The Call of Cthulhu
By Barry Walker
H P Lovecraft was born in 1890 and lived for most of his short life in Providence, Rhode Island; In later years after his marriage failed, living with aged female relatives in a strange, claustrophobic household where both his health and mental state deteriorated as he strove to produce works of fiction that would gain him the respect he thought his writing deserved. Today he is perhaps best remembered for the short stories and novellas he wrote in the 20's and 30's, these being published in, "pulp fiction" comics such as, "Weird Tales" and "Astounding Stories". As horror fiction goes many today feel they don't stand the test of time when compared to other authors of that period, indeed even when he was writing them his works lacked much critical acclaim and Lovecraft always sought to have a "real" book published.But despite this lack recognition of the value of his writing, there is a deeper, darker side to his work, overlooked by those who see him as simply a writer of rather lurid fiction, that may hold the key to mans future ekstasis, or his eschatonic destruction. It is these aspects that I will explore here and the nature of the mythos he grounded, how the Hidden Lore he stumbled upon can be used today by those brave enough to dare to work Magick, and how it is already being used by others and some of the personal risks involved.Much of the fiction that later became the, so called, Mythos Tales, was inspired by Lovecraft's dreams. Indeed, some of his best works such as, "The Shadow over Innsmouth" have an unmistakable dream like feel to them that many readers have commented upon. Lovecraft himself complained of being, "haunted" by visions of "blasphemous rites" in weird cities and "degenerate" peoples engaged in "frenzied hill top rituals".
It was these very dreams that formed the core of his stories about the Great Old Ones. Critics have put his dreams down to nothing more than the outpourings of his unstable mind, shaped by his many neurosis and phobias, such as his morbid loathing of fish and temperatures less than 30c and his fear that he may have contracted syphilis, others though, see these dreams as holding the key to a magical formulae that has been lost to man for aeons, but is now being rediscovered. Enter the Mauve Zone The link between the nighttime horrors experienced by a young American fiction writer and a wider lost occult tradition were first hinted at by the English occultist Kenneth Grant. Grant who was a friend of Aleister Crowley in the 1940's towards the end of his life in Hastings, Kent, came to the realisation of a number correspondences between the ideas of Crowley's magickal system and the, "fictions" of Lovecraft. It must be pointed out that Lovecraft was no supporter of the supernatural, and is on record in his letters of his contempt for spiritualism and other forms of "irrationality". While he would have been aware of the activities of Crowley during his time in the US via the tabloid press of the day, there is no evidence that stands any form of test that Lovecraft read any of Crowley's books, or studied his work let alone met, as has been claimed by others. This despite the fact that his father may have been a member of an unorthodox Masonic sect who were in possession of certain occult manuscripts. Grant though has shown how there are indeed real links with both the Mythos of Lovecraft and the occult tradition of Crowley.
To illustrate this link here are some examples cited by Grant: Al Azif, the book of the (mad) Arab. This book is referred to as all powerful in a magical sense corresponds to Crowley's Al vel Legis. Crowley claimed this book to contain the supreme spells. The Great Old Ones from the Mythos = The Great Old Ones of the Night Time, a phrase which occurs in rituals of the Golden Dawn. The Cold Waste, Kadath = Hadith, the Wonder of the Waste, a title taken by Crowley etc. etc. There are many other parallels but these point out the path for you to follow if you want to find others.The above list shows how there are indeed links between what was understood to be only "fictions" and a "real" occult tradition. It seems that Lovecraft was a channel, chosen or random, for ideas to ooze into our reality from beyond. The place where these ideas come from has become known amongst Typhonian occultists and others as the Mauve Zone, a place where the concepts such as "real" and "unreal" lose any meaning, a zone which can spill from the pages of a book into the mind of its reader, opening up a gate though which the Great Old Ones can, once again, gain a footing on our world.
Break On Through from the Other Side. The Dunwich Horror This idea of a hidden side of nature seeking to gain entrance into our world is a reoccurring theme in many Mythos stories. It is also one which modern occult magickians such as members of the OTO, IOT, Friends of Hekate, and others are using, but I'll return to that later.In his short story, "The Dunwich Horror", Lovecraft writes of a family cursed by ancient knowledge, who's blood has been tainted by contact with forces from beyond, who seek to reestablish the rule of the Old Ones on Earth via the opening of a lost portal or gateway to some dimension outside our normal understanding of space-time, through the reenactment of rituals formulated before the dawn of man, that need to be performed, "when the stars are right". These are powerful themes within the Mythos and if taken in conjunction with the way Lovecraft's tales appear to link with a real occult tradition expounded first by Crowley and later by Grant, Austin Spare and members of the Typhonian OTO, pointers may be seen as to how the forces we call The Great Old Ones interact with our world and give hints to their nature and purpose.It has been said that this story can be taken as a "spell book" of Mythos Magick, as it makes clear a number of ideas only hinted at before and that it contains keys to understanding the nature of Mythos magicks and how these can employed by others towards their own ends.The first of these keys is transformation of the body. In the story this transformation takes the form of hideous offspring, born from the use of ancient magical formulae. Occult writers on the subject take this a an allegory of the way the use of Magick changes a persons ideas and habits, sometimes in ways that others find disturbing.
The second idea is that of a gateway of some kind whereby the Great Old Ones seek to enter, this gate has a name, Yog Sothoth, who is both the gate and the keeper of the knowledge as to the location of the gate on Earth. The last major theme to the story is that of the nature of landscapes and how these have a powerful impact on the atmosphere of an area. Stone circles, high and wild places, areas forgotten or abandoned by man seem favored by the Mythos as liminal zones, places where the influence of the Mauve Zone is at its strongest. It is perhaps no coincidence that wilderness areas along with areas of industrial decay seem to act as hot spots for many forms of para-normal incidents, the so called, "window areas". While Lovecraft woke from fitful, dream haunted, sleep with these visions, later set down as horror fiction, others take this information and reshape it into a working magickal system, the use of which in only now becoming known in wider circles.
The Mythos as a working paradigm
The Esoteric Order of Dagon were (are?) such a group, who also claimed to use the transformative powers of the Cthulhu Mythos in relation to contemporary Magick. Little remains of their work, most being self published in booklet form, that which does hints that certain results were achieved and contacts made. There is also a certain kind of dark glamour that lingers around the mythos. Phil Hine has pointed out that the mythos in many ways is the kind of, "real Magick" that many new-comers to the occult are seeking, a sort of, "virgins and demons" world where dark powers skulk through the streets and wild places always hungry for victims and those who would worship them. It is this very glamour that some see as the true power behind mythos Magick, the very mention in certain circles gives the magickian a dark and sinister reputation that he can exploit for his own ends.The Outsider theme runs though many Lovecraft stories with a number of its narrators being Outsiders in some form or other due to their genealogy, arcane studies etc. and in mythos Magick the outsider stance provides a glamour from which power can be derived in very much the same way that Satanism once did.
It is no surprise to find that "Satanic" Orders such as The Temple of Set and the Church of Satan have both used mythos ideas in their rituals, taking advantage of the "evil" glamour that surrounds the mythos to invoke the sort of feelings in others that due to the decline in Christianity Satan alone can no longer produce.Others see the mythos as fountain-head of un-shaped powers, that the names we give such as Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu, Azathoth etc. are "false" ones, that these powers are aspects of a pre-titan age of nature, nature untamed, nature un-named by man. That where the mythos speaks of the Great Old Ones, once again claiming the earth for their own, "when man has been wiped clean" it is alluding to some kind of Eco-disaster that leads to the end of mankind and a new order of things where nature rules once again, as it once did in the distant past. According to Grant: "the preeval aeons are nameless, dominated by the Elder Gods of which the Great Old Ones of the Night of Time were supreme. These elemental powers were divided into two major streams, the chthonian Old Ones and the Lords of the Abyss, sometimes known as the "Deep Ones". It is this dark side of nature that groups who came out of pagan wiccan covens are working with, some hard-core green magickians who are now firmly followers of the Vama Marg are using the mythos to engineer the downfall of man as rulers of the planet. Others, while not working towards the extinction of mankind see the mythos as valuable in that it grants access to green magicks without falling into the trap of seeing nature anthropomorphosied into ideas of gods and goddesses of an unchallenging and weak kind. They see the winds as Hastor, the seas as the realm of great Cthulhu etc and work with nature giving its forces names and powers taken from the mythos.
Getting the Fear There are few areas of Magick that, despite the dire warnings of the evangelical movement, pose any real threat to the user; this is not true of working with areas of the mythos. Work within this paradigm has been known to lead to mental problems, health breakdowns not to mention unwanted strangeness such as poltergeist activity that is difficult to control.It is the nature of the Universe that it likes to confirm your ideas about it, in this sense the universe is a plastic medium, a fact made use of by magickians for sorcery, but the down-side to the malleable nature of, "reality" can be seen with use of the mythos as a personal working paradigm. There is a certain kind of brooding menace about it, glimpsed in the stories, but brought into stark focus when given half a chance. This feeling of menace grows as the universe strives to confirm your new beliefs about it, television programms about strange cyclopean ancient cities will strike a chord of recognition, new archaeology will question our understanding of civilizations such as Egypt, minor events and object will taken cosmic significance, more and more evidence will arise hinting at the reality of the Great Old Ones and that soon the stars will be right again.
There is also the nature of the transformation that mythos Magick can bring, old certainties and long held, "truths" can shatter in moments as work with the Great Old Ones grants the magickian particular states of awareness not before accessed, leaving you floundering on a sea of chaos, you struggle to gab a mental hand-hold on certainties, but this is a one way trip, there is no safe banishing ritual to save the day, no safe goddess to guide you back to everyday life of nine to five slavery, once you set out upon this path the initiatory process develops a momentum of its own, you may try and reject the change, but like death, there is no prevention. Hine writes of how you must be like the hero in the film The Fly, and dispassionately catalogue the disintegration of your being.If you choose to seek the Great Old Ones they are out there, waiting. Go to the wild places and invoke them; on a starry night stare out across the vast cold deeps of outer-space knowing that Yog Shothoth abides in Daath, the Mauve Zone, that place of crossing. Stand on the shores of a great ocean and feel the heart beat of great Cthulhu who lies, not dead but dreaming, in his sunken city for the stars to be right when he shall rise and all will know of his coming.