• Jennifer Barnick

Chaos Magick and the Ethics of Wishing

Cake Lighting

Photo Source: Pikrepo

“Nothing costs more than what you don’t pay for.”

“There’s almost no wish you can make that isn’t very, very dubious indeed.”

--William S. Burroughs

(Here’s 8 Celebrities Who Practice Chaos Magick by Andrei Burke, ultraculture.com)

When one thinks of the practice of magick (versus magic like card tricks or sawing a woman in two) many people think of fantastical fiction worlds involving great wizards like Merlin, or like the endearing kids from the Harry Potter series, or they think of real-life sinister characters like Aleister Crowley who was once dubbed “The Wickedest Man in the World.” In both cases, magick is something that other people do—perhaps suspect other people. Magick may well have been a big deal in ages where science was still in the dark ages, and people were often helpless against disease and famine or against mighty and capricious rulers as found in the Roman and medieval feudal eras. Magick today is something only fringe people do—odd people—possibly mentally ill or insane people. Furthermore, for many people of faith, whether it be Christian or Jewish religions, magick is a significant no-no—one should depend solely on God for supernatural guidance and assistance. However, I would argue that all of us, whether we realize it or not, practice magick all of the time, and most of us would be surprised that our everyday practice of magick is very similar to Chaos Magick.

No, Chaos Magick does not mean using magick to create chaos. Nor does it mean taking advantage of chaotic situations to make one’s magick somehow more effective. The term Chaos is inspired by the idea that ultimately the universe is void of any set form and can be affected by one’s will or intention or wish. Writer Robert Anton Wilson, who is considered one of the founders of Chaos Magick, studied and was greatly influenced by Sufism, Taoism, Zen, General Semantics, Thelma, and a host of other philosophical and mystical traditions. (Here’s 8 Celebrities Who Practice Chaos Magick by Andrei Burke, ultraculture.com) Chaos is a standby term for All That Is or, in the Hindu religion, Brahma. The idea in chaos magick is that if we focus our intention on something we wish for, then it affects the void and helps create what it is we desire. The other part of chaos magick is the idea that nothing is sacred. This is not to say that chaos magicians do not believe in sacred things like life or perhaps true love. What they mean is that ultimately the true essence of magick is the relationship between one’s intention and the great void or all that is. Throughout history, shamans, priests, and magicians have developed various techniques to strengthen their power of intention to make their wishes more powerful. This type of magick is often called ceremonial magick. Things like hallucinogenic drugs, music, elaborate rituals, and various other techniques were used to put the magician or shaman in a deep trance state. In that deep trance state, the shaman would then put out their wish, whether it be to ward off an enemy tribe, to end a drought, or to heal a child. Today we know the science of what the ancient shamans were practicing, and we now use it to help people with PTSD, chronic pain, and addictions. Essentially, the ancient magicians were using hypnosis. Today, of course, patients are put into hypnotic states through less exotic and exciting means; however, the practice is the same. Many researchers are finding that some of the more intense ancient ways are indeed superior, and many military sufferers of PTSD and chronic addicts are finding healing with Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a powerful hallucinogen that shamans in Peru use for healing. Other groups in Europe are hosting healing retreats using hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“No New Age silliness, no goth theatrics, no dry academic memorization—it’s a method of putting yourself into extreme states of consciousness, to gain direct access to your unconscious mind, change it, and thereby radically change your life.” (Introduction to Chaos Magick by Jason Louv, magick.me) In researching Chaos Magick, I would honestly say it could also be termed Contemporary Magick. Much in the same way that many people have left churches and yet still report being spiritual, Chaos Magick is about tossing out the bathwater and keeping the baby—but then reclaiming the bathwater when they need it. A chaos magician will use any practice that they believe will work the best. They may use Zen meditation to get in a trance-like state to better place their wish, or they may use a lengthy spell-casting ritual from a medieval magician to place their request. Chaos magick is about understanding the basic principle of intention and all that is and learning and experimenting with every and any technique that might enhance or add power to their intention. With that said, the creation of sigils is probably the most uniform of practices amongst all chaos magicians.

Sigils are signs or images crafted from sentences. The idea is that one needs to deeply imprint their desire on one's subconscious using a symbol versus a verbal command, as symbols are far more potent if one wants to tattoo one's subconscious. For it is one's subconscious that interacts most potently with the void or all that is. One first writes their wish in a sentence. In a YouTube video, one gentleman was keen to explain that one needs to be very careful in crafting your wish. (The Formation of Sigils and Austin Orman Spare, Skullman’s Attic, 2017, YouTube) As in the fable, The Monkey’s Paw one can wish for money, and then receive it as a settlement due to the accidental death of one’s son. After one has created a doomsday proof wish-sentence, then one crosses out all of the vowels and repeated letters. With the remaining letters, one creates an image by drawing the letters into an abstract symbol. Think of a logo of a company or a cattleman’s brand. Next, one needs to put themselves into an intense trance-like state such as extreme exhaustion, deep meditation, or orgasm. Yes, sex is a big part and has always been a big part of many shamanistic, religious, and magick traditions. Deep meditative states often take years of practice, so many chaos magicians often opt for the orgasm route, whether alone or with a partner. (If you look closely at many ancient Buddhist and Hindu art, you will see a great deal of sexual imagery.) Finally, once you have focused on your sigil in the heightened mental state of whatever route you choose, the consensus is to burn the sigil. One must plant the sigil in one’s subconscious then forget it. Some practitioners keep their sigils or even tattoo them on their bodies. However, most destroy them after the intention is planted.

Chaos magick is a very practical form of magick that draws on all of history, religious practices, and philosophical schools. Essentially, whatever ritual or belief that will bring power and intensity to your wish, the better it will affect the void and direct the future towards your desire. Regardless of your views on magick, we use magick all of the time. Making a birthday wish before we blow out the candles on our cake is practicing magick. Touching wood to prevent a bad thing from happening is practicing magick. Tossing a bit of salt over your shoulder to avoid bad luck is practicing magick. Crossing your fingers for yourself or a friend before a job interview or attempting something difficult is practicing magick. Wearing a special shirt before a big sporting event is practicing magick, and making a vision board is also practicing magick. Whether or not magick is evil or good or even real, it is very human—deeply human. Science has not made us any less vulnerable to cancer diagnoses, getting laid off from work, or having our mate leave us. We are still in need of little humble acts of magick. The only big thing one must always remember when either practicing little magick like blowing out birthday candles or high magick like using a sigil, one must always be careful of what one wishes for.

Jennifer Barnick

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.