The following is from the new book, THE QUEST FOR GNOSIS, available now.
Peter J. Carroll is known as one of the founders of Chaos Magic, a modern interpretation of what magick is. His books have launched a wave of thought that integrate cutting edge science and the oldest methods of ecstatic states in a manner that leaves room for each person to make their own interpretation. His views on Neo-Panthiesm have greatly influenced my own views and I hold him in the highest esteem. Author and breakthrough thinker, Robert Anton Wilson has described Peter as, “The most original, and probably the most important, writer on Magick since Aleister Crowley.”. With that, I offer up our conversation as an important meditation on our quest for Gnosis.
GDR – If you were to attempt to give a cursory description of Magic to someone who knows little to nothing about it, what might you say?
PC – I wouldn’t give a cursory description, no scientist or priest would give a cursory description or a one liner if asked about their field of endeavor, they would give an interminable lecture, so here goes with an abbreviated one at least…
I take the high ground, for me the universe runs on magic, science represents the study of fairly high probability and reliability phenomena, magic looks at the anomalies and the exceptions, the weird stuff, the unreliable but occasionally astonishing phenomena in the realms of religion, psychology and parapsychology. If we develop a bit of magic that tends to work most of the time by a plausible mechanism then we redefine it as science. Science = How? Religion = Why? But Magic asks the question ‘What?’ Thus it enquires into the nature of phenomena, what do they actually do?
GDR – In your book, The Apophenion, you warn readers, saying the book of magic also contains a certain amount of physics. Due to the broad domination of scientific materialism, I’m sure many a physicist would scoff at the idea of physics leading one to a belief in magic. Have you made any converts among your peers in physics? What do you say to them?
PC – Our Physics stands on two main and somewhat mutually-contradictory pillars, the classical –relativistic which depends on strict causality and locality, and the quantum which depends on indeterminacy/probability and a degree of non-locality. Adherents of the former have no truck with anything esoteric, adherents of the second have varying degrees of sympathy for it. I know quite a number of professional scientists who have keen esoteric interests and quite a number of esotericists who think that the quantum perspective provides a suitable, and perhaps the only credible model for ‘occult’ ideas these days.
GDR – What is the difference between Black Magic and White Magic?
PC – ‘Black magic means the other guys magic’ as the old quip goes. Black magic can mean the exploration of the Saturn god-form in Chaos Magic, i.e. learning the lessons that mortality and death have to offer. Other than that it just tends to mean stuff that someone disapproves of on ethical grounds.
GDR – Are the Illuminatti real? What does the term mean to you?
PC – Originally the term seems to have meant groups who conspired to support The Enlightenment generally and took a rationalist, humanist, anti-clerical and anti-monarchist view. Now it can mean either people who have newer radical ideas (for example Chaos Magicians) or supposed conspiracies with exploitative agendas in politics or finance.
GDR – Is there a difference between a ghost, a demon, an alien, or a DMT ‘machine elf’ and why do they seem to have an interest in what we are up to, even offering help or advice?
PC – I severely doubt the existence of disembodied gaseous vertebrates; however I know we have astonishing abilities hidden inside our heads, in what some psychologists have called the unconscious or subconscious.
GDR – Can you explain the difference between Ideology and thought forms of belief? How do we self diagnose whether we are operating in one or the other?
PC – Philosophy arises mainly from biography. However we need to remain aware of the mechanisms by which this occurs and work out why we hold beliefs and ideologies and how much utility we get out of them. Nothing has ultimate truth.
GDR – By your own definition, what is Gnosis, why is it important and how do we achieve it?
PC – Gnosis as defined in Chaos Magic means altered state of consciousness achieved willfully. Hey, you don’t want to go through life in just one state of mind all the time or remain dependent on external stimuli and ‘entertainment’ for alternative states do you?
GDR – What are the benefits of Magic? Conversely, what are the dangers?
PC – Personally I’ve defined Magic broadly enough to give me the freedom and motivation to delve into science, religion, art, psychology, history and quite a few other realms in search of knowledge, interest, and inspiration. Plus defining myself as a magician means for me that only excellence will suffice for important matters, it gives me a tremendous motivation to attempt things others might shy away from.
However I have noticed that some people abuse the idea by using it to bolster their own self image without actually achieving anything much at all in their lives.
GDR – It seems we are already on the fast track to the singularity with our constant attachment to our phones and computers. How may we use this growing connection between human and machine to improve and increase our own shamanic power for the general betterment of society?
PC – I don’t buy the Singularity idea. Simply increasing the volume and speed of data achieves little but confusion and distraction; it does not necessarily imply an increase in its quality. I think it likely that we will experience diminishing returns for our excessive data rather than an enlightening singularity.
GDR – You’ve famously stated, “Magic will only be free from occultism when we have strangled the last astrologer with the entrails of the last spiritual master.” Assuming that magic is the best and most useful way to tap in to our own potential to generate change in the universe, how can we liberate ourselves from the bonds of religion and what is commonly referred to as spirituality while achieving success in exploring our inner-space. Where does the common man beginning his journey out of lifelong bondage of ideology start without falling back in to a new one? Where does the true journey of illumination begin?
PC – Question everything. Look for the utility of any idea and for the conditions under which it doesn’t apply or gives poor results.
GDR – In Liber Null, you speak about the 5th Aeon in which humanity either falls into a dark age, or embraces magic as a technological boon that can lead us into the Aquarian age. Which do you presently feel is more likely and what can we as individuals do to point this world in the right direction?
PC – We will have to take a great deal more care of this planet’s resources and ecology and climate and keep human population and consumption to sustainable levels to avoid catastrophe over the coming decades. Plus we need to address the more stupid religious, economic and political ideas that currently worsen the situation.
GDR – What happens when we die?
PC – Our bodies disintegrate and become recycled into new organisms. I rather strongly suspect that the same happens to the rest of us, a few ideas and tendencies may become recycled also but the illusory self disintegrates just like the body. Even the Tibetans who have studied this for many centuries do not really expect much of the ‘self’ of even their top Lamas to reincarnate. Don’t worry about ‘being’ dead, for you have no ‘being’ to ‘be’ dead with. Nevertheless it does seem that for a short period after death, before bodily disintegration really sets in, some last thoughts seem to become telepathically projected occasionally, I’ve had several direct and indirect experiences of this with family members, including the transmission of important last minute information, previously undisclosed.
The Quest For Gnosis is an anthology of over 20 of the brightest luminaries of our time, including Matt Staggs, Thad McKraken, Graham Hancock, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Nick Margerrisson, David Metcalfe, Maja D’Aoust and many many more. You may find out more and pick up a copy here.
Gabriel writes for VICE Magazine, Disinfo.com and Realitysandwich.com and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.