A quick romp through the plethora of pages out on the interwebz focusing on magic will show you that there is a lot of people who take their magical efforts very seriously. They do their best to portray it through the use of serious tone and a much gravitas as they can muster in their posts. I’ll be honest, I have done this as well. Now, it is pretty easy to get caught up in this thought that all magic is serious business and should not be done unless with proper decorum and such. A large number of the reasons why people perform magic are pretty serious. When you’ve hit the point that you’re using heavy hitting magic to take care of problems like a lack of employment, you’re getting down to brass tacks and there is not much room to be cavalier in your approach, or is there?
Chaos magic has people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds involved in it. Some of these magicians are the image of serious scholars and dedicants to their art. There are also people who are utterly irreverent and don’t appear to take much of anything seriously. Contrary to what may be expected, this latter group are equally as successful as the former. In some cases, they are actually more successful because they have greater flexibility when they encounter hiccups in the process.
Do these freewheeling magicians treat everything as lightly as they seem to, achieving success despite their absurdity? Not exactly. They are sometimes described as the scavengers of the occult community. They have this talent for picking up parts and pieces of diverse magical systems and marrying them together in a fashion that seems to work just as effectively despite of the apparent contradictions (and in some cases it seems to be because of it). This does not mean that they don’t take their work seriously. It is more a case that they have internalized their concept of the seriousness and made peace with it in such a fashion that they move on to embracing the absurdity inherent in all of the systems, that not many are willing to admit.
What is the secret to their success? How does a person manage to successfully cast a spell or perform divination with a pack of blank cards and a live frog? Some of this is having a broad interdisciplinary understanding of magical systems (in some cases) and some of their success comes from the fact that they are creating a system as they are going along based off of their experimentation with all available factors. In many ways, I am inclined to argue that chaos magicians are the scientists of the occult community. Where others have their fixed systems, chaos magicians are regularly experimenting with how those systems work when pushed to their limits and developing their own variants of the systems around them. A brief review of the information available about chaos magic on the internet shows that there are people who are making hybrid magical systems and people who are generating their own entirely new magical systems through a process of trial and error. As one chaos magician said to me their practice is based in ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks.’
You see many of them going through the process of formulating a hypothesis, testing said hypothesis, and assessing the results in their magical work. They retain the things that are effective and refine that which does not work. Their execution of the scientific process may not resemble what we expect. There are very rarely lab coats, work benches, and exhaustive notation. It still happens though. The best part, in my opinion, is that they are enjoying their work as they do it. The general attitude of irreverence and good humor takes some of the pressure off of the chaos magician, even when they are dealing with very serious situations.
Not everyone is suited to practicing chaos magic. Humans are creatures of habit. Some require more fixed habits than others. This doesn’t mean that the more fixed habits of practice are better than the more fluid ones. It only means that one person is more effective in that system compared to the other. I have found that when I am in a position where I find my work getting difficult because I am taking everything so seriously and getting anxious over how I will execute the spell, I need to do something to relieve the tension that arises. In that sort of situation, I tend to get in my own way with all of my anxiety. Thus, I jump to doing things from a different perspective.
For example, sometimes a person is laboring under the effects of a curse and their anxiety that they won’t get the counterspell right will negate their efforts because they are too caught up in their worry about the curse to focus on their spell. So, rather than breaking out a plethora of candles fragranced with rare herbs and oils, costly ink, special paper, and a hand cut quill pen to cast the ‘perfect’ counterspell, they will be better off doing something that jars them out of that serious and anxious mindset. One of the best counterspells that I have encountered for when cursed is incredibly simple and, honestly, entirely ridiculous. It is simply to urinate on a brick. It is hard to take yourself seriously when you are in the midst of pissing on a brick, believe me, I tried and I have the habit of taking everything way too seriously.
That counterspell of questionable hygiene works because it breaks the caster out of the mindset where they are focused on the curse itself. It reduces the curse in the caster’s mind to something as ridiculous as the counterspell, thereby rendering the curse impotent. The sheer absurdity of the counterspell breaks through the web of anxiety and unhelpful thoughts that arise from the curse and frees the caster. If the tension between the ridiculous and the seriousness of the situation is strong enough, sometimes, that will make the counterspell even stronger as it is powered by the apparent paradox. I don’t claim to understand why this works, only that I have seen it in action and it is shockingly effective.
Serious magic can be done in a fashion that is silly. It is simply a matter of channeling one’s focus and directing the spiritual energy towards their target. Sometimes silly is the best way to approach the problem. Even the absurd has magical potential. There is a reason why the Fool is the first and the last trump of the Major Arcana, even before the Magician. All discussion of the spiritual and religious is nonsensical talk. Philosophy in all its manifestations (including theology, metaphysics, and occultism) is a discussion of things that will look absurd when viewed from a very ‘grounded’ perspective that focuses upon the physical world. Embrace that absurdity, for there is power in it.
1. I refuse to spell the term ‘magic’ in the popular alternate spelling of ‘magick’. I refuse for two reasons. First, the pseudo-archaic spelling annoys me. It is an adaptation that arose when people from the modern era attempted to generate the appearance of historical legitimacy through their games with semantics. I find it intellectually dishonest. Second, I see no division between the sleight of hand tricks of entertainers and the work of occultists. The games of illusions are as much of a route to alter mental states and engage in manipulation of the spiritual elements of the world as the ‘high magic’ of secret societies.
2. There is an overwhelming amount of information about chaos magic on the internet. I simply can not give enough links to do justice to the topic. I can, however, give you my favorites.
The entries on Chaos Magic at Sacred Texts.Com are a great place to look for historical and practical information.
This site has a wonderful set of information. They do a good job of incorporating some ‘hard’ science into their material as well. Their discussion of the role of probability in magical work is excellent.
Chaos Matrix has some of the most complete information about chaos magic I have found on the internet. I also think that their work is well written and highly accessible to the average reader.
Note: Yes, I am a Lokean. No, I didn’t start using chaos magic because of Loki. It was something I simply fell into because I am rather … mercenary in my approach to magic. If it works, I want to know why, how, and see if I can make it work for me. Loki, however, strongly supports my efforts and encourages them. It is a win-win situation, I suppose.