Lovecraftian Lore: Mysticism in Mythos

“How little does the earth-self know of life and its extent! How little, indeed, ought it to know for its own tranquillity! Of the oppressor I cannot speak. You on earth have unwittingly felt its distant presence—you who without knowing idly gave to its blinking beacon the name of Algol, the Daemon-Star. It is to meet and conquer the oppressor that I have vainly striven for aeons, held back by bodily encumbrances. Tonight I go as a Nemesis bearing just and blazingly cataclysmic vengeance. Watch me in the sky close by the Daemon-Star. I cannot speak longer, for the body of Joe Slater grows cold and rigid, and the coarse brains are ceasing to vibrate as I wish. You have been my friend in the cosmos; you have been my only friend on this planet—the only soul to sense and seek for me within the repellent form which lies on this couch. We shall meet again—perhaps in the shining mists of Orion’s Sword, perhaps on a bleak plateau in prehistoric Asia. Perhaps in unremembered dreams tonight; perhaps in some other form an aeon hence, when the solar system shall have been swept away.”

                              – H. P Lovecraft, Beyond the Wall of Sleep

For a man that openly denounced divinity and spat upon claims of spiritualism, Lovecraft was able to eloquently articulate one of, if not the most prominent, goals in the practice of eastern mysticism; however,  a particularly rabble-rousing sect of the early (or as some modern scholars on the outlier of mainstream research theorize) pre-Christian groups, the Gnostic’s, also held the belief that we are all not as we seem to be. Time to break loose of those meat suits and travel to the stars.

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Beyond the Wall of Sleep chronicles the experiences of a newly hired asylum associate enamored with the case of Joe Slater, a murderous and mentally handicapped patient. Though deemed a mere “denizens” of the Catskill Mountain region (correlated to poverty and a lack of a means of formal education) Slater seemed to, while in a violent state and under a most terrible trance, describe visions of burning lights, of space and of other realities that a man of his imaginative inabilities couldn’t possibly dream up. The intrigued intern attaches a device of his own making to the now dying patient that allows him to take part in the patients fleeting moments of life.

Undertaking a simultaneous astral journey, the undergraduate peers through the veil. Slater’s’ sacrilegious slurs now proven to be true, our narrator returns from Beyond as his biological spaceship, Joe Slater, is slipping away. The entity of light, which exist within even the most primitive of man in Mr. Slater, speaks the words quoted above. A lasting message of comfort. There exist, within the halls of our fantasy and the realm of dreams, a door that can be opened, albeit briefly for some, that can allow us to see Beyond that Wall. What we can only hope to grasp in dreams, death offers with no strings attached.

This is where Lovecraft dances to the heretical hymns of the Gnostic’s. There are many sources and debated claims attempting to pin down the Gnostic’s. In truth, it is an umbrella term we use to categorize the many branches of unorthodox practices of Christianity in early 2nd century (or perhaps earlier). Gnostic groups can be found throughout many lands during the time period. From Egypt, some filtered throughout the middle east while some made their way to Rome. All  along their travels they adopted the rituals and practices specific to the regions they were inhabiting. A spiritual camouflage, if you will.  The implications within Lovecraft’s story exist at the forefront of most (generalized) Gnostic beliefs:

  • Within us exist a God and our biological bodies are their terrestrial prisons
  • The world we inhabit is an illusion
  • It is possible to ignite the divine spark within the self
  • This false structure is overseen by spiritual overlords called Archons (Greek for ruler)

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The role of the Archons is to keep our heavenly souls trapped within the material plane. Chief among the Archons is the demiurge, referenced as Algol, the Daemon-Star  or “the oppressor” by Lovecraft. The demiurge is the supposed singular source of our cosmic confinement and enemy to us all. I can’t say that I blame Joe for wanting to drop some cataclysmic vengeance.

There you have it. The parallels present between Joe Slater’s journey from mad murderer to multidimensional deity and the path of Gnosis are clear. Another incident of ink seeping into the infinity and creativity creeping within the cosmos. An odd occurrence wherein fact and fiction fluctuate.  It was Miguel Conner who said that Gnosticism lies between mysticism and science. I’d like to propose that, perhaps, it lies somewhere else. Somewhere far Beyond the Wall of Sleep.

 

14 thoughts on “Lovecraftian Lore: Mysticism in Mythos

  1. Brave article. Lovecraft might have taken the Algol reference from Arabic Star Lore, meaning nothing else than ‘the ghoul’, being Beta Persei. Personally I believe that H.P Lovecraft was inspired by certain forces (the dream, mauve, ‘graveyards of the universe’, ‘graveyards of forms’) and somehow translated his experiences into tales of horror. There are people that treat his novels and novellas seriously (http://www.esotericorderofdagon.org/). I understand that you are a gnostic, writing about pneumatism (the shift from hyliotic to a developed pneumatic consciousness may be known to you). Archons had a more positive role in Egypto-Babylonian systems, as well as gnostic-hellenic. Gnostic-Jewish sects, of which Christianity is an offshoot portrayed archons as wholly evil entities. I view them more like ‘powers that prepare for further journeys’. We can’t imagine a human being is ready to go into the infinite spaces without some preparations, to liberate the pneumatic spirit a human being must undergo certain refinements, transitions, revolutions. In this case it is possible that there are certain a priori forces, powers and ideas and we ‘pitch’ with out intellect, feeling etc. into a greater universe. I believe that faces of angels are both inspiring awe and terror. The fragment you mentioned, most importantly I see as a rift between the ‘terror of space, terror of otherness’ in alienation, versus ‘unity of spaceless greatness, the love of transcendent togetherness’. Lovecraft had clearly a deeper night of the soul in which he explored terrors that our frail, young human race rarely ventured towards, did he integrate the experience post-mortem? Hard to tell. Maybe he’d become an avatar-guardian of the deep dreaming, maybe he perished in these forms, perhaps he found another sense in his existence. I simply hope that his ingenious, subtle mind was not torn apart by the forces he wrote about, but was accepted and embraced by his own terrors as a guardian standing at the door, saying ‘beware oh these who enter, turn your face to the brighter stars, above into the numinous’. ‘I am a child of mother Earth and starry heavens, yet my race is heavenly’ – Eleusis; Through reversion of atavisms, our spirits become again of the stars, yet nature is not evil, evil obscures harmony and creates tension of natures and dualities, a wholly different thing. Best wishes!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Very insightful comment and I thank you for it. My goal was to simply try and pull on any general threads of gnosticism contained within the passage and fill in the blanks to the best of my knowledge, then hopefully present in an entertaining manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I literally read Beyond the Wall of Sleep 2 weeks ago. One of my favorites of his because there is so much to contemplate and analyze about what we “dream” and why and our place in the universe. Interesting analysis. Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

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