Following the Fire – Part III: Don’t Worry, I Already Had My Messianic Delusion

In ways that may not be fully appreciated by those generations born since its inception, The Internet is a “final frontier.” The Internet is a Crossroads. The Internet is a place where so many minds—but beyond that, so many cultures—meet. It’s been around in consumer-friendly form for less time than I’ve been on this planet, and to say that it has changed everything is an understatement. It hasn’t just changed the things that pre-existed it, but it’s brought so many new things into being that humanity can no longer keep count of them all. Verily, we now take such power for granted.

Let’s say The Gods are real, and, perchance, have been guiding humanity on its meandering, precarious path all this time—where do you think they might hang out?

In churches or temples filled with incense and candlelight, savoring the solemnity?

In festivals full of fervor, sanctioned by the seasons and carried out by crazed celebrants?

Sure, why not? The above have always worked before…but if you’re a God and you’re trying to stay on top of things, don’t you think you’d follow the exploits of the only medium that connects everyone together while simultaneously shoring up the borders of every recluse’s paradise? The medium that feeds and fuels millions of Subjective Universes is there at the fingertips of humans—if you were a God, why wouldn’t you be there?


My family got a computer early. Our first computer had a yellowy monitor and no GUI-based operating system; from a pretty young age (I’d say 3 or 4 years old), I was learning to navigate MS-DOS. When Windows 3.0 finally rolled out, we had it right away. If you were alive back in the day, you remember the ubiquitous AOL disk, and later, the CD-ROM; my family was on Prodigy before AOL became popular. Like AOL, the early iterations of Prodigy were highly curated, “walled garden” customer experiences. With my time online, I mostly played games like “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” and got myself banned from music forums for aggressively defending Paula Abdul’s honor. Aggressively.

One of the things that AOL had for a while that Prodigy didn’t was chat rooms, and I remember using more than a few of those AOL disks just to get some trial time to sit in chat rooms and talk to strangers. Eventually, we switched to AOL for a while, but returned to Prodigy later–after they got chat.

I spent almost all of my online time “parked” in the Punk chat room, under the Music category. Little did I know at the time, it would be great preparation for one day entering the world of the occult; everyone was a critic, everyone had the “definitive” philosophy about how to be a punk (seriously, people behave this way, and I was one of them), and everyone loved calling everyone a poseur. It was bedlam. I made some pretty cool friends, though.

Aside from the punk chat room, I also focused a lot of my interest on the hacking subculture. I would find out about the exclusive, private, user-created rooms where the people who made all my favorite pieces of “hell-raising” software were hanging out, and make it my mission to get invites.

I’m not gonna lie about it, I was a total script kiddie. Back then, if someone pissed you off in a chat room, you got even by using a “punter” on them; this was very similar to the tools used nowadays for DDoS attacks on websites, except they targeted individuals. Essentially, you would open up an Instant Message with them, turn the punter on, and it would flood them with swathes of data-rich characters like the @ symbol. At the very least, this would bombard them with constant IM popups and annoy them, but often, it was enough to completely disrupt their clunky internet connection and make them go away for a while.

Activity of this sort would eventually draw the attention of the “Agent Smiths” of this scenario, the dreaded CHAT Hosts, and usually I would end up temporarily banned for a week from chat. When this occurred, I would dust off CreditMaster IV, a program that used the same algorithms credit card companies use to generate valid numbers; back then, real-time verification of credit info was not a thing, you just needed a number that fit the algorithm and appeared legitimate. Using that proggie, I could buy myself a couple days of chatting before my fake account was shut down.

Eventually, in my early teens, we switched over to MSN, which ran its chat interface through a web browser (a first). It was a much more open platform, easier for people to create their own chat rooms. If you wanted, you could actually access the rooms through mIRC or, more likely, a heavily modified version meant for getting up to hacky shit.

Once I discovered the chat rooms discussing magic and the occult, I had no time at all for punks or hackers.


There was a bit of strangeness in the air during those “occult chat” days, but believe it or not, my first strange chat experiences happened before I found them. I’m gonna emphasize right quick that I spent a great deal of time chatting. It ate up my days. I also had a tendency to find “girlfriends” in the chat rooms I frequented (I couldn’t help it, some of them really threw themselves at me). The first one of these was from Tennessee and we would talk on the phone. I remember one night she described the entire layout of my house to me, starting from the front door, and I listened with tears of shock and awe in my eyes. Maybe they were lucky guesses, but if so, they were pretty lucky indeed.

Anyway, I think I might have been 15 when I discovered a chat room called “The Spiritual Council of War,” and with a name like that, you bet your ass I hopped in there to see what it was all about.

What was it all about, you ask? I’m sure the name’s already generating some interesting ideas, but I would be amazed if any of them matched what it was all about.

This room was run by a guy and his wife, and the guy was quite open about being a fantasy novelist, but insisted the topic of the chat room was real. He professed a dualistic “fringe” religion that reminds me of Zoroastrianism, with a major “good god” of light (Enjare), a major “bad god of void and darkness,” (The Nameless Evil), and a pantheon of 12 gods who mediate in the world and do all the actual work. The idea was that these gods were all about to die in a war with one another, and each would choose a successor on Earth to step up to their role. Inherent in this weird scenario is the concept of “Godhood” as something akin to a mantle, worn by more than one being over time and passed down in successions–and we will be coming back to that idea.

If this post is the first of my story that you’re reading, you’ll probably be wondering right now why I gave the room the time of day; if you’re familiar with my past, you can probably see it pretty clearly. I lived with spirits in my head who told me I was one of them, born on this planet to do some big, big work. I find a chat room talking about a brewing war between gods, and the guy running the room eventually tells me that I have been chosen as the prophesied “replacement” for Bohajah–the Enjaren God of War. Again, I had dragons in my head telling me I was here on a mission. I was going to at least hear this shit out, alright?

So let’s zoom out for a bit and talk about this dragon, Ilyas, and this wind spirit, Rose, and how they operated (reading previous posts will fill you in on pertinent details if you haven’t done that). Looking at this from the outside, you might be asking, “If you really did have a spiritual mission and Rose and Ilyas were real, why wouldn’t they steer you away from that mess?

The first thing to understand about the teaching method of Rose and Ilyas is that there were rules that they observed, and in a strange twist, the cornerstone of those rules was that they couldn’t unduly interfere with my process of belief, especially not by summarily answering questions like, “Is this shit real?” with a definite “Yes” or “No.” They worked with whatever my belief system was at the time, even when I would get overwhelmed with all of this spiritual craziness and decide to be atheist for a while.

Second, the above principle should not be understood as a principle of “non-interference” or a “hands-off” approach, either. There were certain things toward which Rose and Ilyas very much wanted to steer me, but to get to those places, one could not be dragged. Rose and Ilyas had before them the monumental task of “tricking me” into the truth. An adage that explains their reasons well is the one about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish.

Lonely, imaginative, magic-using teenagers with mental health issues in chat rooms discussing real wars between gods with fantasy authors are uniquely vulnerable to all sorts of delusion, manipulation, and madness. The whole scenario was an ontological shit-show. In order for me to understand truth, I must learn how to apprehend it. Thus, the solution was clear: Throw the vulnerable kid into the ontological shit-show and very carefully help him find his way out, while also being sure that he took everything of value with him on his way out the door; thus will he learn the art and science of epistemology and that is far more valuable than communicating any discrete truth, relative or absolute. Rose and Ilyas needed to train a philosopher and there were no academies. To the madhouse, then.


I’m not gonna spend too much time on that “Spiritual War Council.” It was bogus. We all knew that, right? Even as I explored it, I always held out the sliver of reservation and skepticism that I needed in order to safely play with some far-out ideas. If I remember correctly, the whole thing fell apart in scandal, the guy and his wife who ran the chat room were exposed as frauds, and I put more than a few of the rhetorical nails in their coffins on the message board they had built to supplement the chat room with their lies. I enjoyed it, too. People who fuck with other people’s heads like that deserve far worse than they got.


My studies, along with more than one instance of firsthand experience in my life, would eventually teach me that there are some predictable courses and outcomes when a spiritual group implodes. The result is usually a schism of one kind or another; either the group splits into separate ideologies, or a core of hangers-on stick around while everyone else just completely bails out. Some of the main players from the “Spiritual War” room founded a different room, where certain themes from the first room were taken, but built into a far more sophisticated (and messy) picture. What happened in the Spirituality category of MSN chat rooms was a cyberspace-based apocalyptic cult; this spade needs to be called a spade.

I will do my best to condense the madness into something readable.

The White Castle was the chat room clearly labeled “NO Role-playing!” in which everyone role-played all goddamn day. The twist was that, according to the operative metaphysical theory, everything we were “role playing” and typing out in the chat rooms was actually happening on the astral plane. Enjare, The Nameless Evil and their 12 deities were gone, but the concept of the war stayed. The people who hung out in that room—at least, as far as one could tell by chatting with them—believed that a war was taking place on the astral plane and that eventually, it would get so intense that the very “veil” separating the astral world from the physical world would fall, the “planes” would merge, and Earth would be in for a catastrophic war against beings humans weren’t even sure existed. People had visions of armies of demons descending from skyward vortexes onto Earth’s cities and ruining them.

A key element of all of this—something most of the people who got involved shared in common—was the belief that, in preparation for this, lots of non-human beings were incarnating into human bodies, and would join the fray as soon as the veil fell. If you’ve been following my story, you can see why I’d be interested in an idea like that.

My friends and I all spent a lot of time in self-exploration in order to discover our “true forms.” We were Otherkin. This is an identity subculture that has some overlap with furries, as well as with transgender identity (not everyone’s ‘true form’ was the same gender as their physical body, after all). Some people were “therianthropes” of one form or another—“werewolves,” “werecats,” etc.; others were angels or demons. Some were straight-up elven, or identified as dragonkin.

At the end of the day, I can’t really speak for anyone in there but myself. We got trolls all the time, of course. People messed with us. I would not be surprised if some of the people that I thought of at the time as totally “with us” were sitting there laughing their asses off the whole time they played us for fools; but yes, we took this all seriously. This was our lives. We had real emotions about the veil falling. Some of us couldn’t wait. Some of us were scared.

Generally speaking, I was one of the few people at any one time actually examining the developing belief system here and seeking for explanations other than “Let’s just take this all literally.” At times, it made me very unpopular; but I was also well-spoken and knew my shit, so I was valued and kept around all the same. I noticed there were people in the community who really threw themselves into the fantasy of it all, and then there were people I knew from other chat rooms like “White Magic” (very fluffy) and “Ammut Devourer of Souls” (where the Luciferians hung out and the spunky Ms. Lilith kept it real all day long) who trained more or less refined occult eyes on the situation. I enjoyed my private conversations with the real mages in the room; some of them were studying material that even today I recognize as advanced, and I trusted the ideas they shared.

Then there was Tilly (not her real name, to be clear), the one who broke all the molds. She was one of the ones who, apparently, threw herself the hardest into the fantasy of it all; she lived it up, she gave no fucks, she let it all hang out. She was also the brightest student of the occult in any of those rooms and her antics taught me some of the most valuable magical lessons that serve me to this day. She threw very big ideas around like they were nothing, and I would have missed barking up many an occult tree if she hadn’t done so.


I could spend as much time just writing about Tilly as I’ve already spent on this whole post, but I have to limit the scope so everything will fit here. In this “war in the astrals” that would “rend the veil” and “merge the planes,” if you asked Tilly, she had the blueprint and knew what was going on. Identifying as a werewolf, an angel, or an elf was too mundane for Tilly. Tilly identified as a goddess (Cosmos); and eventually, she would identify me as her son.

(Allow me to explain: As part of the idea that we weren’t strictly “human,” many of us felt that we came to this planet along with others. Some claimed to have “spiritual families” on the other side of the veil. As a result, relationships would sometimes form between these “family members” who were physically very distant from one another and totally unrelated. It happened a lot.)

You have to understand that when you were chatting with Tilly, chances are you weren’t really chatting with “Tilly;” she claimed to be a channeler who allowed all sorts of spiritual entities into her body. Each one had their own typeface and font color so you knew who you were dealing with at any given time—I’m not kidding. To Tilly, this was real, and I played along for years. I believed (and wanted to believe, with good reason you will understand momentarily) her story most in the beginning, stopped believing it at one point, and after some very interesting conversations, told her bluntly that none of this stuff was real to me anymore but that I enjoyed RPing it all for the allegories. She was so good at weaving truly wise lessons into the mythic stories that we acted out together. I couldn’t pull myself away even after any sense of belief in the narrative had dried up. Our friendship was special to me. Eventually, Tilly would frankly tell me that she’d had a very abusive past, and suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder. That, I believed.

So, according to Tilly, yes, she was the Goddess Cosmos, and I was her son—so what would that make me? Guess it depends on the father, doesn’t it? If the father was mortal, that made me a demigod. If the father was a god, that made me a god. Well, according to Tilly, my father was Shiva. As in, The Destroyer of Worlds. According to Tilly, “Shiva” was a title, held at the time by a “destroyer” named Epsilon who led a clan of his kind (these would be similar to the rakshasas of Hindu mythology) called “The Nine.” According to Tilly, the “work” I had to do in this life was to prepare myself to inherit the mantle of Shiva, because according to Tilly, I was the one who was going to tear the veil down single-handedly, using “the glyphs;” according to Tilly, upon becoming Shiva, one inherits a glyph of life for the right hand, by which to create, and a glyph of death for the left hand, by which to destroy. I still remember the conversation I had with “Epsilon,” when I asked how the hell I was supposed to do what I was going to do, knowing the destruction it would bring. His answer: “When you’re ready, You Will Destroy With Love.”


What was going on in that fucking chat room??? Lots and lots of fantasy, definitely. Lots of escapism. Lots of people who probably went on to become addicted to World of Warcraft once that became a better option (I say that because that’s pretty much the road I took out of there). There were also a lot of smart, creative, imaginative people in those rooms, and when you’re chatting with god-only-knows-who on the other end of that keyboard, you can’t assume much about what’s going on in their heads based on their behavior in a chat room. You can’t. There were a lot of smoke and mirrors in there. There were hackers and people I know weren’t who they said they were. They were planting Trojan horses and one of them targeted me, and knew a lot about some very private conversations I’d had. I also think, knowing myself and knowing Tilly, there were a lot of hurting people in that room just trying to enjoy life a little more.

Whatever else was true, I promise you, though, that was a chat room full of psychically-connected kids. A big part of what held all the fantasy together was the real stuff that was happening between us—instances of telepathy, empathy, synchronicity and dreams that did prove prophetic. I wonder how many of us stumbled into that madhouse, and how many of us were truly led there by spirits who needed us to see something important.

Knowing Tilly for as long as I did was a years-long training in what is known in occult circles as The Assumption of Godforms.


Postscript

So in this whole warped situation, I always knew a majority of the stuff filling our heads was only as “real” as we wanted it to be, or allowed it to be. I knew that even though I was able to glean valuable insights from anything I experience in life, we were all kidding ourselves most of the time. Things got especially dicey between Tilly and I when she started typing to me “as” Ilyas. She lapsed in and out of lucidity, and when lucid, was more honest about her mental condition, which meant much of this wasn’t real; but then later, she would snap back and defend her beliefs very aggressively, which I knew to include pretending to channel beings when she was just Tilly. She did this with Ilyas, and Ilyas was my lifeline. That was the turning point at which I removed myself entirely from this subculture.

I still carried some of this forward. I still did some energy work, along the lines that my first teacher taught me. I liked to combine it with music. I felt like when I got into a certain ecstatic state, my very aura itself began to dance energetically with the music and the way it moved my soul. I found that I was able to make things happen this way.

One night, living in the suburbs of Chicago with extended family, I put on my headphones, selected an hour-long trance mix, and did such an “energy dance.” I soon felt the presence of Shiva, dancing right behind me, and I began to merge my dance with his. In my mind, I was joining Shiva in his Rudra Tandava, his dance of world-ending destruction.

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a slight rumbling. The family had dogs, and I didn’t wake fully. I mistakenly thought I was just feeling the dogs running around, sending vibrations through the floor with their paws. Because I was half asleep, I had forgotten that I was on the basement level, and no dog was going to make the floor rumble like that.

I woke up in the morning and went upstairs to the kitchen. I turned on the TV like I always do. The image that appeared on the screen was a map of Illinois—not a seismically active state most of the time—with an epicenter radiating from it. What I had felt after dancing with Shiva was an earthquake in the State of Illinois. This would have been the one.

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