Brendan Graham Dempsey (Part 1) – How and Why Cultures Evolve, and the Emerging Stage of Metamodernism

Brendan Graham Dempsey Cultural Evolution Metamodernism

Author, podcaster, farmer, and poet, Brendan Graham Dempsey, brings passion, dedication, clarity, and outstanding scholarship to the fascinating and enormously important study of cultural evolution, which operates on both a personal level and a collective one. He illuminates how, when, and why we shift from one cultural worldview to the next, using his own life’s journey through the cultural stages as a map and paints colorful portraits of the outstanding characteristics of each stage: traditional/premodern, modern, postmodern, and metamodern. Brendan enlightens us as to the tumultuous and often lonely and despairing time that occurs when our prior stage has been deconstructed and we find ourselves between worldviews in a liminal space where sensemaking fails. As he puts it, we live in certain worlds to help us navigate reality. But then things change, and we bump up against the limits of things. Now the time has come to update our sense of the world; we are invited to expand and grow.

We come to understand why it is necessary for cultures to evolve—to accommodate ever increasing complexity—and why culture wars and confusion result from misunderstanding a worldview that infiltrates your psyche before it’s ready. Brendan explains why postmodernism does not serve us now, introducing and inviting us to the new, emerging worldview of metamodernism, where there is hope in positivity, affirmation, and aspirational idealism. Hope, and the promise of coming together in a new understanding among peoples, a prerequisite for dealing with the challenges of the global crises that affect us all. Brendan brings a big heart, keen mind, and a lot of verve to these complex subjects, which come alive under his brilliant tutelage. As he points out, deconstructing the psyche can help save the world, adding, this is a lot of what the metamodern community is trying to get the word out about. Recorded May 1, 2024.

“It’s absolutely essential that some folks, anyway, try to break through to this other way of seeing that can get us beyond the limits of our worldviews at the moment…in a way that allows us to keep moving forward rather than back.

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing cultural evolution pioneer, author, poet, farmer, and spiritual podcaster, Brendan Graham Dempsey (01:35)
  • What are the stages our culture has been through? (03:13)
  • Premodern is the traditional stage, linked to the great Axial Age religions that started up around 500 BC (04:56)
  • Modernity was initiated with the move out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance; postmodernity flowered in the mid 20th century; metamodernity dawned around 2000 (06:14)
  • What are the more subtle differences that constitute these shifts between cultures or worldviews? (07:19)
  • Language is the medium that shapes us individually and shapes how culture plays out: using a psychological lens to look at the complexification process of modes of thought (08:59)
  • The relation between metamodern and integral thought and the new emerging stage of consciousness (12:10)
  • Cultural evolution plays out at the individual level too (16:37)
  • Brendan’s characterization of cultural stages based on his own life’s development, beginning with his youth in a traditional household, where faith relates to day-to-day living and miracles happen (17:58)
  • Brendan’s shift from traditional to modern happened with research and biblical scholarship, exploring faith and religion with an apologetics approach (19:44)
  • What the deconstruction phase looks like on a personal level: moving into the liminal space that exists between worldviews (21:32)
  • The radical relativity of all the different perspectives (27:38)
  • The sense of turmoil and groundlessness when shifting worldviews is often interpreted as something being “wrong;” it takes a tolerance of ambiguity to get through the shift (28:36)
  • Looking at this process through the lens of learning theory gives sense to the moments of senselessness (30:43)
  • A supportive community is a big help during deconstruction (33:19)
  • The hero’s journey element of the process: deconstructing the psyche can help save the world (35:09)
  • Brendan’s initiation into postmodernism: Nietzsche, the meaning crisis, and the failures of modernism (37:04)
  • Postmodernism asks, if we don’t have an absolute answer, what do we have? And throws the notion of progress out the window (40:47)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Brendan Graham Dempsey Cultural Evolution Metamodernism

Brendan Graham Dempsey is a writer, poet, farmer, and the director of Sky Meadow Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting systems-based thinking about the things that matter most. He holds a BA in religious studies from the University of Vermont and a master’s in religion and art from Yale University. He is the author of the 7-volume Metamodern Spirituality Series and, most recently, Metamodernism: Or, The Cultural Logic of Cultural Logics. His primary interests include theorizing developments in culture after postmodernism, productively bridging the divide between science and spirituality, and developing sustainable systems for life to flourish. All of these lead through the paradigms of emergence and complexity, which inform all of his work.


Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell


Besides his passion for getting the invaluable conversations on the Deep Transformation Podcast out to the world, co-host John Dupuy is also dedicated to encouraging the use of brainwave entrainment technology for its transformative effects. John has been working personally and professionally with brainwave entrainment technology since 2004, and in 2010, he co-founded iAwake Technologies to help create high quality soundtracks using this technology, which supports the healing of emotional/shadow issues, deepens meditation, mental focus, creativity, and flow states, and enhances a daily integral transformative practice.

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