H.P. Lovecraft is one of the legendary masters of the horror genre – before horror spiraled into shock and gore. His stories were atmospheric and creepy, in way, expanding on Edgar Allen Poe. On the surface, they seemed to be tales of good vs. evil, but on closer inspection, we find a dismal, fatalistic view of existence.
Lovecraft subscribed to cosmicism, which author Mike Duran quotes as being, “The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as a god, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence…”
This cosmicism is simply another word for methodological naturalism: The philosophy that nature is all that there is and processes of chance can account for everything.
The problem with naturalism is that it cannot account for much of anything. Human consciousness, morality, truth, free will, information in DNA, and so on. The belief that man is nothing more than a product of random chance can also lead to dangerous ideas. The Third Reich used these philosophies to justify their actions — and this video shows what happened when they applied naturalism to science.
So does this mean that everyone who adheres to a philosophy that flows from naturalism — such as materialism or atheism — is going to turn to genocide? No, of course not. But as Nancy Pearcey describes in Finding Truth, people who follow naturalistic belief often admit, implicitly or explicitly, the breakdown of their philosophy. She writes:
Richard Rorry was a committed Darwinist; and in the Darwinist struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So [naturalistic] evolution cannon be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorry says, the concept came from “religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God.” He cheerfully admits he reaches over an borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity.
Pearcy goes on to discuss Thomas Nagel, an atheist, and his conclusions in the aptly named Mind and the Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel argues that, “Something more is needed to explain how there can be conscious, thinking creatures.” He goes further and states that evolutionary concept of the mind undercuts “our confidence in the objective truth of our moral beliefs” and “The objective truth of our mathematical and scientific reasoning.”
That’s a lot of heady thinking for those who want to dive deeper into Lovecraft. While cosmicism may be popular in horror, theistic beliefs aren’t unheard of in the genre, as it underscored the original Dracula and Frankenstein. Even Stephen King, whose style took much from Lovecraft, has his religious beliefs cropping up frequently.
None of that is strange, however, because the beliefs of the author always permeate their works. Their view of existence, and their struggles with it, also come to the surface.
Perhaps, then, Lovecraft’s greatest legacy is encouraging us to explore a little deeper, and see the light among the darkness.