Over the weekend I watched part of an address by Jordan Peterson at the Oxford Union in which he was asked a question about meaning and where it came from if not from God. See here at about 29 minutes in. I respect Professor Peterson in that he is probably the most successful challenger of the current left/liberal orthodoxy, and one of the best revealers of its excesses, but here he did not really answer the question. In fact, I would say he evaded it and gave way to the slight sophistry that will occasionally afflict a very articulate person whose way with words can sometimes obscure the fact that he has not said very much. For, as far as I can see, the answer he gave did not talk about meaning at all. It just talked about the appearance of it. References to Nietzsche, Freud and Jung show where he was coming from.
I wonder if he thinks mention of God, and I mean serious mention not the idea of him as some kind of Jungian super archetype, would alienate many of his readers and YouTube viewers. It probably would. However, there must come a point when his descriptions of the world and the human psyche are going to fizzle out into intellectual mind games unless they come to terms with the reality of God. He refers to the idea of Christ as a symbol of the Self, and I suppose you could say he is, but that runs the risk of reducing Christ to some kind of psychological principle with no real independent reality. For Christ is not simply a symbol of the Self. First and foremost, he is Christ. He is Truth and Reality and he is a person. He is not primarily a metaphysical principle such as Peterson is implying here. His role as symbol comes from his reality as person, and if you don't properly appreciate that then the risk is you end up playing with words and ideas and not opening yourself up to higher truth
It is a truism that spirituality relates to the soul not the mind. The mind may be involved but it is the secondary participant in the endeavour. If it steals the show, as it rather seems to do with Professor Peterson, then you will probably get sidetracked into theory. What is the soul in this sense? I would prefer to answer that question by saying instead how it speaks to us, and that is through imagination, through intuition, through conscience and through faith. It is these things that will give us an entry into the spiritual world, not thinking about it which will leave us remaining on the outside. Perhaps that is Jordan Peterson's weakness. He approaches the metaphysical world through the mind but that world will only really give up its secrets when we step back from rational thought and give priority instead to intelligent openness to intuition. We must cultivate the heart as opposed to the head but that means feeling not feelings in that it is not, as the latter are, based on personal reactions and emotions, that is to say, reactions and emotions springing from and referring to the personal self. Feeling is going beyond the personal, whether emotion or thought, to engage with reality through what can be defined as the intellect of the heart. The person remains, of course, as it must, but is not at the centre of operations. You could say it has to be directed beyond itself to know itself.
Without God there is no meaning. It's no good talking about evolutionary constructions that enable the mind to lock in to reality or something of that nature. If God does not exist to substantiate this, it is not real in any meaningful sense. We need a real absolute to give reality to meaning. If that is not there then there is nothing to underpin it. It's just one more product of mindless, and ultimately meaningless, forces.
This piece might seem to have little relation to the theme of this blog but I include it here to illustrate the difference between partial and complete awakening. The former is merely a halfway house and if it doesn't lead on to the latter then it cannot really be said to be any kind of awakening at all.