It’s not about the monster show, the man in the rubber suit that jumps out of the dark. A B-movie or a rollercoaster can accomplish as much. That is a momentary scare, not something that freezes your soul until you can never be warm again.

The most frightening thing in the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft isn’t the ichor dripping from the jaws of elder gods, or the thought of vulnerable flesh being pierced and stripped from our bones by the scuttling claws of unnamed things that the very sight of would drive men to insanity. We already have diseases enough that do that to our bodies in microcosm, and in our visible world men build machines to destroy other men, women and children in a hundred ways to teach us that our hopes and dreams and ideas of beauty and truth are easily turned to garbage for dogs and crows.

The horrible perception of reality in Lovecraft comes when his characters feel the weight of aeons before humanity ever existed and the endless stretch of darkness after our last spark is gone. It is the awareness of the indifference of the universe that is represented by the metaphor of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods. You matter no more than a speck of sand that dreamed it was a mountain once.

In contrast, in, I hope, unending opposition, we have the symbolism of Christmas Eve: that an indifferent universe heard Job’s complaint, and took on human form. I am well aware of the historical evidence that makes the baby Jesus just one of many gods and avatars of the same idea; I usually find myself better read on the subject than most of Christianity’s critics and defenders.

It seems to me that these half-informed debates over the historicity of Jesus are beside the point. The conservative Christians and Muslims, with their simpleton’s insistence on their faith as literal and exclusive “fact”, do more damage to religion than the most science-bound atheist.

I have faith in certain metaphors as the potential salvation for mankind. Shelley was right about that much, when he called poets the secret legislators of mankind, even if he was a dope about sailboats. I feel anger and pity for those religionists who claim, “If every word in my holy book [insert title here] is not literally true, then all my faith is in vain.” A pretty shoddy faith, if it’s so easily undone.

It’s the meaning we attach to a vulnerable child that spits in the eye of Lovecraft’s indifferent, cold stars, and the marketplace sensibility of the social Darwinist capitalists who dominate our culture, and the mechanistic reductionists who sneer at love and the nuturing impulse as mere chemical predestination.

The ox and ass of the nativity crèche were once recognized by Egyptians as Osiris and Set, giving their blessing to the new god bedded down in their hay. If the self-important, indifferent to human suffering god of the Old Testament would give up his place of prominence to an unwed mother from a gynophobic culture and an all-too-human child, then surely that’s a good thing for the rest of us? Let us be tender towards the universe tonight as if it were a small child, and if the Elder Gods are still cruel, then that's their problem, not ours. Punk-ass slime monsters.


Stewart Sternberg said...

This is a great post.

You must know I am a Lovecraftian fanatic.


Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

Emotionally/ on a personal level I connect with Poe more, but I do recognize Lovecraft's accomplishment. Have his letters with Robert E. Howard ever been published?