Monday, 5 April 2010

Austin Osman Spare - Brilliant Artist and Thinker

Austin Osman Spare

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Austin Osman Spare was a Magickian, a mystic, an artist who was once called the most skilled draughtsman in Britain and a proto-surrealist. His level of influence on modern magick is exceeded only by the level to which he has been misunderstood.
There are extravagant claims made about his abilities to read minds, tell the future, conjure spirits and affect the forces of nature... if you believe that sort of thing. Whereas Aleister Crowley drew on venerable and respectable traditions like yoga, qabalah and hermeticism, Spare claimed to be trained in the traditions of witchcraft.



Zos, Kia and Self-love

'Zos', in Spare's terminology, is (among other things) the creative power of the magician, the imagination.
'Kia' is the formless Ultimate Reality, another word for Tao or Brahmin or Buddha-nature. It is also the Will. As Peter Carroll points out, Kia is that which makes life meaningful. If you can understand how all these things are the same, you're doing pretty well.
Spare writes that Kia "may be regarded as the primordial sex principle, the idea of pleasure in self-love." What does he mean here? Perhaps he is saying that life is essentially a striving. Sartre said that "man is a useless passion", that the nature of consciousness is to reach beyond itself for something else. To rephrase that in a magico-sexual metaphor: all conscious experience is Lust. Self-love is the aim of Spare's magic. It is a state of consciousness in which the inherent lust of the mind is constantly fulfilled and renewed, so that you are swept along on a constant torrent of enjoyment of passion, freed from "belief" (Spare seems to use the word "belief" to mean all that is static and solid in the mind) and ego. You might have experienced something like this if you've ever had sex on 'shrooms.
From The Book of Pleasure (self-love): The Psychology of Ecstasy:
"The Kia which can be vaguely expressed in words is the "Neither-Neither," the unmodified "I" in the sensation of omnipresence."
"[Kia is] The absolute freedom which being free is mighty enough to be "reality" and free at any time: therefore is not potential or manifest (except as its instant possibility) by ideas of freedom or "means," but by the Ego being free to recieve it, by being free of ideas about it and by not believing. The less said of it (Kia) the less obscure is it"

Personal symbolism

Spare's basic innovation was to create a system of magick whose symbolism was not traditional, but personal. This completely revolutionized the occult and along with the influence of Discordianism, made Chaos Magick possible. In Spare's system, magic no longer requires study of complex arcana like qabalah or alchemy, there are no secret formula kept hidden by occult orders. The magic of Aleister Crowley or Eliphas Levi or other traditionalists resembles a science; Spare's is Art. As Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
His method harnesses and plays with the desires, obsessions and energies of the magician's own mind. Take his system "of fortune-telling by cards" from The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos for instance - while traditional Tarot decks are based on grand, archetypal, mythological figures, Spare insisted each magician create his own deck of cards representing the emotions and events of his own life. "You should evolve your own meanings, symbols and methods. This is vital."
"There is no qualification, no ritual or ceremony. His very existence symbolising all that is necessary to perfection. Most emphatically, there is no need of repetition or feeble imitation. You are alive!" - The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy


The sigil method Spare describes in The Book of Pleasure (self-love): The Psychology of Ecstasy, is extremely popular among practising magicians these days. We start with a statement of a desire and bring it to fulfilllment in three steps:
First you create a sigil, an abstract expression of your desire. This is normally done by writing out the desire, deleting all the vowels and repeating consonants, and making a witchy-looking symbol from the remaining letters. Use your creativity and artistic intuition here. Alternatively, you can create a spoken mantra from a rough anagram of the desire. It should sound nonsensical and be easy to pronounce.
Secondly, the sigil is charged. This involves entering a state of one-pointed, intense awareness by means of meditation, orgasm, intense emotion or other methods (see methods of altering consciousness) and focusing on the sigil while in this altered state, which need only last a split second.
Lastly, you destroy the sigil and forget all about it. If you cannot fully forget it, at least abandon your lust of result and cultivate the attitude of 'friendly indifference' toward the outcome. Trust the subconscious to do its work; don't consciously worry about the desire any more.
Much has been written on sigil magick, most of it tiresomely repetitive. Pop Magic! by Grant Morrison is a good primer on sigil magick. Check out 'Practical Sigil Magick ' by Frater U.D. for a more in-depth treatment.

Exhaustion and Neither-Neither

Spare's magicks make use of a state of mental vacuity he called Exhaustion and Peter Carroll calls gnosis. This is a state in which dualities are annihilated and consciousness enters an undifferentiated state which is not conceptual, nor verbal nor cognitive. It may be understood - in Taoist terms, for Spare was obviously influenced by Taoism - as a mutual negation of yin and yang effecting a return to the ineffable Tao. Exhaustion is a state in which duality and conception have been transcended and desire is therefore impossible. All desires require us to conceive a duality between a current state of affairs and a desired state of affairs. In Exhaustion there is no desire, therefore no compulsion, only perfect freedom and peace.
One way to enter a state of Exhaustion is to pick a duality - like between how things are and how you wish them to be.
Now think about how things are and enter into the feeling of this conception.
Now think about what you desire things to be like. How do you know this state has been acheived? What does it feel like?
Now think about both states simultaneously. Hold both concepts in your mind simultaneously.
Now think about neither one nor the other... and then your mind splits open!!!!
This meditation is called the Neither-Neither. It is useful for passing beyond frustrated desires. Spare writes:
"Ideas of Self in conflict cannot be slain, by resistance they are a reality - no Death or cunning has overcome them but is the reinforcement of energy."
That is to say, you cannot change yourself to something else by effort, because effort perpetuates the belief that you are not what you desire to be.
"The recognition of pain as such, implies the idea of pleasure, and so with all ideas. By this duality, let him remember to laugh at all times, recognize all things, resist nothing; then there is no conflict, incompatibilty or compulsion as such."
This mystical teaching of desirelessness, common to Buddhism, Taoism and Zen, has been completely ignored by a legion of idiots who claim to be followers of Austin Osman Spare, yet mutilate his ideas into some sort of justification of a base and ignorant sorcery that wallows in desire, duality, compulsion and conflict.

The Death Posture

Spare describes at least two other techniques for entering a state of neither-neither, both of which are called the death posture:
One method is to stand on tiptoes, with your arms locked together behind your back, your back and body arched and straining to the limit, and breath deeply and heavily and rapidly until you black out. Peter Carroll, who probably knows what he's talking about, says you can use a wall for balance. If you can get this to work for you, you're doing better than most.
Alternatively, kneel in the seiza position in front of a mirror. Stare at your eye in the mirror and forcibly suppress all thoughts that arise in the mind. This is difficult, but the results defy belief and explanation. Aleister Crowley's 'Liber III vel Jugorum' and 'Liber Turris vel Domus Dei' (both of which can be found here) give instruction in how to develop this ability to suppress thoughts.


His writings are here, but be warned that they will only confuse and disgust a mind of ordinary calibre.

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