from Abracademia No 1. Winter 2006.
by Joshua Madara.
Nearly twenty years have passed since Peter Carroll and Ray Sherwin published an advertisement in The New Equinox, inviting readers to drink “of the dual ecstasies of the sex and death gnoses” and join the Illuminates of Thanateros. During the first decade since, Peter helped the IOT (now often called simply the Pact, after the Magical Pact of the IOT) grow into one of the most recognized occult organizations in the world, and published several books establishing Chaos magic as a worthy anti/pattern of magical thought even beyond the the Pact. In 1995, he withdrew from occulture for personal reasons and to pursue his interest in multi- dimensional time.
Ten years later, while the Pact and Chaos magic continued to thrive, Peter returned “from a self-imposed exile in the ivory tower of esoteric research to engage once again with those who would practise the strange art and science of magic”—teaching for Robert Anton Wilson’s Maybe Logic Academy. While there, he got a big idea...
JM: When did you begin to develop Arcanorium, and what inspired you to do so?
PC: I retired from the captaincy of the IOT Pact about 14 years ago to devote more time to three activities in particular: family, business, and a theoretical quest into some matters that bothered me. All three of those activities seemed to approach fruition at about the time Maybe Logic contacted me. The long and rewarding struggle to bring up two kids suddenly got easier; one has gone to university, the other can now cook her own breakfast. I can delegate many of my tasks in business now that it has become well established. I feel that I have finally got somewhere with the hypothesis of three-dimensional time on a quantum, cosmological, and magical level. So when Maybe Logic called, I thought, heck, why not give it a try? Let’s come down from the ivory tower of research and see what’s going on in the wider world.
JM: You returned to the magic scene in Spring of 2005, to teach a Chaos magic class for Bob Wilson’s Maybe Logic Academy. You followed that with a second class a few months later and then your “Chaos Magic in Business” course. What did you learn from your experiences at MLA that has influenced the College’s development?
PC: I was highly impressed with the standard of the participants in the Maybe Logic courses. Here were lots of people with a commitment to the subject who were prepared to put in a lot of effort and to communicate enthusiastically with good humour and in a very civil and intelligent fashion. I really enjoyed doing the courses and exchanging ideas and inspirations with the participants.
The only drawback with the Maybe Logic structure seemed to be that
the whole adventure just came to a stop after a certain number of weeks.
Lots of the participants seemed to want to continue and many of them
ended up starting a follow-on forum called the IdeoSphere where they
continued to talk. However, due to the lack of structured activities on
the IdeoSphere, it has tended to be fairly quiet with its many members
posting only occasionally at a very leisurely pace.
I realised that a lot of people would appreciate an active, ongoing, online magical society, but that I could not keep up the pace of continually innovating new material. The obvious solution seemed to be to ask some other adepts with other specialisms to join me in the project.
JM: Online learning has recently turned into serious business, with accredited electronic distance-education institutions the world over. Even prior to that, perhaps due to book publishers such as Weiser and Llewellyn, it seems the process of going out of one’s way to find an adept or school whom to labor for and learn from as they get initiated into arcane traditions, has largely evolved into a romantic glance over the shoulder, like many apprenticeships. Although their persist cults and fraternal orders and such, today—perhaps more than ever—I meet a lot of self-taught and self-made—or at least self-proclaimed—magicians, especially in my online travels. Do you recognize any drawbacks to sharing magic with the plugged-in public? Any fidelity lost to the fecundity of high-bandwidth information dissemination?
PC: I do not think that there are any secrets about magic that are so dire that they can only be promised to apprentices long after they have surrendered their lifelong obedience and common sense to some master or other. That old style of Crowleyesque mastership has little place in the modern world.
Contemporary adepts should be able to explain themselves and their methods and ideas without charlatanry or mystification. Magic does not work by magic, if you see what I mean; it requires hard work and dedication and a lot of practise. I believe that releasing effective magical ideas will actually lead to less of the sort of satanic nonsense that leads some idiots to try sacrificing the neighbour’s cat.
JM: Formal—or should I say, former— universities often require some
standard of academic achievement, to secure the probability that all
students can understand and benefit from the lessons taught. What
prerequisites do you expect of the College’s applicants?
PC: Literacy, Internet access, and an inquiring mind will do for starters. Plenty of background reading material is given with courses and they are usually structured to accommodate participants of varying degrees of experience.
It may be that some members wish to gain some form of accreditation
from Arcanorium College. If they have the temerity to ask for a degree
we shall certainly test them most rigorously. We will need to see plenty
of peer reviewed work, and some form of original contribution, and they
will probably have to lead a course or two themselves eventually,
before we grant it.
JM: In addition to MLA, I have noticed several distance-learning magic programs about, both on- and offline (I cut my magical teeth on Paul Case’s correspondence courses, and recently enrolled in cat yronwode’s home-study hoodoo course, and the IOT started out quite like that). What does Arcanorium offer above or beyond “those other guys”? What makes Arcanorium stand out with regard to delivery, content, faculty, etc?
PC: I hope that Arcanorium College will become noted for its intensity, its creativity, its eclecticism, and the quality of its ttaff and membership. We shall be exploring areas well beyond Chaos Magic, in the spirit of a comprehensive university of the esoteric.
JM: How did the present instructor line-up come about? How did you decide whom to choose, and how did you get them all involved?
PC: Some were people that I worked intensively with before my retirement; some were people who have made their mark by publication and/or leadership in the years since. I emailed them all with a proposal and an outline of the project. There are several other well respected figures in the field who said that they may participate a little later, or as guest lecturers, due to pressure of other commitments.
JM: What have you so far found most challenging in all of this?
PC: Organisation and coordination. We have already got through three practise staffroom websites and several thousand messages to agree on formats and timetables, content and facilities, etc, etc, etc.
JM: Most rewarding?
PC: Well so far I’m very pleased to have provoked the staff to put their material together; they have come up with some fascinating stuff. It’s also pleasing to see many of my old Psychonaut and Independence crew logging into this new adventure.
JM: What challenges and rewards do you anticipate in the coming months?
PC: If I only get as much fun and magical and intellectual stimulation out of this as I did from the Maybe Logic courses I’ll be well pleased, but somehow I feel that this will turn out even better. I tend to take a stokastic approach to things: give
it your best shot and see what the weird and wonderful universe throws back. Then see what you can do with that. Long-range prescience is not my forte.
JM: Do you have anything else you would like the world to know about Arcanorium?
PC: Yes. It’s an experimental venture. We have a structure to start with, it may require a bit of tweaking along the way, and it may take a while for word to spread of what we are attempting. Within six months we should have some idea of how big it will get, and the sorts of activity it may diversify into.