Welcome back to Tibor, here spoke about his experiences before focusing on Franz Bardon and as a member of B.O.T.A, in this post he shares his experience of Chaos Magick from the perspective of a Bardon practitioner.
PAA: Please briefly introduce yourself and your magical journey.
Tibor: My day job is software development. I’m a longtime student of magic, an associate member of B.O.T.A. and a student of Bardon.
Although I don’t identify as a Chaos Magician, it was a part of my magical growing up, as I’ll describe in more detail. I volunteered for this interview because I find that when you’re immersed in Chaos Magic, it’s hard to tell other magicians how your piece of the puzzle fits with theirs in the grand jigsaw that is modern magic.
That’s probably because the Chaos Magic ethos is very hands-on, very anti-tradition. I’ve seen it defined on the forums as “anything goes,” “whatever works.” It’s like when Kurt Cobain was asked to define punk, and he replied, “it’s saying, doing and playing whatever you want.” But of course, punk has its context, its history, its character – and so does Chaos Magic.n
So that’s why I’m here today – to tell my experience of Chaos Magic, as a Bardonist, to an audience that’s largely Bardonist. I hope I’ll do it justice.
PAA: What brought you to Chaos Magic?
Tibor: before I studied magic proper, I’d try out things. Once my puppy wandered off and I was so desperate, I ended up asking dice. You know, 1-3 for yes, 4-6 for know. And it worked. I’ll go back to this later, as it it raises interesting points.
And then there was the underground culture of the 90s and the 00s. Early computer graphics, techno music, industrial music, movies like Transporting and The Matrix, it all spoke to my generation’s sense of alienation and wonder. My social circle explored bands like Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, which were connected to Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth magical organisation, and some explored drugs, and we were just trying to punch a hole in reality to see what’s on the other side. And then looking back on those days, and trying to put them in a context, I began studying the classic Chaos Magic texts – like Peter Carroll’s Liber Null and Phil Hine’s Pseudonomicon.
PAA: How would you describe Chaos Magic and how does it differ from other more ‘traditional’ forms of magic.
nChaos Magic began in 1970s London. British occultist Kenneth Grant seems to have been a major influence. Grant had known both Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare personally and revived interest in them with his 1972 book, The Magical Revival.
It was a time of underground cultures, of blackouts, of a changing world. The target audience was informed, alienated, and open to experimental and absurdist ideas. So the system specifically needed to withstand eclectic experimentation without breaking.
I described my experience of using dice to find a puppy. Modern urban dwellers are often cut off from ancestral magic, and wrestle with the unknown on their own. Chaos Magic is often described as “modern shamanism,” and in fact, author Phil Hine wrote about “urban shamanism” before he wrote about “chaos.” The similarity of Chaos Magic to folk magic is intriguing: both are adaptable, use simple practices, and are result-oriented. Even the famous instruction to use belief as a tool might not be so postmodern: historically, conquered and dispossessed peoples used new gods for old rituals.
Chaos Magic is also connected to underground art. I mentioned Throbbing Gristle and Psychick TV. William S. Burroughs was another Chaos Magician – in fact, another member of the Illuminates of Thanateros. Austin Osman Spare, who served as an inspiration, was a skilled, uncompromising painter. The Symbol of Chaos was invented by the British fantasy author Michael Moorcock, who used to recite science fiction poetry at Hawkwind concerts.
PAA: Is there a central approach to Chaos magic that is accepted as CM or is it very much an eclectic approach which differs for each person. For example, would two CM’s have similar knowledge from a central curriculum, or would it be completely random?
Chaos Magicians share a culture. They have a core vocabulary, some core techniques such as sigilisation, and more or less a shared nonconformist attitude, at least outwardly. They’ve read more or less the same books and articles and often share in-jokes and cultural references, such as Bling-Bling the Magical Flying Green Pig. Some have gathered around organisations and networks such as the Illuminates of Thanateros and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. It is, however, typically not a gatekeeping subculture.
They don’t have a central curriculum to follow nor do they all do the same practice. Some will draw from the same sources – such as Golden Dawn, Thelema, Buddhism, and modern culture. Some will invent personal practices that may be surreal, absurd, and meaningful only to them.
An early foundational work was Peter Carroll’s Liber Null, written to promote the Illuminates of Thanateros. Unlike modern Chaos Magic, Liber Null suggests a structured curriculum with preliminary yogic practices (similar to Crowley’s Liber E or Bardon’s Step 1), theory, practice, a cosmology, and an encouragement “to work with material from either [white magic and black magic] or both.”
Even the concept of “chaos” is delightfully ambiguous. It can be the void state preceding creation in Greek mythology. It can mean the god Chaos, attributed to Chokmah in Thelema. It can refer to Chaos Theory, a study of hidden patterns in apparently random systems – metaphorically, how the flapping of the wings of a butterfly can cause a tornado on the other side of the world. Chaos can also mean the freedom and anarchy: the eight arrows of the Symbol of Chaos convey the idea that all paths are equal.
PAA: What is your approach to Chaos magic?
I use it to remind me to keep my sense of wonder and to have courage to experiment.
PAA: How does Chaos magic approach the following subjects:
1) Stillness of the Mind, Concentration and Visualizationn
2) Working with Energy and the 4 Elements
3) Working with Akasha
4) Working with beings – here we get into the discussion of whether Evocations are evoking real beings or evoking things from our own subconscious.
Tibor: Chaos Magic would say that you need a way to stop your mind from interfering, and a symbolic system in which to express your magic idea, and a way to charge it. You could then use specific symbols and practices to achieve this. It’s also famously noncommittal on the nature of evoked entities.
Liber Null did, however, did prescribe stillness of the mind, concentration and visualisation as foundational skills, and I think there was wisdom in that.
And for what it’s worth, Liber Null’s model of reality was quite hermetic. There was Chaos as the source of all, Kia as the basis of consciousness, and Aether as a field of possibilities, comparable to Akasha. Peter Carroll later expanded it with quantum physics in Liber Kaos. But, the preferred model nowadays is Frater U. D.’s metamodel, which says that the spirit, energy, psychological and quantum models are equally valid, and you should pick them pragmatically on a case-by-case basis.
PAA: From what I have read prior to this interview a central tenet to Chaos magic appears to be using belief as a tool. What can you tell us about this? Does this mean it is enough to believe we are in contact with an entity to make it so? Or is it more about creating a bridge from where we are to where we wish to go?
Tibor: I wouldn’t say belief creates magic. I’d say this would be New Thought rather than Chaos Magic. One thing I’ve never seen in Chaos Magic is the use of affirmations. Rather, affirmations are scrambled into sigils, charged, destroyed, and forgotten. Chaos Magic doesn’t trust belief to overcome the inner censor.
Rather, fluid belief lets you work with different models and systems and, importantly, lessens the grip that groups like family, religion and society have on you. Peter Carroll has a famous exercise in which you roll a die to choose a religion to believe in for a period of time. He suggested that it might “save you an unnecessary incarnation or two.”
This is echoes in Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising, which is all about identifying one’s biases, or one’s “reality tunnels,” against a backdrop of Timothy Leary’s eight-circuit model of consciousness, also for a purpose of liberation. It has such exercises as writing an article against gay marriage from the perspective of a Baptist pastor and then refuting it from the perspective of a gay man.
PAA: Can you share about some of your work with Chaos magic – successes and failures?
Tibor: Let me go back to my example of using dice to find my lost puppy. I like it because it’s such a good example of a Chaos Magick spell. The desperation was a way of achieving the no-mind state, or “gnosis.” The dice were a simple, handy tool to manifest a coincidence from he aether: the roll that matched the location of the dog. The whole context was shamanic: I was at the end of my worldly powers, so I turned to the unknown.
More recently, I’ve used Ray Sherwin’s ideas from the Book of Results with my Bardonic black soul mirror. Ray Sherwin recommends externalising psychological complexes as actual demons, and integrating them. I find that very therapeutic. I found the same idea in Tsultrim Allione’s Feeding Your Demons, a book in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
And the failures? I’ve failed to manifest things which weren’t realistic to manifest.
PAA: For those wanting to learn more where should they go? Robert Anton Wilson? Austin Osman Spare?
Tibor: I’d absolutely recommend Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising, although he wasn’t, properly speaking, a Chaos Magician. He did hit a lot of the same notes as the 1970s Chaos Magic authors, including consciousness expansion and quantum physics.
Austin Osman Spare is a unique figure, but his work isn’t exactly accessible and of course, he wasn’t a Chaos Magician. He’s worth studying as his own phenomenon.
Kenneth Grant’s The Magical Revival gives an insight into the inspiration for Chaos Magic. Peter Carroll’s Liber Null and Ray Sherwin’s Book of Results are foundational texts.
Chaos Protocols by Gordon White has a lot of attitude and character. It includes an essay on economics, on ancient gods, on ancestral spirits – a great summary of Chaos Magic as modern shamanism, magic as a life skill.
If you just want to try something hands-on, Stealing the Fire From Heaven by Stephen Mace is a clear, practical, and insightful book.
chaosmatrix.org is a great community archive with articles and resources.
PAA: Do you have any websites or social media you would like to share?
Tibor: I don’t really have a magical presence online, but anyone feel free to hit me up on Facebook and chat.
I have some cut-up and found poetry at: https://erisinthecloud.blogspot.com/.
PAA: Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us here at Perseus Arcane Academy.
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