WE CAN profitably compare the essence of most of Lovecraft's short stories with the basic themes of Crowley's unique system of ceremonial Magick. While the latter was a sophisticated psychological structure, intended to bring the initiate into contact with his higher Self, via a process of individuation that is active and dynamic (being brought about by the "patient" himself) as opposed to the passive depth analysis of the Jungian adepts, Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos was meant for entertainment. Scholars, of course, are able to find higher, ulterior motives in Lovecraft's writings, as can be done with any manifestation of Art.
Lovecraft depicted a kind of Christian Myth of the struggle between opposing forces of Light and Darkness, between God and Satan, in the Cthulhu Mythos. Some critics may complain that this smacks more of the Manichaen heresy than it does of genuine Christian dogma; yet, as a priest and former monk, I believe it is fair to say that this dogma is unfortunately very far removed from the majority of the Faithful to be of much consequence. The idea of a War against Satan, and of the entities of Good and Evil having roughly equivalent Powers, is perhaps best illustrated by the belief, common among the Orthodox churches of the East, in a personal devil as well as a personal angel. This concept has been amplified by the Roman Catholic Church to such an extent - perhaps subconsciously - that a missal in the Editor's possession contains an engraving for the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, for November 30, that bears the legend "Ecce Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi" - Behold Him Who Taketh Away The Sins of the World - and the picture above it is of the atomic bomb!
Basically, there are two "sets" of gods in the mythos : the Elder Gods, about whom not much is revealed, save that they are a stellar Race that occasionally comes to the rescue of man, and which corresponds to the Christian "Light"; and the Ancient Ones, about which much is told, sometimes in great detail, who correspond to "Darkness". These latter are the Evil Gods who wish nothing but ill for the Race of Man, and who constantly strive to break into our world through a Gate or Door that leads from the Outside, In. There are certain people, among us, who are devotees of the Ancient Ones, and who try to open the Gate, so that this evidently repulsive organisation may once again rule the Earth. Chief among these is Cthulhu, typified as a Sea Monster, dwelling in the Great Deep, a sort of primeval Ocean; a Being that Lovecraft collaborator August Derleth wrongly calls a "water elemental". There is also Azazoth, the blind idiot god of Chaos, Yog Sothot, Azathoth's partner in Chaos, Shub Niggurath, the "goat with a thousand young", and others. They appear at various times throughout the stories of the Cthulhu Mythos in frightening forms, which test the strength and resourcefulness of the protagonists in their attempts to put the hellish Things back to whence they came. There is an overriding sense of primitive dear and cosmic terror in those pages, as though man is dealing with something that threatens other than his physical safety: his very spiritual nature. This horror-cosmology is extended by the frequent appearance of the Book, NECRONOMICON.
The NECRONOMICON, is according to Lovecraft's tales, a volume written in Damascus in the Eighth Century, A.D., by a person called the "Mad Arab", Abdhul Alhazred. It must run roughly 800 pages in length, as there is a reference in one of the stories concerning some lacunae on a page in the 700's It had been copied and reprinted in various languages - the story goes - among them Latin, Greek and English. Doctor Dee, the Magus of Elizabethan fame, was supposed to have possessed a copy and translated it. This book, according to the mythos, contains the formulae for evoking incredible things into visible appearance, beings and monsters which dwell in the Abyss, and Outer Space, of the human psyche.
Such books have existed in fact, and do exist. Idries Shah tells us of a search he conducted for a copy of the Book of Power by the Arab magician Abdul-Kadir (see: The Secret Lore of Magic by Shah), of which only one copy was ever found. The Keys of Solomon had a similar reputation, as did The Magus by Barret, until all of these works were eventually reprinted in the last fifteen years or so. The Golden Dawn, a famous British and American Occult lodge of the turn of the Century, was said to have possessed a manuscript called "the Veils of Negative Existence" by another Arab.
These were the sorcerer's handbooks, and generally not meant as textbooks or encyclopedias of ceremonial magick. In other words, the sorcerer or magician is supposed to be in possession of the requisite knowledge and training with which to carry out a complex magickal ritual, just as a cook is expected to be able to master the scrambling of eggs before he conjures an "eggs Benedict"; the grimoires, or Black Books, were simply variations on a theme, like cookbooks, different records of what previous magicians had done, the spirits they had contacted, and the successes they had. The magicians who now read these works are expected to be able to select the wheat from the chaff, in much the same fashion as an alchemist discerning the deliberate errors in a treatise on his subject.
Therefore it was (and is) insanity for the tyro to pick up a work on ceremonial Magick like the Lesser Key of Solomon to practise conjurations. It would also be folly to pick up Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practise with the same intention. Both books are definitely not for beginners, a point which cannot be made too often. Unfortunately, perhaps, the dread NECRONOMICON falls into this category.
Crowley's Magick was a testimony of what he has found in his researches into the forbidden, and forgotten, lore of past civilisations and ancient times. His Book of the Law was written in Cairo in the Spring of 1904, when he believed himself to be in contact with a praeter-human intelligence called Aiwass who dictated to him the Three Chapters that make up the Book. It had influenced him more than any other, and the remainder of his life was spent trying to understand it fully, and to make its message known to the world. It, too, contains the formulae necessary to summon the invisible into visibility, and the secrets of transformations are hidden within its pages, but this is Crowley's own NECRONOMICON, received in the Middle East in the shadow of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, and therein is writ not only the beauty, but the Beast that yet awaits mankind.
It would be vain to attempt to deliver a synopsis of Crowley's philosophy, save that its 'leitmotif' is the Rabelaisian
The actual meaning of this phrase has taken volumes to explain, but roughly it concerns the uniting of the conscious Self, a process of individuation which culminates in a rite called "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel"; the Angel signifying the pure, evolved Self.
Yet, there are many terrors on the Way to the Self, and an Abyss to cross before victory can be declared. Demons, vampires, psychic leeches, ghastly forms accost the aspiring magician from every angle, from every quarter around the circumference of the magick circle, and they must be destroyed lest they devour the magician himself. When Crowley professed to have passed the obstacles, and crossed the Abyss of Knowledge, and found his true Self, he found it was identical with the Beast of the Book of Revelation, 666, whom Christianity considers to represent the Devil. Indeed, Crowley had nothing but admiration for the Shaitan (Satan) of the so-called "devil-worshipping" cult of the Yezidis of Mesopotamia, knowledge of which led him to declare the lines that open this Introduction. For he saw that the Yezidis possess a Great Secret and a Great Tradition that extends far back into time, beyond the origin of the Sun cults of Osiris, Mithra and Christ; even before the formation of the Judaic religion, and the Hebrew tongue. Crowley harkened back to a time before the Moon was worshipped, to the "Shadow Out of Time"; and in this, whether he realised it as such or not, he had heard the "Call of Cthulhu".