To further embellish my answers to the Wisdom Society Survey, here is some further, previously created material that deals with both a "vision of a wisdom culture" and "what sorts of actions" might help to bring it about. -- Barry Wolfer
WHAT IS A WISDOM SOCIETY?
The following is a simple sketch of what a Wisdom Society might
Clearly, this is an enormously complex topic, with a great many parts and
nuances. It is certainly not black and white, having many shades of gray,
and is wide open to debate. In this light, by contrasting our current
situation in many areas of society with what might be their characteristics
in a Wisdom Society, the following represents a version of what seems to be
emerging among the Cultural Creative community.
First, let's say that: A Wisdom Society seeks to be life-affirming,
sustainable, just, and peaceful; it places personal growth, consciousness,
spirituality, and love at the center of life; and it has as its end aim the
harmonious evolution of all humanity toward its highest potential--wherever
that may lead us.
The following might then be some of its characteristics:
Purpose and Values
· In our current society, power and wealth, the accumulation of material
assets, status, prestige, positions of dominance and control, an affluent
life style...are most highly valued.
· In a Wisdom Society, attaining wisdom and reaching the full potential of
our humanness in body, mind, emotions, and spirit is the primary goal. It is
the mark of accomplishment and success, valued more than other attributes.
Since only by seeking understanding and wisdom can we ever know how best to
live, wise, enlightened people are afforded the highest respect and honor.
Education, Learning, and Nurturing Wholeness
· Currently, formal societal concern with education and learning emphasizes
12-16 years, up to 20 or so years for a very few. It focuses on only one way
of knowing, through the intellect, and is not concerned with nurturing the
· In contrast, a Wisdom Society devotes itself to the lifelong nurturing and
cultivation of each individual as a whole person. It promotes our connection
to all the dimensions of ourselves, recognizing our inner and outer life as a
seamless continuum, not two separate worlds. It thus uses, honors, fosters,
and balances multiple ways of knowing and understanding--the intellect, the
senses, and the intuitive and spiritual as necessary for us to realize our
deepest, most complete truths. Only in this way will we best know what is
right, lasting, and how to serve our individual and collective highest
· The chief aim of current Western society is collective economic growth and
the opportunity for all to achieve economic well-being individually.
· On the other hand, the major intent of a Wisdom Society shifts toward
opportunity for all to seek, not just economic growth and material
well-being, but also nonmaterial personal growth, knowledge, understanding,
wisdom, self-actualization, higher and deeper awareness...as a primary aim.
Thus, in contrast to our current society, economic well-being becomes more an
enabling means rather than solely an end-in-itself.
· In our current society, politics and government are greatly influenced by
people and groups with special, self-serving, short-term, limited interests.
By their very nature, they do not seek to be balanced nor serve the best
interests of the whole, the well-being of all of us.
· In contrast, in a Wisdom Society, wise political choices and decisions are
made by citizen chosen for their wisdom who: (a) first ponder and assess the
highest aims and purposes of life and what is best for human growth and
evolution and then (b) debate and devise harmonious policies and pathways of
getting from where we are to where we would like to go--taking into account
the needs of everyone and of generations far into the future.
· In our current society, business has become our most dominant institution,
involving the exchange of all goods and services on the planet. Yet, it is
largely concerned with the short-term private interests of owners and
· In a Wisdom Society, this primary concerns shifts such that businesses are
more responsive to long-term public interests, as well as short-term private
interests. Business is truly dedicated to serving society in life-affirming,
sustainable ways, holding the multi-generational well-being of all humanity
as a principle concern. This does not negate the virtues of competition or
capitalism in business practices, but shifts their values and focuses toward
better serving society.
Unity, Wholeness, Respect, and Tolerance.
· Currently, we have countless divisions within our societies and throughout
the planet based on nationality, race, religion, gender, age, wealth,
· In contrast, a Wisdom Society recognizes that all of humanity is
interconnected and interdependent as one large family. As such, everyone
deeply appreciates, respects, values, and glories in our many
diversities--including appearances, perspectives, customs, and traditions. A
Wisdom Society is thus more caring, and is more in tune with values
associated with the feminine aspect of humanity. It is inclusive, open, and
recognizes that no one group, none of us have the whole picture or all the
answers for all of us, and that only through inclusion, tolerance,
compassion, and love can we come to a deeper, more balanced, more complete
understanding of each other and answers for all humanity.
Self-Reflection and Inquiry.
· To be able to embody all of the above, we humans need to look within and
better understand ourselves, what we are really about, what motivates us.
Yet, self-reflection is not a current societal priority at all. In fact, we
tend to act blindly and robotically.
· On the other hand, for a Wisdom Society to work, it must be introspective,
self-reflective at all levels--within ourselves, in our organizations, our
governments, and in society in general. In a Wisdom Society, we more
vigorously inquire into the nature of ourselves and all things. We seek to
understand the world and our role in it, recognizing that we can never know
everything for certain. We continually question and revise the most
cherished assumptions and beliefs by which we live. Individuals,
organizations, and societies openly offer and debate their values, beliefs,
and assumptions in a spirit of respect, acceptance, support, and harmony.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY ACTIONS TO HELP BRING A WISDOM SOCIETY INTO BEING?
A FEW POSSIBLE EXAMPLES
Such a Wisdom Society can seem like fantasy, an overly idealistic,
hypothetical, utopian pipe dream. Yet, if we do not work toward these kinds
of characteristics, we are at best stuck where we are and at worst headed for
collective disaster, even in the short term. So, we need to do something.
If we are to transform to this kind of world, we must attend
to the main
functions of society. Below is a list of key areas in which we would need to
First, a few comments on this list:
o Actions can be approached using the Pathfinding Process of (1) asking
where we are now, (2) envisioning where we want to go, and (3) then devising
one or more pathway(s) to get there. Therefore, before knowing what action
to take, we need to concentrate on delineating where it is we want to go.
And that is reflected below.
o This list was created with the understanding that we are talking about a
major shift, a transition like Willis Harman described similar to 400 years
ago when the Middle Ages transformed into modern times. As such, we aren't
necessarily just moving current societal elements around, but also creating
new ways of looking and new institutions where needed. We can't be timid; we
have to be bold. As such, none of the following actions are easy. Each
challenges us to think anew, and think big.
o While this list was created for a global context, each action has local
components and implications as well.
o In moving toward a Global Wisdom Society, there are countless facets to
consider--large scale and small, many aspects, many possible approaches, many
ways of looking at it. Yet, the following have to be among the key facets
that we must address.
o YOUTH: We need to do a better job of raising and educating
under the umbrella of our emerging worldview. If we do not, humanity will
just continue making the same mistakes, and worse; and there will be no
enduring Wisdom Society. Between our burgeoning scientific research in
behavioral, social, and neurosciences and the resurrection of wisdom
teachings, we have more capability to cultivate our youth than we have ever
had. Yet we have not effectively bought it to bear. Thus, we need to gather
what we have, create what we do yet have, and pull together a broader,
deeper, more comprehensive set of understandings and techniques for raising
more conscious, compassionate, creative, wiser youth than we've ever had
o ADULT TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION: To create a Wisdom Society, we need more
adults to embrace new paradigms and acquire the skills and attributes
necessary. Without this, it will hard to get anywhere.
o A SUSTAINABLE PLANET: There is no Wisdom Society (or perhaps any society
at all) unless we more sustainably satisfy our material needs. Many people
are concerned about this and speak out; countless studies have been done on
various natural resources from energy to water to agricultural land to
population and demographics. But, beyond knowing that we can't continue as
we are, we do not really know at what standard of living the earth can
support the coming 10 billion people. So, we need: (1) a global assessment
of what level the earth's resources can sustainably support 10 billion people
given current technology and (2) an open-ended mechanism to keep doing such
assessments as knowledge, technology, and demographics evolve--which will
avoid the Malthusian error of the early 1800's.
o ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY: We do not have an economic system that will work
with sustainability. The structures, processes, and incentives of the
current system are based on greed and scarcity. So, we need a new system
that does work with a sustainable world. Some economic thinkers have put
forth ideas. These ideas need to be collected, new ones encouraged, and
something created to guide us, like Adam Smith did in the eighteenth century
documenting the shift from mercantilism to modern economies.
o HOLISTIC BUSINESS: Since business, the exchange of all goods and
services, is the largest and most influential institution on the planet,
there is no Wisdom Society unless it is conducted in more life-affirming,
sustainable ways that look out for the long-term welfare of all humanity--and
works with new incentives in a new economic system. Many people have been
advocating more consciousness and spirituality in business. Books have been
written, conferences held. Groundwork has been laid. Thus, a primary task
here is to enhance advocacy and promotion.
o HOLISTIC POLITICS: To have anything we could call a Wisdom Society, we
need more enlightened leaders and a transformed political process that (a)
considers the highest aims and purposes of human life and (b) how to organize
and operate a society to serve those aims and purposes for the long term.
This is light years beyond just concerns about campaign finance reform,
special interests.... We need a whole new conception of governance that
deals with our new realities, our new worldview and vision. We need
something akin to John Locke's seventeenth century political treatises that
(a) recast political power and authority from the absolute rule of the
monarch to conditional rule given by the people and (b) heavily influenced
the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution a hundred years
later--which profoundly changed the way human beings govern themselves.
o GLOBAL PSYCHOTHERAPY (problem resolution): There is no Wisdom Society
unless we do a better job of resolving our many distracting global problems.
A key to finally doing a better job is to recognize that the military,
economic, and political factors we ordinarily focus on are all outward
behaviors that reflect the inner condition of our minds. They are surface
representations of our inner beliefs, motives, drives, aspiration, fears,
hatreds, assumptions, defense mechanisms, reinforcers.... So, we need to
better deal with them at that bottom-line level, bringing to bear our vast
knowledge of human behavior and therapeutic techniques to our more
intractable difficulties--especially the ones that have been passed on
generation after generation and cause us endless, ongoing distress. We need
to create a "global psychotherapy" that is an extension of family therapy,
which considers humanity as the one large, "dysfunctional family" it