Myths and Modernity: Jordan Peterson and the Enuma Elish

In “Maps of Meanings (1999),” Peterson misreads the Enuma Elish. This particular myth describes how Marduk, the principal God of Babylon, becomes the head of the Gods of Mesopotamia. Peterson regards it as the creation myth for Mesopotamia. It is not since the Sumerians had their own creation stories. The Babylonians took all these older myths, combined them, and added their Gods to rule the rest. In the Enuma Elish, Marduk of Fifty Names slays Tiamat, the Mother of All Life. He does so after gaining the leadership of the other Gods of the region.

On the surface, the Enuma Elish fits Peterson’s perceptions of how to overcome chaos, which he regards as feminine. Marduk (male) restores order by defeating Tiamat (female) who created chaos in trying to defeat Him. Tiamat is the Great Mother (unexplored territory), while her Consort Apsu is the Great Father (explored territory). (Note 1) In the myth, the noise from the humans keeps Apsu from sleeping, so He decided to be rid of them. However, Enki, who created the humans, kills Apsu, thereby enraging Tiamat, who seeks revenge. With her many monsters, She defeats the various Gods until Marduk comes up with a plan. Marduk, the Divine Son (the Knower) is the Hero who creates order out of chaos. (Note 2.)

Peterson interpreted this Babylonian creation myth to support his ideas about Darwinism – the survival of the fittest. He claimed that the myth sanctioned his ideas of men (Note 3.) overcoming their instincts. Furthermore, the myth proved that his view of “consciousness” being male, while the “irrational” is female is the correct one. Peterson shoehorned the Enuma Elish into his narrow perspective that archetypes are the “eternal categories” of imagination. Like many people, he takes things out of context, and cherry picks the rest. In his mind, this myth presents cosmic truths that lines up with his politics.

Note 1. The Great Mother is also, chaos, which is feminine, the Great Father is order and masculine. The Divine Son replaces the Great Mother’s discord with clarity. These are Peterson’s own concepts in reading myths. He bases his ideas on Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. He agrees with their theory of the monomyth -All myths are variations of a single story.

Note 2. This is Peterson’s reading of the Enuma Elish.

Note 3. Peterson’s focus is on immature males, and turning them into mature men.

One thought on “Myths and Modernity: Jordan Peterson and the Enuma Elish

  1. Have not read Peterson, but have known far too many dudes who represent chaos and the irrational side of human nature, so I’ve gotta suspect you are correct…


    Felice solstizio in ritardo ed Axé

    Liked by 1 person

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