Chaos Magick

Git ‘ard magick.

Something I Eight?

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…to name but a few. Eight is the number of my true love’s name in the morning (7), when I rise (4). This is naturally a sexist riddle, the answer being ERECTION (8), and may or may not be perceived to have much to do with the matter that follows! Yet hard facts persist, even through anarchy, and some of them are pertinent to the discussion which follows.

That the number EIGHT and Chaos are inextricably entwined is, by any standards, irrefutable. Yet eight goes back so much further, into the very roots of occultism, and is a number worthy of at least a passing glance.

Eight. The Ogdoad. Westcott has this as the first cube of energy (2*2*2) and adds that it is “the only evenly even number within the decad”. In Greek times it was an omnipotent number, referred to the proverb: “All things are eight.” The Greek connection is at least valid in a passing context, with Hesiod being the first known writer to name Chaos and the Mass of Eris in CI 8 (KALLISTI!) could hardly have existed without his significant (if minimal) input.

It was also called the Universal Harmony because of its relationship to the musical scale (DOH, a deer, a female…), which both Mozart and Sol Invictus in their separate ways relied upon. There were eight Cabiri. St Matthew (cap. V) has eight Christian beatitudes, for those who don’t object to a B-attitude. One of the oldest companies of Egyptian Gods, that of Thoth of Hermopolis, consisted of four gods and four goddesses, with the gods being batrachiocephalic and the goddesses being serpent-headed.

The Pentateuch laid down that a male child should be circumcised (i.e. circumscribed for life) when it was eight days old. Stones of eight cubits were to be used for the foundations of Solomon’s temple. Eight tables were provided for the Hebrew slaughter of sacrificial animals. Eight was sacred to Dionysus, who was born in the eighth month. Eight prophet-persons were descended from Rahab the harlot: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Hannemeel, Shallum, Neraiah, Massaiah, Hilkaiah and the prophetess Huldah. The irreverent might be tempted to remark that all these end in a very satisfying AH! Eight souls were saved in Noah’s Ark, and Noah was the eighth in descent. Kabbalistically his name adds to eight times eight.

Theories about numbers can be taken to any lengths, depending upon who’s doing the taking and the bluntness of the axe they intend to grind. The eightfold path of Buddhism is ennobling and uplifting, and it’s only another of the many sets of eight the dedicated occultist will have already discovered.

In the Northern Tradition (my own particular and under-ground axe) Thor’s hall, Bilskirnir, is a prototype skyscraper with 640 (80*8) floors. Valhalla has 640 doors and 960 (8*12) warriors can emerge from each door at once. In the poem Grimnismal Odin doesn’t move for eight nights. When Thor’s hammer is stolen it is hidden eight miles down. To get it back Thor disguises himself as Freya. At the ‘wedding-feast’ which follows, Loki claims Thor hasn’t eaten for eight nights, as Odin’s largest son polishes off eight salmon at a sitting. Eight furnishings and servants are noted in Hel’s palace in the underworld. Odin’s grey mount, Sleipnir, has eight legs. In Lokasenna it is claimed that Loki lived under the earth for eight winters. The three gods which made the first men and woman bestowed eight abilities and faculties upon them.

There are eight runes to an aett in the Common Germanic Futhard, giving eight the strength implied by a full set of anything. In Norse tradition eight is a potent invocatory number, especially for Odin, representing a massive increase of potency over the lesser invocatory number of three.

Another correspondence which must be examined, if we are to do justice to the eight points of the Chaosphere, is the eightfold wheel of Wicca. Now, Wicca is a one of those subjects which immediately raises hands, eyebrows and other parts’ of the anatomy whenever it is mentioned, and a brief examination won’t go entirely amiss.

Witchcraft, unlike Chaos but very like Norse paganism, is a religion which has been principally recorded by christian commentators with their own bias and ideology to impose. Because off this a great deal of the historical material must be regarded as iffy by anyone seeking to establish the actual truth behind it. One factor which immediately links the topics is the respect offered woman. Woman in the north, as far back as Tacitus writing in the first century AD, was venerated and regarded as having a special gift of wisdom and prophecy. The same is true of the witch cult if we read between the lines. But Christianity, with its attitude that man comes into the world between urine and faeces, took every opportunity to deny and denigrate the role of woman, even within its own ranks. This practice continues today, with the nonconformist sects showing a much greater readiness to contemplate woman’s ordination than the established CofE and RC diehards. Thus any cult which acknowledged woman as an equal and legitimate creature was automatically doomed to censure, if not to rabid shrieks of ‘Heresy!’.

The most telling evidence for associating witchcraft with the Northern Tradition comes from the trials and legislation which led to the persecution. Transvection (flying through the air) for witches goes at least as far back as the Norse poem Havamal in around 950. Use of herbs and salves, not to mention inscribed charms, takes us back into runic times. The archetypal familiar, the cat, is sacred to Freya. A dozen or more similarities could be established with ease, possibly boring you rigid and over-killing the point. Much of the so-called witch knowledge was already established and accepted in Anglo-Saxon times, showing up in manuscripts of the period such as the Lacnunga.

The Alexandrian and Gardnerian movements represent the bulk of more obvious witchcraft activity, and are twentieth century offshoots of an ancient tradition going back much further and represented by heredity and traditional schools, both of which are realities in England today. Unlike the latter two they are visible and (heresy coming up) virtually interchangeable, the main differences being:

  1. Alex Sanders was photographed wearing a gold lame posing pouch and Gerald Gardner wasn’t (at least, the piccie hasn’t surfaced yet).
  2. The Alexandrian version of The Law doesn’t prohibit man teaching man, despite the fact that this may cause a fondness between aspirants, and better if it be so. They can, after all, if they want to, make it clear from the outset that they will behave like father and son, or two brothers.

Which hasn’t taken us too far from the point. Both the Allies and the Gardies have been keen in recent years to establish their respectability/credentials, even permitting a degree of cooperation and interpenetration in order to do so, and a variety of eight-spoked wheel diagrams are to be found in the plethora of works about either or both. They typically contain:

FESTIVALS                METHODOLOGY              WEAPONRY
~~~~~~~~~                ~~~~~~~~~~~              ~~~~~~~~
Candlemas                Drugs & Wine             Bread
Vern. Equinox            Dance                    Wand/Staff
Beltane                  Great Rite               Incense
Sum. Solstice            Spells & Rites           Athame/Knife
Lammas                   Scourge                  Wine
Aut. Equinox             Cords                    Chalice/Cup
Samhain                  Meditation               Oil
Win. Solstice            Trance                   Pentacle/Plate

Naturally this is a synthesis and includes (!) omissions. But it serves to give the ignorant and prurient some idea, as well as serving as a mnemonic for the cognoscenti. It’s fascinating to see that some of the entries are currently being played down by the let’s-be-respectable element (Drugs & Wine, Great Rite, Scourge) in contrast to the SExual and Chemognosis of Chaos, almost as if when the torch begins to dim in one set of hands it gets passed along to the people with the bottle of lighter fluid (yum yum).

All this is by way of a preamble to the main reason for this turgid discourse, which is an examination of the number Eight as it pertains to Chaos Magic. Apart from making a pretty natty design to wear on our rings and robes does it have any actual validity or relevance?

Let’s turn our attention to the most important Chaos Magic text to date, Liber Kaos, the Psychonomicon by Peter J. Carroll. We are unable to doubt the authority of the author or his massive contribution to both the foundation of The Pact and the formulation and elucidation of our chosen path of working. Yet on page 38, as a part of the Appendix (I) to Principia Magica, we discover a diagram of the eight-rayed star of Chaos which is actually a representation of five dimensions (I quote “(3 of space)(1 of Ordinary Psuedo Time)(1 of Shadow Time)”.

Now, let’s hold it there for a minute, pard’ner. Is we a-sayin’ that there eight-pointy star’s jus’ some ol’ Pentygram requantumated?

The Urban Cowboy goes off to eat his beans unanswered for the time being enabling us to progress a little further. To page 85, to be precise, where we discover Rituals and Spell Objectives and Designs in Eight Magics, with a Chaos star firmly planted in the centre of the page. This comes (as admitted on page 86) from Terry Pratchett, caught-jester of the Occult fiction world.

Y’see? Y’jus’ can’t take it seriously, pard.

Rather like most Americans, wouldn’t you say? So was it accident that Eight came to be the primary (though not the prime) number of Chaos Magic? Mere whim? After all, the Pentagram (the Witch’s Foot, Goblin’s Cross et al)has, on the surface, a much greater precedent for power than an eight-rayed star, doesn’t it?

Yew bet yore cute li’l pink ass it do.

That’s why it was utilised in the seminal Liber Null in Liber Lux, Liber Nox and Liber AOM, wasn’t it? So what exactly is the rationale behind the Chaos star and the Chaosphere, if the Pentagram would have done just as well? Is it simply an overstated Pentagram, or is there something more?

The question naturally, is rhetorical. Back to Liber AOM for another look at the Chaosphere: “it may be said to variously represent a perspective sculpture of the 4 axes of the geometrically impossible hypercube or the two interpenetrant tetrahedra of the light and dark forces. Such twists of illogic…”

Hit ’em up, moove ’em…

Shut up, Rowdy. go back to the gas pump or on into superstardom.


You’re quite right. It was usually Eric Fleming, playing trail-boss Gil Favor, who uttered that line to usher in the closing credits.

Which isn’t quite where we came in, but will serve to introduce a person reminiscence. When it comes to Chaos I am something of a March Violet. (Ah, the Strangemess of juxtaposed metaphors…) For those who don’t know it the majority of those who actually joined the National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (Nazis for short, for which we’re all grateful) did so after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany early in 1933. They were known as March Violets because they’d waited to see which way the wind of politics was blowing before committing themselves. My first involvement with Chaos cam in the mid-1980’s, once the movement has begun to become established. I read Liber Null, The Book of Results, The Cardinal Rites of Chaos and various other texts, including Julian Wilde’s Grimoires of Chaos Magic. All of these were new, alien, foreign to me, and served to reinforce a concept that I’d discovered for myself some years before, that of STRANGENESS.

Strangeness is what, for the vast majority, gives the occult its initial appeal. It has the potency of a thousand pentagrams and an insidious draw for the individual. Many drug habits have grown out of the desire to explore Strangeness, and the call of the Otherness is what opened up the west for Rowdy and his chums, and the Raj for Major Callaghan, don’t y’know. True, in the last two examples there were also political and financial considerations, but it was the Strangeness which won through for the pioneers and the thin red line.

Today we are bombarded by Strangeness. Those who have yet to enter the electronic age (doubtless reading this by the light of a paraffin lamp) find computers unutterably alien, and discover Strangeness in the way the new technology (sorry, rather passe phrase, that) is chipping away at their privacy. We see strange icons in the street, be they ads and posters or Gothic individuals (OK Justin – Byronic Romanticks!) walking by.

Let’s face it, to a newcomer Chaos Magic is strange. It is as strange as the first time you open a book by Terry Pratchett. It is as strange as that first discovery of the clap one grey and dismal, even if bright and sunny, morning. It is as strange as the pacing of a Stanley Kubrick file or a normal performance by the late Klaus Kindky. But strangeness, which I discovered in my youth, can contain a latent trap which middle age reveals. Once the strange, which is potent, becomes familiar (and familiarity, we are told, breeds contempt) its potency evaporates like surplus fluid in a can of Carnation, leaving you with a sticky, stodgy, unappealing goo.

This again, is a personally-proven discovery. When first strangeness came to me I worked out a full system of magic based on information culled from the works of Clark Ashton Smith. By the time I’d finished I had something workable, but its strangeness and appeal were gone, rendering it not so much useless as indigestible, like certain fungi found on this planet and possibly on Yuggoth as well.

Maybe it was something I ate.

Yet there are systems around which maintain their strangeness, even when it becomes familiar. The dear old runes are one, and Chaos is another, as anyone who’s ever set foot in a Chaos temple and worked a Mass of Chaos A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,Iy ay ay will attest. The paradox of Strangeness is that in order to be effective it must be both overcome and perpetuated. The sexy schoolgirl remains a potent male fantasy because it can only stand still as a generality, passing down through new generations of young flesh. If applied to an actual individual it cannot persist, because they grow up into ex-wives demanding alimony payments.

Take the work of A.O.Spare, without which Liber Null and The Book of Results might have been much longer in the writing. The sigil techniques, and the entire and manifestly personal corpus of Spare’s extant work, rely upon Strangeness, whatever it is actually designated within his own or his commentators’ pages.

And this is where I begin to come to the culmination of my ramblings, with a series of statements that will remain open to discussion (I hope):

  1. Chaos is strange.
  2. This strangeness is an important part of its appeal.
  3. Strangeness normally yields and becomes familiar.
  4. Chaos doesn’t.
  5. Pete Carroll borrowing from Terry Pratchett is as valid as me borrowing from Clark Ashton Smith.
  6. He did it better.
  7. What’s strange about a five-pointed octagram?
  8. Just try constructing an eight-pointed octagram!

Funny, there seem to be eight statements there. It’s never been my favourite number, but it seems to keep obtrucing, no matter how much I dislike it.

In fact, it’s something I hate.

However, we all have to come to terms with things we hate.

Don’t we?

Defining Chaos

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Chaos, according to the `Oxford English Dictionary’ means:

  1. A gaping void, yawning gulf, chasm, or abyss.
  2. The ‘formless void’ of primordial matter, the `great deep’ or ‘abyss’ out of which the cosmos or order of the universe was evolved.

There are a couple of additional definitions, but they are irrelevant to this discussion. When chaos is used in magic, there is no place for confusion or disorder.

Chaos is the creative principle behind all magic. When a magical ritual is performed, regardless of “tradition” or other variables in the elements of the performance, a magical energy is created and put into motion to cause something to happen. In his book, Sorcery as Virtual Mechanics, Stephen Mace cites a scientific precedent for this creative principle:

I quote:

‘To keep it simple, let us confine our example to just two electrons, the point like carriers of negative charge. Let us say they are a part of the solar wind – beta particles, as it were – streaming out from the sun at thousands of miles a second. Say that these two came close enough that their negative charges interact, causing them to repel one another. How do they accomplish this change in momentum?

‘According to quantum electrodynamics, they do it by exchanging a “virtual” photon. One electron spawns it, the other absorbs it, and so do they repel each other. The photon is “virtual” because it cannot be seen by an outside observer, being wholly contained in the interaction. But it is real enough, and the emission and absorption of virtual photons is how the electromagnetic interaction operates.

‘The question which is relevant to our purpose here is where does the photon come from. It does not come out of one electron and lodge in the other, as if it were a bullet fired from one rock into another. The electrons themselves are unchanged, except for their momenta. Rather, the photon is created out of nothing by the strain of the interaction. According to current theory, when the two electrons come close, their waveforms interact, either cancelling out or reinforcing one another. Waveforms are intimately tied to characteristics like electric charge, and we could thus expect the charges on the two electrons to change. But electron charge does not vary; it is always 1.602 x 10(-19) coulombs. Instead, the virtual photons appear out of the vacuum and act to readjust the system. The stress spawns them and by their creation is the stress resolved.’

Austin Spare understood this principle in regard to magical phenomena long before scientists discovered photons or began experiments in the area of chaos science.

Austin Osman Spare – Some History

Austin Spare was born at midnight, Dec. 31st, 1886 in a London suburb called Snow Hill. His father was a London policeman, often on night duty.

Spare showed a natural talent for drawing at an early age, and in 1901 – 1904 left school to serve an apprenticeship in a stained glass works, but continued his education at Art College in Lambeth. In 1904 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. In that year he also exhibited a picture in the Royal Academy for the first time.

In 1905 he published his first book, Earth Inferno. It was primarily meant to be a book of drawings, but included commentaries that showed some of his insights and spiritual leanings. John Singer Sargent hailed him as a genius at age 17. At an unspecified time in his adolescence, Spare was initiated into a witch cult by a sorceress named Mrs. Paterson, whom Spare referred to as his “second mother”. In 1908 he held an exhibition at Bruton Gallery. In 1910 he spent a short time as a member of Crowley’s Argentium Astrum. The association did not last long. Crowley was said to have considered Spare to be a Black Magician. In 1909 Spare began creation of The Book of Pleasure.

In 1912 his reputation was growing rapidly in the art world. In 1913 he published The Book of Pleasure. It is considered to be his most important magical work, and includes detailed instructions for his system of sigilisation and the “death postures” that he is well-known for. In 1914 – 1918 he served as an official war artist. He was posted to Egypt which had a great effect on him. In 1921, he published Focus of Life, another book of drawings with his unique and magical commentaries. In 1921 – 1924 Spare was at the height of his artistic success, then, in 1924 he published the Anathema of Zos, in which he effectively excommunicated himself from his false and trendy artistic “friends” and benefactors. He returned to South London and obscurity to find the freedom to develop his philosophy, art and magic.

In 1947 Spare met Kenneth Grant and became actively involved with other well-known occultists of the period. In 1948 – 1956 he began work on a definitive Grimoire of the Zos Kia Cultus, which is referred to in his various writings. This is unfinished and is being synthesized from Spare’s papers by Kenneth Grant, who inherited all of Spare’s papers. Much of this information was included in Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare by Kenneth Grant, but there are some unpublished works which Grant plans to publish after completion of his Typhonian series.

References for this section are mostly from Christopher Bray’s introduction to The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare (Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and from Excess Spare, which is a compilation by the Temple ov Psychic Youth of photocopied articles about Spare from various sources.

The Magic of Austin Osman Spare

Spare’s art and magic were closely related. It is reputed that there are messages in his drawings about his magical philosophy. One particular picture of Mrs. Paterson has reportedly been seen to move; the eyes opening and closing. Spare is best known for his system of using sigils. Being an artist, he was very visually oriented.

The system basically consists of writing down the desire, preferably in your own magical alphabet, eliminating all repeated letters, then forming a design of the remaining single letters. The sigil must then be charged. There is a variety of specific ways to do this, but the key element is to achieve a state of “vacuity” which can be done through exhaustion, sexual release or several other methods.

This creates a vacuum or “void” much like the condition described in the introduction to this discussion, and it is filled with the energy of the magician. The sigil, being now charged, must be forgotten so that the sub-conscious mind may work on it without the distractions and dissipation of energy that the conscious mind is subject to. Spare recognised that magic comes from the sub-conscious mind of the magician, not some outside “spirits” or “gods”.

Christopher Bray has this to say about Spare’s methods in his introduction to The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare;

‘So in his art and writing, Spare is putting us in the mood; or showing by example what attitude we need to adopt to approach the “angle of departure of consciousness” in order to enter the infinite. What pitch of consciousness we need to gain success.

‘One must beware making dogma, for Spare went to great pains to exclude it as much as possible to achieve success in his magic; however a number of basic assumptions underpin chaos magic.

‘Chaos is the universal potential of creative force, which is constantly engaged in trying to seep through the cracks of our personal and collective realities. It is the power of Evolution/Devolution.

‘Shamanism is innate within every one of us and can be tapped if we qualify by adjusting, our perception/attitude and making our being ready to accept the spontaneous. Achieving Gnosis, or hitting the “angle of departure of consciousness and time”, is a knack rather than a skill.’

There are other methods to utilise the same concept that Spare explains for us. Magicians since Spare have written about their own methods and expansions of his method quite frequently in occult magazines, mostly in Great Britain. Spare is certainly not the first person in history to practise this sort of magic, but he is credited with the first associations to magic, of the word chaos.

Chaos since A.O.S.

Austin Spare died May 15, 1956, but his magic did not die with him. There have been select groups of magicians practising versions of Chaos ever since, especially in Northern England and Germany. In the late l970’s, Ray Sherwin was editor and publisher of a magazine called The New Equinox. Pete Carroll was a regular contributor to the magazine, and together, due to dissatisfaction with the magical scene in Britain at the time, they formed the “Illuminates of Thanateros”. They advertised in New Equinox and a group formed. Part of the intention of the group was to have an Order where degrees expressed attainment rather than authority, and hierarchy beyond just organisational requirements was non-existent.

At some point, about 1986, Ray Sherwin “excommunicated himself” because he felt that the Order was slipping into the power structure that he had intended to avoid with this group, and Pete Carroll became known as the leader of “The Pact”. The IOT continues to survive and was identified as the only international Chaos organisation until early 90’s.

There are smaller groups of Chaos practitioners, as well as individuals practising alone. Chaos since Spare has taken on a life of its own. It will always continue to grow, that is its nature. It was only natural that eventually the world of science would begin to discover the physical principles underlying magic, although the scientists who are making these discoveries still do not realise that this is what they are doing. It is interesting that they have had the wisdom to call it chaos science…

Chaos Science

Modern chaos science began in the 1960’s when a handful of open-minded scientists with an eye for pattern realised that simple mathematical equations fed into a computer could model patterns every bit as irregular and “chaotic” as a waterfall. They were able to apply this to weather patterns, coastlines, and all sorts of natural phenomena. Particular equations would result in pictures resembling specific types of leaves, the possibilities were incredible. Centres and institutes were founded to specialise in “non-linear dynamics” and “complex systems”. Natural phenomena, like the red spot of Jupiter, could now be explained. The common catch-terms that most people have heard by now – strange attractors, fractals, etc, are related to the study of turbulence in nature. There is not room to go into these subjects in depth here, and I recommend that those who are interested in this subject read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick.

What we are concerned with here is how all this relates to magic. Many magicians, especially Chaos Magicians, have begun using the terms, “fractal” and “strange attractor”, in their everyday conversations. Most of those who do this have some understanding of the relationship between magic and this area of science. To put it very simply, a successful magical act causes an apparently acausal result. In studying turbulence, chaos scientists have realised that apparently acausal phenomena in nature are not only the norm, but are measurable by simple mathematical equations. Irregularity is the stuff life is made of. For example, in the study of heartbeat rhythms and brainwave patterns, irregular patterns are measured from normally functioning organs, while steady, regular patterns are a direct symptom of a heart attack about to occur, or an epileptic fit. Referring back again to “virtual” photons, a properly executed magical release of energy creates a “wave form” (visible by Kirlian photography) around the magician causing turbulence in the aetheric space. This turbulence will likely cause a result, preferably as the magician has intended. Once the energy is released, control over the phenomena is out of the magician’s hands, just as once the equation has been fed into the computer, the design follows the path set for it.

The scientists who are working in this area would scoff at this explanation, they have no idea that they are in the process of discovering the physics behind magic. But then, many common place sciences of today, chemistry for example, were once considered to be magic. Understanding this subject requires, besides some reading, a shift in thinking. We are trained from an early age to think in linear terms, but nature and the chaos within it are non-linear, and therefore require non-linear thinking to be understood. This sounds simple, yet it reminds me of a logic class I had in college. We were doing simple Aristotelian syllogisms. All we had to do was to put everyday language into equation form. It sounds simple, and it is. However, it requires non-linear thought process. During that lesson over the space of a week, the class size dropped from 48 to 9 students. The computer programmers were the first to drop out. Those of us who survived that section went on to earn high grades in the class, but more importantly, found that we had achieved a permanent change in our thinking processes. Our lives were changed by that one simple shift of perspective.

Chaos science is still in the process of discovery, yet magicians have been applying its principles for at least as long as they have been writing about magic. Once the principles of this science began to take hold on the thinking process, the magician begins to notice everything from the fractal patterns in smoke rising from a cigarette to the patterns of success and failure in magical workings, which leads to an understanding of why it had succeeded or failed.

Defining Chaos Magic

Chaos is not in itself, a system or philosophy. It is rather an attitude that one applies to one’s magic and philosophy. It is the basis for all magic, as it is the primal creative force. A Chaos Magician learns a variety of techniques, usually as many as s/he can gain access to, but sees beyond the systems and dogmas to the physics behind the magical force and uses whatever methods are appealing to him/herself. Chaos does not come with a specific Grimoire or even a prescribed set of ethics. For this reason, it has been dubbed “left hand path” by some who choose not to understand that which is beyond their own chosen path. There is no set of specific spells that are considered to be “Chaos Magic Spells”. A Chaos Magician will use the same spells as those of other paths, or those of his/her own making. Any and all methods and information are valid, the only requirement is that it works. Mastering the role of the sub-conscious mind in magical operations is the crux of it, and the state called “vacuity” by Austin Osman Spare is the road to that end. Anyone who has participated in a successful ritual has experienced the “high” that this state induces.

An understanding of the scientific principles behind magic does not necessarily require a college degree in physics (although it wouldn’t hurt much, if the linear attitude drilled into the student could be by-passed). Experience in magical results will bring the necessary understanding.

This essay is directed toward the increasing numbers of people who have been asking, “What is Chaos Magic?” It is very basic and by no means intended to be a complete explanation of any of the elements discussed. Many of the principles of magic must be self-discovered. My only intent here is to try to define and pull together the various elements associated with Chaos Magic into an intelligible whole. For those of you who wish to learn more about this subject, I have prepared a suggested reading list, however, I must emphasise that there are always more sources than any one person knows about, so do not limit yourself to this list. Chaos has no limits…

  • The Book of Pleasure, by Austin Osman Spare
  • Anathema of Zos, by Austin Osman Spare
  • A Book of Satyrs, by Austin Osman Spare
  • Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare, by Kenneth Grant
  • The Early Works of A.O.S., Excess Spare and Stations in Time are three collections which are available from TOPY.
  • Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick
  • Turbulent Mirror, by John Briggs & F. David Peat
  • Liber Null & Psychonaut, by Peter J. Carroll
  • Practical Sigil Magick, by Frater U.D.
  • Condensed Chaos, by Phil Hine

For an expansion of the overview expressed in this essay:


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From: utu.potiki[at]sfnet[dot]com
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 93 07:36:52
To: chaos_m[at]tatertot[dot]com

Hello, Chaos Magick Mailing List folks. This is a test transmission, a first step in imminanentizing an electronic eschaton, if you will.

I think that a good place to start would be with one of the most basic concepts of Chaos Magick, and I’ve arbitrarily chosen the state of gnosis. What is it, how does one achieve it, and how does it function in the Great Work of Chaos (aka Choyofaque)?

Gnosis is loosely defined as a break in, or overwhelming of, the parts of the mind involved in rational function, and thus a temporary paralyzation of the psychic censor. There are about as many ways of achieving this “state” as there are people to achieve it; the most readily available, however, are such things as sex, drugs, physical exhaustion, hyperventilation, and spinning (like a dervish or Sufi might do). Basically, any activity that throws the mind into a state of total confusion (think for a moment of the mental breakdown engendered by a powerful orgasm) can be useful in achieving gnosis; my own favourite twist of late has been burial, which I’ve used to great success especially in the charging of a fetish and also a chod-type divination.

As far as how gnosis functions, I think that what’s going on in the Gnbostic State is that, by throwing the mind into such a state of confusion and overwhelming the psychic censor, one literally achieves a sort of union of all opposites. In other words, the boundary that seperates the “inner void” from the “outter” falls away, and the magickian opens hirself to a realm of infiniter variables. Rituals, spells, and the like, simply provide a pre-set delineation of which variables will be manipulated into the desired manifestation; one could think of it as a blueprint for potential.

I’d like to talk more about this and get some other viewpoints on all three of these aspects of the nature and function of gnosis, especially in terms of some of the ways fellow Chaotes are generating it.

Chaos is Freedom; Freedom is Life; Just Do It
Sri Palindrome.151

Systems, metabelief, chaos

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Subject: [AX-Le] Re: Systems, Metabelief, Chaos
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 23:27:40 -0000
From: “Eddie Garou” < E[at]Winternacht[dot]com >
To: autonomatrix

— In autonomatrix@y…, Scott Frost wrote:

<< The “system” is true/real, the specifics are adjustable. Truths exist; afterall nothing is true, everything is permitted. >>

But think about that for a moment. Truths exist and nothing is true.

From a magickal/philosophical standpoint, this is indeed the case. But we’re dealing with the human mind here. The human mind does not deal well with contradiction. This has been demonstrated over and over again. As much as we like to pride ourselves as Chaotes that we are able to deal with contradiction, the mind still needs to find a way to resolve them, even on a subconscious level.

Think about the way Chaotes think. We train ourselves and our minds to drop whatever it was we believed in and embrace “Nothing is True. All is permitted”. Then, working with the mechanics of meta-belief, we have to train ourselves to embrace a different paradigm. However, we already believe that “Nothing is true”. So now the mind, on a subconscious level, needs to make a decision: Is this system true and “Nothing is true” false? Or is the system false and “Nothing is true” true?

I believe that this mental contradiction can act as a very potent barrier in trying to work the mechanics of meta-belief. The term “Nothing is True” can be a very nasty demon lurking around in the mind and nullifying whatever paradigm we might choose to work with.

I’ve actually observed this problem on a number of occasions and have compared this problem with magickal systems in which the participants had no “seed of doubt” or “Nothing is True” contradiction.

Looking at Santaria, I’ve seen their practitioners produce amazing results. The results are consistent, reliable and generally replicable. Those who practice their path have no doubt in what they believe in. Their belief is absolute, complete and without exception.

But I’ve also seen people who operate from the “Nothing is True” perspective try to replicate the effects of Santaria through the identical practices. Their results have been poor at best.

So why is there a difference? If we’re working from a Chaos perspective, then we certainly can’t claim that it’s due to one group being properly initiated into Santaria and the other group not. “Nothing is True”, so initiation shouldn’t matter. The same Gnosis is being generated in both cases. The rituals and symbols are also the same, so it can’t be technique. Therefore, I would only conclude that it is probably due to mental acceptance of the paradigm.

Now I’m certainly not saying that we should abandon the idea behind “Nothing is True. All is Permitted”. I just think that we need to be a little more savvy about how we present this to ourselves to maximize our use of meta-beliefs.

Just my own thoughts on the subject. :-)


Chaos vs. Thelema

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Inspired, no doubt foolishly, by a new moon and the Cramps’ Psychedelic Jungle”, I have decided to enter the Thelema vs Chaos debate. This is of course an impossible task, which is no doubt why it appeals to me.

Firstly, what is it that distinguishes Thelma from Chaos? In Starfire, Mick Staley attempts to distinguish Thelema from Crowleyanity. Thelema he suggested pre-existed Crowley`s formulation of it. This immediately causes problems, since for the majority of magicians, Crowley = Thelema. But if it can be accepted that there is a something which exists independently of Crowley`s writings, then it must be this something (Thelema) which is to be contrasted with Chaos Magick. The core of this something, I suggest, is the Will. Is this idea of the Will in any way opposed to Chaos?

What is Chaos then?

For the purposes of this argument I will interpret Chaos as follows: that the familiar world of everyday experience has its roots in Chaos. So that any attempt to understand the world via reason reaches a boundary, on the other side of which lies Chaos, a state of existence/non-existence which cannot be understood by the rational ego. However, through the techniques of ritual, that state can be manifest in the everyday world, suspending the accepted “laws” of common sense and allowing magick to occur. Furthermore, perhaps as a result of the practice Chaos magick, the idea of Chaos is slowly entering the popular imagination via science. This refutes classical science, which is based on the belief that if the structure of the physical world could be sufficiently precisely modelled in a mathematical form, it would be possible to predict the future state of various systems (wheather, for example) which make up the physical world.

However, it is now grudgingly admitted that this would require a precision of measurement which it is impossible to achieve. Engineers have long since had to accept this uncertainty – that all measurement is limited by the accuracy of the measuring device. Absolute precision is an impossible goal. There is always a degree of uncertainty, an instability, and by focusing the Will upon this either/or region, the magician can exert an influence upon the world at this level, which when it occurs, can produce the Willed outcome.

To the extent that Chaos is a form of magick, ie. it seeks to exert an influence upon the world of erveryday consciousness, it must involve the Will. Otherwise it would be closer to a form of mysticism, that is the attempt to “go with the flow” of the experienced world without seeking to influence the direction of that flow. In this form, Chaos is closer to a “higher form of order”, that is that the apparent random or chance events of one`s experience of existence are in fact the result of some greater existence than that of the individual. And that by disengaging the desires of the ego-self, one can experience this greater existence, interpreting the obstacles and blows of everyday existence as a stimulus to the development of a “Stoic” consciousness, which will enable the self to eventually swimm freely as a fish in the river of the Tao, or Chaos.

The idea which this is based on tends to be that of the hermit, the forest sage of Hinduism, the solitary adept of High Magick. No doubt if it was possible in this present age, one could experience such an existence if one could remove the self from the rest of human existence. But such a model is no longer valid, since the growth of human consciousness is such that there is no virgin wilderness left in which to undertake such a quest. We are forced to contend with the results of the human desire for knowledge, power, control and security.

This is perhaps the crucial difference between Chaos magick and Thelema. Thelema, as developed by Crowley into a form suitable for the 20th century, contains a whole heritage of experience and practice which reaches back through the Golden Dawn through hermeticism to Egypt and Sumeria, which in turn drew on the beliefs of our nameless ancestors who struggled to create models of the world, cosmologies and creation myths within which to make sense of their being in the world.

Crowley’s task, as had been of Mathers and Eliphas Levi before him, was to synthesize this vast body of conscious/unconscious knowledge and represent it in a way understandable by at least a few of his contemporaries. Partly it is a question of language. Unfortunately the language of magick was limited by the dominance of Judeao-Christianity on the one hand and Reason on the other. Our everyday language derives from our perception of a world made up of distinguishable objects, and on the faculty of sight primarily. But as soon as we move into the more subjective sphere of magick, problems arise. To what extent do we share the same magickal reality and use words such as “the Will” in the same way? The problem is not confined to magick. For a time I worked in quality control at London Rubber. Periodically I had to compare my work with others to make sure we were all applying the same so that I was not rejecting condoms that another person was passing. In science the theory is that one person`s work is critically examined by their peer group. The difficulty is that as soon as creativity enters the picture, it will tend to disrupt this process. The test of any form of magick should be “does it work?”. But how can that be judged, since the results of a ritual may not become apparent for some time. In the early eighties, much work was done to halt the expansion of nuclear weaponry. But it is only now, as profound changes occur in Eastern Europe, that this can be judged a success. And the changes may yet be lost by a failure of imagination and the difficulty of challenging the parasitic military-industrial complexes of both East and West.

Thelema may be saddled with the archaic terminology inherited via Crowley from the Golden Dawn, but at its heart lies a crucial bullshit detector. I have found that the question “what is your Will?” directed at any group or individual who claims to be desiring change is a very effective challenge. What is unsettling, however, is the discovery that in most cases it evokes only silence, or at best a string of evasions.

This I feel is the most damaging criticism of Thelema, that it has failed to cross over from magick into the diverse pool of “alternative” beliefs which seek to reshape society. This is hardly a question of mere academic interest, as Green issues emerge and look set to dominate the next decade, the “spiritual”, that is neo-pagan, belief structures which infest Green consciousness are also going to exert a growing influence. We may yet discover that the future, as the Dead Kennedy predicted, will be “California ber Alles”.

Can Chaos magick then succeed where Thelema has not (yet)? I doubt it, since the reaction to both by the average alternative type (let alone Joe Normal) is that it is “too dark”. The very word “Chaos” tends to get tagged with “anarchy” and evoke nightmare visions of mad-axemen running wild in the street. Of course, for some this may be its very appeal, anything so bad must be good…

No, somehow we have to achieve the Sysphean task of applying the notion of Will like Occam`s razor to the fast mulitiplying dualistic entities of New Age (un)awareness. In practical terms I understand this to mean directing our Wills at and with the growing Green movement, so that rather than disappearing into a fog of “good intentions”, it becomes a real and willed critique of consumer culture. Just as Marxism failed to achieve its desires, since the working class had already been “mobilizised” by the capitalists, so magick fails since the energies of the mass unconscious have already been tapped by advertising, via the mass media.

The energy tending towards change of consciousness (evolution) has been subverted by consumer culture into the desire to possess an unending stream of glass beads and cheap cottons, or in our case, microwave ovens and mink belly-button brushes. The whole thrust of advertising is to bypass our logic circuits and touch directly our desire for status and security. We don`t just buy the product, we buy the dream, maya the illusion of success. It is, however much we may protest, a form of magick. I may be an impoverished squatter in a third world shanty town, but if I can buy a bottle of Coke, I believe I possess the whole dream of the richest American millionaire. I may be a Trabant owning East German, but by crossing the (former) abyss of the Wall I become a potential Porsche possessor.

But if you look at those already possess such dreams, what do you find? That it is, as in California, these same people who turn to the most ridiculous New Age bullshit in order to satisfy their craving for something more, for something to fill up the endless aching void they feel scratching and gnawing like some Charles Manson nightmare outside the walls of their Beverly Hills mansions.

But of course, the last thing they want to hear is “the truth”. Better to create a multi-billion dollar New Age industry than accept that within the richest mansions lies the reality of Chaos, of that Void which spins around itself the veils of maya, the dance of illusion, in which one is equally a starving beggar and a voluptuous moviestar. “What is your Will?”.

Of course I am somewhat prejudiced for all I used to sing along with Bowie on Ziggy Stardust (I could make it all worthwhile as a rock n roll star) I chose magick as a path. Through experiences both beautiful and terrifying I have come to understand the human condition as but one aspect of a continuum of consciousness. For me, the whole universe is a living entity which I interact with in the fleeting streams of energies which inspire my awareness. Both rationally and poetically I perceive my brain, my body as part of the very substance of the universe and not distinguishable from it (ie NUIT). For me, the human condition is part tragedy, part farce. We are semi-intelligent apes who have been driven by fleeting glimpses of what might be, to create this world, our reality. But in our ignorance, we mistake the glimpse for the whole, the ego for the self. We strive for “order” and create a chaos, and then recognize in chaos a “higher form of order”.

“Knowledge is power, power is control, control is security”. Oh yeah? But knowledge is also pleasure, a pleasure more intense than any created by security. Security is sterility, sterility is death. We pay lip service to evolution, but cannot accept that evolution implies change, and change denise security. What do we will?

If our will is security, stability, then that we shall have, as so many fossils. To embrace Chaos (Thelema) is to renounce such false gods and accept that our actions as magicians will change not only ourselves, but our world. Insofar as both Chaos and Thelema are valid paths, thus far will they change us. To cling to an identity, however pleasing or fulfilling, is a denial of magick. Magick is about change, the only constant factor in the unfolding of the implicate order/chaos of the universe.

Along with Thelema and Chaos, I also practise the magick of Maat. To the Egyptians Maat was the “right order of the universe”. The contrast is between the familiar Hindu concept of “karma”, which deals with our human existence and the less familiar concept of “rta” which deals with our aspects as forms of (universal) consciousness.

Magick diverged from science some 300 years ago. Science sought to discover “the hand of god” in the natural world; magick sought to become the equal of the gods. Now we witness the overlapping of these paths. We are no longer the creations of some distant god, but the natural products of the universe. We have “evolved” out of a handful of organic chemicals. Now we have the ability, through the replication of DNA to evolve ourselves. We have, literally, the powers of a god. What we lack, and what magick must seek to provide, is the intelligence to use (or refuse) such power. The way to achieve this is to ask the question: “what is our will?” Are our genes our motivating force, or is there something else which I call “consciousness”? This consciousness I hold to be implicit in the structure of the universe, and has been revealed as such by quantum physics, however difficult such a realisation may be for us. It may be unprovable/undeniable, and therefore unscientific, but I suggest that our so-called consciousness is a quantum phenomena.

This is what Crowley experienced as the interplay of Nuit and Hadit in the Book of the Law. It is also the root of Chaos. So that Thelema and Chaos are but different aspects of a single (multiple) experience, expressed in languages appropriate to their different times and ambiances.

Alone I cannot fully express the complexity of these possibilities, and yet we must each try to do so. Only by placing them at the heart of our experience of being in the world, can we hope to create a society which will survive rather than perish under its unconscious contradictions. As yet we are but “naked apes”, but we are apes with sufficiently complex brains to at least glimpse the possibility of being more than we are and become “homo veritas”, that is truly human at last.

As we are, we cannot fully know this to be true, only with our imagination can we glimpse the potential implied. It is my Will to bring this about, this is why I write these words, that they have touch and stimulate whoever may read them. So mote it be.

On rereading the above, I feel the need to expand the argument somewhat. Having bashed my way through an anthropological essay on nationality and the state, it struck me that recent events in Eastern Eurpe have many consequences. The whole point of the “iron curtain”, was to allow East to develop its alternative economic system, as spelt out by Marx. What is happening now is the incorporation of that economic system into a global economy, which implies the failure of Marxism. This failure leaves a power vacuum. The majority of critiques of the Western power structure have come from Marxism. But if it is now seen to have failed, the possibility exists for a more powerful critique to arise.

Where will we find this critique – in magick. Of course this requires magicians to adopt a more rigorous intellectual approach to their beliefs, but surely that is what Chaos/Thelema argument is about, with each side arguing that the other is deceiving itself as regards the “true” form of magick. What I am suggesting is that magicians start to take magic seriously as “energy directed (willed) towards change”. Rather than as an escapist belief system parasitic upon the economic success of capitalism. To practise magick we must surely believe that we inhabit a magical, rather than a strictly economic universe. How much more effective would our magick be then if we could replace the belief system of economic society with that of a society rooted in a magickal conception of reality.

Such is the apple with which I tempt you – do you dare taste the forbidden fruit ?

Alistair Livingstone

I do know him personally and am glad to meet him again in summer. A. Livingstone is a pseudonym of Ramsey Dukes (which is a pseudonym too :-)). He is member of the OTO and made a lot of Chaos working & theory. He wrote some very genuine books about magic (Liber SGDSMEE, Thunderqueak), is now concerned with KI (Words Made Flesh). You can contact him via:
T.M.T.S., Wharf Mill, Winchester, Hants, SO23 9NJ, England

With fractalic greetings and laughter * Fra.: Apfelmann *

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