Today’s post is going up a bit late. Due to a faulty underground cable, more than 5,000 homes and businesses here in Albany lost power this morning. As a result of the outage, I had no power, no internet access, and no way to prepare a blog entry until power was restored this afternoon. Fortunately, however, the power came back on before the ice cream melted.
As you will recall, we’ve been discussing anti-Semitism and Nazism in conjunction with fringe history, so I thought it would be interesting to extend that to a discussion of where these concepts intersect with H. P. Lovecraft. The most obvious place was in Lovecraft’s support for Hitler and his hatred of the Jews, as he wrote in his letters, some of which were quoted by S. T. Joshi in his various books on Lovecraft. (Note: Lovecraft scholars, unlike fringe writers, acknowledge anti-Semitic and racist material.)
Here he is on Hitler, writing, it should be noted, in the early and mid-1930s, before Kristallnacht laid bare Hitler’s goals:
[Hitler’s] vision is of course romantic & immature, & coloured with a fact-ignoring emotionalism … There surely is an actual Hitler peril—yet that cannot blind us to the honest rightness of the man’s basic urge … I repeat that there is a great & pressing need behind every one of the major planks of Hitlerism—racial-cultural continuity, conservative cultural ideals, & an escape from the absurdities of Versailles. The crazy thing is not what Adolf wants, but the way he sees it & starts out to get it. I know he's a clown, but by God, I like the boy!
And now on the Jews:
As for New York—there is no question but that its overwhelming Semitism has totally removed it from the American stream. Regarding its influence on literary & dramatic expression—it is not so much that the country is flooded directly with Jewish authors, as that Jewish publishers determine just which of our Aryan writers shall achieve print & position. That means that those of us who least express our own people have the preference. Taste is insidiously moulded along non-Aryan lines—so that, no matter how intrinsically good the resulting body of literature may be, it is a special, rootless literature which does not represent us.
Lovecraft differed from Hitler—but prefigured Jan Van Helsing—in claiming that Jewish culture, not the Jewish race or people were responsible for the pollution of Aryan culture and could be opposed without violence: “Gawd knows I have no wish to injure any race under the sun, but I do think that something ought to be done to free American expression from the control of any element which seeks to curtail it, distort it, or remodel it in any direction other than its natural course.”
Lovecraft’s hatred of foreigners and foreign cultures is a well-established leitmotif of his horror fiction, and his anti-Semitic ideas manifest in his fiction’s frequent allusion to the way a small cult of worshipers of the “old” gods—echoing the Old Testament—are plotting in secret to overthrow Aryan-Christian culture and replace it with an alien other.
It is therefore no surprise that Lovecraft’s fiction is so closely intertwined with fringe culture and its conspiracies and anti-Semitic overtones.
That brings to a related but distinct bit of information I came across in researching Esoteric Nazism. I discovered the work of the occultist Peter Levenda, widely believed to be the author of the Simon Necronomicon. Levenda is famous as the author of books on conspiracies and Esoteric Nazism, including Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement With the Occult (1994). Levenda also asserts the existence of a Freemason conspiracy and apparently believes in 9/11 mysticism.
Last year Levenda took up the subject of H. P. Lovecraft again in The Dark Lord: H. P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant, and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic (2013). The book deals with “magick” and its supposed relation to imaginary versions of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. This isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is where Levenda attempts to argue that the Cthulhu Mythos has a reality beyond this world using the same arguments that Ancient Aliens uses to assert that Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla obtained their ideas: telepathically, from space beings. Here Levenda seizes on the coincidence that Aleister Crowley used the word Tutulu while Lovecraft wrote of Cthulhu to propose telepathic communication from beyond:
In any event, to suggest that these two men cooperated or collaborated in any deliberate way would be the height (or depth!) of conspiracy theory. It may actually be more logical to suggest—as an explanation for some of these coincidences—that darker forces were at work. In fact, it is possible that the same forces of which Lovecraft himself writes—the telepathic communication between followers of Cthulhu and the Old Ones—was what prompted him to write these fictional accounts of real events.
The fact of the matter is that “tutulu” was a common enough verbalization before Crowley first used it in 1908, being one of many homophones in Samoan, Hawaiian, and other Polynesian tongues, usually used to mean weeping or leaking. This word occurs in countless travelogues and missionary books, many of which would have been known to Crowley or to Lovecraft. In Tonga, an octopus god named Tutula was known and written about in Western ethnography, and Plutarch wrote of a person named Tutula in his Life of Camillus. Given all this, it becomes more difficult to try to see a nefarious connection across space and time.
Levenda gently acknowledges racism in Crowley’s and Lovecraft’s work (in an endnote for Lovecraft), and he also takes a swipe and ancient astronaut writers. He notes that the tendency to see connections between widely scattered occurrences of occult symbols—proposed by Crowley and seen in fictional form in Lovecraft—was “taken to its logical extreme” by the Nazis in Himmler’s quest to find “Aryan” symbols around the world. He then notes the parallel to the ancient astronaut theory, which he sees as “close to Lovecraft’s idea than an ancient race from the stars once inhabited the Earth.” (No fooling: I think I’ve pretty much cornered the market on that idea.) Levenda, though, wants to throw out the racism and the cultural appropriation as corruption of a purer magical truth, not unlike the efforts of fringe writers to boil away the context of old fringe history claims to purify them of the racist, colonialist, and imperialist matrix in which they arose.
It’s rather astounding (well, maybe not really) that even in the world of “magick” we find the same combination of claims—psychic contact with the Beyond, a real truth beneath science fiction, and vague connections between the occult and the Nazis—that we also find in fringe history and ufology. There really are occult connections... just not the ones that the occultists go on about.
8/5/2014 08:39:10 am
Jason, do you think Lovecraft would have been exposed to the ideas of Bal Gangadhar Tilak's "The Arctic Home in the Vedas"? It should be of particular interest to you because it is one of the major sources of the Hindu-Nazi link. Many of its themes made their way into the work of Savitri Devi, and from there into the milieu out of which "The Morning of the Magicians" emerges.
8/5/2014 08:57:32 am
I had been meaning to ask this - I'm familiar with NAZI-ism in the "secular" sense, if you will, but I've never really dove into the crazy-pool that is esoterica. I know that in broad swaths, NAZI beliefs were influenced by a hodge-podge of pagan faiths and various inter-war-period occult societies... to what degree, though, did "NAZI Esoterica" become it's own thing?
8/5/2014 09:14:46 am
On the one hand, it is not the case that Nazism grew out of occult societies or was even particularly influenced by them. If anything, it's the opposite: various fringe figures (esotericists, pseudoscientists) ingratiated themselves with the Nazi establishment - either because of genuine sympathy to the ideology or for purely self-serving reasons.
8/5/2014 09:26:53 am
Guido List, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels and the Thule Society existed long before Hitler and the Nazis
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
8/5/2014 12:13:15 pm
EP is correct. The major scholar on Nazi-related esoterica was Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, whose book The Occult Roots of the Third Reich, which I have read, shows that German nationalist (völkisch) esotericists formed a significant undercurrent in the culture of interwar Germany. They drew on a lot of esoteric standby themes, especially the "root race" theory found in Theosophy, whose racial bias toward "Aryans" made it a natural fit. But the esoteric völkisch movements didn't have many direct connections with the Nazis, and hardly any with Hitler himself. The most esoteric figure in the Nazi inner circle was Heinrich Himmler, who incorporated esoteric völkisch themes into the ideology of the SS. The influence of occultism on Nazism didn't go much further than that.
8/5/2014 12:19:28 pm
"Black Sun" is awesome. I just finished it.
8/5/2014 11:49:03 pm
Goodrick-Clarke believed in a load of crap as well
8/5/2014 11:36:13 am
My guess would be no, but he probably knew, if only secondhand, of the similar idea in William F. Warren's "Paradise Found" (1885), about why the Garden of Eden was at the North Pole.
8/5/2014 09:05:22 am
Lovecraft of course was married to a Jewish woman
8/5/2014 10:40:39 am
8/5/2014 12:51:06 pm
I still never got though why Lovecraft would still marry Sonia Greene. Like what Mark said, as Lovecraft was very much a cultural bigot who saw his wife as being culturally assimilated, it still doesn't mean he didn't have his own reservations. After all he was still very much a biological and scientific racist as well. His racist essays on black Americans, as well as his bigotry towards the Asians, Italians, and Portuguese during his time in New York, show that he was a conservative in both regards. Either way he comes off as both a hypocrite as well as a bigot.
8/5/2014 12:52:57 pm
-shrug- Sexual kinks? It's happened with virtually every other bigoted segment of society.
8/5/2014 01:10:59 pm
That's the thing - for the most part, up to the point that he met Sonia, based on what I've read, he really didn't show any interest in sex or romantic relationships.
From S. T. Joshi's bio, <i>I Am Providence</i>, I got the impression that Lovecraft was flattered by the attention of a strong-willed, well-to-do (at the time) woman who thought he was a genius and was willing to be a replacement for his dead mother.
8/6/2014 06:16:56 am
Who WOULDN'T be flattered by that?! :)
8/6/2014 06:59:21 am
8/6/2014 07:01:04 am
Having sex at all doesn't really "belie" asexuality. Just like having hetero intercourse doesn't belie homosexuality.
8/6/2014 07:32:18 am
Mark correctly points out that Lovecraft's mother had recently died. After he left Sonia, he went to live with his aunts for the rest of his life.
8/6/2014 07:43:51 am
It's really easy not to give queer readings to stuff. You just have to remember that it's not always all about sex. :)
8/6/2014 08:03:01 am
No, but those early stories are about relationships and a specific recurring kind of relationship. Lovecraft told stories about hyperdimensions later on with solitary protagonists, elderly scholars, broken family men, and others. This is also when the protagonists became less important to the theme of the story, acting just as proxies for the reader.
8/6/2014 08:12:16 am
Aside from the part where I was just teasing, I really don't mean to suggest that queer (or feminist, or Marxist, or whatever) readings are never applicable OR that they aren't applicable to Lovecraft in particular. I just think it's the kind of thing that it's almost impossible not to find once you set out to look for it. I also think it's usually nowhere near as illuminating as the prevalence of such readings would suggest.
8/6/2014 10:41:29 am
I'm not a litcrit guy, so I don't have any love for viewing things persistently through the lens of sexuality, and I'm not 70 years old, so no Freud for me. I think the pop-lit readings of HPL writing a bunch of scary stories about tentacled vaginas are idiotic, unless people think he was wanking it to Haeckel's illustrations of crinoids.
@Gregor: As EP says, having sexual intercourse doesn't mean you're not asexual. Considering that, after Sonia, he never even *tried* to have another relationship, even after he'd had his horizons opened up a bit, suggests to me he just wasn't interested in one.
8/5/2014 11:30:34 am
Very informative jason. The only points I would slightly add to are your comment on kristalnacht showing hitlers true intent. The nazis antisemitec campaign was well known and that horrible day was precipitated by a Jewish man who shot a german diplomat in Paris. It was the supposed last. Straw according to the nazis who had jinxed up the mob to be ready to start the looting and killing. It wasn't centrally organiEd but an organic event from building up so much hate. The other more interesting question is why antisemitism in the first place in Germany? Jews were more assimilated there than anywhere, they thought of themselves as good patriotic Germans yet you see the same acquisitions, control ver banking, academia, govt, having the inside track to profiting and so on. And the same old stuff about Jews being communists. Some were but so were Gentiles. Why this hatred? That is a topic we should ask why?
8/5/2014 11:35:42 am
There are many books you could read about it. Some would even tell you all about how Kristallnacht was anything but "an organic event". In fact, it was deliberately organized by the Nazis in a way that would create an impression of spontaneity (which didn't really fool anyone at the time).
8/5/2014 11:59:17 am
Just to echo some of EP's comments - virtually nothing of what happened to, or because of, the NAZIs was "organic". Not only were their own actions & reactions against the 'outside world' heavily orchestrated... there were multiple elements within the NAZI movement that despised each other and routinely fabricated "evidence" to sway Hitler (and others) one way or the other. One of the more well documented examples was Himmler vs. Göring (with Himmler frequently flat-out lying to Hitler in order to bring about certain "desired outcomes").
8/5/2014 12:09:45 pm
If you read German, check out the work of Armin Pfahl-Traughber... I mention him specifically because he does a lot of work on contemporary German extremists and he considers Van Helsing's brand of esoteric Neo-Nazism an alarming development. :)
8/5/2014 11:46:37 am
8/5/2014 12:06:50 pm
I don't know Lovecraft as well as Jason does, so I was just curious whether Tilak specifically could have been familiar to Lovecraft. There was a million versions of the same ideas in the air at the time, of course.
8/6/2014 03:07:14 am
let alone "hollow earth" ideas...
8/5/2014 02:06:47 pm
did Lovecraft use Theban in any of his books, frontpiece or other?
8/5/2014 03:18:47 pm
So was he anti Zionist or anti Semitic or was his view that the views jews generally had were a threat? One can be against central banking and deficit spending. The problem is certain views are tied to a group. Then it becomes certain folks will identify the group with these positions and from there it is easy to blame the group for these policies. Which is what the nazis did. One can be against comminism and not be antis emetic but the nazis believed they were one send the same.
8/5/2014 05:58:05 pm
What you're talking about is known as Economic Anti-Semitism. It started in the Middle Ages, stopped shortly after the Jewish emancipation and was reinstated by the Nazis before WW2.
8/5/2014 11:51:31 pm
Anti-Semitism started from the Get-Go
8/5/2014 11:52:21 pm
"Jew" was a swear word within Roman Catholicism
8/5/2014 11:55:50 pm
Need to get back to the basic fact that Anti-Semitism was mainstream prejudice in mainstream everyday life long before the conspiracy theories began - and that the Anti-Semitic conspiracies stemmed from mainstream Anti-Semitism in mainstream life
8/6/2014 09:00:17 am
I don't know if this has been brought up yet, but I just read this passage from my 1988 edition of Maurice Levy's book "Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic" (thanks to Jason for the recommendation) :
8/6/2014 10:28:41 am
I think that accurately describes Lovecraft of the 1920s. Once the depression hit, his politics, including race, began to change. A number of biographers/scholars suggest he moved to being a moderate socialist. I'm not sure that's the case, or rather, that it involved much political philosophy. He came to support the New Deal (more on that in a sec), but I get the feeling from both his letters and his fiction, he had finally gotten over the "gentleman" thing (he definitely did later in life, when he realized how much of a prig he had been) and liked the idea of a social safety net in no small part due to his own poverty.
8/6/2014 01:38:27 pm
On the other hand, in an obscure little story called "The Call of Chulhu", Lovecraft not only finds a place virtually for every non-white group to be painted in darker colors, but is also persistently speaks of "mongrels" as a biological racist would...
8/6/2014 02:15:54 pm
Like I said, 1920s Lovecraft. He wrote that in 1926. He was probably at his height of racism right before that (I mean, the story "He"? "Horror at Red Hook?" Terribly racist), living in NYC.
8/6/2014 02:21:00 pm
I will also say, had he lived until WWII, I suggested he'd fall in with hatred of Japan. The weird thing, though, is that his hatred would not be the usual bucktooth and glasses Mr. Moto hatred. He viewed Japan not as racial inferiors (though he did) so much as competitors. He definitely seems to have subscribed to some modified version of Arthur Keith's ideas about competition between races. He talked about his belief in a coming race war between Asia and Anglos that he thought Asia would win, and you can see this in some of his future histories, like The Shadow Out of Time.
8/6/2014 03:45:42 pm
I must have become confused - of course Cthulhu isn't a counterexample to what you were saying! :)
8/6/2014 04:40:43 pm
With Medusa's Coil, we're of course talking about Africa and he never gave up that racism. And he never had any respect for Native Americans, but in this his attitudes were completely mainstream in white American society well into the 1970s. Though The Mound is less a work of racism per se than just his excuse to do a Lost World story, which he had never done but enjoyed to a point.
8/6/2014 06:04:04 pm
I don't know, I think he might have been dissatisfied with both worlds:
8/7/2014 12:41:40 am
Stuff like that is why I don't get the motivations of Joshi and some others (though mostly Joshi) to focus so much on Lovecraft's philosophy. Yes, I can see that Joshi's focus on Lovecraft's atheism is relevant in that it informed his fiction. A lot of things informed his fiction (which is why I respect Joshi's hard work on the Lovecraft historical material, but I can't really make it through a lot of his commentary since I know what he's going to find interesting),* and how they did so is interesting.
8/7/2014 12:44:17 am
Forgot the * bit
8/7/2014 03:01:15 am
To be quite frank, aside from the parts of Lovecraft's letters that deal directly with how he put together his fiction or his reaction to his friends' fiction, I find his letters to be really boring.
8/7/2014 04:01:46 am
Still better than his poetry though.
8/7/2014 07:55:29 am
HPL tends to vent at all groups and things in a manner like
8/11/2014 08:04:41 am
we all can also debate if HPL is more or less racist than RMN
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