This was certainly Crowley’s objective, as understood by Grant and as revealed by these excerpts from Crowley’s Holy Books of Thelema. Crowley believed that the first two books mentioned above were not his writing, but were inspired works dictated to him by his Holy Guardian Angel, the ancient Sumerian personality Aiwass, after Crowley had attained samadhi during a course of rituals he undertook with his colleague, George Cecil Jones, in England.68 Even the undecipherable language of “Olalam Imal Tutulu” has its counterpart in the enigmatic
hieroglyphics of the Cthulhu statue and the ecstatic, glossolalia-like cries of the worshippers in the Louisiana swamps.69 Both men—the American author and the English magician—were dealing with the same subject matter, and indeed Lovecraft had dated the first appearance of the Cthulhu statue to the same year, month and day that Crowley began writing these sections of the Holy Books.
There is no hard evidence that either man knew of the other, although the author believes that references to an English satanist in Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep” could be an allusion to Crowley. In any event, to suggest that these two men cooperated or collaborated in any deliberate way would be the height (or depth!) of conspiracy theory. It may actually be more logical to suggest—as an explanation for some of these coincidences—that darker forces were at work. In fact, it is possible that the same forces of which Lovecraft himself writes—the telepathic communication between followers of Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones— was what prompted him to write these fictional accounts of real events. Either Lovecraft was in some kind of telepathic communication with Crowley, or both men were in telepathic communication with … Something Else.
This Dark Lord of the Holy Books is one of the gods—perhaps the most important god—of the Crowley pantheon. In the Crowley line of succession, this god is at the juncture of Egyptian and Sumerian religion and is thus pre-Judaic. In Lovecraft’s succession, Cthulhu is a high priest of the Great Old Ones who came to the planet from the stars aeons ago, long before humans walked the earth. Although dead and buried deep beneath the earth or under the ocean, he can rise again once the “stars are right” and his followers assist in calling him up, in resurrecting him.
This leads us to a slight detour into the Tibetan language.
The word ku su lu in Tibetan70 evokes for us another coincidence, for it refers to a shaman (i.e., a kind of priest) but also to one who was once dead but who has come back from death.71 This meme—the shaman who has come back from the dead—is a perfect description of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and may provide a means of understanding Crowley’s Tutulu as well. According to Kenneth Grant, one possible translation of the word Tutulu can be “Who will attain.” These are all consistent with the idea presented by Lovecraft of a high priest of the Great Old Ones, dead but “dreaming,”
who will resurrect from his watery grave to take charge of the earth once more. As noted in the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon, Cthulhu can be rendered in the Sumerian language as kutu lu or “the man from Kutu” or “the man from the Underworld.” Kutu—the Biblical Gudua, sometimes rendered Kutu or Kuta—was the ancient city of Cutha, sacred to Nergal and the entrance to the Underworld in Sumerian religion. It was also the city in Mesopotamia with special relevance for Islam, for it was the city where the Qureish were from. The Qureish are, of course, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad, the tribe in charge of the pagan shrine in Mecca known as the Ka’aba or the Black Stone. This was the shrine containing 360 idols, probably of the Moon God Hubal, that the Prophet dismantled and replaced with a shrine sacred to his new religion of Islam.
The death and rebirth theme that is central to Siberian shamanism was also a crucial element of Sumerian and Babylonian religion. The famous narrative of the descent of the Sumerian goddess Inanna (Ishtar) into the Underworld, and her rescue and resurrection three days later, is one of the legends that helped form the Sumerian Gnosis. Indeed, she has sometimes been identified with the Whore of Babylon. When she finally ascended the seven levels of the Underworld to reappear in the world, she was accompanied by a host of demons who had previously been restrained in the Underworld, and who took advantage of her defeat of death to flood out of their subterranean prison and populate the earth. This bears some resemblance to Lovecraft’s fictional Cthulhu who is dead but who will be reborn “when the stars are right” and at that time bring his alien gods to the earth to rule it once more. In both cases—the Lovecraft scenario and the Sumerian prototype—the dead require the assistance of the living to effect the resurrection.
This complex narrative is reprised in the Christian example of Jesus who, after his crucifixion, “descended into hell” and rose on the third day. His descent into hell was for the purpose of releasing from the Underworld all those noble souls who had died before he appeared on the earth to redeem humanity from original sin. In the Christian case, the souls that were released were those of the righteous dead; in the Sumerian case, the souls that were released were demonic forces. In the Lovecraft scenario, the gates are opened to hideous alien beings from outer space. Either the Christian case is mere wishful thinking, or a deliberate gloss on the older traditions of the region, or is it something else?
Much has been written in the past hundred years or longer on the subject of the “dead and resurrected god,” referencing a whole category of such deities ranging from Osiris to Tammuz, Mithra, and others in the Middle East and North Africa. It is often characterized as evidence of an agricultural society in which seeds are planted (i.e., “buried”) in the ground and then “resurrected” in the form of new plants. However, this process could just as easily be the basis for any of a number of sexually- oriented fertility cults as well, and not necessarily the basis for a dead and resurrected god (or goddess, as in the case of Inanna).
Unless, of course, there is a relation or connection between the idea of death and resurrection on the one hand and sexual intercourse and reproduction on the other. In the Gnostic Mass as revised by Crowley, we have the template of a celebration of Christ’s Last Supper and the consumption of his flesh and blood by the faithful over which is applied the sexual components of Crowley’s cultus. While the sexual aspect of the Gnostic Mass is the most obvious one and the aspect that gets all the attention, the death and resurrection foundation of the Mass is still present and is in disguise. Crowley might have said that his Mass was the “reveal” of the innate sexual message of the original Mass, while the original Mass can be interpreted as the “reveal” of the primary death and resurrection message hidden within the Crowley version. They can be seen as mirror images of each other, if one views them both from an angle slightly off- center, from—as Lovecraft would say—a “space between the spaces.”
As in the Catholic Mass, the gods are present in the Gnostic Mass. They are classified differently, of course, with a totally different emphasis. The reason this much time has been taken for a look at the Mass, its Credo, and its transgressive characteristics is because it is the formula that most clearly represents the coherence of the Thelemic message. That is not to say that the Mass is perfectly coherent, of course (but, then, neither is the Catholic Mass). But it can be viewed as a kind of wayang kulit, a shadow play conducted behind a curtain in which the actors are flat, two- dimensional puppets standing in for three-dimensional gods but which—in the case of the Gnostic Mass—are replaced by three-dimensional human beings standing in for extra-dimensional entities: those described at some length by Kenneth Grant, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Typhonian Tradition of magic.
Like, for instance, Set.
Crowley’s Liber XXXVI72 contains a formula for establishing contact with the Old Ones through the invocation of Set, son of Isis and brother of Horus.
—Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone, p. 123
As must be obvious by now, Grant’s focus throughout his aptly-named Typhonian Trilogy as well as in the construction and organization of his Typhonian Order always has been the composite figure of Set-Typhon. Set is the ancient Egyptian god that has long been associated with chaos, with the desert, with storms, with foreigners and foreign lands (i.e., the “Other”), and with the murder of Osiris and the ongoing struggle with Horus, the son of Osiris. Typhon, on the other hand, is a Greek god who has many of the same attributes of a god of darkness, storms and chaos. Typhon, like Set, was born unnaturally from his mother and, also like Set, was the enemy of the pantheon. Thus, it was the Greeks who identified Set as a version of their own Typhon and the form Set-Typhon came to be known in the Mediterranean. There has been much speculation in academic circles that the legends surrounding Typhon are derived from those of ancient Sumer, specifically the creation epic known as Enuma Elish and the episode of the serpent monster, Tiamat, who is slain by Marduk in battle.73 As we have seen, Grant identified Set-Typhon as a form of Crowley’s supramundane contact, Aiwass, as well as of the Shaitan of the Yezidis, and linked it all to Sumer.
Oddly, however, Crowley himself did not seem to focus on Set-Typhon to the extent that his disciple would, except as a kind of twin to Horus as we have seen.74 Crowley’s attention was taken by Horus in his various forms as Hoor-par-kraat and the composite Ra-hoor-kuit, among others. Crowley identified with what he saw as the “solar phallic” nature of Osiris and Horus and, indeed, neither Set-Typhon nor Set himself were major figures in the Egyptian pantheon of the Golden Dawn—where Set appears as the personification of evil in the rituals associated with the idea of the Threshold and represents the “Averse Sephiroth” and the Qlippoth.75 In this instance, Set would not be identified as a being to whom worship would be directed. One gets the sense that if a member of the Golden
Dawn were to construct rituals intended to invoke or evoke Set that it would be considered an act of “black magic,” i.e., a harmful or wholly negative act.
To Grant, however, the character of Set is a rich vein of cosmic importance and Grant expands on this theme considerably, to the point that Set—in Grant’s scheme of things—overtakes Horus and Osiris in relevance to the ideas embodied by Crowley’s doctrine of Thelema. Where Osiris and Horus represent the solar aspect of Egyptian religion, Set and Set-Typhon represent the stellar aspect. Osiris and Horus can be identified with the rising and setting sun—and thus with the east and west respectively—but Set is identified with the circumpolar stars (in particular with the Great Bear or Ursa Major) and the north, the direction of the sun’s nadir beneath the earth and the realm of Amenta: the Abode of the Dead. The author has elsewhere shown that the asterism known to us as the Big Dipper was identified with Set in the Egyptian text popularly known as the Book of the Dead, specifically with the “thigh” of Set in the crucial Opening of the Mouth ceremony.76 The Big Dipper is also a critical asterism in the Necronomicon Gnosis, as the Gates between this world and the transdimensional realm are opened “when the Great Bear hangs from its tail in the sky.”77 Grant discovered the close association between the Egyptian Set and the Necronomicon, which further reinforced his theory concerning the Tunnels of Set. These tunnels are hidden pathways on the “nightside” of the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life”—known to Kabbalists as the Sitra Ahra, or “Other Side”—that he associates with the Qlippoth, the “shells” of a previous creation that was destroyed due to imbalance resulting in shattered or broken sephiroth, specifically the sephira Gevurah or “Severity.” These shards of an Elder Creation roam the cosmos as evil spirits or demonic forces, but to Grant these are value judgements made by pious monotheists who ignore their true nature.
But there is more to Set than even all of this. A close examination of Set’s importance and character in the ancient Egyptian texts reveal that there is a close correlation between how the Egyptians understood Set and the initiatory process of Crowley’s OTO as well as the central thesis of Grant’s ouevre.
In recent years there has been much academic investigation and discourse on the nature and identity of Set. This discourse has ranged from the fields
of pure Egyptology to studies of Gnosticism and the Kabbalah. Set remains an engimatic figure, a stranger to the rest of Egyptian religion in so many ways. Indeed, the identity of Set’s “animal” (the totemic creature or zoötype with which Set is identified in hieroglyphics and Egyptian art) remains unidentified, and even the etymology of Set’s name is a source of controversy. While there is no space to go into all of this here, relevant topics will be highlighted so that the reader can appreciate the extent of the Crowley-Grant-Lovecraft concept, characterized by Grant as the Necronomicon Gnosis.
There are two basic schools of thought concerning the origins of Set. One school claims that Set represents an ancient ruler of Upper (i.e., southern) Egypt who came into conflict with a ruler represented by Horus of Lower (i.e., northern) Egypt. It is this political and military conflict that led to the myth of the warfare between Set and Horus.
This idea has been criticized as there is no historical evidence to support it, although it is true that pharaohs considered themselves rulers of both Upper and Lower Egypt, and that their double crowns were references to the union of Set and Horus.
Another school has it that Set represents a foreign god, and hence a foreign tribe, race, country. This foreign deity eventually became incorporated into the overall religion, representing all those concepts that were considered antinomian, transgressive, and “other.” There is some support for this interpretation but it is by no means conclusive.
The name “Set” defies translation, just as his totemic animal defies identification. The hieroglyphic representing the word for Set can be pronounced in various ways, depending on the area of Egypt (Upper or Lower) and the relevant dynasty.78 Variations such as “Setah,” “Sut,” “Seth,” and of course “Set” have been put forward as alternatives.79 The determinative form has been used in words denoting storm, thunder, roaring, chaos, illness, nightmares, darkness, and a host of other dangerous phenomena. One theory is that Set represents that which separates or divides. Set is the god of alien lands (alien to Egypt and thus, by extension, the “Other”) and the desert, and as such is a liminal figure, a god of the Threshold, the guardian at the Gate to the Underworld as the Golden Dawn rituals testify.