The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Genesis creation story, Bhagavad Gita. These are just a few examples of the myths and stories that explain human existence. Individuals like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have argued that while these myths sprang from different cultures, they all share similar archetypes and meta-narratives. My guest today has picked up where Jung and Campbell left off and is making an impassioned case that the way to save ourselves from increasing political polarization is to become acquainted with these ancient human myths once again.
His name is Jordan B. Peterson and he’s a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto. But unlike many clinical psychologists, Dr. Peterson has spent his career studying human myths and how they can provide meaning in a world of tragedy and frustration. Today on the show, Jordan provides an introduction to the world of myths and archetypes. We begin our discussion talking about some of the big archetypes we see over and over again in stories across cultures and time, and why they show up everywhere.
We then discuss feminine and masculine archetypes in detail, how the hero archetype is the link between the two, and examples of the hero archetype from around the world. Jordan argues that disregarding or ignoring these ancient myths led to the rise of extreme political ideologies in the early 20th century, as well as their resurgence today. We end our conversation discussing how these myths can help young men journey into noble manhood, and the books Jordan recommends young men read to learn more about them.
While the subject may seem heady, this is an accessible and fun conversation, filled with insights about how to live a flourishing, meaningful life. You’ll definitely be thinking about its ideas after the show is over.
- How Jordan’s interest in myths percolated
- A quick primer on Carl Jung’s philosophy
- How stories and myths give meaning and order to life
- The Darwinian nature of myths that have been passed down thousands of years
- How myths — like creation stories, worldwide floods, and apocalyptic events — relate to everyday life
- The big archetypes found throughout world history and cultures
- How meta-narratives instruct us and set the pattern for action and behavior
- Why accepting and even welcoming struggle is important for a flourishing life
- Why ideologies are dangerous
- Nietzsche and the death of God
- Making the case for mythology in a post-secular world
- Why Jordan’s work attracts far more men than women
- Why men should forego the pursuit of power and instead seek competence
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Carl Jung
- Joseph Campbell
- The Four Archetypes of Mature Masculinity
- The Four Archetypes of American Manliness
- From Mythology to Masculinity: The Hero’s Journey
- AoM series on Norse mythology
- Sacred Time and Space in a Profane World
- The is-ought problem
- A Call for a New Strenuous Age
- AoM’s Primer on Nietzsche
- The Bhagavad-Gita
- Erich Fromm
- My podcast with Meg Jay on not wasting one’s 20s
- My podcast with David Brooks on character
- Jordan Peterson’s recommended reading
- Saint George and the Dragon (this is what I read to my son)
If you’re wanting to dig deeper into Dr. Peterson’s work, I highly recommend checking out his podcast and his YouTube channel, where he posts his lectures. After you’ve listened to a few of them, pick up a copy of Maps of Meaning. The book is really good, but I found having the background info from listening to the lectures made reading it much easier.
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Last updated: September 5, 2017