From the insane depths of Lovecraft’s Mythos comes the dark and satanic sect The Cult of Cthulhu. Phenomena’s Esotericist-at-Large Edward O’Toole takes a plunge into the Abyss to visit them, and also find out just who wrote the Necronomicon.
“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange æons, even death may die.”
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 – 1937) was a genius. Legend has it that he never laughed or even smiled. Ever. With the eldritch horrors that he wrote about floating around in his head that is quite understandable. Unlike Edgar Allen Poe, from whom his writing was greatly inspired, Lovecraft described his tortured nightmares in his writings – his Unconscious screamed through his pen and the memories of a childhood with an institutionalized syphilitic and psychotic father combined with an alternate reality in the vein of Lord Dunsany led to the creation of one of the most famous genres of fiction – the Cthulhu Mythos (a term coined posthumously by fellow Mythos writer August Derleth). Like Arthur Machen (1863 – 1947), Lovecraft dreamed of ancient terrors, a subsistent evil that lurked beneath the thin veil of everyday reality – an evil visible in nightmares and to the insane.
But, as some would argue, is that where it begins? Solely in the imagination of an early 20th Century pulp fiction writer? How could one man have envisioned so much? Surely he must have got his ideas from somewhere – he couldn’t have invented them all. Skeptics will quickly assert that Lovecraft’s creations were bastardizations of Sumerian and Babylonian mythology and that as his preferred method of introducing a Horror was through implication rather than overt description, he merely set the scene for others of his group (e.g. August Derleth, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard) to build upon and develop the complex Mythos as is known today.
But what about the Necronomicon, the fabled book of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred (written in 730 CE in Damascus and previously known as Al Azif, according to the propagated legend)? Skeptics would state that Abdul Alhazred was Lovecraft’s childhood pen name and that the version widely available in bookstores today (the ‘Simon’ version) was written in 1977 by Peter Levenda, Herman Slater, Jim Wasserman, Larry Barnes and 'Khem Set Rising' in order to cash in on the pop-culture occultism of the period; or, they could mention a handful of other hoaxes such as those written by L. Sprague DeCamp, Colin Wilson and Lin Carter. They might also point out that Lovecraft’s lack of classic Greek means that his intended meaning of Necronomicon actually more closely translates as ‘A Classification of the Dead’ rather than ‘The Image of The Law of The Dead’ (which would be Necronomoeikon) and does in fact sounds far creepier (src. The Straight Dope).
Brushing such Skepticism, and approximately half a century, aside, The Necronomicon – and the Mythos – remerged in popular horror movies such as The Evil Dead and also at a time when the Church of Satan was getting a good footing in popular occulture, especially as an alternative to Wicca. This re-emergence fuelled interest not only in the fiction of Lovecraft but also in Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Sumerian and Egyptian mythologies and the early medieval esoteric texts such as the Lemegeton and Agrippa’s (which had, a century earlier, been the province of the idle rich and unheard of by the masses).
Lovecraft’s creations can be seen as a step along a route that includes Hieronymus Bosch, HR Giger, Clive Barker, EA Poe and other writers and artists who have examined the darker aspects of the imagination for their Muse. Like the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Lovecraft’s concept of The Woman in his writings was a stark and unforgiving one – no romance, no beauty, no femininity. The setting of his tales in New England and Massachusetts, especially confined to fictional small, otherwise normal towns like Arkham and Dunwich is echoed greatly in Stephen King’s Castle Rock, and it is this setting of unmentionable terror and evil in a location the Everyman can associate with that has ensured both the fiction and the Mythos persevere. Chaosium’s amazingly popular Role Playing game ‘Call of Cthulhu’, brought an entirely new generation of fans and adherents into contact with the great Lovecraft in the 1980s and 90s (I myself was an avid player as it was one game where when the Keeper, the CoC GamesMaster, was good as it was terrifying).
(In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming)
And from the world of fiction and fantasy into the very real and evil world of the Cult of Cthulhu. Founded by High Priest Darrick Dishaw, aka Venger Satanis, and combining the 4th way, the writings of HP Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti, Laveyan Satanism and Chaos magic, the Cult of Cthulhu proudly asserts itself as:
“a religion of darkness, slime, and tentacles. It is a key for designing the universe and becoming God. The paradigm of flowing, inky blackish green ichor is here…”
Phenomena Magazine is the first to interview this dark and twisted sect.
Ed: When did you form the Cult of Cthulhu and what was your inspiration?
DD: Let's see... I guess you could say that I was forming the Cult of Cthulhu way back when I first started reading HPL and delving into Satanism. Lovecraft's stories crystallized something inside me; it gave me a new version of "reality." A paradigm of grotesque servitors and monstrous demonic gods behind the scenes of a terribly bleak, nihilistic, yet fantastical universe.
However, I started pouring my energies into this idea, the Cult of Cthulhu, in the summer of 2004. I performed a ritual during a midnight rainstorm surrounded by green illumination; I stood facing the night in my 12th story apartment. That was the "conception" of this Lovecraftian occult lodge, and it was "born" on the following Walpurgisnacht 2005 during the Cthulhu One convention I organized in Madison, WI. The ritual's date was inspired by Anton LaVey's May Eve ritual which gave birth to the modern Satanist movement.
Ed: Where are your headquarters?
DD: I work, write, paint, practice magic, and meet with Cultists, out of my home in Madison, WI. I'm planning on moving into bigger, grander digs this fall. And I hope this will be one of the focal points of the Cult of Cthulhu.
Ed: How many members do you have and do you have branches?
DD: Before the restructuring, the Cult of Cthulhu didn't have any official members; those who felt connected to the idea of a Cthulhu Cult would discuss various topics in the Yahoo group, email me personally, and conduct rituals on their own. So it's hard to tell how many "members" we actually had. Now that we have a structure, we can count official members. Although, this new order has just begun, so it's tough to say how many will join in the next few weeks, months, or years. Eventually, I plan on the Cult of Cthulhu members numbering in the thousands.
Ed: How does one join the Cult of Cthulhu?
DD: On the cult’s website: www.CultofCthulhu.net , there are instructions on how to join. Right now, all you have to do is fill out an application and mail it in with a $30 money order. This is the discounted rate, basically the price for 2 people going to dinner for an evening. I wanted to initially keep it very low for those who have supported the Cult of Cthulhu since the beginning. In 2007, the lifetime membership will go to $50. This cost pays for the System of Dark Occult Science, the annual Cult of Cthulhu newsletter, and for the time and money it costs to run the organization itself, the website, etc.
To join one needs a basic knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft, sorcery, the desire to learn and eventually do things... to change one's life.
Ed: What is the pantheon of the Cult of Cthulhu? Are you restricted solely to the Cthulhu Mythos?
DD: Obviously, we include all of Lovecraft's many hideous Gods, servitors, monsters, etc. However, since the Old Ones and their minions are fairly unknown and vague, we also include Satan. Satanism, as outlined by Anton LaVey, has always been a huge inspiration to me. I identified with it 15 years ago and still do.
Really, nothing is fixed in the Cult of Cthulhu, or at least not much. So, if a Cultist wants to worship Set or Space Ghost, then he's welcome to. As you can see, I've also taken on a lot of Chaos Magic in my philosophy. And in Chaos Magic, it doesn't matter what or who one focuses their energy on. If you create your own "reality", then that is the universe you live in.
Ed: Do you believe the Cthulhu Mythos is real and if so why?
DD: Yes. I believe the Cthulhu Mythos is real. Partially because I choose to put my belief into it, and also because it makes sense to me. I feel a kinship with those entities, how they are described and what they are about.
I favor a religion that sees humanity as a kind of mistake. An abnormality which has potential (at times), but is mostly worthless and repugnant.
Ed: What is the aim of your Cult? What are your goals?
DD: Our goals are to bring the Old Ones back. To awaken the Ancient Things from outside of space and time. And also to awaken them inside ourselves.
The Cult of Cthulhu believes strongly in bettering one's life; making real life changes that affect the magician and those close to him.
And eventually, of course, we want to destroy "reality" and take over the world.
Ed: Ah. Would you say your Cult was evil and if so why?
DD: Yes, the Cult of Cthulhu is evil. Why? Because we create our own morality and ethics. We choose for ourselves and do what we must to benefit ourselves. Cultists are admittedly selfish beings, all humans are. The Will To Power is a singular philosophy which drives us.
Ed: What is your opinion on magic and how is it used in the Cult of Cthulhu?
DD: I've been practicing magic all my life. I always had this feeling that there were certain barriers and obstacles which didn't necessarily have to be there. I've always disliked authority, and I see the generally accepted views of "reality" as the greatest authority of all. And I laugh in its face. It only has power because everyone, more or less, agrees with it.
I've created a lot of good things in my life. Hard work and magic have been instrumental in these changes.
Magic is evolution, change which comes from outside... and that's what the Cult of Cthulhu is all about.
Ed: Thank you for the interview.
To summarize, it is clear that while HP Lovecraft’s writings live on in the hearts of fiction lovers the world over, his insane visions of the horror that lurks beneath the surface of reality also live on – and are even worshipped. It is difficult to find one single occult forum that has not at some point debated the veracity of the Necronomicon, or find a daemonologist who has not explored the temptation of summoning beings that should never be evoked – those that lie not dead, but sleeping and waiting.
Edward O’Toole, Slovakia, July 2006 – Non Serviam
Edward O’Toole’s controversial book the Sophia Bestiae, concerning the True and Evil Nature of God, is available on Amazon or can be obtained from the publisher here.
The Aestheteka Website is here and The Aestheteka Forum can be found here.