Modern magick and psychotherapy share a number of commonalities. Both attempt to empower the individual, both attempt to discern the relationship of the individual to the universe, both attempt to make that relationship as functional, in terms of the individual’s goals, as possible.
Magick and Psychotherapy
Although many magicians might disagree, magick is also an attempt by the magician to integrate disparate elements of his or her personality into a unified whole, which is, of course, a primary goal in psychotherapy. This is not to say that magick is psychotherapy. Magick is clearly a quite different field of human endeavor. Psychotherapy generally has a sociological goal, that is the development of personality assets that allow the individual to function within society in an easy and comfortable manner. Magicians generally could care less about social approval, although they might well seek the approval of their magickal peers.
Psychodynamic approaches to psychotherapy (also known as psychoanalysis) seek to overcome defenses so that repressed materials can be uncovered, insight into personal motivation can be achieved, and unresolved childhood issues can be controlled. Psychoanalysis, probably because of its dismal success rate and enormous expense, has now pretty much given way to psychopharmacological interventions among psychiatrists. However, servitor creation and deployment certainly uses psychoanalytic techniques, to the extent that the magician attempts to discover obsessional thought patterns, tries to find out exactly what it is that he or she wants, and uses the material of his or her own psychological history as part of the material in the development of the servitor. The primary difference is that psychoanalysis seeks to bring repressed materials to the surface so that they can dissipate (if, in fact they do), while chaos magicians mine their own repressions and obsessions for energy to empower creations of their own imaginations, a goal that many psychiatrists might regard as being quite contrary to mental health.
Rather than looking at chaos magick in terms of its therapeutic uses as a psychodynamic form of therapy it may be more accurate to define it as a modality that looks remarkably similar to that adopted by situationalist or contextual psychologists. Situationalism, a view of personality championed by Walter Mischel argues that whatever consistency of behavior that is observable is largely determined by the characteristics of the situation rather than any internal personality types or traits. From this somewhat radical perspective it is arguable that personality does not actually exist, but is a construct placed by an observer on responses that an individual has to his or her environment. In other words, personality is contained in those behavior patterns the observer chooses to regard. Similarities in patterns of behavior result from similarities in the situation the individual encounters rather than any underlying traits or characteristics the individual might contain. This fluid conception of personality is integral to Chaos Magic which argues that it is not so much any internal validity (or consistency!) of belief structures that a magician may adopt that are important, but rather the tenacity with which the a magician can hold a belief during the period contained by the magical rite. Chaos magicians tend to be results oriented, more concerned, that is, with whether a magical rite works than with its consistency with any encompassing belief structures. Consequently the Chaos magician is quite content with adopting radically different personality characteristic than those with which he or she may find comfortable outside the space and period of the magical rite. Phil Hine, for example, cites a magician, who, wishing to pass a test in mathematics at college adopted the personality (to the best of his ability) of Mr. Spock from Star Trek for three days before the exam, and then passed the test with no problems. The magical practice of invocation, in which the practitioner adopts the personality characteristics of the deity or entity he or she invokes, also suggests that possession rituals are primarily situationist in underlying theory. The situation here is the expectation that the invoked God, demon, or entity will act in certain ways. Jan Fries, one of the clearest writers on magic derived from A.O.Spare, writes of the nearly epileptic seizures of contemporary Japanese spirit mediums
“Dramatic healings have much to do with play acting and giving the audience the entertainment it desires. The medium or shaman pretends the eternal ‘as if’ which becomes the ‘as is’ in the act of doing.”
To summarize, then, Chaos Magick is distinguished by its empirical approach to magic (techniques that do not actualize the magician’s desires are discarded), by an assertion that personality is a construct comprised of belief structures the individual chooses to regard as containing consistent and constant elements, and by the idea that the primary obstacle to the actualization of a desire through a magical rite is the interference of the conscious mind. The underlying concept here is that there exists an unconscious, perhaps even a collective unconscious, termed by Jan Fries “the Deep Mind” and by A.O.Spare “Kia”, but an acceptance of this idea, because of the situationalist approach of Chaos magicians, not necessary to the successful fulfillment of desires through magical rituals. It is, rather, part of the argument, a method to persuade Chaos magicians that the techniques may actually work, but the primary function is rhetorical, not substantive. This is, of course, a radical approach to magic, not to mention psychology, but it can be substantiated as an effective approach among certain individuals. To be sure, chaos magicians routinely use chaos magickal techniques for personal psychotherapeutic goals.
Phil Hine recognized this in his User’s Guide:
“A purely psychodynamic model of Servitor operation would state that our psyche is made up of a very large cluster of forces which can be projected as intelligences, complexes, or subpersonalities (whether you’re into magick, NLP, Jungian Psychotherapy, etc). These mental forces enable us to do some things but prevent us from doing others. By consciously realigning and redirecting these energies we can create Servitors which will enable us to do things which we couldn’t do before, such as refrain from compulsive behaviors, thoughts, or emotions. In these terms, a Servitor is a conscious form of redirecting these largely unconscious entities so that they work for us.”
I believe that chaos magickal techniques would actually prove quite valuable to psychotherapists in the treatment of abnormal behavior, but that, I’m afraid, is a topic for an entirely different essay.
New Orleans, 1998
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