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Austin Osman Spare and His Amazing Theory of Sigils (Part 2)



(...continued from part 1) This leads us to magical practice proper. In Spare's system there are no "correct" or "incorrect" sigils; neither is there a list of ready-made symbols. It is of no import whether a sigil is the "correct" one or not, but it is crucial that it has been created by the magician and is therefore meaningful to him/her. Because s/he has constructed it for personal use, the sigil easily becomes a catalyst of his/her magical desire, and sometimes it will even waken this desire in the first place. 
This Pragmatic approach which dominates present-day Anglo-Saxon magic (Israel Regardie, Francis King, Stephen Skinner, W. B. Gray, David Conway, Lemuel Johnstone, to name but a few relevant authors) goes to show that Austin Osman Spare, rather than Aleister Crowley, should be considered the real Father of modern Pragmatic Magic. In the German-speaking countries, the situation is quite different. Writers like Quintscher, Gregorius, Bardon, Klingsor and even Spiesberger allow but little room to maneuver when creating magical coordinates individually. 

Here the adept is expected to grow into a ready-made system instead of fashioning one. This is a completely different approach, the value or non-value of which we will not discuss here. 
The nearest thing to Pragmatic Magic, existing already in 1917 i.e. 1921 (the date of the second revised edition of his major work on magic as an experimental science), was Staudenmaier. The works by Mahamudra, which have of late been receiving some attention, are mainly of a descriptive nature and deal with traditions and new interpretations, thus remaining within the context of German magical heritage; however, they do take heed of recent results in scientific psychology and are, therefore, at least partially related to the Pragmatic approach.

 Pragmatic Magic will become more and more important because today's magicians have to face a psychologized-and psychologizing-environment whose philosophical relativism has been shaping all of us, and still does. Regardless of the significance or amount of truth one concedes to psychology/psychoanalysis, we all are infiltrated by its way of thinking and its vocabulary. So even we magicians will have to attain to a critical, sensible look at it. It will be left to another era to find different models of explanation, description, and practice. 

How does Spare proceed in practice? Sigils are developed by fusion and stylization of letters.

First of all, a sentence of desire has to be formulated. Let us take the example Spare himself gives in his Book of Pleasure, the declaration of intent:

THIS MY WISH TO OBTAIN THE STRENGTH OF A TIGER

>>>>> This sentence must be written down in capitals. Next, all the letters which appear more than once are deleted so that only one of each letter remains. 

[Ed. Note: The asterisks denote crossed out letters. Also beginning the declaration of intent with THIS MY WILL instead of THIS MY WISH may prove more efficacious.]

THIS MY W*** *O *B*A*N **E **R**G** *F * *****

Thus, the following letters remain: T,H,I,S,M,Y,W,O,B,A,N,E,R,G,F. The sigil is created from these letters; it is permissible to consider one part (for example, M) as a reversed W or, seen from the side, as an E. Hence, these three letters do not have to appear in the sigil three separate times. Of course, there are numerous possibilities of representation and stylization.



[Ed. Note: There was once a crude attempt at an ASCII sigil here, but it got screwed up beyond all recognition. I am trying to find the original sigil and will do another ASCII version when I find it. --Fenwick]

"This my wish to obtain the strength of a tiger."

Sigilized this would be:

This my wish --->
To obtain --->
The strength
of a tiger --->
Combined as
one sigil --->



However, it is important that in the end the sigil is as simple as possible with the various letters recognizable (even with slight difficulty). The artistic quality of the sigil is irrelevant, but for simple psychological reasons it should be obvious that you should not just scribble or doodle in haste. You should strive to make it to the best of your abilities. 

The finished sigil, which in the beginning will probably take a few attempts to construe, with then be fixated. You may draw it on parchment, on paper, in the sand, or even on a wall. According to Spare's short instructions, it should be destroyed after its internalization. Thus, you will either burn the parchment, wipe it out in the sand, etc. Spare's basic idea is that the sigil, together with its meaning, must be planted into the unconscious. 

Afterward, the consciousness has to forget it so that the unconscious can obey its encoded direction without hindrance. When the sigil is ready, it is activated by implanting it into the psyche. This is the most difficult part of this process, and Spare offers only very few hints on practical procedures. However, it is crucial that the sigil is internalized in a trance of sorts. This may take place in a state of euphoria (for example, by means of drugs), in ecstasy (for example, sex magically by masturbation, sexual intercourse or a ritual), or in a state of physical fatigue. For the latter example, eyes and arms may be tired by the magician folding his/her arms behind the head while standing in front of a mirror and staring fixedly at his/her image.

 The important thing is that it should click, meaning that the sigil must be internalized spasmodically, which, of course, requires some exercise and control. This procedure may be supported by repeating the sentence of desire rhythmically and monotonously like a mantra, becoming faster and faster; in doing so, one must stare fixedly at the sigil. 

(In our example of looking into the mirror [a magical mirror may be used, too], it is useful to draw the sigil onto the mirror with water-soluble paint.)

 After spasmodical internalization, the symbol must be destroyed and deleted from the conscious mind. As mentioned before, from now on it will be the unconscious which has to do the work. In my own practical work, I have discovered that it may even be useful to keep the sigil on you, such as wearing a ring engraved with it, etc. But this will depend upon the magician's individual predilection, and everybody should find his/her own way.

Occasionally, it may prove necessary to repeat the whole procedure, especially if the goal is a very problematical one, requiring an outstanding amount of energy. Nevertheless, experience shows that it is of prime importance not to bring back the meaning and aim of the sigil into consciousness at any time. We are, after all, dealing with a technique akin to autosuggestion; thus, the rules are the same as with autosuggestions themselves.
 Therefore, you may not use negative formulas such as "THIS MY WISH NOT TO ..." because very often the unconscious tends neither to recognize nor understand this "not," and you might end up getting the opposite result than that which you originally desired. If you see a sigil every day, perhaps on a wall or engraved on the outer side of a ring, this should only take place unconsciously, just as one might not consciously notice an object which is in use all the time.

 Of course, you should keep your operation secret, for discussing it with skeptics or even good friends may dissolve the sigil's power. The advantages of this method, of which only a short summary can be given here, are obvious. It is temptingly easy, and with only a little practice it may be performed at any time and at any place. It does not call for any costly paraphernalia; protective Circles and Pentagram rituals are not required (though sometimes they may prove useful, especially with operations of magical protection), etc.

 People who tend to psychic instability should, however, be cautious. Although the threshold to schizophrenia is not as easily crossed with this method as with common evocations, it does involve cutting deeply into the ecology of the psyche, an act which should be considered carefully in any case. The psycho-magical consequences are sometimes quite incalculable. 

As is well known, the real problem with magic is not so much the question whether it works, but rather the fact that it does. Used with responsibility, this method offers the magician a tool which provides him/her with a limitless variety of possible magical applications.


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