DEFINING CHAOS by Mark Chao Introduction Chaos, according to the `Oxford English Dictionar
by Mark Chao
Chaos, according to the `Oxford English Dictionary' means:
1. A gaping void, yawning gulf, chasm, or abyss.
2. The `formless void' of primordial matter, the `great deep' or 'abyss'
out of which the cosmos or order of the universe was evolved.
There are a couple of additional definitions, but they are irrelevant to
this discussion. When chaos is used in magic, there is no place for con-
fusion or disorder.
Chaos is the creative principle behind all magic. When a magical ritual
is performed, regardless of `tradition' or other variables in the elements
of performance, a magical energy is created and put into motion to cause
something to happen. In his book, `Sorcery as Virtual Mechanics', Stephen
Mace cites a scientific precedent for this creative principle.
"To keep it simple, let us confine our example to just two electrons,
the pointlike carriers of negative charge. Let us say they are a part of
the solar wind--beta particles, as it were--streaming out from the sun at
thousands of miles a second. Say that these two came close enough that
their negative charges interact, causing them to repel one another. How do
they accomplish this change in momentum?
"According to quantum electrodynamics, they do it by exchanging a
"virtual" photon. One electron spawns it, the other absorbs it, and so do
they repel each other. The photon is "virtual" because it cannot be seen by
an outside observer, being wholly contained in the interaction. But it is
real enough, and the emission and absorbtion of virtual photons is how the
electromagnetic interaction operates.
"The question which is relevant to our purpose here is where does the
photon come from. It does not come out of one electron and lodge in the
other, as if it were a bullet fired from one rock into another. The
electrons themselves are unchanged, except for their momenta. Rather, the
photon is created out of nothing by the strain of the interaction. Accord-
ing to current theory, when the two electrons come close their waveforms
interact, either cancelling out or reinforcing one another. Waveforms are
intimately tied to characteristics like electric charge, and we could thus
expect the charges on the two electrons to change. But electron charge does
not vary; it is always 1.602 x (-19) coulombs. Instead the virtual photons
appear out of the vacuum and act to readjust the system. The stress spawns
them and by their creation is the stress resolved".
Austin Spare understood this principle in regard to magical phenomena
long before scientists discovered photons or began experiments in the area
of chaos science.
Austin Osman Spare-some history
Austin Spare was born at midnight, Dec. 31st, 1886 in a London suburb
called Snow Hill. His father was a London policeman, often on night duty.
Spare showed a natural talent for drawing at an early age, and in 1901-
1904 left school to serve an apprenticeship in a stained-glass works, but
continued his education at Art College in Lambeth. In 1904 he won a
scholarship to the Royal College of Art. In that year he also exhibited a
picture in the Royal Academy for the first time.
In 1905 he published his first book, `Earth Inferno'. It was primarily
meant to be a book of drawings, but included commentaries that showed some
of his insight and spiritual leanings. John Singer Sargent hailed him as a
genius at age 17. At an unspecified time in his adolescence, Spare was
initiated into a witch cult by a sorceress named Mrs. Patterson, whom Spare
referred to as his "second mother". In 1908 he held an exhibition at Bruton
Gallery. In 1910 he spent a short time as a member of the Golden Dawn.
Becoming disenchanted with them, he later joined Crowley's Argentium
Astrum. The association did not last long. Crowley was said to have
considered Spare to be a Black Magician. In 1909 Spare began creation of
the `Book of Pleasure'.
In 1912 his reputation was growing rapidly in the art world. In 1913 he
published the `Book of Pleasure'. It is considered to be his most important
magical work, and includes detailed instructions for his system of sigili-
zation and the "death postures" that he is well known for. 1914-1918 he
served as an official war artist. He was posted to Egypt which had a great
effect on him. In 1921, he published `Focus of Life', another book of
drawings with his unique and magical commentaries. 1921-1924 Spare was at
the height of his artistic success, then, in 1924 he published the
`Anathema of Zos', in which he effectively excommunicated himself from his
false and trendy artistic "friends" and benefactors. He returned to South
London and obscurity to find the freedom to develop his philosophy, art and
In 1947 Spare met Kenneth Grant and became actively involved with other
well-known occultists of the period. In 1948-1956 he began work on a
definitive Grimoire of the Zos Kia Cultus, which is referred to in his
various writings. This is unfinished and being synthesized from Spare's
papers by Kenneth Grant, who inherited all of Spare's papers. Much of this
information was included in `Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare' by
Kenneth Grant, but there are some unpublished works which Grant plans to
publish after completion of his Typhonian series.
References for this section are mostly from Christopher Bray's introduc-
tion to `The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare' and from `Excess Spare',
which is a compilation by The Temple Ov Psychic Youth of photocopied
articles about Spare from various sources.
The Magic of Austin Osman Spare
Spare's art and magic were closely related. It is reputed that there are
messages in his drawings about his magical philosophy. One particular
picture of Mrs. Patterson has reportedly been seen to move; the eyes
opening and closing. Spare is best known for his system of using sigils.
Being an artist, he was very visually oriented.
The system basically consists of writing down the desire, preferably in
your own magical alphabet, eliminating all repeated letters, then forming a
design of the remaining single letters. The sigil must then be charged.
There is a variety of specific ways to do this, but the key element is to
achieve a state of "vacuity" which can be done through exhaustion, sexual
release or several other methods.
This creates a `vacuum' or `void' much like the condition described in
the introduction to this discussion, and it is filled with the energy of
the magician. The sigil, being now charged, must be forgotten so that the
sub-conscious mind may work on it without the distractons and dissipation
of energy that the conscious mind is subject to. Spare recognized that
magic comes from the sub-conscious mind of the magician, not some outside
`spirits' or `gods'.
Christopher Bray has this to say about Spare's methods in his intro-
duction to `The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare':
"So in his art and writing, Spare is putting us in the mood; or showing
by example what attitude we need to adopt to approach the `angle of depart-
ure of consciousness' in order to enter the infinite. What pitch of con-
sciousness we need to gain success.
"One must beware making dogma, for Spare went to great pains to exclude
it as much as possible to achieve success in his magic; however a number of
basic assumptions underpin chaos magic.
"Chaos is the universal potential of creative force, which is constantly
engaged in trying to seep through the cracks of our personal and collective
realities. It is the power of Evolution/Devolution.
"Shamanism is innate within every one of us and can be tapped if we
qualify by adjusting our perception/attitude and making our being ready to
accept the spontaneous. Achieving Gnosis, or hitting the `angle of
departure of consciousness and time', is a knack rather than a skill."
There are other methods to utilize the same concept that Spare explains
for us. Magicians since Spare have written about their own methods and
expantions of his method quite frequently in occult magazines, mostly in
Great Britain. Spare is certainly not the first person in history to
practice this sort of magic, but he is the one who has dubbed it
Chaos since A.O.S.
Austin Spare died May 15, 1956, but his magic did not die with him.
There have been select groups of magicians practicing versions of Chaos
ever since, especially in Northern England and Germany. In the late 1970's,
Ray Sherwin was editor and publisher of a magazine called `The New
Equinox.' Pete Carroll was a regular contributor to the magazine, and
together, due to dissatisfaction with the magical scene in Britain at the
time, they formed the `Illuminatos Of Thanateros.' They advertised in `New
Equinox' and a group formed. Part of the intention of the group was to have
an Order where degrees expressed attainment rather than authority, and
hierarchy beyond just organizational requirements was non-existent.
At some point, about 1986, Ray Sherwin "excommunicated himself" because
he felt that the Order was slipping into the power structure that he had
intended to avoid with this group, and Pete Carroll became known as the
leader of `The Pact.' The IOT continues to thrive and is identified as the
only international Chaos organization to date. The IOT has also spread to
America, and has headquarters in Encino, California and Atlanta, Georgia.
There are smaller groups of Chaos practitioners, as well as individuals
practicing alone. Chaos since Spare has taken on a life of its own. It
will always continue to grow, that is its nature. It was only natural that
eventually the world of science would begin to discover the physical
principles underlying magic, although the scientists who are making these
discoveries still do not realize that this is what they are doing. It is
interesting that they have had the wisdom to call it chaos science...
Modern chaos science began in the 1960's when a handful of open-minded
scientists with an eye for pattern realized that simple mathematical equa-
tions fed into a computer could model patterns every bit as irregular and
"chaotic" as a waterfall. They were able to apply this to weather patterns,
coastlines, all sorts of natural phenomena. Particular equations would
result in pictures resembling specific types of leaves, the possibilities
were incredible. Centers and institutes were founded to specialize in "non-
linear dynamics" and "complex systems." Natural phenomena, like the red
spot of Jupiter, could now be understood. The common catch-terms that most
people have heard by now; strange attractors, fractals, etc., are related
to the study of turbulence in nature. There is not room to go into these
subjects in depth here, and I recommend that those who are interested in
this subject read `Chaos: making a new science' by James Gleick and
`Turbulent Mirror' by John Briggs & F. David Peat.
What we are concerned with here is how all this relates to magic. Many
magicians, especially Chaos Magicians, have begun using these terms,
"fractal" and "strange attractor", in their everyday conversations. Most of
those who do this have some understanding of the relationship between magic
and this area of science. To put it very simply, a successful magical act
causes an apparantly acausal result. In studying turbulence, chaos
scientists have realized that apparantly acausal phenomena in nature are
not only the norm, but are measurable by simple mathematical equations.
Irregularity is the stuff life is made of. For example, in the study of
heartbeat rhythms and brain-wave patterns, irregular patterns are measured
from normally functioning organs, while steady, regular patterns are a
direct symptom of a heart attack about to occur, or an epileptic fit.
Referring back again to "virtual" photons, a properly executed magical
release of energy creates a "wave form" (visible by Kirlian photography)
around the magician causing turbulence in the aetheric space. This
turbulence will likely cause a result, preferably as the magician has
intended. Once the energy is released, control over the phenomena is out of
the magician's hands, just as once the equation has been fed into the
computer, the design follows the path set for it.
The scientists who are working in this area would scoff at this explana-
tion, they have no idea that they are in the process of discovering the
physics behind magic. But then, many common place sciences of today,
chemistry for example, were once considered to be magic. Understanding
this subject requires, besides some reading, a shift in thinking. We are
trained from an early age to think in linear terms, but nature and the
chaos within it are non-linear, and therefore require non-linear thinking
to be understood. This sounds simple, yet it reminds me of a logic class I
had in college. We were doing simple Aristotelian syllogisms. All we had to
do was to put everyday language into equation form. It sounds simple, and
it is. However, it requires a non-linear thought process. During that
lesson over the space of a week, the class size dropped from 48 to 9
students. The computer programmers were the first to drop out. Those of
us who survived that section went on to earn high grades in the class, but
more importantly, found that we had achieved a permanent change in our
thinking processes. Our lives were changed by that one simple shift of
Chaos science is still in the process of discovery, yet magicians have
been applying its principles for at least as long as they have been writing
about magic. Once the principles of this science begin to take hold on the
thinking process, the magician begins to notice everything from the fractal
patterns in smoke rising from a cigarette to the patterns of success and
failure in magical workings, which leads to an understanding of why it has
succeeded or failed.
Defining Chaos Magic
Chaos is not in itself, a system or philosophy. It is rather an attitude
that one applies to one's magic and philosophy. It is the basis for all
magic, as it is the primal creative force. A Chaos Magician learns a
variety of magical techniques, usually as many as s/he can gain access to,
but sees beyond the systems and dogmas to the physics behind the magical
force and uses whatever methods are appealing to him/herself. Chaos does
not come with a specific Grimoire or even a prescribed set of ethics. For
this reason, it has been dubbed "left hand path" by some who choose not to
understand that which is beyond their own chosen path. There is no set of
specific spells that are considered to be `Chaos Magic spells'. A Chaos
Magician will use the same spells as those of other paths, or those of his/
her own making. Any and all methods and information are valid, the only
requirement is that it works. Mastering the role of the sub-conscious mind
in magical operations is the crux of it, and the state called "vacuity" by
Austin Osman Spare is the road to that end. Anyone who has participated in
a successful ritual has experienced some degree of the `high' that this
An understanding of the scientific principles behind magic does not
necessarily require a college degree in physics (although it wouldn't hurt
much, if the linear attitude drilled into the student could be by-passed),
experience in magical results will bring the necessary understanding.
This series is directed toward the increasing numbers of people who have
been asking, "What is Chaos Magic?" It is very basic and by no means
intended to be a complete explanation of any of the elements discussed.
Many of the principles of magic must be self-discovered, my only intent
here is to try to define and pull together the various elements associated
with Chaos Magic into an intelligible whole. For those who wish to learn
more about this subject, I have prepared a suggested reading list for the
last section, however, I must emphasize that there are always more sources
than any one person knows about, so do not limit yourself to this list.
Chaos has no limits...
For Further Reading:
`The Book Of Pleasure' by Austin Osman Spare
`Anathema Of Zos' by Austin Osman Spare
`A Book Of Satyrs' by Austin Osman Spare
`Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare' by Kenneth Grant
`The Early Work of A.O.S.'
`Stations In Time'
These three are collections available through TOPY.
Available from most bookstores (at least by special order):
`Chaos: making a new science' by James Gleick
`Turbulent Mirror' by John Briggs & F. David Peat
`Liber Null & Psychonaut' by Peter J. Carroll
`Practical Sigil Magick' by Frater U.D.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank