Cosmic Indifferentism

Lovecraft’s early work— up to 1926— is entirely routine and conventional, utilising supernatural or macabre elements with occasional competence but without transcendent brilliance. Nothing— not even “The Rats in the Walls” (1923), a model short story but really nothing more than a supremely able manipulation of Poe-like elements— could have prepared us for the quantum leap in power and range revealed suddenly in “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926). All Lovecraft critics are right to see in this tale the commencement of Lovecraft’s strongest and most typical vein of writing; but they may be right for the wrong reasons. Yes, of course, this is where we are first given a glimpse of Lovecraft’s ever-evolving myth-cycle; but, more important, it is his first truly “cosmic” work and one in which many of his principal concerns— our position in the cosmos; the state of civilisation; the role of history in human and cosmic affairs— are adumbrated.

—S. T. Joshi, The Weird Tale

On Lovecraft’s cosmic indifferentism:

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. . . . To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown— the shadow-haunted Outside— we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold. (SL 2.150)

…there is another phase of cosmic phantasy (which may or may not include frank Yog-Sothothery) whose foundations appear to me as better grounded than those of ordinary oneiroscopy; personal limitation regarding the sense of outsideness. I refer to the aesthetic crystallisation of that burning & inextinguishable feeling of mixed wonder & oppression which the sensitive imagination experiences upon scaling itself & its restrictions against the vast & provocative abyss of the unknown. … The time has come when the normal revolt against time, space, & matter must assume a form not overtly incompatible with what is known of reality— when it must be gratified by images forming supplements rather than contradictions of the visible & mensurable universe. And what, if not a form of non-supernatural cosmic art, is to pacify this sense of revolt— as well as gratify the cognate sense of curiosity? (SL 3.294– 96)

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