Thoughts Reading Maps of Meaning – Preface

What motivates human behavior? Reason? Economics? Genetics? Culture? Pleasure/pain? Why do we act as we do, say as we do, live as we do? Why do we do so in any given moment…


Thinking about Persona: JP relates an interesting experience he had. He began to listen to himself talk, and realized he didn’t necessarily believe what he would speak. He heard an inner voice starting criticize him (“That isn’t true. You don’t believe that”). He knew the voice came from himself, but wasn’t sure which voice was really his: the one talking, or the one criticizing? To his relief, he found the inner voice was his. But then, why was he speaking as he did, if he didn’t really believe those things? He concluded he was actually just repeating other people’s thoughts as if they were his own. Because he understood them, he would say them, even if he didn’t believe them. In these moments, he was embodying the culture, an ideology, a persona.

“It took me a long time to reconcile myself to the idea that almost all my thoughts weren’t real, weren’t true – or, at least, weren’t mine” (Maps of Meaning, p. 11).

I think an implication is to pay more attention to what we say and why we say it. Where is our speech coming from? Is it coming from us, or are we merely embodying a persona? If we don’t take responsibility for our speech, we’ll be captive to the speech of others — even from our own mouths.


I suspect as the books goes on, Jordan will explain his vivid dreams/nightmares as coming from the collective psyche (collective unconscious? Ala: Jung). I wonder, however, if the source isn’t ‘the collective unconscious’, but rather the influence of rebellious elohim.(Read “The Unseen Realm” by Dr. Michael Heiser). I suspect Peterson may have been experiencing genuine spiritual attack from all too real spiritual beings. Peterson & Jung, however, don’t go there because they each doubted the factual existence of such beings — thus, they hypothesize ‘the collective psyche’. I could be wrong.

Dreams are a mysterious thing. LORD, would you give me wisdom and insight in understanding the nature and purpose of dreams — in particular, how to properly interpret them in all their dimensions (source, meaning, application) in Jesus’ name.


In Maps of Meaning, Peterson describes how he was led to Jung. It was through the religious nature of his dreams, and his seeking to understand what they were and what was going on (p. 12). This quote of Jung’s for instance, resonated deeply with him: “It must be admitted that the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious can often assume grotesque and horrible forms in dreams and fantasies, so that even the most hard-boiled rationalist is not immune from shattering nightmares and haunting fears.”

Jung’s explanation of JPs experience was “the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious.” JP found that to be a more plausible explanation than Freud’s “wish-fulfillment” and focus on sexuality.

Jung believed the best solution for such occurrences was to contextualize the imagery “by means of comparative mythological material.” This led JP down the road of studying mythology. When he did study such material, it did make his horrible dreams disappear. But, he notes, the study and success of that endeavor also fundamentally changed him so that his view of reality is now very different from when he was younger.


In the conclusion to his preface, JP summarizes his worldview. He believes the world can be validly construed in two different ways: (1) as a place of objects, where science is master. (2) as a forum for action, where values (moral and otherwise) are master. With respect to science, he seems to content to say what factual is whatever science says. With respect to values, he seems to believe universal myths are our best teacher. The structure of universal myth, he believes, contains three fundamental elements:

  1. Unexplored Territory (Chaos), the encountering and confronting of such is essential for our transformation and growth.
  2. Explored Territory (Order), the areas of life we’ve mastered and demonstrated competence.
  3. Individuals mediating between the two (the Individual actor), whereby we creatively explore, grow, and subdue chaos.

He then utilizes archetypes as symbolic representations of the above: The Great Mother (creative and destructive, nature), The Great Father (protective and tyrannical, culture, cumulative ancestral wisdom), The Divine Son (the archetypal individual, creative explorer through ‘Word’ and adversary).

I have sympathy and resonance for his claim that the world as a forum for action is real, just as real/true as science while not reducible to it — that Value and Truth are just as real as Matter and Energy, and that we must comport ourselves in humble submission and accordance to that reality. I also think his schema of Chaos/Order/Individual(mediator) is a helpful way of framing the world. But I’m not sure of the grounding of such a hypothesis, as true, in fundamental mythological archetypes. That’s where I currently have some skepticism.

He goes on to delineate our experience as we mediate these realities, which I also think is helpful, but too detailed to summarize here given that I’m tired. It’s worth reading though.

Having read the Preface, I am excited to go through the rest of the book.

Author: dwtarr

I am a Christian, husband, and father. My greatest ambition is to live a Good Life, one that is pleasing to God and embodied in love. My interests are in theology, politics, science, and economics. I'm concerned, however, about the increasing lack of privacy in the digital age. And so, in discussing ideas, I've switched to a site I own rather than giving FaceBook any more information.

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