One of the ends of the Yeatsian work is the end of idolatry, but it is does not seek the end of idols. In that lies part of its distinctive character. This is where the Yeatsian material may find a proper complement in the Lovecraftian, because there, too, we find the image raised up even as idolatry is made into a figure of utter monstrosity. They are thinking through a similar thought, albeit from rather different ends.
This is how we’re going to live from now on – surrounded by the swirl of strange and terrible weather, never quite knowing when the great black wall of it will shift and slam into us. AGAINST THE DAY will remain relevant, because it’s the picture of every minute of every day from now on. Amazing things, every single different kind of story we can imagine, and the altitude thrill of constantly being on the edge of bubbling fatal chaos.—Warren Ellis
I have read this review three or four times now and I can tell I am trying to get at something in it. It may come down to this quote. Let me walk through my responses to it.
I’ve been away for a little longer than usual. The last post drew a quiet line underneath a lot of the work I had been processing through this blog; it felt like a point of inflection that redirected my intellectual and spiritual trajectory. I can point out others like it but this pass through the Necronomicon seems more profound.
With the discussion of fate and destiny out of the way, let’s get back to the topic at hand. The way in which Lovecraft attempts to delimit the Necronomicon’s destiny to the literary sphere suggests a general discomfort with that destiny but an inability to sever himself from it. Not only did he make use of the text throughout his work, but he proceeded to expand its scope, putting it into communication with the literary occultism of his fellow writers, both explicitly and implicitly. Its literary fate becomes a root system, through which its destiny survives and along which it is able to flare up.
Before springing too quickly into an occult consideration of the Necronomicon, I want to take some time to discuss its fictional and literary context. This won’t be anything fancy (though it will be long), just some descriptive account of how it tends to appear, the way those uses change over time, and some biographical / historical context for those changes.
Below I have gathered together the few snippets of the Necronomicon that Lovecraft wrote and wove into his stories. Where interjections like “he read” divided an excerpt from the Necronomicon, I deleted the interjection without placing an ellipsis in the quotation to mark its absence.
This is the first of two notebook posts containing Lovecraft’s mentions of the Necronomicon. While a few very minor mentions were excluded, most all of them should be included here. This is all quotation, no commentary; I’m saving that up for some lengthier posts.
I keep hammering on about this connection between modernity as a literary sensibility and modernity as a spiritual/religious/occult one. I’ve admitted that I have more a sense of how not to talk about it than I do of how to talk about it. It seems like what I need is a figure I can pore over easily–I love Benjamin and I’m enjoying Baudelaire, but that is too far-removed from what I know to provide a ready handle. Which, well, makes me think about H. P. Lovecraft.
I haven’t done a link roundup post in a bit and I have stumbled across a few somewhat disparate tidbits that are worth mentioning, even if I don’t have a precise way to talk about them yet. There is something here about the interconnection of the poetic and the spiritual, the fictional and the spiritual, with inspiration defining their joint.
These links can all be grouped by their common focus on an aesthetic sensibility and its relationship to Modernism and spiritual experience. I have beat this drum before, but there is so much to appreciate about the spiritual contributions of the 20th century.
First up, I came across a paper (“Chthonic Powers” by Charles Elliott) while considering a post on precisely the subject matter it details: the common aesthetic framework from which both T. S. Eliot and H. P. Lovecraft operated. I have only skimmed it, but I like what I see, especially how he notes the importance of the cosmic backdrop for both writers. The fear and dread of both men, their more or less conservative tendencies…something to be looked into.
There is this steampunk Lovecraft-Eliot mashup called Fallen London. It is an online game and while I find grinding of any sort tiresome, there are some genuinely beautiful vistas described therein. It feels like it occasionally taps a spiritual…something…in the Eliot-Lovecraft-Modernist region.
I find myself thinking about Jack Kirby’s aesthetic and discovered these two articles over at the Secret Sun: Kirby as gnostic and Kirby’s art compared to visionary art. That last bit comparing the vivid colors and densely packed frames of Kirby’s panels…
There is a discussion going (here and here) about consumerism and spirituality. Consumerism cuts a sharp and zagging line straight through Modernism. Consider how important it has been to the dispersion of both Lovecraft and Kirby.