How 50 Million People are Changing the World
“Cultural Creatives today must…constantly invent and reinvent the basic supports for the way they want to live. It takes up a lot of time and energy, and precisely because many of the issues are new, there is a great deal of confusion and conflict.” — from The Cultural Creatives
The Cultural Creatives (Harmony Books, 2000) is not only gaining worldwide attention, but it is creating an excitement in cities and towns across America — and it’s catching people by surprise. And they like it. The words, Cultural Creatives, are now beginning to be uttered with a new source of pride, a sense of belonging that didn’t exist before for more than one out of four Americans, people who are committed to reframing how we view ourselves in context with each other — and the planet.
When co-authors Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and his wife, Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D., began identifying a new subculture within America — now deemed the Cultural Creatives — they began to share their findings with gatherings of friends who knew they were working on the book.
“We would ask them, ‘Well, how many people do you think share your values?’ ” Paul Ray said. “And they would say, ‘Oh, maybe a million people,’ or ‘Maybe 5 percent.’ I remember one time a guy said, ‘Oh, maybe 10 percent,’ and he was perfectly ready to pull back, figuring he had over-estimated.”
“It’s really something,” Ray said in an interview with The EDGE. “The idea that there might be 50 million people with creative values is not there in the general population of Cultural Creatives, and indeed, they kind of feel alone. In some parts of the country, they are still pretty oppressed, certainly not on the two coasts, but in the Midwest and the South they feel really kind of alone in the world.”
The Cultural Creatives boldy says that one-quarter of the American population shares the values of this new subculture, but these Cultural Creatives don’t know that they are part of an evolving presence in this country.
Paul Ray admits Cultural Creatives are difficult to identify by race, economic status or creed, yet they stand out in their desire to reshape how we live together in community. They care deeply about relationships, about ecology and saving the planet, about self-actualization, self-expression and spirituality.
As documented in the book, research shows that the 26 percent of the U.S. population who fall into this emerging subculture clearly set themselves apart from the dominant “Modern” subculture andÂ the declining “Traditional” subculture. Consider these findings:
- More than 60 percent of those who consider themselves Cultural Creatives agree that human capacities probably include some sort of psychic powers. Less than 30 percent of Moderns and Traditionals agree.
- Only 30 percent of Cultural Creatives accept the literal truth of the Bible, compared to 60 percent of Moderns and Traditionals.
- About 85 percent of Cultural Creatives agree with ecologists who view the Earth as a giant living organism. Only 50 percent or fewer Moderns or Traditionals do.
- Eighty percent of Cultural Creatives believe that living in harmony with the Earth is important to their lives. Less than 50 percent of Moderns or Traditionals do.
- Only 30 percent of Cultural Creatives agree that churches and prayer are what is sacred, not a bunch of trees. Sixty percent of Moderns and Traditionals agree with that statement.
- More than 90 percent of Cultural Creatives feel it is important to their lives to believe that every person has a unique gift to offer. Only 60 percent of Moderns and Traditionals do.
- Nearly 80 percent of Cultural Creatives feel it is important in their lives to find their purpose in life, rather than making money. Only 40 percent of Moderns and Traditionals do.
- More Cultural Creatives than Traditionals and Moderns do not have clearly identified religious affiliations, and 30 percent more Traditionals and Moderns than Cultural Creatives identify themselves as conservative Protestants.
The following is The Edgeâ€™s extensive interview with Paul Ray, who identified the Cultural Creatives subculture:
When did you first know there was something very important and illuminating in the research pointing out a new subculture.
Paul Ray: I really started my research in November 1986 on values and lifestyles. I was trying to use variables to predict what people will actually do, from giving money to good causes to what kind of house or car they want to how they will vote. So I was doing a survey a month, and incidentally, that comes to well more than 100,000 interviews during the last 13 to 14 years! That adds up to a really reliable result.
That’s a very important part of what we have to say. When I make extraordinary claims, I’m also offering extraordinary evidence. In that time, there were 500 focus groups, as well.
I was about five years into the research when I realized I didn’t just have a good predictive tool, that what I was looking at, in fact, was about culture in some sense and not personal growth psychology. For example, it wasn’t just about who was enlightened and who wasn’t. What happened was, it didn’t matter what the topic of the survey was, I was always getting this population that I later called the Cultural Creatives. I guess you could say that fortune favors the prepared.
As a sociologist who had been looking at social change for a lot of years, I knew that I was looking at change that was happening in the way that people lived in every aspect of their lives — whether it was their food or their houses or their cars, attitudes about politics and the environment, or their worldview. It always came out that you had this distinctive population. I had a full profile of characteristics, and this was a whole new subculture, a whole new sub-group just as real as the French — in a whole rich complex and distinct way of life. That was the big realization, the tip-off really, that we had something of major importance occurring in American life. We were seeing a whole new world and a whole new way of life. Such a subculture doesn’t appear like that more than once every century or so.
How did you feel when you were presented with that information that a new subculture was being identified?
Ray: I felt validated. I had suspicions as to what was going on. I would like to be able to say it was a eureka moment and I went running through the streets naked…but it was more of an evolving process.
Who came up with the term cultural creative?
Ray: I did. We tried the word greens first, and we tried person-centered, and inner-directed, and really nothing stuck. Nothing quite captured what was actually going on. Those terms were much too psychological, and really, we’re looking at a population that in standard terms of demographics is fairly heterogeneous. What I finally realized about the time that I was talking about a new subculture as a major event in the lives of the Western world, that these were people who were distinct. When you listen to them in focus groups, they are creating a new culture. They are making a lot of innovations, none of which, incidentally, were news. The news simply wouldn’t want to cover them. And so I said, “All right, we have over on the religious right the cultural conservatives, and over in Silicon Valley we have the technological creatives. Why not call them Cultural Creatives?
Do you have a sense that this is a very fast-growing group?
Ray: No, they’ve been growing about a half of a percent a year for 40 years. In the 1960s, they were too few to measure. On a national survey, if any population is less than 3-4 percent, they really don’t show up, and it’s hard to tell they are actually there.
For example, on a national survey the Jews don’t make it to that percentage of the U.S. population, so it’s very hard to make generalizations about any group of people who have a small number like that. That’s what was true of the Cultural Creatives in the 1960s. Today, they’ve grown to 26 percent of the American population — 50 million adults. When we started doing the surveys, it was probably about 20 percent, and in 13 years since then, it has grown 6 percent.
On the other hand, I really expect as the Cultural Creatives become aware of each other that that number will probably double in the next 10 years. We could actually see half the population in the United States being Cultural Creatives.
So people would leave the dominant culture once a new subculture is identified? How does that work?
Ray: What’s going on is a fairly complex process. Today what we’re looking at is a slow transfer of people from the Traditionals to the moderns. The children of the Traditionals are not staying there. The Traditionals were probably half the U.S. population in the 1950s. Today, they are a quarter of the population, a little less than the Cultural Creatives. Meanwhile, the children of the Moderns are going over to the Cultural Creatives, and the children of the Cultural Creatives are staying Cultural creatives.
That is slow evolutionary process. But in addition to that, there’s also about 20 percent of Americans who are Moderns who are very much oriented to personal growth and/or oriented to ecology issues, but they don’t have the whole package of values and lifestyles that the rest of the Cultural Creatives do. So I have been fairly conservative and not included them in that figure, but you could today add on another 40 million people who are marginal to the Cultural Creatives within the Moderns. If those Moderns thought that it would be successful, they would leap on that bandwagon.
People have not been talking about this cultural shift yet. It has been a largely unconscious process. People one-by-one are changing their minds with just a little support from a few of their friends.
We’ve done focus groups where we will tell people, “You’re all here in the room together because you share the same values — and here’s what they are.” And somebody will pipe up and say, “I don’t know how you got so many of us in a room together! I thought it was just me and a couple of my friends!”
Well, there’s 50 million of them out there and they’re saying things like that. When Sherry and I started the book, we would go to gatherings of friends who knew we were doing the book and we would ask them, “Well, how many people do you think share your values?” And they would say, “Oh, maybe a million people,” or “Maybe 5 percent.”
I remember one time a guy said, “Oh, maybe 10 percent,” and he was perfectly ready to pull back, figuring he had over-estimated. It’s really something: The idea that there might be 50 million people with creative values is not there in the general population of Cultural Creatives, and indeed, they kind of feel alone. In some parts of the country, they are still pretty oppressed, certainly not on the two coasts, but in the Midwest and the South they feel really kind of alone in the world.
There’s two big reasons for that, and it’s part of the whole question of why aren’t they aware and why don’t they feel empowered to do more. One part is quite simply that there is nothing in the media that shows them their own face and tells them they are there. Nothing hows them their values, says it’s important. In fact, all they’re going to get in the media is how weird and strange they are, that it must be that they are all New Agers. That’s not the case. The New Age is just a little postage stamp in the corner of this great big envelope, maybe 5-10 million Americans maximum, and they are mostly beginners in spirituality. The people who have been at it for 15-20 years are more like the heartwood of the tree, and the New Agers are the green growing edge out there. Most people only stay as New Agers for 3-5 years, and then they go to something else or just give up on all that.
The thing about not seeing your own face in the media is that’s kind of a form of suffering, because you don’t really see your own concerns as real. You tend to pull back and say, “Well, whatever I try in the public arena I will probably lose.” When we went out on the road giving talks about the book, people would say, “50 million Americans! That’s more than who voted for Clinton in the last election! We could win!” and the room brightens up. People today are convinced that they’ll go out there as volunteers, but with the feeling that their values don’t matter in the big picture. That’s a big deal.
The other part of it in terms of not knowing their numbers is, “Well, how long has it been since you talked about your values among your ranks?” The answer is, “Well, you just don’t do that.” I would say that in a lot of the companies I’ve been consulting with over the last 13 years, probably one-third of the executives are Cultural Creatives. And every time, if I go in a talk about those values, somebody comes up to me and goes, “Shhhh, don’t tell anybody but I’m one of ’em, but I know I’m all alone here in the workplace.”
I say, “Really? How do you know that?”
“Nobody ever talks about these values around here.”
“When was the last time you talked about those values?”
I tell them, “You know, you could go shopping for allies and put together a coalition and probably pass some initiatives here in your company,” but it’s hard for people.
Do you have a sense of what will happen when Cultural Creatives do know who they are as a group?
Ray: My sense is that what we’re going to be looking at is building a lot of new institutions. You look at the election process and you see a system that is broken. You look at the schools and you see another system that’s broken. You look at the churches, the unions, almost any institution or area of American life, and we’re looking at the breakdown of a very large number of institutions.
Cultural creatives are already trying out lots of social inventions, but once they know that they are growing in huge numbers, they will start getting together and saying, “What can we do?” That’s their habit. These are folks who tend to get involved at the local level to try out things and be experimental. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that. We’re also going to see a lot of grassroots politics coming forward. People are going to start finding their own political leaders, not just somebody who is imposed on them at the national level. We’ll be in for some really interesting times in the next couple of elections!
Does the current political polarization say something about the clash between the two older subcultures — the Traditionals and the Moderns?
Ray: We’ve had a cultural war going on for 100 years between the Traditionals and the Moderns. Cultural Creatives are kind of like children of a bad marriage. They’re not going to identify with either side.
On the other hand, they always say that they are bridge builders. People will say over and over, “I’m a bridge builder, and I want to heal those wounds, the rifts that are happening.” I don’t think we’ll see a polarization at all. What we’re much more likely to see is picking and choosing some of the better aspects of the Traditionals and the better aspects of universal justice kind of concerns from the Moderns and the Cultural Creatives adding their own planetary concerns, their own concerns for spirituality and inner experience. So we’re going to be looking at a whole different pattern of doing things.
It really isn’t true that we had a polarization in the election. What we had was not very much energy from the people in general. It came out a dead heat because a whole lot of people — especially the Cultural Creatives — said, “I’m looking at a couple of wind-up walking dolls and they’re not very interesting to me.”
Frankly, we’re coming off of 8-10 years of economic growth, and Gore should have walked away with this election. The fact that he looked so uncomfortable in his body, that he looked so plastic, a lot of Cultural Creatives simply said, “Nah, I don’t see him as my guy.” He should have been able to pull that off, but he didn’t.
I’ve been hearing all year in focus groups that Cultural Creatives have been withholding their energy from the election process. Cultural Creatives are the local activists, the folks who volunteer a lot, give a lot of money to good causes, and normally, they would be dragging other people with them into an election process if they were excited. They would get other people excited, but they weren’t excited this year. There was no energy there, and that lack of energy is how you got a dead heat.
You describe in the book the two different groups within the Cultural Creatives — the Cores and the Greens. What’s the difference between the two?
Ray: The Core group of Cultural Creatives is the folks who believe in the whole nine yards. The Core group, if you could name a value that the Cultural Creatives hold, they are very intense about it and care very deeply about ecology and saving the planet. The Greens do, too. The Core group just adds a lot of concern for relationships, peace, and social justice, which to some extent the Greens do, but not quite as strongly.
The Core group cares very strongly about authenticity, self-actualization, spirituality and artistic self-expression. The Greens are much less psychologically and spiritually oriented than the Core group. Ghe Core group is made up of people who are very active. The Greens tend to be the followers.
The Core group, in a certain sense, has got it together. You could say the Core group’s people not only want to make a difference but are making a difference — and they are doing it out of an inner sense of censoring that leads them into reaching out, leads them to trying to make a new synthesis for a new way of life. The Greens are a lot closer to having knee-jerk concerns for environment and for good causes than they are this sense of really inventing a new world. Does that make sense?
Yes, I understand that the Core group would seek to find inner balance and then integrate that into outer action.
Ray: Yes. I think that’s really an important thing. Of course, a key feature of the Core group is that it is 2:1 women. What we haven’t talked about yet is this is that, to a very large extent, this is about women’s values and concerns coming into the public arena. The issue of women’s values and concerns coming into the public arena is a big deal to Cultural Creatives.
The Core group is two to one women. Cultural Creatives overall are 60/40 women. We’re not talking just about feminism. We’re talking about something that’s quite central to how Cultural Creatives see the world, because of the issues of relationships and so on.
Incidentally, the huge chasm that you normally find between men and women in American life is just not there with the Cultural Creatives. The men and the women see things much the same way. One way you know you’re a Cultural Creative is if you hear your women friends in their 30s and 40s saying, “Where are all the good men?” They’ll psychologize about it and say, “What did I do wrong in my life and did I make bad choices?” And I have to say to them, “You didn’t do anything wrong. There’s an objective scarcity of men who match your values in your tribe, and you’re going to have to wean some away from the Moderns who are concerned about the bottom line and the techno-toys and draw them into the kind of concerns you’ve got.”
Frequently what we find is that for Cultural Creative men, a fair number of them tend to raise issues a little later in life — in their 40s and 50s — and the women come to it in their 30s, so you get a slightly different age distribution.
At the same time, I would add that for the twentysomethings, the split between women’s issues or spirituality, ecology or spirituality, or social action or spirituality just isn’t there. For them, it is much more about the air they breathe. If you ask them, they will tell you, “Well, of course I care about women’s issues and spirituality and ecology, but doesn’t everybody? Hasn’t it always been that way?”
I say, “No, it really hasn’t!”
Is it part of the Cultural Creatives nature to enjoy journeying without a road map, making it up as they go along?
Ray: You know, I don’t think too many people enjoy that! Making it up as they go is something people will do reluctantly. I think everybody wants a story of what they are doing. We’re at a time when we’re between stories. The old story isn’t working for us anymore, as Thomas Barry said, and the new story hasn’t been invented yet — and it’s really true.
Jean Houston calls it being people of the parenthesis. As we say in the book, we’re in the Between Time. For a lot of Cultural Creatives, they are doing the equivalent of the Hebrews in Exodus, wandering in the desert, trying to figure out what has to be done next. Some of them are doing it complaining and kicking and screaming all the way, but I have to say that those people who are getting images of the new story and have a sense that this is a huge right-of-passage, the path is more reassuring to them.
There’s a real tendency among them, especially the spiritually oriented Cultural Creatives, that they don’t fit. We hear this over and over again in the interviews we do: the words “weird” and “strange” to describe themselves. That’s because those are the words they hear other people using. So there’s a kind of uncomfortableness about being caught up in a large project or process without a road map.
Part of the reason we wrote the book was to give people the map and the territory and the map of where they have been. If people don’t hear their history, they’ll have their own origin story, but it’s much, much harder for them. They are trying to do it all by themselves with not much institutional support — and the energy keeps running out. We’ve got a hole in the culture and the energy keeps running out.
Where do Cultural Creatives come from and how does one become one?
Ray: How they become one is an incredibly diverse process. There are many paths to becoming a cultural creative. It is remarkably heterogeneous. The commonality is psychology types. Note: It’s not just one psychological type, and it’s not just about who is moral or immoral. It’s not just about the good guys and the bad guys or who is smart and who is dumb, or who is enlightened and who is unenlightened. This is a very heterogeneous group.
At the same time, they do have a crucial thing in common, and that is that a typical Cultural Creative has cared intensely about, sent money to, and read everything about a half a dozen or more of the new social movements that have appeared from the 1960s up to the present. In the book, we give about 20 kinds of new social movements (people keep reminding us of some we left out). The Cultural Creatives are people who have been involved in these groups a number of times, and the rest of the country: none.
The Cultural Creatives are the folks who have been involved in the kind of movements that involve reframing: changing our minds. Social movements of 100 years ago –the union movements, the socialists, the fascists, the communists and on and on — were movements mostly about taking power and grabbing a share of the spoils. The movements from Martin Luther King Jr. and the feminist movement and the peace and environmental movements and the holistic health movements of the 1960s have always been primarily about changing our minds — changing how we see the world, changing the moral interpretation we put on what we see, and supplying new eyeglasses through which to look at things.
What did Martin Luther King Jr. say? In ethnic politics, if you kept your nose clean and people sort of delivered the vote, then they’d get theirs. Did Martin Luther King say it’s time the blacks got theirs now? No. He said this is about freedom and justice and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the promises we made to ourselves as an American people. He reframed the entire issue of justice for the Afro-American population.
In the book we took 1962 as the magical year, because King was in full flower in that year. At the same time, Rachel Carson came out with The Silent Spring. She did reframing, too. She didn’t say, “Keep pollution out of our backyard.” What she said is this is about the death of nature. The birds and the plants and the frogs and the snakes and the fish are dying, and if they are going, we’re going to go with them. She looked at the big picture. The same year, Betty Friedan offered “The Feminine Mystique,” and that was reframing. She didn’t say things like, “Women gotta crash through the glass ceiling.” She said women’s concerns have been excluded from public life, that we don’t know what half of humanity is or what they value. She said women have been in the concentration camp called the suburban kitchen.
The same year, the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements renamed themselves a peace movement. The same year, the folks who were doing holistic health didn’t say chiropractors deserve get theirs and need to get into the insurance plans. They said this is about wellness and real health, rather than catastrophic medicine. All of this is reframing how we look at things.
So what happens to your mind if you have been involved a half a dozen times as Cultural Creatives in these reframings? First, you get used to asking the tough questions and not taking simplistic answers. The second thing is, you start changing your worldview, because each of these different slices of reality has a lot in common with all the others. It’s an insistence on the big picture, the whole planet, the long-term concerns for the seventh generation of children, and the same time, insisting on the primacy and the importance of personal, first-person experience from the inside out. That was rejected by objectivism in science and philosophy. And that insistence, of course, was a reaction against fragmented factoids of the media. It was also a whole-process kind of concern, and a concern for rethinking what we consider to be reality.
So, what we say in the book is that Americans have been going through a gigantic collective learning experience for 40 years.
There’s a lot more reframing that’s going to take place with the changing of the institutions. When do you think the Cultural Creatives will replace moderns as the dominant culture?
Ray: Could be as short as 10 years. Could be 20, but with the way crises are piling up in this era, I think it’s really an important thing to get that we’re getting two kinds of forces.
We’re looking at positive forces that are reinterpreting how our world is going and how things really work. And we’re looking at negative forces: the destruction of the rain forests; the release of all sorts of new diseases from tropical areas where they have been hidden away in jungles all these centuries; nuclear proliferation; proliferation of biological weapons; and the fact that we have three times as many people on the Earth right now. We’re going to see all sorts of crises happening, not isolated cases but events stacked up on top of each other.
So, our Modernist institutions, which are starting to fall apart, are not going to cope well with this. There is going to be a big loosening up of the tight controls we have seen over the last century, and at the same time, we’re going to be looking at a very creative population out there going around trying to solve some of these problems in a new way. A lot of people will see new ideas working, and they will join the Cultural Creatives from the existing subcultures.
You stated in the book that the people at the center of the general movement for change are the Cultural Creatives.
Ray: The fact that the Cultural Creatives are people who have been involved in half a dozen social movements can be flipped over. There is a 40-80 percent overlap in the constituencies of those 20 kinds of new movement. That is, they all pretty much have the same core constituency — and it is the Cultural Creatives, the people who have been involved multiple times and who carried ideas and processes, better group processes for example, better concern for women’s issues from one movement to the next. That means that all the movements today have in common a set of worldviews.
Last year, we saw the World Trade Organization demonstrations. All the people who showed up at the WTO demonstrations knew exactly what to do. They all had the same approach to doing demonstrations. They knew what they were for, and the reporters were all confused somehow. They didn’t know what those demonstrators had in common, and the demonstrators were very clear about it: They were against gigantic corporate power trying to take over the institutions of the emerging global economy in a very undemocratic way.
It was very important that there was at least 10-l5 years of convergence of those movements that have been going on a common way of approaching things. And in fact, it was the political folks at the center of the movements who were the last to get it, because they had been thinking so competitively with each other, regarding each other as the competition for money and people, but the people who were the general large constituencies of the movements had known this all along!
At this point in history, it is literally the case that you’ve now got the movement leaders talking about a movement of movements.
So a lot of the social movements and consciousness movements that have been experimented with and created and working by the Cultural Creatives may become the core of institutions within our future society.
Ray: That’s a really good point. I certainly see them as loosening up the old institutions. I certainly see them as demanding that new things be put in place. But when the individuals who today are leaders in the movement will be capable of organizing new ways of life I think is really an open question. I think what we’ll see is a lot of practical people who know how to be good managers and entrepreneurs joining up with the movements, because they will see it as successful. But frankly, protest ain’t going to make it. Folks who have been experts at protest serve a very important function in society: de-legitimating the old ways, pointing out how undemocratic they are, pointing out how they don’t fit our values. But it doesn’t follow that they themselves will be the one who actually organize the next new way of doing things.
When you talk to executives, you find they have been enormously influenced by all the new kinds of social movements of the last generation or so, and that’s what they believe, and they take it for granted that that’s what’s so. There is a very important sense in which it’s not necessarily the political activists who actually put the new institutions in place. Rather, they will arouse the conscience of people who are truly experts at creating the next institutions in a number of ways. And that expertise is going to be organized by new values and a new worldview –and a real new sense of purpose as to where we ought to be going — and that’s going to come from the general population. That’s what’s forming right now.
What we’ve been seeing over the last 13 years is a real huge movement in the culture just below the surface of American life. What we’re saying is that it’s just about to breakthrough into public visibility. As it becomes perceived as a winner in its own right, you’ll see vast numbers of very practical people flocking to it and saying, “Yes, that’s what I care about. Let’s do it differently, I’m really fed up with what doesn’t work today.”
How will the Moderns and the Traditionals relate to that?
Ray: It will be a lot of the Moderns who will immediately relate to that. There are some interesting things about the Traditionals. Even though they won’t necessarily want to take the lead in doing new things, they will often join up with the Cultural Creatives in making a moral critique of the Modernism we’ve inherited. In that sense, they will be right there pitching as far as tearing down ways of life they feel are very amoral and secular.
I think you can expect a fair number of Traditionals to be pretty uncomfortable with some of the new inventions that are going to be created. On the other hand, a lot of Traditionals are very environmentally concerned, and they’ll be very much in favor of a lot of stuff that comes up. Their difficulty will be their desire to filter everything through a biblical paradigm, which will, in many cases, turn out not to work.
There’s an implication in the book that the Cultural Creative subculture may be an international phenomenon and not just American.
Ray: Oh, that’s absolutely right. I don’t think Americans are even in the lead in this at all. Probably a third of the people in Europe are Cultural Creatives — around 80-90 million Europeans.
Since we finished the book this past year, I’ve had a fascinating sense of synchronistic events. I’ve met people who have come over from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and India who have said to me when I talked about the Cultural Creatives, “Oh, you know, we have a lot of people like that back in my country, but we do it a little differently than Americans.”
They are reaching way back to old symbols and myths prior to their contact with the West, and they’re putting that together with planetary concerns and spiritual concerns and ecology and women’s concerns, making it their own new synthesis. A woman from Japan sums it up really well. She said, “You know, we have these Western generals and business men and politicians come over here and we never talk about this aspect of our society, because we are certain they would pour scorn on what is going on here. That’s a part we don’t think Westerners would understand, so I’m really heartened to hear that there are so many Westerners, so many Americans, who get how the world is really going to go.” Isn’t that fascinating?
So, what we say in the book is that Americans have been going through a gigantic collective learning experience for 40 years.
There’s a real tendency among them, especially the spiritually oriented Cultural Creatives, to believe that they don’t fit. We hear this over and over again in the interviews we do. They use the words “weird” and “strange” to describe themselves. That’s because those are the words they hear other people using. So they are uncomfortable about being caught up in a large project or process without a road map.
Part of the reason we wrote the book was to give people the map and the territory, and the map of where they have been. If people don’t hear their history, they’ll have their own origin story, but it’s much, much harder for them. They are trying to do it all by themselves with not much institutional support — and the energy keeps running out. We’ve got a hole in the culture and the energy keeps running out.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers that we haven’t talked about?
Ray: I think one of the key ideas we’ve gotten a lot of response about from our audiences as we’ve been going around the country is the idea of a hole in the culture. If people try to do things individualistically all by themselves, there is no support. You cannot be on a spiritual path without support. You cannot create institutions without support. We need support. Human beings are social animals in a very real sense, but the reason society exists at all is that it takes large numbers of people to give us institutions that give us support.
What we saw when we talked to people about the history of Esalen and the kind of folks who were the healers and spiritual and psychological teachers and leaders of the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s, they were always saying, “Yeah, we’re getting our act together and we’re taking it on the road.” And then they would get exhausted after a year. As we said, it was as if there was a hole in the culture and the energy kept running out.
Well, the whole point here is that we have to build new community associations, new organizations at the community level, and have our own kind of newspapers and institutions of all different kinds in order to hold the energy and to give support for what is coming next. That is a critical transition for people who are rightly involved in individual spiritual concerns, but they have to also go back and rebuild community or it’s not going to work. That’s a critical requirement for everybody to see.
Yes, you may have to break loose from your old family and old friends to be on a path, but you’re going to have to bring it back full circle and reintegrate into new communities, new kinds of businesses, new kinds of politics, new kinds of clubs and associations. That is where the real work is going to get done. Cultural Creatives absolutely must come together in small groups of people who want to invent a new world together, to imagine what’s possible and to really put our inventiveness to work and invent the next culture.
For more on The Cultural Creatives, go to www.culturalcreatives.org. Survey data reported in The Cultural Creatives came from two kinds of “values and lifestyle” surveys, most of which used mail questionnaires. One kind of survey is American LIVES Inc.’s 13 years of consumer surveys for private companies or public opinion polls for non-profit groups. The second kind of survey reported in the book is a representative national survey from the January 1995 Integral Culture Survey, sponsored by the Fetzer Institute and the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and the January 1999 Sustainability Survey, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.