Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Need for Magic

Flight by Jake Baddeley, 2000
Flight by Jake Baddeley, 2000
The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer - they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. - Ken Kesey
Modern chaos science began in the 1960's when a handful of open-minded scientists with an eye for pattern realized that simple mathematical equations fed into a computer could model patterns every bit as irregular and "chaotic" as a waterfall. They were able to apply this to weather patterns, coastlines, all sorts of natural phenomena. Particular equations would result in pictures resembling specific types of leaves, the possibilities were incredible. Centers and institutes were founded to specialize in "non- linear dynamics" and "complex systems." Natural phenomena, like the red spot of Jupiter, could now be understood. The common catch-terms that most people have heard by now; strange attractors, fractals, etc., are related to the study of turbulence in nature. There is not room to go into these subjects in depth here, and I recommend that those who are interested in this subject read `Chaos: making a new science' by James Gleick and `Turbulent Mirror' by John Briggs & F. David Peat. 

What we are concerned with here is how all this relates to magic. Many magicians, especially Chaos Magicians, have begun using these terms, "fractal" and "strange attractor", in their everyday conversations. Most of those who do this have some understanding of the relationship between magic and this area of science. To put it very simply, a successful magical act causes an apparently acausal result. In studying turbulence, chaos scientists have realized that apparently acausal phenomena in nature are not only the norm, but are measurable by simple mathematical equations. Irregularity is the stuff life is made of. For example, in the study of heartbeat rhythms and brain-wave patterns, irregular patterns are measured from normally functioning organs, while steady, regular patterns are a direct symptom of a heart attack about to occur, or an epileptic fit. Referring back again to "virtual" photons, a properly executed magical release of energy creates a "wave form" (visible by Kirlian photography) around the magician causing turbulence in the aetheric space. This turbulence will likely cause a result, preferably as the magician has intended. Once the energy is released, control over the phenomena is out of the magician's hands, just as once the equation has been fed into the computer, the design follows the path set for it.

The scientists who are working in this area would scoff at this explanation, they have no idea that they are in the process of discovering the physics behind magic. But then, many common place sciences of today, chemistry for example, were once considered to be magic. Understanding this subject requires, besides some reading, a shift in thinking. We are trained from an early age to think in linear terms, but nature and the chaos within it are non-linear, and therefore require non-linear thinking to be understood. This sounds simple, yet it reminds me of a logic class I had in college. We were doing simple Aristotelian syllogisms. All we had to do was to put everyday language into equation form. It sounds simple, and it is. However, it requires a non-linear thought process. During that lesson over the space of a week, the class size dropped from 48 to 9 students. The computer programmers were the first to drop out. Those of us who survived that section went on to earn high grades in the class, but more importantly, found that we had achieved a permanent change in our thinking processes. Our lives were changed by that one simple shift of perspective.

Chaos science is still in the process of discovery, yet magicians have been applying its principles for at least as long as they have been writing about magic. Once the principles of this science begin to take hold on the thinking process, the magician begins to notice everything from the fractal patterns in smoke rising from a cigarette to the patterns of success and failure in magical workings, which leads to an understanding of why it has succeeded or failed.

Chaos is not in itself, a system or philosophy. It is rather an attitude that one applies to one's magic and philosophy. It is the basis for all magic, as it is the primal creative force. A Chaos Magician learns a variety of magical techniques, usually as many as s/he can gain access to, but sees beyond the systems and dogmas to the physics behind the magical force and uses whatever methods are appealing to him/herself. Chaos does not come with a specific Grimoire or even a prescribed set of ethics. For this reason, it has been dubbed "left hand path" by some who choose not to understand that which is beyond their own chosen path. There is no set of specific spells that are considered to be `Chaos Magic spells'. A Chaos Magician will use the same spells as those of other paths, or those of his/ her own making. Any and all methods and information are valid, the only requirement is that it works. Mastering the role of the sub-conscious mind in magical operations is the crux of it, and the state called "vacuity" by Austin Osman Spare is the road to that end. Anyone who has participated in a successful ritual has experienced some degree of the `high' that this state induces.

An understanding of the scientific principles behind magic does not necessarily require a college degree in physics (although it wouldn't hurt much, if the linear attitude drilled into the student could be by-passed), experience in magical results will bring the necessary understanding.

This series is directed toward the increasing numbers of people who have been asking, "What is Chaos Magic?" It is very basic and by no means intended to be a complete explanation of any of the elements discussed. Many of the principles of magic must be self-discovered, my only intent here is to try to define and pull together the various elements associated with Chaos Magic into an intelligible whole. For those who wish to learn more about this subject, I have prepared a suggested reading list for the last section, however, I must emphasize that there are always more sources than any one person knows about, so do not limit yourself to this list. Chaos has no limits...

By Mark Chao - From a paper "Defining Chaos"

Image source here