Grant saying. “We don’t need your stinking planets! We’ve got the stars, baby!”
This was the original magic, the Ur-magic, the magic that was reserved for the initiates. Any fool can watch the sun and the moon and come up with a ritual form based on the year, the seasons, the rising of the Nile. But it takes time, patience, dedication and an uncommon intelligence to watch the stars at night, every night, for years and years, and build star charts, maps, tables of declination and right ascension, and to measure the distances between these vastly-distant points of light in tiny incremental fractions of numbers. And then to realize that something important is going on up there, something “monumental,” and it has a direct effect on what goes on here, on the earth, on the place They visited countless Aeons ago. And to which They might one day return.
The very word we use in the modern age for referring to otherworldly ideas, planes, levels is “astral,” which means “starry.” It is the Starry Wisdom cult of Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark.” We hear talk of the “astral plane” and the “astral body” and rarely stop to consider what that means. It is the astral self that is indestructible, that is capable of doing the kind of time and space traveling that both Grant and Lovecraft describe. And entire cults were built around its cultivation and use.
One of Grant’s power-zones, the K’rla Cell, was designed with just that idea in mind. He describes it in Beyond the Mauve Zone, and tells of the intention of its members to contact Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth, both Lovecraftian entities, and to use “psychosexual dynamics concealed in the Necronomicon.”204 This group eventually identified the star Betelgeuse as the home of the Elder Gods, and a black hole somewhere in the constellation Sagittarius as the home of the Great Old Ones.
It is this kind of magical practice that allows Grant to write seemingly outrageous statements (for a serious occultist) as the following:
Yog-Sothoth is the zenith of which Tutulu is the nadir, As solstitial points they are balanced by their equinoctial counterparts East and West, represented in the Necronomicon cycle by Hastur and Shub Niggurath. The full complex formulates the Great Cross which typifies the crossing over from matter to spirit. This is represented
on the Tree of Life by Daäth, and by Death in the Voodoo imagery of Baron Samedhi.205
Well, you wanted us to take seriously stories about talking snakes, burning bushes, and Sodom and Gomorrah as the basis for a religious current that has lasted more than five thousand years; why not replace all of that with the Great Old Ones and Shub Niggurath, the “Goat with a Thousand Young”? Grant is saying we need a new narrative, because the old one is not working. The old one is not up to the challenges we will soon face as resources become limited, fanatics get the Bomb, and governments go all Emperor Nero on our ass. At least, with the Necronomicon Gnosis, we look the danger straight in the Eye. We grapple with the unpleasantness, the threats, the tension and stress of knowing that there is some spectacularly ugly catastrophe lurking at the edges of our consciousness as the alien forces of which Grant writes so eloquently mass at the rent in the veil, waiting for the Gate to open … or are already pouring in.
The Book of Revelation, of Apocalypse, where we first encountered the Scarlet Woman and the Beast was written at a time when it seemed civilization was coming to an end, much like the present age. Empires were at stake. Nations were being swallowed whole. The Jewish revolt had failed, and that failure would have consequences for the next two thousand years. And in 33 CE, “God so loved the world that he gave his only- begotten Son.”
Well, guess what? It’s two thousand years later, and God has changed his mind.
Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathesomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”
The force is completely blind, depending upon the men and women in whom it manifests and who guide it. Obviously, its guidance now tends towards catastrophy.
—Jack Parsons, The Book of Babalon, 1946
Grant does not want us to worship Cthulhu or any of the Great Old Ones. That’s not the point. But we have to be aware of the forces that these names and ideas represent because they are real forces, real ideas. Much of Grant’s work involved identifying these forces, trying to understand them, to place them somewhere within a context with which we are already familiar—but not in reducing them to a simple equation of Cthulhu = Set. He knew there was much more to it than that. Yet, such shorthand coding is useful in the beginning for it sets the parameters of the problem in a creative way. When we start with Cthulhu = Set we will eventually wonder in which ways are they the same, and in which ways are they different. What can Set tell us about Cthulhu, and vice versa? Why is Set “real” and Cthulhu is not? And is that statement true?
The Typhonian Tradition works at that very point where human imagination and creativity have provided the world with its great religions and its great art. They are all, in a sense, works of imagination. They all come from the same place. The direct experience of the Divine can be horrifying and potentially deadly; the Bible is full of such stories. So is Lovecraft. So is Grant.
Magicians don’t try to build ethical structures around their experiences and try to tell other people how to live their lives. Well … they shouldn’t, anyway. Crowley’s dictum, quoted towards the beginning of this study, may very well be wrong. The aim of magic should not be religion, at least not as we understand it. Magic is an artform, and you don’t create religions based on a painting or a pop song. You just create more magic.
Magic is the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will” according to Crowley. That doesn’t sound much like religion. When magicians stop doing magic, they create religions. The context of magical systems that arose out of the Judaeo-Christian tradition was linear: there was a beginning, the Creation, and an end, the Apocalypse. Everyone’s eye was on the finish line. Thus there was a beginning and an end to magic, as well.
But the Typhonian Tradition says that there was no beginning—just ancient days—and no end, because the universe is eternal and the yugas and the kalpas repeat themselves endlessly. Time is not linear. What goes around … well, you know.
The magic of the Typhonian Tradition, therefore, is an ongoing project with no end in sight, which basically means no religion in the foreseable future. And that’s probably a good thing. The Dark Lord represents chaos, not stability, not established institutions like churches and states. As humans, we crave stability but we need to get our heads around the chaos first. Because chaos is what’s happening. We need to come to terms with the Dark Lord.
In the Necronomicon, the initiatory program is important. The rising on the seven levels of initiation is a requirement before one goes sailing off into deep space. One must be psychologically prepared for what will follow. These seven stages have their analogues in Chinese alchemy and in European alchemy. They are phases of purification and reification (and here purification is meant in a purely technical sense and not in a moral one). In India, one rises one chakra at a time, and it can take years to accomplish the entire program.
But once that is done, it’s open season on trafficking with discarnate entities. The Necronomicon Gnosis is perfectly consistent with both the Egyptian and the Thelemic currents, as Grant insists. The literature of each helps to explain the other; the practices of each amplify and extend the other. The psycho-sexual techniques of Tantra can be employed in rituals of the Necronomicon as well as within the Egyptian context, breathing new life into each. Just imagine for a moment equating Cthulhu with Kundalini, which is precisely what Grant suggested. Or equating both with the Egyptian deity Set. That was Grant’s intention and it is obvious from his work that he (and his followers) was dedicated to just that.
The Dark Lord, like Kundalini and Cthulhu, lies dead but dreaming. In psycho-sexual terms, at the base of the spine waiting to be “evoked” through the “orgiastic rites” of the followers of Cthulhu. In magical terms, simultaneously deep within the bowels of the earth and at some unimaginable distance in deep space.
Thank God for quantum theory and non-locality.
We have seen that Crowley wrote a series of texts in 1907 that he called the Holy Books, and that these were “received” texts, much like the Book of the Law itself. These writings are the most clearly Lovecraftian of all the pre-Grant Thelemic material, with the possible exception of Jack Parsons and his Book of the Antichrist, written in 1948 and a year after the Roswell incident and the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting … and a year after the death of Crowley himself.
I believe it is fair to say that Crowley did not understand completely the import of the Holy Books. (It has been demonstrated that it took Theodor Reuss to alert him to the fact that one of his rituals, Liber XXXVI or the Star Sapphire ritual, was an encoded form of the IXth degree ritual of the OTO.) The Holy Books in general are rather dark, and the language is pure Gothic horror. These are, the author contends, works that more properly belong to the Necronomicon Gnosis aspect of Thelema. Read in that light, their meanings become clearer.
The same can be said of the work of Jack Parsons. He was intent on incarnating the Red Goddess, and equally intent on incarnating the Anti- Christ. He was focused on bringing about the End of Days so that the New Aeon could dawn. Yet, there is something faintly disturbing about the Book of Antichrist that recalls some of the accounts we have of alien abductions. In this brief text, he writes of being called by Babalon to continue the work he began with Hubbard in 1946, two years earlier. He then proceeds to describe a strange scene in which he approaches “cyclopean ruins” and a tower of Black Basalt. A robed figure shows him four of his previous lives, one as Simon Magus, then as Gilles de Raiz, Earl Bothwell, and Cagliostro. Then, in a line that almost prefigures what abductees would say, he writes:
And thereafter I was taken within and saluted the Prince of that place, and thereafter things were done to me of which I may not write …
The brief account of his “Black Pilgrimmage” ends with him taking the Oath of the Abyss, filled with terror and foreboding, after being told, “It is not certain that you will survive …” It is then that he assumes the identity of the Antichrist.
He would die in an explosion less than four years later. He was 38 years old. His mother committed suicide a few hours later upon learning of the death of her son.
This is a Lovecraftian scenario, straight out of “The Dunwich Horror” or any number of his other stories: the magician who is also a scientist, summoning spirits, trafficking with discarnate entities, taking mysterious oaths in fear and trembling, proclaiming himself the Anti-Christ, and then dying in a spectacular ball of fire.
And at some point we have to accept that this is what is happening: that the bizarre themes we find in the purple prose of Gothic fiction have become the operating principle of our world.
Lovecraft wrote that the artists and the sensitives are the first to notice the incoming forces of the Great Old Ones. He could have added magicians to that list and, indeed, there were occultists among those who, in “The Call of Cthulhu,” responded to the Call. What he failed to realize
—as an atheist—is that the occultists can push back.
Those who “push back” in his stories are not occultists, but academics, scholars, intelligent third parties who find the unholy books, figure out the forbidden formulae, and then send the Old Ones back to where they came by closing and sealing the Gate. The Typhonian Tradition, however, is composed of the very type of people Lovecraft’s stories demonize: the magicians themselves. They have the unholy books, they know the forbidden formulae. And it is true, they do open the Gate.
That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take the great Cthulhu from His tomb and revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile
the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”
- Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone, p. 274. 195 Ibid., p. 274.
- Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden, p. 223.
- Oddly, however, in the United States necrophilia is not an important criminal act and is treated as a misdemeanor in seven states, including New York.
- Kenneth Grant, Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 89. 199 Aleister Crowley, Liber Aleph, chapter 23.
- A. O. Spare, The Zoetic Grimoire of Zos.
- For more detailed information and sources, please see the author’s Tantric Temples: Eros and Magic in Java, 2011.
- Ioan Couliano, Out of This World: Otherworldly Journeys from Gilgamesh to Albert Einstein, Boston, 1991, pp. 8-9.
- Kenneth Grant, Outer Gateways, p.158-159. 204 Kenneth Grant. Beyond the Mauve Zone, p. 115. 205 Kenneth Grant. Outer Gateways, p. 12.
KALAS, TITHIS, AND NITYAS
WHILE KENNETH GRANT goes on at great length through all of his books in discussing the kalas—the vaginal secretions that are so central to his concept of Tantra and Thelemic magic—he does not enumerate them or describe the individual kalas. For someone who wants to dig deeper into this system, this is a glaring hole in the data. There are some good reasons for this, and one of them is that this is a subject fraught with complexity and a bewildering number of Sanskrit terms and Vedic references, not all of which agree with each other. Another reason might be the advisability of using Vedic astrology in conjunction with the Ritual of the Fire Snake. And Vedic astrology is not well-known in the West (aside from a few popular books on the subject) and it is virtually ignored among the Thelemic magicians of the author’s acquaintance (admittedly, very few!). To become reasonably expert in Vedic astrology would require a good knowledge of Sanskrit and tremendous patience with the rather disorganized and confusing array of books on the subject, and this is somewhat lacking among occultists in the West.