The Cthulhu Comparison by Jason Colavito
H. P. Lovecraft’s mythos bears a distinct similarity to alternative history. We compare the texts to see just how close they come. Newly updated with the latest alternative archaeology.
Lovecraft’s tales of alien dieties bestowing the dubious gifts of extrastellar civilization on a sleeping world went on to inspire the ancient astronaut frenzy of the 1970s and eventually the lost civilization excitement of today. Alternative authors seem to accept many of Lovecraft’s ideas as fact, even though he himself admonished readers to remember they were merely fiction, their verisimilitude the result of his ideas being shared with his friends and fellow horror-authors: “This pooling of resources tends to build up quite a pseudo-convincing background of dark mythology, legendry, & bibliography–though of course none of us has the least wish to actually mislead readers.”
Nearly seventy years after his death, Lovecraft’s brand of dark cosmic terror continues to deceive readers who unsuspectingly pick up non-fiction books without realizing the influence a fiction-writer’s ideas have on today’s pseudo-science. Of course, Lovecraft also had his antecedents, the pseudo-science of the 19th century, like Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World or Churchwell’s tales of the vanished continent of Mu. Lovecraft was the first to add aliens into the equation, and so he is the one we turn to in order to see a comparison between what is claimed as fact today and Lovecraft’s fiction of long ago.
For the comparison below, I drew upon the works of H. P. Lovecraft and the books of ancient aliens proponents Erich von DÃ¤niken and Robert Temple, and the alternative historian Graham Hancock.
UPDATE: ON THE UNDERSEA WORLD
Lovecraft: Naturally, savants of various kinds tried their best to classify the frightful object, though always without success. Theories of a bygone Pacific civilisation, of which the Easter Island images and the megalithic masonry of Ponape and Nan-Matol are conceivable vestiges, were freely circulated among students, and learned journals carried varied and often conflicting speculations on a possible former continent whose peaks survive as the myriad islands of Melanesia and Polynesia. The diversity in dates assigned to the hypothetical vanished culture - or continent - was at once bewildering and amusing; yet some surprisingly relevant allusions were found in certain myths of Tahiti and other islands. (Out of the Aeons [with Hazel Heald] 1933)
Hancock: It was the submerged structures of Japan that first awakened me to the possibility that an underworld in history, unrecognized by archaeologists, could lie concealed and forgotten beneath the sea. Then, when I learned to dive and started to look elsewhere, I began to realize how vast this vanished underworld might be — for its traces seem to have been scattered around the continental margins not only of the Pacific but also the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. . . I have not spoken of the work Santha and I did in the South Pacific around the Tahitian islands of Taiatea and Huahine, or of the strange things we saw underwater off the Tongan island of Haapai. (Underworld 2002)
ON ANCIENT ALIENS
Lovecraft: “I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of watersoaked granite. I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind — of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.” (Dagon 1917)
Temple: “[A] group of alien amphibious beings were credited by the Babylonians with having founded their civilization. The main individual of the group of amphibians is called Oannes. . . In somewhat later traditions than the ones Berossosus drew on, Oannes became the fish-god of the Philistines known as Dagon and familiar to many readers of the Bible. . . [T]he creatures credited with founding civiliation in the Middle East were frankly described by the Babylonians who revered them and built huge statues of them as ‘repulsive abominations.’” (Sirius Mystery 1998)
ON ANCIENT CULTS
Lovecraft: “They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.” (Call of Cthulhu 1926).
Von DÃ¤niken: “I claim that our forefothers received visits from the universe in the remote past, even though I do not yet know who these extraterrestrial intelligences were or from which planet they came.” (Chariots of the Gods? 1969)
Hancock: “We shall argue that ’serious and intelligent men’ - and apparently women too - were indeed at work behind the stage of the prehistory in Egypt and propose that one of the many namees by which they were known was the ‘Followers of Horus.’ We propose, too, that their purpose, to which their generations adhered for thousands of years with the rigour of a messianic cult, may have been to bring to fruition a great cosmic blueprint.” (Mystery of the Sphinx 1996)
ON ANCIENT ASTRONOMY
Lovecraft: “Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around tall idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim eras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth.” (Call of Cthulhu 1926)
Hancock: “The same constellations, but with everything flipped 180 degrees, are present in these two skies [10,500 BC and today] separated by 12,500 years. . . Perhaps the prehistoric cult of immortality which used vast monuments likend to constellations and astronomical cycles as instruments of initiation is coming back to life.” (Heaven’s Mirror 1998)
Temple: “I would even venture that we may be under observation or surveillance at this very moment, with an extraterrestrial civilization whose home base is the Sirius system monitoring our development to see when we will ready ourselves for their contacting us. In other words, we may very possibly allowd to control the forthcoming contact ourselves.” (Sirius Mystery 1998)
ON THE HOME PLANET
Lovecraft: “The blasphemies which appeared on earth, it was hinted, came from the dark planet Yuggoth, at the rim of the solar system; but this was itself merely the populous outpost of a frightful interstellar race whose ultimate source must lie far outside even the Einsteinian space-time continuum or greatest known cosmos.” (The Whisperer in Darkness 1930)
Von DÃ¤niken: “If the view supported by reputable scientists East and West that Mars once had an advanced civilization is correct, the question arises: Why does it no longer exists today? Did the intelligences on Mars have to seek a new environment. . . Lastly, were some of the inhabitants of Mars able to escape to a neighboring planet?” (Chariots of the Gods? 1969)
Temple: “The Dogon [tribe] and the Egyptians spoke of civilization coming from the Sirius System, and the Babylonians spoke of it coming from the heavens; the Dogon and the Babylonians agreed on the amphibious nature of the beings who did this.” (Sirius Mystery 1998)
ON THE AGE OF THE SPHINX
Lovecraft: “Near the edge of the plateau and due east of the Second Pyramid, with a face probably altered to form a colossal portrait of Khephren, its royal restorer, stands the monstrous Sphinx - mute, sardonic, and wise beyond mankind and memory. . . The gatechapel leading to the Second Pyramid, nearly buried in the drifting sands, yawns subterraneously south-east of the Sphinx. Persistent tradition dubs it the ‘Temple of the Sphinx’; and it may perhaps be rightly called such if the Sphinx indeed represents the Second Pyramid’s builder Khephren. There are unpleasant tales of the Sphinx before Khephren — but whatever its elder features were, the monarch replaced them with his own that men might look at the colossus without fear. (Imprisoned with the Pharaohs 1924)
Hancock: “There is a belief that the Great Sphinx of Giza was fashioned during the period of history classified as the ‘Old Kingdom’ on the orders of the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh named Khafre whom the Greeks later knew as Chephren [and it is] stated as fact that the features of the Sphinx were carved to represent Khafre himself. . . [The evidence] is consistent with the recarving of a much older and heavily eroded statue. . . Is it not possible that Khafre was a restorer of the Sphinx? . . . The geological evidence therefore suggests that a very conservative estimate of the true construction date of the Sphinx would be somewhere between ‘7000 to 5000 BC minimum’”( Message of the Sphinx 1996)
ON THE “SPHINX CHAMBER”
Lovecraft: “It was then that the smile of the Sphinx vaguely displeased us, and made us wonder about the legends of subterranean passages beneath the monstrous creature, leading down, down, to depths none might dare hint at - depths connected with mysteries older than the dynastic Egypt we excavate, and having a sinister relation to the persistence of abnormal, animal-headed gods in the ancient Nilotic pantheon.” (Imprisoned with the Pharaohs 1924)
Hancock: “It is a map, not buried in the earth but cunningly concealed in time, where ‘X’ almost literally ‘marks a spot’ directly under the rear paws of the Great Sphinx of Egypt at a depth, we would guess, of about 100 feet. If we have read the message of the ‘Followers of [Hawk-Headed] Horus’ right, then there is something of momentous importance there, waiting to be found . . . chambers of the earthly ‘Kingdom of Osiris.’” ( Message of the Sphinx 1996)
Lovecraft: “It seemed to be half lost in a queer antarctic haze. . . The effect of the monstrous sight was indescribable, for some fiendish violation of known natural law seemed certain at the outset. Here, on a hellishly ancient table-land fully twenty thousand feet high, and in a climate deadly to habitation since a prehuman age not less than five hundred thousand years ago, there stretched nearly to the vision’s limit a tangle of orderly stone which only the desperation of mental self-defense could possibly attribute to any but conscious and artificial cause.” (At the Mountains of Madness 1931)
Hancock: “It was suddenly clear to me how a continent-sized landmass, which had been the home of a large and prosperous society for thousands of years, could indeed get lost almost without a trace. As the Flem-Aths concluded: ‘It is to icy Antarctica that we look to find answers to the very roots of civilization - answers which may yet be preserved in the frozen depths of the forgotten island continent.’” ( Fingerprints of the Gods 1995)