Llewellyn has just published its first, to the best of my knowledge, book on chaos magic: Hands on Chaos Magic by Key 23 contributor Andrieh Vitimus. He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for me.
There are many introductory books on chaos magic available, and a wealth of information available freely online. What sets Hands on Chaos Magic aside from the pack, and why should someone buy it rather than just download Peter Carroll’s Liber KKK and Liber MMM for free?
As you know, Liber MMM is the introductory work originally required to enter the Illuminates of Thanteros. Liber MMM expects the candidate to research and fill-in the blanks of the Liber MMM and do additional research. Hands On Chaos Magic tries to give people exercises to really fill in the beginning blanks and help practitioners truly understand the basis of magical training by having done them. Hands On Chaos Magic extends Liber MMM into different styles of energy work, greater breath training, focus, multitudes of sensory imagination games, and a host of additional training exercises. Hands On Chaos Magic was produced and focused on what not only worked for me, but what was the most effective way to explain these concepts to other people. Hands On Chaos Magic was put together by design in the way that educators recommend teachers should teach classes to help the students learn the most effectively.
Liber KKK is more like training guidepost that expects the practitioners to develop or research their own techniques to prove results in the physical. At each stage of Liber KKK, you have to prove that you can master that phase by the results you have obtained. No instruction is given toward how to do this. Liber KKK and Hands On Chaos Magic are mutually supportive endeavors. Hands On Chaos Magic is my work toward finding techniques to complete the guideposts of Liber KKK. While Liber KKK gives you the guideposts, Hands On Chaos Magic actually provides the framework and some techniques through experiential knowledge to eventually complete the Liber KKK steps.
I can not speak about the mutlitude of books since envitably there will be a comparison to a book I have not read. Such a comparison would not be fair to the author of those books. Hands On Chaos Magic is my opinion on the process of developing magical skills in line with my understanding of education theory coupled with my understanding of cognitive science. One example of this: much occult literature says to visualize. NLP and cognitive science tells that only 60% of people are visualually orientated. In practice, this idea means that 40% of the people who work with occult materials would have trouble relating to and doing the excercies ( even if they are purely psychological).
This line in the promotional copy caught my eye: “Learn to test and verify your results.” As a skeptic, I find this very interesting. Can you give us an example of verification?
Verifying your results is easy. Did your intention happen in one fashion or another? Did you gain or see results in the physical world that were in line with what you were trying to do? I used to be agnostic, but I have gotten tremendous results through the philosophies and techniques of magic. In some cases, there are shared experiences, which allow a person to make some conclusions. Sure those could be mutual hallucinations, but if mutual hallucination works toward a happier and better life, it was worth believing in. If you do certain set of procedures, and there is a certain result that occurs in the physical world, why not keep doing it? Of course, the explanation as to why the results occur is left to the observer of the results and this can range from the mystical to merely changing your perspective psychologically. The explanation is really a good story either way.
How do you protect against confirmation bias and false positives (or do you at all)?
In most cases, a false positive would mean from a psychological standpoint you had successful done the magic. In most cases, this would be sufficient to qualify as “results”. However, if you are specifically trying to prove magic ( in the belief system that uses the dichotomy between the internal and external world), it is often repetitions of small effects that are more convincing evidence for magic. There is no way to prove magic in this sense, but we can get evidence. If someone trains with magic for a some time, this exercise will make sense. Flip a coin 1000 times and at each coin toss, try to manipulate through whatever magical means you choose, the result. The experimenter should be proficient at the technique they are trying, and they should have confidence in the technique. Likewise, they should have confidence that magic works. Record each coin toss. If the overall pattern of results is greater then one standard deviation from the mean (either direction), repeat the exercise with a new coin. If both results are one standard deviation from the mean or more in the same direction, this is a pretty good signal that something is happening. Either the subconscious mind is interfering with your magic in some way ( but is still good evidence that something is going on), or that person was able to influence the outcome. Likewise, if other people watch the experiment, this would bias the outcome ( since they have expectations that could influence the outcome as well). Its relatively impossible to prove magick per se, but its possible to get evidence of this sort.
Do you think magic will ever be understandable scientifically?
In EKSTASIS 2007, the Illuminates of Thanateros ran a publically attendable set of seminars. Between my seminar, and a few others, there was an over-riding theme. The word magic is a problem. Arguably, scientifically is also a problematic word. Originally, my book was titled Reality Engineering Through the Ovayki Current. Many of us presented ideas that basically came to the conclusion that we should kill the word magic. There are several reasons since it has 3000 years+ of baggage where the word itself is relatively meaningless. Are we talking about stage magic, earth ceremonies or reality engineering? Are we talking about Satanism? Certainly the general American populace might believe that magic is satanic, but this is not what I do.
Lets assume that the corpse of magic lies rotting before us.
Once the techniques of magic are taken out of the corpus of magic, there is a remarkable history of what was magic being shown to be quite effective and scientifically valid. Hypnosis is generally statistically thought to have provable effects (and the data is becoming more convincing every day). Meditation has provable health benefits and mental benefits toward what the ancients predicted. Yoga, Chi work and disciplined body alchemy do have the benefits that they are subscribed to (see studies in China). Creative visualization does have positive life effects and can help a person obtain their goals. The list of techniques that was once magic currently being studied scientifically is extensive. Even using Frankincense has been shown to have a physiological effect that aids meditation or produces a neurobiological effect similar to a light meditative trance. Science in some ways is its own religion with its own set of beliefs and its own set of biases. Spirits could well be entities that exist in alternate dimensions (since some current models of physics say space has more then 3 dimensions). Even non-linear odd effects do happen on the quantum level and the observer does seem to have impacts on reality at that level.
The scientific model is very effective within the scientific world. Perhaps, Peter Carroll and Stephan Mace are basically correct that science is magic. Certainly, science attempts to label and construct the world as magicians do. Do I think magic will be proven scientifically? Probably not. There are too many romantic and identification issues that people cling to for magic to be “scientifically valid”. To be a magician, is to be mysterious. As soon as a technique is valid scientifically, the magicians will often move the threshold of magic to a different level. Do I think that many of the techniques and procedures of what we currently consider magic will be shown to be scientifically valid? Yes I do.
Can advanced practitioners learn anything from your book, or is it specifically aimed at the beginner?
There is a tremendous amount for the advanced practitioner. Hands On Chaos Magic uses very little theory to explain a lot of advanced topics. Hands On Chaos Magic asks the reader to try things and derive their own theory. At first, people are practicing very simple techniques and encouraged to develop their own techniques. Many of these techniques are much like Lego blocks. Methods are then worked through showing ways that the techniques can be combined and recombined into more advance work such as evocations and invocations. From here, higher-level combinations occur. When Llewellyn first got the book, they read till about page 200 and realized this really is an advanced book on magic. Every technique builds on the previous techniques. After the foundational Lego blocks are present, the adventurer who reads my book can have bigger sets of tools to build more impressive magic.
The simple, non-jargon based approach to magical development and the Lego like structure of Hands On Chaos Magic is part of the design philosophy of the book. The book starts with learning to relax, progresses through sigils, evocation and invocations, works on astral magic and then to rewriting your life in every way by following the same idea of combining techniques into greater and more complicated magical operations.
In the midst of a global economic melt down, growing food and water shortages, and numerous violent conflicts around the globe, what is the social role of magic today?
In one way, this goes back to the idea of what is magic doesn’t it? I certainly consider it a form of magic that created economic conditions where a few people can be extremely wealthy while it is difficult or impossible to get food in some countries. Certainly, it is within our capabilities and technology that food and water shortages could be wiped out. Why do we not help these people? Why have we been coerced into believing it’s not possible to do feed these people or even worse that we should be doing what we are doing? If magic is a way of controlling outcomes, certainly some rather large acts of magic have been carried out since we as a world choose not to invest in those places.
In practical matters, I have often used magic to survive with success when it most counted so I believe that it may for some people be the difference between survival and death. Effective results can mean the difference in these places between eating and starving.
In some of these same countries that have the most violent issues, ritual is a way of re-affirming life and the community. In countries where many people are starving, re-affirming the community and the bonds of community becomes an increasingly important survival tool. Certainly, while I was in Haiti, I could clearly understand that if people functioned with the level of disconnect to other people as they do in America, they could not survive. That does not mean that people do not do things to each other that are questionable. People do steal and hurt each other, but in general everyone seemed to know about what happened in a neighborhood. In America, our neighbors could die and we might not even know. Of course, getting the “energy” to flow in a ritual or changing the psychology of participants can have more distant important effects. Is one person, truly inspired, that fights against a corporation and causes others to stop a corporation from taxing the water doing magic after they have had the insight through ritual that they should? Is the scientist who meditates and studies a problem until the answer appears that helps millions with a new power source doing magic? Is the artist, who inspires people to give food, doing magic? If part of magic is inspiration and manifesting a better life, then certainly magic can help depending on how we define magic, but then I live in a magical world view.
What’s next for you?
Currently, I am working on a system of hypnosis and energy work called HypnoEnergerics that combines the best energy work modalities, with hypnosis, NLP and psychology. The goal is to create a powerful modality that works effectively, quickly, and permanently. Secondly, I am working on a children’s book of non-dogmatic magic with some illustrators. Third, I am working on a Makaya Vodou book with the Roots Without End Society. While I am writing, I will be working towards building a hypnosis practice as I am certified. I personally love teaching classes, so of course, I will hop around the country to teach. Readers can check out my webpage to get release dates for those projects at andriehvitimus.com