on September 15, 2004
You may have noted that all the other reviews of "Condensed Chaos" (at least as of this date) are by practitioners of magick, so their concern is whether the this book helps them advance the state of their art. If you are a non-practitioner, as I am, you might wonder what this book is about and whether these folks are really serious about this magick stuff or whether they are putting you on. Well, here's my take on "Condensed Chaos," from a non-practitioner's point of view.
In brief, if you took a ballpoint pen and crossed out the word "magick" on every page of the book, you would have terse but comprehensive outline about what you need to do to assert your will in world. The secret is to maintain a clear intention of what you want; when this is absolutely clear, all of your actions naturally work towards your ends. However, maintaining a clear intention is easier said than done, since your brain, which was originally designed to help you climb down from the trees and throw rocks at small mammals, is not so good at dealing with life off the savannah. Much of the book is about the necessity to discipline your mind so that you can achieve this clarity of intention (plus some techniques for doing this). There are also techniques for tricking your mind, so that it lets you do what you want without it getting in the way.
I was surprised to find myself thinking, "Yes, this all makes sense" for most of the things he talked about. For example, he describes creating a sigil (a magical symbol) or a mantra derived from statement of purpose and then focusing on the sigil or mantra rather than the statment of purpose. My take on this is that the sigil is form of subliminal suggestion. Many times when you try to push yourself into doing something, your brain pushes back. By focusing your brain's border patrol on a sigil, however, you can subconsciously evoke a suggestion, sneaking it in through the back door.
So, where's all the spooky stuff? He doesn't spend much time talking about this, although he has one interesting story about a friend and him talking to a shadowy figure on his stairway, then just walking away from it when it couldn't give a convincing account of why it was there. I had the impression that it was not really important whether you achieved your ends through normal or paranormal channels. So, even if you don't buy into occult stuff, you could still make use of what he has to say.
What makes "chaos magick" different from other magical traditions is that it embraces all traditions---a kind of Unitarianism of the occult world. It also does not take itself too seriously; humor is an important component of its practice. For example, the magical servitor that helps you get through traffic is visualized as a cat on a skateboard. There is some tie-in with chaos theory, with he notion that brain activity turns into macroscopic effects in the world (the "butterfly effect," doncha know), but I get the impression that most of the stuff it embraces (fractals, quantum theory, etc.) is more important for its metaphorical impact than for any purported theoretical grounding.
on January 25, 2004
Condensed Chaos opens by describing magic as being about change, not merely the "Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will" Crowley spoke of, but a more refined version, describing it more in terms of liberation, saying "Through magic we may come to explore the possibilities of freedom" (pg. 11). Then moves into a brief history of chaos magick, from A. O. Spare to Crowley to Carroll to Eris and Discordianism, laying the groundwork for chaos magick as we've come to know it and how it got that way.
Six "Core Principles of Chaos Magic" are outlined, the first being "Avoidance of Dogmatism'" while somewhat ironic in a list of "core principles" is a common ideal, and indeed few chaotes would contest these points. The fourth principle especially, "Diverse Approaches", is another reoccurring theme in chaos magick. As Hine sagely notes: "If you use only one magical model, sooner or later the Universe will present you with something that won't fit your parameters." (pg. 25) Though he also recognizes that "Chaos Magick not about discarding all rules and restraints, but the process of discovering the most effective guidelines and disciplines which enable you to effect change in the world." (pg. 26)
While liberation and freedom are possible, it does not come without possible consequence, as described in the section on dangers and pitfalls. Hine covers many of the possible hazards of magickal practice, detailing what to look out for and what to avoid, adequately preparing the would-be practitioner as much as possible, or at the very least, letting hir know what might be expected, and how to recognize signs of idiocy. Sensibly, he does this before getting into discussion of techniques, and even advises taking breaks as needed.
Hine uses numerous cute acronyms, such as 'C.H.A.O.S.', 'D.R.A.T.', 'S.P.L.I.F.F.', 'A. P.I.E.', etc. to abbreviate formulae and concepts, effectively making them easy to remember.
Instructions are given for servitor creation, programming, launching via various methods as well as practical examples for servitors successfully launched in various workshops and lectures. It contains relatively few straight rituals, mostly suggestions and comments, taking information approach rather than an instruction manual which force feeds information. Hine stresses flexibility without seeming wishy-washy, or being overly ridged, effectively maintaining that fine balance between the two extremes.
One thing that did annoy me was the over-emphasis given on how one appears to others. Adapting yourself to suit others to give in to what they want to see in the hopes that they will perceive greatness in you, while the method may work, why anyone would want to do such a thing in the first place? Pleasing the outside world to please yourself doesn't sit well with me, perhaps it's the years of reading Objectivist literature or hanging out with Satanists, but it did made something in me twinge. Fortunately, it's not a dominating feature in the book, and does stress self-evaluation and trying to maintain an honest view of oneself.
This is definitely a 'should-have' introductory text covering a wide variety of topics from the practical aspects of magick: dream recall, sigil, servitors, etc., to the more esoteric theories and suggestions as to why things work the way they do - and why not. An excellent introduction to chaos magick, and magick in general.
I'm sorry to say, I expected much more from this book.
As another reviewer already mentioned, Condensed Chaos is actually a re-print of a previous, and in my opinion, far better work by the same author called, "Oven-Ready Chaos." I guess by "condensed" he meant to say, additional comments inserted and added on to a pre-existing work.
The confusing aspect comes from the differences in demeanor the author displays in combining the two works. In Oven-Ready Chaos, his writing style is cohesive, comical, and entertaining. Light-heartedly poking fun at "established" forms of magical practice and dogma. In short, it's a great read.
In Condensed Chaos, the book is jovial one moment, and harshly critical the next. It starts out with a wonderful introduction to Chaos Magic and how "Nothing is true. Everything is Permitted." And suddenly changes tone, for instance, when dictating how to create and launch a servitor in very specific, "this is how it's done," terms.
Still, there are aspects I really enjoy in this book. The summoning of GOFLOWOLFOG, the spirit of smooth travel and overcoming traffic jams is a hilarious and useful example of Chaos Magic in practical application. Unfortunately, this is the exception and not the rule when it comes to Condensed Chaos.
Most of it seems to be spent on a method of addressing personal behavioral or emotional problems by labelling them as "demons," and then dealing with them in a variety of ways, as seperate entities within the whole of one's psyche.
I'm sure some people would find this approach helpful. However, when the author sites as one example, a situation in which he exorcises a personal anger demon associated with a fellow co-worker, by calmly, directly, and quite seriously threatening them with bodily harm, I can't help but wonder what happened to that jovial fellow who first wrote Oven-Ready Chaos.
And while he seems to take great pleasure in bashing "New Age" philosophy, which is fine by me, it seems as if he might actually gain some benefit from attending some fluffy little class on communing with dolphins or whatever. After all, as the author repeatedly states, any Chaos Magician worth his salt should be able to adopt and find value in any point of view. Seems to me he could use a little quality time with his Inner Unicorn...
on April 19, 2000
The one-stop introduction to chaos magick and magick in general. Clear, pragmatic, and highly imaginative, even experienced magicians will find a wealth of useful information in this amazing tome. Learn the finer points of successful invocation (whether you use the gods of mythology or your favorite sci-fi characters), viral servitor creation (imagine an army of Pokemon figurines at your command), ego magick, demonology, and much more. William S. Burroughs liked it, and you will too (unless perhaps you still think magick is all about wearing robes and swinging swords around, like Dungeons&Dragons for middle-aged men). If you are only going to buy one book on the subject this year, make it this one. Even Wiccans and New-agers might be able to get past the first page...
on November 20, 2014
Everyone interested in magick will get something out of this book, but I think it will appeal to some more than others. My one major caveat is that the typesetting, proofreading (or lack thereof) and editing in this book could be better. There are spelling and grammar errors, not tons, but enough to be noticeable and make me wonder "Where was the editor/proofreader for this?!" But if you can ignore that, this is a really useful book.
Some of us agnostics left organized religion not because we had a great, huge falling out or personal schism with it, but only because it became less meaningful over time or did not provide much spiritual support or just didn't jive with our personalities or intellect. This was true of me. I turned towards paganism/wicca in my 20s not out of rebellion or in search of a "new religion," but more because "religion" had never much worked for me spiritually. I thought a spiritual tradition based in nature and the rhythms of the seasons would suit a nature lover like me.
So I bought a lot of books on the general subject of magick/Wicca, as well as grimoires/books of shadows. But much of the rules, rituals, ingredients, equipment, and timings (sabbats, solstices, equinoxes, full/new/dark moons) which are at the very least expected (and often strictly required) were daunting, difficult, impractical, expensive or unavailable, or required waiting and precise timing.
It seemed like every book I bought pushed beginners to spend as much time as possible practicing magick, and to preferably find and join a coven--as if every reader's ultimate goal was to become a high priest(ess). The implication was that you had to be 'serious enough' about magick (because it's "dangerous") to devote lots of time to studying it -- and if you didn't, then not only is magick not for you, you're also kind of irresponsible.
But that's not how I've ever been about any religion or spiritual tradition. Why should magick be any different? Yes, there are naturally adept spiritual leaders for whom it is a calling. Their long training and great devotion helps laypeople in need and distress. But you don't need one of them just to pray for yourself or someone you care about. So why do I need to train seriously for years and join a coven just to occasionally do a spell or two which may or may not work, but will make me feel better for having done it?
I couldn't seem to find books aimed at curious newcomers where casual/occasional, solitary practice wasn't looked down upon. It was all surprisingly (and disappointingly) dogmatic (and kind of elitist). wtf? That a spiritual tradition which arose from nature turned out to be nearly as ritualistic and inflexible as the organized religions that tried to stamp it out, was more than disappointing, it was disheartening.
Then I found this book (and a couple of others).
This is not a book of shadows/grimoire. It is not a "how to" book. It is a book to change how you *think* about magick. It's about the philosophy behind chaos magick. It is basically a general intro, but it's also anecdotal. So while some spells are mentioned in passing as examples, you should not expect this to be a reference for spells. Some topics are advanced.
The reviewer who mentions the inconsistencies in this book is correct: there is some inconsistency ("there are no rules" vs. "you must do it this way"). For the most part, it seems that when speaking about magick in general the author believes there are (or there should be) no rules. But for certain specific actions (like servitors), the author strongly believes certain rules should be observed and such magicks should be worked carefully.
This seemed cautionary rather than patronizing. The author's point seemed to be that tapping into some of the stronger powers has consequences because the flow of energy is not merely one way, it's two way -- for what you receive, you may also have to give something. Plus there is always a chance something you *didn't* ask for may tag along with what you *did* ask for.
No, The Wiccan rede ("an' it harm none, do what ye will") and the three-fold law are not espoused in this book. The author seems less concerned with rules than with laws -- like, laws of physics. Framed more or less in those terms (which pleases the scientific side of me), the gist is that for every magickal action, there is an equal and opposite reaction... so you need to be prepared for that.
Another aspect of this book that is a little inconsistent is: some of it (the more general discussion) seems aimed at the very novice practitioner, but other parts of it (more specific topics) discuss quite advanced magick. Some of the advanced stuff was over my head. It's there if I ever need it, but I don't see myself going that far.
What I liked about this book was the DIY, non-elitist, and therefore empowering approach -- especially for the solitary or casual practitioner. The general message is, if you want to do magick, do it: use whatever you like and say whatever you like. Just make sure what you say and use are meaningful to *you*, and do it with clear/specific *intention*. Don't worry about getting it 100% right, 100% of the time, with 100% correct ingredients, recitations, rituals, timings, etc. Experiment with it. Above all, know (and focus on) what you specifically intend to bring about.
The author is not advocating a cavalier attitude towards magick, here. He is saying that the formal requirements outlined by established practitioners erect unnecessary practical and spiritual barriers (the latter, in the form of doubt) in would-be beginners. More importantly, if objects, items or rituals are used merely to adhere to magickal formalities (traditions) but do not hold personal relevance for the practitioner or the target of the magickal act, they may have no effect -- or may even have an unintended effect.
Those who dislike deviation from tradition may perceive this to be relativism, and I suppose it is. But to me it makes perfect sense. It stands to reason that certain items, objects, herbs, etc. would have completely different meanings to completely different people on different continents (or even the same continent) from different ethnicities or cultures.
Not to mention that there are plenty of modern objects and items which lack age-old symbolic meaning, yet may have very specific meaning for practitioners and are appropriate for use in a spell (emoticons, for example). Finally, some objects that have fallen out of use now lack meaning and relevance they would have had for most of the general population maybe fifty, sixty years ago (e.g., who uses clothes-pins now? besides me).
The non-elitist, DIY aspects of this book, more than any others, spoke to me where all the other books on magick/wicca, spellcraft, and grimoires had not. For the first time reading a book on magic, I thought, Hey, I can really do this -- anyone can! Emboldened by the ideas in this book, re-thinking magick and how to practice it along the book's lines, I modified a few spells and ideas from a couple other books (Supermarket Sorceress by Lexa Rosean and The Magick of Folk Wisdom by Patricia Telesco). And they worked. Quite well, actually.
Obviously, the more one does something, the better one gets at it. But that doesn't mean your first few attempts will automatically fail, either. You're not a preschooler with an undeveloped mind and rudimentary hand-eye coordination learning to ride a bike, and you don't need training wheels. You're an adult with a fully developed mind, body and spirit learning to enact your will on multiple levels including the metaphysical.
Another review of this book says if you crossed out the word "magick" everywhere it exists in this book, what would be left is a book about asserting yourself in the world. This is true. Magick is just the 'edge' you're giving yourself to do that.
If you have felt intimidated, daunted or disheartened by the dogma, rules, requirements, rituals, ingredients, and sometimes subtle (sometimes not) elitism of other books on wicca/grimoires...
If you can't or don't want to devote all your extra time to learning and practicing magick (any more than, in the past, you devoted all your extra time to going to mass or church in your previous religion or the one you were brought up in)...
If you want to just go ahead and do it (magick) yourself, but you're worried about the warnings you've read in other books about practicing magick...
Then read this book and consider chaos magick. You will probably like both.
on August 2, 2003
The world of magic can appear esoteric, complicated and highly formalized. Many are intimidated by the imagined sense of orthodoxy - not to mention the high number of practitioners who seem to take themselves so seriously.
This book happily throws "authority" and dogma out the window. While integrating methodology and experience into its message, it explores the routes of chaos magic that fall more into the dimenions of a practice such as Zen, as opposed to the practice of any church or organization. Personal choice is key. Individualized approaches are acceptable. One comes away laughing at dogma junkies!
Bravo Mr. Hine for creating this down-to-earth, yet inspiring overview that demonstrates so eloquently the various paths of chaos magic. The reader is treated to a delightful explanation of the powers of concentration, attention and imagination.
Mr. Hine divides the book into diverse sections which explain everything from finding the humor in magic to drawing correlations between quantum mechanics and the way that chaos manifests in hundreds of other universal aspects.
I was recovering from surgery when re-reading this wonderful book and found solace and comfort in its wisdom. Along with the array of medicine, beverages and "doctor-recommended" remedies, this book serves as nourishment for the spirit. I gleaned inspiration from its pages that actually fostered healing and revivified my mind while my entire system healed.
One can derive much confidence and pleasure from sinking the mind into a work that so deftly merges science with spirituality.
Phil Hine accomplishes many things in this timeless classic.
I am very impressed with this book. For many years, I had a negative view of "Chaos Magick" and "Chaos Magickians," due to the socially inept freaks I had met that promoted it. However, various stable-minded, rational, intelligent people (who can keep a job and function in society) recently recommended that I look-into "Chaos Magick"--esp., this book by Phil Hine--so, I conceded.
Now that I have finally investigated this branch of Magickal studies, I am wondering if it should be called "Common Sense Magick." This is great material, very studiously researched, with references to Psychology, Anthropology and over-all Mental Stability, Self Growth, and Accomplishment in LIFE as well as within Initiatory Circles. Personally, this magickal system fits-in with my perspective of, "Oh, yeah? You are a Great Magickian or Initiatory Mucky-Muck.... Kudos. Can you keep a job and pay your bills ?"
I expect this book to scare-away a lot of Freeloaders and pretentious folks. However, for those individuals interested in taking responsibility for their actions and developing as a person, Magickian AND establishing themselves in the Working World, as well as in the Metaphysical world, this book is a great choice.
Especially interesting is the fact that this book describes using Computer Programming techniques in Magickal pursuits. This is a very Current work, applicable to the Cyber Age, with new concepts, theories, and exciting possibilities.
This book contains an explination of and directions for working with a very interesting Entity, called "Goflowolfog"--a cool cat on a skateboard, who helps with traffic issues. When I first learned of this Entity, I had to purchase the book! this is Magick that uses Common Sense, Humor and techniques I have not encountered in other works. Often, Old School magickal texts can be quite boring, but this is up-to-date information that will intrigue and inspire the reader.
on September 18, 2001
This book has great introductory information laid out in a format that is clear and easy to understand. It presents information on the theories behind Chaos Magic, good resources to followup on, and interesting information on different forms that magic can take. The information is clear, well laid out, and well written so that it is an easy read.
That being said...
At the beginning of the book it almost sounds like Hine is preaching rather than informing. There is also a lack of an index in the book, making it a poor referance despite being an excellent straight through read and guide.
All in all I recommend this book highly despite its (few and far between) flaws.
on June 13, 2002
This book contains all you need to know about chaos magic as a neophyte. Phil Hine is able to deliver thoughts and ideas about chaos magic in a clear and coincise manner avoiding made up obscure words that only the "elite" should know.
For the more advanced magicians that have touched chaos and have not lost their sanity this book works as a great revision of the basics as well as a different approach on certain techniques that individuals tend to personalize.
Having praised the book what has to be mentioned is the slight dogmatism that exists within it. The idea of chaos magic is pretty simple, do what works for you, it works because you believe it works. Phil Hine at times tends to state his personal opinions and experiences as universal truths about chaos magic. However within the book it is mentioned "nothing is true, everything is permitted" which also applies to the book itself and my reviw. Read this book and use what works for you. Assume nothing.
on November 28, 2014
I will start giving a definition of Chaos Magic that Phil Hine gave on page 20: "Chaos Magic is an approach that enables the individual to use anything that s/he thinks is suitable as a temporary belief or symbol system". The information in the first half of the book (5 chapters out of 10) can be found in other basic books of magic except chapter 1 (Is Chaos Magic?). The remaining 5 chapters (from 6 to 10), the more interesting in my opinion, are more related to the theory of Chaos Magic but in a very broad way. Due to this point, the title of the book is really an introduction to chaos magic. May be, the most characteristic concept in this ramification of magic is the deconditioning of our belief systems: "The Chaos paradigm proposes that one of the primary tasks of the aspiring magician is to thoroughly decondition oneself from the mesh of beliefs, attitudes and fictions about self, society, and the world". Nonetheless, the author is saying on page 27, "Magic is no longer the domain of the wealthy, and we need no utterances from rebel angels to announce the uncertainty of the future" even though I don't think that magic has only been the domain of the wealthy.
The baseball player, Wade Boggs, the New York Yankees third baseman for many years and one of the great figures of baseball history, thought that he hit better after eating chicken, so he ate chicken every day for at least 20 years. He used to perform a pre-game ritual that took five hours to complete and included such eccentricities as ending his grounder drill by stepping in every base among other more elaborated practices. This is an example that, as the definition of Phil's Chaos Magic, enabled to Mr. Boggs, to use anything (eating chicken every day) that he thought was suitable, as temporary (more than 20 years in this case) belief system to have the effective results he reached: He won the American League batting title five times and was the only player in the 20th century to get 200 hits in seven consecutive seasons.
Some may think that Mr. Boggs had an irrational behavior or that his superstitious practices were coincidences and other people may think that he applied the principles of Chaos Magic. Whatever we think, the important thing is that he had the results he expected. Probably, this is one the biggest milestones when we want to analyze the real process to have the desired result. Fortunately, for Chaos Magic what is important is to know the "process of discovering the most effective guidelines and disciplines which enable you to effect change in the world". When we reach the expected result, this process may be easy to identify; the problem comes when you don't obtain the expected result and you make assumptions of what was wrong but in this case Chaos Magic has another road, "explanations don't matter, experience does".
The author explains briefly in chapter six, Chaos Servitors, how to apply servitors from the perspective of Information Technology. In my opinion, applying this IT theory to perform analogies using servitors commanding subroutines and subprograms in servitor circuits makes much harder to identify those effective guidelines or those ineffective ones in the process. As an example of analyzing a process, the author explained briefly how the functional spirit "Goflowolfog" (a cat with sunglasses riding a skateboard) was created during a magical seminar in London to avoid traffic problems. Unfortunately, he does not explain if the participants had the expected result. The most participants and the most variables in the process, the harder to identify why, and how the result was effective or ineffective.
In my opinion, one needs to find that balance to discriminate between superstition, irrational behavior, and the effectivity of a belief system or its combination. Meantime, we cannot have a well identified (magical) process and an effective measurement and evaluation technique; it will be very hard if what we are performing is due to the technics we are using. When the result is fully reached like in the case of Wade Boggs probably it is not important to know the details of the process. The problem arises when the results are not fully reached or not reached at all and we want to find out the real reasons to make the proper corrections.
This book does not explain the identification of this magical process and an effective measurement and evaluation technique (as far as the possible). This is understandable knowing that it is an introduction to chaos. I hope to find this in other chaos magic book. I doubt it.