The psychosphere is not conductive to sleep right now. Weird dreams and
night hags sleep paralysis are making the mainstream news, and the world at large is getting a taste of what chronic insomniacs like me and my friends eat every night.
Not that my own pseudo-sleep hasn’t changed up its game since this mess started. Every other night, for a little over a week, I was chased and devoured by bears in full Pandemic-HD. Mercifully, the grizzly attacks have subsided, but I’m still only getting four-to-five hours of sleep a night.
So, since I can barely hold a coherent thought in my head, let’s talk about metaphysics, shall we!
I don’t use the term “chaos magic” very often to describe what I do. It’s got a load of 90s-era baggage that reminds me of high school, Soundgarden, and other unpleasant things from my youth. Regrettable music associations aside, though, chaos magic does offer one of the better explanations for how magic works.
In short, the Universe is a system defined almost entirely in terms of probability. Every event comes down to a roll of the dice–usually many rolls, once you factor in preconditions.
Magic lets you load the dice. It’s the pelvic thrust that really drives the pinball machine we call “reality” insane.
When doing my own practical magic, this is usually the model I think with. I figure out what I want (along with whatever preconditions need to be in place for me to get it) then I enchant to push the probabilities around so as to maximize my chances for success.
That’s truly what it feels like when it works. You do a bit of practical magic, only for the Universe to start handing you synchronicity after synchronicity, each one edging you closer to your goal, and before you know it you’re looking at the world like it’s nothing more than God’s dice bag.
And when the magic doesn’t work? There’s a convenient hand-wave baked right in: Maybe you just didn’t push the probabilities far enough. All neat and tidy.
There’s an observation to be made which, to me, borders on directly contradicting this “reality as probability storm” hypothesis. Or, at least, it sits in tension with it.
By “astrology,” I’m talking specifically of the older, more predictive, event-oriented forms of Western astrology, and not the modern variant which concerns itself primarily with character analysis and “spiritual development.”
Traditional astrology contains techniques for using a person’s birth chart to predict everything from their career and income potential, to how many children they’ll have. And it’s my experience that these predictions are more accurate than a purely probabilistic universe would seem to allow.
It’s an over-simplification to say that chaos magic claims everything is chance (although I’ve seen some chaos magicians make that claim), but it does seem broadly incompatible with a universe which contains more than a trace amount of predeterminism.
The more chaos you have in your magic, the less order you can have in your universe, right?
Even under a physics model, order and chaos aren’t zero sum. One emerges from the other. Throw a handful of thumbtacks on the floor, and not only do you have a fun surprise for unruly, quarantined children, the resulting spread of tacks will appear to exhibit structure. Clusters and constellations emerge, order from chaos, if only perceived.
This idea of order emerging from chaos is found throughout modern science and mathematics, in everything from theories of star formation to the number and distribution of petals on a flower. And, at the risk of getting all quantum, it’s thought to be how the probability-stew observed at subatomic scales eventually becomes the dodgy laptop I’m using to type this sleep-deprived nonsense.
So let me (mis)appropriate some science and craft a bad analogy to wrap this post up.
Imagine, instead of a person and all of the various life events and circumstances surrounding them, we have a cluster of asteroids moving through space.
Some of the asteroids are no larger than baseballs, while others are miles wide with correspondingly-large masses. The asteroids all fall toward and deflect off one another as they move, but they’re ultimately bound up together–both in the cluster’s overall gravitational pull, and in its overall inertia as it travels through the void.
We can imagine the trajectory, mass, and elemental composition of the cluster as being more or less fixed, while at the same time we can say its specific shape and the relative positioning of any two asteroids within it appear random. Now imagine billions upon billions of these clusters moving through space together.
This, to my own way of thinking, seems like a half-decent mental model of what a semi-deterministic/semi-random universe might look like. Lots of available randomness, but all of it constrained by fixed destiny.
And magic? Magic is like a robot spaceship with a tractor beam, able to push and pull the asteroids however its programmed to.
Assuming the asteroids you tell it to push aren’t too massive.