A sigil, as we have seen, is a visual condensation of the will. However, what we “will” can often be based on ideas of grandeur and self-deception. Spare points out that even if we imagine ourselves to be great this is not necessarily so, and all the desiring in the world cannot alter the fact. Spare notes: “Realization is not by the mere utterance of words… but by the living act. The will, the desire, the belief, lived as inseparable, become realization.” Hoping for something won’t help us achieve it: we must live it and enact it for it to become true.
According to Spare,
“Belief to be true must be organic and subconscious. The idea to be great can only become organic (i.e. ‘true’) at the time of vacuity and by giving it form. When conscious of the sigil form (any time but the magical) it should be repressed, a deliberate striving to forget it; by this it is active and dominates at the subconscious period; its form nourishes and allows it to become attached to the subconscious and become organic; that
accomplished is its reality and realization. The individual becomes his concept of greatness.”
“In summary, beliefs need to be ‘organic’ not theoretical; organic realities originate with Kia and lie dormant in the subconscious; we can use a sigil to embody our desire, command or will, and this should relate to what we want to do or become; the sigil can ‘grow’ in the subconscious but will lose its effect if it is consciously remembered; and, finally, the sigil will eventually manifest as a ‘true’ aspect of the personality since it comes from within.”
Spare also relates this process to the faculty of creativity: “All geniuses have active subconsciousnesses and the less they are aware of the fact, the greater their accomplishments. The subconscious is exploited by desire reaching it.” This implies that geniuses not born, could be made—an idea he shared with Aleister Crowley.
Spare’s system of implanting sigils was capable of different levels of application, and from an occult perspective it could be applied both to high and low magic. While Spare often used his sigils to embody transcendent commands his system could also be used for comparatively mundane purposes. Kenneth Grant tells of a situation where Spare needed to move a heavy load of timber without assistance. A sigil was required which involved great strength, so Spare constructed a suitable sentence: “This is my wish, to obtain the strength of a tiger.” Sigilized, this sentence would be:
Grant goes on to say: “Spare closed his eyes for a while and visualizes a picture which symbolized a wish for the strength of tigers [i.e. the final sigil above]. Almost immediately he sensed an inner response. He then felt a tremendous upsurge of energy sweep through his body. For a moment he felt like a sapling bent by the onslaught of a mighty wind. With a great effort of will, he steadied himself and directed the force to its proper object. A great calm descended and he found himself able to carry the load easily.”
A sigil, as we have seen, is a visual condensation of the will.
Kenneth Grant makes it clear from his account that firstly dormant energy was awakened and then it was focused into a specialized activity. This was not always Spare’s method, for in his more far-reaching atavistic resurgences he allowed the influx of Kia to obsess him. His mind would become flooded with preternatural influences and there was no semblance of control.9 Spare, himself, considered this type of atavistic activity to be an act of bravery:
“Strike at the highest…. death is failure. Go where thou fearest not. How canst thou be great among men? Cast thyself forth! Retrogress to the point where knowledge ceases in that Law becomes its own spontaneity and freedom… This is the new atavism I would teach: Demand of God equality—Usurp!”
Spare’s method is thus clearly an act of stealing fire from heaven. His preferred method, the Death Posture, involved the “death” of the ego through the negation of conscious thought—a positive, but “unconscious” thrust towards transcendence.
What is unusual about Spare’s cosmology and his occult trance techniques is that he believed in regression, rather than in the more conventional mystical concept of “conscious evolution.” Indeed, he redefines his idea of magical evolution:
“The Law of Evolution is retrogression of function governing progression of attainment, i.e. the more wonderful our attainments are, the lower in the scale of Life the function that governs them. Man is complex, and to progress, must become simplified.
This means that because more and more manifestations of Kia are appearing in the world all the time through reincarnation, as the Source of Creation expands ‘outwards’, the true magical direction is ‘inwards’ or more specifically ‘backwards’ to the First Cause.”
Austin Spare’s approach to magical perception is virtually unique within the western esoteric tradition. As with Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune, he has retained an enthusiastic following to the present day. However in Spare’s case, aspects of this renewed interest appear to be of a lower calibre than one might have hoped for. So-called “Chaos magicians” now claim to be utilizing Spare’s sigil methods and an influential work titled Practical Sigil Magic by
Frater U.D., first published in 1990, purports to extend the practical applications of Spare’s trance formulations. However, these practitioners have appeared to fall far short of Spare’s magical vision and have seized hold only of its pragmatic “low magic” applications. While Frater U.D. writes that “sigil magic is primarily success magic,” Spare is embracing much wider realms than magical self-gratification: his is a unique response to the cosmos. It remains to be seen whether the resurgent interest in Austin Spare will be deflected by a trivialization of his unique contribution to the exploration of magical consciousness.
- For further information on Spare’s life, readers are referred to F. W. Letchford, From the Inferno to Zos, First Impressions, Oxford 1995, Gavin
W. Semple, Zos Kia, Fulgur, London 1995, Geraldine Beskin and John Bonner, Austin Osman Spare 1886-1956: The Divine Draughtsman, Morley Gallery catalogue, London, September 1987, and Kenneth Grant & Steffi Grant, Zos Speaks, Fulgur, London 2000.
- Spare was familiar with the writings of Freud, Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis.
- See Austin Osman Spare, The Book of Pleasure, privately published, London 1913, pp.52-53 (reissued in facsimile edition by 93 Publishing, Montreal 1975).
- See Gavin W. Semple, op.cit, p.7
- This had been preceded by A Book of Satyrs (c. 1911), which contained “satires” on the Church, politics, officialdom and other “follies.” It is not a major work.
- Spare became a member of the Argenteum Astrum in 1910 after contributing some drawings to Crowley’s occult journal The Equinox.
- See The Book of Pleasure, p.50.
- Spare believed that the self lived “in millions of forms” and that it was obliged to experience “every conceivable thing”—all the infinite possibilities inherent in the manifested universe. Any incomplete existence or situation required a reincarnation to finalize it or make it whole. In his own words: “I have incarnated that which I need to rationalize.” Spare also
thought that by exploring the recesses of the mind, one would undoubtedly uncover past incarnations, “for whatever is attained is but a reawakening of an earlier experience of the body.”
- In his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung warned against the possibility of allowing the symbolic contents of dreams and visions to be indulged in, rather than checked. Jung believed that the perception of dual, but intermingled, levels of awareness—in Spare’s case a fusion of atavisms and everyday reality—could lead to schizophrenia. One wonders whether Spare would agree.
Prophetic Portals of Austin Osman Spare
GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE
Spare automatic drawing from the collection of Genesis Breyer P-
“Since all phenomena (or phenomenally appearing things) which arise, present no reality in themselves, they are said to be of the noumena (in other words, they are of the Voidness, regarded as
the noumenal background or Source of the physical universe of the phenomena). Though not formed into anything, yet they give shape to everything. Thus it is that phenomena and noumena are ever in union, and said to be of one nature. They are, like ice and water, reflection and mirror, two aspects of a single thing.”
-The Seven Books of Wisdom—Tibetan text.
In the case of a mirror, there is a third aspect: the subject /viewer. Mirrors reveal and conceal; their mystery permanent, their hints at doorways, windows, points of entry and thresholds just out of reach of our conscious minds. TIME (The Imaginary Mass Emits). Image. Idea. There can be no separation, scientifically or subjectively. The atavistic face gazes down into a crystal pool. Ice-cold water. Grunts. A hand shatters the image; fear gaunt and haunting passes across, a shadowy cloud, and through all TIME; that moment can persist, be reclaimed.
“What is Time, but a variety of one thing?
-Austin Osman Spare
These moments of time accumulate, are listed under memory in our modern synapses and are posited as always retrievable, amorphous. Nothing is forgotten, all is permitted. In a stinking cave, muttering babies scream and scratch, furs undulate in copulation. In one corner, bright-eyed first marks are daubed on a wall. They are marks to function, marks of place, of time. They are marks to draw results and persist beyond one human lifetime. Instinct has arisen, snake-like, coiling its self into intuition and suggested the very power of suggestion. No one noted down from a book this process, it grew from watching the elements, closeness to life-sources, death-forces that modern persons are divorced from. On this damp stone there is a curve, it is land, horizon, ejaculation, movement.
She was a medium, but her guides were not the “New Age” romantic, and patronizing icons of native peoples and tribes. Not just Indian Chiefs, Pharaohs, Tibetan Rinpoches or aborigines. They were more like the creatures of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser visions, or the demons in Evil Dead.
“Magick consists in seeing and willing beyond the next horizon.”
Mrs. Paterson stares down. Penciled into existence. It is her as she was when she took Austin Osman Spare at fourteen years old and initiated him into the art of sexual magick and a power-full system of sorcery (a primal oral tradition preserved through female bloodlines) that she had rediscovered and regenerated through her covert communion across time with systems and techniques that grew from a most animalistic and pure union of instinct and inherited DNA encryptions. This woman knew, and she taught Spare, how to travel through time and just how malleable and manipulable a form of energy and matter it was. She also instructed Spare in techniques that could empower him to remain present in life, after an apparent physical death. She was a medium, but her guides were not the “New Age” romantic, and patronizing icons of native peoples and tribes. Not just Indian Chiefs, Pharaohs, Tibetan Rinpoches or aborigines. They were more like the creatures of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser visions, or the demons in Evil Dead. They were the deepest, most atavistic and raw representations of the alien that we can experience. Equivalent, if you will, to a seriously hard-core DMT entity confrontation. Mrs. Paterson understood a most particular secret. Her medium was her self. She was quite able to travel through mirrors and throughout time.
There is a drawing in my possession by Spare, a pencil and gouache, finished in 1928. The main figure is Mrs. Paterson. Coming from behind her head, making a blister in a shimmering green-penciled aura is a half completed face. It belongs to no one, everyone. It is she at times, it is cavalier and it is also Austin Osman Spare. This one picture contains all the secrets Spare never wrote down and his books are thorough, precise, and often opaque. Spare appears in the bottom right-hand corner, represented as he projects he will look as an old man, eyes closed, concentrated, manifesting, it would seem, the other beings in the picture. Remarkably, his projection of his older self is uncannily accurate.
What Spare is doing is “tricking” us. All his writings are symbolic; they were never intended to be taken literally, as illustrations, on any level. His writings are primarily journals, decorative encryptions of basic techniques of travel. But they are appendices to the real work. This special trick was to convince everybody that his drawings, paintings, and images were symbolic, fantastical products of his imagination. They are in fact the essence of his sorcery. Like all great sorcerers, he hid his central secret in an apparently
commonplace medium. What we discover in this key picture is that he is actually kneeling. It is actually a “photographic” record of his prediction of both his own bodily death, and his worship of Mrs. Paterson as the keeper of immortality.
Spare made consistent use, for very specifically sex magical reasons, of late middle-aged prostitutes who would normally be considered “brash” and heavily made-up.
Spare made consistent use, for very specifically sex magical reasons, of late middle-aged prostitutes who would normally be considered “brash” and heavily made-up. Women who could, in his mind, represent Mrs. Paterson at the age she seduced and instructed him, and thus charge more powerfully his sexual magick rituals and sigils as a result. Just as the sorcerer repeats elements of ritual over and over again, and uses the same magical tools, incenses, incantations and so on repeatedly to achieve a cumulative effect, so Spare recreated a virtual sorceress to revisit, the precise intersections of time and space that she had imprinted in his brain. Through this reputedly sordid, but actually visionary method of sexual magick, he was able to return at will to a potent portal, an access point into the matter of time itself, and then, even deeper, into what we can only call timelessness, though outside time might be a more accurate way to articulate the state. These women were close enough to Mrs. Paterson in cosmetic physical appearance and characteristics to be used as a focusing visual key enabling him to be accelerated at the moment of orgasm, just like a particle accelerator, into direct, inter-dimensional contact with her, and all the infinite previous hers that had ever existed. This is more easily understood contemporaneously, now, in a post-DMT experiential environment. In other words, DMT would be a very good equivalent experience of what this catapulting might feel like. However Spare could recreate this at will, and via Will To… over and over again, with deep lucidity and in a state of sexual intoxication, rather than biochemical intoxication. A drug free splitting of the atoms of time!
When Mrs. Paterson died, he was able to take a particular aspect of her life source and literally preserve it still “living” into this, and one or two other pictures. This is not to be misunderstood as in any way vampiric. That is not what we’re dealing with here. This is a much more deeply fundamental sorcery. Spare is consensually keeping open a portal of connection between the primal interdimensional knowledge and an entity that was represented by