Friday, March 6, 2009

Austin Osman Spare Biography

Austin Osman Spare Biography Cover Austin Osman Spare was an artist, philosopher and occult magician. Like Aleister Crowley with whom he had a brief association, Spare was a genius in his own time unappreciated and vilified by a society that could little understand him. His was the inspiration that led to the formation of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros' (IOT) in England in the late 1970’s and the practice of what is now known as 'Chaos Magic', (see Chaos Magic below).

Austin Osman Spare was born on the 30th of December 1886. He was born of humble roots, the middle child and only son of five children. His father was a policeman who often worked the night shift. Money was short for the Spare family but when the young Spare began to show an unusual propensity for drawing and art, they managed to find enough funds to send him to art school.

At the age of seven somewhat alienated and oppressed by the females of his family, his mother and four sisters. Spare was befriended by a mysterious old women, a sorceress by the name of Mrs. Patterson. Spare would often refer to her as his second mother, his 'Witch-mother'. She taught Spare how to visualize and evoke spirits and elementals to reify his dream imagery. She also initiated Spare into witchcraft during a sabbat meeting and gave him his craft name 'Zos'.

Mrs. Patterson greatly influenced the young Spare. It was said that she could change her appearance from an old women to that of a young temptress at will. She also had other unusual powers as well. A portrait drawing Spare drew of her at the time, is reputed to change before the eyes of those who look upon it.

Spare left school at the age of 13 to serve an apprenticeship in a stained glass works. During the evenings he continued his education at an Art College in Lambeth, South London. This led to a scholarship at the Royal College of Art where he began to study in earnest.

In 1921 Spare published 'The Focus of Life', another book of drawing containing his unique magical commentaries. Here he mentions the word 'Chaos' in relation to the normality of chaos as the natural order of things and in the self: “The more chaotic – the more complete I am”, he say’s. He philosophizes and speaks of existence, sex, ecstasy and sensation, also about self-love, belief and the 'chaos of the normal'.

By 1924, Spare was at the height of his artistic success, but his success as an artist began to conflict with the philosopher within. He became disenchanted with his trendy 'Jet Set' friends and the benefactors with whom he had become so popular. He excommunicated himself by writing another book entitled 'The Anathema of Zos', and flaunted their hypocrisies in their faces. He returned to South London where he lived in relative obscurity as a recluse.

Little is known of his activities during this time except that he lived in a small basement flat caring little for money or fame. He made a small living drawing portraits of common people in the local pubs and selling them for small amounts of money. While he wasn’t publishing during this time, he continued to write and develop his philosophy, art and magic.

In 1947 Spare met with Kenneth Grant and gradually become more involved with other occultists of the time. He met Gerald Gardner in the early 1950’s who engaged him to create sigils, magical talismans and other ritual aids. At the same time he began work on a definitive Grimoire called the 'Zos Kia Cultus', this was to contain the accumulation of his magical secrets. Austin Osman Spare died on the 15th of May 1956, his work on the Grimoire unfinished.

In his later years Spare became obsessed with sex magic and immersed himself in the worship of Isis and other Egyptian deities. He then integrated this into his practice of Witchcraft, as reflected in his artwork of cultural themes. His obsession with sex magic turned him to many perverse sexual activities that the society of his time could not understand. He believed that sexually repulsive acts caused certain chemical changes within the body, thus transforming the magical consciousness.

Little could he have realized the impact his work would have on the future generations of witches and magician’s. His work was finally recognized and led to the formation of the “Illuminates of Thanateros” (IOT) in England in the late 1970’s, a traditon practicing what is now known as “Chaos Magic”.

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