Chaos Dogma

What happens to a chaos magician when he dies? It's an interesting question, isn't it? Take a moment and think about it. Now does your answer apply to all chaos magicians? What about people who don't practice chaos magic?

One thing that draws people to chaos magic is its freedom. A chaos magician can draw freely from any tradition, use part or all of a magical system, invoke and evoke "fictional" entities and generally do whatever she feels like, according to her own personal system of ethics and style. Sure, it's not an easy path to follow - it requires great flexibility of mind on several levels, and in some cases years of work to reach the point where one can truly make meaningful adjustments to the "ego" - but I suspect that most chaos magicians will agree that it is worth the effort.

"Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted." It's a simple statement, attributed to Hassan i Sabbah in the Principia Discordia, but it forms the foundation of chaos magic. We are all free to think and believe what we choose, when we choose, because ultimately, none of it is any more true than anything else. That is the power and the glamour of chaos magic. Zeus is as real as Isis is as real as Snoopy.

What people seem to me to forget all too often, is the importance of the corollary to that famous statement, also attributed to Hassan i Sabbah and also quoted in the Principia Discordia: "Everything is True. Everything is Permitted." Why do I call this important? Because it reminds us that nothing is any less true than anything else either. Sure, it isn't True that Christ died on a cross to save our souls or that Odin slew Ymir and formed the world from his body. But on the other hand, it isn't any more True that at the foundation of reality is only swirling, indifferent chaos. You can believe it if you like, and many chaos magicians do I understand, but that doesn't make it True.

It's an easy conclusion to reach, though, I'll admit. After all, if nothing is True, then one could easily conclude that everything is not True. By extension, then, one might say that if everything is not True then everything, from "personality" to the "nature of reality," is ultimately no more than the void, because no attributes ascribed to any such thing are True. Hence, there can be no afterlife, soul, collective unconscious or what have you.

But the Void Theory isn't True either. Nothing is. Believing that personality, for example, has no intrinsic characteristics is no different than believing that it has one or eighteen. The belief is the same, only the quantity differs. How many chakras do you have? It is the same sort of question. The answer in either case is how many do you want? There are systems that will teach any number you like, if you try hard enough to find them. I know of a system that teaches that people have some fifteen or sixteen chakras, extending for several feet beyond the physical body. Now to me that's just too much, but its practitioners seem to like it.

But the personality question, to continue my example, could be taken a step further by one who says that there is no personality in the first place. In other words, it is not the problem that personality carries with it no innate characteristics, but that personality does not exist at all; a convenient fiction whose existence is postulated to explain human behavior, perhaps even going on to put forth any number of alternate hypotheses, such as that "behavior" is random or a biochemical quirk to explain actions we've just taken or some such. The details of the explanation are not so important as the contention that personality is not True. Of course personality is not True. Nothing is. But the idea that at the root of human actions is chaos or biochemistry (or whatever) is no more True than that such actions are based on personality. It's just another model, a way of ascribing causes and motivations to given actions.

When thinking along such lines, it might help to be reminded that "Nothing is True" must, to be meaningful, be extended to cover any kind of belief. Although our science-friendly society might try to convince us otherwise, this includes beliefs based on "objective" observation. The question of whether or not any kind of observation can be considered truly objective is an interesting one, but deserves an essay of its own, if not a whole book. Whether or not the observation is objective, there can still be some question as to what exactly was observed.

For example, suppose I have knocked a pencil off of my desk and observed that it fell down to the floor. I perceived its fall, but that does not mean that I observed the cause of its fall. If you were to ask me why it fell when I knocked it off of the desk (presuming we both agree that I knocked it off of my desk), my response would be, "gravity." After all, I was raised in modern America where of course everyone "knows" that gravity is "True." But does that make gravity True? No it does not, but I prefer to behave as though it is. It is a more pleasing image to me, aesthetically, than, say, tiny little demons constantly trying to pull me through the earth's crust. Sure, it's a silly concept, but it's no more nor less True than gravity. Although now that I think of it, the tiny-little-demons angle would make space shuttle launches much more interesting.

My point is that people seem to be using the statement that "Nothing is True" to infer a sort of "meta-model" that provides us with a reason why we can model the universe any way we choose. To infer such a "meta-model" means to apply logic to a concept that is inherently illogical, even circular if the second statement is included.

Consider again the two statements: "Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted," and "Everything is True. Everything is Permitted." There is no cause given in either statement. There is no explanation why "Nothing is True." This is part of the reason that the corollary is needed. "Nothing is True," including this, which when carried far enough means that "Everything is True," including its converse, which means that "Nothing is True," et cetera. One may pick and choose any reason one wants to explain the statement that "Nothing is True," but that reason isn't True either.

Dissect, define and explain it any way you like, but realize that any attempt to do so is applying a model to it, and hence is no more true than any other model. I could as easily say "Nothing is True because chaos is at the heart of all," as "Nothing is True because it's Wednesday," or "Nothing is True because Hassan i Sabbah says so." Each of those statements is equally True, which is to say not at all. But that doesn't mean I am not free to act as though they are, whether singly or collectively, for so long as I choose. After all, the value of a belief system is in its utility.

So what happens to a chaos magician when he dies? That depends - how many chakras does he have?


Four Winds Bar

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