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The Illuminates of Thanateros (pronounced ĭ-'lū-mə-,nĭts ŭv, thăn-ə-'târ-ōs) is an international magical organization that focuses on practical group work in chaos magic. The idea was first announced in 1978, while the order proper was formed in 1987. This fraternal magical society has been an important influence on some forms of modern occultism.


The name "Thanateros" is a combination of the names "Thanatos" and "Eros"— the Greek gods of death and sex, respectively. The idea is that sex and death represent the positive and negative methods of attaining "magical consciousness".[2] The word "Illuminates" is used in accordance with the claimed tradition of calling such societies — in which those who have mastered the secrets of magic help bring others to mastership — "the Illuminati".[2]

Its formal name is The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros,[3][4]:12 which is usually shortened to "the Pact".[4]:5



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 bookshop in London's East End called The Phoenix. 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. They described it as a "spiritual heir" to the Zos Kia Cultus and a "fusion of Thelemic Magick, Tantra, The Sorceries of Zos and Tao".[5]

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 intended as instruction to members of their order. The new style of magic they introduced, focusing 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 influential occult writers and practitioners.

In 1980, Peter Carroll and Frater Vegtan formed The Church of Chaos in Sydney, Australia. It was, in style, what the IOT would become. The group was active for six months.[4]:6 In 1984 The Circle of Chaos was formed, but began to fragment after three years.[4]:7 In 1986 Carroll and Ralph Tegtmeier (Frater U∴D∴) jointly ran a public seminar, some time after which there was made a decision to form a new magical order. The formation of The Pact was announced in August 1987.[4]:7

In late 1980s, Sherwin resigned in protest that the IOT was beginning to resemble the hierarchical orders that were once anathema to the concept of the group.[6]

The Ice Magick Wars

In the early 1990s the order experienced a schism as a result of conflicts about the doctrine of 'ice magick',[7] a major proponent of which was Ralph Tegtmeier.[8] A German IoT member named Helmut Barthel created the doctrine of 'ice magick', which is related to the myth that Germanic people originated in the icy land of Thule (a name that has historicly been applied to multiple places, which have been conflated together). Ice magick is called 'eismagie' in its original German form. According to the doctrine of ice magick, only people of Scandinavian and/or Germanic descent possess the ancient dormant genes that allow a person to use ice magick. Ice magick is based upon qi gong, psionics, and martial arts. It is called 'ice magick' because it also involves imagining large amounts of ice, and drawing power from that imagined ice. The ice magick training regimen that Helmut imposed was exceptionally difficult.

Ralph Tegtmeier (Frater U∴D∴) was an enthusiastic supporter of ice magick and Helmut, and the authoritarian policies that Helmut promoted, and Ralph thus made himself Helmut's top lieutenant. Helmut and Ralph promoted that doctrine in Germany, and recruited many members who adhered to it.

Eventually, Peter Carroll learned more about the doctrines that Ralph was teaching, and criticized him for it. That led to an untenable conflict between Peter and Ralph, which culminated in Ralph and all of his followers seceding from the IoT. The vast majority of German and Swiss members left the order, which constituted about 30% of the order's total membership.[9] Ralph Tegtmeier and a few others were subsequently excommunicated.[8]

After publishing Liber Kaos, Carroll retired from active participation in the order, though he remains on good terms with many of the longstanding members.[10]


The order and several of its temples worldwide remain active as of 2014. The IOT has acquired a less outspoken leadership, out of a desire to create the ideal zone of privacy and creativity. Although most of what has occurred within the IOT is a matter of confidentiality, numerous changes have been put in place, in an attempt to preclude the mistakes of the past. The order also replaced the former charter Liber Pactionis with The Book, which gives another version of the path that some consider more realistic.[4]:9


The order organizes itself along the somewhat "traditional" lines of a fraternal occult order, with initiations into progressive degrees denoting magickal skill, administrative responsibility and leadership within the group. It is notable that unlike other occult societies with a degree system, the order rewards progression in degree with hardly any privileges, but "punishes" it with added duties and responsibilities.

Degree structure of the IOT[4]:14
No. Title Description
/ Novice not considered a member, undergoes novitiate and prepares for initiation
Neophyte gets to know the group from inside, not given any instructions, may leave or be expelled without explanation
Initiate full member, offers magical abilities to the IOT, departure or expulsion requires explanation
Adept required to actively endeavor for the group, inspire others, organize and lead
Magus required to also coordinate the IOT internationally

There is a "side-degree" called priest/priestess of chaos that involves social and magical service to others, including outside the IOT. It may be undertaken as an addition to the 3°; all holders of the 2° and 1° are expected to be able to fill the role. There are also two special degrees, 0°=5° and elder for 2° and 1° members who retire from their duties, described as identical to the 3° and retirement respectively.

There are also several offices which may be taken, most notably including the insubordinate, a low-ranking (4° or 3°) member who ideally is to be informed about all of the work of a high-ranking member that he or she is assigned to, and is charged 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 temple) has an insubordinate.[4]:20

The IOT does not charge membership or initiation fees. This is a difference from many other international magical orders, and indeed from most fraternal organizations. Unlike such groups as the OTO or various offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the IOT is a non-incorporated society, rather than a legal entity or non-profit corporation.

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,[11] Timothy Leary,[12] and Robert Anton Wilson[12] have been members.

The order consists mostly of largely autonomous temples[13] arranged into autonomous geographical 'sections' e.g. Austria, British Isles, United States, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, and 'satrapies' in Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, and Pasifika. The individual temples exchange results and inspirations through newsletters, magazines, e-mails, inter-temple visits and the annual Pact meeting.[14]

Relation to the occult subculture

Chaos magicians have frequently reacted to more traditional, religious or occult approaches to magic with scorn or derision. This applies in particular to the IOT, which has been described by Phil Hine as "the Order for 'serious' Chaos Magicians in the same way that the OTO exists for 'serious' Thelemites."[16] The judgment that occultism is rife with superstitions and needs to be reformed or replaced by a bolder and more critical approach to magic has been prominent in programmatic texts from early on.[17] Still the IOT is commonly understood by outsiders to be an occult[18] or neoshamanic[19] organization.

The group has a comparatively difficult application procedure and appears to reject a great majority of applicants.[citation needed] However, chaos magic has long spread beyond the IOT as evidenced by the large community of practitioners throughout the world. IOT members such as Ramsey Dukes, Dave Lee, Julian Vayne, and many others continue to produce a large part of the literature available as regards chaos magic. Other sources of chaos magic literature include Kenneth Grant and Jaq D. Hawkins.[20]

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.[citation needed]

While little activity of the IOT is visible to the outside public, the order has held annual open seminars for nearly two decades.[21][not in citation given] Many notable chaos magicians have been speakers there.


  1. Jump up^ IOT World
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b 
  3. Jump up^ 
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h The Book: The Secrets of the Illuminates of Thanateros Archived 2006-09-17 at the Wayback Machine.. 2002.
  5. Jump up^ The New Equinox, 1978
  6. Jump up^ Hawkins, Jaq D.. "Defining chaos".
  7. Jump up^ 
  8. ^ Jump up to:a b 
  9. Jump up^ Mayer, Gerhard (2008). Arkane Welten: Biografien, Erfahrungen und Praktiken zeitgenössischer Magier. Ergon Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89913-618-0
  10. Jump up^ 
  11. Jump up^ Grant, Douglas. Magick and Photography, Douglas Grant, Ashé Journal 2(3 Magick and Photography in Ashé: Journal of Experimental Spirituality, vol. 2, no. 3
  12. ^ Jump up to:a b Fäustchen, Frater. "Für und wider Magie und Liber MMM" in Shekinah no. 1. ISBN 978-3-939459-11-8.
  13. Jump up^ IOT British Isles: Chaos Magic and the IOT Archived 2007-08-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Jump up^ IOT North America – About
  15. Jump up^ Carroll, Peter. Psybermagick, p. 46
  16. Jump up^ Hine, Phil. Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-117-X
  17. Jump up^ Peter J. Carroll: The Magic of Chaos
  18. Jump up^ Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 1-56718-336-0
  19. Jump up^ Gallagher, Eugene V, Ashcraft, W Michael (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98712-4
  20. Jump up^ Jaq D. Hawkins: Understanding Chaos Magic. Cappall Bann Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1898307 938
  21. Jump up^ EKSTASIS! Archived 2007-08-27 at the Wayback Machine.

External links

  • Official British Isles website
  • Official US website
  • IOT at Curlie (based on DMOZ)

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