Transhumanism can’t escape the fact that it has religious undertones. The core of the movement involves a desire to overcome death, which inevitably aligns with religious worldviews. So, no one should be too shocked that religious organizations are starting to become attracted to transhumanism. But for secular futurists, who want transhumanism to hold strong as a science-based movement, the religious undertones are a problem.
One solution is to just ignore the religious undertones and carry on promoting advancements in science and technology. This seems reasonable. Many transhumanists, I’m sure, take this view by default. But there is one downside, in that this approach inevitably allows religious groups to control the narrative over the mythical and spiritual aspects that are inherent to the movement.
Arguably a better solution is to thoughtfully incorporate the symbolic language of religion into transhumanism while adhering to a strict code of rationality. This approach would not only thwart the agenda of faith-based transhumanists, but would also help the transhumanist movement embrace the long history of pagan mythology and esotericism that led up to modern transhumanism. It turns out, this project of embracing ancient symbolism while maintaining a fully science-based view of the world has already been assembled. It’s called Satanism.
Satanism isn’t a monolith, but in general it is a modern, nontheistic movement that’s simultaneously pro-science and pro-symbolism. The symbolic aspects of Satanism, even when employed ironically, are effective at tying modern human dilemmas to ancient myths and eternal snippets of wisdom. This is especially true for The Satanic Temple, which has recently become the most visible satanic organization in America. The Satanic Temple leans heavily on symbolism while staying grounded in a science-based worldview and promoting tangible human rights activism.
Now consider the God-fearing transhumanist movement. The organization known as Christian Transhumanists has adopted the slogan “The Future of Faith?” Apparently, the idea is that transhumanism could somehow help Christianity do “faith” better. Or is it that transhumanism would help “faith” do Christianity better? In either case, it’s a ridiculous idea. Nothing science-based has ever assisted Christianity at its cause. Science has cut against the foundations of Christianity since the time of Galileo. There’s no reason to doubt that the transhumanist age of science will only further erode the Christian belief system. This renders the very idea of Christian transhumanism fairly ridiculous.
At first glance, it might sound equally ridiculous to pair Satanism with transhumanism, but for one fact: Transhumanism has always been a little occultish, even a little satanic. The modern movement didn’t just spring up out of nowhere. It’s tied to a long history of thinkers with one foot in science and philosophy, one foot in spirituality, esotericism, or occultism. Considering this past, it might actually be worth considering: is Satanic transhumanism the future of reason?
The “Satanic” Roots of Transhumanism
The roots of transhumanism go back as far as Zoroaster, the ancient Persian spiritual leader who lived sometime around 1000 BC. According to scholar Jason Reza Jorjani, Zoroaster placed emphasis on “humanity’s integral role in cosmic history.” Rather than an omnipotent God determining history, humanity “is tasked with … choosing this evolutionary creative force and actively bringing about the end of history.”
Several hundred years later, the myth of Prometheus by Hesiod (8th century BC) and Plato (4th century BC) depicted many of the themes central to transhumanism. Prometheus helped humanity by stealing fire, wisdom, and other technologies from the gods. Similarly: “Transhumanists believe that we can and should take control of our nature, and cross our ‘natural boundaries,’” writes Trijsje Franssen in Prometheus Redivivus, “for it will make us become healthier, more intelligent, prettier, and happier.” When scientists talk about helping humanity overcome natural human ailments and shortcomings, they are channeling the myth of Prometheus.
In modern times, several prominent transhumanists have explicitly linked occult practices to their transhumanist goals. For example, Jack Parson, founder of America’s rocket program, was deeply involved in the occult religion Thelema. Parsons had a distinct vision for bringing about the next step in evolution for humanity. He described his vision in occultish terms, but his goals directly aligned with transhumanism.
The Future of Reason
If you take one glance at The Satanic Temple’s website, you realize they’re not shy about promoting clichéd satanic symbols. Images of Baphomet, hexagons, skulls… Although there is some humor and shock value to these images, The Satanic Temple fully embraces Satan as a symbolic champion of reason and an antagonist of superstition. Their website explains:
“Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. … Satanism provides all that a religion should be without a compulsory attachment to untenable items of faith-based belief. It provides a narrative structure by which we contextualize our lives and works. It also provides a body of symbolism and religious practice — a sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values.”
Max More, a leader in the transhumanist movement, understood this completely. In his essay “In Praise of the Devil,” he writes: “The Devil — Lucifer — is a force for good. … Lucifer is the embodiment of reason, of intelligence, of critical thought. He stands against the dogma of God and all other dogmas. He stands for the exploration of new ideas and new perspectives in the pursuit of truth.”
The name “Lucifer” means “light-bringer,” which, More says, “should begin to clue us in to his symbolic importance.” To More, the fictional character of Lucifer doesn’t just represent a symbolic force for good, but is also a force for rationality, the virtue of pleasure, and the virtue of selfishness. Also, unlike God, who insists that we achieve redemption through faith and obedience, Lucifer encourages us to take personal responsibility for our fate.
Together, transhumanism and Satanism have much to offer our culture, which is entrenched with pessimism and dogmatism. By embracing transhumanism, which ultimately seeks to move beyond biological shortcomings and overcome death, we can become more hopeful and optimistic for the future of humanity. And by embracing the general tenets and symbolic lessons from Satanism, we can abandon the superstitions and ignorance-based dogmas of the past.
Consider Tenet Five from the Satanic Temple: “Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.”
There is, perhaps, no better instruction for living a life of reason. Combine this with the transhumanist agenda, and you very well might have the recipe for the future of reason. Should you also adopt the symbolism of Satanism and embrace full-on “Satanic transhumanism”? I can’t imagine that this is a necessary advancement to the transhumanist movement, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than Christian transhumanism.