Maps of Meaning (Harvard 1996) Lectures by Jordan Peterson Summary

How stories, myths, and religion can make you successful in life.

Maps of Meaning (Harvard 1996) Lectures by Jordan Peterson Summary
Pendant bearing the cartouche of Osorkon II seated Osiris flanked by Horus and Isis

Key Takeaways

  • Facts are the domain of science. They tell you what is (or what was or what could be). They are derived from the scientific process. These are objective truths. They cannot answer the question: what should you do in life?
  • Values (ethics) are the domain of the humanities. They tell you what should be. They are derived from myths. These are pragmatic truths. Pragmatic theory is that a theory is true enough if the outcome is the outcome that you predicted. It’s useful for answering the question: what should you do in life?
  • Science tells us what the world is. The humanities tell us how you should conduct yourself in the world.
  • When religious structures collapse in a country, they are often replaced by (poorly-reasoned) secular ideologies that promise utopia. Like Marxism, communism, and fascism.
  • When people have a bad worldview, they will reject any better worldview that you give them. That’s because to accept that your worldview is flawed will put you into chaos (into the metaphorical desert) and being in a bad place is seen as better than being lost. It also called into question their ability to understand the world—why were their mental models so far off?—that is partially what sends them into chaos.
  • People cling to their beliefs because if they were proven wrong, it would signify 2 things:
  1. That they have to change their world view (which will put them into chaos).
  2. That they are bad at constructing world views (which, from a Darwinian perspective, says something about their fitness).
  • Smart people realize that they will be much safer and more successful if they have others check their mental models. Rather than being scared of being wrong, the successful seek out criticism and new information.
  • Not integrating fears makes the amount of fears in the category of “so terrible I can’t face it” increase. When that list of fears gets too big, you start to have nightmares, or anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.
  1. Not paying attention to bad memories and fears makes you happier in the short-term but is catastrophic in the long-term.
  2. To fix it, actively recall bad memories and face your fears. The nightmares and negative symptoms may get worse before they get better.
  • Egyptian myth. The dead pharaoh is Osiris. The living pharaoh is Osiris and Horus. Osiris is the wisdom of the past. Horus is the process that faces the unknown and updates the wisdom of the past. You need both to be the most successful (pharaoh).
  • People are drawn to the idea that paradise could be found in the domain of the unknown.
  • The people around you will not allow you to change. They expect you to stay the same. You need to get away from them if you want to reinvent yourself into someone better.
  • Nietzsche described the accumulated weight of history. If you’re a rock music artist, for instance, you are competing against all of the other rock artists in history and every rock artist of today. It’s better to be first. Be the first in a genre, a platform, etc. If you can’t make something entirely new, make a new category.
  • The wise king and the tyrant are inseparable. They swing from one to the other.
  • Read Nietzsche’s essay, The Use and Abuse of History
  • The “best” excuse to say that you want to kill everyone is to frame it as being pro-nature—you want to save the planet from the corrupt humans. It’s used to delude the individual as well as others into thinking they are moral even thought they are deeply immoral.
  • The ideas of great thinkers from 100s of years ago are ingrained in us—even if you’ve never read their work, you know it.
  • The more you know about what people did (what ideas they had) before you, the greater your chance of creating something new.
  • There are actions that lead to success. These actions are acted out before they are abstracted and written down. This is why you must study currently successful people—they have insights or actions that are not yet known to produce success (the actions haven’t been written down yet). You can’t only study books because there are always new techniques that are not yet written down.
  • Intelligence is not about knowing facts. It’s about knowing how to regulate your emotions.
  • Men who abuse their wives and are convicted for it are more likely to have low IQ, be criminals, and be very anxious and depressed.
  • We tend to think that we all come into contact with the future at the same time, but that’s not what happens. The people that we think of a geniuses come into contact with the future first. This argument makes more sense if you think of ideas as something you encounter on a timeline. If someone gets a great new idea before everyone else, they look like a genius compared to everyone else.
  • Galileo set the stage for science to overthrow religious ideas.

3 levels of individual action:

  1. How you act (procedural memory)
  2. How you imagine (episodic memory)
  3. How you plan (semantic memory)
  4. Ideally, these 3 are as aligned as possible. You imagine, plan, (and speak) the exact same way you act.
  • Who do people admire? (1) People who don’t say more than is necessary. (2) People who act out what they tell you.

Abstracted levels of action:

  1. Creative Behavior
  2. Imitation
  3. Play
  4. Ritual
  5. Drama
  6. Myth
  7. Religion
  8. Literature
  9. Philosophy
  10. Rationality
  11. Empiricism
  • Every culture has unique pathological actions that everyone within the culture thinks are normal. But everyone outside of that culture would think it is insane.
  • If you try to transcend the group, they will try to kill you.
  • History shows us that humans have immense potential. So much so that the world is not (necessarily) unjust and unfair—it could be that you have not faced your fears.
  • It's likely that terrible events like the holocaust and Stalinist Russia occur because of the individual citizens—not necessarily the charismatic leader. But people don't want to believe this because it puts a huge responsibility on the individual and forces them to acknowledge their shadow.
  • The man who rules himself has a more difficult task than the man who rules a city.
  • You could make the argument that delusions are good for individuals to protect themselves from the harsh realities of life. But Peterson would argue that it’s not beneficial for the individual to have any delusions. He also would say that the negative outcomes come out at the level of society. Once a large number of individuals have a delusion, that’s what leads to violence between groups.
  1. In short, people who are high in self-deception may appear more psychologically healthy in the short-term if you define psychological health as the absence of short-term anxiety and depression. BUT you are not taking into account their inter-personal behavior, long-term relationships, or intra-group and intergroup relationships.
  • A study found that people who were high in self-deception were rated by their peers as much more dislikable and psychologically worse off over the course of a 5 year period than people who were low in self-deception.
  • The #1 thing that gets people depressed in life is the randomness of tragic events. The correct mindset is one that allows you to prepare and accept hen tragic events occur.
  • Freud said that our fear of reality (fear of death) was sufficient to have generated all of the religious and artistic structures. He argued that we developed religion and art to be delusions to deny death. It’s based on the idea that reality is so terrible that it requires a level of delusion to face it. This idea has been brought up numerous times in socio-psychological studies. It’s a compelling argument—a certain amount of delusion is necessary for mental health. Peterson argues the opposite—an insufficient grasp of reality is what makes life too terrible to bear.
  • A lot of Jung’s later works were analyzing alchemists. Why? He wanted to know what motivated them. The alchemists were the first scientists in a sense because they were interested in matter. But they did not have the scientific process. The alchemists questioned religious dogma.
  • Jung wanted to know what ideas preceded science. Science didn’t just come out of thin air in 1450.
  • Jung concluded that science is still imbedded in mythological formats. The same idea behind the philosopher’s stone is what motivates science—if we can figure out the truth behind what things are, we can eradicate disease, live forever, and create infinite resources.
  • Alchemy —> science. The philosopher’s stone —> technological innovation. We haven’t changed, we just changed the names of our methods and motives to sound less primitive.
  • Much of what people define as morality is just their own cowardice.
  • There are reasonable circumstances to break rules. Harry Potter, for instance, used an unforgivable curse (crucio) twice in the series. He also breaks rules throughout the series when necessary. The hero breaks rules when necessary.
  • Always follow the things that strike you as meaningful or interesting. Hold on to your interests and don’t let it go despite the social pressure. Society will tell you to do what everyone else is doing. It has to be fun to you, look like work to others, and make money. You can’t just “follow your bliss” because what if your “bliss” is serial killing (pathological interests) or something that doesn’t make any money? It has to be moral and practical. Don’t lie to yourself—that’s what creates pathological and twisted interests. Your interests are determined by your philosophical frameworks.
  • You know you’re doing meaningful work when you lose track of time.
  • Weakness must be recognized before it can be turned into strength.

Lecture 2

  • Facts are the domain of science. They tell you what is (or what was or what could be). They are derived from the scientific process. These are objective truths. They cannot answer the question: what should you do in life?
  • Values (ethics) are the domain of the humanities. They tell you what should be. They are derived from myths. These are pragmatic truths. Pragmatic theory is that a theory is true enough if the outcome is the outcome that you predicted. It’s useful for answering the question: what should you do in life?
  • Science tells us what the world is. The humanities tell us how you should conduct yourself in the world.
  • You cannot draw conclusions about what should be from what is.
  • You cannot derive an ought from an is.
  • In 1450, our models of science and myth split. Before that, they were the same.
  • Facts can be taught. But how do we learn what to do in life? One way is emulating idols.
  • There’s a lot of information is stories and myths that both the teller and the listener don’t fully understand.
  • Some people say that everything Freud discovered in psychoanalysis was already in Shakespeare’s plays (but they weren’t explicit). Similar to how everything in Dostoevsky’s novels were made explicit in Nietzsche’s work.
  • The assumption that we made starting in 1450 was that science could replace religious explanations of the world.
  • Nietzsche: we‘ve torn the intellectual foundations out of Christianity but we all still act like Christians more or less.
  • Nietzsche was irritated by arguments that morality had a rational basis. And that it derived from rational thought. Nietzsche said that if you read history, you find that people behave (act) first and then figure out morality after. They don’t sit down and rationally develop morality.
  • Study neuroscience and comparative mythology (myths from different cultures) to understand the foundations of morality.
  • Peterson was already at a high intellectual level at age 34. Need to develop reading, writing, and speaking ability up until at least age 35.
  • Original sin: there’s something intrinsically evil about humans.
  • Marxism is a religion-like ideology. Businesses make the world unfair and unequal. So we need to redistribute the wealth to make everyone equal and bring about paradise.
  • When religious structures collapse in a country, they are often replaced by (poorly-reasoned) secular ideologies that promise utopia. Like Marxism, communism, and fascism.
  • There’s a guy who goes a cruise and everything is done for him. He’s from a 3rd world country so he’s not used to lavish treatment. There are people waiting around to give him fresh towels at the pool. He can eat at the restaurant 18 times a day. And if he didn’t feel like going to the restaurant, he can call room service and they’d being the food to him in 10 minutes. For the first 3 days he felt guilt about having people tending to him. By the end of the trip he had adjusted to his new circumstances and he was becoming increasing irritated by when he called for room service and they brought him his sandwich, they always put it too close to the decorative orange so the corner of the bread would be a little soggy.
  • That shows that when your circumstances improve, there is always something to complain about.
  • It shows that even when everything is objectively fine, there are still gripes to be had.
  • That’s what makes the present chronically unbearable. Even when you are doing better, you compare it to something even better (or utopia). We are all objectively better off than people from 50 years ago in health, knowledge, relationships, and wealth but we act and complain as if our world is worse (often because we compare ourselves to the wealthy or a utopian vision).
  • All stories are about the journey. That’s why we want to see Frodo on his journey to Mordor, not after. We don’t want to see the peace that comes after the ring is destroyed, we want to see the action of the journey. That’s why people say that the journey is more impressive than the destination.

Lecture 3

  • Everyone has a mental model of how the world works. When something unexpected happens, we realize that our model is (partially) inaccurate which scares us.
  • What can be can only be determined by what is. And what is can only be determined by what can be. For example, you set goals based on what you think you can accomplish. And you can only accomplish what you have the means to accomplish.
  • A pathological personality is when a person puts one thing above all else. That one thing is like their God. Food is necessary for survival but if you only ever think about food, you have a pathological personality.
  • Marduk and Tiamat story.
  • A perfect world must have novelty, because without novelty you will get bored. And novelty will, to an extent, make you anxious. So a “perfect world” is self-contradictory.
  • When people have a bad worldview, they will reject any better worldview that you give them. That’s because to accept that your worldview is flawed will put you into chaos (into the metaphorical desert) and being in a bad place is seen as better than being lost. It also called into question their ability to understand the world—why were their mental models so far off?—that is partially what sends them into chaos.
  • People cling to their beliefs because if they were proven wrong, it would signify 2 things:
  1. That they have to change their world view (which will put them into chaos).
  2. That they are bad at constructing world views (which, from a Darwinian perspective, says something about their fitness).
  3. Smart people realize that they will be much safer and more successful if they have others check their mental models. Rather than being scared of being wrong, the successful seek out criticism and new information.
  • The point of having a story is to render things predictable. Predictable pain is a lot better than unpredictable pain.
  • Predictable pain may be better than unpredictable pleasure. Because the unpredictable aspect of the pleasure could cause anxiety.
  • Philosophy and psychology are both concerned with how to live properly. They are essentially the same discipline.
  • Stability always comes at a cost.

3 things that give you information:

  1. Explored territory
  2. Unexplored territory
  3. The process of exploring itself
  • ^The world from the mythological and neuropsychological perspectives.
  • Linguistics play a big role in how we change and perceive the world.

Lecture 4

  • Science allows us to describe things. Most people think that our minds work the same way science does—describing objects as what they empirically are. But our minds categorize things less rigidly—by their use (like a tool) and emotional affect.
  • Not integrating fears makes the amount of fears in the category of “so terrible I can’t face it” increase. When that list of fears gets too big, you start to have nightmares, or anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.
  • Not paying attention to bad memories and fears makes you happier in the short-term but is catastrophic in the long-term.
  • To fix it, actively recall bad memories and face your fears. The nightmares and negative symptoms may get worse before they get better.
  • You need clearly stated shared goals to decrease conflict with others.
  • If you’re not improving, you’re regressing, not stagnating. The mythological king must voluntarily choose to encounter novelty otherwise his nation will fail. It’s the hero myth.

Lecture 5

  • Virtually all cultures had human sacrifices in their history. Why? The idea was like this: The thing that was valued most had to be sacrificed to the unknown for constant adaptation to be made. The human that was sacrificed was viewed like a hero (like Jesus Christ) and them they’d eat him. You had to ingest the sacrifice of the most valuable thing.
  • The king isn’t the hero, the king is the father of the hero.
  • The king has to be sacrificed.
  • People act out ideas before we understand them. We test a lot of behavioral patterns and then the best ones stay. This happens before we understand why the behavioral patterns work. Stories capture the behavioral patterns that are the fittest, from a Darwinian perspective.
  • Marduk and sacrifice lead to success. Marduk had the best vision and articulate speech. Sacrifice is delayed gratification—sacrificing today for a better tomorrow.
  • At New Years, you make resolutions, it’s an old ritual that symbolizes the death of the old self and the birth of the new self.
  • The best story is a story of how to update yourself when necessary. That’s the story of the hero. The foundational story of success, meaning, and the good life.
  • What therapy does is expose you to new or threatening information and get you to change your actions. The degree to which you do that determines if you are cured or not.
  • Peterson shows part of Pinocchio movie.
  • Peterson shows part of The Little Mermaid movie.
  • Portals symbolize a transition between chaos and order.
  • The evil older women in stories and myths are often obsessed with beauty and they hate kids (specifically girls who will be prettier than them). They symbolize the devouring of children for beauty. They want to hold on to a domain that’s not theirs—beauty and youth.
  • If you solve a problem for yourself, you can spread the solution and save other people from that problem.
  • Egyptian myth. The dead pharaoh is Osiris. The living pharaoh is Osiris and Horus. Osiris is the wisdom of the past. Horus is the process that faces the unknown and updates the wisdom of the past. You need both to be the most successful (pharaoh).

Lecture 6

  • History becomes mythology when the last person who remembers the event dies.
  • Myths are practical. They show you how to solve a problem—typically how to conquer the unknown.
  • Columbus’ expressed motivation for setting sail is to find paradise. They thought that the religious paradise was somewhere on earth.
  • A big problem people have today is that they think that everything is figured out. We have complete maps of the world, there are no mysteries—nobody thinks that paradise can be located on earth. There are no unknown frontiers like in history. They also think that all the inventions have already been invented, so they can’t start a business. (You could always start a services business, for one.) People have a hard time finding interests and motivation because everything already seems “known” because of science (and the meaning of everything was stripped with the death of religion and myth).
  • People are drawn to the idea that paradise could be found in the domain of the unknown.
  • Tough guy with pink shopping bags story.
  • Meaning = contact with novelty at the appropriate rate.
  • The hero myth is freeing because it’s based on character, not biological traits. It’s based on your willingness to confront the world and face your fears, not, for instance, your intelligence (mostly inherited), physical ability (mostly inherited), race (inherited), or gender (randomly determined).
  • The people around you will not allow you to change. They expect you to stay the same. You need to get away from them if you want to reinvent yourself into someone better.

Lecture 7

  • Joseph Campbell’s work is similar to Peterson’s Maps of Meaning. The big difference is Campbell is too positive—he neglects the possibility of a failed hero myth. Neumann’s The History and Origins of Consciousness is better.
  • Read The Great Mother by Neumann.
  • The first 12 minutes of this lecture is interesting.
  • The world will be saved by beauty. — Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Nietzsche described the accumulated weight of history. If you’re a rock music artist, for instance, you are competing against all of the other rock artists in history and every rock artist of today. It’s better to be first. Be the first in a genre, a platform, etc. If you can’t make something entirely new, make a new category.
  • The wise king and the tyrant are inseparable. They swing from one to the other.
  • Read Nietzsche’s essay, The Use and Abuse of History
  • The “best” excuse to say that you want to kill everyone is to frame it as being pro-nature—you want to save the planet from the corrupt humans. It’s used to delude the individual as well as others into thinking they are moral even thought they are deeply immoral.
  • If you’re intelligent, you have to watch out for really logical and well-thought out delusions. Don’t deceive yourself.
  • Read Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. It’s like an intellectual initiation ritual.
  • There are so many moralities. Does it make sense to ask what is good or what is evil? There are so many sides and perspectives. This is the question Nietzsche poses in Beyond Good and Evil.
  • Peterson says that the risk of the course is that the list of sources is short. He relies heavily on Jung and Nietzsche. He then says that it’s likely because there are so few writers who competently tackled these problems.
  • The Devils, paradise lost, notes from underground, and the gulag archipelago all show the negative aspects of the individual.
  • Milton’s Devil in Paradise Lost is arrogant and intellectual. He believes he knows all (something that is only fit for God). They idea is that intellectual arrogance leads to hell. The way that he can get out of hell is to admit that he was wrong. But he won’t.
  • That’s the best interpretation of a neurotic personality. They do something that messes up their life and they’d rather keep doing it than admit they were wrong and change. They do it because a bad known is better (to them) than an unknown.
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost argument: rationality’s a good servant but a terrible master.
  • Constraints are useful. What a poet does, for instance, is put way more constraint on their work than they would need to. And paradoxically, as a result of adding constraints, creativity can flourish rather than be repressed by constraints. You don’t have to limit yourself to write in only rhyme and rhythm—that makes it more difficult—which one could say is a barrier to creativity or productivity. But the constrains are necessary (a prerequisite) for freedom and creativity.
  • Mastery requires 20,000 hours of deliberate practice. One you finish your “slavery” (read: apprenticeship), you can be free to create a masterpiece. You no longer have to learn and follow the rules.
  • Intellectuals confuse knowledge with wisdom.
  • Facts and knowledge without knowing how to use them is useless.
  • (1:32:20) is great.
  • The ideas of great thinkers from 100s of years ago are ingrained in us—even if you’ve never read their work, you know it.
  • The more you know about what people did (what ideas they had) before you, the greater your chance of creating something new.
  • What is the good? That determines morality. The answer to “what is the good?” Is to adopt a group identity—they’ll tell you what the good is.
  • Identify with the process, not the rules of your group identity. The rules limit your success. Just follow the process of a moral aim—the rules are meant to be broken for morally just people.

Lecture 8

  • There are actions that lead to success. These actions are acted out before they are abstracted and written down. This is why you must study currently successful people—they have insights or actions that are not yet known to produce success (the actions haven’t been written down yet). You can’t only study books because there are always new techniques that are not yet written down.
  • Cultures that tell their kids lots of stories of successful people have more kids who grow up to be successful than cultures that don’t.
  • Men are more expendable and more valuable. They are expandable because nobody cares if they die. Men are sent to war. And women and children are saved, for instance, if a ship is sinking rather than men. They are also more valuable because nobody cares if they die—they can take more risks that women can’t (or won’t) take.
  • Homosexuality doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary perspective. Maybe they act a cultural intermediary between men and women.

Lecture 9

  • Intelligence is not about knowing facts. It’s about knowing how to regulate your emotions.
  • Men who abuse their wives and are convicted for it are more likely to have low IQ, be criminals, and be very anxious and depressed.
  • We tend to think that we all come into contact with the future at the same time, but that’s not what happens. The people that we think of a geniuses come into contact with the future first. This argument makes more sense if you think of ideas as something you encounter on a timeline. If someone gets a great new idea before everyone else, they look like a genius compared to everyone else.
  • Galileo set the stage for science to overthrow religious ideas.

There are 3 levels of individual action:

  1. How you act (procedural memory)
  2. How you imagine (episodic memory)
  3. How you plan (semantic memory)
  • Ideally, these 3 are as aligned as possible. You imagine, plan, (and speak) the exact same way you act.
  • Who do people admire? (1) People who don’t say more than is necessary. (2) People who act out what they tell you.

Abstracted levels of action:

  1. Creative Behavior
  2. Imitation
  3. Play
  4. Ritual
  5. Drama
  6. Myth
  7. Religion
  8. Literature
  9. Philosophy
  10. Rationality
  11. Empiricism
  • To know something means you have to be able to act it out.
  • Peterson talks about a dvorak keyboard and how the qwerty is made to slow your typing speed so that type writers wouldn’t jam in the old days. Peterson’s been telling the same stories for 30 years.
  • It’s an example of how the desire to learn something better can be hindered by already knowing something good enough.

Lecture 10

  • When you’re writing an essay, write the first draft and then write an outline that’s 10 sentences long. Then rewrite the essay.
  • Before a doctrine can be transcended, it must be mastered.
  • Authoritarians believe that they know everything that needs to be known.
  • Every culture has unique pathological actions that virtually everyone in the culture thinks are normal. But everyone outside of that culture would think it is insane.
  • If you try to transcend the group, they will try to kill you.
  • History shows us that humans have immense potential. So much so that the world is not (necessarily) unjust and unfair—it could be that you have not faced your fears.

Lecture 11

  • Refusal to admit to error is the same as denial of anomalous information. It’s arrogance. It’s pride. It’s the same as thinking you know everything that is necessary.
  • Pride is associated with the devil.
  • Counter culture is often a lack of disciple masquerading as heroism.
  • It's likely that terrible events like the holocaust and Stalinist Russia occur because of the individual citizens—not necessarily the charismatic leader. But people don't want to believe this because it puts a huge responsibility on the individual and forces them to acknowledge their shadow.

Lecture 12

  • The man who rules himself has a more difficult task than the man who rules a city.
  • You could make the argument that delusions are good for individuals to protect themselves from the harsh realities of life. But Peterson would argue that it’s not beneficial for the individual to have any delusions. He also would say that the negative outcomes come out at the level of society. Once a large number of individuals have a delusion, that’s what leads to violence between groups.
  • In short, people who are high in self-deception may appear more psychologically healthy in the short-term if you define psychological health as the absence of short-term anxiety and depression. BUT you are not taking into account their inter-personal behavior, long-term relationships, or intra-group and intergroup relationships.
  • A study found that people who were high in self-deception were rated by their peers as much more dislikable and psychologically worse off over the course of a 5 year period than people who were low in self-deception.
  • The #1 thing that gets people depressed in life is the randomness of tragic events. The correct mindset is one that allows you to prepare and accept hen tragic events occur.

Lecture 13

  • Freud said that our fear of reality (fear of death) was sufficient to have generated all of the religious and artistic structures. He argued that we developed religion and art to be delusions to deny death. It’s based on the idea that reality is so terrible that it requires a level of delusion to face it. This idea has been brought up numerous times in socio-psychological studies. It’s a compelling argument—a certain amount of delusion is necessary for mental health. Peterson argues the opposite—an insufficient grasp of reality is what makes life too terrible to bear.
  • The Brother’s Karamazov by Dostoevsky gives the best pro-atheistic argument in literature.
  • If you want a story to be good, it has to be about an extreme case.
  • Voluntary incremental exposure to your fears makes you overcome your fears.
  • Watch Crumb documentary.
  • A human female body with a bird head or wings is a symbol of the goddess that births all things.
  • Has the television solved more problems than it has created? Probably not.
  • New information will always make you anxious. If there’s anything that you don’t want to unpack, that’s where you should start.
  • Rejection of an unbearable fact stifles adaptation and strangles life.
  • Moving yourself away from information that you regard as too threatening is a rejection of the hero myth. Milton’s satan thought he knew all—that he didn’t need more new information. There’s no difference between saying that an obstacle is too big to face and saying that you’re not good enough to face it. There’s no difference between saying that a memory is too scary and saying that you already have all the information you need—because the information you need to improve (to be a hero) is in the memory you fear most. If you reject hero status, you become evil, you drag yourself down, you develop mental health issues, you develop chaos in your life, you become Cain.
  • What are the consequences of admitting error or identifying with the hero.
  • A lot of Jung’s later works were analyzing alchemists. Why? He wanted to know what motivated them. The alchemists were the first scientists in a sense because they were interested in matter. But they did not have the scientific process. The alchemists questioned religious dogma.
  • Jung wanted to know what ideas preceded science. Science didn’t just come out of thin air in 1450.
  • Jung concluded that science is still imbedded in mythological formats. The same idea behind the philosopher’s stone is what motivates science—if we can figure out the truth behind what things are, we can eradicate disease, live forever, and create infinite resources.
  • Alchemy —> science. The philosopher’s stone —> technological innovation. We haven’t changed, we just changed the names of our methods and motives to sound less primitive.
  • The alchemists didn’t know that matter existed in the way that we do today. They were really interested in the unknown and wanted to find out what matter was—even though they didn’t know it existed.
  • The alchemists had the presupposition that they didn’t know everything and that the (dogmatic, totalitarian) church also didn’t know everything. That is the fundamental hero mindset—there is more to learn, and the best place to look is where you fear most, the most unknown place.
  • The alchemists saw everything as mythological—stories (they didn’t have any other methods, science wasn’t invented yet).
  • What do you do when you’ve been thrown into chaos by new information? You take the new information that you gained from the chaos and all of your previous information to create a new hypothesis or map of the world. That’s the (sexual) union of the king of order and the queen of chaos. Their offspring is the divine son, the new state of order. The alchemists associated the divine son with the philosopher’s stone.
  • The philosopher’s stone was, to the alchemists, the thing of most value. It was associated with Christ, because he is also the most valuable thing in Christianity.
  • Money cannot save you from old age, sickness, and death. If you put the desire for money (security) above all else, you sacrifice the process that could actually give you the security you seek. (Is that process enlightenment? Accepting suffering? The hero myth?)
  • If you integrate your shadow, you become a lot more powerful. Specifically, your capacity for anger and aggression. You need to understand that you have the capacity for violence—even if you don’t actually use it. The capacity to maintain your ground or use aggression in controlled, necessary situations is a useful skill.
  • Much of what people define as morality is just their own cowardice.
  • There are reasonable circumstances to break rules. Harry Potter, for instance, used an unforgivable curse (crucio) twice in the series. He also breaks rules throughout the series when necessary. The hero breaks rules when necessary.
  • Most civilized societies use the 10 commandments as their base rules. But there are times when they conflict or where they’re not applicable.
  • “Interesting” means “that has some significance that I hadn’t thought of before.”
  • Always follow the things that strike you as meaningful or interesting. Hold on to your interests and don’t let it go despite the social pressure. Society will tell you to do what everyone else is doing. It has to be fun to you, look like work to others, and make money. You can’t just “follow your bliss” because what if your “bliss” is serial killing (pathological interests) or something that doesn’t make any money? It has to be moral and practical. Don’t lie to yourself—that’s what creates pathological and twisted interests. Your interests are determined by your philosophical frameworks.
  • You know you’re doing meaningful work when you lose track of time.
  • Individuals whose life is without meaning hate themselves for their weakness and hate life for making them weak. In the course of self-development, an individual may come to sacrifice his own experience because its pursuit can create social conflict or expose individual inadequacy.
  • Weakness must be recognized before it can be turned into strength.
  • The human purpose is to pursue meaning.