Peter J. Carroll Interview
by From Abrasax Magazine, Vol.5, No.2.
Q: You've referred to the Illuminates of Thanateros as the
"magical heirs to the "Zos Kia Cultus" and as
"a satrap of the Illuminati," and in the flow chart on
page 8 of the Weiser edition of Liber Null, you make
I.O.T. look like the culmination of everything from Sufism to
Freemasonry. How do you answer critics who say that this is
A: The chart in Liber Null was presented to show the
development of certain traditions of esoteric ideas; each of the
groups shown appears to have taken some inspirations from one or
more older groups and added something of its own. Each group may
be considered as the "Illuminati" of its era in the
sense that it possessed the keys to the next advance of
enlightenment. This, I believe, is all the Illuminati actually
consists of, and I like to think that Chaos Magic is the obvious
esoteric current for the postmodern era.
Q: As a scientist, you're naturally familiar with the Second
Law of Thermodynamics. If it is true, and the universe actually is
at some point going to reach a point of equilibrium, won't that
obviate Chaos Magick?
A: The Second Law of Thermodynamics was derived from the
behaviour of small volumes of gas in cylinders. It takes no
account of such things as the strong nuclear force, gravitation,
morphic fields, or the activities of information creating
systems. I would be very surprised if the law has universal
Q: You quote from Magick in Theory and Practice rather
frequently in your works, and especially Liber Null, but
you do not credit Crowley as the author of your thoughts. For
example, "Metamorphosis" actually seems but a rewriting
of "Liber Jugorum." Was Crowley a major influence on
A: Awful Aleister gets his credit in the chart mentioned above
where an arrow leading from the "OTO" box which
represents Thelema in general leads to the IOT box. I think I
have read most of Crowley and he certainly is a major influence.
However, I do not collect books, anything worth reading I pass to
friends, the rest, I destroy. The only exception being Austin
Spare; I keep the collected works as I feel I have yet to fully
understand them. I'm more interested in Crowley's ideas than his
personality. As Gerald Yorke commented to a friend of mine,
"you would not have liked him if you had met him."
Indeed, I'm sure that the few things Aleister would have
requested of any of his contemporary followers had he still been
around would have been wallet, worship, girlfriend and arsehole.
This is not the style of mastership which interests me
Q: I take it that A. O. Spare was an influence on you; for
example, the section on sigils owes a lot to him, doesn't it?
A: Austin Spare has influenced me greatly, more than Crowley.
For me, Spare's great triumph was in uncovering the basic sleight
of mind trick which brings the sub or unconscious into play to
effect magic. Once this is understood you have the key to the
whole field of magic and the role of any particular symbolism
becomes rather secondary. Obviously, most successful magicians
must have understood the trick intuitively but Spare made it
explicit with no bullshit and has thus allowed us to extend the
technique in a planned and deliberate fashion rather by mere
intuition or hit and miss procedures.
Q: In Liber Null, you advocate, as a tool for
"liberating" from conditioning, the exploration of
heresies, iconoclasm, anathemisms, etc., including
"sexualites which are unusual for you." Isn't this just
a rehashing of antinomian vama marga techniques designed
to rid the initiate of his/her kleshas?
A: Yes, it probably is, the antinomian techniques are so
essential that they must be continually rehashed to suit current
needs. One only achieves "overstanding" rather than
mere understanding of any so called truth or law or convention by
appreciating the conditions under which it is false or
inappropriate or unnecessary. My next book will deal with a more
extreme form of antinomianism, the elimination of the concept of
"being" from thought and speech.
Q: Reading the section on "Augoeides," I was struck
by the similarities to Crowley and especially Magick and
Theory and Practice and The Law is For All. What is
your opinion of him, both as a man and a magus?
A: The further I look into the concept of Augoeides or True
Will, the more my opinion hardens against the idea. One can
certainly perform operations to achieve it, but I now consider it
unwise to do so as it merely bloats one of our component selves
to demonic size, at the expense of our full humanity. Crowley was
certainly a man of varied and often extreme achievements. More of
a mystic rather than a magus, in the sense that he neglected
results magic. He was also a bully and an exploiter and an
incorrigible self publicist. Although he attracted many
interesting people to himself, the best of them seemed to break
with him rather quickly. I rather fancy that I would have found
him fascinating for a while, but that we would have ended up
fighting after a while.
Q: My own theory as to how magick "works" is that by
ritual, we reprogram our biocomputers with programs to do magick;
that we do this by means of altered states of consciousness,
which allow us to manipulate the information in the universal
hologram through willed synchronicities. Any comment?
A: Quite so, but I'm sure we could argue for hours about what
you mean by the "universal hologram" which would appear
to have similar properties to my "morphic information in
shadow time." Moreover, I would be pleased to concur with
your use of the term "information." Clearly, the
concept of occult "energies" is past its sell by date.
Q: When you observe that "the gods came out of
Chaos" are you referring to the cosmonogies of the ancients,
and in particular, the Orphics, Valentinians, etc.?
A: Not specifically, but I tried to imply that "the
gods" arise from the same non-anthropomorphic
"forces" which create the universe and us within it.
This universe does not appear to be the work of a humanoid
sentient deity to me, unless it has a very perverse sense of
Q: I absolutely love the section (in Liber Null) on
"Random Belief." You offer a number of reasons why
practice of this art is beneficial, though you seem to ignore one
rather obvious one: the ability to throw lesser mortals
off-guard. For example, if you met a person and came onto them as
a pagan polytheist one day and, three or four days later, you
encountered them and began talking like a true believer in
fundamentalist Christianity, you would be practising what Setians
call "Lesser Black Magic," wouldn't you? (Mental
sleight of hand.)
A: Yes, this can certainly have interesting effects, but I
have often found it a good exercise to try and enter the
paradigms of people I meet who hold extreme views and to keep
taking those views a little further with each turn in the
conversation until a positive feedback leads us into realms where
the absurdity of the original premise becomes apparent.
Q: Were you aware that the statement "Nothing is true,
all is permitted" has been attributed, I think properly, to
Hassan Ibn Sabbah, the "Old Man of the Mountains" and
notorious head of the Hashshashin (Order of Assassins)?
A: Yes, it certainly has been attributed to him, but with an
understandably wide margin of possible historical error, and the
context can only be guessed at. I like the statement very much;
it has applications on many levels, but one should never forget
that the consequences can be ghastly.
Q: To some, if not all quantum theories, isn't it literally
true that "Nothing is true, all is permitted" (merely
substituting the word "real" for "true")?
A: According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum
physics, to which I partly subscribe, I think it would be fair to
say, "There is no being, all is doing, and even that is a
matter of probability."
Q: When you wrote "
the root of every emotion is
also its opposite," were you aware that this is what
Kraft-Ebbing said about so-called abnormal psychology?
A: I've not read Kraft-Ebbing; the ideas came to me mainly
from Spare, who apparently used to refer to Jung and Freud as
Junk and Fraud, even though he obviously was influenced by some
of their ideas.
Q: Who was the sage you quoted as saying "Desire is the
cause of sorrow"
Siddhartha? Patanjali? Both?
A: Siddhartha, I believe, although there is of course
considerable debate about what the historical Buddha actually
said. I think it would be fair to say that there are probably
much greater differences between current Buddhist traditions than
there are for example between Christian denominations. My point
about emotional duality is that life is richer if we are prepared
to take both sides of what is on offer rather than neither as
many schools of Buddhism appear to suggest.
Q: In Psychonaut, you say, "It now seems that
magic is where science is heading." Is this in keeping with
the fact that the ancients knew intuitively what modern science
is only now "discovering"? For example, the Sanskrit
Hindu concept of non-duality will seen to have been "born
out," so-to-speak, by Bohm's theory of the implicate order?
A: It's all very well to find some ancient metaphysics
which equate roughly with modern physics, but the overwhelming
mass of ancient theories now seem wrong. Some aspects of Bohm's
theory attract me, but only when they don't pretend to be hidden
variables; I prefer to allow an element of pure chance.
Q: Your observation that "the creativity of consciousness
has mushroomed so enormously that the totality of human ideas
seems to double with each decade." Wouldn't it be better to
speak of it as doubling every 2-3 years?
A: The doubling period is undoubtedly shortening although much
spurious novelty particularly in art and the soft sciences can
hardly be called creative.
Q: In "Group Ritual," you observe that "a
full-length black robe with hood is most excellent" for
depersonalization of ritual, and add, "as is
" Don't you think that the latter might actually
be distracting and that one would be constantly reminded:
"This isn't a god-form, it's chubby Harry with moles,"
etc.? In other words, nudity might be a hindrance?
A: You can quite easily get used to nudity so that it seems
the most natural thing in the world, or you can reserve it for
works of an explicitly sexual nature. In my order, we have used
both strategies in the course of week-long meetings.
Q: Your writing on "Magical Combat" is, simply put,
the best I've seen. Are you familiar with the "Battle of the
Magicians" in 19th century France? Any comment?
A: Sorry, I'm not familiar with that one; apart from Eliphas
Levi, French occultism seems to be a more or less closed book to
us in the U.K.
Q: In your "Invocation of Baphomet," you mention an
essentially Tantric rite of breathing on the muladhara
chakra, identifying the latter as the peritoneum. Wouldn't this
necessitate major surgery under a full anesthetic?
A: Permit me a joke or two. No matter how wild the celebration
of the Mass of Chaos "B," I have never seen anybody
actually try this particular ritual gesture! It's optional.
Q: You remark that "There is actually no scientific view
of mind at all," and yet, even in the 1980's we had the
views of scientists such as Dennett, Fodor, Wolf, Hofstader,
Eccles et al. Have your views changed since the
publication of Psychonaut?
A: The mind is what the brain does and that is more or less
all there is to it, although one must remember to consider the
actions of the shadow information fields with brain activity.
Behaviourism is almost scientific on a phenomenological level,
but limited in scope. Psychology cannot become scientific until
we understand the actions of the brain in detail, and this is a
long way off.
Q: In the Liber Nox section of Principia Magica,
you characterise as "futile" the "heroic efforts
currently being expended on projecting quantum physics into the
big bang epoch to forge a Grand Unified Theory
you aware that the American congress recently halted construction
of a superconducting super collider and would you agree then,
that the multi-billion dollar project wasn't worth the money it
was eating up?
A: I am devastated the American congress misinterpreted what I
wrote and cancelled the superconducting super collider. Particle
physics is great fun and worth every cent it costs, but one of
the things I predict that it will not do is prove the big bang
hypothesis or yield a deterministic explanation of how the
universe came into existence.
Q: What is your opinion of Sheldrake's morpho-genetic fields?
Do his theories amount to a kind of neo-animism?
A: More of a neo-platonism than a neo-animism, really. The
basic theory is fine, but I find no evidence for the persistence
of morphic fields from material structures which have ceased to
exist. This is a sore point between Sheldrake and I. He has not
bothered to perform a simple and definitive crystalographic
experiment which I have proposed which could settle the matter.
His first book was brilliant, but the follow-up, Persistence
of the Past, is a mass of assumptions which I find to be
Q: In Liber Null & Psychonaut, you say that
astrology is bunk, yet you provide us with your own natal chart
information at the very end of Liber Kaos - why the
apparent contradiction? (By the way, Sun opposite Uranus
indicates a person who is so self-willed he has difficulty
getting along with others, often "rubbing people the wrong
way," to quote my Visions software. You apparently like to
have things your own way and to be high-strung.)
A: I have no difficulty getting along with others so long as I
am in charge. I find that if I pick any sun sign at random the
description fits me perfectly.
Q: As did our reviewer, Leo Viridis, I very much enjoyed your
explication of the "Psychohistorical" model of the
Aeons, though I tend to disagree that acausality, indeterminacy,
and action-at-a-distance are, as you put it, "magical
[rather than] material" theories. I think writers like Zukav
and Capra, among others, have shown how very transcendentalist
such theories are. Apparently you disagree?
A: I'd say that only theories within the classical and
relativistic descriptions are purely material. Quantum theory,
although arising from the scientific enterprise, has begun to
touch on matters which I classify as magical. Transcendental
theories are those which are neither provable nor falsifiable and
they hold little interest for me.
Q: Why do you say that the model "does not predict the
nature of the characteristic post-industrial technology for the
impeding aeon"? Isn't it rather obvious that the technology
is upon us and that it is information itself, or the use of it,
leading "mind2 to its reductio ad absurdum: the "pure
information" of the implicate order. One of Lily's paradigms
of "god" is the computer. Comment?
A: Well, yes, in the absence of disaster, the future is a high
tech information culture. However, there seems a general lack of
awareness of just how vulnerable such a culture would be to the
breakdown of its information systems. A single EMP bomb could
reduce everything to a Neolithic level without killing anybody.
Imagine a cash-free society that got a serious virus in the whole
system. Concerning Lily's paradigm, didn't somebody once say that
an ant had once said to him that God was rather like an ant
except that it had two stings.
Q: The story of the star ruby and the sailboat in the Arabian
sea ends with your musing on whether the octarine stone had been
given to you as a curse. I thought you were free of
A: A curse perhaps, in the sense that giving someone a Las
Vegas poker chip might be considered a curse.
Q: In the section on references, you mention Robert Anton
Wilson and suggest that the reader "read all his
books." Do you know Wilson personally?
A: I've spent a couple of very pleasant evenings with Robert
Anton Wilson and his wife, Arlene, at their place when I visited
the USA. Probably the most interesting people of their generation
that I have met. Bob has a mind like a ramjet; it sucks ideas in
at one end, compresses and accelerates them, and blasts them out
of the other. We also drank a great deal.
Q: Have you ever been accused of lacking a sense of humour?
(This is a lie; you can be very funny, as, for example, when
discussing blue magic - e.g. the myth that the rich are unhappy;
that lotteries are only won by the poor because only the poor
play and then lose their earnings in a couple of years. I also
learned from this section why I am always broke: I hate money.
A: I like to think that I normally exhibit a rather dry sense
of humour; in the USA, this is often missed, in Germany, it is
rarely noticed at all.
Q: Do barristers and counsellors at law have any innate
ability to practice Orange Magic?
A: I understand that in the USA lawyers attract vast amounts
of wealth, power, and respect despite that they are seriously
undermining the fabric of your society. Over here they seem to
have a similar sort of status to undertakers or funeral
consultants as you may call them. I suppose that anyone who
speaks well with a forked tongue could be regarded as practising
Q: I found your remark that homosexuality is
"unsatisfactory, if the frenetic merry-go-round of partner
exchanges in that discipline is anything to go by," rather
curious. Are you aware that some homosexuals are monogamous and
thus, put your observation into the category of overstatement?
A: Possibly an overstatement, but I notice that the conquests
of promiscuous homosexuals are often a whole order of magnitude
greater than what most promiscuous heterosexuals achieve, and
good luck to them if that's what they like.
Q: Anything you wish to add?
A: No, but thanks for some interesting questions.