According to Lovecraft, at the center of the universe there is a god. This deity, seemingly at the most important place in all of existence, would at first appear to be its raison d'etre: the universe's materialization from thought into reality.
Now imagine a corpulent mass of swirling, chaotic forms and shapes, eerily piping a thin-reeded tune without any melody or rhythm. Around this deity, like a sultan on his throne, are similar beings, lesser in stature but of equal unquiet form and animated matter, each adding to the unwholesome songs with their own twisted and spiny pipes.
This is Azathoth, the insane and formless god, the mad mass of chaos who pipes his unearthly piping, from his beginning until his end.
The reason Azathoth and his courts play their pipes at the center of the universe is unknown, nor is it known for what cause they strive, as everything that comes from Azathoth is seemingly without order or structure. Such is the nature of primordial chaos.
Perhaps Lovecraft made Azathoth a metaphor for the whole universe—that the universe exists because of chaos, and with chaos it still creates. In his stories, Lovecraft mentions that human sorcerers sometimes beseech this insane god with supplications and rituals to curry his favor. These sorcerers, robed in astrological and mystical, symbol-laden imageries, form a society, a priesthood if you will, that attempts to make sense of the senseless. These followers hope their prayers will fall upon sympathetic ears: ears in the center of the universe, ears that can only hear the sounds of their own tunes created on unholy and foul pipes.
Do you see what a man could think if he felt that the world was only the cause of insanity and chaos? Lovecraft did, and this axiom he expressed so carefully and calculatingly in his stories of entertainment.
Azathoth, as with many literary creations, is a symbol of a larger whole, a piece of a puzzle, but perhaps the puzzle has no solutions or meaning.
One would not know if the puzzle does have meaning until one starts to piece it together. And even then, there may be only chaos in the structure.
Insanity makes the world go around . . . and around . . .and around . . .
Excerpted from The Lovecraft Necronomicon Primer, by T. Allan Bilstad