All the relations among cultural elements can be referred to as "cultural organization." There seems to be no limit to the number of kinds of relationships that can exist between understandings, and the same understandings—singly or in complexes—can be present in any number of relationships.
Whatever sorts of relationships there may be among understandings, no
understanding exists in complete isolation from all others in anyone's mind. This is true even as concerns remembering understandings as well as in considering or using them to guide action. For this, they must be related to one another at least with respect to priority, sequence, and whether they always entail one another, can never occur together, or can either occur together or not. In fact, the actual relations among understandings are far more complex than this last suggests, and much of this results, as will appear, from the social mediation of relations among cultural elements.
The shared or cultural organization of understandings, of course, is not necessarily the same as an individual's organization of understandings. Still, for people to behave with the predictability required for social life, they must have some common organization of the understandings that guide their behavior just as they must have some understandings in common. Thus, for example, if senior Swahili men are to greet people in a way acceptable to other senior men using the somewhat elaborate set of greetings they understand as appropriate, they must share not only a fair number of understandings concerning whom to greet and what to say but they must also be guided by them in similar sequences and settings.
The general importance of cultural organizations is not, of course, limited to such simple matters as greetings but extends across all of culture's scope. Below there is an examination of the elaborate understandings about body functioning, illness, and treatment shared by the practitioners of Swahili traditional medicine and the finely dove-tailed relationships among them. This organization unites a complex of intrinsically related cultural elements into an effective guide to behavior for the medical experts who share many or most of the understandings that comprise the complex.