“All nature is a vast reflection of that which is within us, or else we could not know it”
-Austin Osman Spare
Subjective experience is no less “real” than objective conjecture. All roads lead to Rome in a mirror-to-mirror function. This function of mirroring is found in the trance state in a simple, direct way. The higher techniques of idea and artist’s illusory skills makes effects and phenomena active through the dimensions of spacelessness and timelessness in ways normally consigned to the skeptical parking lot of modern existence. Time mirrors time.
“Embrace reality by imagination”
-Austin Osman Spare
Years of trying to rationalize inexplicable “experiences” disintegrate and only the most extreme speculations and constructs of impossibility begin to get close to giving answers that we see and feel. We are “Here to Go” as Brion Gysin succinctly stated. But not just here to go into inner and outer space, though that process is one part and conceptual parcel of the final aspiration. We are here to go out of the physical body. To enter the solid pool of time. To be fully integrated into that matter of TIME that connects us with every moment, in every direction, and every parallel or conflicting omniverse that ever was, wills to be, or intends to be. Intention is the key and the process is the product.
“The Life Force is not blind. We are”
-Austin Osman Spare
Time must be reassessed as a solid; as a form of consciousness; as the key element in the atomic scale. As the covert energy hidden in the million and one names of deities. Life is only a brief physical manifestation outside the circles of time. We can reenter the time pool and we can remanifest. This is exactly the same as entering the virtual world of “cyberspace/psychosphere” when you log on. Our appreciation of the implication of logging on must be developed from this deification perspective. Once logged on, we are vulnerable to all the agendas, traumas, neuroses, and brilliances of all other logged on individuals. We have reentered a pool. No different to the pool of time or the gene pool, or “racial memory/DNA” pools. This pool I will to name the Spatial Memory.
Our understanding of time travel, physicality, possibility, and the malleability of TIME and existence in a new contrived virtual world is prophesied by Austin Osman Spare, by Brion Gysin, by many artists and creators. This shift in our perception of time and mortality will be the most important arena of discussion and philosophical, cultural engineering in this 21st century.
“What is death? A great mutation to your next SELF”
-Austin Osman Spare
The primary quest in Art, Life, Science and Brain has become a quest for reliable, repeatable methods for interdimensional travel and communication. Beyond the body and through the prophetic portals. Einstein, Spare, Gysin, Leary, McKenna and all the other visionary synthesists
We are here to go out of the physical body. To enter the solid pool of time. Time must be reassessed as a solid; as a form of consciousness; as the key element in the atomic scale.
have contributed to the cumulative effect upon which sorcery is based. We can all play. By being aware of the implication of logging on. By designing conceptual and physical grids within the Psychosphere to facilitate accurate post-physical travel. By shouldering the responsibility we have accessed of God/Goddess building our actions are the process that leads to the final unity and the vanquishing once and for all of any either/or paradigms at last. This is the time that shall end. This is the calendar that ceases to exist. Time and life are not synonymous or fixed. Both are solids and can be shaped to our will
“In this book it is spoken of… Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things certain results follow.”
-Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice
Consumed by cancer in 1937 at the age of 46, the last scion of a faded aristocratic New England family, the horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft left one of America’s most curious literary legacies. The bulk of his short stories appeared in Weird Tales, a pulp magazine devoted to the supernatural. But within these modest confines, Lovecraft brought dark fantasy screaming into the 20th century, taking the genre, almost literally, into a new dimension.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the loosely linked cycle of stories known, somewhat problematically, as the Cthulhu Mythos. Named for a tentacled alien monster who waits dreaming beneath the sea in the sunken city of R’lyeh, this fragmentary and inconsistent story-cycle encompasses the cosmic career of a variety of gruesome extraterrestrial entities that include Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and the blind idiot god Azathoth, who sprawls at the center of Ultimate Chaos, “encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws.” Lurking on the margins of our space- time continuum, this merry crew of Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are now attempting to invade our world through science and dream and horrid rites.
Lurking on the margins of our space-time continuum, this merry crew of Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are now attempting to invade our world through science and dream and horrid rites.
As a marginally popular writer working in the literary equivalent of the
gutter, Lovecraft received no serious attention during his lifetime. But while most 1930s pulp fiction is nearly unreadable today, Lovecraft continues to attract attention. In France and Japan, his tales of cosmic fungi, degenerate cults and seriously bad dreams are recognized as works of bent genius, and the celebrated French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari praise his radical embrace of multiplicity in their magnum opus A Thousand Plateaus. On Anglo-American turf, a passionate cabal of critics fill journals like Lovecraft Studies and Crypt of Cthulhu with their almost Talmudic research. Meanwhile both hacks and gifted disciples continue to craft stories that elaborate the Cthulhu Mythos. There’s even an occasional Lovecraft convention—the NecronomiCon, named for the most famous of his forbidden grimoires. Like the Gnostic science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, H.P Lovecraft is the epitome of a cult author.
The word “fan” comes from fanaticus, a Latin term for a temple devotee, and Lovecraft fans exhibit the unflagging devotion, fetishism and carping sectarian debates that have characterized popular religious cults throughout the ages. But Lovecraft’s “cult” status has a curiously literal dimension. Many magicians and occultists have taken up his Mythos as source material for their practice. Drawn from the darker regions of the esoteric counterculture—
Lovecraft draws the reader into the chaos that lies “between the worlds” of magick and reality.
Thelema and Satanism and Chaos magic—these Lovecraftian mages actively seek to generate the terrifying and atavistic encounters that Lovecraft’s protagonists stumble into compulsively, blindly, or against their will.
Secondary occult sources for Lovecraftian magic include three different “fake” editions of the Necronomicon, a few rites included in Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Rituals, and a number of works by the loopy British Thelemite Kenneth Grant. Besides Grant’s Typhonian O.T.O. and the Temple of Set’s Order of the Trapezoid, magical sects that tap the Cthulhu current have included the Esoteric Order of Dagon, the Bate Cabal, Michael Bertiaux’s Lovecraftian Coven, and a Starry Wisdom group in Florida, named after the 19th century sect featured in Lovecraft’s “Haunter of the Dark.” Solo chaos mages fill out the ranks, cobbling together Lovecraftian arcana on the Internet or freely sampling the Mythos in their chthonic, open-ended (anti-) workings.
This phenomenon is made all the more intriguing by the fact that Lovecraft
himself was a self-described “mechanistic materialist” philosophically opposed to spirituality and magic of any kind. Accounting for this discrepancy is only one of many curious problems raised by the apparent power of Lovecraftian magic. Why and how do these pulp visions “work”? What constitutes the occult authenticity? How does magic relate to the tension between fact and fable? As I hope to show, Lovecraftian magic is not some low-rent pulp hallucination but an imaginative and coherent reading set in motion by the dynamics of Lovecraft’s own texts, whose thematic, stylistic, and intertextual strategies constitute what I call Lovecraft’s Magick Realism.
Magical realism already denotes a strain of Latin American fiction— exemplified by Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende—in which a fantastic dreamlike logic melds seamlessly and delightfully with the rhythms of the everyday. Lovecraft’s Magick Realism is far more dark and convulsive, as ancient and amoral forces violently puncture the realistic surface of his tales. Lovecraft constructs and then collapses a number of intense polarities—between realism and fantasy, book and dream, reason and its chaotic Other. By playing out these tensions in his writing, Lovecraft also reflects the transformations that modern occultism has undergone as it confronts the new perspectives of psychology, quantum physics, and existentialism. And by embedding all this in an intertextual Mythos of profound depth, he draws the reader into the chaos that lies “between the worlds” of magick and reality.
Written mostly in the 1920s and ’30s, Lovecraft’s work builds a somewhat rickety bridge between the florid decadence of fin de siecle fantasy and the more “rational” demands of the new century’s science fiction. His early writing is gaudy Gothic pastiche, but in his mature Cthulhu tales, Lovecraft adopts a pseudodocumentary style that utilizes the language of journalism, scholarship, and science to construct a realistic and measured prose voice which then explodes into feverish, adjectival horror. Some find Lovecraft’s intensity atrocious—not everyone can enjoy a writer capable of comparing a strange light to “a glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh.”
But in terms of horror, Lovecraft delivers. His protagonist is usually a reclusive bookish type, a scholar or artist who is or is known to the first-
person narrator. Stumbling onto odd coincidences or beset with strange dreams, his intellectual curiosity drives him to pore through forbidden books or local folklore, his empirical turn of mind blinding him to the nightmarish scenario that the reader can see slowly building up around him. When the Mythos finally breaks through, it often shatters him, even though the invasion is generally more cognitive than physical.
Stumbling onto odd coincidences or beset with strange dreams, his intellectual curiosity drives him to pore through forbidden books or local folklore, his empirical turn of mind blinding him to the nightmarish scenario that the reader can see slowly building up around him.
By endlessly playing out a shared collection of images and tropes, genres like weird fiction also generate a collective resonance that can seem both “archetypal” and clichéd. Though Lovecraft broke with classic fantasy, he gave his Mythos density and depth by building a shared world to house his disparate tales. The Mythos stories share a liminal map that weaves fictional places like Arkham, Dunwich, and Miskatonic University into the New England landscape; they also refer, though inconsistently, to a common body of entities and forbidden books. A relatively common feature in fantasy fiction, these metafictional techniques create the sense that Lovecraft’s Mythos lies beyond each individual tale, hovering in a dimension halfway between fantasy and the real.
Lovecraft did not just tell tales—he built a world. It’s no accident that one of the more successful roleplaying games to follow on the heels of Dungeons & Dragons takes place in “Lovecraft Country.” Most role-playing adventure games build their worlds inside highly codified “mythic” spaces of the collective imagination (heroic fantasy, cyberpunk, vampire Paris, Arthur’s Britain). The game Call of Cthulhu takes place in Lovecraft’s 1920s America, where players become “investigators” who track down dark rumors or heinous occult crimes that gradually open up the reality of the monsters. Call of Cthulhu is an unusually dark game; the best investigators can do is to retain sanity and stave off the monsters’ eventual apocalyptic triumph. In many ways the game “works” because of the considerable density of Lovecraft’s original Mythos, a density which the game-players themselves directly thicken.
Call of Cthulhu is an unusually dark game; the best investigators can do is to retain sanity and stave off the monsters’ eventual apocalyptic triumph.
Lovecraft himself “collectivized” and deepened his Mythos by encouraging his friends to use his sort of metafictional tricks in their own stories, often as a kind of in-joke. Peers like Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Howard, and a young Robert Bloch complied, with Lovecraft often returning the favor. After Lovecraft’s death, August Derleth carried on this tradition with great devotion, and today, dozens continue to write Lovecraftian tales. With some notable exceptions, most of these writers mangle the Myth, often by detailing horrors the master wisely left shrouded in ambiguous gloom. Even after a great deal of close-reading and cross-referencing, the exact delineations of Lovecraft’s cosmic cast and timeline are murky at best. But in the hands of the Catholic Derleth, the extraterrestrial Great Old Ones become elemental demons defeated by the “good” Elder Gods. Forcing Lovecraft’s cosmic and fundamentally amoral pantheon into a traditional religious framework, Derleth committed an error at once imaginative and interpretive. For despite the diabolical aura of his creatures, Lovecraft generates much of his power by stepping beyond good and evil.
For the most part Lovecraft abandoned the mystic and religious underpinnings of the classic supernatural tale, turning instead towards science to provide frameworks for horror. Calling Lovecraft the “Copernicus of the horror tale,” the fantasy writer Fritz Leiber Jr. wrote that Lovecraft was the first fantasist who “firmly attached the emotion of spectral dread to such concepts as outer space, the rim of the cosmos, alien beings, unsuspected dimensions, and the conceivable universes lying outside our own spacetime continuum.” As Lovecraft himself put it in a letter, “The time has come when the normal revolt against time, space, and matter must assume a form not overtly incompatible with what is known of reality—when it must be gratified by images forming supplements rather than contradictions of the visible and measurable universe.”
For Lovecraft, it is not the sleep of reason that breeds monsters, but reason with its eyes agog. By fusing cutting-edge science with archaic material, Lovecraft creates a twisted materialism in which scientific “progress” returns
us to the atavistic abyss, and hard-nosed research revives the factual basis of forgotten and discarded myths. Hence Lovecraft’s obsession with archeology; the digs which unearth alien artifacts and bizarrely angled cities are simultaneously historical and imaginal. In his 1930 story “The Whisperer in Darkness,” Lovecraft identifies the planet Yuggoth (from which the fungoid Mi-Go launch their clandestine invasions of Earth) with the newly-discovered planet called Pluto. To the 1930 reader—probably the kind of person who would thrill to popular accounts of C.W. Thompson’s discovery of the ninth planet that very year—this factual reference “opens up” Lovecraft’s fiction into a real world that is itself opening up to the limitless cosmos.