Recurring Figures: A Support Network

The recurring friends are key to Job’s transformation, and by analysing their facial expressions and interactions, Wright argues that Job eventually sees the Divine reflected in his friends’ faces. Wright thus invites us to think through human relationships with the words ‘soul’ and ‘psyche’. His book explores people struggling with becoming, an analysis captured through the book’s cover, the watercolour for Plate 15. Here, everyone is guided by the Godhead’s pointing finger to admire Behemoth and Leviathan below. In the story, Job is given opportunity to admire the magnitude of God's creation, and here we see Job, his friends and family studying creation's most extraordinary beings from a safe distance. Taking a leap in imagination, Wright, I think, alludes to ecological crisis because right now we face something monstrous that must be approached together to necessitate real change.
So let us agree with Wright, that we are all addicts who use medication, recreational drugs, excessive gaming or binge watching to mute difficult-to-deal-with feelings; the numbing effects of consumerism may be visible in the rise in young vapers, for example. In Plate 15, Blake represents the human realm as separate but, as Wright suggests, Blake merely acknowledges an internal emptiness and in response designs a safe space where problems can be faced and dealt with together.
"Behemoth and Leviathan," Plate 15 from Illustrations of the Book of Job
Wright’s book synthesizes many years of Blake-inspired professional experience to explain why Blake is relevant to modern happiness. It’s a personal discussion; it concerns us all. He writes with gentle urgency, encouraging us to acknowledge that if we’re preoccupied with only building our own “egocentric selfhood” (5), we will end up like Job in Plate 1. There are alternatives that will connect us to our fellow human beings. Community, for Wright, is the wider contextual framework for self-formation with the self as an “emergent property” (14). This is realized in Plate 21 which establishes how “the cooperative whole is experienced” (37). I don’t think that Wright is optimistic about the future and what humans, if they put their mind to it, can achieve, and yet Blake, who Wright believes is a fully realized being leading a life “fully lived” (7), is a role model.
Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, then, is a guide. According to Wright, to bring about change in ourselves and by extension the world, we must pay attention to our internal gaps or pains. Happiness is relational, existing through relationships and moments of true encounter and participation. BLAKE'S JOB attracts plenty of attention because it resonates with current, heated debates about mental health. But Wright does more than contribute to Blake scholarship. By aligning his thinking with theories of wholeness (David Bohm and A. N. Whithead) and brain functioning (Ian McGilchrist and Mark Solms), he shows why Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job is the story of our time.
Jason Wright. Blake's Job: Adventures in Becoming. New York: Routledge, 2023. Hardback, 230pp. 20 B/W Illus. RRP: £130.00 (E-book: £22.49)