Category Archives: Dreams in the Witch House

How the Universe Expanded in H.P. Lovecraft’s Lifetime: Part 3, Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Hubble shears a "woolly" galaxy A previously unidentified “woolly galaxy” found by the Hubble Telescope (www.nasa.gov).

As we previously discussed, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” may have been the “keystone” tale in which the Universe expanded from one island galaxy into one including hundreds of millions, if not billions, of galaxies. This expanded view of the Universe largely stems from Edwin Hubble’s confirmation that many observed gaseous nebulae are actually entire galaxies, as well as his discovery that the Universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. While “The Whisperer in Darkness” (written in early 1930) have been the tale where Lovecraft first introduced this expanding view of the Universe, largely through the perspective of the Mi-Go, the idea of multiple galaxies was firmly established by the time he wrote At the Mountains of Madness in early 1931.

As Dyer and Danforth were examining the bas-reliefs of the Elder Things they found a section that represented “…the preterrestrial life of the star-headed beings on other planets, in other galaxies, and in other universes…”. Thus, not only is a universe filled with galaxies but the concept of a multiverse was also identified by Lovecraft. It is interesting to note that At the Mountains of Madness was not the first reference Lovecraft made to more than one universe in his stories. This is not particularly surprising since as we previously stated before Hubble’s discoveries, the Milky Way Galaxy was considered the Universe; thus, one could easily extrapolate and consider the presence of more than only galaxy-universe. However, the concept of the multiverse and how Lovecraft understood it will be discussed in future articles.

lovecraft elder2 Elder Thing by Steve Maschuck

In “The Dreams in the Witch-House” Walter Gilman talks about how with the use of higher mathematics one can travel through Space-Time by finding a passage out of our 3-dimensional space-sphere and then re-entering at another point within our space-sphere. While the travel itself would not kill the traveler, one would have to make sure that the point of re-entry is favorable conditions for life (e.g. enough oxygen to breath, minimal amount of radiation, temperature concerns, etc.). Following this Gilman hypothesized that “Denizens of some planets might be able to live on certain others – even planets belonging to other galaxies or to similar dimensional phases of other space-time continua…”. Again, Lovecraft clearly embraces the idea of many galaxies in our universe.

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In “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” co-written with E. Hoffmann Price, Randolph Carter is attempting to understand how there can be other forms of his “self” – human and non-human, vertebrate and invertebrate, conscious and mindless, animal and vegetable. He goes on to say, “And more, there were “Caters” having nothing in common with earthly life, but moving outrageously amidst backgrounds of other planets, systems and galaxies and cosmic continua.” Later, when Carter’s mind enters a Yaddithian wizard’s body, he has access to light-beam envelope technology that can transport him through space-time to other worlds spread throughout the 28 galaxies accessible to the light-beam. It is not yet understood if this limitation to 28 galaxies is simply a spatial limitation or if the Yaddithian technology to allow the light-beams to be transmitted is only found in these 28 galaxies.

lovecraft___zkauba__yaddithian_ii_by_kingovrats-d9sn1hl                    The Yaddithian wizard Zkauba by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)

In The Shadow Out of Time, Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee attempted to understand the information provided to him on how the Earth was once inhibited by entities far more advanced than humans, millions of years ago. Some came from the stars while others evolved on Earth from the eukaryotic cell lines bioengineered by the Elder Things. Some of these life forms existed for thousands of millions of years and had linkages to other galaxies and universes. By the time Lovecraft wrote “Collapsing Cosmos” with R.H. Barlow, there were a reported total of 37 galaxies in our immediate universe.

Finally, in one of Lovecraft’s last tales, “The Haunter of the Dark,” at the end of that tale when Robert Blake is recording his last thoughts will waiting for the Haunter to visit him during the black-out he writes, “Trouble with memory. I see things. I never knew before. Other worlds and other galaxies… Dark… The lightning seems dark and the darkness seems light…”. For Robert Blake, staring into the shining trapezohedron provided a more realistic perspective of the Cosmos.

haunter_RachaelMayo The Haunter by Rachael Mayo

While Edwin Hubble discovered that our universe is not limited to the Milky Way and that other galaxies exist, I believe both he and Lovecraft would be amazed to know that just a few years ago the Hubble Space Telescope estimated that there are nearly 100 billion galaxies in the known Universe. However, just last year Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field survey revealed that volumes of space once thought empty are literally teeming with galaxies. Thus, while the most recent observations estimate that the observable Universe contains approximately 200 billion galaxies, studies from 2016 indicate that this estimate is at least 10 times too low. Thus, even Lovecraft’s 28 to 37 local cluster of galaxies may be an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the true structure of the Universe.

p1639ay-goodss-160930 Areas of space once thought empty have been revealed to be filled with galaxies by the Hubble surveys (www.nasa.gov).

Next time we will discuss eclipses in Lovecraft’s astronomical writings and his stories. Thank you – Fred.

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H.P. Lovecraft and Time Travel

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“I think I am probably the only living person to whom the ancient 18th century idiom is actually a prose and poetic mother-tongue.”

“-leaving the sunny downstairs 19th century flat, and boring my way back through the decades into the late 17th, 18th and early 19th century by means of innumerable crumbling and long-s’d tomes of every size and nature – “

“I am certainly a relic of the 18th century both in prose and in verse.”

Based on these quotes, taken from S.T. Joshi’s I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (2013), H.P. Lovecraft felt trapped in the future. He frequently talked about “the supremely rational 18th century” when great strides in physics, astronomy, chemistry and biology were made. A large part of Lovecraft’s own philosophy of life was based on Hugh Samuel Roger Elliot’s Modern Science and Materialism (originally published in 1919), which in turn is largely based on the rational thought and science of the latter half of the 18th century and 19th century.

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By the end of the 19th century, it was thought that the Laws of Nature and Life were fully understood. This is why Einstein’s Theories of Relativity were initially distressing to some scientists as well as Lovecraft. While Lovecraft did eventually resolve his view of the Universe with Einstein’s theories, as can actually be seen in the evolution of his stories, he experienced this same concern over his view of the cosmos with quantum theory. While Lovecraft’s view of the cosmos was indifferent and uncaring relative to humanity and all life, it was based on the cosmos functioning under well-established rules and laws of nature (Newton’s Laws of Gravitation, Darwin and Wallace’s Theory of Evolution, etc.) like a large machine. The Theories of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics shook this up and thus Lovecraft’s philosophy. Such “strange science,” coupled with his preference for the literature of the previously centuries (see above), made Lovecraft pine to live in the 17th, 18th or early 19th century.

finlay_lovecraft H.P. Lovecraft as an 18th century poet by the great Virgil Finlay.

Given Lovecraft’s wish to live in a simpler time, it is not surprising that time travel would periodically show up in his stories. As previously discussed, tales such as “The White Ship” and The Shadow Out of Time, are examples of moving out of our perceived linear, Newtonian flow of time. Einstein essentially linked Space with Time, which means that if a stable and large enough wormhole could be created, time travel may be possible. Suddenly, time was not simply linear.

yith-2014 The Great Race were expert time travelers (illustration by Steve Maschuck)

To Newton and the physicists that followed, Time was thought of as an arrow; once shot it can’t change its course and moves linearly in one direction. With Einstein’s Space-Time as described in his Theory of General Relativity, space (and therefore time) could be warped. Thus, instead of Time being thought of as an arrow, it was more like a meandering river; gently speeding up in riffles and slowing down in pools with small eddies of backflow (Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku; 2005).

This concept of Time having backflows, whirlpools or forks did worry Einstein, particularly when one of his contemporaries, W. J. Van Stockum, in 1937 found a solution to Einstein’s equations that permitted for the possibility of time travel (Michio Kaku, 2005). Other mathematicians and physicists, for example Kurt Gödel in 1949 and Kip Thorne in 1985, identified various solutions to Einstein’s equations and potential ways to travel in time. Beyond the equations, the methodologies to achieve time travel vary from traveling around an infinitely long cylinder close to the speed of light to traveling around the circumference of the known universe a little faster than its rotating, to the creation of two wormholes traveling at the speed of light, connected with a “bridge” of negative energy. Matter can be thought of as positive energy, gravity can be thought of as negative energy (Michio Kaku, 2005).

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Based on these mathematical calculations, using Einstein’s equations, General Relativity does allow for the possibility of time travel. However, in all cases the problem is one of energy. The amount of energy needed to bend, twist or warp time (Space-Time) is so high that Einstein’s equations actually break down and quantum theory takes over (Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universe, Time-wraps and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku, 1995). Thus, while on paper time travel is possible, it’s the engineering that limits its development.

hyperspace_kaku_1995

In many of the potential scenarios for time travel, such as using the gravitation forces of a black hole for the needed energy, the forces / energies would surely destroy us before any time travel occurred. However, many of Lovecraft’s entities are either from Universes with a different set of natural forces and laws or possibly from outside the known multiverse altogether. Thus, the Old Ones may have the ability to harness these forces and energies and use them to travel multiple Space-Times. However, as I have previously hypothesized the “weakness of the Old Ones” is the fact that they cannot form a stable and consistent form of matter in our Space-Time. This is why I believe the Old Ones have not yet dominated our Universe and why they even have any dealings with humanity. We need to provide them with something within our Space-Time, whether its “opening a door” on this side of reality or providing a part of us (e.g. DNA); both of these scenarios are exemplified in “The Dunwich Horror.” However, the one story that I believe best supports the “weakness of the Old Ones” hypothesis is “The Dreams in the Witch-House.”

Walter Gilman, a student at Miskatonic University, is working on some multidimensional mathematics and quantum mechanics for his graduate work. Indeed, for time travel since General Relativity begins to break down into the quantum level, both need to be united in higher dimensions – in fact up to 10 or 11 dimensions; our four dimensions plus six to seven others folded and tucked out of our reality. Accessing these higher dimensions may be a way of entering hyperspace, a means to travel vast distances and times. Indeed, this is what both Walter Gilman and the witch Keziah Mason succeed at doing. However, the vast amount of energy needed to open these higher dimensions are not available to us so how do they do this?  Essentially, the available energy is provided by Nyarlathotep. Thus, using math or magic (to the Old Ones probably the same thing), one gains access or the attention of the Old Ones. The Old Ones provide the energy needed for this hyperspace travel and get something in return. Signing Nyarlathotep’s book in blood may be providing a sample of DNA the Old Ones need to attempt to enter and remain in our Space-Time. Of course the question remains – if we truly want to time travel, is it only achievable if we establish some sort of pact or agreement with the Old Ones? Will we as a species be able to harness, control and utilize the enormous forces and energies needed for interdimensional, interstellar and inter-time travel?

the-dreams-in-the-witch-house-jhc-by-h_-p_-lovecraft-2-2120-p The Dreams in the Witch-House, illustrated by Pete Von Sholly

I would like to conclude with a quote from Michio Kaku (1995) that every much sounds like Lovecraft:

“Einstein’s equations, in some sense, were like a Trojan horse. On the surface, the horse looks like a perfectly acceptable gift, giving us the observed bending of starlight under gravity and a compelling explanation of the origin of the universe. However, inside lurk all sorts of strange demons and goblins, which allow for the possibility of interstellar travel through wormholes and time travel. The price we had to pay for peering into the darkest secrets of the universe was the potential downfall of some of our most commonly held beliefs about our world – that its space is simply connected and its history is unalterable.”

 

I believe Lovecraft would absolutely agree with this – we are finding out the universal machine does not necessarily operate the way we think it does. Next time we will talk about time paradoxes and how Lovecraft handled them in his stories. Thank you – Fred.

A Few Notes on the Discussion on The Dreams in the Witch House

Hello – just a few notes.  First, a few articles back in discussing Brown Jenkin I showed this sculpture of the creature:

Originally I cited the artist as Mamitu, which was the name provided on divantart.com.  However, a reader reached out and told me that the artist’s name is Eden Gorgos and that her project can be found on Kickstarter.  It is a beautiful piece of artwork and I certainally want to give her the appropriate credit.  If interested in more information on the sculpture please look her up on Kickstarter.

Second, I did purchase an MP3 copy of the Rock Opera: Dreams in the Witch House and I really do enjoy the music.  I wanted to mention that since I said I would pick it up and prior to today only listened to samples.  However, I can say the album has some great music on it.  To be honest I picked up that and John Coltrane’s Settin’ The Pace and love both of them!

As I mentioned previously, next time I will be talking about R’lyeh.  After than future topics will include the Yithians and the Shadow Out of Time; the architecture of the Elder Ones, Mi-Go and Yithians; the impact of Einstein and quantum mechanics on Lovecraft and other additional topics.  Thank you – Fred

Elder Things in the Witch House

As surprising as the presence of Shoggoths in Innsmouth in HPL’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, is the appearance of the Elder Things (or Elder Ones as named by Robert M. Price) in his story The Dreams in the Witch House.  While the Elder Things were not explicitly named in the story, they certainly made an appearance based on their description provided by HPL.

Elder Thing by the very talented artist Filippo Borghi

At one point in the story after traveling through hyperspace, Walter Gilman finds himself “half lying on a high, fantastically balustrade terrace above a boundless jungle of outlandish, incredible peaks, balanced planes, domes minarets, horizontal disks poised on pinnacles, and numberless forms of still greater wildness…”

Example of old limestone balustrade (from www.colourbox.com)

As Gilman moves to stand up on a terrace, he examines the chest-high balustrade (a type of ornamental railing).  They are made of a strange shining metal whose “colour could not be guessed in the chaos of mixed effulgences, and their nature utterly defied conjecture.”  These balustrades “represented some ridged barrel-shaped objects with thin horizontal arms radiating spoke-like from a central ring and with vertical knobs or bulbs projecting form the head and base of the barrel.”  The description continues for a another three long sentences and was clearly describing a small representation of an Elder Thing.

To the left is a representation of Nyarlathotep and Brown Jenkin by Liv Rainey-Smith in a hand-colored woodcut (called “Sign!”).  To the right is an Elder Thing “Balustrade” figurine by Ann S. Koi.  Both can be found on the Kickstarter website for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon 2014 Portland, OR.

As Gilman tries to stand up he accidently snaps one of the balustrade “spiky figures’ off.  At the same time he hears something from behind and turns to see five figures walking toward him, which included Keziah Mason, Brown Jenkin and three of the barrel-shaped entities, 8 feet tall and “propelling themselves by a spider-like wriggling of their lower set of starfish-arms.”  This causes Gilman to awake up in his bed and immediately leaves his apartment.  He comes back later, around 9 o’clock at night, and to his horror and amazement he finds the spiky figure of the Elder Thing that he accidentally broke off the balustrade in his dream on his table.  In the story this was a turning point because before this incident, Walter Gilman was convinced everything that was occurring was due to some bad dreams and being overworked.  With the appearance of the Elder Thing figurine, the problems within his dreams become manifested into reality.

                                                                                                                                         Is this what the spiky figurine of the Elder Thing looked like, that Walter Gilman broke off the balustrade in his dreams (artwork by Jason McKittrick)?

So the question is – why were the Elder Things associated with Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin?  The great Lovecraftian scholar S.T. Joshi in the Penguin Classics edition of The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories was wondering about this as well.

“….although there seems to be no legitimate purpose to their appearance in this tale.” – S.T. Joshi

However, once again discussions about this story on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast were very enlightening.  Some of the hypotheses proposed included that since Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin can travel through time and space that they were visiting the Elder Ones for some forbidden knowledge.  Remember the terrace that Walter Gilman was on looked very different than Antarctica.  It was a steaming, jungle environment with three suns so it was not Earth or even ancient Earth.  For some reason, in my mind, I think of that brief glimpse we get of the Predator’s world in the Alien vs. Predator: Requiem movie.  Not the spaceships but the atmosphere and buildings (see below).

Home world of the Predators in AVP: Requiem.  Did the world that Walter Gilman visit in The Dreams in the Witch House look like this?

Another idea, which was brought up by Kenneth Hite on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is that maybe the Elder Things had a “witch cult” of their own.  Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin were both members of the witch cult, which worshipped the tall Dark Man.  In Keizah’s mind the Dark Man was Satan but we know him as Nyarlathotep.  Maybe to the Elder Things Nyarlathotep looked like a large Dark Elder Thing instead of a tall Dark Man.  Indeed, maybe the Elder Things that Walter Gilman very briefly met were part of an Elder Thing cult worshiping Nyarlathotep.  Remember of all of HPL’s entities, the Elder Things were the closest to being “human”.  As Dyer said, “Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn – whatever they had been, they were men!”

Elder Things on another one of the worlds they colonized?  Artwork by Harry O Morris

We may never know why Walter Gilman saw the Elder Things and what Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin were doing “associated” with such entites.  However, is this how the Elder Things arrived at Earth over a billion years ago?  Maybe they used hyperspace, guided by the representatives or “wizards” of Nyarlathotep to get to Earth.  It is said the Elder Things filtered down from the stars and later lost the ability to conduct interstellar travel.  Did the cults of Nyarlathotep fall out of fashion in the Elder Thing civilization, leaving them Earth-bound?  This would explain how they lost their ability to travel through space (and maybe time as well).

Next time I will be talking about the architecture and mathematics of the great City of R’lyeh.  On a concluding note, I must say, as we leave the Witch House, that I listened to samples of the Lovecraftian Rock Opera – Dreams in the Witch House and really enjoyed the music.  I intend on purchasing a copy of this and would recommended it; give it a listen.  If a live show of this every comes to Philadelphia, I would definitely attend.   Thank you – Fred.

The Mathematics of the Witch House, Part 5 – What exactly is Brown Jenkin?

TheNightmare_by_Fuseli

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781), which is on the cover of Penguin Classics edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House And Other Weird Stories (edited by S.T. Joshi).  The strange creature sitting on the woman’s stomach reminds one of a Brown Jenkins-like creature

In the previous article, I hypothesized that Keziah Mason’s and Walter Gilman’s ability to travel through hyperspace was precipitated by signaling those outside the audient void on where and when they are located.  The entitles outside of our space-time have the technology, ability and energy to create wormholes but need the aid of entities inside of our space-time to guide them through.  I also hypothesized that it was not the witch who served as a guide or teacher to Gilman, but instead it was Brown Jenkin and possibly the Black Man (Nyarlathotep).  We will save a discussion on Nyarlathotep for a later date.  So for now, what exactly is Brown Jenkin?

Brown Jenkin by Mamitu

Before I get into the discussion I have to say that a lot of the ideas presented here originate from the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast with hosts Chris Lackey & Chad Fifer and special guest host Kenneth Hite.  They had some great discussions on The Dreams in the Witch House over three episodes and it is full of interesting information and ideas I found very valuable.  I strongly recommend everyone who is a fan of Lovecraft to check out their Podcast as well as Kenneth Hite’s great book Tour deLovecraft, the Tales, which can be found in an eBook format (Kindle for me).

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

We know Brown Jenkin was critical in assisting Walter Gilman to travel through hyperspace but what was he?  A number of ideas have been proposed about what exactly Brown Jenkin is, from a biological standpoint.  First, we know he was the size of and had the body of a large rat, with a human face and four human hands instead of paws.  This strange hybridization reminds me of the hamster-man from the movie Return of the Fly or the man-dog from the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both shown below).

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Movie Poster for The Return of the Fly (1959) featuring the hamster-man

The Man-Dog from the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Since Keziah Mason was a witch, Brown Jenkin appeared to be her familiar, in the classic sense of a witch.  However, HPL turned this old bit of witch mythology on its head by making Brown Jenkin the “master” or teacher and Keziah, as well as Walter Gilman.  One idea was that Brown Jenkin was the offspring of Keziah and an extra-dimensional entity (similar to Wilbur Whately in The Dunwich Horror).  While Brown Jenkin did “nuzzle” up to Keziah, there was no indication that they were related.

Another idea was that he was an ancient wizard who served the Black Man and for his services was “awarded” immortality with the ability to travel through time and space.  Unfortuntately to do this, he had to take the form of a large rat, yet he still needed a human head with vocal cords as well as human hands (four mind you) to chant and cast his spells, respectively.

Brown Jenkin by Pawn Attack

Still another idea is that Brown Jenkin is also from outside of our space-time and that his appearance is a “shadow” or three dimensional interpretation of what he looks like in our space-time.  He may look very different in his own dimension.  Personally I don’t think Brown Jenkin is made of “other stuff” like the Mi-Go or the Spawn of Cthulhu or even the Black Man.  I think, based on how he interacted with both the witch and Walter Gilman, Brown Jenkin is an entity of our space-time.

I think he is either a creature from another time, place or planet or that he is a wizard who was awarded with his existing appearance by Nyarlathotep, which allows him to easily travel through space and time.  On a side note, if you want to see some examples of artwork that may have inspired HPL’s creation of Brown Jenkin, please check out David Haden’s tentaclii.wordpress.com page

Next time the conversation will be on the strange appearance of the Elder Ones in The Dreams in the Witch House.  Thank you – Fred

The Dreams in the Witch House, Illustrated by Bryan Baugh

The Mathematics of the Witch House, Part 4 – How to Travel Through Hyperspace

Magic is any sufficiently advanced technology – Arthur C. Clarke

Lithograph of a fictionalized version of the Salem Witch Trails from 1892 (from www.wikipedia.org)

Now a days, the idea that advance science and technology would look like magic to us, or that our technology would look like magic to ancient civilizations is a common theme in science fiction stories.  However, in 1932 when Lovecraft wrote The Dreams in the Witch House, such ideas were more innovative and his established connection between New England witchcraft and quantum mechanics was unique.  Essentially, in the story, a witch can draw symbols and shapes to slip out of time and space and a graduate student in the 20th century is figuring out how to accomplish the same goal through mathematics.  But how is this done?  What is the mechanism behind it?

From what is currently known about hyperspace travel (and its not a lot) a rip or tear in space-time is created, opening the universe to hyperspace.  This opening, tube or tunnel is called a “wormhole” which allows one to travel through space and time.  An illustration of this is shown below.

Theoretical diagram of traveling through hyperspace with a wormhole (from www.zamandayolculuk.com)

Using hyperspace theory it is actually possible to calculate the amount of energy needed to twist, tear or alter space-time to create wormholes.  Unfortunately, the estimated amount of energy needed to create a wormhole is astronomical.  It is estimated that the energy needed to create a wormhole is a quadrillion times larger than the energy of our largest particle accelerators (Kaku, 1994).  Needless to say we won’t be creating wormholes any time soon.

So how could a witch or a graduate student generate that much energy through mathematics and geometry to create a tear in time and space and slip through?  I hypothesize that they don’t.  Instead, I hypothesize that when Keziah Mason or Walter Gilman draw their symbols or run their calculations this results in shooting a “flare” or message into the void beyond our reality saying “Here I am.”

More than likely it was either Brown Jenkin or  “the Black Man” (Nyarlathotep) who folds or tears space-time to allow travel through hyperspace.  Remember, it was Brown Jenkin who whispered into Gilman’s ear about Azathoth and Nyarlathotep and not the witch.  In addition to knowing how to signal Brown Jenkin or the Black Man, with symbols or math, the Witch House or possibly the Town of Arkham itself may be a “power point” or “weak spot” in our space-time that allows for residents in our reality to signal others.  But why?  Why would an extra-dimensional entity want to help creatures in our space-time to travel through hyperspace?  Why would they want to give such power to others?  We may never know the answer to this but I would guess they are not doing it for altruistic reasons; Brown Jenkin or the Black Man must get something out of the arrangement.  Maybe it’s a two way street; maybe they need such curious creatures to stick a light out into the audient void to enter our reality.

Nyarlathotep – the Black Man (by Jens Heimdahl)

Next time we will talk about Brown Jenkin and what exactly he is – Thank you.  Fred.

The Mathematics of the Witch House, Part 3 – Higher Dimensions

Symbols from the Necronomicon (from propnomicon.blogspot.com, by Vemisery)

In a previous article on hyperspace I mentioned that  Michio Kaku describes in his book Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universe, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension that the laws of nature become simpler and more elegant when expressed in higher dimensions.  Since Euclid and up to the mid-19th century, flat or planar geometry has been THE only geometry of western civilization, used in various practical applications including architecture.  However, more so than presenting the subject of geometry in a cohesive format, it was Euclid’s methods of using logic, deductive reasoning, evidence and proofs that is his larger contribution to mathematics and science.

While Euclid’s contributions were monumental, they also limited alternative thought and theory in geometry and mathematics in general.  In planar geometry one dimension is a straight line ( a point has no dimensions), two dimensions is plane shape (square, circle, triangle, etc.) and three dimensions can be represented as solids (cubes, spheres, cylinders, etc.).  Each higher dimension is created by adding another line at a 90 degree angle and once you get to three dimensions there is no additional “directions” for another line.  Thus, the conclusion was there is no 4th dimension.

Representation of one, two and three dimensions (www.merlot.org; Duane B. Karlin)

As I have previously mentioned many mathematicians and philosophers agreed with this.  For example, Ptolemy from Alexandria  stated that “proof that the fourth dimension is impossible.” – Michio Kaku, 1994.  This quote is very similar to some of the statements made in Robert Weinberg’s article H.P. Lovecraft and Pseudomathematics (Discovering H.P. Lovecraft by Darrell Schweitzer, 1995) such as “The existence of higher dimensions should be of little concern to this world as any contact with such dimensions is impossible.”, “There is no way that we can construct a four-dimensional object.”, and “It is impossible (not unlikely or not yet possible, but impossible, actually shown to be never possible) to construct a higher dimension from a lower one.”

I bring this quotes up not to criticize Mr. Weinberg but to make the point I get the impression that when he wrote this article in 1971 he was in the camp with many of the classical mathematicans that higher dimensions are impossible.

However, as a teenager of the 1980’s I got to watch the series and read the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan.  During one episode / chapter (The Edge of Forever) Sagan spoke about creatures living in flatland.  I strongly recommend you either rent the DVD of Cosmos, read the book or at least look up Sagan’s flatland discussion on YouTube.  The point I want to make here is that while we can’t “see” a 4th dimensional being with our three dimensional senses, just like a two dimensional being can not see a three dimensional being, experiments can be done to detect the presence of a higher dimension.

In Cosmos, Sagan made the point that a 3-dimenional “apple creature” passing through the 2-dimensional plan of Flatland (moving from above to under Flatland) would appear as a point, an expanding line, then a contracting line, then as another point and then disappear.  The square or triangle creature observing this may think they are insane and would not be able to understand what they just saw.  Could something similar happen if a 4th dimensional creature passed through our 3 dimensional world?  Is it possible that some individuals have actually experienced this, resulting in nervousness, phobia or even severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia?

Carl Sagan’s apple creature visiting Flatland

While we can’t see a 4th dimensional creature or object we may be able to see an interpretation or representation of it.  Again, from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, you can make a representation of a 3-dimensional object (say a cube) on a 2-dimensional surface or plan (see below)

Point = 0D, Line = 1D, Square =2D, Cube =3D and Tesseract =4D

A three dimensional cube held by Carl Sagan

Every school child learns how to draw a representation of a cube on a 2 dimensional surface (piece of paper).   This same method can be done to draw a representation of a “hypercube” – a 4 dimensional cube.  Below is a “3-dimensional” representation of a hypercube, also known as a Tesseract.

A hypercube also known as a Tesseract

Again, this is just a representation of what a Tesseract looks like not a Tesseract itself, since we can’t look into the 4th dimension.  Thus, the strange shapes and images Walter Gilman sees and experiences he has as he travels through hyperspace – the prisms, labyrinths, limitless abysses of inexplicably coloured twilight, and bafflingly disordered sound; clusters of cubes and planes, groups of bubbles, octopi, centipedes, living Hindoo idols, and intricate arabesques roused into a kind of ophidian animation – may essentially be his 3-dimensional mind trying to perceive and comprehend higher dimensions.

To make one final point on Mr. Weinberg’s critical analysis of that story, I can’t actually see an electron but I can conceptually visualize what one looks like (a small particle, a traveling wave or hazy cloud) and more importantly I can see evidence of electrons (see below).  Now I understand that Mr. Weinberg’s article is dated (early 1970’s), Cosmos was in the 1980’s and most serious higher dimensional thought and research is less than 20 years old; this obviously has to be taken into account in this analysis.  So I can certainly understand stating that something is very unlikely but to say impossible may be a little too hasty (in my opinion).

Electron particle tracks (credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory / Science Photo Library).  Do these particle tracks somewhat resemble the curious symbols found in the Necronomicon?

Next time the discussion will concentrate on hyperspace travel in The Dreams in the Witch House and later articles will discuss Brown Jenkin and the appearance of Elder Things and the Black Man (Nyarlathotep).  Thank you.  Fred