Cultural Maturity

How Creative Systems Theory frames the overarching task of our time. The term makes specific reference to the new maturity both needed for, and a product of, passage into a lifetime’s second half.  Creative Systems Theory proposes that its dynamics parallel those that define the first substages of the second half of any formative process.

Creative Truth

Truth in CST becomes what is creatively “right and timely.”  We find it at a system’s “creative edge”—the place where generativity and larger well-being are most supported. Truth in this sense represents a fine balance. When systems retreat from their creative edges they become stagnant. But if they push too far beyond them they risks being overwhelmed, immobilized, or even destroyed.

Creative Causality

The kind of causality that links parts in Creative Systems. Creative causality represents a third, encompassing option beyond mechanist, “gears and pulleys” causality and the “all is connected” causality of spiritual belief. (CST describes how belief over times has manifest as  evolving juxtapositions of more “right-hand” and more “left-hand” understandings of causality.)

Creative Bridging

The recognition that culturally mature understanding circumscribes traditional polar conceptions: freedom versus constraint, male versus female, art versus science, political left versus political right.  Such systemic bridging is about more than just linking two sides of an either/ors.  It is about engaging the more dynamic, complex, and encompassing reality in which they situate.

Creative Systems

The Creative Systems Theory notion that all levels of human relationship are, in the end, both systemic and generative.  The theory views the various peripheries of human existence—from the personal, to the familial, to the cultural, to the global—as like creatively related nesting bowls.  Similarly, it proposes that the various realms of activity within in any of these spheres—for example, business, education, religion, or art within culture as a system—as the generative dimensions of that systemic whole. Creative Systems Theory proposes that in the end systemic and generative are simply different angles from which to describe the same relational dynamics.

Integrative Intelligence

The integrated application of multiple intelligences.  Creative Systems Theory proposes that our diverse intelligences are creatively related and that together they comprise the driving mechanism of human creation.  Understanding Cultural Maturity questions requires at least some degree of integrative intelligence (and effectively answering them generally a lot).

Creative Systems Theory delineates four primary modes of intelligence. Somatic/kinesthetic Intelligence is body intelligence.  It is present in some form throughout any formative process, but finds strongest expression in creation’s “incubation” stage.  Symbolic/Imaginal Intelligence is the intelligence of myth, dream, and imagination.  It is present in some form throughout any formative process, but finds strongest expression finds strongest expression in creation’s “inspiration” stage. Emotional/Moral Intelligence is affective intelligence.  It is present in some form throughout any formative process, but finds strongest expression in creation’s “perspiration” stage. Rational/Material Intelligence is intellectual intelligence.  It is present in some form throughout any formative process, but finds strongest expression in creation’s “finishing and polishing” stage.


The notion that creative change bridges usual notions of predictability and unpredictability. Creative outcomes are not predetermined—nothing more marks creative processes than that one cannot know ahead of time exactly what they will produce.  But neither are they simply uncertain.  Creative processes are highly patterned and creative products always in some way linked to what has come before.  (Creative processes are predictable/unpredictable in the same sense as the last word in a conversation or the last note in a piece of improvised Jazz.)

Creative Whole

A system’s full systemic complexity.  The system could be an individual, an organization, or the whole of civilization.  Within a creative whole, organizing polarities systemically bridge.  Culturally mature perspective is needed to fully recognize creative wholes (at least those that work at a cultural level).  Where such perspective is lacking, we tend to divide creative parts into separate worlds.

Integrative (Whole-person/Whole-system) Relationship

In integrative relationships, each participant maintains its systemic completeness.  Contrasted with “two-halves-makes-a whole-relationship” in which bonding happens through the mutual projection of systemic parts (an evil other, a projected gender ideal). The term relates to human relationship wherever we find it—between intimates, between parents and children, between organization, between one country and another.

The Question of Referent

The feedback we use for making decisions.  Cultural Maturity requires both a more conscious relationship to the referents we use and the application of more fully integrative referents. The Question of Referent highlights the need to rethink truth and meaning when culturally specific formulations stop being enough.  (Insufficiently addressing the Question of Referent is a common failing in modern attempts to get beyond cultural absolutes—for example, with existentialism, social constructivism, pragmatism, and approaches that apply Darwinian principles to social truths).

Integrative Leadership

Whole-person/Whole system leadership.  The leader maintains his or her systemic wholeness, succeeds in stepping beyond both polarized identification within the pertinent system (for example, management versus labor) and between systems (for example, ally versus enemy).  An integral leader may be a strong advocate, indeed recognize the need to kill for a cause, but that advocacy is held within a mature systemic perspective.

Connect-the-Dots Systems Conception

The kind of systems thinking that links parts in mechanical systems. Parts are thought of as distinct and organized according to the simple laws of cause and effect.  Such thinking is often adequate for day-to-day usage even with systems that don’t conform to mechanical assumptions.  But in the end it stops short for culturally mature understanding (and not just for human systems—it stops just as short for addressing life or the subatomic).

Culturally Mature Systemic Conception

The kind of systems thinking needed to fully address Integrative Systems.  The term applies most directly to human systems, but is pertinent also to biological and physical systems. Culturally Mature systemic thinking bridges a system’s defining polarities. For any completeness of understanding, it requires the application of Integrative Intelligence.

The Dilemma of Differentiation

The quandary of how to make distinctions without reducing understanding to the mechanistic (or avoiding distinction altogether in the hope of escaping mechanism’s trap). Creative Systems patterning concepts address the dilemma of parts by defining difference in creative terms.

Creative Differentiation

The term is used in two ways.  It refers to the gradual process of delineation that marks the first half of any human formative process.  (With creative differentiation, new content splits off from original context, grows, and develops.)  And it refers to more generally to how Creative Systems Theory addresses the “multiplicity” aspect of mature systemic conception.

Creative Integration

The dynamics that characterize the second half of any human formative process (or that second half as a concept).  The newly created content reconnects with its original context, in the process seasoning, maturing, and contributing to a now expanded context.

Systemic Scale

The circumference of the pertinent system (i.e., individual, family, organization, region, planet).

Systemic Level

The pertinent organizational level as defined by major emergent properties (i.e.. inanimate vs. animate, vs. conscious).

The Creative Function

A visual depiction of formative process in human systems         as conceived by Creative Systems Theory.  The Creative Function        represents formative process as an evolving progression of creatively related polar relationships.

“Three-Plus” Representation

Using three dimensions of representation to imply an integrative picture of reality.

Whole System Patterning Concepts

Whole System Patterning concepts address systems as wholes.  Creative Systems Theory identifies three types of Whole System Patterning Concepts, Aliveness (the Integrative Referent), Capacitance (generic capacity), and Symptoms (protective responses when situations threatens to overwhelm Capacitance).

Aliveness (integrative referents)

A measure of the degree a thought or act is creatively right and timely.  The concept can be applied to truth whenever or wherever one finds it, but is particularly pertinent to truth in a Culturally Mature reality (when form-defined measures stop being enough).  It is what we need to measure if we wish to address wealth beyond material accumulation, learning beyond the mere acquisition of facts and skills, or health beyond the simple absence of disease.   It defines right action in any whole-person, whole-system relationship.  Aliveness is only in part tied to particular actions or beliefs.  No thought, feeling, image, or sensation exists that might not, in some context, express what is most Alive (creative).


A measure of a system’s capacity for Aliveness.  It asks how much creation a system is able to embodying (per unit time). We can talk about a system’s average Capacitance.  And we can talk of the Capacitance available to a system at a particular moment.  Capacitance replaces narrower notions of potential such as skill, IQ, or health.  It measures whether we are up to a task.

Creative Symptoms

How human systems respond when challenged to a quantity of aliveness greater than their capacitance (if not able grow in response or make overt boundary.)  Creative symptoms are protective mechanisms.  They function by getting the system out of the line of fire—by moving it above the creative challenge (intellectualization is one way to accomplish this), below it (depression works well), inside of it (withdrawing is a common approach), or outside of it (for example, by becoming preoccupied with something safer).  The concept applies to human systems at all scales.

Creative Fallacies

The multiple ways we can fall short of culturally mature understanding described in the language of polarity.  Creative Systems Theory distinguishes three basic creative fallacies (distinguished by the polar leaning with which they tend most to identify).  Unity fallacies identify with the archetypally feminine.  Separation fallacies identify with the archetypally masculine.  And compromise fallacies splitting the difference.  In relation to the tasks of Cultural Maturity, any system in which development has yet to reach integrative territory will seem to manifest polar fallacies.  Creative fallacies may also appear as Creative Symptoms (when a system capable of integrative functioning is overwhelmed by challenges beyond its capacitance).

Patterning in Time

The notion that changes in human systems is creatively ordered and conforms to predictable patterns.  A parallel sequence of evolving creative sensibilities manifests in every human developmental process (from making a work of art to the creation of culture).  Patterning in Time concepts can be used to tease apart highly complex processes.  Being creatively based, they allow detailed delineation while increasing our appreciation for the living nature of what we observe.

Patterning in Space

Creative differentiation as found within and between human systems.  Patterning in Space concepts can be used equally well to delineate personality differences, departments in an organization, or domains in culture.  As with Patterning in Time, Patterning in Space concepts can be used to delineate highly complex processes while helping deepen our appreciation for their creative dynamism.

Creative “Reengagement”

Creative Differentiation involves a necessarily amnesia for developmental realities one has progressed beyond (so one will not fall back into the familiar).  Creative Integration requires a reengagement with the forgotten underlying sensibilities.


Creation’s “incubation” stage.  Somatic/Kinesthetic Intelligence predominates.  (With Patterning in Space, Pre-Axis refers to the systemic elements that most embody Pre-Axial sensibilities as they manifest at a particular point in time.)


Creation’s “inspiration” stage.  Symbolic/Imaginal Intelligence predominates.    (With Patterning in Space, Early-Axis refers to the systemic elements that most embody Early-Axis sensibilities as they manifest at a particular point in time.)


Creation’s “perspiration” stage.  Emotional/Moral Intelligence predominates.   (With Patterning in Space, Middle-Axis refers to the systemic elements that most embody Middle-Axis sensibilities as they manifest at a system’s particular creative stage.)


Creation’s “finishing and polishing” stage.  Rational/Materiel Intelligence predominates.  (With Patterning in Space, Late-Axis refers to the systemic elements that most embody Late-Axis sensibilities as they manifest at a particular point in time.)


The midpoint of the formative process.

The Dilemma of Trajectory

Through the course of Creative Differentiation archetypally feminine values and sensibilities diminish in influence while archetypally masculine values and sensibilities become increasingly dominant. With Transition the archetypally feminine in essence ceases to exist.  There is no way to go on with “progression” in this sense (and maintain the life of the formative process).  (Creative Integration and the dynamics of Remembering resolve the dilemma.)

Transitional Absurdities

The nonsensical way reality can look with Transition’s near absence of archetypally feminine values and sensibilities.

Integrative Stages

Stages in the second half of any formative process.  Because integrative stages manifest in different ways depending on Patterning in Space variables, one term is used to refer to integrative dynamics as a whole.

Creative Systems Analysis

Any system, or set of related systems, can be examined using Creative Systems Patterning concepts.  Because all Creative Systems concepts are based on a single notion—that human systems order creatively—and share a common language, such analysis can address highly complex phenomena in simple terms.  And because Creative Systems notions address core principles, such analysis can offer a way to look beyond distracting particulars and get to what is most fundamental.