Nice one, George!! ;-))
Working Magick with the Cthulhu Mythos
by George D. Jackson
During the course of teaching my class "The Path of the Adept," the subject of Necronomic magick and the Cthulhu Mythos invariably seems to arise. If one is going to explore this area, I deem it absolutely necessary that a person has a knowledge of its originator, Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
H.P. Lovecraft was born August 20, 1890, and died March 15, 1937, at the age of 46. He was a child prodigy, reading at two and writing at three. His parents were, to say the least, strange. His father died insane while Lovecraft was still a small child, and his mother was hugely overprotective and misanthropic. She had a pronounced aversion to touching him as a child. She too died while he was young. One of the key figures in his childhood was his grandfather, Whippie Phillips, who told him ghost stories and tales of witchcraft while he was still very small. One of the first books that he read was Grimm's Tales, to be followed by The Arabian Nights. At this time, he was five years old. One of his older relatives suggested he assume the name of "Abdul Alhazred," which was probably derived from "Hazard," a family connected to the Phillipses. Alhazred was later to be identified as the author of The Necronomicon.
Definite results came from this very early exposure to non-Christian traditions. At five, Lovecraft was placed in the infant class of the Sunday school of the venerable First Baptist Meeting House on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island. The results came as a shock to all the adults concerned. He wrote:
"The absurdity of the myths I was called upon to accept and the somber grayness of the whole faith compared with the Eastern magnificence of Mahometanism made me definitely an agnostic, and caused me to become so pestiferous a questioner that I was permitted to discontinue attendance."
At the age of six, Lovecraft plunged into classical Greek mythology. He later wrote:
"When about seven or eight I was a genuine pagan, so intoxicated with the beauty of Greece that I acquired a half-sincere belief in the old gods and nature spirits. I have in literal truth built altars to Pan, Apollo and Athena and have watched for dryads and satyrs in the woods and fields at dusk. Once I firmly thought I beheld some kind of sylvan creatures dancing under autumnal oaks; a kind of `religious experience' as true in its ways as the subjective ecstasies of a Christian. If a Christian tells me he has felt the reality of his Jesus or Jahveh, I can reply that I have seen hoofed Pan and the sisters of the Hesperian Phaethusa."
The Germans have a word, Wundersucht, for this mystical sense of the reality of magick and the supernatural. With Lovecraft, however, it led to a skeptical view of the supernatural -- his nontheism. He became a philosophical materialist.
Lovecraft was influenced in his writing by four preeminent writers. They were Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, A. Conan Doyle and Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, better known by his pen name Lord Dunsany.
[I knew I found myself on the right track with a renewed addiction to Jules Verne and A. C. Doyle, George; now, if I could only find the works of H.P.Lovecraft himself! hehe]
From Lord Dunsany came Lovecraft's concept of establishing a mythos for his tales. In 1921, the first of the Cthulhu Mythos tales was written, "The Nameless City," published in Weird Tales, November 1938. Thirteen others were to follow, of which "The Dunwich Horror" was turned into a full-length motion picture starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee in the early 1970s. As a small aside, I will mention that the poster illustrator for this film was a devout fundamentalist Christian and the production of the advertising poster so filled him with horror that he ended his career in films with this effort. A more tongue-in-cheek film called Cast a Deadly Spell was done in recent years.
Through his enormous personal correspondence, Lovecraft invited other gifted fantasy writers to add to the mythos. These included August Derleth, who founded the publishing company Arkham House, dedicated to publishing tales of the mythos, and Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, as well as the other well-known writers Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, Brian Lumley, Colin Wilson and Lin Carter, to name a few. More recently, David Drake and the late Roger Zelazny added to this ongoing effort. In the end, Lovecraft and the other writers created through their intuition, their dreams waking and asleep, their extrapolation and writing skills a mythos so terrifyingly real that many assume today that it is. To quote from The Necronomicon:
"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange eons even death can die."
The Cthulhu mythos postulates an incredibly ancient race of beings from the star system of Betelgeuse. In the aftermath of a cosmic falling out between "The Elder Gods" and "The Great Old Ones," which is explained in "The Lair of the Star Spawn," the Great Old Ones are exiled and imprisoned on Earth, some other star systems and adjacent dimensions. This event occurs prior to life as we know it on Earth. So the Great Old Ones are involuntary colonists, somewhat like the people who were first shipped to Australia under sentence of British law. To say that the GOO have little or no interest in the goings-on of humanity, except possibly in the area of pest control or a convenient source of material for genetic manipulation, would be a massive understatement. The vast majority of the GOO are totally alien in aspect, being amorphous with a tendency to sprout tentacles or other appendages at need. Their mental abilities are many evolutionary steps beyond humanity's, and close proximity to their musings tends to drive men mad. One wonders if their original sin was a very advanced form of genetic engineering.
Some of the entities mentioned in the mythos are Azathoth, the blind idiot god and leader of the GOO, and Yog-Sothoth, the all-in-one and one-in-all, with no strictures in time or space. Combined together, they form an apt description of elemental chaos. Some of the others are Cthulhu, a water being with elemental powers; Hastur, He Who Is Not To Be Named, the lord of air;
[Reminds one of Voldemort, in Harry Potter, does it not?]
Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young; Cthugha, a fire being; and Nyarlathotep, the messenger of the GOO. There are myriads of others, as well as minions of the Great Old Ones created for service needs.
Now, magick is in part the manifestation of an intent by the power of the will and other energies. Bringing the Great Old Ones through the gates and portals of imagination and manifesting them on our level of reality is an effort that can be very hazardous to one's mental, spiritual and physical well-being. Nevertheless, it seems very tempting to magicians, and as I say I am usually asked about it in my classes.
[And my neophyte's question, George, = where do I get these books? ;-))]
In the middle 1970s, I experimented with taking a very quick peek at the plane of existence of the GOO, utilizing fragments of ritual found in Lovecraft's stories. My female co-magician promptly began lapsing into unconsciousness in one of our initial attempts. I took this as an omen of things to come and decided it was a good idea to suspend operations in that direction.
[My other neophyte's question = where do we get details of this working?]
Such work is called portal opening and does not involve invoking the GOO. When it comes to invoking, it is good to know that, according to the mythos, there are no banishings or wards devised by humans that can affect the Great Old Ones. Needless to say, various ceremonial magicians keep poking around this area trying to impose their sense of order on something basically chaotic, and for the most part their efforts have not been well-rewarded. Kenneth Grant was one of these; he outlines his work in a book called Outer Gateways.
A book entitled Necronomicon, published by Avon Books in 1980, attempts to tie together Sumerian magick, the work of Aleister Crowley and the Cthulhu Mythos of Lovecraft.
In my opinion, it fails completely in this effort.
The portion on Sumerian magick should stand alone, for it has virtue in its own right. Binding Crowley and the Great Old Ones' mythos together I hope is a joke.
[Binding Crowley and anything together = a joke? lol]
I keep having the suspicion the editors did this to justify using Necronomicon as the title for their book.
Phil Hine, a chaos sorcerer, has written a booklet entitled "The Pseudonomicon" that goes into considerable detail on how to approach the Cthulhu Mythos using some techniques of chaos sorcery. This booklet begins with a disclaimer listing various hazards, such as the potential for inducing in oneself an advanced state of paranoia.
However, it is the best magickal approach to the mythos that I have read to date. In the introduction, Phil asks why anyone would attempt to perform magickal work with Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. I suspect the answer is that we want to know if they're really, really out there.
[Yeh, we must find the truth out there, somewhere! lol]