I am both a fan and a critic of Jorden Peterson. Much of his writing intrigues me and some of it confuses me. Nonetheless, I do feel refreshed and stimulated when I absorb his views. I also note that he is controversial in many circles, but this is even more of a reason to read his work. We should not shy away from reading that challenges our own ways of thinking—In fact, we need to seek it out.
His first book was about chaos and this one concentrates on order. Chaos and order are at the core of what Jordon Peterson talks about mostly. I made a lot of highlights while reading this book which is always an indication that I am finding value in the writing.
Sometimes his advice is simple and clear, like “do not do what you hate”. And in the next sentence he might write a concept that is more complex, “the unknown manifests itself to you in the midst of the known. That revelation—sometimes exciting, but often quite painful—is the source of new knowledge.” This is what I love about him, his simplicity and complexity—both unraveling on the pages and ultimately searching to reach the heart of the reader.
Here is a link to the book: Beyond Order
The following is a collection of my highlights from the book:
If you fail to understand evil, then you have laid yourself bare to it. You are susceptible to its effects, or to its will. If you ever encounter someone who is malevolent, they have control over you in precise proportion to the extent that you are unwilling or unable to understand them.
The right attitude to the horror of existence—the alternative to resentment, deceit, and arrogance—is the assumption that there is enough of you, society, and the world to justify existence. That is faith in yourself, your fellow man, and the structure of existence itself: the belief that there is enough to you to contend with existence and transform your life into the best it could be.
I can get away with avoiding my responsibilities.” Some of that is inertia and cowardice, but some of it is also motivated by a deep sense of disbelief in your own personal ability. Like Adam, you know you are naked. You are intimately aware of your flaws and vulnerabilities, and the faith in yourself dissolves.
The liar acts out the belief that the false world he brings into being, however temporarily, will serve at least his own interests better than the alternative.
So, what do people use to justify bending and twisting the structure of reality, at the cost of others or even their future selves, to benefit themselves now? It is a motivation clearly embedded in resentment. Lies are justified by the belief lurking at the bottom of the resentful soul that the terrors of the world have been aimed specifically at the sufferer attempting to justify his lying.
If the map you are using is missing part of the world, you are going to be utterly unprepared when that absent element makes itself manifest. How is it possible for us to retain the advantages of simplification, without falling prey to the accompanying blindness?
The dream is the birthplace of the thought, and often of the thought that does not come easily to the conscious mind.
That is why it might be of more use to let your child know directly and through your own actions that there is always something sinister and dangerous in the dark, and that it is the job of the well-prepared individual to confront it and take the treasure it archetypally guards. It is something that an adult and child can act out with great results.
Dangers we can handle can suddenly turn themselves into dangers we cannot handle. That is why it is no surprise to anyone when the Evil Queen becomes the Dragon of Chaos.
Careful and unbiased pursuit of the truth will make the world a better place for all people, reducing suffering, extending life, and producing wealth.
You will be tempted by avoidance, anger, and tears, or enticed to employ the trapdoor of divorce so that you will not have to face what must be faced. But your failure will haunt you while you are enraged, weeping, or in the process of separating, as it will in the next relationship you stumble into, with all your unsolved problems intact and your negotiating skills not improved a whit.
It is our destiny to transform chaos into order.
Thus, there is an ethical claim deeply embedded in the Genesis account of creation: everything that emerges from the realm of possibility in the act of creation (arguably, either divine or human) is good insofar as the motive for its creation is good.
Tiamat, who is the great mother goddess/dragon (and denizen of salt water) who creates the world with her consort, Apsu, in the Mesopotamian creation myth Enuma Elish.
This is what we envisioned, and how we strategized, planned, and then acted. Sometimes, we succeeded and realized our aims. But too often (and this is what is crucial to a great story): here is how what we did not expect occurred, here is how we were knocked off the path, here are the tragedies we encountered and the mistakes we made—and
We face a multitude of prospects—of manifold realities, each almost tangible—and by choosing one pathway rather than another, reduce that multitude to the singular actuality of reality. In doing so, we bring the world from becoming into Being. This is the most profound of mysteries. What is that potential that confronts us? And what constitutes our strange ability to shape that possibility, and to make what is real and concrete from what begins, in some sense, as the merely imaginary?
Where we are going: that is the projection of our ultimate ideal—by no means simply a question, say, of accomplishment, love, wealth, or power, but the development of the character that makes all fortunate outcomes more likely and all unfortunate outcomes less likely.
It is a psychological truism that anything sufficiently threatening or harmful once encountered can never be forgotten if it has never been understood.
Learn from the past. Or repeat its horrors, in imagination, endlessly.
Many things make life worth living: love, play, courage, gratitude, work, friendship, truth, grace, hope, virtue, and responsibility. But beauty is among the greatest of these.
Beauty leads you back to what you have lost. Beauty reminds you of what remains forever immune to cynicism. Beauty beckons in a manner that straightens your aim.
Artists teach people to see.
We helpless prey animals, cowering and protecting ourselves, hiding and camouflaging,
The poppy that grows higher than the rest is the first one to have its head removed by the scythe.
Make yourself colorful, stand out, and the lions will take you down. And the lions are always there.
That is a great sin, harnessing the higher for the purposes of the lower. It is a totalitarian tactic, the subordination of art and literature to politics (or the purposeful blurring of the distinction between them).
Art bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life. You are very creative when you are dreaming.
Artists are the people who stand on the frontier of the transformation of the unknown into knowledge.
The first realization of possibility, of potential, is not conceptual. It is embodied, but it is still representational.
The unknown manifests itself to you in the midst of the known. That revelation—sometimes exciting, but often quite painful—is the source of new knowledge.
Your world is known territory, surrounded by the relatively unknown, surrounded by the absolutely unknown—surrounded, even more distantly, by the absolutely unknowable. Together, that is the canonical, archetypal landscape.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. The nakedness of woman is the work of God. Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. —William Blake, from “Proverbs of Hell,” The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Unless you can make a connection to the transcendent, you will not have the strength to prevail when the challenges of life become daunting. You need to establish a link with what is beyond you, like a man overboard in high seas requires a life preserver, and the invitation of beauty into your life is one means by which that may be accomplished.
It is far better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing.
Is there anything worth committing to?
If you aim at nothing, you become plagued by everything. If you aim at nothing, you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing of high value in your life, as value requires the ranking of options and sacrifice of the lower to the higher.
That which is valuable is pure, properly aligned, and glitters with light—and this is true for the person just as it is for the gem.
To take the world’s sins onto yourself—to assume responsibility for the fact that things have not been set right in your own life and elsewhere—is part of the messianic path: part of the imitation of the hero, in the most profound of senses.
It is probable that your own imperfections are evident and plentiful, and could profitably be addressed, as step one in your Redeemer’s quest to improve the world.
Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
Do not do what you hate.
Tyranny grows slowly, and asks us to retreat in comparatively tiny steps. But each retreat increases the possibility of the next retreat. Each betrayal of conscience, each act of silence (despite the resentment we feel when silenced), and each rationalization weakens resistance and increases the probability of the next restrictive move forward.
Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
The most profound and reliable instinct for meaning—if not perverted by self-deceit and sin (there is no other way to state it)—manifests itself when
And if what you are doing in your day-to-day activity is not enough, then you are not aiming at the construction of a proper cathedral. And that is because you are not aiming high enough. Because if you were, then you would experience the sense of meaning in relationship to your sufficiently high goal, and it would justify the misery and limitations of your life.
Your life becomes meaningful in precise proportion to the depths of the responsibility you are willing to shoulder.
Part of you must therefore die so that you can change. And the part that must die struggles for its existence, puts forward its rationale and pleads its case. And it will do so with every trick in its possession—employing the most egregious lies, the bitterest, most resentment-eliciting memories of the past, and the most hopelessly cynical attitudes about the future (indeed, about the value of life itself).
There is no escaping from the future—and when you are stuck with something and there is no escaping from it, the right attitude is to turn around voluntarily and confront it.
“What is a truly reliable source of positive emotion?” The answer is that people experience positive emotion in relationship to the pursuit of a valuable goal. Imagine you have a goal. You aim at something. You develop a strategy in relationship to that aim, and then you implement it. And then, as you implement the strategy, you observe that it is working. That is what produces the most reliable positive emotion.
What might serve as a more sophisticated alternative to happiness? Imagine it is living in accordance with the sense of responsibility, because that sets things right in the future. Imagine, as well, that you must act reliably, honestly, nobly, and in relationship to a higher good, in order to manifest the sense of responsibility properly.
But now is by no means everything, and unfortunately, everything must be considered, at least insofar as you are able. In consequence, it is unlikely that whatever optimizes your life across time is happiness.
The you for whom you are caring is a community that exists across time.
The ultimate question of Man is not who we are, but who we could be.
When you face a challenge, you grapple with the world and inform yourself. This makes you more than you are. It makes you increasingly into who you could be. Who could you be? You could be all that a man or woman might be. You could be the newest avatar, in your own unique manner, of the great ancestral heroes of the past. What is the upper limit to that?
The Egyptians insisted that it was this combination of vision, courage, and regenerated tradition that constituted the proper sovereign of the kingdom.
We are well-advised to take on challenges at precisely the rate that engages and compels alertness, and forces the development of courage, skill, and talent, and to avoid foolhardy confrontation with that which lies beyond current comprehension.
Voluntary confrontation with a feared hated, or despised obstacle is curative. We become stronger by voluntarily facing what impedes our necessary progress.
The queen of the underworld, the goddess of chaos, is also the force that eternally renews.
You must sacrifice something of your manifold potential in exchange for something real in life. Aim at something. Discipline yourself. Or suffer the consequence. And what is that consequence? All the suffering of life, with none of the meaning.
By taking responsibility, we can find a meaningful path, improve our personal lot psychologically, and make what is intolerably wrong genuinely better.
But there will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with. Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.
We want to know what happened but, more importantly, we want to know why. Why is wisdom? Why enables us to avoid making the same mistake again and again, and if we are fortunate helps us repeat our successes.
Success at a given endeavor often means trying, falling short, recalibrating (with the new knowledge generated painfully by the failure), and then trying again and falling short—often repeated, ad nauseam.
If you can chase someone away from something you yourself do not want to discover, that makes your life easier in the present. Sadly, it is also very disappointing if that defense succeeds, and is typically accompanied by a sense of abandonment, loneliness, and self-betrayal.
Who wants to dig down into the depths of pain and grief and guilt until the tears emerge?
Second, if they knew, they could then deny you what you truly wanted, even needed, and hurt you much more efficiently than they might if your deepest desires (and, therefore, your vulnerabilities) remained secret.
Things fall apart of their own accord, but the sins of men speed their deterioration: that is wisdom from the ages.
Everyone requires a story to structure their perceptions and actions in what would otherwise be the overwhelming chaos of being. Every story requires a starting place that is not good enough and an ending place that is better. Nothing can be judged in the absence of that end place, that higher value. Without it, everything sinks into meaninglessness and boredom or degenerates and spirals into terror, anxiety, and pain.
A voluntary death-and-rebirth transformation—the change necessary to adapt when terrible things emerge—is therefore a solution to the potentially fatal rigidity of erroneous certainty, excessive order, and stultification.
But to have no more courage than a rabbit is definitely not to be everything you could be.
The cross, for its part, is the burden of life. It is a place of betrayal, torture, and death. It is therefore a fundamental symbol of mortal vulnerability. In the Christian drama, it is also the place where vulnerability is transcended, as a consequence of its acceptance. This
The hero is the embodied principle of action and perception that must rule over all the primordial psychological elements of lust, rage, hunger, thirst, terror, and joy. For chaos to remain effectively at bay (or, even better, tamed and therefore harnessed), this heroic principle must be regarded as the most important of all things that can organize and motivate mankind.
It allows for the possibility of bringing our explicit understanding closer in line with our deepest being, making possible a truer union of body and spirit through the partial comprehension and imitation of the story. Most importantly, perhaps, it allows us to realize the immense importance of words in transforming potential into actuality and helps us understand that the role we each play in that transformation is in some vital sense akin to the divine.
Pay attention, above all, even to what is monstrous and malevolent, and speak wisely and truthfully
More particularly, if they arrange themselves into a hierarchy—it means that peace has genuinely been established because peace is the establishment of a shared hierarchy of divinity, of value.
The careless demolition of tradition is the invitation to the (re)emergence of chaos.
We directly and naturally perceive reality as personified, and then must work very diligently to strip that personification away, so that we can detect “objective reality.”* We understand reality, therefore, as if it is constructed of personalities. That is because so much of what we encounter in our hypersocial reality, our complex societies, is in fact personality—and gendered personality, at that, reflecting the billion years or so since the emergence of sexual reproduction
Typically stands for exploration, order, and rationality (indicated by the Sun, which can be seen to the left of the male head), and a symbolically feminine aspect, which stands for chaos, promise, care, renewal, and emotion (indicated by the Moon, to the right of the female).
Atop the dragon stands a figure known as a Rebis, a single body with two heads, one male, one female. The Rebis is a symbol of the fully developed personality that can emerge from the forthright and courageous pursuit of what is meaningful (the round chaos) and dangerous and promising (the dragon).
Think of pursuing someone you love: catch them or not, you change in the process.
You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you.