Progressing Towards Cultural Maturity

Paul Shepard, in Nature and Madness, claims that we do not need to uproot all our social institutions, return to our initial state as hunters and gatherers, or revolt against modernism. Those philosophies, practices and lifestyles that do not meet the needs of a modern evolving society will slowly dissipate on their own, due to their ineffectiveness and limitations and without the need of an all-out global revolution. 

What Shepard is saying is that if we relinquish the role of the educational system, the “mass media and the propaganda of egotistical cultural heroes”, (Bill Devall and George Sessions, p. 187) as a necessity for promoting human maturation, we can turn towards and promote the processes that will naturally bring individuals through the progression of stages to maturity, as have been discussed throughout this treatise. In this way, we might be able to forego a major cultural upheaval and still achieve the desired outcome of progressive cultural change and individual maturation and actualization. An initial step to support this process would be for individuals to assess their significant needs and truly understand that these needs are universal and must be accomplished by all other beings and entities.

Hunter and Gatherer lifestyles have been attributed as being the most effective in promoting a sense of community and encouraging and realizing viable psychological growth among its members. Although this model is not particularly applicable to modern societies, the minority tradition has many suggestions and practices for accomplishing the same goals. Smaller communities, living in harmony with nature, can comprehend and support the vital needs of the bioregion in which they live and their own needs simultaneously and solve human problems without degrading their natural surroundings.

Some attitudes that can empower this notion include: taking care of a specific place, being mind-full of one’s recreational pursuits and responses to the environment while engaging in such activities, being open to possibilities that are outside of one’s usual perceptions and participating in recreational activities without the dominant influence of our technological-industrial worldview. Letting nature be can encourage a participatory attitude without the need to dominate and exploit. Cultivating a sense of joy, appreciation, celebration and affection for one’s environment could replace the compulsion to need to have fun all the time, which has become a chronic addiction in our modern societies. Lastly, the use of rituals, celebrations and outdoor sports to express our affinity with nature increases our awareness and connectedness with the natural world and encourages ecological consciousness. Suggested activities include dancing, poetry, expressive writing, songwriting, singing, composing music, painting, photography, hiking, camping, mountaineering, climbing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, animal watching, surfing, sun-bathing, skiing, hang gliding, cycling, bird watching and even hunting and fishing if done with respect and reverence.

Some other ways of encouraging ecological consciousness are suggested by Dolores La Chapelle. She prescribes specific interventions for helping develop a natural curiosity and affinity for nature during each stage of the physical life cycle.

The first stage would be to expose children to natural untainted landscapes for a majority of the time during the first phase of their lives. Activities to promote connection would include swinging, touching, watching, exploring and playing.

As children aged to around nine years, they would be introduced to the larger scheme of the environment: to play in lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, forests and mountainous areas. These experiences in the second stage would allow for risk-taking, time to be alone to ponder and comprehend and time to interact with other peers. Rituals would accompany play, socialization and natural learning experiences and promote maturity.

The third stage involves teaching responsibility in respect to being helpful and caring towards one’s family, friends, the local community, the world community and the biosphere of living creatures and non-living elements.

The fourth stage introduces the concept and advantages of mortality as an acceptance of the laws of nature and evolution. Mortality allows for the continual emergence of new life and other forms of being. A sense of connectedness ensues that one will continue to exist but in other forms and in different relationships.


Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered by Bill Devall and George Sessions, 1985 by Gibbs M. Smith, Inc. Character and Culture, pp. 187-190.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: