Maps of Meaning: Suggested Readings & Russian Translation

In 1999 Routledge published my book,  Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. It was the results of more than fifteen years of work — thousands of hours of obsessive thinking and writing. It was my attempt to deal with the aftermath of Nietzsche’s pronouncement of the Death Of God in his revelatory book, Thus Spake Zarathustra:

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”
As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.

Nietzsche believed that the death of God would produce cataclysmic upheavals in the Western world — including, as he prophesied in Will to Power, the death of millions at the hands of utopian communism. God is dead, and the hole He left behind is a vacuum in the human soul, filled carelessly and dangerously by ideology, motivated by intellectual inertia, arrogance, resentment and deceit. Dostoevsky believed the same thing, detailing out his beliefs in his great novels, most particularly Crime and Punishment and The Devils (or The Possessed).

I wrote Maps of Meaning during my sojourns at three universities: Alberta, McGill and Harvard. While teaching at the latter, I met Irina Vayl, a Russian physicist and poet (see, for example, Irina and her husband Vladimir spent years translating Maps of Meaning. We tried to find a publisher in Russia, but this proved impossible, for many reasons.

Yesterday, I saw the following video, featuring the libertarian Stefan Molyneux and a Danish journalist, Iben Thranholm: In this video, the claim is made that Russia has undergone a re-conversion to Orthodox Christianity, taking the precise path out of the nihilism and totalitarianism attendant upon the Death of God recommended by Solzhenitsyn, in The Gulag Archipelago, as well as Dostoevsky. I was struck very hard by this video, which also indicates — correctly, in my opinion — that we are in the midst of a profound spiritual battle.

The human psyche has many levels. What is religious exists at the very deepest of those levels. What is religious is what is fundamental. People are religious, whether they know it or not, because they must have fundamental beliefs. Otherwise they cannot act. They can’t even perceive. They can be very confused about the nature of those fundamentals. Their psyches can be fractured, disjointed and incoherent. Without axiomatic beliefs, however, we cannot simplify the world enough to act within it.

Maps of Meaning is about the fundamental levels of the human psyche. It’s about the Christianity upon which the West is, and must be, founded. It’s a call to a new way of being and, simultaneously, a reunion with the past. It is the responsibility of every man to rescue his dead father from the underworld. That’s the oldest story of mankind. Without that, there is only chaos. Maps of Meaning unites neuropsychology with ancient mythology, from the Mesopotamian, through the Egyptian and Judaic, to the Christian, with detours into Taoism and other profound faiths. It’s strongly influenced by the thinking of Carl Jung and his student, Erich Neumann, as well as Freud, Rogers and the other great 20th century clinical thinkers.

Maps of Meaning is a call to religious awakening, for the modern mind. It details what I have come to understand as the proper and profound alternative to ideological possession on the right and left alike and the madness such possession produces. Writing Maps of Meaning compromised my health and, sometimes, my sanity. It deals with the horrors of Auschwitz and the Stalinist nightmare, and the evil that lurks forever in the human soul. It’s a very difficult, frightening book. But I have produced hundreds of hours of public lectures about Maps of Meaning, one series (1996) dating  from my time at Harvard (, another 13-part program televised on Canadian Public TV (TVO) (, and three others from the course I taught on the book in 2015 (, 2016 (, These can all serve as a guide to understanding, for those who are interested.

Here is the Russian translation of Maps of Meaning. Thank you to Irina and Vladimir Vayl for their labour of love: Maps of Meaning Russian PDF
Here is a pdf copy of the English original: Maps of Meaning PDF
Here is a link to Amazon, if you prefer to buy the book: Maps of Meaning Amazon

Here are the Russian books I would profoundly recommend, as accompanying readings, as well as a list of books I regard as of the first order of importance:

  • Stephen Alexander

    Is there and order to read these in? Just start at the top?


    • BizNetClub

      As I read he states they are in order or importance, so I guess you start at Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment

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  • Trevor Sedis

    Alice Miller felt Nietzche became a philosophy professor at age 25 because he inttellectualized feelings he was not allowed to express as an abuse child. He had a breakdown when he saw a horse beaten mercillessly. I think she was onto something. She started out as a Swiss psychoanalyst and ended up blazing her own bath. Her books are wondeful.

    I’d recommend Albert Camus, too, especially THE REBEL.

    • Ken Watanabe

      Nietzsche was never a professor of philosophy, it was classical philology.

  • Jeremy Bowser

    Yes, ty for posting your lectures. I let them play in the background while I’m planning for the future. I agree with your perspectives, and came to many of the same conclusions in different terms . . . without having the full story and scope. I appreciate the reading recommendations as well as your defense of free speech.

  • Sarah Herbots

    Professor Peterson, did you design the cover of “Maps of Meaning” yourself? And if so, does it reflect your intuitive imagery of “personality”? It’s fascinating to me how you spontaneously created an image that displays “the harmonizing/perfecting of geometrical shapes”. I know this will seem absurd, but have you ever drawn your own birth chart? You actually have a Grand Trine, a Grand Cross, and multiple T-squares (tension of opposites, focused on growth experiences). If you watch all of your aspects together, it looks similar to your cover image.

  • Todd Brisbin

    Dr. Peterson

    Thank you so much for posting your lectures on youtube . They
    have helped me immensely in connecting, conceptualizing, and understanding my
    deep religious faith, love of philosophy, and my practice as a clinical
    counselor. I majored in Philosophy in college mainly
    because I was told by my pastor at the time that taking 1 philosophy class
    would “ruin my faith”. Later in life I went back to school to get my
    master degree in clinical counseling and now work as a clinical counselor. I am working my way through “Maps of meaning”
    and it is a challenge, but the lectures help.
    When looking at your reading list I was excited to see some of my
    favorite thinkers and authors that I studied many years ago when majoring in
    Philosophy. I remember being drawn to Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nietzsche’s writings even more
    than the writings that seem to comport with my Christian beliefs. Something seemed honest and vulnerable with
    the existential authors that seemed to draw me in. I wanted to take their struggle and somehow
    connect it back to meaningfulness that I received from my religious experience
    but I did not at the time have the courage or ability to do so. It’s as if you have completed a map of a
    country I have lived in but have never been able to construct myself.

    -Todd B

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  • Deplorable Toad

    A brave attempt to argue for the revival of cultural Christianity in the West from a psychologist’s point of view.
    In a similar vein, Mortimer Adler, America’s philosopher for everyman, distinguished descriptive truth from prescriptive truth (Prof. Peterson calls them empirical truth and moral truth), the physical from the metaphysical, and implicitly supported philosophical Christianity.
    Unfortunately, Original Sin renders natural man an enemy of God, and he will not become a friend unless God takes the initiative to regenerate him. Life, both natural and spiritual, does not originate in Man; no person controls his natural origin (physical birth) or his regeneration (spiritual birth). And God, who eternally decreed all that comes to pass for his own glory—including sin and all its attendant consequences—does not love or save every body.
    Prof. Peterson is a true hero, one in the spirit of the great heroes in history. He stands against the tide of evil, but the Divine must intervene for his sacrifice to bear fruit.

  • Mike Rights

    I have a lot of reading to do thanks to Jordan. I’ve studied communist Russia quite a bit already. Studied Hitler and both world wars. It really changes a person for the better to stare at hell from the safety of their bedroom. Richard Wurmbrand was in a few gulags and has written many profound books. He was my starting point into becoming a defender of our rights and a student of freedom.

  • RV

    My son (with some help of my daughter/his sister) doing somethings similar to what you are doing via his website:

    Of course it is at a much smaller scale and not at the same level but I think some of your followers, listeners and readers may find it interesting and helpful. One of his articles has a link to his podcast on how to fight depression:

    I am talking a lot with both of them about your teaching; it is such a great inspiration. I can’t thank you enough for making it so accessible for all of us, especially for millennials. Thank you, stay strong, and please take good care of yourself.

  • Antigone

    I see JP recommends Mircea Eliade, him and Evola traded discourse often. I read Evola. You?

  • Alex Walker

    Your intellectual veracity is an inspiration. Thank you, stay strong.

  • what happened to Nietzsche?

  • Severin

    Dear Jordan, Molyneux is a wannabe cult leader with his radio and youtube channel, not any kind of philosopher. He found a niche to pander to and changed his tune conveniently. Russia is by far not in a spiritual battle or enlightenment – Russia is experiencing poverty and stagnation bigger than ever before in history. One should not be misled by random videos found online.

    • chava

      ..I find Iben Thranholm is totally overestimating the importance of the Russian Orthodox Church for the allegedly spiritual awakening of Putin’s Russia. Russia is a multicultural and multiethnic country, and so are the countries that allies with Russia. Rather than building a new Christian front against Islam (or atheism) Putin needs the islamic community within Russia and allied countries to combat terrorism and strengthen his position. And why is Russia invading and killing Christians in Ukraine for that matter? The increasing veneration for Russia amongst western right-wing ideologues as exemplified by Thranholm and others is beyond me.

      • Anastasiya

        I do not agree that Russia is invading and killing Ukrainian christians. It is only me perspective, however, from being a Ukrainian from Donetsk, who lives outside of the country and hears stories from both sides of the conflict. But it is quite clear to me that Russia only originally sent troops into Donetsk and Luhansk in order to distract the world from its annexation of Crimea by creating separatist moods in the more pro-Russian areas of the country. These days the Russian presence is non-existent, from what I understand of the situation based on the information I have access to. Now I don’t know if Russia is actually in a process of religious enlightenment, it doesn’t seem likely, however, because it’s such a huge country territorially with a multitude of different nationalities and religions mixed in, with most of the population not only uneducated, but also uninterested in being active participants in their country’s life, which is what separates them from many western cultures, in my opinion (because in the western culture there’s a sort of an understanding of a citizen’s responsibility to uphold but also regulate their government, while in Russia people largely want to just be left alone), the only way of uniting such a nation is through some form of ideology, and the easiest one would be religious. I’m sure Putin is very aware of that. I do apologise for butting into this without having all the knowledge that you guys have (I don’t even know who Thranholm is), however I just wanted to express my opinion based on what information and insight into the current Russian/Eastern European situation I have.

      • the last tommy

        it could just be effective propaganda but from what i’ve seen it looks like the russian orthodox church is ascendant in profile at least if not in actual numbers or by percent of population. the way russia is multiethnic isn’t the same as the west is it? there are distinct provinces/oblasts where a majority is a certain ethnicty/culture/religion wht have you, correct?

        would also love to know if peterson has read evola!

  • Thanks for all the work and effort you’ve been putting forth!

    Would love to see other reading recommendations specific to psychoanalysis should you find the time.

  • Andrei

    I want to suggest to include the most impressive Russian book about dystopian totalitarian society into the reading list. “Like all other citizens of One State, D-503 lives in a glass apartment building and is carefully watched by the secret police… He begins to have dreams, which disturbs him, as dreams are thought to be a symptom of mental illness.”

  • Vanessa

    Dr. Peterson,

    Yesterday marks the day I begin my journey to educating myself through reading intellectual books (the list on your blog will be my starting point) – starting with Maps of Meaning. I am terrified but thrilled to see what these books will do to me.

    Thank you for sparking a turn point in my life – I see new worlds opening up. You have truly inspired me and continue to do so. I stand strongly behind you.

    You are a hero for what you are doing.

    • Mike

      You are a Hero to me….Enjoy the Journey, may it become a true labour of Love for you… Mike West ♎

  • O/m

    You should wear your frog mask to the debate.

  • Ilija Asanovic

    Professor Peterson, thank you for posting your lectures on youtube, you helped me a lot and I think you are brilliant man!

    I assume that you are very busy, but I would like to ask you some questions, I hope I’m not being rude for asking.

    You talked excelentlly about Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths, you blow my mind, so I wondered why don’t you talk more about ancient Greek mythology?

    When you say God, what do you exactly mean by that? Do you mean Jesus Christ, or more like unknown cosmological force? Do you have your own definition of God?

    You said that rationalist thinkers thought that if we get rid of religion, everyone will turn into Rene Descartes, which did not happened, and that Voltaire’s opinion on religion is stupid. On the other side, do you think that if we perserve and spread religion again, that everyone will have your deep insight on the structure of belief systems and their meaning?

    I’m asking this because we had civil war in Yugoslavia, where after the ,,religiuos awakening” in the 1990s, Catholics, Orhodox and Muslim started to kill each other, after 45 years of peace in socialism and atheism. Richard Dawkins use Yugoslavia as an example of why religion is bad and atheism is good, and also Scandinavian countries who are very non-religious but prosperous.

    Thank you again for spreading knowledge around the world!

  • Lyss P. Hacker

    I wonder what would Jordan Peterson say about Julius Evola.

    • yasmamaslay

      He believes that women are nature, chaos itself, and thus, because nature bestowed (and burdened) them with the ability to give birth (thus selective power), the power of sex, they aren’t inferior to men. He doesn’t believe in racism, thinks of MGTOW and misogynists in general as crybabies and is wholeheartedly disinterested in any kind of extremism, either from the far left or the far right. So I think that while he might have some positive remarks to say about Evola, I pretty much argue for his reject of him.

  • Jaroslav

    Dobrý deň from Slovakia, Professor Peterson!
    I’m so thankful for those SJW people – thanks to them I bumped into your YT channel and your work. I’m a Catholic-raised psychology student with sometimes hyper-rational mind, and few years ago I fell into nihilism of some sorts. Your lectures showed me new ways (positive, at last!) of looking at things and I am really thankful for that. Thank you VERY much for this early Christmas present in a form of your book. I hope that by buying your book from Amazon I will support you in some way.
    Fight the good fight and keep your faith.
    Good luck. 🙂
    P.S.: I would love to see you on the Joe Rogan’s podcast.

  • Richard

    The required reading list is of the most important and relevant for coming to grip with the worst of evil in modern times. A few I have read. I hope to read them all. On being ask in an interview about your political affiliation you stated you were more religious than political. I am wondering why there are no religious scriptures of any kind on your list? I recognize that religion, myth, alchemy are all covered in your “Maps of Meaning”.

  • Lucy Z

    You can meanwhile post this on your Facebook and Twitter to advertise your book in Russian:
    Моя книга Карта Смыслов доступна для бесплатного скачивания по данному линку:
    (My book Maps Of Meaning is available for free download on this link:)

  • Dmitry Ryzhov

    Zdrastvuite from a cold Russia, Dr. Peterson. This post came just in time! I learned about you recently thanks to Sargon of Akkad. His video about you made me really interested in your persona. I watched your Maps of Meaning 2016 course and was fascinated by your worldview. And though I can understand English pretty well I wouldn’t say that I know it in a way so I can read a scientific books in English. I’d like to thank you for writing Maps Of Meaning book and I’d also like to thank Irina and Vladimir Vayl for translating it. I’m so eager to read it!

    I’d also like to recommend a classic Russian novel “Fathers and Sons”
    by Ivan Turgenev. This book presented the idea of nihilism to Russia and how destructive a nihilism can be. I think this book fits in your list perfectly. I apologize for any mistakes that may have occurred in this message. I have a long way to go before I know English language properly but I do my best.

    • Your English writing is near-perfect. I haven’t read Fathers and Sons, but I should. So I’ll order it. Have you seen this video: ? I would be interested in comments from some Russians. Also, please let your countrymen know about the book. I have no idea how to popularize it in Russia.

      • Marya

        I will post a link to the Russian translation of Maps of Meaning in philosophy and psychology-related groups on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. Might help to popularize it.

      • Max Zogheib

        Dr. Peterson,

        -> “I have no idea how to popularize it in Russia.”

        We once were a nation of readers, sadly, we no longer are. Especially when it comes to popular science. The practice of popularizing scientific knowledge is essentially dead in our country.

        It’s funny this video talks about the religious renaissance of Russian society all the while the Russian Orthodox Church is the biggest threat to free speech in the nation. They are perpetrating precisely the ideological oppression you are currently rallying against in Canada. Federal law N 136-ФЗ amending article 148 of the Russian Criminal Code and enacted as of July 1st 2013, expressly prohibits public criticism of religion, religious beliefs and carries consequences of criminal prosecution against, and I quote: “offensive actions committed against the feelings of believers”.

        Now, most countries have some form of anti-blasphemy and anti-iconoclasm legislation (and that’s understandable, as it has connotations of property damage and causing real harm), but almost none of them have anything to with feelings and offence.

        This kind of legislation, however, can be and is being used to silence people.

        While I agree with a lot of the video’s message as a whole, I also take issue with a lot of the statements made in it.

        Nationalism and national pride is not a characteristic of the current state of our country, as stated in the video, it has always been an inherent characteristic of the Russian people as a whole. It’s not something that resurged recently. And it’s something that the USSR leveraged to a far more extreme and terrifying degree throughout it’s existence than the current state.

        I can’t bring myself to call Nationalism a positive force. Just look at what’s happening in the Ukraine. The entire reason we are at war with a people, who are essentially our ethnic brothers, is misguided and manipulated national pride. This is a very complicated topic, as the conflict is deeply rooted in our mutual history. More insight on the nature of the conflict may be gained through Solzhenitsyn’s work, Bulgav’s The White Guard and Aleksei Tolstoy’s Road to Calvary. Mind – the last one is pro-soviet, but gives a good perspective on the actual people of the period.

        Yes, Russia is resurrecting as a christian giant, but I cannot, with a clear conscience, call it a good thing. The implications of this are terrifying.

        I’m sorry, but I really doubt the wisdom of rooting ourselves back in christian values. That’s a regressive form of thinking about the problem. I agree that christian values are a form of hard-won stability that we have been able to achieve over a very long period of time, which are deeply rooted in our natural propensity towards morality. It’s also safe to assume that most people would agree – a place of stability is where we want to start from. What I object to is the mystical nonsense that religions have adorned themselves with over the last millennia. The same nonsense that is being used to justify the existence of laws like N 136-ФЗ, which is the exact same order of nonsense that is being used to justify bill C-16.

        Words are important. Now more than ever before. It’s not only a form of communication, it’s the way we think. Everything beyond the basic eat/sleep/toilet/sex impulses that we have, we formulate into words in our minds to get a grasp of what we ourselves are thinking. I strongly believe it is in our best interest to make a conscious effort to divorce ourselves from evangelistic terminology when talking about core human values, despite them being so closely associated with religious beliefs. It just muddles the conversation and causes undue confusion.

        Again, reducing global events to as simple a statement as: “There’s a titanic battle of good versus evil” is a gross oversimplification, and speaking out against globalization is also dangerous without consideration of consequences. We are at a point in time when we have the research, technology, know-how and resources to replace 95% of the world’s labor force and close to 70% of every other profession on the planet with machines and algorithms within the next 50 years. And it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, because economic force is the most powerful force in human society. It takes just a moment’s though about the implications of such a shift to realize that a rigid, segregated, non-globalized society just isn’t equipped to solve this kind of problem.

        I fail to see a reasonable argument against holding deep, religious belief not in god, but in ourselves as something greater than us… if that makes any sense. A system of belief is important, but it escapes me why it has to be tied into a evangelical or messianic religion (of which there are, by the way, a number of competing and highly contradictory ones). I sincerely believe that there really is nothing absolute in the world we live in, mostly because our perception is so flawed and subjective. And it is because of that I think lying to ourselves that there is – is so unforgivably irresponsible. We have to navigate an ever-changing landscape of life, morality and society. We’re just not capable of doing it when tied to a set of ideas, which are by dogma beyond reproach.

        Yes, there is a consequence of not going back to Christianity, and it’s a heavy one. Just like there will be a consequence of trying to resurrect it. Which is worse – I cannot say. Personally, I choose to try and find the truth of what it means to be human using the society we have built as a foundation, a springboard, not a crutch and am prepared to live with the consequences.

        The video goes on to discuss the problem of Christianity vs Islam and breeding, of all things. Once more, overpopulation is another problem that only a global society is capable of solving…

        Look, this is too difficult a problem to makes such generalized statements about. It’s hard. A 45-minute video and roughly a half-hour’s worth of writing, and I’m already exhausted.

        There’s also the strange assumption that the Russian population has somehow, all of a sudden, become christian again. Despite the resurgence of the Orthodoxy, despite the moronic legislation, the general feeling is that we are a more secular and plural society than we have ever been. Certainly more so than the US today. The US has gone too far left.

        Not to say that we don’t have plenty of internal problems. The rule of the oligarchy, which is almost comically reminiscent of imperialist Russia, one but needs to read Chekhov to find the common idiosyncrasies, the ever widening rift between the filthy rich and the destitute, low social security, provincial stagnation, and the list goes on.

        I should end the, though would enjoy discussing this further.


        P.S.: Yes, we do see the west as aggressors, yes, we are afraid of the implications of Hillary becoming president, yes we are appalled at the constant warmongering and provocation in the middle-east.

        • Maryse Lepage

          Max Zogheib, thank you for your perspective to add to the different views expressed here. I found your ideas and observations very well articulated. Of course, I am biased because I agree with your opinion on religion and the error in trying to regain the past.

  • John Leonard

    Since individual liberty is a common theme of all these books, I would put in a good word for John Milton’s Areopagitica (1644), the most eloquent defence of freedom of expression ever written.

    John Leonard

  • Magdalena Zaręba

    Master and Margarita is one of my favourites book. I read this twice and everytime I still see something I did not noticed before. I’ve heard that russian orthodox churched banned this book becase found it blasphemous.

  • Lucy Z

    You’re right, but you have no right to be right unless you are willing to pay the price of demonstrating the rightness of truth. (Charles Péguy)
    Thank you for your lessons. Thank you for fighting for the truth. Thank you for the inspiration that you are.