Dr. Jordan Peterson
© Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year and a half, you've probably heard of Dr. Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada. Described as a "rockstar psychologist" by some in the mainstream media, the good professor has been on a whirlwind tour in recent weeks, bringing knowledge to the masses via a series of public lectures and Q&A sessions in support of his new book, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. With a massive online presence via websites, podcast interviews, social media, videos and discussion groups, Dr. Peterson has attracted even the unwilling attention of the mainstream media due to the sheer force of his reasoning. His now-famous interview with Cathy Newman on the UK's Channel 4 TV expanded his audience into the millions, and forged his reputation both as an intellectual powerhouse and a man of the people who can explain almost impossibly-difficult concepts in straightforward terms.

Among its many virtues, 12 Rules For Life provides specific psychological knowledge to counteract the nihilistic ideologies of "radical Left" thought. Polish psychologist and critic of the Soviet regime Dr. Andrew Lobaczewski describes such ideology as an "oversimplified pattern of ideas, devoid of psychological color and based on easily available data". In other words, intellectually barren, psychologically naive, and supported only by cherry-picked data interpreted at the lowest resolution. At present, these features of the radical Left narratives (feminism, Marxism, postmodernism, identity politics, etc.) are becoming plainly apparent to the general public, thanks in part to the work of Dr. Peterson and others who have been pointing them out.

Dr Peterson's touring schedule of Australia was relatively modest: a series of four appearances, the first in Melbourne, the next two in Sydney (originally just one show was scheduled; a second was added due to popular demand), and finishing up in Brisbane. Organised by True Arrow Events Group, the shows were sold out within days, despite the lack of major coverage in the mainstream media (although The Australian did cover both the lead-up to the tour and the tour itself). It seems that even the events' organisers did not quite anticipate how popular Dr. Peterson would be, as soon afterwards want-ads began appearing on marketplace sites like Gumtree.com.au looking to purchase any available tickets for one or more of the events, with the aspiring buyers willing to pay hundreds of dollars.
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In Melbourne, Dr. Peterson was greeted by a standing ovation before he even began to speak. Embarking upon one of the most difficult topics imaginable, belief in God, Peterson spoke forthrightly and compassionately about how people perceive the world, the bifurcation present in the brain that seems to mirror a bifurcation in reality, the suffering endured by every individual, and how meaning and imbuing meaning into relationships and life can provide a "medication of the infinite". He spoke about a "landscape of possibilities" that leads both to hell and to heaven, and how the moral choices we make determine how those possibilities manifest in our reality. He also talked about how we treat each other as if our moral choices matter, even if we do it subconsciously, and so we should choose to make it a conscious process, to shoulder the responsibility for making those choices and the results that proceed from them. He then discussed St. Joseph's Oratory - a cathedral on Mt. Royal in Montreal, Quebec, the largest church in Canada and one of the largest in the world - and what cathedrals symbolise and represent in archetypal terms. Many people, both crippled and able-bodied, make pilgrimages up the hillside stairway to the church. Peterson discussed the image of people struggling up the stairs of the path towards the church, the "holy city on the hill", while bearing their life's sufferings. Because, in his words:
What's the alternative? You going to go in the other direction? Because that's the alternative! You're not going to stand in one place; that isn't how life is; you're not in stasis. Stasis just moves you backwards. Because time progresses, right? You fall apart just by sitting here. So, you're either moving up or you're moving down. And you might not believe in 'up', because you're cynical. But I don't care how bloody cynical you are; you're not cynical enough not to believe in 'down'!
This was greeted with a round of applause. Dr. Peterson then proceeded with an explanation of how 'down' is a good place to start in terms of thinking about how bad life can get, and that this is the "price" we pay for having the other possibility open to us: the possibility of moving "up" eternally towards "heaven". This price is represented by the image of people bearing their load, struggling up the staircase towards St. Joseph's Oratory: "This is what it means to believe."

In the second half of the lecture, Dr. Peterson discussed aiming "at the highest possible good", and how human perception is often narrowly focused - how we view the world is determined by our values system. By changing our values and adjusting our aim, we can move from a state of chaos and suffering and into order and understanding, finding a meaning in our lives that can sustain us. By finding that meaning, the world will manifest as a place of "infinite potential and infinite responsibility", and ultimately, bearing one's sufferings towards the highest ideal one can imagine, while aiming as truly as we can in finding the meaning that puts us in touch with the infinite, is what it "means to believe in God".

Talk about opening with a bang, yeah?

For many more interesting insights, amusing anecdotes, and profound observations, his entire discussion from the Melbourne event can be watched below.

Media response to his shows was generally positive, and seemed to gather steam throughout the tour. After excellent interviews with Neil Mitchell on radio 3AW Melbourne and with Bettina Arndt, some of the mainstream media, not wanting to be left out, covered the tour. An article was written in the Guardian Australia, and one of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's flagship current affairs programs, The 7:30 Report, interviewed him (in a decidedly biased way), although the presenter was very circumspect with her standard leftist-trope criticisms, presumably wary of Peterson's intellect after the Cathy Newman interview. Frank Chung at News.com.au reviews the interview here.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the book-signing session after Dr. Peterson's Brisbane appearance, and took the opportunity to gather some comments from some of the attendees. The sold-out event was attended by over 600 people, not including those who were unable to get tickets and who gathered only for the signing session. As the pictures below demonstrate, the line for signatures was massive, and indeed, it took hours to get through. My question to the attendees was simply, "What did you think of Dr Jordan Peterson's lecture tonight?" Here are some of the responses, quotes slightly edited for clarity:



"Everything I thought it would be!"

"Covered the same stuff as in his books."

"Would have liked more Q&A time. Have read his books and watched his material already. Would have liked to have seen more of his responses to questions."

"Even though I know his stuff, listening to him in person enabled a real sense of connection to the ideas."

"He developed and expanded upon the ideas in his books."


"His message of personal responsibility and choice is what the world badly needs."

"His book can save the world."

"Wonderful! We were already big admirers!"

"Loved it!"

"I've already read and watched most of what he's done, but it was still great to hear it from the man himself."

From a grandmother: "He talks about the same religious ideas I learned at a Catholic public school when I was young."


"My husband agreed to look after the kids for the evening so I could go see JP."

"He's teaching men how to be men."

"He's the antidote for the leftist nonsense that seems to be all over the place these days. That he's a clinical psychologist is just perfect! He's too smart for them!"
One lady, 'Nina', described her enthusiasm for Dr. Peterson's defence of free speech. Like many, she first became aware of him through one of his interviews, and has been avidly following him online since. At the front of the line, a couple of guys were having an enthusiastic discussion about politics and social systems, and a young Russian couple behind me (originally from Moscow) were looking forward to meeting the man in person and getting his signature.
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I too, had recently purchased a copy of Dr. Peterson's newest book, and in the brief 30 seconds or so I had to meet the man, the impression was striking. Despite having just given an hour-and-a-half lecture, plus a further 45-minute Q&A session, Dr. Peterson appeared relaxed, attentive, jocular, and chatted amiably with those who walked forward to meet him. He radiated a presence of compassionate understanding; this is a man who truly gives the impression that he lives his convictions. In his speeches he says that we should treat others as if they matter, and even in that brief period of time I spoke with him, I felt that he meant and lived those words; that he did feel I mattered to him as a person. Perhaps my subjective perception is wrong, but even then, to convey that kind of impression to someone is no easy feat and a credit to him.

The discussions I had while gathering comments with some of the people in line were some of the most interesting and enjoyable conversations I've had in a while, too. Nearly everyone seemed eager to discuss Dr. Peterson's ideas, and the diversity of people in the crowd was a definite testament to his broad appeal. Hats off to the ladies at the end of the line whom I talked with for about half an hour before heading for home! Thank you people of Brisbane, and surrounds, for the gracious hospitality shown to Dr. Peterson while he visited. A couple of policemen doing local security liaison for the tour mentioned that there had been no sign of protests; that everything had gone smoothly.

Kudos is also certainly due to True Arrow Events Group for their extremely well-organised, professional productions. The Director, Sam McClelland, has done an excellent job and performed a valuable service, and the results may resonate beyond what anyone expects - it will be interesting to see! Dr. Peterson begins his U.S. tour on the 26th of March in New York. Let's keep an eye on the headlines!

And lastly, thank you Dr. Jordan Peterson, for finding the time to visit Australia and bring some of your badly-needed psychological knowledge to the general public here. Your efforts are inspiring and, I think, efficacious.

For those interested in finding more information about Dr. Peterson and his work, see Dr Peterson's website, or do a search for his name on YouTube, where you will find many interesting and insightful lectures, interviews, and speeches.

I will end this article with a small video showing the line-up for Dr. Peterson's signature. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then consider how many frames are in this video!