A Wide-Ranging Discussion with ParadigmGrind on All Things Magical

Introduction

The realms of magic and mysticism have intrigued humanity for millennia, weaving ancient philosophies and esoteric practices into the tapestry of cultures across the globe. ParadigmGrind, whose amazing esoteric insights can be found on their Instagram (@paradigmgrind) and Substack blog (paradigmgrind.substack.com), is an explorer of this hidden knowledge – a contemporary seeker who has delved into many magical paradigms and traditions. In this wide-ranging discussion, they open up about their personal journey, sharing insights that span the practical applications of magic, the coexistence of mystical and rational worldviews, and the enduring value of occult wisdom through the ages. It’s an expansive look at the multifaceted world of the magical arts through the eyes of a modern-day practitioner actively sharing their exploration online.


Chaos Magick

PAA: How does Chaos Magic adopt the technology of religion without believing in the truth claims of Religion?

Chaos Magic focuses on the practical aspects of religion. Meditation, prayer, ceremony, and divination are human activities. No religion has a monopoly on these experiences. These activities existed long before established religions and will continue to exist (in some form) as religions evolve.

Obviously, each religion has its own truth claims. Did the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt really happen? Did Gautama Buddha grow up in luxury? Was Atlantis a real place or just a storytelling tool for Plato? Was Muhammed illiterate before his encounter with Jibril? How does evil exist if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent? Do our ancestors guide us from the other side?

Whether or not you believe these things is up to you. For some, it’s a question of whether these truth claims correspond with our current historical, scientific, or philosophical models. For others, it’s dependent on faith alone. For the Chaos Magician, belief is a tool—not an end in itself.

This is what sets Chaos Magic apart from other spiritual philosophies. Paradigms can be worn and shed like ritual robes—providing valuable perspectives as long as they are engaged with. The more often a Chaos Magician puts on the lens of a different philosophy, the more likely they are to learn from the vast array of human experiences.

I think this offers an important lesson: Every worldview has its own perspectives about what it means to be a human and how we should live. But every worldview also has its blind spots. By maximizing different worldviews, we increase our perspectives and shrink our blind spots. That’s the hope anyway.

For example, a Christian worldview emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and humility. That could be really important for someone who needs a fresh start. But that same perspective can also trap someone else inside the pattern of letting an aggressor walk all over them. Similarly, Buddhists might find personal stability by disengaging from desire—but they might also find that they aren’t deeply engaged in life, relationships, career goals, and their community.

No religion has a monopoly on truth, compassion, or the human experience. Chaos Magic, as silly as it seems sometimes, has the potential to distill the best aspects of our spiritual traditions through its experimental nature.

Or to put it another way—chaotes grope looking for the walls of the universe. And when they find those walls, they knock on them to make sure they are real. And sometimes, the universe knocks back.

ParadigmGrind

PAA: What cultural influences shaped the development of Chaos Magic in the 1980s and 1990s?

Chaos Magic arguably emerged from the Thatcher/Reagan years. For better or worse, Chaos Magic is typified by neoliberal hyper-individualism, Fukuyama’s “end of history,” the radical decline in traditional religion in the USA and UK, rapid accelerations in science and technology, etc.

From this morass, arises the Chaos Magician—part punk, part techie, part rationalist, part mystic… the archetypal chaote takes nothing seriously, but finds a way to cut their own existence in this dog-eat-dog society.

Paradoxically, I think it’s this exact ethos that allows Chaos Magic to jailbreak itself into authentic spirituality. Pure experimentation—beholden to nothing but results—empowers Chaotes to deconstruct social and cultural programming to find what’s real.

Or to put it another way—chaotes grope looking for the walls of the universe. And when they find those walls, they knock on them to make sure they are real. And sometimes, the universe knocks back.

PAA: How does Chaos Magic differ from traditional Western magical practices in terms of focus?

Chaos Magic bucks against the idea that there’s a single source of truth. This thinking challenges all kinds of top-down systems—including churches, authorities, and lineages. That doesn’t mean that chaotes don’t care about these things at all. Only that there’s an ever-present escape door for the Chaos Magician.

This can be really powerful in avoiding cults and grifters. For instance, an initiate might experience something incredible when meditating or participating in a ritual for the first time. But a chaote knows that these experiences can be unlocked with or without the group or charismatic leader. This robs the cult of its ability to gatekeep transcendent experiences.

That’s on the beneficial side. On the negative side, Chaos Magic can also unfortunately limit the practitioner. It’s easy to chase novel, feel-good, or bizarre philosophies without engaging deeply in the spiritual traditions walked by dedicated practitioners. Lineages carry the life of real wisdom over many generations. Established religions have historical knowledge that spans centuries. Too much individualism can keep you in the shallows if you aren’t willing to challenge yourself.

I think as a Chaos Magician matures, they learn how to engage more deeply and more fervently in their adopted philosophies. Sometimes that happens through traditional models. It’s not just about paradigm shopping to come up with the eccentric personal practice, it’s about engaging with a living cosmos in good faith to discover a reality that’s always bigger than we expect it to be. 

Anton LaVey and Satanism

PAA: What are some practical aspects of magic that Anton LaVey emphasized in The Satanic Bible?

I have some mixed feelings about Anton LaVey’s Satanism. It’s sometimes problematic—and sometimes so goofy that I personally find it charming. But as a Chaos Magician, I can’t help but respect how simply magic is described in The Satanic Bible.

The magical essentials of setting an altar (and the purpose of various occult objects), desire (emotional drive), timing, imagery, direction (the cardinal directions and their correspondences), and the balance factor (that what you are manifesting for is actually obtainable) are clearly explained. This makes magic accessible and inviting—something that Chaos Magic tries to do too.

LaVey’s system also includes “lesser magic,” which is the art of subtle manipulation. Sometimes the shortest distance between yourself and your goals is interpersonal relationships, rather than ritual magic.

PAA: How does LaVey’s emphasis on base desires align with Chaos Magic concepts?

I think there’s a certain section of people who are attracted to magic for its practical benefits. These folks are often attracted to LaVeyan Satanism, Chaos Magic, Thelema, or witchcraft.

Looking at the history of magic, that’s pretty normal. Historically and even now, people track the stars for agricultural tips, engage in deep dreaming for hunting tips, commune with spirits for healing tips, use spells to catch the eye of that special someone and start a family, use divination as a gossip tool, etc.

Magic as tied to the base desires has always been present. As Western esotericism evolved, it tried to downplay these very human concerns in favor of high-minded values of wisdom, philosophy, and divine order. But I don’t see these things in opposition to each other. For instance, someone might go to the gym because they want to look good in a swimsuit (base pride), but they may also learn more about health and fitness (higher knowledge).

Aleister Crowley said as much, mentioning how petty desires might draw someone into magic. But as they learn, mature, and experience more, they will pursue greater wisdom and their true purpose, rather than their chase trivialities. Why? Because the light of higher wisdom outshines the glittering of our simple wants.

Modern Magic and Cultural Factors

PAA: What impact does the deconstruction and simplification of magical traditions have on contemporary magical practitioners?

A lot of modern magical traditions are inspired by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Thelema, Wicca, Satanism, Chaos Magic, and even some New Age mysticism share practices popularized by the Golden Dawn.

And it’s easy to understand why. This content is readily available, highly malleable, and covers a wide range of topics. But it’s also highly structured when it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It’s simple enough to perform an LBRP or Middle Pillar ritual without conforming to a hierarchical grade system.

On top of that, a lot of Western esotericism is heavily influenced by a Christian worldview. For better or worse, a lot of modern practitioners want the rituals and knowledge, without the Christian baggage. The Golden Dawn-style system correspondences made it easy to swap out Christian godnames with another pantheon.

At its best, this can lead to innovation and experimentation. At its worst, it can water down a practice or risk losing its roots. Personally, I hope that simplified magic can bring in practitioners but that their practice deepens over time; reintegrating the roots as necessary.

Magical Paradigms and Ways of Knowing

PAA: Are there any blind spots or biases you’ve had to consciously work through in your own magical paradigm or belief system over time? How has being open to other perspectives helped evolve your understanding?

Oh, all the time. I’m naturally introverted, but shifts in my understanding of nature, culture, and politics have pushed me more toward community and collective action. I’ve had complicated feelings about Christianity over the years—and those feelings have even gotten more complicated as I balance a deep respect for Christianity while also holding a suspicion for politics marketed as Christian. I have a low level of emotionality, but I’ve recognized that highly emotional people can sometimes come to good decisions quicker through emotions than logic. I’m always learning, growing, and changing.

Mythology, ritual, and spirituality are human technologies. They’ve existed for thousands of years, in one form or another, innovating along the way. It’s a shared language for us to discuss morality, our place in nature, and our place in the cosmos. It’s impossible to engage fully with literature, psychology, art, history, pop culture, science, or anything else without this understanding.

ParadigmGrind

PAA: In communicating with non-practitioners, how do you bridge the divide between their rational worldview and the seemingly irrational/supernatural aspects of magical practice?

Mythology, ritual, and spirituality are human technologies. They’ve existed for thousands of years, in one form or another, innovating along the way. It’s a shared language for us to discuss morality, our place in nature, and our place in the cosmos. It’s impossible to engage fully with literature, psychology, art, history, pop culture, science, or anything else without this understanding.

Astrology is a perfect example. Even if you don’t believe in horoscopes or fates written in the stars, there’s still value in it as a storytelling tool and a reminder that life moves in cycles (rather than linear progress).

According to the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, our understanding isn’t a form of linear growth. It’s more about creating paradigms in which our ideas fit into. When we encounter new knowledge that doesn’t fit into our current paradigms, we either reject it or allow it to break our paradigms. When this happens, we sometimes refer to older philosophies in hopes of rediscovering something from past wisdom. Thus alternative ideas reintegrate back into the mainstream.

All of this is to say that even if you’re a hard-nosed rationalist, there’s no legitimate reason to abandon or completely disregard seemingly irrational philosophies. You never know when they spark inspiration.

Personal Magical Journey

PAA: What first sparked your interest in the magical arts? Was there a particular book, experience, or person that set you on this path?

I was a lucid dreamer at a very young age. I was able to stay in my dreams for what felt like weeks, creating and recreating my dream space, interacting with characters, and learning a lot from my subconscious. So, I’ve always been open to the idea that there’s something valuable in non-material experiences.

PAA: What advice would you give to someone just starting out and feeling called to explore the magical arts?

As a Chaos Magician, my advice is to get your hands dirty. Begin experimenting to see what happens. Sigils are a great way to start because they are simple and can yield fast results.

As you learn, start challenging your assumptions. Don’t be afraid of breaking your paradigms and shattering your worldview. The cosmos is more wiggity than you can imagine. Know that your biases and preconceptions are sometimes barriers that keep you from reality—and that challenging your beliefs can help you grow as an individual.

Lastly, it’s okay to strip down your magical practice to the basics. You don’t need to participate in complex magical ceremonies every day to be a capable magician. It’s okay to stick to the basics. There’s really never an end to the power and necessity of the bare fundamentals.

PAA: Thank you for your time in answering these questions.


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