November 16th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

H.P. Lovecraft: Aesthete of Cosmic Fear

"The exemplary figure of Evil are today not ordinary consumers who pollute the environment and live in a violent world of disintegrating social links, but those (top managers, etc.) who, while fully engaged in creating conditions for such universal devastation and pollution, exempt themselves from the results of their own activity, living in gated communities, eating organic food, taking holidays in wild preserves... "
                   - Slavoj Zizek, on M Night Shyamalan’s Village

“We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”
                 - J. G. Ballard

H.P. Lovecraft once said that tradition was the only defense humans had against a sense of cosmic loneliness and an even deeper "devastating sense of "lostness" in endless time & space." He was a Lover of the strange and fantastic; abstract truth and scientific logic; and, all that was ancient and permanent within human culture and tradition. He despised the Moderns and strove to create within his own life and writings an aesthetic of non-supernatural cosmic art

It was Kant who presented us with the subjective sublime. The basic idea that experience of the sublime is a result of a subjective encounter with something which is absolutely great or absolutely menacing. He believed that the terrifying sublime is sometimes accompanied with a certain dread or melancholy; both adventurous and grotesque. For Kant the feeling of the sublime is experienced when our imagination fails to comprehend the vastness of the infinite and we become aware of the ideas of reason and their representation of the boundless totality of the universe, as well as those powers that operate in the universe which we do not grasp and are beyond our control.

H.P. Lovecraft told us that the Weird Tale "has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain -- a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the dæmons of unplumbed space." 1

This alignment of Kant's sublime and Lovecraft's emphasis on the weird tale devolves into what is great within the "literature of fear" as he defined it within the pages of Supernatural Horror in Literature. The experience of the sublime involves a self-forgetting wherein one's personal fears are replaced by a sense of animal comfort and security when confronted with a great or menacing power, and is similar to the experience of the tragic. It is just here that Lovecraft went beyond Kant in his appraisal of the subjective sublime. For him the whole idea of humanist thought and its sense of the subjectivity of the self was a dead end; a terminus to be expunged. Being an anti-humanist he created in his work a counter-sublime, one that revealed the "unity of the human subject to be a fallacy." 2

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S.C. Hickman

G.K. Chesterton: What's Wrong with the World?

"A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy."
     - G.K. Chesterton

Reading G.K. Chesterton is like riding a freight train to hell and laughing all the way, knowing that one may never get there for the simple reason that even the Devil himself would hate to put down a book by such a cantankerous and opinionated critic of our modernity. 

A prolific author G.K.Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian and apologist, debater, and mystery writer. He was a columnist for the Daily News, the Illustrated London News, and his own paper, G. K.'s Weekly; he also wrote articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica, including the entry on Charles Dickens and part of the entry on Humour in the 14th edition (1929).

Born in London into a middle-class family on May 29, 1874, Chesterton later studied at University College and the Slade School of Art (1893-96). Around 1893 he had gone through a crisis of skepticism and depression and during this period he experimented with the Ouija board and grew fascinated with diabolism. In 1895 Chesterton left University College without a degree and worked for the London publisher Redway, and T. Fisher Unwin (1896-1902). Chesterton later renewed his Christian faith; the courtship of his future wife, Frances Blogg, whom he married in 1901 also helped him to pull himself out of his spiritual crisis.


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