Cosmo-local Coordination: The Structure of Metamodern Religion III

Guest post by the author of Octopusyarn.

Global problems from climate change to arms races need global, or better yet, planetary solutions. Religion may be able to defeat Moloch, where all international treaties have failed before. If it is to address the crises outlined in the previous part, Metamodern religion needs to enable Cosmo-local coordination. 

However, attempting to enforce a monolithic religion on a planetary level would likely lead to dystopian outcomes. Different cultures and ways of life need to be preserved, potentially even traditional religions like Christianity, with a few tweaks. The weaving of the social fabric happens on a local level. Cosmo-local coordination seems like the way forward: A minimal planetary layer that allows for a variety of local cultures.

The middle section of the tree contains both principles for global coherence and ways that they can manifest in a plurality of contexts.


At the core of a shared moral framework should be something like Omni-consideration, a term used by Daniel Schmachtenberger. 

What is the most fundamental lived reality of conscious experience? Suffering is bad, pleasure is good. This seems like an experiential axiom, whether we have a formalised theory of consciousness or not (Mike Johnson, the grey eminence of qualia structuralism, suspects valence might be the “Rosetta Stone” of consciousness). If this can’t be our shared basis for coordination, nothing can. 

Omni-consideration derives directly from this axiom of emotional valence: We should attempt to maximise pleasure and minimise suffering (over the long run). The concept of Human Rights is a subset of this way of thinking, but Omni-consideration goes much further: it implies care not only for all humans but all conscious beings (and the environment as a result). 

Omni-consideration implies the practice of considering the impacts of one’s actions and decisions on all stakeholders, including but not limited to oneself, other people, other species, future generations, and the environment. It also prohibits externalising harm somewhere else for the benefit of a narrowly defined group or outcome. To truly live this, decision-making would need to take into account the interconnectedness of living systems and n-th-order consequences. As elaborated by complexity science with its understanding of non-linear dynamics, we need profound humility when judging what effects any action may have. In terms of moral reasoning, this humility implies a parallax between utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology. 

Planetary governance

We won’t get around sharing the same planet. Actions with a global effect (e.g. environmental damage) concern all of us. 

Planetary governance is the most important piece for solving the external Meta Crisis, and might only become possible through the spread of Metamodern Religion. Specifically, through the principle of Omni-consideration being taken seriously, supported by the structure of feeling within Integrative pluralism.

There are straightforward implications of Omni-consideration, such as a principle of non-violence and a notion of fundamental rights. In addition, More indirectly, it implies mitigating existential risks of all kinds – from rogue AGI to climate change. Uses of technology that endanger large swaths of the population or even the possibility of life on the planet altogether need to be strictly controlled. We need to learn how to live within planetary boundaries.

While a likely starting point is a social contract, eventually, there would need to be a planetary governance process (potentially combined with a monopoly of violence) around these issues in order to effectively enforce such rules. We already have bodies like the UN that try to guarantee and promote global peace and human rights with mixed results today. The current failure modes of the UN (e.g. stalemate in its security council, fossilised power relations from past wars, institutional bloat, etc.) would need to be addressed. 

As you surely notice, we’re entering geopolitical LaLa Land. 

How could we ever get everybody to agree on shared rules? Even less plausibly, how could we exit the arms races we are currently engaged in and get the powers that be to hand over their toys? How could a global monopoly of violence possibly not degenerate into a totalitarian one-world government because of unchecked power? Good questions, no easy answers. However, it seems inevitable that we will need some form of planetary governance because of the global nature of these issues. That fact that the largest collective bodies currently are nation states arguably exacerbates these issues through the competitive dynamics between countries. 

What does this have to do with religion? 

The only cases where coordination failures have been solved are to be found in religions. An example is Shabbat in Judaism, the day when it is prohibited to do any work at all. This rule is enforced to this day with strong social norms and deterrence by a large punishment. Religious law has successfully bound an arms race (on time spent working in this case) within Judaism (as Schmachtenberger explains), resulting in more social coherence.  In addition, Planetary governance is necessary as a political scaffolding that allows for the sefirot below to function. For example, universal freedom of movement between the different cultures and states is needed for Atomic communities to function.

Before any kind of planetary governance will become possible, there will need to be significant shifts in culture. Jeremy Johnson describes going planetary as moving beyond anthropocentrism and starting to relate to the Earth as a living system (see the Gaia hypothesis). It also entails a structure of feeling that makes global interconnectedness palpable on an everyday emotional level. As it turns out, a new aesthetic sensibility is not just required as a precedent for enabling planetary governance, but the keystone of the entire structure of Metamodern Religion. 

Integrative pluralism

At the very heart of this proposed structure for Metamodern Religion is Integrative Pluralism: the recognition that there are always multiple valid ways of understanding a situation and that by bringing these perspectives together, a more holistic and complete understanding can be achieved. Moving through Wilber’s quadrants, we can see the same issue from completely different points of view, subjectively, culturally, scientifically, and systematically. There is a fractal pattern opening up by zooming into each quadrant and applying the framework again, as demonstrated by Hanzi’s exploration of ethics.

“The task is to see reality as it is, the method is to look through millions of eyes”

We could therefore expect that the core task of Metamodern Religion will be to weave together these different perspectives, such as culture, science, and spirituality, with the human experience of our times. It should accommodate the integration and coherence between the different ontological categories and vantage points within them. Like a prism, Integrative pluralism crystallises all of the abstract sefirot above and emanates specific manifestations of them in the more concrete spheres below. 

The Glass Bead Game of harmonisation

This integration happens primarily through art. While it may seem daunting, this would not be the first time humans engage in sweeping religious integration: We can think of the great religious art of the past, from the Bible to Dante’s Divine Comedy, from the great Gothic cathedrals to Michelangelo’s frescoes as predecessors.

Before Metamodern Religion can emerge, we need an artistic renaissance. Entirely new art forms and practices are what will produce the symbols, myths, and collective experiences at the core of a new Cosmo-local religion. This process of harmonisation and integration reminds of Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, a fictional play that synthesises all arts and sciences. 

We need our own Glass Bead Games. Whether it’s interactive media, AI-powered experiences, VR/AR, or blockchain (or all of them), I expect technology to play a vital role too. I’d also expect the art to be much more participative and created by collectives rather than individual artists. 

The work of Olafur Eliasson is a prime example of art centred around multiperspectivalism, creating an aesthetic that works across cultural backgrounds and levels of development. Yayoi Kusama’s art re-enchants modernity with bright colours and opens up the sublime dimensions of the mundane. Early examples that lean into co-creation include experiences like Nora Bateson’s warm data lab, David Chapman’s hyperlinked books (e.g. Vividness) written in public, or genre-breaking experiments like Meaningwave or In Shadow. Laurence Currie-Clark has brought a version of the Glass Bead Game to life as a collective inquiry practice and is now expanding it into an experimental social media platform. Plantoids are an example of how the use of technology in art can engender co-creative spaces and ecological thinking.

The texture of numinous excess

This integration of different strands of a culture at any time is what generates the binding energy of religion. Layman Pascal describes it as the core of religion as a process: the “surplus coherence” achieved by this integration generates the “numinous excess”, the religious feeling of awe and wonder. Tiferet, the sefira at the very heart of the tree, where I placed “Integrative Pluralism”, is often titled “Beauty”. We will know our Glass Bead Games are working if they produce this sense of numinous excess in participants from diverse backgrounds. The task here is nothing short of building the cathedrals of our age. We need a return to beauty while still folding in the critical deconstruction that has been prevalent in contemporary art. 

The feeling structure of metamodern art is still in the process of unfolding. Some potential elements are the following: 

  • Metaxis. Holding sincerity and irony in superposition results in an in-between quality: neither entirely serious nor ironic, but both at once. From leaning into the apparent contradiction, a new kind of beauty emerges, like a moiré pattern. Irony adds dimensionality to the sincerity, while sincerity adds depth to the irony. Contemporary metamodern art is diffusing this sensibility to wider and wider audiences. 
  • Planetary Communitas: Communitas is the interpersonal connection our ancestors may have felt in their religious rituals. A blending between individuals into a felt sense of group-consciousness. We want a similar sensibility but with a wider circle of concern, including all of humanity, to other species, and to the planet itself. Not just understanding the interconnection of the ecosystem intellectually but viscerally feeling ourselves as part of its wholeness. 
  • Aperspectival hyper-textuality: I expect art forms enabled by technological capabilities (VR/AR/AI) that will be more interactive and informationally dense. This may induce a new sense of time created by the hyper-textuality of technological augmentation: Moving from linear time to what Gebser calls “aperspectival”, where the spectator/participant can zoom in or out, co-creating the art as different vantage points are activated. This may be a way to perceive Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects

The jargon above is pointing at different potentially relevant elements and not to be mistaken for a complete description. 

Atomic communitarianism 

What do traditional religions and countercultures from hippies to reactionaries all have in common? They share the mistaken assumption of universalism: that their specific solution to social organisation is the best possible way of organising society everywhere, at all times. It seems obvious that there are certain trade-offs in cultural space and that for different people and circumstances, different solutions will better support their thriving: 

  • Different social norms may be required for different circumstances (e.g. variations on family structures vs. more tribal arrangements, monogamy vs. polyamory, more or less fluid roles in society, diet, etc.).
  • Different political and economical frameworks, and different relations to technology: from liquid democracy to a constitutional monarchy of philosopher kings, from neo-Luddism to fully-automated luxury communism.
  • Different variations of the overarching narratives, different shared rituals, and different archetypal myths, all coloured by the idiosyncrasies of place and culture. 

There is no universal answer for social organisation. Is it possible to rejoice in our differences instead of incessantly trying to convince each other that our way of life is “right”? A healthy social pluralism seems possible as long as we can agree on some minimal common ground to avoid diverging into factions so different they can’t communicate any longer. The principles of Omni-consideration and (minimal) Planetary governance are plausible directions. As long as anybody can freely move between communities, multiple solutions can be explored in parallel. 

In order for communities to function within Metamodern Religion, there will likely be some commonalities, including: 

  • A new localism and connection to the ecosphere, communities caring for their bioregions. 
  • A developmental approach, helping its members grow in different dimensions, supported by an ecology of practice. 

The general idea of this sefira is described in Scott Alexander’s Archipelago and Atomic Communitarianism. There is also an alignment on this point in the Game-B community, where so-called “Proto-Bs” could propose local solutions radically different in social architecture towards the same global aims of a thriving, non-violent, and sustainable culture. 

Cosmopolitan Shamanism

This is all quite complex. How could such a convoluted structure possibly scale to a global religion? 

The answer is that not everybody has to fully understand every part of it, participating is enough. I can type these words without knowing how my laptop works. It is much easier to function within a given system than work on the systemic level itself. Only a small part of the population will be called to do the latter and both help midwife Metamodern Religion and then improve and maintain it. These “shamanoid” personalities (as Bard calls them) would need to understand the functioning of the structure as a whole and likely undergo significant training to take up their role as stewards or “priests” of Metamodern Religion. I call them “Cosmopolitan Shamans” since they are needed across the different Atomic Communities all over the world, and at least some of them would also travel between them. 

Cosmopolitan Shamans have a number of critical functions across the structure of Metamodern Religion, both between and within Atomic communities: 

Between communities: 

  • Maintain and update the Structure of Metamodern Religion as situations change, e.g. its overarching narratives and shared standards.
  • Interconnect the different atomic communities to ensure alignment with the overall structure and transfer knowledge between them. 

Within communities:

  • Develop art, culture, and practices within atomic communities.
  • Steward the different atomic communities, ensuring sustainable bioregions, a healthy social commons, and the continued development of its members. 

Likely, different specialised roles would emerge to fulfil these different functions, i.e. staying in place to steward a specific community or travelling between them to facilitate knowledge exchange. Shamans may also be called to work on philosophical frameworks, narratives, or practices respectively, or to create art. There would need to be a globally connected network of Cosmopolitan Shamans that allows for their recruitment and training, as well as an exchange of knowledge and experience. The mycelium of Metamodern Religion. 

Since there is a significant degree of responsibility and power in this function, the membrane of who may take up the training needs to be clearly defined: Likely, self-selection, peer-verification, and mutual training would all be involved. Before being able to take up a specific role, aspiring shamans should demonstrate an understanding of core narratives and the underlying philosophy. They would also need to master a wide range of practices and show a strong ethical commitment. 

The shamanic network would need to be able to work with whatever power structure is at play (from technologists to political leaders) while maintaining independence from it. We can imagine a number of techniques from camouflage to an internal “immune system” for this shamanic network to maintain its independence. The network would also need to avoid institutional inertia and maintain its fluidity. While it may share elements with religious secret societies of the past, from the Freemasons to tantric Kaula, there will also be key differences: Since Cosmopolitan Shamans need to both be able to recognize each other and be recognized by all members of their communities, a paradigm of “self-secrecy” or “open conspiracy” seems more likely.


Next: Bringing it home, into your life

From setting the context in the first part, to the philosophical musings in the second part, you’ve followed me through meandering and dense speculations of how a new religion could facilitate global coordination while remaining pluralist. The final part of the series will bring all of this home. Home into our own lives. We’ll look into how ecologies of practice can connect to these larger structures and lead to personal meaning and fulfilment. Metamodern Spirituality is doing the same work of integration and harmonisation that religion does culturally on a personal level. As above, so below. Stay tuned.

The author is a technology entrepreneur and investor who prefers to remain pseudonymous. 

On his blog, he expresses his long-standing interest in philosophy, psychology, and psycho-technologies. As a technologist, serious meditator, and denizen of the liminal web, he likes writing at the intersections of different fields.