“Even two thousand years ago that was the reason for the victory of Christianity over gnosticism, because gnosticism, although true, was too complex, and Christianity, although false, was simple and direct. Simplicity has been the key to victory in all the idea wars, and, at present, Magick does not have it. There is the skeleton, in the Rights of Man and in the coverings in the main literature. But the true body has never been shown forth.”
- Jack Parsons, Letters to Majorie Cameron (January 27, 1950.)
“Retrospectively, it will be extremely difficult to prove it ever actually existed, other than in the minds of those who caught some brief initial insight into the writings of Austin Osman Spare... In one sense the Chaos magicians tried to blow away the 'cult' aspect ef occultism. The initial movement attempted to concentrate the bate techniques and systems of magic into a coherent but non-mystical framework... These sentiments were perhaps admirable, but in practice (for the time-being at least) they have shown that the occult establishment cannot function without recourse to a necessary balance between magic and mysticism. In actuality, the reason why the Chaos movement has burnt-out so quickly is because it attempted to deny the magic-mysticism formation of cult: the obsessive belief that produces a basic motive for the carrying out of magical acts. In trying to create wider expression, Chaos magicians seem instead to have succeeded in narrowing the occult arena, exchanging a Path or a way for a selection of spurious academic considerations. Why this is so remains partly a mystery. Perhaps, simply it compels the realization that an inherently understandable belief in the reality of one's magical actions is necessary. Perhaps, after all, the Chaos magicians were too optimistic about their own abilities. In any case, the illusion of "variety" and "selection" of so-called beliefs, and the eclectic adoption of various magical techniques resembled a sophisticated synthesis, whereas in actuality it was a code of systematic devaluation in which all occult doctrine. however useless or useful, was turned into "data" to be experimented upon. This is the same error made by scientists testing for Paranormal phenomena and expecting it to materialise in sterile, clinical surroundings. Stripping magic of its metaphorical, allegorical and emotional values renders the would-be Chaos magician relatively impotent.”
- Stephen Sennitt, Obituary for the Chaos Current (1988).
Goethe issued forth the declaration that there was a seemingly demonic element to doctors. A demonic intellect, the capacity to coldly dissect something down to its essential components without regard to emotional stimuli. Shelley didn't think much highly of such minds, either, as shown in Frankenstein. I rather suspect they'd level just such an accusation toward me. I am not a doctor; just another half-wit student of psychology, and an occasionally decent sorcerer-witch-chaos-magician-guy-person-dude. But somewhere deep inside me there's something that smiles as it devours knowledge. I crave it near constantly. I like learning, figuring things out, playing with ideas. Word puzzles kill me, man. I love them way too much. So let's make the heart of my goals, knowledge and its acquisition, right at the front and center of my 'career' as a magician turned witch.
I have two fellows I consider “mentors.” They both also happen to be chaos magicians. That is no longer the focus for either; but both admit to having a sense of continued perception as being a “chaos magician.” One is a Golden Dawn fellow; and I respect him a good deal. The other is an itinerant trickster and crazy witch. I, too, still have my “chaos” moments.
Furthermore, in many ways I actually epitomize all the things that bother RO. This is amusing to consider due to the fact that we generally get along as acquaintances. I bear a respect for him, and he grudgingly once seemed to admit he liked me. Which, insofar as people you chat with online, is fairly cool. But on the flip side I'm also a chaos bastard, and when I defected I defected to a tradition of witchcraft.
Which means, generally, that I'm utterly insane. Which, as it so happens, is a condition I'm enjoying immensely. I can even say that I have a sense that I am involved in the Great Work. That I have some appreciation for the same concepts I once found archaic.
If I was a suspicious person I would believe that RO was in fact not complaining at all. That rather there was a pattern underneath his recent posts. I would suspect that as he reads this, he is grinning. Because he knows. He knows he produced this, and that he forced me to engage the old tactics to do so.
Because, you see, RO has recently discussed his dislike with an actual number of things. He dislikes the energy model. He dislikes the Golden Dawn. He dislikes Chaos Magick. (He even thinks someone such as I, a filthy defector, should cast aside my beginnings as such and decry it!) RO probably even disapproves of my fondness for witchcraft. But you see, there is a pattern here. One which we can further postulate might have two or more solutions. The pattern is that nearly every one of the bloggers he interacts with have probably engaged in one of these things. They might not be central to what they do, but they peripherally inform them as topics. And by blaspheming them, he hopes to elicit a response. That it would inspire us, if he was lucky, to render into small but tasty chunks an analysis of why we clung to our perceptions of such things, and why we disagreed.
Or perhaps he's feeling particularly impish. In any event, I salute him. Whether he realizes it or not, he's playing my tune. Or a tune close to my own. Clearly different paths, but there are moments of intersections between any given topic, system, or model. Places where we acknowledge each other to a degree.
I write this having read RO's blog entry properly: by candlelight, as I barbequed chicken for my significant other and the family. I had printed it out with a number of assorted documents which represent the first step in the culmination of my goals for the last two years; even when I didn't know I was heading in this direction. As good as I was feeling, I could not believe that RO would issue forth a declaration along the lines of William Gray's far earlier criticism. When asked about Chaos Magick, he referred to it as: “magical AIDS.”
And in this, they are both right. As even Fr. Barrabbas Tiresius complains that we are now amongst the Goetic community. (And for the record: Lovecraftian magick will never get old; because it's fun.)
And because Chaos Magick was a brief, but possibly failed attempt, to engage magical practices with an easy to encompass language. A language and pattern of thinking with which we could analyze various beliefs and from them extract which would work best for us. And then we would use that to enmesh ourselves in this chosen special field. And so we interfaced with nearly every level of magical discussion by becoming pervasive. Peter Carroll even alluded to this tendency in Liber Null when he noted that the IOT's initiates had branched off into a number of disparate groups and directions, and would simply periodically reform to discuss what they learned. At the time, Andrew Chumbley was among them; and so some of them went on to do more than just superficially observe what they were engaging. They went on to use it and perhaps even Master it; if one can even do such a thing... Which remains at present mere supposition for me.
From those older gents who came before me I managed to figure out elements of pattern recognition; and then use that to filter “good information” from “bad information.” (Sometimes these value judgments backfired...) By learning to meditate and engaging in regular practice of it, I formulated a vague sense of discipline that aided and abetted my quests to figure out this magick stuff. I learned divination. Sigils allowed for greater acquisition of data, and that led to Servitors which could serve as elaborate filters of results. This caused me to revise my considerations of what a spirit was, and how our methods of interfacing with them might cause them to act differently. The methods I was using early on didn't seem to be working, so I began to use research as a way to help bolster aesthetic. Historical research and tidbits, it seemed, could be very useful in rendering experience into something meaningful rather than slap-dash. So I read a lot. I still read constantly.
Constant testing of my beliefs allowed me to continue to revise and review them, and when done in a state of trance such things could be annihilated with their opposition, which would allow Gnosis to flower. I don't mean “Gnosis” like the early chaos magicians did, in that they mistake one type of trance for being all states of trance.
What I discovered was that the individuals to look for, who had something worth looking at in my studies, were not the “big names” we'd managed to engineer in the early 1990s. It was not Peter Carroll or Phil Hine to pay attention to. It was the guys who'd wandered into other fields to test the waters. And most of them seem to have stayed, too. And their approach seems to have actually been applauded, as they didn't arrive empty handed.
These were the fellows that wrote on TIAMAT-L, exploring links between the internet and the astral. Or the many myriad discussions that flowered on the Z-List. They linger around the fringes of where others gathered, admitting discernible voices, but rarely being obnoxious. (I could learn a lot from that, come to think of it.)
Stephen Mace continued his studies into Austin Spare's system and returned with methods to aid one make Spare's Alphabet of Desire into a personal system. He's also the person that's inspired me to begin wandering around my city, trying to locate Genius Loci and then begin a process of interacting with them once I've found them. It isn't “exciting” work to tell others from. I'm not “conjuring” things from musty old tomes, and there isn't often a whole lot to report that anyone would want to read. “Today, I located a spot which seemed to have the right atmosphere to it for a spirit to be nestled. I bought coffee and settled beside a tree, drifting into trance. Then I pulled out my typical 'magic square' and proceeded to automatically draw a sigil which seemed to work for the spot, the process also revealing a bit of a name. I may attempt to conjure the spirit later if I can think of a reason for it.”
Still: its work, and in some cases it's had clear elements of use. And the magick I've used has had plenty of practical use. Because the betterment of myself, and my circumstances, sits at the root of my desires. I desire knowledge so that it can aid in satisfying the above. But it's still a ravenous hunger for knowledge, mind you. Not some half-sated know-all Adept bullshit.
Chaos magick and chaos magicians may be annoying. Some of it may be over-rated. A lot of us may take ourselves way too seriously. But there isn't a single tradition or style of magick that I can think of without its loud, noisy, and obnoxious crowd.
Other criticisms can be dismissed, too. “The Ice Magick Wars”? That can be reduced to a rather simple equation based on the evidence on hand. Peter Carroll was most likely cursed by Fr. U.D. It most likely worked quite well, based on the documentation that exists, and Pete went Stark Raving Mad in Full View of the Public. All the while thinking he'd had the most powerful magical experience of his life, based on his accounts. He did, after all, alienate half the people that admired him. Run about waving a goddamn sword. And been deeply paranoid about the Fraternus Saturni and U.D. Its not terribly interesting.
The Peter Carroll/Phil Hine split sounds even less interesting. I was once given a second-hand account that it had involved the two staring one another in a club, trying to psychically assault the other with “tulpas.” It might not be true, but certainly makes one laugh. And that's about it.
Nonetheless: all the idiots aside, all the stupidity aside (and it's not like chaos magick in special there; I mean, the way the Stella et Matutina lodge imploded is way more interesting; not to mention the beak-up of the original Golden Dawn), I see no reason to blaspheme or demean the process that brought me to where I am. Which, as it happens, is a pleasantly happy place. It likely won't always stay that way; there will always be trials, places where I stumble, routine mundane shit. But without moments such as these, when you feel the achievement of a goal and the satisfaction of it, then you can't really be sure you're on the path. For me: Stephen Sennitt was right. I wanted cultus in my magick. So I went to where it was. It isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I'm not out to make converts. Others went elsewhere; because we're a mobile lot. But we're still part of your goddamn process, like it or not.
Even if you exile us to the basement of the furthest building, chaos magicians still are a part of the Invisible College. And probably always will be.