This page addresses both questions from people new to CST and more advanced questions submitted to this site. Questions are divided into nine sections:
- General CST Questions
- Cultural Maturity Questions
- Whole-Systems Patterning Questions
- Patterning in Time Questions
- Patterning in Space Questions
- Creative Fallacy Questions
- Compare and Contrast Questions
- Big Picture Questions
- Additional Assorted Questions
Questions in each section begin with the more basic and progress toward more advanced considerations. This page’s completeness and usefulness will evolve over time.
General CST Questions
1) How does CST helps us?
In multiple related ways. It provides a dynamically systemic perspective from understanding change, interrelationship, and truth more generally in human systems of all sorts. Its particular pertinence to the time in which we live follows from how it helps us articulate a defining story for our time, frame needed changes in how we humans think and relate, and recognize traps and partialities in our thinking as we look toward the future. CST helps us understand why we human beings, at different times and in different contexts, think and act in the very different ways that we do. It represents one example of an overarching frame that succeeds at the kind of more mature and fully systemic thought the future will more and more require. (See Overview page for more detail.)
2) How is CST new?
CST succeeds at the tasks of culturally mature thought. We see this in how it is able to step back and put belief in cultural context, in how it effectively bridges conceptual polarities of all sorts, and in how it provides a way to think about living systems that honors the fact that they are alive—and of particular importance to ourselves, honors the unique kind of life we are by virtue of being consciously aware. The conceptual shift these changes reflect gives CST particular conceptual power when in comes to systemic complexity of questions that more an more define our time.
3) How does CST achieve this conceptual leap?
It makes the fulcrum for understanding our tool-making, creative natures. CST describes how human intelligence is uniquely structured to support innovation. It also describes how we can use an appreciation of intelligence’s creative mechanism to make sense of the very different ways we understand and act at different times and in different contexts. Formative process is inherently a bridging dynamic. Indeed, CST argues that intelligence’s creative nature is the reason that we think in polar terms in the first place. A creative frame thus provides a ready approach for the needed, more mature and integrative kind of understanding.
4) You argue that while CST requires us to think more complexly, its approach ultimately has a simplicity and elegant directness. Can you say more?
It is complex in that it requires that it brings into play context at every level. It argues that much of the function of belief and ideology has been to keep life’s complexities from overwhelming us. It is simple in that it understands complexities of all sorts using a single simple frame—the workings of formative process. And formative process being the foundation of how we understand, a creative frame makes it possible to address highly complex dynamics in surprisingly compact ways.
Cultural Maturity Questions
(The Cultural Maturity Site has its own, more elaborated Q and A section)
1. Can you briefly summarize Cultural Maturity’s thesis?
Put most simply, it proposes that our times are challenging us to a specific kind of “growing up” as a species. The concept is more nuanced and demanding than the simple phrase growing up might suggest. But that is essentially what it is about. Cultural Maturity involves moving beyond a parental relationship to cultural belief—surrendering part protective absolutes—and taking a new level of responsibility both for our actions and the truths we apply. It is also about the more demanding and complex—but also more rich and full—kinds of understanding and relating that doing so begins to make possible.
2. What evidence do we have that its thesis is right?
Several different kinds. Some is empirical. If we list the most critical challenges ahead for the species, we find that each requires the greater maturity of perspective the concept of Cultural Maturity describes to be effectively addressed—or really adequately understood. There is also how the most defining advances of the last century, across spheres of inquiry, have most all reflected at least first steps in the conceptual shifts the concept of Cultural Maturity predicts. At this level of evidence, we can think of Cultural Maturity as at least a good general metaphor for thinking about needed changes in how we think.
Additional levels of evidence are more theoretical. We find that the societal changes the concept of Cultural Maturity describes find quite precise parallels in the changes that reorder values and perception when taking on second-half-of-life developmental challenges—a recognition which offers that we might apply that notion of “growing up” not just as a handy metaphor but more directly as analogy. Creative Systems Theory goes further to describe how these changes are consistent with the those that reorder experience with the second half of any human formative process.
3. Where we are with regard to Cultural Maturity’s threshold?
The larger portion of thinking today even in fairly high Capacitance circles falls short of Cultural Maturity’s threshold. The best makes it a couple sold steps beyond. A health human future will require that twenty years from now, thinking from beyond that threshold will have major influence in leadership of all kinds.
4. Do I need to understand Creative Systems Theory to make use of the concept of Cultural Maturity?
No. As simple metaphor or analogy, the Cultural Maturity works fine as a stand-alone concept. The concept of Cultural Maturity is a formal Creative Systems Theory notion. And CST is significant with regard to the concept of Cultural Maturity because it models one successful effort at Culturally Mature theory (and one that can be applied in highly nuanced ways to a wide variety of questions). But there is no need to either understand or agree with the theory’s idea to make powerful use of it.
There are ways CST adds to the more basic concept. It helps make understandable why Cultural Maturity’s challenges and changes should be what we are seeing and for understanding exactly what they ask of us. And while all the more nuanced aspects of the concept—and very often the devil is in the details—follow directly from Cultural Maturity as a concept (CST is not required), CST provides simple language for making many of the important distinctions. It can also provide great help when applying the concept of Cultural Maturity by helping us think about systems at a level of detail that the concept of Cultural Maturity by itself does not provide.
But the concept of Cultural Maturity, when understood deeply, requires no support from Creative Systems Theory.
5. Could we say culturally mature perspective is about being more interdisciplinary in our perspective and more relativistic in how we think?
Certainly Cultural Maturity affirms the importance of multidisciplinary inquiry. It argues that most all the important questions of our time require it. One of the reasons the academic world often providing much less leadership than we might prefer when it comes to the future is how impenetrable the walls between disciplines can be. (Another reason is the common assumption in academia that rational understanding is sufficient.)
Culturally mature truth is relativistic in the sense that it is contextual. It recognizes that a great multiplicity of factors that come into play with any question that matters. But it is explicitly not relativistic in the “different strokes for different folks” anything-goes sense. It is about bringing great discernment to critical concerns, not less.
6. How is the integrative “reengagement” with more germinal sensibilities seen with Cultural Maturity different from the new attention to classical times that came with the Renaissance and later romantic sensibilities?
The germinal sensibilities of the Renaissance had to do not with integration, but with the germinal time the Renaissance occupied in the then-emerging Modern Age. At the beginning of any creative stage, we find a natural affinity for germinal sensibilities wherever they might be found. When we are starting anything creative, we need to be “child-like.”
CST views the Romantic Era somewhat differently. Romantic sensibilities emerged as a counterforce to the prevailing positivist worldview. Consistent with this, romantic descriptions were most always idealized. In the end, images of the noble savage have less to do with tribal reality than the projection of unconscious aspects of modern reality onto tribal peoples.
CST proposes that we see all three of these creative dynamics—Reengagement, resonance between parallel creative stages and substages, and romantic projection—in present changes. Along with realizing integrative dynamics, we, as in the Renaissance, are taking first steps in new territory. And, depending on our way of holding experience, we may be vulnerable not just to idealizing germinal sensibilities, but to treating the new presence of germinal sensibilities as a victory cry for our favorite slice of the creative pie.
7. You emphasize that while the culturally mature perspective. stretches us, it by itself makes for a “simpler” kind of understanding. How is this so and is this also part of what gives CST’s complexly systemic approach that unexpected directness?
Important questions. The following excerpt from Cultural Maturity: A Guidebook for the Future addresses the first:
“Just as important for the question of hope is the recognition that while Cultural Maturity’s tasks are complex, in a way what they ask is also simple and “ordinary.” In the end what Cultural Maturity is about is the ability to engage the world with a directness that has before been beyond our capabilities. Like with the sense of proportion we find in our later years if we successfully confront the developmental tasks of personal maturity, Cultural Maturity offers a view of the world that is both more sophisticated and less dramatic and sensational than what we have known before. Culturally mature responsibility is about a man and a woman attempting to see each other just as they are—separate from the convoluting lenses of gender symbolism. It is about citizens of two countries who before have known each other only as demonic projections attempting to appreciate each other’s commonalities and differences (the real rather than mythic ones). It is about addressing questions of morality unadorned, separate from cultural assumptions and conflicting religious dogmas. It is about seeing culture’s big picture cleansed as much as possible from once necessary, but now dangerously limiting, protective simplifications.”
CST’s directness comes from a combination of the fact that it represents culturally mature conception and that its organizing concept—formative process—is what organizes us.
Whole-Systems Patterning Questions
Patterning in Time Questions
1. Making analogy between personal and cultural development is questionable to me. These seem like very different things. Perhaps this association is useful as a crude metaphor, but CST seems to suggest it is more than just this, right?
It does, though for the concept of Cultural Maturity, we can stop at thinking in metaphoric terms and still find the analogy helpful. CST goes further both empirically and conceptually. Empirically, it describes organizational parallels—both in how we think and what we think—at each stage in development. Conceptually, it argues that we would expect to find such parallels for the simple reason that personal and cultural development are each formative processes (of the unique sort we find in conscious systems). The fact that we find analogous progressions at other systems scales—in the development of organizations or the growth of personal relationships, for example—supports this way of thinking.
2. With Transition in the Creative Function, the lower creative pole disappears. That doesn’t make much sense?
It never wholly disappears. If it did, life would stop being creative—and anything alive. But at the peak of Transition we can come close to identifying wholly with the new thing created and forgetting context entirely (in other language, identification with the archetypally masculine and a forgetting of the archetypally feminine). CST proposes that many of the unique richnesses along with the particular absurdities of the times in which we live have their origins in such dynamics. The degree of individuality we are capable of and our immense technological capacities are each consistent with these dynamics. At the same time, so are difficulties we can find connecting in community, a common dissociation from deep connectedness in nature and in our bodies, and today’s ever more frequent felt sense of personal aimlessness and lack of meaningful cultural narrative (what CST calls today’s “crisis of purpose.” (See Transitional Absurdities.)
Patterning in Space Questions
1. Could you say more about how Patterning in Time and Patterning in Space concepts are linked?
Patterning in Space characteristics reflects a system preferentially embodying a certain part of the Creative Whole. Each part of the Creative Whole reflects resonance with a particular aspect of formative process and its related intelligences.
A couple places we see this relationship reflected:
CST observes that people with certain temperaments commonly feel connection with and fondness for cultures that inhabit particular cultural stages. We see this when there is a match between the creative aspect of intelligence/sensibility strongest in the temperament of the individual and that which is most defining in the cultural stage.
Another place we see this sort of resonance is between developmental period and temperament. People tend to most enjoy (and best remember) the developmental period that matches their temperament. (Early’s strongest memories, for example, are often from very young childhood—something totally baffling to Middles and Lates.)
Creative Fallacy Questions:
2. Is there a relationship between the concepts of Creative Symptom and Creative Fallacy?
The concept of Creative Symptoms and that of Creative Fallacies are linked. Creative Fallacies may be a simple expression of a system being not yet ready for mature perspective. (A Medieval culture is going to fall for certain kinds of polar fallacies even when not stressed.) But they are also common as Symptoms in systems otherwise capable of mature perspective.
Compare and Contrast Questions:
1. The notion that our times require us to question and get beyond past culturally-specific beliefs sounds a lot like the post-modern argument. Is Culturally Maturity just different language for the same observation?
No, it fundamentally challenges—or at least fundamentally extends and stretches—the post-modern thesis. It proposes that post-modernism’s confronting of established truths—and essentialist truth more generally—represents an important first step. But the post-modern critique leaves unanswered just why we should be seeing what we see. It also fails to give us much of anything to replace what it quite accurately takes away. The concept of Cultural Maturity gets quite specifically at why we should see the changes we do and argues that the challenge ultimately is not just the surrendering of past sureties, but the ability to think, relate, and act in some fundamentally new—and newly demanding—ways. (See Postmodern/Constructivist Scenarios.)
2. You propose that culturally mature perspective requires us to think about social questions more systemically, in ways that get beyond both liberal and conservative political assumptions. But you say centrist, compromise solutions get us no closer. I’m not sure I fully get what is left?
One of the most readily accessible ways of grasping how culturally mature perspective changes understanding is the recognition that it requires us to bridge all sorts of familiar polarities and think more systemically. Political left and political right is an important example. Splitting the difference gets us no closer to a mature systemic view. We need to be able to address and make sense of a larger, more dynamic and creative picture.
Note the challenge this presents not just to politics as usual but usual notions of journalism. We’ve thought that “balanced” reporting was enough. Cultural Maturity argues that we can’t stop there if news is to be about identifying the questions that today most matter and addressing them in ways that will produce useful answers.
3. Is Cultural Maturity just another way of talking about the transformations of the Information Age?
There are links. But Cultural Maturity’s picture is more encompassing and warns that partialities common when thinking only in information Age terms hold traps for the unwary. Cultural Maturity argues that very few of the important concerns before us can be resolved solely by technological means. It also challenges the common assumption that invention is the ultimate driver of cultural change. It argues that just as much culture shapes what we are able to invent and how we use what we invent. Miss the more systemic picture and we can end up pursuing ends that we ultimately would not at all want. (See Post-Industrial/Information Age Scenarios.)
4. Cultural Maturity sounds like a lot of “new paradigm” thinking. Is that basically what you are talking about?
Here too we find parallels. But except for the most advanced of such thinking, we again find fundamental and critical differences. The larger portion of “new paradigm” ideas are in fact just new versions of time-worn humanistic/idealist/romantic or spiritual/mystical notions. They reduce to that naive sort of holism that confuses emotional or spiritual connectedness with living complexity. When such language is used, one must be always on the lookout for Unity Fallacies and thinking that confuses Early-Axis belief with mature integrative thought. (See Transformational/New Paradigm Scenarios.)
5. You talk about the importance of more Whole-Person/Whole-Systems relationships. But you also talk of potential traps in that kind of language. Can you tease this apart?
Humanistic, idealist, and philosophically romantic beliefs use the language of wholeness in a way that in the end is just an identification with the feeling side of experience. We also commonly encounter a naïve sort of holism that confuses spiritual oneness with living complexity. Each of these is as fundamentally different from mature systemic perspective as a more mechanical gears-and-pulleys engineering picture. None in the end bridges in the sense Culturally Mature conception requires.
6. You emphasize the importance of better appreciating limits. Yet at the same time you say Cultural Maturity is about thinking more expansively. This seems like a contradiction.
Culturally Maturity is very much about a new relationship to limits—of all sorts. It is about better appreciating planetary limits. It is about new respect for limits inherent to the dynamics of relationship—whether between lovers or nations. It is also about limits to any way of thinking that stops short of fully mature systemic perspective to effectively frame or answer out times defining questions.
At the same time it emphasizes that a maturely conceived relationship to limits makes us more not less. For example, with regard to environmental limits it affirms that a new ethic of sustainability will be essential. At the same time it asserts that a mature understanding of sustainability is not (and cannot be) about doing with less. It must be about an ultimately fuller, and more fulfilling, understanding of more.
Big Picture Questions
1. Cultural mature perspective—and CST more specifically—is obviously pertinent to understanding human systems. What about the non-human, to understanding the inanimate, nature, the divine?
CST is certainly pertinent to understanding how and why we have understood the inanimate, nature, and he divine in the odd and often contradictory ways we have through the course of the human story. It can also assist us in going further. For example, it assists us in formulating ways of thinking that attempt the reconcile the historically conflicting realities and science and religions (CST proposes that science and religion represent ways we have addressed the more “right-hand” and more “left-hand” vantages of creative perspective) and in teasing apart attempts to do so that at least begin to succeed from those fall for conceptual traps. It also invites even more encompassing big-picture “whole ball of wax” reflections and provides tools for separating approaches that hold promise from those that can’t ultimately serve us. CST proposes that, in a more limited way, we can think of existence as a whole as creative. The inanimate, the creaturely, and conscious life can be treated as levels of creative organization separated by “creative multipliers” that increase that rate at which innovation can occur. (See Big Picture page.)
Additional Assorted Questions
1. Could you say more about how CST and the concept of Cultural Maturity provide hope for the future?
The question of hope of critical. If there is a core crisis in our time it is a crisis of purpose. This is crisis of purpose both in terms of what in the future is to define purpose—what kind of story in fact will most give our actions meaning—and in terms of whether we can succeed at what our times demand of us. With regard to the first, the concept of Cultural Maturity articulates a compelling story the realization of which brings an important kind of achievement and reward to the human endeavor. With regard to the second, the concept of Cultural Maturity at least offers that a realistic and substantive guiding story exists—that there is a reason to go on. More it offers that making the possibilities that story offers manifest need not be some idealist hope or something of our far off future. At least the potential for the kind of thinking, relating, and acting the future will require is in important ways “build into us.” (Cultural Maturity is a “developmental” notion.) And I look to the defining advances of the last hundred years reveals that we are already a good distance on our way (even if we have not had overarching perspective for understanding just what we were up to.)