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WISDOM UNIVERSITY - INSTITUTE FOR THE
EMERGING WISDOM CULTURE

Executive Summary

Wisdom University is pleased to announce the formation of the Institute for the Emerging Wisdom Culture, to be directed by Dr. Paul Ray. The Institute will carry forward and expand the historic work of Dr. Ray in identifying and analyzing the phenomenon of the cultural creatives, a group that only began to emerge in world culture fifty years ago but which now number over 70 million adults in the United States, are even more numerous in Europe, and are growing in numbers around the world.

The first priority of the Institute will be to conduct a new a national survey of the cultural creatives. Based on this new data, Wisdom University will convene its first Wisdom Forum in the Fall of 2007 that will serve as an international gathering to discuss the implications of the emerging wisdom culture. Specialists drawn from the spectrum of human disciplines, ranging from health, technology, economics, governance, finance, science, education, spirituality, the arts, and humanitarian affairs, will be invited to discuss the general features pertaining to the emerging wisdom culture and the specific developments in their particular fields. The emphasis will be on innovation and emerging social architectures and practical technologies that contribute to its unfoldment.

The university conceives this as an annual Forum, perhaps alternating between the United States and Europe, where ongoing research is also being conducted. Through continued refinements of the data on the emerging wisdom culture, combined with conferences and widespread dissemination of the data, the Institute and the university seek to support and enhance any and all developments that contribute to building a constructive wisdom based future.

The Institute will also develop a range of studies, seminars, conferences and publications.

The Cultural Creatives and the Emerging Wisdom Culture

Creating a Wisdom Culture (PowerPoint File, 1.25MB)

The cultural creatives are people who are deeply spiritual without being dogmatically religious and who are committed to 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. They thus represent a dramatic departure from the traditional value system represented by religious fundamentalists or the modernist worldview represented by 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. The cultural creatives carry the values of what Ray terms the emerging wisdom culture.

However, this emerging cultural group remains largely unrecognized. While the cultural creatives in fact are just over half of the number of what Ray terms the moderns – people embracing a rational and scientific world view -- and slightly outnumber the traditionalists – people for whom value is a person or event in the past -- they are unnoticed partly because they are so new as an historical phenomenon, partly because the political, religious, economic and media establishments, caught up in either traditionalist or modernist assumptions, do not recognize their existence, and partly because the cultural creatives are not self consciously 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 of both the existence of this group and the values that 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 twenty 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.

The Institute will Formulate a Positive Vision of the Future

The purpose of the Institute is not to critique the current situation as much as to create a positive vision that is primarily for something. It is not a critique of the past or the present but a presaging of the future. The most fundamental truth about the present is that it is not sustainable. Whatever the future must be it must be sustainable.

The simplest possible definition of ecological sustainability is “providing for the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations—with particular reference to the ecology of the planet and the welfare of all species upon it.” However, the past century’s experience with the ecological consequences of the industrial world, the corporate world and the developing world compels the conclusion that ecological sustainability is not possible without a thoroughgoing change in the institutions and cultures of the Western world, and ultimately of the whole planet. There is no sense in which the modern world is successfully promoting sustainable anything. Our children and grandchildren will in all likelihood inherit a worse world than we grew up in.

It will take a wiser culture to promote longer term perspectives, and preservation of the earth for future generations. Success at sustainability requires a conscious redesign of nearly every aspect of the cultures and institutions of the advanced and developing worlds.

The architect William McDonough observes that “the future is a design problem.” The point is that in properly designed social, cultural, economic and political systems one does not have to go around undoing messes that ought never have been made in the first place. Most ecological issues are best resolved with better designs that never pollute or degrade ecosystems, rather than cleaning up, or having to restore, ecosystems. The design of a new culture is a good, big problem that can keep tens of millions of experts, movement leaders, policy analysts and key influentials busy an indefinite period to come. It raises the stakes because whoever has the most say in that design will get to shape the future, and will control the centers of power, wealth, and values of that future world. It also directly addresses the critical issue of what kind of world we will leave our children and grandchildren, a wrecked world in process of becoming an overpopulated wasteland, or a world governed by institutions dedicated by planetary sustainability

The Institute for the Emerging Wisdom Culture will formulate and work toward implementing a positive vision of the emerging wisdom culture, with examples of how it works.

This means:

  • Conceptualizing the underlying forces that are causing the present emergence of the next civilization, and putting out publications, seminars and conferences on it;
  • Describing the new institutional features that must be present in the wisdom culture, and putting out publications, seminars and conferences on that vision;
  • Developing a policy and research institute to do basic and applied research on the structural changes that are needed for the transition period, and formulating new policies and programs in support of those changes;
  • Aiding the spread of innovations that are already appearing as part of the new culture;
  • Supporting the creation and self awareness of the integrative movements, i.e., the general movement for change, that is implied in connecting the new social movements.

The Institute will be a New Kind of Think Tank:

  • One that takes a much longer time horizon, and goes beyond current policy alternatives, position papers and speeches, to focus on the change in values and standards we have already gone through, projecting future scenarios and trends, for strategic aid to Cultural Creatives groups, especially activists for positive change in new social and consciousness movements;
  • One that promotes fundamental structural changes toward a well-formulated set of innovations, images, and policy prescriptions for creating a wisdom culture;
  • One that aids strategic planning for new social and consciousness movements, civil society organizations, socially responsible businesses, and new politics organizations.
  • One that does systematic cross-sector and cross-discipline integration/syntheses.

The Institute will seek to bring forth:

• Examples to show that a wisdom culture works, and how it works, and show converging trends;

• Policy seminars using scenarios and contingency planning for change in the face of growing disruptions and crises in the next 20 years. We hold the large, integrative strategic picture, which can assist emerging sectors not only to become better coordinated but to enhance their self-awareness about their historical role, especially for NGOs;

• New models of change and of strategic intervention –horizontal and vertical integration – such as our Contingency Matrix (separate attachment);

• New designs for pieces of the social, economic, political, and cultural systems with the intent to spread them as widely as possible;

• New research that demonstrates to practitioners that the wisdom culture grows out of the general movement for constructive change and thus will bring wisdom culture organizations and cultural creatives constituencies into one wave of change

• Research into components, methods, common elements of a wisdom culture – this is praxis=knowing how, not merely knowing that.

The Institute will develop Wisdom Culture themes for Publications, Conferences and Seminars:

  • End of Modernity and What’s Next
  • Wisdom, Business and Economics
  • Integrative Medicine and Healthcare
  • Wisdom Education (for children)
  • Wisdom Universities
  • Wisdom and the Law
  • Wisdom and Civil Society
  • Threefolding: Sectoral analysis of NGOs, Government, and Business
  • International Human Rights
  • United Nations and Beyond
  • Innovations in INGO work
  • Wise Action
  • Wisdom Media
  • New forms of Leadership
  • Wise Governance
  • New Political Compass and Elections

Why Speak of a “Wisdom Culture”?

The use “wisdom” and “wisdom culture” as paired terms allows us to set a new, larger context for theory, research, action and rhetoric. It allows for 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 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 that identified the Cultural Creatives, covering 15 years. Cultural Creatives are the core customer base of the $230 billion LOHAS industry. In business, government and academe, he has headed research on over 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 that 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;

"The Emerging Culture" American Demographics, February, 1997;

The Integral Culture Survey: A Study of the Emergence of Transformational Values in America, Research Monograph, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Sausalito, CA, 1996;

"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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