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Culture wars: three perspectives on today's world by Martin Euser, Oct.

, 2011
In the following essay, I will briefly show how the three gunas paradigm that I have developed in a previous article (see my blog postings), can be applied to perspectives on our world in crisis. It is a kind of informal sociological analysis which will show once again the usefulness of this paradigm and the relation to some of the principles of process-philosophy, near the end of this essay. I will sketch some basic ideas presented in the book "The Cultural Creatives" (How 50 million people are changing the world), written in the year 2000 by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, and add some observations of mine to this. Quotes are from this book. It might be useful to do a quick study of my free article, mentioned above, in order to get a basic understanding of the threefold gunas in concrete applications. The fact, that there currently is a global ecological, financial-economic and political crisis, needs little illustration. After all, everything seems to be breaking down: from our financial institutions, job security, education and access to education, to loss of a connection to nature, God, and what not. Nihilism, pessimism, loss of meaning, etc., are rampant in current (Western) society. Ecological and economic disasters are wreaking havoc and will do so even more. Our political leaders have great trouble in dealing with this complex crisis. One of the main causes of the current world situation has been the Industrial Revolution, which has caused massive pollution and depletion of resources. Population growth has added much pressure to the ecosystem as well. Modernity has, so to speak, swept humanity from its feet. Today, many are questioning its premises of unlimited growth and the squandering of resources. The question is: how do we deal with this breakdown of society, seen as a system, or otherwise? It may have dawned to many readers, that behind the current world situation, there is a crisis of values going on in our world. What kind of world is this, where a billion people live in starvation mode, where wages are kept low in order to maximize profits for a small elite, and ecological considerations are pushed aside to be dealt with later, "when the economy is in a better shape"? Not to mention, the greediness of bankers and stupidity of countries which get into large debts. Based on decades of research, there seem to be three main ways, reflective of different values, that people look at and react to the current world situation. All three ways involve a belief-system or worldview, in one way or another. See figure below.

In their book, Ray and Anderson describe the coming into manifestation of what they call "the Cultural Creatives", roughly consisting of two subgroups: people who value their connection to nature and relations to others deeply, and put ecological considerations and sustainable development above economic profits. People who have the same values as subgroup one, but in addition feel a deep spiritual connection to the divine, to other human beings and nature. This subgroup is designated "core Cultural Creatives", because many of its members are opinion leaders and top creative entrepreneurs or founders of institutes that are renewing our culture. The Cultural Creatives (CC) are roughly estimated to constitute 20-25% of the population of the USA. They consist of people that go beyond the system and depart inwardly from the modern materialist worldview. This group is found to consist of two subgroups, as mentioned above. For reason of simplicity, I call these the green ones and the integral ones. The green ones feel a deep connection to nature, love cooperation instead of competition, but are not especially drawn to spiritual growth work. They may be religious, or not, as the case may be. The integral ones consists of people who also love nature, but in addition are able to deeply understand systems, and the limitations and boundaries of these. They are considered the more developed subgroup or part of the Cultural Creatives, featuring the leaders or influential people of the CC. They display a more inclusive mindset. People who have this characteristic in their thinking, do not reject others for their beliefs. They see that there are different approaches to life and try to harmonize differences (not even out or reject these) and build bridges between people. Many examples are given of this in the Ray and Anderson book (see p. 89 seq.), especially in the domain of holistic health care. The Cultural Creatives group seems to be growing steadily over the years, and the world needs them

badly to help change the ways things are done. It is not difficult to recognize who has this mindset within the group of entrepreneurs (example: Anita Roddick), influential thinkers (Ervin Laszlo, Eckhart Tolle), political leaders (Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel), and NGOs (Greenpeace, Amnesty, etc.). Much more could be said about the CC, but I refer to the Ray and Anderson book instead. As to the other two groups mentioned in the figure, I will slightly exaggerate their characteristics in order to get the picture clear: The Traditionals are recognizable as "Bible Belt"types. They make up about 25% of the US population. They abhor modernity, and would like things to stay like they were long ago, or rather like they think things were in better times, when people still believed in God and had shared moral values (as they like to idealize those days of old). The Traditionals can be better called neo-traditionals, since their view of the past is rather selective. They omit things they don't like about it and stress things they do like. Neo-traditionalism rose in the 19th century, and became stronger near the end of that century, to continue up to our times. It has its roots in early Modernism, according to Ray and Anderson, but its members have defected to the new Traditionalism. There are subgroups within it, varying from the losers at the game of modernism , to the social conservatives who are backed by wealthy conservative foundations and are influential in national politics. This latter subgroup is from another social class and is much more ideological than the Traditional constituencies to which they appeal. (Ray and Anderson, p. 83). This group represents the conservative point of view, which obviously is not a solution to the current crisis situation, because people holding this perspective can't deal with the complexities of modern life; they ignore the interests of people who think differently and try to force-feed their opinion and way of life on others. That won't work. Having said that, this segmenting of a population has nothing to do with good guysversus bad guys. Most people will be able to change, to adapt their way of life to some degree to changing circumstances. It becomes grim when people revert to hate mongering. The Moderns are the types that love gadgets, have an unwavering belief in technological progress and science. They belief that growth can be sustained indefinitely, and that all problems can be solved using the latest technology or future technology. They often are highly individualistic, belief in "survival of the fittest", and fierce competition. They believe that everyone can make it, if they work hard and seize the opportunities they get. They make up about 50% of the population of the USA. (Worldwide, these figures may vary considerably). There are subgroups within the Moderns as well, something that is mentioned only briefly in the Ray and Anderson book. We all know some New Age people that have a modern mindset, but also show some interest in spirituality (in whatever form). Often, this interest is of the type How can I get wealthy, healthy, happy and successful in five easy steps, so this attitude fits perfectly with the modern mindset. It's still largely self-centered and self-indulgent. There are, of course, transitions to more social forms of spirituality. These may represent a blending of modernity and cultural creativity. These were the figures around the year 2000. Whether Moderns are still that optimistic today is questionable. Hard reality will have dawned on many by now. Many will have lost their jobs already, with more suffering likely to come. Like Traditionals, Moderns have no solution to the current crisis. They think within the box, and hope-believe that modern technology will solve the problems we're facing. There is a fierce polarity

between these two groups, something we have seen in my previous article on gunas in the psyche as well (the tamas-rajas polarity). Tamas equates with conservatism in this context, while rajas equates with the dynamic pace of the frenzied life of Moderns. In this connection, it is important to note that the sattva guna is about harmonizing differences, controlling and transmuting energies where possible. Cultural Creatives, especially the core segment , try to do that by building bridges between subcultures. On pp. 83-87 of their book, Ray and Anderson discuss the working of negative and positive feedback within society. Traditionals try to keep people on the straight and narrow path, saying get back to people whom they perceive to deviate from that path. This is an example of so-called negative feedback, which is an error-correcting type of feedback. Negative feedback enforces conformity. Moderns obviously don't like what Traditionals are doing. Positive feedback is the kind of change that feeds on itself, promoting innovation. It amplifies deviations from the old path and can lead a population, or part of it, into a new subculture. This is something that the Traditionals have done themselves: they departed from early Modernism. Culture wars can be created as negative and positive feedback occur at the same time. The culture splits into contending subcultures. The first split in America, all through the nineteenth century, was between urban-industrial Modernism and rural small town Traditionalism. The second split was when the Cultural Creatives made their inner departure from modernism starting about 1970. Cultural Creatives (the third population segment in my scheme) believe that the way things are organized in our societies has to change. One only has to look at issues like the shortage of fresh water, rising food prices, peak oil, and climate change, to understand that they are right. But Cultural Creatives (CC) are not well organized, and often not aware of the fact that there are many of them on the planet already. That awareness is growing slowly, but steadily, I believe. The rise of the internet and social media will be helpful in organizing them. There is might in number. I'm reminded of Avaaz right now. That organization has over ten million members now, and is growing strongly the last few months. Now comes a crucial question: if Traditionals and Moderns can't deal with the systemic failures we experience, because of their worldviews, is it possible that, somehow, influential people can help them change their views somewhat? The answer is: yes, this can be done and is being done, to some extent. Since roughly ten years, some church leaders (CC types) have been addressing the issue of stewardship of our planet. This is a notion that can be found in the Bible and appeals to Traditionals. Stressing our responsibility for all life on earth is an excellent move, away from apocalyptical ideas that make people passive. As to Moderns: they are slowly waking up to the facts presented to them (by trusted leaders) and perceived by them. It all takes time to sink in. As with the Traditionals, they have people in their midst that try to obfuscate matters by saying that nothing needs to change fundamentally. My understanding of all this is, that people evolve and can change their pattern of thinking. They can embrace new ways of thinking as the occasion requires. The greening of the Traditional and Modern mindsets represents such a shift. Let's hope humanity will move forward quickly enough to avoid large scale collapse of our economic and social systems. If collapse does occur, this might represent a good opportunity for all of us to find creative ways of managing our lives in more sustainable ways. In the process, a sense of community may be found again.

Recognizing the principles of process-theosophy at work In the above sketch of three current worldviews, one can recognize the principles that I mentioned in my article on spiritual process-philosophy, or process-theosophy, at work. For example, briefly:

Karma manifests in the feedback principle (first discovered by Vitvan, see my ebook). Cycles are ubiquitous in nature. In the case of civilizations, Spengler and Toynbee have made a case for cyclical patterns (but have been criticized heavily for sloppy work). In theosophical works one can find the notion of cycles of about 250 years where cultural and economic dominance shifts from East to West around the globe. This cycle is part of larger cycles. These are known as the Yugas in Indian philosophy. Today, we see the rise of China again, so, a cycle is visible here. Written history is short. In a few hundred years this whole matter will become clearer, I think. The end of history (Fukuyama) certainly isn't there. The swing from individual-centered to community-centered has also been said to be cyclical. More research is necessary on these cycles, as there is nowhere something like a consensus on this issue and these patterns may show more integration and interdependence between countries than in the past. Control hierarchies: these abound in human society. From governments all the way down to parents. Self-development and one's unique self-pattern: this expresses itself in one's character and one's belief-system. Each individual has, in principle, an infinite potential of growth possibilities. Collectively, there are dominant patterns of belief in society, as shown in this essay. The three cultural perspectives are examples of thought patterns and associated qualities of consciousness. Progressive development: there are stages in development of consciousness. There is some research being done in this area by integral researchers, some of which are associated with the work done with the Spiral Dynamics theory (Don Beck, Chris Cowan, Clare Graves related research). Jean Gebser's work is also becoming more known. Theosophers will recognize the slow development of kama-buddhi in the race (green values, more room for intuition and feeling, community-sense, integral and holistic thinking, etc.). Duality/polarity: see my discussion of tamas-rajas polarity. The sattva aspect seems related to regulation. In the individual psyche, there is the observational capability which provides information for feedback. In the collective, the role of individuals and organizations that set examples and provides assistance in changing attitudes and behaviors come to mind. This would be the sattva influence or quality that influences polarities in a population. Unity: behind polarities lies a field or Source of these polarities. The continuity of consciousness becomes clear, when one ponders about these things. After all, a person can change his or her orientation/polarity and still experience the same sense of ego. This unity is inherent in the sattva-rajas-tamas gunas. There is a principle that governs such switches of polarity.

Much more research is needed in all of these areas, but the beginning of a coherent processtheosophy, or spiritual process-philosophy, is there. The same ideas and arguments apply to the individual human psyche (which is integrated in the collective field of human psyches). See my article on the workings of the gunas in the human psyche and the writings of Vitvan, one of the first Western spiritual teachers who saw the necessity of a reformulation of the Ancient wisdom in modern terms.