What if you could transport yourself between an infinite number of universes, including, say, the worlds of Harry Potter or Star Wars? Travis M. Andrews reports
For most Harry Potter fans, the only way to stroll through Diagon Alley is to visit the reproduction in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Theme Park. Kristin Dattoo wouldn’t need to make the trip, however. Instead, the 19-year-old would just shift her consciousness.
You read that correctly.
“Any reality you can possibly think of exists somewhere out there in the universe,” Dattoo says. “So, by reality shifting, we’re just shifting our awareness so we can live in those realities.”
In other words, the theory goes, if you wanted to see what your life would be like if you had made different choices, or if you wanted to live in the Harry Potter world or visit the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars universe, all you have to do is “reality shift” – switch your consciousness to the right parallel universe.
It’s become an increasingly popular trend on TikTok, hitting a fever pitch earlier this year when TikTokers began supposedly shifting to the Harry Potter universe to visit Draco Malfoy en masse. The hashtag #dracomalfoy, which includes many videos related to reality shifting, reached 24.4 billion views. Meanwhile, #shiftingrealities has more than 1.7 billion views. Dattoo’s YouTube video titled “How to Shift Realities 101” has amassed more than 1.3 million views.
Many of the more popular videos feature an influencer detailing how to move between universes, though some find shifters describing what happened on their latest adventures. This ranges from fighting in the Clone Wars to becoming romantically, erm, engaged with Draco Malfoy – why Draco of all people is part of an ongoing internet discussion. According to practitioners of reality shifting, you can reasonably spend as long as you’d like in any given world. Just try not to die there, because you won’t be able to revisit it.
Everyone seems to define the practice differently – and arguments surrounding what it is and how to do it abound.
Most people shift by entering some sort of meditative state, or a hypnagogic one – that place between sleep and wakefulness that occurs naturally as we drift off each night.
Some conflate reality shifting with lucid dreaming, the scientifically accepted phenomenon in which a person becomes consciously aware during a dream. Or with astral projection, the more spiritual concept of intentionally creating an out-of-body experience. Some claim you can move your actual body to parallel universe – but most do not.
Laura Rosser Kreiselmaier, a holistic psychotherapist, says “it seems to be maybe a form of self-hypnosis”. She noted that “altered states of consciousness have been around as far back as we know”, citing people claiming to have “mystical experiences” and others “taking some sort of substances or drug to change their consciousness”.
She believes, though, that reality shifting is a fairly new concept – one that might be flourishing because of world events.
“There’s such an existential crisis that younger generations are dealing with, not knowing if our planet is going to be around to sustain human life and future generations. Then the Covid pandemic has interrupted childhood, youth, young adult rites of passage, as well as normal life,” she says. So, it isn’t surprising “that people are trying to figure out how to cope or how to maybe induce for themselves a, quote, ‘reality’ that’s more pleasant.”
The concept existed before TikTok but didn’t truly take off before landing on the platform. Dattoo says she first learnt of the practice in 2015, but it was connected to witchcraft, which turned her off from the idea. Years later, she stumbled upon it again on TikTok. She continuously tried to enter a meditative state to shift but it didn’t work – until one day when she woke from a dream to find herself in her “waiting room”, a term shifters use for an in-between state. Hers took the form of an “aristocratic house”. “It really freaked me out,” she says.
Dattoo says that now “I literally wake up” in a different universe, citing the time she spent living in the world imagined by the anime series My Hero Academia. During that time, as she explained it, her body in our current reality was essentially on autopilot.
TikToker and YouTuber Jambasmurf says she discovered it through her practice of Buddhism. (Jambasmurf spoke on the condition that The Post not use her real name, citing previous instances of threats and harassment.) Her version sounds much closer to a form of deep meditation that she calls “subconscious lifting”. She grows slightly frustrated by the argument that reality shifting means moving one’s physical body to a different universe.
“Oh my God. It drives me nuts. No one knows how to do that,” she says. “I mean, if they’re doing something that takes them to Hogwarts or whatever, then great. Good for them.”
Eventually, the trend caught the eye of Californian-based YouTuber James Rallison, who goes by the moniker The Odd1sOut. The 25-year-old produced a nearly 10-minute animated video in which he criticises the theory of “reality shifting” for his 16.9 million subscribers.
“They’re dreaming,” he says in the video. “Shifting happens when you fall asleep, and if you fill your subconscious with things from your desired reality. Would you be surprised that you had a dream about Hogwarts?”
He points out, for example, that if all fictional villains actually exist in a parallel universe, and if anyone can shift between said universes, then why wouldn’t they come for us all?
“Are you telling me there’s a chance Voldemort could download TikTok and reality shift here?” he says in his video. “If you go to Hogwarts, you’re leading Voldemort right to us!”
Rallison says he stumbled upon the trend while watching a compilation of “cringe” (internet-speak for embarrassing) videos. At first, he thought it might be a joke but soon realised it was anything but.
“There was very little pushback on reality shifting. I thought I was taking crazy pills,” Rallison says. “I kind of had to put my foot down and say, ‘Hey, this probably isn’t healthy, tricking your mind into going into a different reality and not your current one.’”
The true believers, however, don’t mind these attempts at debunking.
“There are people who think I’m crazy in my family. But I’m like, ‘It’s fine.’ I know it’s real, and if you don’t know it’s real, if you don’t want to believe in it, I can’t change your mind,” Dattoo says. “I’m gonna go on and have fun in those realities, and you can stay here.”
© The Washington Post