What is Chaos Magic?

Since the mention of the term “Chaos Magic” in episode 8 of the Disney+ series WandaVision, I’ve started seeing articles that not only describe its nature within the Marvel comics universe, but also try to describe the actual modern occult practice. Unfortunately, some writers don’t seem to be putting a lot of effort into researching that aspect of Chaos Magic, so I felt compelled to offer my take on the topic.

I began practicing Chaos Magic in 2003, following a decade of attempting to find a home in various religious paths, including Wicca, Asatru, and Gnosticism. Obviously I do not speak for all those who practice any of the myriad magical techniques that have come to be included under this label. It is said that if you ask nine Chaos Magicians their opinion, you’ll get ten responses. Even what I now practice is not the same as when I started. As many practitioners do, I eventually created my own systems, expanding on and inspired by the foundations of those who had gone down this rabbit hole before me.

Chaos Magic is at its core a set of techniques of results-oriented sorcery. It was initially formulated by Peter Carroll, Ray Sherwin, and a small group of English occultists in the late 1970s. It drew heavily on the work of the artist and sorcerer Austin Osman Spare. At its inception, this new magical current was not known as Chaos Magic by name, but references to the term Chaos itself are frequent.

In Carroll’s 1978 book Liber Null, he refers to utilizing the eight-pointed star of Chaos (conceived by Michael Moorcock for use in his Elric stories), and derives his Sigil of Chaos and Chaosphere construct from it. He states: The “thing” responsible for the origin and continued action of events is called Chaos by magicians. He also makes use of the phrase “To Chaos, nothing is true and everything is permitted.” This phrase, popularized by William S. Burroughs is ostensibly attributed to Hassan I Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain, who founded the Order of Assassins. In this same year, Ray Sherwin released his seminal work, The Book of Results. The two also founded the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), an initiatory order devoted to the further development and practice of this nascent magical movement. The early members of the IOT produced a sizable body of work that is still widely available.

In his 1982 book Psychonaut Carroll better describes what his conception of Chaos is:

“In this new paradigm, the animating force of the entire vast universe can be called Chaos. It is the inexpressible pregnant Void from which manifest existence, order, and form arise.”

By the early 1980’s other groups began to experiment with this novel set of practices. Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth combined magic, music, and art into their work. Later groups such as the Z(Cluster) in the mid-1990’s, and the DKMU in the late 2000’s, among many others have continued to mutate and evolve this fluid tradition.

In general, spells and rituals in Chaos Magic tend to be less elaborate than those in more widely-known forms of ceremonial magic, but this is not always the case. Some workings include recitations in invented languages, complex invocations, and elaborate props. More often though, a pen and paper, or spray paint and concrete are the tools. Although there are now many additional techniques that comprise the practice, two of the most fundamental that are the hallmarks of Chaos Magic are the Sigil and the Servitor.

The process of sigil creation was described by Austin Osman Spare in The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): Psychology of Ecstasy, published in 1913. They are statements of magical intent, distilled down to a graphical form which are intended to bypass the rational, skeptical mind and thus enable the subconscious to impart the instructions to the universe for fulfillment. Spare wrote that “sigils are the art of believing; my invention for making belief organic, ergo, true belief.”

Servitors are magical constructs, thoughtforms brought forth from the imagination of their creator through a variety of techniques. They may range in complexity from rote automatons to near-sentient, complex personalities that act as agents of their maker. The essay “Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms” by Marik, published in 2000 is an invaluable resource on their nature.

Chaos Magic has widened in scope in the twenty-first century. It has grown to incorporate a number of sub-paradigms. One of the prominent offshoots is the appropriation of pop culture tropes, due in no small part to the work of comic writer and avowed magician Grant Morrison. Other paradigms use quantum mechanics or urban animism as their frame of reference.

Since Chaos Magic is a contemporary creation, some of those involved in its creation and dissemination have been frequent guests on various podcasts, where they have recounted their experiences:

The Birth of Chaos-Peter J. Carroll (Thoth Hermes)
https://thothermes.com/episodes/season-5-episode-4-the-birth-of-chaos-peter-j-carroll/

Tantra and Chaos-Phil Hine (Thoth Hermes)
https://thothermes.com/episodes/season-4-episode-22-tantra-and-chaos-phil-hine/

MAGIC PEOPLE – Dave Lee (Adventures in Woo Woo)
https://soundcloud.com/adventuresinwoowoo/magic-people-dave-lee

References and Resources:

Principia Chaotica – Peter Carroll
https://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/chaos/princhao.txt

Sigils, servitors and godforms: Part I – Marik
https://www.spiralnature.com/magick/sigservgod/


Recommended Books:

Liber Null – Peter Carroll
Psychonaut – Peter Carroll
SSOTBME – Ramsey Dukes
Practical Sigil Magic – Frater U.D.
Understanding Chaos Magic – Jaq D. Hawkins
Condensed Chaos – Phil Hine
Prime Chaos – Phil Hine
The Book of Results – Ray Sherwin
The Book of Pleasure – A.O. Spare

Listening to Chaos Magic history

I’ve been on a Chaos Magic history kick lately, and have been pleased to find several podcast interviews that have provided insight on those early years.

In this episode of the Thoth Hermes podcast, host Rudolf interviews Peter J. Carroll, author of Liber Null, among many other titles. Carroll and Ray Sherwin are by most accounts the progenitors of Chaos Magic:

https://thothermes.com/episodes/season-5-episode-4-the-birth-of-chaos-peter-j-carroll/

In this episode of Adventures in Woo Woo, host Tommie Kelly interviews Dave Lee, author of Chaotopia, and among the earliest practitioners of the new system synthesized by Carroll and Sherwin:

https://soundcloud.com/adventuresinwoowoo/magic-people-dave-lee

Vargr23’s Sorcery and Chaos Magic Reading List

I was asked to create a list of resources intended to take someone from “interested” to conversant and proficient in the practice of basic techniques of Western sorcery and Chaos Magic. The works are intended to be read in the order listed, or close to it. There are certainly many other good works on the topic, but I have read all of these, and I won’t recommend a work that I haven’t read. This list will expand as I read new works and deem them appropriate for inclusion.

Principia Chaotica (essay) – Peter Carroll
The Temporary Autonomous Zone – Hakim Bey Sections: Chaos, Sorcery
Understanding Chaos Magic – Jaq D. Hawkins
Pop Magic – Grant Morrison
Condensed Chaos – Phil Hine
The Psychonaut Field Manual – Arch-Traitor Bluefluke
Sigils Servitors and Godforms parts 1 and 2 – Marik
The Book of Results – Ray Sherwin
Liber Null – Peter Carroll
Psychonaut – Peter Carroll
Practical Sigil Magic – Frater U.D.
Prime Chaos – Phil Hine
Chaotopia – Dave Lee
Advanced Magick for Beginners – Alan Chapman
The Book of Pleasure – A.O. Spare
SSOTBME – Ramsey Dukes
Quantum Sorcery – Dave Smith
Liber Kaos – Peter Carroll
Six Ways – Aidan Wachter
Stealing the Fire from Heaven – Stephen Mace
Voidworking – Dave Smith
Chaos Monkey – Jaq Hawkins
Pop Culture Magick – Taylor Ellwood
Sorcery – J. Finley Hurley
PsyberMagick – Peter Carroll
The Sorcerer’s Shadow: Volume 1 – The Sorcerer’s Guild
Liber LS – Alexander Hoffman (ed.)
Grey Book – TOPY
Hands on Chaos Magic – Andrieh Vitimus

The Projection of Intent

The encoding of intent is an informational package created by the magician via any number of means, such as sigilization or ritual. At the moment of the launch of this intent packet, it is sent out like a spherical expanding shockwave, travelling at the speed of thought. This can be envisioned like a ripple in a pond, but in three dimensions. As this wave interacts with the larger Universe in which it is contained, it interferes with the information state of every point it encounters, and alters them in accordance with the magician’s Will. As is the way with all such emanations, the signal strength of this wave will decrease, but the actual intent to cause change does not.

Conceptually, the information packet is analogous to any other bolus of information that is to be transmitted in a conventional system. It consists of a set of instructions as to how reality should rearrange itself to traverse from its present state to the desired end state. In this way, it is like a piece of RNA, or even a virus. Since we as mere mortals do not know the opcodes by which the Universe carries out the process of instantiating, we must rely on the emergent nature of the whole, and use the inherent mechanism to carry our Will into being. For whatever reason, the arrow of time advances, entropy increases, and change occurs. Through the projection of intent, aka Magic, one can exert some miniscule influence on the end result of this nascent present.

Dogma and Constraint


I don’t shit on dogma just for the sake of doing it. I’m just offended by it in principle. Dogma is inherently limiting. Just as William Burroughs commented that you can’t discuss a thing that you don’t have a word for, and thus you are constrained by language, you are also constrained by the symbols and systems inherent to a dogma to which you profess. If you don’t accept the precepts of your system as incontrovertibly true, then you’re not a true believer, and eventually you’ll be shaken out of your framework. This may be via your own disillusionment, policing forces within your movement or tradition that seek to weed out apostates, or even via outside influences that draw you away. Even if you do buy in fully and deeply, there will always be forces and circumstances that will test your devotion.

In my previous magical and spiritual work, I have tried to adhere to various fixed paths, but in each case, I have eventually found their truths to be subjective and narrow, and for my part, I cannot stomach that for very long once the façade begins to erode. Consequently, even as I have become an instructor in the practice of sorcery, I state only that I teach techniques, not Truth. I approach my writing the same way.

Some people need the structure and safety of an established framework through which they can experience the numinous, but in order to obtain that safe haven, they must sacrifice self-determination and ultimately self-actualization for the sake of the system that they are contorting themselves to fit. I have long believed that one of the precious scarcities in the world, and perhaps even the Universe, is true novelty. Experimentation and the expansion of the limits of human experience should be the credo of every magical practitioner. To be rigidly locked into a path prescribed by a hierarchical authority is to surrender that prerogative and to allow ones flame to be dimmed in service to mediocrity.


Necromancy for Great Justice

This bit of necromancy was performed for Samhain 2020.

We are gathered on this night, when the veil between worlds is pulled back and those who have passed may move freely in our world once more.
The way is open, the path is drawn.

A chime is struck.

We call upon those slain by the words or hands of all tyrants of all ages.
Those whose lives were held cheap by the living embodiments of power without compassion.
The way is open, the path is drawn.

A chime is struck.

Return to this world and let loose your wrath upon the oppressors of this age.
Help now the helpless living shed the fetters of control without consent.
The way is open, the path is drawn.

A chime is struck.

By this sign we unite the worlds.
Let the living and the dead rise as one to smite all despots.

The black altar candle is lit.

Let this flame be a guide to all those who are lost, forgotten, and forsaken.
Rise with your kin and lend your might to our cause.
Like the Erinys of legend, punish the wicked and freeze their hearts with dread.

Let all those who suffer know succor.
Let all those who inflict suffering know fear.

Rise and mete justice!
Rise and wreak havoc!
Rise and taste vengeance!

The way is open, the path is drawn.

A chime is struck three times.

It is complete, it is complete, it is complete.

Servitor Swarm Synergy

This article originally appeared in Konton Magazine, Vernal Equinox 2006, issue 3.1.

Of late I have been studying the phenomenon of distributed processing of function over networks, and the emergence of a superorganism which can result from the collective efforts of numerous components which are themselves quite simplistic. In biological systems, such as ant colonies, a hive mind emerges which coordinates the efforts of all its parts in a non-hierarchical yet efficient way. It is this effect which has inspired engineers to create swarming machines.

I began to contemplate whether or not a similar effect would occur if an interconnected swarm of servitors were created which were not individually invested with a great deal of intent, and were collectively charged with a broad statement of purpose

The result was that I decided to create a cluster of 12 identical servitors, which I refer to as nodes, each charged with the task of gathering information that would be of interest or benefit to me, and funneling such information back to me by any convenient or available communication channel.

Collectively, the construct is designated as “Nexus 0xC”, roughly meaning “the connected 12.” I chose Hexadecimal, or base 16 to represent the numeric portion of the name in order to avoid the commonality of the everyday decimal numbering system. The individual component servitors are identically created from the same visualized seed which divides instantaneously into 12 equal parts. Upon the creation of the 12, each is intended to be self-aware, but is not yet connected to the others.

The symbol of the ultimate manifestation of Nexus 0xC is a dodecagon with an empty circle at each vertex. Each vertex is connected to every other in order to symbolize the network which exists between these servitors. In the center of the network is another empty circle which represents me. Twelve identical tokens were also created to represent the nodes of the nexus, and to be the foci for the individual servitors. By design, these tokens are indistinguishable from one another, to emphasize the uniformity of the members of the swarm.

These tokens were deployed in various locations around the city to symbolize the wide scope of this information gathering system. As this was done, the servitors were visualized to emerge from the tokens as coherent, invisible wave forms, and to begin gathering information. This was to be stored until all nodes had been distributed and connected.

The physical components of this operation are accompanied by a corresponding set of visualized counterparts. The virtual seed form of the cluster was visualized as liquid silver-white light coalescing from the void, accumulating into a mirrored, mercury-like sphere. Just as a larger glob of mercury accumulates smaller amounts into itself, increasing the volume of the sphere, the seed was allowed to develop in imaginal space. As each of the node servitors was released from its token, a portion of this energy was visualized to detach and emerge as the wave form of the servitor.

After the final token was distributed, the act of connecting them into the nexus was performed. The original dodecagon symbol was used as the focus for this operation. While focusing on the symbol, a state of excitatory gnosis was entered via a combination of sensory overload, mind-altering substances, and orgasm. At the moment immediately prior to white-out, I visualized a projection as emerging from the symbol as silver-white light, and spreading out to connect the individual nodes. At this moment, all of the nodes became joined through the myriad pathways into Nexus 0xC.

When I meditate and focus my thought on the Nexus symbol, I visualize myself as being within the center hub of the network. If the swarm of node servitors has any information to relay to me, they can then do so through the pathways. I have only recently completed this operation, so I cannot yet report any demonstrable results.

The possibility of a hyper-implementation of this network has also occurred to me, either as a group working, or in further iterations on my own. Additional clusters could be created, and then linked to the original in order to attain an even wider sensory array.

Vargr
February 16, 2006

Magical Mechanics: Spooky Action at a Distance

As I went through notes and materials for expanded and revised edition of Quantum Sorcery, I found this, which was intended to be my talk for the International Left Hand Path Consortium 2016 in Atlanta Ga. Unfortunately due to a catastrophic injury, I was unable to attend. Here is the text of the talk:

Magical Mechanics: Spooky Action at a Distance

This presentation examines the relationship and parallels between the magical principles of Similarity and Contagion, and the scientific principles of Entanglement and Entrainment within a non-theistic system of sorcery. Methods of categorizing and overcoming barriers to achieving a mind state conducive to magical practice will also be discussed.

Magic is the name most commonly applied to the faculty of causing change in the phenomenal world via the exertion of will. The vast majority of ostensibly rational people in the western world hold that magic isn’t real. Some of us refute their assertion, and believe that magic is real, that it works, and that we can do it. We disagree on the mechanism, origin, and nature of this phenomenon, but on some level, we believe in it.

Belief is a loaded word in Chaos Magic. We use it as a tool, but try not to collapse into it. We believe that we make our own reality, and that belief is the kernel upon which magical practice is built. If you don’t believe that magic works, then it never will for you, plain and simple.

I practice sorcery. Down and dirty. Simple. Sometimes with tools and rituals, sometimes with sigils and servitors, sometimes with nothing but a picture in my head of how the world needs to be, my very magical wand, and my lovely assistant. I don’t call spirits, I don’t trouble whatever gods or entities might be out there in the ether for their assistance, other than the ones that I have myself created. I assert that Magical acts are transactions between me and the universe. So since we’ve established that I’m enough of an egotistical bastard to think that I can alter the world with a thought, let’s look at how I think I do it.

Fundamentally, everything that IS, is energy. Some of it has slowed down enough to become solid matter, some of it in phases and forms that we are still just discovering. Further, as Hermes Trismegistus observed in his Divine Pymander (pim-Ander), everything that exists is in motion. It is my position that magic originates when the mind of a magician interfaces with the fabric of the universe at the most fundamental level of existence. The perturbations caused by this influence then cascade upward from the subatomic level as movements of matter and energy, into the mesoscale world of human activity, and bring about the circumstances that I dictate. The process is analogous to tossing a pebble into a stream. The ripples are subsumed by the current, but they in turn affect the flow in a measurable way.

How does one make ripples in reality?

Similarity and Contagion = Entanglement
Transmission of Will = Entrainment

The fundamental principles of sorcery are analogous to fundamental principles of energy and quantum behavior. Many of the seminal minds in Chaos Magic have reflected on this. Peter Carroll, Stephen Mace, and Dave Lee are just a few of the pioneers of this school of thought.

Entanglement

The principle of similarity is that of modeling. The representation of a thing is connected to that thing. This is the principle of the macrocosm and the microcosm. This is best exemplified in the words of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

What is above is like what is below. What is below is like what is above.

This is the magic of poppets and cave paintings, fertility rites and visualization.

When a pair or a group of particles interact in such a way that that their quantum state can only be described as an aggregate sum, this is known as Entanglement. Einstein referred to this concept as “Spooky action at a distance.” The implication that information could violate relativity by travelling faster than the speed of light didn’t sit well with him. But where he saw a flawed theory, his student David Bohm saw the implication that reality had a hidden structure. Bohm called this The Implicate Order. In this framework, time and space are interpreted as crude surface phenomena that are artifacts of a deeper universal order.

A magician can take advantage of this point of view. In this theoretical sub-microscopic realm, where the true underlying principles are beyond any physical perception, the magical link between simulacra and reality occurs. Since this work takes place at an imperceptible level of existence, manipulation of symbols arises as the only valid mechanism of describing the system. Fortunately. we live in a world rich with symbols, ready to be subverted for nefarious purposes. Besides the more traditional magical and alchemical examples, I also use icons and formulae from mathematics, meteorology, circuit diagrams, and even road signs. Semiotic appropriation is your friend.

Contagion

For magical purposes, if you have a piece of something, you have influence over that thing. In this case, the link between fragment and whole is innate. Through this link, the whole can be made to react in kind to actions worked on the fragment. Again, the system of two entities constitute a single system, and is analogous to an entangled system.

Once the magical link is established, a mechanism must be used to change the state of the system to that which is desired.

Entrainment

Entrainment is the state that occurs when two oscillating systems enter into a relationship by which their frequencies synchronize with one another. When one of these systems compels the other to fall into phase with itself, this is known as forced entrainment. In the normal state of things, we as residents of physical reality fall into a state of entrainment with the world around us in which we are subsumed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Within our own locality, if we can generate enough intensity, we can cause reverse this order. We can cause the reality around us to fall into the patterns that we dictate.

When in a state of entrainment, information is transferred between the participating systems. There are only two possible states. If you’re not transmitting then you are receiving and thus allowing the universe to have its way with you.

In order to bring reality around to your way of thinking, you must first set your mind with clarity of purpose.

Tuning the Magical Mind

An essential part of doing magic is achieving a mind state in which we are convinced that our workings can have an actual effect. To reach this state, there are several possible impediments that must be overcome. These impediments can be loosely grouped into those that are external to the self and those that are internal.

French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin coined the idea of the noosphere as the collective sphere of human thought that surrounds us. I refer to the collective constant press of mundane thought and mental noise in the noosphere as The Static. It is the antithesis of the state of gnosis, as the magical mind state is often referred to. The Static is the sum of randomly received signals of all varieties. It is mental white noise that constantly bombards us. There are various ways to suppress it, from meditation, to evocation and banishing, to entheogens.

On the other end of the spectrum of impediments are the internal ones, which are often more daunting. The best known instance of this type is what is often referred to as the Psychic Censor. It is that part of our subconscious mind which performs the essential function of keeping us operating within consensus reality rather than frolicking with the machine elves or following the magic mirror to a nearby star system. Unfortunately it also has the effect of nullifying magical operations by shutting them down via uncertainty and doubt like a disapproving parental figure:

“Magic isn’t real, you must be crazy! Do the neighbors know you think like that? Stop it.”

The Censor must also be subverted for magic to be successful. Ironically, many of the same methods can be used to counteract The Static and the Censor. Inhibitory or excitatory states can work equally well. Ultimately, how this is done is irrelevant, as long as it is done. Calm your mind or blow it. Either way, banish The Static, and shatter the barriers that stand between you and seeing your will manifest. This is the first and most essential act of magic.

Lastly, magic works with probabilities and possibilities. The difference between improbable and impossible is vast. Know the difference. Anticipate the possible outcomes, and give reality a nudge toward the one most favorable to you.

You are of the universe, but it is also of you.

Thanks for your time.