Sandpapering against reality
Lovecraftian horror feels to me in a very similar way to that of the existential despair that comes after removing a significant belief (Santa, God, Moral realism). I think that despair comes from a quirk in the way belief systems work.
For example. At t0, I adopt proposition A and corollaries A1 to A4. At t1, I remove A. At t2, A is not present, but the corollaries stay, even though they don’t connect anymore.
This leads to weird interactions of the sort of me still wanting to be “good” although “good” doesn’t connect anymore. And those interactions (or lack of) generate despair and Angst: My deeply true felt sense of what is needed and my understanding of what is possible for me in reality do not match.
And it hurts.
But there is the option of (paradoxically) surrendering to it, to the doom, and being meta-ok with it. “Yes it feels terrible and like everything is crashing, and that is my experience now”, and that is all there is to say. And slowly, or abruptly, one morning the corollaries are gone and so is the despair.
Why is Lovecraftian horror similar? Because it is going from “Humans are important and valuable” and “It is good and important and necessary and needed that humans are important and valuable” to just having the second proposition and having “Humans are not important and not valuable”. And this leads to grinding and sandpapering against reality. And that is painful and despairing and existentially terrifying. At least the first few times.
Flowing with the horrors
The best answer to all this (1) that I have found yet is the radical acceptance expressed by David Chapman here:
“As long as you are resentful about suffering, as long as you think the world should be different, then you are stuck obsessing over how unfair it is, and scheming about how to escape. And that just makes you angry and miserable all over again.
Charnel ground practice means giving up on that cycle. You simply lose all interest in how life ought to be.
As soon as you forget about “ought to be,” you are left with life just as it is: chaos, horror, death and all.
In that, there is absolutely no hope. But there is opportunity.
Garden of horrors
When you accept that it extends to infinity, you realize that the claustrophobic charnel ground—exactly because there is nowhere else—is a land of total openness and freedom.
You can set off in any direction to explore the scenery. The geography is endlessly varied. There are lakes of fire, rivers of poison, and oceans of blood. There are forests of cannibal trees, and of course the Nameless Lurking Evils at the Mountains of Madness.
So the charnel ground is also a horrifying amusement park. There’s lots to see and do—always something new, in fact.
Instead of trying to escape:
- You could have fun compiling an atlas.
- You could throw a party. You could invite the zombies. (Just make sure to collect lots of brains first. You wouldn’t want to be a stingy host.)
- You could write a geeky identification guide to the many species of demons.
- You could grow a garden of poisonous flowers. You could learn alchemy and refine poisonous herbal extracts into magical potions.
- You could go talk to the cannibal witches. They’re unusual company. They might eat you, but something else could happen. Romance is possible…
Sooner or later, you’ll die horribly. But you might as well do something interesting in the mean time, not just cower in a corner. Reality is a splatter movie, but it is also an adventure story and a romantic comedy—all at the same time.
Tantra is given to flights of fantasy, because reality is fantastical. Confronted with over-the-top horror in real life, you might as well laugh at the outrageousness of it.”
(1) – I make no claim to understanding “all this”.
1. The theme off being forsaken by gods keeps reappearing. There might be more to it than I anticipated.
2. http://www.moreright.net/the-faces-of-gnon-an-introductory-bibliography/ for more on a specific type of monsters
3. tantra is a possible answer to monsters (read chapman)