This series of posts is based on a list of initiatory Vices and Virtues of the Left Hand Path found in Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path by Don Webb. It is done with the permission of the publisher, Lodestar. If these posts pique your interest in the Left Hand Path, please look for the book at Lodestar’s site, http://www.seekthemystery.com , or at Amazon. I highly recommend it, along with many others.
Virtue #4: Openness
“Many people are so insecure that they lead lives so tight that magic couldn’t break in even if from the Prince of Darkness Itself. They have rules about what to eat, when to sleep, who to fuck, what to read, how to vote—until every second of their life is filled.”
There’s a whole spectrum of opinion among occultists about chaos magic, ranging from those who hold it up as magic in its purest form to those who look down upon it with a patronizing smile as something akin to an adorable pet. What everyone who has actually tried it will agree upon is its efficacy. Where opinions seem to diverge is on the matter of its relative depth and its import to the greater body of magical endeavor. However, these are not always the things most pertinent to one who walks the Left Hand Path.
Say what you want about chaos magic; at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that magic in any form thrives on some amount of chaos—otherwise known as pure creative potential.
If we conceptualize all of our life and experience along a spectrum, at one end lies order, which any occultist should recognize as important on a very deep level. Life itself could not have taken hold on this planet without the order pervading our solar system, and this fact has likely been the basis for cosmological theories which champion the notion of some kind of power that watches over its development—whether the personified Yahweh of Judeo-Christian belief or the more detached and abstract Logos of Gnostic philosophy. We would not exist if it were not for certain regular, dependable, cyclic processes at play in nature. DNA appears to be the “programming code” governing the ordering of the molecules that comprise all life forms, something like a “blueprint” that determines the building up amino acids, proteins and other chemicals into what we recognize as life forms.
In a purely mechanistic universe, order is the rule of the day. It is all you need, all you’d ever want, and anything contradictory to it would be a threat to life itself. However, practicing magicians do not—cannot—abide the notion of a purely mechanistic universe. The entire concept of magic itself seems to be rooted in a principle that can transcend mechanistic causality: Namely, chaos. The magician is one who knows the ways to call upon chaos in the right contexts in order to pull veritable rabbits out of hats, usurping (or augmenting) the apparent order upon which the natural world rests.
Thus, it stands to reason that the most capable magicians are those who have made their peace with chaos, having learned that it can be subtly influenced that one might bring about a whole new level of order.
In practice, this means that any successful magician knows to maintain a certain level of uncertainty in their lives, so as to leave room for something other than a mechanistic principle to shape the universe’s unfolding–and their own.
This can often lead to a personal dilemma: In some respects, the archetype of the magician is that of the person who has gained a level of mastery or control over the world around them. It is easy to make the leap from more nascent forms of this understanding to the notion that the magician is one who has gained control over one’s surroundings. The paradox is that this is not necessarily true.
Rather, the magician has learned that a delicate balance between order and chaos is always called for when one proposes to author one’s own destiny. We recognize that sometimes, we have no idea of the most fruitful soil in which our seeds might grow. What to do then?
Trust in chaos–for what other choice do you have?
Even under the assumption that you have full understanding of both your goal and the path to it, but you don’t have all of the resources at your disposal to carve that path out, where can you turn for the solution that will allow everything to fall into place?
If nowhere else, then to chaos.
Civilizations since time immemorial have depended upon calendars based on the motions of the stars and the turning of the seasons in order to keep themselves going; even before agriculture, this was true. The animals we have hunted and the plants we have gathered all wax and wane in annual (or longer) cycles that we have been able to predict. Later on, the crops we have sought to cultivate have relied on the same to an even greater extent—but have we lost sight of the other side of the coin?
Yes, the regularity of annual cycles, of predictable patterns, has enabled us to develop all manner of models upon which to plan our future actions; however, just as much as evolution depends on structure in order to support itself, only the lapses in order brought about by disaster or the mere fluctuation of regular patterns has resulted in the novelty that gives rise to variation, to deviance, to creativity. Order gives us something to lean on, while chaos is responsible for all breakthroughs, whether natural or artificial.
At the risk of growing overly repetitious (sorry, too late for that), my point is that we need to welcome some level of chaos into our lives if we wish our magic to unfold to its fullest potential.
I have made the mistake of living a fully-regimented life, especially insofar as I have followed schools of magic rooted in the Right-Hand Path. The Right-Hand Path is the “safe” path, leaning so heavily on what is tried-and-true that it actively invalidates any other approach. The courage to explore uncharted waters, taking on a measure of risk in the process, is a touch stone of the Left Hand Path. When every moment of every day is planned out in advance, there is no room for natural creativity to express itself. How can you pull a rabbit out of a hat if you don’t leave room for the dark recesses from which your rabbit must unavoidably emerge? If magic were all about strictly-enforced order, it wouldn’t be magic at all. We would live in a world of pure, mechanical cause-and-effect, and the path to any set of results would be abundantly clear at the outset. There is no way to sidestep the fact that trust in magical ability is also trust in chaos.
As Don Webb astutely states:
“True development will come to someone with Will-to-Succeed long before it will come to someone with Will-to-Control.”
In other words, magic can be described as the art of setting the destination while leaving the path open and indeterminate.
Unfurl your sails, and upon the seas of chaos and order shall you voyage to new vistas.