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Chaos magic

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

Chaos magic, also spelled chaos magick, is a postmodern magical tradition which emphasizes the pragmatic use of belief systems and the creation of new and unorthodox methods.[1]

General principles

Although there are a few techniques unique to chaos magick (such as some forms of sigil magic), chaos magic is often highly individualistic and borrows liberally from other belief systems, due to chaos magick having a central belief that belief is a tool. Some common sources of inspiration include such diverse areas as science fiction, scientific theories, traditional ceremonial magic, neoshamanism, eastern philosophy, world religions, and individual experimentation. Despite tremendous individual variation, chaos magicians (sometimes called "chaotes"[2]) often work with chaotic and humorous paradigms, such as the worship of Hundun from Taoism or Eris from Discordianism and it is common for chaotes to believe in whatever god suits their current paradigm and discard it when necessary. Chaotes can be agnostic or atheist and regard magical practice as merely psychological, not paranormal. Some chaos magicians also use psychedelic drugs in practices such as chemognosticism.[3]

According to chaos practitioners a computer is the central tool for connecting the followers, building virtual knowledge libraries and it also could be used for the simulation of the online ritual environment.[4]


Origins and creation

This magickal discipline was first formulated in West Yorkshire, England in the 1970s.[5] A meeting between Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin in Deptford in 1976 has been claimed as the birthplace of chaos magick,[6] and in 1978 Carroll and Sherwin founded the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT),[5] a chaos magick organization. Liber Null (1978) by Peter J. Carroll further developed this new, experimental perspective on magick. This book and Carroll's Psychonaut (1981) remain important sources.


Aleister Crowley has marginal yet early and ongoing influence for his deconstructionalism of magick which Spare followed through with concerning spellcraft, explicitly sigilization, yet also for his emphasis on finding a common language for practitioners of different traditions which subsequent generations have elaborated on via chaos magick.

Visionary artist and mystic Austin Osman Spare, who was briefly a member of Aleister Crowley's A∴A∴ but later broke with them to work independently,[7] is largely the source of chaos magickal theory and practice. Specifically, Spare developed the use of sigils and the use of gnosis to empower these. Most basic sigil work recapitulates Spare's technique, including the construction of a phrase detailing the magickal intent, the elimination of duplicate letters, and the artistic recombination of the remaining letters to form the sigil. Although Spare died before chaos magick emerged, many consider him to be the father of chaos magick because of his repudiation of traditional magickal systems in favor of a technique based on gnosis.

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

Early days

The first edition of Liber Null does not include the term "chaos magick", but only refers to magick or "the magickal art" in general.[8] Texts from this period consistently claim to state principles universal to magick, as opposed to a new specific style or tradition of magick, and describe their innovations as efforts to rid magick of superstitious and religious ideas. Psychonaut uses the label "individual sorcery as taught by the IOT".[8]

Chaos came to be part of this movement defined as "the 'thing' responsible for the origin and continued action of events[...]. It could as well be called 'God' or 'Tao', but the name 'Chaos' is virtually meaningless and free from the anthropomorphic ideas of religion."[8] The Symbol of Chaos used to signify it was apparently, but not explicitly, lifted from the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock. Carroll wrote that the chaotic aspect of this magic aims for "psychological anarchy[...] The aim is to produce inspiration and enlightenment through disordering our belief structures."[8]

Terms and practices within chaos magick

Belief as a tool

Chaos magick theory says that belief is an active magickal force. It emphasizes flexibility of belief and the ability to consciously choose one's beliefs, hoping to apply belief as a tool rather than seeing it as a relatively unchanging part of one's personality.[9] Various psychological techniques are employed in order to induce flexibility of belief.[10] Other chaos magicians suggest that people do not need belief to work magick.[11] Austin Osman Spare asserts in The Book of Pleasure and various other works that will formulates desire which promulgates belief.

Multiplicity of Self

Aleister Crowley popularized the concept and usage of the joint terms Self/self and embodied it with his 'three-fold reference to self/Self" (respectively) in ascending gradiation as "that imp Aleister," "Frater Perdurabo" and "To Mega Therion." Also in his repertoire were "The Beast" and "The Prince" used mostly to refer to his more public personages either in the media or with other esoteric societies, mostly referring to how they interacted with and perceived him yet also his activities with them, since usage may come off as being secular and others may prefer to go beyond mere references to their own gradiated attainments or 'affiliations in context' and simply use such for self exploration and expression, which is the Kaotic innovation[citation needed].

The gnostic state

A concept introduced by Peter Carroll is the gnostic state, also referred to as gnosis. This is defined as an altered state of consciousness that in his magick theory is necessary for working most forms of magick.[8] This is a departure from older concepts which described energies, spirits or symbolic acts as the source of magickal powers. The concept has an ancestor in the Buddhist concept of Samadhi, made popular in western occultism by Aleister Crowley and further explored by Austin Osman Spare.

The gnostic state is achieved when a person's mind is focused on only one point, thought, or goal and all other thoughts are thrust out. Practitioners of chaos magick each develop their own ways of reaching this state. All such methods hinge on the belief that a simple thought or direction experienced during the gnostic state and then forgotten quickly afterwards bypasses the "psychic censor" (faculties averse to the magickal manipulation of reality) and is sent to the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind, where it can be enacted through means unknown to the conscious mind. Three main types of gnosis are described:[3]

According to this belief, specific rituals, meditations and other elements of more traditional forms of magic are not to be understood as valuable by themselves, but only as gnosis-inducing techniques.

Magickal paradigm shifting

Perhaps the most striking feature of chaos magic is the concept of the magickal paradigm shift. Borrowing the term 'paradigm shift' from philosopher Thomas Samuel Kuhn, Carroll made the technique of arbitrarily changing one's beliefs and magical paradigm a major concept of chaos magic.[8] An example of a magickal paradigm shift is doing a Lovecraftian rite, followed by using a technique from an Edred Thorsson book in the following ritual. These two magickal paradigms are very different, but while the individual is using one, he or she believes in it fully to the extent of ignoring all other (often contradictory) ones. Such ideas are influenced by Tantric practices of breaking down all social conditioning to realize the nature of reality.[citation needed]

Shifting magickal paradigms has since found its way into the magical work of practitioners of many other magical traditions, but chaos magic remains the field where it is most developed.[citation needed]

Some chaos magicians like to operate in what is sometimes called a "meta-paradigm". This is much like syncretism but with the consideration that flexibility of belief is a means of personal power and freedom, more or less creating "syncretic reality tunneling".[citation needed]

Emphasis on creative ritualism

Modification and innovation of ritual take place in all magickal and religious traditions at varying paces. In the case of chaos magick, the idea that belief systems and gnosis-inducing techniques are interchangeable has led to a particularly wide variety of magickal practices evidenced in large and diverse directories of rituals.[8][13] Many authors explicitly encourage readers to invent their own magical style.[14][15][16] The basic chaos magick training manual Liber MMM, mandatory for membership in the IOT, requires the original creation of a banishing ritual.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. p. 97. ISBN 9781567183368. 
  2. ^ Jesper Aagaard Petersen (2009). Contemporary religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 225. ISBN 0-7546-5286-6. 
  3. ^ a b Vitimus, Andrieh (2009). Hands-on Chaos Magic: Reality Manipulation Through the Ovayki Current. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 978-0-7387-1508-7. 
  4. ^ Hugh B. Urban (2006). Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. University of California Press. p. 247. ISBN 0-520-24776-0. 
  5. ^ a b Hine, Phil (1995). Condensed Chaos. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-117-X. 
  6. ^ Hawkins, Jaq D. (1994). Understanding Chaos Magic. Capall Bann Publishing. ISBN 978-1898307938. 
  7. ^ Knowles, George. Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956)
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Carroll, Peter J. (1987). Liber Null & Psychonaut. Weiser Books. ISBN 0-87728-639-6. 
  9. ^ The Book of Results, 1978. Ray Sherwin, ISBN 1-4116-2558-7
  10. ^ Carroll, Peter J. (1992). Liber Kaos. Weiser Books. ISBN 0-87728-742-2. 
  11. ^ Grant Morrison. "Pop Magic!". In Richard Metzger. Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. Disinformation Guides. Disinformation Books. pp. 16–25. ISBN 0-9713942-7-X. 
  12. ^ Fries, Jan (1992). Visual Magick: A Handbook of Freestyle Shamanism. Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 1-869928-57-1. 
  13. ^ Sacred Texts: Chaos Magic
  14. ^ Hine, Phil (1993). Prime Chaos. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-137-4. 
  15. ^ Fries, Jan (1997). Seidways. Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 1-869928-36-9. 
  16. ^ Hawkins, Jaq D. (1996). Understanding Chaos Magic. Capall Bann Publishing. ISBN 1-898307-93-8. 

Further reading

External links