A Chaos Diatribe (Part II): Life in Boxes

Dude, I know the feeling.

Let’s start with another story! The year was 2005 and I was having coffee at borders on a date which would be the first of a new relationship, unbeknownst to me at the time. Of course neither Borders nor the relationship fared well in the end!

Our first date get-to-know-you banter (you all know what I’m talking about) got around to self-perceptions and I related something that I had never fully realized until that moment and it came out of my mouth. Whenever I try to put myself in a box, I stuff myself in, I stay there for a bit and then come bounding out of the box going “Whew that was really uncomfortable!”. No matter how big and spacious of a box I think I find, I eventually get tired of contorting myself to fit inside of it, no matter how badly I want to live inside a box  (Later I’d find out that snippet of the conversation was the clincher in assuring there would be a second date).

Recently, somewhere along the line I came to the conclusion that I’m just fundamentally a Chaos Mage somewhere at my core no matter what box I’m currently trying to stuff myself into.For those who have followed by blog from the begining over at Oak and Ivy, you know what I’m talking about.  For me, CM is the operating system that allows me to live inside all my boxes at once. Kinda like… the box garage! Every step I take on my spiritual path reinforces the fact that no matter what system I follow, it’s not completely 100% correct. It may be a good fit, it may provide me a valuable spiritual Truth, and I may practice it faithfully according to the guidelines of the tradition for the rest of my life, but I just can’t bring myself to say “Yup, this is the way that it is”. If magic has taught me anything, it’s that every time I think that, every single time, I get my ignorance papers handed to me hard by the Powers That Be. I have a whole metaphysically stack of Papers on my altar right now reminding me.

At best I only ever have part of the puzzle. I don’t want just a single puzzle piece, I want to admire the whole puzzle in it’s vast incompleteness, even knowing that I’ll never be able to finish the puzzle. There is beauty in the not knowing, in the mystery.

Put simply, for me (again NOT attempting to speak for others, not even going there!), CM is simply the mindset that no matter how much I know, I really know nothing. It really comes down to being that simple. It’s keeping a flexible mind. It’s keeping an open mind. Its seeking a higher vantage point at all times, even if I know I can never reach high enough. It’s about retaining that sense of wonder that propelled me to become a magician in the first place. It’s really all about the wonder.

Remember when you were a beginner on the path and you thought everything was possible? Remember all those adages about maintaining the beginners mind? In my mind, CM is a built in fail-safe to make sure you retain the beginners mind, even when you’ve progressed so far along your current path that your obsessed with doing it by the book.

It does not mean that you can’t participate in a revel in the wonder and glory of a traditional system. It’s not so much about chaospheres and random belief or conjuring fictional characters (although I must admit I find chaospheres rather aesthetically pleasing). Did those things characterize the movement in the past? Sure! Do people still presently do them and get results? Yes, and I’m not going to be one to cast judgment on what works for others (been there, done that, it made me feel like an asshole. Rightly so). I’ve seen some crazy shit in my time. Hell, I’ve invoked angels and conjured up aliens instead on occasion. Not just once, but often actually. I don’t know what the nature of angels and demons and spirits are but I’m pretty sure we don’t have the whole story on that. I think it’s hubris to try to claim to honestly. Also, some recent work with servators has brought me results above and beyond what I had been able to achieve with traditional spirits on the same goal.

Meet the Spirits of the Sphere of the Moon, as they appear in these parts.

However, for me the greatest strength of CM lies in the mindset. Read that last sentence again because it’s the crux of my whole point there. It is the mindset that I find absolutely freeing. It is what I keep coming back to year after year.  It’s about the fact that the farther I get on this path, the more I realize I know jack shit. The more experiences I have, the more my previous closely held schema of the universe gets blown to hell. I think if boiled down this the flag ship of the whole movement if you will, it’s this core concept of flexibility of belief that is important.

Belief. like it or not it’s so malleable. This is something I’ve proven to myself my whole life. I’m not going to say that I think belief is what fuels magic, because I don’t personally believe that (hehe). I think belief is totally irrelevant to the practice of magic. I am much more on the Everything is True, Everything is Permitted side. I will say that I simply don’t know what to believe as “true” and that belief itself is what chains me to those boxes I find so uncomfortable.

So it hit me yesterday as I was driving down the road on a forced tour of the countryside due to a construction detour, which of course is conducive to contemplative thoughts about life paths. It hit me hard. I don’t think I have a choice in identifying as a Chaos Mage any more than an atheist has a choice in rejecting the concept of God. It’s just what you believe. It’s just simply my beliefs about the nature of belief itself that make me one fundamentally at my core. I can either except it and move on, or spend my life living in one box after the next looking for a more comfortable fit, a tolerable fit.

To me it is also a path of balance, incorporating both the High Magic that I have come to love and the primal/shamanic/witchcrafty/Druidic magics that I crave without placing inherent worth on one over the other. Now do I need CM to do that (I can hear you all saying it)? Nope, but I sure find it makes it easier. I believe Gordan said it best actually

You don’t need chaos magic to shine a little empirical light on your practice but nobody shines it better than chaos magic. I am willing to be convinced otherwise but it has yet to happen.

I’d fully agree with that.

So that’s how I now find myself on a predominately (Post?) Chaos based path. I really don’t expect what I do to actually change much.  It does not meant that I am giving up on Hermetics, or the Great Work, my traditions, my gods, or my goal of becoming a living god on Earth myself, but in the end, my home base will not reside in any one box. I find it just hobbles me too much.

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20 Responses to A Chaos Diatribe (Part II): Life in Boxes

  1. Goks1211 says:

    People overall want rules. Some want them to follow, some as a guideline, some to break, but overall people want rules. It is most likely a conditioning from a young age or a fear of what some would do without them; worse yet, what we would do without them. Rules of our own or rules set by others, it doesn’t matter. The idea of no rules and no limits is a scary one. Even people who claim to like chaos tend to prefer a controlled chaos.

    • Goks1211 says:

      I recently bought a game and the rules were unclear. Even worse they clashed with the sample. I suggested making our own rules on a majority vote. I was told we couldn’t make the rules, it’s not “our game”. No one wanted to play. It was offered that if I clearly re-wrote the rules others would be willing to try the game again, provided I addressed everything and spelled it out so all could understand them.

      I wasn’t around for CM getting a bad name/reputation, but I would bet there was a sigh of relief. Rules come with instructions and guidelines and labels. Labels are claimed to be hated, but they give us a place to fit in.

      • Goks1211 says:

        Seems to me CM is what people do before they realize they are in fact practicing. From my bit of understanding it’s the down and dity often true emotion heat of the moment feel. If I have the jist correctly, then that’s what I’m better at.

        As a kid I used to do stand still back flips. One day someone told me I couldn’t do them without propper training or I would get hurt. I believed it. After that I couldn’t. Seems to me that may be part of the frowned upon also.

      • Goks1211 says:

        I’ve always been a witch. I have not always practiced. Frankly, I find setting up, preparation, etc., for a spell takes the wind out of my sails – if for no other reason than being tired after a mundane day. Where a strong chant in my car at lunch brings better results.

        It’s ridiculous to me a community that has not been completely accepted as a whole would turn their back as a whole on one of it’s parts… but not surprising since it is made up of people.

        Alright – climbing off my 2 cent soap box and giving your blog back 🙂

  2. Robert Goode says:

    Chaos Magick is not anything I know about or understand. Austin Osman Spare speaks in some dead alien language and I feel like I need a college degree to fully understand Peter Caroll. As such, I can’t comment much here, so I instead I offer a picture of a witch kitten.

  3. Aubs Tea says:

    So, you’re kind of like Schrodinger’s cat. You are both alive and dead in the box?

  4. Gordon says:

    Thank you for the kind words and the quote. Let me return the favour. From the previous post:

    “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”


  5. Scylla says:

    I started out as a Chaote – because I started out from the position of using exactly and only what worked. Later on I found Traditional avenues, and I still use exactly and only what works.

    I never quite got rid of all those old boxes, the Chaote, the Kemetic, the Necronomaic, the Mesopotamian, the Traditional Witchcraft, the Rootwork/Hoodoo… nope. Kept all the boxes. Never know when I might need ’em.

  6. sara magnuson says:

    First of all, amazing set of posts. Really. Secondly, thank you for sharing so openly and being straight-forward and honest about what you think and feel. I can relate to the apprehension of putting your thoughts out there sometimes, so I appreciate that you posted these. I am definitely not knowledgeable in the deeper concepts of Chaos Magic and only have a surface-level understanding. However, I can certainly relate to the idea of maintaining one overall “driving force” or some basic, internal, very personal underlying principles, while still learning and practicing other methodologies and systems. At the same time, I struggle as well with feeling frustrated at people who mix things up all “willy-nilly”, as you said (well put, by the way). I agree that there is a middle-ground of being true to oneself and having respect for the other traditions one may practice versus reading a couple of wikipedia pages and claiming to be the High Priestess of the Magickal Coven of the Sisters of Oshun. Just because you’re the former doesn’t automatically mean that you’re the latter, and that’s what people tend to think in my experience. Again, thank you for your thoughts!

  7. Lee says:

    I really enjoyed this pair of posts, thanks! I’m relatively new the CM so the historical perspective on it that I’ve been seeing about lately- that’s it’s out of ‘vogue’ and going through some sort of characteristically post-modern second guessing of itself- is interesting to read about.

    I align pretty will with your ideas about CM, in particular the adherence to the fundamental ideas of it rather than the various trappings. That’s what I gravitated to when I first discovered it- and it’s still pretty fresh to me- that you could possess a whole pile of boxes to play with and there was no real conflict or harm from keeping them around as necessary.

    • Skyllaros says:

      Hi Lee,

      thank you! I’m glad you found them useful. I do think it’s a viable system for keeping your piles of boxes organized. Yes, needing to adhere to the trapping on order to consider ones self a CM seems rather un-chaos like doesn’t it?

  8. Daniel SnowKestral says:

    I was wondering how you distinguish between the idea of Chaos. Is it the same as being, “Wild” in reference to Wild Spirituality?

    • Skyllaros says:

      Hi Daniel, I’m not quite familiar with the term Wild Spirituality though I think I can figure out your meaning! I’m thinking i’d probably think of them quite similar!

  9. Pingback: PCM Project Update « The Razors' Edge | everything is true, everything is permitted.

  10. Pingback: My Crooked Path | The Crossroads Companion

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