The purpose of this section is to introduce a beginning practitioner to some basic tools and procedures with which to perform Chaos Magic. These techniques are by no means definitive, but are presented to serve as a starting point from which one’s own personal magick repertoire can develop.
Chaos Magick seems to be extremely easy on first impressions, but it is very much more complex in this apparent ease and many have attempted to explain the subject in a number of books. To my mind, one man shines above the others in introducing the concepts above all others and I humbly borrow some excerpts from him to try and introduce the subject. This man is Joseph Max, one of the most articulate teachers of Chaos Magic today, who has a book that is a “must” reading, and describes very succinctly, How to do Chaos Magic, (you’ll find it works too) However, let us get an an overview here in which to understand the basics.
I am real!’, said Alice, and began to cry.
The ‘formless void’ of primordial matter, the ‘great deep’ or ‘abyss’ out of which the cosmos, or order of the universe was evolved. There are a couple of additional definitions, but they are irrelevant to this discussion. When chaos is used in magick, there is actually no place for con- fusion or disorder.
Chaos is the creative principle behind all magick. When a magickal ritual is performed, regardless of `tradition’ or other variables in the elements of performance, a powerful magical energy is created and put into motion to cause something to happen.
The power of real magick cannot be found in a recipe book. If it were only that easy! Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely and a great pity that one will stumble upon the hidden grimoire or mystic amulet that will instantly grant one “magical powers”. The ability to perform real magic is attained only through diligent practice, hard work and inner inspiration”.
Chaos Magic can only be “learned” by experiencing it by whatever means available. The basic message of Chaos magic is that, what is fundamental to magic is the actual doing of it – that like sex, no amount of theorising and intellectualisation can substitute for the actual experience.
Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole. “That is the way”, he said. “But there are no stairs”, I cried. “You must throw yourself in”, he replied. ‘There is no other way.
If you study the traditions of magic over the centuries, you might notice that certain forms and procedures appear over and over. So if you strip away the outer symbolism and only retain that which is repeated across these many systems, you might be surprised to find these “strange attractors” which point to an underlying basic principle. I t is reasonable to assume that these procedures/rites and rituals arise for the same reason that any intelligent being who uses geometry will probably stumble across the value of “pi” sooner or later. It’s something actually integral to the nature of the known and unknown forces, human mind/body and the reality we find ourselves in at the “time”.
Like many other skills, the serious art of magick skills could be construed as a “knack” perhaps. An art that is learned all in one! For instance, you cannot half meditate, or nearly ride a bicycle, or even just about swim. In each case, there is a state of “not being able to”, and then, albeit badly at first perhaps, the actual ability to meditate, swim, or ride a bike. Practice makes perfect and Chaos Magick, like all others, takes right action, determination, perseverance, and more actual practice. As said earlier, you will not suddenly receive this skill by the grace of a magick grimoire, or magickal passing from a magi to a student. It takes hard work – actual work being the the definitive word. This is the real secret!
There lies the basic secret to Chaos Magic and perhaps to many traditional forms of magick from around the world. However, the Chaote must be choose with care about which traditional techniques s/he adopts, and examine them dispassionately to determine what is useful technique and what is artifice.
Perception is the key to reality
One of the the authentic and pragmatic keys to making “magick” truly work, is the real ability to achieve an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS and raise power. But not just any old altered state will do, it is actually quite precise, yet equally difficult to attempt to imply, define and of course, teach. That is the main problem in magickal traditions; it, (the truth, secret, or whatever you want to call “it”), must come by working at “it” and when you get “it”, you will know “it”, and then you will find that you too cannot define or explain “it”.
This is the crux and bane of magickal tradition and expresses most succinctly the insurmountable difficulty throughout the ages in the successful transmission of the “secrets” of magick. It also explains why there seem to be so many styles, forms, sects and beliefs, (in that very impossibility of explaining the unexplainable and subsequently being perceived and practiced by every individual, as they “received it”). One can in fact, only point the direction, show the way and act as guide. You cannot be “told it”, no more than you can be shown “the” secret. No-one is “the” guru; we are all, and remain, seekers on an everlasting journey, mostly all of us at different places, different junctures and different stages in our life(s).
The required mental shift has been called many names throughout history. Such as Samadhi by the yogis, jnara by the Tantrists, “awake” by the Sufi Muslims. It has been referred to as the Naugul Sorcerer, the Abyss, the crack between worlds. In keeping with the traditions of the old Gnostic sects, this state has come to be called by most magicians and especially Chaotes, (followers of Chaos Magick – see Chaos Magick), as gnosis.
Gnosis is, “the direct perception of the Void” for all intents and purposes. It might be thought of as the state when the discursive mind shuts down, leaving an unfiltered access to the subconscious.
The most common experience of gnosis to the average person can be achieved in many different ways and accounts for the many different styles of “bringing on this state” and in raising the power of sorcerers’ around the world. It can be achieved in dancing, whether in wild abandon, or in ever increasing speed of mundane dance. It can be achieved with shaking the head, the body and many other physically dynamic and oft disorientating movements. Other methods might be in the pointedness and pure abandon of a powerful sexual orgasm. In other words, at the peak of the raising of power, the mind essentially stops thinking, and the consciousness is focused on a single point in space-time. This will all be of no avail however, if the magician does not then know how to properly and firmly direct this extreme charge of dynamic power that has been charged and suitably brought to a dramatic climax.
The Tantrists and Taoists of Asia fully grasped this concept, as too did other mystic-magical sects such as the Mediterranean Gnostics, the Roman cults of Dyonious and the more modern offshoots such as the Fraternus Saturni, and the Ordo Templi Orentis (OTO) to name a few. Aleister Crowley, the infamous magician 666, actually became obsessed with sexual magic as a means to raising the necessary power and achieving that sudden gnostic state and nearly all of his writings and techniques had a strong sexual element. They all studied and practiced it though, because essentially, it worked and worked well.
Indian Tantrists used a suspended Sexual climax in their working, as a means to building tremendous power in the withholding back, but of course these techniques are not the only path to the gnostic state, but is mentioned here only to portray one of the common ways sorcerers found to work well and certainly signifies the similarities found by all serious magical sects throughout the world.
Sexual climax is not the only path to the gnostic state of course, but is mentioned as it certainly signifies the similarities found by all serious magical sects throughout the world. It is a proven fact, that the gnosis state achieved in this way, actually works and was further developed and researched by nearly all ancient and modern magicians and shamans. Naturally, a magician has to be able to have many other methods of achieving gnosis at their command besides sex, (which apparently was the easiest and most natural), and the development of other techniques has the additional benefit of making sexual gnosis easier to attain and control when it is actually utilized, besides making the actual act stronger and more powerful than ever before.
It is a proven fact, that the raising of power is necessary and the resultant sudden gnosis state in release, achieved in any way, actually works and was further developed and researched by nearly all ancient and modern magicians and shamans. Naturally, a magician has to be able to have many other methods of achieving gnosis at their command and the development of many other techniques to attain and control the “pent up” and potential power when whatever forms are utilized. Many ways of obtaining an Altered State should be looked into by each initiate and experimented with, until each individual has more than a few ways to achieve this necessary gnosis and subsequently find their magick getting stronger and stronger.
The second factor in successful magick, and has great bearing on the first, and is the art of total meditation and visualization , and/or self hypnosis. To be an effective magician, it’s absolutely mandatory to make a concentrated effort to learn at least one technique of meditation. In the Coven of Cythrawl, it is defined as a system of self-control by which one can quickly and at will, stimulate, or rather achieve alpha-wave activity in the brain, which is effectively, the hallmark of a effective meditation system.
Initiates in the Coven of Cythrawl learn hypnosis and alpha meditation, as well as the more ancient and arcane Indian and Taoist yogic meditations. They learn in “Pathworking” to go to a secret place that they build in their minds while in an alpha state and during this Guided Imagery, they can successfully carry out many wonderful phenomenon, such as healing themselves and others, and are also able to carry out many remarkable magical manifestations that cannot be otherwise explained. They are able to receive answers to complex questions and see into the past and the future. A connection perhaps, with the “universal mind” and/or other realms and dimensions is achieved, yet these remarkable phenomenon cannot be put into plain words, or explained in mundane terms, now or ever. The important factor is to know that, it works! And that… is what is important to us! Pathworking remains an important and extremely powerful tool that all initiates learn early on in the magickal training with the Coven of Cythrawl.
Visualization is the process of using the imagination to induce specific visual illusions in oneself at will, which is what Karl Jung called the active imagination. It is the ability to make yourself “see things” that are not physically present by strongly imagining them and behaving as though they were. In other words, self-induced hallucinations and rather deep hypnotic effects. This is in essence, the basic factors of hypnosis where our truth lies in our perception. At more advanced levels, forced imagery causes actual manifestation and manifestation by connection with the basic fundamentals and building blocks of the universe(s) and allows different realms, dimensions and powers to be visited at will.
Special Yogic positions and mind set also remains a key ingredient in certain Chaos practice, such as in various “Death Postures” and is certainly a key tool in the ancient Traditional Witchcraft of OAM, (Ordo Anno Mundi).
Another “secret” utilized by all successful magickal systems is voice and vibration. Recently, the huge earth mounds found dotted around the British Isles and Ireland, home of the Sidhi, were the focus of various experiments in sound(s) and the mound’s ability to amplify certain sounds.
Were ancient sacred megalithic structures designed to amplify the sound of drumming during rituals? Recent investigations suggest that these ancient structures possess outstanding acoustic properties. Test with audio equipment have shown that the large flat-sided stones, often chosen for inclusion in stone circles were positioned in such a way that sounds generated in the circle were reflected towards the centre. However, it is the Neolithic chambered burial mounds that have the strangest properties. University of Reading physicist Dr David Keating has noted that despite the variations in sizes of these stone chambers their resonant frequencies are very similar. he concludes that the chambers would have amplified a fast drum beat, producing enhanced sounds and echoes during rituals. The most effective results would have been obtained by a rhythm of two beats per second. He goes on further to suggest that the chambers were designed to generate an acoustic phenomenon called Helmholtz resonance – the effect produced by blowing across the neck of an empty bottle.
Furthermore, was the fact that the wind and other sounds outside and (perhaps inside) were being amplified also by the round shape and long entrances and other tunnels that lead to the interior, where at the exact centre of the mound, the scientist’s measuring tools picked up a cacophony of sounds and vibrations, (some out of our human hearing range), but never-the-less very much present and huge amounts of low and high frequency sounds were being vibrated and resonated exactly at the centre point. Of course, we have known for generations that certain vibratory sounds, both audible and inaudible have a great influence on our well-being and state of mind. We seem to have lost so much over the ages of enforced zealous religious dogma that we live in and must be patient, but persistent in re-discovering and utilizing these ancient secrets once again.
There is certainly power in the voice, or vocal sounds, and not a single religious or mystical practice throughout the world has failed to take advantage of this fact, magickal systems included. The most famous of all meaningful vibratory sounds, being the inexplicable and mysterious Sanskrit word, “Om” or “Aum”, used by many ancient mystical schools across central and Eastern Asia. (The meaning of which is inexplicable and unknowable). Vibrations, out of the range of normal hearing and from various sources have been the focus of many scientific research over the years and only recently, strange phenomena are coming to light, like the fascinating and exquisite geometrical shape formed by the vibrations of the word “Om”.
In fact, so many ancient, secret magical and mystical texts from around the world, one will encounter again and again the term ‘vibrate’ being used to describe some kinds of vocalization. (“Vibrate the following words of power…”, etc.) In mundane terms, what is being described is the entire human body’s ability to actually RESONATE “sympathetically” with the voice and/or other vibratory sounds present, and the sensory effects that can be experienced by doing so is far deeper than we can ever know. A brilliant writer of Chaos Magic, Joseph Max said so succinctly, that the “secret” of Magic Words is this: it doesn’t matter what you say as much as it matters how you say it!
There is nothing good nor evil, but that thinking makes it so.
Let’s now look the Power of Symbols. As well as clever manipulation of symbols by one person on another, it could be argued that some symbols have an arcane power in themselves. To speak psychology, a neat parallel might be Jung’s notion of our interpretation of certain symbols being ingrained in the collective unconscious, through repetition over generations. The issue of whether a symbol can contain some “innate power” in its form alone, could be argued at length of course.
The means used and the way it happens are simple, the inverse of scientific. I use a formula, created by instinctive guess and *arbitrarily* formed, not evolved by hypothesis and experiment. The law of sorcery is its own law, using sympathetic symbols.
Austin Osman Spare
If you get nothing more from the concepts explained in this section, than the following elucidation, it will have been worth the time of reading so far. That is; The most important thing about sigil magic is that — it works!
The conscious mind is not directly capable of performing magic in its conscious self and the truth be known, it actually INHIBITS magic. Therefore, the subconscious mind must have the magical “INTENT” implanted in it somehow, so that it can “UNCONSCIOUSLY” manipulate “aetheric” information to bring about the DESIRED result.
Not only is this the basic theory model of the function of sigil magic, but it can be used to model any form of effective magical technique. Chinese Taoist magic utilizes entirely sigil magic in the writing of their “Fu” (magic paper) and the secret, (illegible) writing in one spot to complete the spell.
South American Shamanistic sorcery also obviously involves direct interface with the magician’s subconscious, breaking down the barriers by extreme disciplines and psychoactive drugs. Complex systems of ceremonial magic can be effective, but only if the subconscious mind is trained to recognize the symbolism of the system and act on it’s linguistics UNCONSCIOUSLY. The adept \then uses the tools of their system to formulate effective magical procedures.
This explains the long apprenticeships and intense religious instruction that characterizes many of the traditions of the world. There is no inherent magical “power” in these particular set of symbols; it is only the subconscious manipulation of whatever symbols are chosen that make them magical and cause the effect. However, of course, all the various magickal systems of the world in all the thousands of generations, it was obviously more magically effective (and the only recognizable method) for the aspiring student of the system to accept the dogma of its tradition from the gurus and high priests — that their symbol-set was inherently magical — without question! Plus that it would provide the REQUIRED “belief-state” to make it work!
As Chaos Magicians, we substitute “meta-belief” technique for dogmatic adherence to a particular ancient and inherited model. Religious acceptance is REPLACED with PASSIONATE PERFORMANCE that taps into the “unconscious archetypes” that underlie ALL the religious symbolism of humanity. By the use of ACTIVE IMAGINATION, and certain “slight-of-mind” tricks such as “sigils”, we are able to breach the barriers of the subconscious by ‘guile, not by force, or by siege (as in traditional ceremonial magic.)
In general terms, a sigil is a glyph or symbol with mystical or magical significance. Methods originated by Austin Osman Spare, the founder of modern Chaos Magick never exactly revealed how the concept of sigil magic came to him, although he was an accomplished graphic artist, so it’s possible he got the idea from his drawing and painting. The newly (at the time) published works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung might have provided the theoretical foundation for the “subliminal” nature of sigil workings; that between the conscious and unconscious (or subconscious) mind there stands a “safety valve”, a filter that suppresses all non-logical thoughts and impressions, which Spare called the “psychic censor”. Of course, he might have learnt that the Chinese had been carrying out sigil magick for thousands of years, as had some of the Traditional Witchcraft sects of Ancient Britain and Europe. India had similar magickal practices, and to this day, remain highly secret in underground traditional sects.
Sigils are monograms of thought, for the government of energy … a mathematical means of symbolizing desire and giving it form that has the virtue of preventing any thought and association on that particular desire (at the magical time), escaping the detection of the Ego, so that it does not restrain or attach such desire to its own transitory images, memories and worries, but allows it free passage to the sub-consciousness.
A.O.Spare, “The Book Of Pleasure”
Sigil Magic uses the glyphs as a means to bridge the gap between the “conscious” and “subconscious” mind. It also compares in some respects to the traditional “talisman magic” of the middle to late ages in Europe and Britain, in which predetermined symbols (such as planetary or astrological ones) were used to embellish a physical device that would encompass the “power” represented by those symbols. Generally, the talisman is subsequently carried by the user as a “charm”, much as the talismans still utilized by traditional witchcraft today.
In contrast, a sigil is a customized tool designed to bring about a specific effect, and it’s physical basis is only used once at the time of the subconscious implantation, after which it is generally (although not always) destroyed. The Chinese burn their sigils (talismans) and then will drink the ashes in a drink to ensure the spell is totally consumed.
The means used and the way it happens are simple, the inverse of scientific. I use a formula, created by instinctive guess and *arbitrarily* formed, not evolved by hypothesis and experiment. The law of sorcery is its own law, using sympathetic symbols.
Austin Osman Spare
Joseph Max, an exceedingly good writer on Chaos Magic stated that, A sigil can be thought of as an original artistic creation, produced by conceiving a sentence that expresses a magical intent, and converting that sentence into a pictorial representation. The point is to obtain an image that can carry the intent past the psychic censor and into the subconscious mind, where it becomes magically effective.
He goes on to say, The great advantage of sigil magic is that no particular belief-set is needed to work with it; there are no discarnate entities to summon, no deities to appease, no invisible rays to emanate from your solar plexus, (unless you want to create them yourself as a meta-belief device). And there are no special tools or equipment needed beyond a pencil and paper, and even these can be abandoned by the adept practitioner. The final statement being once again, is that “It works!” To learn more about Chaos Magic, I reiterate that you should visit Joseph Max’s excellent site, who also has a book that is a “must” reading, which describes very succinctly, “How to do Chaos Magic”
Let’s go back a little now and ask……
What is Chaos Magic? Good question! Since it burst upon the magical scene in the late ’70’s it has generated a great deal of debate about what it is, what it isn’t, and who’s doing it ‘right’ – such circular arguments being beloved of occultists, it seems. At this point, it would be tempting to launch into a lengthy discussion of the history of magic leading up to Chaos magic, but instead we’ll confine it to a sweeping generalization and say that before Chaos came kicking and screaming onto the scene, the dominant approach to ‘doing magic’ (and still is, to a great extent) was the ‘Systems’ approach.
So what is a magical system? Magical systems combine practical exercises for bringing about change with beliefs, attitudes, a conceptual model of the universe (if not several), a moral ethic, and a few other things besides.
Examples of systems are Qabalah, the different Wiccan ‘traditions’, The Golden Dawn system of magic with all its grades, costumes, mottos, etc, and the increasing number of westernized ‘shamanic’ and ‘Druidic’ paths that are proliferating nowadays, along with Wicca. As far as most magical systems go, before you can start to wave your wand around or bounce up and down on your head ’til you reach enlightenment, you have to spend a good deal of time reading up on the beliefs associated with the system, learning its “do’s and don’ts”, committing to memory lists of symbols and correspondences, how to talk to your fellow magi, and in some extreme cases, how to dress, walk, and chew gum at the same time. Fast-forwards a few millennia and you’ll find a ‘Magical System’ that comprises of several hundred-thousand words, obscure diagrams and appendices which will probably state at some point, that it is based on the ancient traditions anyhow.
The true birth of Chaos magic came originally in the early 1900’s from Austin Osman Spare and was again reborn in the late 70’s, at about the time that punk rock was spitting out at the music industry and Chaos Science was beginning to be taken seriously by mathematicians, economists, and physicists. The two ‘names’ most associated with the re-birth of the concepts of Chaos magic and the actual birth of Chaos Magic proper, are Pete Carroll and Ray Sherwin, though there were others lurking in the background, such as the Stoke Newington Sorcerers (SNS).
The basic message of Chaos magic is that, what is fundamental to magic, is the actual doing of it. – That like sex, no amount of theorising and intellectualisation can substitute for the actual experience. Pete Carroll’s book, Liber Null, therefore, presented the bare bones of the magical techniques which can be employed to bring about change in one’s circumstances.
Liber Null concentrated on techniques, saying that the actual methods of magic are basically shared by ALL the different systems, despite the differing symbols, beliefs and dogmas. What symbol systems you wish to employ is a matter of choice, and that the webs of belief which surround them are means to an end, rather than ends in themselves.
Unlike the variety of magical systems which are all based in some mythical or historically-derived past, (such as Atlantis, Lemuria, Albion, etc), Chaos magic borrowed freely from History, Quantum Physics, and anything else its practitioners chose to. Rather than trying to recover and maintain a tradition that links back to the past (and former glories); Chaos magic is an approach that enables the individual to use anything that s/he thinks is suitable as a temporary belief or symbol system. What matters is the results you get, not the ‘authenticity’ of the system used. So Chaos magic then, is not a system – it UTILIZES systems and encourages adherents to devise their own, giving magic a truly Postmodernist flavour.
I contradict myself? Very well, then: I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.
Chaos Magicians are, by their nature, possessed of a great amount of hubris. One cannot effectively use the techniques of magic ritual without a strong flair for the dramatic.
These days there are quite a few people, especially around major population centers, who will openly profess an active interest in the occult. Of this group, however, the Chaos Magician is in the minority, at least as of this writing.
Many of those belonging to “neo-pagan” groups (who account for the great majority of “occultists”) will not even be familiar with Chaos Magic. Or they will have heard the term, but will generally associate it with “Satanism”, “black magic” or some other silly prejudice. This of course, imparts a certain type of glamour to the Chaos Magician, and it is up to the individual if they care to divest them of this notion or to use it to his or her advantage in a given situation.
Chaos Magick is non-discriminatory and refutes dualism. Rooted in the realization of the quantum flux and recognizing that ideas are not reality, (although they may influence the perception of reality), Chaos Magick does not discriminate between White, Grey and Black Magick, between evil and good, between right and wrong.
Chaos Magick is concerned with developing magick that works, rituals that have specific effects, that create change in conformity with the will of the chaos magician, that are testable and can be replicated, that affect the Chaos Magician’s deep self in sometimes catastrophic ways, that are non-judgmental, non- hierarchical and devious.
This exactly is the meaning of common sense – to loose all your ´common´ senses.
E. T. Bell
One must beware making dogma, for Spare went to great pains to exclude it as much as possible to achieve success in his magic; however a number of basic assumptions underpin chaos magic.
Chaos is the universal potential of creative force, which is constantly engaged in trying to seep through the cracks of our personal and collective realities. It is the power of Evolution/Devolution.
Shamanism is innate within every one of us and can be tapped if we qualify by adjusting our perception/attitude and making our being ready to accept the spontaneous. Achieving Gnosis, or hitting the `angle of departure of consciousness and time’, is a knack rather than a skill.
Do we, holding that the gods exist, deceive ourselves with insubstantial dreams and lies, while random and careless chance alone control the world?
Distrust thy teacher, for ‘divine truth’ has prevented better men from wisdom. In such revelation there is no suggestion. Do thy utmost unto others; But be surely what thou wilt, and keep thy belief free of morality. Observe thyself by sensation, thus know the finer perturbations and vibrations…. Think not the words ‘I wish,’ say not the words ‘I will.’ Fear nothing, strike at the highest. Break thy commandments, be lawless unto all dogma.
Austin Osman Spare
Chaos Magic Archives A collection of Internet texts relating to Chaos Magic can be found here.