Updated: Oct 1, 2022
Interview with Peter J. Carroll
By Sanhre Daffowt, and Peter J. Carroll
Hello Mr Carroll, thank you again for this interview, here are my first few questions.
1) How has Chaos Magick evolved since Liber Null was first published? In both culture
and in your own practice?
Greetings Sanhre, thank you for inviting me for this interview. Perhaps I should begin with
the context in which Liber Null was written. Back in the 1970s we had three major popular
currents in the magical ‘revival’.
We had a revival of interest in the whole hermetic/kabbalistic corpus that MacGregor
Mathers had pulled together into the Golden Dawn synthesis along with various bits of
Egyptology, Grimoire material, and some oriental inputs, at the end of the nineteenth century.
Aleister Crowley added sex and drugs and further oriental practices to the basic ideas of the
Golden Dawn corpus and founded the magical religion of Thelema.
Gerald Gardiner and his successors developed a reinvented witchcraft which owed a lot to the
ideas of the Golden Dawn and Crowley.
I dabbled a lot with all three of these traditions and developed a love of magic to go with my
love of science. However, I always felt uneasy about the Neo-Platonist assumptions that
seemed to underlie all of them. My inner scientist kept protesting that some sort of mixture of
psychology and parapsychology felt like a better model for how magic worked and how to
approach it practically.
Eliphas Levi’s work suggested that the will and imagination of the operator counted for more
than neo-platonic metaphysical ideas about spirits and deities, and his rather vague theories
about the astral light at least encouraged me to think about possible underlying mechanisms
Then I discovered the works of Austin Spare and Quantum Physics. Spare built a magical
theory and practise based on the hidden powers of the subconscious or unconscious mind,
and at least some interpretations of quantum physics suggested possible mechanisms for the
parapsychological aspects of magic.
Using these ideas as fundamentals, I sought to put together an approach to the theory and
practise of magic that made sense to the increasingly science based modern worldview, but
which nevertheless preserved most of the time tested tricks and techniques of magic in
enchantment, divination, evocation, and invocation.
This seemed to me the inevitable next step in the evolution of magic, and it struck a chord
with many practitioners. Today a great many western magicians seem to effectively use the
Chaoist paradigm. In this you basically just need intent and imagination because ‘Imaginary
phenomena can have very real effects’ – psychologically, materially, and
My own practice has evolved through three major overlapping phases.
As a young adult I practiced a very vigorous and at times frenzied program of mind control
through yogic style practices such as pranayama, and also imagination stimulation through
intense visualisation. Sometimes I would combine these in elaborate ceremonial rituals; more
frequently I used them to cast simple spells.
In my middle years I focussed on rituals and spells for power - for getting what I wanted in
terms of lifestyle and experiences, and wealth.
Latterly, I have devoted myself to using magic to gain knowledge for its own sake, for there
remains so much that I would like to know about life, the universe, and everything.
2) Do you believe in any fundamental truths about reality, or the universe, either
esoteric or exoteric?
Epistemology or Ontology?
That is the question!
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind
To make do with mere Effective Theory
Or to take up belief in something Fundamental
And defy the whips and scorns of time?
I value Unfalsified but Falsifiable Theories over Tautological, Trivial, Statistical, or
Unfalsifiable Truths. Does that cover all bases?
It does however seem a fundamental truth that we can only ever understand our models of
reality, and hope that they do correspond to reality, assuming that such a thing exists.
3) What do you feel is the role of Magick in the world today?
I have increasingly come to prefer the old spelling of ‘Magic’ instead of ‘Magick’ because
although Aleister Crowley had a lot of interesting ideas and techniques to offer us in his
version of Magick; it also came with a lot of ‘Crowleyanity’, a whole tranche of neo-religious
beliefs called Thelema which I do not care for at all.
In the grand scheme of things, I like to think that Magic can allow people to make better
choices about what to believe and what to strive for in life. I think a thorough study of Magic
should convince anyone that all organised religions consist of perfidious nonsense designed
for the purposes of manipulating people. Make your own religion if you want one, take
control of your own destiny.
The study and practice of Magic also empowers the imagination. Imagination has brought us
civilisation and everything that goes with it, every last bit of art, technology, religion,
political innovation, and science. This Promethean ability has taken us from the caves to the
Moon. It has also gotten us into a lot of trouble, yet only by using even more of it can we
avoid a return to the caves or our own extinction.
4) I'm curious, what are your thoughts on simulation theory? the idea that our reality is
a kind of technological simulation. Are modern magicians reality hackers? When we
make contact with Spirits are we actually speaking with programmers? AI? or are these
archetypes of consciousness buried deep in the subconscious. Perhaps both? My own
search for the underlying metaphysical principles has led me to consider this a real
The idea that ‘this world is an illusion’ has a long history, it goes back at least as far as
‘Plato’s Cave’ and oriental speculations about the illusory nature of the material world. I
suspect it all derives from the realisation that we can create imaginary worlds inside our own
heads. However, these imaginary worlds necessarily have less in them than the ‘real’ world. I
do not think the idea has much explanatory or predictive power. The hypothetical world
‘above’ which projects this one would have to have far more material and complexity and
information in it than this one unless it economises on processing power. Some people have
ingeniously speculated that quantum indeterminacy in this world may arise because the
overworld compromises on high definition in this one and just uses dice to decide events on
the quantum/pixel level. I don’t buy that as it presupposes that the overworld runs on a deeper
level of determinism than this one, but if it did then it seems unlikely to have enough
flexibility and creativity to have evolved into a complex superior universe.
In many way the whole simulation idea seems like merely kicking upstairs anything we
cannot yet understand, it seems a bit like saying ‘ the omnipotent gods did it’.
5) One of the most seemingly popular ways to practice Chaos Magic(k) today is to
incorporate the fictional pantheon of H.P. Lovecraft. You even mention the
Necronomicon in Liber Null. What do you think about this way of practicing? Have you
personally worked with the Lovecraftian deities?
The universe contains billions of galaxies with billions of stars in them, most of these stars
probably have planets orbiting them. Thus, it seems overwhelmingly likely that intelligent
creatures exist elsewhere and that some of them have knowledge and powers greater than our
own. H.P. Lovecraft realised that all advanced technical knowledge brings with it tremendous
dangers. Lovecraft also imagined that such creatures would regard us with callous
indifference or as prey for their exploitation, and he wrote gothic horror novels based on
Occultists have picked up on his ideas and the colourful mythos he created and adapted it in
various ways. I have experimented with the hypothesis that extra-terrestrials may indeed have
extraordinary knowledge and power and that they just might have an interest in psychic
communication, or that their knowledge just might inadvertently leak psychically across
spacetime. I don’t of course expect them to use English, but I suspect number, algebra and
geometry may have some sort of universality amongst sapient species.
I research a field such as consciousness, cosmology, or quantum physics as hard as I can and
then invoke an appropriate Elder God such as Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, or Azathoth in a
ceremonial and imaginative way, and then just meditate and see what pops up in dream,
reverie, or imagination. The results so far, in cosmology at least, look promising.
This Interview is an on going project. More info to come soon.