Peterson gives us an account of his daughter’s dream. The real-life context is that she is the older sister of one-and-a-half-year-old brother, and still sees him as a baby, even though he can now walk around and use broken language. I can’t remember either of their names, and so I shall call them Matt and Tia.
Tia had a dream that Matt fell into a hole at the park (large woodland) near their house, and then Matt fell apart and then his bones fell out. The hole was full of water, and existed only because a tree that was standing there had burned. A large bug, that could swim, then pulled a whole Matt out of the hole, only he was bigger now.
There is certain imagery in this I can get behind being meaningful. Humans have been around things like the ground and water and the sky and trees for a long time, and I can imagine them being built into our psychology at a deep level and thus meaning something. I can imagine a tree meaning life, as trees existed in fertile soils. I can imagine the water being both scary, as it can become rough and dangerous, and hopeful, as it can be filled with fish.
On some level, I could even accept that idea of death and rebirth instead of growth and transition (although, I neither think nor feel the former is more meaningful or powerful than the latter). At this point, we’re at a push for what I find credible. There’s another implication I’m on the fence about: do dreams mean anything? For the purposes of this, I don’t know. But, I am open to the idea that a dream is a result of the brain processing something important while sleeping. That’s not to say it’s revealing a truth and certainly not that it’s communion with the supernatural. But, believably, Tia’s mind was trying to consolidate and make sense of the idea that Matt was no longer a baby. And it used the primal tools and water and bugs and death and rebirth.
But, I have to draw a line somewhere. And Peterson said that the tree represents the individual, because its structure resembles the nervous system or circulatory system. And there are some images that I just don’t accept have existed for long enough to be burned into deep psychology for it to be a tool of the dreaming mind.
A fellow blogger, tildeb, left a comment way back on Part 3a, drawing a line between myths and dreaming. Dreams are a personal story told with personal symbols, although some of those symbols may well be deeply ingrained on an evolutionary scale. Myths are an attempt to tell common stories with common symbols. Peterson’s language is that a dream is psychic (i.e. of the mind, not the mystical meaning) and that a myth is inter-psychic (i.e. exists in a shared mental space: culture and tradition). In a dream, you have (or are) the decoder of the symbols you create, and so you might know what it means. It’s interactive, but you are all the players. This isn’t the case for a myth.
Myths are interactive, and you have your own decoder to make sense of the symbols. But, it is just symbols and you have no idea if your decoder does the same thing as the author of the myth’s decoder. Which is to say, you have the tools to receive your own dreams, but you have to invent the meaning of myths for yourself. At which point, you may well be superimposing your values onto the myth ― and you never needed a myth for the values.
What tildeb suspects Peterson may have done ― and I find this credible ― is attempted to codify the meaning in particular myths as an objective fact, where the meaning is hugely personal and interpersonal and subjective. As a slightly comical analogy, consider this misheard lyrics video of O Zone’s Numa Numa. The (intentionally ironic) subtext is that the captioner assumed the song must be in English, and so this is what they made it say; it is not what it actually says.