Spare, Austin Osman (1886–1956)
Artist and magician. Spare was born on December 13, 1886,
in London. At the age of seven, he met a Mrs. Paterson, a fortune-teller
and witch, with whom he kept company for many
years. She eventually initiated him into her magical work. At
the age of thirteen he dropped out of school and began to work
in a stained glass factory while attending school at night. He
won a scholarship to the Royal Academy and in 1905 published
his first book of drawings, Earth Inferno. He emerged as a precursor
to the surrealists by calling attention to an inner world.
The book also brought him to the attention of magician Aleister
Crowley, who commissioned drawings by Spare for his
magazine, The Equinox.
Spare served in the British army in Egypt during World War
I and then settled down to life as a poor painter, his pictures
being the expression of the inner world he was exploring. Integral
to that world was sexuality, and Spare took many partners
through his lifelong practice of sexual magic. Spare died on
March 15, 1956, in London. Though Spare wrote, illustrated,
and circulated two books during his life, The Focus of Life and
The Book of Pleasure, it was only after his death that some appreciation
of his system could be found and his work made available
to the larger magical community.
Spare’s teachings have been referred to as the cult of the Zos
and Kia, centered upon the polarized (positive and negative)
interplay of sexual energy. The two currents are symbolized by
the hand (touch) and the eye (vision). The hand and the eye become
the magical instruments of the innate obsession to embody
the cosmic in the flesh. Expositions of Spare’s system have
been offered by Kenneth Grant, head of the British OTO in
several books.
Sources
Ericson, Eric. The World, The Flesh, and the Devil A Biographical
Dictionary of Witches. New York Mayflower Books, 1981.
Grant, Kenneth. Cults of the Shadow. New York Samuel
Weiser, 1976.
———. Images of Austin Osman Spare. London Frederick
Muller, 1975.
Spare, Austin Osman. A Book of Automatic Drawing. London
Catalpa Press, 1972.
———. The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love) The Psychology of Ecstasy.
London Co-operative Printing Society Limited, 1913.
Reprint, Montreal 93 Publishing, 1975.
———. The Focus of Life. London The Author, 1921.

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