Monday, September 30, 2019

Of black dragons and blind idiot gods, part I: Azathoth

Previously I wrote an entry about Tezcatlipoca in the context of the “dark pagan” element of my practice, i.e. while I still think LaVeyan is a better descriptor of my ethos than other labels, my particular styling of greater magic is outwardly pagan-like as far as positing a relationship with particular entities predicated upon interest in the mythology that surrounds that entity.

The current entry, as well as those that will follow, are about another such entity – one whom I might well go so far as to term the “ultimate reality” in my own idiosyncratic-belief-system-pertaining-to-acausal-matters. 

This entity I have not found to be captured adequately in any single tradition, but a survey of several of the most infamously “dark” streams of occultism enables one to build up a threefold-picture it via the following beings:

Each entry in this series will start off by describing the “primary” entity as I have come to understand it from various sources, and then provide some tie-ins re: why, beyond the “A” and the “z,” I interpret these as all being essentially one being, albeit with three distinguishable facets.  This latter, comparative portion is scarcely a footnote in the current entry, as you’ll see, but will become more substantial in later ones since the greater groundwork laid by then will make the endeavor easier at that point.

All of this will finally be followed by a fourth installment to tie up a few loose ends I foresee, namely:

Stick around and keep reading to find out… ;)

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Azathoth is the most ancient/primal/fundamental entity in the Lovecraft mythos: the ultimate parent of all the other horrible Lovecraftian things, and the origin of everything else that exists as well, though I get the impression that the latter claim is more implied in the mythos than overtly stated (?). 

Given such descriptors as “nethermost confusion,” “blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity,” “gnaws hungrily” and so forth, together with either inconsistent or absent description of Azathoth’s appearance across various works, a grotesque, alien form and the “it” pronoun seem to be indicated.  Nonetheless, the entity is gendered as masculine on a number of occasions, usually in connection with his ruling over the universe from his throne at the center of chaos.

Despite being in this powerful creator/ruler type of position, Azathoth nonetheless is consistently presented as somehow restricted in its current capacities.  Depending on which mythos author this is in the hands of, this may mean any or all of the following:

  • He is said to be a “blind idiot god,” either in terms of his inherent nature, or as a result of some past cataclysm he was involved in.
  • He is said to be asleep, such that the world is his dream, implying that something very bad would happen if he were to wake up.
  • His mind works so differently from anything we would understand as a mind that, to us, he represents total insanity – this then being not so much a limitation to him per se, but something that would make him seem limited in comparison to how a creator/ruler deity is more commonly envisioned.

Regardless of which of these it is, Azathoth is very frequently portrayed as being preoccupied/lulled/amused by some sort of ongoing entertainment, typically involving flute-like instruments wielded by musicians of an extremely alien form.  Sometimes there is also drumming, dancing and other weird-and-probably-indescribable spectacles taking place.  Whatever the details though, one is left with the impression that the universe-as-is could not endure were Azathoth not kept thus entertained – i.e. you really, really do not want him waking from sleep, or getting bored of this little party being put on for him, or otherwise being roused in whatever way makes sense vs. the varying scenarios of torpor listed above.

In tandem with this, while one gets the impression that Azathoth’s devotees (as portrayed in fiction by Lovecraft and other authors – e.g. the character Keziah Mason in “Dreams In The Witch House”) are clearly up-to-no-good in some sense, the exact nature of this is frequently variable and/or left unclear.  Are they forced into their evil-cultist-type activities because they have to keep him asleep in order to ward off a worse evil than themselves? Or are they using his power for their own worldly advancement without regard for the danger they are thus courting?  Or are they nihilists striving to wake him up for the express purpose of putting an end to the existing universe?  Or…?  

Obviously a fair portion of what I have described above will not strike many readers as an attractive entity to be directing one’s occult attention toward.  

My own take, however, is that Azathoth is basically what you get when you take seriously the Old Testament’s “I form the light and create darkness / I make prosperity and bring disaster” –type sentiments, and then apply them to something like Brahman, the primal force that Hinduism posits as being the source of all the other gods and of everything else that exists.  I.e. sure, it sounds scary and awful, but what if it’s just a more honest portrayal of the fact that the ultimate entity/force behind the world, if sincerely reckoned with, does appear to be either amoral or downright evil when measured against the limited ethical categories of human beings?  

I assume that anyone who has read, say, the Book of Job from start to end, will probably understand what I am getting at here.  

The appeal of Azathoth thus lies in what I’ve said in previous entries re: some of us are not-at-all convinced that the underlying reality of the universe is love-and-light.  One may instead find it more plausible – given what can be observed re: a rather significant amount of uselessness and suffering in the world – to believe that whatever is behind the universe is at best neutral between good and evil… and also not nearly as competent in the area of constructive behavior as terms such as “omnipotence” might suggest.  

If a solid majority of human beings strongly prefer the more rose-colored belief, one finds oneself then emphasizing the darkness in order to highlight the difference of one’s own vision, resulting in the formulation of a concept that may seem wholly evil.  Really though, it is just the cast shadow whose darkness is proportional to the excessive brightness of the more-majority-type religious conceptions of God, Brahman, etc. 

A quotation from LaVey, to demonstrate – just for the sake of interest – that this is a less-unorthodox position than folks who assume “LaVeyan = atheist” might suppose:

“It is a popular misconception that the Satanist does not believe in God… To the Satanist, ‘God’ – by whatever name he is called, or no name at all – is seen as the balancing force in nature, and not as being concerned with suffering.  This powerful force which permeates and balances the universe is far too impersonal to care about the happiness or misery of flesh-and-blood creatures on this ball of dirt upon which we live.” 

In light of what I mentioned above, it occurs to me that perhaps the “balancing” force in what I am describing is more the flutists keeping the abomination quiescent than the abomination itself.  The attitude of hostile indifference seems like a good fit otherwise, though.

In short: What if the universe just is terrible?  And if it that really is how it appears to someone, might it not be refreshing to find oneself presented with a creator/ruler-of-the-universe who does not pretend to be otherwise?  Such is what I see in an entity like Azathoth.  Not that I personally am fixated on the need to take action to keep him asleep, nor interested in asking him for favors (either self-evidently futile or the worst idea ever, LOL), nor particularly eager to wake him up – at least not now that I am over that depressive episode I was having last year.  But my point, rather, is that if it even makes sense to talk about “the true face of the universe,” Azathoth is essentially what I picture that as being. 

The other two entities I’ll be discussing subsequently – Az and Azerate – could perhaps be thought of as two masks that this underlying face alternates between wearing.  But beyond that, I’ll leave for the future entries on the beings in question…