The video begins in a rather dull manner, with a document held by an unknown figure in a car.
“I intend to bring forth heaven on earth for the benefit of all and release us all from bondage.”
An unidentified young man repeats a mantra before smearing blood from his finger all over the document, the phone’s microphone capturing each crack and pop. The eerie quiet of the outdoors resonates through the air. Just as he finishes applying his lifeblood to the document, he lights it on fire.
And then the video ends.
According to the title of the video’s description, this is an example of ‘Blood Over Intent’ (also known as BOI).
BOI is not merely an anomaly of a single man on his small YouTube channel. It is a widespread internet-based religious practice that is growing. Dozens of YouTube channels have posted similar videos over the years. Each video features some variation of “I intend to bring forth heaven on earth…”, and each one features a man or woman repeating this mantra before burning the document. The blood itself does not appear through something grotesque like slicing open a hand; but rather a pinprick or needle, as one might use for people with diabetes.
For many of these attendees, the videos receive no views. One channel that PandoDaily found had posted at least twelve videos labeled ‘Blood Over Intent’ over a month period. Each video appeared with a proclamation of ‘heaven on earth’ and ‘releasing bondage.’ Many of these videos received comments made by others who would proclaim a video to be ‘witnessed’ in the comment section. But nothing else seemed to happen with it.
The origin of ‘Blood Over Intent’ is challenging to pin down, but one man in Florida claims to have started it
Mark Braun, better known to his viewers as ‘Quasiluminous,’ has been on the platform since 2013, casting his blood rituals as an attempt at what he describes as ‘world domination.’ Braun openly posts on his YouTube channel about how he is Satan, the epitome of evil and the Prince of Darkness over all of the earth.
Through Braun’s decision to spill his blood, he became a man who has power over heaven and earth. The claims themselves do sound ludicrous, but they have attracted at least a few observers of his ideas. In watching some of these followers’ content, it becomes clear that they are convinced that Braun has insights and understandings of the spiritual world.
When Braun began his ritualistic habits in 2013, he claimed that his actions opened the Book of Life (a reference to a particular text mentioned in Revelations containing those who would be saved from Judgment Day) for the 144,000 (another Biblical reference to the supposed number of Israelites allowed into Heaven on Judgment Day) of those who understand. If someone wants to be in Braun’s book, they must practice the ritual and post it on YouTube. Otherwise, they will “be dead walking, asleep, doomed to a hellish cycle of pointless suffering.” Braun presents those who don’t adhere to his beliefs or practices as blind to the realities around them, particularly the spiritual realities that permeate much of Braun’s content
These notions clearly have an appeal. Users say that Braun has helped them realize the spiritual and cognitive complications surrounding him. Some have posted follow-up videos, claiming that they have seen real changes in their lives due to BOI. One practitioner claims that, four months after performing said ritual, he felt like he could ‘decode things’, and that the rituals made him ‘feel more connected to the earth around [him].’ Others claimed they had physical responses, such as the ability to fast for a week.
Much of what Braun discusses draws from a perverse understanding of Biblical theology, one based in symbolic imagery and occult knowledge, rather than the Christian church’s historical traditions.
Benjamin Zeller, an associate professor of religion at Lake Forest College, describes it as esotericism. “There are lots of groups that claim a sort of alternative knowledge and that they have access to truths that no one else does.” These sorts of belief structures are common in American history, from modern-day Scientology, to Heaven’s Gate – a 1990s UFO cult that Zeller has done extensive research into for his thesis.
Psychologists theorize that the appeal of these groups draws from a desire for understanding of a complicated world, a desire for control and security, and a desire for community and affirmation. These communities offer answers to such problems.
The strange logic behind BOI
While much of this does seem immensely weird to the average reader, there is a ‘logic’ that traipses through it all.
At the center of this practice is the blood. In the minds of the practitioners, blood is a potent substance. As well as containing our DNA and transporting oxygen around our bodies, it is also seen as having magical properties for making a person’s thoughts come to exist in their lives. By writing down a statement and smearing blood on it, the ‘power’ of the blood helps make the idea real. And the more blood spilled, the more power received.
At least, that’s how it has started.
While many channels have posted footage of this ritual, it’s not entirely clear whether they’re doing it at Braun’s behest. Some appear to be adherent to the world-as-hologram thesis, which promotes the notion that the world around us does not physically exist, but is an illusion. Others see it as a spiritual battle with Satan as their leader. There is no canon text for any of this. But what is the same across all of these channels is that blood matters and that spilling blood has power.
That’s not how Devin Madgy explains it, however. Madgy, also known as ‘Flat Earth Paradise’ on YouTube, is a reasonably active creator in his community. Madgy was an earlier BOI practitioner in 2016, preaching the power of blood over intent on his channel to others. However, Madgy told PandoDaily that he stepped away from that movement due to it “becoming a cult-like, ‘you must do this’ sort of practice.”
Madgy also says that he is disliked by much of the BOI community, although he wasn’t willing to explain why. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t practice the ritual, however. Every six months or so, Madgy would use BOI to “create a personal contract to reclaim divinity.” For him, the practice is more about “creating pacts with oneself” than expressing some covenant or pact with Satan or another entity.
Madgy is an active promoter of various spiritual ideas that span the spectrum, from seeking divinity through daily rituals like yoga, fasting, and ‘urine therapy’ (where Madgy drinks one glass of his urine a day, which he claims is ‘life promoting’.) He also organizes the Sophia Sanctuary, a private location in Oregon designed to allow ‘seekers’ to spend time considering the spiritual realities that Madgy claims to broadcast to his viewers. The Sanctuary does not appear to come at a cost, although its location is kept private due to a desire to only accommodate those who ‘already have been on this path of divine reclamation.’ Madgy was not willing to provide any specific numbers of attendees, although he claims that “only 1 in 50 are accepted.”
Several individuals online have been quick to describe the BOI movement as a cult, but pinning down specific evidence is difficult
Individual practitioners of BOI do seem to believe in Braun’s vision of BOI. They even go as far as to treat Braun as the personification of Satan, proclaiming their allegiance while spilling blood. But many others, like Madgy, seem to view it as merely another form of blood ritual for “reclaiming divinity.” This doesn’t remove the oddness of watching a fellow human spill their blood for religious purposes. The act itself still feels naturally disturbing to most viewers. But beyond this practice, the commonalities fall flat.
Rick Alan Ross, the Cult Education Institute founder, defines a destructive cult by three features: a charismatic leader, a sort of ‘brainwashing’ that inoculates practitioners against the external world, and some form of economic, sexual, or other exploitation of members by the group. Based on what is visible online, Zeller is similarly unconvinced that this group could fit those criteria: “I’m not convinced that those people are physically going to go somewhere to do this….”
Zeller compares BOI to a recent evolution in the modern Wicca movement. When Wiccans began to gather as a modern movement in the 60s and 70s, they were mostly focused on practicing in the context of covens and communal structures. But as the internet became a regular part of life, practitioners began to move their practices online. Users could learn how to manipulate crystals or cast spells with a simple online search. Now, a modern Wiccan practitioner could practice for years without meeting another witch in real life.
What really stood out was how there was never just one way to practice the magic. Every Wiccan may practice differently. The same can be said for BOI.
While the bloodletting originated with Braun, the practice has expanded beyond Braun’s reach into a particular way among those seeking alternative knowledge and religion online. While the practice has lingered online for a while, it often seems to act as a fad among practitioners, where they will post it for a time, only to abandon BOI for some other form of spiritual expression.
Zeller notes that a lot of these sorts of semi-religious communities do not last long. Usually, this is due to a combination of economic issues and internal politics. Only time will tell if BOI manifests as more than an internet-based practice.