Notes Psychology

Maps Of Meaning 11 Notes

My Notes For Maps Of Meaning (2017) – Jordan Peterson

The Flood (Bible)
The Flood
Peterson starts the lecture by summarizing his views against postmodernism, and why sacrifice is the right path forward. Instead of having a belief system and then trying to get the world to subscribe to it – by demanding rights.
It is wiser and more useful to carry the burden of personal responsibility on your own. GPS is an intelligent system that is not dogmatic. It readjusts and recalibrates. Similarly, you will be forced to reassess your views about the world. The ideal is not having the best belief system, it is the ability to adapt your belief systems to new information.

Sacrifice as the Precursor to Transformation

The idea of sacrifice is key. If you want to be adaptable, you have to be willing to sacrifice your previous judgements about the world. The trade-off human beings have evolved to face is anxiety versus pain. We experience short to medium term anxiety to avoid future pain.

In the story of Adam and Eve – the snake represents an archetypal limit. The snake not only is predator but is symbolic of all things that are predators. It represents the essence of evil. But evil doesn’t just exist externally, it exists within you. And coming to terms with your shadow is the cure to naivety.

“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

People are afraid of confronting monster within, but they should try to do so voluntarily. The alternative is that the shadow takes you down evil route involuntarily (School shooting). The solution to post traumatic stress is in gaining a more sophisticated philosophy of evil.

The Egyptian myth: Confront Seth, lose an eye, and reunite with Osiris. Integrate shadow – predators choose naïve victims (who are unaware of the shadow (in themselves and in others). Without a sophisticated philosophy of evil, you will have no way to defend yourself against predation.

You should learn about malevolence and become dangerous. Those are the two defences against malevolence.

The problem is when you overprotect your children, you turn them into easy prey. They will eventually face chaos and tragedy and realize that protection from authority is no longer sufficient.

Exposure to what you are afraid of leads you to learn that you are tougher than you think. Men who are afraid of their father’s judgement in their 30’s and 40’s should come to terms with the limitations of the knowledge of their fathers. The all-knower doesn’t exist, you must cultivate a stronger self.

The only way to get tough is through exposure to malevolence, danger, fear. It is to become self-reliant (no more dependence on authority for answers). One bad solution to chaos that people often resort to is grasping on to old forms of order and tyranny.

In psychotherapy, it’s a mistake to try to solve (steal) other people’s problems. Instead, you should let them become better solver of problems. That’s the Oedipal problem (of not allowing child to become stronger by overprotecting them).

The permanent problem that exists is the inevitable death of your perceptual scheme. The only solution is to have an adaptive perceptual scheme. To be willing and capable of altering your world view whenever required.

Cain and Abel

The story of Cain and Abel happens after original paradise has collapsed.

Adam and Eve are outside history and Cain and Abel is considered inside history.

The hostile brothers is an archetypical motif. Cain’s philosophy is “To hell with it.” Abel’s philosophy is “Make things better.”

Archetype is something you cannot push beyond. Christ’s death is an archetypal limit because the worst possible malevolence was inflicted on the best possible person.

Cain and Abel also represent an archetypical limit in the same way. Cain (the most evil) destroys Abel (the most good). Cain destroys his own ideal (who he aims to become).

Cain is a farmer while Abel is a shepherd. Shepherds had to be very tough to survive. The older brother (Cain) was destined to inherit more possessions and you might think he is lucky. But Cain is not favoured by God.

Wealth can be a problem, even today. Children who are raised in wealthy conditions are deprived of privation. And the only way to become more mature is through necessity. Parents find it difficult to say no to their children when they have money, but they are not doing their children any favors psychologically. The children find that what they want is devalued while their desires grow. That’s not helpful. Children need to hit the right limitations – having no limits imposed them endows them with a worldview that is different from how the world really works.

The idea of sacrifice was central to the story of Cain and Abel. The understanding was that the only way to benefit in the future would be to sacrifice something valuable in the present. The story doesn’t make it obvious that Cain didn’t sacrifice enough, but it subtly hints at that idea. In life, whenever you find something has been causing you suffering, the best thing to do would be to drop it. In other words, sacrificing what’s valuable to you.

When primitive societies ceremonially sacrifice each other and animals for the gods, don’t dismiss them as stupid. Sacrificing someone often kept other kinds of aggression at bay and stabilized society, and it’s important to remember that we evolved from primates. To be able to develop a sophisticated and counterintuitive notion of sacrifice was no easy feat. It took thousands of years of trial and error to understand its value, and eventually those who understood it had a survivalist advantage over those who didn’t.

“If people impede your development, you should sacrifice your relationship with them.”


The idea of inequality can be seen through Cain. He thinks he is making all the right sacrifices, and yet he achieves nothing while his brother Abel – seemingly making the same sacrifices – get whatever he wants. And worse, he’s a good guy and everyone likes him. In today’s world, it is tempting to think that it’s inequality that fuels violence and suffering, but it’s more likely that anger at inequality is the culprit. The more violent areas are not those that have the lowest living standards but the ones that have the most inequality. Is the right course of action to rebel against the system, or to make the right sacrifices?

Cain’s choice was to brood in resentment and murder his ideal. He rebelled against the social contract and against the logos. And when he confronts God about it before murdering Abel, God tells him that it’s his fault. Not only that, but he tells him that he intentionally invited an evil cat into his house and allowed it to interlock with him – and have evil offspring. That it’s his blindness to malevolence that got him to this point and that there was no one to blame but himself. After Cain kills Abel, God questions him about what he had done. There is a parallel here to Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov before and after killing the old woman are different people.

Crime and Punishment: Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation (Vintage Classics)Maps Of Meaning 11 Notes 1

It’s simple to assume that Hitler wanted to win, but it’s clear that he did not have good intentions. He could have not demolished people (Jews and gypsies) and could have used them for labor. But his proclivity for revenge mirrors that of Cain – and it is more likely that he wanted destruction than the victory he promised and preached.

The theory of nations going to war for natural resources is an oversimplified understanding. It is more likely that motivations for war are deeper and more psychologically vindictive and malevolent. People have managed to survive peacefully with very little, it’s not enough to posit that.

The Bible contains many self-contradictions but that’s only one level of analysis. You don’t have to take it literally to derive value from it. The sequence of events in it, however, is not random.

Willful Blindness

The descendants of Cain go on to build institutions. But the flood eventually comes. Recall the murder of Absu – which results in the destruction of the cultural structure. Similarly, Cain is rejecting the cultural structure. Tiamat is God of salt water is paralleled by the idea of the flood in the Bible.

Eliade stipulates that whatever you build will eventually decay if you leave it alone. A similar motif exists in the story of Osiris. You have a moral contract with the things that you own to preserve them. That’s what you do with a car or any project you start.

Another example is the New Orleans flood. They are a corrupt state that built a dam that could last 100 years, when the Dutch (an organized society) created one that could last 10,000 years. Entropy is inevitable, but wilful blindness accelerates the process of destruction. You can blame nature (the mother) but insufficient order from within (the father) is more often the problem.

The story of Noah and the story of Cain are preludes to the story of the Messiah. The way to withstand chaos according to these stories is to identify with the state(culture), and to have the power to transform, to walk forthrightly and honestly alongside God.

Noah makes the proper sacrifices with the coming of the flood because he was prepared. After the passing of the flood, creation is reborn. God tells Noah that he won’t smite all of humanity again and then lays out some rules.

The Tower of Babel comes after the flood. As the group of human beings try to build a tower that reaches to the sky and challenges God’s dominion, which angers God, the people start to fractionate. This is a universal feature of groups.

The ideal is to have a group large enough so that you can be protected, but small enough so that you are relevant to it. In the story of the Tower, the group becomes to large – like what has been happening to the EU. The people in the story not longer spoke the same language and dispersed to different far away areas.

The Tower story is placed right after the Flood story. The Flood story contains nihilistic chaos while the Tower story contains the totalitarian temptation to build hyper structures to replace the transcendent and the result is also decay. The prophets have warned of the temptation to refuse to be subservient to a higher ideal. It’s what also results in the deterioration of the larger groups in the story.


In the Q&A, Peterson was asked why most of his viewers and subscribers (of the Self-Authoring program) are mostly men?

He replied that it’s not because of his political stances. His viewership was mostly male (85%) even before the political issues arose. It boils down to two things: agreeableness and responsibility. On the extremes, men and women are very different even though they’re similar on average. The most disagreeable parts of the population are predominantly male while the most agreeable parts are predominantly women. Men often refuse to take orders and prefer to do nothing with their time instead. When Peterson spoke to his audiences, he noticed that “men’s eyes lit up” when he talked about responsibility.

Men are starving for that message today. To them, there is nothing but responsibility. Self-authoring helps them find a goal that they want to accomplish.

Non-western ethnic minorities, and generally groups that weren’t doing so well and had an ambivalent relationship with education have seen the most marked improvement after going through the self-authoring process.

Lifting a load, as useless as you are, is your first step to redemption. The charm of Homer Simpson exists in his courageous and admirable quest to take care of his family despite his shortcomings and incompetence. The key is choice. “People will carry a heavy load if they get to pick up the goddamn load.”

Notes of the Maps of Meaning Lectures

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefMaps Of Meaning 11 Notes 2

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.