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lundi, 21 août 2017

At the Heart of Darkness

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At the Heart of Darkness

Editor’s Note:

It is a little-known — but entirely unsurprising — fact that Samuel Francis had a deep love and encyclopedic knowledge of H. P. Lovecraft. In honor of Lovecraft’s birthday, here is Francis’ review of S. T. Joshi’s H. P. Lovecraft: A Life and Lovecraft’s Miscellaneous Writings. — Greg Johnson

“The New Englanders are a people of God, settled in those which were once the Devil’s territories.”—Cotton Mather

lovecraftlifebook.jpgS. T. Joshi
H. P. Lovecraft: A Life
West Warwick, Rhode Island: Necronomicon Press

S. T. Joshi
H. P. Lovecraft: Miscellaneous Writings
Sank City, Wisconsin: Arkham House

S. T. Joshi begins his mammoth biographical study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft by quoting his subject’s reaction to a suggestion from a fan that he write his autobiography. With the almost pathological modesty that characterized Lovecraft throughout his life, he snorted in response, “One might as well write the pompously documented biography of a sandwich man or elevator boy in 8 volumes.” If there is one theme that runs throughout Lovecraft’s voluminous correspondence, it is that he never had any illusions that the obscure life he led was worth writing about or that the supernatural horror fiction he wrote, and on which his fame today rests, was worth reading. It is both fortunate and unfortunate that those who have succeeded in turning H. P. Lovecraft into a cult (in some quarters, almost a religion) as well as an industry have paid no attention.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1890 to a declining high-bourgeois family of New England old stock, Lovecraft lived, or rather endured, a life and writing career that can only be judged failures. His father, a traveling salesman, died in a local insane asylum from what must have been syphilis when Lovecraft was eight. His mother smothered him with possessive and crippling affection and incessantly sought to bind him to her by insisting he was “hideous.” She died in the same asylum in 1921, after two years’ confinement. Dependent on his grandfather’s business for their income, Lovecraft and his family were obliged to leave their home during his childhood and take up far more modest quarters when the business failed. Afflicted from early youth by nightmares, macabre dreams, and a “nervous temperament,” Lovecraft was unable to complete high school and entered adulthood a reclusive and even neurotic young man, utterly unprepared to earn his own living and utterly disinclined to try.

Something of a child prodigy who translated Ovid into heroic couplets at the age of 10 or 12, Lovecraft succeeded in inventing his own world as a substitute for the one in which he was unable or unwilling to participate. As a child and adolescent, he not only immersed himself in 18th-century English and ancient Roman literature and history but acquired a genuine expertise in his hobbies of astronomy and chemistry. He was writing newspaper columns on astronomy at an early age and planned a career as a professional astronomer, but his lack of mathematical aptitude and his inability to complete high school made that career impossible. Instead he turned to amateur journalism, to crafting dreadful poetry that was usually little more than clever imitations of the Augustan masters he adored, and eventually to writing short stories based on his nightmares and heavily influenced by the major literary hero of his youth, Edgar Allan Poe. In the 1920’s, there emerged a small national market for the genre of popular literature known as “supernatural horror” or “weird fiction,” mainly through a now-famous pulp magazine called Weird Tales.

Lovecraft published frequently in Weird Tales and similar pulps in that period, and indeed the principal reason they are remembered today at all is because of him. But even there he did not fit. His stories were often rejected by Weird Tales’s eccentric, mercenary, and largely incompetent editor, Farnsworth Wright, and in truth Lovecraft’s own highly original and distinctive tales of horror simply did not conform to the formulas on which Wright and similar editors insisted.

In 1924, Lovecraft married a woman named Sonia Greene, but in marriage too he was a failure. Unable to find a job in New York that could support both of them, he lived on her earnings as a fashion designer. He was never comfortable doing so, nor indeed in being married at all, and he insisted on divorcing her in 1929. Reduced to poverty—at times nearly to starvation—Lovecraft returned to his beloved Providence to live with an aunt, his only remaining relative, scratching out less than a livelihood by ghostwriting stories, articles, and an occasional book for other “writers.” Wracked by bad health from the days of his boyhood, unable to endure cold temperatures without becoming comatose, and consuming a diet that by his own calculations cost him 30 cents a day, Lovecraft contracted both a kidney infection and intestinal cancer at the age of 46. He died in Providence in 1937. Only seven people attended his funeral, and at the time of his death probably not more than a thousand readers would have recognized his name. And yet, had he lived for only a few more years, he would probably have become world famous and, eventually, wealthy. His work has been in print almost since his death, and in the late 1960’s he began to become something of a cult figure. Not only all his stories and novelettes but five volumes of his letters as well as the substantial collection of his Miscellaneous Writings are in print, and the stories at least continue to sell well. A number of biographical accounts and reminiscences of Lovecraft have been published by his fans and friends; there are at least two magazines devoted to his life and work (one of them seemingly a serious literary journal), and two full-scale biographies (including Mr. Joshi’s new one) have appeared.

Several films have been based on his stories, which have influenced some of the major writers of the late 20th century, including Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco, and an entire school of “supernatural horror fiction” has based itself on the “Cthulhu Mythos” that he invented for his own stories. An academic conference on Lovecraft was held at Brown University on the centenary of his birth, and several monographs on him and his work have been published. Lovecraft himself has popped up as a character in several science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as in comic books; a roleplaying game, based on one of his stories, has been created, and in the 1970’s there was a rock  band called “H. P. Lovecraft.” Indeed, in 1996 some Lovecraft fans even mounted a presidential campaign for one of the principal archdemons of his fictitious mythology, using the slogan, “Cthulhu For President: Why Vote For The Lesser Evil?”

Lovecraft has thus evolved into a myth, and much of what has been written about him is no less mythical than the monsters and macabre characters he created. The eccentricity of his personality and the even more bizarre contours of his personal philosophical and political beliefs—he was at once a militant atheist and a “mechanistic materialist” as well as an extreme reactionary and racialist, if not an outright Nazi, who ardently admired Franklin Roosevelt as well as Hitler and Mussolini—simply add to the myth; while the thousands of letters he produced during his lifetime (the published five volumes of letters are heavily edited and abridged and represent only a fraction of the total) render his life and mind difficult to assimilate, especially for an intelligentsia that sneers at both the sort of fiction he wrote and the ideas around which his mind revolved. Some critics have placed his literary work on the same level as that of Poe, while others dismiss his writing as trash. Some regard him as a serious thinker and aesthetic theorist; others, simply as a crackpot and a neurotic malcontent. He has been accepted almost literally as a god—and as the very sandwich man or elevator boy he was convinced he was.

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By far the greatest merit of Mr. Joshi’s biography is that it takes Lovecraft seriously—perhaps too seriously —but not as a god. While Joshi spends a good deal of time elaborating and explaining Lovecraft’s philosophical views and showing their importance to his literary work, he is often quite savage in his assessment of Lovecraft’s writing at its worst. At the same time, he readily hails Lovecraft’s several major stories as the masterpieces of literary horror that they are and carefully avoids the temptations either to indulge in speculations about the more obscure corners of Lovecraft’s life or to envelop his peculiar mind and personality in the psychobabble which detracts from the other major biography of Lovecraft by the science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp.
Lovecraft’s early stories are flawed mainly by verbosity and what critics have called “adjectivitis”—an overreliance on adjectives to describe the horrible, dreadful, frightening, gruesome, mind-chilling, etc.

Moreover, throughout his tales character development is weak: indeed, there are precious few characters at all. The protagonists of his stories are usually thinly disguised doppelgangers of Lovecraft himself, scholarly bachelors of good family but dim prospects who encounter events and beings that defy natural explanation and which usually end in the horrible, dreadful, frightening, gruesome, mind-chilling death or dismemberment of the protagonist or other characters, or at least in their insanity. There are virtually no female characters, little story development (Lovecraft’s plot devices often consist of diaries, letters, and various documents from which a narrative is reconstructed), less dialogue, and a good deal of heavy message between the lines as to how the cosmos is not really as nice or neat as mere mortals like to imagine.

The centerpiece of his stories, developed at various times throughout his career but intensively in the 1920’s, is the aforementioned “Cthulhu Mythos,” a term that refers to various fictitiously named locations in New England (Arkham, Miskatonic University), as well as to a series of supernatural or (more accurately) extraterrestrial beings known as the “Old Ones.” In Lovecraft’s literary cosmology, the Old Ones—with names like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, et cetera, loosely derived from real mythology and philology—dominated the Earth millions of years ago. Hideous in appearance (they often resemble gigantic polymorphous insects compounded with reptiles and crustaceans) but possessed of vastly superhuman intelligence and powers, they are hostile to human beings and can be revived, resuscitated, or invoked through a kind of black magic known to a few and practiced by none but the degenerate (usually nonwhites). The techniques for invoking them are to be found in various ancient tomes also invented by Lovecraft, chiefly the Necronomicon, written in the eighth century A.D. by “the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred” and existing today in only five known copies (one of which is conveniently located in the Miskatonic University Library). But invokers of the Old Ones are generally destroyed by them, and even those who become aware of their continuing existence and the implications of their existence are usually driven mad.

The stories in which Lovecraft developed the Mythos most seriously are among his best and most mature tales, and while they continued to exhibit the peculiarities of his style in their lack of character development and plot, they are gems of setting and atmosphere, enlivened by Lovecraft’s own profound knowledge of New England history, topography, architecture, and antiquities, sparingly written and genuinely effective in communicating what Lovecraft wanted to communicate. Mr. Joshi is right to insist that Lovecraft should not be faulted for avoiding character and plot since both of these would have detracted from the larger effect Lovecraft intended to create. For, as Mr. Joshi shows, in Lovecraft’s stories it is neither the human characters nor their actions that are the main interest but the Lovecraftian Cosmos itself and the beings or forces that animate it.

Lovecraft’s juvenile fascination with science alienated him from Christianity and drew him into a lifelong worldview that Mr. Joshi, as far as I know, is the first to recognize as a modern version of Epicureanism—a cosmology that denies the existence of anything but matter and motion and rejects the view that the universe has any purpose or goal. Lovecraft probably derived his Epicureanism from the Roman poet Lucretius, whom he may have read in Latin, but he also adapted that worldview throughout his life, trying to take account of Einsteinian physics and quantum theory as they became known in the 1920’s. It was the very purposelessness of the universe that lay at the heart of Lovecraft’s almost obsessive conservatism. As he wrote in an essay of 1926, reprinted in Miscellaneous Writings:

The world, life, and universe we know, are only a passing cloud—yesterday in eternity it did not exist, and tomorrow its existence will be forgotten. Nothing matters—all that happens happens through the automatic and inflexible interacting of electrons, atoms, and molecules of infinity according to patterns which are coexistent with basic entity itself . . . . All is illusion, hollowness, and nothingness—but what does that matter? Illusions are all we have, so let us pretend to cling to them; they lend dramatic values and comforting sensations of purpose to things which are really valueless and purposeless. All one can logically do is to jog placidly and cynically on, according to the artificial standards and traditions with which heredity and environment have endowed him. He will get most satisfaction in the end by keeping faithful to these things.

This rather dismal creed, repeatedly developed in his essays and even more in his letters, was indeed something of a crutch for an emotional cripple, but it was also a persuasion to which Lovecraft was seriously and intellectually attached; otherwise, he would not have argued it as carefully as he did or tried to adapt it to recent scientific developments that seemed to contradict it. Given the inherent meaninglessness of life and cosmos, the only way for human beings to extract and preserve meaning is to insist on given social and cultural traditions and the political order that enforces them, and both the given culture as well as the political order are themselves dependent on the race and the ruling class that created them.

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Lovecraft’s racialism is a persistent problem for his admirers, and most of them spend a good deal of energy trying to hammer it into the proper psychopathological pigeonholes. The bigotries Lovecraft habitually expresses in his letters and often in his stories are supposedly merely reflections of his own wounded psyche and his personal failure to get along like a normal man. For some reason, however, no one seems compelled to attribute his atheism and materialism to any psychological flaw, and Mr. Joshi is refreshingly free of this sort of cant, though he is careful to make it clear that he finds Lovecraft’s racial views “the one true black mark on his character.”
Lovecraft’s racial opinions were indeed strong even for the decade that saw publication of Madison Grant’s and Lothrop Stoddard’s work. During his life in New York, he wrote to a friend about a walk he and his wife took in the Bronx: “Upon my most solemn oath, I’ll be shot if three out of every four persons—nay, full nine out of every ten—wern’t [sic] flabby, pungent, grinning, chattering n–gers.” Similarly, six years later he remarked, “The population [of New York City] is a mongrel herd with repulsive Mongoloid Jews in the visible majority, and the coarse faces and bad manners eventually come to wear on one so unbearably that one feels like punching every g– d— bastard in sight.” These are only two more printable expressions of his views that are commonplace in his letters. It must be said, however, that there is no known occasion on which Lovecraft offered insult or injury to those whom he despised; indeed, both his wife Sonia Greene and several of his closer friends were Jewish. Decades after his death, Sonia tried to claim that his anti-Semitism was a major reason for her leaving him, but the fact is that Lovecraft insisted on the divorce, against her wishes. All accounts agree that Lovecraft was a charming, highly courteous, and kindly man, a brilliant conversationalist and companion, with an agile and erudite intelligence. His admiration for Hitler seems to have ceased after he learned of Nazi physical attacks on Jews.

Although Mr. Joshi tries to argue that Lovecraft’s racialism was largely irrelevant to his writing, that is not quite true. He is entirely correct in seeing that what he calls Lovecraft’s “cosmicism—the depicting of the boundless gulfs of space and time and the risible insignificance of humanity within them” is the core of his philosophical thought as well as his literary work, and he claims that “This is something Lovecraft expressed more powerfully than any writer before or since” (that may not be true either; there seems to be a strong parallel between Lovecraft’s cosmology and that of Joseph Conrad). Indeed, Lovecraft’s “cosmicism” is the real horror of his stories—not the grotesque appearance of the Old Ones and not the gruesome fate of those who have truck with them, but rather the discovery by the scholarly bachelors who recount the tales that the universe has no meaning at all, that all the conventions and ideas and values on which their lives and those of mankind rest are but shadows in the ceaseless play of impersonal if not actually hostile cosmic forces. As Mr. Joshi summarizes “Lovecraft’s vision”: “Humanity is not at centre stage in the cosmos, and there is no one to help us against the entities who have from time to time descended upon the earth and wreaked havoc; indeed, the ‘gods’ of the Mythos are not really gods at all, but merely extraterrestrials who occasionally manipulate their human followers for their own advantage.”

Mr. Joshi is correct about the cosmic level of meaning in Lovecraft’s stories, but he largely neglects another, social level of meaning. On that level, Lovecraft’s stories are dramas of modernity in which the forces of tradition and order in society and in the universe are confronted by modernity itself—in the form of the shapeless beings known (ironically) as the “Old Ones.” In fact, they are the “New Ones.” Their appearance to earthly beings is often attended by allusions to “Einsteinian physics,” “Freudian psychology,” “non-Euclidean algebra” (a meaningless but suggestive term), modern art, and the writing of T. S. Eliot and James Joyce. The conflicts in the stories are typically between some representative of traditional order (the New England old stock protagonist) on the one hand, and the “hordes” of Mongoloids, Levantines, Negroes, Caribbeans, and Asians that gibber and prance in worship of the Old Ones and invoke their dark, destructive, and invincible powers.

What Lovecraft does in his stories, then, is not only to develop the logic of his “cosmicism” by exposing the futility of human conventions, but to document the triumph of a formless and monstrous modernity against the civilization to which Lovecraft himself—if almost no one else in his time—was faithful. In the course of his brief existence, he saw the traditions of his class and his people vanishing before his eyes, and with them the civilization they had created, and no one seemed to care or even grasp the nature of the forces that were destroying it. The measures conventionally invoked to preserve it—traditional Christianity, traditional art forms, conventional ethics and political theory—were useless against the ineluctable cosmic sweep of the Old Ones and the new anarchic powers they symbolized.

Lovecraft believed that his order could not be saved, and that in the long run it didn’t matter anyway, so be jogged placidly and cynically on, one of America’s last free men, living his life as he wanted to live it and as he believed a New England gentleman should live it: thinking what he wanted to think, and writing what he wanted to write, without concern for conventional opinions, worldly success, or immortality. And yet, despite the indifference he affected, Howard Phillips Lovecraft has in the end attained a kind of immortality, for the classic tales of horror he created will be read as long as that genre of literature is read at all. And since man’s horror of the alien cosmos into which he has been thrown is perhaps the oldest theme of art, that may be for a very long time to come.

Source: Chronicles, May 1997, http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024 [2]

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/08/at-the-heart-of-darkness/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Joshi1997.jpg

[2] http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024: http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024

mardi, 12 mai 2015

H. P. Lovecraft’s The Conservative

lovecraft12b.jpg

The First Steampunk:
H. P. Lovecraft’s The Conservative

theconservative-frontcover Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com 

H. P. Lovecraft
The Conservative: The Complete Issues 1915–1923 [2]
Foreword by Alex Kurtagić
London: Arktos, 2013

Prior to the internet, or even the telephone, how fast could a written message travel from one end of Manhattan to another? You might think a day or two, or even hours, but you’d be wrong. In the early part of the last century, a system of pneumatic tubes enabled a piece of paper, sealed in a capsule, to travel from Wall Street to Harlem in a matter of seconds.[1]

James Howard Kunstler, proponent of livable cities and enemy of our fossil-fueled “happy motoring” lifestyle, has observed that if the power grid went out (as he devotedly wishes), and our everyday technology was rolled back to before even the automobile, we’d be effectively in the 1900s, a period surviving records show was not experienced as a Dark Age whose inhabitants wandered around lifelessly, wishing they could fly to Bangkok in a couple hours.[2]

The point is — and so-called “conservatives” used to know this, before they became obsessed with “creative destruction” and “the rapture” — our ancestors knew a thing or two,[3] and lived quite well without all our “mod cons.”[4]

American popular culture has always been infused with a DIY ethic: “Yankee ingenuity,” Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and his “American Scholar” creating his own tradition, seeking an “original relation to the universe,” all the way to Robert Johnson’s Coke bottleneck guitar which Muddy Waters made loud nightclub-friendly with electricity. It lies behind America’s plethora of home-made religions, from uptight Mormonism and Fundamentalism to acid experimentation and cults of the space brothers;[5] the Old Weird America where the Amish farmer and the laid-back hippie become indistinguishable;[6] where people made their own damn culture and didn’t buy it from a global — or even a New York[7] — corporation.

The whole “steampunk” genre, and lifestyle, appears to address this loss, although it also seems to do so more as hipster nostalgia and “irony” rather than a genuine rebirth,[8] although the related interests in home brewing and beekeeping (both recently legalized in . . . New York City!) shows promise, especially for those prepping for the collapse.[9]

Anyhow, so back in the 1860s, folks became wild about printing and mailing around their own homemade newspapers or journals, and H. P. Lovecraft, who had entered a period of seclusion following his failure to matriculate and a nervous breakdown, jumped in as enthusiastically as any basement-dwelling World of Warcraft addict.[10]

In fact, you could say he pursued the gamer’s dream of becoming a game designer himself, moving from contributing to others’ periodicals to producing his own, The Conservative, whose issues are collected here.[11]

Lovecraft seems to have come out swinging, maintaining a quarterly schedule for two years, then backing off to a yearly issue, finally skipping several years and putting out two more issues, numbered as if the missing volumes had somehow appeared (virtually?). Although he didn’t write all of it, he wrote most of it; and it wasn’t just pseudo-Augustan poetry and essays about cats. Lovecraft had a mission: world dominance, at least of the amateur press universe:

Promoting his own vision of amatuerdom as a haven for literary excellence and a tool for humanistic education.[12]

In this capacity, he contrived to become the head of the Department of Public Criticism (lovely title!) for the whole ’zine — I mean, amateur journalism scene.

Otherwise, the Conservative promoted Lovecraft’s favorite crochets, being described by him as:

[. . . ] an enthusiastic champion of total abstinence and prohibition; of moderation, healthy militarianism as contrasted with dangerous an unpatriotic peace-preaching; [. . .] of constitutional or representative government, as opposed to the pernicious and contemptible false schemes of anarchy and socialism.

Indeed, the choice of name is significant, and it’s hard to tell at many points whether Lovecraft, addressing the reader in the name of The Conservative, is speaking as Editor of the journal of that name, as the archetypal “conservative,” or as himself.

Joshi is right to notify us that these are Lovecraft’s notoriously “conservative” opinions in their original form, before later modifications and nuance.[13]

We [sic] will find that some of Lovecraft’s early opinions are quite repugnant, and many of them are uttered in a cocksure, dogmatic manner greatly in contrast to his later views.[14] Nevertheless, it was evident to all amateurs that the editor of the Conservative was an intellectual force to be dealt with.[15]

lovecraft__dedo9__by_artlessilliterate-d5he7mq.jpgBut therein lies their charm. Consider this collection, to continue the pop culture metaphor, a kind of Lovecraft Unplugged.

Some quotes, which most of our reader may find bracing rather than “repugnant”:

It appears that the CONSERVATIVE’S review of Charles D. Isaacson’s recent paper was not accepted in the honestly critical spirit intended, and that Mr. Isaacson is preparing to wreak summary verbal vengeance upon the crude barbarian who cannot appreciate the loathsome Walt Whitman, cannot lose his self-respect as a white man, and cannot endorse a treasonable propaganda designed to deliver these United States as easy victims to the first hostile power who cares to conquer them.[16]

The strongest tie in the domain of mankind, and the only potential source of social unity, is that mystic essence compounded of race, language, and culture; a heritage descended from the remote past.

Why any sane human being can believe in the possibility of universal peace is more than the CONSERVATIVE can fathom. The essential pugnacity and treachery of mankind is only too evident; and that very nation, even though pledged, would actually abolish means of warfare is absolutely unthinkable.

On those damn’d immigrants:

Leaving their own countries in dissatisfaction, they assume the cloak of American citizenship; organise any finance conspiracies with American money; and finally, with an audacity almost ironical, call upon the United States for help when overtaken by justice! Half the detestable violence of the Irish “Fenians” and “Sinn Fein” ruffians was hatched in America by those who dare drivel about such a thing as “neutrality”!

Traditional hierarchy, but a nobility of achievement, not birth:

In Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy, every son of a noble is a noble. The titled class is very large, as a rule very worthless, and possess numerous privileges subversive to the rights of so-called inferior men.

Indeed, the honest yeoman is the true friend — and beneficiary — of a traditional society:

It has been more than once remarked, that there is an intangible bond of kinship betwixt the highest and the humblest elements of the community. Whilst the bourgeois complacently busy themselves with their commonplace, respectable, and unimaginative careers of money-grabbing, the artist and the aristocrat join forces with the ploughman and the peasant in an involuntary mental wave of reaction against the monotony of materialism.

Although many on the alt-Right may find issue with some of Lovecraft’s ideas, such as the value of teetotalism:

He who strives against the Hydra-monster Rum, strives most to conserve his fellow-men.

Or his sadly jingoistic enthusiasm for WWI, despite taking a broader view in evolutionary terms:

Englishmen and Germans are blood brothers, descended from the same stern Woden-worshipping ancestors, blessed with the same rugged virtues, and fired with the same noble ambitions.

Amateur journalism got Lovecraft back in contact with human kind, or at least the more acceptable specimens in this sadly non-18th century world, and for this we later readers can be thankful. Although he eventually shifted his attention to the pulp magazine world, the bulk of his time and writing would continue to be devoted to maintaining a sort of virtual existence via mail, this time with a far-flung network of correspondents, editors, and “revision” clients;[17] although Lovecraft traveled far more than many might think (Florida, Montreal), there were a number of lifelong friends that Lovecraft never met. [18]

Editor Kurtagić proudly notes that this is the first “professional” reprinting of The Conservative in 25 years (since the stapled pamphlet with only Lovecraft’s contributions, edited by Joshi) and the first complete edition in 35. Perhaps more importantly, we can add that the introduction is more than merely scholarly; unlike Joshi, Kurtagić is sympathetic to Lovecraft’s “conservative” agenda, striving to show how Lovecraft’s various opinions are, though not “systematic,” nevertheless consistent and well-founded; in this he succeeds, since, after all, they are.

For example, Lovecraft, though so thoroughly steeped in the Augustan poets that he could almost be said to write only pastiches himself, and opposed both to Whitman’s free verse and the contemporary Imagists like Pound or Eliot, also thoroughly approved of the Victorian-bashing favored by same.

It is time . . . definitely to challenge the sterile and exhausted Victorian ideal which blighted Anglo-Saxon culture for three quarters of a century and produced a milky “poetry” of shopworn sentimentalities and puffy platitudes . . .

But these two attitudes are no more “inconsistent” or paradoxical than the demand voiced by the proponents of “historically informed performance practice” such as Nikolas Harnoncourt, that we need to strip away a century or two of calcified notions of how to perform, say, Bach or Monteverdi, not so that we can achieve some mythical “authentic” sound but so that we can craft our own response to the music; again, “an original relation to the universe.”[19]

On one other matter, though, Kurtagić would draw Lovecraft’s ire. Speaking of The Conservative being “a haven for literary excellence,” Lovecraft begins the very first issue, right under the masthead, thusly:

The Conservative desires to apologize for any errors in proofreading which may be found in this issue. Circumstances . . . rendered haste a prime essential.

Constant Readers will recall that I’ve found a lot to criticize in the publications Kurtagić has put out under the Wermod or Palingenesis Project labels. Here, Arktos seems to have done a much better job of copyediting, for which they are to be lauded. Except . . .

In my experience, introductions, prefaces, forewords and the like are not infrequently presented without footnotes, [20] at least to material quoted from the main text to follow. I like my prefaces to give me some hint of what’s to come, a kind of “coming attractions,” and it’s nice to be able to turn to the quotations in context. So I was happy to see footnotes here, but then disappointed to find that they are wildly inaccurate, presumably due to changes in pagination during the editorial process. Now really, if you are going to provide footnotes at all, how hard is it to make sure a dozen or so in the prefatory matter are accurate? [21]

That said, this is really a must have for the Lovecraftian, as well as any Counter-Currents reader who would like to sample the pleasures of real olde skool alt-Right blogging.

Notes

[1] Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was not far off in his reference to Al Gore’s invention as “the intertubes [3].” According to Wikipedia [4], “Eventually the network stretched up both sides of Manhattan Island all the way to Manhattanville on the West side and “Triborough” in East Harlem, forming a loop running a few feet below street level. Travel time from the General Post Office to Harlem was 20 minutes. A crosstown line connected the two parallel lines between the new General Post office on the West Side and Grand Central Terminal on the east, and took four minutes for mail to traverse. Using the Brooklyn Bridge, a spur line also ran from Church Street, in lower Manhattan, to the general post office in Brooklyn (now Cadman Plaza), taking four minutes. Operators of the system were called “Rocketeers””

[2] As late as the ’60s and on TV no less, such a time could symbolize not the zombie apocalypse but the Good Olde Days, worth jumping off a train for; see “Next Stop Willoughby” — only the most iconic example of Twilight Zone’s somewhat disingenuous (where’s the ham-fisted “liberalism”?) nostalgia for the time when life was slower – or, equally disingenuous, com-symp Orson Welles’ lugubrious opening and closing eulogies of 19th century Midwest life in The Magnificent Ambersons. All this is related to the phenomenon I’ve called “liberal psychogeography;” see “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012); the liberal attempts to eat his cake and have it too, by gentrifying small towns or neighborhoods (Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Ann Arbor, Greenwich Village) after the awful rednecks and other White ethnics who built them are purged.

[3] Pompous private scholar and anti-modern curmudgeon Harry Haller, the titular Steppenwolf of Hesse’s novel, strikes a rather Evola-esque note as he mocks his landlady’s son’s interest in radios among other modern contraptions, noting that communication through the air over long distances was a phenomenon well-known to the ancient Hindus. By the end of the book the humbled and drug-addled Haller will be forced by Mozart himself to listen to a broadcast of a Handel Concerto Grosso.

[4] Fr. Rolfe (“Baron Corvo”) observed that the magnificence of life in the Italian Renaissance lay not in a vulgar obsession with ever more “new” knowledge, but rather in the belief that everything was already discovered and known; a man could acquire a complete set of knowledge and then concentrate his energies in ever more elaborate and beautiful presentation thereof. See A History of the Borgias, Preface.

[5] See Donna Kossy’s Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief [5] (Portland: Feral House, 1994); also see my reviews of The Magical Universe of William Burroughs (here [6]) and Erik Davis’s Nomad Codes (here [7]).

[6] Greil Marcus, The Old Weird America (Picador, 2011; published in 1997 as Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes).

[7] “New York City!” exclaim the cowboys on learning of the origins of their store-bought alsa.

[8] The season of Portlandia announced that “The Dream of the 1890s Is Alive in Portland.” The origins of the genre arguably lie on TV as well: The Wild Wild West (CBS, 1965-69), specifically the iconic character of Dr. Miguelito Loveless (played, I’m glad to point out, by my fellow Detroiter Michael Dunn), introduced in an episode with the rather Lovecraftian title “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth.” The character, played by Kenneth Branagh, was still the only point of interest in the insultingly stupid 1999 movie, which attempted to cash-in on the fad, while simultaneously bowing to the contrary mania for making older works “relevant” by replacing White characters with negroes; a typically Judaic attempt to play all the angles by director Barry Sonnenfeld.

[9] See Claus Brinker’s review of Survive the Economic Collapse, here [8].

[10] The current job market for Brown University grads offers little hope of anything but the same poverty Lovecraft endured, although apparently what he really missed was access to Brown’s telescope.

[11] The move from consumer to producer prompts Kurtagić’s comparison to the ’zine and cassette scenes of the ’90s.

[12] I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft by S. T. Joshi (New York: Hippocampus, 2010); Chapter 6: “A Renewed Will to Live.”

[13] This was not, however, the liberal’s usual disingenuous “evolution” of opinion. For example, his Social Darwinist defense of capitalism would eventually, under the pressure of personal penury and the Great Depression generally, mutate into a qualified, then enthusiastic, support of the New Deal; but with typical Lovecraftian perversity, this was not in spite of, but because, it seemed like the closest thing to Fascism. Ralph Adams Cram came to the same conclusion; see my “Ralph Adams Cram: Wild Boy of American Architecture” in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

[14] Not unlike the Simpsons’ “Comic Book Guy.”

[15] Ibid.

[16] Isaacson, a fellow amateur journalist, was a “good” Jew of the Germanic, assimilating sort, but Lovecraft, although willing to praise his talents, always had a sharp eye — and pen — for the traces of the “Jewish mentality” that prevented him from appreciating Aryan literature and society.

[17] The astounding bulk of his letters dwarfs his fiction, and Joshi may be correct in suggesting that eventually, like weird pioneer Horace Walpole, his literary reputation may rest on these rather than the famous Cthulhu mythos. See I Am Providence, op. cit., Chapter 26: “Thou Art Not Gone.”

[18] Lovecraft’s remarks on friendship are often as odd as his comments about love and marriage. Robert E. Howard (Conan) died a few months before Lovecraft himself; hearing the news, Lovecraft remarked about how odd it would be to know that there was no longer anyone to collect mail at Howard’s PO Box. (Which is not to say that HPL did not otherwise express a normal sort of grief over the loss of his close friend (“Mitra, what a man!”); see Joshi, op. cit., Chapter 23: “The End of One’s Life.”

[19] Of course, Emerson was a big, early fan of Whitman, who, in turn, was another proponent of self-publication in both senses. Harnoncourt’s remarks occur in the liner notes to a one-disc sampler of the Teldec 153 disc box set, Bach 2000 (1999). It’s of note that the Traditionalist author and violist Marco Pallis was an associate of Arnold Dolmetsch, the distinguished reviver of early English music and one of the pioneers of the so-called “authenticity” movement, whom in turn directed Pallis to the writings of René Guénon; see “Biography of Marco Palllis,” here [9].

[20] Like book reviews, hah!

[21] Answer: not hard at all.

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/05/the-first-steampunk/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://secure.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/theconservative-frontcover.jpg

[2] The Conservative: The Complete Issues 1915–1923: https://secure.counter-currents.com/the-conservative/

[3] the intertubes: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=intertubes

[4] Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatic_tube_mail_in_New_York_City

[5] Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Kossy#Kooks_.281994.29

[6] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/tag/the-magical-universe-of-william-s-burroughs/

[7] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/11/ever-sacred-ever-vexed/

[8] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/04/survive-the-economic-collapse/

[9] here: http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/authors/Marco-Pallis.aspx#_ednref1

lundi, 16 février 2015

Horreur et endettement chez Lovecraft

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Horreur et endettement chez Lovecraft

Ex: http://www.philitt.fr

La littérature d’horreur dit-elle quelque chose du monde ? Un auteur qui ne s’intéresse ni à l’argent ni au sexe peut-il avoir un message radical sur ce qui lie l’économie à la reproduction ? En somme, Le Cauchemar d’Innsmouth de Howard Phillips Lovecraft a-t-il pour sujet la crise de 29 ?

Le Cauchemar d’Innsmouth est l’une des nouvelles les plus connues de Lovecraft. Elle figure parmi les titres réputés « canoniques » du « Mythe de Cthulhu » pour user d’un vocable qui appartient sans doute, désormais, à un état passé de la critique. En tout cas, nul, parmi les amateurs de Lovecraft, ne nie que ce texte soit l’un des plus importants d’une œuvre qui a marqué l’histoire de la littérature d’horreur. De même, la fécondité des images évoquées par ce récit est évidente aujourd’hui, que ce soit dans les romans, les bandes dessinées, les films.

Le schéma narratif est tout simple : un jeune homme est obligé de passer la nuit dans un village côtier de Nouvelle-Angleterre. L’activité halieutique, si prospère auparavant, semble désormais marginale. Les quais sont abandonnés, les maisons dans un état de décrépitude avancée, la population semble dégénérée. Après avoir rencontré un vieil homme qui lui dévoile les secrets d’Innsmouth, le narrateur réussit, non sans mal, à s’enfuir d’une ville dont la population lui est désormais hostile.

Ce récit a inspiré bien des réflexions et des analyses. La moins incontestable repose sur la plus choquante des révélations faites par Zadok Allen : Innsmouth a été le lieu de l’accouplement infâme de ses habitants avec des créatures venues des profondeurs des océans. Depuis, ces hybrides, déterminés par leur hérédité et leurs intérêts, conspirent à l’éradication de l’humanité. La logique de l’horreur dans ce récit tient donc au métissage. Or, comme la critique l’a justement fait remarquer, l’auteur lui-même, dans sa vision du monde et ses opinions politiques, était tout sauf indifférent à cette question. C’est parce que Lovecraft rejetait le métissage dans la vie réelle qu’il en a fait un objet d’horreur dans la fiction, voilà toute la thèse.

Lovecraft et l’argent

Il n’est nullement dans notre intention, ici, de nous écarter de cette interprétation dominante que nous croyons avoir par ailleurs renforcée, en faisant le parallèle avec les événements de Malaga Island que Lovecraft ne pouvait ignorer. Le métissage était pour Lovecraft un objet d’horreur sociale et littéraire. Il reste cependant à interroger les mécanismes qui rendent le métissage inéluctable et malheureux ; à révéler les ruses de l’abâtardissement et à démontrer en quoi le métissage est non seulement un ressort de l’horreur lovecraftienne mais ce qui en fait la spécificité et qui lui donne sa dimension cosmique.

En effet, s’arrêter à l’argument classique qui résume et explique tout par le racisme nous semble très insatisfaisant. Le racisme est une idée et les idées ne sont jamais premières dans l’ordre de la causalité. Le racisme est la conceptualisation, parfois pathologique, de la prise de conscience de la fragilité des liens biologiques et culturels qui lient l’homme à ses ancêtres, rien de plus. Rien de plus, mais rien de moins et la question de l’hérédité et de l’héritage, en somme, celle de Lovecraft comme héritier doit être posée.

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Il est commun de noter que Lovecraft n’avait d’intérêt ni pour l’argent, ni pour le sexe. Or, son œuvre, de par la question de la filiation, partout présente, met le sexe en avant. Non pas le sexe comme idée théorisant le plaisir — sous les formes jumelles de l’amour ou de la perversion — mais le sexe comme réalité biologique dont le plaisir n’est qu’une ruse, c’est-à-dire le mécanisme de transmission des caractères héréditaires. Qu’en est-il, alors, de l’argent ? N’est-il pas, lui aussi, chose qui s’hérite ?

Le mépris notoire de Lovecraft pour tout ce qui est vénal ne fait pas de lui un homme qui méprise l’argent. C’est un luxe que la gêne lui refuse. Cet homme incapable (délibérément incapable) d’exiger ce qui lui est dû, n’est en rien un inconscient. L’éthique n’est pas chez lui l’alibi de la faiblesse. Ce gentleman généreux et magnanime sait vivre chichement, voilà tout. Il sait épargner aux autres ses propres fragilités, fussent-elles innocentes. Tout au long de sa vie, il s’est montré économe. Il mangeait peu et mal ; il n’achetait pas tous les livres qu’il désirait ; il ne voyageait que quand il le pouvait et toujours par les moyens les plus modestes.

Robert Olmstead, le héros du Cauchemar d’Innsmouth, parcourt la Nouvelle-Angleterre en « amateur d’antiquité et de généalogie » en « choisissant toujours le trajet le plus économique ». Le personnage et son auteur ont en commun de voyager pour les mêmes raisons et avec les mêmes contraintes. C’est l’obligation de ne pas trop dépenser qui amène le protagoniste de ce théâtre de l’horreur à prendre le misérable bus d’Innsmouth et c’est sa curiosité pour les antiquités et la généalogie qui le pousse à quitter son « île de placide ignorance. » En effet, les personnages de Lovecraft, comme Lovecraft lui-même, ne sont animés ni par la libido sentiendi (le sexe), ni par la libido dominandi (le pouvoir que seul donne l’argent dans les sociétés modernes), mais par la libido sciendi, (la volonté de savoir). Robert Olmstead ne déroge pas à la règle : il veut tout savoir sur le monde et il finira par tout savoir de lui-même, y compris le pire.

Le cauchemar de 1929

Cependant, l’argent et, plus largement, la question économique ne sont pas un simple ressort de l’intrigue. Ils en sont le cœur. Le tableau qui est fait d’Innsmouth est tout de contraste. Aux couleurs chatoyantes de l’opulence passée s’opposent celles, délavées, de la décrépitude présente. « Il reste plus de maisons vides que de gens », mais ce sont les belles et dignes maisons de l’aristocratie commerçante qui sont, aujourd’hui, délabrées. De même, les vastes entrepôts de briques rouges le long des quais sont à l’abandon. Quant à l’église et à la salle de réunion maçonnique, on y rend un autre culte désormais. Lovecraft, lecteur de Spengler, décrit là une parfaite pseudomorphose : les structures minérales sont toujours là, mais ceux qui les peuplent et, de ce fait, leur nature elle-même, sont radicalement altérés.

Jadis le commerce, la pêche et les conserveries de poisson avaient enrichi Innsmouth. Aujourd’hui, sans que rien ne le justifie, la ville n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même. L’angoisse première naît de cette ruine inexplicable. Cependant, l’affinerie Marsh, elle, semble encore en activité. N’est-ce point paradoxal alors qu’il n’y a plus ni commerce ni navires au long cours pour ramener des métaux précieux ? En tout cas, ce noyau d’activité au sein d’une ville rongée et ruinée ne paraît en rien freiner le déclin général. À croire que les bénéfices, s’il y en a, ne profitent à personne…

Quand Lovecraft écrit Le Cauchemar d’Innsmouth, l’Amérique est au début de la Grande Dépression. Pour beaucoup d’Américains, le Krach de 1929 a été une surprise totale et les événements qui ont suivi sont apparus comme dépourvus de toute logique. Les rares esprits assez lucides pour en comprendre la rationalité y ont vu la conséquence nécessaire de l’excès de crédit. Il y a eu un pacte trompeur entre l’espoir et le prêt. L’espoir a déçu, le prêt s’est réduit à la dette et les hommes ne furent plus rien qu’esclaves de la dette. Voilà ce que disaient certains contemporains. Mais, n’est-ce point de cela qu’il s’agit dans la nouvelle de Lovecraft ?

Que dit le vieux Zadok Allen à Robert Olmstead ? Que les plus riches et les plus aventureux des voyageurs et des commerçants d’Innsmouth ont conclu, dans les îles des mers du Sud, un marché avec une race amphibie très ancienne. La situation économique n’était pas bonne au lendemain de la guerre de 1812. Que demandaient-ils, au fond, ces hommes aux visages de poisson, en échange de leur or ? Qu’on expédie quelques Canaques à la mer pour qu’ils les offrent à leurs dieux ? La belle affaire ! Ce n’est pas cher payé ! Et pour le reliquat, il serait toujours temps de voir.

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Per usura n’ont les hommes de lignées pures

Mais les créatures venues de la mer avaient bien plus à vendre que leur or. Elles voulaient autre chose et étaient prêtes à donner bien plus en contrepartie. Que vos fils et nos filles s’accouplent et leur progéniture sera immortelle, dirent-elles ! Passant leurs réticences premières, non sans déchirement, non sans violence, les habitants d’Innsmouth l’acceptèrent. C’est une façon trop tentante de régler ses dettes que de les reporter sur la génération suivante et puis doit-elle se plaindre ? Elle ne sera plus humaine, certes, elle sera, par ses épousailles, éternellement liée à Dagon et à jamais tributaire de forces par nature hostiles à l’Homme puisqu’en concurrence avec lui dans le struggle for life cosmique, mais elle sera, aussi, à tout jamais libérée de la finitude humaine.

Alors, « les gens ont commencé a pus rien faire », à quoi bon ? L’or venait de la mer et achetait les complaisances ; le poisson abondait et permettait de nourrir des hommes désormais à demi-poisson ; le temps n’était plus à craindre ; l’attente n’aboutissait plus à la mort ; la vie n’était qu’un lent glissement vers le fond des océans et vers une autre façon de vivre, de rire, de tuer. Tout au plus fallait-il prêter l’oreille à la musique des abysses dans l’impatience du retour de Celui qui n’est pas mort. Car, le païen Lovecraft fait d’Innsmouth le lieu d’une attente messianique, celle d’un grand nettoyage, suivi du remplacement de la race humaine par une autre à la fois plus ancienne et plus radicalement tournée vers ce futur qui verra le retour des Grands Anciens.

Cependant, le lecteur sait depuis le début que cette échéance eschatologique sera reculée. Le narrateur échappe à la ville et dénonce ce qui s’y passe à un gouvernement qui n’hésite pas à renoncer un instant à être un État de droit en recourant à l’état d’exception.

Ce que Lovecraft décrit dans sa nouvelle, il le voit sous ses yeux. L’Italie et l’Allemagne en Europe, les États-Unis du New Deal sous ses yeux lui montrent que la crise de 1929 et, au-delà du symptôme, que la modernité ne sont pas inéluctables. Comme chez beaucoup de conservateurs, l’espérance dans l’État (dans sa violence) se substitue au pessimisme politique. Le socialisme comme organisation de l’économie apparaît, aux yeux de ces hommes, comme un moyen de préservation de l’ordre ancien — non dans sa lettre, mais dans son esprit.

Le cauchemar d’Innsmouth est celui de la dette et de son corollaire, l’abâtardissement. Seul le réveil de l’État peut nous en sauver (provisoirement), y est-il suggéré. Comment ? Par l’état d’exception, par la déportation, par l’extermination. Le massacre final n’est rien d’autre que la vision fantasmagorique d’un New Deal musclé, d’un fascisme à l’américaine. L’horreur romanesque ou politique n’a d’autre issue, pour Lovecraft, que dans cette ultime violence retardatrice et seulement retardatrice. Car le gentleman de Providence sait aussi cette profonde vérité : tout passe.

 

jeudi, 20 novembre 2014

The Lovecraftian Fiction of Don Webb

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Knowing All the Angles:
The Lovecraftian Fiction of Don Webb

By James J. O'Meara 

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

Don Webb
Through Dark Angles: Works Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft [2]
New York: Hippocampus Press, 2014

“A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.” — John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

I don’t know if I am delivering cows to the slaughterhouse door or helping beautiful butterflies out of their cocoon. . . . I made simple diagrams showing all the angles. Humans picked up where they had stopped four thousand years ago.” — Don Webb, “The Megalith Plague”

4b584464f21f6a74d8dac928cde3a6ea.image.390x600.jpgDon Webb has been writing short stories, and the occasional novel, since, as a rather indifferent undergraduate at Texas Tech, he took a supposedly easy-A class in “The Science Fiction Short Story” and discovered that unlike his fellow slackers, he’d rather take the write a story option than the term paper. The story itself was equally indifferent, but by then the hook was in, a writer born.

Earlier still, as a mere sprout growing up in Texas, Webb had discovered the chilly pleasures of weird fiction, and H. P. Lovecraft in particular. So, like so many others, it was natural that he should turn his hand to tales inspired by Lovecraft and his mythos. He’s now a professor of writing at the University of Texas, and this collection brings together about thirty years’ worth of his homages to the eldritch Master, each one also dedicated to another weird writer.

Now, before you saddle up and hit the trail, heading out the other direction, expecting the literary equivalent of a Star Trek convention,[1] well, just hold your horses, pardner[2] — you should know right away that these are no ordinary, all too ordinary, works of Lovecraft pastiche.

Apart from literary polish, what sets these tales apart from others and links them all together — or manifests itself within them — is Webb’s particular take on Lovecraft and the occult in general.

Reflecting perhaps his day job as an English professor, Webb distinguishes the tragic approach to Lovecraft — epitomized by such “miserablists” as Thomas Ligotti — and the comedic (as in the Divine Comedy) — well represented by August Derleth. For the one, knowledge brings disaster and, well, misery; for the other, the officially sanctioned dogmas of revealed religion assure us that all will be set right eventually.

Webb then announces a third approach, his own — the Epic. Lovecraft characters such as Randolph Carter or Joseph Curwen “rebel[s] against cosmic injustice,” and

Brave souls [who] seek to gain entrance into a heightened realm of perception and will do so by embracing the darkness — not the darkness of Sunday school “evil” but the darkness of the unknown.

For every hundred readers thinking how dreadful it would be to have one’s brains removed by the Fungi or one’s psyche trans-temporally transposed by the Great Race, there is one who secretly wishes for it to happen.

With these bold words Webb aligns himself with those Lovecraftians who affirm that whatever the old boy thought, Wisdom is Good.[3]

For example, in “Calling Cthulhu [3],”[4] esoteric journalist Erik Davis described the then-nascent cult of pop-Cthulhu, and noted that Lovecraft’s “dread” and “horror” seemed to belong to a 19th-century materialist confronting vast new vistas opened up by science, not unlike those opened by the ’60s drug culture, as he describes it in a later article on Cthulhu porn:

In this tangy bon-bon of nihilistic materialism, Lovecraft anticipates a peculiarly modern experience of dread, one conjured not by irrational fears of the dark but rather by the speculative realism of reason itself, staring into the cosmic void. . . . This terror before the empty and ultimately unknowable universe of scientific materialism is what gives the cosmic edge to the cosmic horror that Lovecraft, more than any other writer, injected into the modern imagination (though props must be given up as well to Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, and, in the closing chapters of The Time Machine at least, H. G. Wells). While many secular people proclaim an almost childlike wonder at the mind-melting prospect of the incomprehensibly vast universe sketched out by astrophysics and bodied forth by doctored Hubble shots, Lovecraft would say that we have not really swallowed the implication of this inhuman immensity—that we have not, in other words, correlated our contents.[5]

As Webb says,

I write to create wonder, which can be ecstasy and fear or simple alienation. I write thus to heal my Gnostic soul, the alien man trapped in this world. Fortunately some others share my needs and have bought this little book. I hope I can abduct them from the workaday world into a place of weird realism.[6] I hope you won’t be quite the same when you return to your “real” life. Hail to the Ancient Dreams!

As words like ‘Gnostic’ and ‘epic’ clue us in, this is the Heroic or Dry Path of the Hermetic, or Magical, Tradition, as discussed by Baron Evola.[7] In these traditions, the pursuit of Knowledge is not a sinful urge subject to dreadful punishment, as in the Abrahamic religions Lovecraft, atheist that he is, is still influenced by,[8] but rather the essence of the Path itself.[9]

And so Webb himself is not only a teacher of writing but also a high priest of the Temple of Set, and a student of the great theorist of the Left Hand Path, Dr. Stephen A. Flowers (another Texan!).[10] His weird tales are kinda like “The Dunwich Horror” written from Wilbur’s point of view.[11]

The nature of that wisdom is also of interest. An adolescent reading of Derleth’s anthology Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (my own first exposure to Lovecraftiana) acquainted him with

[T]he Bloch-Lovecraft sequence [of tales; i.e., Bloch‘s “The Shambler from the Stars” and Lovecraft’s response] that forever caught my mind with the Shining Trapezohedron. A gateway to “other spaces” — possibly one of the most effective symbols of cosmicism for itself. This image haunts both my fiction and my esoteric pursuits [my emphasis].

And so Webb eventually became a Knight of the Order of the Trapezoid, initiated by Dr. Stephen Flowers.

Now, the notion of the Secret being mathematics is certainly a notion Lovecraft uses as a prop in stories like “The Shambler from the Stars” and eminently in “The Dreams in the Witch House” (which features the bizarre notion of “non-Euclidean calculus”[12]. However, serious use of mathematics as a symbol, and even a method of enlightenment, goes back at least to Plato, up through Leibniz,[13] and most recently has been promoted by the endless stream of pseudepigraphical kindles from the so-called “Illuminati Conspiracy.”[14]

And it maps easily, I think, onto the Traditional metaphysics, the path of jnana, as outlined by René Guénon.[15]

So the picture that emerges is that both Webb’s take on Lovecraft, and his view of reality, are one, neither cosmic despair (Lovecraft, Ligotti, or Dawkins[16] nor blind Abrahamic “faith” (Derleth and millions of others) but optimistic enlightenment through mathematics (Guénon, The Illuminati Conspiracy, Webb).[17]

But make no mistake; these are well-written tales, not agitprop for the Illuminati; and they are delicious horror tales, with the protagonists usually meeting unfortunate ends:

Detective Sergeant Blick materialized almost a thousand feet above L.A. — “Looking Glass”

Or at the very least, they emerge with a new and uncomfortable awareness of once pleasant, ordinary things:

But I can’t quite believe in home any more. I wonder what Their thoughts are like, and some nights I wonder so long and hard that I think I might start to know.” — “Doc Corman’s Haunted Palace One Fourth of July”

I won‘t go through all 25 or so tales here, but rather suggest that you go out and buy the book and enjoy yourself; besides, there’s always the tricky thing about not revealing too much about stories that often depend on a gruesome surprise if not an outright “trick“ ending. But I will note some of my favorite tales here.

“Lovecraft’s Pillow” is perhaps intended as a bit of self-mockery, lest the author become too big for his britches. A hack horror writer (“What do you do when you have ideas for four novels and are writing your ninth?”) buys what purports to be Lovecraft’s pillow, half expecting to tap into the old boy’s dreams, but the actual transformation is very different and more substantial.

“From Mars to Providence” starts off as a Wells/Lovecraft mashup, but slowly become perhaps the best Lovecraft pastiche I’ve read — almost every line is a Lovecraft phrase, title or allusion, yet the narrative proceeds quite naturally to a twist ending that, in retrospect, is only what the title plainly promised.[18]

“The Codices” is a story I should have written at some point, taking off from the interesting fact that R. H. Barlow, one of Lovecraft’s youthful correspondents, is likely to have met William S. Burroughs when Barlow was teaching anthropology at Mexico City College while Burroughs was there studying the Mayan Codices.
Barlow couldn’t help but think about Burroughs’s ideas [“you orient yourself toward the future . . . by looking backward to . . . a time before death“] as reflecting the sort of thing that Lovecraft had written about.[19]

Alas, a private seminar with Burroughs and two of his “young, beautiful wild boys” does not end as pleasantly as they had anticipated.

Inevitably, not everything quite works. “Powers of Air and Darkness” is a sort of steam punk version of Lovecraft (itself a popular genre of Lovecraftianism these days) that despite some interesting ideas — using elements of Charles Fort (“It‘s all stockyards”), ancient astronauts and Operation Paperclip to re-vision Lovecraft’s horror of “progress” as the great parade of fin de siècle technology (“the difference engine, the X-ray, pneumatic limbs, dirigibles” etc.) being a plot by the “fungal fliers” of Pluto (see “The Whisperer in Darkness”) to exterminate mankind for their masters, the Elder Gods — is just too long and rather dull, somewhat like the Edwardian spooky tales it emulates.

But the repeated line about stockyards does tie up nicely with the next and final tale, “Casting Call” (“waiting with the other cattle,” itself an allusion to Hitchcock’s “treat them like cattle”), as well as the second tale, “The Megalith Plague,” as already quoted at the top.

In fact, there’s a nice bit linking up all the tales, as well as linking up Webb’s fiction and philosophy: just about every tale mentions angles; for while there are

. . . right angles that turn thinking into sleeping.

there are also:

Certain shapes — trapezoids in particular — obtuse angles that have a deleterious effect on mankind.

Indeed, like the narrator of zombie apocalypse “Sanctuary,”

“I guess I should have paid more attention in Mrs. Gamble’s geometry class.”

Back in “The Eldritch Evola,” I suggested that if Evola’s metaphysics sometimes sounds like Lovecraft, then rather than disparage Evola’s metaphysics we should take Lovecraft’s “fictions” more seriously. Don Webb is that rare bird, equally adept in hermetics and weird fiction, and this collection is recommended to anyone who isn’t afraid of either one.

Notes

1. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; see “Klingon Like Me” in Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica by Erik Davis (Verse Chorus Press, 2011).

2. You see, many stories take place in Texas, and, well . . . actually, no one talks that way, thank Yog Sothog. Webb’s Texas Arkham, Doublesign (as in “a town so small the “Welcome” and “Leaving” signs are on the same pole“) is full of colorful detail but none of the painful dialect attempts writers of Lovecraft’s generation indulged in. Texas is actually a pretty appropriate place for weird fiction, being, after all, the home of Lovecraft’s friend and fellow Weird Tales titan. Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Webb points out elsewhere that Texans love eccentrics and storytellers; I suspect that if Lovecraft had ever visited Howard, they would have taken to the oddball New Englander like the Colorado silver miners took to Oscar Wilde (see my “Wild Boys and Hard Men” in The Homo and the Negro [San Francisco: Counter Currents, 2012]). “Remember, Texas invented Buckminsterfullerene, which is the Texas state molecule, and Deep Fried Butter. It is hard NOT to write Weird fiction here.” — “Interview with author Don Webb” in Cthulhu Mythos Writers Sampler 2013 (s. l.).

3. To be distinguished from “Knowledge is Good,” the motto of Animal House’s Faber College.

4. “Calling Cthulhu: H. P. Lovecraft’s Magical Realism” in op. cit.

5. Erik Davis, “Cthulhu is not cute [4]!” Davis references the Cthulhu plushies, which turn up again in Webb’s tale “Plush Cthulhu.”

6. Referring, I assume to Graham Harman’s Weird Realism; see my review, “Lovecraft as a Heideggerian Event” here [5] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter Currents, 2014).

7. In many places, but especially in The Hermetic Tradition (Inner Traditions, 1994) and Introduction to Magic (Inner Traditions, 2001).

8. For example, the original Faust tale, as opposed to Goethe’s Gnostic reworking. Webb’s tales allude to Faust a couple of times: the heroine of “Emily‘s Rose Window” muses “Dark knowledge and gold and women — who would have thought that Faust lived in the late twentieth century in Kingsport?” while a Mexican immigrant hopes to jump start his career by stealing a magical book from Forest Ackerman, thinking “All good Americans want Faust’s deal.”

9. Many have pointed out that the Dunwich tale is Lovecraft having some blasphemous fun parodying the Christ myth, but as always with blasphemy, the kick comes from the residual belief, as in the Black Mass. As I suggested in my essay “The Eldritch Evola” — here and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others — Lovecraft’s idea that our minds would be “blasted” if we ever dared to “correlate their contents” is “spooky” only on the assumption that our egoic mind is all we are; but what if the death of the ego is the birth of a new, higher consciousness, as the Hermetic or Heroic Tradition would have it?

10. His non-fiction books include Uncle Setnakt’s Guide to the Left Hand Path and The Seven Faces of Darkness.

11. In fact, Webb intersperses some of the first tales reprinted here with some blank verse poetry written by Wilbur, Lavinia, and other Dunwich characters, giving them the chance to tell their side of thing.

12. See Leslie Klinger’s discussion of what one scholar calls “Lovecraft’s pseudomathematics” in note 3 to the tale as printed in his New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (New York: Liveright, 2014).

13. In the steam punk tale “Powers of Air and Darkness” the “difference engine” is an alien-inspired tool to fool mankind into thinking in 1/0, yes/no dualities, but this is itself a Gnostic idea that relies on the notion of a higher, salvific mathematics.

14. See it all laid out most conveniently — and free! — on their website, Armageddon conspiracy.co.uk; among their kindles, the best place to start seem The God Game (The God Series, Book 1) by one Mike Hockney. [6]

15. In such works as Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta, Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrine, and above all, The Symbolism of the Cross. Guénon himself, of course, was trained as a mathematician, wrote books on calculus, and was disparaged by the more Abrahamic Traditionalists as being “an eye without a heart.”

16. Just as Evola make a three-part distinction between ordinary conscious experience, the picture unfolded by empirical science, and the higher-states of mind evoked by the Hermetic or Magical Path (see “The Nature of Initiatic Knowledge” in Introduction to Magic), so the illuminati distinguish their higher path of mathematics from both Abrahamic faith and Dawkins’ bumptious, veddy British empiricist dogma; see Richard Dawkins: The Pope of Unreason (The God Series, Book 16) by Mike Hockney.

17. “When we let the world become predictable we die a little, we become more of a machine. Conventional religion with easy explanations has the same effect as science — it removes that uncertainty that is the basis (the space if you will) that consciousness needs.” — “Author of the Week: Don Webb,” Lovecraft e-Zine, Sept. 28, 2014, here [7].

18. Those who responded with fear and loathing to my suggestion that the music of Wagner, however “beautiful” or “racially uplifting” is — judged by what might be called higher mathematical standards (metaphysics, music and mathematics being interchangeable) — spiritually enervating, might consider the Martian decadence described in this story as “the objective art of the past [such as the “mathematically perfect music of the Martians”] was increasingly replaced by an outrageous subjectivity.” Or, when reading “Emily’s Rose Window,” reflect on the trans-dimensional aliens who use the transmitted and magnified images of “beautiful” human women to torture captured enemies with their worst nightmares. The latter is also a bit of homage to Rod Serling, which also crops up when a character in “The Megalith Plague” imagines waking up in a hospital bed à la Twilight Zone‘s “Eye of the Beholder,” and become explicit in the last tale, “Casting Call,” a homage to Night Gallery.

19. Just as I have suggested that if Evola sounds like Lovecraft, we should therefore pay more attention to Lovecraft than less attention to Evola; see “The Eldritch Evola” here [8] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (Counter-Currents, 2014).

 


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/11/knowing-all-the-angles-the-lovecraftian-fiction-of-don-webb/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/donwebb.jpg

[2] Through Dark Angles: Works Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1614980845/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1614980845&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=ZNRUM2ICD7ZENGFP

[3] Calling Cthulhu: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.techgnosis.com%2Fchunkshow-single.php%3Fchunk%3Dchunkfrom-2005-12-13-1057-0.txt&rct=j&q=erik%20davis%20cthulhu&ei=tvM5TdH7CsWblgeT643rBQ&usg=AFQjCNEN0cnIB67UuXUWCVPt9ODqzLI6Jg&cad=rja

[4] Cthulhu is not cute: http://techgnosis.com/chunkshow-single.php?chunk=chunkfrom-2010-05-03-1521-0.txt

[5] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/lovecraft-as-heideggerian-event/

[6] Mike Hockney.: http://www.amazon.com/Mike-Hockney/e/B004KHR7DC/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

[7] here: http://lovecraftzine.com/2014/09/28/lovecraftian-weird-fiction-author-of-the-week-don-webb/

[8] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/01/the-eldritch-evola/

mardi, 10 septembre 2013

The Gentleman from Providence

The Gentleman from Providence

By Alex Kurtagić

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

iap

S. T. Joshi
I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft [2]
2 vols.
New York: Hippocampus Press, 2012

When it comes to a truly comprehensive biography of Howard Philip Lovecraft, one cannot do better than S. T. Joshi’s I am Providence, a 2 volume, 1,000-page, 500,000-word mammoth of a book that aims to cover everything there is to know about the American master of the weird tale.

As with Mark Finn, whose biography of Howard I reviewed recently, it would seem that L. Sprague de Camp was what spurred Joshi into action: after reading the latter’s Lovecraft: A Biography upon initial publication in 1975, Joshi dedicated his life thereafter to the study of the author from Providence. His choice of university was dictated by its holding the Lovecraft manuscript collection of the John Hay Library. And when he discovered that At the Mountains of Madness, his favourite Lovecraft story, contained no less than 1,500 textual errors, he devoted the ensuing years to tracking down and examining manuscripts and early publications in order to determine the textual history of the work and make possible a corrected edition of Lovecraft’s collected fiction, “revisions,” and other writings. What we have here, you may confidently conclude, is the product of decades of fanaticism and obsessive investigation.

Lovecraft was born in 1890, into a conservative upper middle class family, in Providence, Rhode Island. His father, Winfield, was a travelling salesman, employed by Gorham & Co., Silversmiths, and his mother, Sarah, could trace her ancestry back to the arrival of George Phillips to Massachusetts in 1630. His parents married in their thirties.

The young Lovecraft was talented, intellectually curious, and precocious, able to recite poetry by age two, and to read by age three. Growing up at a time when school was not compulsory, Lovecraft would not be enrolled in one until he was eight years of age and his attendance would be sporadic, possibly due to a nervous complaint and / or psychosomatic condition. But he was well ahead of his coevals in any event, having been exposed, and thereafter enjoyed ready access, to the best of classical and English literature. From Lovecraft’s perspective, this meant 17th and early 18th century prose and poetry, and, indeed, so steeped was he in the canonical literature from this period that he regarded its style of writing not only the finest ever achieved, but, for him, the norm. In the process, he also absorbed some of the archaic tastes and sensibilities permeating this literature, which would subsequently be reflected in his writing, speech, and attitudes, fundamentally aristocratic and at odds with the 20th century. What is more, Lovecraft was never denied anything he may have needed in the pursuit of his intellectual development, be it a chemistry set, a telescope, or printing equipment, so he became knowledgeable enough on these topics, and particularly his passion, astronomy, to contribute articles to a local publication from an early age. He also regularly produced—while still in infancy—his own amateur scientific journals, many of which still survive and were personally examined by Joshi for this biography. Thus, from early on, Lovecraft, a somewhat lonely boy with a charmed boyhood, was committed to a life entirely of the mind.

With such beginnings, it would appear to a casual observer that Lovecraft was well-equipped to become a success in life. But, instead, in adulthood he experienced ever-worsening poverty, squalor, and, though well known for a period within the specialised milieu of amateur publishing, growing professional obscurity. That his legacy has endured owes—besides to the intrinsic value of his works—perhaps in a not insignificant measure to his having been a prodigous correspondent: it has been estimated that throughout the course of his life Lovecraft may have written as many as 100,000 letters (only about 20,000 of which survive), and these were not hastily penned missives, as can be seen in the many excerpts herein presented, but thoughtful communications, sometimes of up to 30 pages in length, which are works of literatue in themselves.

In examining his overall trajectory, we can identify a number of negative vectors early on. The loss of his father, who, following a psychotic episode and permanent committal to a local hospital, suffering from what Joshi presumes to have been syphilis, meant that, from 1893, Lovecraft passed into the care of his mother, aunts, and his maternal grandfather. Whipple van Buren Phillips, a wealthy businessman, proved a positive influence, but died in 1904, and, his estate being poorly managed, this eventually forced the family to downsize. This badly affected the young Lovecraft, to the point that he briefly contemplated suicide. He was eventually dissuaded by his own intellectual curiosity and love of learning.

In 1908, just prior to his high school graduation, Lovecraft suffered a nervous breakdown. Joshi speculates that failure to master higher mathematics may have been a factor, since Lovecraft’s ambition was to become a professional astronomer. (Failure to master meant not getting straight As, but, among the As, a few A-s and Bs.) Whatever its cause, the breakdown prevented Lovecraft from obtaining his diploma, a fact he would later conceal or minimise. Lovecraft then went into seclusion—hikikomori, as it would be called today—in which condition he remained for five years, mostly reading and writing poetry. Joshi expresses alarm at the sheer volume of reading undertaken by Lovecraft during this period, a large portion of it consisting of magazines.

Lovecraft’s re-emergence owes to his irritation with a pulp author, Fred Jackson, whose stories in Argosy magazine he found maudlin, mediocre, and irritating. His letter was published in the magazine, whereby it detonated an opinionated debate. When Lovecraft’s expressed view led to attacks, he responded in lofty and witty verse, thus instigating a months-long war—in archaic rhyme—in the letters’ page. This got him noticed by the president of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), Edward F. Daas, who invited Lovecraft to join. This inaugurated Lovecraft’s amateur career, which led to his return to fiction—something he had dabbled in years before—and, by 1919, to his first commerically published work. During his early years in amateurdom, Lovecraft would also produce his own literary journal, The Conservative, a publication that truly lived up to its name and that has only recently been reprinted by Arktos in unabridged form.

Throughout this period Lovecraft continued to live with his mother, who sustained them both off an ever-shrinking inheritance. Trapped between the expectations of her class and dwindling resources, she grew progressively more neurotic and unstable. She already had an unheathily close, love-hate, relationship with her son, and Joshi records that she considered her son’s visage too ugly for public view. By 1919, suffering from hysteria and clinical depression, she would be committed to hospital, where she would remain for the rest of her days. Mother and son stayed close correspondents, but she was a perennial source of worry. Thus, when Sarah died in 1921, initial grief led to a sense of liberation, and an improvement in Lovecraft’s general health—though he, at this time a tall man of nearly 200 lbs, always regarded himself as ailing.

Yet there were further turns to the worst ahead. In 1921, at a convention for amateur journalists in Boston, Lovecraft met Sonia Green, an assimilated 38-year-old Ukrainian Jew from New York, whom he would marry in 1924. Interestingly, Lovecraft only told his aunt after the fact, writing to her from New York, where he had by then already taken residence at Sonia’s apartment.

Joshi notes that at this time Lovecraft’s prospects appeared to be improving: Sonia earned a good living at a hat shop in Fifth Avenue, and Lovecraft’s professional writing career was taking off. Lovecraft, then in a decadent phase, was also enthralled by the city, where he had a number of amateur friends. However, Sonia lost her job almost immediately when the shop went bankrupt. This forced Lovecraft for the first time to find regular employment, but without qualifications, work experience, nor, apparently, marketable skills, he was unable to find a position. The consequent financial difficulties impacted on Sonia’s health, who entered a sanatorium for a period of recovery. Eventually, she would find a job in Cleveland, leaving Lovecraft to live on his own, in a tiny apartment, in Brooklyn Heights (then Red Hook), back then a seedy neighbourhood. Sonia sent him an allowance, which permitted him to cover his rent and minimal expenses, but otherwise Lovecraft lived in poverty, stretching as far as possible a minuscule fare of unheated beans, bread, and cheese.

This was, however, genteel poverty. When, on one occasion, Lovecraft’s apartment was burglarised, he was left with only the clothes on his back (while he slept, the thieves gained access to his closet and stole all his suits). His reaction says much about Lovecraft: first priority for him was to get four new replacements: light and dark, winter and summer—no easy task, given his slender wallet. A gentleman may be poor, but he must still dress like a gentleman! The ensuing hunt for suitable attire taxed Lovecraft’s ingenuity, and ignited his frustration at the shoddy quality of modern suits (Lovecraft’s original suits had been made in happier times). Eventually, he succeeded, with minimal compromise.

Seething with immigrants of all descriptions, crowded, and filthy, Lovecraft came to despise New York, recognising it as an emblem of modern degeneration (remember: he already thought this in 1925!). This negative opinion does not sit well with Joshi: having immigrated from India at a young age and having been a New York resident for 27 years, Joshi puts Lovecraft through the wringer for failing to appreciate the city’s vibrancy. Here and elsewhere, he attacks Lovecraft for his enamourment with Anglo-Saxondom, his fierce resistance to racial egalitarianism, and his rejection of the multicultural society. In Joshi’s estimation, Lovecraft ought to have considered Franz Boas’ research, which was beginning to transform anthropology at this time; Joshi views this as contrary to Lovecraft’s rigorous scientific outlook—in other words, as Lovecraft having been blinded by prejudice. However, this overlooks the fact that there were different strands of opinion in anthropology at this time: this was the Progressive Era, when the American eugenics movement was at its height, enjoying institutional legitimacy, famous proponents (e.g. John Harvey Kellogg), and backing from the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution, and the the Harriman estate. Boas’ findings were politically motivated and not universally accepted, and he had by no means proven his case. (Worse still, since then there have been accusations of scientific fraud.) It would, therefore, seem that Lovecraft was entirely consequent with his aristocratic and scientific worldview.

Though Joshi deems it necessary to shoehorn his views on race and racism—zzz . . . —he shows admirable restraint, all things considered—though he has still been criticised by readers. He clearly struggles to reconcile his admiration for Lovecraft with an imagined rejection by him, which is coloured by the absurdities of the modern discourse on these matters. As the author of The Angry Right: Why Conservatives Keep Getting it Wrong (2006), where he invects against liberals like William Buckley and Rush Limbaugh, and where he welcomes the Leftward drift of American values, he can understand Lovecraft’s own merely as a reflection of the times in which he lived. Yet, Joshi has expended an immense amount of time and energy studying and writing about Lovecraft’s thought and worldview, as expressed both in correspondence and in fiction, and thus makes a fair attempt at describing them at length in a temperate fashion.

Lovecraft would eventually return to Providence, thus marking the beginning of the most productive phase of his career. By this time his marriage to Sonia was essentially over; a final attempt was made, but Lovecraft’s aunts rejected the idea of Sonia setting up shop in Providence, regarding her—or rather, the idea of a businesswoman—as somewhat declassé. Joshi again takes Lovecraft to task for not having shown more backbone before his aunts, but he is, nevertheless, of the opinion that Lovecraft was unsuited for marriage—being emotionally distant, stiff-upper lipped, and sexually sluggish—and ought never to have taken a wife. The Lovecrafts would in time agree on an amicable divorce (though, in the end, and to Sonia’s shock later on, he never signed the decree).

Despite his peaking productivity, Lovecraft’s economic prospects continued to decline. His stories became longer and more complex, and it became increasingly difficult to place them. Farnsworth Wright, Weird Tales’ capricious editor, repeatedly rejected them, though sometimes he would accept some after a period, after lobbying or intercession by one of Lovecraft’s correspondents. His seminal essay on horror fiction, Supernatural Horror in Literature [3], completed at this time, appeared haphazardly and incompletely in tiny amateur publications, and would never appear in its final, revised, complete form during his lifetime. Therefore, Lovecraft, now living in semi-squalor with his aunt in cramped accommodation, was increasingly forced to survive through charging for “revisions,” which, given the amount of hands-on editing and re-writing involved, was for the most part tantamount to ghostwriting. Lovecraft was too much of a gentleman, too generous for his own good, and charged very modest fees. We must remember, however, that Lovecraft, in this same modest spirit, saw himself as a hack.

All the same, through extreme frugality and resourcefulness, Lovecraft still managed to travel yearly around New England, mainly as an antiquary. This resulted in extensive travelogues, written in 18th-century prose, replete with archaisms and therefore neither publishable nor intended for publication. Joshi mentions that some have criticised Lovecraft for expending excessive energy on correspondence and unpublishable travelogues, rather than writing fiction, but he argues that this was Lovecraft’s life, not his critics’—who are they to tell him, posthumously, what he ought to have done?

Joshi notes that the Great Depression forced Lovecraft to reconsider some of his earlier positions, and that he—encouragingly in his view—embraced FDR’s New Deal. He also notes, although briefly, that Lovecraft may have misunderstood the nature of the program. All the same, he likes to describe Lovecraft as having become a “moderate socialist,” even if he is later careful to point out that his socialism was radically distinct from the Marxist conception—in fact, Lovecraft instinctively sympathised with fascism and Hitler’s movement, and would remain firmly opposed to Communism. Lovecraft’s conception of socialism was entirely elitist. From his perspective, the culture-bearing stratum of a civilisation should not, in an ideal world, be shackled by the need to waste time and energy on trivial tasks, out of the need to earn a living: the production of high culture is often incompatible with commercial goals, so, in his view, it demands freedom from economic activity. And this implied some sort of patronage, in the manner that kings, popes, or wealthy aristocrats or businessmen provided to artists in the past. In other words, a portion of the nation’s wealth should be channelled into things of lasting value—and, therefore, into seeing to it that the very few individuals capable of producing them are in a position to do so. Lovecraft conceived this as socialism because he saw it as the task of the best to better the rest, and high art and intellection played an important rôle in that endeavour.

By 1936, Lovecraft, already in constant pain, was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He would die a few months later, on 15 March 1937.

As with Finn’s biography of Robert E. Howard, Joshi carries on beyond the grave to trace Lovecraft’s legacy, and the development of Lovecraft scholarship over the past 75 years. Like Finn, he has complaints about L. Sprague de Camp’s biography, which he deems substandard and inaccurate; he describes de Camp as business-minded (a euphemism for opportunist). Joshi also criticises August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s correspondents, who acted early on and energetically to preserve Lovecraft’s legacy through his publishing company, Arkham House: as de Camp did with Howard, Derleth sought to extend Lovecraft’s mythology with posthumous “collaborations,” wherein he distorted the mythology by infusing it with his own preconceptions. To Joshi this was a disreputable attempt to market his own fiction using Lovecraft’s name, though Derleth would later become a well-regarded author in his own right.

While Joshi’s biography is impressive in its comprehensiveness and level of detail, I found his compulsion to provide a plot summary of every single story that Lovecraft ever wrote rather tedious and beyond requirements. One can see that the biography’s comprehensive logic dictates their inclusion, and they can be useful, but I wonder if the tomes’ objectives could not have been met without this overwhelming prolixity.

Joshi recognises his subject’s superior character in that, though Lovecraft would have been able to prosper economically had he compromised on quality, produced more, and stuck to what was popular, he remained steadfast in his refusal to do so. Whatever he did, he did to the best of his ability, without homage to Mammon. Readers, says Joshi, should be grateful for that, as it was this that has guaranteed the lasting value of Lovecraft’s work as well as his enduring legacy.

 


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/09/the-gentleman-from-providence/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/iap.gif

[2] I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1614980519/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1614980519&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[3] Supernatural Horror in Literature: http://shop.wermodandwermod.com/supernatural-horror-in-literature.html

lundi, 04 mars 2013

Lovecraft as Heideggerian Event

hp-lovecraft.gif

A General Outline of the Whole”
Lovecraft as Heideggerian Event

By James J. O'Meara

weird-realism Graham Harman

Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy [2]
Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2012

A winter storm in NYC is less the Currier and Ives experience of upstate and more like several days of cold slush, more suggestive—and we’ll see that suggestiveness will be a very key term—of Dostoyevsky than Dickens.

On a purely personal level, such weather conditions I privately associate[1] with my time—as in “doing time”—at the small Canadian college (fictionalized by fellow inmate Joyce Carol Oates as “Hilberry College”[2]) where a succession of more or less self-pitying exiles from the mainstream—from Wyndham Lewis and Marshall McLuhan to the aforementioned Oates—suffered the academic purgatory of trying to teach, or even interest, the least-achieving students in Canada in such matters as Neoplatonism and archetypal psychology.[3]

One trudged to ancient, wooden classrooms and consumed endless packs of powerful Canadian cigarettes, washed down with endless cups of rancid vending machine coffee. No Starbucks for us, and no whining about second-hand smoke. We were real he-men back then! There was one student, a co-ed of course, who did complain, and the solution imposed was to exile her—exile within exile!—to a chair in the hallway, like a Spanish nun allowed to listen in from behind a grill.

Speaking of Spain, one of the damned souls making his rounds was a little, goateed Marrano from New York, via Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, no less, who was now attempting to explain Husserl and Heidegger, to “unpack” with his tiny hands what he once called, with an incredulous shake of the head, “that incredible language of his,” to his sullen and ungrateful students.[4]

I thought of this academic Homunculus, who played Naphta to another’s Schleppfuss[5] in my intellectual upbringing, when this book made its appearance in my e-mail box one recent, snowing—or slushy—weekend. For Harman wants to explain Husserl and Heidegger as well, or rather, his own take on them, which I gather he and a bunch of colleagues have expanded into their own field of Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) or Speculative Realism. And to do so, he has appropriated the work of H. P. Lovecraft, suggesting that Lovecraft play the same role of philosophical exemplar in his philosophy, as Hölderlin does in Heidegger’s [3].

“That incredible language of his” indeed!

Part One tries to explain this Object Oriented business, but only after he tries to justify or excuse dealing with someone still often regarded as a glorified pulp hack on the same level with the great Hölderlin. He tries to short-circuit the attacks of highbrow critics, still exemplified by Edmund Wilson’s, by denouncing their rhetorical strategy of paraphrase.

Paraphrase? What’s wrong with that? Perfectly innocent, what? Well, no. Drawing on Slavoj Žižek’s notion of the “stupidity of content”—the equal plausibility of any proverb, say, and its opposite—Harman insists that nothing can be paraphrased into something else—reality is not itself a sentence, and so it is “is too real to be translated without remainder into sentences” (p. 16, my italics). Language can only allude to reality.

What remains left over, resistant to paraphrase, is the background or context that gave the statement its meaning.[6] Paraphrase, far from harmless or obvious, is packed with metaphysical baggage—such as the assumption that reality itself is just like a sentence—that enables the skilled dialectician to reduce anything to nonsensical drivel.

Harman gives many, mostly hilarious, examples of “great” literature reduced to mere “pulp” through getting the Wilson treatment. (Perhaps too many—the book does tend to bog down from time to time as Harman indulges in his real talent for giving a half dozen or so increasing “stupid” paraphrases of passages of “great” literature.)[7]

Genre or “pulp” writing is itself the epitome of taking the background for granted and just fiddling with the content, and deserves Edmund Wilson’s famous condemnation of both its horror and mystery genres. But Lovecraft, contra Wilson, is quite conscious, and bitingly critical, of the background conditions of pulp—both in his famous essays on horror and, unmentioned by Harman, his voluminous correspondence and ghost-writing—and thus ideally equipped to manipulate it for higher, or at least more interesting, purposes.

The pulp writer takes the context for granted (the genre “conventions”) and concentrates on content—sending someone to a new planet, putting a woman in charge of a space ship, etc.[8] If Lovecraft did this, or only this, he would indeed be worthy of Wilson’s periphrastic contempt. But Lovecraft is interested in doing something else: “No other writer is so perplexed by the gap between objects and the power of language to describe them, or between objects and the qualities they possess” (p.3, my italics).

Since philosophy is the science of the background, Lovecraft himself is to this extent himself a philosopher, and useful to Harman as more than just a source of fancy illustrations: “Lovecraft, when viewed as a writer of gaps between objects and their qualities, is of great relevance for my model of object oriented ontology” (p. 4).

Back, then to Harman’s philosophy or his “ontography” as he calls it. I call it Kantianism, but I’m a simple man. The world presents us with objects, both real (Harman is no idealist) and sensuous (objects of thought, say), which bear various properties, both real (weight, for example) and sensuous (color, for example). Thus, we have real and sensuous objects, as well as the real and sensuous qualities that belong to them . . . usually.

All philosophers, Harman suggests, have been concerned with one or another of the gaps that occur when the ordinary relations between these four items fail. Some philosophers promote or delight in some gap or other, while others work to deny or explain it away. Plato introduced a gap between ordinary objects and their more real essences, while Hume delighted in denying such a gap and reducing them to agglomerations of sensual qualities.

Harman, in explicitly Kantian fashion this time, derives four possible failures (Kant would call them antinomies). Gaps can occur between a real object and its sensuous qualities, a real object and its real qualities, a sensuous object and its sensuous qualities, and a sensuous object and its real qualities. Or, for simplicity, RO/SQ, RO/RQ, SQ/SO, and SO/RQ.

Take SQ/SO. This gap, where the object’s sensuous qualities, though listed, Cubist-like, ad nauseam, fail, contra Hume, to suggest any kind of objective unity, even of a phenomenal kind—the object is withdrawn from us, as Heidegger would say. It occurs in a passage such as the description of the Antarctic city of the Elder Race:

The effect was that of a Cyclopean city of no architecture known to man or to human imagination, with vast aggregations of night-black masonry embodying monstrous perversions of geometrical laws. There were truncated cones, sometimes terraced or fluted, surmounted by tall cylindrical shafts here and there bulbously enlarged and often capped with tiers of thinnish scalloped disks; and strange beetling, table-like constructions suggesting piles of multitudinous rectangular slabs or circular plates or five-pointed stars with each one overlapping the one beneath. There were composite cones and pyramids either alone or surmounting cylinders or cubes or flatter truncated cones and pyramids, and occasional needle-like spires in curious clusters of five. All of these febrile structures seemed knit together by tubular bridges crossing from one to the other at various dizzy heights, and the implied scale of the whole was terrifying and oppressive in its sheer gigantism. (At the Mountains of Madness, my italics)

SQ/RO? This Kantian split between an object’s sensuous properties and what its essence is implied to be, occurs in the classic description of the idol of Cthulhu:

If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. (“The Call of Cthulhu,” my italics)

SO/RQ? Harman admits it’s rare in Lovecraft, (and elsewhere, though he finds hints of it in Leibniz) but he finds a few examples where scientific investigation reveals new, unheard of properties in some eldritch or trans-Plutonian object.

In every quarter, however, interest was intense; for the utter alienage of the thing was a tremendous challenge to scientific curiosity. One of the small radiating arms was broken off and subjected to chemical analysis. Professor Ellery found platinum, iron and tellurium in the strange alloy; but mixed with these were at least three other apparent elements of high atomic weight which chemistry was absolutely powerless to classify. Not only did they fail to correspond with any known element, but they did not even fit the vacant places reserved for probable elements in the periodic system. (“Dreams in the Witch House”)

And RO/RQ? You don’t want to know, as Lovecraft’s protagonists usually discover too late. It’s the inconceivable object whose surface properties only hint at yet further levels of inconceivable monstrosity within. Usually, Lovecraft relies on just slapping a weird name on something and hinting at the rest, as in:

[O]utside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes. (Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath)

You can see, in each case, how the horrific effect, and the usability for Harman’s ontography, would entirely disappear if given a Wilsonian “paraphrase”: It was a squid with wings! The object, when analyzed, revealed new, hitherto unknown elements!

Confused yet? Bored? Don’t worry. The whole point of Harman’s book, to which he devotes the vast portion of the text, is analyzing passages from Lovecraft that provide vivid illustrations of one or more of these gaps. In this way Harman’s ontography acquires its Hölderlin, and Lovecraft is rescued from pulp purgatory.

While there is considerable interest in Heidegger on alt-Right sites such as this one,[9] I’m sure there is considerably more general interest in Lovecraft. But Harman’s whole book is clearly and engagingly written, avoiding both oracular obscurity and overly-chummy vulgarity; since Harman is admirably clear even when discussing himself or Husserl, no one should feel unqualified to take on this unique—Lovecraftian?—conglomeration of philosophy and literary criticism.

The central Part Two is almost 200 pages of close readings of exactly 100 passages from Lovecraft. As such, it exhibits a good deal of diminishing returns through repetition, and the reader may be forgiven for skipping around, perhaps to their own favorite parts. And there’s certainly no point in offering my own paraphrases!

Nevertheless, over and above the discussion of individual passages as illustrations of Speculative Realism, Harman has a number of interesting insights into Lovecraft’s work generally. It’s also here that Harman starts to reveal some of his assumptions, or biases, or shall we say, context.

“Racism”

Harman, who, word on the blogs seems to be, is a run-of-the-mill liberal rather than a po-mo freak like his fellow “European philosophers,”[10] tips his hand early by referring dismissively to criticism of Lovecraft as pulp being “merely a social judgment, no different in kind from not wanting one’s daughter to marry the chimney sweep” (“Preliminary Note”). And we know how silly that would be! So needless to say, Lovecraft’s forthright, unmitigated, non-evolutionary (as in Obama’s “My position on gay marriage has evolved”) views on race need to be disinfected if Harman is to be comfortable marrying his philosophy to Lovecraft’s writing.

His solution is clever, but too clever. Discussing the passage from “Call of Cthulhu” where the narrator—foolishly as it happens—dismisses a warning as coming from “an excitable Spaniard” Harman suggests that the racism of Lovecraft’s protagonists[11] adds an interesting layer of—of course!—irony to them. As so often, we the reader are “smarter” than the smug protagonist, who will soon be taken down a few pegs.

But this really won’t do. Lovecraft’s protagonists are not stupid or uninformed, but rather too well-informed, hence prone to self-satisfaction that leads them where more credulous laymen might balk. “They’s ghosts in there, Mister Benny!”

Unfortunately for Harman, Lovecraft was above all else a Scientist, or simply a well-educated man, and the Science of his day was firmly on the side of what today would be called Human Biodiversity or HBD.[12] Harman may, like most “liberals” find that distasteful, something not to be mentioned, like Victorians and sex—a kind of “liberal creationism” as it’s been called—but that’s his problem.

It would be more interesting to adopt a truly Lovecraftian theme and take his view, or settled belief, that Science, or too much Science, was bad for us; just as Copernicus etc. had dethroned man for the privileged center of the God’s universe, the “truth” about Cthulhu and the other Elder Gods—first, there very existence, then the implication that they are the reality behind everyday religions—has a deflationary, perhaps madness inducing, effect.

Consider this famous quotation from the opening of “The Call of Cthulhu” as quoted by Harman himself in Part Two:

The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. 

Thus Harman could argue that HBD may be true but bad for us to know—something very like the actual position of such liberal Comstocks as Richard Lewontin.

Consider, to switch genres, Dr. No. Quarrel [4], the ignorant, superstitious but loyal native retainer, is afraid to land on Crab Key, due to the presence of a dragon. Bond and his American buddy Leiter mock his fear. (Leiter: “Hey Quarrel, if you see a dragon, you get in first and breathe on him. With all that rum in you, he’ll die happy.”) But of course the dragon—which turns out to be a flame-throwing armored tractor—incinerates Quarrel whilst Bond and the equally superstitious but much more toothsome Honey Ryder are taken prisoner. While in this genre we know that Bond is the heroic knight who will ultimately slay the dragon, for now he does seem to be what Dr. No calls him, “just another stupid policeman” who would have done well to listen to the native—not unlike any number of Lovecraft’s educated protagonists.[13]

This smug assumption that knowledge leaves us safe, and indeed safer, is what Lovecraft is satirizing when the narrator of “Call of Cthulhu” dismisses the warnings of the “excitable Spaniard,” not, as Harman would have it, lampooning “racism” on some meta-level.[14]

Also, Michel Houllebeq, an author Harman otherwise praises, has emphasized that Lovecraft is anything but self-assured, either as a White man, or for the White race itself.[15] If “racism” is able to play the self-debunking role Harman wants it to, this is only because of Lovecraft’s self-doubts, based on his horrific experiences in the already multi-culti New York City of the 1920s, that the White race would be able to survive the onslaught of the inferior but strong and numerous under-men. As Houellebecq says, Lovecraft learned to take “racism back to its essential and most profound core: fear.”

“Fascistic Socialism”

On a related point, Harman puts this phrase, from Lovecraft’s last major work, The Shadow out of Time (which he generally dislikes, for reasons we’ll dispute later), in italics with a question mark, and leaves it at that, as if just throwing his hands up and saying “well, I just don’t know!” Alas, this is one of Lovecraft’s most interesting ideas. Like several American men of letters, such as Ralph Adams Cram, Lovecraft concluded that Roosevelt’s New Deal was an American version of Fascism, but, unlike the Chamber of Commerce types who made the same identification, he approved of it for precisely that reason! [16]

More generally, “fascistic socialism” was essentially what Spengler and others of the Conservative Revolution movement in German advocated; for example [5]:

Hans Freyer studied the problem of the failure of radical Leftist socialist movements to overcome bourgeois society in the West, most notably in his Revolution von Rechts (“Revolution from the Right”). He observed that because of compromises on the part of capitalist governments, which introduced welfare policies to appease the workers, many revolutionary socialists had come to merely accommodate the system; that is, they no longer aimed to overcome it by revolution because it provided more or less satisfactory welfare policies. Furthermore, these same policies were basically defusing revolutionary charges among the workers. Freyer concluded that capitalist bourgeois society could only be overcome by a revolution from the Right, by Right-wing socialists whose guiding purpose would not be class warfare but the restoration of collective meaning in a strong Völkisch (“Folkish” or “ethnic”) state.

But then, Harman would have to discuss, or even acknowledge, ideas that give liberals nose-bleeds.

Weird Porn

Harman makes the important distinction that Lovecraft is a writer of gaps, who chooses to apply his talents of literary allusion to the content of horror; but gaps do not exclusively involve horror, and we can imagine writers applying the same skills to other genres, such as detective stories, mysteries, and westerns.[17] In fact,

A literary “weird porn” might be conceivable, in which the naked bodies of the characters would display bizarre anomalies subverting all human descriptive capacity, but without being so strange that the erotic dimension would collapse into a grotesque sort of eros-killing horror. (p. 4)

Harman just throws this out, but if it seem implausible, I would offer Michael Manning’s graphic novels as example of weird porn: geishas, hermaphrodites, lizards and horses—or rather, vaguely humanoid species that suggest snakes and horses, rather like Harman’s discussion of Max Black’s puzzle over the gap produced by the proposition “Men are wolves”—create a kind of steam punk/pre-Raphaelist sexual utopia.[18]

Prolixity

Speaking of Lovecraftian allusiveness not being anchored to horror or any particular genre or content, brings us to my chief interest, and chief disagreement, with Harman’s discussion of Lovecraft’s literary technique.

I knew we would have a problem when right from the start Harman adduces The Shadow out of Time as one of Lovecraft’s worst, since this is actually one of my favorites, and the one that first convinced me of his ability to create cosmic horror through the invocation of hideous eons of cosmic vistas. Harman first notes, in dealing with the preceding novella, At the Mountains of Madness, that while the first half would rank as Lovecraft’s greatest work if he had only stopped there, the second half is a huge letdown: Lovecraft seems to descend to the level of pulp content, as he has his scientists go on a long, tedious journey through the long abandoned subterranean home of the Elder Race, reading endless hieroglyphs and giving all kinds of tedious details of their “everyday” life.[19]

For Harman, “Lovecraft’s decline as a stylist becomes almost alarming here” (p. 225) and will continue—with a brief return to form with “Dreams in the Witch House,” where Harman makes the interesting observation that Lovecraft seems to be weaving in every kind of Lovecraftian technique and content into one grand synthesis— until it ruins the second half as well of Shadow.

In a series of articles here on Counter Currents—soon to be reprinted as part of my next book, The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others—I suggested that not only should Lovecraft’s infamous verbosity no more be a barrier to elite appreciation than the equally deplored but critically lauded “Late Style” of Henry James, but also, and more interestingly, that conversely, we could see James developing that same style as part of an attempt to produce the same effect as Lovecraft’s, which fans call “cosmicism [6]” but which I would rather call cosmic horror (akin to the “sublime” of Burke or Kant).[20] Or perhaps: Weird Realism.

While Harman has greatly contributed to a certain micro-analysis of Lovecraft’s style, he seems, like the critics of the Late James, to miss the big picture. Although useful for rescuing Lovecraft from pulp oblivion, he still limits Lovecraft’s significance to either mere literature, or illustrations of Harman’s ontography. I suggest this still diminishes Lovecraft’s achievement.

The work of Lovecraft, like James, has the not inconsiderable extra value, over and above any “literary” pleasure, of stilling the mind by its very longeurs, leaving us open and available to the arising of some other, deeper level of consciousness when the gaps arise.[21]

But this is not on the table here, because Harman, like all good empiricists (and we are all empiricists today, are we not?) rejects, or misconstrues, the very idea of our having access to a super-sensible grasp of reality that would leap beyond, or between, the gaps; what in the East, and the West until the rise of secularism, would be called intellectual intuition.[22]

Reality itself is weird because reality itself is incommensurable with any attempt to represent or measure it. Lovecraft is aware of this difficulty to an exemplary degree, and through his assistance we may be able to learn about how to say something without saying it—or in philosophical terms, how to love wisdom without having it. When it comes to grasping reality, illusion and innuendo are the best we can do. (p. 51, my italics)

As usual in the modern West, we are to shoulder on as best we can, in an empty, meaningless world, comforted only by patting ourselves on the back for being too grown up, too “smart,” to believe we can not only pursue wisdom, but reach it. As René Guénon put it, it is one of the peculiarities of the modern Westerner to substitute a theory of knowledge for the acquisition of knowledge.[23]

Notes

1. On such “private associations” see Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, (New York: Holt, 1969), pp. 70–71.

2. Whose biographer, Greg Johnson, is not to be confused with our own Greg Johnson here at Counter Currents—I think. For the fictionalized Hilberry see The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies (Boston: Black Sparrow Press, 1974). Allusive—there’s that idea again!

3. Did they succeed? Judge for yourself: Thomas Moore: Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992).

4. Eventually he would sink so low as to teach “everyday reasoning” to freshman lunkheads.

5. See Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Doktor Faustus, respectively.

6. The hero of this vindication of Rhetoric over Dialectic turns out to be . . . McLuhan! The medium is the message—don’t be hypnotized by the content, take a look at the all-important effects of the context. I’ve suggested before that my own work be seen, like McLuhan’s, less as dogmatic theses to be defended or refuted (dogmatism is for Harman the great sin of worshipping mere content) but rather as a series of probes for revealing new contexts for old ideas. See my Counter-Currents Interview in The Homo and the Negro as well as my earlier “You Mean My Whole Fallacy Is Wrong!” here [7]. Once more, we find that education at a Catholic college in the Canadian boondocks is the best preparation for grasping post-modernism, no doubt because it reproduces the background of Brentano and Heidegger. It was Canadian before it was cool!

7. The Wilson treatment is on display whenever some Judeo-con or Evangelical quotes passages from some alien religious work—usually the Koran these days—to show how stupid or bloodthirsty the natives are, while ignoring similar or identical passages in his own Holy Book. So-called “scholars” play the same game, questioning the authenticity of some newly discovered Gnostic work like the Gospel of Judas for containing, “absurdities” and “silliness” while finding nothing odd about the reanimated corpses—reminiscent of Lovecraft’s genuinely pulp hackwork Herbert West, Reaminator—of the “orthodox” writings. Indeed, some have suggested that Lovecraft’s Necronomicon is itself a parody of The Bible, its supposed Arab authorship a mere screen. This typically Semitic strategy of deliberately ignoring the allusive context of your opponent’s words while retaining your own was diagnosed by the Aryan Christ, in such well-known fulminations against the Pharisees as Matthew 23:24 : “You strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” or Matthew 7:3: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

8. Bad sci/fi hits rock bottom in the content-oriented department with the ubiquitous employment of the “space” prefix: space-food, space-pirates, space-justice, etc., frequently mocked on MST3K. David Bowie’s space-rock ode “Moonage Daydream” contains the cringe-worthy “Press your space face close to mine” but this is arguably a deliberate parody, while the rest of the song brilliantly exploits the Lovecraftian allusive/contextual mode of horror, moving from its straight-faced opening—“I’m an alligator”—through a series of Cthulhuian composites—“Squawking like a pink monkey bird”—ultimately veering into Harman’s weird porn mode—“I’m a momma-poppa coming for you.” Deviant sex and cut-up lyrics—another context-shredding technique—clearly points to the influence of William Burroughs, who created subversive texts based on various genres of boys’ books ranging from sci/fi (Nova Express) to detective (Cities of Red Night: “The name is Clyde Williamson Snide. I am a private asshole.”) to his alt-Western masterpiece The Western Lands trilogy.

9. Harman does a better job explaining Husserl and Heidegger than my little Marrano, but then he has had another three decades to work on it. He does, however, focus mainly on Heidegger’s tool analysis, and his own, somewhat broader formulation. For a wider focused, more objective, if you will, presentation of Heidegger, see Collin Cleary’s series of articles on this site, starting here [8].

10. Needless to say, he never notices that his liberalism is rooted in the ultimate dogma-affirming, context-ignoring movement, Luther’s “sola scriptura.” His liberalism is such as to allow him to tell a pretty amusing one-liner about Richard Rorty, but only by attributing it to “a colleague.” On the one hand, he cringes for Heidegger for daring to refer to a “Senegal Negro” (p. 59) but dismisses Emmanuel Faye’s “Heidegger is a Nazi” screed as a “work of propaganda” (p. 259). See Michael O’Meara’s review of Faye here [9].

11. “Not even Poe [another embarrassing “racist”, well what do you know?] has such indistinguishable protagonists” (p. 10).

12. Indeed, “racism” is one of those principles Baron Evola evoked in his Autodefesa [10], as being “those that before the French Revolution every well-born person considered sane and normal.”

13. Kingsley Amis has cogently argued that the key to Bond’s appeal is that he’s just like us, only a little better trained, able to read up on poker or chemin de fer, has excellent shooting instructors, etc. But if we had the chance . . . See Amis, Kingsley The James Bond Dossier (London: Jonathan Cape, 1965).

14. It might be interesting to apply Harman’s OOO to a film like Carpenter’s They Live. In my review of Lethem’s book on the movie [11], reprinted in The Homo and the Negro, I mentioned liking another point, also from Slavoj Žižek: contrary to the smug assumptions of the Left, knowledge is not necessarily something people want, or which is pleasant—hence the protagonist has to literally beat his friend into putting on the reality-revealing sunglasses. Here we have both Lovecraft’s gaps and notion that knowledge is more likely something you’ll regret: Lovecraft and Žižek, together again!

15. Michel Houellebecq [12], H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life [13] (London: Gollancz, 2008). See more generally, and from the same period, Lothrop Stoddard, The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man, ed. Alex Kurtagic, introduction by Kevin MacDonald (Shamley Green: The Palingenesis Project, 2011).

16. See my “Ralph Adams Cram: Wild Boy of American Architecture” here [14].

17. Again, just as Burroughs applied his cut-up technique to various pulp genres.

18. See my discussion of Manning in “The Hermetic Environment and Hermetic Incest: The True Androgyne and the ‘Ambiguous Wisdom of the Female’” here [15].

19. Everyday life of pre-Cambrian radiata with wings, of course.

20. My suggestion was based on some remarks of John Auchard in Penguin’s new edition of the Portable Henry James, that James’s work could be seen as part of the attempt to substitute art for religion, by using the endless accumulation of detail—James’s “prolixity” as Lovecraft himself chides him for—to “saturate” everyday experience with meaning.

21. Colin Wilson’s second Lovecraftian novel, The Philosopher’s Stone (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1971)—originally published in 1969, republished in a mass market edition in 1971 at the request of, and with a Foreword by, Joyce Carol Oates, bringing us back to Hilberry—introduced me to the idea of length, and even boredom, as spiritual disciplines. One of the main characters “seemed to enjoy very long works for their own sake. I think he simply enjoyed the intellectual discipline of concentrating for hours at a time. If a work was long, it automatically recommended itself to him. So we have spent whole evenings listening to the complete Contest Between Harmony and Invention of Vivaldi, the complete Well Tempered Clavier, whole operas of Wagner, the last five quartets of Beethoven, symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler, the first fourteen Haydn symphonies. . . . He even had a strange preference for a sprawling, meandering symphony by Furtwängler [presumably the Second], simply because it ran on for two hours or so.” The book is available online here [16].

22. With the inconsistency typical of a Modern trying to conduct thought after cutting off the roots of thought, Harman advises us that “It takes a careful historical judge to weigh which [contextual] aspects of a given thing are assimilated by it, and which can be excluded” (p. 245). What makes a “careful” judge is, of course, intuition. Cf. my remarks on Spengler’s “physiognomic tact” and Guénon’s intellectual intuition in “The Lesson of the Monster; or, The Great, Good Thing on the Doorstep,” to appear in my forthcoming book The Eldritch Evola but also available here [17].

23. How one can transcend the limits of secular science and philosophy, without abandoning empirical experience as the Christian does with his blind “faith,” is the teaching found in Evola’s Introduction to Magic, especially the essay “The Nature of Initiatic Knowledge.” “Having long been trapped in a kind of magic circle, modern man knows nothing of such horizons. . . . Those who are called “scientists” today [as well as, even more so, “philosophers”] have hatched a real conspiracy; they have made science their monopoly, and absolutely do not want anyone to know more than they do, or in a different manner than they do.” The whole text is available online here [18].

 


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/lovecraft-as-heideggerian-event/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/weird-realism.jpg

[2] Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1780992521/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1780992521&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[3] Hölderlin does in Heidegger’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B6lderlin%27s_Hymn_%22The_Ister%22#Part_three:_H.C3.B6lderlin.27s_poetising_of_the_essence_of_the_poet_as_demigod

[4] Quarrel: http://www.007james.com/characters/quarrel.php

[5] for example: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/hans-freyer-the-quest-for-collective-meaning/#more-36698

[6] fans call “cosmicism: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/cosmicism

[7] here: http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/2011/03/youve-misunderstood-my-whole-fallacy-i.html

[8] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/06/heidegger-an-introduction-for-anti-modernists-part-1/

[9] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/07/heidegger-the-nazi/

[10] Autodefesa: http://www.alternativeright.com/main/the-magazine/julius-evola-radical-traditionalism/

[11] my review of Lethem’s book on the movie: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/09/they-live/

[12] Michel Houellebecq: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/32878.Michel_Houellebecq

[13] H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3196799

[14] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/09/ralph-adams-cram-wild-boy-of-american-architecture/

[15] here: http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/2010/12/hermetic-environment-and-hermetic.html

[16] here: http://lucite.org/lucite/archive/fiction_-_lovecraft/14047169-the-philosophers-stone-by-colin-wilson.pdf

[17] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/02/the-lesson-of-the-monster-or-the-great-good-thing-on-the-doorstep/

[18] here: http://www.cakravartin.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/Julius-Evola-Introduction-to-Magic.pdf

jeudi, 05 juillet 2012

Lovecraft und die Inszenierung der großen Niederlage

homage_to_lovecraft_by_valzonline-d34jr64.jpg

„I Am Providence“ – Lovecraft und die Inszenierung der großen Niederlage. Mahnung und Forderung

 

   

Geschrieben von: Dietrich Müller  

 

Ex: http://www.blauenarzisse.de/

 

„I am Providence” – ich bin die Vorsehung. Diese Worte kann man auf dem Grabstein von Howard Phillips Lovecraft lesen. Es sind irgendwie trotzige Worte, sie wirken seltsam, wenn man sich die Photographien dieses Mannes betrachtet: Ein feminines, leicht verkniffenes Gesicht, das mehr auf unzufriedene Schüchternheit schließen lässt. Das Gesicht eines Hintergrundmenschen. Frei von Ausstrahlung oder zupackender Lebenskraft. Die Worte auf dem Grabstein klingen mehr nach einem Triumph, welchen wir scheinbar nicht entschlüsseln können.

Was für einen Sinn soll es haben, sich mit diesem Mann zu beschäftigen? Er hat eine reiche Korrespondenz hinterlassen und eine überschaubare Anzahl an Geschichten, die dem Horrorgenre zugerechnet werden – das nicht ganz zu Unrecht einen zweifelhaften Ruf genießt. Selbst für einen so früh verstorbenen Mann ist seine Biographie schrecklich mager, sie bietet kaum Höhepunkte, praktisch nichts Erzählenswertes. Geboren, geschrieben, gestorben. Lovecraft in drei Worten.

Was kann die Beschäftigung mit diesem Mann uns schon geben?

Ein Portrait dieses Mannes zu verfassen, scheitert am biographischen Zugriff. Es soll uns auch nur am Rande kümmern, wie er gelebt hat. Aber aus seinen Widersprüchen und seinen Fähigkeiten lässt sich ein Destillat erzeugen, aus dem sich einiges ziehen lässt und gerade dem kritischen Geist Nahrung liefert. Mehr als Fragment kann es freilich nicht sein, das hätte ihm wohl auch gefallen.

Kapitulation hat durchaus etwas Verführerisches. Hat man erst einmal alle Hoffnung persönlich negiert, kann man sich bequem am Leben vorbeidrücken. Widerstand ist anstrengend, nervenaufreibend. Wo man sich an den Zeiten und den Menschen offensiv abmühen muss, da geht es an die Nerven, an die Substanz und der Ausgang bleibt immer mehr als ungewiss. Dem vollendeten Pessimisten ist der Eskapismus nahe.

Beides trifft auf Lovecraft zu. Es ist eine Situation, welche die Kritiker heutiger Zeiten (und gerade die Konservativen und Reaktionäre) mit ihm teilen: Alles wird schlechter, die Entwicklungen werden zur Lawine, wir werden erdrückt. Fast könnte man neidisch werden auf die Kollaborateure und ihr zufriedenes Unzufriedensein zwischen Konsum und banalen Sorgen.

Das Verführerische an der Kapitulation

Viele kennen die Verführung, sich in die Schreibstube zurückzuziehen und abzuwarten, bis die Zeit einen dahinrafft. Diese leise Stimme, dass man sich umsonst abplackt und welch’ hoffnungsloser Irrsinn im dauernden Widerstand liegt. Lieber sich nicht mehr kümmern, nicht mehr teilnehmen. So sind wir doch Lovecrafts Kinder, wenn wir diese Verführung und diese Stimme kennen.

Allein: Das stellt den Zweifel nicht ab. Den Schrecken über soviel Unwissen und Dummheit. Das – durchaus auch wohlige Erschauern – beim Ausblick auf künftige Katastrophen. Man blickt aus dem Fenster und beschaut die lachend-dummen Gesichter und fragt sich, wie sie aussehen werden, wenn das Unheil zu ihnen kommt. Der Gedanke gefällt und beunruhigt uns, er zieht uns magisch an den Schreibtisch, denn ganz können wir es nicht unterlassen, uns doch mitzuteilen – und sei es auch nur dem Papier.

Nicht weil wir Erfolg wünschen oder Ruhm, sondern weil wir den Eselgesichtern einen Vorgeschmack geben wollen auf die bitteren Zeiten, welche sich für uns so klar abzeichnen. Man hat sich zwar versteckt, aber man kann den prophetischen Akt nicht unterlassen, auch weil man das falsche Glück durchschaut, welchem die Kleingeister da huldigen.

Sind wir neidisch auf die Gedankenlosen?

Halt! Moment! Wir wollten doch kapitulieren, uns nicht mehr einmischen! Uns der Passivität hingeben und alles verneinen. Wegducken und in Ruhe vergehen. Der Widerspruch nagt an uns. Sind wir neidisch? Ein unschöner Gedanke. Vielleicht so unschön wie wir und die anderen? Wir leben also weit weg vom prallen Leben. Die Menschen und ihr Alltag widern uns an. Unbegreiflich das dumme Tun und der Lauf der Zeit. Wir künden davon und werden alt. Auch aus der Ferne kann man das Schauen nicht unterlassen, die Gedanken nicht abstellen – die Qual sich zu äußern, die Frage, ob nicht alles anders sein könnte.

Schließlich knüppeln wir die Hoffnung in den Texten tot. Oder versuchen es zumindest. Nicht mehr nur wegen der anderen, viel mehr noch wegen uns selbst. Abfinden wollen wir uns mit dem Ekel und nicht aufbegehren. Die Welt ist uns unbegreiflich, aber wir uns auch. Was soll dieser Unsinn? Das Leben ist und bleibt ein Saustall und es widert uns an. Geht mir aus den Augen! Gehe mir selbst aus den Augen! Ich tue mir selbst furchtbares an, aber wir auch den anderen. Missgunst und Empathie lassen keine Ruhe aufkommen. Auch die Heimat wird Gefängnis.

Welch Verführung, welch Verschwendung! Also zehren wir uns auf

Wir werden alt im Zeitraffer. Und krank. Wir schämen uns einerseits ob des ausgewichenen Lebens und sind doch voller Vorfreude, wenn die Zeit uns endlich dahinrafft. Wir spucken auf das erbärmliche Geschenk dieses unnötigen Lebens. Nur auf die Haltung kommt es noch an, auf die letzten Meter, bevor man endlich diesem Scheißhaufen mit seinen Amöbenexistenzen entfliehen kann. Ob einfach nur ein schwarzer Vorhang fällt oder neue Welten, neue Schrecken sich auftun, ist uns egal. Nur weg! Haben wir doch geahnt (oder nur gemeint?), dass es den ganzen Wahn nicht wert ist.

Welche Verführung, welche Verschwendung! Also zehren wir uns auf: Uns rührt nicht die Frau, die wir nicht hatten, das Kind nicht, welches wir nie wollten, die Nachwelt nicht, welche wir ablehnen wie die Gegenwart. Wir haben ein Beispiel gegeben oder auch nicht. Das soll andere kümmern. Als uns das Sterben schließlich zerfrisst, blicken wir uns noch einmal delirisch um. Sicher war es alles nichts wert. Oder hoffen wir es nur?

Das ist jene drohende, zwiespältige Botschaft, welche Lovecraft, sein Leben und seine Schriften haben. Wir leben in diesem Widerspruch. Die „Fülle der Zeit“ (Gasset) wie im 19. Jahrhundert kennen wir nicht und sie kommt auch nicht wieder. In jedem Zweifler steckt auch ein Nihilist, die wegwerfende Geste, die durchaus auch großartig wirken kann. Dieser Widerspruch und diese Verführung machen uns zu Lovecrafts Kindern. Freilich: Man sollte nicht seinem Beispiel folgen. Der quälende Blick vor dem Ende muss furchtbar sein und ist eine Mahnung.

Auch die Glücklichen vergehen

Aber wenn wir schließlich in seine Texte schauen, wenn wir angenehm erschauern beim Blick in den irrsinnigen Abgrund dieser sirenenhaften Unfassbarkeit, dann spüren wir, wie nahe er uns gewesen ist. Der Ekel über den alltäglichen Menschen in seiner viehischen Zufriedenheit wird uns bestätigt und am Ende kommt das Böse zu allen und bleibt stark in seiner Unfassbarkeit. Auch die Glücklichen vergehen und ihr Sturz ist noch viel tiefer.

Das hilft über manch düstere Momente hinweg. Gerade diese missgünstige Ader, diese Lust am Unglück der Anderen befriedigt Lovecraft für uns. Deswegen redet man auch nicht gerne von ihm, vor allem in Deutschland. Aber auch in der internationalen Rezeption verschanzt man sich hinter schönen Worten oder böser Kritik.

Lovecraft hat der „Leere eine Farbe“ gegeben

Man sieht es nicht gerne, wenn der Menschenhasser und Katastrophenwünscher in jedem von uns bedient wird. Das literarische Establishment meidet seine Schriften und Visionen. Nicht alleine wegen der rassistischen Untertöne, sondern wegen der verführenden Wirkung und dieses unangenehmen Gefühls, beim eignen Widerspruch ertappt worden zu sein.

Er hat der „Leere eine Farbe“ gegeben (Camus), während er konsequent gegen sich selbst lebte. Er ist Verführung und Vergewaltigung zugleich. Destruktiv und autoaggressiv. Selbstbezogen und doch voller Empathie. Ein totaler Widerspruch. Aus der Zeit.

„I am Providence.” Alles hatte er überwunden und negiert. Und doch den Gedanken nicht unterlassen. Daran schließlich zerbrochen. Durch die Zeit hat er über diese und seine bescheidene Herkunft triumphiert, indem er seine Niederlage inszenierte. Und heute vernehmen wir vielleicht ein leises Echo eines boshaften Lachens, das möglicherweise von ihm stammt. Er war mehr als „nur“ Providence.

In unseren aktuellen Thesen-durch-Fakten-Anschlägen haben wir uns ebenfalls mit dem Thema Pessimismus auseinandergesetzt und dazu sechs Thesen formuliert: Pessimismus ist Feigheit!

lundi, 26 décembre 2011

Generation Lovecraft: Die Flucht in den konservierten Raum

Generation Lovecraft: Die Flucht in den konservierten Raum


Geschrieben von: Dietrich Müller   

 Ex: http://www.blauenarzisse.de/

Meine Generation dankt langsam ab. Sie hat ihren Part gespielt, ihre Aufgabe an der Geschichte vollzogen. Hedonisten ohne Plan, die der großen Symbolzertrümmerung den nötigen Schub gaben, damit alles über die Kante fiel. Es war wohl nötig. Die Kinder der „Generation Kohl“, welche ihre Lektion aus der „geistig-moralischen Wende“ gezogen hatten. Das es nämlich keine Geistigkeit und keine Moral gebe und auch keine Wende, sondern nur einen sinnlosen Trott, dem der Mensch folgt. Wir waren eine materialistische, eine nihilistische Generation. Das Produkt und die Gegenwart waren uns alles, denn alles war im Überfluss vorhanden. Der Westen war Trumpf im drögen Spiel, es galt nur zu kollaborieren und zufrieden zu verwesen. Alles gemacht.

Heute ist nichts mehr im Überfluss vorhanden. Das Wort Freizeit, vorher noch Gebot der Stunde, hat einen schalen Klang bekommen, sogar einen leicht despektierlichen. Von meinen Bekannten und Freunden gleichen Alters sind ungefähr ein Viertel durch Suizid abgetreten, ein großer Teil hat immerhin hart dorthin gearbeitet.

Die Party ist vorbei!

Der Rest wurde eskapistisch oder verschwand in ominösen Berufen fernab der Gegenwart. Eine ganze Generation auf dem Rückzug, in Auflösung begriffen wie eine geschlagene Armee. Was wir der Jugend kurz hinter uns lassen, ist ein zweifelhaftes Geschenk: Das früher alles besser, alles leichter war. Das der beste Teil gelaufen sei und man nicht mehr so einfach durchs Leben komme. Das es nun mühevoll sei. Doch keine Party.

Ich stehe hier ein bisschen zwischen den Stühlen. Ich war nicht richtig meiner Generation angeschlossen, aber ich teilte wohl doch mehr Punkte mit ihr, als mir lieb ist. Freilich lehnte ich den Hedonismus ab. Meine Exzesse hatten immer etwas Verbissenes an sich, zeugten von einer durchaus masochistischen Neigung; sich mit Lust selbst zu zerstörten, weil man keinen Sinn kannte und keine Autorität akzeptierte.

Es war der Schrei, der ein Echo verlangte: Gewaltig, versessen und ohne ein Gefühl von Verantwortung. Pure gegenwärtige Energie. Ein Kraftakt gegen sich selbst und die verlornen Ordnungen. Ein Verlangen nach elementarer Antwort im Ausdruck absoluter Katastrophe. Schön und dumm – wie die Jugend eben ist. Ich vermisse sie nicht.

Die neuen Ordnungshüter kamen wie Phoenix aus der Asche

Heute ist aber eine Generation schneidiger Erneuerer angetreten und hebt sich – scheinbar wie Phoenix aus der Asche – aus den Ruinen einer ruinierten Gesellschaft. Den kaputten Kollektiven wird da mit einem trotzigen Ordnungswahn entgegengegangen, der jeder Beschreibung spottet. Man ist bereit einen Unterschied zu machen und betet einen Katalog an Forderungen und an Leistungswille hinunter: Der Mensch muss arbeiten, er muss glauben, er muss bereit sein sich zu fügen im Großen, in seinem Umfang aber die irre gewordene Welt zur Ordnung rufen.

Lauter selbst ernannte Kreuzritter, die den Katalog der Sekundärtugenden ebenso aufsagen können wie Stellen aus der Bibel. Man hißt alte Symbole: Das Kreuz Christi, die Fahne der BRD, die Fahne Preußens, man hat das „Buch der Bücher“ am Nachttisch und übt sich in früher Monogamie (so gut es geht...). Ausgezogen, aufgezogen den Weltenlauf gerade zu rücken. Konservative Revolution mit dem Ruf nach Autorität; dem Anspruch darauf?

Es regiert Lovecraft und keine Konservative Revolution: Über den negativen Pessimismus

Alles Mumpitz. Was regiert ist das „Prinzip Lovecraft“. Gestorben ist der seltsame, bittere Mann im Jahre 1937 mit gerade mal 46 Jahren. Gelebt hat er nicht, aber viel geschrieben. Eine Ehe geführt, welche wie ein peinlicher Zufall wirkt. Die Migrantenströme im New York der 20er-Jahre besehen und für rassischen Dreck befunden. Zurückgeflohen in die nicht vorhandene Idylle der Provinz, wo er sich vor dem Leben versteckte und von der Epoche abkapselte, die er so sehr hasste. Bis er endlich unter den qualvollen Schmerzen des in ihm wuchernden Krebses verstarb und damit seiner puritanischen Meinung scheinbar nachdrücklich Gewicht gab, dass der Körper, das Fleisch widerlich seien.

Was da nach den ruinösen Resten meiner Generation verglühend vergangenen Träumen hinterherjagt, ist keine Konservative Revolution, denn das bedürfte eines offensiven Gestus, eines aggressiven Optimismus mit Sendungsbewusstsein. Das ist nicht vorhanden, sondern der Wille zur erzwungenen Ordnung im beschränkten Kreis des eigenen Selbst. Es ist kein Aufstand, sondern ein Angstruf gegenüber einer Zeit, die man nicht versteht und nicht kontrollieren kann. Was man vertritt, ist Ruhe und Ordnung beim Tanz auf dem Vulkan. Pardon. Natürlich beim Gleichschritt hin zum Krater.

Die schöne Bundesrepublik, das Altersheim

Man verlangt sich selbst und andere zur Ordnung zu rufen, weil man das Chaos als unerträglich empfindet und die Zeit als Barbarei. Man huldigt der Xenonphobie. Europa als bedrängte Welt und Deutschland als Schlachtfeld zerfallender Kultur, die man quasi im Wohnzimmer konservieren muss.

Reformieren: Ja. Revoltieren: Nein. Das Alte soll bewahrt werden. So schön ist die BRD, wenn nur nicht so viele Idioten und Türken da wären. Sehnsucht nach dem „Eisernen Besen“ in der Stille der musealen Eigentumswohnung. Ruhe muss gewahrt werden durch die leise Reform abseits vom Leben. Sich selbst zügeln, damit man andere hoffentlich zügelt. Und hoffen, dass der große Umbruch an einem selbst noch einmal vorbeizieht. Denn eigentlich will man nur in Ruhe und Frieden leben. Ähnlich wie in einem Altersheim. Niemals aufgeschreckt durch Veränderung oder vitale Energieentladung.

Die konservierenden Konservativen sind in Wahrheit Nihilisten

Das ist kein Konservatismus, das ist ein konservierter Raum, bestückt mit Symbolen und Werten, die man Marken gleich übernommen hat. Es wird eine Scheinwelt konstruiert mittels derer man sich auf der Flucht vor dem Leben befindet. In diesen Raum hinein soll dann die Saat geworfen werden: Die Familienplanung als Keimzelle zur Rettung bedrohter Ordnung. Lächerlich. Versponnen. Feige.

Wie Lovecraft ist diese Generation nicht wirklich konservativ, sondern im Kern nihilistisch. Sie erkennt die Macht der Sinnlosigkeit absolut an und setzt dieser ein Gemälde entgegen, gegenständlich im Ausdruck. Bitte nicht berühren, nicht interpretieren. Bewegungslosigkeit als Kraftprobe. Jesus als Pantomime. Disziplin im Stilstand. Preußen als ewiger Haltbefehl – auf dem Friedhof.

Wie Lovecraft auch, so hat diese Generation etwas nekrophilies an sich. Ghule, die sich an der deutschen und europäischen Geschichte vergreifen und das faulige Fleisch von den alten Knochen ziehen. Schamlos. Peinlich. Neurotisch.

Scham vor der eigenen Lebensunfähigkeit

Deshalb reagieren sie auch aufgeschreckt und verlegen, wenn man ihre Grabschändungen ans Licht zerrt. Sie kümmert die Geschichte nicht, weil sie das Leben und die Menschen lieben, sondern weil sie nach Ausreden suchen, um sich an der Historie zu vergreifen um der Gegenwart zu entgehen. Selbst für einen rauschhaften Totentanz sind sie noch zu träge, darin den leichenfressenden Guhlen, die nicht umsonst die niedrigsten Kreaturen der Nacht darstellen, gleich. Kein deutscher Furor, kein römischer Stoizismus. Nicht Pracht, nicht Herrlichkeit von geistiger Aristokratie. Nur morbide Gärgase einer Bewegung auf mikroskopischer Ebene.

Die Generation Lovecraft. Lovecraft starb am Ende aus Scham ob der eigenen Lebensunfähigkeit.

samedi, 12 novembre 2011

Lovecraft Contra a Modernidade

Lovecraft Contra a Modernidade
 
por Sérgio Fritz Roa
 
Ex: http://legio-victrix.blogspot.com/
 
Falar sobre H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) não somente é referir-se ao terror cósmico, mitos vindos de tempos perdidos para a memória do homem, cultos espantosos de inconcebível significação, livros proibidos e a uma demonologia bastante pessoal. Se assim fosse, simplesmente Lovecraft não ocuparia o posto que hoje reconhece-lhe-se nas letras (e escrevo isto considerando exclusivamente aos leitores; os críticos ainda travam debates em torno a quem é ademais um personagem controvertido). Lovecraft é ademais um visionário, um psicólogo de nossos medos e aquilo que ninguém parece dar-se conta: um crítico da modernidade e de sua filha, a ilusão pós-moderna. E é justamente este o aspecto - metapolítico - da obra lovecraftiana que aqui desejamos tratar, não sem antes fazer uma assaz sintética biografia.
 
Nascido em Providence, Nova Inglaterra, Estados Unidos, Lovecraft foi educado exclusivamente por sua mãe e tias. De maneira autodidata devorará todo tipo de saber; submergindo-se em tenra idade nos cálidos mananciais da letra impressa e começando o lento caminho de escrever. Sua primeira história "The Noble Eavesdropper", segundo o estudioso lovecraftiano S.T. Joshi, dataria de 1896. Lovecraft criou suas próprias revistas, que distribuirá entre amigos, desde os nove ou dez anos. Posteriormente publicará artigos de astronomia em revistas como "The Pawtuxet Valley Gleamer" e "The Providence Sunday Journal". Não obstante, será no fanzine "Weird Tales" (1923-1954) onde editar-se-á a obra que torna-lo-á eterno.
 
Ainda que segundo muitos sua vida foi a de um recluso, não pode-se dizer que esteve "desconectado" do mundo. Sabia muito bem o que ali ocorria. A informação recebida em seus passeios por Providence e nas viagens a outras cidades (Nova Iorque, Boston, Flórida, etc.) era complementada por livros, diários, revistas, e pelo meio de comunicação que mais venerava: as cartas. Ademias teve a sorte de contar com excelentes amigos, que frequentemente convidavam-o a suas casas.
 
Lovecraft amava sua mágica Providence, e também àquela nação que deixou seus filhos ali: a Inglaterra dos puritanos. Não a Inglaterra do século XX, senão aquela dona de valores próprios, totalmente contrários ao que engloba o "moderno". Igual admiração recairia na legendária Roma Imperial. O profundo conhecimento que teve da história desta última não deixa de causar-nos admiração. Basta ler, por exemplo, a carta escrita a seu amigo, o escritor de ficção científica, Donald Wandrei, em 2 de novembro de 1927, para perceber o estudo que dedicou a estas matérias.
 
De todas as críticas ao mundo moderno - Nietzsche, Guénon, Evola, Heidegger, Jünger, Benoist, etc - possivelmente a mais original, junto com a de Céline, seja a de Lovecraft. Esta não é a postura do filósofo ou do político, senão a do poeta. Critica-se a modernidade não tanto por sua injustiça, por seu sistema econômico baseado na "moral" do mercador, por sua devoção ao consumismo - ainda que ninguém poderia negar que isto importa - senão por sua feiúra intrínseca. Feiúra na arquitetura, feiúra na linguagem, feiúra na forma de conceber a vida...feiúra nos olhares. Esta visão, a visão crítica do poeta, encontramos também em outros homens de letra, como Pound ou Mishima, porém em Lovecraft adquire um caráter único, menos polêmico e mais pessimista. Ou seria melhor dizer realista?
 
 
Se bem Lovecraft definia-se como uma pessoa das ciências, materialista mecanicista e "conservador quanto ao método e à perspectiva geral", a verdade é que em sua obra nada ou muito pouco há daquilo. A crítica feita em seus relatos à estreiteza da ciência e do racionalismo, aproxima-o a um autor admirado pelo próprio Lovecraft (e com ele a dupla Bergier-Pauwels): Charles Fort. Para ambos, a ciência é o que serve para esconder a realidade primordial, o que espreita em nossa mente e que habita em todo éon e em todo espaço; enfim, aquilo que constitui o mistério da vida.
 
Mais que racionalismo encontramos em Lovecraft gnosticismo. Já Serge Hutin em seu livro "Os Gnósticos" notava-o.
 
Um problema com que topamos ao tentar entender a vida (ou deveríamos dizer as vidas?) de Lovecraft e que relaciona-se sobremaneira com o que estamos tratando, é a postura frente à democracia norteamericana e sua suposta simpatia pelo fascismo.
 
Este é um tema difícil, onde a especulação chegou ao mais atrevido. Não deixa de ser chamativo que haja-se escrito um texto dedicado especialmente a este assunto: "O Livro de Lovecraft", de Richard Lupoff (Valdemar Editores, España, 1992). Fazer preponderantes as idéias políticas em autores não políticos, é algo não muito original nestes tempos. Pense-se no inquisidor Victor Farías e sua condenação ao filósofo Heidegger, para citar apenas um recente caso.
 
Cremos, não obstante, que a postura "política" lovecraftiana, a que não deixa de ser mais que isso, uma posição ideológica e não prática, é demasiado pessoal para ser classificada nos totalitarismos de signo fascista. Em verdade, corresponde ao ideal do nobre inglês dos séculos XVIII e XIX o do aristocrata romano. Precisamente o paradigma contrário ao representado no "American Way of Life" que hoje é universal. 
 
Lovecraft, como alguns escritores (Robert E. Howard, A. Machen e C.A. Smith, são outros casos paradigmáticos), faz da fantasia uma arma para arremeter contra o mundo moderno. A fantasia (que não é o mesmo que evasão) é um dos grandes poderes e possibilidades da literatura, que tem como nota característica a faculdade de criar ou reviver o mundo que desejamos. De imediato surge a pergunta acerca de qual é o mundo desejado por Lovecraft. De todo, certo é que não é o mundo descrito em "O Chamado de Cthulhu" (1926) ou em "O Modelo de Pickman" (1926) - ainda que não obstante, estes escritos aportem-nos elementos da crítica lovecraftiana: o primeiro é um ataque à frágil segurança em que vive a sociedade atual; e o segundo à idéia de que somente "existe o que vemos".
 
O mundo sonhado pelo escritor de Providence é o que descreve em suas obras "dunsanianas" (o neologismo faz referência à influência que deixou em Lovecraft o 18º Barão Dunsany, escritor de uma poética fantasia) como "Os Outros Deuses", "A Árvore", etc, e naqueles contos mais propriamente "lovecraftianos" como "A Poesia dos Deuses" e o mágico relato "A Chave de Prata". Neste último, Lovecraft escreve: "Porém quando começou a estudar os filósofos que haviam derrubados os velhos mitos, encontrou-os ainda mais detestáveis do que aqueles que os haviam respeitado. Não sabiam esses filósofos que a beleza reside na harmonia, e que o encanto da vida não obedece a regra alguma neste cosmos sem objetivo, senão unicamente a sua consonância com os sonhos e os sentimentos que modelaram cegamente nossas pequenas esferas a partir do caos".
 
Onde a visão antimoderna alcança maior intensidade é no relato, quase desconhecido, chamado "A Rua", que trata das etapas na vida de uma rua determinada, a que finalmente toma vingança contra os homens pelo esquecimento das tradições. O amor pelos costumes coloniais e a tristeza pelo que impôs o vertiginoso devir, é descrito de forma que não deixa dúvidas sobre o pensar de Lovecraft. Também em "Ele" a visão do futuro é apocalíptica. O que Lovecraft trata em "A Rua" transforma-se em "Ele" na história crepuscular de uma cidade: Nova Iorque. Anotemos de passo que a decomposição de entidades coletivas - uma rua, uma cidade - recorda "A Queda da Casa de Usher" de Edgar Allan Poe.
 
Lovecraft será um outsider (como o personagem do conto lovecraftiano de mesmo nome, escrito em 1921). Quiçá isto fará ele perceber processos políticos, econômicos, e acima de tudo, espirituais, que os demais não puderam vislumbrar. E isto expressa-lo-á com uma terrível força: "Todos os ideais da moderna América - baseados na velocidade, o luxo mecâmico, os logros materiais e a ostentação econômica - parecem-me inefavelmente pueris e não merecem séria atenção".
 
Como outros dois colossos da literatura fantástica, Poe e Machen, Lovecraft sofrerá o desconhecimento de seus compatriotas e de seu tempo. Assim como os escritores assinalados somente será reconhecido décadas depois de sua morte e na distante França, berço de outro mago: o poeta Baudelaira.
 
Lovecraft, lúcido como sempre, havia dito em "Ele": "Pois ainda que me tenha acalmado, não posso olvidar que sou um intruso; um forasteiro neste século e entre os que ainda são homens".

lundi, 08 août 2011

Jonathan Bowden on H. P. Lovecraft

 

Jonathan Bowden on H. P. Lovecraft

dimanche, 27 février 2011

James J. O'Meara on Henry James & H. P. Lovecraft

James O’Meara on Henry James & H. P. Lovecraft

The Lesson of the Monster; or, The Great, Good Thing on the Doorstep

James J. O'Meara

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

We’ve been very pleased by the response to our essay “The Eldritch Evola,” which was not only picked up by Greg Johnson (whose own Confessions of a Reluctant Hater is out and essential reading) for his estimable website Counter-Currents, but even managed to lurch upwards and lay a terrible, green claw on the bottom rung of the “Top Ten Most Visited Posts” there in January.

Coincidentally, we’ve been delving into the newer Penguin Portable Henry James, being a sucker for the Portables in general, and especially those in which a wise editor goes to the trouble of cutting apart a life’s work of legendary unreadability and stitching together a coherent, or at least assimilable, narrative, for the convenience of us amateurs, from Malcolm Cowley’s first, the legendary Portable Faulkner that rescued “Count No-Account,” as he was known among his homies, to the recent Portable Jack Kerouac epic saga recounted by Ann Charters.

The “new” Portable Henry James attempts something of the sort (as opposed to the older one, which was your basic collection) by recognizing the impossibility of even including large excerpts from the “major” works, and instead gives us some of the basic short works (Daisy Miller, Turn of the Screw, “The Jolly Corner,” etc.) and then hundreds of pages of travel pieces, criticism, letters, even parodies and tributes, as well a a list of bizarre names (Cockster? Dickwinter?) and above all, in a section called “Definition and Description,” little vignettes, often only a paragraph, exemplifying the Jamesian precision, a sort of anthology of epiphanies, the great memorable moments from “An Absolutely Unmarried Woman” to “An American Corrected on What Constitutes ‘the Self’” from the novels, and similar nonfiction moments from James’ travels, such as “The Individual Jew” to “New York Power” to “American Teeth” and “The Absence of Penetralia.”

The latter section in particular is part of a defense which the editor seems to feel needs to be mounted in his Introduction, of the Jamesian “difficult” prose style (as are the collection of tributes, including the surprising, to me at least, Ezra Pound).

I bring these two together because I could not help but think of ol’ Lovecraft himself in this context. Is Lovecraft not the corresponding Master of Bad Prose? As Edmund Wilson once quipped, the only horror in Lovecraft’s corpus was the author’s “bad taste and bad art.”

One can only imagine what James would have thought of Lovecraft, although we know, from excerpts here on Baudelaire and Hawthorne, what he thought of Poe, and more importantly, of those who were fans: “to take [Poe] with more than a certain degree of seriousness is to lack seriousness one’s self. An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection”; James may even have based the poet in “The Aspern Papers,” a meditation on America’s cultural wasteland, on Poe. However, his distaste is somewhat ambiguous, as compared with Baudelaire, Poe is “vastly the greater charlatan of the two, as well as the greater genius.”

lovecraft.jpg

For all his “better” taste and talent for reflection, it’s little realized today, as well, that James’s reputation went into steep decline after his death, and was only revived in the fifties, as part of a general reconsideration of 19th century American writers, like Melville, so that even James could be said to have, like Lovecraft, been forgotten after death except for a small coterie that eventually stage managed a revival years later.

Are James and Lovecraft as different as all that? One can’t help but notice, from the list above, that a surprising amount of James’s work, and among it the best, is in the ‘weird’ mode, and in precisely the same “long short story” form, “the dear, the blessed nouvelle,” in which Lovecraft himself hit his stride for his best and most famous work. (Both “Daisy Miller” and “At the Mountains of Madness” suffered the same fate: rejection by editors solely put off by their ‘excessive’ length for magazine publication.) The nouvelle of course accommodated James’ legendary prolixity.

The editor, John Auchard, puts James’s prolixity into the context of the 19th century ‘loss of faith.’ Art was intended to take the place of religion, principally by replacing the lost “next world” by an increased concentration on the minutia of this one. Experience might be finite, but it could still “burn with a hard, gem-like flame” as Pater famously counseled.

That counsel, of course, took place in the first, then self-suppressed, then retained afterword to his The Renaissance. René Guénon has in various places diagnosed this as the essential fraud of the Renaissance, the exchange of a vertical path to transcendence for a horizontal dissipation and dispersal among finite trivialities, usually hoked-up as “man discovered the vast extent of the world and himself,” blah blah blah. As Guénon points out, it’s a fool’s bargain, as the finite, no matter how extensive and intricate, is, compared to the infinite, precisely nothing.

Baron Evola, on the other hand, distinguishes several types of Man, and is willing to let some of them find their fulfillment in such worldliness. It is, however, unworthy of one type of Man: Aryan Man. See the chapter “Determination of the Vocations” in his The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts.

So the nouvelle length accumulation of detail and precision of judgment, in James, is intended to produce some kind of this-worldly ersatz transcendence. Was this perhaps the same intent in Lovecraft, the use of the nouvelle length tale to pile up detail until the mind breaks?

Lovecraft of course was also a thorough-going post-Renaissance materialist, a Cartesian mechanist with the best of them; when he finally got “The Call of Cthulhu” published, he advised his editor that:

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. 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.

But as John Miller notes, this is exactly what is needed to produce the Lovecraft Effect:

That’s nihilism, of course, and we’re free to reject it. But there’s nothing creepier or more terrifying than the possibility that our lives are exercises in meaninglessness.

What is there to choose, between the unrealized but metaphysically certain nothingness of the Jamesian finite detail, and the all-too-obvious nothingness of Lovecraft’s worldview?

What separates James from Lovecraft and Evola is, along the lines of our previous effort, is precisely what T. S. Eliot, in praise of James (the essay is in the Portable too): “He has a mind so fine no idea could penetrate it.” Praise, note, and contrasted with the French, “the Home of Ideas,” and such Englishmen, or I guess pseudo-Englishmen, as Chesterton, “whose brain swarms with ideas” but cannot think, meaning, one gathers, stand apart with skepticism. One notes the Anglican Eliot seeming to flinch back, like a good English gentleman, from those dirty, unruly Frenchmen like Guénon, and such Englishmen who, like Chesterton, went “too far” and went and “turned Catholic” out of their love of “smells and bells.”

What Evola and Lovecraft had was precisely an Idea, the idea of Tradition; in Lovecraft’s case, a made-up, fictional one, but designed to have the same effect. But that’s the issue: when is Tradition only made up? For Evola and Guénon, the mind of Traditional Man is indeed not “fine” enough to evade penetration by the Idea; he is open to the transcendent, vertical dimension, which is realized in Intellectual Intuition.

I’ve suggested elsewhere that Intellectual Intuition, or what Evola calls his “Traditional Method” is usefully compared with what Spengler called, speaking of his own method, “physiognomic tact.” I wrote: “A couple years ago I found a passage in one of the few books on Spengler in English, by H. Stuart Hughes, where it seemed like he was actually giving a good explication of Guénon’s metaphysical (vs. systematic philosophy) method. I think it could apply to Evola’s method as well” Hughes writes:

Spengler rejected the whole idea of logical analysis. Such “systematic” practices apply only in the natural sciences. To penetrate below the surface of history, to understand at least partially the mysterious substructure of the past, a new method — that of “physiognomic tact”— is required.

This new method, “which few people can really master,” means “instinctively to see through the movement of events. It is what unites the born statesman and the true historian, despite all opposition between theory and practice.” [It takes from Goethe and Nietzsche] the injunction to “sense” the reality of human events rather than dissect them. In this new orientation, the historian ceases to be a scientist and becomes a poet. He gives up the fruitless quest for systematic understanding. . . . “The more historically men tried to think, the more they forgot that in this domain they ought not to think.” They failed to observe the most elementary rule of historical investigation: respect for the mystery of human destiny.

So causality/science, destiny/history. Rather than chains of reasoning and “facts” the historian employs his “tact” [really, a kind of Paterian "taste"] to “see” the big picture: how facts are composed into a destiny. Rather than compelling assent, the historian’s words are used to bring about a shared intuition.

I suppose Guénon and Co. would bristle at being lumped in with “poets” but I think the general point is helpful in understanding the “epistemology” of what Guénon is doing: not objective (but empty) fact-gathering but not merely aesthetic and “subjective” either, since metaphysically “seeing” the deeper connection can be “induced” by words and thus “shared.”

What Guénon, Evola, and Spengler seek to do deliberately, what Lovecraft did fictionally or even accidentally, what James’s mind was “too fine” to do at all, is to not see mere facts, or see a lot of them, or even see them very very intently, but to see through them and thus acquire metaphysical insight, and, through the method of obsessive accumulation of detail, share that insight by inducing it in others.

 

To do this one must be “penetrated” by the Idea, Guénon’s metaphysics, Evola’s historical cycles, Lovecraft’s Mythos, and allow it be be generated within oneself. Only then can you see.

 

“You are privileged to witness a great becoming. . . . Do you see? Do you see now?”

Speaking of “penetration,” one does note James’s obsession with “penetralia”; also one recalls the remarkable way Schuon brings out how in Christianity the Word is brought by Gabriel to Mary, who in mediaeval paintings is often shown with a stream of words penetrating her ear, thus conceiving virginally, while in Islam, Gabriel brings the Word to Muhammad, who recites (gives birth to) the Koran. Itself a wonderful example of the Traditional Method: moving freely among the material elements of various traditions to weave a pattern that re-creates an Idea in the mind of the listener. Do you see how Christianity and Islam relate? Do you see?

Finally, we should note that Lovecraft, for his own sake, did get in a preemptive shot at James:

In The Turn of the Screw, Henry James triumphs over his inevitable pomposity and prolixity sufficiently well to create a truly potent air of sinister menace; depicting the hideous influence of two dead and evil servants, Peter Quint and the governess, Miss Jessel, over a small boy and girl who had been under their care. James is perhaps too diffuse, too unctuously urbane, and too much addicted to subtleties of speech to realise fully all the wild and devastating horror in his situations; but for all that there is a rare and mounting tide of fright, culminating in the death of the little boy, which gives the novelette a permanent place in its special class.– Supernatural Horror in Literature, Chapter VIII.

Source: http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/

mardi, 01 février 2011

The Eldritch Evola

The Eldritch Evola

James J. O'Meara

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom. — E. A. Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transient indeed. There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . . a survival of a hugely remote period when . . . consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity . . . forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds . . . — Algernon Blackwood

A little while ago, I decided to use up more of my enforced leisure by reading Part Two of Baron Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, or at least the first few chapters, with an eye towards once and for all getting a straight picture of the various ‘ages’ and ‘races’ that constitute his take on Tradition, filtering Guénon’s model through the more historically oriented work of Wirth and Co. (See Evola’s “My Explorations of Origins and Tradition” in his The Path of Cinnabar.)

Damned if I didn’t start coming all over with fear and dread, and not just in my attic (if I had one), not unlike those that prevented me from reading completely through Guénon’s Reign of Quantity until several false starts over 25 years.

This time I decided to try and analyze what this dread consisted in, and I think I’ve got it:

By the time one reaches the farthest limits of recorded, or even archeologically validated history, the worst has already happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And is this not indeed the theme of “horror” fiction?

Now, I’ve never paid attention to the occasional ‘smart’ comments about Traditionalism as reading like “science fiction,” based largely on supposed borrowing from Theosophy. In fact, I agree with this guy, who makes a modus tollens out of the mockers’ modus ponens:

What is one to do then with a writer of foresight, whose literacy and education remain indubitable, who nevertheless serves up his social and political analysis, however trenchant it is, in the context of an alternate history, the details of which resemble the background of story by Lord Dunsany or Clark Ashton Smith? I am strongly tempted to answer my own question in this way: That perhaps we should begin by reassessing Dunsany and Smith, especially Smith, whose tales of decadent remnant-societies — half-ruined, eroticized, brooding over a shored-up luxuriance, and succumbing to momentary appetite with fatalistic abandon — speak with powerful intuition to our actual circumstances. I do not mean to say, however, that Evola is only metaphorically true, as though his work, like Smith’s, were fiction. I mean that Evola is truly true, on the order of one of Plato’s “True Myths,” no matter how much his truth disconcerts us. — Thomas F. Bertonneau, “Against Nihilism: Julius Evola’s ‘Traditionalist’ Critique of Modernity

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read more than one C. A. S. story, and that years ago in some Lovecraft Mythos anthology, but I’m more inclined anyway to take this back to the Master himself, Lovecraft. How much does Lovecraft resemble Evola, and moreover, is this superficial, or is there a reason?

The answer may lie here:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.– H. P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

In a 1927 letter to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, Lovecraft writes: “I consider the touch of cosmic outsideness–of dim, shadowy non-terrestrial hints–to be the characteristic feature of my writing.”

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

Lovecraft takes fear as his theme, and he knows that the greatest fear is inspired not by ghoulies and gore but by the dread of nameless eons. Nameless eons are the stock in trade of Traditionalist cyclical cosmology.

It’s no surprise that today’s Prince of Nihilism gets it:

The human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. — Michel Houellebecq, H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (1999).

But surely Evola and Co. are not frivolous entertainers, but serious initiates. If Lovecraft seeks to inspire fear, does Evola, and if so, how is that connected to initiation?

We could try this: if Evola inspires new respect for the Lovecraftians, then what if we read Lovecraft as if he were Evola?

It was Alisdair Clarke who called my attention to Polaria: The Gift of the White Stone by W. H. Muller. I’ve never seen more than a couple other references to it (such as this amused and bemused review by one Julianus here) and copies of the barely 200 page paperback seem to have become quite rare, fetching over $200.00 on Amazon.

Muller takes off, with all apparent sincerity, from the preposterous thesis that H. P. Lovecraft “was a Practicing Occultist and that the Lovecraft Circle was a group of High Adepts,” despite overwhelming evidence, found in literally dozens of volumes of letters and innumerable personal reminiscences, to say nothing of S. T. Joshi’s many works, of being a cast-iron materialist of the village atheist ilk. As Julianus says:

The book itself is a Vast Muddle of Mystical Verbiage that draws on Sufism, Theosophy, Rene Guenon, Robert Graves, and others to create a bizarre Syncretic Symbolism from “Phonetic Encodings” in Lovecraft’s work. The Linguistic Fog is comparable only to the work of Kenneth Grant, and it is truly strange that Herr Muller nowhere acknowledges his debt to the Typhonian Titan.

Actually, in its preposterous thesis defended with po-faced sincerity by means of vast scholarship and word and letter mumbo-jumbo, as well as its overall atmosphere of occult doom, I was more put in mind of such works of Ariosophic fascism as Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels’ Theozoology.

Never the less, there are some good bits, relevant to our theme; if Lovecraft‘s tales can be given an initiatic spin, then the connection with Evola becomes clearer:

Lovecraft cloaked his profound esoteric insight in an imagery of horror. . . . Thus it was given a subtle but clear initiatory nature. Many feel attracted by Lovecraft’s forceful imagery, but only a very few know the reason. Only those with a preparedness and already drawn toward the Threshold would be ready to delve into Lovecraft’s work and recover from its depths the eonian Polar message.

Remember, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”

For Fear read “initiation via experiencing the death of the ego and its world.”

Both ego-less animal existence and man’s ego, which is but matrical sensory cognition, originate in the same Matrix of Dream. This must be transcended. It is Polar insight, the inward-looking way that leads out of this cyclic Matrix. However, the man’s ego, being the man-god, fears mystical dissolution, because it fears its “death”. Only if “death” is realized as illusion by experiencing it mystically in life, [perhaps by reading some 'weird tales'] can essencification and spiritual unity be achieved. The ego fears “death” because it does not know that there is none. ‘Fear’ is the sword the ego wields, yet its iron melts away in the black heat of Wisdom.

In Lovecraft’s stories the elements of decay and death prevail. These are the emotional patterns of one approaching the seventh plane of the Threshold. The transformative Way across the Bridge of Fog, from animal-man to god-man, is painful. Everyone claiming the contrary, is speaking with a Minotaurian voice. [Man-animals? Ruh-roh, here comes that Theozoology again!]

The Way leads through the Tomb of the Individual toward the Emergence of the Entity. The same is applicable to humanity. Saturn is throwing its charnel light toward this planet. But the Pilgrim must know that Saturn is but the Threshold, not the Destination. — W. H. Muller, Polaria, p.113

“The Minotaurian voice that Muller refers to is the voice that asserts the supremacy of the ego. It is the animal-man trapped in the labyrinth of ordinary, uninspired consciousness.” — A. Clarke, “Ego Death, Destiny and Serpents in Germanic Mythology

Both Evola and Lovecraft also drew the same or similar immediate political conclusions, both under the influence of cycles, those of Guénon and Spengler, respectively:

Lovecraft saw cultural decline as a slow process that spans 500 to 1000 years. He sought a system that could overcome the cyclical laws of decay, which was also the motivation of Fascism. Lovecraft believed it was possible to re-establish a new “equilibrium” over the course of 50 to 100 years, stating: “There is no need of worrying about civilization so long as the language and the general art tradition survives.” — Kerry Bolton, “Lovecraft’s Fascism

(For the Fascist theme of regeneration or palingenesis, see Roger Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, reviewed here by Alisdair Clarke.)

Continuing that somewhat optimistic note, perhaps even ego death may not be so bad; In “Calling Cthulhu,” Erik Davis described the then-nascent cult of pop-Cthulhu, and noted that Lovecraft’s “dread” and “horror” seemed to belong to a 19th century materialist confronting vast new vistas opened up by science, not unlike those opened by drugs; as he describes it in a more recent article on Cthulu porn:

In this tangy bon-bon of nihilistic materialism, Lovecraft anticipates a peculiarly modern experience of dread, one conjured not by irrational fears of the dark but rather by the speculative realism of reason itself, staring into the cosmic void. . . . This terror before the empty and ultimately unknowable universe of scientific materialism is what gives the cosmic edge to the cosmic horror that Lovecraft, more than any other writer, injected into the modern imagination (though props must be given up as well to Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, and, in the closing chapters of The Time Machine at least, H. G. Wells). While many secular people proclaim an almost childlike wonder at the mind-melting prospect of the incomprehensibly vast universe sketched out by astrophysics and bodied forth by doctored Hubble shots, Lovecraft would say that we have not really swallowed the implication of this inhuman immensity—that we have not, in other words, correlated our contents. — Erik Davis, “Cthulhu is not cute!”

By contrast, we in the 20th (now 21st) century have actually come to welcome such derangement of the senses, like teenagers love glue huffing.

This seems discount the value of the fear and terror aspect itself, but it’s more soundly based on the real Lovecraft, cowering in his attic, than the “alchemical master” postulated by Muller.

But maybe the kids do have something to teach us:

For those who need a quick refresher:

Editor’s Note: For more imaginative Lovecraft tributes and parodies, see Under Vhoorl’s Shadow: http://www.3×6.net/vhoorl/

samedi, 25 décembre 2010

Lovecraft? Perchè no...

Lovecraft? Perchè no...

di Marco Iacona

Fonte: scandalizzareeundiritto

 

 

lovecraftqqqq.jpgÈ appena nata all’interno della facoltà di filosofia dell’Università di Milano, Antarès, rivista bimestrale “indipendente di antimodernismo”, ideata e curata da Andrea Marini e Andrea Scarabelli. Il sottotitolo dice già molto… In un ambiente sottoposto a censura ideologica, aggiunge Scarabelli, si sente la necessità di creare uno strumento attorno al quale costituire un’associazione studentesca che si occupi dei “problemi” del moderno, grazie anche a internet e alle possibilità offerte dai caffè letterari.

 

Il primo numero – anzi il numero zero – della rivista uscito nell’ottobre scorso in novanta copie per la distribuzione “interna” ed “esterna”, è completamente dedicato a Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), autore di narrativa fantastica fra i più singolari dei nostri anni. Un autore “assoluto”, per usare la terminologia di Michel Houellebecq che predilige la vita al di fuori della realtà, perché stanco del mondo e del suo contenuto. Lovecraft il gentiluomo, è probabilmente la scelta più azzeccata se si tiene conto, in profondità, del “significato” di Antarés e delle intenzioni dei due curatori. Leggiamo per capire il “manifesto” introduttivo del bimestrale (le firme sono quelle di Marini, Scarabelli e della “redazione”): «...l’opuscolo … si presenta come apice e coronamento di un percorso riflessivo, svolto dai membri del comitato centrale di Antarés intorno ai DOGMI della Modernità – intorno a quelle mitologie deputate dal Mondo Moderno a scandire la dignità di tutto l’esistente». E poi ancora: « Antarés invoca la molteplicità a discapito delle riduzioni. Reclama la molteplicità del pensiero e rifiuta che esso venga ridotto ad UNA sua modalità, vale a dire quella logico-discorsiva. Ammette la molteplicità dell’uomo e si oppone alla riduzione di quest’ultimo ad UNO dei suoi stati, vale a dire quello fisico e materiale. Ammette la molteplicità intrinseca alla storia delle idee e rifiuta ch’esse vengano ridotte a poche concettualità… Queste pagine intendono valorizzare – pensatori – sovente messi a tacere da cattedre ed accademie – che intravidero un DOPPIO volto della Modernità, sovente celato da materialismi, progressismi, analitiche etc., nonché intere regioni del pensiero consegnate all’oblio – in quanto non disponenti dei caratteri richiesti dalla scientificità e dall’esattezza del pensare moderno».

E infine: «Il progetto si muoverà … secondo topoi tematici, fulcri, a nostro avviso, di un sistema la cui crisi non può non preoccupare chi abbia a cuore una cultura continentale che deve, in misura crescente, fare i conti con un panorama tecno-scientifico sempre più onnicomprensivo e totalizzantesi. Ogni numero sarà dedicato ad una sfaccettatura del Mondo Moderno o a gruppi tematici di critiche allo stesso…». Pessimismo antropologico dunque, che si sposa alla perfezione con la parabola esistenziale di Lovecraft e del suo “disgusto” (per usare ancora le parole di Houellebecq) verso il mondo moderno; uno scrittore che riesce anche a far proprio un “sapere” scientifico e matematico, ma che vede la scienza come verità esclusivamente negativa, come ricorda Gianfranco de Turris.
Lovecraft è “vittima” di se stesso in quanto essere “reale” che odia il “reale” (per Houellebecq è un “masochista”), è profondamente razzista (“vittima” di un razzismo tipicamente “anglosassone”, in un mondo nel quale le coordinate culturali si sono incredibilmente moltiplicate), ed è fermamente convinto che l’essere umano – quello dotato di sensibilità autentica – perirà per mano degli scimpanzé (per l’esattezza di “scimpanzé bisunti”, ossia dei negri…). Un uomo tormentato (si legga la biografia…), il cui impegno nel mondo è meno che ridotto, ma un uomo che spinge i lettori, come altri autori dalla personalità e dal vissuto emblematici a una quasi emulazione… Non auguriamo, ovviamente, né all’“umanità” né agli autori di Antarés di subire o assumere, nel tempo, posizioni così “nette”, che lascino poco spazio alla luce dell’ottimismo. È anche vero, però, e da un versante opposto, che Lovecraft e gli altri antimoderni, pongono in discussione i dogmi (termine quanto mai appropriato), sui quali si fondano le società delicatamente totalitarie al cui interno ogni cosa è prevista secondo scale di “valori”, che possono legittimamente non soddisfare. E non è poco.
Se si assume un punto di vista estremo allora, fa piacere che ancora oggi ci sia chi non cedendo a quell’abitudine alla “moralità” che portò uomini e donne a scandalizzarsi per la morte violenta di Pier Paolo Pasolini, diriga i propri sforzi nella discussione dei principi del nostro vivere civile e della nostra società “fondata sul lavoro”. Ma l’errore esiziale – considerazione del tutto personale – è quello di cadere nell’abitudine (ancora una volta un’abitudine, ma di segno opposto alla prima), di “guardare” il mondo attraverso lenti colorate e di vederlo, dunque, sempre e solo di un unico colore. Che alcune università italiane, oggi, siano poco più che delle fogne (e i giovani le difendono!!), dei “comitati d’affari” per gruppi esclusivi e per famiglie prive di scrupoli è una verità fin troppo vera per essere negata, ma forse basterebbe Freud (e guarda caso Lovecraft non lo amava), per riflettere sul fatto che l’equazione modernità = schifezza non postula affatto l’esistenza di un’altra “realtà”, ove la “modernità” (nel senso però di attualità alla Sant’Agostino), sia invece piacevole, luminosa, armoniosa e quant’altro…
Forse, in alcune università (meno puzzolenti di altre) è proprio questo che si cerca di spiegare. Magari male, ma almeno si tenta… Facendo il verso a un “antievoliano” come Francesco Germinario potrei arrivare anche a concludere che con “Lovecraft non si va da nessuna parte…”, e che per dei giovani che stanno per affacciarsi sul “mondo moderno” i “valori” (seppur in negativo) che riempiono le esistenze di Lovecraft - malvagità ed egoismo - non sono proprio il massimo, o forse sono destinati, detti valori, a essere presto “traditi” (in senso bonario, ovviamente), o forse, essi stessi, “rischieranno” di essere frullati all’interno di un contenitore ove il malcontento e l’escapismo – non certo quello di Houdini ma quello, come dire, spirituale – la faranno da padroni per sempre… chissà, forse… speriamo di no dai…
La soluzione (la solita “benedetta” soluzione)? Né recitare una o due preghierine serali né leggere i romanzetti rosa della “Collezione Harmony”… sognare per sognare è preferibile la grande arte di chi accorda modernità e realtà come un direttore d’orchestra sposa una partitura del Settecento a un’orchestra dei giorni nostri: i grandi artisti, quelli che lasciano spazi liberi alla riflessione placida, seria o divertita (Giorgio Morandi, Jean Calogero, per citare due personalità che abbiamo “visitato” di recente). Per altro verso la grande tradizione laica (nel pensiero e nella fede), aperta al futuro e dalle scelte moderate (sempre). Infine, considerazione personale: una buona risata. Woody Allen il grande scettico (lo abbiamo detto, “scherzando” tempo fa a un amico: mille volte più “fascista” di un Clint Eastwood, oggi), Charlie Chaplin se si ha bisogno di una morale buona e mai sfacciatamente ottimista (a volte occorre dai…) e Stan Laurel che vale Tristan Tzara del quale, altra stranezza, solo in pochi conosco non solo le opere ma perfino la faccia. Anche loro percepiscono il “doppio volto” della modernità, e forse più di altri…

Detto questo, troviamo in Antarès una radice entusiasmante che metterà fiori e frutti. Il secondo numero, poi, (una portata molto ricca con Thoureau, Benjamin, Baudelaire, Evola, Daumal e Montale), promette davvero bene. Auguri!

 

 
Tante altre notizie su www.ariannaeditrice.it

mardi, 07 septembre 2010

Lovecraft's Politics

Lovecraft’s Politics

To many of his admirers, the scariest things H. P. Lovecraft wrote were not about Cthulhu, they were about politics. But, as I hope to show, the politics of this master of looming, irrational, metaphysical horror are solidly grounded in reality and reason.

Lovecraft, like many of the literati who turned to Left- or Right-wing politics early in the 20th century, was concerned with the impact of capitalism and technology on society and culture. The economic reductionism of capitalism was simply mirrored by Marxism, both of them emanations of the same modern materialist Zeitgeist.

Beginning in the late 19th century, a pervasive discontent with materialism led to a search for an alternative form of society, including alternative foundations for socialism, which occupied Europe’s leading socialist minds like Georges Sorel. What emerged early in the 20th Century was variously called “neosocialism” and “planism,” the most prominent exponents of which were Marcel Deat in France and Henri De Man in Belgium. Neosocialism, in turn, influenced the rise of fascism.[1]

Neosocialists primarily feared that the material abundance and leisure promised by socialism would lead to decadence and banality unless joined to a hierarchical vision of culture and education.

This was, for instance, the focus of Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man under Socialism, which envisioned an individualistic socialism that liberated humanity from economic necessity to pursue self-actualization and higher cultural and spiritual activities, even if these consisted of nothing more than quietly contemplating the cosmos.[2]

Such concerns cannot be dismissed as effete dandyism. They were shared, for instance, by the famous Depression era New Zealand Labour politician John A. Lee, a one-armed hero of the First World War who more than any other individual tried to pressure the 1935 Labour Government into keeping its election pledges on banking and state credit.[3] In Lee’s words:

Joe Savage . . . sees socialism as piles of goods fairly equitably divided and work equitably divided. I am sure he never sees it as the opportunity to play football, get brown on a beach, dance a fox trot, lie on one’s back beneath the trees, enjoy the intoxication of verse, the perfume of flowers, the joys of a novel, the thrill of music.[4]

Lee envisioned a form of socialism that was not directed primarily towards “piles of goods and work equitably distributed” as an end in itself, but as the means of achieving higher levels of being.

These neosocialist concerns were also shared by the fascists and National Socialists. Combating the enervating and leveling effects of wealth and leisure, and edifying the characters and tastes of the masses were the goals of Dopolavoro in Fascist Italy and Strength Through Joy in National Socialist Germany, as disquieting as this thought may be to socialists of the Left.

While it seems unlikely that Lovecraft was aware of this ideological tumult in European socialism, he arrived at similar conclusions in some key areas.

Lovecraft, like other writers who rejected Marxism,[5] deemed both democracy and communism “fallacious for Western Civilization.”[6] Instead, Lovecraft favored:

. . . a kind of fascism which may, whilst helping the dangerous masses at the expense of the needlessly rich, nevertheless preserves the essentials of traditional civilization and leaves political power in the hands of a small and cultivated (though not over-rich) governing class largely hereditary but subject to gradual increase as other individuals rise to its cultural level.[7]

Lovecraft feared that socialism, like capitalism, would pave the way for universal proletarianization and the consequent leveling of culture. Thus he proposed instead full employment and the shortening of the work day through mechanization under the cultural guidance of an aristocratic socialist-fascist regime.

This again was probably a perceptive insight arrived at independently by Lovecraft, but it was very much a part of the new economic thinking of the time. In England, the Fabian-socialist review, The New Age, edited by guild-socialist A. R. Orage, became a forum for discussing Maj. C. H. Douglas’ “Social Credit” theory, which was proposed as an alternative to the debt finance system, with the issue of a “social credit” to all citizens through a “National Dividend” allowing the full value of production to be consumed. They also aimed at fostering mechanization to decrease work hours and increase leisure, which they thought would be conducive to the blossoming of culture. (These ideas have renewed relevance as the eight-hour workday, the long-fought gain of the early labor movement, is becoming a rarity.)

Both Ezra Pound and New Zealand poet Rex Fairburn were Social Crediters because they judged it the best economic system for the arts and culture.

Lovecraft was concerned at the elimination of the causes of social revolution, and he advocated the limitation of the vast accumulation of wealth, while recognizing the need to maintain wage disparities based on merit. His concern was the elimination of the “commercial oligarchs,”[8] which in practical terms was the purpose of Social Credit and of the neosocialists.

While regarding the primary goal of a nation to be the development of high aesthetic and intellectual standards, Lovecraft recognized that such a society must be based on the traditional social organization of “order, courage and endurance,” his definition of civilization being that of a social organism devoted to “a high qualitative goal” maintained by the aforesaid ethos.

Lovecraft thought the hierarchical social order best fitted to the practicalities of the new machine age was a “fascistic one.” The “demand-supply motive” would replace the profit motive in a state-directed economy that would reduce working hours while increasing leisure hours. The citizen could then be elevated culturally and intellectually as far as innate abilities allowed, “so that this leisure will be that of a civilized person rather than that of a cinema-haunting, dance-hall frequenting, pool-room loafing clod.”

Lovecraft saw no wisdom in universal suffrage. He advocated a type of neo-aristocracy or meritocracy, with voting rights and the holding of public office “highly restricted.” A technological, specialized civilization had rendered universal suffrage “a mockery and a jest.” He wrote that, “People do not generally have the acumen to run a technological civilization effectively.” This anti-democratic principle Lovecraft held to be true regardless of one’s social or economic position, whether as menial laborer or as an academic.

The uninformed vote upon which democracy rests, Lovecraft wrote, “is a subject for uproarious cosmic laughter.” The universal franchise meant that the unqualified, generally representing some “hidden interest,” would assume office on the basis of having “the glibbest tongue” and “the flashiest catch-words.”

His reference to “hidden interests” can only refer to his understanding of the oligarchic nature of democracy. This would have to be replaced by “a rational fascist government,” where office would require a prerequisite test of knowledge on economics, history, sociology and business administration, although everyone—other than unassimilable aliens—would have the opportunity to qualify.[9]

A year after Mussolini took power in 1922 Lovecraft wrote that, “Democracy is a false idol—a mere catchword and illusion of inferior classes, visionaries and dying civilizations.” He saw in Fascist Italy “the sort of authoritative social and political control which alone produce things which make life worth living.”

This was also why Ezra Pound admired Fascist Italy, writing “Mussolini has told his people that poetry is a necessity to the state.”[10] And: “I don’t believe any estimate of Mussolini will be valid unless it starts from his passion for construction. Treat him as artifex and all the details fall into place. Take him as anything save the artist and you will get muddled with contradictions.”[11]

Such figures as Pound, Marinetti, and Lovecraft viewed fascism as a movement that could successfully subordinate modern technological civilization to high art and culture, freeing the masses from a coarse and brutalizing commoditized popular culture.

Lovecraft thought the cosmos indifferent to mankind and concluded that the only meaning of human existence is to reach ever higher levels of mental and aesthetic development. What Sir Oswald Mosley called actualization to Higher Forms in his post-war thinking,[12] and what Nietzsche called the goal of Higher Man and the Overman,[13] could not be achieved through “the low cultural standards of an underdeveloped majority. Such a civilization of mere working, eating drinking, breeding and vacantly loafing or childishly playing isn’t worth maintaining.” It is a form of lingering death and is particularly painful to the cultural elite.

Lovecraft was heavily influenced by Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler.[14] He recognized the organic, cyclic nature of cultural birth, youthfulness, maturity, senility and death as the basis of the history of the rise and fall of civilizations. Thus the crisis brought to Western Civilization by the machine age was not unique. Lovecraft cites Spengler’s The Decline of The West as support for his view that civilization had reached the cycle of “senility.”

Lovecraft saw cultural decline as a slow process that spans 500 to 1000 years. He sought a system that could overcome the cyclical laws of decay, which was also the motivation of Fascism.[15] Lovecraft believed it was possible to re-establish a new “equilibrium” over the course of 50 to 100 years, stating: “There is no need of worrying about civilization so long as the language and the general art tradition survives.” The cultural tradition must be maintained above and beyond economic changes.[16]

In 1915 Lovecraft established his own political journal called The Conservative, which ran for 13 issues until 1923. The focus of the journal was defending high cultural standards, particularly in the field of Letters, but it also opposed pacifism, anarchism,  and socialism and supported “moderate, healthy militarism” and “Pan-Saxonism,” meaning “the domination of English and kindred races over the lesser divisions of mankind.”[17]

Like the neosocialists in Europe, Lovecraft opposed the materialistic conception of history as being equally bourgeois and Marxist. He saw Communism as “destroying the zest for life” for the sake of a theory.[18] Rejecting economic determinism as the primary motive of history, he saw “natural aristocrats” arising from all sectors of a population regardless of economic status. The aim of a society was to substitute “personal excellence for that of economic position”[19] which is, despite Lovecraft’s declared opposition to “socialism,” nonetheless essentially the same as the “ethical socialism” propounded by Henri De Man, Marcel Deat et al. Lovecraft saw Fascism as the attempt to achieve this form of aristocracy in the context of modern industrial and technological society.

Lovecraft saw the pursuit of “equality” as a destructive rationale for “an atavistic revolt” against civilization by those who are uneasy with culture. The same motive was the root of Bolshevism, the French Revolution, the “back to nature” cult of Rousseau, and the 18th Century Rationalists. Lovecraft saw that the same revolt was being taken up by “backward races” under the leadership of the Bolsheviks.[20]

These views are clearly Nietzschean, but they even more specifically resemble those of The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman[21] by the then popular author Lothrop Stoddard, whose work would certainly have attracted Lovecraft, with his concern for the maintenance and rebirth of civilization and rejection of leveling creeds.

Although Lovecraft rejected egalitarianism, he did not advocate a tyranny that represses the masses for the benefit of the few. Instead, he viewed elite rule as a necessary means for achieving the higher goals of cultural actualization. Lovecraft wished to see the elevation of the greatest number possible.[22] Lovecraft also rejected class divisions as “vicious,” whether emanating from the proletariat or the aristocracy. “Classes are something to be gotten rid of or minimized—not to be officially recognized.” Lovecraft proposed to replace class conflict with an integral state that reflected the “general culture-stream.” Between the individual and the state would exist a two-way loyalty.

Lovecraft regarded pacifism as an “evasion and idealistic hot air.” He declared internationalism “a delusion and a myth.”[23] He saw the League of Nations as “comic opera.”[24] Wars are a constant in history and must be prepared for via universal conscription.[25] Historically war had strengthened the “national fiber,” but mechanized warfare had negated the process; in fact the mass technological destruction of the First World War was widely recognized as dysgenic. Nonetheless the European, and specifically the Anglo-Saxon, must maintain his supremacy through firepower, for “a foeman’s bullet is sweeter than a master’s whip.”[26] However, as one might expect from an anti-materialist, Lovecraft repudiated the typical modern cause of warfare, that of fighting for mercantile supremacy, “defense of one’s own land and race [being] the proper object of armament.”[27]

Lovecraft saw Jewish representation in the arts as responsible for what Francis Parker Yockey would call “culture distortion.” New York City had been “completely Semiticized” and lost to the “national fabric.” The Semitic influence in literature, drama, finance, and advertising created an artificial culture and ideology “radically hostile to the virile American attitude.” Like Yockey, Lovecraft saw the Jewish Question as a matter of an “antagonistic culture-tradition” rather than as a difference of race. Thus Jews could theoretically become assimilated into an American cultural tradition. The Negro problem, however, was one of biology and must be recognized by maintaining “an absolute color-line.”[28]

This brief sketch is sufficient, I think, to show that H. P. Lovecraft belongs among an illustrious list of 20th century creative geniuses—including W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, D. H. Lawrence, Knut Hamsun, Henry Williamson, Wyndam Lewis, and Yukio Mishima—whose rejection of materialism, egalitarianism, and cultural decadence caused them to search for a vital, hierarchical alternative to both capitalism and communism, a search that led them to entertain and embrace proto-fascist, fascist, or National Socialist ideas.

Notes

[1] Zeev Sternhell, Neither Left Nor Right: Fascist Ideology in France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).

[2] Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1891.

[3] After the tour of C. H. Douglas to New Zealand, the banking system and usury were very well understood by the masses of people, and banking reform was a major platform that achieved Labour’s victory. As it transpired, they attempted to renege, but Lee succeeded in getting the Government to issue 1% Reserve Bank state credit to build the iconic and enduring State Housing project that in one fell swoop reduced unemployment by 75%. Lee soon became a bitter opponent of the opportunism of the Labour politicians. However the state credit, albeit forgotten by most, stands as a permanent example of how a Government can bypass private banking and issue its own credit.

[4] Erik Olssen, John A. Lee (Dunedin, New Zealand: University of Otago Press, 1977), p. 66.

[5] K. R. Bolton, Thinkers of the Right (Luton: Luton Publications, 2003).

[6] H. P. Lovecraft: Selected Letters, ed. August Derleth and James Turner (Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1976), Vol. IV, p. 93.

[7] Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 93.

[8] Selected Letters, vol. V, p. 162.

[9] Selected Letters, vol. IV, pp. 105–108.

[10] Quoted by E. Fuller Torrey, The Roots of Treason (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1984), p. 138.

[11] Ezra Pound, Jefferson and/or Mussolini, 1935 (New York: Liveright, 1970), pp. 33–34.

[12] Oswald Mosley, Europe: Faith and Plan (London: Euphorion, 1958), “The Doctrine of Higher forms,” pp. 143–47.

[13] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1975), “The Higher Man,” pp. 296–305. A glimpse of Nietzschean philosophy is alluded to in Lovecraft’s “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” where Carter discerns words from beyond the normal ken: “‘The Man of Truth is beyond good and evil,’ intoned a voice. ‘The Man of Truth has ridden to All-Is-One…’” (Lovecraft, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath [New York: Ballantine Books, 1982], “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” p. 189).

[14] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West, 1928 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1971).

[15] “Fascism . . . was a movement to secure national renaissance by people who felt themselves threatened with decline into decadence and death and were determined to live, and to live greatly.” Sir Oswald Mosley, My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), p. 287.

[16] Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 323.

[17] H. P. Lovecraft, “Editorial,” The Conservative, vol. I, July 1915.

[18] Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 133.

[19] Selected Letters, vol. V, pp. 330–33.

[20] Selected Letters, vol. V, p. 245.

[21] Lothrop Stoddard, The Revolt of Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1922).

[22] Selected Letters, vol. IV, pp. 104–105.

[23] Selected Letters, vol. V, pp. 311–12.

[24] Selected Letters, vol. IV, pp. 15–16.

[25] Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 22.

[26] Selected Letters, vol. IV, pp. 311–12.

[27] Selected Letters, vol. IV, p. 31.

[28] Selected Letters, vol. IV, pp. 193–95.

mercredi, 06 janvier 2010

Lovecraft, il bambino che invento l'horror

Lovecraft, il bambino che inventò l'horror

di Francesco Boco

 
Articolo di Francesco Boco
Dal Secolo d'Italia di sabato 6 settembre 2008 / Ex: http://robertoalfattiappetiti.blogspot.com/

Gli anniversari, si sa, sono un’ottima occasione per rispolverare, o scoprire ex novo, i grandi autori. In questo scorcio d’estate, dunque, vale la pena soffermarsi su uno dei maestri indiscussi della letteratura horror e di fantascienza, insieme a Edgar Allan Poe: Howard Philips Lovecraft, del quale si è da poco celebrato il l’anniversario della nascita.
Nichilista. Cinico. Freddo. Così, di recente l’Espresso ha definito lo scrittore francese Michel Houellebecq, autore de Le particelle elementari, vicende di uomini in cerca di un nucleo. Ma quelle tre incisive e rapide parole possono ben adattarsi a descrivere l’autore a cui lo stesso romanziere francese dedicò il suo primo libro nel 1991: H. P. Lovecraft – contro il mondo, contro la vita (Bompiani). Il pamphlet è agile e gradevole, in ossequio al costume francese. Si fa portare volentieri in tasca per essere letto durante una passeggiata, pur non trattando di argomenti propriamente “allegri”. È un suggestivo colpo d’occhio sulla vita e l’opera dello scrittore americano.
Lovecraft, che molto più che autore “di genere” è uno dei maggiori scrittori americani del secolo scorso, nasce il 20 agosto 1980 nel Rhode Island, da un’agiata famiglia borghese. Perde presto il padre e si affeziona molto al nonno Whipple Phillips, dal quale eredita la ricca biblioteca e la passione per la lettura. Tra quegli scaffali il giovane Howard conosce la grande letteratura, le scienze e la mitologia e la sua fantasia inizia a viaggiare, tanto che a sette anni è già autore di brevi racconti fantastici e inizierà presto a essere affascinato dall’inanimato e dal maestoso.
Dopo una crisi nervosa, durante la quale stracciò quasi totalmente i suoi scritti giovanili, nel 1913 viene contattato per degli articoli scientifici dalla United amateur press association, collaborazione che poi si concretizzerà dal 1919, anno in cui Lovecraft riprenderà con entusiasmo l’attività narrativa, potendo finalmente trovare uno sbocco espressivo, seppure amatoriale, ai suoi scritti. Ispirato da grandi maestri come Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson e Arthur Machen scrisse racconti dell’orrore “classico” come La tomba, La dichiarazione di Randolph Carter o Il terribile vecchio, a cui ben presto si affiancarono racconti anticipatori dell’universo mitico per cui è diventato celebre: Dagon (1917) e Nyarlathotep (1920). In questi ultimi ad esempio s’iniziano a intravedere le titaniche e folli città dei “grandi antichi”, gli dèi mostruosi che gorgogliano nell’oscurità stellare. Stupefacenti racconti di fantascienza dove si parla di dimensioni in bilico tra la veglia e il sogno, in cui mostruosi intermediari degli “altri Dèi” e creature informi iniziano a fare la loro comparsa. Con i racconti degli anni seguenti, Lovecraft darà vita al “ciclo di Cthuluh” e a quello di Randolph Carter.
Nel 1923 esce il primo numero della rivista di “science-fiction” Weird Tales, il primo magazine professionale dedicato ai racconti del fantastico e che negli anni costituirà per Howard Phillips il principale sbocco pubblicistico. Nel marzo del 1924 si trasferisce a New York con la giovane moglie Sonia Greene. Qui Lovecraft non si sentirà mai a suo agio. Da “socialista reazionario”, profondamente conservatore e puritano, non riuscirà ad adattarsi alla vita della grande metropoli e la sua paura e avversione per gli immigrati lo travolgerà con delle punte di xenofobia ben note ai critici letterari. A New York prosegue intanto il suo ingrato lavoro di correttore di bozze, che spesso però si trasforma in vera e propria riscrittura di racconti per conto terzi. Tanto che l’edizione completa dei racconti per Mondadori include anche quelli scritti in “collaborazione”. Lo stesso anno, ad esempio, scrisse Sotto le piramidi, su commissione del mago Houdini; perdutolo alla stazione di Providence, dovrà riscriverlo in luna di miele. A New York Lovecraft cerca un impiego, ma il disprezzo per il “business” e la vita movimentata della città lo rendono ben presto insofferente e fu ben felice di fare ritorno alla sua amata Providence nel 1926, in seguito a un trasferimento della moglie nel Midwest per opportunità di lavoro.
Mentre il matrimonio finirà di lì a breve, la sua vena creativa, dopo l’avvilente periodo trascorso nella Grande Mela, è assai prolifica e in questo periodo compaiono molti dei suoi racconti migliori e più famosi. Lo straordinario Il caso di Charles Dexter Ward, Il colore venuto dallo spazio fino al romanzo breve Le montagne della follia (1931). Quest’ultimo era un omaggio al grande Edgar Allan Poe. Si ispirava e proseguiva in quale modo le vicende del romanzo Le avventure di Gordon Pym, prolungandone le suggestioni sull’esplorazione dell’Antartide, allora ancora inesplorato.
I mostruosi miti stellari lovecraftiani prendono forma, compaiono Cthuluh, un terribile incrocio tra un polipo, un toro e un essere volante, altre creature fatte di spore o colori mai visti e così via. La fantasia del “solitario di Providence” è di una vastità e di una potenza straordinarie e la sua scrittura fredda, quasi medica, non fanno che accentuare il senso di disagio e inquietudine che i racconti trasmettono al lettore. L’anno scorso Bompiani ha raccolto, a cura di Gianfranco de Turris, i testi del ciclo di Randolph Carter sotto il titolo Il guardiano dei sogni. Questa interessante iniziativa editoriale presenta un lato meno conosciuto dello scrittore di “cosmic horror”: ci troviamo davanti a una serie di racconti del fantastico che solo in parte hanno a che vedere con l’orrore extraterrestre dei Grandi Antichi. È la vicenda di un lungo viaggio avventuroso, in cui magia e mito, oscurità e luce, s’intrecciano con un ritmo incalzante. Le suggestioni egizie amate da Howard si intravedono nella splendente Città del tramonto e la magia dei gatti lo segue per tutto il viaggio. Si respira un’aria esotica e come rileva giustamente il curatore, qui Lovecraft/ Carter è un novello Ulisse, un cercatore, un viandante che va in cerca della città meravigliosa, e finirà per trovare se stesso. È un racconto che conserva, come molti dell’autore, una costruzione mitica, ma l’immaginazione e il sogno hanno un ruolo determinante. E Lovecraft continua a interrogarci beffardo sulla realtà dei nostri sogni.
Ciò che negli anni ha reso grande questo autore è stata la capacità di superare i vecchi canoni del racconto “gotico” per raggiungere nuove capacità espressive e nuove dimensioni dell’orrore. La paura è inestirpabile dall’animo umano, diceva, e su questo sentimento così radicato egli insistette con grande intensità in tutta la sua opera. Come accennato nasce con Lovecraft l’orrore cosmico, l’orrore cioè che richiama dimensioni altre, al di là di quella semplicemente umana e terrestre. La dimensione del sogno e l’irrazionale fanno la loro comparsa nel mondo e finiscono con l’annientare la vita umana. Il mondo dell’uomo sembra davvero nulla al cospetto dei “grandi antichi”, immobili creature senza vita e senza morte, che scrutano dai più lontani abissi stellari la piccola terra.
Inventò anche la leggenda attorno al libro maledetto chiamato Necronomicon, un trattato blasfemo e proibito in cui sarebbero contenute le formule per evocare i “grandi antichi”. Attorno al mito di questo libro misterioso è fiorita tutta una letteratura fantastica di amanti dell’immaginario e dell’irreale.
L’universo lovecraftiano ha influenzato moltissimi autori contemporanei di racconti dell’orrore o del fantastico, da Stephen King a Fritz Lieber fino al giovane Neil Gaiman artefice del postmoderno e sognante American Gods. Il mondo dei videogiochi è a sua volta debitore all’immaginario legato agli orrori stellari, è il caso della serie Alone in the dark, e anche il cinema ha più volte cercato di omaggiare, con risultati davvero da dimenticare, il maestro di Providence. Tra i pochi, merita d’essere ricordato l’anticonformista John Carpenter, che è riuscito a rendere omaggio a Lovecraft col film Il seme della follia (titolo originale In the Mouth of Madness, che gioca evidentemente con il già citato racconto Le montagne della follia).
Recentemente anche il bonelliano Martin Mystère si è richiamato ampiamente alla mitologia di Cthuluh e orrori vari nel numero di giugno/luglio dal titolo “L’orrore oltre la soglia”, dove tra misteriose cripte e incisioni incomprensibili spunta persino un viscido e gigantesco Cthuluh pronto a fare la pelle agli intrepidi che hanno osato risvegliarlo.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft merita davvero di essere ricordato. La sua influenza sulla letteratura e l’immaginario è immensa e, nonostante le condanne di alcuni censori alla Moorcock, le poche parole incise sulla lapide ancora tengono viva la memoria di un uomo che davvero è diventato un simbolo, e che a ragione ha potuto dire di sé: «Io sono Providence».
Francesco Boco. Nato nel 1984, è specializzando in Filosofia con una tesi su Oswald Spengler e Martin Heidegger. Ha tradotto e curato il saggio di Guillaume Faye su Heidegger, Per farla finita col nichilismo. Collabora a quotidiani e riviste, tra cui: Secolo d’Italia, Letteratura-Tradizione, Divenire e siti web come http://www.uomo-libero.com/ .