Full disclosure: I suffered from anxiety most of my life, the like 200 pounds on your chest all the time kind. It was not until I read Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning that I began to get free from it. Why this happened, I do not know. But Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist. I assume his work on myths informing the human need for meaning was heavily influenced by his clinical practice. I owe Dr. Peterson many thanks for getting me to where I began transcending anxiety. This review is therefore biased.
Beyond Order is the follow-up to Peterson’s 2018 12 Rules for Life. Beyond Order has twelve more rules for one to live by in order to live a life of meaning in this chaotic world. There are rumours that the book caused an internal rebellion at the publisher, with many anonymous persons demanding the book remain unpublished. I like it that much more now. The rules are:
- “Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement.”
- “Imagine who you could be and then aim single-mindedly at that.”
- “Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.”
- “Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.”
- “Do not do what you hate.”
- “Abandon ideology.”
- “Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.”
- “Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible.”
- “If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely.”
- “Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship.”
- “Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant.”
- “Be grateful in spite of your suffering.”
The overarching theme of the book is to show the importance of facing the difficult truths and situations in life, especially when we would prefer not to. Like Maps of Meaning, Peterson uses many different myths to demonstrate why it is important to face these situations and handle them to the best of your abilities. Indeed, what these myths are trying to tell us is that facing uncertain, difficult, often insurmountable situations is the most important thing we can do. Advancing in confidence and faith towards the terrifying unknown may just be our purpose for living, and doing anything less is a waste. Facing these dangers requires sacrifice, sometimes of our ideas or understanding, sometimes physical, and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice. You should not fear the loss, as the sacrifice allows the world, with us as a part of it, to be redeemed and renewed. I think that best summarizes the book.
I saw many MSM reviews that did not critique any of Peterson’s rules, but rather accused it of being more of the same found in 12 Rules for Life, or they trotted out the same old tired progressive tropes they have been slinging at Peterson since 2016. There are many poor criticisms of Peterson in the MSM, and a lot of it looked like self-indulgent virtue signalling shtick.
There are many good criticisms of Peterson’s philosophy in the dissident sphere. He makes many references to Christianity, without the fundamental elements of belief and faith. A ‘Christianity-lite’, as it has been called. To me it is the faith that is paramount, and the mythical elements are gravy. But, given the anti-Christian element in our societies, perhaps treating the Bible as a collection of myths is good ‘gateway study’ for learning about Christian faith.
Further, his focus on the individual has come under fire, and he’s been accused of leaving no room for collective elements in his philosophy. In Beyond Order, he does make references to improving yourself as service to the community, so he does address this issue a few times. But remember, his target audience is, like fish in water, so immersed in individualism I suspect many of them do not comprehend what a ‘collective’ might actually be.
The book itself seems to take much longer than is necessary to convey the needed lessons. Also, the audiobook version is narrated by Peterson himself, and he seems to have one speaking-volume: fill a college-size theatre, unassisted. This made listening to the book tiring at times. It also feels at times like it is a collection of his YouTube lectures, which do not adapt to the written page.
Finally, remember that Dr. Peterson’s focus has been on people who have suffered trauma and the effects have severely impacted their social functioning. Dr. Peterson has referred extensively to works by Solzhenitsyn and Frankl (Gulag and concentration camp survivors respectively) in the past. This work is therefore most relevant for those who have suffered serious trauma, or are or were in impossible situations full of despair, and need help handling it. (Given the anti-depressant and narcotic use on our continent, maybe a lot more people than we’d like.) People with strong purpose and faith, and lots of community support, may find a few points of help here, but they do not need this book.
All told then, you will likely find something useful if you read this book. I recommend it if you find yourself wandering this world without a sense of purpose. If you have suffered serious trauma, or have high anxiety, I would say it is essential you read this book. My critiques are not against Peterson or the message in it, but rather, its presentation probably turns some people off. Beyond Order does not have all the answers. It will require difficult things of you if you take it seriously. And that’s probably what a lot of us need.