Chaos magic

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The chaos star is a popular symbol of chaos magic. Many variants exist. For more, see Symbol of Chaos.

Chaos magic is a form of magic which was first formulated in West Yorkshire, England, in the 1970s.[1] Through a variety of techniques often reminiscent of Western ceremonial magic or neoshamanism, many practitioners believe they can change both their subjective experience and objective reality, though some chaos magicians dispute that magic occurs through paranormal means.

Although there are a few techniques unique to chaos magic (such as some forms of sigil magic), chaos magic is often highly individualistic and borrows liberally from other belief systems, due to chaos magic having a central belief that belief is a tool. Some common sources of inspiration include such diverse areas as science fiction, scientific theories, ceremonial magic, shamanism, Eastern philosophy, world religions, and individual experimentation. Despite tremendous individual variation, chaos magicians often work with chaotic and humorous paradigms, such as the worship of Hundun from Taoism or Eris from Discordianism.

History

Artist and mystic Austin Osman Spare was briefly a member of Aleister Crowley's Argenteum Astrum but later broke with them to work independently.[2] Much of his theory and practice would eventually form chaos magic. Specifically, Spare developed the use of sigils and the use of gnosis to empower these. Most basic sigil work recapitulates Spare's technique, including the construction of a phrase detailing the magical intent, the elimination of duplicate letters, and the artistic recombination of the remaining letters to form the sigil. Although Spare died before chaos magic emerged, many consider him to be the father of chaos magic because of his repudiation of traditional magical systems in favor of a technique based on gnosis.

Following Spare's death, magicians continue to experiment outside of traditional magical orders. In addition to Spare's work, this experimentation was the result of many factors, including the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s, the wide publication of information on magic by magicians such as Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie, the influence of Discordianism and Robert Anton Wilson, and the popularizing of magic by Wicca.

A meeting between Peter Carroll and Ray Sherwin in Deptford in 1976 has been claimed as the birthplace of chaos magic, [3] and in 1978 Carroll and Sherwin founded the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT),[1] a chaos magic organization. Liber Null (1978) by Peter J. Carroll further developed this new, experimental perspective on magic, now known as chaos magic. This book and Carroll's Psychonaut (1981) remain important sources. However, chaos magic in general is among the least organized branches of magic.

Terms and practices within chaos magic

The gnostic state

A concept introduced by Carroll is the gnostic state, also referred to as gnosis. This is defined as a special state of consciousness that in his magic theory is what is necessary for working most forms of magic.[4] This is a departure from older concepts which described energies, spirits or symbolic acts as the source of magical powers. The concept has an ancestor in the Buddhist concept of Samadhi, made popular in western occultism by Aleister Crowley and further explored by Austin Osman Spare.

The gnostic state is achieved when a person's mind is focused on only one point, thought, or goal and all other thoughts are thrust out. Users of chaos magic each develop their own ways of reaching this state. All such methods hinge on the belief that a simple thought or direction experienced during the gnostic state and then forgotten quickly afterwards is sent to the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind, where it can be enacted through means unknown to the conscious mind.

Magical paradigm shifting

Perhaps the most striking feature of chaos magic is the concept of the magical paradigm shift. Borrowing a term from philosopher Thomas Samuel Kuhn, Carroll made the technique of arbitrarily changing one's world view (or paradigm) of magic, a major concept of chaos magic.[4] An example of a magical paradigm shift is doing a Lovecraftian rite, followed by using a technique from an Edred Thorsson book in the following ritual. These two magical paradigms are very different, but while the individual is using one, he believes in it fully to the extent of ignoring all other (often contradictory) ones. The shifting of magical paradigms has since found its way into the magical work of practitioners of many other magical traditions, but chaos magic remains the field where it is most developed. Changing belief systems at will is also sometimes practiced by followers of Discordianism.

One of the most frequently cited tenets of Chaos magic is that "Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted," a quote attributed to Hassan-i Sabbah and used by Friedrich Nietzsche in his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Like Crowley's "'Do what thou wilt' shall be the whole of the law," this phrase is often mistakenly interpreted in its most literal sense to mean that there is no such thing as objective truth, so people are free to do whatever they choose. However, "Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted" is more widely interpreted to mean "there is no such thing as an objective truth outside of our perception; therefore, all things are true and possible."

The idea is that belief is a tool that can be applied at will rather than unconsciously.[5][6] Some chaos magicians think that trying unusual, and often bizarre beliefs is in itself an experience worth having and consider flexibility of belief a form of power or freedom in a cybernetic sense of the word. Other chaos magicians suggest that we don't need any "belief" to work magic. [7]

The idea that belief is fluid is also popular among adherents of Discordianism.

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Condensed Chaos, 1995. Phil Hine, ISBN 1-56184-117-X.
  2. ^ Knowles, George. Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956)
  3. ^ Lancaster University Pagan Society. Chaos Magic: A brief introduction by Jez
  4. ^ a b Liber Null & Psychonaut, 1987. Peter Carroll, ISBN 0-87728-639-6
  5. ^ The Book of Results, 1978. Ray Sherwin, ISBN 1-4116-2558-7
  6. ^ Liber Kaos, 1992. Peter Carroll, ISBN 0-87728-742-2
  7. ^ Pop Magic! Grant Morrison from The Book of Lies, edited by Richard Metzger ISBN 0-9713942-7-X

Notable published authors on chaos magic

See also

Further reading

External links