The most famous book that never existed is the Necronomicon. It is said that those who study its contents go mad from the sheer monstrosity of its truths, for it reveals aspects of our world with which the human mind is not equipped to cope. The almost omnipotent beings it describes are more ancient than the beginnings of our species, and are indifferent to our fate, except that our struggles to survive may amuse them. Yet those who possess a rare and precious copy of this nonexistent book have a weapon with which to defend themselves—should they dare to use it—against the creatures that forever stand at the angles of our world, eager to enter our reality and work mischief.
It may puzzle you that I write about a nonexistent book as though it were a published text. The plain facts are that there is no Necronomicon. Yet there are half a dozen in print, my own original version merely being the latest. Although the book does not exist, the world has found it so vital and fascinating that it has felt the need to create it.
The mundane history of the Necronomicon may be written in a few sentences. It is the fabrication of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), an otherworldly man from New England who wrote horror stories published in lurid pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, mainly during the 1920s and 1930s. Many of Lovecraft's stories share a common mythic background, a key element of which is the supposedly ancient tome, the Necronomicon. According to Lovecraft, this was written around the year 730 by an insane Arab poet of Yemen named Abdul Alhazred. Lovecraft used the book as a plot device in his stories, and even quoted brief portions of its contents. It amused him to treat it as an existing text.
Alhazred was able to penetrate the occult history of our world from its earliest beginnings, and set down its mysteries in Arabic script. The original Arabic text, Lovecraft stated, was lost. But the versions translated into Greek and Latin survived as a few jealously guarded copies, even to the present day. Other writers found Lovecraft's mythos great fun and contributed to it in their own stories, treating the Necronomicon as a real book. Lovecraft encouraged this cross-pollination of his mythic world, and so the legend grew.
That is the mundane history of the Necronomicon, but the truth is much stranger. Lovecraft was a dreamer afflicted from childhood by horrible nightmares. The things he saw in his dreams, he transferred to his stories. He did not set out to invent the mythological background of his works. It invented itself, growing like some moonlit fungus from the depths of his unconscious mind. There are many serious writers on the occult who maintain that Lovecraft tapped into a true secret history of our world, and that the beings he described in his tales actually exist, not as physical flesh and blood, but in a more subtle form, dwelling between dimensions, only a short ritual summons away.
Over the past few decades, a scattering of writers have felt the need to create the Necronomicon—to bring it forth into our reality. They have assumed the Necronomicon to be a grimoire of the arcane arts. I have taken a different approach. In the period Lovecraft ascribes to Alhazred, books existed describing the travels of authors around the ancient world, and the wonders they encountered in strange and distant lands. I have cast the Necronomicon in the form of a travel book that traces the wanderings of its author, not only to the secret ends of the earth, but also to the less accessible worlds of those who dwell between dimensions of our reality.
In other versions of the book, Alhazred is pushed to the background and forgotten, but here you see the history and works of the Old Ones through his eyes. He is present in every page, even though he chooses to allude to himself indirectly in the third person. After all, it was Alhazred who wrote the Necronomicon as a record of the mysteries he acquired over the course of his long and colorful life. It is only fitting that he tell its story. Sigils, spells, incantations, and words of power you will find in abundance, but at its heart the Necronomicon is a journey of discovery for a single man.
Donald Tyson is an occult scholar and the author of the popular, critically acclaimed Necronomicon series. He has written more than a dozen books on Western esoteric traditions, including Tarot Magic, and edited and ...