Transforming Cultures and Selves: The Structure of Metamodern Religion IV

Guest post by the author of Octopusyarn.

I’ve speculated on the Structure of Metamodern Religion in terms of its philosophical and coordination layers. But how might all of this make a difference in your life? 

In order for Metamodern Religion to become a lived reality and actually have an impact on people’s lives, it needs to flow into culture, shared practices, and personal meaning. 

The last section of the tree explores the importance of ecologies of practice and how they manifest as personal meaning in Metamodern Spirituality. Just like Religion creates a numinous excess on the cultural level, Spirituality creates surplus coherence within a person.

Ecologies of practice

Psycho-technologies are a critical part of any religion. Religion is less about what you believe and more about what you practise. Only sustained engagement with practice over years will lead to personal transformation. And there is no silver bullet, one-size-fits-all practice. Rather, a range of practices that complement each other is a more promising approach. We can think of those as “Ecologies of practice” (Vervaeke). 

Most ecologies of practices combine personal, interpersonal, and collective practices. They also act on multiple levels, e.g. mind (attention/awareness system, relevance realisation, etc.), body (movement practices), and soul (emotional practices, ensoulment). The simple taxonomy below uses some of these distinctions to classify psycho-technologies into 9 categories. An effective ecology of practice would probably combine practices out of each of the categories. Note that each of these categories just contains a few examples, which could be further subdivided.

There are many other possible classifications that might be helpful to create a well-rounded ecology of practice. What is important is that the ecology supports the holistic development of its practitioners. That is to say, it includes practices that address different dimensions of development. Mental models are helpful in distinguishing between these dimensions and ensuring that practices for all of them are included in a given ecology of practice. Relevant models include John Vervaeke’s different kinds of knowledge (4P), Zak Stein’s Metapsychology, and the developmental model used by Hanzi

Different practices will work for different communities. Each “atomic community” will have its own ecologies of practice, as well as the institutions in which the different types of development take place. 

The role of Cosmopolitan Shamans will be to help construct and implement practices for a given community and support the development of their members, as well as exchange knowledge between communities.

Note that while the practices on the community and even interpersonal level may be institutionalised to a large degree, personal ecologies of practices may vary more, since they need to be adaptive with regard to the personality, development, and circumstances of that person.

Metamodern Spirituality

So how does all of this solve the meaning crisis? The entire structure of Metamodern Religion will manifest in different ways on a personal level. The shared elements from the overarching narratives to communal practices provide a fecund scaffolding for personal meaning to emerge. Metamodern Spirituality takes into account preferences, personal history, goals, idiosyncrasies, etc. Just like Religion integrates the strands of society into an overflowing coherence, spirituality creates “surplus coherence” on a personal level. This spirituality is always in relationship with others, the community, and the whole. So rather than an “individual”, we might use the term “dividual” to highlight the primacy of relationship and interconnectedness. 

The metamodern dividual will be deeply in relationship across different scales. We want development and harmonisation to take place at every fractal level:

  • Different parts of one’s psyche are in dialogue intra-psychically, leading to more and more harmony, acceptance, and self-knowledge.
  • Close interpersonal relationships will significantly shape the views of self, world, and purpose. Deepened by interpersonal psycho-technologies, these relationships – whether with parents, friends, lovers, or mentors – are foundational for personal meaning.
  • There will often be different-sized groups (depending on the social arrangements of a community) that provide anchor points for identity and purpose: from Squad (3-10 people) to Clan (20-50) to Tribe (150-250) and all the way up to the atomic community (thousands). Each of these will have its own missions, stories, practices, etc. that will shape its members.  
  • At last, there is also a relationship with the whole. A deep meaningfulness arises from the sense of interconnection with the planet, and from participating in the co-creation of God herself.

Across all of these scales of relationship, meaning arises because of the participatory and perspectival knowing that is cultivated through practices of different kinds and supported by appropriate narratives. Numinous excess emerges from harmonisation across the fractal. 

What specific practices will do that for a given person will depend a lot on their personality and circumstances. That is why a specific practice regime needs to be constructed for each person, ideally with the help of a local shaman. At the core of Metamodern Spirituality is the continued development of the person across different dimensions.  

Not just the practices need to be adapted on a personal level, but also the narratives and maybe even the art. From a shared grand narrative, the mycelium is winding all the way to the personal level where dividuals construct personal myths (e.g. described in Building the Cathedral). Artistic creation and even ritual engagement could help bring alive personal mythologies, similar to early experiments we are observing today (e.g. “Life Art”)

Proper participation means asking “what means “right relationship” here?”, “what is mine to do?”. Whatever talents,  predilections, and idiosyncrasies are present need to be cultivated and brought into participation. Notions of Unique Self and Ikigai come to mind. However, we don’t need to strive to create an integrated whole on a personal level, to become a fully coherent monolith. I think the goal of harmonious differentiation is more adequate for our times. A well-adjusted dividual hosts a symphony of selves. More on this here.

Alright, we are nearly at the end of our journey through the Structure of Metamodern Religion. 

It turns out, I turned the tree of life into a dense conceptual jungle, thank you for meandering with me. Here is the whole picture again:

What a treat to be thinking about how to address societies’ biggest problems with a complex system of interlocking holons that engender fractal transjective transformation to create a resilient social fabric. As ludicrously ambitious as it may seem, I think we have a real shot at solving both the meta crisis and the meaning crisis by supporting the development of Metamodern Religion.

The exciting thing is that all of these aspects mapped to the different spheres are already coming into being. Now. The galaxy brains linked throughout this text are busy tackling different aspects and are gathering communities and resources around themselves. Powerful psycho-technologies from yoga to meditation and psychedelics are entering the mainstream. More beautiful (and truthful) narratives than the old “infected monkeys on a small speck of dust lost in an infinity of empty space” are gaining hold. The AI community has realised that human alignment is the true alignment problem. Web3 is building new technologies for global coordination (when they are not busy scamming each other). We are seeing the shoots of new art forms emerge. 

Where do you want to contribute? You can pick a sphere of the structure presented here, jump around between them, or work your way up the tree. If you don’t know, the latter is probably a good place to start. See how you can rekindle meaning in your own life. Pick up some practices, or an entire ecology of them. 

You might also want to find the others: Liminal web, Metamodernism, GameB, Parallax, and TPOT are some of the venues where you might find them at the time of writing. But don’t get hung up on the names – the network of Cosmopolitan Shamans is fluid and fast-changing and the tantric spark tends to move as soon as any one of them becomes too well-known. 

I’ll wrap it with a list of further resources, all of which influenced this exploration significantly:

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.