The Triumph of Lovecraft

The deeper you peer into the mouth of nature, the more Lovecraftian the world becomes. Just days after I had posted a little meditation on Cthulhu, the great old god of H. P. Lovecraft’s unholy pantheon broke into the mainstream news. No less a source than NBC ran the headline “Tiny Cthulhu ‘monsters’ discovered in termite guts” only a few days ago. The microbe with the scientific name Cthulhu macrofasciculumque lives in the digestive system of termites, helping them in their destructive work. True, Lovecraft described Cthulhu as a bit bigger than that, but the first appearance of the microbes, according to Megan Gannon, reminded the discoverers of the eponymous terror of the Cthulhu mythos.

From microbes to the major football leagues such as the Baltimore Ravens, writers of the macabre have left their mark on our culture. The darkness they describe so richly is something we all feel at some level, but that we sublimate most of the time so that we can get on with our lives. Cthulhu macrofasciculumque may be very, very small, but the super-viruses and bacteria that we are encountering have the ability to destroy us just as surely as the chimerical colossus of Lovecraft’s nightmares. When we look for a way to describe these terrors, we have brave literary heroes from whom we might draw. We would be lost without them. They make it safe for us to venture into that darkened room, for they have been there before us. Lovecraft gave the world its first scientific description of Cthulhu, and although that description defies adequate reconstruction, we recognize it when we see it.

As Lovecraft saw him.

As Lovecraft saw him.

Science has brought us so very far. We can now see to almost the brink of an infinite universe and delve into the guts of termites. We have the ability to prolong life and increase physical comfort for those who can afford it, and we can annihilate entire nations at the press of a button. Drones can fly overhead and do the dirty work, and we don’t even have to step outdoors. Yet when we meet something that shivers our scientific spines, we turn back to the old gods to name it. Yes, religion may be the bête noire of science, but the dark night of the soul is not illuminated by LED’s or lasers. To see in this dark you need to have the night vision of literary perception. And those lenses, according to Lovecraft, reveal that the old gods are dead but still dreaming.

11 responses to “The Triumph of Lovecraft

  1. The names of gods are used for stars, planets, spacecraft, cars , and tires, not to mention parts of human anatomy. Even hermeneutics comes from Hermes. But I agree concerning the dark side of nature. Robert M. Price is both a theologian and a Lovecraft scholar. A secular theologian.

    • Steve Wiggins

      Thanks for the comment, Ed. I do know about Robert Price’s work. I find it fascinating that Lovecraft, who was virtually ignored in his lifetime has now come to have such an influence in popular culture. How very human it is to invent gods!

  2. Speaking of inventing gods,

    It is truly extravagant to define God, angels, and minds…when we do not know why we move our arms at will. Doubt is not a very agreeable state, but certainty is a ridiculous one. (Voltaire)

    Price’s new book is excellent, Evolving Out of Eden. I was just reading the chapter on attempts to reconcile the theology of Jesus’ dual nature with modern genetics. One wonders how Mary’s egg was fertilized. Did the Holy Spirit supply 22 chromosomes, ex nihilo? If so, they they had to appear quite human and physical to match up with Mary’s, and those chromosomes had to include all sorts of wonky genetic material like retroviral genes, created ex nihilo. Therefore such an ex nihilo creation wouldn’t necessarily appear more divine than another pair of matching chromosomes. There are additional questions raised in that section. Get a review copy!

  3. And if you have yet to view these videos, they raise significant questions and are “must views”:

    “Fear and Faith” Episode 2–Derren Brown induces a “God experience” in an atheist and explains via cognitive science experiments each step by which he did it http://youtu.be/NZiVdmWUX1A

    “The So Called Messiah”–Derren Brown induces a “belief in God” in several atheists, and also induces Pentecostal-like swoons
    http://youtu.be/FnaG35Ed1TU?t=4m18s

    “Miracles for Sale”–Derren Brown trains an “average joe” to obtain the same results as Christian healers

    “Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist”

  4. I meant to cue the above videos up to the correct spots, but apparently something went wrong in the translation of the video info.

  5. I FIXED THE LAST TWO LINKS BELOW, PLEASE DELETE PREVIOUS EMAIL WITH VIDEOS SHOWING

    ON THE INTERNAL ASPECTS OF CONVERSION (how the mind is easily led to believe many things) The following videos are “must views,” demonstrating how suggestible people are.

    “Fear and Faith” Episode 2–Derren Brown induces a “God experience” in an atheist and explains via cognitive science experiments how he did it http://youtu.be/NZiVdmWUX1A

    “The So Called Messiah”–Derren Brown induces a “belief in God” in several atheists, including inducing Pentecostal-like swoons
    http://youtu.be/FnaG35Ed1TU?t=4m18s

    “Miracles for Sale”–Derren Brown trains an “average joe” to obtain the same results as Christian healers

    “Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist”

  6. Wow, wordpress still would not accept this link with it’s exact minute designation, instead it begins the video at the start:

    “Miracles for Sale”–Derren Brown trains an “average joe” to obtain the same results as Christian healers

    Heck, just delete the comments.

  7. The last link is supposed to start at t=11m21s, yet it only starts at the very beginning, I’ve checked the link time and again. And why do the last two links show as video blocks, why don’t they just show as links to click on like the first two cases? WordPress is weird. Just delete this stuff. I’m not going to post video links on wordpress again.

    • Steve Wiggins

      Thanks for all of this, Ed! With my work schedule, it will take me a little time to work through all of it. The video links seem fine on this end. I’ve written quite a bit about Lovecraft before–if you do a search for Lovecraft on the search function above, you’ll find other scribblings about him.

      • There’s a lot of duplication above as I tried to get the links to the exact minute and second mark and for some reason wordpress skipped over that exactitude in one or two cases. Sorry about the duplication. Please delete all but the last links-filled comment. But the videos are absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure what to make of them. Derren Brown is like a magician of the mind, who knows all about the ways we are influenced. Or, he’s the anti-Christ.

  8. Lovecraft is interesting, his vision of humanity’s relative insignificance in the face of an unfathomable cosmos and in the face of other forms of life that we have little to no knowledge about. Or perhaps those other forms of life are simply our fears of cosmic insignificance anthropomorphized?

    I wrote a few articles for Price’s journal, Crypt of Cthulhu, ages. In one I compared Chesterton’s and Lovecraft’s view of the cosmos, and in another I compared Charles Williams’ evocation of fear with Lovecraft’s. It was a special Lovecraft compared with the Inklings issue.

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