As a Thelemite and a member of OTO, I was first attracted to Chaos Magick by the many surface signs of similarity I saw between the two "systems." Certain catch phrases used by Chaotes, such as "lust of result" and "greater Feats," are right out of the Book of the Law. Both Carroll and Crowley named many of their books "Liber This or Liber That," for example. And in the OTO Gnostic Mass, the Credo names "Chaos" as "one secret and ineffable LORD...of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return..." The Credo goes on to name "Babalon," the "Earth" and "Womb." Temple Babel," whose poster in Curios and Candles proclaimed, "Do what thou wilt is our law," turned out to be a temple of Chaos Magick. The third name of the Credo, "Baphomet," also has an honored place in Carroll's writing.
Upon further study, I found deeper similarities and, of course, differences as well. Like Crowley, Carroll wanted to demystify magick and make it the subject of scientific scrutiny. Defining magick as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will."1 Crowley further postulated,
"ANY required Change may be effected by the application of the proper kind of degree of Force in the proper manner through the proper medium to the proper object."2
If you do it right, it will work. Carroll continued Crowley's work, applying magical principles to the science of our times, Quantum Physics.
Crowley was always working at further understanding his consciousness and discovering the roots of knowledge as well as the parameters of what is unknown. He fostered a healthy skepticism as, for example, in his work on developing a magical memory. One such method involves learning to think backwards and to use this ability to "remember" before one's birth to previous incarnations. But he constantly cautioned the magician to check his findings against known "objective" details and even so,
"The Master Therion does not care a scrap of yesterday's newspaper whether he was Marius de Aquila, or whether there ever was such a persion, or whether the Unierse itself is anything more than a nightmare created by his own imprudence in the matter of rum and water."3
Crowley prescribed a rigorous regime of yoga (Book IV) to still the mind and body, enabling one to concentrate and focus energy. He created AA to further these goals. Carroll called his order, IOT, "the magical heirs to...AA" and prescribed the same courses of discipline (Liber MMM) to develop the magical self.
Both had a penchant for analyzing history in terms of successive aeons. Crowley divided history into the Aeons of Isis, Osiris and Horus, representing Matriarchy, Patriarchy and the present time of equality between the sexes (the "Crowned and Conquering Child"). Carroll developed a more detailed analysis of history. He named four Aeons: Shamanic, Religious, Rationalist and Pandemon. Each of these is divided into two "sub-aeons," Animist/Spiritist, Pagan/Monotheist, Atheistic/Nihilist and Chaoist/?.4 Elsewhere, he divides history into dive Aeons, Shamanism, Paganism, Monotheism, Atheism and Chaoism (a return to the first aeon but in a higher form).5
While Carroll doesn't put as much emphasis on Qabalah and alchemy as Crowley, and downright debunks Astrology, he devised a system in Liber NOX6 which has elements of all three. Mercury, Sulfur and Salt/Earth, elchemical principles, could be seen to correspond to the Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable signs in Astrology. 7These alchemical principles are juxtaposed against a system of duality, Coagula and Solve, also alchemical principles (or coherence and dissolution) which also appear on Levi's Baphomet. He lists five pairs of opposite emotions and charts them with the three alchemical principles to create a complex system of glyphs which he suggests can be equated to "Trumps of the Tarot."8 Then he puts them on a traditional Qabalistic Tree of Life which correspondences that are quite correct in terms of the orthodox tradition.9 His system of color magic also corresponds to the traditional Qabalah. It is interesting how well rooted Carroll is in magical tradition, original though he is.
Of all the areas in which Carroll and Crowley can be compared, the most interesting is in the concept of True Will and the Great Work (the "knowledge and conversation" of one's "Holy Guardian Angel"). In some places, Carroll speaks of these things in much the same terms Crowley did. In Liber LUX, Augoeides,10 he writes,
"The magician's most important invocation is that of this Genius, Dæmon, True Will, or Augoeides. This operation is traditionally known as attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel...or Great Work,"
and "A person doing his true will is assisted by the momentum of the universe..." He goes on to describe what Crowley called the Oath of the Abyss,
"He takes complete responsibility for his present incarnation and must consider every experience, thing or piece of information which assails him from any source, as a reflection of the way he is conducting his existence."
Crowley wrote, "the Oath of the Master of Temple is 'I swear to interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul.'"11 Also, in Psychonaut, the Demon Chronzon, Carroll bids the magician to "invoke the real HGA or Kia. Firstly the ego can be put in its place by deliberately seeking union with anything one has rejected."12 Crowley:
"such a practice will consist in training the mind and the body to confront things which cause fear, pain, disgust, shame and the like. He must learn to endure them, then to analyze them until they give pleasure and instruction, and finally to appreciate them for their own sake."13
On the other hand, Carroll also speaks, in other places, as if True Will doesn't exist. In Liber KKK,14 Conjuration 15,
"If a true will is presumed to exist, then the conjuration must be directed toward its discovery and implementation. I...have observed the process go spectacularly wrong in numerous cases."
And in the Demon Chronzon,15
"Most mystics...claim that their ego has been obliterated and merged into union with the godhead.... They have merely employed some form of gnostic exaltation to inflate their own ego into an immense version of god that they have been carefully cultivating. The process differs not one whit from that employed by the black magician who also inflates his ego to cosmic dimensions...the same thing happens when a magician attempts to invoke his Holy Guaradian Angel."
"A curious error has entered into many systems of occult thought. This is the notion of some higher self or true will which has been misappropriated from the monotheistic religions."16
"There is no sovereign sanctuary within ourselves which represents our real nature."17
Professor Sidney Hook used to tell our philosophy class, "I don't want any of you to agree with anything I say unless you just can't help yourselves." Sometimes Peter Carroll seems to be saying the same thing to his readers. He contradicts himself (or appears to) as a statement against the notion of "absolute truth." He slides into different paradigms as he finds each useful in its turn. To emerse oneself in such a mindset(s) is to truly "cross the abyss" and enter a realm where everything is both true and untrue simultaneously. Or, as Carroll expressed it, "Chaoist magic is characterized by it's cavalier attitude to metaphysics..."18