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The Institute on Emerging Wisdom Culture

Under the direction of Dr. Paul Ray, the first priority of the Institute for the Emerging Wisdom Culture has been to conduct a new national survey of Cultural Creatives – a group he was the first to identify based on 15 years of research. The initial findings {LINK} of the study have now been released. (click here to download)

Based on these findings, the Institute will then develop a range of studies, seminars, conferences and publications.

Cultural Creatives are people who are deeply spiritual without being dogmatically religious, and who enjoy technology and economic prosperity but not at the cost of the environment or community. They understand the world holistically and are deeply committed to non-ideological politics that emphasize practical solutions.

Thus, they represent a dramatic departure from the traditional value system of religious fundamentalists and the modernist worldview of much of the scientific and business community. Not since the Enlightenment, when the modernist worldview began to emerge, has there been such a profound realignment in fundamental human values. Cultural Creatives are the emerging wisdom culture.

This emerging cultural group, however, remains largely unrecognized – even though the cohort is already larger than “traditionalists” and more than half the size of “modernists.” They remain unnoticed for a variety of reasons:

1. They are so new as an historical phenomenon.
2. The political, religious, economic and media establishments, caught up in either traditionalist or modernist assumptions, do not recognize their existence.
3. Cultural Creatives are not aware of themselves as a group and so remain unorganized. But they exist, and they are growing in number if not yet in strength.

It is to understand this emerging cultural phenomenon and the wisdom it carries that constitutes the mission of the Institute. This is not simply an academic exercise. There are dramatic and urgent political, religious, economic and social implications for both the existence of this group and the values they hold. There is no doubt that ours is a time of extreme duress. Economic disruption, ecological instability, social alienation, and political incompetence are converging to produce an almost universal sense of unease about whether our systems of governance can maintain any sense of institutional normalcy or moral integrity.

Cataclysms can erupt at any moment, virtually anywhere, affecting anyone, as the events of 9/11, the tsunami in 2004, hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and the current turbulence in the Middle East demonstrate. We are confronted with system-wide failures at all levels of human affairs, whether local, national or international; or social, political or ecological. We have more technological capacity than ever before, yet we live without the awareness of how to govern human affairs wisely or manage planetary systems holistically. We seem to have lost any hold on the future.

The gravity of the situation deepens when we realize that we have reached the point when the consequences of global warming alone, to say nothing of the 20 or so other major global crises, are beginning to dramatically disrupt life as we know it through increasingly erratic climactic patterns and epidemics of infectious diseases. We are headed into an era when the one constant will be a rising crescendo of crises and misfortunes emanating from the environment and dysfunctional societies, combined with the inability of our prevailing institutions to deal with the calamities as they unfold.

Highly paradoxically, it is during times of extreme chaos, when fundamentalist minds believe we are actually witnessing the apocalyptic end of the world, that the spirit of wisdom finds her voice with the most daring authenticity and subtle potency. It is precisely at the moment when all seems to be eroding into an abyss of destruction and nowhere one looks does the center seem to hold, that wisdom begins to flow as a new ordering principle of creation, a new way of relating with one another and a new way to envision the world.

The old world is indeed dying but not, as some might think, at the hands of an angry God. The old is dying because something newer, more fundamentally humane is arising in its place. This is the emerging wisdom culture and is what the Institute will study and support. What is essential to understand is that this emerging culture is already happening; it is not just an idea. We are transitioning from an era of change to a change of eras.

Why Speak of a “Wisdom Culture”?

The use of “wisdom” and “wisdom culture” as paired terms allows us to set a new, larger context for theory, research, action and rhetoric. It allows us to describe the “nature of our time, ” the fact that we are between ages and that a whole new global civilization beyond nationalism is evolving as the world approaches a planetary level of integration. This mandates an integrated approach to analysis and problem solving.

Most importantly, linking wisdom and the wisdom culture allows us to generate a positive vision of the next age that is already emerging. Presently, it’s all too easy to imagine disasters, but harder to see the “new” while it’s in process of emerging. This will orient people as to what to look for, and they’ll “get it.”

Central to any notion of an emerging wisdom culture is success at new forms of governance; new, socially responsible business; and at making civil society co-equal with governments and the corporate sectors in the development of a new global social contract. At the heart of the emerging wisdom culture is the emerging legitimacy of civil society in relationship to the political and business sectors. People-power mobilized by civil society is a potential new power center, changing both voting and markets by reducing the pre-eminence of money and military force.

Such a view inspires realistic hopes of what is possible for the future, with less “ain’t it awful” reactivity and, therefore, with positive strategies to promote realistic changes in the face of realistic views of what is dangerous, chaotic, and even disastrous. This generates strong critiques of what is foolish and unwise because what is occurring or proposed is too short-term, too narrow, and too caught in cynical values rather than positive values.

This also points any strategies developed toward a wisdom culture as an overarching goal state, so that in aggregate, the strategies of change agents start to converge and be synergistic rather than diverging and being in conflict. This makes the tension between winning and being right easier to maintain because the goal of both is future sustainability.

Principle of the Emerging Wisdom Culture Institute

Paul H. Ray received a BA, cum laude, in Anthropology from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan. He designed and ran the original survey research, covering 15 years, that identified the Cultural Creatives. Cultural Creatives are the core customer base of the $230 billion LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) industry.

In business, government and academe, he has headed research on more than 100 major research and consulting projects, and written reports on them all. Sponsors and clients include many government agencies and large corporations. His current research includes surveys on developments beyond left and right in politics, "the New Political Compass," and theoretical and practical work on the design of a wisdom civilization, working with NGOs, with new political groups and governments, and with green and socially responsible businesses.

Formerly, Paul was Executive Vice President of American LIVES, Inc., a market research and opinion polling firm specializing in surveys based on the Lifestyles, Interests, Values, Expectations and Symbols of Americans; Chief of Policy Research on Energy Conservation, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources of the Government of Canada; and Associate Professor of Urban Planning and a Faculty Associate of the Institute for Social Research, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is a founding board member of Green Economic Movement Strategies, which works with both businesses and nonprofit groups whose clients or constituents are Cultural Creatives, especially in the area of green and natural products and services, and in emerging green politics.

His recent publications include:

Co-author with Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, Harmony Book, Random House, NY, 2000;

Book Update (19 pages):  The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S.:  Report on the 2008 American Values Survey (click to download)

Emerging Wisdom Culture (click to download)

The Need of Our Time:  The Need is for a Planetary Wisdom Civilization (click to download)

The Integral Culture Survey: A Study of the Emergence of Transformational Values in America (click to download)

Practical Wisdom Paradigm:  Practical Wisdom as the Expansion of Context  (click to download)

"The Rise of Integral Culture" Noetic Sciences Review, Spring, 1996;

"Altruism as Value-Centered Action" Noetic Sciences Review, Spring, 1993.

Paul serves as Chair for the Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University, is a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and a Creative Fellow of the Club of Budapest.




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