Written by Noctulius
Translated by F.v.F
The appearance and development of any esoteric current or trend does not happen in isolation, but it is strongly influenced by both the psycho-social characteristics of the community in which the current takes birth, and the scientific discoveries of that period.
By the late 1970’s, the Quantum Theory began to be taken seriously by many mathematicians and physicians. This is the context in which Chaos Magick appeared, after a meeting between Peter J. Carroll (licensed in science, University of London) and author Ray Sherwin, both of British origin. The order founded by them in 1978 was called “Illuminates of Thanateros“, and because of the way that magick was approached, it belongs to the post-modern current.
The selection of this name was not random, Thanatos (Death) and Eros (Sexuality/Love) being two of the most important principles of existence – Thanatos, through the fear of death, determines the apparition of the survival instinct and thus, along with the will of reproduction (Eros) it assures the perpetuation of the species. Moreso, although these principles are at opposing poles, there is a tendency to combine them – see sado-masochistic practices. These two principles became taboo for the simple fact that before birth and beyond death there is a big question, a mystery which has not been elucidated to this day. All that we have is an infinity of speculations. Thanateros is both the portal through which we pass from the unknown into the world, but also from the world back to the unknown.
It is difficult to give a generally valid definition of Chaos Magick, and this is due to the numerous directions on which this current was developed, which suggests an extreme individualism in the current. If Aleister Crowley defined magick as “the Science and Art of of causing Change in conformity with Will“, Carroll took this idea further, and generalizing, affirmed that magick is a characteristic (and a consequence) of the Universe in which we live in, a principle that manifests in every moment of our existence (exemplifying that the simple act of walking down the street is an act of Will).
One of the core practices of this order is sigilization, borrowed to some degree from Austin Osman Spare. A.O. Spare lay the foundations of sigilization and of drawing/writing in altered states of consciousness. Although he was a member of Astrum Argentum, he left Crowley’s movement and his personal philosophy took form in the Zos-Kia Kultus. Another element taken by Carroll was the idea of Kia, making reference to an universal principles, different from body/mind, sometimes being associated with the hindu Brahman or with Tao. Carroll defines Kia as being he union between two opposing principles, which are perception (acting as a receptor) and will (the inverted force, through which we impose our will over the universe).
As for the functioning mechanism of magic, everything begins from the idea of Ether. The ether is considered (in Chaos Magick) a profound layer of existence which is stocking information (or more precisely, meta-information) about all phenomena, objects or beings, past, present and future. Even so, only future phenomena can be altered, because those that have passed, although still in the ether, has lost connection to the event/object from the material plan. There have been a series of studies in this sense, a conclusive one being the L. Watson experiment, in which an experiment was trying on an embryo of a frog, more precisely its tissues that sketched the superior limbs have been replaced with those of the inferior limbs. The being that was born, contrary to the expectations, had its members in the right place, a sign that the being had an informational pattern to tell matter in which structures it should organize genetically.
The success of the magical act depends on two important factors, being the probability (P) that the desired phenomena to take place without the magician’s intervention, and the magical factor (M). In his book “Liber Kaos” Carroll even gave a formula of the magic factor, defined as such:
M = G * L * (1-A) * (1-R) having the following terms:
G = the state of gnosis, which varies between – (conscious stare) and 1 (union with chosen divinity). Gnosis (in Chaos Magick) is an altered state of consciousness which can be, to some point. associated with ecstasy. In this state, the word receives power from the subtle worlds, becoming Logos. There are numerous techniques of reaching this state, some inhibitors (meditation, fasting, sleep deprivation, sense deprivation) and others exhibitors (overstimulating senses, dance, music, sexual orgasm). I will not go further into details for these practices.
L = the magical link that the practitioner has with the phenomena, object or being which is to be manipulated. Examples include: voodoo doll, personal objects or even a memory.
A = state of awareness. This is a negative factor, which is why it will be noted 1-A. Sigilization is utilized to lower the value of this factor, replacing the words susceptible to rational analysis with sigils.
R = subconscious resistance, also a negative factor, defined through the capacity of the psyche of opposing the will (because of the dual nature of man, see anatomy of bicameral brain).
So basically, through the magical act, the practitioner modifies the probability that the desired phenomena to happen by itself. Of course, some event, such as materialization/dematerialization of objects have a very low probability, and even by doubling or tripleing this probability through the magical act, they still remain improbable phenomena.
The core principles of chaos magick are:
- Avoiding dogmatism. It is considered that any belief system eventually becomes rigid, thus limiting the practitioner. Paradigms must be occasionally changed, according to the practitioner’s necesities (who is in a continuous change).
- Accent put on personal experience, which differs from practitioner to practitioner. Every practitioner is encouraged to find his own tools. Also, the practitioner is encouraged to treat each philosophy/belief with skepticism, always questioning and deconstructing myths. There is a tendency of separating occultism from religion, in order to take it closer to science.
- Religion/Belief is viewed as a tool, not as an absolute truth. Thus, Chaos Magick is a current which sometimes takes traditionalist forms, but only apparently. A difficult exercise is belief dice option: a home-made dice inscripted with a system on each side (i.e.: christianity, paganism, satanism, islam, judaism, sabbatic witchcraft). The practitioner throws the dice and uses the resulting beliefs in his magical operations for the next 6 months. Of course, the magician needs to obtain results using these myths/symbols. This exercise is practiced to assure a flexibility of ideas, so that when practicing group ceremonies, each participant needs to adopt the other’s system.
- Introspection and autoanalysis. It is encouraged the passive observance of thoughts, habits, behaviours and emotions, in order to understand them. After this, there is a deconditioning of the practitioner’s possible traumatic events from the past. Such practices are detailed in „The Book of Results” by Ray Sherwin.
- Forms, myths, symbols, they can all be used from both LHP and RHP. There are no restrictions in this sense. An analogy would be with the fighting style Krav Maga, which although is not a traditional martial art, it efficiently combines fighting techniques from numerous traditional martial arts styles.
- An exquisite sense of humour. It is said that laughter is the only reaction in the face of an illusory Universe (see the Holographic Universe Theory), and crying is just a repressed form of laughter.
- Formalization of magical principles intro an universal language, beyond the cultural and religious particularities of every nation – mathematics (see a certain attempt in this sense in the book “The Apophenion” of Peter Carroll).
- The D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) approach is encouraged – creation your own system instead of adopting an existent one.
- Perhaps the most important principle can be found in the motto „Nothing is real. Everything is permitted.” By this we understand that in the Universe no future event is certain, but can only be described as a wave-function (also known as probability function), submitted to the alteration of any direction (everything is permitted). Only in a universe in which nothing is certain and everything is permitted can the idea of magic be valid. However, this motto does not belong to Carroll, the original author being considered to be Hassan Ibn Sabbah (the head of the Assassins Order – Hashshashin, from around 1100).
- Constant practice in developing certain abilities (intense visualization, meditation capacity, the ability to enter in altered states of consciousness, physical condition).
- Spending money on books and magical tools is not encouraged. Everyone’s imagination can produce enough myths/symbols/gods, and the magical tools can be created at home from simple materials.
- Although this can’t be considered an universal principles, it seemed interesting to me that in I.O.T. initiations, the neophyte is asked if, in his mission of searching the truth, he is ready to accept to possibility that at the end of his journey, there won’t be any supreme truth, only possibilities.
- Nothing is sacred by itself, but can only be looked upon as sacred if this helps the practitioner in his work. Also, it is avoided to fall into the trap of predestined events. There is no sense of life, but the practitioner is encouraged to fill this gap with anything he wants. Instead of an entity with a guiding role, the practitioner knows both freedom as well as the responsibility for his actions.
- A common practice in chaos magick is the creation of egregores, these being informational and energetic accumulations programmed with a certain purpose (and eventually, a pre-established lifespan). In this sense, a material object (crystal, pentacle, etc.) becomes the „home” of that entity.
- Systems which are based on many correspondences (i.e. Kabbalah) should be avoided as much as possible, or if they are used, they should not be used with their entire complexity. The reason for this is simple: the magician loses himself in search of so many correspondences between plants, minerals, planetary spheres, days, zodiac signs and no longer concentrates on the experience itself. Practically, in this case the map (magical system) is eclipsing the territory (experience). At the base of any current, there is a need. In the case of chaos magick, I believe that scission of the occult in RHP and LHP gave birth to limited individuals, who secretly longed for the other half. This is why chaos magick was born as a paradox, a peculiarity, a joining of contradictory principles – No-Hand Path, also called Freestyle. Of course, the balance is not perfect, every practitioner being attracted to some degree by „darkness” or „light”. The central symbol in chaos magick is the Chaosphere, or Chaos Star (see image at the beginning of this article). This symbol represents the 8 types of magic practices within chaos-magick: red (war magick), orange (intellectual/thinking magick), purple or silver (sex magick), yellow (ego magick), green (love magick), blue (wealth magick), black (death magick) and an eighth, called Pure Magick, which focuses on illumination and is not associated with any color.
Concerning man and society, I.O.T. proposed a classification after a series of paradigms as such:
1) Materialist paradigm – gravitates around the fundamental idea of how the Universe is exclusively made of matter, the energy being just another form of matter’s manifestation. The human behavior can be reducible to biology, biology is reducible to chemistry, chemistry is reducible to physics and physics is reducible to mathematics. Consciousness is nothing more than a series of electrochemical events in the brain, and the spirit world cannot be taken seriously, since its experience is purely subjective. The main purpose of the materialist is to assure his good state (and those dear to him). The idea of a continuity after death is vehemently denied and Time is linear but unlimited.
2) Transcendental paradigm – also known as religious paradigm (being both monotheistic and polytheistic) and has its core idea that a conscious force created the Universe, or at least a set of minimal conditions that the Universe may exist. Earthly life is many times looked upon as a form of dialoge between man and the divine. The material world is the manifestation scene of spirits. The majority of transcendentalists look upon Time in apocalyptic terms, and both genesis and the end of time being dictated by an entity (mostly being beyond Time).
3) Magical paradigm – The aether is the fundamental reality of this world, being more or less similar to the idea of Mana in shamanism. The Aether is the description, in materialist terms, of emitted and recepted information. In transcendental terms, the aether would be associated with a vital-force spread in the Universe. Thus, the Aether contains information about all the events that are taking place, magick being possible because of its flexibility. It is considered that each natural phenomena or behavior has an aetheric pattern associated, composed of variables, whose values can be overwritten by the practitioner, and in time, matter will restructure itself after the new pattern. In psychological terms, the Aether is similar to the collective unconscious described the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In the magical paradigm, Time is nothing else than a series of circles, each cicle apparently having a beginning and an end, but is part of a macro-cycle. Man being a colonial being (a joining of chemical elements, bacteria, micro-organisms), not having a fixed center, is rather a complex joining of other elements and simple organisms.
Oftentimes however, the magical paradigm is confused with the transcendental paradigm because of the utilized forms. Magicians consider themselves as participants in nature, transcendentalists believe they are above nature (here comes the suppression of natural behavior, yet animalic), and materialists try to manipulate nature through technological action. However, each vision has its advantages and disadvantages,, the most problematic being the materialist vision – reducing the consciousness to chemical processes, the idea of the free will is abandoned. In the transcendentalist Universe, the religious man considers himself surrounded by angels, demons and other astral being, who are of no interest to the materialist. From a psychological point of view, the transcendentalist has the tendency to oscillate between megalomania (due to the contact with different entities) and exaggerated humility (due to the feeling of guilt). The magician on the other hand, who understood that everything is permitted, can have serious problems with self discipline and consistency, which are necessary in occult practices.
Although Peter Carroll and Ray Sherwin are the best known authors when it comes to chaos magick, there are also other important names who contributed to this domain, such as Phil Hine, Julian Wilde and Frater Nicht.
(Diagram from Liber Null by Peter J. Carroll)
Phil Hine – Oven-ready chaos
Phil Hine – Permutations
Phil Hine – Prime Chaos
Peter J. Carroll – Liber Kaos
Peter J. Carroll – Psychonaut
Peter J. Carroll – Liber Null
Peter J. Carroll – The Apophenion
Peter J. Carroll – The Octavo (A Sorcerer – Scientist’s Grimoire)
Peter J. Carroll – Paradigm Shifts and Aeonics
Ray Sherwin – The Book of Results
Ray Sherwin – The Theatre of Magick
Abrasax Magazine (Volume 5, Nr. 2) – Peter J. Carroll Interview
Julian Wilde – Grimoire of Chaos Magick
Lincoln Order of Neuromancers – Apikorsus
Dumitru Constantin Dulcan – Inteligenţa Materiei