It is undeniable that Austin Osman Spare has a huge influence on modern occultism, having been made posthumously ‘famous’ in this context through the works of Kenneth Grant. Ironically, Spare held nothing but disdain for such pretentious and pompous ‘society’ when he was alive. You would not find him hanging out with Crowley, or even Gerald Gardner. As he wrote in The Book of Pleasure: The Psychology of Ecstasy;
“[Some] praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolising we become the symbolized? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels. Magic is but one’s natural ability to attract without asking; ceremony what is unaffected, its doctrine the negation of theirs. I know them well and their creed of learning that teaches the fear of their own light. Vampires, they are the very lice in attraction. Their practices prove their incapacity, they have no magic to intensify the normal, the joy of a child or healthy person, none to evoke their pleasure or wisdom from themselves. Their methods depending on a morass of the imagination and a chaos of conditions, their knowledge obtained with less decency than the hyena his food.”
Which was Spare’s way of saying he thought were are all a bit pretentious. Having explored the world of ‘ceremonial magicians’, and having fallen out with nearly all the biggest poseurs for all the right reasons, I am inclined to agree with him. Nevertheless, Austin’s friend Kenneth Grant seems to have been a jolly good chap. I reproduce some of the good things he had to say about me in The Neuronomicon.
Nor, as a ghost, is Spare impressed by the ever recycled fad of Chaos Magic, or fools as Peter J. Carroll, who dared claim heritage of the Zos Kia Cultus. In his Austin’s words, “Don’t blame me for this crap. They’re all cursed. Every single fucking one of the dirty lying cunts.”
That’s not a quote from one of his books. I heard him say it.
I have met the ghost of Austin Osman Spare a few times. I know how that sounds. Everyone has their opinion on the existence or non existence of ghosts, and there are enough of us that believe in them that you cannot call us all crazy. We all have our own experiences. Nobody can prove whether ghosts exist or not in absolute terms, but I have had several persuasive experiences that, at least at the time, convinced me they do. But I am not making any claims as to their absolute reality.
Spare would say it was our belief in them that made them real. His definition of real might not be the same as a closed minded materialist, and nor is mine. My experiences of meeting the ghost of Austin have been amongst the most persuasive, often coinciding with significant turning points in my life.
I have also known others with similar experiences of meeting the ghost of Austin Osman Spare, along with someone who seems to appear in several of his drawings. It has always been out of kindness on the part of his ghost that he appeared to us, because we needed to know we were not alone. Because we were struggling, like he did as an artist with integrity, refusing to bow to any ‘scene’ and selling his art in local pubs. It is never because he has been ‘summoned’ or has lowered himself to appear at a seance – everyone who has met his ghost, or experienced meeting his ghost, agrees on his contempt for ceremonial magicians and spiritualists. I know there are plenty of people who claim otherwise, but as Spare put it, “Their formula is deception and they are deceived.”
That is not a quote from his books either.
We get along well, Spare and I. We have a lot in common. We are both witches, originating from East Anglian tradition, what have walked what he calls “The Path Direct”. That sounds pretentious, and he is, because what he means is simply “straying from the beaten track”. Going your own way. So we are both connected to the same tradition. And we are both uncompromising magical artists, although I make no claim to be his equal as a draughtsman. The last time I laid eyes on an original Spare was at an exhibition of works by Aubrey Beardsley – which as a ‘footnote’ also included a portrait of Beardley’s wife, which Beardsley himself had commissioned from Austin Osman Spare. We both, his ghost and I, agree that he is unequalled. But I have also experienced his displeasure and even his anger. I am glad I have never pissed him off enough to get cursed, although its fair to say he has knocked me for six a couple of times. You really don’t want to meet the ghost of Austin Osman Spare when he shifts into his atavisms.