I’ve often thought that the psychedelic orator Terence McKenna (1946-2000) was influenced by Lovecraft and, now we have his new biography from his brother The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, it’s now provable…
“We knew we were on a quest; we knew we were seeking something unknown, transcendent, and possibly quite terrifying. So, we were setting out to explore the Screaming Abyss, and we became, humorously, the Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. I think the genesis of it came from H.P. Lovecraft, the early 20th century horror writer that Terence & I both read extensively as teenagers.”
My impromptu jotting of a few similarities:
* Cosmicism: McKenna presented a positive human-centred version of cosmicism (mp3 link) and transcosmicism, in which enlightened humans are the pinnacle and whole point of the cosmos’s “conservation of novelty”. This bit of his thought certainly makes for an interesting answer to Lovecraft. Although this point could be reconciled with Lovecraft, by stating that: although the human brain appears to be the pinnacle of the universe’s ever-ramifying complexity, that doesn’t therefore mean the cosmos cares about us.
* Dimensions just out of reach: McKenna perhaps channels Machen here, a little more than Lovecraft. What Terence called “self-transforming machine elves” are deemed to be beside us, in hidden dimensions only visible on drugs… “Right here and now, one quanta away, there is raging a universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien.” (McKenna). Compare with the Necronomicon‘s “Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold.”; the dimensional intersections of “Dreams in the Witch House”; and “From Beyond” etc.
* Cthulhu calls his cultists: McKenna conceived of time as a wave rather than a linearity. With a being-like “dwell-point” or “hyperdimensional object” ahead of us in this “manifold” of time, a point that is attracting the enlightened portion of humanity toward a singularity-like transformed state — beyond which all will be unspeakable and unknowable. Only sensitive dreamers and artists get the psychic call about this coming apocalypse of ultimate-complexity, especially if they use visionary psychedelics.
To this he added a here-and-now kicker that recalls the Cthulhu cult: before the end-of-time arrives, psychedelically-enlightened humans can best survive the stressful “dominator culture” end-times by retreating into an “Archaic Revival” that involves orgiastic sex, psychedelic drugs, electronic music, and shamanic ritual, indulged in in natural settings — all with the aim of dissolving ego-boundaries and so preparing for the coming end-of-time. Nice work, if you can get it.
If you haven’t heard him compellingly explaining all this, it all sounds very whacky. It is, although he was also scientifically trained so it’s usually unpinned with levels of rationality and interesting ideas about an evolutionary symbiosis of ethno-botany and language/culture. It’s best to think of Terence rather as Lovecraft probably thought of the Theosophists. As a set of extremely well-presented and rather fun tripped-out beliefs to mine for use in weird fiction.