In this third article on H.P. Lovecraft and Albert Einstein, we focus on where HPL cited Einstein or his theories in his fiction. In HPL’s stories the first reference to Einstein, although not specifically by name, was in Hypnos. “One man with Oriental eyes has said that all time and space are relative, and men have laughed. But even that man with Oriental eyes has done no more than suspect.” Thus, here HPL is points to the fact that Einstein understood something of the universe that few did, however, even Einstein did understand the true nature of the cosmos. Hypnos by Verreaux (deviantart.com)
Einstein was specifically mentioned in The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In the story Ward was working on uncovering the “neglected arts” of his ancestor Joseph Curwen. On the consideration of these forbidden and nearly unknown arts, “Not even Einstein, he declared, [Ward], could more profoundly revolutionise the current conception of things.” Again, HPL is making the point that not even humanity’s most innovative and “out of the box” thinker could grasp what he [again Ward] was trying to accomplish.
The great Vince Price as Charles Dexter Ward in Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace, which is based on Lovecraft’s The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward
In The Whisperer in Darkness there was a distinct shift in how HPL incorporated Einstein in his writings. Specifically, this shift moves from Einstein not understanding what lies beyond or the forbidden arts, to having an encounter with beings or situations outside of what has been established as the Einsteinian universe of relative space-time. The first instance of this was when the recording was played of occurrences near the Akeley farmhouse on May Eve 1915. Between the letters and the recording, Wilmarth and Akeley hypothesize that the strange creatures in Vermont were an….”interstellar race whose ultimate source must lie far outside even the Einsteinian space-time continuum or greatest known cosmos.”
In The Whisperer in Darkness the thing posing as Henry Akeley in that lonely farmhouse in Vermont tells Albert Wilmarth all sorts of strange facts about our solar system and beyond. As part of this conversation, the Akeley-Thing make the statement – “Do you know that Einstein is wrong, and that certain objects and forces can move with a velocity greater than that of light? With proper aid I expect to go backward and forward in time, and actually see and feel the earth of remote past and future epochs.”
Still shot from the great movie The Whisperer in Darkness (Directed by Sean Branney; Distributed by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society)
Again, we see the point made that while we live in an Einsteinian space-time Universe, there are other things that do not. This story was written in 1930 and published in Weird Tales in 1931 (Joshi, 1999: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories), after HPL personally accepted Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity based on empirical data. Thus, HPL was attempting to convey that the things he writes about are indeed from “beyond” or “outside” of our accepted universe and reality.
The importance and acceptance of Einstein’s work and theories was also demonstrated in At the Mountains of Madness. When Lake, Fowler and the other researchers find triangular striated prints in sandstone and limestone that are over 600 million years old, they send a message to the base camp where Lake makes the statement “Emphasize importance of discovery in press. Will mean to biology what Einstein has meant to mathematics and physics.”
The point here is their discoveries in the Antarctic would revolutionize our view of biology the way Einstein’s theories revolutionized physics. Since the subject of discussion was biology why didn’t HPL make a statement such as – the findings would be the biggest revelation in the field of biology since the work of Charles Darwin? Clearly, HPL thought quite a bit of Einstein at the time.
An Elder Thing (or Elder One) by Loston Wallace
Next time we will wrap up HPL’s citations of Einstein in his stories. Thank you – Fred