Anyone who has been practicing magick in the last twenty-five years shouldn’t need to be told who Peter J. Carroll is. Along with Austin Osman Spare, Ray Sherwin, and Phil Hine, Peter Carroll is considered one of the founders of the chaos magick movement. His book, Liber Null, is an occult bestseller and all of his subsequent writings: Liber Kaos, Psybermagick, The Apophenion, and The Octavo, have been influential in their own right. Pope Pete (retired) was also the founder of the Illuminates of Thanateros, AKA The Pact, the premier chaos magick organization.
These days he is Chancellor of Arcanorium College, an online magical university, and has recently completed a new book, Epoch. To accompany the Epoch, Pete enlisted the aid of artist Matt Kabryn to create the Portals of Chaos cards. The fifty-four card deck, not a simple re-hash of the tarot, can be used more various magical works besides divination.
For those who remember the first Scroll of Thoth podcast, Peter Carroll has had a profound effect on my own career as a magician. His lecture, “The Philosophy and Practice of Magick,” opened my eyes, to a view of magick that transcends Thelema, traditional ritual magick, and shamanism.
That’s why it’s my distinct privilege to have Peter J. Carroll answer some questions on his magical career and upcoming work.
SoT: Liber Null has become the foundation for a world-spanning magical order and an entire movement within the magical subculture. What were your expectations when you first wrote it?
Pete: It seemed to me the next logical step in the development of magic; after all we inhabit an era when the classical ‘spirit’ paradigm and even the nineteenth century ‘energy’ paradigm appear increasingly inadequate to model esoteric phenomena, and the new cross-cultural eclecticism demands that we take into account esoteric ideas from other cultures and theoretical ideas from other disciplines such as science and psychology. I had no expectations other than to organize and upgrade my own ideas at first but it didn’t surprise me that many others wanted to go in a similar direction.
SoT: Given that you no longer hold a leadership position within the Illuminates of Thanateros, are you happy with the current state of The Pact and what do you think they can do more of?
Pete: I remain in occasional contact. I made my position clear in this paper: – http://www.specularium.org/index.php?option=com_blog&view=comments&pid=110&Itemid=137
I think a separation of magical and administrative grades remains overdue.
SoT: On your blog, Specularium, you make clear your opinions on the European Union and the nanny state in general. What sort of governance do you think Western nations should be moving towards and is it anything close to the Chaotopia you describe in Psybermagick?
Pete: The EU has a profoundly undemocratic structure and a sham parliament with no real power. Thus it operates as a Synarchy of the European Political Classes with scant regard for the wishes of the population. It uses the tactics of the nanny state to introduce controls over everything it possibly can to give itself arbitrary power, and thus it tends towards a species of legalistic totalitarianism. I do not want a uniform Europe presided over by a Synarchy of faceless bureaucrats hiding behind non-entity figureheads, none of whom do we elect and none of whom can we apparently sack. The strength of Europe lies in its diversity, the EU will remain permanently dysfunctional unless it can force everyone to live and work exactly like Germans.
The current sham European parliament functions more like the British House of Lords, merely as a consultative and rubber stamping organization. For a start I’d like to replace that with an assembly of randomly selected citizens rather than career politicians, (and the same for the House of Lords actually).
SoT: In the Octavo, you introduce the concept of the Knights of Chaos, a pro-active magical order dedicated to environmentalism. What are some of the things the Knights of Chaos have done so far and are there any plans to organize them beyond the classes at Arcanorium College?
Pete: The KoC fights an uphill battle against almost impossible odds using rather strange magical techniques. KoC agents buried a servitor in the centre of St Peter’ Square in the Vatican a while ago and the mad old fool of a pope resigned shortly afterwards and became replaced with what seems a dream candidate, a good guy for a change. Iran’s new front man also seems much more reasonable than the last one although the hardline religious hierarchy behind him still remains a barrier to progress. We also conjured to impede arctic oil drilling, with gratifying results. We currently consider releasing selected target data for future campaigns to allied esoteric groups.
SoT: What are your duties as Chancellor of Arcanorium College and why do you believe it would be beneficial for a practicing magician to enroll?
Pete: I look in almost every day and monitor the courses, projects, and discussions in progress and attend to the responses of those doing the Bachelor of Magic degree course. It provides a forum where magicians of all levels of knowledge and experience can come together and discuss their ideas and results and inspirations.
SoT: You call your upcoming book, Epoch, a “culmination of 40 years of magical experience.” What are some of the major changes in your personal practice since Liber Null?
Pete: Having achieved many of my life’s aims in business and family matters I’m doing less results magic for personal objectives these days and more for friends and for what you might call higher causes in the realms of ecology and the survival of civilization and the human race.
SoT: According to the content listings, you dedicated an entire section of Epoch to magic based on the Lovecraftian Mythos. For what types of magick do you find the Mythos paradigm useful and what are some of your results?
Pete: I’ve increasingly used it to augment my exploration of the wilder shores of knowledge. In cosmology I’ve tended to Invoke Yog-Sothoth before meditation on the stranger implications of emerging data. The rather radical equation for the internal radius of a hypersphere emerged recently, it neatly removes all singularities from the universe at a stroke, perhaps it will prove of use.
SoT: Along with Epoch you are also releasing the Portals of Chaos cards. You have already said that the cards can be useful for much more than divination. Can you give some specific examples of how the cards might be used in various magical workings?
Pete: They also prove very useful for evocation and invocation because they all depict various god-forms and parts of the human psyche, and from the invocations you can proceed to works of illumination or enchantment. We have made the cards large enough to function as altarpieces or icons.
Pete: I’ve only ever done a small handful of ‘impossible’ things by magic in my entire career, and then more or less accidentally, I mean things like materializing objects or telekinesis, I cannot do such things at will. However my belief in magic has allowed me to attempt all sorts of lesser but still improbable and difficult things and to get probability moving in a favorable direction.
SoT: For those of us unable to attend the Occult Conference in Glastonbury what is the best way to obtain a copy of Epoch and the Portals of Chaos?
If we don’t have enough copies for those who want one on the day, Arcanorium College will provide a full online purchase and delivery service, and we shall also distribute via selected bookshops and booksellers.
Artwork by Matt Kaybryn from the Portals of Chaos, the Babalon and Thoth cards respectively.