Category Archives: Austin Osman Spare

Austin Osman Spare

Writings and illustrations of a controversial genius outsider artist and visionary esoteric philosopher, including automatic writing, automatic drawing and sigilization techniques

Occult figures

There’s even more press for the Windows to the Sacred: An Exploration of the Esoteric art exhibition touring in Australia, which is at the S H Ervin Gallery through September 29th, 2013, and which may be of interest. John MacDonald writes a bit about his impressions of the exhibition and of how these “[a]rtists cast a wicked spell as popular culture embraces all things supernatural, mystical and demonic” over at “Occult figures“.

“‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,’ was the personal motto of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), once known to the headline writers as ‘the Great Beast’ and ‘the Wickedest Man Alive’. It was a philosophy that would endear him to the counterculture of the 1960s and make him a hero for rock stars such as Jimmy Page and Jim Morrison. Perhaps the sealer for Crowley’s second coming was his inclusion on the album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), at John Lennon’s insistence.

A famous sorcerer such as Crowley has an obvious appeal for a popular culture saturated in stories of witches and vampires, but he was no Harry Potter. Selfish, brutal, addicted to drugs and sexual perversion, Crowley was a terrifying but hugely charismatic individual. Those who fell under his spell often found themselves ruined for life. Today, Crowley probably has more disciples than ever before, but his image has been cleaned up for public consumption. The Great Beast has been transformed into the Great Libertarian.

Like Crowley himself, the study of the occult has become almost respectable, although the price is a high degree of Disneyfication. One of the revelations of Windows to the Sacred at the S.H. Ervin Gallery is the extent to which contemporary occultists have adopted the trappings of popular culture.

It is a sign of the times that such a show could be held at the S. H. Ervin. Not long ago it would have been unthinkable that a gallery operated by the National Trust would host an exhibition of ‘esoteric art’, featuring work by figures such as Crowley, Rosaleen Norton — the so-called ‘witch of Kings Cross’ — and Austin Osman Spare, a notorious British artist devoted to the supernatural.

This doesn’t mean the S. H. Ervin has become a haven for mystics and Satanists. It would be more accurate to say that nowadays those mystics and Satanists are about as controversial as the Australian Watercolour Institute. If the pictures by celebrated figures such as Crowley and Spare have a hermetic feeling, the works of contemporary esoteric artists such as Barry William Hale and Kim Nelson seem to be pitched at a mainstream audience, rather than an elite group of initiates.” [via]

The Dark Lord

The Dark Lord: H.P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant, and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic by Peter Levenda, from Ibis Press, may be of interest.

Peter Levenda The Dark Lord from Ibis Press

“One of the most famous — yet least understood — manifestations of Thelemic thought has been the works of Kenneth Grant, the British occultist and one-time intimate of Aleister Crowley, who discovered a hidden world within the primary source materials of Crowley’s Aeon of Horus. Using complementary texts from such disparate authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Parsons, Austin Osman Spare, and Charles Stansfeld Jones (‘Frater Achad’), Grant formulated a system of magic that expanded upon that delineated in the rituals of the OTO: a system that included elements of Tantra, of Voudon, and in particular that of the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon, all woven together in a dark tapestry of power and illumination.

The Dark Lord follows the themes in the writings of Kenneth Grant, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Necronomicon, uncovering further meanings of the concepts of the famous writers of the Left Hand Path. It is for Thelemites, as well as lovers of the Lovecraft Mythos in all its forms, and for those who find the rituals of classical ceremonial magic inadequate for the New Aeon.

Traveling through the worlds of religion, literature, and the occult, Peter Levenda takes his readers on a deeply fascinating exploration on magic, evil, and The Dark Lord as he investigates of one of the most neglected theses in the history of modern occultism: the nature of the Typhonian Current and its relationship to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema and H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.” [via]

 

Abraxas: Issue 4

Abraxas: Issue 4, edited by Christina Oakley Harrington and Robert Ansell, from Fulgur, is due to release on September 20th, 2013, which includes many new works, features a 30 page facsimile, a previously unpublished manuscript, of Fragmentum by Austin Osman Spare, and more.

Fulgur's Abraxas: Issue 4

Abraxas Issue #4 offers 192 large format pages of essays, poetry, interviews and art.

Printed using state-of-the-art offset lithography to our usual high standard, contributions for Abraxas #4 include a previously unpublished manuscript by Austin Osman Spare entitled Fragmentum presented here in facsimile over 30 pages; a special feature on the Italian artist and mystic Agostino Arrivabene; dramatic images of urban vodou from photographer Shannon Taggart; an interview by Sarah Victoria Turner with Christine Ödlund that discusses her art practice, synaesthesia and Theosophy; explorations of the symbolism of the tarot Fool from Valentin Wolfstein, an experiment in urban sigils from the London-based artist Francesca Ricci, and more.

CONTENTS

Dancing under the Stars: Ficino’s Way of Harmony, Ruth Clydesdale
Tabula Impressa, Francesca Ricci
Häxan II, Savanna Snow
Aleister Crowley, Marie de Miramar & the True Wanga, Christopher Josiffe
After the Flood, Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robert Yates
Interview with Christine Ödlund, Sarah Victoria Turner
Demons in the Coliseum, Benvenuto Cellini

SPECIAL FEATURE: Agostino Arrivabene
From the Mystery of Passage, Gerd Lindner
That Sense of Becoming, Agostino Arrivabene interviewed by Robert Ansell

Basement Vodou, Shannon Taggart, with an introduction by Pam Grossman
Dawn, Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robert Yates
Untitled, Susu Laroche
An Introduction to the Alchemical Mercurius, Paul Cowlan
Fragmentum, Austin Osman Spare
The Mystery of the Rose Cross, Anne Crossey
Observation of Ancestral Mysteries, Ron Regé, Jr.
Nowhere Less Now, Ole Hagen & Lindsay Seers
The Mystic Fool: From Tarot to an Ideal of Ascendance, Valentin Wolfstein
The Library Angel and Her Oracle, Justin Patrick Moore
bagua: inner lunarism, Peter Dyde” [via]

Catalogue Four: Select Works by Austin Osman Spare

You may be interested in Fulgur Esoterica’s newest Catalogue Four: Select Works by Austin Osman Spare on offer.

Fulgur Esoterica's Catalogue 4

“We are delighted to offer a dozen gems from the hand of ol’ Zos… including the usual coterie of demons, satyrs and cave dwellers. While we’ve been cataloguing these pictures there have been some odd bumps in the night. A few days ago we woke to hear a small bell ringing, not once, or twice, but on three occasions. Perhaps it’s the same magic bell Spare lost when we was interviewed by the BBC in the 50s… CATALOGUE FOUR.” [via]

The Focus of Life

Fulgur has announced a new edition of Austin Osman Spare‘s The Focus of Life: The Mutterings of Aãos, which notably includes rediscovered drawings that weren’t included in the original publication. The deluxe issue is already sold out, but a facsimile of the 1921 edition is still available. There’s also a launch event where original Spare “magico-erotic drawings, letters, ephemera and further drawings from the book” will be shown at the Store Street Gallery, London, on Nov 25th, 2012.

 

 

The Focus of Life: The Mutterings of Aãos, is arguably the most biographically significant of all Spare’s published works. Often obscure, magical and fragmentary, it invites exploration of a strange Nietzschean landscape through what Spare termed ‘the labyrinth of the alphabet.’ But the recent discovery of Spare’s original conceptual folio for the book, once owned by the respected writer E.M. Forster, has revealed an unseen series of powerful magico-erotic drawings – termed by Spare ‘blasphemous Ideographs’ – that provide an important key to understanding the ‘secret ritual of Self-Love’ that underlies this evocative and deeply personal work.

This new issue of The Focus of Life provides readers with a high quality facsimile of the 1921 first edition, together with a full colour facsimile of the newly discovered conceptual folio for the project. Drawings too explicit for publication in 1921 have thus been reunited with the magical narrative, providing new insight for those exploring the artist’s life and magical philosophy. These important works are further augmented with critical essays from Phil Baker and Robert Ansell.

EXHIBITION AND BOOK LAUNCH, November 25th, 2012

We are also pleased to say there will be a special exhibition and book launch for this title at the Store Street Gallery, 32 Store Street, Bloomsbury (next to Treadwell’s) on Sunday 25th November, 2012. Original drawings from The Focus of Life will be on display, plus letters, ephemera and the incredible suite of magic-erotic drawings. All are welcome.

The Focus of Life (Redux)

Book Launch and Exhibition
November 25th, 2012

12 midday until 5pm

The Store Street Gallery
32 Store Street
Bloomsbury
London” [via]

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

You may be interested in this new opportunity to acquire Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare by Dr. Nevill Drury through Salamander and Sons, due for an additional 95 standard hardcover copies in Dec 2012. I’d previously mentioned this book, but in the interim all the available copies had pre-sold, now there’s another simple cloth bound edition being made available.

“By late April 2012, all pre-order copies of the Deluxe Edition of Dark Spirits – strictly limited to 95 copies numbered by hand, fully bound in black leather with gilt title and device, and silk bookmark ribbon, and accompanied by an exclusive hand numbered print of the terrible Werplon entity encountered by Rosaleen Norton – had sold out.

Due to considerable demand from readers, we are making available for pre-order purchase just 95 copies of a standard hardcover edition of Dark Spirits. Although this standard hardcover edition will, like the Deluxe Edition, feature in excess of 120 colour and black and white images, it will be bound simply in cloth with a dust jacket, unnumbered and without the Werplon print. This standard hardcover edition is available for USD$85.00 plus worldwide airmail shipping USD$24.00.

Both the Deluxe Edition and the standard hardcover edition will be published on 05 December 2012 in order to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of Rosaleen Norton’s death – and with our profound apologies for the necessary revisions of publication dates.” [via]

 

“Although they never met, the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) and British visionary artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) shared many points in common. As occult practitioners operating within the Western esoteric tradition, both artists were well versed in the literature of Western magic, Theosophy, kabbalah, Eastern mysticism, and modern psychoanalysis. Fascinated by mediæval magical grimoires, they also explored the ‘seals’ associated with elemental spirit-beings and developed unique forms of sigil magic. Perhaps even more significantly, Norton and Spare utilised their own personal techniques of self-hypnosis and trance in order to produce their distinctive visionary artworks. As this book demonstrates, there is a clear parallel between the trance states associated with the Zos / Kia cosmology of Spare and the trance magic of Norton. Profiling both artists in detail, and with in excess of 120 colour and black and white images, Dark Spirits explores the unique contributions of both Spare and Norton as visionary outsiders and is necessary reading for anyone interested in the nether regions of the magical psyche.” [via]

Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare are goth for life

Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare are goth for life at “Goth for life“, an article at the Guardian about Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim.

“He struggles to name any influences on their formative sound, offers scant details about his upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness (‘you didn’t have Christmas and you didn’t have birthdays … it was interesting’) and declines to elaborate on the interest in the occult that has led him to make regular references to chaos magic in his songs and to perform gigs he calls Ceromonies (sic) on the anniversaries of Austin Osman Spare and Aleister Crowley’s deaths. ‘It’s nothing to do with believing, like I believe you,’ he frowns, when I ask him if he actually believes in magic or is merely using it as interesting imagery. ‘It’s knowing. I know. I’ve experienced things that are beyond reality. Many things.’ This sounds fascinating, but McCoy collects himself. ‘I don’t want to go too far on this,’ he says hurriedly, ‘because I don’t want to make a twat of meself.'” [via]

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare” by Nevill Drury, due late June, has been announced for pre-order via Salamander and Sons.

 

“Strictly limited to 95 copies numbered by hand. More than 120 colour and black and white images. Fully bound in black leather with gilt title and device. Silk bookmark ribbon.

Published to coincide with the Northern Summer Solstice 2012. USD$126.00 plus worldwide airmail shipping USD$24.00. Free with each copy, an exclusive hand numbered print of the terrible Werplon entity encountered by Rosaleen Norton.”

 

“Although they never met, the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) and British visionary artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) shared many points in common. As occult practitioners operating within the Western esoteric tradition, both artists were well versed in the literature of Western magic, Theosophy, kabbalah, Eastern mysticism, and modern psychoanalysis. Fascinated by mediæval magical grimoires, they also explored the seals associated with elemental spirit-beings and developed unique forms of sigil magic. Perhaps even more significantly, Norton and Spare utilised their own personal techniques of self-hypnosis and trance in order to produce their distinctive visionary artworks. As this book demonstrates, there is a clear parallel between the trance states associated with the Zos / Kia cosmology of Spare and the trance magic of Norton. Profiling both artists in detail, and with in excess of 120 colour and black and white images, Dark Spirits explores the unique contributions of both Spare and Norton as visionary outsiders and is necessary reading for anyone interested in the nether regions of the magical psyche.”

The White People and other Weird Stories

The White People and other Weird Stories, By Arthur Machen” by Tim Cumming is a review of a new collection of Golden Dawn initiate Arthur Machen, The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics).

“Machen was a bestseller in his day, a member of the Golden Dawn, and intimately acquainted with the spiritualism, occultism, mediumship and excesses of the Decadent era. The Great God Pan (strangely omitted from this collection) and The Three Imposters were published in the 1890s, shocking society, and attracting invitations to lunch from Oscar Wilde.

Machen had already lived in London more than a decade, as he plied a trade as a freelance writer, translating Casanova and writing an essay on tobacco, before an inheritance allowed him to write what he fancied. Aubrey Beardsley and, later, Austin Osman Spare illustrated his works. But Wilde’s 1895 imprisonment turned the moral tide against Machen’s tales of supernatural horror. It wasn’t until the 1920s that his books began selling in large quantities. Alas, Machen had sold the rights decades before. TS Eliot was among those who secured him a Civil List pension against the poverty of his later years.

His great stories, and the key works in this collection, date from the Decadent 1890s. The haunted, hallucinogenic mix of spell workings, witchcraft and disguised sex magic in ‘The White People’ was hailed by HP Lovecraft as the second greatest horror story ever written (after Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’), and it bears the imprint of one who believed in the ‘wild improbability’ of what he wrote.” [via]

Somnium: A Fantastic Romance

Lunar Rover: An Interview With Steve Moore And Extract From Somnium” by Aug Stone is an interview with Steve Moore about his first novel Somnium: A Fantastic Romance [also] that includes mentions of Alan Moore and a cameo by Austin Osman Spare. The interview concludes with an excerpt from the book.

“Alan Moore says it’s ‘a masterpiece’. Indeed. Steve Moore’s Somnium is a tour-de-force of playful majesty and magic, of style and of love. Spanning centuries, even aeons in its dreamworld, it ranges from Gothic novel through Elizabethan tragedy and mediaeval romance to piquant Decadence, all via the Greek myth of lunar goddess Selene and her mortal lover Endymion. It is nothing short of an epic love song to The Moon and of, as per her reflective nature, ‘the love the Moon has always had for Earthly things below’.

Those familiar with Alan Moore’s Unearthing, will know of his friend, mentor, and collaborator Steve Moore’s long obsession with the Moon-Goddess. In October 1976, having improvised a magic ritual with a Chinese coin sword, he awoke near dawn to hear an unexpected whisper which would provide a clue to his life’s work. Though, as Steve notes below, perhaps the lunar associations were always there. Unearthing takes us through Steve’s life — writing comics, studying and producing scholarly work on the I Ching, editing and contributing to Fortean Studies and Fortean Times — and also shows us the beginnings of Somnium, his debut novel.” [via]

“There was also something of the magical in how I came to read the book. Having learned of Strange Attractor Press and its biography of Austin Osman Spare, Somnium also caught my eye as I was perusing their website. But I thought nothing more of it until a few weeks later I had just finished Israel Regardie’s essay ‘The Art And Meaning Of Magic’ and the following day, quite out of the blue, I was asked to interview Steve Moore regarding his new book. Regardie’s essay, when describing the Sephiroth of The Tree of Life, primarily deals with Yesod, the sphere of the moon. So fresh in my mind were the traditional attributes of that heavenly body — its colours purple and silver, its jewels pearl and moonstone, its number being nine, and so much more; traits Moore makes wonderful use of throughout the book. Though one need not be familiar with these to appreciate its splendour.” [via]

 

 

Physical copies of the work are available via the Strange Attractor website:

“Written in the early years of the 21st century, when the author was engaged in dream-explorations and mystical practices centred on the Greek moon-goddess Selene, Somnium is an intensely personal and highly-embroidered fictional tapestry that weaves together numerous historical and stylistic variations on the enduring myth of Selene and Endymion. Ranging through the 16th to 21st centuries, it combines mediæval, Elizabethan, Gothic and Decadent elements in a fantastic romance of rare imagination.

With its delirious and heartbroken text spiralling out from the classical myth of Endymion and the Greek lunar goddess Selene, Somnium is an extraordinary odyssey through love and loss and lunacy, illuminated by the silvery moonlight of its exquisite language.

With an afterword by Alan Moore, whose biographical piece Unearthing details the life of his friend and mentor Steve Moore, and includes the circumstances surrounding the writing of Somnium.” [via]