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The above picture comes from the Telegram channel of Michael Brian Protzman, also known as Negative48, a job creator-turned-social media QAnon influencer from Federal Way, Washington. I can't quite make all the words on the participation trophy, but a few stand out:

Presented to

"The Gematria General"
Michael Brian Protzman

And Trump Does Too

It goes on from there, saying something like "special thanks to QAnon," but the image is too pixelated to make out the rest. I like the picture. It's kooky in the way that conspiracy culture used to be kooky before the Boogaloo Bois came and Donald Trump — and Michael Protzman — came onto the scene.

Gematria is the practice of using numerical values assigned to Hebrew letters to calculate the values of whole words. Words with the same value were said to explain or comment on each other. In The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, Israel Regardie offers some examples, including:

  • achad, meaning unity or one, and ahebah, meaning love, both have a value of thirteen
  • the names of the angel Metatron and the deity Shaddai each have a value of 314, so one is taken as symbolizing the other

Real gematria as practiced by rabbis and mystics for thousands of years is quite poetic and beautiful. Contrast this to what Protzman practices, seen here written in black magic marker on one of his follower’s t-shirts:

photo_2021-11-22 20.54.09

Gematria is but one of the practices that came to prominence in the occult explosion of the sixties. It was later picked up in bastardized form, without the least bit of irony, by the conspiracy theorists that Protzman would go on to crib all his ideas from.

Some synchromystical titles for your conspiracy bookshelf

Some synchromystical titles for your conspiracy bookshelf

James Shelby Downard (1913-1998) is the man who many consider the grandfather of Conspiracy Theory Mysticism. He found prominence later in life, when publisher Adam Parfrey began placing his work in various anthologies (disclosure: Downard and I are both published by Feral House). His most infamous work is "King Kill/33°," which claims that various events and locations on (or near) the thirty-third parallel have magical significance. These include Dealey Plaza and Cape Canaveral Space Center, where the space race began in the sixties (it has since been renamed Kennedy Space Center). All of these locations had significance, according to Downard, because they were pieces of the Freemasonic plan of world domination.

You can't read Downard's work without quickly coming to the conclusion that he had some very weird hangups:

Crossroads are significant to ritual sex magic; the wearing of clothes of the opposite sex and the performance of bisexual acts are called "crossroad rites.” The women engaging in these perversions were referred to as "dikes,” and it was said that they travelled "the old dike road" and "the old dirt road." These sorts of activities, in keeping with Hecate lore, are secret to the extreme. Tacitisque paebens conscium sacris jubar, Hecate triformis. (“Triple Hecate, who giveth forth rays cognizant of secret mysteries.")

Crossroads were also places of human and animal sacrifice. Such rites were often carried out in conjunction with magica sexualis since the participants recognized an existing relationship between fertility and death. Hecate is therefore also identified as a “death goddess,” and her sex-and-death attributes are similar to those ascribed to Venus (Aphrodite, Prone Kypris).

Everything was sex and/or death with this guy, and everything had magical significance. Rituals weren't what a witch did alone in the woods with a cauldron and some eye of newt; it was events like the moon landing and the old TV series Laugh-In and the hidden connections between the two.

Jim Garrison, the New Orleans D.A. at the heart of much Kennedy conspiracy lore, had a tool for cracking open conspiracies: "propinquity," the idea that mere physical proximity between two people and/or things can reveal a more meaningful connection, if only the right person read the tea leaves. This requires a lot of trust in the tea-reader, whether Garrison or Downard, more than most observers are willing to give them.

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Downard isn’t exactly employing propinquity, but the idea is the same — that he has a special sight which allows him to pick up on all these things that are all-but invisible to the lesser educated among us. (Ironically, at the end of his life, when he was most famous for his ideas, he was blind as a bat.)

Following Downard and propinquity, the worldview known as "synchromysticism" plays a prominent role in today's conspiracy culture. This term, coined in 2006, describes a way of looking at reality that imbues Jungian synchronicity (what most of us call coincidence) with mystical significance. It's an interesting idea, that we can intuit connections between seemingly random events, and that these subsequent connections tell us something meaningful and otherwise unknown about the world. It's also a recipe for insanity when taken to extremes.

This brings us to the idea of the "mass ritual" or "megaritual." This posits that events like 9/11 and the Sandy Hook shooting are essentially spells produced by Satanists or Freemasons (or whomever) to achieve a magical end. There is no forensic evidence available to back up these claims, of course — instead, we're forced to rely on the conspiracy theorist's advanced knowledge of occult symbolism and their superior discernment.

The Most Dangerous Book in the World by SK Bain describes 9/11 as a mass ritual by laying out details that, to the symbolically illiterate among us, don't really seem to add up to all that much. What, really, is to be made of the fact that the World Trade Center complex included the Salomon Smith Brothers building, and that Freemasons believe that a man named Hiram Abiff was the chief architect of King Solomon's Temple? Or that the Twin Towers were reminiscent of both the monumental pillars of Solomon's Temple and this famous picture of English occultist Aleister Crowley? It takes a very specific type of individual to be swayed by his argument, but they are out there. And they're becoming more prevalent every day.

Uncle Al does his World Trade Center impersonation

Uncle Al does his World Trade Center impersonation

On November 2, 2021, hundreds of QAnon followers gathered in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, on the site known to JFK conspiracy buffs as the Grassy Knoll, to await the arrival of John F. Kennedy Jr. The son of the slain president, long believed to be dead, would then lead his followers to victory over the Deep State as Donald Trump’s Vice President. At least, that's the QAnon read of events.

If I were to describe Protzman as a synchromystic, you might picture a crackpot cleric poring through ancient texts to find the real meaning behind world events. Maybe something like Mel Gibson from Conspiracy Theory with a dash of Nostradamus. The reality, however, is much less dignified than even that.

Protzman does his work mostly online, reposting memes and videos from Fox News and links to 4chan and BitChute on his Telegram channel. This is what "research" looks like for QAnon, an endless glut of far-right content — because it is content that keeps people glued to your channel. In between all this noise, you’ll find plugs for currency investment scams and Negative48 merch and a chance to win a "Let's Go Brandon" Santa hat.

And at some point, if you spend enough time plugged in, you might learn that Communism is a Jewish plot, or that descendants of Jesus Christ have type-O blood. This is the reason for the "scamdemic," actually — to give the Deep State an excuse to gather our DNA and hunt down Jesus' bloodline.

Suffice it to say, JFK Jr. didn't appear in Dallas.

One thing I've learned while telling the stories of ex-cult members is that if someone is willing to believe that the world is going to end, they'll also be willing to believe their guru when he/she/they says that the end is going to be postponed.

After JFK Jr.'s no-show, Protzman and his followers attended that night's Rolling Stones concert at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Which begs the question: if you thought that prophecy was going to be fulfilled, do you think you would buy concert tickets for later that same night?

And after that, remnants of the group remained in the city, waiting in vain for the foretold arrival of the dead son of the assassinated president.

Judging by the group’s social media, the situation is becoming dire:

This thing seems to have blossomed into a full-blown crisis cult, and we don't have to look so far into our past to see how that ended.