Leveraging Lovecraftian Horror to Negate Other ones
One of the sensations that being drenched in the humanity of fellow men offers me is the non contextual dread- a dread borne not out of gargantuan tectonics of our existence, but from the lowly wells of politico-socio economic institutions, that is our civilization’s ethos. The pragmatic pressure of sustaining one’s life in a world dominated by feudalistic institutions, capitalistic doctrines and communist gunpowder, can be magnified a million times over if a “has been”, radical and once a millennium consciousness gets trapped in the midst of it, with the sword of guilt dangling over his head. The repercussions of failure in the materialistic world border the realm of the conscious cognition, given all of life’s meaning emanates from the ability to act, which in turn gets its legitimacy from being an integral part of the regime.
How does one cope with this dread? The only way is to act, in the face of the storm, by swinging one’s middle finger at every obstacle that lies ahead, by punching and kicking all adversaries, notwithstanding the blood on my shirt. However, the materialistic anxiety that I have can act as a paralytic when glimpses of my past flash before my eyes. I need an intellectual buffer in between the mountain of tsunami and my cognitive engine. How do I accomplish that? Growing up, through experimentation in the fields of central Lucknow park, I had realized that to counter a large pain, inflict upon yourself a minor injury to trick the brain into forgetting the roots of the “original sin”. To counter the materialistic this-worldly dread, thus, I embrace the all worldly, all knowing existential dread of cosmic horror.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American writer of weird and horror fiction, who is known for his conception of literary philosophy known as Cosmicism, which stripped bare the dread induced by the cosmic horror of the unknown.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Lovecraft’s surrealism was so infused in an extra terrestrial reality that it provided a new dimension to existential realm of giant philosophies like existentialism(Kierkegaard), nihilism(Nietzsche) and absurdism(Camus). These three movements-existentialism, nihilism, absurdism and cosmicism arose from the human experience of anguish and confusion stemming from the Absurd, ultimately diverging to different perspectives on life.
The main idea in Cosmicism is that there is no benevolent anthropocentric power in the universe and that human beings are like specs of cosmic dust in the vast realms of space and time, like ants on a vast stage. Humanity has grown haughty, arrogant and self centric to the extent that our collective subconscious is now a hostage to issues derived from our ego. Lovecraftian Cosmicism highlights humanity’s fear of their insignificance in the face of an incomprehensibly large universe: a fear of the cosmic void.
In Cosmicism, one is not to feel terror of the absence of meaning, but rather of one’s powerlessness in the vast, indifferent universe that one is surrounded by. Universe has been personified, not as a leaving, breathing and feeling entity, but as an indifferent force representing multiversal apathy, which is similar to Camus’ “benign indifference” of the world. Universe is not just a cold, calculating, dead entity whose presence robs humans of the concept of meaning in life. It is infact a conscious entity that doesn’t recognize the sanctity of any life, not because of it’s malafide, but because of the relative insignificance of us puny humans.
Lovecraft wrote a famous statement when he submitted his first major story on this subject in The Call of Cthulhu, which encompasses the main idea of his philosophy:
“[…] all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large … To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all […]”
Lovecraft thought of himself as neither a pessimist nor an optimist but rather as a “cosmic indifferentist”. Lovecraft created his own fictional universe with powerful extraterrestrial beings and other cosmic forces, which function as symbols for the extent to which we don’t know about the universe, emerging from the depths of space and having accidental relations with human beings, casting us aside as if we were mere ants. In other words, they are not so much malevolent as they are indifferent toward humanity. This reminds me of a film- “A Monster Calls” which tells the story of a Cosmic monster helping out a kid with his internal philosophical conflicts. Had the Monster been of Lovecraftian origin, it simply wouldn’t have cared.
The final result of scientific inquiry could well be that the universe is a lawless chaos. This is a disturbing vision with which Lovecraft would struggle throughout his life.Lovecraft believed myth existed in order to shield the human mind from reality, however his own mythos seems to do the opposite: the “Outside” is more frightening than the world in which human beings live.
Many philosophies and religions are focused on the human, that humanity is the aim and end of everything. In response, Lovecraft was a strong and anti religious atheist, considering religion not merely false but dangerous to social and political progress.This is a refreshing alternative to the anthropocentric philosophies in which we find intellectual reassurance. The human mind is not the centre of the universe for it is too to shape a coherent view of the universe. He describes humanity as: “miserable denizens of a wretched little flyspeck on the back door of a microscopic universe.”
Although fascinated by science, he was skeptical of our ability to cope with scientific discoveries that would reduce our inflated self-importance in the universe. In the opening paragraph of “The Call of Cthulhu”, he states:
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
There is no intrinsic reason why a universe in which people are marginal should be a horror-inducing place. A world vastly larger and stranger than any the human mind can contain could just as well evoke a sense of excitement or an acceptance of mystery.Rejecting any belief in meaning beyond the human world, he also rejected the meanings human beings make for themselves. This is where I re-enforce my view that I am leveraging Lovecraftian horror and not embracing it.
Lovecraft’s indifference of the cosmos and the insignificance of human beings in it might be imbued with an overwhelming negative feeling. However, it might be argued that conventional religion and morality puts mankind in a much worse position. For compared to an infinite being: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, man as a finite being is much more insignificant. Psychologically it is quite satisfying to give oneself up to a powerful father-figure, and a consolation to have been created in “God’s image” and therefore to partake a little of His properties.
But is it really as depressing as Lovecraft puts it? Can a world without God, where there exists only a number of other finite species in the universe, perhaps wiser and more powerful than us, but in principle of the same limited and finite nature, however strange in appearance, and therefore logically more similar to us strike as much fear as an all-powerful God? This non-existence of absolute values in the cosmos might very well guarantee our independence and autonomy and our freedom to establish our own meaning and value, unfettered by external laws imposed on us by a god. That is, it could be a source of extreme optimism, a feeling of freedom — to construct and to pursue our meaning, ultimately serving as a resolution to our desire to seek meaning in an apparently meaningless universe.