The Illuminates of Thanateros is an occult society, founded in 1978, that pursues Chaos Magick. This fraternal and magical organization society has been one of the most important influences on modern occultism.
In the late 1970s, Ray Sherwin and Peter Carroll, two young British occultists with a strong interest in ritual magic, began to publish a magazine called The New Equinox. Both were connected with a burgeoning occult scene developing around a metaphysical bookstore in London's East End called The Phoenix. According to themselves, both men quickly became dissatisfied with the state of the Magical Arts and the deficiencies they saw in the available occult groups. So in 1978 they published a small announcement in their magazine proclaiming the creation of a new kind of magical order, one based on a hierarchy of magical ability rather than invitation, a magical meritocracy. It was to incorporate elements of Thelema, Zos Kia Cultus, shamanism, tantra and Taoism. They called their creation the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), referring to the dualism of the gods of Death (Thanatos) and Love (Eros).
Carroll and Sherwin began to publish private monographs detailing their system of magical practice, some of which had been articles in The New Equinox, others being intended as instruction to members of their order. The new style of magic they introduced, which focused on practical skills as opposed to metaphysical systems, became known as Chaos Magic. In the 1980s they began to attract a following in England, Germany and Austria, including some influential occult writers and practitioners. But before the decade was out, Sherwin would resign in protest that the IOT was beginning to resemble the hierarchical orders that were once anathema to the concept of the group.
Carroll carried on and made the IOT known to occultists around the world largely through his books Liber Null and Psychonaut. In the early 1990s this chaos magic order suffered from what was called the Ice Magick Wars, and several schisms broke from the group into factions such as the Z(cluster), the Reformed IOT (RIOT) in Germany and The AutonomatriX in California.
Around the time of this schism Peter Carroll brought the organization of the IOT proper into an "inner order", allowing The Magical Pact of the IOT to suffice as the public manifestation of the "outer order". This outer order is now often referred to simply as The Pact.
The Schism was created by a confluence of numerous forces and creative ideas. Some ideas were political based, while others related to usual occult order issues. In truth, final resolution of such issues often involved historical revisionism based on available information; however incomplete or inaccurate such data might be. The IOT learned the reaction to political agendas inevitably results in resignation of key initiates as well as interorder turbelances. In post-modern times, as of 2006, little if any political agenda has been publically disclosed; and it is assumed such agendas are shunned.
Shortly after the schism, Carroll published Liber Kaos and retired from active participation in The Pact. He explicitly stated this was not a consequence of disagreement with the state of the Pact but a matter of his personal development. He remains committed to the IOT and a new venture found at the Arcanorium website.
The IOT did not form a temple in the USA prior to 1989, although there were several people who reported they had received initiation from a UK temple. In any case, the first USA temple was named the Temple of Oblivion. Its location in Los Angeles allowed a fertile ground for launching the chaos magick movement in the USA. Temple of Oblivion was a pure form of chaos magic in so far as the major influences of Austin Spare (an ispiration for the IOT) had not yet been replaced by other paradigms thought to be more appropriate. This Los Angeles temple grew rapidly and eventually another temple was formed, named Epic Temple. Epic and the Temple of Oblivion are no longer active as many of the members have either retired, left the IOT, or pursued their own magical endeavors. Although temples do not generally advertise their existence, at least one each in Seattle, Dallas, and Phoenix currently do.
The Pact remains active as of 2006; the Z(cluster) is still existent, as is the AutonomatriX. It is known that the Pact is by no means the only chaos magick group in America, or the rest of the world. In the past decade, the Pact of the IOT has acquired a less outspoken leadership. Such a stance is probably related to the well documented internet and ice magick wars. These internal conflicts were pivotal influences in the IOT, in so far, as secrecy is concerned. These influences led to more secrecy. It also replaced the former charta Liber Pactionis with The Book, which gives a more realistic picture of the Pact than its predecessor.
The Pact organizes itself along the somewhat "traditional" lines of a fraternal occult order, with initiations into progressive degrees denoting magickal skill and leadership within the group. It is notable that unlike other occult societies with a degree system, the Pact rewards progression in degree with hardly any privileges, but "punishes" it with added duties and responsibilities.
There also are several offices, most notably including the Insubordinate, a low-ranking member who is to be informed about all work of a high-ranking member s/he is assigned to, to criticize and ridicule it, channel feedback from others concerning it, and will veto it if necessary. Every Adept, Magus, and Magister Templi (leader of a local group) has an Insubordinate. There also is a special degree "0°=5° Elder", a degree for 2° and 1° members who retire from their duties, described as identical to the 3°.
There are no membership or initiation fees. This is a difference from all magical orders of comparable influence.
Members are obliged to keep silent on internal affairs and the identities of their fellows. The latter rule does not seem to apply to deceased persons, as it is not a secret William S. Burroughs and Timothy LearyTemplate:Fact have been members.
Relation to the occult subcultureEdit
Unlike such groups as the OTO or various offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, The Pact is an informal confederation of like-minded practitioners, rather than a legal entity or non-profit corporation. It has been described by Phil Hine as "the Order for 'serious' Chaos Magicians in the same way that the OTO exists for 'serious' Thelemites."
The presence of hierarchy in the IOT has been the cause of a lot of dispute around it in the chaos magic scene. Opposers think the concept is un-chaotic and limiting to individual members, while defenders believe the tradeoff in chaoism allows for much more effective group work, especially on an international scale. Many chaos magical practioners prefer to work in unique settings devoid of any structure at all.
The Pact claims to be involved in continuous "magical research" but appears hesitant to let others participate in the process. The group has a comparatively difficult application procedure and appears to reject a great majority of applicants. However, chaos magic has long spread beyond the IOT as evidenced by the large community of practioners throughout the world. IOT members such as the aforementioned, Ramsey Dukes, Dave Lee, Joshua Wetzel, Julian Vayne and others continue to produce a large part of the literature available on Chaos Magick. Another source of Chaos Magick literature include Kenneth Grant.
While little activity of the IOT is visible to the outside public, the order has held annual open seminars for nearly two decades. Many notable chaos magickians have been speakers there. Some local groups offer classes to non-members.
- ↑ Profile of Austin Osman Spare
- ↑ Temple Galateh
- ↑ Temple Sona-Nyl
- ↑ Temple X-Tod
- ↑ 
- ↑ Grant, Douglas. Magick and Photography in Ashé: Journal of Experimental Spirituality, vol. 2, no. 3
- ↑ Hine, Phil. Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-117-X
- ↑ Kaosgate.Org: Chaos Magick on Wheels
- Carroll, Peter (1987). Liber Null & Psychonaut. Weiser Books. ISBN 0-87728-639-6
- Carroll, Peter (1992). Liber Kaos. Weiser Books. ISBN 0-87728-742-2
- Hine, Phil (1993). Prime Chaos. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-137-4
- Hine, Phil (1995). Condensed Chaos. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-117-X
- Illuminates of Thanateros. The Book (English) (charta and history)