Jordan Peterson paints a picture of human psychology as a balance between good and evil. He talks about myth the way Joseph Campbell does. But the devil is in the details; he misses the third force in human narrative. The neutral.
Dr. Peterson believes that all humans have good and evil within them, and by understanding this, they can further understand themselves. But good and evil are completely relative. There is no group of “evil” people who thought their actions were evil. The Nazis, the Communists, the Ancien Regime all believed they were doing “the right thing.” They sure as shit knew the difference between good and evil. They turned their enemies into demons, and slayed them. And it was abominable.
The Balance Between Light and Dark
陰陽和-the balance between the light and the dark. It’s a phrase from an ancient Chinese children’s book called The Jade Forest: Youth Education. It served as a way to teach children about the world. Yin is the evil that Petersen talks about. Yang is the good. He says that good and evil are within all things, all humans. He’s right in that respect. But he’s missing the third, and most important part: balance.
For all I know he might understand that third aspect, the balance, the neutral. But in the 25+ hours I’ve listened to him speak on the subject, it seems like he doesn’t.
Which brings me to the point: Jordan Peterson is Saruman. The Lord of the Rings is a tale of imbalance between the forces of good and evil. Sauron is evil, the elves are good. Everyone else is somewhere in between. I’ve always found the wizards to be the most interesting characters in that story. Specifically, the difference between Gandalf and Saruman. Both are powerful wizards. Both have the ability to influence the world, far beyond the comprehension of anyone with whom they interact. Saruman, the leader of the wizards, knew much, but his hubris caused him to violate his own balance and seek the path of darkness. Gandalf, on the other hand, practiced 無為.
Saruman sought power, which was his downfall, but why did he seek power? LOTR lore provides no answer that I have found. My guess is that he saw the world in terms of good and evil, saw the evil in himself, and began questioning the validity of his own convictions. He met force with force. Gandalf, on the other hand, was like water.
He affected Middle Earth through subtle, gentle, and sometimes violent ways. He was neutral. And he was effective.
Meeting force with force only leads to destruction. Be like water: be gentle, be decisive, be constant, and be flowing. Do not be Saruman.