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Kaos magazine, issue 14

2002, edited and compiled by Joel Biroco. Online journal, 197pp printable PDF file for free download at Joel Biroco's Kaos

This is a truly huge piece of work. To call it a magazine is completely unjust- magazines don't go to nearly 200 densely packed pages... and they don't have the feel of an encyclopaedia about them.....and they are not downloads of over 3 megabytes.... although it fulfils the role of magazine, being the latest in a sequence.

That there are 13 years since the last issue, in 1989, might go some of the way to explaining the sheer size. But Joel has been busy. He rejected magick of any kind, became almost a wandering freestyle Zen monk and went off on a variety of adventures; thinking that his Great Work was either done, or had failed. But apparent failure is often the best place to start from- as it says in Thundersqueak: "Success is a rut. The times when you really are free to reshape your life are the moments of depression, failure and emptiness" ... for example "Would christianity ever have gained such power if Thingummybob had not let himself be crucified?" Precisely. Joel would probably object to the apparent comparison with christ, which is not intended, but the point is what matters.... for out of the ashes, something has some strange way, neither of those conclusions- either that his work was complete, or had failed, were true, and Joel was inextricably drawn back into a place where a signpost could be shown to him. He has chosen to see, and follow that sign, and reinvolve himself in magic. For now, anyway.

As a magazine, at least in title, it is the work of several writers. Joel has been the editor, main writer, and I guess the guardian of a lot of what appears within, for several years in some cases. It can be seen as a compendium, rather than an issue entirely about what's happening now, in 2002, and beyond. Part history, part future plan and part sheer bloody inspiration.

It is the identity of the contributors, and the nature of what they have to say that might be the cause of a few problems. 'Satyr' is a former member of an 'Occult Training Order' which cannot be named as they seem to sue at the drop of a hat nowadays (hint- see the capitals), and his records of adventures with that Order formed a supplement to Kaos 14, which recently had to be removed from the net after a complaint was received by Joel's ISP. One complaint......

For a review of 'The Black Lodge of Santa Cruz' see the piece by Francis Breakspear here. Happily, I am told that around 2000 copies of the file were downloaded before any complaint was ever received, so the thing is out there in cyberspace, and in the hands of numerous individuals in a big way and thus will never be completely suppressed.

As for the content of the magazine- wow... The overwhelming influence here is Babalon. I'm told that if you've had any contact, you know Her, and if you've not had contact yet then it's damn hard to explain, but be prepared to be rocked to your very core.... The Kaos-Babalon 156 Current, an evolution of Thelema, is what Joel and his partners initiated in 1989, and She lay dormant, or rather waiting, until now.

And how! In 30 years' time we might all be discussing how very central and seminal this work was to our current understanding of magick (or whatever it's going to be called in 2030). I'd be willing to put money on it....

There is also a lengthy, erudite and fascinating discussion of modern developments in Enochian magick within Chaos. The various pieces on Magick in general, Kenneth Grant, Austin Spare, Cthulhu, Voodoo and numerous book reviews will all raise one or more of smiles, ire or the roof, depending on your own personal stance, but there is not one dud article here..... usually in such a large collection there will be articles which are padding, fluffy new-age waffle (and/or insane ramblings) or just plain crap that's been done before, ad nauseam. But no, not here. This is testimony perhaps to both JB's skills as an editor, and the sheer wealth of material from which he may have produced this magazine (although one wonders what other treasures may have been lost in the magickal bonfire he had to utilise a few years back...) And it may just be luck, but a lot of this I find to be spot on to my own personal views/prejudices/delusions/whippingboys (delete as applicable)- for example Alan Moore's review of a Kenneth Grant book: " to open any Grant text following his relatively lucid Magical Revival is to plunge into an information soup, an overwhelming and hallucinatory bouillon of arcane fact, mystic speculation and apparent outright fantasy". To which delicious summary I can only add, with a grin; "FIAOF!"

Joel Biroco is not one to mince words or hold back: apparently Kaos magazine was always not entirely popular within the occult fraternity, for the challenging material it presented. But what is the point of a samey and totally acceptable viewpoint? No-one gets anywhere by agreeing with the status quo and never attempting to think new thoughts.... It seems age and experience are no mellowing influence- according to JB, the IOT and other chaos groups are "doing the same old stupid stuff" and indulge in "moribund fiddling around". Also, my personal favourite, and not about anyone in particular: "constant regurgitation of the past is not a service to the future"... Joel's not one for a career in the Diplomatic Service, then...

It's hard to review something so immense in scope without going to lengths approaching 50 pages (which no-one will be happy about), so many things have to be left out, or just briefly mentioned; which is terrible, since so much obvious hard work has gone into this mag. For that undoubted crime I trust I will be forgiven, but if you've read this far in the review you will probably already be hooked on the idea of this magazine, so leave me rabbiting on here and go get it for yourself! AND GET IT NOW- Especially if the Old Orders, and their vulture pack of lawyers are on Joel's back and complaining to his ISP to remove it from the web, as time left in which to download it may be short.

Finally: Joel says: "I didn't kill the chaos current, actually I saved it for the future".

He might just have done that. So - Welcome to the Future.

Dave Evans

Look out for an interview with Joel Biroco coming soon to Occultebooks