Sunday, 29 April 2012

Austin Osman Spare and the Psychology of Transgression

Austin Osman Spare, Protection Against Evil People, 1955.

For many, the most original magician after Crowley to formulate a unique system, of sex, ritual magic, and artistic creations was Austin Osman Spare. The son of a London policeman, Spare demonstrated at a young age a talent for art, which led him to briefly attend art school. Spare’s artistic endeavour appealed to many attached to London’s avant-garde scene, and he also attracted the attention of Aleister Crowley who initiated into his occult order Argentium Astrum, or otherwise known as the AA∴. However, Spare at the age of twenty with his most notorious work, The Book of Pleasure, would take fundamental tenet of Thelema and the Nietzschean idea of trans-human valuation further, whilst using ritualised sex and art to tap into the inner depths of the subconscious mind as a source of magical power.[1]

At the core of Spare’s magical cosmology is ‘Kia’, which is an inconceivable primal energy that is the source of all manifestation, and in Spare’s words, “Absolute Consciousness (Kia, the Self) like Infinite Space (Nuit) is without a boundary; it is the plenum-void, formless and unlocatable; to all intents and purposes – nothing at all, except that it is the sole reality.”[2] The vehicle of this primal energy is called ‘Zos’, which refers to the human mind and body, and the human self reflecting the Kia is also by nature unbounded and blissful, demanding complete freedom from all laws. Therefore, “Ecstasy in satisfaction is the great purpose. Freedom from the necessity of law, realisation by the very wish, is the ultimate goal.”[3] Following from this Spare declared,

In pleasure Heaven shall break every law before this Earth shall pass away… He who is lawless is free… Without hypocrisy or fear ye could do as ye wish. Whosoever, therefore shall break the precept or live its transgression shall have relativity of Heaven. For unless your righteousness exist not, ye shall not pleasure freely and creatively.[4]

More explicitly than both Randolph and Crowley, Spare identified sex and its pleasures with the deepest nature of the Self through which the ‘I’ becomes infinity through the only true sense to exist, the sexual, and the only one desire, to procreate.

The most infamous of Spare’s magical methods to achieve such as state of transgression and finally tap into the ultimate source of magical power, consisted of the use magical sigils, abstract ideograms made up of letter combinations expressing a particular magical desire, and which would also act as the focus of the magicians meditation. In order though for the magician to bring this sigilised magical desire into reality the magician must enter an altered state of consciousness through a gnostic trance or ecstasy. Spare’s ultimate mean to achieving this was through sheer exhaustion, “that is, by so exhausting and emptying the mind that it is open to forces of the subconscious, which can then manifest the idea or desire represented in the magical sigil.”[5] This state of altered consciousness, according to Spare, could culminate through various ways, but the most powerful means was through the powerful momentum of the orgasm when a state of ecstasy prevails and the ego and Kia are in unison in a receptive state of openness and emptiness. In Spare’s word, “At this moment, which is the moment of generation of the Great Wish, inspiration flows form the source of sex, from the Primordial Goddess who exists at the heart of Matter.”[6] Spare also described the saturnalian use of,

The sense of smell, hearing and sight seduced by incense, mantric incantation and ritual, while taste and touch are made more sensitive by the stimuli of wine and… sexual acts. After total sexual satiation… an affectivity becomes an exteriorized hallucination of the pre-determined wish which is magical in its reality.[7]

Despite this liberating ecstasy being the path to tapping into the magical source of the primal essence of being, this final state of ‘exhaustion which Spare referred to also had a mystical quality to it where the limits of thought are exhausted resulting in an annihilation of all conceptual categories in a non-dualistic fashion. This mystical current in the sexual magic of Spare is clearly expressed when,

Desire is the conception I and induces Thou. There is neither thou nor I nor a third person – loosing this consciousness by unity of I and Self; there would be no limit to consciousness in sexuality. Isolation in ecstasy, the final inducement, is enough.[8]

[1] According to Kenneth Grant in his introduction to Austin Osman Spare’s The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love: The Psychology of Ecstasy, 1975, Sigmund Freud allegedly described Spare’s work as “one of the most significant revelations of subconscious mechanism that had appeared in modern times.”
[2] Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 205.
[3] Austin Osman Spare The Book of Pleasure. The Hermetic Library,
[4] Austin Osman Spare The Anathema of Zos: A Sermon to the Hypocrites, 1976, 13.
[5] Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, 231.
[6] Quoted in Nevill Drury, The History of Magic in the Modern Age, 2000, 123-124.
[7] Quoted in Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 197.
[8] Quoted in Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 201.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Magical Eroticism of Paschal Beverly Randolph

The most important figure in the rise of modern sexual magic was arguably the fascinating yet generally neglected figure of Paschal Beverly Randolph. Born in 1825 to a wealthy Virginian father and a slave from Madagascar, Randolph was a poor, self-educated free black raised in the poorer parts of New York. He was orphaned at a young age and ran away from his foster parents to explore a vast range of new spiritual traditions and to travel the world. Through his journeys in Egypt and the Near East he claimed to have been initiated by various seers and holy men, including Egyptian mages and Indian Brahmins. Upon his return to the United States he became involved with various Spiritualist movements, and was also involved in various political movements championing the cause and future of African Americans. These ideas of liberation would become a major theme in his spiritual writings and understanding of sex magic, especially in regards to gender equality. He also founded a new religious order, which he labelled the Brother of Eulis. Although he had been influenced by European Rosicrucian orders, he claimed that his order would surpass them and that the core of their spiritual teachings had a sexual magical element. Unfortunately, Randolph’s life ended after a series of tragic events. An accident had left him invalid which led him to excessive amounts of intoxication. Suspicious that his wife had betrayed him, he committed suicide in 1875.

Randolph’s work on sexual magic took place during mid-nineteenth century America, where the tremendous power of sexuality was slowly being recognised scientifically and socially, where it was praised within the confines of marriage and condemned outside of it. It was also an era of radical social movements and the foundation of various new religious movements and especially the Spiritualist movement, all of which were concerned with the spiritual side of sexuality but not all in the same fashion.

Randolph’s main contribution to Western occultism concerned sex. Apart from being an expert in the cure of sexual diseases and dysfunctions, he developed a system and practice of sexual magic that, as he claimed, could achieve all manners of marvels, both worldly and otherworldly. He saw his system of sexual magic as a path to a millennial new world. Randolph’s teachings would later on inspire and influence a host of new magical orders, such as the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Ordo Templis Orientis. His system of sexual magic has been described by Hugh B. Urban as “a system of magical eroticism, or affectional alchemy.”[1] As Randolph continuously stressed,

LOVE LIETH AT THE FOUNDATION... and Love is convertibly passion, enthusiasm affection heat, fire, SOUL, God... The nuptive moment, the instant wherein the germs of a possible new being are lodged... is the most solemn, serious, powerful and energetic moment he can ever know on earth.[2]

Randolph believed that the sexual drive is the most potent and fundamental force in the universe, due to its natural attraction between the active/positive and the passive/negative. Following Franz Anton Mesmer’s pattern of thought, Randolph understood the male and female as opposite yet complimentary electromagnetic forces, with the male genitals being the positive and the female the negative. Because sexual attraction is the most potent and fundamental force in nature, the experience of the orgasm is a very primordial, powerful, and critical moment in human consciousness. It is the key to magical power. At the moment of climax the soul is exposed to the energies of the universe and new life pours from the spiritual into the material realm. At this point anything that is truly willed can happen.

The moment when a man discharges his seed – his essential self – into a womb is the most solemn, energetic and powerful moment he can ever know on earth; if under the influence of mere lust it be done, the discharge us suicidal... At the moment his seminal glands open, his nostrils expand, and while the seed is going from his soul to her womb he breathes one of two atmospheres, either fetid damnation from the border spaces or Divine Energy from heavens. Whatsoever he shall truly will and internally pray for when Love... is in the ascendant, that moment the prayer’s response comes down.[3]

A unique feature of his sexual techniques, apart from the employment and magical use of the orgasm as a means of acquiring otherworldly sympathies, was his emphasis on the mutuality and equality of male and female in their loving union. All forms of sexual abuse within the Victorian framework, whether through masturbation or excessive intercourse, drained the body of the vital energy required for the undertaking of a sexual magical operation.

Despite being accused by many as promoting promiscuity and sexual license under the guise of his sexual magical teachings, Randolph was indeed a very conservative character. His practice of sexual magic is anything but mere hedonistic license. Sex, for Randolph, is strictly for married couples in a state of pure love.

Although for many in nineteenth century America Randolph might have appeared to be a radical, spiritual antinomian threatening the moral and spiritual foundation of society, his teachings on spiritualised love and sexual magic reflected and embodied many of the basic sexual values of his day, both physically and spiritually. His system was unlike the sexual techniques developed by many magicians to come who were inspired by him.

[1] Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, 23.
[2] Paschal Beverley Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods, and Rationale, 1874, 100.
[3] Paschal Beverley Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods, and Rationale, 1874, 339-340.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Marsilio Ficino on Eros and Magic

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Zachariah in the Temple, 1486-1490.

Eros and magic operate through the all-permeating pneuma that flows through each and every part of the cosmos, just as the human soul flows through each and every part of the human body. Eros is the almighty attractive power that holds all things as one, from the stars of the Heavens above through to the Earth below; and magic is the philosophy and gesture of understanding and manipulating these attractive relationships between the parts of the cosmos, between the parts of the human soul and body. Take for instance the ritual employment of talismans inscribed with images of the stars drawing down the life of the particular stars. Ultimately, the Magos is able to know and control these attractive forces through the cosmos as power, with the Magos being the male principle and power the female principle responding to his virility and charm, or neglecting him if he finally reveals himself as being impotent. The Magos is the lover, and power is the beloved, for “the lover and the magician both do the same thing: they cast their ‘nets’ to capture certain objects, to attract and draw them to them.”[1] According to Marsilio Ficino, the powers of eros and magic are entwined beyond belief, for both eros and magic work by the principle of attraction, which is the very force that holds the cosmos together,

The whole power of Magic is found on Eros. The way Magic works is to bring things together through their inherent similarity… In our body, the brain, the lungs, the heart, liver and other organs interact, favour each other, intercommunicate and feel reciprocal pain. From this relationship is born Eros, which is common to them all; from this Eros is born their mutual rapprochement, wherein resides true Magic.[2]

[1] Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium, 128.
[2] Marsilio Ficino, De Amore, VI, 10, 87.

The Whore of Babylon

William Blake, The Whore of Babylon, 1809.

“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, and upon her forehead was a name written a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sat. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into perdition. And the ten horns which thou saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. And he said unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sat, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”[1]

[1] Revelations 17: 4-18

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sex, Reality, and Metaphysics

Jan Saudek, Zuzanka's Night Window, 1979.

At the beginning of orgasm, a change of state takes place… and in an extreme case, during the spasm, the individual undergoes a traumatic experience of the power that ‘kills’.[1]

The word ‘sex’ throughout the history of humanity has always summoned multiple meanings, manifestations, and images expressing the most primal instinct of the human species. For humans, sexuality is a mode of experiencing themselves as sexual beings biologically, emotionally, and in some cases, spiritually. The implications of human sexuality can cover nearly all aspects of the human condition, embracing issues of culture, society, politics, philosophy, and religion. Regarding human sexuality one must neglect how it is also influenced by superior mental activity and by social, cultural, educational, and normative characteristics of areas where individuals develop. However, apart from being the very essence of the birth of life, it can also mutate into a dimension of demise, degeneration, and even horror. The endless tale of sex is one of pleasure and obsession, invoking both beauty and sorrow. Some of the most wondrous achievements of humanity have been inspired by this primal instinct, and the unfolding of history has been guided by the urges of human sexuality. Its ambiguous nature can be seen in how it serves and unites the two fundamental human drives of reproduction and pleasure. So great is the effect of sexuality on the human psyche and body that it has urged some to manipulate its force either by suppressing it or celebrating it in the pursuit of spiritual paths and exercises endeavouring to transcend and partake in the spiritual dimension. Its power has also been used as the most dreadful weapon to destroy, humiliate, and enslave. Despite these differences and many more, our relationship with it is the one uniting feature of humanity that we all accept and recognise. Even the absence of it is a reaffirmation of its existence.

[1] Julius Evola, Metafisica del sesso, 1969, page 91.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Sex, Magick, and To Mega Therion

Aleister Crowley presented various veiled instructions for practical operations of sex magick in his writings, the most infamous being the Grimoirium Sanctissimum, which he published in Book 4, appearing originally only in Latin. The Gnostic Mass can also be seen as a continuum of ideas and practices from Grimoirium Sanctissimum, and which are also described in some parts of Liber Aleph. The Star Sapphire and Liber Samekh also conceal some elements. In addition, Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni and Liber A’ash vel Capricorni Penumatici also describe features of sex magick but in highly veiled and symbolic terms.

A sex magick rite with Crowleyan flavourings and ritual gestures tends to focus on the ritual intent in advance with all participants aligning themselves to the same magical purpose, which must always coincide and be in sympathy with the True Will of the magicians. Depending on the form of ceremonial magick manifesting, some might decide to construct and empower ritual objects through their exercise of sex magick, whilst others might aspire to embody the Great Work. Preparations might include ritual bathing, extensive meditations, ceremonial invocations, consecrations, and so on. Once the preparations have been accomplished and the opening rituals performed, the participants are to stimulate each other sexually until fully aroused. Simultaneous recitations of invocations and chanting of voces magicae may be employed as long as they embody the correspondences of the nature and purpose of the rite.  When the sexual act commences, the magicians are to focus only on the purpose of the rite with the sexual performance extending as long as possible constantly driving the magicians in each other’s sexual embrace into a state of a natural trance and gnosis upon the threshold of the orgasm, constantly allowing the explosive ecstasy of the orgasmic energy to flirt intensely with their sexual senses. Throughout this they should passionately focus on the manifestation of their ritual purpose in conjunction with their Will by reciting mantric spells or rhyming incantations to assist them if they desire so. The orgasmic explosion of sexual fluids and energy should be simultaneous to express the annihilation of dualism and the celebration of the monadic nature of sex magick. However, the crucial element of the whole structure and expression of sex magick is at the point of orgasm, where although the conscious mind will be lost in waves of ecstasy, the Will of the magicians must remain even more focused on the intent of the rite.

Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well![1]

[1] Liber AL vel Legis, I, 57

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hell, Heaven, and a Paradise Lost

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book I, verse 331, 1866

“Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.”[1]

[1] John Milton, ‘Book I’, Paradise Lost, 1667, verses 242-263.

The Circle and the Triangle

Sir William Fettes Douglas, The Spell, 1864.

The Temple itself, within which are to be found the ritual Circle and Triangle, contains all magical gestures and words, for it represents the entire operative magical Cosmos and, by inference, the Magos as well, because of the perceived relationship between the Microcosm and the Macrocosm. On the walls are mounted banners, images, signs, and colours reflecting the nature of the ritual, and on the floor of the Temple are certain inscriptions, the most important of which is the Circle. The Circle, as place of containment of the Absolute, to Hen, is the manifestation of infinity and the sacred source of gnosis to which the Magos aspires. Within this symbol of holistic spiritual aspiration, the Circle becomes cosmic point for all ritual gestures of invocation. The holy names of power, barbarous words, and arcane geometric figures are inscribed around the periphery of the Circle to stipulate the exact nature of the ritual working. The Magos may desire to remain within the contained infinity of the Circle for the duration of the ritual, yet it is essential that the nature of the Circle be ritually affirmed within his mind and heart, for the Circle will otherwise remain yet another profane symbol echoing sadly and feebly from a distant past the occult formulas of geometric patterns. Every ritual gesture and every word must be a reflection of meaning and purpose of the ritual, an extension of his Will and that holy attempt to align with the pure forces of the Cosmos. The Magos may also desire to utilise the Triangle also as a symbol of containment, but serving a purpose not akin to that of the Circle. Unlike the Circle, the Triangle is employed for purpose of evocation, the magical act of summoning beings of the netherworld through spells and incantations. Within the circle is placed the sign, sigil, or seal of the spiritual being that is to be evoked, providing the manifestation of this being for the purpose of the ritual.