The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s recent roundtable discussion on Exodus. You can watch the special on DailyWire+.
Episode time: 01:08
Jordan Peterson: This might constitute a useful prayer. Say you are in despair to the point you are depressed; you are anxious. You are ill enough to see a psychotherapist. One thing that you might do is begin with an offering — and people do this automatically. They say, “Well, what is it that I might be doing wrong?” And [Carl] Rogers, for example, pointed out that before you could enter into the contract of psychotherapeutic transformation, you had to admit that there was a problem and admit that change was necessary. So basically, what you are doing is approaching the problem of being that cannot progress in a spirit of humility. That is an offering. “What am I doing wrong?” is something like, “If I could just find out what wrong was, I might be willing to give it up and change.” Well, that is a sacrifice. That is an offering of the willingness to sacrifice. And then if people search their soul in that manner, what will happen very frequently — sometimes in communication with others, but sometimes just as a subjective, phenomenological experience — they will get a revelation. That is echoed in the gospel phrase that if you knock, the door will open. And if you seek, you will find. And if you ask, it will be given to you. It sounds magical, but it is not magical.
It is no more than what you always do when you set yourself forward to solve a problem. First, you admit that there is a problem. Second, you admit that you have something to learn. The third thing you do is to ask for revelation of the thing that you need to learn. And maybe you open yourself up to receipt of that in dialogue with someone else, but it is also something that can make itself manifest within. And you might say, “Well, you thought that up.” That is not really how it works. You ask the question and if you are extraordinarily fortunate — maybe that means you were on your knees with sufficient intensity — a redemptive answer will make itself manifest, and that is the offering up, the sacrificial offering up, and the descent of something like the unifying spirit, practically speaking.
Ben Shapiro: So, we read the Bible once through — the five books of Moses, — once through every year. I’ve been doing it, you know, since I was [about] 12 — so we have been doing it for quite a while. And these are always the boring sections of the Bible, where you get the very, very detailed descriptions of the tabernacle and, as we’ll see, we actually end up doing it twice. And I will admit that I did not understand, I think, what was going on with the tabernacle until I read “Maps of Meaning.” The reason was — and forgive me, Jordan, if I screw up your book — but when I was reading “Maps of Meaning,” the basic suggestion that struck me is when you were talking about the way that children apprehend the world — that they apprehend objects as having values attached to the objects.
When you teach a kid about a glass, you don’t teach them: “Here’s a glass. Here are the properties of glass. If you drop the glass, it’s going to shatter.” You say, “Don’t touch the glass. Don’t touch the glass because it’ll break.” That’s how you learn about what a glass is, because the rules come embodied in the object. And in the Garden of Eden, that’s also the way that the world is described. “Don’t touch the tree. It’s the tree of knowledge. Don’t touch the tree.” It comes with a set of rules. And that also happens to merge fairly well with the idea of the knowledge of good and evil in an Aristotelian sense, meaning that what is good is that it serves its purpose. A good thing is a thing that serves its purpose.
In the Garden of Eden — and this is where natural law springs from — the idea is that the world is created with a sense of purpose and everything in the world comes with that teleology, with that sense of purpose. Where man fails and is ejected from the Garden of Eden is where he begins to substitute his own judgment of moral good or ethical good — his own judgment of what is good and evil — for the teleological view that God has placed in the world for Him to understand. So as soon as he substitutes his own logic and judgment for that, he has to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden, and the gap emerges between the meaning of the world around us and the meaning that we impose on the world around us.
When it comes to the tabernacle and this section of the Bible, this is the reimposition of the Garden of Eden, and it’s very clear that that’s what’s happening in the language. You can see the words that are used are used only a couple of times in all of the Bible. You’re speaking of the skins — the skins, which are given to Adam, which make their appearance here again. You see the angels with the swinging swords reappearing atop the ark. So the idea here is that what God is saying is that with the commandments and with The Law, I’m reinstantiating the world with rules and meaning that exist in the world, and they’ve been gone for a long time. And now The Law is the way that you are going to be able to re-access a world where the meaning is embedded in the world and not separate from the world. Before, what was behind the angels was the Garden of Eden. Now, what the angels are guarding are the Ten Commandments. It’s the tablets or what’s being guarded. The Law’s being guarded because that’s the pathway back into the Garden of Eden where the world is invested with a new sense of meaning, and that’s what the tabernacle is about.
WATCH: Exodus: Episode 12