Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tyler Durden is Nyarlathotep

A while back I read Brian Lumley’s The Burrower Beneath. It’s interesting that he adopts the elementalism that August Derleth welded to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and Outer Gods; he also adopts the Elder Gods as benevolent, though distant, entities. It seems that Lumley’s Titus Crow stories aren’t held in particularly high regard by Lovecraft fans, perhaps because he takes the aforementioned liberties. He also favors action-capable protagonists over fainting antiquarians. That said, I think there are a ton of ideas worth stealing in that book.

One thing that stuck out to me was that Azathoth has been re-cast as the literal Big Bang. Azathoth is the primal movement of creation and destruction–this event is from which all chaos proceeds, the cosmic explosion of being and the inevitable contraction into the void. (This is mentioned in passing as a possible "truth" of Azathoth in the Trail of Cthulhu RPG.) There are some peculiar implications here: the foremost in my mind is that this posits Azathoth as the original creator, which makes sense if Lovecraft was inspired here by Dunsany’s Mana-Yood-Sushai in Gods of Pegana as Robert Price has suggested.

Similarly, Nyarlathotep is conjectured not to be an actual entity per se, but rather a manifestation of a collective power among the Great Old Ones. If Nyarlathotep is taken as the "messenger of the gods," this makes him literally a manifest, changeable expression rather than a being with its own agenda. Trail of Cthulhu offers this as a possibility as well: "'Nyarlathotep’ is not a being, a separate Messenger of the Gods, but a technique, specifically telepathy, used by the Great old ones. The 'thousand forms' of nyarlathotep are merely the natural result of telepathic impressions on thousands or millions of brains, human and inhuman." What, then, of Nyarlathotep’s mocking attitude toward the Great Old Ones? Might we read this as an inseparable self-loathing issuing forth from the very beings that call Nyarlathotep into being as a vehicle of communication? Does Nyarlathotep then function as the Tyler Durden to the Great Old Ones’ unnamed (and perhaps unnameable) cosmic narration?

(The first rule of Fhtagn Club is...)

Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered why the moon has been linked to things like lycanthropy and general lunacy–it’s because there are Great Old Ones imprisoned within it who are broadcasting sanity-sha‚ttering messages to mankind here on earth. That’s prett‚y much all the excuse you need to play a game of Space Age Cthulhu on the Moon! adventures.

Speaking of 50s-era shenanigans, it is worth noting that the foul mythos entities are often referred at as CCD (Cthulhu Cycle Deities) throughout the novel. What a wonderfully terse designation! It makes me think of two other heavy acronyms in use in the period: the USA and the USSR, the two poles of the Cold War. Which, in turn, makes me think of the ba‚ttle against Cthulhu and his ilk as a sort of cosmic Cold War. Think of it this way: the Elder Gods clearly could wipe out the Great Old Ones, but they prefer to follow a policy of containment; they merely imprison the CCD in the earth, in the ocean, in the moon, etc. through the use of the Elder Sign. Humanity is the rogue agent capable of assassinating the main players without "official cosmic sanction." Oddly, this makes the Wilmarth Foundation (a well-connected and massive founded scientific/military operation of scholars and occultists!) the "good guy" version of the rise of independent military contractors.

("Blackwater" covering R’lyeh, indeed.)

Lumley also fits the Abrahamic god into this cosmos. Holy water, for example, holds power against the children of Shudde-M’ell, and thus the objects of Christian faith must be similarly as empowered as things such as the Elder Sign. Is Christ hanging out with Bast and Nodens in the Dreamlands? The medieval poem "Dream of the Rood" now takes on new aspects; were the world’s current faiths communicated through dreams in much the same way as Cthulhu makes contact with his dread cultists?