The Necronomicon Files
The Truth Behind the Legend
Daniel Harms and John Wisdom Gonce III, Night Shade Books, 333pp, Hardback, $30.
This fascinating and well-researched book is an investigation into that most infamous of grimoires, the Necronomicon. The authors have laboured mightily to draw together the diverse strands of Lovecraftian literary criticism, occult perspectives, rumours and the various ‘spurious’ claimants of the dread tome into a lucid and scholarly whole which should be of great interest to anyone interested in Lovecraft, the occult, or both. Given the abiding interest in the Necronomicon, it is high time that such a study was attempted. However, as the authors themselves admit, this book is likely to be somewhat controversial. Some scholars of Lovecraft literary studies will not be pleased by the space given over to the deluded rantings of occultists (myself included!), whilst some occultists may be less than enthusiastic over the author’s dismissal of the various claims that the Necronomicon is a ‘real’ book. The various spurious Necronomicons that have been released over the years are given a thorough dissection - notably Simon’s Necronomicon and the two tomes edited by George Hay. Having owned most of the various ‘pretender’ volumes at one time or another, I found this section of the book to be most amusing.
John Wisdom Gonce III’s essays on Magick and the Necronomicon form a major part of the book. He begins with a thumbnail overview of the development of magical ideas throughout history, from Cornelius Agrippa to Austin Osman Spare and the development of Chaos Magick - including some rather caustic (though to my mind, accurate) ‘observations’ on the latter. This overview sets the scene for his discussion of ‘Lovecraftian’ magick, which follows. This chapter explores the works of various magicians who have used Lovecraft’s works, and in particular, the Necronomicon, as a source of magical inspiration. The mighty Kenneth Grant is fingered for dropping Lovecraft’s themes into the modern occult cauldron - and apparently he also had a hand in the founding of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Gonce goes on to give a lengthy critique and analysis of Simon’s Necronomicon - the most popular of the claimants to the dread tome - an exhaustive analysis of its contents & themes which is a fine piece of writing but doubtless will annoy those who think this book is an ‘ultimate grimoire’. He comes across as being both erudite and down-to-earth, so I was somewhat surprised to read his short essay entitled "The Necronomicon and Psychic Attack" in which he states "In magickal self-defense, as in most areas of life, it is best never to underestimate anyone or anything." I would say that the converse is ‘true’ - never overestimate anyone or anything. Be that as it may, there is a mythos or glamour surrounding the Necronomicon on the lines of that it is dangerous to get involved with. Gonce also states that there has been nothing in the way of ‘serious criticism’ of Simon’s Necronomicon and wonders (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) "What is everyone afraid of?" One might cynically answer by saying that as a rule, occultists do not go in for literary criticism, which makes The Necromonicon Files even more remarkable.
The final section of the book deals with ‘Lovecraftian influences in films & television.
All in all, The Necronomicon Files is an excellent read, absorbing and thought-provoking. There are a few curious omissions - no mention of the Lovecraftian magic of Dr. Michael Aquino or Michael Bertiuax, for example - but this is a minor point. If you are into Lovecraft, Cthulhu Mythos Magic or just like reading well-written, well-researched occult books, then this book is a must! - Phil Hine