Abraxas

Fondé en 2009 par Robert Ansell de Fulgur Limited et Christina Oakley Harrington de Treadwell’s, le projet Abraxas vise à représenter le mouvement ésotérique international dans une version imprimée de la plus haute qualité.

Publié deux fois par an, à l’automne et au printemps, la revue offre à ses lecteurs un contenu à la fois pertinent et stimulant ; que ce soit des essais érudits et captivants, ou des images provocatrices et sources d’inspiration.

Un total de huit numéros ont été publiés, y compris deux numéros spéciaux.

La parution de la revue s’est achevée en novembre 2014.

‘Abraxas est aujourd’hui le porte-parole prééminent en matièère d’étude sérieuse des modes d’expression occultes et ésotériques. La qualité et la constance de ses supports visuels et de ses articles est tout simplement incomparable. Pour ceux à qui il importe une quête existencielle personnelle, l’expression de connaissances occultes et l’impact durable de la tradition ésotérique, Abraxas est votre foyer intellectuel et artistique.’

Mike Horowitz, auteur de ‘Occult America and One Simple Idea’, vice-président et rédacteur en chef chez Tarcher/Penguin, New York.

Abraxas

 

Founded in 2009 by Robert Ansell of Fulgur Limited and Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwells Bookshop, the Abraxas project aimed to represent the best of the international esoteric movement in a high quality printed format. Published bi-annually in the spring and autumn, the journal offered readers relevant and thought-provoking features: ranging from essays that are scholarly and engaging, to images that challenge and inspire. In total, eight issues were produced, including two specials. Publication was suspended in November 2014.

Abraxas is today’s preeminent voice for the serious study of occult and esoteric expression. The quality and consistency of its visuals and articles is simply unmatched. For anyone who cares deeply about the individual search for meaning, the expression of occultic insights, and the enduring impact of the esoteric tradition, Abraxas is your intellectual and artistic home.

Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, and Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Tarcher/Penguin, New York

Editors
Christina Oakley Harrington
Robert Ansell

Associate Editor, New York
Pam Grossman

Copy-editor
Merlin Cox

Contributions Management
Livia FIlotico

Abraxas

Founded in 2009 by Robert Ansell of Fulgur Limited and Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwells Bookshop, the Abraxas project aimed to represent the best of the international esoteric movement in a high quality printed format. Published bi-annually in the spring and autumn, the journal offered readers relevant and thought-provoking features: ranging from essays that are scholarly and engaging, to images that challenge and inspire. In total, eight issues were produced, including two specials. Publication was suspended in November 2014.

Abraxas is today’s preeminent voice for the serious study of occult and esoteric expression. The quality and consistency of its visuals and articles is simply unmatched. For anyone who cares deeply about the individual search for meaning, the expression of occultic insights, and the enduring impact of the esoteric tradition, Abraxas is your intellectual and artistic home.

Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, and Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Tarcher/Penguin, New York

Editors
Christina Oakley Harrington
Robert Ansell

Associate Editor, New York
Pam Grossman

Copy-editor
Merlin Cox

Contributions Management
Livia FIlotico

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Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

OMontscorp
‘Orryelle’ is a variant spelling of ‘oriel’: a projecting bay window corbelled or cantilevered out from a wall. ‘Defenestrate’ means to throw a person or a thing out of a window. According to Webster’s dictionary, ‘Bascule’ is an apparatus or structure (as a drawbridge) in which one end is counterbalanced by the other on the principle of the see-saw, or by weights.

If you add to these words a probable origin of the ‘Orryelle’ spelling, the name becomes a clear description of both mage and Magick. An orrery is an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by wheelwork.

The one who created and wears this name is an Australian person of many parts, arts and hearts who enjoys a life of Initiations, receiving and bestowing them as he goes. As a window, Orryelle transmits light (and shadow) through drawing, writing, performance art, body- mind- and spirit- modification, extreme travels, music, and the ability to attract and work with kindred spirits around the world.

Also as a window, Orryelle’s magick can help those who meet him to be launched up and out into new realizations and manifestations, thrown out of the window of common knowledge and common sense and into new ways of seeing. The Bascule part assists the window part as a matter of operational balance through counterweights. Magick requires engineering skills to build sets and props for ritual theater, both in a designated performance space as well as astrally.

Among the influences on Orryelle’s magick are the Magickal Children of Austin Osman Spare, especially Chaos Magick, sigil-making and the shamanic services of bringing back visions and their wisdom to the tribe in dance, or chant, or symbol. Another major facet of this succession from Spare is the descent of the Silver Dusk, a lunar, arachnean, artistic and intuitive response and counterpoint to the more solar and structured magick of the Golden Dawn and their heirs.

He is his own Materia Magicka, his physical body a palimpsest of his workings traced in tattoos, piercings, and, in one set of photos, a pair of wings. Orryelle has manifested his anima physically through hormone elixirs and body modification and has held an Alchemical Marriage with hirself, making a charming couple indeed.

The instruments of Orryelle’s arts and magicks include, but aren’t limited to: The Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Company, which presents public rituals aiming to transform rather than merely entertain the audiences; the ever-expanding digital archives and galleries of The Mutation Parlour; and the The HermAphroditic ChAOrder of the Silver Dusk, a global multicultural and multisubcultural blend of tradition and innovation.

Orryelle co-developed with other ChaOrder initiates The Choronzon Machine, a Ritual Opera and musickal-mechanical-magickal device for generating analogue fractals; is a co-coordinator of iNSPiRALink. Multimedia Press; is editor of this IMPress’s SilKMilK MagiZain, and creator of The BOOK of KAOS Tarot Deck.

In the last eight years or so Orryelle has been extensively involved in The Horus-Maat Lodge, channeling several double- current Libers such as Pennae-Ultim-Atum and The Book of Going Back by Night. Other affiliations and initiations include the AdiNath tantric tradition, the EOD, the SSS and the I:.I:. He is also the Australian ambassador of The Dionysian (Down-)Underground.

Orryelle knows what he’s doing and he does it well. Spending time and practice with his works is a good investment, in my opinion. I had the pleasure of holding a rite with him and a colleague at the Serpent Mound in Ohio a few years ago as part of his visiting holy/power places worldwide. His words and actions were appropriate and well-chosen, the power rose without delay, and the charge was sent strongly and cleanly.

I’ve adopted his use of chanting a note for each of the major Chakras to a western scale, ascending and descending depending on which direction one’s heading at the time. The Chakra-tone chant works well for banishments, astral transportation, and attunements of various kinds. (Like musicians, magickians don’t steal from each other; they only borrow.)

Copyright © Nema/Maggie Ingalls, Horus-Maat Lodge, 2007
Written for Fulgur and reproduced with kind permission


AVAILABLE TITLES

HISTORY

Founded during the late summer of 1992 by Robert Ansell, Gavin W. Semple and Hayley Tong, Fulgur was conceived to provide a nexus between the creative current that informs the work of Austin Osman Spare and modern collectors and students of the occult. Appearing in October of that year, the company’s first book by the artist – titled Axiomata and The Witches’ Sabbath – received critical acclaim. Notably published tête-bêche, it was also the first book of the modern era that was issued with an explicit talismanic intent.

The following year the company began to seek living authors, and by 1994 work had commenced on QUTUB, a book of Sufi-inspired poetry by a then little known writer and artist, Andrew Chumbley. QUTUB was published in the summer of 1995 and was followed that winter by Gavin Semple’s Zos-Kia. After the closure of Skoob Book’s esoteric publishing division, in 1997 Kenneth and Steffi Grant entrusted their important ‘mémoire-grimoire’ on Spare to a newly incorporated Fulgur Limited. Issued as a lavish quarto, the publication of Zos Speaks! in 1999 was widely regarded as a landmark in independent occult publishing. It remains the most comprehensive work on Spare to date.

In 2004 the Chicago-based artist and writer Michael Bertiaux joined the list of Fulgur authors. At the time Michael was best known for his 1988 masterpiece The Voudon Gnostic Workbook, and yet his work as an esoteric artist was equally powerful, but had been largely overlooked. Thus, a new illustrated Fulgur edition of Cosmic Meditation in 2007 was followed in 2010 by the full colour Vudu Cartography, the first entirely new book from Bertiaux in 22 years. Both were highly praised, and further titles are in production.

Recently, works from several younger esoteric author-artists have been also been issued: Barry William Hale’s Legion 49, David Chaim Smith’s The Sacrificial Universe, and Orryelle’s ground-breaking inter-volume Tela Quadrivium series. In 2009 the company also began to publish Abraxas: An International Journal of Esoteric Studies. Co-edited with Christina Oakley-Harrington of Treadwell’s Bookshop, Abraxas offers an engaging yet scholarly arena in which the intersection between esotericism and culture is explored. As with other titles from the company, the production ethos for the journal places an emphasis upon quality and longevity.

Managing Director
Robert Ansell

General Editor, New York
Pam Grossman

General Editor, London
Merlin Cox

Consultant Editor, Oxford
Gavin W. Semple

Press and Publicity
Ellen Hausner

Black Mirror, Editorial Board
Jesse Bransford
Merlin Cox
Amy Hale
Massimo Introvigne
Judith Noble
Gavin Parkinson
Ulli Seegers
Dominic Shepherd

Publisher’s Assistant
Shamana Prideaux-Brune

Submissions

We welcome submissions for projects regarding esotericism in visual culture. Please send an abstract of your proposal (300 words max) using the form on this page. Please complete the subject field thus; ‘SUBMISSION: Your Title’. If you have images online, please include a link.

 

 








Michael Bertiaux

Arts and the Occult: An Interview with Michael Bertiaux
Bjarne Salling Pedersen

Author and occultist Michael P. Bertiaux (born 1935) is an influential character in the revival of western magical tradition that began in the late 1960s. In this interview he discusses the connection between occultism and art, his views on several occult societies and the attraction of Voodoo in the western world.

Docteur Bacalou Baca

Michael Bertiaux, a modern day explorer of the occult, was born in 1935. Raised in a Theosophical household he’s been influenced by the esoteric approach to religion since his youth. In 1963 Michael Bertiaux got acquainted with Voodoo Docteur Jean-Maine during a stay in Haiti that year. Returning to the USA his studies with Docteur Jean-Maine continued until 1975. Michael Bertiaux is the author of Lucky Hoodoo – A Short Course in Voudoo Power Secrets (1977), which he gave out under the pseudonym Docteur Bacalou Baca. The book is a course in magical techniques to gain money, love, good luck and progress. The core teaching forms the basis for his Voudon Gnostic Workbook (1988), a much prized collector’s item today. Michael Bertiaux has been connected with various occult and esoteric organizations during the last four decades. Some of the orders include Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua (O.T.O.A.) and Fraternitas Saturni, at one time associated with the occult currents of English magician and Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley. Bertiaux is also assosiated with Monastery of the Seven Rays and La Couleuvre Noire (The Black Serpent), both orders associated with Voodoo technique. Drawing heavily on French sources, he’s also a Martinist and a leader of the Ecclesia Gnostica Spiritualis, a gnostic church of French spiritist origin. The latter years Bertiaux has been relatively silent. He’s recently retired to focus on his writing.1

“Well, I’m happy to be still on the planet,” says Bertiaux. “I think the important thing is that I am quite focused on my areas of interest, which I first outlined in my Monastery of the Seven Rays papers. I think I have always been indebted to the Haitian spiritist tradition. I have always been indebted to things that have come out of that tradition and I’ve always preferred to stay within those boundaries. But that would also include art because so many of the Haitian occultists were painters.”

“Many Haitians, little known, express their ideas through art, simply because so many of the ideas couldn’t be expressed in words only. There was such a problem of what type of energy they were speaking of; how could it be communicated? Sometimes it could only be communicated with colors like abstract expressionism.”

Q. Why is Haitian art so powerful and why are artists so special?

“I think it is a high form of expressionism. I think they portray energies in a way that the abstract expressionists (1940s-1960s) in America and Europe haven’t succeeded in objectifying. And I think in many ways that Haitian art is similar to many of the paintings of Crowley, because they use colors expressive. Very, very strong and large amounts of colors to emphasize the dramatization and actualization of powers and force-fields.”

Bertiaux’s apartment is filled with works of art, many of them being his own, but several are gifts from pupils and magical students. A greater part of Bertiaux’s own paintings are colorful expressions of the spirit world.

“I think what’s so important in Haitian esotericism is that everything can be represented in some kind of art,” Bertiaux explains. “If it can’t, I really believe it is only a matter of concept. A lot of Haitian art comes out of the Voodoo religion, but if you look closely you’ll find that it goes beyond the religious perspective. They’re going into the occult science behind the Voodoo. They are taking a voyage into the spirit-painting.”

Q. What do you mean?

“They’re not only artists. They are meta-physicists. I think that what they wanted to do was to talk about how spirits work. In Voodoo there is so much passive petitioning of the gods. It’s a very pious religion. In fact, it is in many ways a religion of fear of the spirits, but once you admit the factor of possession,” says Bertiaux, “you actually have the individual being possessed by a god, which is an infinite personal experience – of cosmic cause – for they’re sharing the same consciousness. Then you overcome this feeling of petitioning and move towards a kind of pure identity where you understand the mind of the god, as if you were the god, or possessing the mind of the god for a moment. I think much of esoteric Voodoo has to do with understanding the mind of the gods, from within. I concur that possessions are facts and an accomplishment. I think that in terms of their mystical way of living – they see Voodoo not as much as a religion, but rather as an environment; a psychic occult environment in which they live. Everything about it is sanctioned by gods. It is a religious universe of mysteries possessing humans or initiates.”

Art and the Occult

Michael Bertiaux’s interest in art as an occult form of expressionism, he explains very specifically.

“I think art is one way in which magical symbols and images can be presented to the public in a way that will not appear threatening. We know from the history of art in the past 100 years, that many genuine schools of occultism came forth to present themselves as what I am going to call mystical schools of painting, of sculpture and so forth.”

“I am particularly concerned about one French school, says Bertiaux. It is the pataphysical school. It was allied to Dada, surrealism, spiritualism and trance medium ship. The whole idea was that we would explore structures of the unconscious and come back renewed with a new kind of imagery and energy we can focus through works of art. The pataphysicians are my favorites, because what they sought to do was to create a kind of alternative science. I remember a pataphysician telling me, that as metaphysics is to physics, so pataphysics is to metaphysics, which meant an intuitive extension into the abstract or the transcendental or the less known aspects of experience.”

Q. What were the characteristics of this school?

“One of the characteristics would be their drawing of inspiration from dream states and a kind of somnambulistic meditation, says Bertiaux. Another would be the idea that everything has a psychic history. This is related to “the cult of the found object” in modern art, the discovery of “the given.””

Michael Bertiaux

An Interview with Michael Bertiaux
Nevill Drury

First published in The Occult Experience, 1985

High up, on the thirty-third floor of a residential apartment block on South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, lives a Voodoo priest. He is a gently spoken man with intense eyes, heavy-rimmed glasses and a dark, full-bodied beard. By day he works as a government-counsellor, hearing welfare grievances mainly from the Haitian community in the city. In his private time, however, he celebrates the mysteries of Guede and Legbha, the Voodoo counterpart of the dead and risen Christ. Michael Bertiaux is by no means a typical occultist. Indeed it is difficult to say whether – in the traditional sense – he is a black or white magician. He’s not really sure himself. Most occultists, he says, resort to techniques at both ends of the spectrum. However he does admit that “life is so complex that we sometimes have to do things to survive that would have been considered, at one time, forms of black magic.”

Bertiaux, like many occultists, is a Capricorn, and also has a Neptune ascendant. Born in Seattle on 18 January 1935, he grew up in a family that was primarily Theosophical. His father tended towards Zen Buddhism, while his mother was interested in spiritualism and the development of psychic powers. The Bertiaux ancestry was a combination of English, French and Irish.

Like a number of ceremonial magicians, Bertiaux’s career began within the ranks of orthodox religion and then departed for the fringe. Educated initially by Jesuit fathers, he later attended an Anglican seminary in order to train for a career in the Church. He graduated with honours, was ordained, and became curate of an Anglican parish in West Seattle. It was shortly after this that his career took an oblique turn towards the occult.

An opportunity arose for Michael Bertiaux to teach philosophy in the Anglican Church College in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He decided to go, and as part of his training in ‘culture shock’ transitions, studied with the distinguished anthropologist Margaret Mead.

The first visit to Haiti was only for three months but some interesting contacts were made. These included traditional Voodoo practitioners with French esoteric leanings who were keen to see their system of Haitian magic adapted for an American audience. They introduced Bertiaux to the key concepts and asked him to help them present the more positive side of Voodoo which, so far, had not been available in the West. Bertiaux was intrigued and promised to stay in touch. He returned to Seattle, maintained contact with the vouduns from Haiti, and began to see that his spiritual path was changing direction. It was becoming increasingly clear to him that he would have to leave the Anglican Church to join the Haitian mystery tradition.

The French occult connection in Haiti derives from two eighteenth-century mystics, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin and Martinez de Pasqually. The latter was a Rosicrucian disciple of Emanuel Swedenborg, and the founder of an occult group called the Order of the Elect Cohens. He was inspired by Gnosticism and the Kabbalah, and believed that one could only gain spiritual salvation by contacting the Divine Source of All Being, and by participating in an initiation ceremony to invoke one’s Holy Guardian Angel. Saint-Martin joined de Pasqually’s order in 1768 and after the leader’s death in 1774 became the dominant figure in the group. Collectively they became known as Martinists. There were Martinist orders in several different regions of France: in Foix, Bordeaux, Paris and Lyons – and by the end of the eighteenth century, also in Haiti. However here the tradition tended to blend with Voodoo.

After a period in abeyance, Martinism revived in Haiti in the 1890s and between the two world wars the so-called Neo-Pythagorean Gnostic Church came into being. This church advocates the invocation of angels and planetary spirits, is highly ritualistic, and regards the Eucharist as the central initiation. Members of the clergy claim to be clairvoyant, often have visions during the Mass, and speak in a mystical language which – as Michael Bertiaux later explained – is a type of ‘Slavonic Voodoo’, resembling the Pentacostal speaking-in-tongues.

The present head and supreme hierophant of the Gnostic Church in Haiti is Dr Hector Jean- Maine. Born in Haiti and educated in France, Dr Jean-Maine was initiated by a Martinist bishop and now lives in the mountains near Leogane. Michael Bertiaux’s role within the Church is to be its representative for all Caucasian-American members. He was formally initiated into the Gnostic-Voodoo mysteries on 15 August 1963.

The following year he resigned from the Anglican Church and moved to Wheaton, Illinois, where he worked as a researcher for the Theosophical Society. This brought him into contact with several prominent Liberal Catholics, including Dr Henry Smith, Bishop Stephan Hoeller and Bishop Gregory, who was also a key figure in the Russian Orthodox Church. Liberal Catholicism maintains a high degree of ceremonial, and appeals to many mystically inclined Theosophists. Its influence has left its mark on Bertiaux to the extent that in his ceremonial workings he could easily be mistaken for an Eastern Orthodox priest. However it becomes apparent that the forces he is invoking lie well outside the range of mainstream Christian beliefs.

In the late 1960s Michael Bertiaux began to swing back more heavily into the Voodoo tradition. Several Haitian vouduns had moved to suburban Evanston – there was a sizeable Haitian community in Chicago at that time – and Bertiaux was consecrated as an adept within an organization known as the Monastery of the Seven Rays. Bertiaux considers this occult order to be the ‘magical offshoot of Roman Catholicism’ although it is rather less likely that the Vatican would consider it so.

Certainly, the role of the dead and risen Christ remains central to the cosmology, but the spiritual atmosphere is quite different from that in Christianity. There is a strong input from Voodoo – a central magical technique is to transform one’s consciousness into that of an ‘astral tarantula’, and one’s occult powers are obtained from Voodoo spirits of possession known as loas. A far cry, indeed, from the orthodox scriptures. The Monastery’s cosmology – or map of higher consciousness – resembles the Kabbalistic Tree of Life except that the Hebrew god-names are replaced by their Voodoo counterparts. In Bertiaux’s magical ceremonies – which feature monotone chanting, specific ritual gestures made with the fingers, and the extensive use of implements like the censer, bell and magic crystal – most of the real work is done on the inner planes. The key to working magic, says Bertiaux, is the development of powers of visualization.

On the walls of Bertiaux’s apartment hang numerous oil paintings of Voodoo gods, and these are used as an aid to stimulate the imagination, to summon the Spirit from what he calls the “ocean of the unconscious”. Among these works, which Bertiaux painted himself in a primitive, atavistic Haitian style, are representations of the Voodoo witch-goddess Maconda, “a powerful and stabilizing influence in ritual”; the Voodoo god of lakes and rivers, who confers telepathy on his devotees; and the crucified Guede, god of the dead. The latter, says Bertiaux, is associated with Christ as the resurrected saviour, but also demonstrates that “while the body may die, the spirit comes back many times, taking on a physical embodiment and resurrecting itself continuously through a cycle of reincarnations…” But it is Bertiaux’s concept of the astral tarantula and the idea of the temple as a magical space-ship that are the most extraordinary of all.

One of the techniques advocated in the Monastery of the Seven Rays is to visualize oneself surrounded by creatures so horrible that they ward off magical attacks from the hostile possessing entities of inner space. As the magician energizes himself in ritual, or during his meditations at night, he begins to attract what Bertiaux calls “negative vampires” – the spirits of the dead. It is vital, he says, that one should appear strong and impregnable on the astral planes – and it is for this reason that he has to imaginatively extend the magical circle in his temple into a strong psychic sphere, guarded at the eight points by different Voodoo loas. Meanwhile the magician transforms in the astral imagination into a were-tarantula and prepares to direct his space-ship to different regions of the inner cosmic terrain. As a “spider-sorcerer” or “spider-magician”, writes Bertiaux in one of his order papers, “you have woven your web by meeting with your own magical force each of the eight sources of cosmic energy. Thus, cosmic energy is met by god-energy…”

Michael Bertiaux

An Encounter with Chicago’s Black Magic Theosophic Neo-Pythagorian Gnostic Master
John Fleming

First published in Neighbourhood News, 1979

Even though Aleister Crowley lived for a while during the 1920s in a studio apartment off Belmont Harbor, and despite the theme of a book published some time ago called Psychic City: Occult Chicago, Center of the Universe, Michael Bertiaux isn’t overly impressed with the mystical atmosphere around here. “I don’t really believe that Chicago is a biomagnetic center,” he said the other day. This is bad news for the local gurus who say the city is built above the ruins of ancient Atlantis, but it’s probably true, because Bertiaux knows about such things. Not only a veteran time-traveller in “the dimensionless gaps between universes” and “the icy realms of nothingness called Meon,” Bertiaux also has a “trans-yuggothian transmission station” set up in his high-rise apartment on South Michigan Avenue; he claims to use it for direct astral communication with “the space adepts, sothyrii, genii, and Voodoo Bon-Pa spirits.”

Bertiaux calls himself a Voodoo Gnostic Master, but he doesn’t resemble those movie characters who favor slinky black outfits and elaborate Egyptian fertility bracelets that suggest a certain interest in bondage and domination. Instead, wearing a baggy sport shirt and constantly fussing with his spectacles, he looks like a mild-mannered social worker, which in fact he is. Since 1966 Bertiaux has worked as a caseworker and supervisor at the state social service office in Woodlawn. “Most successful” according to Bertiaux, who 15 years ago left his job in Seattle as minister in an Episcopalian church (“a country club on its knees, a box lunch with religion thrown in for dessert”) and went to Haiti for instruction in the Cult of the Black Snakes. After settling in Chicago, he formed the Neo-Pythagorean Gnostic Church. “You might say that I am the bishop for the Chicago area,” said Bertiaux, who has about 100 followers across the country with whom he conducts voluminous correspondence. To qualify as one of Bertiaux’s correspondents, “You need to have read as much Husserl and Jung as I have, which means everything they ever wrote. You also need to know Wittgenstein and Cassirer, a German who was the ‘in’ thing when I was coming up in philosophy, and you also need to have read a lot of Hegel.” Bertiaux actually sees his followers only occasionally-at the five weekend seminars he holds yearly at the downtown Midland Hotel, and on the expeditions he leads from time to time to a deserted lake in Wisconsin that he considers a “power zone” for “the Deep Ones” whose “point of entry to the earth-plane” lies within the lake.

Bertiaux’s style is soothing enough-he speaks softly and hesitates precisely between each sentence-but a little elusive. Over lunch last Sunday he held court at a table in the back of a Greek restaurant on Clark Street with some of his biggest fans-three young men from a small town north of London who stayed in Chicago with him for two weeks this month. Several years ago, after reading about Bertiaux, the Englishmen had begun exchanging letters with him, and now they were here to go through a mysterious and indecipherable series of tests and “Neo-Platonic dialogues.” Apparently successful, these tests had ended the day before when the Englishmen were consecrated as the first bishops in the’ English chapter of the Gnostic Church in a ceremony conducted by Bertiaux in his living room. Some blurry Polaroid snapshots from the occasion showed them all draped in what was described as “$10,000 worth of liturgical robes” and wearing miters similar to what the pope puts on for high mass.

“I thought it was insipid,” one of the Englishmen was saying at the restaurant. He was talking with Bertiaux about a peculiar service they’d just come from a ceremony of the Holy Transfiguration Eastern Orthodox Parish held in the attic of a three-flat on Southport. The head-shop decorations, the cardboard Christ, the little plastic bottles labeled “Holy Water,” and the thick cloud of incense that filled the attic were ridiculous, the Englishman said. “And what about the deacon in cowboy boots and heavy denim.” “It could be worse,” said Bertiaux, who admires the minister of the tiny church, Father Elias, because of his “dedication and sincerity.” Elias recently switched his services to a traditional early morning hour, a move that Bertiaux said was a “sincere” effort to buck “the priorities of the gay community that is, staying in the bars late Saturday night, going to brunch on Sunday, and then, if there’s time, maybe getting around to church in the afternoon.”

“Sincerity” is a recurrent concern for Bertiaux, who is not exactly wild about a lot of the various occult and mystical groups in Chicago. “There has been an explosion of popular interest in the occult,” he said. “But there’s also been an implosion. Ten years ago there were six occult businesses in Chicago. Now there’s only one. Too many of them went in for tacky gimmicks like card readings, and in the end 75 percent of the businesses that failed were simply massage parlors and fronts for prostitution.” With mild scorn, he went on to describe a “pagan cult” that features shaved heads and royal blue garments trimmed with rabbit fur. There are also at least three covens in Chicago, Bertiaux said, and one of them is led by a witch queen called Lady Donna. “We do have a lot of groups who like to run around in long, flowing white robes.”

“Let’s gather our consciousness together,” Bertiaux announced to the table, as he signaled for the check. The new bishops were going back to the apartment, and Bertiaux was heading for the regular Sunday session of the Theosophical Society. He is a vice-president of the organization and often lectures for it as “a public service.”

In the downtown Fine Arts Building, on the same hallway as the Meher Baba Information Center (“Don’t Worry-Be Happy”) and the Jesus Only Youth Society, the “T.S.” room is furnished with a grand piano, an American flag, a couple of dusty cabinets filled with books, and several dozen folding chairs. Last Sunday’s speaker was Dr. Clarence Rodney, a 90-yearold West Indian who runs a place called the Basilica of Divine Wisdom. “He’s mediumistic, clairvoyant, and a psychometrist,” said Bertiaux, smiling at Rodney’s “porn-porn hat” and floor-length gown. Rodney was an impressively eccentric sight, but among the two dozen people in the audience there were several equally distinctive figures.

“That young man at the front with the beard and long hair wearing a T-shirt is the leader of a group that regards him as a Christ figure,” Bertiaux said. “A little Manson-type, a messiah. He used to interrupt meetings here by standing up and saying, `There’s, something powerful happening in the room. Let’s all join hands and meditate.’ Very extreme, but lately he’s toned down, because he’s lost so many of his followers.”

About five minutes into Rodney’s talk on astronauts, angels and ghosts, “weight-lace-ness” and “luminous bodies,” there was a commotion at the back of the room. It was the entrance of an old man in a bright lemon yellow, bowler and a dirty, ruffled shirt. Carrying a shopping bag, he had a cigarette protruding from one of his nostrils: “He’s supposed to be quite wealthy,” Bertiaux whispered, “but very eccentric. An expert on Swedenborg.”

“Where does Theosophy stand on the Second Coming?” the man barked at Rodney. But before the doctor could answer, a blowsy old woman stood up, flashed a girlish smile that exposed a row of ruined teeth, and said to the man with the cigarette in his nose, “Please, can’t we hold our questions to the topic?”

Walking along Michigan Avenue toward his apartment after the meeting, Bertiaux laughed at a description of the Theosophists as “Jesuits on mescaline.” That’s right, he said, “It’s a real trip.” At home Bertiaux slipped off his shoes and disappeared into another room for a quick nap on his “id sofa.” With a terrific view of Lake Michigan, the apartment is a riot of vivid paintings, plants, and mystical paraphernalia. The Englishmen were reading in the living room, and one of them said, “If you nudge Michael a bit, he’ll admit to being a black magician.”

When he returned Bertiaux was nudged. “Yes,” he said, “but black magic is merely a sensational term designed to keep the frivolous away and create barriers. What we’re doing here is the very serious matter of studying metaphysics and the occult, and the way that mathematics weaves these elements together in the invisible, unconscious world behind appearances.” This is not tremendously original, but what distinguishes Bertiaux is his reliance on the images of science fiction and fantasy-especially from the books of H.P. Lovecraft” to try and communicate what things like computers and radar and radioactivity all mean.”

“I’ve had a few flights of astral projection and out-of-body experiences,” Bertiaux said. “It’s fourth dimensional mental activity.” “That’s one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard,” said one of the Englishmen, as he passed around glasses of Greek wine. Maybe so, but mostly Bertiaux is pretty obscure, especially in discussing the various “psychic machines” scattered around his living room. One is a rectangular box of, polished wood equipped with dials and switches and connected by wires to a series of brightly colored metal panels. It’s attractive in a weird sort of way, and perhaps it does represent the “Bergonsian relationship between technology and spirituality,” but what does it do? Amazing things, according to Bertiaux, but they’re not really explainable in ordinary language. “All forms of art are machines,” is the way he puts it, “within a certain context.”

Bertiaux is very proud of his education – four years under the Jesuits at Seattle University, and graduate work in philosophy at Tulane and the Divinity School of the University of British Columbia – and he gets especially worked up about what he calls “the logic-choppers” of the academic community. “I don’t need an academic position. The important thing is to be a pioneer and to break and smash every intellectual barrier in your way: Like the hotshots from the university theology schools, I lecture on Jung. But I don’t look at the Jungian system from the outside. I live inside it.”

Copyright © John Fleming, 1979

Austin Osman Spare

Late Nineteenth-Century Automatism and Proto-Cybernetic Communication: the case of Austin Osman Spare

by Chris Miles

INTRODUCTION

The figure I will be talking to you about today, Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), is uniquely suited to helping us investigate the shifting conceptions of automatism in the long nineteenth-century.

An artist, writer and self-described sorcerer, Spare was initially a celebrated young addition to the London scene of the late 1890s and early 1900s, earning enthusiastic praise from George Bernard Shaw and John Singer Sargent, amongst others. However, the decidedly unusual style and subject matter of his art, as well as his prickly temperament, began to increasingly isolate him from the bohemian establishment and by the time of his death in 1956 Spare was largely forgotten and his work mostly unshown.

His reputation has been progressively growing since the early 1970s, however, as a result of a number of books written by Kenneth Grant, a friend of Spare’s later, down-and-out years and, not coincidentally, a disciple of Aleister Crowley.

Grant’s enthusiastic support of Spare’s art and writing has resulted in his work having a strong influence on modern occultism and his paintings, sketches and ephemera have recently begun to command high prices at auction.

Central to Spare’s oeuvre are the small number of books that he published during his own lifetime that outlined his own personal magical belief system. This system affords automatism a key position and consequently, Spare is one of the few accomplished artists in history to have written extensively on their own use of automatic processes. What I hope to do today is to outline the manner in which Spare’s automatism curiously synthesises the tension between the nineteenth-century spiritualist tradition and the subsequent move towards the ‘scientification‘ of the phenomena produced by that tradition, using as a unique catalyst his magical interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The Spiritualist Tradition

Within the context of Spiritualism, taken as the rough cluster of beliefs and practices that evolved from the initial performances of Maggie and Kate Fox in 1848 and the years following, there are a number of processes often identified as automatisms “ automatic writing (practiced by Kate Fox herself), use of the Ouija Board or Planchette, table-tilting, automatic speech and automatic drawing. However, as has been pointed out, for instance by Daniel Cottom, Spiritualism does not represent a very clearly organised or homogenous movement: there was, from its inception, no single guiding voice, the Fox sisters apparently uninterested in providing any form of theoretical or methodological framework for their workings. Consequently, the Spiritualist movement demonstrates a wonderfully wide body of variations across matters of belief, practice and nomenclature. However, much of the early rhetoric produced by supporters of the Fox sisters and the movement that followed in their wake shares the use of the telegraph as a root metaphor. Phrases such as the “spiritual telegraph”, “telegraphic dispatches from spirits” and “celestial telegraph” were common ways of describing the table-rapping phenomenon.

Indeed, Andrew Jackson Davis, a monumental figure in the early history of American Spiritualism, framed the events in Hydesville (the Fox’s hometown) as the final successful result of repeated attempts by Benjamin Franklin (that is, the spirit of Franklin) to establish an “electrical method of telegraphing from the second sphere to the earth’s inhabitants” (Davis, 1851).

From this perspective, Spiritualism is fundamentally an automatism “ the seer or medium (in whose presence the raps are manifested) is a telegraph station, a conduit for electrical messages that themselves echo the (by 1848) modish cadences of Samuel Morse’s code.

Work by R. Laurence Moore and Werner Sollors, amongst others, has demonstrated the strong connections between the growth of the physical and spiritual telegraphs. For my purposes today, what is important about this relationship is the common communication scheme that makes the metaphor so appealing.

auto1a
As we can see here, the telegraph, with its encoded and decoded tappings serving clients on both ends of a transmission conduit is an obvious analogue for the Spiritualist enterprise and one that neatly transferred an acceptable marketing model to the practice. It is noteworthy, indeed, that the communicative role of the medium quickly evolved from a vaguely-defined facilitator or catalyst to that of a more clear and familiar operator. Initially, the Fox sisters’ presence brought on the rapping of tables “they themselves were not involved in any communicative action (speech, writing, etc.): people asked simple questions and then heard rappings which were interpreted as responses. However, as the crowds grew, news traveled and the opportunities for public demonstrations increased “and so there came a need for a more sophisticated and efficient, and perhaps more clearly performative, communicative turn. The initial steps taken were introduced by an acquaintance of the Foxes, Isaac Post, and consisted of a coding of the alphabet to enable the rappings to more practicably spell out words and sentences (rather than signal simply ‘yes’, ‘no’ and the lower numbers). Increasing refinements to the speed of communication in the séance resulted in an increased use of the body of the medium “the hands and the voice in particular became subsumed into the communicative network, or rather the lines of communication became internalized into the body of the medium. The planchette and prototypes of the Ouija Board enabled a far quicker processing of the alphabet but necessitated the highly significant surrender of the body to the spiritual telegraphic mechanism. This surrender was accomplished with little questioning or opposition in part due to the distinct lack of ideological framework around the Fox sisters’ early performances and also in part due to the established (if distinctly marginal) traditions of Swendonborgian seership and Mesmerism. Responding to what well might have been external suggestion, the Fox sisters and those who rapidly followed in their wake, began to surrender their bodily autonomy in order to become living Morse keys.

The production of automatic text thus became a commonplace practice amongst the many varieties of Spiritualist gatherings. For Frederic Myers, a one-time President of the Society for Psychical Research, writing at the end of the 19th century in his canonical, two-volume work entitled Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, automatism, which he divides into sensory and motor varieties, provided the strongest evidence for “something transcending sensory experience in the reserves of human faculty” (Vol. 1, p.222).

Myers’ definition of motor automatism will now serve us as a convenient jumping-off point for an examination of Austin Osman Spare’s own understanding and practice. Psychologists and physiologists had, by the time of Myers’ writing, attempted to include automatism within their own disciplinary bodies. The physiologist William Carpenter’s 1874 coining of the term “ideomotor” to cover any human behaviour that does not depend upon volition was perhaps the initial step to begin to include the variegated phenomena of the automatisms as well as facets of mesmerism and hypnosis within the medico-scientific paradigm. Late nineteenth-century psychology, and in particular the school of dynamic psychiatry which was to influence the later Surrealists so deeply, began to try and offer non-Spiritualist explanations for the quite obvious and repeatable phenomena that automatism produced: Pierre Janet’s important L’Automatisme psychologique, published in 1889, was an attempt to analyse the practices of mediums in order to both explain them using Janet’s model of the mind and then use them for therapeutic purposes.

The scientific investigation of automatism included, on its periphery, the work of those ‘believers’ in the reality of spiritual communication who wished to bring empirical rigour to the examination of psychic or spiritual practices.

Foremost amongst such figures, of course, were the members of the Society for Psychical Research. The writings of Frederick Myers, an SPR member and President, provide us with a clear example of the attempted intellectual fusion of the medical with the spiritual in an attempt to position automatism within a scientific paradigm. The following quote serves to illustrate Myers’ rhetorical hybridisation of medical language:

In the first place, then, our automatisms are independent phenomena; they are what the physician calls idiognomonic. That is to say, they are not merely symptomatic of some other affection, or incidental to some profounder change. The mere fact, for instance, that a man writes messages which he does not consciously originate will not, when taken alone, prove anything beyond this fact itself as to the writer’s condition. He may be perfectly sane, in normal health, and with nothing unusual observable about him. This characteristic –provable by actual observation and experiment –distinguishes our automatisms from various seemingly kindred phenomena.

(Myers, Vol 2. p. 87)

Myers theorized that all of the automatisms were what he called “enunciative”, or message-bearing, but that in most cases those messages originated from “within the automatist’s own mind” (p. 88). This position enabled him to align himself, at least superficially, with the less-marginalised, more scientifically-established, work of contemporary psychiatric theorists and physiologists. However, for Myers, what this really meant was that there was a part of the mind that was innately sensitive to the spiritual or transcendent world and it was that part, the subliminal, as he referred to it, which was taking control over motor movements in a way that Myers (perhaps inadvertently displaying his Spiritualist sympathies) likened to a telegraph operator. For Myers, then, automatisms were a means for the subliminal self to communicate with the supraliminal self and so make the latter aware of a large ocean of information and impressions that it would normally be deaf and blind to.

Spare’s Automatism

Austin Osman Spare’s theory of automatism can be seen as a parallel, if far more extreme, version of Myer’s attempt to frame automatism within the language of contemporary research upon the mind, drawing it away from its rather anti-intellectual roots in Spiritualism and the séance and attempting to couch it in more rational, scientific, if still quite spiritual, rhetoric.

Although Spare had little interest in the Spiritualist and séance scene he was deeply involved in the occult revival of the late 19th century: he was a member of Aleister Crowley’s Argenteum Astrum Lodge, familiar with the writings of Eliphas Levi and S. L. MacGregor-Mathers (one of the founders of The Order of The Golden Dawn) and also deeply influenced by H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophy movement.

He was, however, first and foremost, an artist and automatic drawing for him was an important, practical element in his method as an artist.

In 1913, Spare published his third book, entitled The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy. This extraordinary work is a collection of short chapters, heavily illustrated with automatic drawings of varying complexity and finish, that impart to the reader the details of Spare’s creed “his personal mythology, his sorcery, his magic.”

One of the chapters is entirely concerned with an explication of the practice of automatic drawing and this, along with a more extensive article co-authored with his friend and fellow-artist, Frederick Carter, and published in Form magazine in 1916, provides us with a detailed view of Spare’s theory of automatism.

Before moving on to an examination of these texts, a quick browsing of the illustrations to The Book of Pleasure will alert us to a few obvious features. Drawings which appear to be automatic in nature (they are composed of continuous, meandering lines often appearing to develop the figurative from otherwise abstract forms) are usually framed by a mixture of cryptic text, what look like letters form an unknown alphabet and stylised miniature diagrams. Furthermore, there are some illustrations which have perhaps some automatic component but in other respects are far more ‘worked out’.

We can, then, through a superficial examination of these drawings, get the general impression that for Spare automatism is an integrated part of artistic composition and design.

Turning now to Spare’s own explication of automatic drawing “Spare tells us that ‘automatic drawing is a vital means of expressing what is at the back of your mind (the dream-man) and is a quick and easy means to begin being courageously original’ eventually it evolves itself into the coveted spontaneous expression and the safe omniscience is assured” (TBOP, p.55)

Automatic drawing, then, is used by Spare to initially provide access to the “back of the mind” which can, through an evolution of practice, lead to “spontaneous expression”. Spare’s definition of Art is drawn in similar lines, it being for him “the instinctive application (to observations or sensations) of the knowledge latent in the subconsciousness” (p.55).

Although it might appear that for Spare, the “dream-man” is being passively channelled in the practice of automatic drawing, there is in fact a significant degree of interaction between the ‘consciousness’ and the “subconsciousness”. Initially, for example, the artist must practice the easy, flowing production of “simple forms”. Spare describes this as the hand being “trained from the accustomed practice to work freely and of itself” (p.55). The aim being to “allow the hand to draw itself”¦with the least deliberation possible” (p.56).

Of course, a traditional Spiritualist approach to the automatic banishes any possibility of conscious deliberation. The medium surrenders themselves to an entirely external message stream and training would be fundamentally anathema. Indeed, the use of the word ‘sensitive’ to describe many practicing (and professional) mediums indicates a natural ability to serve as a conduit for the spirit realm, rather than an achieved mastery of technique.

Furthermore, Spare’s conception of the automatic process is strongly goal-orientated. So, once one has achieved the freedom to let one’s hand draw on its own then one has to consider what one wishes the hand to draw.

Spare directs his automatism through the use of what he calls his “sigil method”. Briefly, one condenses the written goal into a compact monogram which bears no visual relation to the sense of the desire. This ‘sigil’ is then concentrated upon in order to aid in the production of an oblivious or vacuous state in the conscious mind. Then the hand having been trained to draw on its own even when the conscious mind is not directing it, the automatic drawing is produced corresponding to the original desired goal.

Spare’s method is a form of two-way communication, then. The sigil contains a goal stated by the conscious mind which is then encoded and presented to the unconsciousness, the “dream-man”. The hand, trained (in an analogue to the highly trained hand of the Morse operator) to respond to the promptings of the unconscious thus expresses the visualised ‘answer’ to the conscious mind.

From the essay with Frederick Carter we may obtain an even clearer sense of the gaol-directed nature of Spare’s method:

“An ‘automatic’ scribble of twisting and interlacing lines permits the germ of ideas in the subconscious mind to express, or at least suggest itself to the consciousness. From the mass of procreative shapes, full of fallacy, a feeble embryo of ideas may be selected and trained by the artist to full growth and power. By these means may the profoundest depths of memory be drawn upon and the springs of instinct tapped.”

(Form, p. 2)

Although this essay is presented within the context of an art journal rather than being extracted from Spare’s highly personal presentation of sorcery, the comparatively more svelte discourse highlights the strong sense of what I will call proto-cybernetics that informs his methodology. By proto-cybernetics what I mean is that the process Spare describes is one that can be formulated in terms of a goal-directed communication and control system that uses knowledge of results to self-correct. Although such terms belong to the early days of cybernetics, particularly the work discussed in the Macy Foundation Conferences during the 1940s and 50s, it is worthwhile noting that some of the core ideas that fed into the study of self-correcting systems where already present at the beginning of the twentieth-century in the form of theories of learning and behaviour based upon what was called “knowledge of results”. The work of the American psychologist Edward Thorndike would provide a prime example.

Let me re-frame the Sparean conception of automatism within these terms:

Automatism is a technique that focuses on goal attainment. The artist must first establish a system which works fluidly and dynamically to respond to a particular level of control.

The “dream-man” and conscious mind are mediated by the hand and the eye.

The conscious mind forms a goal and proceeds to visualise this goal in a manner that it itself cannot interpret, but the “dream-man” can.

The “dream-man”, responding to the expression of the goal, proceeds to express it own attempts to attain this goal through the hand (which has now been uncoupled from conscious control).

The eye observes the hand’s expression and then carries this information to the conscious mind. Spare’s language regarding the subsequent stage is important to remember now “the artist “selects” and “trains” the images “the unconscious is “tapped”: not allowed full dominance but rather actively nurtured. The artist, therefore, is responsible for using, adapting, “training” the flow of images from the “dream-man”-controlled hand.

Clearly, a delicate system is being articulated here, wherein the conscious artist, at certain points, steers the hand which otherwise is controlled by the unconsciousness. Indeed, what Spare would appear to be describing is a negative feedback loop designed to control for a particular goal and which needs to communicate at two different levels, the conscious and the unconscious.

auto2
When one considers the exact flow of communication and control in the system that Spare describes a number of features become evident. Although the unconsciousness is the initial source for the drawing, there is conscious judgement at play “ at some point, when the artist’s eye notices an artistic opportunity, the hand is once more taken under conscious control. There is, it would therefore seem, an actually quite limited role for the unconsciousness “ it provides the germ of an idea, the concentrated essence of something that the artist may immediately develop into something more designed or composed.

However, for Spare, the unconsciousness is not just producing random output for the conscious mind to elaborate upon, but rather unfettered, unmodified apprehension of what he called the “storehouse of memories”(p.47). Spare describes this in the following way:

“Know the sub-consciousness to be an epitome of all experience and wisdom, past incarnations as men, animals, birds, vegetable life, etc., etc. everything that exists, has and ever will exist. Each being a stratum in the order of evolution. Naturally, then, the lower we probe into these strata, the earlier will be the forms of life we arrive at; the last is the Almighty Simplicity.”

(TBOP, p.47)

The admixture of terminology here from Blavatskian Theosophy and Darwinian evolutionary theory reflects the highly syncretic nature of Spare’s conception of the “storehouse of memory”. Centrally, the information and experience he alludes to are entirely internal to the artist yet they are, Spare contends, real “existences” contained within us. Spare uses, indeed, the word “Karmas” to describe particularly the earlier existences that an artist might wish to experience, such as the incarnation of a bird or bat. And yet, at the same time as he uses a term from such an obviously Orientalist-mystical background he is also invoking the empirical scientific aura associated with Darwin’s legacy. So, we read:
“The law of Evolution is retrogression of function governing progression of attainment, i.e. the most wonderful our attainments, the lower in the scale of life the function that governs them. Our knowledge of flight is determined by that desire causing the activity of our bird Karmas” (p. 47)
So, in conclusion, if automatisms were seen by Spiritualists as message streams from the dead, and if psychiatry subsumed those messages into the individual, then Spare fuses the two perspectives with a pseudo-Darwinian theory of evolutionary history being contained within the individual unconsciousness. In this sense, the ‘dead’ that Spare is in contact with are dead evolutionary links, ‘atavisms’ from our pre-history that express themselves through the artist’s surrendered hand “ in a cybernetically-controlled evolutionary telegraph.

Copyright © Chris Miles, 2007
Reproduced with kind permission

Faculty of Communication and Media Studies,
Eastern Mediterranean University,
Gazi Maayusa,
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Note: This paper was delivered as part of the ‘Automatic Creativity’ panel at the ‘Minds Bodies Machines” conference held at Birkbeck College, London, on 6th and 7th of July, 2007. I have dispensed with footnoting the paper and instead have provided a bibliography of works cited at the end of the piece.

 

Bibliography

Cottom, Daniel. “On the Dignity of Tables”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Summer 1988): 765-783.
Davis, Andrew Jackson. Memoranda of Persons, Places, and Events; Embracing Authentic Facts, Visions, Impressions, Discoveries, in Magnetism, Clairvoyance, Spiritualism. Also Quotations from the Opposition. Boston: White, 1868.
Janet, Pierre. L’Automatisme psychologique. Paris, 1930.
Moore, R. Laurence. “Spiritualism and Science: Reflections on the First Decade of the Spirit Rappings,” American Quarterly, Vol. 24 (1972): 486-494.
Myers, Frederic. W.H. Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, Volume 1. New York: Arno Press, 1975.
Myers, Frederic. W.H. Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, Volume 2. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1903.
Sollers, Werner. “Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s Celestial Telegraph, or Indian Blessings to Gas-Lit American Drawing Rooms”. American Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 5 (Winter 1983): 459-480.
Spare, Austin Osman. The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy. London: published privately by Spare, 1913.
Spare, Austin Osman & Carter, Frederick. “Automatic Drawing”. Form, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 1916).
Thorndike, Edward. Human Learning. New York: The Century Company, 1931.

Austin Osman Spare

Neither-Neither: Austin Osman Spare and the Underworld

by Marcus M. Jungkurth  |  First published in Austin Osman Spare, Artist, Occultist, Sensualist, Beskin Press, 1999

Whilst much has been written about Austin Osman Spare, the artist and the magician, the psychological impact of his work seems to have attracted little attention so far. Leaving aside for the moment his fine art or his outstanding portraits with all their poetic strength, we will instead focus on Spare’s symbolic and magically inspired drawings many of which have to be interpreted in the light of his written work. As modern depth psychology has shown, the human unconscious mind expresses itself in images, metaphors and symbols [1] rather than in words or contents of concrete meaning. Dreams, of course, are one example for the symbolic expressions of the unconscious we are all acquainted with and, according to modern models of the human psyche, they do not only occur during sleep but continue during daytime underneath the waking consciousness even though we are rarely aware of it. The psychologist and writer James Hillman has even gone further claiming that each individual appears to be re-living some archetypal drama from ancient mythologies prevailing as a main theme underlying individual life. These strata reside within the depths of our unconscious and formulate the continuous dream-state by re-enacting the respective mythological theme. Besides outer factors like individual experience, social interaction and education which constitute the human personality, consciousness as a whole thus embodies on a deeper level also one or more of the archetypal figures [2]. Myths are thus far more than just fairy-tales from mankind’s remote past, they constitute a living reality in the life of modern man. Mythology is no doubt an important theme occurring over and over in Spare’s work, and in the following we will try to analyse which archetypes seem to have had an especially strong impact on his life as an artist.

According to the model laid forth above, human consciousness is composed of a multitude of layers of simultaneous activity, the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious thus being a convenient but arbitrary mode of trying to draw a map of mind. Human consciousness is able to actively concentrate or focus on one level at a time only, which is why one is tempted to assume that all other planes are inactive in waking state, but actually we just shift our attention all the time. While walking on the street on the way home the dream, which we thought had ended when waking up, continues, while concentrating on the traffic, we listen to inner dialogs or recapitulate the day, and yet we perceive consciousness as a continuity by simply shifting the point of view as the need arises. Now some people, notably creative personalities and artists, have a natural affinity to also become aware of the other levels which for the most of us remain hidden, and thus it doesn’t come as a surprise that Spare termed the unconscious “the storehouse of memories with an ever-open door”. Especially artists by virtue of their ability to directly express their creativity through the unconscious often have access to those layers; besides the artist whose works this exhibition is showing, authors like H.P. Lovecraft or the contemporary artist H.R. Giger, to name but a few, spring to mind. The artist directly translates the raw material which is rising from his unconscious into form and image, drawings or paintings, or clothes it in poetry, prose or music. “All geniuses have active sub-consciousness, and the less they are aware of the fact, the greater their accomplishments. Know the subconsciousness to be an epitome of all experience and wisdom, past incarnations as men, animals, birds, vegetable life, etc. etc., everything that exists, has and ever will exist”. [4]

What separates nocturnal dream-sleep from an actual direct experience of the unconscious layers of mind is a very thin borderline only, and the crossing of this line has been aptly described as ‘the journey to Hades’ [3]. As we know from classical mythology, the intervention of Hades invariably turns the world upside down; now phenomena are seen not only through the eyes of Eros and human life and love, but also through Thanatos: “‘Entering the underworld” refers to a transition from the material to the psychical point of view. Three dimensions become two as the perspective of nature, flesh and matter fall away, leaving an existence of immaterial, mirrorlike images, eidola …the Greek word Eidolon signifying an image [2]. Spare described the state when consciousness has crossed this fine line as Neither-Neither or Inbetween, “not this – nor that”, out of which most notably his automatic drawings rose: “…the ‘Neither-Neither” principle of those two, is the state where the mind has gone beyond conception …The ‘I’ principle has reached the ‘Does not matter – need not be’ state, and it is not related to form. Save and beyond it, there is no other, therefore it alone is complete and eternal [4]. The key to reaching this state is the attainment of a “total vacuity” of the conscious mind which concept is also an important part of Eastern religion such as the Buddhist path to enlightenment or Yoga and Tantra exercise. Spare seems to have been intuitively aware about the inherent dangers of his method, as he wrote total vacuity “is difficult and unsafe for those governed by morality, complexes” in which case an inflation of the unconscious followed by obsession is likely to occur. Spare’s goal was to explore the strata of the un-conscious, the underworld, in a reverse evolutionary order in order to transcend the laws of cause and effect, thus to attain an absolutely pure and unadulterated state in which reality appears as truth as opposed to conception: “The law of Evolution is retrogression of function governing progression of attainment, i.e., the more wonderful our attainments, the lower in the scale of life the function that governs them.” This retrogression was to reactivate the sentient atavisms of evolution still present in man, examples of which can again be seen in many of Spare’s automatic drawings. Whilst this approach may seem to be directly opposed to the common idea that evolution consists of diversification and of structures getting increasingly complex, Spare’s idea in some sense still fits many religious conceptions as, e.g., the Buddhist goal of reaching nirvana, nothing, by reducing the ‘false’ views and conscious constituents of mind gradually until nothing but absolute silence remains. Whether or not Spare succeeded in this respect, we will not attempt to judge in this place, but one of the apparent dangers of this special and highly original method Spare employed consists of the risk of becoming obsessed by whatever contents arise from the deepest levels of the unconscious or, to express it in more occult terms, fall prey to the spirits evoked in the accompanying states of trance. As Spare’s “Note on the difference of Magical Obsession (Genius) and Insanity” [4] shows, he was well aware of this danger and therefore chose to consciously evoke magical obsession by using certain symbols or sigils which served as gateways to direct him to the unconscious levels he wished to explore. His systematic approach to categorise the strata experienced led to the development of his “Alphabet of Desire” with each letter, itself composing a symbolic representation of an archetypal and primordial state, representing a well-defined original principle with a strong emphasis on sexuality: “Twenty-two in number, they correspond to a first cause. Each analogous to an idea of desire, and are a symbolic cosmogony. … By knowledge of the first letter, one is familiar with the whole alphabet, and the thousands they imply. They are the knowledge of desire” [4].

Not only in Spare’s automatic drawings, but also in his other work archetypal and mythological motives prevail. Already in Spare’s rather early book Earth Inferno [5], we find the puzzling statement “Death is All”, and as “Zos vel Thanatos” – one of his mottoes and title of his creed which so far remained unpublished – he identified himself with Thanatos, Death, which was also one of the bynames of the Greek underworld god Hades. As in the famous mythological motif of Hades’ abduction and rape of Persephone which, as we have to remember, is not just psychopathy but a central initiatory mystery in the Eleusis myths, the archetype of Hades bears an intrinsic erotic component whilst, as indicated above, it is at the same time turning matters upside down. No wonder, then, that also in Spare’s interior worlds Thanatos merges with Eros, the spirit and principle of life, who however in this context is to be regarded the brother of death and not the principle that will save us from it [3]. Eros as an archetype also bears distinct female qualities relating him to the anima principle, both referring to the reflexive instinct which Jung associated with the basis of consciousness, and so he defined her as the archetype of life itself, as the personification which unconsciously involves us with larger collectivities of both inner and outer worlds [11]. In this sense we can speak of the anima as the projection – making actor, the Shakti and the Maya that gives life to a person and in the artist serves as his muse. The concepts of death and sexuality are thus intimately interwoven which explains why in ancient mythology many of the early Goddesses like the Phoenician Astarte or even Aphrodite in Sparta and on Cyprus were both Goddesses of Love as well as of War and Death; many other examples can be found in Egypt, Mexico and Mesopotamia.

Spare’s night-journey to the Witches’ Sabbath led him to encounters not only with satyrs, ancient creatures and demons, but most notably with the dark side of the Great Mother, reminding us of the hero’s travels through the Gates of Night as found in the myth of Ishthar, the Egyptian Book of the Dead or in Apuleius’ famous description of the initiation into the mysteries of Isis. The symbolic reality of the terrifying female draws its images mainly from the interior world, the negative elementary character of the female expresses itself in fantastic and chimerical images which do not originate in the outside world. Thus is becomes evident that the terrifying or monstrous female is a symbol of the unconscious itself. As Erich Neumann [5] has shown, the experience of the negative or evil side of the anima is part of the mystery of inner transformation by the annihilation of the male or patriarchal consciousness and the subsequent reincarnation out of the female womb. Again the motif of reduction or regression shines through, here by reaching back-wards to the cellular level of the very beginning of life itself. A destruction of traditional values occurs during this process, the ideals of beauty and harmony which are too often but a by-product of society’s current tastes, are turned upside down in order to release the anima or female within: “The desertion of the ‘Universal Woman’ lying barren on the parapet of the Subconscious in humanity; and humanity sinking into the pit of conventionality. Hail! The convention of the age is nearing its limit, and with it a resurrection of the Primitive Woman”. [6] His identification of the “Universal Woman” – the mediatrix of the unknown acting as psychopompos – with the element of Earth underlines the dark aspect of his anima, her relation to death, decay and age, as the caverns of earth even in ancient times were both temples of initiation and tombs: the Great Mother taking all back into her what had originally emerged of her. Spare’s encounters with his “Universal Woman”, the luring quintessence of desire, with whom he “strayed into the path direct”, led to the formulation of ‘The new sexuality of ZOS’, a sexuality not being limited to mere sensuality, but defined as pure cosmic consciousness embracing reality, freed from all convention and condition. For Spare, this woman, of whom actual woman was but an incomplete and distorted image, symbolized “all otherness”, and to unite with her would lead to the realization and attainment of the Self. The anima’s male counterpart, the animus, however remains strangely vague in Spare’s work, he shows in zoomorphic forms or is reduced to partial representations as head or phallus. Whilst the androgynous figure, the divine hermaphrodite, as a symbol of the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage and reconciliation of the opposites, is an occasional motif in his drawings, it appears as idealized vision, cloudy and distant in its expression, as if not yet fully realized. One has the impression that especially during his later years, Spare embraced the left side of existence under the exclusion of the other half of reality, the whole of which he was no doubt longing for. Also his increasing withdrawal from the outer world can be understood as a sign of denial which often follows a one-sided identification with the interior worlds, the anima as the guiding spirit being responsible for depersonalisation, as it is her who provides the relationship between man and the world; depersonalisation must be distinguished from depression in this context, as it is less an inhibition of vital functions and the narrowness of focus than it is a loss of personal involvement with and attachment to self and world [10]. Naturally one wonders whether this form of imbalance is not that which exactly constitutes the great artist, whether the resulting inner strain is not a prerequisite and driving force for artistic creativity. The creative genius rarely is a well-balanced individual as the biographies of countless renowned artists of the past clearly show.

Austin Osman Spare has left to us not only his extraordinary artwork which certainly makes him one of the most remarkable painters of his time, but also an interesting method and practical approach of gaining access to the unconscious. As, again, the unconscious ex-presses itself in symbolic ways only, art provides excellent means to enable us to enter communication with it. Besides other, more mental techniques like the active imagination, C.G. Jung also recommended to work with drawings or paintings as a means to get access to and express the archetypal contents of the psyche. Interestingly it does not matter whether the individual has artistic inclinations or not; to the contrary, the present author has found that the art created by the unconscious more often than not shows abilities and even technical skills the individual would not be capable to exhibit in the ordinary conscious state of mind. Spare developed a special technique which he called the ‘Death Posture’-a drawing of the same title is the frontispiece of his Book of Pleasure [4] – which he defined as “a simulation of death by the utter negation of thought” and which was to reactivate the deeply buried unconscious memories [9]. In less uncanny terms the whole process can be roughly summarised as a silencing and drawing-in of the senses in order to become ‘empty’, a ‘vacuity’, so that all mental processes come to a halt. In nature any vacuum will not exist for long, natura abhorret a vacuo, as soon as the chance arises, it will fill itself; the vacuum within being attained, the archetypal contents are automatically drawn up, any conscious effort neither being necessary nor desired in order to avoid any censoring by the values of the conscious mind. The actual process Spare himself used to pass through when working with the Death Posture can easily be adapted according to individual needs and skills. For reaching a vacuity in the mind, a variety of Yoga exercises or meditations can be employed which we have already described elsewhere [7]. A work-space with paper or cardboard, pencils, coal or ink is to be prepared beforehand; oil-based paints and the like should be avoided, as the contents usually arise quite sudden, and there will be no time for detailed and refined elaboration. As the reader will have noted, Spare’s automatic workings are coal and pencil drawings or have only later been worked out. The inner vacuity once being reached, the unconscious will immediately respond and express itself. You just have to wait and start to draw as soon as any image arises. Part of the present author’s personal work was to investigate and represent archetypal contents by means of art, and one of the most remarkable outcomes was that the artwork produced in the state of being “inbetween” opened a direct pathway to archetypes which could be made conscious also beyond the trance. Faces out of dreams, of the past long forgotten, the countenances of the inner male and female, ancient deities rose out of the trance, thus building a bridge between the underworld and upperworld uniting that which has been “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union” [8]. The recommendation to put this method into practice, very often yields a ‘I couldn’t do this, I have no talent’ as a reply – this is far from being true. We firmly believe that the artist is buried in each and every one of us, it is only matter of trustfully daring: “The soul has no language, levels or values, except its own, but it answers to all affectiveness” [9].

Copyright © Marcus M. Jungkurth, 1999
Reproduced with kind permission

Bibliography

  1. C.G. Jung, Mandala, Walter Verlag, 1993 (English edition out of print)
  2. James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld, Harper & Row, 1979
  3. C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12, Princeton University Press, 1968
  4. Austin Osman Spare, The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love), 1913
  5. Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, Princeton University Press, 1991
  6. Austin Osman Spare, Earth Inferno, 1905
  7. Marcus M. Jungkurth, Zos Kia, Stein der Weisen, 1985
  8. Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law, London: O.T.O., 1938
  9. Austin Osman Spare, The Focus of Life, 1921
  10. James Hillman, Anima – An Anatomy of a Personified Notion, Spring Publications, Inc., 1985
  11. C.G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, Princeton University Press, 1969

Austin Osman Spare

Exploring Spare’s Magic
by Lionel Snell  |  First published in The Divine Draughtsman, Beskin Press, 1987

INTRODUCTION

The Book of Pleasure describes Spare’s magical system and its philosophical basis. In it he introduces an ultimate called “Kia” (analogous to the “Tao”, the Cabalistic “Unmanifest”, or Jung’s “Pleroma”) from which all manifestation stems via a process of refraction through the principle of duality: we perceive, for example, black and white because they are manifest as a polarised pair, in the Kia they exist only in potential, being undistinguished and so unmanifest. It is clear from elsewhere in his writing that Spare was acquainted with Boehme”s tract “On the Supersensual Life”, where the disciple asks the master how he can come to know the supersensual life and is told “when thou canst throw thyself into THAT, where no creature dwelleth, though it be but for a moment…”

As humans we are caught up in dualities, divided against ourselves and ever seeking completion by living in desire, our universe being fragmented by our beliefs. Spare advocates a turning back to Kia and the end of all belief, denying all the dualities by his “neither neither”: think of a manifestation, eg “white”; not white implies black; neither white nor black implies what? say grey; neither black, white nor grey implies what? … and so on until our imagination is exhausted and consciousness teeters on the brink of the void – as in the Buddhist “not this, not that” meditation. Thus we get to know the Kia, and Freedom.

To practice Spare’s magic one must disentangle a conscious desire from one’s web of conscious and semi-conscious beliefs, distilling the essence of that desire into a simple sigil with no conscious associations, then carrying that sigil back into the Kia by exhausting oneself and collapsing into what he describes as “the death posture” – a total flop-out with no consciousness other than the awareness of the sigil, until that too fades. For greatest effect this should be done at a time of despair or disappointment, when some other desire has been thwarted and there is a pool of frustrated libido – “free belief” he calls it – to fuel the operation.

Such a bare description of his magic doesn’t do it great justice. It is best to read his original works together with the commentaries listed at the end of this essay*. Rather than repeat existing material, this essay suggests some further ideas for research.

THE BIRTH OF AN AEON

In 1904 Austin Spare wrote – or rather “created” – his first book, which was published in 1905 as Earth Inferno: “created” because this book contains more images than words, and half the words in it are themselves quotation from other sources. The result is pretty incomprehensible – even with hindsight.

In the wake of the “fin de siécle” decadence, was this incomprehensibility just a deliberate attempt by a trendy young artist to create an aura of mystery and glamour? Reading Earth Inferno I have the impression of someone who has passed through despair to receive a glimpse of mystical truth, and who is now struggling to portray that realisation. It looks like a revelation which fails to communicate (to me) the essence of what the artist experienced. The fact that nine years later he is still earnestly trying to explain his discovery, and with slightly greater success, in his Book of Pleasure does confirm a genuine desire to teach rather than mystify.

In that case, what is Spare trying to communicate? Nothing less than an entire philosophy of life and magic; but one so simple yet so difficult to grasp that it is perhaps best approached by comparison and contrast with other better known systems. I begin with some comparisons.

CROWLEY AND SPARE

The opening words of Earth Inferno are a picture caption (dated 1904), which ends with a prophecy: “Hail! The convention of the age is nearing its limit/And with it the resurrection of the Primitive Woman”, so Spare is announcing some sort of turning point in history. In that same year Aleister Crowley received his Book of the Law which announced the birth of a new age. Interestingly one element of this revelation is a celebration of the “scarlet woman” – a female archetype unchained and reminiscent of Spare’s “primitive woman”. This element is even more clearly present in the work of Dion Fortune. In 1904 she too was writing her first book: as a young girl she was finding inspiration for her schoolgirl poetry on the coast near Weston Super Mare, an inspiration which later blossomed in the book The Sea Priestess set in that place and concerned with a magical operation to liberate society from the Victorian straight-jacket and announce a new female archetype – the priestly woman of power.

These coincidences suggest that Spare might have “tuned into” what one would call, depending on one’s own beliefs, a ferment of ideas, a new current of thought, the spirit of the times, or the birth of a new aeon. There is other evidence of this surge of revolutionary thinking around 1904: this was the year when Jung became drawn to Freud and his concept of the “unconscious”; it was the year of another explorer of the unconscious – Salvador Dali; it was the time of Steiner’s disenchantment with theosophy which lead to the birth of “anthroposophy”. Other works completed in 1904 to be published in 1905 include Einstein’s special theory of relativity, and his paper on the photoelectric effect which won him the Nobel Prize in 1921 and which provided the first strong evidence to support the newly formulated quantum theory.

All in all 1904 was a most interesting year, and this was put most clearly by Crowley when he announced it as the year of the birth of a new aeon. So let us begin by comparing Spare’s revelations with Crowley’s.

Disappointingly there is no obvious comparison between Crowley’s Book of the Law and Spare’s Earth Inferno – one the work of a writer, the other the work of an artist. The nearest thing to “The Book of the Law” written by Spare is the first part of his later Focus of Life. It consists of three chapters of aphorisms dictated by three different beings – Kia, Zos and Ikkah – which first appear in Earth Inferno, and it therefore demands comparison with “The Book of the Law” which also consists of three chapters dictated by three beings. As the last words from Kia are “I – infinite space” it is immediate to identify Kia with Nuit and to try to see parallels in the two texts.

The only obvious parallels are in Spare’s second chapter which contains some pretty Thelemic utterances, such as:

“The mighty are righteous for their morals are arbitrary”;
“Judge without mercy, all this weakness is thy self abuse”;
“There is only one sin – suffering”;
“… be surely what thou wilt” (an interesting comparison with “do what thou wilt”);
“Fear nothing – strike at the highest” … and so on.

The Focus of Life was, however, written after Spare had been in contact with Crowley, so these similarities may well be due to Spare knowing The Book of the Law; but remember that he had rejected Crowley, so any influence would not be slavish imitation but rather ideas chosen because they were in accord with his own vision.
The conclusion I”m suggesting is that one way to view Spare’s magic is as his own interpretation of a new current which entered the group mind around 1904. He was seeing one facet of the whole; Crowley, Einstein, Jung, Fortune and probably many others were to pick up other facets of it. Each tried to explain what they saw: some like Crowley provided very full accounts, others like Einstein provided very detailed accounts of smaller parts of the whole. Spare was trying to give a full account, an entire philosophy of existence but did not communicate it very clearly. So we can understand his work better if we allow other people’s ideas to cast light on it.

The first difference between Crowley and Spare that strikes me is that Spare’s writing provides a simple, coherent theory where Crowley provides a detailed technology. It is possible to read Spare carefully and come up with the response “yes, but what are you supposed to DO?” – there is little practical instruction. Crowley, on the other hand, has provided an enormous corpus of ritual and other practices, more than any person could ever master in a lifetime, but there are times when one is hard to put to find one coherent theory behind all these practices – he went through his Golden Dawn phase, his Buddhist phase, his Thelemic phase and so on. By way of analogy you could compare Spare’s writing to Einstein’s – it may be hard to understand, but behind it lays a very simple model of reality. To obtain great energy, according to Einstein, it is only necessary to split the atom; to obtain a desire, says Spare, it is only necessary to remove it to the unconscious, organic level and consciously forget it. But in practice the simple splitting of an atom requires a vast investment in technology; similarly, most people cannot follow Spare’s simple instructions unless they have previously done a lot of self development along the lines of, say, Crowley’s magical technology (there may be some with innate magical sense, but most of us are still adrift on a sea of beliefs and desires). So one approach to Spare is to use his world-view to help clear one’s mind of a surfeit of gods, while actually practicing Thelemic techniques to strengthen one for Spare’s magical methods.

I like the contrast between Crowley’s “do what thou wilt” and Spare’s “be what thou wilt” because it illustrates my feelings that Crowley and Spare represent, as it were, the yang and yin of the new aeon. Though Crowley recognises that existence is pure joy, his magic reflects the will to power where Spare’s reflects the will to pleasure. There is much of taoism in Spare’s writings. Paradoxically, however, although female forms abound in his art, “the feminine” plays little part in his apparently misogynist writings. It is the spirit of his ideas which is so yin – as if the Feminine was working at the unconscious level in Spare whereas the Masculine was driving Crowley’s unconscious.

One example of the “yin” nature of Spare’s system is his emphasis on the importance of forgetting. In his system you have a desire, you devise an apparently meaningless sigil to encapsulate that desire, you exhaust yourself in a frenzy of activity until the only object remaining in consciousness is the sigil, you hold on to it until it has become charged with “free belief”, then you must do all you can subsequently to forget the original desire – for conscious desiring will impede the realisation of the sigil. This is the difficult bit. It is also rather puzzling because we find a big divide here in magical theory: those systems which emphasise the “not desiring” (eg Spare, taoism, zen) and those which advocate enflaming oneself with desire – as in Crowley’s instructions for devotion to a deity, or as in the “self help” systems which demand a constant affirmation of one’s objectives (I recall seeing an American lady doing Swedish drill while chanting “I MUST, I MUST, I MUST increase my BUST”). Both these extremes have a ring of truth, how can they be reconciled? It is not enough just to split the operation in two and say one needs to enflame oneself before it, and forget after – in traditional conjurations of the Holy Guardian Angel one goes on enflaming until success happens.

THE INNER AND THE OUTER

One possible explanation is that the distinction may reflect the difference between introversion and extroversion. The extrovert is positive to the outside world, and negative to the inner world. When the extrovert attempts “inner” work he finds it a crazy place like Alice’s looking glass world – you have to metaphorically walk backwards in order to move forwards. The introvert is much more at home in his inner world, but is more likely to be perplexed by the outer world: here the introvert finds that he has so often to go backwards in order to move forward. The introvert feels desire as such a vivid tangible force – perhaps more tangible than the actual object of desire – that the desire really does serve to block and render him impotent; thus the introvert is more often driven to using paradoxical methods in the outer world. This is in keeping with Eysenck’s idea of the extrovert as someone who needs greater stimulation to be effective, while the introvert needs to avoid overstimulation. If an extrovert wants his record in the charts he should plug it like crazy, but if the introvert wants to do the same he would do better to try to get the record banned! If the extrovert wants to become successful he should hang up “I”m the greatest” posters and constantly affirm his desire, while the introvert would do better to blow his desire on a sigil and then try so hard to fail that he eventually becomes an underground cult figure. Thus it seems that the magic of taoism and Spare is magic for introverts, while the out and invocatory stuff is better suited to the extrovert.

This is, of course, a gross oversimplification: no-one is pure extrovert or introvert; we are a mixture and so need to blend our magics. But it does suggest a useful concept to experiment with, and a possible answer to the problem that magic so often fails when the operator is too personally involved: if you wish to practice magic in a situation which seems very extroverted and “other” (like healing an unknown person at a distance), then you would well to “enflame yourself with prayer”. But if the matter is one which involves you very personally, then you would do better to follow Spare’s approach. Or perhaps the introvert would use Spare’s magic to operate on the outside world, and Crowley’s magic for inner working; while the extrovert needs Crowley’s magic for the outer and Spare’s on the inner? In either case, of course, the long-term object is to grow out of this slavery of the concept of intro/extroversion and start living!

MAGIC AND THE MAN

Another interesting point is the distinction between the magic and the man. Anyone studying Spare’s magic books would expect the writer to be a sort of ascetic Zen master: “simplicity I hold most precious.” He advocates simplicity, asceticism: “Bed, a hard surface; clothes of camel hair; diet, sour milk and the roots of the earth. All morality and love of women should be ignored.” He rants against ritual magicians and all their parade and paraphernalia, but later in life he painted an altar piece for Grant’s Nuit Isis Lodge and was prepared to do work for Gerald Gardner as described in Grant’s Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare.

One answer is that many years had passed since his books were written – the man had changed. Another is that perhaps Spare was primarily just a channel for his magical ideas: someone to whom they were revealed but who never succeeded in fully realising them. Perhaps he too had difficulty in practising what he preached, being a man ahead of his time? His final chapter of The Book of Pleasure contains these words: “I… am impervious in purity (of self-love) – but I dare not claim its service! I am in eternal want of realisation… An opinionist, I fear to advocate an argument, or compromise myself by believing my own doctrines as such…” and so on.

The Austin Spare described by Kenneth Grant in his Images and Oracles sounds much more like a tribal shaman than a Zen master. Some people have asked, “which is the true Spare?” Grant actually knew Spare in his later years, so it is reasonable to assume that Spare was as he describes at that time, and we hear of Spare co-operating with ritual magicians, using such elaborations as an “earthenware virgin” for sex magic, and muttering incantations as part of his procedure – elements which play no part in the system as described in The Book of Pleasure.

So do we conclude that he was a changed man? That he had degenerated (or even advanced?) from the pure system he described to a form of shamanistic sorcery? Personally I prefer to accept Grant’s overall view of him as a master shaman, and believe that through his innate skills he obtained an early vision of a new system of magic, a magic for the coming age. Rather than debating as to which was the true Spare, we should therefore look to him as a prophet rather than a perfect practitioner of his own system, and we should instead concentrate on developing the technology of that system for ourselves and for future generations. Is this not basically what the new school of magic known as “chaos magic” is all about?

CONCLUSION

If 1904 was indeed a revolutionary year, it is reasonable to ask if there are any astrological phenomena to support this. The most obvious one to strike me is the entry of Uranus (planet of upheaval) into Capricorn (sign of structures).

Once before since its discovery Uranus had entered Capricorn, in about 1820. This was the year when Oersted demonstrated the link between electricity and magnetism – a revelation which was to have a profound effect on conventional ideas of physical reality.

Although I”m not aware of any great occult crisis at that time, James Webb (in Flight from Reason) did choose 1820 to mark the beginning of what he called “the Age of the Irrational”. I suspect that the new electromagnetic theories of the time inspired the “etheric” occult terminology of the last century, just as Einstein’s theories inspire the occultists of this century to talk of “other dimensions”. But if the entry of Uranus into Capricorn was less significant in 1820, could it mean we are looking at a minor cycle which had exaggerated impact in 1904 because of an impending Aquarian age, or the transition to Crowley’s “Aeon of Horus”?

Anyway, in late 1987 we are now at the end of the final or “twelfth house” phase of this Uranus in Capricorn cycle, making it a very suitable time for a major exhibition and re-evaluation of Spare’s work before Uranus enters Capricorn again next February.

Is the convention of the age once more reaching its limit? And will 1988 be as fruitful as 1904 was?

Copyright © Lionel Snell, 1987
Reproduced with kind permission

* This refers to the commentaries included in the essay “Spare Parts”, a thorough introduction to the Sparean system of magic. This essay has been published in Uncle Ramsey”s Bumper Book of Magick Spells, and other essays on science and magic.

Austin Osman Spare

Spare Parts
by Ramsey Dukes  |  First published in Agapé, 1975

The following article is an introduction to Spare’s Book of Pleasure. It was written as an appendix to the unpublished Uncle Ramsey’s Bumper Book of Magick Spells, then first published in issue four of the occult magazine Agapé in the early 1970s, and then in a slightly modified form for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice edition of The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare with a postscript added to the original version. The essay was long considered to be the best available introduction to Spare’ s magical theories.

The article summarises The Book of Pleasure, helping the reader to find their own way through Spare’ s rather difficult prose. It also draws some parallels with other helpful texts. For a more detailed account of practical work with sigils etc I recommend two excellent books; Pete Carroll’s Liber Null and Ray Sherwin’s Book of Results. [Since writing this there have been several other books on the subject.]

(i)

“On the brink of mystery, the spirit of man is seized with giddiness” thus wrote Eliphas Levi in the Key of the Mysteries. Indeed we cannot live forever in a state of giddiness and so need to hide that brink behind veils. By the very decision to give a name or symbol to the Ultimate (e.g. God, Nothing, Tao) we save ourselves from having to see it face to face; the first veil is put up.

The philosophical system that is easiest to grasp, and the easiest to ridicule, is the one that has the most veils. For example the extreme simplicity of Zen Buddhism makes it less easy to discuss than the complex spiritual hierarchies of some other religions. In this sense Spare’s philosophy uses comparatively few veils and this, together with his obscure way of writing, make it difficult to describe his ideas adequately.

For example: a basic theme of his writing is that we are not free, we are the slaves of our beliefs and conventions. This is quite obviously the case when we look at other people. We can laugh at the debutante who sorrowfully cries “Oh Mummy I CAN’T wear the same dress that I wore to Margie’s party”; but alas the poor girl is right, she really can’t! Consider also the novice soldier who for the first time is asked to kill a man in defence of his country; as he aims the rifle he is in no position of authority, instead he himself is a battlefield on which Patriotism is struggling with the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’. Perhaps the clearest example of all is witnessed by the outsider when he sees a family squabbling, struggling in a net of strong interpersonal feelings which are meaningless to the uninvolved…

In each case the truth of Spare’ s statement is totally obvious and yet the PRACTICAL use of it flounders when we try to see our own actions in this light. This ‘simple’ turning inward of our gaze is in fact a basic problem of all applied psychology; and it is such difficulties (rather than the trouble of finding the tongue of a hanged man or the eye of a newt) which the student of Spare’ s magic will encounter.

Instead of forming our own plan we will turn over the pages of The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love) the Psychology of Ecstasy, and outline Spare’s system in the same sequence as he adopted.

(ii)

He starts with ‘Definitions’:

The Words God, religions, faith, morals, woman etc. (they being forms of belief) are used as expressing different “means” as controlling and expressing desire: an idea of unity by fear in some form or another which must spell bondage – the imagined limits; extended by science which adds a dearly paid inch to our height, no more.

Kia: The absolute freedom which being free is mighty enough to be “reality” and free at any time: therefore is it not potential or manifest (except as its instant possibility) by ideas of freedom or “means”, but by the Ego being free to receive it. The less said of it (Kia) the less obscure it is. Remember evolution teaches by terrible punishments – that conception is ultimate reality but not ultimate freedom from evolution.
Virtue: Pure Art.
Vice: Fear, belief, faith, control, science, and the like.
Self-Love: A mental state, mood or condition caused by the emotion of laughter becoming the principle that allows the Ego appreciation or universal association in permitting inclusion before conception
Exhaustion: That state of vacuity brought by exhausting a desire by some means of dissipation when the mood corresponds to the nature of the desire, i.e. when the mind is worried because of the non-fulfillment of such desire and seeks relief. By seizing this mood and living, the resultant vacuity is sensitive to the subtle suggestion of the sigil.

It is interesting to see that Spare in 1913 was already dismissing science along with religion. In this he was ahead of his time. Crowley, for example, emphasises the positive virtue of science, that it had finally freed us from the tyranny of religion; whereas Spare saw that science too could in turn prove to be a limitation.

The page is decorated with some symbols, including the hieroglyphic symbol for the Kai, or ‘ego’ in Egyptian psychology. There does not seem to be any connection between this and Kia – I have yet to find the origin of that term, or of the name ‘Zos’ that Spare uses for himself. In the latter case I only note how often the Z sound occurs in inspirational writing: Zarathustra (Nietzsche’s hero), Znuz is Znees (the title of C.F. Russell’s autobiography), Jeezus, Zunnus (the last anagram word in the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos) and the mass of Zeds in the gnostic words of power.

Both A.E. (in The Candle of Vision) and Rudolf Steiner independently associate the ‘S’ and ‘Z’ sounds with snakes and procreation. In Earth Inferno, Spare’s first book, the term Zod-Kia occurs without explanation.

(iii)

The first chapter is entitled ‘Different Religions and Doctrines as Means to Pleasure, Freedom and Power’.

He starts by asking “What is there to believe, but in Self?” and then goes on to attack various alternative beliefs, showing how they all flounder because of the basic duality at the root of all consciousness. Instead the wise pleasure-seeker is urged to become a Kiaist and Riding the Shark of his desire he crosses the ocean of the dual principle and engages himself in self-love.

For example: Same praise the idea of Faith. They believe that they are gods (or anything else) would make them such – proving by all they do to be full of its non-belief. Indeed, putting one’s trust in faith is a little like trying to overcome a weak head for heights by forcing yourself not to look down: it only works if you repress your imagination. Spare concludes Then, this ambition of faith, is it so very desirable? Myself, I have not yet seen a man who is not God already.

He goes on to criticise prayer – except as a means of producing exhaustion. He criticises those who endeavour to prove the unity of religion; those who elevate ‘truth’; those who claim that everything is ‘symbolic’ (and yet reject modern symbolism) those who say that only knowledge is eternal; and he criticises the ceremonial magicians. In this last example he wins our hearts by saying : They have no magic to intensify the normal, the joy of a child or a healthy person…

The second chapter is entitled ‘The consumer of Religion’ and describes “Kia, in its transcendental and Conceivable Manifestation”. He starts by saying: Of name it has no need, to designate, I call it Kia – I dare not claim it as myself. The Kia which can be expressed by conceivable ideas, is not the eternal Kia, which burns up all belief – but is the archetype of ‘self’ the slavery of mortality.

The beginning of that last sentence recalls, not inappropriately, the first line of the Tao They Chug which has been translated, in the Penguin Edition of D.C. Lane:

“The way that can be told
Is not the Constant way”

“The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets :
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.”

Which is again appropriate, except that the advice of the last line is more suggestive of the advice which will be quoted later from the Septem Sermones. Spare goes on to say : The Kia which can be vaguely expressed in words is the “Neither Neither.” This Neither-Neither is explained in a later chapter. It is a thought process by which Spare endeavours to break through the limitations of dualistic thought in four steps. We start by considering any quality, for example ‘light’. Duality immediately links that to the opposing quality ‘dark’. The next step is to consider the combination of these two qualities – as in ‘dusk’ – and then we attempt to make the next step and meditate upon the absence of those two qualities – the ‘Neither-Neither’ as opposed to the ‘Both-And.’

As a meditation this is reminiscent of the Zen Buddhists’ koan by which practitioners attempt to confound reason and thus break through it. One example of this is the well-known koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping”? A very appropriate example especially as Spare later suggests that we try to see light by its own quality, and not in its contrast with darkness.

Spare’ s own description of the Kia is somewhat confusing. This is perhaps inevitable on account of the very nature of his subject and yet I cannot help comparing it with the, to me, very clear first sermon of the Septem Sermones Ad Mortuos by C. G. Jung, where Basilides describes the Pleroma – a possible equivalent to Kia.

This should be read in conjunction with Spare. I will attempt a summary, but it should be borne in mind that this is a poor substitute and that it necessarily omits to answer a lot of objections which are in fact dealt with in the full text of the Septem Sermones.

Basilides starts by saying that he begins with nothingness – which is the same as fullness. Nothingness is both empty and full – you might as well call it black, white or whatever you like, for having all qualities is the same as having no qualities. This nothingness is called the Pleroma and in it both thinking and being cease – it is quite fruitless to think about it for it would mean self-dissolution.

Creatura is not in the Pleroma, but in itself. True the Pleroma everywhere pervades Creatura but it is in no way coloured by it or shared with it, just as light cannot be said to colour a completely transparent body. Yet figuratively speaking this makes us parts of the Pleroma and, also figuratively, we are the whole Pleroma. So why does he bother to speak of the Pleroma if it is all or nothing? Answer: he’s got to start somewhere! And he starts there to free you from the delusion that there is somewhere some fixed and unchangeable principle. The only thing you can be sure of is ‘Change’; but Creatura is what is changeable, and so the only fixed and certain thing.

How did Creatura originate? Answer: it did not. Created beings come to pass, not Creatura. Created being, just as much as non-creation was inherent in the Pleroma and so came to pass. Distinctiveness is a quality of Creatura, whereas the Pleroma has all: distinctiveness and indistinctiveness.

Why go on about ‘qualities’ of the Pleroma after what has been said? Answer: man, being of Creatura, has distinctiveness as an essence. It is his nature to distinguish things. When we talk about qualities of the Pleroma we learn nothing of the Pleroma, we are really revealing our own nature, or way of thought. We must be true to our nature and go on distinguishing.

Why must we distinguish things? Answer: if we cease to distinguish we fall into the Pleroma and cease to be creatures. “This is the death of the creature. Therefore we die in such measure as we do not distinguish”. This is why non-distinction is a great danger for the creature.

At this point it seems that Basilides is recommending that we do NOT strive after Kia, he is telling us of its dangers. One could say that the danger is only to the CREATURE and if we wish to transcend that state then that danger does not concern us. However there are passages where Spare himself refers to the dangers of the freedom of Kia: “Total vacuity is difficult and unsafe for those governed by morality, complexes….”

It must be remembered that the duality is the BASIS of consciousness and manifestation; so that only a TOTAL dissolution can be rid of it. In practice the law of duality will ensure that any attainable ecstasy will tend to alternate with agony. Like a pendulum we swing between states.

What then can the Kiaist gain? To indicate an answer I continue to paraphrase Sermon I.

As was said we need to go through the play of distinguishing qualities of the qualitiless Pleroma in order to foster our own distinctiveness. These qualities came in pairs: the Effective and the Ineffective, Fullness and Emptiness, Living and Dead, Light and Dark, Good and Evil and so on.

In the Pleroma they are not – being balanced and so void. But as we are the Pleroma itself ( see earlier) we have these qualities. But we are of Creatura, and so we do not have these qualities in a balanced and void state; as distinctiveness is of our essence we have them in a distinct form i.e. instead of balanced they are EFFECTIVE. “The Pleroma is rent in us”.

We are now at an important point: we are moving from a philosophy of perfection – so far the ‘Kia’ idea could be said to amount to the perfectly true statement ‘if you want to obtain desires then you must give up having desires’ – to a liveable philosophy, or system of magic. So I will quote the next paragraph of Sermon I in full:

When we strive after the good or the beautiful we thereby forget our own nature, which is distinctiveness, and we are delivered over to the qualities of the Pleroma, which are pairs of opposites. We labour to attain to the good and the beautiful, yet at the same time we also lay hold of the evil and the ugly, since in the Pleroma they are one with the good and the beautiful. When, however, we remain true to our nature, which is distinctiveness, we distinguish ourselves from the good and the beautiful, and therefore, at the same time, from the evil and the ugly. And THUS we fall not into the Pleroma, namely, into nothingness and dissolution.”

With the possible exception of that last sentence this paragraph is absolutely in keeping with Spare’s first chapter and his criticism of those who flounder after desire and so also gain their opposites.

As an example of the practical application of this idea consider Sermon V where Basilides, talking of ‘spirituality’ and ‘sexuality’, reminds us that we must not forget to distinguish ourselves from them. They are not OUR qualities, in the sense that we possess and contain them; rather are they of a nature above and beyond us.

So, of course, this way of thinking is out of keeping with our 20th century education (although utterly in keeping with much ‘primitive’ thought) and therefore it cannot be considered as an instant cure to anyone’ s troubles. However I would like you to IMAGINE the very great change which does in fact develop in the lives of those who encourage this idea to grow in their lives at the expense of the ‘rationalist’ hypothesis. Their sexuality for example, is no longer their ‘possession’; instead it is something ‘without’ which visits one. In practice this means that sexuality is no longer a possession which one feels obliged to compare in power with one’ s own rivals, and there is no more fear of possessing too little or too much of it. Nor is there fear that it is a finite quantity that is in danger of being used up, or atrophying with disuse nor is it something that one can sell to another. Instead it is something which visits one. Therefore one must become the seducer in order to be seduced �to encourage sexuality one must make oneself attractive to it; to banish it one has at one’ s disposal the entire tradition of banishment of spirits. In fact this is an idea to be lived, not discussed.

This first sermon ends with the answer to the paradox: if it is so bad to strive for a quality of the Pleroma, then should we really strive after distinctiveness? We are reminded that in fact the Pleroma has no qualities – we create them through thinking. It is not our thinking but our BEING which is distinctiveness. Therefore must we in fact not strive after ‘difference’ as such but rather OUR OWN BEING. By striving after our own being we attain our goal; but, alas, thought estranges us from being. So the purpose of all the knowledge given in the Sermon was in fact that it should serve as a leash to constrain thought.

I think that Thelemites would therefore stand and applaud at the end of this sermon!

This second chapter of The Book of Pleasure contains a sentence that demands some apology as it stands. Spare writes “As unity conceived duality, it begot trinity, begot tetragrammaton” In view of the usual nihilistic occult view of creation this is highly eccentric. As we have seen it is the Pleroma which necessarily begets duality (0=2 in Crowley’s formula) because everything which emerges from it comes with its opposite. (So only even numbers, that is to say the ‘feminine’ principles , arrive out of nothing) And in no way can the Pleroma be described as ‘One thing’. But whereas it is absurd to talk of a man giving birth to a woman (unity begat duality) it is quite in order for a man to be born from a woman (a unity being found within a duality). Once we have the duality we have the foundation of consciousness, and it is consciousness which looks back at the original duality and perceives that it contains two units. Thus consciousness can extrapolate behind that duality and postulate a superior unity, calling it ‘the action of extracting a duality from the Pleroma’.

This is of course a construct of consciousness’ own workings and so ultimately trash. However it creates new complications because to talk about ‘one act of creation’ is to postulate a moment of time – to name a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. As Spare says in his next sentence “Duality, being unity, is Time…” Thus we find Saturn or ‘Time’ ; represented in the first three sephiroth of the Tree of Life even though they do not yet contain sufficient material for three dimensional creation.

Spare closes the chapter with his observation on the inevitable ups and downs of existence. Ecstasy for any length of time is difficult to obtain, and laboured heavily for. With what does he balance his ecstasy? Measure for Measure by intense pain, sorrow and miseries. Various degrees of misery alternating with gusts of pleasure and emotions less anxious, would seem the condition of consciousness and existence. Duality is the law.

At this point the casual reader (I’d be less surprised to find a London taxicab at the South Pole than to find a casual reader still with us) is inclined to drop the book in disappointment. Duality is the law – so Spare has offered us no hope of relief.

However there is a big difference. We may not be liberated from failure and misery, but we may be in a position to use it. Knowing the law of duality brings the possibility of distinguishing ourselves from its working. No more the blind slide into despair but rather the studied descent, and the plan to use that unavoidable despair in order to plan the next high point. This is the key to Spare’s practical work, or living magic. I can only say that it does with practice and understanding indeed help to create the possibility of exultation in despair. I end with his nice symbol for creation:

“One form made of two, that is three-fold and having four directions.”

(iv)

‘Soliloquy on God-Head’ is the next chapter: it criticises some modern beliefs.

You disbelieve in Ghosts and God – because you have not seen them? What! You have never seen the mocking ghosts of your beliefs? Yea your very faculties and most courageous Lies are Gods ! Who is the slayer of your Gods – but a God!

The writings of Nietzsche are worth reading in conjunction with Spare, (many passages in, for example, the Dawn of Day have been already marked with this chapter in mind but I hope to restrain myself from quoting). In particular the style and feel of Thus Spake Zarathustra is reflected in Spare’s Anathema of Zos (an automatic writing) in such phrases as: Let your pleasures be as sunsets, HONEST… BLOODY… GROTESQUE; together with Zos’s references to the need for clean air and solitude.

However Nietzsche had much greater respect for science than had Spare; as was said before, in Nietzsche’ s time, science seemed to be the liberator rather than the tyrant. Spare asks us to be more critical of what science has given us. In Thundersqueak for example it is explained how every triumph of experimenting amateur technologists is later annexed as a ‘Triumph of Modern Science’, whereas in fact the only effect that can be INDISPUTABLY ascribed to science is its ability to STOP certain things from happening – e.g. religion or magic.

Spare describes how science has ‘discovered’ new diseases, thus creating then in our beliefs so that we suffer them and need to call again on science for their cure. He describes, how ‘facts’ are produced in opposing pairs: for example the discovery that the sun was millions of miles away rather than a few miles away meant that we had also to believe that it was much more powerful than we before believed – in order to justify the amount of heat we receive from it.

Spare illustrates how you are ‘one’ with a butterfly in an interesting passage. He adds: So if you hurt the Butterfly you hurt yourself. But your belief that you don’t hurt yourself protects you from hurt – for a time ! Belief gets tired and you are miserably hurt!

You are fearsome of entering a den of tigers?.. Yet daily you fearlessly enter dens inhabited by more terrible creatures than Tigers [men that is], and you come out unharmed – why?

Science is the accursed doubt of the possible, yea, of what does exist! You cannot conceive an impossibility, nothing is impossible, you are the impossible! Doubt is delay – time – but how it punishes! Nothing is more true than anything else! What are you NOT – you ever answered, Truthfully?

(v)

The next chapter is called ‘The Death Posture.’ A name which recalls Basilides’s remark that the creature dies in so far as he does not make distinction.

Spare starts by warning that ideas of self in conflict cannot be slain, for it is your resistance that gives them their reality. He advocates a formula of non-resistance: Does not matter – please yourself.

Here he describes the Neither-Neither rule and tells us to remember to laugh at all times, to recognise all things and to resist nothing: then there is no conflict, incompatibility or compulsion as such….’Please yourself’ is its creed. That last quote suggests to me that here in 1913 Spare was the mouthpiece for the negative or ‘feminine’ counterpart of Crowley’ s very positive “Do what thou wilt”. Two poles of the same 93 current as it were.

In support of these passages I could quote the whole of Taoist literature known to me. In the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching is : “Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action and practices the teaching that uses no words”.

I will not quote at length the description of the Death Posture and the kindred practices. There are many preliminary practices as innumerable as sins, futile of themselves but designative of the ultimate means.

You strain to your full height, standing on tiptoe with neck stretched, hands clasped behind your back and arms rigid: breathe deeply and quickly until you feel giddy and exhausted. This prepares you for the Death Posture; you lie lazily on your back as in a yawn, sigh and smile. Forget time and the world.

Or else stare hard at yourself in a mirror until the vision crumbles, the effort is forgotten and you have a feeling of unreachable immensity. This should be practiced before the actual Death Posture in order to give some idea of the mental state.

Let him practice it daily, accordingly till he arrives at the centre of desire. Thus by hindering belief and semen from conception they become simple and cosmic. (The latter being a reference to the alchemical transmutation of sexual energy).

I like this sentence: The primordial vacuity (or belief) is not by the exercise of focussing the mind on a negation of all conceivable things …. bit by doing it now, not eventually. It suggests a quasi-Zen story which might describe a pupil who asks Spare how to achieve liberation and receives the answer “There ! you’ve missed it”. In other words: at any instant liberation is so close that the very act of asking the question was to miss by delay an opportunity to jump out of time and grab it.

It was not at all clear to me what the connection could be between Spare’s magic system and the Egyptian system with its richness of Gods until I recalled the remarkable 19th and 20th verses of the eleventh chapter of the Divine Pymander of Hermes as given in G.R.S. Mead’s Thrice Greatest Hermes as ‘Mind unto Hermes’. I quote part of the 20th verse which bridges this gap quite comfortably, being highly appropriate to Spare’ s work, yet surely of Egyptian inspiration:

“Then in this way know God; as having all things in Himself as thoughts, the whole Cosmos itself.
If, then, thou does not make thyself like unto God thou canst not know him. For like is knowable to like alone.
Make then thyself to grow to the same stature as the Greatness which transcends all measure: leap forth from every body; transcend all time; become Eternity; and thus shalt thou know God.
Conceiving nothing as impossible unto thyself, think thyself deathless and able to know all – all arts, all sciences, the way of every life.
Become more lofty than all height, and lower than all depth. Collect into thyself all sense of all creatures – of fire, and water, dry and moist. Think that thou art at the same time in every place – in earth, in sea, in sky, not yet begotten, in the womb, young, old and dead, in after-death conditions.
And if thou knowest all these things at once – times, places, doings, qualities and quantities; thou canst know God”

(vi)

In his next chapter ‘The Cloudy Enemies Born of Stagnant Self-Hypnotism’, Spare endeavours to clarify for us his use of the word ‘Belief’, natural belief rather than the conscious ‘faith’ that he dismisses in his first chapter. He says:

“The Nature of belief equals all possibilities ultimately true by identification through culture to an idea of time, so what is not timely is not true, and what is not true, prognostication. Thought of one thing implies the possibility of another idea as contradicting but not dissociated, belief is to make “one” more convincing.
The Centre of belief is love for one’s self, projecting environment for fulfillment but allowing its distortion to simulate denial, an ambition to become ulterior to self-desire, but you cannot get further than the centre, so one multiplies (believes) in order to be more unaware of the fundamental.”

Here Spare is obviously talking of different levels of belief, indeed he refers to those in desire as refusing to believe what they believe. It is the most deeply unconscious belief that projects the basic matter of the environment, the lesser and more conscious beliefs merely add fleeting impressions or distortions until we cone to complete consciousness which is baffled by this environment and struggles to master it. Thus the very conscious desire for, say, riches is going to evoke opposition from the environment, as it is inevitable that at some level there must be a belief which places a limit on one’ s potential wealth. This schism, or blindness, is necessary for we are escapists. If nature did not pretend to surprise us we would fall back into self.

The basic belief of science (and so of a fairly important part of any scientist’s mind) is that the universe is ultimately dead and boring. The advance of science slowly kills the universe but there are little bursts of surprise on the wavefront. Television regularly announces amazing new discoveries or theories which threaten to overturn scientific thought – but we hear no more of them. Either they too prove boring or else they are clobbered to death in turn.

So we see that nature is in fact playing with science, throwing her scraps like feeding a caged monkey with nuts. Thus she is ever saving science from falling into the horror of ultimate success. The burning ecstasies of hopeless love illustrate how greater denial brings greater desire and less danger of reality.

So effective magic requires that we get our desire away from the Great Abortionist and down into the unconscious. The sigil system of Spare’s is designed with this purpose in mind.

At last this chapter provides the cynic with the disappointment he invites. Spare does not overlook his philosophy’ s own limitations. We must use the Neither-Neither everywhere, we must disperse all belief in Spare’ s own writing by the Neither-Neither. Indeed we must dispel the conception of The Neither-Neither by the Neither-Neither and believe it is ‘not necessary. Some of us will find that rather easy!

For another account of the transcending of dualities by their annihilation see the remarks on the Mystical Marriage in Aleister Crowley’s Liber Aleph – chapters 20-25 in particular.

(vii)

In ‘Self Love as a Moral Doctrine and Virtue’ we have a chapter which could almost have been assembled from quotes from Nietzsche and the Tao Te Ching. Consider the opening sentences. “The criterion for action, is freedom of movement, timeliness of expression, pleasuring. The value of moral doctrine is in its freedom for transgression. Simplicity I hold most precious.” Nietzsche would also have been happy to read:

“The True teacher implants no knowledge, but shows him his own superabundance
Which is nearer you, self-love and its immorality, or love and morals?
Perfect charity acquires, hence it benefits all things by not giving. Knowledge is but the excrement of experience.”

In the comparison with the Taoist doctrine I will present Spare’s quotes form this chapter in alternation with Tao Te King quotes, labelling them S and T accordingly.

S: Are not the most simple things in the world the most perfect, pure, innocent, and their properties the most wonderful?
T: The Uncarved Block though seemingly of small account is greater than anything that is under heaven.
S: When faith perishes then duty to moral doctrines perishes, we are without sin and endure for ever in all-devouring love.
T: Banish human kindness, discard morality, And the people will be dutiful and compassionate.
S: It is because I know without learning…
T : Therefore the sage… learns to be without learning.
S: Control is by leaving things to work out their own salvation…
T: Governing a large state is like boiling small fish [i.e. they must not be over-handled].
S: He is akin to the great purpose. His actions explained for him, good seen of his evil, without knowing, everyone satisfied with his will”.
T: Therefore the sage takes his place over the people yet is no burden: takes his place ahead of the people yet causes no obstruction. That is why the empire supports him joyfully and never tires of doing so.

In illustrating these parallel quotes are we trying to prove that Spare has cribbed from earlier sources? No. Instead we are trying to get over the difficulty that Spare’s term ‘Self-Love’ will be repulsive to many of us because it suggests something that we think we know about, and despise. But I ask you, is your idea of selfishness really deserving of the word ‘Love’ in ‘Self-Love’?

By taking two, at first sight very different, texts and finding in them some similarity in their liberating ideas we hope to have illustrated alternative routes to Spare’s theory which will help to dilute initial misunderstanding. On the other hand we’ve also made it possible to treble the misunderstanding!

A final cheek-moistening quote from Spare: May the idea of God perish and with it women; have they not both made me appear clownish?

(viii)

In the ‘Doctrine of Eternal Self-Love’ earlier passages are summarised and further illustration of the qualities and merits of Self Love given.

If this book had a contents list, the title of the next chapter would draw our attention straight away; it is ‘The Complete Ritual and Doctrine of Magic.’ Firstly he mentions secrecy, then he gives a definition of magic that would please an alchemist: Magic, the reduction of properties to simplicity, making them transmutable to utilise them afresh by direction, without capitalisation, bearing fruit many times.

Spare then reminds us that we must avoid “Deliberation, over-consciousness and concentration”. This is the most tricky part, the ‘letting go” of the desire so that it can speed to the attainment of its goal; for conscious desire does not work. Nor will we need to hallucinate.

The process he describes is for those who have not transcended the law of duality (what a relief!) and so it needs to work within that law. Therefore the magician must wait until he has another desire that is of similar intensity to the one he wishes to achieve. This desire will then be sacrificed in order that the first should be attained. An example would be for the magician to choose a time when a friend has finally let him down, his belief in his friend has then collapsed and the sacrifice of this friendship will answer the purpose: This free entity of belief and his desire are united to his purpose by the use of sigils or sacred letters.

So the practitioner is in a state of despair, he constructs a sigil to formalise his wish and he seats himself in meditation. He calms his mind of all thought except of that one visualised sigil. (It is no longer a ‘wish’ that is in his mind, but rather a simple geometric shape). In meditation he draws his consciousness slowly into one part, so that no outside impressions disturb.

This produces a feeling of detached calm, of balance which recalls the passage in Crowley’sBook of Lies: “The Universe is in equilibrium; therefore he that is without it, though his force be but a feather, can overturn the Universe”.

Only the sigil is retained in thought, it is to be used as the ‘chalice’. Withdrawing his consciousness to a point gives a feeling of surrounding immensity. he is the point, around him is infinity – Crowley would describe this as Hadit and Nuit and indeed the ultimate marriage to which he refers is here reflected. For Spare says he must now imagine a union taking place between himself (The mystic union of the Ego and the Absolute). This should produce a sexual ecstasy, but it is not desired that it should become physical in manifestation. The nectar of this ecstasy – The syllabub of Sun and Moon – should be slowly sipped from the chalice.

The correct mental state should be one where he is beyond all desire, the original object of the operation is forgotten and no longer of interest, except that he is still holding this apparently meaningless sigil in mind.

But should he fail, and still be yearning for this desire, then he is in danger of being obsessed by it. Instead of being tidily packaged and dropped deep into the unconscious the desire is free to take over his mind at this moment of extreme vulnerability. All the free energy of his original disappointment is at its disposal.

(ix)

So the next chapter is a ‘Note on the Difference of Magical Obsession (Genius) and Insanity’.

He criticises spiritualism in a way that is customary amongst magicians. Whereas the magician consciously chooses an obsession, and therefore has ultimate power over it through knowledge of how to bind it, the passive medium lays himself open to unknown obsessions. Should the uninvited obsession in his mind become as strong as his own Ego then there is a split in personality, a loss of control.

Spare concludes that Disease and Insanity arise when there is a free energy within, which has no role to play in the vital economy. This free energy, which should have been used to vitalise a sigil, is like an unemployed work force which, having no part in the vital economy, will seek expression through resistance. (This suggests an analogy with some theories about cancer cells).

(x)

The next chapter called ‘Sigils’ (subtitled ‘The Psychology of Believing’) tells us very little about sigils, except that it reminds us at the end that the magical sigil should not be allowed to return to consciousness and known, but must be repressed and forgotten.

Spare suggests that the state of mind most productive of genius is one which is open to all perceptions and is immoral in that it allows free association of ideas without the strict rules of past belief or knowledge.

He asks what has happened to our childish wonder when we used to see things for the first time and marvel at them, asking ‘childish’ (i.e. philosophical) questions. Is it not that the world is now sterilised by our patterns of ‘knowledge’ (i.e. beliefs), which are like a curtain between us and surprise?

The difference between this receptivity and the scorned receptivity of the spiritualist in the last chapter is clearly one which calls for care – or at least ‘innocence’!

(xi)

Here follows a nice chapter called ‘The Sub-Consciousness’.

He begins by announcing that all geniuses have active sub-consciousnesses, and they also have some, not relevant, powerful interest or hobby which serves to distract consciousness from their aim from time to time, with the result that the subconscious can work on it. Thus it is that inspiration comes at odd moments. It DOES demand a previous exhaustion of concentration but it is unlikely to arise at that time, but rather when the consciousness has wearily looked away, or we have ‘slept on it’. (A booklet by W.H. Easton called Creative thinking and How to Develop it reprinted from the August 1946 edition of Mechanical Engineering’ supports this observation).

Thus it is that we must forget our wish once it is sigillised. An important note is that it is no good to wish the opposite as such, because that is too reminiscent of the original wish; instead we must consider irrelevant topics.

Spare’ s idea of the sub-consciousness is more akin to Jung’ s Collective Unconscious than any lesser function. Assuming an evolutionary history, he points out that just as our evolutionary history is illustrated in the development of the foetus, so also is it registered in our whole being. If the human brain has developed from the basic mammalian brain – rather than having been miraculously and independently created – then its deeper (‘deeper’ for the evolutionary growth is apparently outward) structure must be common to all mammals including man. Progressing backward, the different branches of evolution converge and we find that we contain the blueprints for all creation right back to our cell structure which reflects the earliest forms of life.

So, by regressing into this ‘Storehouse of Memories’ we can contact all the strata of previous life forms. But evolution is largely a process of increasing complexity – resulting in decreasing competence and ability. By the slow processes of conscious thought Man has to struggle to overcame his obvious limitations. His technology has provided him with the swiftness of the leopard, the ability to fly, and resistance to the seasons; yet he is still not as mighty as the microbe! However we can contact these deep layers by the use of Spare’ s sigils and can thus tap their powers directly.

The only reason why our customary methods of learning and study ever produce results is that they can produce this exhaustion which diverts the concentration.

All ritual and ceremony is worthless – originally devised to amuse and later to deceive. But, as is customary, the deceivers end up by deceiving themselves more than their victims.

(xii)

In ‘Sigils. Belief With Protection’ he describes his system of sigils. The exact process is not really important.

Throughout the book his illustrations are decorated with beautiful sigils of different styles. He has his own magical alphabets – he uses six different alphabets in this book and does not explain any of them, because a magical alphabet is a set of symbols you devise to communicate with your subconscious and so should be of your own private design (like the perfect ‘personal’ tarot pack). “Sigils are monograms of thought”.

He suggests that we write in block capitals and superimpose the letters into a monogram. So ‘WOMAN’ could become for example :

In this way then he shows how the desire ‘This is my wish to obtain the strength of a tiger’ can reduce to a single monogram.

He goes on to describe methods of use in a passage which makes one wonder whether he is amplifying the instructions of his ‘Complete Ritual’ or whether he is giving an alternative approach. He talks of obtaining vacuity by some means, quoting as good examples: mantras and asana, women and wine, tennis and patience, or walking in concentration. He adds that none of these are necessary to someone who has for a moment attained the state of beyond-duality, as by the Neither-Neither; so perhaps this is a ‘lesser’ magic for those who have not mastered the Complete Ritual earlier discussed?

Indeed it appears that Spare has followed the best scheme for a book on practical magic: he has started with the theory of perfection – and thus repelled the merely curious – has proceeded to describe his ‘High Magic’ and thus repelled dabblers – and only now is he telling us ‘how to do spells’.

When one is exhausted the sigil form is held in mind until it grows vague and vanishes – taking with it the desire.

(xiii)

The next chapter on ‘Symbolism’ extends the theory to symbols in general. He describes how an artist can know a truth in symbol form long before the scientist uncovers it. The Egyptians in this way understood the theory of evolution – as reflected in images of their gods – but they only understood it as far as was useful in their lives; they did not pursue this knowledge as we have done.

(xiv)

His views on art are enlarged in ‘Automatic Drawing as a Means to Art’. He provides a parallel with his law of self-love which had been praised as a law which permitted its own transgression; for the laws of art exist and yet they need not tyrannise. As soon as one law begins to dominate we are free to create a whole new art form by breaking that very law.

He describes how to use a sigil as a basis for an automatic drawing. First you train the hand to be free of inhibition, to wander freely in easy loops and curls ( as distinct from the manic scribble of frustration). Then a sigil is used to tap the subconscious level corresponding to the desired picture (he illustrates a drawing based on a bird karma) whilst the consciousness is constrained elsewhere – for example by staring at your thumb in a moonbeam’s light until “it is opalescent and suggests a fantastic reflection of yourself…”

(xv)

He finishes with the chapter ‘On Myself’, in which he questions all he has done, and his worth or ‘right’ to do it. So cautious is he that he does not even dare to fully believe his own ideas and yet: “Poor though I be my contentment is beyond your understanding.”

It is difficult to restrain oneself from asking a question about Spare which is only a slightly less subtle form of the old wisecrack: “If you’re so clever why aren’t you rich?”. After all if it was really Einstein’s genius which has lead to the discovery of the atomic power which now holds the world in balance, why did he fail to become a world dictator? Can you really believe that he did not try?

The Tao Te Ching says:

I alone am inactive and reveal no signs,
Like a baby that has not yet learned to smile,
Listless as though with no home to go back to.
The multitude all have more than enough.
I alone seem to be in want.
My mind is that of a fool – how blank !
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.
Calm like the sea;
Like a high wind that never ceases.
The multitude all have purpose.
I alone am foolish and uncouth.
I alone am different from others
And value being fed by the Mother.

Austin Spare ends with the sentence:

Alas the futility of the idea of God has not yet reached its limit, all men are liars, appear striving for insanity its climax: while I alone as one prematurely aged, reason tottering on its throne, remain sane, in positive chastity, confessing no conscience, no morals – a virgin in singleness of purpose.

(xvi)

In this essay I have not mentioned his illustrations e.g. ‘The Death Posture : Preliminary Sensation Symbolised’ where the figure has no head and thus recalls the ‘on not having a head’ meditation (instead the face is in the heart region). Nor have I considered Spare’ s life history. But I hope that these notes will encourage readers to persevere with The Book of Pleasure’s‘head’ meditation (instead the face is in the heart region). Nor have I considered Spare’ s life history. But I hope that these notes will encourage readers to persevere withThe Book of Pleasure.

For the nature of Spare’ s writing is such that it is possible to read the whole book for the first time and gain absolutely nothing from it. However do not be discouraged, repeated reading is satisfying. At least Spare has the decency to make his books SHORT.

Copyright © Lionel Snell, 1975
Reproduced with kind permission

Austin Osman Spare

Introduction to The Book of Pleasure
by Kenneth Grant  |  First published in The Book of Pleasure, 93 Publishing, 1975

Austin Osman Spare was born at Snowhill, London, in 1886. Apart from William Blake, John Martin, Aubrey Beardsley, Sidney Sime, and a mere handful of others, England has produced no artist to equal Spare for sheer ability and imaginative fecundity.

Spare was not only a graphic artist; he wrote four books on what he described as symbolic sorcery The Book of Pleasure (1909-1913), The Focus of Life (1918-1921), Anathema of Zos(1924) and The Book of the Living Word of Zos (1951-1956), a collection of aphorisms and magical formulae which remains unpublished to this day. [1]

Spare published some of his drawings in books such as Earth Inferno (1905), A Book of Satyrs (1907), and in periodicals; he also illustrated a few books by other writers, but the four works mentioned above are all that survives of his extensive occult researches. They trace the evolution and development of the curious system of sorcery with which he was preoccupied until his death in 1956. They were, however, mere punctuation marks, pauses, between the steady outflow of graphic work which he produced almost continuously during an obscure, outwardly uneventful and impoverished existence.

Although Spare had no specific teacher where his art was concerned, [2] he did have a teacher – or perhaps guru would be a more appropriate term – in a “magical” sense. During his most impressionable years circumstances led him into the company of a self-confessed witch, a mysterious Mrs. Paterson who befriended him and initiated him into the mysteries of her craft. He was extremely reticent about Mrs Paterson. All that I was able to elicit from him during the eight years of friendship was that she was very old when he met her and that she claimed descent from a line of Salem (New England) witches that Cotton Mather had failed to eradicate.

Spare did not get on with his mother and he looked upon Mrs Paterson as a “second mother”. What little he said about her explains much of his work and his life-long devotion to the occult. She was able to transform herself on certain occasions into a woman of alluring loveliness: this she had done in his presence as a proof of her magical powers. [3] Furthermore, she gave him the keys whereby he gained access to the Witches” Sabbath, the genuine extra-terrestrial event of which the popular version is but a debased and grotesque parody. It was during his exultation to the dimension where this event occurs that he was taught how to explore the subconscious with the use of sentient symbols and the alphabet of desire described in [The Book of Pleasure]. These methods, once demonstrated, had to be brought down and “earthed”, and it took several years for Spare to integrate them with his own creative techniques.

The Book of Pleasure embodies the first vague searchings into the subconscious regions that he was to explore more fully in later books, for it should be understood that there was no creed of the Zos and the Kia – the Imagination and the Will – in the teachings he received at the Sabbath; they were of a purely practical and magical nature. It was Spare who wedded the practices of witchcraft to the doctrines of the Neither-Neither and the Atmospheric “I”, which he interpreted with fantastic manual dexterity. These doctrines were inspired by his early studies, for Spare was an omnivorous reader, and some of his more obvious influences – from Laotze to Aleister Crowley – are readily apparent.

Spare was drawn to Crowley in 1910 when he became a member of the Argenteum Astrum, [4] shortly after contributing some of his drawings to Crowley’s periodical, The Equinox. [5]

Spare claimed to be one of the first surrealists. He had visualized the irrational and transcribed his vision directly from subconscious strata of the psyche; he was also able to galvanise primal centres of awareness by a formula of atavistic resurgence that few artists – and fewer occultists – have succeeded in re-activating with impunity to their work or to themselves.

The Book of Pleasure contains a unique method of obtaining control of the subconscious energies latent in the human mind in the form of primal atavisms. It is evident that if such energy can be tapped and channelled, it can be directed to creative or destructive ends on a scale infinitely beyond anything achievable by the mind in the more limited state that characterizes “waking” consciousness. But the subconscious does not yield to conscious suggestion for it is founded on sensation, not upon thought, hence a tactual and visual means must be employed if it is to be penetrated and permeated with the vitalizing current of will or desire. The process must be symbolically enacted, and its intent not consciously formulated, for “unless desire is subconscious, it is not fulfilled”. A method had to be found of by-passing the conscious mind and planting the desire directly in the soil of the subconsciousness. To this end Spare evolved his own system of sentient symbols which took on a secret meaning and which constituted a “sacred” alphabet of desire of which “each letter in its pictorial aspect relates to a Sex principle”. From this alphabet it is possible to construct the words of a mysterious language of sensation that reifies the imagery of appetence.

Spare believed that the hieroglyphics of ancient peoples such as the Egyptian and Amerindian are the remains of an occult language. That the Egyptians practised a form of sorcery involving a process similar to that of Spare’s formula of atavistic resurgence is suggested by the fact that the hieroglyphics are usually in zoomorphic form.

It is known that the priests of antiquity assumed animal-headed masks when performing rituals designed to produce magical effects; also, that when dormant forces were awakened, the magician was shaken to the very depths of his being as he manifested the atavisms that his spells had invoked. The convulsions of Tibetan “oracles”; the strange phenomena of spirit possession common to most peoples of antiquity are proof of Spare’s theory; proof also that some cosmic forces then possesses the human vehicle and enables the magician to perform superhuman feats.

The mainspring of the formula of atavistic resurgence is – as one might suppose – a form of sexual sorcery. The Adepts of old concealed the process from the eyes of the profane (i.e. those whose ineptitude would destroy them), for once these atavisms are unleashed, magical obsession occurs and there is no reversing the course of events any more than one can reverse the flow of semen on the point of its leaping forth. If the magician is unable to control the power he has invoked, or if he is unable to permit its unhindered movement as it wells into consciousness, then he is literally blasted into death or insanity.

The secret of this sorcery is analogous to that taught by Crowley in his Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) where it was – and still is – the fulcrum of magical power and the means of gaining access to trans-human dimensions and of communicating with the denizens of other worlds.

Spare maintained that he was in communication with extra-terrestrial Intelligences and conscious forces possessed of superhuman power and knowledge. He referred frequently to Black Eagle, [6] who inspired many of his “magical” drawings. Black Eagle seems to have been a concentration of sinister trans-cosmic current which, according to H.P. Lovecraft, [7] had been tapped in its primordial phase by the witch cults of New England. Perhaps Black Eagle was the alter ego of Mrs Paterson, for it was not long after her death that this current began to manifest in Spare’s work.

Whatever the identity of Spare’s genius – Mrs Paterson, Black Eagle, or one of the “host of familiars” by which he was habitually surrounded – the fact remains that Spare produced a large amount of work during abnormal states of consciousness or self-induced trance. He was not mediumistic in the usual sense of the term, nor did he produce automatic drawings in the way that spirit mediums produce automatic texts. Rather, Spare transmitted his work in much the same way that The Book of the Law and other magical writings were transmitted by Aleister Crowley,[ 8] i.e. he entered consciously and magically into communication with superhuman Intelligences.

Towards the end of his life, when Spare lived more or less reclusively in a Dickensian South London slum, he was asked whether he regretted his lonely existence. “Lonely!” he exclaimed, and with a sweep of his arm he indicated the host of unseen elementals and familiar spirits that were his constant companions; he had but to turn his head to catch a fleeting glimpse of their subtle presences.

I have described some of Spare’s transactions with his “host of familiars” in The Magical Revival, but the reader of The Book of Pleasure will have little difficulty in imagining what these creatures were like. Imagination is the operative word, for Spare’s sorcery is a form of veritable imagination or image-making; of “dreaming true”. He exalted the imagination above every other faculty and claimed that “dreams shall flesh” if the requisite ability to reify them has been absolutely mastered. Herein lies the key to his sorcery; the ability to “visualise sensation” and to convey a world of imaginative reality to the observer.

Augustus John regarded Spare as one of the great graphic artists of his time, and many years earlier John Singer Sargent, G.F. Watts, George Bernard Shaw, and others praised him in similar terms. Spare sent a copy of The Book of Pleasure to Sigmund Freud who described it as one of the most significant revelations of subconscious mechanisms that had appeared in modern times.

Whatever the value of Spare’s contribution to art and psychology, his contribution to experimental occultism is supreme, for he discovered a method of reifying the dream world under the controlling aegis of the fully conscious will.

KENNETH GRANT
Winter Solstice 1974 e.v.

Copyright © Kenneth Grant, 1975
Reproduced with kind permission

NOTES

  1. Subtitled The Zoetic Grimoire of Zos. Zos was Spare’s “magical” name. A selection of these aphorisms, together with an introduction to Spare and his work is to be published shortly by Frederick Muller Ltd., London, under the title Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare, by Kenneth Grant. [Published in Zos Speaks!,Fulgur Limited, 1999]
  2. He was a student at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, London.
  3. A similar phenomenon occurred in the presence of Aleister Crowley when an ageing sorceress transformed herself into a “young woman of bewitching beauty”, for purposes of vampirism. See The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (ed. Symonds and Grant), chapter 42, Jonathan Cape, London, 1969
  4. The Order of the Silver Star.
  5. The Equinox, “The Encyclopaedia of Initiation”, appeared in eleven numbers, ten of which were published between the years 1909 and 1913. Two only of Spare’s drawings were reproduced. See The Equinox, vol. 1, number 2, pages 140 and 161.
  6. See The Magical Revival (Frederick Muller Ltd. 1972), plate facing page 149, for a reproduction of Spare’s impression of Black Eagle, painted in 1946.
  7. Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937). The New England writer whose tales of terror involve traffic with extra-terrestrial entities.
  8. See Crowley’s Confessions.
Media Enquiries

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Endorsements

“Painters, photographers, artists and performers participating in the group show believe that art based on the esoteric is becoming more important. The I:MAGE exhibition, held by Fulgur Esoterica of London until May 25 2013, is surrounded by special events that aim to reinforce the idea that we are seeing the consolidation of a movement, or at least one artistic sub-genre. www.20minutos.es

“In I:MAGE the occult factor is obviously brought to the foreground, with the intent to emphasize esoteric art as a category in its own right – in fact, as the key category from which the many and diverse visual outcomes can be appreciated. As Robert Ansell, curator of this exhibition and co-director of Abraxas journal for esoteric studies says: “Contemporary esoteric art has too often been subsumed into other categories. It has been considered post-symbolist art, art brut, surrealist art, outsider art, magic realism, neo-romanticism, or visionary art – to name a few. But while these categories are useful, they do not seem adequate to express the broad scope and inner complexities of this esoteric imagery.” Francesca Ricci – ArtLyst.com

I received a copy of Abraxas Journal #4 in the post today. Simply stunning. This is what magazines/journals should be. – Jason Pitzl-Waters, The Wild Hunt

Marjorie Cameron

Marjorie Cameron-400px
Marjorie Cameron was born in Belle Plaine, Iowa in 1922. The fiery and uncompromising character for which she would later be known manifested from an early age. School friends and teachers alike defined her as a peculiar child who by nature looked at the world from a different angle. After the outbreak of the Second World War Cameron enrolled in the Navy and after a period of training became a cartographer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Discharged from the military in 1945, she joined her family in Pasadena, where less than a year later she met the man who would change her life.

Cameron was twenty-four when she met Jack Parsons, a young and charismatic rocket scientist at the peak of his public career, associate founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and acting master of the O.T.O. Agape Lodge. For the following seven years Cameron and Parsons worked together in magick, love and art, giving birth to one of the most legendary magico-artistic partnerships of the century. Firmly believing that Cameron’s appearance in his life was the result of an intense series of magical workings carried out in the weeks preceding the encounter, Parsons famously wrote to Crowley, ‘I have found my Elemental’. In the first years of their relationship Cameron was not only unaware of such goings-on but also uninterested in Jack’s spiritual path, preferring art and love over the practice of magic.

But as time went by Parsons assumed another function in Cameron’s life as he gradually became her magical mentor. He renamed her Candida, recommended books, prescribed rituals and meditative practices to deal with her depressions. When Jack Parsons died in an explosion at the age of thirty-seven, Cameron was left alone, wondering whether she was human or not.

A very dramatic period follows for Cameron. For a time she withdraws into the desert, where she attempts to connect with the spirit of her lost lover through a series of magical workings. A few years later she comes back to Los Angeles, where in 1954 she appeared in Kenneth Anger’s landmark film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. She also met the director Curtis Harrington, for whom she appeared as herself in the short film Wormwood Star. In 1955 she was featured on the cover of the first issue of Wallace Berman’s artistic and literary journal Semina, so marking her firm arrival in the Hollywood artistic counter culture.

Cameron spent the last decades of her life in West Hollywood, painting, writing and mastering the art of t’ai chi. She died of cancer in 1995 at the age of seventy-three.

Kenneth and Steffi Grant

Kenneth and Steffi-400px
Kenneth Grant (1924-2011) was the head of several important Thelemic orders and author of the influential “Typhonian Trilogies” series (1972-2002) that includes The Magical Revival, Nightside of Eden and Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God.

In 1939, Kenneth Grant chanced upon Crowley’s Magick and Theory and Practise and a few years later began a correspondence with the author (see Remembering Aleister Crowley, Skoob Books, 1991) that would lead to him joining the Ordo Templi Orientis. In 1946, he was initiated into the Argentum Astrum and was confirmed as an IX° in the O.T.O.

Shortly after Crowley’s death in 1947 Grant met David Curwen. Also member of the O.T.O. Sovereign Sanctuary, a keen alchemist and a student of tantra, Curwen initiated Grant into “a highly recondite formula of the tantric vama marg.” This experience further deepened Grant’s interest in oriental mysticism and he detailed his work with the Advaita Vedanta in a number of essays for Asian journals in the early 1950s (later published as At the Feet of the Guru, Starfire, 2006).

In 1948, Kenneth Grant’s wife Steffi (they were married in 1946) wrote to Austin Osman Spare and the couple began an eight-year friendship with the artist. The bookseller Michael Houghton had already introduced Grant to Spare’s opus, The Book of Pleasure, and Spare elucidated his theories with letters and enclosures of manuscripts, with Kenneth acting as amanuensis. In 1954, Spare and Grant co-founded the Zos Kia Cultus: not a cult in the objective sense, but a designation given to the creative nexus of personal magical experience (see Zos Speaks!, Fulgur, 1999).

In the same year Grant founded the New Isis Lodge, with the intention of providing a conduit for “the influx of cosmic energy from a transplutonic power-zone known to Initiates as Nu-Isis.” The group ran until 1962 and various accounts of the experiences of the group may be found throughout the “Typhonian Trilogies”.

Contemporary with the New Isis Lodge, Kenneth and Steffi Grant began work on the Carfax Monographs. This series of ten essays was issued between 1959 and 1963 with the explicit intention to “elucidate the hidden lore of the West according to canons preserved in various esoteric orders and movements of recent times.” It was the beginning of a unique 50 year contribution to Thelemic literature and art that spans poetry, biographical works, fact and fiction.

Copyright © Robert Ansell, 2007

Abraxas

 

Founded in 2009 by Robert Ansell of Fulgur Limited and Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwells Bookshop, the Abraxas project aimed to represent the best of the international esoteric movement in a high quality printed format. Published bi-annually in the spring and autumn, the journal offered readers relevant and thought-provoking features: ranging from essays that are scholarly and engaging, to images that challenge and inspire. In total, eight issues were produced, including two specials. Publication was suspended in November 2014.

Abraxas is today’s preeminent voice for the serious study of occult and esoteric expression. The quality and consistency of its visuals and articles is simply unmatched. For anyone who cares deeply about the individual search for meaning, the expression of occultic insights, and the enduring impact of the esoteric tradition, Abraxas is your intellectual and artistic home.

Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, and Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Tarcher/Penguin, New York

Editors
Christina Oakley Harrington
Robert Ansell

Associate Editor, New York
Pam Grossman

Copy-editor
Merlin Cox

Contributions Management
Livia FIlotico

Abraxas

 

Founded in 2009 by Robert Ansell of Fulgur Limited and Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwells Bookshop, the Abraxas project aimed to represent the best of the international esoteric movement in a high quality printed format. Published bi-annually in the spring and autumn, the journal offered readers relevant and thought-provoking features: ranging from essays that are scholarly and engaging, to images that challenge and inspire. In total, eight issues were produced, including two specials. Publication was suspended in November 2014.

Abraxas is today’s preeminent voice for the serious study of occult and esoteric expression. The quality and consistency of its visuals and articles is simply unmatched. For anyone who cares deeply about the individual search for meaning, the expression of occultic insights, and the enduring impact of the esoteric tradition, Abraxas is your intellectual and artistic home.

Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, and Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Tarcher/Penguin, New York

 

Editors
Christina Oakley Harrington
Robert Ansell

Associate Editor, New York
Pam Grossman

Copy-editor
Merlin Cox

Contributions Management
Livia FIlotico

I:MAGE

 

I:MAGE is an exhibition and events programme hosted by FULGUR.

The programme provides an ongoing platform for modern and contemporary artists who explore magical traditions through lived experience. It comprises themed exhibitions, lectures, performances, film-screenings, workshops and publications. I:MAGE has been created to provide a curatorial focus for ideas surrounding embodiment, agency and relevance. The aim of the programme is to explore the idea of ‘esoteric art’ as a movement and distinct category within modern and contemporary art.

…there are an increasing number of artists who are working in a particular way, with particular iconography, and with particular intent. Their work enchants and casts glamours. It is pregnant with esoteric purpose and meaning. It would seem to evoke otherness.

Such works are glaringly at odds with modernity and popular art criticism. As a consequence, contemporary esoteric art has too often been subsumed into other categories. It has been considered post-symbolist art, art brut, surrealist art, outsider art, magical realism, neo-romanticism, or visionary art – to name but a few. But while these categories are useful, they do not seem adequate to express the broad scope and inner complexities of this esoteric imagery.

How then, might we define it? Surprisingly, not all esoteric art is figurative, nor is it necessarily laden with occult symbols. It does not seem bound by media, or geography. Nor is it limited to a single political – or indeed spiritual – ideology. And when Kandinsky called for the artist to be the priest of beauty, did he consider the inner needs of Austin Spare, or Leonora Carrington? Their art is decidedly esoteric, but not spiritual in any conventional sense. It is curious then that both art and magic claim the power to evoke. In a primal way, they are intimately connected. And amid the noise of modernity, this is the voice that quietly speaks to us.

Robert Ansell
Introduction to I:MAGE catalogue, May 9th 2013.

 

 

Past Exhibitions

I:MAGE – Travelling with Unfamiliar Spirits
Curated by Livia Filotico and Robert Ansell
Cobb Gallery, London
October 21-November 2, 2014

I:MAGE – An Inaugural Exhibition of Esoteric Artists
Curated by Robert Ansell
Store Street Gallery, London
May 19-25, 2013

Black Mirror

 

In esoteric traditions, the mirror does not just reflect back an image of the self. It is understood as an instrument of vision through which inspiration and knowledge may be gained. The occult, with its constant questioning of theories of perception and notions of the self and subjectivity, has been at the centre of counter-cultures and avant-gardes since the first esoteric revival at the end of the nineteenth century.

Since the beginnings of modernism, artists have used esoteric, magical and occult philosophies as sources of inspiration. They have written and theorised about them, and made them central elements of their practice. But these aspects have been marginalised by a critical culture that emphasizes ‘truth to the materials’ and negates any examination of the role of the spiritual and esoteric in the making of art.

Black Mirror seeks to redress this imbalance and examine ways in which the occult and the esoteric have been at the heart of art practice now and throughout the modernist period. It is part of a growing movement that seeks to critique the dominant twentieth-century notion of disenchantment, and that rejects notions of the esoteric and occult as irrational, escapist, regressive and essentially anti-modern.

In addition to presenting new research on the modernist period, Black Mirror will consider especially work being made by artists, film-makers and other practitioners today. Black Mirror is produced by a group of artists and researchers and much of the work that we will showcase will be practice-led.

In collaboration with AUB and NYU Steinhardt, Fulgur will issue a series of twelve volumes that seek to explore these themes.

Series Editors

Judith Noble (Plymouth College of Art)
Dominic Shepherd (AUB)
Jesse Bransford (NYU Steinhardt)
Merlin Cox
Robert Ansell (Fulgur)

Editorial Board

Amy Hale
Massimo Introvigne
Gavin Parkinson
Ulli Seegers

Series Administrator

Shamana Prideaux-Brune

Barry William Hale

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Barry William Hale has been described as an occult artist, while a superficially germane term; on closer inspection it radiates a self-consciously unwelcome specificity. Too redolent of those early twentieth century outsider artists whose work depended on visionary states, specific knowledge of ancient mysteries, or some other Qabalistic obscurity. Hale, it should be noted, has certainly done nothing to dissuade such labels, mischievously luxuriating in such terms when fitting. It is apparent from his biography that he is, for example, an outspoken member of the OTO. But such groups encourage individual exploration, undoubtedly an attraction to Hale whose very genealogy radiates the outlaw.

Hale was born to hardcore hippy parents, who lived on one of the first Australian communes, according to the artist his biological father was allegedly involved in distributing LSD to a grateful Australian hippie community. Hale was raised by an adoptive family of socialists and masons, but maintains contact with his expanded family.

In his studies ‘both esoteric and aesthetic’ he has explored yogic states and even undergone periods of sensory deprivation in specifically designed laboratories. These, and other, intense methods of self investigation have led to Hale working with neuroscientists to investigate bio-feedback while in deep meditative states. In addition he is a student of the Chinese martial art. Choy Lee Fut, rumored to be the preferred fighting style of the Triads.

Hale’s work is not a mere rendition of the hermeneutics of high ritual magic, rather Hale gravitates to sorcery, to Haitian voudon, to Congolese palo mayombe, to folk forms of religious expression and ecstatic explorations that owe more to the oral traditions of the disenfranchised slave communities than to arcane studies in dusty libraries. This is not to suggest that Hale is not a scholar of the western esoteric tradition, but rather that he has explored and worked with other forms.

But folk magic emerging from the Mexican barrio and the New Orleans ghetto makes sense when considering Hale’s work, with its material emphasis on what is condescendingly referred to as ‘craft’ and that which many ethnographers would still in their arrogance label as ‘primitive culture’. From his experiences in Haiti and New Orleans, Hale has produced a series of voodoo bourbon bottles, their labels painted with the signs and images of Loa. A tribute to the culture and to the artist’s experiences both autobiographical and magical. Other works involve cutting paper silhouettes, a form of expression common in the magical rituals of the Mexican Limpas, but Hale’s paper-cuts depict the pantheon of plague demons of the Middle Ages. For his published debut he has chosen this remarkable work, depicting the 49 Servators of Beelzebub taken from The Book of Abramelin, combing the central magical tome with the artwork more familiar with the barrio. Hale mixes rigorous scholarly research into the Book of Abramelin with the chthonic pantheon of Mexico, presenting his own vision.

Barry Hale’s influences are, however, far more than just variations on indigenous forms. This is not glib orientalism, smug tourism or hip voyeurism. Looking at his work it is unsurprising to discover Hale trained to be a tattooist, the bold graphic style echoing the classic flash-sheets of the old school skin-and-ink artist. And there is more at play here, sideshow art, underground comic books, fifties men’s magazines, industrial logos, and Tijuana Bibles are all evident in his iconographic reservoir. His predecessors are underground comic book artists such as Robert Williams and the Coop, as well classic occult artists such as Austin Spare and Rosaline Norton. Barry Hale immerses himself in popular art even while creating images that are bewildering in the occult complexity of their significance. Thus a design he produced for the Oceanic Lodge of an OTO depicts the delicious curves of a voluptuous naked pomba-gira, the delicate petals of indigenous Australian flower the waratah, the dove, and the radiating light of knowledge. This juxtaposition of images both sacred and profane formed the design for a t-shirt, a medium and form more often associated with the biker-gang or punk band than that with a magical order. While designs and illustrations for the highly acclaimed Oceanic Currents issue of the Waratah journal reveal an artist of exceptional sensibilities.

This embrace of outlaw pop-culture extends into the dissemination of Hale’s work. During his one-man exhibition in Sydney’s Front Room Gallery, at which Hale exhibited some seven hundred automatic drawings, which looked like a bastard cross between Austin Spare and Savage Pencil, Hale employed a Carney-style barker. The barker’s role was to cajole and rile the audience at the gallery, while swigging rum and hollering his-own version of the apocalypse to the surprise and entertainment of the assembled crowd.

Hale’s work across various manifestations and themes – is about demons and apocalypse. The avatars of liberty, and the moments of true liberation , freeing and illuminating the human spirit.

Copyright © Jack Sargeant, 2009
Adapted for Fulgur and reproduced with kind permission


AVAILABLE TITLES

Ithell Colquhoun

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Ithell Colquhoun (9 October 1906 – 11 April 1988) was a painter, writer and essayist  who is becoming recognized as one of the most interesting and prolific esoteric thinkers and artists of the twentieth century. Although she gained her early reputation as a member of the British Surrealist movement, she has become better known in recent years as an occult artist, writer and theorist. She was born in Assam, North India to a military family, and returned to Britain as an infant. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College where she showed a very early talent for the visual arts. She later studied at the Slade School of Art in London, and in addition to gaining extensive classical train in art, she also studied mural painting and illustration.

Although she was acquainted with Surrealism from her stay in Paris in the early 1930s, she  visited the International Surrealist Exposition in London in 1936, and it was clear within the next two years that Surrealism was starting to impact her work more directly, primarily influenced by her exposure to Salvador Dalí. In 1939 she visited André Breton in Paris, and started working with automatic techniques in her writing and painting. By the late 1930s she was exhibiting with other Surrealists in Britain in prominent Surrealist spaces such as the Mayor Gallery. Colquhoun was active with the British Surrealist group until 1940, when she had an ideological split with Edouard Mesens who was the movement coordinator and figurehead.  She married another Surrealist, Toni del Renzio in 1943 in hopes of promoting a “more authentic” Surrealism in London, but she and Del Renzio were divorced in 1947. Despite her break with the movement, Colquhoun was a lifelong adherent to Surrealism and automatic techniques continued to be the cornerstone of her artistic practice.

In the 1950s Colquhoun then emerges as a nexus of all of the major occult currents of the 20th century.  She was entrenched in the Western esoteric tradition, but was also well read in Asian traditions, including Buddhism and yoga. Kabbalah and alchemy were probably the most consistent references throughout her body of work, followed by her interest in Druidry and Nature religion. She was an initiate of a wide variety of different orders representing Hermetic and Pagan traditions, including the OrdoTempli Orientis, Co-Masonry, the British Circle of the Universal Bond, the Golden Section Society, and in later years the Fellowship of Isis. Although she was unsuccessful at her attempts to become an initiate of Golden Dawn at an early stage, the Golden Dawn system of magic was clearly one of her guiding principles, and she wrote the influential account of the Golden Dawn magicians, The Sword of Wisdom  published in 1975. She was also a key member of a Golden Dawn-type organization, The Order of the Pyramid and Sphinx, founded by Tamara Bourkhoun in the 1960s.

Colquhoun felt a great spiritual affinity for Cornwall and was an advocate of Cornish culture although she herself was not Cornish. The Cornish landscape and ideas about Celtic spirituality were key themes in her poetry and writings from the 1950s onward. She permanently relocated to West Cornwall from London in the late 1950s and remained there until her death in 1988.

Austin Osman Spare

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.

copyright © Robert Ansell, 2007

 

Michael Bertiaux

Michael Bertiaux, author of the famed Voudon Gnostic Workbook and Hierophant of the Voudon Gnostic Current is a rare visionary in modern occult studies. Raised in a liberal theosophical household, he was drawn to the esoteric and spiritual approach to religion and Being from early on. After studying philosophy in New Orleans and having been ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican Church, Bertiaux was sent to Haiti in 1963 where he taught philosophy and was in charge of the local Anglican museum. It was on “the magic island” that Bertiaux met his spiritus rector, Dr. Jean-Maine, who initiated him into the secrets of the Voudon Gnosis. His close collaboration with Jean-Maine, first in Haiti and then later in Chicago lasted until the Voudon master’s death in the early 1980s. Returning from Haiti, Bertiaux found the Anglican clergy suspicious of his close ties with the Voudon sorcerers and slowly both parties drifted apart. With his church career coming to an end he accepted an offer from the Theosophical Society to work and lecture at their Headquarter at Wheaton, Illinois outside Chicago. Soon thereafter Bertiaux changed professions one last time to become a social worker, a career he would pursue until his retirement in the late 1990s. His subsequent move to Chicago would eventually re-unite him with his mentor Dr. Jean-Maine who had been exiled from Haiti in the reign of President Duvalier.

Bertiaux stands unique in the spiritual world. His system of occultism and gnosis is unlike any other. Instead of reworking the occult past and clinging to classical theories, he works mainly on gnostic-radionic lines and esoteric creativity. Deeply rooted and based in the magical world and traditions of Esoteric Voudon, a very elaborate and specialized form of Voudon taught to Bertiaux by his Haitian master Jean-Maine, Bertiaux has managed to introduce a great number of other spiritual currents into his system and thus empowering it even further. Esoteric Voudon being a highly complex and living tradition, allowed the adepts of the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua and La Couleuvre Noire headed by Jean-Maine and Bertiaux, to absorb other systems in a true syncretic and universal gnostic fashion. To unite areas so seemingly apart as German Idealism and theosophy, to Shinto and Bon-Po, Bertiaux has spun a metaphysical web connecting and bringing them into occult harmony through the threads and cabalah of Esoteric Voudon. Throughout the papers that form the lessons of the O.T.O.A. and L.C.N., Bertiaux outlines not only a system of occult practice but also a spiritual philosophy through which students may develop a technology applicable to any desired working. The raw energy generated by the elemental sorcery and congress of adepts, spirits and Les Vudu are used to empower the phantastic worlds of esoteric logic, enabling the fiends and fiendesses of the system to completely transform themselves, move outside the circles of time and to enter a state of absolute immortality and infinity.

To aid in this esoteric metamorphosis Bertiaux also stresses the creative aspects of magic and gnosis. In addition to being a writer and philosopher, he has produced many “evocative” works of art, including paintings that have been used as magical instruments and gateways to the spirit world. He has not only greatly influenced contemporary occult circles and individuals such as Kenneth Grant of the Typhonian OTO, the Chaos magick scene and Gnostic circles, but also musicians and artists such as Grant Morrison, creator of The Invisibles comic series.

Copyright © David Beth, 2007
Reproduced with kind permission

David Chaim Smith

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David Chaim Smith is an artist and writer based on Long Island, New York. Even from early days, David has sought to challenge convention. His younger years were at times turbulent, but through a process of introspection David began to develop his skills as a draughtsman, mapping his internal universe symbolically. These ‘gnosimes’ (as he terms them) deepened his interest in exploring such occluded worlds, and subsequent to graduating from Columbia David began an intensive study of alchemy and Western Ceremonial Esotericism.

Over the next seven years David studied the Golden Dawn system and worked within several Lodges, but in 1997 he set aside both this structured approach and all activities with his visual art to take residence in a gnostic Hermitage in the American midwest. In his studies there he found new methodologies, most notably those for approaching a non-dual perspective via a Gnostic-tantra praxis.

David returned to New York in 1998 and immersed himself in Chassidic mysticism and traditional Hebrew Kabbalah. This he embraced through the devotional approach of Breslov, and it was here he made a profound inner connection through the meditative praxis of ‘Hitbodedut.’

In 1999 David encountered The Fountain of Wisdom, a text that has survived as a 13th century manuscript in the Vatican Library. He worked with the text for many years, drawing from his experiences as an ecstatic visionary artist. In 2004 he made a breakthrough in interpretation with the development of ‘graphic maps,’ and within a few years had reached a degree of fluency that allowed him to transfer their syntax and visual vocabulary to works of art. His series of drawings such as Machinery of the Apparitional Playground (2007-2008), Blood of Space (2008-2009) and The Sacrificial Universe (2009 to date) are numinous examples of his progress. As a writer and artist whose creative engine is fuelled by a devotional approach to ecstatic visionary mysticism, a unique dimension of David’s work stems from aspects of ideational contemplation considered as a mystical path.

David has self-published material in the past, but his most recent work has been for others, most notably The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis (Daat Press, 2010) and an essay entitled ‘The silence that speaks’ in John Zorn’s excellent Arcana V (Tzadik, 2010). He has held exhibitions at the Cavin Morris Gallery, NYC, (2010) and at the Andre Zarre Gallery, NYC, (1995).

copyright © Robert Ansell, 2011

Rik Garrett

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Rik Garrett was born and raised in Washington State. Against the grey skies and green foliage of the Pacific Northwest he spent his formative years combating the boredom of mundane daily life by creating artwork, writing stories and reading books about the fantastic and mysterious. Garrett was given his first camera at the age of six. He watched his mother study photography and eventually open her own portrait studio.

At the age of 14 he followed her lead and picked up his first real camera – a Nikon that his grandmother had given his father.  Lacking any overt religious or cultural traditions, he latched onto photography as a family heritage. This obsession led him to concentrate not just on film and the darkroom, but historic procedures such as the wet plate collodion process.

Over the years Garrett found historical connections between his seemingly divergent interests: the medium of photography being married to esoteric studies throughout history via spirit photography, Thoughtography, Radionics and Parapsychology.  Drawing on the historical precedent of the apparently static realm of analog photography having been used to document the invisible, he has adopted, revived and expanded upon esoteric photographic practices in order to explore personal subject matter.

Garrett currently lives in Chicago, where he teaches in the photography department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  His work has been exhibited around the United States and Europe.

 


AVAILABLE TITLES

BIOGRAPHIES

A

Susan L. Aberth

Susan L. Aberth is associate professor of Latin American art and chair of the Art History programme at Bard College, New York. She holds a BA from UCLA, an MA from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, an MA from Christie’s Education, NY, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Centre, City University of New York. She received a professional development fellowship at the College Art Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is the author of Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art (2004).

  • Abraxas #6: Leonora Carrington and the Art of Invocation. BUY
  • Black Mirror #1: Ingestion and Descent: The Chthonic Realms of Leonora Carrington. BUY

 

Talon Abraxas

Talon Abraxas was born in South London, England in 1980. A self-taught artist, he is known for works that consist of a combination of traditional and digital images, creating surreal landscapes that have a believable dream-like quality. Inspiration is drawn from mystical artists and thinkers such as Austin Osman Spare, Jean Delville, Hieronymus Bosch, HR Giger, Beksinski, and Aleister Crowley. He considers himself a symbolist, painter, writer and occultist committed to spiritual esotericism.

  • Abraxas #2: Astral Flight. SOLD OUT

 

Stephen Alexander

Stephen Alexander is a London-based philosopher, poet and provocateur. He holds a doctorate in Modern European Philosophy and Literature (Warwick, 2000), and his current main interest is in dissolving (unsettling or curdling) lines of distinction, including those which would divide theory from practice. He is the author of several books, including Outside the Gate, Erotomania, Philosophy on the Catwalk and The Treadwell’s Papers, all published by his Blind Cupid Press.

  • Abraxas #3: In the Bookshop. BUY

 

Silvia Argiola

Silvia Argiola was born in Cagliari (Sardinia) in 1977. In 2008 she took part in the public exhibition Arrivi e Partenze, curated by Alberto Fiz and Walter Gasperoni. She has had several solo shows in Italy and internationally, among which are Walk on the Wild Side, curated by Roberto Fantoni, Silvia Argiola Solo Show (Toronto, 2013) and You Are Not Really So Bad (Modena, 2012). She lives and works in Milan.

  • Abraxas #6: Love and Hate in the Same Man. BUY

 

Agostino Arrivabene

Agostino Arrivabene was born in Rivolta d’Adda, Italy, in 1967. He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan. In 1998 he won the first prize at the Leonardo Sciascia Amateur des Estampes international competition. In 2000 he was invited by the art critic and historian Vittorio Sgarbi to take part in Surrealismo Padano and Pittura Fantastica in Italy. He took part in the Venice Biennale in 2011. A retrospective of 130 of Agostino’s past works is currently on show at the Panorama Museum, Germany.

  • Abraxas #4: Agostino Arrivabene Special Feature. BUY

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Victoria Ballesteros

Victoria Ballesteros was born in Denver, Colorado, and currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a photographer, a writer and an archivist for the Cameron–Parsons Foundation. She has worked as a graphic designer, videographer and web developer. A profoundly disturbing encounter with a Ouija board in her early twenties led to deep exploration of mysticism, magic and yoga. She has worked with the tarot and the I Ching for over thirty years. Her photography has been exhibited in Los Angeles and Santa Fe.

  • Abraxas #6: Chasing Cameron’s Light. BUY
  • Songs for the Witch Woman (photograph portrait of Cameron) BUY

 

Rebecca Beattie

Rebecca Beattie has spent many years learning and developing her creativity, having taken her earliest inspiration from nature and ancient traditions from around the world. She is a co-owner of Hedgewitches’ Kitchen, which makes ritual soaps and bath products, and designs jewellery for her company, Bewitching Beads. She also writes stories. Conversations with My Mother is her second novel.

  • Abraxas #1: The Dark Flood. SOLD OUT

 

David Blank

David Blank was a writer and poet. He was the editor and co-founder of The Oracle Occult Magazine. Having explored numerous forms, from spoken word through guerrilla ritual and performance art to the begetting of fetish and sculpture from roadkill, he currently leads a quiet, reclusive life in London’s East End – where he has lived for the past twenty-four years – developing his writing and pursuing an interest in ornithology. Sadly, David died in 2015.

  • Abraxas #5, Musings on Breath. BUY

 

Marcelo Bordese

Marcelo Bordese lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His images explore themes involving the flesh, sex, religion and despair. His style is reminscent of Bosch and Breughel, but Marcelo paints with acrylic, which he affirms ‘…like blood, dries quickly.’ He has exhibited extensively since 1996, most recently at Owners of the Crossroad: Aesthetics of Exú and Pomba Gira in Rio de la Plata, Buenos Aires, 2009 and Grito Íntimo: con sexo, corrupción y juegos, Instituto Cervantes de Tokio, Tokyo, 2010.

  • Abraxas #2, Adan y Eva. SOLD OUT

 

Jesse Bransford

Jesse Bransford is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work is exhibited internationally. He holds degrees from the New School for Social Research (BA), Parsons School of Design (BFA) and Columbia University (MFA). An associate professor at New York University, Bransford’s work has been involved with belief and the visual systems it creates since the 1990s. Research into colour meaning and cultural syncretism led to the occult traditions.

  • Abraxas #3: Jesse Bransford: An Interview with Pam Grossman. BUY
  • Black Mirror 0: Lifting the Veil: Esoteric Interpretations of Seven Contemporary Artists. BUY

 

William Breeze

William Breeze is an editor-publisher, non-profit administrator and musician. He was an archival assistant for Larry Rivers and the editor of 93 Publishing, and befriended artists and film-makers like Kenneth Anger, Jordan Belson, Cameron, Leonora Carrington, Derek Jarman and Harry Smith, releasing many seminal avantgarde films through Mystic Fire Video, which he co-founded. He has played with Angus MacLise, Psychic TV, Coil, Baby Dee and Current 93. He is the editor of many of Crowley’s major works, and curated the 1998 exhibition An Old Master: ?The Art of Aleister Crowley.

  • Abraxas #3: Caves of Sorcerers: The American Beginnings of Crowley’s Art. BUY
  • Songs for the Witch Woman – Introduction. BUY

 

Anthony Buchanan

Anthony Buchanan is a filmmaker and scholar of experimental film. In addition to teaching Experimental Film and History of World Cinema at Santa Fe University, he has shown work in numerous New Mexico venues, and has freelanced as a film and new media critic for several Santa Fe newspapers. He has lectured on topics such as the “History of the Occult in World Cinema,” and “Paracinema in Performance.” His forthcoming essay film, I WILL BE CALLED LUCIFER, will be released in 2014.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Imagined Histories: Craig Baldwin’s Mock Up on Mu and the Fabulation of Californian Bohemia. BUY

 

Eliza Buckley

Eliza Buckley is a London-based part-time artist whose work combines sacred geometry, eroticism and Arabic calligraphy. She has studied Islamic geometric art and Kufic script with tutors trained at the Prince’s School of  Traditional Arts. She also produces animated films, one of which was shortlisted at the first Swedenborg Short Film Festival in 2010.

  • Abraxas #3: Sufism: A Theurgic Perspective (illustration). BUY

 

Edward Butler

Edward Butler received his doctorate in philosophy in 2004 from the New School for Social Research in New York City for his dissertation ‘The Metaphysics of Polytheism in Proclus’. Since then, he has published numerous articles in academic and devotional venues.

  • Abraxas #5: Esoteric City: Theological Hermeneutics in Plato’s Republic. BUY

 

James Butler

James Butler is a postgraduate research student at the University of Oxford, with an interest in the conjunction between philosophical and literary cultures, both ancient and modern. A practicing pagan for over ten years, he remains fascinated by devotion, poetry and the moon. When not writing, he can be found exploring the links between ritual, art, music and magic.

  • Abraxas #1: On Sappho. SOLD OUT

C

John Callow

John Callow is a tutor at the University of Suffolk, who has written and lectured widely on Witchcraft, popular belief, and the Early Modern era. He is the author of Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth & Century Europe (Palgrave Books) and is currently working on a study of the Bideford Witches. This winter will see him lecturing on Wicca at the ‘Theatre Machine’ in Northern Sweden.

  • Abraxas #1: A Dream of Witchcraft turned to Nightmare: The Five Witches of Albrecht Durer. SOLD OUT

 

Santiago Caruso

Santiago Caruso was born in 1982 and lives in Quilmes,
 Argentina. He is a symbolist and surreal artist dedicated to the fantastique, horror, suspense, essay and poetry.
 He has illustrated books for Dark Regions Press, Libros del Zorro 
Rojo, Ex Occidente Press, Tordesilhas, Tartarus Press, Random
 House Mondadori, Planeta and Penguin. A member of
 the Beinart Surreal Art Collective since 2010, Caruso’s artwork is
 well represented in the galleries and museums of Buenos Aires, the 
USA, Mexico and Spain.

  • Abraxas #3: Lamia. BUY

 

Madeline Cass

Madeline Cass is a poet, musician and visual artist living in the great plains of Nebraska. She has also lived in Bangalore, India. Her writing focuses on ‘dream landscapes’ and states of consciousness through an automatic method.
She plans to live on an organic farm, creating art with the native plants of her surroundings. By doing so, she hopes to bridge a gap between the arts and sciences.

  • Abraxas #5, Mycology. BUY

 

Sasha Chaitow

Sasha Chaitow is a British-Greek esoteric scholar and artist currently conducting doctoral research on Joséphin Péladan at the University of Essex in the context of the cultural nexus between art and esotericism. Her earlier MA research at the Universities of Exeter (2008) and Indianapolis (2004) focused on alchemical symbolism in art and literature. Themes encountered in her research form the inspiration for her art. She has published several scholarly and general-interest articles in Europe and the US and organises regular cultural events on related topics.

  • Abraxas #5, Hidden in Plain Sight: Joséphin Péladan’s Religion of Art. BUY
  • Abraxas #5, Bené-Satan. BUY

 

Andrew R. Chesnut

R. Andrew Chesnut, holds the Bishop Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and is Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently conducting research for the sequel to Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint (2012). A renowned specialist in Latin American religion, he is also the author of Santa Muerte: La Segadora Segura (2013) and two other books on African diasporan faiths, Pentecostalism and Catholicism. Chesnut is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post and SkeletonSaint.com, co-founded with David B. Metcalfe.

  • Abraxas #6: Death and Roses: Santa Muerte, the Love Sorceress. BUY

 

Andrew D. Chumbley

Andrew D. Chumbley (September 15, 1967 – September 15, 2004) was an English practitioner and theorist of magic, and a writer, poet and artist. He was Magister of the UK-based magical group Cultus Sabbati. His book QUTUB was issued by FULGUR in 1995 and has been acknowledged to be the first talismanic publication under the aegis of XOANON.

  • QUTUB: Also called, The Point. (1995). SOLD OUT

 

Stephen J. Clarke

Stephen J. Clarke was born 1970, in County Durham. Largely self-taught, his art arises from a childhood fascination with myths and monsters. His work engages in various methods of automatism, which he sees as being analogous to the ideas and dynamics of alchemy and the notion of scrying into the Unconscious. Drawings, poetry and prose have been published in several international surrealist journals including Manticore, Phosphor (Leeds), Analogon (Prague), S.U.R.R. (Paris) and Salamandra (Madrid). Surrealist Editions published a collection of his poetry The Bridge of Shadows in 2007.

  • Abraxas #1: The cat who fell in love with a mask. SOLD OUT

 

John Cline

John Cline is a graduate of the American Studies Ph.D. program at the University of Texas. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as The Grove Dictionary of American Music and The Routledge History of Social Protest in Popular Music, among other academic publications.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Loa of the Avant-Garde: Maya Deren in Haiti. BUY

 

John Clowder

John Clowder is an artist working primarily in the collage medium. His history would be familiar to anyone living in the average suburban town. Luckily, a devious and unstructured childhood prompted him towards imaginative play, an activity that brought experiments with artistic creativity. At a receptive age he chanced upon Max Ernst’s oneiric collage novels and absorbed by their imagery, sought to replicate their effect. He lives in the American Midwest, but Surrealism is his chosen means of escape.

  • Abraxas #3: The Tree of Death. SOLD OUT

 

Ruth Clydesdale

Ruth Clydesdale is a writer and astrologer, holding the DFAstrolS and an MA in Renaissance Studies. She is the author of Hermes: The Soul’s Companion (2009), Secret Wisdom (2009) and The Happiness Handbook (2011), and her articles on astrology have been published in the UK, Scandinavia and the USA. Her next book will examine Iamblichus and theurgic magic.

  • Abraxas #4: Dancing under the Stars: Ficino’s Way of Harmony. BUY

 

Ira Cohen

Ira Cohen (1935-2011) was an American poet, publisher, photographer and filmmaker. He travelled widely, most notably to Morocco where he published GNAOUA, a magazine devoted to exorcism, and later to Kathmandu, where he founded his Bardo Matrix imprint, issuing limited edition books printed on rice paper. His later years in NYC consolidated his role as one of the most important voices of American counter-culture.

  • Abraxas #2: IRA COHEN SPECIAL FEATURE. SOLD OUT

 

Paul Cowlan

Paul Cowlan is a professional writer, poet and singer whose work takes inspiration from psychospiritual alchemy, in which he has been active since the early 1980s. From 2004 he has given annual lectures in London at Treadwell’s, earning him a following as an engaging speaker and teacher of alchemical symbolism and imagery. Cowlan’s poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies since 1991 and his first published solo collection, Night Reading for the Next Ice-Age (Alembic, 2009), has received high praise from established authors including Lindsay Clark and Patrick Harpur.

  • Abraxas #4: An Introduction to the Alchemical Mercurius. BUY
  • Abraxas #3: Designing the Hermitage. BUY
  • Abraxas #3: Hunting Amber (For Johs Pedersen). BUY

 

Zachary Cox

Zachary Cox was born in Folkestone in 1928. He has in the course of his life written poetry, studied magic, edited the celebrated occult journal Aquarian Arrow, and worked as a computer programmer. Since the late 1950s he has been practitioner of witchcraft, and has been known to refer to the Craft as ‘a non discursive reality.’

  • Abraxas #1: Song for Sleeping Souls. SOLD OUT

 

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Kissing the Limitless (2009) and Evolutionary Witchcraft (2004), she is also featured in many anthologies, hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes a popular weblog, Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Pagan, mystic, and activist, she is founder and head of Solar Cross Temple and Morningstar Mystery School and lives by the glorious San Francisco Bay.

  • Abraxas #2: Knowledge. SOLD OUT.

 

Jon Crabb

Jon Crabb is a young art historian and writer who developed a mild obsession with the Beat writers in his teens, then graduated from the enthusiasm of Kerouac to the cynicism of Burroughs in his twenties. Having heard that William Burroughs once declared Brion Gysin ‘the only man I have ever respected,’ he was added to the personal syllabus and quickly became a chief fascination. He is also interested in the fin-de-siècle period, the cross-over between science and art, and the larger influence of the occult on Western art as a whole.

  • Abraxas #2: Brion Gysin: Shaman of the Beat Hotel. SOLD OUT

 

Anne Crossey

Anne Crossey is an artist living and working in West Cork, Ireland. Graduating originally in Philosophy, she has an M.Phil. in Psychoanalytic Theory from Trinity College, Dublin. Since then, she has travelled extensively through China, Tibet and Asia, and across the Arctic Circle with the Sami nomads. Anne is currently completing her MA in Western Esotericism through Exeter University. She is writing her thesis on ‘Kandinsky and the Esoteric Origins of Modern Abstract Art’.

  • Abraxas #4: The Mystery of the Rose Cross. BUY

 

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a poet, magician, mountaineer, bibliophile, iconoclast and political agitator.

  • Abraxas #4: Aleister Crowley, Marie de Miramar & the True Wanga. BUY
  • Abraxas #3: SPECIAL FEATURE – The Palermo Collection. BUY
  • Abraxas #1: BABALON. SOLD OUT

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Tomáš D’Aradia

Tomáš D’Aradia is a professional photographer dividing his time between Bloomsbury and Tintagel. His portfolio ranges from Blondie to the head of the Secret Service, by way of Thomas Dolby and Mervyn King and Hugh Cornwell. Also a drummer, he has recorded and toured with bands from the age of eighteen. He has worked with tarot for thirty-three years, reads regularly for clients and is currently finishing his novel Fool’s Journey, a thriller told from a tarot reader’s perspective.

  • Abraxas #3: Stones. BUY

 

Arturo Desimone

Arturo Desimone’s drawings have appeared on the cover of Deleuze Studies, in the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies and in literary magazines. He took part in a group exhibition in Krakow for the release of a book of Polish short stories, Index Errorum, which reproduces this drawing. His poems and short fiction pieces have appeared in New Orleans Review, Acentos Review, The Transnational and elsewhere. He was born and raised on Aruba, and is currently living between Buenos Aires and the Netherlands.

  • Abraxas #6: Heartbreak Wolf Vodu. BUY

 

Guiseppe Di Liberti

Giuseppe Di Liberti is currently Professor of Aesthetics at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Palermo and he is an associate member of CEPA at the University of Paris 1. He has worked extensively on the history of aesthetics, mainly on the system of fine arts. His actual work focuses on the French Enlightenment and on the ontology of the work of art.

  • Abraxas #3: Crowley The Painter in Cefalù and the Origins of the Palermo Collection. BUY

 

Francesco Dimitri

Francesco Dimitri is an Italian writer of fiction and non-fiction, in love with the magical and the wonderful. He has dealt with magic in Communist countries, ghosts, neopaganism, succubi, and the great god Pan. He has been translated into Spanish and Dutch.

  • Abraxas #3: Saint Spider. BUY

 

Arrington de Dionyso

Arrington de Dionyso was born in 1975 and lives in Chicago, USA. He studied ethnomusicology, archetypal psychology and butoh dance theatre at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. His artistic practice integrates music and image-making with his studies of Kabbalah, alchemy and shamanism. His group Malaikat dan Singa uses the tropes of diverse shamanic trance musics within a rock and roll performance context.

  • Abraxas #5: La Villa dei Misteri. BUY

 

Anna Dorofeeva

Anna Dorofeeva is an art critic and curator, working with contemporary art. Collecting contemporary art since the age of eighteen, she further pursued her passion by studying Art History (Moscow) and Contemporary Art (London). Later she curated her own independent projects in Moscow, London, Vienna, Rome and Paris. While living in London she gained professional experience at The Art Newspaper and the Russian department at Sotheby’s, and currently works for the Riflemaker gallery.

  • Abraxas #6: The Alchemy of Liberation: An Interview with Penelope Slinger. BUY

 

Peter Dubé

Peter Dubé is a novelist, short story writer, essayist and cultural critic. He is the author of the chapbook Vortex Faction Manifesto (2001), the novel Hovering World (2002), At the Bottom of the Sky (2007) a collection of linked short stories, and most recently, the novella Subtle Bodies: a Fantasia on Voice, History and René Crevel (2010). He is also the editor of the anthology Madder Love: Queer Men and The Precincts of Surrealism (2008).

  • Abraxas #2: To Raise the Dead and Enjoy Congress with Them. SOLD OUT
  • Abraxas #2: To End Uneasy Dreams. SOLD OUT

 

Peter Dyde

Peter Dyde was born and raised in the suburbs of south London. On leaving school he joined the army as a bandsman stationed in Bovington, Dorset. After a year’s training he left for art school, where he spent seven years studying fine art. He completed his degree at Middlesex University. Peter currently lives and works by the sea in the south-east of England. From his Kammamorian art studio he researches the application of esoteric Shinto and Voudon systems using a pataphysical approach.

  • Abraxas #4: bagua: inner lunarism. BUY

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Reinhold J. Fäth

Reinhold J. Fäth Ph.D. is an honorary professor at the University of Applied Sciences HKS Ottersberg in Germany and an independent curator of a substantial private collection of anthroposophical art. His research has been focused on the effects of visual arts on the human psyche with a spiritual approach. He is currently investigating the artistic responses to the anthroposophical theories about colour and form in the visual arts, leading to an extensive retrospective exhibition at the Olomouc Museum of Art, Czech Republic.

  • Abraxas #6: The Aenigma Artists’ Group, 1918–1932. BUY

 

 Robert Fitzgerald

Robert Fitzgerald is a long-time practitioner of the angelic evocation of John Dee and Edward Kelley, and is an initiate of Cultus Sabbati, a magical order of traditional witchcraft in Britain and North America. His written contributions have appeared in the British journal of folklore The Cauldron.

  • Abraxas #2: IO:EVOE, The Transvocatory Media of Barry Hale. SOLD OUT
  • CODEX 231: The Chimeric Citadel: Barry William Hale’s Astral Visions (introduction). AWAITING STOCK

 

William Fowler

William Fowler is Curator of Artists’ Moving Image at the BFI National Archive where he undertakes film restoration projects and co-programmes the BFI cinema strands: The Flipside and Essential Experiments. Previous archive-based projects have included GAZWRX: the films of Jeff Keen, Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow, The Lacey Rituals: Films by Bruce Lacey (and Friends) and Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman. The major restoration and screening programme This Is Now: Film and Video After Punk launched in April 2014.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: In the Tradition of Magic: The Cinema of Derek Jarman. BUY

 

Cristina Francov

Cristina Francov is an old spirit in a young body. She was born, raised and is still living in a small place in the middle of the Mexican Republic, a land famous for its history, diversity, beliefs, cult of death and a ridiculously incoherent population. Naagrom has been interested in the fine arts since childhood, and at fifteen began to learn photography in a self-taught way, which developed into an interest in engraving and design. A flood of existentialism and illumination are the pneuma of her work, experimentation and mere light in all contexts the soma.

  • Abraxas #6: Death and Roses: Sante Muerte, the Love Sorceress (photographic documentation). BUY
  • Abraxas #2: The Metamorphic Self: Robert Ansell talks with Cristina Francov. SOLD OUT
  • Abraxas #1: Apocrifo. SOLD OUT

 

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Edward Gauntlett

Edward Gauntlett is lifelong student of magic, and holds an MA in Literature, Religion and Philosophy. Currently he is working on a study of the Secret Tradition in late 19th and early 20th century supernatural horror fiction. He is editor of the Charles Williams Society.

  • Abraxas #1: Transmutations of Good and Evil:Alchemy, Witchcraft and the Graal in the Work of Arthur Machen. SOLD OUT
  • Abraxas #2: Peter Redgrove: Blood and Dreams. SOLD OUT

 

Stephen Grasso

Stephen Grasso is an English writer and artist based in Florida. His main subjects of interest are magic, Voodoo, psychogeography and buying lots of records. He is a founder and regular contributor to Liminalnation.org, has a blog called cleanlivingindifficultcircumstances. blogspot.com, and is still working on a long-threatened book about magic.

  • Abraxas #1: Skip Witches, Hops Toads. SOLD OUT

 

Jon Graham

Jon Graham is a writer and graphic artist living in Vermont. He is also a professional translator from French into English specialising in books on Surrealism, esoteric traditions and folklore. Books he has translated include The Immaculate Conception by André Breton and Paul Eluard, Little Anatomy of the Physical Unconscious by Hans Bellmer, The Reality Overload by Annie Le Brun, and The Book of Grimoires by Claude Lecouteux. He is currently working as the acquisitions editor for Inner Traditions, a post he has held since 1996.

  • Abraxas #5: Victor Brauner at the Crossroads of Magic and Chance. BUY

 

Allan Graubard

Allan Graubard lives in New York, with previous lives in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, London, Washington DC, and other places lost to time and water – turns in the dance that sustains him. Recent works include ROMA AMOR (2010), Revolting Women/Woman Bomb-Sade (Theater Row, 42nd Street), and And tell, tulip, the summer (2011). Happily, 2011 also saw the publication of Invisible Heads: Surrealists in North America – An Untold Story, which he edited with his friend, Thom Burns.

  • Abraxas #2: IRA COHEN SPECIAL FEATURE: The Ritual Theatre of Hallucination. SOLD OUT

 

Christopher Greenchild

Christopher Greenchild is a composer, musician, poet, writer, artist, designer and philosopher from Seattle. He is presently preparing the first releases from his archives and their parallel performance concepts. His music centres around an imaginal consciousness of memory and mystery that incorporates field recordings and electronic sound with classical, folk, alternative instrumentations, and vivid rhapsodic lyrics. He is also at work completing a three-part book series on his visionary account of dream awareness as a parallel mystical continuum in humanity and nature.

  • Abraxas #2: On the Always Wandering Way. SOLD OUT

 

Pam Grossman

Pam Grossman is an independent curator and lifelong student of magical practice and history. She is the creator of Phantasmaphile, a blog specialising in art and culture with an esoteric or fantastical bent. As co-founder of the Brooklyn arts & lecture space Observatory, she curates programmes exploring mysticism via a scholarly yet accessible approach. Her group art shows, Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists, VISION QUEST, Alchemically Yours, Sigils & Signs and The Language of the Birds have been featured widely in the media.

  • Abraxas #3: BUY

 

Christian Giudice

Christian Giudice is an academic researcher, focusing, among other subjects, on fin de siècle occultism in France and Italy, the development of post-Crowley Thelema, and the link between cinema and occultism. A Ph.D. scholar at Gothenburg University, he holds a BA in Literae Humaniores from Oxford University and an MA in Western Esotericism from Exeter University. He has published academic articles and reviews in journals such as Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism and The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

  • Abraxas #6: Saint or Satanist? Joseph-Antoine Boullan and Satanism in Nineteenth-Century France. BUY

 

Zaheer Gulamhusein

Zaheer Gulamhusein is an Ismaili who has spent a large part of his life studying and exploring esotericism, and is particularly interested in its influence on art and culture. He completed his MA in Western Esotericism at Exeter University in 2008, where he specialised in theurgy. He also produces electronic music as XVARR and lives in London.

  • Abraxas #3: Sufism: A Theurgic Perspective. BUY

 

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Ole Hagen

Ole Hagen is a Norwegian-born artist living and working in London. He was educated at the National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo, Chelsea College of Art and Design (MA) and Goldsmiths College (Ph.D.). Ole Hagen is also a lecturer in fine art at Birmingham City University. He works with video, sculpture, drawings and performance. Recent exhibitions include Multiverse (Danielle Arnaud, 2009) and Multiverse Expanded (Akershus Kunstsenter, 2011). Ole Hagen has published catalogue essays for other artists and research papers in the fields of consciousness studies and comparative philosophy.

  • Abraxas #4: Nowhere Less Now BUY

 

Amy Hale

Amy Hale is an anthropologist and Chaote whose academic interests are primarily focused on modern Cornwall and British esoteric culture. She was the co-editor of New Directions in Celtic Studies, Inside Merlin’s Cave: A Cornish Arthurian Reader and Journal of the Academic Study of Magic #5 in addition to over 30 articles ranging from Druidry to Celtic cultural tourism. She is currently working on a series of projects and publications concerning the British Surrealist and occultist Ithell Colquhoun. She lives in San Francisco.

  • Abraxas #2: Portrait of a Magical Maker: Amy Hale talks with Joseph Max. OUT OF PRINT
  • I:MAGE 2014: ‘Colours are Forces, the Signatures of Forces’. OUT OF PRINT
  • Black Mirror #0: Considering the Esoteric Aesthetic: Practice, Context and Reception. BUY

 

Lindsay Hallam

Lindsay Hallam is a lecturer in Film at the University of East London. Her book Screening the Marquis de Sade: Pleasure, Pain and the Transgressive Body in Film was published by McFarland, and she recently directed the documentary Fridey at the Hydey. She has contributed to the collections Trauma, Media, Art: New Perspectives (2010), Dracula’s Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film (2013), Fragmented Nightmares: Transnational Horror Across Visual Media (2014) and Critical Insights: Violence in Literature (forthcoming), and the journals Asian Cinema, Bright Lights Film Journal and Senses of Cinema.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: ‘Just Turn Green’: Dionysian Nature in Lars von Trier’s Antichrist. BUY

 

Wouter J. Hanegraaff

Wouter J. Hanegraaff is professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. He is a member of the editorial board of the journals Aries (Brill), Numen (Brill), Religion Compass and Esoterica and of the advisory board of Journal of Contemporary Religion (Carfax) and Nova Religio (University of California Press). He is the author of several books, including Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

  • Abraxas #6: A Visual World: Leonora Carrington and the Occult. BUY

 

Sara Hannant

Sara Hannant is a photographer based in London. Sara graduated in MA Transnational Arts at University of the Arts London, Documentary Photography at Newport College of Art, and Art and Design in Social Contexts at Dartington College of Arts. For over twenty years Sara has worked on editorial, commercial and cultural assignments. Current projects explore themes relating to magical belief, seasonal cycles and folklore. She has exhibited widely and is the author of Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year.

  • Abraxas #3: English Rituals. BUY

 

Lisa Hanstein

Lisa Hanstein is Academic Assistant in the library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut. She has analysed the impact of occult traditions on the Italian Futurists in several articles, co-organised a conference on the role of Italian Futurism within the broader context of international avant-garde movements, is the co-editor of Altri futurismi and curated a Futurist online exhibition, ZANG TUMB TUUM. She is currently at work on a Ph.D. on ‘The Spirit of the Modern Age: Spirituality and Spiritism in Italian Futurism’.

  • Abraxas Special #1: Unseen Spirits? Occult Tradition in Italian Futurist Art and Theory. BUY

 

Paul Hardacre

Paul Hardacre was born in Brisbane, Australia, in 1974. He is the Managing Editor of papertiger media, publishers of the papertiger: new world poetry CD-ROM, hutt poetry e-zine, anything i like art e-zine, and the soi 3 modern poets imprint. His first collection of poetry, The Year Nothing. His second collection, Love in the place of rats, was Highly Commended for the Thomas Shapcott Award in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Paul completed a third (and currently unpublished) collection, The river is far behind us, with the assistance of a Major Grant from Arts Queensland. His latest book is liber xix: differentia liber.

  • Abraxas #3: of the stars, and two. BUY

 

Dan Harms

Dan Harms is a librarian and author whose interests include Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, grimoires, the history of magic, and rôleplaying games. His books include The Necronomicon Files (1998, with John Wisdom Gonce III) and The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (2008). His articles have appeared in Fortean Times, The Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, The Journal of Scholarly Publishing, Paranoia, Imelod, Le Bulletin de l’Université de Miskatonic, Worlds of Cthulhu, Cthuloide Welten, and The Unspeakable Oath.

  • Abraxas #2: Finding the Long Lost Friend. SOLD OUT

 

Christina Oakley Harrington

Christina Oakley Harrington is Treadwell’s founder and presiding spirit. She was voraciously interested in spirituality and magic since childhood, and grew up in West Africa, Burma, and Chile, only moving to the West at the age of fifteen. In her early twenties she was heartened to discover Europe’s own native religious traditions, and has been a pagan ever since. A former academic, she left university life in 2001 to establish Treadwell’s. These days she serves as a consultant for programmes and projects but is usually at the shop somewhere during the week. She was also the co-founder and literary editor of Abraxas: International Journal for Esoteric Studies.

  • Abraxas #3: A Place Apart. BUY

 

Kelly E Hayes

Kelly E. Hayes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University in Indianapolis (USA) and has been conducting field research on religion in Brazil since 1997. She is author of Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil (University of California Press, 2011) as well as numerous scholarly articles. Her most recent project focuses on the Valley of the Dawn, an alternative Brazilian religion known for its colorful rituals and imaginative synthesis of elements drawn from Christianity, Spiritualism, Afro-Brazilian religions, and various esoteric traditions.

  • Abraxas #6: Spirits of Shadows and Light. BUY

 

Sebastian Hayes

Sebastian Hayes was brought up in Africa and lived for many years in France. He views himself as a thinker rather than a writer though he has published one or two plays including The Pomegranate Seeds (Samuel French), The Chosen One (Brimstone Press), also The Foundling & Other Stories (Brimstone Press).

  • Abraxas #5: Sonnet by Comte de Saint-Germain (translator). BUY

 

Ken Henson

Ken Henson is an artist who combines drawing, painting and writing with magical and mystical processes. A Curtis G. Lloyd Fellow at the Lloyd Library and Museum, Ken recently finished writing and illustrating his new treatise Alchemy and Astral Projection: Ecstatic Trance in the Hermetic Tradition (2014). He also recently collaborated with the Philosophical Research Society to revise and reissue Manly P. Hall and John Augustus Knapp’s Revised New Art Tarot (2013). Ken has his MFA in Painting from the University of Cincinnati, and teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in Ohio.

  • Abraxas #5: John Augustus Knapp: Modern Master of Occult Illustration. BUY

 

Phil Hine

Phil Hine lives and works in London, where he practices a hybridised approach to Tantra. He has a particular interest in presentations of the occult and how they relate to wider cultural formations. He is the author of Prime Chaos, Condensed Chaos and The Pseudonomicon, and has contributed to a wide range of occult magazines. His archive of writings can be viewed at www.philhine.org.uk and he has a new group blog www.enfolding.org.

  • Abraxas #1: The Third Eye: The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa. SOLD OUT

 

Ellie Hughes

Ellie Hughes was born and bred in London, and decided she was a witch at the age of eleven. She became interested in the discourses of nostalgia and identity at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies), where she is currently finishing a BA in history.

  • Abraxas #1: Elegy. SOLD OUT

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Stuart Inman

Stuart Inman studied with Joseph Bearwalker Wilson for seven years and is a Doyen of Toteg Tribe and one of three Virtue Holders of the 1734 Tradition of Witchcraft. He is an initiate of both Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca and has studied Tibetan Buddhism. He has also been involved with the International Surrealist Movement for over twenty years, has done original research into lesser known aspects of surrealism and is a founder member of the London Surrealist Group.

  • Abraxas #1: The Uncertainty of Illumination. SOLD OUT

 

Elizabeth Insogna

Elizabeth Insogna is a painter who lives and works in New York. She has a BFA in Sculpture from SUNY New Paltz and studied painting at the Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence. She has exhibited widely, with solo exhibitions at Kinz + Tillou and Jeannie Freilich Contemporary in New York City and RAR Gallery in Berlin. Her work has been featured in the New York Observer, Beautiful/Decay, artcritical and NY Arts Magazine. She is a teaching artist at the Frick Collection and contributes to the Huffington Post.

  • Abraxas #6: Leaden Turns Light. BUY

 

Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne is professor of Sociology of Religions at Pontifical Salesian University in Torino, Italy, and founder and managing director of CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions. He is the author of some sixty books on new religious movements, sociology of religions, and esotericism. In 2011, he served as the Representative of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) for combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

  • Black Mirror #0: From Mondrian to Charmion von Weigand: Neoplasticism, Theosophy and Buddhism. BUY

 

Desirée Isphording

Desirée Isphording is a 25 year old artist living in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her work has been featured in the magazines Pentacle and SageWoman, and has also graced the covers of If… A Journal of Spiritual Exploration, PaganNet News and Harp, Pipe, and Symphony (2006), a book by Paul DiFilippo. In addition, she has material included in Gothic Art Now, a compilation of darkly elegant artwork.

  • Abraxas #2: By Standing Stone and Twisted Tree. SOLD OUT

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Denah Johnston

Denah Johnston is a San Francisco based filmmaker, writer and teacher and Director of Operations at Canyon Cinema Foundation. Her first book No Future Now: A Nomadology of Resistance and Subversion was released in Spring 2012. An editor for agnèsfilms.com, she is always on the lookout for new and challenging works on female filmmakers. Her current research explores cinema produced by women, transcending gendered representations in the production of their work regardless of form or substance.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: The Devil Made Me Do It: The Innovation and Influence of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan. BUY

 

Christopher Josiffe

Christopher Josiffe works part-time as a cataloguer for a London university library. He is currently writing a biography of Gef, the talking mongoose, and is also interested in nineteenth- and twentieth-century paranormal research, the Western magical tradition, African diasporic religions, ancient writing systems, and fine beers and cheeses. He enjoys going to Northern Soul and reggae clubs, and visiting prehistoric sites. He sometimes makes little paintings, and arranges twigs and leaves in his local woods.

  • Abraxas #4: Aleister Crowley, Marie de Miramar & the True Wanga. BUY

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Denis Forkas Kostromitin

Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Moscow-based artist and practitioner whose work is focused on balancing the Apollonian and the Dionysian impulses and exploring the anatomy of imagination. He merges philosophical research, archaic painting techniques, ritual magic and meditation into a unique artistic approach. Forkas has exhibited his art in Russia and China. His paintings and drawings have been featured in numerous international music releases as album covers.

  • Abraxas #3: The Eglantine Breath: An Interview with Denis Forkas Kostromitin. BUY

 

Robert Kyle

Robert Kyle lives and works in Wiltshire and has exhibited in London in 2010 and 2012 at the Vyner Street Gallery. His work is an extension of his ongoing spiritual practices in witchcraft, Druidry and Tibetan Yungdrung Bon. After starting his career in theatre and then moving into film and television, he is now a full-time artist working in varied media. His work captures symbolic representations of the eternal processes that transform us when we engage upon a spiritual path.

  • Abraxas #6: Boy with Goat. BUY

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Geraldine Lambert

Geraldine Lambert trained in Graphics and Fine Art at Portsmouth University. Describing herself as a ‘hedge-rider’ and magician she illustrates the visions that come from creative interplay when worlds collide. Her predominant use of ink and gouache, together with techniques employed in her wood-engraved prints, gives rise to a recognisable style using line and movement as signatures of her work.

  • Abraxas #3: Initiation. BUY

 

Shandra Lamaute

Shandra Lamaute is an artist and art historian whose research is centred upon how the manifestations of ‘shared’ cross-cultural (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) beliefs concerning magic translate into the manuscript and material cultures of the Middle Ages. Her specific focus in this area relates to manuscripts that embody the juxtaposition of symbols of licit or illicit magic, astrology and cosmology. Shandra is also a co-founder of Beyond Borders: A Medieval History of Art Blog and is currently preparing for her Ph.D.

  • Abraxas Special #1: A Printed Islamic Amulet. BUY

 

Susu Laroche

Susu Laroche is an anagram of Chaos Lure Us / Chaos Rule Us, and translates to Awakening The Rock. A photographer and film-maker of Egyptian and French descent, her current research is rooted in primitive cultures, limit-experience and the fault lines of history. Susu Laroche’s first book of photographs is released by Purge in October 2013.

  • Abraxas #4: Untitled. BUY

 

Adela Leibowitz

Adela Leibowitz is a New York-based artist of American Romanian and Iranian descent whose art explores and is informed by ancient mythologies, fairy tales, the female form and esotericism. Her recent solo exhibition of paintings Mesopotamian and Egyptian Mythology was shown at hpgrp Gallery in November 2013. Her art is represented by hpgrp Gallery in New York. She holds an MFA from the New York Academy of Art and has exhibited across the US, Canada, Japan and the UK.

  • Abraxas #5: Isis and Taweret with tomb of Hafiz. BUY

 

Liliana Leopardi

Liliana Leopardi holds an MA in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Art History. She is an assistant professor of Art History at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she teaches courses on the Renaissance and Baroque period, with a focus on gender construction and history of magic. Her research interests lie in reframing the use of ornament in Renaissance paintings, with a particular focus on gems and jewellery as vehicles of astral magic and as symbols of alchemy.

  • Abraxas Special #1: Speculum Lapidum: Some Reflections on Sixteenth-Century Intaglios and Astral Magic. BUY BUY

 

Bea Kwan Lim

Bea Kwan Lim was born in 1986 in Kuala Lumpur. She currently lives and works in San Francisco. Her drawings reflect personal studies in mythology and rituals embodying self-sacrifice in reverence to the resilience of nature. Travels to Jeju Island in Korea and Siem Reap in Cambodia were vital parts of her research in spiritual sickness and animism. Her work has been exhibited in Japan, Belgium and the United States. She is represented by Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York and is a member of John Zorn’s Obsessions Collective.

  • Abraxas #5: Nihilalia: Randall Morris in conversation with Bea Kwan Lim. BUY

 

Gerd Lindner

Gerd Lindner is an art historian born in 1962 in Dresden. Since 1991 has been director of the Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen, Germany. He is also an exhibition curator, an author and editor of numerous catalogues and monographs on contemporary art of a figurative and Mannerist, metaphoric and fantastic kind, and (co-)author of several standard works on Werner Tübke, Horst Sakulowski, Heinz Zander and other masters of the Leipzig school. He is a board member of the Tübke Foundation, Leipzig.

  • Abraxas #4: Agostino Arrivabene Special Feature. From the Mystery of Passage. BUY

 

Grevel Lindop

Grevel Lindop lives in Manchester, where he was formerly a Professor of English at the University and is now a freelance writer. He worked with the late Kathleen Raine as deputy editor of the journal Temenos and now chairs the academic board of the Temenos Academy. His edition of Robert Graves’s The White Goddess (1997) is now the standard text. He has published six collections of poems, most recently Playing With Fire (2006), and Selected Poems (2001). He teaches Buddhist meditation and has a wide range of esoteric interests.

  • Abraxas #2: The White Goddess: A Personal Account. SOLD OUT

 

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender person, and one of the founding members of the Ekklesía Antínoou – a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist group dedicated to Antinous and also practices Celtic Reconstructionism. Lupus’ essays, poetry and fiction are available in several Bibliotheca Alexandrina devotional volumes, the Scarlet Imprint anthologies Datura and Mandragora, as well as six sole-authored books, including Devotio Antinoo.

  • Abraxas #5: Antinous and Glykon: The Gods of Good Hair in Late Antique Anatolia. BUY

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Patricia MacCormack

Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. She is the author of Cinesexuality (2008) and Posthuman Ethics (2012) and the editor (with Ian Buchanan) of Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema (2008) and the editor of The Animal Catalyst: Toward Ahuman Theory (2014). She has also authored numerous articles on Continental Philosophy, teratology, animal rights, perversion, Italian horror film and necrophilia. She has given a number of public lectures on Chaos Magick, film, art and philosophy.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Alchemical Cinema: Film and Spectatorship Rituals. {BUY}

 

Ian MacFadyen

Ian MacFadyen is an independent scholar and writer, based in London. He co-edited with Oliver Harris the book NakedLunch@50: Anniversary Essays (2009), to which he contributed six Dossiers. His libretto Point of No Return, on the life and death of Joan Burroughs, was performed at the University of London Institute in Paris in 2009. His essay ‘Machine Dreams: Optical Toys and Mechanical Boys’ was published in the collection Flickers of the Dreamachine (1996) and his essay ‘Ira Cohen: A Living Theatre’ appeared in Licking the Skull (2000, republished 2006).

  • Abraxas #2, IRA COHEN SPECIAL FEATURE: The Far Side of the World’s Mirror. SOLD OUT

 

Malgorzata Maj

Malgorzata Maj (Sarachmet) was born in 1980 and currently lives in Gliwice, Poland. In 2004 she graduated from Warmia-Masuria University in Olsztyn with an MA, specializing in traditional techniques including painting on silk. Since 2005 she has been an illustrator and photographer who fell in love with 19th century painting colours and themes, ghostly moods & dreamy visions. In March 2010 she contributed to the exhibition ‘Phantasms’ at Cabinet des Curieux, Paris, France.

  • Abraxas #2, Spells. SOLD OUT

 

Ioannis Marathakis

Ioannis Marathakis received his BA in Theology from the National University of Athens. He has worked as a high-school teacher of religion, a translator and an editor. His research focuses on the history of magic from late antiquity to the Renaissance, and he has published several relevant papers in Greek and English. He is the editor of The Magical Treatise of Solomon or Hygromanteia, which includes a commentary and a translation of the Greek prototype of the Key of Solomon.

  • Abraxas #5: The (Not Entirely) Lost ‘Art of the Apothecary’: Abramelin Oil and Ancient Perfumery. [BUY]

 

Matt Marble

Matt Marble (1979, Mississippi) is a composer/performer, writer and visual artist currently based in Napa, California. He is a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at Princeton University and is currently completing his dissertation on the role of esoteric Buddhism in the creative process of Arthur Russell. Matt’s writings focus on artists and other individuals whose work is inspired by esoteric spirituality and visionary experience.

  • Abraxas #6: The Hermes of Harlem: Harlem Esoterics and the Secret Life of Robert T. Browne. [BUY]

 

Alexandra Marrancini

Alexandra Marraccini received her BA from Yale University in History, and her MA in Medieval Studies at University of Toronto, where she continued to work on book illustration as a locus of discourse about nature and the structure of natural knowledge. Her research focuses on late medieval and early modern scientific images, particularly alchemical and medical material, in England, Scotland, Germany and the Netherlands. Currently, she is writing on the history of Hermetic–scientific images and diagrams.

  • Abraxas Special #1: Charming Intentions – Open Secrets: Alchemical–Hermetic Imagery in the Ripley Scrolls. [BUY]

 

Leon Marvell

Leon Marvell has had chapters published on Surrealism and alchemy, Bataille and Masson’s image of the Acephale; Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet, the future technology of the Lifebox (with Rudy Rucker) and is the author of Transfigured Light: Science, Philosophy and the Hermetic Imaginary. He has produced work for the theatre, film and radio and has been kicked out of a well-known occult organisation twice for subversive activities.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Nosferatu Daemonium, a Cinematographic Grimoire. [BUY]

 

Siofra McSherry

Siofra McSherry was born in Northern Ireland and read English at Christ Church College, Oxford. She pursued an MA at University College London, followed by a doctorate at King’sCollege London. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, and has recently been awarded a Getty Fellowship. Siofra has published her poetry in British and Australian journals and her work has been anthologised in The Salt Book of Younger Poets (2011) and? elsewhere. She also works as an art critic and publishes regular articles on contemporary art in the US and Europe.

  • Abraxas #3: Casting Song. [BUY]

 

Roberto Migliussi

Roberto Migliussi is an artist and publisher who lives near Florence, Italy. For twenty years he has pioneered the Italian translation of important works by Kenneth Grant, Michael Bertiaux and Austin Spare, founding his own imprint ‘Labirinto Stellare’ to successfully promote their work.

  • Abraxas #1: Automatic Drawings. SOLD OUT

 

Christina Mintrentse

Christina Mitrentse is a London-based multidisciplinary artist and educator concerned with esoteric qualities of cultural construction through manifold processes of drawing, print, vintage book sculpture and site-specific installations. Mitrentse is known for the provocative ‘living’ project The Secret School (2005) and for Add To My Library, a major international book art project and touring exhibition. She is the founder of Bibliographic DataFlow, an ongoing systematic methodology and a total work of art, designed to provoke changes in the material book.

  • Abraxas #3: The Secret School vol. I, II, III. [BUY]

 

Misior

Misior was born in 1976 in Poland and is a graphic designer, an illustrator and a surrealist painter. He regards art as a unique tool of cognition, limited neither by logic, nor the limits of consciousness. His artistic style has been influenced by the Renaissance, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, symbolists such as Gustave Moreau and Fernand Khnopff, Austin Spare, the surrealism of Max Ernst and Remedios Varo, the colors of Balthus and Hopper, along with Moebius and Manary’s comic strips.

  • Abraxas #2, Elucidarium Zza Firanki. SOLD OUT

 

Alan Moore

Alan Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books including Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. Frequently described as the best graphic novel writer in history, he has been called “one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years”. He has occasionally used such pseudonyms as Curt Vile, Jill de Ray, Translucia Baboon, and The Original Writer.

  • Abraxas #2, Fossil Angels. SOLD OUT

 

Justin Patrick Moore

Justin Patrick Moore is a student of the Mysteries living in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family. He is the author of the novelette Water, In the Dry Land (2012) and editor of The Dyslexicon: A Journal of Hypnagogic Revelation, of which issue 8 was published in 2013. His artwork, poetry and music appeared in issue 4 of Silk Milk. He hosts the weekly radio programme of freeform esoterica On the Way to the Peak of Normal on WAIF FM. Dreams form a core of his magical practice.

  • Abraxas #4: The Library Angel and Her Oracle. [BUY]

 

Randall Morris

Randall Morris is a writer, independent scholar, and co-owner of Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York. With his partner Shari Cavin he has specialised in non-mainstream art since 1980. He is currently working on a project called INDIGENOUS DRAWING: The Shamanistic Impulse in Non-Mainstream Art. Particular areas of interest have been visionary artists from the African diaspora, particularly Haiti and Jamaica, and Asia.

  • Abraxas #5: Nihilalia: In conversation with Bea Kwan Lim. [BUY]

 

Joshua Mostafa

Joshua Mostafa was raised in north London, North Wales and Brighton. He studied at Royal Holloway and Sydney University, and is currently working for Fairfax Media. Living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales since 2008, he is the founding editor of New Trad, a journal of contemporary poetry using archaic forms.

  • Abraxas #6: Hymn to Saraswat?. [BUY]

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David Nez

David Nez (1949, Massachusetts) is an artist, writer, astrologer and ritual magician. He studied painting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the Akademija Za Likovno Umetnost from 1967 to 1971. During that period he collaborated with the avant-garde Slovenian artists’ collective Grupa OHO and participated in exhibitions in Yugoslavia, Germany and Italy, culminating with the Information show at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in 1970. He has taken part in retrospectives at the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands (2006) and MOCA in Los Angeles (2012).

  • Abraxas #6: Le Pendu. BUY

 

Judith Noble

Judith Noble is a Senior Lecturer in Film Production at the Arts University, Bournemouth, where she recently completed a research fellowship examining occult aspects of the work of the film-makers Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger. She is also a practising occultist. She has published on film and the occult and on Paganism and film. She was formerly head of production at Sgrîn Cymru Wales, where she acted as executive producer on feature films including Peter Greenaway’s The Tulse Luper Suitcases.

  • Abraxas Special #1: The Magic of Time and Space: Occultism in the Films of Maya Deren. BUY
  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: The Light Behind the Lens – The Occult Cinema of Kenneth Anger. BUY
  • Black Mirror 0 (co-editor) Introduction. BUY

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Shani Oates

Shani Oates lives in Derbyshire where she is a devoted practitioner of the true esoteric art. A mystic and pilgrim, she finds expression through her writing, visionary sketches, photography and therapeutic holism. Her essays and articles are included within: Hecate: Her Sacred Fires (2010) and The Cauldron, Pendragon, The White Dragon, Pentacle, The Goddess, The Hedge Wytch and The Wytch’s Standard. Her debut book, Tubelo’s Green Fire, was released in 2010. She is current Maid of the people of Goda, of Clan of Tubal Cain.

  • Abraxas #2: Pashupati: A Cainite Trimurti?. SOLD OUT

 

Christine Ödlund

Christine Ödlund is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Sweden. Her work has been exhibited globally and is currently included in a group exhibition, Art & Music – Search for New Synesthesia at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. At the end of 2012, she participated in Swedish Energies: A Festival for Experimental, Improvisational and Visionary Music & Performance Art in New York. The combination of these three terms – experimental, improvisational, visionary – evocatively describes Ödlund’s work, which connects the material and immaterial in ways that resist categorisation.

  • Abraxas #4: Interview with Christine Ödlund, Sarah Victoria Turner. BUY

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Joanna Pallaris

London-born Joanna Pallaris graduated in Illustration from Camberwell College of Arts in 2004 where she developed a deep interest in analogue photography. Completing further courses in alternative processes opened new doors. Experimentation and printing in the darkroom are as essential as composing the image. In 2006 she came runner-up in the Guardian Review Book Competition. She has held solo exhibitions in the UK and Italy.

  • Abraxas #5: Oversoul. BUY

 

Francesco Parisi

Francesco Parisi lives in Rome where he has a studio. He works primarily as a wood-engraver, but also produces finely detailed figure drawings with esoteric and symbolist themes. His large landscapes are evocative of an ancient, timeless, Italy. A voracious and keen reader, his library holds many obscure and fascinating volumes on art and philosophy. His work may be found in the collections of the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp.

  • Abraxas #1: Lucifer in Starlight: An Interview with Francesco Parisi. SOLD OUT

 

Gavin Parkinson

Gavin Parkinson is Senior Lecturer in European Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, Reviews Editor of the Association of Art Historians’ flagship journal Art History and Series Editor of Ashgate Studies in Surrealism. He lectures and writes on European and American art and culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His books are Futures of Surrealism: Myth, Science Fiction and Fantastic Art in France 1936-1969 (Yale University Press 2015); Surrealism, Art and Modern Science: Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology (Yale University Press 2008); and The Duchamp Book (Tate Publishing 2008). He is also the editor of the collection of essays Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics (Liverpool University Press 2015). He has just completed a book on the Surrealist reception of late nineteenth-century art, titled Enchanted Ground: André Breton, Modernism and the Surrealist Appraisal of Fin de Siècle Painting.

  • Black Mirror #0: Surrealism’s Popular Occultism: From H.P. Lovecraft to H. Rider Haggard. BUY

 

Marco Pasi

Marco Pasi is Associate Professor in the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. He has written extensively on the history of modern Western esotericism, especially in relation to magic, art and politics. He is the author of  Aleister Crowley e la tentazione della politica (1999), translated into several languages. He has edited Peintures inconnues d’Aleister Crowley: La collection de Palerme (2008), and co-edited Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations (2010).

  • Abraxas #3: Aleister Crowley, Painting, and the Works from the Palermo Collection. BUY

 

Sarah Penicka-Smith

Sarah Penicka-Smith lives in Sydney, Australia with her wife, her very black cat, two fish and a disabled Jack Russell Terrier. She studied arts and music at the University of Sydney, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Studies in Religion. Sarah’s other life is as a choral conductor, and she has directed the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir since 2005.

  • Abraxas #1: Caveat Anoynter!: A Study of Flying Ointments and their Plants. SOLD OUT

 

Edwin Pouncey

Edwin Pouncey was born in Leeds in 1951 and now lives in south London. Under the nom de plume ‘Savage Pencil’ his art has mauled and entertained a generation with a ‘stinking psychedelic cesspit of corpse cluttered comix.’ As a music journalist, his writings and Trip Or Squeek cartoon strip are featured regularly in The Wire. He is currently working on a series of paintings, performances and other artworks with Chris Long (aka Eyeball) under the moniker Battle Of The Eyes.

  • Abraxas #2: IRA COHEN SPECIAL FEATURE: Remembering Ira. SOLD OUT

 

Mike Pursley

Mike Pursley lives in Baltimore, MD, and is currently completing a Master of Liberal Arts degree at Johns Hopkins University. Mike makes abstract music and is a book reviewer for Fortean Times. His most recent audio release is the Mold Omen cassette Ascension or Whatever, available on Holy Page Records.

  • Abraxas #6: John Jacob Niles, Ambrose Bierce and Folk Song as Thoughtform. BUY

 

Ian Pyper

Ian Pyper was born in Liverpool but now lives on the south coast in Brighton. He always thought of himself as an outsider. He has many interests, including the holographic paradigm, witch trials in history and the rituals of scarification in tribal societies. His work has been featured in Raw Vision #25 (‘The Spiritual Diaries of Ian Pyper’ by Kate Howlett-Jones) and Resurgence #210 (‘Ian Pyper: A Shamanic Spirit’ – also by Kate Howlett-Jones).

  • Abraxas #5: A Brief History of Witchcraft: Inquisitors & Witches. BUY

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Imma Ramos

Imma Ramos is a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge. Her research explores the importance of art, ritual, myth, sacred geography and iconography in places of worship consecrated to the Hindu goddess Shakti, known as Shakti Pithas: Kalighat and Tarapith in West Bengal and Kamakhya in Assam. These are three of many temple complexes that were built on sites where parts of the goddess’s body fell, scattered across the subcontinent.

  • Abraxas Special #1: Impurity, Auspiciousness and Power: The Tantric Transformations of Lajja Gauri at Kamakhya. BUY

 

Max Razdow

Max Razdow is a New York City-based artist who uses techniques of ink-scrying to form symbolic poetic creations in various media. He has shown his work extensively both internationally and in the United States and holds a BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and an MFA from New York University. His work is represented by Freight + Volume in New York and Galerie Jan Dhaese in Ghent, Belgium.

  • Abraxas #5: De Vermis in Se. BUY

 

Peter Redgrove

Peter Redgrove (1932-2003) was a prolific and widely respected British poet whose contribution spanned more than 40 years. His interest in mysticism and magic led was further inspired by a move to Cornwall towards the end of his life. His published work includes The Black Goddess and the Sixth Sense (1987) and The Wise Wound (1978), the first dedicated exploration of the mysteries of menstration, co-written with his second wife Penelope Shuttle.

  • Abraxas #2: Peter Redgrove: Blood and Dreams (article by Edward Gauntlett). SOLD OUT
  • Abraxas #2: Sorceress in Mauve. SOLD OUT

 

Ron Regé

Ron Regé, Jr. is a very unusual yet accomplished storyteller whose work exudes a passionate moral, idealistic core that sets him apart from his peers. His new book The Cartoon Utopia is his magnum opus, a unique work of comic art focusing on magical, alchemical, ancient ideas and mystery schools. It’s part sci-fi, part philosophy, part visual poetry and part social manifesto. Regé’s work exudes psychedelia, outsider rawness and pure cartoonish joy.

  • Abraxas #4: Observation of Ancestral Mysteries. BUY

 

Residue

Residue was born in 1964 in Halifax. He lives out his magical existance in Yorkshire. He is not part of any magical lineage, though is influenced by Kenneth Grant, Austin Spare and philosophical writings of Deleuze. He often dwells on magical mechanisms, machine.nature combinations, by creating magical si-fi maps or rituals. He also often makes parodies of ‘awareness zones’ or develop pastiches of the illusion of seperateness. These manifest through squiggles and robotic images, fetish voodoo rituals, pods, gadgets and shrines.

  • Abraxas #2: Out of the Zero Hours. SOLD OUT

 

Francesca Ricci

Francesca Ricci has been living in London since 1998. She co-founded and co-edited the independent art magazines Interlude (2004–6) and 20×20 magazine. Recent exhibitions include Tabula Impressa and Celestial Bodies (2013), Cross Sections/01 (2012) and I Beg You to Hear Me! (2011), all at the dalla Rosa Gallery, London, and the group shows 20×20 magazine: collected visions (Madame Lillie’s, London, 2010), agency@theAgency (the Agency, London, 2010), and Art/Value/Currency (The Pigeon Wing, London, 2009).

  • Abraxas #4: Tabula Impressa. BUY

 

Leo Ruickbie

Leo Ruickbie is the editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, and sits on the committee of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik. He has a Ph.D. from King’s College London for his thesis on modern witchcraft and re-enchantment. He is also the author of Witchcraft Out of the Shadows (2004, 2011), Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician (2009), A Brief Guide to the Supernatural (2012) and most recently A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting (2013).

  • Abraxas #6: The Black Magic Code. BUY

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S F Said

SF Said is a London-based writer and photographer. He writes children’s and young-adult fiction, including the novels Varjak Paw and Phoenix, illustrated by Dave McKean. His Polaroid photography is featured in the book London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide, published by Strange Attractor Press, and was exhibited at the Maggs Gallery in London. He posts regularly on Twitter as @whatSFSaid

  • Abraxas #5: Esoteric City: Theological Hermeneutics in Plato’s Republic (photos). BUY

 

Jack Sargeant

Jack Sargent’s most recent book is Against Control; previous books include Deathtripping: The Extreme Underground and Naked Lens: Beat Cinema. His writings on film and culture appear in numerous anthologies and journals, and have accompanied the BFI release of Jeff Keen’s films and the Industrial Records Throbbing Gristle DVD box set. He appeared as an interviewee in Blank City, The Advocate for Fagdom and Llik Your Idols. He has lectured on underground film, beat culture, William Burroughs and many other topics across the world. A curator, he is currently the programme director for the Revelation Film Festival.

  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Introduction: Haunted Cinema and Sacred Communication. BUY
  • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Transmissions and Expansions: Occult Cinema and Public Ritual. BUY

 

Daniel A. Schulke

Daniel A. Schulke is the presiding Magister of Cultus Sabbati, a magical order of traditional witchcraft initiates in England and North America. He has authored two books for Xoanon Publishing, Ars Philtron (2001, 2008), and Viridarium Umbris: The Pleasure-Garden of Shadow (2005).

  • Abraxas #1: The Green Intercessor: Tutelary Spirits and the Transmission of Plant-Magic. SOLD OUT

 

Ulli Seegers

Ulli Seegers is a junior professor of art education at the University of Dusseldorf with an emphasis on the museum and art market. Her teaching and research areas cover, but are not exclusive to, exploring occult traditions in modern art since 1800. Seegers has an extensive repertoire of published writing including, Alchemy of Vision. Hermetic Art in the 20th Century: Antonin Artaud, Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, (Cologne: Walther König, 2003), and ‘Hermetic Art as a Theory of Aesthetic Intuition’ in Sensory Perception and Construction of Meaning ed. v. Jorn Rusen (Essen, 1999).

  • Black Mirror #0: Creative Destruction: The Alchemy of the Art Market. BUY

 

Lindsay Seers

Lindsay Seers works and lives in London. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London (BA (Hons), Sculpture and Media, 1991–4) and at Goldsmiths College, University of London (MA Fine Art, 1999–2001) and has won several grants and awards. Recently she won the Sharjah Art Foundation Production Award 2012 and the Paul Hamlyn Award 2010. In 2009 she won the Derek Jarman Award, an award that recognises individual artist film-makers; she received the Wingate Scholarship from the British School at Rome, 2007/8.

  • Abraxas #4: Nowhere Less Now. BUY

 

Gavin W. Semple

Gavin W. Semple was the co-founder of FULGUR in 1992, conceived in part as a ‘propaganda vehicle’ for the artist Austin Osman Spare. Around the same time he entered into fruitful collaboration with several modern practitioners of the magic arts, including Andrew Chumbley. A practitioner, writer, photographer and musician of acknowledged integrity, Gavin continues to pursue his interests in Austin Spare, music and the liminal.

  • ZOS-KIA: An Introduction to the Art and Sorcery of Austin Osman Spare (1995). SOLD OUT
  • Two Tracts on Cartomancy by Austin Osman Spare. (Introduction) (1997). SOLD OUT
  • Zos Speaks! Encounters with Austin Osman Spare. (1999) (Co-editor). SOLD OUT
  • Study for a Portrait of Frank Letchford. (2002). SOLD OUT
  • Some perspectives on the philosophy of The Book of Pleasure (2004). SOLD OUT

 

Allyson Shaw

Allyson Shaw is an award-winning poet, she is author of The Bon-bon and Love Token, a Powell’s poetry best-seller. With Edith Abeyta she is co-author of Salty: Three Tales of Sorrow. Much of her fiction and poetry has appeared in anthologies and literary journals. She lives in London where she knits, brews beer and writes while trying not to lose her Californian by-way-of-the-Midwest accent.

      • Abraxas #1: Mermaid Surgery. SOLD OUT

 

Dominic Shepherd

Dominic Shepherd studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art at both BA and MA level. He was a prize winner at the John Moores 23 exhibition in 2004 and was awarded a research fellowship at the AUB in 2008. He has exhibited internationally, with an extensive record of group and solo shows in London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Munich and Miami, He is represented by Charlie Smith, London.

      • Black Mirror #0: Introduction. BUY

 

Lauren Simonutti

Lauren Simonutti (1968-2012) Her images are born entirely from traditional photographic techniques. Her work is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC. Since 1998, Lauren produced a series of books in very limited editions exploring specific themes through her photographic work. She exhibited extensively, and her work has been featured in Silvershotz, Catchlight Magazine, Eyemazing, Descry Magazine, Soura, and La Négatif. In early 2010 she had a solo exhibition at the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago.

      • Abraxas #2: Five Studies. SOLD OUT

 

K Lenore Siner

K Lenore Siner is a self-taught painter based in Providence, RI. Her paintings are the expression of a lifetime devoted to practising mystical traditions including Western shamanism, Buddhist meditation and tantric techniques. With the intention of creating art that acts as talisman she incorporates precious metals, magical plants, ashes and waters into each painting, blurring the line between fine art and magical tool.

      • Abraxas #5: Blind Love. BUY

 

Penelope Slinger

Penelope Slinger’s work includes illustrations for Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy (1979, 2000), The Secret Dakini Oracle (1979) and The Path of the Mystic Lover (1993). From 1980 to 1994 she lived in the West Indies, subsequently moving to the US, where she currently resides in Boulder Creek, California. In 2009, her collages were exhibited at Tate St Ives as part of The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in Modern Art, and in Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism, Manchester Art Gallery.

      • Abraxas #6: The Alchemy of Liberation: An Interview with Penelope Slinger. BUY

 

Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm is a poet, bailaor flamenco and hip-hop MC. His poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Mandragora, Brigit: Sun of Womanhood and Blackletter Ballads. He is the author of Nazza and with the hip-hop/jazz trio Elekwent Folk has released five albums. He resides in Granada, Spain, where he works as the poet of the Taller de Arte Vimaambi, an office he inherited from the late Maria de los Angeles Argote Molina, and is a frequent collaborator with her flamenco troupe Raiz y Duende.

      • Abraxas #6: A Birch Trunk Notched Times Seven. BUY

 

Natalia Smirnova

Natalia Smirnova was born in Leningrad (St Petersburg). At St Petersburg Art School N. Roerich in 1990 she qualified as an art restorer. She has thoroughly studied the Russian Orthodox tradition, and for twenty years has been engaged in the restoration of ancient Russian icons. She is currently interested in Judaism. Smirnova’s paintings are a way to explain to herself the religious world-view. Her art uses the language of symbols and allegories typical of medieval icons.

      • Abraxas #6: Sofia Returning to Jerusalem. BUY

 

Savanna Snow

Savanna Snow is a California-based artist and practitioner whose work explores aspects of the female archetype, principles of the feminine and ritual space. She combines historical research, printmaking processes, hand-sculpted elements and painting into resonant objects. Her Hermetic prints are publicly and privately collected. They have been featured as posters for music festivals and ritual gatherings. Snow has exhibited her art in America and Ireland. Her sculptural works are permanently installed for the public in Santa Cruz and Alameda County.

      • Abraxas #4: Haxan II. BUY

 

Adel Souto

Adel Souto is a writer and musician from Miami, Florida, who is now based in New York City. He began the fanzine Feast of Hate and Fear in 1990, later opting for the internet in 2001. He has released a ‘best of’ FHF entitled Some Words (2010), Schizotypal (2011), which uses ritualistic automatic writing, and a book of poetry, 200 Throwaways (2012). He has also translated works by the Chilean occultist Miguel Serrano (2009), and is currently clanging metallic objects in the industrial outfit 156.

      • Abraxas #3: Do Me Dada Style. BUY

 

Michael Spann

Michael Spann has published in both academic and non-academic journals and his latest book, William S. Burroughs’ Unforgettable Characters has recently been published by Inkblot Publications (Providence, Rhode Island).

      • Abraxas Special #2, Luminous Screen: Holiest of Mountains. BUY

 

Stephanie Spoto

Stephanie Spoto finished her Ph.D. in English Literature from Edinburgh University with a research interest in gender and seventeenth-century demonology. Her work has been published in the journals Pacific Coast Philology and Monsters and the Monstrous, and appears in two edited collections: Daimonic Imagination: Uncanny Intelligence (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013) and Reclaiming the Soul: Thinking Beyond the Body in Renaissance England (forthcoming).

      • Abraxas #5: A Brief History of the Use of Spirits in European Occultism. BUY

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Shannon Taggart

Shannon Taggart is a photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times MagazineBlind Spot, Tokion, Yvi and Time. Her photographs have been shown at Photoworks in Brighton, the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, Redux Pictures in New York, and the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles. She is deeply interested in the intrinsic connection between photography and the immaterial.

  • Abraxas #4: Basement Vodou, with an Introduction by Pam Grossman. BUY

 

Hereward Tilton

Hereward Tilton has taught on Rosicrucianism, magic and alchemy in Renaissance and early modern Europe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the department for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, and the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism at the University of Exeter. His work on the occult developed from dreams and visions he experienced as a child. These led to an interest in the writings of Carl Gustav Jung and from there to research on early Rosicrucianism at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel under the auspices of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). This was followed by post-doctoral research on the Christian Cabalist Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605) as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. More recently, Hereward has been delving into the origins and practices of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz. He has published work on Rosicrucianism, magic and alchemy, most notably The Quest for the Phoenix: Spiritual Alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the Work of Count Michael Maier (1569-1622) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2003). His next book – Serpent on the Cross: The Ancient Occult Path to Liberation – is a practical account of Rosicrucian theurgical techniques and is due for publication with Rubedo Press in 2017.

  • Touch Me Not! , with an Introduction by Hereward Tilton. BUY

 

Mark Titchner

Mark Titchner was born in Luton in 1973. He graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, in 1995. In 2006 he was nominated for the Turner Prize for a solo show at the Arnolfini, Bristol. In 2007 he was included in the 52nd Venice Biennale, exhibiting in the Ukraine Pavilion. His work is held in the permanent collections of the South London Gallery, the United Kingdom Government Art Collection and the Tate. He is represented by the Vilma Gold Gallery, London.

  • Black Mirror #0: 0∞! (frontispiece) and O∞? (endpiece). BUY
  • Abraxas #2: Urban Sigils. SOLD OUT

 

Heather Tracy

Heather Tracy has been an actor and singer for twenty-seven years, working across a diverse range of genres and media from unrehearsed Shakespeare to comedy cabaret. She has had a long association with the Lions part, an eclectic company of professional performers who collaborate to create seasonal festivals incorporating stories, playtexts, music and folklore. She is currently forging a deeper understanding of theatre’s ritual and shamanic legacy through experiential exploration of paradox, humour, neurological shock and the interplay between voice, word and flesh.

  • Abraxas #2: She’s Lost Control. SOLD OUT

 

Panos Tsagaris

Panos Tsagaris was born in Athens in 1979. He received his BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada. Through his work Tsagaris aims to express the emanation of the ‘divine’ as it is reflected through the beauty and poetry of the everyday in order to bring himself and the viewer closer to a state of catharsis. Ultimately, Tsagaris’s work selflessly captures and reflects the divine spark that exists in the human soul. He has exhibited extensively in Miami, New York, Vancouver, Athens, Berlin, Milan, Leipzig, Paris and Hong Kong.

  • Abraxas #5: Black and White & Gold All Over: An Interview with Panos Tsagaris by Pam Grossman. BUY

 

Sarah Victoria Turner

Sarah Victoria Turner is a lecturer in the Department of History of Art at the University of York. She is Principal Investigator of an international network funded by the Leverhulme Trust, Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c. 1875–1960. The network brings together art historians, musicologists, historians and literature specialists to explore what the visual, material and performing arts can tell us about the relationships between Theosophy, modernity and mysticism from c.1875 to 1960.

  • Abraxas #4: Interview with Christine Ödlund. BUY

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Joseph Uccello

Joseph Uccello is a wayfarer in the Codex Naturae, and has found much inspiration in deep studies of Hermeticism and the great Paracelsus. In 2008 he began studying typography and printing, and recently designed and typeset the Ouroboros Press edition of the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. He now pursues a kind of arcane futurism in typography, has developed special techniques in letterpress printing, and is an award-winning book designer. He currently runs the Viatorium Press.

  • Abraxas #3: Paracelsus: of the Umbratick Evester. BUY

 

Silvia Urbini

Silvia Urbini is an Italian art historian. She taught at the University of Bologna and is currently a contracted researcher for the Istituto per i Beni Artistici Culturali e Naturali in Emilia-Romagna. Silvia’s research focuses on historico-artistic methododologies and she is interested in understanding entwined forms of knowledge. She specialises in Renaissance book illustrations and books of fate. She is currently working on a publication entitled Somnii Explanatio: Italian Histories of Art in Henry Thode.

  • Abraxas #5: Games of Fate: Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne, Plate 23a. BUY

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Doreen Valiente

Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) was an influential English Wiccan who was involved in a number of different early traditions, including Gardnerianism, Cochrane’s Craft and the Coven of Atho. Responsible for writing much of the early Gardnerian religious liturgy, in later years she also helped to play a big part in bringing Wicca to wider public attention. Her published work includes Where Witchcraft Lives (1964), Witchcraft for Tomorrow (1978) and the posthumous collection of poems Charge of the Goddess (2000).

  • Abraxas #2: Invocation of the Horned God. SOLD OUT

 

Julian Vayne

Julian Vayne is a writer and practitioner living in the British Isles. He has contributed to various collections of essays, and for two years edited Pagan Voice, a monthly UK based Pagan newspaper. Titles include; Pharmakon: Drugs and the Imagination, Magick Works: Stories of occultism in theory and practice and Deep Magic Begins here… tales and Techniques of Practical Occultism. Julian has contributed articles to academic publications including The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture and Seeking the Sacred With Psychoactive Substances: Chemical Paths to Spirituality and God. He is a founding member of Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Chair of The Friends of The Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft charity. A regular speaker at conferences on the subject of contemporary occultism he is a also a museum educator and in that capacity is the author of Wonderful Things: Learning with Museum Objects.

  • Black Mirror #0: The Fool and the Mirror: Concerning the Relations between Art, Magic and the Academy. BUY

 

Mary Vaughan

A native of Louisiana, Mary Vaughan applies cosmic gnosis to the cultural gnosis found in her Cajun upbringing. After teaching and writing in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and in Austin, Texas, she returned to Louisiana to raise her son and draw on the wealth of the swampy natural world to inform her poetry. Mary is currently working on a series of poems informed by the Gnostic Gospel of Philip and her practice of Voudon Gnosis. Her poems have appeared in the Tulane Review and Tempus.

  • Abraxas #6: Invoking the Numinous. BUY

 

Marie von Heyl

Marie von Heyl studied at Weißensee School of Art in Berlin and the Royal Academy Schools in London. Her work draws from the poetic friction and productive misunderstandings that emerge when different models of reality collide, overlap or not quite fit together. Of particular relevance are objects that serve as mediators between different belief systems or carriers of sentimental value, such as cult objects, fetishes, heirlooms and souvenirs. Marie uses drawing, collage, film and text to point at the beautiful, trace the uncanny and tap into the absurd. Her work is a playful dancing around things, characterised by formal richness and alchemic interconnetivity.

  • Black Mirror #0: The Secret Life of Objects: Marie von Heyl in Interview with Daniel Zamani. BUY

 

Ariock Van de Voorde

Ariock Van de Voorde is a writer, artist and musician living in the US Pacific Northwest. In the 1990s he owned and managed an occult bookstore, which hosted an experimental magick group loosely based on the New Isis Lodge. Ariock is an archbishop and administrator within the Ecclesia Gnostica Spiritualis, and a director in Black Lotus Kult.

  • Abraxas #5: Meeting Le Maître: An Introduction to the Art of Michael Bertiaux. BUY

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Mark Williams

Mark Williams was born in 1980 in London and is Fellow and Tutor in Medieval English Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford. He works on the medieval literatures and languages of Ireland and Wales, with a focus on the supernatural, the aesthetic and the imaginal. His first book, Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales, 700–1700, came out from Oxford University Press in 2010. His current project is a cultural history of the gods of Irish myth, to be called Ireland’s Immortals.

  • Abraxas #6: Ella Young and Ross Nichols: Sourcing the Irish Gods. BUY

 

Monika Winiarczyk

Monika Winiarczyk’s research interests include the representation of women and religious minorities within medieval Christian art as well as medieval depictions of the human body. Her Ph.D. thesis, entitled ‘If you prick her, will she bleed?: Synagoga and Medieval Female Jewish bodies’, examines the iconography of the medieval Christian personification of Judaism, Synagoga, in relation to medieval ideas surrounding the Jewish and female body.

  • Abraxas Special #1: Homo Signorum: Looking to God or Looking to the Stars? The Role of the Body in Medieval Christianity. BUY

 

Caroline Wise

Caroline Wise works in esoteric publishing. In 1989 she initiated the republication of the books of Kenneth Grant when at Skoob Books. She is a former owner of The Atlantis Bookshop and in the 1990s was the co-editor of the revived The Occult Observer. From the 1970s she has been involved in Earth mysteries and her particular interests are in researching goddesses and in the mythology of London. She knew Olivia Robertson for twenty-five years and travelled with her during the 1990s.

  • Abraxas #5: Olivia Robertson: A Visionary Life. BUY

 

Valentin Wolfstein

Valentin Wolfstein is a scholar of cultural history and comparative literature. He received his BA in Religious Studies at the University of Chicago and is currently finishing his MA at the Warburg Institute. An occasional psychonaut and poet, Valentin has had a prolonged and wide-ranging interest in the longue durée evolution and interplay of philosophical-religious ideas. A romanticist at heart, he is fascinated by the vastness of the human imagination and the varieties of ‘the occult’ expressed in visual art, literature and music.

  • Abraxas #4: The Mystic Fool: From Tarot to an Ideal of Ascendance. BUY

Y

Robert Yates

Robert Yates is a contemporary poet and translator from French, German and ancient Egyptian. He was born in Liverpool in 1984 and moved to London in 1992, where he has lived since. His poetry is published in several journals and he has published three volumes of work, Visions of Ecstasy and Boredom (London, 2003), Appendices to Life and Other Poems (London, 2004) and Go Dance to Your A-Sides if You Must (London, 2006).

  • Abraxas #3: Tread Well. BUY
  • Abraxas #4: After the Flood by Arthur Rimbaud (translator) BUY

Z

Daniel Zamani

Daniel Zamani attended Trinity College, Cambridge and specialises in occultism and magic in Surrealist text and image. In Michaelmas 2012, Dan was co-convenor of the two-day conference ‘Charming Intentions: Occultism, Magic and the History of Art.’ He is on the editorial board of the Black Mirror network.

  • Abraxas Special #1: The Magician Triumphant: Occultism and Political Resistance in Victor Brauner’s Le Surréaliste, (1947). BUY
  • Black Mirror #1: Embodying the Androgyne: Psychoanalysis and Alchemical Desire in Max Ernst’s Men Shall Know Nothing of This (1923). BUY


FORTHCOMING

 

Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, the Arts and the American West

Sarah V. Turner, James Mansell and Christopher Sheer, editors 

It is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already silently commenced. – MADAME BLAVATSKY

With these words, written in The Secret Doctrine in 1888, Helena Blavatsky drew a direct connection to the dynamic energy of nineteenth-century Americanism and the Theosophical Society. She and her successors would specify the American West as the site for a rebirth and re-enchantment of humanity, drawing those seeking spiritual fulfilment outside of organized religion to the dramatic landscapes of California, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The syncretic nature of Theosophy encouraged individualism in belief, fitting well the popular notions of freedom and personal agency used to characterize the American West.

In 2014, the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum at Utah State University staged the first exhibition to explore artistic responses to the confluence of enchanted thought in the American West in the early twentieth century. Building on this research, Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, the Arts and the American West will be the first publication devoted to these relationships in art and music. Through a series of interlocked contextual essays, interviews, and interpretations of individual works by the exhibition’s curators and invited scholars, this publication will explore the role of Theosophical thought in fostering dynamic cultural networks in the region that redefine the relationship between enchantment and modernism.

PUBLICATION  DUE: Winter, 2017

pelton

Agnes Pelton, Nurture, oil on canvas, 1940

COLLECTION: Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, Marie Eccles Caine Foundation Gift.


Touch Me Not!

Compendium Rarissimum totius Artis Magicae
Merlin Cox and Hereward Tilton, editors

We are delighted to bring you a full colour facsimile of this unique manuscript, augmented by translations of the German and Latin texts by Merlin Cox and Hereward Tilton.

A Most Rare Compendium…‘ is a Höllenzwang manuscript (lit. treasure-hunting) that dates from around 1790 and is replete with magical lore, pacts and vividly erotic images of demons and the practitioners who summon them.

Currently held by the Wellcome Trust, this edition represents the first publication of this extraordinary work.

PUBLICATION DUE: Early September, 2017

Just as there are magic mirrors in white magic with which an innocent maiden or youngster – as also a man suitable and prepared for the operation, and hallowed by the Word of God – can see and read marvellous things, and answer every question, so too there are mirrors in nigromancy. However, their preparation, use and power are entirely different.


The Taro of Ithell Colquhoun

Ithell Colquhoun

Ithell Colquhoun (1906–88) has frequently been considered solely as a footnote to the history of British Surrealism, but her contributions to the development of twentieth-century esoteric art and theory are now being more widely recognized.

Following the publication of  the Decad of Intelligence, we are pleased to be working with the National Trust to bring you a publication dedicated to her Taro; developed as a series of enamels in the 1970s.

This work carries an introduction by Dr Amy Hale.

PUBLICATION DUE: WINTER 2017


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