A Few Last Notes on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Temple.”

There are a few more additional scientific points I would like to make relative to H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “The Temple.” The first is relative to his possible reference to the Theory of Continental Drift. In “The Temple” when the Lieutenant-Commander, trapped in Submarine U-29, observed the ancient city in the bottom of the Atlantic and states that “…I should not have been amazed, for geology and tradition alike tell us of great transpositions in oceanic and continental areas.” This may be a tip of the hat by Lovecraft to the Theory of Continental Drift.

7th-grade-ch-1-sec-3-drifting-continents-14-728 Fossil Evidence for the Theory of Continental Drift

While the reference to the Theory of Continental Drift in “The Temple” may be indirect, the theory is more directly cited in “At the Mountains of Madness,” where maps of the Elder Things “…display the land mass as cracking and drifting, and sending certain detached parts northward, uphold in a striking way the theories of continental drift lately advanced by Taylor, Wegener, and Jody.” These three men independently developed the Theory of Continental Drift, which was well developed and presented by Wegener in his 1912 paper. However, many scientists rejected this theory due to a lack of direct empirical evidence. It was not until the 1950’s and 1960’s when data were collected that documented seafloor spreading that Plate Tectonics provided the empirical evidence for the Theory of Continental Drift.  Thus, in Lovecraft’s day many scientists were quite skeptical of the Theory of Continental Drift.

In addition to a reference to Continental Drift, the Lieutenant-Commander states that he would put on a deep-sea diving suit with portable light and air generator to explore the temple.  Two English inventors developed the first pressure-proof diving suits in the early 18th century. From the late 19th century through the early 20th century, there were some pretty remarkable diving suit designs and some of them did have portable air supplies. For more photographs of early diving suit technology please check out http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-strange-and-wonderful-history-of-diving-suits-from-1262529336.

divingsuit_Marseille_France_1878_            A Diving Suit from France, dated 1878

Finally, a brief note on what the Lieutenant-Commander observed in the temple before his demise. Toward the end of the story while he is documenting the strange phosphorescent glow coming from the temple and the associated demoniac laughter, he is frequently questioning his own state of mind. A number of times he is wondering if he is hallucinating the things he is seeing and hearing; such issues were considered in the previous article. However, it may also be possible that the Temple is one of the points in our Space-Time, similar to the Nameless City or under the town of Kingsport, where there is a connection between this Universe and others (e.g. the Dreamlands). However, there is no documented evidence that the Lieutenant-Commander entered the Dreamlands or any other Universe. More than likely he was suffering from PTSD and/or the same unknown chemical / biological agent that claimed the entire crew of German submarine U-29.

SH5Img2010-03-13_124912

In “The Temple” there were several references to Atlantis and next time we will discuss what Lovecraft thought of this oceanic myth. Thank you – Fred.

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One thought on “A Few Last Notes on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Temple.”

  1. I think in this case Lovecraft is referencing the pre-Continental Drift paradigm, in which large blocks of the crust rise and sink but don’t slide around much. That would account for a city being on the seafloor better than any of Wegener’s ideas.

    I know HPL mentioned Wegener in _Mountains of Madness_ but since the main stream of geology still hadn’t accepted Continental Drift during Lovecraft’s lifetime, he isn’t obliged to be a Wegenerian in every story.

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