The Oracle of Q
How the history of Revelatory Religion, Prophets and the Oracle of Delphi can help explain the past, present and future of QAnon
A man goes alone into the mountains. The air there is thinner, purer, closer to heaven. Reaching to the divine, in splendid isolation, he communes with the all-powerful forces that control the world. They reveal truths that were previously hidden and laws that will properly govern society. The truth imposes meaning on a previously meaningless world. The laws give order, where there was purely chaos. Now, with the aura of the divine, humming with potent energy around him, the prophet must return from this sacred solitude.
He is the same, but utterly changed. For he is no longer just a man — he has communed with the gods. He is a living link, a bridge from the profane world we all inhabit, to the sacred echelons of power, and he has been tasked with a singular mission. To spread the good news, eu-angelos in ancient Greek.
Every revealed religion needs a Prophet and Revelation. The prophet has a unique ability to communicate with the being(s) which truly control and order the earth. These forces reveal a truth to the prophet, who then spreads the message far and wide. With the Truth comes a promise, that if they are believed, the prophet and their followers will create a new, better world, where Evil is dispelled, and the Good prevails. This holds true of the Prophets of the Abrahamic Religions, the Oracles of the Ancient Mediterranean world, the Persian, Zoroaster, and Indian religious texts, such as the Guru Granth Sahib and the Vedas.
It also holds the key for understanding QAnon and the rise of a new force in modern life — conspiracy as religion.
In the beginning, there was Q…
QAnon has become the world’s fastest spreading conspiracy theory. It first grew on internet chatrooms 4chan and 8chan (later re named 8kun), where anonymous users, or Anons, could post freely, uninhibited through their lack of identity.
Eventually the Q-mmunity went mainstream, spreading onto Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Youtube. Several American elected officials have expressed public support, as well as many more Republican election candidates. Just 4 years after its first appearance the US Capitol was besieged and stormed on January 6th, 2021, and the conspiracy’s slogans were chanted by the crowd, whilst its followers ransacked offices.
As with any conspiracy theory, its doctrinal details can be hard to pin down, as believers disagree on where the ‘evidence’ leads them, but its central tenets can summed up as thus:
- A cabal of paedophilic and cannibalistic elites from the worlds of politics, entertainment and finance control the world;
- President Donald Trump, leading a secret team of military intelligence officers, is waging war against them;
- The cabal will be exposed, arrested and tried in an event called “The Storm.” This will lead to civil unrest and then, eventually, a golden age of prosperity;
- This team, and the President himself, are attempting to communicate covertly to the American public, so that they can rely on their support when “The Storm” comes.
Key figures of the cabal are said to include Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tom Hanks and lightning-rod for anti-Semitic hate, the financier George Soros. Q himself is apparently a ‘Q-Level Clearance’ military analyst, with, significantly, almost unique access to covert intelligence. His first posts (referred to as ‘drops’ by followers) appeared on 4chan on October 28th 2017, predicting the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton. Writing with a mixture of gnomic rhetorical questions, official sounding acronyms and blood and thunder imagery, he quickly gained a following.
The mechanics of the conspiracy’s spread are well documented. Q tapped into pre-existing 4chan conspiracy narratives such as ‘Pizzagate’ and anti-Semitic conspiracies about Jewish financiers, like George Soros, controlling the world. Q emerged from a culture of LARP-ing (live-action role-playing), in effect playing make believe. There was a history of anonymous 4chan users claiming to be in the FBI, or to work in the White House either to troll fellow users, or as a form of cosplaying. Followers would lap up these revelation from inside sources, but most petered out. QAnon perfected the art. See this article, for a more in-depth exploration of 4chan culture, and how this soup fed QAnon’s doctrines.
You Say You Want a Revelation…
This essay, however, wants to explore why the audience was so receptive, both to Q, and indeed, to these other LARPs. It is clear to this observer, that Q was a prophet, in the classic sense. In a revealed religion, an ordering, omnipotent deity reveals the Truth to their prophet, who spreads the good word to their followers, who then join the movement due to the promise of a better world.
Q presented himself as a well-placed source in the US military intelligence sphere. Through his access to Q-Level, covert information, he also had access to the Truth. The Cabal, or New World Order, sometimes referred to simply as the ‘Globalists’, are the all-powerful controlling force of the world, of which he had a unique understanding. Q, through his ‘drops’ was the living link, the bridge from the regular world we all inhabit, to the elite echelons of power.
Q told his followers to prepare for “The Storm.” They had to be ready for the moment the Globalists were exposed by President Trump. Regular Americans, lied to by the Mainstream Media about President Trump, would think that he was becoming a dictator and arresting his opponents such as Clinton, Obama and Ellen Degeneres — of course they would try to stop him. But the true patriots would spring into action, support their President and defeat them, ushering in a better world.
Prophecies of Revelation and Renewal. The Biblical parallels are clear. In an increasingly secular West, these narrative structures will continue to be repurposed, whether consciously or subconsciously, and they will continue to retain their power amongst followers, raised in cultures steeped in Christianity. Q was able to to fit pre-existing and popular conspiracies into them. It is akin to presenting episodes of the X-Files as divine relics. Some prophets come bearing tablets, others Holy Books. Q came down from the mountain bearing a file marked, ‘Top Secret.’
The Anon of Delphi
There was one more element to Q’s success as a tinfoil-hat prophet, and its origins lie not in the Abrahamic tradition, but in the mountains of Ancient Greece. The Oracle of Delphi was situated high in the sheet-sheer slopes of Mount Parnassus, but was visited by supplicants from all over the Ancient Mediterranean. It was the home of the Pythia, a priestess who, when possessed by the god Apollo, would shake and writhe in rapturous frenzy before entering a deep trance. She answered the pilgrims questions, sometimes in prose, other times in verse. Thus were Apollo’s prophecies revealed.
It was never, however, straight forward. Take the classic example. According to Herodotus, the great emperor of Lydia, Croesus, faced a dilemna. Should he invade his neighbours? Not an uncommon question for an ancient emperor, but a difficult one when the neighbours concerned were the newly rising local power — the Persians. Croesus decided to consult the gods.
He sent a delegation across the Aegean and the Gulf of Corinth. Taking the well trodden pass through the mountains, past scrubs of laurel and fir, they reached the Temple of Apollo. They entered past already ancient gifts of grateful grandees, and asked the god of prophecy and plague for his advice. The Pythia’s reply came back. If Croesus went forward with his plan, he would destroy a great empire. Delighted, the Lydians invaded immediately. Croesus’ defeat was so great, however, that he became a subject of the Persian King’s court. The Priestess had not lied, for a great empire had indeed been destroyed. Croesus, in his haste, perhaps even his arrogance, had simply misunderstood, for it was not Persia that she spoke of, but Lydia.
By keeping their prophecies cryptic, the Oracle’s reputation for predictive power was enhanced, not diminished. Answers could cover any number of outcomes, and the blame for seemingly incorrect predictions would lie not with Delphi, but the pilgrims’ interpretations.
Q’s predictions were similarly cryptic. His drops would contain dozens of seemingly unlinked rhetorical questions, references to movie titles and came studded with acronyms. By containing a dozens of open questions in one drop, he could be assured that something in the news in the next week would seem to be an answer to one of them. Even if most of the questions in the drop seemed dead-ends, his followers would seize on the one question that was seemingly prophetic, hail him a genius and thank him for his patriotism.
The acronyms were even more startlingly used. Even for key figures, Q would give only initials. Barack Obama was ‘BO’ and Hillary Clinton was ‘HRC.’ Why? Perhaps it made his followers seem part of a club, with its own secret language. However, it also meant Q could suddenly pivot his narrative. Take ‘HUMA.’ For the first 100 drops, any reference to Huma was taken to be Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s trusted aide and Deputy Chief of Staff. In drop 2, stating, “HRC detained, not arrested (yet),” he asks, “Where is Huma, follow Huma.”
After a week, however, there was no news about Clinton or Abedin’s supposed arrests. Was Q making it all up? A theory, started bubbling up from the depths of 4chan, arguing that Huma referred not to a person, but to the Harvard University Muslim Alumni, a fundraising society. He started capitalising HUMA in his drops. By drop 111, Q asking “What organisation is HUMA. Which US president is affiliated with HUMA?” A follower made an unsupported link between Harvard University Muslim Alumni and Obama — Boom, Q is back! It was obvious, Q had never been referring to Abedin, how could they have doubted him? Just like Delphi, it was never Q that was wrong, but his followers, for failing to interpret his pronouncement properly.
The Crowd-Sourced Conspiracy
The HUMA example highlights the startlingly new aspect of Q’s prophecies. His conspiracy was, in effect, crowd-sourced. He could ask question after question and watch his followers fly off and return with links to obscure news stories, wild theories and misinformation. He could follow which theories gained traction and which lead to dead-ends.
This would feed into his next drops, feeding into his followers’ confirmation bias. Using this feedback loop, Q was able to continue to present himself as a prophet of stunning accuracy. The more his predictions seemed to come ‘true’, the more his credentials as a prophet with “Q-Level Clearance” were burnished. The more his credentials were reinforced, the more his next statements could be believed as articles of faith. The cumulative effect was irresistible. The Storm kept brewing, until, with blood and thunder, it broke over the Capitol.
The Domesday Blog
What does this tell us? Post January 6th, the QAnon conspiracy has been driven further underground, after major social networks removed Q — related content. The Q-mmunity showed no sign of losing their faith however. Instead their beliefs have become more and more unhinged, shown by the crowds that flocked to Dallas in November 2021, awaiting a new revelation — the resurrection of JFK, coming out of self-imposed exile at the age of 103 to defeat the paedophiles.
Whilst it is easy to laugh, however, no-one with an understanding of religions and cults should do-so. When Revelation is not followed by Renewal, it is instead replaced, with Apocalypse. They are now driven further to the fringes, betrayed by events, and even by Q, who has not posted since December 2021. The promise of a better world is rotting before their eyes. The QAnon movement is in danger of turning to something far darker, darker even than attempted insurrection. As the fruits of their belief turn to bitter ash in their mouths, they are at risk of becoming a Doomsday Cult. No-one watching videos of the crowds in Dallas singing songs in support of a delusional cause could fail to feel a gnawing sense of deja vu — Heavens Gate, Jonestown, or the Branch Davidians at Waco. We’ve seen this show before…
We know from psychological studies of such groups, that often the failure of their predictions do not break a prophet’s hold over followers. They instead rationalise their failures and redouble their efforts. Cognitive bias becomes cognitive dissonance as belief and reality fail to connect. Now that the prophet has seemingly abandoned his followers, having ascended to the great newsfeed in the sky, there are many questions that will not, and perhaps even cannot, be answered.
What happens if a prophet’s only revelation, is that he was a troll? Can a political conspiracy become a prophetic cult? And what happens if Trump regains the presidency — could there be a Second Coming of Q?