Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Lovecraft’s Biography

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, or H. P. Lovecraft was an anxious and insecure boy who suffered from frequent illnesses, many of which appeared to be psychological. Winfield Scott Lovecraft, his father, was taken to a mental hospital after a psychotic episode when Lovecraft was three years old. His father died of syphilis. Sarah Susan Philips Lovecraft, his mother, became overly protective of him, never letting him out of her sight.

Whipple Van Buren Phillips, Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather, became a father figure, introducing him to whimsical fairy tales, poetry, and classic literature. Ironically, it even helped him overcome his fear of the dark. Lovecraft became the center of the entire universe, a young man who came of age before his time. At the age of two to three years, he read poetry. From age six to seven, he wrote extensively, became an avid reader, and spent most of his time in his private library.

In Lovecraft’s work, madness, anxiety, fear, meaninglessness, and alienation are recurring themes. He experienced it firsthand throughout his life. After the death of his grandfather, Lovecraft, and his mother were forced to leave the luxurious Victorian home where they lived. They moved to a plainer house.

The Darkest Period of Lovecraft’s Life

Lovecraft refers to it as one of the darkest periods in his life, where he no longer saw the point in living and considered suicide. However, his contemplation of how much remains for him to explore and his desire for knowledge prevents him from doing so. The death of his grandmother, Robie, has an abstruse on Lovecraft; it plunged his family into a bleakness from which it never fully recovered.

His aunt and mother wore black dresses to mourn her death. Lovecraft begins having nightmares about a creature called the nightdress. They will carry and catch it through unlimited black aerial leagues past the towers of ghastly and dead cities until they outreached the gray void full of the needlelike peaks of mighty mountains, where they would let it fall. Lovecraft would wake up screaming, and the creature would later appear in his fiction.

At school, Lovecraft excelled in all but math. In 1908, he suffered a nervous breakdown while attending high school. Lovecraft remained self-taught and out for the rest of his life. When he was eight, Lovecraft discovered astronomy, chemistry, and science. At last, it will have a crucial impact on his future writings. He learns about the insignificance of humans in the cosmos and the vast universe.

Love-hate Relationship

When a group of amateur journalists invites Lovecraft, he learns more about life. He felt at home because he met like-minded people for the first time. In addition to engaging in detailed correspondence with many people, he eventually became one of the most prolific letter writers of the century. He wrote about one hundred thousand letters during his lifetime. Many of them are as interesting as his stories and give us a deep understanding of his beliefs and lifestyle.

Lovecraft would develop a love-hate relationship with his mother, who would call him horrible and say that he hid from everyone and did not like to go out where people could look at him. Lovecraft grew to believe it, and there were reports that he would walk along the street and hide his face in a raincoat so no one could see him. Lovecraft’s mother had a nervous breakdown and was treated in the same hospital where Lovecraft’s father died 21 years ago, in 1921.

She died after complications from surgery on her gallbladder. Therefore, Lovecraft again contemplated suicide and was deeply saddened. After recovering and meeting Sonia Greene, his wife, they moved to New York. However, they had financial problems and had to separate because his wife’s job required constant travel.

Alienation, Xenophobia, and Racism

When Lovecraft couldn’t stand living in New York, he felt alienated in a big city full of strangers. In doing so, his detachment contributed to his general mood when writing. Xenophobia and racism were not uncommon at the time. Although Lovecraft is also the victim, we also understand that he was a product at the time. However, it remains a highly controversial aspect of its popular reception.

Lovecraft returned to his homeland of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1926. He would live on until his death. Apart from continuing to live on the brink of poverty, most of his major works appeared in red pulp magazines. Many of them are practices that most people are unaware of. However, Lovecraft’s health was deteriorating. He was physically unable to hold a pen due to excruciating pain.

By 1937, cancer had spread to his intestines, and he remained in pain until his death. Most likely, he died believing that his masterpiece would fade into nothingness. His traumatic life could easily have ended differently. However, he did not let the dark times discourage him; they inspired him to continue writing. On the other hand, many fans saw value in his work and were determined to preserve it.

Traditional Belief of Existentialism

To this day, he remains one of the greatest weird fiction writers the world has ever seen, making his name an adjective. Lovecraft diverts the source of horror from traditional belief in demons, ghosts, and vampires to the abyss. They are untouchable outside of time and space. Lovecraft discovered from his astronomy studies at a young age that humanity was cosmically insignificant.

When he compares the existence of humans at large and the tiny Earth with the universe, from the points of view of religion, knowledge, civilization, and the cosmos, it is entirely meaningless and irrelevant. In general, his stories focus more on the phenomena surrounding the characters and the emotions they experience in the unknown than on their character development. The gloominess of Lovecraft’s stories is refreshing, and few writers write so poignantly.

We should leave questions about the meaning of life unanswered. Cosmicism is a type of extreme existentialism. It raises uncertainty about humanity’s role in an uncaring universe and serves as an existential crisis on a grand scale. According to Lovecraft, it emphasizes the fear of the unknown and what is unknown to us. We feel fear when we encounter phenomena beyond our comprehension that go beyond the narrow field of human affairs.

Cosmicism

Indeed, Lovecraft’s philosophy, which we know as cosmicism, focused on the meaninglessness of human beings and their deeds in the cosmos at large. In contrast to anthropocentric philosophy, many people find “intellectual certainty” to be very important to the philosophy when talking about forms of non-anthropocentrism. The scientific discoveries in Lovecraft’s work are both chilling and exciting.

He saw no enlightenment potential for humanity in it. However, it is the main exterminator of our human species. Knowledge is a self-destructive disease. The contemplation of humanity’s place in the cold, uncomfortable, and vast universe that modern science has revealed has paved the way for unexpected discoveries. However, our perishable brains cannot comprehend it. In addition, Lovecraft describes us humans as ants in a vast realm of time and space.

When the vast universe is incomprehensible to us, it creates fear of the cosmic void. Indeed, it dealt a significant blow to humanity’s self-confidence. According to Lovecraft, after thousands of years of living in darkness, turning on the light will make us aware that someone else lives with us. Therefore, we cannot overcome scientific discoveries. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror achieves a mood of foreign and uncomfortable territory through devices that will feel very foreign and unfamiliar to readers.

The Colour Out of Space

However, cosmicism is more than just a fear of the unknown. In Lovecraft’s story, unknown forces also lurk in the recesses of dreamland, faraway lands, oceans, and the equally vast Earth. In The Colour Out of Space, a meteorite of an indescribable color crashes on a farm. Just by analogy, they call it color. When things from outside the cosmos enter our world, they retain the external qualities that humans cannot comprehend them.

The cosmic disease, made of colors never seen before from space, disturbs human perception. It evades all scientific explanations; a force unknown to us poisons every living thing. At the same time, people are going crazy and dying one by one. According to Lovecraft, what we can perceive as an “alienated” self is more a direct result of the truths we unearth through constant interaction and reflection with the outside world.

Continuously, he forces the characters to experience a mental breakdown in the encounters, which illustrates the psychological incompatibility and consequent cosmicism with humanity. Instead of evaluating the contingency and absurdity of our notions of value and meaning, we can’t process how insignificant we are. Indeed, it is not rooted in any objective or eternal truth.

The Call of Cthulhu

The feelings are then exacerbated once we understand the universe’s indifference toward us. Suddenly, we comprehend the extent to which our lives are devoid of whichever objective purpose or meaning. In the very opening sentence of The Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft states that the most compassionate thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of its contents.

We live on the quiet island of ignorance in the middle of the black sea of infinity, and it’s not like we have to sail far. On the horizon, the inevitability of us discovering our meaninglessness is a sort of doom looming for Lovecraft. As science advances toward understanding the rest of the universe, it shows that cosmic externalities are inevitably alienated from our surroundings. To fully understand the importance of Lovecraft’s use of externalities and how it contributes to greater cosmicism, it engages with the biographical factors that influenced the development of the existential perspective.

Lovecraft’s narrative is inspired primarily by a series of night terrors he experienced at a young age. Besides his love of 18th-century antiquity and his philosophical fear of a vacant star overhead, among other factors, in a childhood nightmare, he experienced a violent terror that directly became the kind of terror he incorporated into his narrative.

The Terror

In a 1916 letter to an early correspondent, at age six, Lovecraft noted that he began having nightmares of the most horrific descriptions. In the dreams, they used to spin him through space at sickening speeds while agitating and prodding him with their loathsome tridents. After effectively having intense dreams that haunted him throughout his childhood, Lovecraft’s early life was marked by actual terror.

At the age of 18, he experienced a debilitating depressive episode. He was so exhausted by physical and mental exertion and sobriety that he had to drop out of school for smaller or over long periods. His awareness appears to be in the dark, and he frequently has suicidal thoughts. His curiosity and love for the unknown and the cosmos only assuage him. He noted that certain elements, particularly his sight of scientific and world-theater novelty, held him back.

Many things in the universe confuse him. However, he knew he could extract answers from his writings if he studied and lived longer. Indeed, The Call of Cthulhu serves Lovecraft’s cosmicism and becomes the best part of his bizarre fiction. In addition to the essential roles that are scary, suspenseful, supernatural, and strange, it shows a variety of occult practices and phenomena.

A Confession of Unfaith

Magic, prophecy, visions, alien races, lucid dreams, astral travel, and astral possession are all elements that Lovecraft explores. However, another aspect of Lovecraft’s life to better understand the short story is his atheism. Lovecraft was born into a Protestant family. Thus, he had learned about the legends and teachings of the Bible since childhood. In his essay entitled A Confession of Unfaith, Lovecraft gives two passive receptions and expands his knowledge of the supernatural.

The first signs of skepticism about the existence of God appeared before he was five years old. Around the same time, he learned that Santa Claus was a myth. This realization compelled him to ask the same questions about God, so he was placed in the First Baptist Church’s Sunday school. There, he renounced all remaining Christian beliefs and declared himself an agnostic. Although he was not yet an atheist, he discovered the wonders of Greco-Roman myths, which once again changed his views on religion at the age of six.

He studied Greek polytheism and the pantheon, captivated by all the fairytale-like scenes and characters from Greek myths. Around seven to eight years old, he was a true heathen. He was so intoxicated with Greek beauties that he acquired a half-sincere belief in nature spirits and ancient gods.

Leaving Paganism

He researched other mythologies and religions, such as Teutonic and Hinduism, to believe in each to determine which contained the most truth. In the end, Lovecraft concluded that all religious myths were just myths. It advances to science and eventually becomes materialistic. He still considered himself to be a pagan in essence at the time; he had not yet awakened to man’s place in nature or the structure of the universe.

From the winter of 1902 to 1903, he began to study astronomy primarily. He marks the Hellenic discovery of the world and the discovery of space as the two most significant sensations in his life. That is why they are so deeply reflected in his fiction. By reading about astronomy and discovering the solar system, Lovecraft’s philosophy slowly took shape. He called it cosmicism, which became a turning point for Lovecraft because he did not try to study other religions after that.

After gradually leaving paganism, he turned to cynicism, cosmicism, and materialism. He was an atheist except for no fool in thinking humans were alone in the expanding universe. In addition, Lovecraft also took advantage of certain aspects when creating his artificial pantheon of the Great Old Ones, namely Gobogeg, Yuggoth, Yog-Sothoth, Cthulhu, and others.

The Dunsany Influence

The main inspirations for his mythology were Time and the Gods and The Gods of Pegāna by the occult and theosophical thinker Lord Dunsany. Lovecraft, like Dunsany, created an imaginary pantheon to convey his philosophical message. In the process, he succeeded in effectively criticizing occult philosophy and religion. Therefore, scholars call Lovecraft’s creation anti-mythology because, by creating artificial gods and worshippers, Lovecraft effectively eradicated faith with scientific explanations.

After trying to subvert the relationship between humans and gods with pseudo-mythology, he realized that most humans were incapable to accept an atheistic world. However, all cults fail to understand that what they see as “gods” are extraterrestrial beings; they have no intimate relationship with humans. It also only uses them, as in the case of Cthulhu, as a means to an end. In the same mindset, all entity names have been devised as Lovecraft entities.

To this day, fans and scholars often debate the literal pronunciation of Cthulhu’s name. He commented, however, that the word Cthulhu should represent a fumbling human attempt to grasp the phonetics of a truly non-human word. Beings whose vocal organs are not like those of humans coined the names of hellish entities; therefore, they have nothing to do with human speech organs.

The Book of the Dead

The idea behind Cthulhu most likely comes from the Greek-Hellenic Chthonic gods and the Book of Dzyan. The Chthonic Gods have always been buried beneath the surface, waiting for their time to return, and are considered a source of evil that humanity must shun. Despite being a pure materialist, he was familiar with the Hellenic culture and Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine. Apart from mostly sneering at the latter, he uses his storytelling and fantasy to create an interconnected universe filled with cosmic creatures with monstrous forms.

They will drive humans to madness and even death. If we don’t know something, we make up our answers because we can’t stand the silence of emptiness. Many of Lovecraft’s characters seek forbidden knowledge only to descend into the madness of his revelations. The most banned book is the dreaded Necronomicon, also referred to as the Book of the Dead, written by Abdul Alhazred, or the Mad Arab, the fictional character of Lovecraft.

The pursuit of knowledge often leads to character death. However, many continue the forbidden knowledge, knowing it will end badly. Knowing certain realities can result in partial or complete self-destruction.

Through the Gates of the Silver Key

When given a diagnosis of a particular disease, what do we know? At least, the situation is partly dire because patients don’t always know it. However, it becomes a part of ourselves once we realize the existence of the disease. There is no turning back, and no one can deny such a revelation. In Through the Gates of the Silver Key, Randolph Carter—the protagonist—holds the mysterious silver key and opens the Highest Gate.

He sees his future, past, and Carters in every age that Earth’s history suspects and knows. The Carters are both themselves, and Carter notes how every little decision change each of the Carters is in their timeline. The omniscient consciousness gives way to a loss of individuality; one learns that he is no longer a being distinguished from other beings. Therefore, the Other becomes worthy of being considered and accepted as oneself.

Gilles Deleuze describes it as a transformation of schizophrenic madness, formerly paranoia, a philosophical metaphor to describe one’s perception of identity. Paranoid people are driven to align everything with their identity and ignore everything else. However, schizophrenic insanity refers to the unconscious, accepting other identities and beings and one’s simultaneous place among them.

Preconceptions of Madness

Lovecraft’s stories are so grotesque that the average reader loses all preconceptions about feelings and reality. In the story, the characters who try to maintain their identity and are afraid of losing their individuality are the ones who fall into madness.

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