We know that American writer H. P. Lovecraft had no mystic pretensions, though he did say the dream that inspired the short story Nyarlathotep “might have been prophetic”. Kenneth Grant made much use of Lovecraft’s work, using it to reformulate the ideal of Thelema.
The unique project features 17 paintings created specifically for inclusion in the book, using the Surrealist method of pure psychic automatism. We reproduce two of the paintings below. The book, 172 pages in all, is printed on photographic paper, to preserve the integrity of the artwork. Also included are three complete short stories by Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos, and The Haunter of the Dark, plus a reconstruction of the Lovecraftian Necronomicon. The book’s Introduction consists of a concise guide to Thelemic cosmology and the Qabalistic Art of Gematria. The Appendices contain a Qabalah of the Necronomicon, background information to the Lovecraft stories, and tables of Greek and Hebrew number values.
Stone of Stars (above) by Soror V. A. A. is numbered #4 in the book. This was created through a version of parsémage (scattering); oil pastel is grated over ground of the same medium and worked in with a palette knife. Surrealist André Breton defined Magical Surrealism in his 1924 Manifesto thus:
Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
Surrealist artist Ithell Colquhoun was a member of several magical Orders and knew Aleister Crowley and Kenneth Grant. The method of “pure psychic automatism” was at first applied to literature. Crowley’s Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, is perhaps the supreme example of such automatism when fused with the knowledge and discipline of the occult. In The Mantic Stain: Surrealism and Automatism (for Enquiry, 1949), Ithell Colquhoun explained how automatism could be applied to painting.
“All these automatic processes … are closely dependent on the unconscious mood of the operator; for, if a number of experiments in a single process are undertaken on one day, a great similarity of form will be noticeable throughout … It is for this reason that I feel these stains to have a ‘mantic’ or divinatory quality, which may in some sort be compared with the practices of clairvoyants, who use ink splashes, sand, pins flung together by chance, and the irregular patterns left by tea leaves and coffee grounds to release the contents of the unconscious. The famous crystal globe or ‘scrying glass’ has approximately the same function. And all have an august ancestry in that they are traceably allied to the ‘great work’ of alchemy. … the alchemist would release the contents of his own subliminal fantasy by intently watching the contents of the alembic … The method is at least as old as Leonardo da Vinci—we all know the story of his gazing at the stains of damp in an ancient wall and seeing the suggestion of the mountains, ravines, and fantastic foliage of a dream landscape.
“With a thick brush, spread black gouache on a sheet of shiny paper, diluting the paint here and there with water. Cover it at once with a similar sheet and press them together fairly hard with the hand. Then, by the upper edge, slowly lift this second sheet … ready to reapply it and lift it again; repeat until almost dry. What you have before you is perhaps only the old paranoiac wall of da Vinci, but it is this wall carried to its own perfection. In fact, if you entitle the image thus obtained according to what you discover in it after looking at it from a little distance, you may be certain that you have expressed yourself in the most personal and valuable way.”
Moon-Glitter (above) is numbered #14 in the book. This was created through decalcomania; gouache and ink over gesso ground.
Colquhoun wanted to achieve a union of natural and spiritual forces as well as a union of the disciplines of art and the occult. She suggested that the four traditional elements of Hermetic magick might each have corresponding automatic methods:
Water—Écrémage and parsemage
Air—Blowing or fanning powdered materials
The union of subject and object, the I-Self with all that is ‘other’, the Not-Self, is the goal of yoga or union, and is a prerequisite for magick and mysticism at advanced levels.
View and order the book, Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft, here from the author’s website.
See more books by the same author on the Ordo Astri website here
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