Now That's What I Call Chaos Magick by Greg Humphries & Julian Vayne

Free your mind - and your spells will follow

If this sounds like a spoof, that's understandable: while the authors are serious and dedicated practitioners, they have the key occult insight that when humour is lacking, all magic fails, and they take a decidedly light-handed (or, in their terminology, "empty-handed") approach to what can too often be a dreary, sanctimonious affair. The "chaos magick" of the title emerged in the late 1980s, when, like practically everything else, occultism was infected with the post-modernism bug. Jettisoning the cumbersome apparatus of traditional practice, and blending as many styles and belief systems as desired, chaos magick is about using your imagination and whatever is at hand in order to "engage with mystery".

Devotees can find its origin in the work of the 19th-century French ex-Socialist-turned-Kabbalist Eliphas Levi, who boiled down the real machinery of magic to the will and imagination. Where earlier mages fixated on a neurotic obsession with the minutiae of demonic names and the exact times to invoke them, Levi argued that all this was merely a means of focusing the magician's own powers. Chaos magicians took Levi's lead and ran with it: they're more concerned with exploring their own creativity than with getting it right, and would rather invent their own spirits than lose sleep worrying about the appropriate one to petition. This book is a collection of rituals, accounts and reflections on how magick can invest any humdrum life with some new perspectives and, above all, fun.

Although clearly not for everyone, unlike many books on the subject, this one's readable and the authors have a knack for the catchy phrase. "Love," they tell us, "is as ubiquitous as the curvature of space." In one account of a ritual invoking the aforementioned Kali, the participants call out "Hear us oh pork chop champion of the oppressed." There's also a personal tone that's appealing. These magicians come across as very likeable chaps who are as concerned with having a family and a nice home as they are with exploring the profundities of existence. Does it work? Well, as any chaos magician would answer "There's only one way to find out."

Gary Lachman's most recent book is 'The Dedalus Occult Reader: The Garden of Hermetic Dreams' (Dedalus)

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