Deus ex Mycelio: The Structure of Metamodern Religion I

Guest post by the author of Octopusyarn.

I’m bored by both relativistic nihilism and naive magical thinking. I refuse to stop trying to deeply connect with others and nature, without believing in New Age fantasies. And it seems like I’m not alone. Over the last few years, I have found many others on the same journey, as well as a number of deep thinkers. I felt an irresistible pull from the work of Ken Wilber, John Vervaeke, Alexander Bard, Gregg Henriques, Daniel Schmachtenberger, Layman Pascal, and of course, the great Hanzi Freinacht. 

Over time, it became increasingly clear how their theories fit together in the same hyperobject: the religion of the future. I am convinced that religion is the solution to the crises of our times and that a new Metamodern Religion is already emerging. In this series, I summarise what I have found to be the most critical ingredients and suggest a structure of Metamodern Religion. This is a reworked version of what I’ve previously published on my blog Octopusyarn

The Structure of Metamodern Religion is a four-part series, laced with hyperlinks and hyperboles, synthesis and syncretism. On the other side of it, you will come out with a new understanding of what religion is, how Metamodern Religion could look like, and why it could literally save the world. 

Re-weaving the crumbling social fabric 

The etymology of religion is the Latin “Religio”, which means “to bind together”. 

It’s easy to discard “religion” altogether when it is understood merely as superstitious adherence to conventions of a designated holy book, as the “new atheists” have shown. Yes, an all-powerful, all-benevolent creator reigning from the heavens does seem like a childish projection of a father figure. Shitting on Sky Daddy may be fun and allow detached analytical types to feel superior, but it’s cheap to dunk on a strawman.

“God” likely wasn’t considered “supernatural” in most cultures, rather as the very essence of nature, the creative process or any natural force that much exceeds the power of humans. Concepts such as “money”, “nation”, and “individual” may seem just as superstitious and silly to future generations. In other words, most modern people use the term religion only to refer to others’ collective beliefs, not our own. 

In this exploration, we define religion as the fabric that ties society together. And what tied traditional societies of a distant past together won’t be able to take on that role today. This broader view of religion also includes our stories about technology, art, nation states, etc. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defines religion as a “system of symbols which acts to establish pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in society”. 

Any widely shared beliefs, stories, and practices could be conceived of as religious in this broader definition that we are considering here. From trust in the institution of science to the story of progress through globalisation to the ritual of accepting printed paper for goods – it’s all religious in this broader framing. 

If most people think of traditional religions like Christianity or Hinduism when they hear “religion”, why use the term at all? Or why not relativize it with a workaround like “the religion that is not a religion”? Admitting that we need religion puts us on equal footing with those who came before us and helps dispel the apparent dichotomy between science and religion. 

Weaving this shared social fabric of religion may be the only way to organise society past the Dunbar number. And that social fabric is crumbling. 

We are enjoying higher living standards than ever globally (e.g. as chief establishment optimist Steven Pinker argues). Yet there are increasing reports of chronic anxiety and depression, isolation, and meaninglessness. It seems clear that material comfort is not enough, many are yearning for more. A point in case is the huge upsurge in interest in online philosophers, from the “Peterson-mania” to Vervaeke’s “awakening from the meaning crisis”. 

Religion provides this “moreness”, this numinous excess. Layman Pascal proposes that religion is fundamentally about the harmonisation and integration of culture, technology, politics, at a given time and place. If this religious integration is successful, it results in an excess of meaning that binds communities together. From this point of view, religion stops seeming like an antiquated mode of superstition. Rather, the prospect of the emergence of a religion that can create the needed coherence for our times suddenly seems like an urgent priority. 

Note that I used the word “emergence”, not “creation”. The religion of tomorrow will emerge and evolve bottom up, not be dictated top-down. Religion seems to be very much like language, and we’ve seen plenty of failed top-down invented “better” languages as well as religions, from Esperanto to the Cult of the Supreme Being

Globalist religion: Human, Science, and Capital

Old Friedrich declared the death of God more than 140 years ago. And the damn corpse has been rotting for so long that we can no longer ignore the stench. As social animals that relate to the world and each other through justifications, it seems like we need a narrative that gives purpose to our lives. Yet more and more find it impossible to believe in the dogmas of traditional religion, or to participate in their dead rituals. 

Alexander Bard asserts that we are inherently religious and that our reaching for a unifying mythos is non-negotiable, even automatic. Even if God is dead, we can’t help but create a new one, even unconsciously. Modern society was never atheist, it just pushed its pantheon into the unconscious. 

Some might argue that Capital has become our new God – Mammon, a delicious throwback to the biblical golden calf. Or that in Napoleonic arrogance, we have crowned ourselves in the advent of humanism. Many have remarked how the popular understanding of science has become ironically religious, scientism. 

Anthropos on the throne, Scientia to her right, and Mammon to his left. 

This trifecta of the dominant modernist religion seems fitting, since humans are now literally the force shaping our planet (Anthropocene, etc.). Homo Deus wields weapons many orders of magnitude more powerful than what the Gods of old could dream of. Little Boy makes Thor’s hammer and Zeus’ lightning look like Nerf guns. Armageddon is just an autocrat with a big red button away. 

As Daniel Schmachtenberger diagnosed astutely, a civilization with godly power but lacking in wisdom will self-terminate inexorably. And even if we don’t blow ourselves up, we will eventually degrade the very substrate we depend on in our mindless striving for (economic) growth and progress, as mandated by the archangels of consumerist humanism.  

Our unconscious global religion not only fails to put us in right relationship with each other and the planet, but it also can’t answer our call for meaning. In this sense, it doesn’t adequately function as a religion. The social cohesion it provides is fragile at best. We are left trapped in a state of the Absurd – feeling atomized, alienated, and nihilistic.

A more adequate religion could at once provide the mythos needed for civilization not to self-destruct and at the same time answer our yearning for personal and collective meaning.

The crisis of our times

We are currently accelerating in a multi-dimensional, ontology-crossing, mega pickle of a crisis. The tricky part about this crisis is that it plays out both in the world out there (from climate change to nuclear risk) and in our subjective experience (atomization, lack of meaning). Even though they are interconnected, it makes sense to look at each distinctly to help make the issues more tractable. The Meta Crisis (external) and the Meaning Crisis (internal).

The Meta Crisis: Dystopias or catastrophes  

Climate change, inequality, nuclear risk, and other pressing issues share the same root causes. Schmachtenberger’s core insight is that there is a common generator function behind all of these seemingly distinct crises: coordination failure in multipolar traps. Overuse of the commons, arms races, and the failure of international agreements all share the same basic game theory. 

Technology is oil on the fire of this already precarious situation: Our current social media makes us more distracted, divided, and confused, reducing our ability to act wisely. The degradation of the information sphere is upstream of any solution to any of the other crises. At the same time, every new exponential technology that comes online adds another potential catastrophic failure into the mix (see Bostrom’s vulnerable world hypothesis). 

A strong attractor of reigning in technological risk and dealing with our inability for collective sensemaking is authoritarianism powered with ubiquitous AI surveillance (China seems to be heading in that direction). The other large attractor basin is catastrophe: Just one of the growing existential risks needs to blow up to get us there. 

We are looking for a third attractor that isn’t catastrophe or dystopia. I’m arguing that Metamodern religion is what could get us there. 

The religion of tomorrow needs to resolve these existential risks and address their root cause of coordination failures. Since all of these issues are global in nature, we need a religion of global scope. As ludicrous as this may sound, I believe this may be our only hope to return humanity to its proper place as the nervous system of Gaia, instead of a cancer eating away at the very substrate that sustains it. 

The meaning crisis: why life doesn’t make sense anymore

In addition to these “objective” crises, we are facing a “subjective” crisis of meaning. From Marx to Byung-Chul Han, the persistent alienation and atomization of “modern man” has been diagnosed to death without being able to shift us out of the predicament. Whether we call it “left brain chauvinism” (McGilchrist) or the “tyranny of the propositional” (Vervaeke), there seems to be something off at the very core of our culture. 

Vervaeke’s work provides critical pieces of a solution: The process of relevance realisation, if liberated from parasitic processing, can return us to a multi-modal connectedness to the world around us and one another. Ecologies of practices can afford an “optimal grip” on reality characterised by flow and insight cascades. 

Traditional religions hold cues to what other aspects are needed: shared myths, symbols, and rituals. We need social connectivity at that middle layer of the fractal between persons and the state: Strong families, collectives, and communities. 

Towards Metamodern Religion

That more adequate religion could be described in many ways: the “religion of tomorrow” or “post-metaphysical religion”. I will use “Metamodern Religion” because of the connotations that come with the term: a cultural shift that integrates prior modes and a superposition of sincerity and irony.

Metamodern Religion faces the Herculean task of resolving both the Meta Crisis and the Meaning Crisis, addressing our most pressing issues both internally and externally. 

In summary, we note the following requirements for Metamodern Religion: 

  • Provide a sense of personal and shared meaning by integrating culture, science, and art. 
  • Provide a unifying narrative and ecologies of practice that allow for different ways of living without losing coherence and fragmenting into competing sects. 
  • Address the generator function of existential risk, resolving coordination failures.
  • Last but not least, it should prevent the failure modes of previous religions, including weaponization for controlling the population and petrification into outdated dogma. 

Good luck with that, right? 

I’m not mad enough to propose a new global religion (looking at you, Syntheists). This is an exercise of connecting the dots that are emerging already and imagining a fully functioning structure. 

In the forthcoming three parts of this series, I synthesise the work of many eclectic geniuses who have inspired me. I’m proposing a structure that puts the different spheres they have been developing into dialogue and allows them to reinforce one another.

The structure follows that of the kabbalistic tree of life. The 10 spheres (“sefirot”) both allow for flexibility while providing useful constraints. I imagine the living body of Metamodern Religion from the Ineffable to Metamodern Spirituality.


Each of the 10 sefira is a critical limb of Metamodern Religion, working in unison with the others. From top to bottom, they move from more abstract/philosophical into concrete, lived realities. We’ll start our walk through the Structure at the top in the next part.

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.