Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Sigil from Austin Osman Spare, The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos
Extract from Phil Baker, Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist
Spare's Sacred Alphabet will never be deciphered completely, because it doesn't fully add up; he claimed in the Fifties to have forgotten the key, and it is likely that many of the characters were invented simply out of graphic pleasure. It would, in any case, be personal to Spare himself, as he always stressed: he wrote in a later book that each of us has our "own arcana" [my emphasis] - our own symbol system, memories, reference points - possibly borrowing the word arcana from tarot cards (which didn't otherwise interest him very much). As one of his best commentators puts it, there is for every individual "the sacred alphabet of the mysteries that each one of us contains."
A psychoanalyst, Serge Leclaire, also catches this idea when he suggests that for each person there is an encoded core fragment unique to them, a "jubilatory formula",
...the inaccessible text of the elementary unconscious. It consists of a sort of secret ejaculation, a jubilatory formula, an onomatopoeia... The articulation of this formula, either out loud or in a whisper, connotes a jubilatory movement of the body, such as curling up and then stretching, taking pleasure in the result obtained and then starting again.
It is rare, Leclaire argues, for an analyst to arrive at these secret formulae, "since admitting them is, as it were, a violation of modesty. In general they are oscene or grotesque." And, considered as personal arcana, rather magical.