"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
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
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
__________. Atlantis and Lemuria.
Sedalia, Colorado: Brotherhood of the White Temple, n.d., but
Melton, J. Gordon. The Encyclopedia
of American Religions, Vol. 2, p. 185. Wilmington, N. C.:
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.