The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Two booklets of Austin Osman Spare: Earth: Inferno (1905), The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love) (1913) *

* (restored)
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‘Austin Osman Spare (December 30, 1886 – May 15, 1956) was an English artist and magician. He was the son of a London policeman. As a child, he showed an affinity for art, and he briefly attended an art school. At the age of 13, he left school to become an apprentice to a stained glass maker. During his teen years, his fascination for the occult grew apace, heavily influencing the work he produced. In May 1904 one of his drawings was exhibited at the annual Royal Academy exhibition in London, generating a storm of publicity for the young artist.

‘In October 1907 Spare exhibited his drawings at the Bruton gallery in London. His work resembled that of Aubrey Beardsley, but was full of grotesque, sexualized human figures and magical symbols. These elements appealed to avant-garde London intellectuals, and brought him to the attention of Aleister Crowley. Spare became a Probationer of Crowley’s order Argenteum Astrum (“Of the Silver Star”) in July 1909, but was not initaiated as a member, although he contributed four small drawings to Crowley’s publication The Equinox. Crowley later characterized Spare as a “Black Brother”, meaning that he did not approve of the goals of Spare’s magical philosophy.

‘In 1905, Spare published his first book, Earth: Inferno. It remains a powerful work and made clear Spare’s agenda: mystical, grotesque, often dark and polemic, Earth: Inferno seeks to challenge the reader to see the world askance, through the eyes of the artist. The book was privately published in 1905 – prior to his first notorious West End exhibition at The Bruton Gallery. If there had been any doubt as to Spare’s intent, this show dispelled any lingering uncertainty. One critic wrote: “His inventive faculty is stupendous and terrifying in its creative flow of impossible horrors …” Spare’s iconoclasm and aversion to moralism as well as his sigilization was influential on the Western esoteric tradition that later came to be known as chaos magic.’ — Austinspare.co.uk. & Fulgur Limited

 

Earth: Inferno

‘Earth: Inferno’ @ Wikipedia
‘Earth: Inferno’ @ goodreads
‘EARTH: Inferno’. A Short Film based on the Work of Austin Osman Spare
UNUNE AS KAOS IZ DERGRUND ‘Earth Inferno (Austin Osman Spare)’
Fields of the Nephilim ‘Earth Inferno’
“Earth Inferno” de Austin Osman Spare por Mor Navón & Julián Moguillansky
Buy ‘Earth Inferno’ (facsimile)

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‘Spare’s association with Crowley didn’t last long partly because, although barely twenty years old at the time, he had begun work on The Book of Pleasure, and was beginning to form his own ideas concerning the practice of magic. As well as drawings, it includes detailed instructions for his system of sigilization and the well known ‘death postures’. He has much to say about human hypocrisy, religion and the meanings of true personal freedom and power. The Book of Pleasure reeks of diabolism to such an extent that Mario Praz in The Romantic Agony (Oxford, 1933) refers to Spare as an English “satanic occultist”, and he places him in the same category as his nemesis Aleister Crowley. The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love) is seen by many as the core of Austin Spare’s magical philosophy and his most important and influential work.’ — Austinspare.co.uk. & Fulgur Limited

 

The Book of Pleasure (Self Love)

‘The Book of Pleasure’ @ Wikipedia
‘The Book of Pleasure’ @ goodreads
Video: Austin Osman Spare the book of pleasure part1
AOS @ Fulgur
Austin Osman Spare: An introduction to his psycho-magical philosophy, by Kenneth Grant
The Neither-Neither World of Austin Osman Spare
How magic works.
Austin Osman Spare: The man art history left behind
“Book of Pleasure” Lost chapters
Buy ‘The Book of Pleasure’

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‘Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) is one of the most influential and innovative figures in twentieth century occultism. A natural artist and psychic, Spare’s explorations of the creative focus gave rise to an ontology and body of work that departs radically from conventional occultism, both then and now. Ahead of his time, he was dismissed by Crowley early in his career, but found appreciation and understanding with the next generation, who embraced his ideas with alacrity.

‘A true Londoner, Spare was born in December 1886 near the Holborn Viaduct and spent most of his life no more than 10 miles from his place of birth. Living in the shadow of a burgeoning Smithfield Market, the family soon moved south of the river to Kennington, then a vibrant borough with music halls, taverns and a history of political and religious dissent. Spare’s formative years were spent at the school attached to the nearby Catholic church of St. Agnes, yet although many of his early drawings show us traditional religious themes, there is also evidence of interests in Eastern mysticism, Theosophy and Spiritualism. This latter movement was to become a key influence in the development of Spare’s ontology, especially the central role played by ‘automatism’ which came to form the basis of the artist’s modus operandi.

‘In 1904 a small drawing executed when Spare was just fourteen was accepted into the Royal Academy Summer show and he was thrust suddenly into the public gaze. The experience was stressful, but proved to be a catalyst, for the following year Spare published his first book, Earth: Inferno. It remains a powerful work and made clear Spare’s agenda: mystical, grotesque, often dark and polemic, Earth: Inferno seeks to challenge the reader to see the world askance, through the eyes of the artist. A second folio, more politically slanted and titled with mocking humor A Book of Satyrs was privately published in 1907 – just prior to his first notorious West End exhibition at The Bruton Gallery. If there had been any doubt as to Spare’s intent, this show dispelled any lingering uncertainty. One critic wrote: “His inventive faculty is stupendous and terrifying in its creative flow of impossible horrors …” The shy boy artist from Kennington had become the enfant terrible of Mayfair.

‘The years between 1909 and 1913 were Spare’s golden era. He staged several West End exhibitions and enjoyed numerous commissions from private collectors and publishers. The period reached its apex in 1913 with the publication of Spare’s masterpiece, The Book of Pleasure. Inspired by his marriage to the actress Eily Gertrude Shaw in 1911 the book is now regarded as a classic in 20th century esoteric studies. Complex and obscure, Spare’s writing in The Book of Pleasure sketches out a vision of a magical process entirely devoid of ceremony and thus swept away all conventional notions of ritual praxis.

‘By the outbreak of War, Spare’s marriage was faltering. His refusal to compromise artistically left him vulnerable to the shifting cultural zeitgeist and the ensuing financial difficulties, combined with his conscription as an Official War Artist, placed enormous pressure on the relationship. But is was Spare’s satyr-like sexual reputation that probably ended the marriage: his fourth book, The Focus of Life, published in 1921, delivers a dream-like narrative and voluptuous pencil nudes – none of which were his wife. It was well received, but Spare found himself out-of-step and alienated from London’s art society and he retreated to his roots in South London.

‘The 1920s were a period of intense introspection for the artist. Living and working in his tiny studio in the Borough Spare’s anger and frustration manifested in 1927 with his last published book Anathema of Zos: it was not well received. After the failure of his 1927 and 1929 shows, Spare produced his most commercial work for years. His exhibition at the Godfrey Philips Gallery in 1930 was full of beautiful elongated portraits of women and film stars collectively titled “Experiments in Relativity”. Despite the global depression they were a moderate success, but it was to be his last West End show for 17 years and by 1932 Spare joked with his journalist friend Hannen Swaffer that he was contemplating “the gas oven”.

‘Salvation came in an unexpected form, an old sweetheart Ada Millicent Pain inspired Spare to renew his efforts and the arrival of Surrealism in London in 1936 gave him added impetus. At the age of fifty, Spare’s abilities to produce exquisite, fine ink and pencil drawings were deteriorating and he shifted his focus towards the more fluid medium of pastels. His three shows of 1936, 1937 and 1938 received significant press coverage, but tragically in 1941, at the height of the Blitz, Spare’s studio in the Walworth Road received a direct hit and was completely destroyed. Spare was injured and after some months as a nomad he found a home in Brixton with his childhood friend Ada Millicent Pain. Yet Spare, nearly 60 and in failing health, was about to enter one of the most productive and successful periods of his life.

‘His exhibition at the Archer Gallery in 1947, engineered by his journalist friend Dennis Bardens and for which he produced over 200 works, was almost a complete sell-out and ushered in his astonishing post-war renaissance. Assisted by his friend Frank Letchford and inspired by the late Aleister Crowley’s protégé Kenneth Grant and his wife Steffi, Spare’s exhibitions mid tavern-shows of the early 1950s showed a mature artist of incredible vigour and imaginative power. At the age of sixty-eight his command of the pastel medium could scarcely be equaled and he received the willing patronage of doctors, psychologists, journalists, teachers, critics and connoisseurs.’ — Robert Ansell

 

Extras


Alan Moore on Austin Osman Spare


Heavenly Creatures – L’Ange Dechu (For Austin Osman Spare)


Austin Osman Spare: A collection of 77 works


An Interview with Austin Spare YT

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi, D!!!! Me too, no surprise. Oh, wow, very hard to choose. Uh, true, Ghost Pet is hard to beat, but I keep thinking that hand puppet at the top could come in handy, although I’m not sure why. Yeah, I guess because of the film fundraising troubles, I do seem to want love to be a greedy capitalist lately. Sad. Houellebecq … he’s a good writer. His early novels are pretty good. But in France he’s a total media whore and controversy baiter who’ll write/say/do anything to get attention, and lately he’s flirting with Islamophobia and fascist stuff to court the Far Right because it’s the most controversial thing he can do, and I find him both boring and irritating. He’s kind of like the Kanye West of French lit. Aw, poor, lonely love. Let’s talk the Nobel Prize committee into giving out a Nobel Prize for charm and beauty and then make sure Love wins it or something, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Maybe it’s just me, but I immediately see that future baby vs. dog battle as a subject for one of your stories? Your Play Therapy did the exact opposite of cave my weekend’s head in. It was one of my faves so far! I so hope your dad is out of pain and home and spry by now. ** CAUTIVOS, Hi! You mean was I friends with Kathy Acker? Yes, but not really, really close friends. But we visited when we were in the same cities and went to each others’ events and had a lot of mutual respect. I didn’t know how ill she was until she died. I know a lot of people who were close with her who were very angry with her for not getting treatment for her cancer, but, like I said,I didn’t know how bad her cancer was until too late. Does that answer your question? Sorry not to answer you in Spanish, but I’m very happy that you’re commenting here in your own language. I don’t trust Google translate. Take care! Thank you! ** David Ehrenstein, Ha ha, I knew you were going to do that. ** Misanthrope, Sublime? Whoa, big word, thank you. Rigby should write everything, but maybe not your back cover copy. ** Steve Erickson, If Houellbecq could figure out a way to make the transformation into a flamingo a “subtle” anti-Muslim statement I’m sure he’d employ it. I’ll try your music selections, thank you, although the Utada sounds a little scary. Oh, if you haven’t seen the latest Pedro Costa film ‘Vitalina Varela’ I very highly recommend it. It’s great in general, and visually it’s just mesmerising. I too liked the Poly Styrene doc quite a bit. Very cool that you’re interviewing the directors. ** Bill, Thanks, Bill. They were fun to gather up. ‘Decoder’, I’ve heard of that. Like Told Steve, I saw the latest Pedro Costa film last night, and it’s pretty incredible. ** David, Hi. Cold here too. No running for me other than trying to get in the metro car’s doors before they close. I’m so sorry you lost your dad when you were so young. You were roommates with Dale Peck?! Now that’s something I never expected to hear even from do-it-all you. Gorgeous poem. I only read it through fast ‘cos the p.s. takes too much of my brain, but I’ll go back to it once I’m more coffee-d and less p.s.-ed. Thanks. ** Shane, Hi, Shane. ** Leonard Frey, Hi. Nifty: awesome. Secretly, my goal in life is niftiness. Suggestions about your hateful mom? I had one of those. Vast emotional distance and as much physical distance as you can manage. ‘Hell, Yes’, indeed. ** Okay. When I originally posted this post years ago, it was kind of impossible to see/read the above booklets by Austin Osman Spare anywhere else, which gave the post a kind of special value. I believe that in the years since said booklets have become easier access, so the post’s exclusivity thing is gone, but maybe it can still rock certain boats? See you tomorrow.

15 Comments

  1. _Black_Acrylic

    AOS always was a style icon before his time.

    The CGI future baby vs. dog battle Is a definite goer for a future short story. My friend Rae Cowie from the Flash Fiction course I’m doing has just been awarded a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award 2022! So there is definitely something in the air, it would seem.

    My dad is home right now but that’s sadly where the good news ends. Turns out it’s the big C and we’re all in shock about it. Not really much of a surprise I guess as he’s been getting worse for the last few weeks. Right now he’s on strong painkillers which are helping. Difficult times for everyone.

    • _Black_Acrylic

      Thanks also for your kind comments re Play Therapy btw, always very much appreciated.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Spare is an interesting character overall (quite cute in his youth) but like all Mystics eventually tiresome. Has Kennth Anger ever mentioned him? And how IS Kenneth Anger these days?
    Watching “Ice Station ebra” the othe night and it suddenly occured to me why Howard Hughes might have been so bsessed with it: Tony Bill looks a lot like Hughs’old boytoy Jack Beutel. (the star of “The Outlaw”) Tony Bill — one of the great beauties of postwar Hollywood is a source of ceaselessfascination for me.

  3. Dominik

    Hi!!

    True. True. The puppet’s pretty extra as well. My dog was lying next to me while I watched the video, and she looked at me with an expression that clearly asked, “What the FUCK?”.

    Understandable that love craves money. Who doesn’t, right? Are there any news about your film’s funding?

    Oh, wow. I didn’t know this about Houellebecq at all. I don’t have anything against some innocent attention whoring, but… the emphasis is on innocent. This is disappointing and, frankly, pretty appalling. Maybe it’s better if he remains a flamingo with a tiny backpack from now on, haha.

    Awh, love’s life would definitely change if he won such a Nobel Prize! No more late-night conversations with the Pekoppa Plant, haha. Thank you! Love still thinking about what Gerard Way “just wants” in the intro of “I’m Not Okay”, Od.

  4. Tosh Berman

    Dennis thanks for today’s subject, Mr Spare. I never heard of him, but I’m very fond of the London citizen eccentric. Good person to look up. I have to imagine he knew Colin Wilson??? And most important, _Black_Acrylic, I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s illness. Over two -weeks my mom passed away from cancer and she died at our home. It was really tough, but there were some really strong emotional connections as well. Just take it at a day at a time. And again, sorry you have to go through this with your family.

  5. David

    Very interesting post thanks….

    ‘Presses index and middle finger of the right hand into philtrum and pulls jaw in a downward direction… whilst looking up with a singular bulbus eye….’ Yes Dennis… Dale had the room next to me.. it was back in the early 90s… ‘shy borderline wild’ springs to mind about him… he let me and my pals use his Marks and Sparks gear once to take some photographs… I’ve still got the pics actually somewhere… He once told me a story of how his mother made him scrub a pan he burnt… every day on arriving back from school for weeks…. it truly, truly broke my heart Dennis, I’ve got a tear in my eye as I’m writing this…. I wrote a poem years later on the strength called ‘Ursa minor’……

    I was once in bed whilst some villain wandered in through the front door and stole his laptop… containing a whole load of stuff he’d been working on…. the police came around… I remember they didn’t know what a laptop was and he had to explain it to them… Christ Dennis….

    hope you are keeping warm pal xx

    • David

      ‘The instant of obsession’ wow… that’s my favourite!…. and thanks for the kind comments about my father Dennis x

  6. Sypha

    I used to own these, and many other Spare books, but I don’t anymore as a few years ago I got rid of my entire occult library on a whim. But now that I’m slowly rebuilding said library maybe I’ll start getting Spare again. I say ‘maybe’ because he can be pricey ha ha (that is, if one is looking for quality, not cheap-o self-published fare). The nicest Spare book I ever owned was probably ZOS SPEAKS! by Kenneth & Steffi Grant, and which was published by Fulgur.

  7. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I knew there’d be a Sypha appearance when I saw Spare’s name, hehehe. A lot of the Neo-Decadents like Spare. A lot. 😀

    You’re welcome, fine sir. I picked “sublime” very carefully.

    Hahaha, Rigby! I talked to him for about an hour and a half last night. He recommended a film called Cargo 200. Have you seen it or heard of it? He’d just come across it. Sounds like it’d be right up my alley. 😀

  8. Bill

    I’m a fan of Spare’s work. Look forward to spending more time with the booklets, thanks!

    Vitalina Varela looks totally up my alley. It’s on my watchlist.

    Bill

  9. Steve Erickson

    I loved VITALINA VARELA – it was #1 on my top 10 list for 2020. Such gorgeous use of light, color and shade.

    I’ve made a Spotify playlist, “Soaking in the Grey,” featuring the best new music I’ve heard in January:https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4ufe4IOAGCW3x2VmaCmNnL?si=06e6c5c14f0c44f3

    My interview with Celeste Bell and Paul Sng went decently, but I could tell they were repeating answers they’ve given dozens of times. I also approached Lora Logic in E-mail and asked her a few questions to supplement Bell and Sng’s perspective, but I don’t know if she will respond by my deadline.

    Houellbecq’s SUBMISSION follow-up: after white French Christian men convert to Islam, they then become birds following magic rituals performed by the country’s most powerful imam. The main character will be a Celine scholar who sympathizes with his politics.

  10. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis,
    Enjoyed the AOS post. These booklets are really something.

    Recently watched the first Wong Kar-Wai film “As Tears Go By.” Have you seen it? Not his best by a long shot, but I was interested/surprised to see many of his trademark visual moves were in place before he started working with Christopher Doyle.

    Been able to devote more time to working on a visual art installation, which has slowly been taking shape for many months now. Feels like it’s close to being finished, which is nice.

    What have you been working on lately? Hope there’s good news on funding for your movie soon.

  11. Billy

    Hi Dennis
    I just had a great week reading the sluts and Castle faggot so thanks for that. Your recommendations are really working for me right now lol. Hope you’re OK. I’m good, etc.

  12. Maria, Isabella, Camila, Malaria, Gabriela

    Thanks Coops, is good I have a many books of pleasure! I disappeared in some as well hey! This post it a brings back the memories of when Maria Isabella Camila Malaria Gabriela was centre spreading in many like a margarine

    Hey! The accuser of Mr Marilyn Manson you hear??? she’s a the ex man! and is a lying the cat, the self sealing bag! ‘Look at the Rocker Magneto’ spending a time with this and my dreams a come true! No air of the dog or cat, gone!

    Here is the wonderful a Sinead a singing Special Cases with the Massive Attacker she is real woman I like! thanking Coops!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O89_U1gZfYU

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