Author: Phil Hine
Trade Paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: New Falcon Publications
Publication date: October 1999
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Prime Chaos: Adventures in Chaos Magic is described as a companion book to Hine's earlier work, Condensed Chaos. Personally I did not regard this book as being particularly advanced, which makes me wonder how basic the information in the first book was. Regardless, this book will not teach you everything you need to know about Chaos Magic, so whether you get the basics online, or from another book, it would be best not to come to this book unprepared. This, really, is my main criticism of the book: It isn't so basic that it could be the first book on Chaos you read, but it isn't so deeply advanced that you should buy it if you have read other pieces (for the record I bought it because I wanted something to read on the train).
The book is divided into four sections, the first essentially puts new twists on old concepts (I will return to this later), the second covers components of ritual, the third covers group work, and the fourth consists of a brief look at Discordianism and Cthulhu based magic.
The first section is, in my opinion, the best. Among other concepts, it takes some concepts that Carroll (of Liber Null & Psychonaut) merely states, and offers realistic advice (for example, how to make paradigm shift a useful technique, rather than just a lazy game). He also tackles the subject of initiation, describing it as an ongoing process throughout life. The first section, however, falls down when he moves onto that old Chaote subject of Aeonics. While the idea originates with Crowley (as far as I know), it seems common in Chaos Magic to discuss the history of the world in terms of magickal periods. While I can see the attraction of this, the technique falls down on two main points. The first is that it focuses on Western magickal traditions, and ignores systems of magic which have remained shamanic until the present day. It also assumes that changes in agriculture etc bring inevitable changes to belief and magic (eg, that monotheism is inevitable with a changing culture). After all, it isn't like the author had access to parallel universes in order to compare progress. Or if he did, Hine isn't telling us.
The second section, on ritual, is slightly more bog standard. While interesting to read at least once, it only contains one or two new ideas. Other than that, most basic books on magic will teach you ritual use just as well, even if most books will favour particular forms (whether Qabbalistic, Wiccan etc). Some ideas have been borrowed or adapted from Carroll's Liber Kaos - the basics of colour magic based on the Chaosphere can be found online (as indeed can most of the contents of Liber Kaos). This section is lifted by the author's awareness of other magic systems, and not merely to the superficial degree that seems present in Carroll's work - for example Hine gives a basic description of a sumbel, and presents several Voudoun (Hine's spelling) anecdotes.
The third section covers group work, including considerations of how to organize, recruitment, booking rooms, dealing with trouble makers, and other such useful things. This section focuses more on the "mundane" side of things. If you already know how to run a group well, look elsewhere for group magic. If, on the other hand, you've never run a group before, you may find this handy. The advice appears to be quite sound, although I have never been part of a magical group before, so I cannot say with full authority!
The final, and shortest, section briefly covers the basics of Erisisian/ Discordian magic ("Liber Nice") and Cthulhu Mythos magic ("Liber Nasty"). This section is certainly interesting, but it really is just a primer for these two paradigms (which both mingle with Chaos Magic to differing degrees). This is a shame, because both systems are fairly radical in their differences to "normal" magical techniques. If Hine had focused more upon this section, with more "original" contributions rather than a summary of the basics, the book would have been lifted, perhaps, beyond being a Chaos 102 book.
In conclusion, Prime Chaos: Adventures in Chaos Magic is a good book. It just isn't very special. Parts of the book do exceed the "average" rating, especially when Hine shows his familiarity with the wider occult and Pagan world. I'd also be lying if I said that there were no new ideas, or interesting thoughts. But it probably is not worth spending money on this book unless you can see it going for half price. If you know someone who owns the book, it is definitely worth borrowing, but it isn't an indispensable part of the magician's library.
Reviewed by Everfool