Jordan Peterson's all-beef diet and ideologically possessed devotees

My friend, Paramadwaiti Maharaj’s young sannyasi disciple from Argentina, Padmanabha Swami, recently wrote me a note thanking me for introducing him to Jordan Peterson after I posted a few links on my Facebook page. He then wrote an article, extracting a few points from Peterson’s latest book, Twelve Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos, that he felt were compatible with Vaishnava teachings. At any rate, Peterson’s full-throated defense of religious belief and his debates with neo-atheists like Sam Harris have attracted the attention of Christian pastors like Paul VanderKlay who use his insights in their own understanding and explanations of religion.

I have not written directly about Peterson very much on this blog, as my own journey is taking me away from the kind of academic explanations of religion that were a concern earlier on in this blog, after I had gone through religious studies at McGill University. Nevertheless, that is what first attracted me to Peterson was his explanation of myth and his deep study of Freud, Jung, Neumann, Campbell, Eliade and other writers who were favorites of mine at that time and who offered me a roadway into explaining and understanding Radha and Krishna in a way that made sense then and still makes sense to me now.

Peterson, being a clinical psychologist and being up-to-date with most of the developments in all branches of the field, made him especially interesting to me – as he is to others. He is often able to state with certitude what the latest scientific literature and accumulated empirical evidence says about a wide variety of controversial issues that challenge many comfortable or politically correct notions about race and gender, social disparities, etc., whether on the left or the right. This, of course, makes him a bit of a bête-noir to people especially on the left, while he has been lionized by people on the right, often by those on the rather extreme side of the spectrum.

Nevertheless, I personally don’t find Peterson to be an ideologue of any sort. He is an accredited scientist, highly regarded in his field, and goes where facts lead him, to the best of his ability, whether they take him to a place that he is comfortable with or not. One of the principles of scientific thinking is that the truth is true independent of the character of the person who speaks it because it is objectively verifiable. The nature of truth is that it is true no matter who speaks it.

This is a universal principle, also stated by Chanakya,

viṣād apy amṛtaṁ grāhyam amedhyād api kāñcanam |
nīcād apy uttamāṁ vidyāṁ strī-ratnaṁ duṣkulād api ||
One should take out nectar from poison, gold from the gutter, the best knowledge from a lowly person, and a good wife from a bad family. (Nīti-darpaṇa 1.16)
And as we have repeatedly been saying, we call this the sāra-grāhī principle, following the example of Bhaktivinoda Thakur,

Recently it came to light that Jordan Peterson and his daughter have taken to an all-beef diet that has “cured their depression.” Needless to say, devotees who may have otherwise been favorable to the Canadian psychologist’s teachings and insights about meaning, myth, religion and spirituality have turned up their noses in disgust. I admittedly also find a diet of “beef, salt and water. That’s it.” about as off-putting as could possibly be. And frankly I don’t know how long anyone would be able to maintain such a diet without becoming depressed.

The business of meat-eating has been “in the news” on my blog for the past few weeks or years in relation to Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and one of the things I felt that came out of the whole investigation of the subject is the limitation that we can place on a person for their character when being a meat-eater. When Bhaktivinoda was in Puri (as I wrote recently here and here) he was speaking on the Bhagavatam and some of the Vaishnavas in the community objected that he was not a Vaishnava -- no doubt in part for this reason. The Gaudiya Math takes the position that the Thakur was nitya-siddha and therefore, as the Thakur recounts, the accuser himself was struck with illness and told in a dream that he had committed an offense. I asked Harigopal Dasji, whether he would have followed the accusing Vaishnava's prhibition, and he said he would have to, following the well-known verse,

avaiṣṇava-mukhodgīrṇaṁ pūtaṁ hari-kathāmṛtam
śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ sarpocchiṣṭaṁ yathā payaḥ

"One should not listen to even pure ambrosial discussions of Krishna from the mouth of a non-Vaishnava, for it is like drinking milk that has been touched by a snake."

It is not easy to recognize a nitya-siddha and one has to depend on such signs. Whether a Vaishnava should listen to Jordan Peterson is not exactly the same thing. What Peterson does is open doors to a modern discourse on religion, like Jung and his other followers, and this can also be very useful to devotees and preachers of Krishna bhakti.

Moreover, this discourse provides useful tools for our own investigation and understanding of the philosophical and psychological dimensions of our fundamental myths and doctrines, since the insights of Rupa Goswami lead us in this direction.

Peterson's valuation of cultural products and their importance for creating collective meaning, etc., are very much aligned with theories of rasa, and in particular those of Rupa Goswami. I have quoted Bharata Muni many times, na rasād ṛte kaścid arthaḥ pravartate, "Without the experience of rasa, there is no communication of meaning." Peterson's work and that of others to whom he refers like Camille Paglia, help shed light on this sutra of Bharata Muni."

Peterson recognizes the importance of finding meaning in life. Padmanabha Maharaj quotes his definition from Twelve Rules, which clearly shows this connection to rasa:
“Meaning is when everything there is comes together in an ecstatic dance of single purpose –the glorification of a reality so that no matter how good it has suddenly become, it can get better and better and better more and more deeply forever into the future. Meaning happens when that dance has become so intense that all the horrors of the past, all the terrible struggle engaged by all of life and all of humanity to that moment becomes a necessary and worthwhile part of the increasingly successful attempt to build something truly Mighty and Good.”

Another close friend of mine, a woman, has been viscerally opposed to Peterson ever since I first let it be known that I found him interesting. I was never quite able to understand what it was about him that she disliked so much. When I saw this video , I was more or less reminded of her. “He’s a douche.” But now that the news of his all-beef diet came out my friend triumphantly chortled that she had been proven right about Peterson’s douchebaggery and that I should renounce him “for the sake of the cows,” since my religious beliefs are supposedly defending the bovine species above all other considerations. And so on. Her brief dance of glee included calling me and Peterson both "idiots."

My original advice to her, when it came to Peterson, had been that I was not so much concerned with his personality, but with his thought. And that since she had expressed to me before an interest in studying psychology at the university level, I advised her to watch the videos of Peterson’s on-line courses, such as that on personality, the Bible or Maps of Meaning, listening with an open mind and examining the ideas rather than simply forming a gut reaction on the basis of a sound-bite delivered by someone who wants to excite your ideological prejudices. That is definitely NOT what you want to do with a thinker as brilliant as Jordan Peterson, who is inquiring into levels of understanding that go well beyond the merely literal. [Which my readers will know is a frequently visited issue on this blog.]

This is of course Peterson's Rule #9: "Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't." And that is also the proper Vaishnava etiquette -- not just to Vaishnavas, but to all living entities. After all, God as Guru is in their hearts too, and He might just be speaking to you through them.

I should add that I have been advising this woman for years, since she is fairly widely read and has great untapped intellectual potential, to write in order to develop and clarify her ideas. Peterson gives the same advice to a grad student, where he says it is not enough to simply read, but one must write, because writing means thinking. It is one’s response to what one has read that reveals the limits of one’s understanding and thereby shows the direction for further inquiry. It is this that is the source of the wisdom vidyā dadāti vinayam.

It is here, however, that I really wanted to get at Peterson’s concept of ideological possession. I don't think -- at least I hope -- that my friend is not as shrill as the woman in the clip that Peterson shows there, but the point about "ideological possession" is relevant. It is about having “ill-informed opinions” and an “an over-simplified radical view of the world.” It is in fact the same as the tāmasika knowledge that Krishna speaks of in the Gita:

yat tu kṛtsnavad ekasmin kārye saktam ahaitukam
atattvārthavad alpaṁ ca tat tāmasam udāhritam

"And that knowledge by which one sees the all-in-all in a single manifestation, to which one is causelessly attached, which is meager and bereft of clear understanding, is called tāmasika." (Gita 18.22)

This is another theme I have touched on in this blog several times, since this kind of view is often visible in the undeveloped devotee, the mūḍhatama. It is like the "single-issue" voter, who is easily misled by propaganda into acting against his or her own interests. The Western intellectual, and I would include Peterson in this, is fundamentally rājasika, comparing and evaluating different truths. The sāttvika person is one who finds the underlying value and truth in all. There is an evolution here, one that involves humility. Remmeber Peterson's Rule #9.

Obviously, this kind of attitude is helpful to bhajan. But how far can Jordan Peterson takes us on the path of faith? For one who is still struggling with faith in the context of the modern world, or who is struggling with the problems of literal belief, he can help develop a more sophisticated understanding that will help him communicate with the intellectual non-believer. It will help one to avoid the battles of the tāmasika "true believers" are competitions between literalisms and subjectivities, battles that no one can win.

For those who have found rasa and meaning, such intellectual understanding is only a door to faith, the vicāra-mārga that can be left behind when one has come to the stage of ruci. In such a case, Peterson, as a non-devotee of Krishna, becomes largely irrelevant. Until then, his meat-eating is largely irrelevant.


Yes, truly:

yaś ca mūḍhatamo loke yaś ca buddheḥ paraṁ gataḥ |
tāv ubhau sukham edhete kliśyaty antarito janaḥ ||
Wakey Wakey! said…

Jordan Peterson...

The dead Parrot's society:

Let me know when he wakes up (-:
Anonymous said…

The gymnastic contorsions of Jordan Peterson's rhetoric; māyā‎...
Prem Prakash said…
There's a yogic saying, "Just because a dog is good at barking doesn't mean he's a good dog."

I can appreciate a guy like Peterson in the same way I can appreciate a juggler in the circus. They both have interesting skill sets. The circus guy juggles pins and bowling balls, JP juggles the pins and balls in his manomaya kosha. They both have their place, and I can see how they both could help a bhakta at a certain point in his development. I don't though, think there's much that makes them worthy of emulation or guidance. Personally, I would follow such a person no farther than across the street. Even then, I'd check to make sure the light was green.

JP may feel his depression has been lifted, but if he's so wise, why is he depressed? Elevated thoughts bring ananda, not mental illness. Whatever benefits he might think he is getting are bound to catch up when the meat and salt take their toll on his heart, kidneys, etc.

Jagadananda Das said…
I hope I am not giving the impression that I consider him anything more than an intellectual guide. I went and made some additions to the post, adding his rule #9, which is to listen to other people as though they might know something you don't. I also added a brief mention of rajasika and sattvika knowledge also.

I can understand where you and other people (such as my friend who called me an idiot) are coming from. Way back a long time ago, and more recently also, I was discussing the relationship of the Bhagavata concept of nirguna to the three material gunas. Sometimes nirguna looks more like tamas than sattva. Exclusivity, like in the quoted verse.

Still I think Peterson has a lot of useful insights, though I don't believe nutritional guidance is one of them. And I agree with you (and my friend) that we are what we eat and if he is doing this to cure depression, well I hope he finds out about a sattvika diet sooner rather than later.
Jagadananda Das said…
Just to add one other comment. There is something called natural theology. That is present in the Christian tradition as well as the Hindu. Thomas Aquinas is famous for testing the limits of natural theology. Nevertheless, he was not afraid to use the findings of the philosophers like Aristotle where they helped support the revelation of Christ. So I am more or less following a similar route here.
Anonymous said…

There is a big difference between the natural theology of Protagoras, Plato, Socrates and the like who were 'midwifes of the mind'; Jordan Peterson is unable to birth himself let alone other people…
Jagadananda Das said…
Jordan Peterson is hardly someone I am going to defend to the death against all those who don't find any merit in him. I have stated that I do find merit in him. I have said to listen to one of his full courses -- I have given the links in the article.

As to whether anyone finds him personally or spiritually helpful, it is clear from the thousands of people who testify that he does that he does. It makes no difference to me that you or anyone else doesn't. As I state in my article, perhaps you have evolved beyond the teachings that he provides. Bully for you. There are large numbers of people who are below you who are being given hope and meaning through the things that he says. Primarily because he finds a way to justify the apparent irrationality of religious belief (etc.) in rational ways, based on psychology and analysis of cultural products like art, literature and religion.

As to natural theology, check out the Christian pastor Paul Vanderklay, who is at least one person from the Christian tradition who finds Peterson to be promoting religious faith from a naturalistic, i.e, not based on revealed scriptures, perspective.

Jai Radhe.

"Hope Humbly then; with trembling pinions soar:
Wait the great teacher, death, and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.
The soul uneasy, and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

John Alexander Pope (Essays on Man)

If you do not have the intellect to understand this:

in relation to this:

Then, you are a sheep amongst wolves...


Jordan Peterson: “It’s not really possible to have a disembodied being, it not possible really.”
Prem Prakash said…
I don't want to come across as someone who wants to argue Peterson to death. I can imagine his knowledge is helpful for many people. Dogma is a prison, and his clear intellect might help others break free of their mental stagnation.

I forget where in the Upanishads is the verse that says something about the blindness due to darkness not being as bad as the blindness due to light. People like JP may think they are light, but they are just thinking. This is why they are, ultimately, depressed. The light they experience, the sense of mental brilliance, is a distorting reflection of the light of love. Winning arguments is not the same as winning the heart of the beloved.

Jagadananda Das said…
I understand. I agree with you. The reason I find Peterson useful, and why he might not be so useful for others, is my life's trajectory led me to the study of religion in university after I had gone through fifteen years of Hare Krishna and Babaji life in India. At that time I felt it necessary to analyze my own experience from an outsider's perspective. At that time I found the psychological study of religion and religious experience to be particularly helpful, as I think many other religious people in the modern context have. I feel that Peterson has argued admirably for the meaningfulness of religious beliefs in that tradition and that is why I give him credence.

Like many of the best psychologists (including Freud and Jung, and many others of whom he has encyclopedic knowledge, Peterson is a clinical psychologist who has worked with thousands of patients and listened to them for thousands of hours. I don't believe that he has found the answer of internal sadhana, as presented in any of the paths of yoga, so I agree with you in that way, but I do think he points to doorway whereby a person might find entry, especially to a difficult (for modern people) path like bhakti.

This is why I advise those who might have the time and inclination to go through his material thoroughly rather than just dipping here and there. In the same way that I would say to read Jung and his followers as thoroughly as possible.

Prem Prakash said…
Maybe it's like the herbalist maxim that one person's medicine is another's poison.

Regardless, it's fun to kick this around with you. Now, on to those new posts about Radha and Vraja!
Anonymous said…
Go watch his lecture on Kali Ma. Pure speculation and garbage. He completely ignores how Hindus see her. Very much an outsider totally trampling the insiders view on Kali Ma. He should follow his own rules especially rule 9.

Jagat here's an experiment for you to try. Choose an issue you consider important to you. Now google arguments against your views. You'll find compelling arguments against what you hold dear. There are logicians who can articulate views that are logical but still nonsense. Such is the deluding power of mind.

JP is just another celebrity "intellectual" seduced by the adulation of his cult-like followers.

I can't help wondering how much energy JP puts into his pseudo Stoic persona on display in his Tube shows. He reminds me of the Iskcon gurus who mimic Prabhupada's Indianism or the Narayan Maharaja western followers who speak pigeon English as their guru did.

Having been involved with Gaudiya cult groups for nearly 30 years I can spot a charlatan and his groupies from a mile off. JP is another charlatan.

The emperior is wearing no clothes again...

Anonymous said…

The loud voice and gesticulating jazz hands of Jordan Peterson’s circus show employing the formula of ‘inductive reasoning’ time and time again (ad-nausea) to brow beat the low IQ is painful to listen to.

A collective of those who are unable to think for themselves will always demand someone to think for them.

Free your mind; always speak truth, be celibate, meditate and grace will find you.
Anonymous said…

Could Jordan Peterson turn-off his chattering mind?

Does he experience bliss?

Does he see the light of Samadhi?

In truth, will he articulate and lead others to the same ultimate truth?

If not, why is he relevant to this blog?
Anonymous said…

Yes, yes, one may of course add; does Jordan Peterson hear Kṛṣṇa’s flute which guides one to the light of samadhi?

Well, the answer is, "one can only hope"; truly.

If in truth the answer is no, then; what relevance is Jordan Peterson to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition and its practices which guide one to God consciousness?
Anonymous said…

Is Jordan Peterson a Zionist sheep dog (in the mood of 'Joachim of Fiore') pushing the low IQ towards the revelation of the Yinon Plan ( ארץ ישראל השלמה‬; Eretz Yisrael Hashlema)?

That is an interesting image that you have placed at the beginning of this blog posting Jagadananda Das:

This image may be mirrored (in sequence) to eventually generate a geometric series of eight-pointed 'fractal' stars - one within the other; which further goes on to produce the geometry of an eye....
Anonymous said…

And where may Jordan Peterson be coming from with his concealed eight-pointed star?

See page 604:

“The Buddhist wheel of life is composed of two crosses superimposed, and its eight points are still preserved to Christendom in the peculiarly formed cross of the Knights Templars.”

Anonymous said…

"In the sky (ākaṣa) where sound would be, that is called the ājñā-cakra. The yogi who there meditates on the self as Śiva attains yoga.

Verse 2.73

Page 288, Yoga-taraṅgiṇī: A Rare Commentary on Gorakṣa-śataka (translation by you).


आकष (ā-kaṣa [AkaSa])



Dhātu: कष् kaṣ


Dhātupāṭha: हिंसा hiṃsā

See (hint - yājñ):

Further Notes

Shakti and Shakta (Sir John Woodroffe)
Chapter XXIX - Kuṇḍalinī Śakti (Yoga)
Section 4 - Yoga and Conclusions

The Haṭhayogī who works for Liberation does so through the Yoga Sādhanāhere described which gives both Enjoyment and Liberation. At every centre to which he rouses Kuṇḍalinī he experiences a special form of bliss (Ānanda) and gains special powers (Siddhi). Carrying Her to the Śiva of his cerebral centre he enjoys the Supreme Bliss which in its nature is that of Liberation, and which when established in permanence is Liberation itself on the loosening of Spirit and Body. She who “shines like a chain of lights,” a lightning flash—in the centre of his body is the “Inner Woman” to whom reference was made when it was said, “What need have I of any outer woman? I have an Inner Woman within myself.” The Vīra (Heroic) Sādhaka, knowing himself as the embodiment of Śiva (Śivo’ham), unites with woman as the embodiment of Śakti on the physical plane. The Divya (Divine) Sādhaka or Yogī unites within himself his own Principles, female and male, which are the “Heart of the Lord” (Hṛdayam Parmeśituh) or Śakti and Her Lord Consciousness or Śiva. It is their union which is the mystic coition (Maithuna) of the Tantras.

Anonymous said…

In regard to the word 'ethereal', see the Sanskrit word इन्ध् (indh) from Proto-Indo-Aryan Haydʰ-, from Proto-Indo-Iranian Haydʰ-, from Proto-Indo-European h2eydʰ- ‎(“to burn, kindle”‎). Cognate with Ancient Greek αἴθω ‎(aíthō, “I kindle, burn”‎), Latin aestus ‎(“heat, fire”‎), Old Irish áed ‎(“fire”‎), Old English ād ‎(“pyre”‎), āl ‎(“fire”‎).


इन्ध् (indh):
Nature will always fill a vacuum said…

You are looking at the human animal with the wrong glasses (stringent limitations on rationality), there is no limit to the mind which has transcended itself; open your eyes and focus on the truth Jordan Peterson!

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