Rethinking Chaos Magick: Why Disappointing is Good

by Mike Sententia on October 27, 2011

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Disappointing ideas are built on an exciting insight. Most ideas don’t even have that.

Have you ever decided something, and just kept believing it years later, without bothering to remember why?

Mr. Black of The Razor’s Edge posted a reply to Why Chaos Magick Disappoints Me. And I realized, I’d been disappointed when I first read Phil Hine in the late 90s, and haven’t gone back since. So now seems like a good time to remember why, and see if it still holds.

Reading the first few chapters of Hine’s book (I forget which, but one of his well-known ones), I thought, “Here’s someone that gets it. Magick isn’t in the particular ritual. There’s something fundamental going on underneath the hood, driving all these interface-level mechanics.” Because that’s what I was (and still am) developing: The common mechanics that make all styles of magick work.

I kept reading. Not everything, but more than a few books from Hine and Peter Carroll. They never got to the mechanics. The closest I saw was “Belief is the key. Whatever you believe works, will.” Which isn’t mechanics, and isn’t even accurate based on what I (and most other mages) observed.

That’s the disappointment: The mismatch between where the idea could go, and where it does.

Something like Candle Magick starts off silly, ends up silly, and delivers exactly the level of depth you expect. It’s like a donut: Would you be disappointed that a donut isn’t a complex, engaging dining experience? Me neither. Even serious styles of magick, like Enochian or Thelema, don’t excite me enough to be disappointing later.

But Chaos Magick starts out deep and engaging. “All these different styles disagree, but they all work. There must be something universal going on under the hood.” That’s exactly where I live, and exactly the sort of guys I want to work with. My natural next question is “What are the moving pieces, how do they work, and how can we use that knowledge to produce better results?” Only, I don’t see any Chaos Magicians asking that, not in a rigorous way, not as an “is” rather than a “might-be.”

That’s what I really want to talk about: The moving pieces behind magick-as-a-phenomenon, regardless of the particular style. If that’s where you work, then no matter what type of magick you do, I’d love to talk with you. How does magick function? What are the moving pieces? What’s your model, and why is it useful? Or, if you don’t have a model yet, what are the questions you’re asking, the observations that are tickling your curiosity, or the start you’re making to exploring the inner-workings of magick?

You can find my most concise answer here, and more details in almost every post on this blog.

And hopefully in that conversation, I’ll learn something about a better sort of Chaos Magick than I found the first time.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mrblack October 27, 2011 at 9:26 PM

I’m glad to have made you rethink your stance or at least, open you up to the possibility that there are other chaotes out there doing “serious” work with chaos magick, asking the “whys?” and the “hows?”.

Now, back to your scheduled programming….. :)

Reply

Colleen "Janey" Chitty October 28, 2011 at 9:27 AM

I think figuring out the hows and whys of magick is like logically trying to sort out the right side of the brain. The left side of your brain is logical. It assists with math, language, and certain problem-solving skills. I’ve found that people can’t describe the right side of the brain unless they’re using the left side’s skills to describe it. The left side is described logically, but we describe the right side based on what it’s not, since it isn’t the left side.

The right side of the brain is abstract. It’s what artists rely on. It interprets symbols. However, abstract = opposite of logic, and symbols = -not- words or language.

Figuring out how magick works is tricky, because it’s not entirely logical. This goes back to the discussion of the magician using modern definitions and scientific methods to figure out what exactly it is. Then you have people who say it’s psychological, and people who are disappointed because you don’t always get methods that work exactly with repeated patterns each time.

What ends up happening, and I think you had a recent discussion about this, is that the magician ends up disenchanted. Now this is an interesting word to me. Disenchantment. Does this mean at some point s/he was enchanted by magick before? Often when I hear someone say ‘enchanted’ they are not taking it as something that’s real. It has the connotation of a fairytale. It’s something beautiful, mysterious, but distant and we’re all “unable to reach it.” I think all we can say, as magicians, is that we’re not unable to reach it.

Figuring it out logically doesn’t entirely make sense to me anymore. We can to an extent, but then we’re left with missing pieces.

I can think of different languages of math which were invented because the previous system didn’t help with what the mathematician was trying to achieve. Someone had to invent algebra, and someone had to invent calculus. Math is, to most, the epitome of logic. But even it falls short with illustrating what physicists are trying to explain. If magick, just for the sake of discussion, is the epitome of the right side of the brain (or abstraction), then maybe we’re falling short of ways to explain it and need to invent new ways of doing so. Logic won’t work unless you want to compare it to math by saying that it’s not math and how/why that is. Math explains itself using its own language. Can we do that with magick?

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