Chaos Monk

The prolific Steve Dee has written a third book! Chaos Monk offers an unexpected fusion of New Monasticism and Chaos Magic, demonstrating that it is possible to simultaneously be devout and fully embedded in the everyday world…

Steve writes: This book is an invitation to spiritual intensity. In the face of life’s brevity, it seeks to offer a challenge to consider what truly matters and how we might find skilful means for exploring such a question. As the pace and pressures of daily living seek to crowd out our ability to find space and silence, I believe that those traditions and techniques associated with monasticism provide vital keys for regaining our balance. While some may view such paths as ones of restriction or severity, as we travel together I hope to demonstrate the profound value of what simplicity, faithfulness and accountability might bring us when viewed through dynamic and responsive lens of Chaos magical practice.

This book is a deeply personal one, and unapologetically so. The impulse to engage with the monastic current runs strongly in my veins and it continues to be a deep personal obsession. When I started my spiritual journey at age 10, I was captivated by images of orange clad ascetics from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Now, as an adult, I ask: Why do I continue to be drawn to a path that emphasizes asceticism and discipline? What draws so many people to the form of stark spirituality that monastic traditions represent? How might contemporary explorers distil its essential components? This book seeks to explore such questions and describes how my own journey into contemporary magical practice continues to include monastic dimensions within it.

Sitting still is where it all starts. Only by ceasing to move can we gain access to the state of mind necessary to begin moving. Both in our psyches, and in our lives, we carve out a space which is our own to pause, to take stock, to commune with our higher Self. And then, with our feet in the right place, we take the steps necessary towards our goals, in fellowship with our communities. The modern monk constructs their cell within the everyday world.
This book helps to model some of these processes for you. It contains personal examples, historical reviews of Monasticism through the ages, gentle prods to keep things moving, and reflections upon what such a pilgrimage might mean. The alchemy of transmutation applied to the soul takes time, but gives us gold.

“A profoundly beautiful exploration of spirituality, magic and self that I consider to be one of the most important books I have read on the subject in many years. Particularly relevant to this era, Chaos Monk is intellectually satisfying whilst presenting an eminently practical approach. This book examines internal and external realities and the tensions they generate; acknowledging wider relationships that impact upon magical and spiritual development. Referencing Tantra, Thelema, Monastic Traditions, Chaos Magic and psychology, ‘Chaos Monk’ structures a template for the development of a long term, pertinent, spiritual approach to the self and the times, and as such should be an essential component of every committed practitioner and seeker’s library.” Charlotte Rodgers, creator of sculptural art works, writer of books which include P is for Prostitution: A Modern Primer, The Sky is A Gateway Not A Ceiling, and The Bloody Sacrifice.

“An exhilarating journey through chaos monasticism, a mystical practice informed by chaos magic. Accessible and clearly written, yet informed by a deep knowledge of the history of spiritual movements in both East and West, decades of magical practice, psychotherapy and art, this is a book for anyone with mystical leanings who wants to put them into practice. The first part describes the theoretical basis of chaos monasticism, and the second part shows how to put it into practice. Steve offers genuinely original spiritual exercises to help you develop your practice and introduces an element of play into the inner work. He also taps into the important mystical streams of apophatic theology and the dark night of the soul, and offers an exploration of one of my favourite spiritual practices, lectio divina. Other practices offered here include pilgrimage, psychogeography, and pathworking, all of which are great ways of engaging with sacred space and time.” Yvonne Aburrow, author of All Acts of Love and Pleasure: Inclusive WiccaDark Mirror: The Inner Work of Witchcraft; and The Night Journey: Witchcraft as Transformation.

Chaos Monk is a book I’ve been looking for for quite some time as it helps fill an often neglected area in the Chaos Magick approach—Mysticism! Steve Dee has an in-depth look at what a modern day monastic approach to Chaos Magick might look like. He draws from the past and other approaches but ultimately supplies the reader with some practical and useful ways of actually going out and doing it in a modern world setting. His thoughts on Chaos Mysticism, and his approach, ideas, and insights really resonated with me. I can only imagine that there will be a large number of people in the Chaos Magic community who will be well served by this book.” Tommie Kelly, Irish artist. musician, and writer, best known for his oracle deck The Forty Servants.

An Invitation
This is a call to come to the Quiet,
Those spacious places of the deep self.
This is a desert place found by the few
And others may laugh and call your journey madness.
Darkness is here
And only the brave can see that it holds the most brilliant of lights
Come, come my friends,
Come sit with those who are seeking the other side of silence.

Mystery at the Roots

In my last post I spent some time thinking about the concept of World Trees as cosmological maps. These maps are vital to the evolution of our theologies and also the mechanisms via which we see personal transformation happening. Whether we view such change as “magick”, initiation or psychological change, the maps provided by these mythic trees often highlight those key components that allow the shifts to be both balanced and sustainable.

Living in North Devon (in South West England, close to both moorland and rugged Atlantic coastlines), it’s hard to escape the impact that the winds of winter have on trees. With many stripped of leaves and being forced to bend in the face of sharp winds, they rely on flexible trunks and deep roots in order to survive. This combination of being flexible while retaining depth seems to hold wisdom for those of us feeling buffeted by gusts that we feel we have little control over.

To find our roots means to journey into the dark and the soil from which we sprang. When I seek to help families and individuals understand their current behaviours in therapy, it is inevitable that we have to adopt some archaeological moves in uncovering past role models, patterns and stories. When we dig down into these places that often feel lost and poorly understood, so the shape and speed of our growth can be understood more fully.

These roots are often unseen (or unconscious) and their depth and critical role is easy to underestimate. Anyone who has ever tried to uproot or move a tree will know of what I speak! Approaches that focus on present tense problem-solving and changing day-to-day cognition are of great value, but even these have to attend to those deeper roots in order to address more longstanding issues.

This journey of descending, searching and then ascending is hardly new and the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries bear witness to the human need to contend with the dark, the animal and the chthonic in order to provide a more mature blossoming of any initiatory work. This motif of descent became crucial to Jung’s depth psychology, the grand mythic arcs of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” and in turn the scripts of the first Star Wars trilogy. In order for our transformational work to be both rich and sustainable, we need to be drawing on nutrients that only darkness and decomposition can produce. The alchemical stage of nigredo and Jung’s concept of the shadow provide us with insights into this realm; as much as we might aspire to transcendence and states of eternal permanence, we must ground our endeavours in the reality of death, the body and our struggle with uncertainty.

dark1

Confronting the darkness

In the face of such stark challenges it can be easy to seek false refuge in either metaphysical projections or our technology-driven attempts to control and escape from discomfort. Both of these approaches are fully understandable, but often prove to be fragile and disappointing in the face of life’s brutality. In having previously considered the example of Odin on the World Tree Yggdrasil, we can see the something of the cost involved in seeking those mysteries (Runes) that seek to capture the wholeness of human experience. Whether we see his gaining of gnosis as being of triumph (“I took up the Runes roaring”) or terrifying revelation (“I took them up screaming”) it is clear that these insights came via ordeal and struggle and that such travail was lengthy.

With the degree of hyper-acceleration that seems so endemic within Western culture, it can be hard to hear that something is going to take both time and significant effort. I’m sure I’m as guilty as anyone in wanting things faster and wanting them now, but when we journey to the roots we can begin to appreciate a slower approach. For me it feels that this more gradual, organic form of emergence takes us beyond the realms of spiritual consumerism and seems to allow what James Hillman describes as the “soul making”.

My own attempts to slow things down and locate deeper roots have recently been via a reconnection to the path of Druidry. When I started exploring the path of magic over twenty years ago it was to Druidry that I was initially drawn. Perhaps because of the apparent gentleness of its style, and the way in which it allowed the Christian and Pagan to converse with each other, it provided me with a less jarring route into occult practice. Alongside my more daring adventures in Chaos magic and Tantra, I have had this slow burn affection for a path that seeks to hold together creativity, magic and wisdom (bard, ovate and druid).

Of the little we know about the druids from early sources (interested readers may like to check out the excellent The Druids by Ronald Hutton), it seems likely that it took at least twenty years to complete one’s training. For me this is good news as I’m just about on schedule! If all this was about was some obsessive attempt at Celtic reconstructionism I’m sure it would have taken far less time, but my hunch is that my deeper relationship with the druid tradition has been about the discovery of what my own expression of Wisdom and Soul should look like in the world around me. The roots of this work are deep because they are as much about my creativity, my social work and my relationships as they are about some well-choreographed wand waggling.

SD