The idea of a "tertiary
culture" is discussed in more detail in another
Human culture could
be defined as the general principles which govern human interaction, communication,
organization, the values in decision making and the elaboration of one's
own life project. It is the organizational paradigm.
In the evolution
of human culture, one can discern several phases, each governed by certain
paradigms. Of course, it depends on the aspects one considers, but the
decisions are made seems to be a very central criterion, because it
is linked to many other aspects, including the value one attributes to
other persons, their needs and feelings.
In a primary culture there is practically no social organization. Each acts for oneself,
taking only egotistic and short term consequences into account. The overall
situation is chaotic, and many weaker individuals are the victims of the
stronger and "fittest".
The view of
reality is rather superficial and simplistic. The own interpretations are
projected as intentions of other people and things. Mythic and anthropomorphic
explanations are devised to explain the greater mechanisms.
In a secondary culture, a kind of organization progressively is imposed, either by rulers
expecting more profit from a kind of organization, or by victims, trying
to reverse the abuse of force. Chaos gradually is replaced by a kind of
order. Rulers and/or victims use their strengths, their strategic superiority.
Several motives lead to this kind of organization, but probably the intention
to make everyone happier is not one of these. Motives leading to transition
generally are the insight of the powerful, that order finally better serves
their egotistic goals than chaos: economic productivity is better, taxes
yield more, stability is greater which leads to their own safety and feeling
of grandiosity. The secondary evolution in itself is a succession of little
steps and subphases, with a pendular movement between individuals or groups
which are quicker in setting up rules that are beneficial for them, and
the other, less lucky individuals and groups that eventually resist and,
by their number or their productive indispensibility, impose some limits
on exploitation and manipulation. It's the "eternal" law of action and
reaction, kings and rebellious cities, laws and privileges, capitalism
and socialism, left and right, oppressor and oppressed. It yields a gradual
transition from despotism towards democracy, a socialization. But
however important that organization might be, it always is imposed by external
factors: moral, financial and juridical coercion, started in education
and continued by social control.
The view of
reality is causal and scientific. Authority is progressively replaced by
experimental evidence. The problem with experimental evidence is often
that only one aspect, or short term effects, or measurable effects are
taken into consideration. Decision making by individuals is gradually replaced
by partcipation of larger groups and democracy, i.e. ruling by the majority.
Rights protect individuals, minorities and vulnerable elements against
abuse by the powerful. The right not to evolve as an individual is of paramount
importance (the "right to be onself").
In a tertiary culture the organization comes from internal factors: consciousness, a
motivation towards integration, communication and integration skills to
elaborate the best ways of cooperation, and self-discipline to be able
to perform one's part of the distributed tasks. The organization is driven
by internal factors: consciousness, open communication, responsibility
of individuals for the whole.
The view of
reality is integrative and evolutionary: everything evolves, everything
is important, every suggestion is valuable, and conflicts ought to be resolved
by constructive and creative solutions leading to a satisfaction of all
concerned parties. Self-realization is a universal requirement without
which integration most often is impossible. To be oneself means: to develop
Those three styles
of social organization succeed each other: roughly speaking there is a
slow evolution from primary to secondary and, eventually, to tertiary sociaization
structures. However, this continuous trend should not be expected to be
simplistic or linear. Although the general trend is from primary via secondary
towards tertiary structures, in practice this evolution moves onwards along
rather compliclated ways, the progressions being alternated with temporary
(1) Some aspects
socialize earlier than others: the rules for respecting life, material
property and physical safety are earlier imposed than rules for psychological,
cultural and emotional respect.
(2) Each person
can belong to several groups with each their typical degree of socialization:
confidence and moneylessness at home, a moderate but not unlimited mutual
trust in the professional team, and an extreme caution and sometimes paranoid
agression in public, anonymous situations.
(3) Within the same
relationship and group we can observe regressions towards more primitive
and more defensive styles during periods of tension and conflict.
(4) The general
level is frequently disturbed by tentative progresses that come too early
and are too vulnerable, and by backward struggles with conservative tendencies.
These aspects can
be illustrated by a scheme of the transition socialization stages:
The tertiary culture,
or tertiary paradigm, tertiary functioning and interaction style, is an
integrative, non-conflictuous way of thinking, behaving and feeling, resulting
into a common organization by internal factors, i.e. individual spontaneous
and cooperative contributions, rather than by external coercion.
is enabled and elicited by several factors:
- the progressively
quantity of information about social and psychological functioning,
its realities and its possibilities. It started with the art of printing
in the Renaissance, but increased dramatically by general education, modern
media and Internet.
- the development
of sciences about evolving reality (evolution theories of Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin) and new possibilities (e.g. Peer to Peer interaction).
- the increasing
number of people, conscious of this knowledge, and willing to feel
responsible for the whole, and to develop their psychological level of
- the conviction of an increasing number of people that a synergetic model should be
more durable and beneficial for everybody than the conflict model.
Although this cooperation
style enables a high achievement, it presupposes as well technical (communication
and mediatic devices) as personal (training in communicative, integrative
and self-controlling skills) conditions. These requirements make it often
vulnerable and sometimes impossible.
Terms linked to this
concept of tertiary culture, but generally describing only some aspect(s)
of it, include:
cooperation. Cooperation of course can occur at any evel, but is most often
regulated by secondary (external, coercive) factors. Synergy has no rules,
no hierarchy. Only a maximal communicativity, a generalized feeling of
responsability for the whole, the tendency to make integrations, working
with temporary agreements rather than with rules, and the self-discipline
to act along the convened agreements and, if necessary, to develop oneself
in order to enable this compliance.
is the general name for the mutual fertilization of apparently divergent
ideas and initiatives, rather than being mutually exclusive, leading to
painful choices or conflicts. A tertiary culture is the concrete application
of the integration paradigm.
peer to peer:
aspect refers to the fact that people functioning in a tertiary culture
consider each other as fundamentally equal, competent and capable to participate
to the integration process, and, in fact, as indispensable for this process,
that outreaches individual possibilities. It also advocates free access
and use of the intellectual insights and productions ("open sources").
a kind of cooperation where ons doesn't elect representatives, but directly
partipates to the taking of decisions, by referenda. Direct democracy looks
OK, but its weakness is that the majority generally doesn't aim to integration,
but prefers decisions that don't imply pesonal developmental efforts.
a term which labels secondary phenomena as "conventional", and hence considers
tertiary culture as "postconventional". Vaguely synonymous with postmodern.
another term for postconventional, indicating that more arguments are taken
into account than with conventional reflections. A modern term for holistic,
referring to Ken Wilber's approach.
a term referring to the radical transition between secondary and tertiary
thinking, considering the actual cultural period as a new Renaissance.
Let us try to describe
this tertiary culture (T:), and to point to some major differences with
secondary culture (S:).
nature, technology, psychological and social phenomena, is fundamentally
evolutionary. This implies:
A mistake / failure
(S:) An exceptional
feature, deplorable, but considered as a result of a lack of respect for
laws and rules.
(T:) An unavoidable
consequence of the fact that most rules are too simplistic, and that not
all possibilities and needs are integrated.
Explanation for a mistake / failure:
(S:) It may
reveal bad will and incompetence, or the impossibility to reach some goal.
(T:) It is
most often an opportunity to realize those omitted aspects, and to motivate
for a stronger training. Mistakes are more frequent when one tries to do
things better than formerly, and may reveal a constructive and responsible
attitude. Progress inevitably leads to temporary mistakes, but those are
necessary experiences to discover overlooked aspects.
A thesis is true or wrong (it can't be both at the same time), and everything
can be explained by deduction form the underlying principles. Truth is
achieved by excluding the wrong hypotheses.
Each theory is an approximation of some truth yet unreached. Divergent
visions most probably contain each some aspects of that truth. The greatest
plausibility is achieved if one makes an integration of all hypotheses,
however strange they look. Insight develops by induction from practical
experience towards general processes. Integrations most often require a
creative rewording of the contributing hypotheses. Factual integrations
most often require creativity and personal growth.
problem solving paradigm:
(S:) If two hypotheses
are incompatible, most probably one is true and the other is wrong. The
true one has to be selected by rational or democratic procedures.
The truth of one hypothesis proves the wrongness of all other, incompatible
(T:) If two hypotheses
seem to be incompatible, most probably each contains a part of the truth.
The incompatibility most probably can be explained by honest but unfounded
generalizations. "Retroducing" the formulation of each hypothesis / idea
to its real dimensions enables a smooth combination ("integration")
of the formerly incompatible hypotheses.
The definition of
(S:) Knowledge is
the intellectual result of processes of explanation and comprehension.
Knowledge can be transmitted by intellectual information during education.
Knowledge can be tested by interrogation. A diploma is delivered when knowledge
is considered sufficient to properly function as a professional. The ability
to reproduce 50 or 60% of the required knowledge proves such a sufficient
level. Human intelligence evolves from general theoretical concepts towards
practical applications. Education should follow this path.
(T:) Knowledge is
the combination of intellectual, intuitive (experiential) and emotional
abilities to cope with a kind of problem. Already the Gnostics pointed
to this threefold condition. Only a part of this knowledge can be expressed
in intellectual concepts. Most of the "coping ability" is subconscious.
This practical experience (reinforced by emotional involvement) is necessary
to underscore intellectual comprehension. Human intelligence evolves from
practical experience towards theoretical concepts. Education should follow
(S:) Action has
to be taken every time a problem emerges. As long as problems don't arise,
everyone can continue what he is doing.
(T:) Action has
to be taken every time an opprotunity emerges. If no opportunities emerge,
one most probably overlooks them. Observing analogous systems and processes,
or just varying what one is doing, most probably reveals hitherto unobserved
(S:) Normally everything
functions properly. If problems occur, external causes are responsible
for that. Problems can only be treated if one tackles the causes. Once
the causes are treated, normality is reinstated and is expected to last
until new causes start disturbing normality. Generally speaking, problems
are identifiable as negative situations that ought not to exist. Progress
is achieved by fighting the negative.
(T:) As everything
can always function better, complications of suboptimal functioning are
to be expected. Coincidence will provoke such complications, that generally
say more about the system than about the person experiencing them. Finally,
the system is responsible for such statistically predictable errors. A
constant improvement of functioning has to be performed, starting with
but not limited to the greatest vulnerabilities. A safe strategy is to
install alarm limits that announce possible complications. Most often,
complications reveal suboptimal functioning. Generally speaking, problems
are identifiable as the absence of positive situations. Progress is achieved
by enhancing the positive.
(S:) Group members
tend to function badly, as long as external coercive structures
are not installed . These include rulers, laws, sanctioning structures,
hierarchical structures reporting problems bottom up and passing decisions
top down. Intelligence, insight and responsibility increase according to
hierarchical position. The one at the top can better overlook the whole
than the ones beneath him. A group without leadership tends to decay into
chaos. People are not supposed to think. The army / government / church
thinks for them.
(T:) Once enough
information is easily available, and integrative communication can be performed,
secondary organization rather is a drag on development. Internal organization is more efficient and motivating than external. In fact, consciousness
of how things really occur and what creative alternatives might be is more
available close to real experience than at the top.
is minimal: it is limited to the things that are instructed and
includes particularly things that are forbidden. Even God's Ten Commandments
in fact were Ten Interdictions, and man lost Eden because he neglected
the ultimate Interdiction: trying to know the distinction between good
and evil. Taking initiatives (and already expressing a creative idea) is
offensive for the leaders, and in fact a kind of subversion. Because a
simple member doesn't know everything, each initiative could be dangerous
for the system.
is maximal: it starts each time one has an idea for improvement,
and extends to everybody who can, de facto, influence the situation.
Moreover, it belongs to maximal responsibility that one actively looks
for ideas for improvement, and tries to extend one's influence on the situation.
This includes improving one's own personality.
(S:) Normally a
person functions without psychological problems. When problems occur, external
causes, psycho-traumata, illnesses, are responsible for that. Treatment,
consists in analysing (psycho-analysis) and fighting those causes.
Once those causes are properly treated, normality reinstates itself automatically.
most people function at a mean, modal level, not too bad, not too well.
Although some organic mental illnesses do exist, most of psychological
problems are due to a lack of optimal functioning in self-organization
or communication skills. Although many people learn, at an early stage
in life, to ignore and accept the consequences of suboptimal, modal functioning,
some are more sensitive, and suffer from not realizing their intuitive
expectancies. Others develop problems by functioning along a tertiary style
in a secondary environment. The primary task of therapists (rather counsellors
or trainers) is to support personal development towards self-realization,
creativity, communication and synergetic skills.
(S:) The criteria
are the principles that govern human rights and interaction. Even
if the application of some principle leads to catastrophes (e.g. obedience
to the loyal rulers in time of war, leading to millions of dead), the principle
prevails. Furthermore, defining the application of ethical principles is
the privilige of moral and political leaders, because they have
the finest intuition of God's will, and subjects only think about
their own comfort on short term. Reinforcing morality is mainly achieved
by promulgating lists of prohibitions. Most forms of progress are
bad, because things went very well without those inventions, and those
inventions generally are intended to make life more effortless and less
(T:) The only reliable
criterion to evaluate actions is the effect of it, not only on short but
also on long term, not only on the active person, but also for everyone
concerned, not only for material aspects but also for psychological. Principles
are not bad as such, but unreliable because (1) they are based on models
of reality, not on reality itself, and (2) one never knows if all applicable
principles are considered. Anyway, the only valid principle is the durable
happiness of all concerned. This may imply a bit of personal development
of those concerned, otherwise ethics coincide with the laziness of the
majority... In fact, only integrations are morally justified. Morality
is best improved by stimulating positive phenomena: an attitude of maximal
responsibility, self-realization skills and particularly the art of integrating.
Global and accessible media enhance people's consciousness. Technical progress
is paramount for the development of higher human processes.
1. On personal
development. Modern psychotherapy in fact aims to develop tertiary
thinking in a person: self-confidence (the conviction that much more is
possible than actual reality, on condition that one tries long enough and
learns from experience), positive thinking (a failure doesn't indicate
an impossibility ot ridiculize us, but rather is an indication that one
makes progess, and inspires us to new insights), self-discipline (especially
concerning the courage to start and to persevere with one's decisions),
the art of integrating and the required attitudes for this (accept the
value of diverging opinions, willingness to replace one's concrete desires
by more suitable ones, enabling an integration without giving up one's
underlying needs), the art of combining a positive evaluation of oneself
(by looking to the progress rather than to the unfulfilled aspects) with
an objective analysis of reality (seeing the details that could be better
2. On relationship.
Helping a relationship, marital therapy, in fact consists in learning both
partners the art of communication, i.e. the art of integration with two,
including as well verbal as experiential techniques. The fact that most
relationships (more than 50%) in western culture fail after 5 to 10 years
can easily be explained by the absence of communicative skills, that were
completely superfluous at the moment of the choice of a partner, who most
often presents a complementary personality. This leads to a strong (but
temporary) feeling of amorousness but at the same time to a total unawareness
that one lacks communication skills. When, after a few years, complementarity
no longer exists, this lack of communcative skills hampers the relationship
and partners most probably conclude that they are no longer fit for each
3. On groups.
The group aspect of tertiary functioning is extensively discussed in an
article on t-Groups.
to a tertiary culture
The transition from
relationships and groups with a secondary culture to a tertiary is critical,
in the sense that both can't exist in contact with each other, because
too much required attitudes and communication styles are opposite to each
other: in a secondary culture one has to be cautious with information to
preserve power and to prevent vulnerability, in a tertiary culture unlimited
confidential communication is essential; in a secondary culture taking
"unwanted" initiatives is offensive and dangerous, but a tertiary culture
can succumb to a lack of maximal responibility.
Moreover, in a conflict
between secondary and tertiary culture, the secondary always proves superior:
stones are stronger than flowers. And many of the features of the tertiary
culture are very threatening for a secondary organization: free communication,
the elaboration of a consensus outside of, or divergent from the ruler's
position. Quickly defensive reactions emerge, including restricting free
communication (closing Internet, prohibiting meetings, censorship, enhancing
divergencies --Caesar's Divide et impera), isolating the informal
leaders, discourageing and condemning them for "offenses", "defamation"
and "subversive activities".
Last but not least,
a tertiary culture is vulnerable in itself. Temptation and a love of ease
facilely elicit tertiary attitudes, which are less demanding and often
more agreeable on the short run. This provokes defensive and preserving
reactions from those with more maximal responsibilty, and those defensive
reactions (e.g. forcing the "best" solution) are close to a regression
towards a secondary, more stable system.
suggest that a secondary culture, at least in this stage of cultural evolution,
is most likely at the beginning of a relationship, a new group ("the pioneers'
stage"). As a matter of fact, tertiary functioning is latent in each of
us, because it is so agreeable and meets so many psychological needs. A
positive frame of mind practically automatically elicits this latent "programme"
in each of us. But without conscious vigilancy it is likely to regress
in the course of years towards a more easy, stable secondary culture, like
most relationships and groups in fact do.
The process of consciousness
raising will prove essential in all tertiary relationships and groups,
and also in individuals, and in all idealistic (utopic?) groups. The problem
is that it will require the collaboration of media (a prohibition on one-sided
information and inciting to secondary reactions, etc.), considered nowadays
as "limiting the freedom of speech" or as "installing propaganda"). The
inclusion in education of skills of integration and handling constructive
criticism will probably be essential to allow a large scale transition
to tertiary functioning. Anyway, the freedom of the Internet is perhaps
one of the most important factors to realize tertiary culture.