I’m not going to comment on Austin Osman Spare’s mystical and magical beliefs, since I don’t know enough about them at this point. Apparently AOS began doing automatic drawings early in the 20th century some time before the Surrealists began to develop it more systematically in the 1920s. Spare’s book “Automatic Drawing” was published in 1916 with illustrated examples of his technique. In it he refers to Leonardo da Vinci’s admonition to use one’s imagination to produce battles, trees, landscapes, figures, etc. in stains on walls, ashes of a fire or the shapes of clouds.
The automatic drawing technique was then further exploited by American artists like Jackson Pollock without their ever bothering to credit the Surrealists as progenitors, much less Austin Spare (since I don’t imagine they knew he’d existed nor were familiar with his work). On top of that the human or figurative content was dropped from the method, thus divorcing it from it’s connection to Leonardo and the human tradition in general. Pollock understood this at the end as he began to try to re-introduce figuration into his dripped skeins. But by then Clement Greenberg had codified Pollock’s “drip painting” into a polemical weapon to be used to push “dead European” art of the historical stage, only to replace it with a series of sterile- isms forevermore in the land of the Zombies.
“Mr. Spare’s art is abnormal, unhealthy, wildly fantastic and unintelligible.” — The Observer
“And remember, you shall suffer all things and again suffer: until you have sufficient sufferance to accept all things.”–Austin Osman Spare
“The more Chaotic I am, the more complete I am.”–Austin Osman Spare
“For I am I: ergo, the truth of myself; my own sphinx, conflict, chaos, vortex—asymmetric to all rhythms, oblique to all paths. I am the prism between black and white: mine own unison in duality.”–Austin Osman Spare
“Great thoughts are against all doctrines of conformity”–Austin Osman Spare
“Darken your room, shut the door, empty your mind. Yet you are still in
great company – the Numen and your Genius with all their media, and your
host of elementals and ghosts of your dead loves — are there! They need no light by which to see, no words to speak, no motive to enact except through your own purely formed desire.”–Austin Osman Spare
“In our solitariness… great depths are sometimes sounded. Truth hideth in company.”–Austin Osman Spare
“Others believe in prayer . . . . have not all yet learnt, that to ask it to be denied? Let it be the root of your Gospel. Oh, ye who are living other peoples lives! Unless desire is subconscious, it is not fulfilled, no, not in this life. Then verily sleep is better than prayer. Quiescence is hidden desire, a form of “not asking”; by it the female obtains much from man.” –Austin Osman Spare
“The soul is the ancestral animals. The body is their knowledge.” — Austin Osman Spare
“Quietism, Buddhism, and other religions, everything which denies the flesh—is the great inferiority to God in ourselves, an escapism seeking sanctuary through fear of life and inability to accept ‘this reality’. They were hurt? Or was the odalisque unsatisfactory or too expensive? They expected too much for too little, or were too mean to pay—therefore: “All is illusion”. But the Stoic smilingly awaits the next shower of shit from heaven. Stoics are not Saviours, Saints or Heroes and are often confused and weary, yet they prefer to find their own way and to accept life as they find it. The schizophrenics, the melancholics and psychotics—they at least are secretive and inflict no religions on others. They prove the possibilities and utilities of ‘as if’ when totally accepted.”–Austin Osman Spare