Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Cultural Creatives: Book Review

The Cultural Creatives
★★★★★ The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson which came about after 15 years of extensive research is a fascinating, detailed, nuanced and easily-readable work.

This compelling book provides historical and detailed macroscopic overviews, interspersed with microscopic interviews with Cultural Creatives from many walks of life, and the fascinating and inspiring stories they each have to share.

It describes the three main categories of people in the Western world: the Moderns, the Traditionals, and the newly-emergent Cultural Creatives.

Just as Idries Shah's seminal work, The Sufis (about the Sufi mystical tradition) was in part a call to the "natural" Sufis in Western society, so this work is a call to the "natural" Cultural Creatives in the world – most of whom do not realize that there are so many others like them; who may feel isolated and misunderstood; perhaps round pegs in square holes; and who don't know how they turned out the way they are.

The modern mainstream, the Moderns, are still running the show after 500 years, and "standing pat"; accepting the system and doing the best they can with the Modern worldview; hanging in there (often unwilling or unable to change), in the face of increasing dysfunction.

The first counterculture, the Traditionals, which was founded c.1870, is "leaning backward" (often to a time or a way of life that never was or can never again come to pass); rejecting the system and reacting against the Modern secular worldview. When Trump came along, they achieved a major resurgence.

And the Cultural Creatives, the new counterculture which was founded around 1970, are "leaning forward"; going beyond the system and inwardly departing from the Modern materialist worldview.

The book describes the history of various social, environmental and consciousness movements that sprang up in the 20th century, the changes that they helped bring about, the increasing role that Cultural Creatives have played in them, and the increasing interconnection and importance of these movements and worldviews.

Warning of the increasing dysfunction of the mainstream Modernism, and the "perfect storm" facing us – politically, culturally, economically, technologically, environmentally, spiritually, psychologically, and physically – the authors go on to describe ways in which we may change at a personal and also a cultural level and emerge through the other side of these immense and growing difficulties, stronger and better integrated. You might liken this process to that of a caterpillar that feeds, then pupates in a hard, protective cocoon, is broken down, and finally through a metamorphosis, it emerges from the cocoon as a butterfly.

Elders; initiation (such as rites of passage); stories that fit the new, emerging worldview; and mythos – which have been largely missing from Modern culture – these things will have a vital part to play both now with us in the "Between" (the interregnum between the Modern and the post-Modern eras at a cultural level, and also in our own personal and spiritual metamorphosis) and also in the new life that awaits us.

Don't be put off by the fact that this was published in 2001: What the authors have to say is even more important and relevant now in 2019, with the rise of Donald Trump, political populism and neoliberalism, the religious right; the newly-declared ecological and climate emergency; and the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and schoolgirl activist, Greta Thunberg.

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