Updated: Jun 14

A Metamodern Metanarrative

Building upon an earlier post, THE WIND: Towards a Metamodern Metanarrative, I'd like to try to fill in a bit more of the emerging metanarrative of metamodernity (such as I see it). So, to that end, here’s my self-consciously over-confident and thus sincerely ironic take on what all of existence is about (in proto-synthetic and thus highly provisional form, yet presented with galling and perhaps cringeworthy earnestness)…


The Universe begins from a singularity.

From that earliest moment, the fundamental behavioral laws of physics are established. These include the so-called Laws of Thermodynamics, which speak to a simple principle: The Universe, while always conserving its total amount of energy, has an inherent tendency to regularize disparities (e.g., things equilibrate: gases mix, liquids diffuse, temperatures stabilize, etc., to create homogeneity). When things are not regularized, they will naturally flow towards equilibrium, and the measure of the intensity of this flow is energy.

At this same time, the relationships of the fundamental forces were also fixed—and fixed in such a way that would allow for observers to evolve (i.e., fine-tuning) (cf. the anthropic principle).

After the Big Bang, following thermodynamic principles, the Universe was all radiation in thermodynamic equilibrium; that is, everything was homogenous and there was no organization or complexity. However, as the Universe expanded and cooled, matter came to predominate over radiation. The resulting difference—ever increasing due to the continual expansion of the universe—between the temperature of matter vs. the temperature of radiation created a gradient (i.e., a disparity), which caused energy to flow (to regularize the disparity), and thus a continual “heat engine” that could fuel the rise of organization (cf. Chaisson’s “cosmic evolution”).

The temperatures of matter and radiation went their separate ways once these quantities became fully decoupled at t ≈ 4x10^5 y.

The emergence of stars and galaxies further drove the universe from equilibrium, and it has been this increasing thermal gradient, and the natural effort of the universe to regularize that disparity, that has led to an increase in energy flow throughout the cosmos—and therefore, order. For, when energy flows into a system, that system spontaneously self-organizes to optimally direct the flow (cf. Bejan’s “constructal law”)...

Examples of the Constructal Law

...finding more ordered states that ultimately accomplish regularization more effectively (e.g., whirlpools, Benard cells, etc.) (cf. Prigogine's “dissipative structures”).

Benard Cells (order) emerging spontaneously with the application of heat (flow of energy)

With energy flowing, order builds on order; levels of order interweave and interact, constraining and generating novel emergent properties through the increasingly complex causal meshes (cf. Deacon). Parts come together to form new wholes. In turn, entirely novel ways to channel energy appear, selected for by pressures of their environment (cf. universal Darwinism; England et al.’s “dissipation-driven adaption”).

An example of dissipative adaption

Life is a unique dissipative structure that uses energy to self-repair and reproduce as it simultaneously regularizes disparities by emitting heat and waste into its environment (cf. Schrodinger’s “negative entropy”).

It does this with increasing effectiveness by adapting itself better and better to its environment (i.e., Darwinian evolution). Through this process, organisms evolve increasingly useful (i.e., accurate) internal maps/models/representations of their environment.

Accretive improvements of energy channeling thus drives increasing structural complexity correlated with an increasingly “deep” interior space (i.e., subjectivity) (cf. integrated information theory, Bayesian inference learning, Henriques’s UTOK, etc.).

Life therefore introduces purpose into the cosmos, as living organisms live for something—a teleology that deepens from mere self-preservation towards knowledge-construction (i.e., environment modelling), and, eventually, self-knowledge (by coming to include their own self in the model). In this way, consciousness has deepened through a cosmic evolutionary process set in motion at the Big Bang, from insentience to self-awareness.

Human culture continues the process, yielding successively more complex configurations/social environments and their associated internalized adaptive value memes of increasing dimensionality (i.e., animistic, warrior, traditional, modern, postmodern, metamodern cultural codes) (cf. spiral dynamics, integral theory, developmental metamodernism; Commons’s Model of Hierarchical Complexity).

The fundamental laws of reality thus lead inexorably to observers who can take subjective stock of a universe fine-tuned for consciousness—just as the anthropic principle would suggest. Life and consciousness are not an accident of the universe, but inevitable consequences from the beginning (cf. Sagan; Azarian’s “integrated evolutionary synthesis”).

Does this mean the Universe has a teleological aim? Is this process leading us towards the realization of some even more complex, even more subjective and self-aware entity, an emergent super-consciousness, as parts continue to coalesce into more complex wholes? (Hegel). Could such a new emergence characterize the realization of what we’ve tended to think of as “God”? (cf. de Chardin, Whitehead, syntheism). Are we perhaps called, as self-aware creative agents, to consciously participate in such a process, particularly at a time when the old myths are no longer efficacious, and a new science-friendly “religion that’s not a religion” (Vervaeke) needs a post-postmodern metanarrative to alleviate a meaning-crises enflaming a global meta-crisis? (Wheal’s “meaning 3.0"). Could this theo-poetic “myth of meaning” (cf. Jung) arise from collectively crafting new myths and symbols to help instantiate and bring into being the new “God emerging”? (cf. Dempsey) What if this myth told the story of a cosmic consciousness that gradually awakens to self-knowledge out of a state of unconscious ignorance—a conscious Whole of which we are parts and vital participants in its Awakening?

Dunno, but that sure sounds pretty cool!

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