The Book of Jubilees, or Little Genesis, at first glance is like a lot of Biblical fan fiction. Famous characters return (in this case Adam through Moses), details are expanded upon (like some extra kids for Adam and Eve), and more time is given to the Biblical stories we know and love. It even incorporates some of them — adventures in The Book of Enoch such as the Watchers and the Giants are mentioned.
Except, it has a few pointed innovations.
And it is the literary basis of the Qur’an.
A Brief Introduction
Jubilees is interesting to me in how it sets the literary basis for the Qur’an. The angelic "We," the narration of history and theology to a Prophet, the written nature of the Logos, and the intentional changes from the Biblical text are all similar to the Qur’an. Before that, though, a few words from the Catholic Encyclopedia on it. In this case, while the Encyclopedia is unfriendly to Jubilees, it is also accurate:
An apocryphal writing, so called from the fact that the narratives and stories contained in it are arranged throughout in a fanciful chronological system of jubilee-periods of forty-nine years each; each event is recorded as having taken place in such a week of such a month of such a Jubilee year. The author assumes an impossible solar year of 364 days (i.e. twelve months of thirty days each, and four intercalary days) to which the Jewish ecclesiastical year of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each exactly corresponds. The whole chronology, for which the author claims heavenly authority, is based upon the number seven.
Except for the fact the author seems to be a supporter of the Maccabees, using the Maccabeen phrase "God Most High" regularly, it’s hard to really understand the author’s motives.
It is somewhat difficult to determine the particular Judaistic school its author belonged to; he openly denies the resurrection of the body; he does not believe in the written tradition; he does not reprobate animal sacrifices, etc. . . . and the fact that he wrote in Hebrew excludes the hypothesis of his Hellenistic tendencies. Equally untenable is the hypothesis advanced by Beer, that he was a Samaritan, for he excludes Mount Garizim, the sacred mount of the Samaritans from the list of the four places of God upon earth, viz. the Garden of Eden, the Mount of the East, Mount Sinai, and Mount Sion.
The oddness of the author’s identity is another similarity to the Qur’an, which sometimes feels integrated, sometimes seems to have two voices, and sometimes even more.
The Royal We
Jubilees narrated by a mysterious "We"…
And thereupon we saw His works , and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day. Jubilees 2:3
as is the Qur’an
We said, ‘O Adam, dwell with your mate in paradise, and eat thereof freely whensoever you wish, but do not approach this tree, lest you should be among the wrongdoers.’ The Heifer35
… who turns out to be a collection of Angels…
He hath bidden us to keep the Sabbath with Him in heaven and on earth. And He said unto us: ‘Behold, I will separate unto Myself a people from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day an do sanctify unto Myself, even so will I bless them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God. And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My first-born son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep the Sabbath thereon from all work. Jubilees 2:19-20
Presumably these angels are intended to be the same audience God spoke to elsewhere when discussing our species
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech." Genesis 11:5-7
The Prophetic Hearer
Jubilees is narrated to a prophet, Moses, in the past tense, with changes both small
Amram thy father taught thee writing, and after thou hadst completed three weeks they brought thee into the royal court. And thou wast three weeks of years at court until the time when thou didst go forth from the royal court and didst see an Egyptian smiting thy friend who was of the children of Israel, and though didst slay him and hide him in the sand. Jubilees 48:10
Parts of the Qur’an also seem to be narrated to Moses, though the identity of the hearer is fluid
When we delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you, and slaughtered your sons and spared your women, in that there was a great test from your Lord.
And when We parted the sea with you, and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh’s clan as you looked on.
And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights, you took up the Calf in his absence, and you were wrongdoers.
An age of 21 makes more sense than 40 for a crime of rage, but it indicates either a different tradition of exegesis than that held by the author of Acts of the Apostles, or at least an intentional change from it:
"Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian." Acts 7:23-24
Whatever the details, Jubilees is clearly supposed to be spoken to Moses. The Qur’an likewise a spoken to a prophet — possibly the reader, and at times possibly Moses.
The Written Logos
Jubilees focuses on a celestial Logos, the Tablets of Heaven:
And the judgment of all is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets in righteousness — even all who depart from the path which is ordained for them to walk in; and if they walk not therein, judgment is written down fore every feature and for every kind. And there is nothing in heaven or on earth, or in light or in darkness, or in Sheol or in the depth, or in the place of darkness; and all their judges are ordained and written and engraved. Jubilees 5:13-15
These Tablets seem to be the Book the Qur’an mentions:
This is the Book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance to the God-wary, who believe in the Unseen, maintain their prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what has been sent down and what was sent before, and are certain of the Hereafter. The Heifer 2-5
The Tablets records specific sins and is itself the law by which sin is judged
And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanliness seven days according to the first week of days, ad thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these days which in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days. Jubilees 3:10-11
as well as the future itself. The heavenly Tablets, the Logos of this world, are the beginning and end of all things.
And Sarah laughed, for she heard that we had spoken these words with Abraham, and we admonished her and she became afraid and denied that she had laughed on account of these words. And we told her the name of her son, and his name is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets, Isaac, and when we returned to her at a set time, she would have conceived a son. Jubilees 16:2-3
that have been given to humans multiple times
God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger. The Family of Amram2-4
This is all in opposition to the Christian idea, that the logos is not a creation of God, but God Himself:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John1:1-5
Jubilees and the Qur’an both point to written document in heaven of which all Scriptures are an incarnation.
Jubilees changes the Biblical narratives, as for example of Jacob killing Esau!
And after that Judah spake to Jacob, his father, and said unto him: "Bend they bow, father, and send forth thy arrows and cast down the adversary and slay the enemy, and mayst thou have the power, for we shall not slay thy brother, for he is such as thou, and he is like thee let us give him honor. Then Jacob bent his bow and sent forth the arrow and struck Esau his brother, and slew him. Jubilees 38:1-2
instead of the Biblical narrative of a heart-felt reconciliation
But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" …
And Jacob said, "No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have [a]enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.
Then Esau said, "Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you." Genesis 33:4-5,10-12
(The Qur’an also changes this by omission — though Jacob called Israel appears many times in the Qur’an, his brother Esau is never mentioned.)
These same traits — the scripture narrated by "We, the prophet, the Book in heaven, the changes — are are attributes of the Qur’an. To give just one example, in Jubilees names the animal:
On the the six days of the second week we brought, according to the word of God, unto Adam all the breasts, and all the cattle, and all the birds, and everything that moves on the earth, and everything that moves in the water, according to their kinds, and according to their types: the beasts on the first day; the cattle on the second day; the birds on the third day; and all that which moves on the earth on the fourth day; and that which moves in the water on the fifth day. And Adan named them all by their respective names, and as he called them, so was their name. Jubilees 3:1-2
As Adam does in the Bible:
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. Genesis 2:19-20
But in Qur’an he is told the names:
When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am indeed going to set a viceroy on the earth, they said, ‘Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption it it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ He said,’Indeed, I know what you do not know.’
And he taught Adam the Names, all of them; the presented them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.’
They said, ‘Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, You are the All-knowing, the All-wise!
He said, ‘O Adam, inform them of their names and when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and that I know whatever you disclose and whatever you conceal?’ The Heifer 30-33
The changes are striking and thought-provoking if one has already read Genesis. But I do not know if Jubilees was supposedly to be in opposition to Genesis, or to replace it.
I was as excited reading The Book of Jubilees as The Assembly of the Gods. Here is why. Assembly was the first time I read the stories of ancient Canaan. Reading it I understood the world of the early prophets and the patriarchs, What those stories from ancient Canaan were to the Old Testament, Jubilees is to the Qur’an. The rhetorical strategies adopted by the writer of the Qur’an are the same as the writer of Jubilees. I assume the author of the Qur’an read Jubilees.
To understand the texts of the Old and New Testaments, one needs to read of Ba’al, Asarte, Lady Anat, Old Judge River, and El.
To understand the text of the Qur’an, and how the Scriptures are extended and modified into Qur’anic religion, one needs to read the Book of Jubilees.
I was impressed by Jordan Peter’s 12 Rules for Life and before that, his series Introduction to the Idea of God. I knew that Peterson considered his earlier work, Maps of Meaning, the best summary of his beliefs, and that both 12 Rules and Introduction were specific applications of it. I waited until it was available on unabridged audio, narrated by the author, and read the book in that manner.
This post covers the material in Maps of Meaning in roughly the same order as the book does. First, I describe the psychological foundations Peterson presents for his theory, and how it ties into mythic stories.
Maps of Meaning is composed roughly in fourths, starting with a foundation in cognitive psychology, then mythic stories, then Christianity in general, and finally alchemy. Next, I give a history of the allegorical approach of Biblical exegesis, comparing Peterson with St Augustine. Following this, I highlight the two most important aspects of Jesus Christ for Jordan Peterson, as Redeemer and Logos. I then describe two paths taken by Peterson for applying Christianity in everyday life: the path mentioned in this book (alchemy) and one he seems to have adopted later on (a focus on the Holy Spirit).
Peterson begins with a discussion of neuropsychology and cognitive psychology, emphasizing the biological foundations of thought. This is important because of Peterson basis his entire theory on the existence of a mental modular shared by not just humans but most animals: unknown-detection. Peterson argues that the the psychological process of habituation is not a simply a consequence of learning that a stimulus is neither harmful nor beneficial in the moment — rather, it is the primary result of a stimulus ceasing to be unknown and becoming known. Peterson inverts B.F. Skinner’s defense of behaviorism, noting that while establishing the full history of reinforcement schedules can be incredibly difficult, it is now easier to measure brain activity and detect the existence of mental maps of the known and unknown.
Carl Jung is heavily featured in Maps of Meaning. I had always considered the most controversial part of Jung’s psychology to be his theory of the "collective unconsciousness." Peterson cleverly (and I think fairly) rehabilitates Jung by arguing he worked before the modern understanding of cognitive psychology. Peterson explicitly states that the "collective unconscious" is a term for "episodic memory," a well-accepted theory of how narrative memory is formed. Specifically, because the human mind encodes events into its salient pieces, and the salience of those pieces has a biological foundation, the collective unconscious is simply those pieces which have been universally encoded by appropriately developed humans. Thus, the collective unconscious is part of our species cognitive extended phenotype.
If known and unknown are basic categories, in the way that pleasurable/hurtful and hot/cold are, then it makes sense that known and unknown act as characters in mythic literature. Peterson argues ‘known’ as a category is conceptually gendered as male or an old king, and ‘unknown’ as female or a monster, given the capacity of the known to inflict vertical rules and the capacity of the unknown to generate new things into being. Hence Peterson argues that stories involving a Great Father or Great Mother are in fact stories of the known and unknown.
Peterson then moves from experimental psychology to mythic literature. The central stories in religion and myth in human societies are part of the collective unconscious through their mapping to salient episodic memory:
the temporary capture of the Father by the Mother
a younger male, the hero, called to rescue the Father
the murder of a younger male by a brother or co-equal
the resurrection of the hero
the hero’s possession of a virgin
the hero’s kingship.
I don’t believe this specific series of events happens in any myth. But parts of it happen in stories. For instance, in the Ba’al Cycle the events occur out of order
Ba’al (hero) wishes to build a house for himself
God allows for a war between Ba’al on the monsters Yam (Sea) and Mot (Death)
Ba’al splits Yam in half with a club
Ba’al is killed by Death
Ba’al defeats Death
Ba’al builds his house
The same pattern can be seen in the Christian religion
The Son of God becomes a Creature
The Son of God is born of a virgin
The Son of God proclaims himself King
The Son of God is murdered
The Son of God returns from Hell
The Son of God reigns at the right hand of God
Stories from Egypt, pre-modern Europe, and elsewhere are shown to be general instances of this pattern.
Peterson argues that one can deconstruct widely and deeply shared stories to understand the psychological constructs that generated them. That the stories, the structures, the archetypes, and their lessons are not merely a tax on human cognition but the method that it has operated in the social-political-moral for an extremely long period of time.
My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck Proverbs1:8-9
It is after all of this — the psychological foundations of memory, the comparative religion or mythology — that Peterson begins his most controversial and most ambiguous point. Peterson then provides an extended allegorical apologia for Christianity.
The allegorical approach — defending Christianity by asserting fundamental truths of the Bible without defending the Bible’s literal text — goes back at least to Augustine. As he wrote in Confessions:
Behold, Thou hast given unto us for food every herb bearing seed which is upon all the earth; and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed. And not to us alone, but also to all the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the earth, and to all creeping things; but unto the fishes and to the great whales, hast Thou not given them. Now we said that by these fruits of the earth were signified, and figured in an allegory, the works of mercy which are provided for the necessities of this life out of the fruitful earth.
St. Augustine, Confessions
Augustine is a forerunner to Peterson’s approach. The ending of Confessions is almost incomprehensible, as it is an extended description of the Christian religion and then a treatise on the Roman science of psychology. This did not make sense to me until I read Peterson and watched his series Introduction to the Idea of God, which combines contemporary psychological and the Christian religion.
What Peterson seems to do far better than Augustine, though, is to integrate the Semitic worldview into both Christianity and philosophy. Consider for instance their takes on the very beginning of the Bible:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [a]was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-2
Augustine presents a wordy (not surprising) exegesis on the view that the waters were uncreated matter:
For should any attempt to dispute against these two last opinions, thus,
"If you will not allow, that this formlessness of matter seems to be called by the name of heaven and earth;
Ergo, there was something which God had not made, out of which to make heaven and earth;
for neither hath Scripture told us, that God made this matter, unless we understand it to be signified by the name of heaven and earth, or of earth alone, when it is said,
‘In the Beginning God made the heaven and earth; that so in what follows, and the earth was invisible and without form (although it pleased Him so to call the formless matter)’,
we are to understand no other matter, but that which God made, whereof is written above, God made heaven and earth."
St. Augustine, Confessions
Augustine emphasizes the unconditional nature of God, but ignores the near-eastern view of ordering as Creation that inspires the passage. (To their credit, Mormon theologians pick up this theme). Peterson tackles the same passage as Augustine, but I think derives a deeper meaning:
It is primordial separation of light from darkness — engendered by Logos, the Word, equivalent to the process of consciousness — that initiates human experience and historical activity, which is reality itself, for all intents and purposes. This initial division provides the prototypic structure, and the fundamental precondition, for the elaboration and description of more differentiated attracting and repulsing pairs of opposites:
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 228-229
It is his words immediately following the passage, however, that present a sotorology (theory of salvation) different than any I had heard before:
Light and darkness constitute mythic totality; order and chaos, in paradoxical union, provide primordial elements of the entire experiential universe. Light is illumination, inspiration; darkness, ignorance and degeneration. Light is the newly risen sun, the eternal victor of the endless cyclical battle with the serpent of the night; is the savior, the mythic hero, the deliverer of humanity. Light is gold, the king of metals, pure, and incorruptible, a symbol for civilized value itself. Light is Apollo, the sun-king, god of enlightenment, clarity and focus; spirit, opposed to black matter; bright masculinity, opposed to the dark and unconscious feminine. Light is Marduk, the Babylonian hero, god of the morning and spring day, who struggles against Tiamat, monstrous goddess of death and the night; is Horus, who fights against evil, and redeems the father; is Christ, who transcends the past, and extends to all individuals identity with the divine Logos. To exist in the light means to be born, to live, to be redeemed, while to depart from the light means to choose the path of evil — to choose spiritual death — or to perish bodily altogether.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 229
In what manner was Christ redeemed by the Father?
God the Son
Christ’s genealogy explicit includes our Father-in-Faith, Abraham, as well as the biological father of the human race, Adam, and the father of all surviving humans, Noah.
Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, … the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. Luke3:23,36-38
Jesus, the perfect man, literally redeemed his fathers. He redeemed his-step father, Joseph. His redeemed his fathers, and in His image we will live:
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 1 Corinthians15:47-49
It was men…
who nailed perfection to the cross:
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.,.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. John19:17-18,23
And God the Father…
who nailed sin to the Cross…
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians2:13-15
… and now is our Father.
And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Not that God the Father is missing anything, or lacks anything. But Christ restores our relationship with God the Father, getting us back to a place where God the Father can be called our Father.
In the Roman liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly is invited to pray to our heavenly Father with filial boldness; the Eastern liturgies develop and use similar expressions: "dare in all confidence," "make us worthy of. . . . " From the burning bush Moses heard a voice saying to him, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness, for "when he had made purification for sins," he brought us into the Father’s presence: "Here am I, and the children God has given me."
Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry . . . ‘Abba, Father!’ . . . When would a mortal dare call God ‘Father,’ if man’s innermost being were not animated by power from on high?"
Man and God, the Suffering of Sin and Glory of Perfection, meet in our Lord Jesus Christ. But Peterson presents Christ as the mediator between order and chaos, as the line between Yin and Yang, the One in whom all things may hope, and the One without which there is no hope
Peterson’s preferred term for Christ is logos, the Word:
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is the Logos — the word of God — that creates order from chaos — and it is in the image of the Logos that man ["Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26)] is created. This idea has clear additional precedents in early and late Egyptian cosmology (as we shall see). In the Far East — similarly — the cosmos is imagined as composed of the interplay between yang and yin, chaos and order — that is to say, unknown or unexplored territory, and known or explored territory. Tao, from the Eastern perspective, is the pattern of behavior that mediates between them (analogous to En-lil, Marduk, and the Logos) — that constantly generates, and regenerates, the "universe." For the Eastern man, life in Tao is the highest good, the "way" and "meaning"; the goal towards which all other goals must remain subordinate.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 87
Peterson emphasizes this point, emphasizing the use of The Way to identify both the Logos and the Tao. All things outside the Logos are harmful. Order inside the Logos is the protective ruler, while Order outside the Logos is the tyrannical father. Likewise, Chaos outside the Logos is the Dragon, while Chaos inside the Logos is the virgin.
The hero is a pattern of action, designed to make sense of the unknown; he emerges, necessarily, wherever human beings are successful. Adherence to this central pattern insures that respect for the process of exploration (and the necessary reconfiguration of belief, attendant upon that process) always remains superordinate to all other considerations — including that of the maintenance of stable belief. This is why Christ, the defining hero of the Western ethical tradition, is able to say "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6); why adherence to the Eastern way (Tao) — extant on the border between chaos (yin) and order (yang) — ensures that the "cosmos" will continue to endure.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 152
Paul the Apostle argues that all things, both life and death, are beneficial in Christ:
"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians2:17-21
This centralization of Christ, relative to Order and Chaos, may be visualized as showing the divine or redeemed nature of Order and Chaos within Christ, and that without Christ, which will be destroyed
The Spirit of Truth
The False Dawn of Alchemy
Peterson spends an extended part of the conclusion of the book on alchemy, which initially appears inexplicable (or a misguided defense of Jung), but the analogies become clear. Gold is to rocks what Christ is to man, the ideal toward which we strive
Gold was, furthermore, the ideal end towards which all ores progressed — was "the target of progression." As it "ripened" in the womb of the earth, lead — for example, base and promiscuous [willing to "mate" (combine) with many other substances] — aimed at the state characterized by gold, perfect and inviolable. This made the "gold state" the goal of the Mercurial "spirit of the unknown," embedded in matter
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 322
The alchemist was a sort of priest, working on beings without souls:
The alchemist viewed himself as midwife to Nature — as bringing to fruition what Nature endeavored slowly to produce — and therefore as aid to a transformation aimed at producing something ideal. "Gold" is that ideal.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 322
Peterson had a shaky grasp of the Catholicism that imbued the medieval work while writing Maps of Meaning. His assertion that alchemy was a belief that sacrifice if not priesthood was still needed after the Crucifixion might be shocking to the college protestants he may encounter teaching…
The alchemical procedure was based on the attempt to redeem "matter," to transform it into an ideal. This procedure operated on the assumption that matter was originally corrupted — like man, in the story of Genesis. The study of the transformations of corruption and limitation activated a mythological sequence in the mind of the alchemist. This sequence followed the pattern of the way, upon which all religions have developed. Formal Christianity adopted the position that the sacrifice of Christ brought history to a close, and that "belief" in that sacrifice guaranteed redemption. Alchemy rejected that position, in its pursuit of what remained unknown.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 344
This is unintelligible from a Catholic perspective
Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit." Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2033
While certainly there were alchemists who wrote in a metaphysical way, it was at the time considered to be a physical science. St. Thomas Aquinas defended alchemical processes that actually work:
Many clerics were alchemists. To Albertus Magnus, a prominent Dominican and Bishop of Ratisbon, is attributed the work "De Alchimia", though this is of doubtful authenticity. Several treatises on alchemy are attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. He investigated theologically the question of whether gold produced by alchemy could be sold as real gold, and decided that it could, if it really possess the properties of gold (Summa Theologiae II-II.77.2). A treatise on the subject is attributed to Pope John XXII, who is also the author of a Bull "Spondent quas non exhibent" (1317) against dishonest alchemists. It cannot be too strongly insisted on that there were many honest alchemists.
"Alchemy," Catholic Encyclopedia
If Peterson was more aware of the Christian tradition when he wrote this work, his concern might have been that the externalizing features of Protestantism (which deny man agency in the ongoing work of salvation) and Catholicism (which seemingly deny man the teaching authority, as that is possessed by the Church) both deny him agency.
Alchemy was a living myth: the myth of the individual man, as redeemer. Organized Christianity had "sterilized itself," so to speak, by insisting on the worship of something external as the means to salvation. The alchemists (re)discovered the error of this presumption, and came to realize that identification with the redeemer was in fact necessary, not his "worship" — came to realize that that myths of redemption had true power when they were "incorporated," and acted out, rather than "believed," in some abstract sense. This meant: to say that Christ was "the greatest man in history" — a combination of the divine and mortal — was not sufficient "expression of faith." Sufficient expression meant, alternatively, the attempt to live out the myth of the hero within the confines of individual personality — to voluntarily shoulder the cross of existence, to "unite the opposites" within a single breast, and to serve as active conscious mediator between the eternal generative forces of known and unknown.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 346
Which is to say, for Peterson, alchemy and not "Organized" (read: evangelical) Christianity took seriously the commandment
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Matthew16:24-28
There is no good King without a cross.
The Age of The Holy Spirit
Paul, immediately before describing living and crucifixion in Christ, talks about the importance of justification by faith in Christ. "Faith" is not an abstract mental idea or an emotional state. It refers to allegiance in Christ, of imitating Christ.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:15-16
Peterson comes to the same conclusion: the Spirit of the Law is not a watered down or easier Law, but a harder one: one that involves creatively combining the order of the Law with new events coming out of Chaos:
Denial of unique individuality turns the wise traditions of the past into the blind ruts of the present. Application of the letter of the law when the spirit of the law is necessary makes a mockery of culture. Following in the footsteps of others seems safe, and requires no thought — but it is useless to follow a well-trodden trail when the terrain itself has changed. The individual who fails to modify his habits and presumptions as a consequence of change is deluding himself — is denying the world — is trying to replace reality itself with his own feeble wish. By pretending things are other than they are, he undermines his own stability, destabilizes his future — transforms the past from shelter to prison.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 258
In the years since Maps of Meaning came out, Peterson seems to have talked about alchemy less and the Holy Spirit more.
Peterson’s later adaptation of the Blessed Joachim of Fiore’s understanding of Catholicism crosses the Catholic-Protestant divide in a very clever way. Emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit:
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you." John 16:12-15
and the "everlasting gospel"
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelations14:6
Joachim theorized that:
There are three states of the world, corresponding to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the first age the Father ruled, representing power and inspiring fear, to which the Old Testament dispensation corresponds; then the wisdom hidden through the ages was revealed in the Son, and we have the Catholic Church of the New Testament; a third period will come, the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, which will proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it, and in which there will be no need for disciplinary institutions.
"Joachim of Fiore," Catholic Encyclopedia
It is easy to see how such a view, of progressive revelation and a direct experience with the Holy Spirit, complements Peterson’s view of the centrality of the imitation of Christ in the life of every believer.
The truth seems painfully simple — so simple that it is a miracle, of sorts, that it can every be forgotten. Love God, with all thy mind, and all thy acts, and all thy heart. This means, serve truth above all else, and treat your fellow man as if he were yourself — not with the pity that undermines his self-respect, and not with the justice that elevates yourself above him — but as a divinity, heavily burdened, who could yet see the light.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 353
The Kingdom of Heaven includes the parts of material Christian within Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven is not just within heaven
Christ said, the kingdom of Heaven is spread out upon the earth, but men do not see it. What if it was nothing but our self-deceit, our cowardice, hatred and fear, that pollutes our experience and turns the world into Hell? This is a hypothesis, at least — as good as any other, admirable and capable of generating hope — why can’t we make the experiment, and find out if it is true?
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning, pg. 353