The Cosmic Horror of the Nazis

From Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), on Nazis: “They’re not idealists . . . they’re cynics with utter faith.”

Their view; it is cosmic. Not of a man here, a child there, but an abstraction: race, land. Volk. Land. Blut. Ehre. Not of honourable men but of Ehre itself, honour: the abstract is real, the actual is invisible to them. Die Gute, but not good men, this good man. It is their sense of space and time. They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. Because eventually there will be no life; there was once only dust particles in space, the hot hydrogen gases, nothing more, and it will come again. This is an interval, ein Augenblick. The cosmic process is hurrying on, crushing life back into the granite and methane; the wheel turns for all life. It is all temporary. And they – these madmen – respond to the granite, the dust, the longing of the inanimate; they want to aid Natur.

And then, he thought, I know why. They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God’s power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expended psychotically so that they connot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate – confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.

What they do not comprehend is man’s helplessness. I am weak, small, of no consequence to the universe. It does not notice me; I live on unseen. But why is that bad? Isn’t it better that way? Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small … and you will escape the jealousy of the great.

I can’t help thinking of H.P. Lovecraft’s interwar visions of cosmic horror: mad cultists worship uncaring gods that are more principles of reality than beings, in hopes of bringing forward the day when the stars are right, the gods awaken, and the human race descends upon itself in murder and depravity. His heroes fight the darkness, but in fighting it they come to understand man’s lonely insignificance, and go mad.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

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. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

Like the Nazis, Lovecraft was obsessed with race and blood: miscegenation with fish people, people devolving into rats things, the ancestry of bad blood making itself known and turning innocent descendants into monsters. Moving briefly to New York City, Lovecraft was terrified of the multicultural multitude and fled in horror back to Providence.

2008-06-21

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