To me it has always seemed odd that a person with such a deep and rich mythology in their writing to have little regard for religion, so I like many other Lovecraft fans always look for a peek into the mind of the master, particularly when it comes to religion and cosmology. Joel Furches touches on these in his very interesting new article H.P. Lovecraft and the horror of Naturalistic Materialism
“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species — if separate species we be — for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Facts Concerning the Late Author Jermyn and His Family, 1925
Howard Phillips Lovecraft is considered among many to be the father of modern horror. He wrote his short stories of “Weird Fiction” during the 1920’s and 30’s, and captured a unique flavor of horror that writers have been trying to imitate ever since. Movies such as The Thing and the current film Prometheus have borrowed themes and concepts that Lovecraft originated.
What was so unique about Lovecraft’s writing? There are two common themes that run throughout Lovecraft’s work. The first is what has come to be known as ‘Cosmic Horror,’ that is, the concept that man is just an insignificant speck in a vast, uncaring, unknowable, and hostile universe. In story after story, Lovecraft’s protagonists open some door, find some secret into the larger universe, and their response is despair and insanity:
“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 light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu, 1926
The second theme is related to the first: the horror of heritage. That is to say, when one considers one’s origins, that humanity is nothing more than soulless, animated ooze; that human beings are just a link in a meaningless chain that contained all the lowest beasts, the natural reaction is, again, horror and despair.
Lovecraft himself had a dim view of religion. Like the New Atheists, Lovecraft felt that religion was responsible for more bad than good, more damage than help:
“Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, from his personal letters
In many of his stories, most notably “The Shadow over Innsmouth” organized religion is just a façade for sinister indoctrination and a willful blindness to reality:
“If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.”
H.P. Lovecraft, from his personal letters
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