Post Chaos Magic: 1st in a series.
SUPERMAN VS MARS
The first thing I want to deal with is probably the most controversial aspect of Chaos Magic. In the Introduction to the Octavo, Peter Carroll sums it up like this:
” It (chaos magic) liberated magic from its dependency on religious symbolism and theological theories about deities and spirits by demonstrating that imaginary gods and spirits have exactly the same effects as the supposedly real ones.”
While I am sure that he and some other peoples findings support this idea, but one of the primary reasons that Chaos Magic has been declining in recent years is precisely that when many people put this theory to the test imaginary gods and spirits or fictional characters DO NOT seem to have the same effect as traditional ones. For instance, Andireh Vitimus author of Hands-On Chaos Magic, recently told me that Papa Legba has certainly done things that do not jive with the “all in your head” view that Chaos Magic tends to take.
I have seen examples of people who did not believe in spirits get overwhelmed by the experience of them.
A ceremonial magician nearly ruined his life by invoking Yemeja and Oya into the same circle because while in his paradigm they fit the elements of the west and north, in Santeria mythology they hate each other with passion.
A Buddhist starts suffering spiritual and psychological attacks at a Nyingma retreat only to discover that it is caused by Dorje Shugden, a sectarian anti-nyingma protector that the person did not even know she was bound to during an earlier empowerment with a different Lama.
A trekker begins suffering nervous problems after angering Nagas by bathing in and eating meat at a pool sacred to the Nagas. Despite not even believing in Nagas, it is only a supplication ritual that winds up alleviating his symptoms.
Some chaos magicians have claimed that in the modern, largely secular world, a figure like Superman receives more collective belief than a pagan deity like Mars, thus making comic book or pop culture characters even more viable for magic than traditional gods and spirits. Even if we accept that it is belief, rather than the object of belief, that holds the power to magic, this thinking confuses attention with belief. Attention and belief are not the same thing, there is a different quality to the experience all around.
You can go back to my posts about criticisms of chaos magic from more arguments against the idea that spirits, gods, servitors, fictional characters, and made up twaddle are all equal. Those arguments however should not be taken as supporting a view that only traditional beings have a place in magic. Far from it – this brings us to post-chaos view.
For a traditionalist the idea of invoking a fictional character or creating an artificial spirit fit to design, is just silly. For many Chaos magicians, they all amount to the same thing. To the post chaos mage, they are all functional in magic – they just have different natures and roles to play.
Let’s take a look at the spectrum of possibilities here:
GODS, ANGELS, DEMONS, AND OTHER BIG NAME BEINGS: You know what I mean here. Beings who are known and supplicated the world over or at least widespread within a culture. The actual nature of such beings is highly subjective. For instance if RO was to bind a Goetic Demon into a Brass Vessel, I would still be able to evoke him. He would be removed from RO’s sphere but not mine. It might bleed over if we were then to interact using that spirit etc. I am fond of pointing out that these entities are usually not spacial, when present you can’t usually point to a place in the room and say “There he is” unless they choose or are directed to occupy that space. Though most of these beings are transcendent, they also manifest down as immanent beings which is why you can have seeming contradictions like Shiva being a being that gets jealous and petty in some stories, yet a Kashmir Shaivite might describe everything as Shiva including you, he, the question, and the world it occurs in. This is also hopw you get a YHVH that acts like a bloodthirsty fasciest war god, yet is also a god of love and transcendence. Or, ya know, something like that. These tend to be beings that I call upon for big things only. Major macro-enchantments etc. Not to find my keys.
LOCAL BEINGS AND PERSONAL BEINGS: These are beings that you can usually point to and sense the space that they occupy. When a house is being haunted you can often feel the presence in one place and not another. Many (though not all) nature spirits fit this category. This also includes many (though not all ) of the dead as well as personal familiar spirits and tutilary spirits connected to you like the HGA. Being more local and immanent in nature, you have a chance to develop more of a personal relationship. These are spirits that, I would call upon to find my keys.
FICTIONAL BEINGS OR FORCES THAT ARISE OUT OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE: Not all fictional characters are simple inventions of their authors. Often there is a legitimate psyho-spiritual communication that occurs, but because of the inclinations of the receiver this does not manifest as overtly spiritual or magical literature. These are the stories that people almost cannot help but investing some reality to. The most obvious example is Lovecraft and the beings of the Chthulhu Mythos. Philip K Dicks Valis transmissions are another. Leaving literature out entirely, sometimes scientists make developments out of such communications. Tesla credited a spiritual “core” that he received visions from from inspiring some of his work. Swedenborg not only wrote spiritual works inspired by his visions, but scientific ones as well. Steiner is yet another example.
CHARACTERS OF PURE FICTION: Now we get to the stuff of pure fictional creation. Invoking Scrooge McDuck for money, Mr Spock for mercurial intellect, Superman for protection and so on. As I already said many people came into Chaos Magic expecting these beings to deliver the same results as the beings above, and left disappointed a few years later. Even if we are to accept that it is belief that powers the magic and that all the spirits are fictional surely collective belief outweighs attention and passionate lifelong personal devotion outweighs a day or two of convincing yourself to “believe” for the span of the ritual.
That said, there IS a psychic quality to attention and when invoked you do get a response – just one that is largely psychic rather than magical. This is why the practice is useful. If for instance you are looking to find a lover, it can be very useful to invoke a fictional character that represents the type of lover you wish to be. I once focused on Dale Cooper from Twin peaks as someone who was professional to the extreme, meticulous with detail, dressed the way I needed to dress for my new job, yet maintained his mystical side in such a way that it supported all the rest. By regularly invoking him and modeling behavior for a few weeks I was able to undo a lot of programming that was holding me back. I would argue that this worked better than it would have invoking a planetary power or something like that. It was ingrained. Another good friend of mine used to do this with Obi Wan Kenobi in order to get
Though not fictional, one can work with historical figures as well. In this work I specifically avoid overt Necromancy. I am not looking to contact the spirit of that person, but rather the idea that they came to represent. As I wrote in The Sorcerers Secrets, Archibald Leitch makes an excellent psychopomp for this kind of work overall, as he carefully deconstructed his habits of speech and upbringing, and crafted himself into the uber charismatic Carey Grant.
ARTIFICIAL SPIRITS: Servitors, Thralls, Watchers, Egregores, Articficial Elementals, Bud-Wills, or as I have lately come to call them Designer Entities. These are beings that the magician consciously creates and programs, and released into the world to accomplish specific things. I will be devoting an entire post in this series to them, so I do not want to go into here, but suffice to say, they are not the same as any of the above, yet have their own nature and features that makes them more useful for certain work than any of the above.