Dark Star Rising UP259

In 2018, the writer and chaos magic scholar Gary Lachman published a book called Dark Star Rising that traced the influence of occultists within modern right-wing politics. In it, he observed that interest in a belief system known as Traditionalism unites several major players in the reactionary ecosystem. Common to Russia’s Aleksandr Dugin and Trump’s onetime right-hand man, Steve Bannon, Lachman claimed, was commitment to Traditionalism’s core tenet: that a single font of secret knowledge, passed down through select initiates, lies behind all the world’s major religions. For Lachman, as for the occultists of whom he writes, the world of magical and mystical forces and the world of elections and propaganda are inexorably intertwined. The magic of memes, like the chaos magick of an Aleister Crowley or the theosophy of a Helena Blavatsky, is a powerful, unseen force sustaining the universe.

At the core of Lachman’s argument is the figure of Donald Trump himself: not as magician but rather as golem – a man-made being, common in Jewish rabbinic mythology, who exists to do the bidding of his makers. Catapulted into office by meme magic, Trump, Lachman argues, is less a human being in his own right than an amalgamated avatar of cultural consciousness, brought into being by the force of our collected cultural hunger for chaos—for a destruction of the old neoliberal order and its attendant institutions.

Whether or not we are occultists, we can see in Lachman’s interpretation of propaganda as a form of magic something about the world of modern Internet culture. Even as it (somewhat mysteriously) influences our “real-world” economic and political lives, contemporary Internet culture is itself governed by unseen forces: literalizations of collective conscious and unconscious desire.