the physical manifestation within linear time by Mrs. Paterson’s existence on this particular Earth, at a particular allotted moment. In the same mysterious way that, if you will, a mirror can contain all that it faces in what seems an equally “real” world, so Spare’s pictures can hold the entirety of the images and entities that he represents in them.
They are there. The frame is exactly intended to be experienced as, and function as, the edges of a mirror, although, because it is a plastic, more fixed medium, we often cannot see around the inside edges by moving, as we can with a mirror. As we cannot all ways change the amount, and depth of what we see simply by moving, as we can with a mirror. Do not be fooled by mundane physics. There are specific periods when, remarkably, the opposite is true, and these images do indeed become exactly the same as mirrors, representing an entire portal into a parallel omniverse. Further, I would suggest, indeed insist, based upon my own personal experiences, and those of many other colleagues who have acted as controls, and/or guinea pigs in my experiments with these pictures to act as confirmation, or dismissal of the actuality, that these pictures do not just become virtual mirrors. They become living portals that animate, through which entities can travel, accessing our “world” and bidding us into theirs.
When Mrs. Paterson died, he fixed her in this picture. We see him. He sinks into her chest, is absorbed, they rise together, androgynous, genderless, both their faces, and all their ages superimposed to create one alien being. One interdimensional entity. He has drawn himself dying, conjuring himself into this picture in advance of that event, so that he may always return. Like the Cocteau character crossing back and forth through the mirror.
They rise together, androgynous, genderless, both their faces, and all their ages superimposed to create one alien being.
“Art can contradict Science.”
-Austin Osman Spare
“Art is the truth we have realized of our belief”
-Austin Osman Spare
“Do you see those flowers growing on the sides of the abyss whose beauty is so deadly and whose scent is so disturbing?
In these sorcerous images, these his purest incantations through art, Spare uses a graphic skill and technique second to none. Yet his most commonly seen works can appear deliberately fast and loose. The nearest modern parallel would be Salvador Dali, who could suggest perfection and hyper- reality in a few precisely placed marks and intersections, and through his works worship his own personal sorceress, Gala. Dali’s photo-realistic technique is accurate in an unearthly way, too, and Dali uses delirium and dislocation of the senses to catapult himself, and us, through the parameters of madness and obsession into his personal landscape and environment. Dali occasionally masturbated into his paints, particularly painting the leather strap across Hitler’s back, and made good use of the canvas as a virtual mirror viewed from one static position. I would argue that Dali, despite his genius, was a naive, struggling to describe glimpses and fragments of vision, with an ad hoc quasi-magical perception and aspiration. Dali did not build, though he hungered to, a system as unique, primal, timeless, and fully administered by informed, cumulative, and inter-dimensional arcane knowledge as Spare. Spare knew all too well what he was doing, conjuring, and building. A method of physical, and neurological immortality, a means to step outside time. Dali really wanted to, but remained finally restrained by his inability to travel beyond use of his imagination. For Dali, the mirror was a solid barrier into which he could gaze, but not travel. Spare was the very material of the mirror, the destroyer of its boundaries, or limitations, and finally usurped every definition of mirrorness creating a virtual portal that accessed all moments of time past, present, future, none, in every possible and impossible infinite combination. Time is, you see, a solid through which all passes, all is seen from a vantage point. As we learn to move our point of perception, so we act like a lens, or a mirror’s surface viewed from above. Light, thought, life, passes through us, expanding outwards. We can place our mirrors anywhere, perceive them from any direction, thus we are potentially everywhere, in every possible time and every possible dimension. All travel is possible. We are an amorphous infinite density of matter. The matter is time. It is all a matter of time. Time is malleable and thus both the portal and the means of travel. We can leave, we can return, we can cease to exist. This is the “virtual mirror” of Spare. These are the prophetic portals. But they do
not prophesy art. They prophesy an end to materiality. A disintegration, a dissipation of our corporeality beyond anything so far confessed in the small wooden box of physics.
Spare drawing from Thee Starlit Mire, Temple Press, 1989
“The future is in the past, but it is not wholly contained in the
Brion Gysin was another such artist of the future, another such alchemist and sorcerer who used art to create time and inter-dimensional travel. He used a different style. More abstract, more directly concerned with encryption, coding and decoding, and with a clear appreciation of post-linguistic magick. “Rub Out The Word” he would emphasis. He too was absolutely aware of the implication of his experiments and their functions. Both Gysin and William Burroughs accepted as a given that the central power of their works was to trick time and through another system of cumulative effect, manipulate and navigate mortality and all sources of pre-recorded life; brain; entity; location and the process of control that locks us out of this inviolate humane right to transcend physicality. Gysin was a practicing magician first, and actually described at length to me in Paris his longtime practice of mirror staring, and the incredible melting of consensus reality that resulted for both him, and many others of the Beats. He suggested that there are “hot spots” in cultural engineering, and vehicles of convenience that accelerate the inevitable for those reckless and/or courageous enough to risk all for a possibility of disincarnation, of leaving behind the host physical body forever in a necessary transmutation into otherness, alien being, that must be the only valid goal of any of us if forward motion and discovery are truly our agenda. In traditional Western occulture this letting go of all preconceptions, all expectations, all value systems, all inherited moral imprints, all concepts of self-preservation, and all distinctions is referred to as “The Abyss.”
“See a cliff, jump off.”
-Old TOPY Proverb
Both Spare and Gysin lived to pursue, and attain, new dimensions. They understood the hunger to pursue successful systems of sorcery, not knowledge. This alone made overt collaboration with magical groups impossible, where the need for nostalgic elitism, power implied by academic recall, and selfimage measured by the length of one’s bookshelf far too often camouflage mere self-aggrandizement, and the essence of motivation is the servility of others. Gysin incorporated tape-recorders, permutations, projections, trance music, mathematical formulae. Spare incorporated his
own body, sexuality, and dimensional fluidity. Both were prophets of portals of virtuality and developments in quantum neurology that later became possible, and, as egalitarian access to cyberspace and other synthetic worlds expands globally, now become at the very least more likely, I would propose: inevitable. The world we appreciate in a mirror. That world where as we get close, appears to be a large, and equally as “real” as this supposedly more physical consensus reality; and the world of Spare, where the frame of the image is arbitrary, where creatures, and perceptual environments are frozen in a precise cryogenic graphic. These worlds are mere precursor of the apparently limitless, and multi-dimensional possibilities heralded by the microchip. The century wills to be remembered eventually as the century during which the cut-up, the splitting of the atom by relativity; of the mind by psychedelic compounds and of linear thinking by cultural nihilism were the primary themes. Spilling over into social fragmentation, online alienation and a data-glut that by its very scale, insists on acceleration of response by our brains, and a highly developed perceptual skill of instant, and arbitrary assembly “to see what is really there” as W. S. Burroughs has stated.
He consciously used his books, his twisted Beardsley-esque graphics and his atavistic writings to attract our interest after his physical death.
Spare was aware that mystery and magick, in themselves, generate at the very least a morbid fascination, and reaction in human persons. He consciously used his books, his twisted Beardsley-esque graphics and his atavistic writings to attract our interest after his physical death. Not for reasons of ego. I would contend that it was to reactivate his “mind” and re-animate his psyche. Sound far-fetched? Well, personal anecdote, take it or leave it:
Sound far-fetched? Well, personal anecdote, take it or leave it: Many different guests would suddenly gasp and say, did you know that the faces in that painting have “come alive”?
One of the Spare paintings that I used to own (now in the collection of Blondie’s Chris Stein) was called The Ids. Every New Year’s Eve strange things would occur. Most noticeably, the two faces of Spare himself that faced each other would re-animate. Many different guests would suddenly gasp and say, did you know that the faces in that painting have “come alive”? Or “They are arguing.” None of these observers knew who Spare was, or any
of his, or my own, ideas about him. Eventually I checked and found that Spare died on New Year’s Eve, 1956. A medium called Madame Bruna, also, on a social visit, was shocked and disturbed by the “Mrs. Paterson” image. In fact, it was this repeated witnessing of the faces becoming real, moving, talking, changing, that led to the thoughts in this essay. In the case of the “Mrs. Paterson” picture, nobody felt anything malevolent. Just a powerful experience of people “trapped in a mirror.” The Ids, however, was different. Something one could only think of as “bad” always happened when it animated. It got so predictable and incontrovertible that I took to putting it in a cupboard, facing the wall for a period before and after New Years Eve each year. The last phenomenon was particularly odd. Before traveling abroad I arranged for two people to be caretakers of my house in Brighton. I warned them, almost like in a fable such as “Hansel and Gretel” that they must not touch, move, or hang up the Spare painting The Ids, which was in the loft space of the house, facing the wall. I told them, “It might sound superstitious or stupid, but please trust me on this one.” I guess, inevitably, they felt this as a challenge and chose to not only turn the picture facing outwards in the loft, but to spend a night staring at it and sleeping in the same space. Apparently, as they tell it, after an hour or so, the picture seemed to fill the room. Spare argued with himself, as usual. Then a new thing hap-pened. The central face of one woman (there were three women’s faces above Spare’s heads) came alive too. The picture seemed to grow into a huge mirror, filling the visual perception of one whole end of the loft. The room seemed to fill with green mist, and then holding her hand out, this woman walked out of the “painting” and came towards them. In the inanimate painting, the heads are floating in a green field, no bodies. They have heavy make up on, like the prostitutes Spare favored for his psycho-sexual sorcery. Both people panicked, and ran from the loft, locking the door behind them. From that time on, various destructive events affected the house, and them. They had let loose, in classic horror film style, an entity, that was malevolent, and with its own agenda? One of the two people became an alcoholic; both had mental breakdowns. By the way, Chris Stein was aware of this side of the painting’s history when he purchased it.
Spare self-portrait (detail)
The picture seemed to grow into a huge mirror, filling the visual perception of one whole end of the loft. The room seemed to fill with green mist, and then holding her hand out, this woman walked out of the “painting” and came towards them.
Spare had been shrewd enough to make all his secrets non-verbal, and non- linear. Not one explanation of these secrets is contained overtly in his writings. He was, in the best covert cultural traditions, working for himself alone. Only the atavistic hinting, and the “Virtual Mirror” drawings and paintings can articulate, and bear witness to, his phenomenal achievements.
“The Universe is a creative process carried on by man’s imagination, an operative power capable of becoming more supple, more animate.”
-Teilhard de Chardin
What is happening in these certain key pictures? I would propose a few
speculations. All ideas have an image. We were originally an hieroglyphic species, before the restrictive linguistic and alphabetical systems we use now were adopted. Adopted I might add, purely for reasons of control, and the compression of both vision and potential in all of us. All the materials used to create and fix an image are material. They are formed of patterns of atoms and molecules, charged by certain energies that hold their specific clusters together in some way. Modern psychology also tends to accept that ideas are material entities, like animals and plants. All mythological ideas, Jung suggests, are essentially real and far older than any philosophy. They originated in primal perceptions, correspondences and experiences. The catalytic element that regenerates a reaction between entotic ideas and a spectator and that favors parapsychological events is the presence of an active archetype. In the specific case of Spare’s virtual mirror art, this element can be anything from an obvious glyph (condensing and compressing a desire), a non-decorative aesthetic arrangement, or in the most intense “portal” works, an invisible charge of energy which somehow calls the deepest, instinctual layers of the psyche into action. The archetype is a borderline phenomenon, an acausal connecting principle, closest in explanation to deliberately controlled, self-conscious synchronicity. When Spare describes in certain of his texts “Self-Love,” if you will, as the engine of his sorcery, I believe he means self-conscious, yet ego-less. When he uses the word chaos, which he profoundly championed from the start of the century, he is leaving a key evidentiary clue and amusing himself. Austin Osman Spare’s “Chaos” is both a signature, and a signpost into future time. (ChDVH (CH) = JOY=23) Thus we get CH-A.O.S.—both his name, and his confession of secret sorcery.
“Art is the instinctive application of the knowledge latent in the subconscious.”
-Austin Osman Spare
After Mrs. Paterson died, Spare was waiting to be inside her again, fused with her sexual-magical energy. Inside her also, in the sense of two liquids mixing to create a third amalgam. Two consciousnesses as well, the Third Mind of Brion Gysin. This is not romantic fiction. This is a prediction of some of the inter-dimensional forays that are subscribed to very convincingly by Terence McKenna and other such botanical voyagers. In this key picture by Spare, what we are really seeing is both his projection into the actual future moment of his own death, and the way Mrs. Paterson looked exactly at