Rule 7: Do What is Meaningful, Not What is Expedient.
This was by far the most difficult chapter for Peterson to work on. ‘Rule 7 just about killed me. It was the hardest chapter by far and it went down the deepest by far.’ Peterson figured out and explained in the chapter something that took him decades to figure out. The impenetrably deep Christian idea that the Messiah is a person who takes the world’s sins on himself, that ‘Christ died for your sins’ has a psychological element that has lasted for thousands of years and won’t go away, so it is an idea that signifies something. It has a psychological reality independent of its metaphysical reality. Peterson realised – what Carl Jung knew – that it was associated with his idea of the shadow.
Peterson says he had a client once who’s parents taught her that adults were literally angels. By the time she was 28 she was showing varied unusual symptoms, for example she had quasi-epileptic seizures at night. She had a university degree and Peterson asked her if she had ever wondered about what her parents had taught her? If she had read any history? She said she had read some things about the terrible things people did to each other but she would compartmentalise them. Peterson gave her a book called ‘Ordinary Men’ a dark book about a police battalion that was moved into Poland during WW2 after the Nazis had marched through. They were normal middle aged men who weren’t victims of Nazi totalitarian propaganda when they were kids, they had a normal middle-class background.
They went to Police Poland and were going to have to do some terrible things. The commander told them forthrightly that if being involved in wartime policing was too much for them, if they felt that it ethically or psychologically violated them, they could just go back to policing in Germany. Very few of them did, partly because they didn’t want to abandon their comrades, and leave the dirty work to them. They were normal policemen and they ended up as the sorts of people who could take naked pregnant women out into a field and shoot them in the back of the head. ‘It is very interesting to read about their training because they were absolutely sickened by what they learned to do, vomiting, shaking, traumatised; but they didn’t stop.’ Peterson told the woman whose parents taught her that all adults were angels to read ‘Ordinary Men’ but not to compartmentalise it. He wanted her to read it as if she were one of those policemen. ‘Which is how you should read history. You read about Nazi Germany and you think well, I’m Oskar Schindler! I’d save the Jews. – No you wouldn’t! Because people didn’t.’ Don’t inflate yourself with fictional heroism without actually knowing the facts. ‘And so I told her to read it and to understand that the policemen were her. And the idea that the Savour is the person who takes the world’s sins upon himself is exactly that. It’s exactly the same idea. The way that there stops being Nazis, is for you to know that the Nazis were you, and for you to decide not to do that. You have to know.’ This is the thing that people won’t do. ‘You have to understand that you could not only do what the Nazi camp guards did in Auschwitz but that you could actually enjoy it. And then you have to decide that you’re not going to do that anymore. And that’s not an easy thing to figure out.’
There are many other things in the chapter that stop you in your tracks and slow down time as you read. It is punishing, but essential reading and so far I would say it is the one that gets closest to the heart of the matter. So in line with yogic philosophy and the knowledge that we are each other, that there is in fact no division between us, but derived from the different disciplines of behaviouralism, biology and neuroscience rather than from the Adiyogi.
‘Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.’
Tomorrow Chapter 8.