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Dave Lee's writings on Chaoism, magic and the Northern Tradition
Excerpts from CHAOTOPIA ! © Dave Lee 1997, 2004

Chapter 0
The very last thing a book can communicate may be the thing it most urgently wants to. The writing of this book has been a series of illuminations in itself, and, by the very nature of the process, I cannot communicate the most ecstatic states that went into that process. In a similar way, in order to make general statements about magic, we have to be ‘outside’ it, in a bigger frame which includes magic.
So what is magic?
The existence of magic presupposes various things, the most obvious being the matter of control. Magic may be defined as: causing change to occur in conformity with will, expanding your achievable reality, the pursuit of power, and so on. All these definitions presuppose control as the central theme in magic. This is all fine and good, but it illustrates that from within a magical viewpoint we cannot address issues outside of the sphere of control. These are issues that are usually chunked up into mysticism, and neglected or anathematized by Chaos magicians. This is a mistake, because the half of our quality of experience is dependent upon our ability to let go, stop worrying, stop controlling, and enjoy.  Ramsey Dukes, in a lecture in 1993 (Thelemic Symposium, Oxford, UK), tackled this very point:  that, whatever our degree of control of circumstances, the outcome is not guaranteed to please us. He used to illustrate this duality the Tarot Trumps of The Magician and The Fool. The Magician represents Control, The Fool, Ecstasy.  In their extreme forms, where their nature shows through, the Magician would like to have perfect control over the universe, everything going according to plan; the Fool a mystic, weightless kind of bliss.  Between these two extremes, all magic is enacted. Ecstasy is the basis of gnosis; without the counterbalance of focussed will, it slides off into unstructured fun. Control is the basis of magical structures, defining one’s will in a given situation, but without ecstasy it doesn’t go. Without a tank full of gnosis, the magical vehicle will not run.
The basic exercises of magic build a stolidity, a strong will. Completing a good basic training course in magic marks one out as someone who can persist when the going gets tedious, by sheer bloody-mindedness. This self-discipline comes into dynamic tension with flexibility of belief, and together, these are the magician's core assets.
Let us take one of the definitions of magic: the pursuit of power. In the context of magic, what is power?   Power is the ability to do things. The more "horsepower" or kilowatts an engine has, the more work it can do in a given time. When we do magic, we may employ a physically demanding gnosis, such as dancing or drumming for prolonged times, and make some connection between our sweated work and our magical power. In our astral imagery we might visualize ourselves growing, swelling, shining, crackling, glowing with some sort of magical ability. Our visualization of power in that instance is based on images of physical power. 
The analogy of magical to physical power can be very limiting. The pouring of this kind of work into any ritual can only enhance its magical effectiveness by the contribution that the work makes to the magical trance or intensity of gnosis. Even the notion of an intensity scale for gnosis could be misleading: we might be tempted to pass off a sensation of physical energy or of extreme disorientation alone as adequate gnoses, and be puzzled at the failure of our sorcery.
The physical image of magical power has a further drawback: it suggests pushing against some resistance. The resistance most usually encountered in magic originates in the wizard's own mind, and the harder he pushes against that, the harder it will push back. This is the paradox of Lust of Result, and the sorcerer must apply cunning to circumvent it and succeed in his enchantments.  So rigidity is a menace to real effectiveness. The Taoists understood this. Power is more like a flow condition, where the magician slips easily from one reality to another. Taking his universe with him.
Therefore, magic can be seen as the pursuit of power, via the dynamic tension between ecstasy and control. There are plenty of other ways of defining magic, but, as stated above, they will all imply control. 
So, what are the boundaries of magic?  Many Chaos magicians have tended to take the view that magic = sorcery; i.e. if it doesn’t have some sort of result in consensus reality, it ain’t magic, but mysticism or religion. To give a counter-example, adherents of Thelema as practised by the OTO are practising religion, mysticism and (occasionally) sorcery, and subsuming it all under the term magic.  In order to clarify this issue, a few definitions:-
Religion:  a set of beliefs and meta-beliefs that say definite things about life, ethics, the universe and perfection, and that thereby give the adherent a sense of belonging in the universe;
Mysticism:  the body of philosophy and techniques designed to recover ecstatic unitary consciousness. This experience is sought because it leads to a gnosis of completeness, wholeness, the ultimate 'peak experience', as psychologist Abraham Maslow called it. It is sought for its own sake, though attainment of it invariably results in an revisioning of one’s identity. The unitary consciousness can be identified with the experience of a non-local 'quantum mind' (see Chapters 4 and 7), unconditioned awareness.   
Sorcery:  making things happen in consensus reality according to will;
Self-transformation:  making things happen to consciousness according to will.
This latter category gives us problems; this type of magic is defined by Pete Carroll as Illumination, which he subsumes under 'enchantment', as in 'enchantment upon the selves'. However, once we start talking about changes in the selves, we are talking about states of consciousness that can operate upon other states of consciousness. And if the desired result of the Illumination magic is openness to ecstatic states, then that would be mysticism, wouldn’t it? 
What we need is a model which enables us to disentangle these definitions, put them in perspective.


Dion Fortune might well have channeled the seed concept of the fractal in her book The Cosmic Doctrine. The small amount of sense I could make of this bizarre text was acquired as follows:  I read it from back to front, starting at the last chapter, which is about a recognizable universe, and working to the utterly self-referential abstractions at the front. This gave me the idea that, like a fractal, the very simple abstract ideas at the beginning create the enormously complex and chaotic world we actually live in. I'm sure she would have hated the idea…

Take a picture of a section of the famous Mandelbrot Set. This is a fractal plot - the closer you zoom in on the picture, the more detail you see, ad infinitum.  This makes it a good glyph for conceptualizing profoundly chaotic systems, like economics, human emotions or the weather.
Taking the latter, define the different colours (or different densities of grey) on the plot as different kinds of weather. Define a particular time and place - somewhere you will be on a particular date when you want the weather to be right - for an area of the plot representing, say, warm dry weather. Imagine the swirling patterns of weather in the shadow future you are aiming at as the emergent swirls of the fractal plot....
In my experience, only the very lightest touch is required in weather magic, as long as there is a reasonable probability of the desired weather manifesting anyway.

CAOTOPÍA ! translated into Spanish by El Pricto


Las anteriores consideraciones me dieron el título del libro. Caotopía no es ni Utopía ni su contrario: es lo que Austin Spare denominaba “el caos de lo normal”, visto a través del ojo de un iluminado, el ojo del hechicero. Varios temas obsesionantes dan nombre a cada capítulo: Principios de evolución; modelos de conciencia; alquimia corporal; éxtasis; Eónica. Estos temas se desarrollan a lo largo de casi todo el libro, culminando en los últimos capítulos.

Los capítulos sobre sexo, conflicto y dinero son actualizaciones técnicas, no manuales exhaustivos. Los temas en estas áreas no cambian mucho; después de todo, éstas son tres de las cuatro razones típicas por las cuales la gente es atraída hacia la magia en primer lugar, así que su inclusión no es controversial en ningún sentido. La cuarta es la curación, que está tratada bajo el título más complejo de Alquimia corporal. Nadie en magia del caos discute mucho acerca de estas áreas. Todos los argumentos son sobre iluminación, Eónica y otros temas abstractos.

Los otros capítulos tratan temas más polémicos, vistos desde varios ángulos novedosos, haciendo cortes a través de esa bestia que llamamos magia. La pregunta que me hago cuando me topo con una teoría es: ¿para qué sirve esto?

La magia es como una entidad multidimensional, un concepto tan vasto que toca todo. Y, por su propia naturaleza, la mayor parte de ella está escondida, en el dominio del misterio, eternamente perseguida por la mente inquisidora. No hay ningún sistema o modelo de magia absolutamente satisfactorio; como mucho, un libro sobre magia es una valoración de técnica envuelta por un modelo creíble. Todos cortamos a la bestia en un ángulo decidido por nuestras obsesiones, y esto es exactamente lo que haré. 

La magia es un arte delicado, con una tasa de bajo-éxito, al menos al principio. La motivación por ella no es habitual; generalmente, si pudiese hacer algo sin magia, lo haría. La magia ensancha nuestras fronteras, otorga un sentido y una inteligencia a la vida, permite el desarrollo de nuestros propósitos.

Escogemos nuestros mundos todo el tiempo; afirmamos o negamos algún “hecho” muchas veces al día. Un mago es cuidadoso en la manera en que hace esto: es así como mantenemos unida nuestra realidad. Concientemente o no, estamos siempre escogiendo creencias. Nos contamos a nosotros mismos historias sobre cómo somos y cómo es el mundo en relación a  nosotros.

Los magos del caos usan cualquier sistema de creencias que permita o facilite la magia en un momento determinado. Generalmente, la creencia se irá gastando mientras el crítico dentro de uno mismo se aferra a sus defectos. Esto explica parcialmente el fenómeno de la suerte del principiante en la magia - cuando yo apenas empezaba a hacer hechicería, tuve una gran cadena de éxitos. De repente se acabó. Pasó un buen tiempo antes de darme cuenta que había dado con mi propia naïveté, y tuve que formular otra opción para salir con un nuevo sistema de creencias que pudiese reactivar mi hechicería.

Mientras nos hacemos más concientes de este proceso los efectos se vuelven más obvios, y somos forzados a escoger nuestras creencias cada vez más cuidadosamente. Aquí es cuando empezamos a tener fuertes opiniones acerca de a que meta-creencias  aferrarnos, cuando empezamos a construir nuestra propia Caotopía. Este es también el punto en el cual se podría decir que entendemos los patrones de nuestra “voluntad real”. Nuestra propia gran mente/inconsciente, disfrazada de universo, nos presenta con limitaciones como la expuesta anteriormente. Estas crisis nos invitan a saltar fuera de nuestros marcos de referencia obsoletos para adoptar nuevos enfoques creativos.

Entre las hordas de definiciones de magia, las que más me atraen en el presente son: Las tecnologías de creencia orgánica. Éstas constituyen el fundamento de un modelo de actividad mágica muy generalizado y simplificado, que utiliza el concepto de creencia orgánica de Austin Spare, una creencia que ha sido implantada tan profundamente, que condiciona el mundo de uno de manera un tanto automática:

    2)  GNOSIS  

La selección cuidadosa y precisa de objetivos es de vital importancia, pero las técnicas para hacerlo existen en el ámbito de la psicología mundana - las técnicas de “resultados bien formados” y “pruebas de congruencia” se pueden encontrar en manuales de Programación Neuro-Lingüística. Ya hemos mencionado el estado de gnosis. La inserción de la nueva creencia en un nivel lo suficientemente profundo como para volverse “orgánica” es la parte complicada: se deben presentar a la mente las instrucciones para crear la nueva realidad que deseamos de manera que no entren en conflicto con las creencias que ya están en el inconsciente. La creencia se vuelve orgánica si se presenta a la mente inconsciente de manera congruente, insertada dentro de un paradigma atractivo. Una gnosis poderosa puede hacer añicos los lazos de la creencia, pero la magia puede ser saboteada por una resistencia inconsciente a las implicaciones de la nueva creencia, a menos que la mente haya sido preparada (como engrasada), por un cambio de paradigma más atractivo. Cuando apuntamos nuestros cambios de paradigma con sutil precisión, podemos encontrar que somos capaces de una acción mágica mucho más poderosa, o que es posible conseguir el mismo resultado con sólo la mitad de la tensión y el doble del placer. Para citar la frase de Spare, estamos haciendo nuestro propio “alineamiento sagrado”, asentándonos en el punto de la conciencia que hace la magia posible en ese momento. La resistencia inconciente es sin duda la causa más común del fracaso mágico. Esto hace de la selección de creencias un tema muy importante a la hora de habilitar o deshabilitar nuestra magia. Es también el área que da lugar a la mayor parte de  controversias, por consiguiente la razón más interesante por la cual se siguen escribiendo libros sobre magia. 

Foreword to the First Edition by Phil Hine
Foreword to the Second Edition
Introduction : Chaos Magic : The Story So Far
Chapter 0: Magic and Ecstasy
Interlude: Fractals for Chaos Magicians I
Chapter 1: Wealth and Money
Interlude: A Psychonautic Banishing
Chapter 2:  Conflict and Exorcism
Interlude: Fractals for Chaos Magicians II
Chapter 3: Magic and Sex
Interlude: The City and the Tunnels
Chapter 4:    Magic and Physics
Interlude: Landscape Vision
Chapter 5:    Body Alchemy and Healing
Interlude:  Name That Deity
Chapter 6:    Chaos Illumination
Interlude: AOFE/The Chrononauts
Chapter 7:   Ecstasy and the Quest
Interlude: The Octoplasm
Chapter 8:  Pacts With Spirits
Interlude: The Galafron Rite
Chapter 9:   Chaotopia?
Afterword:  When all our ways are wrought for love of Her...
Appendix:  A Chaos Magic Bibliography
Glossary of Chao-Speak
Fortean Times verdict :
Chaos magic has come of age in this book by magician and NLP maven Lee. This is not a primer or grimoire; instead, the book puts chaos magic in its conceptual context, explaining the theoretical and metaphysical vistas which have underscored the art's development since its inception under the aegis of the late, great Austin Osman Spare.
It allows us to see chaos magic äs a form of autonomous mysticism; not so much a syncretic exercise in cosmic tourism as a balancing attempt to make sense of what arrives in one's head. This makes it more democratic than the intimidating acolytism of learned magic in the European tradition. Chaos magic rests on the principle that the practitioner can apply belief at will, rather than surrendering to any particular paradigm (thus the slightly wrenched meaning of 'paradigm shift' in chaos practice). It also assumes that altered states permit a powerful interaction with one's own centres of power, and äs a result, chaos magicians experiment with psychotropic techniques, including drug use, meditation, hyperventilation and extreme exercise.
Lee shows us the intellectual underpinnings of a practical System, without rendering the art, or his discourse on it, abstract or arch. He sets out the theoretical contribution of Robert Anton Wilson et al, explains Aeonics, and the trajectory of its distillation from the baroque theatre of angelology, and expounds the vital notions of chaos and Illumination, äs Spare originally conceived them, and as practice has altered and matured them.
This is not for the beginner in chaos magic, but it is a good guide for the observer with a grounding in the history of European magic, and a grasp of its cultural milestones. If you ever wondered why magicians do what they do, it's because it works. If it didn't, the tradition would have died out with the birth of science; it hasn't and is enjoying a fertile period. Chaos magic is central to the continuing health of magical traditions, and writers like Dave Lee are central to that influence. His observation that accomplished magicians concentrate on inner development ties chaos magic firmly to the spiritual traditions of alchemy, and suggests that the development of chaos magic as a spiritual endeavour has a long future, as well äs a brilliantly energetic past. Great stuff.
Sly Delaney - FT214 - verdict
To order Chaotopia! and Bright From the Well:
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Connect Your Breath audio excerpt

essay 'The Mythic Breath'



Wealth Magic Workbook

'Cut-up and Collage' essay

'Bright From the Well'


picture gallery