Even though I had read Peter Carroll’s “Liber Null” and “Psychonaut” many years ago, I had never resonated with Chaos Magick as he had presented it. Since discovering the Internet, however, I have met a number of Chaos Magickians online; one of them, Joseph Max of California, published the text of a lecture he had delivered to a Magickal gathering. In it, he cited Maat Magick as a good example of Chaos Magick. It immediately occurred to me to investigate further, to compare and contrast the two methods.
At this point it would be wise to distinguish between the Magickal methods as they appear in print and the individual Mages who use them. Both Chaos Magickians and Maat Magickians tend to be highly individualistic (as is proper in this Art), and every one I have met thus far has his or her own grasp of the methods employed. The Magickians are more similar in their independent creativity than they are different in their philosophy or terminology. I base my statements on how the two methods appear in print, modified by experience and comments from practitioners.
With the exception of Austin Osman Spare’s work, there was little, if any, innovation in the field of Western Magick from the death of Aleister Crowley until the early 1970s. Jack Parson’s work is firmly Thelemic, distinguished by his passion for freedom and self-sovereignty and by his devotion to the manifestation of Babalon. Charles Stansfeld Jones declared the beginning of the Aeon of Maat, but failed to develop an initiatory system based on that ‘new’ frequency of the Magickal Current. Kenneth Grant’s explorations of the Nightside of Magick first manifested in print with his “Cults of the Shadow” in 1975 and continues to this day; I see little mention of his work in the literature of Chaos Magick, save as the person who made public the life and works of Spare.
The most obvious similarity between Chaos Magick and Maat Magick is that they are both post-Crowleyan Magicks. Science, technology and global communications have altered the world radically since the end of World War Il. Both methods avail themselves of these sources of new metaphor in their general world-views, terminology, and techniques. Chaos Magick declares itself new, and Maat Magick honours its roots, but as Mr. Max points out:
Yes, CM [Chaos Magick] is a ‘new’ tradition (isn’t that an oxymoron?), but as it is based upon deconstruction of the traditional forms, it definitely owes a debt to the past. So I would say that CM is derived from older traditions by deconstruction, whereas MM [Maat Magick] is derived by extrapolation.
The differences in the similarities between the two Magicks is mirrored by the similarities in the differences, as will become clear in the course of our considerations.
Both Magicks have an Aeonic map. In “Liber Kaos”, Mr. Carroll presents a table summarizing his view of the course of past, present and future psychohistory. It uses four Aeons (Shamanic, Religious, Rationalist and Pandemon) divided into two sub-Aeons each (Animist/Spiritist, Pagan/Monotheist, Atheist/Nihilist, and Chaoist/?) These are presented left-to-right, and above them twine three sine-waves representing the Materialistic Paradigm, the Magickal Paradigm and the Transcendental Paradigm. The waveforms show the relative dominance of each paradigm (the consensus-reality or Zeitgeist of a contemporary culture at any given point in history) for each Aeon and sub-Aeon.
It is an elegant schema, and I commend it to your attention. I have no idea whether any other Chaote subscribes to it or not, but for me it has the satisfying ‘click’ of a complex idea that makes sense. Maat Magick’s Aeonic Map consists of.
the Nameless Aeon (prehistory-hunting/gathering: animism, shamanism, Voodoo); the Aeon of Isis (herding, farming, fishing: the Great Mother and pagan pantheons); the Aeon of Osiris (city-states, invasion, war: Judaism, Christianity, Islam); the Aeon of Horus (atomic energy, radio, television: Thelema, atheism, existentialism); the Aeon of Maat (quantum theory, genetic manipulation, the Internet: Chaos Magick, Maat Magick, a growing number of new Magickal methods/schools); and the Wordless Aeon (the near and far manifested future wherein a new species emerges from the human genus).
The Wordless Aeon and the Pandemon Aeon seem to represent the same ‘condition’; the Chaos view sees it as a time when Magick prevails as a way of life, and the Maatian view is of a double state of consciousness, individual and collective. Both Magicks see the manifest future as fundamentally different from the present, on a global scale, and both see the development and use of technology as integral to that difference.
(Note: In the course of developing and using Maat Magick, I have met the ‘personality’ of our double-consciousnessed future self, who called itself N’Aton. I recognize in the Internet the skeleton and nervous system of N’Aton, ‘fleshing-up’ even as we speak.)
A sub-similarity exists between the Magicks, in that the Magickal formulae of all Aeons are currently available for competent and appropriate use. I encountered this realization in the course of working with Maat Magick, and called it PanAeonic Magick. Somewhere in the world today there are people practising and living under the influence of each of the Aeons. Instead of the linear, or even the cumulative, model of the development of Magickal vision and practice, I think the timeless/eternal model most closely approximates ‘reality’. The writings I have seen on Chaos Magick encourage the open and free use of metaphors and techniques of all cultures and ages.
Chaos and Maat Magicks both make use of A.O.Spare’s sigil Magick, the process where one’s intention is written, reduced, and rearranged into an abstraction on paper (or other suitable material), forgotten, then recalled at a moment of high passion and released into the universe to manifest. The sigilization process moves the intention from conscious awareness to the Unconscious – or, more accurately in my opinion, to the Deep Mind, a phrase used by Jan Fries (“Visual Magick”, Helrunar). This is done in the act of forgetting. The Deep Mind, consisting as it does of the powers accumulated in the course of our evolution from single cells, as well as the underlying connection of all things, can and does act without the restrictions imposed by consciousness and ego. Turning a coherent written sentence into an incomprehensible abstract design removes the intent from the grasp of ordinary consciousness and delivers it to the pre/post-verbal realm of the Deep Mind.
Chaos Magick and Maat Magick also share Spare’s use of belief as a tool. Humans tend to be restricted by belief, kept to a specific doctrine or set of dogmas, and provided with a pseudo-security in that restriction. There’s a slogan sometimes seen on American bumper-stickers that reads: “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!”. Wars have been fought over differing religious beliefs (Crusades, Jihads and pogroms) as well as over differing philosophies of ethics and/or biology (as in the American Civil War over slavery).
I see belief as an extension of our survival urge of fight or flight, a reflex of grasping tightly the nearest bough when wind disturbs the treetops. Belief must be emptied of content to be an effective Magickal tool, however. One must believe intensely and passionately in the godform one is invoking, for instance, or the transformation of the Magickian into the god will not occur. It is necessary to be able to return to your usual self after the ritual, without that god residing permanently in your belief, so that when you need to believe in something else on another occasion, you will have a clean, receptive tool available.
The number eight plays a prominent part in both Chaos Magick and Maat Magick. Eight arrows radiating from a central point is the primary symbol of Chaos, and it is used in “Liber Kaos” as the schema for eight types of Magick that are ascribed to various colours:
Black: Death Magick, for experiencing the nature of death personally, or for sending death-spells. (I refrain from comment.) It seems to resonate with Saturn. Blue: Wealth Magick is Jupiterian. Green: Love Magick reflects the nature of Venus. Yellow: Ego Magick fits with Solar energy. A sub-similarity exists here with Maat Magick’s Dance of the Masks. Purple or Silver: Sex Magick. Purple is for passion, and silver is for the moon. Orange: Thinking Magick is Mercurial in nature. Red: War Magick Octarine: Pure Magick, with octarine being the colour which the individual associates with the essence of Magick.
It is interesting to note that although Chaos Magick doesn’t use the Tree of Life as a structure template, the colours listed above with their particular Magicks correspond with the Queen Scale colours of the Sephiroth which share the same attributes. For me, Octarine evokes a spinning triad of white, gray and black, the Queen Scale colours of Kether, Chokmah and Binah.
Maat Magick has an eight-fold banishment, and the Forgotten Ones, or survival-urges, are linked to the seven-Chakras-plus-Bindu in an octet.
Other similarities that bear investigation include the construction of an astral temple in one’s private ‘vestibule’ outside the Astral Commons; the probability worlds and the Akasha; and the human origins of gods and their attainment of independent life through generations of worship and belief There are other similarities which I find each time I read through any of the Chaos literature, and I invite your own investigations.
I found fewer differences than similarities between the two schools, and the first one reflects the ‘cussedness’ of human nature to an amusing degree.
In writing and speaking about Maat Magick, I have taken great pains to emphasize that it doesn’t support the founding of any order, coven or ‘official’ group of practitioners. The reason for this is simple and basic: Maat Magick, like any valid ‘system’ of Initiation, self-destructs upon successful completion. It works itself out of a job. What does remain is a network of colleagues who share information about current protects and adventures, help each other out with leads for research and recommended reading, and occasionally congregate for ritual. The latter is quite an undertaking, since the network of Maat Magickians is international and spread out over the USA and elsewhere at flying distances.
Maat Magickians are usually steeped in their own styles of Magickal work of varying kinds, and rarely identify themselves primarily as ‘Maat Magickians’. I consider this a healthy indication that the mojo is working as it should.
Despite this basic spirit of disestablishmentarianism, there does exist (mainly on the Astral) the Horus-Maat Lodge, whose purpose is to spread the word about the Double Current of Horus and Maat. Since its foundation, the recognition of the existence of PanAeonic Magick seems to have expanded its scope. It was not my idea, but the people who wanted the Lodge to exist won my cooperation in its founding through their collective charisma, energy, and good intentions. The Lodge has no ‘official’ address, no meetings, no dues, no charter, no tax-free status, no officers, no grades.
Chaos Magick, on the other hand, has the Illuminates of Thanateros (I.O.T). For a complete description, see Mr. Carroll’s Liber Kaos, Appendix 4,’Liber Pactionis’.
Mr. Max writes:
Ouch! Them’s fightin’ words in some circles! There are far more learned and powerful magicians who have been excommunicated from the IOT than there are currently in their membership! IMNSHO [in my not so humble opinion], the IOT gave up all rights and claims to being the avatars of CM when they decided to become a junior-OTO institute invitatioll-only degree systems, place all administrative power in one person’s hands and declare ‘magical war’ on anybody they didn’t like. The founders Ray Sherwin and even Peter Carroll long ago left in disgust.
Now there can be made a case for the concept that the IOT is not ‘The Pact’, but that The Pact is only the’outer order’ and the real IOT is itself like the “invisible AA” – to practice Chaos Magic is to be an Illuminate of Thanateros, and ‘membership’ in any organization is not a requirement. This is how I like to think of it, and it is more in keeping with the original conception of Sherwin and Carroll.
Another distinction I see is that Chaos Magick uses ‘servitors’ whilst Maat Magick doesn’t. Servitors are entities created, summoned, or obtained to carry out the Magickian’s intent by proxy as an automatic device. Maat Magick tends to work through direct impression of intent on the Magickal Current, or ‘ongoingness of things’, through which the intent acquires power to manifest.
Indeed, Chaotes generally are very much into using servitors, but there are many workings that fall into the ‘enchantment’ category as well. I would not extrapolate a general tendency into a strict ‘law’. Most of the work I do is not servitor based …
The only other major distinction between the Magicks that I have found, based only on published material, is that Chaos Magick focuses its attention on the individual practitioner, whilst Maat Magick begins with the individual but extends its concerns to the human race and beyond. To the concept of Chaos Magick’s focus on the individual, Mr. Max responds:
True enough on the surface. My experience is that each Chaos Mage finds their own particular emphasis on the ‘beyond’ but such focus in not ‘canonical’ so to speak. In my own case, I see the ‘greater’ effect of my magical practice as bringing forth the Pandaemoneon – the Aeon of Chaos, the new magical age. Such things as artificially enhanced ESP and mind/machine interfaces may be just around the corner, blurring the line between technology and magic (which is already blurred – tell me the computer isn’t a magical device!) To me this is the hope and dream of humanity, and our ultimate salvation.
I see the rise of Chaos Magick as a good sign that Magick is alive and thriving at the close of the Twentieth Century. It appears to me that it is heading in the same direction that Maat Magick is, toward an ‘Omega Point’ of radical individual and species transformation. I anticipate the rise of other Magicks as well, springing from the creativity of those who understand the underlying principles of individuals effecting macrocosmic change by the precision and aptness of their microcosmic Work.
If you are interested in how that process works, I advise you to obtain and read the following books:
Carroll,Peter J.: Liber Null and Psychonaut. Samuel Weiser, York Beach, ME 1987. Liber Kaos. Samuel Weiser, York Beach, ME 1993.
Fries, Jan: Visual Magick: a Manual of Freestyle Shamanism. Mandrake of Oxford, 1992.
Grant, Kenneth: Cults of the Shadow. Frederick Muller Ltd, London 1975. Skoob Books Publishing, London 1993.
Hine, Phil: Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic. New Falcon Publications, Tempe, AZ 1995.
Nema: Maat Magick: a Guide to Self-Initiation. Samuel Weiser, York Beach, ME 1995.
Hmm, this was interesting.