“I talked in Yemen with an old man who had come back from the Crimson Desert—he had seen Irem, the City of Pillars, and had worshipped at the underground shrines of Nug and Yeb—Iä! Shub-Niggurath!”
“The ceremonies of Nug and Yeb sickened him especially—so much, indeed, that he refrained from describing them in his manuscript.”
The most famous Lovecraftian gods not already mentioned, we must ask, what egregores come in a pair? Not just some pagan idea of duality, but two mind-compelling ideas all on their own, that completely encompass mortal minds, and spring from them like a virus to other minds, and yet completely antithetical to each other.
What we know of them is that they are the twin children of Shub-Niggurath, and later one in the parent of Cthulhu and the other of Tsathoggua. One is red and one is black. One brings black fire and the other ill frost.
Yin and yang. Positive and negative. Yes and no.
Yeb is the egregore of YES! He (Yeb does not have a consistent gender, only always the opposite of whatever his twin is) believes you can do it. He says that the answer to any question is yes. He is growth mindset. He is the half full glass.
- You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
- The greatest regret you will have on your deathbed is the things you didn’t do.
- The only thing all your failures have in common is you.
- There is only do or do not. There is no try.
- Just do it. The Lord helps those who help themselves.
Yeb is positivity less in the sense of “things will always be good” but rather “YOU can determine what you accomplish.” The world is full of problems and difficulties, yes this is true. But focusing on them will only cause you to never do anything. The world is ALSO full of opportunities. Are you brave enough to take them? Do you want it enough? If you get knocked down, will you get up again?
And Yeb really can point to a lot of success. From studies around growth mindset https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/04/08/no-clarity-around-growth-mindset-yet/ to the careers of anyone successful and famous. Thinking you can do something, really does make you more able to do it.
And really, it makes sense? What can you do about the unfair hand the world dealt you? Sure you can vote for better politicians and post online to fix structural inequalities, but is that going to get anything *done*? The only person who can help you right now is *you*.
Another word for this outlook is of course the moral philosophy herrenmoral: embracing your own strength, and not worrying what the weak say (lest you become weak yourself.) But an egregore is different from a philosophy in that it is a self-replicating system that uses human minds to propogate. And no egregore propogats like Yeb.
You convince yourself you can sell this thing, you can become rich, you can convince others. And then you go out and tell other people THEY can get rich and sell this thing, so long as they “believe in the you that believes in them” and also they give you a little bit of cash for the privilege. And… they’ll just do it. They’ll pay you off and recruit others, all on the belief that THEY DESERVE THIS SUCCESS, and they’ll get it. Somewhere down the line, a rational part of you says the money and the suckers will run out, but that’s far away and for now you are cool enough to deserve their case.
It’s a pyramid scheme. Totally irrational, but they spread like wildfire. If you have time on your hands, listen to the podcast “The Dream” about the spread of multilevel marketing schemes and how they manipulate our psychology. They are brutal, efficient machines at separating you from your money – and your life and your friends as you beg everyone for money to feed the MLM habit. But the reason they work is because “believing in yourself” is so damn addictive that many people – especially desperate people with no good alternatives – will believe them.
Politicians and founders and other leaders get pulled into this trap more than anyone. It’s easy to criticize the current leader for “not trying hard enough” and “not believing in the country enough.” You use that rhetoric to get in charge, and then you gotta deliver. So you blame everyone for *not falling in line enough*. If only they really believed in you, believed in your organization, then everything would be great. If only they gave you more power. And this builds up so much until the Yeb-added leader brings the organization to a disaster it can’t face – often a war, or a bad bet that leads to bankruptcy.
If you have seen fitness cults, or direct sales pitches, or self-help books, or any boiler room sales meeting, or Joel Osteen or Donald Trump, you have seen the face of Yeb.
Yeb has a lot in common with Ithaqua, to be sure. The cultists who seek Ithaqua’s self-improvement can often be initiated with Yeb-style positivity. But the throes of Yeb are shallow and not actually about the hard work of cultivating yourself, if you go any farther. A fully addled Yeb cultist will be entirely lazy and still demanding the world owes them more, if only they are more positive about believing it. Yeb makes New Year’s Resolutions but has forgotten them by Lent as a new fad catches their eye.
What is Nug then? Nug is “no” but what does that mean? What is the egregore of a glass half empty. Nug is the acknowledgment that we are at the mercy of a cruel world. We were dealt a bad hand from the start. The game was rigged.
Nug is much more realistic than her twin, even if less effective. Nug knows that it is a deterministic universe that created us and guided every action we will take before we were even born. Our family wasn’t rich so we didn’t have an expensive education and connections. Our brains have chemically addled us with crippling depression and executive dysfunction. We graduated into a terrible economy, and the rich elites have taken all the good jobs for themselves. We were just always screwed.
Nug is at least merciful, more so than any other egregore of the Lovecraftian set. Nug sees the many suffering people, really the vast majority who are financially insecure and doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring, and she says *it is not their fault.* Nug says we should think of them, we should try to help them, and even if it’s pointless, it is the better thing to do. At least, we should feel sad for them. Even if no one can be helped in any way, we can always be sad for them.
- Right now, what you owe to yourself is self-care.
- If you’re not angry you aren’t paying attention.
- The Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice:A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he would need to resort to makeshift cardboard insoles so as to prolong the moment of shelling out another ten dollars. Therefore over a period of ten years, he might have paid out a hundred dollars on boots, twice as much as the man who could afford fifty dollars up front ten years before. And he would still have wet feet.
- The poor will always be with you. And, the last should come first, and the first should come last.
- If you see a fence in the middle of a field don’t move it, you don’t know why someone put it there.
- Cthulhu always swims left.
- It’s not your fault. It’s structural.
Nug has a lot in common with Azathoth, when it comes to being willing to perceive the nature of reality, but again stops short of the mightiest egregore. With Azathoth’s revelation that existence is futile, cultists can reach true existential freedom and be aware that they could do *anything*, *because* it doesn’t matter. Nug stops short of there, and is eternally mired in despair and resentment.
The philosophical perspective of this is derided as slavenmoral – literally the morality of slaves who wish to make the masters as weak as themselves. (Nietzche was just as bad as Lovecraft with their unfortunate way of putting things.) But with an egregore we don’t speak just of a philosophy but of the memetic virus that propogates. How can wallowing compassion ever spread as virulently as Yeb?
And yet it does. Because excuses are addictive too. Changing the world, or even yourself, is so hard and painful. The sweet egregore whispers in your ear “you don’t have to. In fact you never could, so trying is only folly.” And those minds tell that to other minds, and they lay down their arms and turn to anger and persuasion of others. Nug spreads less quickly than Yeb, but once it has claimed mental territory, it gives it up less easily. Reinforced by awareness of reality, and consorting with sloth, Nug minds are strong against persuasion back to the center. And they make powerful political movements, because you can always hope the “political movement” will do something, and all you have to do is like, vote for them once every few years and complain.
Nug can weave a “web of fragility”, where like minds come together to talk about shared interests and news in their world. Observations about that world can resonate – and so can complaints. One negative thought about the world on your own can be repressed by doubting yourself or wanting to keep a happier mindset – but when you see it repeated and upvoted by others, it becomes more true. Any hobbiest that has made a subreddit – especially gamers – has seen their community become more and more focused on why things aren’t good enough, why the producers aren’t producing fast enough, and why it causes them real emotional pain when they are disappointed. The web of fragility reinforces these messages until they become the most important thing in the world. Did you hear the new Diablo game is on mobile phones? Tonight we riot.
Interestingly, they are the two egregores with specific defense mechanisms against each other. Yeb calls its doubters “loser thinking” and “the no no dum dums”, while Nug mocks its opposite as “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”
It is too easy to see these twin egregores as right and left in 2020 America. Indeed many leaders of the Republican party are Yeb evangelists, and many of the thoughtstrains among the activist left are Nug dominated. But don’t mistake a temporary alignment for the true nature of the parties. Conservatives can cry foul at the unfairness of the world, and progressives can demand that society do better and try harder. (In fact Edmund Burkean conservative is all *about* our doubt that we can make things better, and liberalism comes from liberty and the belief in individual potential.)
The other easy thing to do is say “neither of these egregores are entirely right or wrong, and the correct perspective lies somewhere in the middle.” Practically that is probably wise – you will be the most balanced individual if you see structural disadvantages that stop you from wasting your time and money, but also you make the most out of opportunities that are given.
They both certainly have good *points*, the question is whether you will let their abstract idea create such a groove in your mind that you always see a glass the way they do.
But Azathoth does not love balance. The leader of the world will always be a Yeb cultist, and the Nug cults will always be the closest to truth.