Looking Ahead — For Myself Personally and for the Concept of Cultural Maturity

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The last, most leadership-focused book of my new three-book series is now out of my hands and off to the publisher. (It is also the longest of the three. This final volume, Cultural Maturity: A Guidebook for the Future, is 650 pages.) Completing it marks an important transition point for me. Creative Systems Theory had its origins over forty years ago, springing from some surprising insights. The big-picture implications of the ideas that followed have kept me committed to its evolution over time. Most of the development of Creative Systems Theory through the years, along with teaching about the theory, have taken place within the confines of the Institute for Creative Development’s think-tank environment. I began work on what has become this book series twelve years ago in order to make the ideas of Creative Systems Theory—and, in particular, the concept of Cultural Maturity that derives from it—available to a broader audience.

With the completion of the book series, these efforts move into a new phase. I have many more questions than answers as I move forward, particularly regarding what my role should be. The concept of Cultural Maturity and the ideas of Creative Systems Theory could not be more important or more timely. But they also challenge people to think and act in ways that at least initially may not be comfortable. Thus, the task of engaging a broader audience is not an easy one. And there is no obvious way to go about it. The audience for this work—the most intelligent and socially committed of people, wherever they are to be found—includes people from every realm of endeavor, and from all over the world.

At the same time, there are also some important factors that help in this endeavor. A big one is that none of my “cultural psychiatrist” efforts (or the broader efforts of the Institute for Creative Development) are done to generate financial profit—only to contribute to future well-being. This provides options that would not be available otherwise. For example, as a start, to support this broader conversation, I’ve decided to make e-book copies of the introductory, more general-audience book in the series—Hope and the Future—available free. If you would like a copy, simply contact Lyn Dillman at ICD Press (ICDPressLD@gmail.com) and let her know whether you would like the book in PDF or ePub format. (See www.HopeandtheFuture.com for more information about the book.)

If you have further thoughts about good ways to make culturally mature perspective more broadly understood, please let me know. (You can contact me at Spruce20498@mypacks.net). A strong foundation for such broader understanding is now established. The various books, plus the numerous websites and the Institute’s evolving educational video series, provide a wealth of options for deep learning that don’t require my presence.

If you read Hope and the Future and find it valuable, feel free to let others in your network know about the option of getting a complementary ebook copy. Even better, if you belong to an organization whose members might benefit from these efforts, think about doing a short piece for them that includes this offer for their members. (It could be just a letter to the editor, if something more formal is not an option.) There is every reason, given that this simple approach does not involve cost, to use it to get copies of Hope into as many hands as possible.


Key to future efforts being worthwhile is recognizing the multiple ways in which the concept of Cultural Maturity contributes to addressing what our times ask of us. The following list outlines three essential contributions (drawn from Cultural Maturity: A Guidebook for the Future) and the ways in which getting the word out might support them:

—First, the concept of Cultural Maturity provides a guiding story for our time, a way of understanding the kinds of choices that will most serve us going forward. I think if there is a single most defining crisis in our time, it is a crisis of purpose. We lack an overarching narrative that can effectively describe what advancing as a species must entail. The concept of Cultural Maturity provides a practical and compelling new guiding narrative. It would be wonderful if the phrase “Cultural Maturity” could become common parlance—as the word “sustainability” has become over recent decades.

—Second, the concept of Cultural Maturity helps us understand the new human capacities that we will need if we are to effectively address the essential challenges before us as a species. And understanding is just a start. By clarifying the needed new capacities, the concept of Cultural Maturity offers us a chance to practice them, build the muscles we need for making good choices. It would be wonderful if an appreciation for these needed new capacities could become integrated in some way into the basic assumptions of a broad array of fields.

—And third, the concept of Cultural Maturity proposes that the future will require not just new ideas, but that we learn to think in some fundamentally new, more dynamic, complete, and sophisticated ways. It both addresses what makes such new thinking possible and outlines its key characteristics. It also describes how such more sophisticated conceptual perspective challenges familiar assumptions and expands understanding within almost every sphere of inquiry. Creative Systems Theory provides one example of this more complete kind of thinking. It would be wonderful if at least the need for the new kind of understanding that the concept of Cultural Maturity addresses were broadly recognized.

I appreciate your support in this effort.

Charles Johnston, MD