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Overview (Plans for the future)
I’m a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Before that, I was a professor at Harvard. I have posted more than 300 video class lectures and public talks online. I discuss Jung, Freud, Piaget, Rogers, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, neuroscience, existentialism, mythology, religion, belief and war.
I have lectured and written for the last thirty years, working on ideas originally laid out by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the late 1800’s, these two thinkers began to contend with the “death of God” — the disruption of traditional religious and cultural belief by rationality and science. If God dies, Dostoevsky said, “everything will then be permitted.” This is a very frightening idea. As you move forward through time and history from the 19th century and contemplate National Socialism and the horrors of totalitarian communism, Dostoevsky looks positively prophetic.
The same is true of Nietzsche. In the aftermath of God’s death, he believed humanity, would become entranced, even possessed, by utopian political ideas, such as those of Marx. Nietzsche believed that such possession would kill millions in the twentieth century, as it did. The great German thinker also posited that human beings would have to create their own values, to fill the void left by God’s demise. However, it is not clear that we can create values, voluntarily. Individuals who have forced themselves to manifest interest in something that just didn’t interest them know the limits of our value-creating capacity. We also don’t live particularly long. It’s impossibly difficult to self-generate a complete model for being in the span of a single short life.
Dostoevsky, for his part, recommended a conscious revisiting of Russian Orthodox Christian ideas. But it is also not clear that we can return safely to past certainties, real or imagined. There may be much we have to rescue from our damaged traditions, but all of it will have to be viewed in a new light, if it is going to function and live.
I have been working, instead, on the belief that transcendent values genuinely exist; that they are in fact the most tangible realities of being. Such values have to be discovered, as much as invented, during the dance of the individual with society and nature. Then they have to be carefully integrated and united into something powerful and stable. This is in part something that Carl Jung discovered, during his forays into the deep past of ideas. I have tried to continue along the productive path he began to establish. It is for such reasons, I believe, that I have been constantly rated as one of three “life changing” professors at the University of Toronto.
I first formulated my ideas in a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, published by Routledge in 1999. But it’s a difficult book, and requires dedicated and perhaps even guided study. That places it out of reach for all but a small minority of people. However, now, for the first time in history, lectures can have, or even exceed, the reach and duration of books.
Ideas presented in lecture format can be less daunting. They can be offered simultaneously to many people. They can be preserved for long periods of time. My online lectures have already been viewed 75,000,000 times, for an average of 20 minutes per view. They have proved a more successful means of communicating than my book (which was nonetheless vital to the formulation of my ideas).
I think I have learned and discovered things that modern people desperately need to know. My students, and my video audience, seem to agree:
Listening to your lectures is in itself a transformative experience. Amazingly good.
Your lectures are pure inspiration to me.
Incredibly interesting speaker. Even the digressions were fascinating. Much appreciated post.
God, I wish these existed when I was younger. It’s heartbreaking to finally see the light and look back at 41 years of suffering.
Great channel. Thanks for uploading these lectures. I may be spending the next year of my life catching up!
I have been binge watching your lectures for a few weeks now (rather, listening, most of the time, since I am doing this while working). Very enlightening and fascinating! A lot of things fall into place.
I feel amazingly lucky to have access to these lectures. Amazing food for thought, and for ah-ha! moments. Many thanks.
Watch a lecture. If it grips you, considering aiding me in my efforts to provide such ideas to people all around the world.
Note as of June 21, 2017: The lectures series The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories has been highly successful. The fifth lecture of 12 was taped yesterday, and the fourth released the day before. The first four lectures have garnered about 750000 views, with another several hundred thousand podcast listeners. So that seems to be going well. I have several new videos slated for release, including an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to initiate my proposed series on Islam.
Note as of June 1, 2017. The Biblical lecture series (see May 22 note, below) is now 25% completed, with approximately 200k views for each of the first two posted lectures (the third will be up soon). I have also completed two — should have been three, but I was a bit behind — Q and A’s for my Patreon supporters, which were well-viewed and appeared to be successful, according to the comments. Next plans? I have been speaking with a number of tech and finance people as well as interested educators about starting an online university concentrating on the classic humanities (with a strong emphasis on critical language skills: literacy, articulation, argumentation & rational thought). We’re in the serious planning stages, trying to determine how to generate an online university that would have built-in technology enabling constant improvement of content, highly credible and difficult-to-attain accreditation, as well as inexpensive and wide access). It’s a very exciting idea, and my colleagues and I are very motivated to pursue it, and quickly. We’re going to start, we think, with a vast historical timeline, as well as a series on 100 of the great books of the world (with a concentration on the classics of the Western canon).
Note as of May 22, 2017: I have begun a 12-part lecture series: The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. This is being filmed, and placed on YouTube within a few days after the lecture. The first lecture was watched by more than 150000 people in the first four days after its posting. I have wanted to do this for a long time; theatre rental and payment for filming was made possible (before any tickets were sold) thanks to the generosity and support of my Patreons. I also plan to start a series of conversations with moderate Muslims about the possibility of developing a bridge between that faith and the fundamental beliefs of the West. That will start June 1 with a discussion with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Note as of October 2, 2016 (updated Mar 9, 2017): I would like to thank the recent spate of Patreons who are supporting my YouTube channel, since I began making lectures about political correctness. The additional financial support helps me remain confident that I can remain independent in my thinking and less vulnerable to institutional pressure, should that be brought to bear.
I would also like to make some comments about YouTube. I have been thinking about it a lot. It seems to me that the ability to post video lectures online, with the ability to reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of people (and for that to happen in a more or less permanent form) is a revolution equivalent to the Gutenberg press. People have only been reading in any real sense since Gutenberg made the distribution of reading material broadly possible. But now they can listen, and listening is easier and can be done while you do other things such as driving, walking and exercising. I now have had more than six million views on my YouTube channel. That’s incomparably more people than have bought my book or read my papers. So maybe that’s the real future of education — particularly given what the universities have done with the social sciences and humanities. Why not educate everyone? So I want to spend a lot more time on my video lectures, and it looks like Patreon might enable that.
I am going to produce a series of lectures on the Bible starting May 2017. I believe that the first series will run 25 weeks and will of course be videotaped. I will eventually produce a series of lectures on Solzhenitsyn, and on Dostoevsky, and on Nietzsche, and on Orwell. I want to produce a series of lectures on Jung. All this Patreon support is making that possible, by freeing up time I would otherwise have to spend on other projects.