A difference between Machen and Lovecraft

Extollager

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#1
I don't suppose G. K. Chesterton had ever heard of Machen or (certainly) Lovecraft, but this passage from one of his books suggests to me a difference between the two writers, with Machen being the visionary and Lovecraft the (in Chesterton's words) "false contemplative." Thoughts?

“That strangeness of things, which is the light in all poetry, and indeed in all art, is really connected with their otherness; or what is called their objectivity. What is subjective must be stale; it is exactly what is objective that is in this imaginative manner strange. In this the great contemplative is the complete contrast of the false contemplative, the mystic who looks only into his own soul, the selfish artist who shrinks from the world and lives only in his own mind. According to St. Thomas, the mind acts freely of itself, but its freedom exactly consists in finding a way out to liberty and the light of day; to reality and the land of the living. In the subjectivist, the pressure of the world forces the imagination inwards. In the Thomist, the energy of the mind forces the imagination outwards, but because the images it seeks are real things. All their romance and glamour, so to speak, lies in the fact that they are real things; things not to be found by staring inwards at the mind. The flower is a vision because it is not only a vision. Or, if you will, it is a vision because it is not a dream.”


Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Dumb Ox,” 182-3.
 

BAYLOR

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#2
Some of Machen's stories in particular The Great God Pan strike me as being in theme being very similar to what Lovecraft did.
 
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#3
I'm afraid I'd disagree with you there. I'd say the largest difference is simply that one was a religious mystic by temperament (not meaning any disparagement, as great art can emerge from such), while the other was a secularist with a strong interest in science (and great art can emerge from that as well). But as far as the quotation you provide... well, Lovecraft would almost certainly have agreed with much of it, and in fact said in his letters that the strangest place of all is that directly under your feet; that which is most familiar to us, when viewed objectively and with "new eyes" is full of wonder and strangeness, and it was often this he strove to depict. Certainly, he was extremely open to such impressions, as his letters and essays on travel, antiquities, etc., easily prove. Nor was Lovecraft one (at least, once he was past his early adult years -- say, after about his twenty-fourth year) who "look[ed] only into his own soul, the selfish artist who shrinks from the world and lives only in his own mind". While he did spend a fair amount of solitary time, he was deeply engaged in the world and its issues, and fascinated with history, folkways, beliefs, and all manner of human interaction (again, as strongly evidenced by his letters). It was at first a slow process as he began to let go of his prejudices (inherited by either familial/societal influences or through books), but once that process began, he was anything but one who looked only inward. Like Poe, like Blackwood (though from a rather different angle than either of them), Lovecraft found in the objective world much of tremendous interest, aesthetic enjoyment, and philosophical contemplation, and highly prized anything of that nature brought to his attention by his numerous correspondents and/or friends he met in person. I would say that it is this very awareness of this "strangeness" of reality which is the root of his fiction and the basis for his blended feeling of cosmic alienage and being a part of that cosmos at the same time (the two are not mutually contradictory, but are based in the distinction between objectivity and impressionism, which he used in close conjunction to achieve a multilayered ambiguity of effect).

I suppose the other major distinction (and this is related, I believe, to that given above) is that Machen was much more emotionally-oriented in his approach to his work, while Lovecraft was always filtering that emotionalism through the lens of intellect in order to achieve that ambiguity I mention -- he wanted to find the precise words and images to convey a multiplicity of significance to what he put on the page as, being aware of the complex nature of our emotional responses, he wished to convey that mingling of many simultaneous emotional responses within short compass. In this, he reminds me of that epigram from Peake which Moorcock used for his second Elric story, "While the Gods Laugh":

I, while the gods laugh, the world's vortex am;
Maelstrom of passions in that hidden sea
Whose waves of all-time lap the coasts of me,
And in small compass the dark waters cram.

-- Mervyn Peake: "Shapes and Sounds", 1941​
 

Extollager

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#4
What I was getting at with the Chesterton quotation must have been something like this:

Lovecraft perceives all that is as, intrinsically, brute phenomena, completely meaningless; we may begin to perceive this truth by contemplating the vast universe, but really this truth applies also to the more familiar phenomena of nature here on earth, and to human history, and finally to ourselves. Nothing means something. This being so, we make a tolerable personal world for ourselves by imposing on the phenomena meanings of our own; we know they have no ultimate validity, but, shoot, that's not our fault. So, for Lovecraft, we may start with ourselves: we have our tastes, memories we cherish, and so on. Then, moving outward a bit, we have the associations with our personal and family history, the history of our tribe or "people," etc. to contemplate. Moving further outward, we happen to find certain natural phenomena (e.g. sunsets) pleasing, and we may cultivate our enjoyment of them. And so on. But all this remains really nothing but the play of human imagination and association upon phenomena, and our sensibility is really no more valid than that (as Blake put it) of the man for whom a tree is a green thing that gets in the way, etc.; what external criterion is there that could rule the one more fitting to the nature of things than the other?

Machen believes that all phenomena are visible signs of "hidden" splendors, which interpenetrate them. Some phenomena are naturally more suited than others to our detection of the secret glory -- e.g. the beauty of the sexes and the ecstasy of marital union. Machen's thought would be close to that of Dostoevsky's Russian Monk in Book 6 of The Brothers Karamazov:

"Brothers, do not be afraid of men's sin, love man also in his sin, for this likeness of God's love is the height of love on earth. Love all of God's creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it each day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love. Love the animals: God gave them the rudiments of thought and an untroubled joy. Do not trouble it, do not torment them, do not take their joy from them, do not go against God's purpose. ...

"...Much on earth is concealed from us, but in place of it we have been granted a secret, mysterious sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher and heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. That is why philosophers say it is impossible on earth to conceive the essence of things. God took seeds from other worlds and sowed them on this earth, and raised up his garden; and everything that could sprout sprouted, but it lives and grows only through its sense of being in touch with other mysterious worlds; if this sense is weakened or destroyed in you, that which has grown up in you dies. Then you become indifferent to life and even come to hate it. So I think."

I think there's something quite close to that "universal love" in Machen when he describes his walks in quite drab endless undistinguished regions of London and "rhapsodizes" about how a man who couldn't find wonder in the Brixton Road couldn't find it in a hidden valley of Africa (paraphrase). Machen doesn't refer to "love" but it seems that's what he's talking about. The wonder in the Brixton Road really exists; he isn't projecting romantic feelings on it but is glimpsing something that is there.

A Ruth Pitter poem:

THE BIRD IN THE TREE

That tree, and its haunting bird,
Are the loves of my heart;
But where is the word, the word,
O where is the art,

To say, or even to see,
For a moment of time,
What the tree and the Bird must be
In the true sublime?

They shine, they sing to the soul,
And the soul replies;
But the inner love is not whole,
And the moment dies.

O give me before I die
The grace to see
With eternal, ultimate eye
The Bird and the Tree.

The song in the living green,
The Tree and the Bird --
O have they ever been seen,
Ever been heard?
 
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#5
I still don't think I'd agree with your distinction here. I think you're right that Lovecraft would not assign any purely objective response to anything, but any emotional response is the product of a mind, no? Without any mind, there is no such thing as wonder, beauty, ugliness, or any of the other emotional responses we have to things. The very fact that these are emotional responses makes consciousness a prerequisite to their existence. To Lovecraft, however, these things have beauty and strangeness whether or not human beings are there to perceive it, as long as there is some sort of consciousness which can perceive the universe around it.

Ultimately, no one can truly step outside their own head when it comes to such things; it's an impossibility. We can conceive of such a state, but we cannot truly imagine it, it is beyond human experience and therefore beyond any human understanding (in the ultimate sense). There is absolutely no evidence that such a state of consciousness exists.

At the same time, Lovecraft shared a great deal of what you talk about when it comes to Machen's view -- in fact, it was partly this which so attracted him to Machen's work. He, too, felt that what we perceive is only the vaguest fragment of the whole, and that art was in fact an individual's honest attempt to portray what they saw in the world around them, and only by contemplation of a wide variety of artists' works combined with our own individual perceptions could be even begin to get an approximation of the ultimate nature of reality, its splendors, wonders, terrors, etc. He also felt that only by being open to the hidden aspects of things are we able to begin to become emotionally (as opposed to physically) a part of the whole. As he put it in his "In Defense of Dagon" essays: "Pleasure to me is wonder — the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty."

So I would say that, while their philosophical underpinnings are indeed different, they are much closer in this matter of the hidden beauty and strangeness of things, and its ultimate existence beyond our own involvement, than you propose.
 

Extollager

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#6
I've read your comment (#5 immediately above) more than once, J. D., and am having some trouble with it. Out of the gate, I stumble over "objective response." But rather than critique your comment further, I'll ask that you read the first lecture of C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man. See if it is helpful -- the material about Coleridge and the waterfall, etc. -- in this context.

Otherwise I'm afraid I'll end up mostly just repeating what I said above in #4.

https://archive.org/details/TheAbolitionOfMan_229
 
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#7
I've read your comment (#5 immediately above) more than once, J. D., and am having some trouble with it. Out of the gate, I stumble over "objective response." But rather than critique your comment further, I'll ask that you read the first lecture of C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man. See if it is helpful -- the material about Coleridge and the waterfall, etc. -- in this context.

Otherwise I'm afraid I'll end up mostly just repeating what I said above in #4.

https://archive.org/details/TheAbolitionOfMan_229
For some reason, I'm having trouble accessing that file. I keep getting an error message indicating that I "don't have permission to access the requested object".... At any rate, I'll see if I can get to this some other way, but for the moment, I'll address the phrase which seems to be a stumbling block. Perhaps I am misunderstanding things here, but it seems to me that in your comments above, the "beauty", "strangeness", etc., you refer to is implied to be objective in nature; that is, it exists regardless of an observer. What I am attempting to say is that (if this is the case), I don't see how such a thing is even possible, as the very nature of such judgments is subjective; they are emotional/aesthetic responses to stimuli, not pre-existing categories to which we become exposed. The objects we react to in this fashion are indeed objectively existing things, but the reactions you mention are anything but. Perhaps I phrased it badly, but at the moment I'm not quite sure how else to express the idea I am attempting to convey....
 

Extollager

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#8
Thanks -- that helps. Maybe we can agree on some distinctions.

1.In some places in his writing, at least, Lovecraft perceives all that is as, intrinsically, brute phenomena, completely meaningless; we may begin to perceive this truth by contemplating the universe,* but really this truth applies also to the more familiar phenomena of nature here on earth, and to human history, and finally to ourselves. This conception contributes to his pronouncements such as "The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate its contents," that the progress of science is a fundamentally alienating activity because it reveals ever more ineluctably this nihilistic truth of things. However, a man of integrity may be able to face up to this bleak vision at least intermittently and to a degree.

2.I take him then to be saying, in such places, that human emotions towards all things (space and its contents, including ourselves) are incommensurate and irrelevant. It seems to me that an inescapable implication of this belief is that, while Lovecraft may prefer the company and writings of people who feel about things as he does, there really is no external criterion whereby his responses may be judged more appropriate than those of a man who pays no heed to anything beyond his petty concerns of getting a living and having a bit of fun. In fact all human activities, including all human mental activity, are "petty." He cannot allow exceptions.

3.But in other places he does seem to allow exceptions, does seem to say that to be stricken with awe is more appropriate to the nature of things such as the vastness and teeming abundance of the universe than not to be. I'm not quite sure how his former intuition can be squared with this latter one.

4.For context, it seems to me that we may discern several possible understandings of man-in-the-universe.

[a]The view I have attributed to Lovecraft in nos. 1 and 2 above. To this I added, earlier, what I understand to be Lovecraft's view that, knowing his thoughts to be incommensurate and irrelevant, a man may find comfort nevertheless in cultivating his inner world, his sensibility -- the associations he happens to have for loved scenes, the pleasure he takes in antique associations, the wonder he feels when looking through his telescope or at a sunset seen from a terrace, and so on. Lovecraft would say that a man might as well do this as part of the business of getting through his life, but of course when he dies it will be ultimately meaningless to say that this was part of a life lived well; like-minded friends may do so, but it's not really so. Life is futile because it is hopelessly anthropocentric to think that any way a person could live would be more appropriate to the facts of the universe than any other way.

The view you seem to suggest in remarks such as"To Lovecraft, however, these things have beauty and strangeness whether or not human beings are there to perceive it, as long as there is some sort of consciousness which can perceive the universe around it." Here it seems that there is a genuine complementarity between observing mind and observed universe, that they belong together, that some people "realize" this complementarity more fully in their lives than others do, and that these lives are lived better than lives that do not. Is this Lovecraft too? Can this understanding be reconciled with the futilitarian one I have just sketched?

[c]The view that I take Plato and Machen (and others) to have held, that beauty is a category of reality. It antedates the temporal and spatial universe. The universe that our senses perceive manifests in space and time an uncreated, transtemporal, transspatial beauty. Machen thus sometimes refers to things as "sacraments." The things we see, whether a lovely rose or damp, gritty bricks in the pavement of a London alley, participate in, have their being in, the eternal. (I don't think Machen was a pantheist ["all is god"] but he may have been a panentheist, i.e. one who holds that all that is, is "in" God.) I don't wish to argue that Machen was a philosopher. I doubt that he had worked out some of the issues that might arise with such a belief or intuition. But that this strong affirmation was part of his thought seems probable.

5.For Machen, beauty is antecedent to space and time, which manifest it; part of our being in the image and likeness of the creator inheres in our, too, being able to say, or to learn to say, that these things are beautiful and good. For Lovecraft, nothing could possibly antedate space and time (materiality), though after eons of space and time, creatures happen, by chance, to evolve who have nervous systems like ours, and some of these creatures imagine things such as "beauty" and project them on to the grinding mechanisms of space and time, which will keep in grinding away after those creatures are all extinct, their brief appearance and their inevitable disappearance, and the appearance and disappearance of their thoughts, being without any importance.

6.So now we can come back to the Chesterton passage. For Machen, "The flower is a vision because it is not only a vision. Or, if you will, it is a vision because it is not a dream." The flower perishes, but the beauty it manifested is changeless. "Let us so pass through the things temporal that we lose not the things eternal," said Machen, quoting from a prayer of the Church.** For the Lovecraft of my nos. 1 & 2 above in this message, the "visionary beauty" of the flower (or rather the sunset) is a "dream" -- that beauty is how-he-happens-to-feel or how-he-chooses-to-feel about what he perceives. It can't be anything else. He doesn't "owe" to the flower or the sunset any appreciation; but he may cultivate such appreciation because it is pleasant to do so while we pay out the hours we have before our extinction.


*Which to us appears "vast," but if we say it is "vast," we really are just saying something about how it affects some people's nervous systems and inevitably limited and "provincial" imaginations.

**This is actually from one of Machen's essays in which he rages against what he calls "puritanism" or "Protestantism" at times, though he was an Anglican, not a Roman Catholic. Machen is affronted when he finds the text of the prayer to read, "Let us so pass through the things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal," taking this to be saying, basically: "Let us pass by the things temporal so that we can get through this earthly life -- pah! -- and attain heaven." He says, in effect -- Oh no, rather let us perceive the things of space and time as pervaded by, subsisting in, and manifesting the eternal, which otherwise we are likely to forget about as we grub a living and amuse ourselves with petty greeds and lusts; but let us, as we ought to do, take these things we see for what they are, "sacraments."

This by the way relates to Tolkien's argument in "On Fairy-Stories" about how such fantastical tales open our eyes, apt to become dimmed by trite familiarity, to the real beauty and goodness of common things.
 
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#10
I'm able to access the document this time. I won't have a chance to go through it for (probably) 2-3 days, as the next few days in the week tend to be even more insane than usual with work scheduling. However, I will read and think about it, and get back to you ASAP.

You raise some interesting points in your comments about HPL above, though I think some of your questions may be answered by looking up the "In Defense of Dagon" essays I mentioned earlier. At the very least, you will have a better idea of how HPL reconciled some of these seeming discrepancies to his own satisfaction.

In a very real way, it is a pity that so many of his discussions on these topics were so spread out over the course of numerous letters and essays, as if they were presented in a single place it would make an absorbing document well worth careful examination. Perhaps sometime one of us (the Lovecraftian scholarly community) can put such together. For the time being, the best is Joshi's Decline of the West, where he discusses these dichotomies in Lovecraft's thinking....
 

Extollager

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#11
I appreciate your taking time (when you have time!) to read Lewis's first lecture in The Abolition of Man, which I expect will be interesting. In return, I am trying to get hold of the "Defense of 'Dagon'" material by means of an interlibrary loan request for Miscellaneous Writings. I hope we can continue this Machen-Lovecraft discussion.
 
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#12
Been held up more than I expected the last few days, including a migraine which lasted nearly two days(!), so I've not got around to the essay yet. However, I hope to do so in the next couple of days. I am very much interested in continuing this discussion, whether or not we come to any sort of agreement on the matter....
 

Extollager

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#13
I just reread that first lecture in The Abolition of Man and believe that it's highly pertinent to the present discussion, and really interesting in its own right too.
 

Extollager

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#14
If this thread revives, I hope it will be with discussion of things already said above on which there's plenty to follow up; but it occurs to me that one could characterize Machen (realist) and Lovecraft (nominalist) as instances of a basic Western philosophical split. This Yale UP book might provide context.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0300065019/?tag=brite-21
 
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#15
I'm not sure I'd agree with classifying HPL as a nominalist in the sense(s) I understand the term (based on the Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition), but I think that Machen at least fits one of the definitions for "realism". However, that discussion is for another time (as far as my own involvement is concerned), as I, too, would like to address what had been raised previously before getting into it. However, despite my best intentions and efforts, I've not been able to even read Lewis' essay yet, let alone ponder it.... I do, however, hope to get to the darned thing no later than the first week of November... or I just might get a tad testy at the things which keep getting in the way of me getting such things done.......
 
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#16
All right; I've at last had a chance to tackle the first of the essays, anyway, if not the rest (which I hope to get to in the course of the coming week). You've raised some interesting points and questions here, but it seems to me that you are making something of a false dichotomy in some respects. While, as I noted earlier, there is certainly a difference in their fundamental views concerning the objective existence of such qualities in the object, I would say that Lovecraft's approach is in most other respects quite close to Machen's (and Lewis') in many ways. And, while I agree that HPL would view such things as, in a purely objective sense, meaningless in the larger scope (the "cosmic scale" of reality), he himself held these things to be vital to us as human beings; for it to be an absolute necessity to our well-being both physically and emotionally, to strive to inculcate such virtues and values because a) they served the "greater good" of preserving cultural, societal cohesion and strength (and therefore survival) and b) because such things deeply enriched an individual's life on a multitude of levels.

I myself simply cannot subscribe to the view that these phenomena, in and of themselves, inherently merit such reactions; but that these are a natural part of our evolution, particularly the evolution of the brain and our consequent involvement with the world around us as a developing species -- what we have learned of evolution and human psychology, both from theory and, increasingly, from actual physical evidence on how the brain develops and works, strongly supports this, whereas the idea that such things have such qualities of themselves regardless of human or at least sentient observers, would seem, on the evidence, to be the result of inherited belief systems concerning a still unproven metaphysical "reality". (Which is why I object to Carpenter's subtitle for his book on the Inklings; "truth", as used here, is an extremely slippery and, in my view, unwarranted use of the term when one is speaking rather of "emotionally satisfying" rather than an objective reality. This is, I feel, a disingenuous reliance on a popular, rather than genuinely accurate, use of the term; a kind of "word game" all too often used by those arguing for such metaphysical claims when a reliance on fact or a more clinically accurate use of a term fails to serve their ends. It is, in effect, lying by relying on such loose usage in the course of what pretends to be an intellectually honest debate. I have no problem with using it in such a way as a poeticism, a shorthand for emotionally satisfying or fulfilling in a way that objective reality may not be; but such a use must make clear the distinction between this and objective truth, that is, that which is supported by factual evidence outside of human emotional reactions.) This is also why I object to a few of Lewis' restatements of those he is criticizing, as his own choice of terms abets this very false dichotomy, where a more precise formulation would make his point without bringing in any "red herrings".

On many points, though, I agree with Lewis when he cautions against such a slipshod use of terms, with their philosophical implications, and I agree that, in being so careless, the writers do both themselves and the students a grave disservice. As you know, I am by no means immune to "apprehensions of" the sublime; I appreciate such quite keenly. But I recognize that such feelings are not because of the objective nature of the object, but because of my development as a human being in relation to such things, and no more accurate on an objective level than the indifference of one of Lewis' "trousered apes".

Which brings up another point at which I disagree with Lewis. When he says (in essence) that, shorn of the position he holds, there would be no difference between "sublime" and "pretty", he is himself being quite disingenuous, as there is a distinction in the meaning and associations of these terms, just as there is between "beautiful" and "pretty". The reactions may be the same between the two individuals, and the woman may mean the same thing, but the word she uses to express it is inadequate to convey the full impact of the emotion to another, whereas "sublime" at least comes closer to the complexity of the reaction. The emotion may be the same, but the expression leaves much to be desired.
 

Extollager

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#17
Thanks -- looking forward to the further thoughts. I've written a couple of responses, but would like to let you complete your remarks before posting them (if I do post them).
 

steelyglint

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#18
Very deep stuff.

I haven't read sufficient of either of them to be qualified at those depths.

So I'll paddle in the shallow end with a daft observation.....

Machen - the German for 'do'.

Lovecraft - a slightly odd way to say.....ah, a more biblical 'do' I suppose.

They're both euphemisms.

Ha. Barely got my feet wet.

.
 

Extollager

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#19
Steelyglint, you might know L. Sprague de Camp's anecdote (which I'm not sure I believe), that when, in the early Seventies or so, he mentioned to someone that he was writing a book on Lovecraft, his interlocutor took it to be a book of advice about erotic activity.
 

Extollager

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#20
I'm going to go ahead and post the responses that I mentioned in #17 above. Here's the first:


Lovecraft’s “In Defense of Dagon,” in Miscellaneous Writings, ed. Joshi

In the “Defense” papers (1921), Lovecraft expounds two things, his mechanistic materialism and a justification of the imaginative writing that he prefers to read and to attempt to write. He also embraces the common modern opposition of artist vs. society.

1.Although “[w]e know nothing” (p. 153), “[r]eason has never yet failed” (p. 152), and its weighing of the evidence finds no support for teleology and other elements of traditional philosophy and religion (p. 169). By “reason” Lovecraft means, basically, empiricism, as the only method of inquiry suited to the discovery of truth given the materialist assumptions.

Here are some corollaries and conclusions that Lovecraft draws:

Consciousness arises from “complex organic matter” (p. 153); i.e., what we call mind is a product of the brain, itself the product of mindless physical, chemical, and biological processes. “[A]ll cosmic existence” is ultimately constituted by “the blind churning of electrons” (p. 158). Lovecraft’s use of “blind” is insistent, particularly on pp. 160-161. “Progress and sophistication, arch-enemies of all illusion, have destroyed traditions of behavior as well as of thought; and acting upon a sensitive and heterogeneous world have culminated in an inevitable bewilderment and realisation of futility” (p. 166). For Lovecraft, the better you “see” (understand), the more you know you are “blind” (ignorant) and the product of blind forces.

2.Some people, more “sensitive” than others (p. 148), value the imagination. Lovecraft asserts that artists in the “romantic” and in the “realistic” modes write to please their readers -- and “both ignore the imagination” (p. 147). One could wish that he had explained how this ignored faculty of “imagination” is to be understood in this context, but we can see something of what he means by looking at the authors he does regard as imaginative. Imagination* is something exhibited in the writings, among American authors, supremely by Poe and, inferior only to Poe, Bierce. Authors who lack imagination are apt to be preoccupied, Lovecraft believes, by “wholesomeness” and “utility” (social usefulness). I think Lovecraft would say that “wholesomeness” and “utility” are matters of bourgeois convention, based on the desire to live a life of comfortable illusions. He would feel that an artist is liable to submit to restrictions that impair his freedom if he concerns himself with what he calls “copy-book morals” and “cheerful, every-day happenings of unimpeachable probability.” Lovecraft takes his place as an adherent of a very familiar modern animosity between the Artist and the unappreciative masses (p. 148); this animosity is in fact one of the keynotes of modernity as against a traditional conception of the artist and society that once was universal.



One may add a third thesis: An important part of Lovecraft’s vision, then, is his view of himself, as of a sensitive artist. This artist’s work is to paint “moods and mind-pictures” (p. 148). His purpose in writing “Dagon” was “purely and simply to reproduce a mood” (p. 150). His “aim is merely self-expression” (p. 155). In his stories, he seeks to render “a mere transcript of an isolated mood or idea with its imaginative ramifications” (p. 156). He doesn’t need to be hypocritical about it: since “the only human motive since the species has existed has been selfishness” (p. 167), since there is “no motive in man but basic selfishness” (p. 154), he may, if he so chooses, fill his art with “cynical resignation and dreams of languorous beauty” (p. 166).



These passages do seem to me to show Lovecraft aligned with what Chesterton, at the beginning of this thread, called the “false contemplative.” I think my remarks in postings #4 and #8 above are confirmed.



*Lovecraft says that imagination [a] “groups isolated impressions into gorgeous patterns” and “finds strange relations and associations among the objects of visible and invisible Nature” (p. 147). The first statement fits readily into what Lovecraft says about the artist dealing in moods and mind-pictures. The verb in the second statement is problematic. If by “finds” Lovecraft means that the imaginative artist takes his idiosyncratic “impressions” and incorporates them into artistic constructions, there’s no problem. But “finds” suggests that the artist perceives something already there (relations and associations among the objects of visible and invisible nature). If so, what are these “relations” and “associations”? How did they get there? How does one know when one has found them? And what does he mean by “invisible Nature”? --he seems to mean something more than natural forces that can’t be seen with the eye but only detected by their effects, such as gravity.
 

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