james r. elkins
known & unknown
explored & unexplored
order & chaos
"Chaos and order are two of the most fundamental
elements of lived experience—two of the most basic subdivisions of Being
—Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
38 (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2018) [Peterson refers to order
and chaos as the "primal constituents" of our "world
of experience." Id. at 35]
"Everyone understands order and chaos, world and underworld .
. . . We all have a palpable sense of the chaos lurking under everything
familiar. [We understand the] eternal landscapes of known and unknown,
world and underworld. We've all been in both places, many times; sometimes
by happenstance, sometimes by choice.
Many things begin to fall into place when you begin to consciously
understand the world in this manner. . . . This is the kind of knowing
what that helps you know how." Id. at 43.
"Chaos and order are fundamental elements because every lived
situation (even every conceivable lived situation) is made up of both.
No matter where we are, there are some things we can identify, make
use of, and predict, and some things we neither know nor understand.
. . . [S]ome things are under our control, and some things are not.
. . . Living things are always to be found in places they can master,
surrounded by things and situations that make them vulnerable."
Id at 44.
Order & Chaos
"Order is where the people around you act according
to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative.
It's the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity.
. . .
Chaos, by contrast, is where—or when—something unexpected
happens. Chaos emerges, in trivial form, when you tell a joke at a party
with people you think you know and a silent and embarrassing chill falls
over the gathering. Chaos is what emerges more catastrophically when
you suddenly find yourself without employment, or are betrayed by a
lover. . . . It's the new and unpredictable suddenly emerging in the
midst of the commonplace familiar." Id. at xxvii-xxviii.
"Order—explored territory—is constructed out of chaos
and exists, simultaneously, in opposition to that chaos (to the 'new'
chaos, more accurately: to the unknown now defined in opposition
to explored territory). Everything that is not order—that is, not
predictable, not usable—is, by default (by definition) chaos.
The foreigner—whose behaviors cannot be predicted, who is not kin, either
by blood or by custom, who is not an inhabitant of the 'cosmos, whose
existence and domain has not been sacralized—is equivalent to
chaos (and not merely metaphorically equated with chaos). As such, his
appearance means threat, as his action patterns and beliefs have the
capacity to upset society itself, to dissolve and flood the world .
. . ." Maps of Meaning, at 148.
"Order . . . is explored territory That's the hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old
hierarchy of place, position and authority. That's the structure of
society. It's the structure provided by biology, too—particularly insofar
as you are adapted, as you are, to the structure of society. Order is
tribe, religion, hearth, home and country. It's the warm, secure living-room
where the fireplace glows and the children play. It's the flag of the
nation. It's the value of currency. Order is the floor beneath your
feet, and your plan for the day. It's the greatness of tradition, the
rows of desks in a school classroom, the trains that leave on time,
the calendar, and the clock. Order is the public facade we're called
upon to wear, the politeness of a gathering of civilized strangers,
and the thin ice on which we all skate. Order is the place where the
behavior of the world matches our expectations and our desires; the
place where all things turn out the way we want them to. . . .
Where everything is certain, we're in order. We're there when things
are going according to plan and nothing is new and disturbing. . . .
Familiar environments are congenial. In order, we're able to think about
things in the long term. There, things work, and we're stable, calm
and competent. We seldom leave places we understand—geographical or
conceptual—for that reason, and we certainly do not like it when we
are compelled to or when it happens accidentally." 12 Rules
for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, at 36.
"Order is the place and time where the oft-invisible axioms you
live by organize your experience and your actions so that what should
happen does happen." Id. at 37.
"Chaos is the domain of ignorance itself. It's unexplored territory.
Chaos is what extends, eternally and without limit, beyond the boundaries
of all states, all ideas, and all disciplines. It's the foreigner, the
stranger, the member of another gang, the rustle in the bushes in the
night-time, the monster under the bed, the hidden anger of your mother,
and the sickness of your child. Chaos is the despair and horror you
feel when you have been profoundly betrayed. It's the place you end
up when things fall apart; when your dreams die, your career collapses,
or your marriage ends. It's the underworld of fairytale and myth, where
the dragon and gold it guards eternally co-exist. Chaos is where we
are when we don't know where we are, and what we are doing. It is, in
short, all those things, and situations we neither know nor understand."
"Chaos is the new place and time that emerges when tragedy strikes
suddenly, or malevolence reveals its paralyzing visage . . . . [Something
unexpected or undesired can always make its appearance, when a plan
is being laid out, regardless of how familiar the circumstances."
Id. at 37.
A Negative Side of Order
"[O]rder is sometimes tyranny and stultification
. . . when the demand for certainty and uniformity and purity becomes
too one-sided." Id. at 36.
A Positive Side of Chaos
"In its positive guise, chaos is possibility itself,
the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth."
Id. at 41.
Living with Order & Chaos
"We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos,
We eternally occupy known territory, surrounded by the unknown. We experience
meaningful engagement when we mediate appropriately between them. We
are adapted, in the deepest Darwinian sense . . . to the meta-realities
of order and chaos . . . . Chaos and order make up the eternal, transcendent
environment of the living.
To straddle that fundamental duality is . . . to have
one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos,
possibility, growth and adventure. When life suddenly reveals itself
as intense, gripping and meaningful; when time passes and you're so
engrossed in what you're doing you don't notice—it is there and then
that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.
The subjective meaning that we encounter there is the reaction of our
deepest being, our neurologically and evolutionarily grounded instinctive
self, indicating that we are ensuring the stability but also the expansion
of habitable, productive territory, of space that is personal, social
and nature. It's the right place to be, in every sense. You are there
when—and where—it matters." Id. at 43-44.
"Order is not enough. You can't just be stable, and
secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important
new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can't
long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to
cope while you are learning what you still need to know. Thus, you need
to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other
in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned
yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are
secure, where where you are also alert and engaged. That is where there
is something new to master and some way that you can be improved. That
is where meaning is to be found." Id. at 44.
"How could the nature of man ever reach its full
potential without challenge and danger? How dull and contemptible would
we become if there was no longer reason to pay attention?" Id.
"The known is explored territory, a place of stability
and familiarity . . . . It finds metaphorical embodiment in myths and
narratives describing the community, the kingdom or the state. Such
myths and narratives guide our ability to understand the particular,
bounded motivational significance of the present, experienced in relation
to some identifiable desire future, and allow us to construct and interpret
appropriate patterns of action, from within the confines of that schema.
We all produce determinate models of what is, and what should be, and
how to transform one into the other. . . .
'Narratives of the known'—patriotic rituals, stories of
ancestral heroes, myths and symbols of cultural . . . identity—describe
established territory, weaving for us a web of meaning that, shared
with others, eliminates the necessity of dispute over meaning. All those
who know the rules, and accept them, can play the game—without fighting
over the rules of the game. This makes for peace, stability, and potential
prosperity—a good game.
—Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
14 (New York: Routledge, 1999)
"The known, our current story, protects us from the
unknown, from chaos—which is to say, provides our experience
with determinate and predictable structure. Chaos has a nature all of
its own. . . . I something unknown or unpredictable occurs, while we
are carrying out our motivated plans, we are first surprised.
That surprise—which is a combination of apprehension and curiosity—comprises
our instinctive emotional response to the occurrence of something
we did not desire. The appearance of something unexpected is proofs
that we do not know how to act . . . If we are somewhere we don't know
how to act, we are (probably in trouble—we might learn something new,
but we are still in trouble. When we are in trouble, we get scared.
When we are in the domain of the known, so to speak, there is no reason
for fear. Outside that domain, panic reigns. It is for this reason that
we . . . cling to what we understand. This conservative strategy does
not always work, however, because what we understand about the present
is not necessarily sufficient to deal with the future. This means that
we have to be able to modify what we understand, even though to do so
is to risk our own undoing. The trick, of course, is to modify and yet
to remain secure. This is not so simple. Too much modification brings
chaos. Too little modification brings stagnation (and then, when the
future we are unprepared for appears—chaos)." —Maps of Meaning,
"The unknown is, of course, defined in contradistinction
to the know. Everything not understood or not explored
is unknown." Id. at 26.
The Garden & the Snake
Peterson, drawing on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve
in the Garden of Eden, finds that "Paradise" serves as "habitable
order" and the serpent plays the "role of chaos." The
serpent represents "the possibility of the unknown and revolutionary
suddenly manifesting itself where everything appears calm." 12
Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, at 46.
"It does not appear possible, even for God himself,
to make a bounded space completely protected from the outside—not in
the real world, with its necessary limitations, surrounded by the transcendent.
The outside, chaos, always sneaks into the inside, because nothing can
be completely walled off from the rest of reality. So even the ultimate
in safe spaces inevitably harbours a snake." Id. at 46.
"The snake inhabits each of our souls." Id.
"The worst of all possible snakes is psychological,
spiritual, personal, internal. No walls, however tall, will keep
that out. Even if the fortress were thick enough, in principle, to keep
everything bad whatsoever outside, it would immediately appear again
within." Id. at 47.
"There is simply no way to wall off some isolated
portion of the greater surrounding reality and make everything permanently
predictable and safe within it. Some of what has been no-matter-how-carefully
excluded will always sneak back in. A serpent, metaphorically speaking,
will inevitable appear." Id.
"The hero is narrative representatin of the individual
eternally willing to take cretive action, endlessly capable of originating
new behavioral patterns, eternally specialized to render harmless or
positively beneficial something previously threatening or unknown."
Maps of Meaning, at 186.
"The constant search for security, rather than the
embodiment of freedom, is wish for rule by law's letter, rather than
law's spirit. The resultant forcible suppression of devidance is based
upon desire to support the pretence that the unknown does not exist.
This suppression has as its consequence the elimination of creative
transformation from the individual and social spheres. The individual
who denies his individual identification with the heroic will come to
identify with and serve the tyrannical force of the past—and to suffer
the consequences." Id. at 331.
"The great dragon of chaos limits the pursuit of
individual interest. The struggle with the dragon— against the forces
that devour will and hope—constitutes the heroic battle in the mythological
world. Faithful adherence to the reality of personal experience ensures
contact with the dragon, and it is during such contact that the great
force of the individual spirit makes itself manifest, if it is allowed
to. The hero voluntarily places himself in opposition to the dragon.
The liar pretends that the great danger does not exist, to his peril
and to that of others, or abdicates his relationship with his essential
interest, and abandons all chance at further development.
Interest is meaning. Meaning is manifestation of the divine
individual adaptive path. The lie is abandonment of individual interest—hence
meaning, hence divinity—for safety and security . . . ." Id.
A Map of Meaning
"Human beings are prepared, biologically, to respond
to anomalous information—to novelty. This instinctive response includes
redirection of attention, generation of emotion (fear first, generally
speaking, then curiosity), and behavioral compulsion (cessation of ongoing
activity first, generally speaking, then active approach and exploration.
This pattern of instinctive response drives learning—particularly, but
not exclusively, the learning of appropriate behavior. All such learning
takes place—or took place originally—as a consequence of contact with
novelty, or anomaly.
What is novel is of course dependent on what is known—is
necessarily defined in opposition to what is known. Furthermore, what
is known is always known conditionally, since human knowledge is necessarily
limited. . . .
When our attempts to transform the present work as planned,
we remain firmly positioned in the domain of the known (metaphorically
speaking). When our behaviors produce results that we did not want,
however—that is, when we err—we move into the domain of the unknown,
where more primordial emotional forces rule. . . .
The 'domain of the known' and the 'domain of the unknown'
can reasonably be regarded as permanent constituent elements of human
experience—even of the human environment. . . . "
—Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
19 (New York: Routledge, 1999)
The Known & The Unknown from the Perspective
"[From the psychological perspective, our] inner world is divided
into familiar and unknown territory, much as the outer [world]."
—Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
436 (New York: Routledge, 1999)
"Consciousness . . . must always remain the smaller circle within
the greater circle of the unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea;
and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self
replenishing abundance of living creatures, a wealth beyond our fathoming.
We may long have known the meaning, effects and characteristics of unconscious
contents without ever having fathomed their depths and potentialities,
for they are capable of infinite variation and can never be depotentiated."
—C.G. Jung, The Psychology of Transference, Collected Works,
vol. 16, para. 366 (1946)
"We strive to bring novel occurrences back into the realm of predictability
or to exploit them for previously unconsidered potential by altering
our behavior or our patterns of representation."
—Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
28-29 (New York: Routledge, 1999)
Exploring a New Domain
"When we explore a new domain, we are mapping the motivational
or affective significance of the things or situations that are characteristic
of our goal-directed interactions within that domain, and we use the
sensory information we encounter, to identify what is important. It
is the determination of specific meaning, or emotional significance,
in previously unexplored territory—not identification of the objective
features—that allows us to inhibit the novelty-induced terror and curiosity
emergence of that territory otherwise automatically elicits. We feel
comfortable somewhere new, once we have discovered that nothing exists
there that will threaten or hurt us (more particularly, when we have
adjusted our behavior and schemas of representation so that nothing
there is likely to or able to threaten or hurt us). The consequence
of exploration that allows for emotional regulation (that generates
security, essentially) is not objective description—as the scientist
might have it—but categorization of the implications of an unexpected
occurrence for specification of means and ends." Maps of Meaning,
Where You Are [6:18 mins.] [the known related to
our social world and to hierarchies of competence]
the Unknown [3:44 mins.] [end presentation at 2:12
mins.] [a lucid, short presentation of the existential reality that
Peterson defines as "the known" and "the unknown"]
Reality [10:47 mins.] [TED
Talk] [presenting, as Peterson puts it, "the most real thing I
know" (and that we too already know), and that is simply this:
"the world is made out of chaos and order"]
and Order in Our Modern World [7:12 mins.] [commenting
on how we perceive] [the dragon of chaos; focus on patterns (using music
as an analogy); our percepual systems delude us; looking at something
we don't know brings fear and apprehension, and that first encounter
is with the dragon of chaos; the fundamental binary nature of reality;
the Great Mother and the Great Father; "you will only be surprised
by what you don't know"; the unknown is different for each of us
in some sense; we are stopped by different aspects of being; Knights
of the Holy Grail; every person has their demons (we can talk about
demons that are common in people); the mythological underlay of the
known and the unknown]
Go Into the Unknown
and Grow Up! [6:56 mins.] [working with the Biblical
story of Abraham and God's admonistion: "Go somewhere you don't
understand"; "go into the unknown," "go to where
you don't know"; escaping dependency; misunderstanding, power,
competence, and authority; "a call to adventure" (establish
yourself in the world); reference to C.G. Jung and his claim that "you
are not the master of your own house"; there are things within
you that are beyond your control (e.g., your dreams, or for that matter,
what you are interested in, or what compels you forward); reference
to subpersonalities; "what is it that is gripping you?"; "there
is a calling within you . . . you are compelled by your interest . .
. that is, something beyond you; reference to being a clincian; the
unconscious is, in one sense, the unknown]
Hiding in Things You Ignore [8:00 mins.] [chaos
is hiding in what is irrelevant; moving from point A to point B and
something unexpected happens; "you have this structure and now
you have a hole in it"; "you don't know what to do with the
hole"; you're anxious about the hole; certain things that you can
confront that unglue you"; you can fall into a hole--chaos; chaos
is the flood (of the undifferentiated); you freeze, you don't want to
get out of bed, not a pleasant situation to be in (undifferentiated
negative emotion)] A second posting: Chaos
Re-Emerging in Your Life [7:27 mins.] [when the
constrained chaos that's underneath everything irrelevant suddenly re-emerges]
Order and Chaos [10:33 mins.] [order and chaos related
to right and left hemispheres of the brain; the story of the gymnast]
How You Inhabit
a Story [14:15 mins.] [begin presentation at 5:24
mins., end at 6:42 mins.] [comments on chaos & order] [you are somewhere
and you are going somewhere; you are in a state of deficiency and you
are moving to remove that deficiency; you look at the world through
a value-laden framework]
the Most Precious Resource Really Is [7:02 mins.]
[trust is a fundamental natural resource; Ebay used as an example; trust
is a powerful economic force; "a human being is a chimpanze full
of snakes"; when we trust someone we make certain assumptios; with
betrayal, at one moment you are secure, and the next second you are
in a different place (and even your sense of the past and the future
collapses); a journey to the underworld; we go to the underworld when
the stability of our world is shattered, that is, when a snake makes
its way into our walled garden (a walled garden is a place where something
can pop up and knock you out; "we are in a walled garden but there
is always a snake"]
Buddha's Renuciation [11:11 mins.] [the Buddha story;
"looking beyond the confines" of protected space; curosity
that has you looking for trouble; getting beyond the confines of paradise]
Living with Order and Chaos
Order and Chaos [1:04 mins.]
Chaos, Order, Perception [1:57 mins.]
and Order [2:38 mins.] [the Taoist symbol; the desire
to have those we interact with to walk the borderline of order and chaos]
[what is familiar and what is yet to be revealed] [the story of gymnasts
who follow the routine and the gymnast who performs at the edge of the
abyss (they manifest the relation of order to chaos)]
Lives are Full of Chaos [4:38 mins.] [dealing with
emergent complexity; chaos represents the underlying complexity; we
walk on thin ice and beneath lies the inevitable complexity of life,
and chaos; one image of chaos is the dragon of chaos]
Obstacles In Life [7:16 mins.] [what has been deemed
irrelevant suddenly becomes front and center in your life]
is More to You Than You Know" [6:35 mins.] [laying
out the nature of existential reality]
You Withstand Tragedy?
[10:06 mins.] [the story of Adam and Eve is a meta-story;
belief systems can collapse (one alternative is to move to another belief
structure but this may not be possible); "there are no safe places";
do you really want a safe place ("a paralyzed rabbit in a hole");
the solution to the problem of tragedy is, paradoxically, to face it;
expose yourselves to something new, and you face chaos (and malevolence);
we don't know the full extent of the human being; the Buddha and the
walled garden; child discover limits and they run back, and then, they
run out again; you must confront danger, malevolence, and the unknown]
Hiding! You Are Stronger Than You Think
to Live a Meaningful Life
What Degree Can We Make Things Better?
[5:56 mins.] [drawing on the Biblical story of Cain
and Abel, later, Adam and Eve]
Stories Lectures: Jacob Wrestling with God
[2:32:08 mins.] [relevant commentary begins at 21:34
mins., ends at 24:40 mins.] [a fire and what surrounds it; an explored
center and an unexplored periphery; cosmos and chaos; the master of
a field of study (the things that everyone knows well) and movement
toward the frontier of the discipline (a competent scholar is on the
border of the explored and explored)]
A Psychology of Order & Chaos
Behavior Therapist is Just Like a Shaman [8:54 mins.]
["go after the dragon"; 2:44 mins.--Jung relates chaos to
the unconscious, the threatening past that you have not dealt with;
you emerge, as a person, out of chaos; all we have is an oversimplified
slice of ourselves; the real you, God only knows what this is; we get
at this "real you" by going into the darkest places]
Meet the Unknown with Fantasy [7:28 mins.] [the
unconscious meets the unknown; "you meet
the unknown with fantasy"; "the unconscious is a representation
of a place we don't understand"; "my lectures go everywhere,
you have to be high in 'openness' to follow them"]
Memories Become Future Personality"
The Known, the Learner, and the Unknown
for Information [3:07 mins.] [the unknown: things
we don't know] [the unknown offers possibility; it offers things we
need now and in the long run] ["we are information foragers"]
[it can be beneficial to confront the things we don't know; we go out
into the unknown and gather things of value; squirrels forage for nuts,
we forage for information; information is like food]
You Are Willing to Be a Fool, You Can't Learn Anything New [2:34
mins.] [knowing that you have to be fallible to move ahead]
Purpose of Life [3:45 mins.] ["we have the
capacity to face things we don't understand"]
To Deal With Life's Error Messages [9:43 mins.]
The Need for Order
Structure Keeps You Sane
[6:00 mins.] ["you need to know what to do everyday";
in praise of routine (the trivial in life); "you need structure
just to stay sane"]
Grounding a View of Existential Reality
Can be Completely and Utterly Dead But You Can Only Be So Much Happier"
[4:51 mins.] [begins with reference to 'terror management"
(and our belief systems that protect us from death anxiety) and Ernest
Becker (whose approach Peterson questions); "terror of isolated
being"; "we are vulnerable to all sorts of contingencies";
we are limited in the face of existential complexity; our early fears
when we lived in a space surrounded with threats; "the known surrounded
by the unknown"; the unknown is associated with predators; we can
explore the unknown; our paradoxical wiring; the power of negative emotions]
[6:49 mins.] [you need a biological system to tell you
what to do with the unknown' we confront predatory experience outside
our frame of reference and we make something useful of it; the hero
goes out into the unknown to confront the dragon; this is not fiction,
[5:07 mins.] [the real world and what it is made of;
you want a little adventure; you don't want everything to be predictable;
you need to know what to do in chaos because you are going to be there;
you can fall into chaos and not get out (it happens to people all the
version :: "Personal Evolution, Avoiding the Extremes of Brain
Fry & Boredom" :: 12:23 mins.]
the Yin and Yang Lifestyle
[3:17 mins.] [the most unchanged elements of reality;
a part of the existential landscape of human being]
Most Fundamental Reality is Chaos. . . . Chaos is What You don't Understand
[5:48 mins.] [end presentation at 2:35 mins.]
Types of Unknowns
[3:27 mins.] [end at 1:36 mins.]
Psychology Behind Getting Cheated On
[4:30 mins.] [example of an intrusion of the unknown,
e.g., a cheating spouse; emergence of chaos; moving from point A to
point B; times when "you just don't have a plan anymore"]
vs the Unknown, Why People Fight for Their Beliefs
[6:40 mins.] [end presentation at 4:31 mins.] [territory
that you have mastered and territory that you have not; mastered territory
has a dominance hierarchy that you recognize]
On Understanding Fear/Anxiety
[3:39 mins.] [what do you do when you don't know where
you are? you freeze]
[3:35 mins.] [an error is chaos and order at the same
time; confronting an error the archetypes come forward] [drawing on
a mythological story]
Language of Order & Chaos
[5:43 mins.] [audio] [speech mediates chaos and order]
References in Course Lectures
of Meaning 13: The Force Within (TVO)
[28 mins.] [relevant comments at 14:44 mins. to 16:00
mins. on the change that takes place when "something unknown happens
to you"; the idea that "inside the chaotic mess may be something
you need" which means that you must consider "exploring what
you don't understand"; what you don't understand provides a "gateway
into a domain of possibility"] [on the relationship of a comfortable
life and the fact that we look for the snake in the garden (that is,
chaos), see 17:31 mins. to 19:40 mins.]
Maps of Meaning: Lecture 6: Story and Metastory (Pt2)
[2:27:26 mins.] [end presentation at 2:55 mins.]
Maps of Meaning: Patterns of Symbolic Representation
[2:16:49 mins.] [begin at 14:04 mins., end at 14:47
mins.] [begin at 15:50 mins., end at 16:55 mins.]
of Meaning 9: Becoming a Self (TVO)
[28:00 mins.] [beginning of lecture to 4:02 mins.]
Contact Professor Elkins