Another inspiration came from a totally different kind of source-the scienctific progress of the time in the fields of biology, astronomy, geology and physics all contributed to make the human race seem even more insignificant, powerless and doomed in a materialistic and mechanical universe, and was a major contributor to the ideas that later would be known as cosmicism, and which gave further support to his atheism. Cosmicism is the literary philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft-there is no recognizable divine prescence such as God in the universe and humans and particularly insignificant.
The cult in Red Hook worships such demons as the ancient (and mythologically real) Ashtaroth and Lilith. Lovecraft's story is a monkey-puzzle of occult lore, and there is a very good rationale for this. Lovecraft got most of his information, including a chant to the Greek goddess Hecate from the Encyclopedia Brittanica on demonology and magic-an authority on many subjects perhaps-but not esoterica! The Horror at Red Hook brought Lovecraft to the realization of how little he really knew about magic. He even asked his correspondents for any books they would suggest reading to help him learn more: "Are there any good translations of any mediaeval necromancers for raising spirits, invoking Lucifer, and all that sort of thing?" he questioned in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith.
By the end of his short life, Lovecraft had read several books about magic. The problem was that most of these were overhyped works of a secondhand lineage. These included Arthur Edward Waite's Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, Lewis Spence's Encyclopedia of Occultism, Sax Rohmer's Romance of Sorcay, and The Mysteries of Magic by Eliphas Levi. The latter book came in very handy when Lovecraft wrote The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Ward is a scholar who discovers that one of his ancestors, Joseph Curwen, was a wizard with a library full of books about alchemy and mysticism. A mob of Providence's citizens lay siege to Curwen's farmhouse and kill him. During the attack, Curwen chanted two spells taken straight from Levi's The Mysteries of Magic. However, when it came to the final incantation that raises the dead, Lovecraft couldn't find one he liked enough so he wrote one in his own "R'lyehian" language.
As time went on, Lovecraft came to a fascinating turning point. In yet another letter he said that he thought the language of esotericism was "flat, childish, pompous, and unconvincing." His opinion was that any writer worth his or her salt could make up occult books every bit as alien and terrifying as any that actually existed. History has certainly vindicated Lovecraft in this respect! Lovecraft's literary device-the Necronomicon has inspired an enormous number of phony versions, none that have the power of Lovecraft's original.
A huge amount of falsehood surrounds any connection that Lovecraft had (or didn't) with the infamous magician (BTW today is A. Crowley's B-day) Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Some researchers say the two men actually met or even claim that Lovecraft's wife, Sonia Greene dated Crowley before marrying Lovecraft. All of this is untrue. Lovecraft had heard of Crowley, but didn't know anything more about him than what newspapers of the day said about him. Lovecraft never corresponded with Crowley or read any of his work, and thought Crowley to be "rather over-advertised." Lovecraft's tale The Thing on the Doorstep makes reference to an English cult leader, but this seems to be the entire extent of Crowley's influence on Lovecraft.
One person of interest that Lovecraft may have met was science-fiction author and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Both men wrote for the pulp magazines at the same time, and both attended a Fiction Guild dinner in June 1936. In a letter to Robert Bloch-author of Psycho, Lovecraft mentions Hubbard's name, but can't remember actually meeting him.
The most famous of Lovecraft's occult correspondents may have been Brian Lumley (1880-1960). Lumley was a night watchman from Buffalo, New York. Earlier in his life Lumley had been a sailor who heard strange stories in ports around the world. Lumley told Lovecraft that he had met Eastern men of esoteric knowledge, and that one of them had even visited him for a short time in Buffalo. He also told Lovecraft about ghosts and spirits that haunted the houses and valleys of western New York. Lovecraft was skeptical, but the two men became good friends and corresponded often until Lovecraft's death. Lumley had written a story called The Diary of Alonzo Typer that Lovecraft revised for him. It was about a haunted house near Attica and reads like an actual account of a paranormal investigation. Perhaps Lumley was describing a true event-at least the way he saw it? Sadly, most of Lumley's papers have disappeared so there is no way to tell.
Lovecraft read some Theosophical literature on and off for over ten years. In 1926, he read W. Scott Elliot's Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria. This book is about lost continents and a description of their geography, history, culture and inhabitants. A short time after reading this Lovecraft wrote one if his most celebrated tales, The Call of Cthulu. In this story poets and authors the world over have strange dreams of an underwater city in the Pacific. The psychic disturbance is, interpreted as a good thing by some, including the Theosophists. But one student of ethnology slowly learns the real truth behind the visions. The dreams aren't sent out into the ether by a loving, spiritual being-quite the opposite! If the utterly alien lifeform that is sending the dreams out is allowed to leave its sunken city in the Pacific, it will destroy all of humanity. E. Hoffman Price remarked in his memoirs that he was unimpressed with Lovecraft's understanding of Theosophy. Maybe if Lovecraft had delved deeper into their literature instead of reading around the edges of it for over ten years, his work would have had more resemblance to Theosophical concepts. This isn't to say whether Theosophy is a good or bad thing in and of itself. I have only read one of the people who subscribed to this philosophy that I have enjoyed-a Rudolph Steiner, but I have hardly read all Theosophical works!
Many issues discussed within Theosophy-Lemuria, Atlantis, "Hidden" masters who secretly rule humanity, an the Imperishable Sacred Land -supposedly in the far north, could have resonated with Lovecraft's work. Even reincarnation-a key Theosophical concept is a theme in a number of Lovecraft tales, including The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The Theosophists had in common with Lovecraft that they had almost the same goal of uniting myth and ancient knowledge with modern science-the difference being that Lovecraft's approach was purely fictional. Some researchers, the wonderful and prolific Colin Wilson among them have wondered whether Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's Book of Dzyan could have been the inspiration for the Necronomicon. Here again, Lovecraft's letters are priceless in revealing the truth. We know from them that Lovecraft didn't know of the Book of Dzyan until E. Hoffman Price told him about it in 1933. Apparently Price's account of the book interested Lovecraft and it is actually mentioned along with the Necronomicon in his later stories, including The Diary of Alonzo Typer and The Haunter of the Dark.
Henry Kuttner, a Californian science-fiction author sent one of Blavatsky's books-either Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine to Lovecraft in 1936. Lovecraft thanked his fellow author for the gift and mentioned he had always intended to read Blavatsky, but hadn't done so. Lovecraft died only four months later, so if he had finally read the "other" HP;-) any thoughts he might have had about her and any new views on the Theosophical movement he might have had were lost forever.
OK-feeling a bit rough today-but even if I am halfway able to do so -tomorrow I will post another article. Peace and be well to anyone stopping by and thanks again for the fantastic comments and links! I appreciate them very much!