Mating with the gods, in other words, opens the Gate.
“The thing has gone for ever,” Armitage said. “It has been split up into what it was originally made of, and can never exist again. It was an impossibility in a normal world. Only the least fraction was really matter in any sense we know. It was like its father—and most of it has gone back to him in some vague realm of dimension outside our material universe; some vague abyss out of which only the most accursed rites of human blasphemy could ever have called him for a moment on the hills. …You needn’t ask how Wilbur called it out of the air. He didn’t call it out. It was his twin brother, but it looked more like the father than he did.”136
In the above quotation from Lovecraft, we learn of the magician Wilbur Whateley and his dark rites conducted on an altar in a circle of standing stones, and the summoning forth of a murderous entity from “some vague abyss,” i.e., analogous to Grant’s Mauve Zone. Wilbur and the monster were twins, because their human mother—Lavinia Whateley, “a somewhat deformed, unattractive albino woman of 35”—had mated with a mysterious, unknown supramundane entity, their father. Lavinia’s own father was a wizard of some repute, which explains how she came into contact with the alien being in the first place. And Wilbur Whately, her son? He was born on February 2, 1913, the date known as Candlemas to the Christian world and as Imbolc or Oimelc to the pagan world: one of the cross-quarter days that are so important to the pre-Christian calendar, coming as they do halfway between the quarter days (i.e., the solstices and equinoxes that are sacred to the solar cult because they represent stages in the sun’s progress through the zodiac). The cross-quarter days are the places “between,” and it is this “inbetweenness” that attracts the attention of both Lovecraft and Grant.
Further, the choice of February 2 is illustrative of another aspect to Lovecraft’s work: his deliberate use of symbols. To the pagan, pre- Christian world that day was called Imbolc, an Old Irish word that means
“in the belly,” a reference to pregnancy. It is a suggestive date to use for the birthing of a monster, sired by a pre-Christian ancient God or Devil.
As an aside we should note that Lovecraft is always careful to use precise dates in his stories. There is no poetic ambiguity there, no referencing of the month but not the year as one finds in most stories and novels. Lovecraft always insists on specificity in his chronologies, and it is this aspect of his work that makes it so valuable to those looking for connections to real-world events especially as it seems Lovecraft is deliberately trying to tell us something. Because of this characteristic we were able to identify Crowley’s fevered writing of some of the Thelemic Holy Books at a time when Lovecraft claimed there were orgiastic rites to Cthulhu taking place in New Orleans … inspired by an Unholy Book: the Necronomicon.
The month of February, 1913 was an important one in the art world for it signalled the public appearance in New York City of Surrealist works by Marcel Duchamp. Surrealism is singled out by Grant to be one of the artforms most influenced by occult or magical currents. Only a few days earlier, in January of 1913, Kafka would put down the pen on his unfinished novel Amerika forever. But it was during 1913 that Crowley would write the Gnostic Mass, which we have discussed previously, as well as his famous Hymn to Pan.
The previous year was when Theodor Reuss visited Crowley in London and accused him of printing the IXth degree secret of the OTO in his Book of Lies, specifically the chapter devoted to the Star Sapphire ritual. He then admitted Crowley to the IXth degree of the OTO, as mentioned previously, and then Crowley was put in charge of the OTO operations in the British Isles.
So, when “Wilbur Whateley” was born, Crowley was embarking on the game-changing actions that would make him the leader of one of the most famous Western secret societies of the twentieth century. As we have seen above, Crowley believed that the Egyptian gods Horus and Set were “twins”: that they personified the double wand of power, as they represented the union of Lower and Upper Egypt respectively. Horus was the “good” god, and Set was the Evil One. Thus, perhaps Wilbur Whateley was the “good” twin and his brother—the monstrous thing they had to destroy—was the Evil One, the Set to Wilbur’s Horus.
While these associations may seem fanciful, we need only remember how definitive were Lovecraft’s stories when matched against corresponding dates and events in Thelema. In order to understand the Necronomicon Gnosis it is necessary to grasp some of the essential elements as transcribed by Lovecraft (and those of his circle) and then to “port” them over to Thelemic elements and note their correspondence. If Lovecraft received many of his ideas through his dreams, as he often admitted in writing to friends, then his process was consistent with Grant’s dream control theory and practice. What is startling is that the dreams of Lovecraft would so neatly correspond to the inspirations received by Crowley.
They were both dreaming the same dream.
The reader will remember that the frenzied orgy taking place in the swamps outside New Orleans in Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” occurred on the same day that Crowley was writing several of what would be known as the “Holy Books.” However, there are other coincidences that bear inspection.
For instance, in “The Call of Cthulhu” the young sculptor Wilcox visits Professor George Angell during the period February 28 to April 2, 1925. This is the time when other artists, mediums and sensitives are experiencing similar visions around the world. Lovecraft has selected this period with care, for there was an earthquake on February 28, 1925 that affected the northeastern United States and Canada. This same earthquake is used by Lovecraft as a device that enables a sunken city beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean to rise to the surface. While the earthquake in question did not occur in the Pacific, it was obviously the inspiration for the earthquake in the story.
It is compelling to realize that this is a phenomenon that actually has occurred and within recent history. The famous earthquake and tsunami of December 26, 2004, that took more than 200,000 lives in Asia from Indonesia and Thailand to India, also had the effect of raising an entire undersea temple off the eastern coast of India.
This was the fabled Mahabalipuram Temple of the Seven Pagodas, built in the 8th century CE. Only one of the seven “pagodas” had survived into the modern age, the so-called “Shore Temple” believed to be one of the original seven. Just before the tsunami struck, local residents saw the
ocean pull away from the coastline as if being inhaled by something far out to sea. As the ocean rolled away, the sunken temple complex was revealed, showing the missing pagodas, only to be swallowed again when the roiling sea water returned. It was as if the sunken city of R’lyeh had materialized out of nowhere as an homage to Lovecraft. That it was an Indian temple seemed to indicate a resonance between the Necronomicon Gnosis and the Tantric interpretation by Kenneth Grant.
The period of general weirdness, insanity and troubled dreams depicted in “The Call of Cthulhu” as beginning with the earthquake of February 28 ends on April 2, 1925 which is the day that an important meeting of the Surrealists took place in Paris, a meeting that would decide how the artistic movement would become politically active, and which produced the Memorandum of the Surrealist Revolution. Lovecraft never refers to this meeting, of course, and it is doubtful whether or not he would have been aware of it at all. However, the bookending of an earthquake on one side and the Surrealist Memorandum on the other is perfectly consistent with Lovecraft’s storyline. The shattering effect of the earthquake that shakes the sunken city where Cthulhu lies dead but dreaming, causing him to awaken from his ancient slumber, and the “certain state of fury”137 that informed the Surrealist movement as these avant-garde artists struggled with altered states of consciousness and altered political states … all of this becomes part of the Love-craftian Zeitgeist. The earthquake awakens Cthulhu, and the artists—the most avant-garde, the most sensitive to occultism, depth psychology, and automatic writing—assemble in a “certain state of fury” to decide how artistic transgression and political transgression can work together to cause the destruction of civilization as they knew it. The dreams of the Surrealists bled over into the dreams of the Communists, and these dreams were seeded by the high priest of the Old Ones who needs social unrest and dislocation to give his followers the space to perform the orgia necessary to open the channels, the Gates, to the Underworld.
Kenneth Grant may be characterized as the analyst interpreting these dreams, not for the sake of the dreamers but for those of us who struggle to understand the dream content and how it may be relevant to a study of magic and religion in the 21st century. Grant reveals how the Lovecraft material expands upon the data received by Crowley with virtually no
reference to the Golden Dawn-type atmosphere of the latter. Lovecraft is seeing what Crowley sees, only he sees it from the perspective of an outsider, someone for whom the symbol-set of the fin-de-siecle British secret society has no meaning and provides no context; and for whom the initiatory structure of the Golden Dawn is not available to protect him from the experience. Instead, Lovecraft sees it raw, unfiltered. And that is what frightens him.
The basic features of the Necronomicon Gnosis may be reduced to a few convenient elements. The first is Cthulhu himself.
Lovecraft refers to Cthulhu as the high priest of the Old Ones and thus may not be an Old One himself. At least, he is not one of the ancient Gods but is a priest of those Gods. The physical description of Cthulhu shows that he is not human by any stretch of the imagination, with his octopus- like head replete with tentacles. One is reminded of the Egyptian gods who are often depicted as beings with humanoid bodies but with animal heads. What Lovecraft is implying in his stories is that those are the actual physical characteristics of the gods and not some sophisticated symbolic interpretation. Conversely, we could say that—if applying the Egyptian standards to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu—that Cthulhu does not really have an octopus head but that it is Lovecraft’s way of implying octopus-like characteristics.
The Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon—i.e., the “Simonomicon”—translates the name Cthulhu as Kutulu: a Sumerian neologism meaning “Man of the Underworld.” He is, according to this interpretation, a psychopomp, a guide to the Other World, to the Mauve Zone. He is a liminal figure standing at the crossroads of this world and the next. The word kutu has a double meaning: it refers not only to the Underworld but to a specific city in ancient Sumer, Cutha or Gudua. The city itself was considered to be the location of an entrance to the Underworld and, as mentioned previously, it was the home city of the Qureish, the tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged and which was in charge of the Ka’aba when it was a pagan shrine to the Moon God, Hubal.
There is a thus a rich vein of symbolism to be mined in the word Cthulhu. As the editor of the Necronomicon, Simon, points out the word may also be a subtle play on the term cthonic, a word used in anthropology and religious studies to mean “underground” or “under the earth” when
referencing gods and spirits that are believed to dwell below the surface of the earth. The pronounciation of the word cthonic in the Oxford English Dictionary is precisely “ka-tonic” and may have also given Lovecraft the pun necessary for his famous Miskatonic University: the fictional location where the dreaded Necronomicon itself is kept under lock and key in the rare book room.
At some point in the far distant past the Old Ones were in control of this planet. When they left, Cthulhu remained behind as their lone contact and high priest but he was defeated in some manner and entombed—either beneath the earth or beneath the waves, in the sunken city of R’lyeh—and remains in that state until he can be awakened by his human followers on earth, when the “stars are right.” In his present state he is “dead but dreaming,” like a vampire in the coffin; except a vampire may come alive at the setting of the sun, every day, but Cthulhu can only come alive when the stars are right, i.e., when the constellations themselves are aligned in such a way as to provide a channel for the Old Ones to return. There is assumed to be a sort of ritual mechanism in which human followers of the Old Ones can perform an appropriate ceremony at an appropriate time and this will serve to awaken Cthulhu so he can begin his ritual for summoning the Old Ones back to earth. The right ceremony at the right time opens the Gate between this world and the next.
While it seems melodramatic and outlandish in Lovecraft’s stories, this is exactly what the medieval European magicians believed. The timing of the ritual was extremely important in order for the angels and demons to be properly evoked. In Grant’s own system, timing is just as important for the sexually-based rituals of his modified Tantra. The kalas—a word that suggests the Sanskrit term for “time” as in Kalacakra or “Wheel of Time”—are essences secreted by a woman on different days of her menstrual cycle. It was most likely the lunar phases in the heavens and the menstrual cycle on earth that first suggested the measurement of time and periodicity to pre-historic civilizations. The alignment of the lunar cycle with the menstrual cycle is an essential element of Grant’s Tantra; alignments of the planetary cycles are themselves essential to the successful practice of ceremonial magic.
To Lovecraft, the proper alignment of the stars is never described fully. It is a secret science, known only to the worshippers of Cthulhu and the Old Ones. They alone possess the knowledge of how the stars would
appear when they were “right.” Again, there is precedence in Western and Asian astrology.
To most people in the West, astrology is essentially solar astrology. It is based on the passage of the Sun through the zodiacal belt. In India, however, astrology is sidereal: it is based on the actual positions of the planets when viewed against the stars of the zodiac rather than on a constant (solar) calendar date. Thus, people who believe themselves to be a Libran in the West may very well discover to their shock that in India they are said to be Virgoans. This is due to the precession of the equinoxes that was mentioned previously. Thus, when the “stars are right” in Europe they may not be right in India.