Accelerating Folklore

If it was possible to make the more vocal of conspiracy theorists agree on anything, it would be that the weirder aspects of reality are heading towards something of a critical mass. While Charles Fort can be credited with collating the background hum of the weird almost a hundred years ago, it was Art Bell who brought those fears to the masses at the turn of the 21st Century with his wildly popular Coast to Coast AM radio show. Add to this the open dissemination of occult ideas around the birth of the internet and it becomes a little easier to see exactly why things have gotten so strange. Honestly, as magickians, it might even be our fault.

When we deviate further into the realm of internet folklore things get much more interesting. The Slenderman, Shadow People, both of these may well have come from nowhere more mysterious than our very own minds, aided by the one tool that modern man is unable to live without. Think back to the Dark Ages, otherwise known as anything before the early 1990’s. We were still a loosely defined group of local towns, each with a distinct brand of ingrained folklore. Our ideas remained very much products of the area we inhabited, and the nightmares we hoped to avoid were reliant on the horror stories of our forefathers as laid down in dusty old books.

The media of this period had a monopoly in shepherding their audience towards the particular brand of social hysteria required for that week, such as with the spurious Satanic Panic surrounding McMartin Preschool in the 1980’s. But it is the advent of the world wide web and the freedom to self publish which it provides that has truly shifted the whole process into overdrive. Now when someone claims to have seen something weird, a hundred thousand interested parties can share in the sighting, adding their own mental energy to that of the original experiencer and literally creating a Minotaur out of a mouse. As Alan Moore predicted in his Mindscape interview, our culture is indeed turning to steam.

Imagine the zeitgeist as a still body of water, glassy, reflective and pure. Add to this black sea of infinity the mental energy of a given population and the view changes to that of a rainstorm hitting the surface. Each of these ripples bounces around and clashes with those around it, fuelling the entropy and confusion until discerning one from another becomes impossible. This is caused in part by differing opinions and personalities, as well as a general lack of focus. Gather together a group of people all thinking about the same thing, however, and their respective ripples intensify in both size and power, brushing aside the static caused by the viewpoints of others and becoming a force all of their own.

So taking the above into consideration, we become memetic architects of the very nightmares that we seek to avoid. It leaves us as complicit in their creation and empowerment, feeding them as we turn the possibility of their existence over in our heads. In classical terms, it could be said that our modern preoccupation with matters of an occult and paranormal nature has in some way split the veil, allowing these usually insignificant tulpas to slip through the cracks and become something they were never supposed to be. Worse, the most radical expression of this idea leads to the unassailable power of the Abrahamic religions, rendering reality down to a numbers game where they out-think us many thousands to one.

Thus we have an upsurge in ghost sightings during a period when every couple and their dog want to spend their weekends playing at paranormal investigation because some dumb schmuck plumbers do it on television. Demonic infestation is supposedly on the rise as the public is bombarded with found footage films highlighting the dangers of Ouija and witchcraft at the cinema. Satanists are once again made social scapegoats. The Slenderman and his fellow denizens of the creepypasta pantheon ooze their merry way directly from the internet into the fears of the post Millennial generation. Everything is in flux.

Recognising the memetic pressure that we can bring to bear is both empowering and dangerous. It is a nuclear weapon hardwired into the collective unconscious just waiting for us to drop the ball so it can bite society on the ass, like it has with Trump and his Alt-Right freak show. What we magickians should in fact strive to do is accept our role in fuelling the zeitgeist and approach it with an informed, well balanced eye. Thus the efforts of even the most selfish practitioner should be focused on pushing back the shadows rather than lengthening them, because otherwise we have no right to think of ourselves as gods.