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WitchTok and Memes: Exploring the Hermetic Currents of Internet Magick

Deep within TikTok’s intricate labyrinth, a cohort of teenage occultists, known as ‘manifesting’ influencers, claims the power to transform lives through focus, positive thinking, and desire.

This modern fascination with manifesting is not confined to TikTok but permeates wellness and spirituality subcultures on social media. Beyond a fleeting trend, it reflects a broader intersection of occult practices and internet subcultures, and Hermeticism and the enigmatic figure of Hermes Trismegistus lie at her roots.

The resurgence of magical thinking on the internet is part of a larger trend, where various occult phenomena gain popularity. From ‘WitchTok’ and left-occult movements to neo-traditionalists drawn to figures like Julius Evola, there’s a growing interest in the mystical.

At the heart of this trend lies Hermeticism, a philosophical and magical tradition associated with Hermes Trismegistus, a legendary figure believed to embody the fusion of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.

In the context of the Western esoteric tradition, Magic finds its roots in Hermeticism, particularly the Corpus Hermeticum, a collection of writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. This collection blends philosophy, scripture, natural science, alchemy, astrology, and magic, presenting a distinctive vision of human transcendence.

The mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, portrayed as a self-made god with near-divine control over scientific and magical realms, becomes the focal point for those seeking to understand and harness the universe’s workings for personal ends.

The historical evolution of magic aligns with technological advancements, particularly the internet. Renaissance humanists, influenced by Hermeticism and the Corpus Hermeticum, laid the groundwork for a transgressive ideology that humans should maximize knowledge and technical capacity to become god-like.

This theme persists in modernity, especially within Silicon Valley’s tech culture, where figures like Bryan Johnson express ambitions of a societal-scale transformation akin to divine authority.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, influenced by the Corpus Hermeticum, envisions humans as self-made gods with the power to shape their own destinies. The Renaissance humanist movement, deeply intertwined with Hermeticism, reflects a belief in human self-transcendence as the highest spiritual pursuit.

The internet’s early pioneers, shaped by counterculture ideals, shared an optimistic vision of human self-transcendence through technology. The idea of cyberspace as a new spiritual realm, where individuals could transcend physical and social limitations, aligned with Hermetic wisdom derived from the Corpus Hermeticum.

This vision materialized in rituals like Mark Pesce’s technopagan ceremony, emphasizing the internet as a place for collective magical rebirth, echoing the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus.

However, as the internet evolved, desires took center stage, shaping a new reality. In the attention economy, desire became a potent force, monetized through platforms that capitalize on human yearning for validation, attention, and fulfillment. Memes, akin to magicians’ sigils mentioned in Renaissance magical texts, harness collective energy to influence perceptions and behaviors.

While the internet’s early idealism may have waned, the influence of desire remains a driving force in shaping our digital landscape. With its mystical algorithms, the internet functions as a canvas where desires mold reality.

In this postmodern era, spiritual movements like WitchTok and alt-Right meme magic continue the esoteric tradition of self-divinization, asserting that our physical being does not define our individual identity, echoing the teachings found in the Corpus Hermeticum and the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus.

Ultimately, the internet has transformed us all into unintentional magicians, navigating a digital realm where desire, perception, and memes intertwine. Whether willingly or unwittingly, we participate in a form of ‘glamour magick,’ where appearances, desires, and the forces that shape them converge in a disembodied landscape.

The internet’s spiritualized space blurs the lines between intention, energy, and digital manipulation, turning us into magicians pursuing our best selves within a collective enchantment influenced by Hermeticism, the Corpus Hermeticum, and the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus.

In this evolving landscape, the concept of glamour magick takes on a new dimension. Scottish witches of the 18th century had a word for this: glamour – appearing to others the way we wish to be, so we might impress upon them that which we wish to impress.

By 2019, the concept of glamour magick was sufficiently mainstream for Teen Vogue to publish a guide to the practice, extolling teenage girls to ‘be a better you.’ But, in 2023, we’re all doing ‘glamour magick’ – intentionally or not.

Our participation in the spiritualized space of the internet, where energy, intention, and vibes are indistinguishable from the memes and bots and Tweets and deepfakes that shape our collective consciousness, has made would-be magicians of us all in the service of becoming our best selves.

This article is based upon the article "Of memes and magick" by Tara Isabella Burton (link)

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