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Internet Mysticism Fuels Content Marketing

Internet Mysticism Fuels Content Marketing

September 3, 2018

Whoa, let’s take a step back because a weird idea just dropped in this article’s headline and I’m not sure if you’re 1) an intellectual 2) a spiritual 3) a combination of both (waves hand awkwardly and then remembers that I’m “spiritual” so I need not care).

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to use the intellectual side of my brain to psycho-analyze why the spiritual side of my mind (the illogical) sometimes runs my so-called-life (Jared Leto is my co-star).

Thanks, Jared. Love your enthusiasm!

What is mysticism? 

According to Wikipedia, mysticism refers to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences. According to Oxford Dictionaries, mysticism is “spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, that may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.”

Internet mysticism has become popular due to the resurgence of practices like astrology, tarot cards, reiki, and crystals – New Age practices that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s (and reaches as far back as the Middle Ages!) It’s a way of defining meaning and providing healing outside of a scientific mindset.

But then there’s Old World mysticism – which is not as popular because it’s inherently subjective and based on the Jungian phenomenon of synchronicity (I talk with Paul Levy about synchronicity in episode 65 of my podcast).

In other words, mysticism is the story we tell ourselves so that we are ok with veering into the deep end of an otherwise illogical or irrational belief. When we have mystical experiences that support our interpretation of life, we form an identity and attachment to these experiences. In turn, we can continue the thrill of the experience — no matter how “illogical” or “irrational” it may seem to others.

In Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, he details the dangers of passively receiving information instead of critically engaging with it. He writes,

A world where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again. It is a world without much coherence or sense; a world that does not ask us, indeed, does not permit us to do anything; a world that is, like the child’s game of peek-a-boo, entirely self-contained…also endlessly entertaining.”

I can’t help but think of all of the instahelp and internet memes that we passively consume. 

Hey, don’t get me wrong: I love coming across inspiration on Instagram and I’m just as guilty as any #spiritualwarrier of consuming and creating them. But I’m also a Gemini so I see both sides to everything. In a world where data and logic have so much power, the rabbit holes are my version of Fantasy Football (only Alice and Dorothy are on my team).

Rabbit holes are how conspiracy theorists make themselves feel superior to the ignorant masses. Plus, it allows them to make sense of a world gone mad. According to this article in aeon.com, conspiracy theories help us to feel unique (especially if you believe in reptile people!)

In the book Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza, science and research prove that beliefs actually change our brain waves.

“If the person doesn’t analyze the information they are being exposed to, they are likely to accept, believe and surrender to it because there’s no analytical filter.”

Most interesting is the fact that Dispenza uses science and research to prove that beliefs actually change our brain waves. He writes, “As brain waves slow down, you leave the domain of the conscious mind and enter the realm of the subconscious mind.”

What if you’re a smug intellectual who is not entirely okay with the confirmation bias that exists in your conscious mind? Yet still skeptical of your unconscious mind?

Is it more dangerous to passively consume information or to simply let go? Can we truly exist in the experience of a belief (without psychoanalyzing it as I’m doing here)?

Can we trust ourselves to leap into the unknown? Should we, as a society, trust ourselves to fully get out of our heads and into our aligned, wild hearts?

The problem is that if we get too much into our heads, it bifurcates the very process. However, according to all of the researchers, neuroscientists, and authors (whom I’ve interviewed on my podcast), the latter is the way to go — it’s better to go “beyond the mind” even if it makes you seem illogical or mystical!

Dispenza argues that to evolve, we need to develop more consciousness, compassion, understanding, patience and humility rather than react to circumstances that we can’t always control. Which begs the question: Are we ever in control? (And if not, you better research both sides to make sure you retain utmost contro!)

 “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.” — Charlie Munger

Munger’s quote above is my logical reasoning for exploring the various rabbit holes. Here are some other reasons why I let my heart guide my process:

  1. It takes me away from logic (that’s the fun of it — and often, the very point!)
  2. It makes me feel connected to something bigger than myself (like the planets!) After all, what’s bigger than the planets besides, well, the multiverse?
  3. It helps me to find an online community of fellow believers.

But then, the pendulum inside my brain swings from one side (the spiritual) to the other (the analytical) and I can’t help but laugh at myself. Look no further than the concept of mercury in retrograde.

My friend and colleague Satyen Raja (whom I interviewed here on my podcast, The Art of Humanity) believes:

I don’t think the Planets and Stars are planning and adjusting their focus and plans based on how we as humans are moving about our day.

If you believe in astrology (cough, cough guilty), his “real talk” may be a real trigger. After all, how else can we explain the chaos of the Universe?

Now, let’s go back to the original thesis of this article, the idea that internet mysticism runs content marketing. In the digital world, content marketing is often used by businesses to: Attract attention, generate leads, expand a customer base, and increase online sales.

So why the bleep does something so illogical (like astrology and internet mysticism) run something that’s seen as so logical like content marketing?

  1. You can’t reason with an emotional story by offering pertinent facts (please, don’t ever be this person).
  2. The only way you can fight a story based on emotions is by offering a better story.

Think of mysticism and content marketing like a surfer on a wave:

  • Content is the surfboard. It’s stable and has a purpose.
  • Mysticism is the surfer. The surfer’s beliefs can change while riding the wave, veering from self-doubt to confidence depending on the idea (or the wave).
  • The marketing of the content is the wave. It can be a tidal wave or a baby wave. Either way, the wave creates a momentum of belief. 

surfing in Costa Rica. Don’t I look mystical? #sarcasm

In a way, mysticism is a rebellion against logic and reason. It exists on the foundation of emotion.  

Take, for example, this Instagram post from a few years ago. It’s wrapped up in the perfect “heroine’s journey” arc:


This speaks directly to many of my entrepreneurial friends and colleagues.  We seek clarity and meaning as we struggle with identity in a conventional world.

As a rebel, it’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to fit into the mainstream.  We can experientially live and evolve into the next phase of consciousness (and write about it as we go!)

But this is where the world of mysticism and evolving our consciousness gets tricky.

For better or worse, this particular belief system and subculture of the Internet is becoming mass-produced and monetized. For example, Sephora will start selling entry-level witch kits. As someone who does yoga and meditation, I can’t help but see myself as someone who would want something like this (but only if my Sephora Rouge status would send me this kit for free, preferably with the checkout code WITCHHUNT).

Witchcraft may have a negative connotation for those who don’t follow the trends and culture of the Internet. But if you’re a liberal millennial, it may be your religion. It celebrates the idea of the Divine Feminine which according to bustle.com uses: 

creation, intuition, community, sensuality (felt sense rather than thinking sense), and collaboration.”

Some like to call this movement “post-truth.” But I believe it’s more post-modernist —where we have a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.

Post-modernism captures the zeitgeist of internet culture today.  

Postmodernists believe that the West’s claims of freedom and prosperity continue to be nothing more than empty promises and have not met the needs of humanity. They believe that truth is relative and it’s up to each individual to determine for himself or herself.

Mysticism is a way to redefine our Truth using story + emotion.

A poem by Shannon L. Alder illustrates this concept:

Read it with sorrow and you will feel hate.
Read it with anger and you will feel vengeful.
Read it with paranoia and you will feel confusion.
Read it with empathy and you will feel compassion.
Read it with love and you will feel flattery.
Read it with hope and you will feel positive.
Read it with humor and you will feel joy.
Read it without bias and you will feel peace.
Do not read it at all and you will not feel a thing.

Mysticism is watching the magic of our lives unfold in real-time.

If you move through life with positive emotions like gratitude and bliss – your life becomes better than anything on television.

In other words, it’s storytelling at its finest.

Let me explain this with the logical mind: When the emotional significance of a belief outweighs the emotional significance of being “rational”, you cannot bring reason into the mind (no matter how much logic is valued).

So, what does this mean for the modern marketer who is a part skeptic and part storyteller? 

In a world where truth is relative, how can we transcend beyond the logic in our heads to reveal the next layer of our humanity? How can we go deeper into our wild hearts with abandon? And how do the emotions behind the content that we create and consume influence our perception of reality?

Successful content marketing involves fusing mysticism, memes, and GIFs to reach your customers. You don’t always need to reach your customers through rational thought (e.g., traditional advertising). You can do it the modern way which includes mysticism and New Thought.

let’s talk marketing and all the things mysticism.