Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Lovecraftian World: Is The Kingdom Opening? Pt.9

The beings of Lovecraft's mythos often have human (or mostly human) servants. Cthulu for example, is worshipped under various names by cults amongst both the Eskimos of Greenland and voodoo circles of Louisiana, and in many other parts of the world. These worshippers served a useful narrative purpose for Lovecraft, many beings of the Mythos were too powerful to be defeated by human opponents, and so horrific that direct knowledge of them meant insanity for the victim. When dealing with such beings, Lovecraft needed a way to provide exposition and build tension without bringing the story to a premature end. Human followers gave him a way to reveal information about their "gods" in a diluted form, and also made it possible for his protagonists to win paltry victories.

Lovecraft, like his contemporaries, envisioned savages "as closer to the Earth," only in Lovecraft's case, this meant, closer to Cthulu. Inherited guilt-another recurring theme in Lovecraft's stories is the idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the stain of crimes committed by their forebears, at least if the crimes are atrocious enough. Descendants may be very far removed, both in place and time (and, indeed in culpability), from the act itself, and yet blood will tell (The Rats in the Walls, The Lurking Fear, Arthur Jermyn, The Alchemist, The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). An example of a crime that Lovecraft apparently considered heinous enough for this consequence is cannabilism-The Picture in the House, and again The Rats in the Walls.

Fate often plays a role in Lovecraft's stories. The protagonist is not in control of his own actions, and finds it impossible to change course. Many of his characters would be free from any danger if they simply managed to run away; however, this possibility either never arises or is somehow stopped by some outside force, such as The Color Out of Space and The Dreams in the Witch House. Often his characters are subject to a compulsive influence from powerful malevolent or indifferent beings. As with the inevitability of one's ancestry, eventually even running away, or death itself, provides no safety: The Thing on the Doorstep, The Outsider, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, etc. In some cases, this doom is manifested in the entirety of humanity, and no escape is possible: The Shadow Out of Time.



Though little is known about his fan base, Lovecraft was familiar with the work of the German conservative-revolutionary theorist Oscar Spengler. Spengler's pessimistic thesis of the decadence of the modern West formed a crucial element in Lovecraft's overall anti-modern, ceonservative worldview. Spenglerian imagery of cyclical decay is present in particular in At the Mountains of Madness. In his book titled H.P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West, S.T Joshi places Spengler at the center of Lovecraft's political and philosophical ideas. Lovecraft wrote to Clark Ashton Smith in 1927: "It is my belief, and was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it, that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence." (see China Mieville's At the Mountains of Madness, Modern Library Classics, 2005). Lovecraft was also acquainted with the writings of another German intellectual who dealt with civilized decadence in philosophical terms, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Lovecraft frequently dealt with the idea of civilization struggling against more barbaric, primitive elements. In some stories this struggle is at an individual level; many of his protagonists are cultured, highly educated men who are gradually corrupted by some obscure and feared influence. In such stories, the "curse" is often a hereditary one, either because of interbreeding with non-humans (e.g. Facts Concerning Arthur Jermyn and His Family, 1920, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, 1931.) Sometimes through direct magical influence -The Case of Charles Dexter Ward- physical and mental depredation often comes together, this thereof 'tainted blood' may represent concerns relating to Lovecraft's own family history, particularly the death of his father due to what Lovecraft might have suspected was a syphilitic disorder. In other tales, an entire society is threatened by barbarism. Sometimes the barbarism comes in an external threat, with a civilized race destroyed in war (e.g. Polaris). Sometimes, an isolated parcel of humanity falls into decadence and atavism (evolutionary throwback-think George "Dubya" Bush-yuk yuk) of its own accord (e.g. The Lurking Fear). But most often, such stories involve a civilized culture being gradually undermined by a malevolent underclass influenced by inhuman forces.

A Buddhist monk named Robert Ernst Dickoff brought together different aspects of Lovecraftian thought using both sets of "Gods" and Lovecraft's mountain of "Kadath" in a book he wrote in 1951 called Agartha. Richard Shaver, the Pennsylvanian welder of "deros" fame and a long time Weird Tales reader, employed very similar thoughts in his writing about the underground "deros" who inflict pain and suffering on humanity and are opposed by the "teros."

Very interesting also, is that a case could be made for Lovecraft anticipating John Keel's theory of "windows"-areas through which extradimensional beings and their influences can come through by decades. And also giving a glimpse of Erich von Daniken's theory of "ancient astronauts" also decades before ancient astronaut mania swept the world. It is not being suggested that Keel or von Daniken were directly inspired by Lovecraft -only that their 'real' theories follow behind the 'fictional' course set out by Lovecraft. After certain sects of people involved in the occult and esoteric began buying in Lovecraftian themes, it was only a matter of time before rumors began of sects of various occultists practicing Lovecraftian magic. Two works published in 1922 brought Lovecraft's 'magic' to an even wider audience. Anton LaVey's The Satanic Rituals included rituals also by the dark and controversial (and I think seriously disturbed -and worse)- Michael Aquino to call Lovecraft's gods Shub-Niggurath and Cthulu into consciousness.

Hopefully I will get to more about Aquino, The Church of Satan, Jonestown and some other horrific and disturbing subjects in the future. LaVey and Aquino said that these cermemonies and rituals were only acts of psychodrama. However, if true, this fact was lost on many people (their followers and others who practice them. Kenneth Grant, Aleister Crowley's supposed "successor" published The Magical Revival, which celebrated Lovecraft as a contemporary of Crowley who also believed in the start of a new aeon. Those who followed magical or occult beliefs have never generally been shy of giving birth to their own traditions, but the acceptance and incorporation of an acknowledged fictional pantheon began a great firestorm of controversy that hasn't let up to this day in some circles.

For all the misgivings, Lovecraftian magic will be here for a long time. In thse seemingly most fictional or perhaps derivative of times, of the late 20th and early 21st centuries I think it would be fascinating and a great insight into human psychology if Lovecraftian theories and magic outlasted them all.

There are groups of spiritual seekers who even use hallucinogens to get in touch with Lovecraft's "Old Ones." I can't imagine what kind of enlightenment they are trying to find-but as long as they don't bring the "Old Ones" up from the Pacific or down (perhaps interdimensionally?) from "Beyond the Stars" more power to them. Black Moon Publishing provides photocopies of an enormous collection of Lovecraftian conjurations, rituals, Tarot decks and even theoretical speculation. Chances are very good that as more people find out about H.P. Lovecraft and his work, that more and more will practice magic based on his fiction. The Necronomicon is no doubt by far the most widely known and alluring offshoot of this imaginal magical tradition. In a fascinating excercise of "bootstrapping"; people continue to "write" the book invented by Lovecraft long after his death.

This ends the parts about H.P. Lovecraft the man and his times, thoughts etc. As always, I am somewhat confused about where to go next. I was going to continue in the vein of "real" seemingly Lovecraftian inspired horrors that take place here on Earth. But now I want to call the next series if there is to be one, something different-I just don't want to attribute -or mislead? anyone into thinking the writing of H.P. Lovecraft inspired these terrifying people and events-in fact it is the very sickness of some of these real-life horror stories that is preventing me from wanting to continue in this way at all-I will have to think about it.

I wanted to do a bit about the Necronomicon, and still might. This series was inspired by various sources: Jeff Wells' excellent book Rigorous Intuition and Daniel Harms with his superb article about Lovecraft in the July 2004 issue of Fortean Times magazine called Dreamer of the Dark. Harms is the author of The Encyclopedia of Cthuliana, and the co-author with John Wisdom Gonce of The Necronomicon Files. Best to anyone stopping by and thanks again for your thoughtful and intelligent comments and links! Almost forgot-a great deal of information for this series- especially this article and a couple of others came from wikipedia. Wiki entry on S. T. Joshi here.

21 comments:

Michael said...

Hi Devin, I've been busy in the "maya" world lately, so I'm sorry I've missed this wonderful exposition. I read your opening statement, where you imagine the current rulers of this world somehow captured eternally within the eternal consciousness of Cthulu, and I was reminded how much Cthulu reminds me of the Borg.

IMHO, the Borg, and Cthulu, are the ego's worst imaginings of what it would be like to surrender egoic power to the Id. Cthulu (an amazing word that I simply canNOT spell correctly or consistently) is the brilliant creation of ego, AKA, an illusion.

I have this hilarious idea of eternal hell for the likes of GHWB: it is exactly my idea of heaven. It's a world where fear and shame cannot be used as a manipulative tool for wealth and power. Love, sex, sharing, and especially erotic sharing, would be natural and normal. When you look at the Catholic Middle Ages ideas of hell, you basically see a gay leather bar (red hot spindles up the ass of sinners, etc.)

Sometimes I think that Lovecraft (and all his sexually repressed English cohorts) are like the insipid young gay man who never gets up the guts to actually enter a gay bar. "gay bar" is like a doorway into the subconscious, and instead of facing it head on, they just look on from outside, imagining every horror they can possibly imagine going on inside. Poor saps, they've turned Heaven into Hell.

Devin said...

Michael -dont worry about apologizing for being in the world of illusion-we are all (more or less) trapped in that to a degree!
I really loved this comment and enjoyed your linking of Cthulu with the Borg-and the ego's imaginings -I so often wonder what happens after our little show here-anything? are we absorbed back into eternity ? or do we continue our little lives here for a bit not knowing we should have left the stage? or does anything happen?

and my god what a great thought about hell for the overclass!! love, peace, sharing, normal sex (the kind where no one dies;-)
I also emjoyed your last paragraph very much to say the least!
I often wonder at what cost to humanity the internal/external repression of homosexuality has been?
Best to you and Var as always Michael -and I hope you are both doing splendidly!!
ps-if you guys meet any wealthy Latino industrialists-send them to me please-with sugar on top!
I will convert their politics overnight and hook them into spending all their money on the world revolution to come;-)

foam said...

hey there devin,
good morning to you.

i've never read lovecraft ...
or much of robert anton wilson. i bring him up because just recently my husband brought up wilson and mentioned lovecraft who is mentioned in the wilson novels as somebody who is in possession of knowledge of a world beyond our imaginations.

anyway ... i got a smile when i read your description of normal sex - the kind where nobody dies ..... haha ...

Anadæ Effro said...

Ah yes, but don't forget, men, it's time once again for? … CALLS FOR CTHULHU!!!! Brilliant, sheerly brilliant. Enjoy ~ A.E. (•8-D}

Anadæ Effro said...

And, not to flirt with overkill, here's another one … Calls for Cthulhu Episode 2.

Michael said...

"captured eternally within the eternal consciousness of Cthulu"... "I was reminded how much Cthulu reminds me" - Sheesh, talk about commenting without a license! Sorry about that.

I will definitely be on the lookout for wealthy Latino industrialists! :-) I know things are rough for you right now, Devin - anxiety about the future can be terrible, I know from personal experience. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Cheers,

M

Devin said...

Hiya foam! and good afternoon to you-actually I am a lot more familiar with RAW than I am Lovecraft-as far as the actual writings of the men go-I have heard Lovecraft mentioned in a variety of ways in relationship to different things-even politics -and got more curious and wanted to do this series-I am glad you appreciated my attempt at humor -but I had no more than signed off last night than I realized that statement could be interpreted in a variety of ways -so I should probably be more alert when i answer questions-I also misused "their" i think-I mean is Michael supposed to send me a batch of latino industrialists? ;-)best as always foam and thanks for stopping by!!

Haha -1-800-SOL EATR- that is great Anadae and dont ever worry about flirting with overkill here! I do it all the time;-) o no- I just said something else that could be interpreted in a variety of ways -I better start "checking myself-before I wreck myself" -best to you as always my friend and I hope you have a beautiful weekend!!

Michael I can't tell you how much i appreciate your thoughts and prayers !! I am hoping I am not overdoing it for the sympathy vote -but yes in the background there is a lot of anxiety -stress and the like-I keep thinking how different things were just 2 and a half years ago-haha seems like another lifetime now-and dont worry about commenting without a license Michael-I deserve the dunce cap for the whole week with my comments -except for hoping to alert Mr Knowles about Falcon Heene's amazing journey-but he was well ahead of me-i always think of you and Var too and hope you are doing great-I hope you have a beautiful weekend my friend -thanks again for the prayers!!

Autumnforest said...

Excellent. I'm learning so much. I like how you mentioned von Daniken. When I look at Da Vinci and HG Wells and Jules Verne, I imagine it could be said submarines and helicopters and such were not really original ideas, they might have been subliminally lurking in our minds waiting for the time to have the technology. Then, again, how creative were those men? They simply looked at birds and whales and imagined...what if man could make a vessel to do these things? So, perhaps, Lovecraft was more imitating nature than originating things that were never conceived of before. They play out in the world when you simply observe. Okay, with that mind-bending thought, I want to thank you so much for getting me interested in Lovecraft. His name has been branded on so many mediocre movies that I never gave him a thought, but now I realize what a complex and prophetic contributor he was to literature. Keep `em coming.

Devin said...

I always appreciate your mind-bending thoughts so much Autumnforest-I think Da Vinci was in a class by himself -but not really sure about HGWelles -I think Lovecraft-the more I look at the man and his work-was being "bugged" by something in his deep unconscious-maybe an archetype-I got to thinking how much the Pacific that Cthulu is under could represent the mind/unconscious-and with what happened to Lovecraft's father with insanity-I wonder if Cthulu represented that insanity-and Lovecraft's own fears of going down the same path-and maybe some repressed content also-still kind of looking at that aspect- as always I thank you so very much for stopping by-I didnt have anything new this weekend but maybe during the week-really enjoying your Halloween series-fantastic stuff for a wonderful time of year!!

Michael Skaggs said...

Awesome series!!! So glad I came back to read them! Have to agree with many of your commenters, they seem to have the right idea on the Cthulu. Especially Michael's statement including the Borg.

Great stuff, glad this got out in your writings.

WV=atoomben [atom bomb? Hehe]

Devin said...

Hey Michael-so glad for your comment!! thanks for the WV also-haha hope that isn't predictive regarding Iran or anything!! I was very happy to do this series finally-been wanting to for some time-i might be real slow here till the weekend so after weds i should be able to catch up with everyone else and their work-i think getting the paperwork together for my case is going to take a lot more than I thought and i may not have as much online time for awhile
best to you as always my friend -and thanks again for stopping by! I hope it is not back down to 40 F where you live -brrr-will try to send some of our late 80s early 90s heat:-)

Autumnforest said...

Devin;
Check out my latest post--I'm calling on your for an element in a Halloween Short Mad Lib :-)

Devin said...

Gotcha Autumnforest-when i saw this i thought it was from yesterday-glad it was from today as i was offline yesterday-hope i can help you out! all the best to you!!

X. Dell said...

Dude, getting caught up with MFM. I'm about halfway through the Lovecraft series (I left my comments there). Will be back to finish up.

Devin said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and your great comments Xdell!! there is never a rush with me -I am going to try to get caught up with people today including you -I am in low energy mode so it may be tomorrow -but hopefully I can wake up a bit-best to you as always!!

Alex Robinson said...

Hi Devin
Just finished the last of this series - what an epic journey!

Thanks so much, I have a much better feel of things 'Lovecraftian' now. It is a very interesting name he had!

The title 'Horror of Red Hook' attracted my attention to detail - in the movie the Waitress, the bus that lead out of town was going to Red Hook. The name of the town where the film is set is never revealed. Still it was interesting to me that Adrienne Shelly must have chosen it - another pointer? to her occult death.

All the very best to you my beautiful friend (& many thanks for the lovely comment in your latest article, it was very much appreciated :)

X. Dell said...

(1) Inherited guilt? Could that coincide with inherited privlige?

(2) A reporter once asked Gandhi what he thought of western civilization. Gandhi's answer: "I think it would be a good idea."

His point, of course is that what some--especially those of the conservative delusion--define as civilization is actually barbarism to most (two world wars, threatened nuclear annihilation, the developing premise of continuing warfare, the attacks on those who advocate peace, the indifference to hunger and illness, etc.). The fear that somehow someone will break down civilization is really the fear of losing a birthright to power.

Devin said...

Xdell your comment here regarding Gandhi's thoughts was wonderful -I couldn't agree more "Western" civilization has indeed been a giant wrecking ball in many instances-I hate to go on and on about capitalism-but I really do think the ultimate goal of capitalism is the destruction of everything whether "the system" realizes it or not.
Your comment here really "synched" with me today as I had been reading Pinchbeck's "Breaking Open the Head" again -and the book has so much about supposedly "archaic" or "barbaric" cultures in it -there is a very touching sentence in the book about how an American buddhist -who had been in Ecuador had wept for four days about the destruction of the habitat of one of these tribes (maybe the tribe itself i think also!) by Big Oil-it pointed out that the oil from this region satisified US needs for about two whopping weeks!!
sometimes i wonder "when the man comes around" so to speak -what these American rapture head millenialists are gonna do when they see who were really the "bad guys" best to you as always my friend!!

Devin said...

Sheeehs Alex-I am losing my damn marbles -I knew you had commented and duuuhhhh couldn't find it -My word perhaps it is a blessing I dont drive anymore half asleep at the wheel!!!!
thanks for your wonderful comment and I so appreciate you stopping by-I would like to go back through some of your earlier articles with regard to the "Adrienne Shelley" info and many others you have talked about at too long in this place-some of the ways these people die-the dates of their deaths-the occult significance-is becoming far -way too far to be coincidental to me!!!

your commments are always deeply appreciated here my friend more than you will ever know (haha even if my blindness prevents me from seeing them at first!!! I have to come up with shorter post titles so i can see the number of the post people are commenting on in a series!!!
please also tell your father I send love and a huge hug to him also-his words have really touched my soul in a huge way lately!!!!!
love you and all the best!!!xx

Justin Russell said...

I finally caught the last Lovecraft instalment! Informative series Dev, I'd like to get onto reading some of his classic stories soon.

Be well!

Devin said...

I also want to read much more of his work now also Justin-i really enjoyed this series!! if you have updated i hope to take a look at your blog today or this weekend -i am determined to finish my halloween short story today if it kills me haha-unless connection goes -just in case i am out tomorrow -which i hope i am as it would be my first evening date in about a year haha!!! needless to say my life isn't one of endless excitement but maybe it is better that way
all the best to you my friend and i hope to chat with you soon!!!