The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories by Jordan Peterson Summary

Jordan Peterson uses psychology to show what the Bible can teach us about success and morality.

The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories by Jordan Peterson Summary
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Key Takeaways

  • You need a noble aim. To pay attention, to speak properly, to end chaos, to make a better world.
  • What happens if you don’t take morality seriously? Read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
  • Read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Devils.
  • Read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
  • “There’s almost nothing more valuable than beauty.” Economically and practically. That’s why packaging matters when selling products. If you can beautify your product, it is worth much more. Europe spent millions making beautiful cathedrals and architecture and it has paid off many times over. People come to see them and it gives the cities tourist revenue. It brings out something in humans like music. An investment into beauty is worth it. It is seductive.
  • The Old Testament said that with enough iterations of the State, you could eventually have people who behave properly create the ideal State. The State is viewed as the entity of salvation. But in the New Testament that idea gets deconstructed. The individual becomes the ideal and tries to mirror the divine image. The responsibility of the individual is the basis for a functioning society. If we don’t believe this and act it out, we will all die painfully.
  • Peterson says that Carl Jung’s Red Book came from him dreaming while he was awake. But he didn’t try to control the dream—he let the images and voices come to him. He called the practice active imagination. Active imagination is a conversation with the unconscious.
  • There are huge economic incentives to trust. If people trust you, you will make money. Reputation matters.
  • You can’t really understand the humanities unless you know the biblical stories. They are the dream from which the humanities emerged.
  • Read Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. You need to know the biblical stories to understand them.
  • Association dream analysis: write out your dream line by line. Every time a person or item comes up, try to remember what it means to you. What do you associate that person or thing with? Jung says to go further—ask yourself what the mythological or archetypal associations it may have.
  • There’s no story without limitations. Superman would be boring if there was no kryptonite. He would always win every time. Life only has meaning because of our limitations. Good moments only exist because there can be bad moments. If time was unlimited we would have no urgency. There would be no reason to do anything today.
  • There are some people who are so toxic (victim mentality) that just being around them will pull you into their drama. They maneuver, manipulate, and interpret in a way that makes any person around them a villain in their story, regardless of what the person does or says. They have an unhappy and tragic internal narrative. They drag down the people around them.
  • The opposite of a person with a victim mentality is someone who aims upward and has a positive effect on the people around them. Self improve. Get yourself together as much as possible. Take responsibility. It influences the people around you to get better too and then they can have the same positive impact on the people around them.
  • When Adam and Eve eat the fruit, the first thing that happens is their eyes are opened. That symbolizes that they’ve woken up—they understand reality. Then they recognize that they’re naked. That symbolizes that they recognize that they’re vulnerable. At that same moment, they recognize the difference between good and evil. They also realize the concept of death. Humans are aware of their own limitations, they know how they could get hurt. That gives them insight on how to hurt others—that’s how evil enters the world. Realizing that you’re vulnerable gives you insight on how to harm others and a fraction of people—evil people—take advantage of that and harm others.
  • The snake in the garden is the devil. And there is a part of the snake in every person—there is a small part of evil in everyone.
  • Kierkegaard inspired: if you speak the truth then whatever happens is good, regardless of what happens.
  • If you know someone who has a problem, often the best thing you can do is listen to them.
  • Some people are so far gone that they cannot be helped. Stay away from them. They will drag you down.
  • If someone admits they have a problem and wants to fix it they can be fixed. But if someone will not admit they have a problem they cannot be fixed.
  • If you’re not successful or happy, then you should hope that something is wrong with you, because if it’s you, it can be changed. But if it’s the world, it cannot be changed.
  • Truthful speech gives rise to the good.
  • To pay attention means to watch for what you don’t know.
  • The person who gets invited to play the most games (the people with the best social life, business partners, romantic partners) are the people who (1) let other people win 40% of the time and (2) they go forthrightly to conquer the unknown before it manifests into the enemy at the door. They go outside of their comfort zone to prepare for the future.
  • That seems obvious—the person who is a great hunter but also shares his food with those around him will be popular because people benefit by being near him.
  • The person who has the most authority is the one who accepts the suffering of others (like Jesus—God) and takes responsibility. Jesus (God) has authority because he died for our sins. This is straightforward. Do you like brave people or cowards? Do you like selfish people or helpful people?
  • The rule that you don’t let your kids do anything that will make you dislike them is because you know that you have the capacity for evil. You’re way bigger than them. So you have to make sure that you like them so that when they irritate you, you won’t take it out on them.
  • Kierkegaard: there will come a time when we have so much security and comfort that what we’ll want more than anything else is deprivation and challenge.
  • There’s an implicit theory of suffering in the story of Adam and Eve: Suffering is built into the structure of conscious being.
  • If you’re suffering, that’s the normal state of humans. It’s not someone else’s fault. It’s not the consequence of sociological oppression. It’s not the result of our society being structured improperly.
  • Unit 731 has some of the most horrific things that have ever happened.
  • The greatest enemy of all time is the human propensity for evil—that’s satan.
  • That’s why the snake was in the Garden of Eden. You cannot completely free yourself of it. It is always there. Partially in yourself, others, friends, enemies, and “evil” people.
  • Nothing about sex is casual.
  • It’s likely that trait consciousness is associated with the ability to delay gratification—to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
  • If you can’t delay gratification, other kids don’t like you because you want everything your way and you’re liable to temper tantrums. The ability to delay gratification is (like consciousness) a good predictor of future success. If kids can’t delay gratification and learn to socialize with other kids by age 4, it’s bad.
  • The fact that high IQ and consciousness is a validation that society is functioning as a meritocracy. Because the most intelligent and hard-working people win.
  • What’s the difference between the successful and unsuccessful? The successful sacrifice—delay gratification.
  • Sometimes family members will try to take advantage of you. They will use the sacredness of familial bond to control you or get money from you, etc. You have to sacrifice them to get the future that you want. If it’s bad, you have to completely distance yourself and never talk to them again.
  • If the world you’re seeing is not the world you want, it’s time to reevaluate your values and what you are focused on. Because either the world is terrible or it’s you. (It’s actually way better if you’re the problem because then you can fix yourself.) And we live in the freest, most equal, and prosperous time in all of history, so it’s probably you who needs to change. Because if it’s fate or the world that’s evil, you’re screwed, there’s nothing you can do about that.
  • Either way, it’s far better to act as if it’s you that needs to change. Because everyone has something they could improve about themselves. And improving yourself improves the life of everyone around you.
  • If you start to act as if it’s not you, you will start to act in a way that makes life worse for you and everyone around you.
  • Watch the documentary Crumb. Possibly the best documentary ever. It shows why the oedipal complex can be horrific.
  • Things that you learn when you have a child:
  • You don’t grow up until someone else (your child) is more important than you.
  • It’s a relief to not be the center of attention because your child is the center of attention.
  • You learn a lot about other people because other people like babies.
  • There’s miraculous potential in every baby.
  • Babies are generic until you have one. Your baby isn’t a generic baby at all. Instantly your relationship to the baby is closer than any relationship you’ve ever had. And you have the ability to keep that relationship perfect. Most of the relationships you had with people were messed up in 50 different ways.
  • There’s very little in life that can compare with establishing a proper relationship with your child. They make great company if you keep your relationship pristine.
  • It’s worthwhile to have a baby.
  • It’s not that some people are Cain and others are Abel, each person is 50% Cain and 50% Abel.
  • “The human shadow has roots that reach all the way to hell.” - Carl Jung
  • People have cynicism about people who embody their ideal. They’re always looking for some flaw with the individual: they must be crooked, conniving, arrogant, or psychopathic. And all of those things exist, but it’s a bad trick to play on yourself to make the proposition that the person who represents your own ideal is that ideal because of despicable reasons. All that does is train yourself to believe that your ideal can only be achieved by despicable means. And then you only have 2 options: (1) become a failure or (2) try to become despicable to achieve your ideal.
  • The story of Cain and Abel shows why you always see criticism and undermining in the media of people who have mostly done things to create goodness in the world.
  • Peterson says that Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment may be the best novel ever written.
  • The Marxist theory of suffering: there are oppressed people and oppressors. The oppressed people suffer because of the oppressors. This is false outside of the context of totalitarian or corrupt regimes. And even then, people still inherently suffer.
  • Look at William Blake’s paintings.
  • Another translation of Cain and Abel says that Cain says, “My sin is more than I can bear.” Rather than “My punishment is more than I can bear.” That shows that he actually regrets his actions.
  • People who are suicidal often feel that they have no good options. No matter what way they turn, there’s something terrible to face and they can’t see any way out of it. They feel like they’ve been backed into a corner.
  • People who go to therapy often don’t have a mental illness per se, they have a complexity management problem—their lives have gotten out of hand and they don’t know how to fix it.
  • The purpose of being a parent for young children is to make sure they’re exceptionally socially desirable by the age of 4.
  • To be stable, you have to improve. Because (1) your body is changing and (2) the world is changing. So even if you’re great now, if you don’t improve, chaos will creep into your life.
  • Every system produces inequality. The only system we know that produces inequality AND wealth is capitalism. It’s obviously not perfect but it’s the best system we have.
  • All you have to do is pay attention to a kid to get them to like you.
  • Read The History of Religious Ideas.
  • You will develop 2 or 3 severe illnesses in your life. And one of them will probably be chronic. What kind of person will you be when it happens? How will you prepare for it? Everyone you know is in the same boat, so what will you do when it happens to them? How will you prepare?
  • Even having a chance at success is something to be grateful for. Only in America is it written that you are allowed to pursue happiness. In virtually every other time and place, the government was conspiring against its citizens.
  • Modern people don’t see God because they didn’t look low enough. - Carl Jung
  • People denigrate the opportunities that are right in front of them.
  • The goal is not to become successful, it’s to become the kind of person who could become successful again and again even if it was taken from you.
  • Lies and deception are the archetypal arrogance of the devil. He believes that he can twist reality with lies and get away with it. You cannot get away with lies.
  • Jealousy, resentment, and a lack of confidence cause people to undermine their idols. They end up in hell because they delude themselves into thinking that success is shameful.
  • You have to take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. There is no guarantee that working hard, being truthful, and being moral will lead to success, you just have to hope it works out.
  • You have to identify what you want and do everything to get it. The chances that you randomly stumble upon success is 0. If you actually want something, you can have it, but you have to define it and sacrifice everything else to get it. You have to orient your entire life to making the probability that obtaining that one thing is as certain as possible. Most people want everything AND they have no plan. This is wrong—it guarantees failure.
  • There are 4 things that everyone wants in life: health, knowledge, relationships, and wealth. Why not focus solely on health and knowledge. Once you obtain it, focus on wealth. Once you retire, focus on relationships. This doesn’t work for most people because they never fully focus on wealth—they don’t retire early enough. You need to retire by age 30-35 for this strategy to work.
  • Think: what am I currently doing to screw my life over? Really think about it and then stop doing them.
  • Act as if God exists. Faith makes being good. Act out the proposition that if you act properly then being itself is benevolent. There is really no alternative: To assume the contrary is to be as cynical and bitter as possible.
  • Make yourself as good as you can be and then help others do the same. That is the pinnacle of the moral wisdom of mankind.
  • Solzhenitsyn: Individual honesty and ethical behavior is the only thing that can stop totalitarian regimes.
  • How do you help someone who is lost? If they can’t admit they’re lost, you cannot help them. If they aren’t willing to not be lost you cannot help them.
  • Borderline personality disorder is one of the most serious mental disorders and it is difficult to treat.
  • If someone is sinking and they’re trying to pull you down, you’re not obligated to drown with them.
  • If you happen to be extremely creative or interested in ideas, you are in the minority. Ordinary people are not like this: there are very few true entrepreneurs, creatives, and intellectuals. If you are one, you need to find other people like you.
  • The Tao Te Ching only makes sense if you understand that yin and yang are chaos and order.
  • The point of criticism is to separate the good from the bad. It’s not to carelessly get rid of the whole thing.
  • In Faust, Mephistopheles (the devil) thought that being was so meaningless and fraught with suffering that it would be better if the universe had not existed at all. That motivates him to try to destroy the world.
  • The dark side of humans: desire for sex, power, and anger. The intellect is dangerous—it can become dogmatic and arrogant.
  • To those who have everything, more will be given. To those who have nothing, everything will be taken.
  • As you’re successful the probability that you will continue to be successful or increase your success increases. If you’re unsuccessful, the probability that you will continue to be unsuccessful increases.
  • That’s true of all known systems, not just capitalism.
  • Jung was most influenced by Freud and Nietzsche.
  • Jung and Freud didn’t see eye to eye on religion and the Oedipal myth. That caused them to split up. Symbols of Transformation by Jung promoted the religious viewpoint. It came out in 1914 and that’s when Jung and Freud broke up academically.
  • Jung was religious and didn’t think the Oedipal myth was as fundamental as Freud did.
  • Read Erich Neumann—Jung’s greatest student.
  • Read The Origins and History of Consciousness — the best introduction to Jung’s work.
  • The Great Mother is good too.
  • Freud believed that the most important myth was the Oedipal story. It’s a failed hero story.
  • Many people’s problems come from their inability to break free of the family.
  • Jung thought that the successful hero story was the most important myth.
  • Sleeping Beauty depicts Jung’s hero story.
  • Watch Crumb documentary. It depicts the Oedipal complex and shows how bad it can get.
  • Peterson thinks it’s a hallmark of creativity to have vivid dreams and be able to remember them.
  • Beware of wisdom you did not earn - Carl Jung
  • Carl Jung paper: The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious. Great but difficult—requires knowledge of Jung’s work.
  • The lesson of the Abrahamic stories: Go do something. Follow your interests.
  • Put your room together and then make it beautiful.
  • Put yourself on the frontier. Join the most compelling problem in a field or industry you are interested in.
  • The willingness to be a fool is the precursor to positive transformation.
  • Redemptive mistakes are better than regrettable inaction.
  • You always meet the devil at the fork in the road. Because evil beckons every time you have to make a decision.
  • Think: what is it that’s worth sacrificing my life for? Most people say nothing and that’s why they have no meaning. That’s why they have no success.
  • A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is the story of the Hobbit. You go on a journey outside your country, away from your kin, away from your friends. The journey transforms you as a person.
  • “Those who are meek will inherit the earth.” The actual meaning of meek here is: “Those who have weapons and know how to use them but still keep them sheathed.”
  • The embodiment of God is man’s highest ideal. If you don’t have religion, you will likely turn to celebrities as ideals. If you disparage your ideals you will fail.
  • There are different arcs to life. You have to keep changing them otherwise you plateau. Once you graduate college, for instance, you need to find a job or start a business and that’s the beginning of a new story.
  • Peterson paid close attention to his dreams for about 15 years.
  • Big 5 happiness
  • Extroverted people need to be around others.
  • Agreeable people need to be in an intimate relationship
  • Conscientious people need to have a job or a business.
  • Open people need to be creative.
  • We need the sublime. Read Robert Greene’s book on the Sublime when it comes out.
  • If you’re naïve, trusting people is an act of stupidity. If you’re not naïve, trusting people is an act of courage.
  • Read Endurance.
  • To get over an addiction (like social media or alcohol), you have to replace it with something better.
  • Everyone has reasons to be anxious. We know we’re vulnerable and we know that we are going to die.
  • Traveling can improve self-confidence. It shows you that you can venture out to a new place on your own.
  • People scar and tattoo themselves to try to transform themselves from generic human to a designed human. It’s about developing their identity and it is often created with pain. The pain is necessary. The pain and the mark itself makes a memory.
  • If anything’s holding you back, you have to let it go. Because there isn’t anything more important than progressing forward. Cheap sympathy, empathy, and nostalgia are not worth failure.
  • What people think is their personality is usually more like quirks than personality traits.
  • If you create an ideal, you simultaneously create a judge and it’s easy to feel intimidated when you create a judge. That’s why people downplay their living ideals and they don’t believe in God. And they apply for challenging jobs. All of that allows you to never be judged. That’s the sheltering that the fixed mindset imposes on itself.
  • Act with the presupposition that other people have something of great interest to reveal. You can do this quickly if you talk to them directly and evoke it.
  • All people have unique experiences that only they know. You can help guide them through a story. When you think of it like this, people are an endless vista of new information.
  • Knock and the door will open.
  • Christ took the sins of the world onto himself. What does that mean? It means, for instance, that you need to fully understand the psychology of a Nazi concentration camp guard. Because they were human, and so are you. So if you cannot see yourself in that position, then you don’t know what the terrible things a human can do—you don’t know who you are. And if you understand that, you’ve begun to take on the sins of the world. Then you need to take responsibility. Uplift yourself and everyone around you.
  • If you’re in a place that is so bad you need to leave, the time to leave is now. Never look back. No nostalgia. Let the dead parts of yourself go.
  • There’s always a good justification for not doing the work you know you need to do. Maybe your mom just died or you’re sick or you’re injured. And it’s easy to push it off—5 year dreams are always in the future so you can just delay it. You say, “Well, I should do X but Y just happened, so I’ll do X later.”
  • Asking someone for a favor is the fastest way to make a connection. It allows them to establish themselves as a trustworthy person and they can call upon you for a favor later.
  • It’s best to become known as someone who is widely generous.
  • What’s the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful? The successful sacrifice. They ask: what sacrifice will cause the greatest future good? You have to sacrifice what is loved most—hence Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
  • Michelangelo’s Pieta represents the mother sacrificing her child.
  • When you know what the world is like, should you bring a child into that world? If you choose to, it is a supreme act of courage.
  • The beach is the line between order and chaos.
  • As a parent, you have a moral obligation to encourage your child to go out into the world and be all that they can be.
  • Humility: the willingness to be seen as a fool in a new land surrounded by strangers. Humility is not about downplaying your achievements or potential.
  • Freud said that being the favorite child of the mother gave someone more confidence in life.
  • The story of Esau and Jacob moral: (1) Don’t sell the future for the desires of the present. (2) Don’t take what you already have for granted.
  • Dante laid out the hierarchical structure of evil in Inferno. Betrayal is at the bottom—nothing is worse than betrayal.
  • If you trusted someone as a kid and they betrayed you, you may ask, “Why would I ever trust again?” The answer: because, as an adult, trust is an act of courage. You know full well that they could betray you.
  • Betrayal can damage someone immensely. PTSD can damage someone neurologically. It can permanently increase their neuroticism, making them more susceptible to negative emotion for life.
  • Read The Discovery of the Unconscious by Henri Ellenberger. The best intro to psychoanalytic tradition. Covers Adler, Jung, Freud + 300 years of psychoanalytic history before Freud.
  • In The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot, a woman approaches a psychiatrist and starts talking to him about her problems. Then she says, “I hope I’m the problem.” The psychiatrist asks, “Why would you hope that?” She says, “I thought about it a lot and if the world’s the problem then I’m done because I can’t change the world. But if I’m the problem then I can do something about it.”
  • Work to fix yourself before you criticize existence.
  • A fly represents the transience (shortness) of life.
  • No bad deed goes unpunished.
  • Jacob goes back to Esau and asks for forgiveness and offers him animals. Esau says that he doesn’t need the gifts, but Jacob insists. Peterson says that the gifts are important because there could be 5% of Esau that still resents Jacob but the gifts may negate that.
  • When someone tells you about a problem they have, ask, “What could you do about that?” It implies that there’s something they could do to fix it and prompts them to try to solve their own problem.
  • “Maybe the only real misfortune is to become corrupted.” - Jordan Peterson
  • Clothing often plays a role in women’s dreams. If they put on the shoes of their grandmother, for instance, the dream is trying to show that some action is similar to their grandmother.
  • Go to many different places and do a lot of different things. It has positive neurological and psychological effects.
  • A “coat of many colors” means that you can do many different things. You can have a drink at the bar with a dry-waller and have a sophisticated conversation and you should be able to talk to someone who’s more educated and sophisticated than you and be equally comfortable in both situations.
  • Set an audacious goal. You need a goal that justifies the tragedy and suffering of life.
  • Science says that everything is based on socialization or biology. But stories tell us that there is a third category: free will or a soul.
  • What determines our individual futures? Nature, nurture, or free will?
  • We all treat each other as if we have free will.
  • Just because we don’t know what free will is doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it simply means we don’t understand it.
  • Jung said that you have a potential future self who represents everything that you could be. It manifests itself moment to moment in your present life by making you interested in things. The things that you’re interested in guide you along the path that will lead you to maximal development.
  • As you move forward, the probability that you get it right on your first time is 0. Your interests will change as you progress. Each level will take you higher and higher. If you wait around until you get the perfect idea, you’ll be 40 and have nothing. Even if the perfect opportunity did arise, if you haven’t worked on yourself enough you can’t take advantage of it or even recognize it. Nietzsche called that a will to stupidity.
  • Assume that your first steps towards improvement will be incorrect, bad, and in the “wrong” direction. But as long as you’re building knowledge, skills, and experience, you can always do a lateral move and keep improving.
  • Going out and doing the wrong this is a lot better than rotting away at home. The documentary Crumb depicts this: Cartoonist Robert Crumb’s older brother never left home, never got a job, never had a relationship, and ended up committing suicide at age 49.
  • Every endeavor teaches you (at minimum) what not to do. And that narrows the possibilities. You get better at identifying your ideal.
  • Once you get rid of the baggage, that doesn’t mean you’re all set, it means you’re in the desert. You have to wander for some time before you find your way out. It means you went from a bad state to a neutral state, the good state will still take some time to get to.
  • You need to know that life may temporarily get worse after you go from a bad state to a neutral state. Because you’re in the desert, you’re lost, possibly aimless and nihilistic. But after that, once you find your way out of the desert you can start on the journey of improvement.
  • There are intermittent deserts on the way to success. Like after college or if you get fired or if you want a new career. These are all periods where you will be lost for some period of time before you find a new path that with take you even higher.
  • You need to develop yourself to be competent and at home in the widest possible number of places. Become someone who’s useful wherever they’re put.
  • Joseph is competent and useful wherever he goes. Even when he is put in prison, he figures out how to make the prison run better.
  • Recurring nightmares are meaningful and they are associated with decreased states of mental health.
  • Joseph has a dream that he is destined for greatness. The successful believe they are destined for greatness.
  • Joseph is the ideal, like Abel. And his brothers try to pull him down. That’s a recurring theme in the Bible—other people try to tear down the successful.
  • Cain killed Abel, but in modern times the killing is much more subtle—the “killing” is done by slowly picking away at their confidence over a few decades.
  • Joseph is betrayed by his brothers. They decide to sell him into slavery rather than kill him because the former makes them money. Joseph has every reason to be angry at the world now. You’d think that that would corrupt his character. But it didn’t.
  • People are always looking for an excuse to have their character corrupted. Why? Because then you get to lie, steal, betray, be resentful, and do nothing because you’re a victim. Why do they want that? Because it’s easy—it’s easier to lie than to tell the truth. It’s easier to do nothing than to do something.
  • There’s always a part of you thinking, “I need a justification for being useless and horrible.” Because that would be a lot less work. Then when something terrible comes along, you’re excited because that’s the excuse that you’d been waiting for.
  • Have you done absolutely everything you can to get your life in order? If not, don’t complain. You don’t know how much of your suffering is self-imposed.
  • Then Joseph meets his brothers again. They don’t recognize him be he recognizes them. Symbolizes that Joseph has changed and improved but his brothers are the same as they were.
  • Opportunity lurks where responsibility has been left untended. Take responsibility when someone else is failing to do so.
  • Joseph puts himself together, then he puts Egypt (a tyranny in the Bible) together, and then he puts his family together—even though they betrayed him and wanted him dead.
  • People today should try to get themselves together, then get their family together, and then work to fix the State. Because each level is more complex than the previous.
  • Joseph tests his brothers to see if they can handle any responsibility or if they’re as bad as they were before.
  • Joseph has a younger brother Benjamin and he tests his older brothers by giving Benjamin special treatment (like the special treatment that Jacob gave Joseph that caused their brothers to want to kill him). Joseph wants to see if his brothers will hurt Benjamin like they hurt him.
  • His brothers do not want to hurt Benjamin. This shows that they have good character now.
  • Joseph is using wise forgiveness. He tests to see if the other people are worthy of forgiveness before he forgives them.
  • Joseph becomes the ruler of Egypt purely based on his character.
  • The story of Marduk and Tiamat: Marduk has eyes all around his head and he can speak words of magic. He goes out to defeat the most powerful monster Tiamat. In exchange, Marduk will become the head god—the one who determines destiny. Marduk defeats Tiamat by catching her in a net (he contained the chaos). Only the one who could see and speak articulately could defeat chaos. Marduk cuts Tiamat into pieces and makes the world with those pieces. One of Marduk’s names is “he who makes ingenious things out of the combat with Tiamat. The person at the top of the hierarchy who determines destiny should be the one who can see and speak better than anyone else and goes voluntarily to confront chaos. Then Marduk goes to Kingu (the king of the demons—like satan) and defeats him and creates humans out of his blood. Humans have an innate darkness to them because we’re the only animal capable of voluntary deception. This story is the pinnacle of human discoveries. Pay attention, read, write, and speak to develop power.

Lecture 1

Introduction to the Idea of God

  • Fiction might be more real than nonfiction. Because (great) fiction hits on a fundamental truth that is abstracted from many different people.
  • Authoritarian rulers make themselves god. To stop this, you need to have a set of rules that are above the ruler like laws or religion.
  • You think to act out options in your mind so that you don’t try them irl and die.
  • You can change the past based on your understanding. So you can learn something new and change your past.
  • You need a noble aim. To pay attention, to speak properly, to end chaos, to make a better world.
  • Taking your future self into account isn’t much different than taking other people into account. It requires empathy.
  • The evidence for what people believe to be true is in what they act out, not in what they say.
  • You need a concrete aim to shoot for in life. It will change over time, but you need to keep aiming for something and then readjusting.
  • Knowledge is a tool to do something in the real world. Give people knowledge that they can practically use.
  • Only take from the bible what is clearly true and possible. Everything needs to be in accordance with evolutionary theory. Ie) Don’t actually believe that the red sea parted. Don’t believe that God created the world.
  • The Bible is a comedy (rather than a tragedy). Everyone lives and goes to heaven.
  • There are barely any true scientific thinkers. It’s hard to think scientifically. Even the ones who can think scientifically don’t once you get them out of the lab—and hardly when they’re in the lab.
  • The stories of the bible try to represent the lived experience of conscience individuals. There are truths to live by.
  • The Bible says that both men and women are made in God’s image.
  • The feminists try to say that the Bible is patriarchal. But they criticize everything as patriarchal.
  • What happens if you don’t take morality seriously? Read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
  • Read Dostoevsky’s The Devils or The Possessed.
  • Read The Gulag Archipelago.
  • “There’s almost nothing more valuable than beauty.” Economically and practically. That’s why packaging matters when selling products. If you can beautify your product, it is worth much more. Europe spent millions making beautiful cathedrals and architecture and it has paid off many times over. People come to see them and it gives the cities tourist revenue. It brings out something in humans like music. An investment into beauty is worth it. It is seductive.
  • There are more ways to interpret the bible. Peterson is just trying to make them rational through his lens.
  • The Old Testament said that with enough iterations of the State, you could eventually have people who behave properly create the ideal State. The State is viewed as the entity of salvation. But in the New Testament that idea gets deconstructed. The individual becomes the ideal and tries to mirror the divine image. The responsibility of the individual is the basis for a functioning society. If we don’t believe this and act it out, we will all die painfully.
  • Peterson says that Carl Jung’s Red Book was him dreaming while he was awake. But he didn’t try to control the dream. It’s called active imagination.
  • Video games are forms of dreams themselves.
  • Dreams are an experiment in imagination.
  • We need REM sleep. People don’t stay sane for long without it.
  • Dreams often concentrate on things that provoke anxiety.
  • A dream is the bridge between the unknown and the known.

Lecture 2

Genesis 1: Chaos and Order

  • Dante said that the worst thing that you can do is betray someone.
  • There are huge economic incentives to trust. If people trust you, you will make money. Reputation matters.
  • Freud thought that God was just the father.
  • Marx thought that religion was the opiate of the masses.
  • “Communism was the methamphetamine of the masses.” — Jordan Peterson
  • Dostoevsky questioned utopia. If you lived in a world where you gave everyone cake and they just relaxed in hut tubs and had sex, they would quickly mess something up just to have a change of pace. They would want to create some kind of drama.
  • The mindset of the columbine shooters is that they want everyone to suffer before they leave the world. They have a victim mindset—everyone else didn’t make their lives perfect so they want revenge on the world.
  • You can’t really understand the humanities unless you know the biblical stories. They are the dream from which the humanities emerged.
  • Read Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. You need to know the biblical stories to understand them.
  • Figure out how much you can work sustainably. If working 14 hours a day burns you out too much, maybe it’s better to go 12 hours and not get burned out.
  • Association dream analysis: write out your dream line by line. Every time a person or item comes up, try to remember what it means to you. What do you associate that person or thing with? Jung says to go further—ask yourself what the mythological or archetypal associations it may have.
  • There’s no story without limitations. Superman would be boring if there was no kryptonite. He would always win every time. Life only has meaning because of our limitations. Good moments only exist because there can be bad moments. If time was unlimited we would have no urgency. There would be no reason to do anything today.
  • There are some people who are so toxic (victim mentality) that just being around them will pull you into their drama. They maneuver, manipulate, and interpret in a way that makes any person around them a villain in their story, regardless of what the person does or says. They have an unhappy and tragic internal narrative. They drag down the people around them.
  • The opposite of a person with a victim mentality is someone who aims upward and has a positive effect on the people around them. Self improve. Get yourself together as much as possible. Take responsibility. It influences the people around you to get better too and then they can have the same positive impact on the people around them.
  • When Adam and Eve eat the fruit, the first thing that happens is their eyes are opened. That symbolizes that they’ve woken up—they understand reality. Then they recognize that they’re naked. That symbolizes that they recognize that they’re vulnerable. At that same moment, they recognize the difference between good and evil. They also realize the concept of death. Humans are aware of their own limitations, they know how they could get hurt. That gives them insight on how to hurt others—that’s how evil enters the world. Realizing that you’re vulnerable gives you insight on how to harm others and a fraction of people—evil people—take advantage of that and harm others.
  • The snake in the garden is the devil. And there is a part of the snake in every person—there is a small part of evil in everyone.
  • Kierkegaard inspired: if you speak the truth then whatever happens is good, regardless of what happens.
  • If you know someone who has a problem, often the best thing you can do is listen to them.
  • Some people are so far gone that they cannot be helped. Stay away from them. They will drag you down.
  • If someone admits they have a problem and wants to fix it they can be fixed. But if someone will not admit they have a problem they cannot be fixed.
  • If you’re not successful or happy, then you should hope that something is wrong with you, because if it’s you, it can be changed. But if it’s the world, it cannot be changed.

Lecture 3

God and the Hierarchy of Authority

  • Truthful speech gives rise to the good.
  • Practice love: assume that things are valuable and act accordingly.
  • Practice truth: don’t say what you know to be untrue.
  • Don’t give kids ADHD medication. It shuts down neuro circuitry for play. It’s normal for a kid to want to play.
  • Pay attention: watch for what you don’t know. Paying attention can get you to the top of the hierarchy. That’s why there is an eye at the top of the pyramid.
  • The person who gets invited to play the most games (the people with the best social life, business parters, romantic partners) are the people who (1) let other people win 40% of the time and (2) they go forthrightly to conquer the unknown before it manifests into the enemy at the door. They go outside of their comfort zone to prepare for the future.
  • That seems obvious—the person who is a great hunter but also shares his food with those around him will be popular because people benefit by being near him.
  • The person who has the most authority is the one who accepts the suffering of others (like Jesus—God) and takes responsibility. Jesus (God) has authority because he died for our sins. This is straight forward. Do you like brave people or cowards? Do you like selfish people or helpful people?
  • (1) First you learn to play, (2) then you learn the rules. (3) Then, and most people don’t realize this, you can make the rules. Example:
  • A child painter doesn’t know the rules at first. They just paint randomly.
  • As an adult, the painter has learned to paint with photographic realism. They’ve learned the rules.
  • Then, to be a true creative, they need to make/break the rules. They no longer paint with photographic realism, they make something new using the skills they learned and they use judgement calls for whether or not to follow the rules.
  • There’s no such thing as “getting away with it.” You will pay for it at some time in your lifetime. Lies, for instance, can come back to haunt you years later.
  • You cannot be a good person until you know how much evil you contain within you. To integrate the shadow, try to imagine yourself doing medieval torture.
  • 1:47:00 is great. It’s about integrating the shadow and why you have to understand evil before you really want to be good.
  • The rule that you don’t let your kids do anything that will make you dislike them is because you know that you have the capacity for evil. You’re way bigger than them. So you have to make sure that you like them so that when they irritate you, you won’t take it out on them.
  • Kierkegaard: there will come a time when we have so much security and comfort that what we’ll want more than anything else is depravation and challenge.
  • A woman in the audience asks Peterson about the egalitarian movement. Peterson says that the egalitarian movement could be women trying to test men’s masculinity at the societal level. Why is it that 50 Shades of Grey (movies/books about a sexually dominant male) were the biggest movies/books during the same time as the peak of the egalitarian movement? Why do the egalitarians go out of their way to ignore Islamic patriarchy? Could it be that their subconscious wants masculinity? Could it be that the egalitarian movement is simply women testing men’s masculinity?

Lecture 4 

Adam and Eve: Self-consciousness, Evil, and Death

  • Always tell the truth.
  • Act in accordance with your beliefs. Everyone knows there are things they should be doing but they’re not because of fear. How good would you be if you did them?
  • The idea of sacrifices for God could be about teaching sacrifice for delayed gratification. You have to embody future society. That’s the only reason people would give something up now for more tomorrow. You have to invest your time into becoming a doctor, for instance, in hopes that the future society (God) pays you back. And if you’ve made a worthy sacrifice, you are rewarded by God. People who don’t sacrifice think that the system is unfair. They don’t understand why God favors Abel’s sacrifices over Cain’s.
  • The wise person is the one who finds what he lost in childhood and regains it.
  • Paradise is portrayed as a walled garden because it’s the perfect mix of nature and civility.
  • People high in consciousness need to take a break from work. It can make them more productive.
  • God had to rest one day a week. So humans definitely need at least one day of rest a week.
  • If you get moody when hungry, eat something high in protein and fat. It can completely stabilize your mood instantly.
  • Information is meta-food. You can use information to get more food.
  • The fruits in the Garden of Eden are information.
  • Naming something makes it real. You can’t ignore it once it’s been named.
  • Most people are waiting for the perfect person. In reality, if you did find them, they’d never want to date you if you’re not a 10 yourself. It only makes sense to hold out for a perfect partner if you’re perfect yourself or if you’re putting in the work and plan on being perfect soon.
  • It’s essential to get married because if you can just leave, you never have to face the truth (you can just end the relationship if anything negative ever comes up). But if you decide that you’ll stay together no matter what, then you have to face reality.
  • The “round chaos” is the archaic symbol that the golden snitch in Harry Potter was based on. Peterson says he doesn’t know how Rowling found it because the only reference of it on Google is on his own website.
  • Peterson says that at an early age, his daughter didn’t care if she was naked or not. But his son by the age of 3 did not want to be naked and he wanted privacy. That’s interesting because a podcast just cane out of Jordan, his daughter, and son. And his daughter is much more outgoing and his son is much more reserved. So it seems like he noticed high extraversion in his daughter and low extraversion in his son at an early age.
  • Intellect can become arrogant about its own existence and accomplishments. And then it falls in love with its own products. That’s what happens when you’re ideologically possessed. You end up with a dogma. Then you believe the dogma is 100% correct. It’s associated symbolically with the snake in the Garden of Eden.
  • The snake tells Eve that God is wrong and that she won’t die if she eats the fruit. Then he says that God just doesn’t want you to know the things that he knows. So if you eat it, nothing bad will happen and you’ll get to know the difference between good and evil.
  • Self-consciousness is associated with trait neuroticism.
  • Women make men self-conscious.
  • Think: What have you hidden from in your life?
  • Adam blames Eve and God himself for eating the fruit. Peterson says that it’s just like guys today blaming women and saying that it’s women’s fault and not their own inadequacy.
  • When Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they realize that they are naked and are shameful about it. They want to hide. They realized that they are vulnerable. That means that they know they can be hurt. And when you know what can hurt you, you know what can hurt others. So they realized the existence of good and evil.
  • Then God says that they need to work. Why? Because now they know that they’re vulnerable—that they’re going to die, so they need to work to get food and resources to live. “Working” is the sacrifice of the present for the future.
  • There’s an implicit theory of suffering in the story of Adam and Eve: Suffering is built into the structure of conscious being.
  • If you’re suffering, that’s the normal state of humans. It’s not someone else’s fault. It’s not the consequence of sociological oppression. It’s not the result of our society being structured improperly.
  • Unit 731 has some of the most horrific things that have ever happened.
  • The greatest enemy of all time is the human propensity for evil—that’s satan.
  • That’s why the snake was in the Garden of Eden. You cannot completely free yourself of it. It is always there. Partially in yourself, others, friends, enemies, and “evil” people.
  • Nothing about sex is casual.

Lecture 5

Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers

  • It’s likely that trait consciousness is associated with the ability to delay gratification—to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
  • If you can’t delay gratification, other kids don’t like you because you want everything your way and you’re liable to temper tantrums. The ability to delay gratification is (like consciousness) a good predictor of future success. If kids can’t delay gratification and learn to socialize with other kids by age 4, it’s bad.
  • The fact that high IQ and consciousness is a validation that society is functioning as a meritocracy. Because the most intelligent and hard-working people win.
  • You want to have the hardworking smart people do better because then they do work that benefits everyone.
  • What’s the difference between the successful and unsuccessful? The successful sacrifice—delay gratification.
  • Your ambitions blind you to the nature of reality.
  • It’s possible that it’s what you’re focused on is the cause of your suffering. If you focused on something else your suffering would be gone.
  • Sometimes family members will try to take advantage of you. They will use the sacredness of familial bond to control you or get money from you, etc. You have to sacrifice them to get the future that you want. If it’s bad, you have to completely distance yourself and never talk to them again.
  • If the world you’re seeing is not the world you want, it’s time to reevaluate your values and what you are focused on. Because either the world is terrible or it’s you. (It’s actually way better if you’re the problem because then you can fix yourself.) And we live in the freest, most equal, and prosperous time in all of history, so it’s probably you who needs to change. Because if it’s fate or the world that’s evil, you’re screwed, there’s nothing you can do about that.
  • Either way, it’s far better to act as if it’s you that needs to change. Because everyone has something they could improve about themselves. And improving yourself improves the life of everyone around you.
  • If you start to act as if it’s not you, you will start to act in a way that makes life worse for you and everyone around you.
  • In summary, there are 2 beliefs you can have about life. (1) The world is bad and unfair. (2) You are not as good as you could be, so you need to improve yourself.
  • Option 1 causes suffering.
  • Option 2 makes you as good as you possibly could be.
  • Your fundamental ethical belief needs to be that you will work for the betterment of yourself and others. You need to work on yourself first otherwise you can’t help anyone else.
  • If you stop every forest fire, the deadwood builds up until one day the entire forest burns down so hot that the top soil burns and then nothing can grow. Instead, you have to allow small fires to burn so that the entire forest doesn’t burn down. Don’t let your deadwood of chaos accumulate. You have to periodically clean up your life otherwise you will spiral into darkness.
  • Watch the documentary Crumb. Possibly the beat documentary ever. It shows why the oedipal complex can be horrific.
  • Things that you learn when you have a child:
  • You don’t grow up until someone else (your child) is more important than you.
  • It’s a relief to not be the center of attention because your child is the center of attention.
  • You learn a lot about other people because other people like babies.
  • There’s miraculous potential in every baby.
  • Babies are generic until you have one. Your baby isn’t a generic baby at all. Instantly your relationship to the baby is closer than any relationship you’ve ever had. And you have the ability to keep that relationship perfect. Most of the relationships you had with people were messed up in 50 different ways.
  • There’s very little in life that can compare with establishing a proper relationship with your child. They make great company if you keep your relationship pristine.
  • It’s worthwhile to have a baby.
  • Peterson says that Cain and Abel is the most profound story he’s ever read.
  • Cain and Abel were the first true human beings. Because Adam and Eve were created by God, they weren’t born. And they were born in the real world, not in paradise.
  • Cain was the first human and he was a murderer. He killed his own brother.
  • You can never know for sure why God will not accept your sacrifices. Maybe you’re like Cain and you’re not sacrificing enough. But you could be like Job, sacrificing sufficiently but still suffering. Your best bet is to sacrifice more.
  • There would be more Hitlers if those types of people had the organizational and logistical skills. Thankfully, most of the people as cynical and evil as Hitler are too incompetent to do what he did.
  • It’s mot that some people are Cain and others are Abel, each person is 50% Cain and 50% Abel and the one that
  • Your fantasies show you dark things about yourself that will shock you.
  • The Jungian shadow is the manifestation of Cain.
  • The human shadow has roots that reach all the way to hell. - Jung
  • Cain is far from happy, as we have seen. He's working hard, or so he thinks, but God is not pleased. Meanwhile, Abel is dancing away in the daisies. His crops flourish. Women love him.
  • Worst of all, [Abel’s] a pretty good guy. Everyone knows it. He deserves his good fortune. All the more reason [for Cain] to hate him.
  • Abel’s an all around good, moral guy. He’s exactly the kind of person everyone would like to be. And that’s exactly why Cain kills him.
  • People have cynicism about people who embody their ideal. They’re always looking for some flaw with the individual: they must be crooked, conniving, arrogant, or psychopathic. And all of those things exist, but it’s a bad trick to play on yourself to make the proposition that the person who represents your own ideal is that ideal because of despicable reasons. All that does is train yourself to believe that your ideal can only be achieved by despicable means. And then you only have 2 options: (1) become a failure or (2) try to become despicable to achieve your ideal.
  • This story shows why you always see criticism and undermining in the media of people who have mostly done things to create goodness in the world.
  • Cain broods on his misfortune, like a vulture on an egg. He enters the desert wilderness of his own mind. He obsesses over his ill-fortune and betrayal. He nourishes his resentment.
  • He indulges in ever-more elaborate fantasies of revenge. His arrogance grows to Luciferian proportions. "I'm ill-used and oppressed," he thinks. "This is a stupid bloody planet. It can go to Hell."
  • And with that, he encounters Satan in the wilderness, and falls prey to his temptations.
  • And he does what he can, in John Milton's unforgettable words, to "confound the Race of Mankind in the first Root and mingle and involve Earth with hell - done all to spite the Great Creator."
  • He turns to Evil to obtain what Good forbade him, and he does it voluntarily, self-consciously and with malice.
  • The resentful, bitter failure takes an axe to the admirable success.
  • When God asks Cain when Abel is, Cain lies and says he doesn’t know. It’s so telling that Cain would lie.
  • Peterson says that Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment may be the best novel ever written.
  • In killing Abel, he deprived his parents of their son, he lost his brother, he killed his own ideal (guarantees future failure), and lost the community any benefits that Abel would have brought.
  • In the story, anyone who transgresses again one of Cains children is faced with an exponentially more murderous reaction. The first generation kills 7 people per transgression. The second generation kills 49 people per transgression. It symbolizes how evil spreads.
  • The Marxist theory of suffering: there are oppressed people and oppressors. The oppressed people suffer because of the oppressors. This is false outside of the context of totalitarian or corrupt regimes. And even then, people still inherently suffer.
  • Look at William Blake paintings.
  • Only willful blindness could explain the denial of evil. Read any book on a 20th century totalitarian regime.

Lecture 6

The Psychology of The Flood

  • Darwinian presuppositions are at least as fundamental as Newtonian presuppositions.
  • We evolved story-like structures to interpret the world.
  • The worst thing that you can hear if you go to a doctor or therapist is, “I’ve never heard of anything like that.” Because (1) they don’t know how to treat it or (2) you’re such an anomaly that they don’t listen or take it seriously. Because a doctor wants to be able to easily put you into a box so that they can treat it by the books.
  • Diagnosis can be a huge relief. If someone is scared of elevators, for instance, can’t go outside much anymore, have heart palpitations, and sometimes end up in the emergency room. Then a psychologist can easily diagnose it as agoraphobia and they can begin treatment with a high likelihood of success. It’s better to have one manageable snake than a hydra. It also feels better to know that other people have the same problem and that they’re not uniquely suffering.
  • The world is complex beyond comprehension and that complexity shifts in unpredictable ways. To deal with that, we have a variety of personality and psychical traits. It’s quasi-random. If it was completely random, some people would have 3 arms or 4 legs. There is a conservative basic structure that the variation is built on—the basic physical and psychological structure of a human. It’s similar to music—all music has the same structure but there are variations.
  • People who are suicidal often feel that they have no good options. No matter what way they turn, there’s something terrible to face and they can’t see any way out of it. They feel like they’ve been backed into a corner.
  • People who go to therapy often don’t have a mental illness per se, they have a complexity management problem—their lives have gotten out of hand—and they don’t know how to fix it.

Symbols of chaos:

  1. The dragon. The symbol of The unknown. It’s the thing that lurks underneath. The dragon is what the hero goes out to defeat in the hero’s journey. The dragon often guards treasure because if you face chaos and win, you get rewarded.
  2. Water.
  • Entropy: things have tendency to fall apart over time. So you have to work to keep things in order.
  • The good thing about pessimism is that it’s freeing. You’re screwed either way, so there’s no point being anxious or looking for the best path. Just do your best and keep moving forward.
  • Your routine and habits matter. They’re what you do for most of the day, so make sure you’ve structured them well.
  • The purpose of being a parent for young children is to make sure they’re exceptionally socially desirable by the age of 4.
  • Jung: You’re in a story whether you know it or not. Either:
  1. It’s someone else’s story and might not get the part you want.
  2. It’s a story that you don’t know and it might have a really bad ending. And if you haven’t planned out the next 3-5 years of your life, this is you. If you hate your life or can’t see a successful future, you’re probably living out a tragedy that you picked up from your parents or an aunt or role model. Or you’re willfully blind or ignorant.
  3. It’s a carefully crafted plan broken up into manageable daily habits.
  • GPS systems are based on cybernetic models. They’re a metaphor for life because they continually update where you are, solve problems, and show you the beat path to get to your destination.
  • The fundamental demand placed on humans is to contend with the chaos that disrupts order. Not to live in order or to live in chaos. You don’t want to be a denizen of order—a tyrant. Or a denizen of chaos—a hopeless nihilist.
  • To be stable, you have to improve. Because (1) your body is changing and (2) the world is changing. So even if you’re great now, if you don’t improve, chaos will creep into your life.
  • Every system produces inequality. The only system we know that produces inequality AND wealth is capitalism. It’s obviously not perfect but it’s the best system we have.
  • When a wolf fights another wolf, the loser will put out its neck as an offering for the winner to bit and kill him. But the winner doesn’t kill the loser because the winner might need the loser to hell him hunt tomorrow. That’s ingrained wolf ethics. Humans have the same thing. We have ethics built in (is that the collective conscious?). The Bible is our innate human ethics written down after years of studying the natural biological ethics of humans.
  • All you have to do is pay attention to a kid to get them to like you.
  • Sometimes losing you job or getting dumped is the best thing that can happen to you. It gives you information. With that information, you can inform yourself. And you can put yourself in formation.
  • Read The History of Religious Ideas.
  • You will develop 2 or 3 severe illnesses in your life. And one of them will probably be chronic. What kind of person will you be when it happens? How will you prepare for it? Everyone you know is in the same boat, so what will you do when the same happens to them? How will you prepare?
  • Around 2:18:00 great critique of the universities and how the internet will disrupt them.

Lecture 7

Walking With God: Noah and the Flood

  • Even having a chance of success is something to be grateful for. Only in America is it written that you are allowed to pursue happiness. In virtually every other time and place, the government was conspiring against its citizens.
  • Modern people don’t see God because they didn’t look low enough. - Carl Jung
  • People denigrate the opportunities that are right in front of them.
  • The goal is not to repair the city, the goal is to become a person who can continually repair the city. The goal is not to become successful, it’s to become the kind of person who could become successful again and again even if it was taken from them.
  • Lies and deception are the archetypal arrogance of the devil. He believes that he can twist reality with lies and get away with it. You cannot get away with it.
  • You are in hell to the degree that you do not pursue the good.
  • Jealousy, resentment, and a lack of confidence cause people to undermine their idols. They end up in hell because they delude themselves into thinking that success is shameful.
  • Intellect tends towards pride and arrogance. Over time it becomes dogmatic and believes it knows everything. Intellect is the devil in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
  • It’s not easy to be good. If you don’t actively try to be good, you’re not good. And activism is not being good in 2022.
  • You need to build an ark to escape the flood when it comes.
  • You have to take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. There is no guarantee that working hard, being truthful, and being moral will lead to success, you just have to hope it works out.
  • There is no better way to live than to conceptualize the highest good that you can and then strive to attain it. It’s the only practical path to success.
  • Why not? There’s nothing better to do in life.
  • You have to identify what you want and do everything to get it. The chances that you randomly stumble upon success is 0. If you actually want something, you can have it, but you have to define it and sacrifice everything else to get it. You have to orient your entire life to making the probability that obtaining that one thing is as certain as possible. Most people want everything AND they have no plan. This is wrong—it guarantees failure.
  • There are 4 things that everyone wants in life: health, knowledge, relationships, and wealth. Why not focus solely on health and knowledge. Once you obtain it, focus on wealth. Once you retire, focus on relationships. This doesn’t work for most people because they never fully focus on wealth—they don’t retire early enough. You need to retire by age 30-35 for this strategy to work.
  • Think: what an I currently doing to screw my life over? Really think about it and then stop doing them.
  • Act as if God exists. Faith makes being good. Act out the proposition that if you act properly then being itself is benevolent. There is really no alternative: To assume the contrary is to be as cynical and bitter as possible.
  • Make yourself as good as you can be and then help others do the same. That is the pinnacle of the moral wisdom of mankind.
  • Solzhenitsyn: Individual honesty and ethical behavior is the only thing that can stop totalitarian regimes.
  • Solzhenitsyn’s work is better than Frankl’s.
  • Noah, because he prepared for the flood, gets the ultimate opportunity—his descendants can dominate the earth. If you sacrifice and prepare for problems properly, you will get huge opportunities.
  • Life itself is to be regarded as sacred. You cannot kill other people or yourself.
  • How do you help someone who is lost? If they aren’t willing to not be lost you cannot help them.
  • Borderline personality disorder is one of the most serious mental disorders and is difficult to treat.
  • Metaphor: If someone is sinking and they’re trying to pull you down, you’re not obligated to drown with them.
  • If you happen to be extremely creative or interested in ideas you are in the minority. Ordinary people are not like this: there are very few true entrepreneurs, creatives, and intellectuals. If you are one, you need to find other people like you.
  • Solzhenitsyn said that Russian should return to orthodox Christianity.
  • The Tao Te Ching only makes sense if you understand that yin and yang are chaos and order.

Lecture 8

The Phenomenology of the Divine

  • The point of criticism is to separate the good from the bad. It’s not to get rid of the whole thing carelessly.
  • In Faust, the devil (Mephistopheles) thought that being was so meaningless and fraught with suffering that it would be better if the universe had not existed at all. That motivates him to try to destroy the world.
  • The dark side of humans: desire for sex, power, and anger. The intellect is dangerous—it can become dogmatic and arrogant.
  • To those who have everything, more will be given. To those who have nothing, everything will be taken.
  • As you’re successful the probability that you will continue to be successful or increase your success increases. If you’re unsuccessful, the probability that you will continue to be unsuccessful increases.
  • That’s true of all known systems, not just capitalism.
  • The Tower of Babel is a warning against scaling systems too far. Nothing can be all-encompassing. There is an optimal size for business and government, bigger is not always better.
  • The Tower of Babel was supposed to be a structure that reaches heaven. It blurs the line between heaven and earth. It’s utopian.
  • Jung was most influenced by Freud and Nietzsche.
  • Jung and Freud didn’t see eye to eye on religion and the Oedipal myth. That caused them to split up. Symbols of Transformation by Jung promoted the religious viewpoint. It came out in 1914 and that’s when Jung and Freud broke up academically.
  • Jung was religious and didn’t think the Oedipal myth was as fundamental as Freud did.
  • Read Erich Neumann—Jung’s greatest student.
  • Read The Origins and History of Consciousness — the best introduction to Jung’s work.
  • The Great Mother is good too.
  • Freud believed that the most important myth was the Oedipal story.
  • Many people’s problems come from their inability to break free of the family.
  • It’s a failed hero story.
  • Jung thought that the successful hero story was the most important myth.
  • Sleeping Beauty depicts Jung’s hero story.
  • Watch Crumb documentary. It depicts the Oedipal complex and shows how bad it can get.
  • Peterson thinks its a hallmark of creativity to have vivid dreams and be able to remember them.
  • Beware of wisdom you did not earn - Carl Jung
  • Carl Jung paper: The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious. Great but difficult—requires a knowledge of Jung’s work.

Lecture 9

The Call to Abraham

  • The lesson of the Abrahamic stories: go do something. Find your interests or your purpose and work on it.
  • Fix yourself psychologically. Fix the relationships with your family and have friends who want to see your win. This is how you prepare for when crisis strikes—and crisis will strike.
  • Everything is worth paying infinite attention to. But you have limited time. What an artist does is spend the time paying attention to one thing. They’ll put, say, 40 hours into a painting. Then the viewer can appreciate the second-hand attention.
  • Put your room together and then make it beautiful.
  • Put yourself on the frontier. Join the most compelling problem in a field or industry you are interested in.
  • The witness to be a fool is the precursor to transformation.
  • If something grips you and fills you with interest, you have to do it. What if it’s a mistake? That’s fine as long as you keep moving, it can be a stepping stone. If you stay in the same place you guarantee failure.
  • Redemptive mistakes are better than regrettable inaction.
  • You always meet the devil at the fork in the road. Because evil beckons every time you have to make a decision.
  • Every day you have a list (mental or physical) of the things that you need to do that day. Think about which is the most meaningful and important. Call on your imagination to decide for you.
  • Think: what is it that’s worth sacrificing my life for? Most people say nothing and that’s why they have no meaning. That’s why they have no success.
  • A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is the story of the Hobbit. You go on a journey outside your country, away from your kin, away from your friends. The journey transforms you as a person.
  • “Those who are meek will inherit the earth.” The actual meaning of meek here is: “Those who have weapons and know how to use them but still keep them sheathed.”
  • Abraham was willing to make any sacrifice for his covenant with God. Even sacrifice his son.
  • A covenant is a psychological ark. It’s a mental preparation for a flood.
  • Welfare systems are often a charity to their employees. They don’t even track how much money actually goes to the welfare recipients. The same is true of charities.

Lecture 10

Abraham: Father of Nations

  • The embodiment of God is man’s highest ideal. If you don’t have religion, you will likely turn to celebrities as ideals. If you disparage your ideals you will fail.
  • There are different arcs to life. You have to keep changing them otherwise you plateau. Once you graduate college, for instance, you need to find a job or start a business and that’s the beginning of a new story.
  • Peterson payed close attention to his dreams for about 15 years.
  • Big 5 happiness
  • Extroverted people need to be around others.
  • Agreeable people need to be in an intimate relationship
  • Conscientious people need to have a job or a business.
  • Open people need to be creative.
  • We need the sublime. Read Robert Greene’s book on the Sublime when it comes out.
  • If you’re naïve, trusting people is an act of stupidity. If you’re not naïve, trusting people is an act of courage.
  • Read Endurance.
  • To get over an addiction (like social media or alcohol), you have to replace it with something better.

Lecture 11

Sodom and Gomorrah

  • Circumcision is a sacrifice of a part of the body.
  • Many people think that the story off Sodom and Gomorrah is against homosexuality. Peterson says he thinks it’s not.
  • Everyone has reasons to be anxious. We know we’re vulnerable and we know that we are going to die.
  • Traveling can improve self-confidence. It shows you that you can venture out to a new place on your own.
  • People scar and tattoo themselves to try to transform themselves from generic human to a designed human. It’s about developing their identity and it is often created with pain. The pain is necessary. The pain and the mark itself makes a memory.
  • If anything’s holding you back, you have to let it go. Because there isn’t anything more important than progressing forward. Cheap sympathy, empathy, and nostalgia are not worth failure.
  • What people think is their personality is usually more like quirks than personality traits.
  • To be proud of your insufficiency is self-deception and arrogance. People will often say that have their own way or their own “style” instead of realizing that they’re not good yet. It takes years of deliberate work to be great.
  • The trial of Socrates.
  • If you create an ideal, you simultaneously create a judge and it’s easy to feel intimidated when you create a judge. That’s why people downplay their living ideals and they don’t believe in God. And they apply for challenging jobs. All of that allows you to never be judged. That’s the sheltering that the fixed mindset imposes on itself.
  • Abraham is open to strangers (open to the unknown) and he trusts them, which is an act of courage (if you’re not naïve) and that evokes the trustworthiness of the person.
  • Act with the presupposition that other people have something of great interest to reveal. You can do this quickly if you talk to them directly and evoke it.
  • All people have unique experiences that only they know. You can help guide them through a story. When you think of it like this, people are an endless vista of new information.
  • Knock and the door will open.
  • Christ took the sins of the world onto himself. What does that mean? It means, for instance, that you need to fully understand the psychology of a Nazi concentration camp guard. Because they were human, and so are you. So if you cannot see yourself in that position, then you don’t know what the terrible things a human can do—you don’t know who you are. And if you understand that, you’ve begun to take on the sins of the world. Then you need to take responsibility. Uplift yourself and everyone around you.
  • Great story around (1:32:00). God is going to destroy the city Sodom. Abraham talks with God about sparing the city. Abraham asks if God will spare the city if he can find 50 good people there. Then Abraham keeps going back to God and asking him if he will spare the city for fewer and fewer good people. God keeps agreeing until they get down to 10. There are 3 great takeaways from this:
  1. You can bargain with God.
  2. Even if there’s a minority of good in a place that isn’t good it won’t be slated for destruction.
  3. A minority of good in a bad place can keep it from being destroyed. If a minority of good people stand up against corruption, the good can prevail.
  • When Solzhenitsyn released the Gulag Archipelago in the 1970s, the moral argument for communism lost all credibility to anyone who was even vaguely educated.
  1. One person can take on a tyranny and prevail.
  • If you’re in a place to is so bad you need to leave, the time to leave is now. Never look back. No nostalgia. Let the dead parts of yourself go.
  • There’s always a good justification for not doing the work you know you need to do. Maybe your mom just died or you’re sick or you’re injured. And it’s easy to push it off—5 years dreams are always in the future so you can just delay it. You say, “Well, I should do X but Y just happened, so I’ll do X later.”

Lecture 12

The Great Sacrifice: Abraham and Isaac

  • It doesn’t matter if you believe in God. It only matters if you act as in God exists. Actions > words.
  • Asking someone for a favor is the fastest way to make a connection. It allows them to establish themselves as a trustworthy person and they can call upon you for a favor later.
  • It’s best to become known as someone who is widely generous.
  • What’s the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful? The successful sacrifice. They ask: what sacrifice with cause the greatest future good? You have to sacrifice what is loved most—hence Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
  • Michelangelo’s Pieta represents the mother sacrificing her child. Mary and the body of her son. When you know what the world is like, should you bring a child into that world? If you choose to, it is a supreme act of courage.
  • Not in lecture: The beach is the line between order and chaos.
  • As a parent, you have a moral obligation to encourage your child to go out into the world and be all that they can be.
  • (1:21:00) is great. A recap of genesis. Talks about Cain and Abel.
  • Humility: the willingness to be seen as a fool in a new land surrounded by strangers. Humility is not about downplaying your achievements or potential.

Lecture 13

Jacob’s Ladder

  • When writing a book, you shouldn’t have the answer to your question before you start. Ask the question and then research and read like a madman while writing.
  • The characters in the bible continue to sin constantly. That shows how real the characters are. They could have easily not shown the failures of the humans but that makes them relatable.
  • Trying to be your best self and trying to be like Christ are the same thing.
  • Isaac (Abraham’s son) and Rebecca’s unborn twins fight inside her. That’s an echo to the story of Cain and Abel. They’re hostile brothers like Thor and Loki or Christ and satan.
  • The twins are Esau and Jacob. Esau is manly and Jacob is more feminine. Isaac likes Esau more and Rebecca likes Jacob more.
  • The first born child has a natural leadership role. They should be a role model for the others and take care of them.
  • Freud said that being the favorite child of the mother gave someone more confidence in life.
  • The story of Esau and Jacob moral: (1) Don’t sell the future for the desires of the present. (2) Don’t take what you already have for granted.
  • Jacob betrays Esau. Esau says that he will kill Jacob when Isaac dies.
  • Dante laid out the hierarchical structure of evil in Inferno. Betrayal is at the bottom—nothing is worse than betrayal.
  • If you trusted someone as a kid and they betrayed you, you may ask, “Why would I ever trust again?” The answer: because, as an adult, trust is an act of courage. You know full well that they could betray you.
  • Betrayal can damage someone immensely. PTSD can damage someone neurologically. It can permanently increase their neuroticism, making them more susceptible to negative emotion for life.
  • Read The Discovery of the Unconscious by Henri Ellenberger. The best intro to psychoanalytic tradition. Covers Adler, Jung, Freud + 300 years of psychoanalytic history before Freud.
  • In The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot, a woman approaches a psychiatrist and starts talking to him about her problems. Then she says, “I hope I’m the problem.” The psychiatrist asks, “Why would you hope that?” She says, “I thought about it a lot and if the world’s the problem then I’m done because I can’t change the world. But if I’m the problem then I can do something about it.”
  • Work to fix yourself before you criticize existence.

Lecture 14

Jacob: Wrestling with God

  • IQ tends to decrease after each subsequent child. Possibly because the older ones get more attention.
  • A fly represents the transience (shortness) of life.
  • If you become successful, you have an obligation to help maintain the system.
  • No bad deed goes unpunished.
  • Jacob goes back to Esau and asks for forgiveness and offers him animals. Esau says that he doesn’t need the gifts, but Jacob insists. Peterson says that the gifts are important because there could be 5% of Esau that still resents Jacob but the gifts may negate that.
  • Jacob becomes Israel.
  • When someone tells you about a problem they have, ask, “What could you do about that?” It implies that there’s something they could do to fix it and prompts then to try to solve their own problem.

Lecture 15

Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors

  • “Maybe the only real misfortune is to become corrupted.” - Jordan Peterson
  • Israel loved his son Joseph more than all of his other kids.
  • Clothing often plays a role in women’s dreams. If they put on the shoes of their grandmother, for instance, the dream is trying to show that some action is similar to their grandmother.
  • Go to many different places and do a lot of different things. It has positive neurological and psychological effects.
  • A “coat of many colors” means that you can do many different things. You can have a drink at the bar with a dry-waller and have a sophisticated conversation and you should be able to talk to someone who’s more educated and sophisticated than you and be equally comfortable in both situations.
  • Set an audacious goal. You need a goal that justifies the tragedy and suffering of life.
  • Science says that everything is based on socialization or biology. But stories tell us that there is a third category: free will or a soul.
  • What determines our individual futures? Nature, nurture, or free will?
  • We all treat each other as if we have free will.
  • Just because we don’t know what free will is doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it simply means we don’t understand it.
  • Jung said the you have a potential future self who represents everything that you could be. It manifests itself moment to moment in your present life by making you interested in things. The things that your interested in guide you along the path that will lead you to maximal development.
  • As you move forward, the probability that you get it right on your first time is 0. Your interests will change as you progress. Each level will take you higher and higher. If you wait around until you get the perfect idea, you’ll be 40 and have nothing. Even if the perfect opportunity did arise, if you haven’t worked on yourself enough you can’t take advantage of it or even recognize it. Nietzsche called that a will to stupidity.
  • Assume that you first steps will be incorrect, bad, and in the “wrong” direction. But as long as you’re building knowledge, skills, and experience, you can always do a lateral move and keep improving.
  • Going out and doing the wrong this is a lot better than rotting away at home. The documentary Crumb depicts this: Cartoonist Robert Crumb’s older brother never left home, never got a job, never had a relationship, and ended up committing suicide at age 49.
  • Every endeavor teaches you (at minimum) what not to do. And that narrows the possibilities. You get better at identifying your ideal.
  • Once you get rid of the baggage, that doesn’t mean your all set now, it means you’re in the desert. You have to wander for some time before you find your way out. It means you went from a bad state to a neutral state, the good state will still take some time to get to.
  • You need to know that life may temporarily get worse after you go from a bad state to a neutral state. Because you’re in the desert, you’re lost, possibly aimless and nihilistic. But after that, once you find your way out of the desert you can start on the journey of improvement.
  • There are intermittent deserts on the way to success. Like after college or if you get fired or if you want a new career. These are all periods where you will be lost for some period of time before you find a new path that with take you even higher.
  • You need to develop yourself to be competent and at home in the widest possible number of places. Become someone who’s useful wherever they’re put.
  • Joseph is competent and useful wherever he goes. Even when he is put in prison, he figures out how to make the prison run better.
  • Joseph is his father’s favorite which makes his brothers hate him.
  • Recurring nightmares are meaningful and they are associated with decreased states of mental health.
  • Joseph has a dream that he is destined for greatness.
  • Some people think dreams are random and meaningless, that’s wrong.
  • Joseph is the ideal, like Abel. And his brothers try to pull him down. That’s a recurring theme in the Bible—other people try to tear down the successful.
  • Cain killed Abel, but in modern times the killing is much more subtle—it is drawn out over a few decades, slowly picking away at their confidence.
  • Joseph’s brothers conspire against him. At first they want to kill him but then they think that it benefits them more to sell him into slavery.
  • Joseph’s coat is then dipped in blood by his brothers. It symbolizes the newest addition to Joseph’s experience—betrayal.
  • Then they tell their father, Jacob, that Joseph is dead.
  • Joseph has every reason to be angry at the world now. You’d think that that would corrupt his character. But it didn’t.
  • People are always looking for an excuse to have their character be corrupted. Why? Because then you get to lie, steal, betray, be resentful, and do nothing because you’re a victim. Why do they want that? Because it’s easy—it’s easier to lie than to tell the truth, it’s easier to do nothing than to do something.
  • There’s always a part of you thinking, “I need a justification for being useless and horrible.” Because that would be a lot less work. Then when something terrible comes along, you are excited because that’s the excuse that you’d been waiting for.
  • Have you done absolutely everything you can to get your life in order? If not, don’t complain, because you don’t know how much of your suffering is self-imposed.
  • Even when he was a slave and a prisoner, he rose to the top of whatever he could. He was the head slave and at the top within the prison. He didn’t act like a slave or a prisoner even when others said that’s what he was. It makes you wonder who you could be despite what other people think.
  • Joseph has the ability to interpret dreams.
  • Joseph then becomes the advisor of the Pharaoh.
  • Then Joseph meets his brothers again. They don’t recognize him be he recognizes them. Symbolizes that Joseph has changed and improved but his brothers are the same as they were.
  • Opportunity lurks where responsibility has been left untended.
  • Take responsibility when someone else is failing to do so.
  • Joseph puts himself together, then he puts Egypt (a tyranny in the Bible) together, and then he puts his family together—even though they betrayed him and wanted him dead.
  • People today should try to get themselves together, then get their family together, and then work to fix the State. Because each level is more complex than the previous.
  • Joseph tests his brothers to see if they can handle any responsibility or if they’re as bad as they were before.
  • Joseph has a younger brother Benjamin and he tests his older brothers by giving Benjamin special treatment (like the special treatment that Jacob gave Joseph that caused their brothers to want to kill him). Joseph wants to see if his brothers will hurt Benjamin like they hurt him.
  • His brothers do not want to hurt Benjamin. This shows that they have good character now.
  • Joseph is doing wise forgiveness. He tests to see if the other people are worth of forgiveness before he forgives them.
  • Joseph is the precursor to Jesus. He can nourish other people because he is able to store food into the future. He can evade floods because he has the character to overcome obstacles and sacrifice for the future.
  • Joseph becomes the ruler of Egypt purely based on his character.
  • God intervenes and gives precedence to the younger child rather than the older sometimes.
  • The story of Marduk and Tiamat: Marduk has eyes all around his head and he can speak words of magic. He goes out to defeat the most powerful monster Tiamat. In exchange, Marduk will become the head god. Marduk defeats Tiamat. Only the one who could see and speak articulately could defeat chaos. Marduk cuts Tiamat into pieces and makes the world with those pieces. One of Marduk’s names is “he who makes ingenious things out of the combat with Tiamat. The person at the top of the hierarchy should be the one who can see and speak better than anyone else and goes voluntarily to confront chaos. This story is the pinnacle of human discoveries. Read, write, and speak to develop power.
  • There is no evil so evil that good cannot triumph over it.
  • It may be that evil is the absence of good. It’s easier for evil to multiply because suffering it inherent in life and it’s easy to be resentful.
  • If you love someone, you want things to be better for them.
  • Integrating the shadow is about using the darker parts of your personality (anger, sexual desire, desire for power) and using them for good. Because if you can’t say “no,” for instance, then you can’t be good. Saying no requires some degree of anger or at least the possibility of anger if it escalated.
  • Promiscuity is bad but someone who is an involuntary virgin who claims that it is because of morality is even worse.
  • Another translation of Cain and Abel says that Cain says, “My sin is more than I can bear.” Rather than “My punishment is more than I can bear.” That shows that he actually regrets his actions.