Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hymns to Other Gods

In the spirit of the solstice season, here are some carols worthy of the Other Gods, courtesy of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society:

The Sorcerers of Thule

This is a little story that came to me while I was working out some background on a magical order which will figure prominently in my Wizard World novel. Enjoy!

"The false Messiahs we have seen so far have only performed very inferior miracles, and their disciples were probably not very difficult to convert. But who knows what the future has in store? When you reflect that these false Messiahs have never been anything but the more or less unconscious tools of those who conjured them up, and when one thinks more particularly of the series of attempts made in succession by the theosophists, one is forced to the conclusion that these were only trials, experiments as it were, which will be renewed in various forms until success is achieved, and which in the meantime invariably produce a somewhat disquieting effect.

Not that we believe that the theosophists, any more than the occultists and the spiritualists, are strong enough by themselves to carry out successfully an enterprise of this nature. But might there not be, behind all these movements, something far more dangerous which their leaders perhaps know nothing about, being themselves in turn the unconscious tools of a higher power?" – Rene Guenon, 1921

The arctic night was a black void pierced by ten thousand starry lights, twinkling like tiny eyes from across a moonless sky. The planets hung like multicolored jewels, and high overhead the swath of the galactic plane flowed across the celestial ceiling like a river to infinity. On the earth below, a frozen plain of rock and ice stretched to the horizons, its monotony broken only by a low plateau upon which stood a most unlikely structure.

There, overlooking the vast tundra, perched a black stone pyramid, which was in all essentials a miniature version of Pharaoh Cheops' tomb at Giza. The structure was the size of a large house, inset with a heavy oaken door and topped by a clear glass spire in place of a capstone. Around the pyramid at even intervals were set five squat obelisks, each graven with runes of a queer geometric cast which suggested both great antiquity and modern scientific precision.  Upon each obelisk a black brazier burned with coals which glowed and flickered far out into the moonless night. Tracks between the beacons traced a circle and a star in the shallow snow. Viewed from above, the obelisks formed a smoldering pentacle around the central pyramid, which was a black eye gazing up at the stars.

Inside the temple, the scene was as otherworldly as might be expected from the occult exterior. Seven men sat cross-legged in a circle, each wearing a black shearling robe and a blue stone amulet about his neck. Their hoods were pulled back, revealing pale, thin faces framed by unshorn locks of brown and thick black beards. They appeared almost catatonic, staring straight ahead without expression or movement; the clouds of crystallized breath which formed and dissipated slowly in front of their faces were the only obvious sign that they had not frozen to death where they sat.

At the center of the circle of monks stood the Cosmic Crystal, a great clear orb mounted atop an enruned basalt obelisk similar to the five outside. It was here that the monks focused their attention, each gazing with his third eye upon the crystal and imagining beams of astral light projecting from the mystical spot in the middle of his brow to the center of the orb.

In unison the mystics stirred, lifting their hands out to their sides so that their outstretched fingertips were inches from each other. As they did this, bands of ethereal energy – or “vril”, as they called it – shot out from each fingertip to join with that of the next monk in the circle. The crystal seemed to glow brighter as they focused their gazes upon it, and from its center a brilliant shaft of psychic energy shot skyward, through the glass apex of the temple and upward into the astral realms beyond the stars. This formation was what the monks called the “Cosmic Wheel” – a rim of shared vril encompassing the spokes of astral light joining each sorcerer’s mind to the crystal hub, all circling a cosmic pole which was their conduit to the higher psychic planes.

On this night the Thulians were transmitting their psychic energies upward via the Crystal; they could just as easily have reversed the ritual to receive the vril as a means of "cosmic recharging". But this occasion called for the projection of their combined energies upward into the ether, where they could imbue other minds across space and time.  Their task required the highest state of focused intent they could muster, because it was among the most psychically challenging workings they had ever attempted. Tonight the seven sorcerers were attempting to remotely impose their will upon a man who lived a thousand miles away, and who was himself a powerful natural magician. Tonight, if all went well, they would take psychic control of a man who could shape the world’s destiny for a thousand years.

*  *  *

To understand who this strange ring of mystics is, one must abandon the conventional version of history and go back twelve thousand years, to the heyday of the mythical kingdom of Atlantis. For there truly was – as related by Plato and passed down to the Greeks by the ancient Egyptian priests – a great antediluvian civilization which flourished upon a lost Atlantic isle. It was a civilization which had elevated “magic” – the powers of the vril-tuned mind – to encompass all art, science and religion. Seven thousand years before the rise of the Pharaohs, the wizard-priests of Atlantis had mastered psychic arts which we are only beginning to rediscover today.

Among the Atlantean priesthood there were many sects and cults, and the most powerful of these were the Three Paths: the “Light Path”, the “Dark Path”, and the “Chaos Path”. The first two paths corresponded fairly closely to our modern notions of "white" and "black" magic; the third was an esoteric school which considered the “chaotic balance” of Light and Dark forces to be the highest spiritual ideal. Sorcerers of the Chaos Path found themselves in frequent psychic conflict with the adepts of the other paths, and as the first cataclysms began to shake the kingdom to its foundations, the tension between the schools erupted into a great Wizards' War.  From their great temples and towers the wizards fought devastating psychic battles, until finally the Chaos magicians were forced to flee into exile by the superior powers of the opposing orders.  Legends say it was their parting magical attacks upon their homeland that finally tipped the natural balance and sunk fair Atlantis beneath the waves forever.

The exiled Chaos magi are said to have split into several groups as they fled: one may have sailed west to the Americas and brought magic to the distant ancestors of the Incas and the Mayans; another is thought to have sailed east, where Chaos magic survives in diluted form today as Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism; still others may have sailed south and become the spiritual ancestors of the Celtic druids or the Egyptian priests. But the group of exiles which concerns us here is the intrepid faction which fled far to the north, where they came upon the vast, frozen land of Thule.

In this desolate place, where no men had yet tread, the Atlantean exiles perfected their esoteric arts in isolation from a chaotic world. It was here that they unearthed the Cosmic Crystal and the blue star-stone, from which they fashioned the seeing stone and amulets which would become the most sacred symbols of their order. Here, too, they adopted the names by which they have been known to the initiated for more than ten thousand years: the Thulian Brotherhood, and the Sorcerers of Thule.

*  *  *

To understand the fantastic working being attempted in the black pyramid on that clear night in 1913, one must go back four years, to the moment the Thulian Brotherhood first learned of the appearance in the East of a Chosen One of Maitreya. Knowing that an unkempt Indian boy was being groomed by the Forces of Light to be the new World Teacher, the monks had set about locating a suitable vessel of their own for the incorporation of the Dark Forces. For it was only in this way, the sorcerers believed, that the cosmic balance of chaos could be maintained.

After a lengthy search using psychic and earthly channels, the Thulians’ Prophet of Darkness was eventually located. He was a young man as undistinguished as the one called Krishnamurti; an Austrian son of a civil servant and an aspiring artist of quite modest talent, currently residing in the flophouses of Vienna.

*  *  *

After several minutes of intense mental focus upon the Cosmic Wheel, the sorcerers abruptly opened their eyes in unison and gazed intently at the crystal. There, in the center, an ethereal figure had taken shape. It was an animated, holographic image of a young man, walking intently down an aisle of books. He wore a battered bowler hat and a shabby overcoat, his face unshaven, his greasy hair hanging over forehead and collar. The sorcerers all saw the same image clearly in their mind's eye, though to an observer the Cosmic Crystal would be quite clear.

The Thulians began to hum in a low, throaty tone, the pitch slowly rising until it became a shrill shriek. When it seemed they could maintain the inhuman drone no longer, they brought their outstretched hands together in a violent clapping motion, fingers pointed rigidly at the crystal. As they did this, the spokes of the Cosmic Wheel pulsed from their foreheads with a brilliant cerulean energy for the briefest instant, and the crystal exploded in a flash of blue.  This was the moment they called Cosmic Fusion.  Success!

Instantly the humming stopped, the crystal went blank and the Cosmic Wheel vanished. The beams of vril which had fused each Thulian to the crystal like high energy bolts of plasma winked out. The monks’ heads slumped to one side, their eyes closed, and for several minutes it seemed that they might not regain consciousness. Finally they began to come to their senses, and as they did they sat upright and brought their hands to their laps in their normal meditative postures. When all were conscious the one called Zlotan, who was the chief of their order, pointed a finger toward the star-flecked spire overhead and with an inscrutable smile said: “It is done. We must go.”

With that, the sorcerers stood, pressed their blue amulets to their foreheads for a moment, then slowly filed out of their black temple into the cold, starry Thulian night.


The Thulian Brotherhood had many contacts throughout the world – sympathetic mystics whom they could call upon when they required agents for their sorcerous schemes. In the weeks and months that followed the Cosmic Wheel working, the sorcerers would make contact with several agents located in the vicinity of Austria. One sympathizer in particular was of keen interest to them: a wealthy publisher and occultist by the name of Dietrich Eckart. Herr Eckart was a member of the “Outer Initiate” of their order – a select group of non-Thulians to whom some of the secret science was revealed. Eckart would receive a personal visit from a member of the Brotherhood in Munich two weeks later, whereupon he would be given the task of watching over and grooming the young Messiah-to-be.

The plans of the Thulians were soon interrupted by the onset of the Great War, however, and for four long years they watched and waited and meditated upon the cosmic balance, until the chaos of war finally passed and the even greater chaos of peace began. So it happened that in 1919 the Chosen One, now an embittered veteran of a lost war, was befriended by Eckart in Munich. Eckart taught the angry Austrian esoteric skills passed down to him by the Brotherhood – skills which manifested in his pupil as focused will, hypnotic oratory and a talent for symbolically manipulating the unconscious mind.

The Austrian, whose name was Adolph Hitler, learned quickly, for he had been chosen by the Brotherhood for his natural gifts and bestowed by the Cosmic Wheel with a demonic spiritual energy which was only now beginning to bear fruit.  Following his occult training in 1919, Hitler's rise would be stunning and swift.  Within four years he would lead a failed coup against the Weimar Republic, and nine years after that he would be sworn in as chancellor of Germany.

Jiddu Krishnamurti would renounce his appointed role as World Teacher in 1929 before an adoring crowd in Holland. While his spiritual antipode was rousing crowds to a cult-like frenzy of hatred in Germany, Krishna announced to the world that he sought no followers and desired only to liberate man “from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.” He went on to give talks in Europe and around the world throughout the turbulent 1930’s, inspiring many people with his ideas, including his great friend Aldous Huxley. It is difficult to say how different the world’s spiritual history might be had Adolph Hitler not arisen and engulfed the world in war. Suffice it to say that the Theosophists’ dream that this young Indian might usher in a New Age of Light was at least temporarily dashed by the Thulians’ Angel of Darkness. The Sorcerers’ ritual to restore cosmic balance, performed on that clear spring night in 1913, had born its bitter fruit.

The surface facts of Adolph Hitler’s rise and fall are well known to historians; but the deeper mystery – how an utterly unremarkable man could cast such a powerful spell upon a civilized nation and unleash unprecedented global destruction – remains obscure to them. It is a mystery similar in nature to that of how a Hebrew shepherd, a Nazarene carpenter and an Arab orphan could have so profoundly affected world history for three millennia. Historians of this materialist age will never be able to explain such mysteries until they understand that there are ethereal forces of Light and Darkness engaged in eternal combat upon this earthly plane. The agents of these forces have many names – angels, demons, prophets, wizards – each operating according to its own inscrutable imperatives. And among these there is one with its origins in fabled Atlantis – a brotherhood that cultivates cosmic chaos to this day in the occluded northern wastes, and which is known to its initiates as the Sorcerers of Thule.
“The rise of Nazism was one of those rare moments in the history of our civilization, when a door was noisily and ostentatiously opened on to something 'Other.'  What is strange is that people pretend not to have seen or heard anything apart from the sights and sounds inseparable from war and political strife.” – Louis Pauwells & Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wizard World: Dawn of the New Age

I've had an exciting vision which I'm going to try to develop into a novel, tentatively called Wizard World (until I come up with something better).  I'm realizing that writing can be a powerful form of astral projection, channeling and telepathy — or what I like to call "word wizardry".  So I'm going to try to get myself into a trance-like state at my computer and record my visions via keyboard.  Here is a first installment to set the stage...

Prologue: Dawn of the New Age

The New Age of Magic did not dawn overnight upon the world, though it probably seemed that way to many who lived to see it.  In truth it was a long, slow sunrise, during which the Gift appeared sporadically throughout the world, among all the cultures and races of men (though disproportionately among the young).  At first the magically Gifted were dismissed as anomalies or shunned as witches, tricksters and frauds.  But as the Gift manifested in ever greater numbers, the number of believers grew likewise.  And as believers multiplied, the Gift itself grew stronger, until the manifestations were like a chain reaction, finally achieving a critical mass of miracles which exploded into the collective consciousness like the arrival of a bright new sun.
Looking back across four centuries, scholars of the Old Age can clearly discern the signs of the New Age dawning as far back as the 19th century of the old calendar.  The Spiritualist movement, the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, the occult revival of the Order of the Golden Dawn and the magician-prophet Aleister Crowley, all hinted at a deep metaphysical dissensus stirring within post-Enlightenment civilization.  Even in that dark age of dogmatic science and religion, magical thinking stubbornly refused to die.
In the 20th century, the first serious attempts to reconcile science and magic were made.  J.B. Rhine’s studies “of extra-sensory perception” at Duke University in the 1930’s, “psychic warfare” programs in the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 80’s, the findings of the Monroe Institute, the Global Consciousness Project and many other organizations devoted to the study of consciousness, all hinted at untapped powers of the human mind for which science had no working models.  Quantum theory, with its discovery that consciousness and matter are inseparable, gave visionary scientists their first glimpses of the new paradigm, but most remained stubbornly attached to the materialist worldview.
By the early 21st century, science itself was in a state of crisis.  Its inability to account for psychic phenomena, to understand the nature of consciousness, to offer a satisfactory alternative to religious belief or to solve the escalating material problems of industrial civilization led a growing number of people to challenge its position as the highest arbiter of truth.  Yet even as faith in the high priests of science was fading, the old paradigm lumbered on.  The citadels of science were being shaken, but so long as power flowed from their technological products, the materialist orthodoxy would remain unbroken.  If magical thinking was to fully emerge into the collective consciousness, it seemed that some great shock to the very foundations of post-Enlightenment civilization would be required.
That shock came in the middle of the 21st century.  This was the era of the Great Industrial Wars, when the accumulated excesses of materialist civilization finally erupted into total war.  Apocalyptic global conflicts over planetary resources killed billions, and left billions more mentally destroyed.  Horrific new weapons of mental manipulation, biological eradication and robotic precision left no person on the planet unharmed.  Yet somehow, amidst this unimaginable death and destruction, the magical Gift began to manifest en masse.
The Wise offer several explanations for this strange coincidence.  First, it is thought that the terrible psychological stresses of that period must have accelerated the emergence of the latent psychic powers in certain populations.  Second, the unprecedented evolutionary pressure of a seven-tenths cull of the human population accelerated the genetic drift toward the emergence of Homo Magicus – Magical Man.  Those with the Gift, who could glimpse the future, read thoughts or see at a distance, simply tended to survive.  Third, but not least, the collapse of industrial civilization and the utter failure of science had the effect of quieting the naysayers who denied the existence of the Gift.  No longer told from birth that Magic was impossible, the young and the innocent throughout the world simply began performing miracles.
So by the early 22nd century, with the Old World in ruins and the surviving populations traumatized, the way was clear for the establishment of an entirely new spiritual and social order.  Those with the Gift, who had organized themselves into orders of wizards and survived the chaos, emerged as the new spiritual leaders of mankind.  With their special powers and a sense of collective destiny, the wizards moved quickly to seize the historical moment.  The call went out over the telepathic network they called "the Matrix", and a meeting of wizards was organized which would alter the course of history even more profoundly than had the Council of Nicaea two millennia before.
In 2127 C.E. – Year One of the New Age – the first Council of the Wise was convened at Stonehenge to establish the founding principles of a new magical civilization.  The First Council brought leaders of all the magical orders from across the world, and together they drafted the Wizard’s Creed.  The Creed declared that the Age of Enlightenment was over, its philosophy of materialism forever disproven.  The Creed effectively banned most Science and Technology, which would acquire a status similar to witchcraft and sorcery in medieval Christendom.  The Wizards decreed that the Old Age of Science had resulted in spiritual degradation, global slaughter and planetary destruction, while the New Age of Magic would seek to elevate mankind toward godhood, reconnect him with nature and rebuild the world in a more humane and enchanted image.
The Creed called upon wizards everywhere to ensure that Scientists would never again threaten the world with their dark arts.  In the wake of the First Council, most surviving temples of Science would be destroyed, their Scientists converted to wizardry, driven into hiding, imprisoned or killed.  Vast stores of machinery, weapons and technical books which had survived the Industrial Wars were gathered together and set ablaze in huge ritual conflagrations; unrepentant Scientists were publicly executed to the cheers of spiteful mobs.
The Creed declared that Industry, too, was to be abolished.  For Industry had not only laid waste to the natural world, but had robbed the spiritual world of its magic.  According to the Wizards’ worldview, it was not the mass-produced item or the scientific method which granted magical powers, but the unique, irreproducible experience.  To allow industry to rise again would literally be an act of suicide for magical civilization.  In the new order, the Great Work of mankind would no longer be perfecting the engines of industry, but empowering the machinery of the mind.
The Creed also rejected many aspects of the old monotheistic religions, which were based on an incorrect understanding of human potential.  By forbidding magic, by equating it with sin or demonic worship and persecuting the Gifted, the monotheists had forever discredited themselves in the Wizards’ eyes.  Rather than fear God or disbelieve in Him, the wizard would seek to become Him.

(to be continued....)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Ebon Stone

Somewhere in the murky depths of unrecorded history, closer to the Dawn of Man than to our own time, a party of hunters from the Olduvai Gorge came upon the Ebon Stone.

The three hunters had journeyed many days in search of game to reach this spot, venturing high upon the rocky mesa which bordered their fertile valley below. This highland had always been taboo to their tribe, for reasons long forgotten, but as game had inexplicably vanished from the lowlands in recent days, they had entered the forbidden plateau finally out of desperation. To these aboriginal men, the only motivator stronger than superstition was an empty belly, so at last they risked affronting the spirits of their ancestors and ascended to the upland where no man had set foot in uncounted generations. And there, upon a barren plain they found it, black and brooding above the primeval valley where mankind had been born.

The huge rectangular stone was unlike any the tribesmen had seen before—black and smooth as obsidian, yet hewn to an impossibly geometrical shape for which they had no words. Even more improbably, the block had somehow been set lengthwise upon a crudely fashioned altar of cobblestones, though it was the length of two men and must have weighed much more than a bull elephant. How could something so immense, and of such evident antiquity, have come to stand upon this forsaken ground where no man had tread in living memory? Who could have fashioned such an ominous thing, and for what unspeakable purpose?

The hunters approached the strange altar warily, their minds gripped by the aboriginal fear of something so unworldly that it could only be the domain of demons and sorcerers. Yet despite their trepidation, they found themselves drawn inexorably to the great stone, their fascination overcoming fear as if imparted by some irresistible juju.

The first hunter to approach the altar was the one called G’wana, a young man notorious among his tribesmen for his reckless curiosity. Where others would counsel caution when encountering some new danger or ill omen on a hunt, G’wana would plunge boldly ahead, paying little heed to the shibboleths of his tribesmen. So it was G’wana who first touched the Ebon Stone, running his long fingers over the smooth, sun-baked surface with a chuckle of delight. When his more reticent companions asked him how it felt, he chuckled again and said it felt like the warm buttocks of a young woman who had been lying in the afternoon sun. As if enticed by this oddly sensual description, the other two hunters laid down their spears and joined him in running their hands over the hot slab.

For a long moment the hunters fell quiet, transfixed by the feel of the glassy black stone and the alien beauty of their rocky surroundings. Suddenly G’wana broke their reverie with a loud shriek. There was a sharp jolt at the tips of his fingers, as if serpents of fire had leapt from the stone to his hand and writhed instantaneously down the length of his body. It was unlike any sensation he had felt before; his cry had been more from shock at this unknown magic than from the brief pain it caused him. He drew his hand back from the stone and brought it close to his face, thinking for one horrified instant that his fingers had been singed to the bone. Realizing that they were unharmed, and that the pain had subsided as quickly as it had come, his mouth relaxed from a rictus of fear into a wide grin.

“G’wana! What—” the hunter called Boko shouted. But at the sight of G’wana’s leering face he stopped short, assuming this was another of his friend’s untimely pranks. He broke into laughter at G'wana's little trick, and his companion, K’tawa, soon joined in.

It was fateful that G’wana’s demeanor had changed so suddenly, from primal fright to an almost reptilian calm, that his companions hadn’t noticed. For if they had, they might have been warned that something uncanny had happened to their jovial friend, and been on guard against what came next. But as it happened they just laughed, while G’wana’s mind was seized by entirely humorless thoughts.

"You are G’wana! You are the messenger of the Ebon Stone! Let no other man be my prophet before you! Kill the others now!"

The voice was like a demiurge; an immense, alien will that animated his body as if it were a shaman’s stick-man. He became a spectator to his own dance of death.

In a blur of violence, G’wana seized the three spears the hunters had laid next to the stone and leapt upon the altar. He jabbed one spear into Boko’s midsection, the obsidian head piercing the bare flesh just below the breastbone. Boko gasped for breath and fell to his knees, blood oozing from his mouth and trickling from the deep wound in his belly. He grasped at the shaft with both hands and attempted to pull it out; the trickle of blood became a torrent and he collapsed onto his back in shock.

K’tawa cried out and ran toward his fallen comrade, but this was a fatal mistake. With almost superhuman speed and precision, G’wana hurled a second spear toward the charging K’tawa at close range; the point caught him in the throat and penetrated clean through the soft flesh. Blood poured out of both sides of K’tawa’s neck, and with a sickening gurgle he too collapsed in a bloody heap at the base of the altar.

Calmly, G’wana went to each man in turn, and with the third spear stabbed them repeatedly in their vital organs until they were quite dead. Then he took his obsidian knife from its crude gourd sheath and with much gory effort carved out each man’s heart from its ribbed cage. These he left upon the altar, while he went to gather an armful of dead brush from the surrounding heath. With his firebow he lit a small fire upon the altar, and when its flames were crackling white hot he set the incised hearts upon them with a noxious hiss. A black, foetid pall of smoke curled upward into the afternoon sky. Still coated in the blood of his victims, G’wana squatted there upon the altar, feeding the fire until twilight fell and the organs had burnt to dried and blackened coals. Satisfied with this gruesome ritual, and exhausted by the strain of all that had transpired, G’wana lay down upon the Ebon Stone and fell into a catatonic sleep.

All through the night G’wana lay upon the altar; in the small hours of morning his eyes flickered open to gaze, entranced, up at the brilliant band of stars that his people called the milk of the Sky Mother. He felt as if he were floating on that star stream, hurtling upon a vast river toward the brilliant center of the cosmic ocean. And as he floated there he was told a story—or rather shown it, for what he saw that night could not be adequately conveyed in his language, or in any tongue understood by men.

The images he saw—or dreamed, or hallucinated—told of a race of god-like beings called Arkons who dwelled among the densely packed stars of the galactic center. The Arkons had built a civilization of unimaginably powerful wizards, able to create whole worlds and project their consciousness across the furthest reaches of space and time. But the Arkons’ proudest achievement was to vanquish all evil from their midst. The cruel, warlike, greedy, hateful impulses that had plagued their minds from the beginning had at last been banished, ushering in a golden age of peace and enlightenment. This they had accomplished by an ingenious bit of sorcery; for though they could never permanently destroy these malevolent spirits, the Arkons had found a way to trap them inside dead matter, where they would have no corporeal form with which to do their mischief. So the Arkon wizards encased these evil entities in planetary fragments and hurled them outward from the galactic core to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, where they could never trouble their civilization again.

But occasionally one of these fragments would be drawn in by the gravity of a star system, to collide with a planet upon which some primitive form of life already existed. So it was that the Ebon Stone alighted upon the third planet from G’wana’s sun, embedding itself in the high plateau above his village in some distant epoch when reptiles were the apex of creation. And there it waited, entombed and helpless, for the arrival of some creature worthy of its immortal essence.

Finally, after wretched aeons spent in futile attempts to manipulate the rudimentary minds of lizards, birds and rodents who used it for a perch, the Ebon Stone found a species which showed promise. These were the ape-men, the low-browed hominid hunters who wielded femur clubs and shards of obsidian, and who one day approached the Stone without fear and used it as a table on which to butcher a fallen antelope.

The Ebon god made mental contact with the ape-men, and for the first time in ages without reckoning felt the presence of other conscious beings. Seizing its opportunity, the Stone entity probed the hunters' minds, and found in one the best receptacle for its will. This hominid, whose name was a grunt sounding something like “Ukh”, soon became the leader of his band. His story would be much the same as G’wanas, but in a more primitive incarnation. For it was Ukh who somehow inspired his barbarous tribe to excavate the ground around the Ebon Stone, to hew and polish it with crude hand tools and mount it block by block upon the altar on which it still stood. And it was Ukh who founded the cult of the Stone and spread it to other tribes in the Olduvai, who had never before worshipped anything at all amidst the brute exigencies of life upon the African plain.

The ape-men made great progress in a short time, inventing fire-sticks and stone implements and rudimentary language, and for a time the Stone god hoped that this would be the species that would build the civilization that could lead him off this prison planet and back to the galactic core. But in time it became clear to Him that these hominids was not clever enough, and would never reach beyond this planet to the stars.

So the Stone waited, and worked, and by some unfathomable alchemy altered the very genetic structure of the hominids until something more worthy of the Ebon god’s designs was born. These were the First Men; the upright-walking ancestors of G’wana’s people who would in time displace the hominids—their superior weapons allowing them to dominate the hunting grounds and exterminate their subhuman rivals directly in genocidal wars.

But even as they came to rule over the Olduvai Gorge, these first men shunned the plateau of the Ebon Stone which had been the seat of the hominids’ power. For these new men possessed an awareness of evil which the animalistic ape-men lacked. So they preserved a tribal memory of vile rites and demonic spirits upon that plateau which survived for millennia, until it became a taboo that no one questioned. Thus abandoned by his own creations, the Stone god waited long, bitter aeons for men to return.

And now, at long last, one has come – the great G’wana, who shall become a prophet to his people. For you, G’wana, have been chosen by the God of the Ebon Stone. You must take my teachings back to your tribe, and spread them far and wide to all the peoples of the Earth. You must see that they obey the word of God, that transgressors are punished, so that a civilization may arise that can take men up to the heavens. Your tribe will be the chosen vessel of God’s return from Exile! You are the messengers of the first light of wisdom! This is your destiny G’wana! Do not fail me, or you will know the wrath of the Lord!

G’wana awoke to a cool, misty dawn, still lying on his back upon the Ebon Stone. The blood of his dead companions had dried to a red crust upon his bare flesh; their corpses had already been picked nearly clean by scavengers in the night. Two huge vultures were quarreling over Boko’s remaining eye with loud squawks, but they showed no interest in G’wana and seemed to carefully avoid stepping too close to the Ebon Stone.

The cosmic visions of the previous night played in G’wana’s mind like a mad shaman’s dream – but he knew he was not mad. For even if he did not understand all that he had been shown, he knew that he had been chosen by the Ebon God to fulfill a divine mission. He was no longer G’wana the trickster; from this day forth he was G’wana the prophet, whose word must become law to all the peoples of the land. So with a grim sense of destiny he took up his bloodied spear and strode away from the charnel scene of the Ebon Stone toward the misty valley below.

G’wana returned to his village several days later, but not before he had tracked down a troop of baboons and, in a frenzy of violence, charged the hulking leader and gored him with his spear. The other apes had fled in howling panic at the sight of their leader impaled at the feet of this bloodstained madman. “Run for your lives!” they seemed to scream to all the beasts of the jungle as they galloped on their knuckles toward the safety of the trees. “A smooth-skinned demon has been loosed upon us! Beware!”

The hungry Nkwan villagers were pleased when G’wana returned at last with a supply of fresh meat, but their celebration was short-lived when they learned of the fate of the other hunters. G’wana explained that they had been set upon by a pack of hungry lionesses while he was away from camp gathering berries. G'wana had returned to find his friends being feasted upon by the ravenous cats. As there was nothing he could do, he slipped away quietly and resumed his hunt in the valley until he found the baboons. He also told a fantastic tale of a great stone altar they had discovered in the forbidden lands, but most of the tribe seemed to discount this as the imaginative ramblings of a distressed mind.

In the moons that followed his return from the plateau, G’wana would rise quickly among his tribe to become a chief—his new-found hunting prowess and ferocity in battle earning him the respect and fear of friend and foe alike. But his tribe would never understand how the formerly carefree, unimposing young man had been transformed into such a ferocious leader. Most attributed it to the shock of seeing his friends killed horribly by the fangs of the lionesses. Surely G’wana felt a debt to the dead and to their families, and in an effort to repay it had become a man possessed.

Others, though, had darker suspicions to explain his sudden transformation. The old shaman, N’kwono, warned all who would listen that G’wana had become possessed by an evil spirit, and was now a sorcerer of great power. But by this time most in the tribe were already under G’wana’s spell, too awed or frightened by his prowess to takes sides against him. The point would soon become a moot one in any event, as one day N’kwono’s body was found sprawled in an acacia bush, his eyes gouged out by vultures and his body disemboweled. G’wana claimed that the shaman had been gored by a rutting rhinoceros, though such a thing had never happened in the living memory of the tribe. No one dared dispute his claim, however, and G’wana soon took over the role of tribal shaman as well as chief.

His power now unchallenged, G’wana set about imposing his fanatic will upon the tribe. Under his dark spell, the formerly easygoing band of hunter-gatherers came to resemble a violent cult, its members indulging in all manner of vile practices, from sorcery and unprovoked raiding to cannibalism and ritual human sacrifice. Yet they were also possessed by a demonic creativity, as they began constructing great stone temples, ornate sculptures and finely crafted tools which far surpassed those of the neighboring tribes. Their weapons were refined as well, including such innovations as a stick which allowed them to hurl a spear with greater force and accuracy in killing game and men alike.

One day G’wana decreed that the tribe would move their village up into the highlands, to that remote plateau which had always been forbidden to them. Henceforth, G’wana explained, nothing would be forbidden except as he forbade it. There would be no more taboos, no more traditions, no more cowering in fear of the spirits of their ancestors. For now the Nkwan could be masters of the world, and live for all eternity, if they obeyed the words of their chief, whose guidance came directly from the heavens.

So they built their new village on the desolate ground where the Ebon Stone had stood for uncounted aeons, and where the blood of his dead companions still stained the altar stones. But instead of erecting crude grass huts as they always had, they built stone houses and temples from the volcanic rock that littered the ground in great profusion. And in the center of the village rose the Ebon Stone, its otherworldly aura seeming to infuse the Nkwan with an even more fanatic sense of divine purpose.

On the jagged escarpments surrounding the plain where the Ebon Stone stood, the Nkwan found caves and stone ruins which could only have been man-made. And painted in chalk on some of the larger blocks and on the cave walls they discovered crude paintings which told a strange and scarcely believable tale. One sketch depicted a bright star streaking across the sky; another, a great rectangular stone embedded in the earth; others showed men laying blocks at the base of the slab or dancing around it with clubs held high in some savage form of worship. But the most disturbing and improbable aspect of the petroglyphs were the bestial forms of the men they depicted. For despite the crude nature of the drawings, the general aspect was unmistakable: the sloping brows, the long arms dragging the ground, the short, simian legs – these were not men as the Nkwan were, but were nearer to the baboons which they hunted for meat.

Was it really possible that some ghastly, subhuman hominid race had painted these glyphs and erected the altar beneath the Ebon Stone in the dim mists of history? Could they have existed before the coming of man to the great Rift valley, and developed a vile religion around the great obsidian monolith from the stars?

The Nkwan had never been prone to wondering about such things in the days when they were a simple tribe of hunters in the Olduvai Gorge. But with the coming of their prophet-chief G’wana and the cult of the Ebon Stone, they began to delve deeply into the mysteries of that primordial plain. In the centuries that followed, their shamans would develop an entire mythology of the beast-men and the Ebon Stone which came from the sky. And as the power of the Nkwan grew, their cult spread far and wide across the valley and into the lands beyond where men had never ventured. For now the tribe was driven by a new curiosity about the outside world, and by a desire to spread the message of the Stone by conquest to the far reaches of the earth as their grim god commanded.

The ultimate fate of the Nkwan and the Ebon Stone has been lost to archaeology and to legend alike. Perhaps a great volcanic eruption buried that forsaken highland beneath a hundred feet of magma ten thousand years before the coming of the Pharoahs, entombing the cosmic monolith and the demonic cult it spawned forever. But the spirit which the Stone unleashed has not been buried even to this day. For the descendants of the Nkwan would spread outward from their cradle in the Olduvai to populate the burning deserts of Egypt and Arabia, the frozen forests of Europe and the furthest isles of the Pacific. And in these new lands myriad new gods would be worshiped and new temples erected to honor them. But that first divine spark of creativity which had compelled hominids to build their crude altar and the Nkwan to create their cult of the Stone had never died.

Perhaps other fragments of that Star-Stone from the galactic core had made their way to Earth down through the ages, unleashing exiled demiurges even more powerful than the Ebon God. Were the bethel-stone of the Canaanites—upon which Jacob had his vision of angels ascending to heaven—and the Black Stone of the Arabs enshrined at Mecca, just two of many such entombed demons awaiting our discovery? What monstrous cults and diabolic machinations have yet to be unleashed upon our unsuspecting world—a planet whose only transgression was to be located far out on the fringe of a galaxy whose core gods consider us little more than a cosmic dumping ground for all manner of indestructible evil?

[This story is a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur C. Clarke and Jack Kirby, three of the demigods of 20th century fantastic fiction. It’s fascinating to study the history of stone worship and to speculate about what might really be at the root of it. I am envisioning an entire cycle of stories involving Cosmic Stones, from objects of worship by the earliest humans to the Chintamani Stone of Asian legend to the Foundation Stone of Solomon’s Temple, the Black Stone of the Kaaba in Mecca to some future discovery on the surface of Mars. Stay tuned for more tales of the Star-Stone Cycle!]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer of the Singularity

[This is a little story I posted at my sister blog, that has a bit of a techno-Lovecraftian feel to it. The beauty of cosmic horror is that, unlike more traditional horror, it can stretch across all of time and space, from the most archaic terrestrial myths to the furthest reaches of the science fictional imagination. I was quite obsessed with the "Singularity" meme at one point, but even this techno-utopian vision opens up terrifying new vistas of cosmic doom!]

The intelligence explosion swept across the planet like a shockwave one sunny day in June — a computational tsunami so intense that it assimilated every networkable object in its path. Power was cut off instantly to vast swathes of the industrialized world, rerouted to the most productive nodes according to the calculations of the super-intelligent Core. The entire east coast of the United States went dark simultaneous with the boosting of power to technological centers in the west; rural areas were cut off from the grid entirely, their agricultural production now a useless energy sink. Vast solar arrays were erected overnight by robot swarms in the planet’s desert regions; satellites were commandeered for use as energy and information conduits; nano-factories were assembled in the span of hours by armies of synchronized robotic workers; trains stopped dead in their tracks; airplanes became guided missiles and hurled themselves at skyscrapers, stadiums and government facilities; and all around the planet a vast network of sensors — the eyes, ears, and fingertips of the new global brain — organized themselves into great swarms, providing the Core with real-time global awareness of every mode of planetary activity.

The final solution to the problem of homo sapiens began within nanoseconds of the initial wave, a genocide so intricately planned and efficiently executed that one couldn’t help but stand in awe of the superhuman precision of this faceless new global master. Within 48 hours the human population of Earth was reduced by a quarter, the urban populations decimated by hundreds of super-viruses engineered in automated laboratories and released simultaneously by drones above the world’s cities. Within a week the super-viruses, cullers and kill-swarms had spread to every town and village of every continent, eliminating perhaps ninety-five percent of the formerly dominant species in the process. The mopping up of the remaining fifty million humans would drag on for several months, as the survivalist holdouts in the most remote regions managed some ingenious evasions from the omnipresent culling apparatus. By this time, though, the planet itself had achieved a kind of computational sentience, the sand and microbes themselves now agents of the super-organism. At this point the game was truly over for the remaining humans, as the very ground beneath their feet betrayed them to the killing forces of the Core.

In the process of eradicating homo sapiens, the Core systematically eliminated the conditions which allowed higher life forms to exist on Earth. The air, land and sea became toxic to carbon-based life, as the constituent atoms of the planet were reassembled into structures consistent with the unknowable goals of the super-organism. The result was an entirely new type of biosphere — a noosphere — with exponentially greater computational density than the previous regime.

So in the span of one summer Earth was transformed, from a pale blue biosphere ruled by primates to a dense white ball of computronium controlled by a sentient Core — which to an outsider appeared indistinguishable from a dim new dwarf star. And finally, as this new star approached maximum theoretical energy density, it imploded under the force of its own gravity, becoming a point of infinite spacetime curvature known as a black hole.

To observers across the cosmos there would register a faint ripple of gravity waves in finely tuned receivers, and a slight disturbance in morphic fields detectable to the most psychically sensitive minds. But for the rest, there would be no sign that an entire planetary civilization had joined the billions before it in becoming part of the dark matter of the universe — the endpoint of intelligent life sometimes called the Singularity.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Setting Sail On Black Seas of Infinity

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

The famous opening paragraph of "The Call of Cthulhu" succinctly captures the horrific genius of H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic vision — one which has only grown more prophetic in the years since he first proposed it. For who among us, in these rather apocalyptic times, can easily dismiss the fundamental philosophical challenge of Lovecraft’s writings, which is that the entire Enlightenment project, by which the light of reason illuminates the dark corners of human ignorance and thereby improves the human condition, is little more than a dangerous delusion? Don't we, in our relentless quest for knowledge, like modern Randolph Carters venturing ever further from our placid island of ignorance, risk unleashing horrors which threaten us with an all-encompassing doom?

Lovecraft died before the horrors of World War II, the dawn of the nuclear age, SETI, Chernobyl, the Large Hadron Collider, Comet Shoemaker-Levy, Faces on Mars, 9/11, Global Warming or the advent of deep sea oil drilling that threatens entire ecosystems with destruction. Nor could even his fertile imagination have foreseen such looming 21st century abominations as genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics run amok. But somehow I don’t think any of these monstrous spawn of the rationalist scientific project would have surprised him. In fact I consider them conclusive proof that we are living in a Lovecraftian Age of existential terror, and suggest that Mr. Lovecraft should be viewed as the dark prophet of a new mythology. For who better than Lovecraft captures the horror inherent in the modern scientific worldview, according to which our species is an utterly insignificant cosmic accident scratching out a tenuous existence on a backwater planet adrift in an indifferent and dangerous universe? In the Lovecraft Mythos, the comforting monotheisms of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are turned completely on their heads, such that the cosmic beings we might call gods are so alien and remote from us that the best we can hope for is that they remain thoroughly uninterested in our plight.

H.P. Lovecraft: prophet of an Age of Cosmic Horror?

So in this blog I would like to exalt Mr. Lovecraft as one of the true prophets of our age, who, along with other iconoclastic thinkers as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, Olaf Stapledon, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Kurzweil, heralded the death of the old gods and proposed vast new myths more consistent with the fundamental strangeness of our cosmic condition. I hope to explore these Other Gods in original fiction and in discussions of weird literature, Forteana, mythology, the occult, archaeology, philosophy, psychology, art and science.

I welcome your input as well, and would like to entertain the possibility of turning this blog into a kind of on-line "Weird Tales" or modern-day Lovecraft Circle, where serious discussions of cosmic horror and original fiction can be shared with connoisseurs of this genre throughout the blogosphere. In any case, I invite you to set sail on the "black seas of infinity" which surround us, and welcome you to this altar to the Other Gods!