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Twilight of the Elder Gods

by Dan Clore

It all began innocently enough. Robert LeNoir had for several years enjoyed perusing the writings of crackpots; and when he discovered that many of them would provide them for free, he devoured the mental peregrinations of flying saucer cultists, Hollow Earth First!ers, lost-continent-in-the-Bermuda-Triangle channelers, People's Templars, ultraterrestrials' offspring, Men-in-Black meeters, -- every sort of voice crying out in the wilderness. So, when he saw the advertisement in the Chaosophists' newsletter, The Commoriom Sentinel-Messenger, for the Whateley Foundation -- which promised to reveal even more unheard-of secrets than other groups dared -- of course he sent a letter to the distant Oregon address inquiring for information.

A week later LeNoir had nearly forgotten about the ad when, immediately upon falling asleep after drinking a large cup of coffee at 2 a.m., he had the following dream. He found himself facing a steep hill topped by a classic b-movie "haunted house"; upon entering, he wandered through labyrinthine hallways, accompanied by the whisper of distant lightning-bolts, until he came to a parlor. There, sitting in a chair, a man who looked like Vincent Price sat thoughtfully smoking a pipe. He motioned to the intruder and said: "Ah, there you are. We've sometimes had trouble finding our host when we've visited others' minds. Don't let that disturb you. We've only made this trip in order to give you some evidence to convince you of the veracity of our claims to occult knowledge. So, here's a single item that should lay beyond the realms of coincidence. When you see this in our brochure you won't fail to concede our gnosis. You have no doubt heard of the dubious deity known as Nyarlathotep, yes?" And he motioned to the side, where a man -- who had the small nose, thin lips, and dolichocephalic skull of a Nordic, whereas his skin was characterized by the color and texture of obsidian -- stood in a "walk like an Egyptian" pose. The speaker continued: "Well, then, know that this god symbolically represents the power of telepathy. As you can see, his name even forms an anagram, or near anagram, of the word telepathy itself." And he outlined in the air flaming letters that remained visible after the black nail on his index finger had traced them:

Y A  R L A T H O T E P

LeNoir faded into consciousness bearing the burden of an anagram that would have perplexed Ferdinand de Saussure himself.

That same day he received in the mail a response from the Whateley Foundation. Twenty-three pages of cramped typing filled with combative references to "Peaslee's pinheads" and other hopeless fools, brimming with such teratological specimens of outré nomenclature as Yog-Sothoth, Shudde-M'ell, Sobec-Alp, Cthulhu, Nethescurial, Lloigor, Ubbo-Sathla, L'mur-Kathulos, Quazgaa, Yibb-Tstll, Minraud, Y'golonac, Choronzon, Affa, and Tsathoggua; supported (as would be all the dispatches which LeNoir would see from the Foundation) by parenthetical references to such "standard authorities" as Madame Blavatsky, Miss Margaret Murray, Charles Fort, Linda Moulton Howe, and John Keel; but the backbone of the argument propped itself on such forbidden tomes as the Necronomicon and Feery's Notes on it; the G'harne Fragments; the Black Sutra of U Pao; the Cthäat Aquadingen; von Junzt's Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten; the Pnakotic Manuscripts; Herbert de Clairvaux's Liber miraculorum; the Revelations of Glaaki; Gaston le Fé's Dwellers in the Depths; and Prinn's De vermis mysteriis.

What made Robert LeNoir sit up when he began to read all of this, was that the first page promised that eventually the Whateley Foundation would reveal symbolic meanings lurking behind all of the outward images described, and gave as an example the anagrammatic relationship between the name Nyarlathotep and the word telepathy, which corresponded perfectly with the import of the Soul and Messenger of the Ancient Ones. As explicated in the first reading lesson, the main narrative line of the "Cthulhu Cycle of Myth" ran as follows: a benevolent race known as the Elder Gods -- of whom only hoary Nodens, golden Kthanid, and his daughter Tiania are ever cited by name, -- reigned over the universe from beautifully-palaced Elysia, in the constellation Orion; then, a closely related group of entities known as the Great Old Ones or the Ancient Ones, of whom Cthulhu was chief, rebelled against the authority which the Elder Gods held over them. The Elder Gods could not slay the Ancient Ones, immortals like themselves, but had instead expelled them from the paradisiacal fields of Elysia and imprisoned them in various places of banishment: Cthulhu to the sunken city of R'lyeh; Shudde-M'ell in caverns deep inside the earth; Hastur to the Lake of Hali in Carcosa; Ithaqua in the ices of the polar wastelands; and so forth ad infinitum.

Now, the unsigned document continued, "as usual our bon ami the Comte d'Erlette has managed to both discern the essential SYMBOLical truths of THIS myth, & at the same time get its interpretation inside-out upside-down & ass-backwards. He recognizes the parallels between this & the Christian Mythos (Les Cultes des goules, p. 374 et seq.), with its expulsion from heaven of Satan-Lucifer & expulsion from Eden of Adam. But one would think he -- a contemporary of the great French ROMANTICS -- would NOT fail to SEE that this DEFINES the sides of Good & Evil, not as mis-construed by Manichaeanoids & other Cretins (the Miskatonic Morons -- Yuggoth, what fools!), but that instead it means the Cthulhu Cycle Deities correspond (cf. Lord Weÿrdgliffe, The Unspeakable, dream sequence at end of Book IV, suppressed portion in 'Antwerp' edition of 1797) to the bringer of LIGHT (Lucifer), to the great rebel against tyranny (Satan), to, in fact, that TITAN who has suffered unending torment at the hands of THE Celestial Despot in order to bring fire (illumination, conflagration of TOTAL freedom) to Man: Prometheus! & FROM this we infer that another parallel may be (IS!) forthcoming: the Cthulhu Cycle Deities must-WILL-SHALL include a Demogorgon! Quake in terror, O ye Elder Gods, at the thought that your tyranny shall END!!!"

The anonymous author at the Whateley Foundation struck LeNoir as unbalanced, and possibly dangerous -- though maybe only to himself, -- but with most of a continent between himself and Coos Bay, he allowed the curiosity aroused by the odd coincidence between his dream and the first lesson's contents to govern his actions. In reply to his query for further information expanding on the "most interesting speculations" and explanation that he regretted that he could not afford to offer remuneration for anything received (given his current financial situation), he received a cassette tape with a short note directing him to listen to it; it contained -- so said the note -- certain incantations derived from cross-comparison of variant chants in the Ibigib, the Book of Eibon, the Liyuhh, von Junzt's Black Book, and Gantley's Hydrophinnae. The note added: "with some steady listening (during sleep especially & background day) soon should be able to pronounce properly (the chants work the change) -- but wait to see. This NOT speculation. Known fact. PROVEN fact. More lessons coming in day or two. Yrs." And it bore a strange serpentine squiggle in place of a signature.

That night LeNoir started the tape as he turned out the lights to go to bed; it usually took him an hour or so to fall asleep, and he often enjoyed listening to music (electronic-ambient) in that time. An obscure croaking rose up in the darkness:

Iä! n'fthagn Cthulhu R'lyeh mglw'nafh,
Eha'ungl wglw hflghglùi ngah'glw,
Èngl-wfhm Eha gh'eehf gnhugl,
Nhflg'ng uh'eha wgah'nagl hfgluf'h --
U'ng Eha'ghgluí Ae'eh ehn'hflgh, Iä!

The articulation of these syllables sounded to LeNoir more like a chorus of croaking toads than a voice, and he could hardly believe that any human being could have produced them -- as his nameless addresser had implied to have done -- and could only wonder whether the unfortunate suffered from some dire disease affecting the throat and vocal chords. The darkness around him dissolved into shifting, kaleidoscopic visions of a world where endless rows of russet monoliths stand on jaundiced stretches of sand beneath an algae-green sky with two cerulean suns slowly setting, and he had begun to imagine that he felt some presence lurking behind the monoliths, about to reach around them, some semi-insectoid, tentacled awareness of his having reached their forbidden realm --

The tape-player clicked off and the visions ended. LeNoir settled into sleep (he had work to do in the morning, after all), so resigned himself to the arms of Hypnos. He spent a night waking from strange dreams, of which he only retained the memory of again meeting the fellow who looked so much like Vincent Price, and being told by that one that he could hardly carry his proselytizings out into the street, given certain factors; here, he turned and revealed that his eyes (which he had carefully hidden until then) protruded like two wriggling earthworms, and had the frothy white texture of freshly harvested semen and a slight hint of a phosphorescent gleam --

Indeed, the next day there arrived in the mail a seventeen-page "Induction to the Symbolical Key to the Hieroglyphic Mysteries of the Cthulhu Cycle of Myth". Every two or three days for the next several weeks, LeNoir received a further update in the series; the disorganization apparent in the essays' ordering convinced him that his correspondent must have been composing them as he went along; he strongly doubted that any other "students" were benefitting from his tutelage. As these documents expressed it, the Cthulhu Cycle revealed in hieroglyphic form a doctrine of radical monism, seeing ("DIRECTly perceive-ING") all things as the primordial Oneness-of-Being, as mystics have termed it. LeNoir had a difficult time attempting to integrate certain key figures of the mythology into the system as presented, as they seemed to bear at once a figurative and a literal existence; these included, to his perplexity, the entire set of Elder Gods, and such of the Ancient Ones as Hastur, Tsathoggua, and Cthulhu himself. Still, he had little time to waste determining how the matter stood; it might indeed require a team of exegetes multiple decades to wrest a solution from the cobwebbed prose.

Into this system the nameless author had managed to cram most or all of the Cthulhu Cycle Deities. For example, the first few lessons cited the Daemon-Sultan Azathoth, the "Bubbler at the Hub", the "monstrous nuclear Chaos", who represented nothing less than the primal unity in its creative puissance, exploding into the multiple cosmos-atoms that comprise the totality of existence, and imploding again only to restart the process anew. "& we all KNOW how Edgar Poe got suicided when he tried to pull the veil (Eureka!) away from this ONE!" Again, Yog-Sothoth, the "All-in-One & One-in-All", could only represent the totality in its diverse aspects, the illusory division into individuality of the various spatio-temporal modifications of the eternal ALL: "the parallel of certain myths connected to this name to those of the Great God PAN (All) needs no comment (cf. Feery on Alhazred VIII 33-57, though this looks like yet another mystification)".

Other of the Cthulhu Cycle Deities seemed to present less direct mirrorings of the essential truth. Shub-Niggurath, for example, called the "Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young" or again the "Ram with a Thousand Ewes", had -- as one might expect -- a particularly convoluted system of imagery associated with her: "Just as Yog-Sothoth shadows forth the PHALLIC in its essentially Hermaphroditic (Androgyne, Epicene) aspect, as witness the Romanic figure of Priapus; so does Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat to Yog-Sothoth's Black Cock (we speak here of the rooster sacrificed by the witch-cult, as per the Liber rerum interdictorum, at Walpurgis-Night Sabbat) -- shadow forth the Kteis (cf. Cth-/Kth- gematria in Qabalah of Sabaoth) in its Hermaphroditicity. The Hecatean Chthonic-Phallos. Representing the power of the Cthulhu Cycle Deities (who KNOW directly their identity as the ALL) of miscegenation itself; the inability to breed with, to adapt the genetic CODING to, other species, stems solely from the unawareness of the cosmic ONE-ness. Cycle Deities can mate with anything, have therefore power of INFINITE creativity; cf. case of Yig (Serpent-Father) in Oklahoma, myths of gods & men, forms of beasts, Jersey Devil, etc. Shub-Niggurath means nothing less than what Professor Peaslee (Ole Nodens'-Dreck!) calls Cthulhu's Cosmic Miscegenation!" Nyarlathotep, of course, symbolized the power of the Great Old Ones to communicate telepathically -- "exactly as one would EXPECT for something that transcends time & space as human (Elder God!) mentality mis-conceives it!"

The unnamed author even went so far as to defend some of the less accredited theories concerning the nature of the Ancient Ones of the Cycle. "While many have laughed at d'Erlette's inept attempt to correlate the Old Ones with the four 'elements' of mediaeval PSEUDO-science; we yet concur that the Comte de Kthanid again discerned an inside-out mirror image of the truth, requiring only SIGNIFICANT distortion to rectify. That he published his obscene idioticisms under Alhazred's name, thus smearing a true prophet with his own DUNG, we pass over in silent contempt; we do not stoop to mention such abominations of 'scholarship' (the qlippoth-wallower!). Fire, air, etc., have really nothing to do with case; but as each BEING must have composition of some particular form of matter-energy rather than another, -- as a limited modification of the space-time Oneness; -- so must comprise some of counter-balancing forces of universes more than others; thus understood, makes SENSE to speak of Old Ones AS Elementals. We take some solace from finding that our intended analogy with Taoism has already been made, and direct the reader to Thranang Phram's Chthonic Revelations passim for a detailed, if insipid, application of the theory. We pause only to note the MOST IMPORTANT detail, the replacement of the binary yin-yang 'logic' with a FIVE-valued (the Elder Sign reversed SUMMONS instead of banishing!) system."

By the time LeNoir had pieced together the mythology and its obscure and contradictory interpretations, he had long since abandoned listening to the invocation-cassette. While the visions it produced had gradually increased in coherency and vividness, he had, pari passu, begun to feel heavy and awkward, and noticed that his skin seemed scaly and dry, while his throat constantly ached and felt sore; so sore, in fact, that his playful attempts to chant along with the tape:

Ce'haiie ep-ngh fl'hur G'harne fhthagn,
Ce'haiie fhthagn ngh Shudde-M'ell.
Hai G'harne orr'e ep fl'hur,
Shudde-M'ell ican-icañicas fl'hur orr'e G'harne.

met with more and more success, while his acquaintances at work displayed great admiration for his new impression of a chorus of croaking toads. When his throat failed to get well after a couple of weeks, however, he began to suspect that he had gotten into something deeper than he had ever desired. Still, the communiqués from the Whateley Foundation proved as entertainingly offbeat as ever, and so he continued to read them.

A gap of three and a half weeks then intervened in their correspondence. Finally, an envelope arrived in LeNoir's Post Office Box. A great tension had obviously overtaken the nameless author, and LeNoir feared that insanity may have finally overcome what feeble resistance he could have offered. The letter began by stating that the author felt that LeNoir must surely have noted a grave defect in certain of the theories before propounded, namely, that it left uncertain the precise nature of Cthulhu, Nodens, and some others among the Cycle's daemones, whether they required a literal or a physical interpretation. He had now concluded -- on the basis of evidence which, he declared, would soon become available to the reader -- that they deserved no less than both.

As he now rewrote the foundational myth of the Cycle, the One-Continuum had undergone its various modifications, which took form (in many cases) as living beings. Among the multiform of this Elder Race there occurred an unexplainable calamity (no form of logic can even hint at the circumstances involved, avowed the unknown author, in what seemed a defect of reasoning to the reader), and the Primal Ones known as the Elder Gods had lost the awareness of themselves as fluctuations in form of segments of the seamless Oneness-of-Being; thus self-endowed with individual identities, they were overwhelmed with idiot pride at their uniqueness and awareness. So, in a vast war, they seized power and established their cosmic seat in Glyu-Uho, enslaving all of the Other Ones that they could subjugate through main force. But the forces of Good (Freedom), led by the Great Priest Cthulhu, Abhoth the Unclean, and Hastur the Unspeakable, had rebelled against this tyranny; the Elder Gods held the day and scattered their foes about the universe, imprisoning them in bonds from which they could scarcely escape. Bonds in the genetic coding and linguistic prisons in the brain-mind itself. Here the author became a little reticent, declaring that LeNoir would soon enough see the evidence that should convince him of the truth of the new hypothesis implied in the argument. Meanwhile, he hinted that a few others had reached similar conclusions, of whom he named only the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred and Ambrose Bierce, together with the hint that tales of being eaten by invisible entities in the marketplace or disappearing while walking through a field were nothing but band-aids for the sanity of the world -- a sanity which, he believed, needed to erode all too soon if any hope for victory were to come forth. But he abruptly ended the missive on that enigmatic note, and did not deign to clarify his conceptions.

Three nights later LeNoir's slumber found itself disturbed by a nightmare of shocking vividness and import. He wandered across a field near the sea, which pounded fitfully against the rocky shore. The earth rumbled beneath him, but a strange feeling assured him that he would not receive any injury; he waited near the center of the quake. The rock and dirt burst open. A grey conical head emerged slowly, finally towering to a great heighth above the dreamer, who only now realized that he had no body in the dream, but was merely a point of consciousness. He examined the monstrosity closely: in general outlines, it was shaped like an enormous squid or kraken, with overlapping rows of tentacles folding in on each other. Its nearly circular body revealed a pentagonal structure; and each of the five sides held lozenge-paned eyeballs. As the dreamer looked more and more closely into the those eyes' crimson pupils, he became more and more convinced that the shapeless blasphemy before him resembled the man who had formerly haunted his dreams in a form allied to that of Vincent Price; an internal voice confirmed his surmise. In croaking sense-impacts of signification the voice conveyed to LeNoir that he now beheld before him the final secret of the Ancient Ones. The creature unfolded five membraneous wings and the two began to rise together into the air. The creature and the others who had restored themselves would now wage a desperate war against the despotism of the Elder Gods. They soared up to the heighth of the lightning-sundered clouds. The incantations on the tape could work the transformations. The Outer Thing requested that he play the cassette constantly, that he spread its influence as far as possible, by distributing copies, by broadcast (if at all possible), by playing it in crowded areas; he should walk through the tottering cities of men, exposing mobile masses as large as possible to its influence. Even a brief, half-heard segment might awaken the memories in some. The creature began to fade into a dot in the interstellar distances. The Ancient Ones would do what they could through telepathy; but the power of the Elder Gods' spells was too strong for that to do more than a small part to break the bonds of those imprisoned in the human shell --

Riot inflames the huddling streets -- Sunken poets cities of rêverie -- Iqhui dlosh odhqlongh -- Cults gather beneath the apocalyptic stars and gaze at the white-robed moon in expectation -- Strange Aeons -- Batrachian echoes in the halls of gibbering asylums for the insane -- Tec djivvaiga nicoigh'lnaäaëyi -- micaroï gghln'häe -- Green dripping decay -- Insect ecstasies pubic antennae -- Revelations of the Crawling Chaos -- Pentagonal miscegenation in red-litten vaults -- Unknown whispers in unheard tongues -- Ph'ngläyä ft'gglhnayn -- Shadows of human sacrifice in the ebony fires of greed and lust -- The True Will -- The R'lyehian reflections in the broken mirrors of the labyrinth of Mind -- the Magnum Innominandum -- Ggh'lghà djëcai Cyäegha pfh'gai d'whoggl, micaroï tec -- the cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan -- Strange Aeons -- Loneliness waits unbodied in the dark dreaming of Yith -- Where the star-spawn lurk -- N'cryastaepecioggl'n bggn'th flwaägor -- Collapsing columns of unseen angles -- tongues rasp from the oozing interstices -- colorless tentacles -- Hali in Carcosa -- the brain -- Ep, ep-eeth, fl'hur G'harne -- G'harne ffhthaghn Shudde-M'ell hyas Negg'h -- Anarchy creeps across the dreaming canvases of desire -- rivulets of architectural insanities -- Strange Aeons -- nahfl'fl'fhthaghhn --

-- For the memory of Brian Lumley.

Copyright © 1997-2004 Dan Clore. All rights reserved.
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