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Chaos Magic & Psychology

While magic and psychology are two distinctly separate disciplines, there are a few areas where these subjects overlap.

3 months ago

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Introduction

While magic and psychology are two distinctly separate disciplines, there are a few areas where these subjects overlap. Many magical practices focus on introspection and transfiguration of the self (e.g. shadow work, a term coined by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, is often used in modern magical disciplines), but few put as much emphasis on self-alteration as chaos magic does. Chaos magic is heavily reliant on one’s ability to change their perceptions of reality, perception of self, and their state of consciousness.

It’s important to note that magic does not equal psychology. While psychological components play a part in occultism, they are not the entirety of it. Looking at magic in a one-dimensional view and assigning a purely psychological model to occultism can and will stunt a practitioner’s abilities.

For the sake of this article, we will examine a psychology-based perspective on chaos magic, but keep this note in mind as you read through.

Perceptions of Reality and Self

In Liber Null & Psychonaut, author Peter J. Carroll goes into detail on transmogrification in the chapter titled Liber Nox. Carroll states that “the idea of mind or ego as a fixed attribute or possession of Self is illusory”, which I interpret to mean that the Self is fluid and susceptible to change, despite the perceived stagnation that many of us believe to be true. While our Self may be difficult to challenge, it is not impossible to change it.

We see the practice of altering the Self in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. The goal of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) is to promote emotional and behavioral awareness, and thus change behaviors and habits that are unhelpful to the person experiencing them. This alteration is a gradual process. Exercises used in CBT, while most commonly practiced through instruction from a licensed therapist, can be easily found in a variety of resources (self-help books, the internet, etc.).

Therapeutic exercises and magical exercises to alter the Self are similar. Both are done to achieve a degree of personal metamorphosis. The major difference is the context in which these exercises are in. Therapeutic exercises stay mundane, while magical exercises stay magical, with mundane therapeutic value as a side effect. Magical ego-altering exercises can also produce more rapid change, rarely follow an established therapeutic model, and come with greater risks.

Chapter 7: Ego Magic in Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine goes into more detail on this topic. Some of the suggested exercises Hine gives in this section include dropping and picking up new habits, temporarily assigning yourself new beliefs and values, and confronting/challenging your thought patterns. A lot of these exercises are derived from Peter J. Carroll’s Liber Null, but I like how Hine frames them in a much more digestible and in easy-to-understand way.

One exercise I found interesting was threatening your own safety when being berated by your “demons” (negative emotions and thought patterns manifesting into their own thing within your psyche) to take your power back from them. This darker side of your ego taunts you, but wants to preserve itself; so when you threaten your own safety, they will draw back so they can continue to exist.

As someone well versed in psychiatric treatment and therapy, I cannot agree with this practice. It’s an extreme way of confronting your demons, and it makes one vulnerable to actually seriously injuring themselves. I feel as though sometimes, especially with mental illness, these demons would build an immunity to this technique. I believe Hine gives a disclaimer for this practice, though, which should be taken seriously.

Altered States of Consciousness

Altered states of consciousness are heavily emphasized in chaos magic texts. Reaching a gnostic state is widely accepted as the foundational technique to any magical working. It is important to clear the mind, visualize, and stay focused on the magical task and that task alone. This aids in the efficacy of one’s magic, as it allows one’s will to somewhat bypass the “ego” or consciousness, which can be resistant to the flow of one’s magic.  

Meditation is a common method used to achieve gnosis; but meditation can be done outside of magical or spiritual contexts and has shown to have beneficial psychological and physiological effects.

One study has shown evidence that regular meditation over a prolonged period can reduce joint and muscle pain, the use of recreational or “street” drugs, and one’s negative reactions to criticism (Monk-Turner, 2003). While this study did not concentrate on why this is the case, more recent information on meditation shows that it improves self-regulation and willpower skills. When one meditates, they are taking control over their own mind; something that can be difficult with no sort of discipline.

This taking control of the mind, as we can see, has a wide range of applications. Coming back to gnosis, there are many other techniques related to meditation used to achieve this state of consciousness. Peter J. Carroll emphasizes the technique of “no-mind”. No-mind is the practice of silencing the mind. Think of the phrase “no thoughts; head empty”. While this is a type of meditation, it is not the goal of all meditative practices.

The ability to achieve no-mind is a monumental accomplishment, as it is incredibly difficult. Achieving no-mind, even for a second, is a product of incredible self-discipline. Personally, I have found that this technique significantly reduces my stress. How can I be worried about the things I’m thinking about if I’m not thinking at all?

Once again, many of the exercises used to achieve gnosis/altered state of consciousness do not follow an established therapeutic model. Meditation has been accepted as a valid therapeutic practice relatively recently, and is relabeled as “mindfulness” in Western psychiatry (which is very one-dimensional, even maybe bastardized take on meditation and does not even encapsulate the broadness and depth in it, but that’s a rant for a different article).

Conclusion

Magic has some psychological components to it, but Chaos Magic often follows closer to a psychological model than other esoteric practices. While psychology is not the entirety of magic, there is value in having conversations regarding the parallels between these two fields of study. This article only scrapes the tip of the iceberg on this topic, but I’m happy to have provided an introduction to it. Thanks for reading!

Resources
Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine
Liber Null & Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll
The Benefits of Meditation: Experimental Findings; Link to article here


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Cheddar Ray

Published 3 months ago

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