Category Archives: Peter J. Carroll
And so, my quest to understand magical theory continues with another volume on Chaos Magic. I gained a great deal of insight and clarity from Carroll’s prior book, Liber Null & Psychonaut. The present work under review, published five years later, has turned out to be not so valuable.
We begin with heady material on quantum theory from a magical perspective. The majority of this was beyond me, but what I could understand struck me as far too theoretical to place any real confidence in – the idea that magic, which has its roots in the transcendent, can be reduced to a few equations. I don’t buy it. Carroll also makes the startling claim that there was no singularity at the beginning of the universe. He states that no matter when you exist in time, the universe always gives the appearance of being four and a half billion years old. This claim is in stark opposition to what we appear to observe about the motions of galaxies, and what we know of gravitation.
Next we have some material on aeonics. Carroll claims that all philosophical worldviews fit one of three basic paradigms: materialistic, magical, and transcendental. The ebb and flow of these paradigms throughout history is reduced to a line graph that shows a definite cyclic pattern, as the world moves through aeons called shamanic, religious, rationalist and pandemon – the latter being the one that is allegedly emerging. It’s all very interesting, but unconvincing. There was plenty of rationality going round in the days of the ancient Greek philosophers, and there has been plenty of religion in the two and a half millennia since. There’s no doubt that Carroll has done a lot of homework, but his “psychohistory model” of aeonics appears fanciful at best. The decline and growth of our various worldviews is a product of consciousness, and consciousness will not be turned into a deterministic line graph that we have no control over. We are not automatic machines.
When Carroll turns to practical magic, that’s when the book takes a shift in a much more positive direction. He introduces a delightful phrase, “sleight of mind,” and explains it at length – as the key to effective magic. In my own experience with psionics, I can affirm that success requires a mind that is distracted from the task you wish to perform. You have to play a little mental trick with yourself to, for instance, accomplish a successful act of psychokinesis.
Terms like “psychic censor” and “sleight of mind” are useful in understanding the inner workings of magic, but a good portion of the book is also concerned with building new a system of magic, full of pointless new terms – as if the world needs yet another. Magic is divided into eight categories (seemingly for no other reason than the Chaos symbol has eight arrows). These are: octarine (pure magic), black (death magic), blue (wealth magic), green (love magic), yellow (ego magic), purple or silver (sex magic), orange (thinking magic), red (war magic). My question is: why? All these categories are arbitrary and artificial. It’s fine to break magic down like this for the purpose of talking about particular applications of magic in the practical sphere. But there is no benefit whatsoever to memorising this jargon as some kind of fundamentally meaningful system. Magic comes from that fuzzy non-dual transcendence from which everything springs. It isn’t truly eightfold in any sense outside of the author’s personal subjective preferences.
Evocation, divination, enchantment, invocation, illumination, sorcery, shamanic magic, ritual magic, astral magic, high magic. In my opinion, there’s a lot of pointless vocabulary being held up as important. And if that’s not enough, we have to contend with “sorcery invocation,” “shamanic enchantment,” “ritual evocation,” and a plethora of other allegedly meaningful combinations.
The book closes with some appendices that are mostly concerned with the administration of the organisation, the Illuminates of Thanateros (also known as The Pact). The material was of no value to me other than to reinforce the pointlessness of such semi-secretive groups.
I had high hopes for this book. Sadly, I have to report that I was able to extract only a few morsels of usable insight.
In 1978, Peter J. Carroll co-founded a magical order called the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), deriving its name from the two Greek gods Thanatos (death) and Eros (sexual love). Liber Null and Psychonaut are two books, collected here in one volume, which are aimed at the newcomer to the organisation, as well as those seeking entry, and those pursuing their own individual magical path. The books explain the fundamentals of Carroll’s brand of occultism, which he calls “chaos magic.” His two primary influences are, by his own admission, Aleister Crowley and Austin O. Spare. Carroll describes his order as a “satrap of the Illuminati.” Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with that one.
“Chaos” is a term that Carroll uses as a substitute for what a philosopher might call God, or what I, in my own personal vocabulary call the Infinite. Chaos is the ground zero of everything that exists. It is a useful term, because it removes any notion that the Infinite is a personal being, or is in any way sypmathetic to the human condition. “Gnosis” is the term used to describe a state of no-mind gained through the use of trance. “Kia” denotes the basis of consciousness, the essence of which is will and perception. These are just some of the terms employed in the IOT’s lexicon.
This book really hit the spot, in terms of what a reader like myself hopes to obtain from reading a magical text: fresh insights and new angles that I might be able to integrate into my own personal understanding of the universe. The book was a treasure trove in this regard. It was especially exciting in light of my own experiments in psychokinesis. Carroll’s system not only accommodates such phemonena, but mirrors the very techniques I’ve already discovered trough trial and error, and suggests avenues for improvement. Those who pursue psychic abilities from a purely scientific perspective are missing out, in my opinion.
So often a magical text is concerned with personal development and influencing others – what the LaVeyan system calls “lesser magic.” Refreshingly, Carroll is chiefly preoccupied with “greater magic” – acts of a genuinely paranormal nature. He describes a interesting technique using personal “sigils” – where a desire is written down in words, and the words are then visually reconstructed into a “glyph of desire.” I have nothing to say, presently, on whether such a technique works, but it certainly was interesting.
I was by no means in agreement with everything that Carroll asserts, especially in regard to reincarnation. There was the bold assertion that a magician could carry his life forward into a new body, by means of a particular visualisation at the moment of his death. Unless Carroll himself has all the memories of a past life and can demonstrate this, how on earth could such a claim be proven?
Nevertheless, this was a thoroughly engrossing read, full of insight. I finished it wanting to read it all over again.