When Do Cultists Get The Way They Are?
by, 25th January 2009 at 11:34 PM (197 Views)
When do cultists get the way they are?
[running out of SAN, a cultists perspective]
Rather than liken the how, and why of the process to more conventional systems of mysticism by way of illustration (as I have done previously), the when is a matter whose peculiarities are more often than not glossed over in both narrative, and commentary, so an example might well provide an interesting starting point for further consideration.
Phil Hine ought to be known by anyone who has looked into the theory and practise of modern magic.
" Cthulhu is all around us. It is a squid-thing, bestial, dragon-winged - a theriomorphic image, but such things are all around us, as trees, insects, plant life, and within us as bacterium, brooding viruses; born momentarily through the aIchemical transformations taking place in my body even as I write. Hidden. Dreaming. Carrying on without our cognisance. Unknown beings, with unknown purposes. This thought builds in intensity and it throws me sideways into realisation. That Nature is alien to us. There's no need to look for hidden dimensions, higher planes of existence or lost worlds of myth. It's here, if we but pause to look and feel.
The old Gods are everywhere. Their features outlined in the rock beneath our feet. Their signatures scrawled in the fractal twisting of coastlines. Their thoughts echoing through time, each lightning storm an eruption of neural flashes. I'm so small, and it (Cthulhu) is so vast. That such an insignificant being becomes of the focus of that lidded eye peeling back across aeons of time - well, it puts me in my place, doesn't it. My carefully-nurtured magician-self ("I can command these beings, I can!) goes into momentary overdrive and then collapses, exhausted by the inrush of eternity. Run away. Hide.
Having tried to break out of the mould I have only succeeded in breaking down. I scream inwardly for my lost innocence. Suddenly the world is a threatening place. The colours are too bright and I can't trust them anyway. Windows are particularly fascinating, yet they too become objects to be suspicious of You (I) can't trust what comes through windows. We can look out of them, but other things can look in. I press my hand to the glass. What secrets are locked into these thin sheets of matter? I would be like glass if I could, but I'm afraid to.
Sleep brings no respite. The eyelid begins to peel back even before I sleep. I feel as if I'm falling, tipping like a child's top into something ... I don't know what. All pretence at being a magician has failed. This thing is too big. I can't banish it and even if I could, I have a strong sense that I mustn't. I have opened this door and unwittingly stepped through it, like walking deliberately into a puddle only to find that I'm suddenly drowning. Cthulhu's pulse-beat echoes slowly around me. Cthulhu is dreaming me. I was unaware of this, and now I am acutely aware of it, and wish to hell I wasn't. I want to sink back into unconsciousness. I don't want to know this. I find myself developing rituals of habit. Checking plug sockets for stray outpourings of electricity; avoiding particularly dangerous trees, you know the kind of thing.
I thought I was a rising star, yet I'm reduced to the four walls of my room. But even they won't keep these feelings out. Slowly, some self-preservation mechanism kicks into gear. Madness is not an option. I can't stay like this forever - another casualty of what is never mentioned in the books of magic. I begin to pick up the patterns I've let slip - eating regularly (at more or less the right times), having a wash, going out for walks. Talking to people - that kind of thing. I feel the sensation of the lidless eye peering out of abysses of time and memory, and I find I can meet that eye ("I") steadily. The environment ceases to be a threat. The self-protection rituals (obsessions) fall away, and after all' what is there to protect? The dreams change. It is as though I have passed through some kind of membrane. Perhaps I have become glass, after all. The thoughts of Cthulhu stirring down there in the darkness are no longer fearful. I find that I can, after all, ride the dream-pulse. What was that lidless eye but my own "I" mirrored through fear and self-identifications? I'm no longer haunted by strange angles. All resistance has collapsed, and I've found myself a measure of power in it's place.
Of course this theme is familiar to one and all - the initiatory journey into and out of darkness. "
- Cthulhu Madness by Phil Hine (1996)
- The complete essay appears in "The Starry Wisdom: A Tribute to H.P Lovecraft" edited by D.M Mitchell, Creation Books, 2nd (Revised) Edn, ISBN 1-871592-32-1. Main contributors include: William S, Burroughs, J.G Ballard, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, James Havoc, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Don Webb and others.
- ( http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/ktul_madness.html )
The notion that god, or the gods are mad is hardly a new one. Neither is the widely held opinion that those in communication with gods are mad also. In the modern age it is fashionable to believe that the derangement precedes communication, but it was not always thus.
The schizophrenic experiences human society as an arbitrary, potentially hostile, and irrational environment. But human society sees the schizophrenic, and forms the opinion that their behaviour is arbitrary, potentially hostile, and irrational. The shift in perception is, of course, an adaptive defence mechanism on both sides, to protect against what has come to be seen as the other. Viewing separation, as an essential characteristic of what madness is commonly thought to represent, is in this case entirely consistent with the circumstances of the initiate. Communication with god, or gods could scarcely be conceivable without a radical separation from the mundane world, and even social contexts that accept the validity of such an altered state, are thankful that such displacements are not the norm.
But the dualism of sanity / insanity, is nothing but an artificial distinction, a borderline drawn on a simplified map of the minds landscape, where Here Be Gods is also scrawled. The initiate, crossing into the vast, empty spaces of that representation appears lost, captivated by what, to the occupants of the mundane section [the notion of exploration, and measurement as somehow resulting in safety via familiarisation is common among simple minded creatures], must remain unknown. But just as the border is simply an imaginary line, so too is the tipping point an imaginary event. The map is not the territory, and crossing borders is not the journey. Separation, as a relative relationship occurs gradually, and includes countless degrees. It is a fluid circumstance that changes along with the continuum in which is occurs, without regard for any distinctions.
Some initiates come back, but never all the way, for their journey changes them, and even lessened, the separation remains. Those who spoke with god, or gods were often thought to have been marked by the experience, essentially branded, and therefore compelled to thereafter stand apart. The rationalisation of this has become madness, whether that distinction more accurately represents the signifier, or the signified would depend on your point of view.
Mythos narratives, and commentaries of them, frequently gloss over the when in favour of hyperbolic descriptions of sanity being blasted apart like a fragile, little eggshell. The field of cosmic horror approves wholeheartedly of gibbering after all, in much the same way as they like old maps with Here Be Old Ones scrawled on them.
Perhaps further consideration would prove interesting.