The resurrection of Jordan Peterson is an almost less credible story than the resurrection of Christ. Peterson first rose to fame as a Prophet of Pronoun Orthodoxy in 2016, coming out of relative academic obscurity to become an overnight viral sensation. With the publication of his life-hack manual 12 Rules For Life Peterson became a leading light for the proverbial incels and angry white males out of sync with an increasingly woke world, who took solace in his gospel of self-reliance, tradition, Western values and Christian ethics.
At root Peterson took the King James Bible, repackaged it with a blend of Freudian/Jungian psycho-analysis, and spiced it up with a mix of Harry Potter and Disney classics to make the core message more marketable to a younger audience in our Godless postmodern times.
But then came the fall, which was just as abrupt. Short version: His marathon book tour 160-city must evidently have taken a huge emotional and physical toll on Peterson, finding himself in the frontline of the Great Culture War at the same time as his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, (which she survived). A more detailed version of how Peterson became addicted to anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) and ended up being put into an induced coma in a Russian clinic can be found in this interview with Decca Aitkenhead, (subsequently severly criticised by Douglas Murray here), and is recounted by Peterson himself in the introduction of his latest volume.
Peterson has now returned from his Russian exile and published the sequel to 12 Rules, titled Beyond Order – 12 More Rules for Life. As always when a mythical character wanders into the wilderness and eventually returns, it is usually as a changed person. Be it Moses, Gandalf, Anakin Skywalker, the Buddha or Batman. We will probably never know exactly what Balrogs Peterson confronted in Moscow. But if he left as Jordan Peterson the White, he has come back as Jordan Peterson the Grey.
Perhaps unsuprisingly for an author re-emerging from an induced coma, the latest volume feels somewhat sloppy and half-baked compared to the first 12 Rules. The language is less succinct and more repetitive. The book also contains a surprising number of [minor] grammatical errors. As both of the books are based on a list of 42 rules Peterson wrote in a Quora answer (apparently later deleted by Quora), it is hard to escape the impression that Peterson and his publisher first cherry-picked the tastiest twelve rules for the first book, and now we are left with the second rung. Undoubtedly, the publishers will manage to squeeze out a volume III and IV from the remaining rules in the original blog post. This kind of recycling is probably inevitable, as it makes excellent commercial sense. But the intellectual returns are diminishing. Few authors have more than one good book in them.
Nevertheless, the book is well worth reading. While not new, Peterson’s refrain of not succumbing to cynicism, resentment, victim mentality and apathy remains relevant. His style of weaving together biblical and mythical narratives and reframing them in a a contemporary context can be appreciated even by readers who are not necessarily hardcore Peterson fanboys, although the language can sometime tend toward the grandiose.
Peterson’s biggest contribution to civilised society is by all accounts the number of lost souls he has stopped from continuing down the path to the dark side. He should certainly be compulsory reading for all would-be school shooters, ISIS converts and Greta Thunberg-style environmental-fatalists who would rather see the world burn so long as it comes short of their various wicked visions of a pure Utopia.
My favourite rule was probably number VII: Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Unfortunately, it does not seem that so many people are doing that in Western societies where mediocrity increasingly seems to be the new ideal – and the contempt Jordan Peterson is held in by large chunks of Academia, the mainstream media and the liberal commentariat is probably reflective of that fact.