One of the most alluring motifs in HP Lovecraft’s work is “knowledge that drives you insane.” What could be in a book or some discovery that turns a rational mind to madness? It’s easy to imagine that happening to some hapless NPC, sure, but it’s difficult to think about for yourself. “What could I read that would turn me into an entirely different person, one at odds with everyone I currently care about?” It’s a beguiling mystery, one that’s almost tempting in making you want to pit yourself against whatever is in the Necronomicon.
A lot of the time, “text that drives you mad” basically gets translated as “creepy brainwashing magic,” where you read some arcanely-empowered gibberish and suddenly your eyes are glowing green and you’re saying “Iä Cthulhu!” Which is completely unlike anything in real life – magical mind control is a fantasy, but indoctrination is very real and happens every day. It is much more meaningful to think about what actual concepts can drive a person mad.
Then we think of friends who began reading Red Pill forums or taking classes in Gender Theory, and we almost get it. We almost see how just information can take over your whole personality, but that’s a very pale version of the Lovecraftian transformation. Patriarchy or radical feminism are downright human next to the monstrous entities of the Mythos. What could get people so far around the bend, with just text in a book, such that they casually contemplate destroying the world?
Sometimes people in the rationalist community write about egregores. Scott has written about Moloch. Sarah Constantin wrote a great one about Ra. That’s more about the results of processes than something individuals would worship (like the Invisible Hand), but the feeling of them seemed very right. They were terrible and inhuman, a drive given form that we could never really comprehend.
Moloch and Ra sound a lot like what happens when you read too much of a book, and are wholly given over to some greater Thing, that has no concern for normal, boring, human life. So: what if the whole suite of gods in the Mythos were egregores like that?
This is wholly in opposition to what August Derleth tried to do with his failed pantheon, following Lovecraft’s death. He tried to make them into a cute, humanized gallery of gods, representing much more down-to-earth things, like elemental forces and some ongoing war between good and evil. They did not fit with the original vision of an amoral universe.
Rather than pulling the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones down to our human level, these egregore concepts are about keeping them at a level we can not comprehend, and what happens to humans when they are pulled up into their deliriums.
So, again, what is that madness? What is something that as you merely read more about it, could turn your brain inside out?
This project is going to catalogue several of the Lovecraftian entities, and the sorts of mind-consuming beliefs that cause people to swear allegiance to them. It’s going to be very weird. It’s less like “isn’t this cute” and more akin to someone who is uncomfortably religious, either about the Passion of Christ, or the glories of transhumanism.
In fact, that’s as good a place as any to start…