The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning

Lent, Jeremy | May 23, 2017 | Leave a Comment

The Patterning Instinct cover

The Patterning Instinct coverThe same underlying patterns of Western thought that gave us the benefits of science are also driving us to possible catastrophe.

In his newly released book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning (Prometheus Books, Foreword by Fritjof Capra) author Jeremy Lent investigates the different ways cultures have patterned meaning into the cosmos. From early hunter-gatherer societies to ancient Egypt to Taoist sages to the founders of Christianity and the trail-blazers of the Scientific Revolution, Lent reveals how various worldviews arose and shaped the course of history. He shows how values like ownership and patriarchy emerged with agriculture, and traces the rise of the European mindset of “conquering nature” as the underpinning of today’s global civilization.

A tour de force on the biological and psychological background of the human predicament. If you are concerned about our future you should know about our past. This amazing, well-documented book should be read by every college student, and every congressman.”

– Paul R. Ehrlich, author of Human Natures

A brilliant deep dive into the history of human cultures that brings us to today’s cultural dysfunctions that threaten the planet. Insight, illumination, and potential ways out of the seeming dead-end that we’ve walked ourselves into. I would recommend it!”

 – Thom Hartmann, author of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Lent argues that our current global environmental crisis is not an inevitable result of human nature, but is culturally driven: a product of particular mental patterns that could conceivably be reshaped. He suggests that a transformation of our dominant worldview is required to redirect our society toward a more hopeful future. Even if we can somehow avert climate catastrophe, new existential crises will inevitably arise unless our civilization fundamentally changes its core values. We can only make this change by understanding the source of these values, and the ways in which they impact our future.

A must-read for anyone concerned about the future of humanity. The book delves beneath the surface of problems facing our world today to examine the dominant cultural assumptions that lie at their root. [It] thoughtfully traces how views about human nature and the natural world in both Eastern and Western culture have shaped history and how the emerging global culture of connectedness and the systems view of life may hold the key to humanity’s evolution and future survival.”

 – Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch founder and president

In prose that is a joy to read, Lent takes us on a tour of human history, guided by systems theory and cognitive science, to argue for the prominence of culture and the habits of the mind in shaping our collective destiny.  If you’ve been too busy for the last twenty years to pay attention to the big ideas about the nature of the human animal, the engines of history, our place in the biosphere, and the shape of things to come, Lent can bring you up to date painlessly.”

– J.R. McNeill, Professor, Georgetown University, and author of Something New Under the Sun

Lent explains that foundational elements of Western thought have led us to a crisis of sustainability where civilization’s very survival is at stake. “We need to understand the underlying mind-set that has brought us to this place,” he says. “Only then can we consciously shape our values to create a sustainable future of shared human dignity and flourishing.”

More information about The Patterning Instinct is available at If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lent will be holding a number of upcoming book launch events. Of particular interest to MAHB followers, he will be speaking with MAHB President Paul Ehrlich at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park on Wednesday, June 7 on the topic: “The Future Is What We Make of It, But What Will That Be?”

About the Author:

Jeremy Lent is an author whose writings investigate the patterns of thought that have led our civilization to its current crisis of sustainability. He is founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering an integrated worldview, both scientifically rigorous and intrinsically meaningful, that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the earth.

Born in London, England, Lent received a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He pursued a career in business, eventually founding an internet startup and taking it public.

Beginning around 2005, Lent began an inquiry into the various constructions of meaning formed by cultures around the world and throughout history. His award-winning novel, Requiem of the Human Soul, on the topic of human genetic engineering, was published in 2009. His most recent work, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, traces the deep historical foundations of our modern worldview.

Lent lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Learn more about Jeremy Lent

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