What are the ideals of Western modernity? Liberty in at least three senses: freedom of thought and method, as demonstrated paradigmatically by scientists like Galileo, Newton, and Darwin; freedom from oppressive, dogmatic institutions like the Church, as instituted, for example, by the American democracy; and freedom to pursue earthly happiness, as enabled chiefly by technological applications of science which tend to elevate living standards. Also, modernists prize the originality of a Renaissance genius such as Goethe or Leonardo da Vinci. Modernity is thus an anti-Christian affair. Breaking with the past, including the doctrines of Christianity which dominated Europe for centuries, modernists sought progress in all aspects of life. Modernists overthrew stifling traditions, encouraging skepticism of dogmas and trusting in the authority of facts as understood by each rational individual. Modernists are thus humanists in that they posit natural human rights that don’t depend on any official interpretation of a religious text. Our rights to personal freedom and to pursue happiness are inherent, not conferred by a deity. However the Church might have protected medieval Europe from chaos after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the cure became worse than the disease, according to modernists, and so progressives awakened to their curiosity and to their pride as natural creatures who share the earth with other admirable animals. The Elizabethan Chain of Being, which ranked humans above beasts and plants, was replaced by the Darwinian continuum that takes morality to be less important than biological function.
The modern cognitive ideal is enlightenment, the objectivity to see the world as it really is. Modernists are methodologically naturalistic in that they understand that supernaturalism and theism are vacuous as explanations of anything, and so they ban references to gods or to divine intentions or purposes from their theories. This leaves modernists with a monstrous pantheism, according to which natural orders form by themselves for no reason. The world is thus undead: ordered and intelligible, albeit fundamentally random and bizarre, as represented by quantum mechanics—but also comprised of impersonal forces acting on material systems. The universal energy and matter are thus as baffling as the fictional zombie that shambles on with no intelligent direction. Mind, intelligence, and consciousness are byproducts of natural processes, not their first causes. Natural systems are beheld as having only aesthetic value as amoral artworks that are mechanically assembled by impersonal forces. When we see something as just art, we see it as arbitrary since it stands by itself without the context supplied by the perceiver’s presuppositions or social agendas. We don’t think of it as being useful, but simply as being; we see it as it really is, as a physical appendage of the monstrous, decaying body of the cosmos. And the awakened mind comprehends these grim truths by the method of depersonalization. For example, the scientist subjects her pet hypotheses to the impersonal tribunal of the natural facts as these are observed by multiple fellow scientists whose personal agendas are canceled out by their variety. Personal preference counts for nothing in this enlightenment. The facts are allowed to speak more or less for themselves; logic and evidence carry the day as the modernist learns to discount the cognitive weight of her intuitions and other feelings.
Paraphrasing Nietzsche, human nature is distinguished by its ability to be overcome. The enlightened soul thus divests herself of her personality, zombifying herself to become a fitting vessel for a vision of natural reality in all its equal undeadness. Objectivity is self-zombification, and this is the only respect in which the theory of truth as correspondence is valid. Symbols don’t magically agree with facts. Instead, the knower detaches from her emotions and instincts, which tend to delude and flatter her; she renounces her ordinary personhood so she can imagine what it’s like to be merely one material object in a universe of other such objects. Instead of transcending her earthly form, acquiring a spiritual body as in traditional monotheistic religions, the enlightened individual regards her every distinguishing characteristic as a distraction if not an outright illusion. Her position in history, her hobbies and nationality, her limited experience—all such ephemera are like the myriad trees that can prevent sight of the wood that hides in plain sight. The personal self in all its particularities is a void compared to the stunning truth of nature’s original undeadness, its self-creation and direction from nothing and no one. Instead of ascending to heaven, the modern hero is submerged in the decaying plenum.
The promising response to that enlightenment is horror, as understood by the existentialist philosophers. And so follows the noncognitive project of modernity; after knowledge comes action. First, the modernist frees herself from the archaic presumptions of obsolete religious institutions and from her animalistic impulses and egoistic biases, so she can mentally accommodate the blasphemous vision of the cosmos as an impersonal creation, which vision depresses and maddens her. Thus dawns the resolution to revolt against the natural order, to create it anew in our image, to be the gods that science never found to be responsible for nature, to undo the universe discovered by science, to clear away the wilderness with technology in retaliation for nature’s monstrosity that assaults the enlightened brain. The modernist thus prizes artificiality as well, the fruit of originality which replaces the old, natural and undead order with microcosms filled with emergent mentality and purpose. In particular, the linguistic, cultural, and technological worlds we create have the existential merit of being intended as improvements on the natural order. We cut down the wilderness and build cities, we fill the silence or the cacophony of animalistic screeches and howls with meaningful discourse, and we fill our minds and societies with worldviews and cultures. We technologically re-enchant the world after being rationally disenchanted with undead nature.
The esoteric upshot is that modernity is satanic. For centuries, Christians and Muslims have demonized the pride of the ancient pagans, of the Greek philosophers as well as of the ancient Indian and Chinese naturalists. “The first will be last and the last first,” proclaimed Jesus. “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,” warned Saint Paul. According to these monotheistic guardians of so-called morality, narrow-minded earthly happiness takes you to hell in an everlasting afterlife, while heaven is reserved for those who renounce their interest in natural success and have faith instead in a world beyond the undead one, in the kingdom of a righteous God. Christians and Jews added to the initial biblical idea of Satan as a skeptic who casts doubt on the perfection of God’s creation. Satan became a rebellious angel, Lucifer, punished for warring against God and his minions who sustain the natural order. The devil tempted humankind into original sin, forcing God to sacrifice his son Jesus, to save us from earthly bondage and death. Thus, rebellion against God’s creation has been condemned as the quintessence of evil. God called the universe good, so we’re meant to serve God’s plan, not to usurp God’s right to rule, to arrogantly act as gods ourselves as creators of new worlds. In this premodern view, the world is far from being monstrous, because there’s a person at its root—and not just any person but a perfect one. The distinction between the natural and the artificial thus collapses, since the universe would be an intelligently designed artifact, a teaching apparatus that tests our freewill to determine whether we can summon the faith to accept God’s plan for our salvation.
Of course, modernists learned that behind the façade of the deity that rules Oz is a wily mortal, the theocratic priest who terrifies the masses to rule over them. But behind that wizard, in turn, is the zombie, the undead god working in all things towards no end but their oblivion. Whereas the monotheist personalizes the sin of modernity as being akin to Satan’s arrogance in the face of God’s majesty, the enlightened modernist understands her project as a less rational rebellion. The devil would have to be evil, given that God is defined as absolutely good, but war against God would at least make sense since war is literally a conflict between groups of persons. The modernist knows God to be the impersonal universe itself which pops arbitrarily into existence as a singularity that evolves into all the complex forms that are presently apparent. Strictly speaking, war against nature is impossible since a zombie can’t fight back. To be sure, nature will extinguish our entire species along with our world and our star. But that eventual end to us all will signify no divine judgment, no triumph of wisdom over sin. In the form of our preferred artificial world, modern salvation is thus absurd. We rebel against the natural order not because we’re superior to the world that horrifies us with its strange undeadness, but because that world ironically and temporarily undoes itself by means of the enlightened creatures within it. Enlightenment is a stage in this satanic process in which the undead god evolves a mirror to be repulsed by itself and grows hands to build a refuge for those who would reveal to God his monstrous identity. The universe is a teaching apparatus indeed—only, God is ill-suited to teach us mortals anything, since God doesn’t exist and persists now merely as a hackneyed piece of personification; instead, the universe develops the means to know itself as the colossal monstrosity it is and to attempt a pitiful, doomed engineering project of beautifying a behemoth.
Obviously, modernists can’t afford to claim the satanic intention of their enterprise, since Christians have demonized it for centuries—indeed before the Renaissance, since they had the ancient enlightened pagan to despise, whose example catalyzed the modern revolutions in the West. Modernists have thus been robbed of their self-understanding. Exoteric Satanists make clowns of themselves in so far as they’re preoccupied with mocking theistic religions and conventional morality. Meanwhile, the masses are blinded either by premodern anachronisms such as monotheism or by the pleasures afforded by our artificial microcosms so that they can’t appreciate the existential purpose of modern technology. We create worlds not to be happy or to forget the horrors of pre-existing nature, but to spite the undead god, to take a satanic leap of faith that somehow our progressive efforts might in the end prove worthwhile, even as the illuminated ones know that all art is in vain. The existential revolt against the world’s monstrous impersonality is as arbitrary as every flailing of natural forces, because we ourselves are fundamentally undead. Whereas God was said to use Satan in his great scheme for his treasured creatures’ salvation, the undead god uses the satanic modern progressives to save itself from being wholly a work of horror.