Reading Peterson 9 – Archie & the Types

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12,…

I’m an analytical sort of guy. I like numbers and logic and working out systems and schemes and pulling things apart to see how they work. It means I have biases in what I value and I’ve been guilty of STEM snobbery at times (apologies – I regret that). But I also do like the idea of mixing things up – I like aesthetics in my mathematics, I like nonsense in my logic, I like planning algorithms that make whimsy, I love ambiguity – it tickles me. Arts and sciences can’t be separate domains any more than we each can separate personalities into component parts.

Even so, I think you can mix these different aspects of your mental life together in the wrong way. That you can confuse what is fictional and what is empirical, confuse what is aesthetical with what is universal. I look at somebody like John C Wright’s anger at what he sees as the left abandoning truth and reason and I can see he really believes it despite these being his own apparent vices.

Maybe, some people just have the way they deploy their intellectual tools set wrongly? Maybe that’s why some see what is permanent as mutable and what is mutable as permanent?

Consider Jordan B Peterson.

I’ve already discussed the influence of Freud and Jung on the pattern of belief I’ve taken to calling ‘the thing’. Both Freud and Jung are undoubtedly important thinkers in modern culture and I believe we are richer from their influence but, their insights were not science in any meaningful sense – even if Freud, in particular, helped set psychology on a course that would become increasingly scientific.

Dreams, motives, desires, drives, myths, recurring motifs in cultures, archetypes – these are legitimate subjects of intellectual inquiry but they are not subjects that are very tractable to scientific or empirical inquiry*. They are not a good source of truth, they are not a good place to deploy reason with confidence, not all rules of logic may apply.

Peterson on the other hand…Consider his Chapter 1 of 12 Rules for Life entitled ‘Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back’ (aka The One With The Lobsters…). It has a whole section called ‘The Nature of Nature’ in which he sets out to describe what is fundamental about our biological selves. It starts like this:

The Nature of Nature
It is a truism of biology that evolution is conservative. When something evolves, it must build upon what nature has already produced. New features may be added, and old features may undergo some alteration, but most things remain the same. It is for this reason that the wings of bats, the hands of human beings, and the fins of whales look astonishingly alike in their skeletal form. They even have the same number of bones. Evolution laid down the cornerstones for basic physiology long ago.” -Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 11). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

That’s OK, seems reasonable for a bit of pop-science. We get a second paragraph that is a bit waffly and then:

“First, it is easy to assume that “nature” is something with a nature— something static. But it’s not: at least not in any simple sense. It’s static and dynamic, at the same time. The environment— the nature that selects— itself transforms. The famous yin and yang symbols of the Taoists capture this beautifully. Being, for the Taoists— reality itself— is composed of two opposing principles, often translated as feminine and masculine, or even more narrowly as female and male. However, yin and yang are more accurately understood as chaos and order. The Taoist symbol is a circle enclosing twin serpents, head to tail. The black serpent, chaos, has a white dot in its head. The white serpent, order, has a black dot in its head. This is because chaos and order are interchangeable, as well as eternally juxtaposed. There is nothing so certain that it cannot vary. Even the sun itself has its cycles of instability. Likewise, there is nothing so mutable that it cannot be fixed. Every revolution produces a new order. Every death is, simultaneously, a metamorphosis.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 12). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

The passage continues in that pattern – a mix of Peterson recounting what he thinks evolution is interspersed with what appear to be extended metaphors.

Now here’s the trick to reading Peterson. They aren’t metaphors. At least they aren’t metaphors for Peterson.

Peterson’s primary modes of inquiry are introspection and archetypes. The diversion into evolution, the stuff about lobsters, the hand waving at serotonin, THOSE are the decorative bits, his actual reasoning, the process by which he proceeds from one idea to the next and structures his arguments is via those elements that appear to be artistic or literary or aspects of writers craft.

Any good science writing will mix empiricism with artistry because we need rhetoric and literary devices to help shape our understanding but it is a mistake to read Peterson that way. Consider Chapter 2 – here he more directly explains his approach:

“Scientific truths were made explicit a mere five hundred years ago, with the work of Francis Bacon, René Descartes and Isaac Newton. In whatever manner our forebears viewed the world prior to that, it was not through a scientific lens (any more than they could view the moon and the stars through the glass lenses of the equally recent telescope). Because we are so scientific now— and so determinedly materialistic— it is very difficult for us even to understand that other ways of seeing can and do exist. But those who existed during the distant time in which the foundational epics of our culture emerged were much more concerned with the actions that dictated survival (and with interpreting the world in a manner commensurate with that goal) than with anything approximating what we now understand as objective truth. Before the dawn of the scientific worldview, reality was construed differently. Being was understood as a place of action, not a place of things. It was understood as something more akin to story or drama. That story or drama was lived, subjective experience, as it manifested itself moment to moment in the consciousness of every living person. It was something similar to the stories we tell each other about our lives and their personal significance; something similar to the happenings that novelists describe when they capture existence in the pages of their books. Subjective experience— that includes familiar objects such as trees and clouds, primarily objective in their existence, but also (and more importantly) such things as emotions and dreams as well as hunger, thirst and pain. It is such things, experienced personally, that are the most fundamental elements of human life, from the archaic, dramatic perspective, and they are not easily reducible to the detached and objective— even by the modern reductionist, materialist mind. Take pain, for example— subjective pain. That’s something so real no argument can stand against it. Everyone acts as if their pain is real— ultimately, finally real. Pain matters, more than matter matters. It is for this reason, I believe, that so many of the world’s traditions regard the suffering attendant upon existence as the irreducible truth of Being.” -Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (pp. 34-35). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Apologies for the length of the quote. Peterson’s point isn’t wholly unreasonable until you see where he gets to. Peterson’s axiom, the point he later compares to his own Cartesian insight equivalent to “I think therefore I am”, his own ladder out of scepticism is that suffering is the indisputable truth of the universe. Suffering, in turn, needs to be understood differently than the material world and HENCE the fundamental truth lies not with the material world or the methods for understanding the material world.

The Domain, Not of Matter, but of What Matters
“The scientific world of matter can be reduced, in some sense, to its fundamental constituent elements: molecules, atoms, even quarks. However, the world of experience has primal constituents, as well. These are the necessary elements whose interactions define drama and fiction. One of these is chaos. Another is order. The third (as there are three) is the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness. It is our eternal subjugation to the first two that makes us doubt the validity of existence— that makes us throw up our hands in despair, and fail to care for ourselves properly. It is proper understanding of the third that allows us the only real way out.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 35). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Peterson keeps hammering home this point about order and chaos – these aren’t just themes or ways of helping us think about the universe. Peterson sees them as THE fundamental principle of truth:

Chaos and Order: Personality, Female and Male
“Chaos and order are two of the most fundamental elements of lived experience— two of the most basic subdivisions of Being itself. But they’re not things, or objects, and they’re not experienced as such. Things or objects are part of the objective world. They’re inanimate; spiritless. They’re dead. This is not true of chaos and order. Those are perceived, experienced and understood (to the degree that they are understood at all) as personalities— and that is just as true of the perceptions, experiences and understanding of modern people as their ancient forebears. It’s just that moderners don’t notice. Order and chaos are not understood first, objectively (as things or objects), and then personified. That would only be the case if we perceived objective reality first, and then inferred intent and purpose. But that isn’t how perception operates, despite our preconceptions. Perception of things as tools, for example, occurs before or in concert with perception of things as objects. We see what things mean just as fast or faster than we see what they are. Perception of things as entities with personality also occurs before perception of things as things. This is particularly true of the action of others, living others, but we also see the non-living “objective world” as animated, with purpose and intent. This is because of the operation of what psychologists have called “the hyperactive agency detector” within us. 35 We evolved, over millennia, within intensely social circumstances. This means that the most significant elements of our environment of origin were personalities, not things, objects or situations.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (pp. 38-39). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

…and he keeps going on in this vain. He mixes in appeals to evolution and the length of time life has evolved but keeps returning to this duality: (another long quote – sorry but its hard to snip these)

“Order, the known, appears symbolically associated with masculinity (as illustrated in the aforementioned yang of the Taoist yin-yang symbol). This is perhaps because the primary hierarchical structure of human society is masculine, as it is among most animals, including the chimpanzees who are our closest genetic and, arguably, behavioural match. It is because men are and throughout history have been the builders of towns and cities, the engineers, stonemasons, bricklayers, and lumberjacks, the operators of heavy machinery. 38 Order is God the Father, the eternal Judge, ledger-keeper and dispenser of rewards and punishments. Order is the peacetime army of policemen and soldiers. It’s the political culture, the corporate environment, and the system. It’s the “they” in “you know what they say.” It’s credit cards, classrooms, supermarket checkout lineups, turn-taking, traffic lights, and the familiar routes of daily commuters. Order, when pushed too far, when imbalanced, can also manifest itself destructively and terribly. It does so as the forced migration, the concentration camp, and the soul-devouring uniformity of the goose-step. Chaos— the unknown— is symbolically associated with the feminine. This is partly because all the things we have come to know were born, originally, of the unknown, just as all beings we encounter were born of mothers. Chaos is mater, origin, source, mother; materia, the substance from which all things are made. It is also what matters, or what is the matter— the very subject matter of thought and communication. In its positive guise, chaos is possibility itself, the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth. As a negative force, it’s the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road. It’s the mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (pp. 40-41). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

It’s not wholly nonsense – some may well see the feminine as chaotic and the masculine as order. Yet is easy to flip them – masculinity as violence and hence chaos, femininity as nature and hence order. Peterson though wants them to be one thing, chaos is feminine he takes as a principle, not as a metaphor. All dualities look vaguely similar because they all split things into two chunks, so you can always build a metaphor between two dualities – rough versus smooth, strong versus weak, opaque versus transparent, Laurel versus Hardy, French versus Saunders. But there is literally nothing stopping anybody swapping any of them around even in mid-sentence. The sea is like a woman, the land is like a man – a sky god is a man and the god of the land is a woman – or some such allusion. So is the land of a man or a woman? It can be both! To be open to a metaphor is not an inherent property of a thing and the core logical law of non-contradiction does not apply. The land can be both and neither, the land can be asexual or the land can be many genders. They are metaphors – that’s how feckin metaphors work! {and, oh yes, I’m saving up a longer essay on Peterson’s views on women in his book – the above quote is far from the worst).

But if you build your way of reasoning about the world by mistaking poetic, figurative devices for fundamental truths and attempt to use those as syllogistic properties? You are going to not just end up drawing bad conclusions you are also going to become very defensive about how people approach to culture.

Chaos and order – for Peterson these are key organising principles and their relationship to male and female is a core insight for him i.e. more than a metaphor but as essential to what is real and true as protons and neutrons.

Changing gender roles, therefore, are to Peterson like somebody physically changing how atoms are made. Transgender people? Intersex people? People simply not fitting into one of his forced dualities? He can’t reason in a world where the dualities don’t behave – he treats such things as an attack because they are literally undermining how he sees the world.

Later Peterson says:

“Many things begin to fall into place when you begin to consciously understand the world in this manner. It’s as if the knowledge of your body and soul falls into alignment with the knowledge of your intellect. And there’s more: such knowledge is proscriptive, as well as descriptive. This is the kind of knowing what that helps you know how. This is the kind of is from which you can derive an ought. The Taoist juxtaposition of yin and yang, for example, doesn’t simply portray chaos and order as the fundamental elements of Being— it also tells you how to act. The Way, the Taoist path of life, is represented by (or exists on) the border between the twin serpents. The Way is the path of proper Being. It’s the same Way as that referred to by Christ in John 14: 6: I am the way, and the truth and the life. The same idea is expressed in Matthew 7: 14: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 43). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

For Peterson things “fall into place” be seeing the world this way. Oops! We’ve gone and changed the world by NOT following the proscriptive pattern! Every orderly woman and chaotic man, every person who doesn’t want to be either, every guy who’s just not that into sex and every woman who enjoys having lots of sexual partners, every feminine police officer and every masculine florist is actively fucking up Peterson’s universe. There’s no metaphor that quite works for this because actual fundamental truths about the world can’t be altered by cultural change and individual desire in this way.

He thinks it isn’t women he is objecting to (like I said – a whole other essay) because he knows he needs both chaos and order. But – he needs us all to behave and stay in our categories because otherwise, we mess up the metaphors.

Is it any wonder that Peterson fears a culture war? There’s nobody quite as vulnerable to cultural change than Peterson. A world with changed gender norms would be like a world in which the fundamental forces of nature and been shuffled.

Next time: Women: Agents of chaos trying to destroy Jordan B Peterson or not? I take a fair and balanced look…

*[I don’t think they are impossible to be treated scientifically though but that’s a different story for another time]

48 thoughts on “Reading Peterson 9 – Archie & the Types

  1. Welp, we seem to have hit peak woo woo.

    (Which means it will inevitably get worse, of course)

    So he seems to think science began properly about 500 years ago in Europe, and also thinks the proper order of things resembles European society of, oh, about 500 years ago. What a coincidence!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Now I’m reminded of Dave Sim’s rants about Male Light and Female Void. Order! Chaos! Reason! Emotion! Seminal Energy and Omnivorous Parasite! Pfui.

    This isn’t Taoism; it’s like a bad parody of Manichaeism.

    To be fair, Peterson does sound more nuanced than Sim. But still. Dualism is not the key insight.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sim’s ex-wife not only had most of the business sense of the pair, she got all the good comics in the divorce and started up Renegade Press with them. That only ran for about four years (this was the late 1980s as the black and white boom of the mid-80s started collapsing), but they published some fairly spectacular stuff in the period.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. While I’ve never seen so obvious a case of being fouled up by people not fitting one’s archetypes, the phenomenon of being shocked, shocked I say, that not all men actually want to be Manly McMan’s-Man the Breadwinner and Hunter, and not all women are Nurturing Bears, is one with which I am very familiar.

    You would probably not be surprised at the number of times I have been told that in asking for men who don’t fit the stereotypes to be allowed to be themselves without mockery (no matter how often I say I am NOT asking for men who do fit the stereotypes in non-toxic or non-abusive ways to change), I am emasculating all masculinity…but I am occasionally surprised at the sources of those quotes, not just from right-wingers or Petersons.

    So far my impression of Peterson’s impression of women is pretty close to void. It is the darkness not of a cave, but of an unknown space where he hasn’t struck a light and started looking around to see what there is to see, but he calls it a cave. Look at your second last quote. The order/masculine side is full of specific details, specific jobs, even supermarket check-out lines. The female side is full of vague unknowns, things that are mysterious (Even when, like the process of gestation and birth, we actually know a heck of a lot about them. I first read about fetal development when I was SIX. With internal images.)

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    1. It’s also not fun being a woman who’s not very nurturing and constantly having to justify yourself or stop people from trying to push you into nurturing roles you’re simply not suited for.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Did Peterson fall asleep in sex ed and human biology classes? We know exactly how gestation and birth work. Everyone’s posting sonograms of their future baby on Facebook, they can do genetic tests a few weeks into the pregnancy, there’s surgery done on fetuses. I mean, we know that stuff. We knew basically how that worked well before the Industrial Revolution. Da Vinci’s got some nice sketches, and the ancient Romans had childbirth textbooks. It’s only a “mystery” if you’re an idiot who’s afraid of girl cooties.

      My husband’s always been the bread-winner, but I think I’ve been in more fistfights than he has. I can outdrink him and have no nurturing instincts towards young humans. I nurture kittehs, but I also leave them alone for the weekend with bowls of food and water.

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  4. That paragraph on order and chaos is one of the stupidest, most inane and masturbatory things I’ve ever read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the stupidest, most inane and masturbatory things you have ever read … until *tomorrow* when I go quote-a-palooza with Peterson discussing women and gender! Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Oh my flippin heck – you guys. You’ll need to put on you stupid-proof vests and sanity protecting goggles.

      I’ve only been letting you see the TAME stuff so far!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. So is Daddy Warbucks (** hands CF red string for his wall as she points out the existence of “Daddy Warpig” misogynist gamer dude).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Let me get in early with, “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”

        I’ll probably be too eye-sore to type after the actual entry.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Peterson’s description of order strikes me as resonating with Hobbes definition of order as found in Leviathan. The sovereign is the one who can create a people out of a multitude (state of nature or in Peterson’s terms, chaos) through the construction of a patriarchal hierarchy. What gets erased is the forms of order constructed through the modes of everyday cooperation, often between people who don’t even know that they are cooperating, that define everyday life. That sense of order simply doesn’t exist in Peterson’s world, nor does most social interaction.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And yet, that sort of bottom-up ‘grassroots’ order can often be superior to the top-down order, particularly for immediate situations and local communities.

      There are lots of stories about people who banded together in the immediate wake of a disaster, and do a better job for the immediate people involved than the professionals who show up later. The professionals may be better at large-scale management, but they also may have their own agendas. Including, in many cases, the agenda that ‘those people are capable of organizing things themselves’ can be a seen as a threat to the people who believe only they should be in charge.

      Of course, there are also stories about people who banded together like that and took as one of their operating principles that anybody not of their little group could go fend for themselves or be shot. I think the real lesson is that there is never ‘one true way’: different situations call for different solutions, based on the scale of the operation and other conflicting issues. Unfortunately, that idea seems to be anathema to a lot of folks.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Jane Jacobs’ book, The Life and Death of Great American Cities does a good job of exploring the ways that everyday forms of cooperation make the difference between a thriving neighborhood and one that is decaying and dangerous. You can also go the radical route and take a look at Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, which is a distinctively idiosyncratic engagement with Darwin.
        Small groups of people certainly have the ability to engage in the despotism discussed, but I would argue that that form of despotism is the illegitimate mirror image of the formal structures of order and sovereignty that Peterson discusses.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haven’t actually read that book, but I live in Toronto, and in fact not far from where the Spadina Expressway would have gone. Jane Jacobs was a really major figure here.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “a sky god is a man and the god of the land is a woman” — This metaphor formed the fundamental basis for most of the world’s religions, including Christianity. It was a regular belief, with variations, of early, known major religions which developed into more religions which then had their mythology subsumed and assimilated into other growing religions. The Earth (land) was Mama Goddess who gave birth to a son, the sky god, (also sometimes also the god of the sea, of the underworld, of the forest,) and the sky god, a lesser god, became the Earth goddess’ lover, and the sky god died/was sacrificed sometime in the fall or winter/early spring, to be resurrected/reborn as the goddess’ son in an endless cycle of seasons. (The father and son at the same time, etc.)

    The Mother goddess was order, wisdom, life, plenty and safety. The sky god lover/son was chaos and death — lightening and dangerous weather, unpredictable rain, the violent, changeable sea, the mysterious underworld of the dead, the violence and killing of war, the constant turning of the seasons, the god whose blood and death were necessary — slaying chaos — to ensure the harvest and the proper order of the goddess. These two basic ideas were then sometimes developed into larger pantheons, while keeping some version of the two principles. Over time, some variations developed a preference for the sky god (usually those engaging in a lot of war,) and placed him above the Mother Goddess (Zeus above Demeter, with Hades and Poseidon being brother variants of other functions of the original sky god.) The sky god became the avatar of violent, patriarchal order, and the Earth Goddess was put in the role of supplicant servant, sister/wife and/or also temptress to the sky god or to man to spill their seed, who would bring down the patriarchal order with chaos. The Earth Goddess was often still sacrificed to in order to get the harvest, with her taking on the role of chaos unpredictability of whether the harvest would be fruitful or not. Several religions/cultures that favored that version were able to conquer by force larger swaths of territory, absorbing those cultures and adapting their religions into the newer patriarchy sky god forms, not only in Europe but in Asia, Africa and other spots as well.

    So Peterson’s claim of women being the chaos is the more recent version in human cultural history. It was a version deeply embraced by early Christianity, both because that religion developed from the very patriarchal Judaism and because the Christianized Roman empire was dealing with “pagan” territories in Europe, Africa, etc. that it conquered that were often invested in Earth Goddess pantheons more than the sky god version, and they had to be brought along under control. Making women the symbol of chaos was justification for squashing their religions and appropriating their harvest rituals into Christian feast days. Women were declared “weaker” and thus the portals through which evil, chaotic things could come through into the world. That built on the icky uncertainties of birth and myths of women/goddesses birthing monsters, turning sex and reproduction into necessary evils that required care and regulation to keep from being dangerous and causing collapse (chaos.)

    As someone who is a psychologist who studies Jung and probably had at least a few comparative religion courses in college, Peterson should be more than well aware of this part of human history. In fact, the Mother goddess/sky god combo is a large part of the basis for Freud’s Oedipal theories and many Jungian archetypes. It’s also part of wiccan and other neo-pagan faiths today, faiths that regularly use psychotherapy exercises and techniques in their practices, including positive visualization. There are elements of it in Taoism as well, and it’s pretty clear that the yin-yang is an old symbol that got gender flipped at one time. Gender fluidity is incorporated into the yin-yang as part of balance, and of course gender fluidity has had a very different place both in earlier Greco-Roman culture, even after it took up Christianity, and in many other cultures and their religions based on variations of Mother Goddess/sky god and the merger of both.

    So basically Peterson is engaged in wishful thinking, picking the versions of various symbols he likes best, based on his early religious indoctrination in heavily patriarchal Christianity sects, and on the fact that a violent patriarchal order puts him at the top of the power index and makes him the smart one for being a (white) guy, etc., thus totally justifying cultural discriminations of our society. Symbols are useful that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I mean Athena isn’t chaos – she’s rationality and war. The Virgin Mary isn’t chaos, she’s humility and acceptance. In Morse mythology Loki is chaotic in one sense and gender fluid but he’s not feminine even when he’s giving birth to a magic horse. Hel maybe? But frost giants are a better match to the force of chaos and they aren’t feminine as a group.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Athena, Demeter, Hera, Artemis, Hestia are all sister variants of the Earth Mother, with Demeter having the main role. Athena wasn’t probably initially the goddess of war — it probably came when the Olympic religion swallowed up another population’s myths. Ares, whose main thing is the god of war, is a variant of the sky god. The Olympians were composites as they picked up various cults. Aphrodite was originally probably a Minoan goddess, and she was a variant of the Earth Goddess — love and fertility. Early versions had her born of the sea, which brings her into the sky god territory, and she was also worshiped in some places as a goddess of war. Her myth had her born possibly as a result of Asian gods which were then translated into the Titan Uranus, but then later she became the daughter of Zeus and Dione, a water goddess, who was the daughter of Oceanus, who was the son of Uranus. So the concepts shift, but most of the Greek goddesses are not forces of chaos. Hecate, who was both a separate cult and re-made as an incarnation of Artemis, had some chaos aspects.

        Norse mythology is actually made up of two different pantheons of Old Norse tribes, which were then basically merged. Odin/Odr is the sky god in the combined Norse mythology, god of war, chaos, knowledge seeking and order, and because it’s a widened pantheon, his sons, including Thor and Loki, take on various aspects of the sky god. Freya/Frigg, who transitioned from one tribe of gods to the other, is nominally his wife and is the Earth goddess, as is Thor’s wife Sif, goddess of grain. Hel, the goddess of the underworld, is the daughter of Loki (not Odin as in the Thor movies,) and because she’s barely in the myths, it’s believed she was added much later to a few stories.

        There are goddesses of the underworld in various cultures because the Earth Goddess concept provides both life and death (see the Fates for instance.) They may or may not be chaotic. And there are sea goddesses, especially among islander peoples, because the sea is part of the Earth and provides life. There are goddesses like Pele, goddess of fire and volcanoes — Earth, rebirth, but also chaos — whose mother Haumea is the goddess of fertility and childbirth. The Maori have gods of various foods. There are quite a few gender fluid gods, multiple incarnation gods, etc. But of course goddesses tend to have the fertility part locked up, which can mean that the fertility is seen as abundant order or capricious chaos. The number of derivations of the Earth goddess/sky god cycle across human cultures is truly astonishing.

        But Peterson mostly ignores all that, and while he’s throwing in some Eastern mysticism and Taoism to seem worldly, most of what he’s schilling seems to be old school style Catholicism. In that, while Mary is the holy vessel (the Earth goddess) who completes the cycle of Father sky god to son sky god, she is made only a vessel, a handmaiden, and wasn’t particularly important until much later in the religion. Catholicism takes the view that all are sinners, that women are chaos temptation that lead men into sin, that women are born of men and are lesser than men, that women must be controlled and bred like cattle property, that men provide order received from instruction of the clergy who have the divine direct connection to the Father/son and thus you have the unquestionable dominance hierarchy, that suffering is that god’s plan, etc. Some of it came from Judaism and Old Testament, some from squashing a lot of other religions, including the festivals of the Olympians and more minor god systems in the Roman Empire, and from adapting parts of that and many other religions. Catholicism has gone through many revisions, as has its Bible, but the misogyny towards women has stayed consistent.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Was it Cryptonomnicon that had some stuff about Athena being connected with Metis and therefore clever technological conflict as opposed to the more straight forward Ares= hitting stuff?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ack gaahhhh. The goggles indeed, @randallm.

    This is another idea common to people who do “the thing”, namely the authoritarian types. Everything’s black and white, no shades of gray, you’re with us or against us, it’s all a dichotomy. No nuance. So they like the status quo (or what they think it is/was), and they love having someone tell them what to do and what’s good/bad. It’s so easy, requires no thinking!

    I’d wager much more chaos is caused by stereotypically masculine behavior than feminine. Who goes around taking over territory, and who tells you to clean up your room and put away your things neatly?

    I called Peterson adolescent a few posts ago, but his understanding of the world seems to be that of even a younger person sometimes. His prose is adolescent, though. As is his woolly-headed thinking; all degrees, licenses, and privileges he got over the age of 18 should be revoked. I want to name and shame the professors who let him get through university with such simplistic crap.

    If this all wasn’t so toxic, I’d feel sorry for his limited, fearful mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d been thinking Woman as Homemaker is a very very orderly stereotype. (while the man goes out to deal with the chaotic world of outside, with its much harder and more nuanced decisions.) I mean, it’s a horribly wrong stereotype too, (both are) but it is an orderly one.

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  8. Even in the world of physics, chaos and order often overlap, or turn into each other, if you look at them from different angles. Take Boyle’s Law, that pressure and volume are inversely proportional – a nice ordered concept, except “pressure”, according to the kinetic theory of gases, is an averaging out of the behaviour of a completely random crowd of molecules, as chaotic a mob as you could possibly imagine. Or take the orbits of the planets, which look entirely regular at our sort of timescale – but, over millions of years, the complexity of the interactions between all those orbiting bodies makes it impossible to predict their relative positions. Chaos theory tells us that infinitely complex things can be modelled with surprisingly simple nonlinear equations… and that apparently orderly processes can turn unpredictable with only minor changes to their initial conditions.

    Basically, this dichotomy between “chaos” and “order” doesn’t really work; apparent randomness and apparent order may just be two different aspects of the same thing. If the dichotomy doesn’t hold up for inanimate objects… well, good luck trying to get it to work for something as complex as actual human beings.

    I can’t shake the suspicion that this “women=chaos” thing is tied up with the idea of Woman As Mystery, the traditionally-male view of women as something outside and other and fundamentally unknowable (more commonly expressed as “chicks, who knows what goes on in their heads, am I right guys?”) I’ve always found that this concept sort of breaks down if you, y’know… actually talk to women. Turns out, if you ask them what’s going on in their heads, they’ll probably tell you. Who knew, right?

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  9. Disclaimer: I need to re-read the Tao Te Ching again pretty soon (and also read the Tao of Pooh, which I hope helps me unlock some of the tangled mess that Taoism makes in my head)

    But I’m pretty sure that forcing order and chaos into opposition is a product of Western thought largely being defined by good/evil as opposed to each other. We think oh, Order must be Good, so Chaos is Evil, therefore these forces work in opposition to each other. If I recall correctly, this is not really true in Taoism.

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    1. I think you’re right: Taoism recognizes both are equal and necessary. Heck, there’s little spots of the other one right there in the yin-yang symbol. Not so simplistic. I have the LeGuin Tao semi-handy and should read it, followed by Pooh and Piglet.

      The order:good::chaos::evil is a Christian holdover from Zoroastrianism, which is big on duality. Peterson might as well be quoting Zoroaster and extolling Ahura Mazda. Or the later Manicheans and Cathars.

      (Cam: get out the red string! Zarathustra –> Wagner –> all that!)


  10. “[..] the hands of human beings, and the fins of whales look astonishingly alike in their skeletal form. They even have the same number of bones.”
    This is close, but wrong. The skeletons in the “hands” of bats and whales are an example commonly used to inform people about evolution. But Peterson is misremembering it, and he clearly isn’t too bothered about accuracy in his analogies.

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  11. I got about 2/3 through this article and my Catholic School education kicked in. What Peterson is advocating is not Christianity, but he’s sort of spinning a 21st-Century version of the Manichean doctrines. I don’t want to delve too much into theological controversies here; but I have noticed that throughout the whole Red Pill/Alt-Right religiously-themed essays several strands of Gnostic, Manichean, and Cathar ideas heavily woven into their beliefs.

    This whole series on Peterson has been great. It’s been helping the psychology and philosophy underpinning this creepy Red Pill movement.

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    1. Yes – there’s definite borrowings from gnosticism but it isn’t gnosticism as such.

      In terms of all those weird connections I’ve been talking about there’s also ideas that have connections with things like Theosophy.

      But there’s definite aspects from more mainstream Catholicism – particularly Aquinas – that I’ve discussed before.

      It’s sort of magpie theology. Stuff get’s borrowed and added to the nest if it looks shiny.

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      1. Yes; that’s one of the reasons that many consider them an informal cult. It’s a practice of many cults to pull doctrines from an older, established faith (the parts that don’t conflict with the cult’s biases). They do this to give themselves an aura of tradition and antiquity to support their beliefs. Many of these Red Pills—like Vox Day—claim that Christianity has been corrupted; and that they represent it’s ‘true’ beliefs.

        A Catholic scholar named Matthew Rose did a really good article at the Berkeley Institute, if you’re interested:

        A lot of what Rose said here dovetails into what you’ve written about Jordan Peterson.

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