Peterson’s Beyond Order has been published in tens of languages, but the translation to Hebrew holds unique significance. The author’s insight into the bible and its ancient language, shine a special light on the best seller’s Hebrew version.
Here, translator Dalit Souter, sheds light on the 12 Rules For Life sequel, and her intriguing discovery of how the ancient language seems to support Paterson’s interpretations, notions and deep intuitions.
Philosophy scholar (MA) Souter has spent many weeks, immersed in the clinical psychologist’s latest title, mulling over the 12 new rules and ensuring that every nuance is accurately conveyed. “This can be challenging at times because Peterson has his own style of writing” explains Souter, “he uses his own terminology and has a unique pace. His writing style is a fundamental part of his character and of how his brain works, every word and thought are meticulously considered and it is paramount to fully respect that.”
I start by asking Souter how relevant she believes Beyond Order‘s teachings are to Israelis.
“Peterson’s wisdom transcends geographic borders and Beyond Order is no exception” she replies, “his knowledge is of immense relevance to every living person. This is in fact the essence of Peterson’s greatness – his narrative is not about contemporary culture or passing trends, it is about the fundamental basics of the human condition, as such it applies to everyone.”
It is this deep understanding that makes his insight into contemporary culture so profound, and why his take on today’s society resonates to loudly.
“A vital aspect of his narrative consists of his reaction to cultural currents and destructive tendencies within society” explains Sauter, “it could well be argued that this commentary would not be needed had present day narrative not been the systematic assault on reason that it is.”
When she first encountered Peterson’s work, Souter assumed that the sentiment of self loathing, specially within men, was a local phenomenon, widespread among soft Canadian males. It was when radical feminism bluntly invaded Israeli culture that Sauter recognised it as the global plague that it is – she identified the same self loathing, depression and lack of motivation in Israeli men and realised the full meaning of Peterson’s message. “Did you know that there is a group of one hundred thousand men in Israel who call themselves ‘damaged dad’?” ask’s Sauter, “they proudly wear a sticker bearing this ‘title’ on their car as they wallow in self-hating humour – this is the reason Peterson is so needed today, he is a contradictory force to this insanity.”
The book’s title has been changed from Beyond order to Being a Human. “The word Order does not convey the meaning intended by Peterson” explains Souter, “translated directly, it refers more to tidiness rather than the opposite of chaos. Being a Human seemed a perfect captures the essence a book about the human experience – Being a Human book deals with the full spectrum of human qualities – from the qualities of the mythical hero, to the individual consumed by destructive resentment and dishonesty. The reader gets a comprehensive image of the human experience, in a way that helps him/her define themselves and find their place in the world. It helps the individuals identify personal weaknesses and see them as an opportunity to correct errors, mend their ways and fulfil their purpose in life.
To Sauter, Peterson is first and foremost a philosopher, but his is a “completely new breed” of philosophy. “There are many great thinkers out there” she explains with contagious enthusiasm, “but it is hard to find anyone with Peterson’s approach to information – he gathers data from a multitude of fields and practices, and then digests it with deep thought and consideration. His overview vision of the world, coupled with his power of articulation, and the uncanny ability to convey an often complex concept, is uniquely his.”
Peterson’s philosophy, explains Sauter, employs civilisation’s entire accumulated knowledge, as well as newly discovered scientific data “to reach a conclusion which is pretty trivial, but in today’s climate, is perceived as an extreme – the conclusion is that we are the descendants of those who survived because they acted upon the instruction of ancient stories, these stories themselves survived because they were passed on by those individuals strong enough to survive. There is no greater stupidity than tossing aside this knowledge simply because it ‘got a little old’ as time passed.”
In many ways, Peterson’s conclusions are similar to the conservative Judea-christian adds Sauter, but in his case, they are not shaped by religious doctrine. Instead, they rest on psychological, sociological and cognitive studies. Peterson then shows how his findings carry a message similar to that of our culture’s ancient myths.
Sophisticated as Peterson’s academic mind is, his often high-brow concepts are comprehensible and within the grasp of laymen. “This is the reason many people have epiphanies when reading his work, observes Souter, “take for example his story of his son who at 4 years old repeatedly watched a scary segment of Disney’s Pinocchio. Why would he voluntarily put himself through this ordeal when it is clear that it causes him distress? The child is not knowledgable due to lack of real life experience, explains Peterson, but he is in fact “an ancient creature”, carrying within him information accumulated over our entire evolutionary journey – ‘ancient creature’ is a stunning, uniquely Peterson observation, and a perfect example of his uncanny power of articulation. With two words, he has encapsulated the idea of us being part of an evolutionary process and that there are biological elements within us that go back millions of years.”
Another example of many, reflects on the child’s fear of reptiles and the dark. A parent is wrong to tell the frightened child that there are no monsters in the dark, asserts Peterson – the child is acting upon an innate instinct to be wary of the potential dangers that lurk in the darkness and is therefore in the right. “The idea that the parent is wrong here, makes you view this familiar scenario in a whole new light.”
The Hebrew translation has taken this even further, revealing instances where the ancient language is ‘in synch’ with Peterson’s narrative. “This was rather shocking to me” reflects Souter, “I was at a gasp quite a few times as I was translating the text, it is as if the language which was not in use for thousands of years, supports Peterson’s assertions about human nature and civilisation.”
Sauter chooses two striking examples of the uncanny sync in action. “Take the Hebrew letters Gimel, Bet and Reish, forming the root G B R. This root forms the words Gever – a man, Gibor – a hero and Lehitgaber -to overcome. Anyone familiar with Peterson’s narrative will immediately recognise the significance and beauty of this coincidence. Another example is the word discipline which in Hebrew is Mishmaat. The root of Mishmaat is the letters Shin, Mem and Ain, the root that forms the word Lishmoa – to listen, the most vital part of absorbing disciples’ knowledge.” This root would be familiar to many non Jews as it also forms the word Shma, as in the Jewish prayer Shma Israel, pleading for god to listen – the last words uttered by Holocaust victims.
But it goes well beyond these very specific revelations, stresses Souter, “it is about the entire Peterson narrative and wisdom being reminiscent of old jewish scholars, with many of his ideas found within Jewish tradition.” Peterson’s idea that unresolved issues are passed on to the next generation made Souter think of the Jewish proverb Avon Avot Al Banim meaning the fathers’ sins are inflicted upon their children.
Of Beyond Order’s twelve new rules Abandon Ideology is Souter’s favourite. “A great deal of energy is spent on fighting for causes and futile arguments over them, I agree with Peterson that ideology is dead due to excessive use, but also that instead of trying to fix the whole world, we should identify smaller problems and try to remedy those first.”
The book laments over society and parents failing their children by depriving them of hardship and difficulty. They grow up weak and susceptible to over simplistic ideologies where an oppressor is always to blame and there is always an oppressed group. “Over shielding the young is a universal ill of modern civilisation” says Sauter, “ and that applies to Israelis too. We need to listen to Peterson and introduce children to the evil queen so they don’t end up vulnerable and detached from reality like so many of Peterson’s clients.”
Souter refers to the client Peterson calls ‘sleeping beauty’ as a clear example of the naiveté and wilful blindness that also afflict Israelis. “Beyond Order‘s warning of dangerous naiveté is very relevant to Israel’s reality” she stresses, “this is what happens when common sense is lost in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion. Take the situation in Israel at the moment where some within the Arab community are being violent towards Jewish residents. Positive discrimination dictates that Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights, so we have a situation where there are people inside Israel who are using their ideological banner of a Palestinian Nation, to apply force against Jewish citizens. There are neighbourhood where they reign with terror and Jewish residents are afraid to come out of their homes, while outside there are Arabs calling for their death. The Israeli police is helpless because every attempt to halt the violence triggers calls of police racism. And so you have instances such as a teacher from Raanana who took some of his students to one of these neighbourhoods where Jews are stranded, they took essential supplies and medicine at great personal risk. They were attacked by Arab agitators who threw stones at them, the teacher instructed the students to throw stones back to until the police arrive. So now, he is threatened with dismissal as the council releases a statement declaring their tolerance and support for co existence.”
This suicidal naiveté has Peterson written all over it, asserts Sauter – “Israeli children are taught that when you are hit you never hit back, this is how they create dependence in the ever-present supervising adult. Like the Sleeping Beauty client who lived in fear and was shocked by the slightest hint of real life violence, Israel has raised a generation surprised to learn that its Muslim neighbours seek Israel’s destruction. This naive generation shuns any form of violence under any circumstances, the result is them clinging to a delusional narrative whereby they hold themselves responsible for violence inflicted on them – this is suicidal lunacy.” This is precisely the dangerous naiveté and dependence that Peterson warns against.
The 12 new Beyond Order rules apply to Israeli culture Says Souter. Israelis should take to heart the advice to not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement and to Imagine who you could be and then aim single-mindedly at that. Other rules include do not hide unwanted things in the fog, notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated, do not do what you hate, do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant, work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens, plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your life, try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible, if old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely, and the rule that Peterson himself found near impossible to practice as he and his family battled ill health – be grateful in spite of your suffering.
If any cultural differences exist they might apply to the rule Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship, says Sauter.
“Israelis’ approach to resolving conflict within marriage seems to me to be more direct than what Peterson describes in this chapter” explains Souter, “this is my personal impression but I do think we tend to be more direct and vocal with each other. That said, we still need to negotiate just like the man advises, and avoid reaching a point of zero intimacy in our marriage – “zero is bad” might sound obvious but it is clearly of relevance to many couples.”
In souter, the publisher has found their dream translator. Impeccably versed in Peterson’s narrative, the Cafe Shapira founder is a long time advocate of the outspoken thinker. “I am not a fan in the traditional sense” she explains, “I am, as Peterson puts it, a person who listens carefully to what he has to say.”
I congratulate Souter on her great fortune in landing such a dream commission. “Luck had nothing to do with it” she replies, “I happened to be present when the Israeli publisher has revealed that they just secured the rights to Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life. I shot up, and threatened to beat him up if I didn’t land the translation job. I looked him straight in the eye and made him promise me that I will be the one bringing Peterson’s message to Israelis.”
It is worth noting that Peterson has never claimed that his rules are the ones by which you should live your life. His purpose is to help build your resilience so you are better prepared for when disaster strikes. “It is Peterson’s conviction” explains Sauter, “that you should willingly confront hardship – overcoming adversity is how you discover the hero-like power within you” – you come out stronger and wiser for it.
“Peterson’s hero concept is one of his most potent” says Sauter, “in fact, if people were to take one lesson from this book it would be how to be the hero of your own life story, so that one day you will reach the godliness that is your future self. This story will give you satisfaction and you will be proud of yourself for willingly braving the unknown – you faced hardship and salvaged something of value to you, your family, your country and civilisation. You will end up leaving the world a better place than the one your entered – this is the very meaning of fulfilling your purpose as a human, it is the essence of being a human.”
I conclude by asking Sauter why Jordan Peterson’s genius is hard to define. “This is a great question” she answers with marked excitement, “his genius is his unprecedented ability to gather a multitude of practices and observations, solidify them and present them in a coherent manner. It is not a matter of just simplifying concepts”, she stresses, “it is the combination of an all encompassing outlook on civilisation, coupled with deep analysis of often highly complex information and the ability to articulate thoughts in a manner that strikes a cord with everyone.”