In my line of work, I deal regularly with raw and aggregated audience data.
Raw data would be the number of likes or shares a particular piece of content receives. Aggregated data would be whether our readers are 50% more likely to be interested in travel or health and beauty versus the average over a thirty day period.
Both are extremely useful but only if you do not mistake the one for the other.
The introduction to Epoch is one of the most breathtaking examples of aggregated data you are likely to ever read.
It is that accumulation and analysis of sorcerous macro trends that people either love or loathe about chaos magic. We could call it a Carrollist perspective and may even be chaos magic's defining trait.
This is so very much my jam. Inevitably, there is some signal loss with macro pronouncements, and detractors are ever eager to find exceptions to disprove rules. But I would argue this is confusing raw data with the aggregated stuff.
For example, recently-discovered archaeological evidence of entheogen use in a building used as a Late Period Alexandrian Mystery School provides potent raw data for a shift in how we can think about what was going on during the western esoteric tradition's most important 'melting pot' phase. But there are not yet enough data for aggregation and likely never will be. It is a completely different way of analysing the tradition to this very-PJC observation about Mercury (which knocked a few pieces in my head into their perfect place).
Obviously, I was always going to like this book. I make no bones about the fact that Pete Carroll is more to blame than anyone else for how I approach magic. But it surprised even me.
In all of his recent pre-interviews, Pete goes to great trouble to highlight Matt Kaybryn's contribution. I thought that maybe this was simply an author being justifiably proud of having a very talented artist as his illustrator.
It's a proper partnership. They have both managed to say something that isn't quite 'book shaped'. The whole 'book and card' combo is very difficult to explain but makes complete sense when you possess them both.
Inevitably with some many esoteric forms, some resonate more than others. But in concert they have already helped me 'tune in' to either forms that I previously struggled to resonate with or with new approaches to ones I thought I was reasonably up on. Check it:
I cannot tell you how pleasing it is to have the danger restored to Eris. Discordianism always frustrated me with its sophomoric boy humour and sixties Californian stank. Eris isn't a practical joker hanging out in a bowling alley, making puns on her college mates' names. Eris wants to watch the world burn. She's in East Ukraine right now, hoping to spark some misunderstandings. Eris is Heath Ledger's joker with boobs. Behold.
In fact, the slight delay in posting this review is largely down to test driving some of the forms and suggestions in the book. Besides the ones I have blurrily phone-photographed, a few others leap out as being personally instructive:
- Athena - A flawless presentation of duty, protection and the emotional toll it brings.
- Aether - Go figure. No idea what Matt's depiction of something we should all have a pretty good conception of shook loose, but it shook something loose.
- Apophenia - This image captures the faint sense of nausea that Apophenia seems to induce in me. As well as the faintly comic reality of her manifestations being entirely on her own terms.
- Thoth - Actually, perhaps one of the most useful parts of the book is in its firming up of the differences between Thoth, Mercury and Hermes. The Thoth card is my current favourite. (There's a little Easter Egg on the back shelf for the eagle-eyed.)
- Horus - It was in one of Mogg's Set books; can't remember which one; where he remarks that he's never really resonated with Horus. I can completely relate to it. Part of that is down to Crowley's wrong-headed presentation of him (which Pete goes to town on) but part of it is just... nope. Not there. Between the two of them, Matt and Pete have found a clear, useful, defined and potent manifestation.
Here's some more:
Matt has absolutely nailed Juno, if you ask me. It loses something in the phone photo (you don't say) but I'm looking forward to playing around with her. It was a real 'aha' moment, when I landed on the Juno page.
And as for Jupiter... finally someone has called it like we should all be seeing it. That's an astral Manhattan skyline in the background. Praying to Jupiter has always struck me as waving a little flag as the Queen goes by. This is a god of kings and Rothschilds. It is Jupiter that allows Wall Street criminals to avoid jail and have you foot the bill for their crimes. That's what kings do. Few forms embody having different laws for the wealthy than the rest of us quite like Jupiter. (I sometimes get some joy out of Jupiteran spirits, but then it's always the page or the lady in waiting that ends up being bribed into talking to the gutter press, so that makes sense.)
Pete is kinder: "He embodies both the innate and the experience-won techniques of continually up-trading for power. Invoke Him for as much of it as you desire."
All of these various beings and forces are mapped to what Pete calls the Chaobala, an idea whose time has certainly come. Chaos magic emphasises the unreality of any individual 'map' of creation, recognising these as human projections. Which isn't to say they are not without some utility, as long as their provenance is acknowledged.
What appeals to me about the Chaobala is twofold. Firstly, just as Jake Stratton-Kent does in Testament of St Cyprian The Mage, Pete points out the mostly-unacknowledged impact Neoplatonism has had on the western esoteric tradition and how this has skewed our maps.
Secondly, and this has been a bugbear of mine for years, it incorporates space into it, rather than leaving it off the map just as things were getting interesting. (By definition, the planetary system ends at the edge of our solar system. Rising through the spheres is over before it is begun.) On the Kardashev Scale of the Gods, the Chaobala is a Type III worldview.
Pulled together, it is a fantastic cohesion of ideas in need of cohering, doubly so because the cohesion makes no claims to antiquity and doesn't have to fit with either Neoplatonic emanations or Sanskrit body centres. Getting your head around the Chaobala is getting your head around a substantially updated magical cosmology. If that kind of thing is your jam, this kind of book is your toast. (For the first time in my life, I wanted to build some kind of 777 magician's tables based on it, even just as a mental exercise. I may yet. You know how I feel about ambitious metaphysics.)
And because this is a Pete Carroll book, there is an absolute romp through quantum theory, probability and experimental physics. ("... to eliminate the embarrassing hypotheses of Multiple Universes and the Multiverse." Testify!)
This certainly merits further consideration. Essentially, you can still have the spooky action at a distance that is the hallmark of successful practical enchantment as your goal is linked in the future at the point of achievement, and is entangled backwards in time to the point where you cast the spell(s).
Actually, because Epoch is Pete at his aggregating best, if there were parts of his last two books that bamboozled you a bit, then I'd suggest reading this chapter first and then going back to Octavo and Apophenion. It may become clearer.
With regards to the final grimoire in the book, the Necronomicon... where do I start? This is the definitive explanation for why the crashed spaceship is the cornerstone grimoire of the chaos magic tradition. His aligning of various Elder Gods to various siddhis and the setting of the whole thing in deep space is... amazing. A. Mazing. There's your price of admission right there.
I've not worked with them yet (as they are presented in this grimoire, at least) because I am much too busy to risk a mental breakdown, but I very much want to rent a cottage somewhere in or near Exmoor and smash through them all under the stars. (The last two books by British magicians I have bought appear to both make me want to flee my life. Ye have been warned!)
Concluding then, Matt and Pete have done a remarkable, inspirational, subversive, challenging, ambitious, new, funny, helpful thing. I commend it to you with the words of Professor Hutton, helpfully located on the back cover:
This is a book to which gods and goddesses, historically so sensitive about their images, should be happy to belong.
(A final note to my darling Americans: Epoch has US distribution through Weiser Antiquarian Books.)