Jonathan Pageau on Jordan Peterson and Orthodoxy

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TRANSCRIPT: 

[Dr. Herman Middleton]: I recently had the privilege of spending some time with Orthodox woodcarver, symbolist and YouTuber Jonathan Pageau. We had some great conversations together, and he graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview. I’m going to be releasing episodes from this interview over the next weeks and months, so please subscribe below to get notified when a new video becomes available. 

HOW DID YOU FIRST MEET PETERSON?

[Jonathan Pageau]: Jordan Peterson has, in the last year or year-and-a-half or so, has become a household name, I guess. His star has risen very strangely and unexpectedly. I met Jordan Peterson a while before he became famous. I heard him on the radio, and he was presented, obviously, as a secular professor who was teaching at a university. When I heard him on the radio, I really saw that there were some places in his speaking that connected very profoundly to an Orthodox worldview. Not everything that he was saying, but there were certain things that connected very profoundly and that was doing what I was trying to do in art, with stories, trying to help people reconnect to those stories that profoundly connect us together and connect us to, you know, the heritage of the ancients, to the heritage of Christianity but also to the heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, how all of those things come together to create what’s best of Western tradition. 

So, when I heard him, I was so surprised to hear a professor speaking in those terms that I reached out to him. In meeting him, I immediately saw that he had a type of intuition that was similar to the intuition that I have developed. So we immediately connected and started to discuss. Strangely enough, then he started to interview me on his YouTube channel, and I started to get invited to the same events that he was doing. And I went with it because I felt like there was enough of what he was saying that was useful in the same vein as what I’m doing. 

Now, it’s important to say that Jordan Peterson is not an Orthodox Christian. Jordan Peterson is not actually really a Christian in any way. But the awakening that he’s brought to young people today, to our stories, to the way symbolism works (like I explained a bit before), I think is extremely important. And I have received so many messages of people who, through seeing Jordan Peterson (although he, himself doesn’t go to church), have started to go to church, and, surprisingly so, have started to attend an Orthodox church because they have had that same intuition that there’s enough in what he’s saying that is connected to the way Orthodoxy presents the world that they now feel attracted to Orthodoxy. 

And so, it’s been a strange journey, and I’ve been kind of just moving one step at a time and going along on this journey and seeing where it will lead us. 

Dr. Jordan Peterson

WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO PETERSON? 

At least in my perspective, in my view, the thing that he’s offered most to people is really this connection to story. The way that he presents. . . For people who are scientifically minded, he’s able to present the importance of stories, the importance of images in a scientific frame. Me, myself, as an artist, I don’t tend to do that, but he’s able to explain, in terms of the way the human brain is made and in terms of our own neurology, how we need to inhabit these patterns of being in order to function in the world. We can’t avoid it. It’s like a program that we have in our brain that runs before even our perception of the world. So, even for myself, it’s been an interesting reconnection with science and a possibility of seeing these stories in a different manner. 

So I think that that’s the most precious thing that he’s able to offer: to help people see the importance of patterns, the importance of stories, and that opens the door, then, to things like liturgy, to things like sacred stories and sacred images because those stories that are closest to the eternal patterns, which we have inscribed in our bodies and our minds and that, I believe, are inscribed in the whole world, as the world is the image of our Creator, made in the image of God, then that’s it. That’s . . . If we can see that, and we can start to inhabit that again, we’re not far from a Christian renewal, a reawakening of Christianity in the West. I think that it’s inevitable that it goes in that direction. So in that sense, I think that Jordan has had quite a bit to offer to people. 

In terms of personal development, let’s say, the fact that he’s telling especially young men to shape themselves up, to stand up, and to stop acting like victims, and to take responsibility for their lives has also been really important because, when people start to do that, then they start to focus on what’s important. And hopefully, as they are attentive to their own desires and attentive to the problems which face them and stop avoiding them, then they will see, I hope, that they can’t do it alone and that they need an ecclesia, they need a communion in which to exist. They need to be faced in the right direction; they need to be faced toward something that transcends them in order for them to be able to move on that journey. Then again, once again, I think that if people do that, they are moving towards Christianity, and they are moving towards the Church. 

WHY DO SOME ORTHODOX [CHRISTIANS] HAVE RESERVATIONS ABOUT PETERSON? 

I think the concerns that some people have with Jordan are correct. I think Jordan Peterson is a heretic, and I don’t think that’s a strange thing to say. I think that if I had him sitting next to me right now, and I said, “Jordan, you’re a heretic,” I think he would just laugh, knowing that’s true. He’s said many things which are there to help you know that he’s a heretic. He’s actually said that he started his own church, the Church of St. Joachim of Flora, whatever that means, and that he’s the,

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