Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Lovecraftian World: Is The Kingdom Opening? Pt.7

Much of Lovecraft's work was directly inspired by his night terrors, and it is perhaps this direct insight into the unconscious and its symbolism that helps to account for their continuing resonance. All these interests naturally led to his deep affection for the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who heavily influenced Lovecraft's earliest macabre stories and writing style known for its creepy atmosphere and lurking fears. Lovecraft's discovery of the stories of Lord Dunsany with their gallery of mighty gods existing in dreamlike outer realms moved his writing in a new direction, resulting in a series of imitative fantasties in a 'Dreamlands' setting.

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!

14 comments:

Anadæ Effro said...

Brilliant to've corresponded w/ you outside of the angles between space, I MEAN, outside the well-read blog of yours here! LOL! Too bad abite HPL's false grasp of Theosophy. And, my lad, 'tis Rudolf Steiner, so watch the splellingk from now on. LOL! The great Austrian mystic Steiner, whose many Goetheanums were burned to the ground by the then goose-stepping Nazi Party, which perceived his Anthroposophy as a threat, all save for THIS ONE in Switzerland, probably all resonate to the Golden Ratio, seeing that they're so organic.

Steiner's having broken-off w/ Blavatsky's Theosophical Society was due to, get a load of this, HIS perception that it was too chthonic. Chthonic, Cthulhu, HuLu? LOL! they're all the same.

Anywho, Buddy Boy, thou work doth rocketh! PLEASE nurse that cold. I ended up in hospital in '82 (nineteen-eighty-two, not any of the other ones, LOL) fr. having waited too long to catch a sore throat fr. worsening & ya Gno what? It was rheumatic fever! It nearly killed me. But, hey, here I am to tell of all the fever dreams I had.

Live & in full effect fr. Apple Mountain,
Anadæ Effro (•8-D}

Devin said...

Thanks for catching the misspelling anadae! haha. That is great and interesting information as always about Steiner's break with Blavatsky-I cant tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts and links! I am going to try an article today-unless the golden raito of typos to words gets to ridiculous!
all the best to you my friend-hugz!!

Justin Russell said...

I'm fully up to date now with your latest instalment on Lovecraft Dev. Very enjoyable. I always wanted to get round to reading Lovecraft as every major horror writer I'd ever read seemed to reference him big time. His name used to loom large in the tableaux of Alan Moore, Clive Barker, Stephen King, et al; as if he was some sort of demi-god of the genre, sent straight by the Elder Gods as emmissary. Cthulu and Lovecraft seemed synonymous for alien threat and ghastly otherness to me back then, just from what others said about his work.

I'll really have to read a book or two of his soon. So, you will be treating the other Necronomicon here sometime? The Simon/Peter Levenda text? Some people still beleive that Lovecraft's and Levenda's are based on a real ancient grimoire. I have read people who say they have "used" it and that the magick "works." Confounded I am at that. But just because something wasn't conceived "authentically" doesn't mean that it won't have power and magickal effect as an end result. Belief is powerful thing. And maybe real sorcery chooses vessels if the intent is meant as a pure act of creation, and fiction has always weaved a more powerful spell than any magickal text I have ever read.

Devin said...

Justin -once again I appreciate your thoughts enormously!! I think I am either going to try to talk about the Necronomicon next or the topic of the link you sent me -I cant decide-I am so glad you said Simon/Levenda-as I have communicated with one person I completely trust that doesnt feel they are one and the same person-would appreciate any thoughts-I also agree about the "authenticity" issue -I think Lovecraft's vision and stories have more power by far than many things I have seen! I love that line that starts The Call of Cthulu-and want to read more of his work than I have -am going to keep an eye out at libraries etc- thanks so very much for mentioning the other writers-you reminded me of Barker and one other one who should be on the horror writer list!
I loved the thought in your last sentence there! you may be onto something there-any other thoughts you have with anything i would greatly appreciate as i go on-hopefully-probably going to be offline tomorrow-but back hopefully thursday
all the best to you my friend and thanks so much for stopping by!!

Justin Russell said...

Simon is Levenda? Don't know definitively, ie, that I have no proof. But strong internet rumours, allied to my knowledge of Levenda and my reading of a downloaded version of the Simon version leads me to think it's very likely. Levenda's style and incredible intelligence (I have to be honest, I think he may about the most intelligent researcher I've come across in all conspiracana and occult areas) give credence to this to my mind.

For me, it just seems to fit. Could well be wrong though.

These interviews with Levenda showcase his abilities (and doesn't he know it!):

Hijackers of the Unconscious

Blood Groups

Devin said...

Well Justin you are very intelligent and have great inutuition -so perhaps I should just dig deeper and present both cases-the yes Simon/Levenda and the no Simon/Levenda
My back is keeping me awake tonight-well should say this morning-and I am researching that link you gave under comment 2 -excellent link! I am just worried about that set of pics here and there towards the front (so far-I am only halfway down) that are kind of explicit to say the least and horrible to even contemplate- i think i will do an edit warning about folks wanting to look at the site
thanks so very much for the new links-more great stuff to look into!! best to you as always my friend!!

Justin Russell said...

Yes, that page on the Dutroux case can be harrowing reading. I think that the author does warn about the content and gives his reasons for inclusion of certain elements as necessary for the telling of his story. That is: this is how sick and f**ked up this sort of thing is. But I agree, if you link that story up make sure people are aware how grim it is.

I was shocked by the stories relayed by the main girl interviewed (and how she was bullied and coerced by corrupt cops!). Terrible events. But required reading on this subject.

Devin said...

Yes Justin -I do agree that this is a very important site -to say the least (haha i was surprised to get a commnent in the early am-duuh not realizing its what 9 or 10 am in the UK?) really appreciate you giving me the link -just now shutting puter down for the day after doing back and forth research from that site to others -I had forgotten about Andre Cools and his assassination - very weird and sick -as is always the case with fascist sexuality- things being said -but they certainly tie together with so much of the other reading i have done-gladio -P2 Lodge- craig spence-franklin omaha-I thought the bit about the cattle mutilations on the site was very interesting also-I can't believe the corruption in Dutroux either -I still hope it can be blown wide open-but not holding my breath-thanks again Justin-not even done with that link there is so much there-and just took a peek at some of your new links -really appreciate it and I will keep an eye out for you!! the Celi De/Culdee story is getting more and more interesting to me also!I would like to check for the Naudon book at the library -and other infor at your latest -no worries i aint doing the driving after being awake so long-best to you as always!!

Justin Russell said...

Don't necessarily have to go to the library for the Naudon book, unless you're like me and prefer hard copy texts. There is a link underneath one of the quotes in my post to a PDF of the text. But for sake of convenience:

The Secret History of Freemasonry - Its Origins & Connections to the Knights Templar - Paul Naudon

Devin said...

Justin-thanks so much for the link! I am like you in that respect that I prefer hard copy -haha no puns or allusions intended in my case:-) but it is very much preferable to have an ebook than nothing to say the least! i actually dont mind ebooks -it is my back that makes it hard to do research using them-if I go further with the Dutroux case (and others similar) which i am having a time deciding about this will significantly affect my ability to get articles here about it-all of that horribleness is online info-again very much appreciate the link and will check it out-the library didn't carry the book-best as always to you my friend and i will check and see if you have updated also-sorry it took so long to get your comment here!!

X. Dell said...

Interesting. A few weeks ago, my mother bought me The Big Book of Conspiracy Theories as a present. It's more like a graphic novel.

Anyway, I was thinking of something the book posited. As you know, Crowley didn't trust Hubbard one bit, and cautioned Jack Parsons against getting too close to him, and despite that Parsons included his wife (Marjorie Cameron) and Hubbard in The Babylon Working spell/ceremony/ritual. According to TBBoCT, What they really did was release the Necronomicon in real life. The ceremony took place in 1947, shortly before the first major wave of UFO sightings, and the author guessed that there might have been a connection.

It's not that I believe any of this. Still, as fiction writer, I can see how this could aid in the development of future works.

Devin said...

wow -yet another fascinating thought Xdell-did you ever read -o for eff's sake-now i can't think of the damn name of course! I think it was called "sex and rockets" a book about Jack Parsons? of course forgot the author too-i will look it up and beofore going offline this eve will try to post in comments at your blog-haha I almost said "Love and Rockets" i think that mighta been a band in the 90s "OOOHHH I'm alive-so so alive" haha!!
all the best to you my friend and thanks for stopping by!!!

X. Dell said...

Yup. I thought I might have cited it in the Manson series, but my memory is fading, these days.

Devin said...

Haha -Xdell if you think you did it is probably my memory at fault!! I have forgotten what I have told to whom at what time and why-so in certain correspondences I have been re-telling people stuff they have heard before -and other folks stuff they have never heard anything about and dont know what the hell i am talking about!! all the best to you as always-really enjoying your new series!!