Egotism and conspiracy theory

I’m reading one of the ur-texts in esoteric neo-Nazi mysticism for Dracula vs. Cthulhu, The Dawn of the Magicians. It’s pure conspiratology, and contains the same fundamental sin as The Devil’s Chessboard: Conspiratology is fascinated by “what if.” Into a broken or incomplete narrative, rather than acknowledging it is broken or incomplete, and perhaps unable to be solved due to the distance of time, place, and circumstance, conspiratologists create a narrative by asking “what if this were the case” and then deciding that their newly invented fiction is a fact.

Conspiracy is a fiction that conspiracy theorists have decided is fact – and, indeed, at several points in the 160 or so pages of The Dawn of the Magicians I have read, the authors use quotations from novels as “proof” of their thesis. They liberally quote Arthur Machen and Bulwer Lytton, saying that novelists are essentially prophets and that both men belonged to the Order of the Golden Dawn and were thus enlightened alchemists. It’s boggling, but it is part of argument built by The Dawn of the Magicians.

In this sense, it appears to me that conspiratology resembles religion. Almost all religions and religious people assert a fallacy known as “the God of the gaps.” Supernaturalist religion occurs in those parts of the universe about which humans cannot see, or do not have an adequate theory to explain. Which is why God will cure cancer now and then (a disease that sometimes goes into remission for no apparent reason, often attributed to a miracle) but adamantly refuses to regrow the limbs of amputees. Cancer going into remission is a poorly understood process that happens on the cellular level – the God of the gaps acts invisibly. On the other hand, regrowing amputated limbs is big enough to be seen, thus does not happen.

Conspiratology is “pseudohistory of the gaps.” Take for instance the assassination of President John Kennedy. The Warren Commission was deeply flawed, yes. But to leap from “the Warren Commission was flawed because we know that the CIA and FBI engaged in a coverup” to “the CIA killed JFK” puts a fictional narrative into the gaps of history. Even though there is a strong but an unprovable narrative, that the CIA and FBI wanted to deflect heat for their incompetence in keeping track of Lee Harvey Oswald (as they would later deflect the heat away from their incompetence about 9/11), conspiracy sees a gap and fills it with whatever they desire. Thus, while it is almost 100% sure that the CIA and FBI played a hard round of “cover your ass” with the Warren Commission because there’s no record, conspiratologists can leap to the conclusion that the CIA killed Kennedy.

Moving on, the authors of The Dawn of the Magicians say that we should study the 100,000 works of alchemists to discover what they discovered. The Dawn of the Magicians never goes into what a massive undertaking it would be – since the works are coded, cyphered, incomplete – and how difficult it would then be to decide which parts are useful and which parts aren’t. It’s almost certainly easier for us to rediscover whatever medieval alchemists found (assuming there’s anything left to find, given the advanced state of chemistry, metallurgy, and materials science). But they love their narrative that there MIGHT be something truly, utterly amazing hidden away in these texts, and they wildly speculate about what it might be, such as unguents that can regrow the tissues of burn victims in such a way as to leave no scars. Because, y’know, they read that some medieval doctors had such things. (They didn’t, duh.) The gap – that we haven’t sufficiently studied old alchemical journals and books – can be filled by whatever fantasy a person desires!

The idea that creative narratives are actually, for-real true is a seductive lure. Most people want to believe that the universe makes a personal sense – that we, individually, understand the driving forces behind history or the universe. Of course, we tend to imagine that the meaning of the universe or the meaning of history supports our point of view. That is the heights of egocentrism! That the universe is ordered to give tacit approval to me? That God thinks that the life I live is the best kind of life, or that my ideals are divinely granted and inspired? Heavens. Equally absurd is the idea that history ought to do the same – given weight to my fancies and prop up my worldview. That the murder of JFK becomes a prop for my fantasies is intellectually shameful and morally vacant!

Yet, that’s the core message of conspiratology – that whatever narrative that you CHOSE to believe lurks in the dark corners and past the horizons of history. There is no need to get proof! Belief, alone, is enough because history is murky. Therefore all ideas have equal merit! Which is egocentric nonsense, and contrary to any epistemology that seeks truth rather than glorifies the self at the expense of the truth.

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