Wisdom of Jordan Peterson


Dr. Jordan Peterson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Toronto


http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2018/02/jordan-peterson-transcending-tribalism-and-cloistered-virtues-ron-dart.html  University of the Fraser Valley Political Science Professor Ron Dart on the Contribution of Jordan Peterson


Ten Ways to Improve Your Life Dramatically


  1. Stop doing the wrong things. You know what I mean. Walk away from evil and malevolence.
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it—one that works for you. It’s not a prison.
  3. Clarify your thoughts. Get the cobwebs out of your brain. Journal about them.
  4. Take the meaningful path involving courage versus the pathological way of anger, resentment, nihilism, and self-righteousness. Put meaning ahead of expedience. See below.
  5. Analyze your past to see what went wrong and specify your goals for a future as if you cared about yourself. Be industrious. Step up to life. Engage the world. Face your fears head on.
  6. Stop saying things that make you weak—that represent your false self and turn you into a coward. Say things that align with the core of your being (Parker Palmer agrees). These things make you strong.
  7. Adopt the mode of authentic being. Orient yourself to the truth as best you can discern it. Stop lying to yourself and to others. This makes you weak, guilty and ashamed, hating yourself.
  8. Learn from your failures, errors or mistakes. Don’t let them freeze your moral will. Reset accordingly. Ask for forgiveness to make things right in relationships. Make your life a bit better today, and a bit better still tomorrow.
  9. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with yourself. Take time to reflect on your life and your ideals or values. This can be very enlightening. Make a good covenant with your future self and step into life.
  10. Aim high at the good. Shoot for the stars, the higher moral road of growth, order and maturity, personal resilience. Don’t let your life slide into laziness, mediocrity and chaos.


Ideas from Jordan’s Bible Reflection Series

  • Meaning is a central aspect of human perception and consciousness. We ignore it at our peril.
  • Religion is a meta-truth; Christ is a meta-hero; his death a meta-sacrifice or archetype, the greatest possible sacrifice. Religious insight is not identical with scientific insight, but they do complement each other. Science is not everything we need to know. We need wisdom from our great stories.
  • Growth involves leaving false axioms, assumptions behind (this can be painful), leaving things that hold you back from your full potential. Burn up the dead wood in your soul.
  • Suffering is a core part of our experience as humans; pain is a fundamental reality; we must learn how to reckon with it, set good goals in the midst of it, find meaning in it. If we set high goals for life, it will help us reckon more positively.
  • Good Goals (Piaget)—>something good for you, for your family, for society and the broader environment for many years hence. A covenant with the future is necessary: it bring things to you. Sometimes we call this aspiration. You improve the future towards a better, bigger you. Wisdom is the way of maintaining a contract with your best self—your highest ideals. Covenant is the proper dwelling place of our enlightened consciousness.
  • It is important to fix some things every day; stay within your domain of competence, and move steadily forward. Build momentum this way.
  • Vertical coherence is the alignment of your thoughts, emotions, body, choices and actions. Reflection, meditation, and discipline helps your coherence. Jonathan Haidt agrees. Discipline creates a savings account for your future self.
  • Virtue involves creative, noble and courageous action in the world: slaying the dragon in order to feed the people and free the virgin and get the gold. This heroic archetype is as old as human history.
  • Imago Dei: we can manifest the divine in the context of our own life—bring heaven to earth. It indicates an innate desire to bring order out of chaos, invest meaningfully. That’s our calling as humans. Each individual has an important transcendent value. Humans act as if we can transform things through speech. We can, if we choose the right words.
  • Temptations (deceit, anger, pride, resentment, nihilism) and laziness short circuits your best effort to become your best self and design a good life, a life of flourishing.
  • The essence of evil is the desire to produce suffering on others for the sake of suffering–malevolence.
  • Satan is depicted as a high intellect in Milton. Intellectuals can slip into worshipping their own creations. Would you sell your soul to an ideology for a top academic post?
  • Success in the job world depends on competence, conscientiousness (industrious, orderly) and intelligence. Openness (seen in artists) is an additional key trait meaning verbal intelligence and creativity.
  • The biblical narratives tell us all these things and much more: Pursue and Speak the Truth; Love the Good; Celebrate and Cherish Beauty; Pursue Excellence and Faithfulness in all Aspects of Life. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6: 28-33) We need to re-connect the humanities to the biblical stories, in order to recover their integrity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wWBGo6a2w Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Stories Series

Quote from 12 Rules for Life:

Faith is not the childish belief in magic. That is ignorance or even willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being. It is simultaneously the will to dare to set your sights at the unachievable and to sacrifice everything, including (and most importantly) your life. You realize that you have, literally, nothing better to do.

Insights from Chapter Seven of 12 Rules for Life: Meaning Trumps Expedience

Wycliffe College, Toronto Dialogue: Jordan Peterson, Rebecca Goldstein, and William Lane Craig,  Is There Meaning to Life? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDDQOCXBrAw

Expedience, rejected by Peterson, is defined as follows:

  • following blind impulse
  • moral and/or legal short cuts for short term gain
  • lying to get your way
  • hiding skeletons in the closet
  • covering blood with a carpet
  • avoiding responsibility for your actions and your life
  • built out from cowardly, shallow, arrogant, selfish motivation
  • makes the future worse, for you and for everyone
  • operates on a platform of pride: intolerance, arrogance, oppression, torture and death
  • no faith, courage or sacrifice is part of this game
  • produces the character of a demon, and leads you straight to Hell on earth

Quote from Jordan Peterson: “The capacity of the rational mind to deceive, manipulate, scheme, trick, falsify, minimize, mislead, betray, prevaricate, deny, omit, rationalize, bias, exaggerate and obscure is utterly remarkable.”

Meaning is defined: (parallel to McGill philosopher Charles Taylor’s concept of embracing the hypergood)

  • makes things better, instead of worse, including our pain and suffering
  • meaning makes suffering worthwhile: seen in art, literature, poetry, music. It bears suffering with nobility, and restrains malevolence.
  • involves us aiming high, paying attention, fixing what we can
  • accepts the truth about self and the world–this is sacrifice and a commitment to reality
  • operates from a position/platform of humility (aware of limitations)
  • emerges when impulses are regulated, organized and unified–desires pointed in right direction with focus
  • doing something that benefits someone else every day of your life–benevolence
  • involves a good interplay between choice possibilities and one’s value structure/hierarchy
  • gets one’s hierarchy of values right (hypergood and lesser goods)
  • antidote to chaos and suffering; alleviates much unnecessary pain and suffering, for you and for others
  • works towards the betterment of Being, and life-sustainability–improves the world around you
  • the zone where everything matters, everyone counts. Experience feels weightier.
  • a person is aligned and integrated along a single axis–this is equivalent to Charles Taylor’s thick self
  • signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, balanced between order and chaos
  • a symphony of Being, making you aware of the miracle and mystery of your existence (like a great concert)
  • meaning takes responsibility for Being and ameliorates suffering
  • makes you aware of your own cowardice, arrogance, malevolence, resentment and hatred–your contribution to the evil in the world, and your frightening human capacity for evil. Being aware of such capacity, you are now free to move away from these impulses, reckon with your dark side and move forward towards the good. Example in the Nuremberg Trials–some acts are so brutal that they are wrong no matter the cultural background. To make innocents suffer is evil, a consequence of dark malevolence. Some acts are unquestionably evil (Auschwitz); therefore there must be acts that are unquestionably good. We don’t need to confuse or conflate good and evil, or embrace both for the beauty of it all. We can discover these eternal values, good values, if we pay attention and did deep. See Recovery of Identity through Virtue in this blog– https://ubcgcu.org/2018/01/13/recovery-of-identity-through-virtue/

http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2018/02/jordan-peterson-transcending-tribalism-and-cloistered-virtues-ron-dart.html  Ron Dart, Political Philosopher on the contribution of  Jordan Peterson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5RCmu-HuTg 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson’s book talk to How To: Academy

Gordon Carkner, Author of The Great Escape from Nihilism

See also Charts for Spiritual Formation on ubcgcu.org

Upcoming Debate between Peterson and Sam Harris on June 23 at the Orpheum in Vancouver, BC


I think we need to understand that the main thrust of Peterson falls within the genre of Positive Psychology. This is the psychology of meaning, begun by Paul Wong. There is an international conference in Vancouver this coming August.

If we begin within Charles Taylor’s immanent frame (chapter 15 of A Secular Age), we see that modernity is on the horns of a critical dilemma: Either we accept morality and feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame, even self-hatred for not measuring up; or we take the route of moral and spiritual lobotomy, destroy morality, obliterate the distinction between good and evil, and settle for a hard nihilism. Many of the young Millennials that Peterson is now reaching feel this dilemma at the deepest level and they are hurting. At the end of his Sources of the Self, Taylor suggests the need for a transcendent turn, to escape this daunting existential dilemma. He put out the possibility that agape love might be the direction of this philosophical turn. The one thing that the dilemma is unconscious of is grace. I have a great quote below from Taylor on how Dostoyevsky saw this problem. Taylor develops the scope of this possibility further in A Secular Age. I cover this whole trajectory in much more detail in my The Great Escape from Nihilism. I find myself on a parallel trajectory to Peterson.

One of Dostoyevsky’s central insights turns on the way in which we close or open ourselves to grace. The ultimate sin is to close oneself, but the reasons for doing so can be of the highest. In a sense the person who is closed is in a vicious circle from which it is hard to escape. We are closed to grace, because we close ourselves to the world in which it circulates; and we do that out of loathing for ourselves and for the world … Rejecting the world seals one’s sense of its loathsomeness and of one’s own, insofar as one is a part of it. And from this can come only acts of hate and destruction. Dostoyevsky … gives an acute understanding of how loathing and self-loathing, inspired by the very real evils of the world, fuel a projection of evil outward, a polarization between self and the world, where all evil is now seen to reside. This justifies terror, violence, and destruction against the world; indeed this seems to call for it. No one … has given us deeper insight into the spiritual sources of modern terrorism or has shown more clearly how terrorism can be a response to the threat of self-hatred … The noblest wreak it [destruction] on themselves. The most base destroy others. Although powered by the noblest sense of the injustice of things, this schism is ultimately also the fruit of pride, Dostoyevsky holds. We separate because we don’t want to see ourselves as part of evil; we want to raise ourselves above it. (Taylor, Sources of the Self, 1989, pp. 451-52)

My read is that Peterson recognizes this deep problem within Western culture, and he is offering himself as its ‘therapist’. This is a bold move, but he knows his subject through his training in clinical psychology and his work with people in trouble, but also his extensive reading on destructive ideologies of the twentieth century—his familiarity with evil. Peterson is pushing towards this transcendent turn from within the immanent frame of Western modernity. He is pushing us in the direction of meaning and a recovery of morality, affirmation of Being; and away from nihilism, resentment, malevolence. This is why he challenges people to head towards the truth, as best they can perceive it, the good, as best they can understand it, and the beautiful, as much as they can appreciate it. There is a brilliant discussion in 12 Rules for Life where he contrasts the way of expedience versus the way of meaning. His genius is being able to show the personal and social consequences of human choices. He is a deeply empathetic man. As a Phenomenologist, he is a keen student of how these things play out in daily life.


Gordon E. Carkner PhD, Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum,

University of British Columbia

Author: The Great Escape from Nihilism.

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