Outline of Jordan Peterson Biblical Series 1, Introduction to the Idea of God

Notes below

  • 0:24 Intro Slide
  • 0:40 Strange that so many would show up to listen to a series of lectures on the Psychological significance of the Bible
  • 1:09 Intro slide Nietzsche and Jung
  • Why bother doing this? Why bother with this strange old book at all? That’s a good question. Turns out a book is more durable than stone, than a castle, than an empire. That’s really interesting.
  • 2:00 I’m approaching them as if they’re a mystery. We don’t understand a lot about them. How they came about. How they were put together. How they had such an impact on civilization. How people could have believed them. We don’t understand why people don’t believe them now and what impact they would have if we did believe them.
  • 2:40 No matter how educated you are you’re not educated enough to discuss the psychological significance of the biblical stories.
  • 3:00 I want to learn more about them and one of the best ways to learn about them is to talk about them. When I’m lecturing I’m not telling you things I know for sure to be the case because there are lots of things I don’t know.
  • 3:26 I’m an admirer of Nietzsche. He was a devastating critic of dogmatic Christianity as instantiated in institutions.  The European mind had to train itself to integrate everything it knew within a single coherent framework. Was able to transcend itself and concentrate on the natural world. In some sense Christianity died at its own hand.
  • 5:00 The spirit of the roots turned on the roots and everyone woke up and began to ask how was it that we believed in this. Like waking up one day and not knowing why you put a Christmas tree up. The ritual last long after reasons have been forgotten.
  • 5:25 It’s not possible to be free unless you have been enslaved. You go from childhood to discipline which is a self-imposed slavery. You have to become disciplined to become something specific before you can re-possess the generality you had as a child. Christianity played that role for Western Civ. but by the 1800s he announced that god is dead. It wasn’t something trumphant \
  • 6:45 There is a large amount we don’t understand about the world. We don’t know them in an articulated way.
  • 7:30 people know things at one level without being able to speak about them at another. Thoughts rise up from the body in moods, images and actions. We have this articulated space in which we can discuss but outside of that we have something more like a dream that we’re embedded in. It’s based at least in part on our actions but outside of that is what we don’t know anything at all. That’s where the mystics and the artists live and they’re the mediators between the absolute unknown and the things we know for sure.
  • 8:25 What we know established on stuff we really don’t understand and if those two things are out of sync. If our articulated knowledge is out of sync with our dream we become dissociated internally. We think things we don’t act out and we act out things we don’t dream that produces a kind of sickness of the spirit. The cure is an integrated system of belief and representation.
  • 9:00 Then people turn to things like ideologies which I regard as parasites on an underlying religious substructure to try to organize their thinking and then that’s a catastrophe. that’s what Nietzsche forsaw he knew that when we knocked the slats out from under the base of Western Civ. by destroying the representation, this god ideal let’s say that we would destabilize and move back and forth violently in between nihilism and the extremes of ideology.
  • 9:30 He predicted that in the 20th century hundreds of millions of people would die because of the replacement of this underlying dreamlike structures with this rational but deeply incorrect representation of the world. We’ve been oscillating between left and right in some sense ever since with a sprinkling of nihilism and despair and in that’s the condition of the modern world of a Western person and increasingly of people in general.
  • 10:10: part of the reason Islam has its back up against the West is that still being grounded in a dream they can see that the rootless mind of the West posses a tremendous danger to the integrity of their culture and it does.
  • 10:45 We undermine ourselves all the time with our searching intellect. I’m not complaining about that. but it’s still a fruitful catastrophe. It has impact on people’s lives. When I’m treating people for depression or anxiety they have existential issues. It’s not just that they have some condition that their brain chemistry is out of whack even though sometimes that seems to be the case. They are overwhelmed by the suffering and complexity of their life and they’re not sure why it’s reasonable to continue with it. They can feel the negative meanings of life but are skeptical beyond belief about the positive meanings.
  • 11:30 I had one client who was a brilliant artist as long as he didn’t started to think about what he was doing he started to saw the branch off that he was sitting on. Example of someone who’s rational intellect is divorced enough from your being to question the utility of your being. It’s not a good thing because it manifests itself not only in individual psychopathology but also social psychopathology which is the proclivity of people to get tangled up in ideologies.
  • 12:40. They’re like cripple religion, like religion that has lost an arm and a leg but it still able to hobble along. It’s warped and twisted and demented and bent but it’s a parasite existing on something beneath that’s beautiful and true. That’s how it looks to me anyway.
  • 13: We need to sort out this problem and there isn’t anything more important that needs to be done probably since the early 80s when I looked at the role that belief systems played in regulating social and psychological health. You can tell that they do that because of how upset people get when you challenge their belief systems. It’s like “why the hell do they care exactly what difference does it make?” if all of your ideological axioms are 100% correct. People get unbelievably upset when you poke them in the axioms. It is not obvious why.
  • 14: There’s a fundamental truth that they’re standing on it’s like a raft they’re standing on in the middle of the ocean and you start to pull out the logs and they’re afraid their going to fall in and drown. Drown in what and what are the logs protecting you from? Why are they so afraid to move beyond the confines of the ideological system? These are not obvious things?
  • 14:44 Nietszche’s idea was that human beings were going to have to create their own values essentially. He knew that our capacity to think wasn’t a free floating soul but was embedded in a body etc. but he still believed the only possible way out of the problem was for human beings to was to become something akin go God and create their own values and he thought that the person as the overman or the superman. That was one of the philosophy that the Nazi’s took out of context and used to fuel their superior man ideology and we know what happened to that.
  • 15:45 Jung and Piaget. Our articulated systems of thought are embedded in something like a dream and that that dream is informed in a complex way by the way we act. We act out things we don’t understand all the time. If that wasn’t the case then we would need the social sciences because we’d be completely transparent to ourselves all the time and we’re clearly not. We’re much more complicated than we understand which means that we the way behave contains much more information than we know. Part of the dream we’ve extracted as happened as a consequence of watching ourselves act as we behave and telling stories about it for thousand and thousands of years extracting out patterns of behavior that characterize humanity and trying to represent them not only through behavior but through drama and mythology and literature and art to represent what we’re like so we can understand what we’re like. That process of understanding is what I see unfolding at least in part in the Biblical stories. It’s halting and partial and contradictory and all of that which is one of the things that makes the book so complex. I see in it the struggle of humanity to rise above its animal forebearers and become conscious of what it means to be human and that’s a very difficult thing because we know who we are or what we are or any of those things.
  • 17:30 Life is an unbroken chain going back 3.5 billion years and that’s an unbelievable thing. Every single one of your ancestors reproduced successfully for 3.5 billion years. It’s absolutely unbelievable. We rose out of the dirt and the muck and here we are conscious but not knowing and we’re trying to figure out who we are. A set of stories we’ve been telling for three thousand years seems to have something to offer
  • 17:50 When I look at the stories in the Bible I do so with a beginner’s mind. It’s a mystery, how the hell it was made, why it was made, why we preserved it how it happened to motivate an entire culture for 2000 years and to transform the world. What’s going on? How did that happen? It’s by no means obvious.
  • 18:18 One of the things that bothers me about casual critics of religion is that they don’t take the phenomena seriously and it’s a serious phenomena not least because people have the capacity for religious experience and no one knows why that is.
  • 18:30 You can produce it reliably in all sorts of different ways, with brain stimulation and with drugs. People have been using drugs like that for god only knows how long 50,000 years maybe more than that to produce some sort of intimate union with the divine. We don’t understand any of that when we discovered the psychodelics in the 60s it shocked everybody so badly that they were instantly made illegal and abandoned for 50 years.
  • 19:08 Jung was a student of Nietzsche also an astute critic of Nietzsche educated by Freud. Freud collate the information we had that we lived inside a dream.
  • 24:30 Illustration the idea of sacrifice
  • 26: Jung believed that the dream was the birthplace of god

Pause :JBP

What’s interesting about this long trail after the Enlightenment is the motivation basically to account for ourselves. We are deeply dissatisfied with the idea of a divine actor making claims and demands upon us so if we can arrive at who we are and what we are today without him then we’re… what exactly? Why kill the old Father?

This was the comment in the Metaphysical Club about Darwin’s big contribution.

Back to JBP

  • 27:42 Dreams and mythology and Drama and literature.
  • 31:30 the Psychoanalysts understand that there are things inside of you that control you and not the other way around.
  • Note: he uses dreams two ways here and they get confused together.
  • 33:20 The dream contains more information than we otherwise know. The NYC art museum illustration. What are those people up to? They don’t know? Why is it worth so much? Why this items?
  • 34:36 Where does the information in the dream come from? It’s like a revelation. Looking for a rational and empirical explanation before you allow any other one in. Use that reduction and leave the others floating in the air.
  • 35:35 Artists observe one another and we don’t know what we’re learning from one another.
  • 36:30 Musical concerns are quasi religious events and we don’t know why. We don’t really know that’s what we’re doing but its nourishing.
  • 37:40 We watch the patterns that everyone acts out, that’s where our dreams come from. Canonical patterns of being for people. The great dramas are played on the crowd across time. The artists represent that and we’re a bit clearer. Fiction isn’t true but maybe they’re true because numbers are true. The abstraction is insanely powerful.
  • 39:40 Fiction is an abstraction from this noisy substrate.
  • 41:02 Bear worship stayed the same for 20k years.
  • 42:24 How long have we been watching each other? some is built in our bodies which is why we can dance with each other. Rough and tumble play in kids. It’s not abstract knowledge. They don’t know that they’re doing it they’re just doing it. Abstracting out what is it we’re up to and what should we be up to? How do you
  • 42:40. “how do we live in the world, not what is the world made of? (John Walton Lost World)
  • The dream is watching everything and trying to formulate it and get it out in dramatic form and develop articulated knowledge.
  • 43:40 the Bible exists in that space which is half dream and half articulated knowledge.
  • 44 Without the cornerstone that this information provides we’re lost without that cornerstone. Then we’re susceptible to psychological pathology. People who are adamant anti-religious thinkers seem to believe that if we abandon our immersement in the underlying dream then we’ll be rationalists like rationalists. Don’t believe it because there’s no evidence for it but you’ll just become crazy irrational (applause).
  • 45: new slide. Unknown world.

relationship between spoken dreamed and acted

  • 45:30. “Everyone acts out their myth but very few people know what their myth is.” Jung. You should know what it is because maybe it’s a tragedy.
  • 46:14 you know you don’t understand your actions.
  • 46:50 there’s a tremendous amount of information in your action.
  • 47 This is what happens in Exodus when Moses comes down with the law. When you’re trying to keep peace you’re trying to figure out what peace is. Here’s the principles that bring peace. Here’s the rules we’re already acting out. This is what we’re doing but now its codified. English common law is like that. The body of law is what you act out, that’s why it’s the body of law.
  • 49: that’s something of what the ancient Israelites meant by God. It’s not a good enough explanation.
  • 49:20 Chimp illustration. There’s a principle that the dominant person manifests. You abstract out what power means by that and you divorce the concept from the people. How did we do that? In a chimp the power is in the chip it’s not an abstraction. We abstract out the core of the guiding principle in multiple hierarchies and we abstract out the core of being.
  • 50:30 It’s something like that that’s God. It’s an abstracted ideal. It’s put in personified form. It’s manifest in personified form. That’s OK because we’re trying to  find what it means to be a properly functioning properly social individual. You need an ideal, that’s abstracted, that’s acted out that you can find out what that means.
  • 51:25 a philosophical ideal manifests itself out first as a concrete pattern of behavior. It’s a single individual. Then it’s a set of individuals. Then it’s an abstraction.
  • 51:50. Could an emperor be god? The Xians said never confuse the specific sovereign with the principle of sovereignty itself. The person who has the power is subordinate to something else. Even the king itself is subordinate to the principle and we still believe that because “no man is above the law”. If you get rid of God you have nothing to be subordinate to.
  • 53:45 Marduk is a compilation of tribal dieties.
  • 55:20 you think this is important and your tribes alive so it works and you think this is important and your tribe’s alive so it works… take the best of both if we can manage it and take out something even more abstract that transcends it…
  • 55:35 Marduk eyes around his head elected to deal with Tiamat.
  • 56:25 the link between Tiamat and Tehom of Genesis 1
  • 57 the emperor acted out Marduk to understand the essence of leadership “its staggering brilliant”
  • 57:45 Chaos is half psychological and half real. It’s everything at once and its too much for you.
  • 58:40 we represent that which disturbs us deeply with the same system that we use to see serpentile or other predators. We’re biological creatures. We still have all those underlying systems. This is why we demonize our enemies, we do it with the same system.
  • 59:33 the Marduk story is about using language to address the things that most threaten us
  • Note: here again his pattern of interpretation. He takes the story and tries to extract an ideal or a principle out of it. This obviously is common in Xian interpretation and preaching but more greatly controlled by the canon.
  • 59:57 you freeze when you’re frightened because you’re using a predator detection system. Things that upset us rely on that system. Go out and confront the thing and make the world out of it. In psychotherapy is to confront the fears rather than let the fears find you.
  • 1:01:00 All of that makes up the background. It’s the best we’ve been able to do.
  • 1:01:57 return to the stories with an open mind and see if there’s something there that we actually need.
  • 1:02:34 A story is to tell how you represent how you act.
  • 1:02:55 we don’t have to act because we can imagine it because of the pre-frontal cortex.
  • 1:03:01 you can manipulate the representation without having to act it out. You think so your representation can die, not you.
  • 1:03:31 What do I hope to accomplish? To know more than I did when I started. To see if there is something at the bottom of this amazing civilization that we’ve managed to construct that I think is in peril for a variety of reasons. and not throw it away for bad reasons.
  • approach 1:04:56

approach biblical series 1

jbp approach to biblical series


  • 1.40.00: Now he get into John and Genesis 1

jbp bs jn1

jbp bs gen1

Then he skips to a few things he wants to touch on for the next lecture

jbp bs trin slide






  • stop (not really) at 1:56:00


About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Sermon Outline and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s