Department of Literature


Necronomicon of Simon
[research paper]


Arkham - Brookline - Rockport


The Necronomicon published in 1980 by Avon Paperback may be a transcription of the work of the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, but it seems doubtful that it is an accurate or unbiased one.  The first question is: who wrote this Necronomicon?  The copyright was issued in 1977 to Schlangerkraft, Inc. and the editing and introduction were done by a person who is called "Simon the Wise."  For the moment then, let us call this "Simon's Necronomicon."

Based on the quotes and descriptions Howard Phillips Lovecraft and his literary friends gave us from translations of the 'Al Azif' of Abdul Alhazred, we might expect that the Necronomicon translated from his work would center itself with the history of Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, Cthulhu, the Old Ones, and the Great Race.  According to Lovecraft's intimations, the latter three of these, at least, are beings that came from the cosmos beyond our time and space and existed on our earth, Terra, in the pre-human era.  Rather than center on these creatures and the tales of Alhazred's travels in the ruins of Babylon, the subterranean catacombs of Memphis, and his ten years in the great southern desert of Arabia - the Roba El Khaliyeh or "Empty Space" of the ancients - and "Dhana" or "Crimson" desert of the modern Arabs, the Avon paperback seems to be an amalgamation of three distinct sources: Lovecraft's Mythos (as defined by Alhazred's work), Aleister Crowley's pseudo-magic, and Sumerian mythology.

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic race who inhabited lower Mesopotamia five thousand to four thousand years before the birth of Christ.  Their religious traditions were reflected in those of the Semitic Akkadians of upper Mesopotamia and the later Babylonian culture itself.  For instance, "Of the Sleep of Ishtar," which appears between pages 166-180 of Simon's Necronomicon, is not a secret or disturbing work but a labored version of the well-known (and haunting) Sumer epic, "Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld," transcriptions of which can be found in a number of scholarly works on Sumer mythology.  It would be discomforting to hear that all Alhazred did was transcribe the mythology of a single civilization that had been dead and forgotten for over four thousand years when he was born.  More likely he would have filtered his writing and visions through the mythology of the Moslem religion into which he was born and was a natural window through which he saw the world.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a self-proclaimed sorcerer often referred to as the Great Beast.  He produced a number of works on magic, a scandalous autobiography, and a smattering of fiction.  He was a member of the British society of sorcerers known as the Golden Dawn until his expulsion.  He went on to create two magic cults of his own.  His reputation comes more from his outrageously egocentric and paranoid lifestyle than any actual magical talents.  Generally, his writings on magic are adaptations of older materials.  His autobiography The Diary of a Drug Fiend seems to be inspired by the success of Thomas De Quincey's brilliant Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).  Despite this, Crowley's influence in the world of cult magic remains a powerful force.  He has left us with a great deal of ritual but not a great deal of substance behind it.

Technically, Abdul Alhazred wrote the 'Al Azif.'  The title "necronomicon" was given to the work when it was translated into Greek in 950 A.D. by Theodorus Philetas.  According to William Scott Home's treatise "The Lovecraft 'Books': Some Addenda and Corrigenda" (which appears in "Dark Brotherhood and Other Places," Arkham House, 1966) "necronomicon" means "the book of that which is binding (or customary) among the dead."  This would allow a number of books by different authors and from different religious systems to have this title in Greek translation.  The Egyptian and Tibetan books of the dead might also be called "necronomicons."  Crowley himself took the title of the works of Hermes Trigestimus (The Books of Thoth) when he created his own treatise on the Tarot under the title The Book of Thoth.

This is not to say that a treatise of mythology would not be the form that the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred would take.  Most likely, it would be a work of mythic legends as well as a travelogue of the strange and horrific places, people, and monsters he met.  In the period in which Alhazred lived, the civilization of the Old Ones had long been forgotten by the general world population and most of what he discovered would have been in the form of tablets, spoken legends, modern (to his day) transcripts of oral mythologies, and the occasional meeting with a human cult group to an ancient god or a chance meeting with ghouls or demons who could fill in some of the information.  And then, Alhazred may have been one of the select who were contacted by mental telepathy by the Great Race (who sometimes drew the minds of humans into their time to learn from them, often leaving some sense of the knowledge the Great Race possessed) or was able to enter Dreamworld and meet other dreamers and gods and creatures such as the Veiled Priest of Leng.  But his work would not have limited the existence of the Ancient Ones to a small section of the Near East when, by 700 A.D., the mythology of Cthulhu and his companions had reached the global, even universal, proportions which Lovecraft consistently hints at.  And especially for one who lived at the heart of the world's roads in a period when travelers from the far corners of the globe were beginning to cross paths.

The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred would not be strictly a proto/pseudo-scientific/philosophic work such as Cardan's De Subtilitate, Case's Lapis Philosophicus, or Grataroli's Turba Philosophorum.  It would not be a grimoire (a manual of magic and the physical sciences) like the Almadel, the Oupnekhat, or the Shemhamphoras.  Nor would it be a demonology such as Remigius's Demonolatria, Mengus's Flagellum Daemonum, or Molitor's De lamiis et phitonicis muliebribus which were produced by Christian cleric witch hunters.  It might contain elements of these things.  This is suggested by the imperfect copy of Dr. Dee's English version which Wilbur Whateley's grandfather had bequeathed him.  That did, on page 751, contain magical formulae for incantations.

But the overall volume would be more in the form of the Keltic Mabinogion, the Indian Atharva Veda, and, yes, the Sumerian creation epic, all of which captured the oral legends and myths of pre-historic man.  It might even resemble Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy or John Milton's Paradise Lost.  It would, though, have a world scope beyond that of a single religion as well as a surprising knowledge of the universe, time, and space for its time and, possibly, even ours.

The Simon Necronomicon does have a number of poignant and profound moments and seems to honestly seek a truth within the context of mythology and magic ritual.  It captures what is more a human's view of a human's religion rather than a cosmic truth about a cosmic reality.  In this context, it is perhaps possible that this work was older than the Al Azif of Abdul Alhazred and that the opening and closing chapters attributed to the mad Arab were affixed to give this anonymous book weight and commercial prominence.  And certainly, the book is of value as a remnant of a lost belief.  There is a suggestion that perhaps some of the text is transcribed from the R'lyeh Text.  In such a case, this transcription was done during the Sumerian period and the original alien characteristics have been anthropomorphized out of recognition with the addition of Sumerian religious beliefs which overshadow the depth of the original text.  This has been the case in a number of periods of human history, as the knowledge and ritual of the Stonehenge builders was lost under the religion on the later Druids and the religion of the Druids was lost under the later Christians.  Unfortunately the R'lyeh Text has been lost to us in pre-history so we have no context for comparison.

Simon's Necronomicon raises an intriguing premise.  While it does make the mistake of pigeon-holing Lovecraft's Mythos as Christian dogma of Good and Evil (erroneously, I believe), the author attempts to equate Lovecraft's mythos characters with those of Sumer.  Cthulhu, whose name Lovecraft repeatedly claimed was the poor Arabic transcription of the alien tongue, is said in Simon's Necronomicon to be from the Sumerian 'Cutha' for netherworld (which is KUTU in Akkadian).  This would mean that Cthulhu = Cutha-lu = 'man of the netherworld.'  Of course, it is possible that Lovecraft might have intended such a connection and that Cthulhu's real name is unknown to us.  This would mean that the name we know him by was given to him no earlier than 4,000 B.C. by the ancient Sumer or Akkadian races.  Therefore, his true name has been lost.  This might even jibe with the fact that in Australia the aboriginal race knows him as 'Buddai' and not as Cthulhu. 

But then there are a number of great blunders in the work.  One of the telling mistakes, which was also repeated in Anton Szandor LaVey's homage to Lovecraft in "The Satanic Rituals," Avon Books, 1972, is that Simon contends that Shub-Niggurath was akin to Pan and contends that the being is male.  Unfortunately we know that Shub-Niggurath is a feminine being who mated with Yog-Sothoth to produce to children, Nug and Yeb.  Such a central mistake would have been difficult if this were taken from a transcription of the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred.  Another of Simon's mistakes in his Necronomicon is the mention of the Dunwich horror.  Unfortunately this would not have been included by Abdul Alhazred.  The Dunwich horror, which Simon compares with Crowley's 'Choronzon' and the Sumerian's 'Pazuzu,' did not come into existence until 1913 by the unholy union of Lavinia Whateley and Yog-Sothoth.  Alhazred would have been as hard pressed to write about it as would the Sumerians.  Crowley was alive at the time though we don't know if he was aware of the incident.  The work also fails to recount the adventures of Afrasiab, who travelled with demons down the river Oxus, and  Ibn Schacabao, the traveller in strange places with mysterious companions.  And it certainly limited the cosmology of Lovecraft's Pantheon to a handful of gods.

Despite the title, the Necronomicon of Simon the Wise does not live up to the power, majesty, and horror of Abdul Alhazred's Necronomicon.  The true work came from the pen of a man sent mad by what he had found and who wrote in haste as the assassins of the Ancient Ones moved in to silence him.  It is a work that should never be viewed in its entirety.  It is forbidden and would, like the infamous and lost play "King in Yellow" of Robert W. Chambers, bring madness to whomever read it.  Both Lovecraft and Chambers knew that their forbidden books should never be written because in the reading they could never live up to their wondrous reputation. 

Ultimately, though an enjoyable exercise with interesting insights into the three sources, Simon's Necronomicon does not satisfy any true fan of any of its three sources.  It is not an depth exploration of the imagination of Lovecraft and his Mythos makers or the descent into madness by its author, it does not capture Crowley's fascinatingly demented world of modern magic ritual, nor does it record the hauntingly elegant and poetic beliefs of the Sumerians.

And finally, the true test.  I have read Simon's Necronomicon in its entirety.  I submitted myself to rigorous psychological testing before and afterward.  The results matched and I have been certified as sane.  Therefore, I can say with some certainty, that this is not an accurate translation of the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred.

A. Uslane



Deleted paragraph found in Ms. Uslane's notes:
As to the actual authorship of the work?  "Simon the Wise" is certainly a pseudonym.  Besides having a partial knowledge of the works of Lovecraft, someone involved knew much of Sumerian mythology and of the works of Aleister Crowley, whose writings are held as equally important to Lovecraft's in the production of this work.  The acknowledgement before the introduction gives us a number of clues, though it would appear that the major author was (or were) the anonymous myth makers of Sumer and Babylonia.  The editor thanks "Ms. I. Celms, Ms. N. Papaspyrous, Mr. Peter Levenda (the translators), Ms. J. McNally (who seems to have supplied the 'Craft' folklore), and Mr. J. Birnbaum (practical research)."  It thanks Herman Slater of the Magickal
Childe shop in New York who is known to have authored a number of modern witchcraft books.  The real authors behind the work may have been H. L. Barnes, who appears to be an actual editor, and James Wasserman of Studio 31 who supplied the designs. 


Copyright © 2000 Miskatonic University Press/ yankeeclass.com, all rights reserved