Thinking and the Dawn of Homo Cyber — continued]
psychedelic thinking fits in our culture
Whenever I think of American culture,
a line from an old Talking Heads song comes to mind, “And
you may tell yourself, my god, what have I done?” How did
we Americans get this way? We have the highest standard of
living in the world, yet we also create more pollution, per
capita, than any other nation. Are the two inexorably linked,
or is there another reason for this state of affairs? I submit
that the source of this dilemma is not some immutable law
of nature but our culture. I once heard Terence McKenna say,
“Culture is the ultimate cult.” How true that is, for it is
our culture that teaches us what to believe, what
to question, what to long for, and what to avoid.
Our culture is the filter through which we view the world.
Like individuals and nations, cultures have moments of success
and moments of failure. During the Sixties, our culture was
in obvious crisis. For the first time in modern history, large
numbers of our citizens discovered the potential of psychedelic
thinking, but when they attempted to integrate that thinking
into mainstream culture, violent clashes occurred. The culture
simply was not resilient enough to absorb this new way of
thinking. The failure of the Sixties, if there in fact was
a failure, was the failure of our culture to absorb a new
Whatever your view of the Sixties, empirical
evidence now makes it clear that American culture did, in
fact, see a significant new subculture begin to emerge by
the end of that period. In their groundbreaking book, The
Cultural Creatives, Sherry Ruth Anderson and Paul H. Ray
track the evolution of American culture from the end of World
War II to the present.(2)
Their findings are striking.
In the years immediately following World
War II there were two major subcultures to be found in this
country, “traditionals” and “moderns.” Basically, traditionals
long for a way of life that can only be found in utopian fantasies
of pre-industrial times. Traditionals see the world as black
and white. They prefer absolutes in their philosophy and religion.
In contrast, moderns reject the “one size fits all” point
of view. Moderns include shades of gray in their worldview
and for the most part are accepting of things just about the
way they are. Moderns are first and foremost materialists.
By the end of the 1960s, however, a measurable third subculture
began to emerge. This is the group Ray and Anderson call the
“cultural creatives.” Neither traditional nor modern, the
cultural creatives bring a global perspective to the moderns’
shades of gray.
One of the most important findings of
Ray and Anderson’s work is that the number of cultural creatives
in the United States has been growing at an astonishing rate.
By the end of the 1960s, about four percent of the adult U.S.
population fell into the cultural creative category. By the
end of the last century the ranks of cultural creatives had
grown to 26% of the adult population of the United States.
This means there are now 50 million adults in this country
who share a global, ecological, humanitarian worldview, and
who are willing to keep an open mind and hear all the facts
before accepting or rejecting someone else’s point of view.
It is important for you to understand
that cultural creatives are very different from groups you
may think of as Greens, or New Agers, or whatever other label
comes to mind. Cultural creatives come in many political and
religious forms. They can be liberal or conservative. Some
practice a religion while others follow an independent spiritual
path. In short, cultural creatives can be found in all walks
of life. It would be a big mistake to prejudge someone’s cultural
position simply from the position that person holds in
society, for becoming a cultural creative is a lifelong process.
In fact, the majority of people who now fall into the category
of “cultural creative” most likely evolved their way there
from a previously modern worldview. Over time, these formerly
modern members of our culture began to look beyond their own
well-being and they began to question their personal worldview.
As Ray and Anderson point out:
Most of us change our worldview only once in our lifetime,
if we do at all, because it changes virtually everything
in our consciousness. When you make this shift, you change
your sense of who you are and who you are related to,
what you are willing to see and how you interpret it,
your priorities for action and for the way you want to
live. Regardless of whether you leave your home, change
your job, or switch your career path, if your worldview
changes, it changes everything.(3)
Cultural creatives are people who have
found the modern way of life incomplete and unsustainable.
The paths they took to arrive at this point of view are many
and varied, but most often have been guided by what Ken Wilbur
calls “the spiral of development” in his new book, The
Theory of Everything.(4)
According to Wilbur’s theory, our egos evolve through a spiraling
series of developmental stages. Beginning with instinctual,
we move through tribal, feudal, mythic, and scientific selves
before arriving at the sensitive self, where the human spirit
is freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness. Finally come
the integrative and holistic stages of the spiral.
It is in stages five and six, the scientific
and sensitive selves, where we find the majority of cultural
creatives today. And an interesting lot they are. Fragmented,
often feeling isolated, this minority of 50 million adult
Americans share deep-seated beliefs in the importance of sustainable
living above and beyond mere ecological soundness. The core
of this group, consisting of approximately 24 million people,
also share a deep interest in personal development and in
expanding their awareness of life. Without an articulated
agenda or conscious knowledge of the impact of their subculture,
these people are gradually changing American culture through
the little decisions they make about their own lives and how
they interact with the world around them. It may also interest
you to know that many of what Anderson and Ray call the “core”
cultural creatives have used psychedelics at some point in
Just what kind of culture
might these interesting people be creating?