Mystic and Artist Warlock Asylum Claims Lovecraft Had Secret Messages for Followers of Crowley's Thelema
Sensei Messiah’el Bey is an artist who operates under the name Warlock Asylum. He claims to operate in a variety of shamanic and religious traditions, including ancient Mesopotamian cults and Shintoism. His spiritual journey would be of little concern to me if he hadn’t written a strange blog post yesterday attempting to prove that H. P. Lovecraft was an occultist operating with secret connections to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema.
If this claim sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Half a century ago, self-styled practitioners of “magick” adopted the work of H. P. Lovecraft into their systems of ritual. Kenneth Grant was the most famous proponent of the practice back then, but reflections of it can be found in the discussion of Aleister Crowley in the Simon Necronomicon and in the modern occult writings of Donald Tyson, who has speculated beyond the evidence in pursuit of a thesis that Lovecraft had secret occult knowledge.
Bey comes from the school of speculation that mistakes fantasy for fact and which dares us to try to prove a negative. Thus, instead of starting from facts and working to conclusions, he prefers to imagine possibilities and demand that we find evidence to disprove them. Take a look at his defense of the idea that Lovecraft was secretly an occultist pretending to be a materialist:
Readers should avoid writers who make outlandish claims that Lovecraft was not an occultist. You can’t dictate or know what a man does in his private life, regardless of what he says in public. You have politicians who are indebted to the Klu Klux Klan, but deny it in public. In such cases, we have to look at the history of the person in question to be able to determine if what they are saying in public is true.
Oh, but wait until you hear why he believes Lovecraft was secretly an occultist: It’s because Lovecraft said that at the age of seven he play-acted at being a Greek pagan and built altars to the Olympian gods. Bey assumes that this means that Lovecraft maintained an active pagan belief system for the remaining four decades of his life. “Yes,” Bey writes, “Lovecraft was doing magic long before Aleister Crowley. A gate opened in his mind.” He omits the fact that Lovecraft also said that right before his Greek phase he had a Muslim phase. Perhaps he was a secret jihadi too!
Having thus established that Lovecraft had tapped in to a secret source of occult knowledge, Bey then attempts to prove that both Lovecraft and Crowley had access to the same occult forces through numerology. Apparently in Crowley’s system, using the Greek system of isopsephy, thelema and agape—love and will—both add up to 93 when the Greek letters are converted to their equivalent numbers. Bey says that Cthulhu also adds up to 93: “C(3) + T(20) + H(8) + U(21) + L(12) + H(8) + U(21) = 93.”
“It is not a coincidence that we find Lovecraft’s Cthulhu to be the sum of 93 in simple gematria. Thus, the Cthulhu Cult is a reference to the Cult of Thelema,” Bey writes.
He used a simple substitution whereby each Roman character was assigned a number based on its (modern) alphabetic position. It should take no special genius to see that one cannot claim proof from using Greek characters for thelema and agape, but the post-1550 English alphabet for Cthulhu, whose name, just for fun, isn’t spelled the same way from story to story in Lovecraft’s mythos. He is sometimes Clulu, or Tulu, or Kathulos, if you accept the identification of Robert E. Howard’s independent coinage with Cthulhu, as Lovecraft vaguely alluded to in “The Whisperer in Darkness.”
But based on this, Bey makes a bizarre claim for which there is no evidence, namely that “The Call of Cthulhu” is a secret work of underground occultism meant to communicate magickal truths to other believers in Crowley’s Thelema faith: “Since the work of an occultist has always come under the fire of religion, Lovecraft used fiction as a means of communicating with Thelemites of a certain rank and order.” There is some humor in this since Lovecraft’s cosmic vision grew out of a secondhand Theosophy. Crowley, while officially a fan of Helena Blavatsky, hated Theosophy as a movement, often writing about how the rival sect bastardized truth and how its members led immoral lives: “There is nothing quite so contaminating as humanity, especially Theosophists, as Mme. Blavatsky herself discovered,” he wrote in The Voice of Silence. In another work, he claimed that a Theosophist was “a person who talks about Yoga, and does no work.”
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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