I don’t recall exactly what he said; I just remember that it was awful. Like, think of the worst thing you can imagine, and then picture the worst thing punching a kitten. Whatever it was, it was horrifying enough to make a Facebook group full of Discordians — a tribe that historically delights in the inappropriate — draw up and be like, “What is WRONG with you?!”
“Nothing’s wrong with me,” he replied. “I’m just being chaotic.”
Within Discordianism, we have to accept that everyone’s take on the religion is going to be different: My disco is mine, your disco is yours, and the two do not have to overlap or complement one another. Some, like the guy above, view Discordianism as nothing but spreading disorder, which is awesome. Seriously, more power to them. Misconceptions set in, though, when “chaos” gets used interchangeably with words like “mayhem” or “entropy,” because, from a magical perspective, it is neither of those things. Chaos is something else entirely. In fact, it is everything else entirely.
According to the Principia Discordia, which borrowed liberally from the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, “Chaos is the nothingness out of which the first objects of existence appeared.” The first objects, sayeth Hesiod, were Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (Underworld), Eros (Desire), Nyx (Night), and Erebus (Darkness), and all of these entities went on to spawn great powers and descendants of their own. However, Nyx and Erebus became the parents of Eris, so as Discordians, we definitely owe them gratitude and a muffin basket.
[Liber] Null and [the] Void
Pioneering chaos magician Peter J. Carroll elaborated on this concept in Liber Null & Psychonaut, defining Chaos as “the ‘thing’ responsible for the origin and continued action of events.” Carroll goes on to say, “It is the force that has caused life to evolve itself out of dust, and is currently most concentratedly manifest in the human life force, or Kia, where it is the source of consciousness.”
So that, in a nutshell, is Chaos: It’s the primordial void out of which everything sprang, and it remains the momentum behind all action. Et voila.
Great! Now we know what Chaos is. So… what do we do with that?
We make things happen.
Carroll theorized that between Chaos and the physical world, and between Kia and conscious thought, there is a sort of non-substance called Aether, which is basically all of the possibilities that Chaos has generated, but which have not yet (and may or may not ever) become reality. By working within this paradigm, focusing our thoughts on statements of intent, and manipulating matter in certain ways — say, lighting candles, burning incense, drawing sigils, etc. — we can steer bits of Aether into “solidifying” (for lack of a better way of saying it), which can result in controlled coincidences and successful spellwork.
And that, pumpkins, is Chaos Magic. Granted, there’s a lot more to it to talk about, and there are a ton of techniques and philosophies to explore along with it, but yeah, this is the “what’s going on” behind the “how” and the “why.” From a Discordian standpoint, we’re using the resources at our disposal to manifest creative order.
Aaaaand we’re back to etymology.
I think a lot of people hear the term “Chaos Magic” and assume it’s something inherently dark and/or faux-edgy, but in this case, “chaos” is an adjective that means “action-based.” Just as Chaos itself is the force behind activity, Chaos Magic places an emphasis on actively doing things to achieve verifiable results.
All that said, I do comprehend that “chaotic” is going to mean… well, chaotic, no matter how much I kind of wish it didn’t. That guy from the Facebook group was not wrong in how he used the word, even if I, personally, don’t click with his disco. But for those of us who are witches, magicians, sorcerers, cunningfolk, tasseomancers, or what have you, it’s important that we fully understand the words we use to describe our practices, so that we can direct our wills as accurately as possible to get the results we want. And if all we want is to freak out a bunch of Discordians, that’s fine, too — let’s just make sure that the intent is clear to both ourselves and our target audience.