The term culture refers to a system of material and ideal things used by human beings to define themselves and provide a sense of place, identity, and purpose. Material components of culture include things like buildings, clothing (i.e., fashions), tools, and sacred items (like crosses, Buddha’s, Virgins, and so on). By contrast, ideal cultural components are things like common practices, values (i.e., common spiritual or political beliefs), systems of knowledge, etc.
Culture may exist at many levels. For example, all nations have a dominant or national culture which defines and identifies individuals born into that specific culture. In the United States, for example, we can speak of the dominant U.S. culture and identify the dominant cultural characteristics (e.g., business suites to work, rejection of the welfare state, strong consumerism, etc.). However cultures are not monolithic and within a national culture there may be additional cultural systems. These may be organized along ethnic lines (e.g., in the United States there is the strong Italian and Spanish communities), generation lines (i.e., teenagers who adopt countercultural systems like the Goth subculture) to distinguish themselves from their parents) and so on.
Cultural systems may be more or less rigid. Some cultural systems are closed systems (a.k.a. rigid systems) and do not allow room for variation. In rigid cultural systems, cultural norms and values may be enforced by censure, incarceration, and even violence (stoning or culturally motivated executions for example).
It is important to carefully consider cultural systems. While cultural systems may develop over time and become beautiful representations of creativity, identity, and place cultures by their very nature, limit and even distort behavior and potential by providing predefined ways of viewing the world. The North American cultural obsession with technology and consumerism, or older cultures with rigid spiritual and or behavioural prescriptions, are a case in point.
It is important to note that culture (especially dominant culture) is implicated in social control. Behavior, dress, deportment, even spiritual and religious belief systems may be controlled by a dominant culture. Social control extends even further as is the case where the manpower of an entire nation may be mobilized into violence and war simply by invoking nationalist (i.e., cultural) sentiment in a xenophobic way.
Historically, cultural systems have been extremely rigid, even xenophobic. However, in the last hundred years or so, the rigidity of cultural systems has been on the decline. We see this most clearly in the United States with the counter cultural explosion that was initiated in the late '40s and early '50s by the emergence of Rock and Roll. The decline of cultural rigidity has, in recent years, extended even into brutally authoritarian cultures.
The Source of Culture
Although we cannot (nor should we) expect the disintegration of dominant cultural systems, we can expect their use as mechanisms of social control to decline and eventually disappear. When this occurs, cultures (i.e., Ukrainian Culture, Japanese Culture) will remain as beautiful expressions of our inner divinity.
As noted above, cultural systems are implicated in the limitation and restriction of the physical unit. In terms of proper development of the Physical Unit, or in the context of therapeutic interventions, cultural systems should be queried and examined. Aspects of culture which are limiting and/or antagonistic to full development of the physical unit (i.e., xenophobic exclusions, behavioural limitations, erroneous belief systems) should be discarded.