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Howard Phillips Lovecraft would roll over in his coffin in historic Swan Point Cemetery, on Providence, Rhode Island, if he knew what people all over the world are doing with his fiction. Millions of fans are not only reading it for sheer enjoyment, they are taking it seriously!
This is something Lovecraft never intended. He was a staunch materialist and an atheist whose philosophy of life may be summed in the few bleak words: life is meaningless suffering, and death the only release. Although Lovecraft was a genial man to meet and talk to, someone liked by almost everyone who knew him, his understanding of the universe and our place in it would have driven Nietzsche to suicidal depression.
When fans wrote to him, asking him if Cthulhu was real, he would tell them that he knew nothing about the occult, cared nothing about it, and didn't want to hear about it—that the entire subject was airy nonsense.
Which raises a bit of a conundrum. Why would a man spend his entire life obsessively writing about the weird, the horrifying, the esoteric, the outré, if he had no interest in these subjects?
The answer to this riddle is found in Lovecraft’s dreams and nightmares. His dream life was uncommonly vivid, and he had the ability to remember more of it than most of us. At times he would become aware of himself while still dreaming, and find that he could direct his attention to different aspects of the dream, and even move from place to place within the dream. Today we know this as lucid dreaming, but the term was not in use when Lovecraft dreamed of Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Yuggoth and the Necronomicon.
Lovecraft always laughed whenever anybody suggested to him that his dreams were more than ordinary, yet in the back of his mind there must have been doubt, because he often writes in his letters that if he didn't know better himself, he would swear that he had experienced a scene from a past life. He was as obsessed with the past and with the old as he was with his dreams. He believed himself a man born out of his natural age—he saw himself as a periwigged English gentleman of the 18th century.
The truth was, Lovecraft lived in terror of his nightmares. He could not bear to acknowledge their power over him, so he mocked them and denied their importance, even to himself. As a way of exorcising his dreams, and gaining control over them, he wrote them down in the form of stories.
He refused to consider the possibility that he might be an old soul displaced in time from the 18th century to our modern age. He denied it for the same reason he refused to consider that his dreams might have some esoteric meaning—he desperately needed the world to be orderly and mundane.
His greatest dread was madness. Both his parents went insane, first his father, and then his mother. Throughout his life, from early boyhood, he suffered a series of nervous breakdowns, some major and some minor. He was inwardly certain that one day he would go mad himself, and he needed the world to be as boring and predictable as possible in order to keep his sanity intact. It was for this reason that he resolutely ignored anything to do with the supernatural or paranormal, and refused to even acknowledge that such things might exist.
Modern magicians are learning to look beyond Lovecraft's overt materialism and atheism in order to examine the content and quality of his stories for their esoteric meaning. When we do this, we find that the mythological universe he created is not quite like any other, and that it possesses a disturbing coherence and plausibility.
Lovecraft dreamed a world in which the human species lives in blissful ignorance of the many races of alien creatures, ancient and unimaginably powerful, that dwelt on this globe in distant past aeons, and that still maintain a presence here, unseen and unsuspected by the majority of us. In Lovecraft's world, magic is alien science, a kind of potent transdimensional geometry that can be accessed by anyone with the proper symbolic keys, and the demons of the pagan world are alien beings worshipped by degenerate cults that survive in the barbarous lands and backwaters of our planet.
The only God for Lovecraft in his dreams was the blind idiot Azathoth, who sits on his black throne at the center of the maelstrom of chaos, drooling to the sound of frantic flutes. He has no morality, no virtue, no purpose. He waits patiently for the universe to be swallowed in the chaotic vortex that is his kingdom, so that it will pass once again to the nothingness from whence it issued.
In Lovecraft's mythos, the Earth itself is a kind of goddess fallen or fled from some higher spiritual estate. The Old Ones have been sent to cleanse its surface of its infestation of biological life before using their science of magic to rip it from its orbit and return it to its former exaltation through the dimensional gate of Yog-Sothoth, who is the universal gatekeeper through whose doors we all must pass when we die.
All this and more is hinted at in the pages of the Necronomicon, a book of madness and horror written by the crazed Arabian poet of Yemen, Abdul Alhazred, in his final months of life, shortly before an invisible demon snatched him up from the marketplace of Damascus and consumed him, at least from the sight of mortal eyes. Only a madman could write such a mad book, and to read it is to go mad. What is obliquely referred to on its moldering pages Alhazred learned from things that crawl and slither and skitter through caves and tunnels beneath the great desert of Arabia, the land of the remorseless jinn who hate all human beings.
The book does not exist—at least, not in this life. Lovecraft saw it and heard its name in dreams, just as he dreamed of Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath, the Deep Ones and the Old Ones, the Mi-go and the Great Race of Yith. Magicians claim that these beings have at least as much reality as the gods and goddesses of Egypt and Greece, to say nothing of the pale God of the Christians. They have begun to use Lovecraft's mythos for works of practical magic. Indeed, when it is used in this way, it forms a coherent system of immense potency.
The main purpose of the 13 Gates of the Necronomicon is to gather together all the material in Lovecraft's fiction and poetry that can be exploited with practical utility by modern magicians working in the field of the Necronomicon mythos. It is a source text, a compendium of the alien races, monstrous creatures, strange worlds and alternate dimensions, ancient cities, and powerful wizards and witches that inhabited Lovecraft's dreams. The magic rituals that Lovecraft made reference to are set forth and explained. The books of magic he wrote about, both those that are material and those that are astral, are documented.
This may be the only book that gathers all of the esoteric parts of Lovecraft's mythos in one place, and presents them in a form that is easily accessible to working magicians. This gathered material represents the building blocks of future systems of mythos magic.
I've taken the opportunity afforded by the publication of this book to also present a system of thirteen esoteric gates, which I have called star gates because each is linked to one of the actual thirteen zodiacal constellations. That's right, there are thirteen constellations in the band of the zodiac, not twelve. Many people do not know this, because we are all so familiar with the twelve signs of modern astrology.
Each gate in the heavens is linked to a gate in the city of the Necronomicon—a doorway that leads into a separate and distinct topic treated in the mythos by Lovecraft. For occult purposes, it is useful to think of the Necronomicon as a walled city with many strange streets and curious inhabitants, and with thirteen entrances. In this way each of the thirteen areas of the mythos may be examined and controlled individually, via its own star gate.
The thirteen star gates, which may be entered by either the sun or the moon, are designed to serve as a general ritual framework for scrying, the making of charms, astral travel, invocation, and evocation. They can even be adapted for use by those who may have no wish to work the magic of Lovecraft's mythos. When coupled with the device of a walled city of thirteen separate gates, each leading into a different city ward, it becomes a potent mnemonic technique of visualization, and a way to categorize and organize occult system elements.
All this would have been anathema to Lovecraft, who wanted for the sake of his very sanity to believe that his dreams had no higher meaning, and that the universe was a very safe and predictable place. But in his heart, Lovecraft knew this was not so, and we know it is not so. The universe is stranger than even Lovecraft could imagine, although he came closest of anyone to capturing a sense of its strangeness in his fiction. What Lovecraft dreamed and denied, modern magicians have embraced and sought to manifest in their ritual works. The 13 Gates of the Necronomicon is designed to be a source book for them in their quest to explore the full potential of Lovecraft's dreams.
Donald Tyson is an occult scholar and the author of the popular, critically acclaimed Necronomicon series. He has written more than a dozen books on Western esoteric traditions, including Tarot Magic, and edited and ...