Sunday, June 6, 2010

Calling all Chaos Mages

It is no secret that in the past I have spoken some smack about Chaos Magic. I stand by the smack that I have spoke. 

I have however been running into Chaotes that have been winning my respect, which usually means its time for me to re-evaluate my position. 

So, Gordon, Jack, others. Where should I be looking for the good and current genius of Chaos Magic? Where is the real shit going down? What defines it for you as Chaos magic?


ChandraNova said...

Let me be rude, and ask you a question - when was the last time you did a ritual or other work that held NO trace of the philosophy of chaos magick?

Not one meme, not one ideal, not a smidgen?

EKB said...

My take on Chaos magic has been that it was a useful set of exercises in deconstructing the cruft that had accumulated on magical practice. Looking at the occulture of the time shows that the main contribution was in asking "why?" repeatedly and with keen inventiveness. I say there's still quite a bit of meat on that bone. It's just knowing how to ask that question in an intelligent manner that's been the problem as of late.

It's become even easier to become a plastic shaman with the internet. Doesn't mean that there's not non-plastic shamans out there...

ChandraNova said...

@ EKB & off-topic - given the weather and other extremes most people endure on the shamanic path, a plastic shaman would actually be very bloody nifty!

Can you make them foldaway, wipe-clean (for the ayahuasca puke etc) - oh, and inflatable, too?!

If so, I'll take half a dozen...

Thnx! =D

Gordon said...

I always prefer vigorous critical discourse on everything so hopefully the smack talk will continue for a while yet. :)

PJC's latest, The Apophenion, is a game changer on the fourth of fifth reading. He makes you work for it though.

My issue has always been that the basics are so simple:

- Sigils
- Rejection of metanarratives

I subtitled my blog 'beyond chaos magic'is because I'm really interested in how you plug new things into this truly simple baseline.

For instance (and I know you'll agree with me on this); why am I dicking around with the necronomicon when I get better results with 'magically enhanced' lifehacking?

But it's ripe for some new thought leaders. I want to see more scientific pantheism that relies on something more than just a very 1970s understanding of quantum theory.

For me, the ontological battle ground has moved from identity to the 'ownership' of scientific theory. And the atheists are winning at the moment.

Now someone else can have a turn. :)

Jason Miller, said...

@ Chandra Nova: Didnt take it as Rude, just frank. I will be frank right back.

1. This morning. Bari Lotsawas Bumipati offering.

2. What has that got to do with anything? Almost all modern pop music has traces of Country Western. Does that mean I should not criticize or even dismiss modern country western?

3. Chaos magic has a lot of facets that I like: streamlining rituals, emphasis on practical results, experimental magic, reality over symbol set, etc. NONE of these are original to Chaos magic though. Everything in Strategic Sorcery is informed by these elements, but they are hardly what I would call "Chaos Magic" elements.

Jason Miller, said...

@ Gordon: but is that really Chaos Magic or just magic moving into the modern world? There is a lot of baggage that comes with "Chaos magic" that doesn't have to be there for us to use the scientific method as best we can or to use micro-sorcery (tm :) to enhance life hacking techniques.

I would also say that the application of scientific method in magic has its limits. The area of magic that is "art" is really hard to pin down under that one. One reason that I have never liked the "Scientific Illuminist"" label that so many people use.

EKB said...

@Jason - ...and this is where we start having -ism versus the principles versus the thing itself ad nauseum. My definition of Chaos magic is very likely quite different from anyone else's, no matter how similar our practices may be. If it *isn't* different (in source, not necessarily form), in general, then I find it's stopped being magic and started becoming religion.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just where art starts becoming craft. Eventually, craft can become commodity and eventually kitsch. Thus LBRP, as often presented, becomes a NASCAR/Budweiser mirror picked up at a yardsale. Doesn't stop it from reflecting your image back at yourself - but it does put other things in the way...

OMNIL from "Magical Ritual Methods" is another good example. The process and intention and laser-precision of definition is wonderful. But to use OMNIL without going through the process commodifies the action of use. From there, it's pretty easy to have OMNIL become a standardized ritual framework that ceases to be transformative and starts becoming performative.

The current genius of asking "why?," I think she's living in game theory these days and still waiting to be ravaged every hour.

Velho do Rio said...

Mr. Miller, there's not consensus on the definition of Chaos Magick.

From my perspective CMT is a meta-system, characterized by rejection of mysticism, an innovative posture of independence from rigid doctrines and an questioning antinomianism against imposed boundaries for the development of conjuring technology and individual evolution as a side-effect.

There are orders such as I.O.T. but the "opus" or choyafaque of the practitioner is essentially idiosyncratic and private.

I suggest reading authors as Peter J. Carroll, Phil Hine, Ray Sherwing, Dave Lee, Joshua Wetzel, Ramsey Dukes and progress from that core.

Balthazar said...

My problem with chaos magic has been, and continues to be - that while chaos magic claims to be 'meta-system' of some sort, and is forever banging the paradigmatic drum, it never seems to question it's own basic premises in any particularly critical way.

For instance; the core notion of how sigil magic is supposed to work (gnosis, sensor, etc whatever) - which I think is load of hogwash, personally - is always adhered to with a nearly blind religiosity. I am not saying all chaos mages think this way or that there is no value there it just seems to be that this system dated very, very quickly. I would be interested to see some real innovation in a system which is supposedly all about innovation. But instead of innovation there seems to be a massive reliance on novelty, which really isn't the same thing.

Jason Miller, said...

@ Velho do Rio.
Ummmm. I did'nt say that I don't know what Chaos Magic is. I said that until recently I had a low opinion of it, an opinion based on reading all the material you suggest AND practicing it for several years.

I asked for what kind of new thought was happening in Chaos Magic so that I could give it a second look because several Chaos magicians have recently won my respect and admiration.

Jason Miller, said...

Balthazar: You critiques echo my own. Well said,

Gabriel Lennon said...

Sigil magick as used by most Chaotes is based on a fundamental misinterpretation of Spare anyway; his "Death Posture" was series of exercises designed to allow one to access the "neither-neither" state or the Kia - hardly blocking out your nose and mouth until you start asphyxiating.

Gabriel Lennon said...

Also, while YMMV, the conduct and actions of the creators of "Chaos magick" has left much to be desired IMO.

The "ice magick wars", anyone? Carroll's own account of it was absurd - starving himself in the middle of the "castle" to force Frater U.D. (Ralph Tegtmeier) to leave as some ritual? Some of the material in his books seemed frankly ridiculous to me as well, he got Tibetan lamas to turn around and look at him by looking as part of some "magick"?

Frater U.D. does seem to have moved on since then, based on his recent books, though he never really seem to be absorbed in the Chaos "paradigm". I don't think the same can be said for Carroll.

Gordon said...

@Jason Do I think that is just restricted to chaos magic?

Not even the slightest bit.

What genuinely excites me about magic right now is that -after 130 years- we are hopefully approaching a 'post-label' world where we can reach broad agreement on First Principles and yet include things that we each have discovered in our explorations.

Part of this is due to digital technology and part of this is due to an inevitable maturity in occult discourse.

I want it to look like academia's critical discourse but with sparkles. ("With sparkles" might become my catch phrase.) But that's just a want... It's not a hope.

Adepts today have the opportunity to contribute to, and eat, the same -yet always different- soup. (And thus the meaning of my blog title is revealed.)

PS- I'll have more to say specifically on where I think contemporary chaos magic is located and how to engage with it in a few hours. Just ducking out to a client meeting. Duty calls. You know how it is. :)

PPS - In absolute agreement on the limits of scientific methods in magic. But I think that's a failure in the scientific method itself rather than any inherent quality in magic.

I'm hoping that will self-correct as science (or at least physics) fast approaches another Kuhnian horizon... Perhaps its most significant one yet.

Fred McCaughey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eldritch said...


The 'philosophy of chaos Magic isn't very new; sigil Magic comes from
Agrippa, trance or as they call it gnosis is one of the oldest
principles of Magic, the emphasis on practical results is hardly new
anyone working with any system is going to focus on practical results,
Crowley recommended what we today call paradigm shifting and
rootworkers have been coming up with their own styles long before
Carroll had a pulse. So despite the hype the methods CMers lay claim to are not new; I think CM can be a good start for beginners, but I
consider it to be an extremely boring system.

Jack Faust said...

Yep. Pretty much half these responses are exactly what I see going on in Chaos Magick right now.

Please. Don't stop being critical for any of us.

Alex said...

You show true maturity by adhering to Shakespeare's line, "This Above All; To Thine Own Self Be True. And thus it follows as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." That works.

You'd find a Chaote genius in anyone who, despite their best workings, has still suffered loss and thereby learned the important lesson of life: that the best of us and the worst of us must know suffering as part of human existence.

Chaotes do not stand over non-chaotes. Not because the Chaotic way paints itself as somehow "superior" to the other streams and to mundane folks, but because we all have but one lifetime to lead in this form, and then one day boom. The End.

Beyond the Chaos, the real genius chaotes read outside their little sphere. Read up on Stoicism, not as some paradigm to apply to your workings but as a guide to living well outside of the Trade. Learn a little humility. Work with a charity. Show the world that Chaos magic has a life. That we have a life.

And if you want to dig up pop culture references by which to live, quote from The Joker in the Batman film, The Dark Knight: "Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair."

So be fair, allright?

Psyche said...

I've posted chaos magick primers elsewhere, and I've posted a shorter list of my top five, but as for definitions...

If this is something you're seriously interested in learning more about, the "real shit" is in actively participating in freestyle shamanism, doing what works, and living well.

ChandraNova said...

@Jason, chaos magick brought a new approach to a topic that can all too easily disappear up its own elitist arse - that can only be welcome - to continue with your (very apt) musical analogy, I don't much like rap music, or some of the personalities involved in it, but I do know it informs and provides the basis for a lot of the rock and pop music I do like, and that is a fait accompli, so to dismiss it outright would be to deny reality.

These things are gateways through which any art or craft passes during their ongoing evolutionary dance - they're not always to our taste, but they keep things from becoming stagnant, and often their offspring are more palatable.

Take them away out of the timestream, and we might find ourselves worse off, with less texture and variety out there - this I believe to be true of both rap & CM.

I come from a solid shamanic background and while I find a lot to interest me in ceremonial magic, it's chaos magic that seems more like "home" because it does allow for a comparable direct and spontaneous personal experience in the same way shamanism does, as opposed to formalities and peripherals.

That's not to say there's no spontaneity or 1-2-1 in ceremonial magic - but in my experience so far, chaos magic has the edge in that area. I'm open to being educated about that though!

@ Eldritch, I dunno what to say re your mini-lecture up there, addressing me on points I didn't even make: I will just say that trance is NOT the same as gnosis, by miles... but I'm not here to argue tit-for-tat points that are probably more about our subjective definitions than objective truths.