A Gateway for Oneiric Sorcery

Gateway for Oneiric Sorcery

“If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.”

The modulating half-light of the lanterns lit made the room appear to be cast in a brooding dusk. The dancing shards cast off by their flickering flames hinted upon the room’s vague structure but in no way dispelled the darkness, and caught upon the slowly moving motes filling the room instead; giving them the appearance of a vast firmament of stars revolving in the unfathomable reaches. Through the splintered walls of sleep she let the room’s long length assemble, recalling that there was a library here. The rooms liked to move. Stack upon stack of aged parchment piled towards the ceiling, threatening to topple under the cold weight of ink; towers of wax from innumerable melted candles; a roughly hewn wooden table with its distinctive flowing knots; windows leaden and in need of repair and the ornate mirror standing at the far side of the room, reflecting all. It was there, rooted deep, and all came into sharp relief as she built it back up. Her surroundings became more and more tangible as she went. It was the feeling of belonging she experienced as she paced the room slowly, her footfalls silent upon wooden boards, that let her know it was now complete.


The maid with glancing eyes drew then, from within darkened folds, a glinting blade mounted with a heavy hilt which rested perfectly within her hand as she carved her glyphs upon the mirror’s surface. As they burned intensely with emerald flame she felt the growing pull from behind the dark matter mirror. The mirror in which the broken howling stars reside; the edge of the abyss where all is destroyed and created, at the same time, for all of eternally.  The mirror now became as a doorway, a gateway for Oneiric Sorcery. As her mind journeyed forth, it were as if she walked out into space, a place beyond all known universes; here zephyr float; the serpent coils; a bejewelled spider scampers up her bare leg, weaving diamond threads in the darkness as the Beast roars. She continues to the other side with a thrusting of her senses and steps through the dark matter mirror to the great landscape beyond; spires drip and shimmer in the grey-gold filtered glow of the dying light and towering monoliths reach fathoms into an alien sky…

“A Gateway for Oneiric Sorcery”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Sorceress”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
Opening quote from “Descent of the Goddess Ishtar into the Lower World”
Text from the upcoming post “Bridging the Both: Astral Temples and Dream Control”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer

Supping At The Angel & Feathers by Michael Staley – Part 3

Mother of the Sun

Supping at the Angel & Feathers (Part three)

The card most readily associated with Maat is Atu VIII, Adjustment, assigned to the Hebrew letter Lamed and the zodiacal sign Libra. It shows a female Harlequin figure pirouetting within a diamond or vesica shape, finely balanced. She is masked, and bears the sword and balances of adjustment. The card is loaded with Maatian symbols. Crowley’s remarks on this card reinforce the close relationship with Atu 0 – a relationship the contemplation of which does so much to convey the essence of the Aeon of Maat:

This woman-goddess is Harlequin; she is the partner and fulfilment of The Fool. She is the ultimate illusion which is manifestation; she is the dance, many-coloured, many-wiled, of Life itself. Constantly whirling, under the phantom-show of Space and Time: all things are real, the Soul is the surface, precisely because they are instantly compensated by this Adjustment. All things are harmony and beauty; all things are Truth: because they cancel out. She is the goddess Maat; she bears upon her nemyss the ostrich feathers of the Twofold Truth.

Elsewhere in the same essay, Crowley stresses that this card is the feminine complement of The Fool. The relationship is so subtle and interwoven as to suggest identity. The mingling is indicated by a further passage, this time from Liber Aleph:

Now this Ox is the letter Aleph, and is that Atu of Thoth whose Number is Zero, and whose name is Maat, Truth, or Maut, the Vulture, the All-Mother, being an image of Our Lady Nuit, but also it is called The Fool, who is Parsifal, ‘der reine Thor’, and so referreth to him that walketh in the Tao.

These passages underpin firmly the identity of Maat with The Fool, and thus give insight into the nature of Maat. However, there is more here than simply a return to an advaitic, undifferentiated innocence. Maat represents the expression of that innocence through manifestation. It is why She holds the Balance; She is poised as delicately as a feather; and, as a fine balance, She is constantly making subtle compensations and checks in order to maintain the balance – for we have here the dynamic balance of Going, or constant Becoming, rather than the Silence and Stillness of Being. Reading the above extract from the essay on Atu VIII, what shines through is a sense of Perfection, or the Perfect Ion as Achad put it. We have the consummation of manifestation: the delicate, dynamic balance of the Naught and the All. The Perfect Ion, or the Aeon of Maat, is the perfection of manifestation, its ultimate flowering. It is the redemption of matter, the Daughter raised to the throne of the Mother.


It is the crescendo, following which is the return to Silence. The letters associated with Atus 0 and VIII are Aleph and Lamed respectively. The combination of the letters gives us LA (Nothing, not) and AL (God, the), the closeness of which constitutes the key to Liber AL. Crowley considered the subtle interplay of Aleph and Lamed to be of supreme importance, the basis for “a complete Cabalistic system of greater depth and sublimity than any other”. He went on to say that the details of this system had not yet been revealed; whether it was completed but remains unpublished, or whether its earthing by him was never finished, is not known. The most comprehensive account published is in the text of Liber V vel Reguli; it demonstrates the intimacy and complementary nature of the relation between Aleph and Lamed, Atus 0 and VIII, The Fool and Adjustment, conveying the essential flavour of the Aeon of Maat. It also makes apparent the expression of the Aeon of Maat in terms of the Tetragrammaton, in particular as Hé final; and there are three short, interesting passages from The Book of Thoth which bear on this aspect: The Union of the Father and Mother produces Twins, the son going forward to the daughter, the daughter returning the energy to the father; by this cycle of change the stability and eternity of the Universe are assured.

He [Harpocrates] is also the mystical absorption of the work of creation; the Hé final of Tetragrammaton. The Princesses represent the Hé final of the name. They represent the ultimate issue of the original Energy in its completion, its crystallization, its materialization. They also represent the counter-balancing, the reabsorption of the Energy. They represent the Silence into which all things return. They are thus at the same time permanent and non-existent.  Within the context of the Tetragrammaton, Maat is the Hé final, the “ultimate issue” of the “original Energy”, as well as its absorption. Again, Maat is the perfection, the Perfect Aeon, the flower at its peak. As Atu VIII She is glyphed by the poised, delicately balanced figure who pirouettes about a point – the point of return. She is the Perfect expression of the infinite potential of The Fool. Having flowered into perfection, She is poised on the edge of return or reabsorption – the Fool on the edge of the Abyss. This balance is to be seen in terms not of time, but of a perpetual and dynamic balance of being and non-being, of becoming. These ideas are tenuous and fleeting to the terrestrial mind, which is conditioned by duality and time. By a process of contemplation rather than intellectual grasping, however, these glyphs act as receivers, earthing flashes of insight which remain forever inexpressible in terms of reason, but which hover on the edge of awareness. Horus and Maat constitute a Double Current; they are twin aeons – the Twins of Tetragrammaton, the Son and the Daughter, the Vau and the Hé final.

Likewise, they are Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-paar-kraat, the manifest and unmanifest twins which are Perfection: and Perfection, being Silence, is Zain, the Wordless Aeon.

These twins are shadowed forth in Atu VI, assigned to Gemini; and contemplation of this card sheds further light on their interplay. Atu VI depicts the closeness of the Twins; it also, though, emphasises the disintegrative or purgative side of the formula solve et coagula – the breakdown into constituent elements, prior to their synthesis or reintegration. In the Atu this is suggested by the arrow, which is about to be shot by the figure of Eros or Cupid towards the Twins. The arrow is a symbol of direction, and shows the dynamic of True Will – which is not being but going, not individual but universal. The arrow pierces all points simultaneously in a perpetual orgasm; it is tipped with poison, an all-penetrant toxin capable of dissolving the illusion of separateness.

The complement of Atu VI is Atu XIV, Art, which depicts the flight of the arrow beyond its disintegrative stage. The Two are now resolved into their synthesis, which is Perfection. The arrow is soaring Beyond, piercing the rainbow. There is no goal, only the dynamic of the flight. The flight is towards Perfection, as we gather from the Vision of the Fifth Aethyr: And having known these [Isis and Nephthys] there are the wings of Maut the Vulture. Thou mayest draw to an head the bow of thy magical will; thou mayest loose the shaft and pierce her to the heart.

Maut the Vulture is a glyph of Maat, and Maat is Perfection: the perfection or redemption of matter, the perfection of Zero as Two. The arrow, as the magical will, has its own dynamic; it is on the return flight, soaring to its reabsorption into the undifferentiated consciousness from where it was loosed, that undifferentiated consciousness itself preparing to melt back into the Naught. This is representative of the Hé final, the original Energy in its completion; and in its counter-balancing, the reabsorption: the Silence from which all things issue forth, and into which they are poised to return.

Aeon of Maat

In 1974, Liber Pennae Praenumbra (The Book of the Foreshadowing of the Feather) was earthed. Often in opulent language, and expressed in flowing imagery, it is cast as a transmission from the Aeon of Maat – hence the title. The feather is a symbol of Maat, glyphing the weight against which the heart was judged in Amenta. The principal mantra from this text is IPSOS, ‘by the same mouth’:

By the same mouth, O Mother of the Sun, is the word breathed forth and the nectar received. By the same breath, O Counterweight of the Heart, is the manifest created and destroyed. 

“Mouth” suggests the Hebrew letter Pé, associated with which is Atu XVI, The Tower. This is a glyph of many intermingling ideas – the phallus erupting, the aspirant being shattered by the flash of illumination, and the dissolution of individuality at the impact of the cosmic. There is, however, another aspect – that of the pregnant Womb of the Mother. Liber 777 gives a correspondence for Pé as ‘The Crowned and Conquering Children emerging from the Womb’; later in the same section of 777 these children are referred to as Horus and Harpocrates. Crowley makes a more explicit reference to this aspect of Atu XVI in the course of his Comment on Liber LXV.

Pé is the letter of Atu XVI the ‘House of God’ or ‘Blasted Tower’. The hieroglyph represents a Tower – symbolic of the ego in its phallic aspect, yet shut up, i.e. separate. This Tower is smitten by the Lightning Flash of Illumination, the impact of the H.G.A. and the Flaming Sword of the Energy that proceeds from Kether to Malkuth. Thence are cast forth two figures representing by their attitude the letter Ayin: these are the twins (Horus and Harpocrates) born at the breaking open of the Womb of the Mother (the second aspect of The Tower as “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed”).

This Mouth is the Gate through which manifestation issues forth, and to which it returns; by the same mouth is the word uttered and absorbed. There is a clear connection with the foregoing remarks about Tetragrammaton, and in particular with the Twins – the Son and the Daughter, the Vau and the Hé final. The hieroglyphs coalesce; none can be pinned down and assigned a definite, clear and unambiguous meaning.

The four elements of the Tetragrammaton have meaning only in relation to each other;that meaning is dynamic – moving, flowing, shifting. We are dealing with the formulae as they have been refracted through terrestrial mind, with inevitable interpretation in terms of duality and time. The essence of glyph and symbol is conveyed intuitively, in a flash of insight. It is no more than a flash, because once the mind attempts to grasp the insight, it is gone. The flash is the refraction of the insight in terrestrial mind, a fleeting glimpse of the infinite and eternal.

Pan-dimensional Cosmic States

Maat is the Mouth both of ingress and of egress, of manifestation and of non-manifestation, of flowering and of reabsorption. It is the matrix from which everything springs, and to which everything returns. The Harlequin figure of Atu VIII is masked because She is the nothingness which masks itself with the play of form.

She is perfectly balanced, Perfection itself, the supreme balance of Zero and Two – their utter and perfect equivalence. ALIL, ‘the image of nothingness and silence which is a fulfilment of the aspiration’ is mirrored as LILA, the play of manifestation. The Aeon of Maat is not something distant in time – a future aeon some two thousand years hence, which somehow reaches back to us; it is here and now, and we need only to perceive it. It is the pellucidity of innocent, undifferentiated awareness, which is at the same time the perfection of manifestation: a perfection which is not something perhaps capable of attainment at some future time, but is already here – has always been, and will always be. It is the clarity and freedom of jivanmukta – liberation whilst yet living. The liberation is not of the terrestrial vehicle – which is a child of space and time, and thus subject to its limitations – but of consciousness, no longer shackled to the vehicle through which it has formerly focused, but able to expand and soar beyond its former confines.

Maat is at the core of matter or manifestation. It the background from which everything springs, in which it is nourished, with which it is infused, and to which it returns: undifferentiated awareness which lies forever beyond the boundaries of terrestrial awareness – boundaries which have no reality, are self-imposed and self-limiting. Initiation is the widening and deepening of awareness, the remembrance or re-membering of a pan-dimensional, cosmic state. The Aeons are states of initiation, the unveiling of awareness, which become apparent when the aspirant is ready to perceive; not uniform spans of time, but of indeterminate length. They are not successive, but simultaneous; likewise, Naught and Two are not merely different aspects of the same thing, but are utterly identical – “the soul is the surface, and the surface is the soul”. The Naught is not superior to the Two, nor the Two a progression from the Naught. This is a Truth which remains forever a closed book to the rational mind, but which flowers intuitively in the silence of contemplation.

It is with this continuum, this matrix, that we traffic when making ‘alien’ contact. As we become increasingly alive to those vast reaches of awareness which lie beyond the terrestrial, so there is a corresponding awareness that we are not confined to the terrestrial vehicle through which we have habitually focussed. This diffusion of identity may seem a strange, threatening idea to our rational way of thinking, conditioned as it is by language to perceive in terms of contraries such as subject and object, inner and outer, me and not-me. However, at deeper levels of awareness we know this to be a shallow superstructure. There is a sensation of recognition, of remembrance, of experiencing again an intrinsic state which had slipped awhile beyond conscious recall.

This state remains as a substratum, the hidden stream or current which powers the fountain. The Angel dwells at this point, where the terrestrial merges into the infinite and eternal; it is the point which is everywhere and at all times, veiled by the chimera of terrestrial identity, revealed by the dissolution of that identity. The Angel is ever present, infinite and eternal, a fountain of living waters from which we can drink at any time; all that is needed is to listen to the Voice of the Silence.

The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and the Aeon of Maat, are identical; this identity can be experienced at first hand by, quite simply, communing with the Angel. Magical and mystical experience is the life-blood of initiation, by which we are eternally supping at the Angel & Feathers.


Text: Michael Staley (with kind permission) – Starfire Publishing


“Mother of the Sun” – Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Jivanmukta” – Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Aeon of Maat” – Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Pan-dimensional Cosmic States” – Matt Baldwin-Ives

Supping At The Angel & Feathers by Michael Staley – Part 2

Liber Samekh

Supping at the Angel & Feathers (Part two)

Extra-terrestrial contact has also occurred in the case of people who do not regard themselves as occultists or magicians. The contact need not be conscious, and an interesting example of this occurs in Lovecraft’s work, much of which was written as an outlet for – and an attempt to come to terms with – his extraordinarily rich, intense and exotic dreams.

Quotation has already been made above from Beyond the Wall of Sleep; many others of Lovecraft’s stories instance traffic with extra-terrestrial elements. A perusal of his Selected Correspondence makes it clear that this contact occurred whilst dreaming; during waking hours, an obsessive rationalism came into play, and Lovecraft dismissed the significance of his dreams as anything other than fodder for his stories.

The stories themselves, though, are clear testament to how deeply he was disturbed by such contact; and also that, however much the rational aspect of him cavilled, in deeper dimensions of consciousness he not only knew that the contact was real, but also understood the significance. Such contact typified the intrusion of alien consciousness into his own – alien, that is, to his conscious, terrestrial vehicle; alien in the sense of being out with the self-imposed boundaries of that terrestrial vehicle; but ultimately not alien, since nothing exists outside consciousness. The sense of alien intrusion via the matrix of creative imagination was expressed by Lovecraft in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith of October 17th, 1930:

…The true function of phantasy is to give the imagination a ground for limitless expansion, & to satisfy aesthetically the sincere & burning curiosity and sense of awe which a sensitive minority of mankind feel towards the alluring & provocative abysses of unplumbed space and unguessed entity which press in upon the known world from unknown infinities & in unknown relationships of time, space, matter, force, dimensionality, & consciousness.

For the magician, the first clear instance in his initiation of sustained, extra-terrestrial contact is often the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel – a contact characterised as marking occult puberty. It is difficult not to speculate on the nature of the Angel, since this stage of initiation looms so large in magical tradition. Like so much else, though, it is beyond the conception of the human mind. Sometimes the Angel is delineated as an entity wholly separate from ourselves, almost a spiritual body-guard assigned to watch over us; at others, the descriptions sound reminiscent of that venerable concept ‘Higher Self’. This is an ambiguous term; often it is simply a case of someone abstracting their favourite characteristics and cherishing them as the epitome of ‘spiritual culture’.

On the contrary, the Angel is of a nature which is beyond the terrestrial vehicle, and of which the mind can retain only fleeting glimpses. However, whether the Angel is a denizen of the Inner or the Outer, a refraction of a quintessential awareness or something wholly separate, is beside the point. There is no ‘Inner’ or ‘Outer’, simply because there is nothing of which to be inside or outside. We are attempting to understand in terrestrial, logical terms something the nature of which lies beyond such comprehension.

Contact with the Angel need not be some sudden, overwhelming bolt from the blue, like Saul of Tarsus being knocked from his horse in a blinding blaze of vision. More often, it is a case of a multitude of experiences which are cumulative, reach critical mass, and then assume shape. Again, the contact need not be sensed consciously, but might instead fertilise unknown dimensions of consciousness, dormant until there is a foreshadowing. There is one common characteristic: a durable link has now been forged between the terrestrial mind and those wider, deeper ranges of consciousness which nourish it. This growing, intimate awareness is of far more enduring worth than any amount of pyrotechnics – the sort of dramatic sound and fury which many magicians seem to expect from traffic with the Angel.

An initiation of such intensity is not confined to occultism; a similar experience runs like a thread through many different traditions and disciplines. The hallmark, though, is that there is an opening-up of awareness, a sensitivity to impressions which were not previously perceived. This can be seen across the gamut of creative artistry – artistry, that is, which is not simply human artifice. There can be no doubt that artists such as Beethoven, Dali, Mozart and van Gogh, to name but a few, were enjoying something so akin to traffic with their Angel that the only difference lies in the label put to the experience.

Traffic with the Angel is not the attainment of an individual – though, given the depths of our solipsist conditioning, it is perhaps inevitable that it should be seen as such. Rather, the impulse for communion comes from beyond the aspirant – from the Angel; it is the registering of this impulse which is the opening of the Working. The work of the aspirant lies not in striving for contact, but in preparing himself for the approach of the Angel. This is akin to true creativity; rather than manufacture, the artist seeks to render himself a fit channel through which inspiration is more likely to flow.

Approach of the Beyond

The approach of the Angel is sometimes figured as a lightning flash, a bolt or spear, a swift transfixion. This glyphs a sudden shift in perception or perspective, a swift change of vantage point, like waking from a dream. These are flickers of a wider awareness – the Beyond – bursting through momentarily. It is experienced as momentary by terrestrial mind since this is the only way in which eternity and infinity can be interpreted. This approach of the Beyond can assume myriad guises. It can take the form of dreams, such as in the case of Lovecraft; for a mathematician, it may be figured in the intuitive glimpse of subtle, profound and elusive formulae; for the artist, a beauty and symmetry that has never suffused his work before.

In terrestrial terms, we have the trafficking with wider and deeper ranges of consciousness, or alien contact. In reality, alien is the very last thing that it is; on the contrary, it is the communion with a deeper, more fundamental identity. This deeper identity is sometimes figured as the Aeon of Maat – which, although often masked as a span of time, is in fact a level of initiation. The Aeon of Maat glyphs this substratum of advaitic awareness in which the sense of terrestrial identity is rooted and with which it is suffused – an awareness, the glimmerings of which constitute traffic with the Angel. A consideration of the Aeon of Maat, therefore, has much light to throw on the subject of traffic with extra-terrestrial entities. It is as well to start with an account of the Aeons generally, and some thoughts on the Aeon of Horus in particular.

This will, inevitably, draw upon Crowley’s work, and make clear that the Aeon of Maat is implicit in that of Horus. Throughout much of Crowley’s work, the Aeons are presented in a relatively straightforward, literal manner: an Aeon spans approximately two thousand years, the succession of the Aeons being marked by the Precession of the Equinoxes. There were several early aeons which were primeval and prehistoric, covering many thousands of years, during which the universe was manifested and life evolved. More recently we have the emergence of the Aeons as they are more familiar to us – beginning with the Aeon of Isis. This was marked by a matrilineal pattern of organisation and the predominance of the feminine, reproduction considered to be by the female alone. With it came the worship of the Goddess as Mother, the male role being restricted to that of consort and son. This was succeeded by the Aeon of Osiris, during which the role of the Mother was superseded in importance by that of the Father, and the social pattern became patrilinear. This in its turn has given way to the Aeon of Horus, the eternal, ever-coming Child, marked by the growing awareness of the continuity of consciousness. The Aeon of Horus is a precursor to that of Maat, when the common nature of consciousness is realised. After this comes the Pralaya, the absorption of the manifest back into cosmic Night. In this way, manifestation is perpetually thrown forth and reabsorbed, in an eternal play of Being and Not-Being, of becoming and dissolution. This view concentrates on the Aeons as the unfolding or evolution of manifestation. They are also, however, stages of initiation or insight.

These two ways of regarding the Aeons – macrocosmic and microcosmic – are not different; they do not, even, represent the same principle applied on different planes. The key to the understanding of Maat is advaita: not divided. Awareness is a continuum, a gamut; an unbroken, ecstatic play which is yet Silence and Nothingness. This state of affairs is glyphed as 0 = 2: there is simply no difference between them. There are some interesting chinks in the more literal account of the succession of the Aeons. An aeon is defined as an indeterminate length of time; it may be an instant, or it could be on the scale of the Hindu yugas, which persist for hundreds of thousands of years. Crowley did on occasion depart from a purely historical view. For instance, verse 34 of Chapter III of Liber AL refers to the arising of the next Aeon “…when Hrumachis shall arise and the double wanded one assume my throne and place…”

The ‘Old Comment’, published in The Equinox volume one number VII, remarks:

Following him [Horus] will arise the Equinox of Ma, the Goddess of Justice, it may be a hundred or ten thousand years from now; for the Computation of Time is not here as There. Wherever “There” is, it is clearly beyond time, and thus independent of the astronomical phenomena of the Precession of the Equinoxes.

Elsewhere, Crowley refers to the possibility of the Aeon of Horus collapsing within a hundred years or so of its inception, if the work of preparation did not go well. This is depicted as catastrophe, with a collapse into a new Dark Age, and is again interesting as a departure from the inevitable, evolutionary and progressive view of Aonic succession.

The Nature of Force and Fire

There is no doubt that an indication of what lies beyond Horus is there in Crowley’s writings, for those who care to read between the lines. There are hints of a close relationship between Horus and Maat. In the ‘New Comment’ he has this to say about the same section of Chapter III verse 34 quoted earlier: Note the close connection between Leo and Libra in the Tarot, the numbers VIII and XI being interchanged with XI and VIII. There is no violent antithesis as that between Osiris and Horus; Strength will prepare the reign of Justice. We should begin already, as I deem, to regard this Justice as the Ideal whose way we should make ready, by virtue of our Force and Fire.

Horus is a preparation for the Aeon of Maat. What is the nature of this preparation? More to the point, for what are we preparing? Horus is of the nature of Force and Fire, and thus purgative. In this context, it purges the hindrances to the dawning of universal awareness, of pan-dimensional or cosmic consciousness. An awareness of the undying, ever-coming Son is the keynote of the Aeon of Horus. Death is not the extinction formerly considered, let alone the herald of hell or heaven; but a time of transition, of crossing over, of incarnating afresh, the sloughing off of one form and the reformulation into another. Atu XIII is a succinct representation of this – our old friend is shown there as not a Grim Reaper despatching tortured souls, but a dancer of reformulation. Consciousness roils, a perpetual shifting of forms.

A purgative involves disintegration, and this is the function of the Aeon of Horus. It is the illusion of separateness, of the absolute and sovereign individuality of consciousness, which is swept away. This is dissolution or dis-illusion – the erosion of the idea of separation from the rest of the universe, an idea which is ever naught but illusion. Horus disintegrates this sense of isolation, paving the way for reintegration into the unveiled, advaitic awareness of Maat. Maat is mentioned at various points in the course of Liber 418, The Vision and the Voice, as foreshadowing the Aeon to supersede that of Horus. The reference is generally to Themis, or Thmaist-Justice; but Crowley puts the equivalence beyond any doubt with a footnote in The Book of Thoth: “See AL III, 34. The reference is to Maat, Themis, Lady of the Balance”.

Joker At The Gate

Later in the same book, in the course of an essay on Atu 0, The Fool, comes a passage which identifies Maat with Atu 0, throwing into relief the import of the Aeon of Maat: In the medieval pack, the title of the card is Le Mat, adapted from the Italian Matto, madman or fool… If one assumes that the Tarot is of Egyptian origin, one may suppose that Mat (this card being the key card of the whole pack) really stands for Maut, the Vulture goddess, who is an earlier and more sublime modification of the idea of Nuith than Isis.

The affinity with Atu 0, The Fool – which glyphs, amongst other things, the innocence of undifferentiated consciousness – is the key to understanding the Aeon of Maat. The Tarot is a compendium of the course of initiation; and Atu 0 is, as Crowley indicates time and again, the key card in the whole pack. The reintegration of consciousness, and the dissolution of division, is the essence of initiation.

To Be Continued…

Text: Michael Staley (with kind permission) – Starfire Publishing


“Liber Samekh” – Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Approach of the Beyond” – Matt Baldwin-Ives
“The Nature of Force and Fire” – Sarah-Jayne Farrer & Matt Baldwin-Ives
(Clay, oil and acrylics on canvas board with photographic manipulations and digital art)
“The Joker at the Gate” – Matt Baldwin-Ives

Supping At The Angel & Feathers by Michael Staley – Part 1

Featured here with kind permission.


This article explores the link between three elements of magick – the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, extraterrestrialism, and the Aeon of Maat. The link is intimate – stripped of jargon, they are different facets of an identical experience. The experience is that of trafficking with wider and deeper ranges of consciousness – often referred to as ‘Outside’ or ‘Beyond’. Dissolving the veils of jargon, we find a beautiful simplicity at the core.

‘The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel’ is an extremely glamorous concept in the Western Magical Tradition. It remains nothing more than a concept until it has been experienced; and, once it has been experienced, the concept bears no relation whatever to the reality. This reality is an unshakeable insight into the substratum, the fountain of living waters which underlies and infuses the play of manifestation. Communion with the Angel may be realised by a formal Working such the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, or Crowley’s Liber Samekh; or it may arise with apparent spontaneity, an accumulation of experience which reaches ‘critical mass’.

Holy Guardian Angel

Contact is not, though, at the behest of the magician; it is the Angel which opens the Operation. This is because the magician is a facet of the Angel, not – as he or she might like to think – an autonomous being. The human is a terrestrial expression of the Angel, nothing more. ‘Extra-terrestrial’, therefore, refers to vast reaches of awareness that stretch beyond the terrestrial, and of which the terrestrial is a limited expression.

This extra-terrestrial reality is often referred to as the Aeon of Maat, the Matrix or Womb from which manifestation arises. The Aeons have been interpreted as periods of time which are bounded by the Precession of the Equinoxes, but this superficial interpretation veils the reality to which the term points. As in the Angel and extra-terrestrialism, we must look beyond the concept.

Some readers may be wondering about the basis for the above remarks. A number of years ago I received an unmistakeable call to undertake the Knowledge and Conversation, and it seemed clear to me that Liber Samekh was to be my chosen instrument. This was in spite of the fact that I did not consider myself to be competent in some of the magical techniques of Samekh; however, since the time had clearly arrived, I had to do my best with the skills available. I stuck closely to the format of Samekh in terms of frequency of ritual, order of stages, etc. Liber Samekh is a very intensive Operation, an accelerating intensity and frequency of working that has to be kept to. This intensity gives rise to a powerful momentum, the nature and intensity of which can be appreciated only by someone who has undertaken something similar.

The accelerating dynamism of the initial ten moons of Samekh is a preparation for the eleventh, culminating moon. The expectation is that the dynamism generated will hurl the aspirant into rapturous, orgasmic communion with the Angel. It doesn’t; the essence of this final moon is one of waiting for the approach of the Angel, who has indeed been the instigator of the Working. This is an extremely hard lesson; undoubtedly, it has to be learnt afresh at first hand by the aspirant.

There is a passage of Liber LXV, The Book of the Heart Girt with the Serpent which captures this point beautifully:

The prophet cried against the mountain; come thou hither, that I may speak with thee! The mountain stirred not. Therefore went the prophet unto the mountain, and spake unto it. But the feet of the prophet were weary, and the mountain heard not his voice. But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning. This now I know, O my beloved, and we are stretched at our ease among the vines. But these, thy prophets; they must cry aloud and scourge themselves; they must cross trackless wastes and unfathomed oceans; to await Thee is the end, not the beginning.

The nature of the Angel is at once both simple and profound. It is the Gateway to the continuum of consciousness which lurks behind the mask of multiplicity, and which is extra-terrestrial; this continuum is also masked as the Aeon of Maat, which is not a sequence of time but insight into Reality. This Reality is ever-present, veiled by terrestrial identity; we have only to cease to be hypnotised by our self-imposed limitations, for it to become apparent that we are that Reality, always have been, and always will be. Hence the above line ‘I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning’; it really is that simple. The notion of the jivanmukta, he who is liberated whilst still living, is a glorious one; on the other hand, the only thing keeping us from this liberation is the illusion that we are not free.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Your Angel knows of that gorgeous little tavern ‘The Angel & Feathers’ which is always just around every corner…

Supping At The Angel & Feathers

Supping At The Angel & Feathers:

It is as well at the outset to clarify the use of the term ‘terrestrial’. It denotes simply that which is earth-bound, or human. The terrestrial vehicle is a mask, an incarnation of a consciousness, the veils of which dissolve in the course of initiation. ‘Extra-terrestrial’, therefore, indicates that which is out with or beyond the comparatively narrow range of human, earth-bound, terrestrial consciousness. ‘Beyond’ or ‘Outside’ is often used in a similar fashion – that which lies beyond the confines of the terrestrial vehicle. A fine example of the use of the term ‘terrestrial’ in this context occurs in the first paragraph of Lovecraft’s story Beyond the Wall of Sleep:

…From my experience, I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories exist after waking…

We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on this terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon. Magick has a mystical core – the realisation of sunyavada, the emptiness at the heart of matter. This emptiness is simultaneously a plenitude, nourishing in its depths the seed of manifestation which flowers in its perfection and then fades. The rhythm of the universe is maintained in a perpetual expansion and contraction, becoming and absorption. Initiation is the unveiling of consciousness; whether this is viewed as an internal or an external journey makes little odds, since both amount to the same thing. It is the assimilation of magical and mystical experience – a process of understanding, of insight. The nature of this insight is an awareness that consciousness does not rest with the individual, but is universal or cosmic; there is a continuum, not a multiplicity of isolated units.

Whatever the nature of the magical or mystical practices pursued, the real change is at the level of Jnana – intuitive knowledge. What changes is not consciousness, but that which we have previously thought of as ourselves in relation to it. Awareness is no longer restricted to the terrestrial vehicle; the focus shifts, attuning to wider and deeper ranges of consciousness beyond what was formerly considered to be the self.

Evoking the Interterrestrial

The sense of individuality is only a restriction or dungeon so long as we incarcerate ourselves therein, a bondage forged by our own preconceptions. We are all facets of the universe. There is no individual self which endures, but the flux and flow of perception, like wave after wave surging forth. The wave is a transient form of the water, giving way to another wave. Consciousness roils, throwing forth shadows from its depths; these shadows are the glamours of manifestation, a perpetual play which flows and shimmers, urgent and alive, sweeping this way and that. We are drawn from these shadows: not as monads, self-existent and eternally enduring; but as transient ripples of consciousness which flow outwards, melding and coalescing with other ripples. In this incessant weaving amidst the continuum of consciousness, self and not-self mingle and fuse, slipping back and forth, trespassing wantonly across apparent boundaries which have always been fluid.

To become alive to this transience seems an extraordinary thing; yet it is the most natural state in the world. It is a measure of how we have cut ourselves off from reality – drawn the covers over our heads and huddled in our ghettos. Initiation is a vitriol, dissolving the illusion of separateness. Only in recognising individuality as illusion, and ceasing to cling to it, can we see past what we are not, to the fecund infinity of that which we really are. This relinquishment is the pressing of the blood into the Cup of Babalon. It is a work of reconciliation: not of the melding of self and other, the microcosm and the macrocosm, the apparent individual and the rest of the universe, which have never been apart anyway; but of our awareness of that identity.

This reintegration is a path not of renunciation, but of fulfilment – of awakening to a wider, richer, deeper identity. It lies at the heart of magick, and is the Great Work.

Without such a vision, there is only results magic, which accentuates the sense of separation from the rest of the universe. This is the path of compulsive individuality, the attempt to seal up the blood in the body, to cling to the sense of separation, inured to the flux and flow of the universe – a tide which inevitably claims all transient shadows for the melting pot. This melting pot is the Cup of Babalon, from whence springs the gamut of existence, and to where it returns.  Initiation is thus not something which occurs to an individual. The terrestrial vehicle is a refraction of a much vaster field of awareness.

As initiation runs its course, awareness becomes wider and deeper, less bound up with the terrestrial vehicle, and increasingly alive to reaches which lie beyond. This is not a steady process, but unfolds by leaps of intuitive insight. Its course is sometimes expressed as a move from the self towards the Self – the totality, the cosmic consciousness, of which the self is a refraction. All knowledge is Self-knowledge, and initiation is a process of re-membering, or reintegration. All apparent entities are ranges of consciousness, equally vehicles of the Self. There is a sea of sentience; we traffic with wider and deeper ranges, and there is assimilation: “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union”.

Entities such as Lam and Aiwass are no more entities in their own right than are human beings: not remote, august beings, but equally shadows in the sweep of sentience. The sentiments of Lovecraft in the passage already quoted are not so far from those of Crowley, when he wrote: My observation of the Universe convinces me that there are beings of intelligence and power of a far higher quality than anything we can conceive of as human; that they are not necessarily based on the cerebral and nervous structures that we know, and that the one and only chance for mankind to advance as a whole is for individuals to make contact with such Beings. Crowley’s traffickings with Aiwass and Amalantrah are examples of such contact. Crowley usually needed a medium to facilitate such communication, although there were occasions when mediumship did operate fitfully for him: the glimpses of Aiwass during the earthing of Liber AL, for instance. In the case of the Amalantrah Working, this mediumship was provided by several Scarlet Women, who were sensitised by sex, drugs, and alcohol in various combinations, and became oracular.


Their visions were often located at an astral Temple, peopled by doubles of those taking part in the physical sessions, as well as the forms of colleagues who were at a distance. Frequently what the medium was seeing and hearing was meaningless to her, but oracular and intended for the comprehension of Crowley. Communication was sometimes explicit; more often it was subtler, the essence being conveyed by means of numbers, symbols, I Ching hexagrams, Tarot cards, and the like. Communication in this fashion may seem at first sight perverse, and wilfully obscure.

However, the use of gematria and symbols can spark intuitive leaps, flashes of insight that are simply not amenable to expression in words. It is not unlike the mathematician’s approach to communication in terms of pure number, as being more precise than language in its apprehension. Thus, Workings such as that with Amalantrah, or those in the Algerian desert in 1909, go beyond the subjective – although there is bound to be some such tincture, like light shining through coloured glass. These are records of traffic with extra-terrestrial forces, and their worth is substantiated by the fact that, years later, other occultists are able to study these records and make creative use of them, with a view to picking up some of the multitude of threads and continuing with them.

To Be Continued…

Text: Michael Staley (with kind permission) – Starfire Publishing


“Holy Guardian Angel”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
“Supping At The Angel & Feathers”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Evoking the Interterrestrial”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Amalantrah”: Matt Baldwin-Ives

The Kisses that Foam and Bleed

The Kisses That Foam And Bleed

I bring ye wine from above,
From the vats of the storied sun;
For every one of ye love,
And life for every one.
Ye shall dance on hill and level;
Ye shall sing in hollow and height
In the festal mystical revel,
The rapturous Bacchanal rite!
The rocks and trees are yours,
And the waters under the hill,
By the might of that which endures,
The holy heaven of will!
I kindle a flame like a torrent
To rush from star to star;
Your hair as a comet’s horrent,
Ye shall see things as they are!
I lift the mask of matter;
I open the heart of man;
For I am of force to shatter
The cast that hideth -Pan!
Your loves shall lap up slaughter,
And dabbled with roses of blood
Each desperate darling daughter
Shall swim in the fervid flood.
I bring ye laughter and tears,
The kisses that foam and bleed,
The joys of a million years,
The flowers that bear no seed.
My life is bitter and sterile,
Its flame is a wandering star.
Ye shall pass in pleasure and peril
Across the mystic bar
That is set for wrath and weeping
Against the children of earth;
But ye in singing and sleeping
Shall pass in measure and mirth!
I lift my wand and wave you
Through hill to hill of delight :
My rosy rivers lave you
In innermost lustral light..
I lead you, lord of the maze,
In the darkness free of the sun;
In spite of the spite that is day’s
We are wed, we are wild, we are one.

Words “Dionysus”: Aleister Crowley
Image “The Kisses that Foam and Bleed”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer & Matt Baldwin-Ives

The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara

The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara

Bound to ever decaying orbits of infernal peacock-plumed coils, cascading, they suck upon forgotten fume and forbidden elixir; long-lost in the billowing mists of time and obscurity. From within, the erosion begins, as the soul condenses. Bereft of change the ‘Self’ slumbers deep, seldom waking.

Dream enmeshed, vivid vision-tranced, lashed by judder – ecstatic light glimmers in her ebon eyes; unsettling him to fears of her feral divinity, spawned of ferocious radiance.

Deep sighs from pouting lips escape. Tightly grasped, he becomes the anchor for her storm rocked vessel. Soul, mind, body – their whole world in fact – ablaze in the trembling ocean. Spinal masts creak and bow as plasmic oceans heave and surge, suitably chemicalised. Energised.

A Mauve moon hangs ragged above the bleak horizon, silver has crossed palms. “Our blessings come to us by way of madness”, her whisperings fell deliciously upon his ear, again.

Passion. Ardour. Power. Amore.

Image: “The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara” by Matt Baldwin-Ives and Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Model: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Text: “The Witch of Melek Taus” by Sarah-Jayne Farrer and Matt Baldwin-Ives

Going Spare with John Constable

“What if this play, cunningly disguised as a biographical drama, is, in fact, the vehicle for a practical demonstration of Chaos Magic? A play conceived as an Act of Magic, the invocation or evocation of beings as yet unknown to this world, yet I fear all too familiar to our Borough Magus. The play of Mr. Austin Osman Spare’s unconditioned mind, even now unfolding before our soon to be astonished eyes.”

-prologue to “SPARE” in which Constable, as the Actor, wonders aloud to the audience

Austin Osman Spare’s shadow stretches across a huge chunk of Southwark. His art and magic scattered out from his Council flat at 52 Beckett House in Tabard Street his top-floor studio of 56a Walworth Road and his temporary wartime stay hostel at 86 Walworth Road. You can almost imagine him walking through the roads and alleyways, drifting down to Bankside and Borough Market with its Dickensian wrought-iron roof, the spire of Southwark cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in London, castings its own shadow – to exhibit paintings in local pubs and stop by to mingle with the locals over a pint or two, and over to Soho and Fitzrovia where he rubbed shoulders at the Wheatsheaf (notorious hang out of Aleister Crowley). Spare decided “not only to turn his back on ‘Mayfair and its self-regarding art scene…’, but he chose to put himself in a community made up of working people”, and within this community, amongst the streets that Austin would have meandered, an interview with John Constable (aka John Crow) was to take place; within the locus, the Omphalos, the azygous centre of Austin Osman Spare’s stomping grounds, in a pretty garden square not far from Tabard Street and across the road from the Crossbones, where we stopped for John to tell me about the place and his work there, and about the inspiration behind the decorations upon the gates. The interview took on a life of its own and we ended up having a chat really about Spare’s influence on John’s one-man play “SPARE”, which I had the pleasure to attend at the end of June (new dates have been set and details can be found at the end of this article); sitting on the grass in the cool shade of the trees, I asked my first question…

Simply, or not so simply as the case may be… “Why Spare?”

John: “I have been doing the work at Cross Bones, as you know, for probably about 15 years and many people have come to support me and because of what Cross Bones is they’re not all people that, in a normal sense, can be considered ‘good’. I knew a guy, who died 3 years ago, Ion Alexis Will, a very interesting character and he’ll pop up in bits of occult lore. He was one of the guiding spirits in the early days of Fortean Times; Lyall Watson credited him as a source for some of the wonders reported in his book; a school friend of Ken Campbell. Ion attached himself, in a sense, to me at Cross Bones, he became a very good servant of The Goose though many people warned me to be wary of him. He had a terrible reputation! A bit like Crowley or somebody like that; very similar actually, there was that bestial side that horrified people, but he was actually a very good friend to me in that time, the 2 or 3 years I knew him before he died. He commissioned me in a sense, oh he didn’t give me any money for it, but he said in the George Inn one night, he was addressing me as John Crow at the time, “CROW! You are the man to write a play about Austin Osman Spare”. Now when he said that to me, because he had orders for me every week, used to write me huge letters, I used to resist everything he told me, including that! But roughly a year after he died, he was there with me one night, Ion, and I thought “Okay, I accept the commission.”

Sarah: What made you accept Ion’s commission to write a play about Austin Osman Spare so many years later?

John: “The simplest reason is I felt a kinship with Spare, which I say was emotional, intellectual and practical, as in the sense of practice. Many, many reasons really. In terms of Spares own approach I have never been that comfortable with full ceremonial magic, I’ve always been more interested in the intuitive, and that area where what we call magic blends into what we call art and creativity. There’s an area of magical practice that seamlessly shades into a lot of artistic practice and creativity, it’s about the idea of re-patterning the world, restructuring, and reinterpreting. That isn’t to deny manifestations and things like this, or even effecting actual physical changes in reality, I certainly believe that is possible to do, but I think it all comes from the shifting of our perception. Blake once said “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” – one feels that through the eyes of say Dawkins or somebody like that, the world is a material world, it has explanations, it is rational or reducible, it can be reduced to atoms. And so if that is your concept, in a sense that is the world that you live in, but equally if you know the world is peopled with spirits and helpers, allies and adversaries and all of that, then that is the world one experiences. That to me is very strong in the play “SPARE”, and I hope in all my work; the idea that we are the agents of transformation and that the world that we transform is then the world we live in. So certainly Spare’s practice appealed to me, but of course there’s the fact that he lived in this area, in a situation I can really relate to. He had some success, in fact some considerable success when he was young, then everything really went downhill from about the age of 17 and he chose to come here, not only to turn his back on Mayfair and its self-regarding art scene, but he had chosen to put himself in a community made up of working people; he was defining himself as a working man, a journey man, rather than a highfalutin artist, and all of that appealed to me”.

Sarah: What parallels have you drawn from Spare’s life to your own?

John: “As a playwright, like many others, I was briefly hailed as the next big thing. And it hasn’t fully delivered, or I haven’t fully delivered, but I found that around the mid-1990s I decided that not only was I probably never going to be part of the mainstream or established English theatre scene, but I no longer wanted to be and that was a great freedom really. I started writing solo shows, the first one I did was “I Was An Alien Sex God”, very deliberately and partly blowing a raspberry at the idea that I was a David Hare sort of playwright. It was introducing an element of play, and that followed through really in the work of The Southwark Mysteries; whereas on one hand that was a very serious work on one level, it’s got a great deal of humour in it too. And I think above all, it was the fact that he had moved here and I know of at least 3 or 4 places he’d lived. Obviously the studio at the Elephant & Castle, then he was at Becket House which is just over beyond that church in Tabard Square (John points up from our grassy spot to highlight which church). In a sense I’m living roughly in-between those two places, so I felt very connected geographically and just as with The Southwark Mysteries, which was conceived as an attempt at a magical or secret history of the last 2000 years, that geographical limit is what made it possible. I was writing about roughly a square mile around where I live, my own neighbourhood. With “SPARE” I felt it was very important not to try to encapsulate Spare or pin him down.’”

Sarah: To pin down someone that’s un-pindownable is always a bit of a challenge! What influence has Spare’s work, art or otherwise, had on you?

John: “It’s difficult for me actually to talk about Spare’s influence because I only found out about him quite late in my life, about 1998 or 9 when I was already full into The Southwark Mysteries a friend said to me one night “You know about Austin Osman Spare?” and I was like “Whoa, what a name!” And I really didn’t know about him, and then when I started looking into him I could see why my friend might have even assumed that I was a kind of disciple of Spare, because my approach to The Southwark Mysteries, which was very much a sense of ‘getting out the way’ and allowing unconscious processes to work. You know obviously Spare uses the concept of unconscious in a very different way from Freud or even Jung. It’s much more dynamic. It seems to refer to the unconscious mind in a more Hindu sense. When I looked into him I was very interested in seeing how, and I think that’s something I share with him, he had this kind of quite intuitive syncretic approach. I believe that elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, along with the Spiritualism of that time, were perhaps even more important influences on Spare than the more obvious Western Magical Tradition”

Sarah: So what was your trick to conjure Spare? To get you in that ‘Spare zone’?

John: “I had seen the exhibition at the Cuming Museum, and this was one of the real windows in. You know he first exhibited there of course, even before the Academy? So it had this fantastic sense of connection. You know I am a very visceral person, in the way I get my inspiration, you can tell with the gates (at the Cross Bones). So seeing these paintings and reminding myself that this was a man who turned his back on fame and fortune and came to live at the Elephant – those were my lead ins. To evoke him, the key was to look at a few incidents and to connect with his life here at the Elephant. That geographical discipline, or boundary, was very liberating for me in terms of not feeling I had to deal with everything that Spare might conjure up.”

Sarah: What research did you carry out for the writing of “SPARE”?

John: “I didn’t over research it, for example I didn’t read Phil Baker’s recent book. It came out when I was working on the play and I very deliberately didn’t read it. I had heard it was quite a radical reappraisal, and I thought the last thing I really want is to get caught up in someone else’s vision. I will read it though, once I’ve done this next run. I obviously read some of Spare’s own work, The Book of Pleasure… I have a couple of his other books… Borough Magus which I borrowed… That was very good! I went to the local studies library here, behind the John Harvard library and they have some great little newspaper pieces on Spare. And finally in terms of the research part, Caroline Wise and Michael Staley were very good, they have a small private collection of about 20 Spare paintings, and they invited me to come and talk to them. They knew Steffi Grant quite well, so they had a one degree of separation from Spare which was good, but it was even more delightful when I went to go and interview them, they were decorating their house and all their Spare’s were off the wall, stacked up. So I actually sat on a bit of sofa which had Spare paintings all around it, and when I explained to them about my love of visceral research, Caroline urged me to sniff and even let me touch, gently, the paintings.”

Sarah: How did you approach the writing of the play?

John: “To me there are many kinds of writers, and there are no right and wrong ways to write, perform or anything like that, so I don’t hold this as any kind of set in stone view. When I start I may have a very, very rough model of what I want to do in my mind, but for me the excitement are these areas of the unknown. I know lots of writers who start with a message, and then allow that to become clothed in flesh, but I tend to start with the flesh and try and work out the message, if there is one. You know which has its difficulties, and I think certainly a lot of the most commercially accepted writers do have a much clearer strategy, but to me this sense of what’s between the lines, of what is unspoken, what we intuit (which is why I write poetry as well) is important. I love not the concept that is pinned down but the intuition that sort of floats between the words, and that I suppose is another area I feel an kinship and an influence of Spare. When I started writing “SPARE”, I wrote very freely. I deliberately didn’t censor, so there were lots of drafts and lots of characters which came in and were thrown out. In my very first draft Crowley did appear and I very consciously thought that was something Spare himself really wouldn’t have liked, you know because I always got the impression that Crowley was much more interested in Spare than the other way around, and that was the reason not to write about him. So that’s really, that’s how I approached it, I tried to get out of the way and that’s very much to do with my own magical practice anyways. The idea of ‘getting out of the way’ of cultivating, I use this expression of Spare’s, ‘Shining emptiness” but I don’t think it necessarily comes from Spare but it very much defines my own approach, you know, to basically stay out of the way. I didn’t ever want to become an adversary of my subject, does that make sense?

Sarah: Certainly! To let Spare shine through, to try and let Spare speak…

John: “What I didn’t set out to do was to quote him, you know there are two or three of real Spare quotes, the thing about Hitler and probably a couple of other. I didn’t try to avoid it, but I wasn’t trying to get his voice in the sense of looking for great things he’s said that I could cannibalise for the play. I think it’s more my voice, but it’s hopefully a voice that opened up to say what Spare would say if he was me today.

Sarah: I must say that when I caught a glimpse of you in the corner, getting ready, the hairs on my arms went up and I thought to myself “Oh this is going to be good!”

John: “Well of course, it was the mustache! I think I wanted one totemic thing to link to Spare and for me it had to be the mustache. So I grew it deliberately, it was good, I had just about timed it right I allowed 3 weeks and then I actually kept it for the second performance. You came to the second one didn’t you?”

Sarah: I came to the second one.

John: “So the mustache was actually much more fully formed and probably the performance too.”

Sarah: When you wrote it did you know that you would be playing the part of Spare?

John: “No not necessarily, although as I say, I’ve done at least 3 solo performances, I enjoy performing. When I first wrote it, I wrote it for at least 3 actors, and to be honest in plays as a general rule, I avoid acting, because I don’t actually rate myself as an actor. I know many actors and hugely respect them and to me the actors I really respect, they really work in a band, they work with the other actors and I don’t have the self belief for that; whereas if I am alone, I do believe I’ve got an ability to conjure something up in myself, especially if I’ve written it. But with this one, the first draft and the first few drafts were written for at least 3 actors, so I had Hitler and Mrs Paterson as separate manifestations and certainly a Jack and June. The idea was also at that stage, and I always start off thinking big, conceived originally as perhaps a West End production, with the full bells and whistles; smoke and mirrors; ecoplasm! There is a version of it like this, that could be done but I very quickly after I had written it, I realised that I had written a play about somebody who very few people knew. So the chances of persuading the National to stage it was probably remote. The more I thought about it, the more I realised, that if I wasn’t going to do it with these sort of effects, of ghosts and manifestations, then it was better, rather to go half way house, to go right the other way and do it so it’s all in the mind. And in a way that is something I think I know how to do.

Sarah: I think it ended up more powerful to have the audience use their imagination. It feeds into the play, as it were, especially with the counting down at the beginning, you have everyone in a half-trance. Was that intentional?

John: “That is something, at least indirectly, I credit Ion Alexis Will for, because he told me “CROW! You are the man to write a play about Austin Osman Spare…. and I’ll give you the opening scene” It’s not quite the opening scene he gave me, but he did want a scene in which the person as the actor speaks to the audience. He wanted it to be much darker I think, to suggest that something really awful had happened backstage, and I felt that you don’t actually need to ask for those things as they tend to happen anyway, especially in the theatre. So I experimented with different ways, I certainly wanted a framing device, I think it’s always something I’ve a lot of my work and I’ve enjoyed the element of a sort of lecture in my solo work, this element, or other form, rather than the theatrical form. “I Was An Alien Sex God” is all framed as a trial, I had put myself on trial; as it started to develop, writing again quite instinctively, I didn’t really have a masterplan for it, but through it I started to see. It was when I started using the counting down. I was in a workshop and someone was doing some self-hypnosis and it clicked “Yes that is the way to do it, to engage the audience”, you know I’m not literally trying to put people into a deep trance, but certainly the play of that and the invitation to participate.

Sarah: It certainly altered the mood in the room, with that scene…

And you will have to go along to see what I mean! John’s performance was outstanding, his voice holds you captivated, I think I could probably listen to him for hours. The play begins with the countdown mentioned above after John gives a prologue as himself addressing the audience. Once he has fully assumed the role of Spare working his “invincible spell”, he channels various entities; his “exteriorised… shadow-self, Mortestophiles”; his enigmatic mentor, Mrs. Paterson: “Call this a séance? Carry on like this, we’re going to wind up possessed… by ourselves!”; and a most unwelcome admirer, Adolf Hitler. Spare uses “sex magic” to see off Hitler – but a rogue sigil conjures up June, a Woolworth’s shop-girl who has eyes for Spare, her husband Jack (a friend of Austin and fellow civil defense warden) in hot pursuit. Spare tries to explain: “I was thinking of your good wife, but only so as to facilitate the unconscious projection of my conscious desire […] You could even say old June played a vital part: by distracting me from fussing over the true purpose of this spell, thereby allowing it to manifest in my absence”.

“SPARE” is an extraordinary, visionary work of art and magic that will transport you back to Austin’s studio on the Blitz ravaged Walworth Road, the night of the Elephant & Castle bombing and leave you with a sense that you were in fact in the presence of Austin Osman Spare. John has done a marvelous job in evoking Austin, I was enthralled throughout and will be booking up for another viewing soon.

I cannot recommend the play enough, and neither can Glen Tomney who went to the first showing of “SPARE”:

Glen said:  “In recent years, for those in the know about our beloved old ‘Zos’, there has been a wealth of literature produced. Excellent publications from Fulgur, Jerusalem Press and of course Phil Baker’s recent Spare biography, have all given us a plethora of information and images from our boy genius, Artist, occultist, philosopher and mystic, Austin Osman Spare. So it was with keen interest, that when I came to hear John Constable a.k.a. John Crow, was to do a one man performance at Treadwells’, I was quite delighted to see the result. John’s work first came to my attention through two excerpts on a CD which accompanied Orryelle Defenestrate Bascule’s magickal MagiZian ‘Silk-milk’, both were readings and songs from John’s book The Southwark Mysteries. What intrigued me about John, apart from the revealing stories of the Crossbones graveyard and the Winchester geese, was his voice. He has a voice which holds the listener intently and one which is a perfect marriage to how you would imagine Austin’s to sound. I am seated at the back of Treadwells’ basement room. I have walked past John before the performance; he sits hands touching each other with a gleeful yet contemplative smile on his face. I watch enthralled by his performance. He becomes Austin. The props of easel and frame act as a porthole through which we see old Yelga Patterson. Transformations continue and the audience is reminded of Hitler’s admiration for Austin’s work and his eagerness for a portrait from Spare. We are reminded of his friends in the Borough, his sincere love towards animals, much ground is covered. At its ending, within the hour that has passed, you have been transported to Austin’s world which we can now re-visit thanks to John Constable a.k.a. John Crow a.k.a. Austin Osman Spare.”

“This is the Spell that sets us free from fear, free from ourselves. Here is nothing for any entity to fix on to. Only an empty channel, an absence, our shining empty open track-way to the stars…”

– From “SPARE” by John Constable

New dates have been announced:

On the 4th November John goes SPARE for one night only at the White Bear (where Austin Osman Spare exhibited his work): http://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/productions/

And then four more nights at Treadwells: http://www.treadwells-london.com/event/spare-a-one-man-play-3/

Book soon as the the first two were fully booked in advance!


Text/Interview: Sarah-Jayne Farrer

Tribute to A.O.S: Glen Tomney – The Tree of All
John Constable as SPARE: “In the Chimehours”
Consciousness as Existence: Cobweb – Eolith Designs
Austin Osman Spare: Sarah-Jayne Farrer (automatic drawing from 2012) & Matt Baldwin Ives
Salome: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross
Dream Search: J Philip Panton

John Constablehttp://www.southwarkmysteries.co.uk/
Cross Bones Graveyardhttp://www.crossbones.org.uk/

You may also be interested in John’s Halloween Ghost Walks…

Monday 28 to Thursday 31 October inclusive:


Meet from 6:45pm.
Depart at 7pm sharp from Tabard Street Piazza, Borough High St, London SE1 1JA (Borough tube )
Age: 16 and over.
Tickets: 28, 29, 30 October: £8/£7 concessions; 31 October: all tickets £10 (plus booking fee)
Places limited! Book your place now: http://www.wegottickets.com/location/8698

Writer-performer John Constable’s Halloween Walks combine ghost stories, folk-tales and other supernatural happenings with performances from his own work inspired by a real-life encounter with a Winchester Goose, a medieval sex worker licensed by a Bishop!

Featuring: haunted pubs, a Borough magician, a female gladiator, a haunted mirror, the spookiest stretch of the Thames, and the strange but true tale of Cross Bones graveyard… Includes short ritual / performance at gates of Crossbones!