Maps of Meaning 4 Notes

My Notes For Maps Of Meaning 4 (2017) – Jordan Peterson

Leaving Red Lobster Inn 

Leaving bar to go on a trip with the coachman, who finally reveals himself as satanic and instills fear in the Fox and Cat.

People’s shadows go all the way to hell. If you discover your shadow – you realize that you have things that ally you with evil people. But that’s protective to you. PTSD comes from naivety. If you are self-aware of your capacity for evil – you’ll take your actions a lot more seriously. It’s useful to do that with all the people you know (family, friends, etc..)

Breaking Bad and Ordinary Men teach us how humans being are really like. It’s tempting to deny that you’re that way, but you’re being naive if you do. 

Walter White was a normal, nice guy. But then he finds out he has cancer, and his son has health problems. He realizes that he’s going to die soon and he’s not going to leave much behind. He was also resentful. He used to be a pushover. His friends took advantage of him and became enormously wealthy while he remained a high school teacher. There was a lot of motivation for him to tap into the terrible elements of his personality.

German policemen in World War 2 were raised into propaganda at an early age. They were sent to Poland after the Germans marched through. They were required to round up Jewish men and shoot pregnant women. They were allowed to go home. But they chose to stay so they don’t leave their comrades behind. They were led to a dark place one step at a time. 


Pinocchio is now ready to repent and follow the proper path and go back to school and get educated before he encounters the fox again. It’s not enough to remember historical facts, you need to understand the causal pathways so you can learn from them and avoid them. Has Pinocchio learned? 

It’s true that people have been oppressed and they suffer. But you can’t always play the victim. You can’t just divide the world into perpetrators and victims and convince yourself that you’re a victim. And assume that you deserve some kind of redress.

Soviet Russia

Some serfs were emancipated and became successful farmers. But they were a small proportion of people, they were really efficient farmers – the Kulak class. Intellectual communists would go to small towns and convince some people who were resentful, jealous, and not conscientious to overthrow the Kulaks. So they rounded up all these people and killed them. What happened? No more food was produced. The move caused mass starvation. People who claim to be part of the oppressed aren’t always being very honest. There’s a sinister part to it.

Of course, there is a tyrannical aspect to socialization, to university, and your father. You’re forced to give up freedom – and that’s the tyrannical part – but you’re also given an identity. And that identity allows you to emerge stronger (through education and discipline). That trade-off is necessary for growth. University carves out a protective space of freedom for you to explore and learn.

Reward Types

Consummatory reward and incentive reward are the two types of rewards. What gives your life meaning is your pursuit of the incentive reward. A consummatory reward is like when you’re hungry and eat. After your done – that motivational circuit comes to an end. The incentive reward is analgesic. If you’re engaged in that kind of goal – pain is literally reduced. Ex: Athletes who break an ankle and continue playing. They might feel pain later, but they’re able to withstand it during the game. Goal directed enthusiasm shuts off pain systems.

That’s the problem with hedonism. What makes you happy the next minute won’t make you happy in the end (most likely). 

Hedonism: Happy when? And who’s happy?

Conscientiousness is not happiness. It’s rebelling against enforced leisure.

Continual sacrifice. Good in stable societies – predicts long term success. People who are industrious can’t stop working. They do difficult things for a better future.

Pleasure Island

Pinocchio is convinced that he’s ill and pleasure island is the cure. He is transformed into a victim and is offered an identity. He takes it. Partly because he’s deceived, and partly because the fox offers him the abandonment of responsibility as payment for adopting the victim identity. His lack of morality plays a role in his demise.

Meaning and Responsibility

The amount of meaning you have might be correlated with the amount of responsibility you choose to take on. It’s difficult to take on responsibility. But any positive emotion and suppression of pain depends on the size of the goal you choose to conquer. 

The weightier the goal the more kick you get from pursuing it. In real life, when you pursue something you believe in – time passes properly. You don’t fall asleep or distract yourself.

The Two Choices

Say the nihilists are right and life has no meaning. So you don’t accept responsibility and only seek pleasure and don’t look for meaning. Your other choice? You can live meaningfully, but you need to adopt responsibility. Is it obvious that everyone would choose meaning over pointless pursuits? It’s not clear.

That’s what they offer Pinocchio, they offer him the choice to abandon responsibility. The fox writes meaningless notes about Pinocchio’s sickness. It doesn’t matter that he’s making incoherent arguments, he’s selling something that’s easy to buy. “You’re sick and you need to abandon responsibility.” 

Oedipal Situation

If you want what’s best for your child, push them to their limits even when they’re sick.  The situation becomes muddy when the parent isn’t sure she wants the child to go out into the world and make it. What if they want to have a friend and don’t want to be sitting at home alone? Maybe it’s better if they never grew up? Maybe you’re in an abusive marriage, or a bad marriage, and you’ve got no friends? Maybe that’s because you never stood up for yourself? These warps and bends in your psyche will manifest themselves in every single one of those decisions.


Pinocchio is carried by societal pathology, like a puppet, to pleasure island. The cricket is left behind. Pinocchio meets the Coachman, who says he’s collecting bad little boys. They’re all delinquent types.

Pinocchio meets a character called Lampwick. 

Note: Lampwick: the thing that burns in the middle of the light. It’s a play on Lucifer.

Lampwick has a false arrogance to him and a deeply cynical voice. He decided he knows everything already and nothing in culture or society has any utility to him. You can imagine how that can develop if you were in a family where you were abused and lied to constantly.

Lampwick is happy to be on the way to pleasure island. All you can eat and smoke and play and no responsibility. He takes Pinocchio under his wing, the cricket (conscience) is having a hard time. Coachman opens the gates when they arrive and lets the delinquents into pleasure island – they have a riot.

Why are amusement parks associated with horror? One reason is that people who have nothing better to do are spending money frivolously and getting fleeced. And the organizers move from town to town constantly – the same way a psychopath would (always on the move). The other reason is that it’s too easy and it’s short term gratification. It’s divorced from reality. It’s not so different from burning that money – despite the little pleasure.

Doing that every day isn’t a good idea. It’s enforced pleasure: Take this, be happy! Don’t look sad, you better have fun!

False Bravado

Lampwick is mimicking people on top of the dominance hierarchy. He’s displaying this false bravado and it’s intimidating – but of course, he doesn’t know much at all. it’s really shallow – but a lot of people don’t find that out.

There’s a stained glass mandala. Mandela is a symbol of the unfolding of being and the symbol of the self. The kids are burning and trashing it, and dragging a piano down the stairs. They don’t believe in the value of high culture, they don’t believe in hard work. They want to destroy it all.

Cain and Abel

Cain hates Abel because the latter makes the right sacrifices and things go well. When you’re around someone who’s doing well and you’re not – you want to destroy that person – because the existence of someone better than you makes you feel bad about your own life and insufficiencies.

The Destruction of the Self 

The Mandala (symbol of self) is destroyed by Lampwick with a brick. To hell with the thing that lets the light shine. Pinocchio and Lampwick are destroying their potential. The coachman is happy that the boys are oblivious to what’s going on. The boys are being offered bread and circuses, but the coachman is involving them in an underground plot and has his minions close the gates. Totalitarianism thrives on stupid amusements. A war can be a stupid amusement.

Pinocchio wastes his time shooting pool with Lampwick. Lampwick teaches Pinocchio to smoke – it just about kills him. But Pinocchio says it’s going well. The cricket then shows up and stands on the 8 ball and shouts out one of his speeches and says some rules. Lampwick picks him up and laughs at Pinocchio for listening to his conscience. Lampwick is divorced from his own conscience. In adolescence when children move away from their parents into groups. They get teased for not doing something foolish by listening too much to their conscience.

There is a positive element to rebelling against your conscience and taking some risks – but there’s also a negative element. Teenagers take a lot of risks and some people never make it through. 5 percent of criminals commit 95 percent of crimes! So the cricket stomps out and leaves Pinnochio. Now Pinocchio is left without his conscience. So the cricket goes out and sees what’s going on, and he sees donkeys (beasts of burden) being rounded up and shipped off. The idea is that if you give way to your impulsive pleasures – you’ll end up being a slave to a tyrant.

One of the donkeys still had the ability of independent speech so he wasn’t ready to be shipped off to slavery (by the coachman). The coachman takes out his whip and hits the whining half donkeys. The cricket sees all of this and goes back to find Pinocchio. The scene then switches back to the bar where Pinochhio and Lampwick are playing pool. And Lampwick is annoyed at what the cricket said because he thinks he knows everything and isn’t for a second willing to admit his own ignorance. A totalitarian in training. He’s laughing at the conscience (cricket). “What does he think I am? A Jackass?” Then he starts to transform into a donkey. He sees a mirror – then destroys the mirror (self-criticism) and transforms into more of a jackass. Pinocchio sees what’s coming though, gets scared. Lampwick then crawls back to Pinocchio and begs him to save him, but it’s too late.

Pinocchio is transforming too but he’s not as far ahead at this point (he only has jackass ears). 

Pinocchio is then guided by the cricket to get out. And then there’s a scene where they both have to jump into the water (unknown) to break free from the impulsive, hedonic, pathological tyranny.

Moses and Transformation

Moses hits the rick with a stick and waters comes out and he parts the red sea. Moses is a master of water and transformation. And the pharoah’s kingdom is represented as desert stone. The kingdom is solid ground but it can be a tyranny. The water is chaos. But it can be the thing you leap into to free yourself from tyranny but it doesn’t come easy. The Hebrews leave Egypt in and escape from the tyranny but it’s not so great, because they end up somewhere worse. They wander around in the desert for 40 years. And that’s a great thing to know. When you go from a bad place to a good place, you go to a bad place first. In order to aim up – you have to let go of what you have and go into a state of chaos. But unless you do that, you don’t get to the next level.

The Restoration of the Persona 

Jung talked about this phenomenon he described as the retrogressive restoration of the persona. Sometimes you take a leap forward and you learn some things, but you cant catalyze a new identity so you go back and hide in your old identity. But that doesn’t work. You know too much. You need to cut things off. Pinocchio descends into chaos and he goes back home but he can’t do that, his father isn’t there. There’s no home there anymore.

The Peter Pan Type

Some men often stay under the thumb of their father. They always think about whether their father approves of them or what they would think. That’s an unpleasant place to be, so why would they do that?

Thought experiment: You have your parents and then you have peripheral people who know your parents. So you care what your parents think and don’t care what those peripheral people think? Of course! But why? Everyone else does that with their parents, so why are your parents the most important people to listen to. Jung describes it as you not separating your parents from the god image you have of them. You have parents, and you have nature and culture. If they have final dominion over you, then you’re not an individual.

Freud said that you’re not a man until your father dies. Jung said “yes, but that death can take place symbolically.” That’s one part of the idea.

The other part when you realize that you’re an individual is when you talk with your parents and you realize that they’re just as clueless as you are. That’s why some people are willing to maintain that tyrant-slave relationship with their father. They’re a tyrannical judge – maybe – but they give their lives order. That comes to an end when you realize that they don’t know more than you do. That’s a pain – a symbolic death. That’s when you establish a more individual relationship with your parents and can start taking care of them instead of the reverse. But you have to let the perfection image go and that exposes you!

The Star

Pinocchio goes back home and wants to be taken care of his father again but that’s not possible anymore. Things have changed. The cricket and Pinocchio sit on the steps confused because they don’t know what to do – they can’t go home. The answers you’re looking for aren’t going to be found in your parent’s house or by maintaining your dependency. 

Now they’re wondering what to do and where Geppetto could be.

A strange thing then happens. A star appears and turns into a dove and puts a piece of paper with gold writing on it in front of Puppet and the Cricket. It delivers a message (the ultimate ideal that is) – where the fairy comes from. The star is a transcendent place.

What’s happening is that Pinocchio is fundamentally oriented by the wish his father made a long time ago – the transcendent place (by his father for him to be a real boy). Jung would say – when you orient your vision, different things appear to you in the world. Literally, because you can’t see everything, your brain calculates what is necessary to see so you get to the point you’re aiming at. 

The conscience is what interprets the letter. What the letter says is that Geppetto was out looking for Pinocchio but got swallowed by a whale. It doesn’t make much sense, and then we leap over that gap in logic and follow the story. So what’s the idea? If you fall into a chaotic state and everything falls apart there’s a chance that things can come back together including what you just learned in a new state.

There’s something capable (in the chaotic landscape: ocean) that incorporates the previous state and pushes it farther. Down to the bottom of the chaotic state to bring up what you’re missing. That’s one level of analysis.

There’s a second level of analysis: You’re like Pinocchio: ignorant. And you’re a historical creature, and unless you’re enculturated properly (understand your past) in the sense that the humanities can allow for that, then you haven’t been able to incorporate the wisdom of your ancestors in your daily pursuits and that will make you weak.

The university should help you go into chaos and help you incorporate things into your personality that make you literally stronger (not more educated). You’re a better person – you can articulate yourself more properly. That’s more useful than anything you can manage. It makes you ridiculously powerful. It allows you to lay out a strategy and pursue it successfully. And maybe that strategy can be good for you and for others as well. Strange how you’re not told that in university. The articulate person always rises. And they can defend themselves when challenged. 

Jungian idea

What you need to find is where you least want to look. Imagine there’s territory you’ve mastered. And there’s territory you haven’t mastered. You’re very small in the face of the unmastered territory – it has a monstrous aspect. But if what you’re doing isn’t working, then you need to go to the unmastered territory

You need to fight the dragon that’s hoarding gold. It’ll be intensely dangerous and will push you to the limit. But if you don’t get pushed to limit, you won’t grow. You don’t get the gold without the dragon.

The Jonah Story

God tells him to go talk to these people. He refuses because he is too scared. He’s on a boat and elects to be thrown off because he knows it’s his fault. Then he is swallowed by a whale. 3 days later he appears on the shore to pursue his proper destiny. If you don’t follow the path you’re supposed to follow, the seas will become stormy and you’ll be in a terrible place for a length of time, and then if you’re lucky you’ll be spit back out and you go do what you’re supposed to do.

The cricket has a paradoxical response when he decides to this. On one hand, he pulls Pinocchio back, “This is foolhardy. You’re gonna go all the way down and confront the terrible whale? Very dangerous.”On the other hand, when Pinocchio is on the edge of the cliff, he helps Pinocchio tie the knot. The conscience is conflicted about this. It’s really dangerous but it’s necessary.

The Unconscious and The Deep Sea

And then it turns out when he’s in the unconscious (the sea) – he gets to the bottom and there’s dry land, and he can breath.

Why would it be the world outside of what’s known and unconscious at the same time? This is a weird intermingling between the two things (the known and the unknown). When you’re in chaos and you don’t know what’s going on, you start imagining what might be going on. And that imagination is partly the world as it might be, but it’s also the structure of your unconscious mind that’s producing the fantasy.

When you’re truly in chaos, the distinction isn’t clear. That’s what constitutes the chaos. Imagine you were in a relationship and someone betrays you. You thought you knew who they are. But now, you don’t know what the past was, or the present, or what the future will be. That’s traumatic. So what you do is imagine what MIGHT be the situation. Then your imagination and reality are not pulled apart at all. You can’t distinguish between them. 

The Fight Against Chaos

Pinocchio is in a situation that’s half fantasy and half reality in this chaotic state and he has to go down and find the thing that he least wants to find. And his intuition is that in facing this thing – the chaos that life really is – he’s going to find his father and reunite with him. In some sense – it’s a decision of faith.

Why bother fighting chaos? It will just reveal itself as the ultimate reality and destroy you. The myths say that you will find order eventually if you face the chaos. But it’s not always optimistic. Some people die in the process. But the mythology says that this is your best bet. The more consistently you do it, the better your chances of success are.

So Pinocchio is at the bottom of the ocean. They mention Monstro’s name – and all the fish disappear.  Then the darkness of the ocean turns into a more profound darkness and then there’s Monstro – who’s alone. There’s no life down there at the very bottom of the ocean. Then we go inside the whale and it’s eaten a boat. And there’s Geppetto – he knows he’s trapped and can’t get out. Not only is Pinocchio lacking the father, but it’s also the father that needs the son.

You need an agent! There’s wisdom in the libraries, but if you don’t go there, it never gets out. It’s only there in implicit form.

So Geppetto is starving in the belly of the whale. He’s a good guy but he’s old. His way of doing things is no longer fruitful, that’s why he’s starving, he’s also missing the playful and transformative element of the child. It needs to be updated. And that’s what he needs from Pinocchio. That’s why he was out looking for his son. Mackerel swims by and then Monstro wakes up and opens his mouth and water comes in. Then you see Pinocchio with the fish.

When Pinocchio first sees the whale he leaves. Common myth element: The hero gets scared in his first encounter with chaos. 

Geppetto is fishing, he wants to live but he’s focused on the wrong thing. He’s focused on the micro-problem not the macro-problem. Geppetto eventually catches Pinocchio but doesn’t even notice, and he flings him into the fish bucket. He’s solving the problem really well – but it’s the wrong problem – he’s blind. Then suddenly he wakes up and runs over to grab Pinocchio but grabs the fish by mistake. He finally hugs his son. They’re united but they’re still trapped. Then Pinocchio shows his jackass ears. He’s degenerated since last time. He’s revealed himself as a jackass to his father. But that’s a good thing, he is a jackass.

Humility: The Antidote to Arrogance

If he was unwilling to admit this insufficiency, he wouldn’t have gone on this pursuit. It’s this humility that allows him to grow. That’s why religions portray humility as the antidote to arrogance: the anti-Lampwick. Geppetto is happy to have his son back regardless. And then Pinocchio says we’ll wait for his mouth to open and use the raft to go out. Geppetto then goes to tend to the fish. But Pinocchio has his eyes on the prize, and he wants to get out, not distracted by secondary goals. Then he makes a fire.

The same spirit that transformed chaos from order is the one that masters fire. So Geppetto is happy thinking that “smoked fish” is on the menu. Pinocchio breaks the furniture and gets all the wood to burn, but Geppetto gets worried because he still wants to eat the fish. Then Pinocchio politely explains that after filling the whale with smoke they can get out. Then Geppetto says that it will madden the whale – not a good idea. And that’s the stance of the old benevolent state towards innovation because it’s the unknown (Important thing to know) – Otherwise, you can get bitter about it.

So Pinocchio lights up the wood, and this is when the whale turns into a fire spewing dragon. (The ultimate symbol of the unknown). They all break free. But the whale is angry as anticipated. The amalgam of nature and culture (whale) finally abandons its pursuit. Geppetto tells his son to save himself. But the myth is to rescue your father from the chaotic depths, integrate that and save both. It’s not enough to just save yourself – you’ll still be a jackass puppet.

And then Pinocchio dies while rescuing the father. It’s so difficult that it kills the old personality. But the old personality needs to die to give life to the new one. The next scene shows the blue fairy who turns Pinocchio into a real boy. He’s no longer a jackass puppet.

The clocks start again and they have a big celebration with music, and they dance. And the harmony is restored. The good old guy has a son, and the thing that is transformed has the stability of culture behind it. The cricket is then given a medal for his efforts, and he flashes the badge at the star, and establishes his function as the proper conscience and orientation to the highest good – he too has developed. Pinocchio’s conscience is now properly oriented towards the highest value.

And that’s the story of Pinocchio. 

The Maps of Meaning Lectures 

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefMaps of Meaning 4 Notes 1

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