This paper looks at a recent phenomenon on the Internet referred to as the Mandela Effect, which states that small details from the past have been changed, altered, and edited to create a parallel universe. The reasons for the Mandela Effect becoming such a popular conspiracy theory and Internet meme shed light on our contemporary technoscience culture and the influence of advanced information technology on human cognition, memory, and belief. This phenomenon involves aspects familiar to esotericism, since both conspiracy theories and esoteric knowledge cohabit the same marginalized cultural space, sometimes referred to as the “cultic milieu.” In fact, the Mandela Effect signals a possible transformation of this space. The recent ideas from tech author and founding editor of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, as well as memory research by experimental psychologist Endel Tulving, illustrate potential factors behind conspiratorial creations and the reshaping of underground culture. This article seeks to bring the Mandela Effect to the attention of scholars by highlighting the web of relationships embedded in the phenomenon, as well as the implications for historical consciousness and the construction of conspiratorial worldviews.
Esotericism; conspiracism; cultic milieu theory; memory; technoscience; fundamentalism