It is a silly thing.
Invented as an idle doodle, drawn at a kitchen table. Used to explain an obscure element of the fictional world of a doomed albino.
Now check it out. From Liber Null & Psychonaut:
The Chaosphere is the prime radiant or magic lamp of the adept – a psychic singularity which emitteth the brilliant darkness.
It is a purposely created crack in the fabric of reality through which the stuff of chaos enters our dimension.
Alternatively, it may be considered as a demonstration of the axiom that belief has the power to structure reality.
To call it simply a piece of fiction adopted by a bunch of mad Englishmen is to only view history in a sequential fashion. And the symbol itself contains a warning against such linearity. We know better.
We know that, in cases of the weird, we should not solely rely on something so unhelpful as sequential history.
In days past, researchers would paternally indulge Australian Aboriginal beliefs in ‘time’ or ‘story’ clustering around places or concepts as a traditional storytelling conceit. Being situational, it was never considered an accurate way to view different objects in time in context with each other.
Nevertheless, evidence from psi results and even the latest implications of subatomic experiments indicate that; whilst still inaccurate; it is a more accurate depiction of how we think time works than the one that informs your high school history books. The best explanation for subatomic entanglement has to do with particles affecting each other backwards in time, based on their previous shared state. (Precisely why that works for protons that don’t even exist is another Horseman sounding the death nell for scientific materialism.)
“Why does mathematics describe nature? That’s a deeper question than most.” – Terence McKenna
When looking for precedent for the eight-rayed sphere, an obvious example is the seven classical planets plus Uranus, but I just can’t get this system to work. My suspicion here is because the seven classical planets already form a complete cosmology and holistic psychological map. So work with either the seven or the one. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Uranus works well with chaosphere ritual formats.
There are more exciting -and older- foreshadowings. Firstly there is the symbol for Anu, Sumerian sky god and lord of the constellations.
Zi Dingir Anna Kanpa!
Zi Dingir Kia Kanpa!
And, of course, Kia itself, in the second line.
However, it gets more interesting when we look at the eight-rayed star of Inanna/Ishtar, courtesan of the gods and provider of the archetypal map for the otherworld journey… as well as its triumphant conclusion.
The octogram also appears in association with Baphomet, notably in the supposed forms of the idol reproduced by Hammer-Purgstall in The Guilt of the Templars (1855). The figure shown is female and perhaps this is one of the connections with the eight-fold star. Sure Baphomet is generally written with eight letters but this eightfold symbolism also turns up in the ancient iconography of the goddess Ishtar/Inanna. Eight is perhaps derived from the astronomical calculations associated with her worship. Remember this lady is Ashtoreth, goddess of lust and sacred prostitution? She rides on a lion. The Woman astride the Beast.
Here is a stele of Melishipak I, currently housed in the Louvre, showing the eight-rayed star of Ishtar.
Now from that old stalwart, symbols.com.
Astarte was the Greek form of the Semitic name Astar (Hebrew Astoret) for the queen of the heavens. In the temples of Ishtar, she being the goddess of fertility and thus also of sexual pleasures, girls and women served the believers under surveillance by eunuchs.
Ishtar was, however, also the goddess of hunting and warfare. Since in the skies she was symbolized by Venus she was both the fertility goddess of the Evening star and the war goddess of the Morning star.
This graphic representation of Venus is from Babylonia and the time around 2000 B.C. The two sets of four arms or points of the star sign, one behind the the other, refer to the exactly eight years it takes for either of Venus’ two appearances (the Morning and the Evening star) to return to the same sign of the zodiac and the same place in that sign.
Venus, continuing her eight-rayed-star motif into the classical world. But also through into the world of the Old Testament. Again from The Book of Baphomet:
Like the Templars, Solomon is seduced by the lure of strange gods. He falls for foreign women, probably gets it on with the Queen of Sheba and turns from Jehovah to the Goddess Ashtoreth. Goddess of the eight pointed star emblem signifying the planet Venus. Ashtoreth, Astarte and Apophrodite; Goddess of fucking and war. In Jewish myth she is a demon of lust. The medieval sorcerer, armed with Solomon’s Key as his grimoire, would meet her as, “…the impure Venus of the Syrians, whom they represent with the head of an ass or of a bull, and the breasts of a woman.”
Venus… the Morning Star… who only slightly changed gender to become Lucifer, the Son of the Dawn, bringing light and revelation to the darkness of unredeemed man.
Indeed, it’s through the chaosphere that I temporarily conflate Baphomet and Lucifer (insofar as the chaosphere is Baphometic in origin) for the purposes of accessing the principles of the Emerald Tablet which fell from his Third Eye/Ajna Chakra and became the Grail.
Speaking of chakras, what does the Dharmacakra remind you of?
A representation of the Buddha’s expounding of the Dharma, it’s been with us pretty much since we’ve had Buddhism. Itself, it is one of a set of 8 auspicious symbols in Tibetan Buddhism, calling to my mind the ufological vision of Enoch, with its “wheels within wheels”. First appearing (so far) in the reign of Ashoka, an emperor amidst the ruins of an Atlantean civilisation. Here he is, described by the alien invasion trickster himself, HG Wells:
In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves “Their Highnesses,” “Their Majesties,” “Their Exalted Majesties,” and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.
Shines bright like a star? A Morning Star, maybe?
There is a very specific foreshadowing of the iconography of the chaosphere in recent western occultism. And so we turn, inevitably to Crowley and the Eight of Wands in his Thoth Tarot Deck:
Here’s what he has to say about it, in The Book of Thoth:
In the Eight of Wands, fire is no longer conjoined with the ideas of combustion and destruction. It represents energy in its most exalted and tenuous sense; this suggests such forms thereof as the electric current; one might say pure light in the material sense of the word.
Sounds pretty fucking spot-on. But what about the eighth Major Arcana, Justice, which Crowley -correctly, if you ask me- changed to Adjustment?
Here we find Venus again.
This card represents the sign of Libra, ruled by Venus; in it, Saturn is exalted. The equilibrium of all things is hereby symbolised. It is the final adjustment in the formula of the Tetragrammaton, when the daughter, redeemed by her marriage with the Son, is thereby set up on the throne of the mother; thus, finally, she “awakens the Eld of the All-Father”.
In the greatest symbolism of all, however, the symbolism beyond the planetary and Zodiacal considerations, this card is the feminine complement of the Fool, for the letters Aleph Lamed constitute the secret key of the Book Of The Law, and this is the basis of a complete qabalistic system of greater depth and sublimity than any other. It has been thought right, nevertheless, to hint at its existence by equating the designs of these two cards. Not only therefore, because Libra is a sign of Venus, but because she is the partner of the Fool, is the Goddess represented as dancing, with the suggestion of Harlequin.
The Goddess of the eight-rayed morning star dancing? Where have I heard that before, in conjunction with the eightfold formula of Baphomet? Oh yeah, The Book of Baphomet:
For the magician and writer Alan Moore (who memorably staged a performance of his Snakes and Ladders which included a woman dancing with a python to act out the part of Atu XXI) the identity of these figures is clear: “Look closer still, and she is hardly there at all, pale and ethereal, translucent, made from moonlight. She is life’s sole partner in this waltz of Being, yet she is imaginary, more than this, she is imagination, the most beautiful and splendid partner we could ever need; could ever hope for. Naked save for the moonshine, save the borrowed finery of Isis and Selene, she inspires our dance to new and unfamiliar steps, gives us the come-on. Sexier than anything, imagination moves our feet upon the rungs of the genetic ladder, leads us from insensate slime and into consciousness. Dances us up from dumb, cold mud into the blazing heavens.”
Our Lady is the World Soul, the consciousness, more properly the imagination; that limitless space that emerges from the finite resources of the universe. Plato digs this saying “Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.” She appears in the hermetic magickal tradition and in the pantheist philosophy of Spinoza.
Let’s shift our focus east, to what has proven over the last fifteen months to be my most effective Archon Warning System, the I Ching. Consider the 8 original trigrams and how they are displayed in an eight-rayed circle.
Fu Xi had the 8 trigrams revealed to him supernaturally, on the shell of a great turtle spirit. This appeals to me on a personal level, obviously. And also neatly brings the eight colours of magic as described by Peter J Carroll back home to Discworld.
It is the longest continuous form of divination, appearing in the historic record five thousand years ago, but is patently a shamanic survival. From The Complete I Ching by Alfred Huang:
The literal meaning if Ching is Tao, Truth. It is the Truth of Heaven and Earth and the Truth of human life. A book that elucidates the Truth of Heaven and Earth is called Ching. The Chinese believe that the Truth of Heaven is also the Truth of humanity. This philosophical concept of the merging of Heaven and humanity into an organic whole is the foundation of traditional Chinese culture.
The I Ching also expounds upon the truth of change, or the Tao of Change, which in Chinese terminology is called the Tao of I. It is a booked based on observation and experimentation. The ancient sages watched astronomical phenomena in the sky and topographical features on the earth, and studied the relationship among all beings. They realised that in Heaven and Earth there exists a universal principle that everything is in a continuous process of change. Change is Absolute and certain; only the principle of change never changes.
Visualise the eight original trigrams radiating out from you, topped with arrows, and you have a chaosphere/bagua mirror you can stand in, a modern, heretical mandala of the Tao.
Uses for the chaosphere
PJC in Liber Null & Psychonaut again:
“[The Chaosphere] consists of a sphere with eight arrows radiant directed toward the vertices of a cube. Thus to the thinking mind it may be said to variously represent a perspective sculpture of the four axes of the geometrically impossible hypercube of the two interpenetrant tetrahedra of the light and dark forces. Such twists of illogic may be useful in the creation of an essentially paradoxical object.”
1. A core chaosphere ritual
For this, we will be adapting some tech from Stephen Mace’s classic Stealing Fire From Heaven. Apparently, it’s based on a working originally devised by Austin Osman Spare, so , for me, it has a pleasing London symmetry to it. Here’s the relevant part:
With apologies to Mr Mace, I am going to throw in a few mystic symbols.
- Begin by vibrating ‘baph-o-met’. (Or whatever. But Baphomet.)
- Continue vibrating Baphomet as you use the white light to create the three rings.
- Smoosh the egg shape into a sphere.
- You can use the fire imagery if you want, but I tend to go with a pillar of blinding octarine extending up and down into infinity.
- Once the pillar is in place, crib from the Mass of Chaos and invoke!
In the first aeon, I was the Great Spirit
In the second aeon, Men knew me as the Horned God, Pangenitor Panphage
In the third aeon, I was the Dark one, the Devil
In the fourth aeon, Men knew me not for I am the Hidden One
In this new aeon, I appear before you as Baphomet
The God before all gods who shall endure to the ends of the earth.
- Repeat the last two lines, seeing some pleasingly steampunkish arrows coalesce out from your octarine sphere, toward Carroll’s double-cube vertices.
Done! For protection, the arrows can be left as a field, like a probabilistic electron cloud, to collapse into ‘solid’ form should they come into contact with anything malefic. (This makes commuting on the tube distracting.)
2. A gnostic chaosphere ritual
Begin by saying the following aloud. They’re the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas. I see no reason not to adjust this for gender as appropriate.
“Whoever has ears, let him hear. There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness.”
- Create the sphere as before, but vibrate ‘abra-sax’ instead. This appears to be an earlier form of Abraxas. You can use either but seriously… go ahead and vibrate ‘abra-sax’ now. AMIRITE?!?!
- Instead of constructing your chaosphere with a white light… use pink, like an electric rose quartz. Why? Because of reasons.
- Once at the pillar part, vibrate the names of the first four angels from the Hidden Gospel of St John.
- Visualise the arrows coalescing as well as the four angels manifesting at cardinal points a la the LRP. (They don’t quiiiiiite line up in an elemental fashion. Or, at least, I can’t get them to. Elements have never been my thing.)
Done. This is a lot more potent than it looks. That’s your heads up.
3. The 8 Immortals of the Wine Cup
This variant is based on a print I saw at the British Museum last year, part of their Ritual and Revelry: The Art of Drinking in Asia exhibit. (Yes, I trawl the BM looking for tech. But there is a long, proud tradition of occultists doing precisely that.)
The 8 Immortals of the Wine Cup aren’t true Taoist immortals. It’s basically a burn on a bunch of philosophers who loved to get wasted. So I immediately fell in love with them. (Also… no trespassing problems!)
The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup or Eight Immortals Indulged in Wine were a group of Tang Dynasty scholars who are known for their love of alcoholic beverages. They are not deified and xian (“immortal; transcendent; fairy”) is metaphorical. The term is used in a poem by Du Fu, and in the biography of Li Bai in the New Book of Tang. [More.]
Use this as a source of creative inspiration, or just for the funsies that comes from charging your wine.
- Hold a glass of wine with both hands at the level of your manipura chakra.
- Perform a ‘vanilla’ chaosphere ritual with Mace’s white light and no vocal invocation. (Unless your Mandarin is up to it?)
- Lift and extend the wine glass and have the unlimited white light pillar ‘pour’ into it from above.
- Breath in and out deeply, visualising the 8 Immortals of the Wine Cup slowly manifest in an approving circle around you.
- Salute them with the glass.
You can probably guess how this variant ends.
Return to the kitchen table
Crowley called the Lesser Banishing Ritual of The Pentagram, “properly used”, the Medicine of Metals. And by “properly used”, we may make the reasonable inference that he was referring to the potency of the symbols -and what they are proxies for, rather than the act of regular banishing. Indeed, the entire conceit of ritual magic is that things can stand in for other things that have real effects.
The chaosphere, then? Here’s Moorcock on it’s creation:
The origin of the Chaos Symbol was me doodling sitting at the kitchen table and wondering what to tell Jim Cawthorn the arms of Chaos looked like. I drew a straightforward geographical quadrant (which often has arrows, too!) – N, S, E, W – and then added another four directions and that was that – eight arrows representing all possibilities, one arrow representing the single, certain road of Law. I have since been told that it is an “ancient symbol of Chaos” and if it is then it confirms a lot of theories about the race mind. … As far as I know the symbol, drawn by Jim Cawthorn, first appeared on an Elric cover of Science Fantasy in 1962, then later appeared in his first comic version of Stormbringer done by Savoy.
I think about the chaosphere’s encoding of the idea of all possibilities in connection with Crowley’s promotion of a “properly used” LBRP. It reminds me, in a strange way, of those Pharaonic spells in the Book of The Dead that allow the Pharaoh to “come down into any sky”. In Fingerprints of The Gods, Hancock says this relates to being able to move between different times… specifically Zep Tepi and the time of the Gods, and that’s what the entire Giza complex is designed to encode: The heliacal rising of Leo on the Spring Equinox in 10,500 BC.
In some fashion, the Giza complex is undoubtedly a Divine Rolex, but to my mind, the ability to “come down into any sky” is a way of saying that you are unbound by fate and predestination. You can “come down into a sky” where the Wanderers are in a more beneficial, or less obstructive, alignment. The repeated performance of this spell ensures that the Pharaoh is not bound by the tyranny of his natal chart… or, to update the concept, the inertia of high probability events.
A similar notion is encoded in the liberating message and origin of the chaosphere. Repeated application should secure your freedom to follow any path rather than the fixed track of fate.
Otherwise, what else is chaos for?
Perhaps a better question to end on… given that the chaosphere as we currently have it was made up at a kitchen table for an also-ran, pulp fantasy world.
How else would you expect the supreme symbol of chaos to come down to us?