Tag Archives: The 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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Meteors and Meteorites in the Lovecraftian Solar System

H.P. Lovecraft’s love for astronomy is well known and from 1903 to 1914 he wrote numerous articles on the subject.  He did keep an astronomical notebook where he recorded, although somewhat inconsistently, a variety of astronomical phenomenon and occurrences (Joshi, 2013).  The notebook is approximately 100 pages long and one of its identified objectives was “To keep track of all celestial phenomena month by month, as positions of planets, phases of moon, Sign of Sun, occultations, Meteor Showers, unusual phenomena (record) also new discoveries.” (Joshi, 2013).

AMS-TERMINOLOGY-2015_www.amsmeteors.org

In several of Lovecraft’s astronomical articles he describes meteors as “small particles of matter revolving around the sun, that fall to the earth, attracted to it. Sometimes they move in companies, in which case a shower results upon their descent to the earth. A continuous belt of meteors, meeting the earth the 14th of every November, is thus called the Leonid shower” – from the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, 9 November 1906 (Joshi, 2004). Lovecraft also noted the meteor showers that are frequently observed in August (the Perseid Meteor Showers), which occur when the earth intersects a thick belt of these bodies in space as it orbits the sun (Joshi, 2004). He also noted that some are consumed before they hit the earth (burned up in the atmosphere) while others descend to the surface as aerolites, or meteoric stones. Aerolite is another name for a meteorite but it typically refers to meteorites composed chiefly of silicates. Today we simply call any meteor that hits the earth a meteorite. Another interesting statement Lovecraft makes about meteors and meteorites is that they “are the only celestial bodies which may be actually touched by human hands” (Joshi, 2004). Obviously, this thought had a big impact on Lovecraft as he documented the events at the Gardner farm in “The Colour Out of Space.”

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Perseid Meteor Showers (www.spaceref.com)

Lovecraft also reported on the composition of meteorites in his astronomical writings. Specifically, he mentions that based on chemical analysis meteorites are either rocky matter or composed of pure metals such as iron and nickel. Additionally, many have pores that are frequently filled with inert helium, one of the most abundant elements in the universe (Joshi, 2004). Again, the solid, rocky meteorite, with pores that are filled with a gaseous substance is very reminiscent of the meteorite that fell on the Gardner farm in “The Colour Out of Space.”

“The Colour Out of Space” was written in 1927 and was covered in detail in a series of articles on this blog site earlier in the year. Thus, this tale will not be covered in this article. Instead other Lovecraft tales that mention meteors or meteorite will be reviewed. One of the first of his tales that mentions a meteorite is “The Green Meadow” co-written with Winifred V. Jackson, which was written in 1918-19. Thus, “The Green Meadow” precedes “The Colour Out of Space” by 8-9 years.

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Winifred V. Jackson (www.miskatonicbooks.wordpress.com)

In “The Green Meadow” a meteorite falls into the sea just off Potowonket Maine in the evening of August 27, 1913 and the next day a fishing party retrieves the meteorite. It was a mass of metallic rock approximately 36 pounds and looked like a piece of slag. What was remarkable about the meteorite is that as samples were chipped off, it broke open and a small book bound in a semi-metallic substance was found. This material was unbreakable and no chemical regent appeared to impact it. The pages were light in color and extremely thin and most remarkable was that the writing in the book was “Greek of the purest classical quality.”

Essentially the book is a description of a person who finds himself or herself on a peninsula, not sure how they got there; the peninsula breaks off and floats down a river. The narrator sees a green meadow in the distance and as they approach the meadow he (or she) hears weird singing. After that, the narrator has some type of apocalyptic revelation – “therein was revealed the hideous solution of all which had puzzled me.” Unfortunately, after that the text is illegible (S.T. Joshi and D.E. Schultz. 2001. An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia).

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According to Lovecraft, the narrator is actually an ancient Greek philosopher who escaped the earth and landed on another planet (Joshi and Schultz, 2001). Based on this revealing piece of information, did the unknown Greek philosopher use the book and meteor as a sort of message in a bottle?  Was it a way of sending a note into the audient void?  If that is the case, what does this message mean?

There are a number of hypotheses that may explain this strange case and most of them are associated with the philosopher not being on earth.  The first is maybe this philosopher ended up receiving and using knowledge of inter-dimensional travel, given to him by Nyarlathotep.  The Greek may have gone down the same path of knowledge as Keziah Mason and Walter Gilman and is trapped on an alien world.

An alternative hypothesis is that Greek may be in the body of one of the Cone-Shaped Beings of the Great Race.  There was no description of what the philosopher’s body looked like so his mind may be in the body of a Cone-Shaped being.  Still another hypothesis is maybe this was some type of recording or documentation of a human mind being surgically prepared and placed into a Mi-Go brain container.  The apocalyptic revelation may be the realization that the individual’s mind may no longer be in his or her body.

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H.P. Lovecraft-ish interdimensional creature eating a rocket (www.onegraydot.com)

Going back to the book itself, the tale may be a representation of someone traveling from the known to the unknown with the journey ending with some type of cosmic revelation.  Does the tale record an actual occurrence or is it supposed to represent something in a more symbolic manner? Was the illegible handwriting at the end of the tale an attempt to record something that the human mind cannot comprehend?  This story is awash in questions but one thing is for certain; the meteor came from a different time and a different place and was used in an attempt to communicate with human civilization.

Next time we will review other Lovecraftian stories that cite meteors.  Thank you – Fred.

Nyarlathotep: The Black Man of the Witch House

Nyarlathotep – the Black Man (by Jens Heimdahl)

In HPL’s short story “Nyarlathotep, ” Nyarlathotep is seen as a harbinger of doom presenting scientific knowledge to humanity, which will result in their extinction and the end of the world.  However, Nyarlathotep’s role in “The Dreams in the Witch House” was substantially different.  In contrast to the charismatic showman in “Nyarlathotep” in “Dreams in the Witch House” Nyarlathotep is presented as the “Black Man.”

From the Middle Ages all the way up to the Salem Witch Trails (late 17th-century) Satan was said to appear to people in a variety of appearances with one of his most frequently forms being that of a tall black man, often handsome and dressed in black (The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Guiley; 2008).  Thus, any reference to Nyarlathotep as the “Black Man” in “The Dreams in the Witch House” is making this connection, which in turn links 17th-century witchcraft with early 20th-century dealings with quantum mechanics.

Nyarlathotep_by_AgentJericho

Nyarlathotep by Agent Jericho (www.deviantart.org)

The first time the name Nyarlathotep is mentioned in “The Dreams in the Witch House” was Brown Jenkin whispering it and Azathoth into Gilman’s ear at night.  The only other time Nyarlathotep is mentioned is in reference to being a “deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers – the “Black Man” of the witch-cult, and the “Nyarlathotep” of the Necronomicon.”  Any other reference of this entity in the tale was as the black man.  However, the connection is certainly made – Nyarlathotep is the black man and thus has been  associated with idea or concept of Satan.

Similar to Satan, Nyarlathotep is known to take on a variety of forms or disguises.  In the case of Satan, he is known to take the form of the Virgin Mary, a young woman, a preacher, a variety of animals (e.g. dog, snake, goat) or even appear as a satyr.  Indeed, a number times HPL specifically mentions that the Black Man’s feet could not be seen or were indistinguishable; is it possible that the Black Man has cloven hooves like a satyr?

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The Black Man or Satan appearing as a satyr to a traveler.  Is it possible that all of these manifestations are really Nyarlathotep?  (from http://www.gutenberg.org)

From the middle ages to the early 18th-century Nyarlathotep frequently took the form of a black man and thus was frequently associated with Satan.  In the early 20th-century Nyarlathotep took the form a showman or scientist, giving wondrous yet terrifying exhibits of  electromagnetism.  If Nyarlathotep appeared now or sometime in the future what would he appear as?  A politician?  A rock star?  A scientist heralding a new paradigm shift in thought and philosophy?  Or would he appear as an actual visitor from another planet.  Maybe as God.  There are other forms that Nyarlathotep is known to take but these will be discussed in future articles.

What is interesting about Nyarlathotep is that unlike other entities from beyond our planet or outside of our universe, he adapts to and directly interacts with humanity in varying capacities.  So why does Nyarlathotep appear periodically on Earth and seem to be interested in some of the affairs of humans?  We know from “The Dreams in the Witch House” that Nyarlathotep, recognized as the “Black Man” of ancient witch-cults represents “the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers.”  Again, the role of messenger can be thought of as a providing forbidden knowledge to humanity, as cited in the previous article on the short story “Nyarlathotep.”  However, in “The Dreams in the Witch House” as well as other tales this role of messenger also includes serving as an avatar to many of the other inter-dimensional beings.

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The Black Man (www.balo42.com)

Throughout “The Dreams in the Witch House” individuals in Arkham spot the tall Dark Man, the small old hag and the tittering rat thing sometimes in their dreams, sometimes when they are drunk but always at night.  It is apparent from the story that these beings do not merely populate our dreams.  They can manifest in our reality.  However, when interacting with Gilman they exclusively enter his dreams, whether it is to be inter-dimensional guides or to take some of Gilman’s blood in the “writing in the book” episode.  I hypothesize that the blood, perhaps the DNA in the blood, is needed for some reason by Nyarlathotep and/or the other inter-dimensional beings he represents.  This theme of needing some biological connection with humans or other residents in our universe, such as the Elder Things, seems to be an important component in many of HPL’s tales.  Other examples of similar sitautions arise in “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow Out of Innsmouth.”  So why the ritual of writing the name in the book?  It may be Nyarlathotep’s way or making this more understandable to the residents of this universe – in this case a woman who thinks herself a witch and that she is dealing with the devil.

As has been described in pervious articles voyages to other worlds / universes may be possible through inter-dimensional travel via hyperspace.  However, two main issues impede such travel.  First, can we survive the trip and if we do is the other place habitable?  Second, it would take an incredible amount of energy to conduct such travels.  Maybe Nyarlathotep offers Gilman, just as he offered to Keziah Mason, these traveling abilities in exchange for some DNA.  The DNA may be used by the Old Ones to establish stable and more permanent forms in our universe.  Obviously, such dealings are not limited to humans as the appearance of the Elder Things in the tale indicates.  In fact, the Elder Thing’s ability to reach Earth in the first place millions of years ago may have been thanks to a mutual agreement or understanding between them and Nyarlathotep.

Elder City_Peter_von_Sholly_keziahmason.blogspot.com

Elder City by Peter von Sholly (www.keziahmason.blogspot.com)

Finally, a word of warning.  Please note that Gilman is recognized early on in the story as being an extremely sensitive individual, particularly in regard to his hearing.  However, after one of his inter-dimensional journeys both of his ear-drums were ruptured, “as if by the impact of some stupendous sound intense beyond all human conception or endurance.”  It also sounds like he had a moderate to severe case of sunburn as well.  Just because a world, universe or dimension is habitable doesn’t mean it won’t negatively impact your physical or mental health.

Next time I will begin a discussion of “The Rats in the Walls,” another HPL story that features Nyarlathotep.  Thank you – Fred.