The Cosmic Horror Show

“In eternity, where there is no time, nothing can grow. Nothing can become. Nothing changes. So death created time to grow the things that it would kill … and you are reborn but into the same life that you’ve always been born into. I mean, how many times have we had this conversation, detectives? Well, who knows? When you can’t remember your lives, you can’t change your lives, and that is the terrible and the secret fate of all life. You’re trapped … like a nightmare you keep waking up into.” —Rust Cohl (True Detective)

Nietzsche’s eternal return or repetition of the Same seen as a Cosmic Horror Show; a sort of Lovecraftian circle of pain and misery and suffering without end or hope of redemption. “The philosophical underpinnings of both Rust and Schopenhauer are those of horror. Both have peeled back the veil of everyday existence and found something sinister underneath, namely a blind, irrational will that lurks at the center of everyone and everything.” (Christopher Mountenay: Schopenhauer)

As H.P. Lovecraft suggested,

The true 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 daemons of unplumbed space.

—H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

For Schopenhauer it was the ‘defeat of those fixed laws of Nature’ which spawned in him the very pessimistic view that would encompass his philosophical speculations. Schopenhauer had discovered in David Hume the notion that cause, and causality did not exist in nature, that this was another of those ‘as if’ games of the human mind, our way of thinking and seeking relations between things that did not exist in themselves in nature. His astonishment at this lack of necessity and reason in nature led him to the notion that there is no actual order to be found in the natural world, the world is chaotic through and through. As Clement Rosset in his Schopenhauer, Philosophy of the Absurd says: “Throughout his career and his work, Schopenhauer is obsessed with the idea of causality. The Ixion wheel can turn indefinitely, Tantalus remain eternally thirsty, provided that these tortures are based on any necessity. To be in vain and useless is nothing, if you can see any reason for this very uselessness. The dissatisfaction of human experience, and the concern attached to it, is only so that it comes up against, before any other consideration, to the drama of its absence of origin.”

“If a man dares to raise this question: “Why is there nothingness” rather than this world? ” “The world cannot justify itself, it cannot find in itself any reason, no final cause of its existence, it cannot demonstrate that it exists for itself, that is to be said for its own advantage. In my theory the true explanation is that the source of its existence is formally without reason: it consists, in fact, in a blind willingness, which, as a thing in itself, cannot be subject to the principle of reason, form Exclusive of phenomena and the only proof principle of any question on the causes ”(Schopenhauer).

The question arises as precisely how this irrationalism, this absence of causality, are for Schopenhauer a subject, not only of astonishment, but of anxiety. (Rosset)”

Schopenhauer’s pessimism arises out of his first book which sought to correct the errors of previous philosophers concerning the Principle of Sufficient Reason. But to his own astonishment he discovered there is none, no reason, no necessity beyond this ‘thing -in-itself’ the Will-to-live which cannot be described other than as it will’s itself in us. It is without cause or necessity, therefore groundless and without foundation. This irrationalism that is both groundless and without necessity or reason or cause is for Schopenhauer the impossibility of thought itself. For Rosset (who comes back to this point over and over like a litany of astonished truth) this is the kernel of Schopenhauer’s problematic and his impasse. The cosmic horror show is that there is no reason that there should be something rather than nothing. No cause, reason, or necessity hiding behind the quantum creation and destruction of our universe. No God, no Absolute Mover, no Platonic Ideas manifesting themselves as copies in this flat circle of sick time…

The fundament upon which all our knowledge and learning rests is the inexplicable.
—Arthur Schopenhauer