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Austin Osman Spare's Biography (Books) (Photos)

Austin Osman Spare
Austin Osman Spare was an artist, philosopher and occult magician. Like Aleister Crowley with whom he had a brief association, Spare was a genius in his own time unappreciated and vilified by a society that could little understand him. His was the inspiration that led to the formation of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros' (IOT) in England in the late 1970's and the practice of what is now known as Chaos Magic.

It has been argued that Spare's magic depended (at least in part) upon psychological repression. According to one author, Spare's magical rationale was as follows, "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."

Spare believed that intentionally repressed material would become enormously effective in the same way that "unwanted" (since not consciously provoked) repressions and complexes have tremendous power over the person and his or her shaping of reality. It was a logical conclusion to view the subconscious mind as the source of all magical power, which Spare soon did. In his opinion, a magical desire cannot become truly effective until it has become an organic part of the subconscious mind.

Spare "elaborated his sigils by condensing letters of the alphabet into diagrammatic glyphs of desire, which were to be integrated into postural (yogalike) practices--"monograms of thought, for the government of energy." Spare's work is contemporaneous with Hugo Ball's attempts "to rediscover the evangelical concept of the 'word' (logos) as a magical complex image"--as well as with Walter Benjamin's thesis that "Mediation, which is the immediacy of all mental communication, is the fundamental problem of linguistic theory, and if one chooses to call this immediacy magic, then the primary problem of language is its magic. Spare's 'sentient symbols' and his 'alphabet of desire' situate this mediatory magic in a libidinal framework of Tantric--which is to say cosmological--proportions."

Some of Spare's techniques, particularly the use of sigils and the creation of an "alphabet of desire" were adopted, adapted and popularized by Peter J. Carroll in the work Liber Null & Psychonaut. Carroll and other writers such as Ray Sherwin are seen as key figures in the emergence of some of Spare's ideas and techniques as a part of a magical movement loosely referred to as chaos magic.

Zos Kia Cultus is a form, style, or school of magic developed by Spare. It focuses on one's individual universe and the influence of the magician's will on it. While the Zos Kia Cultus has very few adherents today, it is widely considered an important influence on the rise of chaos magic.

Bibliography


Privately printed by Spare during his lifetime

* Earth Inferno 1905
* A Book of Satyrs 1907 (reissued by John Lane 1909)
* The Book of Pleasure 1913
* The Focus of Life 1921 (issued by The Morland Press)
* Anathema of Zos 1927

Books illustrated by Spare


* Behind the Veil issued by David Nutt 1906
* Songs From The Classics published by David Nutt 1907
* The Shadow of the Ragged Stone published by Elkin Matthews 1909
* The Equinox published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd. 1909
* On the Oxford Circuit published by Smith, Elder & Co. 1909
* The Starlit Mire published by John Lane 1911
* Eight Poems published by Form at The Morland Press Ltd. 1916
* Twelve Poems published by The Morland Press Ltd. 1916
* The Gold Tree published by Martin Secker 1917
* The Youth and the Sage privately printed, 1927

Magazines edited by Spare


* Form - A Quarterly Of The Arts 1916-1922
* Golden Hind 1922-1924

The majority of the books listed above are available as modern reprints. For a more complete listing see Clive Harper's Revised Notes Towards A Bibliography of Austin Osman Spare.

Significant titles published since Spare's death include Poems and Masks, A Book of Automatic Drawings, The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare, Axiomata & The Witches' Sabbath, From The Inferno To Zos (3 Vol. Set), The Book of Ugly Ecstasy, and Zos Speaks.