chaos demon
Why have many ancient - and even contemporary stories - just stuck with us and seem etched into the psyche of civilization? What is it about particular narratives that appear to hold something so essential to our existence, and that have become reference points for our own narratives? And how can a story, or a mythology, serve us as we navigate life's many day to day travails, and unexpected twists and turns? Jordan Peterson writes: "A good theory lets you use things — things that once appeared useless — for desirable ends. In consequence, such a theory has a general sense of excitement and hope about it. A good theory about the structure of myth should let you see how a story you couldn't even understand previously might shed new and useful light on the meaning of your life."

Join us this week on MindMatters as we continue our discussion of Jordan Peterson's deeply insightful Maps of Meaning and dive into the treasures of 'Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience' - where we'll be taking a look at how the archetypes of many myths are, in fact, all around us - and whether we realize it or not, make up the firmament for the stories we tell ourselves about our own exploratory journeys into both the known and the unknown.

Running Time: 01:07:04

Download: MP3 — 61.4 MB

Previous Maps of Meaning discussions: Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: Hello, and welcome back to MindMatters, everyone. On today's show, we're going to be journeying back into Jordan B. Peterson's Maps of Meaning, continuing a discussion that we left off a few weeks ago on Chapter 2. In the last show we discussed mostly psychological and behavioral antecedents, I guess, in human adaptation and our biology, that predisposes us towards the unknown and the known. These two broad domains of experience that have universal value. There's the unknown that has certain features, then there's the known that has certain features and just like mice, and just like other mammals, we interact with one another, and with the world in different ways depending on whether we are under the domain of the unknown, or in the domain of the known.

On this week's show we're going to be discussing a little bit more of the sociological and mythological implications for this because Jordan Peterson goes into great depths discussing Babylonian, Egyptian, Sumerian myths and how they are relevant, and how we should read them in order to understand how the ancients viewed the world, versus how we view the world. As the ancients viewed the world you couldn't cleave the subject from the object and investigate objective reality without subjective reality also imposing its own demands on the material.

So, the earth wasn't just the earth in mythology, the sky wasn't just the sky. An evil king wasn't just an evil king. Everything was categorized according to a mythological mandate that necessitated that everything that was unknown or evil could be interchanged within this realm and also carried powerful moral exemplars for behavior in order to understand how we should value the world and how we should interact with the world. How do we interact with the unknown? How do we interact with the known? How do we interact with one another. How do we understand what it means to be heroic? What is the ideal? What is the exemplar that we all strive for?

So he discusses that in quite a bit in Chapter 2. So Harrison, do you have any thoughts?

Harrison: The first thing I wanted to talk about is the overall framework that he uses, the idea of the archetypal outlook. He of course likes Carl Jung. He doesn't follow him slavishly or anything but I want to talk about this idea of the archetypes because some people, I think, when they encounter that term, have this idea of what an archetype might be, or what the collective unconscious might be. It's not what Peterson is exactly getting at in this chapter.

So, an archetype isn't necessarily a universal symbol that every culture has as in, for example, a star-headed antelope turtle, or something, as if every human culture has access to this database of odd creatures and then accesses it and there's the star-headed antelope turtle. That's not exactly what he's saying. Maybe some people have a view that's more along those lines, but he has already established that this framework for looking at reality in terms of these three things is the known, the unknown and the knower. Like we talked about in the previous show, that is, as far as I can tell, an accurate description of reality.

You can look at all of reality using that framework, and everything within that, well, within that is everything, it's very, you can have any number of facts or images, or phenomena or behavior, but as an overall framework, it works because that's how the universe is structured, that seems to be how human consciousness is structured, in the sense that we do come to know things through an encounter with the unknown. When it comes to the images, the symbols, the archetypes that go along with that, the ones that he identifies are truly universal features of the human experience.

So you've got a father, a mother, their offspring, and then a monster or, you can put all those in the plural because there are divisions within that too. You can have an evil mother, or a good mother, an evil father or a good father, an evil son or a good son. Then again, you've got the unknown, and the unknown too can be creator or destroyer. There's this dual essence to it. So you have these archetypes that really are universal to not only human experience, but to pretty much most biological life, at least most biological life that reproduces sexually.

From the mammals and for vast numbers of creatures, they do have parents. That's how they were formed and they do encounter chaos, they do encounter the unknown in their experiences and all creatures are adapted to that experience. What I mean by that, and what, I think Peterson means by that, is that their consciousness is such that when encountering something new, there are several options for behavioral response that are set, that are universal, either for the species or for the whole animal kingdom.

As an example - this will go back to the stuff we talked about a couple weeks ago - if you look at mammals for instance, when they encounter the unknown, when they encounter something that is not within their realm of established habit and routine living there will often be like a freezing response or a fleeing response or a fighting response. It's pretty universal. It's encoded into us on a biological and on a very deep psychological level. There's an experience of it and there's the behavioral manifestation of it.

So what he's saying is that these very basic and fundamental reactions and experiences get encoded or stored in mythology. You can see that in the characters of these myths, their features and the actions they engage in within the myths. The way I see it, he has set himself up to succeed because by picking something so basic and so universal, you can find that in anything right? So you can find it in mythology. I think in this case it's more true than not true because with something like a story, it's in your face and with something as elemental and basic as the biological unit, the family structure of humanity, you can't help but put in universal themes and you can't help but perceive and bring out those universal themes when you see them. Of course, myth is probably deeper than that. There's more to it than that, but that establishes the basics of how he's able to categorize things and then analyze them.

An academic point would be, some might say he's kind of projecting his ideas onto these ancient cultures. They didn't necessarily see them that way and I think that's probably right. It's not like you could get Jordan Peterson in the same room as an ancient Babylonian and they'd be in complete agreement about what these myths mean. But, I do think there's some validity in, just in the sense that I said, that whether it's recognized or not, these universal relationships, characteristics and behaviors do play themselves out in these narratives and that there has to be something about those narratives, about those myths as to why they were so important, and why they lasted so long. I think there are a lot of cheap explanations for why that's the case. But think you have to go a bit deeper in order to understand that and that's what I like about his approach. It's at least a plausible attempt to go that deep, whether or not it's the whole picture. I think that's not the case, that there are probably other elements that Peterson doesn't get into or might not be familiar with, or just doesn't focus on, but that's probably for another show.

Elan: Well, I had a similar thought. He cites the Egyptian myth of Osiris, Set and Isis, and that whole battle and what it meant in terms of destruction, regeneration and rebirth and chaos. I was also comparing that to other understandings or perspectives on that particular myth, and thinking that's quite a bit different. It has some things in common. But then I was just thinking myths, or perhaps a power of a particular myth is also that they can be read in multiple different ways and that they are multidimensional and just like a good film has a very basic story on the surface, and then a subtext that is really kind of describing a whole other dynamic, or a different dynamic that may not be apparent upon a first reading or viewing.

Harrison: I'm just curious, if you want to share, what was the other interpretation you had in mind of that myth?

Elan: Well, it was the cutting up of Osiris as a kind of metaphor for the possibility that we as human beings might have had our DNA truncated or malformed in some form or another. Not a very well known version of it, but that's what came to mind, originally.

Harrison: Right away, kind of proving your point, multiple interpretations come to mind. So that's one. Another is the idea, like we talked about last week, of a soul pool or a soul group that divides and manifests itself in consciousness. It's like the universe is the dismemberment of a god, the dismemberment of a giant consciousness into these little itty-bitty fragments of consciousness that we call ourselves.

That's another one. Another one is from - what's his name, the astrophysicist guy? Mike Baillie is one, he's the dendrochronologist. And the British guy, Victor Clube, the guy he wrote with, I can't remember his name - but the idea that these myths are narrative story versions of actual events that were seen in the skies, like the breakup of a large comet. They go through all these myths - Greek myths, Chinese myths, Irish myths - and show these semi-universal features that are at least shared between these cultures and these myth-systems, of a god that is dismembered and that causes destruction. There are all these features of these myths and they relate that to hypothesized and sometimes fairly well-proven close encounters with comets or real encounters, where if you imagine what it must have been like because we, in our immediate human memory, haven't had an encounter with a comet like that.

But from what we know about comets and what we can recreate what that must have been like, it must have been a profound experience. Looking up in the sky and seeing this gigantic light thing, this shining something taking these weird forms because of the comet tail and its interaction with the atmosphere and parts breaking off and gravitation with other fragments causing the break up of this comet so that it then becomes these other bits. So you could see, you could see this fantastic battle in the skies and then the resulting catastrophe of some of those fragments crashing to earth and causing massive fires and earthquakes and all kinds of destruction. This is the kind of thing that happened in the Younger Dryas that we talked about a month or two ago when discussing Graham Hancock's book. But it must have been a formative experience for humanity, or several formative experiences to have these things happen.

I think that there's some merit to that. Of course Peterson doesn't get into it at all, but I think there's some merit to that approach. The problem with that approach though, which Peterson does mention just briefly, is if something like that is the case and these myths actually represent something different, if theyère allegories for some real events or encoded versions of some science or some history, it doesn't explain the story or why the people that told these myths told them in the way that they did. Why do we see that comet as a father figure, or this one as a mother figure? The answer should be obvious. We ascribe these characteristics to things like that because they are in our everyday experience. Those are the things most universal and most close to us - the experience of the family unit and social, behavioral interactions that we have amongst each other and with each other. So we're going to tell a story about it. That's what makes the story.

So you can't necessarily separate one from the other. Well you can in certain cases. In this case, for myths that were told about experiences of this sort, you're going to have the narrative elements that were put into the creation of this story, that are going to be derived from these human universal experiences and creating a plausible storyline for these events that happened in the skies, but you'll also get just pure stories that aren't influenced by cosmic events but that are rooted in human experience.

We get that today, for people that are writing novels for young kids or science-fiction novels or fantasy novels. There are all kinds of creative myth-making that is going on, that isn't necessarily directly inspired by any kind of intended hidden meanings as the explanation for some scientific thing or some secret event that happened or for some big event. Sometimes it's just a creative story. The thing about a lot of these myths, perhaps, that Peterson's talking about, for whatever reason they are very good distillations or exemplars of that kind of creativity and that kind of story-making and storytelling. Some stories are just better than others.

Just like stand-up comedy, sometimes your joke doesn't work, sometimes your story doesn't work. But then every once in a while you hear a really good joke, and that one sticks, and sometimes there's a really good story. Even if it wasn't intended to be, it becomes that. You see that with a lot of classic literature where it just by chance, sometimes, something lives on and something retains its popularity throughout the ages. This is really an attempt to analyze why that is, why these stories in particular, what makes them so special, that they seem to resonate with a lot of people and don't just get forgotten or tossed in the waste bin of history because they didn't resonate that well with other people.

Elan: I hope this isn't too much of a digression. I was thinking a little bit about Star Wars, which is our modern myth-telling, and how wonderfully George Lucas had created this mythology, complete with a, a devouring evil father, a archetypal heroic figure in the form of Luke Skywalker, the forces of nature, no pun intended, and just how much it meant for people, as a contemporary myth or a reworking of other myths, but that had failed so recently in the latest trilogy, precisely because there was no honoring of that previous mythology in the sense that all the fans had held it so dear to them.

So that is a contemporary example of when one of those myths isn't particularly good, or doesn't hold to the tradition from which it came. People know. People recognize it and people get upset by it because it becomes subverted. It becomes something that falls short of the power that the myth had originally, when it came on the scene.

Corey: You discussed the myth of Osiris,and Jordan Peterson's take on it, and I thought it was kind of interesting. Everyone's probably fairly aware of Osiris. Was it the wife of Isis? And, he was.

Harrison: Husband.

Corey: Sorry, he was the husband of Isis, and he was killed by his brother, Set. Set was this plotter/conspirator who wanted to kill off Osiris and cut him up, carved him up and then shipped him down the Nile, essentially. So this is what Jordan Peterson writes about it.

The death of Osiris signifies two important things. One, the tendency of a static ruling idea, system of evaluation, or particular story, no matter how initially magnificent or appropriate, to become increasingly irrelevant with time. And two, the dangers necessarily accrue to a state that forgets, or refuses to admit to the existence of the immortal deity of evil. Set, the king's brother and opposite, represents the mythic hostile twin or adversary who eternally opposes the process of creative encounter with the unknown, signifies, alternatively speaking, a pattern of adaptation characterized by absolute opposition to establishment of divine order.

When this principle gains control, that is, usurps the throne, the "rightful king and his kingdom" are necessarily doomed. Set, and figures like him, often represented in narrative by the corrupt right-hand man or advisor to the once-great king, view human existence itself with contempt. Such figures are motivated only to protect or advance their position in the power hierarchy. Even when the prevailing order is clearly counterproductive.

Their actions necessarily speed the process of decay endemic to all structures. Osiris, although great, was naïve in some profound sense, blind at least to the existence of "immortal evil". This blindness and its result in incaution, brings about or at least hastens, Osiris' demise. When a great organization disintegrates, falls into pieces, the pieces might still usefully be fashioned into or give rise to something else, perhaps something more vital, and still greater. Isis therefore gives birth to a son, Horus, who returns to his rightful kingdom to confront his evil uncle. Horus fights a difficult battle with Set, as the forces of evil are difficult to overcome, and loses an eye in the process. Set is overcome, nonetheless. Horus recovers his eyes.

The story could stop there, narrative integrity intact, with the now whole and victorious Horus' well-deserved ascension to the throne. However, Horus does the unexpected, descending voluntarily to the underworld to find his father, his representation of this move reminiscent of Marduk's voluntarily journey to the underworld of Tiamat that constitutes the brilliant and original contribution of Egyptian theology. Horus discovers Osiris, extant in a state of torpor. He offers his recovered eye to his father so that Osiris can see once again. They return united and victorious and establish a revivified kingdom. The kingdom of the son and father is an improvement over that of the father or the son alone as it unites the hard-won wisdom of the past, that is the dead, with the adaptive capacity of the present, that is of the living. The re-establishment and improvement of the domain of order, is schematically represented in...

some figure that we don't have access to right now. But anyway, that whole story, the way that he describes it, you could be projecting onto it, but then at the same time, you could also see if you read that and you're being entertained by the story, you're seeing these thematic elements take place, and you're seeing what happens when corruption takes place, in the government of the country that you run and you see this need to avenge that, to put things right again. How you put things right? You put things right by kicking out the bad guy and then re-establishing your connection with the past, with your ancestors, with traditions, and so on and so forth.

So in this way, this myth, like Peterson would say, iis a guide for behavior. It's a fundamental way of ascertaining what in the world is important. The right leadership is important. Okay, so what is the right leadership? Well, you have to have these moral attributes. Okay, so what happens if you don't have them? Well the world is probably going to end up going to pieces. Well, then how do we recover these things? Well, you have to re-establish the proper conduct and you do that through the unity of tradition and the present moment. You have to pay attention to the ancestors, you have to go back to the traditions and you have to make yourself right with the universe, with God again, basically.

So in many ways it's an ancient wisdom. I don't know how ancient these myths are. We've discussed in previous shows on the book Origins of World Mythology that they could go back thousands and thousands and thousands of years, and could have emerged full-grown at some point. According to the thesis of that book, there are two major systems of these myths.

But as time goes on, they form this skeleton that people project their own history onto. So if you're a great hero, then you're not going to be Bob the hero. You're going to be assimilated to this larger myth. That's how we simultaneously butcher and honor our history as we go through. You retain all the best things, and you create these great idols to emulate that will guide you in this groupthink. You like some myths, you don't like some. There are some you can tell that are bastardized, like you were saying Elan, and there's just this human intuition and desire to have good stories, to have stories that are proper, that portray the correct kind of moral code. When those aren't present, then you have a different mythology for how you should interact with the world in that case.

Elan: I would just add that just as there are metaphors for good governance, there are also metaphors for individual dissolution, coming across the anomaly, the revolutionary problem, but also, amongst being dismembered, or having a fall, or having a negative disintegration, or a bankruptcy, or any one of the number of terms that are similar or synonymous in the upheaval that can exist in a person, this metaphor aptly describes the dynamic involved with the possibility, at least, for reintegration and growth after these different forces in the form of these different gods or personages interact with each other. You might say we're manifesting a little bit, these archetypes, in our own lives. So by telling of these myths, by recalling them and by putting them in the context of maps of meaning, and navigating life, Peterson is saying, you can think of your life, and your journey, and use this metaphor for what's involved.

So, I think that's what he's doing there. He also goes on to - unless we wanted to discuss that particular myth a little more - he gets into the devouring mother, which is quite interesting, the archetype of the mother that brings a person into life, in the very violent, bloody act of birth but also in her physicality has the capability to nurture, through her milk. But she can also be an oppressive being in the life of a child. She stands for all of these things. He talks about these myths as being part of a tradition that storytellers and artists, although I don't recall if he uses the word artists or not in particular, but part of, I guess, being integrated to some degree, is having an appreciation for, and an understanding of these mythologies that have a very deep and maybe even unconscious effect on how we interact with things.

So I was reading about this all-devouring mother mythology that he brings up, and I was thinking, gosh, that reminds me a great deal about that Pink Floyd song, Mother...

Corey: Yeah.

Elan: ...that's in The Wall, and I just thought I'd read the lyrics, because, by his description, I thought they were so profoundly similar to me, and I thought, gee, it really is an archetype, that, by all accounts, Roger Waters is one of the most wonderful contemporary artists in music, of the past 40 years. So these are the lyrics to Mother.

Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?

Mother, do you think they'll like this song?

Mother, do you think they'll try to break my balls?

Ah, mother should I build a wall?

Mother, should I run for president?
Mother, should I trust the government?

Mother, will they put me in the firing line?

I'm sorry, I'm not going to sing for you today folks, although I'd love to! {laughter}

Corey: Sing along in your head!

Elan: But I don't think you'd love to hear me.

Ah, is it just a waste of time?

Hush now baby, baby don't you cry.

There it is, I'm singing.

Mama's gonna make all of your nightmares come true,

Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you,

Mama's gonna keep you right here under her wing,

She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing,

Mama's gonna keep baby cosy and warm,

Oh, of course, mama's gonna help build a wall,

And there are more lyrics, look them up. But what Roger Waters was attempting to do was to impart all of this power that was both imposed upon him by the all-devouring mother, but also, something that he has internalized. And it's wonderful in how well it expresses that whole all-devouring mother myth, I should say.

Harrison: There's a bit more than just the mother in it too, because the whole idea of building a wall...

Elan: Yes.

Harrison: ...the wall is this enclosed space. Tt's the space of order. That's the father. That's the order imposed on society. It's the realm of the known. It's the social order. It's the boundary between everything that is stable, traditional and set in stone, literally, and the wilderness, the outside, where foreigners and monsters and demons live.

Elan: The unknown.

Harrison: The unknown. And so when you build a wall, there's this duality to the wall, too. The wall does protect you from outside forces, but it also prevents you from advancing beyond the wall. It's as much a protection as it is a prison. This is the duality of the father archetype, who can be both a tyrant and a close-minded conservative, resistant to any change whatsoever and the protector, the source of tradition and all the good that comes out of that. The wall, the walled garden, the walled castle has both of those features. So right there, you have all of those elements mixed into this one little ditty, a good one.

But, maybe, if you want to get back to the mother, a bit more on the father, first. I don't have the quote from it, because I was listening to the audiobook and didn't find the passage, but there's one point in the chapter where Peterson is talking about the civilizing effect of the father archetype and of society in general and civilization and its relationship with that encounter of the knower with the unknown. But the point he makes is the more civilized you become, in a sense, the more you order your environment, the more you have everything in control, the more terrified you are of the unknown because you're so used to everything being in its right place, to having everything be regular, like an OCD person having everything defined and rigid and...

Elan: Predictable.

Harrison: ... predictable, then, the slightest jarring of that predictability can create an earthquake in you or some kind of catastrophe. So you become less adept at encountering the unknown, because you have no experience of the unknown. You're living your life in this sheltered bubble of tradition and of regular stability, and predictability, so where can you go from there? That's when tradition and order becomes tyrannical, in a sense, and stultifying, that there's nothing new that can enter into that. And of course, that requires something else. That requires the hero to then go out and encounter the unknown and bring something new back, and reinvigorate the tradition.

For some reason that point stood just out to me, that, you can look at it on different levels. If you look at just our experience of modern civilization that we live in, how so much is taken care of, so much is ordered, so much is brought within the realm of the known, that we really have very comfortable lives, comparatively and for the most part. Of course, not totally, because everybody has tragedies that come into their lives, and difficulties, but there is a lot of civilization in the sense that we live in cities where things go relatively well. Like Peterson always says, we manage to keep the electricity on for the most part and that's a huge deal. But what is the downside of that? We are not prepared for the big catastrophes that come our way. We've kind of gone soft and lost that adventurous spirit and that drive towards the unknown. The more civilized we become, the less willing we are to encounter chaos and to encounter the unknown.

So, again there's that duality. There are the positive aspects, but also the negative aspects that actually hold us back from learning, and if that's the purpose of life, to actually gain new experiences, to learn new things and to bring that into an ordered state, then that necessitates getting out of the comfort zone, and somehow being prepared for that. I think that gets to the conflict between the more progressive liberal element of society and the more conservative one too, because the conservatives don't want new stuff. Like I've said before, conservatives can't make movies, for instance.

I guess, as bad as, liberals might be, they're the only ones who are creative enough to make a good movie, because if you look at the kind of creative endeavours that conservatives get into, it's cringeworthy. I've watched a few and I've seen some explicitly conservative movies and they're just terrible. It's torture to watch anything like that. Whereas you take a crazy liberal and watch something they make, it can be like excellent, like great, like mind-expanding. And then you find out their political opinions, and it's just like, oh my god, how did this person create this? I guess that's the history of art - crazy artists, total degenerates making great stuff that we remember today, but, again, that strange duality. Maybe I'll think about it some more. I might have another point to make about that, but I just wanted to bring that one up.

Corey: Well, just to pick up where you left off on that strange duality, this is what Jordan Peterson has to say on the utility of mythology. He writes:

Knowledge of the grammar of mythology might well constitute an antidote to ideological gullibility. Genuine myths are capable of representing the totality of conflicting forces, operating in any given situation. Every positive force has its "omnipresent and eternal enemy". The beneficial aspect of the "natural environment" is therefore properly viewed in light of its capacity to arbitrarily inflict suffering and death. The protective and sheltering capacity of society is therefore understood in light of its potent tendency to tyranny and the elimination of necessary diversity.

The heroic aspect of the individual is regarded in light of the ever-lurking figure of the adversary - arrogant, cowardly and cruel. A story accounting for all of these "constituent elements" or reality is balanced and stable in contrast to an ideology and far less likely to produce an outburst of social psychopathology.

As you were discussing there, the great father is the protector and he establishes order. He's symbolic of civilization and structure, the fact that I can walk down the street and be relatively sure that everyone is going to interact in a way that's pretty habitual and normal and not too absolutely insane and there's not just gonna be some Humvees come crashing down the street, with guns blazing. There's not going to be anything like that going on. Yet at the same time, that same force that can protect, if it has the power to protect, it clearly has the power to oppress as well.

It's in some ways an antidote for a black and white thinking and getting stuck in one political ideology, one ideologically tainted way of viewing an issue. With the grammar of mythology, as he puts it, you don't see the world in terms of Republican and Democrat, but you see it in terms of the evil crone, the devouring mother, who in one instance is the giver of all life. You look at the universe, the abundance and to our ancestors, clearly the gift of life came from a woman, a mother. It's a way of regulating your emotions, these stories, in some sense. It's a way of saying, "Have this positive affection for the universe, in general. It's going to help you live your life." But at the same time, there are these crazy, flood, storms. The universe will just wipe an entire species out, entire planets. You just have no idea what's going to happen.

Just like your earlier discussion about the comets, cometary bombardments, you're talking about the evil mother, the devouring mother, just wiping out entire continents. But at the same time this mythology, this grammar of myth, as he describes it, allows you to see it in its twin aspects - the all-devouring, yet life giving aspects, the tyrannical father, yet the protective order. So it kind of helps immunize you from these ideological possessed individuals who want to rally you all around, the Sets, the adversaries as he was discussing them, the people who are cowardly, cruel and treacherous and who are always out to trick you, trick the hero, cut him up into 16 pieces and ship him down the Nile so that they can sit in their ivory towers and talk about gender-bending. {laughter}

That's the power of the grammar of mythology. It gives you this mental universe where, just like a kaleidoscope, you can just change things a little bit and as you change one aspect, all of a sudden you get this kind of knock-on effect, domino effect of how every other element can change too. You change the one trait of the hero and it's an adversary to someone else. Or you look at the mother in one light and you change it, now she's the horrible devouring mother. The great father is going to protect you from the devouring mother and vice-versa. It's quite a feat that he has accomplished in trying to re-introduce that way of thinking to the masses, us schlubs. {laughter}

Elan: Well, he's got a great passage that alludes to some of the things you just said, Corey, and I do agree. Sometimes when you experience something negative, like a Set in the workplace or politically, it feels like it's a tragedy, and it grips you, and that's all it is! But, that's not all it is, because for every Set, there is an Isis, perhaps...

Corey: Potential hero, yeah.

Elan: Or, is it Marduk, the son?

Harrison: Horus.

Elan: Horus, yeah. Different mythology, I'm thinking of - a Horus that comes back to be the hero. But in any case, he's got this passage here that alludes to some of what you just said. He says:

No matter where an individual lives and no matter when, he faces the same set of problems, or perhaps, the same set of meta-problems since the details differ endlessly. He is a cultural creature and must come to terms with the existence of that culture. He must master the domain of the known, explored territory, which is the set of interpretations and behavioral schemas he shares with his societal compatriots. He must understand his role within that culture. A role defined by the necessity of preservation, maintenance and transmission of tradition, as well as by capacity for revolution and radical update of that tradition, when such update becomes necessary.

So I guess, the question is, when is it really necessary and productive and when isn't it, and the devil is in the details. But he goes on:

He must also be able to tolerate and even benefit from the existence of the transcendental unknown, unexplored territory, which is the aspect of experience that cannot be addressed with mere application of memorized and habitual procedures.

Which gets back to what you were saying earlier, Harrison, that we're so inured to some things and so committed to our comfort zones, that we're almost shocked to our core when there is some new feature to reality that threatens to disturb all that.

Finally he must adapt to the presence of himself, must face the endlessly tragic problem of the knower, the exploratory process, the limited mortal subject must serve as eternal mediator between the creative and destructive "underworld" of the unknown and the secure, oppressive patriarchal kingdom of human culture.

I don't quite think he means patriarchal in the way that we've been hearing so much in contemporary news, although it could have some similarities. But certainly in this passage he's laying out, in this context of being in one's culture, being in one's society, assimilating and integrating the traditions, the myths, what the challenges of a person in this world is right now. And certainly it's necessary to have enough distance from these ideas, or enough perspective, or enough knowledge of them, that you can take a look back to some degree, in order to enable yourself to make the heroic - for the lack of a better word - decisions of being a person in this world.

Harrison: Well, I want to tie this back to something we talked about last week in the afterlife show and that was the idea of the kind of rigid belief systems that people have, that for the most part, the vast majority of people have. I'll just say all people have a rigid belief system whether they know it or not.

Corey: I refuse to believe that.

Harrison: Yep. That's very rigid of you, Corey. {laughter}

Harrison: ... and the downside of that. From Peterson's perspective this is the tyranny of order. What should be the response to that? How should we react to that situation, to that status quo? Well, I think the answer in a lot of these myths, is that we can't be satisfied with the status quo, because that will just lead to hardening, ossification and stultification, a lack of energy and vigor. It becomes dead in a sense. It loses its life. It becomes boring and there's always a danger of that situation obtaining for any individual all kinds of downsides. One of the downsides is that you're not prepared for anything new. You're not prepared for an encounter with chaos.

So really the hero in this case is the one who, I think, has an awareness of the tradition and the place in which you find yourself, in which he finds himself, the traditions, the social structure, the interactions, everything that's normal. But that should be the shell of the hero, to not be limited by those structures, ideas and behaviors because if you're going to learn anything, you have to step outside of that comfort zone. The process that you see when this happens, is one of disillusionment to a large degree. You see this a lot in people who leave religion, or who gain religion, who leave their old self behind and acquire this new template on which they order their lives.

This hero's journey has to be a venture out of the known, out of the walled area, in order to find something new. I think that the way that plays out is through a questioning of one's given beliefs because we're given so much. We're instilled with so much, that we haven't acquired it on our own. It's just presented to us and as children we sop it all up.

I've seen this with kids in my experience, watching children grow up, how they adopt everything. They adopt behavioral patterns, even physical movements. Of course there's the language that they use, the word choices, the fad language that teenagers adopt with each other and from a younger age, maybe 4, 5 or 6 years. It's really interesting to see religious dogma take shape.

I don't have any specifics, but certain beliefs about Jesus and God. Well how do you know that? You were told that, and yet this little child just believes it, without any kind of evidence. Of course some of these beliefs might be true. You can have a curriculum for small children that is nothing but true, hypothetically, and then just tell these children and they'll eat it all up, but they've just assimilated all of this true information, but none of it is their own. They're just repeating it. They don't know why it's true. They don't know how it's true. Because it's an ideal situation, because that's not the way reality actually is, as children we assimilate all kinds of things that aren't true that we assume are true, just because they've been presented to us.

This is the negative aspect of tradition and of history. While there may be a lot of value in it. First, we acquire it totally automatically with no conscious thought of our own, no discernment whatsoever and secondly, there's a lot of stuff that is just plain wrong. So the hero's journey, I think, has to be one of deeply questioning all of the things that we've automatically acquired in our upbringings and even up to the present moment, the things that we're acquiring on a daily basis. The strategic, heroic way of dealing with that is to not push too many buttons at once. You have to wear the clothes that the people around you are wearing to a greater or lesser degree. If you're too far outside the norm you're painting a target on your back because, as Peterson talked about, the more safe a culture is, the more civilized a people is, the more they will lash out against any kind of difference.

So if you're this heroic person questioning all of your beliefs and you go on the street telling everyone they're wrong about everything, you're just going to get chopped off immediately. There's some strategy to be had here, and that is to be a bit cunning like in all kinds of fables and stories of the person who's smart enough to get across what he wants to get across without everyone lynching him. But then there are stories and myths about martyrs, about people who encounter the tyranny of the status quo and I think they have their function too. There's a time for strategic evasion of persecution for being a bit countercultural and then there's the value of making a big splash and being remembered for generations for pointing out the absolute absurdity and stupidity of the everyday culture. It's a complex situation, like he points out. There are all of these conflicting positives and negatives that are in all these different combinations to the point that it's just a total mess.

Corey: These archetypal patterns or whatever can pop up anywhere. They don't have a set face. The universe isn't a mother. It's not an actual human mother, but it takes on this quality that a man could also play - the role of the devouring mother. This archetype could come through him or any of these other examples that you've been bringing up and that we've been discussing. They don't have any fixed existence. But whenever they do pop up, when you have an attitude or you have an idea of what they taste like. This closely resembles Set, this character that has pure contempt for human existence. "Well I'm going to college and this professor doesn't even believe that humans have consciousness. They don't even exist." Well, you're like, "Oh, what am I hearing, am I hearing Set?" It's the adversary. I'm hearing the adversary here. What should my attitude be towards this?

And like you said, if you want to be a failed hero, you're going to stand up, throw your chair, and say, "But my Christian beliefs tell me...", or "But I've read this one book on channeling and they told me different than you!" {laughter} The path of the hero, like you said, is a little bit more cunning, a little bit more strategic, where you get in the head of the enemy and you understand that a lot of times in this world, you're not actually fighting for Osiris and the underworld. What you're doing is just trying to be effective.

I just want to go on a little bit about what you were discussing about the world that we live in, that we don't really understand because there's a really good quote I want to read from Jordan Peterson from this chapter, number 2. He says:

As mutable, limited social beings, we are all engaged in a massive cooperative and competitive endeavor. We do not understand the rules that govern this endeavor. In the final analysis, we cannot state explicitly why it is that we do what we do. Our democratic constitutions, for example, which contain the most fundamental axioms of the "body of law", that we imitate, that governs our behavior, are inextricably embedded in the conception of natural rights, which is to say in a statement of faith, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

We are all, in consequence, imitating a story that we don't understand. This story covers the broadest possible expanse of time and space, at least that expanse relevant to us, and is still implicitly "contained" in our behavior, although represented in part in episodic imagery and semantic description. This partially implicit containment constitutes our mythology and our ritual and provides the "upper level", unconscious frames of reference within which our conditional and expressible individual stories retain their validity.

I think we all can agree that you can't possibly know exactly why you do everything that you do, right? It goes back to what you were saying. We live in a world where a lot of what we get, our behaviors, our beliefs, we just get through sheer imitation and we can start to question those things as we grow older. One of the problems that besets a hero, I think, is that if you're questioning these beliefs and if you're serious about it, you run the risk of potentially bringing down those protective barriers that the patriarch, the established order has set up for you.

These things seem to have worked to some extent. People are getting fed. It's working in some way, but you question the validity of some things. Well, so now you have to set yourself this task to understand what it is that you don't understand. You have to question your own beliefs about what you're doing. What does it really mean to be a good citizen? Or what does it mean to be a democrat, or a republican, I've got all these beliefs or whatever. People tell me what they expect. I imitate other people and I seem to get along. That seems to be working alright.

But you can take an attitude towards it like the way of the fool. The fool always has something to learn. There's nothing out there. The fool has everything to learn, he's an idiot! Right? That's kind of an opposite extreme because, obviously, you don't want to be plunging yourself all the way into the unknown, but you want to find the balance between what you know and what you don't know, and creatively interact with that in a way that you're understanding more and more, and you're establishing a newer order. I think that's the biggest thing that the hero does. He faces the unknown. With the sheer amount of technological complexity that we live in now, it's like an heroic endeavor in and of itself to try and understand. Nobody can possibly understand how the systems that we live in right now and rely on, actually work. But they've grown from strange little iterative computer programs to giant functions, to browsers, to huge databases, to artificial intelligence, these things that we're living in now that increasingly govern and control our behavior.

I don't quite understand what he means when he says, 'this partially implicit containment constitutes our mythology'. That's one thing that I couldn't really wrap my head around. Do you have any thoughts on that Harrison? I figured you'd be the guy I could ask about that! {laughter}

Harrison: Let me see that full quote again.

Corey: It's the very bottom. But if that's true, this implicit containment within our behavior in regards to technology, is technology part of our mythology? Or is it strictly explicit?

Harrison: Well, let me re-read the last couple sentences there. So he says:

We are all in consequence, imitating a story we don't understand. This story covers the broadest possible expanse of time and space, at least that expanse relevant to us, and is still implicitly contained in our behavior, although represented in part, in episodic imagery and semantic description.

So he's talking about this vague story that we don't necessarily know consciously, but that we express through our behavior, in imitation or deeper than imitation. It's just something on a very fundamental level that we express in our behavior. The mythology captures that. So the mythology is implicitly contained in our everyday actions. "This partially implicit containment of that story in our behavior constitutes our mythology." So, I guess he's saying that the mythology is that implicit containment. It is the stories and the narratives that our behaviors act out. It's our mythology and our ritual and provides the upper-level, unconscious frames of reference within which our conditional and expressible individual stories retain their validity. Like a lot of this book, it gets quite wordy at times.

Corey: Yeah.

Elan: What I took that to mean was that there are these much larger things that go way beyond time and space that are manifested in microcosm in our day-to-day.

Corey: And even if they haven't become explicit yet, there is a story there, there's a narrative that's implicit in our actions and that is, I think, even more critical for us now to understand what the myth is, what myth we're playing out.

Harrison: I think that comes back to what we were talking about just a bit earlier. We have these implicit patterns. That could play itself out. We implicitly act out the cultural, societal things that we've just ingested in our childhoods and in growing up. Tying that into what you were saying Corey, about what the real hero should be, that in the questioning of all of those things, which I think the hero does, I think what that process is, is a kind of sifting.

So, you question everything but as you're questioning and when you're getting through your questioning, it's a matter of the wheat and the chaff. It's like, "Okay, well I believed this unconsciously. But there's a good reason for me to actually believe it now. I actually think that there is some truth in this. Whereas this, no. I've come to the conclusion that I should reject this, not act this out or whatever." But it's a constant weighing of each piece of cultural accretion that has made you who you are now, so that you can re-form yourself.

But in that heroic process of questioning, there's the risk of becoming a Set, as opposed to a Horus, right? There's the risk of rejecting everything and then tearing everything down. That would be a perversion or a corruption of the process because the world is mixed in the sense of mixed with good and bad things, mixed with things that are effective and not effective now, things that are relevant and irrelevant, things that are productive and now counterproductive.

It's the process of determining and discerning which is which, that will then contribute to the re-established order. But then you have the Sets of the world who just want to tear everything down because they can't see the value in parts of the tradition that actually still have value or can be reinvigorated. So, then they become agents of destruction and chaos, and don't actually bring a new order. They can bring a new order but it's oftentimes a much more corrupt and tyrannical order when they're actually going for the opposite, so, failure.

Corey: {laughter} Well, I think that does it for us this week. We really appreciate you tuning in. Just remember the next time your thrust into the unknown, that you could potentially be a hero and you could also potentially be an adversary.

Harrison: {singing} We could be heroes!

Corey: {singing} We could be heroes!

Elan: {singing} Did you ever know that you're my hero.

Corey: So hit Like, please subscribe, and check out Elan's latest album {laughter}

Corey: Where he covers... {laughter}

Harrison: Karaoke channel where he sings the classics!

Corey: Thank you very much, tune in again everybody, have a great week!

Harrison: Bye bye.