I do not offer love nor perfume.
I do not offer abysmal nostalgia.
I note the honor of Bes in this hour of revealing.
I know your love for ghostly yen and grim impulse, and I give you this.
“The means used and the way it happens are simple, the inverse of scientific. I use a traditional formula, created by instinctive guess and *arbitrarily* formed, not evolved by hypothesis and experiment. The law of sorcery is its own law, using sympathetic symbols.”
- Austin Osman Spare, essay "Mind to Mind and How" (March 1951)
“The tribes multiply to put forth the law.” This statement comes from a medieval Kabbalistic grimoire known as Sefer Raziel HaMalakh. One might venture to theorize parallels of symbology between the mystic AOS and Jewish mysticism, but rarely does the correlative of law and androgyny surface. The preceding passage from the Book of Raziel the Angel associates concepts transmitted within the earliest book on Jewish esotericism known as Sefer Yetzirah which predicates manifestation:
“The Three Mothers, Aleph, Mem and Shin, Fire, Water and Air, are found in Man’
... sealed them as the three mothers in the Universe, in the Year and in Man--both male and female.’
... He caused Shin to reign in Fire, and crowned it, and combining it with the others sealed with it the heavens in the universe, heat in the year and the head in man, male and female.”
Three Hebrew words are used to represent the idea of making, producing or creating and to these the Kabbalists add the word Atziluth (אצילות) meaning "producing something manifest from the unmanifested".
LEVIATHAN OF THE OCCULT, CHAOSKAMPF:
“Ghosts are sidereal”, thus sæġþ AOS. The sidereal period is the mundane course an object travels when completing one orbit in relation to its cosmic environment. We recognize this as the object's genuine orbital cycle. The draconic period is the duration (twice voyaged) for an object in ascending node, the position of its orbit while passing the ecliptic from south to north hemisphere. It is distinguished from the sidereal period due to a node's planes syncing instead of linear sync; the object's course of nodes routinely gyrates or suspends slowly relative to the orbital cycle. In heliocentric & geocentric orbit descending node (south node) objects travel south through the plane. The descending node of objects beyond the solar system move towards the watcher. The symbol of the descending node is ☋. During the medieval era the descending node was termed the dragon's tail (Latin: cauda draconis). This designation initially specified a time when the moon travelled over the sun's path. The Sefer Yetzirah's "dragon" is considered sovereign (material and cosmic); sphere ruling time and heart ruling body— “The dragon is like to a king on his throne, the sphere like a king travelling in his country, and the heart like a king at war.”
Hypnagogic trance states, syncope and Tantric Dream Yoga are time-tested components of magic, AOS was no novice in this regard as is evidenced in his death posture. Hypnagogia softens the ego inducing openness, sensitivity and empathetic willingness to internalize/subjectify physical & mental surroundings while saturated in creativity - the remote associations of diffuse-attention. Wagner, Beethoven, Dalí and Isaac Newton all cite hypnagogia as supplement to creativity. Herbert Silberer defined a mechanism termed autosymbolism in which a hypnagogic hallucinatory state brokers sans restraint or restriction, that which is immediately cognized, shaping unreal thoughts into a tangible visual which is seen as correct and precise representatively. A strictly visual sibling of hypnagogia is the Ganzfeld effect, a phenomenon of sight caused by gazing into an absolute uniform array of color. The effect is defined by loss of vision, the brain severing its permanent channel to the eyes. The aftermath, "everything went black" — we are blind. Hypnopompia can be accompanied by sleep paralysis, the brain suppressing movement before waking or falling asleep. The "Liber III vel Jugorum" and "Liber Turris vel Domus Dei" of Aleister Crowley both contain methods for suppressing thoughts.
On the codependency of psychological repression:
“If the psyche represses certain impulses, desires, fears, and so on, and these then have the power to become so effective that they can mold or even determine entirely the entire conscious personality of a person right down to the most subtle detail, this means nothing more than the fact that through repression (“forgetting“) many impulses, desires, etc. have the ability to create a reality to which they are denied access as long as they are either kept alive in the conscious mind or recalled into it. Under certain conditions, that which is repressed can become even more powerful than that which is held in the conscious mind.”
- Ralph Tegtmeier, High Magic: Theory & Practice
Spare refers to a theoretical eye and supreme bliss as Kiā. His paradigm shares commonality with Hinduism and Buddhism's 'Third Eye' or 'Eye of Wisdom' also referred to as Ajna. The word kiā itself has a unique trajectory (Sanskrit, "khya" meaning be known, be mantioned, named, known as, celebrated). In the Vedic texts of ancient India kyā relates to the word "what", e.g. "What nonsense are you speaking?" and "What can I do?" Kya also corresponds to the term yogiraj (prince among yogins, Yaguavalkya; adept in witchcraft). Appertain to Tantric doctrine, Left-Hand Path practice is described within the Kamakhya Tantra:
“The true devotee should worship the Mother of the Universe with wine, fish, meat, cereal and copulation.”
This worship includes the Pancha Makara (Five M's) of Tantra - unorthodox in traditional Vedic/Hindu circles, but embraced by Tantrics as ceremonial. The Five M's in Sanskrit are: Maithuna (sexual union), Madya (liquor), Mudra (bean or cereal), Mamsa (meat) and Matsya (fish). Kāmākhyā ('wanton-eyed' or 'the one whose name is love') is also a vital Tantric mother goddess analogous to Kali and Tripura Sundari, her name expresses further meaning as the "renowned goddess of desire". Kamakhya is synonymous with Shakta Tantra, her devotees were associated with cannibalistic LHP practices until the early 19th century. Her cult is chronicled in the Kālikā-Purāṇa text, an authoritative work concerning Shakti worship. The Tantric texts Kalikapurana and Yoginitantra claim worship of her is essentially non-dual vamachara (left-hand path), a stark contrast with classical Samkhya enumerationist philosophy which is strongly dualist. AOS' concept ikkha may be defined as will (Sanskrit, icchā meaning wishes, desire). Will and connective desire is a central focus within Eastern philosophy and LHP. In his formula of "uniting the hand [ikkha/iccha] with the eye [kiā/khya]" there is allegory and symbolic bridge to a common multi-cultural symbol known as the Hamsa, a palm shaped icon with central eye.
“I am devising a religion of my own which embodies my conception of what we were, are, and shall be in the future.”
- Austin Spare (age 17), “Boy Artist at the R.A.”, The Daily Chronicle of 1904
If Kiā is a formless ultimate reality there is no doubting fundamental similarities to numerous spiritual ideologies. Taking the word formless as a cue, Kiā can be juxtaposed aside four major schools of thought and elaborated:
Carl Jung’s collective unconscious posits the unconscious mind of sentient beings and defines psychic architecture as an autonomous domain of catalogued empiricism. Austin Spare realized the individual unconscious is a singular database of assorted ignorances, acumen and wisdom. The exclusivity of experience unto each person correlates Spare's petition to 'forget'. The AOS praxis of forgetting is a mechanism to reveal the supramundane catalog of preexistent forms with Kiā acting as fulcrum or refractor to examine a cache of arcana. Psychokinetic feats and precognitory ability are equal parts magick and charm elemental to the Austin Spare saga, yet both prove the magician's mastery of collective unconscious. Carl Jung's mysticism aligns with Austin Osman Spare, although Pleroma is widely characterized in a christo-gnostic context, it is Jung's pleroma which deftly coordinates with Kiā:
“nothing and everything. It is quite fruitless to think about pleroma. Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinite possess no qualities.”
- Carl Jung, Seven Sermons to the Dead
Tao is equated to nature in a principle wherein nature exhibits the Tao. Qi emanation, a crucial force of causation and reality is comparable to the universal order of Tao. Tao is analyzed for what it is not. Although Tao differs from conventional western ontology, apophatic theology and its divine negation or mystical apophasis (what god is not) is similar. AOS was influenced by Laozi, but Spare is not a quintessential naturalist, not in the sense of the Barbizon school's natural scenes and landscapes, but there is naturalism in his art even if only reflecting the era's aesthetic movement. Nature in its most fantastic skew is intrinsic to his work. The rare depiction of nature in "Dreamscape" (ca. 1947) is an ethereal example of deviation. The Logomachy of Zos aggrandizes humanity's generic bestial bias and emphasizes friendship with plants. To sequester this paragon as naturism would be myopic. The consort of earth's sentience is noble in philosophy, an achievement beyond natural order. The ethics of Confucius state every human aspires to become a 'superior human', superior to peers if feasible, but certainly superior to their own past and present self. The great effort of superior individuals broadens currents (not conation of Nature). The expansion of the way is known as enlarging the Tao. Confucius would say, “Ren néng héng tao, feí tao héng ren.” translated ※ Man has the ability to enlarge tao, not tao enlarge man.
“there is no malignity in Nature. Man, in his efforts to violate Nature is himself violated.”
- Austin Spare, The Logomachy of Zos
The concept of Ein Sof in Kabbalah rose a millenia after Hellenistic Judaism's decline ca. 300 BCE, yet accepted a Neoplatonic belief that god does not emit desire, speculation, colloquy or temporal activity, stressing the negation of these facets; meaning the Ein Sof, nothing [Ein] is fathomed [Sof - absolute/end]. Fast forward 500 years and the Hasidic philosophy of Atzmus (essence) surpasses and imbues all currents, a robust esoteric panentheism is apparent. The Jewish philosopher-physician Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135 - 1204 CE) integrated a transcendental negative theology facilitating divinity's definition in terms of what it is not. The Ein Sof emanates 10 marked Sefirot (energies) which correspond to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The sephirah Malkuth (Kingship) becomes the feminine settling of Shekhinah (divine manifestation), this inherent divine cohabitation is an androgynous cosmogenic noumenon as mentioned earlier in the Sefer Yetzirah. Relative and prior to this manifestation the Ein Sof migrates in the form of a supernal man Keter (crown, upper sephirah) while the Ein Sof is veiled unmanifest in essential nature. The foundational book of Jewish mysticism is the Zohar which postulates, “no trace may be found, nor can thought by any means or method reach it.”
“The New Sexuality, in the sense that Spare conceived it, is the sexuality not of positive dualities but of the Great Void, the Negative, the Ain: The Eye of Infinite Potential. The New Sexuality is, simply, the manifestation of non- manifestation, or of Universe 'B', as Bertiaux would have it, which is equivalent to Spare's Neither-Neither concept. Universe 'B' represents the absolute difference of that world of 'all otherness' to anything pertaining to the known world, or Universe 'A'. Its gateway is Daath”
- Kenneth Grant, Cults of the Shadow: The Sorceries of Zos
Ein Sof is oft termed "unmanifest", a metaphor of formless Kiā. The framing of universal order in Kabbalah is presumed evident in the unmanifest, this state of non-existence is alleged pure, personified as three veils behind the crown-sphere Keter. They are called the "Veils of Negative Existence" and relative to Kiā may be understood as source, destination and essence throughout spiritual development.
Universal void in Hinduism is known as Sunya, distinctionless; nothingness or zero. It represents primordial reality. Sunya also indicates space (Bayalu) – cosmogenic mind and body. Sunya originated to represent the higher realms of consciousness. Hindus adopted the transcendent number zero to describe Sunya because of its infinite nature being beyond reach. Spare chose Kiā to explain the same construct. The Hindu philosophy of Vira Saivism holds sunya is the absolute as does Buddhism.
Emptiness (Śūnyatā) in Buddhist philosophy is an attribute of phenomena observed by the Buddha in that nothing holds a necessary, permanent classification. The teachings lend in realizing the emptiness of phenomena as an act cultivating insight to foster wisdom. The emptiness of all phenomena is a core tenet of Buddhist philosophy. Here Kiā is not unlike the cultivation of emptiness wherein the practice of either philosophy provides a result empowering perpetual cognitive kinesis. The Tibetan Buddhist LHP practice of ceremonial sexual union as found in the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra offers a metaphorical union of bliss and emptiness, the outcome is akin to the supreme bliss of Austin Spare's Kiā. The notion of self appears throughout the work of AOS, one might confuse its redundancy with the Buddhist concept of self known as Atman, but here the apt nondualistic comparison to Kiā would be Buddha-nature, an intrinsic quality empty of transitory attributes.
The Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial tradition which creates and destroys a graphic representation or concentric diagram of sacred art (rendered in colored sand). In Vajrayana Buddhism the mandala typically portrays a celestial realm, Buddha-land or a Buddha's vision of nirvana, showing the being's path and abode including positive & negative subtleties of the mind. The Sand Mandala is an illustrative microcosm of varying forces in the universe. The ritual destruction of a sand mandala is essential to the ceremony. A deity's name must be erased in exact order, as well as tedious geometric shapes. The demolished art is transferred to a vessel tied with traditional silk khata and poured into a river. This act is parallel to Spare's ideal of forgetting an object of focus to achieve a desired effect. In either context the craft is an acknowledgment/ignition of impermanence.
“You may draw it on parchment, on paper, in the sand, or even on a wall. According to Spare's short instructions, it should be destroyed after its internalization. Thus, you will either burn the parchment, wipe it out in the sand, etc.”
- Ralph Tegtmeier, Austin Osman Spare and His Theory of Sigils
Beyond the obvious development of sigilization and gnosis there should be no doubting Spare's contribution to and/or influence on Chaos Magic:
“O, invent sound sleep by the utter ruin of cosmos! For impalpably and anterior to consciousness-all things exist.... With sensibility and name, becoming its living simulation and thus it disappears-involving its consequent necessity. Reason has become too sensible, thus desire has become legerdemain mixed with diablerie.”
- Austin Spare, The Focus of Life
A caption to the illustration 'CHAOS' in Earth Inferno reads:
The perpetual youth of man arises,
Draws aside the curtain—Faith (a token of humanity's
LIMITED knowledge), and exposes the inferno of THE
THE ONE OUTWARD TENET OF WITCHCRAFT IS SILENCE:
I'll show you mine if you show me your's - the practitioner's library. Modern authorities, the publishers & writers who feed the obscure shelves of the Occult perpetually plod through a fog of street cred, competition and paranoia. Practicality trumps potency nowadays and fuels a prevailing narrative in Western esotericism. The sacrifice of magic's potential in this objective is deplorable. 21st century currents desire a manual magick (guided occult tours). The intuitive magic Spare spoke of is marginalized in favor of the enchanting field trips authors are expected to take eager practitioners on. The momentum of magick's awakening was exhausted through the vitriolic peak of the 1970's. The magically lucid chapters of Spare's life are often deemphasized while a fetish for his pragmatic methods persists. Under the shadow of practicality adepts like Spare run the risk of being branded prosaic occultism. Nevertheless, Zos Kiā Cultus is insight departing the hylomorphic plane in concert with impetus or urge recrudescent to Ahamkara.
“Using his own method of elemental evocation, Spare set to work. Nothing happened for some time, then a greenish vapour, resembling fluid seaweed, gradually invaded the room. Tenuous fingers of mist began to congeal into a definite, organized shape. It entered their midst, gaining more solidity with each successive moment. The atmosphere grew miasmic with its presence and an overpowering stench accompanied it; and in the massive cloud of horror that enveloped them, two pinpoints of fire glowed like eyes, blinking in an idiot face which suddenly seemed to fill all space. As it grew in size the couple panicked and implored Spare to drive the thing away. He banished it accordingly. It seemed to crinkle and diminish, then it fell apart like a blanket swiftly disintegrating. But while it had cohered and hung in the room like a cloud, it was virtually opaque and tangible; and it reeked of evil. Both the people concerned were fundamentally changed. Within weeks, one died of no apparent cause; the other had to be committed to an insane asylum.”
- Kenneth Grant, The Magickal Revival
O mighty Rehctaw!
Thou who exists in all erogenousnesses
We evoke Thee!
- Austin Spare, The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos
“Rehctaw (Watcher) is spelt backwards, not for the reason given in connection with Dee and Kelly's angelic communications but because the “backward“ symbolism conceals the key to the reification of desire, the final absorption of the ego-current in its source- the Self. Hence Spare's emphasis on Self-love, or autotelic ecstasy. Rehctaw is the symbol of reaching backwards in time to infinite remoteness by the mechanism of intense nostalgia. Whether it is symbolized by the Moon presiding over the nocturnal orgies of the Sabbath, or by the back-to-back dance of the witches and warlocks (see de L'Ancre), or by the infamous kiss of the Sabbath which is applied to the anus of the Demon; all such symbols indicate an infinite regression which causes atavistic resurgence and the inversion of sex to Self-love”
- Kenneth Grant, The Magickal Revival
The mighty watchers or fallen angels are in fact closely associated with sex, either in the lore to procreate with 'the daughters of men' or the seductive tactic used in attaining the ineffable name. They are also linked to vanity, i.e., self-love:
“And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals 〈of the earth〉 and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways.”
- The Book of Enoch, R.H. Charles translation
The watcher in Spare's evocation might have less to do with the Irin of Semyaza fame and more to do with a metaphorical psychic mirror and voyeurism of the self. Grant likens concealment of the self to the watcher, the act itself is not shrouded, but the self is. Once veiled arcana is activated amidst symbiotic ecstasy, this anabolism and atavistic endeavor stretches the void. I recognize Grant's intent to show desire as concrete when he cites the key of reification, but his inclusion of an ego-current hearkens hypostasis. The theory seems to state desires are fossilized needing be exhumed; the magic of raising the dead is equally ancient. However, necromancy does not apply to corporeal desire. The self sustains a current, but once desire atavistic or otherwise is severed the dimensions and residence of liberation become quantum; meaning necromancy is effective and worthwhile, but illogical.
“It has been suggested by some authorities that the original witches sprang from a race of Mongol origin of which the Lapps are the sole surviving remnants. This may or may not be so, but these 'mongols' were not human. They were degenerate survivals of a pre-human phase of our planet's history generally- though mistakenly- classified as Atlantean. The characteristic that distinguished them from the others of their kind was the ability to project consciousness into animal forms, and the power they possessed of reifying thought-forms. The bestiaries of all the races of the earth are littered with the results of their sorceries’
... Austin Spare claimed to have had direct experience of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligences”
- Kenneth Grant, Cults of the Shadow: The Sorceries of Zos
The Cult of the Ku is the subject of an article Kenneth Grant references in Hecate’s Fountain ("The Black Magic in China Known as ku" by H.Y Feng and J.K Shyrock, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 55, No. 1). The American Oriental Society holds a copy of the journal and can be obtained by contacting Dr. Champagne.
“A little known aspect of Spare, an aspect that links up with his friendship with Thomas Burke, reveals the fact that a curious Chinese occult society- known as the Cult of the Ku- flourished in London in the nineteen-twenties’
... Spare's experience is of exceptional interest by reason of its close approximation to a form of dream-control into which he was initiated many years earlier by Witch Paterson’
... The Adepts of Ku worshipped a serpent goddess in the form of a woman dedicated to the Cult. During an elaborate ritual she would become possessed, with the result that she threw off, or emanated, multiple forms of the goddess as sentient shadows endowed with all the charms possessed by her human representative. These shadow-women, impelled by some subtle law of attraction, gravitated to one or other of the devotees who sat in a drowsy condition around the entranced priestess. Sexual congress with these shadows then occurred and it was the beginning of a sinister form of dream-conrtol involving journeys and encounters in infernal regions’
... She was known as the 'whore of hell' and her function was analogous to that of the Scarlet Woman of Crowley's Cult, the Suvasini of the Tantric Kaula Circle’
... Sleep should be preceded by some form of Karezza during which a specially chosen sigil symbolizing the desired object is vividly visualized. In this manner the libido is baulked of its natural fantasies and seeks satisfaction in the dream world. When the knack is acquired the dream will be extremely intense and dominated by a succube, or shadow-woman, with whom sexual intercourse occurs spontaneously.”
- Kenneth Grant, Cults of the Shadow: The Sorceries of Zos
An account from the Miao country in SW China ca. early 17th century establishes a physical intendment for the gathering of ku:
“On the fifth day of the fifth month collect all those insects and worms that are poisonous and put them together in a vessel. Let them devour each other, and the one finally remaining is called ku… The length of time required for the insects to devour each other will be proportionate to the time required for the poisoned victim to die… The victim’s property will imperceptibly be removed to the house of the witch and his spirit become her slave… Later the ku flies about by night, appearing like a meteor. This variety is called ‘flitting ku’. When the light grows stronger, a shadow like a living man’s is produced. This is then called t’aio-shen ku. When its shadow grows stronger, the ku can have intercourse with women. Then it is called chin-tsan ku.”
BATTLES, CLOUDS, UNCOMMON ATTITUDE, DRAPERIES, ETC:
“The collection of his drawings may yet become a cult.”
- Kenneth Grant, Austin Osman Spare's Obituary
Austin Spare (¿En retard Décadent?) has duly received critical focus as an artist, a socio-inclination which chronically misrepresents the appeal of his efforts as sorcerer and quarantines his magic while disinfecting the artist. If he is gentrified as an artist with requisite skill, the issue of Spare the magician or as Mario Praz would opine "satanic occultist" becomes fashionably démodé. Society need not worry if the artist is neutered and his art absorbed devoid of sorcery, nevermind the monetary mass his works draw either in reprint or auction. The iconoclast must suffer posthumous detachment for the symbolic conflagration of his works to pauperize a feverish exigent clientele e.g. £8,963.
“If you can manipulate your own consciousness and perhaps that of others which is surely something that all artists are trying to do whether they are magicians or not, then you will have affected an act of magic.”
- Alan Oswald Moore
The anti-art of Dadaism is arguably nihilistic modus vivendi. The primaries of the movement were certainly nihilists, but in retrospect we should refrain from classifying the likes of Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter, Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst, et al? The title of "great art" is a beast milked dry. However, Super Art does not distinguish the artist's output from life circumstance. The common side-car of artists being poverty, there still remains a greater ethos in the Super Artist, life & art converge and elope. The meta-ethics of Austin Spare are palpable in that morality does not exist as intrinsic to the unfettered life.
“A.O. Spare tended to reject what is given him in the world in favor of magick, metaphysics and mise en scene. In his own fashion he created a sphere where deep-memory threatens the common order and questions originality and supplied social codes. His artfulness subverts the Modernistic conception of production- with its emphasis on origin, author and finality - but without merely accepting the artificial, the copy, the simulation, the model.”
- Joseph Nechvatal, Artist and Familiar
“One extremely useful habit is to liberate the energy of negative emotional states, or of obsessive and demoralising trains of thought, by visualising the sigil when these are most active. AOS suggests that the Sigillic art is "believed by taking it up at a time of great disappointment or sorrow" - his formula therefore re-directs the sloughs (or slags, i.e. the qliphoth) of thought and emotion towards the greater desire, thus following the natural ecology of the mind.”
- Gavin W. Semple, Zos-Kia
Semple intimates the Klipot's primeval state of impurity, disregarding the functional in favor of the author's interpretive. What is asked of the reader is to ignore the Kelipot defined as shells surrounding the Sephirot and instead consider an inexpedient duality construing a shadow nature, in this case evil recast as disappointment or sorrow. Regardless, The Zohar elucidates a symmetrical commentary on the husks, Kelipah:
REFERRING TO THE MOCHIN OF GREATNESS IN HER. Of this, it is written: "Lilit shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest" (Yeshayah 34:14). SHE SHALL REST IN MALCHUT AS WELL, BECAUSE EVERYTHING FINDS A PLACE THERE, EVEN THE KLIPAH OF LILIT.
If acculturation is occuring I am only reminded of an effort to galvanize the mystically pure art of Austin Spare in light of "passive" magick:
“I wanted to find a way to reconcile the rather austere yet joyful (in the Nietzschean style), mystical philosophy we find in The Book of Pleasure with the image of the skulduggerous sorcerer which emerges in the works of Kenneth Grant.’
... So in a way his motivation is very much in the tradition of the early Gnostics - particularly the Cainites and their ilk - and therefore his approach lies much closer to the early traditions of Western magic, really quite divorced from the type of ceremonial psychodramatics that had developed by the beginning of the twentieth century, and the kind that's familiar to us after the 1960 and 70s revival.”
- Gavin W. Semple, interviewed February 2001
Spare's 1908 bookplate Apollo and Daphne pays homage to Antonio del Pollaiolo's Apollo and Daphne (1470–1480), based on Ovid's narrative poem Metamorphoses. The arboreal substratum Spare and many Super Artists ground their work in is classical, based on visual archetypes not vestigial as is often speculated. Anthropomorphism is a long-standing guideline in fairy tales from the early example of Tale of Two Brothers (Egypt ca. 13th century BCE) to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Rudyard Kipling's oeuvre. Regardless of how outlandish or grotesque subjects appear in Spare's imagery, they are a foregone conclusion as are the countless depictions of liminal beings throughout art's history prior to Austin's birth in 1886. Figurative distortion is another technique favored by Spare, he would utilize timid perspective anamorphosis throughout his career. The adroit Austin emulated masters, examples of anamorphosis are found in Da Vinci's "Leonardo's Eye" (ca. 1485) and Hans Holbein the Younger's "The Ambassadors" (ca. 1533). During the 17th and 18th centuries anamorphosis was a clandestine means of reproducing caricatures, erotic or scatologic images and scenes of sorcery.
AOS and Georges Braque are world's apart, but regarding collage they are not. One may view the multiplicity in Spare's art as hodge-podge, mish-mash, pastiche, decoupage, flow or continuum, without knowing collage was coming into its own at the turn of the century. Braque and Picasso would begin exploiting collage in 1911, but as a British aesthete/symbolist Spare was an early proponent of this amalgamate graphic attitude along with the Dadaists. Bearing in mind subject matter, Edvard Munch is generally lauded, yet Austin Spare is visually more accessible in palette and composition without relying so heavily on nature. Spare is the metaphorical equator of Munch and Odilon Redon. Granted the Decadent movement and Naturalism routinely intersect, yet where the decadents surrendered to nature Spare fictionalized it. We can't assume a nymph here and a goat there constitute the adherence of a broad naturalist ethic. The Art Nouveau had an organic diatribe and Austin Spare was aware of the precipice, but never submitted. Two stylistically Japanese works by Spare are Sorcerer (ca. 1905) and The Mad Prophet (ca. 1906), neither appear so occidental for they exemplify the greatest elements of Japanese art. The naturalism of the Art Nouveau is not endemic, it is however an acculturated Japonism borrowed from true natural elements in Ukiyo-e. The point being a larger momentum in gallery, audience and trend was beckoning the art world in Spare's lifetime including the “elitist Edwardian heights” (Robert Ansell - The Living Word of Zos, 2006).
“In brief, it was a time when it seemed appropriate to question the belief in technology and the omnipotence of the celebrated natural sciences. Particularly intellectuals, artists, and the so-called “Bohemians” became advocates of values critical of civilization in general as can be seen in the literature of Naturalism, in Expressionist Art and in the whole Decadent Movement, which was quite notorious at the time. Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) was a typical child of this era and, after Aleister Crowley, he was definitely one of the most interesting occultists and practicing magicians of the English-speaking world.”
- Ralph Tegtmeier, Austin Osman Spare and His Theory of Sigils
If we contrast one illustrative accomplishment in AOS' output with a titan like Aubrey Beardsley, we realize the artist was not a typical child at all, but a Marquis brandishing profound symbology as if a toy. There are those who revile this dead horse of a comparison and admonish the Marvelesque phantasm of Spare's illustrations, but be reminded Beardsley was a caricaturist who engaged in political cartoonery.
VITALITY IS NOT EXACTLY LIKE WATER-NOR ARE WE TREES:
“And look for the occurrence of the tree in his work. Arboreal energies abound'
... the symbol of the tree seems to be linked in some way to ancestor worship'
... Pictures such as “Trees” present the viewer with a dark glimpse of plant forms as personalities, as if they were posing for a group photograph. And trees can also be used by the denizens of his more witchcraft- based Sabbath pictures to symbolise the accumulation and generation of astral energies. We see the wild fleshy women clutching at trees whose surfaces swarm with the swirling miasma of ancestral faces”
- John Balance, Austin Osman Spare Spare, Occultist, Sensualist
“in all Arboreal Cults the three forms are present in a greater or smaller way. A tree exists in a constant Death Posture, in permanent contact with the Arboreal Spirit, the Kia; it's the perfect symbol for the New Sexuality.”
- Kzwleh Elagabalus, Live Like a Tree Walking!
James George Frazer's "The Golden Bough" offers a glimpse into arboreal cults and the worship of trees, but was AOS a tree-worshipper? Did Spare read Frazer to the point of fusing concepts of The Golden Bough with his own art? No - neither. While comparing Frazer's anthropology to Spare's symbology, we should realize one aim of The Golden Bough was to chronicle the remnants of tree worship in Europe. However, the societal leftovers generally point to Maypole celebrations (christianized Whitsun and Roodmas). One could argue the Pagan significance of the oak and its role in Norse or Slavic mythologies while citing animistic spirit dwelling, but do Pagan remnants traverse so many centuries from Germanic or Anglo-Saxon (Þrimilci-mōnaþ) roots past the May Day festivities and onto the canvas of A.O. Spare? Again - no. By the 19th century the Pagan maypole was integrated and translucent within the symbology of "Merrie England". At the risk of stigmatizing Spare as cynical in the face of what many desire him to be otherwise, economical conjecture doubts Austin is an English utopian, being neither conventionally idyllic nor routinely pastoral in art or mind.
“Alas! I am morbid,
And have put a purple colour about my brow.
All men seem eating and drinking the
“Joy of the Round Feast,” while I am
Melancholy and silent, as though in a
Gloomy wood, astray.”
- Austin Osman Spare, Earth Inferno
For art's sake Spare was a draughtsman driven by figure drawing and inspired by contemporaries more than any ancient cult. Homage to his early advocate Charles Ricketts is evident in Spare's pen. Between 1907 and 1908 there is clear anthropomorphis in his pan/satyr motifs involving forestation, yet by the time we arrive at 1909's "Self-portrait amid a sprouting tree of images" the alleged arborescent inclination shows hints of actiniaria and benthic advance towards the conceptual Besz-Mass —note coeval aesthetics (compare Félicien Rops' frontispiece for Baudelaire's 'Les Épaves' 1866). One remarkable example of mythic syncretism and allegory appears in Spare's 1953 watercolor depicting the birth of Hydra. Growth is the underlying narrative wherein the head of Buddha is suspiciously central to a Greek underwater plot, the human or treelike aphorism is in truth the ejaculate of deep water magma. To understand metamorphosis in Spare's art we must relate his life to his Super Art. Copious examples of his morphic affinity appear throughout his unpublished sketchbook "Adventures in Limbo", produced while regaining the use of his hand after having been injured in a 1941 bomb-attack during the London Blitz.
Spare's art is both escape and affirmation of the mortal coil. The monistic ideal and existential "Vale of tears" define his art in Egyptian context as stoic vessel receiving the atavistic ka (soul), but there is doubt and lacking proof of his quandary for civilization's return to nature; Austin Osman Spare produces numinous pure form not onomatopoeic nature for he is mage not slave. If we desire the rudimentary explanation ad hominem, metaphysical veneration of the dead is aeonic prerequisite in all art. The average person may never witness an obelisk, stele or totem pole. Some do not know the haunted forest in the Wizard of Oz, nor Apollo's Serpent Column, but serpentine sinew and the twist of a tree are synonymous. Humans have written about the serpent and tree for millenia. Apparently, the present-day critical mind remains petrified and cannot embrace the demonized serpent or any weird ascribed pedigree commonly found in deep, dark, uncharted, netherworldly woodlands. Austin met Aleister Crowley as early as 1907, the same year Crowley was disseminating Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, Liber Arcanorum and Liber Tau vel Kabbalæ Trium Literarum. Reason would suggest AOS' familiarity with the Golden Dawn tradition in 1907, with this in mind logic dictates his awareness of the Etz Chaim (tree of life). It would be difficult to debate the popularity of Hayyim ben Joseph Vital's "Etz Hayyim" which had only been in mass circulation for a century by 1907, but the influence of Lurianic Kabbalah on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is clear; the hypothesis being a Kabbalistic Tree of Life is revolving allegory in Spare's work and primary to arboreal facade. The arboreous attitude is absent in A.O. Spare's first book Earth Inferno (ca. 1905).
The protean matter and raw material much a part of works in this amorphous style are correctly derived as Michael Staley states from the Besz-Mass (transformative regeneration). Spare comments on a picture in his introduction to a 1953 exhibition catalogue:
No. 19: “Mind and Body“ - or the contexture of consciousness: The snake symbol is energy and the unconsciousness: the woman's head is the something we call 'subconsciousness' (the more fertile part). The male head symbolizes the consciousness and the body: Many consider and others more glibly think of the subconsciousness as being inferior to normal consciousness, whereas, it is the mind, our hidden omnisciences, with illations reaching across the rafters of firmament (as nerves, veins and arteries). The Ego is merely the echolalia-echopraxia of something greater. Other heads represent the emotional range, instincts and past lives. At the base - the Bess-mass, benthos and forms we evolve through and revert to. The whole picture, a symbol of the great dualities: mind and body - male and female.
THE DISCRIMINATION OF VIRTUE:
What are the metaphysics of A.O. Spare? Hans Vaihinger's "Philosophy of As If" may indeed have appealed greatly to Austin, yet the core fictionalism and its attached idealism or positivism are not the plausible stratum of Spare Mountain. Many writers hint at the Nietzschean in the work of Austin Osman Spare, these appraisals are habitual spawn of superficial-nihilism which critics tether to "sensualism" in his art; pedestrian reactionary critique cannot offer accurate socio-relevances as would naked analysis. The nihilism often associated with his work is random author's tactile motive invoking the magician's latter life squalor, soliciting Spare as contrite & neurotic.
“Science, like Logic and Psychology, is its own bogey and as neurotic as its own creed; its fear of deviation from its arbitrary standards and categories confirms all the definitions of the psychopathic... Science also has to await its rare artist -- to make an audacious guess for enlightenment or mutation. For me, the inexplicable of beauty, the undivulged of things gives them their enchantment, not their known meaning.”
- Austin Osman Spare, essay "Mind to Mind and How" (March 1951)
Writers have dirty habits, e.g. reanimating archetypal destitution in the spirit of Dickens and Steinbeck. The mechanics of Super Art have never been easy, certainly not for the superiore Da Vinci and neither for Spare. Occasionally an essay will surface demonstrating the truth in Nietzschean semblance:
“the style and feel of Thus Spake Zarathustra is reflected in Spare’s Anathema of Zos (an automatic writing) in such phrases as: Let your pleasures be as sunsets, HONEST… BLOODY… GROTESQUE; together with Zos’s references to the need for clean air and solitude.“
- Ramsey Dukes, Spare Parts
Dukes goes on to show the parallel of empowerment between Spare and Nietzsche by quoting The Book of Pleasure:
“The True teacher implants no knowledge, but shows him his own superabundance
Perfect charity acquires, hence it benefits all things by not giving. Knowledge is but the excrement of experience.”
The Super Artist is capable of declaration and in Spare's case avowal is virtually constant. In this manner A.O. Spare resolves a Super Art and validates an existential quantum. Substratal independence does not exist, neither somatic nor sentient; Ātman is capable of joy and bliss remains silent, summoned ubiquitous - declaring council euphoria becomes audible and superēminent, discharged rational and sworn. Accordingly the condition of artistic output sustains a mnemonic (attainment), we desire to swallow the temporal reflection, yet we ingest the exploit. We concede and calculate the aroma of 'great art', repeatedly devouring its transience and consistently defecating its indigence.
A fundamental of transmogrification in the literal and graphic concerning Nietzschean insight:
“starting from the “point of transmutation or transvaluation” that is central to this Nietzschean inspired affirmation of affirmation. One possible way of thinking this connection is of two different dynamics coalescing around this point of transmutation, one inspired by theory (the philosopher), the other by practice (the sorcerer).”
- Matt Lee, ‘Memories of a sorcerer’: notes on Gilles Deleuze-Felix Guattari, Austin Osman Spare and Anomalous Sorceries
The true and false of moral nihilism is not a fictionalism substantiating Spare's meta-ethical morality vs. immorality. He comments on the praise of moral doctrine, but argues congenital and recurrent transgression; the failure of moralism. Right and wrong in this context can be viewed in apophatic dialect for what it is not.
Four principles of confusion and disorder in right vs. wrong:
1. Existential morality does not exist, phenomena is neither certain nor opposite.
2. There is no determinate truth (compassion is circumvented by uncertainty and lacks opposition).
3. Natural moral determination attempts to illuminate infinite morality and enduringly miscalculates.
3a.) Moral motivation is a mistake. We suppose truth by means of determinate morality.
Knowing truth has immoral capacity, our moral determination is negated. Therefor confusion reveals:
4. Amoralist wisdom | Disorder anticipates truth | Truth is preexistent | Moral wisdom is illusory | Virtue is fictionalism.
Relative to meta-ethics in A.O. Spare's work, true and false in Kabbalah is represented by the concepts Adam Kadmon (Primal Man) and Adam Belial (Yokeless Man). The Upanishads would compare Adam Kadmon to the manifest absolute (Cosmic Man). The Gnostic version being Anthrôpos, a distinction of pure mind from matter— hypostasis. The oral history of Judaism's midrash maintains original man's preexistent androgyny. The Zohar elucidates Adam Kadmon as embodiment of the Sephirot, a microcosm manifest of darkness' actuality. The latter Lurianic conception claims primal man is the liaison of Ein Sof informing the Sephirot. One of Austin Spare's ethical goals is to remind us of the flesh, remember Evil's dimension “the voluptuous figure is emblematic of extravagance from which all dissipations emanate”. Foreshadowing the traditional presentation of enumerations in Kabbalah is the realm of the Dark amoral/false Sephirot; appellative desire anticipating truth. The cognate emanation of Adam Kadmon is a reflection and consequence of Adam Belial's falsity. Every sephirah affirms its parallel darkness enabling demiurgic right and left sides; the blackened mind from the left side is imperative free will termed Sitra Achra (סטרא אחרא The "Other Side"). This dark plateau is the throne of Qayin ('possession' - gotten, acquired), Esau ('hairy' - goats) and Pharaoh ('great house' - royal palace). The sovereignty of darkness is residence of the Qliphoth, ruled by Samaël (divine venom/severity, blind god)☞ Esau's guardian angel; his androgyny corresponds to the female Lilith (night demon). Their sexual union is mirrored by the intercourse of Malkuth effloresced in feminine Shekhinah. The harmonic flesh of Spare's amorality is equated to Keter's revealing in that the primal Keter represents Ein Sof's arousal and desire to manifest. “The difference between good and evil is a matter of profundity. Which is nearer you, self-love and its immorality or love and morals?” Keter contains nothing, reinforcing an emptiness allied with Kiā. Kabbalists often characterize Keter as compassion while affirming the femininity of its primeval mosaicism. Keter's Qliphotic equivalent is Thaumiel (divine twins), the ruler of Thaumiel is Satan.
“identity is an obsession, a composite of personalities, all counterfeiting each other; a faveolated ego, a resurging catacomb where the phantomesque demiurguses seek in us their reality.”
- AOS, Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos
The creed of Zos Kiā Cultus declares the living flesh supports its eternal abode, the mystic state of Neither-Neither. Objectively speaking the mortality involving the flesh is transport for a cosmic self, here known as the eternal abode i.e., self or the atomospheric 'I' (Kiā). The Book of Pleasure's doctrine of eternal self-love idealizes self (Neither-Neither) as all inclusive, permanent, beyond discernment; liberation's true detachment and consquence of absolute love. Spare characterizes self in typical fashion as desire and will, but he imparts an Eastern discernment in that cessation of self is congruent with existence. Self is viewed as having an intrinsic divining magnet and recoil mechanism which Spare terms in a Kabbalistic voice as "original unity" - dormant ecstasy. As if to affirm demiurgic Kabbalah's accommodation of Eastern philosophy, he refutes dualism. Further blasting unity as lacking desire, a commentary on mundane harmony is exposed. This quantum in time or "dual principle" is thought of as primal, reminiscent of Kabbalistic cosmogeny. Spare's doctrine having liberated the conception of self is canonized as an act of adoration.
“On a larger scale, there is the Universal or Cosmic Self, it too is like a honeycomb of personalities, of aspects which appear to be autonomous. Sometimes these shards of consciousness intrude into the waking world; sometimes they can readily be identified as part of what we consider ourselves; sometimes not. This is because there are no hard and fast boundaries, no definite division between 'self' and 'other' - just as the 'personal' subconscious shades into the collective unconsciousness, so we shade into the ocean of consciousness of which we are a part.“
- Michael Staley, Transformation - Austin Osman Spare and the Besz-Mass
Not overlooking The Book of Pleasure's parallels in ritual and doctrine as relates Vajrayāna Buddhism and Mahāmudrā, A.O. Spare offers an insightful rendering of teacher/student relationship in the book. He states of those who trust their natural genius, as having no knowledge of its reach, and as exerting their endowment effortlessly. Spare admits the genius-doubt is connected to an obsession with ignorance. Doubt germinates, fears fade into the cowardice of challenge and fear becomes the lesson. Spare delineates genius and ignorance by the degree of fear. The generation of wisdom is fear's precognitive seminary. AOS incorporates the social metaphor of a child's doubt and aversion to learning, his analogy of the child's doubt and ignorance compares with Buddhist discourse on self.
Beyond the language of objectivism and materialism in Buddha's denial of cosmic-self (the changeless 'self' as opposed to unchanging 'nature'), the traditional debate of impermanence detours rare attempts to thoroughly understand his infamous Six Grounds for Views. The secondary group of statements in his Water-Snake Simile culminates in cosmic self negation, they are preceded by a twin set of view-points; a lay person responding to the assumptions claiming 'This is me, this is my self, I am this'. The ignorance of the lay person is either presupposed or validated by the learned disciple's remarks. Contemporary discourse and Buddhist debate neglects a conditional likelihood, the ignorance of laity has capacity for pure-view in adherence of cosmic self. The Buddha does not state the layity is wrong or false. The arc of his teachings and supportive Dharma of non-agitation, calm and equipoise categorize reaction to the view-points' preliminary ignorances. The following example of cosmic-self negation is provided in the spirit of apophasis & mysticism, the text is from the middle-length discourses of sutras appearing in the Pāli Canon (ca. 29 BCE):
Alagaddåpama Sūtra — Discourse on the Water-Snake Simile | Six Grounds for Views
Bhikkhus, the learned disciple of the noble ones —
who has regard for Great Beings, is well-versed & disciplined in their Teaching;
assumes about matter: 'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
assumes about emotion: 'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
assumes about determinations: 'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
assumes about fabrications: 'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
assumes about what is seen, heard, tasted, smelt, felt, cognized, attained, sought after, and reflected in the mind:
'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
assumes about the view-point — 'The cosmos is the self. I will be after death, permanent, eternal, and immutable':
'That is not me, that is not my self, I am not that.'
- Śhākyamuni Buddha
An art rife with universals and abstraction is certainly able to retain a nominalism. The art denies universals existing in that Kiā acts as an umbrella. Absolutism is conspicuous, but the context here is nominal. The myriad of tools within the artist instantiate and exemplify ulterior magic. The premium of nominalism is actualized through magic whose truth denies the existence of abstract objects, meaning the practice of magic is not an act of abstraction. Keeping in mind Plato's theory of forms, the objects of Spare's sidereal art truly do not exist in space and time. However, the atavistic endeavor is arguably corporeal.
THE AXIS OF ZOS:
The astrological Capricorn is crucial to Austin Spare, both in birth sign and metaphor. Coincidentally, the sidereal tradition of Hindu astrology is a plausible element in Spare's system of magick. The sign of Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn. Saturn is associated with the demon Azazel who in turn is virtually synonymous with the goat and appears throughout Jewish mythology. The visual representation of goats is abundant in his art, but the archetype itself is also a fundamental in the Anathema of Zos:
“Am I your swineherd, though I shepherd unto goats?’
... From self-decency now I habitate the waste places, a willing outcast; associate of goats”
The prose throughout The Book of Pleasure is clearly Spare's finest hour, but the force of will propelling Focus of Life crystallizes the philosophy of Austin Spare which to this day challenges, exhilarates, dismays and betrays homogenous magickal communities and the wider occult social matrix. Focus of Life involves the darker tones of Austin Spare:
“Oh, sinister ecstasy. I am thy vicious self pleasure that destroyeth all things. Distrust thy teacher, for 'divine truth' has prevented better men from wisdom.” (Spare's rhetoric here is fortified by an earlier statement, “Truth concerns exactitude of belief, not reality.”)
The advanced concepts in Focus of Life should appeal to the dark practitioner. Although not a tome in the class of Kenneth Grant's Nightside of Eden, both Satanists and Qliphotic adepts will comprehend key points and empowerment within Focus of LIfe:
“Knowledge and all evil wars react from previous existences that are now fragmentary to the body and operate as disembodied astrals.’
... The great human factor in Life is deceit: Always the greater deceiver-self? The wrath is revealed against all that hold the truth in righteousness.’
... The workers of malignity own the Kingdom of Earth.’
... I declare this Self-pleasure alone is free of Theism; the disenthralment of God and the distractions of ego in the many entities of existence I show.’
... I come! the changing word that destroys religion, a vortex wind that shall jest in Temples!”
Focus of Life also exploits a quasi-suspense technique, violence is addressed via dreamscape as he encounters The Butcher of Those Who Follow, upon awakening a central kinetic theme is reintroduced:
“Woe unto you that seek this awful place of satiety. I am the guardian named Necrobiosis, in order that there may be mobility!’
... Beyond time there is a sensation as of awaking from the utmost impossibility of existence from the mad dreams we call reality; the stupidities we call will." Then Aaos arose to fill his lungs with fresh air and have the good of motion.”
Throughout Spare's work evil is mentioned, but in conjunction with good which reveals a curious habitual duality in the artist. Not until The Logomachy of Zos is evil so widely spoken of in singular context and comparatively referenced more than in previous works:
“Man cannot be surpassed until he manifests all his suppressions. Having fulfilled all evil he still possesses great potentialities.’
... If you must murder, seek the murderers; meet evil with evil, even unto yourself.’
... All virtues are expendable and dissipate easily, whereas evil is ever near and plethoric.”
In The Book of Pleasure AOS ponders hypothetical duality and provides this answer:
“There is no doubt about it-this consciousness of "Thee" and "Me" is the unwelcome but ever ready torturer-yet it "need not be so" in any sense! Is it not a matter of Fear? You are fearsome of entering a den of Tigers? (And I assure you it is a matter of righteousness-(inborn or cultured)-whether you enter voluntarily or are chucked in, and whether you come out alive or not!) Yet daily you fearlessly enter dens inhabited by more terrible creatures than Tigers and you come out unharmed-why?’
... Magic, the reduction of properties to simplicity, making them transmutable to utilise them afresh by direction, without capitalization, bearing fruit many times. Know deliberation, over consciousness and concentration to be its resistance and sycophancy, the ultimate acquirement of idiotcy. Whether for his own pleasure or power, the fulfilment of desire is his purpose, he would terminate this by magic.”
- Austin Spare, The Book of Pleasure