Tuesday, April 15th, 2014...9:26 am

Unmodified sexuality

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This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.

We return to the occult in this week’s feature from the Santo Domingo Collection. Today’s author is Austin Osman Spare, an English artist, writer, and occultist active in the first half of the twentieth century. While Spare’s finely-wrought illustrations recall the Art Nouveau conventions popular during his formative years, their imagery is more sexual, monstrous, and grotesque in nature. Spare was also an occultist with an idiosyncratic philosophy of consciousness and desire; he used automatic writing and drawing, among other techniques, to limn out his ideas. Among those drawn to Spare’s work was Aleister Crowley, who invited Spare to join his magical order, the A∴A∴; the two had a falling out not long afterward.

The work pictured here is The focus of life: the mutterings of A­āos, a semi-autobiographical text published in 1921 that lays out Spare’s essential philosophy, accompanied by his illustrations. The text deals particularly with sexual desire and the divide between the conscious and the unconscious; this excerpt demonstrates Spare’s theatrical way with language:

With this reflection Aāos became silent. Awaking from his Self-introspection he spake aloud to his body: “Man is something that has resurrected from an archetype, a previous desire gone to worms. All conceptions predetermine their degeneration or supersedure by degrees of morality.

Verily a new sexuality shall be mine,—unnecessary to degenerate or surpass.

To give it a name, I call it the Unmodified sexuality; without a name it shall be conscious of all desire: thus no ecstasy shall escape me. Its wisdom shall be dreams of Self-love vibrating all the manifestations—I am he, who self pleasures non-morally. (page 28)

Austin Osman Spare. The focus of life. London: Morland Press, 1921. PR6037.P25 F6 1921.

Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

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