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Phaedra

Thoughts on "chaos magic"

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"Nothing is true; everything is permitted."

Disclaimer: Everything below is entirely my opinion.

 

And with that out of the way, I'm going to go full speed ahead into a topic that I've found to be of little discussion around here. Maybe it's for a distinctive reason, and maybe it's just due to the general population of Tradwitch not feeling the inclination to expound on the topic, but I've got idle hands, an active mind, and far too many ounces of espresso kicking around in me. So without further ado, I'm going to spill my own ideas of this quirky subject here---take from it what you will.

 

It's usually called Chaos Magick, when it's called anything at all. I call it no-frills bullshittery, witching without the woo, practically practical magic and, when I'm feeling particularly suit-and-tie about it, Postmodern Traditional Witchcraft. No matter what you want to call it, the jist of it can be condensed into the quote I dropped above: Nothing is true; everything is permitted. It is an aggressively non-dogmatic approach to magic which forever seeks to separate the technically worthless elements of magical workings from the nuggets of value. What is "technically worthless" under the lens of Chaos Magic is any component of a deliberate magical act which does not contribute to the desired result being made manifest. Another core feature is the notion of belief as a tool. Like a cauldron or a knife or a poppet riddled with pins and needles, one's belief in anything as a source of power for them to tap into is a tool to be used for making their magic happen. This ties into what has been said of the Four Powers in another thread, particularly in regards to the Power to Know---it applies this Power in an extreme and highly utilitarian way.

 

Belief as a Tool

Nothing is true: this is the underpinning notion. Gods aren't objectively real, and neither are spirits, faeries, demons, the ghost of great grandma, or any other configuration of similar entity. They are not to be accepted as objectively real because there is no manner of proof, and Chaos Magic is all about the empirical validation. While the gods probably don't exist in their own independent right, it is generally agreed on within this tradition that the belief in their existence is of benefit to the practitioner. Thus enters the use of paradigms. A paradigm is a model or a cognitive framework. All spiritual traditions operate under their own paradigm, and one trait of the Chaos Magician (sometimes called Chaotes) is the flexibility to pick up and put away paradigms at will, as it serves them and pleases them to do so. It is not to be confused with the spiritual drifters who go from one faith to another in their searching or exploration, though I'm sure many a Chaote has been mistaken as such. It is a deliberate and purpose-driven immersion into a chosen belief or belief system with an end goal clearly in mind. 

 

Nothing is sacred unless one believes that it is sacred. Nothing has power or value unless one perceives that it does. From ghost to God to egregore to archetype, all things are empty and devoid of inherent meaning or virtue, and it is the practitioner who puts value on loan to these things for their own designs. The key is to shape the narrative, and not to let the narrative shape you. So, you found what accumulated to be a big wad of cash while you were cleaning house last week and attributed it to your household's faeries because for a week before the cleaning took place, you set out milk and cookies for the wee ones and hung a few colorful fairy jars up around the property. You got what you wanted, so it's cool to take those jars down and repurpose them for anything else if you want and to flush that milk right down the commode, and it's also cool to feel no real inclination to "pay the faeries back" for the services rendered. They're not really real, anyway, says the Chaote who has subsequently dropped faeries out of their worldview in the interim. Believing in them served a purpose, and the Chaote is beholden to no dogma that would advise them to treat the fey in any particular way that they don't themselves find meaningful. 

 

To me, this is the heart of Chaos Magic, and maybe the only real thing that can be said concerning the tradition--a term that I use loosely here, but use nonetheless. It is often bogged down by discussion about sigil magic which is highly endorsed by a few of its most public and foundational practitioners, and many come to Chaos Magic from a ceremonial magician background, not a folk or traditional witchcraft one, and so they have left their own particular imprint on the social sphere of it. 

Edited by Phaedra

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Choas Magick only uses half the quote of Hassan I Sabbah the rest of it is: Everything is real, Nothing is permitted. Thus I am not sure how much Chaote's understand the meaning of the quote or Hassan the 2nd who announced the end of Islamic  law and the resurrection of the dead. Having said that, I do find some techniques they use to be helpful, like the Mind Wipe technique. They use sigil's in the same manner as Ceremonial Magicians do, and besides the use any system you wish then discard it, it's not all that different than Ceremonial Magicians. Most of them do come from a Ceremonial background and usually have a link to Crowley in one way or another and I think that is key. Crowley paved the way for Magick to be whatever people want it to be within his own philosophy of absolute individualism and have nothing higher than your own being. If you read the Book of the Law and his other "inspired writings" you can easily see were Choas Magick gets a lot of its ideas. 

 

In some ways it's a natural progression of Magick in an age that suggests that the universe is a holographic image.We live in an era were religions are as trendy as the latest fashion but no longer speak to the majority of people as they ounce did.  I have met a few Chaote's and they seem like nice people, if it works for them so be it. My critique is they claim to be a non-dogmatic form of practice but they all hold certain dogmatic views, again, not too different than there ceremonial roots. One being elitism, both Choas and Ceremonial due to the teachings hold a certain amount of elitism that I find a turn off. 

 

The idea of proof then become one that is tricky. isn't experience proof on some level? At the same time these ideas can be traced back to Eliphas Levi in that everything is an allegory on some level. 

 

Some Chaote's will use systems from books such as H.P.Lovecraft, this has always interested me. 

 

Overall, I think they have some neat ideas, some techniques that anyone can employ but overall how much are they getting out of the system? If your constantly swapping systems out how effective are the results? That's the thing, the majority of them don't have much luck in magick because they don't stick to it long enough to get real results, a critique of more traditional ceremonial magicians have. Even if you make up your own system (not a bad idea) if you don't stick with it how do you know what else you can get out of it. There just doesn't seem to be a long term idea in Choas Magick, it's more like they want a quick result and then that's it. Can you ever leave the Kingdom and get to the Crown if you never stick to a path? 

 

These are just my opinions, and my own observations. 

Edited by Ozman

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I've found it very helpful to keep this form of the Craft mentally separate from the practitioners of it (as well as the stereotypes easily applied to them). The system of magical thought can carry a Crowleyesque flavor about it, and this is only emphasized by the online community which tends towards those currents in their works. It can just as easily be carried out in an entirely folk-style form, and also take the shape of something very different from either of these (high and low, if you use those words) should the practitioner flow in a manner less apparently influenced by preexisting systems. Rather than the Chaos Magic current being inherently ceremonial and Crowley-spirited, I'd sooner say that it's just those particular voices which are the loudest, and also the ones most likely to claim the labels of "Chaos Magic".

 

To denounce dogma is a worthy and beneficial cause; to actually succeed and break free from dogma in daily thought and practice, however, can very easily be a lifetime's work for even the most diligent, so I would hesitate to cry hypocrite when an individual or a community fails to deliver on it. In the case of individuals who simply do not try to walk the talk, and only use it as a badge to flaunt, I wouldn't consider them legitimate practitioners of the given Path any more than I'd accept anyone else who only claims the title and not the traits that come with it. The elitism in the vocal and sharing portions of the community is real--that's what happens when kids get a hold of something that they aren't emotionally mature enough to work with without projecting onto others a perceived lack for not running with the same ideas, and its the same risk that runs in any magical or spiritual tradition. 

 

As for the efficiency of results with such a pick-up-and-dump system, I've conversely heard mostly positive reviews---but it ties into the nature of belief, again. If one believes that digging deeply into a given Path will get them where they want to be, and they proceed to dig deep and root themselves, they will probably get what they are looking for. If a Chaote believes that they can get what they want and derive the same rich experience from playing with paradigms, and utilize them like tools just as diligently as the more traditional practitioner immersed themselves into the one Path, it seems reasonable to me that their efforts would be likewise rewarded. In this case, the system that the Chaote sticks to IS the system of utilitarian belief.

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Even the founders of Chaos Magick admit that Crowley is instrumental in the ideas of Choas Magick, read Liber Null & Psychonaut, those books are sort foundational in Choas Magick. Also, the work of Austin Osman Spare is part of the Chaote tradition as well. I don't think it's just the loudest voices nor do I think it's absolutely wrong to be inspired by Crowley with a grain of salt. The dogmatic views is not ones they carry over with them but ones they creat themselves and never snap out of. 

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Overall I agree with your sentiments about the majority not being part of the path and very few actually follow it to its logical conclusion. Unfortunately, Choas seems to become more and more trendy (not a bad thing) which always opens itself up to more attractors than practicioners. 

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By saying that I don't believe that this magical system--more a philosophy--is inherently ceremonial or Crowley-infused, I mean that if you look at the ideas posited within Chaos Magic theory, the notion of belief as a tool being perhaps the foundational one, nothing about it at its core demands a ceremonial or Crowley-fueled approach. The works and literature of Crowley were a big source of inspiration for Liber Null and other classic Chaos publications, but someone doesn't have to know that or even know the first and most basic principle of ceremonial magic to work entirely under the principles of Chaos Magic. True to the spirit of the system, the founders were just that---a few guys who had some cool ideas about magic, and they put them out in writing so people more imaginative and less constrained than them could go on in the future to let it really run wild. If Chaos Magic seems elitist or confined, that's entirely the fault of the folks who have a social presence of any capacity and are using it to affirm and reaffirm these stereotypes. It's my personal hope that the current trendiness will draw in new more dynamically creative blood that will give all the edgelords a run for their money.

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Very interesting topic, I would be of the "Low Magick" sort, but I find the subject of Sigils completely facinating.  I use them often in my practice, I don't consider myself to be a Chaote, but this practice does have a place in my repretoire.

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There's an artist on Deviantart that I adore for two reasons, the first being their style which reminds me fiercely of the Gorillaz, and secondly because they used their talents and know-how to make a field guide that's really fun to read and choc full of information. And they made it free for anyone to check out. I don't recall if at any point the artist labels it as a work of Chaos Magic, but he started off with Belief as a Tool in the first lesson, so I'd safely say that yes, it is. For anyone interested, I'll provide a link to bluefluke's manual here. He doesn't go into paradigm shifts, and the tech presented here is pretty universal and amounts to highly deconstructed ceremonialism---and anyway, what's presented here should not be confused for Chaos Magic itself, but rather as one representation of the Chaos Magic philosophy at work. The works serve as a fine example or template, over which one can lay the paradigm of their choosing. 

 

https://bluefluke.deviantart.com/gallery/52627976/THE-PSYCHONAUT-FIELD-MANUAL

https://bluefluke.deviantart.com/art/The-Psychonaut-Field-Manual-FOURTH-PDF-EDITION-530005584  [ PDF version ]

 

And Onyx--sigils are a lot of fun! I used to deploy them often, and in college thoroughly I enjoyed making an "alphabet of desire" (I don't call it that, lol) ala Austin Spare. However you make them and set them to task, I think they're a good way to flex creativity and cut out all the extraneous bits that tempt me to spellcasting procrastination. Rootsy folk "low magic" is my favorite way to work, but I do consider myself a Chaote in regards to magical theory and in how I approach my spiritual life. 

Edited by Phaedra
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Was wondering if anyone checked out Chaos Matrix, it's pact with information and has some free pdfs to download if you're interested in learning some history on Ceremonial Magick and the development of Magic(k) that lead to Chaos. I found it and am finding it very interesting, I'm glad it exists because it seems to cover a wide range of topics and has a rituals that are truly unique, especially the Cthulu centered rituals. 

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And Onyx--sigils are a lot of fun! I used to deploy them often, and in college thoroughly I enjoyed making an "alphabet of desire" (I don't call it that, lol) ala Austin Spare. However you make them and set them to task, I think they're a good way to flex creativity and cut out all the extraneous bits that tempt me to spellcasting procrastination. Rootsy folk "low magic" is my favorite way to work, but I do consider myself a Chaote in regards to magical theory and in how I approach my spiritual life.

 

Thanks Phaedra, I just saw that you had responded to my comment.

I realize that there is lots more to Chaos Magic than Sigils,I do love the "set it and forget it" aspect of Sigils and they add an extra omph to candle magic. However I'm not ready to throw myself off a ladder to reach a state of gnosis, but I understand the process. As I am a Traditional Witch I only incorporate what I have found to actually work in my practice.

I do enjoy Crowley to a certain degree, I use the Thoth Tarot Deck and I still consider myself a student of the cards, they are so tecnical in their construction and I feel that Crowley must have driven Lady Fried Harris insane with his constant criticism and correction of her colors. I believe he even wrote a book about the meanings of colors. As an artist I find that fasinating.

I have read a lot of the Psyconaut info. and the art work is really interesting, I have some saved on my pinterest board. Its very appealing.

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The methods often provided for reaching a state of gnosis really confused me for a while. I just didn't understand why it was made to seem as if its so very hard to attain, and that you have to strain your body and mind in super awkward ways to get there for the blip of a second that it takes to set a simple spell to work. Then, I got to thinking that gnosis seems so strained in Chaote circles precisely because so many of them come from ceremonial traditions, which by their nature are far more orderly and restrained than folk, traditional, and/or shamanistic practice traditions. If you're constantly training your control and build up longstanding expectations of order and patterns, I can definitely see why you'd think you need to assume the death posture, or stare at a speck on a wall for hours, or fling yourself off a ladder all in an effort to get yourself out of your Self and into the intention at hand. I enjoy the philosophy and find that much of it plays well with where my inner Paths have led me in life moreso than other traditions, but I do feel that the current of Chaos Magic lacks perspective....or at least, it seemed to struggle in this area last I checked, and it's been a couple years since I last visited those communities. On one hand, maybe they're figuring new things out by now. On the other hand, they largely seem satisfied with where their results get them.

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Thanks for your thoughtful answer, and, I believe you are correct in thinking that someone from a ceremonial background may require more drastic methods to reach their goals.

Their minds like order and process to get where they want to be. While I prefer to simply state what I want and then expect it to happen. Everything depends upon will and intent.

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That's some good insight Phaedra, and very true, ceremonial mages do spend a great deal of disciplining themselves and maybe that does take some of the fire out of magic, maybe chaos magick is an attempt to put that fire back into the High Art. 

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"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name."

 

Austin Spare was undoubtedly inspired by the concept of the Tao, of Brahman, and of the Buddhist Sunyata (non-self, voidness) when he conceived of Kia. First referenced by Spare in 1904, the concept of Kia has been pretty influential within the Chaos Magic movement, so I will include here yet further ramblings on this subject for any interested in this current. As Spare himself stated in The Book of Pleasure, the less which is said of Kia, the less obscure Kia itself is---it is not a mystery to be unraveled, and is instead quite elusive in regards to concrete understanding. However, it has endured as a core concept in fringe occultism for the better part of the past century, and was a foundational element of early Chaos Magic philosophy which continues on today.

 

As best as I can deduce, Spare's concept of Kia is akin to a universal unity---a single universal mind which includes and expands well beyond all known consciousness, awareness, or gnosis. It is similar to the notion of the omnipresent Buddha-Nature, and of the Supernal Wisdom of Jewish mysticism. In broader terms, it can be loosely compared to the anima mundi or world soul, though Spare's Kia seems to highlight the intelligence and awareness present in things moreso than a unitive life-force which propels existence. Still, the streams cross early and often in this area, depending on your focus. Spare contrasted Kia with his idea of Zos, which I find comparable to the Buddhist concept of the Skandas or the five aggregates---the physical or experiential components of life which overlay the singular unitive awareness of the Kia. Together, Kia and Zos encompass all of reality and all outlying potential.

 

Kenneth Grant, a Thelemite and a friend of Spare's in the 1950's, further developed the concept of Kia following Spare's passing. He poetically described reality (Zos) as the dream of Kia, and his ideas about it diverge from Spare's in some ways. For one, Grant places the route to further realization of Kia as one which is sought through the flesh and through physical experience, rather than Spare's focus on the mind and gnosis. Grant even contrasted his flesh-grounded approach to the mental striving found in Zen, stating that though the object is the same between them, the methods for achievement differ. Furthermore, Grant conceptualizes Kia as a feminine force, while Spare leaves is non-distinct. Though I believe that Grant's take on this was far more metaphorical than literal in any sense, he does compare Kia to the popular divine feminine, and to the Babylon of Crowley's theosophy. I personally favor Grant's metaphorical notion of Kia as a limitless void, feminine in the sense that it is inherently fruitful and can be made to bear one's sorcerous will and 'give birth' to it in the form of magical results.

 

Following Grant comes Peter Carroll, one of the founders of Chaos Magic and the primary link between Kia and the Chaos current itself. Carroll's use of the term Kia also differed from Spare's, and can be found primarily discussed in his early and foundational writing, Liber Null. In it, Carroll makes a differentiation between the consciousness of any given individual, the ephemeral "I" which he attributes to Kia, and the broader universal force, called Chaos. Carroll conceptualizes Kia as one aspect of Chaos, and confines it specifically to human consciousness with which he also associates the soul or the spirit of an individual. Chaos, meanwhile, is the source of all; the originator and the continuing propellant of phenomena and events. In Carroll's view, the degree to which one's Kia can be unified with the all-enveloping Chaos is the degree to which one can project their will--to accomplish magical works, in other words. 

Edited by Phaedra
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Nothing learned to add just a comment to say I'm enjoying this discussion. Chaos work was instrumental in me starting down this path so I will always be grateful for that. In the end it's probably too ceremonial for me but I actually found it very approachable. I create the odd sigil but I usually combine it with shore work and draw them in the sand to wait for the sea to take them. But great discussion, enjoyed reading it!

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Nothing learned to add just a comment to say I'm enjoying this discussion. Chaos work was instrumental in me starting down this path so I will always be grateful for that. In the end it's probably too ceremonial for me but I actually found it very approachable. I create the odd sigil but I usually combine it with shore work and draw them in the sand to wait for the sea to take them. But great discussion, enjoyed reading it!

 

That's really cool, and that's what Choas magic suggest one do, make the sigil, focus on it, place it in the subconscious then forget about it. AS long as its in the subconscious it will keep on working itself. 

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Guest NatureMama

Interesting thread! Chaos Magic was one of the stops along the path that finally led me to folk magic. 

 

There were some pretty neat practises that I think have a lot of value. I learned how to work with sigils from Chaos Magic.I found many of the ideas quite novel. Especially the idea of working with different paradigms for a certain purpose and then setting it aside for a different one. Honestly this idea was really uncomfortable for me. It came across to me as disrespectful to the energies you were calling on. But I think it was mostly because it came across to me as dishonest, calling upon and engaging with certain energies/deities as if you respected them and wanted a working relationship with them, use them for your own gain and then basically dump them without another thought.  

 I could never do that, however I think if I was upfront with my intentions and the energy/deity was ok with it then we could work together for that single purpose, thank them and then go our separate ways. To me this is a pretty natural way of things, I've had plenty of spiritual beings come to me for a limited time just to teach me something or help me with something then they moved on.

 So I don't think you have to commit to a lifetime working partnership with every being or deity you wish to work with, I just think it's more respectful to be upfront about your intentions.

 

Obviously  these are just my personal thoughts on it, I'm not judging anyone else or saying they are disrespectful if they practise Chaos Magic. I'm just sharing the impression I had of it when I was studying it and dipped my toes in some of its practises. It just wasn't the right fit for me. I do think it seems to be a very good fit for many people judging by the popularity of it.

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It's an understandable view you take with the practice, and I do believe that deliberate paradigm shifting doesn't rest well in general with practicioners of a more theistic or spiritual persuasion. If you in your heart truly do believe that deities and other entities exist in an objective and literal sense to the extent that a relationship with one such power can share parallels with a relationship with a human being, in that disrespect can be conveyed and jilted feelings can arise, that principle component of Chaos Magic is not for you. In my way, it is no issue; the sources I work with and draw from are energies, or energetic wellsprings, not persons. I anthropomorphize them in my mind for the purposes of the work, but perhaps outside of the duration of a deep investment in any given paradigm, I'd never consider these energies to be 'my-level' enough to experience such things like taking offense to a perceived disrespect. With that being said, the time spent in a chosen paradigm can last anywhere from a single afternoon to several years, and while entrenched within the paradigm, the joint package of petition and sacrifice is usually a given. Even if a Chaote doesn't continue to lend space in their mind or on their altar for Hecate after that one night of fantastic hex-laying, they probably did lavish the entity with offerings and sacrifice to rival that of any devotee's during the time of paradigm acceptance.

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Guest NatureMama

Well written Phaedra. I agree with what you have said and think you nailed it on the head. 

 

 I find how everyone seems to experience the "otherworldly" or the energies differently very interesting. Whos to say what the true exact nature of something is? I think I relate to the energies more on a personal level because I channel. So the info, the communication comes through as words in a two way conversation.  That is how I am taught, how I work together through lessons or work I'm doing with the beings, deities, etc. that I am working with. It's awfully hard to think of them as just "energy" and not personalize them but that could actually be their true nature. I do not know so I just do what feels comfortable and right to me. 

 I do believe the different deities are actually aspects of the one Source. That has just been my experience and I know others who feel strongly differently about this. It's just my experience and personal opinion. 

 I truly feel that there are many ways to experience what we consider the spiritual realm and everything that belongs to it. If it works, it works.  :)

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Wonderful thread, thank you @Phaedra for such eloquent and informative posts. The resurgence of Trad Craft in Britain owes an immense debt to chaos magic - follow the thread from Spare to Grant to Chumbley, Michael Howard and other members of Cultus Sabbati, who had (may still have) a lodge dedicated to work with Grant's Typhonian Order. In a larger sense, some of the leading voices in occultism are Chaotes - think Gordon White. If only for that, I'd already be grateful to chaos magic. But its most precious gift was to knock occultists off their pedestals/armchairs and push them to get their hands dirty after centuries of Eliphas Levi nonsense and fake secret histories of initiatory orders who do nothing but 'banish' every day for some unknown reason (this is about the Golden Dawn, their sacrosanct LBRP, and the GD/OTO claims to be the direct heir to Egyptian magic somehow).

Now, though, I think that magic, at the heart of it, is about spirit contact. And so I believe that you do need time to unfold, the weight of history felt in your bones, to practice effectively in the long term and to be fulfilled by your practice. In that sense, I actually agree with the ceremonialists that lineage is important - in my view, they're just entirely mistaken as to how it matters, and what it entails. Chaos magic has that unfortunate consumerist connotation: take your pick in the free market of magical praxes. In my view, it has to be deeper than that, or what's the point?

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