Jordan Peterson and The Matrix - Myth Reloaded


(SeanO) #1

I stumbled upon this article while trying to look up something else and immediately recognized its pertinence to Jordan Peterson. I do not necessarily agree with all that the article says about the movie ‘The Matrix’, but the article makes some very helpful points about how mythologists have sought to use the ‘customary metaphor’, as Nietzsche calls it, and redefine its symbols - to lie - to imbue it with new meaning.

That is exactly what Jordan Peterson does - he uses Bible verses and Christian symbols and words and imbues them with new meaning - he uses the customary metaphor to bolster a naturalistic worldview that views religion as the result of evolutionary psychology.

What are your thoughts? I found this article very helpful in understanding how Peterson approaches religion. He has ‘reloaded’ the existing Christian symbols and Scripture with new meaning - he has, in a sense, lied. I am not accusing him of doing so intentionally - I am using ‘lie’ here in the sense of re-purposing existing belief structures to propagate one’s own view.

"“To be truthful means using the customary metaphor — in moral terms: the obligation to lie according to a fixed convention, to lie herdlike in a style obligatory for all.” Friedrich Nietzsche

"Mythologist Joseph Campbell sought to bring to light what he called the “monomyth,” the universal heroic journey common to all religions, which resides in the collective unconscious of humanity. The similarity of so many ideas and images in different religions is because they are ultimately diverse symbolic projections of the same physical and mental processes that are within all of us. In his interview with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth , Campbell stated, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the worlds, are within us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other.”2

Campbell was a demythologizer. He deconstructed religious traditions and transcendent beliefs into their presumed origins in natural causes. Postmodern religion, like Campbell’s eclecticism, is a synthesis of diverse sources without regard for rational or organic consistency. It focuses on the parallels between religions while ignoring the disparities; it forces square similarities into round differences. I suggest this is also what the Wachowski brothers, Larry and Andy, have done with their cinematic Matrix trilogy. They have tapped into the ideas and images of diverse religious and philosophical views and used them as metaphors for a postmodern Nietzschean worldview of relativism, nihilism, and self-actualization."

“The Nietzsche quote at the top of this article articulates that the goal of postmodernists like the Wachowskis is to use the dominant mythology and language symbols of a herdlike culture in a subversive way; to redefine those symbols; to “lie” to the ignorant masses by using their religious metaphors and investing them with new meaning.”

(Tina Vartis) #2

Thanks for providing the link to such an excellent article. I thoroughly enjoyed the Matrix movies because the Wachowski brothers managed to weave so many different faiths and mythologies into one (generally) coherent story and as such I think it is still a useful movie to engage with others and explore their world views. I agree that the article is helpful in understanding Peterson’s approach to religion and it is also helpful in understanding anyone or any group of people claiming to be Christians who not only “reload” existing Christian symbols and God’s Word with their own meaning but also add their personal “enlightened” views and elevating those beliefs/views above God. And this is where the Church can fall down by showing a lack of discernment about what God has actually said and believing what others say about God instead.

(Anthony Costello ) #3


So, my whole take on Peterson is that he is reviving a sort of early to mid-20th century psychological approach to Bible interpretation. He draws heavily of of the work of C.J. Jung and incorporates aspects of continental philosophy into his interpretation (as you noted above, he references Nietzsche a lot). This approach, fortunately I think, was abandoned decades ago because it was shown to be basically metaphysical nonsense. Of course he tries to wed this older view with biological evolution, but I think that really makes it even more incoherent. As if this idea of universal archetypes emerges out of unguided, micro-biological processes. Thus, you get these weird references to Lobster hierarchies, and so on.

No analytical philosopher of religion even deals with this kind of stuff anymore, because philosophy simply moved in a drastically different direction; for secularists philosophy became a “naturalized” project in the sense that only scientific knowledge became true knowledge, and philosophy was there to clarify the language of physics and biology. For theistic philosopher, alternatively, the tools of analytic philosophy got applied to religious questions. This is why we now have an abundance of Christian philosophy that is also analytic philosophy (think Plantinga, Alston, Bill Craig, J.P. Moreland, Richard Swinburne, etc.) So, no Christian theologian or philosopher that I am aware of really deals academically with the kind of interpretations and paradigms that Peterson seems to want to resurrect. These are just dead issues for analytic philosophers and theologians. At least, as far as I know.

If you watch you the three-way dialogue that took place in Toronto, where both Bill Craig and Peterson where participating, you’ll see the difference between the disciplines. Peterson is talking about dreams and myths, while Craig is presenting deductive arguments for theistic beliefs. Very different worlds, indeed.

in Christ,

(SeanO) #4

@anthony.costello That is a valid point. Peterson’s approach is based to soem degree upon the idea of the collective conscious, which is difficult to defend if one holds to strict naturalism. But I think if you read about Peterson’s life you will realize that he struggled with nightmares and this idea of universal archetypes and myths somehow helped him make sense of his bad dreams and violent impulses.

And since his ideas are so appealing to other people, we must ask what it is that makes the quasi-supernatural explanation so appealing?

(Patrick Prabhakar) #5

@SeanO This topic got my attention because it had the word ‘The Matrix’ :grinning: and the link you had shared was a great find! This article had me know much more about the symbolisms in the movie. For me, as a teen, this movie was groundbreaking and captivated me thoroughly at that time perhaps mostly because of its action sequences and the thought provoking dialogues. It still remains one of my favorite movies as I always watch it with a ‘christian lens’ blurring out the other digressing invaders.

I still wonder as to how such a complicated story as the matrix hanged on a thin thread of having to take a ‘pill’ to know what the truth actually was: the scene where ‘Neo’ meets ‘Morpheus’ for the first time in the movie. I had questions as to why be it a ‘blue vs red’ pill, not any other color, maybe they had their own metaphors. Nevertheless, I always watch this scene with my ‘christian lens’ and this is what I see.

I envision the blue pill as the realms in the sky (divinity under the sun) and the red pill as the Blood of Christ (divinity of the Son) being the origin of Truth, as the Lord was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).

Without the Blood, there’s no Truth. (I feel with this particular scene that though the Wachowskis could have intended a sinister meaning, it’s as though they couldn’t have had any other foundation to build the story on, for God catches the wise in their own craftiness - 1 Corinthians 3:19).

The ‘customary metaphor’ employed by the naysayers reminds me of Apostle Paul’s exhortation of how the adversary masquerades himself as a messenger of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Also, I infer that the quasi-supernatural explanation seems so appealing to many is because we all yearn for a higher meaning to our existence that often pampers our shortcomings without actual accountability. Maybe we desire a cop-out for justifying our fallen nature and the wickedness it brings about in us rather than acknowledging that it is sin in the flesh at work in us (and our need for a Savior).

On a funny note, I would have asked Campbell on his statement that “dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other”, whether then if we passed electric charges of negative polarity through our body, would those energies land us in a dream? We know at all times we are transposed with energies of different electromagnetic wavelengths around us and we for sure know we are not in a dream. Sometimes I feel, how even science-fictions gets the best of us, when the truth is they are technical myths. With regards to these ‘myths’ and ‘lies’ like you have rightly pointed out, we need to remind ourselves of another exhortation of Apostle Paul: ‘But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers’ tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit]’ - 1 Timothy 4:7 AMPC.