Adapted from Cultural Maturity: A Guidebook for the Future.
Cultural Maturity’s cognitive reordering not only alters how we think and the answers our thinking produces, they alter our understanding of truth itself. This observation provides essential insights for “mapping” the territory ahead, for developing “pattern language” notions able to provide the needed, more nuanced guidance.
Cultural Maturity’s cognitive changes are as transformative regarding how we think about truth as the theories of Newton and Descartes were in their time. In an important sense Cultural Maturity’s changes are more so. They bring not just a next step in truth’s evolving story, but a step of unique significance.
The importance of rethinking what makes something true is a sentiment voiced with growing frequency over the last century. Einstein observed that survival will require “ a substantively new manner of thinking.” Biologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson proposed something similar when he concluded that, “If I am right, the whole of our thinking about who we are and what other people are has got to be restructured … The most important task of today is learning to think in a new way.”
We can’t know for sure whether either Einstein’s or Bateson’s observations referred to the same changes described by the concept of Cultural Maturity. But given where these thinker’s conclusions took them, in particular how each emphasized the need to bridge what had before been absolute divides (for Einstein, most notably, time and space, for Bateson, humankind and nature) we can be comfortable that their assertions point us in at least a related direction. I find it helpful to think about what makes Culturally Mature truth new in three different ways that ultimately take us to the same place.
First there is the way it better reflects that we are living beings. Ideas able to fully address human experience (and human complexity) must somehow reflect the fact that we are alive—for the simple reason that we are and that few things about us are more important. Ultimately, as we shall see, our ideas need to do something more beyond just this. They must somehow reflect the particularly choice-filled and audaciously innovative kind of life we are by virtue of being human. Culturally mature perspective both highlights each of these requirements and helps make visible ways they might be addressed.
Second is how needed new truths “bridge” traditional polar assumptions. Needed new understandings of every sort require that our thinking create links between phenomena we’ve regarded not just as different, but opposite—matter and energy, ally and enemy, mind and body, masculine and feminine. They require that we get our arms around a more systemic picture, and not just any sort of systemic picture, but a newly dynamic—creative—sort of systemic picture.
Third is how truth beyond maturity’s threshold necessarily engages more aspects of intelligence, and in more conscious and integrated ways, than truth in times past. Mature systemic thought requires that we draw on more of our own systemic complexity—rationality alone is not enough (nor any other aspect of intelligence by itself), a recognition that extends and fills out our appreciation for Cultural Maturity’s cognitive changes in essential ways.