Monday, October 24, 2011

Chaos Magic

What is Chaos Magic?
First off, an article explaining Chaos Magic probably doesn’t belong in a strictly Pagan listing of traditions. Since many Pagans may be into certain occult practices, they may have heard of Chaos Magic. This article was written for two reasons: To counter any preconceptions or prejudices some Pagans may have towards it; and to show the beautiful and vivid collection of approaches to magic that fall under the term. There are also many Pagans of various traditions who practice Chaos Magic, so perhaps this can enlighten the rest as to what they are up to.
Chaos Magic (CM) is strictly speaking, a set of approaches to magic that strip away a lot of occultist pedantry and get right down to the bare bones of magical activity itself. The criteria for success first includes observable results. These results can usually be shown to be replicable. The problem is that with any practice involving human individuals, there are variations and an individual’s personal system of beliefs or sense of what is possible can affect the results. (Parallel examples of this can be found in other human fields such as art or music if you need an example.)
In the first decade or so of CM, it wasn’t so much a magical tradition or paradigm in itself but more of a “metaparadigmatic” approach. Beliefs were seen as simply emotive and mental tools to use in rituals to accomplish whatever the group or individual practitioner’s goals were. Though, since those times, CM has accrued to itself some pretty standard and distinctive elements and practices, these could still be seen as a means to an end and not to be used towards establishing any sort of new magical body of beliefs and rituals. Despite this stance, CM may be seen as its own distinctive tradition, depending on the group or individual practitioner.
To get a handle on what CM is, it may be useful to describe the difference between one who practices CM and someone who practices, say Wicca. Whereas a Wiccan is a follower of the religion and belief system of Wicca, CM itself doesn’t mean its practitioners adhere to any one tradition or set of beliefs. Thus the CM practitioner could very well be a Wiccan, a member of Asatru, or a Druid. Usually the Chaos Magician is the type of individual who can successfully see the world from within more than one belief system or paradigm. In this spirit, many Pagans who are polytheists may also be practitioners of CM and not even know it. Many successful and well-known practitioners of CM are conscious members of one or more Pagan traditions or occult groups as well.
Chaos Magic can be seen as the heir to all of the magical traditions of humanity that stretch back to the distant and mostly imagined prehistory of our species. The one key difference is that outside of any useful belief in any sort of continuity with the past, Chaos Mages care little to nothing about philosophizing or taking it too seriously. The focus is on magic itself and the joy that can be ours by simply paying attention to the fact that reality is so much more than any one of our minds can conceive. Reality will and often does allow a certain amount of flexibility and tends to conform to the ways in which we see it. The point of CM is not to allow for any sort of solipsism to arise from this knowledge (which is a perennial danger) but to get the Chaos Mage to see exactly what is “really going on.” This can only be done if one is willing to allow that all of what one thinks about reality is in one’s mind. So we allow ourselves to play with the mind, to see just how much of reality may or may not be influenced or filtered through our mind. It is the mind that is one of reality’s most beautiful expressions of magic, and contrary to what some may argue, the mind is one of the most flexible and fickle aspects of our existence.
It also helps to have a flexible and infinitely adaptable mind so that one will be able to handle life on the day reality simply does not conform to one’s own conceptions. If beliefs are holding you back from succeeding at an endeavor, than CM would say (if it could say anything) that one should jettison those beliefs and adopt something that will work better. This will lead (and has lead) to some interesting developments in the practice of magic within the CM approach.
Author: Irreverend Hugh, KSC
Posted: February 18th. 2007

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