Tag Archives: Elder Things

Fossils from the Mountains of Madness (Part 2)

Greg Onychuk The Fowler Imprint_www.propnomicon.blogspot.com                                  The Fowler Imprint (Greg Onychuk; http://www.propnomicon.blogspot.com)

Of all of the fossils collected during the Miskatonic expedition to Antarctica, the most intriguing specimens were those of the footprints of the Elder Things.  As previously mentioned, a variety of fossils including ferns, seaweeds, trilobites, and a number of living marine invertebrates were discovered near Queen Alexandra Range.  However, also discovered in the sandstones were strange triangular striated marking, about a foot in diameter at their widest point. While Lake, the lead biologist on the expedition found these triangular fossils interesting and curious, Dyer who was the expedition’s lead geologist saw them as nothing more than ripple effects, which are common in sedimentary rock.  Such ripple marks form perpendicular to the direction of the wind or water (current or waves).  In this case, the fossilized ripple marks (see below) are indicative of agitation by water and were symmetrical, so they were probably formed by gentle waves or fast flow water.  In any event, based on the description of the triangular fossils, it is difficult to see how they could be mistaken for ripple marks. However, this was probably just an attempt by Dyer to explain the strange markings.

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After flying over the South Pole and conducting some additional aerial surveying, Lake insisted that the new base be established in a westward direction, instead of the planned northwestward direction. This change in direction was sparked by Lake’s obsession with the strange “triangular striated marking in the slate.” Lake was convinced that these marking were not ripple marks but instead of some large, unknown organism, in spite of it being dated to be Cambrian, if not Precambrian.

In Lovecraft’s time, the Precambrian (recognized as the period of time from the formation of the Earth about 4.6 billion years ago to the beginning of the Cambrian about 541 million years ago) was generally thought to be dominated by unicellular life.  It was not until 1950’s when radiometric carbon dating was developed, that it was confirmed that multicellular life existed in the Precambrian. Indeed, the earliest multicellular forms of life are found in rock as old as 1.2 to 1.5 billion years ago. These ancient multicellular forms were a form of filamentous red algae named Bangiomorpha pubescens and were discovered in the 1990s (M.J. Benton; The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction; 2008).

funsia                                                                    Fossilized imprint of the red alga Bangiomorpha, one of the first multicellular organisms

The first recognized ecosystem dominated by multicellular species was during the Ediacara Period (between 635 and 542 million year ago). To be fair, when Lovecraft first suggested that the fossil footprints were of the Elder Things and dated somewhere between the Cambrian / Precambrian, very little was known about multicellular life in the Precambrian. The strange organisms of the Ediacara were discovered in the Ediacara Hills, north of Adelaide, Australia in 1946 by a young mining geologist named Reginald Sprigg (The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction by Michael J. Benton; 2008).  Many of these Ediacaran fossils looked like jellyfish, branching fronds and worms.  Some say the Ediacara species are the direct ancestors of many of existing marine fauna, while other state these species were so unlike most living forms that the majority of the Ediacaran died out approximately 540 million years ago (Benton, 2008).

Precambrian_p7angelinai-gts.weebly.com        The Ediacaran ecosystem in the Precambrian

Additional support for the hypothesis that the Ediacaran species represent some of the earliest known multicellular, animals on Earth was very recently presented.  Specifically, fossil fat molecules (cholesterol) were collected and measured off of a fossil of a species known and Dickinsonia.  These species lived 558 million years ago placing it firmly in the Precambrian.  So why did most, if not all, of the Ediacaran species, die out? Maybe the Ediacarans were an experiment of the Elder Things and for some reason decided to abandon and/or start over with a new “stock” of eukaryotic cells.

1024px-DickinsoniaCostata Fossil of Dickinsonia

Getting back to the fossilized Elder Thing footprints, initially one may ask why they would not be mistaken for another Ediacaran species.  The shape and appearance of the footprints may indicate that they were another flat, soft-bodied, bottom feeder, similar to Dickinsonia.  So why did Lake suspect that these fossils were footprints of some large animal and not a group of bottom-feeding species? It must have been the pattern of the fossils.  One or two fossil imprints would look like a few organisms.  However, a number of the same fossil imprint laid out in a linear arrangement, such as the dinosaur tracks shown below, is definitely an indication of the movement of some larger animal.

La-Rioja-dinosaur-footprints-protected-under-Cultural-Heritage-Law Dinosaur footprints at the La Rioja Cultural Heritage site

It was generally thought that animals did not start colonizing the land until the Silurian, between 440 and 410 million years ago.  However, in 2002 older fossilized footprints of a lobster-sized, centipede-like animal were discovered in some sandstone (see below).  These footprints are approximately 530 million years old (https://www.nature.com/news/1998/020429/full/news020429-2.html).  Thus, it appears that some animals were wading out of the shallow seas and onto the land during the Precambrian.  Thus, these creatures were around the same time the Elder Things were moving over the Earth.  Were the lobster-sized, centipede-like animals special pet projects of the Elder Things or were they just another discarded and abandoned biological experiment, cast out to be subjugated to the forces of evolutionary natural selection?

footprints_160                                                                                                                         Some of the earliest fossil footprints of a terrestrial organism on Earth

Next time we discuss the actual discovery of the “fossilized” Elder Thing specimens.  Thank you – Fred.

img_31131.jpg           Illustration of Elder Thing footprints by Pete Von Sholly

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Lovecraftian Scientists: The Downfall of Dr. Herbert West

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As the protagonist suggested in “From Beyond,” a scientist should be a “frigid and impersonal investigator…” While Crawford Tillinghast did not exhibit these traits as a scientist, this certainly described Herbert West, at least in the initial chapters of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West – Reanimator.” Initially West is your typically cold scientist, closely following the rigors of the Scientific Method. However, as the story proceeds, West’s fanatical pursuit of knowledge is only exacerbated and pushed to the extreme. West started his experiments with animals and then moves to human cadavers. Each experiment with a human corpse revealed that the body must be very fresh with little or no decay.

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West’s obsession with conquering death and need for a fresh body eventually led to him actually murdering someone – a salesman traveling to Bolton Worsted Mills. West killed and the preserved the salesman with an embalming fluid and waited for his friend to return to inject his reanimation serum. When the salesman was revived, it was obvious from his reaction that West murdered him.  Although West’s general philosophic perspective was consistently described as that of an absolute mechanistic materialist, this was still a major shift in his scientific endeavors.  While his extreme materialism may have fostered his general amoral attitude toward life and humanity, West was always grounded in the Scientific Method and that the ultimate goal of the reanimation serum is to bring people back to life. This jump from a scientist working with biological material that happens to come along his way, to one who actively produces the needed biological material is Lovecraft’s example of what happens when a scientist is the “frigid and impersonal investigator…” completely devoid of any humanity, compassion or empathy.

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Herbert West used the embryonic cells of an exotic reptile in his experiments (illustration by Steve Maschuck)

Once West murdered to produce is needed biological material, even his foundation grounded in the Scientific Method began to erode. Toward the end of the story West goes into full “mad scientist” mode, thinking up “what if” scenarios in his mind.  While his use of some embryonic cell material from an exotic reptile had some potential promise to function as stem cells, he wasted this in his mad experiments.  The puffy reptilian cell matter sounded like it could function as undifferentiated stem cells and may have had great applications in repairing nerve damage, producing skin grafts for burn victims and possibly even re-growing lost limbs. However, playing with his discovery like a morbid little child, West experimented on body parts with no regard for the ethics or morality of such actions. It reminds one of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s quote from Jurassic Park shown below.

dr-ian-malcolm-quote

Obviously toward the end of “Herbert West Reanimator” all of West’s experiments catch up with him. Like Dr. Frankenstein or the Elder Things West was excited to create but did not care to deal with the responsibility of being the creator of such life. In the case of the Elder Things, the shoggoths were essentially biological tools that were created for specific functions. However, once the shoggoths began to attain consciousness, the Elder Things did not want the responsibility of coming to terms with this in a mature manner. In the case of West and Frankenstein it was the act of creation that was so exciting. The created being was merely an annoying by-product. In West’s case we see where a completely uncaring, amoral, mechanistic, materialistic attitude can result in a mad scientist. However, the mad scientist of Herbert West seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the passionate and vengeful mad scientist of Crawford Tillinghast.

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Experiments on parts

Next time we will discuss another type of scientist in Lovecraft’s tales – the group of scientists who conducted the initial investigations in “The Colour Out of Space.” Thank you – Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 3a – The Emergence of Consciousness in Natural and Artificial Forms of Life

1478297539-ptolemy-slocum-as-sylvester-leonardo-nam-as-lutz-and-thandie-newton-as-maeve-credit-john-p-johnson-hbo A technician re-programming one of the hosts on HBO’s Westworld.

Before we compare and contrast the origins of consciousness in both H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” and HBO’s show Westworld, we should spend a little time on discussing what exactly is consciousness.  A very simple definition of consciousness is “a State of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings as well as other people / organisms.” It can also be thought of as “self-awareness.” In much of science fiction, self-awareness of artificial life, from Frankenstein to Westworld, results in big problems for the creator. Movies such as the Terminator, The Matrix and Blade Runner all describe situations where consciousness triggers self-preservation at any cost. However, from a biological, evolutionary perspective consciousness didn’t just “click on.” It’s the result of millions of years of evolution and has occurred multiple times on Earth – humans are not the only Terran organisms with consciousness.

In the case of artificial life, would consciousness immediately “turn on” as is the case in the Terminator? Or would there be a series of gradual steps necessary for artificial life to reach consciousness? While such steps may not be millions of years in the making, in fact they could within the span of merely years to decades, there would still be some type of non-Darwinian evolution or process toward consciousness, even for artificial life. Recently films such as Ex Machina and the HBO show Westworld have focused on this development of consciousness in artificial life. Additionally, while not blatantly obvious, Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” also demonstrated a gradual evolution of consciousness in the shoggoths but that timeline, as least documented on the bas-reliefs in Antarctica indicate that the timescale was similar to that for natural, biological life – millions of years.

shoggoth_by_manzanedo-d65yhix Shoggoth by Manzanedo (www.deviantart.com)

In many instances the term “sentience” is thought to be interchangeable with consciousness but as I found out in these investigations this is not the case. Sentience is simply the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively, while consciousness is a higher level of thought -that is, self-awareness and interacting with the world and other life around you. For “natural” life on Earth consciousness appears to be the eventual result of sentience; however, this may not necessary be the case for some forms of artificial life.

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From an evolutionary point of view sentience is developed through living systems interacting with the environment (Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith, 2016). However, in a sense this describes all of life so can bacteria and plants be considered sentient organisms? To further assist in this discussion, I reviewed Michio Kaku’s definition of consciousness in The Further of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind (2014). Kaku defines consciousness as a “space-time theory of consciousness” where he states

“Consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter).

This definition is strongly grounded in evolutionary theory but it also allows for the procession of consciousness – that of animals creating a model of the world mainly in relation to space to one of human consciousness where the model integrate time (Kaku, 2014).

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Based on this definition the first stage of consciousness is Level 0 – organisms that have little or no mobility create a model of their environment using feedback loops based on several parameters (e.g. temperature, light, food, oxygen, etc.). In a sense, this Level 0 consciousness is in fact sentience. Feedback loops are used to respond to environmental conditions to maximize health and eventually evolutionary fitness.  For example, some blue-green algae (which are essentially photosynthetic bacteria) that live in lakes have gas vacuoles that allow them to move up and down the water column. If they have a sufficient amount of light and are low on nutrients the gas vacuoles will collapse and they will sink to deeper waters where nutrient concentrations tend to be higher. In contrast, when they need more light for photosynthesis they will create gas vacuoles in their cells, making them more buoyant and they float to the well-lit surface waters. Sometime they are too buoyant and float to the surface, creating surface scums, which helps to reduce competition for light and nutrients with other algal groups.  This series of feedback loops that aid the blue-green algae to biochemically determine if gas vacuoles should be created or destroyed, have provided an evolutionary advantage to the them and can be considered Level 0 consciousness or event basic sentience.

hopatcong_11oct2Surface scum of blue-green algae on Lake Hopatcong in fall of 2016 – Level 0 Consciousness?

Organisms that are more mobile and have some type of central nervous system have Level I Consciousness (Kaku, 2014). Reptiles are an example of Level I Consciousness – they have so many feedback loops that they need a central nervous system to handle all of the information. Here feedback loops are governing the five senses, balance, blood pressure, etc. based on incoming information about the world around them (weather and varying interactions with other organisms). It is at this level that more direct intra-species (competition, mating) and inter-species (competition, predator-prey) interactions occur.

Next is Level II Consciousness, which is where an even higher number of feedback loops is required to include social interactions with other animals (Kaku, 2014). This level of consciousness is required when a species interacts as a pack, pod or tribe; it is at this level of complexity that emotions form, possibly as an evolutionary means of enhancing both individual selection and kin selection. Surprisingly, there is very little empirical studies of animal behaviors at this level of consciousness.

For Kaku, Level III Consciousness is what separates humans from the rest of the Terran animals and it is at this level is where there is an understanding of the concept of the future (Kaku, 2014).  It is the potential of modeling reality not just in space but in time that defines Level III Consciousness. Humans can run stimulations of how are interactions will impact others and ourselves in the future while other species cannot.  Thus, for Kaku:

“Human consciousness is a specific form of consciousness that creates a model of the world and then simulate in it in time, by evaluating the past to simulate the future. This requires mediating and evaluating many feedback loops in order to make a decision to achieve a goal.”

Using Kaku’s system, shoggoths were created initially as food and so started as Level 0 consciousness.  However, as the Elder Things re-designed them to take on more and more complex tasks (e.g. moving large objects, communicating through telepathy, actually building structures), they quickly moved to Level I and, if a high degree of cooperation was required particularly in the building of structures, eventually to Level II.  I’m sure the Elder Things did not want the shoggoths to get to Level III but they did and that is the discussion for next time.

howardvbrown                           Shoggoth building a structure under the guidance of the Elder Things by Howard V. Brown

The hosts of Westworld were built, designed and on-line as Level II entities. When functioning at optimal efficiency, they could easily handle complex human interactions as well as respond to their surroundings but they were designed to be limited these responses– in other words they could not “think” of the future or beyond their world.  However, similar to the shoggoths, they eventually did attain Level III consciousness. However, while there is a biological mechanism responsible for the increased consciousness in the shoggoths, for the hosts this was accomplished through the retention of memories and some re-programming. In a strange way, this was a directed, Lamarckian form of evolution.

westworld108-4 A host now re-programming itself in a unique form of Lamarckian evolution

In any event, the development and consequences of consciousness in the shoggoths and the hosts will be discussed in the next article – thank you. Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 2 The Creation of Artificial Life

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Frequently life is simply defined as the conditions that separates organisms from inorganic objects and the dead (Elements of Biological Science, 3rd Edition, William T. Keeton and Carol Hardy McFadden, 1983). Life is also more frequently described by listing characteristics typical of life such as metabolism, responsiveness, movement, growth and reproduction.

All life on Earth is shaped and molded through the forces of evolution; specifically, natural selection is the biological engine that continuously tests a species’ adaptation to its ever-changing environment. Thus, life being influenced by natural selection can be thought of as natural life.  In contrast, artificial selection is the breeding of preferred traits (e.g. producing more milk or seeds; faster animals or more attractive flowers) and the development of such species could be thought of, in a sense, as artificial life. For example, the English bulldog would not exist if humans did not breed dogs for the traits that this particular breed exhibits – thus, in a sense the English bulldog can be thought of as a type of “artificial life.”

bulldog           Zoey, the English bulldog, can be considered a form of artificial life

Another definition for artificial life is life directly created by another species as opposed to being the result of millions of years of natural selection in operation. In the case of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, it is revealed that the Elder Things created all life on Earth so does that make all life we know a form of artificial life? In this case I would say no for several reasons.

The Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old and most evidence suggests life began about 3.8 billion years ago; however, some recent work on carbon minerals provide some tantalizing evidence to suggest that life may have been on Earth as early as 4.1 billion years ago (www.sciencemag.org; October 2015). However, it should be noted that the data to support this is small and additional studies / analyzes are required to further support this hypothesis.

Based on the fossil evidence and bas-reliefs found in Antarctica, the Elder Things arrived on Earth during the Archean Eon, approximately 4.0 to 2.5 billion years ago (Joshi, 2001). If the Elder Things arrived on Earth before any life existed on Earth, then they could be the creators of all life on Earth. However, if they arrived after prokaryotic (bacteria) appeared on Earth (say they arrived 2.5 billion years ago and life was already on the planet by 3.8 billion years ago), then the Elder Things may have created eukaryotic life out of prokaryotic life. Indeed, evidence suggests that eukaryotic life appeared on Earth approximately 1.5 billion years ago. Thus, in this scenario, the Elder Things used the raw prokaryotic (bacterial cells) life to create more complex, eukaryotic life such as fungi, plants and animals.

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While the Elder Things “created” eukaryotic life, once released into the wild these organisms grew, had offspring and under the existing genetic variability that was coded in them, natural selection arose. The Elder Things largely left the majority of life on Earth alone to evolve and diversify through the eons. Thus, while the initial “eukaryotic germ cells” were artificially produced, once released into the environment, they became “naturalized” and adhered to the conditions used to define life: metabolism, responsiveness, movement, growth and reproduction.

In the case of Shoggoths, these organisms are better defined as artificial life since they cannot reproduce on their own. While Lovecraft does mention that the Shoggoths can reproduce through binary fission, this apparently is completely controlled, more than likely on a genetic level, by the Elder Things. Reproduction can only occur with the direct supervision and assistance of the Elder Things in special areas or structures called “shoggoth pits.” Thus, shoggoths cannot reproduce on their own, something that is required in the definition of life. I believe the Elder Things intentionally designed the shoggoths like this so they could control the population, the way only sterile grass carp are used to control heavy aquatic plant growth in lakes. By controlling or eliminating the potential for reproduction, this prevents the grass carp from taking over a lake, the way it would prevent the shoggoths from taking over the Earth.

shoggoth-for-book

Additionally, shoggoths do not appear to age or increase in size. They are fluid organisms, similar to the octopus, in that they can change their shape, size and structure but not their mass. Shoggoths in their natural state appear to be spherical with a diameter of fifteen feet, although smaller sub-species have been noted (possibly in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”). Thus, shoggoths do not appear to grow; again, another important characteristic used to define natural life. Thus, I would define shoggoths as artificial life; the cannot grow and do not reproduce and so are not influenced as a species by evolution through natural selection like the rest of Terran life.

In the HBO series Westworld, bioengineering is not used to create the “hosts,” a term used to describe the androids in the park. Instead, high-tech robotic engineering used to create the “core” of the hosts, which are then covered in biological tissues to make them look like real people. In one episode, it is casually mentioned that the hosts use to be entirely composed of inorganic / mechanical parts but it’s actually cheaper to cover their robotic skeleton and organs with biological material. No detailed were given on how this biological material covering the hosts is created, however, I hypothesize that its grown through the proliferation of stem cells in large vats akin to the Elder Things shoggoth pits.

westworld-hbo The creator examining his creation in HBO’s Westworld

The fact that humans developed and manufactured the hosts makes them obviously artificial life. While the hosts have an inorganic core with a biological shell they still have much in common with the shoggoths. In reviewing the basic characteristics of life both the hosts and the shoggoths exhibit responsiveness and movement. In terms of metabolism, both the hosts and the shoggoths need to take in energy of some sort to continue to function. In the case of shoggoths, based on Lovecraft, these organisms had very flexible modes of nutrition. They could directly be modified by the Elder Things for various modes of life (living deep in the sea or on the land) or nutrition (e.g. photosynthetic or heterotrophic) through direct artificial selection, similar to breeding a dog for a specific trait. While the hosts on HBO’s Westworld could eat and drink, nothing is known about how they derive their energy. Do they actually extract energy from the organic material they ingest or do they have alternative sources of energy built within them?

lovecraft___shoggoth__terrastial_ii_by_kingovrats-d5uohe5 A terrestrial shoggoth by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)

Again, the key traits that both the shoggoths and the hosts have to define them as artificial life is that they do not physically grow and they cannot reproduce. However, in spite of these control measures imposed by their creators, both groups eventually developed consciousness and that will be the focus of the next article.  Thank you and Happy New Year! Fred.

02-shoggoth                                                                                  Shoggoth by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

A Brief History of the Shining Trapezohedron

As previously discussed there appears to be an established methodology in the operation of the Shining Trapezohedron in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Haunter in the Dark.” First, the Haunter needs to get the attention of a sentient entity and this is conducted through the trapezohedron. When the Haunter detects the presence of a sentient entity recognizing or acknowledging the trapezohedron through some sensory method, some type of connection is made. In our case this sensory method is sight, with photons of light reaching the light sensitive cells in the retina of our eyes (rods and cones) and then sending neural impulses to our brain for recognition. For other entities, the sensory method may be associated with heat or sound or even X-rays. Once this inter-dimensional connection of perception is made, complete darkness is required. Thus, it behooves the Haunter to put fear and paranoia into the receiving entity, forcing them to close the box. This puts the trapezohedron into complete darkness, which is required for the Haunter to enter our Universe. More on this and the biology of the Haunter relative to light in a later article; this article will review some of the historical accounts that have involved the Shining Trapezohedron.

shiningtrapezohedron_pro                                                                       Shining Trapezohedron

In “The Haunter in the Dark” Lovecraft describes the Shining Trapezohedron as “…a window on all time and space…” Again, this supports the concept that the trapezohedron functions as both a mode of communication as well as transportation. Also, as previously mentioned, if the information or matter conveyed by the stone uses technology that is beyond that of our Space-Time, the limitations associated with the speed of light may not apply to its use. Thus, peering into the trapezohedron may not be the same as looking at a star or nebula in a telescope where we are also looking into the distance past. The trapezohedron may be a “real time” window through time, space and beyond.

The Shining Trapezohedron was fashioned on Yuggoth and according to S.T. Joshi this appears to establish some type of connection among the Haunter, Yuggoth and/or Nyarlathotep (Lovecraft and a World in Transition: Collected Essays on H.P. Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi; 2014). It is said that the Old Ones brought the Shining Trapezohedron to Earth; however, it is not known if the term “Old Ones” refers to the Fungi from Yuggoth – the Mi-Go – or some other species. As stated in “Out of the Aeons” by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald, the Yuggoth Spawn existed on the dwarf planet eons before the arrival of the Mi-Go. The Yuggoth Spawn brought and deposited their patron daemon Ghatanothoa into the deep crypts of the fortress Yaddith-Gho on Yuggoth. It is certainly possible that the Yuggoth Spawn also brought the Shining Trapezohedron to Yuggoth, which was subsequently discovered by the Mi-Go and then eventually taken to Earth. In fact, the Mi-Go may have attempted to utilize the Trapezohedron as a weapon in their war against the Elder Things.

yuggothwatchtower_chaberwood_dev Yuggoth Watchtower by Chaberwood (www.deviantart.com). Was the Shining Trapezohedron housed in a structure like this on Yuggoth?

Eventually, the Elder Things possessed the Shining Trapezohedron. Once the stone was on Earth it was treasured and placed in a curious box by the crinoid things of Antarctica. This is obviously a reference to the Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness.

The Haunter of the Dark goes on to document that the Shining Trapezohedron was salvaged from the ruins of the Elder Things (presumably from the Elder Things’ ancient cities in Antarctica) by the serpent-mean of Valusia (more on them in a future article). The first humans to gaze into the trapezohedron were from Lemuria and later from Atlantis. After the fall of the Atlantean civilization a Minoan fisherman found the stone in one of his nets and sold it to a merchant from “nighted Khem.”

It is said that the Pharaoh Nephren-Ka, also known as the Black Pharaoh, constructed an entire temple around the Shining Trapezohedron, placing it in a windowless crypt. Robert Bloch provides more information on the “atrocious sacrifices” Nephren-Ka did in his worship of Nyarlathotep (see Bloch’s story “Fane of the Black Pharaoh” in his book Mysteries of the Worm). Indeed, it is thought that Nyarlathotep gave Nephren-Ka the gift of prophecy and many of these prophecies were painted on the walls of the temple. Was this gift of prophecy simply Nephren-Ka harnessing the powers of observation associated with the Shining Trapezohedron? If the stone is a window of time and space, it could have easily been utilized as a means of predicting the future.

nephren_ka_the_black_pharaoh_by_mrzarono-d4btotz Pharaoh Nephren-Ka the Black Pharaoh by Mr. Zarono (www.deviantart.com)

Toward the end of “The Haunter of the Dark” Blake does say, “Is it not an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antique and shadowy Khem even took the form of man?” (H.P. Lovecraft). An avatar is a manifestation or representation of a deity or other entity. Thus, this is the connection that was cited by Joshi earlier in this article. Khem is simply one of the many names that the ancient people of Egypt called their country (Stephen S. Mehler; www.bibiotecapleyades.net). Also, if the Haunter is an avatar of Nyarlathotep, was Nephren-Ka another avatar of Nyarlathotep in ancient Khem?

As a result of his sacrifices, at least 100 documented victims, and the inter-dimensional power Nephren-Ka received from his dealings with Nyarlathotep through the Shining Trapezohedron, he was driven out of Khem, his name was stricken from history and all monuments to Nephren-Ka were destroyed. Next time we will discuss in more detail the relationship between the Black Pharaoh and Nyarlathotep and how Nephren-Ka used the Shining Trapezohedron. Thank you – Fred.

steve_purcell_stufftoblowyourmind-23-2014-04-threelobedburningeye                     Three-Lobed Burning Eye by Steve Purcell

Abhoth, the Unclean and Repugnant – the Origin of Viruses on Earth?

Previously we hypothesized that the Elder Things utilized both the strange ultra-stellar stone tablets and some of Ubbo-Sathla to create life on Earth. The stone tablets may have provided the recipe, while Ubbo-Sathla may have been the raw material. It is said that Ubbo-Sathla was deposited onto the Earth by unknown gods, which may have been from a previous or parallel universe. As part of the discussions regarding Ubbo-Sathla, a number of people have asked about the relationship between this entity and Abhoth – another discovery of Clark Ashton Smith’s.

Abhoth_boardgamegeek.com                                               Abhoth from http://www.boardgamegeek.com

First off, Ubbo-Sathla is clearly documented to have existed on primordial Earth, although it is questionable whether any part of it exists today. In contrast, we don’t have conclusive evidence that Abhoth was ever on Earth or even in our Universe. Abhoth is first mentioned in Smith’s “The Seven Geases” which documents events that occurred in Hyperborea, an ancient, northern civilization that is said to have existed between one and two million years ago (The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms, 1998). However, there is some debate if Hyperborea was actually an ancient civilization that existed on Earth or if it existed / exists in a parallel Universe such as that similar to the Dreamlands. However, those are topics for future discussions. Some clarification on this matter would contribute toward providing additional evidence one way or another as to if Abhoth is related to Ubbo-Sathla.

Abhoth itself is said to exist deep underground in a “slimy gulf in which Abhoth, father and mother of all cosmic uncleanness, eternally carries on Its repugnant fission.”  Abhoth is some type of pool of fluctuating, grey, organic, mud-like material that constantly produces creatures and living things that crawl and slither away from it. The further away the grey creatures move away from Abhoth itself, the larger they become, although frequently they are consumed by each other and/or fall back into Abhoth.

cofAbhoth_ChristopherBurdett.dev Children of Abhoth by Christopher Burdett (www.deviantart.com; Fantasy Flight Games, 2012)

Abhoth itself appears to be a seething mass of organic material constantly forming organs and appendages such as arms, legs, fins, claws, mandibles and mouths. It is continuously feeding on the things that break apart from it through fission and creep away from the main mass. The few that do seem to escape appear to increase in size the further away they are from Abhoth. At first Abhoth may seem to be very similar to Ubbo-Sathla or even a shoggoth but there are some significant differences.

First, by making physical contact with a sentient entity, in the case of Smith’s tale a human, Abhoth can communicate through telepathy. In contrast, Ubbo-Sathla is not known to be sentient (at least as the term is known to humans) or have the capacity to communicate with others. Shoggoths can communicate telepathically with Elder Things but it is not known if can communicate with other species through physical contact, although more than likely this is not case. The shoggoths were probably genetically programmed to only have the capacity to communicate with the Elder Things and each other.

5WXCYXRJCODX2LANOM6J7PXU7AEX3VH7_preview                                               An Elder Thing valiantly faces a Shoggoth by SPark (www.spark.artician.com)

Second, Ubbo-Sathla was one seething mass of living, bio-matter, with no recorded ability to reproduce. Shoggoths are distinct, individual entities that usually do not reproduce unless they are “allowed” to by the Elder Things. The exact mechanism the Elder Thing used in this assisted reproduction of the shoggoths is largely unknown, although it tends to be associated with something called the shoggoth pits. Essentially, this means that even binary fission is even quite rare in shoggoths. Those that acquired the ability to asexually reproduce through binary fission were quickly eradiated by the Elder Things. In sharp contrast to both Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths, Abhoth is constantly undergoing fission, generating sub-organisms that are typically reabsorbed but a few do manage to escape.

Third, based comments made by Abhoth itself, it has biologically similarities to life on Earth but admitted that such life (humans) were quite alien to its experience and thus did not want to consume the protagonist in the story for fear of endangering its digestion. Again, this suggests that Abhoth is an alien to Earth and possibly our Universe. In contrast, both Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths are known to be residents of Earth.

2012-04-27-abhoth-1_www.mockman.com Abhoth by Jason B. Thompson (www.mockman.com)

So Abhoth is distinctly “alien” compared to Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths but possibly not as “extra-dimensionally alien” as say the Mi-Go or the spawn of Cthulhu. What could Abhoth be? Since Ubbo-Sathla may have given rise to all prokaryotes (bacteria), eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi and protists) and super-eukaryotes (shoggoths), Abhoth may have given rise to a very common form of life on Earth and yet is very “alien” compared to the rest of life. In fact, some question whether they can be truly thought of as life – this group of strange organism is the viruses.

Phage- Viral phages injecting their genetic material into a cell for reproduction. Are viruses all that is left of Abhoth? (www.jonlieffmd.com)

Viruses are the smallest organisms on the planet, many being 1/100th the size of most bacteria. The number and diversity of viruses on the Earth have been severely underestimated (Microbes and Evolution: The World That Darwin Never Saw, edited by Roberto Kolter and Stanley Maloy, 2012). Additionally, the global pool of viral genetic information, called the virome, may be an important driving force in microbial evolution primarily through horizontal gene transfer. As we have discussed in the past, it is hypothesized that horizontal gene transfer may have been played an important part in the acquirement of increased intelligence by shoggoths over the millennia. Is it possible that Abhoth over time, piece by piece, slowly shrank in size as parts of it broke apart and spread throughout the world? In turn, over the centuries Abhoth may have eventually dissipated until it was the virome, strands of RNA and DNA encased in a protein shell, wholly dependent on the life of Earth to replicate and survive – viruses.

An alternative hypothesis is that Abhoth may be an asexual, evolutionary decedent of Ubbo-Sathla or possibly being a piece or fragment of Ubbo-Sathla that was no useful by the Elder Things in creation of new life.  Related to this, yet another hypothesis is that Abhoth was another failed bioengineering experiment of the Elder Things, cast away into Earth’s biosphere since it was not considered a threat to them. In any event, until we know more about the origins of Abhoth itself or possibly conduct a tissue examination / comparison between Abhoth and shoggoths (and if possible Ubbo-Sathla?) we may never know the true relationship, if any, among these entities.

abhoth_by_clone_artist Abhoth by Clone Artist (www.deviantart.com)

Next time we will finally turn back to a discussion of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear.” Also, I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed toward the Kickstarter for the second volume of the Journal of Lovecraftian Science.  We reached our goal a few days ago – thank you very much! Fred.

clark_ashton_smith_s_abhoth_by_buzrael-d9igoj0 Clark Ashton Smith’s Abhoth by Buzrael (www.deviantart.com)

Ubbo-Sathla and the Origins of Life

 

fantasyflightgames.com2015_an_preview2                        Ubbo-Sathla from http://www.fantasyflightgames.com (2015)

Based on the existing information to date, it is hypothesized that the Elder Things utilized both the strange ultra-stellar stone tablets and some of Ubbo-Sathla to create life on Earth. Depending on when the Elder Things arrived on early Earth they may have created all life on Earth or bio-engineered eukaryotic cells from simple prokaryotic cells (bacteria) that may have been directly produced by Ubbo-Sathla.  The stone tablets may have provided the recipe, while Ubbo-Sathla may have been the raw material. It is said that Ubbo-Sathla was deposited onto the Earth by unknown gods, which may have been from a previous or parallel universe. Thus, the fact that over millennia the Elder Things “forgot” how to create life may have been due to them simply misplacing the stone tablets and/or not having enough of Ubbo-Sathla to create additional life.  Further it was hypothesized that the proto-shoggoth may be the last remaining fragment or part of Ubbo-Sathla; a feral, uncontrollable force from the universe’s distant past that even the Elder Things could not control and therefore feared.

elder_thing_head_by_skullbeast                                                         Elder Thing’s head by Skullbeast (www.deviantart.com)

Even though we humans have not read the ultra-stellar stone tablets, we may not be that far away from creating life. The Miller-Urey experiments in the 1950’s, demonstrated that simulating the Precambrian atmosphere and ocean in laboratory glassware, essentially combining water, nitrogen and carbon monoxide with electrical sparks to mimic lightning, results in the production of a brownish sludge that contains sugars, amino acids (building blocks of proteins) and nucleotides (building blocks of nucleic acids) (The History of Life, A Very Short Introduction, by M.J. Benton, 2008). The stuff of life made in a bottle. Is this stuff essentially what Ubbo-Sathla was made of? A semi-sentient form of bio-matter that was deposited onto ancient Earth by unknown beings?

Miller-Urey_experiment-en_svg        The Miller-Urey experiment in created the precursors for life in a laboratory (www.wikipedia.com)

While we can easily make the building blocks of life, can we create self-replicating systems, enclosed in a selective permeable membrane (a cell)? We are getting closer. Scientists have been successful at creating protocells in the lab, which are simplified models of cells that provide the means of studying the origins of life. The development and use of such protocells may be how the Elder Things may have mastered the ability to create life. To date protocells can be created by humans that are bubbles or sacks of bilayered members of lipids plus proteins that selectively allow materials to pass into and out of the protocell. While these protocells have the ability to copy and build upon genetic material, to date they have not be able to create an original strand of genetic material (Dr. Jack W. Szostak, Journal of Nature, June 2008). We are a long way from creating an actual cell that has the ability to produce and copy genetic material, as well as be susceptible to genetic mutations (the raw material used by natural selection in the process of evolution). Ubbo-Sathla may have been a collection of a more advance version of protocells, utilized, manipulated and experimented upon by the Elder Things.

protocells_www.nextnature.net                                        The creation of oil-based protocells in the lab (www.nextnature.net)

Next time we will compare Ubbo-Sathla to Abhoth, a strange protoplasmic-like entity found in Clark Ashton Smith’s tale “The Seven Geases.” Also, if you are interested in more Lovecraftian Science please check out our currently running Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1081353216/journal-of-lovecraftian-science-volume-two). The Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 2 will focus entirely on our Lovecraftian solar system. Thank you – Fred.

the_elder_thing_by_triville-d32xatu                                                                    The Elder Thing by Triville (www.deviantart.com)