Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jordan Peterson and the Culture Hero

Jordan Peterson’s basic premise as a psychologist seems to be that life is a struggle between order and chaos: the subtitle of his recent book is “An Antidote to Chaos.” “Peterson’s big, unifying idea is that chaos and order, along with the processes that mediate the two, are the ‘primal constituents’ of ‘the world of experience’” (Dan Blazer, American Journal of Psychiatry).

This does not ring true to me.

Properly speaking, there is no such thing as chaos. Where man is not, God is. Any randomness is only apparent.

Accordingly, the struggle against chaos cannot be the core concern in life. Rather, in struggling against “chaos,” we may only be trying to impose our own will in preference to that of God.

And here again I find in Peterson disturbing echoes of Fascism. This would be Hitler’s “triumph of the will.”

Nor is there, in principle, any moral reason to prefer “order” over “chaos.” Why? Because it is tidier?

Peterson undoubtedly gets this, or finds this, idea of order versus chaos in a common creation myth, found in many parts of the Middle East, of a struggle between a sky god and a primordial monster. This has commonly been interpreted as a struggle between form (the sky god) and matter (the monster), or spirit and matter, or order and chaos. Certainly a plausible interpretation; but there is no room for such a motif in monotheism. God creates the universe not by imposing some form on preexisting matter—for then, where did matter come from?--but “ex nihilo,” out of nothing, form and matter together. “Chaos,” in the Judeo-Christian context, is simply non- being, the void.

According to a piece in the Financial Times, Peterson goes on to identify “chaos” with “the eternal feminine.” A smaller point, but this too is surely wrong. It is nonsensical. To impose one sex or the other on chaos is a contradiction in terms: it then has some order, a distinguishing feature, and so is not chaos.

The idea that there is a cosmic battle between spirit and matter (i.e., order and chaos) is an ancient Christian heresy. It is, to be more specific, Gnosticism. The Gnostics held that the material world was depraved, and the goal was for spirit to overcome it. Monotheists, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, hold that, because God created matter as well as form, matter too must be good, and is not to be vanquished or destroyed. Hence the resurrection of the body and the perfected new earth at the end of time.

For a Christian, the cosmic dragon battle, that between St. Michael and Lucifer, is not between order and chaos, but between good and evil.

A cosmic battle between order and chaos is a waste of a perfectly good universe.

And it seems to me the only reason anyone would embrace the concept would be as an excuse to do evil.

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