This short article explores some of the philosophical origins of HPL’s story From Beyond.
The Resonator turned on from Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond (1986)
In his book Tour De Lovecraft – The Tales, Kenneth Hite describes the story From Beyond as excessive and heavily influenced by Poe. However, Mr. Hite also cites this story as a key to understanding HPL’s philosophy associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. Some of these concepts include that the Universe and beyond are far more vaster than we can imagine, the Universe is largely unconcerned with human affairs, there are entities beyond our understanding and that on a whole, humanity is insignificant in the Cosmos (Hite, 2011). Thus, in a sense, From Beyond was the watershed story that led to the Cthulhu Mythos.
S.T. Joshi had a similar opinion on From Beyond (I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft, 2013), saying that while the story is flawed it serves as an excellent exercise for HPL to develop his philosophical themes for future stories. Joshi also noted that Hugh Elliot’s book Modern Science and Materialism had a substantial impact on HPL and in particular in the development of this tale.
Joshi cites a number of references from Elliot that influenced HPL (The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories, Penguin Classics; 2004) and in particular the development of From Beyond. Some of these ideas that impacted HPL include:
1. While humans may have only have five senses, it is possible that if we had others means of perceiving reality, we would have a more complete view of the Universe and beyond.
2. In addition to having only five senses, each one is fairly limited in range. This suggests that if our existing senses were expanded, we would discover parts of the Universe that are currently hidden to us.
3. A large portion of solid matter is made of empty space. The nucleus of each atom is composed of neutrons and protons, surrounded by an electron “cloud”. The majority of the atom is composed of the “cloud” (essentially empty space) with the nucleus accounting for a small portion of the total atom.
These three ideas are essentially key concepts discussed in From Beyond. Stimulating the pineal gland can awake dormant senses (Point 1) and/or expand our existing senses (Point 2). Additionally, the entities that are revealed when the machine is turned on can pass through humans as well as each other. Is it possible these inter-dimensional entities are taking advantage of these atomic “empty spaces” to pass through what appears to be solid matter to us (Point 3)?
As Joshi discusses in more detail in I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft, Elliot had a strong impact on HPL’s perception of the Cosmos, which was then filtered down into From Beyond.
Next time we will be comparing the science behind HPL’s machine in his story to the science of the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s movie. Thank you – Fred
Don’t turn around, the Resonator is on! (A scene from Michael Granberry’s great short film From Beyond)