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
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
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.
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.