luka

Well-known member
I think the art path poetry path, probably demands a meta level above even these huge and potent structures
 

luka

Well-known member
But you need to know the serious pull they have, you need to feel yourself sucked towards that maelstrom or you're not playing seriously
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
danny if you could, what are some of the things you got out of the writings? people are understandably always reticent to talk about their own magic but i couldn't get into his prose at all, i dont know anything about crowley or the context but it felt off putting
Sure. I think I got an understanding of duality, really. How insisting on one side of a binary creates its opposite. That's really evident in his stuff I think. Writing that makes me think I should go back to it, and start doing it over again as I'm still in need of it. And how belief, often just out of consciousness can make and shape situations for us. And the idea of freeing belief by calling up the opposites of what you think, contemplating them, and opposing them to what you think and hold dear. It can make you see how contingent and arbitrary things are, and also understand how much drama you create and craft unthinkingly for yourself. I recall once, years ago, thinking about Spare's techniques when miserable (about women, inevitably) and making myself cry once when I realised how much I'd created and woven the entire situation I was engrossed in. There's a great drawing in I think The Book of Satyrs which has the caption "oh come with me, the Kia and Zos, to witness this extravagance" and a guy drawing back a curtain on all this blind figures colliding, groping, fighting each other. That just really spoke to me as a true statement about life and consciousness. His writing and art is a pointer out of that, if only for a moment.

The other major thing is just from looking at his life and art - you can see how much he just went his own way what an original he was. Thinking about him is a kind of exhortation to do the same, if that makes sense. Doing Spare's magic wouldn't be replicating what he writes (the sigil formula has become *the worst* internet occult cliche) - , it'd be striking off on your own direction. "By straying, I found the path direct". Again, something I'm still in need of.

More will probably come to mind in a bit.
 

catalog

Well-known member
The duality thing comes through in his drawings, the way he's playing with the oppositions, breaking them down and putting the binaries next to one another.

The very precise crafting of a face, but it's next to the automatic drawing or satyrs, the whole lot wrapped up very well together.

96b5ef06d675c23000d9dfbae90a15c1.jpg
 

kumar

Well-known member
thats wicked, and the point about replicating someones magic is crucial.

some of his drawings that stuck with me are the distended celeb portraits he started making, and again its interesting to consider him grow up through the electronic revolution. he was immediately aware of the occult power of hollywood and print advertising, how the sudden appearance of big screen titans and billboard perfume ads would produce a whole new world of desires and aspirations. the tyrranical burrowing of mass produced images into everyones imagination, and the kind of patchwork people this would create. so you have the phantom bette davis head rendered on a level footing with the goblins and faeries and writhing ghouls
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DannyL

Wild Horses
Yeah, he was remarkably prescient I think. All of the stuff about duality is like Derrida and the post-structuralists just 70 years beforehand, and he came up with it on his own while barely out of his teens. I'd not made that connection between him and the world of the media before. He seems prior to that world in some ways.

Another idea was his thing about forgetting, letting things go, letting them drop out of consciousness as the key to the magic working. All I can say is that this is true, and those infrequent moments, more accident than design, when I've forgotten stuff - it has sometimes just tended to ping up in the world or in my dreams.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Those squashed colour portraits I'm less keen on, but you can still see how he's trying to break away from simply doing a portrait.

They put me in mind of when I've made a mistake with the aspect ratios when trying to output a video.
 

yyaldrin

in je ogen waait de wind
A copy of the Phil Baker bio from Strange Attractor press has fallen into my hands.

Just read a bit of the intro from Alan Moore who compares him to Blake.

It seems like a lot of people here will know something or other about him, there's mentions here and there but no dedicated thread.

Im primarily interested in his automatic drawing and other art but only recently found out about his work on sigils.
thinking of getting a copy of that phil baker book as well. does it have illustrations of his artwork in it as well?
 

catalog

Well-known member
It does but not that many tbh, there's some colour plates and then quite a few black and white illustrations on the pages. But not really got past page 10 yet so I've no idea. Can have a proper look through the illustrations though and let you know.
 

catalog

Well-known member
I'm on about page 40 of the baker book now and it's good, but his tone is a bit weird, very dismissive of the general spiritualist/occult element as Danny was saying, which seems odd if you decide to write a book on Austin osman spare, but maybe he got sick of it?

Whats also noticeable is that there's really very little primary source material with which to construct the bio, so any characterisation of spare (so far) feels quite guesswork and thin.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
I'm on about page 40 of the baker book now and it's good, but his tone is a bit weird, very dismissive of the general spiritualist/occult element as Danny was saying, which seems odd if you decide to write a book on Austin osman spare, but maybe he got sick of it?

Whats also noticeable is that there's really very little primary source material with which to construct the bio, so any characterisation of spare (so far) feels quite guesswork and thin.
Maybe we could understand this as a bit of a reaction to Kenneth Grant? Grant's wife, Steffi, met AOS in the 50s and they ended up becoming good friends with KG taking on a bit of an acolyte role. Grant was later responsible for popularising AOS but his works are notorious for presenting as "factual" while being anything but. There's a magical technique at work here, reading Grant is a bit like being overloaded with insane ideas and concepts. He used Spare's life in this way. Mrs Patterson becomes someone that Spare may have known, graudally getting more and more alien and weird throughout the books. I think Baker discusses this.

He was probably 20-30 years too late to interview primary sources. Most of those who knew Spare would have passed away by then.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Yeah the levels of fact/fiction/fantasy/reality get very sketchy. I've never read any KG myself but his name comes up a lot. Cheers for the background info.

Just finished reading this morning the bit where Crowley turns up to one of his early exhibitions, no doubt prompted by the reviews talking about goulish, disturbing images and he introduces himself as 'God's archregent on Earth' or something like that, and Spare later recalls that he thought Crowley was a down on his luck Italian ponce.
 

catalog

Well-known member
I'm getting to the really meaty bit now, when AOS has got married and is living in Golders Green and decides to write the Book of Pleasure. Baker is quoting some nice big chunks which are worth posting in full.

For example, here's a bit from his takedown of the Crowley figures he has been involved with (he joined AA but left), the ones doing the complex and very showy rituals.

Spare rejects all that:

"I know them well and their creed of learning that teaches the fear of their own light. Vampires, they are as the very lice in attraction. Their practices prove their incapacity, they have no magic to intensify the normal, thd joy of a child or a healthy person... "

His approach is more Freudian (although as Baker points out, he's writing before Freud).

He advocates thinking less about visible issues to do with ritual and action, more about tapping into the unconscious, bypassing conscious thought as its so limited.

And to link with conversations in other threads, perhaps a bit of a hyperstition approach? Eg he used this metaphor of how bats started flying to explain it...

"A bat first grew wings and of the proper kind, by its desire being organic enough to reach the sub-consciousness. If its desire to fly had been conscious, it would have had to wait till it could have done so by the same means as ourselves i.e. by machinery. "

So actually maybe not like hyperstition at all, cos the whole point is that it's not a conscious willing. The severing of that link seems crucial to him, you need to put your desire out of conscious thought in order to achieve it. It does also remind me about conversations we've had here with regard to the psychedelic, and how the true 'new' never arrives as a planned thing, its always a mistake when it first turns up, you are never into it, never think it's right.

Must say, I do find that conscious/unconscious duality immediately a bit problematic, in that it sounds already like the apotheosis of high Victorian/Enlightenment thinking, and therefore not really something that can tell us much about our new 'now'.

But Baker has dropped a few hints about his other concepts, the 'neither-neither' and 'inbetweeneness', as Danny also alluded to above, so looking forward to finding out more about that.
 

luka

Well-known member
It's hard to move beyond any of these dualities, no one has invented a convincing way of thinking without them.
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
I'm getting to the really meaty bit now, when AOS has got married and is living in Golders Green and decides to write the Book of Pleasure. Baker is quoting some nice big chunks which are worth posting in full.

For example, here's a bit from his takedown of the Crowley figures he has been involved with (he joined AA but left), the ones doing the complex and very showy rituals.

Spare rejects all that:

"I know them well and their creed of learning that teaches the fear of their own light. Vampires, they are as the very lice in attraction. Their practices prove their incapacity, they have no magic to intensify the normal, thd joy of a child or a healthy person... "

His approach is more Freudian (although as Baker points out, he's writing before Freud).

He advocates thinking less about visible issues to do with ritual and action, more about tapping into the unconscious, bypassing conscious thought as its so limited.

And to link with conversations in other threads, perhaps a bit of a hyperstition approach? Eg he used this metaphor of how bats started flying to explain it...

"A bat first grew wings and of the proper kind, by its desire being organic enough to reach the sub-consciousness. If its desire to fly had been conscious, it would have had to wait till it could have done so by the same means as ourselves i.e. by machinery. "

So actually maybe not like hyperstition at all, cos the whole point is that it's not a conscious willing. The severing of that link seems crucial to him, you need to put your desire out of conscious thought in order to achieve it. It does also remind me about conversations we've had here with regard to the psychedelic, and how the true 'new' never arrives as a planned thing, its always a mistake when it first turns up, you are never into it, never think it's right.

Must say, I do find that conscious/unconscious duality immediately a bit problematic, in that it sounds already like the apotheosis of high Victorian/Enlightenment thinking, and therefore not really something that can tell us much about our new 'now'.

But Baker has dropped a few hints about his other concepts, the 'neither-neither' and 'inbetweeneness', as Danny also alluded to above, so looking forward to finding out more about that.

The soul is the ancestors, the body is their knowledge....or something approximate to that.
 

catalog

Well-known member
OK, so this is what Austin Osman Spare has to say about sigils, taken from 'The book of pleasure':

"Sigils are... a mathematical means of symbolising desire and giving it form that has the virtue of preventing any thought and association on that particular desire... escaping the detection of the Ego, so that it does not restrain or attach such desire to its own transitory images, memories and worries, but allows it free passage to the sub-consciousness."
 

catalog

Well-known member
Im about halfway through the bio now, he’s very much down on his luck, living in elephant (after living in a few other places in south london), hosting shows in his flat after falling out with the establishment. Interesting that he had trouble with WB Yeats over some of the illustrations he did for him in a magazine.

GB Shaw seems to sum the main issue, calling him a great draughtsman, which he clearly was, but all the grisly figures are too much, no one wants the actual pictures on their walls. But he still compulsively does his weird drawings, seems to not care what people think.

You do feel he fell between eras in a sense, a little later and he would’ve ridden the surrealism wave, whereas he was sort of badly rediscovered after it had hit, plus he was coming from a slightly different place anyway.

Interesting that he was into radios and wireless technology and how that was thought of as a channel for ghosts early on. A reminder that all new technologies have a supernatural air about them when they first appear.
 
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