Chaos magick is unlike any other system of magick, mainly because it is not a system of magick. It is a Meta system, serving as a framework to put other systems into. Practitioners see it as being not only a more diverse path, but also one that is more grounded. It is believed by many of its students to be the most practical, as it uses symbols to actualize the will in the real world, rather than creating colorful dreams in imaginary higher states. At the same time, due to the diversity of beliefs within it, many practitioners who take a more literal meaning to the phrase coined by Habban i Sabbah “Nothing is real everything is permitted,” chase after such higher states. It makes sense as to why William S Burroughs was such an avid follower of Habban i Sabbah.
While modern day chaos majick might have begun its current path when British occultist Peter Carroll formed the heads of one of the Illuminates of Thanateros, founded in 1987, combining the Greek gods of death and sex, arguably the most influential figure when it comes to chaos majick is artist Austin Osman Spare, who created the Zao Kia Cultus … not the Behemoth song, but a system of magick. One of his primary eras of study was the states of consciousness, and he placed great emphasis on the use of automatic writing to tap into his subconscious. At the age of 20, he wrote the Book of Pleasure, using art and sex to study the subconscious mind. During one of these trips into his subconscious, he came in contact with the familiar and spirit guide he called the Black Eagle. He frequented occult circles as he became friends with known Thelemite Kenneth Grant, and Spare’s art was championed by Aleister Crowley, but he disliked Crowley’s brand of majick as he did not like the hierarchy of the initiatory path. Hitler – the only occultist more infamous than Crowley – took interest in Spare’s art, and the German Embassy purchased on of his paintings in London. When asked to come paint Hitler’s likeness, Spare refused and was quoted as saying, “if you are Super-man, let me be forever animal,” which you might recognize as one of Beastmilk’s lyrics.
Chaos mages take on different paradigms, ranging from Wicca to the Cthulhu mythos; while they are not seen as “true believers” of those disciplines, they take the most useful elements of the paradigm that serves their purpose and discard the rest. This makes chaos magick the preferred system for those in the throes of mania, since the ever shifting of paradigms might be easily digestible to someone who finds they going on impulsive dreams or personal beliefs. The hyper sexuality of bi-polar mania can also be found in Spare’s work, as he went into states he called “Dionysiac Spasms of pan-sexualism,” and in one such state he had sex with eighteen women in one night. While this type of study is seen as haphazard by many traditional occultists, and might attract individuals with a similar diagnosis, the impulsive nature is however balanced out, as one thing that sets chaos mages apart is they will take responsibility for the results or lack thereof in their work, not giving excuses that it was not the will of their god or blaming on the stars not being aligned.
While we will dive into the world of sorcerous world of pyschonauts in our next installment, the two crossover as one of the principles of chaos magick is that interfacing with the world in extreme states of consciousness lead to Parapsychological events. Spare saw sorcery as the deliberate act of metamorphosis that forges a link with the powers of middle nature, the astral plane that lies between the physical and spiritual realm.
The drug culture embraced by this path, as well as the fact that the most important magickal tools in chaos magick are creativity, play and experimentation, mean is one of the more preferred systems of artists and musicians. While Spare used a method of channelling to create most of his work, chaos magick has given similar inspiration to both David Tibet of Current 93 and Alan McGee of Creation Records, who lent a notable hand in launching the careers of Jesus and the Mary Chain as well as My Bloody Valentine, who are active chaos mages. Many metal musicians who delve into the occult pull from whichever mystery school or practice will best suit their purpose and the fact chaos magick lends it self to solo practice appeals to the misanthropic nature of the more isolated eccentrics. In 1995, Carroll stepped down from his role as ‘magnus and pontiff of chaos,’ but had his interest in the occult reawakened after being asked to teach chaos magick at Robert Anton Wilson’s Maybe Logic Academy in 2005 , and went on to write three more books after this: “the Apophenion,” “the Octavo” and “Epoch.” His books from the 70’s – “Liber Null” and “ Pyschonaut” – are the definitive works on the subject and the recommended reading on the subject.