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Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 12 October, 2019 07:32PM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dale Nelson Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Incidentally, C. S. Lewis, as a young man, had
> a
> > period in which his belief was very close to
> > Lovecraft's. "The two hemispheres of my mind
> were
> > in the sharpest contrast. On the one side a
> > many-sided sea of poetry and myth; on the other
> a
> > glib and shallow 'rationalism.' Nearly all that
> I
> > loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all
> that
> > I believed to be real I thought grim and
> > meaningless. The exceptions were certain people
> > (whom I loved and believed to be real) and
> nature
> > herself. That is, nature as she appeared to the
> > senses. I chewed endlessly on the problem: 'How
> > can it be so beautiful and also so cruel,
> wasteful
> > and futile?'… I was so far from wishful
> thinking
> > that I hardly thought anything true unless it
> > contradicted my wishes."
>
>
> Dale, this is a very interesting quotation from
> C.S. Lewis. Which of his works is this taken
> from?

It's from his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, I'm sure.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 04:30AM
I think Lovecraft's chosen standpoint, that life and the universe is ultimately meaningless, were derived from unhappiness; he lost his father as a young child, and had a mentally ill mother who emotionally rejected him. The philosophy he developed, in piecing together his scientific studies, came in part from emotional bitterness with life. In other words, from a, basically, primitive, biological cause. It was his way of getting a sense of intellectual control over seeming chaos. I don't think he was very much at peace with himself, or comfortable, not as a young man. He had raging tempers and outbursts. But he settled down gradually into himself as he grew older, as most people do.

"Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. ..."
-Lovecraft

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 11:04AM
Oldjoe, the Lewis passage you asked about is from the chapter in Surprised by Joy called "Check." I remembered the passage and found it online, too lazy to get up and root it out of my copy of the book.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 11:28AM
Those are interesting details about Lovecraft, Knygatin -- I didn't realize that Lovecraft's mother rejected him, and I sure don't seem to remember that he had had raging outbursts at any time in his life. At my request, the university library bought Joshi's 1-volume biography of HPL and then the 2-volume one, and perhaps I should make a serious effort at reading one of these sometime, but either is really daunting. I wish there were a well-written, accurate biography of HPL of about 400 pages. (I did read the de Camp one when it came out, but as I won't need to tell anyone here, it came in for a lot of criticism, not all of it, perhaps, partisan.) I have little doubt that his (effective) fatherlessness is important for the way his thinking developed.

Incidentally, since I was drawing a parallel with C. S. Lewis in his 20s and Lovecraft -- Lewis's mother died when he was a boy, and his relationship with his Ulsterman father was very conflicted. I won't attempt to summarize it here. The plus side, for the reader, is that Albert Lewis is sometimes hilarious to read about. He was a respected lawyer, but in personal life domineering and quirky, given to missing the point and saying non sequiturs. Lewis and his brother as young men compiled no fewer than a hundred anecdotes.

Specimens:

---It having been maintained that the opposite of the proposition "Two and two make four" was inconceivable, he replied, "No, two and two is no eternal law. It's simply a matter of convention. Sure, people first began counting with pebbles and bits of stick!"----

---On the occasion of a pair of canvas shoes having been worn in the garden, he observed, "I came home for an hour or so with you before you go, and here I find an outrage."----

---On being told that the chief danger of driving at night lay in those large lorries whose real breadth often exceeded by two feet the distance between their headlights, he retorted, "Sure there are no roads in England only two feet broad."----

---A certain church having been mentioned which was remarkable both for a Greek inscription over the West door and for a curious tower, his interlocutor observed, "It is a great landmark. Now that I have got to know that tower, I pick it up from all sorts of places all over town, and even from the foot of Divis." "Do you meant to say," he replied with interest, "that you can read the inscription at that distance?"

---His interlocutor having begun an anecdote with the words, "A fellow I know once say a Greek captain------" He interrupted with the query, "Was this in the Homeric days?"----

---He said to his eldest son, "I see your brother had a letter from Oxford this morning. What was in it?"

There are some entertaining pages about Albert in Surprised by Joy (entertaining for the reader, anyway). The church tower story appears there, but I have been quoting from the complete collection of Albert anecdotes that was published in the journal Seven in 2015.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 13 Oct 19 | 11:36AM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 11:45AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Platypus Wrote:
> > > Morality, as I understand it, involves the
> belief
> > > in something external to the human psyche.
> >
> > But requiring a human psyche to envision it,
> > right?
> >
> > Or are you supporting the idea that morality
> > exists independent of rational consciousness?
>
> I'm saying that what the human mind perceives (or
> imagines it perceives, or hallucinates, if you
> prefer) is something independent of itself, and I
> think, probably, superior to itself.

If we took out this part of your statement:

"...what the human mind perceives (or imagines it perceives, or hallucinates, if you prefer)"

leaving the idea that phenomena ("what the human mind perceives") are independent of themselves, and perhaps superior to themselves, would it work? If we are, are we leaning toward archetypes?

Now, that addressed the phenomena as sensory and independent, but maybe you're referring to completely imaginary phenomena, existing only within the mind of an individual, and unperceivable by another individual.

Platypus, it may seem like I'm either beating this to death or that I'm like some of those posters out there who have nothing better to do than lay rhetorical traps. I want to reassure you that a) I am very literal and try hard to be precise--even though my own vocabulary of precision may leave a lot to be desired; and b) I enjoy coming to this forum because for the most part it is well-mannered and well-intentioned--not to say highly erudite and intelligent.

It is like a guest stay in a 19th C private club in Great Britain... :^)

So I *really* would like to fully understand your position, and I'll tell you up-front: I don't know that my position is actually valid--it just seems to me the most likely to be valid, after 72 years of life.

But for sure, I could be wrong.

>
> Freud hints at this, I think, when he separates
> the "superego" from the "ego". The mind perceives
> what Freud calls the "superego" as something
> independent of, and higher than, what the mind
> perceives as the self (the "ego" or the "I"). But
> Freud was, I think, a materialist, so naturally he
> considers this perception largely delusion. What
> the "ego" thinks it perceives is an illusion
> created by another aspect of the human mind. Or
> so Freud would say, I think.
>
> Materialism, as I think you would agree,
> ultimately leads to a form of moral nihilism,

Unreservedly agreed.

But is nihilism in and of itself "bad"--or rather, can the individual derive no positive aspects from it?

> where moral propositions have no real truth
> value.

But what I've found is that against all odds and conventional teachings, realizing this and getting comfortable with it is tremendously liberating to the self.

In a sense, I would suppose that it frees the ego of the unwanted kibitzing of the super ego.

It also makes the id at least respectable, in the eye of the ego...

Of course, this is just my opinion and by my own understanding of the cosmos, meaningless...

>
> But all I am suggesting is that one can avoid
> moral nihilism by choosing to believe that one's
> moral senses reflect (however imperfectly) an
> external reality. Similarly, one can avoid other
> forms of nihilism by choosing to believe that
> one's physical senses reflect external reality.

Yes. I can see this.

Even if an individual has come to the conclusion that I have--that nothing ultimately matters--one can construct what one *knows* (or believes) to be a temporary sense of order and meaning, and call that "life"--which has no lasting meaning outside of the self.

This is possible and it's what I do. Maybe this is very common, I really don't know. What I *do* feel that I know is that given that I need conform to no external set of moral tenets, I can make my own that fit like the proverbial glove, and to the degree that they are in harmony with a legal or traditional system, I can live peacefully.

And because this personal moral system is my own, and exists only at my own sufferance, I can change it at will, if I'm prepared to bear the consequences.

I don't know; perhaps this is the definition of amorality.

>
> The nature of this external reality is another
> question. A Christian, and I suppose a polytheist
> as well, would say that it is both conscious and
> rational. I'm not too familiar with the eastern
> concept of "Karma" so I'm not sure if it is
> perceived as conscious or rational, but I do sort
> of have the impression that it is perceived as a
> force in the universe that is external to the
> self.

It seems to me like any individual self exists as a transient bubble in the matrix of this external reality. Affected by the matrix, but within its bounds self-defining.

Great discussion and I hope I have not strayed too far!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 13 Oct 19 | 12:26PM by Sawfish.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 11:53AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I didn't realize that Lovecraft's
> mother rejected him, ...

Emotionally repressed him may be more correct than saying she emotionally "rejected" him. It depends on how one interprets it. She overprotected him, but at the same time made him feel unattractive and sickly.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 11:55AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think Lovecraft's chosen standpoint, that life
> and the universe is ultimately meaningless, were
> derived from unhappiness; he lost his father as a
> young child, and had a mentally ill mother who
> emotionally rejected him. The philosophy he
> developed, in piecing together his scientific
> studies, came in part from emotional bitterness
> with life. In other words, from a, basically,
> primitive, biological cause. It was his way of
> getting a sense of intellectual control over
> seeming chaos. I don't think he was very much at
> peace with himself, or comfortable, not as a young
> man. He had raging tempers and outbursts. But he
> settled down gradually into himself as he grew
> older, as most people do.
>
> "Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood
> bring only fear and sadness. ..."
> -Lovecraft

I think one might also view the realization of "no meaning" as the *cause*, rather than the consequence, of unhappiness.

I'm not postulating that this is valid in Lovecraft's case, but I deeply suspect that many conventionally raised people, especially those from western cultures and religious traditions, are *deeply* uncomfortable--and I say that as a profound understatement--with the idea that there is no plan or purpose to life, and that hence nothing matters in a cosmic sense.

So on perceiving the idea of ultimate meaninglessness, they shy away from it, and if unable to intellectually avoid it, either thru profound faith or maybe intoxicants, they become deeply unhappy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 12:59PM
I fully agree with you on that Sawfish. Lovecraft was also deeply frustrated with seeing how society turned more and more materialistic (a consumer slavery) and hijacked by capitalists without deeper values.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 13 Oct 19 | 01:23PM by Knygatin.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 01:34PM
Knygatin Wrote:
> "Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood
> bring only fear and sadness. ..."
> -Lovecraft

This is one of Lovecraft's protagonists speaking. It is not necessarily Lovecraft, speaking of himself. You could draw many other quotes from his fiction that point in the opposite direction, regarding his attitudes toward early childhood. There is, for instance, Randolph Carter's retreat to childhood in "The Silver Key"; which however, HPL rejects as a dead end in "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"; and perhaps further explores in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2019 02:07PM
Knygatin, I would like to solicit your thoughts on an ancillary idea that has come to me as we discuss this broad topic: the role of intoxicants as an avenue to the spiritual or non-material.

As I wrote my previous reply, and wrote something like "faith or intoxicants" as a means to avoid discomfort with the meaninglessness of individual consciousness or action. Something resonated in me when I wrote it, and in a sense it conforms to what I've seen of drug abuse.

So in a sense, if one can avoid the nihilism of a material view by faith, that requires nothing other than one's will power; but if this proves insufficient, and an escape is still needed, one can use drugs of one sort or another to find some peace.

If one who uses drugs for this purpose can be contented with only intermittent relief, they've basically got control of their usage, but those who need to spend all or most of their waking hours buffered from meaninglessness, will often have a drug problem.

This is not to say that this is the only reason that individuals use intoxicants, but it's an area that is not well explored, in my opinion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 October, 2019 05:05AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> > "Unhappy is he to whom the memories of
> childhood
> > bring only fear and sadness. ..."
> > -Lovecraft
>
> This is one of Lovecraft's protagonists speaking.
> It is not necessarily Lovecraft, speaking of
> himself. You could draw many other quotes from
> his fiction that point in the opposite direction,
> regarding his attitudes toward early childhood. ...

Yes, of course. Although I believe "The Outsider" is largely a reflection of how he saw himself. One side of himself at least.

He experienced both light and dark in his childhood. His letters describe fond moments. And we all like to dream back to our best moments of childhood.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 October, 2019 07:10AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin, I would like to solicit your thoughts on
> an ancillary idea that has come to me as we
> discuss this broad topic: the role of intoxicants
> as an avenue to the spiritual or non-material. ...
>

It is quite common for people with monotonous jobs to drink alcohol after work, as a relaxation and release. And alcoholism is not very unusual either, even if many themselves don't realize their own addiction.

People, especially women, who work in hospitals, often smoke. I don't know why that is. It is their form of restless escape. I find it sad. I did that too once upon a time.

Lovecraft ate loads of ice-cream (when he could afford), and chocolate, and he also enjoyed coffee. But I don't think he smoked tobacco, or touched alcohol. I would be curious though to know of his habits while living with Sonya Greene (a social butterfly I believe) and the gang of the Kalem Club in New York; there is a often a pressure to drink alcohol when mingling in social gatherings.

I don't have experience with heavier drugs, but occasionally like to drink beer or wine together with good food. I am more keen on sweets. I enjoy ice-cream, but try to stay away from it, because it gets me fat really quick. Especially industrialized sweets have artificially hardened fats that can be very unhealthy.

But when it all boils down, I still find the best intoxicant avenue from the mundane to be fantastic literature and art.

I have practiced TM transcendental meditation, but it wasn't really my ideal time spent to sit down and empty the mind.

I also pray to God and to Pan, and of course go for invigorating walks in nature.

I heard someone suggest that Clark Ashton Smith had experimented with heroin, but I strongly doubt that. Although, he does seem to portray heroin characteristics in the green flame of "The City of the Singing Flame".

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 October, 2019 03:42AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> an ancillary idea that has come to me as we
> discuss this broad topic: the role of intoxicants
> as an avenue to the spiritual or non-material.
>

I see that I did not directly reply to your specific concern in my previous post.

I am not a fan of drugs. I am more opposed to them. And know too little about drugs. It is possible that there are mind-expanding drugs that will help being an avenue to the spiritual; there are spiritual practitioners in India and elsewhere who use certain drugs to quicken the path.
But I am skeptical. I feel that while drugs (my experience is limited to smoking, alcohol, and morphine/opiate before a medical operation) may muffle certain inhibiting areas of the brain, and so increase our sensation of ecstasy and high-strung emotional awareness of important meaning, at the same time they distort other sensibilities. I don't trust drugs. I prefer to have my brain remain clean (although it could be argued if the brain really is clear when sober; I think not. But at least we then can reflect on and seek the spiritual over extended period and in a continuous manner, more so than in the brief high we get from intoxication).
I sometimes enjoy drinking alcohol while reading certain books, because it heightens the sensation of meaning; but that exhilaration is short-lived and rather quickly bridges over into drowsiness.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 October, 2019 11:57AM
Sawfish, do you have some experience with drugs? ... California, university, late 60s, 70s, flower power ...? It would be interesting to hear your opinion on the subject.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 October, 2019 07:38PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish, do you have some experience with drugs?
> ... California, university, late 60s, 70s, flower
> power ...? It would be interesting to hear your
> opinion on the subject.


Not too much, Knygatin. What experiences I've had don't really inform the point I was trying to make.

If the idea we're examining is that intoxication may be a portal to the ephemeral, and that many traditions and culture have recognized this over time, that may be true, but my thrust was not about the existence of the portal, but the motivation to seek such a portal.

I sense that many find the idea of the void very disquieting. This is especially true since the industrial age, and it picked up momentum with post-modernism. The way it is now, with traditional religion effectively invalidated, if one needs purpose, and religion is no longer a convincing bulwark, not even as a palliative, it seemed to me that intoxication can easily and conveniently offer the same sort of relief that a divine plan has, in former eras.

Not by the same mechanisms, but to the same ends...

And it's the mechanisms that my experience with drugs relates to--its efficacy as a potential respite from considering the void.

Cripes. I'm hinting around about this too much. Let me be frank...

To combat a deteriorated hip while waiting for surgery I was prescribed OxyContin. This was about 12 years ago or so. Thru a series of events I couldn't have the surgery for 3+ years, and rather than have me withdraw with no alternative pain relief, my doctor prescribed it for this interval.

So essentially I took it without wanted to escape day-to-day reality, other than the pain, and it was to have only been for 3+ months.

While the actual withdrawal and renormalization were unpleasant, at no time was I tempted to backslide. And that's because I never thought of it as a "portal" to a happier place, to escape from an unhappy place. Yet I could see very clearly that if one was unhappy in one's life, this would certainly do the trick.

Basically this explains lifelong heroin addiction. You have a person who is significantly bothered by some aspect of his/her day-to-day life--and in our case it is the deeply disquieting idea that one's entire life has no ultimate meaning, nor does anything one is aware of. But if you take opiates/opioids, this all goes away, consistently.

I had only the physical pain, and once the surgery relieved that I had no need to avoid any other aspect of my life, so the only part I had to deal with was physical withdrawal, which was manageable.

But for others, there *are* other aspects that they'd like to avoid dealing with, and I'm wondering if a poor reaction to nihilism is one. ;^)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

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