Some of you may have heard me use the term “Lovecraftianism” at times. Though people usually understand what I mean by that without an explanation, I thought I’d give a short explanation anyhow.
Lovecraftianism is Cosmic Horror
A while back, I wrote a post about horror author H.P. Lovecraft and of his “cosmic horror” stories. Lovecraft created anti-mythical / maltheistic stories where human beings not only don’t have a special relationship with reality, but that reality is actually hostile to us.
In a typical Lovecraft story an investigator will discover some intriguing detail that seems out of place, perhaps a finely carved statue of ancient origins but advanced technology. The investigator looks into this anomaly and he discovers some awful truth about reality. This often takes the form of discovering that an ancient god is going to awaken and enslave us, devour us, or breed us.
Now that the investigator knows the truth he can never be as peace again. He might commit suicide, go insane, or just live out his days knowing too much and hoping the worst does not happen while he is still alive.
Lovecraftianism is Purely Hypothetical
“Lovecraftianism” is a hypothetical world view –- for I take it as a given no sane person would actually be a Lovecraftian in practice –- where the truth about reality is so horrible that, if really understood, it would negatively impact one’s wellbeing. In short, it’s a reality where the truth can have a negative value and a delusion is preferable.
Why do I bother with this hypothetical worldview when no one (outside of asylums anyhow) really believes in it? Think of it as a reference point for comparison purposes. In theory there is nothing logically inconsistent with Lovecraft’s cosmic horror because there is no logic reason why life should be worth living. There is not even a logical reason why truth should be a good thing. So I often find it useful to compare a point of view to the Lovecraftian worldview. For example, before one writes of Scientology as harmful (though I’m sure it is) one should probably ask if perhaps it’s not at least better than Lovecraftianism.
But more importantly, Lovecraftianism vividly reminds us that even belief in the universal value of truth (and knowledge) is itself an act of faith. We cannot dispense with faith.
Theism and Lovecraftianism
I find it curious – in a good way – that Lovecraftian’s don’t really exist. Whereas the vast majority of human beings in the world or that have ever lived chose to believe in the existence of the Divine, even atheists usually deny the Lovecraftian worldview. Even those that don’t deny Lovecraftianism in word still effectively deny it in deed. So at a minimum, this shows us that belief in God is a real human passion rooted deeply in our humanity. To me, this makes our beliefs in the Divine worthy of serious consideration.
Lovecraftianism vs. Nihilism or Existentialism?
Is Lovecraftianism just Nihilism or Existentialism under a different name? Well, probably yes.
The problem is that those words don’t quite capture what I mean by “Lovecraftianism.” For one thing, Kierkegaard’s existentialism is nothing like Lovecraftianism. It was full of real hope in God. Even the more pessimistic Nietzsche (who eerily suffered a Lovecraft-style mental breakdown – I assume unrelated to his philosophy) often offered a level of hope by foreseeing a future of Ubermensch that would accept reality as it is, horrifying parts and all. Other existentialists, such as Camus, imagined one taking hope in just existing, even if the existence seemed unbearable and futile.  By comparison, Lovecraftianism assumes there is no hope at all, so knowing the truth can’t save you. Knowledge is only power if there is some realistic chance you can act upon it. Lovecraft’s stories often assumed there was not.
Nihilism comes closer to the mark, since potentially it denies all morality or meaning in our lives. But some Nihilists, such as (if he even counts) Nietzsche, still had some level of hope and placed value on the truth of Nihilism. Therefore, Nihilism is focused on meaning vs. meaninglessness whereas Lovecraftianism is focused on truth vs. untruth or, in other words, the value of truth. It’s probably safe to say that if there were real Lovecraftians, they’d also be a type of Nihilist. But real Nihilists (if indeed real Nihilists exist) are not necessarily Lovecraftians because they still find value in knowing “the truth.”
 I am thinking of Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus where he imagines the poor Sisyphus who defies the gods and puts Death in chains only to find himself cursed to roll a rock up a hill every day and then have to repeat it again every day for forever. Camus imagines him “happy” in this futile work.