This anti-F.A.Q. was
compiled using information obtained from "The Book of the Arab", by
Justin Geoffry, Starry Wisdom Press, 1979
I owe an immense debt to Parker Ryan for his research on Arab
Colin Low has never read the Necronomicon, never seen
the Necronomicon, and has no information as to where a copy may be
What is the Necronomicon?
The Necronomicon of Alhazred, (literally: "Book of Dead Names") is
not, as is popularly believed, a grimoire, or sorcerer’s
It was conceived as a history, and hence "a book of things now dead
and gone". An alternative derivation of the word Necronomicon gives
as its meaning "the book of the customs of the dead", but again this
is consistent with the book’s original conception as a history, not
as a work of necromancy.
The author of the book shared with Madame Blavatsky a magpie-like
tendency to garner and stitch together fact, rumour, speculation,
and complete balderdash, and the result is a vast and almost
unreadable compendium of near-nonsense which bears more than a
superficial resemblance to Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine.
In times past the book has been referred to guardedly as Al Azif,
and also The Book of the Arab. Azif is a word the Arabs use to refer
to nocturnal insects, but it is also a reference to the howling of
demons (Djinn). The Necronomicon was written in seven volumes, and
runs to over 900 pages in the Latin edition.
Where and when was the Necronomicon written?
Necronomicon was written in Damascus in 730 A.D. by Abdul Alhazred.
known. What we do know about him is largely derived from the small
amount of biographical information in the Necronomicon itself. He
was born in Sanaa in the Yemen. We know that he travelled widely,
from Alexandria to the Punjab, and was well read. He spent many
years alone in the uninhabited wilderness to the south of Arabia. He
had a flair for languages, and boasts on many occasions of his
ability to read and translate manuscripts which defied lesser
scholars. His research methodology however smacked more of
Nostradamus than Herodotus.
As Nostradamus himself puts it in Quatrains 1 & 2:
alone at night in secret study;
it is placed on the brass tripod.
A slight flame comes out of the emptiness
and makes successful that which should
not be believed in vain.
The wand in the hand is placed
in the middle of the tripod’s legs.
With water he sprinkles both the hem
of his garment and his foot.
A voice, fear; he trembles in his robes.
Divine splendour; the god sits nearby."
Just as Nostradamus used
ceremonial magic to probe the future, so Alhazred used similar
techniques (and an incense composed of olibanum, storax, dictamnus,
opium and hashish) to clarify the past, and it is this, combined
with a lack of references, which has resulted in the Necronomicon
being dismissed as largely worthless by historians.
He is often referred to as "the mad Arab" or "the mad Poet", and
while he was certainly eccentric by modern standards, there is no
evidence to substantiate a claim of madness (other than his chronic
inability to sustain a train of thought for more than a few
paragraphs before leaping off at a tangent). It is interesting that
the word for madness ("majnun") has an older meaning of "djinn
possessed", the significance of which will become clear below (see
What are the Old Ones?). Alhazred is better compared with figures
such as the Greek neoplatonist philosopher Proclus (410 - 485 A.D.).
Proclus was completely at home in astronomy, mathematics,
philosophy, and metaphysics, but was sufficiently well-versed in the
magical techniques of theurgy to evoke Hekate to visible appearance.
Proclus was also an initiate of Egyptian and Chaldean mystery
religions. It is no accident that Alhazred was intimately
with the works of Proclus.
the printing history of the Necronomicon?
manuscript is known to exist. The author Idries Shah carried out a
search in the libraries of Deobund in India, Al-Azhar in Egypt, and
the Library of the Holy City of Mecca, without success. A Latin
translation was made in 1487 (not in the 17th. century as Lovecraft
maintains) by a Dominican priest Olaus Wormius. Wormius, a German by
birth, was a secretary to the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish
Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada, and it is likely that the
manuscript of the Necronomicon came into his possession during the
persecution of Spanish Moors ("Moriscos") who had been converted to
Catholicism under duress and did not exhibit the necessary level of
enthusiasm for the doctrines of the Church.
It was an act of sheer folly for Wormius to translate and print the
Necronomicon at that time and place. The book must have held an
obsessive fascination for the man, because he was finally charged
with heresy and burned after sending a copy of the book to Johann Tritheim,
Abbot of Spanheim (better known as "Trithemius"). The
accompanying letter contained a detailed and blasphemous
interpretation of certain passages in the Book of Genesis. Virtually
all the copies of Wormius’s translation were seized and burned with
him, although there is the inevitable suspicion that at least one
copy must have
its way into the Vatican Library.
Almost one hundred years
later, in 1586, a copy of Wormius’s Latin translation surfaced in
Prague. Dr. John Dee (left), the famous English magician, and his
assistant Edward Kelly (below, right) were at the court of the
Emperor Rudolph II to discuss plans for making alchemical gold, and
Kelly bought the copy from the so-called "Black Rabbi", the Kabbalist and alchemist
Jacob Eliezer, who had fled to Prague from
Italy after accusations of necromancy. At that time Prague had
become a magnet for magicians, alchemists and charlatans of every
kind under the patronage of Rudolph, and it is hard to imagine a
more likely place in Europe for a
The Necronomicon appears to have had a marked influence on Kelly,
because the character of his scrying changed, and he produced an
extraordinary communication which struck horror into the Dee
household. Crowley interpreted this as an abortive first attempt of
an extra-human entity to communicate the Thelemic Book of the Law.
Kelly left Dee shortly afterwards. Dee translated the
into English while warden of Christ’s College, Manchester, but
contrary to Lovecraft, this translation was never printed - the
manuscript passed into the collection of the great collector Elias Ashmole, and hence to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Parts of the Necronomicon were translated into Hebrew (probably in
1664) and circulated in manuscript form, accompanied by an extensive
commentary by Nathan of Gaza, mystical apologist for the
pseudo-messiah Sabbatai Tzevi. This version was titled the Sepher
ha-Sha’are ha-Daath, (the Book of the Gates of Knowledge). The story
surrounding this version is so unusual that it is treated fully
below (see Who was Nathan of Gaza).
There are many modern fakes masquerading as the Necronomicon. They
can be recognized by a total lack of imagination or intelligence,
qualities Alhazred possessed in abundance.
the content of the Necronomicon?
The book is
best known for its antediluvian speculations. Alhazred appears to
have had access to many sources now lost, and events which are only
hinted at in Genesis or the apocryphal Book of Enoch, or disguised
as mythology in other sources, are explored in great detail.
Alhazred may have used dubious magical techniques to clarify the
past, but he also shared with the 5th century B.C. Greek writers
such as Thucydides a critical mind, and a willingness to explore the
meanings of mythological and sacred stories. His speculations are
remarkably modern, and this may account for his current popularity.
He believed that many species besides the human race had inhabited
the Earth, and that much knowledge was passed to mankind in
encounters with beings from "beyond the spheres" or from "other
He shared with some
Neoplatonists the belief that the stars are similar to our sun, and
have their own unseen planets with their own lifeforms, but
elaborated this belief with a good deal of metaphysical speculation
in which these beings were part of a cosmic hierarchy of spiritual
evolution. He was also convinced that he had contacted beings he
called the "Old Ones" using magical invocations, and warned of
terrible powers waiting to return to re-claim the Earth. He
interpreted this belief (most surprisingly!) in the light of the
Apocalypse of St. John, but reversed the ending so that the Beast
triumphs after a great war in which the earth is laid waste.
the "Old Ones"?
It is abundantly clear that Alhazred elaborated upon existing
traditions of the "Old Ones", and he did not invent these
traditions. According to Alhazred, the Old Ones were beings from
"beyond the spheres", presumably the spheres of the planets, and in
the cosmography of that period this would imply the region of the
fixed stars or beyond. They were superhuman and extrahuman. They
mated with humans and begat monstrous offspring. They passed
forbidden knowledge to humankind. They were forever seeking a
channel into our plane of existence.
This is virtually identical to the Jewish tradition of
(the giants of Genesis 6.2 - 6.5). The word literally means "the
Fallen Ones" and is derived from the Hebrew verb root naphal, to
fall. The story in Genesis is only a fragment of a larger tradition,
another piece of which can be found in the apocryphal
Book of Enoch.
According to this source, a group of angels sent to watch over the
Earth saw the daughters of men and lusted after them. Unwilling to
act individually, they swore an oath and bound themselves together,
and two hundred of these "Watchers" descended to earth and took
themselves wives. Their wives bore giant offspring. The giants
turned against nature and began to "sin against birds and beasts and
reptiles and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the
blood". The fallen angels taught how to make weapons of war, and jewellery, and cosmetics, and enchantments, and astrology, and other
These separate legends are elaborated in later Jewish sources such
as the Talmud, which make it clear that Enoch and Genesis refer to
the same tradition. The great flood of Genesis was a direct response
to the evil caused by humankind’s commerce with fallen angels. The
fallen angels were cast out and bound:
"And I proceeded to
where things were chaotic. And I saw something horrible: I saw
neither a heaven above nor a firmly founded earth, but a place
chaotic and horrible. And there I saw seven stars of the heaven
bound together in it, like great mountains, and burning with
fire. Then I said:
’For what sin
have they been bound, and on what account have they been
cast in hither?’
Then said Uriel, one
of the holy angels who was with me, and was chief over them and
’Enoch, why dost
thou ask, and why art thou eager for the truth? These are
the number of the stars of heaven which have transgressed
the commandment of the Lord, and are bound here till ten
thousand years, the time entailed by their sins, are
Arab traditions hold
that the Jinn or Djinn were a race of superhuman beings which
existed before the creation of humankind. The Djinn were created
from fire. Some traditions make them a lesser race than human
beings, but folk-tales invariably endowed them with unlimited
magical powers, and the Djinn survive to this day as the genies of
the Arabian Nights and Disney’s Aladdin. Islam has subordinated the
Djinn to the Koran, and like elves and fairies they have lost their
dark and extremely sinister qualities with the passage of time. In
Alhazred’s time the older and darker traditions of the Djinn were
still current, and Arab magicians ("muqarribun") would attempt to
gain forbidden knowledge and power through commerce with the Djinn.
the "Old Ones" Evoked?
It is now
generally agreed by occult scholars that the Enochian system of
and Kelly was directly inspired by those sections of the Necronomicon which deal with Alhazred’s techniques for evoking the
Old Ones. It must be remembered that the Necronomicon was primarily
intended as a history, and while it provides some practical details
and formulae, it is hardly a step-by-step beginner’s guide to
summoning praetor-human intelligences. Dee and Kelly had to fill in
many details themselves, so their system is a hybrid of ideas taken
from the Necronomicon and techniques of their own invention
There seems little doubt
that the Sigellum Dei Aemeth (above), the Enochian language, and the
Enochian Calls or Keys are authentic borrowings, and we must doubt
Dee’s claim that Kelly received them from the archangel Uriel.
Bulwer Lytton, who studied Dee’s manuscript of the Necronomicon in
the last century, asserts bluntly that they were transcribed
directly from the book, and if they were received from Uriel, then
it was Alhazred who did the receiving!.
The very name of their system, "Enochian", is a clue, if there were
no other, that it was inspired by the age-old traditions recorded in
the Book of Enoch, and it was Dee and Kelly’s intention to contact
the Nephilim, or Great Old Ones. The manuscript of the
Book of Enoch
was lost until the late 17th. century, and Dee would have had access
to only the few fragments quoted in other manuscripts, so the name
of their system would be somewhat enigmatic if we did not know that
they had access to Alhazred’s compilation of legends concerning the
Fall and the end of the world. There is no doubt that Alhazred would
have had access to the Book of Enoch, as it was current throughout
the Middle East in the ninth century.
Another clue can be found in the Call of the Thirty Aethyrs, the
nineteenth of the Enochian Calls. Aleister Crowley called this Call
"the original curse on the Creation". It is uttered as if by God,
and is an appalling (and immensely literate
) curse on the world, humankind, and all its creatures, ending,
"And why? It
repenteth me that I have made Man."
This is identical to the
sentiment of Genesis 6.6 where it states,
"And it repented
the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved
him at his heart".
This verse immediately
follows the verses which describe the evil done by the Nephilim and
the resulting sinfulness of the world, and it is followed by God’s
decision to wipe out all the life on earth with a great flood.
Aleister Crowley, using his immense knowledge of the Bible,
recognized the Call of the Thirty Aethyrs for what it was: God’s
curse on the Nephilim and the evil they had caused. It was this
curse which cast them out of the earth and consigned them to the
It is difficult to underrate this clue. To summarize: the key or
gate to exploring the thirty Aethyrs is a Call in the Enochian
language, said by Dee to be the language of the angels, and this
Call is the curse by which the Nephilim were assigned to the Abyss
in the first place. This is consistent with an age-old practice for
controlling demonic power: whatever means have been used to
subordinate an entity in the past can be used by the magician as a
method of control. This formula is used in almost every mediaeval
In some cases the
magician is quite explicit in naming precisely those occasions where
the entity has been controlled by means of a formula. The entry into
the thirty Aethyrs begins with a divine curse because it is a means
to assert control over the entities it evokes: the Nephilim. The
Fallen Ones. The Great Old Ones. This establishes beyond any doubt
that the Enochian system of Dee and Kelly was identical in spirit,
and almost certainly in practice, to the system of Alhazred as
described in the Necronomicon.
Crowley knew. One of his most important pieces of magical work
The Vision and the Voice) was his attempt to penetrate
the Aethyrs using the Enochian Calls. He did this while crossing the
North African desert in the company of the poet Victor Neuberg. Why
the desert? Crowley says he had "no special magical object" in going
there, and he "just happened" to have the Enochian Calls in his
rucksack. He is dissembling. He chose the desert for this work
because he had had difficulty in entering into the 28th.
Aethyr during his
initial investigations in Mexico, and wanted to reproduce Alhazred’s
praxis as closely as possible. Alhazred carried out his more
significant investigations while wandering in the Rub al Khali, a
vast and empty desert wasteland in the south of Arabia - the
remoteness from other human beings helped to shift his consciousness
into the utterly alien perspectives of the Aethyrs. Crowley had read
Alhazred’s account (see below) and it was in his nature to attempt
to emulate people he particularly respected and admired - he spent a
good part of his life trying to outdo the exploits of Richard
Burton, the explorer, adventurer, writer, linguist and field
researcher into obscure oriental sexual practices.
the Necronomicon connected with Norse mythology?
apocalyptic nature of Norse myth, and detailed comparisons between
Ragnorok and events prophesized by Alhazred, have caused a number of
commentators to speculate whether there might be a connection,
however unlikely this must seem at first sight. Recent research has
revealed a bizarre and completely unexpected link.
In Norse myth the gods of the earth and humankind, the Aesir and
Vanas, exist against a backdrop of older, hostile powers,
represented by the frost and fire giants who dwelled to the north
and south of the Great Abyss Ginnunga-gap, and also by Loki (fire)
and his monstrous offspring. At Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods,
these old powers return once more and lock in mortal combat. Most
deadly of these adversaries is Surtur and the fire giants of
Muspelheim, who complete the destruction of the world.
This is essentially Alhazred’s prophecy of the return of the Old
Ones. This is Crowley’s prophecy of the Aeon of Horus, the god of
conquering fire. The fire giants of Muspelheim are none other than
the Djinn, and it is even plausible that Surtur is a corruption of
Surturiel. Uriel, the angel set to watch over the Nephilim, is named
after the Hebrew word for fire. Like Surtur, he carries a fiery
Uriel comes up again and again in connection with the Necronomicon.
While ostensibly one of the mighty archangels of the Presence of
God, there is a shadow side which surfaces from time to time and one
wonders whether he guards the Nephilim or commands them. This could
reflect our ambivalence towards fire, but it could also be that
angels and Old Ones are the flip sides of the same coin.
These links between Alhazred’s Necronomicon and the myth of Ragnorok,
frail though they may seem, are no longer believed to be a
coincidence, and the story of how the Necronomicon arrived in
Iceland is quite remarkable. The story begins in the town of Harran
in northern Mesopotamia.
The town of Harran was remarkable in that while the rest of the
region was conquered by the Arabs in 633-643 A.D. and converted to
Islam, the Harranians did not. They continued to practice paganism
and worshipped the moon and the seven planets. Even more remarkable
was the fact that they possessed large numbers of hermetic and
neoplatonic documents, and when they were eventually pressed (in
A.D. 830) to name a prophet "approved" by the Koran, they named
Hermes Trimegistus and his teacher Agathos Daemon. Many Harranians
moved to Baghdad where they maintained a distinct community and were
known as Sabians.
Their familiarity with
Greek gave them access to a wide range of literature, and many
became famous in areas such as philosophy, logic, astronomy,
mathematics and medicine. Alhazred speaks of the Sabians and
describes them as being "famous for lore and knowledge of things
long gone". It is highly probable he studied with them. It was a
learned community that had managed to maintain direct links with the
paganism, philosophy and secret traditions of both the Arab and
Greek worlds long after they had been proscribed elsewhere.
The Sabians survived as a distinct community up to the 11th.
century, but the forces of Islamic orthodoxy increased to the point
where we hear nothing of them after about the year 1050. It was
about that time (Norse sources imply a date of 1041 or 1042) that a
large body of documents arrived in Byzantium and came into the hands
of Michael Psellus, the famous historian, neoplatonist and
demonologist. The bulk of the documents formed what has know come to
be known as the Corpus Hermeticum, but there were other documents,
including a Syriac copy of Al Azif, which Psellus promptly
translated into Greek. There seems little doubt that a prominent
Sabian must have moved from Baghdad to Byzantium in a search for a
more tolerant atmosphere. Whether he found it is unclear!
The 11th century was what the Chinese call "interesting times".
Duke William of Normandy invaded England and killed King Harold Godwinson. King Harold Godwinson’s daughter married
Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev (whose own mother was the daughter of Constantine
IX Monomachus of Byzantium). The Russians, assisted by large numbers
of Scandanavians, invaded Byzantium in 1043, an event witnessed by
Michael Psellus himself standing at the side of the Emperor. Harald
Hadrada ("the Ruthless"), who later became king of Norway, joined
the Byzantine army with a large following of northmen ("Varanger"),
campaigned widely, and ripped out the eyes of the Byzantine emperor
Michael Caliphates in 1042. King Harald Hadrada of Norway invaded
England in 1066 and was killed by King Harold Godwinson ... who was
killed by Duke William at the Battle of Hastings. There are few soap
operas to compare with these pan-European goings-on. So much for the
The popular image of Vikings in furry jerkins and horned helmets is
inaccurate. They were among the best equipped and most experienced
heavy infantry available at that time. Their trade routes spanned
thousands of miles, from North America, to Greenland, Britain and
Ireland, the entire Atlantic coast of Europe, and through Russia to
Byzantium. They were employed in significant numbers as bodyguards (Varanger)
to the Byzantine emperors. Most Varanger spoke fluent Greek. The
exact year in which Harald went to Byzantium is unclear due to a
minor mismatch between Norse and Byzantine sources, but the account
in the Heimskringla claims he served the Empress Zoe the Great
sometime around 1030-40. The description of their arrival in longships is spell-binding:
Flaunted colourful rigging.
The great prince saw ahead
The copper roofs of Byzantium;
His swan-breasted ships swept
Towards the tall-towered city."
It was the custom in
those days that when the Emperor died, the Varanger were permitted
to plunder the palace and anything they laid hands on, they could
keep. These were turbulent and violent times (with the Empress Zoe
strangling husbands in the bath) and Harald took part in three such
plunders. According to the chronicle he amassed great wealth.
Harald had two close companions, Halldor Snorrason and Ulf Ospaksson.
Halldor was blunt, imperturbable and dour to the point of rudeness,
the son of Snorri the Priest, a leading Icelandic chieftain. Ulf was
extremely shrewd and well-spoken and eventually married Harald’s
sister-in-law, becoming a Marshall of Norway. He was an incorrigible
schemer, a keen poet, fluent in Greek, and he like to spend time
with Psellus, partly to discuss Greek poetry, but mainly to keep a
finger on the pulse of Byzantine palace politics. He watched Psellus
translating Al Azif, discussed its contents, and in the confusion of
a palace plunder arranged for a number of Psellus’s manuscripts to
be "removed". Fortunately Psellus still had the original Syriac
version, otherwise the Necronomicon would have been lost to history.
At this point we must conjecture. We do not know how Halldor
obtained Al Azif. We know that Ulf and Halldor returned to Norway
with Harald, and Halldor went back to Iceland, taking with him the
story of Harald’s adventure and a great deal besides. We know this
because Halldor’s descendent was Snorri Sturluson (1179 - 1241), the
most famous figure in Icelandic literature and the author not only
of the Heimskringla and many other important works but author of
Prose Edda and the source for almost all of our surviving knowledge
of Norse myth. It is known that Sturluson had a large quantity of
material available for his historic researches, and we can now be
reasonably certain that elements from the Necronomicon were mingled
with traditional Norse myth in Sturluson’s description of Ragnarok.
happened to the purloined manuscript of Michael Psellus?
Good question ...
the novelist H.P. Lovecraft claim to have invented the Necronomicon?
The answer to this interesting question lies in two people: the poet
Aleister Crowley, and a Brooklyn milliner called
Greene. There is no question that Crowley read Dee’s translation of
the Necronomicon in the Bodleian, probably while researching Dee’s
papers; too many passages in Crowley’s "Book of the Law" read like a
transcription of passages in that translation. Either that, or
Crowley, who claimed to remember his life as Edward Kelly in a
previous incarnation, remembered it from his previous life!
Why doesn’t Crowley mention the Necronomicon in his works? He was
surprisingly reticent about his real sources. There is a strong
suspicion that ’777’, which Crowley claimed to have written, was
largely plagiarized from Allan Bennet’s notes. His spiritual debt to
Nietzsche, which in an unguarded moment Crowley refers to as "almost
an avatar of Thoth, the god of wisdom" is studiously ignored;
likewise the influence of Richard Burton’s "Kasidah" on his doctrine
of True Will.
I suspect that the Necronomicon became an embarrassment to Crowley
when he realized the extent to which he had unconsciously
incorporated passages from the Necronomicon into "The Book of the
In 1918 Crowley was in New York. As always, he was trying to
establish his literary reputation, and was contributing to The
International and Vanity Fair. Sonia Greene was an energetic and
ambitious Jewish émigré with literary ambitions, and she had joined
a dinner and lecture club called "Walker’s Sunrise Club" (?!); it
was there that she first encountered Crowley, who had been invited
to give a talk on modern poetry.
It was a good match. In a letter to Norman Mudd, Crowley describes
his ideal woman as
"... rather tall,
muscular and plump, vivacious, ambitious, energetic, passionate,
age from thirty to thirty five, probably a Jewess, not unlikely
a singer or actress addicted to such amusements. She is to be
’fashionable’, perhaps a shade loud or vulgar. Very rich of
Sonia was not an actress
or singer, but qualified in other respects. She was earning what,
for that time, was an enormous sum of money as a designer and seller
of woman’s hats. She was variously described as,
"a woman of
great charm and personal magnetism"
glamorous with powerful feminine allure"
"one of the
most beautiful women I have ever met"
but eccentric human phonograph"
In 1918 she was
thirty-five years old and a divorcee with an adolescent daughter.
Crowley did not waste time as far as women were concerned; they met
on an irregular basis for some months.
In 1921 Sonia Greene met the novelist H.P. Lovecraft, and in that
same year Lovecraft published the first novel where he mentions
Abdul Alhazred ("The Nameless City"). In 1922 he first mention the
Necronomicon ("The Hound"). On March 3rd. 1924, H.P. Lovecraft and
Sonia Greene married.
We do not know what Crowley told Sonia Greene, and we do not know
what Sonia told Lovecraft. However, consider the following quotation
from "The Call of Cthulhu" :
"That cult would
never die until the stars came right again [precession of the
Equinoxes?], and the secret priests would take Cthulhu from His
tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The
time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become
as the Great Old Ones; free and wild, and beyond good and evil,
with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and
killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would
teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy
themselves, and all earth would flame with a holocaust of
ecstasy and freedom."
It may be brief, it may
be mangled, but it has the undeniable ring of Crowley’s "Book of the
Law". It is easy to imagine a situation where Sonia and
are laughing and talking in a firelit room about a new story, and
Sonia introduces some ideas based on what Crowley had told her; she
wouldn’t even have to mention Crowley, just enough of the ideas to
spark Lovecraft’s imagination. There is no evidence that Lovecraft
ever saw the Necronomicon, or even knew that the book existed; his
Necronomicon is remarkably close to the spirit of the original, but
the details are pure invention, as one would expect. There is no
Yog-Sothoth or Azathoth or Nyarlathotep in the original, but
is an Aiwaz...
Nathan of Gaza?
Nathan of Gaza precipitated one of the most profound events in the
history of Judaism. In 1665, while only 21 or 22 years old, he
proclaimed that Sabbatai Tzevi was the Messiah. In itself this would
not have been extraordinary, as there had been other messianic
claimants in the past, but due to the extraordinary personalities of
Nathan and Sabbatai Tzevi, the news of the Messiah’s coming spread
like wildfire all over Europe. The repercussions of this event
lasted for centuries. Judaism would never be the same.
Nathan was born in Jerusalem in 1643 or 1644. He married the
daughter of a wealthy merchant in Gaza and moved there. He was a
brilliant student of Torah and Talmud, and took up the study of Kabbalah in 1664. The atmosphere at that time was charged with the
expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The brilliant and
charismatic Kabbalist Isaac Luria had hinted that the process of
restoration was near to completion, and the time of the redemption
and the Messiah was nigh. One of the key attributes of Luria’s
Kabbalah was the belief that, due to a primordial catastrophe during
the creation of the universe, the souls of human beings had become
immersed in a grossly material world which was nigh to the realm of
the Klippoth. The Klippoth were the source of evil. The word means a
husk or shell, and the implication is that the Klippoth were the
husks or shells of materiality which ensnare the spirit.
Luria’s Kabbalah was based on very old traditions. One such
tradition was that God created several worlds before this one, but
they were unbalanced, unstable, and disintegrated. The 3rd century
Rabbi Abbahu wrote,
"God made many worlds and destroyed them until he
made the present universe".
This was combined with the Biblical
legend of the Kings of Edom which were but are no more, to produce a
highly elaborate myth concerning the creation of the universe. The
quality that Kabbalists call Din, or judgment, is that quality
which separates on thing from another. The Klippoth represent an
extreme embodiment of this quality.
The creation of the
universe was essentially a process of definition and separation, and
hence an expression of Din, but the powers of Din were too
concentrated for a viable universe and had to be separated out for a
second, viable creation to take place. These concentrated shards of
the original creation, pure Din, fell into the abyss. Unfortunately
some sparks of light fell with them, so that the Klippoth were more
than just empty shells. They had life. Not much life, but enough.
Human sinfulness reinforces the Klippoth because it transfers some
of our life to them. If I am selfish, for example, I am creating a
separation between myself and another, so the Klippoth are
reinforced by my selfishness.
The need to free the sparks of light from the Klippoth was one of
the dominant themes of Kabbalah. It was believed that living
according to the commandments of the Torah and combining this with
mystical insight, concentration, and intention, could help to free
the trapped sparks, but living sinfully was a sure way of
strengthening the Klippoths’ hold. In later developments the
Klippoth were regarded as primordial, demonic powers with seven
kings, reflecting the seven destroyed worlds of the original
The Klippoth held a strong fascination for Nathan of Gaza.
Tzevi appears to have been a manic-depressive. In his manic states
he had the most extraordinary force of personality, and there are
many reports of his face literally shining like the sun. In his
ecstatic states he would do things which no pious Jew would do.
Nathan wrote a document entitled Treatise on the Dragons (the
dragons being the Klippoth) which was an attempt to
Tsevi’s behaviour, explaining it in terms of the Messiah’s need to
descend into the world of the Klippoth to redeem the remaining
sparks (just as Christ is depicted harrowing Hell, and Orpheus
descents into the Underworld to rescue his love). The mythic
credentials of the Treatise on the Dragons are impeccable.
Before the publication of the Treatise, Nathan circulated a curious
document, the Sepher ha-Sha’are ha-Daath. He described this as a
commentary on two chapters of the Book of the Alhazred, an ancient
history of the world. The title means "the Book of the Gates of
Knowledge". The word for knowledge, da’ath, has a technical meaning.
When the Bible was translated into Greek, the word da’ath was
translated as gnosis. Da’ath has a very peculiar status in Kabbalah,
being a kind of non-existent, a nothingness. In modern Hermetic
Kabbalah it is sometimes represented a hole or gate into an abyss of
consciousness. Crowley’s experiments with the
Call of the Thirty Aethyrs led him into this abyss.
Da’ath has a dual aspect:
on one hand it is our knowledge of the
world of appearance, the body of facts which constitute our beliefs
and prop up the illusion of identity and ego and separateness
the other hand it is revelation, objective knowledge, what is often
referred to as gnosis
The transition between the knowledge of the
world of appearance and revelation entails the experience of the
abyss, the abolition of the sense of ego, the negation of identity.
the abyss any identity is possible. It is chaos,
unformed. It contains, as it were, the seeds of identity. It is from
this point that an infinity of gates open, each one a gateway to a
mode of being. These are what Nathan is referring to as the "Gates
Nathan’s purpose appears to have been to develop a methodology for a
systematic exploration of the realms of the Klippoth, as part of his
mission to redeem the sparks, using some of Alhazred’s techniques.
It is an extraordinary development of Alhazred’s work, identifying
the Klippoth with the primordial Old Ones. It has a modern
counterpart in Kenneth Grant’s Nightside of Eden.
Nathan developed a huge following and for many years Judaism was riven with charges of heresy. Many prominent Rabbis and community
leaders sided with Nathan, and it took most of a century for the
drama to unwind. Eventually the Sabbatean movement went underground,
and while it is a certainty that a copy of the Sepher ha-Sha’are ha-Daath
exists in a private library somewhere, no one is admitting that they
the Necronomicon be found?
certainty, is the short and simple answer, and once more we must
suspect Crowley in having a hand in this. In 1912 Crowley met
Theodor Reuss, the head of the German Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.),
and worked within that order for several years, until in 1922 Reuss
resigned as head in Crowley’s favour. Thus we have Crowley working
in close contact for 10 years with the leader of a German masonic
group. In the years from 1933-38 the few known copies of the
Necronomicon simply disappeared; someone in the German government of
Adolf Hitler took an interest in obscure occult literature and began
to obtain copies by fair means or foul.
Dee’s translation disappeared from the Bodleian following a break-in
in the spring of 1934. The British Museum suffered several abortive
burglaries, and the Wormius edition was deleted from the catalogue
and removed to an underground repository in a converted slate mine
in Wales (where the Crown Jewels were stored during the 1939-45
war). Other libraries lost their copies, and today there is no
library with a genuine catalogue entry for the Necronomicon. The
current whereabouts of copies of the Necronomicon is unknown, but
there is a story of a large wartime cache of occult and magical
documents in the mountainous Osterhorn area near Salzburg - this may
be connected with the recurring story of a copy bound in the skin of
concentration camp victims.
which struck me very forcefully while researching this document was
that the Necronomicon was not a book out of time and out of place.
Alhazred did not compose it in a vacuum. Extraordinary though its
content is, it is little more than an extrapolation of existing
knowledge. Many writers have followed similar lines, though not to
such extremes. If we were to marry Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine to
Grant’s Nightside of Eden, and ask Nathan of Gaza to edit the
result, then we would have something similar in spirit if not in
content to Alhazred’s magnum opus.
Perhaps we expect too much from the book. It is, after all, only a
book. No real book, however esoteric, can fill the shoes of a
mystery, and it is the mystery that people aspire to. The mystery of
the creation. The mystery of good and evil. The mystery of life and
death. The mystery of things long gone. We know that the universe is
immense beyond any power of imagining. What is out there? What has
happened? What alien powers impinge on us?
The ancients asked these questions. They were not afraid to weave
myths and they were not afraid to imagine. We do it too, but our
Star Treks and Babylon Fives reassure us that the universe is a safe
and comfortable place where everyone speaks English and goes to
Living with Diversity classes.
The Necronomicon succeeds not because of its content, but because of
the existential terror induced by its existence. It doesn’t
reassure. It doesn’t tell us the universe is a safe, cozy place. It
tells us we are just a speck of dust in a vast and alien cosmos, and
lots of strange things are going on out there. Look in any current
astronomy or astrophysics textbook.
You know it’s true.
writes: "[the Keys] contain passages of sustained sublimity that
Shakespeare, Milton and the Bible do not surpass". I agree.
There is a great deal of repetition, but some passages are
simply superb. To echo Crowley, if Kelly was a charlatan, he was
a literary genius of the calibre of Isaiah.