Chaos Magic is a philosophy which has only been in existence for forty years. Created in 1976 in Yorkshire, it is a system of occult practice which offers a complete break from the occult practices of the last century.
This blog post examines Chaos Magic, the founding principle of the discipline, what it is meant to do, what its magic workings are like and finally the blog gives a list of books which are a useful introduction to Chaos Magic to anyone who is interested in becoming a Chaotician (Chaos Magic Magician).
In the early 20th century, the occult was a bright new phenomenon. Groups such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (nothing to do with the modern Greek fascist crowd), Spiritualism and the Ordo Templi Orientalis attracted freethinkers, poets, intellectuals and jaded members of the aristocracy. Other groups such as the Theosophical Society and Thule Society had a poor understanding of occult matters, and firmly believed in horrifying racist philosophies.
By the time of the late Sixties and early Seventies, some of those groups had disbanded, and others had been changed or outed. New occult philosophies such as Wicca began to emerge, beginning a revival of old earth worship. People seeking Truth found themselves chasing after UFOs or tracing the paths of ley lines, or seeking answers in the proportions of the pyramids.
1976 was a time of change. The United States was celebrating its Bicentenary, there was en election, the Vietnam War had recently ended, there were economic crises on the horizon in Europe and across the world, and changes and upheavals were coming to the Middle East.
And in Deptford, in West Yorkshire, two men got together to devise a brand new occult stream.
Forty years ago, in 1976, Chaos Magic was born.
Chaos In Literature
Fantasy literature in the 1970s was dominated by authors such as Michael Moorcock, Philip Jose Farmer, Ursula K leGuin and Anne McCaffrey. Boris Vallejo covers, resembling soft core porn art, adorned fantasy books, and the stories were ecclectic, adult and generally crazy.
One phenomenon which came out of Moorcock’s books was the theme of “Order Versus Chaos.” Chaos was seen as an evil force, constantly seeking to destabilise a structured world politically and physically, like a disease that reality gets. Chaos was a buzzword, and authors Peter J Carroll and Ray Sherwin caught on to this exciting new word to give birth to Chaos Magic.
The aim of Chaos Magic is to provide a new philosophy and way of working magic, binding the universe’s inner workings to the will of the occultist in the service of seeking self-liberation and self-enlightenment. One fundamental pillar of the philosophy is that belief structures are only useful tools. A Chaotician, a student of Chaos Magic, does not define who one is by one’s belief. A Chaotician might adopt a belief in Wicca one day, and the next he might believe in Thelema, or Buddhism, or in nothing at all. Belief itself is only used to get the job done, to get the working to achieve the occultist’s Will. If the belief does not work, another one might be adopted until the working does something.
Chaos Magic states that every structured system in the universe, from the arrangement of galaxies into superclusters down to the particles making up the atoms themselves, is just something condensed out of the underlying Chaos, like a temporary crust forming on top of a pool of molten lava inside the crater of an active volcano. Chaos Magic states that this crust is only temporary, probabilistic and meaningless, and can be broken up, reformed or otherwise changed by tapping into the Chaos and allowing it to alter probabilities in the manifested universe on a local scale.
Chaos Magic draws upon the philosophies and experimental magical practices of Austin Osman Spare ().
There are five kinds of workings in Chaos Magic, and Chaoticians are expected to master all of them. These are:-
Divination is the process of obtaining knowledge of a phenomenon through occult means such as staring into Black Mirrors or using various techniques such as drawing runes or geomantic shields, or casting Tarot readings.
An evocation is the creation of a symbol, known as an egregore, which embodies some principle such as desire or wealth, and which is formed from part of the Chaotician’s own personality. This egregore is partly sentient, acts on its own, and is usually fashioned into some sort of symbolic tool such as an amulet or talisman, to perform some long-term workings on behalf of the Chaotician, such as an evocation to generate an aura of peace in the Chaotician’s laboratory/temple.
An enchantment is a powerful, short-term alteration of local reality, distorting probabilities long enough for something to occur which favours the Chaotician or a client of the Chaotician. The enchantment involves the creation of a sigil, an abstract sign which embodies the Chaotician’s stated wish. Examples:- An enchantment to increase the likelihood of landing a job, an enchantment to increase the probability of clear skies in a commercial flight or to increase the allure of the wearer of a certain dress at a party.
The most powerful workings involve communication with one’s Higher Self, and self-dedication to one’s higher purpose in Chaos Magic. Illumination involves seeking out different types of gnosis (see below) and drawing on powerful inner forces to bring about changes to develop a more enlightened version of oneself, and also to power other workings such as sigil enchantments and divinations.
Also known as Channeling, instead of creating an egregore to place in an external object, the Chaotician seeks to embody the egregore within oneself, creating a temporary home for the construct within the Chaotician’s body and generating the power of the egregore in the same way as an evocation creates an egregore to mount in an amulet or talisman.
Chaos Magic is a demanding discipline, because it draws upon exotic internal energies, commonly called ki or qi, as well as external energy sources. Part of the Chaos Magic philosophy is that sigils, egregores, divinations and so on are powered by this qi to form a connection with the universe, and that this qi is accessed in a state of mind called Gnosis.
There are different types of Gnosis, each exploring an extreme of different emotions such as fear, agony, great joy or even sexual activity. The Gnosis creates an altered state of mind in which the energy streams through and into the visualised sigil or egregore, or into the Chaotician personally in the case of invocations.
Examples of Gnosis include Blue Gnosis for wealth magic, where the Chaotician surrounds oneself with a smoky blue aura and the assurance that money attracts money, but that money accumulates only where it flows the fastest; and Orange Gnosis for the magic of speed, wits and dexterity, where the Chaotician’s personality becomes like a Trickster, always having to think on one’s feet. Each colour of Gnosis brings about its own energies and leads to workings taking on the taint and the focus of those energies. Brown Gnosis, for example, is the gnosis of life ruled by instinct: fight or flight, emulating the instincts of an animal; Silver Gnosis is the gnosis of sexual attraction, arousal and love; and Octarine Gnosis, or Ultraviolet Gnosis, is the Gnosis of being a Chaotician – the energies of the universe itself, flowing through the Chaotician’s body and soul like a Black Flame.
Chaos Magic was born in the 1970s when Chaos was only to be found in fantasy literature. It grew up during the 1980s, embracing changes, and flourished in the 1990s when Chaos made its name appear in the mainstream through the discoveries of Mandelbrot and Feigenbaum in Chaos Mathematics. The fractal image of the Mandelbrot Set briefly replaced the Chaosphere as the symbol of Chaos Magic at that time.
Chaos Magic has faded into the background again, with some organisations such as the Order of Thanateros having been founded to practice Chaos Magic, only to be torn apart by horrific scandals – but Chaos Magic is still being practiced in the 2010s by solitary individuals and small groups here and there. There is no central authority, as one would expect, and no official philosophy beyond the understanding that Chaos underpins everything, and that beliefs are a tool, only to be used to cause change.
Students who wish to take up Chaos Magic can look for the following books.
Liber Null & Psychonaut by Peter J Carroll – a basic introduction to Chaos Magic
Liber Kaos by Peter J Carroll – a more advanced text
Psybermagick by Peter J Carroll – a final work building on the first two
The Book of Results by Ray Sherwin – a manual outlining the practicalities of Chaos Magic
Prime Chaos by Phil Hine, a useful manual describing a different approach to Chaos Magic
Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine – another valuable text on Chaos Magic
Now That’s What I Call Chaos Magic by Greg Humphries and Julian Vayne – a look at Chaos Magic through the eyes of two of its practitioners
Visual Magick by Jan Fries – a practical guide to workings
Understanding Chaos Magic by Jaq D Hawkins – an informed essay to build on the writings of Sherwin and Carroll
Chaos Monkey by Jaq D Hawkins – another essential text