Not the Monthly Post

The Relevance of Tentacles

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

Those are the wry opening lines of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” That passage has been on my mind more than usual of late. Partly, of course, that’s because my seven-volume epic fantasy with tentacles, The Weird of Hali, is back in print. Sphinx Books, the new publisher, did a fine job with the reprint, catching and correcting the typos and occasional continuity errors that crept into the original edition; you can order copies here in the United States and here anywhere else. Since The Weird of Hali is among other things my idiosyncratic tribute to, and argument with, Lovecraft’s vision of the cosmos, it’s probably not surprising that eldritch, rugose forms are slithering through the crawlspaces of my imagination just now.

But there’s more to it than that. It’s been fashionable among so-called serious thinkers, ever since Lovecraft’s first stories saw print, to dismiss his tentacled horrors as the last word in lowbrow schlock.  Partly that was a function of where his stories saw print. In early twentieth century America, if you liked weird fantasy, you got it from pulp magazines, and especially from the pages of Weird Tales:  “The Unique Magazine,” as it billed itself. Decked out in lurid cover art by the inimitable Margaret Brundage and her peers, Weird Tales went out of its way to thumb its nose at the conventional taste of the time, and the arbiters of the conventional taste responded accordingly. Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien like to chuckle at Edmund Wilson’s cluelessly nasty review of The Lord of the Rings, “Ooh, Those Awful Orcs;” not too many people recall that Wilson gave Lovecraft the same shabby treatment in a review titled “Tales of the Marvelous and Ridiculous.”

But the rejection of Lovecraft, like that of Tolkien, had roots going deeper than simple snobbery. Both men were political conservatives at a time when the literary world was dominated by liberal ideologies. Both men, not coincidentally, rejected the entire mythology of human progress, to which Edmund Wilson in particular was so passionately committed. What makes this fascinating is that Tolkien and Lovecraft came to their convictions by opposite routes.  Tolkien, as I think most people know, was a devout traditionalist Roman Catholic. Lovecraft, by contrast, was an atheist, a materialist, and a rationalist—but he took these commitments seriously, and had the clarity of mind to follow them to their necessary conclusions.

That’s embarrassingly rare among today’s soi-disant rationalists. Consider all those people who claim to be atheists, materialists, and rationalists, but love to babble on at great length about how humanity is destined to bestride the stars, or some such drivel. Destiny is a theological concept; it makes sense only if you believe that the history of our species has a narrative structure hardwired into it—and a narrative presupposes a narrator.  If atheism, materialism, and rationalism are correct, by contrast, human beings are just blobs of cells hawked up by the mindless mechanisms of Darwinian evolution, and the history of our species is nothing more than the cascade of random events that happens to take place between the time when the first humans evolved and the time when the last of us go extinct. Concepts such as destiny have no place in that vision.

Most of today’s self-proclaimed rationalists, in other words, don’t take their own beliefs seriously.  Scratch the surface of their ideas, and you’ll find a jumbled mess of secondhand religious notions burbling away merrily underneath. What set Lovecraft apart is that he actually thought through and accepted the consequences of his beliefs. To him, human beings were simply one more species of living organism on an unimportant planet in a vast and utterly uncaring universe, no more significant in the great scheme of things than pterodactyls, penguins, paramecia, or tentacled horrors from distant galaxies.

It will probably come as no surprise to my readers that both Lovecraft and Tolkien thus had a very significant impact on my thinking. They’re not alone in that, of course, but their influences go deep and far—deeper and further, in some ways, than any others, not least because I’d read The Lord of the Rings and some of Lovecraft’s more famous stories long before it first occurred to me that the civilization around me was pretty clearly tipping into history’s dumpster. I suppose I could just as well have written a series of novels by picking up Tolkien’s ideas, holding them up in front of a funhouse mirror, and weaving a tale from the images thus produced; in point of fact, I’ve considered doing that more than once, and may get around to it one of these days. (Of course I’d have to change all the names and identifying details, as the Tolkien family is very careful to guard the rights to its gravy train.)

But it was Lovecraft’s work that became the anchor for my most extended fictional work so far—more exactly, Lovecraft’s work and the work of more than a dozen other writers before and during his time who contributed to one of the greatest of all shared fictional worlds, the Cthulhu Mythos. There are plenty of reasons for that, but one thing in particular made Lovecraft’s invented world of special interest to me:  his relationship to occultism.  Both Lovecraft and Tolkien were much more conversant with occultism than their modern fans like to admit. Tolkien, for all his devout Catholicism, uses occult ideas and terminology so easily and so accurately that I’ve come to think that in his youth, he went through a period of dabbling in occult study that he was careful not to mention to his biographers later on.

It’s not hard to figure out what he studied, either, for Tolkien’s occult references all come from Theosophy, the most popular occult tradition in early twentieth century Britain. Tolkien’s version of the fall of Atlantis,  for example, is based entirely on a theme that Blavatsky introduced to the Atlantis narrative in The Secret Doctrine—the idea that the fall of Atlantis was brought about because the Atlanteans fell under the sway of evil sorcerers—and that theme as far as I know wasn’t yet found outside of Theosophical writings when Tolkien penned the first version of the Númenor legend. Gandalf’s description of the high elves—”those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power”—might as well be taken straight from Theosophical literature.  For that matter, consider Gandalf’s words at the bridge of Khazad-dûm:  “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor.”  What is that Secret Fire?  Any Theosophist could tell you in a heartbeat.

Lovecraft’s use of occultism is at once more straightforward and more satiric. He went out of his way to reference the popular occultism of his time in his stories, and he did it in a way I find highly amusing.  Take the sentences that follow the quote from “The Call of Cthulhu” cited earlier:  “Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it.” That sums up Lovecraft’s approach to the occultism of his day.  Sure, he’s saying, you occultists are right that there are vast cosmic cycles compared to which all human history is a momentary blip, mighty beings far beyond our understanding, weird powers that wizards can wield—and all of it, right down to the last rugose tentacle, is out to devour us all!

That’s one of the two things that makes Lovecraft’s fiction so delectable to me. (We’ll get to the other a little later on.)  His tentacled gods, forbidden tomes, and sinister cultists are a parody—a fine, intelligent, and hilarious parody—of actual occultism.  Take the Necronomicon, the sorcerous tome to end all sorcerous tomes, written by a mad Arab in the early Middle Ages, translated into Latin by medieval European mages, and passed from hand to hand by an underground network of sorcerers who hoped to use its spells to call down eldritch powers from the stars. It’s a great plot engine in Lovecraft’s stories and in the stories of his friends and followers—but it’s also a straightforward parody of a real book.

That book is called the Picatrix. It was written in the tenth century by an Arab sorcerer about whose sanity I don’t propose to speculate; it was translated into Latin in the thirteenth century, and owned and used by most of the serious mages of late medieval and Renaissance Europe, at a time when being known to have a copy would get you the place of honor at one of those famous bonfires hosted by the Inquisition. As an instructional book on astrological magic, it does indeed contain incantations meant to call down eldritch powers from the stars—and as it happens, Christopher Warnock and I translated it from Latin into English a few years ago, published it, and got it into the hands of thousands of modern occultists.

That is to say, I’m one of the people that H.P. Lovecraft warned you about.

I mean that quite literally. The sinister cultists that Lovecraft imagined donning robes and strange amulets to invoke archaic tentacled powers from the Unseen—the Wilbur Whateleys, Robert Suydams, and Enoch Bowens of his tales—are parodies, again, of the occultists of his time.  I don’t imagine it will shock anyone if I mention that yes, I own several robes and some fairly strange amulets, and while the powers I invoke from the Unseen are singularly bereft of tentacles, I doubt anyone would object to using the word “archaic” to the deities of the Druids.  More to the point, I live in the universe of vast cosmic cycles, strange survivals, and forbidden aeons that Lovecraft satirized in his stories. You might be interested to know that, all things considered, it’s a tolerably comfortable place to live.

That’s the other thing I find delectable about Lovecraft’s fiction:  his horrors don’t fill me with fear.  He wrote one truly scary story, “The Color Out Of Space,” and it’s a fine work of horror. His other works?  In me, at least, they don’t raise the least trace of a shudder. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad writer; quite the contrary, I’d rate him as the greatest American writer of fantasy the twentieth century produced. The guy had an astonishing imagination; he could portray a million years of planetary history with less effort than some authors need to describe a roadside inn, and he didn’t fall into the cult of faux-medievalism that pervades so much modern fantasy and makes the majority of it so dull. It’s just that among the various effects he tried to achieve with his writing, one of them, the rush of vicarious fear that makes horror fiction work, goes right past me without raising more than a chuckle.

Horror is like that. What scares readers of one era or culture or social class may or may not scare readers in another.  In Japan, I’m told, the symbolism of Christianity is seen as spooky and rather morbid.  The thought of praying toward a statue of a man being tortured to death, which is of course what a crucifix is, doesn’t trouble most Americans, but it strikes many Japanese with horror; thus crosses play a similar role in Japanese media that pentagrams play in Western media, as an indication that something spooky and unnerving is about to put in an appearance.

In the same way, H.P. Lovecraft and many of his readers found a rich vein of horror in a mix of occultism, modern scientific thought, class prejudices, and the biology of molluscs.  So their stories are stocked with ancient tomes full of direful incantations, glimpses of space and time that reduce humanity to unimportance, standard markers of early twentieth century class conflict, and a free use of tentacles and slime. (I’m not sure what twentieth century weird tales authors had against molluscs, but nearly all their biological effects come from the family that gave us octopuses and slugs. Echinoderms are frankly more horrible, but evil starfishes from space somehow never got much attention.)

It so happens that I think octopuses are cute, and I have equally warm thoughts toward most molluscs. (I draw the line at slugs, but only because they’re such an annoyance to gardens.)  I don’t share Lovecraft’s prejudices about race, social class, and culture, so the fear that everyone else in the world might gang up on middle-class white Anglo-American men—a central theme of early twentieth century horror—doesn’t make me fret. The vastness of space and time and the relative insignificance of human existence as revealed by modern science doesn’t trouble me, either—I find it comforting to know that the universe will go its merry way no matter what kind of a mess I make of the brief period of existence I can expect—and of course occultism doesn’t exactly worry me either. So the images of terror that Lovecraft and his fellow writers deployed so freely don’t produce their standard effect. Quite the contrary, they’re all familiar faces.

That’s the thing I think most people outside occult circles miss about Lovecraft’s imagined cosmos:  it really is the cosmos of traditional occultism, seen through a funhouse mirror that doesn’t actually distort that much. Theosophists in Lovecraft’s time did indeed guess “at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents.”  Rather, they did more than guess; they sketched out the history of that cycle, and the cycles preceding and following it, in terms that deserve labels such as “awesome grandeur.”  Old-fashioned occultists are used to seeing their own lives in the context of gargantuan reaches of time and space, in which there are countless other beings unrelated to (and uninterested in) us, some of which doubtless have their share of tentacles and slime.

And of course all that flowed into my epic fantasy with tentacles. It occurred to me more than twenty years ago, when I was writing my book A World Full Of Gods, that a story approaching the Cthulhu Mythos from the point of view of the other side, the side of the cultists and the tentacled gods, would be an intriguing fictional way to talk about polytheism, not to mention the hatred of spirituality and the natural world that pervades so much of mainstream culture these days. I made a few attempts at writing such a story thereafter, but nothing really took fire until the spring of 2015, when the story that became The Weird of Hali:  Innsmouth came surging up into my imagination. I wrote a first draft of 70,000 words in eight weeks, the fastest I’ve ever done a project on that scale.

Plenty of revisions followed, of course, but by the time it first saw print in 2016 I was already well into the manuscript that became The Weird of Hali:  Kingsport.  The rest of the series followed in due time, along with four other novels that are set in the same fictional cosmos but aren’t part of the tale of the weird of Hali and its fulfillment. (Those are scheduled to be republished by Sphinx Books next year.)

Looking back on The Weird of Hali, the thing that comes to my mind first is how much fun the whole project was to write. I spent the entire period of writing marinating my brain in as much fiction by Lovecraft and his fellow Mythos writers as I could find time to fit.  I made a point of only reading works from before the Second World War so that I could get as close as possible to the authentic pulp-era flavor.  Since nearly all of those are long out of copyright, I also took the liberty of borrowing nearly everything the Mythos had to offer that wasn’t nailed down, and putting it to work as stage properties in my tale; readers familiar with the works of Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, and other classic authors in the field will find a lot of familiar places, faces, and eldritch items putting in an appearance—some obviously, some less so.

Of course a lot of other things got woven in. Among other things, like Lovecraft and Tolkien, I don’t believe in the modern mythology of progress.  Since The Weird of Hali takes place over a span of twenty years (to the day) beginning more or less this autumn, those two decades of future history follow the kind of trajectory I expect our slightly less fictional world to follow, which some readers will find rather more unsettling than tentacled horrors.  There’s a good helping of economic crisis and a currency collapse in there, along with the general unraveling of our supposedly omnipotent technological society that’s been happening for a good few years already. Quite a bit of philosophy found its way into my novels, too; among other things, Lovecraft and I share a taste for the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer, and so the old grouch of Frankfurt had some of his notions picked up and woven into the story.

It’s probably necessary to caution readers, however, that the gods, spells, magical devices, and other occult plot engines in The Weird of Hali and the Cthulhu Mythos more generally belong to the world of weird tales, not to that of operative occultism. That is to say, I don’t recommend trying to use the Vach-Viraj incantation to banish sorcerous energies, nor will the other spells that some of the characters wield have the effects in reality that they do in my stories. The seven volumes of The Weird of Hali are novels, not grimoires, and the only enchantment they can offer is the one that readers usually get from a novel.

That said, I tried to make the world of The Weird of Hali look as much as possible like the way this world looks from the point of view of an old-fashioned occultist like me.  The way that cosmic vastnesses and eldritch powers exist cheek by jowl with a world of dishes to wash and other mundane realities to cope with is something that every operative mage knows from long experience. I also wove a fair bit of traditional occult symbolism into the story in odd ways—those readers who pay attention to the sequence of the seven books may notice a familiar pattern. But if you’re interested in learning magic rather than reading a fantasy series with tentacles, I have some other books of mine to recommend.


I am reminded by eager readers that this month has five Wednesdays, and by longstanding tradition on this blog, the readers get to propose themes for the fifth Wednesday post — I’ll write about whichever themes gets the most nominations. What interests you?


  1. Haven’t read the whole post yet, but I did scroll to the bottom to check out the new cover art.
    My take is that the new cover art is a vast improvement, compliments to the artist for seeming to actually take time to read the stories.
    Congrats on the new printing…..May it sell well for a long time.

  2. Congrats on the reprints! I’ll need to order the set this time around, but first I want to finish Dion Fortune’s The Magical Battle For Britain.

  3. I had an interesting and somewhat similar experience reading ‘The Heart of Darkness’ a while ago. I was very puzzled by it, then realized that I was supposed to be horrified by the native africans doing various rituals and the idea that a european might get entangled in their societies or go native. And I just wasn’t. There was one particular character who was some sort of queen or priestess or something who was probably supposed to be disturbing or horrifying? I’m not sure? I got confused because I thought at first she was supposed to be the love interest or at least auditioning for that role, and a more interesting and formidable one than I’d expect from that era. I was kind of disappointed that she turned out to be just an enemy and then disappeared from the story.

    The only thing I found genuinely horrifying in that book was the treatment of african slaves by europeans. Some of those descriptions stuck with me, not least because I’m aware that the Belgian Congo was bad enough that King Leopold’s treatment of the natives horrified other Victorian era europeans – which is a really hard thing to do given how bad that era was on this issue.

    It’s interesting how people’s reactions change with time. I guess I’m really not reacting like Conrad’s target audience.

  4. For the 5th Wednesday day post, I vote for a look at Chinese resilience to collapse. It seems like a good time to explore historical examples for setting a lower bound to collapse.

  5. Certain science fields are well acquainted with the time-scale of the universe and the insignificant place of humans in it, like Paleontology, Geology, and Astrophysics. Technically everyone should be aware about deep time from what is taught at school, but considering what passes for “schooling” these days…

  6. Yes! And so very seasonal, too. However, your fictional Chthuluverse may end up taking a large and tasty bite out of….(sinister music…..) my POCKETBOOK!

  7. Did anyone read the Three Body Problem trilogy by Cixin Liu? Similar themes on future history, and considering what the social cosmos might look like.

  8. So what exactly are robes and amulets supposed to accomplish in reality, besides presumably doubling as Halloween costumes? I’ve always thought they just look silly.

  9. Land slugs are not that great, but sea slugs are some of the most beautiful creatures in existence.
    They are up there with cuttlefish and dragonflies.

  10. I second the vote for Chinese resilience. Now, there are aspects of Chinese society I would not like to live with at all, but we can surely learn something from the history.

  11. Degringolade, thank you — glad you like them.

    KM, by all means.

    Pygmycory, I know the feeling! That’s a good example of the way the horror of one writer or generation can miss a later audience completely. As for Kurtz’s African mistress — she’s never named in the story — no question, she’s an intriguing figure who might have been more developed.

    Team10tim, I hadn’t opened nominations yet, but I’ve added yours to the list. 😉

    Anonymous, of course — that’s where Lovecraft got it, for example. That’s one of the things I had in mind when I mentioned that too many rationalists don’t follow out the implications of their convictions — so few of them really grasp the scale of deep time.

    Patricia M, I hear from the distance an eldritch, rugose voice saying “Nom nom nom…” 😉

    Marilyn, clearly somebody must have, but I haven’t done so yet. Do you think I’d enjoy it?

    Gman, the robes, the candles, the altar cloths, and the rest of the decor is there for psychological effect. For example, if you use the traditional symbolism of the planets and you want to do a working for success, you put on a yellow robe, drape the altar in a yellow cloth, put six yellow candles on it, etc., because all this symbolizes the sun, which rules over success. You also burn incense of a kind that’s traditionally linked to the sun, and so on. Sure, it seems silly, but it works — if you do these things, you can focus your will and imaignation more forcefully on the intention of your working than if you don’t. (The subconscious mind isn’t rational, after all, and the subconscious is one of the main things that magic works with.)

    Dobbs, they are indeed — and notice that two of your three beautiful creatures are molluscs, since of course cuttlefish belong to the same phylum.

    Mary, so noted. Clearly I need to make an announcement!

  12. Congratulations on the reprints! The Haliverse tickles me because I had a very similar reaction to Lovecraft as a teenager; all these weird tentacled space-gods seemed quite endearing, and the philosophy behind Cosmic Horror had something in common with the deep-ecological thought I was influenced by as a teem – nowadays, I find deep-ecology a bit too bleak and misanthropic for my tastes, but I recognize it as an important stepping-stone in figuring out what I thought and felt about humanity’s place in the world.

    I even obtained a Cuddly Cthulhu toy when I was about 12! I wonder what happened to him…

  13. John, I saw in this past week’s magic Monday, in a discussion of Buddhism, that you are or were reading Thomas Ligotti. What do you think? I read him about twenty years ago. I remember liking some of his stories, and not caring much about the others. The ones I liked were his novella “My Work is Not Yet Done” and the two stories collected with that, “I Have a Special Plan for This World” and “The Nightmare Network.” These he called works of “corporate horror” and I thought they were great send-up’s of the still metastasizing PMC.

    Tentacles are indeed relevant, and congratulations on getting your books into a second edition with a new publisher. If you’ll have them, you have my best wishes for your ongoing relationship with Sphinx.

  14. Very interesting stuff. Re: Lovecraft taking science seriously, R. A. Wilson said it well:

    “Ultimately, I think the value of a writer can be measured by how much he is merely expressing his own id­iosyncratic moods of joy or misery and how much he is expressing some­thing that is common to all humanity. I feel that HPL and Stapledon ex­pressed very powerfully a species-wide problem – our disorientation in space and time, consequent upon the Copernican and post-Copernican discoveries which revealed that the hu­man race is not the center of the universe and not the special darling of the gods. Few “mainstream” writers have tackled that intellectual and emotional shock as unflinchingly as did HPL and Stapledon. For that reason, I think many, perhaps most, “mainstream” writers are not ulti­mately serious. HPL, in his terrified way, and Stapledon, in his (guard­edly) optimistic way, were serious. ”

    Btw, didn’t Michael Moorcock, with his Elric and other fantasy novels, do the kind of subversion of Tolkien that you mention? In his multiverse Chaos seems to be the dominant force, and the decadent, sorcerous Melniboneans are more like the Black Numenoreans than the Gondorians, right?

  15. The way I frame the cosmos-human relationship is a bit like the human-microbe relationship, we are serenely unaware most of the time of microbes, except in the cases where they start to harm us. I’d say on the scale of the cosmos it’s a far greater distance, and a lot of those things (but not all) have zero interest in us and therefore zero desire to harm us.

  16. I prize my full set of seven Weird of Hali tales, plus the four associated tales, plus the Weird of Hali Companion and the Weird of Hali Cookbook, all issued from the previous publisher. Not that anyone will be able to pry them away from me – I’ve already read the 11 tales three times each and enjoyed each of them more each time I read them – but maybe now that they are with the new publisher a full set of books from the previous publisher will have rare book value? 😉

  17. I loved your tentacled fiction. It was so refreshing compared to the other stuff that’s out there. I think I’ll reserve my vote for the fifth Wednesday topic until I see more options or come up with one of my own. As for the robes and amulets as Halloween costumes, I feel like you’d wear something truly horrific, perhaps dressing up as a Wall street businessman, or, horror of horrors, an economist!!!!!

  18. I need a winning lottery ticket. I just loaded up $300 worth of books to my wishlist. I’m pleased to see that they help independent bookstores.

  19. Luke, I know the feeling! I never had a cuddly Cthulhu, more’s the pity, which is why I put one into the story.

    Justin, thank you. So far I’m about halfway through his nonfiction work The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, and I haven’t sampled his fiction yet; the book I’m reading is a very mixed bag, by turns profound and rather silly, but we’ll see where he takes it as the argument develops.

    Treebeard, RAW did indeed say it well; I don’t think it’s an accident that the Illuminatus! trilogy turned into a major influence on my fiction, and The Weird of Hali in particular. As for subverting Tolkien, Moorcock did one kind of subversion — I don’t know what his current feelings are, but back in the day he loathed Tolkien and used to get into loud arguments at conventions with Tolkien fans. If I were to do something with the Tolkien genre, it would be very different.

    Peter, excellent! Of course you’re quite correct; it’s just as absurdly anthropocentric to insist that the universe is out to get us as it is to insist that the universe treats us as its precious darlings. Too many of Lovecraft’s less talented followers missed that, and turned the Mythos into just another bunch of monsters. Lovecraft’s philosophy of indifferentism was far more stark. Stephen Crane was there too:

    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir, I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

    …and that includes, of course, any obligation to act out roles borrowed from our nightmares.

    SLClaire, that depends on whether it finds a larger audience, or becomes a cult classic, or just stays what it now is, a set of novels read by a small and eccentric readership. But it’s possible, of course.

    Chronojourner, thank you! As for Halloween costumes, the thought of sinister economists lurking out there in the darkness, fiendishly miscalculating the Gross (extremely gross!) Domestic Product, has a certain eldritch charm.

    Julie, Bookshop’s a fine company — I’m very glad to support them, not least because of the way they work together with the indie bookstores.

  20. Horror for me is visual, and is exemplified by depictions of gore. I avoid it like the plague since I have a weak stomach. I once fainted in high school in reaction to an excerpt from the Red Badge of Courage by Steven Crane.
    Terror is what I associate with fear, and my fear of annelids makes me want to avoid tentacles, including literary depictions.
    To expose oneself to such things may lead to desensitization. To become desensitized may feel as if I killed a part of myself. I have glimpsed enough of the horrific nature of life to not want to go there willingly. I’ll never be a horror fan.

  21. I’d like to nominate a commentary on the Zen Ox Herding Pictures and their relation to spiritual development (trying it again!).

  22. As usual a good piece, thanks again.

    But just FYI, slugs can be quite tasty and quite beautiful.

    A long time ago, when I had just gotten out of the Army, I spent a summer as an outward bound instructor. As a treat, I gathered slugs and tossed them in a small box with a quarter cup of corn meal and let them gorge overnight (cleared their system) then the next day, I took out my hoarded butter, garlic powder, and a tiny bit of truffle salt and cooked them up as a treat for when the student came back in from their solos.

    Granted, hunger is the best sauce, and solos don’t eat that well, but I got nothing but rave reviews.

    I did always feel guilty about taking the big yellow ones, they really were pretty.

  23. The Three Body Problem is an excellent trilogy, with some pretty great satire on human nature. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, it is highly entertaining. No tentacles, but there are aliens from space and they are weird as all get out. I think you would enjoy it.

  24. For the 5th Wednesday, how about a discussion of the Topoi (or assumption) of rationality in logic?

  25. For consideration: What is the will? From where does it come? How is it accessed or summoned? Where is it located? Is it bound to one or another of the planes of being (physical, etheric, astral, mental)? What distinguishes individual will from divine will – if at all?

  26. John Michael Greer, your mileage may vary, but I’ve always found dressing sharply to do far more for my mental abilities than any amount of robes or amulets. A well-tailored suit does far more to focus my subconscious than any other article of clothing.

  27. Thank you for this, I’ve already received, amusingly enough, the first and seventh book in the series, with the intervening episodes scheduled to arrive by Monday, so I’m looking forward to digging in as soon as I finish Little, Big.

    As for Fifth Wednesday topic, I’m going to keep trying on this one: my vote’s for a military “history” of the deindustrial future.

    Cheers, and my blessings to all who welcome them,

  28. Voting for resilience to collapse, especially the historical Chinese examples (e.g. after the Han and Tang collapses).

  29. It’s true that echinoderms have various strange appendages and habits that seem positively revolting to any self-regarding primate, but we very well may look equally icky when viewed from their eyespots. What fascinates me about the whole phylum is just how many luridly contrasting colors can show up on any one of its members. Echinoderms’ otherworldly beauty is only surpassed by their otherworldly grotesqueness! Do you think the ghastly weird tales they regale each other with to keep their worries of approaching spring tides at bay may be all about our horridly-monotone, hairy-patched smoothness?

  30. JMG,
    In a kind of sad irony one can trace the downward trajectory of Portland ( Oregon) with the fate of its only Lovecraft Themed Bar/Nightclub. It opened in 2012 under the name “Lovecraft”, and was a true to its theme with a Cthulhu room for the most devoted. But as time went on this theme was watered down to please the less discerning “Goth” clientele and the Lovecraft decor and vibe was watered down towards a more generic horror theme. As The riots and Antifa’s overcame PDX so did the Lovecraft club move towards the sad and unsophisticated. Just recently they changed the name to the ” Coffin Club” as it had become an LGBTQ-horror themed bar with little left of its Lovecraftian origins. Do you think there might be a metaphysical angle to this story?

  31. Hello JMG and friends!
    Really interesting post, thank you, and as I read parts to my boyfriend, he filled me in that Robert E Howard (his favorite author) and HP Lovecraft often exchanged ideas. He also showed me Call of Cthulhu, a movie adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story for those who would find an interest in such things.
    Thanks again. Jill C


  32. Congrats on the reprints! For American readers, I loan JMG books out for free by mail, including the old editions of the Weird of Hali books:

    As an ex-atheist of approximately seven years or so, it is my opinion that we are IN the Dark Age where spirituality is concerned. Never has there been such ignorance about what happens after death, medicine is in shambles because it has all but forgotten the subtle planes, and a good chunk of those who claim to be the closest to God are reliably de facto satanic materialists. My question for JMG and readers is if and when you believe that people will snap out of it? Have you seen any signs? I think the interest in the Daily Wire’s upcoming underdog version of Snow White could be a sign. Their goal is to go back to old fashioned storytelling and to leave politics completely out of it.

  33. Wqjcv, I’m not a horror fan either. That’s one of the oddities about my response to Lovecraft — his “horror” doesn’t scare me, so I’m free to enjoy his imagination.

    Luke, so noted and tabulated.

    Degringolade, doesn’t surprise me at all. Where were you harvesting slugs? The big yellow ones sound like banana slugs, which iirc are exclusively found in the wetter areas of the west coast.

    Marilyn, so noted! Next time I’m in the mood for some SF I’ll see if the local library has it.

    Jon, so noted and tabulated.

    Nick, are you proposing this for a fifth Wednesday topic? If yes, so noted and tabulated.

    Gman, that’s like insisting you can carry on a conversation using only one word. Sure, that works in a few cases, but there’s more that you can say to yourself — and a much wider range of mental states you can evoke and make use of. Still, you do you…

    Jeff, so noted and tabulated. Little, Big is a fine book!

    Marko and Aldarion, so noted and tabulated.

    Christophe, oh, granted! The thing that makes echinoderms horrible to me is the way they turn their stomachs inside out to insert them into a prey animal, which they then digest from the inside out…

    Susan, funny. Thanks for this.

    Clay, that really is sad. Yes, I think there’s a metaphysical dimension to it — a flight from the profoundly unhuman to the tired old human end of horror.

    Teresa, so noted and tabulated.

    Jill C, your boyfriend’s quite correct, of course — Howard wrote some first-rate weird fiction along with his more straight-up fantasy stories, and I used some of his creations in my series. The serpent folk Howard invented in “The Shadow Kingdom,” for example, are active in my fictional world and contribute several important characters to the stories.

    Kimberly, I don’t expect people to snap out of it, because we didn’t snap into it. It’ll be a long, slow process, as it always is — for this isn’t the first time this has happened, you know.

  34. I vote for the way Hitler has captured the collective western imagination like no other historical figure and why?

  35. Hi John Michael,

    It’s a good day when you mention the works of Margaret Brundage! Well done with the clean up and re-release of your series. The original series was very beautifully bound and an enjoyable read, but landed here at an eye watering $120 a book, mostly due to the inexplicable (possibly squamous?) freight costs, so it hardly benefited you either. Still, everything is a long way away when a person lives at the bottom of the planet. Nevil Shute had that as the plot line in his dystopian book: ‘On the Beach’. Whatever, life would have recovered.

    The Elves, well, they came, they saw, they dreamed big, acted even dumber, and eventually faded away. I’ve long since suspected that the inverted bell shaped curve which rules all (one curve to rule them all!!!) is hard-wired into the fabric of the Universe.



  36. Like several others here, I’d like to see a post on Chinese resilience and the question of why some dark ages are deeper than others too.

  37. I am looking forward to reading the Weird of Hali series — especially the Kingsport edition.
    I have been a Lovecraft fan since I was a kid (in the 1960’s and 70’s). In fact, my favourite short story — by any author — is “The Strange High House in the Mist”. I love the language and descriptions of Kingsport (” …wonders that planets tell planets alone in the night…”). In many ways Lovecraft, perhaps accidentally, describes in this story how I view reality. The almost animist/magical way that the mists and environment are described remind me of the writings of Cornelius Agrippa. The mysterious Being in the High House make sense to me., as does the Terrible Old Man. They seem to me like incarnations of Thor and Odin, respectfully (I have been a Heathen most of my life).
    I used to work in a bookstore, and had wanted to to a book club involving the stories of Lovecraft, Blackwood, Le Fanu, Machen, and other “classic” horror/fantasy authors but, alas, the shop closed before I got my chance.

  38. Mark0 @ 28, that archetype is also known as The Antichrist. From the book Der Fuehrer, by Konrad Heiden, pub. 1944, when the subject was still alive:

    “The Antichrist is no mythical being, no monkish medieval fantasy. It is the portrait of a type of man who comes to the fore when an epoch is dying. He is a man with a white skin, in everyday clothes, dangerously contemporary, and a mighty demagogue. He will talk with the masses, and at his word the masses will rise up and turn a culture to ashes, a culture which has deserved no better, since it has borne the Antichrist in its own image and for its destruction.”

  39. For the fifth Wednesday post, I would like something on nazism, the the stirrings of fascism that seem to be occurring right now, specifically, on what we need to do to avoid it without inadvertently breathing life into a set of symbols that deserve to remain in the dumpster.

  40. For fifth Wednesday, if this knowledge is out there, I would love a description of the mental body capacities necessary in order to reach Gwynfydd. What kind of mental training and capabilities, and how will you know that you’re getting there? This comes alongside wisdom, of course, but I’d love for you to get into the nitty gritty. Thank you.

  41. There’s an occult-adjacent problem I’ve been wrestling with for some time, and your “enchantment […] that readers usually get from a novel” reminded me of it. I distrust novels and novelists. The words they weave are not spells per se, but like a spirit summoned by the unwary, their worlds can cause the naive reader to think their thoughts rather than think his own. Most seem unaware of this, and approach television and movies with equal (and equally unfounded) confidence. I haven’t read a novel in years, and haven’t watched anything in nearly twenty. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I did get rather into memes for a while, but broke free of it feeling wary about the lack of psychic hygiene possible in that milieu.

    But enough about me — I wonder what your thoughts are about this ordinary enchantment of novels (each, ironically, a bit of what Bradbury called television: “that insidious beast, that Medusa, which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little”). How does it work? How wary should we be?

    Yours, I presume, are meant to work weal rather than woe.

  42. I’ve wondered for a while if Lovecraftian Horror only works on people who are rationalists/atheists, and it works because it’s showing the logical conclusion of their worldview. The fact that you had the same reaction I did to it seems to suggest it’s at least possible.

  43. @Christophe and @JMG,

    Yes, echinoderms are weird, but have you seen a hagfish (aka slime eel)? They are usually a scavenger, but if another creature tries to eat them, the slime eel secretes a copious amount of slime into the creature’s mouth. The slime might kill the creature trying to eat them (by clogging up their gills). Regardless, the hagfish will continue down the throat of whatever thought he would make a good meal and kill it by eating the innards.
    I tried to find a good picture to link to, but one of the first articles I found described it as ‘Lovecraftian’, so I figured that was the link I was supposed to share:
    (Though the picture of the car that was involved in an crash involving a truck transporting 7,500 pounds of slime eels deserves an honorable mention: (and for those that do video, there are some YouTube videos of the aftermath of the accident…)
    (And if you are wondering why anyone would be transporting 7,500 pounds of slime eels, apparently some people find them good to eat and they are the eels of “eel skin leather” fame.)


    Is the horror in the Weird of Hali series just scary or is it gory?

  44. “I’ve always found dressing sharply to do far more for my mental abilities than any amount of robes or amulets. ”

    A believer in Dress for Success? The military certainly believes in that. It isn’t applicable in mining or the chemical plant where dress for safety was required.

    Even there though the process of getting on the hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, steel-toed boots, nomex coveralls and an escape breather does focus the mind on the upcoming task.

    Changing subjects, the first book of the Weird of Hali is at the library by way of something called Hoopla which has a digital download thing of some sort. First I’ve heard of it.

  45. “Sure, it seems silly, but it works — if you do these things, you can focus your will and imaignation more forcefully on the intention of your working than if you don’t.”

    Of course silliness is in the emotions (eye) of the experiencer (beholder) … effectively if it is silly *and* it works then it isn’t silly.

    Just because it doesn’t make sense to you/your worldview doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist … if it works and it doesn’t make sense to you then the problem isn’t with the working but with your understanding.

  46. I knew there was a pattern to the sequence of the books, in which who in the pantheon they met was important, but, JMG, you saying so here finally made it click: Innsmouth: The Black Goat, voormis, shoggoths, the underground caves, and a ground battle. Kingsport: The Toad God, the Terrible Old Man, travel via the subtle bodies. Chorazin: a battle of ideas, and a bloodsucking creature of the upper air*, and a Winged Elk, dreams, the climactic storm. Dreamlands, with an academic heroine, knowledge, and a lesson in strategy that saves the day. Providence: one of the classical magical sciences, revival of the dead, and spiritual abuse a theme of both of the story threads. Red Hook: Undoing an old force set in motion long ago, to change the present; inside the mind of a Radiance victim and how cold intellect can plot the downfall of its captors while in a state of profound depression. And: Arkham: Gods at war on a cosmic plane, with the high priest of the gods calling down even higher things. The one thread binding the all together is the presence of the most human of the pantheon, its soul and mighty messenger, who is basically a catalyst. Oh, yes, indeed. Thanks for that.
    *See also Heinlein’s horror story “Creation took 8 days.”

  47. I’m convinced that our host is actually a many-tentacled creature himself. At least it would begin to explain his prodigious output, and the seemingly endless number of projects he’s had a hand…sorry, tentacle—in starting, reviving, maintaining, and or all of the above. Congratulations on the handsome new editions, and I am grateful for you doing you each and every Wednesday lo these many years. Thank you! (I eagerly await my copy of “The Secret of the Five Rites”. )

  48. At this link are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. A printable version of the entire prayer list current as of 10/29 may be downloaded here. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    (Also, if you think you might be interested in having anyone pray in support of your own self-improvement, please have a look at the Ecosophia Prayer List Autumn Special.)

    * * *This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    May Quin and his younger daughter’s trip to Tokyo on 11/2 to consult Japan’s most experienced AHC doctor yield much useful knowledge in how to manage her condition, to her best benefit, including methods for preventing the usual accompanying mental impairment. (Full disclosure, this prayer is from me.)

    May the brain surgery that Erika’s partner James underwent for his cancer on October 16th have gone successfully; and may he be blessed, healed and protected, and successfully treated for all of his cancer.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    May Jeff Huggin’s friends Dale and Tracy be blessed and healed; may Dale’s blood and spinal fluid infection clear up sufficiently to receive a heart valve replacement; may his medical procedures go smoothly and with success; and may Dale and Tracy successfully surmount these difficulties.

    In the case of Princess Cutekitten and the large bank who is suing her, may justice be done, with harm to none.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *

    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are now to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this particular form of prayer appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

    To all of you who join in these prayers for the welfare of others, you have my deep gratitude.

  49. Hmmm. Interesting the comments on psychology, symbolism, and clothing. I have two different jobs working for the same company: I am a technician who repairs electronic equipment and I am also the bookkeeper. Over the years that I have worked there, I have learned that I should NOT wear a dress to work on days that I want to do repairs. Jeans and a t-shirt are a must or I can hardly turn a screwdriver. On the other hand, days when I need to send invoices and pay bills, I find I stay better focused on the task at hand if I’m wearing my girl clothes. Strange, but true. I wonder how much of that comes from gender norms and stereotypes programmed into me by our society.

    PS Tell Brecken thanks for writing that cookbook. I have found very useful as I adjust to being the sole wage-earner in my household.

  50. Off topic (unless wind turbine blades count as tentacles) but in JMG’s neighborhood,

    “Orsted, a Danish offshore wind company, canceled its plans to build two wind farms off the coast of New Jersey”

    “The company’s stock price fell nearly 26 percent on Wednesday after it reported a loss of about $3.2 billion for the third quarter and warned that the write-downs — essentially a reduction in the value of the company’s investments — would affect Orsted’s finances. Orsted is writing off 28.4 billion krone, or about $4 billion, now. The company estimates that it may take another charge of up to 11 billion krone later in the year.

    The report notes that Orsted still plans to move forward with a $4 billion project called Revolution Wind intended to supply power to consumers in Rhode Island. Other projects are under construction, too, “like Vineyard Wind, which will eventually have 62 turbines in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.”

  51. Bridge, your vote’s been added.

    Chris, unfortunately Brundage wasn’t available to do the new cover art. 😉 Yeah, the elves definitely need a closer and less goopily sentimental look.

    Pygmycory, your vote’s been added.

    Zlaod, just goes to show I don’t know as much about comics as I probably should. As for Moorcock, sure, but that essay dates from 1978. As I noted earlier, I’m well aware of his views back then; what I don’t know is if he’s mellowed or soured with age.

    Gunnhildr9, it’s a marvelous story! To my mind, Lovecraft’s less horror-focused fiction is a collection of neglected gems; the man could write, and once you get used to the lavish prose style, it’s worth savoring. The Strange High House features in the story, but it’s only a bright light high up on the crag above Kingsport Head until the last book, in which two of the characters pay a visit…

    Mary (if I may), no, Heiden was trying to force a very different archetype into Christian drag. I’ll discuss this in an upcoming post.

    Peter, Cliff, Bliss, and CS2, your votes have been added.

    Leo, I know the feeling! I’m always a little shy and a little insecure when I pick up a novel by an author I don’t know; I’m going to be spending hours inside of someone else’s thoughts and feelings, after all, and if they’re fake or sentimental or miserably discordant, it’s a nasty experience. At its best, it’s a mind-expanding experience and a very powerful tool for learning and growing — but you have to be picky. As for television:

    I haven’t owned one in my adult life and will not have one in the house.

    Anonymous, hmm! That makes a great deal of sense.

    Random, oh, granted. There are plenty of other horrible living things in the world besides echinoderms! As for the Weird, there’s very little actual horror; now and again some of the bad guys suffer a colorful fate — I had a certain amount of fun deciding what would eat the villains in each book — but I don’t dwell on it and I certainly don’t get technicolor about it. Readers who detest horror fiction have told me that they find the messiest scenes in the series quite palatable.

    Siliconguy, yeah, libraries have been working out ways to lend ebooks. I don’t mind — I’ve found that any book of mine that ends up in a library typically inspires at least a dozen people to buy copies of their own.

    Dreamer, deliberately doing things that feel silly can also be useful. This fear of “feeling silly” is ultimately a fear of how one’s own ego will react — and cutting the ego down to size from time to time is a good thing.

    Patricia M, good heavens. That works very well…but it’s not quite the one I had in mind. The colors of the covers, which are the same in both editions, give it away: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, in that order.

    Marcorollo, I’ve wished more than once that I had tentacles, precisely because it would make multitasking easier! You’re welcome and thank you.

    Quin, thank you for this as always.

    OEP, I’ll certainly pass that along. She’ll be delighted.

    Siliconguy, no surprises there. Now that interest rates are rising, the faux-green energy bubble is popping in a big way.

  52. Kind Sir,

    Isn’t rationalism a self defeating idea?
    Let us define supernatural as the part of reality beyond human capability of reasoning.
    Assuming, as rationalism does, the supernatural does not exist, my ability to be rational was given to me by evolution as we understand the process.
    I evolved in a particular environment, so my evolved rationality is limited to that highly circumscribed environment.
    Hence most of reality will not be penetrable by my ratio. Hence the supernatural has to exist.

    About tentacles:
    one of the very few really dangerous animals here in Australia (yes I am serious) is the blue ringed octopus. Carries enough venom to kill a whole platoon.
    And for those here who watch videos, the crab in this video has good reason to be worried about tentacles as well.

  53. Bryan, so noted and added to the list.

    DropBear, hmm! Yes, that works rather nicely. As for the blue ringed octopus, we were just talking here last week about how every living thing in Australia is out to kill the human population one way or another, so it’s good to know the molluscs are holding up their end 😉

  54. JMG,
    I will say there are three stories, maybe two and a half, aside from The Color Out of Space by old Howard that give me a fright. The Whisperer in Darkness, because the MiGo ‘transhumanist’ policy of putting people’s minds in machines is rightly (in my opinion) portrayed as horrible. Knowing that silicon valley types view it as a good thing and would bow before the MiGo if they actually existed gives me a shudder. The Yithians also unnerve me because I’ve spent a lot of time on the edges of the American university system. The notion of arrogant academics mentally and physically violating people across time and space so they could finish their journal paper seems a bit too plausible as an ideal for some academics I’ve met.

    The half spooky story for me is At the Mountains of Madness, which does have evil starfishes that built an intergalactic empire with slave beings whom they tortured to insanity. I always had a soft spot for the Shoggotim. I call it half scary because the story excites me too much, I want to explore the elder city!

    Reading your essay made me realize that all these stories share explicitly technologically advanced societies, essentially the sorts of societies the pseudo rationalists fantasize about, and old Howard explains how those high tech intergalactic up to date futurist visions are actually nightmares.

    Thanks for the interesting writing as always JMG,
    Best regards,

  55. JMG,
    I wonder sometimes if Lovecraft didn’t have a near-lifelong case of what Evelyn Underhill referred to as an “anti-epiphany”, the visionary flip side of the fullness of a divine unified universe. I think both visions are accurate as far as that goes:

    From a strictly materialistic POV, yeah, contemplating the cosmic distances, the cosmic time, the apparent emptiness of the cold void, etc., of the universe can be unpleasantly, ego-smashingly vertiginous. Haven’t most serious spiritual seekers experienced this in some form, at some point?

    OTOH, I imagine that from an astral POV, the universe might appear considerably different. Distances might not seem so distant, time might seem more fluid, more “meaningful”, space not an Emptiness but a Fullness, indeed full of life – and all of it harmoniously interwoven. Jacob Boehme said something along the lines of “every parsec of the universe is inhabited” – and this would include life indifferent or inimical to humans, but still a chorus in the harmony. And of course we humans can be, I’d like to say are destined, to become part of the harmony.

    Again, both visions valid, depending on perspective.

    Here’s a vote for the modern fetishizing of Hitler and the Nazis and the consequences thereof.

  56. On Tolkien and Atlantis, my current working theory is that his major influence for Numenor was C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne’s fantasy novel, The Lost Continent (1899). That gets you the dark usurpation of ancient tradition, the usurping monarch who believes they have discovered the secret of immortal life – a discovery that really is the last straw for the gods, and a Noah/Elendil figure in the form of Deucalion. There’s even similarity in the names Phorenice and Pharazon. It’s the closest pre-1920s Atlantis story I have found to Tolkien’s thus far.

    Insofar as Tolkien displays occult influences, I think he’s very much picking up stuff second-hand. Albeit, this is very much a working theory. This is a somewhat… neglected… area of Tolkien study, and definitely worthy of further investigation.

  57. Oops, seems that the paragraphing didn’t come through on my previous comment. Apologies! I typed it directly into my phone. Here’s one with the html tag to see if it works:

    I’d like to put down a vote for a post on the limitations of Spengler’s model, and a sketch of some of these “borderland” cultures like Arab culture, Japanese culture, and more. You said in some previous posts that you believe Arab culture is separate from the Magian culture, for example, I can see an argument for that and I recognize some of Spengler’s limitations too, I’m curious if you have any thoughts ready to publish on that so far.

    I have all the Weird of Hali books in ebook format, I hope there is a bundle price for all the physical books once they are all out and I have enough shelf space for them!

    I hesitate to write this following part since it might be out of topic, although it touches on the “rationalist” point of view:

    For some time already, I’ve noticed some inklings of a naïve metaphysics and “spiritual” practice, if you can call it that, among self-proclaimed rationalists. By this term, I mean the communities which frequent Astral Codex Ten/Slate Star Codex, e/acc Vs effective altruism and others (Nick Land for example). None of them fully discard materialism but there is an emerging “eschatology” and metaphysics of sorts around AI.

    Actually I’ve noticed some posts here over the last year, often by anonymous commenters, that highlight fears of an AI “god”.

    As I read posts by AI doomers, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lovecraft’s own fears. The doomers basically are afraid of a Lovecraftian entity that is beyond human understanding. I think AI “foom” is basically impossible; there is no way that language models that depend on gigantic server infrastructure can just go rogue wild on the internet. The doomer wing of rationalists often have closer ties to “effective altruism” groups and ideas. I think the “doom” discourse is foolish and prompted by literal rationality cultists such as Yudkowsky, while downplaying very real risks of generative AI that already exist such as making it much easier to create low quality/fake/scam content.

    On the other hand, the e/acc wing wants to bring about AI + nuclear utopia. Mark Andressen, a prominent VC, who’s also appeared on Hermitix, is one of the notable figureheads of the movement but Curtis Yarvin, Nick Land and others have prefigured some of the ideas there. They are the ones who were largely behind the hoopla about the superconductor a few months ago, which turned out to be a dud. Most of their ideas will likely turn out to be duds as all utopian movements tend towards, but I feel there is an optimism to their message, perhaps a fragile, brittle kind of optimism, but a constructive vision at least.

    Some smaller groups of the rationalist movement are interested in decontextualized spiritual practices, including not just mindfulness, but exploring the Buddhist “jhanas” outside of the context of Buddhism itself, Ayahuasca, chaos magic, New Thought, possibly even ritual magic. I’ve seen comments in some of these communities that even mention your books for example.

    I feel like all these might be signs of the upcoming second religiosity. These might be elements of the upcoming syncretic religions. AI cults have already appeared, whether they fear AI as the devil, or hope to bring about AI paradise.

    Anyway, these are just some observations I made over the last few months, I hope it’s relevant and of some interest.

  58. That link is labelled 1978, but actually goes to Moorcock’s revised version from 2008. (Hence the mention of Rowling.)

  59. JMG, your comments today on TV remind me – earlier today I was looking at ABC (the Australian public broadcaster) archives from the early 1960s of when they asked people on the street their views on various issues, such as the White Australia Policy, languages to be learned in schools, whether men should do housework and be present at the birth of their child, and so on.

    A few things stood out. The first is that contrary to modern belief, a significant number of people in the early 1960s held what we’d consider fairly progressive views. Asians should be let into the country, we should learn Chinese, men should walk into the house from work rolling their sleeves up and so on.

    The second is that a wide variety of views were spoken. While many people expressed quite conservative views, many expressed very progressive views. Nowadays we’d only hear the progressive ones – the conservative ones expressed publicly would definitely lead to ostracism, and possibly to losing your job. That was the most interesting thing to me: not that the Overton Window has shifted, but that it’s narrowed.

    The relevance to your post here is that as you said, people adopting nominally atheist and “scientific” beliefs do in fact keep many religious modes of thought – there are things which are matters of faith and must not be questioned or you are a heretic who must be cast out, etc.

    The relevance to your comment mentioning TVs was that I can’t help but wonder if TVs contributed to narrowing the Overton Window, and the internet and social media have carried this on. In the old days of village market squares and fraternal orders and places of worship, you’d get lots of little groups of like-minded people gather – but they couldn’t help but encounter different ideas outside those little groups. Once cars and TVs came in, it became easier for people to hide in their homes and insulate themselves from other ideas. And the internet and social media, of course, specifically try to categorise you and your interests to show you not something different, but more of what you already like.

    The restriction in people’s physical field of view has led to a rise in pedestrian deaths, as people stroll along oblivious even to large trucks coming at them. But perhaps these tiny screens have led to a restriction in their mental and spiritual fields of view, too. This is the opposite of that promised by science. We were supposed to look up to the stars, instead we’re looking down at our screens.

    And so, perhaps that could be a topic for the fifth Wednesday.

  60. Hello Mr Greer, many thanks for answering my question last week and your helpful advice. My request for 5th Wednesday would be an examination of the occult aspects of William S. Burroughs’ creative output, to include his collaboration with Brion Gysin in “The Third Mind”. (Seems like the old Austrian is dominating the poll however so I’ll recast this vote In January if need be..)

  61. >If I were to do something with the Tolkien genre, it would be very different.

    One of the things about Tolkien is he created quite an elaborate mythology of the deep past. I mean, really really deep. And rather silly. Deeply silly.

    Anyway, one of the things in his mythology is that Eru Illuvatar is supposed to come back, to finish what he started all those eons ago. It would be amusing to me, if he came back oh, say, right now.

  62. In honour of the relevance of tentacles, I suppose we must address the issue of “squeam” – or whatever it is that is triggering the “squeamish”…

    One of my own idiosyncracies at a very young age was to rush towards – rather than away from – people or pets experiencing the shedding of blood, vomit, pus, and other such misplaced biological fluids, to see if there was anything I could learn, and to see if there was anything useful I could do about it. My mother often remarked that I seemed to have no “squeamishness”. This idiosyncracy is still rather helpful, both in the clinic, and in the garden, where some aspects of the work can certainly involve “squeam”.

    Strangely, I do share with a commenter above a total lack of interest in exposing myself to gore in fictional depictions – mainly because there is nothing I can do about it when its on a screen and I’m stuck in a seat. But, I think that the “rational” have a wierd affinity for the clean and neat, for a sense that there must be some “order” to things, and often things are much messier, less tidy, and more chaotic than that. And for all that, not the least scary. For some of us, the “mess” of the world is part of its charm.

  63. Hi John Michael,

    Vote 1 – Little, Big!

    You’ve got me wondering now with this talk of Margaret Brundage, would zombie artists, only paint depictions of zombies and/or brains?

    I get the distinct impression that the un-dead would make for unpleasant company…



  64. JMG I hope you are well! Just got the entire set. I was hooked on the first audiobook. I saw a podcast you did that featured the use of pvc and some wires to increase crop yields. Are there books on the practical implementation of these technologies? With the next phase of ww3 around the corner I think its important for everyone to try to collapse now and avoid the rush. Starting a garden soon is a high priority.

  65. I’ll add my vote for a post about the enduring hold the Austrian corporal has over the western imagination.

  66. I’d quite forgotten that Ligotti wrote a non-fiction book about his pessimistic view of the universe. David Tibet of Current 93 is into him quite a bit (not surprising, given Tibet’s heretical and gnostic Christianity) and accepted the Horror Writers of America lifetime achievement award on his behalf in 2019 (Ligotti doesn’t like to go out much : ). Listening to the recorded speech and Tibet reading Ligotti’s acceptance speech he says (paraphrasing) that when he first read Lovecraft he no longer felt so isolated in his view of being the only to conceive “terrifying vistas of reality” which began in earnest in his teens. He then goes on to say how he has appreciated communicating with readers and writers of supernatural and horror fiction, who have confided in him that they have suffered from some kind of emotional afflictions. He then thanks the Horror Writers Association for compiling a section on their website of essay and documentation about the links between emotional afflictions and these types of literatures.

    If you imitate what you contemplate then I guess I really am “weird”. Or am I drawn to weird fiction because of the same resonance I already have with it inside me? Here, I suspect a bit of both!

    Stay weird.

  67. No starfish in Lovecraft?
    What of the five sided winged interstellar voyagers in
    At the Mountains of Madness? 🫣

  68. I’ll add my fifth vote to Jeff Russel’s and ask again for a Military Future History.

    @Jeff: I did pick up The Black Company by Glen Cook, but haven’t cracked its cover yet. I’m finishing up Necropolis now by Basil Copper for a somewhat spooky gothic mystery. (BTW from your comments on the most recent frugal Friday thread, I suspect you may be something of a bibliophile – I suffer from the same malady! But there are worse ones to have…)

  69. About Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” – I actually discussed this book with a friend from the Congo. To him, it was still relevant horror. His family lived it. We did discuss the King of Belgium’s apology. He just laughed at that. He felt that the book helped to release the horrors to the Europeans and Americans. Apparently, nobody knew what was happening.

    Horror, I guess is relevant to the person and may not be universal. I have movies I refuse to watch that others laugh at or enjoy.

  70. On another note. Recently Kickstarter did a “Shakespeare Unleashed.” It was a collection of short stories focused on the horror in Shakespeare’s plays. The editor (founder) said that if you read the texts of his plays that horror lurks underneath giving it an added dimension. The stories that people sent in were wide-ranging.

    Of course, a lot was based on Romeo and Julliet and Hamlet. However, even the history plays – Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) and Henry VI (parts 1 and 2) had their moments of horror. When Prince Hal becomes Henry V and rejects Falstaff, and later the rebellions of Henry VI’s reign. I was fascinated by how people could mine horror in the oddest places like Julius Caesar or Merry Wives of Windsor.

    So I guess tentacles are another place to mine horror. Squids are pretty alien to begin with.
    5th Wed. I am curious about the nexus between UFOs and religion or spirituality. It seems that people with UFO experiences couch them in religious terms.

  71. John,
    I’ve read your Weird of Hali series numerous times along with all the associated books. Its like wrapping myself in a favourite duvet, it’s a warm and snug place to be, in a crazy material world. The only thing I don’t like is the fact there wont be any more set in the Haliverse. An associated follow on (or parallel) book, or even better a series, on the adventures of Merlin would be the icing on the cake for me!
    Kind regards

  72. I vote for the topic of Hitler as an archetype too. Looking forward to my purchase of The Weird of Hali Series. The cover art is fantastic!

  73. Somewhat off-topic, but as regarding the downfall of Portland:

    I saw a video recently of a homeless woman in Portland describing what she believed were cases of demonic possession among the street people of the city. Bodies contorted at impossible angles, people walking around with maggots falling from their flesh, the stench of death; it was very creepy. She mentioned something about the “blue devil” that was summoned in the city, but didn’t elaborate on the section that was filmed.

    Of course, she didn’t exactly come across as the most reliable of witnesses herself, and at least some of what she is describing can probably be put down to the mundane (but also horrific) influence of the opioid epidemic. Drug-induced hallucinations may also play a part, in her case. Nonetheless, given all else that has been happening in the past few years, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if something more than fentanyl addiction is afflicting the streets of Portland.

    For those who do video, the interview can be viewed here:

  74. Marilyn & JMG, the Three Body Problem trilogy is some of the best newish sci-fi I have read in many years. I really found the cold, hard logic embodied in “Dark Forest” analogy to be a persuasive counterpoint to the hippy-dippy “Carl Sagan” imagining of how the interaction of alien species would play out. It really makes the case that we oughtn’t be broadcasting our existence to the cosmos, and that other potential civilizations coming to the same conclusion could readily answer the question “where is everybody?”. I also found the insight into Chinese thinking interesting, as Mao’s Cultural Revolution is a importand part of the plot, as told by a Chinese person.

  75. I second (third) the recommendation of The Three Body Problem trilogy. I found the sci-fi well crafted and it had a number of original concepts.
    I also recommend it to anyone interested in China. In addition to the impact of the Cultural Revolution on intellectuals in the first volume, there is much about the entire trilogy that reflects the fact that the author is a mainstream PRC author. This was not overbearing – any more than the Americanness/Britishness of so many sci-fi writers – and there is nothing of propaganda. It is just that the assumptions the author makes about how things will work centuries in the future are clearly and interestingly Chinese. There is much I would love to discuss about these books, but I’ll stop here to avoid plot spoilers.

    #67 Roy Batty, is that the book version or the movie version?

  76. @John Zybourne #61: I agree about The Whisperer in the Darkness. That one has always spooked me the most out of any of his tales. The Dream Cycle was the first I read, and still my favorite, though I like quite a bit of his stuff.

  77. It’s always been fascinating to me that while the occult has been repeatedly pushed out of society (first by the abrahamic religions, then by rationalists, and finally by corporate mindfulness-ism that takes spiritual practices, commodifies them, and strips them of their content) the occult always comes back in the subconscious of even those who ardently oppose it.

  78. John, fair enough! I like those stories a great deal, and of course I’m extremely fond of shoggoths, but I don’t find the stories horrible; the Mi-Go brain canisters would probably have freaked me out if I’d read that story in a previous incarnation, but I grew up with the kind of science fiction that the Silicon Valley brigade mistakes for future realities, and so it’s kind of old hat.

    Will, I think you’re quite correct. To me, the “anti-epiphany” Underhill discusses is what happens when someone with an essentially religious turn of mind gets into rationalist atheism instead, and so the only way they can experience the vision of the cosmos is as a dreadful emptiness. Yes, most serious spiritual seekers sooner or later have to come to terms with the irrelevance of their own egos in the face of an incomprehensibly vast and intricate cosmos, and it can be a rough road — it’s part of what John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s just that the atheists never get to the other side of it. I’ve got your vote tabulated, btw.

    Strda221, I’d be astonished if Tolkien hadn’t read Hyne’s version — he was by all accounts an omnivorous reader of fantasy and SF — and the notion that Tolkien was immune to influence from other writers was simply Lewis’s sour grapes because Tolkien knew better than to accept literary advice from Lewis! It’s possible that the influence of Theosophy on Tolkien’s work was indirect, since there was a lot of it in fantasy fiction from the time of L. Frank Baum onward. But I think it’s worth exploring the possibility that, like a lot of young men, he dabbled in things he didn’t like to talk about in later life.

    Alvin, the paragraphing was fine on both of them — for some reason that doesn’t show up sometimes on the preview. I’ve tabulated your vote. As for the nascent proto-spirituality of the rationalists, well, of course! On the one hand, what you hate, you imitate; on the other, religion is a natural and normal product of the human relation to the universe, which is why so many overtly non- or anti-religious people end up copying religion down to the fine details.

    Zla’od, so noted.

    Hackenschmidt, that seems very plausible to me — and yes, I’ve added your vote to the list.

    Roy, so noted and tabulated.

    Other Owen, well, Tolkien had to include that — it’s an essential element of Christianity, and his work is profoundly, seriously Christian.

    Scotlyn, that’s an interesting and plausible point.

  79. JMG,
    It strikes me to ask: how do you feel about the third of the Weird Tales fantasy triumvirate, Clark Ashton Smith?

  80. Congrats on the reprints of your tentacled contributions to the world of fiction. Like you, I find Lovecraft’s works to be entertaining rather than horrifying – but I still enjoy and appreciate his works. In my youth I read a lot of really weird fiction and those works that kept me up at night as a 13-year-old tended to be stuff that smacked of sorcery: animated dolls and golems and such. But what really scared me more than any other work was Jack London’s Sea-Wolf, which I read at the age of 11. The story has no tentacled horrors, conjurings of malevolent necromancers or even good old gore. No, it has something much worse: nothing… a nihilistic materialistic philosophy that gives no quarter to the inherent beauty, wonder and harmony of the macrocosm and microcosm – just a purposeless empty void of existence. I’ll take demented occultists, powerful rituals by ‘exotic’ peoples, and ancient gods who are wholly indifferent to humans over nihilism any day of the week!

  81. One of my favorite writers is David Hume, the notorious skeptic of the 18th century. He’s quite common with atheists and rationalists today because of his views on religion. But it seems that few engage with him seriously, because his best writings were on the inability of human reason to provide assurance and knowledge of the world around us.

    Rationalists despise traditional religious or spiritual knowledge, considering empirical observation to be far superior. But from these empirical observations, they then come up with their own insane religious notions, including creation myths, eschatological predictions, and arcane gnostic views of the Self. If one is to follow skepticism to its proper conclusion, one should consider our own theoretical notions of the world, politics, history, science, and the self with a careful eye. I would consider the Archdruid, with his robes and amulets, to be a better heir to Hume’s methods than most rationalists today.

    I cast a vote for Chinese resiliency.

  82. Reading your essay, I wondered if there was more to your reference to a horror of tentacles or lack of same, than just the stories of Lovecraft or yourself. Perhaps you also meant metaphorical tentacles.

    I’m thinking, for instance, of a certain organization with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland that likes to hold its main meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Many people believe that this organization has very many tentacles penetrating governments and international organizations such as UN, WHO etc as well as many large corporations. Many of these people are also terrified by these tentacles.

    Seeing as I occasionally have also been scared of these tentacles, I have found very comforting and reassuring your take on the WEF. You seem not to be very terrified of those tentacles at all as you maintain that while the WEF likes to project an image of near omnipotence having gamed out every imaginable scenario, sooner or later reality will disabuse them of that notion.

    Then again, maybe I’m reading too much into this.

  83. Hi JMG,

    Congratulations on these reprints. I agree with the comments above—the cover art is terrific.

    For the 5th Wednesday post, how about the military in the Long Descent? I haven’t been following the various wars too closely as I’m trying to limit news media, but I have seen a few examples of “muddling through” the conflicts, such as homemade drones. There is also a program called FrankenSAM—I’m serious—to cobble together mashups of US and Soviet missles, launchers, and radar because proper systems aren’t available.

  84. If what scares one culture/age is different, then it should be possible to psychoanalyze a society based on what it finds appealing (if this is the right word for this) in its horror. For instance, demonic influences must have been either known, or at least suspected to exist for a lot of people even in 1973, because without that, the Exorcist does not work as a horror film, but all it is is an extremely gross fantasy film. The one person I know who is truly, utterly, completely materialistic watched it, and found it extremely gross, incredibly unpleasant, but not scary in the least.

    What I find fascinating about this then is what it says about our society, namely the fact that zombies are such a popular archetype; and have been since roughly speaking the middle years of the 1990s. It existed before, but they weren’t nearly as common. Their popularity surged even more in the 2000s; in other words, there was something that was making people worried something was out there trying to “eat their brains”; in a metaphorical sense, this is a fair description of the effects the internet has on people: it destroys attention spans, it reduces cognitive capacity, it fries memories.

    So I think a good case can be made that this fear is being expressed metaphorically in the form of an obsession with zombies. It certainly explains it a lot better than anything else I’ve seen, and this fear in crawlspaces of our society certainly make sense of a lot of otherwise truly strange neuroses.

  85. Chris, funny. I’m quite convinced that zombie artists would paint modern art — in fact, that may just explain a thing or two…

    Jose, there are indeed.

    Abraham, Me, and Bogatyr, duly counted.

    Justin, thanks for this. I feel bad about criticizing Ligotti’s viewpoint because his essay comes across to me as a heartfelt cry of pain and grief; it’s just that I don’t share his feelings at all. I freely grant that the universe is uncaring and incomprehensible, and expecting it to make rational sense according to the fond notions of human reason is (to borrow a metaphor from my tentacle novels) like taking a child’s six inch ruler and trying to use it to measure a galaxy — but for Tsathoggua’s sake, why whine about it? It’s not as though we ever had any reason to expect something different. To say “the universe is MALIGNANTLY USELESS,” as Ligotti does — always with those shouting capitals — is to my mind just as absurdly anthropocentric and childish as saying that the universe was made for our benefit; they’re both attempts to project an individual human value judgment on a cosmos that truly couldn’t care less what we think and feel about it. That being the case, since all human models of the cosmos are equally inadequate but we can’t get by without some model or other, however lightly held, why not choose one that amuses and delights you rather than one that makes you feel miserable? (Unless you like to feel miserable, that is…) I’ve noted your vote, btw.

    JuanDonJuan, while the Elder Things had pentagonal symmetry I don’t recall anyone claiming that they were actually echinoderms. Still, it’s a point!

    Neptunesdolphins, ironically enough, one of the news aggregator sites I read had a tweet from one Walter Kirn reading: “Flying to DC today feels like going upriver to see Kurtz.”

    Averagejoe, hmm. I’ll consider it; the ideas I’ve had for additional tentacle novels have been somewhat different, and one of those may end up taking shape as a trilogy, but we’ll see.

    Nicky, so noted and thank you.

    Luke, that sounds weirdly Lovecraftian!

    Selkirk and Jessica, so noted. I’ll definitely consider it.

    Joan, I like that! Thank you for it.

    Ecosophy, magic is hardwired into our brains, our blood, and our bones. It’s as essential a part of human existence as sex. If some totalitarian rationalist world government were to burn all the books of magic, slaughter all the practitioners, and edit all surviving documents to erase every trace of magic from the world, it would be reinvented by children as soon as the ashes cooled. It’s amused me for years that scientists refer to our species as Homo sapiens, because “sapiens” in medieval Latin was the standard term for a wizard (which itself means “wise one,” just as “drunkard” means “drunk one.”) So our species is “human, the wizard.”

    CAS Fan, I adore his prose and many of his stories, especially when he lets his delightfully wry sense of humor out to play. I’m also a serious fan of his poetry. Of course I referenced him constantly in my own tentacle novels — A Voyage to Hyperborea (back in print next year) draws especially heavily from his work, but it’s all through the stories — I made particularly enthusiastic use of the Averoigne material.

    Ron, duly noted! My main problem with nihilism is a little different — I think most nihilists take themselves and their beliefs much too seriously. Granted, we can’t understand the cosmos; granted, it neither knows nor cares about our existence — so? Why sulk about it, when you can enjoy its beauty and wonder, and take active steps to avoid its ugliness and boredom? Yes, I know I’m weird. 😉

    As for modern art, nah, there’s a difference between horror and nausea!

    Hiram, I find Hume bracing — like a bitter aperitif, he cleans the mental palate. It’s exactly his willingness to ask hard questions about all human knowledge, including empirical knowledge, that makes him so delectable. Your vote’s been added to the list, btw.

    Reloaded15, no, you’re not reading too much into it. To a very real extent I satirized elite organizations such as the WEF in the villains of my tentacle novels, the Radiance: a bunch of human beings who are convinced that they’re the smart guys in the room, who are sure they can build a utopia of perfect reason, and who constantly trip over their own overinflated egos because the world is far vaster, stranger, and more magical than they have ever imagined.

    Samurai_47, I’ve added it to the list.

    Owen, serious Christian writers don’t put fake Jesuses into their stories — that’s purely a habit of hack writers. Tolkien’s world is a world in which the Incarnation has not yet happened but the teachings of Christianity are still the groundrules of existence.

    Anonymous, good! Yes, that would follow.

  86. JMG,
    For the 5th Wednesday post, I would ask for another book-related topic: “the older and frankly more interesting SF, in which psychic phenomena were a common theme”, if you still think it as worthy topic for separate post.

    The Other Owen (#96)
    So who’s Jesus in his world? Gandalf?

    Gandalf is one of the Wise and other than being literal angel ( Maia), also a clear prophet archetype (“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; Matthew 23:34). Secret Fire or “Flame of Anor” is obviously Holy Ghost.

    Frodo is rather obvious. The Ring and mission to destroy it – which was taken voluntary -becomes a crushing weight, just as the Holy Cross was for Jesus.

    You can go on with those analogies and comparisons (there is academic literature about it), but Tolkien didn’t make one-to-one “insert” of Jesus like CS Lewis did with Aslan. Tolkien distributed bits and pieces of archetype across multiple characters.


  87. @Justin Patrick Moore #77 re: Bibliophilia, The Black Company, and Necropolis

    Indeed, it could be much worse, but it has its challenges, like shelfspace!

    I’m glad you got The Black Company and hope you enjoy it. I hadn’t heard of Necropolis, but it sounds very much up my alley and has been added to the wishlist – thank you!


  88. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Very amusing!

    Going up the river to see Kurtz would be a great blog essay! 🙂 Have to laugh, about two and a half decades ago I wanted a challenge, just to test my mettle. I got a challenge, and I tell ya what, if I never see a challenge again, it’ll be a good thing. 😉 After that incident, I took control over my will – as much as possible. I’m sure you’d know the feeling. Far out, man!



  89. “Owen, serious Christian writers don’t put fake Jesuses into their stories — that’s purely a habit of hack writers.”
    I hope we can make an exception for Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and its Grand Inquisitor chapter.

    If we discuss Chinese resilience, I think it would be good to distinguish periods of decentralized rule from dark ages. John Keay’s “China” makes a good case that most Chinese history has been written by folks in the employ of an emperor, that the dates for many of the dynasties include periods at the beginning and end during which the dynasty had at best nominal control, and that many of the great cultural developments occurred during inter-dynastic periods.
    Also, looking at what the Chinese call the century of humiliation (from the First Opium War until the founding of the PRC), the death toll was so astounding that I am not sure we would want to take that as a model of resilience.

  90. John, you’re welcome. No worries on my end. I don’t share Ligotti’s stance or viewpoint either. I suspect that is to a large part why I havent gone back and reread his short stories. The same might also be true for why I havent revisited Machen. For all the cold emptiness, there is also the glistening light & magic of the stars.

    The best horror fiction IMO has always had an element if redemption, wonder, humor even, or just characgters I fall in love with and evokes something within me greater than nihilism. A lot of it has the struggle of “good vs evil” – and that gets old too- but there is something in it of triumph if human will agaunst or in spite of an array of sinister forces, and help from benevolent ones – then I like it better. And if bent more towards fantasy fuction, better still.

  91. “just as absurdly anthropocentric and childish as saying that the universe was made for our benefit; they’re both attempts to project an individual human value judgment on a cosmos that truly couldn’t care less what we think and feel about it.”

    That theme keeps popping up in this entry and that brings to mind The Total Perspective Vortex.

    “The machine was originally created by its inventor Trin Tragula as a way to get back at his wife. She was always telling him to get a “sense of proportion,” so he showed her the Vortex. Tragula was horrified to learn he had destroyed her mind, even as he proved his point that if life was going to live in such a vast Universe, one thing it could not afford to have was a sense of perspective.

    The Vortex is now used as a torture and (in effect) killing device on the planet Frogstar B. The prospective victim of the TPV is placed within a small chamber wherein is displayed a model of the entire universe – together with a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot bearing the legend “you are here.” The sense of perspective thereby conveyed destroys the victim’s mind; it was stated that the TPV is the only known means of crushing a man’s soul.”

    And I disagree that the universe doesn’t make rational sense. The universe follows a pretty rational set of physical laws. Even quantum mechanics follows rules in a statistical sense. The average electron distribution of an oxygen molecule is reliably known, but the location of a particular electron at a specific time is really vague.

    Trying to attach a purpose to the universe is where you get into trouble.

  92. I have a cuddly Plush Chthulu riding in my car for the last couple decades. I like to say “Elder God is my co-pilot”. I need a bumper sticker to that effect, perhaps. I have a fond memory of visiting the coast with my kids and my then 3 year old younger daughter saying, in a dreamy voice with an inexplicable, out of nowhere British accent, “Plush Chthulu wants to go to the beach. Plush Chthulu likes to watch the waves.” I’ll carry that joy to the grave.
    I’m looking forward to picking up the reprinted series. I missed it the first time around.

  93. JMG,

    Well, I assume this means no hardcover version. I have all the orginals (including the hardcover of Innsmouth and Kingsport) so I’ll probably hold off on buying theses. Although , I must admit a degree of curiousity about the changes.
    You have mentioned that you do not find the cosmic weirdness of Lovecraft frightening but what about the madness? Lovecraft seemed to posit that madness was much like gravity – all it takes is a little push. And the universe is chock full of cats on tables.
    I found the slow decay of society portrayed in the series one of its finest features and mentioned it prominently in my Amazon review. Strangely, i did not find it disturbing but weirdly comforting.


  94. I put in a vote for a discussion of Carl Jung and his ideas for the 5th Wednesday post. In the post on Steiner, you commented that Steiner took his visions too seriously, while Jung didn’t take his seriously enough. I’d read Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by then and had been astounded by one of his visions that he brushed off – I thought he should have taken its implications more seriously than he did. I’d be very interested in your thoughts on him and his work.

  95. This was a fun post, JMG. I enjoyed learning about your Hali series. Also nice that except for a brief mention, this post is a break from all the woes and problems of today’s world.
    My local library system has three dozen of your books. The only Hali item is audio book of Innsmouth. Were you the reader or involved with the audio?
    I can’t tell from the overview if this is a series where stopping anywhere before the end leaves the reader stuck in incomplete cliffhangers, like Lord of the Rings, or if it’s the kind where one book at a time provides its own conclusion.
    With your distaste for the moving-picture box, would you flat out reject any offers from Hollywood to visualize your stories on screen?

    My fifth Wednesday suggestion: more in the “psychology, symbolism, and clothing” fdiscussion rom a metaphysical view, or for participating in the group egregore of the similarly-clad, perhaps? You’ve mentioned being dissatisfied at demand for hairstyles much shorter than would have been No Big Deal in many other centuries and locals. Does that tie in (no pun intended) with enthusiasm for robes and amulets practices now?
    Alternatively, I’d also like to see discussion of The Will, its sources, uses, training.

    I’m a literate guy with a strong vocabulary, but I had to look up new term “soi-disant,” to learn just how condescended to I was!

    Re: Gory horror. I’m also one who dislikes explicit gore to gross out, dismay, and shock as a form of entertainment. For example, I hope to never watch Exorcist, Alien, Robocop, or to read King’s It. A little bit of Poe in high school English was more than enough for me.

    Re: Portland. I lived for a while in two Portland neighborhoods which were nice back then, but where Target just removed their stores – something they don’t do lightly – due to rampant crime and toxic communities. Quite sad!

    Alvin # 64 Scott Alexander (Slate Star/Astral Codex) wrote his big metaphysical novel full of Jewish mysticism themes. Hard for an outsider to tell how much is actually researched, and how much he just made up. Or for that matter, just how seriously he was taking the story himself, as Jungian metaphor or whatnot, or just an unusual story to tell.

  96. Posts like this are a large part of why I keep returning to this site. While the influence of the occult on Tolkien and Lovecraft does not come as a surprise, the specific nature of that influence is not something I would have encountered elsewhere.

    I have also failed to be horrified by Lovecraft, despite enjoying many of his works. I do think his writing would have been genuinely more shocking in his time and milieu. Decades of science fiction, cultural change and disillusion about progress have likely dampened the horror for most potential readers. My favourite part of Lovecraft’s writing is his alien races. They seem compellingly fleshed-out and believable while also being clearly alien in body and mind, in contrast to the popular “humans with funny ears” model.

    Also, I vote for military history of the deindustrial future. I’ve seen this option come up often enough to become intrigued. Besides, it might be useful to start thinking about this early…

  97. I’m delighted that the Haliverse is back in publication. Just as an aside, people! Go buy them!
    I have a couple in paperback and the rest on kindle, which turned out to be annoying when it turned out that I love them and keep returning to reread them. I’ve got your typical giant book pile, however, I’ve been back to these novels several times now. Something about them just seems so directly on point to me. The Radiance, for example- it’s kind of a thing. Those guys. We have them.
    You did a nice job with the villains, to say nothing of setting,for example Dreamlands, or why serpent people from the Cambrian made me hate New York (Connecticut has always hated New York.)

  98. Okay, I’ve got everybody’s vote tabulated. Thank you!

    Chris, I do indeed know the feeling. As for going up the river to see Kurtz, I’m really seriously tempted just now to reread Heart of Darkness and do something with it for an essay.

    Jessica, I don’t see the Grand Inquisitor as a fake Jesus; Dostoevsky was subtler than that. As for China, of course! It’s precisely the gap between the superstructure of dynasties and the substructure of ordinary Chinese society that made China so resilient; emperors came and went, but Farmer Wan just kept hoeing his paddies.

    Justin, I return to Machen because he’s so obviously tempted by the things he rejects so heatedly. I’ll see what I think about Ligotti once I get to his fiction; I finished The Conspiracy Against the Human Race this afternoon and am waiting for the initial irritable reaction of “Oh, for Yuggoth’s sake, will you just get over yourself?” to pass off so I can assess it more fairly.

    Siliconguy, yes, I remember that, and it always made me shrug and wonder why people are supposed to be that fragile. As for rationality, I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming post; the skeleton in the closet of science is the problem of underdetermination — the fact that the concepts and laws of science more or less accurately predict the behavior of experiences does not prove that those concepts and laws are true, just that they’re useful. They could as well be useful fictions. But we’ll get to that later.

    Mr. Bunny, delighted to hear this! Your daughter clearly was channeling a Lovecraft character. I wonder if it was Nyarlathotep. 😉

    AV, I haven’t heard anything about a hardcover version, alas. I’ll let everyone know if that changes. As for madness, I’ve watched way too many rationalists bandy that word and similar words about to mean any state of consciousness of which they don’t approve. Mental illnesses certainly exist, but there’s also the very different experience of being pushed out of the accepted worldview of your society by something profoundly uncanny, and then landing on your feet in a new reality. Much of my fiction is about that experience, of course.

    Christopher, I licensed the audio and know the person who read it, so it’s an authorized edition. You might see, if you’re interested, whether your library might like to buy a set of the series now that it’s in print again.

    Daniil, Lovecraft’s aliens are one of my favorite things about his work, too — when I’ve had alien races in my fiction, I’ve always tried to follow his example and make them decidedly nonhuman.

    WRW, thank you! I had a lot of fun with the villains — and of course deciding what was going to eat them in each book was always an interesting challenge, since I don’t like to repeat scenes too closely.

  99. @Justin Patrick Moore #103 re: Hopeful/Redemptive Elements in Horror vs Nihilism

    I’m in full agreement with you, there. From an intellectual standpoint, I can appreciate when nihilism/bleakness is used well to evoke horror, but if that’s all there is, I find myself reacting something like “yes, and?” I mean, there’s plenty of bleak, nihilistic awfulness to go around in the world, if you focus on it and don’t make the effort to find anything else out there. Stories that offer only that leave me cold. I find the blend of some amount of hope/meaning/light in the face of darkness, whether it “wins” or not much more affecting. I think the first three Alien movies do a pretty good job of illustrating how I feel about this:

    ***Spoilers ahead for the Alien franchise, so, if you are still holding out on those 44-22 years later, beware.***

    The first Alien film is pretty bleak – faceless, incomprehensible murder machine just killing everyone for no reason, it doesn’t even really seem to be eating them. Even worse, the corporation is aiding and abetting it happening to make a buck down the line. Still, in the face of all that, Ripley manages to save herself and the cat, at least for now, to what end, who knows. Just the right blend of nihilism/hope/finding meaning in the struggle against nihilism for me.

    Aliens comes right at us with some bleakness from the jump when Ripley wakes up alive and safe (still with the cat), but finds out everyone she ever knew is dead, cos she’s been asleep so long. And, oh fun, maybe the same horrorshow is back again, but with more people this time. Once again, murder machines, everyone dying, corporation being even more inhuman, but hey, Ripley, the one decent marine, and the little girl all make it, and they at least stop this hive of awful space wasps. Once again, a pretty good blend, though if anything, this one reads as a more clear “win” for Ripley, humanity, and our sense of meaning.

    Then Alien 3 just goes right for the jugular, nihilism-wise. Everything Ripley has struggled for is undone – it wasn’t only meaningless, it was actively harmful, the opposite of what she fought for. In the end, the closest thing to meaning you get is that she throws herself into the molten metal (or is it lava?) rather than continue to unintentionally be party to the corporation’s evil. For me, this went too far on the nihilism and too light on the compensatory/clarifying meaning.

    Anyhow, opinions will obviously differ, but thought I’d share my two cents in case it helps anyone else articulate his thoughts.


  100. Quite late, but I’d love to see an essay on the durability of Chinese civilisation too.

  101. @pygmycory #3 , JMG and others:

    I was very puzzled by it, then realized that I was supposed to be horrified by the native africans doing various rituals and the idea that a european might get entangled in their societies or go native. etc.

    I’ve always understood that the Africans were under-described in Heart of Darkness because they are basically incidental to the story. They and their culture are not the source of the horror: Kurtz is, and the reader is supposed to be horrified by recognising him when they look in the mirror.

    In Conrad’s tale (and also in Coppola’s film, though it’s not sufficiently developed), Mr. Kurtz is the exemplary man: the man who is foremost in all of the virtues on which the society of his time (19th century Belgium) extols. He is witty, ferociously intelligent, artistically talented, charitable, pious, and so on. But that society is built on the utmost brutality and rapaciously extractive colonialism, and when Kurtz takes a position as an ivory gatherer he excels at that as well, and stands out as the most effectively brutal of them all: an exemplar of evil. His clarity of mind and moral understanding mean that he understands exactly what he is doing and why, and that drives him mad. Meanwhile, his directness in his methods makes the other Europeans uncomfortable, because he shows them for what they are. Conrad is writing about his audience, who are all complicit although they attempt to deny it, or try to justify the dependence of their civilisation on such cruelty through pious statements about “bringing civilisation to the savages”. The heart of darkness is in us, not in Africa.

    At least, that’s my reading. As our host often says, your mileage may vary.

  102. I actually shoiuld reread The Hill of Dreams and The White People, among others. There was one of Machen’s stories where the narrator was wandering around London, almost like a precursor to the Situationist idea of the derive and psychogeography if I recall correctly.

    How active was Machen in the Golden Dawn?

  103. I am not familiar with H P Lovercraft not being a big horror fan so I do not know about these Elder Things you mention, but the idea of winged space starfish sounds amazing. But are they really pentagonally symmetric like a sand dollar or more properly pentamerous symmetry like real starfish? And where are the wings attached? Does that mean they have a non-echinodermish front and back or do the wings rotate like a celestial helicopter? Questions, questions. I know. Sorry it is probably irrelevant to the story you are trying to tell here but the whole alien life-form thing has me fascinated and I really like echinoderms.

  104. Chrispher from California

    “I had to look up new term “soi-disant,” to learn just how condescended to I was!” Haha! Moi aussi!

  105. JMG:
    I’ll vote for “Hitler as an archetype” for the fifth Wednesday. I remember when this was brought up on a Magic Monday (and that very simple picture which is still clearly Hitler – fascinating stuff).

    The Lovecraft story that scared me was “Dreams in the Witchhouse”. There was something about clueless yet cocksure PMC type pushing ahead into eldritch stuff he did not understand while ignoring the warnings of all those superstitious, swarthy immigrants (who actually had a clue). It’s even scarier now because it could serve as a allegory of current Western leadership.

  106. I’ve read SF and Fantasy for about 65 years, and these books stand up nicely to the best of what I read from the classic period. Lovecraft, Clark, Clarke, Simak, Wellman, Tolkein, Heinlein and…Greer. Of course you could also name your own favorites from the period before all thought was locked down. Amazing stuff, and this series stands proudly with its peers.

    It’s possible to get a pretty good education into an occult worldview by reading the novels of such as Mr. Greer, here, and Dion Fortune’s fiction and novels. I’ve read each corpus of works (to the best of my ability) numbers of times, and I learn something important to my life and understanding every time I take them up.

    If you dismissed the Weird of Hali series as “mere” fiction that you can get around to reading sometime for your entertainment, well, you’re missing it. Yes, they’re hugely entertaining. I love returning to the world described in them and it’s a giant comfort in the face of what’s going on in the world around us to share in them. However, there’s a lot to be grasped, intuitively, from the series.

    For instance, the institution named as “The Radiance” is a good stand-in for the sinister forces we greet in the news every day, and in our official historical narratives. I have to go to work, now, so can’t write much more, but I strongly encourage anyone essaying their first steps into the wider world known to those of us who study things esoteric…I strongly encourage you to read and re-read these books. Not only will you be entertained, you will be educated (in the original sense of that word). Others have discussed the provenance of the ideas therein, not least our esteemed host, but they are worth exploring, and the best way to do that (in my view) is in fiction.

  107. JMG:

    I loved the Hali series, and borrowed liberally from it for a roleplaying game campaign I ran a few years ago. Kingsport was my favorite, with Redhook a close runner up.
    The talk of robes and amulets made me consider that when I do the LBRP in my suit it feels more important or powerful. (On Thursdays I do court early in the morning, so I usually stop by home on my way back to the office perform the LBRP and daily Tarot reading, and change into office casual). It’s kind of like dressing up for church back in the day makes it more serious by showing respect for gods by putting on your best before going to their place.

  108. JMG, an essay about The Heart of Darkness would surely need to include some reference to the movie Apocalypse Now, if only because that film has become a not unimportant part of the cultural experience of many of us, include folks who never heard of Conrad. Maybe you would consider having some friends whose judgement you trust watch it and report back to you?

  109. I posted this on the open post last week but it’s probably just as relevant here – I remember there was talk of an RPG set in the Haliverse, would anyone be interested in starting up a group to play it? I’m based in Halifax, Canada but I’m guessing an online group might be the way to go.

  110. I didn’t know ‘wizard’ meant ‘wise one’ but now that makes a lot of sense. “Human, the wizard” hahaha. I wonder if nonhuman hominids like Neanderthals practiced magic. A while ago in Spain, scientists found 60,000 year old cave paintings, which are from before humans entered the area. They concluded that they must be from Neanderthals, and they look very strange. I don’t really know what they were trying to depict. Here’s a link about it which shows the painting ( To me, they look very symbolic. Could they be magical?

    Another thing. I think it’s interesting that the far east and the west both developed alchemical systems, which although different, share very striking similarities. There’s two options; either the west and the east came up with the systems independently, or they share the same origins. Both of those options lead to some fun speculation. If alchemy was developed in both civilizations independently, it lends some credibility to alchemy. Why would two civilizations independently ‘discover’ something that doesn’t exist? On the other hand if they share the same origin, it hints toward an older primeval form of alchemy. Those are my thoughts on the matter, at least.

  111. Congrats on the new printing! I’ve been wanting to read these for years, but since I’d rather not get into an incomplete series I’ve been holding off. Good thing you’re better at finishing your projects than a lot of other fantasy authors I could name. 🙂 I did read and enjoy the first one way back when the paperback came out, though. I liked seeing your take on the fantasy genre as a practicing occultist, and of course your prose is lovely as always.

    The shipping costs to Europe were also pretty off-putting, so the new UK-based publisher helps a lot there for European readers like me. I’d still ideally want to see the whole series collected in a hardcover omnibus, but I know you don’t have any control over those decisions. Either way, seems like it’s about time to finally put in an order.

    And in the spirit of Frugal Friday: For Europeans who want to buy physical books on the internet, I’ve found Blackwells has both competitive pricing and free shipping, and it’s also a charming physical bookstore (or two?) dating back to the early 20th century, with no connections to the Evil River I’d rather not patronize.

    I’d also like to add my vote for the fifth Wednesday (the main reason I’m commenting, really): plus one for a certain Austrian dictator and his hold on the Western imagination.

  112. >serious Christian writers don’t put fake Jesuses into their stories

    Ahem. How can you have a Christian world – without Jesus? Isn’t that like a beefless steak? Or a car without an engine in it? I mean, if it wasn’t for that particular guy, nobody would be talking about Christianity at all, we’d be talking about some other ancient organized religion instead.

    I suppose you could talk about Buddhaless Buddhism. That would sort of make sense. I think.

  113. Regarding rationalists turning towards religion:

    There is already a post-rationalist subculture developing. A certain set of chronically online Millennial/Zoomer males who have come through Yudkowski-brand rationalism and, getting tired of the dismal and bland worldview promoted there, have picked up leftover elements from the psychedelic counter-culture and its indiscriminate cherry-picking of Eastern religion. Lots of drugs, remixed Alan Watts lectures, and talk of “vibes, bro”, in essence.

    There is even a festival now, called VibeCamp, dedicated to the ‘post-rats’. There is an interesting article from someone who attended here, if you can get past the gratingly drugged-out prose:

    Long story short is that the vibes at VibeCamp were somewhat spoiled by a group of narcissistic weirdos centred around a notorious sex-worker and rationalist personality; they even staged a mock(?)-Satanic ritual at one point, much to the disturbance of the unwitting young men who just turned up for some good vibes.

    I predict most of these guys will be Christian converts within a decade or less.

  114. JMG #114: “As for going up the river to see Kurtz, I’m really seriously tempted just now to reread Heart of Darkness and do something with it for an essay.”
    Please do consider writing that essay – I would love to read that!

  115. Luke Dodson # 129 “I predict most of these guys will be Christian converts within a decade or less.” That worked for Tolstoy. I’m partway through his Apology now. First part, about how purely materialist rationalism leaves no reason to live, fits in well with this post. So far the second part seems to be, “But if for some reason you don’t want to kill yourself, all that’s left is to take traditional Christianity on faith.” Only two options in his mind, unless there’s a surprising twist ending to this text.
    I wonder if he literally was a murderer in his youth, or just piling on dramatic language for effect.

  116. Mary Bennett # 124 “some reference to the movie”
    If I understand what JMG said, moving picture technology isn’t just annoying to him, he gets physically ill from trying to watch – a neurodiversity issue, like some people get queasy from any 3D films, or on roller coasters. No film or TV criticism from him ever, I think.

  117. @Gman, #26
    > I’ve always found dressing sharply to do far more for my mental abilities than any amount of robes or amulets

    Well, robes and amulets were the dressing sharply of their time, weren’t they? I am looking forward to don tuxedos, suits and casual blazers for the correct occasion as a dignified Grandma at my (women only) 27th century occult lodge. It will be a blast when I regain the memory that these used to be men’s formalwear and nobody I know is the wiser.

  118. @The Other Owen, #96
    >So who’s Jesus in his world? Gandalf?
    As JMG has pointed out, LOTR takes place in the remote past and is therefore “Old Testament” (pre-Abrahamic, actually, which would place it solidly in Genesis). There are glimpses, though, in which some characters show Christic facets on their respective arcs. Gandalf’s resurrection (and his improved White Wizard persona) is an obvious one, so is Frodo’s quest to carry and destroy the Evil Ring on behalf of of the Peoples of the Middle Earth (thanks, @changeling).
    Another such figure is Aragorn: king with no kingdom, wanderer and healer. His going into the Paths of the Dead to recruit the Ghost Army of Dunharrow is a veiled reference to Jesus’ descent into Hells to claim the souls of the Righteous Departed. Still, Aragorn is a warrior king; I prefer to equate him to King David instead (I wonder if he had Faramir taken out of the way, after a couple of decades of Elvish-grade nagging).

    As for the meatless steak… imagine an Argentinian asado, roasting beautifully in the oven. You get to enjoy the smell while you sip wine, snack on veggies and cheese, and chat with your friends. However, strictly speaking, there’s no beef on the table.

  119. Hello JMG! Your latest post is great as always! I’m now reading The Devil’s Potions by E.T.A Hoffmann and I loved it! By the way, I have a question, I would be glad if you could answer it. Knowing that you read a lot of books, I said, “Do you know any novels set in the monastery? I love this genre, so you must be knowledgeable.”
    With love

  120. Am I missing something ? Homo sapiens. sapiens means wizard because wizard = wise one (as explained by anaology to drunkard), but sapiens means wise in latin anyway, at least what I learn at school, so although the shift in meaning vis-à-vis modern usage of wizard (Harry Potter et al notwithstanding) is a bit funny, it is not really significant surely. A linguistic artefact at best. Unless I am missing something?

  121. I wonder whether, in summarising the glamour of Mr. Kurtz and how in both novel and film people he encounters are left reeling after he “expands their mind”, I haven’t answered my own question about the enduring glamour (in the sense of spell or enchamtment) of the Austrian corporal. He and his cronies made no secret of the truth that the road to a better life led straight through the moral void – and I wonder whether people weren’t just glad to be able to shed the pretences and hypocrisy. It’s a point that remains germane today, when the prosperity of the west still depends on an extractive wealth pump (hat tip to our host) which our PMCs defend with an increasingly frenzied hypocrisy that Kurtz would have despised.

  122. First off, I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes. Thank you for these!

    Bogatyr, oh, granted, but (at least in my reading) the Africans aren’t incidental. The African crew of the steamer are presented as generally decent people, Kurtz’s African mistess is made attractive and dignified, and so on, precisely to heighten the contrast with Kurtz and the Europeans generally. The underdescription is a very effective device to keep them from being dismissed as too exotic by European and American readers.

    Justin, he joined, but didn’t go beyond the Neophyte grade. He made some snarky comments about it in one of his nonfiction pieces; I’m pretty sure from his writings generally, that he did what a certain number of people do when they encounter ceremonial magic; that is to say, he panicked, ran like a rabbit, and then found all kinds of reasons to dismiss it as bad or wrong or evil or what have you.

    Cerys, with regard to the symmetry of the Elder Things, you’ll have to check with the field notes from the Miskatonic Antarctic Expedition, which you can find here. Here’s an image from Wikipedia:

    Chris S, it’s a fine story! I always wanted to know more about Brown Jenkin, though; it was clear to me even when I was a kid that he must have been some kind of small primate unknown to science — forward-facing eyes, front paws that looked like human hands, etc. — and from that seed, the fourth volume in the series was born. (Well, that and the Randolph Carter stories.)

    Clarke, thank you! That’s high praise.

    Chris S, hmm! Interesting. I may try that sometime.

    Mary, I’d probably just mention that Conrad’s story was the basis for the movie, and leave it at that.

    Enjoyer, the Neanderthals clearly performed rituals — I’m thinking of the Neanderthal burial that’s been found with the remains of flowers and red pigment in the grave — so I’m quite sure they were smart enough to practice magic. Most hunting peoples do! As for alchemy, Joseph Needham made a very strong case for the idea that it originated in China and the Indian, Arabic, and European schools of alchemy were all inspired by the earlier Chinese art.

    Kim, thank you! I have a very intense and rather personal loathing for the kind of fantasy author who writes the first books of a series and then never gets around to finishing it. It seems to me that when you begin a series, if it has a fixed story arc (rather than being open-ended), you’re making a bargain with your readers. Abandoning the series partway through is cheating the readers. In my case, I wrote the climactic scenes of the entire series while the second volume was only half done, and expanded and developed it further as the series matured, so there was never a question of whether the end would get written!

    Other Owen, I take it you’ve never heard of the Old Testament. Christians do count that as scripture, you know, even though Jesus hasn’t yet put in an appearance.

    Luke, hmm! No surprises there, but it interests me that it’s already got a name and a group identity. I wasn’t expecting that quite so quickly.

    Patricia M, ooh! The Radiance is planning a wonderful utopian future for the people they like! (Blech.)

    Yavanna, I’ve picked up a copy of Conrad’s novel, so we’ll see.

    Athaia, that’s astoundingly weird. Especially since Lovecraft’s Elder Things had starfish-shaped heads — are starfish mutant descendants of Elder Things that escaped the vengeance of the shoggoths? 😉

    Yiğit, the only thing that comes to mind just now is Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael murder mysteries, which are set in an English monastery in the early Middle Ages.

    Cerys, are you missing something? Apparently a sense of humor, as I noted earlier that I found that point amusing, not (say) earthshakingly relevant or something. Sheesh.

    Bogatyr, a valid point!

  123. Yiğit (#137)
    I am not sure if it is what you are looking for but, Anathem by Neal Stephenson is set in a monastery in a future in which both science and mysticism are viewed quite negatively by society for some unspecified but enormous past crime and are quarantined in the monastery. I found the first half a fascinating inquiry into the relationship between knowledge too intense for society at large and the broader society.

  124. Yiğit #137: fiction set in monasteries: “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller is an interesting science fiction/post-apocalyptic novel set in a monastery.

  125. Dear JMG please correct me if I am wrong. But…if magic is changing consciousness in accordance with will, then surely every good novelist is a magician? Conversely, can you even be a mage without crafting stories be they for an audience or be they for yourself?

  126. Another vote here for Chinese resilience.

    And Athaia, wow! Thank you for that amazing link. Nature never fails to amaze.

  127. I finished the Weird of Hali series today – thank you for writing it. I thought the ending was great, especially the more mundane of the objects used to bring about the conclusion.

    My vote is for Chinese Resilience.

    On The Lord of the Rings: The way I see it, Tolkien split Jesus up into quite a number of people and hobbits who joined together and accomplished a miracle, like a prism combining a rainbow back into white light. Saruman did the opposite, splitting things apart into their many constituent parts.

  128. Once again, I’ve got everybody’s vote tabulated.

    Miow, good. Yes, fiction is a form of magic — there’s a reason why we use the word “spell” to mean both an incantation and the process of assembling letters into a word. Not all mages use fiction as an instrument of magic — stories are not the only way to formulate imagination in accordance with will — and most fiction writers have no clue that they’re practicing magic, but the connection’s there.

    Justin, you’re most welcome and thank you!

  129. Luke Dodson, I think you’re referring to Aella? I found this analysis of Aella’s persona by Zero HP Lovecraft pretty good:

    Basically he says that Aella, who was raised by Matt Slick, a Christian fundamentalist who put his free time into forming different logical arguments for God, in the end serves the true God of her father — “rationality”.

    I’ll quote a part of it here since I think it’s somewhat relevant to the main topic too:

    “You meet these types who have memorized 100 arguments that supposedly establish the truth of their faith; ontological arguments, teleological arguments, cosmological arguments, moral arguments, and so on.

    And you sort of have to wonder, if any one of these arguments were so convincing, then why do you need more of them?

    There’s a perfect example of this, you might almost say God created him as a parable, to show us what is wrong with this approach.

    This man’s name is Matt Slick, and you’ve probably heard of his daughter. Matt raised his daughter in exactly the way I’ve described, he thinks he has placed his faith in God, but no, he has placed it in logic.

    And logic makes a terrible God, because logic will take you wherever your heart wishes to go, it will bend any perception into the necessary shape to affirm whatever you already believe in your heart.

    And when we look at Matt’s daughter, who goes by the name of Aella, What do we see?

    We see in fact, that he has perfectly transmitted his faith to his daughter, she has apprehended the shape of his God not from the names that he prayed to, but from the functional understanding that he modeled for her in his integration with being.

    She has become a bay area rationalist—a pious atheist—a (wo)man who memorizes all of the arguments which supposedly disprove the existence of god.

    They are exactly the same person. They are the same ideology. When you try to reduce your religion to propositions and mechanisms of logic, there is no longer space for the divine.”

    We will see if the post-rats retvrn to Christianity, I have a feeling some might, but others might eventually spin off their own cults and religions.

  130. Hi John Michael,

    Well there you go. I’d thought that the reference was to the film: ‘Apocalypse Now’, and the crazy Colonel Kurtz, but I see that the roots of the story are much older again. Fiction does tend to build over time, does it not?

    I’d be intrigued by your thoughts, and the journo making that observation was not being kind to his masters. 😉



  131. Thank you for that Elder Thing image. What an amazing looking creature and clearly full of echinoderm body features though by the look of it every example of the phylum that ever existed all at once. Wow!

    As for missing a sense of humour why Mr Greer, you really do not know me! Sorry I did not realise it was a funny that you were making. On rereading I see the point.

  132. Speaking of monster tentacles manifesting in history. If in 1910 you had told a citizen of the British, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Austrian or German empires what the next 40 years would hold for those respective realms they would laugh at you as an absurd prophet of doom. We may be at a similar time before the appearance of monsters.

  133. Once again, everyone’s vote has been tabulated. Thank you for your enthusiasm!

    Chris, not kind at all. I’m in the middle of an old Eric Ambler thriller right now — he’s one of my faves these days — but when that’s done, Heart of Darkness is next on the reading list.

    Cerys, of course I don’t know you. All I have to go on are a very modest number of recent posts here, most of which have been rather querulous — and since I have Aspergers syndrome, those tell me a lot less than they might tell someone with a less scrambled nervous system. I’m glad you liked the Elder Thing, though! They’re intriguing critters, like most of Lovecraft’s livestock.

    Moose, I know the feeling. Fifteen years ago I was being dismissed as an absurd prophet of doom for saying that the price of oil was going to soar past $50 a barrel and stay there, and that the United States was in decline and no, that wasn’t going to change. What amuses me is that I was also being dismissed at the same time as a blind optimist for saying that we weren’t going to run out of oil completely any time soon and that the industrial world wasn’t going to crash into ruin next Thursday…

  134. Hi JMG,

    My vote for the fifth Wednesday topic is for the legend of Elias Artista – the mysterious adept that is mentioned quite often in alchemical texts.

  135. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the introduction to the author. I’d never heard of the bloke before, and I noted his use of the plot device of the anti-hero. I quite like that fictional character, and can well understand the appeal of the books.

    As an amusing side story, I’m noticing a certain sense of err, I don’t know what to call it, but perhaps ‘collapse fatigue’, is setting in with folks I speak with. To misquote the Blues Brothers film: “I know about collapse. It’s been collapsing my whole life!” That’s been my experience, so I see no reason why it won’t continue, with the occasional sudden jolts and dislocations – as I’ve experienced. You’ve been pretty consistent with your message in this regard over a long period of time – it’s a long slow, disorderly process. Certainly doesn’t mean that a person suddenly won’t have bills to pay or have to go to work on a Monday morning…

    I’ve watched someone go from one extreme end of that continuum (not quite zombies, but you get the gist), to the other end (which looks a bit like ra, ra, ra, yay, progress!), and have absolutely no idea what to make of it. It is of course worth noting that the lack of evidence for one end, does not imply that the other end is correct – they might both be wrong.

    A mystery! Have you seen that happen?



  136. Leafblowers were out on my street this morning and now piles of leaves which ought to be enriching people’s gardens are instead obstructing traffic waiting for the city to sweep them up with their gas guzzling sweeper equipment. It occurred to me that this is a kind of annual magic ritual, by which my neighbors hope to keep the present culture and arrangements in place.

  137. JMG. Thanks again for another very good essay and thanks to everyone else on the wonderful comments and really good ideas for the fifth Wednesday essay. I really like them all but my vote this month is for the hold a certain mid-century central European political movement has on the present day imagine.

  138. JMG, your response to my comment sent me down a rabbit hole. The USA has the world’s largest coal reserves. As oil/natural gas diminish do we enter a second coal age? After all coal can be converted into petroleum like products. Google says after a bit of math on my part that a gallon of gas contains 36,000 watts of energy and it takes with 12,500 watts to make that gallon from coal, and there potential new methods that could lower that energy input to under 5000 watts. Though that doesn’t include energy used in mining and transportation. Could the net energy available from coal be enough to make it competitive as oil/natural gas fade and the price of petroleum goes up as production diminishes? I have seen large earth moving and large logging vehicles and equipment in action, can’t imagine them being wind/solar powered via batteries, so demand for gasoline will be there, until we are forced willing or not into the Ecotechnic/Retro future.

  139. @Alvin #148 Amen, I have a saying derived from something said by Martin Luther – “Reason and logic are prostitutes, for they will serve any master” Personal encounter with raw Spirit was and is for me the convincing trans rational argument.

  140. I’ll cast my vote for Chinese resilience.
    Re: Fiction as magic
    It’s also an excellent study in the will. Not only in your own will as a writer to sit down and write, but also the will of the characters, the themes, the plot… You often hear about characters being alive to their authors, but it’s not often people talk about everything else and even the stories themselves being alive.

  141. Once again, I’ve got everyone’s votes tabulated.

    Chris, the bloke in question being Eric Ambler? Good heavens, he’s the writer who invented the modern spy thriller. Well worth your time; of his early, between-the-wars books, A Coffin for Dimitrios (sold in some countries as The Mask of Dimitrios) is arguably the best; of his postwar books, The Schirmer Inheritance, Passage of Arms, and the hilarious The Intercom Conspiracy are my current faves. Worth a few hours of your time. As for collapse fatigue — oh, good gods, yes. I’ve watched any number of people go from extreme doomsayers to techno-Pollyanas in a matter of days.

    Mary, good! Yes, to my mind the leafblower is the quintessential American technology — it pushes leaves from one place to another without actually doing anything about them, while wasting as much fuel, making as much noise, and irritating as many people as possible in the process.

    Moose, yes, the US has the world’s largest coal reserves. We’re already using coal at a dizzying rate — 513 million tons a year; that’s down from 731 million tons in 2016, because we’ve shut down a lot of coal-fired power plants recently, but you know as well as I do that those plants will be reopened when the price of natural gas rises, as of course it will in due time. Meanwhile world coal consumption is at an all time record, well over 8 billion tons a year and rising, so it’s not a matter of coal becoming competitive; it’s currently competitive, and being used at a breakneck pace.

    Valenzuela, that’s very true. My experiences as a writer of fiction have had a lot of impact on how I experience the slightly less fictional world we live in every day.

  142. Novels set in monasteries? And nobody has mentioned “The Glass Bead Game”? Castilia (if I’m remembering it right) seems close enough to a monastery for me.

  143. On leaf blowers: I have to agree. I was once paid to operate one, a high powered model with the engine mounted on my back. It’s entertaining enough, but inferior in every way to a rake and some big trash cans.

    When I lived with my parents in suburbia, I got them to buy an old-school reel mower when the gas mower died. The reel mower was a pleasure to use except in a few tight spots where the gas one would have been much better. It took me about 25% longer to mow the lawn, but I got a good workout, and replaced a liter or so of gas with the equivalent of a bowl of rice. I left home a long time ago, and now they are on their second electric self propelled mower.

    I think the peak oil scene is too pessimistic when they compare a barrel of oil to hours of human labor. Pretty much everything we use fossil fuels for except for trains, trucks and heat is incredibly inefficient compared to humans. Obviously the magnitude of the energy windfall has made us richer nonetheless, but it takes precious little rice to replace a liter of diesel in a lot of other applications.

  144. “I don’t share Lovecraft’s prejudices about race, social class, and culture, so the fear that everyone else in the world might gang up on middle-class white Anglo-American men—a central theme of early twentieth century horror—doesn’t make me fret.”

    JMG, I don’t share those prejudices either. However, one of the core beliefs of much of the Left (and much of the PMC) currently seems to be opposition to Whites and Western Civilization. (Even though many of them are White themselves.) The POC are the “good guys” and the “Whites” are the bad guys, regardless of circumstances.

    You can see this everywhere, such as during Covid, when the medical establishment attempted to give preferential medical treatment (antibodies/antivirals) to younger POC over older Whites who were in more need. So, in that context, do you think there was perhaps a grain of truth in Lovecraft’s concerns about Whites becoming poorly treated?

  145. A friend of mine used to give a Lovecraft tour deep in the heart of Brooklyn. I didn’t know it at the time, but he once had an apartment here. One cold afternoon, I stumbled across the tour and listened in, a comment about possible horror in the building made me laugh. The only horror I could conceive of was the traffic on Clinton Street. This same friend and tour guide also had a birthday party at a Lovecraft theme bar in the east village. It had karaoke in the basemen… Now that’s real horror. I got hammered and coined a phrase we would use among ourselves for awhile… Lovecraft would have wanted it that way! It’s been many years since then and I can no longer remember what ‘way’ he would have wanted but it still makes me smile.

    My vote for the last Wednesday post is a stream of consciousness diatribe on the collapse of ancient Chinese empires, complete with extensive bibliographies for further reading, that then leaves the dust bin of ancient China to mention one of the East’s most enduring symbols, the good luck cross that adorns cemeteries in both the east and west, rows upon rows, as far as the eye can see, a symbol adopted by a frustrated artist a hundred years ago, turned 45 degrees and it’s never been the same since, what is crooked cannot be made straight, so the Bible says… And that frustrated artist as archetype, oh, he’s the joke that keeps on giving, my favorite and the one that I mull upon late at night came from The Illuminatus! Trilogy and the mention of him as quoted in The Voice of Destruction, I paraphrase:

    if you think this just about politics, you don’t understand what we are doing, even if we fail, this will come back again…

    Archetype indeed.

    Well, I think I just wrote my impossible dream for that extra post so I’ll just stick to Chinese resilience, with the caveat of your suggestions for further reading. My children are half Chinese, so I have a vested interest there… As always, thank you again, JMG, for all you do here and beyond.

  146. Okay, everyone’s votes are again tabulated.

    Phutatorius, okay, I’m embarrassed — not least because an entire chapter of The Glass Bead Game does in fact take place in a Roman Catholic monastery! You’re quite right more generally, of course.

    Justin, that’s an important point. The end of oil will be, among other things, the end of unemployment…

    Michael, the thing to keep in mind is precisely that most of the people who are doing this are themselves white, or are people of color who have abandoned their own cultures and embraced white managerial class culture as part of their upward mobility. The shift from “all races are equal” to “white people are different from everyone else” is telling. Watch for a few more years, and you’ll see many of these white managerial class people who are currently doing the wokey pokey slamming all the way to the other extreme and becoming hardcore white racists. Last week’s open post had some discussion of this — a reader talked about her very liberal (and very white) parents who were outraged that their grandson was dating a black woman. They had a barrage of woke buzzwords to justify their racism, but they were still singing the same song as all those White Citizens Council types back in the day who ranted about the horrors of miscegenation. There’ll be a lot more of this in the years ahead.

    Jeff, that’s way too much for a single post, and I’m not much for scream-of-consciousness writing anyway. With regard to Brooklyn and Lovecraft, well, yes — that’s why I set the sixth volume of the Weird in Brooklyn, mostly but not entirely in the Red Hook neighborhood. But I agree that karaoke is the distilled essence of existential horror. My favorite example is the time I was sitting with my wife on our bed in a hotel room in Caernarfon in Wales, packing for an early morning bus to Bangor, while the pub below resonated to a karaoke night of drunken Welshmen singing Neil Diamond songs off key…

  147. Novels set in monasteries. If convents count, Rumor Godden wrote two. One was titled In This House of Bede. The other I don’t recall the title. It was set in India, where Godden was born.

    Leaf blowers are also good for blow drying rare plants into extinction. And for filling the air with dust.

  148. JMG, More Google rabbit holing and rough math. To my astonishment I discovered that the total British Thermal Units of oil and natural gas produced in the USA is seven times that of the coal produced. If all those BTU’s were gotten from coal alone American coal reserves would be gone in 50-70 years! So the end of our present fossil fuel based civilization should happen within a hundred years At current rates of production oil and gas will be gone in 50 years, coal 110 years. Coal won’t make it to the 110 year mark as there will be greater use of it as oil and gas diminish. People alive now will pass through this transition to a different world. I read an interesting article on how a massive shift to wind and wave power would distort weather. An escape route is not available..

  149. You and Sara actually lived to tell the tale of somehow surviving through “a karaoke night of drunken Welshmen singing Neil Diamond songs off key…”? The horror! The horror! That must have required a phenomenal magical exertion on both your parts to withstand such a twisted form of torture.

    Did you all notice any unexpected magical protection against that ungodly ritual due to the incomprehensibility of the Welsh accents incanting those infernal texts, or did that instead augment their diabolical potency? Or I suppose the accent could have just rendered their whole elaborately misbegotten rite hysterically funny to American ears.

    How many unsuspecting souls have perished from far shorter exposures to either karaoke or Neil Diamond? The two combined simply boggles the mind, making dissolution into the vast incomprehensible void seem like a benevolent fate in comparison.

    If you’ll excuse me, I suddenly find myself feeling the pressing desire to perform a major banishing and protection ritual, after contemplating that terrifying encapsulation of hell on earth. You really did pull your punches in The Weird of Hali “horror” novels, didn’t you? Reading them, I had absolutely no idea about the real Diamond-studded depraved horrors you had been forced to live through.

  150. Of course I know that of course you do not know me, Mr Greer. I was just trying to suggest that humourless was not a description of me that those who do would recognise. Querulous, however, they certainly would.

    At least once they had looked it up in an english dictionary since most of my friends are native first-language Welsh speakers.

    About that I recall my grandmother telling me once that her own grand grandmother used the word “gwyddonydd” for wizard which today we use to mean scientist. Since science derives from latin knowledge and wise ones have knowledge perhaps there is something real at the bottom of your amusing point about sapiens. Perhaps, perhaps not. I wonder if it is alike in other languages?

  151. Well, leaves aren’t exactly tentacles, but I guess they are not off-topic this week. I agree about the obnoxious leaf blowers. And to make them even more obnoxious, the guys operating them seem to like to gun the motors repeatedly; I guess this makes a boring task a little less boring. To be fair, however, the effect of leaf blowing is the same as leaf raking: You just move the leaves from one place to another. My city comes along with a big vacuum and sucks them up if you pile them along the street.

    This year I’ve made a greater effort than in the past to mulch my leaves by repeatedly driving over them with my little John Deere D110 riding mower. This reduces them to mulch small enough that they sink into the grass, but it uses a fair amount of gas. I have one little enclosure under a maple where I’ve piled leaves and other compost over the years with mixed success; that tree got struck by lightning and has a big split in the bark near the ground.

    Finally, oak trees are quite contrarian. They hold onto their old leaves until the new leaves in the Springtime push them off the twig. I transplanted an oak sapling (white oak as near as I can tell) into my backyard a few years ago. I could count it’s leaves at first; it had fewer than 10 leaves back then. Now it’s grown enough that I can no longer count its leaves. A couple of weeks ago I pulled off a leaf (I think the tree said “ouch” in protest) to use in tree identification and as a bookmark. It’s a white oak.

  152. Welsh people who couldn’t sing? Well, of course, when you’re full of beer…. you’ll probably hear just as horrible singing in the taverns on the way to Star’s Reach. I do sympathize; I used to be an avid filker, and one of our standing jokes was about that. And, oh,yes, a lot of us were off-key, and some of the songs neither rhymed nor scanned very well. But it was a sad day when it was replaced by staring at a screen and following the little bouncing ball … and worse, when even that gave way to calling up YouTube and listening to some semi-pro group doing your singing for you.

    And yes, here in a Village full of old people, many of us with hearing problems, the landscapers go around with their leaf blowers, deafening us, and chasing a handful of leaves that a rake could get up more easily and faster. Or a broom. (Preaching to not only the choir here, but to the vestry and the deacons.) I hate those suckers.

  153. Moose, yep. I’m impressed that you actually crunched the numbers, btw — you’d be horrified to know how many people see the words “lots of coal” (or some equivalent) and jump from there to “we can just keep on burning coal forever once the oil runs out.” I used to see that embarrassingly often — though not quite so often as the people who exercised the same sort of illogic with nuclear power, on the one hand, or wind and PV solar on the other.

    Christophe, ah, but I was immunized through prior exposure. My dad was a big Neil Diamond fan back in the day, so the songs the karaoke crew were singing beneath us were part of the soundtrack of my childhood. I should be more precise about the singers, though; Sara told her Welsh cousin Dilys the story, and Dilys came back at once with, “Did they sing ‘Calon Lan’?” Sara admitted that, no, they didn’t sing that particular Welsh hymn, they were busy singing Neil Diamond songs, and Dilys said, “Then they weren’t that drunk. When Welshmen get thoroughly drunk they always start singing ‘Calon Lan.'”

    Cerys, it certainly was alike in medieval Latin. As far as “querulous” goes, hmm. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that be “cwynfanllyd”?

    Phutatorius, maybe it’s time that we start referring to leaves as “plant tentacles.”

    Patricia M, trust me, I was just as startled as you are. I’d read all kinds of stuff about Wales as the “Land of Song,” and heard no shortage of melodious Welsh singers over the years, and there they were below us baying like a pack of hound dogs. Sara and I spent most of an hour giggling.

  154. I suppose it’s too late to add to the ballot for this month, but I wonder if you’ve considered doing a full post on Iolo Morganwg? I for one would be delighted.

  155. JMG, I have a streak of Asperger’s so number crunching is second nature. I am at an age where I will probably pass on before the end of fossil fuel dependence, though will most likely see the beginning stages of it. My children probably and certainly my grand children will see it.

  156. Phutatorius, maybe it’s time that we start referring to leaves as “plant tentacles.”

    I know you don’t watch TV; but there’s a Geico ad running on TV that takes up that very theme of “plant tentacles.” You’d be amused.

  157. “Watch for a few more years, and you’ll see many of these white managerial class people who are currently doing the wokey pokey slamming all the way to the other extreme and becoming hardcore white racists.”

    I don’t doubt this will be the path some of them take, but I also see plenty of cases of such “woke” beliefs about dispossessing Whites becoming solidified in the PMC/Left. Especially since everyone lives in their own ideological bubbles now, I don’t think it’s likely “wokeness” will just wither.

    In any case, these things are very difficult to predict. Personally, I’d guess both the anti-White and anti-POC factions in the West will grow in strength and radicalization. (Not a good thing, but it follows current trends)

  158. Dear Mr. Greer:
    I vote for the resilience of Chinese civilization over more than 2,000 years of history. It was a tough call; there were so many other interesting possibilities.
    I just think there is a doozy of a first step down coming; we’ll need some civilizational resilience.


  159. Negentropy – what is that with its robes off? Anything you all recognize? Chortle, snicker, we ere here first, folks….

    Lead statement: “In physics, entropy is the process of a system losing energy and dissolving into chaos. This applies to social systems in everyday life, too. Limiting energy loss can make social systems run better.”

  160. As before, all votes have been tabulated. Thank you!

    Moose, Aspergers is an advantage sometime.

    Phutatorius, no doubt they plagiarized it from me retroactively. 😉

    Michael, fair enough — you’ve made your prediction, I’ve made mine. Now we’ll see what happens.

    Moose, about time they noticed! Thanks for this.

    Patricia M, I’m tempted to repeat my comment to A Nony Moose — “about time they noticed.” Though it’s all the funnier to see them frantically coining buzzwords to avoid the Dread Word That Must Not Be Spoken — ahem, let’s whisper it: conservation.

  161. Further on this,

    “Most of today’s self-proclaimed rationalists, in other words, don’t take their own beliefs seriously. Scratch the surface of their ideas, and you’ll find a jumbled mess of secondhand religious notions burbling away merrily underneath. ”

    I work in the fitness industry (definitely a “wasteful industrial society” job! but which should last until I can no longer work in 20 years or so), so unfortunately I have little choice but to engage with social media at least a small amount. And one of the things people say again, again, and again, is,

    “I was told I’d never achieve anything, ignore all the haters, you can do it,” etc. And the thing is, quite often I know these people, I’ve been following them for years – and nobody ever said anything negative to them, everyone was supportive. But “I started from a privileged background and a lot of people helped me along the way,” isn’t quite the Campbellian Hero’s Journey they’d like it to be.

    I trained a young guy who tried out for a TV show called “Ninja Warrior”, where contestants fling themselves over various obstacle courses. He easily passed all the fitness tests, but when it came to the screen test, he had no “journey.” He’d grown up in a middle class household, gone to uni, got a well-paying job, settled down with a woman he liked, people had helped him along the way and been nice to him, everyone in his family was in good health and law-abiding, and so on. No Journey. So they didn’t put him on the show, they needed someone who’d had cancer or whose parents had sold him to the circus or something, I don’t know.

    And so it strikes me, building on what you said, that when you take away one set of mythic stories – those from a religion or other culture – people will spontaneously substitute their own – and believe them!

    Oh, and I was also thinking about this post of yours last night when I was listening to the War of the Worlds album, and how in the first paragraph of his book Wells says, “as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” So Wells was, perhaps, working in the same direction as Lovecraft, even if he did not take it as far.

  162. I am sad for all the human/hominid stories that we will never know. Well, that’s just how time works. I also wonder if there were any nonhuman civilizations on Earth in the deep past, a la the Silurian hypothesis. If we did uncover any of these civilizations, it could be very disturbing to the Progressists. It would be hard to keep believing that your civilization/species is immortal and destined to conquer the universe if you discovered the corpses of others buried by deep time.

    Then again, if the collapse of past human civilizations isn’t enough to deter the faith in Progress, then extinct nonhuman civilizations probably won’t do the trick either. It’s a not a rational belief. It is a faith, and a deprived faith at that.

  163. Well, goodness me, I was subjected to the same forced inoculation as you were, John Michael. My most heartfelt condolences go out to you!

    My lipstick-lesbian mom and her bull-dyke partner were absolutely rabid Neil Diamond fanatics. One should never underestimate the bizarre flair that lesbians possess to get themselves ensorceled over to really questionable male sex idols. Although I was much too young at the time to gaze too far into that incomprehensible abyss, I now do wonder if it might have been some form of healthy compensation, gone quite horribly awry from too much kneeling down before false diamonds. Perhaps it’s some sort of bedeviled counterpart to so many gay men’s unholy attachment to Madonna or Lady Gaga?

    I actually did come away with some bizarrely fond memories of dancing around the living room to ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ while growing up. Even more vivid than that were all the over-dramatized emoting contests that my brother and I would stage over ‘I Am… I Said’ or the wailing rock anthem ‘America’ (it was just so easy to get your full Elvis on over that one!) Of course, at other times it was much more satisfying to go all sappy, maudlin over-emotive to ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ instead.

    There are so many more sickly warped incantations and album-length diabolical liturgies out there than any ignorant materialist would ever dare to imagine or even dream of. The hidden dangers of derangement those devilish texts can inflict upon the un-inoculated are far too fearsome to toy with. Quoting more than a mere line or two of those fiendish incantations could easily send the uninitiated spiraling off into insanity. Even with my considerable early immunization, I always found that reality would begin swaying all akilter around me when I would hear the dread invocation “Love on the rocks. Ain’t no surprise. Just pour me a drink and I’ll tell you…” (well, that is certainly not a conjuration that’s safe to print to its dread conclusion!) As for the most perilous of the enthralling hexcraft I was subjected to, all that I dare to reveal, in the most inaudible of whispers, is ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’… enough said. And I fear I may have already divulged too much!

    You have my deepest sympathies for the horrid gaslighting indoctrination that was so stealthily inflicted upon you by so many unseen dark forces, whose malign machinations had overwhelmed the recording industry into bringing the infernal words of the genuflecting zircon into your home. On the bright side, the inhumane torture that you too were subjected to at such a vulnerable age ended up granting you durable protection until you most needed it, when subjected to the monstrous karaoke version of the dark rites.

    Could it be that the Welsh discovered long ago that alcohol, sufficiently administered, was the one occult weapon that could reliably bring on the singing of the ‘Calon Lan’ in order to banish any lingering Neil Diamond karaoke back to the infernal realms from which it sprang? May the benevolent blessings of alcohol always flow in great abundance whenever you find yourself quartering within hearing distance of a Welsh pub.

  164. Hey JMG

    On the subject of fiction by john crowley, have you read his short novella “Beasts”? I recently reread it and i found as enjoyable as the first time. It share some themes with your writing like a fragmented post-civil war america and humanities grappling with nature and sentient non-humans.

  165. I noticed that “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” has been reprinted as well. Do you know when “Star’s Reach” is going to be reprinted? I have it in e-book format, but the problem with that is that I don’t REALLY own the book. I am in possession of a digital copy, bound by a contract longer than my arm, which I am unable to lend to anybody else (unless I loan out my e-reader gadget which I am reluctant to do), and could could be erased from existence at the whims of the powers that be. If I had a physical copy of the book, printed on dead trees (or recycled rags), it could become part of a traveling lending library, passing from hand to hand, spreading your renown throughout the realm.

  166. You are correct, Mr Greer, cwynfanllyd does mean complain but it lacks some of the nuance of the english querulous.

    My point was that few 1st language Welsh would recognise or use the word. They would certainly recognise the condition. I am not sure it is used much even in the wider english-speaking UK these days so many Brits would be reaching for a dictionary too I think. Here in everyday speech I think it would seem to have a bit of an old fashioned sound to it and be seen as mildly insulting.

    I did not know you were so familiar with the language. Your wife’s cousin is quite correct about Calon Lân btw. It is a given.

  167. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Hey, this talk of PV is like catnip! Yeah, 1 gallon of petrol (gasoline in US parlance) provides around 33.7kWh of energy. That’s a bonkers amount of energy, and more than I’ve worked out how to use via the solar PV in 14 years in any single day. However, the most energy you can get out of a normal mains power point down here is 2.5hp (horsepower). You can do a lot with such energy, but compared to what you can do with a 21hp petrol powered mower, it’s peanuts.

    Oh my goodness, fancy conservation rearing its head again. After all these years too. When I was a kid, you’d hear the hippies saying: “Re-use, Repair, and lastly Re-cycle”. We as a society seem to have conveniently ditched the first two, and are hopelessly deluding ourselves about the third hippy suggestion. You’d be amazed at the repairs I’ve been doing this year. Look after what ya got is the very basis of conservation don’t you reckon? The hippies were right.

    Thought you might be interested: Kaurna shelter tree at Brownhill Creek Recreation Park revived using Aboriginal practices. Talk about look after what ya got!



  168. “Watch for a few more years, and you’ll see many of these white managerial class people who are currently doing the wokey pokey slamming all the way to the other extreme and becoming hardcore white racists.”

    I came across something today that is not a perfect fit, but it certainly ‘rhymes’. A person who goes by the moniker ‘Visegrad24’ on (I believe) Telegram, stated the following in the context of a sudden and massive shift in German politics:

    “Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced plans to ‘deport on a grand scale.’
    “Left wing German politician MP Sahra Wagerknecht says ‘there shouldn’t be any neighbourhoods where natives are in the minority.’
    “Joachim Stamp from the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), has said that Germany must ‘finally make progress on repatriation agreements’ with non-EU countries to facilitate the deportations.
    “The government must act ‘to avoid more and more people arriving,’ says Ricards Lang, the Green Party co-chair has said.
    “German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned that Germany ‘is at breaking point,’ as 162,000 people applied for asylum in the country within the first half of the year.
    And now for the kicker: “CDU leader Freidrich Merz has accused Berlin neighbourhoods of not being adequately German and has demanded new immigrants to Germany declare their allegiance to Israel” [apparently he did not say ‘Germany’; that’s absolutely weird].

    For years, the ‘right-wing’ ‘populist’ party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been howling about the uncontrolled flood of foreigners into the country, only to be labelled as ‘Nazis’ by the left and the media – and most recently have attempted to declare the party illegal presumably because of their ‘vile, racist attitudes towards immigrants’ (though it really is because the AfD is now becoming the most popular party in the country, or so I understand).

    Germany, as well as some other European countries (France and Sweden immediately come to mind), have been experiencing severe social problems due to the influx of immigrants from truly alien cultures for a decade or more, but mass deportation was never seriously considered. And now, almost overnight, it is on the table. Sorry, Europe, but you needed to get ahead of the curve on this one years ago (and maybe listen to a ‘bigot’ or two instead of always shouting them down); now you are stuck with the ‘multicultural utopia’ of bloodshed on the streets as society self-segregates into rival ethnic groups competing for an ever-reducing supply of products and services in a collapsing civilization. Oh, and a majority of ‘newcomers’ that were welcomed into your lands were fighting-age-males from largely violent and/or war-torn countries who now hate you for unconditionally supporting Israel (nice touch!).

    Some officials in England are now worrying about potential clashes in London on Remembrance Day as a massive pro-Palestinian protest is planned for the vicinity of the city’s Cenotaph (how’s that Balfour Declaration working out for you?).

    Not as though North America is likely to be completely immune from the likely colonial/political blow-back or that the wokesters will not morph into white racists in coming years… sometimes horrific personal experiences are required to ‘change the channel’ (though I am not wishing any such thing on any persons, groups of persons or nations). People who see members of their ‘tribe’ wantonly slaughtered right in front of their eyes by another ‘tribe’ tend not to maintain a lovey-dovey attitude towards the latter for very long. I’ve been close enough to it (locked down in cities for months on end due to widespread communal riots on two separate occasions) to attest to that.

  169. Yigit ( forgive the missing diacritical mark please!), if you find convents acceptable, then I will make yet another recommendation of my favorite mystery series. The Dame Frevisse medieval mysteries by Margaret Frazer are wonderful. One of the co-authors was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, so the research is high quality, and the protagonist has genuine faith and love for her vocation (rare in contemporary fiction!).

  170. You are indeed judges by your neighborhood. Clark Ashton Smith’s story “The Last Hieroglyph” is as good as anything by Borges… but it was published in Weird Tales. Oooops.

  171. Hey JMG and friends –
    I came to the Hali series a few years after all of the novels were published.
    I was going through a phase of reading mainly non-fiction, so I just filed it away for when the time felt right.
    A year or two ago I borrowed, through Interlibrary Loan, Innsmouth. I generally borrow books first as we live in a 400 sq foot cabin and I’ve got to be picky about what books we keep.
    It took weeks for the book to arrive at our local branch – I want to say it came all the way from Boston Public Library. But I could not put it down. There is very little fiction that holds my attention these days. The last time I was this engaged with a storyline was Kunstler’s World Made by Hand series.
    I immediately put in a request for the next book, but it never materialized. I requested that the library add them to their stacks, but this might have been when everything was between publishers because generally, they’re pretty responsive to those requests.
    So, I was quite stoked when I saw the next editions were out. It’s been a successful year with my little permaculture design business, and I decided that Christmas was coming early. I can find room for a few more books. I was happy to order all seven, plus the Companion. Reading these are going to be one of the methods for keeping the seasonal affective disorder (or whatever you want to call it) in check as we go into the shorter days. I’m really looking forward to diving deeper into that world, despite the fact that I’ve only read a bit of Lovecraft. It doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite. Thanks for creating this world for us to play in. Ah, yes, and I’ll check back in with the library and suggest they add them to the catalog.

  172. “Owen, serious Christian writers don’t put fake Jesuses into their stories — that’s purely a habit of hack writers. Tolkien’s world is a world in which the Incarnation has not yet happened but the teachings of Christianity are still the groundrules of existence.”

    My brain immediately went to Aslan in the Chronicles on Narnia … C.S.Lewis is not normally considered a hack writer unless of course you are a not-fan of the Narnia books.

    It has been many a year since last reading but one scene always stuck with me … the Witch had captured iirc Prince Caspian who had largely lost his memory. Elements would come to him, for example the sun, and when he tried to explain it as being like that lamp but larger, brighter, further away and warmer the Witch proposed that the lamp nad the room they were in was the only reality and that he was simply dreaming/imagining this ‘sun’ thing. Same process for talking horses, sky, grass etc. Eventually he decides and declaims something along the lines of … it may be true that there is no Sun nor grass nor sea and the world is nothing more than the lamp and this room but I would rather be mad in a world with love and Sun and sea than be sane in a world without them.

    I would have quoted it properly but a quick search didn’t pull it up for me.

  173. I heartily concur with the recommendations for The Name of the Rose above. I have had the pleasure of visiting the Sacra di San Michelle, said to be the inspiration for the monastery in the novel.
    As to robes and amulets, I am frequently the only one to wear a jacket and tie in the First Unitarian Church of Providence. The minister was somewhat shocked when I suggested that bare shoulders were not appropriate in church. As I’m sure you all know, Joseph Curwen was one of the founders of the congregation in 1720.
    Please add my vote for 5th Wednesday to a post on Hitler.

  174. Just a few weeks ago I posted a prediction (elsewhere) that 100 years from now, “Sweet Caroline” will be the national anthem of some portion or another of the former USA. It was in the “not completely serious, but uncomfortably plausible” mode.

    “Topic that randomly attracts my interest subsequently appears seemingly out of nowhere in Ecosophia comment thread” is a frequent enough occurrence that I might as well start using it as augury. So, it is written: “Sweet Caroline” it shall be. Possibly right here in Nuinga, which has more than one hidden connection to the song.

  175. One of my favorite post yet!

    However, with regards to some comments in the comments section, as an actual landscaper, so the only one who knows what they are talking about about them, yes “leaf blowers” they are an unfortunate necessity of being a modern landscaper. But ever removed 10 tons of leaves from an apartment complex with a rake? Or do you know any landlords who would pay for that?

    The issue isn’t the machines, it is the outlook of setting the Earth apart from human habitation. Seeing the encroachment of nature as something to be overcome. Deep down I think it has to do with death denial…
    I often joke (not a joke) that (at least with regards to maintenance, there is much to do about horticulture that is at one with the cycles of nature) that I am paid to keep creeping reality at bay so as to keep the illusion of human permanence.

    I definitely agree that the leaf blower is symbolic of a lot of American culture; loud, and stinky.
    But until gas is too expensive, or there is an awakening of awareness of us being part of nature and her cycles; that leaves are a gift given freely en mass, yearly, from trees to enrich the soil…then I would recommend when you hear that poor lowly landscaper out in the rain blowing, that you use the opportunity to become more calm, and more peaceful. Or get out there with your, so said, rakes and buckets.


  176. Ron M, I, too, have heard of the discussions concerning immigration. Now let’s see what actually happens. The AfD, by the way, has become more popular, but is not in the mahority. It is most popular in East Germany. Sahra Wagenknecht is about to found her own party, where, among other thjngs, justice will be a subject. Otherwise, I don’t know much about the new party.

  177. …also, landscapers have to get used to people being pissed off at them. Some are mad about blowers. Others are mad that you don’t blow enough.
    And a lot of people who do get mad about blowers are the same ones who get mad that there are too many leaves.
    I try to get people to use them as mulches in their beds.
    I am also happy to take them. I pour them into my chicken yard where they happily turn it into the best soil you’ve ever seen!

    Sorry to go on. This s**** getting personal! 😆

  178. “Not as though North America is likely to be completely immune from the likely colonial/political blow-back or ”

    Funny you should say that, this is a morning news item,

    “Elderly Jewish man dies at dueling protests over Israel-Hamas war”

    Locally there was a car to car gang shootout right across the highway from a Home Depot on Sunday afternoon. Plenty of drug fueled blowback is already here.

  179. I’ve hesitated to post this for most of the week, but in the end your calling out of rationalists for not following their own claimed precepts is too good an opening not to follow up. I don’t proclaim myself a rationalist, but I do find it interesting and clarifying to follow the premises of atheism, rationalism, and physicalism to their most reasonable conclusions.

    – Because (according to said premises) entirely material causal (computational) processes in the brain can create your mind and your conscious experience, no material causal (potentially computational) process can be assumed a priori to be “mindless.” An evolving biosphere, for instance, is clearly a form of intelligence unless one goes out of the way to define intelligence in a way that deliberately excludes it. Also, the cosmos cannot be mindless when it includes our minds! (Few have the gumption to say outright: mindless except for meeeee, though they fallaciously imply it often enough.)

    – Again by these premises, what we consider our individuality results from a unique configuration of matter (encoding memories and habits of thought). However, the awareness that animates/realizes this configuration as mind, that we consider our core selves, that make those configurations of matter meaningful, is a physical (computational) process. We all share that process with one other and with people in the past and future just as much as we share it with the past and future instantiations of the consciousness process in our own brains. Reincarnation is obvious but also superfluous; we’re already multiply and commonly incarnated.

    – Neuroscience tells us that most of our brains’ processing is not normally part of or perceived by our conscious awareness. There’s evidence that separate identities and wills (possibly even consciousnesses) can coexist simultaneously in neural subsystems. And considerable evidence that training and practice can bring some of those processes within our awareness and possibly even control.

    That’s scratching the surface, and it already shows that materialist premises, applied forthrightly, establish complete plausibility for: nonhuman intelligences; incomprehensibly greater intelligences existing on planetary or larger scales and deep time scales; continuity of mind beyond individual death (even potentially beyond species extinction); entities justifiably describable as angels and demons; and magic. So why have I felt rather alone in even considering such a world model? Likely, the implicit soft atheism (“Cthulhu could exist but there’s no convincing evidence he does“) doesn’t have much appeal in a polarized world. HPL did well to write intriguing speculative stories instead of proclaiming a doctrine.

  180. @A Nony Moose “about time they noticed” economists seem to choke on geological limits yet …
    If you can read Spanish you may be interested in Antonio Turiel comments of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) at his blog I have to thank Antonio Turiel and Ferran Puig Vilar for discovering Ecosophia and this great community.
    JMG congratulations on your new editions.

  181. Some thing with regards to maintenance type landscaping more interesting than “leaf blowers”,is what you learn about human beings from the perspective of a landscaper.
    I would imagine this could be similar to most jobs that require being in the public, however, landscape maintenance in particular requires you going to peoples homes. Over and over and over again…
    So the more interesting thing I was referring to is that I would suggest anyone interested in going into psychology, sociology, philosophy, any of the human behavioral sciences, any would be contemporary urban shamans…to spend a few summers as a landscaper. What you will learn about humans and their behavior will be on par if not more
    Then what one would get in years of college study.
    One thing you will notice soon is that there are about four or five categories of personas that 99% of people fit into. And within those categories the actors are quite homogenous. But mostly everyone is exactly the same.
    In particular people who hire landscapers to come to their home. And in particular to that, people who want their property to look as hygienic as possible. Straight lines on the lawn, tight edges, bushes look like balls or squares, never see a random stick laying in the yard, and if you do it will not be there for very long. These are the people I feel the most strongly are living in some sort of state of a continual denial of death, or denial of their own helplessness in life, or reliving some sort of glory days.
    I could go on and on and weave the truths of landscape maintenance into any subject you wish. Books could be written.
    I’ll stop here cause I don’t know if this is interesting to anyone else or I’m just rambling.

  182. Australian Dreamer #197,
    The book is “The Silver Chair,” the prince is Rilian, and the speech is by Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle: “Suppose we _have_ only dreamed, or made up, all these things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones….”

  183. Hackenschmidt, that’s a good point! And they have to have themselves as the stars of the mythic story, which given the hubris of our society is probably inevitable. As for Wells, a lot of old SF writers were into that — it was only later on that “Menschheit Ueber Alles!” became the marching song of SF.

    Enjoyer, a deprived faith? I’d suggest maybe a depraved faith…

    TJ, thanks for this.

    Christophe, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” wasn’t out yet when I was growing up, fortunately. “I Am…I Said”? I still know all the words. The squamous, rugose memories of childhood…

    J.L.Mc12, novella? The version I have is novel length — I have the Science Fiction Book Club edition from 1976, which is about a year before I first read it. I liked it, and still like it, a great deal — it was one of the books that taught me that science fiction can be about realistic futures. I was once on a podcast with John Crowley, and told him that when I was a teenager I read Little, Big; Beasts; and Engine Summer as three episodes in the same future history. He laughed and told me he’d never thought of them that way.

    Antony, it’s in the queue for reprinting next year, along with the rest of my fiction. Sphinx Books isn’t a huge company — I don’t publish with huge companies, as I’ve learned the hard way that it’s a bad idea — and so reprinting fifteen novels in a single lump is a little much for them! I think the current plan is that my other four tentacle novels will be out in the spring and the four non-tentacle novels (The Fires of Shalsha, Star’s Reach, Retrotopia, and Journey Star) will be out in the fall.

    Cerys, I don’t claim to be anything like fluent, but I’ve studied both Welsh and Cornish, to the extent that I can make sense of texts with a little help from a dictionary, and I can order a beer in both languages. As for my wife’s family, both her maternal grandparents were born in Caernarfon and she’s still got family there, Dilys among them. Some of my mother’s mother’s people were from the area around Caerdydd — that I know of, nobody in the family has chased down the exact location.

    Patricia M, huzzah! I’m delighted to hear this.

    Chris, too true. I recall the looks on various faces in a college class on alternative tech I was in, when the professor pointed out that the energy in one gallon of gasoline is equal to one ton of fully charged car batteries. I’m pleased to hear about the tree — and the survival of the necessary knowledge.

    Ron, yeah, they’re frantically trying to head off the rise of AfD. It won’t work — it’ll just make AfD’s ideas salonfaehig (a lovely German word; “acceptable in public” is the pallid English equivalent) and put the seal on the last steps of its rise to power. Here in the US? We’re a little further behind, but stay tuned.

    Thomas, it’s a fine story! Smith at his best was as good as any of the fashionable writers.

    Kerry, thank you! No, you don’t need to know Lovecraft to have fun in what some of my readers have taken to calling the Haliverse; the worst that’ll happen is that you’ll miss a few of the in-jokes. But I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed Innsmouth so much.

    Dreamer, I consider Narnia to be hackwork. Even when I was a kid I found its patronizing smugness and its hamfisted religious allegory intolerable. (His adult fiction is much better.) For what it’s worth, though, I’m pretty sure the passage you’re looking for is in The Silver Chair.

    Peter, pity the old rascal isn’t still hanging around during services.

    Walt, the sasquatches agree with you:

    Travis, if I lived in the kind of apartment complex that produced 10 tons of leaves, that would be one thing. I live on a working class residential street where each house has a different owner. It would be easy for the landscape people to use rakes, but instead they’re out there at the hairy crack of dawn with their leaf blowers. When I owned a home, btw, I used a rake and a bushel basket, because I wanted every leaf for winter mulch!

    Walt, excellent! Yes, exactly — that’s another way in which rationalists don’t actually follow through on the consequences of their beliefs. My guess is that your world model would find a fair audience — though of course it would also field a vast amount of denunciation from the entrenched ideologies of our time.

    Travis, you know, if you were to write a book about what landscapers know, you might well be able to place it with a publisher!

  184. Hey JMG

    I’m sorry, but you did a podcast with THE John Crowley? Can you please post a link so I can give it a hearing, I had no idea you did that.

  185. “I recall the looks on various faces in a college class on alternative tech I was in, when the professor pointed out that the energy in one gallon of gasoline is equal to one ton of fully charged car batteries.” Now it only takes 400 pounds. Progress™!

  186. @Travis – I hired a landscaper, since I didn’t have the physical strength to take care of my own yard. The first one I tried was like what you said, and proudly pulled up the bunchgrass that was part of what I had. Someone put me onto an organic landscaping company which was glad to give me a yard full of native plants, drought-tolerant plants, and bee-friendly plants. One of their workers became my gardener, that I had come in regularly; my daughter Sarah was so impressed that she, too, hired the woman to do her own yard. But then, New Mexico is mildly hippie-friendly even now.

    The block I lived on had everything from the gravel-weeds-and-trash of rental housing, to green lawns etc, to just the sort of landscaping I had. Some people in the neighborhood even had hens! And I was 3 1/2 blocks from the main drag and half a mile or so from the University; one block east of the dividing line between Nob Hill and the student ghetto.

  187. Gosh, you folks are really hurrying things up this month – voting on the first Wednesday already?! 😉

    Anyway, I hope I’m not too late… I’d like to cast my vote for that certain topic related to German history – and isn’t it weird how a lot of people won’t even use the words “Hitler” or “Nazis”? They really evoke a strange mixture of taboo and fascination…


  188. Hi John Michael,

    Leaf blowers, err, blow. 🙂 However, as a novel use, they’re most excellent at cleaning down machinery after use – and that is the use I put the blower to. Keeping stuff clean is part of maintenance. Of course, my machine is also powered by the mains electricity, so it’s much quieter and more powerful than the sort of two stroke combustion engine designs you’re used to seeing, err no, more correctly, hearing. And the electricity in question is derived from the solar, with all the limitations involved in that source. An old school mechanic taught me that use of them, and they really do work well for that use. For leaves, leaf rakes are a much more elegant and effective technology.

    As to leaves down this way, most people seem to rake them into piles – then burn them off. I really do scratch my head at that practice, but it is very common. You can go past properties at this time of year and they have loads of small piles of leaves happily smoking away – due to the high moisture content. It’s all really rather mysterious. As an alternative, we chop and drop all of them – the soil critters do the rest. The soil critters here are alive, and there’s heaps of bird life and insects. If land is derived of returned fertility, and that’s what the leaves are – even eucalyptus leaves – then you might as well be enjoying a very neat looking cemetery for all the life that is there. I don’t get it.

    Just thought I should add in a positive use for the leaf blower machines. Although the vast majority of folks would never think of that use.

    As to the land practices, mate, I’ve read very widely on that subject and use every opportunity to learn and put into practice.



  189. I get it. People have hard reactions to loud machines. That is, unless, they are needing to use them.m 😉
    And I’m not disagreeing with your point that they are annoying to listen to, and all the other wastefulness they represent. What I am saying is that the industry demands that (as a professional landscaper) you blow off at the end of the visit, and that you use them for leaf cleanup. Which there is no comparison between the finish product of a blower vs. rake. The rake comes into use once all the leaves are blown into piles.
    The people who pay for the services expect it.
    As a landscaper of over 22 years, it is a unfortunate reality.
    The majority of the maintenance work is rather superficial, and aimed at looking a specific way, and is a cash cow that is hard if not impossible to resist.
    I often take care of landscapes in way I would never do at my own place.
    Like you alluded to, a sign of our time.
    So I guess this comes down to ‘hate the game, not the player’

  190. Are the horses neck-and-neck? I’m pulling for China and resilience (and that’s my official vote).

  191. Fifth Wednesday Vote – the clever Austrian Corporal and his crew.

    Thanks for maintaining this forum and the Dreamwidth forum.


  192. Thank you for investing so much to communicate with us. I vote for Chinese resilience please.

  193. I’ve got everyone’s votes tallied again. At the moment China’s in the lead, with Hitler running hard in second place and everyone else far behind.

    J.L.Mc12, yes, it was that John Crowley. Check it out:

    Roldy, now I want to know how much more energy has to go into manufacturing the lighter batteries…

    Chris, they blow indeed! I grant that they have uses — I just get irritable about those uses happening when I’m trying to sleep. 😉

    Travis, I never expressed any hatred toward landscape maintenance people — just the machines.

  194. Today the second-largest phone and internet provider in Australia was hit with an outage. With electronic payments impossible in many places, and the train network who’d relied on that provider down and out, things were quite backed up for most of the day.

    A little taste of the descent. This article treated it as a joke, but I suspect many people were a bit lost without their mirror to gaze into.

  195. Thank you for this essay JMG. Please may I put in a vote for Hitler as a fifth Wednesday topic?

    I’m always bemused at how many people ask you to write about China whenever there’s a vote. I thought I remembered you saying a number of times, perhaps in the Archdruid Report days, something like ‘the last thing other countries need is an American opining about them’, although perhaps you think differently about that now. Although you clearly have views about what’s going on in various parts of the world and write about how you follow international affairs and so on, it seems to me a different thing to ask you to focus an essay on it. Seems odd.

  196. Chris at Fernglade wrote, “Just thought I should add in a positive use for the leaf blower machines. Although the vast majority of folks would never think of that use.”

    Yes, blowing tools are great! I have two leaf blowers that have never once been used to flog innocent leaves into submission. They are essential tools in repointing old brick buildings. Excessively aged mortar can become friable enough to crumble unpredictably out of raked-out old brick joints. Should you use a pressurized water hose to try to blast all of the crumbling mortar clear from the raked joints in a really old building, you’re likely to wash away every remaining bit of the mortar between at least a few of the bricks, prompting individual random brick collapses in your wall. By using a leaf blower, you can clear all the fully-pulverized mortar out from between the raked brick joints, without compromising any of the barely stable mortar clumps still holding the wall together.

    After that, you can use low-pressure water from a hose in order to get the excessively-absorbent old bricks saturated before beginning repointing. If your aim is to repack the joints well to get a stable wall, saturation is essential with really old bricks; however, water is an extraordinarily destructive force when applied to old architecture. Strong wind can also be destructive to man-made structures, yet it is much, much easier to regulate down to safe levels with a handy-dandy leaf blower.

    My blowers run on the same rechargeable batteries as the rest of my power tools, so at least there’s no internal-combustion-engine whine to add to the infernal whooshing racket they always produce. I figure the sound of saving an old building is not anywhere near as disruptive as the sound of demolishing said building in order to decadently erect a new one in the same place. Still, there will always be at least one disgruntled neighbor who tries to blame all the problems in his or her unhappy life on whatever unsuspecting soul finds itself working next door to such a dedicated Shadow projector. Thus far, I have yet to find any blower setting strong enough to blow their poor, neglected Shadows wide open and help facilitate their reintegration. Perhaps someone will figure out how to invent an astral or etheric leaf-blower that can aid in the complex work of individuation, or is that what occult practices already are?

    Anyway, blowing tools can be amazing! It’s really a pity that they had to get branded with the stigma of being nothing but leaf blowers in the popular imagination, but that points more to our paucity of imagination than to any real limitation on blowing tools’ many practical uses. Why is it that we bipedal monkeys become so easily obsessed by our piddling ability to keep grassy areas fastidiously manicured? Somehow, I can’t see sheep, goats, cows, or any other grazing ruminants being overly impressed by our contrived and deafening attempts to mimic what they naturally accomplish so much more elegantly.

  197. “now I want to know how much more energy has to go into manufacturing the lighter batteries…”

    Short answer: A gallon of gasoline contains about 33kWh-equivalent of energy, depending on its precise mix. A 24kWh battery pack weighs 640lbs and takes 24,694kWh to manufacture, ignoring mining and refining of its elements. It can do 300-600 full-cycle equivalents in its lifetime, thus it will in its lifetime never store more than half the energy it took to make it.

    Details follow.


    “A 24 kWh battery pack with 192 prismatic cells is analysed at each manufacturing process from mixing, coating, calendaring, notching till final cutting and assembly, with data collected and modelled from real industrial processes. It is found that 29.9 GJ of energy is embedded in the battery materials, 58.7 GJ energy consumed in the battery cell production, and 0.3 GJ energy for the final battery pack assembly.”

    Notice two things. Firstly, that they did not include mining and refining the materials. But let’s take the number as it is for the sake of argument.

    Secondly, that they muddle the comparison by using two different units. For those who don’t know, 1 Watt is 1 Joule of energy each second. 1 Watt-hr is 1 Joule of energy being supplied every second for an hour. Thus, 1kWh is 1,000 Joules of energy supplied every second for an hour. That’s about the heat generated from 25 people at rest or 5 people jogging hard, a smallish electric oven, a hot water kettle, and so on. They could have avoided this sort of explanation by simply using the same units for each – kWh, GJ, British thermal units, horsepower-hours, toddler-tantrum screams, it doesn’t matter, if you want a comparison, use consistent units.

    The total 88.9 GJ (billion Joules) of energy to manufacture a 24kWh battery pack is equal to 24,694kWh. And so, the energy taken to make the battery pack is equal to more than 1,000 recharges of the pack. Most modern car batteries are larger capacity than this, but they take proportionally more energy to manufacture.

    Now, the question is – will you even get 1,000 recharges through the thing? And the answer is: nope. There are a number of different kinds of lithium-ion batteries out there, but the polymer one is typical, giving us 300-500 full charges.

    Note that this is full charges. If you let it drain down to 50% you can cycle it through 600-1,000 times, but obviously that’s a half-charge each time, not full. And some things affect this. If you let it drain to 0% or push it up to 100%, this degrades the battery and you get fewer cycles. Heat degrades it, too.

    Still, we can say with certainty that:

    Lithium-ion batteries take at least 1,000 times more energy to manufacture than they can store on any day. Further, they will in their lifetimes only be able to store at most half the energy it took to manufacture them.

    What’s often forgotten is that the very first automobiles – in the 1830s! – were electric. The first internal combustion vehicles were powered by ethanol – biofuel. There’s a reason we didn’t stick with either of them, and changed to fossil fuel-driven internal combustion engines.


  198. My vote is simple: Chinese resilience (with the odds of it continuing).

    As for Hitler, I’d rather not…unless you’re willing to do a deeper-than-usual dive into The Thule Society.

  199. @Patricia Matthews,
    Thank you for that link to the Vogue story about kids going phoneless! That was very refreshing. I have not seen any trend like that in Japan yet.

  200. @Jeff Russel: I know it’s late in the week, but I got busy and overlooked the comments you’d replied to here before. My apologies. I agree with you about shelf space, for sure… and about the Alien films! Alien 3 lost the thread. While I do like writing, music and films that go for the jugular in the way of being full of action, when it just ends up in a massive body count without a plot or something “good” that comes out of it all, it can be disappointing.

  201. @dishwasher #221: I suppose voting is closed now, and I am curious to see what will be the subject of the fifth Wednesday post.

    With regard to talking about other countries, why would JMG be more qualified to write about Germany than about China? There are several points where I, as a born German, disagree with JMG’s assessment of current German and European politics. Readers who have lived in China might also have plenty of points of contention with JMG regarding current Chinese politics, but that is not what he was asked to write about. He was asked to write about lessons learnt from the history of China, 1800 or 1100 years in the past, and those might be less dependent on where the writer actually lives. On the ADR, JMG wrote countless pages about the history of the Roman empire and the Maya, both of which are definitely not the USA.

    And if the idea is writing about the effects on US-American society, why are lessons learnt (or not) from Chinese civilizational collapse less relevant than lessons learnt (or not) from 20th-century German tyranny?

    Again, I am curious and looking forward to whatever will be the subject of the post!

  202. Uhhhhhgg..the only thing I feel less enlightening than talking about Hitler would be talking about China. Is there really any new stones in either?

    How about that this existence “we” are “here in” is a sort of prison, or a sort of trap for souls. And the only way out is to be in the world and not of it, by becoming free from our karma.
    And that any ideas of fixing this world is erroneous.
    Nothing to fix. Systems running smoooothly.

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