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Chaos Magick

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Following the death of Aleister Crowley, magick as practiced by the still somewhat sparse occult subculture in Britain tended to become more experimentalist, personal and a lot less bound to the magical traditions of established magical orders. Main reasons for this might include the public availability of previously secret information on magic (especially in the books published by Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie), the radically unorthodox magic of Austin Osman Spare's Zos Kia Cultus, the influence of Discordianism, the increasing popularity of magic caused by the success of the Wicca cult and the use of psychedelic drugs.

The term chaos magic first appeared in print in the widely influential "Liber Null" by Peter Carroll, first published in 1978. In it, Carroll formulated several concepts on magick that were radically different from what was considered magical mysteries in the days of Aleister Crowley. This book, along with "Psychonaut" by the same author, remains the main authority on chaos magic, as this magical current became known. Magicians who align themselves with these ideas call themselves Chaotes, Chaoists or sometimes Chaosites.

Carroll also co-founded the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros, short Illuminates of Thanateros or IOT, a magical (dis-)order that continues study and development of chaos magic to the present day. Most authors and otherwise well-known practitioners of chaos magic mention affiliation with it. However, chaos magic in general is, unsurprisingly, among the least organized branches of magic.

Another lesser known branch of chaos magick was developed by author Julian Wilde in his Grimoire of Chaos Magick. In it, Wilde quite adeptly delineates the principles of magick while shredding attachment to orthodox forms. Wilde was influenced by Vajrayana and this book is one of the first works on western magick to show the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. For "those who have turned their back on a golden dawn and have flown instead to the rainbow-jagged darkness of Vajrayana (the tantra-gnostic Shambhala)..."

Magical Paradigm Shifting

Perhaps the most striking feat of chaos magic is the concept of the magical paradigm shift. Borrowing a term from philosopher Thomas Kuhn, Carroll made the technique of arbitrarily changing one's model (or paradigm) of magic a major concept of chaos magic. It has since found its way into the magical work of practitioners of many other magical traditions, but chaos magic remains the field where it is most developed.

The Gnostic State

Another major concept introduced by Carroll is the gnostic state, a special state of consciousness that in his magic theory is what is necessary for working (most forms of) magic. This is a departure from older concepts that described energies, spirits or symbolic acts as the source of magical powers. The concept has an ancestor in the buddhist concept of Samadhi, made popular in western occultism by Aleister Crowley and further explored by Austin Osman Spare.

Chaos Magicians

Practitioners of chaos magic attempt to be outside of all categories - for them, worldviews, theories, beliefs, opinions, habits and even personalities are tools that may be chosen arbitrarily in order to understand or manipulate the world they see and create around themselves. Chaos magicians (a term sometimes called an oxymoron because it is a category for undefinable things) are frequently described as funny, extreme or very individualistic people. They also see themselves as exceptionally tolerant people, remarking that whatever one might disagree over is merely an opinion, and hence interchangeable, anyway.

Notable individuals involved with the chaos current include:

While chaos magic has lost some of the popularity it had in the UK during the 1980s, it is still active and influential. Its ideas can be found to leak into modern shamanism in particular, and are common in occult internet forums. Proponents assert that the growing individuality of occultism in informal, often net-based surroundings is a direct result of the success of chaos magic, while critics argue this informal occultism often lacks a well-developed understanding of gnosis and paradigm shifting and is therefore not rightfully called chaos magic.

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This page has been accessed 72002 times. This page was last modified 18:58, 21 Feb 2005. Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.

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