Austin Osman Spare (30 December 1886 – 15 May 1956) was an English occultist, artist, author, and a probationer of the A∴A∴ Drawing comparisons to Aubrey Beardsley with his work, Spare influenced the art nouveau movement and anticipated surrealism. Though he never became as successful as his work perhaps deserved, his drawings and art were exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibition, and in 1907 had an exhibition at London’s Bruton gallery. Crowley discovered Spare through his art, and admitted him as a probationer of the A∴A∴, though the two would fall out not long after.
Spare studied H.P. Blavatsky, theosophy, psychoanalysis, and psychology. Spare claimed an initiation from a ‘Mrs. Patterson’, a link with a long line of witches that had survived the persecution of colonial Salem. His magical theories of the Zos Kia Cultus influenced Aleister Crowley’s student Kenneth Grant, and chaos magick theorists and practitioners of the later 20th and early 21st centuries.
Conscripted in the British army, Spare served during WWI as a medical orderly and war artist.
Spare wrote several books, including ‘The Book of Pleasure’ – an artistic and sexual exploration of the subconscious. In his writings and practices Spare placed great emphasis on sigils and sexual magick throughout his magical life, and claimed communication with many disembodied entities and elemental spirits.
Spare created his own magical system, the Zos Kia Cultus, and pioneered advances in automatic writing, sigil magick, and emphasized the unconscious mind as a font of inspiration. Spare’s theories included magical sigil creation based on the concept of sentient symbols and the alphabet of desire – particularly influential on present day chaos magick and groups including the Illuminates of Thanateros.
Spare died on 15 May 1956, aged 69.