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