As previously mentioned data collected during the 29th of May 1919 eclipse was used to empirically confirm Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and this had a substantial impact on Lovecraft’s view of the Cosmos. In turn, this provided the foundation for the development of his unique view of cosmic horror. While eclipses are frequently discussed by Lovecraft in his astronomical writings, in fact he wrote an entire article on eclipses for the Asheville [N.C.] Gazette-News, published 2 March 1915 (Joshi, 2004), eclipses are typically not an important component of his fiction. The exception to this was his short story “The Other Gods,” written in 1921 and first published in in The Fantasy Fan in November 1933.
In the tale Barzai the Wise wants to visit one of the tallest earth peaks, Hatheg-Kla, to witness the Earth Gods dance under a clear moon. Barzai was very knowledgeable on the lore of Earth’s Gods and he thought this knowledge would protect him from their wrath if he was in in their presence. Thus, Barzai decided to travel to the top of Hatheg-Kla on the night of a strange eclipse. Barzai was accompanied by his young disciple and assistance Atal.
Barzai the wise on his journey to encounter the Earth Gods
It is said the Gods of Earth visit Hatheg-Kla in their ship of clouds. Lovecraft references this a number of times in “The Other Gods.” For example, in one passage Lovecraft states, “Often the gods of earth visit Hatheg-Kla in their ships of clouds, casting pale vapors over the slopes as they dance reminiscently on the summit under a clear moon.” When I was a graduate student doing research on the sub-alpine lakes in northern California, lenticular clouds frequently appeared over Mount Shasta. These lenticular clouds are essentially stationary, lend-shaped clouds that are typically perpendicularly aligned to the direction of the wind. However, many local residents of the local areas thought of these clouds formations as being “cloud ships” of beings from other worlds or dimensions, frequently called Lemurians. Are the Gods of Earth in Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” actually extra-dimensional beings who visit the “Dreamlands” world? Are Lovecraft’s Gods of the Earth Lemurians?
Mount Shasta, CA with lenticular clouds; could these be the cloud ships described by Lovecraft? Photo titled Crystalline Cites of Light by Amorah Quan Yin
While Barzai climbed to the very top of Hatheg-Kla, Atal stayed just below the summit, refusing to observe and encounter the Gods of Earth. Barzai did see the Earth Gods dance and howl in the moonlight and actually thought the Gods were afraid him and his wisdom. However, “Whilst Barzai was shouting these things Atal felt a spectral change in all the air, as if the laws of earth were bowing to greater laws…”. Such observed conditions may be indicative of an inter-dimensional breach or portal opening. At a minimum, it may be a weakening of the barrier between two universes.
As Michio Kaku has suggested along with others (Kaku, 1994 and Kaku, 2005), the structure of reality may be an incalculable number of ten-dimensional, soap bubble universes. While space-time would exist within each soap bubble, natural laws would cease to exist outside of these bubble universes. In addition, the natural laws of one universe may be slightly or substantially different than the natural laws of another universe. It is hypothesized that for the majority of these universes life (at least life as we know it) could not exist. For example, if gravity is slightly stronger than in our universe, all matter may be coalesced into one, large universal lump. In contrast, if the electromagnetic repulsion is slightly stronger that the strong nuclear force, atoms may never form. However, slight variations in the natural laws (e.g. a “weaker” weak nuclear force) could still produce a universe that could harbor life. Additionally, with slightly different natural laws the manipulation of matter and energy could be very different in one universe relative to another.
Illustration of a connection between two “soap bubble” Universes.
Of course, the large reveal in the tale is that the Earth Gods are not frightened of Barzai but of the Other Gods. In fact, while frightened, the Earth Gods mockingly laugh at Barzai’s encounter with the Other Gods. Atal’s statement “…a spectral change in all the air, as if the laws of earth were bowing to greater laws…”, may be a hint that while the Earth Gods are part of the Dreamlands Universe, the Other Gods are not. The Other Gods can wield matter and energy in a different manner as the dwellers of the Dreamlands. This would also explain how Barzai ends up “falling into the sky.” The Other Gods have the ability to manipulate matter and energy in a very different manner.
An encounter with the Other Gods on the peak of Hatheg-Kla
In conclusion, the Other Gods may be beings from outside of the Dreamlands Universe and under a specific set of circumstances can enter the Dreamlands Universe through an inter-dimensional portal that connects it with their Universe. At least one of these connections or bridges between the two universes may be on the peak of Hatheg-Kla. While the Earth Gods may be aliens from another Dreamlands world, the Other Gods are extra-universal beings that are very different from all of the residences of the Dreamland Universe. Do the Earth Gods worship the Other Gods? Almost nothing is known of this relationship.
Another view of Mt. Shasta with lenticular clouds
Next time we will wrap up our analysis of “The Other Gods” with a discussion of the role of eclipses in the tale. Thank you – Fred.