The Call of Cthulhu – Perchance to Dream

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Bas-relief of Cthulhu by Jason McKittrick (deviantart.org)

How would two completely alien civilizations communicate if they have never had any pervious contact?  Frequently mathematics is one of the more common answers.  This makes sense since mathematics is a form of deductive reasoning, which is arriving at a conclusion based on a set of facts.  In mathematics this means that a conclusion can be reached thorough a series of   steps that give rise to a “proof.”  The net result is that the conclusions arrived at in mathematics is the same everywhere in the known universe.

In the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) a combination of musical tones and hand signs were used to communicate with an alien civilization.  Music can be understood in the language of mathematics so using music as a form of communication makes sense.  However, this assumes that both species can process and understand sound waves in a somewhat similar manner.

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Commination with extraterrestrial life through musical tones in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

On a side note, in some ways, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is very similar to “The Call of Cthulhu.”  In both stories, a sub-set of the global population is experiencing something beyond our normal daily lives.  In the case of HPL’s story the experience is primarily through dreams with some small sets of humanity actually worshipping this “other.”  In the case of Close Encounters of the Third Kind the experiences are more complex – visions, artist inspirations, experiences involving lights or music from the sky and even abductions.  In both cases, these experiences impact a sub-set of the global population and are leading to a specific event, at a specific location and time, which involves direct contact with something completely alien.  The outcomes are obviously different but idea of using a non-language based means to communicate resonates in both stories.

Back to the subject at hand, what if two distinctly species did not even have a means of communicating such basic concepts such as 1 + 1 = 2 or the difference between a high and low pitch?  What if the two species did not just evolve on separate planets but what if they evolved in separate corners of the universe, in separate dimensions or even in separate universes?  How do they communicate?  Possibly the easiest means of overcoming these barriers is to communicate through a basic process or action conducted by all members of a particular species.  For humanity, such day-to-day actions involve perceiving and interacting with the world around us with our five senses and include rudimentary processes such as breathing, eating, drinking, mating, physical movement and sleep.  Of these basic evolutionary actions sleep has a possible mode communication and that is through dreams.

Call of Cthulhu dream

Henry Anthony Wilcox describing one of his disturbing dreams in the 2005 film The Call of Cthulhu (The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society)

The science associated with dreams is in its infancy, yet some major strives have been made in recent years.  Within the last decade, scientists have been making progress on actually photographing and videotaping dreams with MRI machines.  For the first time in 2011 scientists have used MRI and EEG sensors to actually measure dream content and may even one day make direct contact with a dreaming person (The Future of the Mind:  The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku, 2014).  Imagine if we could have recorded  Henry Anthony Wilcox’s dreams while he was being contacted by Cthulhu.

Additional research into dreams have revealed that they are important for the health of humans as well as many other animals.  On average we spend 5 to 20 minutes a night dreaming and about 6 years dreaming over a lifetime.  Dreams are universal across race, cultures, civilizations and religions.  People dream essentially the same things – personal experiences from the pervious day or week are frequently incorporated into our dreams. The dream state appears to function as a means of digesting or processing “new” information in the brain’s neural network; organizing memories in a more coherent and orderly way and consolidating useful information (Kaku, 2014).  More than likely Cthulhu takes advantage of this neural network in contacting the human race as well as others.

neurons

A view of the neural network in the human brain (www.willamette.edu)

While we are awake EEG scans indicate that the brain is emitting a steady stream of electromagnetic waves. However, the frequency of the EEG signals changes as we fall asleep. When we dream, waves of electrical energy move from the brain stem and surge up into the cortical areas of the brain, particularly the visual cortex. This is one of the reasons why visual images are an important part of dream. In turn, the senses of smell, taste and touch are largely shut down (Kaku, 2014).

The hippocampus is active when we dream, suggesting that dreams draw on memories. Dreams are directly linked to high levels of emotion, often involving fear. Other sections of the brain – those that involve fact-checking, spatial awareness / coordination and logic – are shut down. Thus, emotional levels are up and rational control is reduced (Kaku, 2014).  Thus, the predominance of visual stimulation over the other senses, coupled with the high levels of emotion, primarily fear, and low capacity for rational thought, at least partially explains our reactions to Cthulhu.  Since Cthulhu communicates through dreams, we respond in our dream-like state.
lovecraft_cthulhu_idol_by_jasonmckittrick-d3lnvfz

Cthulhu Idol by Jason McKittrick (www.deviantart.org) 

As has been identified by both S.T. Joshi (The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, 1999) and Leslie S. Klinger (The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, 2014), the name” Cthulhu” itself is a feeble attempt for human vocal cords and language to pronounce the actual name of the entity.  As HPL himself states “the word is suppose to represent a fumbling human attempt to catch the phonetics of an absolutely non-human word.”  Thus, if we do not even have the physiology and anatomical organs to properly commutate with Cthulhu, direct communication through dreams – where sights and shapes can be processed into  images that we can somewhat understand – makes sense.  Of course the “baggage” associated with this innovative means of communication, results in an interpretation of this incoming information with a high level of fear and low level of rational thought.  From an evolutionary response this makes complete sense!

Next time we will talk about the entities associated with Cthulhu but reside within the wooded swamplands of southern New Orleans.  Thank you – Fred.

dead_cthulhu_waits_dreaming_by_gregstevens-d4692bg

Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming by Greg Stevens (www.deivantart.org)

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11 thoughts on “The Call of Cthulhu – Perchance to Dream

  1. Hi. Yet another highly stimulating article!
    Again it’s amazing to see how Lovecraft, an author usually considered keen on “supernatural” fiction actually fed on scientific possibilities.
    It would be interesting to know how developed were studies on such matter in the twenties. I know he knew and respected Freud but that’s another matter.
    There’s no doubt Cthulhu (will I ever be able to type it without checking?) wants to communicate because he is also dreaming, namely: he’s speaking the language of dreamers. The fact that his message reaches only “sensitive” men such artists (and madmen by the way) adds credibility.
    From a narrative POV, communications from a “deity” through dreams is no new concept (Matthew 2, 13 = “Flee for your life Joseph” ; Matthew 2, 19 = “Get back Joe you’re safe now”).
    That Kaku’s book of yours must be great. On the visual aspect of dreams, I wonder: how do I dream if I was born blind?
    Roberto

      1. Alas, kind Sir, I’m no scientist at all.
        But I guess (just guess) visual aspects are present in your dreams if you’ve lost your sight at a certain point in your life. Memory and imagination may play a part in creating night visions…
        But what if you were BORN blind? Those born blind also have to dream because dreaming is necessary to keep your psychic balance right. It has to be a complete “different” kind of “dreaming”, and that is fascinating. Come to think of it, even their day-time experience of the world must be so.
        And I’m irretrievably going OT, so I thank you and send you my best regards.
        Roberto

      2. I recently watched an interview with a boy who was born blind. He said he dreamed, but he was just standing, or walking, or reliving memories with some possible exaggerations – but still couldn’t see.

        If you are not born blind, I believe you can still visualize things, as you do have memories and have imagined things. In any case, I apologize about O.T. (which I do not really know about) and wish you best of luck.

        BRIAN

      3. Good ideas – I am certainly not a dream scientist but I highly recommend M. Kaku’s 2014 book if you are interested in this subject. However, there is no discussion on how blind people dream but it does raise a very interesting question!

        Thank you for the comments!

        Fred

    1. Thank you for the comments and input Roberto! Good point on how a blind person dreams – that question is not addressed in M. Kaku’s book. I do highly recommend the book! Thanks again. Fred

  2. Hm, interesting…very interesting indeed. Lovecraft, possibly unknowingly, made it all make sense!

    “The hippocampus is active when we dream, suggesting that dreams draw on memories.” This may draw on some primal memories/emotions from the start of mankind. Do you remember that the Old Ones sent a dream to the first man?

    BRIAN

  3. I remember seeing in one of the videos on this vsauce playlist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZRRxQcaEjA7kcmXICcmzIT5rAjVHPhuU that there the emotional response to vision comes first within the brain and then afterwards (fractions of a second) it hits the actual visual part of the brain. Therefore there are blind people who are blind not because of something on their eyes but because the visual part of the brain is shut down, but NOT the emotional part, so they can “sense” emotional cues on people’s face even if they aren’t seeing the faces themselves. They can also spatially navigate even if they are blind, because spacial perception is also on a different part of the brain.

    I wonder this means that different blind people dream differently.
    Also, the fear response and the “space disorientation” typical of R’lyeh could be something entirely dependent on our human perception?

    1. Thank you – some great observations. Yes, the “space disorientation” associated with R’lyeh may be something from another Universe trying to manifest itself in our own Space-Time and this attempt is trying to processed by our human perception, resulting in disorientation. Thank you for the comments! Fred

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