Obituary for the Chaos Current

Stephen Sennitt (editor of Nox magazine) 1988

In the last year or so Since NOX #5, the "occult scene" (as it stands in my view) has undergone a process of am-structuring and recuperation. All the untidy ends left by the dissection of the Chaos current have slithered back into place or resumed their quiet grumblings without further consolidation. Those who rode the crest of the angry crusade in l987, now find themselves floundering in uncharted waters, wondering desperately what fore the current will take next and, more to the point, whether they will be too washed-up to understand.

What am I talking about?

Well let's face it; the Chaos current is dead. Retrospectively, it will be extremely difficult to prove it ever actually existed, other than in the minds of those who caught some brief initial insight into the writings of Austin Osman Spare. For the rest of the decade of its existence, the self-labelled Chaos magicians tried to maintain a dynamic mask for Chaos magic that upon inspection was seen to be frozen, unpliable and lifeless. The flash of insight had disappeared and all that remained to fill this void was rabid polemics and wild disclaimers. To top it all, no one can claim to have gained reputable knowledge of Spare's work. Chaos magic has been a long journey over difficult terrain, finally leading nowhere. In the final analysis, it has not been the hollow posturing of its High Priests and the half-dozen or so flimsy books that have meant anything; rather it is the embarrassing admission that we took it all so seriously at the time. To make this admission (like a part of any maturing process) takes guts and humour, and those who haven't yet learnt the small lesson Chaos magic had to offer will show themselves soon enough by their kicking red-faced tantrums, gripping for dear life onto its withered corpse.

In one sense the Chaos magicians tried to blow away the 'cult' aspect ef occultism. The initial movement attempted to concentrate the bate techniques and systems of magic into a coherent but non-mystical framework. The burning of the old school tie of magic seemed a necessary requisite for the pursuit of freer magical expression- These sentiments were perhaps admirable, but in practice (for the time-being at least) they have shown that the occult establishment cannot function without recourse to a necessary balance between magic and mysticism. In actuality, the reason why the Chaos movement has burnt-out so quickly is because it attempted to deny the magic-mysticism formation of cult: the obsessive belief that produces a basic motive for the carrying out of magical acts. In trying to create wider expression, Chaos magicians seem instead to have succeeded in narrowing the occult arena, exchanging a Path or a way for a selection of spurious academic considerations. Why this is so remains partly a mystery. Perhaps, simply it compels the realization that an inherently understandable belief in the reality of one's magical actions is necessary. Perhaps, after all, the Chaos magicians were too optimistic about their own abilities. In any case, the illusion of "variety" and "selection" of so-called beliefs, and the eclectic adoption of various magical techniques resembled a sophisticated synthesis, whereas in actuality it was a code of systematic devaluation in which all occult doctrine. however useless or useful, was turned into "data" to be experimented upon. This is the same error made by scientists testing for Paranormal phenomena and expecting it to materialise in sterile, clinical surroundings. Stripping magic of its metaphorical, allegorical and emotional values renders the would-be Chaos magician relatively impotent.

Chaos magic was an idea that could never have sustained while magicians remain human. Books like Liber Null are fine in a strictly limited sense, but how do you base an order upon a Teaching where there is no lessen to be learnt?

As an aside here, Pete Carroll recently sent me a copy of the I.O.T. "training manual" Liber KKK which is concerned only with engendering "objective proof" by focusing upon obtaining wealth and business by magic. Nothing wrong with this of course, but why bother going through tedious "initiation" rituals when you can mere cheaply obtain a Sorcerer's Apprentice "money magnet" or "spell kit", or whatever? Surely that is the "quickest route" (a concern of Mr Carroll's, so I believe) engendering exactly the same results for these with the necessary strength to believe. On this subject, it is important to note that Pete's ex-accomplice, Ray Sherwin, has not made the same blundering errors of judgement as, for example, offering prospective I.O.T. members initiation over the phone, and despite recent criticism and back-lashing, cannot realistically take Pete's title as Mr. Continual-egg-on-the-face. Seriously, and I trust he will not take this patronisingly, I have always had a strong liking for Ray Sherwin and his work, and in recent Chaos International articles he shows himself to be adaptable and capable. He probably couldn't care less about my view, but there it is.

Joel Biroco's slant on Chaos magic has also been short-lived and by my experience of him, transcended - if that's the word. We can see that this may have been planned, but I suspect he played it by ear. Perhaps at this moment Mr. Biroco is happily considering himself the catalyst that destroyed the empty posturing we have called the Chaos current. A nod to him on that one, but let me be the first to announce that the Chaos current is OFFICIALLY DEAD!