My New Year’s Letter to the World

Dear World:

On January 16, I am going to talk with Sam Harris, on his podcast, Waking Up with Sam Harris. Dr. Harris is one of the so-called New Atheists, of which there are four. Like the other three Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins – who, by the way, I have always wanted particularly to debate — Dr. Harris is a smart guy, and I’m certainly not complaining that I will encounter him, instead of Dawkins. So I am preparing my arguments, carefully (although I have been doing so for years. The specific ideas I am going to share with you today were obsessing me the moment I woke up, somewhat fitfully, this morning, so I dictated them to my son, and then edited them.

The central problem of human beings isn’t religion, as the New Atheists insist. It’s tribalism. We know this in part because chimps, our closest biological kin, go to war, and they are not religious, although they are tribal. Tribalism also has a central problem — and it’s not competition, despite the tendency of competition to produce, at least temporarily, winners and losers. it’s cooperation, because cooperation is what allows us to exist as bounded groups. A group, by definition is a collective cooperatively aiming at something. It can’t be aimed at nothing, because nothing cannot unite. It only divides. Thus, attacks on collective purpose, because of its tendency to produce tribalism, merely divides. The politics of identity, which emerge when the central purpose is criticized too destructively, inevitably produce the situation described in the story of the Tower of Babel: Everyone fragments into primitive tribes and speaks their own language.

One alternative to fragmentation is union under a banner – a collective ideal, cause, or purpose. The problem with uniting under a banner, as the postmodernists who push identity politics rightly point out, is that to value something means simultaneously to devalue other things. Thus to value is an exclusionary process. But the alternative is valuelessness, which is equivalent to nihilism – and nihilism does not produce freedom from exclusion. It just makes everyone excluded, and that is an intolerable state, directionless, uncertain, chaotic, and angst-ridden. When such uncertainty reaches a critical level, the counter-response appears: first the unconscious and then the collectively expressed demand for a leader, possessed by the spirit of totalitarian certainty, who promises above all, to restore Order. Thus, a society without a unifying principle, oscillates, unmoored, between nihilism and totalitarianism.

Human beings have been wrestling with this problem since the beginning of civilization, when our capacity to form large groups, for all its advantages, also started to pose a new threat: that of the hyper-domination of the state, collective or purpose. But without the state, there is just fragmentation into smaller groups. The group itself cannot be done away with because for better or worse, human beings are social animals, not loners, like sharks or tigers. We’re team players, but being on one team means not being on others. This means that any given team sidelines, marginalizes, and alienates those who cannot play their game, as well as conflicting with other teams.

In the west, starting in the Middle East, thousands of years ago, a new idea began to emerge (evolve is not too strong a word) in the collective imagination. You might, following Dawkins, consider it a meme, although this is far too weak a word. This idea, whose development can be traced back through Egypt to Mesopotamia, before disappearing into unwritten history, is that of the Divine Individual. This eons-old work of the imagination is a dramatic presentation of an emergent idea, which is the solution to how to organize social being without falling prey to nihilistic divisiveness or deceitful totalitarian certainty: The group must unite under the banner of the individual. The individual is the source of the new wisdom that updates the antiquated, nihilistic or totalitarian detritus and glory of the past.

For better for worse, that idea reaches its apogee in Christianity. The divine individual is masculine because the feminine is not individual: The divine feminine is, instead, mother and child. However, it a hallmark of Christian supposition that the redemption of both men and women comes through the masculine, and that is because the masculine is the individual. The central realization – expressed dramatically; symbolically – is that the subordination of the group to the ideal of the Divine Individual is the answer to the paradox of nihilism and totalitarianism.

The Divine Individual is the man that every man admires, and the man whom all women want their men to be. The Divine Individual is the ideal from which deviations are punished by the group with contempt and disgrace and fidelity to which is rewarded with attention and honor. The Divine Individual is not the winner of any individual game but the player who plays fair and is therefore continually invited to play. The Divine Individual is the builder, maintainer and expander of the state, he who boldly goes where no man has gone before, and someone who eternally watches over the widows and the children. His power of direct and honest communication is that which identifies, discusses and resolves the continually emergent problems of human existence. He is the Savior of the World.

The primary image for women is not the Divine Individual, because of the heavy burden they bear for reproduction. It is, instead, the Divine Mother and Child. This is not to say that man is the Divine Individual, and woman is not, although such confusion is understandable, given the complexity of the problem. Men, like women, have the Divine Mother and Child as an element of their personality. In men, however, it’s in the background, so to speak, as the Divine Individual is in the background of the psyche for women. Men, by necessity, play a less primary role in the care of children. This frees them to act as individuals in a manner that up to now has been nearly impossible for women. Identification with these images is belief in them. Belief is not the statement of agreement with a set of facts, but the willingness to act something out, to become something, to stake your life on something. For men and women alike, this means voluntary adoption of responsibility – responsibility for oneself, family and state. In that responsibility, and not in rights, resides Meaning itself – the meaning that makes life bearable.

Societies that refuse to recognize both of these elements therefore doom their inhabitants to purposelessness, unhappiness, sterility, and the aforementioned dangers of nihilistic divisiveness and deceitful, oppressive totalitarian certainty. The meaning in responsibility is the necessary meaning in life, which can serve as a counterbalance to its terrible fragility and tenuousness.
People must unite under the banner, not of their group, and not of nothingness, but of the individual. This is a brilliant and intrinsically paradoxical solution to the problems of nihilistic nothingness and too-rigid group identity alike. It is the consciousness of the individual which transforms the chaos of potential into habitable cosmos, as the greatest origin stories repeatedly insist. It is that same consciousness which stands up, rebellious and revelatory, to break down the pathological and too rigid order of that cosmos when it has become old, infirm, wilfully blind, and corrupt. It is that consciousness which is the image of God. It dwells within every embodied human form. The fact of its existence is the reason that the Law of the Land itself must be bound by ultimate respect for the individual, regardless of his or her sins and crimes.

It is that consciousness, not the objective material substrate of Being, which should be regarded as the ultimate reality. There is no self-evident reason why dead matter should be given ontological primacy over living spirit. Although doing so has produced a massive increase in human technological power, it has left that power in hands of an increasingly disenchanted populace, and that presents a mortal danger. Such power must be wielded by those who have truly and voluntarily accepted the responsibility of Being, lest it prove fatal.

The West has long been the civilised embodiment of the idea of the divine individual, who does exactly that. That’s what the voluntarily lifting of the cross of suffering symbolically represents. For all its faults, which are manifold, the West has therefore served as a shining beacon of hope to those destined to inhabit places too chaotic or too rigid for the human spirit to tolerate. But the West is in grave danger of losing its way. The negative consequences of this can hardly be overstated.

A close reading of 20th century history indicates, as nothing else can, the horrors that accompany loss of faith in the idea of the individual. It is only the individual, after all, who suffers. The group does not suffer – only those who compose it. Thus, the reality of the individual must be regarded as primary if suffering is to be regarded seriously. Without such regard, there can be no motivation to reduce suffering and, therefore, no respite. Instead, the production of individual suffering can and has and will be again rationalized and justified for its supposed benefits for the future and the group.

Effective birth control has emerged as one of the consequences of our powerful technological materialism. This has been accompanied by the rise of states sufficiently civilized so that women who inhabit them can walk the streets unaccompanied in safety. We do not yet know how to balance the opportunities thus provided for expanded female individuality with the eternal necessity for a woman to serve as the Mother of the Divine Individual. Dividing our civilization into polarized ideological camps of female group identity and male group identity is certainly not the answer. We have to be honest, male and female alike, about what we really want, as individuals, and talk it out. We know beyond dispute that societies who emancipate their women are much more productive and peaceful, and that the relationship is causal. Thus, it’s not a matter of if but how.

But such emancipation places a dual burden on the now more autonomous woman, who is required to balance manifesting the potential of her individual spirit with the necessity of desire to bear and rear the next generation of mankind. To live with free women, and gain the advantages of their freedom and sophistication, men must therefore bring their shadowed psychic identification with the Divine Mother and Child into the light, without losing their Divine Individuality in the process. They must consciously, voluntarily, deliberately and strategically accept their responsibility for the relationship between autonomous female companionship, support, love, and the responsibility of producing that next generation. This means rejecting, among other things, the misbegotten idea of casual sexual gratification. Sex is either the impulsive, short-term gratification of a domineering biological impulse, or the union of two conscious spirits taking responsibility for what they are doing. The former is not commensurate with the demands of an advanced civilization, which requires the adoption of responsibility above all for its preservation, maintenance and expansion. It is for this reason that the sexualized interactions between young men and women – in universities, for example — are increasingly and inevitably falling under the harsh and tyrannical regulation of the state.

In the west, we are, as well, shuttering our great cathedrals – those marvelous, monumental embodiments of the idea of the Divine Individual on which our civilisation is based. This is no mere practical, material, matter: it is a symbolic and ideational process whose importance cannot be overstated. Without that central idea, we will dissolve, and be lost. It is time for each of us to consciously realize what the great symbolic stories of the past insist upon: That we are all sons and daughters of the divine Logos, consciousness itself — Bearers of its Light – and that we must act in accordance with that great central fact, lest all hell break loose. This means, above all, to tell the truth and to care for one another, starting at the level of the individual and proceeding from that, out to the broader reaches of society itself. The alternative, as those same stories have also always insisted, is the more permanent instantiation of the horror that we already saw manifest itself in multiple forms, in the last bloody, terrible, century.

We need to wake up, individual man and woman alike, and we need to do it now. Each of us must take the world on our shoulders, insofar as we are capable of that, and adopt individual responsibility for the horrors and suffering its existence entails. In that we will find the Meaning without which Life is merely the suffering that breeds, first, resentment and then the desire for vengeance and destruction. We need to take responsibility, instead of incessantly insisting on our rights. We need to become adults, instead of aged children. We need to tell the truth. We need justice and compassion, conjoined; not judgment and pity, which crush and devour.

So, in the coming year, make yourself a better person. Fix what you can and would fix. Start now. There is something right in front of you, demanding repair, calling out to your conscience, if you would only attend to it, for your corrective efforts, however primitive they may yet be. Start small. As you master the process, you can safely and competently expand your reach. You will then become able to fix bigger things, instead of making them worse, in the arrogance of your ignorance. If you do this, there will be less pointless and unnecessary suffering, and the world, for all its shortcoming and faults, will be a better place.

Until we can imagine better than that, that is Meaning and Purpose enough.

Happy New Year, and best wishes to you all.

2017-01-09T20:09:40+00:00
  • Vic Andersen

    In the story of the Tower of Babel, isn’t God’s punishment the burden of diversity?

  • Gene Sturby

    Dear Dr. Peterson… What drives a person to ponder and think ? I’m guessing that you believe that for every question there is an answer… A correct answer, the truth of the matter. I’m going say a few things about ” The Story “, the story that started in The Garden of Eden. Now I know that you think about this story, you refer to parts and pieces of it often…
    The Garden was where creation lived before the Fall… The Fall is when corruption set in or began, so “time” quite literately began with the fall. Life in the Garden was in the dimension of Eternity, no death, no unbelief, no decay or breakdown of matter… no corruption… no time. Time, decay and death was the consequence of the Fall. God clearly identified the consequence of eating of the ” Tree of Knowledge “, ” In that day you shall surely die “. Now, if you are a Christian, you are going to want to know what really happened within God’s Story. The more you know of the real story, the more everything going on around us makes sense. I don’t know everything about God, but I know and believe this…
    The story of the fall… The Serpent was not a snake, he was an upright being. A beast ( an animal ) that looked like a man, talked like a man, as handsome as Adam. The Bible says, ” the most subtle beast of the field”… he was smart, cunning, crafty ( subtle). Adam and Eve knew him, probably had conversations with him before. Eve was not surprised when he spoke to her that day… when Adam wasn’t around. Adam was a son of God, The caretaker of the Garden and all of the creation on the earth. Eve, taken from his side, coequal, his wife, his helpmate… the feminine part, that which was to bring forth children. Satan, who had been kicked out to heaven and came down to earth, with a purpose… ( to be worshiped instead of God ) came and indwelt in the Serpent. Satan injected his nature in the Serpent, with the purpose of starting his own race, polluting God’s race ( Adam’s race ) and being worshiped as God… on this world. So… this is what literately what happened in the Garden that day. The Serpent, the man like beast, that Satan indwelt, seduced Eve and put his seed ( sperm) in her, and Cain was the result. When Adam found out… He put his seed there also, to protect her… and Able was the result. Twins were born to Eve. Cain, with the nature of his father, the Serpent ( Satan ) and Able with the nature of his father, Adam, the son of God. Thus the human race was fallen / hybridized… Since that time man is said to be born in sin, shaped in iniquity. Born with a carnal spirit / nature, the nature of Satan. That is why Jesus ( God ) said that a man ” must be born again “, of a new nature… the nature / spirit of the Creator / God. But the Old Nature must die first, and that comes via free moral agency, and the call of God to the deep ( the genetic spirit seed ) that lies within some men… not all.
    Well, I hope I said that right… I’m not a philosopher, etc… just a believer.
    Best wishes to you Mr. Peterson, God Bless you.

  • L Cardwell

    Hello Dr. Peterson. I just wanted to let you know that you are a huge inspiration for me. I take part in a form of high school debate that deals with issues of morality (Lincoln Douglas). Recently, our resolution for January and February was “Resolved: public colleges and universities ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.” A large part of my affirmitive case (agreeing with the resolution) was based off your and Dr. Ben O’Neil’s concepts of linguistic accuracy. I saw your interview online where you stated that your value was truth and I adopted it as my own for the case and my life. I personally accredit your work for allowing me to qualify for a national level tournament. Thank you so much for being a force for good in our world. In such a polarized time, it’s nice to look at you and know that there is an absolute morality. Please, keep fighting the good fight and know that others support you in it.

  • Geo Anthony

    Dr Peterson,Does it concern you that you appear to be becoming some sort of cult leader?

  • Anthony

    My shoulders lowered for a second after reading this. Thanku

  • Hamed

    Thanks Dr. Peterson. I enjoyed reading your letter to the world. Your historically and mythologically informed line of reasoning provides a solid ground for your words. I think it’s incumbent on each and every one of us to renew Being. In the Gathas, Zarathustra says the following:

    “So may we be like those making the world progress towards perfection;
    May Mazda and the Divine Spirits help us and guide our efforts through Truth;
    For a thinking man is where Wisdom is at home.”

    Ahunuvaiti Gatha: Yasna 30 / hymn 9

    This hymn have always been an inspiration for me.

  • Hi Jordan,

    I call myself an atheist, yet I align with much of your thinking.

    A few quibbles with what you have written here.

    Agree with you that tribalism is a problem, but not the core problem.
    Cooperation is certainly in the picture, but it seems to me that not in the way you have characterised it, but I think I can see how what you say may seem sensible to you.

    For me, cooperation is the essence of humanity.
    For me, as someone with 50 years interest in evolution, it seems accurate to a good first order approximation to characterise all advances in the complexity of living systems as the emergence of new levels of cooperation.
    Games theory is clear, that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to cheating, so to be stable requires effective attendant secondary strategies that work in practice at identifying cheats, removing any benefit from the cheating, then return the cheat to cooperative behaviour (Elinor Ostrom did some nice work in this context).

    So the problem isn’t cooperation, it is a lack of effective secondary strategies to identify all the new levels of cheating. And there must always be something of an evolutionary “arms race” to such things, proving the ancient maxim – “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.

    Tribalism seems to resolve mostly on the basis of the systems available to ordinary people to identify cheats. This comes from an ability to accurately identify individuals over time and to accurately recall prior interactions – and results in Dunbars Number – the effective size of workable cooperatives without using technology, and thus tribalism.

    It does seem possible to use technology to effectively increase our power to identify individuals, as well as to accurately record, share and recall interactions, and to maintain wide social networks.
    With these enhancements, it does seem possible to maintain cooperation at any number of individuals our sun is capable of sustaining.

    Add to this, the infinite realms of the possible available to be explored, and there is ample room for any individuals to responsibly exercise their creative freedom in whatever realm they responsibly choose. And there is, as you have noted elsewhere, cascading levels of temporal, social and ecological responsibility within which one must apply the test of reasonableness.

    And complexity theory is clear, that in such open systems all boundaries need to be flexible and negotiable (in infinitely extensible dimensions). No firm answers here, no certainty. The only real security comes from the cooperative, and many aspects of this reality we find ourselves in appear clearly to be not simply unknown but fundamentally unknowable (maximal computational complexity, Heisenberg uncertainty, chaos, stochastic, etc).

    The science that is real to me acknowledges the fundamental creativity of the process of hypothesis generation, and the fundamental uncertainty in all things real. The unknown, the unknowable, and the magic (as in AC Clarke’s – any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) must always be with us, should we manage to live for the rest of eternity.

    The fundamental issue of our age seems clearly to me to be that market values are based in scarcity, and anything universally abundant must have zero value in a market. This sets up a fundamental conflict between the many positive roles markets have played in our getting to this point, and the ability of technology to deliver universal abundance of a large and exponentially expanding set of goods and services. Such abundance meets the real needs of individual people, but destroys economic value. Hence we see the rise of intellectual property laws as an obvious approach, and far more stealthy are many of the real outcomes of much of what passes as “health and safety” legislation.

    I agree totally with you, that there is a fine balance in being human, between being dominated by rules, and falling into chaos – and that region defines what I call responsibility. Having just lived through a 7.8 earthquake here in Kaikoura – I see so much good in people, and also a tendency to break into smaller tribes as the stress mounts.

    It is a very complex set of problems you have set yourself.

    And having survived a terminal cancer diagnosis, I align with many others here in suggesting a greater focus on self care.

    Having just discovered you, I do not want to lose you.

    Arohanui

    Ted

  • Pingback: I Think He’s Really Got It Right – Inanna's Echo()

  • Sean O’Hara

    Dr. Peterson,
    Thank you for the prologue to your conversation with Sam Harris. Since hearing you on Joe Rogan, I’ve been privately hoping for this to unfold and apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue from which fruits will grow in the years to come. It would be a tragedy to see this meeting result in a series of short fuses and a final blackout to conclude. The two of you, working collectively, to reason and push through this complexity is a task unique only you both. It saddens me to see the oppression of others opinions, beliefs, and ideologies wear you down, but it is the choice you’ve made and I’m confident you will persevere. This is a point of unity for you and Sam as I am sure he has suffered similarly. As you would agree, it is your responsibility; in so much as you can bear, to lead consciousness forward. With great knowledge, with great privilege, comes great responsibility.
    In my opinion, the use of the word religion in the context that you use it is a misnomer and ultimately extremely misleading. It doesn’t at all seem that you propose a progression of society toward one which endorses a traditional set of religious values- a dogmatic belief system, but rather that there IS, rather than IS NOT, some sort of guiding principles from which human beings can base their decisions. If there is not some sort of a collectively constructed ‘belief system’- you can call it religion if you want to incite a collective inflammatory response- the resultant society is one where those in control distinguish and enforce their own on others(totalitarian state) or where each individual’s own is entirely baseless and meaningless relative to others(nihilistic state). In either case, there is/are still a system /s that exist, despite whether they are conducive to the reduction of total collective suffering- or perhaps as Peterson might prefer- collective individual suffering. It seems that there is no doubt both you and Sam agree that there needs to be some system of belief, some system of morality, from which to live our lives, but it is the means by which we establish them that differs.

    As Harris lays out in his work The Moral Landscape, if we can agree that some people live better or worse lives than others and that there are given states of the brain and the world from which these lives are derived, we can presume that there are better or worse ways to go about achieving the best the conditions for the prosperity of human consciousness. In Harris’ opinion, religion or religious doctrine, as it exists today, has ceased to be a constructive force in the progression of humanity towards an objectively better world. Therefore, we must move beyond it if we hope to continue moving forward. He argues in favor of the establishment of a morality from empirical study, using the scientific method. He is fearful of morality that derives from religion due to its divisive, intolerant, and unscientific nature.
    You argue for the re-establishment of a morality that already exists. This is a morality that is built into the nature of the human psyche and which is ‘revealed’ by religious and mythological story. In the deepest sense, the morality is fundamental to our being and without it there is nothing but pure suffering in the face of vulnerability. You fear that the loss of this understanding, through an unchecked progression toward secularism, has the potential to lead toward a world that lacks a sufficient knowledge of metaphysics: a state that would lead to extinguished consciousness.
    I believe that you each have ground to stand on. We should be fearful of a world where religious zealots have power just as we should be fearful of a world where pure secularism reigns. At this point in history, both of these scenarios are extremely dangerous and pose the potential to end humanity. If the events of 20th century are not proof of this potential, what is.
    The idea that science can provide a sufficient basis of morality is perhaps the most important topic of our day. As you have said before, science provides us information about how the world is but it does not provide us information about how we should act in the world. You seem to believe that this is the precise role of religion. I hope that this is where the focus of the discussion lies. It should not be wasted on a discussion about gender pronouns. Your time is far too valuable for that to be the case.
    There is a chance that your ideas, and Sam’s, in time, converge upon the same conclusion. I am suggesting that the morality determined by scientific study is the same as the morality determined by religion: a unified theory of morality. A true unified theory is likely beyond our scope of understanding, but a progression towards something of the sort is in order.
    In any case, I wish you the best in this clash of minds. Dare I say, you are doing God’s work.
    Best, Sean

  • Jacob Russell

    For a very long time now I’ve been embarrassed by my metaphysical beliefs and only after carefully laying the groundwork and definitions of certain terms can I even begin to say how I feel about religion in the company of my mostly left wing artist friends. There has been no champion to point to, there has been no prominent intellectual to call upon. Not that I need an appeal to authority but it did feel like I was horribly outnumbered and not represented in academia (which I left behind years ago). I feel, personally, that you are continuing the great tradition of Canadian intellectuals. Northrop Frye, Neil Postman, Marshall McLuhan… and now you. Intellectuals who are writing from a deeply moral and spiritual place. The world needs more of this kind of thinking and I’m beyond happy to find someone who is continuing that great tradition. Thank you for your work, you are making an incredible difference in my life.

  • Mary Conces

    Dear Professor Peterson,

    Thank you for your heroic efforts to live up to your principles. They are an inspiration to all of us fellow pilgrims in this vale of tears. Looks like you’re in “the Valley of the Shadow of Death” right now. But “fear no evil”. Even though it seems like it, you are not alone. Pray. Read Newman’s “Lead, Kindly Light”. Listen to Bach. Read the Psalms. Pray. Rest in the Lord.
    I’m just an old lady, but I’m weeping with you and, more helpfully, praying for you, and I’m not the only one. More to the point, I’ve had two Masses said for you–one during the Christmas season and one set for February.

    God bless you.

    • Brandy

      Mary you are not ‘just an old lady’. your life wisdom and your great kindness change the world, as Dr. Peterson has noted on several occasions, by being who you are, authentic and honest and in this way, is your own individual fearlessness you light the way for those around you. That is how this whole thing works and I utterly believe Dr. Peterson when he says make your own house in order to change the world.

  • TSR_E

    I’ve been hoping for an appearance on Sam Harris podcast since i found out Petersons religious views on moral. Looking forward to an interesting discussion!

  • Martin Dowds

    ― Nietzsche, in Kritische Studienausgabe:


    “Main thought! The individual himself is a fallacy. Everything which happens in us is in itself something else which we do not know. ‘The individual’ is merely a sum of conscious feelings and judgments and misconceptions, a belief, a piece of the true life system or many pieces thought together and spun together, a ‘unity’, that doesn’t hold together. We are buds on a single tree—what do we know about what can become of us from the interests of the tree! But we have a consciousness as though we would and should be everything, a phantasy of ‘I’ and all ‘not I.’ Stop feeling oneself as this phantastic ego! Learn gradually to discard the supposed individual! Discover the fallacies of the ego! Recognize egoism as fallacy! The opposite is not to be understood as altruism! This would be love of other supposed individuals! No! Get beyond ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’! Experience cosmically!”

  • Susan Lang

    Professor Peterson,

    I normally do not subscribe to social media
    due to its inherent falseness and superficiality, but I was compelled to
    respond to your New Year’s message. At
    the time that your message was posted, I was immersed in Leo Tolstoy’s “The
    Kingdom of Heaven is Within You”. After
    watching your video I was haunted by your sadness. Strangely enough, when I returned to reading
    the following passage resonated clearly in your voice: (formatting adjusted,
    sorry for the length)

    “Every man during his life finds himself in
    regard to truth in the position of a man walking in the darkness with light
    thrown before him by the lantern that he carries. He does not see what is not yet lighted up by
    the lantern; he does not see what he has passed which is hidden in the
    darkness; but at every stage of his journey he sees what is lighted up by the
    lantern, and he can always choose one side or the other of the road. There are always unseen truths not yet
    revealed to the man’s intellectual vision, and there are other truths outlived,
    forgotten, and assimilated by him, and there are also certain truths that rise
    up before the light of his reason and require his recognition. And it is in the recognition or
    non-recognition of these truths that what we call his freedom is manifested. All the difficulty and seeming insolubility
    of the question of the freedom of man results from those who tried to solve the
    question imagining man as stationary in his relation to the truth. Man is certainly not free if we imagine him
    stationary, and if we forget that the life of a man and of humanity is nothing
    but a continual movement from the darkness into the light, from a lower stage
    of truth to a higher, from a truth more alloyed with errors to a truth more
    purified from them. Man would not be
    free if he knew no truth at all, and in the same way he would not be free and
    would not even have any idea of freedom if the whole truth which was to guide
    him in life had been revealed once for all to him in all its purity without any
    admixture of error. But man is not
    stationary in regard to the truth, but every individual man as he passes
    through life, and humanity as a whole in the same way, is continually learning
    to know a greater and greater degree of truth, and growing more and more free
    from error. And therefore men are in a
    threefold relation to truth. Some truths
    have been so assimilated by them that they have become the unconscious basis of
    action, others are only just on the point of being revealed to him, and a third
    class, though not yet assimilated by him, have been revealed to him with
    sufficient clearness to force him to decide either to recognize them or to
    refuse to recognize them. These, then,
    are the truths which man is free to recognize or to refuse to recognize. The liberty of man does not consist in the power
    of acting independently of the progress of life and the influences arising from
    it, but in the capacity for recognizing and acknowledging the truth revealed to
    him, and becoming the free and joyful participator in the eternal and infinite
    work of God, the life of the world; or on the other hand for refusing to
    recognize the truth, and so being a miserable and reluctant slave dragged
    whither he has no desire to go. Truth
    not only points out the way along which human life ought to move, but reveals
    also the only way along which it can move.
    And therefore all men must willingly or unwillingly move along the way
    of truth, some spontaneously accomplishing the task set them in life, others
    submitting involuntarily to the law of life. Man’s freedom lies in the power of this choice….This
    freedom, confined between the limits of complete ignorance of the truth and a
    recognition of a part of the truth, seems hardly freedom at all, especially
    since, whether a man is willing or unwilling to recognize the truth revealed to
    him, he will be inevitably forced to carry it out in life.

    A horse harnessed with others to a cart is
    not free to refrain from moving the cart.
    If he does not move forward the cart will knock him down and go on
    dragging him with it, whether he will or not.
    But the horse is free to drag the cart himself or to be dragged with
    it. And so it is with man. Whether this is a great or small degree of
    freedom in comparison with the fantastic liberty we should like to have, it is the
    only freedom that really exists, and in it consists the only happiness
    attainable by man.”

    Thank you for your patience and know that
    we benefit from your wisdom.

  • Dr. Peterson your story at the U of T was the canary in the coalmine for me. That prompted me to read the C-16 bill and was absolutely floored that grown adults would usher something so grossly open-ended into permanent Canadian law. I sure hope for one thing that Americans are following this and taking notes.

  • Christopher Marshall

    Dr peterson:

    I don’t know how familiar you are with Sam Harris’s views on religion, in particular his assertion that islam is especially problematic as a religion. I think this video of him and reza aslan discussing religion is a goes into depth on Sam views. You might use it to prepare for your discussion with Sam:
    https://youtu.be/XNeSUs4TTNc

  • warrenwormhole

    Jordan, I cannot tell you how excited I am that you will be doing Waking Up with Sam Harris. Sure to be one of the most important conversations of the year. After listening to your mentioning tribalism, keep in mind Sam is no stranger to that idea. He brings it up often but here is a particularly good example. I hope it helps illuminate your upcoming conversation. https://youtu.be/5og-hyD3A7A All the best to you and your attempts to shine a light in dark places.

  • C Hodge

    I’ve been loosely familiar with your work since early TVO Studio 2 current affairs shows eg. I first heard it from you: the link between socioeconomic disparity and crime/conflict. I share the concern of other listeners/readers: please take care!! Like the flight attendants always tell you: put your mask on first, or you’ll be useless to the others you try to help. ie. please engage in self-nourishing activity and sleep easy – the work can wait. I suppose you’re committed to the Harris chat. I would have been thrilled had you appeared to be your normal robust self. I’m hoping neither you nor Sam Harris approach your discussion as an adversarial debate. It doesn’t have to be that way. Your use of religious and mythological narratives are an obvious friction point with his atheist mission, but I see much in common: free speech and honesty; orienting one’s ethics starting at the “bottom” = profound suffering (your “hell” eg. behind-the-scenes atrocities during WWII and Harris’s “worst possible suffering for everyone” eg. DRCongo rapes&murders); your intellectual (and in your case, also clinical) efforts to reduce suffering and increase human flourishing. On a personal note… I have suffered depression with panic disorder in 2015 – a classic case of existential/nihilistic crisis (I’m 39y.o.) – I’m on the mend now. My mental health issues brought me back to both Sam Harris and you, interestingly. Harris because I am exploring mindfulness meditation (profound positive impact for me) see “Waking Up” etc. by Harris. But now I’m also exploring meaning-making, which I find Harris to be pretty silent on, and that brought me to Maps of Meaning. I am partway through 2016 lecture series and have found it very helpful; for example, the idea of pragmatic/existentialist truth in focusing on how to act in the world vis-a-vie great uncertainty (“~bottoming out in ignorance in every direction”) instead of falling into the pure-rationalist pit of meaninglessness ie. nihilism. So, thank you for that and for fighting a good fight.

    • Luke Peter Annett

      Mindfulness meditations didn’t help me at all through my anxiety attacks. The only thing that helped was to empower myself, educate myself and prepare myself to take the correct actions in those situations that led to my mental illness in the first place. Stress leave and mental illness are very common in my workplace. Very few come back to work and even fewer come back as a stronger individual as I have. My mindfulness meditation is “rest”, something we should all do sometimes.

  • KAM

    Dear Dr. Peterson, I listened to your 2017 New Year’s letter read by you. I cried with you, then sobbed. What came to mind was Luke 23:28. “. . . do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children. . . “(I had to look it up). There is wisdom in every word you speak. The Divine individual, yes. Lord God help us all to see you. Help all of us who know you, Lord, even a little, to be your voice to the rest. We have to examine our consciences (You) and speak Your truth. Amen

  • McFifi

    Dear, dear Sir,

    I am sending you all the humble love and admiration I can. It is weeping forth from my being, in recognition and cleansing gratitude for your agonised archeological dig into the psyche of Man. Using your bare intellectual sinews alone, you have dug through eons of silt and magma and granite and you have found the purest gem yet described. We who have heard you, living now, with all the influences that must inevitably be within us, due to existing in the current times, can now, thanks to your supreme effort, see more clearly, grasp more fully and act more truly than ever before.

    All those traduced religious people, from the archbishops to all the unthinking followers, who are often treated as though their belief is due to the imbecile part of their being by the usual secular intellectuals and scientism adherents, really need to sharpen up their perceptions to lift their simple ‘belief’ to what you have revealed here, which is the True Myth of Mankind. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Your work of true clarification has not been in vain.

    And now, as others have said, please rest. Nature will aid you, as the reflection that is so refreshing to us from being in nature, is that it shows us our own sweet nature. Pause in grinding your brain to serve your intentions, for some time. Come back renewed and help guide us how best to right the world when you are ready.

    With love – Fifi

  • Fiona Pycock

    Thank you soo much Dr. Peterson you are a true inspiration in this chaotic world. So sorry you are in pain.. you see too well what is going on here right now… but all your pain and suffering just make what you say all the more true. There are no platitudes here just raw, beautiful love for humanity. Thank you so much. I have been following yur lectures and have learned so much in such a short while. Know that you are loved and suported by many many people.

  • Ghazal Ansari

    Thank you for this letter. Thank you for writing it and reading it and being so real and so true to your own nature. You are really a divine individual. I found you by chance about a month ago when looking for lectures on Jung. I live in California. I know there was something special about you. I listened to everything and right when I was done, your letter popped up. I would not have appreciated your letter as much if I had not watched your 150 plus youtube videos. What synchronicity!

    Your letter deeply resonated. You can’t image how much. What you said about tribalism is so true. I have a Mormon mother and an ex-marxist Muslim father. I have lived in the east and in the west. I have suffered deeply. I lost my group identity and I could not get it back in another country. Your message was something that gave me hope though. Hope that these fragmented parts of my identity were integrating. Hope that there can be someone out there that speaks my language. The language that goes beyond group and back to the depth of the individual, the divine individual. Hope that your letter and the discourse you initiated will have a positive impact on the world. The world does not yet know what you have done with this letter. If only everyone would read it several times.

    I went to three experiential Group Relations conferences in 2016. The study of social systems they call it. I’m sure your familiar with the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion and his notions of Group. The Group Relations conference were based on Bion’s work. I saw the tribalism in these groups as we experimented on ourselves. As a group we played out our psychotic states through our group identities. It was intense. I ran around trying to bring people out of the darkness and told them about Nietzsche work and the overman, the feminine and the masculine and other ideas. I took on the group on my shoulders for one whole week. It was hard work and I came back home with stigmata marks and it made me remember the role I tend to take up on behalf the groups I am a member of. I’m sure that the marks on my hands and feet were just the bug bites in New Orleans, nevertheless it was symbolic to me.

    The event was called Leadership in the Shadows. I identify with you and what you are most likely experiencing. You were speaking about that in your letter and I thought if you knew that you were being used by the collective as a kind of leader, not so in the shadows in any more. Thank you for using yourself as an instrument to carry this profound and dynamic discourse. I know that you will be able to access the life force so that you don’t get crucified. We are here to support you!

  • Richard Elliott II

    I add my voice to all those who have been challenged and encouraged by your videos and essays: Thank you. 2016 was rather challenging for me too. Maintaining some intellectual integrity and trying to fit in with people I disagree with both in temperament, politics and social values . . . I don’t know why people seem to like me okay (trait agreeableness, I suppose.)

    You have outlined some pretty heavy stuff above: the Divine Individual, the group, the regular individual ( me, him , her). I will continue to keep these in mind. Why? These issues affect my daily life.

    I think I do understand your position on suffering: that it is the individual that suffers and not the group. I agree, and I also understand Ralph Waldo Emerson’s conviction that, ” All loss, all pain, is particular; the universe remains to the heart unhurt”.

    and, ” There are moods in which we court suffering, in the hope that here, at least, we shall find reality, sharp peaks and edges of truth. But it turns out to be scene-painting and counterfeit. The only thing grief has taught me is to know how shallow it is.” This, after he had lost a child.

    To be a moral person, I believe, one must have the capacity to grieve and suffer with and for others. But after a certain time this too, only becomes self-indulgent. One’s despair and suffering sing–one’s own praises.( Woe is me). One thing: Job’s buddies could have sat silently with him a little longer before chastising him as if his suffering had to have been All his fault.

    Hard nut to crack: The (my) need for community, dependence, risking insecurity (having an open heart) and need of individual integrity, critical evaluation, DIY. I know both these needs can be satisfied without recourse to idolatry. Did you ever read Melville? The disappointment at not squaring this duality can leave one hanging.

    I believe there is an evil that transcends human malice. I also believe that there can be an real community that exists with integrity. It’s just damn hard sometime to find-or get to. And it aint gonna be found on social media. Ever.

    God bless you sir, in the 2017. I have a feeling your efforts are gonna start bearing some fruit. As for me, I am going to rest, find some peace, and trust God a little better. Ho!

  • Jack

    Looking forward to your debate with Harris. Harris favours more absolute views explored in undergraduate philosophy, which most people let go of once perspective of competing views are considered. Its his relentless ability to a. produce another argument supporting his absolute position whilst ignoring the meaning of opposing views presented and b. to do so with a language that is very dominant, which you will really need to be careful of. I hope you get the space to explain your views, and are able to point out when he is diverging to a new hypothetical, rather than addressing what you are claiming in response. If so it will be a much better debate as after all ultimately Harris may be right in a few of his claims.

  • Martin Dowds

    Jordan, Writing and reading out that letter was a courageous and precious gift to give. Thank you. If you look at the 12th painting at this link, the one of the woman flying an anchor-kite, I hope you will see some part of your beautiful, brave and suffering psyche made manifest in a way that reminds you that you are not alone and that you, your work and your life are needed, loved and worth enduring.
    http://www.davidschofieldartist.com/gallery_694858.html
    Martin, Edinburgh

  • Ghazal Ansari

    Thank you for this letter. Thank you for writing it and reading it and being so real and so true to your own nature. You are really a divine individual. And I am so glad that you allowed yourself to become. I knew it when I first saw your videos. I actually have hope again. I actually heard someone who articulated a very complex feeling and action that I’ve had inside me for 20 years or more. I found you two weeks ago, listened to everything and then just heard your letter. Breathtaking! I live in San Diego, California and found you by chance on youtube when looking for an inspiring Jungian. I knew two weeks ago there was something very profound about you. Even the first videos you made. I could not stop listening until I was all done and right then your letter came. I have a Mormon Mother and a Muslin father and I’ve lived in the east and the west. I work with children and family’s and I study psychoanalysis for life. The world does not yet know fully what it is you have just done with this letter. In 2016 I participated in three experiential Group Relations conferences with a lot of Bion’s ideas. There they study and play with groups experience in an effort to study social systems. What you said about tribalism is what I saw in these groups. I’ve seem it in many forms and suffered from it my whole life. Nietzsche came up in these groups towards the end of one of these conferences. I kept trying to help keep their individuality during the group psychosis I saw and experienced. It was hard work. I took on the world on my shoulders and its was intense. I identify with you in certain critical ways. I understand your language and your philosophy deeply. It feels very good!

  • intman

    Before anything, I like to say that I support Peterson on Free Speech. And I admire his works BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t deeply criticize him:

    By ‘Divine Individual’ Peterson clearly refers to Christ and by ‘Divine Mother’ he refers to Virgin Mary. In this video, Peterson is preaching Christianity. When Peterson says: “The West has long been the civilised embodiment of the idea of the divine individual, who does exactly that. That’s what the voluntarily lifting of the cross of suffering symbolically represents.” In the sentence above, he is describing: “Christ suffered for our sins and we should follow the same path”.

    Well, a lot of his statements make sense, but again numbers of them are not rational at all. For one thing, ‘Divine Individual’ and religions, in general, like ‘left’ ideas are result of humans evolution. He claims ‘left’ ideologies are responsible for killing millions. That’s true. But Religion is also responsible for killing millions.

    My main criticism on Peterson is that he was and is extremely biased towards religion. In other words, from the very beginning, he wore his religious goggles and then tried to map meaning. In other words, his entire career was and is to find meaning in religion. Of course, he won’t be able to find meaning elsewhere because he never sought meaning elsewhere. And now he has the ‘holy man’ syndrome. Few obvious examples are: this video, ‘My message for millennials’, and ‘Nov 6/16 An Update’. In the last one, he put a hollow around his head and don’t tell me that’s an accident.

    Anyhow, Peterson cannot accept deviations from the “Divine Individual” and the “Divine Mother” (Jesus and Mary). He calls them the embodiment of truth. That is only partially true. By that I mean they are part of truth and they definitely are not the complete truth. The complete truth embraces everything, including atheism and Marxism!

    One other critical flaw in Peterson’s approach is that he believes agnosticism leads to Nihilism and, therefore, to “pathological ideologies”, so to speak. This, I claim, is very wrong. Look at Taoism for example. What Lao Tzu preached is the real and peaceful agnosticism, and it’s inconsistent with what Peterson claims.

    Also, Peterson is a bad student of Nietzsche. A student who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) fully see the profundity of Nietzsche’s teachings because of deep religious beliefs. Sadly, Peterson never realised that one who stands over good and evil, one who devalues everything doesn’t need to create values, for such an ubermensch has absorbed the consciousness of all the values! Such an individual doesn’t need to define values since he is all value.

    Moreover, if you google “Jordan Peterson Depression”, you’ll find a video. In that, Jordan mentions he has been suffering from depression for 4 decades now. There is correlation between Jordan’s sufferings and his world views. He associates suffering with “Chaos”. He tries to escape from chaos. Alas, one who escapes is hunted even worse.

    At last, I want to tap on Peterson’s claim where he says Left ideologies are responsible for killing millions. I claim religion is as well guilty in those massacres. How and why? Peterson often mentions Soviet Union in which millions were killed because religious beliefs were replaced with others. The fact is religious beliefs, at the first place, created the potential of those mass killings. The example of Soviet Union shows religious people are capable of killing Millions if their beliefs is changed. This capability comes from faith! Because those people were religious! Don’t tell me they were not religious. Their structure of beliefs was religious but in the hands of new ideologies. Peterson’s solution (remaining religious) is just a temporary solution. With Peterson’s solution, these massacres will happen again. One way that I know to stop them is to stand over good and evil, to consciously devalue things, religion included. To become an ubermensch!

    • lzzrdgrrl

      Good luck with that…….

      • Neil Rutherford

        agree

    • Luke Peter Annett

      I think I’ve heard everything now. Religion is to blame for the rise of the Soviet Union…. How much cognitive bias does it take to come to that conclusion? So these people are still religious people even though they no longer believe they are religious people? So at what point do they become non-religious people?

      • intman

        A religious person believes in ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Overcoming ‘good’ and ‘evil’ doesn’t happen overnight. And certainly cannot happen with force. And don’t change my words. I said religion AS WELL is to blame! A religious person, by nature, has deep beliefs in ‘good’ and ‘evil’. When another sick ideology (here communism) hijacks religious people, it can manipulate them easily by projecting evil onto something else. This wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t too religious.

        Whether we like it or not, globalisation is happening, beliefs are being changed fast. Eastern philosophies become popular in the west and Westerns in the east. Some follow left because they seek justice; others follow right because they seek god. And that’s how life is. The oldest documented religion in 4000 years and history of humankind is 60,000,000 years. Religions evolve. Insisting on Divine Individual because others are ‘ totalitarian evil’ doesn’t belong to this day and age. It leads to more polarisation and ,therefore, radicalisation. (Remember: the better divine individual is, the worse the others are).

    • Nal Lokeshwar

      You nailed it Intman. I really thought that Dr Peterson to be an evolved thinker and hearing his harangue definitely changed my mind to be otherwise.

  • Hannah

    This is courage. I bow to your vulnerability and your passion. Thank you.

  • broots

    Ever since watching the first of your infamous videos, I have been keeping up with events daily. The issues you have championed have made me more aware, and that is greatly appreciated. I don’t agree with all you have stated, but it always makes me think. Looking forward to your discussion with Harris.

    If you are not aware of the work of Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, consider this radio broadcast a good introduction.
    http://rzim.org/let-my-people-think-broadcasts/is-faith-delusional-part-2-of-2/

  • Formerlib

    Dr. Peterson,

    If telling the Truth were easy we’d all be fat, dumb and happy. (Well, you know what I mean . . .)

    I hope you can lift some of this burden off your shoulders in this New Year and find some balance in your life. Remember the first verse of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”:

    “If Life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten!
    And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
    When you’re feeling in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps!
    Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!”

    Take care of yourself and yours,

    Michael Monfils
    Green Bay, WI

  • Azzy M

    Dr Jordan Peterson has to be believed . Remarkable man. If I was not an atheist I would declare him a manifestation of God.

    At last I now understand why I was so uncomfortable with admitting publicly that I was an atheist. Adding whenever I had to admit so that I was one, that I was an atheist of the old fashioned romantic variety. All this because of my discomfort with the like of Dawkins Harris and all the rest.

    Now I see again what is so right with being an atheist and I am proud to be one. Dr Peterson has laid it out in words that resonate down to the depth of my heart. And why having to articulate my opinion always led me to break down in emotions and tears. I know wher those tears come from Dr Peterson. I have cried too.

    Thank you Dr Peterson. You have saved me.

    • McFifi

      The word ‘God’ is simply short hand for ‘Truth’ and ‘Life’. Only fools do not believe in these. Inevitably the word ‘God’ took on a multiplicity of meanings in the many attempts to convey meaning, but if boiled back down both Truth and Life stand out as far better words, to me.

      No need for a label any more methinks.

      I sometimes play the game of taking a sentence with the word ‘God’ in it, and substituting either ‘Life’ or ‘Truth’ for it. It always makes more real sense than ‘God’ did. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the real value of the word ‘God’ is that it doesn’t have a meaning, but that is its weakness too.

      ‘Life’ has a meaning, and it is direct and palpable, in that I can feel life here, now. You can too. Life is always here, now. It is never there, then. I only believe that you are alive because of the life that I am. If I were not alive, I would not be able to perceive the life in you, would I? So Life is always in me, first.

      And ‘Truth’.. well that depends on the sentence. How about ‘The Kingdom of God’ as ‘The Kingdom of Truth’. Sound like a desirable and yet unreachable place to me! Certainly makes more sense as a concept to strive towards though.

  • Azzy M

    Amazingly even as an atheist the best I can say is, God Bless You Sir.

  • George

    They are (in fact, were, because the great Hitch unfortunately died) 4, indeed, but not 4 new atheists, but 4 “horsemen of the non-apocalypse”. (And you can forget about Dennett, he’s just an armchair philosopher, it’s just a misfortune that he was included in that group, a much better match would have been Lawrence Krauss.)

    And of course you can’t complain because you’ll talk to Sam, he will educate you on some topics.
    A much more interesting talk for me would have been between you and Hitch, and I can guarantee you would have receive some well deserved Hitchslaps.

  • Fr. Timothy Curren

    Dear Dr. Peterson,
    I have followed your videos and debates with great interest. Your ideas and explanations have really captured my imagination. You have inspired me and refreshed me intellectually. I have also been perturbed with the manner that have been treated by your peers and others. If I may make so bold, the struggle seems to be wearing on you. Please do look after your health and well being, physical, mental, and otherwise.

    I want you to know that, as a priest of the Orthodox Church, I will be praying for you in the weeks to come. May the Incarnate Logos be with you and your family and guide you all your endeavors in the new year. God bless!
    +Fr. Timothy

    • Fr Paul Waisanen

      I agree with Fr Timothy from California. I am alerting my friends of stewardship in grace to your work. I am 72 but Jesus said, To him that has (the light of truth I say) shall be given, those fail to follow the light they have lose it. They can become ideological scorners, which Proverbs advises not to rebuke because you will get hatred. Sound familiar?

  • Jan Velazquez

    Hello, to everyone here and Dr Peterson. Your words are infinitely profound. I discovered you because of the Joe Rogan podcast. I like to listen to him because he knows how to think and how to ask a question. which also tell’s me he knows how to listen and focus on that moment when a person is communicating. So, then, i found your lectures on youtube. I listened to them in a row while working from home, for almost an entire week. I still do, currently. Your work and ideas are deeply meaningful to me. I’m not a classically educated person. No colleague, shit… hardly any high school. I tought myself most of the things I know. Many of the things you talk about rang out to me From a very young age. I tried to explain a lot of them to the adults around me, but they didn’t care.They were to busy trying to put things they haven’t really thought about in my head. It wouldn’t take. I was brave and dumb, stood my ground. I got bullied and abused but I never backed down. So, with all of that i just want to say It makes me very happy that someone like you is around and the like minded. You inspired me to wright this with the addition of your newest letter and video. You are great man, JordanBPeterson. Whatever I can do to help I will.

    GODSPEED

  • pamphleteer1

    A simple cross post to let you know that commenter Emily linked to your article from The Belmont Club and gained you a new reader (me). https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2016/12/28/witchcraft/ Your article is very much aligned with my thinking. Thank you.

    • lzzrdgrrl

      Richard Fernandez is probably one of the best minds they have over at PJM. There are blog posts and commentary there that are gold. I recommend it highly…….’>…….

  • Brandon Lastname

    I am flipping stoked for the upcoming debate. I saw you on Joe Rogan’s Podcast and have subscribed to your content on YouTube. Watching your videos is a thrill. Thanks for all the great content!

    Even though you don’t seem like the guy that will, take it easy.

  • Janey Benson

    I understand. I know the urgency is important. I know it will fall on some deaf ears, but Dear Doc Pete, you have many of us who know what you are saying. Much much love to you..also baking soda helps re alkalinize….

  • Graeme Sutton

    I think that if you ignore the semantic differences then this is actually very similar to what Sam likes to call spirituality without religion.

  • Powerful and emotional speech. Thank you

  • Devora Surnamer Goldhair

    Professor Peterson, first off Happy New Year and feel better soon. I feel your pain and I wish, wish, wish you would learn some Chassidus, specifically Tanya, which is the handbook of Lubavitch Chassidism. I think you would find so much comfort there and confirmation of many of your ideas and their grounding in Judaism and the purpose of the world. If you would like to learn more, I could recommend several teachers. Again, speedy recovery!

  • Sandy

    Dear Dr Peterson, first of all I’d like to join my voice to those who are urging you to take care of your health; I was dismayed to see how frail you’re looking compared to a few month ago and think this battle you’re engaged in is taking too big a toll on your reserves. Please look after yourself.

    The other comment that I wanted to make is in relation to your upcoming conversation with Sam Harris. I may be speaking out of turn here because I don’t know how familiar you are with his work but I get the impression from your introduction to this letter that you’re not very intimately acquainted with his worldview. So that you (and we) can get the best from your conversation with him, I think you need to know that he’s not like Richard Dawkins. Sam has been interested in the spiritual since his teens (he’s been a serious student of mindfulness meditation since then) and his rejection of a theistic worldview hasn’t blinded him to the value of attending to the spiritual as an important component of life.

    He’s also – like you – been much concerned with the philosophical questions of morality and with the role that ideological beliefs play in inspiring acts of atrocity. In addition, he’s a tireless campaigner for free speech.

    Consequently, I think you’ll find that you and Sam have a great deal in common and that you can have a very inspiring and mutually fruitful conversation. I’m very much looking forward to hearing it.

    • Sandy

      I almost forgot – another similarity between you is an absolute commitment to telling the truth. Sam even wrote a book about it – Lying – in which he makes the argument that evil (great and small) is ‘kindled and sustained by lies’ and that we can all improve not only our own lives but society in general by making truth-telling our default position. I think you’d probably agree with him on that front, too.

      • Tom More

        Sandy.. for all of our sakes please read Ed Feser’s “The Last Superstition”: a refutation of the new atheism.

        • Sandy

          I suspect that you haven’t actually read any of Sam Harris’s books or essays, nor heard any of his speeches and are just basing your prejudiced opinion on this secondary source. I suggest that you withhold judgement until you’ve actually done your own research.

          • Tom More

            Ya.. have. So dull. But they are all illiterate.

          • Sandy

            Illiterate? Sam Harris? You’ve got to be kidding.

          • quaredunt

            in what way are sam harris’s books illiterate?

      • Luke Peter Annett

        Really? I did not know that. So on what objective basis does he give for the reason why lying is evil?

        • Sandy

          Well, it’s a while since I read the book, but as far as I recollect, it didn’t refer to empirical research (in fact, I doubt if it would even be possible to devise a coherent research strategy for a topic like this – even defining evil would present a huge difficulty before you even got as far as controlling all the variables). The book is written as a treatise using moral reasoning, with anecdotes from his own experiences to illustrate.

    • Tom More

      The Sam Harris who’s OK with wiping out millions of innocent men, women and children in Islamic nations in a preemptive strike based upon his mortal fear? That Sam Harris? You know..the one who prattles about those dangerous religious people? Psychotic.

      • Sandy

        No, I don’t recognise that Sam Harris, so you must mean another Sam Harris. Either that, or you’re sadly misinformed.

        • quaredunt

          tom more is a latter day thomas more?

      • quaredunt

        rubbish

  • Pingback: Prof. Jordan Peterson’s New Year’s Letter to the World |()

  • timedonkey

    Universal Birthright, The seed of civilization

    We agree that ….
    Universal Birthright is the entitlement due by the sole virtue of birth. The Universal Birthright of every
    child born on the earth is to have a fair share of the land and resources of the planet. This is an Earth Claim made by the authority of agreement and the simple
    foundation of equality. We all have an equal right and claim to the earth and the fullness thereof. We are the same and equal.
    This birthright is shared and individual. All resources under the earth, water, oil, metals, minerals and treasures are the collective trust and stewardship of all mankind and are to be divided justly for the good of all. Anything grown or created above ground is for the administration of those who did it, without limit. Birthright has shared rights and responsibilities alongside the individual sovereignty of land stewardship.

    This view of universal birthright has been the dream of all oppressed people of every persuasion, race and belief. Universal Birthright is fundamental to the idea that all men and women were created equal and a simple moral expression of what equality means. A fair and equal share of the collectively held resources enables the survival
    of adequate self government. The collected resources of history are the wealth of nations.

    Wealth or Prosperity? Choose One
    Wealth is the accumulation of resources. All resources come from the earth, everything we have comes from the extracted or harvested bounty of the planet thru the endless labor of people everywhere. That labor and those resources are collected by our commercial system, moved around, sold and the gain becomes wealth, gathered and stored up blood, sweat and time.

    Most accumulated wealth is currently held by a very few, principalities, powers, corporations, governments, cartels, institutions and other organizations It is being wasted by a system dedicated to making the earth a den of competing, thief merchants and the people consumer drunk slaves.

    The Apocalypse or opening of the idea of universal birthright is the social uncovering of the end of one way and the beginning concept of another. So we can realistically think about starting civilization afresh with a new beginning based on a simple agreement, easily comprehended by children around the world and capable of turning the course of history.

  • Andre Canivet

    Dear Jordan, thank you for sharing this. I can see how your whole body of work is summed up in this short statement, along with your profound hope and compassion for humanity; and your concern for it. I can only imagine how the past few months have tested you, and the pressure you must be feeling these days. These are perilous times, it seems, and I think many of us are feeling the confusion and pain of trying to hold the world together. Nobody has worked harder than you have to do that, in the face of enormous opposition of late.

    I am immensely grateful to you and your work. I was a student at U of T in the early 2000’s, and knew of your work. During that time I went through a series of serious spiritual-emotional crises. My circumstances at the time didn’t allow me to work with you directly. But I followed your work on YouTube, and your lectures have completely changed my life. Your work has been one of the foundational pillars, along with things I learned from John Vervaeke and others, upon which my healing and maturation into adulthood has occurred. I can never thank you enough for that.

    And so now, seeing your New Year’s message and seeing you in so much pain–the pain of someone who has tried for far too long to carry the world on his shoulders–I wanted to tell you that you’re not alone, and that although it might be difficult to see right now, we’re going to be okay. The world seems crazy right now, seemingly at Hell’s gate. But humanity wants to survive and thrive, and I think most of us innately know that to do that we have to connect meaningfully with each other; or rather to realize the ways in which we’re already connected. We’re expressions of infinite being–children and living embodiments of God, for lack of a better metaphor, and that transcendent reality creates an evolutionary impulse toward a better world that’s infinitely more powerful than our nihilistic impulses. It may not seem that way when the situation is looked at rationally–particularly if we’re really fearful for the future. But then, it’s also hard to see the stars on a cloudy night, even though they haven’t gone anywhere.

    So, I hope you will find time to rest in the midst of all of this. Even Atlas has to set down his burden once in a while and find his strength again. All the best, Professor Peterson, and thank you for everything you do. You’re way more appreciated than you know.

  • Almost Infinite

    That video hit me like a freight train! Thank you, Professor. All I can do is recite poetry:

    “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness

    in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

    measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

    If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

    we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

    We must admit there will be music despite everything.”

    – Jack Gilbert

    • Brandy

      I am stunned by this Jack Gilbert poem. With your indulgence, I found it online and present it here below. Thank you for sharing it.

      A Brief for the Defense
      by Jack Gilbert

      Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
      are not starving someplace, they are starving
      somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
      But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
      Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
      be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
      be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
      at the fountain are laughing together between
      the suffering they have known and the awfulness
      in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
      in the village is very sick. There is laughter
      every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
      and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
      If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
      we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
      We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
      but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
      we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

      We must admit there will be music despite everything.
      We stand at the prow again of a small ship
      anchored late at night in the tiny port
      looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
      is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
      To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
      comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
      all the years of sorrow that are to come.

      • McFifi

        Thank you for posting the whole poem. It is wonderful, and true.

  • Almost Infinite

    That video hit me like a freight train! I’m crying too, Professor! All I can do is recite poetry:

    We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness

    in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

    measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

    If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

    we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

    We must admit there will be music despite everything.

    – Jack Gilbert

  • middleway

    A most relevant and concise summation illustrating the basis of the current collapse of western civilization and the human condition. Thank you Dr. Peterson. Namaste…

  • Concerned_Canadianne

    Dear Dr. Peterson, please don’t lose heart and please don’t underestimate the positive effect you’re having in the world. It would be a worse place without you, so please take good care of yourself.

    A song I recently discovered, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAkUppnVgMw, reminds me a lot of your travails and ideas. If you haven’t heard it, I hope it has the same uplifting, transporting effect on you that it does on me, including the van Gogh paintings and quotes in the video.

    Wishing you a healthy and hopeful 2017.

  • lzzrdgrrl

    Equally horrible to the individual and Western civilisation as the 20th century proved to be was the 17th, an orgy of chaos and mass destruction that subverted the Catholic Church to tribal nationalism. A good analysis can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/How-Civilizations-Die-Islam-Dying/dp/159698273X

    I see something different happening in the United States and that’s typically evangelistic and reform churches turning the Christian creed into a fun house of silliness, triviality and self indulgent idolatry. Things like creation science, biblical literalism, the prosperity gospel and the rock band feelgood spirit of megachurches that are more community centres than actual places of worship. This ersatz, dwarfed and humiliatingly ridiculous imitation of Faith is arrayed opposite to materialistic secularism, and who’d you think would look better?……..

    Dr. Peterson, you have enough on your plate, but I think American Christianity has done a major disservice to Christendom and to Christ and should be called out on it………..

  • keith andrew

    I’m sure the conversation will be interesting regardless of topic but I do hope you and he spend a considerable amount of time on something you both agree on which is the problem of political correctness. I’m sure you are aware of the heat he gets for his frank discussions on the problem of Islam and hope you both explore the problematic issues with ‘hate speech’ and safe zones et al. Thank you for your work, I am so glad Rogan had you as a guest!

  • Kristen Johnson Zoller

    You and your family are in my prayers Dr. Peterson. Please DO better at taking care of yourself – We Absolutely NEED You – Your Wisdom – Your Clarity – Your Gentle Loving Nature. Thank You for this New Year’s Letter. I will absolutely pass along to as many people as I possible and encourage them to Hear your Loving Message.

  • Clare45

    Good luck with your discussion with Dr Harris. However, I would suggest keeping away from references to Jung and the archetypes. In the modern world of psychiatry and psychology, Freud and Jung are passe!

    • Jackson Cheung

      Instead who should we be studying? And why exactly are Jung and his archetypes obsolete?

      • Clare45

        Animus? Collective unconscious? This is more like a religion than a form of therapy. Not easily subjected to empirical (scientific) testing. Proven therapies are cognitive or CBT with or without SSRIs as needed.

  • Formerlib

    Dr. Peterson,

    I’m concerned that if your health is not well, the last thing you should be doing is talking to atheists! You are a modern-day Socrates. Stay strong, get well soon, and beware the opposition’s hemlock.

    I will arrange a special ukulele duet version of “When You Wish upon a Star” for you and upload it onto my website. Music is the best medicine.

    Truth and Beauty,

    Michael Monfils
    President — Green Bay Ukulele Club

  • Kelly Maria

    Thank you for sharing this important and heartfelt message. I hear you and pledge with all my heart and soul to do the work on myself that you suggest. I bought your self authoring course as a Christmas gift to myself. I have watched at least 20 hours of your lectures per week over the last few of months and am so grateful to to you for sharing your wisdom with us. I am beyond sad that you are not well and pray for a swift and full recovery. Please forgive the following unsolicited advice, I only say it to help prevent harm to your precious health… please please avoid all drinks containing aspartame sweetener (saw you drinking cans of them during some of your lectures) because it is a neurotoxin. The world really bloody needs your voice right now and we want you to stay strong and be well!

  • Jono Scott Staly

    Tribalism isn’t in itself an inherent problem as long as in creating our tribal identities we can identify with truth and hold it above all else. In today’s world of semi permanent ‘facts’ our perception of truth and our actions born of this perception

  • Jono Scott Staly

    That was really moving and rare in the human current age to see heart intelligence being amplified out of a truly conscious and therefore balanced speaker, the great Dr Peterson.
    I think 2017 will mean a big choice for the conscious (awake) people of earth.
    We can only follow one of the following choices, such is the position we currently find ourselves in due to our wilful ignorance and lack of self knowledge:

    1) Morality- to do what is right regardless of what we are told.
    2) Obedience- to do what we are told regardless of what is right.

    1) This takes us into new territory as it would mean the collapse of outdated control systems like the global banking infrastructure which has its tentacles into most of our trade and life support systems by now. Most people will ignore this option as we incrementally move closer to our permanent technocratic enslavement.

    We have become so de-attached from nature that most people think they couldn’t survive without their controllers, this is merely perception based on fear.

    2) We can always just carry-on with our lives, having an easier life, watching the direction the world is moving in but denying ourselves the fact that today’s direction is tomorrow’s destination. People also think pain has a limit, it hasn’t .

    I’m not here to tell anyone what to do but this- look deep inside yourself, if you are reading this the chances are the universe wants you in this fight, look at what makes you you, far deeper than the dead matter, deeper than the energy onto spirit there you will see your higher purpose, think what can you bring to the table that is unique, we all have something no-one can match is on, we are all beautiful when we know ourselves. There is nothing more powerful yet dangerous to the outdated system than a man who truly knows himself.
    Time to think bigger, science is stuck in the past, politics is a dog and pony show. We all have the ultimate power. It’s within us all. ONELOVE

  • anon y mouse

    Good Sir,

    I’m a recent subscriber looking forward to your work for many years to come.Please look after your health so you can enjoy the ride.

  • Aaron D Yates

    Dr. Peterson

    Thank you for the free use of your future authoring program which was very generous. It was helpful. I’d also like to thank you for the time and effort you have put into making your lectures available to the world. They are far more valuable than what is on TV.

    I cannot know the extent your personal suffering as a result of your willingness to confront what appears to be a worrying tide of pc authoritarianism in order to prevent its growth. I can only guess. I suspect your efforts are being felt beyond your corner of the world as the views on your videos are so high. While not Canadian I feel indebted to you for your efforts and concerned about pc authoritarians brewing in my backyard at the University of Michigan.

    Good luck with Harris,
    Aaron D. Yates

  • Eedorobbo

    Dr Peterson, I would like to thank you deeply for your work and insights.
    I first came into contact with you via JRE and have since been investigating your maps of meaning and personality lectures via YouTube.
    Coming into contact with these ideas has reinvigorated my desire to further explore and understand the human condition and our place in this world and the cosmos using the tools of the depth psychologists and the insights and revelations of the myths and religious systems which we share.
    Your knowledge and approach to these questions reminds me of Dr Stephan Hoeller who has lectured regularly for decades on subject matter that seems to fit beautifully alongside your own. If you are unaware of Dr Hoeller I think it would be a great meeting of mind.
    Thanks again for your work, wishing you health, happiness and peace for 2017

  • Pingback: A new year’s message from Jordan B. Peterson | The Living Gods()

  • RA Wid

    “The central problem of human beings isn’t religion, as the New Atheists insist. It’s tribalism. We know this in part because chimps, our closest biological kin, go to war, and they are not religious, although they are tribal.”

    Comment: While I agree that is the nature of chimps it is not the nature of the bonobos which is also I close relative. Some argue even closer to humans than chimps. The remarkable thing about this primate relative is that it is very peaceful. Between groups, social mingling may occur, in which members of different communities have sex and groom each other, behavior which is unheard of among common chimpanzees. Within this premise of cooperation and nurturing as species made it possible to evolve into modern human being. Why do I think tribalism as we evolved was not a strong part of our evolutionary journey?

    1) If we were always killing other rival groups we would be covered with hair and have big teeth.
    2) Cooperation as a group made it possible to nurture the young for longer periods of time, making it possible for bigger and more complex brains to be developed and resulting in us being fairy weak compared to other primates.
    3) Instinctually we get along with each other until society programs us otherwise. Children don’t fight over differences until they are given the idea and react out of praise.
    4) It wasn’t until we started to congregate in large groups is there evidence of us killing each other off. A new social construct opposed to our instincts of cooperation and nurture emerged.
    a) regardless of culture, from birth we teach children to be nice and how that is a value.
    b) when we grow into adulthood we recognize a society that is fundamentally constructed which is opposed to our. We have angst as a result, Jr High can be hell for people. I believe there are a lot of people who suffer from mental issue because they “notice” on some levels things wrong with the world but have been conditioned to ignore them.
    c) The most powerful words in the English language all deal with peace, cooperation, and love.
    d) when people are on their death beds cultural delusions disappear and they wish they spent more time with loved ones and were “themselves”.
    5) What’s called the “divine feminine” for millions of years in this regard made it possible for us to evolve into what we are today.

    “The central problem of human beings isn’t religion, as the New Atheists insist.”

    Comment: Most Atheist do not like to consider religion and state for most of human history were the same force. Soviets and Nazi killed million upon millions they were not religious. The problem is people claiming authority over others and using force to push ideology. It doesn’t matter if the authority is called in God’s name or the state’s name people are being subjected. People then become subjected to an ideology which almost ALWAYS benefits the people at the top grossly. By that same measure Atheist should view a powerful state with disgust. Freedom of speech and people thinking for themselves is the divine famine in this regard balancing out the divine male. Science was also rolled into the mix. Most atheist are unaware of secular work that was performed by priests. A perfect example of this is Jesuit Priest Roger Boscovich who wrote The Theory of Natural Philosophy. Now a little know work, but his ideas arguably were used by both Einstein and Tesla. They also start from a premise of debunking the knowledge of ancient man which is kind of funny if arguing against a God of all creation.

    “It is that consciousness, not the objective material substrate of Being, which should be regarded as the ultimate reality. There is no self-evident reason why dead matter should be given ontological primacy over living spirit.”

    Comment: Role consciousness was decided for everyone in the Einstein era. He was a materialist and viewed as a prophet, even though there was an active debate among his colleagues such as Neils Bohr.“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” Einstein won the popularity contest, and we have been strict materialists since. Plus, you don’t have to think that hard to be materialist.

    “We do not yet know how to balance the opportunities thus provided for expanded female individuality with the eternal necessity for a woman to serve as the Mother of the Divine Individual. Dividing our civilization into polarized ideological camps of female group identity and male group identity is certainly not the answer.”

    Comment: If we take into consideration nurture in our evolutionary path we could be running into big problems. The Devine Feminine has been completely bound by society. First, society does not praise the role of motherhood. This should be praised as much as any position in society. They instill and nurture values which propagates through time. If it wasn’t for good mothering we would be swinging from trees still. The problem has been the subjugation of this aspect and its under value by the whole of society. Now, we praise women for being megalomaniacs. Good smart mothers are bedrock of society, and we are forgetting that fact.

    “That we are all sons and daughters of the divine Logos, consciousness itself — Bearers of its Light – and that we must act in accordance with that great central fact, lest all hell break loose.”

    Comment: Logos is purest form of logic which extends retroductivly from human perception to perceive the all from the chaos. By abandoning the trivium and quadrivium tacit understanding of logos has been lost and humanity suffers in its own stupor. All great minds have tacit understanding of logos regardless if they acknowledge it. A commonality which calls from their works. It’s rhythm you can see and hear. I sometimes wonder if this is what early Christianity taught. If so, it makes complete sense why it was such a threat to existing power structures and ideologies. If people suddenly became enlightened and started really thinking the corruption in our systems would be rooted out in a hurry. Awareness is the problem, but we have had to make ourselves less aware to not got crazy in a society built at odd with our deep evolutionary instincts of cooperation, love, and personal value to community.
    Those are some of my thoughts on this crazy world. Have fun debating, I look forward listening to it.

    • Tom More

      Thank you so very much Dr Peterson. We cannot live by bread alone. May we better emulate your prophetic example in our moment to moment lives and create a happier new year

  • Alexandre Paquette

    A million thanks for everything Dr. Peterson. I hope that you will get better soon.

  • jamdev12

    Professor Peterson after seeing this video and listening to it, I do believe there is a higher calling for all of us to do great things and that some of us have used group tribalism to push our own flawed agendas. I wish you the best for the new year and please take some time off. Enjoy time with family and friends while you have some down time.

    I do wish that your talk with Sam is one where two intellectuals can come together and discuss matters that affects believers and non believers alike. The thing I would not want is a debate, where you’re both trying to see who can score the most points. There are serious issues that are impacting humanity and what better way to see some fruitful outcome from this conversation than from a practicing psychologist and a neuroscientist.

    Once again please take care of yourself. Best regards.

  • Brandy

    Dr. Peterson, thank you for this profound and probing assessment of what lays at the very root of humanity. Listen, please, you are a vital and important mind of our century, you are easily recognizable as one of the great rational thinkers of our time. I see in you more and more the type of Nietzschean genius that is extremely rare and valuable. Please, as the wise Buddhist teachers do, take some time now after this intense and vicious past season to travel to some beautiful and serene place to recharge yourself and rest and take care of your health. Under no circumstances can you allow, not only for you as an individual, but in the responsibility to be a powerful and inspiring inspiration to so many of us who need you in these chaotic times, to allow your health to deteriorate or to drive yourself to utter exhaustion. Off you go to a deserved vacation and a rebalance, through the loveliness of nature, to recharge your energies. We need you.

    • EJ

      very nice comment.

    • Azzy M

      Rightly said.

    • Fiona Pycock

      yes!

  • Charlie Primero

    Excellent essay. Thank you Dr. Peterson.

  • slimgrin

    Powerful and sincere. I doubt this kind of argument can hold up in a debate against Sam Harris, but I look forward to the discussion.