“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
What do we know of Nyarlathotep, the being known as the Herald of the Outer Gods?
“And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences – of electricity and psychology –and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of a nightmare.”
Unlike all the other Egregores, He appears convincingly human, and can interface with public human society. He likes science and cleverness and inventions. And He knows way more than he’s letting on.
And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods — the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.
Specifically, he dances around the throne of Azathoth.
“I am His Messenger,” the daemon said,
As in contempt he struck his Master’s head.
So in one sense he’s a servant of these Outer Gods, but he’s also a humorous. He likes music and dancing and insulting the blind, mindless entities around him because… well they are blind and mindless.
He’s the servant who knows more than His master, and is happiest manipulating things from behind the scenes.
He’s also the mysterious magician who likes to impress the public with how much He knows, but never revealing His tricks, only using an air of mystery and knowing confidence.
He’s a lot of things, actually. The reason Nyarlathotep is so comfortable incarnating as a human is because there’s hundreds of versions of Him throughout the universe. Some of them are tentacled three legged monstrosities, some of them are howling nightgaunts, some of them are women, and some of them are ancient kings. He is the protean chaos that enjoys a variety of masks.
What unites all of these, particularly the two masks depicted above (and Sir Humphrey and the Doctor are most definitely Masks of Nyarlathotep) is intelligence. Not the factual knowledge about everything (that’s Yog-Sothoth), and not the processing power of a larger brain (like Cthugha) but intelligence in its most capricious form – the ability of one individual to change everything, just by knowing where to strike.
Nyarlathotep stands firm and the chaos swirls around Him. He is the Butterfly of the eponymous effect. If you can figure out the whole complicated system, it may look implacable and senseless, but one small gesture can fix it all. Or break it all. Or really do whatever you want to the swirling storm to play it like a fiddle. Nyarlathotep stands for cleverness.
Are you clever? Not just book smart, but can you see the situation at a glance and say the one word to make everyone notice you. Can you find the hidden weakness in the stubborn politician? Do you know the password that unlocks the entire corporate security system? Have you engaged in a little social-engineering?
If you grin thinking about that, that’s a little prayer to the Crawling Chaos. And in some ways it’s a prayer of defiance. It’s saying “I may just be one very small person, but I can part the primordial forces of the universe, I can understand the Gods Almighty, and I can trick them into doing my will.” The individual can matter, even before hopeless Azathoth Himself.
Not every individual. Nyarlathotep does not respect the freedom of each person to be their own self or something, because that’s another abstract idea. The only individual you can count on is yourself.
So go invent something. Or whisper in the right ear. Solve out a problem and keep the answer a secret. That’s all it takes.
Nyarlathotep definitely eschews crude strength. Armies and magical spells and muscles and the voting public. Those are all dumb ways to change the world. They’re the tools of puppets. You don’t want to be a puppet, do you?
Rarely do mortal cultists venerate him in him totality. Usually they devote themselves to one or another of his “masks” – the Cult of the Bloody Tongue knows his as a three-legged tentacle-faced colossus, the Church of Starry Wisdom as a great batlike monster with a single burning three-lobed eye, the Brotherhood of the Beast as a faceless black sphinx, and so on. In addition to his many monstrous forms…monstrous by Earth standards, anyway…he has several humanlike avatars that he often uses to interact with mankind. The most famous of these is the Black Man, a generically satanic figure (complete with cloven hooves) worshipped by diablerists and witch covens everywhere, but he has also maintained several “cover identities” as individual humans. The pharaoh Nephren-Ka, whose dread reign led to an explosion of sorcerous discovery in Old Kingdom Egypt, was one of these; others include great occultist Lostalus Black and great saxophonist The Royal Pant.
But by that same token, Nyarlathotep is perhaps the least rewarding to His cultists. He does not promise really to bring them into Himself, or to grant them some power, or reshape them in His visage. Cultists are additional toys for Him to play with, but then, everyone is additional toys to play with.
The companion is valued by the Doctor. But the companion will never, ever be the Doctor.
They start with the basic material. Find the right size and shape.
With the right texture and resistance.
Then, the adjustments start.
The first folds, as important as any others to follow,
carefully considered and made.
A few more folds.
Both large and small,
then turn it around.
Pressing those folds in firmly, so they take.
Adjustments made, worked into the piece,
rather than wrong folds taken back.
Turn it around.
Fold by fold, manipulated and pressed into what they want.
And you don’t know what it is.
Until they are done.
That’s when you see the many folds, clearly, in the end result.
And you are their finest piece of work.
This is not very comforting if you are ambitious. But if you are ambitious, then the response should be: “Good. I’m not a worshipper of Nyarlathotep. I am Nyarlathotep. I am the Doctor. I am the change I want to see in the world, and I am the small group of thoughtful people that can do anything. If I were not, I would not be free, and I would not be smart.”
(If you aren’t ambitious, and are happy to be the companion to the insufferably arrogant puppeteer, well that can be a very fulfilling cultist relationship too, in its very twisted way. Your life will never cease to be exciting at least.)
This isn’t evil. This is necessary to do good really. You need to believe in yourself to really save the world, and you can’t let your cleverness be held back by bowing to other forces or other people. (Besides, don’t worry, you can always save the world and your friends, if you’re clever enough to see the way. It might require a little manipulation of them, but it’s for the greater good.)
Although good, and evil, after enough years lose interest to Nyarlythotep. His greatest enemy is boredom. Dancing in the storm and manipulating complexity are ends in themselves. They’re fun! And fun is the only thing that lasts when the universe is lying at your feet.
Is the money you stole from that hacking really better than the rush you got as your plan slid into place?
“See the difference between us is you do robbery to support a drugs habit. I do drugs to support a robbery habit.”
Addendum: Even though this post uses the pronoun “he” to refer to Nyarlythotep, this should not all be considered his exclusive gender. Nyarlythotep has worn, and is currently wearing, masks of all genders and configurations. He/she/it is fully post-human that way. Similarly, Nyarlythotep does not get the upper-case pronoun, because of the extreme humanity of his many, many incarnations, and so signify his lack of interest in worship.
A famous Slavoj Zizek quote can work, substituting Zizek’s obsession with capitalism, with instead this sadistic Outer God.
What I think is that today’s [Nyarlythotep] thrives on differences. I mean even naïve positivist psychologists propose to describe today’s subjectivity in terms like multiple subject, fixed-identity subject, a subject who constantly reinvents itself, and so on. So my big problem with this is the painting of the enemy as some kind of self-identified stable substantial patriarch to which these multiple identities and constant reinventing should be opposed. I think that this is a false problem; I am not impressed by this problem. I think that this is a certain logic, totally within the framework of [the Outer Gods] , where again, [Nyarlythotep] , in order to reproduce itself, to function in today’s condition of consumption society, the crazy dynamics of the [Outer Gods], no longer needs or can function with the traditional fixed patriarchal subject. It needs a subject constantly reinventing himself.