Motivation for terrorism: neuropsychology and mythologyy

Jordan B. Peterson jbp at
Fri Apr 21 12:17:15 EST 1995


Message, with new posting information, from
Jordan B. Peterson
Assistant Professor
Harvard University Department of Psychology
Ideology confines human potential to a narrow and defined realm. 
Adaptation undertaken within that realm necessarily remains 
insufficient, is destined to produce misery, as it is only relationship 
with the unknown that allows life to retain its savour. Ideology says
“it must be thus,” but human experience constantly exceeds the realm 
of its representation. This capacity for exception must be denied, 
by the committed ideologue, lest faith in presumed omniscience vanish 
and chaos, intolerable chaos, reappear. 

The ideologue remains unable and unwilling to comprehend a basic fact: 
it is not the existence of anomalous information that constitutes human 
evil - such information rather constitutes a call to expanded adaptation. 
Evil is the process by which the significance of anomaly is denied - 
by which meaning itself, truth itself - is rejected. This rejection means, 
necessarily, life rendered unbearable, hellish and destructive:

“... the more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries; all good to me becomes
Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state,
But neither here seek I, no, nor in Heaven,
To dwell, unless by mastering Heaven’s supreme,
Nor hope to be myself less miserable
By what I seek, but others to make such
as I, though thereby worse to me redound:
For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts.”

Milton, J. (1667/1961). Paradise Lost (and other poems), 
annotated by E.LeComte. New York: New American Library, p. 237, Part 9:119:130.

Rejection of anomaly of experience - behavioral possibility, 
unique imagination and thought - is denial of the heroic, 
the better part of the self - and the only part capable of voluntarily 
withstanding the tragedy of existence. Such denial leads inexorably 
to demonic possession, metaphorically speaking - to neurotic misery, 
interpersonal cruelty, and the desire for the dissolution of existence:

“The spirit I, that endlessly denies.
And rightly, too; for all that comes to birth
Is fit for overthrow, as nothing worth;
wherefore the world were better sterilized;
Thus all that’s here as Evil recognized
Is gain to me, and downfall, ruin, sin
The very element I prosper in.”

Goethe, J.W. (1832/1979) Faust, Part One, translated by P. Wayne. New York: Penguin Books, p. 75.

I would like to announce the internet posting of a book-length manuscript
I have recently completed, entitled
The Gods of War: An Investigation into the Intrapsychic Bases of
Motivation for Social Conflict

I have attempted to construct a complete portrait of that aspect of the human 
personality - alive and well - which is capable of committing atrocity, 
in the name of sacred belief.

This book can be accessed in total in a variety of manners. It is on the
world wide web at
and can be accessed by a web-browser such as Mosaic or Netscape. At the
WWW site, it can be downloaded as one file or in chapters, or read as a
To FTP the manuscript, follow these instructions:

login as anonymous and use your email address as a password
cd pub
cd jbp
If you want an MS Word for Windows v.2.0. version, type:
mget *.doc
If you want plain text files, type:
mget *.txt
Chapter 6, THE CONCENTRATION CAMP, may prove 
of particular interest to those concerned with the problem 
of motivation for terrorism. The remainder of the text
deals with the same subject, in more expanded form, utilizing
information drawn from neuropsychology and mythology.
I have placed the text on the internet for experimental purposes.
Technical problems with manuscript access can be resolved by Paul Bergen
bergen at
Comments regarding the book, if any, can be sent to my alias at
godofwar at
I hope you find the information I am offering useful and informative.

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