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Monday 14 September 2015

10th anniversary Classic Rant: Explaining Cthulhu's Scariness to People Made Too Stupid by Post-Modernism To Get It

First of all, for the Mythos to scare you the way it was meant to, you have to ask yourself "who am I?", you have to be capable of self-analysis.  Unfortunately, most people these days never even consider such a thing.  They might consider psycho-analysis, trying to figure out what habits they got because their mommy wouldn't let them eat ice cream for lunch; but they won't even consider the question of why we think, how we think, what our consciousness consists of. Descartes goes unnoticed.

The part where it gets scary is when you consider that you are the product of your experiences, of what you think and what you feel/see/hear/etc; and that you depend on these for your very identity. What the Mythos implies is NOT that a godzilla like monster is going to come to eat you; its that all of the human experience, everything you believe to be real, is actually a little bubble of illusion in a vast void of incomprehensibility, all of the assumptions you have about life and the world are wrong, and in fact there is no part of you that is real as you understand it.  The REAL things out there are the Elder Gods, primal forces of creation and destruction that have no relation to our human ideas at all.  They aren't like us, they're not even evil. And what's so dangerous about them is that they are true and we are not true.   They represent the utter meaninglessness of human beings; that not only do we personally not have any purpose or significance, but that the entire human species is purposeless and meaningless. This is the real "dying of the light".

Cthulhu is Buddhist Horror.

These concepts are very hard for someone who was only raised and educated in post-modernism to understand, even moreso with all the luxuries and distractions of modern society. Our modern world hides the reality of death; most of us don't encounter death on a daily basis other than on television, and we are slowly brainwashed into forgetting about worrying about it at all.  We are taught to ignore and forget the truth that one day we will die.  And it is this question of death, and this not knowing, which creates in us the analysis of our self-identity, where we end up creating either turning to faith in beliefs or developing convictions that are made to be our safeguard, our sense of purpose. Most people today don't have a real faith in anything, and lack real convictions. They are so badly fucked up in this regard that they couldn't even tell the difference between real convictions and mere whim, or between real faith and just partisanship from habit.

Ironically, the worst crime that post-modernism inflicts on society is that it makes it completely helpless against the kind of existential despair that Cthulhu is symbolic of.  Its only protection is to try to get people to ignore these questions about meaning, because post-moderism by definition is utterly incapable of offering any objective meaning to life. But as soon as something personally shocking occurs, people who only have post-modernism to rely upon find themselves virtually helpless to stand against this kind of crisis. And of course, if some kind of major disaster strikes society as a whole, society itself becomes incapable of dealing with this disaster in any significant way aside from turning to strongmen who do hold convictions, any convictions.  That's pretty much what happened in the US after 9-11.  They have no effective way of dealing with crisis, or fighting evil, because they have no way of defining anything as intrinsically good, meaningful, or even true.

Unfortunately, the real reason for Cthulhu's scariness (which is not that he's a big monster, or even his alienness, but that his existence represents the utter meaninglessness of humanity) is almost completely lost to most products of our modern society and educational system.  I hope maybe this has cleared up the issue with you a bit.


Currently smoking:  Neerup "burlington" Tomahawk +  Solani's Aged Burley Flake

(Originally posted January 4th, 2007)


  1. Once you live in a "me first" consumer society, where instant gratification is the only end of life, there can be no real purpose of life rather than consume more goods. The community no longer exists meaningfully, only the consumer-individual and his need to gratify himself at the moment. You are no longer what you do, but what goods made by others you buy (and post a Selfie with them on Facebook). Post-modernism is the chief ideology of consumerism, it erases the struggle for meaning so that all is relative and all is just a narrative, and all is left is to consume both goods and ideas, all ready-made by the powers-that-be. Struggle over ideas, so pronounced in the 20th century, has now vacated its place for the new king, that is the desire to conspicuously consume goods.

    Remember - in the moribund post-modern society, you are not what you do, or what you produce, but what you consume out of the options laid in front you by others. How can anyone find objective meaning in such a society?

  2. A relatively fair assessment, though miraculously there are those who can still grasp meaning and engage with virtue even in this decadent time.

    1. Of course there are people who can still grasp meaning and engage with virtue today, but the spirit of our times is that of consumerist cynicism, which is a symptom of civilization which might be on its last leg.

      I get the feeling that this paragraph from Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu might come into effect in a few generations:

      "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

      Especially the part about regressing into a new dark age...

    2. Yes, there are certainly people pushing hard for that return to the cave.

  3. That second paragraph is pure gold. Would you mind if I quoted you somewhere down the road?

    Are you familiar with The Fourth Way, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, etc.?

    This will probably come across as too charitable regarding our fellow man, but could post-modernism be a coping mechanism for sanity-annihilating realities such as the Cthulhu Mythos?

    1. I think post-modernism was very much a response to the terrors of WWI and WWII. It was a childlike response, like a terrified schoolboy running screaming and crying from the ball that frightened them and refusing to go back into the baseball mound.

      Yes, I'm quite familiar with Gurdjieff.

  4. Also to the constant fear of nuclear war during the Cold War. In the early Atomic Era (1950's and even 1960's), technology and science, even nuclear technology, seems to promise a brilliant future. But the Cuban Missile Crisis and the constant fear of devastating nuclear conflict allowed some people to claim that science is a bad thing "which will get us all killed", hence the rejection of science in favour of the almighty "narrative" and some reactionary variants of environmentalism.

    It is also a response to the end of the Cold War. Back then, the sides and ideas were pretty clear, and many people identified with one side or another and were willing to die (and, unfortunately, kill) for it and its ideas. Once the Cold War ended, realpolitik replaced the old ideals and cynicism took root. And post-modernism is cynicism covered with flowery words. It's growth is in many ways the result of all the "End of History" and "Death of all the Isms" trends of the 1990's.

  5. The reason I don't get the horror of Cthulhu is that it seems very dependent upon a sort of Enlightenment, man-is-the-measure-of-all-things anthropocentrism in its readership to kick over, and when you're not operating from that paradigm it just comes across as a barely-disguised anxiety attack over the fact that white men aren't the masters of the cosmos.

    1. It sounds to me like you just don't get CoC, or probably anything, at all.

    2. Post-Modernism is the rejection of Enlightenment. The idea of Enlightenment is that there are rules to how the universe works; and we can find these rules, and use this knowledge to build a better, more free, happier, wealthier society. Post-modernism posits that there are no rules nor patterns and that everything is subjective and a "narrative" and thus we should not bother building a better world (and according to post-modernists, we'd rather be better off going back to the Dark Ages).

      The Enlightened answer to existential despair is that there is method to the madness and that we (human being using our intellect) can make things better by hard work and the application of science.