Through this week’s research and experience we will be exploring the alchemical marriage of the spirit world and technology, of how the ancient and the contemporary intersect.
I have been continuing the digital audio invocatory experiment that I mentioned last week, wherein I have recorded my daily celestial spirit invocation and listen to it throughout the day. Thus far I have only recorded Wednesday (Hermes), Thursday (Jupiter), and Friday (Aphrodite), although the plan is to have one for every day of the week. I’ve challenged myself to finding appropriate invocations for the entire week in the Greek Magical Papyri, so that is slowing things down a bit. The Clavicula is my second choice, and the daily invocations are, of course, easy to find there.
My Wednesday invocation is probably the best that I have constructed so far in the experiment. Beginning with Psalm 47 (a daily requirement in the Clavicula) the short invocation for Wednesday from the Clavicula, and then a particularly good invocation to Hermes from the PGM. Again, as I did last week, I began listening to the seven minute recording on loop at dawn (with some background ambience from the Naturespace app) and lit the appropriate incense for the celestial spirit. This week, however, I dedicated twenty minutes to active imagination / meditation using the invocation as an ‘audio tour’ or the spirit’s ‘shape’ in the world. This is where the PGM particularly shines, as it is so full of strange imagery and makes a point of describing in detail the multiple forms of Hermes and other image-rich passages associated with him. It took about ten minutes (because I am out of practice) to quiet the cartoon being projected on the back of my eyelids, but when I did and I was able to engage the active imagination process, having the invocation playing, speaking it directly to my brain in my own voice, was incredibly powerful.
I found myself on a set of temple stairs, with an enormous marble statue of Hermes before me, and I knew I was at his temple in the ancient city of Hermopolis. This is mentioned in the invocation and then, throughout the day, as I was driving to work, as I was completing tasks at work that didn’t require a great deal of focus, the invocation played in my ears and when I came to the point to where Hermopolis is mentioned, the vision from the active imagination session played again on my mind in increasing detail. It was powerful.
That night, in preparation for sleep, I played it again along with some trance inducing drums. That is when a bit of spirit-induced ‘hell’ broke loose in my house. I had to remove the headphones repeatedly due to hearing loudish noises in the hall and the corner-of-the-eye shadow people appearances were literally off the charts. It was like my bedroom was swarming with spirits. As it did last week, my own voice uttering the barbarous names caused a sense of real visceral fear. The psuedo-contact events were so strong and frequent I had to discontinue the experiment for the night so that things were calm and I could sleep.
My Thursday invocation is straight out of the Clavicula, Hygromanteia, and the Book of Oberon, and as such, is much much less visual in shape. Maybe it was that same type of effect that causes psylocibin to be less effective the next day or the different more textual, shape to the invocation, but the physical manifestations were nearly non-existent. There also wasn’t as much to inform the active imagination session in the morning, either. There were results, however, tangible Jupiterean prosperity results. These results, however, as I have been finding with a lot of my sigil work (whenever I sigil for dreams, for example, my wife is the one that gets the crazy magic prophetic dreamlife), manifested through my wife who landed an interview and sold a wholesale order of her jewelry from to an out-of-the-blue unexpected source.
Friday was potent in that the invocation of the ‘foam-born Kytheria,’ goddess of cthonic daimons, matched very well with our tale of this week, ‘The Temple’ by H.P. Lovecraft. She is, of yet, the only spirit that I have found to be connected to the sea in the PGM. I realized this week that while the Betz edition is heavily annotated and indexed, the richness of the spells therein is of such a quality that I will need to undertake a spell-by-spell analysis of the corpus in order to find all of the most relevant matches for the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic.
Our tale this week takes place at sea and, in a very Hunt For Red October way, the inside of a submarine. The protagonist is the commander of the U-Boat, a Lieutenant Commander in the Imperial German Navy, one Karl Heinrich. It begins by describing the correspondence as a found object, a narrative stuffed into a bottle and cast into the sea, only to find its way to a beach on the Yucatan peninsula. The tale takes place at the very tail end of World War One with a Captain’s Log entry:
“On the afternoon of June 18, as reported by wireless to the U-61, bound for Kiel, we torpedoed the British freighter Victory, New York to Liverpool, in N. Latitude 45 16, W. Longitude 28 34… When we rose to the surface about sunset a seaman’s body was found on the deck… undoubtedly of the Victory’s crew… Our men searched him for souvenirs, and found in his coat pocket a very odd bit of ivory carved to represent a youth’s head crowned with laurel… the thing was of great age and artistic value…”
The youth depicted in the bust is, for reasons that will soon become apparent, the Boy-Triton god of the sea known to the Greeks as Palaemon, to the Romans as Portunus and the laurel around his head is a symbol of victory, which gives us a double metaphor, the Victory was sank, its crew killed, and a symbol of victory ends up clinging to the deck of its aggressor. Portunus is theorized to be spirit-forms that were held by the Romans from an archaic time to when the early Latins tribes lived along the river Tiber around the year 1000 BC in stilted dwellings designed to weather floods. The interior of a submarine can now be added to the Lovecratian aesthetic. There are many of these in museums across the country. A quiet day, a quick incantation, and some fairly rare Lovecraftian magic can be had. The trouble continues on the U-boat with the visions of an Aslantian. After being corpse-gifted the idol of Palaemon, that is when things predictably start to go downhill for Herr Heinrich:
“The next day a very troublesome situation was created by the indisposition of some of the crew. They were evidently suffering from… nervous strain… and had had bad dreams… What worried us more was the talk of Boatswain Muller… [he] babbled of some illusion of dead bodies drifting past the undersea portholes; bodies which looked at him intensely, and which he recognised… as having see dying during some of our… exploits… he said that the young man we had found and tossed overboard was their leader.”
This is a tale of necromancy, of the angry and vengeful dead. Palaemon, the sea god who is represented as either a young boy or a boy-Triton, in some tales was dead when he was with his mother, Leucothea, when she jumped into the sea. Other sources state that the cult of Palaemon, who met at the subterrenean tomb beneath his temple, thought to contain his mortal remains, sacrificed children along with the more commonly known black bulls in honor of his deified form. There are many connections to the dead and the sea claiming the dead in Palaemon’s myth. Heinrich, after some particularly brutal human resources management, sets the U-Boat on its next intercept course:
“In the week following we were all very nervous… Lieut. Klenze chafed under the strain, and was annoyed by the merest trifles — such as the school of dolphins which gathered about the U-29 in increasing numbers, and the growing intensity of that southward current which was not on our chart.”
The dolphin is intimately connected to Palaemon, as the animal carried his mortal corpse to land so that his uncle Sisyphus might find it, which led to the establishing of the temple for his deified form. The dolphins here could also be connected to Poseidon, whom we have already encountered in the Strange High House in the Mist, and who had a beloved minion by the name of Delphin, a dolphin-shaped Gorgon, that help Poseidon out in some kind of date-rape/forced marriage of a nymph once upon a time and was rewarded with its own constellation. Our protagonist Heinrich continues on a course for his own home port, but his vessel is racked with misfortune:
“The explosion in the engine room was wholly a surprise… From the hour of the accident till July 2 we drifted constantly to the south… Dolphins still encircled the U-29, a somewhat remarkable circumstance considering the distance we had covered… The next afternoon a dense flock of sea-birds appeared from the south and the ocean began to heave ominously… As the men grew more frightened… some of them began to mutter again about Lieut. Klenze’s ivory image… Klenze and I slept at different times; and it was during my sleep… the… mutiny broke loose… The six remaining… sea-men… suddenly burst into a mad fury… I shot all six men [and] expelled their bodies through the double hatches… Our compasses, depth gauges, and other delicate instruments were ruined; so that henceforth our only reckoning would be guesswork… We often cast a beam around the ship, but saw only dolphins… I watched one of the swimmers closely for two hours , and did not see him alter his submerged condition [to breath in more air].”
It is at this point that I would like to begin weaving a different color into the tapestry of this article, leaning on the rich insights of Erik Davis in his essay Calling Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecart’s Magick Realism which I found in the Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. Davis, the once writer for WIRED magazine before it was thoroughly infected with ad copy and run by some marketing department shadow government, and the current host of the most excellent podcast Expanding Minds, begins his discussion of Lovecraft by concentrating, much as we are now, on how his fiction is connected to magical practice:
“Lovecraft’s cult status has a curiously literal dimension. Many magicians and occultists have taken up his Mythos as source material for their practice. Drawn from the dark regions of the esoteric counterculture — Thelema and Satanism and Chaos Magic — these Lovecraftian mages actively seek to generate the terrifying and atavistic encounters that Lovecraft’s protagonists stumble into compulsively, blindly, or against their will.”
As we follow our protagonist Heinrich as his U-Boat slips into the endless watery grave, helpless, and is escorted by dolphin sailor corpse dopplegangers to the ocean floor, we are ourselves looking for the material left for us by Lovecraft for a system of practice, a map of deities that he found still had live current moving through their archetypes. Let’s check in on Heinrich and his partner Klenze again as their dead vessel comes to find its final resting place:
“On August 9, we espied the ocean floor… Here there were slimy objects of puzzling contour, draped with weeds and encrusted with barnacles… Klenze… was puzzled by one thing, a peak of solid matter, protruding above the ocean bed nearly four feet at its apex; about two feet thick, with flat sides and smooth upper surfaces which met at a very obtuse angle… Klenze thought he saw carvings on it… the dolphins were still about us, even at a depth where the existence of high organisms is considered impossible… It was 3:15 PM, August 2, that poor Klenze went wholly mad… [bounding] into the library [yelling]
‘He is calling! He is calling! I hear him! We must go!” As he spoke he took his ivory image from the table, pocketed it, and seized y arm in an effort to drag me up the companionway to the deck… a vagary of suicidal and homicidal mania for which I was scarcely prepared… Come now — do not wait until later; it is better to repent and be forgiven than to defy and be condemned… If I am mad, it is mercy! May the gods pity the man who in his callousness can remain sane to the hideous end! Come and be mad whilst he still calls with mercy!”
Davis states in his article that:
“Lovecraftian magic is not some low-rent pulp hallucination but an imaginative and coherent reading set in motion by the dynamics of Lovecraft’s own texts…”
In the above quote Lovecraft is offering us a ticket to a show none of us will likely ever see save on a PBS or BBC documentary. The object protruding from the ocean floor is heavily reminiscent of the obelisk we are introduced to in one of Lovecraft’s more biblical tales, Dagon where an island rises from the ocean and is found to be graced with an object not unlike the one described above, the carvings of which all connect to the archaic fish-god of Mesopotamia and in particular, the Cannanites. It is only through, as Davis alludes to, a critical close reading of the tale that these details, these guideposts to the connections between Mesopotamia, the Bible, and the original pagan spirit forms in Lovecraft become actionable.
Now alone on the ocean floor, trapped in a defunct submarine and drawn to this world’s midpoint (another insight gleaned from my digital audio invocations, as there is a fragment in the Aphrodite invocation, alluding to the fact that she controls what happens here in this spot equidistant from Puerto Rico and Mauritania, which also connects her and Friday with the underworld as it is expressed in this watery incarnation), Heinrich turns away from the order in the interior of his modern submarine to the world outside:
“That evening I regretted that I had not take the ivory image surreptitiously from poor Klenze’s pocket as he left, for the memory of it fascinated me. I could not forget the youthful beautiful head with its leafy crown… I did not sleep well that night… The next day I ascended to the conning tower and commenced… searchlight explorations… As I swung the beam around to the south, I noticed that the ocean floor ahead fell away… the light streamed on… flooding the marine valley below me… my amazement was very great when I saw… an extended and elaborate array of ruined edifices; all of magnificent though unclassified architecture… in various stages of preservation… marble, gleaming whitely in the rays of the searchlight… Roofs were fallen and columns were broken, but there still remained an air of immemorially ancient splendor which nothing could efface… [I was] confronted… with Atlantis… the U-29 [settled] slowly down upon the sunken city as an airplane settles upon a town of the upper earth… the school of unusual dolphins had vanished…”
It is of interest to note at this point that the more popularly nown U-29 model of subarine was not developed until World War II, the first launched in 1936. ‘The Temple,’ does take place during World War I and was published in 1925 by Weird Tales. Lovecraft is referring to the SM U-29, a singular submarine that was sunk on March 18, 1915, five years before ‘The Temple’ was written. It might benefit us as Lovecraftian Mages to use the below image (when journeying on or otherwise using this spell-as-fiction to obtain results) which shows the actual SM U-29, Heinrich‘s vessel, leaving port for the last time prior to it being sunk and lost to the grave of nations that are the world’s oceans.
The SM U-29 was unique prototype technology in the context of the story and in Lovecraft’s historical context. This aesthetic connects with our next quote from Davis when he states:
“For Lovecraft, it is not the sleep of reason that breeds monsters, but reason with its eyes agog. By fusing cutting-edge science with archaic material, Lovecraft creates a twisted materialism in which scientific ‘progress’ returns us to the atavistic abyss, and hard-nosed research revives the factual basis of forgotten and discarded myths.”
The SM U-29 is a representation of cutting-edge science and here we find ourselves along with our protagonist, surrounded by this technology, which is defenseless against the awesomeness of its archaic surroundings, the dead city of Atlantis in its grave. This juxtaposition is the near-perfect incarnation of scientific progress being returned to the atavistic abyss. Heinrich, embodying the hard-nosed researcher, resolves to gather more experiential evidence of his surroundings:
“I produced and examined a deep-sea diving suit of joined metal… I believed I could overcome all obstacles… and actually walk about the dead city in person… On August 16 I effected an exit from the U-29… [and] made my way through the ruined and mud-choked streets… [gleaning] a wealth of… lore from sculptures and coins… I returned to the boat as my electric batteries grew feeble, [resolving] to explore the… [colossal] temple [facing the U-29] the following day…”
Returning to Davis’ argument, he continues pulling the red yarn between the thumbtacks of the materialist and the animist world view in Lovecraft:
“For Lovecraft, scientific materialism is the ultimate Faustian bargain, but not because it hands us Promethean technology… Instead, science leads us beyond the horizon of what our minds can withstand…”
In ‘The Temple,’ this leading beyond the horizon is an actual physical transportation as spirit-forms render Heinrich’s materialist ‘advantages’ inert and carry him bodily in his coffin of advanced technology to the steps of a temple where humans (or humanoids, at the very least) worshiped a antediluvian deity whose form is carried to the modern day through Lovecraft’s invocatory fiction. Let us then, continue with Heinrich as he brings this powerful lesson to a close:
“On the 17th… I found that the materials needed to replenish the portable light had perished in the mutiny… All I could do was to turn on the waning searchlights… and with its aid walk up the temple steps and study the exterior carvings… The head of the radiant god in the sculptures on the rock temple is the same as that carven bit of ivory which the dead sailor brought from the sea… I took a sedative and secured some more sleep. My nervous condition was reflected in my dreams for I seemed… to see dead faces pressing against the portholes of the boat. And among the dead faces was the living… face of the youth with the ivory image…”
August 17th is the day known to the Romans as Portunalia (and now a solid holiday on our Lovecraftian Magic Calendar) and this researcher feels it is no accident that this day was the day that Portunus’ Greek instantiation, Paleamon, reveals himself to Heinrich in his sedative induced dream-state. Portunus is the god of Gates and Ports, in as much as ports are the gateway to the sea. Here is the theme of the barrier again, the portal, the gate, masterfully encoded in this near final diary entry that falls on the day associated with the syncretic pan-cultural spirit-form being invoked by the tale. The image of Heinrich in his cutting-edge deep sea diving suit exploring the perimeter of the Temple of Paleamon in the dead city of Atlantis is an embodiment of what Davis calls, future primitivism:
“Lovecraft’s fiction expresses a ‘future primitivism’ that finds its most intense esoteric expression in Chaos magic, an eclectic contemporary style of darkside occultism that draws from Thelema, Satanism, Austin Osman Spare, and Eastern metaphysics to construct a thoroughly postmodern magic.”
Our protagonist returns to his unlit and lifeless coffin of technology and falls asleep in the pitch blackness thinking only of the temple and awakening to a literal and figurative illumination:
“I must be careful how I record my awaking today, for I am unstrung… Upon opening my eyes my first sensation was an overmastering desire to visit the rock temple; a desire which grew every instant… Next there came the impression of light amidst the darkness… It is well that the reader accept nothing which follows as objective truth, for since the events transcend natural law, they are necessarily the subjective and unreal creations of my overtaxed mind. When I attained the conning tower I found… What I did see… removed my last vestige of trust in my consciousness. For the door and windows of the undersea temple hewn from the rocky hill were vividly aglow with a flickering radiance, as from a mighty altar-flame far within… My impulse to visit and enter the temple has now become an… imperious command… [preparing] my diving suit, helmet, and air regenerator [I] commenced to write this hurried chronicle in the hope that it may some day reach the world…”
We have here, in a masterful tale, the same hyperreal archetypal elements we see in Lovecraft’s terrestrial fare. The tower through which the other world is glimpse is in this case the conning tower. The shape is still there and its connection with the viewing of the dolphins, dead, the architecture of Atlantis, and in the end, the gateway to the Other that opens in what can only be a Temple of Palaemon, the ever youthful boy-Triton of Greek myth. We also have, and in a exaggerated state, the German commander as the arch-Materialist and Imperialist. His consumption by the Other, by the spirit world, here in The Temple is another punctuation of this theme that threads throughout nearly all of Lovecraft’s tales. The materialist, once confronted by the Other, either accepts its existence as a fact or goes mad. The real cause for madness in Lovecraftian Magic is not accepting that the spirit world is real and interacts with the human.
Before transitioning to our tarot card match on our nautical chart of Lovecraftian Magic, let’s revisit Davis’ thoughts one last time:
“Lovecraft’s [Jungian] Shadow is so hostile to light it swallows the standard archetypes of the collective unconscious like a black hole. If we see the archetypal world not as a static storehouse of timeless godforms but as a moving host of figures that mutate as cultural and historical conditions change, then the seething extraterrestrial monsters that Lovecraft glimpsed in the chaos of hyperspace are not so much archaic figures of heredity as the avatars of a new psychological and mythic aeon.”
Palaemon is an incarnation of Lovecraft’s Jungian Shadow. He is ever youthful in a human sense and at the same time monsterous with his Dagon-esque lower half. Although unnamed in Lovecraft’s tale (which, really, is HPL’s schtick to begin with) ‘The Temple’ is a reincarnation of his spirit-form for the modern day. Where, I believe, Davis’ (and he’s not alone) gets it wrong is where he states that Lovecraft’s spirit-forms are not the ‘archaic figures of heredity.’ This is what I call out as Pop Lovecraftian theory, relying only on those elements of his oeuvre as they were filtered through Derleth and on to the rest of Lovecraft’s progeny. Pop Lovecraftian theory ignores the strong and pointed connections that are made between his ‘seething extraterrestrial monsters’ and the spirit-forms that have been with humans since before the deluge.
Our tarot card match for our archetype, the spirit-form Paleamon in his reclaimed Atlantean Temple is the Page of Batons.
Etteilla offers us two key phrases for our Page. ‘Bon Etranger’ or ‘Good Stranger’ and ‘Nouvelle’ or ‘New’. Good comes from the Old English gōd, meaning ‘excellent,’ or ‘fine.’ Maybe more relevant to our tale is the Proto-Germanic *gōda- or the PIE root *ghedh- which both mean ‘suitable.’ Stranger is the noun form of strange, which in its Old French instantiation means ‘alien,’ or ‘unusual.’ It is the source of the Spanish word ‘extraño,’ meaning ‘outside of,’ in essence, ‘Other.’ The word ‘New,’ in this instance is not so much a reversal but an added qualifier for the page, stemming from Old English and the meaning of being ‘unheard-of.’
In Paleamon, we have an alien form, half-boy and half-dolphin, he is a representation of the ‘Other,’ and in his otherness he is excellent, he is fine, he is suitable to our needs as Lovecraftian magicians. Ne is something new but only in the sense that we have not heard from him, he has not called to us, until the time when we pushed his smiling face against the porthole of our coffin of technology through Lovecraft’s spell-as-fiction.
Once this call is heard, there are two choices, to join him willingly in his mercy, or to resist the true nature of things, clinging like Heinrich to his dead U-boat, his dead symbol of materialist superiority, only to be consumed and lost forever in his phosphorescent seagrave.