Chaos Magick
Chaos Magick developed in England in the 1960s as a new
form of magical practice that at the time was dominated by the
thelemic system as articulated by Aleister Crowley
(1875–1947). Chaos magicians look to Austin Osman Spare
(1886–1956) and his critique of traditional ritual magic as the
forerunner of chaos magick and to Ray Shermin as the actual
originator of chaos magical theory. Spare, an associate of Crowley,
broke with the Order Templi Orientis that Crowley headed
and developed a simple form of magical practice that, in his
understanding, jettisoned much of the superfluous activity of
ceremonial magic that prevented the practitioner from discovering
hisher own power. Spare developed a very simple form
of magic based upon the use of sigils.
Chaos magick is based on the understanding that order is
a concept imposed upon the universe. Systems of order, be they
religion or science, are attempts to control and subdue, and
must find ways to dismiss what is not controllable or understood.
Chaos magicians, drawing upon Eastern philosophical
notions, posit the idea that the universe is one vast everchanging
whole transcending all categories and concepts. It
can be intuited but not defined. Chaos is seen, not as the disorder
that is opposed to order, but as the Order beyond understanding.
As such, chaos is identical with the Hindu Brahman
and the Taoist Way. Chaos theory also agrees with the belief articulated
in the Upanishads that Atman, the inner essence of
the individual, is identical with Brahman, and that enlightenment
derives from the direct experienceknowledge of the
truth of that identification.
Chaos magicians do not believe in gods or demons who have
objective existence and consider the source of magical power
to be found within the subconscious of the practitioner. Thus,
basic exercises for the chaos magician attempt to place the magician
in touch with hisher inner self rather than any outside
power or entity. Ritual is used, but is considered drama that
arouses the subconscious to a fever pitch prior to the discharge
of the power. Ritual should be designed by the magician using
images that are most provocative. Such images are rarely found
in traditional mythology; rather they are more likely to come
from popular culture.
Chaos magicians began to associate informally in the 1960s
in what was described as the ‘‘Circle of Chaos.’’ A more formal
organization, the Initiates of Thanateros (IOT), was created in
1977. Early experiments in rituals were produced by Ray Sherwin,
and published as the Book of Results and the Theatre of Magick.
These were followed in the later 1980s by the more popular
work of Peter J. Carroll whose Liber Null contains the rituals of
the IOT. Carroll also put together a training manual covering
the theory and practice of chaos magick, Psychonaut. The IOT
may be contacted at BM Sorcery, London WC1N 3XX, United
Kingdom. Its webpage is at
Carroll, Peter J. Liber Null & Psychonaut. York Beach, Maine
Samuel Weiser, 1987.
Savage, Adrian. An Introduction to Chaos Magick. New York
Magickal Childe, 1988.

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