Austin Osman Spare was a prominent figure in the occult world, gaining attention for his unique approach to magicko-religious philosophy and artistic talents. Born in 1886, Spare developed his own belief system called the Zos Kia Cultus, which rejected conventional occultism and emphasized the power of the unconscious mind. His ideas had a significant impact on 20th-century esoteric studies and continue to influence modern practitioners of chaos magick.
While initially dismissed by Aleister Crowley, Spare’s mystical agenda gained recognition through his masterpiece The Book of Pleasure. He believed that art should be created from within one’s self rather than external sources and that creative focus could lead to spiritual enlightenment. In this article, we will explore Austin Osman Spare’s life and beliefs, including his relationships with other occultists, his use of magickal techniques such as sigilization, and the impact of his ideas on modern-day practitioners seeking personal power through esoteric practices.
Who Was Austin Osman Spare?
The influential figure in twentieth-century occultism, Austin Osman Spare, gained public attention at a young age through his mystical and often grotesque artwork. He was regarded as an enfant terrible of Mayfair due to his unconventional approach to art and spirituality. Spare explored creative focus and departure from conventional occultism, attracting the next generation of enthusiasts.
Spare’s early interests in Eastern mysticism, Theosophy, and Spiritualism influenced his ontology which formed the basis of his artistic modus operandi. His first book, Earth: Inferno, published at the age of 18 revealed a mystical, grotesque, and often dark agenda that would become characteristic of all subsequent works. Between 1909 and 1913 Spare had a golden era with several West End exhibitions and numerous commissions before publishing his masterpiece The Book of Pleasure in 1913 – now regarded as a classic in twentieth-century esoteric studies.
Despite achieving fame during this period, Spare’s satyr-like sexual reputation likely contributed to the unofficial end of his marriage to actress Eily Gertrude Shaw (they separated, but never gained an official divorce). In the 1920s he entered into a period of intense introspection resulting in the publication of his last book Anathema of Zos in 1927. However, the post-war renaissance ushered by a successful exhibition at Archer Gallery in 1947 almost completely sold out; he received willing patronage from doctors, psychologists, journalists, teachers, critics, and connoisseurs until his death at sixty-nine years old.
What Is Zos Kia Cultus?
The section currently focuses on an explanation of the concept known as Zos Kia Cultus, which is a unique magicko-religious philosophy developed by a highly influential figure in twentieth-century occultism. Austin Osman Spare’s Zos Kia Cultus is rooted in his belief that the human mind contains atavistic memories and that the power of the unconscious mind can be harnessed to achieve spiritual and material success. The philosophy emphasizes individualism, self-discovery, and sexual liberation as a means of attaining personal power.
According to Spare, Zos refers to the human body and mind (and Spare later adopted the term as a pseudonym for himself), while Kia is a mystical concept, a sort of universal consciousness or unity, similar to the Tao, which Spare conceived of as a sort of universal mind, of which individual human consciousnesses are aspects. The goal of Zos Kia Cultus is to unite these two forces through magickal ritualistic practices such as sigilization – creating a symbolic representation of one’s desires – and automatic drawing – allowing unconscious impulses to guide artistic expression. These techniques were meant to bypass conscious thought processes and tap into deeper levels of consciousness.
While Spare’s ideas were initially dismissed by his contemporaries – including Aleister Crowley – they have since influenced various subcultures such as chaos magick and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Spare’s focus on individualism and personal empowerment has resonated with modern audiences who seek alternative forms of spirituality outside traditional religions. His legacy continues to inspire artists, mystics, and occultists today.
In summary, Austin Osman Spare’s Zos Kia Cultus focuses on achieving personal power through self-discovery, sexual liberation, and individualism. Despite initial dismissal from his contemporaries, Spare’s ideas have had a lasting influence on various subcultures throughout history until today.
Spare’s Relationships With Other Occultists
Spare’s fascination with the obscure aspects of sorcery stemmed from his close bond with an elderly colonial woman who claimed to be a descendant of Salem witches that Cotton Mather failed to eliminate. He affectionately referred to her as Mrs. Paterson, his “second mother”. Despite her limited vocabulary consisting mostly of fortune-telling terms, she was able to explain abstract concepts more clearly than Spare, who had a vast and unconventional vocabulary.
Austin Osman Spare’s relationships with other occultists played a significant role in the reception and dissemination of his magicko-religious philosophy. Spare had a complex relationship with Aleister Crowley, whom he initially admired but later rejected due to personal and ideological differences. Crowley was a member of several secret societies, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and he founded his own religious movement, Thelema. Spare was also associated with the Order of the Golden Dawn and the Argenteum Astrum, a secret society founded by Crowley, but later on, Crowley dismissed Spare as a “Black Brother” who practiced “sorcery” rather than true magick. However, Spare’s work was embraced by the next generation of occultists, including Kenneth Grant, who shared his interest in atavistic resurgence and developed their own interpretations of Zos Kia Cultus.
Another important figure in Spare’s life was Frank Letchford. In his biography, “From the Inferno to Zos,” Frank Letchford confirms that Austin Spare’s art and magickal philosophy were heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian culture and mythology. Letchford and Spare were close friends from 1937 until the artist’s death in 1956. Throughout his life, Spare drew inspiration from the rich history and mythology of ancient Egypt. This influence is evident in his artwork and magickal practices. Letchford’s biography sheds light on this aspect of Spare’s creative process and provides valuable insight into the artist’s life. Thanks to Letchford’s firsthand account, we can gain a deeper understanding of Spare’s artistic and philosophical legacy.
The influence upon Austin of Egyptian art writing and practice were strong. The incidence of Egyptian deities like Isis, Osiris, Horus, Nuit and of amulets, talismans, sigils and magical symbols is varied in his work…. According to the Egyptian religion the human “being” is composed of four parts: the body itself, the astral double, the soul and the spark of life from the Godhead. In all Austin’s writings, aphorisms, drawings and sketches are found charms, symbols and symbolic figures, namely, the sun, the moon, cats and gods, part-human, part-animal.
Despite these associations, however, Spare remained largely independent and eschewed formal membership in any particular group or organization. In addition to Grant and Letchford, it is also speculated that Spare had connections with other notable figures in the occult community, but at this time, it might be challenging to establish which of the rumors were true.
Spare’s influence on subsequent generations of occultists cannot be overstated. His techniques for sigilization and automatic drawing have been widely adopted and popularized by groups such as Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Peter J Carroll, one of the founders of the chaos magick movement, credited Spare as one of his primary influences. In many ways, it is through the work of later occultists that Spare’s legacy has been maintained and expanded upon.
Despite this impact on modern magickal practice, however, Spare remains relatively unknown outside these circles. This obscurity may be due in part to his rejection of traditional forms of religion and spirituality; as a result, he never gained widespread acceptance or recognition during his lifetime despite being highly regarded within certain circles. Nonetheless, his contributions to contemporary occultism are significant enough that they continue to inspire practitioners today
Spare’s Occult Practice and Beliefs
Spare’s system – Zos Kia Cultus, was based on the concepts of Zos and Kia and their reintegration. He believed that by tapping into the unconscious mind through techniques such as sigilization (including the alphabet of desire, where each letter represents a “sensation thinking”) and automatic drawing, one could access inherent powers that could be used for spiritual growth and personal transformation. Other Spare’s practices included ecstatic techniques and even physical exercises such as The Death Posture.
Spare was deeply critical of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories but found inspiration in Carl Jung’s concept of atavistic resurgence – that humans possess atavistic memories within their psyche. According to Spare’s philosophy, these memories could be brought to consciousness through certain techniques such as automatic drawing or meditation. This belief in accessing hidden parts of oneself is a cornerstone of contemporary magickal practice. However, despite the interest in the subconscious mind and related subjects, Spare was referring to Freud and Jung as “Fraud and Junk”.
Spare’s beliefs regarding sigils influenced the chaos magick movement and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. His techniques, particularly the use of sigils and creating an alphabet of desire, were adopted and popularized by Peter J. Carroll. Spare believed that traditional occult practices limited creativity and self-expression, so he sought to depart from conventional approaches to magick.
Austin Osman Spare’s impact on contemporary magickal practice cannot be understated. His departure from traditional occultism led him to develop his own unique approach to spirituality by tapping into the unconscious mind. His influence can be seen today in various forms of modern magickal practices such as chaos magick and sigilization techniques.
The literary works of a highly influential twentieth-century occultist are examined in this section. Austin Osman Spare’s books were an essential component of his magickal system, the Zos Kia Cultus. His first book, Earth Inferno, was published in 1905 and revealed a mystical, grotesque, and often dark agenda. Spare was known as the enfant terrible of Mayfair after his first notorious West End exhibition at The Bruton Gallery.
Spare’s masterpiece, The Book of Pleasure, was published in 1913 and is now regarded as a classic in 20th-century esoteric studies. It explores the concept of desire through automatic drawing and sigilization techniques. Spare believed that desire could be harnessed to achieve one’s goals through creating symbolic representations or sigils that would activate the unconscious mind.
In addition to these two seminal texts, Spare also produced several other books including The Focus of Life (1921), Anathema of Zos (1927), and A Book Of Satyrs (1907). These works explore themes such as automatism, sex magick, and atavistic resurgence. They provide further insight into Spare’s unique approach to occultism which departed from conventional practices.
Overall, Austin Osman Spare’s literary contributions have had a lasting impact on modern occultism. His books continue to inspire practitioners today with their unconventional methods for achieving spiritual enlightenment and personal power.
- Earth Inferno was published in 1905
- A Book Of Satyrs was first self-published in 1907, then republished in 1909 by John Lane
- The Book of Pleasure was published in 1913
- Spare also wrote The Focus of Life (1921) and Anathema of Zos (1927)
- Themes explored include automatism, sex magick, and atavistic resurgence
- Spare’s approach to occultism departed from conventional practices
Sigilization and Related Practices
The practice of sigilization is a cornerstone of modern occultism that involves creating symbolic representations to activate the unconscious mind and harness desire in order to achieve one’s goals. The technique was popularized by Spare (of course), who developed his own unique method for creating and using sigils. In Spare’s approach, a statement of intent is condensed into a monogram by removing repeated letters and arranging the remaining ones into an abstract symbol. The sigil is then charged through various means, such as intense concentration or sexual arousal, in order to bypass the conscious mind and implant the desire in the unconscious.
Chaos magicians have expanded on Spare’s basic technique, with some practitioners referring to it as “postmodern magick” due to its emphasis on individual experience over dogmatic tradition. Sigils can be created using any medium that allows for abstraction, such as drawing or collage-making. Some chaos magicians use computer software or even tattoo their sigils onto their bodies for continuous activation. Critics contend that the effectiveness of sigilization lies more in its placebo effect than any supernatural power; however, proponents argue that it is a legitimate tool for psychological self-transformation.
In chaos magick theory, once a complex of thoughts, desires, and intentions gains enough autonomy from the magician’s consciousness, it becomes known as a servitor. When such beings become large enough that they exist independently of any one individual, they are referred to as egregores – essentially group minds with magickal potency. These concepts suggest that sigilization can lead not only to personal transformation but also collective change through shared intentionality. As modern society becomes increasingly disillusioned with traditional institutions and authority figures, many people turn toward alternative forms of spirituality like chaos magick and its associated practices like sigilization.
The practice of sigilization has had significant influence beyond just occult circles; corporate logos have been compared to viral sigils designed to implant brand loyalty in the consumer’s unconscious mind. Such comparisons suggest that sigilization has become so ubiquitous that it is now a staple of modern culture. Whether one believes in its supernatural aspects or not, sigilization remains a powerful tool for self-transformation and intentionality that is based on psychological principles. Its popularity continues to grow as people seek alternative means to achieve their goals and tap into their own subconscious power.
The Death Posture
The Death Posture can be used as a technique to recharge spiritual energy and enter a new state of mind, allowing one to implant a desire into their subconscious mind. To perform this technique, one should find a quiet and secure spot with dim lighting, close their eyes, and clasp their arms tightly behind their back while standing on their tiptoes. This posture will stretch and strain the body, leading to feelings of exhaustion and tingling. As the individual’s breaths deepen, their mind will slowly succumb to the intensity of the experience. They should remain in this pose until they reach their physical limit, just before they collapse. While in this altered state, they can focus on their goals through visualization or affirmations. Once they collapse, they may experience natural expressions like laughter or tears. Finally, they should resume their everyday tasks to help their mind forget the intensity of the practice.
Austin Osman Spare was a prominent figure in twentieth-century occultism, known for his unique and unconventional approach to magicko-religious philosophy. He developed the Zos Kia Cultus, which diverged from traditional occultism by emphasizing the power of the unconscious mind and rejecting established dogma. Despite being initially dismissed by Aleister Crowley, Spare’s mystical agenda gained attention, with his masterpiece The Book of Pleasure now widely regarded as a classic in 20th-century esoteric studies.
Spare’s use of magickal techniques such as sigilization also had a significant impact on future chaos magick movements. His work continues to inspire contemporary practitioners of alternative spirituality seeking to explore new paths beyond traditional religious institutions.
Overall, Austin Osman Spare’s legacy is one that continues to fascinate scholars and enthusiasts alike. While he may have been considered an outsider during his lifetime, his ideas have proven to be influential and enduring within the wider context of modern esotericism. Through his work with Zos Kia Cultus and other forms of creative expression, Spare challenged conventional wisdom regarding the nature of consciousness and reality itself, leaving behind a rich body of work that still holds relevance today.
P.S. If such topics are of your interest, I strongly recommend exploring my esoteric grimoire, “The Forbidden Book of Esoteric Insight” – it uncovers carious magickal practices such as deep meditation, ceremonial magick, and even egregore work.