Maps of Meaning 7 Notes

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

Maps of Meaning 7 - Horus

Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & MetaStory

In Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & Metastory, Jordan Peterson starts by discussing the nature of our neurological systems, how information transforms us, some more universal archetypal themes and what we can learn from Egyptian mythology.

Knowledge Structures

Motivational and sensory systems try to expand themselves by occupying your mental space. When one sense goes missing, it is replaced by another. The fundamental motivation systems (hypothalamic) are manifested in stories. We assemble our identities from these stories, so we pay attention when someone relates their own story.

The evolution of knowledge structures marks progress. When a transformation of a knowledge structure takes place – the new knowledge structure is more capable than the old in many ways because it maintains the old structure while adding new parts.

Positive and Negative Emotions

You ignore almost everything except things that move you forward and things that act as obstacles. Your dopaminergic system alerts you to situations that help you move forward. The negative emotions are generated (either through a small detour or catastrophic end).

Positive events have short-term and long-term benefits. Passing an exam allows positive emotions to echo across multiple levels of analysis. It makes you feel good about yourself, your goals, and life.

Negative events have short term and long-term repercussions. A sheltered, naïve person who encounters malevolence will very likely descend into complete chaos that they might not recover from. They will sink into depression and anxiety. On a neurological level, their hippocampus shrinks, and amygdala grows.

When goals are blocked – it leads you to question everything about your belief system. You cease to know where you are, and when you don’t know where you are – everything suddenly becomes relevant. Your brain deteriorates from too much stress.

The question becomes: How big is the obstacle? And you assess the size of the threat the same way your ancestors assessed the size of their predators. It works the same way. It couldn’t be any different. Evolution is a conservative system and so your threat response builds upon the previous systems.


We conceptualize predators as “the unknown”, but we have come to learn that it could be beneficial to confront the unknown. The predators were threats, but they then became food. That defines the archetypical story of mankind. We go out into the terrifying unknown as information foragers and gather things of value. The system could have also developed from our fruit eating activities that required us to identify ripe fruit. In a sense, there isn’t much of a difference between information and food. We are always looking for ways to produce more of what we need.

Anomalous information usually has two sides. If you were in a bad relationship, a fight can represent a chance for reconciliation and resolution, or it might signify the end of the relationship (which you don’t want). Both the reward (goal-seeking) and threat (predatory) systems are activated. A good rule of thumb is to assume that the fight is a short-term problem that can be resolved, until there is good reason to assume that it is a long-term problem – in which case, it would be advisable to end the relationship.

There are few limits to your ability to turn pain into pleasure. For example, you train yourselves to enjoy coffee and olives – which are originally bitter. But with enough practice, we can learn to enjoy them.


When happens to depressed people is that they misinterpret their mistakes. If you had to prepare a meal, for example, your first step is to set the table.

What depressed people do after making a mistake, for example, setting the table badly is misinterpret that to mean that they cannot cook a meal. That leads them to believe that they can’t take care of their family, and finally that they are failures. Their serotonin levels fall, and it makes every little thing seem like a catastrophe. They don’t have proper mechanisms for dealing with failures. They radically overestimate the competence of everyone else and underestimate their own competence.

Frame of Reference

Imagine failing an exam at a university course. That’s an anomaly that you need to deal with. One way is to drop the class, another is to stay in the class. If you choose to stay in the class, then you are maintaining your commitment but only altering your subroutines (study harder) to do better in your next exam. If you choose to drop the class, you might feel great because you’ve gotten rid of the problem. But then you’re faced with another problem.

You need to replace it with another class that’s fulfills the same requirements, and then you must think about whether that’s the right way of dealing with small failures. It’s better to expand your frame of reference (drop class, leave university) only when necessary.

Original Sin

Snakes are a representation of evil because they can be identified, and they wake us up, and they’re predators. But on a higher level of abstraction, “snake” isn’t the problem, but snakes are. To get rid of the problem of “snakes”, you must get rid of the source of snakes (find their lair). And on another higher level of abstraction, the snakes can live within you (exist in your heart). One of the things that story of Adam and Eve shows is that even God himself couldn’t construct a space so tight and protected (walled) so as not to allow for corruption.

The nature of human beings (as displayed by Simba in the Lion King when he ventures out into unknown territory that he was warned from going to) is to ignore warnings with incomprehensible explanations. If someone tells you not to do something, and gives you a vague reason, you’re probably going to do it. It’s why the Catholics believe that human beings suffer from “Original Sin.”


The phoenix is something that lives ages and allows itself to become consumed by fire and then transforms. The old phoenix is consumed, and the new phoenix emerges, so the real phoenix is that which is constant across transformations. That’s what the Jungian self is. The self is the element of the psyche that remains intact across transformations. In Aion, Jung claims that Christ’s birth and resurrection is a symbol of the self.

Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 2)Maps of Meaning 7 Notes 1

Jungian Dictum: To transform, you need to go to the place where you least want to look.

In Harry Potter, the idea is represented when Harry goes down the toilet to face the Basilisk in its lair. But when he does, he gets bit, but then a phoenix comes along and saves him. What saves you from the encounter with the snake is the ability to transform (to let a part of you die and allow a rebirth to occur).

The chaotic domain is the birthplace of order. Recall Pinocchio’s descent to the bottom of the ocean. But to do that, he had to let the stupid puppet in him die. But sometimes that death can kill people (a significant trauma/ exposure to malevolence). Transformation entails taking a risk but a necessary one.

Mythology always contains nature (the feminine) and culture (the masculine), and then the transformation (the hero). And the permanence of these concepts makes these ideas hyper-real. There’s always the individual, culture and nature. Or the knower, known, and the unknown. Children need archetypal stories because that’s the only thing they can understand (they understand the stories unconsciously).

Engineers at Google mapped out the archetypal female pornographic story. It involves a female taming a dangerous male. That’s the story of beauty and the beast. And the most popular conceptions of the male protagonist are pirate, billionaire, surgeon, werewolf, vampire.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual RelationshipsMaps of Meaning 7 Notes 2

The only solution to the problem of chaos is the continual struggle for mastery.

“You are a shape transforming wizard that’s doing its best to keep up with the continual transformation with that which you do not yet understand. And there’s no difference between that and what women chase in their pornographic fantasies. The werewolf and the vampire are examples of that. There is the capacity for what’s normal to transform into something that’s extraordinarily aggressive and to manifest mastery.”

The contact with the unknown informs you. When you learn something new, you are transformed. Information allows you to reconstitute your being. At the same time, you differentiate your knowledge about the world. You build yourself and build the world.

The Egyptian Story

The Egyptians based their society on this story. There are four gods. These gods compete for dominance and occupy a place in the dominance hierarchy. That’s how monotheism emerged from polytheism. Osiris is the old king. He has a brother called Seth (Satan). There is Isis (queen of the underworld – goddess of ancient religious structure) and Horus (The falcon and the eye – sees everything). In The Lion King, Zazu is Horus, Mufasa is Osirus, and Scar is Seth.

Osiris was a great king who established the Egyptian state. He was great when he was young, but now he’s old and wilfully blind. His brother Seth is not a good guy, and Osiris knows but he won’t do anything about it. Seth wants to rule the kingdom. One day Seth waits for Osiris to make a mistake and attacks and tries to kill him by tearing him to pieces. But you can’t kill Osiris – because he is a god. Osiris’ spirit lives on. Order (society) collapses, and up comes the queen of the underworld (Isis). She goes all over Egypt trying to restore order. She finds his phallus and tries to make order with it. It’s the same story as Pinocchio. Tradition can transform chaos into order again.

Horus grows up in the underworld because of the absence of culture. He can see since he’s a Falcon. Then he goes and fights with Seth to get his kingdom back. While they are fighting, Seth tears out one of Horus’ eyes. Why? Because the confrontation with malevolence is dangerous. Horus wins the fight but only succeeds in temporarily removing Seth from his regained kingdom. Horus then takes his eye and goes to the underworld and finds Osiris – who is a dead spirit. He then gives Osiris his eye. And then when Osiris is given vision, they both go back up to the world to rule together.

The Egyptians were trying to piece together what is required to rule successfully. You need to confront evil and revivify tradition. And the eye that is on top of the pyramid represents that which is top of all pyramids (hierarchies) – and the thing that puts you on top is attention. It’s not the same as thinking – it’s watching. And humans can see well, and it’s our ability to see that saves us and saves our communities.

The Maps of Meaning Lecture Summaries 

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefMaps of Meaning 7 Notes 3

2 replies on “Maps of Meaning 7 Notes”

Thank you for this. The lectures are just so densely packed with absolutely vital information and wisdom. This is a brilliant summary and exactly what I was looking for! Would love to connect with you to discuss/share materials on these lectures.

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

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