The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi


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– photo by Mitch Waxman

He died alone, squirming in agony, surrounded by strangers. His last friend and only true colleague had recently used a colt handgun to commit suicide, and the only woman he ever loved had left him years ago. Instead he lay there alone in the charity ward- dying in anonymity and pain as his parents had. An orphan raised by matron aunts who indulged and spoiled the strange child who came to them in their dotage- they left him unprepared for adulthood. He retreated into his letters, wrote his stories, and never knew he would live on in the dreams of the sensitive and artistic forever more.

Just 14 months previous to his death, the newspapers detailed the lurid crimes of Albert Fish- the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, The Boogeyman– who was executed at SingSing. The good old days, indeed.

“In relating the circumstances which have led to my confinement within this refuge for the demented, I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative. It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Severely malnourished due to privation and poverty, cancer of the intestine was the diagnosis when he finally checked himself in to the hospital, for the pain had become unbearable. Some money had been found by cousins to bury him in a family plot, but there was no memorial to him on the stone, just his name. He lay with the parents who had disappeared into mental hospitals. Rumors and postmortem analysis of medical records support the theory of tertiary syphilis as the cause of their ruination- but for the son, though, it was failure and loneliness.

In the year same month that he was born, a genius painter– who also suffered from the madness induced by syphilis- shot himself in the chest.

“Our modern worship of empty ideals is ludicrous. What does the condition of the rabble matter? All we need do is to keep it as quiet as we can. What is more important, is to perpetuate those things of beauty which are of real value because involving actual sense-impressions rather than vapid theories. “Equality” is a joke — but a great abbey or cathedral, covered with moss, is a poignant reality. If it is for us to safeguard and preserve the conditions which produce great abbeys, and palaces, and picturesque walled town, and vivid sky-lines of steeples and domes, and luxurious tapestries, and fascinating books, paintings and statuary, and colossal organs and noble music, and dramatic deeds on embattled fields — these are all there is of life: take them away and we have nothing which a man of taste or spirit would care to live for. Take them away and our poets have nothing to sing — our dreamers have nothing to dream about. The blood of a million men is well shed in producing one glorious legend which thrills posterity and it is not at all important why it was shed.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a time, he lived in New York, and took a wife. They lived in Brooklyn, and like any writer of the early 20th century, he spent a great deal of his time in Greenwich Village. The settings of several of his stories are still extant within the Shining City. Xenophobic and racially charged viewpoints, which are actually quite liberal by the standards of early 20th century America, dog his reputation to this day. However, the company he kept while in New York was a cross section of ethnicity. His wife was Jewish, after all, and his friends were shocked when they learned of his racial politics.

The New York he knew was a seething cauldron of crime and hatred, with all the tribes of man battling for their slice of the American Pie. For a bourgeois anglophile from New England, this was his first taste of fear, and when he picked up the newspapers they spoke of a sensational englishman who had proclaimed himself “the Great Beast”. This english wizard had just moved from Greenwich VIllage to Palermo to set up the “Abbey of Thelema“, after having performed a secret rite on Esopus island (in the Hudson RIver) and receiving the revelation “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.

“I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me. It is sufficient for me to relate events without analysing causes.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The existential and celestial nature of the abyssal future mankind, as elucidated by the frenchman Camus, would soon be facing as the second World War slouched toward the use of atomic weaponry would not have surprised him . Long ago, in his house, quaint iterations of the macabre had been put aside for something grander. He looked past our world, into cosmic gulfs of infinity whose utter vastness filled him with dread.

That there are some things to which even madness and death are preferable to, and culturally childlike monstrosities like ghosts and vampires and messiahs should be shelved as quaint relics. He foresaw a world in which men would be regarded as ants, and the gods care not if you worship them or not, and all the faiths of men are mere superstition.

He put forward the belief that if mankind as a whole was to discover our true importance in the universe it would trigger a new dark age. He warned that the cosmic revelations would teach men new ways to fight, and eat, and enjoy themselves- while at the center of it all, cosmic evil would slaver with delight as mankind destroyed itself.

“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species — if separate species we be — for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Howard Philips Lovecraft died in Providence on the Ides of March, of instestinal cancer, in 1937.

from wikipedia

In 1932, Lovecraft wrote in a letter to Robert E. Howard: “All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don’t regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 15, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Pickman

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  1. […] desolate, and diseased- the endless byways of the Newtown Pentacle beckon- calling out to me- the barren, the confused, the […]

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