“Chaos Magic was first formulated in West Yorkshire, England in the 1970’s. A meeting between Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin in Deptford in 1976 has been claimed as the point of emergence of chaos magic, and in 1978 Carroll and Sherwin founded the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), a chaos magic organization.”
-Source: Wikipedia – 2018
“Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.”
-Hassan I Sabbah
My hope is for these articles to provide insightful information regarding Chaos magic and its history.
I will begin with a general overview, explanation of key concepts and big picture stuff, and then delve into the historical influences and personalities associated with the development of the Chaos magick model. Along the way, we will discuss some terms relevant to today’s magickal world and some examples of how it may be used.
There has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in the esoteric and occult sciences.
What was once the subject of witch burnings, provoking images of the Devil and beheadings is now becoming well received and recognized as a search for the highest self, the search for the truth, whatever that truth may be. I hope to provide relevant historical information, to not only peak your interest in the use of this magickal system but also to put some “magickal” tools in your toolbox.
As we hover over the rabbit hole that is Chaos magic we will acknowledge the genesis of what is now called Chaos magick, as noted in the wiki-brain quote above.
Recognition of Sherwin and Carroll is absolutely necessary.
They unified a great array of science, philosophy and magical arts and many of us are grateful for their ability to effectively create a truly modern system of magick.
We will also have to recognize many others during this journey, including the contributions of Spare, Crowley, Fortune, Jung, among others. We’ll also discuss influences that push the envelope such as Robert Anton Wilson, Grant Morrison, Kelly, and White, to merely tip the iceberg.
To fully appreciate the consolidation of thought underlying Chaos Magick, we will be as the Alchemist performing the great work – Solve et Coagula – we will reduce this subject to its simplest components and build it back up.
Let us begin with a thought.
One of the strongest tools in a Chaotes toolbox is “belief”. (The phrase “Chaote” is a name sometimes adopted by Chaos Magicians.) The strength of this tool will become more evident as we move along. The conception of all things humans have created or will ever create begins with a thought. A connection is made in some grey matter floating around in our skulls and an image appears in the mind’s eye. Even though it may not be something you can touch, taste or feel, the image is real in some sense.
This thought may then become a carving, a tool, a song or nothing at all if it’s just left floating in the aether.
Whenever I see or hear the words MAGIC or THE OCCULT they conjure for me images of the Great Mage of myth Merlin to mind. All powerful, all knowing, yet all human and mortal. The master of his surroundings, in a profound relationship with all of the elements of life and an enemy only to evil.
For others it may summon images of witches swirling around on brooms under a full moon or perhaps stirring huge black cauldrons whilst the familiar black cat hunches menacingly in the corner, leering out of the shadows. For others still, it may be Harry Potter, or perhaps darker, more sinister images are called forth into the mind’s eye. Perhaps it is none of this, or all of it at the same time.
Regardless, it would “appear” as if predetermined thoughts occurred, images outside of our immediate control, similar to the way you might flinch when something jumps at you, catching you off guard. Images emerge, based on thoughts. Where did those thoughts come from? Why do we feel a certain way based on those thoughts? Who really knows. However we come to these “predetermined” conclusions, the one thing we can be sure of is that they’re based on experience and/or other’s influence on our mental landscape. What we do know for certain, is that whatever we believe to be true, is our truth.
As we continue to spiral down the rabbit hole we have to recognize the role of perception, how the mind plays out a scenario for every thought, every picture, every word, feeling, and sound we are exposed to and interact with. Often times we are tricked by our perception. Consider how hearing a certain song can pull you back to another time, another world. Or how a new scent can summon sensations formerly unknown.
Perception creates belief.
Belief creates the perception. “Change how you see and see how things change.” Our ability to manipulate our surroundings both physically and mentally is the magic of life. Recognition of both will help us in painting the wildly charged, eclectic-Octarine tinted picture of the history of chaos.
Chaos Magick is like a giant octopus with tentacles in everything related to the esoteric and is not attached to one particular school of thought.
Magick, according to Crowley, is “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” That statement alone pins Chaos to magick eternally. But that is where it begins and ends. The power of the mind and belief can both create and destroy universes. Through Chaos Magick the initiate is taught to pick and choose beliefs, use them and discard them as necessary to achieve their desired ends. For the Chaos magician belief is a tool. This cannot be overstated and will be repeated throughout these articles.
Chaos is a system based solely on the beliefs(?) will(?) preferences(?) of the operator, their HGA (Holy Guardian Angel), or godform and the subconscious mind.
A system can be as complex or as simple to work with as the operator chooses. Mixing pre-existing forms of mysticism, with psychology and gnosis, the Chaote creates a system for their own particular needs and use. Chaos is a magick system that can be used regardless of whether or not one is familiar with the Kaballah or Solomon’s use of demons to build the Temple, or the mythos of Thoth or any other Dogma or rules associated with the creating change in conformity with will which can be defined as magick.
What initially draws many people to Chaos magic is the potential simplicity of getting started on a magical journey. Perhaps it’s the recognition that many of our favorite musicians, artists, actors and creators of art, in general, are practicing “Chaotes”.
The most basic precepts of Chaos Magick are simple enough; Focused intent and use of belief as a tool.
The creation and use of hypersigils, servitors, shadow work and acknowledgment of the higher self can reveal deeper, more complex aspects of what we deem as our self. Chaos “workings” can involve multiple people and highly complex ceremonial ritual practices or they can be as quick and simple as focusing intent, creating a sigil, “charging” the sigil and then forgetting about it and letting the desired result occur.
My own introduction to Chaos Magick was simple enough, with me not understanding at the time how my life would forever be changed.
I was faced with a difficult personal challenge and at my wit’s end, miserably miserable. I turned to a great friend who also happened to be a practicing Wiccan, who was just beginning to dabble in Chaos and Sigil Creation.
During the 80’s in small town USA if it wasn’t from the church it was from Satan. Spiritual awareness was best left for the pastor, so opportunities to identify and connect with people who shared my interest in esoteric thought were far and few between.
I shared my dilemma with my friend, and that it was both material and emotional in nature.
We discussed his new undertaking. He showed me a few examples of some sigils he hadn’t finished for one reason or another and gave me a little more basic information, as he knew little more than I at that time, and off I went.
I went home and created my first sigil, focusing my thoughts on the desired result, infusing my will into this creation, then I burned the work and walked away.
This led to my unwavering belief in the effectiveness of creating and implementing sigils. Until and unless, of course, I choose to change my mind.
The phrase, “set it and forget it.” resonated as the hook that caught me. This phrase refers to creating a sigil, charging said sigil and then letting the magic do its work. The reason behind forgetting the “working” is to eliminate the possibility of overthinking the process, the desire, the end-result and creating any other energy attachments that could muck up your initial intentions.
The pre-eminent, most important concept of Chaos Magick is Belief.
Belief is the most powerful tool man has. We can imagine, we can desire, we can hope. We do what we believe. We believe what we do.
Hopefully, you have a clearer sense of Chaos Magick at this point.
We will delve into the History of Sigils and the influences of Occult legends Spare, Crowley, Fortune, and others on Chaos Magick in our next installment in this series.
Until then, make it a great day.
Johnny B Fever (Frater Philomath) lives, studies and practices Chaos Magick in Oregon.
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