Thing From the Other (The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft)

No one has influenced the modern world of horror more than H.P. Lovecraft, other than maybe Poe himself. Neil Gaiman once said that once said that Lovecraft built the stage on which all modern horror is played, and Stephen King echoes his sentiments.

                Lovecraft created a grand mythos, in which each story has a certain cast of cosmic monsters. The mission of most of his works is to attack Empiricism: the belief that there is nothing outside matter, and anything real and objective can be observed through the senses.

                Lovecraft gives off the essence of this most clearly in another work called ‘The Tomb.’ “It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence, those isolated phenomena, seen, felt only by the psychologically sensitive, which lie outside the common experience… the prosaic materialism condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight that penetrate the veil of obvious empiricism.” All this means is that when the supernatural is portrayed: it is dismissed as madness.

                He blames empiricism for this spirit of intellectual superiority, and punishes them by giving his unbelieving characters gruesome ends. Although, to be fair, most Lovecraft characters meet an awful end, regardless.

                In his story “The Colour Out of Space,” he continues his cynical attitude toward materialism. It starts with a beginning similar to Dracula: a modern man coming into a myth ridden culture. Unlike Dracula, he finds no reason for myths to exist, because the culture is so Puritan.

                The main bulk of the story is the telling of how, a meteor from outer space, touched down into a field making it desolate. The rock is branded with colors from colors off of the human color wheel. “It was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside, and as such endowed with outside properties, and obedient to outside laws.”

                Two different professors look at the rock: only to find that no chemical will break it down. What’s left of the rock continues to ravage the land, terrify animals, and turning people insane. One character tries to send their troubles to “The Gazette,” and is given nothing but ridicule. The underlying point is that humanity can’t seem to own up to the big parts of reality.

                Schliermacher, one of the liberal, German theologians said that Religion is the feeling of the infinite inside the finite. I think he’s wrong, but only slightly if we change the context. The supernatural is, or can be the infinite inside the finite, and Lovecraft’s work certainly carries the other-worldly coming into this.

                Christianity would certainly agree with Lovecraft that things from beyond nature step into nature, and interact with it. They do, however, differ at one key point. Lovecraft’s creatures are at best ambivalent to the plight of human nature.  So, the question becomes: is the real other-worldly ambivalent.

                The answer is no. why do I say that? Is there any purpose in ambivalence? No, however, in the real world we seem to have a sense of purpose that goes far beyond our own lives. We have a sense of the way things ought to be.

                If this world were without purpose, I don’t think we would know it, or understand what purpose was. In a world without light there would be no creatures with eyes.

                Like the rock in Lovecraft’s story: purpose comes from beyond, and like that rock its nature is totally different from the place it landed in. What’s different is that one destroys and the other gives power.        


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