a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Chaos vs Thelema?

   [from ]
Subject: Chaos vs Thelema?
by Alistair Livingstone
   Inspired, no doubt foolishly, by a new moon and the Cramps`
   "Psychedelic Jungle", I have decided to enter the Thelema vs
   Chaos debate. This is of course an impossible task, which is no
   doubt why it appeals to me.
   Firstly, what is it that distinguishes Thelma from Chaos? In
   Starfire, Mick Staley attempts to distinguish Thelema from
   Crowleyanity. Thelema he suggested pre-existed Crowley`s
   formulation of it. This immediately causes problems, since for
   the majority of magicians, Crowley = Thelema. But if it can be
   accepted that there is a something which exists independently of
   Crowley`s writings, then it must be this something (Thelema)
   which is to be contrasted with Chaos Magick. The core of this
   something, I suggest, is the Will. Is this idea of the Will in
   any way opposed to Chaos?
   What is Chaos then?
   For the purposes of this argument I will interpret Chaos as
   follows: that the familiar world of everyday experience has its
   roots in Chaos. So that any attempt to understand the world via
   reason reaches a boundary, on the other side of which lies Chaos,
   a state of existence/non-existence which cannot be understood by
   the rational ego. However, through the techniques of ritual, that
   state can be manifest in the everyday world, suspending the
   accepted "laws" of common sense and allowing magick to occur.
   Furthermore, perhaps as a result of the practice Chaos magick,
   the idea of Chaos is slowly entering the popular imagination via
   science. This refutes classical science, which is based on the
   belief that if the structure of the physical world could be
   sufficiently precisely modelled in a mathematical form, it would
   be possible to predict the future state of various systems
   (wheather, for example) which make up the physical world.
   However, it is now grudgingly admitted that this would require a
   precision of measurement which it is impossible to achieve.
   Engineers have long since had to accept this uncertainty - that
   all measurement is limited by the accuracy of the measuring
   device. Absolute precision is an impossible goal. There is always
   a degree of uncertainty, an instability, and by focusing the Will
   upon this either/or region, the magician can exert an influence
   upon the world at this level, which when it occurs, can produce
   the Willed outcome.
   To the extent that Chaos is a form of magick, ie. it seeks to
   exert an influence upon the world of erveryday consciousness, it
   must involve the Will. Otherwise it would be closer to a form of
   mysticism, that is the attempt to "go with the flow" of the
   experienced world without seeking to influence the direction of
   that flow. In this form, Chaos is closer to a "higher form of
   order", that is that the apparent random or chance events of
   one`s experience of existence are in fact the result of some
   greater existence than that of the individual. And that by
   disengaging the desires of the ego-self, one can experience this
   greater existence, interpreting the obstacles and blows of
   everyday existence as a stimulus to the development of a "Stoic"
   consciousness, which will enable the self to eventually swimm
   freely as a fish in the river of the Tao, or Chaos.
   The idea which this is based on tends to be that of the hermit,
   the forest sage of Hinduism, the solitary adept of High Magick.
   No doubt if it was possible in this present age, one could
   experience such an existence if one could remove the self from
   the rest of human existence. But such a model is no longer valid,
   since the growth of human consciousness is such that there is no
   virgin wilderness left in which to undertake such a quest. We are
   forced to contend with the results of the human desire for
   knowledge, power, control and security.
   This is perhaps the crucial difference between Chaos magick and
   Thelema. Thelema, as developed by Crowley into a form suitable
   for the 20th century, contains a whole heritage of experience and
   practice which reaches back through the Golden Dawn through
   hermeticism to Egypt and Sumeria, which in turn drew on the
   beliefs of our nameless ancestors who struggled to create models
   of the world, cosmologies and creation myths within which to make
   sense of their being in the world.
   Crowley`s task, as had been of Mathers and Eliphas Levi before
   him, was to synthesize this vast body of conscious/unconscious
   knowledge and represent it in a way understandable by at least a
   few of his contemporaries. Partly it is a question of language.
   Unfortunately the language of magick was limited by the dominance
   of Judeao-Christianity on the one hand and Reason on the other.
   Our everyday language derives from our perception of a world made
   up of distinguishable objects, and on the faculty of sight
   primarily. But as soon as we move into the more subjective sphere
   of magick, problems arise. To what extent do we share the same
   magickal reality and use words such as "the Will" in the same
   way? The problem is not confined to magick. For a time I worked
   in quality control at London Rubber. Periodically I had to
   compare my work with others to make sure we were all applying the
   same so that I was not rejecting condoms that another person was
   passing. In science the theory is that one person`s work is
   critically examined by their peer group. The difficulty is that
   as soon as creativity enters the picture, it will tend to disrupt
   this process. The test of any form of magick should be "does it
   work?". But how can that be judged, since the results of a ritual
   may not become apparent for some time. In the early eighties,
   much work was done to halt the expansion of nuclear weaponry. But
   it is only now, as profound changes occur in Eastern Europe, that
   this can be judged a success. And the changes may yet be lost by
   a failure of imagination and the difficulty of challenging the
   parasitic military-industrial complexes of both East and West.
   Thelema may be saddled with the archaic terminology inherited via
   Crowley from the Golden Dawn, but at its heart lies a crucial
   bullshit detector. I have found that the question "what is your
   Will?" directed at any group or individual who claims to be
   desiring change is a very effective challenge. What is
   unsettling, however, is the discovery that in most cases it
   evokes only silence, or at best a string of evasions.
   This I feel is the most damaging criticism of Thelema, that it
   has failed to cross over from magick into the diverse pool of
   "alternative" beliefs which seek to reshape society. This is
   hardly a question of mere academic interest, as Green issues
   emerge and look set to dominate the next decade, the "spiritual",
   that is neo-pagan, belief structures which infest Green
   consciousness are also going to exert a growing influence. We may
   yet discover that the future, as the Dead Kennedy predicted, will
   be "California ber Alles".
   Can Chaos magick then succeed where Thelema has not (yet)? I
   doubt it, since the reaction to both by the average alternative
   type (let alone Joe Normal) is that it is "too dark". The very
   word "Chaos" tends to get tagged with "anarchy" and evoke
   nightmare visions of mad-axemen running wild in the street. Of
   course, for some this may be its very appeal, anything so bad
   must be good...
   No, somehow we have to achieve the Sysphean task of applying the
   notion of Will like Occam`s razor to the fast mulitiplying
   dualistic entities of New Age (un)awareness. In practical terms I
   understand this to mean directing our Wills at and with the
   growing Green movement, so that rather than disappearing into a
   fog of "good intentions", it becomes a real and willed critique
   of consumer culture. Just as Marxism failed to achieve its
   desires, since the working class had already been "mobilizised"
   by the capitalists, so magick fails since the energies of the
   mass unconscious have already been tapped by advertising, via the
   mass media.
   The energy tending towards change of consciousness (evolution)
   has been subverted by consumer culture into the desire to possess
   an unending stream of glass beads and cheap cottons, or in our
   case, microwave ovens and mink belly-button brushes. The whole
   thrust of advertising is to bypass our logic circuits and touch
   directly our desire for status and security. We don`t just buy
   the product, we buy the dream, maya the illusion of success. It
   is, however much we may protest, a form of magick. I may be an
   impoverished squatter in a third world shanty town, but if I can
   buy a bottle of Coke, I believe I possess the whole dream of the
   richest American millionaire. I may be a Trabant owning East
   German, but by crossing the (former) abyss of the Wall I become a
   potential Porsche possessor.
   But if you look at those already possess such dreams, what do you
   find? That it is, as in California, these same people who turn to
   the most ridiculous New Age bullshit in order to satisfy their
   craving for something more, for something to fill up the endless
   aching void they feel scratching and gnawing like some Charles
   Manson nightmare outside the walls of their Beverly Hills
   But of course, the last thing they want to hear is "the truth".
   Better to create a multi-billion dollar New Age industry than
   accept that within the richest mansions lies the reality of
   Chaos, of that Void which spins around itself the veils of maya,
   the dance of illusion, in which one is equally a starving beggar
   and a voluptuous moviestar. "What is your Will?".
   Of course I am somewhat prejudiced for all I used to sing along
   with Bowie on Ziggy Stardust (I could make it all worthwhile as a
   rock n roll star) I chose magick as a path. Through experiences
   both beautiful and terrifying I have come to understand the human
   condition as but one aspect of a continuum of consciousness. For
   me, the whole universe is a living entity which I interact with
   in the fleeting streams of energies which inspire my awareness.
   Both rationally and poetically I perceive my brain, my body as
   part of the very substance of the universe and not
   distinguishable from it (ie NUIT). For me, the human condition is
   part tragedy, part farce. We are semi-intelligent apes who have
   been driven by fleeting glimpses of what might be, to create this
   world, our reality. But in our ignorance, we mistake the glimpse
   for the whole, the ego for the self. We strive for "order" and
   create a chaos, and then recognize in chaos a "higher form of
   "Knowledge is power, power is control, control is security". Oh
   yeah? But knowledge is also pleasure, a pleasure more intense
   than any created by security. Security is sterility, sterility is
   death. We pay lip service to evolution, but cannot accept that
   evolution implies change, and change denise security. What do we
   If our will is security, stability, then that we shall have, as
   so many fossils. To embrace Chaos (Thelema) is to renounce such
   false gods and accept that our actions as magicians will change
   not only ourselves, but our world. Insofar as both Chaos and
   Thelema are valid paths, thus far will they change us. To cling
   to an identity, however pleasing or fulfilling, is a denial of
   magick. Magick is about change, the only constant factor in the
   unfolding of the implicate order/chaos of the universe.
   Along with Thelema and Chaos, I also practise the magick of Maat.
   To the Egyptians Maat was the "right order of the universe". The
   contrast is between the familiar Hindu concept of "karma", which
   deals with our human existence and the less familiar concept of
   "rta" which deals with our aspects as forms of (universal)
   Magick diverged from science some 300 years ago. Science sought
   to discover "the hand of god" in the natural world; magick sought
   to become the equal of the gods. Now we witness the overlapping
   of these paths. We are no longer the creations of some distant
   god, but the natural products of the universe. We have "evolved"
   out of a handful of organic chemicals. Now we have the ability,
   through the replication of DNA to evolve ourselves. We have,
   literally, the powers of a god. What we lack, and what magick
   must seek to provide, is the intelligence to use (or refuse) such
   power. The way to achieve this is to ask the question: "what is
   our will?" Are our genes our motivating force, or is there
   something else which I call "consciousness"? This consciousness I
   hold to be implicit in the structure of the universe, and has
   been revealed as such by quantum physics, however difficult such
   a realisation may be for us. It may be unprovable/undeniable, and
   therefore unscientific, but I suggest that our so-called
   consciousness is a quantum phenomena.
   This is what Crowley experienced as the interplay of Nuit and
   Hadit in the Book of the Law. It is also the root of Chaos. So
   that Thelema and Chaos are but different aspects of a single
   (multiple) experience, expressed in languages appropriate to
   their different times and ambiences.
   Alone I cannot fully express the complexity of these
   possibilities, and yet we must each try to do so. Only by placing
   them at the heart of our experience of being in the world, can we
   hope to create a society which will survive rather than perish
   under its unconscious contradictions. As yet we are but "naked
   apes", but we are apes with sufficiently complex brains to at
   least glimpse the possibility of being more than we are and

   become "homo veritas", that is truly human at last.
   As we are, we cannot fully know this to be true, only with our
   imagination can we glimpse the potential implied. It is my Will
   to bring this about, this is why I write these words, that they
   have touch and stimulate whoever may read them. So mote it be.
   On rereading the above, I feel the need to expand the argument
   somewhat. Having bashed my way through an anthropological essay
   on nationality and the state, it struck me that recent events in
   Eastern Eurpe have many consequences. The whole point of the
   "iron curtain", was to allow East to develop its alternative
   economic system, as spelt out by Marx. What is happening now is
   the incorporation of that economic system into a global economy,
   which implies the failure of Marxism. This failure leaves a power
   vacuum. The majority of critiques of the Western power structure
   have come from Marxism. But if it is now seen to have failed, the
   possibility exists for a more powerful critique to arise.
   Where will we find this critique - in magick. Of course this
   requires magicians to adopt a more rigorous intellectual approach
   to their beliefs, but surely that is what Chaos/Thelema argument
   is about, with each side arguing that the other is deceiving
   itself as regards the "true" form of magick. What I am suggesting
   is that magicians start to take magic seriously as "energy
   directed (willed) towards change". Rather than as an escapist
   belief system parasitic upon the economic success of capitalism.
   To practise magick we must surely believe that we inhabit a
   magical, rather than a strictly economic universe. How much more
   effective would our magick be then if we could replace the belief
   system of economic society with that of a society rooted in a
   magickal conception of reality.
   Such is the apple with which I tempt you - do you dare taste the
   forbidden fruit ?
   Alistair Livingston
   I do know him personally and am glad to meet him again in summer.
   A. Livingstone is a pseudonym of Ramsey Dukes (which is a
   pseudonym too :-)). He is member of the OTO and made a lot of
   Chaos working & theory. He wrote some very genuine books about
   magic (Liber SGDSMEE, Thunderqueak), is now concerned with KI
   (Words Made Flesh). You can contact him via:
   Wharf Mill
   Winchester, Hants
   SO23 9NJ
   With fractalic greetings and laughter * Fra.: Apfelmann *

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races