Beyond Order

2021 book by Jordan Peterson

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life is a 2021 self-help book by Canadian clinical psychologist, YouTube personality, and psychology professor Jordan Peterson. It is a sequel to his 2018 book 12 Rules for Life.

Overture edit

  • I had to force myself to concentrate, and to breathe, and to keep from saying and meaning “to hell with it” during the endless months that I was possessed by dread and terror. And I was barely able to do it. More than half the time I believed that I was going to die in one of the many hospitals in which I resided. And I believe that if I had fallen prey to resentment, for example, I would have perished once and for all—and that I am fortunate to have avoided such a fate.
    • p. xxiii

Rule I: Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement edit

Genuine authority constrains the arbitrary exercise of power.
  • Much that is great starts small, ignorant, and useless. […] But today’s beginner is tomorrow’s master.
    • pp. 18–19
  • Ambition is often—and often purposefully—misidentified with the desire for power, and damned with faint praise, and denigrated, and punished. And ambition is sometimes exactly that wish for undue influence on others. But there is a crucial difference between sometimes and always. Authority is not mere power, and it is extremely unhelpful, even dangerous, to confuse the two. When people exert power over others, they compel them, forcefully. They apply the threat of privation or punishment so their subordinates have little choice but to act in a manner contrary to their personal needs, desires, and values. When people wield authority, by contrast, they do so because of their competence—a competence that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by others, and generally followed willingly, with a certain relief, and with the sense that justice is being served. […]
Now, power may accompany authority, and perhaps it must. However, and more important, genuine authority constrains the arbitrary exercise of power. This constraint manifests itself when the authoritative agent cares, and takes responsibility, for those over whom the exertion of power is possible. The oldest child can take accountability for his younger siblings, instead of domineering over and teasing and torturing them, and can learn in that manner how to exercise authority and limit the misuse of power. Even the youngest can exercise appropriate authority over the family dog.
  • pp. 26–27
  • It has taken since time immemorial for us to organize ourselves, biologically and socially, into the functional hierarchies that both specify our perceptions and actions, and define our interactions with the natural and social world. Profound gratitude for that gift is the only proper response.
    • p. 34
  • [T]he great genie, the granter of wishes—God, in a microcosm—is archetypally trapped in the tiny confines of a lamp and subject, as well, to the will of the lamp’s current holder. Genie—genius—is the combination of possibility and potential, and extreme constraint.
    • pp. 35–36

Rule II: Imagine who you could be and then aim single-mindedly at that edit

You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you.
  • You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you. Something manifests itself out of the darkness as compelling, as worth living for; following that, something moves us further down the road, to the next meaningful manifestation—and so it goes, as we continue to seek, develop, grow, and thrive. It is a perilous journey, but it is also the adventure of our lives. Think of pursuing someone you love: catch them or not, you change in the process.
    • p. 65
  • Who dares wins—if he does not perish. {Quoting the motto of the British Special Air Service.} And who wins also makes himself irresistibly desirable and attractive, not least because of the development of character that adventure inevitably produces. And this is what makes us forever more than rabbits.
    • p. 80
  • Those who break the rules ethically are those who have mastered them first and disciplined themselves to understand the necessity of those rules, and break them in keeping with the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
    • p. 85

Rule III: Do not hide unwanted things in the fog edit

After all, the pathway to the Holy Grail has its beginnings in the darkest part of the forest, and what you need remains hidden where you least want to look.
  • Our own personal motivations begin in hidden form, and remain that way, because we do not want to know what we are up to. The wheat remains unseparated from the chaff. The gold remains in the clutches of the dragon, as does the virgin. The philosopher’s stone remains undiscovered in the gutter; and the information hidden in the round chaos, beckoning, remains unexplored. Such omission is the voluntary refusal of expanded consciousness. After all, the pathway to the Holy Grail has its beginnings in the darkest part of the forest, and what you need remains hidden where you least want to look.
    • p. 107

Rule IV: Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated edit

  • That is the nature of our ancestors: immensely courageous hunters, defenders, shepherds, voyagers, inventors, warriors, and founders of cities and states. That is the father you could rescue; the ancestor you could become.
    • p. 124
  • There is a high goal, a mountain peak, a star that shines in the darkness, beckoning above the horizon. Its mere existence gives you hope—and that is the meaning without which you cannot live.
    • p. 133

Rule VI: Abandon ideology edit

If you, as speaker, are positioned properly on stage, physically and spiritually, then everybody’s attention will be focused with laser-like intensity on whatever you are saying, and no one will make a sound.
  • If you, as speaker, are positioned properly on stage, physically and spiritually, then everybody’s attention will be focused with laser-like intensity on whatever you are saying, and no one will make a sound. In this manner, you can tell what ideas have power.
While watching and listening in the way I just described to all the gatherings I have spoken to, I became increasingly aware that the mention of one topic in particular brought every audience (and I mean that without exception) to a dead-quiet halt: responsibility.
  • p. 160
  • We have been telling [young people] for decades to demand what they are owed by society. We have been implying that the important meanings of their lives will be given to them because of such demands, when we should have been doing the opposite: letting them know that the meaning that sustains life in all its tragedy and disappointment is to be found in shouldering a noble burden.
    • p. 161
  • The world is a very strange place, and there are times when the metaphorical or narrative description characteristic of culture and the material representation so integral to science appear to touch, when everything comes together—when life and art reflect each other equally.
    • pp. 165–166
  • Perhaps communism may even have been a viable solution to the problems of the unequal distribution of wealth that characterized the industrial age, if all of the hypothetically oppressed were good people and all of the evil was to be found, as hypothesized, in their bourgeoisie overlords. Unfortunately for the communists, a substantial proportion of the oppressed were incapable, unconscientious, unintelligent, licentious, power mad, violent, resentful, and jealous, while a substantial proportion of the oppressors were educated, able, creative, intelligent, honest, and caring.
    • p. 167
  • Ideologues are the intellectual equivalent of fundamentalists, unyielding and rigid. Their self-righteousness and moral claim to social engineering is every bit as deep and dangerous. It might even be worse: ideologues lay claim to rationality itself. So, they try to justify their claims as logical and thoughtful. At least the fundamentalists admit devotion to something they just believe arbitrarily. They are a lot more honest. Furthermore, fundamentalists are bound by a relationship with the transcendent. What this means is that God, the center of their moral universe, remains outside and above complete understanding, according to the fundamentalist’s own creed. Right-wing Jews, Islamic hard-liners, and ultra-conservative Christians must admit, if pushed, that God is essentially mysterious. This concession provides at least some boundary for their claims, as individuals, to righteousness and power (as the genuine fundamentalist at least remains subordinate to Something he cannot claim to totally understand, let alone master). For the ideologue, however, nothing remains outside understanding or mastery.
    • p. 173
  • Like God, however, ideology is dead. The bloody excesses of the twentieth century killed it.
    • p. 177

Rule VII: Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens edit

Although Christ commits many acts that might be considered revolutionary, as we discussed in Rule I, He is nonetheless explicitly portrayed in the Gospels as the master of tradition.
  • If you aim at nothing, you become plagued by everything.
    • p. 184
  • To write something long, sophisticated, and coherent means, at least in part, to become more complex, articulate, and deeper in personality.
    • p. 185
  • It is far better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing.
    • p. 188
  • It was the bringing together of a warring multiplicity under the unifying doctrines of Christianity that civilized Europe.
    • p. 191
  • Although Christ commits many acts that might be considered revolutionary, as we discussed in Rule I, He is nonetheless explicitly portrayed in the Gospels as the master of tradition.
    • p. 197

Rule VIII: Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible edit

  • Making something beautiful is difficult, but it is amazingly worthwhile. If you learn to make something in your life truly beautiful—even one thing—then you have established a relationship with beauty. From there you can begin to expand that relationship out into other elements of your life and the world. That is an invitation to the divine. That is the reconnection with the immortality of childhood, and the true beauty and majesty of the Being you can no longer see. You must be daring to try that.
    • p. 202
  • Buy a piece of art. Find one that speaks to you and make the purchase. If it is a genuine artistic production, it will invade your life and change it. A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent, and you need that in your life, because you are finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance.
    • p. 203
  • It is for such reasons that we need to understand the role of art, and stop thinking about it as an option, or a luxury, or worse, an affectation. Art is the bedrock of culture itself. It is the foundation of the process by which we unite ourselves psychologically, and come to establish productive peace with others. As it is said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). That is exactly right. We live by beauty. We live by literature. We live by art. We cannot live without some connection to the divine—and beauty is divine—because in its absence life is too short, too dismal, and too tragic.
    • p. 203
Art bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life.
  • Art bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life.
    • p. 215
  • The unknown shines through the productions of great artists in partially articulated form. The awe-inspiring ineffable begins to be realized but retains a terrifying abundance of its transcendent power. That is the role of art, and that is the role of artists. It is no wonder we keep their dangerous, magical productions locked up, framed, and apart from everything else.
    • pp. 217–218
  • I exposed myself to a larger number of paintings, I like to think, than anyone else in history. For at least four years, starting in 2001, I searched eBay, looking at roughly a thousand paintings a day, seeking the one or two in that number that were of genuine quality.
    • pp. 219–220
  • Beauty leads you back to what you have lost. Beauty reminds you of what remains forever immune to cynicism. Beauty beckons in a manner that straightens your aim. Beauty reminds you that there is lesser and greater value. Many things make life worth living: love, play, courage, gratitude, work, friendship, truth, grace, hope, virtue, and responsibility. But beauty is among the greatest of these.
    • p. 226

Rule IX: If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely edit

Learn from the past. Or repeat its horrors, in imagination, endlessly.
  • Learn from the past. Or repeat its horrors, in imagination, endlessly.
    • p. 230
  • This is the most profound of mysteries. What is that potential that confronts us? And what constitutes our strange ability to shape that possibility, and to make what is real and concrete from what begins, in some sense, as the merely imaginary?
    • p. 254
  • According to the Genesis account, there exists something—a potential, let us say, associated symbolically with the abyss, with the oceanic depths—but also with desert, dragons, maternality/matriarchy, emptiness, formlessness, and darkness. This is all the attempt of poetry and metaphor to give initial, ordered, conceptual form to the formless. The abyss is what terrifies, what is at the end of the earth, what we gaze upon when contemplating our mortality and fragility, and what devours hope. Water is depth and the source of life itself.
    • p. 258

Rule X: Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship edit

  • That is what happens two people fall under the spell of love. For a while, both become better than they were, and see that, but then that magic fades away. Both receive that experience as a gift. Both have their eyes open and can see what is visible to no one else. Such love is a glimpse of what could be, if the relationship remained true. It is delivered as a gift initially, from fate, but requires tremendous effort to realize and maintain. And once that is understood, the goal is clear.
    • p. 269
Romance requires trust—and the deeper the trust, the deeper the possibility for romance.
  • Romance requires trust—and the deeper the trust, the deeper the possibility for romance.
    • p. 271
  • There is an ancient conceit in the book of Genesis (2:21–22) that Eve was taken out of Adam—created from his rib. Woman from man: this presents something of a mystery, reversing, as it does, the normative biological sequence, where males emerge from females at birth. It also gave rise to a line of mythological speculation, attempting to account for the strangeness of this creative act, predicated on the supposition that Adam, the original man produced by God, was hermaphroditic—half masculine and half feminine—and only later separated into the two sexes. This implies not only the partition of a divinely produced unity, but the incompleteness of man and woman until each is brought together with the other.
    • p. 273
  • That ghostly figure, the ideal union of what is best in both personalities, should be constantly regarded as the ruler of the marriage—and, indeed, as something as close to divine as might be practically approached by fallible individuals.
    • p. 275
  • Do you believe that man and woman were once together, as a single being, were then separated, and must be restored as a unity? You can believe it dramatically, poetically, and metaphorically instead of merely rationally and mechanically, and that can lead you to deep truths. Do you want to find your soul mate? It is a romantic trope, obviously, but there are deep reasons for the existence of romantic fictions.
    • p. 275
  • There are three fundamental states of social being: tyranny (you do what I want), slavery (I do what you want), or negotiation.
    • p. 278
  • Do not foolishly confuse “nice” with “good.”
    • p. 281
  • Your life is, after all, mostly composed of what is repeated routinely.
    • p. 291
  • Maybe you have an hour and a half, or an hour, because life is too hectic. It would not be too bad an idea to have a shower. A little lipstick—that could be good. Some perfume. Some clothing that is attractive and erotic. Buy some lingerie for your wife, if you are a man, and wear it, with some courage, if you are a woman.
    • p. 299

Rule XI: Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant edit

Nature is beautiful in its mystery.
  • I have camped where the grizzly bears were plentiful. It is nice that they are on the planet and all that, but I prefer my grizzlies shy, not too hungry, and far enough away to be picturesque.
    • p. 315
  • Modern people have a hard time understanding what sacrifice means, because they think, for example, of a burnt offering on an altar, which is an archaic way of acting out the idea. But we have no problem at all when we conceptualize sacrifice psychologically, because we all know you must forgo gratification in the present to keep the wolf from the door in the future. So, you offer something to the negative goddess, so that the positive one shows up.
    • p. 318
  • We could use a poetic metaphor to represent the elements of experience that we have so far discussed (this is in fact how the world I am describing is usually considered). Imagine the realm of the Dragon of Chaos as the night sky, stretching infinitely above you on a clear night, representing what will remain forever outside your domain of understanding. Maybe you are standing on a beach, looking up, lost in contemplation and imagination. Then you turn your attention to the ocean—as grand in its way as the starry cosmos, but tangible and manifest and knowable, comparatively speaking. That is nature. It is not mere potential. It is there, in its unknowability, instead of removed from comprehension entirely. It is not yet tamed, however; not brought into the domain of order. And it is beautiful in its mystery. The moon reflects on its surface; the waves crash eternally and lull you to sleep; you can swim in its welcoming waters. But that beauty has a price. You better keep an eye out for sharks. And poisonous jellyfish. And the riptide that can pull you or your children under. And the storms that could destroy your warm and welcoming beach house.
    • pp. 329–330
  • No matter how beautiful the natural world, we should remember that it is always conspiring to starve, sicken, and kill us, and that if we lacked the protective shield constituted by Culture as Security we would be devoured by wild animals, frozen by blizzards, prostrated by the heat of the desert, and starved by the fact that food does not simply manifest itself for our delectation.
    • pp. 332–333
  • Well, you do not hope for the infinite perfectibility of humanity and aim your system at some unattainable utopia. You try to design a system that sinners such as you cannot damage too badly—too permanently—even when they are half blind and resentful. To the degree that I am conservative in orientation, I believe in the wisdom of that vision.
    • p. 337
  • I think it is reasonable to posit that it is often the people who have had too easy a time—who have been pampered and elevated falsely in their self-esteem—who adopt the role of victim and the mien of resentment.
    • p. 339

Rule XII: Be grateful in spite of your suffering edit

  • We are fascinated by evil. We watch dramatic representations of serial killers, psychopaths, and the kings of organized crime, gang members, rapists, contract killers, and spies. We voluntarily frighten and disgust ourselves with thrillers and horror films—and it is more than prurient curiosity.
    • p. 358
  • Grief must be a reflection of love. It is perhaps the ultimate proof of love. Grief is an uncontrollable manifestation of your belief that the lost person’s existence, limited and flawed as it might have been, was worthwhile, despite the limitations and flaws even of life itself.
    • p. 372