A Couple of Reengagement-related Conversations

A couple of Reengagement-related conversations—the topics childhood and religion—excerpted from a manuscript draft of Creative Systems Theory:

Libby (A kindergarten teacher): Let’s talk about kids.

CJ:  Great.

Libby:  I want to know why we don’t value children more than we do. We talk as if they could not be more important to us, but our behavior—at least our collective behavior—doesn’t support it.  In some cities it is nearly impossible to get a school levy passed. And we stand by as advertising endlessly manipulates and exploits young people.[1] Our children are our future. I don’t understand how we can be so blind to our actions.

CJ:    There is also how little we pay people like yourself who work with kids. I suspect you could make just about as much flipping burgers.

Libby:  Not quite that bad, but close.

CJ:  I think we often fail even more with adolescents than with children. We have a hard time using the word “teen” without following it with a problem: teen violence, teen pregnancy, teen suicide.

Libby:  Which so misses what they are really about.

CJ:  Why do you suppose we don’t value young people more than we do?

Libby:   Sometimes I think it’s just how darn materialistic we have become. We care more about new cars and new clothes than we do our young people.

CJ:       These are not easy times for kids—or parents. We need only look to today’s frightening levels of depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, and mindless media consumption among our youth to see we will be in real trouble if don’t make some basic changes.

I find it useful to separate what in the modern situation of young people is how things have pretty much always been and what is specifically new. Some of what we see is not new.  Exploitation of children in one form or another, for example, has been historically common.[2] And adolescents have evoked contradictory feelings ever since they arrived on the cultural stage.[3] That is part of their job.[4]

Other aspects are new, but don’t help directly with addressing your concern.  Many of the new factors are transitory—such as the aging of the baby boom generation.  Some others reflect trends that may contribute to your concern, but which we should want to see continue—such as people having children later in life and having fewer of them.5

But there are also specifically new aspects that are essential to understand if the future of children is to be at all bright.

Libby:  Such as?

CJ:       The most important is significant because of the multiple levels at which it has effect. It is important, also, because it supports the possibility that Cultural Maturity might produce positive changes in the circumstances of children. Indeed, without something like what it points toward, I find it hard to imagine a good future for kids. We have to step back and get more theoretical for it to make real sense, but doing so is worth the effort. Its implications pertain not just to children but in some way to all the important challenges of our time.

Libby:  I’m ready.

CJ:       The notion the today’s questions require that we apply more of our cognitive complexity, more of our “multiple intelligences” provides a simple way in—for understanding both current circumstances and possibilities ahead. At different stages in development we draw preferentially on different intelligences. Young children tend to draw most heavily on the more germinal of sensibilities—body intelligence and imaginal intelligence. The lives of adolescents are more directly determined by emotional intelligence.. And while we are capable of being rational at any age, it is with adulthood that our rationality comes most directly to define truth.

Cultural parallels help us see big-picture implications. The same sensibilities were dominant in earliest cultural times that we see with childhood—as a creative picture of change would predict.  Medieval sensibilities were more akin to the ambivalences and emotional ardencies of adolescence. There is also how, with each cultural stage, we’ve pushed away from all more “primitive” ways of knowing. The Middle Ages distanced us from earliest sensibilities and often forefully denigrated them. Enlightenment sensibilities were dismissive of everything that came before.

If what this progression suggests is true, we should expect the gap that separates the worlds of adults and youth to be particularly pronounced in modern times. Your observation about materialism distancing us from the world of children may reflect not just modern happenstance, but something intrinsic to culture’s trajectory.[6]

Libby:   That would seem to suggest an even less positive picture in the future.

CJ:       It would if this progression represented the end of the story. Cultural Maturity proposes that it doesn’t—if we successfully take on maturity’s tasks. A couple of ways exist in which adults and children could become capable of deeper connection.

The first way comes back to that important new potential for Whole-Person relating. Just as Whole-Person relationship alters how we think about love and leadership, it suggests the possibility of more mature connections between ourselves and our progeny.[7]

The second way draws directly on these observations about intelligence and is arguably even more fundamental—the first way, in the end, depends on it. I’ve described how the future requires us to use our multiple intelligences in more conscious and integrated ways. Where young people reside in the formative process of personal development—and the sensibilities that accompany those early stages—give them special connection to aspects of experience that we should increasingly value, indeed find essential.  Such special links concern not just intelligence, but everything to which particular sensibilities provide special access.

Libby: Can you be more specific?

CJ:  Sure. A have couple of questions for you. First, do you think children are best thought of as immature adults—as we so often regard them today—or do they have capacities that make them unique?

Libby:  They very much have capacities that adults don’t—or that adults don’t manifest very deeply. You mentioned imagination. I can’t conceive of a day without my kids working with crayons and paper, or with clay. Hand a piece of clay to most adults and they don’t have a clue what to do.  We could have a long conversation about differences. Adolescents have different gifts too. For example, they value group and friendship to a degree adults often do not.  And they often have greater emotional intensity and conviction.

CJ:  And do any of the attributes you see have particular importance for the times in which we live?

Libby: I think I get where you are going. Youth value things that we all need to be more aware of, things that adults often seem too busy to notice. They care about nature—most all young children love animals. They value most anything that contributes to loving families and safe communities. Children also find great happiness in life’s magic—which is so often forgotten in today’s world. And the emotional intensities of adolescence certainly relate to the modern importance of addressing questions of purpose.

CJ:   The concept of Cultural Maturity lets us be more theoretically precise about both why these are things youth value and their importance for the future. Cultural Maturity describes how effective future understanding of all sorts will require a deepened relationship with forgotten sensibilities—not a going back, but a reintegration of aspects of ourselves before set aside. Any deep engagement with multiple intelligences requires this, and many of the issues most important in our time certainly do. I would include on this list of aspects that we need to again deeply engage all you mentioned—nature, family, community, life’s magic. Cultural Maturity goes further to describes not only how this deepened relationship might be achievable, but how it is what we would expect—if we effectively take on today’s tasks.

If these conclusions are accurate, adults in the future should come to better appreciate young people because where children live in themselves derives new pertinence. Even more important, young people should more deeply value themselves.  For children to feel truly loved—and to experience their lives as purposeful—they need not just to be acknowledged as people, but to be appreciated for the particular gifts they bring.

Such changes would have major implications for the future of young people. Certainly it will for how we think about them. With more people choosing not to have children, if the only reason we find kids special is the fact that they carry our genes into the next generation, childhood’s future cannot be bright. It should also have major implications for how we educate and raise our children.

Libby:  Are we seeing these changes?

CJ:       I think we are—at least their beginnings. A few years back I helped set up a series of youth think tank groups designed to give kids a chance to explore their concerns and share them with adult community leaders. The topics the kids brought forward—those you mentioned and more—played a key part in the sessions working so effectively. The young people reminded adults not just that these things needed to be cared about, but that they needed to be cared about deeply enough to make a difference.

The sessions had powerful effects on both the youth who took part and the adults they engaged. The youth felt heard. Adults got both a deeper view into the world of children than many had before experienced, and also inspiration for the task of creating a future that matters. I don’t believe that kind of dialogue could have happened fifty years ago—or perhaps even twenty, at least in quite this way.[8]

Libby:  That is great.

CJ:       This is not to say that kids in the future will always be a joy—any more than they are today. There will always be troubled kids, and the best of kids will get in trouble.  Those are just facts.

Libby:  I think we have things to learn even from troubled kids.

CJ:       I very much agree. And if this thinking is on target, we should get better at reading between the lines of kid’s troubles. We should also gain new appreciation for how far-reaching the messages can be. Family therapy has the notion of the “designated patient”—the idea that a child’s behavior can be a flag indicating problems in the family as a whole. We should come to better recognize how childhood pain can also be a crying out for the whole of society.

Children have always in some sense functioned like canaries in a coal mine for culture.[9] But the power of that role should be heightened both by the special pain children can feel with regard to concerns that will have growing importance in the future and by how greater respect and more Whole-Person relating may enhance our capacity to decipher hidden messages.

I spoke of today’s rising rates of depression, addiction, suicide, and eating disorders in children. That we are able to pay so little heed to such obvious canary-in-the-mine signals so little heed is one of today’s great absurdities. We must treat such indicators with the same kind of respect we give the modern proliferation of nuclear weaponry, economic instabilities, or data that signals the possibility of environmental catastrophe. The concept of Cultural Maturity suggests that this is something we will learn to do.

Libby:  That makes sense.

CJ:       A lot would change more broadly as a result. Certainly we would see major changes in education, and not just with regard to funding. We would see education becoming more responsive to the unique needs and gifts of young people. We would also see ourselves more broadly appreciating sensibilities and values children natively hold dear.

I believe something like what I have described will be essential to an at all healthy future for kids.  People have argued that the fact that children will be scarce may by itself make children more cherished in the future. But I think not. Continue on our present trajectory—or, in any way stop short of Cultural Maturity’s threshold—and kids in the future can only become more estranged from society and more estranged from their most precious contributions. If that happens, the species as a whole can only become similarly estranged.


Jonathan (a minister): I want to talk about religion.

CJ:  Great. What about it?

Jonathan:  Its future. Does it have one, one that will benefit us? I look at interminable conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, the years of sectarian violence in Ireland, the trivializing roles religion-based “culture wars” often play in modern politics. My faith is deeply important to me, and I love being a minister, but religion today can at times seem more like an obstacle to what the world needs than an answer.

CJ:  I think it is both.

Jonathan:  I figured you would, and I think I agree—but I can’t explain my conclusion.  The picture is pretty simple for some people. Times ahead will be bright if their particular religious precepts prevail—not if they don’t. The best I’ve been able to get to in my sermons is that our ideas about God need to be more inclusive, more ecumenical, but that can’t be the whole thing. It deeply bothers me to realize how often I am not convinced by the words I put forward to my congregation.

CJ:       Let me share a story. It is a bit long, so bear with me. What it describes presents an interesting way to approach your question.

Jacob:  Sure.

CJ:       Several years ago I and some others in a think tank group I’d brought together decided to take on exactly your question—religion’s likely long-term future. In trying to get started, we went off in four or five different directions, each time feeling that we had somehow missed the point. Finally someone said: “We throw the word religion around like we know what we mean. I don’t think we do—not deeply enough to talk about its future.” The group agreed. To get useful answers, we needed a deeper sense of religion’s function in culture.[10]

We decided to try an experiment. We would devote two hours to each of four developmentally related voices of the sacred: the animistic spirituality of tribal times; a more mythic polytheism like that practiced in ancient Egypt and much of the classical East; early (more fundamentalist) monotheism; and the more philosophical, humanistic monotheism frequent in modern times. Our goal was to ascertain what was most important in how each of these broad ways of seeing the world understood and applied spiritual truth.

We saw from the beginning that learning anything useful was going to require unconventional methods. Religion has always been more about faith than analysis, and early forms like animism are particularly impervious to academic dissection. We needed not just to describe and define religion’s stage-specific realities, but to somehow inhabit them.

We decided to use improvisational theater techniques as a way in. We would pick a single issue to which spiritual truth might be applied—we chose the presence of a famine—and try to get inside how each of these very different spiritual orientations might approach it.[11]

Jonathan:  I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall.

CJ:       We discovered a couple of things that relate directly to making better sense of the functions religion (or spirituality or whatever term you find most satisfactory) serves in culture. To start, we were struck by how religion/spirituality/faith has focused on parallel concerns—even thought beliefs at different cultural stages have differed dramatically,. We identified four primary themes. Religious belief (and practice) addresses how things came to be (“in the beginning”). It connects with the experience and meaning of oneness (of spiritual wholeness—the root of the word holy). It engages the importance of community (for example, in the idea of congregation and the symbolism of communion). And it emphasizes right social behavior (shared moral “commandments”).

Jonathan:  That seems right.

CJ:   We then recognized something even more basic. These four themes are themselves related; they express a similar esthetic orientation. In different ways each affirms connectedness—in the symbolism of creation’s original undivided wholeness, in the perceived unity of the cosmos, in the circle of community, in the harmony that results from shared moral precepts. This second observation gave us a way to think about religious experience in a more general sense, perhaps come a bit closer to the core of its contribution.

We tried out various ways of putting this common orientation/contribution into words. We discussed how religion could be understood as a way individuals and societies “connect with connectedness.” We talked about religion having to do with original unity—as opposed to the materially manifest world of parts and particulars. Drawing on the language of systems, we framed the diverse forms of spiritual experience as ways through history we’ve accessed polarity’s more mysterious “left-hand,” archetypally feminine world of experience—in contrast to secular experience’s more “right-hand,” archetypally masculine world.[12]

We recognized that while such sweeping generalization wasn’t going to provide ultimate understanding, But it did help us get beyond the specfics of belief and provide enough of a shared foundation that we could proceed.

Jonathan:  Your analysis is a bit more abstract than I am comfortable with, but I can go along.

CJ:       I appreciate your patience. With this as foundation, we returned to our original task of deciphering religion’s future.

You asked whether it had a future at all. Culture’s past trajectory might suggest not. With each cultural stage, “the one” has surrendered more of its power to “the many” (individualism today rules); the world of creative origins has more and more given way to the world of manifest forms (progress and technology have become analogous); and archetypically feminine sensibilities have been gradually eclipsed by archetypally masculine values (money has, in effect, become God). Consistent with this progression, each of religion’s four underlying questions has had diminishing significance over the course of our cultural narrative. Given this trajectory, it is not surprising that post-modern conjecture might propose that God was dead—or at best a common psychological dependency.

But the exercise also suggested that this apparent finality might not be the end of the story. At least it made clear that we wouldn’t want it to be the end. The four concerns that religion has traditionally addressed will be no less important in times ahead. Indeed these concerns should only increase in importance. Just as we would pay an unacceptable cost (indeed a potentially terminal cost) if we lost ultimate connection with other more left-hand aspects of experience—nature, children, our bodies, our imaginations—so too, it would seem, with the spiritual.

Jonathan:  If it is right to talk of a “crisis of hope and purpose,” it would certainly seem that the spiritual would have continued importance. Each concern has been closely tied to the human experience of meaning.

CJ:       The concept of Cultural Maturity also provides a more conceptual sort of affirmation.  Each of these four concerns relates directly to the kind of thinking Cultural Maturity predicts the future will require and make possible. Maturity gives “how things come to be” renewed significance—mature understanding makes change/generativity intrinsic to who we are. Understanding “oneness”—the interrelationship half of mature systemic perspective—becomes increasingly critical. We see deeper appreciation of who we are together—community is an acceptable term.  And, as the measures we use to determine our actions reside increasingly in our human hands, in an important new sense all questions become moral, questions of value and right behavior.

Jonathan:  So we might witness a kind of religious renewal?

CJ:   Yes and no. This picture suggests sustained and even renewed interest in spiritual topics—which appears to be what we see.[13] The concept of Cultural Maturity goes further to not only affirm that such “forgotten” sensibilities have future value, but also to describe how their reengagement is something we would expect.

But it also suggests that faith as we’ve known it will not be enough. Much of what Cultural Maturity predicts, at least for the long term, will make many people who identify with religion decidedly uncomfortable. If Cultural Maturity’s thesis holds, the future will help us newly appreciate the sacred’s four core concerns, but it will also demand that we address the questions they present in ways that will often seem to contradict exactly what the sacred has been most about.

Jonathan:  Heresy (said with a smile). I need to hear more.

CJ:         The challenge has multiple layers. The first is most obvious. A more systemic picture requires that particular faiths surrender claims to perceived monopolies on truth. Nobody—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan or animist[14]—gets the defining last word. This simple acknowledgment will be for some a major stretch.[15]

Beyond this there is how Cultural Maturity requires that fundamental “growing up” in our relationship to truth. That includes spiritual truth.  Religion has offered us the comforting safety of being children to a divine parent. Cultural Maturity challenges that relationship.

We confront an arguably even more basic challenge in how in Cultural Maturity calls into questions any notion that makes one kind of truth the final reside of truth. While it affirms spiritual truth, it makes such truth but one of multiple ways of knowing. Religion isn’t alone in losing center-of-the-picture status, but for many people religion’s particular dislocation is the most disturbing. Cultural Maturity proposes that religion can continue to be powerful only to the degree it is willing to leave behind sureties that in the past provided much of religion’s attraction.[16]

Jonathan:  I still feel left hanging with regard to religion’s future.  I get that questions at the core of religion may find renewed importance. I also get that warring creeds—and ultimately, if you are right, last-word religious notions in general—can’t continue to work.  But I don’t get what you think religion in times ahead will look like—or even whether it will continue to exist.

CJ:       At its best it will continue to exist. As far as what it will look like, it is too soon to tell. I find one approach helpful at least with the future of belief. An Integrative Meta-Perspective supports big picture understanding with regard to religion’s history as well as its future. Part of what it tells us is that the realities of each past stage hold truths that have pertinence to the tasks ahead. If this conclusion is accurate, we should be able to use religion’s past ordering realities not just to identify the sacred’s underlying questions, but to piece together some of the new answer.

Certainly, each stage has contributed something particular to religion’s story. With animism we witnessed a unique depth of connection in mystery and nature’s rhythms. With polytheistic forms, we saw an especially rich and numinous accessing of ritual, myth, and spiritual imagination. More fundamentalist monotheism brought special emphasis to the interpersonal/moral dimensions of sacred experience. And with more philosophical monotheism we observed a dramatically expanded appreciation for the intellect and the place of individual choice. Each of these attributes is relevant not just to the past, but also to an ultimately full understanding and experience of the sacred.

Gathering pieces together in this way provides at best a crude pointer. But if what   Cultural Maturity suggests proves true, future religious belief must—and will—somehow affirm the best from each of these ways of seeing the world. And it must somehow also step beyond each of them and offer religion a new, more mature, responsible, and encompassing picture of possibility.

The Future and the Past

Cultural Maturity’s picture of the future takes us unswervingly forward, but at the same time it implies something new with regard to the past. It helps us better understand the past. And there is more. It invites, indeed requires, a deeper connection with the past—or, more accurately, aspects of ourselves to which we have had more ready access in times past. This that I call “Reengagement” plays an essential role in cognitive changes that make Cultural Maturity possible.

While none of Cultural Maturity’s key concepts makes full sense without the changes Reengagement describes, of Cultural Maturity’s defining themes, for many people this is the most conceptually difficult. Certain temperaments a hard time grasping not just what Reengagement is about, but why it would be needed. Others more readily appreciate that something related might be at work, indeed find particular attraction in the notion, but are vulnerable to wholly misinterpreting its implications. Making solid sense of Reengagement is essential to understanding Cultural Maturity and to usefully and accurately applying its conclusions.

A good way in—at least to Reengagement’s necessity—returns us to the last chapter’s theme of limits. There I described how we can think of each of the limits we addressed there as permutations of a single more encompassing constraint: limits to narrative as we have known it. Our previous look at the need to rethink progress got most directly at the quandary in noting the impossibility of going on without a wholly new kind of definition. It is an apparent impasse we first encountered in initially distinguishing our two definitions of maturity. Creative Systems Theory has a formal term for it: The Dilemma of Trajectory.

Our customary picture of history describes a steady, if sometimes bumpy, upward progression. History is about the rise of civilizations.[17] But if this is the only option, a future worth living is very unlikely. The dangers extend beyond the damages that blind progress could wreak upon us. At a more fundamental level, we confront limits to how far culture’s story as we have conceived it (and not just recently, but at any time in the past) can take us. Creative Systems Theory calls this the Dilemma of Trajectory.

The language of polarity helps clarify. History’s story describes ever-increasing distinction between polar tendencies—between, for example, humankind and nature, mind and body, the individual and the collective, or the personal and the technological. (The Creative Function maps this progression.) Always before, this evolutionary dynamic has served us—indeed been key to all of culture’s great advances. But it really can’t continue. We don’t have the option of further separation from nature or from our bodies—such would leave us adrift and desiccated, severed from our essential roots. Neither can we continue unaltered on individualism’s course of separating one person from another—such would make us increasingly alone and distanced from purpose. And, similarly, it can’t work to continue the Modern Age’s ever-greater separation of psyche and techne, making machines ever more our gods. Such in time would only reduce us to machines.

How do we best interpret this predicament—indeed is there any useful response?  A harsh view might claim that we are beyond redemption and that is the end of it.  A somewhat more forgiving “gone astray” interpretation might argue that the only useful response is to retrace our steps. Cultural Maturity presents an alternative picture. While it necessarily stretches usual thinking, it also reveals options not otherwise understandable.

This further alternative describes the importance of a different kind of relationship to the past. This relationship is explicitly not about going back. Indeed it really isn’t about the past at all.  But it does involve a critical sort of reconnecting. Culturally mature perspective makes clear that going forward is impossible without this further mechanism

The conversation with Libby touched on one of the best ways to make initial sense of it. It returns us to the notion that mature thought requires that we more deeply engage the whole of intelligence. What we see initially might seem only to reinforce the quandary. I’ve observed that some connection with the multiple dimensions of intelligence is needed for anything beyond maturity’s apparent precipice to be understandable—or even, ultimately, to exist. Without it, the Existential Abyss remains an abyss.[18] But certain of our intelligences—indeed all of our intelligences save the rational—witnessed their most prominent manifestations only in times well past, the body with our animistic beginnings, the imaginal in the time of the great myths, the emotional with the unquestioned moral ardencies of the Middle Ages. Any full engagement of intelligence’s multiple dimensions thus would require, if not a reconnecting with the past, certainly a deeper connecting with parts of ourselves to which the past gave special significance. Without such reconnecting, the idea of multiple intelligences becomes at best a veneer applied over more conventional notions of cognition.[19]

What I’m calling Reengagement resolves this dilemma. An Integrative Meta-Perspective provides more than just greater appreciation for each mode of knowing in its modern incarnation. It produces a deepened connection with the whole of each intelligence. Sensibilities before diminished gradually regain some of their old influence and power.[20]

This picture fills out—and Reengagement’s larger significance becomes more clearly apparent—with the recognition that intelligence is just a first thing Reengagement is about. Or more accurately, Reengagement is about more than intelligence as we commonly think of it—it involves everything that underlies a time’s worldview. What we reconnect with is the past’s stage-specific ordering sensibilities. Intelligence understood form an Integrative Meta-Perspective has as much to do with esthetics, values, and ways of relating as how we think. It determines what at any time stands forefront and what in the background—and often what is to be visible at all.

The need for reconnecting in this mature sense is a recurring theme in responses to the stretching exercise. People recognize that addressing current issues will require a fresh acknowledgment of concerns given greater emphasis in earlier cultural times. For Libby, it was the life of children, or more specifically, the sensibilities that give childhood its particular life. For Jonathon, it was the power of spirit and mystery central to religion as experience and essential if religion is to have a future. In earlier dialogues we looked at the importance of rediscovering the experience of community, the need for future definitions of progress to include nature, children, the sacred and other “forgotten” voices, and the importance of revisiting how we think about death.[21]

In each case, effectively going forward requires a reconnecting with values and sensibilities previously set aside. Never is this just a going back. Integrative Meta-Perspective produces not just newly encompassing perspective, but a fundamental rethinking of the role parts play—including temporal parts—in the large whole of experience. In this rethinking, boundaries to past ways of knowing and a deep appreciating for how past what of knowing fall short when it comes to the tasks ahead are as important as new connectedness. But effective going forward does involve an important sort of “re-membering.”

[1]           Over twenty percent of advertising dollars are directed specifically at children—with considerable “success.” (New studies show brand recognition and preference in children by 18 months.) And few advertising campaigns don’t in some way give major consideration to the “hot” adolescent demographic.

[2]              Though its forms have changed, some for the better, some for the worse. On the positive side, child labor laws have lessened exploitation of a physical sort dramatically. But at the same time we have seen the rise of more insidious forms of economic exploitation. While the Industrial Age made children a means of production, with modern times we’ve reduced them to consumers of products.

[3]              Adolescence as a distinct developmental stage is a function of modern times. In our distant past, rights of passage took us directly from childhood into adulthood. The establishment of specific periods of apprenticeship in medieval times stretched this period of transition somewhat, but adolescence as we know it is a  recent social invention.

[4]              Questioning adult authority serves an important developmental function. It is also the job of adolescents to leave us—in time. And our children tend to engage the passions of adolescence just when our own vigor and passion may be beginning to wane—as thinning hair and sagging tissues become too obvious to ignore.

[5]               Numbers make it not surprising that the AARP has become a much more powerful than any group advocating for children.

[6]              For this analysis to make sense we need to recognize that whether a particular sensibility is strongly present and whether it is valued are related but separate variables. For example, an intelligence that has strong influence may be pushed away because its strength makes it threatening. Monks in the Middle Ages observed highly ascetic practices not because they thought the body’s significance irrelevant, but because they needed to distance themselves from its very considerable power. Later, with that power diminished (in the Creative Function, the lower pole has shrunk in size), such severity of practice was no longer needed. Consistent with this, that the gap that separates the worlds of children and adults is particularly pronounced in modern times does not mean that children are treated less kindly than in times past. Often they are treated much better.

[7]              It is important not to misinterpret what this prediction implies.  Drawing on our earlier theme of Responsibility, we recognize that Whole-Person parent/child relationship is not about permissiveness, in effect abdicating the parental role.  It demands more of the parent. Neither is it about being equals.  Children and adults have very different capabilities. But it does present the possibility of greater completeness in how parents relate to their progeny and new completeness, too, in a child’s relationship with him or herself, and through this, with adults.

[8]              Note that this example is not at all to make children little adults. We were still talking with kids—which is exactly the point.  This has implications with regard not just to what is said, but also how it is “said.” The messages children’s voices “articulate” will often not be, nor should they be, translated into words. This new level of contribution will happen as much or more by kids just being who they are—by the sensibilities and values youth natively bring into the world. I mention the more dialogue-based youth think-tank just to provide example.

[9]              Because childhood’s germinal intelligences are those most troubled by hypocrisy and most connected with the possible, their crying out becomes a sensitive early warning sign—at any time and within any system they are a part of.  Not surprisingly, the children who by temperament embody the most germinal sensibilities tend to be those most vulnerable to the effects of systemic blindness.  (Within the Creative Systems Personality Typology, this is mostly Early-Axis temperaments—see the Appendix. Alex was an “Early.”)

[10]           In CST terms, to answer religion’s fundamental Question of Referent.

[11]           Using techniques that tap more of intelligence’s complexity often produce fascinating surprises—as we saw when doing this exercise. When we tried to explore polytheism’s myth-centered world we immediately hit an impasse. We’d begun by appointing one of the participants god-king. But when we tried to walk into the room where the god-king sat, we felt emotionally stopped.  One of the participants suggested we each offer some kind of sacrifice, some gift, and then prostrate ourselves before entering. After that—no problem. Such approaches often reveal hidden dynamics with much to teach.

[12]           CST uses this explanation to tease apart underlying religious assumptions we find with different cultural stage.  It describes how the various ways we’ve conceived of the sacred over time reflect the evolving relationship between the creative right and left hands of culture as a system as perceived from a left-hand vantage.

[13]           We have not, at least not as yet, witnessed the death of religion many post-modern thinkers have proposed.  The percentage of people who say spirituality or religion holds an important place in their lives is generally on the rise (though this varies depending on the population).

[14]           Or atheist. CST views atheism as very akin to fundamentalism.  Atheism implies a level of absolute conviction that neither logic nor empirical observation can provide.

[15]           Of specific importance will be abandoning the especally ardent denigration that in times past we’ve reserved for religious sensibilities not just distinct from, but developmentally different from our own (whether more “primitive” or more modern and humanistic).

[16]           As with every kind of knowing, the spiritual looses its historical claim to last-word truth. Culturally mature perspective requires that religion accept a more humble role as one essential ingredient in a systemically multifaceted, all-the-crayons-in-the-box picture of reality. It invite religion to step into a more complex, indeterminate, and participatory—but also ultimately more powerful—world of experience. (Cultural Maturity engages religion in multiple “bridgings”—divine omniscience with personal ignorance, East with West, primitive with modern, spiritual with material. See The Future of Religion in Chapter Ten.)

[17]           This is not the only way to frame history. Some postmodern cultural theorists view the cultural realities of different times as simply different, equally valid ways to construct truth. Liberal and humanistic voices, in an attempt to get beyond patronizing or denigrating attitudes towards the “lesser developed,” similarly often challenge any notion of developmental hierarchy. People who romanticize early periods in culture—from those who deify the more unitary relationship with nature found with tribal societies to people who elevate a perceived democratic and intellectual purity in ancient Greece—often, by implication, turn the traditional hierarchy on its head. But this generally ascending picture is the most commonly accepted. For some, the upward trajectory is incremental, for others it involves discrete stages, either stages that simply progress and leave more “primitive” worldviews in the past or that progress beyond and at once incorporate past sensibilities. We lose nothing in this particular discussion by lumping these upwardly progressive depictions. (See “Scenarios for the Future” in Chapter Nine for a more differentiated picture.)

[18]           Reengagement is necessary to Integrative Meta-Perspective being possible, which in turn is needed for any of Cultural Maturity’s defining themes to make useful sense. Usual ways of thinking limit us to toss-of-the-dice uncertainty, responsibility as accountability, deterministic change, connect-the-dots pictures of complexity, or limits as adversaries to be defeated.

[19]           More creatively germinal sensibilities are not wholly absent in modern times. CST describes how each kind of intelligence plays a role in every creative stage. But the influence of more germinal sensibilities is markedly diminished—to the point that we often don’t even think of them as parts of intelligence. The “imagineering” of Disneyland fantasy, while attractive to some, is a far cry from the deeply transforming power of myth and symbol recognized in Olympian Greece or ancient Egypt. And it is a stretch to consider the body as we think of it in modern times—whether the body of anatomy and physiology or that of Hollywood  glitz—as cognitive at all.  Limited to its modern interpretation, the body’s contribution to intelligence would seem to be pretty much limited to sensation and sensationalism.

[20]           What we witness is more than just renewed potency. An Integrative Meta-Perspective alters how we experience each intelligence fundamentally. We better see the gifts and blindness of each. Each intelligence becomes more complete in its expression and more robust by virtue of its more explicit relationships with other sensibilities. And we get a better sense of each intelligence’s evolutionary story, not just for how it influenced at its height, but also for the varied ways it manifests at different times.

[21]         While confronting death as an ultimate limit is new, death had an intimate presence in the more mythic realities of earliest times. During culture’s earliest stages, death was inseparable from the sacred. Burial sites were primary places of worship. And death had an integral role in spiritual practice.  (Nearly all Egyptian sacred art is funary.) Contrast this with how vigorously modern culture keeps death at bay.