Chaos Magic: Ritual through Video Games

Note: I wrote this essay on Chaos magic testing exactly four years ago this month and had it up on this blog for a while but then took it down. I’m posting it again in case it is of interest to anyone.

Chaos magic (I prefer this standard spelling to the oft-used ‘magick’) sometimes gets regarded as a kind of slacker magic — if so, then I stand as a slacker among slackers. But Chaos can act kindly to folks like me. I like rituals, but only when I can make them up. I also like some guidelines, but only where I can pick and choose what to keep and toss. For the most part, chaos magic smiles on non-rigidity, and sometimes vomits on it (depending on how much it’s had to drink), but the main goal consists of getting results.
A few weeks ago, I mulled over ways in which to do some free-form magic based on an activity that I enjoy and spend a lot of time on: video games. Specifically, the game Dark Souls, that already acts a sort of alternate life for me when I immerse myself in it. As it so happens, it has a Chaos covenant, with a devotional element to the Fair Lady, who is half-woman, half-spider. The covenant is most useful as the means to a helpful shortcut, and to save an NPC so that he can help with the final boss, but the member also can offer humanities to the Fair Lady to relieve her suffering and to get rank in the covenant.

At the time, I thought, since I’m already doing this for several hours a week, why not do it as a magic act and make the taking of humanities and subsequent offering a ritual act with a clear goal? Then I thought about what goals to aim for as tests. I wanted something simple and non-life changing, but that also would be an obvious success if it happened. On a Sunday night, I decided on two possible scenarios: Someone at my job would say something unusually nice to me, or the UPS driver who brought our packages would be a substitute driver whom I’d never seen before (mostly because I didn’t like our regular driver, and the substitutes were always the same three or four people). Neither of these scenarios were things over which I could control the outcome, nor would really matter to me, so they seemed like simple tests to try out this form of magic.
I never actually did the gaming ritual, I just made the plan to do so in my head.

The next day at work, my boss was walking through, stopped, and said, ‘You’re probably going to think that this is a really odd thing for me to say to you, but you look especially good today.’ Now, I get along very well with my boss and he’s a lot more cheerful and friendly than I am, but neither he, nor anyone else that I’ve ever worked with, has said that to me, and it was a very unusual thing. I kind of laughed it off, but I thought about the ritual that I had planned. Soon after, the UPS truck drove up. Not our regular loud-mouthed driver, but someone completely new that I’d never seen before. But again, I never actually did the ritual.

That night, I thought about what had happened and wanted to make another plan for a future ritual. Since both of the former outcomes were pleasant things for me, one positive and one kind of neutral, I wondered if it would be good to try something that would be more negative. To have someone criticize me unfairly, for instance. This was a pretty vague plan, and I didn’t think about it too much, or even want to do so. I certainly didn’t have a great desire to be criticized.

Two days later, I went to a department store to return an item and unintentionally “jumped” someone in line, for which I received a furtive criticism. Criticism passive-aggressive and sort of unfair (at least from my viewpoint). Yay! More chaos magic success (urgh).

So how could I get success from rituals that I never even carried out? Partly, I think it has to do with the nature of Chaos magic. From what I’ve read of others’ experiences and from my own haphazard experiments, it can work that way. The important element seemed to be making a clear plan and having clear goals, so the results came with little to no further effort on my part. They were all things that were out of my conscious control and normally don’t happen but all had good probability of happening under the right circumstances (good probability is always an important component of successful magic). Giving it some thought since then, I also have wondered if it was a magic result at all; perhaps it was a case of divination, and I simply was plugging into events that already would happen. Or maybe a combination of the two, resulting in a perfect marriage of precognition and magical results. Maybe all the time that I already had spent on the working part of the ritual (gathering humanities and offering them through regular game play) had fulfilled the workings as I plotted them (kind of like long devotion to a god paying off when you finally make a request of that god). Or maybe they were just big coincidences — but coincidences, if they even exist, have their own peculiar sort of magical vibe.

[8.20.17, edited for length]

The Dark Beauty of Bach



This is the first in what I plan as occasional posts of music that I find related to the Dark or Dark-Light current. I don’t think that anyone plugs into that current the way that Johann Sebastian Bach does in many of his works, and most particularly in this one, the Passacaglia from the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582. Mysterious, sublime, terrifying, unrelenting and cathartic, it captures, to my mind, most perfectly Jacob Boehme’s Ungrund concept. It can pluck you up and hurtle you deep within the darkest cosmos and spit you out to bask in the searing fire of illumination. Maybe it only affects me that way. But – it has to be performed well, as in this recording by Michael Murray. I have a recording of the work by another, very accomplished organist, and that performance leaves me very cold; while it may be technically perfect, it does nothing for me on an inner level.

The person who uploaded this YouTube video has put up the complete Michael Murray recording, which includes some other works; I tried to set it up here so that it would begin at the Passacaglia, but if it starts at the beginning for you, as is likely, then click forward to exactly the 20:00 minute mark, which is where the Passacaglia begins. I may replace this with my own video of just the Passacaglia at some point, if I get around to making one.

Ligotti on the Horror of Light and Darkness



Just a little doubt slipped into the mind, a little trickle of suspicion in the bloodstream, and all those eyes of ours, one by one, open up to the world and see its horror. Then: no belief or body of laws will guard you; no friend, no counselor, no appointed personage will save you; no locked door will protect you; no private office will hide you. Not even the solar brilliance of a summer day will harbor you from horror. For horror eats the light and digests it into darkness.

–Thomas Ligotti. “Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror,” from Songs of a Dead Dreamer. Subterranean Press, 2010 (orig. pub. 1986).

Utter Transcendence

One of the dominant themes in Boehme’s writings is the utter transcendence of God: His existence outside time and space, inaccessible to all human thought, ineffable by any human tongue.

What then is left which we can conceive of? Nothing is left, a nothing which Boehme calls the Ungrund, often translated into English by the word Abyss, a depth which has no end, a bottomless empty nothingness. …

This Ungrund can only be imagined and is the primal image of the unknowable entity who in traditional wisdom is not to be given a name but can only be announced as ‘I AM’.

Jacob Boehme (Western Esoteric Masters Series), edited and introduced by Robin Waterfield, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2001. pp. 26-27.


“For out of nature is God a Mysterium,  i.e. the Nothing; for from out of nature is the Nothing, which is an eye of eternity, a groundless eye, which stands nowhere nor sees, for it is the Ungrund and the selfsame eye is a will,  i.e. a longing for manifestation, to discern the Nothing”.  The Ungrund thus is the Nothing, the groundless eye of eternity, yet together with this it is will, without foundation, unfathomable and indeterminate will. But this — is a Nothing, which is … “an hunger to be something”. And together with this the Ungrund is freedom. Within the darkness of the Ungrund there is ablaze a fire and this is freedom, a freedom meonic with potential. According to Boehme, freedom is contrary to nature, but nature has issued forth from freedom. Freedom is a semblance of the Nothing, but from it issues something. The hunger of freedom, of the groundless will to something has to be satisfied: … “The Nothing loves to make itself manifest from out of freedom in the deathly darkness, for then the Nothing wills not to be the Nothing, and cannot be the Nothing” The freedom of the Ungrund is neither light, nor darkness, neither good, nor evil. Freedom lies within the darkness and thirsts for the light. And freedom is the cause of light. … “Freedom exists and is set within the darkness, and over against the dark desire is still yet the desire for light, it seizes the darkness with the eternal will; and the darkness aspires after the light of freedom and cannot attain it, for then it passes with desire over into itself, and attains in itself but to the darkness”.  … In the darkness there is kindled a fire and a glimmer of light, the Nothing comes to be something, the groundless freedom gives rise to nature.

Nikolai Berdyaev, Studies Concerning Jacob Boehme, 1930. ©  2002 by translator Fr. S. Janos. [original German text deleted from this quoted passage]