A friend recently claimed surprise when during an exchange concerning magickal experimentation, I cried off a certain technique due to its lack of basis in “tradition”. “You’re a Chaos Magician, you’re supposed to be endlessly syncretistic and innovative!” Well, yes and no.
Those of you familiar with this blog will have read “When Chaos Magick gets deep..” and its questioning of whether buying into the postmodern spirit uncritically is sustainable for those of us seeking to develop spiritual depth (or Soul as Hillman would put it). The type of hyper-accelerated paradigm shifting that many associate with CM may have a role in loosening our reliance on outdated certainties and dogma, but I wonder if it’s time to slow down.
The realisation that certain aspects of western culture may be moving too quickly for their own good is not a new one. In response to fast food, quickie sex, the never-ending pursuit of a faster internet connection the Slow movement was born. Rather than increased mindfulness being limited to a set of internal practices, the Slow movement challenges us to wonder what would happen if such a mindful perspective was brought to bear on the whole of our lives. What would our eating habits look like, our transport arrangements, our approach to child-care?
Now there is always the danger that new insights become dogma, but the general principles of greater awareness to regional context, levels of consumption and quality over quantity are certainly a necessary challenge to my lifestyle. Do I seek endless piles of “stuff” to fill the sense of internal ache, or can I pause and truly take stock of what’s going on around me? As someone with a fairly intense work ethic, how do I step-back and become less hyperactive and more intentional?
When I seek to apply a Slow perspective to the types of activity associated with Chaos Magick where does it get me? Because of CM’s connection to the Postmodern zeitgeist, it can be easy to assume that the approach is unavoidably accelerated via its quick and dirty punk rock approach! CM will always be pragmatic in its sorcerous focus on getting things done, but as someone who still really likes the approach, I believe that it can grow up and move beyond scatter-gun spiritual consumerism.
The genius of Chaos Magick for me lies in its understanding of belief as a tool and in its emphasis on the contemporary. CM like all magickal systems relies on romanticism to a certain degree, but it doesn’t long for some passed golden age-it demands that we Work with what’s in front of us. In placing it emphasis on the present however, it also faces the danger of mirroring societies’ excesses and losing touch with its context. Personally I need more, and as I grow older and my magick works its wyrd, so my engagement with this tradition needs to evolve. Therefore my Chaos Magick needs to slow down.
What this means for each of us seeking new depth will of course be unique. Like my use of fossil fuels or hours spent “working for the Man” few of us appreciate having our choices prescribed. What’s probably most helpful at this point is to outline some of the ways that this Slow Chaos might be shaping up my own spiritual/magickal practice:
- Working with each paradigm to a greater depth.
CM as an approach is renowned for its technique of shifting belief systems and world views. Its desire to stand back and comprehend the technology and mechanisms of magick outside of a faith position often allows it to see the parallels and potential connections between differing paradigms. Critics of this approach may rightly wonder whether jumping between paradigms actually allows the magician to experience the challenges and depths that prolonged work with one system can produce.
As someone who is fairly syncretistic by nature I am usually quick to cross-fertilize systems and seek creative means for cross-breeding to strengthen my already mongrel magick. Whilst recognising this I also realise that I have to slow down and let a tradition speak to me on its own terms. I need to internalise the hard lessons so that I am not simply flitting between systems, creating the illusion of progress in the midst of my frenzied busyness.
- Seeking both Acceptance and Change:
In many forms of psychotherapy (my day job) one of the primary dialectics that needs to be held in tension, is that which exists between acceptance and change. If all therapy does is accept, it will never be truly healing, and if all it does is ask for change without truly listening to reality as it is for the client, then it is both an imposition and a misuse of power. How, in my spiritual life, can I access this place of acceptance rather than bleeding myself psychically dry through endless sorcerous “doing”?
In the magickal group in which I work, this need to seek means for cultivating greater acceptance has lead to an on-going engagement with mindfulness practice and states of receptive magick. Whether working with acceptance of the Self or a situation we hope eventually to change, taking our time to listen more closely is likely to make our gnosis all the more potent.
- Sensitivity to Context and the Movement of Time.
Julian in his “Chaos Magick and the Turning of the Year” has already started mapping how the multi-faceted glyph of the Chaos star might relate to the 8 fire festivals and the natural movement of life perceived in time and space. The slow movement asks us to consider the idea of “place” and how our bodies and lives are interwoven with our context and natural environment.
Personally I find myself interested in how we can harmonize this adventurous, experimental form of magick with a sensitivity to the land and the phase of the year we are working within. Rather than the shape of our collective sorcery or ritual being determined by whim or fortune, could our work flow into the channel of yellow mid-summer ego-magick or the lusty purple hues of Beltane?
- The importance of the armchair:
Philip Carr-Gomm in his excellent “The English Book of Magic” speaks of the importance of the armchair in the development of the magician. While people may dismiss those who spend time reflecting, reading, thinking and musing, Philip in his druidsom wisdom sees such critics as embodying “an undignified utilitarianism.” We need time to dream, to let our ideas percolate, to let parts of our psyche lie fallow for a season.
Phil Hine has noted the creeping work ethic that seems to be part of western occultism-more to learn, more to do, more, more ,more. Most magickal orders stress that they are only interested in “highly motivated individuals”, and while not dismissing this, sometimes we need to praise Bob and embrace the Slack! My guess is that most of us got involved in Magick because we dreamt and wondered; perhaps we need to dream once more-get thee to an armchair!
So there you have it, some wonderings about Slow and how it might shape and challenge our postmodern forms of Magickal practice. One of the great things for me about Current 23 is the way it seeks to allow diversity and freedom -I offer these musings in the same spirit-not a new set of prescriptions, rather some sketches that I hope will invite friendly conversation and wondering.