My forthcoming book provides essential support for the esoteric interpretation of Lovecraft’s work by focussing on a microcosm of the mythos—the figure of Nyarlathotep, who is represented as the “soul and messenger” of the Outer Gods [The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Penguin ed. 2004, p.242]. The logic is incarnational. Just as Jesus in the Christian tradition fuses human nature with the substance of the Godhead, Nyarlathotep is a manifestation of the Outer Ones in human form. But whereas Christ, the man-god, embodies the logos of the heavenly Father, Nyarlathotep—the man-beast—summons us back to our archaic roots in the dark Womb of the Mother. He gestures towards the mystery of transhumanization—the evolution of the human into alien modalities of being and knowing. While Christ was allegedly born of a human mother and possessed a human soul and personality, Nyarlathotep is a “faceless” god ["Rats in the Wall," Penguin ed. 1999, p.107] an incarnation of the Void of Azathoth. Certainly, from the normative Judeo-Christian perspective, he is the anti-Christ, the “Black Man of the witch-cult" ["Dreams in the Witch House," Penguin ed. 2004, p.322].

The bulk of the eponymous prose poem in which the black god makes his initial appearance (“Nyarlathotep” 1920) took shape in a particularly vivid dream. The details of the dream and the disturbing physiological symptoms that preceded its reception are recounted in Lovecraft’s correspondence to Rheinhart Kleiner (December 14, 1920):

"Nyarlathotep is a nightmare—an actual phantasm of my own, with the first paragraph written before I fully awaked. I have been feeling execrably of late—whole weeks have passed without relief from headache and dizziness, and for a long time three hours was my utmost limit for continuous work . . . Added to my steady ills was an unaccustomed ocular trouble which prevented me from reading fine print—a curious tugging of nerves and muscles which rather startled me during the weeks it persisted. Amidst this gloom came the nightmare of nightmares—the most realistic and horrible I have experienced since the age of ten—whose stark hideousness and ghastly oppressiveness I could but feebly mirror in my written phantasy" [Lovecraft: Selected Letters I.160 (Ed. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, 1965)]

There is a striking correspondence between the ocular symptoms experienced by Lovecraft and the disturbing experiences of those fictional protagonists (Robert Blake, in "The Haunter of the Dark," de la Poer, in "Rats in the Walls") who receive the horrifying gnosis of Nyarlathotep. In each case, the revelation of the black god is associated with derangement of the senses—typified particularly by optical distortion—leading to the progressive dissolution of the mundane personality.

There is an underlying coherence to the many forms and faces of Nyarlathotep that is not evident on a cursory reading, and which only emerges through a careful analysis of his initiatory function in the stories. Throughout all of his shifting appearances, Nyarlathotep assumes the role of a mediator between the Outer Gods and those human beings who aspire to their primordial gnosis.  The recurring theme of optical distortion is particularly striking, since it clearly echoes the physiological symptoms of disorientation and “unaccustomed ocular trouble” experienced by Lovecraft himself in the initial dreaming of the black god. This can hardly be dismissed as mere coincidence. Consciously or unconsciously, Lovecraft modelled the disturbing experiences of his protagonists on his own dream experience of Nyarlathotep and the unpleasant physical effects that accompanied it.

Admittedly, the fact that Nyarlathotep originated in Lovecraft’s dreaming mind does not, in and of itself, substantiate my claim that the ‘black god’ has an esoteric significance. The sceptic may rightly point out that the exterior image of Nyarlathotep was largely woven from the materials of Lovecraft’s personal psyche. Though Lovecraft claimed in his correspondence with Kleiner that he had never before heard the name ‘Nyarlathotep,’ Robert Price has plausibly suggested that it was “a creative unconscious fusion” of two characters from the fictional world of Lord Dunsany—the prophet ‘Alhireth-Hotep’ and the god ‘Mynarthitep’[Robert Price, The Nyarlathotep Cycle, vii.]. In the later appearances of the god we detect still other aspects which can be accounted for in terms of conscious literary influence, most notably Nyarlathotep’s representation as the Black Man of the Witches’ Sabbath, a figure known to Lovecraft through Margaret Murray’s work on witchcraft cults. However, it is my view that these exterior images of Nyarlathotep are merely masks of a deeper reality, which cannot adequately be accounted for in terms of conscious design or personal memory. A qabalistic exploration of the name, rendered into Hebrew and Greek characters, reveals numerological associations—obviously unknown to Lovecraft—that confirm the initiatory function of the black god with a degree of precision that is unusual in gematriatic analysis. One of the most striking equivalences follows from the rendering of his name in Hebrew characters as NIRLAThTP, which has a value either of 780 or 1500 [1500 with the ‘final’ Peh]. What is especially striking—and most improbable in mundane terms—is the fact that either value (780 or 1500) yields the same hidden association with the Eye. Counted as 780, NIRLAThTP is equivalent to the Hebrew term ayin; counted as 1500 it is equivalent to the Greek, ôps. In light of the recurring association of Nyarlathotep and his dark gnosis with ocular pain and distortion—both in Lovecraft’s own experience and that of his characters—this can hardly be incidental. Nyarlathotep is the god who brings illumination through blindness, a radical transfiguration of the senses.

Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep

The Faceless God

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