The Call of Cthulhu
April 21, 2019 at 8:13 pm #1384
The Call of Cthulhu suggests that there exists some form of collective consciousness, the forgotten knowledge of the past only accessible through artistic minds. However, the forgotten knowledge and “stirred memories” of this ancient knowledge destroys us; like our inferior means of communication, our physical bodies are not fit to digest divine truth and when faced with it our bodies expire. Language is our attempt to make sense of what we imagine to be transcendent but we always fall short because it continually proves to be an inadequate means to encapsulate the referent fully. If language struggles to articulate that which we know and are familiar, our consciousness cannot fathom that which we have no basis of understanding. The geometry ‘seems wrong’ because it is a reality we have never conceived and a truth like nothing we have ever imagined. The forbidden fruit tasted results in madness and death, or worse a conjuring of some transcendent being, an uncontrollable force beyond anything we could comprehend. It seems as if HP Lovecraft has translated the apprehension he possibly felt, in regards to the pulse of scientific discovery, into a mythos cautioning against vain and obtrusive attempts to acquire knowledge. Footnote three for The Call of Cthulhu suggests considering the opening paragraph on page fourteen, the speaker states, “Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate extermination of our human species- if separate species we be- for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.” Poetically it makes sense that the search for knowledge will lead humanity to Fall, history repeating in some grotesque circular narrative. Science, similar to the descriptions related to Cthulhu, can be sublime- both grotesque and awe inspiring. It’s a repeated human conception and yet we continually ignore it: curiosity killed the cat, the Fall of Adam and Eve, Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I’m sure others could be named. I think that the story comments on the human urge to understand and to seek further knowledge, and perhaps it also suggests that this inherent drive to know may lead to “the ultimate extermination of our human species.”April 22, 2019 at 11:40 am #1386
Raina Schoen ThomasParticipant
Lovecraft may have been tapping into an issue that is becoming more and more relevant as time progresses. During the time he was writing there had been a good number of scientific breakthroughs concerning biology, technology, and the cosmos. Just to give a sense of the time, in the 1910s, several cellular discoveries were made and blood banks were invented. In the 1920s, other biological leaps were made and the theory that the universe was expanding was really beginning to develop. These discoveries, while significant, really may have drove home to some people how much is still unknown (both on the microscopic and intergalactic levels). As Lovecraft has mentioned “the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” and this notion was certainly one he used in his creative endeavors. I do find it interesting that the alleviation of this fear, making the unknown, known, is perhaps much worse than the fear itself. I agree with you that it’s a very applicable point of discussion and caution. Since Lovecraft’s time, humanity has acquired much more information about the world and universe, some of which poses very real threats to our wellbeing. For instance, many may wish that the knowledge of atomic and chemical weapons was never known and the resulting biological horrors (ex: Agent Orange, radiation poisoning) look to be out of the most grotesque, dystopic fiction. Yet it is reality.
Humanity has gotten to a point where it’s quest for acquiring knowledge poses major existential risks that could mean the end of its existence and perhaps more. Studies of pathogens and genetic manipulation help us develop treatment for disease, but it can also result in destruction. Thanks to the CRISPR-Cas9 technology we now have the full capability to completely edit genomes into whatever we want. This is excellent for gene therapy for diseases like cancer and dementia, however someone could just as easily us this technology to create the world’s deadliest pathogen and the human race would experience a real-life game of Pandemic. Any of the pathogens existing in BSL-4 laboratory settings can and have contaminated the outside world. The re-release of and genetically altered smallpox could result in catastrophe. The development of artificial intelligence is also a field of study that should take caution in its advancements. A super-intelligent AI, capable of a level of machine learning that we haven’t yet encountered, could provide many benefits but could also very easily surpass us in our intelligence and slip out of our control. Physics experiments can potentially result in destruction on an astronomical scale. We’ve gotten to a point where we really don’t know what will happen when we poke around with particles and could potentially set off a very disruptive event. The Large Hadron Collider located underneath the France-Switzerland border is capable of producing micro-black-holes, which could be harmless, but could also disrupt the energy fields of the universe. Like a child playing with a firearm, we really don’t understand the full weight of what we’re meddling with. The question still stands whether our value for information and potential benefits reaped from it outweighs the potential threats. It really feels like we’re nearing a threshold where we will no longer have the choice.
I highly recommend the End of the World Podcast with Josh Clark if anyone is interested in this stuff or has a long commute/housework to do.
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