Arrr! There be spoilers ahead!
Yesterday I discussed how traditional good vs. evil struggles are not absent from Lovecraft’s fiction. Today I want to get to the point—the presence of religion in That Which Should Not Be. The best way to do that is to discuss what I was trying to accomplish in this crazy book.
- Create a Gothic, traditionally themed horror novel with an emphasis on Lovecraftian fiction.
- Treat the mythos as if it were another of the great religious traditions.
- Explore how legends, religions, and myths might be a way for the human mind to conceptualize the Great Old Ones, their fall, and the prophecies of their return.
For whatever reason, some people just could not handle the mention of anything religious in relation to the Cthulhu mythos. The funny thing is, there’s not that much in TWSNB. Sure, there are several references to the Bible, but almost all of those are reinterpreted as referencing the Great Old Ones. I mean, if that guy on the History channel can see aliens in every verse of the Bible, why not Cthulhu in Revelations?
In fact, I think there are only three overt references to Judeo-Christianity in the TWSNB. The first and second are actually the same—Jack’s use of a cruciform to defeat the Wendigo and Weston’s subsequent use of that weakness to fend off Thayerson towards the end of the novel. The last is Captain Gray’s use of the name of God in a spell. Now, I have no problem if you want to read that as a straight Christian allegory. I’m a Christian, and Christian themes have been present in literature in every form for the last 2000 years. But the thing is, such a simplistic reading sorta misses the point.
As is stated multiple times in TWSNB, one of the driving principles of the book is that there is truth in every legend, every myth. Take the cross, for instance. Lovecraft scholars who objected to the power of the cruciform might be shocked to learn this fact, but the cross as a holy symbol predates Christianity and indeed is present in nearly every culture. (Hence the reference in TWSNB to the ankh). Indeed, the ankh of ancient Egypt was the ultimate symbol of life. We see the cross in Eastern and Aryan religions, and archeologists regularly find Bronze Age objects (and even bones) engraved with the cross. Lovecraft talks about certain signs and sigils that were used to keep the Old Ones at bay. Why not a cross? That Jake stumbled upon this defense because of his Christian faith doesn’t mean my book is the equivalent of Left Behind: The Cthulhu Stories.
Finally, the name of God. The use of the name of God as an instrument of power isn’t from the Christian tradition, at least not in the way I used it. It’s Kabbalistic mysticism. According to some strands of Kabballah, it was the name of God that was used to create the world. What a powerful word THAT must be. What better way to bind Cthulhu? (And let’s recall, SOMETHING put Cthulhu and the Old Ones in their place. Whether it was the Christian God or not, it was something pretty powerful.)
In reality, I knew that there would be some in the Lovecraft community who would reject the book as an insult to Lovecraft. There’s nothing I can do about that. But when people like Mike Davis over at the Lovecraft eZine give the book the praise they do, I know that it was worth the slings and arrows. And hey, there’ve been a lot more good reviews than bad ones.