What follows is two useful points of view that I found when searching for the meaning of the symbolic use of "the cathedral." They won't help everyone, but they help me.
The concept of “cathedral of consumption” was coined by sociologist George Ritzer (1999, 2007). By and large, a cathedral of consumption is a consumption site that is part of a multinational corporation (MNC) with an exceptionally high level of international success. The success of the corporation – and its cathedrals of consumption – is such that it gives rise to a consumer cult and a display of abundance and excess. So are Disney World, the Apple Company Store, and mega-malls. Besides providing numerous commodified goods and services at their locations that often exist around the globe, the cathedral of consumption often leaves for room for a do-it-yourself attitude, a self-service flair, and an array of strategies that make consumers believe that their newfound shopping attitude will change their lives for good (Ritzer 1999). Cathedrals of consumption are places of hyper-consumption; their massive size enchants many consumers. They are designed with the anticipation that consumers will gradually develop a passion for acquiring goods and services after experiencing a “spectacle.” Guy DeBord (2005) describes the spectacle as a form of drama, a form of theater, and a craze of information flows, music, entertainment, and other strategies intended to attract consumers from all walks of life. This spectacle also leads people to consume much more than they need. Cathedrals of consumption have been “aggressively exported to the rest of the world” (Ritzer 2007: 12).
One of Mencius Moldbug’s most important insights and contributions to the Dark Enlightenment was the idea that modern secular progressivism is actually the evolutionary descendant of puritan/Calvinist Christianity. The Cathedral is a Christian sect that very cleverly adopted the camouflage of secularism so as to more easily infect (memefect?) non-Christians and non-religious institutions in addition to actual believers. Only later did it deign to reject all pretenses of overt Christian theology. The biggest advantage of the camouflage was that it could get around that pesky separation of church and state in order to gain control of the coercive power of government and yet still not worry about anyone objecting to the new crypto-theocracy. Some very intricate rhetorical techniques have been developed, such as the motte and bailey, to support the effectiveness of this camouflage. In hindsight, the inclusion of the separation of church and state may have made such an evolution of religious feeling inevitable.
Keep in mind that all of this discussion isn’t meant to imply a grand conspiracy with central authority or control. Quite the contrary. In so far as as people are Crypto-calvinists today, it is a matter of mass action. Each individual, with the some helpful nudging in the form of mass education, individually decides to assent to Universalist mysticism . A knowledge of the origins of this mysticism is not required to adopt it so most people are blissfully ignorant of where all these strange ideas came from. (Most) humans are religious animals, and they are going to believe in something transcendent no matter the circumstance. If explicit belief in the supernatural becomes untrendy or marginalized, then spiritual feeling will assume a covert form. Alternatively, a new spirituality with the potential for trendiness will simply be made up.
Crypto-Calvinism didn’t just appear overnight, it has been slowly evolving in the United States and particularly in the northeast ever since the constitution was written and religion was banned from government. In the same way natural selection can create complex emergent forms in nature without conscious guidance or goal, so too can the same process create complex and intricate memeplexes in culture without the requirement of central planning or a pre-imagined endpoint. (The current version of this article on la wik appears to have been gutted, so I used an archive)
Anytime someone stumbles upon neoreaction for the first time, inevitably one of the first things he wonders about is this concept of the Cathedral. Rather than repeat what has already been explored beyond the short summary above, I decided to create a compilation of articles which explore the cathedral and modern progressivism as a nontheistic Christian sect. Any newcomers can then have fairly straightforward access to most of the writings done on this topic in one convenient place. Without such a compilation it would be very difficult to find all the relevant essays.