I felt quite happy a decade or so ago to be labelled as a "Crisis Magician". The definitive characterisation, according to Peter Carroll, is that of an individual who devotes most of their energies to normal everyday pursuits, only resorting to The Wand in times of crisis. To the best of my knowledge, Carroll has never gone into print on the matter, but from his perjorative tone when conversing the subject one may gather that such a 'modus operandi' is thought unbecoming for a serious occult practitioner. Personally, I would contrast the relatively orderly lives of many occultists who resort to praeter-natural tactics only in dire emergency, with the experience of many habitual magicians whose lives seem to lurch inexorably from one grotesque scenario to another. Perhaps the time is ripe for a re-definition!
Regular consumers of my articles and lectures may recognise herein some development of ideas introduced in my papers "So-Called Magic(k), or Fraud or Bullshit" and "The History and Development of Secret Societies", as well as an update on matters raised in "Magical Conflict - The Corporate Adversary." I do not propose to waste time considering whether "magic(k)" works or not, or what it is, but rather to examine the elusive ways in which it can work, to look at the sort of associative relationships which occult practitioners may form between themselves, and the advantages and disadvantages of participation in such magical working groups.
"Orders" and "Disorders" in this context are different species of structured or unstructured groupings of magicians, while "Lynx" are the female counterparts of "Lone Wolves". (Yes, I know there are female wolves, but if one says "Lone Wolf" in the sense of a magical practitioner who prefers to work alone, audience perception might interpret the term as applying exclusively to the masculine gender).
THE SOLITARY QUEST
In western cultures most magical practitioners start out in, or spend a major part of their occult career in "Lynx" or "Lone Wolf" mode. Individuals develop an initial interest in magic usually as a result of some personal experience, or because some book, or even a record, seems to be saying something to them which means more than the hypocritical dogmas of orthodox morality and religion. There may of course be some influence from a friend, a relative or even a teacher, but a solitary period, which often takes the form of some personal "quest for truth", is a feature of most occultists' formative years.
Some people are content with this state of philosophical solitude, although many simply feel that they are the only person in the world who sees things in a particular way, or that they have undergone some absolutely unique experience, which, if it were communicated, would cause other people to think them mad. In this respect families are frequently perceived as being unsupportive, or, in extreme cases, downright hostile. Open-mindedness towards children's opinions arid views of life has never been an important feature of family life in our culture, no matter how old the child may become!
Other practitioners committed to the solitary path are those who have been worked over and/or ripped off by some phoney cult or "guru", and who have survived "de-programming" and/or "conversion" to some other purported revelation of Ultimate Truth. Such experiences result in a powerfully aversive, and quite understandable, attitude towards occult groups generally, and, in lucky cases, can engender the deep rooted scepticism which is absolutely essential if one is not to fall prey to yet further purveyors of potted belief systems and self-consistent "irrefutable" hypotheses. Anyone motivated by scepticism to avoid ALL occult and religious groups has my wholehearted and sincere support that is an entirely honourable position, and one for which I have considerable sympathy.
REAL scepticism, though, demands a degree of open-mindedness, and I do not extend the above eulogy to include those bigoted neophobes of the scientific establishment who have turned the deterministic model of the universe into a religion in its own right, and who seek to reinforce that belief structure by choosing to examine only such evidence as supports their preconceived not for of the way things should be. To such authorities I say "Study the proofs of Godel's Theorems, and if you don' t understand them, be advised to shut up until you do!"
MOTIVATIONS FOR MAGICAL STUDY
The multiplicity of reasons which people might give for embarking on a programme of magical study seem to me to fall loosely under three basic headings:
In the case of any given individual there will often be some component of each of these primary motivations exhibited.
However nebulous the concept of "spiritual enlightenment" may be, persons for whom its attainment provides the dominant motivation are frequently led to the belief that it can best be provided by someone else who is presumed already to have attained such a state. This conveniently provides those who wish to gain power over other people with a ready supply of subjects, and it is no surprise to find persons in whom such motivations dominate drawn together. in Guru/Chela relationships and, in larger numbers, into rigid structural heirarchies within which both "Seekers" and "Teachers" derive some fulfilment of their motivation, but where the internal machinations within the relationship or structure frequently supercede the original intent.
Power to influence external events, I suggest, is something different, not least because there is a component of objectivity involved. A remote control for a TV set bestows some power objectively to transform external reality; and John Dee, Agrippa, or even Isaac Newton, being presented with such a device might well have classified it among magical artifacts. The point is that some technique or technology is involved which may do something as apparently simple as move a small piece of metal across a smooth surface, or something as devastating as inducing spontaneous combustion upon someone who has caused offence. Such techniques either work or they don't; that is (within the framework of a stochastic universe), there is a greater or a lesser likelihood of an observably effective result occurring which accords with the original intention.
The difficulty is that in practice one is rarely dealing with any effect as clearly demonstrable as actually being able to watch an object move from one place to another, or applaud while some offensive individual lights up like a blow torch. Where "magic" is found to work most effectively is in the realm of coincidence manipulation, where the end result might have come about as a matter of pure chance.
Life becomes even more confused when it is realised that those seeking the nebulous goal of "spiritual enlightenment" have no objective means of judging the qualifications of those purporting to be able to teach or bestow it. It is however assumed that those of advanced "spiritual" attainment have the ability to perform "miraculous" acts (the Catholic Church even makes such performances an essential pre-requisite for canonisation of someone as a Saint), and the field is therefore open for charismatics, con persons and fraudsters to deliver hyped up phenomenisations to convince the gullible to sign up and part with their money. In some cases what is perpetrated is little more than a pseudo-metaphysical game of "Find the Lady".
It's not hard to see why so many people with an interest in the occult keep themselves to themselves, and follow their own path experimenting with those techniques which they feel work best for them personally.
The problem with that individual approach in a wider context is that it is not likely to advance the frontiers of human knowledge very much. Given that the matter under consideration has the appearance of a species of unfolding science and/or technology, few major advances in such disciplines over the years have been made by individuals working entirely alone. The cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences which inevitably results from working together with other members of a team is a major component in producing the quantum leaps in understanding and perception which characterise major advances. Thus there is some further motivation for those practitioners who have become convinced, from their own experience, that "magical" effects do have some basis in fact, to ally themselves with other like minded individuals, and to form groups in order to pool knowledge and combine their efforts.
CONTEMPORARY CHURCHES, CULTS AND MAGICAL GROUPS
Most churches, cults and magical groups adhere to some sort of belief structure which presents their organisation as the custodians of THE "Ultimate Truth". In some cases this "Truth" derives from historical tradition, as with, say, mainstream Christianity or Freemasonry, in other cases the fountainhead is entirely modern (as with the quasi-rationalist 'Nuclear Power Dogma'), or consists of a modern re-interpretation of more ancient source material.
Most of these religions, for in one sense or another that is what they are, publish their irrefutable hypothesis in the public domain, so that it least it is available for adherents and querents to consider and debate openly. A minority, particularly among the more occult oriented organisations, present a concept of a "truth" which is so wonderful or awesome that it has to be concealed from the "profane" (i.e. outsiders) and in some cases restricted to the highest echelons of a heirarchica1 structure, with dissemination prohibited by oaths of secrecy.
A single category of occult persuasion, the Chaos Magicians, argue from both a philosophical and an objective mathematical standpoint that "there can be NO ultimate truth" and treat "belief" as a technical expedient which can be temporarily useful in accomplishing particular magical objectives.
Since the inception of Chaos Magic in its a modern form in the late 1970s, there has been considerable debate among its adherents concerning the most appropriate collective structure for pursuit and development of the philosophy and associated magical techniques.
ORDERS AND DISORDERS
Anyone interested in serious ceremonial/ritual magic in London in the early 1970s had little alternative but to follow the path of the Lone Wolf. The blues musician Graham Bond had made an attempt to introduce a brand of Thelemic. Masonry to young members of the Notting Hill sub-culture in the late. 60's but any remnant of that died with him in 1974, while the mainstream Freemasons, inasmuch as they were recruiting at all, were concentrating on public school Old Boy Associations and their usual hunting grounds in the police and other uniformed public services If any rump of the pre-war ceremonial orders, the Golden Dawn, the OTO, A.'.A.'., M.'.M.'., or Stella Matutina still existed, then their ageing membership was maintaining a low profile. Crowley books were out of print, hard to find, and costly; indeed pretty well the only published system for magical self-initiation was the Mathers edition of "The Sacred Magic Of Abra-Melin the Mage" , which, although perhaps effective, was scarcely popular because of its masculine bias and requirement for months of sexual abstinence. Occasional reprints of Austin Spare' s work were sighted, mostly third generation photocopies.
If you wanted to become involved In working with a group it was down to the Theosophists, Rudolph Steiner's Anthroposophy, White Eagle Lodge, or the AMORC Rosicrucians, In all of which "sex and drugs and rock and roll" were definitely frowned upon. Alternatively there was Scientology, Guru Maharaji's 'Divine Light', Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation, and Hare Krishna, which were all widely felt to be rip offs of one sort or another.
Into this magical wasteland of London in November 1974 was suddenly projected the now famed classified advertisement in Time Out Magazine:
MAGIC. Serious student of occult has access to Golden Dawn Records and wishes to form similar society more suited to current trends - but perhaps retaining many of the GD grades and initiation processes. Invitation to write and discuss the project more fully is open to all with a more than passing interest in magical ceremonies and of course practical instruction is available to the novice. Please feel free to write whatever your Interpretation of the essential truth. The combined study of magic for the common good can only be beneficial to humanity. Box 247/20.
Around 20 Lone Wolves (all male) replied and were disappointed to discover that the advertiser was not what he purported to be, and that he had little interest in organising a re-constituted Order of the Golden Dawn. At a meeting of the respondents, though, several of them, including Peter Carroll and myself, decided to meet regularly and to contribute ideas for ritual work which other participants could join in with.
The group never had a formal working name at the time - the original correspondence file is marked "Magical Study Group" - but it has come to be referred to as "Stoke Newington Sorcerors" (SNS) since most of the meetings took place in a house in that part of London.
Although there were many discussions about instituting some sort of formal structure, it was generally resisted, partly because none of the original members was prepared to cede superiority to any of the others, and although later arrivals attempted to usurp a leadership role, they were customarily given short shrift. A nucleus of SNS members eventually wound up living in close proximity during 1977/8 in the notorious Speedwell House (in Deptford, South East London) where they became entwined in the nascent anarchy of the explosion of 'Punk' fashion. The street-cred magical names like Frater Autonemesis and Frater Choronzon date from this period, and, in terms of lifestyle, Chaos was King; the philosophical dimension developed from that point.
Peter Carroll and myself were both writing for the small circulation "New Equinox" magazine which was being published by Ray Sherwin out of East Morton in Yorkshire, and it was at this time that Pete produced a magical training syllabus based on exercises he was using himself which were drawn in part from yogic sources as well as having some input from Crowley, Spare and Castenada. The essence of Carroll's own work there was in stripping away the bullshit, and encapsulating the most useful techniques in a booklet of no more than 7 typed A4 sheets titled "LIBER MMM A Publication of the Magical Order of the IOT - Being the Initial Instructions in Mind Control, Metamorphosis and Magic for applicants to the IOT."
IOT, of course, is "Illuminates Of Thanateros"; the name itself perhaps owing some debt of inspiration not only to Spare, but also to Robert(s) Shea and Anton Wilson, whose conspiracy theorist trilogy "Illuminatus" had enjoyed a measure of acclaim, along with its stage adaptation. Because of the short term nature of the Speedwell House domicile, and the requirement for applicants to work "Liber MMM" for at least six months before submitting a magical record for consideration, the correspondence address was that of Ray Sherwin's "Morton Press." The same imprimateur is to be found on the earliest editions of Carroll's first book "Liber Null", which includes "Liber MMM" as the opening chapter.
There are a few interesting features about the earliest versions of "Liber MMM" which are relevant to the issues discussed in this paper Firstly the IOT is presented as a magical ORDER. Secondly, there is no mention at all of Chaos; and, thirdly, under the heading "Structure", Carroll states "There is no heirarchy in the IOT". Albeit that he goes on to outline "a division of activity based on ability", with roles for Students, Initiates, Adepts and Masters being detailed. I highlight those features of the original concept because minor amendments were made in later versions of "Liber MMM" and because the preamble which includes the material on "Structure" has disappeared from that section in the later Weiser edition of "Liber Null and Psychonaut" combined.
The key point about that inaugural stage in the IOT's history is that although it was presented as an ORDER, the structure (like that of SNS before it) was a non-heirarchial DISORDER, albeit that there was no explicit reference to CHAOS.
During the five years or so following the demolition of Speedwell House, "Liber Null" was followed by "Psychonaut" and the locus of Chaos Magic moved to West Yorkshire. A German translation appeared and some contact was established with a few hardy individuals who had worked through the "Liber MMM" syllabus and who submitted creditable records of their experiences.
Eventually in 1986 the first edition of "Chaos International" appeared under the editorship of P.D. Brown and Ray Sherwin. A glance at the first Editorial shows that the anti-hierarchical posture of Chaos Magic had survived intact from the earliest days of the IOT. The following extract makes the philosophical position at that time quite clear:
"Hierarchy fails for many reasons, not least of which is that it is eminently corruptible. From the magical point of view hierarchy, except when its leaders genuinely have the interests of their aspirants at heart, is stifling and inertial, the development of individuals taking fourth place to power play, internal politics and finance."
By this time Chaos Magic was being marketed enthusiastically in the German speaking countries of continental Europe through the efforts of Ralph Tegtmeier, who had published the translations of Carroll's work. Some impetus was building, largely from that quarter, for the IOT to be restructured in a more formalised way, and eventually in Autumn 1987, "Chaos International" Issue #3 carried two articles by Peter Carroll titled respectively "The Pact" and "The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros" which set out a system of formal grades which closely corresponded to the "divisions of activity" from the "Structure" paragraph in the original Speedwell House recension of "Liber MMM"; although with the addition of the post of Supreme Magus 0 degree. (These articles are reprinted, more or less verbatim, under the general title 'Liber Pactionis' as part of the Appendix to Carroll's latest book 'Liber Kaos, The Psychonomicon'.
Perhaps to assuage the feelings of the English speaking anti-heirarchs
the following passage was prominently included:
"The prime functions of the grade structure are to provide a mechanism for the exclusion of certain psychotic misanthropes and neurotic creeps who are sometimes attracted to such enterprises and to ensure that that which needs organising is duly attended to."
The hallmarks of a carefully thought out compromise are discernible. In particular an "Office of Insubordinate" is introduced to force "a constant stream of negative feedback to arise- from below by institutionalising rebellion." The objective being to circumvent one of the more notorious drawbacks of heirarchies where "those at the top are condemned to bask in deceitful reflections of their own expectations and to issue even more inappropriate directives. Such an office is understood to have some precedent in Amerindian and other shamanic societies (ref: Neonfaust - Letter in Chaos International #4).
That there were some misgivings about the whole idea of an 'Order' devoted to 'Chaos' among prominent practitioners is clear from the article by Ray Sherwin which immediately follows those by Carroll in Chaos International #3. Under the headline "Philosophical and Practical Objections to Hierarchical Structures in Magick" he writes: "Hierarchies are open to abuse" and, echoing the editorial in "Chaos International #1", "even if they are set up with all the best intentions they are eminently corruptible and inevitably corrupted for reasons of personal power or gain".
Sherwin then makes a clear distinction between magical orders
and consensus based magical groups:
"Working on a consensus basis means that individuals do not compete with one another as they are more likely to do within a hierarchical structure, often scrambling over one another for titles and privileges, rank taking precedence over magick and over the other people concerned. The issuing of charters, in the worst of cases, is simply an extension of this - the power seekers in pursuit of groups rather than individuals."
In the same piece Sherwin carries on to make valid points about the unattractiveness of hierarchies to females, and he comments "without women magick loses 50% of its potential". He concludes: "If you're interested in magick but don't want to get involved in hierarchical structures, 'Unorganised Chaos' may be of interest to you", and refers readers to a contact address elsewhere in the magazine.
The debate continues in Issue #4 of 'Chaos International' which
appeared In Spring 1988 carrying a letter- from one 'Neonfaust
I' who proclaims himself as 1st Degree IOT West Germany. He introduces
the subject thus:
"While I do see Ray Sherwin's point in general, I still think that his philosophical and practical objections to hierarchical structures in magic are indeed purely the arguments of an insider working within a well established group.
This is a fact - Sherwin was one of the most prominent members of the IOT as originally constituted!
"Working on similar lines myself on the one hand, but actively participating in a highly hierarchically structured magical order as well, I feel that he has not done hierarchy full justice. For one thing hiearchy is basically STRUCTURE [sic (emphasis)] and as such it can be one of the strongest weapons against the many pitfalls of magic which have been, I will concede, highly overestimated in the past but which are there to be reckoned with nonetheless."
Among his examples of such pitfalls, 'Neonfaust' gives prominence to "self delusion" and "individualistic megalomania."
It may be, when the 'The Saga of the Ice' is submitted to similar critical analysis, that illumination is cast on the extent to which the abuse of hierarchical power served to mask the reality that this individual was actually wallowing those very pitfalls he so accurately identifies.
There is, I feel, one drawback to establishing a hierarchical structure which is not mentioned in any of the source material cited here. The structure set out in 'Liber Pactionis' may work fine if viewed as an established on-going procedural environment for magical work. What it does not adequately cover is the process for setting the hierarchy up in the first place.
My own misgivings about hierarchies are engendered partly because I feel they unecessarily restrict information about useful magical work being carried out. In the prevailing social environment, burdened as we are with an intrusive press seeking any excuse to publish sensational 'occult' stories, I completely concur with the need to preserve confidentiality concerning the identities of individuals involved in private magical work. I do not feel that this secrecy should necessarily be extended to the work itself - particularly if significant advances in knowledge and/or techniques are being made. For that reason I have made a habit of conducting a significant proportion of my own magical work outside the confines of formal temple settings, if not always completely in the public domain. I see such activities as being a logical extension of the sort of work I was doing when others chose to characterise me as a Crisis Magician.
ONCE A CRISIS MAGICIAN - ALWAYS A CRISIS MAGICIAN
If one faces some dire life threatening emergency, in physical terms, the body produces a surge of adrenaline which can bestow a physical boost to empower one to get out of the situation. This sort of circumstance will be familiar to anyone who has ever been in an awkward scrape while pot-holing, for example. My strong impression is that something similar happens when one applies a magical solution to some pressing circumstance threatening to one's life and security or that of one's dependents. If such a magical working becomes necessary, it is my experience that it is ALWAYS successful - Gnosis through Crisis.
With the recent success of a long and complex legal and magical operation against a Goliath of a corporate adversary, I can make that statement quite categorically.
I will no longer tolerate being ripped off or worked over by large corporations, who consider that they have some right in natural law to behave like that simply because of their size. I may have to allow the situation to proceed to a point where my own position becomes sufficiently perilous that the 'magical adrenaline' surge seals the outcome, but it works in the end. That is the essence of Crisis Magic.
TOWARDS PRECISION IN MAGIC
In my recent review of Peter Carroll's book 'Liber Kaos, the Psychonomicon', I was prompted to draw a comparison between progress in the understanding of so-called 'magic', and the history of the comprehension of electro-magnetic radiation by 19th century science. The Danish physicist Hans Oersted first noticed in 1820 that a high voltage spark generated across a gap in a metallic loop could induce a similar, though smaller, spark to occur across a gap in a similar loop on the other side of his workshop. You can observe the same sort of effect at work today when you are trying to record something off the radio, and your neighbour gets to work with his ancient (unsuppressed) electric drill - sparks cause 'white noise' radio emissions across the entire frequency band. It was some twenty years before Faraday began to arrive at some coherent understanding of what was going on, and not until 1865 that James Clark Maxwell put forward his famous wave equations which described the process in precise mathematical terms. After another 30 years Marconi had built the first reliable radio set which could send and receive coherent information carrying signals at discrete wavelengths.
My view is that in terms of magic we are past the 'Oersted' stage, in which we can do simple things - the equivalent of undifferentiated spark transmission - on a reasonably consistent quantifiable basis. Now, the first attempts are being made to propose a quantitative model with Carroll's "Equations of Magic" in 'Liber Kaos', and it may be that those equations, in times to come, will assume as much importance in the emerging science and technology of 'magic' as those of Maxwell have done in radio engineering.
If we are now, by comparison, only a little further on than being able to send out sparks from a Van Der Graaf generator, think what could be accomplished when the 'magical' analogues of separated wavelengths, frequency modulation and/or radar technology come to be understood. I feel it is not unreasonable to assert that we may be on the threshold of some major discoveries, and happily for us all, the scientific/technical establishment is looking the other way because of their slavish belief in a deterministic universe, and their refusal to accept the reality of any phenomena which threaten that belief - and this despite Godel's Theorems having been published half a century ago!
The key to progress, in my view, is to strive to achieve greater precision in magical actions, with increasingly precise statements of intent, possibly sigilized into systems diagrams mapping detailed effects. For example, if you feel moved to take magical action against a bank for, say deducting bank charges from your account without notice and then bouncing a cheque presented by your lawyers (which can be very embarassing); then you want to ensure that the curse is effective against all the lifts in their head office, and not against all their cash-point machines in a 6.66 mile radius; particularly if the working has been conducted publically. Alternatively, on a more personal level, you want to make sure that it is the offending manager who suffers the fit of projectile vomiting, and not the hapless secretary who chances to open the letter with the runes drawn under the postage stamp.
Whatever happens, never let life get on top of you - always keep the Wand and the Thunderbolt handy in times of crisis.