On Chaos Magick

After I’d left Wicca and most conventional forms of Paganism (such as any form of Paganism can be considered “conventional”) in the mid-90s, I began to get a bit esoteric in my interests.

I studied Crowley and eventually became an initiate of the OTO (Caliphate) and spent a few years with them, receiving a few initiations. I had a fantastic time within the Order and met some wonderful people but, philosophically, Crowley was not for me.

It felt disingenuous to be a part of OTO while becoming disenchanted with Crowley as a “Prophet” and a human being. I eventually came to realize that despite the brilliance of his writing, if I had met Crowley in person, I undoubtedly would have found him to be an insufferable asshole.

Through the magic(k) of the Internet, I eventually came across chaos magick.

Chaos magick was started in England in the 1970s by Peter Carroll and Ray Sherwin. It builds on the work of visionary artist, Austin Osman Spare. It focuses on magick with results without reliance on traditional belief systems or methods as well as the use of altered states, or “gnosis”. A better term for it (not my idea) is “results magick” or even “freestyle magick”. Magick without rules or tradition, purely based on what works and discarding what does not. Sigil magick (turning one’s desire into a sigil and then “charging that sigil” to manifest that desire) is a frequent practice in chaos magick.

The primary texts on the subject are Peter Carroll’s Liber Null and Psychonaut and Liber Kaos. Honestly, I never really cared much for Carroll’s writing on the subject (which often delved into pseudo-scientific theory) and preferred the writings of Phil Hine (in particular, Condensed Chaos).

What was more influential upon me, however, was online interaction with chaos magicians (or chaotes).

I can’t remember how I first learned about it, but there was an online group of chaotes called the Z(Cluster). The only qualification for being a part of the Z(Cluster) was joining its mailing list, the Zee-list.

Additionally, there was an Undernet chatroom on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) called #thee_vortex where people from the Zee-list spent time chatting, making jokes, talking about magick. I ended up spending a great deal of time there myself.

The Zee-list seemed crazy to me at the time. There was an incredible amount of variety. One guy focused on psionics (the use of the mind to attack people), another ran a website called “Death and Hell” and referred to his site as “Temple Dahmer”. Other people were deep into Afro-Caribbean or Afro-Brazilian religion. Naturally, some people were into demonology or sorcery or Left-Hand Path. There were various people using psychedelics spiritually. Some people practiced sex magick or magickal seduction. Additionally, there were people who worked with gods of nearly any pantheon you could think of. (As a Pagan these intrigued me the most.) Still others studied traditional Hindu Tantra. People created tulpas, servitors, or godforms to either command or worship. Of course, many people combined various of the above mentioned spiritual practices.

It was the Star Wars cantina for occultists…dark, dangerous, vaguely sinister. I loved it!

There was, of course, a dark side. Some people were a bit..mentally unstable as one can imagine from these various practices. I heard rumors of stalking as well as stories of mental and physical abuse. Though how much of it was real when it involved people you never met was always difficult to tell…such is life on the Web.

There were a variety of philosophies and ideas expressed. It challenged my assumptions thoroughly, and I grew as a person and a mystic as a result. I made some friendships both in “real life” and online from my time on the Zee-list or #thee_vortex that have lasted nearly 20 years.

Nowadays, I would not call myself a chaote as I don’t really practice much magick at all. However, much of what I do practice (devotional mystical Hindu-based polytheism with some influence from Hindu Shakta Tantra) is a result of my interaction with chaotes. Even today, I focus more on “what’s effective” rather than “what’s traditional” (as I find much of modern Hinduism to be unrelated to my Tantrik-inspired practice, despite the lack of a guru or initiation).

As someone who believes in the existence and agency of the deities I worship, I find the chaos approach to be too casual, too flippant, but I will always have a deep respect for the variety of beliefs and practices that I was exposed to…as well as many of the individuals that I met through chaos magick.

~ by R.M. McGrath on 04/08/2016.

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