Now that we’ve covered the (questionably) basic concepts in Intro to Memetics, we’re going to get into the really heavy stuff. The premise of this article is an examination of the question “if ideas and belief systems seem to have a dynamic that governs their adoption and transference, would it be possible to tailor a set of ideas for maximum effectiveness?” The answer is what we’re going to be searching for in our exploration of the theoretical field of memetic engineering.
I’ll caution a few things before I get started. First and foremost, this is an incredibly dangerous topic to explore. Some of the most obvious uses of what I would assume is intentional memetic engineering are propaganda, brainwashing, and marketing (Nazism, the works of one Mr. Hubbard, and every commercial ever, respectively.) Another thing to note- an unstable meme complex (especially the non-organic engineered kind) is much more prone to mutation during idea transference, likely to the degree that the complex is not grounded in reality. This means that it’s very easy for an engineered idea to get out of your control if you don’t know what you’re doing. Finally, while it should (hopefully) be obvious to anyone familiar with MasterSelf that I use my understanding of this topic in most of my articles for the sake of the good, it would be worth your consideration to get in the habit of investigating any meme complex (including those here) for potential attempts to manipulate you.
Let us begin.
As we touched on in the first chapter, there are certain traits of meme complexes (generally emergent through transference mutation,) that give said complexes advantages in the ideological competition that is the noosphere. The concept of Hell seems to be something that emerges universally. This prompts the question of whether it’s fundamentally a necessary concept or something that meme complexes tend not to survive without.
Psychologist Carl Jung proposed that the subconscious mind (and by association, the collective unconscious) held a set of universal symbols called the Archetypes. These are things like the Hero and the Dragon, symbols that appear in virtually all cultures, because they represent core human experiences metaphorically. What I’ll propose here is the memetic equivalent of the archetype, the nootype (nous and tupos, lit. idea-model).
The nootype is one of several core shapes that memes approach over time, either because it’s an effective form or because there is an intrinsic feature of reality that the nootype represents. In the case of the Hell nootype, the fact of reality that it represents is the obvious knowledge that doing bad things tends to cause bad things to happen to you. We discussed in the last chapter that it’s an effective form because it prevents the complex from being discarded and increases the pressure for new hosts to adopt the belief system. It would take another article entirely to attempt a complete index of all the possible nootypes, but some that come to mind immediately are the afterlife and reincarnation, the ritual, sacrifice, the savior, the end of the world, and so on.
These all seem like religious concepts, right? Right, in a sense, they are. Religion seems to be the means by which the psyche operates, or rather, the psyche has a receptor for a variety of nootypes in its schema of meaning, and religion tends to best fill these receptacles. Imagine electrical sockets- there are several different shapes that the world uses (nootypes, with potential cultural variation as the distinguishing characteristics), and the more a meme approaches a nootype (the appropriate plug for the socket), the more easily it is adopted. Note the habit of conquering cultures and religions to adopt the conquered cultures religious traditions- Rome and the Greek gods, Christianity and the pagan solstice holiday Yule that became Christmas, and so on.
Partially, this happens to ease the transition between meme complexes (which also serves as a form of sexually reproductive synthesis), but it mainly happens because the novel ideology would not readily take root without meeting the criteria that the nootypic receptors require. To draw a parallel- human stories, over time, evolve into myths because they begin to approach the archetypal forms of the collective unconscious, and meme complexes, over time, evolve into religions because they begin to approach the nootypal forms of the metamind/noosphere.
Now that we’ve established something like an “ideal” form for a meme complex to take for ease of adoption, we can start looking into memetic engineering properly. Again, a warning, people who do this (consciously or not) often produce cults, splinter sects, or dangerous ideologies, so use this information to aid your ability to defend against such nefarious or otherwise misguided forces.
Memetic engineering, in the simplest sense, is the manipulation of memes and meme complexes to align their shape with the nootypes. The fact that humans have a shared set of mental needs coupled with the fact that these needs end up being filled by something that looks like religion means that memetic engineering often ends up creating pseudo-religious complexes. Look at Apple- they had a prophet (Jobs), a core dogma (think different), a holy symbol (the apple), a church (the Apple store), holidays (WWDC and their new product announcements), devotion (fans in long lines for days), and so on.
From Apple’s famous 1984 ad.
Arthur C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I consider this to be one of the deepest truths of man. Here, though I’ll modify this as,
Any sufficiently advanced marketing is indistinguishable from religion.
Feel free to exchange marketing for philosophy, memetic engineering, ideology, and so on. All memes have a “drive” to ascend to the place of God- the highest meme in the meme complex hierarchy. The different religions of the past were, in a sense, experiments in changing what played the role of God, probably driven by changing environments, advancing technology, and evolving psyches. The Enlightenment was a massive shift, replacing God with reason, which worked amazingly well. However, the failure of the Enlightenment was the fact that they did not replace the other components of the “religion” with sufficiently meaningful substitutes, leading to our ultimate parasitic meme complex (the true Devil of our times,) Nihilism.
The failure here was the demonization of religion borne from misunderstanding. Because religion, on the surface, looks like hokey tribal bullshit (and often is), it’s easily dismissed as nonsense. However, that notion operates on two failed assumptions. The first is that “modern man is far wiser than the people of the past,” which is moronic because it assumes that somehow, ex nihilo (out of nothing [or nowhere, here]), Man became enlightened. The second, drawing from the first, is that there was no deeper purpose to the religions themselves. The culmination of these two mistakes is best represented by the edgy, fedora wearing, neck bearded internet atheist. If you don’t know who I’m talking about and you scoffed at some component of that paragraph, I’m talking about you.
How does this tie into memetic engineering? If we’re going to build a belief system to prevent the emergence of nihilism and its bastard children, reality-denial, Marxism (a religion that replaces God with the collective of the “common man”), postmodernism, and so on, we have to synthesize both the rational worldview and the spiritual experience. What does this look like?
To put it simply, this is applied memetic engineering that rectifies the divide between religion and philosophy. The entirety of my philosophy can be drawn from this last paragraph. The important thing to understand here is that this is not philosophy pretending to be religion, nor is it religion pretending to be philosophy. It is both, combined- a syzygy.
Because this is grounded in reality, it’s decay resistant (as meme complexes that are misaligned with reality decay into dogma over time), and because it’s fulfilling the form of the nootype receptor, it meshes perfectly with our established religious concepts.
There is no separation.
Now that we have this established, let’s examine some more dangerous examples of memetic engineering (this is the part where I scare you with hellfire and brimstone, if you’re tracking.)
Let’s look at Nazism, the obsession with Will (Thelema). The National Socialist meme complex rests on a couple assumptions. It is hyper-masculine, a defense of the Fatherland, centered under a quasi-divine masculine Fuhrer. Because of this masculine focus, it is centered around the father-son transmission, which becomes the obsession on the bloodline, the purity of unbroken transmission. It’s intensely tribalistic, based around the soul of the Nation as defined as the coalescence of a group identity- the Aryan.
It frames the Devil as the competing bloodline, interestingly enough, the matriarchal tribe that is the Jews. I don’t know whether the Jews are targeted because they form an easy mirror of Nazism, or because of a perceived identitarian threat against the pseudo-identity that is Aryanism. Likely a mixture, regardless.
Nazism fulfills a great number of the criteria for a religion- the deification of the leader, the chosen people, the holy land (although because it’s a masculine ideology it spreads out from the fatherland to conquer), the Devil and the forces of Hell, and so on. However, because the notion of Aryan superiority was based on a Germany that was actually widely supported by the Jews and a piecemeal mythology that had a number of supernatural inventions, it was not in alignment with reality (among many other reasons, of course). Racism never is, however, because it believes that there are distinct categories that we can divide humans into, rather than general population averages with outliers. (For a great example, read The Alchemy of Air, which covers the invention of the Haber-Bosch process in pre-war Germany.)
Let’s contrast against the fraternal twin sister of Nazism, Communism.
Where Nazism has an obsession with the Will, Communism is born from an obsession with Love (Agape), although it may not be obvious at first. Even though there are many examples of leader veneration in attempted socialist and communist societies, the focus is supposedly on the People (the Proletarian) as the place of “divinity.” Because the ideology is atheistic, they worship the masses as the embodiment of God, and their promised land is the impossible classless society that they strive to build. The Devil is the capitalist Bourgeoisie class that has nothing better to do than keep down the noble worker, who deserves full credit for everything he produces. (Draw a parallel to the Nazi belief that Jews are keeping the Germans down in a similar fashion.)
The problem here is that the proposition of unconditional Love that the ideology rests on and aims for requires a different denial of reality- the denial of individual differences (rather than the invention of false individual differences in Nazism of nonsense race supremacy and inferiority.) Because individuals are inherently different and vary in their capacity to create value, the communists have to escalate increasing degrees of enforcement of equality until everyone is leveled in the dirt.
These are both engineered meme complexes that I would argue arise from the need to fill the nootypal needs of the people that both Christianity and science failed to fill in the post-Enlightenment period. Because these are both obvious (and obviously evil) failures to solve the problem, but because the problem persists, we see that splintered variations on these meme complexes that arise and persist in the modern age. Look at postmodernism, identity politics, the rise of the alt-right, ethnic nationalism, and so on- all attempts to fill the void that nihilism has left within us.
Such is the state of our times- aevum nihil, the age of nothing. We are scrambling in our attempts to engineer some meme, to find some belief system to cling to, an old religion to resurrect or a new one to hide behind, a lethal failed ideology that “has never been tried,” or a false identity to champion. All of the problems of the modern age can be understood through this lens- which is in itself a mark of ideology, so do not adopt this perspective lightly. Nothing and no one is ever above suspicion- question everything and seek the Truth.
What we need, desperately, is something to march towards, and a banner to rally under. This is the goal for Man that Nietzsche predicted with the Ubermensch, a source of meaning that can cross the desert of Nihilism. We must move towards the Aion Aletheia, the Age of the Unhidden Truth, the embrace of life and reality that will bring both renewal and a new birth of excellence to Mankind. This requires us to become a new class of Man, the logosome, the word-body, that we may embody this Truth and cross the desert alone, together.
Use this knowledge of the forces that those who would manipulate you use to defend yourself from ideology, and seek first the Truth, that you may be made strong.
Go forth in Truth.