Peter Levenda on Cthulhu, Kenneth Grant, and the ‘sinister forces’ in American history

If you want the maximum bang for your book-buying buck, you could do worse than Peter Levenda. Aside from his probable authorship of the Necronomicon, Levenda has written something like a dozen books on occult history. His most ambitious work, Sinister Forces, is a three-volume set that details the dark side of the American story, from whatever happened to those pre-Colombian American civilizations to CIA mind control experimentation and beyond. Ultimately, Sinister Forces is an examination of America’s failure to acknowledge the existence of evil — and it does this through a relentless deluge of conspiracist high weirdness. The books are fascinating, and they’ve earned kudos from fellow authors Jim Hougan (who called it “one of the darkest and most provocative books that you are ever likely to read”) and Norman Mailer.

I interviewed Levenda a while back about these sinister forces, and about his book The Dark Lord: H.P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant, and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic. The transcript was edited for space and clarity, mostly because I had a fever when I did the interview, and really I wasn’t making all that much sense. This didn’t seem to bother Levenda, however. He’s able to be erudite and well-spoken with very little prompting.

In The Dark Lord, you discuss the occult significance of H.P. Lovecraft’s work — an idea that Lovecraft himself would disavow. When did you become interested in the subject?

It was the paradox that intrigued me initially. Lovecraft was a self-professed atheist, and someone of a very scientific bent. He started writing articles for an astronomy magazine, he had wanted to become a scientist and an astronomer. He just wasn’t able to do that because of his family situation, living at home and the fact that he was sickly through most of high school and had a very hard time graduating high school because of that. So, one thing led to another and he wasn’t able to gratify that urge that he had. But he considered himself a scientist. He had no patience with mysticism, occultism, or religion for that matter. Yet he is considered the father of modern gothic horror, which for him is based on a scientific appreciation of the fact of science, of the fact that reality as we know it, being at its heart composed of vast distances and vast amounts of time. He found that to be unsettling. He was totally opposed to any idea of their being any kind of spiritual forces or entities coming into this world from the outside. And yet, that’s all he wrote about.

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