The Brotherhood of Cthulhu

by Richard L. Tierney

copyright 1985 by Richard L. Tierney
reprinted by permission of Richard L. Tierney


"Theosophists," wrote H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, "have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle. . . . They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism." Those lines from "The Call of Cthulhu" helped set the mood leading up to the rising of the sinister prehuman city of R'lyeh from beneath the ocean waves, where it had slumbered for aeons. During this brief ascension Cthulhu, horrible "great priest" of R'lyeh's octopoid spawn, beamed his alien thoughts abroad, unhindered now by water (which evidently "dampens" the effects of telepathy). Psychics experienced wild dreams and nightmares as a result, while cult activities increased radically.

But do Theosophists really possess "bland optimism"? Probably no more so than all other cultists and religionists, for without optimism there would be no incentive to belong to a cult or a religion. Even Lovecraft's depraved Cthulhu Cult (in common with many Christian sects) offers salvation and exultation to its own members while acknowledging --- even gloating over --- the fact that the rest of mankind are doomed. Such religions may be optimistic in a vindictive sort of way, but hardly "bland".

Yet many of the modern sects which borrow ideas from Theosophy may seem blandly optimistic insofar as they often possess a contemplative, mystical and unworldly flavor. Is this "blandness" real or does it mask an underlying similarity to the Cthulhu Cult, as HPL implies?

Well, consider the Brotherhood of the White Temple, founded in 1930 by one Dr. M. Doreal, "a long-time student of occultism," a psychic who "claims contact with the Great White Lodge, the Elder Brothers of Man" and to be a "channel" for the "ancient wisdom" and "the agent for the coming Golden Age. . . ." (Enclyclopedia of American Religions, Vol. 2, p. 185). Doreal died thirty-three years later but his Brotherhood still flourishes at the "Shamballa Ashrama", a 1,560-acre tract near Sedalia, Colorado, where it publishes and sells (by mail order) numerous booklets with such titles as Masters Visible and Invisible, Neophyte and the Path, and The Dweller on the Threshold. Though influenced by the Kabbalah, these publications --- mostly written by Doreal himself --- also contain many Theosophical ideas. And some of those ideas seem surprisingly Lovecraftian.

Doreal claimed that one day in 1931 he was supernaturally but bodily transported to Mount Shasta, California, there to be shown "a small city of beautiful white houses formed of marble and other stone" hidden in a vast cavern seven miles beneath the mountain. This "city", he says in his 20-page pamphlet Mysteries of Mount Shasta (undated, but internal evidence suggests the early 1940s), is inhabited by 153 surviving Atlanteans who are "masters of all the laws of nature" and possess a super-technology far beyond that of the twentieth century. The purpose of these Atlanteans is to guard against the reemergence of some 4,500,000 Lemurian "priest kings" and "nobles" who retreated underground and "shut themselves off from the outer circle of the world" after their continent sank, "destroyed in a great war with Atlantis. . . ." Says Doreal: "They live there . . . beneath the surface of the earth today. Someday, they might break forth." Further, he expresses the fear that the current "war in the South Pacific . . . might break the seal which has held the Lemurians below the surface of the earth." This would be horrible, for the Lemurians possess "a destructive force so terrible" that it could make life on earth impossible for man. And so the Atlanteans have "sealed the entrance" and are perpetually guarding "the prison in which the Lemurians were bound." That entrance is somewhere "in the Caroline Islands", and every three months the Mount Shasta Atlanteans fly out there in a great "cigar-shaped ship of glistening, silvery-like material" to check on "the locks and bars" that keep the Lemurians imprisoned.

As if all this weren't suggestive enough, Doreal refers to the Lemurians as "the great Race which occupied the ancient continent . . . which existed . . . in what now is the approximate location of the Caroline Islands," and implies that a land bridge once connected it with Australia.

The Atlanteans, says Doreal on the final page of his Mount Shasta booklet, "showed me certain things in the Great Plan and outlined work for me to do in the outer world," then "took me back the same way we had come. . . ." Ordinary people, he explains, can never approach the Atlanteans without being subtly turned away by "a space warp", but "anyone in the right state of consciousness is known, and . . . can pass into the inner temples . . . knowing that the gates are open for them." Sound familiar?

Doreal also claimed to have gained extensive information about Lemuria from "the astral". In another thin booklet, titled Atlantis and Lemuria (undated, but internal evidence suggests about 1940), he once more mentions the Carolines as "a part of the Lemurian Continent" and avers that "once great cities existed on those islands . . . one can see in very clear water the ruins of great structures . . . down over two hundred feet. . . ." These ruins "were of a city of sufficient size to support a population of five million people." Moreover, "the inscriptions that are carved upon those buildings" have not been deciphered, nor are they soon likely to be, for "The Japanese received those islands on a mandate during the last war and so they have been closed ever since. . . ." Could the psychic Doreal have had visions of a submerged city similar to that described by ole Zadok Alien in HPL's novella The Shadow over Innsmouth, to which the native "Kanakys" go to trade and mate with the unhuman Deep Ones? A dark possibility indeed!

Finally, in Lovecraft's tale "The Whisperer inDarkness" the sinister pseudo-Akeley says of the dark planet Yuggoth: ". . . it will soon be the scene of a strange focusing of thought upon our world in an effort to facilitate mental rapport. I would not be surprised if astronomers become sufficiently sensitive to these thought-currents to discover Yuggoth when the Outer Ones wish them to do so." Later, upon learning "that a new ninth planet has been glimpsed beyond Neptune," the horrified protagonist Wilmarth observes that its discoverers, "with a hideous appropriateness they little suspect, have named this thing 'Pluto'. I feel beyond question, that it is nothing less than nighted Yuggoth --- and I shiver when I try to figure out the real reason why its monstrous denizens wish it to be known in this way at this especial time." The year of Pluto's discovery was 1930. Is it mere coincidence that the Brotherhood of the White Temple was founded in the very same year by a psychic occultist who claimed to be a "channel for bringing the ancient wisdom" of superhuman Masters to mankind?

Do Theosophical sects really teach a "bland optimism"? Perhaps. Or, is it the same duplicitous "optimism" that the hoarse-voiced Henry Wentworth Akeley fed to Wilmarth in that darkened Vermont farmhouse? . . .


SOURCES (Other than HPL)

Doreal, M. Mysteries of Mount Shasta. Sedalia, Colorado: Brotherhood of the White Temple, n.d., but 
     probably early 1940s.

__________. Atlantis and Lemuria. Sedalia, Colorado: Brotherhood of the White Temple, n.d., but 
     probably about 1940.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Encyclopedia of American Religions, Vol. 2, p. 185. Wilmington, N. C.: 
     McGrath, 1978.

Price, Robert M. "Lovecraft's Use of Theosophy", Crypt of Cthulhu, Vol. 1, No. 5, Roodmas 1982.

Tierney, Richard L. "America's Mystical Mount Shasta", Fate, Vol. 36, No. 8, August 1983.