De Profundis

Recent advances in revealing secrets hidden within pages illustrated by the enigmatic and hieroglyphic masonic Copiale cipher and a discovery that desperately encoded messages found on the recovered desiccated leg of a long-dead WWII carrier pigeon could be read using inherited codebooks all had me reexamining an odd package of strange scribblings … and other thingsmisrouted to the University of Chicago but belatedly received here at the library, which I could not until now understand fully. Apparently, something has happened to the famed occult scholar and Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus; perhaps while wantonly risking the reading of one eldritch tome too many … a volume I have detailed here in the past known not just sufficiently but necessarily as De Profundis.

These past few days, I have barely slept while feverishly comparing and cross-referencing and tabulating attempts at a key, but I have, with the help of the aforementioned advances and some few intuitive inspirations, finally succeeded in cracking the glyphic seal on what may be the last words of T Polyphilus. In spite of circumstances, I hold out hope that he has yet survived and I shall hear from him again.

But, I do fear something horrible, if not the worst, has befallen the man due to his well-known and ill-advised meddling in arcane things that wish themselves to remain hidden. I now fear for my own safety and am leaving the city immediately toward a destination I will not disclose on a quest following enigmatic instructions. I have also sent under separate cover to another expert in the field the other items delivered nestled within that package, which I dare not describe to you here, seeking both to hide them, from any innocent and all prying eyes, but also in effort to develop far more insight into what strange events must inevitably and irrevocably transpire next.

I hope we each arrive at our appointed stations in time.


Dear Brother G.,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

As I earlier suggested to you that I might, I am undertaking a survey of published recreations that may have value in a course of occult training. In years past I found one in particular that seems to be very close kindred to my own unpublished — and in many respects unwritten — occultist pseudo-LARP V.I.T.R.I.O.L. In fact, the author of the Lovecraftian horror-through-correspondence “game” De Profundis indicated that he had left much of that unwritten as well, and he described its genesis in an experience “in the dreamwoods of Hypnos and Shub Niggurath.”

I have just read the second edition of De Profundis, which includes a great deal of additional material that plays up game-style mechanics, such as tables of keywords and inventories of archetypal characters and scenarios. Nevertheless, I think it is best appreciated as an engine for para-literature, rather than as a “roleplaying supplement,” as the nominators for the Diana Jones Award (whatever that is, indicated in the jacket copy) would have it. The material production of this volume is solid (and far superior to the staple-bound first edition!), and the translation/Englishing has resulted in an engaging English text from the Polish original.

The core of the volume, as with the first edition, is written in the epistolary form that most of actual play assumes. Even the “De Profundis Online” additions are styled as emails. Despite — or because of — an almost complete absence of the sort of algorithmic devices common to tabletop roleplaying, this “game” demands skilled and intelligent players. “RPG” experience may even be a slight liability. A related program for in-person chamber “psychodrama” is relegated to an appendix (as it was in the first edition, if I recall correctly), but it is an enticing feature of the overall text, and might be implemented on its own or in connection with the letter-writing method.

I suspect that the 21st-century obsolescence of personal correspondence by postal paper may actually make “paper age” undertakings of De Profundis more powerful, albeit more challenging. The very oddness of receiving a handwritten letter in our current cultural context helps to transport the reader/player from the quotidian to the weird.

If you would pick up a copy — it appears to be available from some online book retailers, as well as game suppliers — we might try out some of these techniques, with an eye to the gradual incorporation of suitable aspirants in an ongoing project.

Love is the law, love under will.

Flamma sanguineque,
P.A. [via]




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