A Chaos Diatribe (Part I)

So here’s a post that’s been sitting in my draft box for about a month now. I’ve read it so many times trying to figure out if it’s really what I want to say or not that it doesn’t make sense to me anymore. So it’s time to release it, imperfections and all in the midst of a Mercury retrograde, because you know, that’s how I roll. I have to admit that part of the reason I fear to release it is because of fear of judgment.

Magic, like Immunology, is a Local Phenomenon

Let’s start with a little story shall we?

In the field of  immunology, in the 70’s, there was this idea that there had to be certain cells called “suppressor cells” that regulate the immune system by suppressing it, otherwise it would just run amok with no way to shut down once it is activated. Various threads of research supported this and it became a rather large field with multiple complex mechanisms described. Everyone who was anyone, as immunologists go, were working with suppressor cells back in the day.

Then someone who was a very well thought of and respected scientist  came along and did a definitive experiment that showed that the primary mechanism by which they were thought to work (something called ‘Factors’) looked highly unlikely to really exist. If anyone else had done it, it would probably not of been excepted, but because someone of importance and respect said it, it was now gospel.

Immediately, almost overnight, everyone thoroughly abandoned the research. Just total and completely abandoned it, like rats jumping off a sinking ship. The very topic was forbidden. Careers were destroyed, some peoples life’s work rendered invalid overnight. If you ever mentioned “suppressor cells” at a talk or conference you had a very good chance of killing your career and no one ever taking you seriously again. It would be like going to a scientific conference and talking about how your research is based on crashed UFO technology from Roswell (it very well may be, but you really shouldn’t say it publicly). There was a very real fear of being ostracized by your peers for even mentioning an interest in it. This feel of oppression hung in the air for decades.

Things remained this way until about the year 2000. Then breaking news came from Japan by a scientist named Sakaguchi that these cells did in fact exist and were in fact VERY important in regulating immunity. (I had the very odd experience of having him come and sit with me for breakfast one day at a conference. I didn’t realize who it was until he had left and someone told me who it was).

It turns out the original big name scientist was half right, the mechanism by which they were thought to work in the 70’s didn’t exist, but they still worked by another mechanism which we didn’t have the technology or even the mindset to understand until the 2000’s. Yet the cells themselves did the same thing and did really exist. Suddenly, it was ok to work with them again. Everyone wanted to work with them. They were interesting and potentially very valuable to advance science. Their existence fit a lot of holes in the knowledge gap. Suddenly a lot of things made sense and potentially valuable therapeutic treatments looked a lot more promising.

However, no one dared call them suppressor cells anymore. They had to be called “regulatory cells” now because the stigma attached to suppressor cells still was very ingrained in the brain of every immunologist around the world. Sakaguchi had the guile to call them Regulatory Cells right off the bat, because he knew that no one would take them seriously if he called them Suppressor Cells. Everyone knew suppressor cells would still get you ostracized.  However, regulatory cells, well that was safe because we changed the name.

The field took off again. Now everyone and their brother were interested in Regulatory Cells and still are. The field is huge.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I see Chaos Magic following pretty much the same pattern. Interest in it peaked in the 80’s and 90’s. It had a lot of good principles (and possibly a few crappy ones). Then somewhere along the line in the 90’s it fell out of fashion, and a huge stigma got attached to it. The mechanism by which it worked became in question to many (The idea being that it’s not that Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, it’s that Everything is True, Everything is Permitted, which depending on how you interpret them, may be pretty much the same thing). Chaos magic fell out of favor and it was now deemed to be the realm of those to lazy to be a “real magician” as everyone abandoned ship and went on to study traditional systems. From this point on any mere mention of it gets you looked down upon by the and potentially ostracized by the “Srs magicians”.

To many peoples minds it is synonymous with the culture in which it became popular. Chaos magic did not implode or die or go away in any way as is commonly touted, it simply became unpopular. The practioners themselves evolved, their personal magical practices evolved, the system itself continues to evolve, however peoples views of the system have not. It’s the same thing as if you were to use the word “eclectic”. The mere mention of this word brings on knee jerk reactions of undisciplined practioners who mix systems will-nilly and such, when in fact there are a large number of disciplined and knowledgeable eclectics out there who approach the systems they work in with care and respect, and most importantly, in a knowledgeable manner.

It’s unfortunate but now a days if you mention a serious interest in CM, there is a very real fear of being ostracized and not being taken seriously as a magician  (there’s a concept. Those of us who work daily with beings and forces considered to be fantasy by the majority of the population not taking each other seriously because of perceptions of reality. Just contemplate the irony on that for a second). I myself have witnessed (and received the brunt of) deep set vitriol from other magicians when it is mentioned, which makes me cautious of doing so in public, even though I do obviously have an interest in it.

However, it’s left it’s legacy on Western Occultism as a large number of us were involved with the current back in the day and it’s mindset imprinted on many of us. Many of us have even gone on to study traditional systems in depth and initiate fully into them, yet bringing those CM principles with us. The whole vitriol is really rather silly and needs to stop I say. I personally see many parallels between CM and Hermetics. I’d dare say Hermetics was the Chaos of it’s day. I wonder if Agrippa got grief from his contemporaries for the Three Books of Occult Philosophy?

Nowadays, it seems like CM has certainly influenced today’s magic but that influence gets ignored. We don’t do CM any more, now it’s synchretism or eclectic ritual magic, or Post-Modern Magic, or Post-Chaos or whatever that pretty much seems so much to me like an attempted re-invention of the same thing without the connotation that will get you ostracized. Just like immunologists in the early part of last decade with their regulatory cells. However, CM did fill holes in the magical knowledge gap and bring a lot with it to the table by sweeping aside many of the dogma’s of the past few thousand years. Unfortunately by doing so, it seemed to have stepped on a few toes. However it keeps getting re-invented to fill those holes back up. babies and bathwater and all. Regardless of some people’s distate for it, I think it’s clear that there is still a need for it.

So now many of us who feel a call in that direction won’t call it Chaos Magic anymore, because it has too much baggage, we have to call it something else that is safe. This to me smacks rather of playing the devils game and refusing to take his name. Now I honestly don’t care what other people call themselves, nor do I intend to say the above statement holds true for everyone. I speak only for myself, but the idea does not sit well with me.

I think CM has a lot to offer still. For me personally (your mileage may vary) the core concept, the fact that reality is virtually unknowable and the flexible mindset is the only one that won’t break down over time, is just as valid to me now as  it was 20 years ago. In my thought, this right here is Core Chaos (I’ll get into this in part II). You can debate the validity of other principles that got associated with it (by “you” I mean someone else whose not me, I’m not interested!), but I think this is it’s main strength.

Maybe I’m just a nostalgic old fool (likely), but I’d really like to see the Chaos Flag fly high again, not as just an apologetic footnote, but as a legitimately respected branch of occultism that doesn’t get relegated to the kiddy table at the yearly Christmas gathering of mage-folk (where is that being held this year by the way? I don’t think I received my invite yet. Someone needs to get on this.). I’d really like to see the “undisciplined” image of Chaos die because I personally don’t believe any longer that it’s accurate. Not in the slightest. If anything is out dated I think it is this mode of thinking. There are chaotes out there that live and breath their art just as much as any traditionalist and get every bit the results. Many of them study and even initiate into traditional systems in a careful and respectful manner, yet maintain the “core chaos” viewpoint which allows them to transcend many of the limitations of walking a purely traditional path. In short it prevents them from mistaking the map for the territory. To quote the article linked to in the above paragraph:

For me the Chaos approach helps me hold a bigger vision, and enables me to hold my obsessions more loosely.

I think the only way the raising of said flag will happen is if people start putting awesome shit out there again in it’s name. Thankfully, this is already happening. I think the pendulum is already swinging, I can feel it.

Read Part II: Life in Boxes

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12 Responses to A Chaos Diatribe (Part I)

  1. Belle says:

    Lol, I love the Kiddie Table, in fact we set one up for Thanksgiving every year ! 😉
    And I freely admit to being a Chaoist ! and a Witch in service to Hekate.
    Looking forward to Part 2, but for now Hekhaoist witches is busy ! Asteroid Hekate is prominent in the upcoming New Moon

    • Skyllaros says:

      Thank you Belle! We seem to have a lot in common there. I didn’t know what about the Hekate astaroid. Probably why i had such a good Hekate filled full moon!

  2. Aubs Tea says:

    I’ve commented a time or two about how certain sections of paganism come and go. For example, when I first got into paganism, Celtic flavoring was in vogue. Recently, voodoo and Santeria and Palo and ATRs seem to be the big thing to do. Everyone gets into it, loves it, lives it, thinks they know everything, and then they fall out of love with it because it’s “no longer cool.” I think this particular aspect is shit. If you love something, then you love it for always. It’s not something you can just fall in and out of love with. It’s something that molds you in numerous ways, if your dedication is legit, and makes you who you are, what you practice, and teaches you.

    So, with that being said, if you are a Chaos mage, then own it. I’ll back you, tooth and nail. 🙂

    • Skyllaros says:

      So, with that being said, if you are a Chaos mage, then own it. I’ll back you, tooth and nail.

      Best advice I’ve heard all day! Thanks you for the back up Aubs. It’s actually much appreciated!

  3. Vinncent says:

    A friend send this to me, and figured I would post my thoughts here as well, in the interest of causing hopefully useful shitstorms.

    The author first starts with what he considers a 1:1 comparison between chaos magic and immunology, which isn’t totally correct. The thing you have to understand about “science” is that people are trying to pass bullshit off as truth for as long as the scientific method and peer-review have existed, and they have an extremely high obligation to tell one from the other. When it appears by all accounts they’ve been bamboozled, they naturally will lump in it with crystal healing and homeopathy, and pursue more promising theories, even if the original was correct and merely misunderstood.

    This has little to do with chaos magic. Its practitioners, although drawing on pseudoscience from time to time to make their dogma more legitimate than it actually is, by and large don’t adhere to the scientific method, nor do they have any higher obligation to discern truth from bullshit. It’s fundamental stance is, “everything is bullshit, and truth is whatever I want it to be”, regardless of how misguided that view is.

    He is also incorrect in saying that chaos magic has ever fallen out of popularity. Perhaps the number of members in the IOT has dwindled, both due to Carroll himself leaving, and the fact that numbers have dwindled all across the board in regards to participation in occult orders with the rise of digital file-sharing (especially in regards to more inner-order secrets), but in my experience, chaos is the second most popular paradigm next to Wicca.

    The stereotypes of “lazy chaotes” doesn’t arise out of nowhere. It’s the result of those who have experience with chaotes, and results from the claims of the system itself. It’s hardly surprising from a system that claims, “jack off on this doodle to get anything you want, and anything else is arbitrary.” The idea that the typical chaote is a lazy know-nothing isn’t inaccurate. It’s built into the system itself.

    The author further goes on to explain how “chaos magic” still has an influence today… but those influences never originated with chaos magic itself. People have been mixing paradigms from the second they realized that different systems existed. It’s nearly impossible to find a hermeticist who knows nothing about shamanism or pagan religions, or a Golden Dawn enthusiest who knows nothing about Thelema. The idea that this somehow was a result of a comparatively recent “chaos magic” is ridiculous. It’s not “chaos magic influence”, it’s called being a well-rounded human being, which existed far before chaos magic was ever a thing.

    To his final point, chaos magic has nothing to offer the more advanced practitioner. “Nothing is true” or “Everything is true” is not a truth (aside from being self-contradictory)… it’s merely a giving up of finding what is true, and what is bullshit. It is not a bad mindset to temporarily take when examining various systems… but when you ask a chaote to explain how magic works, and they give you an answer, you realize that the system is chalked full of as much dogma, if not more, than any other.

    The problem lies in the assumption, “chaos magic is free from dogma, therefore if I’m a chaos magician, I am free from dogma.” This immediately becomes bullshit when you ask the average chaote how “magick” works, and they answer you.

    • Skyllaros says:

      Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for your well thought out argument! I Actually I enjoy useful shit storms! Suffice to say I think you made some good points, and I disagree strongly with you on a few more. I’m afraid I don’t have the time this week to get into a point by point but would you mind if I replied to it in a post all it’s own in the future?

      • Vinncent says:

        Of course, I love having my ideas argued against in a world where most occult discussions end with, “Well, this is what I believe, respect it” before it even goes anywhere.

      • Ky Kross says:

        “To his final point, chaos magic has nothing to offer the more advanced practitioner. “Nothing is true” or “Everything is true” is not a truth (aside from being self-contradictory)… it’s merely a giving up of finding what is true, and what is bullshit. It is not a bad mindset to temporarily take when examining various systems… but when you ask a chaote to explain how magic works, and they give you an answer, you realize that the system is chalked full of as much dogma, if not more, than any other.”

        When you frame it as “Nothing is true OR Everything is true” of course you find yourself in the predicament of apparent and foolish contradiction. This assumption in itself is far from what Carroll has attempted to define as an essential belief system or companion to Chaos Magick.

        All too often when we go too cerebral, over think, over analyze and look too literally or too practically at concepts, we miss the point. Our minds are always looking to arrive at definitive statements or claims, that we can then scrutinize, point our fingers at and either classify as “Truth” or “Bullshit.” It’s out of mere convenience of wanting to feel safe inside of a defined world or at least safe within some kind of concept that we can place inside of a box with a charming red ribbon wrapping its perfect sides ever so snug. It is to accept the eternal falling feeling that is key.

        Chaos Magick constantly references Quantum Mechanics for this exact reason. The rules that apply in the Quantum world do not apply when blown up to size. The second everything becomes life size, most of the theories surrounding Quantum Mechanics goes straight out the fucking window.

        The double slit experiment is how we explain “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” … or even what has been suggested here… “Nothing is true AND Everything is true” (To phrase it as “Nothing is true OR Everything is true” is missing the damn point) .

        On the quantum level, when the single light particle is shot at the slits, it travels through both slits AND it only travels through the right slit AND it only travels through the left slit, AND it doesn’t go through either. Holy Jesus, my mind is blown.

        Within the quantum world “Nothing is true AND Everything is true” can be understood… as a matter of fact, it’s the natural state of the quantum world. No contradictions here. It only becomes a contradiction when you blow it up to life size. Getting the gist yet?

        The quantum world is a lot like the subconscious… the space that allows most Magickial circumstances to occur. And our Classical Physical, Life Sized Reality is quite an accurate representation of our conscious minds… when we try to move a concept that naturally makes sense in the subconscious, it no longer makes sense nor works when attempted.

        Once you take a concept like this from the part of the mind it belongs and try to bring it to the forefront of the conscious for strict analysis, we all see the same result… “Oh, the particle only went through the slot on the left…” Conveniently we point our fingers and say, yup… that theory must be bullshit.

        There is a natural truth to everything being true AND nothing being true, because at the level of the strands of fabric that hold this universe together, we see the same exact behaviors.

        Once the conscious mind can finely relax and allow this belief to move from the forehead and deep into the balls, it no longer matters if it’s true or not… it just is.

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  6. Vinncent says:

    “it no longer matters if it’s true or not… it just is.”

    This sums up half your post, which as I already said, is simply a giving up on finding truth. If you don’t care about what’s true, then there’s no real argument to convince you how detrimental a belief that is.

    To the other half of your post, that’s not remotely what the double slit experiment implies. It goes back to the uncertainty principle, where the probabilities of knowing velocity and position. You can’t measure the system without changing system, so its properties depend on which aspect is being detected, to which degree of certainty.

    This isn’t “nothing is true everything is permitted”. The particles exhibit very strange properties, to be sure, but what you’re implying is a particle going through a slit, and coming out on the other side as a banana, because “nothing is true and everything is permitted”, which is clearly false.

    Finally, there’s nothing “comforting” about pursuing truth. A lot of things turn out to be wrong along the way, and that sucks. “Feeling safe” is pretending that truth doesn’t exist, therefore you can never feel the hurt about being wrong. That’s just cowardice to spare your own feelings.

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