For the past three weeks, I’ve been attending Jordan Peterson’s lecture series in Toronto on “The Psychological Significance of Biblical Stories“, and I have to say it’s pretty interesting. I’m not normally the kind of person who would sign up for a lecture on Biblical stories, but I’m a big fan of Jordan Peterson’s Critique of Postmodernism, so I figured I would sign up anyways.
Anyway, the lecture series itself has been pretty extraordinary. Peterson has given himself an outrageously ambitious task – reconciling religious belief with science. The lectures themselves are a torrent of information and insight, some of which is still incomplete as Professor Peterson unleashes it on stage, other portions of the lectures are clearly deeply thought out.
In this spirit, I decided to create a video with my thoughts of the first lecture [you can watch the full video here], to try and go over what I took from the lecture, and the most important concepts that Peterson is describing.
Thoughts On Introduction to The Idea of God By Jordan Peterson
The Importance of Myths
The first concept that Peterson lays out in his lectures is his concept of Myth as archetypical stories, which draws from the work of Carl Jung. Peterson argues that the Myths contained in the bible are much more than simple fairy tales or “wish fulfillment” stories. They are deep lessons about the nature of humanity, encoded in story form, and repeated over generations. And most importantly, these myths provide a collective unconscious backdrop for our civilization.
A good example of this is the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Despite the fact that it is very unlikely that The Boy Who Cried Wolf actually happened, the story itself represents an archetypical moral lesson that is applicable to modern society. Because nearly everyone in the west has heard that story, we can say to someone “don’t cry wolf” and our mutual knowledge of this myth (called the collective unconscious) would allow that that simple statement to carry a huge amount of information and weight behind it.
Now, as a counterpoint – imagine if the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf didn’t exist? How would you explain, to an adult friend, the concepts in that story? How would you explain to them what “crying wolf” means, and why they shouldn’t do it?
I think articulating the moral behind “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” would, at the very least, take longer, be harder to understand, it would be easier to forget, and it would most likely lack the emotional impact that The Boy Who Cried Wolf has.
It seems to me that Peterson is quite right – that myths and legends can be powerful tools for conveying ethical truths and truths about human nature, and that this likely explains the incredible importance that these myths and legends were given by ancient societies.
Click here for “Jordan Peterson on Postmodernism”