This article is a brief discussion on the society of the Elder Ones, based on Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. First things first, since the Elder Ones evolved from starfish-like descendants, their math and hence their entire culture and civilization was based on the number 5. Lovecraft mentions numerous times throughout the novel that the architecture of the Elder Ones is based on the number 5. This makes sense; the Elder Ones have organs in sets of 5 at the anterior, equatorial and posterior parts of their body. In addition, they have a five-lobed brain.
Basing one’s mathematical system on a relevant component of one’s anatomy is not too unusual. For example, the Mayan mathematical system is vigesimal, which is based on groups of 20 units. In turn, this system was develop based on the number of digits a person has (10 fingers and 10 toes). Thus, it makes complete sense for the Elder One’s culture to be based on 5.
Second, as mentioned in An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz), of Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu” entities, the Elder Ones were the most “human”. Indeed, this is obvious when Dyer declares…”Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn – whatever they had been, they were men!”
As Joshi and Schultz identify, the Elder Ones were an utopian view for human social and economic processes, at least for Lovecraft. The form of socialism practiced by the Elder Ones was one that Lovecraft thought best for humanity. In such a society the Elder Ones were free to pursue their interests in art, science and architecture. However, the obvious dark side to such a society is where one is free to purse one’s interests, there has to be a group of entities present to perform the necessary tasks and labor to keep society going; this work was conducted by the Shoggoths.
Again as cited by Joshi and Schultz, the dependence of slaves (Shoggoths) by the Elder Ones civilization somewhat mirrors past conditions in the United States with African Americans. However, it is also analogous to the movie Metropolis, where a lower class is responsible for the labor to provide power for a future civilization, primarily for an upper class.
The historical and fictional examples cited above identify how one group of humanity enslaves / controls another group of humanity. While the Elder Ones enslaved the Shoggoths, there is one significant difference relative to the human-based examples. That is, the Elder Ones created the Shoggoths and therefore they felt like they had the right to use the Shoggoths as they see fit. I will talk about this in more detail in a later article.
Third, in addition to the socialistic society of the Elder Ones, Lovecraft also envisioned them having a firm grasp on science, both in a theoretical and applications sense. However, what was a somewhat unique and innovative idea associated with Lovecraft’s “aliens” is that although they wielded science to master time and space, matter and energy, they are not exclusively technologically-based. While some technology is utilized by the Elder Ones, they are not “slaves” to it, flying around in saucers and using iPods. This certainly reflected Lovecraft’s attitude toward technology, which he frequently linked with applied science. Lovecraft noted a number of times in his collected essays, his concern over technology replacing pure science and art in terms of “value” to a society. For example, in reference to the rise of communism in the Soviet Union, Lovecraft stated, “Even pure science is belittled in favour of applied technology…” (from Collected Essays: Volume 5: Philosophy; Autobiography and Miscellany, edited by S.T. Joshi). Imagine what Lovecraft would have thought of the early 21st century!
Next time the discussion will move toward the biology of the Elder Ones. Thank you – Fred.