Illuminates of Thanateros
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The Sigil of Chaos the symbol of the Illuminates of Thanateros
|Purpose||Chaos magic society|
|Australia, Austria, Brazil, British Isles, Bulgaria, Germany, North America, South America, Switzerland|
|Peter J. Carroll|
|Part of a series on|
The Illuminates of Thanateros (pronounced ĭ-'lū-mə-,nĭts ŭv ,thăn-ə-'târ-ōs) is an international magical organization that focuses on practical group work in chaos magic. The idea was first announced in 1978, while the order proper was formed in 1987. This fraternal magical society has been an important influence on some forms of modern occultism.
The name "Thanateros" is a combination of the names "Thanatos" and "Eros"— the Greek gods of death and sex, respectively. The idea is that sex and death represent the positive and negative methods of attaining "magical consciousness". The word "Illuminates" is used in accordance with the claimed tradition of calling such societies — in which those who have mastered the secrets of magic help bring others to mastership — "the Illuminati".
Its formal name is The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros, which is usually shortened to "the Pact".
In the late 1970s, Ray Sherwin and Peter Carroll, two young British occultists with a strong interest in ritual magic, began to publish a magazine called The New Equinox. Both were connected with a burgeoning occult scene developing around a metaphysical bookshop in London's East End called The Phoenix. Both men quickly became dissatisfied with the state of the magical arts and the deficiencies they saw in the available occult groups. So in 1978 they published a small announcement in their magazine proclaiming the creation of a new kind of magical order, one based on a hierarchy of magical ability rather than invitation, a magical meritocracy. They described it as a "spiritual heir" to the Zos Kia Cultus and a "fusion of Thelemic Magick, Tantra, The Sorceries of Zos and Tao".
Carroll and Sherwin began to publish private monographs detailing their system of magical practice, some of which had been articles in The New Equinox, others intended as instruction to members of their order. The new style of magic they introduced, focusing on practical skills as opposed to metaphysical systems, became known as chaos magic. In the 1980s they began to attract a following in England, Germany, and Austria, including influential occult writers and practitioners.
In 1980, Peter Carroll and Frater Vegtan formed The Church of Chaos in Sydney, Australia. It was, in style, what the IOT would become. The group was active for six months. In 1984 The Circle of Chaos was formed, but began to fragment after three years. In 1986 Carroll and Ralph Tegtmeier (Frater U∴D∴) jointly ran a public seminar, some time after which there was made a decision to form a new magical order. The formation of The Pact was announced in August 1987.
In late 1980s, Sherwin resigned in protest that the IOT was beginning to resemble the hierarchical orders that were once anathema to the concept of the group.
The Ice Magick Wars
In the early 1990s the order experienced a schism as a result of conflicts about the doctrine of 'ice magick', a major proponent of which was Ralph Tegtmeier. A German IoT member named Helmut Barthel created the doctrine of 'ice magick', which is related to the myth that Germanic people originated in the icy land of Thule (a name that has historicly been applied to multiple places, which have been conflated together). Ice magick is called 'eismagie' in its original German form. According to the doctrine of ice magick, only people of Scandinavian and/or Germanic descent possess the ancient dormant genes that allow a person to use ice magick. Ice magick is based upon qi gong, psionics, and martial arts. It is called 'ice magick' because it also involves imagining large amounts of ice, and drawing power from that imagined ice. The ice magick training regimen that Helmut imposed was exceptionally difficult.
Ralph Tegtmeier (Frater U∴D∴) was an enthusiastic supporter of ice magick and Helmut, and the authoritarian policies that Helmut promoted, and Ralph thus made himself Helmut's top lieutenant. Helmut and Ralph promoted that doctrine in Germany, and recruited many members who adhered to it.
Eventually, Peter Carroll learned more about the doctrines that Ralph was teaching, and criticized him for it. That led to an untenable conflict between Peter and Ralph, which culminated in Ralph and all of his followers seceding from the IoT. The vast majority of German and Swiss members left the order, which constituted about 30% of the order's total membership. Ralph Tegtmeier and a few others were subsequently excommunicated.
After publishing Liber Kaos, Carroll retired from active participation in the order, though he remains on good terms with many of the longstanding members.
The order organizes itself along the somewhat "traditional" lines of a fraternal occult order, with initiations into progressive degrees denoting magickal skill, administrative responsibility and leadership within the group. It is notable that unlike other occult societies with a degree system, the order rewards progression in degree with hardly any privileges, but "punishes" it with added duties and responsibilities.
Members are obliged to keep silent on internal affairs and the identities of their fellows. The latter rule does not seem to apply to deceased persons, as it is not a secret William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and Robert Anton Wilson have been members.
Relation to the occult subculture
Magic will not free itself from occultism until we have strangled the last astrologer with the guts of the last spiritual master.— Pete Carroll
Chaos magicians have frequently reacted to more traditional, religious or occult approaches to magic with scorn or derision. This applies in particular to the IOT, which has been described by Phil Hine as "the Order for 'serious' Chaos Magicians in the same way that the OTO exists for 'serious' Thelemites." The judgment that occultism is rife with superstitions and needs to be reformed or replaced by a bolder and more critical approach to magic has been prominent in programmatic texts from early on. Still the IOT is commonly understood by outsiders to be an occult or neoshamanic organization.
The group has a comparatively difficult application procedure and appears to reject a great majority of applicants. However, chaos magic has long spread beyond the IOT as evidenced by the large community of practitioners throughout the world. IOT members such as Ramsey Dukes, Dave Lee, Julian Vayne, and many others continue to produce a large part of the literature available as regards chaos magic. Other sources of chaos magic literature include Kenneth Grant and Jaq D. Hawkins.
The presence of hierarchy in the IOT has been the cause of a lot of dispute around it in the chaos magic scene. Opposers think the concept is un-chaotic and limiting to individual members, while defenders believe the tradeoff in chaoism allows for much more effective group work, especially on an international scale.
- Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of The Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 240. ISBN 1-56718-336-0.
- The New Equinox, 1978
- Chapman, Alan; Barford, Duncan (2009). The Blood of the Saints. Heptarchia Press. pp. 284–285. ISBN 0-9563321-0-2.
- Peter J. Carroll ("Stokastikos"). "The Ice War". Chaos International 23. Missing or empty
- Mayer, Gerhard (2008). Arkane Welten: Biografien, Erfahrungen und Praktiken zeitgenössischer Magier. Ergon Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89913-618-0
- Carroll, Peter J. (Dec 16, 2010). "Message 0". Archived from the original on 2012-07-14.
- Grant, Douglas. Magick and Photography, Douglas Grant, Ashé Journal 2(3 Magick and Photography in Ashé: Journal of Experimental Spirituality, vol. 2, no. 3
- Fäustchen, Frater. "Für und wider Magie und Liber MMM" in Shekinah no. 1. ISBN 978-3-939459-11-8.
- Carroll, Peter. Psybermagick, p. 46
- Hine, Phil. Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-117-X
- Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 1-56718-336-0
- Gallagher, Eugene V, Ashcraft, W Michael (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98712-4
- Jaq D. Hawkins: Understanding Chaos Magic. Cappall Bann Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1898307 938