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k-punk
01-11-2004, 05:34 PM
Following on from some remarks of Infinite Thought's on the Satanist sorry Catholic thread....

Few human beings have managed to be atheists.

Nietzsche's parable of the 'Death of God', it should be remembered, was aimed not at the theists, but at 'those who did not believe in God.' It is they who mock the madman for proclaiming God's death... why is this important? Why is the madman concerned with something that is of no consequence, that every educated person takes for granted?

But Nietzsche very well knew that these 'educated people', these advocates of 'modern ideas' were very far from having processed the implications of the most important event in human history. The erasure of God meant the evacuation of every existing human value, it meant thinking of human beings, as Nietzsche tried to, as dying animals on a doomed planet, as a cosmic accident of no more significance or meaning than bacteria growing on a toilet bowl.

Who could live (with) that thought? Not Nietzsche himself, whose breakdown was surely precipitated by his failure to rise to the challenge of being a 'positive nihilist', to create a new human entity capable of living in and with this terrible vacancy. Living in it --- and still affirming life.

One of Nietzsche's keenest readers was H. P. Lovecraft. The genius of Lovecraft was to have constructed a fictional system which, however fantastic, was utterly devoid of supernaturalism and which was unstinting in its rejection of the Aristolean-theistic-vitalistic conception that life, and particularly human life, is of special value. Like the Freud of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Lovecraft retreats from Nietzsche's priapic vitalism (what, as John Gray says, is Nietzsche's hymning to the efflorescent creativty of life if not Christianity in another form?) to Schopenhauer's withering pessimism.

I would urge everyone to read the translation of Houllbecq's Contre le Monde, Contre le Vie, at <a href=http://blog.urbanomic.com/undercurrent/archives/houellebecq-lovecraft.rtf>Undercurrent</a>. The following section is particularly noteworthy for our purposes:

'Lovecraft knows there’s nothing to this world. And he plays the role of the loser every time. In theory as in practice. He has lost his childhood, he has equally lost his faith. The world disgusts him, and he sees no reason to suppose that things could be presented otherwise, by looking on the bright side. He considers all religions equally compromised by their ‘saccharine illusions’, rendered obsolete by the progress of scientific knowledge. In his periods of exceptional good humour, he will speak of an ‘enchanted circle’ of religious belief; but this is a circle from which he feels, in every way, banished.
Very few will have been at this point of saturation, penetrated right to the marrow by the absolute void of every human aspiration. The universe is merely a chance arrangement of elementary particles. A transitory image in the midst of chaos. Which will end with the inevitable: The human race will disappear. Other races will appear, and disappear in turn. The heavens are cold and empty, traversed by the faint light of half-dead stars. Which, also, will disappear. Everything disappears. And human actions are just as random and senseless as the movements of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, fine sentiments? Pure “victorian fictions”. There is only egotism. Cold, undiluted and dazzling.
Lovecraft is well aware of the depressing nature of these conclusions. As he wrote in 1918, “all rationalism tends to minimize the value and importance of life, and to diminish the total quantity of human happiness. In some cases the truth could cause suicide, or at least precipitate a near-suicidal depression.”
His atheistic and materialist convictions would not change at all. They were reprised in letter after letter, with an almost masochistic delectation.

Of course, life has no meaning. But neither does death. And this is one of the things that chills the blood when one discovers Lovecraft’s universe. The death of his heroes has no meaning. It brings no relief. It doesn’t bring the story to a conclusion, not at all. Implacably, HPL destroys his characters without suggesting more than the dismemberment of a puppet. Indifferent to their wretched comings and goings, the cosmic fear continues to grow. It expands and articulates itself. The Great Cthulhu arises from his slumber.
What is the Great Cthulhu? An arrangement of electrons, like ourselves. The terror of Lovecraft is rigorously materialist. But it is strongly possible, from the free play of cosmic forces, that the Great Cthulhu has at his disposal a force and a power of action considerably superior to ours. Which is not, a priori, anything especially reassuring.'

Yes, yes.. this is atheism.

dominic
02-11-2004, 04:24 AM
I don't see why the "death of god" should be a bar to spirituality or a basic sense of ethics. For instance, many people experience something "spiritual" while dancing or listening to music, and they feel more connected to others. Not all the time, but often enough. This, to my mind, is the primordial reality. The explanation is merely explanation. Why do we feel "spiritual" while dancing? Why do we feel more connected to "what is"? We don't know, but we do . . . . Similarly, most of us enjoy "giving" to others, especially to people whom we like. And we recognize "giving" to others as noble. And we feel gratitude toward those who help us out, etc, though sometimes tinged with resentment. We have a basic sense of the noble and the base, of right and wrong. We then try to articulate these basic realities, the reality of a spiritual sense, the reality of an ethical sense, etcetera. And it is in trying to articulate, to explain, that we enter into contradiction, both with ourselves and against others who perhaps have a different ethical sense or spiritual sense than we do . . . . But just because all explanations break down doesn't deprive the world of meaning. We still feel spiritual while dancing, we still admire noble gestures . . . . And if certain morbid natures are prone to contemplate the vast emptiness of the universe, the shortness of their lives, the apparent fact that men are reducible to matter, etc, then so be it. Men may be entirely reducible to matter, but that reduction, which occurs in thought, is a secondary phenomenon. The primordial realities are the spirituality we have while dancing, the admiration we feel for noble gestures, the boredom we feel with everyday life, the loneliness we sometimes feel, etc, etc == our moods

k-punk
02-11-2004, 05:12 AM
I don't feel spiritual when I'm dancing, but then I never feel 'spiritual'. I don't know what this means beyond some vague feeling of hey man I feel connected with the cosmos, y'know...

But, as Deleuze rightly says, all arguments from experience are bad and reactionary. This is the case because the philosophical issue is the Kantian transcendental one: i.e.what are the preconditions for my experience? What has to be in place in order for me to have it?

The idea that 'man' (sic) is matter is 'thought' and therefore secondary has it the wrong way round. The experience of spirituality, like all human experiences, is totally secondary, a random epiphemonenal consequence of certain accidental combinations of matter. Whatever you 'feel' is not 'the reality of being' but a hyper-local phenomenal effect of random bio-chemical interactions.

It is not pathological to reflect on mortality and finitude. If there is anything interesting and unique about human beings it is, as Kierkegaard and Sartre maintained, precisely our capacity for such 'morbid' reflections... for not being caught up in the carnal present like other animals..

See my post on <a href=http://hyperstition.abstractdynamics.org/archives/004187.html>hyperstition</a> on Eyes Wide Shut for more on this...

(Course it's not insignificant that the critique of the pleasure principle/ Garden of Delights comes from Puritan Protestants such as Poe, Kierkegaard and Burroughs ... Catholicism is of course a cult of intoxication, i.e. Dionysian, i.e. Satanic ... because what Satan wants, as I argue <a href=http://hyperstition.abstractdynamics.org/archives/004322.html> here</a>, is for you to identify yourself with your organism and its pleasures. The anti-gnosis of hedonic intoxication.)

dominic
02-11-2004, 05:37 AM
(1) didn't mean to suggest that it's pathological to reflect on death & human finitude == "certain morbid natures" was ill-advised expression . . . . in fact, i was trying to invoke heidegger by referring to the primordial reality of moods, or the primordial fact of what we see as "noble" and "good" -- and obviously heidegger would not discount the validity of thinking about death, radical finitude, etc

and again, in a heideggerian vein (or what i take to be a heideggerian vein), the view that matter is primary and "moods" merely the result of chemical reactions is the scientific view, a view that is had only by pulling back from what we experience or live directly

nor would i deny that some find dancing spiritual and others not == indeed, this goes to yet another "primordial" or "pretheoretical" reality of life, namely, that we encounter many different human types and natures, with different experiences, different preferencs, different ways of articulating what they believe, etc, even if at the end of the day we're all reducible to dust

(2) i'm actually sympathetic to the Body w/o Organs position (and that's what i try to be, at least some of the time), though that may not be apparent from previous posts of mine regarding "Passion of Christ" and Foucault's "History of Sexuality" . . . .

more on this later, as my roommate is about to kick me off his computer

dominic
02-11-2004, 05:53 AM
but i suppose my original point is that we (or those who came before us) arrived at the thought of God by trying to unfold, make sense of, and articulate our preconceptions, gut reactions, moods. and one of the paths that articulation took was to arrive at God. and the speeches/poems about God proved persuasive for a time, but now have lost their sway . . . . so, if today we no longer believe in God or gods, why not simply return to the only world that matters, the only world that is, the "world of appearances," where some things appear good and others bad, some things noble and some things base. where some things appear uncontestable, others hotly in dispute, where some feel spiritual while dancing, others decidedly not, and where no one really knows what the term "spiritual" means, but continue to resort to the word because it suits the experience ------ call me "the last man," but why does the death of God matter if we have the world of appearances (the pre-theoretical world)?????

luka
02-11-2004, 10:04 AM
if thats atheism i'm finding a faith!

that 'standing in the cold hard light of science' stuff doesn't do it for bobby bisto. it's like intellectual machismo.

luka
02-11-2004, 02:20 PM
beleifs about the world correspond with states of mind/being, moods. they are projections. they are 'arguments' for experience, they are experience transmuted into belief, irrational or otherwise, consistant or otherwise. low self-esteem, depression, paranoia, fear, aggression, the sense of entitlement, the sense of disenfranchisement, the snse of belonging, the sense of alienation, all have their parralell systems of thought and belief.these complexes of experience(sensation) and its intellectual co-dependent belief, each reinforcing, amplifying and sustaining the other, have real life effects governing expectations of, actions in and towards and responses to the world, scoiety and the individuals who comprise it. they impose values, goals, courses of action, answers to moral dilemmas, etc on the indivuals under their influence.
and yet they are arbitary and changeable and may bear only a tangential relationship with reality. belif in any one of these 'reality tunnels'* to the exclusion of all the others leads to a closing down of possiblitys, a cutting off of avenues of thought and feeling, it involves a retreat from infinity to finitude, volition to obedience.
blahbalh etcetc
*took that from somewhere, can't remember where.

&catherine
03-11-2004, 01:50 PM
Two queries -


belif in any one of these 'reality tunnels'* to the exclusion of all the others leads to a closing down of possiblitys, a cutting off of avenues of thought and feeling, it involves a retreat from infinity to finitude, volition to obedience.

But would you agree with the statement that one can't help but 'believe' in any one of these reality tunnels? That infinity can't be faced, that we need to place our foot somewhere and thus limit ourselves?

And to mark k-punk: how can experience/feeling (if this is how they are grouped in your account) and thought/gnosis be separated? What's the difference between these two, in other words? Or is this such an obviously, gratuitously, intuitively answerable question that it needs no answer?

Jamie S
04-11-2004, 11:49 AM
Both Nietzsche's conception of The Death of God and the Lovecraftian take on atheism that you describe share the assumption that the Human OS is both capable of understanding 'meaning' and deeply needful of 'meaning'. Now, I am what you'd probably call an atheist-vitalist, but it seems to me that what the Human OS actually is, is a machine for generating meanings. We may be "a cosmic accident of no more significance or meaning than bacteria growing on a toilet bowl.", but we are utterly different from those bacteria or any other "dying animals" in that we both need and can easily create a meaningful context for our own existence.

So we have a panoply of belief systems, personal philosophies etc., etc. Once you step out of the circle of your own fire and encounter other meaning-systems, it becomes a question of choice, not necessity. Uttunul or Jehovah or whatever.

Atheism(s) are just a number of different meaning systems. I agree with Luka that the scientific rationalist position isn't specially attractive, but there are many other Human OS meaning routines and subroutines running all the time. I think my point is, contra Nietzsche and Mark is that it's easy to be an atheist.

I found this quote on the sleeve of Cymande's first album yesterday after reading this thread. "...music for the man who finds in life a reason for living..." which I think says it better than I could.

(This begs all sorts of questions about agency of thought of individuals vs societally held beliefs and i guess this comes across as a free-market, individualist take on belief, which wasn't my intention. May have to think again.)

&catherine
05-11-2004, 01:59 PM
I think my point is, contra Nietzsche and Mark is that it's easy to be an atheist.

Reminds me of something I was thinking while reading echo friendly's posts in the 'Mark K-P and the Catholics' thread.

What is this "it's easy" business? I don't find it easy if I think about it. But perhaps this is just because nothing is easy, if you think about what you are doing. Action is blind.

As is rather nicely illustrated by a quotation that is given in Walter Benjamin's "Some Reflections on Kafka" (the quote is from Arthur Standey Eddington's The Nature of the Physical World):


I am standing on the threshold about to enter a room. It is a complicated business. In the first place I must shove against an atmosphere pressing with a force of fourteen pounds on every square inch of my body. I must make sure of landing on a plank travelling at twenty miles a second round the sun - a fraction of a second too early or too late, the plank would be miles away. I must do this whilst hanging from a round planet head outward into space. [...] The plank has no solidity of substance. To step on it is like stepping on a swarm of flies. Shall I not slip through? [...]

Verily, it is earier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a scientific man to pass through a door. And whether the door be barn door or church door it might be wiser that he should consent to be an ordinary man and walk in rather than wait till all the difficulties involved in a really scientific ingress are resolved.

Though perhaps what the k-punk side of the debate is about is something more than what is easiest. It seems to be pursuing the difficult question - the Frankenstein-task of combining 'thought' and 'action'; or for Nietzsche, the pursuit of philosophy (often the mark of dissatisfaction) with the belief in the value of life.

luka
06-03-2019, 12:55 PM
New grapejuice on lovecraft, terry mckenna and deleuze http://groupnameforgrapejuice.blogspot.com/2019/02/hyper-carbolating-furtive-gates-of.html?m=1

luka
10-03-2019, 06:19 PM
(Course it's not insignificant that the critique of the pleasure principle/ Garden of Delights comes from Puritan Protestants such as Poe, Kierkegaard and Burroughs ... Catholicism is of course a cult of intoxication, i.e. Dionysian, i.e. Satanic ... because what Satan wants, as I argue here, is for you to identify yourself with your organism and its pleasures. The anti-gnosis of hedonic intoxication.)

"But it must, or hysterical boredom will result and we shall all think that creative paranoia has now finally reached these shores - and as if we didn't invent it anyway, as Wyndham Lewis tried so fiercely to explain. "
JH Prynne. Questions for the Time Being.

"it's a Puritan reflex of seeking other orders behind the visible, also known as paranoia"
Thomas Pynchon. Gravity's Rainbow

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 06:24 PM
Am I being dense for raising an eyebrow at the description of Burroughs as a "puritan protestant"?

Does he just mean the cultural milieu WSB came from?

luka
10-03-2019, 06:37 PM
Yes. Cultural inheritance. You don't need to necessarily take it seriously but I was suggesting GR makes a somewhat similar point.

luka
10-03-2019, 06:40 PM
This was all part of some strange crusade against Catholicism he was engaged in at the time. There's a thread about it somewhere.

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 07:34 PM
Wasn't Mark Fisher into some idea of 'atheist Christianity', whatever that was? Or have I made that up?

The stuff in the grapejuice post about Lovecraft as a wizard, an initiate, a render-of-veils and crosser-of-thresholds is appealing but I don't think there's anything in his writing (including private letters) to challenge the idea that he really stuck to the materialist worldview he professed. The hideous entities he wrote about were inspired mainly by the terrible nightmares he suffered as a child, and I think the vast alien abysses of non-space they came from are metaphors for how much of an alien he felt himself to be in vulgar, capitalist, multi-ethnic, modern America.

luka
10-03-2019, 07:37 PM
but I don't think there's anything in his writing (including private letters) to challenge the idea that he really stuck to the materialist worldview he professed.

znore disagrees and presents his evidence in the essay

luka
10-03-2019, 07:40 PM
As you can probably guess I'm not sympathetic to your interpretation. I don't think that is how writing usually works. I'm not remotely sympathetic to Marks interpretation either. But of course I believe in all sorts of funny things.

luka
10-03-2019, 07:53 PM
I really don't think that as a writer you sit there at your desk absently sucking on your biro going
"I feel terribly alienated from contemporary soceity... what might a good metaphor for that be... I know... Aliens!"

luka
10-03-2019, 08:01 PM
You have to remember Lovecraft is objectively rubbish. It's very very bad writing.

luka
10-03-2019, 08:03 PM
But for whatever reason it's potent rubbish, equally capable of enflaming the imaginations of magicians (Kenneth Grant) philosophers(Deleuze) and Pop Stars (Mark E Smith). If you've just read znores essay why not read the silver key story he's referring to?

luka
10-03-2019, 08:07 PM
It's part 3 or 4 of series. Read part 1 first. It will only take ten or 15 minutes

luka
10-03-2019, 08:08 PM
http://groupnameforgrapejuice.blogspot.com/2018/01/hyper-carbolating-furtive-gates-of.html?m=1


"It all started this time with two strange books, widely different and seemingly unrelated, both containing pivotal references to an even stranger third book.

The first two books are A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and True Hallucinations by Terence McKenna. Each, somewhat surprisingly, give significant mention to H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction story, Through the Gates of the Silver Key. The three, taken as a set, illuminate one another. Each is a gate unlocked by the same key, gates beyond space and time and comprehension."

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 08:15 PM
I really don't think that as a writer you sit there at your desk absently sucking on your biro going
"I feel terribly alienated from contemporary soceity... what might a good metaphor for that be... I know... Aliens!"

Yes thank you I do realise it's not quite as literal and direct a process as that. :slanted:

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 09:30 PM
As someone who's read one Lovecraft story, where's the best place to start? The one I read was about some dude trapped in a submarine and finding a temple at the bottom of the ocean and was pretty good, but nothing spectacular.

'The Colour out of Space' is by far and away his best, but the disparity between and his other stories might make the rest seem like a let-down if you read it next, I dunno.

'At the Mountains of Madness' and 'The Shadow out of Time' are really well developed sci-fi stories, and absolutely key in the development of the modern 'ancient aliens' mythology. 'The Haunter in the Dark' is a nice effective supernatural horror story without much in the way of links to his wider mythos, and 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' is a quite effective short novel - catch a decent modern adaptation of it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06spb8w

Plus the 'Silver Key' stories mentioned in the podcast.

Luka's over-egging how bad HPL was as a writer. Sure, it's over-blown and he doesn't really do characters as such, but I think his poverty as a writer is overstated. Some of his passages are actually genuinely affecting.

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 09:45 PM
As you can probably guess I'm not sympathetic to your interpretation. I don't think that is how writing usually works. I'm not remotely sympathetic to Marks interpretation either. But of course I believe in all sorts of funny things.

It's not really 'my' interpretation, it's the usual view of HPL among people who've widely read him and know a bit about him as a person. It's shared by S. T. Joshi, for example, who probably knows more about Lovecraft than anyone else. Houellebecq too, I think (Mark quotes him in the first post).

luka
10-03-2019, 09:51 PM
I don't think it holds water but more importantly it's boring and the boring answer is always the wrong answer. A good rule of thumb is, whatever Holluebeq says, think the opposite.

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 09:54 PM
His book on Lovecraft is pretty insightful, I thought - but if you hate Lovecraft as a writer, have no interest in him as a person and only like the wacky hyperspace stuff inasmuch as it can be linked to D&G, LSD, Blake, Joyce and all the other stuff you like, I imagine it doesn't hold much appeal, so fair enough.

luka
10-03-2019, 10:02 PM
I like the stories. I said they're rubbish not that I don't like them.

Mr. Tea
10-03-2019, 10:03 PM
Ha, you know I had a feeling you'd say that.

luka
10-03-2019, 10:04 PM
I really like the Conan stories too but they're also rubbish. Nothing wrong with that. I just didn't want version to expect Great Literature and get confused and disappointed when what he actually gets is a comic book.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 08:59 AM
As someone who's read one Lovecraft story, where's the best place to start? The one I read was about some dude trapped in a submarine and finding a temple at the bottom of the ocean and was pretty good, but nothing spectacular.

Is this not an HG Wells story? I'm sure I've read one by Wells that has a very similar plotline to this.

Speaking of Wells, 'The Time Machine' has a section set in the unimaginably distant future that gave me more of a sense of 'cosmic horror' than anything I've read by Lovecraft.

It is interesting, this obsession people have with Lovecraft. In part I think it's to do with the idea of these ancient gods lurking just beyond our view being so titillating. It's the substitution of a higher meaningfulness for a higher meaninglessness.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 09:05 AM
Is this the literary equivalent of enjoying music you regard as objectively 'cheesy'?

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 09:09 AM
I remember watching True Detective and wanting it to end in the Cthuluesque. It would have thrilled me more. It's a version of the Romantic sublime, isn't it? The thrill of confronting something vast and implacable. The Gothic romantic.

Having read a biography of Eliot recently, I'm struck by how American Lovecraft's disgust towards life (particularly its sexual aspect) is - how it derives from a culture that was from the off Puritanical.

Eliot saw the artist as being an articulate lunatic - saved from uselessness by his articulacy. I think there's something clinical about the fascination of Lovecraft's stories - particularly something like 'The Shadow over Innsmouth', which gives you an insight into his disgust towards sex and 'lower' races.

Definitely go for his later stories, he became a better writer as he escaped Poe's shadow.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 09:13 AM
Is this the literary equivalent of enjoying music you regard as objectively 'cheesy'?

There's a few possibilities here, including

1. His 'content' is fascinating, despite the hair-raising style, making the stories last longer than any number of badly written schlock-shockers
2. His style and content are indivisible, and what's more the style is one of the things that makes his stories last longer than any number of badly written schlock-shockers

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 09:18 AM
Obviously (and sadly) Mark isn't here to tell me himself but I wonder how sympathetic he was to Lovecraft's atheism/nihilism, and - if he was - how he could square that with political activism. After all, if we're all nothing but electrons deluded by egotism, what matters it if Tories are destroying the state infrastructure?

luka
11-03-2019, 09:28 AM
Although Mark did try to square these aspects of himself my feeling is that at root he was no more a harmonious unity than any of us and that essentially those aspects were at war within him, the balance of power continually tipping one way and the next.
What I wrote on this thread at 24 still seems true to me now, 100 years later

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 09:39 AM
It's interesting that nihilism can be as much of a comfort as belief can.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 09:55 AM
I remember watching True Detective and wanting it to end in the Cthuluesque. It would have thrilled me more. It's a version of the Romantic sublime, isn't it? The thrill of confronting something vast and implacable. The Gothic romantic.


That's an interesting take, in that Lovecraft despised Romanticism and, while he was obviously strongly influenced by earlier generations of 'gothic' writers, he was very much a Classicist. The two eras he felt he'd have been at home in were pagan Rome and the pre-independence Colonies, or better still England, in the 18th century.

Which series of TD are you talking about, btw? The first series was pretty Lovecraftian, with a lot taken from R. W. Chambers too, and I haven't watched the third series yet but I understand it's closer in feel to the first (less said about the second, the better, I think).

luka
11-03-2019, 09:55 AM
It's the cessation of effort. Oh well, nothing in that cave, no need to keep looking

luka
11-03-2019, 09:58 AM
Incidentally, there is a third pole which is neither classicist nor romantic, its the visionary, the prophetic.

I can't see any way to usefully categorise HPL as a classicist. I think corpsey is right to see the romantic there.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 10:31 AM
Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.
— H. P. Lovecraft, in note to the editor of Weird Tales, on resubmission of "The Call of Cthulhu"


The conflict in Lovecraft is between the stated aim of an externalised perspective on human affairs ('one must forget that such things as... good and evil, love and hate... have any existence at all") vs. his personal horror at such a state of affairs ("the boundless and hideous unknown").

What's most important in his stories isn't the (supposed) indifference of the universe so much as our (supposed) horror in the face of it.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 10:58 AM
Incidentally, there is a third pole which is neither classicist nor romantic, its the visionary, the prophetic.

I can't see any way to usefully categorise HPL as a classicist. I think corpsey is right to see the romantic there.

I'm talking more about how he saw himself and what his own literary and artistic tastes bent towards. He loved Classical antiquity and the poetry, art and architecture of Enlightenment Europe but he had no interest in the Middle Ages and he hated anything that smacked of 'Victorianism'.

I guess his attachment to Providence and the other bits of New England that he loved so much could be called romantic, with a small 'r'.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 11:17 AM
That brings up the huge and complicated question of what romanticism with a big R means - since it can encompass the spiritual 'Lines written above Tintern Abbey' and cynical 'Don Juan'.

Romanticism was both an optimistic repudiation of and pessimistic acknowledgement of the damage the Enlightenment did to God and to man's newly degraded place in the cosmos.

At least, this is what 'sublimity' means to me. Not just awe, but terror.

And that's where I'd link this aspect of Lovecraft to Romanticism. Not just monsters lurking in the dark, not even evil emissaries of Satan, but monsters (gigantic, dwarfing human scale like the Alps) representing cosmic meaninglessness!

EDIT: Not suggesting Lovecraft was consciously Romantic, only that his appeal has something in common (For me) with the sublime.

vimothy
11-03-2019, 11:36 AM
good thread, mark in ultra-landian mode in the OP. he was in a tough spot though, wasn't he - since he'd picked up nick's nihilism but not his (weirdly optimistic) capitalistic-AI theology.


Of course, life has no meaning. But neither does death

droid
11-03-2019, 12:04 PM
Obviously (and sadly) Mark isn't here to tell me himself but I wonder how sympathetic he was to Lovecraft's atheism/nihilism, and - if he was - how he could square that with political activism. After all, if we're all nothing but electrons deluded by egotism, what matters it if Tories are destroying the state infrastructure?

You're missing the liberatory aspect of Nihilism, Camus/Sartre being the obvious touchstones. If everything is meaningless than there is there infinite space to create meaning. Radical freedom.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 12:10 PM
EDIT: Not suggesting Lovecraft was consciously Romantic, only that his appeal has something in common (For me) with the sublime.

That's fair, I mean Lovecraft was all about the 'sublime'; it's just that for him, as an atheist and virtual asexual, it was a very different kind of sublimity from the two main kinds found in capital-R Romanticism, i.e. God and erotic love.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 12:12 PM
You're missing the liberatory aspect of Nihilism, Camus/Sartre being the obvious touchstones. If everything is meaningless than there is there infinite space to create meaning. Radical freedom.

.....


The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy.

vimothy
11-03-2019, 01:33 PM
If everything is meaningless than there is there infinite space to create meaning.

How does that work? If everything is meaningless then creating meaning is impossible.

DannyL
11-03-2019, 01:42 PM
This is the Nietzschian project. How to assert meaning, when there are no external references beyond one's own self?

That's what he's grappling with in Thus Spake Zarathustra and others places as far as I understand him - "Behold, I teach you the Overman! The Overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Overman shall be the meaning of the earth!"

luka
11-03-2019, 01:45 PM
The creation of values

vimothy
11-03-2019, 01:58 PM
One of Nietzsche's keenest readers was H. P. Lovecraft. The genius of Lovecraft was to have constructed a fictional system which, however fantastic, was utterly devoid of supernaturalism and which was unstinting in its rejection of the Aristolean-theistic-vitalistic conception that life, and particularly human life, is of special value. Like the Freud of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Lovecraft retreats from Nietzsche's priapic vitalism (what, as John Gray says, is Nietzsche's hymning to the efflorescent creativty of life if not Christianity in another form?) to Schopenhauer's withering pessimism.


.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 02:01 PM
"Radical freedom" can mean radical freedom to be a complete cunt, of course (at the risk of stating the obvious). It's not necessarily "radical" in the sense of "progressive".

droid
11-03-2019, 02:21 PM
How does that work? If everything is meaningless then creating meaning is impossible.

Everything is meaningless in terms of external meaning. Purpose is a mental construct created by the individual, not something bestowed by the gods or fate.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 02:26 PM
Ah, this is the story I thought you were talking about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Abyss

I expect this is a well-rehearsed sci-fi trope

vimothy
11-03-2019, 02:27 PM
purpose is an illusion, in other words - in the radically materialistic-nihilistic view - a self-deceptive hangover from our religious past

droid
11-03-2019, 02:33 PM
But that's fine, because the self is also an illusion, as is external reality.

vimothy
11-03-2019, 02:36 PM
none of which is compatible with the idea that the individual can create meaning or imbue the universe with it

droid
11-03-2019, 02:45 PM
none of which is compatible with the idea that the individual can create meaning or imbue the universe with it

Of course it is. You can still walk towards a mirage even though it's not real. Nietzsche 101 again.

luka
11-03-2019, 02:55 PM
I love McKenna.

luka
11-03-2019, 03:06 PM
His vision of the singularity is much better than Nick Lands. Better drugs. Cooler friends. Bigger brain.

luka
11-03-2019, 03:07 PM
Better stage sets. (Amazon rainforest vs Warwick common room)

vimothy
11-03-2019, 04:28 PM
Of course it is. You can still walk towards a mirage even though it's not real.

you can walk towards a mirage but you'll never reach it since its an illuision. similarly you can imagine that the universe is meaningful but it doesnt make it so. objectively speaking (according to the ultra-nihilistic view) it is not meaningful, and "nietzsche 101" (as you put it) is only a sublimated christianity and in the end a kind of weak-mindedness

luka
11-03-2019, 04:30 PM
Saying such and such is only a sublimated Christianity is a very popular move but is almost always trite and obfuscatory. These cute symmetries are rarely as clever as they think they are.

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 04:38 PM
Why is everyone so hung up on 'meaning', anyway? What about pleasure, humour, companionship, love? I think people who have those things don't usually waste their lives chasing the mirage of 'meaning'.

vimothy
11-03-2019, 05:41 PM
Saying such and such is only a sublimated Christianity is a very popular move but is almost always trite and obfuscatory. These cute symmetries are rarely as clever as they think they are.

you'll never pass nietzsche 101 with this sort of an attitude

droid
11-03-2019, 06:39 PM
you can walk towards a mirage but you'll never reach it since its an illuision. similarly you can imagine that the universe is meaningful but it doesnt make it so. objectively speaking (according to the ultra-nihilistic view) it is not meaningful, and "nietzsche 101" (as you put it) is only a sublimated christianity and in the end a kind of weak-mindedness

Deciding that x/y is what gives your life meaning does not mean that the universe itself has meaning. If life has no intrinsic purpose then the only purpose that can exist is that which we ascribe to. Even then, purpose itself is a meaningless concept that exists only in the context of the shared fiction of the conscious self.

It's illusion all the way down.

Corpsey
11-03-2019, 06:46 PM
Why is everyone so hung up on 'meaning', anyway? What about pleasure, humour, companionship, love? I think people who have those things don't usually waste their lives chasing the mirage of 'meaning'.

It is generally the preserve of the gloomy.

To bring up Eliot again, his attempts at finding meaning in suffering, I thought how I myself have tried to find meaning in suffering, and virtue in it, and that's because I am a sufferer, I am constitutionally prone to agonising, and so both Eliot and I must find meaning in suffering, otherwise we couldn't stand it. Everybody suffers, of course, but only some suffer enough with enough of an analytical mind to develop suffering into a system of thought, in order to redeem it.

droid
11-03-2019, 07:02 PM
It is generally the preserve of the gloomy.

To bring up Eliot again, his attempts at finding meaning in suffering, I thought how I myself have tried to find meaning in suffering, and virtue in it, and that's because I am a sufferer, I am constitutionally prone to agonising, and so both Eliot and I must find meaning in suffering, otherwise we couldn't stand it. Everybody suffers, of course, but only some suffer enough with enough of an analytical mind to develop suffering into a system of thought, in order to redeem it.


“As a fact, we cannot give suffering precedence in either our individual or collective lives. We have to get on with things, and those who give precedence to suffering will be left behind. They fetter us with their sniveling. We have someplace to go and must believe we can get there, wherever that may be. And to conceive that there is a 'brotherhood of suffering between everything alive' would disable us from getting anywhere. We are preoccupied with the good life, and step by step are working toward a better life. What we do, as a conscious species, is set markers for ourselves. Once we reach one marker, we advance to the next — as if we were playing a board game we think will never end, despite the fact that it will, like it or not. And if you are too conscious of not liking it, then you may conceive of yourself as a biological paradox that cannot live with its consciousness and cannot live without it. And in so living and not living, you take your place with the undead and the human puppet.”

...

Mr. Tea
11-03-2019, 07:58 PM
Is that from Ligotti's 'Conspiracy...'?

HMGovt
11-03-2019, 09:27 PM
I was searching for something else on my Kindle and came across China Miéville's introduction to At the Mountains of Madness

Lovecraft was strongly influenced by Oswald Spengler, according to him.


In 1918, Spengler, a German philosopher, published the first volume of his magnum opus, The Decline of the West. Spengler’s basic thesis was of a cyclical civilizational history. “High cultures” pass through stages like organisms: birth, development, a maturity of cultural flowering, then the slow decline through urban civilization to senescence, decadence, and death.

Like weird fiction itself, Spengler’s portentous vision was a scar caused by the wound of early twentieth-century cataclysms. His worldview was enormously influential. Hitler was an admirer, as were the right-wing theorist Julius Evola and the wack-job high priest of American “intellectual” fascism, Francis Parker Yockey. But Spengler’s model had a wider cultural impact. Relatively mainstream figures such as the historian Arnold Toynbee and the writers Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller drew upon his ideas.

So, crucially, did H. P. Lovecraft, who read the first volume in translation in 1927. When discussing At the Mountains of Madness, the importance of Spengler’s The Decline of the West cannot be stressed too highly. (Indeed, S. T. Joshi places Spengler at the center of his discussion of Lovecraft’s political and philosophical ideas—his book on the topic is entitled H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West.) The very setting, that enormous, impossible city, is utterly Spenglerian, recalling the “civilization” phase in his cycle, when culture passes beyond its high point and its upheavals occur in burgeoning megalopolises.

“It is the Late city that first defies the land, contradicts Nature in the lines of its silhouette, denies all Nature,” Spengler says. “It wants to be something different from and higher than Nature. These high-pitched gables, these Baroque cupolas, spires, and pinnacles, neither are, nor desire to be, related with anything in Nature. And then begins the gigantic megalopolis, the city-as-world, which suffers nothing beside itself. . . .” In turn, Lovecraft describes the unbelievable sprawl and scale of the Old Ones’ city, “stretched nearly to the vision’s limit,” a “Cyclopean maze of squared, curved, and angled blocks . . . which cut off all comfortable refuge,” the “unhuman massiveness of these vast stone towers and ramparts,” as embodying “some fiendish violation of known natural law.”

For Spengler, the city-as-world exists in a vampiric relationship with the country around it. Where once the city was thrown up by the country, “now the giant city sucks the country dry,” relentlessly seducing the population until the city is full and the country is devoid of human life. In Lovecraft’s story, the dynamic of the city’s parasitic rise and fall is rendered aesthetically, with a vivid image of a dark city surrounded by country that has been sucked so dry it is bone-white, bled of all color.

As the narrator navigates the vast stone corridors, he literally walks through the architecturalization of Spengler’s cyclical history. In the bas-reliefs that he and Danforth are able (however improbably) to decipher, we read a fantasticated representation of The Decline of the West.

luka
11-03-2019, 09:41 PM
Spengler is absolutely central to literary modernism. I read an abridged version as a teenager and I loved it. Really good book.

luka
11-03-2019, 09:44 PM
China Mellville seems like a bit of a drip to me. Would have thought he'd be too worthy for you HMG? Political literature in the crudest, most ham fisted and obvious way.

HMGovt
11-03-2019, 09:52 PM
China Mellville seems like a bit of a drip to me. Would have thought he'd be too worthy for you HMG? Political literature in the crudest, most ham fisted and obvious way.

I hate his fiction, it stinks of rollies, but he's competent at picking out good bits from other people's books.

droid
11-03-2019, 09:59 PM
His third fantasy book was good, as were his last two fiction things, plus his 1917 book. Best things he's done have probably been short stories. Tons of Gaimanesque dross in his bibliography though.

HMGovt
11-03-2019, 10:08 PM
https://i.imgflip.com/2vsnbh.jpg (https://imgflip.com/i/2vsnbh)

HMGovt
11-03-2019, 10:14 PM
https://www.newstatesman.com/chinese-science-fiction-dystopia-liu-cixin-triology


For Western readers, Chinese sci-fi is enticing because it takes what we think know about modern China – the strange combination of ancient history and racing electronic change, the cities that spring up in months, the sheer scale of the country and its vast population – and makes it even bigger. In the opening scenes of Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth, engines the size of mountains stop the Earth from spinning, and the planet escapes the solar system while the sun explodes. Western sci-fi begins to look almost parochial next to such massive ideas.


So China's going through its own HG Wells period. What would a 21st century Chinese Lovecraft be writing about?

This is a challenge. I now want to to write scifi that will sell 1 billion copies in China.

droid
11-03-2019, 10:17 PM
"The Ball Room", "The Tain", "Säcken" - all excellent.

droid
11-03-2019, 10:18 PM
Cixin - now he's problematic.

luka
12-03-2019, 11:17 AM
I read the first two last night, will read the other two later. Kind of want to dig out the McKenna book I never finished now.

1 and 3 are my favourites in that series. I've always said that the peers of Deleuze in the Anglosphere aren't in the academy, they're disreputable types like Mckenna. Swashbucklers, rogues, blarney artists

Mr. Tea
12-03-2019, 01:26 PM
I was searching for something else on my Kindle and came across China Miéville's introduction to At the Mountains of Madness

Lovecraft was strongly influenced by Oswald Spengler, according to him.

.....


Another vital element in AtMoM that has to be seen in light of HPL's views on race is the fact that the most recent carvings - the crudest and most decadent of all - are not the work of the Elder Things at all, but of their insurgent slaves, the shoggoths, which rose up against and destroyed their masters while imitating their culture.