This story is over 5 years old.

The Talking Issue

A Chaos Magician

In the mid-70s two guys named Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin claimed the ability to alter the subatomic interactions of the quantum universe through gnosis and divination.
October 2, 2008, 12:00am

Tools of the trade. Images Courtesy of Peter J. Carroll

In the mid-70s two guys named Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin claimed the ability to alter the subatomic interactions of the quantum universe through gnosis and divination. Building on a foundation of advanced physics, shamanism, and esoteric theology, they dubbed their theories Chaos Magic. The pair went on to recruit some witchy buddies from London’s East End occult scene to form the Illuminates of Thanateros as an alternative to the piss-poor magical orders of the day. Over the years Carroll’s interest shifted to the concept of three-dimensional time. His research culminated in the development of the “Hyperwarp 6D model”—something he hopes will advance things like starship design and parapsychology. We got in touch with Pete to ask him what this batty shit is all about. Trying to decipher his answers made our brains feel like we just huffed Drano.

Illustration from _Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic _(Weiser Books)

Vice: So, Mr. Magician, what kind of tricks can you do?


Peter J. Carroll:

There is a range of core techniques for inducing altered states of consciousness and achieving “sleight of mind.” Most of these techniques have survived since the days of ancient shamanism. In Chaos Magic we use these practices to achieve a gnostic state. They include yoga, tantra, psychoactive substances, sexuality, chanting, drumming, ecstatic dance, dreaming, and many others. The Chaos Magician concentrates on an abstract or analogical representation of desire, rather than on a direct representation of it, and then uses some form of gnosis to bring the much more powerful subconscious into operation, thus actualizing his or her wishes.

How do you personally reach a gnostic state?

My three best gnoses are sexual arousal—either auto-erotically or with a partner—anger—I love getting into a fury—and the apophenic state, which I enter through absentmindedness, half-sleep, or meditation.

Why did so many people get into the occult during the 1970s? It seems like all these suburban moms were doing tarot while their husbands read books about Satan.

Back in the late 60s there was an occult revival driven by the republishing of works by people like Aleister Crowley, Eliphas Lévi, and Austin Spare. Also the medieval grimoires and the Golden Dawn books became widely available again and various authors started writing about modern versions of witchcraft. Out of this eclectic stew a series of new ideas evolved that put more emphasis on techniques than symbolism. Those days were pretty wild and experimental with fully robed and skyclad [ritual nudity] mystics, castles, caves, nights spent in the forest, strangely decorated basements, bizarre sacraments, banishing by laughter, serious work, and lots of fun. There were some great parties. It was a very creative and ecstatic time.


Does Chaos Magic fall on the good or evil side of the mystic spectrum?

Most Chaos Magicians would probably describe themselves as off-white magicians—neither black nor white but perhaps multicolored and prepared to experiment with everything from combat magic to love magic to the most elevated forms of mysticism.

Along with the gnostic state, you practice divination. What has been your most successful divining experience?

I’m still awaiting results to confirm my most grandiose divination experiment. About 18 years ago I led a group of 30 mostly German magicians in an attempt to send a servitor probe back to the big bang era. It then reported to us what it saw in our dreams later that night. At the time we all accepted the big bang interpretation of cosmological data. Astonishingly nearly everyone reported that his or her dreams depicted the universe as looking more or less the same then as it does now. I have spent the intervening years developing the math and interpretations to explain this result. It seems that if the universe consists of a vorticitating hypersphere then it may verify our findings. Perhaps we will see confirmation within a decade.

Oh, right, a vorticitating hypersphere. Your recent work has focused on the concept of three-dimensional time. Is this related to cosmic travel?

I’d describe three-dimensional time as a deduction that I have made from observation rather than a belief. I can only account for the magical effects I have observed by assuming that probability lies at right angles to time as we perceive it.



We have to remember that our past or pasts only exist in the now, at a particular moment of observation as physical evidence and memory. Any past that could have led to the moment of observation has to be considered, but we can only infer a change to the past when subsequent moments of present go off at an unexpected tangent. You cannot change the present moment, but you can change the “angle” from which the past approaches to modify the future.

You talk smart. So ideally, your Hyperwarp Six-Dimensional Hypothesis will be used to help create a starship design far superior to what is possible through modern science and physics. What will it look like?

I joked to my eldest some years ago that if she were at the top of her class at university then I’d give her a starship principle for her 21st birthday. It looks like she will graduate as valedictorian now, but the starship project remains some ways off. Any useful starship will obviously need more than what current physics has to offer. Reaction-thrust vehicles and rockets of any type will never get us to other star systems. The new fundamental physics that I’ve developed in the past few years perhaps implies a feasible starship technology, but it cannot be tested yet. Nevertheless, the quest continues. Anything that can get to another star system and back with the crew still alive will resemble something more akin to a Tardis or a teleportation device than a rocket.

Doctor Who. Nice.

Delve further down the abstruse rabbit hole of the Magical Arts by registering for online classes at Arcanorium College ( Pete’s new book,

The Apophenion: A Chaos Magic Paradigm

, is available now at fine occult retailers nationwide (and Amazon).