The many social and political movements which radically shook up Western society in the post-World War II period, particularly in the US during the 1960’s, sowed the seeds of the global cultural crisis we are currently experiencing. By driving an agenda which was resolutely anti-war, pro-civil rights and ecologically friendly, countless campaigns started to shift the cultural pendulum towards a new ‘organic’ worldview. This would eventually undermine and provide a viable alternative to the ‘mechanistic’ outlook of scientific materialism, but without invoking a lurch back to creationism.
The values and lifestyles which emerged are largely consistent with those of The Cultural Creatives*, as described by Paul H Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson in their book of the same name. They define the core value of this group as ‘personal authenticity’, via which an individual’s attitudes and actions are consistent with what they genuinely believe. They also describe how such coherence is derived from balancing intellectual learning with direct personal experience, ‘often using the perspective of whole systems and ecology’. Cultural creatives are deeply interested in their own inner world, personal consciousness and self-development but are also actively engaged in outer-world movements, with a powerful social conscience and a passion for politics, human rights, gender equality, environmentalism and social justice. By combining idealism with activism such individuals have been central to the growth of the organic worldview, consistently cultivating inner coherence via elevated consciousness and outer coherence via progressive social change.
Equally illuminating is the degree to which they have undermined the foundations of scientific materialism by becoming ‘disenchanted with owning more stuff, materialism, greed, me-firstism, status display, glaring social inequalities of race and class, societies failure to care adequately for elders, women and children, and the hedonism and cynicism that pass for realism in modern society’. Their adoption of an organic worldview is perfectly captured in their shared belief that ‘the world is too complex for linear analytic thinking now. To be smart in the global village means thinking with your stomach, thinking rhythmically, thinking organically, thinking in terms of yourself as an interwoven piece of nature’. According to Ray and Anderson’s extensive research, this group is large and getting larger - rising from 1 in 4 American adults in 2000 to 1 in 3 by 2008, with comparable numbers in Japan and Europe. Ray and Anderson also estimated that a further 10% of people were already transitioning towards an organic worldview so, if those growth rates have continued to the present day, we could already have reached the point where the organic outlook is the largest cultural perspective in the US, Europe, Far East and possibly much of the rest of the globe too. Such scale provides the organic worldview with the potential to reshape modern capitalism from the inside out, yet most holders of this perspective are completely unaware of their collective clout and are astounded to learn just how great their numbers are.
How is it possible that such a body of people can be so large yet remain so relatively invisible? There are several reasons. Any culture needs the oxygen of publicity to spread its values and, in this regard, the organic outlook has struggled to gain momentum against scientific materialism which remains deeply embedded in all of our economic, political and social institutions. Consequently, those holding such views have rarely been represented in the mainstream media, nor have they yet acquired the influence to ensure that their worldview becomes sustainably embedded across our societal structures. It therefore often remains the case that ‘when they go to work they have to check their values at the door’. Furthermore, it is not in their nature to proclaim their perspective from the rooftops or to try to impose their views on others. They are, by definition, coherence seekers who value harmony in relationships and try to balance all standpoints into a holistic solution. Many, around two-thirds, are women but men continue to occupy the centre-ground of public discourse, often leading with attitudes which are more competitive and behaviours which are more adversarial. Finally, the many groups which make up the broad church of consciousness and social movements don’t necessarily see themselves as being connected to each other. Civil rights supporters, for example, may not perceive environmentalists or anti-war protesters to be co-collaborators in a wider campaign promoting sustainable cultural coherence, indeed they may even see them as competitors for limited resources and airtime.
Global society therefore remains in a state of flux, poised at the edge of chaos. Amongst a large and growing group there is clear agreement that all living organisms are interconnected and that our experiences are therefore interrelated. However, there remain relatively few intellectual or institutional frameworks with which to co-ordinate and amplify this worldview, giving it common form, robust structure and a strong voice. While there are thousands of groups, associations and movements all across the globe, which are aligned with the principles of the organic outlook, they need help to connect, intertwine and become mutually reinforcing. This is particularly important when the organic worldview is up against two powerful alternatives - mechanism and creationism - while simultaneously seeking to reconcile science with spirituality.
Higher consciousness is an essential pre-condition but is, on its own, insufficient. We cannot simply think our way to a new future or passively hope that global peace emerges. If left unchecked, the continued dominance of scientific materialism could easily lead to a more tyrannical form of world governance. This future would continue to be characterized by militarism, unfettered free-market capitalism and levels of economic growth which are cancerous to our biosphere. An alternative vision, held by some religious fundamentalists, of a global society ordered solely in accordance with the scriptures of a single monotheism is even more apocalyptic. Opposing forces will always be a feature of our complex system, but global peace requires a dynamic stability which can never be achieved via dualism, where either science or spirituality must win. To grow together we must seek synthesis, but the transformation required cannot be a negotiated settlement brokered between warring factions. The mechanistic worldview of scientific materialism and the creationist lens of the monotheisms can never ever be reconciled. Peace is an impossible outcome with their outlook and at their level of consciousness. Only elevated consciousness and the organic worldview can reconcile our very human need for both science and spirit.