Wednesday, December 02, 2015
I don't read much horror, but when I do, it is usually something by H.P. Lovecraft. Accordingly, I was interested in a recent New Republic piece entitled, "H.P. Lovecraft's Philosophy of Horror." What I found fascinating was the quite plausible idea that, perhaps, Lovecraft was reacting to the mistaken idea that rejection of religion implies that the universe is malevolent:
Lovecraft's anti-mythology of slimy, inhuman creatures reflected an unresolved struggle within himself. He firmly rejected religious mythologies that accorded humankind a special place in the scheme of things, but he could not accept the implication of his materialism, which is that human life has no cosmic value or meaning. Rejecting any belief in meaning beyond the human world, he also rejected the meanings human beings make for themselves. He had no interest in the lives of most people, and from his early years seems to have believed his own would count for very little. He was left without any sense of significance. So, obeying an all-too-human impulse, he fashioned a make-believe realm of dark forces as a shelter from the deadly light of universal indifference.This is unsurprising, given the philosophical wasteland of his times. But it also suggests to me another unfortunate legacy of religion. Just as many people wrongly believe that there is no reason within reason to be good, many also err in the opinion that only religion can allow for such high emotions as inspiration or reverence. Given the centuries-long stranglehold of this common substitute for philosophy on our civilization, it is hardly surprising that Lovecraft was unable to see a way to the idea of his own life being an end in itself. Religion -- rather than his own life -- had, perhaps, seemed to him the only way to justify or conceptualize the idea of "significance." Not to denigrate his work, but I cannot help but wonder what Lovecraft might have accomplished with all that creativity had he not suffered from such a philosophically (and psychologically) debilitating error.