02 June 2014

Cathedrals and Cultural Dominance

I got in a conversation on twitter yesterday about the choice of the term “Cathedral” to describe the information organs of the modern state: academia and the media.

To those of us that have been around and around this debate for years, it is a bit tedious, and sure enough there were some groans, but I do not apologise. For one thing, nobody who is still paying any attention to Anissimov’s bullshit is in any position to complain about tedious.

The problem with the word Cathedral is that it implies something good, beautiful, admirable. For some Christians, it is an insult to their religion that we compare our enemy to buildings built by their predecessors. They would rather we emphasised the Jewish contribution to the ideology and membership of the Cathedral, by referring to it as a synagogue.

I can understand their discomfort, but the comparison is so instructive that it is worth working through. To retreat from the question by compromising on the terminology is to lose the opportunity to explain some of the most vital points of the neoreactionary theory, points that are easily missed by those approaching Moldbug from a traditionalist starting-point, as opposed to that of the “open-minded progressive” he was primarily addressing.

It can be jarring to those who have emerged from a Christian enclave to learn that in the wider society, “religion” does not mean their religion, “morality” is not their morality, and “conservatives” are not engaged in conserving their culture. It must be tempting to think that their culture is still here, and can be rallied and strengthened and brought back. But the physical cathedrals that medieval Christians built are now museums, and any status that their occupants have in society is earned by conforming to progressivism rather than opposing it.

To a member of the mainstream culture, a cathedral is a large, rich institution from which, historically, the dominant morality and beliefs of society were pronounced. Maybe it was also a centre of true religion and the worship of God, but that is not so widely accepted, and in any case not the primary set of associations.

In that sense, anyone can build a cathedral, provided they have a sufficiently high status in society. There is a new religion now, one which coincidentally developed out of Christianity, but has since separated from it. (The exact historical relationship of puritanism with modern progressivism is much debated, but isn’t at all the point here. Even if progressivism were entirely the creation of The Jews And Their Father The Devil, the arguments I’m making here would be the same.)

So, we have this new religion, Universalism, and it is dominant in our culture. It has built institutions which, like the cathedrals of old, tell us what is good, how we should behave, who we should obey. It operates completely openly, with one exception—it does not admit that it is a religion. It maintains that it is just the recognition of the self-evident, and that its priests are just good and intelligent people.

The prevailing impression of our political system is that it is not a theocracy, that liberalism and conservatism are just tendencies that compete within the system on equal terms, that “religion” means stuff like Christianity and Islam which was a bit iffy in the past but can be OK and pretty today provided they steer clear of things that are really bad like getting obsessed with obsolete sexual morality. We need a constant reminder that the reality is completely different, that liberalism is not a political faction but a dominant religion, that what is preached to us by Harvard and Hollywood is the doctrine of that religion. If that’s jarring, then it is all the more important. The relevant stereotypical associations if we denote the information establishment as a Synagogue, in contrast, would be of something closed, obscure, maybe people conspiring in secret. That is so far from the true situation, of Universalist devotees being recruited and trained openly in every university and on every television channel, as to produce a crippling misunderstanding of the problem.

And finally, it should not be too hard to eventually accept. It is no contradiction of Christian teaching (as I understand it) to put forward that it is not the dominant belief system in this world; that the Enemy is in power and that it is necessary to resist the dominant culture of the world. If assimilating this is a shock, it is surely not one that the Christian should be spared for the sake of being diplomatic.

There will be other difficulties reconciling Christianity and a Neoreactionary theory which has its origin in secularism, but the evidence so far is that they can be resolved.

See also: The Modern Structure


Steve Johnson said...

Calling it "the Synagogue" also immediately turns people off and makes them think the writer is a mindless anti-Semite.

It's the opposite of effective - it trips mind defenses that are strong and unconscious.

The only alternate term for the Cathedral I've heard that's felt right was Bruce Charlton's - he called it "the mandarinate" - which is accurate and not emotionally laden. "The Cathedral", on the other hand intentionally is emotionally laden but in a way that makes it a more effective term at effecting progressives.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that this reconciliation can occur. In my view secularization (scientization of heresy) is the apotheosis of the demostist singularity at the root of the so called Cathedral's power. The use of this term is a reflection of the inversion technique used frequently by the Epistemological Cartel (Sabbatean Illuminists), who through the governing our belief systems primes subjects for the reversal of rites they intend on implementing under the tutelage of what is in actuality diametric; the actual practice of Christianity. Until we can coherently transliterate our religious meta-narratives it would be prudent to accept that how they are framed in the wake of the ascendence of 'scientific dictatorship' is intrinsically misrepresentative of the information about our origins contained within them.

Anonymous said...

* who through the governing of our :)

Brett Stevens said...

Two textual implications of the Cathedral:

1. It's impossible it wasn't informed by this essay -- http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/ -- and thus we get the sense of central "perfected" control versus the bazaar, more organic/anarchistic and capitalist.

2. Also, there is the sense in the Cathedral of external control by imposing size. Liberalism is: "We all agree, and if you don't, you're ignorant and live in a trailer and fail at life and will never get laid. Ever."

Anomaly UK said...

Steve—what you say is true, but I am reluctant to start down the road of censoring our ideas to be politically correct, or inoffensive, since that ends in mainstream conservatism. If people get the impression I am doing that, they will correctly disregard my arguments.

“Mandarin” is used consistently in Britain to refer to senior civil servants. They are not precisely who Moldbug refers to as “The Cathedral”, rather they’re a different part of the “Modern Structure”—State rather than Church, in effect.

Steve Johnson said...

I wouldn't self-censor out of fear of giving offense (most especially not out of fear of giving offense to a group that generally loves to takes offense as a tactical matter) - I'm just discussing the effectiveness.

"“Mandarin” is used consistently in Britain to refer to senior civil servants. They are not precisely who Moldbug refers to as “The Cathedral”, rather they’re a different part of the “Modern Structure”—State rather than Church, in effect."

That's actually exactly why I like the term.

It hits very hard on a bunch of emotional triggers:

1) (American) progressives pride themselves on being culturally knowledgeable and try to understand Britishisms.
2) once they do unpack the meaning, it's slightly degrading. These people aren't civil servants - high ranking or not! They're independent!
3) on another level it's further degrading - since the term isn't in every day use in the United States it still will hold the implications of the original definition - a Chinese civil servant. What are they most famous for?


That one has to sting a bit - especially because PC is so (figuratively) emasculating.

Just my thoughts on why I liked the term. It hasn't appeared to catch on but I'll keep using it in contexts where it seems appropriate.

Anonymous said...

neocons, neoliberals, neoreactionaries. each is a nail in the coffin of european civilisation.

Curia Regis said...

The other thing to remember is that modern liberalism uses most features of Christianity, like altruism, to push people in the direction required through guilt-shaming and other psychological techniques. So it’s quite apt to call it a Cathedral, even if synagogue is a better reflection of the source of progressivism.

frigger611 said...

Steve Johnson is correct. "Synagogue" will make outsiders think you're a mindless anti-Semite, so it's a non-starter. However, "The Temple" is simpler and has broader appeal, and is a more generic form for a house of worship in any faith. Hard to find fault with that one.

I want to keep the word "Cathedral" as one that denotes and connotes something positive.
Again I make an offer to use "Pox Cathedra" (TM)to denote the sick hive-mind of the progressives. Moldbug is definitely correct to assert that whatever term is employed should imply a perceived sacredness or holiness-not-to-be opposed. It's central to the understanding of how progressives behave.

Mark Citadel said...

We should remember Reaction was organically Christian going back to De Maistre, so reconciling any new insights gleaned by NeoReaction is not a problem. Christianity over time in Enlightenment has withered, first Protestant traditions, now Catholicism. Orthodoxy stands resistant though, and I am happy as a Reactionary that it is my tradition. Good piece.