Thursday, March 29, 2018

The shadow

1. In this post I'm going to venture some comments on Jordan Peterson. 

Peterson deservedly has a huge following. To his credit, he's is a brave man who stands his ground. Pushes back against the social engineers and social justice warriors. He fearlessly attacks feminism and speech codes. He attacks political correctness (e.g. "Islamophobia", "toxic masculinity"). He expounds and defends innate differences between boys and girls, men and women. He marches to the beat of a different drummer. 

Of course, that could be said of many libertarian/conservative pundits, but he's caught on in a way they haven't. In particular, he's tapped into the plight of disaffected young men who've been marginalized and vilified by identity politics. He exposes a weakness on the part of many evangelical "leaders" who are too concessive, too meek and mild. Who let the secular progressives to define the terms of debate. 

By contrast, Peterson is confrontational. He stands up to bullies. He challenges assumptions. He says things many people know are true, but are afraid to say. In a time of crisis, he's the kind of guy who rises to the occasion. 

2. There are, however, people who make good critics, good insurgents, but they are deficient when it comes to presenting a constructive alternative. They know what's wrong, but they don't know the solution. They can identify problems but their correctives point people in the wrong direction. Many revolutionaries succeed, but are then at a loss to make things better, because their vision is defective. That's Peterson's limitation. I'm going to comment on two aspects of Jordan's teaching in particular. 

3. I've seen several different clips in which he harps on the same theme. To be successful, you must strike a balance between your geniality and your shadow side. You need to get in touch with your dark side. Cultivate your capacity for evil. Develop your inner psychopath. Not that you should normally act on those impulses, but keep them under control–like a guard dog. 

This is something he gets from Jung. We have an alter-ego, like an evil twin. And that's the source of our strength. Our capacity for evil is what makes us tough and decisive. 

A successful individual must integrate those two sides of his personality. The potential for pathological evil is necessary to have strength of character. It's something we should foster, but channel and discipline. Be a monster, but a civilized monster. That's what makes anti-heroes appealing. 

Dropping the metaphors, I assume he's alluding to his belief that humans are animals who evolved from predators. And human males in particular still have those dark powerful instincts. A propensity for pitiless violence. A capacity to commit atrocities. Making your mark in the primordial primate dominance hierarchy.

For Peterson, evil is a necessary good, so long as that is properly harnessed. Without it, people take advantage of you. 

If that's a correct interpretation, then Peterson's recipe is radically at odds with Christian theology. In Christian theology, evil in moderation is not a necessary good. A capacity for sadistic cruelty and wanton mayhem, however bridled, is not an instrumental good. 

That doesn't mean Christian men are supposed to be soft. That's a harmful stereotype. But Christian masculinity isn't grounded in amoral predatory instinct. Peterson's prescription is dangerously false. It fosters a Fight Club mystique that's appealing to alienated young men, but a self-destructive fantasy. 

4. Given his view of the shadow, I don't see how Peterson can avoid having contempt for Jesus. Christ doesn't have a dark side. Jesus doesn't harbor sociopathic tendencies. Jesus doesn't have an alter ego. Jesus doesn't derive fortitude by tapping into his capacity for evil.That's not the source of his inner strength. Peterson's paradigm is intrinsically hostile to the Christian exemplar. 

5. The second thing I'd like to comment on is Peterson's mythological paradigm. And the bottom of this post I have post copious excerpts from his Maps of Meaning to document how he interprets and appropriates comparative mythology. My assessment is based on what he says in that programmatic statement of his reference frame. 

There are different kinds of atheism. On the one hand, there's the hard, cold, fatalistic atheism of Schopenhauer, Hedda Gabler (Ibsen), The Damned (Visconti), Long Day's Journey Into Night (O'Neill), Jean Genet, Rainer Fassbinder, &c. Fleeting moments of happiness are decoy birds. We're only in a position to appreciate the best things in life after we've lost them. 

By contrast, there's the heroic atheism of Buddha and Camus. We're all losers–doomed before we begin. But we can postpone defeat. Eke out a little satisfaction on our the way to the guillotine. 

It's clear to me that Peterson is a secular humanist. He subscribes to heroic atheism. Don't go gently into night. Go down fighting. Rage against the dying light.  

His outlook is like a POW camp. If the enemy wins, the POWs will die in that wretched camp. Die from illness, exposure, malnutrition, or old age–if the survive. They will never be released. But if the enemy loses, the commandant will spitefully execute them before the camp can be liberated by the victors. Either way, the POWs will never leave that wretched camp.

But they can make the most of the situation. Befriend the guards. Smoke, swear, drink, play cards, tell the same old stories–until they die there, one by one. 

6. I take Peterson to mean that paradigm myths are psychologically true. Paradigm myths are psychological and sociological allegories. They encode perennial aspirations and ideals. Even though mythology is literally false, it can be a useful guide to self-understanding because mythology still insightful regarding human nature and the human condition. 

But a problem with the inspirational value of mythology, given his secular outlook, is that human psychology (and corresponding behavior) boils to brain chemistry, which was cooked up in the laboratory of the evolutionary mad scientist. So there's nothing good about it. When you peel back the layers, idealism has no basis in reality. 

7. Peterson treats the Bible as an anthology of paradigm myths, no different in principle from world mythology. The only difference is that biblical mythology has been the dominant mythos of western civilization for centuries. But that's an arbitrary difference.

He views Jesus as a fictional variation on a stock mythotype. Whoever the historical Jesus was, the Jesus of the Gospels is just one of many masks donned by the ubiquitous hero of cross-cultural imagination. 

8. Mythical archetypes have their basis in objective experience. There are positive archetypes: the good mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, mentor, spring, summer, sunrise, daytime, youth, health, prowess, beauty, fertility, orchard, oasis, river valley, rescue, deliverance, homecoming, reunion.   

That has its counterpart in negative archetypes: the abusive mother/father, adulterer/adulteress, faithless son, tempter/temptress, tyrant, false prophet, outcast, drifter, winter, sunset, darkness, disease, disability, decrepitude, excrement, desert, wasteland, storm, natural disaster, snakes, predators, monsters, starvation, betrayal, disgrace, desertion, exile, lostness.

There's nothing essential fictional about these motifs, because they constantly recur in real life, which is why they become stock characters, settings, and plots. So there's no presumption that Jesus is just another imaginary hero because he happens to correspond to some fictional tropes. 

Some archetypes like death, the trickster, and the warrior are positive or negative depending on the culture. 

9. Not only is there heroic atheism, but heroic faith. To revert to my illustration, there are Christians like Eric Liddell and Jane Haining who died in concentration camps by choice. They had a chance to elude capture, but they had a Christian servant ethic. 

In Peterson's secular outlook, when you die, that's it. But from a Christian outlook, the death camp has an invisible back door. When Eric Liddell and Jane Haining died in captivity, they went to heaven–like releasing a bird from a cage. Because Peterson lacks that otherworldly perspective, his secular humanism is valium. 

10. Peterson has no solution to human evil. Evil people can't fix themselves. They're not good enough. That's the dilemma. Humanism is like a dying patient with Ebola who takes a syringe, draws some of his own blood, then injects himself with his own blood to infuse himself with antibodies. But they're the same inadequate antibodies. Fallen creatures require outside intervention: moral and spiritual renewal. 

Likewise, once you do something evil, you can't step into the time machine and become innocent again. You can't turn the clock back and make it right.

Fallen creatures need forgiveness, predicated on redemption. Vicarious atonement. Penal substitution. 

Here's a representative sample of Peterson's mythological paradigm:

Are the myths we have turned to since the rise of science more sophisticated, less dangerous, and more complete than those we rejected? The ideological structures that dominated social relations in the twentieth century appear no less absurd, on the face of it, than the older belief systems they supplanted; they lacked, in addition, any of the incomprehensible mystery that necessarily remains part of genuinely artistic and creative production.

It has become more or less evident that pure, abstract rationality, for example, ungrounded in tradition – the rationality which defined Soviet-style communism from inception to dissolution – appears absolutely unable to determine and make explicit just what it is that should guide individual and social behavior. Some systems do not work, even though they make abstract sense (even more sense than alternative, currently operative, incomprehensible, haphazardly evolved systems). Some patterns of interpersonal interaction – which constitute the state, insofar as it exists as a model for social behavior – do not produce the ends they are supposed to produce, can not sustain themselves over time, or even produce contrary ends, devouring those who enact them and profess their value. Perhaps this is because planned, logical and intelligible systems fail to make allowance for the irrational, transcendent, incomprehensible and often ridiculous aspect of human character, as described by Dostoevsky.

We also presently possess in accessible and complete form the traditional wisdom of a large part of the human race – possess accurate description of the myths and rituals that contain and condition the implicit and explicit values of almost everyone who has ever lived. These myths are centrally and properly concerned with the nature of successful human existence. Careful comparative analysis of this great body of religious philosophy might allow us to provisionally determine the nature of essential human motivation and morality – if we were willing to admit our ignorance, and take the risk. Accurate specification of underlying mythological commonalities might comprise the first developmental stage in the conscious evolution of a truly universal system of morality. The establishment of such a system, acceptable to empirical and religious minds alike, could prove of incalculable aid in the reduction of intrapsychic, inter-individual and intergroup conflict. The grounding of such a comparative analysis within a psychology (or even a neuropsychology) informed by strict empirical research might offer us the possibility of a form of convergent validation, and help us overcome the age-old problem of deriving the ought from the is; help us see how what we must do might be inextricably associated with what it is that we are. Proper analysis of mythology, of the type proposed here, is not mere discussion of “historical” events enacted upon the world stage (as the traditionally religious might have it), and it is not mere investigation of primitive belief (as the traditionally scientific might presume). It is, instead, the examination, analysis and subsequent incorporation of an edifice of meaning, which contains within it hierarchical organization of experiential valence. 

The mythic imagination is concerned with the world in the manner of the phenomenologist, who seeks to discover the nature of subjective reality, instead of concerning himself with description of the objective world. Myth, and the drama that is part of myth, provide answers in image to the following question: “how can the current state of experience be conceptualized in abstraction, with regards to its meaning?” [which means its (subjective, biologically-predicated, socially-constructed) emotional relevance or motivational significance]. Meaning means implication for behavioral output; logically, therefore, myth presents information relevant to the most fundamental of moral problems: “what should be? (what should be done?)”  The desirable future (the object of what should be) can only be conceptualized in relationship to the present, which serves at least as a necessary point of contrast and comparison. To get somewhere in the future presupposes being somewhere in the present; furthermore, the desirability of the place travelled to depends on the valence of the place vacated. The question of “what should be?” (what line should be travelled?) therefore has contained within it, so to speak, three subqueries, which might be formulated as follows:  

1) what is? – what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience? 
2) what should be? – to what (desirable, valuable) end should that state be moving? 
3) how should we therefore act? – what is the nature of the specific processes by which the present state might be transformed into that which is desired?  

Active apprehension of the goal of behavior, conceptualized in relationship to the interpreted present, serves to constrain or provide determinate framework for the evaluation of ongoing events, which emerge as a consequence of current behavior. The goal is an imaginary state, consisting of “a place” of desirable motivation or affect – is a state that only exists in fantasy, as something (potentially) preferable to the present. (Construction of the goal therefore means establishment of a theory about the ideal relative status of motivational states – about the good.) This imagined future constitutes a vision of perfection, so to speak, generated in the light of all current knowledge (at least under optimal conditions), to which specific and general aspects of ongoing experience are continually compared. This vision of perfection is the promised land, mythologically speaking – conceptualized as a spiritual domain (a psychological state), a political utopia (a state, literally speaking), or both, simultaneously.  

The known is explored territory, a place of stability and familiarity – is the “city of God,” as profanely realized. It finds metaphorical embodiment in myths and narratives describing the community, the kingdom, or the state. Such myths and narratives guide our ability to understand the particular, bounded motivational significance of the present, experienced in relation to some identifiable desired future, and allow us to construct and interpret appropriate patterns of action, from within the confines of that schema. We all produce determinate models of what is, and what should be, and how to transform one into the other. We produce these models by balancing our own desires, as they find expression in fantasy and action, with with those of the others – individual, families and communities – that we habitually encounter.  

Myths describe the existence of this “shared and determinate territory” as a fixed aspect of existence – which it is, as the fact of culture is an unchanging aspect of the human environment. “Narratives of the known” – patriotic rituals, stories of ancestral heroes, myths and symbols of cultural or racial identity – describe established territory, weaving for us a web of meaning that, shared with others, eliminates the necessity of dispute over meaning. All those who know the rules, and accept them, can play the game – without fighting over the rules of the game. This makes for peace, stability, and potential prosperity – a good game. The good, however, is the enemy of the better; a more compelling game might always exist. Myth portrays what is known, and performs a function that if limited to that, might be regarded as paramount in importance. But myth also presents information that is far more profound – almost unutterably so, once (I would argue) properly understood. We all produce models of what is, and what should be, and how to transform one into the other. We change our behavior, when the consequences of that behavior are not what we would like. But sometimes mere alteration in behavior is insufficient. We must change not only what we do, but what we think is important. This means reconsideration of the nature of the motivational significance of the present, and reconsideration of the ideal nature of the future. This is a radical, even revolutionary transformation, and it is a very complex process in its realization – but mythic thinking has represented the nature of such change in great and remarkable detail.  The basic grammatical structure of transformational mythology, so to speak, appears most clearly revealed in the form of the “way” (as in the “American Way of Life”). The great literary critic Northrop Frye comments upon the idea of the way, as it manifests itself in literature and religious writing: 
“Following a narrative is closely connected with the central literary metaphor of the journey, where we have a person making the journey and the road, path, or direction taken, the simplest word for this being ‘way.’ Journey is a word connected with jour and journee, and metaphorical journeys, deriving as they mostly do from slower methods of getting around, usually have at their core the conception of the day’s journey, the amount of space we can cover under the cycle of the sun. By a very easy extension of metaphor we get the day’s cycle as a symbol for the whole of life. Thus in Housman’s poem ‘Reveille’ (“Up, lad: when the journey’s over/ There’ll be time enough to sleep”) the awakening in the morning is a metaphor of continuing the journey of life, a journey ending in death. The prototype for the image is the Book of Ecclesiastes, which urges us to work while it is day, before the night comes when no man can work....”  The word ‘way’ is a good example of the extent to which language is built up on a series of metaphorical analogies. The most common meaning of ‘way’ in English is a method or manner of procedure, but method and manner imply some sequential repetition, and the repetition brings us to the metaphorical kernel of a road or path.... In the Bible ‘way’ normally translates the Hebrew derek and the Greek hodos, and throughout the Bible there is a strong emphasis on the contrast between a straight way that takes us to our destination and a divergent way that misleads or confuses. This metaphorical contrast haunts the whole of Christian literature: we start reading Dante’s Commedia, and the third line speaks of a lost or erased way: “Che la diritta via era smarita.” Other religions have the same metaphor: Buddhism speaks of what is usually called in English an eightfold path. In Chinese Taoism the Tao is usually also rendered ‘way’ by Arthur Waley and others, though I understand that the character representing the word is formed of radicals meaning something like ‘head-going.’ The sacred book of Taoism, the Tao te Ching, begins by saying that the Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao: in other words we are being warned to beware of the traps in metaphorical language, or, in a common Oriental phrase, of confusing the moon with the finger pointing at it. But as we read on we find that the Tao can, after all, be to some extent characterized: the way is specifically the ‘way of the valley’...  

The central notion of the way underlies manifestation of four more specific myths, or classes of myths, and provides a more complete answer, in dramatic form, to the three questions posed previously [what is the nature  (meaning, the significance) of current being?, to what  (desirable) end should that state be moving? and, finally, what are the processes by which the present state might be transformed into that which is desired?] The four classes include:  
(1) Myths describing a current or pre-existent stable state (sometimes a paradise, sometimes a tyranny);  
(2) Myths describing the emergence of something anomalous, unexpected, threatening and promising into this initial state; 
(3) Myths describing the dissolution of the pre-existent stable state into chaos, as a consequence of the anomalous or unexpected occurrence; 
(4) Myths describing the regeneration of stability [paradise regained (or, tyranny regenerated)], from the chaotic mixture of dissolute previous experience and anomalous information.  

Figure 2: The Metamythological Cycle of the Way 
The meta-mythology of the way, so to speak, describes the manner in which specific ideas (myths) about the present, the future, and the mode of transforming one into the other are initially constructed, and then reconstructed, in their entirety, when that becomes necessary. The traditional Christian (and not just Christian) notion that man has fallen from an original “state of grace” into his current morally degenerate and emotionally unbearable condition – accompanied by a desire for the “return to Paradise” – constitutes a single example of this “meta-myth.” Christian morality can therefore be reasonably regarded as the “plan of action” whose aim is re-establishment, or establishment, or attainment (sometimes in the “hereafter”) of the “kingdom of God,” the ideal future. The idea that man needs redemption – and that re-establishment of a long-lost Paradise might constitute such redemption – appear as common themes of mythology, among members of exceedingly diverse and long-separated human cultures.24 This commonality appears because man, eternally self-conscious, suffers eternally from his existence, and constantly longs for respite. 

Figure 2: The Metamythological Cycle of the Way schematically portrays the “circle” of the way, which “begins” and “ends” at the same point – with establishment of conditional, but determinate moral knowledge (belief). Belief is disruptible, because finite – which is to say that the infinite mystery surrounding human understanding may break through into our provisional models of how to act, at any time, at any point, and disrupt their structure. The manner in which we act as children, for example, may be perfectly appropriate, for the conditions of childhood; the processes of maturation change the conditions of existence, introducing anomaly where only certainty once stood, making necessary not only a change of plans, but reconceptualization of where those plans might lead, and what or who they refer to, in the present. The known, our current story, protects us from the unknown, from chaos – which is to say, provides our experience with determinate and predictable structure. The unknown, chaos – from which we are protected – has a nature all of its own. That nature is experienced as affective valence, at first exposure, not as objective property. If something unknown or unpredictable occurs, while we are carrying out our motivated plans, we are first surprised. That surprise – which is a combination of apprehension and curiosity – comprises our instinctive emotional response to the occurrence of something we did not desire. The appearance of something unexpected is proof that we do not know how to act – by definition, as it is the production of what we want that we use as evidence for the integrity of our knowledge. If we are somewhere we don’t know how to act, we are (probably) in trouble – we might learn something new, but we are still in trouble. When we are in trouble, we get scared. When we are in the domain of the known, so to speak, there is no reason for fear. Outside that domain, panic reigns. It is for this reason that we dislike having our plans disrupted. So we cling to what we understand. This does not always work, however, because what we understand about the present is not always necessarily sufficient to deal with the future. This means that we have to be able to modify what we understand, even though to do so is to risk our own undoing. The trick, of course, is to modify and yet to remain secure. This is not so simple. Too much modification – chaos. Too little modification – stagnation (and then, when the future we are unprepared for appears – chaos).  Involuntary exposure to chaos means accidental encounter with the “forces that undermine the known world.” The affective consequences of such encounter can be literally overwhelming. It is for this reason that individuals are highly motivated to avoid sudden “manifestations of the unknown” – for this reason that individuals will go to almost any length to ensure that their protective cultural “stories” remain intact.    

The human brain – and the higher animal brain – appears therefore to have adapted itself to the eternal presence of these two “places”; the brain has one mode of operation, when in explored territory, and another, when in unexplored territory. In the unexplored world, caution – expressed in fear and behavioral immobility – initially predominates, but may be superseded by curiosity – expressed in hope, excitement and, above all, in creative exploratory behavior. Creative exploration of the unknown, and consequent generation of knowledge, is construction or update of patterns of behavior and representation, such that the unknown is transformed from something terrifying and compelling into something beneficial (or, at least, something irrelevant). The presence of capacity for such creative exploration and knowledge generation may be regarded as the third, and final, permanent constituent element of human experience (in addition to the domain of the “known” and “unknown”).  Mythological representations of the world – which are representations of reality as a forum for action – portray the dynamic interrelationship between all three constituent elements of human experience. The eternal unknown – nature, metaphorically speaking, creative and destructive, source and destination of all determinant things – is generally ascribed an affectively ambivalent feminine character (as the “mother” and eventual “devourer” of everyone and everything). The eternal known, in contrast – culture, defined territory, tyrannical and protective, predictable, disciplined and restrictive, cumulative consequence of heroic or exploratory behavior – is typically considered masculine (in contradistinction to “mother” nature). The eternal knower, finally – the process that mediates between the known and the unknown – is the knight who slays the dragon of chaos, the hero who replaces disorder and confusion with clarity and certainty, the sun-god who eternally slays the forces of darkness, and the “word” that engenders creation of the cosmos.

2.3. Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience Myth represents the world as “forum for action.” The world as “forum for action” is comprised of three eternally extant constituent elements of experience, and a “fourth” that “precedes” them. The unknown, the knower, and the known make up the world as place of drama; the indeterminate “precosmogonic chaos” proceeding their emergence serves as the ultimate source of all things (including the three constituent elements of experience). The precosmogonic chaos tends to take metaphorical form as the uroboros, the self-consuming serpent, who represents the union of matter and spirit, and the possibility of transformation. The uroboros serves as “primal source” of the mythological world parents (the Great Mother, nature, deity of the unknown, creative and destructive; the Great Father, culture, deity of the familiar, tyrannical and protective) and of their “Divine Son” (the Knower, the generative Word, the process of exploration).  

The ancient Mesopotamian creation myth – the Enuma elish – provides a concrete example of the interplay of these “personalities.” This myth features four main characters, or sets of characters; Tiamat, the feminine dragon of chaos, primordial goddess of creation (the uroboros and the Great Mother are conflated, as is frequently the case, in this myth); Apsu, Tiamat’s husband and consort; the “elder gods,” children of Tiamat and Apsu; and Marduk, sun-deity and mythic hero. Tiamat symbolizes the great unknown, the matrix of the world; Apsu the known, the pattern that makes regulated existence possible. The “elder gods” symbolize the common psychological attributes of humanity (the “fragments or constituent elements of consciousness”), and constitute a more thorough representation of the constituent elements of the “patriarchal” known; Marduk – greatest of the secondary deities – represents the process that eternally mediates between matrix and regulated existence. The original union of Tiamat and Apsu brings the “elder gods” into being. These gods carelessly kill Apsu, upon who they “unconsciously” depend. Tiamat re-appears, with a vengeance, and decides to destroy everything she has created. Her “children” send one volunteer after another out to overpower her. All fail. Finally, Marduk offers to do battle. He is elected as king – as the greatest of gods, as the “determiner of destinies” – and voluntarily confronts Tiamat. He cuts her apart, and creates the cosmos from her pieces. The Mesopotamian emperor – who ritually embodies Marduk – acts out this battle during the festival of the New Year, when the “old world” is renewed.  

The Enuma elish expresses in image and narrative the idea that the psychological function giving order to chaos (1) “creates” the cosmos and (2) should occupy a superordinate position, in the intrapsychic and social domains. The ideas contained in this myth are given more elaborated expression in later Egyptian works of metaphysical speculation, which more directly address the idea of the heroic renewal of culture.  The three “constituent elements of experience” and the fourth who proceeds them can be viewed, at a “higher level of resolution,” as seven universal “characters” (who may take on any of a variety of culture-specific identities). Myth describes the interactions of these characters. 

The great dragon of chaos – the uroboros, the self-devouring serpent – might be conceptualized as pure (latent) information, before it is parsed into the world of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the experiencing subject. The uroboros is the stuff of which categorical knowledge is composed, before being that knowledge; it is the primary “element” of the world, which is decomposed into cosmos, surrounding chaos, and the exploratory process which “separates” the two. 

The bivalent Great Mother (second and third characters) is creation and destruction, simultaneously – the source of all new things, the benevolent bearer and lover of the hero; the destructive forces of the unknown, the source of fear itself, constantly conspiring to destroy life. 

The bivalent divine son (fourth and fifth) is the sun-god, the hero who journeys to the underworld to rescue his incapacitated ancestors, the messianic son of the virgin mother, savior of the world – and, simultaneously, his sworn adversary, arrogant and deceitful. 

The bivalent Great Father (sixth and seventh) is the wise king and the tyrant, cultural protection from the terrible forces of nature, security for the weak, and wisdom for the foolish. Simultaneously, however, he is the force who devours his own offspring, who rules the kingdom with a cruel and unjust hand, and who actively suppresses any sign of dissent or difference.  Terrible, chaotic forces lurk behind the “facade” of the normal world. 

These forces are kept at bay by maintenance of social order. The “reign of order” is insufficient, however, because order itself becomes overbearing and deadly, if allowed unregulated or permanent expression. The actions of the hero constitute an antidote to the deadly forces of chaos, and to the tyranny of order. The hero creates order from chaos, and re-constructs that order, when necessary. His actions simultaneously ensure that novelty remains tolerable and that security remains flexible.   

Reasonable and informed observers – at least since the time of Frazier199 – have established the widespread spatial and temporal dispersion of cosmogonic stories, tales of heroism and deceit, rituals of initiation, and standard imagistic representations, such as the virgin and child. These stories, tales, rituals and images often differ in detail, and temporal ordering; sometimes, however, they are simply the same. It is possible that this similarity might be the consequence of dissemination, from a single source, hundreds of centuries ago. This hypothesis, however, does not explain why standard stories are remembered, once disseminated, and transmitted down the generations, with little structural alteration. It is reasonable to presume that, over the long run, our species “forgets” everything that is useless: we do not forget our myths, however – indeed, much of the activity broadly deemed “cultural” is in fact the effort to ensure that such myths are constantly represented and communicated.

Consider – once again – this archaic creation myth from Sumer:  
“So far, no cosmogonic text properly speaking has been discovered, but some allusions permit us to reconstruct the decisive moments of creation, as the Sumerians conceived it. The goddess Nammu (whose name is written with the pictograph representing the primordial sea) is presented as “the mother who gave birth to the Sky and the Earth” and the “ancestress who brought forth all the gods.” The theme of the primordial waters, imagined as a totality at once cosmic and divine, is quite frequent in archaic cosmogonies. In this case too, the watery mass is identified with the original Mother, who, by parthenogenesis, gave birth to the first couple, the Sky (An) and the Earth (Ki), incarnating the male and female principles. This first couple was united, to the point of merging, in the hieros gamos [mystical marriage]. From their union was born En-lil, the god of the atmosphere. Another fragment informs us that the latter separated his parents.... The cosmogonic theme of the separation of sky and earth is also widely disseminated.”205  

The “sky” and “earth” of the Sumerians are categories of apprehension, characteristic of the Sumerian culture, and must not be confused with the “sky” and “earth” of modern empirical thinking. “An” and “Ki” are, instead, the dramatically-represented Great Father and Great Mother of all things (including the “son” who gives “birth” to them). This somewhat paradoxical narrative is prototypical; mythologies of creation tend to manifest themselves in this pattern. In the Enuma elish, for example – the oldest written creation myth we possess – the Mesopotamian hero/deity Marduk faces the aquatic female dragon Tiamat (mother of all things, including Marduk himself), cuts her up, and creates the world from her pieces.206 The god Marduk serves explicitly as exemplar  for the Mesopotamian emperor,207 whose job is to ensure that the cosmos exists and remains stable, as a consequence of his proper “moral” behavior, defined by his “imitation” of Marduk. 

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is the Logos 208 – the word of God – that creates order from chaos – and it is in the image of the Logos that man [“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26)] is created. This idea has clear additional precedents in early and late Egyptian cosmology (as we shall see). In the Far East – similarly – the cosmos is imagined as composed of the interplay between yang and yin, chaos and order209 – that is to say, unknown or unexplored territory, and known or explored territory. Tao, from the Eastern perspective, is the pattern of behavior that mediates between them (analogous to En-lil, Marduk, and the Logos) – that constantly generates, and regenerates, the “universe.” For the Eastern man, life in Tao is the highest good, the “way” and “meaning”; the goal towards which all other goals must remain subordinate. 

Before the emergence of empirical methodology – which allowed for methodical separation of subject and object in description – the world-model contained abstracted inferences about the nature of existence, derived primarily from observations of human behavior. This means, in essence, that pre-experimental man observed “morality” in his behavior and inferred (through the process described previously) the existence of a source for that morality in the structure of the “universe” itself. Of course, this “universe” is the experiential field – affect, imagination and all – and not the “objective” world constructed by the post-empirical mind. This prescientific “model of reality” primarily consisted of narrative representations of behavioral patterns (and of the contexts that surround them), and was concerned primarily with the motivational significance of events and processes. As this model became more abstract – as the semantic system analyzed the information presented in narrative format, but not “understood” – man generated imaginative “hypotheses” about the nature of the “ideal” human behavior, in the “archetypal” environment. 

This archetypal environment was (is) composed of three domains, which easily become three “characters”: 

The unknown is unexplored territory, nature, the unconscious, dionysian force, the id, the Great Mother goddess, the queen, the matrix, the matriarch, the container, the object to be fertilized, the source of all things, the strange, the unconscious, the sensual, the foreigner, the place of return and rest, the maw of the earth, the belly of the beast, the dragon, the evil stepmother, the deep, the fecund, the pregnant, the valley, the cleft, the cave, hell, death and the grave, the moon (ruler of the night and the myterious dark), uncontrollable emotion, matter, and the earth.211 Any story that makes allusion to any of these phenomena instantly involves all of them. The grave and the cave, for example, connote the destructive aspect of the maternal – pain, grief and loss, deep water, and the dark woods; the fountain in the forest (water and woods in their alternative aspect), by contrast, brings to mind sanctuary, peace, rebirth, and replenishment.   

The  knower is the creative explorer, the ego, the I, the eye, the phallus, the plow, the subject, consciousness, the illuminated or enlightened one, the trickster, the fool, the hero, the coward; spirit (as opposed to matter, as opposed to dogma); the sun, son of the unknown and the known (son of the Great Mother and the Great Father).212 The central character in a story must play the role of hero, or deceiver; must represent the sun (or, alternatively, the adversary – the power that eternally opposes the “dominion of the light”).  

The known is explored territory, culture, appollinian control, superego, the conscience, the rational, the king, the patriarch, the wise old man and the tyrant, the giant, the ogre, the cyclops, order and authority and the crushing weight of tradition, dogma, the day sky, the countryman, the island, the heights, the ancestral spirits, and the activity of the dead.213 

Authority and its danger play central roles in interesting tales, because human society is hierarchical, and because the organized social world is omnipresent. Authority and power manifest themselves, implicitly or explicitly, in all human relationships; we cannot live – have never lived – without others. The fact of power relationships and authority constitutes an eternally challenging and necessary constant of the human domain of experience. 

The unknown is yang, cold, dark and feminine; the known yin, warm, bright and masculine; the knower is the man living in Tao, on the razor’s edge, on the straight and narrow path, on the proper road, in meaning, in the kingdom of heaven, on the mountaintop, crucified on the branches of the world-tree – is the individual who voluntarily carves out the space between nature and culture. The interpretation of words in relationship to these prototypes (unknown, knower, known) is complicated by the fact of shifting meaning: earth, for example, is unknown (feminine) in relationship to sky, but known (masculine) in relationship to water; dragon is feminine, masculine and subject simultaneously. This capacity for meanings to shift is not illogical, it is just not “proper.”214 Meaning transforms itself endlessly with shift in interpretive context – is determined in part by that context (that frame of reference, that story). The same word in two sentences – one ironical, for example, the other straightforward – can have two entirely different, even opposite, meanings. Likewise, the sentence taken out of the context of the paragraph may be interpreted in some fashion entirely foreign to the intent of the author. Admission of the property of context-dependent meaning is neither illogical, nor indicative of sloppy reasoning, nor primitive – merely recognition that context determines significance. The fact of context-dependence, however, makes interpretation of a given symbol difficult – particularly when it has been removed from its culturally-constructed surroundings or milieu.  

The unknown, the known and the knower share between them tremendous affective bivalence: the domain of nature, the Great Mother, contains everything creative and destructive, because creation and destruction are integrally linked. The old must die, must be destroyed, to give way to the new; the mysterious source of all things (that is, the unknown) is also their final destination. 

Likewise, the domain of culture, the Great Father, is simultaneously and unceasingly tyranny and order, because security of person and property is always obtained at the cost of absolute freedom. The eternal subject, man, the knower, is equally at odds: the little god of earth is also mortal worm, courageous and craven, heroic and deceitful, possessed of great and dangerous potential, knowing good and evil. The unknown cannot be described, by definition. The known is too complicated to be understood. 

The knower – the conscious individual human being – likewise defies his own capacity for understanding. The interplay between these ultimately incomprehensible “forces” nonetheless constitutes the world in which we act, to which we must adapt. We have configured our behavior, accordingly; the natural categories215 we use to apprehend the world reflect that configuration. “The Tao existed before its name, and from its name, the opposites evolved, giving rise to three divisions, and then to names abundant. These things embrace receptively, achieving inner harmony, and by their unity create the inner world of man.”216 The mythological world – which is the world as drama, story, forum for action – appears to be composed of three constituent elements, and a “fourth” that precedes, follows and surrounds those three. These elements, in what is perhaps their most fundamental pattern of inter-relationship, are portrayed in:
Figure 17: The Constituent Elements of Experience. This figure might be conceptualized as three disks, stacked one on top of another, “resting” on an amorphous background. That background – chaos, the ultimate source and destination-place of all things – envelops the “world,” and comprises everything that is now separate and identifiable: subject and object; past, present and future; “conscious,” and “unconscious”; matter and spirit. 

The Great Mother and Father – the world parents (unexplored and explored territory, respectively; nature and culture) – can be usefully regarded as the primordial “offspring” of primeval chaos. The Great Mother – the unknown, as it manifests itself in experience – is the feminine deity who gives birth to and devours all. She is the unpredictable as it is encountered, and is therefore characterized, simultaneously, by extreme positive and extreme negative valence. 

The Great Father is order, placed against chaos; civilization erected against nature, with nature’s aid. He is the benevolent force that protects individuals from catastrophic encounter with what is not yet understood; is the walls that surrounded the maturing Buddha and that encapsulated the Hebrew Eden. Conversely, however, the Great Father is the tyrant who forbids the emergence (or even the hypothetical existence) of anything new. The Archetypal Son is the child of order and chaos – of culture and nature – and is therefore clearly their product. Paradoxically, however – as the deity who separates the earth (mother) from the sky (father), he is also the process that gives rise to his “parents.” This paradoxical situation arises because the existence of defined order, and the unexplored territory defined in opposition to that order, can only come into being in the light of consciousness, which is the faculty that knows (and does not know). 

The Archetypal Son, like his “parents,” has a positive aspect, and a negative aspect. The positive aspect continually reconstructs defined territory, as a consequence of the “assimilation” of the unknown [as a consequence of “incestuous” (that is, “sexual” – read creative) union with the Great Mother]. The negative aspect rejects or destroys anything it does not or will not understand. 

Figure 18: The Positive Constituent Elements of Experience, Personified 217 portrays the “Vierge Ouvrante,” a fifteenth century French sculpture, which represents the “constituent elements of the world” in personified, and solely positive form. Personification of this sort is the rule; categorical exclusion or inclusion in accordance with valence (all “bad” elements; all “good” elements) is almost equally common. All  positive things are, after all, reasonably apprehended as similar, or identical – likewise, all negative things. It is for this reason, in part, that the terror of the unknown, the tyranny of the state, and the evil aspect of man are “contaminated” with one another – for this reason that the devil and the stranger are easily perceived as one. The “Vierge Ouvrante” is a strange work, from the standard Christian perspective, as it portrays Mary, the “mother of God,” as superordinate to God the Father and Christ the son. That superordinate position is perfectly valid, however, from the more general mythological perspective (although not exclusively valid). Each “constituent element of experience” can be regarded as progenitor, or as offspring, with regard to any other (as the world parents give birth to the divine son; as the divine son separates the world parents; as order is a derivative of chaos; as chaos is defined by order). So the most familiar Christian “sequence of generation” (which might be God  Mary  Christ) is only one of many “valid” configurations (and is not even the only one that characterizes Christianity). 

The world of experience, in total, is composed of the known – explored territory – in paradoxical juxtaposition with the unknown – unexplored territory. Archaic notions of “reality” presuppose that the familiar world is a sacred space, surrounded by chaos (populated, variously, by demons, reptiles, spirits and barbarians – none of whom are really distinguishable). The world of order and chaos might be regarded as the stage, for man – for the twin aspects of man, more accurately: for the aspect that inquires, and explores (which voluntarily expands the domain and structure of order, culture) and for the aspect that opposes that inquiry, exploration and transformation. The great story is, therefore, good vs. evil, played out against the endless flux of being, as it signifies. The forces of “good” have an eternal character (in the same way that Platonic objects are represented, eternally, in supracelestial space); unfortunately, so do the forces of evil. This eternality exists because all members of the species Homo Sapiens are essentially equivalent, equal before God: we find ourselves vulnerable, mortal creatures, thrown into a universe bent on our creation and protection – and our transformation and destruction. Our “attitude” towards this ambivalent universe can only take one of two prototypical forms: positive or negative. The precise nature of these two forms (which can only be regarded as complex “personalities”) – and of the background against which they work – constitutes the central subject matter of myth (and, dare it be said, the proper subject matter of the humanities and fine arts) 

The world brought into being in archaic myths of creation is phenomenological, rather than material – includes all aspects of experience, including those things we now regard as purely subjective. The archaic mind had not yet learned how to forget what was important. Ancient stories of the generation of the world therefore focus on all of reality, rather than on those distant and abstracted aspects we regard as purely objective.   

The uroboros symbolizes the union of known (associated with spirit) and unknown (associated with matter), explored and unexplored; symbolizes the juxtaposition of the “masculine” principles of security, tyranny and order with the “feminine” principles of darkness, dissolution, creativity and chaos. Furthermore, as a snake, the uroboros has the capacity to shed its skin – to be “reborn.” Thus, it also represents the possibility of transformation, and stands for the knower, who can transform chaos into order, and order into chaos. The uroboros stands for, or constitutes, everything that is as of yet unencountered, prior to its differentiation as a consequence of active exploration and classification. It is the source of all the information that makes up the determinate world of experience – and is, simultaneously, the birth-place of the experiencing subject. The uroboros is one thing, as everything that has not yet been explored is one thing; it exists everywhere, and at all times. It is completely self-contained, completely self-referential: it feeds, fertilizes and engulfs itself. It unites the beginning and the end, being and becoming, in the endless circle of its existence. It serves as symbol for the ground of reality itself. It is the “set of all things that are not yet things” – the primal origin and ultimate point of return for every discriminable object, and every independent subject. It serves as progenitor of all we know, all that we don’t know, and of the spirit that constitutes our capacity to know – and not know. It is the mystery that constantly emerges when solutions to old problems cause new problems; is the sea of chaos surrounding man’s island of knowledge – and the source of that knowledge, as well. It is all new experience generated by time, which incessantly works to transform the temporarily predictable once again into the unknown. It has served mankind as the most ubiquitous and potent of primordial gods: “This is the ancient Egyptian symbol of which it is said, “Draco interfecit se ipsum, maritat se ipsum, impraegnat se ipsum.” It slays, weds, and impregnates itself. It is man and woman, begetting and conceiving, devouring and giving birth, active and passive, above and below, at once. 

As the Heavenly Serpent, the uroboros was known in ancient Babylon; in later times, in the same area, it was often depicted by the Mandaeans; its origin is ascribed by Macrobius to the Phoenicians. It is the archetype of the [greek phrase], the All One, appearing as Leviathan and as Aion, as Oceanus, and also as the Primal Being that says “I am Alpha and Omega.” As the Kneph of antiquity it is the Primal Snake, the “most ancient deity of the prehistoric world.” The uroboros can be traced in the Revelation of St. John and among the Gnostics as well as among the Roman syncretists; there are pictures of it in the sand paintings of the Navajo Indians and in Giotto; it is found in Egypt, Africa, Mexico, and India, among the gypsies as an amulet, and in the alchemical texts.”275 The uroboros is Tiamat, the dragon who inhabits the deep, transformed by Marduk into the world; Apophis, the serpent who nightly devours the sun; and Rahab, the leviathan, slain by Yahweh in the course of the creation of the cosmos (Job 41; Ps 74:14-17).

The “state” of the origin has been represented most abstractly as a circle, the most “perfect” of geometric forms, or as a sphere, without beginning or end, symmetrical across all axes. Plato, in the Timaeus, described the primary source as the round, there at the beginning.278 In the Orient, the world and its meanings springs from the encircled interplay and union of the light, spiritual, masculine yang, and the dark, material, feminine, yin.279 According to the adepts of medieval alchemy, discernible objects of experience (and the subjects who experienced them) emerged from the round chaos, which was a spherical container of the primordial element.280 The God of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelations 22:13), places himself outside of or beyond worldly change, and unites the temporal opposites within the great circle of his being. The assimilation of the origin to a circle finds narrative echo in myths describing Heaven as the end to which life is, or should be, devoted (at least from the perspective of the “immortal soul.”) The Kingdom of God, promised by Christ, is in fact re-establishment of Paradise (although a Paradise characterized by reconciliation of opposing forces, and not regressive dissolution, into preconscious unity). Such re-establishment closes the circle of temporal being. equivalent to Apophis, the serpent who nightly devours the sun;283 and the archaic Iranians (Zoroastrians) equated the mythic struggle of King Faridun against a foreign usurper – the dragon Azdahak – with the cosmogonic fight of the hero Thraetona against Azi Dahaka, the primordial serpent of chaos.284 The enemies of the Old Testament Hebrews also suffer the same fate: they are regarded as equivalent to Rahab, or Leviathan, the serpent overcome by Yahweh in his battle to establish the world [“Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” (Ezekiel 29:3); also, “Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.” (Jeremiah 51:34)]. 

...ancient Egyptians regarded the Hyksos, “barbarians,” as equivalent to Apophis, the serpent who nightly devours the sun;283 and the archaic Iranians (Zoroastrians) equated the mythic struggle of King Faridun against a foreign usurper – the dragon Azdahak – with the cosmogonic fight of the hero Thraetona against Azi Dahaka, the primordial serpent of chaos.284 The enemies of the Old Testament Hebrews also suffer the same fate: they are regarded as equivalent to Rahab, or Leviathan, the serpent overcome by Yahweh in his battle to establish the world [“Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” (Ezekiel 29:3); also, “Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.” (Jeremiah 51:34)].

Whether it is a case of clearing uncultivated ground or of conquering and occupying a territory already inhabited by “other” human beings, ritual taking possession must always repeat the cosmogony. For in the view of archaic societies everything that is not “our world” is not yet a world. A territory can be made ours only by creating it anew, that is, by consecrating it. This religious behavior in respect to unknown lands continued, even in the West, down to the dawn of modern times [and was reflected recently in the “planting of the flag” on the moon, by the American astronauts.] The Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, discovering and conquering territories, took possession of them in the name of Jesus Christ [the world-creating Logos].”285   

The ultimate or archetypal representation of the original “threatened” state is the unselfconscious (but “incomplete”) paradise that existed prior to the “fall” of man. More prosaically, that state is the innocence and potential of childhood, the glory of the past, the strength of the well-ruled kingdom, the power of the city, the stability, wealth and happiness of the family. The most primordial threat is the sudden (re)appearance or discovery of one of the manifestations of the Terrible Mother: a flood, an earthquake, a war, a monster (some type of dragon), a fish, a whale – anything unpredictable or unexpected, that destroys, devours, traps, engulfs, dismembers, tortures, terrifies, weakens, mystifies, entrances, smothers or poisons (this is a partial list). The hero, product of divine parentage and miraculous birth, survivor of a dangerous childhood, faces the Terrible Mother in single combat, and is devoured. He is swallowed by a great fish, or snake, or whale, and spends time underground, in the dark, in the winter, in the kingdom of the dead, or in hell; faces a dragon, a gorgon, or witch, or a temptress – is inundated by water, by fire, by storm, by dangerous animals – is tormented, buried alive, mesmerized, dismembered, disembowelled and deluded. He defeats the monster, freeing those who had been previously defeated, and gains or regains a lost or previously undiscovered object of value, a (virginal) woman or a treasure. Much older, much wiser, he returns home, transformed in character, bearing what he has gained, and reunites himself triumphantly with his community, which is much enriched – or even utterly transformed – by his fortune.329  

The battle of the hero is a frequent motif in mythologically-inspired sculpture, drawing and painting. A representative example is presented in Figure 39: Castle, Hero, Serpent and Virgin: St. George and the Dragon.330 All of the elements of the “meta-myth” are portrayed in this drawing: the threatened community, represented by the walled city or castle; the winged dragon, who has emerged from the underworld (and whose lair is surrounded by the bones of the dead); the hero, armed with the sword, who “cuts” the leviathan into pieces, and makes the world; and the virgin, freed from the dragon’s clutches, who represents the benevolent, creative and fruitful aspect of the unknown. [The city is commonly portrayed on a mountain, in such representations – the serpent in a valley, or across a river. The battle takes place at sundown (when the sun-deity encounters the dragon of the night).331] 

Solar myths portray the journey of the hero, utilizing simultaneously the motifs of the dragon-fight and the “night sea-journey.” In the typical solar myth, the hero is identified with the sun, bearer of the light of consciousness, who is devoured nightly by the water-serpent of the West. In the night, he battles terribly with this monster, and emerges victorious in the morning, rising renewed in the East: “In this sequence of danger, battle, and victory, the light – whose significance for consciousness we have repeatedly stressed – is the central symbol of the hero’s reality. The hero is always a light-bringer and emissary of the light. At the nethermost point of the night sea journey, when the sun hero journeys through the underworld and must survive the fight with the dragon, the new sun is kindled at midnight and the hero conquers the darkness. At this same lowest point of the year Christ is born as the shining Redeemer, as the light of the year and light of the world, and is worshipped with the Christmas tree at the winter solstice. 

The hero is a pattern  of action, designed to make sense of the unknown; he emerges, necessarily, wherever human beings are successful. Adherence to this central pattern insures that respect for the process of exploration (and the necessary reconfiguration of belief, attendant upon that process) always remains superordinate to all other considerations – including that of the maintenance of stable belief. This is why Christ, the defining hero of the Western ethical tradition, is able to say “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6); why adherence to the Eastern way (Tao) – extant on the border between chaos (yin) and order (yang) – ensures that the “cosmos” will continue to endure. 


  1. Great blogpost. Deserves to be circulated among Christians on the internet.

  2. I've only seen a few of Peterson's videos so he might have answers to my criticisms. One of the things I find problematic about his approach is how seemingly arbitrary his interpretations and applications of the myths are. They could theoretically be interpreted in many other ways. Including ways that are the exact opposite of how he interprets and applies them. I suppose a modern popular myth might be the antagonism between Batman and his archnemesis the Joker. If so, why assume you should be like a Bruce Wayne who attempts to harnesses his "dark" side in order to do good? Given atheism, why wouldn't being like Joker be the most rational, natural, and evolutionarily preferred position to emulate? Peterson seems to base his preferences on the consequences [a consequentialist theory of morality?]. But that would seem to presuppose that some consequences are really morally good and others evil. Without the assumption of REALLY being made in God's image and without a REAL personal God who is the standard of goodness, then man has no real transcendent worth or ground for objective morality. I don't see why we shouldn't think that what Peterson is doing is just taking fiction and treating as if it were real and living in a fantasy. Yet, at times Peterson seems to treat some of what he's saying as if it were real. Almost in a Platonic way. He even sometimes speaks of Christ and the Logos in an idealistic way. He's not exactly sure what to think in terms of metaphysics and ontology. But that doesn't seem to bother him too much because his focus seems to be on what practically and pragmatically works.


    1. Also, Peterson's interpretations of the myths virtually assumes a Pelagian approach to life and "salvation". Which isn't surprising since most non-Christian spiritualities and myths are Pelagianian-like to begin with. It's the natural spiritual approach of fallen sinful man. Pelagian meaning "salvation" ultimately depends on oneself. Virtually all non-Christian philosophies of life are a "pull yourself by your own bootstraps" soteriology. "Grace" might be useful, but it's not really necessary/essential. Does grace even actually exist in Peterson's view, or is it really just a metaphor for efficient self-actualization? Peterson's combination of non-Christian myths/spiritualities with Christian spirituality often clash, and he's admittedly it on a number of occasions and areas of theology. For example, IN THIS VIDEO [or a longer explanation HERE] Peterson admits that he had a hard time accepting Jesus' statement that "the meek shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5 alluding to Ps. 37:11). He was convinced that that HAD to be wrong. So, after doing some word studies in the Biblical language(s) he concluded that the word "meek" used in that context originally meant something like, "those who have weapons and know how to use them but still keep them sheathed will inherit the earth". Even assuming that his interpretation were correct [maybe it is], it seems that he takes his assumptions and preformed views as prior to the teaching and authority of Scripture instead of the reverse. Like all myths, he treats Scripture like a wax nose.

    2. I've also noticed a kind of progression in Peterson's affiliation with Christianity. From a kind of appreciation of it to a willingness to consider himself in the Christian tradition to now a "Christian" in some sense even though he admits he doesn't hold to all the traditional dogmas. Notice how he's willing to accept that he "represents" the Christian side in his dialogue with the Jewish representative Ben Shapiro in gay atheist Dave Rubin's The Rubin Report [relevant excerpt of the video HERE; FULL interview HERE]. I recommend Christians pray for Peterson that his eyes be opened so that he can see how much of his philosophy borrows from Christianity in a way that he cannot legitimately utilize unless and until he becomes a genuine Christian. I've even heard him say that he's not convinced that Jesus may have literally been raised from the dead, but that he'd have to study the issue more because he hasn't ruled it out yet. Since he believes the world is much more mysterious than most of us realize. At the same time, he's hostile to dogmatic Christianity. As can be seen in his response to William Lane Craig's opening statement in their dialogue together with Rebecca Goldstein, where Craig argued that there is no objective transcendent meaning to life apart from God. If, by God's grace, he did become a Christian, he could be a powerful witness. But he would need to be informed on so many theological and philosophical issues for him to be more helpful than harmful. Since new converts often spout a lot of heresy along with truth.