Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cheerleaders for Miskatonic University

New from the "Let's Review The Definition Of Fiction, Shall We?" department, apparently there are people who think that whole pantheon of gods dreamed up by H. P. Lovecraft is real.

Never mind that Lovecraft himself was a staunch materialist.  Never mind that he used to respond to nutcases in his own day who'd write to him, claiming to have visited the ruins of Dunwich and Innsmouth, with, "Those places don't exist.  I know that for certain.  You see, I made them up."  Never mind that if you go to your local high school's counseling office, and peruse the bookshelf for a college catalog for Miskatonic University, you will find it goes from "University of Minnesota" directly to "Mississippi State."

You'd think all of that would lead people to the conclusion that Elder Gods were figments of Lovecraft's fevered imagination.  You'd think that people would focus on the "myth" part of "Cthulhu mythos."

You'd be wrong.

There are apparently whole cults devoted to the worship of the Elder Gods, amongst whom Cthulhu seems to be the favorite.  Yog-Sothoth, who is inevitably described as "congeries of iridescent globes," is also popular, which raises a question:  what the hell is a "congery?"  I looked it up, and supposedly it means "collection, group, or assemblage."  I think you all need to make a point of using this word in a sentence today, such as, "look at that cute congery of puppies," or "that's a mighty nice congery of Star Wars action figures you got there, Bob."

Anyhow, the cultists faced a problem; being that the whole thing was made up, so were all the trappings -- especially the books and so on, such as "the cursed Necronomicon of the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred."  Undaunted, they simply got into the spirit of things, and made that up, too.  A guy who is known only as "Simon" wrote (well, he claims he translated it) the version of the Necronomicon that currently is used by most of your better Cthulhu cults.  It's available on Amazon (no, I'm not kidding) and apparently sells quite well.

And, of course, if you're going to have cultists, you'll have people who preach against them.  Jack Chick, who is the leader of a nominally Christian fringe group and who seems to be a raving wackmobile, claims that (1) Cthulhu and all the other Elder Gods are real because he's seen them, and (2) they're all minions of Satan so you better be careful.  In fact, he published a series of graphic novels about how Satanism is undermining American society, and one of them specifically deals with Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, and the rest of the gang.  It's named, "Who Will Get Eaten First?"

You'd think that anyone who made these kind of claims would be guffawed at.  And I live in the hope that 99% of people are rational enough to have exactly that response.  But sadly, all you have to do is to Google "Cthulhu cults" and you'll have tens of thousands of hits.  So I wondered, what is it about these ideas that people are so attracted to?  While I like a lot of Lovecraft's stories, notwithstanding his tendency toward purple prose ("loathsome, amorphous, bubbling slime from the nethermost darkness of the eldritch depths of space and time!") and predictability (why does everyone in his stories live in a house with a "gambrel roof?"), I really would prefer it if his view of the universe was fiction.  What with earthquakes, leaking nuclear reactors, rebellions and uprisings, we have enough to worry about these days without there also being evil monsters lurking around trying to eat us for dinner.  Of course, the stories are also full of characters who are drawn in by the powers that said monsters allegedly grant their followers, and honestly, I can see how that might be a temptation.  If I could chant a magic formula in my classroom and make a misbehaving student or two melt, I think I might be willing to join the Esoteric Order of Dagon, too.

The downside, of course, is that being fiction, it isn't real, which is a distinction these people seem to have trouble with.  You'd think the first time they tried to summon up Nyarlathotep, and nothing happened, they'd basically sit back and say, "Well, I guess it's all fake.  What a bunch of goobers we are," and go back to their jobs and houses and so on.  But that never seems to happen with Believers, does it?  All you need is conviction, and a grim determination to hold on to your ideas in the face of contrary evidence, and you're set for life.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I feel compelled to say that A, it may be purple, but no one else does heavy, ten-dollar-word description like Lovecraft; and 2, yeah, okay, purple by any other name, no matter how archaic, is still purple.

    But it can be incredible how little homework these people actually do, before releasing their "newly translated" Necronomicons. Simon, and a Donald Tyson, who's done a pack of things in this vein, none of these people take the time to include those quotes from these documents which Lovecraft sprinkled through his works. In addition to his Necronomicon, Mythos tarot deck, and related others, Tyson also has a biography of al Hazred, the "Mad Arab", and no where in that, or any other, is there a single quote that would be recognizable to a reader of Lovecraft, most certainly not that most famous couplet.

    And returning to the tarot mentioned, what mental debate has to occur before you're comfortable selecting any entity, or pair of, from the Mythos, for The Lovers card?