Throughout the various stages/phases of spiritual-philosophical development, different forms of an “us versus them” dichotomy determine some of the basic contours of the self-conception of the perspective. This brief reflection introduces the us versus them schemas of Traditionalism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, and develops a novel framework for Metamodernism as innovating a dichotomy grounded in a skeptical yet aspirational attitude of worship towards the Good.
To begin with, in Traditionalism, the divide is between those with the one true religion (us) and those with false religions (them).
In Modernism, the divide is between those who’ve progressed past religion to a secular, scientific perspective (us) and those stuck in irrational, religious superstition (them).
In Postmodernism, a fundamental divide is swapped for value-neutral differences, so there are innumerable “uses” and “thems” but no a priori justification of one us over another them. On a more meta level, there is the Postmodern inclusivist (us) who don’t consider their value-set to be outside historical and contextual determiners, and the Modern universalist (them) who try to set global values independent of those concerns.
In Metamodernism, a divide is reintroduced, this time between those who seek the Good and take up myriad different materials from many disparate sources in order to do so (us), and those who confidently define the Good by particular parameters of their worldview (them).
The Metamodern move rejects both Traditionalism and Modernism in thinking they can easily get their hands around the Good either through revelation or rational reflection while also rejecting the Postmodern tendency to relegate discussions of Goodness to mere historical analysis of forms of discourse in specific contexts.
For the Metamodernist, Goodness is the primordial sacred mystery — something which must be approached with total reverence and humility. From this perspective, the sin of the Traditionalist and the Modernist is idolatry as they try to clearly delineate and possess the keys to Goodness, whereas the sin of the Postmodernist is impiety, acting as though the moral imperative in life can just be sidestepped.
The Metamodernist, as a sort of cyberpunk iconophile priest/ess, rummages through the ruins to find the resources left by all these groups; garbage and treasures which may then be reappropriated and combined in ad hoc, novel ways to create an inner shrine where the Good may be worshipped in the proper disposition of aspirational fearfulness.
So the “them” for the Metamodernist are not mere enemies to be opposed — though their lack of radical existential concern for the Good leads to points of real conflict — but also the storehouse of sacred artifacts to be used in the Metamodern theurgy.
The sacred mystery of the Good that is the object (subject?) of worship is simultaneously a demand for radical iconoclasm and a permission for unabashed iconophilia. Every tradition, every rational formula which claims to present the Good in a clear package is brought under the fires of deep, quivering skepticism, leaving a fundamental groundlessness. Yet in this pure apophatic space we cannot stay — the true lover brings endless gifts to the beloved even as nothing could be an adequate expression of the lover’s ecstatic devotion.
The Metamodern aspirant so deeply wishes to serve the Good that they venture into spaces of known limitation, working within the frameworks of the Traditionalists, Modernists, and Postmodernists, attempting to find ways to transform this material in ways that more effectively reflect the Good even as their limitations ensure this will always be a doomed project, no more attainable than the Bodhisattva vow to save all sentient beings from Samsara.
Yet the Metamodernist accepts this fate, holding to an incarnational spirituality that insists that no one comes to the Good except through her Son, the Better. And it is this hope that allows the Metamodern seeker to transform the typical conflict of us versus them into a spiritual warfare where the only weapon is sacred, hopeless love for all things, as such is the final dictate of the Good.