Through the Gates of the Silver Key: Chapter III, from Metaphysics to the Multiverse

Once Randolph Carter used the silver key to go back in time he disappeared from our Space-Time. In previous articles, I hypothesized what happened to him as his disappearance was documented in H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “The Silver Key.” While the Carter we know looped back in time to once again be the young boy, the “other” Carter that would have continued in our Space-Time may have “fractured” into another universe. However, in the subsequent tale, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” written by Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price we get an unprecedented view of his experiences after he used the silver key.

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Chapter III continues the tale with the mysterious individual Swami Chandraputra explaining to the others what happened to Randolph Carter. Once he used the silver key, Carter lost all sense of motion and time – “Imperceptibly, such things as age and location ceased to have any significance whatever.” Additionally, “Now there was no distinction between boy and man.” Based on these statements, Carter was in a realm where linear time did not exist – he felt as if he was an extension of consciousness tunneling through time and not just experiencing time from one moment to the next. One top of that he had no spatial reference, having “…only a flux of impressions not so much visual as cerebral amidst which the entity that was Randolph Carter experienced perceptions or registrations of all that his mind revolved on, yet without any clean consciousness of the way in which he received them.”

Later Swami Chandraputra states that Carter unlocked the gate “…one leading from earth and time to that extension of earth which is outside of time, and form which in turn, the Ultimate Gate lead fearsomely and perilously to the Last Void which is outside all earths, all universes, and all matter.” The last, bold part of this statement may provide evidence for Lovecraft predicting the theory of the multiverse. Essentially, the multiverse theory is the idea that there is a set of infinite or finite universes that make up the entirety of space, time, matter and energy.

multiverse-1-1024x1004 The concept of the multiverse as conceived by physicists.

The term “multiverse” was first coined in 1895 by American philosopher and psychologist William James. In his essay “Is Life Worth Living?” James wrote “Truly, all we know of good and duty proceeds from nature…[which] is all plasticity and indifference – a moral multiverse, as one might call it.” – from www.philosophynow.org/issue/89/The_Multiverse_Conundrum. While there is no reference to William James in any of Lovecraft’s stories, he makes a passing reference to this philosopher in a discussion of philosophy in the United States in Collected Essays, Volume 2: Literary Criticism, H.P. Lovecraft – edited by S.T. Joshi (2004).

james                                                                                                                              William James, the person who coined the term “multiverse.”

While Lovecraft never used the term multiverse, he has used the word “universes” throughout many of this stories including “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (see above). Thus, while Lovecraft may not have been familiar with William James word multiverse, he used the term “universes” in the following tales:

The Transition of Juan Romero

The Call of Cthulhu

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

The Colour Out of Space

The Whisperer in Darkness

At the Mountains of Madness

The Shadow Out of Time

The Challenge from Beyond (a round-robin tale)

And his poem “The Poe-et’s Nightmare”

While in Lovecraft’s time the word multiverse was coined by James and used in a more philosophic or moral context, physicists have used to term in their scientific studies of cosmological forces, quantum mechanics and the Big Bang. Thus, the term multiverse is one that originally had a more metaphysical meaning until the latter half of the 20th century when theoretical mathematics, particle physics and deep-space astronomical observations merged in the subsequent development of hypotheses that included the concept of more than one universe. Thus, by pushing the boundaries of known science Lovecraft may have had a small part in moving the idea of the multiverse from metaphysics into the realm of science.

multiverse-1-100335844-orig                                Multiverse

Randolph Carter states that humanity would have a difficult time understanding the true nature of reality but he had a Guide to help him.  This Guide was an entity on Earth millions of years ago “…when man was undreamed of, and when forgotten shapes moved on a streaming planet building strange cities among whose last, crumbling ruins the earliest mammals were to play.” While this may have been a reference to the Serpent Men of Valusia, more than likely this was a reference to the Elder Thing cities built by the shoggoths. Later, Carter observed earth’s ancient past where “There were cities under the sea, and denizens thereof; and towers in deserts where globes and cylinders and nameless winged entities shot off into space or hurtled down out of space.” Again, this passage appears to be referencing the Elder Things and their cities under the sea as well as their travels to space.

05-elder_thing                                                                                               Elder Thing by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Beyond the history of Earth, Carter makes a few references to the Dreamlands, which he visited as a boy in dreams. Some of these references include galleys sailing up the river Oukranos, the gilded spires of Thran and the jungles of Kled. Thus, at this point Carter’s consciousness was moving from the history of Earth to another universe – the Dreamlands. However, beyond linear time and this adjacent universe, Carter’s “Guide” was about to open another door beyond these realities. Next time we will discuss Carter’s “Guide,” the Ancient One named Umr At-Tawil. Thank you – Fred.

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2 thoughts on “Through the Gates of the Silver Key: Chapter III, from Metaphysics to the Multiverse

    1. Hey Edward – no problem except last weekend I had a nasty flu virus that knocked me off my feet. I plan on posting the next article sometime over the weekend. Thank you for asking and for your interest! Fred.

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