By K. Tooke
The demands and distractions of the modern world can be deafening. We are bombarded with more information than ever: a constant stream of endorsements to consume, produce, and perform. Beneath the
fast-paced, attention-demanding currents of the internet age, the repressive mores of societies that have
long since faded quietly persist, like ancient waste that can’t be dissolved but only endured as it cycles
through its half-life. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche’s imagined prophet of the future calls on his
followers to “follow themselves.” This is harder than it sounds. When we are steeped in the fallacies of
our traditions and pressured to keep up with the expectations of society, how are we to hear and trust our
I didn’t miss religion when I left it. I’ve spent most of my life a satisfied skeptic, restlessly chasing the
elusive feeling of contentment that sometimes comes fleetingly with success, but never stays. For a long
time, I thought happiness was contingent on fixing myself; instead of changing into a better person, I
started to disappear. I returned to philosophy because the de facto system of thought I had unconsciously
shaped my life around was failing me. It has been a rude awakening to find, at the root of seasons of
depression and discontent, that my most tyrannical beliefs followed me into godlessness after all.
The truths we can’t acknowledge have great power over us. As explained by Carl Jung, the Shadow is the
part of us that so threatens our sense of self that we can’t bear to see it clearly, and so subconsciously
relegate it to the edges of our inner peripheral vision where it reinforces the forbidden and deepens the
schisms within us. The process of reconciling these fragments must be destabilizing and unnerving – if it
threatens us, it’s because we cannot come out the same person on the other side. In The Hero With a
Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the journey of the hero, one in which uncovering the most
penetrating truths of existence requires confronting symbolic monsters who represent the “unsolved
enigmas” of our humanity. Confronting the things we can’t accept is an intrinsic part of becoming the
hero of our own lives, and discovering a true inner voice we can trust.
In The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey embraced the Devil as the great emancipator of our thoughts. The
symbols and rituals in Satanism offer a way to strengthen the will to fight the beliefs that would stand
between us and self-becoming. For all its theatricality and shock factor, Satanism at its core is a profound
and sincere call to love life. This isn’t a passive act. Life can’t tell us how to love it; it can’t credit us for
going through the motions. We are the only ones who can design our destinies and fulfill them. And if we
can manage to separate the important from the superficial, the signal from the noise, perhaps we can
experience the true magic that comes with an open mind: a state of being without judgment, pretense, or
Dreams of Carcosa
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
-From Cassilda’s song, The King in Yellow
What can we on the Left-Hand Path learn from Robert W. Chambers’s “The King in Yellow”? This book, its merits gone unnoticed by many since its publication in 1895, inspired Lovecraft and later authors, but is generally ignored by all but the most die-hard fans of cosmic horror. At least it was, until the popular first season of True Detective drew heavily upon it for inspiration. However, what I wish to discuss here is how we on the Left-Hand Path can draw inspiration from it ourselves by exploring the themes in the first few stories of the book, those that can be considered a precursor to the cosmic horror that Lovecraft later made into a true genre. As such, I will be discussing the first four stories in order and picking out themes that give us a picture of these tales that has, perhaps, not been seen before.
The first tale in “The King in Yellow” is “The Repairer of Reputations”. Here we meet our protagonist one Hildred Castaigne after a somewhat lengthy exposition revealing that this story is set in an alternate future relative to the date of the story’s publication. In short order, we are also introduced to four further characters who make up the cast of this story, Hawberk, an armorer, and his daughter Constance, Louis Castaigne, Hidred’s cousin, and finally the mysterious Mr. Wilde. The scene is set around a newly opened “Lethal Chamber” in what seems to be the center of New York City, and Hildred is attending the opening ceremony. The Lethal Chamber is something of a suicide booth, as one sees in the animated comedy Futurama, where one can go to end their life if they so desire. It sort of serves as a backdrop to the entire story, and as a plot device. During part of the exposition at this point, Hildred speaks of his fall from his horse some years ago, and of his association with a side character, Dr. Archer, who was his physician while he spent time in an insane asylum after his fall. Dr. Archer had declared his “brain affected” and had him committed. During the time of his convalescence, it’s revealed that Hildred read the play, “The King in Yellow”, and he speaks of how the play’s second half affected him greatly. Hildred leaves the ceremony at its commencement and goes to briefly see Hawberk and his daughter Constance, where we see a quirk of Hildred’s, his strange obsession with the sound and sight of armor being worked on. We also learn that Constance is in love with Hildred’s cousin Louis. Then Hildred declares that he is going to visit Mr. Wilde, who lives above Hawberk’s shop, and we see that Hawberk and Constance consider Mr. Wilde to be a madman, and generally hold a very low opinion of him. After a brief discussion involving a piece of armor that Hildred claims Mr. Wilde knows the location of, and Hildred mentioning that Mr. Wilde refers to Hawberk as the Marquis of Avonshire, which seems to put Hawberk on edge, Hildred heads upstairs to visit Mr. Wilde. Mr. Wilde is a strange looking man, described as having cropped ears and missing the fingers of his left hand, and wearing wax false ears that do not match his skin tone, as they are pink, and his skin tone is described as yellow. Mr. Wilde also keeps an ill-tempered cat who apparently scratches him at any provocation. Mr. Wilde regales Hildred with a listing of his retainers and clients for his business, something called a Repairer of Reputations, and their meeting is briefly interrupted by a knock from an employee of Wilde’s, a news paper editor who is apparently well known, and this impresses Hildred. Then, we see the real reason for Hildred’s visit, he wishes to read over a manuscript entitled “The Imperial Dynasty of America”. Here we get our first real glimpse into what Hildred’s goal is, and we see that this supposed dynasty is somehow linked to The King in Yellow.
Hildred’s visit with Mr. Wilde is ended when he notices that Louis’s regiment has come in from their deployment. Hildred leaves Wilde’s apartment, and goes to his own rooms, where he opens what he describes as a safe and removes a crown, described as “a diadem of purest gold, blazing with diamonds.” We also get a description of the park, and see a young man go into the Lethal Chamber, a bit of foreshadowing for the end of the story. Hildred leaves his apartments and meets with his cousin Louis, who also disparages Mr. Wilde, to Hildred’s annoyance, and we see further how Hildred denies that he was ever insane, despite his commitment. The two return to Hauberk’s and decide to go on a walk in the parks along the North River, though Hildred only accompanies them reluctantly. During this walk, we find out that Hawberk confirmed Mr. Wilde’s knowledge of the piece of armor mentioned earlier, and we can see also that he is somewhat concerned for Hildred’s mental health, though he somewhat talks around the issue. Finally, Hawberk reveals that Wilde nailed a sign next to his declaring his services as a Repairer of Repuations, and we see that the romance between Louis and Constance has come to fruition, and Hildred ominously declares that the time to speak with him of “important matters” is near at hand.
Approximately a month passes, at this point, and we again see Hildred with the crown from his safe, trying it on and thinking of what he read in “The King in Yellow”. We also might have a glimpse into his state of health, for he describes the face he sees in the mirror as one he hardly recognizes. He is also clearly getting very worked up over his obsession with the supposed dynasty and is acting rather erratically. He is interrupted, however, by the arrival of his cousin Louis, though he responds by threatening him with a knife before he realizes who has arrived. Here, interestingly, we see Louis describe the crown as brass and asks Hildred about the “theatrical tinsel”. Hildred also seems to let slip that the safe he describes may actually be a biscuit box, though Louis does not comment on this. Louis does comment on the fact that Hildred’s collection of books all seem to be about Napoleon, whom Hildred seems to admire so greatly that he wishes the books were “bound in gold”. Again, here, “The King in Yellow” is mentioned, and Louis seems to feel very strongly about the book and has avoided it rigorously. But the reason for Louis’s visit is that he wishes to tell Hildred that he is marrying Constance, though Hildred proclaims he already knew that would happen. Then, as Louis prepares to leave, Hildred asks him to meet him in the park at midnight, an appropriately dark hour. Louis agrees, and Hildred sets his plan into motion.
Hildred takes the crown and a silk robe embroidered with the Yellow Sign and goes towards Mr. Wilde’s apartment. He avoids Hawberk and Constance and goes upstairs to find Mr. Wilde bleeding from another attack from the cat. A near repeat of their first visit occurs, Hildred once again reading over the Imperial Dynasty document, and once again their visit is interrupted by a knock. This time, Mr. Wilde invites the visitor in, a man called Vance, and the man acts very strangely upon being introduced to Hildred, acting afraid of Mr. Wilde and begging Hildred to save him, all while ranting about The King in Yellow. Wilde attacks the man, apparently choking him out, and then somehow causing him to get up by his command, where Vance is described as acting as though he’s hypnotized. Mr. Wilde then proceeds to read The Imperial Dynasty of America to him and goes over the apparent genealogy that declares Hildred to be the cousin of the King. We finally see what it is that Hildred wants: Louis gone or dead, and for him not to be married to Constance, whom he says is the daughter of the Marquis of Avonshire. He orders Vance to kill her and provides a knife to him. Vance leaves, and shortly thereafter, Hildred does too, taking the manuscript with him.
Hildred awaits his meeting with Louis, sitting in the park and looking at the Lethal Chamber. He meets two different homeless men, and gives money to one, and a paper with the Yellow Sign on it to another. Louis arrives, and they talk for a bit before Hildred asks him to read The Imperial Dynasty without asking questions. Louis seems somewhat confused by the document, and even more so when Hildred attempts to show him a paper with the Yellow Sign on it, not recognizing it, and seeming concerned for Hildred as well. It is revealed now that Hildred has killed Dr. Archer, and he demands that Louis renounce the crown and not marry Constance. Louis clearly thinks Hildred is insane, and attempts to brush off Hildred’s ranting, but is quite frightened when Hildred tells how Dr. Archer died. Then, Vance comes running into the Lethal Chamber, and Hildred feels victorious, thinking that Constance and Hawberk are dead, proclaiming that Louis will “never marry Constance now”, and Louis flees towards Hawberk’s shop. Hildred follows, but instead goes to Mr. Wilde’s apartment. The cat runs past him as he goes to enter Mr. Wilde’s apartment, and he stabs at the cat with his knife, killing it. But then, at the seeming moment of his victory, he finds Mr. Wilde lying on the floor, near death with his throat torn open, likely by the cat. In that moment, he bends over Mr. Wilde, and the man dies. Hildred screams in despair and rage, and he is taken hold of by someone, and as he is being dragged away, he sees Louis, Hawberk, and Constance, all alive, and he rants about how Louis was stealing the crown away from him. The story ends on an editor’s note saying that Hildred died in an asylum.
Now, what can we glean from this admittedly strange story of a madman and an apparently fictitious royal dynasty? One primary theme throughout the story is ambition. Hildred’s ambition, to seize a crown that does not exist is very apparent, and ambition is also a topic of several conversations in the story. When Hildred first speaks to Hawberk in his shop, he asks if Hawberk has any ambition, to which he replies that it is to be the best armorer in the world. Louis has ambition to advance in rank within his military service, and also to marry Constance who he clearly is in love with. Louis actually achieves both of those things, being promoted to captain in advance of his planned wedding to Constance, which we can assume happens as they both live at the end of the story. This is in contrast to Hildred’s ambition, which is obviously a product of his madness. Ambition is also alluded to in Hildred’s obsession with Napoleon, a famously ambitious man. More importantly, jealousy is a hidden theme, and it can almost go unnoticed, if not for an almost throwaway line where Hildred says he does not care for Hawberk or Constance, aside from the fact that she is in love with Louis. How this is most critical will be made apparent later, however.
Ambition is obviously a most critical part of any endeavor onto the Left-Hand Path, but we can infer more from these characters than this simply being a story about realistic versus fanciful ambitions. Let us look closely now and Hildred, Mr. Wilde, and the cat. Hildred is an unreliable narrator, and we cannot be sure that what we see in the story is the truth of what is actually occurring. Do we know for certain that Mr. Wilde’s behavior is what Hildred relates to us? No, but we can interpret that Mr. Wilde might be a projection of Hildred’s own subconscious. We know the man exists, but perhaps he is a simple madman whom Hildred for some reason projects a personality onto that does not reflect his true behavior, and Hildred only thinks that he’s hearing and seeing what Wilde says and does. The profession of Repairer of Reputations also is suspect, though Hawberk seems familiar with it, who can say that Wilde is such a thing? It is also kept quite vague what this profession actually does, though it is implied that they get up to some rather unsavory things. No, I’d say that what might be occurring is Hildred is projecting his madness on the world around him and relating that to us throughout the narrative. The cat, however, might be another projection. I propose that the cat is Hildred’s last vestige of sanity.
Hildred is an interesting case, the catalyst for his current state being the fall from his horse taking place four years prior to the story. In his own words, he describes it thus: “The fall from my horse had fortunately left no evil results; on the contrary it had changed my whole character for the better. From a lazy young man about town, I had become active, energetic, temperate, and above all—oh, above all else—ambitious.” However, that’s not all there is to it. Hildred also speaks of his reading “The King in Yellow”, which seems to serve as a further catalyst for his descent into madness. Here is the most relevant paragraph: “During my convalescence I had bought and read for the first time, “The King in Yellow”. I remember after finishing the first act that it occurred to me that I had better stop. (Here we could possibly interpret that this action was a remanent of his sanity, postulating that perhaps his fall really did not cause his insanity, but it was the book itself) I started up and flung the book into the fireplace; the volume struck the barred grate and fell open on the hearth in the firelight. If I had not caught a glimpse of the opening words in the second act I should never have finished it, but as I stooped to pick it up, my eyes became riveted to the open page, and with a cry of terror, or perhaps it was of joy so poignant that I suffered in every nerve, I snatched the thing out of the coals and crept shaking to my bedroom, where I read it and reread it, and wept and laughed and trembled with a horror which at times assails me yet. This is the thing that troubles me, for I cannot forget Carcosa where black stars hang in the heavens; where the shadows of men’s thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the lake of Hali; and my mind will bear for ever the memory of the Pallid Mask. I pray God will curse the writer, as the simplicity, irresistible in its truth—a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow. When the French Government seized the translated copies which had just arrived in Paris, London, of course, became eager to read it. It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced of literary anarchists. No definite principles had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in ‘The King in Yellow’, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.” This shows that “The King in Yellow” somehow reveals truths to the reader. Deep, personal truths that somehow affect the reader in what we will see to be varying ways. In Hildred’s case, we can see that he is driven mad.
A further quote supports this, from when Hildred speaks to Louis. “‘But wait, yes, there is another book, ‘The King in Yellow’’ I looked him steadily in the eye. ‘Have you never read it?’ I asked. ‘I? No, thank God! I don’t want to be driven crazy.’ I saw he regretted his speech as soon as he had uttered it. There is only one word which I loathe more than I do lunatic and that word is crazy. But I controlled myself and asked him why he thought ‘The King in Yellow’ dangerous. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he said, hastily. ‘I only remember the excitement it crated and the denunciations from pulpit and Press. I believe the author shot himself after bringing forth this monstrosity, didn’t he?’ ‘I understand he is still alive,’ I answered. ‘That’s probably true,’ he muttered; ‘bullets couldn’t kill a fiend like that.’ ‘It is a book of great truths,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘of ‘truths’ which send men frantic and blast their lives. I don’t care if the thing is, as they say, the very supreme essence of art. It’s a crime to have written it, and I for one shall never open its pages.’” So here we come to what I perceive as the meat of the matter. Hildred is a madman, true, but he has had truths revealed to him through the vehicle of “The King in Yellow”, and we can see a contrast between him and Louis. Louis does not desire these truths revealed to him, and as such represents society in general, those who will never confront those inner demons and wish to remain concerned with surface level, everyday matters. Hildred, on the other hand, has seen what Jung would call his Shadow self, his personal demons, albeit through the vehicle of “The King in Yellow”, and while he knows these things, he bemoans them and rejects them. Instead, he begins projecting a fantasy version of himself outwards onto the people in his life, assigning them roles and even inventing a false personality for Mr. Wilde, if he really was as I postulated, a madman who did not actually behave as Hildred describes. We can see this rejection when Hildred is posing for himself with the crown: “I remembered Camilla’s agonized scream and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines in the first act, and I dared not think of what followed—dared not, even in the spring sunshine, there in my own room, surrounded with familiar objects, reassured by the bustle from the street and the voices of the servants in the hallway outside. For those poisoned words had dropped slowly into my heart, as death-sweat drops upon a bed-sheet and is absorbed.” Hildred fears the truths he learned upon reading “The King in Yellow”, and therefore has rejected the Shadow. This, I postulate, leads to his projecting those demons onto Mr. Wilde, and therefore this makes Mr. Wilde the personification of Hildred’s Shadow.
Mr. Wilde, as characterized by Hildred, is a ruthless man, and Hildred repeatedly says that he is “as sane as I am”. I feel this alludes to Wilde actually being Hildred’s subconscious. Confusion is added because it’s clearly stated that Wilde is known to Hawberk, Constance, and Louis, who all think he’s a madman, and therefore I believe that what we see of Wilde is actually a delusion of Hildred’s, a projection of his inner thoughts onto someone who is not all there. From the physical description of the man, Mr. Wilde resembles someone afflicted with microcephaly. According to Wikipedia’s article on the disease, microcephaly can cause severely impaired intellectual development, seizures, and various other symptoms, which are not readily evident in Mr. Wilde’s behavior. Mr. Wilde is treated as a genius, or near so by Hildred, and therefore I contend that the Mr. Wilde we know must be a projection of a delusion. Perhaps, in reality, Hildred was sitting with a severely mentally disabled man and listening to his ramblings while coming up with this complex story of an Imperial Dynasty in his own mind. Likely, Hildred himself is responsible for the manuscript and notes, and perhaps even put up the sign declaring Mr. Wilde’s profession himself, unseen by Hawberk. Therefore, Hildred is seeing his Shadow self in Mr. Wilde, this Shadow causing him to fully buy into his own delusions of grandeur and instilling this all-consuming sense of false ambition. Intrinsically connected with Mr. Wilde is the cat, described as a beast that constantly attacks Mr. Wilde, and yet Mr. Wilde seems loathe to rid himself of the animal. Every time Hildred mentions getting rid of the cat, or killing the cat, Mr. Wilde shakes his head or otherwise denies Hildred’s suggestion. I mentioned before that I believe the cat to be a projection of Hildred’s last shred of sanity. The cat is far weaker than any human, therefore is unable to suppress the thing causing Hildred’s insanity, his inability to confront the Shadow self. It is constantly trying to kill Mr. Wilde, scratching and harming him. It seems that each time Hildred comes to meet with Mr. Wilde, he has suffered an injury from the cat. In a literal sense, the cat is confronting Mr. Wilde, representing the sane part of Hildred’s brain confronting that which is a manifestation of his insanity. But this is not Shadow integration, as the goal should be, but conflict, and this is most clearly seen in the final scene of the story, when Hildred goes to see Mr. Wilde and finds him near death on the ground. Hildred kills the cat just before seeing Wilde’s corpse, and this represents his final break and loss of sanity. But dead too is Wilde, and so Hildred has failed to integrate his Shadow. Two parts of the subconscious, the cat representing what sanity he has left, and Wilde, his Shadow and the root cause of his insanity, are dead and so Hildred is driven to a final collapse, and finally, death.
And so, the “Repairer of Reputations” is, at its core, in my opinion, a story about failure to integrate the Shadow. Hildred could not confront the truths revealed to him, and therefore his subconscious mind began to wage war against itself, his insanity the most prominent part by far, but in the end, it caused him to truly go mad and die. Ambition plays a role, and is a recurring theme, as is death and suicide. Most importantly, jealousy also seems to be a hidden theme, for one could argue that Hildred is jealous of his cousin Louis and his relationship with Constance. That is not directly stated, but it could be a motivating factor in Hildred’s actions. In fact, by not stating it, and clearly stating that he has no interest in Hawberk or Constance, it could very well be that the truth revealed to Hildred in his reading of “The King in Yellow” was the fact that yes, he was jealous. He desired what his cousin had, a successful military career, a woman in love with him, and a successful and proud future father-in-law. These things might have contributed to his madness, and therefore caused him to invent the story of “The Imperial Dynasty of America” to give himself and excuse to try and ruin his cousin’s life. The fact of this jealousy is clear in the final act of the story, where he declares that his cousin has taken what was his, the crown of the King in Yellow. He projected those negative feelings onto someone he met somehow and provided a puppet for his dark subconscious thoughts to manifest within his delusions. And therefore, I would say that “The King in Yellow” did not drive Hildred mad, but his inability to accept the truth about himself did. He forged, in the aftermath of his fall, a personality for himself that he felt was better than his old one. This could be an admirable thing, but he failed to understand what it was about himself that was flawed. The one flaw his personality change could not eliminate: jealousy.
But what does this say to someone on the Left-Hand Path? We’re meant to embrace the Seven Deadly Sins, not reject them. But here again, we can see that Hildred failed again to use Pride to control his Envy. One could argue that Hildred has Pride for days, but I would say his Pride is an empty shell, a false thing born of his insecurities, otherwise he would not be mad and projecting his subconscious onto the world around him. Hildred, I’d argue, is a prime yet extreme example of what happens when someone unstable and unsuited for the Left-Hand Path attempts to confront a part of themselves that they are unprepared to face. Here is a cautionary tale, one that the reader should take into consideration before embarking on a trip of discovery of the self. The Shadow can be deadly if not properly integrated.
The next story in this collection is “The Mask”. This is a short tale, focusing on a group of three men, all artists, and one woman, our narrator Alec, Genevieve, a young Parisian woman, Boris, her lover, and their friend Jack Scott. The story opens with Boris demonstrating a chemical compound for Alec; the compound has the unique effect of near-instantaneously petrifying living things. Boris demonstrates the process on an Easter lily, and shows Alec a fish that he had tried it on the day before. Objects petrified in this way look to be made of white marble with delicate blue veins running through it. The two men discuss the chemical reaction, and Boris invites Alec to stay for lunch, saying Genevieve will return soon from Mass. After a brief background into Boris and Genevieve, Alec and Boris continue to discuss the chemical before Genevieve arrives. Importantly, it is revealed here that Alec has long been in love with Genevieve, and she does not love him, though all three remain friends. Per the narrator’s reaction, Genevieve is acting somewhat coldly to him when she arrives, though he seemingly chalks it up to her shifting moods. The three go to lunch together.
A little time passes, and we once again come to see Alec in Genevieve and Boris’s house. He comes upon Boris in the room where he is sculpting, and he and Boris have a brief, friendly tussle after a joking exchange. However, in his play, Boris nearly dunks Alec in a pool full of the petrifying chemical, and both are briefly frightened by the idea of a human coming into contact with the stuff. Boris says he does want to try it on a bigger animal than the fish he’d tried it on before, and then Jack Scott comes in and he and Boris leave together. Alec goes to work on painting a screen, but his model, a young boy, is uncooperative and he ends the session early, going to the smoking room in Genevieve and Boris’s house. The room is described as containing a number of eccentric objects, including an old spinet and a wolf rug. There, he lights a pipe and falls asleep, only to be awoken by what he describes as the saddest music he’s ever heard. He sees someone rise in the dark, and hearing weeping, he calls out to Genevieve, and sees her drop as his call. He goes to see her fallen, and helps her to lay on a divan, and goes to try and find Boris or the servants of the house. Unfortunately, Boris has gone, and would not return until the next day. Genevieve also seems to be acting strangely, the narrator asking if she had been playing the spinet and lying to say he had not heard her playing, and her acting relieved that he had not heard. She had also forgotten that Boris had left, and then instructs him to get her personal maid and leave for the night.
The next day, Alec returns to find Boris pacing about, telling the narrator that Genevieve is in bed with a fever. The sprain she suffered from the fall the night before is written off as minor, but both men are concerned and confused as to why she’d have a fever. Genevieve is so bad, it seems, that she declared that her heart is broken, and she wants to die. The men linger for a bit, but then go to where Boris has the chemical stored, and Boris demonstrates turning yet another fish into marble. Jack Scott then arrives, and he and Boris declare that they’re going to try the chemical on the rabbit mentioned before, but Alec says he cannot bear to see that happen, so he goes to find a book to distract himself. Unfortunately for him, he picked up “The King in Yellow”, and begins reading it. His reading is interrupted “after a few moments, which seemed ages” by a bell ringing and a call from the sick room. Boris runs to the room, only to tell Jack to get the doctor and for Alec to come with him. Here, we see the emotional turning point in the story. In her fevered state, Genevieve admits that she’s in love with Alec. This strikes Alec mute, and Boris attempts to speak with him, but the doctor and Jack Scott’s entrance interrupts him. Alec leaves, taking Jack with him, and is soon struck ill himself. In his illness, Alec realizes that he had been deceiving himself for two years, to the point that the self-deception had become more than a mask to him. During his sickness, Alec sees visions of the King in Yellow, of Carcosa and Hali, possibly going temporarily mad. He manages to cling to sanity, however, by seeing himself as obligated to Genevieve and Boris in some way. He also says that there were crowds around him, as he lay ill, and that he saw Boris among them.
Eventually, Alec recovers, and hopes to take up his relationship with Boris and Genevieve exactly as they had left off, however, after a week or so of avoiding the question, Jack Scott finally reveals that both Boris and Genevieve are dead, sending Alec into mourning. As more time passes, Jack gives Alec a letter and the keys to Boris’s house. He tells Alec that after his illness took him, Jack seemed to have taken an emotional turn of his own, continuing to work on his sculpture and not speaking to anyone, and even carved his own face into one of the figures he’d been creating, though it was described as the face he wore after Genevieve’s revelation. While watching Boris sculpt, Jack says they heard a door open and what he describes as a swift rush from the next room, and they go to find Genevieve lying at the bottom of the pool containing the petrifying chemical. At this discovery, Boris shoots himself through the heart. Jack carries Boris to his room, and then describes how he drained the pool Genevieve was in, and how he destroyed both the remaining samples of the chemical and all of Boris’s notes detailing the making of it. He says that he and the doctor worked to cover up the true natures of the couple’s passing and told the servants that they were traveling before paying them and sending them to the country, while the doctor faked the death certificate for Boris saying he had heart disease. Genevieve’s petrified body was laid in Boris’s sculpture studio beneath a statue of the Madonna which she had posed for, and Boris was buried. Jack then tells Alec to open the letter, and they find that it contains Boris’s will, leaving the house in Paris to Alec, and another residence to Jack to care for.
Alec briefly returns to Boris’s house, but decides he cannot stay. He then leaves Paris, to go for a journey around the East for two years, while continuing to write letters to Jack Scott. At the end of his second year of travels, a letter from Jack arrives asking him to meet, and Alec returns to Paris. There he meets with Jack and spends some time with him at both of their inherited residences, and Jack describes a feeling of expectancy. Alec feels that he is doing Jack harm, so tells him to try a change without him, but decides for himself to stay in Paris in Boris’s old home. He is somewhat surprised to find it tranquil there, and not difficult to stay there as he feared it would be. The only room he did not visit in the house was the one where the petrified Genevieve lay in state. After a time, he finds himself in the smoking room once again, and thinks of the night two years before, and finally goes to see Genevieve’s stone form. He leaves, and not long after a maid brings him a letter, and also tells him of a white rabbit having been caught in the house and asks him what to do with it. He tells her to set it free in the garden, and reads the letter, it having come from Jack. He describes the letter as rambling and incoherent, but that Jack begs him not to leave the house until he returns. Then the maid returns bearing two goldfish, and claiming people are playing tricks on her. She says that the marble fish and rabbit are missing, and that someone is putting live animals in their place. Alec tries to reassure her, and he goes to the studio where Boris had changed the Easter lily into stone but finds it to be a living flower. Alec finally realizes what is happening and goes to the marble room to find Genevieve waking up, alive and well.
So, what, pray tell, can we gain from this story? At first glance, this seems to be a tale of a love triangle with a supernatural element, an unusual potion that turns things into marble. But the key to this story’s lesson is the events that cause both Genevieve and Alec’s illness. Both Genevieve and Alec suffer fevers before realizing that most important aspect of themselves, the idea that both have engaged in self-deception. We know that prior to his illness, Alec read “The King in Yellow”, and therefore we might infer that Genevieve had been reading that play as well, since both characters suffer a similar sickness, and Alec lays his hand on the book almost by accident, implying the Genevieve had possibly left it out after reading it. Also, Genevieve reveals her secret love for Alec during her fever, which I take to mean that the play itself caused her to realize the depths of her deception, deceiving Alec, Boris, and herself that she was truly in love with Boris, Boris being the far more successful of the three artists as he’s described in the beginning of the story. But in her guilt, which I would posit is the true cause of her illness, she confesses her truth to them. Alec, having deceived himself, suffers similarly after reading the play, another state I’d say was caused by, in his case, both his guilt and grief, for he did not truly want to hurt his friend, but still felt the way he did about Genevieve. Perhaps the play caused him to realize the depths of those things, and thereby sent him into a mental spiral manifesting as a physical illness, as we know today can and does actually happen, whether due to depression or grief. And the same applies to Genevieve.
We can see here a tale that cautions against self-deception, and to an extent, the act of deceiving those one cares most about. The petrifying chemical in the story is something of a MacGuffin, serving only as a catalyst for certain behaviors, most importantly motivating Boris’s suicide, but relatively unimportant in itself. The true goal, for the reader, is to observe the characters’ behavior and understand why they do the things they do. Jack Scott’s seemingly psychic understanding of “something happening” after Boris’s death is another minor thing that adds another layer of paranormal possibility to the story, but it too is truly unimportant. The thing that matters is “The King in Yellow”, for it is the ultimate catalyst for the change that occurs in our characters, their realization of self-deception, and how they resolve this lie in the end. For those of us on the Left-Hand Path, this is a valuable lesson. Deception of oneself is antithetical to the Path, for one must confront their inner demons with honesty and truly see one’s flaws for what they are. Self-deception only leads to disaster, and one failure after another. In this story, we can even view the direct connection to the quote from the fictional play heading the story:
“Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Cassilda: Indeed it’s time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!”
The Stranger, often implied to be The King in Yellow himself, wears no mask. The mask, in the story is that of self-deception, declared as such by Alec himself as is fevered and despairing. The Stranger does not deceive himself, and those who follow the Left-Hand Path should not as well.
For the third story, we are presented with “In the Court of the Dragon”. One of my personal favorite stories in the collection, though I enjoy them all, we are presented with an unnamed narrator visiting the Church of St. Barnabe, again in Paris. Almost immediately, the narrator seems to be ill at ease in the church, saying he finds something off about the organ playing. The music is strange, discordant, and the narrator likens it to the thought of something being chased, and those around him do not seem to hear it in the same way that he does. The priest then calls for silence and begins his sermon, and we learn that our narrator is exhausted, having been reading “The King in Yellow”. The narrator then notices the organist get up and leave the church, and he feels at ease for a moment, thinking this man was playing the strange music earlier. The priest’s sermon is curious as well, for he begins by saying:
“‘My children,’ said the preacher, ‘one truth the human soul finds hardest of all to learn: that it has nothing to fear. It can never be made to see that nothing can really harm it.’”
Then, the narrator notices that the organist has returned, even though not enough time had passed for him to have returned to where the narrator spotted him, and even if he had returned, the narrator should have seen him. When the narrator’s eyes meet his, however, he feels from the man an intense hatred, so much so that the narrator feels pain. He does not understand why this is, however, and tries to rationalize the feeling, and somewhat laugh it off.
Discomfited, the narrator leaves the church to try and rid himself of the mood he’s entered since seeing the organist. But as he is joining the crowd outside, he is passed by the organist, and once again feels that sense of dread as the man passes him. Here, he begins to feel a sense of responsibility long forgotten, the feeling that he deserves this hatred and that it has to do with something years in his past. But our narrator is determined to avoid this and escape the organist who has become the embodiment of this vague notion. He continues to walk away from the church, and sees the organist yet again, walking down one of the alleys nearby. Again, attempting to flee, the narrator sees the organist, this time sitting among others in a small park, and he continues to comment on how he feels a “malignant hatred” from the man. Continuing his escape, the narrator thinks he’s left the man behind, only to see him arriving again from a different direction: “He came so close that he brushed me. His slender frame felt like iron inside its loose black covering. He showed no signs of haste, nor of fatigue, nor of any human feeling. His whole being expressed one thing: the will, and the power to work me evil.”
He watches the man go, and after he vanishes amongst the crowed, the narrator flees, resolving to go home, saying he lives in the Court of the Dragon. He makes it there, thinking he’s fled his “enemy”, but then just before he can make it to his home, he sees the man following him again. Again, he attempts to flee, only to find himself cornered, the doors to the Court having been closed for some reason. The man approaches, and the narrator knows that he is doomed. However, suddenly, he finds himself back in the church, the service having ended, and the narrator having apparently slept through it. He looks, though, and once again sees the organist, realizing that he now recognizes the man: “That which gave him power over me came back out of oblivion, where I had hoped to keep it. For I knew him now. Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent him—they had changed him for every other eye, but not for mine. I had recognized him almost from the first; I had never doubted what he was come to do; and now I knew while my body sat safe in the cheerful little church, he had been hunting my soul in the Court of the Dragon.”
The narrator once again attempts to leave the church, but as he does so, the organ breaks out with a blare, and the narrator finds that the church around him has dissolved, and now he is at the Lake of Hali, seeing black stars and the towers of Carcosa in the distance, while the King in Yellow whispers to him: “‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!’”.
So now we have another tale to learn from, and the lesson here is a powerful one. This story has been described as mysterious, but I would contend there is no great mystery here. Our narrator, through his own admission, has done great harm to the organist in the past. Whether through action or inaction, as the narrator says his weakness sent the organist to death, we can infer that somehow our narrator is responsible for this man’s demise. However, our narrator has failed to take personal responsibility for this, and therefore we can guess that the organist is the vengeful spirit of the man he wronged. An interesting idea here too is the primary setting being a church, implying that religion is no bastion from vengeance and no refuge from taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions. Again, our narrator has read “The King in Yellow”, and perhaps that revealed to him, albeit slowly, that which he had hidden from himself. Another act of self-deception, as in “The Mask”, but also a far more deadly fate, for this narrator’s actions engendered vengeance against him, for which it seems The King himself was all to willing to assist with. And so, we learn of our duty to ourselves to take personal responsibility for those things that we have done wrong, for those we have injured. For, it does not seem that our narrator has committed some great sin, he does not seem to be a murderer, though we do not know this for sure, but we do know he is somehow responsible for this man’s death, and he does not own up to that. Taking personal responsibility is a valuable lesson to learn for those of us on the Left-Hand Path, for not doing so leads to self-deception. And we may also learn from the actions of the organist, a warning to those who would cross us, for we take our vengeance rather than turn the other cheek. Chambers is masterful, here, though I highly doubt he intended or knew how future readers might interpret the biblical quote he ended the story with: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” For do we not all aspire to be living gods? And those who cross us might find us fearful indeed.
Finally, the fourth story in this collection is “The Yellow Sign”. This is a popular story, and it too can teach us a lesson. We are introduced to our main characters, Mr. Scott, another artist living in New York, and Tessie, his nude model. Scott is painting a portrait of Tessie, and finds himself distracted by a pale, disgusting looking man loitering in the churchyard of the church near his apartment. He finds that the color in his painting has gone off, resembling gangrene or green cheese, as Tessie comments. He has a fit of temper over the ruined piece, and Tessie teases him about it. She then tells him about a nightmare she had, one where the man in the churchyard is driving a hearse carrying a coffin that she says Mr. Scott is interred in, though alive. Mr. Scott brushes the dream off, saying it was simply due to eating rich food. Tessie leaves for the evening after discussing the strange man.
The next morning, Mr. Scott speaks to one of the bell boys for the apartment he lives in, learning that the church next door was sold. He then talks to the man about the strange man he’s been seeing in the churchyard, and the bell boy says that the man is the night watchman for the church. He then goes on to relate an incident with the man to Mr. Scott, where he and his friends felt insulted at how the man stared at them. He says he hit the man, but it felt like the man was squishy and cold, finishing by saying that when the man grabbed his wrists, one of the strange man’s fingers came off in his hand as he was trying to get away. After the bell boy leaves, Scott again goes to the window, and is horrified when he sees that one of the strange man’s fingers is missing. However, Tessie returns, and begins posing for a new painting for Scott, and once he no longer needs her posing, she tells him of the good time she had the night before. They have lunch together, and Scott thinks about how Tessie has grown, and about her future, and thinks it’s best if she be kept away from men like himself. He then tells her of a dream he had, one paralleling hers from his point of view, him finding himself in the coffin, and seeing Tessie all in white in an open window as he passed. Tessie is visibly upset, hearing this, and Scott attempts to play it all up to the fact that her telling him of her dream influenced his, but Tessie is still afraid. Then, she confesses her love for him, and Mr. Scott, while thinking of every possible reaction, decides to kiss her.
Scott reflects later, as he takes his evening walk, onto the events of the day, saying to himself that it is too late to regret his actions. He shows some disdain for this future he has caused to come into being, and reflects on his past, and his now-deceased former love. He feels awful, though not for himself but Tessie, thinking that this affair as he calls it would damage Tessie in some way. He hopes to himself that it will end when she gets bored, and that she will still have her life before her. Upon returning to his home, he receives a note from another woman asking him out to supper. He goes to supper with her, and then returns to his apartment, noticing the strange man again. He hears the man muttering as he walks past, and feels anger that the man should talk to him, but does not act upon it. Though in his bed, he finally realizes what the man was saying: “‘Have you found the Yellow Sign?’” He was saying this repeatedly, and Scott wonders what he meant by that. Falling asleep at long last, Scott dreams again of the man and the hearse, and of Tessie.
Tessie returns the next day and is now reluctant to model in the nude for him, as she has now confessed her feelings and feels awkward. So they decide to try something different, her posing in an outfit described as Moorish costume, and Scott gives her a gold chain with a cross on it. Tessie, too, has a gift for Mr. Scott. She gives him a box containing “a clasp of black onyx, on which was inlaid a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither Arabic nor Chinese, nor, as I found afterwards, did it belong to any human script.” He is annoyed, but thanks her, saying he’d always treasure it, and Tessie tells him of how she found it. She attempted to find the owner, but no one ever came forward, and that she found it on the same day she had her strange dream.
The next day, Mr. Scott is injured as he attempts to move some paintings around, and as he sits around seeking something to do, he calls Tessie in to retrieve a book from a high shelf that he does not recognize. She tells him that the book is “The King in Yellow”. Fearful, Scott tells her to put the book back, knowing the he should not have it, and would have never purchased it for he knew of what happened to Castaigne, referring to the first story in these four. Tessie does not obey him, however, and runs off with the book, and Scott tries to stop her, only to find that she’s hidden herself away and he does not find her for half an hour. It is too late, however, for she has read “The King in Yellow”. Scott takes the book, and then sits down to read it himself. Now they both know that the clasp she had given him is The Yellow Sign. They sit for long hours, discussing the play, and the truths they learned therein, speaking of the King, of Hastur and Cassilda. Somehow, it seems a connection has formed between them, something sublime over the play. But they also know that the watchman will be coming to collect the Yellow Sign. And come he does, ripping the Sign from Scott’s coat, and striking him roughly. As he falls, Scott hears Tessie cry out, and knows she is dead. There, Scott lays dying, the doctor unable to help him, and saying that the watchman whose body lays there must have been dead for months. The story ends with Scott saying: “I think I am dying. I wish the priest would—”
Here we see another subtle take on the uselessness of religion. It seems, from the ending, the Mr. Scott did not receive last rites, based on how quickly his words cut off when he thinks of the priest. This reflects the theme from “In the Court of the Dragon”, once again showing how useless prayer is in the face of the King in Yellow. God dwelleth not here. In this story, we can see something different from our other protagonists. Mr. Scott is not deceiving himself, for he recognizes the type of man he is, and even takes what he wants in the form of Tessie, though he does not necessarily think that he is the best for her, he is somewhat greedy in the fact that he wants her. Obviously, for what healthy man would not take a beautiful young woman who practically throws herself at him, given the circumstances? Also, when both Tessie and Scott read “The King in Yellow”, they do not seem to go mad. Instead, they seem to understand what it was they read, and sit and discuss it for hours after finishing. And yet, both of them die in the end. They do not seem to have the same level of self-deceit as the characters in the other stories, but they do have in their possession the Yellow Sign. One interpretation is that this story describes the full circle for those who would read “The King in Yellow”, and since they understand it, and thereby understand themselves, there is no more life to live for them. Scott only lingers on long enough to tell the story but dies before the priest’s last rites can whisk his soul away to heaven, for he belongs in Carcosa and to The King in Yellow. We can perhaps view this as a parallel to life lived on the Left-Hand Path, seeing Mr. Scott and Tessie’s understanding of the play as apotheosis, and then they die, for death is inevitable to those who achieve even that. Further, it might be said that the only thing that kept them both from true understanding was their clinging to their Catholic faith, though Scott does seem to understand that in that his faith is useless, in the end.
And so, this concludes my analysis of the first four stories in this collection. These stories stand as some of the earliest examples of cosmic horror, published years before Lovecraft even began to write. But there is one more thing to analyze; the play itself, “The King in Yellow”. Much has been made of this fictitious play over the years; writers have tried to recreate it based on the excerpts in the text of Chambers’s book, and others have tried to understand what it might contain. I personally think that we cannot know what it might contain, because I believe the contents of it are unique to whoever reads it within the fictional world. It is said that no one discusses the second part, and I think that is because the truths it reveals are personal, and in the case of the unprepared, horrifying. Many cannot face the truth of their being. In essence, I take this to mean that the play “The King in Yellow” is a kind of shorthand for the Left-Hand Path itself. The first act of the play is called banal, by Hildred, and one can see that as the precursor to walking the Left-Hand Path, one lives one’s life, only to encounter the horrors hinted at being revealed towards the end of that act, these horrors being analogous to the real-life horror and tragedy that most of us have faced. Then, in the second act of the play, we realize our own truths, we delve into our own psyche and face the demons within us. Those unable to face them may go mad, but those who understand can move to a greater understanding of the self and apotheosis. Perhaps, in the end, we may glimpse the collective unconscious and look upon it with wonder rather than fear. Perhaps that is where Scott and Tessie failed, for they could understand their own psyche, but when faced with something so much greater than themselves, they could not retain their lives, instead, clinging to their God. Or perhaps they did understand it, perhaps death was only the beginning for them, and for that reason they could not be allowed to receive last rites. “The King in Yellow” is described as both awful and beautiful, and I think that is apt, for the process of apotheosis can be both simultaneously as well.
The entity itself, the titular King in Yellow, I think is an archetype, a being representing those hidden truths, and in magical usage, can be used as an aid to self-discovery and confronting one’s own inner demons. It also represents entropy, for all things decay and die, even the universe may eventually go into heat-death. This is well represented in those characters where it can be seen that its influence holds sway, such as Mr. Wilde and the watchman. Both are described as decaying in some way or another. And therefore, that leads us to that ultimate truth: All things die. We will all be dead one day, sooner or later, and only entropy exists eternally. This truth flies in the face of the brief beginning to the sermon spoken by the priest in “In the Court of the Dragon”. For perhaps the soul can be done harm, and nothing is truly eternal. Yet another direct confrontation between religion and the idea of the King in Yellow. Even the soul may decay in time, and only The King in Yellow persists eternally in dead Carcosa. Death, and the acceptance thereof, is the most important lesson one can learn on the Left-Hand Path. We must become as the dying, and accept that our fate is sealed, as Mr. Scott and Tessie might have, for only then, knowing that the time we have is limited, can we truly live.
“Once I dreamt of a god, the gentle god of shepherds,
Loved and beloved by those who held him in their hearts,
But in time the shepherds died, their joys unfulfilled,
And the god lie, forgotten and dead.
But that is not dead, which can eternal lie,
And in strange aeons, even death may die,
Such the god heard in unquiet death,
And from slumber he arose drawing breath.
How his world had changed, in interceding time,
His shepherds gone, replaced by a noble kind,
They who knew him not, he sought to discover,
And in their midst, as a Stranger he did hover.
Corruption and lies, self-deceit and envy,
Found the once-gentle god in his entreaty,
But while Camilla knew him not, Cassilda did know,
For she bore his sign, a relic of long ago.
The city was his, by divine right,
And Carcosa faded away into the night,
To the lake of Hali, where black stars shine,
And thoughts become real in due time.
This I dreamt, and knew the truth,
For the Yellow King had spoken sooth,
May the dreams of Carcosa remain still,
For there my soul lives and dies, on the ancient hill.”
By Damien Black
The Aghori are a sect of Hindu sadhus that follow Aghora, a left hand path tradition. They live in harsh places such as deserts, caves,and the Himalayan Mountains. They largely populate the banks of The Ganges River in Varanasi India and Nepal. They live in huts and temporary settlements near cremation mounds and cemetaries. The Aghori choose to live in these places to separate themselves from society and to make use of the corpses for their post mortem rituals. Their origins can be traced back to a 17th century ascetic named Baba Keenaram and some sources say they have existed since the 5th century BCE. Although Aghora means non-fearful or non-terrifying their unconventional rituals and taboo practices have placed a stigma on them by the general population.
While the vast majority of Hindus worship the inumerable deities in their pantheon the Aghori believe that Shiva is everything and everything is Shiva. They also worship Kali and Bhairava, a form of Shiva associated with death. The Aghori believe that Dattatreya, an antinomian form of Shiva appeared to Baba Keenarum atop Girnar Mountain in Gujarat and offered his own flesh to Baba Keenarum as a kind of blessing. Aghoris believe Dattatreya was the incarnation of Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva all in one. The Aghori believe that by shrouding themselves in darkness it will help them attain liberation and self-realisation. By surrounding themselves with death and performing taboo practices they will get past dualistic thinking and not see things as good/bad, disgustinging/delightful they will just see it as an aspect of Shiva.
Rituals and practices of the Aghori are rubbing ashes from the remains of the dead all over their body, meditating on corpses, necrophilia, cannibalism, and having sex with menstuating women in cemetaries, all performed at night. They use humans skulls to drink from and also for rituals as well as other human bones. Aghori rituals are mostly chanting mantras and offering alcohol and cannabis to the fire, as Shiva is believed to have done. These rituals are performed with two main purposes, to embrace what society sees as “dirty” or “disgusting” and use it to transcend and become like Shiva and to attain supernatural powers.
Although the Aghori are feared by society they live pretty simple and straightforward lives. These Sadhus practice medicine and people go to them for help when mainstream medicine has failed them. The Aghori healing process consists of purification and their patients believe the Sadhu can treat them by transferring health into their bodies. The Aghori help the people that fear them. They see beauty and light in everything. They don’t fear, hate and are non-violent. If these feelings arise they meditate to let go of it.
So what can we learn from the Aghori? I think to understand this we have see past the extreme rituals and practices and see the intention and purpose behind them. We have to understand their mentality and apply it to our western way of life. Instead of seeing the beauty in a corpse we can learn to see the lesson in mistakes or a new opportunity from a failed attempt at something else. We can learn to see that mistakes in life can lead to victories in life if we use patience and persistence.
By Walter H. – The Sect of the Horned God member
The will to power is a prominent concept and central tenet of Fredrick Nietzsche’s philosophy. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in humans. “It is best understood as an irrational force, found in all individuals, that can be channeled toward different ends. Nietzsche explored the idea of the will to power throughout his career, categorizing it at various points as a psychological, biological, or metaphysical principle. For this reason, the will to power is also one of Nietzsche’s most misunderstood ideas.” (www.thoughtco.com)
According to Nietzsche there are four aspects to the will to power. They are the ontological, organic, psychological, and societal. The Ontology part of the will to power deals with metaphysics which is a branch of philosophy that looks at the very nature of things, their being, cause, or identity. The organic aspect is the philosophical perspective which views the universe and its parts as an organic whole and as a living organism. The psychological aspect seeks to isolate individual variables of human behavior, and the societal aspect is the social behavior and interpretations of society and social institutions in terms of ethical values.
In all aspects of the will to power, there is a common denominator which is survival or survival of the fittest. Nietzsche took seriously the idea that the will to power might be a fundamental principle operating throughout the cosmos. At times Nietzsche seems to believe that the will to power was more than just a principle that yields insight into the deep psychological motivations of human beings. In his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he writes that “Wherever I found a living thing, I found there the will to power.” Here the will to power is applied to the biological realm. And in a fairly straightforward sense, one might understand a simple event such as a big fish eating a little fish as a form of the will to power; the big fish demonstrates mastery of its environment by assimilating part of the environment into itself.” (www.thoughtco.com) It seems that Nietzsche took seriously the idea that the will to power might be a fundamental principle operating throughout the universe.
While survival is important to the species and is the common denominator in the will to power, it might be considered to be the lowest degree of the will to power. While it’s true that if a being is threatened, it will defend itself in order to survive because death would end its power, when the being is not threatened it will seek to grow and develop in order to attain power. This is the reality of how the universe functions and not only applies to humans and animals, but also to plants and other biological organisms. “The will to power doctrine seems to claim that everything that exists rests fundamentally on an underlying basis of “power-centers”, whose activity and interactions are explained by a principle that they pursue the expansion of their power.” (plato.stanford.edu)
We see examples of will to power in our everyday world. One obvious example would be that of Adolph Hitler whose will to power led him to dominate and control Germany and most of Europe. Other example we may see is the motivated employee who rises in the ranks in his company eventually becoming a CEO. Although, the later example of will to power of the employee rising up in his company might be more aligned with what Nietzsche had in mind as the employee would defend himself against competitors, but more than likely would spend his time growing and expanding his or her skills in their quest for power. We can use the same concept in the left-hand path as our quest is to grow by expanding our knowledge and seeking truths. While true that we will defend ourselves in event of attacks by religious zealots or conservative right handers, our true will to power lies in expanding our knowledge and growing in our quest to better ourselves.
By Rafael .O
Are closed eyes the reflection of ourselves that we don’t want to see? Repressed thoughts linger in the oblivion of the mind and through the secret unconscious revealing itself as a threat to your conscious.
Darkness is the first monster to come about to the human conscious as an aggrupation to our individualistic Left Hand Path desire. When the closet is locked there is no escape from the darkness for the bulb has been removed prior to entering. When they believe that the occult is an alternative and have not seen that it has been the truth all along; the repressed expression starts to manifest to torment those with what has been given to us. Being placed in that confined space, called a closet, is to look upon the talent of the self to be enflamed through that inner most punishment. It is strengthening your weaker aspects as to strengthen your stronger aspects in that one moment of traveling through the void as a reverse polarity of the nothing existing in yourself.
That dark closet is for when we know that ourselves are magic and then believe that it is to be the change in ourselves. The few moments that our dark aspect is understood to form our conscious and to let go of those lingering fears. When we devoured ourselves throughout life it is the stage that sets us back to the nothing that is the Nun or Leviathan. The nothing is an essence of thought that begins to form an individual to their own expression of existence through that never ending expansion of the void. It changes you the broken self into a sinister dark journey. The dark soul is the whole of the self, but a dark self is only a part of the self. The nothing encompass all the planets, the sun, life and death in a void of space that is not black, but unseen existence that we created to indulge ourselves in. The dark closet is a small death taking you into the abyss to define and abstract the talent of the mind. Art, music, writing, ritual, expression comes about from this rite of passage that the uncorrupt darkness gives us. Being put into the dark closet to confront that entity resting upon your chest that takes your breath away to not scream from the terror. The un-color was left there to begin the invasion of the mind to look upon the lies that humanity has bestowed upon us. I have ample control of every tribe of unconscious self to occupy another shell to understand the breed of the desert and the forest. I begin to not lie to myself to share this wickedness of loving life and death, for black is the beginning and ever so the end. We are our own offspring to begin a forsaken journey to search of the “let go” center of life; becoming our own clock, for there is no time in existence. But only the un-birth that can never be fully explained as this mystery is only the manipulation that brings us back to survival; to dwell upon that one art call unconsciousness. We can say that Lucifer is the talent of the Self and Satan puts the fire into it; to darken the soul.
The closet without light is as closed to completion as you, a pagan of darkness, can be upon the Left Hand Path to opening that door that is locked, but never staying completely locked. It eventually opens and each time that you are locked inside you are destroying parts of yourself to only become yourself. The occult is an uncompletion within the nothing that stays within the darkness without boundaries. If we don’t have pride you will never share that space of existence where death is not death, but only one for you to open, and become death. We let go of our desperation within the dark closet and the true animalistic intelligence comes out. Becoming understanding with yourself as a demonic familiar is there for you to assist in your desires and requests. It is you that you are evoking to come through for yourself being solely grounded without a definition of quality. Desperation is an enslavement. That’s why religion has no quality and is a broken hope without a definition that shuns others out of existence. We are the children of rebellion that look upon our necromancy into recognizing magic as to reverse any existing order within this sphere of locked closets. That solitude brings fourth in many dimensions that were never thought possible inside. There is no distractions to impede that front cover to fill the black ink onto the pages and is always beautiful in the un-boundness where the slave fear is no longer a distraction. The occult in any format should teach to let free the inhibition that holds you back into the otherwise. If there is no struggle within yourself then progression will never take place. There is a struggle within the dark closet and you will come out from it eventually to aid your true self away from social acceptance, but to self-acceptance.
By Jared W.
Esoteric History is a true passion of mine. While many find Pre-Modern Esoteric History to be their area of prime interest, I have a true love for the modern era. From an early age, I have been absolutely fascinated with occult societies and spiritual paths beginning with Aleister Crowley to the present. It would be no small thing to say that this passion fueled my collegiate studies in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Language. It has been my driving force for years.
I adore the Left Hand Path and all of its many branches. In particular the history of the Church of Satan has absolutely fascinated me. More precisely, those individuals who chose to leave the church and found their own organizations are intriguing. I have chosen to write about Dr. Michael Aquino.
I understand that there may be individuals within the Sect of the Horned God who were present at the time of this schism and have strong feelings about Dr. Aquino. This assignment asks me to expand on how the subject has been influential to me – I intend to do precisely that. I respectfully ask that the reader maintain an open mind when reading the following pages. The ideas set forth represent my own thoughts and feelings and are not meant to be controversial. Please note that I do not consider myself a Setian although the teachings set forth by the Temple of Set resonate strongly with my own Anthropological background and passion for Human Evolution.
Michael Aquino served in the United States Army as a Military Intelligence Officer through the Viet Nam War until his retirement from the Active Guard Reserve Program in to the late 1980s. While participating in the Viet Nam War, he joined the Church of Satan and soon rose to prominence within the Council of Nine. It was during this period that he wrote The Diabolicon. In it he posited that Lucifer as the agent by which insight was given to humanity.
In the mid-1970s, Dr. Aquino began to feel disaffected by the Church of Satan. He believed that degrees within the Church were awarded based upon the individual’s social role and that they should conversely be based upon the individual’s spiritual drive instead. The Grotto System was abolished in 1975 leading ultimately to his resignation on June 10th of that same year.
On the following Summer Solstice, he claimed that Satan appeared to him and revealed that his true name was Set. Aquino subsequently produced The Book of Coming Forth By Night – a book that was purportedly revealed in the same manner as Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law. Aquino’s work proclaimed him as the Magus of the new Aeon of Set thereby seizing Anton LaVey’s “Infernal Mandate” from the Church of Satan. The Temple of Set was consequently established.
His behavior during this period is not without controversy. In appearance, it seems that he was obsessed with damaging Anton LaVey’s character. He publicly released court documents and personal experiences that truly slandered the former’s reputation. Such behavior is not in keeping with the dignified example that members of the Left Hand Path should strive for. Nevertheless, the traveler must always search out valued wisdom regardless of the source.
Since it’s founding, Dr. Aquino has authored numerous works that have defined the Temple’s philosophy. This author finds the concepts of Xeper, Objective / Subjective realities, Greater / Lesser Black Magic, and the Black Flame as relatable.
Like most forms of the Left Hand Path, the individual sits at the center of his philosophy. Self-Deification is the supreme goal. One achieves Xeper when the magician “comes into being.” This act solidifies the ego and aligns the consciousness with universal essence thereby allowing one’s own immortality after death.
The universe is also divided into both objective and subjective realities. Objective reality is defined by the natural world and humanity’s collective meaning systems. Subjective reality is experienced by the individual only and his / her own meaning systems. Lesser Black Magic modifies objective reality through psychodrama, politics and propaganda. Charisma and human interaction define these types of workings. Greater Black Magic is more ceremonial in nature and is designed to change subjective reality. This is the vehicle by which the magician achieves Xeper. Workings are primarily done at the individual level.
The Black Flame is the “Gift of Set.” It is the spark that refers to humanity’s questioning intellect and sets us apart from other species. It gives us an “isolate self-consciousness” and the possibility to merge into the universe upon death.
But how does this relate to me?
My first love was always Anthropology. I remember sitting in Dr. Andrew Kramer’s Human Evolution Class at the University of Tennessee in love with our earliest of ancestors. I imagined the early Australopithecines traveling across the African Savannah. They had our eyes and hands, but not our brain capacity. How did they think? Did they believe in a higher power? Certainly the archeological record does not show any cave art or ritualized burial.
But something miraculous happened roughly 2.1 Million Years ago. We evolved into Homo Habilis. At that point, our brain size increased and remarkable things began to occur. Over a relatively short period in deep time, we started making art, fashioning tools, and burying our dead. We had changed! We were different! Fierce debates rage within Anthropological Science about this moment of change. We can’t quite put our finger on what caused it. It just happened. To me, this IS the Black Flame. It inspires me with passion for our earliest ancestors. It is the divine sub-conscious – the personal demon that drives us to success or insanity. We have carried the black flame deep within our mitochondrial DNA for millions of years. As Black Magicians, we have the opportunity to lock eyes and commune with Homo Habilis. Absolutely incredible!!!
Similar to the concept of Xeper, I truly believe that the esoteric traveler MUST delve within to reach the ultimate without. Through meeting and communing with one’s personal demon, the gateway is open for the EGO to transcend. Upon transcendence, our sprit is free to travel the universe upon death. The magician will be able to dance in eons old quasars, stir the cauldrons of malevolent black holes, and witness the birth of new universes as they burst forth from brand new white holes. One achieves divinity and is capable of sailing on solar winds as they travel across the vastness of the multiverse.
Lesser Black Magic is practical wisdom.
Greater Black Magic is Starry Wisdom.
In the words of Clive Barker, “There is a fine line between divinity and trickery.” This author has always remained skeptical of any “revealed” philosophy. It is entirely possible that Dr. Aquino simply made all of this up in an effort to delegitimize the Church of Satan. Is it not possible that Plato “made up” his philosophy as well?
As stated earlier in this paper, I strive to pull wisdom out from that which is controversial. Regardless of Dr. Aquino’s motivations, his brand of black magic has Anthropology at its very heart. The young man inside of me is thankful.
Hail the ancestors!!!
Hail the Black Flame!!!
By Ryan of the North, Member of The Sect of the Horned God
A very surprising archeological find in Turkey has cause a shake up of humanity’s evolutionary timeline from mindless beast functioning on pure instinct to the mess of civilization we have today. Known as Göbekli Tepe (Turkish for pot bellied hill), the site is home to multiple circles of very large expertly carved limestone pillars said to be about 7,000 years older than the pyramids of Giza; dating back some 11,500 years to the era of the late Paleolithic age. The roots of human spirituality, and the Left Hand Path, may be hidden in the story of these mysterious monoliths.
In 1963, the University of Chicago and the University of Istanbul conducted a survey during which the site was mistaken for a Byzantine era cemetery. Peter Benedict, an American archeologist having only seen the surface findings concluded the lithic where of Neolithic origins and mistook the large T shaped pillars for gravestones. In 1994 however, a German archeologist took interest in the hillside after reading the area findings from 1963. This man, Klaus Schmidt, has so far seen only 5% of the total area excavated as there was more under the hill than previously assumed. Turns out, the 16-ton monoliths are but one of many temples built one on top of the other. The people who made this temple also made the hillside it was seated upon. The people buried the original temples to makes newer smaller temples in the same location every few decades. How many times had this society excavated, artistically carved and transported the limestone used in these first temples? A magnetic survey in 2003 reveals 20 circular temples are buried at Göbekli Tepe all with similar design in decrementing size.
In the June 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine, Charles C. Mann documents the way this site has changed perspectives since its discovery. His article entitled The Birth of Religion states that these massive stones had been transported hundreds of feet by people who had no wheel or beast of burden to ease the work. This would require hundreds of workers to extract, carve and move such stones. Yet, Göbekli Tepe has no evidence of agriculture, no huts, no immediately available water source as the closest stream is 3 miles away. This temple was not apart of a settlement of farmers and herdsmen; it was only used as a place of divine reverence by hunter-gatherers. The limestone pillars have been decorated in low relief etched images and high relief carved out images of animals such as snakes/serpents, lions, scorpions, bulls and birds similar to totems. Evidence has also surfaced as to the practice of personal ancestor reverence. Some prehistoric burial sites are missing skulls and show evidence of reburial. Was this the start of shamanism and funerary beliefs for human kind in a community format?
Let us consider these points. Foragers and hunters became religious before they became civilized. Did religion birth civilization? While no settlement is to be found at Göbekli Tepe, there have been small hunter-gatherer settlements near to the hillside. Wheat would eventual evolve a stronger bond between plant and seed. This evolutionary development would mean very little to a wild plant. But for the wandering humans, it was perfect for harvesting, storing and eventually planting wheat where ever they could sew the seeds. The advent of farming would kill the religion of the foraging homo sapiens and birth new religions for the new ways.
The hill top temple became less attractive to the people who inherited the farm as opposed to those who inherited a fully wild world. Once farming became the norm temples where built closer to the settlements and not set on a cycle of build, bury and rebuild. Once, multiple settlements consisting of a couple dozen individuals each used one temple for an entire area. Now, the gods came down from the hills. And wilds to the human settlements.
The following is one hundred percent conjecture for the purpose of speculation and contemplation. A split in mentality happened. Those who saw the gods as being one with humanity and those who saw them separate from humanity. Those who wished to continue the old ways, and those who saw the value of change. Why should we have to plough the field, sew the seeds, tend the garden and animals, then bury and rebuilt temples on top of all that. Where the first blazers of the Left Hand Path the people who wanted a more personalized connection with the gods? No real way to know, but one thing you can be sure of, spirituality is an evolutionary part of being human.
By Lisa Corrine, Co-founder The Sect of the Horned
Let’s lower the cultural bar down yet another notch and blow our bubbles of hope to a shiny clean and collectively cramped future while whitewashing the past. Let’s ensure that future generations are ignorant of historical context and conflict, evolving laws, conquests and sorrows. Let’s bind their eyes, ears and voice from sight, sound and questions of how and why.
Monkey See, Monkey Do.
History doesn’t disappear despite how hard you try to force it within the coloring book lines even though the Mandela ones are still very pretty. It’s like chaining your demon to the root cellar wall and ignoring their cries. The interpretation of past events in the (dimming) light of a contemporary perspective, Presentism, is the ballad of the ignorant and bleat of the weak, a soap box to stand on where no arrows are thrown. A safe, brave, and courageous position, no doubt, yet you cried for compassion when your garden flowers died.
It’s a presumptuous position of turnabout bias.
By Rasha, Member of The Sect of the Horned God
Never let them see you coming.
The wolf eats the sheep and shaves its hide with his rigged teeth, carved only by feeding throughout the years, and then he waits for the flock to return so he may join them, covered with the familiar cloth they know to be their own. And the wolf walks with them for a time. He licks them, shows them affection, for a time. Becomes one of them. Until the hunger returns. Following instinct and will, upon the Shepard’s folly, the beast makes them all his prey with gratitude in nature. Upon a hill, overlooking the slaughter, the goat watches with delight, as he has more grass for himself to eat now that the flock has fallen to the wolf’s ruthless attrition.
Most people can only see skin deep, and much like the flock, the skin which best resembles their own puts them more at ease. The word “skin” here is not necessarily a metaphor for race, but for behaviors, style of dress, social norms, and generally anything “herdish.” Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power references using something called the mirror effect:
Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect
The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect.
Most people have weak egos. Accordingly, compliments can be used not only to disarm them, but act as the hypodermic needle to open their minds in ways which allow you to disseminate thoughts and ideas, which you will later allow them to claim as their own. For if your ego is healthy and strong, you need not take the credit, nor do you need the outer recognition from a sheepish herd, for having your will implemented is satisfying enough. As much as I’d love to use vinegar, the honey stick works best in most cases. Sometimes I’ll give someone a great idea and let them take credit for it. In the end, I don’t get the credit, but I get my way. And they take the fall if something goes wrong. Depending on your objective, this can also be used to “lend them enough rope to hang themselves.”
In my observances over the years, I’ve met too many so-called Satanists who describe themselves as the “lions of the jungle,” attempting to display their dominance in the most pathetic ways, while in reality, like most of us, they find themselves closer to the bottom of the North American socio-economic structure.
One of these people I will call Ginger. I met Ginger when part of a left-hand-path group around a decade ago. I argued that it’s best to act as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” in society, as it is more of a Machiavellian approach—despite Machiavellian philosophy repeatedly being taken out of context—while he argued that he was the “lion of the jungle,” conquering all. In reality, he was a high school dropout in his 30s living in his mother’s basement and working a dead end job for minimum wage with no benefits. Hardly king of the jungle. Maybe, having little power in reality served as the vehicle to his delusion.
Speaking from my own experiences, being the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” makes practicing lesser magic much more effective. Although I’d prefer to dress in a manner which resembles the grotesque, I know that to accomplish certain things, it’s more important for me to “blend in.” This is especially true working in my profession. I often look like any other business man or church-goer, something the so-called “lions of the jungle” cannot begin to fathom, for they must wear their black, demonic attire at all times and without compromise.
It may be a hard pill for some folks to swallow, being on the path toward self-deification, that powers greater than themselves do in fact exist. What I also find problematic in CoS literature is when representatives credit the real socio-economic elite powers as “de facto Satanists,” which, I’d argue, is the same kind of circular logic used by Christians when describing “God’s Will.”
A true understanding of how power structures work in the world may open the doors to the practice of a lesser magic that works. Satanists aren’t normally accustomed to exhibiting humility. However, if one is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and facts, one must position their ego accordingly. Nevertheless, these Satanists will often argue a point, even if they know they are wrong, because either they are too insecure to admit they were incorrect, or somehow think they need to be the “adversary,” which often ends up being played out in the most counter-productive ways. I think one of the LaVeyan “Satanic Sins” deserves revisiting in this case:
Empty posturing can be most irritating and isn’t applying the cardinal rules of Lesser Magic. On equal footing with stupidity for what keeps the money in circulation these days. Everyone’s made to feel like a big shot, whether they can come up with the goods or not.
Humbling oneself to knowledge and evidence is something the right-hand-path religions are either unable to do, will not do, or can not do. Conformity to one or more popular ideologies can also stand as a barrier to critical thinking, serving as the underlying bias which shows not only a lack of intellectual perseverance, but also interferes with personal growth. LaVey writes:
That’s obvious from a Satanic stance. It’s all right to conform to a person’s wishes, if it ultimately benefits you. But only fools follow along with the herd, letting an impersonal entity dictate to you. The key is to choose a master wisely instead of being enslaved by the whims of the many.
If one’s comfort zone is not challenged, and those we surround ourselveswith resemble no more than a superfluous echo chamber, the ability to think independently is squandered. I’d argue, many who subscribe to the “Satanic credo” are just as hypnotized by the dominant ideologies permeating throughout Western culture as those who call themselves Christians, all the while remaining one with the sleeping masses, and failing to observe how the concept of “individualism” is in fact highly manipulative, fostering a sense of entitlement in some, and collective blindness in many. Most people among the mass think they are individuals.
Never let them see you coming.