Meaning of Myth

The myths of a culture are its central stories. These stories provide a dramatic record of the historically predicated transformation of human intent, and appear to exist as the episodic/semantic embodiment of history’s cumulative effect on action.

The mythical narratives that accompany retention of historically determined behavior constitute non-empirical episodic representation of that behavior and its method of establishment. Myth is purpose, coded in episodic memory. Mythic truth is information, derived from past experience – derived from past observation of behavior – relevant from the perspective of fundamental motivation and effect.

Myth simultaneously provides a record of historical essential, in terms of behavior, and programs those historical essentials. Narrative provides semantic description of action in image, back translatable into imaginary episodic events, capable of eliciting imitative behavior.

Mythic narrative offers dramatic presentation of morality, which is the study of what should be. Such narrative concerns itself with the meaning of the past, with the implications of past existence for current and future activity. This meeting constitutes the ground for the organization of behavior.

Myth has come to encapsulate and express the essential nature of the exploratory, creative, communicative psyche, as manifested in behavior, as a consequence of observation and representation of that behavior, in the temporally summed, historically determined manner beginning with imitation and ending with verbal abstraction.

Jordan Peterson

Cyclic Creation of Morals (How Morals are Created)

Moral presumptions of society emerge first in procedural form, as a consequence of individual exploratory activity, which is the process that generates novel behavioral patterns. These behavioral patterns are then hierarchically structured as a consequence of quasi-Darwinian competition, in accordance with the constraints noted previously (appeal to the imagination, self-sustenance, etc.)

The episodic memory systems map procedure, and outcome there of, and thereby come to contain similar paradigmatic structure – imagistically, and then more purely semantically. Over time, the unknown, nature, thereby comes to be represented mythically as the effectively bivalent Great Mother, simultaneously creative and destructive. The known, culture, becomes the Great Father, tyrant and wise king, authoritarian and protective personality, adapted to the unknown. The knower, man, becomes the hostile mythic brothers, sons of convention, hero and anti-hero, Christ and Satan – eternal generator and destroyer of history and tradition.

Semantic cognition, feeding on narrative – the bridge between the episode and the pure verbal extraction – derives “rules” from behavior. Application of the rules alters the environment, including procedural and episodic representation thereof. Thus the cycle continues.

Jordan Peterson

Axis Mundi

Christ and Satan, for example – Christian exemplars of the ambivalent son – may also be viewed as products of the tree (as well as particular incarnations or forms of the tree, or as phenomena otherwise inexplicably associated with the tree). The world-tree as “forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil” is, for example, the cross upon which Christ, the archetypal individual, crucified, suspended and tormented, manifests for all eternity his identity with God; the tree upon which Odin, Norse savior, is likewise suspended.

The tree is to Christ, therefore, as Christ is to the individual (“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5).

Satan, by contrast, is something that lurks in the forbidden tree. The (devastating) wisdom he promises – the knowledge of the gods – is that trees “first fruit.” This makes the world-tree the source of the revelation that destroys – the source of the anomalous “idea,” for example, that disrupts the static past and plunges it into chaos – as well as the eventual source of the revelation that redeems.

Jordan Peterson

Foreign Viewpoint

This means essentially that to give serious consideration to another’s viewpoint means to risk exposure to indeterminate uncertainty – to risk a rise in existential anxiety, pain and depression; to experience temporally indeterminate effective, imagistic and cognitive chaos. It is much more likely, in consequence, that a foreign viewpoint will appear evil or will come to be defined as such (especially during times rendered unstable – unbearably novel – for additional alternative reasons).

Once such definition occurs, application of aggression, designed to obliterate the source of threat, appears morally justified, even required by duty. The alternative or foreign viewpoint is in fact reasonably considered evil (although this consideration is dangerously one-sided), when viewed in terms of its potential destructive capacity, from within the strict confines of the historically determined social-psychological adaptive structure. It is only within the domain of meta-morality (which is the morality designed to update moral rules) that the strange may be tolerated or even welcomed.

Jordan Peterson

Behavioural Tradition

Looking at the Bible through this lense shows that the Bible is a historical documentation of the human behavioral tradition, from the demands of adaptation to nature, in the form of heuristics.

The (explicit) moral code is validated by reference to the (religious, mythic) narrative, the narrative; is primarily episodic representation of behavioral tradition; the tradition emerges as a consequence of individual adaptation to the demands of natural conditions, manifest (universally) in emotion, generated in a social context. The episodic representation – which is representation of the outcome of a procedure and the procedure itself – is predicated upon belief in the sufficiency and validity of that procedure; more subtly, it has the same structure – at least insofar as it is an accurate representation of behavior – and therefore contains the (implicit) hierarchical structure of historically determined procedural knowledge in more explicit form. Over lengthy historical periods, therefore, the “image” ever more accurately encapsulates the behavior, and stories find their compelling essential form.

Jordan Peterson

Understanding Morality

It is still the case, however, that description of the domain of morality tend to exceed the capability of declarative thought, and that the nature of much of what we think of as moral behavior is still, therefore, embedded in unconscious procedure. As a consequence, it is easy for us to become confused about the nature of morality, and to draw inappropriate, untimely and dangerous “fixed” conclusions.

Moral behaviors and schemas of valuation arise as a consequence of behavioral interaction undertaken in the social world: every individual, motivated to regulate his emotions through action, modifies the behavior of others, operating in the same environment. The consequence of this mutual modification, operating over time, is the emergence of a stable pattern of behavior, “designed” to match individual and social needs, simultaneously. Eventually, this behavioral pattern comes to be coded in image, heralded and narrative, and explicitly represented in words.

Myths of the “knowledge of good and evil” and the “fall from paradise” represent emergence of this representational capacity, in the guise of a historical event. The consequence of this “event” – that is, the development of “self-consciousness” – is capacity to represent death and understand that the possibility of death is part of the unknown.

These complex systems of action and belief are religious. They are the traditional means of dealing with the shadow cast on life by the knowledge of mortality. Our inability to understand the religious traditions and our consequent conscious denigration of their perspectives dramatically decrease the utility of what they have to offer.

We are conscious enough to destabilize our beliefs and our traditional patterns of action, but not conscious enough to understand them. If the reasons for the existence of our traditions were rendered more explicit, however, perhaps we could develop greater intrapsychic and social integrity. The capacity to develop such understanding might help us use our capacity for reason to support, rather than destroy, the moral systems that discipline and protect us.

Jordan Peterson

Primordial Chaos

The totality of the world, which includes the significance of experienced things, as well as the things themselves, is composed of what has been explored and rendered familiar; what has yet to be encountered, and is therefore unpredictable; and the process that mediates between the two.

The primordial theriomorphic serpent god is endless potential; is whatever being is prior to the emergence of the capacity for experience. This potential has been represented as the self devouring dragon (most commonly) because this image aptly symbolizes the union of incommensurate opposites. Th ouroboros is simultaneously representative of two antithetical primordial elements. As a snake, the ouroboros is a creature of the ground, of matter; as a bird (a winged animal), it is a creature of the air, the sky, spirit. The ouroborus symbolizes the union of the 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 ouroboros 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 Ouroboros stands for, or comprises, everything that is as of yet unencountered, prior to its differentiation as a consequence of active exploration and classification. It is a source of all information that makes up the determinant world of experience and is, simultaneously, the birthplace of the experiencing subject.

The ouroboros 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 a symbol for the ground of reality itself. It is the “set of all things that 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 primordial gods.

Jordan Peterson

The Myth Hypothesis

…mythic stories or fantasies that guide our adaptation, in general, appear to describe or portray or embody three permanent constituent elements of human experience: the unknown, or unexplored territory; the known, or explored territory; and the process – the knower – that mediates between them. These three elements constitute the cosmos – that is, the world of experience – from the narrative or mythological perspective.

No matter where an individual lives – and no matter when – he faces the same set of problems or, perhaps, the same set of metaproblems, since the details differ in endlessly. He is a cultural creature, and must come to terms with the existence of that culture. He must master the domain of the known – explored territory – which is the set of interpretations and behavioral schemas he shares with his societal compatriots. He must understand his role within that culture – a role defined by the necessity of preservation, maintenance and transmission of tradition, as well as by capacity for the revolution and radical update of that tradition, when such update becomes necessary. He must also be able to tolerate and even benefit from the existence of the transcendental unknown – unexplored territory – which is the aspect of experience that cannot be addressed with mere application of memorized and habitual procedures. Finally, he must adapt to the presence of himself – must face the endlessly tragic problem of the knower, the exploratory process, the limited mortal subject; must serve as eternal mediator between the creative and destructive “underworld” of the unknown and the secure, oppressive patriarchal kingdom of human culture.

We cannot see the unknown, because we are protected from it by everything familiar and unquestioned. We are in addition habituated to what is familiar and known – by definition – and are therefore often unable to apprehend its structure (often even unable to perceive that is there). Finally, we remain ignorant of our own true nature, because of its intrinsic complexity, and because we act towards others and ourselves in a socialized manner, which is to say a predictable manner – and thereby shield ourselves from our own mystery. The figures of myth, however, embody the world – “visible” and “invisible.” Through the analysis of such figures, we can come to see just what meaning means, and how it reveals itself, in relationship to our actions. It is through such analysis that we can come to realize the potential breadth and depth of our own emotions, and the nature of our true being; to understand our capacity for great acts of evil – and great acts of good – and our motivations for participating in them.

Jordan Peterson

Where All Wisdom Resides

It is where the unpredictable emerges that the possibility for all new and useful information exists. It is during the process of exploration of the unpredictable or unexpected that all knowledge and wisdom is generated, all boundaries of adaptive competence extended, all foreign territory explored, mapped and mastered. The eternally extant domain of the unknown therefore constitutes the matrix from which all conditional knowledge emerges. Everything presently known to each, everything rendered predictable, was at one time unknown to all, and had to be rendered predictable – beneficial at best, irrelevant at worst – as a consequence of active of exploration driven adaptation. The Matrix is of indeterminable breath: despite our great storehouse of culture, despite the wisdom bequeathed to us by ancestors, we are still fundamentally ignorant, and will remain so, no matter how much we learn. The domain of the unknown surrounds us like an ocean surrounds an island. We can increase the area of the island, but we never take away much from the sea.

Jordan Peterson

Archetypal Reality

I feel this is a very accurate description of what’s going on with our world culture currently. More specifically with politics and social justice.

The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We describe the world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however – myth, literature and drama – portray the world as a forum for action.

The world as forum for action is composed, essentially, of three constituent elements, which tends to manifest themselves in typical patterns of metaphoric representation. First is unexplored territory – the Great Mother, nature, creative and destructive, source and final resting place of all determinant things. Second is explored territory – the Great Father, culture, protective and tyrannical, cumulative ancestral wisdom. Third is the process that mediates between unexplored and explored territory – the Divine Son, the archetypal individual, creative exploratory Word and vengeful adversary. We are adapted to this world of divine characters, much as to the objective world. The fact of this adaptation implies that the environment is in reality a forum for action, as well as a place of things.

Unprotected exposure to unexplored territory produces fear. The individual is protected from such fear as a consequence of ritual imitation of the Great Father- as a consequence of the adoption of group identity, which restricts the meaning of things, and confers predictability on social interactions. When identification with the group is made absolute, however – when everything has to be controlled, when the unknown is no longer allowed to exist – the creative exploratory process that updates the group can no longer manifest itself. The Restriction of adaptive capacity dramatically increases the probability of social aggression.

Jordan Peterson

As Jung has stated, group identity eliminates individuality to the detriment of the individual.