And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom. — E. A. Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transient indeed. There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”
Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . . a survival of a hugely remote period when . . . consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity . . . forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds . . . — Algernon Blackwood
A little while ago, I decided to use up more of my enforced leisure by reading Part Two of Baron Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, or at least the first few chapters, with an eye towards once and for all getting a straight picture of the various ‘ages’ and ‘races’ that constitute his take on Tradition, filtering Guénon’s model through the more historically oriented work of Wirth and Co. (See Evola’s “My Explorations of Origins and Tradition” in his The Path of Cinnabar.)
Damned if I didn’t start coming all over with fear and dread, and not just in my attic (if I had one), not unlike those that prevented me from reading completely through Guénon’s Reign of Quantity until several false starts over 25 years.
This time I decided to try and analyze what this dread consisted in, and I think I’ve got it:
By the time one reaches the farthest limits of recorded, or even archeologically validated history, the worst has already happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And is this not indeed the theme of “horror” fiction?
Now, I’ve never paid attention to the occasional ‘smart’ comments about Traditionalism as reading like “science fiction,” based largely on supposed borrowing from Theosophy. In fact, I agree with this guy, who makes a modus tollens out of the mockers’ modus ponens:
What is one to do then with a writer of foresight, whose literacy and education remain indubitable, who nevertheless serves up his social and political analysis, however trenchant it is, in the context of an alternate history, the details of which resemble the background of story by Lord Dunsany or Clark Ashton Smith? I am strongly tempted to answer my own question in this way: That perhaps we should begin by reassessing Dunsany and Smith, especially Smith, whose tales of decadent remnant-societies — half-ruined, eroticized, brooding over a shored-up luxuriance, and succumbing to momentary appetite with fatalistic abandon — speak with powerful intuition to our actual circumstances. I do not mean to say, however, that Evola is only metaphorically true, as though his work, like Smith’s, were fiction. I mean that Evola is truly true, on the order of one of Plato’s “True Myths,” no matter how much his truth disconcerts us. — Thomas F. Bertonneau, “Against Nihilism: Julius Evola’s ‘Traditionalist’ Critique of Modernity“
I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read more than one C. A. S. story, and that years ago in some Lovecraft Mythos anthology, but I’m more inclined anyway to take this back to the Master himself, Lovecraft. How much does Lovecraft resemble Evola, and moreover, is this superficial, or is there a reason?
The answer may lie here:
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.– H. P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”
In a 1927 letter to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, Lovecraft writes: “I consider the touch of cosmic outsideness–of dim, shadowy non-terrestrial hints–to be the characteristic feature of my writing.”
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”
Lovecraft takes fear as his theme, and he knows that the greatest fear is inspired not by ghoulies and gore but by the dread of nameless eons. Nameless eons are the stock in trade of Traditionalist cyclical cosmology.
It’s no surprise that today’s Prince of Nihilism gets it:
The human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. — Michel Houellebecq, H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (1999).
But surely Evola and Co. are not frivolous entertainers, but serious initiates. If Lovecraft seeks to inspire fear, does Evola, and if so, how is that connected to initiation?
We could try this: if Evola inspires new respect for the Lovecraftians, then what if we read Lovecraft as if he were Evola?
It was Alisdair Clarke who called my attention to Polaria: The Gift of the White Stone by W. H. Muller. I’ve never seen more than a couple other references to it (such as this amused and bemused review by one Julianus here) and copies of the barely 200 page paperback seem to have become quite rare, fetching over $200.00 on Amazon.
Muller takes off, with all apparent sincerity, from the preposterous thesis that H. P. Lovecraft “was a Practicing Occultist and that the Lovecraft Circle was a group of High Adepts,” despite overwhelming evidence, found in literally dozens of volumes of letters and innumerable personal reminiscences, to say nothing of S. T. Joshi’s many works, of being a cast-iron materialist of the village atheist ilk. As Julianus says:
The book itself is a Vast Muddle of Mystical Verbiage that draws on Sufism, Theosophy, Rene Guenon, Robert Graves, and others to create a bizarre Syncretic Symbolism from “Phonetic Encodings” in Lovecraft’s work. The Linguistic Fog is comparable only to the work of Kenneth Grant, and it is truly strange that Herr Muller nowhere acknowledges his debt to the Typhonian Titan.
Actually, in its preposterous thesis defended with po-faced sincerity by means of vast scholarship and word and letter mumbo-jumbo, as well as its overall atmosphere of occult doom, I was more put in mind of such works of Ariosophic fascism as Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels’ Theozoology.
Never the less, there are some good bits, relevant to our theme; if Lovecraft‘s tales can be given an initiatic spin, then the connection with Evola becomes clearer:
Lovecraft cloaked his profound esoteric insight in an imagery of horror. . . . Thus it was given a subtle but clear initiatory nature. Many feel attracted by Lovecraft’s forceful imagery, but only a very few know the reason. Only those with a preparedness and already drawn toward the Threshold would be ready to delve into Lovecraft’s work and recover from its depths the eonian Polar message.
Remember, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”
For Fear read “initiation via experiencing the death of the ego and its world.”
Both ego-less animal existence and man’s ego, which is but matrical sensory cognition, originate in the same Matrix of Dream. This must be transcended. It is Polar insight, the inward-looking way that leads out of this cyclic Matrix. However, the man’s ego, being the man-god, fears mystical dissolution, because it fears its “death”. Only if “death” is realized as illusion by experiencing it mystically in life, [perhaps by reading some ‘weird tales’] can essencification and spiritual unity be achieved. The ego fears “death” because it does not know that there is none. ‘Fear’ is the sword the ego wields, yet its iron melts away in the black heat of Wisdom.
In Lovecraft’s stories the elements of decay and death prevail. These are the emotional patterns of one approaching the seventh plane of the Threshold. The transformative Way across the Bridge of Fog, from animal-man to god-man, is painful. Everyone claiming the contrary, is speaking with a Minotaurian voice. [Man-animals? Ruh-roh, here comes that Theozoology again!]
The Way leads through the Tomb of the Individual toward the Emergence of the Entity. The same is applicable to humanity. Saturn is throwing its charnel light toward this planet. But the Pilgrim must know that Saturn is but the Threshold, not the Destination. — W. H. Muller, Polaria, p.113
“The Minotaurian voice that Muller refers to is the voice that asserts the supremacy of the ego. It is the animal-man trapped in the labyrinth of ordinary, uninspired consciousness.” — A. Clarke, “Ego Death, Destiny and Serpents in Germanic Mythology“
Both Evola and Lovecraft also drew the same or similar immediate political conclusions, both under the influence of cycles, those of Guénon and Spengler, respectively:
Lovecraft saw cultural decline as a slow process that spans 500 to 1000 years. He sought a system that could overcome the cyclical laws of decay, which was also the motivation of Fascism. Lovecraft believed it was possible to re-establish a new “equilibrium” over the course of 50 to 100 years, stating: “There is no need of worrying about civilization so long as the language and the general art tradition survives.” — Kerry Bolton, “Lovecraft’s Fascism“
(For the Fascist theme of regeneration or palingenesis, see Roger Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, reviewed here by Alisdair Clarke.)
Continuing that somewhat optimistic note, perhaps even ego death may not be so bad; In “Calling Cthulhu,” Erik Davis described the then-nascent cult of pop-Cthulhu, and noted that Lovecraft’s “dread” and “horror” seemed to belong to a 19th century materialist confronting vast new vistas opened up by science, not unlike those opened by drugs; as he describes it in a more recent article on Cthulu porn:
In this tangy bon-bon of nihilistic materialism, Lovecraft anticipates a peculiarly modern experience of dread, one conjured not by irrational fears of the dark but rather by the speculative realism of reason itself, staring into the cosmic void. . . . This terror before the empty and ultimately unknowable universe of scientific materialism is what gives the cosmic edge to the cosmic horror that Lovecraft, more than any other writer, injected into the modern imagination (though props must be given up as well to Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, and, in the closing chapters of The Time Machine at least, H. G. Wells). While many secular people proclaim an almost childlike wonder at the mind-melting prospect of the incomprehensibly vast universe sketched out by astrophysics and bodied forth by doctored Hubble shots, Lovecraft would say that we have not really swallowed the implication of this inhuman immensity—that we have not, in other words, correlated our contents. — Erik Davis, “Cthulhu is not cute!”
By contrast, we in the 20th (now 21st) century have actually come to welcome such derangement of the senses, like teenagers love glue huffing.
But maybe the kids do have something to teach us:
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