By Urmah-Zu - John Wisdom Gonce, III
By Urmah-Zu - John Wisdom Gonce, III
Lishtar´s Note: How Mesopotamian, i.e. Sumerian, Babylonian or Assyrian is in fact the work known as The Simon Necronomicon? Below, John Wisdom Gonce III, author of the book The NECRONOMICON FILES, soon to be published by Red Wheel/Weiser, will provide us with a series of articles on the topic. Read on another Gateways2Bab first and ... enjoy!
All Neo-Pagans who have chosen the path of ancient Mesopotamian magick and religion have probably, at one time or another, encountered the Simon Necronomicon, or made contact with at least one of its ardent devotees. It isn't hard to find the Necronomicon and its followers. In fact, it - and they - are hard to avoid! Virtually any modern bookstore will offer copies of the Simon book for sale as an inexpensive mass-market paperback available from Avon Books. And plethoras of websites devoted to the Necronomicon are lurking on the Internet, waiting to ambush the unwary Net surfer. Some well-meaning Meso-Pagans in the past have even incorporated the Simon Necronomicon into their own practice of magick and worship.
With public ignorance of Sumerology and Assyriology being what it is, most people who pick up a copy of the Simon Necronomicon probably assume that it is an authentic work of Sumerian magick, based on the hype written in the introduction of the book. Those who take a no-nonsense approach to ancient Mesopotamian metaphysics may find this alarming, and perhaps they should! My own love of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian magick and religion was one of the things that motivated me to write my book The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend in order to dispel the confusion created by the Simon book. Another reason was that my career in American "alternative" culture brought me repeatedly into contact with people who sincerely believed the Necronomicon to be an authentic historical grimoire (book of spells), and insisted they could use it to practice real Sumerian magick. Since beginning this project, I have uncovered scores of incidents, news stories, and first-hand encounters with people who are "true believers" in the Simon book, and who have used it as a source for their beliefs and practices. Some of these incidents and encounters were merely laughable, some frightening, and some tragic.
For those few who have never heard of the Necronomicon, perhaps I should provide some explanation of the origins and background history of this hoax before I begin deconstructing the psuedo-Mesopotamian elements in the Simon version. The Necronomicon began as an idea in the mind of horror fiction writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), or HPL, as his admirers like to call him. American short story writer, novelist, essayist, poet, philosopher, and voluminous correspondent, Lovecraft is among the most important writers of supernatural fiction in the twentieth century - if not the most important. Lovecraft wrote entirely for the amateur press and pulp fiction magazines, and so had only a limited readership during his lifetime. HPL's career as a pulp fiction writer spanned a period from the early 1920's to his death in 1937. His primary market for fiction sales was a magazine entitled Weird Tales, which published a wide variety of fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories. Lovecraft had a genius for blending genres, and was the first author of weird fiction to combine elements of horror fiction, fantasy, and science fiction in his tales. HPL modernized and existentialized the contemporary horror story, writing his tales from a "cosmic" perspective in which mankind was insignificant against the background of an incomprehensibly vast and ancient universe.
In Lovecraft's fictional universe, a group of ancient and powerful extraterrestrial, extra dimensional, alien creatures had once inhabited the earth for millions of years, and would one day come to reclaim it. Lovecraft's stories about these creatures contained a kind of pseudo-mythology that came to be called the Cthulhu Mythos, in which primitive or degenerate humans worshiped these alien beings as "gods." The ruined cities of these hideous Mythos beings supposedly still existed in remote or inaccessible places, like the sunken city of R'lyeh, whose non-Euclidian geometry defies human description, and where the gigantic squid-headed god Cthulhu lies "not dead, but dreaming" in his cyclopean temple. In Lovecraft's tales, these Mythos "gods," like Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Cthulhu, were constantly waiting for an opportunity to re-take the earth, and could be summoned into our dimension with incantations and spells from old, forbidden books of black magick - like the Necronomicon.
Lovecraft created the idea of the Necronomicon as a fictional prop to make his stories more convincing and entertaining. To increase the illusion of its authenticity in his stories, Lovecraft would often include the Necronomicon as part of a list of magickal books, some of which were actual historical grimoires. Lovecraft even wrote a fictional "History of the Necronomicon," (something he referred to as "mock scholarship") in which he gave the alleged historical background of the book:
Original title "AL AZIF" - azif being the word used by Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) suppos'd to be the howling of daemons.
Composed by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of Sanaa, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade caliphs, circa 700 A.D. ......In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon (Al Azif) was written, & of his final death or disappearance (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th cent. biographer) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight & devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. 
Lovecraft had many friends who were also writers or would-be writers of horror fiction, with whom he communicated by correspondence. These "pen pals" of HPL are now known as the Lovecraft Circle. Being generous and gentlemanly by nature, Lovecraft encouraged many young writers, and often revised their stories for them. He also encouraged his friends to freely use elements of his Cthulhu Mythos - including the Necronomicon - in their own stories. As Lovecraft's popularity grew, readers began to wonder if the Necronomicon might be a real book. The fact that several of Lovecraft's friends now included the forbidden tome in horror tales of their own made it just that much more convincing. On several occasions, readers would write to Weird Tales asking where they could find out more about the Necronomicon. Farnsworth Wright, the editor of the magazine, would always pass these letters on to Lovecraft, who would dutifully write back to the misguided researcher, explaining that the book didn't exist, and that he had made it up. In one such letter, Lovecraft wrote:
...Regarding the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred - I must confess that both the evil volume & the accursed author are fictitious creations of my own...
Lovecraft was genuinely surprised, and perhaps a little ashamed, of this hoax that he had unintentionally created. In a letter to one of his many friends, HPL confessed:
...I am opposed to serious hoaxes, since they really confuse and retard the sincere student of folklore. I feel guilty every time I hear of someone's having spent valuable time looking up the Necronomicon at public libraries. 
As an atheist and a "mechanistic materialist," with no belief in the supernatural whatsoever, HPL was even more surprised when one of his occultist acquaintances took his pseudomythology of Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth seriously.
NECROMANIA IN THE USA
After Lovecraft's untimely death in 1937, his friends August Derleth and Donald Wandrei established their own publishing house, Arkham House, to keep Lovecraft's work alive. From its beginnings in 1939 up to the present, Arkaham House has kept HPL's fiction, letters, and essays in print in hardcover copies. By the 1960's, Lovecraft had become popular with intellectuals, the counterculture, and college students. In the 1970's his popularity skyrocketed, leading filmmakers to produce numerous horror movies based on his work. As Lovecraft's popularity grew, so did the suspicion that his imaginary Necronomicon was a real, historical spellbook. True to the laws of supply and demand, no less than fourteen books with the title "Necronomicon" have been published since the early 1970's. Most of these are harmless hoaxes that cannot be used for the actual practice of magick. If this were true of all the Necronomicons, our story would end here - but it isn't.
In 1977 Magickal Childe Publishing printed a version of the Necronomicon that was intended to be taken seriously, and became the most popular Necronomicon of all. This Necronomicon, edited by "Simon", was eventually published as a mass-market paperback by Avon Books in 1980, and has been continually in print up to the present day - making it one of the best selling occult books of all time. Claiming that the system in his book is based on ancient Sumerian magick, Simon uses the supposed antiquity of the magick in his Necronomicon as a "hook." But a close examination of the spells and rituals in the book reveals the dubiousness of his claims for their Sumerian origin. Worse yet, many of these rituals seem deliberately engineered to backfire on the user, for reasons that I will explain later.
This is where I enter the story. Over the years, I encountered several individuals, and small groups, who were "true believers" in the Simon Necronomicon, and attempted to use its magick. I was amazed at first; thinking that surely everyone knew it was a hoax. As a lifelong fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I was aware of the pulp fiction origins of the Necronomicon. As a worshiper of the Goddess Inanna/Ishtar, with some knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia (my parents gave me my first book about ancient Sumer when I was eight years old), I knew that its magick was not Sumerian. After "deprogramming" or "exit counseling" one victim of a "dabbler" cult  that used the Simon Necronomicon as its "sacred text," I had a sort of epiphany. I realized that somebody in the Pagan/occult community needed to address this issue.
THE NECRONOMICON FILES TEAM
As I set about "deconstructing" the Necronomicon hoax, I realized that I did not, at that time, have enough of a background in Lovecraft scholarship to do the whole job myself. I realized that I needed help. And so I began a series of spells and meditations to bring into my life someone who could help me with this project. It had to be someone with an extensive background in Lovecraft studies. Since I didn't want to interfere with that individual's free will, it had to be someone who would want to do this work. It had to be the perfect man for the job.
Shortly after this, I met Daniel Harms, author of The Encyclopedia Cthuliana, who appeared one night (as if by magick) at one of my favorite haunts, the campus radio station of Vanderbilt University, where my close friend, and fellow Lovecraft fan, the Reverend Dr. Johnny Anonymous was doing his 91 Noise show. Daniel, who was studying anthropology at Vanderbilt, had already been doing research on the Necronomicon from the Lovecraftian perspective, just as I had been doing research on it from the occult angle. After the good Reverend introduced Daniel and me, it wasn't long before we realized we had a common cause. And so The Necronomicon Files was born.
As I stated earlier, one reason for writing the Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend was to vindicate H.P. Lovecraft, to exonerate him from guilt by association with the various Necronomicon hoaxes that exploit his name. An even more important reason was the high incidence of magickal and other disasters - including at least three murders -- associated with the Simon Necronomicon, a hoax with a body count unparalleled by any other spellbook in modern times. Another important reason was to remove a pitfall from the paths of all those who have chosen the way of ancient Mesopotamian magick and religion. But I believe that our book will also be of service to the greater Pagan community at large.
I cannot help but think that the timing of the publication of The Necronomicon Files is one of those priceless examples of synchronicity of which the Gods are so fond. As of the time of this writing, the Pagan community is closer to receiving proper recognition from the majority religions, and acceptance from the greater community than ever before. In the U.S., the serialized television movie The Mists of Avalon (2001) depicted Pagans in Arthurian Britain as decent people rather than villains, no worse than (and in some cases, better than) their Christian neighbors. This sort of depiction of non-Christians in the ancient or medieval world would have been unthinkable in the Hollywood of just a few years ago. I, myself, am a regular consultant to The Subculture Project, a law enforcement organization that investigates the crimes of destructive cults, and trains police officers about alternative religions - a situation that would have been impossible a decade ago, when most law enforcement officers thought the words "Pagan" and "Satanist" were synonyms. An anonymous survey of government workers in the State of Tennessee (supposedly at the center of the American Bible Belt) revealed that over 70% of state workers considered themselves Pagans. Fundamentalist Christian televangelist Jerry Fallwell has warned his people to be prepared for Christianity to become a "minority religion." The Wiccan religion, Voudon, and other Afro-Caribbean religions, and other Pagan beliefs, are now recognized and protected by the United States Constitution.
Does all of this newfound acceptance mean that we can now relax and celebrate? Not really! All transitional periods are dangerous. I believe that we are about to face our greatest struggle, in the form of a right wing, fundamentalist Christian backlash of vast proportions. As a historian, I know that an enemy is always most dangerous when he is losing the war. Take for example the Holy Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church, whose activities heightened as the Church felt its power slipping away. The worst of the "Burning Times" did not occur during the medieval period when the Church was at the height of its power, but during the Renaissance and the Reformation. The Nazis of World War II mounted the last, largest, and most bitterly fought counteroffensive of the war - the Bulge Campaign - when the Allies were close to victory in Europe.
But the war in which we are involved is a war of words. In this verbal war, Fundamentalist Christian leaders have often used the Simon Necronomicon as fodder for anti-Pagan propaganda. Bob Larsen, host of the Christian radio show Talk-Back, and author of many alarmist anti-Pagan books, claims that the Simon Necronomicon is standard reading among Wiccans and other Pagans. Larson even claimed that one high school student was told to read the Simon book by a Wiccan who spoke at an assembly at his school. The boy was later convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk. In spite of these misrepresentations and outright lies, no Pagan leader has ever addressed the issue of the Simon hoax directly, and only a handful of occultist authors, like the great Donald Tyson, have had the courage to speak out. By not addressing this hoax, we have left the field open for our opponents to use it against us.
Now, as we face our greatest challenge, it is essential for us to deal with problems like the Simon Necronomicon in a direct, no-nonsense manner. We will never gain the acceptance that our community deserves if we do not.
 Lovecraft, H.P. "History of the Necronomicon" with annotations by Daniel Harms. Found in The Necronomicon Files, The Truth the Legend. Daniel Harms and John Wisdom Gonce, III. Mt. View, CA. Night Shade Books. 1998. p. 329. The text was adjusted with a facsimile of the original document as presented on pages 102-3 of Willis Conover and H.P. Lovecraft's Lovecraft at Last.
 Letter to William Frederick Anger dated August 14, 1934. Selected Letters V. Sauk City, WI, Arkham House. 1976 p. 16.
 Letter to Willis Conover dated July 29, 1936. Selected Letters V. Sauk City, WI. Arkham House. p. 285.
 I examine the possible identity of the person, or persons, using the pseudonym "Simon" at length in my book The Necronomicon Files, The Truth Behind the Legend. Forthcoming from Red Wheel/Weiser not later than autumn 2002.
 I tend to use the old fashioned word "cult' rather than the more fashionable and politically correct term "New Religious Movement" (NRM). Sociologists adopted the term NRM because the word "cult" has become a prejudicial term loaded with negative connotations. Unfortunately, the term New Religious Movements is misleading at best, and often totally inaccurate. Many cults are not new, but are based on heretical versions of standard world religions. Some cults are not religious, as in the case of political extremist groups and street gangs. And many cults are too small to be considered "movements", as is the case with most Necronomicon-related groups. NRM may be "politically correct", but it is incorrect in every other way. Also, I use the word cult so that readers will know what the heck I'm talking about. I've always found that it is wiser to call a spade a spade, rather than referring to it as an "agricultural instrument."
Copyright 2002 John Wisdom Gonce, III. © All rights reserved to author.
Related books of interest:
- The Necronomicon Files by Daniel Harms, John Wisdom Gonce (1998)
- Simon's Necronomicon (1995)
- Necronomicon by Colin Wilson and George Hay (Editor) (1993)
- "Al Azif by Abdul Alhazred" by L.Sprague de Camp (1973)
- The R'Lyeh Text : Hidden Leaves from the Necronomicon (Skoob Esoterica) by Robert Turner (Translator), George Hay (Editor), Colin Wilson (Introduction) (1995)
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