Rule 7: Work as Hard as You Possibly Can on at least One Thing and See What Happens
When coal is subjected to intense heat and pressure, far below the Earth’s surface, its atoms rearrange themselves into the perfect repeating crystalline alignment characterizing a diamond. The carbon that makes up coal also becomes maximally durable in its diamond form. Finally, it becomes capable of reflecting light. The combination of durability and glitter gives a diamond the qualities that justify its use as a symbol of value. That which is valuable is pure, properly aligned, and glitters with light – and this is true for the person just as it is for the gem. Light, of course, signifies the shining brilliance of heightened and focused consciousness. Human beings are conscious during the day, when it is light. Much of that consciousness is visual and therefore dependent on light. To be illumined or enlightened is to be exceptionally awake and aware – to attain a state of being commonly associated with divinity.
In this passage, Peterson is expressing four of the 10 deep metaphors with which homo sapiens schematize unconsciously almost all aspects of our existence: purity, transformation, verticality (higher = better) and white/ light (= good). The others are balance, connection, container, control, journey, and resource.
According to these unconscious metaphors, what is pure and white/ light is more good and ‘higher’ than what is impure and dark/ black. The analogy that Peterson is trying to convey here is that being put under extreme pressure by those ‘higher’ than yourself in the hierarchy, or putting yourself under extreme pressure, is a good thing. According to this schema, this extreme pressure results in ‘heightened’ consciousness which brings you closer to ‘divinity’, as you ‘rise’ from your dark and merely Earthly existence to the brilliant light above.
Nietzsche points out that in reality it is not the light of consciousness, but rather the active unconscious which is calling the shots (what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1, 95% of the mind), and Peterson expresses a ridiculous over-estimation of both the power and value of reactive consciousness (System 2, only 5% of the mind):
Consciousness is the last and latest development of the organic and hence also what is most unfinished and weak. Consciousness gives rise to countless errors that lead an animal or person to perish sooner than necessary, ‘exceeding destiny,’ as Homer puts it. If the conserving association of the instincts were not so very much more powerful, and if it did not serve on the whole as a regulator, humanity would have to perish of its misjudgments and its fantasies with open eyes, of its lack of thoroughness and its credulity – in short, of its consciousness. – Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Although Christ commits many acts that might be considered revolutionary, He is nonetheless explicitly portrayed in the Gospels as the master of tradition, and says of Himself, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill’ (Matthew 5:17, KJV). Christ therefore presents Himself as both the product of tradition, and the very thing that creates and transforms it…
It was the bringing together of a warring multiplicity under the unifying doctrines of Christianity that civilized Europe. It could, perhaps, have been Buddhism, Confucianism or Hinduism, insofar as the East is also both broadly civilized and unified. But it could not have been the absence of any doctrine whatsoever. Without a game, there is no peace, only chaos. In any case the rules of Christianity and the rules of Buddhism are by no means arbitrary, by no means nonsensical superstition, any more than the rules of a playable game are merely arbitrary or nonsensically superstitious.
Here Peterson makes a couple of contentious claims: 1) Christianity civilized Europe, and the absence of a single hegemonic doctrine would result in chaos; 2) ‘The East’ is civilized and unified because of Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism.
Let’s parse these claims.
Peterson’s assertions that Christianity civilized Europe, and that the absence of a single hegemonic doctrine would result in chaos, would come as a surprise to the pagan Greeks and Romans, who with their multiplicity of deities were much more civilized before Christians forcibly converted them to the ‘one true faith’:
In fourth century France, St. Martin ‘set fire to a most ancient and famous shrine’ before moving on to a different village and a different temple. Here he ‘completely demolished the temple belonging to the false religion and reduced all the altars and statues to dust.’ Martin was no anomaly. Flushed by his success destroying the temple of Serapis, Bishop Theophilus went on to demolish numerous shrines in Egypt. Some of the most famous saints in Western Christianity kicked off their careers – so the stories like to boast – demolishing shrines. Benedict of Nursia, the revered founder of Western monasticism, was also celebrated as a destroyer of antiquities. His first act upon arriving in Monte Cassino, just outside Rome, was to smash an ancient statue of Apollo and destroy the shrine’s altar. He didn’t stop there, but toured the area ‘pulling down the idols and destroying the groves on the mountain, and gave himself no rest until he had uprooted the last remnant of heathenism in those parts’…
In A D 401, Augustine told Christians in Carthage to smash pagan objects because, he said, that was what God wanted and commanded. It has been said that sixty died in riots inflamed by this burst of oratorical fire. A little earlier a congregation of Augustine’s, eager to sack the temples of Carthage, had started reciting Psalm 83. ‘Let them be humiliated and be downcast forever,’ they chanted with grim significance. ‘Let them perish in disgrace.’
Sometimes, as was the case with the bust of Aphrodite in Athens, the statues appear to have been ‘baptized,’ with deep crosses gouged on their foreheads. If this was a ‘baptism’ then it may have helped not only to neutralize the devil within, but also to vanquish any more personal demons that could arise when looking at such beautiful naked figures. Far less easy to feel desire for a statue who had a cross gouged in her head, her eyes blinded and her nose sliced from her face. Today a once-handsome Apollo missing a nose stands in a museum; a statue of Venus that stood in a bathhouse has had her nipples and mons pubis chiseled away; a statue of Dionysus has had his nose mutilated and his genitalia removed’…
In the fourth century AD, Alexandria’s greatest philosopher and mathematician was a woman, Hypatia. She was also a pagan, in a city increasingly divided between pagans and Christians. ‘One day in March A D 415, Hypatia set out from her home to go for her daily ride through the city. As soon as she stood on the street, the Christians, under the guidance of a Church magistrate called Peter, surged round and seized her. They then dragged Alexandria’s greatest living mathematician through the streets to a church. Once inside, they ripped the clothes from her body and, using broken pieces of pottery as blades, flayed her skin from her flesh. Some say that, while she still gasped for breath, they gouged out her eyes. Once she was dead, they torn her body into pieces and threw what was left of the ‘luminous child of reason’ onto a pyre and burned her’…
Modern historians glibly refer to the moment of Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity as the ‘End of Persecution.’ This is simply not true. Empires of tens of millions of people do not abandon religions that they have observed for over a millennium almost overnight without at least some disturbance. At the moment when Constantine had supposedly seen that flaming cross, the vast majority of the empire was not Christian. It has been estimated they made up as little as between seven and ten percent of the empire’s total population. That means that only about four to six million people out of a population of roughly sixty million were Christian. That left over fifty million to be converted.
Were these tens of millions of people singing and dancing in the streets and looking at each other with smiling faces and shining eyes as their temples were smashed? – Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age
Far more Europeans have been killed by self-proclaimed Christians than by any other group – in ancient times, AND in the Middle Ages, AND in the 20th century.
Peterson’s claim that ‘The East’ is civilized and unified because of Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism neglects the reality that there are immense differences among these cultures, and indeed deep antipathies, expressed, for example in authoritarian China’s threats against free Taiwan, and deranged North Korea’s missile testing over Japan.