Skip to main content

Chaos Magick

Chaos Magick

Chaos Magick developed in England in the 1960s as a new form of magical practice that at the time was dominated by the thelemic system as articulated by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Chaos magicians look to Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) and his critique of traditional ritual magic as the forerunner of chaos magick and to Ray Shermin as the actual originator of chaos magical theory. Spare, an associate of Crowley, broke with the Order Templi Orientis that Crowley headed and developed a simple form of magical practice that, in his understanding, jettisoned much of the superfluous activity of ceremonial magic that prevented the practitioner from discovering his/her own power. Spare developed a very simple form of magic based upon the use of sigils.

Chaos magick is based on the understanding that order is a concept imposed upon the universe. Systems of order, be they religion or science, are attempts to control and subdue, and must find ways to dismiss what is not controllable or under-stood. Chaos magicians, drawing upon Eastern philosophical notions, posit the idea that the universe is one vast everchanging whole transcending all categories and concepts. It can be intuited but not defined. Chaos is seen, not as the disorder that is opposed to order, but as the Order beyond under-standing. As such, chaos is identical with the Hindu Brahman and the Taoist Way. Chaos theory also agrees with the belief articulated in the Upanishads that Atman, the inner essence of the individual, is identical with Brahman, and that enlightenment derives from the direct experience/knowledge of the truth of that identification.

Chaos magicians do not believe in gods or demons who have objective existence and consider the source of magical power to be found within the subconscious of the practitioner. Thus, basic exercises for the chaos magician attempt to place the magician in touch with his/her inner self rather than any outside power or entity. Ritual is used, but is considered drama that arouses the subconscious to a fever pitch prior to the discharge of the power. Ritual should be designed by the magician using images that are most provocative. Such images are rarely found in traditional mythology; rather they are more likely to come from popular culture.

Chaos magicians began to associate informally in the 1960s in what was described as the "Circle of Chaos." A more formal organization, the Initiates of Thanateros (IOT), was created in 1977. Early experiments in rituals were produced by Ray Sherwin, and published as the Book of Results and the Theatre of Magick. These were followed in the later 1980s by the more popular work of Peter J. Carroll whose Liber Null contains the rituals of the IOT. Carroll also put together a training manual covering the theory and practice of chaos magick, Psychonaut. The IOT may be contacted at BM Sorcery, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom. Its webpage is at


Carroll, Peter J. Liber Null & Psychonaut. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1987.

Savage, Adrian. An Introduction to Chaos Magick. New York: Magickal Childe, 1988.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chaos Magick." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . 20 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Chaos Magick." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . (January 20, 2019).

"Chaos Magick." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.