On the Shelf (Sort of) – Our Gods Wear Spandex, Part 2

After my first post on Our Gods Wear Spandex, Plutonica provided a link to her own review of the book, referring to it as an “interesting introduction.”  I’d have to second that – for all its flaws, Knowles has raised some good ideas.  Nonetheless, the execution is terrible, as evidenced by his entry on H. P. Lovecraft.

Let’s go through this section:

Left penniless by a father driven mad by syphillis and a grandfather who squandered the family’s fortune…

The diagnosis of Lovecraft’s father as a syphillis patient hasn’t been confirmed, though it’s pretty likely. Likewise, his grandfather can only be seen as “squandering” the family fortune in making repeated business investments in a series of dams near the Snake River that kept overflowing. It’s not as if he was spending it all on booze and hookers.  Still, this could just be a matter of wording.

He constructed a coherent, overarching “mythos” that runs throughout all of his (non-serial) stories, complete with a fictional satanic bible, The Necromonicon

Yes. It’s also spelled like that in the index. The distinction between Lovecraft’s non-serial and serial stories is odd, especially since many of his non-serial stories didn’t include elements of the Mythos (take “The Tree”, or “The Temple,” or even “Sweet Ermengarde”).

We go on to the Old Ones. Here’s Knowles’ idiosyncratic take:

With the rise of man, these chimeras go into hiding, and begin preparing for the day when they will reemerge and take possession of the planet once more. Creatures with names like Chthulu and Nyarlathotep gather human acolytes…

Technically, Chthulu is like Cthulhu, so this part is accurate.   It’s also misspelled later on, though.  I’m not sure where exactly Knowles picks up the idea that the Old Ones are hiding from people; it’s certainly not an interpretation I’ve ever heard.

Many researchers have speculated that Lovecraft had extensive contacts with esoteric and occult organizations like the Theosophists and the OTO. Aleister Crowley’s disciple Kenneth Grant, for instance, has written extensively on the parallels between Lovecraft’s and Crowley’s work.

In all my studies of Lovecraftian occultism – and that includes the Fortean Times article from a few year’s back – I’ve never come across any evidence that HPL possessed “extensive contacts” with the OTO or the Theosophical Society, or anyone who even said that was the case. Those people who go through that route usually choose the Golden Dawn, claiming that Lovecraft was in touch with some of its members (he wasn’t).

(Plutonica notes that Knowles is much given to pointing out that other people assert something, without saying what he himself believes.  I think that’s a good test of the reliability of an author – will he merely repeat rumor and speculation, or does he give his own opinion on a topic that might come from unreliable sources?)

The second line is incredibly misleading. Grant has sought out similarities between the works of Crowley and Lovecraft, but that’s not the same as HPL being in touch with the OTO or Theosophy. Nor, to my knowledge, does Grant ever say that, and thus he can’t be an example of someone doing so.

Occultist Tracy Twyman maintains that Lovecraft’s stories are adaptations of the stories of the so-called Nephilim, or fallen angels, from the ancient Book of Enoch.

This is technically correct, as Tracy Twyman does indeed say this. The premise is unlikely, however.

Let’s see here.  That’s three outright errors, one case of poor wording, four misspellings (one eliminated on a technicality), one appeal to uncited and likely non-existent authorities, and one appeal to an authority with a dubious argument.   That’s over two pages, with a quick dip into the index for good measure.

Even more interesting is how, after spending this effort to set up HPL as an important figure, Knowles rarely uses him in the subsequent work. Aside from one mention that the “Elder Gods” refer to Lovecraft (which we know they don’t), he only refers now and again to something being “Lovecraftian”. In doing so, he misses out on some honest-to-goodness parallels not based on simple similarity. He discusses Doctor Strange, for instance, but not that the wizard once battled a cult that was almost a carbon copy of Lovecraft’s Esoteric Order of Dagon. Other concepts in the same work derive from Bob Howard, who’s explicitly credited next to the writers and artists in the books!

Having followed this thread through, I found myself unable to finish the book.  So far, there’s simply been too many factual errors that undermine what could be a valid and compelling (if not revolutionary) thesis.  Nonetheless, I thought I’d also let you know, so you can make your own choice about the book.   Hell, go buy it or check it out and tell me what you think.  Don’t expect much, though.

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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