Memetic Nightmares

Some of the scariest things imaginable come from a place of myth and urban legend. These are our memetic nightmares.

Image of a possessed human being affected by memetic nightmares, black and white.

If it were 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 we can credit Charles Fort 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.

The Slender Man, Shadow People, ZALGO, these came from nowhere more mysterious than the mind itself, and the one tool that 21st Century man cannot live without has aided their spread.

scary image of the Slender Man in a suit, surrounded by trees, black and white
The Slender Man

Think back to the digital Dark Ages, otherwise known as anything before the early 1990s.

Countries were still a loosely defined group of local towns, each with a distinct brand of ingrained folklore. Ideas remained very much products of the area people inhabited, and the nightmares they hoped to avoid were reliant on the horror stories of their 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 that week, such as with the spurious Satanic Panic surrounding McMartin Preschool in the 1980s.

But it is the World Wide Web and the freedom to self publish which it provides that has truly shifted the entire 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.

Global folklore is the new truth and, as Alan Moore predicted in his Mindscape interview, 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 population and the view changes to that of a rainstorm hitting the once calm surface.

Each of these ripples expands and clashes with those around it before ultimately ceasing to be, fueling the entropy and confusion until discerning one from another becomes impossible.

Black and white image of shadow people from urban legend.
The Shadow People

Differing opinions and personalities cause this incoherence in part, as well as a general lack of focus.

Gather 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.

This mechanism does not rely on magick or ritual in the classical sense. Far from it. Such narratives also hold sway in a purely agnostic context. The chaote simply seeks to exploit those trends for their own gain through the application and dissemination of ideas toward a goal.

Of such metaphorical boulders cast into the cultural pool, gods are made.

And devils, too.

The rise of Fascism in 20th Century Germany, while hailed by some as a mystical act due in part to the peculiarly pagan flavour which the Nazi Party adopted, was a very down-to-earth example of this radical hysteria in action - and one which birthed monsters far more deadly than those which Art Bell used to discuss.

Black and white image of a scary looking man with horns growing out of his head named based on the urban legend of ZALGO

So taking the above into consideration, magickian or skeptic, it is all too easy to become memetic architects of the very nightmares that any sane person would seek to avoid.

Be it Slender Man or jackbooted zealots, the average person is as complicit in both their creation and empowerment as with any other idea, feeding them as the possibility of their existence is discussed and digested ad nauseum.

For less human monsters, we could say that the modern preoccupation with matters of an occult and paranormal nature has split the veil, allowing these usually insignificant thought entities to slip through the cracks and become something they were never supposed to be.

Thus there is an upsurge in ghost sightings during a period when every couple and their dog want to play at paranormal investigation because Netflix told them it would be a deeply spiritual experience.

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.

The Slender Man and his fellow denizens of the creepypasta pantheon ooze their merry way directly from the internet into the fears of the post Millennial generation, causing very real bloodshed and pain.

And the most radical expression of this idea leads to the unassailable power of the Abrahamic religions, rendering reality down to a numbers game in which they out-think the entire magickal community many thousands to one.

Yes, everything is in flux, turning to steam as the zeitgeist burns.

Recognizing the memetic pressure that can be brought to bear is both empowering and dangerous. It is a nuclear weapon hard-wired into the collective unconscious, just waiting for us to drop the ball so it can bite society on the ass.

More so than the average person, magickians must accept their role in fueling the zeitgeist and approach it with an informed, well-balanced eye, because they realise that seeds they sow in culture now may have effects far beyond their own lifetime.

Utopian dreams or bloodstained nightmares, those who understand how to throw a big enough boulder into the cultural pool can steer reality in either direction.

Black and white image of a man in the foreground surrounded by people on a local tow street. In the background are shadowy winged figures and a giant, grotesque creature looking at the people with the moon behind them, slightly covered by clouds.

If information is power, then those who control and manipulate that current become gods.

Thus, the efforts of even the most selfish practitioner should be focused on pushing back the shadows rather than lengthening them, because more than just their own reality is at stake.

Gavin Fox’s Gravehound Press
<p>The digital home of Gavin Fox, author, chaote and necromancer.</p> doesn't exist without you!

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