Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms
Sigils, servitors and god-forms are three magickal techniques that chaos magicians use to actualize magickal intentions. Sigils are magickal spells developed and activated to achieve a specific, fairly well defined and often limited end. Servitors are entities created by a magician and charged with certain functions. Godforms are complex belief structures, often held by a number of people, with which a magician interacts in order to actualize fairly broad magickal intentions. These three techniques are not quite as distinct as these definitions would suggest, they tend to blur into one another. The purpose of this essay is to explain these magickal tools, indicate their ppropriateness for different types of magickal intentions, and show how these tools relate to the general theories of chaos magick and of Dzog Chen, a form of Tibetan Buddhism.
Part One: Sigils
1. A Universe neither of Man nor God
The use of the techniques of the chaos magician presupposes a certain stance, or attitude, towards magick that is relatively new in the history of the occult. This stance may, for lack of a better word, be described as postmodern, since it is neither traditional nor modern. The differences between these three approaches to magick – traditional, modern or postmodern can be elucidated as three conceptions of the nature of the universe. The traditional approach is based in Judeo-Christian metaphysics and views the universe as anthropomorphic, in the image of the ChristianGod, or less rarely, some other anthropomorphic form. The traditional magician believes that the universe is understandable by human consciousness because human beings are made in the image of God. The modern view is essentially a reaction to this and humanist in the extreme. Here the universe may be perceived as Newtonian, as a machine that is ultimately understandable by human consciousness, although humans may have to evolve into a more powerful form to be able to do this. The postmodern view of the chaoist denies that the universe can ever be understood by the human mind. Influenced by modern physics, particularly quantum mechanics and chaos theory, the chaos magician tends to accept the universe as a series of phenomena that have little to do with human beings. In other words traditional magick can be said to be God centered, modern magick to be human centered while postmodern magick eschews the very idea of a center. A brief review of traditional and modern approaches to ceremonial magick may help to illuminate the postmodern stance of the freestyle chaoist.
Ceremonial magicians use ritual magick to create effects in themselves or in the universe that they do not feel they can as efficiently bring about through normal means. All magicians agree that magick can cause change, but few would argue that the change is inevitable, completely predictable, or fully knowable by the magician. All magicians, to a greater or lesser extent, are engaged in an ongoing dynamic in which the issues of personal desire, personal control and personal belief are thrust against the strictures of the universal consensual belief structure, the concept of will as a universal force, and the ideas of fate, predestination, and karma. At the core of this confrontation is the question of the nature of the universe. The question is: is the universe human centered, designed, created and maintained by a god force, or is it, as modern science seems to indicate, just there?
Until recently, magicians have tended to distinguish amongst themselves by hue, and the colors of the magician (white, gray or black) refer precisely to this dynamic, the confrontation between the personal wishes of the magician and a universal standard of morality or law. White, and to an extent, grey magicians, attempt to remove themselves from the debate by insisting that their magickal acts are inspired only by the highest motives of service and self-knowledge, that, indeed, they wish only to do the will of higher powers known as their Holy Guardian Angels. Perdition shall blast, so they say, those who use magick for self-centered or materialistic ends. Grey magicians may proclaim that the use of magickal powers for materialistic ends is valid sometimes, but rarely for selfish reasons, and in any event, is always problematical. Donald Michael Kraig, with the breezy superficiality of the traditional magus, in ‘Modern Magick’ terms white magick the use of magick’for the purpose of obtaining the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel'(1), grey magick as magick used ‘for the purpose of causing either physical or non-physical good to yourself or to others (2) and black magick as magick used ‘for the purpose of causing either physical or non-physical harm to yourself or others'(3). Kraig is influenced by Aleister Crowley and by modern Wicca, or Gardnerian witchcraft. Wiccans, ever concerned that their white magick might slide through some unconscious twitch of desire through grey into black, corrected Crowley’s axiom ‘Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law’ with the enervating modifier ‘An it Harm None’. Kraig, worried that readers of his treatise might fall ‘into the pit of the black magician,’ encourages neophyte mages to practice only white magick. Fortunately, before he is two thirds of the way through his book Kraig is happily discoursing on talismans, grimoires, and the correct methods for disposing of recalcitrant demons. Few magicians can resist the lure of dark magick, despite protestations of innocence. This is because even Wiccan influenced magicians are not, as Wiccans are, devotees of a religion. That is to say magicians are interested in the dynamic of personal will versus (in Crowley’s term) True Will, while Wiccans have resolved this issue. While the occasional conflict may remain, Wiccans, like Christians, Jews, and Moslems understand that they have agreed to submit their wills to that which they construe to be the Will of their deities. Magicians, on the other hand, are not so sure. This, more than any other factor, accounts for the intense suspicion those of a religious cast view those who practise magick.
The designation of black magician still tends to be a term that magicians use to vilify other magicians. Aleister Crowley, arguably the single greatest influence on the development of magick in this century, and, for the purposes of this essay, defined as a traditional magician, used the term in this way. In ‘Magick’, for example, he asserted ‘any will but that to give up the self to the Beloved is Black Magick,'(4). That is to say, any use of magick unlike his use of magick is black magick. Elsewhere Crowley muttered darkly about the existence of ‘Black Lodges’ and ‘Black Brothers’, magicians who chose to remain in the Abyss, the metaphysical gap between the first three sephiroth and the remainder of the Tree of Life. A magus of this hue, Crowley stated, secretes ‘his elements around his Ego as if isolated from the Universe'(5), and turns his back on the true aim of magick, which according to Aleister, is the ‘attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It is the raising of the complete man in a vertical straight line. Any deviation from this line tends to become black magic. Any other operation is black magick'(6).As students of mysticism will recognize, this goal is identical with the mystic’s goal of the union of the self with God. Crowley, of course, wrote with his feet firmly planted in the Judeo-Christian paradigm, a paradigm in which the universe is visualized as AdamKadmon, the Great Man, and is thus wholly anthropomorphized.
In 1969, Anton LaVey posited the argument of the modern black magician when in’The Satanic Bible’ he asserted ‘No one on earth ever pursued occult studies, metaphysics, yoga, or any other ‘white light’ concept without ego gratification or personal power as a goal ‘(7). Moreover, LaVey claimed ‘There is no difference between ‘White’ and ‘Black’ magic except in the smug hypocrisy, guilt ridden righteousness, and self-deceit of the ‘White’ magician himself'(. Thus the term black magician began to be associated with a style of magick that did not distinguish between self-interest and self-knowledge. LaVey in his organization, The Church of Satan, and later MichaelAquino in his schismatic order, The Temple of Set, argued that the will of the individual magician was paramount. Both denied even the existence of a universal Will. LaVey stated ‘The Satanist realizes that man, and the action and reaction of the universe, is responsible for everything and doesn’t mislead himself into thinking that someone cares.’ (9) MichaelAquino asserted ‘The Black Magician, on the other hand, rejects both the desirability of union with the Universe and any self-deceptive tactics designed to create such an illusion'(10). Unfortunately the refusal of modern black magicians to deal with the possibility that man may not be at the center of the universe, or may just be one in a large series of interdependent phenomena leads to an error. Reluctant, it seems, even to adopt completely a materialistic or mechanistic view of the universe, LaVey and Aquino embrace the ghost in the machine and assert that the individual ego can continue after death. Thus LaVey stated ‘If a person has been vital throughout his life and has fought to the end for his earthly existence, it is this ego which will refuse to die, even after the expiration of the flesh that housed it'(11). There is, of course, not a shred of evidence to prove that this has ever happened nor that it can happen, but magicians of all hues, together with the adherents of most of the world’s religions, continue to assert blandly the existence of a transpersonal, individuated spark that somehow is exempt from the normal process of birth, life, death, and corruption, a kind of eternal homunculus. Apparently the notion that the universe may not actually be human centered is too frightening for Satanists and modern black magicians to bear, and the old chestnut of the soul is dredged out of the Judeo-Christian quagmire, brushed off, and presented as the ‘fully gratified’ ego of the modern immortal Satanist.
Teetering on the edge of postmodern magick, PeterCarroll, the first contemporary popularizer of chaos magick, in ‘Liber Null and Psychonaut’, accepted the idea that the universal force may not be a force that bears much relationship to humanity. He stated:’The force which initiates and moves the universe, and the force which lies at the center of consciousness, is whimsical and arbitrary, creating and destroying for no purpose beyond amusing Itself. There is nothing spiritual or moralistic about Chaos and Kia. We live in a universe where nothing is true…'(12). Carroll was aware of the true nature of the ego, and stated ‘developing an ego is like building a castle against reality'(13). Moreover, he recognized that ‘the real Holy Guardian Angel is just the force of consciousness, magic, and genius itself, nothing more. This cannot manifest in a vacuum: it is always expressed in some form, but its expressions are not the thing itself.'(14) In this statement Carroll aligned himself with the quantum mechanical view of the universe, a view that refuses to discriminate phenomena on the basis of dualistic concepts, but stresses the wave like nature of energy. This is also the viewpoint of sophisticated Buddhism. The key phrase of the “PrajnaParamita”, a critical sutra in the development of Buddhist metaphysics, states ‘form is only emptiness and emptiness is only form.’
Ultimately Carroll, however, was as reluctant as a Satanist to let go of the comforting paradigm of the soul or spirit and despite paying lip service to a universe in quantum flux stated ‘The adept magician however will have so strengthened his spirit by magick that it is possible to carry it over whole into a new body'(15). This turns out to be a crippling flaw in Carroll’s approach to magick and one that reinforces his belief in the efficacy of hierarchical magick, a contradiction of the fundamental principle of chaos magick, that it replicates the non-ordered flow of phenomena in the universe. The ego, after all, is an ordered construct that tolerates nothing so little as the inevitability of change. Perhaps the problem lay in Carroll’s assertion that ‘physical processes alone will never completely explain the existence of the universe'(16), a statement that eventuates from the dualistic, epistemological mindset of Newtonian physics and Aristotelian western philosophy. Perhaps it comes from a fear of death.
Yet concurrent with this discriminatory, black/white, dualistic approach of western occultism, there has always been another strain, the shamanistic, orgiastic approach that deliberately blurrs these definitions and seeks to confront the universe as a dynamic, and non human process. This approach, however, has usually been the domain of art and artists rather than occultists. Modern English poetry since MatthewArnold’s ‘DoverBeach’ has been obsessed with reconciling the poetic imagination with a stark and inhuman universe. Arnold recognized the universe in 1867 as a place that:
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night
By the time T.S. Eliot wrote ‘The Wasteland’ in 1922, he saw the universe as ‘a heap of broken mirrors’, an metaphor that aptly describes the shattering of the familiar concept of the universe as reflecting a human face. The year before, W.B.Yeats in ‘The Second Coming’ concurred:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
But the fullest expression of the awareness that the movement of energy through the universe is absolute, interpenetrating, and neither particularly humane nor human comes in 1934 with DylanThomas and:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
This dawning consciousness infuses all the arts, from the movement of modern art, from Dada and Cubism, through Abstract Expressionism, to modern music, from the dissonance of Ravel’s ‘La Valse’ to JohnCage to minimalism to industrial. Artists for one hundred and fifty years have struggled to depict the face of a chaotic universe, and man’s far from central place within it. In fact, the occult has been one of the last areas of human intellectual endeavour to avail itself of this perception of the universe. Not until the development of chaos magick can it truly be said that magick has finally started to deal with the insights of modern art and modern science.
Chaos magick derives from a series of magical positions articulated by AustinOsmanSpare, a contemporary of Aleister Crowley. Spare’s vision, itself influenced by the work of WilliamBlake, is contained succinctly in ‘The Book of Pleasure’. Spare’s approach to magick and the universe has been validated by the discoveries of the new physics, by quantum science, and by chaos mathematics. The metaphysical basis for Spare’s magick is similar to that of DzogChen, a form of Tibetan Buddhism, and, in fact, the reference and counter reference between Buddhism, art, science, and chaos magick is striking and continuous. Spare wrote ‘The Book of Pleasure’ between 1909 and 1913, but most of Spare’s work was ignored until Carroll began writing about it. There are a number of reasons for this. Spare’s work was printed in small runs and he did not seek fame. His style is elliptical and obscure. His work is difficult to understand in the absence of his lush illustrations, and since the illustrations are spells, or more precisely, sigils, they affect a deep level of the mind and tend to distract one from the content of his writing. His style is declaratory, arrogant, and uses a special vocabulary, the definitions for which have to be teased out of the text. But perhaps of most importance, Spare’s view of the universe is non-human, and consequently the usual god centered or human centered context of magick is absent. Not until contemporary metaphysical thought had changed to allow a non anthropomorphic universe did Spare become accessible. Even now he, together with KennethGrant, is one of the least read and least understood among modern magickal writers.
Spare begins with the idea of Kia, of which he says, in an echo of the Tao Te Ching, ‘The Kia that can be expressed by conceivable ideas is not the eternal Kia, which burns up all belief.'(17) Thus he does not designate by name that which later chaos magicians would call Chaos, but concentrates on the immediate manifestation of the formless which he describes as ‘the idea of self’. This is precisely the viewpoint of DzogChen. DzogChen, a sorcerous form of Buddhism developed by Padmasambhava in the eighth century a.c.e., posits the creation of the manifest universe as occurring at the instant that the conception of self develops. Spare said of Kia ‘Anterior to Heaven and Earth, in its aspect that transcends these, but not intelligence, it may be regarded as the primordial sexual principle, the idea of pleasure in self-love.'(1 In DzogChen the initial impulse splits emptiness from form, nirvana from samsara and develops dualistic thinking. The multiplicity of the universe streams out of this split.
One of the central symbols of DzogChen is the dorje. A form of magick wand, the dorje is composed of two stylized phalluses joined by a small central ball. The dorje is, according to DzogChen, a ‘terma’, or hidden teaching. This teaching is a treasure hidden by Padmasambhava. The whole of the dorje refers to the unlimited potentiality of the universe, and thus, in modern terms, is an image of chaos, or the quantum flux of the universe that is before and beyond discriminatory thinking, inseparable, indissoluble. The two ends of the dorje refer, respectively, to form and emptiness, or samsara and sunyata. The small central bead that joins the two ends of this bilaterally symmetrical object is hollow to show the unknowable potentiality at the intersection between form and emptiness, and also to refer back to the chaos current. Thus the dorje is a three dimensional symbol for the way the universe manifests itself from unity through duality into its full, lush complexity. As Spare says ‘As unity conceived duality, it begot trinity, begot tetragrammaton.'(19) In a statement that presages the modern understanding of the fractal universe as an event that is essentially a complex repetition and multiplication of a series of simple forms, Spare wrote:
The dual principle is the quintessence of all experience, no ram-ification has enlarged its early simplicity, but is only its repetition, modification or complexity, never is its evolution complete. It cannot go further than the experience of self-so returns and unites again and again, ever an anti-climax. For ever retrogressing to its original simplicity by infinite complication is its evolution. No man shall understand ‘Why’ by its workings. Know it as the illusion that embraces the learning of all existence.(19)
Recognizing the recursive movement of the movement of energy, or consciousness, through the universe, that is to say, of Kia, is essential to the understanding of the form of magick that Spare developed because it indicates the structure of the spells, sigils, and magickal techniques of chaos magick. Refuting absolutely the notion that this flow of energy is ever understandable by dualistic minds, Spare stated unequivocally that the magickal energy of the universe, the force that interpenetrates all phenomena is non-human. Moreover Spare required the magician, in order to avail himself of this force, to renounce his human belief systems, his dualistic mind, to achieve a state of consciousness that, as much as possible, mimicked the primordial. How to do this is the subject of the next section of this essay.
Sigils, Servitors and Godforms – Part 2
Authors Details: By Marik (MarkDeFrates, marik[at]aol.com) Unknown Web Site