Tag Archives: Hugh Elliot

Lovecraftian Scientists: Cold and Calculating Mechanistic Materialist Dr. Herbert West

herbert_west_mscorley.blogspot.com Herbert West (from http://www.mscorley.blogspot.com)

In the previous article we suggested that Crawford Tillinghast from H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “From Beyond” was a disciple of Hugh S.R. Elliot ‘s modern philosophy of mechanistic materialism. However, Elliot also served as a mentor to one of Lovecraft’s most notorious scientists – Dr. Herbert West.

In “From Beyond” the protagonist explicitly states that Tillinghast should never has studied science and philosophy since these “…things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator…” Indeed, when he failed Tillinghast was described as being solitary and melancholy and when he succeeded he became a vengeful, stereotypically “mad scientist.” The phase, “they laughed at me at the university but I’ll show him!” certainly comes to mind when Tillinghast invites one of his few friends to his home.

herbert_west_the_reanimator_by_ozzkrol-d9f6hop Herbert West, the Reanimator by Ozzkrol (www.deviantart.com)

In sharp contrast to the wide emotions of Tillinghast, Herbert West is described more as a frigid and impersonal investigator. In fact, West was probably too much of a frigid and impersonal investigator, caring little for what species was being used for his experiments. While his experiments started with rabbits and guinea-pigs, he quickly moved to cats and dogs and then monkeys before his first human trails. Whatever species West was working on, he treated them all the same – biological resources to test his animating solutions. Thus, West appears to be on the opposite end of a spectrum of personalities for Lovecraftian Scientist, yet both are conveyed as highly negative and enough dangerous. Tillinghast’s emotions got the better of him, apparently whether he succeeds or fails. In sharp contrast, West was cold and completely clinical in his experimentation, which at first seems like this is exactly what Lovecraft perceives as what makes for a good scientist. However, West obviously takes his clinical approach way too far, which is exacerbated by the fact that he is a medical doctor. As we will discuss in the next article on Herbert West, his scientific attitude and behavior substantially changes through the course of events in “Herbert West – Reanimator.”

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As previously indicated, Herbert West was a disciple of Hugh S.R. Elliot ‘s modern philosophy of mechanistic materialism, even more so than was Crawford Tillinghast. There are a number of instances throughout “Herbert West – Reanimator” where Elliot’s third principle of the denial of any form of existence that cannot be described in terms of matter or motion is being restated. In other words, everything in existence can be described under the laws of physics and chemistry. Some supporting evidence for this can be found in passages such as:

“His (Herbert West’s) views, which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and his fellow-students, hinged on the essentially mechanistic nature of life; and concerned means for operating the organic machinery of mankind by calculated chemical action after the failure of natural processes.”

“Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called “soul” is a myth…”

“West was a materialist, believing in no soul and attributing all the workings of consciousness to bodily phenomena; consequently, he looked for no revelation of hideous secrets from gulfs and caverns beyond death’s barrier.”

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These passages confirm that West’s philosophical outlook and scientific endeavors were firmly rooted in Elliot’s mechanistic materialism and his cold and calculating methods of experimentation where justified in his mind with the idea that the soul does not exist and everything in reality can be explained through physics and chemistry. While not explicitly stated, such an attitude justified West’s experiments and disregard for potential moral dilemmas associated with his work. This attitude has been seen in other scientists.

While Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein (in the 1932 movie) was emotionally volatile, similar to Crawford Tillinghast, Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein (of the Hammer Films) was more like Herbert West. Cushing’s Frankenstein was very cool and calculating in those films. He did not care who he affected, harmed or even killed as long as he had the raw biological resources he needed for his experiments. Anytime an assistant expressed concerns or questions over the morality of the situation, Cushing’s Frankenstein justified it by emphasizing that his work may help millions and may even overcome death. Herbert West, particularly in the Stuart Gordon “Reanimator” films used a similar augment of justification whenever something got out of control.

206a7b5d6249395f70cefa5c953e625f                                               Peter Cushing at Dr. Frankenstein

Another comparison to Herbert West is David the android in the “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant” films. Soon after his creation David realizes that humans are a flawed species and he may even harbor some resentment over how most humans treat him. A large part of this was how humans would remind him he did not have a soul or was not “a real boy.” However, David’s response was typically, you will die, I will not. Being an android David was very cool and calculating so when he made it his goal of creating the perfect organism in “Alien: Covenant” he did not care who he used in his experiments. Even Elizabeth Shaw, the one human who shows some degree of kindness to David and even gave him a second chance, was used as biological material in his alien experiments. In “Alien: Covenant” David wipes out an entire alien species just to run his experiments with the biological material found in “Prometheus.” Finally, in one part of the film a character asks David what he believes in and his answer is “creation.” Thus, David is similar to both Herbert West and Cushing’s Frankenstein, but is probably the most extreme example, of a scientist following Elliot’s mechanistic materialism to the point where all that matters is physics and chemistry. The results of the experiments and progress toward the ultimate goal is all that counts. In a sense, David is the direct by-product of mechanistic materialism.

alien-covenant-footage-description-begs-question-if-david-has-soul-13 The android David from “Prometheus”

While Herbert West was a mechanistic materialist his behavior and personality does become more erratic through the tale. This will be discussed in greater detail in the next article. Thank you – Fred.

covenantshaw1 One of David’s test subjects, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (from Alien Covenant)

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Lovecraftian Scientists: Hugh S.R. Elliot, the mentor of Crawford Tillinghast

resonator_done The Resonator by Steve Maschuck

In tales like “From Beyond” Lovecraft tried to convey that how we see and experience our world and universe is only a small portion of the true nature of reality. In the tale Crawford Tillinghast explains that are perception of reality is limited by our five senses and that even the senses we have are severely limited in their capacity. The best example of this is sight. Humans can “see” only a small portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, which is a continuum of EM waves of varying energy arranged according to frequency and wavelength. More energetic waves have shorter wavelengths but higher frequencies. The EM spectrum ranges from 100 meters (radio waves) to 1 x 10-12 meters (gamma rays). Out of this huge EM continuum humans can only see wavelengths between infrared and ultraviolet, which is the visible light portion of the spectrum, varying in wavelength between 4.00 x 10-7 meters and 7.00 x 10-7 meters (400 – 700 nanometers).

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From Beyond by Michael Lyddon

From an Earth-based perspective, it makes sense that humans, in fact most Earth organisms, can see primarily within the visible light portion of the EM spectrum, since the majority of the sun’s rays that reach the surface of the Earth are primarily composed of light rays. However, there are some variations to this. For example, while bees cannot see the color red, they can see ultraviolet light (UV-light). However, imagine if we could see not only UV-light but the entire EM spectrum! This idea of opening up our senses to all of reality is what Lovecraft was conveying in “From Beyond.”

4Eyes_www.beeculture.com www.beeculture.com

The idea of expanding the limits of our existing senses or having more than simply our known five was something that certainly stimulated Lovecraft’s imagination when he read Hugh Samuel Roger Elliot’s book Modern Science and Materialism (published in 1919). In S.T. Joshi’s essay “The Sources for “The Beyond,”” found in his book Primal Sources: Essays on H.P. Lovecraft (Hippocampus Press, 2015), he compares a number of Crawford Tillinghast’s quotes to passages found Elliot’s book. For example, Tillinghast’s discussions on how we have only five senses and how they limit our ability to perceive reality from a holistic perceptive, are very similar to some detailed passages found in Elliot’s book. There are also discussions, both in “From Beyond” and Elliot’s book, on how a large portion of an atom is composed of empty space as well as how human sight is limited to the light waves of the EM spectrum and how typically we cannot see UV-light. So, who was this mentor of Crawford Tillinghast’s?

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Hugh Samuel Roger Elliot, better known as Hugh S.R. Elliot, was a writer of science and well known for his favorable view of scientific materialism and his criticism of metaphysical speculation. Elliot established three main principles of scientific materialism that included:

The Uniformity of Law – the sequence of cause and effect is constant throughout the universe.

The Denial of Teleology – the denial that the cosmos as a whole is progressing in some direction from a religious, metaphysical perspective.

The Denial of Any Form of Existence that cannot be described in terms of matter and motion – this denial states that under the laws of physics and chemistry every type of existence can be described.

As S.T. Joshi has cited, mechanistic materialism was originally described under Pre-Socrates, Greek philosophy (S.T. Joshi’s I Am Providences: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft, 2013). However, Elliot developed a modern view of mechanistic materialism, from an early 20th century perspective, through his three principles. In spite of this mechanistic view of having the potential to understand how everything in the universe operates, Elliot freely admitted that our limited capacity for detecting everything in our reality with our five senses severely limits our ability to truly understanding the universe.

tillinghast_hutchinson1860 Crawford Tillinghast by D. Hutchinson

This 20th century view of mechanistic materialism is at the heart of Lovecraft’s philosophical cosmic view as well as the development of many of the cosmic horrors in his tales. The Mi-Go and Cthulhu are beings from “outside” of our known reality, so many of the physical and chemical rules of our universe do not apply to them. Thus, by being outside of our universe these beings have a supernatural aspect to them. However, Lovecraft’s scientific, materialistic view states that these beings are not supernatural. Instead, it’s just that we don’t understand (and maybe we never will) the rules of those other universes that have different sets of physical and chemical rules. Relative to “From Beyond,” by generating specific fields of waves, Tillinghast is awakening dormant sense organs (e.g. the pineal gland) that can sense or perceive things that exist but we cannot detect with our operating senses. The result is a scientific effort to describe something that would otherwise be described as supernatural. Thus, in a sense, Hugh S.R. Elliot was the mentor of Crawford Tillinghast, establishing the principles that Tillinghast needed to bend to see into the Beyond.

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Lovecraft has utilized the three principles of Hugh S.R. Elliot ‘s mechanistic materialism in other stories and we will be covering one of these in the next article. Specifically, we will be looking at one of Lovecraft’s most celebrated and notorious scientists – Dr. Herbert West. Thank you – Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 1 Comparing H.P. Lovecraft to Michael Crichton

westworld_1973_               Original movie poster for Westworld (1973) written and directed by Michael Crichton

I remember going to the Drive-In theater as a kid in the 1970’s to see the original version of Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973) with Yul Brynner.  It did leave an impression on me – an adult themed park of the Wild West (there was also a Medieval World and a Roman World) with robots or better described as androids. The parallels between Westworld and Crichton’s Jurassic Park books are obvious – using science and technology for recreational purposes where the resulting theme park ends up harming or killing the visitors.  In the past I have compared the Jurassic Park books and movies to H.P. Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness, where genetic engineering results in new forms of life that cannot be contained or fully controlled by their creators. However, HBO’s new series Westworld (2016) can also be compared to Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness but here the underlining theme is not simply the creation of life but the creation of sentient life with consciousness.

This is the first article in a three-part analysis, comparing H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness” to HBO’s Westworld. The second article will discuss the creation of life, while the third article will discuss the evolution and development of consciousness. This article will briefly compare the attitudes and opinions Michael Crichton’s to that of Lovecraft’s with regard to science. Please note that while these articles will discuss the general themes and ideas of Westworld, no specific plot spoilers will be given. However, it is strongly recommended that you watch the first season of Westworld to fully appreciate these discussions. In contrast, more detailed plot points will be discussed for “At the Mountains of Madness.”

at_the_mountains_of_madness_2_by_moonxels-d5jux47 “At the Mountains of Madness” by Moonxels (www.deivantart.com)

The tales of both Crichton and Lovecraft commonly express concerns over humanity’s science and technology exceeding the boundaries of the natural world. One of the most common themes in Crichton’s novels is the damage uncontrolled science can do to humanity. Whether its dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, androids in Westworld, space exploration in Andromeda Strain or nanotechnology in Prey, Crichton’s tales tend to be cautionary warnings on how science can be a force onto itself that may negatively impact the human species.

Crichton regularly expressed a genuine level of skepticism on the use of science and noted the limits of science in his autobiography Travels (originally published in 1988). In his autobiography, Crichton frequently expressed an interest in metaphysical concepts and ideas associated with psychic phenomenon and he thought that science and mysticism were different paths that led to the same universal truths. While Crichton had medical training, he claimed to have experienced a number of supernatural phenomenon in his global travels involving psychic channeling and exorcism. This gave Crichton a metaphysical perspective where the power of the mind was just as important as the power the body in healing one’s self.

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While Lovecraft frequently incorporated supernatural elements in his tales, particularly his earlier ones, his mechanical, materialist perspective on the universe and reality helped to develop his unique cosmic tales of horror, in particular his “Cthulhu Mythos” tales. However, beyond a plot device Lovecraft thought very little of the supernatural. One just needs to read some of Lovecraft’s articles in Collected Essays: Volume 3: Science, H.P. Lovecraft (Joshi, 2005) such as “Science versus Charlatanry,” The Falsity of Astrology,” and “The Fall of Astrology” to understand how what little regard he had for the supernatural. In fact, at one point Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy were going to work on a collaborative revision of an article drafted by Harry Houdini and expand it into a book called The Cancer of Superstition (Joshi, 2013). Thus, Lovecraft would have been disappointed and slightly amused with Crichton, a person trained in the medical field believing in such superstitions.

One of Lovecraft’s most famous quotation is from the beginning of “The Call of Cthulhu” where it is stated:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlated all is contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

cthulhu_by_nathanrosario Cthulhu by Nathan Rosario (www.deviantart.com)

A large part of Lovecraft’s perception of reality is based on the writings of Hugh Samuel Roger Elliot (Modern Science and Materialism originally published in 1919), who argued that the universe is analogous to a large, vast machine, operating under some well-established laws of physics and chemistry (Elliot, 1919). Thus, there was no room in Lovecraft’s universe for the supernatural.  Just because we could not understand something in the universe did not make it supernatural; it was simply operating with processes and mechanisms we do not yet understand. In fact, Elliot frequently mentioned that we may never know the true nature of the universe since our senses are only limited to five. If we can increase our perception of reality, we may have a better understanding of the universe. Such themes obviously make their way into a number of Lovecraft’s tales such as “Beyond the Walls of Sleep” and “From Beyond.”

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However, in spite of Lovecraft’s appreciation for science, he still expressed caution in his tales in its application.  Lovecraft’s attitude was firmly rooted in the belief that similar to the 18th and 19th centuries, science was a profession that only the well-to-do should pursue from an academic or theoretical perceptive. It was the application of science and its offspring – the development of technology – that could lead man to a “new dark age.”

To conclude, within the context of their tales, both Lovecraft and Crichton had reservations on how science could lead to the downfall of humanity. However, while Crichton reserved room for the supernatural in his life, Lovecraft’s mechanistic materialism excluded the existence of anything outside of the natural order of physics and chemistry.

The next article we will compare season 1 of HBO’s Westworld, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, to Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” with a focus on the creation of artificial life. Thank you – Fred.

westworld-trailer-key-art-700x380

The Haunter’s Three-Lobed Eye

While we are moving onto Robert Bloch’s “The Shadow in the Steeple” to conclude the Haunter Trilogy, I did want to spend a little time discussing the Haunter’s three-lobed eye. Just before Blake’s encounter with the Haunter at the end of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark,” he was furiously writing notes in his journal, which would end up being his last recorded entries. The very last statement in Blake’s journal was:

“I see it – coming here – hell-wind – titan blur – black wing – Yog Sothoth save me – the three-lobed burning eye…”

the_haunter_of_the_dark_by_marcsimonetti The Haunter of the Dark by Marc Simonetti

We know that the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM-spectrum) weakens or neutralizes the Haunter but does not necessarily destroy it. Yet Blake specifically mentions it’s three-lobed burning eye. Assuming this “eye” is used as some sort of organ for perception, it more than likely does not see it the visible portion of the EM-spectrum as we do.

Electromagnetic waves are produced by a vibrating electric charge and so consist of both an electric and a magnetic component. Electromagnetic waves exist with an enormous range of frequencies. This continuous range of frequencies is known as the EM-spectrum. The entire range of the spectrum is often broken into specific regions. The subdividing of the entire spectrum into smaller spectra is done mostly on the basis of how each region of electromagnetic waves interacts with matter. The diagram below depicts the electromagnetic spectrum and its various regions. The longer wavelength, lower frequency regions are located on the far left of the spectrum and the shorter wavelength, higher frequency regions are on the far right (www.physicsclassroom.com).

wavelength_figure_www-science-edu-larc-nasa-gov                                                              The EM-spectrum (www.science-edu.larc.nasa.gov)

As mentioned in the past article, the EM spectrum can be divided into non-ionizing and ionizing radiation, where non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to ionize (remove an electron) atoms or molecules. This type of radiation is only strong enough to excite the election to a higher state and not remove it. From higher to lower frequencies, non-ionizing radiation includes light, infrared, microwaves, radio wave and extremely low frequency waves.

The portion of the EM-spectrum that is visible to us, known as light, consists of a spectrum of wavelengths that range from approximately 700 nanometers (abbreviated nm) to approximately 400 nm. Wavelengths larger than 700 nm move into infrared radiation (IR), while wavelength shorter than 400 nm move into ultraviolet radiation (UV).

the_haunter_of_the_dark___nyarlathotep_by_herrtevik-d6wgtjw The Haunter of the Dark, Nyarlathotep by Herrtevik (S. Tent) (www.deivantart.com)

Any star, including our sun, is essentially a gigantic sphere of gas, or better defined as plasma (a gas but with an electrical charged – an ionized gas).  Our sun generates energy in its core via a type of nuclear reaction known as nuclear fusion. Basically, the tremendous heat and pressure at the heart of the Sun causes the nuclei of several hydrogen atoms to fuse together to form helium atoms. When this happens, a relatively small portion (less than 1%) of the mass of the atoms is converted into energy.  The nuclear actions within the sun generate EM-radiation across most of the EM-spectrum, generating high energy photons (packets of light or EM-radiation called photons). By the time these photons reach the surface of the sun and travel into space they become lower in energy so the Sun does not produce and eminent the highest energy EM-radiation like gamma rays. However, the Sun does produce X-rays, UV, light, IR and radio waves.

emfromsun Relative amounts of EM radiation from our Sun (www.windows2universe.org)

Since the peak of our Sun’s energy output is in the portion of visible light within the EM-spectrum (www.windows2universe.org), the largest amount of EM-radiation that reaches the Earth is visible light. Thus, it is not surprising that life on Earth evolved to “see” light waves. However, not all life on Earth can see the same portion of the EM-spectrum. For example, bees can’t see red wavelengths but can “see” UV light, which is another form of EM-wavelengths that the Sun generates in fairly high levels of irradiance.

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The “hotter” a star is, the more bluish-white it be while the “cooler” a star is, the more it will appear red. For example, something like a brown dwarf, which is a dim, cool object too massive to be a planet but not massive enough to be a star, emits more IR than visible light. In contrast, a white dwarf is a hot, dying star that has burned up all of the hydrogen in its core and emits mostly UV-radiation.  Thus, a more exotic or “alien” star, or possibly a star in another Universe where the Universal Laws and slightly different, may generate varying portions of EM-radiation relative to our Sun. Another example are pulsars, which are a type of neutron star – a star near the end of its life, which generate large amounts of gamma radiation.

Thus, getting back to the Haunter and its three-lobed eye, this organ may be adapted to “see” other portions of the EM-spectrum. One hypothesis is that if visible light functions as ionizing radiation to the Haunter then maybe it can “see” IR or even radio waves (does it come from a Universe where most of the stars are similar to brown dwarfs?). An alternative hypothesis is that each lobe functions to “see” a specific portion of the EM-spectrum or have slightly varying functions as do the cone and rod cells in our eyes (cone cells are used for color vision and work best in bright light, while rod cells are more effective in lower light levels).

three_lobed_burning_eye_by_pickmans_model The Three-Lobed Burning Eye by Elodie Roze

Still, since the Haunter is more than likely not a resident of our Universe, the three-lobed eye may not be used in the same manner as our eyes are. Lovecraft understood that they may be other means of perception beyond our known five senses, a concept based largely on his reading of Hugh Samuel Roger Elliot’s Modern Science and Materialism. Elliot claimed that our Universe would be perceived by us very differently if we had more than five senses; imagine what reality would look like if we could “see” the entire EM-spectrum. We frequently convert EM data of celestial bodies into color so we can see them. For example, Jupiter generates huge amounts of natural radio waves that are easily picked up on simple antennas and short-wave receivers (www.spacetoday.org). Shown below is what Jupiter “looks like” through radio waves. But does the Haunter’s three-lobed eye allow it to see other things beyond our EM-spectrum?  Can it “see” dark matter or dark energy? Can it “see” antimatter or the cosmic background radiation? Or is it see something else, something From Beyond?

jupiterradioimage13cm                                                                                             A radio image of Jupiter (www.spacetoday.org)

Next time we will definitely discuss Robert Bloch’s “The Shadow in the Steeple.” Thank you – Fred.

hofthed_rachelm5_dev The Haunter of the Dark by Rachelm5 (wwwdeviantart.com)

Materialism and a Scientific Philosophy in a Lovecraftian Universe

Cosmic Horror (from 2.bp.blogspot.com)

The death of H.P. Lovecraft’s Grandfather Whipple Phillips, along with the loss of the family fortune and the need to move from his birthplace, drove HPL to consider suicide when he was 13 years old.  As S.T. Joshi cites in his extensive biography of HPL I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (S.T. Joshi, 2013), this was apparently the only time HPL considered suicide.  After riding his bike to the Barrington River and contemplating throwing hims into the weedy-waters, he decided against it.  It was not his remaining family ties, religious beliefs or his desire to be a writer, that prevented him from killing himself.  It was scientific curiosity that prevented H.P. Lovecraft from committing suicide in 1904.

Barrington River, Rhode Island (Wikipedia.org)

HPL admitted in a letter, cited by S.T. Joshi, that it was scientific curiosity and a sense of world drama that prevent him from killing himself. The scientific curiosity is self-explanatory; the word drama appears to refer to both world geography and history. Some of the questions that “baffled” HPL included how sediment stratification eventually leads to granite peaks, exactly what the upcoming Antarctic expeditions would find, when did people stop speaking Latin and start speaking other languages, and what occurred in other parts of the world, other than Britain and France, during the Middle Ages. HPL asked larger questions in this letter such as “What of the vast gulfs of space outside all familiar lands – desert reaches hinted of by Sir John Mandeville & Marco Polo…Tartary, Thibet…What of unknown Africa?” (Joshi, 2013).

So intellectual curiosity, with a large part of this curiosity based on science, was what prevented HPL from  killing himself in the summer of 1904.  This is an important point when reading HPL’s stories and understanding his philosophy of life.  Many people see HPL fearing or detesting science, particularly due to his opening paragraph in “The Call of Cthulhu” that includes the line:

“…but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

Cthulhu rise on R’lyeh (by Ash3ray)

While many of HPL’s stories are cautionary – that delving into forbidden lore will only result in horrible outcomes – he had a love and fascination for science, having a healthy streak of optimistic skepticism that most scientists have.  This love and respect for science always came into view in his stories, where he was known to actually change the text of a story as new scientific information was presented to the public.  I have cited a number of these instances in previous articles.   While HPL had a love for pure science, science for the sake of learning and discovering new things about our planet and the universe, he did have an aversion to new technology and progress and this is where the old gent pined for life in the 18th century.

In terms of HPL’s view of the universe, he had a very mechanistic, materialistic philosophy, which was fundamentally based on the scientific approach.  Many authors, writers and philosophers  impacted HPL throughout his life including Haeckel and Schopenhauer; however, it appears that Hugh Elliot’s (1881-1930) principles of mechanistic materialism, outlined in his book Modern Science and Materialism, lays the groundwater for HPL’s view of the cosmos and reality (S.T. Joshi, 2013).  These of the three principles are briefly reviewed below, relative to HPL.

The first was the uniformity of law, which states that the sequence of cause and effect is constant throughout the universe.  While the emerging science of quantum mechanics appeared to violate this principle, such ideas could still be explained from the perspective of probabilities and stochastic models, in contrast to the simple deterministic models so well developed in previously endeavors, such as the Newtonian physics.  Also, there may be a complete set of laws to the cosmos but it doesn’t mean we understand them or will ever completely understand them.

The second was the denial of teleology, which is the idea that the cosmos is moving in a specific direction under the direction of a deity.  It is obvious from HPL’s stories and writing in general that he certainly denied any teleological view of the cosmos.  HPL thought of the universe as a giant machine operating but with not goal or purpose.  A machine that would eventually run down.

The third principle was the denial of any existence beyond that envisioned by physics and chemistry.  While many religious thinkers agreed wit this – that the soul or spirit can not be quantified –  HPL took this to mean exactly what Elliot was getting at; that there was no non-corporal after-life or existence.  Again, we may not completely understand or even perceive all of the laws of the cosmos; there may be other dimensions and realities; there may be other forms of life and look nothing like us or may not even be considered as biological life under our definitions, but all would be governed by the basic laws of physics and chemistry.

Joshi cites a statement made by Elliot that, “We cannot assumed that the Universe has only five qualities because we have only five senses.  We must assume, on the contrary, that the number of its qualities may be infinite, and that the more senses we had, the more we should discover about it.” (cited in S.T. Joshi’s I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft).  This concept obviously made it way into a number of HPL’s stories such as “From Beyond” and “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”

Another of HPL’s stories that incorporates such ideas will be discussed in the next article – “The Music of Erich Zann.”  Thank you – Fed.