Guest Perspective: I Was A Teenaged Cultist
Image By: Ever Falling
Written By: Kanta
It wasn’t a cult, exactly. At least, we were careful not to look like one, but then, what cult calls itself a cult?
Technically, we were a nonprofit group. I was the treasurer, one of the directors. Our goal was to build a town of people from the internet, primarily 4chan’s /x/, /k/, and /diy/ boards. I know that sounds crazy. We probably were crazy, but we cared about the cause. I still do care, though the cause has changed a bit in my mind, and I probably wouldn’t do it with 4chan now; 4chan has changed too. It’s been six years now, but our forums are still up, and I check them sometimes. I look back at the project fondly. I learned some things and made a few good friends. Honestly, I wish we still talked, but I’m also in a transgender demon cult now that is absolutely lovely. It almost makes me wish I had gotten involved in that suicide cult that was on Lainchan, but I only barely saw that one.
I originally saw the post on /x/ asking if people were interested in an older project called, “New Eden.” It was an earlier attempt to establish a town of occultists, most /x/philes. The guy starting the thread was called Stexem., and he was the last member of New Eden; everyone else had lost interest. He was trying to find new recruits, and I wound up being one of them.
The structure was loose, especially at first. We saw each other in threads, whenever Stex would start one. Soon we exchanged contact info and started talking in Skype. Eventually we got a forum set up and an irc channel for board meetings. Those are the records that remain, the ruins of our dream.
We decided to call the revived project, “Agartha,” instead of the rather pedestrian, “New Eden.” The name came from stories about the hollow earth. The forum had a total of 130 members over its life, in a slow trickle. Almost none of them were regularly active. We recruited them from lots of places: /x/, /k/, /diy/, /tg/, and even a bit of 8chan. We caused some drama on the then-new /diy/ when one member without any sort of permission or even discussion with the rest of us spammed threads and generally made an ass of himself. Moot even posted a sticky thread. We stopped posting on /diy/ for a while after that.
Another recruiting thread that was particularly memorable to me was one on /k/ where one anon kept talking about what a disaster it would be, not for any of the perfectly sane, normal reasons that a compound full of 4chan is a terrible idea, but because of how accepting of gay people he thought the site was. That fell apart into heated arguments over what makes something a mental illness. The anon in question insisted that it would be anything non-genetic that made an individual unlikely to reproduce. This was particularly surreal because scientists had just supposedly found one gene that partially contributes to sexuality, but also because schizophrenia, which most people agree is a mental illness is genetic where say, gonorrhea is not. We slowed our recruiting on /k/, after that.
We did a lot of research on subjects of sustainable living, housing, water collection, and growing crops. We spent months talking about how and where to get land. I’m glad that those records and those debates survive for future projects to use as a resource. I remember abandoned missile silos, free housing in Detroit, and cheap waste plots in Arizona as particularly interesting options. My favorite was the missile silos because each was so unique, but damn are they expensive.
I remember struggling to get nonprofit status. It wasn’t easy at first to decide on whether we would even qualify. In the end, we came up with some bare-bones bylaws, used irc logs as meeting minutes, and chose a few directors to sit on the board from the most regular, dedicated members. Stexem had to be the president; that much was obvious. Another regular and I filled the other two state-mandated roles, and we filed in Florida because someone had a mailing address there. It was amazing to hear that we had been approved. I was overjoyed to get our EIN. Everything we had hoped for was finally panning out, but while we were detracted with paperwork, our membership was dropping.
After the incidents I recounted earlier, we weren’t recruiting much, which was a problem because almost all of our supposed 130 members had lost interest and abandoned us. In the end, when we thought we finally had everything we needed to get started, we realized that we were all alone and hadn’t really done anything. We were left with a core group that had alienated the people who we wanted to bring together, and worse, had no money. There was no death-knell for the Agartha Foundation; it died slowly of neglect. One by one even the directors found ourselves missing meetings. We held fewer and fewer of them.
Nowadays, I only check the forum once or twice a year. The only posts there in ages have been me and one other user who does the same. Last year I said that the project was dead. In September, he called that a, “Horrible way to describe an idea.” Tonight I suggested, “Dead but dreaming,” as a compromise. I hope he’s right, but even if the project re-emerges, it won’t be what it was. The community it was born in is gone, destroyed in the divisive politics of 2016.
I learned a lot from Project Agartha, but its end brought the most important lesson: keeping a great endeavor alive depends, above all, on keeping people around. That needed to be the top priority. Raising money helps with that; it let’s you hold events, make progress, or even just hire people. And people do need to see tangible progress regularly. Decisions being made quickly can even be more important than that they’re made correctly, if your membership is starting to get bored of you. You need results to keep the people watching. And hey, if something is the wrong decision, you can usually change it later. It’ll probably be easier than getting back impatient people who left while you were deliberating. I learned the old rule firsthand: move fast and break things.
If you’d like to see Project Agartha yourself, possibly as research for your own project, the forum is at https://bneweden.runboard.com/