peterson soul
In Jordan Peterson's latest YouTube Q&A, a subscriber asks about the nature of the soul. Peterson's answer touches on the nature of consciousness, ethics, responsibility, character, theology, and what it all might mean metaphysically. In short, many of our favorite topics here on MindMatters!

So join us as we dive into Peterson's ideas on the soul, their applications to everyday life, and the implications for what they might say about the nature of the universe, and our place within it. And as always, if you appreciate our discussions, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Running Time: 01:02:03

Download: MP3 - 56.8 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Hey everyone. Welcome back. Today, we are going to be looking at a clip of Jordan Peterson in his recent Q&A, I believe it was his March Q&A. We'll have a link down in the show description. He was asked what he called a simple question, "What is a soul to you?" So, after thinking about it for a few seconds, one of those Jordan Peterson silences, he gave his answer. So we're going to be playing that clip, and commenting on it, because he says a lot that is interesting. That said, why don't we just start the clip and go from there.

Jordan Peterson: Theologically, a soul is that aspect of human being that's akin to divinity. It's made in the image of god. I think that that's a very, very important concept. I don't think that a society can survive. I don't think that you can survive a relationship with yourself, I don't think you can have a relationship with another person, I don't think that a society can organize itself in a productive, and sustainable, and peaceful manner without that idea as the core idea.

So the core idea is that there's something of irreducible value that characterizes each human being, and that it's of the highest value, which is what makes it akin to god, or akin to divinity. That's the soul. And then, the question is, maybe, how does that manifest itself in the world? What are its hallmarks? I would say that's very tightly associated with what modern people describe as consciousness. There's more to it than consciousness, because it's also character, but I would say character is a manifestation of consciousness.

What consciousness does, as far as I can tell, is confront unformed potential. This is partly why I think it's improper - in fact I'm writing a fair bit about this in my new book - why it's improper to think of people as deterministic. You're deterministic once you've established a habit and you've practiced something for a very long period of time. You become more deterministic in your actions because you're expert at reacting, and there's neurophysiological circuits that are laid down to facilitate your action and to run with some degree of automaticity.

But, much of the time, what you confront is the changing future, the future of potential. It's like a place of multiple pathways, and your consciousness is the part of you that confronts those multiple pathways and decides which one to walk down, and it does so according to its ethic.

We talked earlier about the fact you need a value hierarchy. It's inevitable that you have a value hierarchy, and you look at the world through it, and that it should be well structured, and there should be something of divine importance at the top. I would say what should occupy the top position is the realization that each person is of divine value, and that the most appropriate way of interacting with potential is by embodying and speaking the truth. That's not a bad way of briefly conceptualizing what might be at the highest pinnacle of the value structure. I would say that that's what the logos is.

So the soul is what manifests itself in the choice between different pathways, in the choice between different ways of transforming the potential of the future into the actuality of the present. And it does that by making ethical decisions, by choosing between good and evil at each choice point and to the degree that it chooses good, then it takes the raw potential of the future and it transforms it into the being of the present that is good. To the degree that it does that in a manner that is evil and contaminated with malevolence and hatred and vengefulness, then tit takes a pathway that corrupts the world, and makes things worse.

It's the soul that's doing that, and it's the soul that's responsible for that. It's also that active part of the soul that's shaping the deeper soul in some sense, which would be something like the cumulative consequence of all those choices, something akin to what people have more classically have referred to as character.

Now I don't know what to say really about the metaphysics of the soul, except that it's very mysterious that we have this capacity for consciousness, which is completely, I would say, beyond our current understanding. We have no good reductionist accounts of consciousness, except those put forward to deny the very existence of consciousness and free will. The first problem I have with those arguments is that you don't look deterministic until you've built habit sets, and that's a consequence of consciousness because consciousness builds habit sets. The second is that it doesn't seem to be possible to organize a relationship with yourself, or an intimate partner, or a family, or a community, without the concept of the divine value of the individual, and the capacity of that divine spark, let's say, to manifest itself in free will. I don't see how societies can organize themselves without those principles and to me, that indicates there's something about them that's profoundly true. Now we all have our definitions of what constitutes sufficient proof for truth but I think that's powerful. Those are two powerful arguments.

So, it's hard to say what the soul means metaphysically because beyond the confines of a single human being we do have this sense that a soul can expand itself into something that's greater than it has been. It has this capacity for growth. We do have the sense that the soul can expand itself to the point where it's enlightened, for lack of a better word, that it's working as efficiently as possible to transform everything that's unnecessarily painful and malevolent about the world, into what's positive and good and that it does that as a consequence of confronting the world with courage and truth. I think that's right, and I do think that that means the soul participates in something eternal, which is the attempt of being itself to transform what's unnecessarily painful and malevolent into what's good and that human beings do participate in that and that's part of the reason that our ancient tradition insists that we are made in the image of god.

I think that it's a mistake to underestimate the importance of that because I don't think that you can live a life of sufficient profundity to protect yourself from being corrupted by suffering malevolence, without adopting a responsibility that's commensurate with that set of ideas. I think that you either orient yourself upward to the star above the horizon and try desperately to improve the structure of being, or you work at counter-purposes to it and make things work. I don't think there's a middle ground. In fact, to the degree that there is a middle ground, it tilts towards the negative, because people who try to occupy the middle ground, generally try to accrue the benefit without necessarily adopting any of the risk, and that's not acceptable, not helpful.

So that's a soul, to me. I guess I would say one more thing about that. A soul is also the center of the world, which is a frightening proposition, and not one that's easily comprehensible. Solzhenitsyn's work in the Gulag Archipelago is particularly enlightening in this regard because he insisted that it was a preconception of our Judeo-Christian heritage that each person was a center of the cosmos. You can think of that as a center of consciousness, a center from which being itself is not only reflected but also generated. It was Solzhenitsyn's belief - and Dostoyevsky's as well, and I think Jung would have been in accordance with this, and Nietzsche as well, for that matter - that in some manner that we don't fathom because we don't understand the structure of the world very well, the outcome of the world is dependent on our choices, and equally on all of our choices.

I know that to be true, or feel that to be true. It's part of the doctrine that each person is of intrinsic and equal worth, and part of that doctrine is that each person has intrinsic and equal responsibility and that we're each capable of generating a fair bit of hell around us and for other people, but also capable of generating a tremendous amount of good and that the fate of the world as it careens through eternity is actually a consequence of the ethical decisions of each of us. It's a terrifying idea! It's no wonder that people flee from it into hedonism and ideology because it's a very frightening possibility that the choices that you make day-to-day, or fail to make, have this profound and lasting effect on the structure of reality, but I don't see any way out of that conclusion.

Harrison: We were actually going to pause it and talk, but we didn't because you really need the whole thought to complete before you can really dig into it. Now that we've got the complete thought, let's dig into it.

Peterson brings up several interesting points there. He basically gives his description of what he thinks the soul is, as he puts it, the image of god, intimately connected with consciousness, and character which arises out of consciousness, then a description of how he perceives consciousness to act in the world. But then, he says he's not quite sure how to think about that metaphysically; what is the true description, true account of the nature of the soul, of consciousness.

I think he does a pretty good job of getting there. He'd himself admit that he doesn't have a comprehensive philosophical metaphysical system to think about all of these things in which to place them, but he still manages to grasp some really important truths even if he's lacking that overarching framework in which to place all of the pieces. Maybe we can do a little bit of that, maybe just starting with something he said at the end there about his soul being the center of the world, and what that might mean.

First I want to go back to that show we had last week, about Bernardo Kastrup's article on information realism. He had another article that he published in the Scientific American, because he's got several blog posts on there. We've got this one up on SOTT too, and it's on multiple personality disorder and some of the implications of that for philosophy, really, because there have been studies done recently on multiple personality disorder where they've shown that it is a real thing. For a long time, people have even been skeptical that it exists, that the people are acting or just making it up or something. They've actually done brain scans on some of these people, some who have alters are blind.

At one time, an alter will be running the show and won't be able to see. They've done brain scans to show that their visual cortices aren't lighting up at all. It's as if they're not getting the visual information. Once the transition happens and a sighted alter comes in, that stuff happens again. So from a person's experience, they're not experiencing visual information and then when a new alter comes in, they are.

That's pretty remarkable when you think about it. Not that remarkable when you consider that phenomena like this have been known forever. It used to be called hysteria, hysterical illnesses like an hysterical blindness, or an hysterical lack of ability to use a certain limb. These phenomena have been around forever, and the idea that a single consciousness as we think about it, a single person or a single body can be inhabited by multiple consciousnesses that are related in some way. Because if you think about it, even if there are multiple consciousnesses, there has to be an overarching principle in order to coordinate all those consciousnesses. They can't all express themselves at the same time. There's an order in which they come about and it's usually motivated by a particular contextual or emotional reason. 'In this situation, this alter is needed, it's the best for this situation.'

Even in the multiplicity of MPD or DID, there's an overarching unity that seems to coordinate and unify to some degree these phenomena. There's communication to some degree between these alters on an unconscious level, and coordination of how they do this. The reason Kastrup brings this up is to expand on his idea of idealism, or the idea that mind is fundamental, and pretty much everything in reality. This is the idea that dissociated consciousnesses can exist within one larger consciousness.

So, he's using this as an account for what we perceive as the multiplicity of beings in the world. So, if there is one mind, the mind of the universe, how is it that we perceive and experience ourselves as individual minds? His basic idea is that we are essentially, every unitive consciousness in the universe is essentially a dissociated bit of the larger universal mind and that that will account for the multiplicity as well as the unity and particularity of each individual mind. This can also accounts for what they call the combination problem in philosophy, and applies specifically to panpsychist theories, where each individual bit is conscious.

So, if you have conscious atoms, it's then your responsibility to explain how a molecule is then conscious, or how a cell is conscious and an animal is conscious and a human is consciousness. How do those little bits of consciousness combine, to make a bigger consciousness?

Well, Kastrup or someone like him might say that, you can't really answer that question, because it's magical and mysterious. There's no reasonable or rational account for how that could happen. But if you looked at it as if every individual bit, every individual mind, is a dissociated fragment of a larger mind, and then when you get a combination of cells which has its own unifying mind, directing that organism as a whole, which we experience as one being - when I experience people as one being, I see them as one being and not as a combination of billions of cells. I see them as one being. Whitehead would say that's for a reason because you see them as one being. There's something unifying that being, which is the mind or the soul.

So minds are physical bodies, what we perceive as physical bodies, as minds with physicality are themselves composed of all kinds of tiny fragments of mind, and they themselves, the individual part of yourself is also a fragment of a larger mind, and all minds are essentially dissociated fragments of an even larger mind.

So, I thought about that in terms of what Peterson's saying about each soul, each consciousness being the center of the world, and this comes back to the first idea he gave, as the soul as being that which is in the image of god. The way I've always thought about that is like a fractal. You've got one part that is essentially a representation of the whole, a part of the whole. In one sense it is the whole. But you've got multiple wholes. In one sense one mind divides itself into countless fragments and then experiences itself through those fragments, but at the same time with an awareness of all those fragments. It's kind of a crazy, far out idea, but it just might be true.

I think there's a lot to be gotten out of that idea of the individual mind as a fractal fragment of the larger mind. That's why when you're looking at consciousness that some kind of analogy can be made. You can learn about yourself by looking at so-called lower organisms. You can also learn about higher minds by looking at your own mind, or lower organisms and any combination because there will be principles that are the same at every level, because it's like a fractal. That one mind is in some sense, not necessarily a representation, but a fractal of that higher mind. There will be analogies and similarities to be made. There will also be differences just like there are differences between a human and a proton. But there will be very basic similarities at all levels.

So we can actually learn something about mind in general, and therefore something about the cosmos in general, and hypothetically the cosmic mind in general, by looking at the particularities and looking at it in such a way, I find, can open up understanding. You can understand more about the physical world and the atomic world thinking about things in these terms, just as you can learn more about yourself by looking at the atomic world. So I think that's just one of the more philosophical implications of this question. But there's more. Peterson, like he always does, actually goes into the actual practicalities of it in real life experience and the creation of relationships and the creation of societies. So we could probably take any of those directions.

Elan: I was going to say that, in addition to this kind of fractal example and analogy you gave Harrison, what he seems to be doing is in acknowledging that we as individuals have souls, or should act as though we have souls, that we should acknowledge the existence of souls within other individuals. So, there's also this idea that we should be, if we're doing our jobs and taking responsibility, look just adjacent to us, and in thinking about how we behave towards others and structure our societies and our relationships, keeping in mind that the person next to us is also a part of, or a representation of, or a fragment of, a larger soul, but is a soul in and of themselves and that there should be a kind of reverence, a respect for, a value of these individuals that we're surrounded by. As we said, we could make their lives a heaven or a hell. How often do you hear about someone discussing the structuring of a society around the idea that we are souls, who isn't a religious leader, or a priest, or a rabbi, or an imam? And yet he's putting it in very practical terms. I love what he said towards the end. He said that transforming what's painful and malevolent in the world into something good, that our responsibility is commensurate with understanding that we have this potential, through our choices, to have a transformative effect on others we're surrounded by.

Harrison: And the whole world.

Elan: And the whole world! And when you really get that, when you understand that our day-to-day choices have this capability, even the mundane things that we have in front of us to do, it really puts our awareness of ourselves, and how we think, and what we feel, into a whole different context, because it's very easy to fall into a default ,emotional, reactive, destructive mode of being, which causes the same in others, that feeds the worst impulses and thoughts and nature of human beings who aren't thinking of what is the best for everyone involved. What is the most salutary decision that could be made for others and myself in a particular situation? This is, I think, the work of confronting the multiple pathways according to a value hierarchy that he talks about.

So it needn't always feel like a life or death decision, but to make the distinctions, to stop and pause and consider how what we do or don't do, perhaps feeds into an apathetic state of mind for another person, as opposed to a shared concern, a shared willingness to make things better. This is what we're being asked to face, I think, through Peterson's understanding of what it means to be souled, or to act as if one has a soul.

Corey: Right, what does he say? He says that he feels that it's true, that every choice that we make...

Harrison: He can't see how it's not true.

Corey:. He can't see that it's not true. He feels that it's true. I think a lot of people, when you're faced with that feeling, that is, I think, in and of itself, part of the soul that's calling, that feeling that it is true, that your choices matter beyond anything you could ever imagine, and it's kind of answering that call, and checking yourself, I guess you could say, and re-orienting yourself according to those values. That's the painful thing that he points out.

It's obvious why it's not very many people devote themselves to the kind of life that he's devoted himself to. His sacrifice of those parts of him which were holding him back, all the parts that were entropic, angry, resentful, everything that we all have, that are all parts of this collective mind, I guess you could say, a part of us that we all share to some degree, some of us share in it more than others, but we all have the same struggle. That's at the center of our human world, at least, the center of the human experience, the struggle against the lower in favor of the higher.

I love how he points out that characters like the crystallized appearance, the crystallized reality of this struggle of all the choices that you've made for good, or ill, or your ignorance, choices made out of complete ignorance, which is why I think, high on the value hierarchy should be the belief that lacking objective knowledge makes you a tool at best. Objective knowledge, without that, you can't know whether you're making the choice for the good, or for the ill, for sure. And it's a learning process too, this is the distinction between the present and the past, and the character that you've developed through the soul appearing in the choices that you make, in the multiple futures.

I think that is something everyone faces, to some degree. We all face multiple futures and it's when we get a future that we don't want that we say, "Oh my god, everything is collapsing and what have I done wrong?" But there are so many futures that, on any daily basis we have to prepare for, and also we have to choose for the ones that we want the most to manifest, and the ones that we want to manifest are those that we are drawn to by our value hierarchy.

That in and of itself, that experience of a value hierarchy is subjective. It's probably never going to be as high as it could be. Obviously, if you look at Jordan Peterson, and you look at just about anybody else, and you see the difference between two people, it's just as great as a gulf a difference between a man and his dog. You see how a value hierarchy, and acting on it, making these choices, can create somebody who is in a completely different class of humanity, somebody who is able to accomplish things that most people could literally never dream of being possible. It's because of this inner vision, this inner hierarchy, this inner drive, and this answering to that inner drive every day, that creates this reality.

So in that sense, I can see why he feels it to be true. In some way it's true that our choices can dramatically impact the future of , not only of ourselves, but those around us, but then there's that other extra element that he's saying is on a theological level, that it impacts the entire creation. "This is your dance with god in some sense. This is your calling. This is more important than the tiny human you could ever understand, the choices that you make ever day, the tiniest to the large."

And it's not easy, obviously. Look at his life and you look at the lives of other people. But it's not that it needs to be easy. To him it's not even a question. Who cares if it's easy or hard? If something is easy or hard, who cares? !What matters is that you're answering this call, that you're manifesting in some way this dance with god - for use of a better word - and you're doing it the best that you can, with authenticity, with integrity.

This is the soul in action. To put that into the center of your way of interacting with other people, of interacting with life, with the way that you see yourself and other people, it's not something that's going to happen in many countries any time soon, but it's also an evidence of that lack that can explain a good deal of the fragmentation and darkness that people live in every day. Sociologists have been writing for a long time, at least in America and I'm sure they've been lamenting in other parts of the world too, especially the Western world, about just the collapse of any sort of social, civic, sense of duty; gathering together with neighbors, playing bridge with neighbors, knowing your neighbors, seeing your neighbors, joining community groups, all of these things that were probably taken for granted at the time, but that formed the backbone of community. Going to church, and all the outgrowth that came from that.

Over the past fifty to sixty years, that spirit has completely collapsed and along with it that lack of being able to communicate or being able to see other people who think differently or who are out of your comfort zone. It's difficult to communicate, it's difficult to listen to other political opinions. You don't have to. That's just a hassle. You don't have to deal with other people. You don't have to deal with the messes that they have, you don't have to confronted with the mess that you bring to the table. These gradual choices to abandon that community, that sense where you're imbued on an instinctual level your imbued with the worth of other people, by having fun, by singing, by sharing your stories, your trials. By giving to other people, you're just imbued with a sense that there is a divinity. I think on an instinctual level, you get the sense that there is a drama happening in their lives. There's a drama that you're impacting. There's a drama that's impacting you, the family, the gossip, a lot of things that are bigger than us.

You lose sight of that and life becomes so meaningless. Why do anything that's painful?, Everything is so hard. It's so dark out there, wah, wah, wah. As he points out, this is how you see the world, because these are your ethics. This is your soul in some way, and the choices that you make are leading you, you're oriented across time and space by your soul, and it's leading you somewhere. If all you're seeing is darkness, then that's probably where you're going. I think that's why I really enjoyed his speech so much. It has a capacity to orient people in a really deeply felt way, to what's important in life, in a way that relieves the pressure from these nihilistic thought patterns that we get into. It just lifts you up.

He basically takes you, jerks your head up into the sky and says "There's an entire universe out there! Look around! There's so much more! You don't have to be sunken!" And that's obviously what he represents, in general, but with this speech, he gives it that extra added depth like he would say, that is radically conservative. He's going to the radical depths of our Christian worldview, and just bringing that, just rebirthing that sense of meaning and importance that probably is the best thing about Western culture. It's probably responsible for all of the good things that has resulted out of Western culture.

Harrison: You mentioned a couple of times, a feature of this process and that is that it is hard. I think one of the reasons it's hard, is first of all, that's just the structure of reality. Reality isn't easy, for various reasons. One of the reasons it's hard, is because there are many times more opportunities and ways of breaking things than there are to make them right.

This gets back to the discussion that we were having about information last week and in previous weeks. If there's a total set of possibilities, in any situation there will only be a very tiny set, within that larger set, of optimal options. You see this anywhere there is information, like from DNA. If you've got one protein that you need, there is a very tiny number of possible protein sequences that will fulfil that function or will get by approximating that function, and all the rest is unfit. It is a bullseye, a literal bullseye. It's shooting out into the universe and hitting a bullseye the size of a pinhead.

That is how hard, in mathematical terms or probabilistic terms, these things are. Of course, it's kind of different with intelligence where you can see into the future to one degree or another. You can limit those possibilities and say, "Okay, out of the vast ocean of everything, I know that I've got a relatively limited set of options here. So I can exclude everything, and here are those options, and even then, it's hard."

The way I see it, there are two kinds of main ways of going wrong in this entire dance of consciousness in the cosmos. So, I'm going to look at it in terms of the religious error and the atheistic error because in any system you can go wrong. You can be religious and go wrong, and be atheistic and go wrong. Or you can be atheistic and go right in some ways and be religious and go right in some ways. But I want to look at how it might go wrong.

In the atheistic sense, that is the nihilism that Peterson talks about so often; the idea that there is no meaning, that other people don't have value, maybe you yourself don't have value, and on a very deep, basic level this is a lie. You're denying something true about the universe. You're introducing a lie into your own life and into your interactions with the world, and that does lead to treating the world as if that is true, as if other beings don't have meaning, other people don't have value.

We see that all the time in the world, people being treated as if they have no value, and it often results in mass atrocities and slaughters. Staying on the atheistic side, there is an abdication of responsibility then, because if you deny that you have value, and that everything has value to some degree, you won't have any responsibility for those things that have value. You won't have any responsibility to preserve value, or to bring new values into the world.

And on the religious side, there is the tendency to abdicate responsibility and just leave it up to god. It's like, "Well, that is beyond my capacity. God's will always take care of that," In a sense that's true because I believe that whatever action it is, whatever influence it is that god has on creatures, the cosmic mind has on the particular minds, that that influence will constitute in some way, that event, that thing happening. It's phrased in such a way, and it's acted out in such a way, that there's an abdication of the responsibility on the part of that individual person, their mind because, they won't have to do it, they won't have to take responsibility for it, because it's not their job.

But by looking at the world as if we were all sparks of the divine, fractals of the divine mind, and that we each have that value within us, well, what are some of the implications of that? Well that means that nothing is ever someone else's responsibility. Of course, they have their responsibilities, but you have your responsibilities. You are the center of the universe. You are a center of the universe, and the things that you do matter. Therefore the choices that you make matter, and there will be more right and more wrong things to do, and ways of behaving in the world.

So, if there's anything in your life that causes you to put up the excuse, or any kind of excuse to abdicate responsibility, then something's going wrong at the level of those conscious and preconscious beliefs, like we talked about in reference to First Sight in previous weeks, that there's something fundamentally wrong with the way you're looking at the world. Remember two weeks ago that other clip from Peterson, where he said that the way that we look at the world, and the way that we act in the world, is determined by that hierarchy of values, by those ethical aims that we have. There's something going wrong at that fundamental values that is skewing our hierarchy of values and aims, and causing us to behave in ways which are not fulfilling the inherent responsibilities that we have as centers of the cosmos.

So, I think he articulated that point really well, that one of the functions, responsibilities or features of consciousness itself, of a soul itself, is the transformation of the existing world into a better world. Using that system of thinking analogously, if that is a responsibility of us as individual souls, then you can probably say that that would be the function of the cosmic soul. It is the transformation of what exists into something better. It is bringing out something better from what is given. What is given to you is just that, what is presented to you every moment. It is the past, it is past choices, it is past circumstances, it is whatever exists in your world now. It is where you are at now, for everyone.

And the function of consciousness, and the function of a soul, the purpose of a soul and the purpose of consciousness, is to transform that into something better. It is to bring something new into the world, something of new value into the world, in order to make it better. Again, on the mass level, that might be the ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose is to bring about a new world. Going in the direction of religious language is inescapable here because it's only the religious traditions that have tried to articulate this in various ways. It is a new world, the kingdom of god. It is some future state that is better than this state that is somehow essentially better, better on some objective level of valuation, that there is a specific but variable end point and pathway to get there, to bring about this new thing.

You can't predict the exact features of the future world, but it will have certain general features that will be expressed in a particular way. Just like anything else, fashion for instance, you can imagine the best fashion, but you won't be able to necessarily predict what types of cloth will be used or what exact color schemes. There's a variable path to get to some kind of vague but objective, I don't know how else to say it, some vague but objective end point like goal, or aim, or purpose. So that is, maybe a way of stating not only the purpose of the cosmos itself, the purpose of life and everything, but also the purpose of the individual soul, the individual mind on its own level, and that will have very real and practical implications.

So, like he says, when he's describing consciousness and what it seems to him that consciousness is, he describes it as the confrontation of potential, and then the bringing into actuality of that potential. When you're confronted by potential, your confronted by better, neutral and worse options. If you just do nothing, if you abdicate your responsibility, chances are that you'll either go in a neutral direction and your life will be a monotonous bore, or you'll take a turn for the worse and become pure evil. Well, you'll definitely become some kind of evil if you don't see other people as having value, for instance.

But by looking at your life in such a way, that there are potential futures, that there are choices that you make that are important in some way, that will have some kind of relevance to your life now and in the future, that will influence how you are going to make decisions. It will influence the choices you make with the people around you. Well, this is my family for instance, these are my friends. How am I going to keep them? Will my actions now affect how my relationships will be in 5 to 10 years? Well of course they are. Of you ask anyone, they'll be able to say that, but that doesn't mean they are going to act as if they actually know that. Because people do stupid things all the time. People ruin the relationships they have with others. Looking back on it people say "Geeze, it was so stupid, how could I have done such a thing?" It's overly simplistic, but, your priorities aren't in the right spot. Your hierarchy of values isn't crystallized into a form that would bring order to the choices you make in your life, to crystallize your character.

I like that you used that word to describe his description of it - the crystallization of character. A crystallization is like an informing of matter, it's bringing form into what was previously formless. So there is this thing called consciousness that we all have, a soul that we all have, everyone and everything, but on top of that, what kind of soul do you have? How have you shaped it? Basically, you've got your generic "Made in China" souls. Sorry if that's offensive! {laughter} Your basic rudimentary soul that you've got to work with, which is just your consciousness, your confrontation with potential and chaos to create something out of it. But then there is something that you actually create, and that is your character. That is a level above that basic soul. That is the thing that you actually form, that has its own shape because every choice that you make is that reduction of uncertainty. It's one bullseye after another.

If you can imagine, what might it be like if it's true and if there are choices at any given moment, or at specific moments in your life, specific moments of importance, if you make the best choice in all those moments, what might the result be? Well, it doesn't seem to me that it'd be a bad thing. It might be bad in certain ways, like in the story of someone like Jesus, right? You make all the right choices, you're the Son of God and then you get nailed to a cross.

But even in a story like that, where there's tragedy in it, out of the tragedy is actually where the good comes into the world, because according to that mythology, I'll put it, according to that myth and that archetype, it's through that ultimate sacrifice, it's through the hardness of the process that the greatest good comes out of it. That in itself is the transformation of evil into good, and bringing good into the universe.

That dynamic works on so many levels, because, in ourselves, whenever we confront a wrong belief that we have, whenever we confront the wrong beliefs that are influencing us to behave in certain ways negatively with the people around us in our own lives and in our careers and in everything that we do in life, when we confront those lies within ourselves, those things that we're getting wrong, that in itself is like a death. It is like a sacrifice. We are killing a part of ourselves that has been a part of us for a long time, that has been developed with us over time. That might be a negative crystallization. That's like a habit that we've developed that isn't in line with that ideal hierarchy, that ideal aim. It's a pathological crystallization or development of character, and it hurts when we confront that.

First, it hurts just to realize it and to see it, and then it hurts to actually change it, because that in itself is hard. It's hard to establish a new habit. That's another thing that I liked about his answer there, what he said about habits, and how it is consciousness that builds habits. That has implications all over the place. It's consciousness itself that builds habits. The only reason we have habits is because we are minds interacting with the world, acting in certain ways, bringing actuality into the world, making potential real, making potential actual, thereby developing habits that happen relatively automatically.

Where are the end of those habits? Rupert Sheldrake, for instance, calls the laws of nature the "habits" of nature and Whitehead said something similar, that what we see when we are analyzing the world, scientifically, by observation, we are seeing habits. We're seeing behaviors. We're seeing certain things acting in certain ways and when someone or something is acting in a certain way, it's not acting in all those other ways. There's a selection process. So what is the source of the selection?

Well we come back to the idea of being the center of the universe. From every atom upwards, everything is a center of the universe. Everything has some sense of direction to it. Everything is embodying some hierarchy of aims. Some are more primitive than others. Atoms have a very primitive hierarchy of aims. Protons only do one thing. But there's a similarity at all of those levels, where the same basic process is going on, just with different specifics, more complexity at the higher levels. But, on every level, it is consciousness or mind, in the process of encountering potentials and bringing one of those options into the real world that creates what we see as habits, that create what we see as the regularities of nature. Not only the regularities of nature, but the regularities of the people around us.

We see who they are, they seem to be the same person, they seem to have certain habits. Another one of those functions of consciousness is then to, like you guys commented on, and like Peterson said, to transform that given reality, that given habit which may be useful. Maybe it doesn't need to be transformed but maybe it does and maybe something new can be built on top of that habit. Maybe that habit can be used as the raw material and the ground, the soil in which to grow a new and better habit. Yeah, just thought I'd throw that out there.

Corey: I just wanted to read a quote from Kastrup's book, in light of what you just said. The book that we discussed on last week's show, The Idea of the World. He says:

"The entire philosophical system erected in this volume has at its foundation an observation as simple as it is far-reaching. Matter is the outer appearance of inner experience. This is only this is what matter is."

Now, in that context of what you just said, if you replace experience with multitudes of experience, with habit, with the kinds of choices that everything can make in the universe, then what you see, whether it's beautiful, or it's ugly, or it's high, or low, loathsome or wonderful, is the result of its inner being. That's what it is, its experience, its being, its soul. The soul of what you see is just the manifest forms of that mind, that one ultimate mind, and all of the potentials. You have to choose the potentials as you go through life. That's what your soul does. It's drawing you to choose one of those potentials, and to manifest that. Obviously, you could cut it down to the binary of good and evil, and that's what humanity has done for many of years, and still maintains its explanatory value because that's a good heuristic for us dumb beasts {laughter} to know that you don't be evil, be good.

Elan: Like Google says. {laughter}

Harrison: Google is right. {laughter}

Corey: Google was, yes. Listen to Google {laughter}

Elan: We're coming to the end of the show here today. There are just a couple more points that I feel that were essential to his talk. One was that there is no middle ground, and it reminded me quite a bit of Gurdjieff saying that you're sitting on two stools, that you're not actually making the choice. Here, making the choice is some amount of risk as Peterson also says. What does that mean?

I think it means, imagining choices where we might not even see them out of force of habit and that would be another way that a crystallization, a pathological crystallization that you were talking about, Harrison, might somehow be broken down, if only as it's manifested through apathy or the going through the motions of life, that aren't conducive to making a choice for others, for growing and doing things that might benefit others in ways that aren't immediately recognizable or don't provide a payoff in the immediate, self-gratifying, tangential ways that we're conditioned and programmed to get payoffs from on certain things.

We could talk about this until the cows come home on what we think Peterson is saying about no middle ground and why it's important. But you really want to make this your own, and see how what he's saying can be true for one's self, in the day-to-day choices that one is faced with, or isn't faced with. When was the last time - and I say this to myself as much as I do to anyone, including you, our beloved audience - how do we become more conscious that we are at choice? What might we spend this evening doing that might not have an immediate payoff, but might have a kind of salutary effect for ourselves and others going into the future? What might we read and assimilate? What might we clean, or build, or consider, that has been kind of put by the wayside in our day-to-day rote, mechanical, and yes sometimes nihilistic exercise of living as souls? Because until you're conscious of how you're nihilistic, until you're conscious of how you're automatic and mechanical, and kind of shunt away the choices that are available to you on a daily basis, the choice isn't there to actualize, to potentialize, to help us grow into beings that would fall on this hierarchy of values that we would like to think that we have.

So, make it your own. Listen to Peterson again, and hopefully something, some choice, some potentiality, some future path may be walked on, and considered, and lived, that somewhere down the road is beneficial to you, and all you'd like to see in the world.

Harrison: We're going to end it pretty quick, I just wanted to make one or two quick points. First, I used the word 'fractal' at the beginning of the show, the word I wanted to use was 'holographic'. So that a mind is like a holograph, like the whole is in the part, essentially, and the part is in the whole. I guess fractals are probably pretty similar but I actually had in mind holograph. The reason I say this will lead to the second point. This goes back to what I was saying about the religious error, about abdicating responsibility by leaving things in god's hands. Like, "God will take care of that", or "Jesus will take care of that".

Well, if this a true picture of the world, where you are holographically a miniaturization or a dissociated part of, essentially, god's mind, then anything you're abdicating responsibility for to god is actually your responsibility. All the things that you want other beings to do, like a higher being and other people, it's actually your responsibility. That's the part you have to play in this life. That's why you exist, to transform this world, transform yourself, and transform this world through transforming yourself. So, I think I'll just leave it there and we'll see you next week. Thanks everybody.

Corey: Bye-bye.

Elan: Take care.