Chaos Magick is a relatively new form of ritual and empty-handed magic. Using meditation, chanting, spinning, dancing, drug use, pain, orgasm, or other methods, practitioners belive they can magically shape reality.
Austin Osman Spare was initially involved with the Golden Dawn, the O.T.O, and Aleister Crowley's Argenteum Astrum, but later broke with them, to work independently. He developed theory and practices which would, after his death, profoundly influence the Illuminates of Thanateros. Specificly, Spare developed the use of sigils, and techniques involving orgasmic pleasure (see the gnostic state below) to empower those sigils. Spare also pioneered the development of a personal "sacred alphabet", and was a talented artist who used images as part of his magical technique. Most of the recent work on sigils recapitulates Spare's work- in particular, the construction of a phrase that details the magical intent, the elimination of duplicate letters from that phrase, and the artistic recombination of the remaining letters to form the sigil. Although Spare did not invent the term "chaos magician", and might not have sympathized with it, some people may regard Spare as the original chaos magician.
Following the death of Aleister Crowley (and the then-obscure Spare), magic, as practiced by the still relatively sparse occult subculture in Britain tended to become more experimentalist, personal, and a lot less bound to the magical traditions of established magical orders. Reasons for that might include the public availability of previously secret information on magic (especially in the published works of Crowley and Israel Regardie), the radically unorthodox magic of Austin Osman Spare's Zos Kia Cultus, the influence of Discordianism and its popularizer Robert Anton Wilson, and the increasing popularity of magic caused by the success of the wiccan faith and the use of psychedelic drugs.
The term chaos magick first appeared in print in the widely influential Liber Null by Peter Carroll, first published in 1978. In it, Carroll formulated several concepts on magic that were radically different from what was considered magical mysteries in the days of Crowley. This book, along with Psychonaut (1981) by the same author, remain important sourcebooks. Magicians who align themselves with these ideas call themselves Chaotes, Chaoists, or sometimes Chaosites.
Carroll also co-founded, with Ray Sherwin, the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros, or in short form Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT)- an organization that continues research and development of chaos magic to the present day. Most authors and otherwise well-known practitioners of chaos magic mention affiliation with it. However, chaos magic in general is, unsurprisingly, among the least organized branches of magic.
Magical paradigm shifting
Perhaps the most striking feature of chaos magic is the concept of the magical paradigm shift. Borrowing a term from philosopher Thomas Kuhn, Carroll made the technique of arbitrarily changing one's model (or paradigm) of magic a major concept of chaos magic. An example of a magical paradigm shift is doing a Lovecraftian rite, followed by using a technique from an Edred Thorsson book in the following ritual. These two magical paradigms are very different, but while the chaote is using one, he believes in it fully to the extent of ignoring all other (often contradictory) ones. The shifting of magical paradigms has since found its way into the magical work of practitioners of many other magical traditions, but chaos magic remains the field where it is most developed.
The main tenet of Chaos Magick is that "nothing is true and everything is permitted"- a quote attributed to Hassan I Sabbah. Like Crowley's "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law", this phrase is often mistakenly interpreted in its most literal sense to mean "there is no such thing as truth, so you can do whatever you want". However, "nothing is true and everything is permitted" is more widely interpreted to mean "there is no such thing as an objective truth outside of our perception; therefore, all things are true and possible".
The idea is that belief is a tool that can be applied at will rather than unconsciously. Some chaos magicians think that trying unusual and often bizarre beliefs is, in itself, an experience worth having, and consider flexibility of belief a form of power or freedom.
The gnostic state
A concept introduced by Carroll is the gnostic state, which is also referred to as gnosis. It is defined as a special state of consciousness, which, in his magic theory, is what is necessary for working most forms of magic. That is a departure from older concepts, which described energies, spirits, or symbolic acts as the source of magical powers. That concept has an ancestor in the buddhist concept of samadhi (the state of focused meditation; the term means "even mind"), which was made popular in western occultism by Aleister Crowley, and further explored by Austin Osman Spare.
The gnostic state is achieved when a person's mind is focused on only one point, thought, or goal, and all other thoughts are thrust out. Users of chaos magic each develop their own ways of reaching that state. All such methods hinge upon the belief that a simple thought or direction experienced during the gnostic state, and then forgotten quickly afterwards, is sent not to the conscious mind, but to the subconscious, where it can be enacted through means unknown to the conscious mind.
Practitioners of chaos magic attempt to be outside of all categories - for them, beliefs, theories, opinions, habits, and even personalities are tools that may be chosen arbitrarily in order to understand or manipulate the world they see and create around themselves. Chaos magicians are frequently described as funny, extreme, or very individualistic people. They also may consider themselves exceptionally tolerant, remarking that whatever one might disagree over is merely an opinion, and hence interchangeable, anyway.
While chaos magick has lost some of the popularity it had in the UK during the 1980s, it is still active and influential. Its ideas can be found to leak into modern shamanism in particular, and are common in occult internet forums. Proponents assert that the growing individuality of occultism in informal, often internet-based surroundings is a direct result of the success of chaos magic, while critics argue this informal occultism often lacks a well-developed understanding of gnosis and paradigm shifting and is therefore not rightfully called chaos magic.
Symbols and deities
Chaos magick is unique among magical traditions in that it does not attribute significance to any particular symbol or deity. Wicca and Thelema, for example, could not be what they are without the mother goddess and Horus, respectively. In contrast, chaos magicians may (or may not) pick any concept or set of concepts to worship, invoke, or evoke.
Traditional deities associated with chaos, such as Tiamat, Eris, Loki, and Hun Tun are also popular, as are the entities described in the Necronomicon. The eight-pointed chaos star (or chaosphere), originally taken from the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, is frequently used by chaos magicians. However, this preference is not shared by all, and may be argued to root solely in the symbol's semi-official use by the Illuminates of Thanateros. Most chaos magicians routinely create magical symbols for themselves - see sigil.
- "Ethos", Austin Osman Spare, ISBN 1-872189-28-8
- "The Book of Results", 1978. Ray Sherwin, ISBN 1-4116-2558-7
- Liber Null & Psychonaut, 1987. Peter Carroll, ISBN 0-877-28639-6
- Liber Kaos", 1992. Peter Carroll, ISBN 0-87728-742-2
- "Prime Chaos", 1993. Phil Hine, ISBN 1-56184-137-4
- "Condensed Chaos", 1995. Phil Hine, ISBN 1-56184-117-X
- "Seidways", 1997. Jan Fries, ISBN 1869928-369