Lovecraft’s Venus

Unlike Mercury, HPL mentions Venus in a number of stories.  In fact, one of his tales is actually set on the second planet from the sun – In the Walls of Eryx (co-written with Kenneth Sterling).  Of all of the stories HPL wrote, co-wrote or ghost wrote, In the Walls of Eryx is the most conventional science fiction story.  This story will be briefly discussed here since future articles will focus on it greater detail.

A composite of images taken by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in February 1974 showing the heavy atmosphere and cloud cover over Venus (abyss.uoregon.edu)

In the Case of Charles Dexter Ward HPL briefly mentions Mr. Benjamin West, who was described as a scholar and keen thinker, primarily due to his work on the late transit of Venus.  The transit of Venus is when this planet passes directly between Earth and the sun.  It is seen as a small black dot gliding slowly across the sun.  It’s a relatively rare event; the last one occurred in early June of 2012 (I remember actually seeing it).  The next transit of Venus is not until December 2117; however, there is a transit of Mercury in 2016 (www.transitofvenus.org)

 Transit of Venus (from usatoday.com)

In the Shadow Out of Time, when Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee’s mind inhabits one of the cone-shaped beings, he learns of a  number of entities that populate Earth and the solar system.  In Peaslee’s studies HPL briefly mentions “a mind from the planet we know as Venus, which would live incalculable epochs to come….”.  Nothing else is mentioned of Venus in the Shadow Out of Time after this reference.  However, inhabitants of some of the other worlds in our solar system were referenced and will be described in future articles.

 Yithian by Jason B. Thompson (www.mockman.com)

Venus is also briefly mentioned in The Diary of Alonzo Typer, originally ghostwritten for William Lumley (not related to Brian Lumley).  In that story Alonzo Typer is investigating some strange occurrences in the house of the van der Heyls in upstate New York (An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia; S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2001).  As Typer reads a manuscript book of one Claes van der Heyl, he discovers a reference in the Book of Dzyan which states, “…the lords of Venus came through space in their ships to civilize our planet.”  This is the only such reference in any of HPL stories and may reflect some of Mr. Lumley’s ideas or some concepts presented in the Book of Dzyan itself.  Indeed, the Book of Forbidden Things, “the seven lost signs of terror” and the mysterious city of Yian-Ho were all Lumley’s ideas (An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia; S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2001)

The last story of HPL’s that references Venus, in fact occurs on Venus, is In the Walls of Eryx, again co-written with Kenneth Sterling.  Here a complete alien ecosystem is described, which included carnivorous blossoms, wriggling akmans, and skorahs, as well as flying tukahs.  However, the dominant race on Venus were the strange man-lizards, who appear to worship the crystals of Venus, which humanity is mining as a source of energy on both Earth and Venus.  Again, this story will be discussed in greater detail in future articles but it is interesting to note that this is one of HPL’s few stories, or possibly the only story, that occurs entirely off Earth.

Venusian Man-Lizard (by Michael Bukowski)

Next time we move beyond Earth and head for the last planet of the inner solar system – Mars.  Thank you – Fred.

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7 thoughts on “Lovecraft’s Venus

  1. Robert M. Price wrote about origin of the Lords of Venus in his article “Lovecraft’s Use of Theosophy”:

    “The Lords of Venus

    In the same context with The Book of Dzyan and the lost city of Shamballah, Lovecraft makes an enigmatic reference to “the Lords of Venus”. (“I’m quite on edge about that Dzyan-Shamballah stuff. The cosmic scope of it — Lords of Venus, and all that — sounds so especially and emphatically in my line!”) (Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 153.) In the letter to Smith, he says the Senzar language, in which Dzyan was written, “was brought to earth . . . by the Lords of Venus.” In “The Diary of Alonzo Typer”, he says that The Book of Dzyan “was old when the lords of Venus came through space in their ships to civilize our planet.” Finally, in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (rewritten from “Lord of Illusions” by E. Hoffmann Price, who “turned him on” to “that Dzyan-Shamballah stuff” to begin with), we read that “The Children of the Fire Mist came to Earth to teach the Elder Lore to man.” These “children of the Fire Mist” correspond to the “Lords of Venus”, but all this is going to take a bit of explaining.

    The basic cosmological doctrine of Theosophy is that universal history may be divided into an infinite series of manvantaras, or cosmic-evolutionary aeons, separated by pralayas, or age-long periods of dormancy. At the start of each manvantara, Being-itself (Brahman), symbolized as Primordial Fire, begins to differentiate itself into individual beings. The first of these are seven solar deities, also called “Sons of the Fire Mist” because of their immediate derivation from it. (Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 86.) The term also refers to “a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings” who incarnate these mighty entities on earth. They “become, from the first awakening of human consciousness, the guides of early Humanity. It is through these ‘Sons of God’ that infant humanity got its first notions of all the arts and sciences, as well as of spiritual knowledge” (Ibid., pp. 207,208). “It was they who imparted Nature’s most weird secrets to men, and revealed to them the ineffable, and now lost ‘word'” (Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 220). This last is undoubtedly the “Elder Lore” mentioned by Lovecraft.

    But where is the connection to Venus? In Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria, the author, an orthodox Theosophist, explains that these primeval guides of humanity came to earth from Venus, whose cycle of evolution was advanced beyond that of earth. In fact, humanoid life on earth (on Lemuria, to be exact) was barely sentient. The Venusian Lords of the Fire Mist educated humanity in the first instance by psychically occupying their bodies and, as it were, “getting them used to” housing real intelligence, which they would then begin to develop on their own, by a kind of metaphysical Lamarckianism. How could the Venusians do this? They were “endowed with the stupendous powers of transferring their consciousness from the planet Venus to this our earth” (Scott-Elliot, p. 107). The “space-ships”, then, are an addition by Lovecraft, since Theosophy’s Venusians had no need of them.

    If HPL did not retain Scott-Elliot’s idea of mind-projection across space in connection with his “Lords of Venus”, he did make use of the notion elsewhere. The Great Race of Yith in “The Shadow Out of Time” had projected their minds across time and space to inhabit the cone-shaped monstrosities of prehistoric Australia, much as the Theoaophical Venusians had incarnated themselves in the equally repugnant Lemurians. We may strongly suspect that the whole idea of the former was derived from the latter. In one letter, Lovecraft remarked, “Some of these hints about . . . the shapeless monsters of archaic Lemuria are ineffably pregnant with fantastic suggestion. . . .” Whence these hints? “What I have read is The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria. . . .” Specifically, Lovecraft must have had in mind Scott-Elliot’s reference on p. 87: “Somewhat before the middle of the Lemurian period . . . the gigantic gelatinous body began slowly to solidify. . . .” So “The Shadow Out of Time”‘s idea of advanced intellects from outer space teleporting to earth to inhabit primitive, gigantic, rubbery bodies seems to stem from HPL’s reading of Scott-Elliot. He even supplies a fairly clear hint in this direction in that very story. As the narrator pours over ancient texts in order to reconstruct the history of the Great Race, he notices that “A few of the myths had significant connections with other cloudy legends of the prehuman world, especially those Hindu tales involving stupefying gulfs of time and forming part of the lore of modern theosophists.” ”
    http://crypt-of-cthulhu.com/lovecrafttheosophy.htm

    (There is one thing about quote from “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. In my “The Complete Fiction” from Barnes & Noble and in H.P. Lovecraft Internet Archive editions of this story, we don’t have “the Children of the Fire Mist” but “the Winged Ones”, from the other hand in Polish translations which I read, there is term which is translation of “the Children of the Fire Mist”. I don’t know why we have such a different versions.)

    Greetings!

    1. Thanks Krzysztof – Wow! Thank you for providing the article and reference! I will have to digest this. I really appreciate your contribution and insight!
      Fred

  2. How much would I have liked Lovecraft to write more interplanetary stories! “In the Walls of Eryx” is a true gem among his work. Also notice the subtle satyre he aims against the editors of the time. Farnoth-flies – editor Farnsworth Wright of WT, ugrats- Hugo the Rat ( Lovecraft’s name for Hugo Gernsback of Wonder Stories) etc. ( from “An H.P. Lovecraft Ecyclpedia” by S.T. Joshi and E. Schultz). Can’t wait for the next part! And especially for Mars;)

  3. By the way, it seems that Venus might very well have been how Lovecraft described it, only billions of years ago, before the greenhouse effect went berserk. Maybe during the time of the Yith? Maybe some terrible experiment of the natives went wrong, so the Lords of Venus came to Earth in their ships? Just a thought.

    1. but a very interesting thought! If Lovecraft lived longer I am sure he would have crafted strange cycles of pre- and post-human history that went well beyond the Earth and into the solar system! Fred

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