The Jordan Peterson Complex
A Jungian-Archetypal Perspective On A Cultural Phenomenon
From the Quora: Why is Jordan Peterson so suddenly popular
Author’s Note: This essay began as a Reddit post where I went to explain — mostly to myself — the hostile response I received for writing a Quora summary on a book called Maps of Meaning (1999) written by the infamous clinical psychologist and Toronto professor Jordan B. Peterson. Later, I adapted it to answer another Quora on Peterson — this time on his “sudden popularity”— and by then, having taken on a life of its own, the message gripped me till it articulated itself fully as the present essay. Note: Quora would “collapse” this article, rendering it publicly “undiscoverable,” claiming a violation despite letting other pieces with the same “violation” stand…
I did my best, with my present skill to write for common readers, to stay faithful to the specified hermeneutic despite the limitations of both: my skill and a simplistic approach to Jungian archetypes and cultural history in general which I couldn’t avoid here w/out extending the length of the essay more than I had already.
Prior to writing about Dr. Peterson, I had also noticed a less than reasonable response from intellectual colleagues of mine who espoused seemingly informed and strong opinions on Peterson only to discover that they, and very uncharacteristically, had neither read him nor knew anything about the ominous cultural climate that Peterson is responding as the chief voice of an intellectual “Dark Web.”
That a message like Peterson’s — a message that echoes the best of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Nietzsche, and Sun Tzu — needs a Dark Web at all, a kind of new Freudian Unconscious created by “P.C. authoritarians,” who now manage the corporations that mediate communication in the “Hypermodern age,” should disturb us all with its Orwellian vibe.
The media theorist Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death in reflecting on our present and future compared the dystopias of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World [BNW]. His prediction seemed to lean toward BNW whereby our human needs for instant gratification and stimulation would be met so insidiously well by electronic media, like the soma drugs of BNW, that our needs for anything else — Truth, Liberation, and Transcendence — would be efficiently dispersed in the trance of television. Postman was writing this in 1985.
In 2018 when screens are being appended to all the surfaces of life, and those screens are hooked into huge telematic networks divvied up among a few corporations that are rapidly becoming ideological fronts, we are witnessing an infernal “coniunctio,” a marriage of dystopias: 1984 by the means of Brave New World — a possibility also foreseen by Postman in the same book.
The poet Holderlin infamously wrote “where the danger is most, grows the saving power.” A time like this, Carl Jung might say, activates the Hero-archetype in the collective unconscious predisposing us to project the formal affect of this archetype onto persons and situations. Depending where we are individually on our own “hero’s journey” — if we’ve rejected the heroic in us or have taken it on, or are somewhere in between — we are predisposed to react to these projections in several different ways.
The projection may be experienced as a projectile: one’s own ideal out there calling for one to catch up, realizing their potential on the Way; or that call may trigger hostility and resentment in us, the Shadow — of denial — and we become like the “hostile brother”-type: a Set who murders his Osiris; a Cain, his Abel; and we comport ourselves thus to the heroic as critics and haters; or the call may be an awakening causing disorientation, a confusion that should be seen through to understanding — if not it leads to dissociation and we become one of Postman’s “amused:” another soma-drugged sheep in television trance. [If the film The Matrix is brought to mind, you’re on the right track.]
Most generations don’t recognize their Heroes until it’s too late. Peterson’s “sudden popularity” then is a hopeful sign we might forgo this critical error, and it demands to be understood on as many “levels of analysis” as possible. So here is another one; one, that attempts to discern the active play of archetypes — what were once called Gods — operating beneath the surface and discoverable through the windows of our complexes (unconscious and disproportionate affective responses to certain cues or triggers).
— MAK/April 5th, 2018
INTRODUCTORY: THE QUESTION
Perhaps the best way to answer this question with my expertise as a depth psychologist is to examine how Jordan Peterson is not more popular, and in fact why he “triggers” irrational hostility in so many. Attraction and repulsion are often linked to the same archetypal-complex — it is a way in which the unconscious is trying to get our attention and mark something out as very important for our consideration and on-going personal and collective adaptation. Peterson’s intense popularity on the one hand and the intense hostility he seems to evoke in many on the other are an accurate cue that a very critical archetypal-complex, of personal and collective-cultural scope, has shown up for us at this historical moment. But what does it mean?
Watching many otherwise intelligent and psychologically healthy people become impassioned critics of Peterson, without even having read his books or listening to a lecture, and sometimes turning to violent protest, has piqued my interest and trained my analytical eye on this phenomenon. I know well by now what complexes look like and sound like, so I’ll look deep here for what the “Peterson complex” is trying to signal.
This is not to say Peterson isn’t triggering in his own manner or doesn’t invite projections: between his charisma and ubiquitous media presence and the fact he stood up for himself infamously refusing to follow the “party line” has indeed shaken things up for many. But that doesn’t account for the intensity of this phenomenon fully —after all there have always been provocateurs, usually people forget them or get over the provocation. Maybe Peterson will be metabolized by the mainstream eventually and not immediately inspire rants loaded with the usual invective and accusations should one attempt to write thoughtfully and openly about him in the future. But for now why do so many go into an altered state — of fury — at the mere mention of his name?
To get there, first a condensed primer on Jungian and “Petersonian” theory in the age of what John David Ebert and myself call“Hypermodernity*” [ — you can skip to section II if you don’t need a primer and go straight to the point.]
I: A PRIMER ON JUNGIAN-PETERSONIAN THEORY
According to Carl Jung every complex has its root in an archetypal core in the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is what’s there after you strip the sociocultural and personal constructions from a human being; it’s not the case as many still believe that beneath these layers there is a tabula rasa. But like an archeological excavation, artifacts — mythologems — from ancient prehistory can be discerned beneath the surface of our immediate and sociocultural selves. Somehow — tho many theories have been proposed — images and ideas that can’t be accounted for by one’s historical intersectional-grid are indeed present in our unconscious minds. Jung’s 60 years of research into comparative mythology and the subjective products of his patients (ie: dreams, creative-expressions, ideations, etc) led him to conclude that these images and ideas indicate imminent formal patterns that make up the deep structure of the human mind in general. As individuals of the genus Homo sapien share anatomy and reflexive instinctual processes unchanged for millions of years, so does the human mind. Jung called these instincts of the mind “archetypes.”
To reiterate this in more recent lingo, we can imagine the collective unconscious as an anthropological internet of folk icons and cultural memes and at deeper levels embodied “cognitive metaphors” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; 1999) and the meta-images of our “species-specific” heuristics (Laughlin, 1990). We are always logged in to this collective mind but because it is the water we swim in we are rarely conscious of it (hence: collective unconscious). Archetypes are like “image schemas” that organize our subliminal experience along common lines that become the cultural metaphors we share (Goodwyn, 2012). But archetypes are much deeper than culture and are not “made” like memes; they are a priori transpersonal meta-images (“primordial images” for Jung) that symbolize our “species-specific-” and “implicit-processing-” heuristics — or what were once called “instincts.”
Depending on who you ask there are as many archetypes as anthropological-types and situations, but there are three that most can agree on and they are those three things all of us — at least until the Transhumanist Singularity (see the new Blade Runner: 2049 movie) — have in common: The Mother, The Father, and the Child. From these three meta-images we derive personal and sociocultural symbols of the Feminine, the Masculine, and the active mediating force between the two.
For Peterson, these archetypes can be further condensed into two — let’s call them for simplicity sake — meta-archetypes — or what today could be called “implicit processing heuristics;” these are Chaos/Unknown and Order/Known which are isomorphic respectively to the right and left hemispheric functions of the brain, and stand to one another in an eternal paradox of conflict and harmony. Peterson illustrates this with the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol. A third emergent archetype is our mediating Logos or consciousness between them.
Following what Peterson calls the “meta-mythological cycle of the Way” based on ancient solar-myths of the daily and yearly course of the sun (or: solar Hero), this bivalent unity is dramatized on the many stages of human life into the dynamic roles of the Mother and Father and their product and mediator the Child. Order is classically Masculine and personifies as the Father who can govern the Known as a Wise King; but he is prone to stagnation and tyranny. And Chaos is classically Feminine personified as the Mother the matrix of all new things, manifesting the Unknown as creativity, novelty, and new resources; but the Mother as Chaos is equally prone to manifest the destructive elements of disorder or reverse its creativity into the classic type of the devouring Mother, whereby Chaos destratifies so much it becomes a kind-of blackhole. The Child is the Hero, a shaman-warrior type straddling the edge between the Known (Order) and the Unknown (Chaos).
If the Mother and Father symbolize respectively the collective unconscious (Unknown/Chaos) and collective consciousness (Known/Order), the Child is a symbol of our own ego consciousness that has to “individuate” from these collectives. This is done, at one end of the cycle, by separating them; and at another end, by recombining them anew — an evolutionary process beautifully distilled in the iconography of hermetic alchemy w/ the motto solve et coagula (dissolve and coagulate — repeatedly to make the philosopher’s stone).
In one archetypal cycle the Child Hero has to vanquish the tyranny of the Father’s Order to evolve it, daring the Chaos (the anarchic Unknown)to receive new life from the Mother; or the Child is the Hero who has to defeat the Mother-dragon of devouring Chaos and redeem the principle of Order by becoming the “Wise King/Wise Queen”-type.
From Lord of the Rings and Star Wars to The Matrix and Harry Potter to Disney’s Lion King and HBO’s Game of Thrones to Marvel’s Black Panther and Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda all iconic adventures follow this pattern or some variant. For its universality it was termed the “Monomyth” by scholar Joseph Campbell and for Peterson the “Meta-Mythological Cycle of the Way.” Both are based on Jung’s theory of the individuation process: a spiraling lifelong maturation into our innate wholeness — or becoming who you really are. The meta-myth cycle of the Way goes on intrapsychically through our lives as individuation but also macrocosmically as the archetypal dynamics in culture and civilization, and it is how things progress and preserve themselves in spiraling cycles that go at the very slow deep-time pace of consciousness evolution.
This solar meta-myth cycle in multicultural variants can be found all over the world but is most familiar to the West and Middle East as the heritage of the three major Abrahamic religions; that heritage of the solar myths goes all the way back to its very distilled form in ancient Egyptian mythology and the even older Babylonian Enuma Elish. And as remotely as ancient Siberian shamanism whose psychedelic symbols of the solar myth-cycle became, to use John David Ebert’s term (2013), the “iconotypes” of our own modern Christmas and Winter Solstice celebrations; and as remote from Siberia, Jung documented in New Mexico in 1925 a distilled ritual of this solar myth-cycle still practiced by the indigenous Taos Puebloans.
As long as we live on earth with circadian rhythms tuning us to the course of the sun thru the daily and seasonal round we can expect this archetypal cycle to hold. It remains a question to be explored in our age of Hypermodernity how much electronic media disrupt or add novel perturbations into the psychology of these solar-tuned circadian rhythms and ultimately which cycles will run our future: the fractal chaotic flows of telematic hyperspace or the solar myth-cycles of old; or maybe we are in the process now of hybridizing new and old gods as the collective unconscious evolves to support whatever we become as Transhuman avatars of the Anthropos (the archetypal image of Humanity). We will find out. [Listen to your Poets if you want the early scoop.]
In the meantime: these archetypes and their cycles of relationships deep in the collective unconscious affect us through our complexes — which we all have. Complexes are typically the result of trauma (very broadly speaking) and the attempt to defend the personality from future trauma. They are like sub-personalities broken off from the ego and its sphere of influence. When triggered they sap the energy from the ego and take over, defensively, for a brief time: the length of a tantrum, a bad mood, a compulsion, a mania; or if in the company of others affected by the same archetypal-complex they can last as long as a mob or a riot ( — or the length of an activist protest event).
Many individuals sharing a common culture and society — especially in Hypermodernity where we’re all electronically synchronized — can have a complex triggered at the same time and the activation propagated like a mimetic-virus. These cultural complexes have an archetypal core rooted in the collective unconscious that places the culture somewhere in the mythic meta-cycle of those archetypal dramas just described. Cultural complexes, like individual ones, may be the result of collective-cultural trauma and the attempt to defend against retraumatization — but complexes are only temporary solutions, when left untreated they arrest the process of healing and growth. The intense attitudes towards Jordan Peterson are an indication of such a cultural complex. Consciousness of the complex and its archetypal meaning — or: where it’s anchored in the meta-myth cycle of the Way — will often start the healing process…
II: THE “JORDAN PETERSON COMPLEX”
The cultural-complex that Peterson triggers has its root in the archetypal-cycle of the “vanquished” but not yet redeemed and restored Father (the archetypal personification of Order). At the personal level it is what psychoanalysts might call a “father complex;” but, that is only a portal through which a transpersonal-archetypal process in the culture can be observed*(1). Via the “button” of the personal complex, Peterson triggers a collective intuition that we as a civilization haven’t properly dealt w/ the murder of the Father since the cultural revolution of the 1960s; then: the Tyrannical Father — archetypal personification of pre-revolutionary status-quo — was killed and buried out of sight to make space for the great expanse of freedom that suddenly became possible at that time. From the assasination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to The Doors song “The End” in 1967 we can witness this archetypal-historical moment: the murder of the Father (Order) and the incest w/ the Mother (embrace of Chaos). The consequence of this boundary rending act, according to The Door’s song, is to be “so limitless and free” but yet “desperately in need of a stranger’s hand/ in a desperate land.” (Jim Morrison).
What we know from psychoanalysis can be summed up w/ the adage “what you resist persists;” like energy, archetypal-complexes can never be disposed. Where did the archetypal Father go? If Peterson is a projector-screen for its return among youth culture*(2) — following the archetypal myth-pattern of the “Return of the King” — what has occupied its place in the interim?
This can be answered by way of a historical example which is also the prehistory to our present focus on Peterson. Jung discovered in the first quarter of the 20th Century that, despite thousands of years, the suppressed pagan god-image of sex, death, war, ecstasy in such forms as Wotan and Dionysus was showing up symbolically in his patients’ dreams. Peterson might say what Jung discovered was a variant of imminent Chaos, as a Mother-figure like that devouring goddess of India, Kali — or the Babylonian Tiamat. This was a cultural complex of the repressed archetypal Feminine, that by Jung’s time had been there shoved under ground in the West by 1,900 years of Christianity — or, depending on how you cut it, since the time of the Enuma Elish: the 7th century Babylonian poem where the god Marduk becomes king by defeating Tiamat, the mother of the world of the gods whose later fury brought her creation to the edge of extinction.
Jung saw that this pagan archetypal-complex was starting to wake up and rise to the surface, and the earthquake caused by its rising resulted in two world wars after which by the end of the 1950s, augmented by rock and roll, LSD, and electronic media, it finally broke thru the surface and became part of our collective consciousness as the 1960s cultural revolution.
That is: the 1960s cultural revolution was also a revolution (as in a turning) of one archetypal dominant into another — a process Jung called “enantiodromia:” the reversal of an extreme into its opposite. In that era, the Tyrannical Father switched places w/ the Dionysian repressed Feminine — or the Mother as creative Chaos. The Father — as outdated, corrupted Order — went underground for renewal and dormancy in the collective unconscious, while the latter — liberated creative Feminine — came up as a new cultural wold.
As usual with archetypal historical events, Jung believed that this enantiodromia was prefigured in “spiritual” (symbolic) form when on November 1st, 1950 the Catholic Church officially recognized the “Assumption of Mary” as dogma. Prior to then, it was apocryphal to believe that like her son Jesus, the Virgin Mother was similarly assumed into Heaven. For Jung the announcement of this new official doctrine was a major (if subtle) cultural-historical event whereby the archetypal Feminine symbolized by Mary was released and elevated shattering the “glass ceiling” of Heaven; and a decade later, the rest is history…
But now, in our era, another enantiodromia has been announced straight from the collective unconscious through the “Peterson complex.” Just as the Father as Order is prone to stagnation and corruption calling for the Child to usurp him, the Mother archetype — after having birthed a new creative cultural world in the interim between the destruction of the old Order (pre-60's America) and the founding of a new — eventually goes through its own corruption becoming the Devouring Mother. The Mother, as an unconscious cultural archetype, goes from creative to devouring when she fearfully clings so tightly to the new cultural gains — such as classic liberal values and the “content of character” over prejudice —that they are in danger of being snuffed out (i.e.: Martin Luther King Jr’s dream is smothered into “intersectionality”).
As a way to visualize this take a typical case from dream analysis: an adolescent child whose had the “implicit processing” heuristic (or: archetype) of individuation activated might experience a dream wherein the child’s mother appears like the mythic Medusa; in the context of indivudation this is an intuitive symbol expressing the potential psychological threat posed by an overly fearful and clinging mother: Medusa as a face of the Devouring Mother can paralyze (freeze, arrest) the Child’s adaptation to the outside world — which is typically symbolized in dreams by the child’s father, father figures, or associated material (e.g.: the father’s office or place of work, car, suit, etc). The Mother that cycles from creativity (birth) to devouring (fearful clinging) — in the familial home or as an archetype acting-out thru the complexes of many people in collectives — can be a major obstacle to healthy adaptation to life; and in cases where a young person has no father and/or no one filling the role of the classic Wise Old Man — ie: Obi-Wan Kenobi-type — this obstacle is often devastating.
Fatherlessness and the evacuation of wise paternal figures from our sociocultural milieus has steadily increased since the 1960s after the counter-culture failed to take the next step — rescuing the Father— to complete the cycle of the meta-myth of the Way. [ie: This is what Kurt Cobain (1993), a child and critic of Boomer-culture, alludes when he sang in a last written song (“Serve the Servants”): “As my bones grew they did hurt/ They hurt really bad/ I tried hard to have a Father/ but instead I had a dad” (In Utero).]
It seems no Jungian take on contemporary issues forgoes some reference to the Star Wars films — so I’m not breaking any trends here. They are, after-all, a vivid illustrative example of Peterson’s “meta-myth cycle” since George Lucas based them on Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth.” I’ll use Star Wars from the end of episode III to the conclusion of episode VI as an iconic model for the archetypal dynamics of the era of the late 1950s to now: theTyrannical Father was vanquished like Anakin Skywalker —from the Beat Generation and Women’s Lib to Civil Rights and the Summer of Love; and then trapped in unredeemed form as Darth Vader in the Death Star — from Hippies to Yuppies to Gen-X; until Luke as the Child Hero redeems him and brings his body back up from the Death Star —the collective task of our time, and the message of Jordan Peterson, necessary for adaptation to the demands of Hypermodernity: an anthroposophic anamnesis (deep remembering of the wisdom of the human individual) against the collectivizing effects of socialist trends driven by a huge corporatist media ecology. In case you are not a Star Wars fan: Darth Vader means “Dark Father,” the Death Star is the “Underworld”, and Luke means “Light” — he is the classic archetypal Solar Hero. (Cf: Peterson’s infamous injunction to “rescue your Father from the Underworld.”)
Like Jung saw in the early 1900s there was a need for the return of the repressed Dionysian-Feminine, Peterson sees in 2018 (a century later) there is an unconscious need now for the return of the Father. But NOT the same Tyrannical Father as before, but the Dark Father redeemed from the depths of the collective unconscious as the Wise King adapted to the sociocultural gains of our time. This would lead us a step closer to the wizening of collective consciousness via the “union of opposites” (archetypal dialectics) an archetypal idea classically symbolized by the “chymical wedding” or alchemical “coniunctio” (conjuction): the marriage of the “Wise King/Wise Queen” (sun/gold + moon/silver); and more anciently the hieros gamos: the sexual-spiritual union of the gods.
One of Jung’s central tasks was the liberation of the Feminine in the Western psyche by cultivating in practice what he termed the feeling function — a sense of authentic relatedness based on feelings — and helping patients get in touch with their feminine side, which he called the Anima (personified symbolically as their own “souls”). This was quite contrary to the codes, mores and attitudes of Jung’s time (early 20th century Europe) — and what might seem antiquated by today’s standards (2018) was revolutionary before the 1960s. For Jung this task took symbolic-mythological form as the rescue of the “gnostic Sophia” — the feminine wisdom of the collective unconscious that had been sealed off from the West under the bloody foundation of the cross. Jung’s message of rescuing the Feminine fell mostly on deaf ears in his era, but it was heard by some — for example, while Freud attracted mostly men to his psychoanalyst circle (and initially reserved its practice for male doctors), Jung’s disciples were mostly women including the renowned analysts Marie-Louise Von Franz and Barbara Hannah.
Today Peterson is playing a similar role as Jung’s, but it’s the archetypal Masculine that needs redemption and restoration in this era — hence Peterson on average draws more men to his telematic circle.
Culture typically changes slowly: if we start the clock at AD, the West lands a few decades shy of 2,000 years of unchallenged attitudes — and abuses — of the Feminine. But one of the qualities of the Hypermodern is the acceleration of time by the light-speed relativizing effects of information-technologies. For example, consider Ray Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns”(2005) that he uses to track the exponential rises of technological complexity and information processing over time. Kurzweil’s law predicts, according to him: “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years (at today’s rate).” Kurzweilian hyperbole or not, considering today’s unprecedented techno-media infrastucture, it should hardly surprise anyone that it has only taken a century, since Jung diagnosed our pathological attitude toward the Feminine, for a turn of the spiral — or a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction (or: “enantiodromia”). The Masculine, that which the classic-type of the Father is responsible for cultivating, is in crisis.
A message like Peterson’s seems to be the victim of bad timing. In the sociocultural moment of MeToo and TimesUp by puttinig a spotlight on the crisis of masculinity and fatherlessness he didn’t just touch a collective psychic nerve — a complex — he pressed it hard. But once we realize that the problems addressed by MeToo and Peterson are not unrelated but have to share the stage if men’s and women’s relations are to evolve, we should appreciate his courage in speaking-up and placing this in the hermetic vessel of our media-consciousness. The response to Peterson however has been so hostile that his spotlight is also diagnosing symptoms of the archetypal-cultural complex I’m postulating. This shows up in pathological attitudes toward the Masculine, attitudes that have been expressed more openly (and understandably so) since the presidential election of Donald Trump — but have been festering for a while as a form of academic discourse.
This attitude is the result of the previously mentioned cultural-historical abuses of the Feminine, which resulted in collective trauma and the formation of a defensive complex. Despite the opportunity for healing during the 1960s when the Feminine was liberated, this complex became more entrenched and defensive in some influential circles — which is the problem with complexes. This is most evident today in the latest wave of post-1960s radical feminism; like all complexes what was first a necessary defensive strategy, and call to conscious healing, has become destructive to our entire psychosocial ecology.
The irrational attitude toward the Masculine promoted by this complex shows up across the board originating in academia and increasingly in mainstream culture and elsewhere: from spurious claims about gender that place ideology over science and even health; to the frequently repeated epithet “toxic masculinity” which is used to disrupt and shame the rough-and-tumble play of young boys — an activity of developmental necessity; to the prejudiced vilification of young men with misconstrued statistics about “rape culture” and the “wage gap.”It remains to be seen what the correlation is, if any directly, between this attitude and the statistics that indicate declining rates in men’s mental and physical health compared to women’s.
Moreover, our society, having abandoned its religious institutions and preoccupied with pop celebrity and the cosmetics of youth, has no forum anymore for the Wise Old Man: the archetypal guide to the Child Hero who personifies the “wisdom of the elders.” Our elders as psychologist James Hillman(1999) pointed out are no longer concentrated in the center of society as a source of archetypal wisdom, but are deposited on the outskirts, hidden away like unsolvable problems in special homes or clinics — or like Luke Skywalker on the remote planet Ahch-To in the recent “The Last Jedi” film. Consequently, children are treated like they have all the answers to life; and elders are treated like children. Peterson — as did Jung and Hillman — warns that failing to dialogue with Time leads to a forgetting of adaptive modes of human living and thriving: a loss of values or what keepers of indigenous shamanistic traditions call a “loss of soul.”
Considering all of this, it makes more sense why young men feel demoralized, left behind, and without guidance. This state of affairs has brought Peterson to tears more than once in public. As Peterson might say: it’s no wonder men are angry and drawn to the lowest common denominator of male expression from Neo-Nazi skin-head marches to the dangerous antics of Antifa with all the violence in between. In a time when sensible voices are drowned out in the blare of media-tribunals that cry wolf again and again, Peterson’s burden has become Casandra-like; and if his call to rescue our Fathers isn’t heeded, it isn’t difficult to foresee social and civil catastrophe around the corner. “Rescuing the Father” is the archetypal meaning and purpose of Peterson’s Biblical Stories Lecture Series. And the series’ (and Peterson’s own) popularity should not seem surprising — or sudden — considering how long Western youth culture has been deprived of an adequate vessel for a representation of the archetypal Father ( — aka: “God” or what Jung called the “Self” as distinct from the “ego”).
These dramatic shifts of cultural dialectics are not surprising to a depth psychologist who sees those meta-archetypes of Chaos and Order maintaining equilibrium through the conflicts of historical time. To reiterate the point made in previous paragraphs, the archetypal dominants, like slow planetary cycles or longer astrological aeons once read to divine the logoi (or codes of an age), have shifted in our very own time thru their eternal revolutions of Chaos and Order. It was the logos of Jung’s era to liberate the Feminine which he only caught a happy glimpse of in the Assumption Event of 1950; then in the immediate years after his death (1961) the Goddess actually arrived announcing the Age of Aquarius and lighting up the whole Western Hemisphere with her psychedelic flowers and electric lights to the bedazzlement of all.
Today, 2018, the Goddess, her gifts now a permanent contribution to collective consciousness, is exhausted, whatever energy leftover spent and burned out in the music festival cults from Woodstock to disco to the rave-scene of the 1990s and the Burning Man of the 2000s. And where she reigns unopposed — sequestered away in academe by the failure of her own cults to engage her seriously in the dialectic with the Father — she has degenerated into the classic-type of the Devouring Mother. Peterson, like Jung before him, can see where culture is and where it needs to be for balanced health; and intuitively so can individuals w/in that culture— hence the twin forces of attraction and repulsion to the current demands of the logos of his message. Most people don’t like a dad-figure telling them what to do (ie: the title of Peterson’s book is“12 rules for life”) — especially when they know he’s right. (Keep in mind as in all cases of projection it is NOT Peterson people are reacting to with this intensity; he is just the latest clear window into where the collective unconscious meets history; where the archetypal father is shining a harsh but revelatory light thru.)
*(1)Note: Personal complexes are the doors into the psyche for the archetypal-influences of the collective unconscious. To illustrate this by way of a brief example: Jungian analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz recognized that in Germany on the eve of WWII it was young men’s normal personal-shadow complexes, the individual clinging to fear, greed, and power, that opened the door to the archetypal-Shadow: Evil; according to Von Franz, when Germany turned to Nazism “the devil entered thru the back door” of what are “human, all too human” character flaws and weaknesses — or individual personal complexes.
*(2)Note: I can only speak for middle-class American youth culture personally; but w/ access to a global internet I believe the claims made in this context are also relevant elsewhere.
III: JORDAN PETERSON AS A “RESOURCE”
These kinds of unconscious needs are not our needs (not the ego’s): they are archetypal — what used to be called gods, and very likely they are species-wide morphogenic programs in cybernetic-loops with the planetary matrix of the collective unconscious. They are concerned, and titanically so, with adapting human consciousness for survival and they will use individuals and masses inexorably to attain that goal — like a beehive wrapped around the sole preservation of the queen. And there is nothing we can do to stop one from arising and another sinking away in this process of calibrating consciousness to ever changing niches in the stream of time. If we deny archetypal needs or don’t relate to them wisely they create massive upheaval and destruction (individually and collectively).
The war between these archetypal-complexes is underway as the Dark Father calls out to be redeemed underground, and the Devouring Kali Mother in one hand squeezes her children ever more tightly and invokes Chaos w/ the other; so if we are not to regress back into pre-modern Chaos (like swathes of the Middle East where medieval barbarism is rule) or end up the other way w/ a compensatory new tyranny (which Donald Trump represents to so many) then we need to start understanding these archetypal-complexes. It is the heroic work for all of us today to lean into the “tension of the opposites” archetypes confront us w/; this should constellate wisdom (Marriage of “Wise King/Wise Queen”) between conscious and unconscious collectives as a way to preserve and defend the cultural gains made by the 1960s Dionysian, civil, and feminist revolution.
[Note: the collective unconscious has to a vast degree been technologically digitalized as the World-Wide-Web.]
This is what Peterson is doing today, and because it is such a huge task for us, most people who are exposed to his message respond w/ outrage — that outrage is really their inner knowing of the truth, since, like our circadian rhythms, we are all tuned into the meta-myth cycle of the Solar Hero (the unconscious archetype of Individuation w/in us).
The outrage unleashed by the “Peterson complex” is really a charged flight of avoidance of what Jung after the alchemists called the Great Work of the Coniunctio: which brings up into the hermetic vessel of the Soul the tension of the Masculine and Feminine opposites, painfully holding them until a new union of harmonious Order is attained; this is symbolized by the marriage of King Sol (gold) and Queen Luna (silver) as that legendary amalgamation called the Philosopher’s Stone (the “stone of Wisdom.”)
The task of rescuing the Father as the Wise King while challenging the regressive and devouring manifestations of the Mother as the Kali Dragon is a huge task — maybe the biggest one we will ever face. But Peterson has shown us all that it can and it must be done. And for those of us called to what Joseph Campbell called the “Hero’s Journey” or what Jung termed “Individuation” the “Peterson complex” is not a complex at all but what the great psychiatric Hypnotherapist Milton H. Erickson called a “resource.” Considering Peterson’s sudden popularity, there are, fortunately, many answering the “call to adventure.”
But for many others, rescuing the Father and saying “No” to the codling over-protective Mother with her so-called “safe-spaces” and “trigger warnings,” and wrath at the defiant… Who wants to do that? After all since the 1960s “responsibility” and “fathers” haven’t been cool, any way. So we have a cultural complex in the way of answering Campbell’s “call;” this complex says, as in the new socialist movement, *we must coerce increasing dependence on the state for more of our needs* — the State is a projection-carrier of the Great Mother.
The Great Mother in her devouring aspect doesn’t want the Child to grow up: it thrives on the co-dependency — and that’s what’s going on w/ young people today who don’t have a positive Father-image as a guide that urges individuation from dependency on the Mother. Fortunately, the collective unconscious provides us all with these archetypal models: we all have a Dark Father waiting within for the Solar Hero — our own conscious awareness — to redeem him as a resource of wisdom for us and our time. For many, that Father-image — which naturally conflates w/ “authority” — is projected onto Jordan Peterson where it becomes the latest symptom of a complex with its full spectrum of effects from fight to flight, dissociation to blind rage; and for others that projection onto Peterson is a resource — like a guiding call from the wilds of cyberspace sounding the signal from the noise and disclosing a gleaming Way through the chaos of our time.
Everything we see on the surface of life — individual, relational, sociopolitical and cultural issues — have very deep layers all the way down into primordial cycles of images that are part of our species-specific heritage and its circadian attunement to the rounds of the sun. There is nothing we can do about them but seek to understand them, and alchemically bear their tensions, and this should ease the conflicts stirred by their constant adaptational pressure on human beings, on all levels from individual to sociocultural to planetary.
The 1960s were indeed a long time ago, but for some as a new popular song puts it “I’m a rebel just for kicks now/I’ve been feeling it since 1966 now/It might be over but I feel it still…” (Portugal). Concerning the cultural themes of the 1960s everyone knows there is very little to rebel against now in that Spirit ( — and as we’ve all heard: “we haven’t had that Spirit here since 1969” [The Eagles]). The only cultural rebellion that is not “just for kicks now” in 2018 is Jordan Peterson’s ; after all, yesterday’s counter-culture rebels have dominated the cultural discourse ever since, dispensing w/ their own liberalism to guard its boundaries w/ a jealous grip that betrays an addiction to Power only rivaled by the Old Guard.
March 20, 2018
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