Here Peterson recaptures ground that’s become unfashionable in modern psychology. His model is heavily influenced by Freud and Jung. “You don’t know yourself,” he says. We are not who we thought we were. We carry secret, shameful knowledge that’s scarcely accessible to conscious exploration (Freud). We also carry elements of a Collective Unconscious (Jung) that’s glimpsed via our myths and creation narratives. If you think you are an atheist you are wrong, says Peterson, because your mind has been bent and shaped and molded by a god-fearing past stretching back into the unfathomable abysm of time.
Freud still has some influence with psychologists, I presume, but it’s more like how biologists regard Haeckel: a smart guy who built theories on faulty premises and isn’t considered a credible source any more. Worse, he was someone with immense biases that he pretended were objectively valid. Jung was a flaky mystic. Why would a modern psychologist have anything but a historical interest in either of them?
The “collective unconscious” is nonsense. So is the idea of the kind of ancestral memory Peterson is proposing.
I would certainly agree that cultural influences shape our attitudes and beliefs, and that in a largely Christian country with a long Christian history, you can’t escape exposure. But to argue that we can’t escape that influence in our ideas is like saying that Protestants can’t exist because Catholics existed first, or that we’re all animists because our distant ancestors worshipped gazelles and feared lightning. Our minds were also shaped by a society that (at least among some of us) greatly values science and secularism, and that affects me far, far more than the fact that my great great grandparents were Lutherans, back in the old country.