Friday, September 30, 2011

Lovecraft as Proto-Chaos Magician?

Much has been made (especially by Donald Tyson in his recent book The Dream World of H.P. Lovecraft) of Lovecraft’s dalliance with Graeco-Roman paganism during his formative years, especially the claim that HPL had at least one visionary experience of fauns and satyrs. In a similar vein, whilst reading Joshi’s masterful I Am Providence, I was interested to note something Joshi highlights with regard to Lovecraft’s essay ‘A Confession of Unbelief’, and which indicates that HPL may have pre-empted the Chaos magickal methodology of paradigm shifting by some 80 years or so:

‘I read much in Egyption, Hindoo, and Tuetonic mythology, and tried experiments in pretending to believe in each one, to see which might contain the greatest truth.’

Of course, long-time readers will realise that the title of my post is a little misleading, as I don’t mean to entertain here the notion that Lovecraft was involved in any kind of formal 'occult' practice (indeed, in ‘A Confession of Unfaith’ Lovecraft follows the above statement immediately with ‘I had, it will be noted, immediately adopted the method and manner of science!’); also I think it extremely unlikely that Lovecraft’s words on this matter were in any way influential on early Chaos magick (despite other overt Lovecraftian influences on that particular genre of postmodern occulture).

Despite the flawed and usually speculative attempts by esotericists to establish formal links between Lovecraft and genuine bodies of occult lore (or, in the case of occultists such as Tyson and Grant, the inference that Lovecraft’s heightened capacity for dreaming meant he must have been attuned to some otherworldly reality), I think there are valuable anthropological insights regarding the human condition to be gained by examining the connection between speculative fiction, visionary experience, and the human propensity to construct hypothetical otherworlds through the medium of religion.

The capacity to formulate and communicate publically symbolic and abstract concepts is central not only to human social life in general, but is key to the transmission of religious and political ideologies, both of which - like much of speculative fiction - are premised on the construction of creatively imagined, alternative moral worlds. Here I’d direct interested readers to David Lewis Williams book on cognitive archaeology, The Mind in the Cave, and Steven Mithen’s The Prehistory of the Human Mind, both of which explore the close relationship between art and religion in the making of modern humanity (at least in a cognitive sense).

Literature is premised on the complex but everyday human capacity known as Theory of Mind, which for brevity’s sake I’ll simply define as the ability to put oneself in other people’s shoes (in terms of fiction, we may think that writers are are getting us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the protagonist; but what is really happening is that the author is getting us to imagine being the author who is imagining being the protagonist!). Theory of Mind is a also central cognitive capacity in the production of religious concepts with regard to our ability to actually conceptualise or create mental representations of supernatural entities. Common to many religious systems is the engendering of the belief that powerful supernatural beings are thinking about what you as a believer are thinking about - very useful either as a system of social control and a means, as Scott Atran points out in his book In Gods We Trust, of discouraging defection from any social coalition.

Theory of Mind is also requisite capacity for roleplay - an incredibly socially useful activity which we all participate in (regardless of whether we play Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu or not!) . In relation to Lovecraft, I’ve mentioned in an earlier post his youthful propensity for a kind of activity which in contemporary gamer culture would pass as a kind of simulationist rpging/wargaming. That aside, the capacity for roleplay is something which we also engage in when reading fiction, but it is also a requisite capacity for ritual and ritualised enactments of communion with posited supernatural entities, whether in the form of communicating with an evoked entity, or through trance, possession, channelling, etc. In other words, many religious practices - especially where they involve supposed interactions with alleged supernatural beings - engage the (relatively mundane) functioning of our evolved cognitive architecture, and our capacity for the production of symbols, in forms of creative role-play which may not be that different from those used in the production of fantastic fiction, myth, etc.

In any case, some of these ideas will be explored in a bit more detail my book on the Lovecraftian paranormal (once I get back to writing the damned thing!).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gratified to discover I'm not part of the problem...

I found this on Facebook earlier today:

I, for one, am immensely gratified to say that I have absolutely no idea who the woman on the right is. Extrapolating from the minimal context available my presumption is that she has something to do with reality TV...

As for the other bloke (of whom I'm a great admirer), I do believe that he would have found himself in good company had he ever met Lovecraft. A fact, I think, attested to by this and other quotations:

'It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.'


Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Fond Remembrance of Chaotist Demonology

Whilst browsing in one of London’s occult book shops recently, I was nicely surprised to discover reissued editions of Ramsey Dukes’ (pictured left) classic (and wonderfully titled) Chaos magick manuals: Blast Your Way to Megabucks Using My Secret Sex Power Formula: And Other Reflections on the Spiritual Path and Sex Secrets of the Black Magicians Exposed (perhaps better known as SSOTBME). In addition to which, one cannot fail to remember Duke's classic book (and a personal favourite of mine) What I Did In My Holidays: Essays on Black Magic,Satanism and Devil Worship.

I do hope readers of this blog will excuse the name dropping on this occasion, but the encounter with said books evoked a sudden and unexpected reminiscence of an experience about which I had almost entirely forgotten: a Summer’s afternoon in the late 1990s spent - as part of my doctoral research - in the company of Ramsey Dukes (aka Lionel Snell) discussing the finer points of Chaotist demonology and generally having a wonderful time being shown the sites of rural Oxfordshire from the back of Dukes' motorbike. Not only was Dukes a consumate conversationalist on that occasion, but a gentleman to boot. Ahh, Happy days.

Something a bit more substantive (not to say less self-indulgent) should make it's way onto the blog within the next week or so.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Richard Stanley and the Necronomicon

In a recent posting on his Terra Umbra blog, cult filmaker Richard Stanley discusses his recent short film Mother of Toads, based on the Clark Ashton Smith story of the same name (and set in Averoigne, Smith's fictionalised version of medieval souther France). By the sounds of things, Stanley has also added additonal Lovecraftian elements to his retelling of the tale.

Of interest to readers of this blog is a mention of the George Hay Necronomicon (portions of which appear elsewhere on the Terra Umbra website). In relation to which Stanley claims there are those within Southern France's esoteric community who believe the Hay Necronomicon to be based on an earlier Cathar grimoire, namely The Book of the Seven Seals. If I recall correctly, elsewhere Stanley also claims that this may have been one of the treasures supposedly smuggled out of the beseiged Cathar castle of Montsegur in 1244 - an event which has come to have a central bearing on many recent grail/holy bloodline conspiracy theories. Stanley also mentions a 12th Century carving containing what he believes to be 'the seal of Eibon', inferring this as possible proof of The Book of Eibon's actual existence. I'm not sure where all this is going, but Stanley has also made allusions to Lovecraftian elements underpinning the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. Hopefully I'll be in a posiiton to provide additional commentary regarding this matter as I learn more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Have You Seen the Harlequin?

Jason Offutt is something of a regular on paranormal podcasts and reports here (with, it seems, a degree of artistic licence) on encounters with an entity known as ‘The Harlequin'. Not exactly Lovecraft, but the Harlequin does feel like the kind of weird puppet-like entities that populate the works of Thomas Ligotti. For those interested, Offutt’s blog also offers accounts of strange black-eyed children in Norwich and Ireland, as well as an encounter with a gnome-like being somewhat reminiscent of Machen’s Little People.

Those looking for ‘paranormal’ entities in a more Lovecraftian vein might want to check out the Slender Man internet meme (which I’m sure most readers of this blog have at least a passing familiarity). Invented by Victor Surge on the Something Awful forums in 2009, Slender Man (probable inspiration for Dr. Who’s ‘The Silence’) is fast acquiring status as a new urban legend. Indeed, reports have apparently been emerging of real-world encounters with this being - some of which purportedly predate Slender Man’s documented invention. Given that this is the internet we are dealing with, it is difficult to ascertain whether such accounts are ‘genuine’, or just fueling the creepy Slender Man vibe. As other paranormal pundits have already commented, Slender Man may be an interesting variant of the account of ‘Philip’, supposedly an artificial ghost created as part of a psi-experiment in the 1970s (see I.R. Owens and M. Sparrow’s book Conjuring Up Philip, for more details of this classic case). As is hopefully evident from previous posts, I generally reject such paranormalist explanations of these kinds of 'entity' encounters.

Other interesting cases of ‘entity’ encounters - this time MiBs - are noted in an article by folklorist Peter Rojcewicz (‘The "Men in Black" Experience and Tradition Analogues with the Traditional Devil Hypothesis’ in The Journal of American Folklore, 100 (396): 148-160). Rojcewizc implies that such entity encounters tend to be conjured up by percipients in altered states of consciousness (a position I'm much more LIKELY to entertain). The article is also of interest in that it contains a first-person narrative of an encounter with an MiB. Presented pseudonomyously, apparently Rojcewicz later admitted that he was the actual percipient of this encounter. The Rocjewicz piece is also of interest with regard to the links it makes between MiBs and Judeo-Christian demonology, and is a cornerstone study in the emergent mythology of Demonic Ultraterrestrials theorised by Spooky Paradigm here. And more briefly here at the Mikatonic Museum blog.

In any case, I would certainly be grateful if anyone can point me in the direction of alleged accounts of encounters with Slender Man. Or, indeed, any other of the Lovecraftian entities that increasingly seem to form part of the discursive formations of contemporary occulture.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Nazi Occult Royalty are Spawn of Cthulhu Shocker!

Apologies for the rather bold and (at least to non-UK reader’s) ungrammatical header. Apropos the (largely unmourned) death of The News of the World, I felt that the UK readers might be cheered by a post header of tabloid proportions.

Needless to say, in the minds of some conspiracy theorists, aforementioned header is figuratively (if not literally) true. Certainly one area of research which is proving to be fertile in relation to my book are apparent links between Lovecraft’s fictive mythology and the whole Holy Blood, Holy Grail/Da Vinci Code shebang. David Icke’s claims – indirectly lifted from Robert E. Howard’s King Kull story ‘The Shadow Kingdom’ - that the ruling elite of the planet are constituted of a bloodline of shapeshifting extra-dimensional reptoids is already a well-established sidereal Lovecraftian take on this particular stream of contemporary esoterica. Another - which I’ve recently become aware of - is Tracy Twyman‘s claim that the sacred bloodline of Jesus goes back, a la 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', to a hybridisation programme between humans and extra-/ultra-terrestrial beings akin to Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones. Here, however, Twyman takes a leaf out of the Simon Necronomicon (peppered with a heavy dose of Zecheria Sitchin filtered through Robert Temple and Kenneth Grant) by claiming that Lovecraft’s pseudomythology is also synonymous with that found in Sumerian mythology: that the Old Ones are identical with the Annanuki (and, indeed, with the Nephilim from The Book of Enoch). Indeed, Simon's Necronomicon is quoted at various points in one of Twyman’s books on the matter, Dead But Dreaming: The Great Old Ones of Lovecraftian Legend Reinterpreted a Atlantean Kings. So far so good - with ultraterrestrials, holy bloodlines, and ancient aliens we’re hitting some of the key signifyers of any contemporary conspiracy theory deserving of the name.

Sadly, Twyman appears not to have undertaken a particularly close reading of Lovecraft, as she submits the Cthulhu mythos to a very Derlethian interpretation (evident in the fact that she claims that in ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ R’lyeh sank because of the pride and destructive behaviour of Cthulhu et al offended God). In addition, any good Lovecraftian conspiracist worth their salt would immediately jump on the similarities between ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life as documented by Dirk Mosig (and the basis of Richard Tierney’s novel The Drums of Chaos).

Oh yes, and a rather strained etymological link between ‘Cthulhu’ and ‘Thule’ is made, bringing the Nazis into the picture for no other apparent reason than, well, they are Nazis (and any contemporary conspiratorial occult tale worth its salt needs to contain at least a passing mention of Nazis). In any case, an interesting end result of all this is the inference that Prince William may be a direct descendent of Sumerian/Atlantean/Cthulhoid ultraterrestrials. Not sure where the other red-headed step-child (namely, Prince Harry) fits into the picture. Though given his past proclivities for dressing up in SS uniforms, maybe the Nazi occultists can find something for him to do in the New World Order. Talking of red-headed people, did I mention that the Merovingians are, according to Twyman, also red-headed Aryans? That’s right: not only are the Merovingians hybrid descendents of Sumerian-Atleantean-Cthulhoid Extra-/Ultra-Terrestrials, they are also the Aryan sons of Jesus. Who is, in turn, a descendent of Satan (and thus, one presumes, Cthulhu-Shaitan in Kenneth Grant and Simon’s esoteric interpretation of Lovecraft). So we have it: a bizarre racialised Gnostic Luciferian re-imagining of human prehistory whereby a great war in heaven occurred between the ancient followers of Satan and Jehovah, subsequent to which the benevolent Satan has been depicted as evil by the usurping followers of the god of the Old Testament (i.e. Catholicism and Judaism).

Implicit in this aspect of Twyman’s exegesis of the holy bloodline as Cthulhu mythos is, I think, a common element of contemporary Lovecraftian occulture (and one I’ve documented in my own research): that the multi-dimensionality of the Great Old Ones represents an idealised state of human futurity. Thus the ‘summoning’ of the Great Old Ones becomes the symbolic means of re-awakening their genetic heritage within the human genome and thus allowing us (or at least those of the Great Old Ones’ bloodline) to participate in a transhuman and transcendent phase of being in which the illusory duality of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ will be dissolved in an Nietzschean apocalypse of the Will to Power writ on a cosmic stage. Did I mention that this may come about with the re-awakening’ of the ‘holy grail’ somewhere under Rennes-le-Chateau? And that said grail is none other than the originator of the holy bloodline (Satan-Cain-Cthulhu) who is thus ‘dead but dreaming’ deep beneath Southern France?

The notion of a trans-/post-human metamorphosis of consciousness is a central tenet of elements of contemporary Satanism. A point which, in this context, ties in broadly with Twyman’s generally libertarian outlook on the significance of the holy bloodline as that of the ignominiously maligned ultraterrestrial Satan-Cthulhu. It is a viewpoint evident in the work of her fellow researcher, the wonderfully named Nicholas de Vere von Drakenberg - bearing in mind I have yet to read any of his work. Taking that into consideration, my understanding (elaborated from Twyman) is that de Vere von Drakenberg advocates an explicitly genetic-occult elitism (which, in turn, appears to have its roots in the work of Laurence Gardner, whose work I’ve also yet to read) wherein the selfsame sovereign bloodline also traces its descent to ultraterrestrial God Kings of the primal earth. Who are also elves, apparently. Reading between the lines, I get the sense that both Twyman and de Vere von Drakenberg believe themselves to be inheritors of this genetic tradition.

Thus in an interview on Twyman’s own podcast, de Vere von Drakenberg views this bloodline as heir to a spiritual and political heritage of total and absolute freedom untrammelled by ordinary anthropocentric mores (unsurprisingly, de Sade was also apparently a member of this bloodline). The influence of Kenneth Grant again seems evident, as achievement of this state is interwoven with the evocation of ‘starfire’ via menstrual blood in some kind of system of Tantric magick which De Vere von Drakenberg refers to as ‘Royal Witchcraft’ (only attainable to those of the bloodline). However - and despite spiritual claims which are as grandiose as his title - de Vere von Drakensberg appears to be advocating a vulgar form of Crowley’s magical philosophy of ‘Do What Thou Wilt’. To this end, von Drakenberg also appears to be seeking recognition of his bloodline as a ‘transcorporeal’ sovereign state, with a view of somehow achieving recognition by the United Nations and attaining diplomatic status. The intention behind this - implied but not explicitly stated in the interview with Twyman - is to enable members of the bloodline to acquire immunity from the legal consequences of murder, rape, incest, etc. (all of which, as I understand it, are the ancient prerogative of the bloodline).

Ironically, de Vere von Drakensberg seems not to have considered the possibility that the transition to such a transhuman state might render such corporeal desires meaningless. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Sovereign Grand Duchy of Drakensberg seems more inclined to envisage their ultimate spiritual goal in terms of a violently sexualised masculine fantasy.

This brings me to what I think is an important and up to now unrecognised aspect of 'holy bloodline' conspiracies: that they are reminiscent of British Israelism. British Israelism achieved popularity in England and elsewhere in Europpe during the 19th Century, and formed a precursor to the contemporary right wing white supremacist Christian Identity movement in the US. Interested readers are directed to Michael Barkun’s excellent Religion and the Racist Right for a detailed academic exploration of this relationship.

British Israelism is a complex phenomenon with many offshoots, but in brief elements of this belief system posit the notion that Northern Europeans are one of the 'lost tribes' of Israel, and the true inheritors of the covenant with the Judeo-Christian god of the Old Testament (admittedly this is not quite the same position taken by Twyman and de Vere von Drakenberg). Furthermore, forms of British Israelism also held that the aristocracy of England and Europe are themselves direct descendents of King David, and thus relations of Jesus (a point that is explicitly stated in the work of some bloodline researchers, including Twyman). Importantly, elements of British Israelism also held that Jewish people were not the true 'Israelites', but were presumed to be a racially and spiritually inferior group who usurped that covenent. In the context of the Christian Identity movement, this resulted in the notion that Jesus was not ethically, ‘racially’ or culturally Jewish, but ‘Aryan’ (In contrast to Twyman's work, the Christian Identity movement tends to treat Jewish people as being literally the spawn of Satan - but in this case the evil Satan and not the 'good' one). As indicated above, Twyman also seems to hold the view that the bloodline of Jesus is also 'Aryan'. Of course, these perspectives are not unique to British Israelism, but crop up in the racilaised aspects of Theosophy, as well as the Ariosophy movement documented by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in 'The Occult Roots of Nazism'

I’m sure a goodly number of ‘holy bloodline’ researchers such as Twyman are not pursuing an explicitly racist or anti-semitic agenda. However, sometimes one only needs to scratch beneath the surface to find significant threads of racialist and anti-semitic ideology running through many aspects of contemporary conspiracism and esotericism.

There are other obvious racialised aspects of this story which I have yet to explore, including: Otto Rahn’s quest for the grail (currently the focus of the Lovecraftian tinged work of Richard Stanley) as well as the fact that a few bloodline researchers do rely on a quote from the works of racist esotericists such Julius Evola and Miguel Serrano.

Another point of interest (though not perhaps the most appropriate word to use given the subject matter) are the links I'm discerning between all of the above and elements of racialised esoterism that I think are implicit in, of all things, claims about hoaxed moon-landing and other NASA-related conspiracies. This, I should add, seems to be related to (but goes beyond) the tired claims of a New World Order being brewed up by a global cabal of Jewish bankers, framing this in terms of a cosmic war between different groups of ancient aliens who were/are 'racial' enemies, the material remnants of which are to be found in so-called 'anomalous artefacts' said to be found visible on the Moon, Mars, Phobos, Titan, etc.

Finally, apologies for the lack of embedded links in this post - I'm still catching up on work, but wanted to get this post published even though links are missing. I'll try and add them later.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back in the UK

The post header says it all: I finally got back to Blighty (after a gruelling 24 hours of travelling, having had to catch a flight to Minneapolis in order to get a flight back to the UK) late on the afternoon of Wednesday 31st August. Since then, I've spent a busy two days at work dealing with a bunch of exam marking, and have had some family-related events going on over the weekend, so haven't had much time to devote to the blog. However, something substantial on HPL, Tracy Twyman and the Merovingian bloodline should appear in the next few days, where I'll be returing to the issue of Lovecraft, conspiracy theories and race. As I've been delving into this, I'm digging up some highlighting interesting points of intersection between 'Holy Bloodline' conspiracism and forms of anti-semitism emergent from a 19th Century movement known as British Israelism (which also appears to have had an influence on the field of pyramidology and alternative archaeology).

I'll also be updating links in previous posts, and hopefully including some photos of my Providence trip.