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An Introduction to Chaos Magick

   [from ]
Subject: An Introduction to Chaos Magick
by Adrian Savage
   Chaos - the absence of form and order - above all other words
   chaos haunts Western man. It fills his mind with visions of seas
   running into rivers, men giving birth to frogs, fish flying
   through grassy clouds. It is the unnamed heart of every horror
   story - the unexpected, the unpredictable, the uncontrollable,
   the lawless - chaos.
   From the very beginning of his history, Western man has sought to
   defeat this most relentless of enemies - chaos. He has searched
   for words and gestures to tame the chaotic, arbitrary wills of
   his earliest Gods. He has created the image of an all powerful
   deity who not only brought order out of nothingness but is the
   essence of the law. He has chosen innumerable tyrannies,
   preferring the loss of his very soul to the sight of dogs running
   wild in his streets. He has examined the world around him, hoping
   to find inflexible laws. He has almost destroyed the original
   conditions of his planet - the very processes that make his life
   possible - in order to control every facet of his existence,
   often sacrificing his deepest instincts on the altar of his need
   for stability. And where he could neither find nor impose order,
   he has devised myths, dogmas, convoluted philosophical
   speculations, occult formulae and sterile scientific theories,
   murdering anyone who dared question these fancies - all to deny
   the terror he feels when faced with what he cannot understand.
   From the darkest past to this very second, his image of the wise
   one has been of someone who knew the secret law hidden beneath
   the seemingly arbitrary world around him. His vision of the
   magician has been of someone who could exploit that law to bend
   to his will the ever-changing event of life.
   Yet, beginning in the late Sixties and continuing into the
   present, voices from England - that least chaotic of countries,
   home of manicured gardens, tea at four, and a class system that
   fixes each person's place with their first breath have proclaimed
   chaos the only reality, the true source of all Magick. Angry, and
   at times shrill, they scream denunciations at those who proclaim
   the quest for divine order. They worship that most ancient enemy
   - chaos.
   To understand this rebellion. we must first explore the
   traditions that spawned it. Since in a work of this scope we
   cannot examine the entire body of occult though we shall have to
   limit ourselves to those streams most relevant to Chaos Magick.
   Let's begin in Medieval Europe. It was during this period that

   three branches of occultism developed that still influence
   Western magical thought to this day - Wicca, Satanism, and
   Ceremonial Magick.
   Of the three, Satanism is the easiest to discuss - and dismiss.
   Because of the Church's continuous interest in the subject,
   Satanism is the most carefully recorded and best researched of
   the three branches. Its basic concepts are also the simplest: the
   complete reversal of Christian beliefs. The Satanist performs the
   Latin Mass backwards, mocking it. He extols greed instead of
   charity, revenge instead of forgiveness. Just as the Christian
   views Christ as a personal savior who will reward a lifetime of
   servile deprivation with an eternity of bliss after death, the
   Satanist sees the Devil - whom, by the way, the Christian
   identifies as the enemy of divine order, Chaos Incarnate - as a
   personal savior who will reward him with earthly power and riches
   for raping his neighbor's wife. In both cases, the object of
   worship is viewed as an external master whose will must be
   obeyed. Unlike Wicca and Ceremonial Magick, Satanism seems to
   have changed little since the day of its birth. From the
   beginning to the present, its strongest current has been a cry
   against the unnatural sexual morality advocated by Christianity.
   In the Middle Ages, it might have been an extreme and rather
   dangerous form of therapy for sexual hang-ups. In the succeeding
   ages, it seems an excuse to party and, perhaps, a way of gaining
   the less physically attractive a greater number of sex partners.
   As soon as the Church stopped burning its advocates, Satanism has
   been a pose to shock the more socially conventional. This is
   especially true today, when Satanism is the slogan of a number of
   rock bands - a device by which to offend the parents of pimply
   faced adolescents, stir up their already overactive hormones, and
   add the illusion of substance to shrieking wails and infernal
   Unlike Satanism, until recently Ceremonial Magick has not
   presented itself as a rebellion against Christianity.
   Ceremonialists had, in fact, been careful to avoid anything the
   Church would consider heretical. Often they were devout men who
   felt they were exploring the deeper mysteries of the Christian
   faith. In his rituals, he invoked the protection of the God of
   the Jews and the Christians and the aid of the archangels and
   angels of the Judeo-Christian pantheon. If he had to evoke
   demons, he did so in the name of the Lord and he only called upon
   those devils his God had bound to the service of mankind. He was
   never persecuted by the Church. There was and is a strong class
   and sex bias within Ceremonial Magick - its practitioners have
   traditionally been aristocratic men. This bias permeated the
   entire field. Its rituals were addressed to male entities; they
   were long, practical only by those with a great deal of leisure;
   they were often in Greek and Latin and involved knowledge of
   geometry and mathematics, all hallmarks of the learned class; and
   it required lavish robes and tools which only the rich could
   afford. Most indicative of its class bias was its curiously
   scientific orientation. Like a scientist, the Ceremonialist
   believed the desired effect could only be attained by using the
   proper tools in the proper procedure - any deviation brought
   certain failure. Like the scientist - which he often was, by the
   way - the Ceremonialist sought knowledge. Having little material
   need, he often sought the secrets of the visible and invisible
   universe purely for the knowing. Though the Ceremonialist most
   often worked alone, he usually learned his art in a lodge -
   moving up through its ranks, guarding the secret teachings of his
   own station, while slavishly obeying his superiors in hopes of
   eventual promotion. The lodge's hierarchical structure paralleled
   the Ceremonialist's view of the universe, every rank representing
   a clearly defined plane that he had thoroughly examined and
   Though it has retained much of this bias - the lodges, the
   expensive equipment, the hierarchical view of the universe -
   unlike Satanism, Ceremonial Magick has evolved and changed. The
   agents of these changes were the Hermetic Order of the Golden
   Dawn and its best known member Aleister Crowley. The first change
   came in relation to the beings addressed. While retaining the
   Judeo-Christian hosts, the Golden Dawn also addressed gods from
   the Egyptian and Greco-Roman pantheons, often dressing in robes
   and headgear suggestive of the deities invoked. After Crowley
   went on his own, he continued to address the old gods.
   Furthermore, he denied the existence of an all powerful godhead
   at the top of the universal hierarchy. He proclaimed the goal of
   the Magician to be "the attainment of the knowledge and
   conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel," the fulfillment of his
   "true will," and the realization of his own divinity. Although
   some Magicians were influenced by the work of Carl Jung, who
   considered all gods to be arch typical images projected by a
   collective unconscious, and by Eastern philosophies, which we
   shall touch on later; others were beginning to take a more
   psychologically oriented approach to their work. There is little
   doubt that Crowley believed the Holy Guardian Angel to be an
   entity external to oneself, one of a number of intelligences
   operating from other dimensions of existence. To Crowley, the
   realization of the Magician's divinity did not mean his
   absorption into the absolute; it meant the fulfillment of his
   individual line of evolution. Tirelessly, Crowley worked -
   writing new rituals in English, founding the Astrum Argentum and
   restructuring the Ordo Templis Orientalis, adapting Oriental
   concepts, synthesizing the various magical traditions - Greek,
   Egyptian, Hermetic, Cabalistic, and Masonic - into a new system,
   which he publicized in endless books. Aside from bringing Magick
   back into the public eye, Crowley's greatest contribution was his
   forthright admission of the true source of Magical Power - sexual
   energy. Having openly proclaimed the secret, he reveled in the
   notoriety that followed - acknowledging his use of drugs and
   orgiastic indulgence to facilitate entry into altered states of
   consciousness, espousing Thelema, a philosophy of absolute
   personal freedom (or license as his critics charged) and styling
   himself "The Beast 666," Crowley went out of his way to shock. In
   so doing, he opened himself to needless misunderstandings and, in
   many quarters, was branded a Black practitioner. In spite of his
   evil reputation, and despite the existence of more traditional
   Judeo-Christian oriented ideas - notably those of Dion Fortune
   and Israel Regardie, both Cabalists - Crowley is widely
   considered the fountain from which flows all modern Ceremonial
   Wicca, the third branch, is perhaps the hardest to write about.
   Without lending undue credence to its Medieval persecutors, who
   associated it with Satanism, the works of Margaret Murray, who
   considered the religion of prehistoric man, and the mostly self
   glorifying "traditions" of its modern adherents, almost nothing
   can be said of its past. A few things, however, seems readily
   apparent - the most important of which is, that in every way the
   Wiccan stood in contrast to the Ceremonial Magician. First and
   foremost, the Wiccan practiced a religion opposed to
   Christianity, doubtless a continuation of ancient local beliefs,
   though what these beliefs were is hard to say with certainty. It
   was because of their rejection of Christ that Wiccans were
   murdered by the Church. In an age where Church and state were
   one, religious tolerance was considered the gateway to anarchy.
   Where the Medieval Ceremonialist was an aristocratic man of the
   city, the Wiccan was always a peasant and most often a woman;
   where the Ceremonialist practiced alone, performing complicated
   rituals in Latin and Greek, summoning Angels and Demons to teach
   him the mysteries of the universe, the Wiccan commonly celebrated
   the phenomena of the changing seasons, chanting simple rhymes in
   order to secure a better harvest or a mate. The Ceremonialist
   practiced the mystic "Art," the Wiccan practiced "The Craft."
   Much of these differences continue to this day. The modern Wiccan
   still works within a coven and, though he may live in an urban
   apartment and have no knowledge of agriculture, he still
   celebrates the precession of the seasons, chanting in rhyme for
   whatever he may need. Where modern Wicca differs from its
   Medieval roots is difficult to say - hereditary Witches,
   descendants of Wiccans who survived the "Burning Times," are
   incredibly secretive about the beliefs and practices that they
   have inherited from their ancestors. Even if they were not, it
   would be impossible to tell how much the original ideas were
   distorted, added to, and subtracted from as they were handed down
   from generation to generation. Therefore, it is also impossible
   to tell how much Gerald Gardner the father of modern Wicca -
   preserved from the past and how much, despite his claims to the
   contrary, he actually created. Whatever the case might be, just
   as most modern Ceremonial Magick flows from Crowley, modern Wicca
   derives from Gardner. Although agricultural symbolism abounds in
   Gardneršs rituals and, by extension, those of most modern
   Wiccans, much of it seems so much like rhymed and simplified
   versions of Ceremonialist rites that rumor assigns their true
   authorship to Gardner's good friend, Aleister Crowley. In
   contrast to Ceremonialism, however, what distinguishes modern
   Wicca is its relentless feminism. Wiccans worship a dual godhead
   - a God, often identified with the Sun, Mars, Pan, or Horus, and
   a Goddess, often identified with the Moon, the Earth, Venus, or
   In all guises, the Goddess is considered dominant. She gives
   birth to the God, who is both son and consort. She is considered
   eternal, while the God suffers continuous death and rebirth,
   symbolized by the procession of the seasons. The phases of the
   Lunar Goddess waxing, full, and waning - are identified with the
   three phases of a woman's sexual life cycle - maiden, mother,
   crone. The basic ideas are elaborated upon in a variety of ways.
   Women are always considered wiser, more psychically powerful, and
   spiritually developed than men and, while Wiccan rituals are
   performed by a Priest and a Priestess, the Priestess is always
   the absolute authority. The Priest is always her servant. An
   observer well versed in psychology might detect in Wiccan rituals
   a subtle form of female sadism and male masochism. Many Wiccans
   advocate Matriarchy - a social system in which women hold
   ultimate political power. Unlike the Ceremonialists, who tends to
   time his rituals according to intricate astrological
   calculations, the Wiccan performs her Magick to the phases of the
   moon - works of expansion are begun during the new, and culminate
   during the full moon; works of constriction are done in reverse.
   Identifying the Earth with the Goddess and seeking to keep close
   to its agricultural roots, modern Wicca is keenly interested in
   Ecology. Wicca today is highly image conscious, always
   downplaying its popular association with curses and orgies. Much
   work is done for psychic healing. It's feminism and concern for
   public opinion gives it a unique attitude towards sex - on the
   other hand, its alleged derivation from ancient fertility cults
   and its feminist focus on women's sexuality force it to
   acknowledge sex as a source of Magickal power; on the other hand,
   its regard for appearances makes it champion monogamy. The
   perfect coven is comprised of loving, deeply committed couples.
   No Crowleyite orgies, please. In regards to the God and Goddess,
   most Wiccans are unclear as to whether they are to be considered
   as the male and female aspects of a single deity, or as two
   distinct entities. Though the Wiccan Grace has a line stating
   that the Goddess is to be found within oneself, most Wiccans
   treat her as an external being. Beginning with Alex Sanders, many
   have broken away from Gardnerianism, forming endless offshoots,
   almost all of which have retained the Feminist emphasis. Modern
   Wicca could be called the religion of the Women's Liberation
   The three streams of Western Occultism described above can be
   considered the orthodoxy from which Chaos Magick derives and
   against which it rebels. Before we can explore Chaos Magick more
   fully, we must pause briefly to examine four other tends that
   have influenced it deeply: Jungianism, Parapsychology, Physics,
   and Eastern Philosophy.
   Of Carl Jung's work, we need say little, except that his theory
   of archetypes - universal images that symbolize human experiences
   and aspects of the human mind - has definitely determined Chaos
   Magick's view of all Gods. Though most Chaos practitioners might
   consider science as just another system, they cannot help but be
   influenced by parapsychological research, which suggests that
   psychic ability may be a function of the human mind - making
   possible the idea of Magickal power without disembodied
   assistance. Quantum Physics, with its indeterminate and often
   theoretical particles, must find a cozy corner in his heart. But
   Easter philosophy is his biggest source, and we cannot understand
   his special definition of Chaos - the cornerstone of his ideas -
   and how it differs from the traditional, Western view without
   understanding Asian thought.
   Whatever their superficial differences in terminology and
   practical approach, the three great streams of Eastern philosophy
   - Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism - are united in proclaiming that
   the Universe is one vast, ever-changing whole, beyond all
   concepts, categories, and definitions. The Hindu calls it
   Brahman, and his gods, like the theoretical particles of Quantum
   Physics, are merely symbols of its cosmological aspects. To the
   Buddhist, it is the Void - that beyond all designation and
   description - and his pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are,
   like Jung's archetypes, symbols of psychological states. The
   Taoist simply calls it the Tao, the Way. Furthermore, they agree
   that man's inner nature - which the Hindu calls "Atman," the
   Buddhist "no soul," and the Taoist "Non Self" - is identical with
   that of the universe. In all three religions to existentially
   know these two things is considered Enlightenment - liberation
   from views and opinions, all of which can only be falsehood,
   bondage, and illusion.
   Here lies the difference between the traditional and the Chaos
   practitioner's definition of that fearful word - Chaos. To the
   Chaos practitioner, Chaos is not the absence of order, but - to
   paraphrase Henry Miller - an order beyond understanding. It is
   analogous to the Hindu's Brahman, the Buddhist's Void, the
   Taoist's Tao, and the Ancient Anglo Saxon's Wyrd. It is
   constantly changing - it can be experienced, but is beyond
   intellectual categorization. Order is, at best, the aspect of
   indescribable reality that our sensory equipment permits us to
   perceive - the bee sees the flower differently than a human
   being. At worst, Order is simply an illusionary pattern projected
   by our prejudices. To Albert Einstein's claim that God does not
   play dice with the Universe, the Chaos practitioner might answer
   that the universe is god - if one has to use such an emotionally
   loaded word - and He's the only thing He can ever play with.
   Since he believes that reality is ultimately indescribable, he
   renounces all dogma, taking ideas and practices from everywhere,
   combining them as suits the situation, dropping them when they no
   longer apply. In an unknowable universe no belief is valid yet
   every belief is valid so long as the believer recognizes it as a
   tool, a necessary illusion, and so long as it continues to work
   for him.
   The entire pattern of Chaos Magick can be readily seen at a quick
   glance at the thoughts of the man its practitioners consider its
   father - Austin Osman Spare. Once a member of the Golden Dawn and
   an associate of Crowley's until disagreement severed their
   relationship, Spare ceaselessly denounced religion, science, and
   Ceremonial Magick. His attacks on all three were founded upon the
   same premise: in a universe that defies description, all systems
   of belief can only be false. Since man is part of the universe
   and therefore already God, all religion can offer him is false
   idols that keeps him from sensing his true divinity. From the
   very first, Spare saw that science is itself a form of religion,
   an attempt to name the unnamable, a system of categories that
   dismisses anything it cannot contain. Ceremonial Magick, he
   considered an overly complicated waste of time - perpetrated upon
   the gullible by greedy charlatans - that keeps man from
   discovering his true source of power, which is within himself.
   Spare preached the need for absolute simplicity in all magickal
   workings and, instead of prayer and ritual, he considered as the
   ultimate Magick technique the creation of and meditation upon the
   Sigil a personal design of stylized letters expressing a desire
   yet concealing it from the conscious mind. Sigils have
   traditionally been the design on Magick talismans, but Spare
   asserted that their power was not intrinsic to the lines and
   figures of the design - their power came from their effect upon
   the deepest layers of the unconscious mind. Therefore, one had to
   create one's own design, which had to be simple enough to be
   easily visualized and complex enough for the conscious mind to
   forget its original meaning.
   In his work on Sigilization, we see the Eastern influence on
   Spare's ideas. Though the Sigil is to be created under the
   influence of a desperate desire, and is to be visualized and
   meditated upon while the obsession persists, it can have no
   Magical effect until one has exhausted the desire, forgotten the
   meaning of the Sigil, and become completely in different to the
   desire and the symbol that represents it. To Spare, meditation
   meant to hold the Sigil in the mind's eye until it gradually
   excluded all other thoughts and then faded from consciousness,
   leaving the mind vacuous - the polar opposite to fixing one's
   mind upon a symbol, pondering its meaning, fighting off all other
   ideas, and focusing all of one's concentrated will upon its
   realization. Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the
   Hindu or Buddhist tantra will recognize this as the practice of
   the Tantrika, who performs identical visualizations upon Yantras
   - geometric designs representing cosmic and psychological forces,
   Yantras are the basic patterns behind Mandalas - and considers
   the fulfillment of a desire as a step towards detachment from all
   As if that were not enough, Spare's concept of the universe seems
   like Asian ideas rephrased. The absolute, he called Kia a word
   that has no meaning in any Western language and resembles the
   Japanese word "ki," which means the vital breath behind all life.
   Note how closely Spare's words echo those of Lao Tzu. Spare: "Of
   name, it has no need, to designate, I call it Kia . . .the Kia
   which can be expressed in conceivable ideas is not the eternal
   Kia." Lao Tzu: "The Tao that can be said is not the Tao . . . Of
   itself, it has no name . . . for lack of a better word, I call it
   "The Tao." The Kia - which could just as easily be called Chaos -
   is beyond description, a complete whole, without divisible parts,
   an inconceivable zero. Yet it manifests itself in apparent
   dualities - male and female, light and darkness, birth and death.
   In Spare's formula, from nothing comes two. But the poles of each
   duality are not absolute unto itself; each is like an arm linked
   together by a torso, which in this case cannot be described. The
   dualities always arise together. Joy emerges with anguish, faith
   with doubt. Therefore, the mind cannot avoid conflict and
   contradiction. Spare's solution is not to choose between opposing
   urges but to observe them simultaneously - a state of mind which
   fixes its consciousness, for example, upon dawn and dusk,
   twilight hours that are neither day nor night. "Neither-Neither"
   at once recalls the Hindu "Neti-Neti," not this/not that,
   Nargajuna's dialectical negations whereby nothing can be said to
   exist or not to exist, the non choosing of the Taoist hermit, and
   the nondiscriminating awareness of the Zen Master. He also urges
   that the ego rests in a state of selflove - which is not to be
   confused with narcissism - a state wherein it is happily absorbed
   in the joy of its own existence and does not have the need to
   continuously aggrandize itself by endless conquest and
   acquisition. As the Upanishads say: "Let the Self find refuge in
   the Self."
   During his lifetime Spare a brilliant artist, who produced a
   series of striking automatic drawings - never received the
   attention that was given his former associate, Crowley. What
   little notice came his way was mostly bad. Art critics hated his
   work and many occultists, including Crowley, considered him a
   Black Magician. His ideas - which he communicated in short books,
   written in an exhortatory, denunciatory, declamatory style
   reminiscent of "Thus Spoke Zarathrusta" - have only recently been
   given the consideration they deserve.
   Perhaps it is the highest compliment to a man who hated doctrine
   that those responsible for the rediscovery of his work do not
   take him as an absolute authority. While Ray Sherwin, Julian
   Wilde, and "The Circle of Chaos" may praise Spare's work, they
   consider him a point of departure, an influence on an forerunner
   of their own endeavors. Unlike the followers of Crowley, they
   have not turned Spare into a Golden Ass. Spare's disciples how
   they would probably hate that term - differ from him as much as
   they differ from each other. The major difference is that Spare's
   successors, while critical of it, do not reject ritual out of
   Before we go into a point by point examination of how Chaos
   Magick differs from conventional occultism, a brief review of the
   work of the practitioners who have become known in America would
   be helpful.
   Of the "Circle of Chaos,˛ we can say very little. They are an
   eclectic collection of diverse occultists who came together in
   the middle Sixties - partly in reaction against the growing
   sectarianism and commercialism within the occult world. They have
   created a set of rituals weaving different strands from the
   traditions of their various members. So far, they have published
   only one book, "The Rites of Chaos," copywritten under the name
   "Paula Pagani." It is a collection of seasonal rituals, rhymed
   celebrations of the traditional Wiccan holidays. Originally known
   as "The Circle of the Wyrd," the "Circle of Chaos" is basically
   Wiccan in style, if not completely in substance.
   In the truest sense, the same cannot truly be said of Julian
   Wilde. He considers himself a Shamanistic Tantric Wiccan and is
   every bit as eclectic as that designation implies. By his own
   account, he has studied Wicca, Cabala, Shamanism, Zen and Tibetan
   Tantric Buddhism, has used sex and drugs and Rock n' Roll as aids
   to achieving trance, and has been influenced by the writings of
   Carlos Castenada and Michael Moorcock. His "Grimoire of Chaos
   Magick" - a fragment of his personal Book of Shadows which he has
   had published as a collection of suggestions to like-minded souls
   - is a slim, yet extraordinary book. His writing style is even
   fiercer and more denunciatory than Spare's. His invocations are
   free verses, full of striking images conveyed in a barbaric yet
   majestic language - between their lines one glimpses a man who
   has survived almost every kind of personal catastrophe. As if to
   prove the sincerity of his commitment to eclecticism, his book
   contains both a bitter attack on and a ritual by - Aleister
   Crowley. Wilde is the founder of the Church of Ka'atas, an entity
   that does not exist in the legal sense of the word and is just a
   name for those who more or less share his views. He is truly, as
   he describes himself, a Chaos Warrior.
   Ray Sherwin is perhaps the most conventional of the Chaos
   practitioners. As a member of the I.O.T. - an English lodge that
   broke away from the O.T.O. - he is a Ceremonial Magician. Unlike
   Spare and Wilde, his books are written in a calm, analytical
   style, systematically exploring points of practical concern to
   the Magician. A point worth noting is that the I.O.T. - unlike
   other Chaos practitioners - considers Chaos as one end of a
   duality, the other end being Cosmos/Order. Sherwin does not seem
   to fully subscribe to this view, but he does not completely
   refute it, taking a stance of maybe/maybe not.
   Having gotten a general view of Chaos Magick, now we shall take a
   point by point look at how its practitioners differ from orthodox
   occultism and from each other. Unfortunately, we shall have to
   limit most of this discussion to the views of Spare, Wilde, and
   Sherwin, since "The Circle of Chaos" has only published their
   seasonal rituals.
   Source of Power: What the Magician considers the source of his
   power determines the rest of his practice. Obviously, the
   Satanist believes that his power is a gift from his master, the
   Devil. The Ceremonialist believes that his power derives, through
   a series of astral entities, ultimately from the Lord of Hosts,
   the most high God - a Crowleyite would say that only the astral
   beings exist and give power. And the Wiccan places his trust in
   the Goddess, the God, and the elementals. But all of the Chaos
   practitioners agreed that as yet undiscovered energies within the
   human subconscious are the true source of Magick. They share this
   view with Eastern philosophy, parapsychology, and such modern
   theorists of Magick as Isaac Bonewitz.
   Preparatory Exercises: Most Magical traditions contain a body of
   exercises designed to open the novice to Magical influences,
   which must be mastered before he's allowed to progress to ritual
   work. Doubtless, the modern Satanist considers a few orgies and a
   couple of hundred pounds of the strongest grass he can buy
   sufficient to the task. Both modern Wiccans and Ceremonialists
   concentrate on astral projection and on visualization - usually
   on the tattwas and the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Spare, on the
   other hand, places all the emphasis on the death posture - in
   which one totally relaxes one's body and keeps one's mind as
   blank as possible for as long as possible, a practice useful in
   developing the neither/neither state of mind. And Wilde has
   created a whole new set of exercises. The most interesting of
   these is a meditation, based on Tibetan Tantra, in which one
   visualizes one's body melting down completely then rebuilding
   itself from nothing, and another meditation in which one
   visualizes the chakras - psychic centers arranged one atop the
   other on the spine, a yogic concept - as modern rooms connected
   by a spiral staircase. True to form, Wilde says that one does not
   have to believe in the literal existence of the chakras. The
   noteworthy aspect of all these exercises is that they attempt to
   put the practitioner in touch with his deeper self not with
   external entities and planes.
   Divination: Usually, the next step in the novice's training is
   learning various methods of forecasting coming events. Wiccans
   tend to concentrate on the Magick Mirror, the crystal ball, and
   occasionally on reading the patterns of tea leaves and the like.
   Both Ceremonialists and Wiccans place great store by the Tarot.
   In recent years, the I Ching and the Runes have become popular,
   and in some quarters the Ouija board is experiencing a revival.
   Medieval occultists thought that divinatory methods were channels
   through which the Gods, Demi Angels, and spirits communicate with
   men. Even Crowley believed that their operations depended upon
   astral intelligences. Though there are still those who hold to
   the older view, most modern practitioners view divinatory devices
   as means to focus the conscious mind, allowing the subconscious
   to present its knowledge of the future. All Chaos practitioners
   agree with the modern view. Wilde takes it a step further by
   suggesting that palmistry and astrology, which most occultists
   see as objective "sciences," are also focusing devices. To Wilde
   - who has designed his own version of the Major Arcana of the
   Tarot for his private use - the arrangement of planets on a
   horoscope or lines on a palm probably have no meaning other than
   what they suggest to the interpreter's psychic faculties.
   Initiation: In all occult traditions, both Western and Eastern,
   initiation is considered the death of the old being and the
   simultaneous birth of the Magickal Person. Usually, it is though
   that Magickal power is conferred - either by a disembodied entity
   or, in the Eastern tradition, by the teacher - upon the initiate
   during the ceremony. Chaos practitioners have a more complex view
   of the process. To Spare, initiation was as much of a farce as
   any other ceremony. Sherwin and Wilde agree that in an of itself
   initiation means nothing more than acceptance into a particular
   group of practitioners. Wilde takes the Shamanistic view that
   real initiation is a product of severe personal crisis caught in
   a situation from which there is no normal avenue, of escape, the
   Individual spontaneously summons up previously unsuspected power
   from his subconscious. While agreeing with Wilde's view, Sherwin
   believes that it is the responsibility of the initiating group to
   artificially produce a controlled crisis in the initiate a
   practice employed by the ancient mystery schools of Egypt,
   Greece, and Rome, and the Masonic orders.
   Ritual and Ceremony: Traditional practitioners of Magick have
   seen ritual as a performance that pleased the Gods so much that
   they would grant the performer's request as a kind of rewiring of
   cosmic circuitry towards a specific goal. Getting every detail of
   the ceremony has always been considered of utmost importance to
   the success of the operation - one mistake meant failure. Modern
   Wicca, however, acknowledges that intent determines the
   effectiveness of the rite more than perfection of its form. Chaos
   Magick agrees with modern Wicca - and again goes quite a few
   steps further. Both Wilde and Sherwin view ritual as a form of
   theater, designed to arouse the performer's emotion to a fever
   pitch and then discharge it outwards - a catharsis that leaves
   the magician drained of the obsession and puts his mind in
   Spare's detached "neither/neither" state. They believe that
   Magick cannot do its work so long as the magician consciously
   wishes the operation to succeed. In order to get his wish, it
   must no longer be his wish. Unlike the various traditions of
   Ceremonialists and Wiccans, all of which employ specific methods
   of casting a Circle, each of them claiming that their way is the
   only right one - Wilde, Sherwin, and the Circle of Chaos advise
   the practitioner to cast his/her Circle any way they want. While
   traditional magicians of all persuasions demand that rituals done
   for specific goals must be performed with the appropriate
   incenses, oils, and colored candles, Wilde suggests using the
   most mind-blowing incenses and the most garishly colored candles
   one can find for all rituals. He also suggests visualizing
   various animals as the Guardians of the Circle, instead of the
   traditional Lords of the Elements. Sherwin suggests visualizing
   either beings from outer space, garbed in appropriate "B-movie"
   costumes, or naked sex objects at the four watchtowers. Believing
   that the source of power lies within the practitioner, Wilde
   suggests that the Magician arouse her/his anger, hatred, sadness,
   grief and, most especially, lust - suggesting that before the
   ritual one either masturbate or have somebody fellate one,
   stopping before orgasm, saving sexual release until the high
   point of the rite. He believes that petitionary prayers to the
   gods should be composed spontaneously at the ritual's high point.
   Sherwin, for his part, refutes the theory that specific rituals
   should be done at specific times, reasoning that not ~1 people
   are observably affected by the phases of the moon and that the
   tables assigning certain days and hours to certain planets were
   drawn up before the discovery of Neptune, Uranus and Pluto and
   are therefore invalid. The best time to perform a ritual is when
   the need and opportunity present themselves.
   The Gods of Chaos: Because Chaos practitioners consider their
   gods as projections of their own minds, their attitude towards
   them is eclectic and - orthodox Magicians would say - irreverent.
   Wildešs Grimoire lists a potpourri of divinities from a
   hodgepodge of pantheons. He says that Gods can be adapted from
   the words of writers such as Tolkein, and further states that any
   God who doesn't provide a minimum of service should be forgotten.
   In general, Chaos practitioners prefer to concentrate on recently
   rediscovered or newly created deities. Among the rediscovered,
   some favorites are Baphomet, an androgynous horned god who, in
   the 12th century, the Knights Templar used as a Cabalistic
   symbol, was written about in the l9th century by Eliphas Levi,
   and is considered by Wilde as the sum total of all universal
   forces and the personification of active Chaos. Another favorite
   is Eris, Goddess of Discord, a long-forgotten Greek divinity who
   was considered (in Hesiod's "Theogeny") as being the more savage,
   female half of Eros, God of Love. To the ancient Greeks, Eros and
   Eris together comprised an androgynous Aphrodite. The Circle of
   Chaos pays reverence to Thataneros - a divinity created by
   Thessalonius Loyola who represents the Freudian principle of Sex
   and Death. Wilde has created K'atas a wise old Oriental man with
   green eyes, who functions as a calm guide through the Chaotic
   storm. Taking Chaos theory to its furthest extreme; it might be
   said that a comic book hero like Superman might be the best
   protector for someone who can feel no affinity with a classic
   warrior god such as Mars.
   Magickal Works: Unlike Wilde, who has nothing new to add to the
   techniques of Practical Magick he suggests that one buy
   traditional spell and candleburning books and adapt their
   teachings to one's need. Sherwin's experiments have led him to
   some interesting innovations. As if to send a shiver through
   Spare's body, Sherwin maintains that Sigils are best vitalized
   through intense rituals. Taking Spare's work yet another step
   further, Sherwin believes that one should excerpt certain
   syllables from the sentence that has been sigilized and then
   chant them as a sort of nonsense mantra while meditating on the
   As we can see, the practitioners of Chaos Magick are both united
   and distinguished from each other by their emphasis on
   experimentation and individual experience. Chaos Magick is not a
   new or different kind of Magick. It is a set of working
   principles - some new, some ancient, - which the individual
   practitioner can creatively reinterpret to suit his own needs.
   What effect such a personalized approach will have on American
   occultism is difficult to say. Who can predict Chaos? It may very
   well appeal to American individualism. It may prove a useful
   bridge between Eastern and Western occultism - a link-up that in
   the past has been sabotaged by the liberal white man's fawning
   search for the exotic savage - the conservative white man's
   atavistic inability to accept the wisdom of anyone who does not
   resemble him or possess his technology, and the inferiority
   complex that drives Asian teachers to treat Westerners as rich
   retards. At worse, it may prove to be just another slogan spewed
   by Mohawk-headed morons who, being too stupid to see the true
   Chaos within the order of everyday life, invoke Chaos by breaking
   beer bottles on the sidewalk and vomiting in other people's
   hallways. Even this ugly possibility is tolerable, however, if
   Chaos Magick will silence the man-hating mouthings of the maxi
   matriarchal Wiccans, end the need to authenticate ancient
   traditions that were created the day after tomorrow by ethnically
   minded Witches, and stop the endless debate indulged in by rival
   occult factions over how many planes reality has and which is the
   one true color scheme to work Magick with - all of which
   presently dominate American occultism. If Chaos Magick can stop
   American Ceremonialists from licking the toes of their Aleister
   Crowley statues. . . but, perhaps some things are too much to
   wish for.
   No matter. Whatever may come of it, the British are invading us
   again. This time their banners say:
                            CHAOS CONTROLS
  Suggested Reading
   Grimoire of Chaos Magick, by Julian Wilde
   Book of Results, by Ray Sherwin
   Theatre of Magick, by Ray Sherwin
   Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare
   Cardinal Rites of Chaos, by the Circle of Chaos
   Real Magick, by Isaac Bonewitz

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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
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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
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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
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