Add to this confusion the plethora of indigenous calendars around the world, none of which are exact matches for the others, and you have time- keeping systems that are unique to each culture. Java, for instance, has at least five calendars in use. Their diviners use all five in determining personal characteristics of the newborn, the best days for starting an enterprise, planting crops, etc.
The European magicians had complex tables showing the rulership of each day and each hour within the day, rulerships that changed with the day of the week. Previous to the rather arbitrary assigment of planets to days and hours, however, were the Babylonian systems of astrology that included not only planets and zodiacal constellations but also a whole host of fixed stars as well as comets and other astronomical phenomena. The Babylonian astrologers actually watched the heavens on a constant, unending basis (something which many of our contemporary astrologers would be uinin-terested or incapable of doing, spoiled as they are by computerized calculations and real-time simulations of the heavens). They did not view the astral positions as purely symbolic but kept an eye on the skies alert to any new message, any new prediction. Thus, an Ur-cult such as the one we have been suggesting would use an “astrology” that was rather more astronomy than astrology, although partaking of elements of each.
That this Ur-astrology is also concerned with biological functions is one of the missing links in the Lovecraftian ouevre. He hints at it, talks around it with his references to “orgies” and his discussion of poor Lavinia Whately and her demonic offspring. When the stars are right, it’s not only the time when Cthulhu can be roused from his subterranean slumber but
it’s also the time when 35-year-old albino women can be impregnated by invisible alien monsters as long as the correct rituals are performed. An essential aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos is that a knowledeable cult of experienced sorcerers are indispensable to the opening (and especially the closing) of the Gate. Lavinia did not conceive a monstrous creature by accident, after some adolescent fumbling in a hayloft at the Whateley farm. She conceived during a ritual that enabled her father, old Wizard Whateley, to charge the essences (the kalas) appropriately so that—as the Gate opened at the proper time—Lavinia’s ovum would have been subtly altered to enable the alien seed to take root.138
None of this is described as such in “The Dunwich Horror,” of course. It takes a little reading between the lines. Knowing what we know now of how these Typhonian Teratomas are created it is a simple task to go back and re-read Lovecraft with greater understanding of the process and of what was said and most important what was not said or described, but implied. That human sexuality is a means of breaching the boundaries between this world and the next is a staple of Tantra. It was virtually unknown in the West until comparatively recently with the publication of some translated Tantric texts in the nineteenth century. But this was common knowledge to the cultists around Cthulhu in Lovecraft’s stories.
Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror”
It was Yog-Sothoth who impregnated Lavinia Whateley, who then gave birth to Wilbur Whateley and his monstrous, unnamed twin brother. Yog- Sothoth as the Gate is thus perfectly understandable in the context we have been examining. It is through this unnatural intercourse and its subsequent conception that a Gate has been opened between this world and the next, and a Magical Child created who lives in both.
Grant illuminates this concept when he writes of the assumption of god- forms, a practice that is essential to Thelemic ritual in general. His
approach also helps us to understand the nature of Cthulhu, the octopus- headed beast of the statue we discover in “The Call of Cthulhu.”
The magical theories which underlie the formula of the assumption of god-forms are of vital importance to an understanding of Crowley’s later refinement and rehabilitation of them. The masquerading as animal-headed deities … was done with intent to assimilate the superhuman powers possessed by certain animals.
This formula, which was used by sorcerers of the ancient world, had a profound effect upon the psychology of the operator. Because man evolved from the beasts, he possesses—deeply buried in his subconscious—the memories of superhuman powers he once possessed. … Any required atavism could be evoked by assumption of the appropriate god-form. … Crowley interprets the formula as a magical unification of larval consciousness, characteristic of pre- human phases of life, with the ultimate product of an exalted and illumined human will … through the instrumentality of psycho- sexual magic. The Sphinx is the most celebrated image of this concept. the meeting of beast and god through the mediumship of
In Lovecraft’s stories, these are always considered hideous creations. The Old Ones are gods in their own right, otherwise why do they need a High Priest—Cthulhu—and bands of clandestine worshippers throughout the world to worship and summon them? The offspring of Lavinia Whately then is just such a “meeting of beast and god through the mediumship of man.” And, of course, it was accompanied by “psycho-sexual rites” performed by her wizard father on her tortured mind, her virgin flesh: the incestuous element of the Star Sapphire ritual taken to its heinous, albeit logical, conclusion.
The same process is used—can be used—for widely different ends and by operators of widely different capabilities; but it should be obvious that if such a thing as the Sphinx (for instance) actually existed as a living thing, it would be shunned as an abomination, the ancient Egyptian version of a “Typhonian Teratoma.” Is Cthulhu, then, the product of just such a union? The “animal-headed” masks used by magicians to connect to their atavisms represent stages of human evolution, as per Grant. If so, then the
cephalopod-headed creature known as Cthulhu represents a much earlier stage, something predating the arrival of quadripeds and mammals in general. Cthulhu represents that stage in evolution when life was still in its relative infancy: slime-dwelling, ooze-feasting creatures from the ocean’s depths. To connect with Cthulhu, then, is to approach the oldest part of the human brain: the reptilian or serpent brain, sitting atop the spinal column, that controls basic “fight or flight” responses as well as ritual, and which is in charge of our sexual responses as well. This has nothing to do with the higher states of love and affection, or of romance and seduction. Rather, this is pure reproductive imperative, pure lust, the seat of the “darkest” passions, those that we—as social beings—attempt (often vainly and with horrendous consequences) to repress, suppress, or flatly deny. It is the realm of what Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung called “the Shadow,” an unconscious element of the personality that is linked to the same animal instincts we have described,140 and which is the repository of a person’s darkest desires as well as the source of human creativity141.
If that abyss and what it held were real, there is no hope. Then, all too truly, there lies upon this world of man a mocking and incredible shadow out of time.142
It is unnameable, by virtue of the fact that this area of human consciousness existed before there were “individuals”: it is the aspect of consciousness that becomes most pronounced in mob violence, gang rape, and mass hysteria.
Violence carried to the pitch of frenzy, either masochistic or the reverse. This unseals primal atavisms, the resurgence of which leads directly to the most ancient (i.e. the original) state of consciousness which, being pure, is cosmic, unlimited.143
It is the basic building block of survival (fight or flight) and as such it existed before the ego, before the super-ego, before humans became conscious of themselves as separate, individual entities with their own souls, their own spirituality, their own potentialities as kings and queens. The physical aspect of the Shadow—the reptilian brain—is believed to be at least 500 million years old144: certainly a Lovecraftian time span.145 There is nothing thoughtful or intellectual about this characteristic. There is no reasoning with it. There can only be control … or lack of control. And
since logic and reason have no place in the “serpent brain,” until the advent of depth psychology the only means available for controlling its desires and managing its appetites (other than prison or drugs) were in the realm of ritual in which these unholy or unlawful needs found a safe and manageable channel for expression. Otherwise the world would have long since been filled with Typhonian Teratomas as inbreeding and incest would have degenerated the gene pool and resulted in widespread physical and mental deformities.
This part of the brain also controls the autonomic functions, such as heart-rate, breath-rate, peristalis, etc. which are not normally controlled by the conscious mind but which occur automatically, even while we sleep. It is the target of such practices as yoga and Chinese alchemy which seek to exert control over the unconscious mind through manipulation of the autonomic functions. Thus pranayama—one of Crowley’s required practices—is the conscious control of breathing, which in turn is the gateway to conscious control of the heart-beat and from there to all the other autonomic functions. It is, of course, an extremely dangerous practice for those who have not been initiated into its secrets by someone who knows what they are doing.
The Necronomicon Gnosis involves the deliberate investigation of this dark realm in its entirety, the realm where death and sexuality (the Freudian “death instinct” and “pleasure principle”) are so inextricably intertwined that it is impossible (from the outside) to tell them apart, but which provides the engine for all successful Thelemic ritual. For Thelema is a doctrine that rejects repression in all its forms and provides outlets— some socially-acceptable, some not—for the exploration and expression of this “dark matter.”
It should be emphasized, however, that Thelema does not provide an excuse for indulging in these antinomian practices willy-nilly, like some kind of occult-oriented swingers club. The only way in which to (productively) access this darker realm, the “Nightside” of Eden, is through the exercise of the Will. The individual—the result of millenia of human evolution—must be in conscious control of its own serpent brain. This is the meeting of beast and god through the mediumship of man spoken of above, the antipodes of human consciousness. The purpose is to assimilate the darker and forbidden aspects of one’s consciousness into the higher form of experience, of evolution, so that it may serve as the power-
house for greater attainments. In order to do this, the rituals themselves must be accurately timed. There is no better method of controlling the darker impulses than by refusing to allow them expression until “the stars are right.”
The Pennacook myths, which were the most consistent and picturesque, taught that the Winged Ones came from the Great Bear in the sky, and had mines in our earthly hills whence they took a kind of stone they could not get on any other world. They did not live here, said the myths, but merely maintained outposts and flew back with vast cargoes of stone to their own stars in the north.
—H. P. Lovecraft146
One of the critical pieces of information concerning the correct position of the “stars”—i.e., when they are “right”—has to do with the Great Bear constellation, referenced above in Lovecraft’s story “The Whisperer in the Darkness.” A further note is at the end of that same paragraph when “their own stars in the north” are referenced. Simon has made much of this in his Gates of the Necronomicon, and I have focused on the Great Bear constellation myself in Stairway to Heaven in an attempt to demonstrate its universality among mystery cults in different parts of the world, including shamanism, Mithraism and even some ceremonial forms of Daoism. I believe that this constellation is a key to understanding the ancient cults of which Lovecraft writes and in this it seems Kenneth Grant concurs.
All Circle-craft is based either upon the original (stellar) circle of the Great Bear, Goddess of the Seven Stars; or the Moon and her thirteenfold annual cycle; or on the later and final solar circle of the Twelve Celestial houses of the sun (zodiac).147
The Great Bear is a circumpolar constellation: that is, it never sets below the horizon but rotates endlessly about a point in the absolute north above the earth, represented in our time by the Pole Star. In other words, these are the “stars in the north” to which Lovecraft alludes in his story. Navigators have used the position of the Great Bear constellation—or its smaller asterism, the Big Dipper—to tell time and direction when no landmarks or other astronomical phenomena are available or visible, such as in the middle of the ocean at night. Remembering how critical time and the measurement of time is to the correct performance of rituals intended to evoke planetary and other forces, we can begin to appreciate the
relevance of this constellation to mystery religions the world over. Grant associates the Great Bear with the Goddess of the Seven Stars, i.e. with Babalon herself. In the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon, it specifically states that the Gate may be opened when “the Great Bear hangs from its tail in the sky.” Of course, the Great Bear hangs from its tail in the sky once every day as it rotates around the Pole Star (it is actually the earth doing the rotating, as every schoolchild knows). But at night, when the constellation may be visible, it hangs from its tail (making a straight line from the Pole Star) at midnight on April 30.148 As we have noted before, this is a date with great relevance, for it is another of the cross-quarter days mentioned above. Known as Walpurgisnacht to readers of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is also known as Beltane or even just as May Eve to pagans and Wiccans. The European equivalent of the American Halloween, it is a day when witches gather for their Great Sabbat atop mountain peaks and commune with the Devil … with the Dark Lord.
It also has some uncanny correspondences with American and world history. For instance, April 30, 1492 was the day Christopher Columbus received his commission to set sail for the East Indies, a voyage that culminated in the “discovery” of America on October 12, 1492— coincidentally Aleister Crowley’s birthday.
April 30, 1789 was the day George Washington took the oath of office of President of the United States, on Wall Street in New York City. The monument that bears his name in Washington, D.C. is precisely 555 feet high: 555 is the number of the word Necro-nomicon.