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May 05, 2006

Comments

Randolph Carter

You actually got to go to the Mound? *The* Mound? Cool!

I wanted to visited the Mound once, but I accidentally took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up stranded in the Walls of Eryx.

Next time I plan a trip, I'm going somewhere more local, like the Museum of Spackle. Now *there's* a vacation that's worth getting lost amidst legions of eldritch horrors.

John F. Kennedy

I once traveld the road along the Mass. coastline to "find' Innsmouth. It wasn't there, nor did I expect it to be. But I did want to see if any of that olde eldritch spirit still resides there, (lurking, waiting, watching...)

I get the same feeling / expectation whenever I visit an old Cemetery (thoughts of Pickman’s Model).


gelsbern

Found a better link for you than the google cache

http://filebox.vt.edu/~asnel/lovecraft/collab/html/mound.html

It also has many if not all of his other works.

http://filebox.vt.edu/~asnel/lovecraft/works.html

Puzzled

The conical mound in the image sure resembles the ones a Cahokia in east St. Louis, where a thousand years ago, the rulers buried the bones of the sacrifical victims which they cannibalized.

carrie

Lovecraftian tales is about the last thing I'd expect to find in a Catholic blog. Have you guys read his Cthulhu books? And do you know how Cthulhu is pronounced? I'm in the midst of researching chaos magick and he's certainly part of the picture.

J.R. Stoodley

There are several posts on Lovecraft, including on Cthulhu, in the Fiction catagory on this site.

Jimmy Akin

The Chaosium pronunciation of Cthulhu is /kuh-THOO-loo/ but Lovecraft himself preferred a slightly different pronunciation, which was (if memory serves) /kuh-THOOL-hoo/. (The latter better corresponds to the way he spelled it, also.)

He explained, though, that this is only an approximation of the actual pronunciation of the name, which is meant for a non-human speech-producing apparatus.

carrie

I would place Lovecraft into a category of "religious pornography", and not expect a Catholic to find anything of value there. Doesn't his writing conflict with your Catholic values? What am I missing? What do you find of value in Lovecraft?

carrie

Ok, I've scrolled through the entries on Lovecraft in the fiction category.

Honestly, I've never understood the fascination with horror fiction, and don't find it to be a dress rehearsal for facing real life fearful situations. Rather, I tend to see it as closely associated with sado-masochism, and revolting in just the same way as a novel about that perversion would be.

My suspicions in that direction have been recently confirmed by reading Robert Anton Wilson's ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY. While he doesn't call it Cthulhu, the octopus makes a brief entry in the trilogy. Wilson, was an editor of Playboy Magazine, as was his co-author Robert Shea.

Since a Catholic is expected to resist the glamour of evil, I'm wondering how you guys spin horror fiction into acceptable reading?

Wilson's trilogy handles evil by making a joke out of it...a joke that isn't particularly funny, IMHO.

Like pornography, the genre of horror fiction has descended further into the pit since the days of my youth when it was pretty tame. In reseraching chaos magick, I keep getting the impression of gullible youth in a pan of water boiling like the proverbial frog.

Sorry if I'm bursting bubbles here, but I can't resist offering a different perspective, one admittedly from an older generation who is not "with it" and seeks only to understand it, but probably not to join it.

Sailorette

Carrie-- not to change the subject too terribly, but what do you think of Dungeons and Dragons?

I ask because you seem to actually be thinking about such things.

Wish I read Lovecraft so I could answer your questions, but I got nightmares from the Wizard of Oz.

carrie

My view on Dungeons and Dragons is an unpopular one. I think that D & D is an introduction to occultism, and that a Catholic has no business going there for entertainment.

But then, I was raised in the 1950s school of Catholicism that taught we are to avoid the near occasion of sin. Today, though, it would seem that one man's sin is another man's sanctity...or at least that's the impression I get from the web. Compared to 2006, the 1950's was a culture from fantasyland, I suppose.

Getting nightmares from horror fiction is legitimate. Occultism is a very ugly side to spirituality that is gaining acceptance in America. Chaos magick is an open door to this ugly side, and Lovecraft is an element in the genre. You Catholic guys who are playing with it are playing with fire. I hope you don't get ignited!

Sailorette

So, why do you believe that about D&D?

Do you have first-hand information, or are you going off of that horrible '80s movie about that kid that killed himself? "Dungeons and demons" or something like that?

Sean S.

Here's a cool articule by Steven D. Greydanus about the value of horror:

http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/articles/horror.html

I might ask: Why are you researching occult practices? I'd assume its because you want to do apologetics with pagans, or help them out in some way, but if it disturbs your peace, are you sure you're the person for that job?

joe

Jimmy great story.

side question: do you take off your boot and hold it with your hand in the picture, or do you actually balance on one foot to get it in the photo. Regarding the latter, I don't think I could ever do that.

Marc Beherec

Thanks for posting this! I found your blog while researching the Mound, planning to visit it myself. (It's quite an amusing conicidence, actually -- if HPL's stories were true, I'd imagine it was the result of psychic communication.)

So what do you mean about needing a lot more time? I'll be in Norman delivering a paper on HPL this summer, and I'd like to see the place and hopefully climb it myself. What advice would you give?

By the way, I find it interesting how many of us Catholics really are H. P. Lovecraft fans. I've long enjoyed his work, and I know another Catholic convert who just published The King in Yellow.

carrie

D & D's association with Satanism and the occult can be found here. Becoming involved in occultism violates the first commandment.

Horror movies tend to sensationalize and even at times to glorify sin. Almost everything that happens in horror fiction falls into the sin category. I just don't understand how a Catholic can find sin desirable as entertainment. Would you invite Christ to attend one of these movies with you or would you give Him a Lovecraft book to read?

That book I mentioned up above--ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY--includes a black Mass near the beginning. Do those of you who like horror fiction also use ouija boards?

Someone asked why I'm researching it. I'm doing the research for the Spiritual Counterfeits Project out in Berkeley. It may be published in their Journal. They've published a couple of other articles I've written. SCP researches cults.

Tim J.

Carrie-

I followed your first link, and out of all that material there was only a very brief mention of D&D that presented no evidence at all that D&D is indeed Satanic, except that the author says it is.

I'm not saying D&D is wholesome family fun, but you'll need better evidence to convince me of any real tie to Satanism. That was anemic.

And why are scary stories un-Christian? If we insist that all our stories be sin-free, we will have to be content never to tell stories about real human beings.

Jimmy Akin

Carrie,

While it is praiseworthy that you are trying to research and understand these matters, the way you are going about it is problematic.

First, you must distinguish between different pieces of literature in the same genre. You can't treat all romances as if they were the same or all horror as if it were the same or all sci-fi as if it were the same or all westerns as if it were the same or all realistic fiction as if it were the same. There are good and bad pieces in each genre, and it is not responsible or Christian to treat everything in the same category equally. In the words of St. Paul, we should "Test everything and hold fast to what is good."

In particular, chaos magick and the Illuminatus Trilogy have next to nothing to do with Lovecraft. There may be chaos magick practitioners who have borrowed some from Lovecraft, and the authors of the Illuminatus Trilogy may have done so, too, but you can't use the work of others to tar Lovecraft's work. His work has to stand or fall on its own. Otherwise you are trafficing in guilt by association--and involuntary association at that since Lovecraft died in the 1930s and had no choice what later people did regarding his work.

It also is not legitimate to expect fiction--of any sort--to involve sin-free depictions of behavior. Drama involves conflict, and where there is conflict there is usually sin. Our own lives are not sin free, and fiction that tries to depict sinless humans will (a) fail because the authors are sinful and will write sinful characters even when they're trying not to and (b) will fall flat as ficiton because it will ring untrue. The people in such stories won't behave like real people.

If you want your literature to be sin free, you'll have to be prepared to chuck out not only Shakespeare but the Bible as well, for the Bible frequently depicts sin--yet it also may be read for pleasure, unless you are prepared to tell us that God means for Bible reading to be an unpleasurable experience that we do purely as an act of fingernails-on-the-blackboard piety.

PLEASE SEE THIS POST FOR MORE ON WEIRD FICTION AND HOW IT OPERATES ON A MORAL LEVEL.

The ad hominems of insinuating that Catholics who enjoy horror fiction are also likely to use ouija boards is insulting and out of place. Ouija boards may appear in some horror stories, but the inference is false and insulting.

A person may enjoy reading the Book of Judges, too, but that doesn't mean that he is likely to want to go out in real life and commit the kind of atrocities that we read about in the Book of Judges.

I say all of this in the sense of constructive criticism. There is a lot of rot out there in the culture, and there need to be people who point it out, but if you want your work to actually be useful and to please Christ--as opposed to simply stirring up paranoia in your readers and encouraging them to disengage from culture rather than to seek to Christianize it--then you need to develop a more nuanced approach to these subjects.

This blog and the people on it may be able to help do that--to help you think through questions regarding a robust Christian perspective on these matters--but you'll need to take a less confrontational, more polite and seeking-to-understand stance.

carrie

Tim, are you actually comfortable with a website about Satanism claiming D & D is part of their picture?

See, I have this apparently unpopular notion that birds of a feather...and that we are judged by the company we keep. So when something turns up in the company of Satanism, I tend to believe it's bad news. I guess you don't see things that way.

Ok, if you don't believe me and you don't believe the Satanist website, how about a priest?

Take a look at Susan Brinkman's article in The Catholic Standard & Times, wherein she quotes Fr. John McFadden of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church:

Dabbling in the occult is being done far too lightly, Father McFadden says. Most of the people who come to him for help, he said, have started out innocently, with ouija boards or games.

“Heavy metal, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ … they’ve been a real tool of the evil one,” he said. “I’ve seen any number of children who have acted out very evilly with terrible oppressions, hearing voices.”

Too many parents pass off those games, music or reading trends as harmless fads, he said: “Most parents tend to discount complaints about this as fundamentalism, or as people being unrealistic who are calling these things evil or demonic or even dangerous.”

The same weak faith base has disabled parents’ ability to discern one of the devil’s oldest tricks —disguising evil as good, he said.

Occultism is dangerous as any exorcist will tell you. The devil is smarter than we are, so we shouldn't be giving him opportunities.

J.R. Stoodley

Here is my opinion on the matter, if anyone wishes to know it:

I know next to nothing on Lovecraft or D&D, so I will not touch them.

I do believe "horror" can play an important role in fiction. I'll use the Lord of the Rings as my example (as always). Consider the Barrow-downs, the Ringwraiths, the Balrog, Minas Morgul, Shelob (the giant spider), etc. Considered by themselves they could be called horror fiction. However, they serve the story wich like all good fiction is a struggle of good against evil, in which evil seems at times likely to win but in which good ultimately triumphs. Furthermore good always comes out of the evil. If the hobbits had not been captured by the barrow-wight the wight would not have been vanquished and Merry would not have had the blade that was so uniquely effective against the Lord of the Nazgul. If Gandalf had not fallen he would not have killed the Balrog nor risen in a more powerful state. If Frodo had not been poisoned by Shelob he and Sam would probably never have gotton past the tower and would not have had their disguises in Mordor so the Ring would almost certainly have been found. The list goes on and on. So horror can be used in a plot to show how good can be brought out of evil by Providence and how good will always triumph in the end. You can't do this if you refuse to portray evil.

On the other hand when the depiction of horror becomes an end to itself it becomes disordered. Such books and films are like roller-coasters: something for jaded immature people to scare themselves with just to feel anything, or because adrenalin has become a drug for them, or because they have become spiritual masochists. That is certainly not anything I think a Christian should get involved with.

carrie

There is a short Lovecraftian story, "Dagon", on line here. I presume it is typical of his work. The story ends in a hopeless decision to commit suicide. The evil exists, there is no way to escape. Good does not overcome it. There is no place for Christ and His redemption in the story.

Since Lovecraft was an Atheist, I presume this is typical of his work. He is said to have been a nihilist. The story is nihilistic.

An article titled "Calling Cthulhu" by Erik Davis, that was published in Gnosis, Fall 1995, explores the occult aspects of Lovecraft. He is credited with the conception of the Necronomicon, a book of spells, from which he pretended to quote, though the book, itself did not exist. It was later written. The article also indicates that:

Besides Grant's Typhonian O.T.O. and the Temple of Set's Order of the Trapezoid, magical sects that tap the Cthulhu current have included the Esoteric Order of Dagon, the Bate Cabal, Michael Bertiaux's Lovecraftian Coven, and a Starry Wisdom group in Florida, named after the nineteenth-century sect featured in Lovecraft's "Haunter of the Dark." Solo chaos mages fill out the ranks, cobbling together Lovecraftian arcana on the Internet or freely sampling the Mythos in their chthonic, open-ended (anti-) workings.

If you know anything about the occult, you know that the Temple of Set, the O.T.O., and Michael Bertiaux are the heart of it. If it inspired them, how can it also inspire a Catholic? But again, I do believe in judging somewhat by the company in which something appears. The material provides an opening to other things that flow directly from it, making it a near occasion of sin.

I presume that those of you reading this realize the dangers of pornography. Suppose that a publisher put out a magazine filled with pictures of beautiful women in beautiful dresses on the cover. Suppose that as you paged through the magazine the women became evermore scantily clad until in the last three pictures in the magazine they are completely nude and posed is compromising positions.

It can be argued that the beautiful picture on the cover is perfectly acceptable for a man to look at. But can a Catholic man speak favorably about such a magazine, speaking only of the cover shot, and claiming that there is nothing wrong with it so long as you don't look at the last three pictures in the magazine? Or would buying the magazine be a near occasion of sin because you would be risking the temptation to look all the way through it. Would you recommend it to other Catholic men?

J.R. Stoodley

Carrie,
I don't want to take a stand on something I know so little about, but it seems Lovecraft is the kind of author I would not want to read.

However, I would caution you about the idea that "If it inspired them, how can it also inspire a Catholic." To use my favorate example again, the Lord of the Rings (and here I limit my comment to the book) has inspired solid Catholics and wacko hippies, liberals and conservatives, feminists and anti-feminists. The same could be said of the Bible. Just as a principle, the fact that a bad group has found inspiration from a source, or a misinterpretation of that source, it does not automatically make the source bad.

Ry

Alright, since none of y'all seem to be able to convince this "carrie" poster that there is nothing wrong with horror fiction and D&D, I guess it's up to me to take her on.

My character, Elfstar, has been working on his Debating Skill, so gimme that d20 and stand back!

** rolls dice **

A seven?!?

Aw geez. The DM is telling me that carrie is totally convincing me that D&D is evil.

Hey, wait! According to my character sheet, Elfstar gets +2 on a d8 if carrie uses an article from Catholic Standard and Times in her argument!

All right, carrie! This time you won't be so lucky!

** rolls dice **

A critical failure!?! A CRITICAL FAILURE?!?

Unbelievable. The DM says Elfstar is so utterly convinced by carrie's arguments that he turns on the rest of his party and tries to slay them.

** sigh **

As Jack Chick would say,

Puzzled

ergo hoc post propter hoc is a logical fallacy, Carrie.

Those satanists might also like chocolate ice cream.

It is not that you are necessarily wrong, but if you are right, it is by accident, your logic and research methods can be improved upon, and this will lead to a greater quality of your work, and an increase in its pursuasive power.

Ry

. . . "I don't want to be Elfstar anymore. I want to be Debbie."

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp

Tim J.

Carrie-

You need to look at that site more closely. It is not a Satanist's website, but a site ABOUT Satanism, written apparently by a Catholic.

Again, there is no evidence given, we are just supposed to take the author's word that D&D is Satanic.

I don't know anything about Fr. McFadden, except that his opinion on D&D is as fallible as mine, or as the writer of the earlier referenced website.

Sailorette

Carrie, how about http://sailorette.blogspot.com/2006/02/oh-irony.html ? The author actually offers some kind of information, rather than asserting that D&D is evil.

Yes, that's my blog.

Looking forward to arguments against what I say.

Biblebelieverb1

Why would a Christian WANT To read about blood, gore, , aliens, nephilim creatures, darkness, and death?

I USED to read Lovecraft and Stephen King, but repented after I became a Christian of those things. The Holy Spirit led me to realize their true nature. I realize how all these books preached despair, death, and everything against the Christian gospel.

I worry about the inability of some here to discern between good and evil and those who compartmentalize their "entertainment" choices away from God.

It is sad, that there seems to be only ONE Catholic lady protesting your choice in entertaiment.

bill912

"Why would a Christian WANT to read about blood, gore, aliens, nephilim creatures, darkness, and death?"

Well, "The Lord Of The Rings" has all of those things except aliens, And C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy" and "The Chronicles Of Narnia" have all of them, including the aliens. Those are all thoroughly Christian books.

bill912

"Macbeth" has blood, gore, darkness, death, witches, and a ghost.

SDG

See, I have this apparently unpopular notion that birds of a feather...and that we are judged by the company we keep.

The less respectable term for this approach is "guilt by association."

By this logic, St. Francis must be highly suspect, given his popularity with eco-wackos, New Agers and the like.

Look how Tolkien was embraced by the sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll hippie generation.

How Wagner was co-opted by the Nazis.

How Vatican II is claimed by modernist dissenters.

How Jerry Lewis is celebrated by the French.

Okay, I'll give you that last one. But still.

Biblebelieverb1

Well I see you have your excuses down-pat.

Following the logic of the excuses here, Why not go read porn while youre at it?....after all there is sex in the Bible too!

Amazing how some folks can justify their sin.

bill912

Amazing how some folks know so much about the state of other people's souls.

WRY

I don't think even an ill-educated Catholic is in much danger of losing his faith because of reading Lovecraft. I read his stuff as a kid, and believe it or not, didn't ONCE dream of joining the Old Ones and squiggling away in some primordeal muck.
That said, Lovecraft is a pretty bad writer. The thing most of his fans seem to admire - this Cthulhthu mythos stuff, is one of the worst aspects of his work. It robs each horror story of a quality that horror usually can't do without: surprise. Pick up any Lovecraft tale, and just as soon as you come across some reference to that "mad Arab" and his 'infamous couplet" (or was it an infamous Arab and a mad couplet? - the years have not been kind) you know just exactly where the story is going to go in general terms: Some "shiggoth" or something is going to show up and lead our dead U-boat pilot/rotting mansion dweller/antiquarian traveler off to the deeps to cavort around the ruins and grow gills in preparation for world takeover or at very least the springing of that insane uncle from "that Danvers madhouse." And so it goes.
Then too, as more than one critic has noted, Lovecraft loved to pile on adjectives apparently thinking that the more he came up with the scarier the thing was. Whereas, in fiction of real quality the author follows the "show don't tell" rule and makes you experience the horror rather than simply tell you that something was the most "loathsome, filthy, depraved, evil, awful, horrible, terrible" thing he ever saw.
That said, I enjoyed "Shadow over Innsmouth". Most of his stuff is disappointing.
L. Spraugue deCamp wrote an interesting bio of Lovecraft. Seems at one point he was a Nazi sympathizer with a horror of racial impurity, a factor that may explain his morbid obssession with people interbreeding with these slimy "others."

Tim J.

Biblebelieverb1-

I'm glad to know you are a Bible believer. I am, too!

What has been offered above are not excuses, but reasons, none of which you have addressed.

So where do you come down on the work of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the like?

Your remark on pornography is nonsensical. Its like saying that there is no difference between gutting a fish and tearing the head off a kitten. Or that a couple of swats on the tush is the same as child abuse.

I have been an artist all my life. I have sometimes painted nudes (though we call them "figure studies", because that's what they are). The human body is a creation of God and is a thing of majestic beauty, when presented in the right way.

There are some who can't see the difference between a classically painted nude and a pornographic magazine, and I feel sorry for them. They are missing out on a truly fruitful and humane experience.

It does involve the use of prudent judgement, as does the choice of books to read, but that is the business of each individual Christian.

Some are scandalized by the nude in art, and some by horror in literature, and the best thing for those folks is to avoid whatever would be a near occasion of sin FOR THEM, and avoid needlessly passing judgement on others. That is also a sin, and its amazing how some folks can justify it.

bill912

Let's not forget Dante; he wrote of some terrible horrors in "Inferno".

carrie

Ok, since all of you seem to believe that it is ok to hang out with sinners while you enjoy what they offer, what standards do you use for judging what is appropriate company and entertainment and what is not appropriate?


bill912

Yes, "it is ok to hang out with sinners", Carrie; Sinners are the only kind of people walking around these days. The only two non-sinners who ever walked this planet did so in the first century.

Now, instead of ignoring the above postings about Tolkien, Lewis, and Dante, how about responding to them?

Jimmy Akin

All of you seem to believe that it is okay to hang out with sinners whil eyou enjoy what they offer.

Y'know, I don't think I've ever had a friend or other person who's company I enjoyed who wasn't a sinner--Jesus and Mary not having been available to hang out with.

The only way to have any positive interpersonal involvement in this world would seem to be to hang out with sinners and enjoy what they offer.

There are limits, though, for as St. Paul tells us, "Bad company ruins good morals."

Tim J.

Carrie-

I gave my standard above. Avoid whatever would be a near occasion of sin FOR YOU.

One of my favorite horror movies is Stephen King's "Creepshow".

Its really creepy, and I don't recommend you watch it unless you can have a sense of humor about the horrific, grotesque and macabre. Discretion is up to each individual, and does not come with neat rules like "don't watch Stephen King movies".

King knows how to scare the willies out of us in a fun way, which is why he is now so stinking rich.

"Creepshow" is full of horrific situations, and yet comes off as campy and fun, rather than profoundly disturbing. Not everyone would see it that way, however, so if horror isn't your cup of tea, I suggest you skip it.

Sorry I can't be more specific, but deciding what you should read and watch is your job, not mine.

WRY

I'm curious: What should one's attitude be toward a film that the USCCB has labeled "morally offensive," but which one feels is no danger to one's faith?
What moral authority, in other words, would the USCCB ratings carry in determining whether one could watch such a film in good conscience? I guess this is a question that some readers no doubt once asked about the Index.

derringdo

Funny, all the Lovecrafts I've read were definitely "moral stories about immoral people" to use Chesterton's phrase. Their entire point is that lusting after dark knowledge, strange rituals, or inappropriate mates leads to very bad results. On the whole question of whether there are things mankind ought to avert its collective eyes from, Lovecraft's pretty much w/ Carrie here.

WRY: I've never seen the current USCCB ratings treated as anything more than general suggestions, though I'm not the expert (SDG-heeeelp!)

carrie

Hanging out with sinners becomes problematic by degrees. I hang out with sinners who tell white lies such as "I like your new purse" but neglect to add that "It really clashes with that outfit you're wearing." I have non-Catholic friends who had a sexual relationship with their husband before marriage. I have some friends who belong to the Masonic Lodge. Etc.

But each of you who has commented on my question simply ignored the second part of it, "while you enjoy what they offer." Unlike Tolkien and Lewis, what Lovecraft offers is sin on a plate with no apologies. He romanticizes suicide in "Dagon", for example. That makes what he writes objectively a near occasion of sin. Now whether or not you pursue it to the next level, the objective reality remains.

Benedict has just recently demonstrated how Catholics should view near occasions of sin by issuing a ban on homosexuals in the seminary.
If I apply the logic that you are using here--that it's ok to hang around near occasions of sin so long as you are not tempted--to the seminary document, Benedict becomes homophobic.

The CATECHISM OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT has a segment on "The Temptations of the Devil" which is too long to quote here. It appears on pp. 567-569. If you have a copy handy, you might take it down and read it. TRENT also offers some prohibitions under the heading "Avoidance of Impure Conversation, Reading, Pictures". A portion of that segment follows:

Obscene language is a torch which lights up the worst passions of the young mind; and the Apostle has said that evil communications corrupt good manners. (p. 438)

I asked it once and no one responded, so I will ask again, would you give Christ a copy of Lovecraft's books if He were standing next to you, and would you tell Him what you have told each other about these books in here? When you stand before Him on judgment day and He asks you why you read books that glorified murder and mayhem, what will you say to Him?

WRY

carrie, I'm no fan of the "laughing Christ" picture you see hear or there sometimes, but the first thought that comes to my mind is that He would roll His eyes.
The world of Lovecraft's fiction is another place from the world we live in, and it is frankly impossible for me to imagine someone even attempting to carry out the things that take place in the stories, much less lose their soul over reading about it.
Now, there might be some seriously stupid people out there who could lose it over Lovecraft, but even then they'd probably get into heaven by invicible ignorance. You'd have to be pretty slow on the uptake to think for even a moment that Lovecraft's stories are a window into anything real.

derringdo

I haven't read Dagon, so I can't comment on whether your interpretation is legitimate or a mere projection onto that story of what you expect to find there. I do know that, in my experience, Lovecraft shows occult activities and sinfulness as repellent and vicious and too much for the mere human mind to handle, and thus your "sin on a platter, no apologies" comment strikes me as misguided. I enjoy Lovecraft as an unwitting warning of what the world looks like without Christ, and as a (deliberate on his part) moralistic statement about where certain kinds of behavior lands one.

I do not understand the nature of your complaint against horror at large, and it is not my fault that you are poorly trained in logic and therefore prone to cheap shots and incoherent rhetoric.

With regard to your final questions: 1). I would not, because He saw Lovecraft writing them and presumably knows their contents as well as He does Lovecraft's life. 2). I am not sinless, it is distinctly possible that I have enjoyed a book in the "wrong way" at some time, yea, even the Old Testament. But if He tasked me with that, with regard to a book I thought of as I do Lovecraft's, I would answer that I did not think that they glorified those things, but obviously I was mistaken. And I would throw myself on His mercy and His knowledge of my intentions and Lovecraft's, not yours.

Martha

Carrie-

The suicide of the story teller in "Dagon" is a plot device meant to drive home just how terrible and hideous these creatures that he saw really were (so much so that just seeing them drove him mad). I don't see it romanticizing suicide in the slightest, tiny bit.

The whole story is a morality tale, about how, while men make war against one another, there is a hideous and unimagineably powerful enemy lurking and waiting to attack. If we OMLY KNEW that such an evil existed, would we waste time fighting one another?...

"... and I alone am left to tell the tale".

The creature could even be understood as being analagous to Satan. The whole thing could fit nicely into a healthy Christian worldview.

I think you chose to take the story in the way you did.

Now, Romeo and Juliet romanticizes suicide, if any story does, yet I don't think it should be off-limits for any thinking, sane individual.

The story of Samson could also be said to romanticize suicide.

Tim J.

Sorry, that last post was me, not my sweet wife, Martha, who probably wouldn't think much of Lovecraft.

I think she'd find him boring.

Biblebelieverb1

Isa 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Reading literature with human struggle and sin, where good triumphs in the end is different then seeking after guts, blood and gore just for the "thrill" [for the rest of us nausea]. But then Hollywood's done their job well, what is Lovecraft compared to Friday the Thirteeth and Alien?

Tim, I have no problem with artists drawing nudes or great literature, but you just wrote a great screed any moral relativist would adore.

J.R. Stoodley

Of Turin Turambar in The Silmarillion also ends with a double suicide, and sort of hovers between the pagan idea of suicide and the Christian one. My theory is that Tolkien was trying to express the pre-Christian sense of tragedy while leaving it open to a Christian interpretation. In any case the fact of the suicides does not change the fact that it is a very Christian book and very much worth reading.

Ultimately the test is: does it bring you closer to God. If it does not, then what is the point? If it does, then people like Carrie have no right to tell you it should not.

My comment about pure horror fiction presupposes you are doing it to scare yourself because you take some kind of pleasure in that. I do not see how this is a valid spiritual exercise, but if it somehow is (like maybe it keeps you from sexual sin or something) or if you read or watch such stuff for reasons I don't understand, then I for one will remain open to the possibility that you are not making a mistake taking in such stuff.

J.R. Stoodley

If any of you horror apologists could explain the moral or spiritual benefits of horror fiction or D&D that would be helpful.

bill912

"...you just wrote a great screed any moral relatavist would adore."

I don't see that. Would you care to explain?

carrie

If I can read pornography and find moral value in it, is it ok for me to read pornography? How about child porn? Any sado-masochist could tell you about the value in blood and fear. Enthusiasm for horror fiction is much closer to sado-masochism than those of you who like it are willing to recognize.

The two men who wrote THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY were both editors of Playboy Magazine before writing the book, and the book includes Lovecraft's monster as well as a black mass said by "Padre Pederasti."

But in any case, I suppose we have come to an impasse, so it's time to let the keyboard rest.

J.R. Stoodley

The Church has more or less taught that pornography is intrinsically evil (CCC 2354 doesn't use the term but that is the sense of it I think) so it may never be engaged in. I am not aware of any Church teachings about horror fiction, and Steve Greydanus has claimed some films that fit this catagory have been praised by the Vatican. Therefore, though certainly sado-masochism is wrong and this seems to be pretty much the reason why people would engage in this stuff, I do not think it is a good idea to condemn the entire genra, no matter what the individuals actual reasons for watching or reading it may be. No one is ever going to derive spiritual benefits from pornography, but if this can not be said about horror fiction then you can not tell people who do derive a benefit from it that they should not.

WRY

I don't think it is necessary to find moral or spiritual benefits in literature in order to justify reading it. It could be morally neutral for a reader, neither inspiring him nor causing him to sin. And that would be OK. We are not obliged to spend every conscious moment in spiritual uplift. The literature might be a waste of time but that is another question. Unless one were neglecting serious duties that needed doing, it wouldn't be a mortal sin to waste time reading it.

J.R. Stoodley

WRY

But it would be a venial sin. You have been given only a little time here on earth, how can you say "I'll wast this portion of it." And why would you want to? We explicitly pray in the way you seem to mean by "spiritual uplift" but we should always pray.

Sometimes it is through uplifting prayer, sometimes through work, sometimes through suffering, sometimes through service, sometimes through penance, sometimes through learning, sometimes through creativity, sometimes through family life, sometimes through a kind of humor, sometimes through keeping yourself alive for the glory of God, often through a blind searching for the unperceived but loved God.

Never should we be wasting time or doing anything that does not bring us (and perhaps others) closer to God. This is the meaning of our lives. To neglect it is lukewarmness and folly. I can not claim to live this council as I know I should, but it is still true, and I strive always to open myself more to God's grace to do better. So once again, if there is no spiritual reason to do something, there is no reason to do it.

Tim J.

"Tim... you just wrote a great screed any moral relativist would adore."

I am beyond expecting any rational arguments, but Biblebeliever, you have (again) made a sweeping conclusion with no supporting arguments or evidence. If my reasoning is wrong, then do your homework and point out where it is wrong, and how.

Why is it moral relativism to disagree with you about scary stories?

Carrie,

As has been pointed out above, the Church has ALWAYS taught that pornography is ALWAYS wrong. Will you please tell me where you are getting this idea that scary stories are equivalent to pornography? I missed that in my Catechism.

J.R.-

There doesn't need to be any reason to tell a scary story, beyond it being fun. This is why we tell scary stories around the fire at scout camp. Is this time-honored tradition now suspect? Are we only supposed to tell stories wherein niceness triumphs, and everything is neatly explained?

J.R. Stoodley

Tim,

First of all, I was about to add

"I should have added 'through holy relaxation.' There are reasons to just relax your mind and body for the sake of God, and a morally neutral book would be one way of doing that for some people, though I would prefer a morally good book or movie or sitting outside looking at the trees."

When it comes to telling scary stories around a campfire, first of all I would not automatically assume that because something is traditional and widely accepted it is automatically good. That said this sort of thing can be a way of building the relationship between a parent and their children or building friendship, though I am not entirely convinced it is the best kind of story to tell. And trying to convince the listeners that the story is true would be lying and thus immoral.

In a single short story I do not hold that "niceness" aka good always needs to triumph, though the story would certainly be incomplete until it does. 1984 ends in defeat, but teaches a good (though misusable) lesson. Fahrenheit 451 is probably better in that it gives its message and human error leads to disaster, but it ends with a sort of eschatological hope. A whole novel though in which evil triumphs and there is no good moral message? What is the good of reading that? Again, it would help if someone would give a spiritual reason for reading (or watching or playing) this sort of thing. All I can think of right now is for relaxation, but there seem far superior ways of doing that.

Sailorette

Stoodley, re: Moral benefits of D&D:

It creates an imaginary world wherein good, evil and neutral are clearly outlined and, if properly done, you *CANNOT* call good evil. Where evil isn't "misunderstood," it's evil. Period. There are *reasons* it's evil, but it's evil.

A world with demons, monsters, creatures that are more powerful than your character can hope to be, but must be delt with-- usually by teamwork.

It's storyline that anyone can make, simply with boosts to imagination (the source books that discribe how strong something is, how smart, how much its appearance and mannerisims will effect the characters, how agile it is, etc.)

If that is evil, please explain to me how *any* story can be other than evil?

J.R. Stoodley

Sailorette,

First off it deserves mentioning that D&D and horror fiction are rather different issues so one being ok or not does not mean the other is or is not.

If you've read my other comments you know I have nothing at all against dragons, monsters, magic, etc. in stories.

I don't know much about D&D and have never played it, though I once played a different fantasy role playing game. I don't feel comfortable making a final judgement on D&D for that reason.

I will just through this thought out there though. It's having YOU engage in magic could be problematic.

To stand on more familiar ground for a moment, I'll turn back to literature. In Tolkien and Lewis, ordinary folk like you and me never get involved in magic, or if they do it is bad news (Bilbo sort of by accident or the evil foolish wizard in The Magician's Nephew) Magic is not something good hobbits or ordinary humans (not Dunadain etc. who are really superhuman) do, at least if they are good and smart. Harry Potter is edgy at best because it is basically "ordinary kids" that find out they are special and can do magic and have power that most people don't. Naturally it is probably one in 10,000 kids if that who actually goes out and becomes a witch because of Harry Potter, so I would not forbid a mature person from reading it, but the books themselves are problematic for that reason.

How does that apply to D&D? I'm not sure what the nature of the character a player plays is (the webpage says "mighty warriors, stealthy rogues, or powerful wizards") but in any case you personally are pretending to do occult things. You are pretending to do things that in real life would be quite evil, even satanic. I have doubts about the morality of such role-playing.

Once again it might be one in 10,000 who decide they are tired of playing games and want to learn real magic. For a mature person this danger will not be there, so is there anything intrinsically evil about it? I'm not sure, though I guess there is a good chance there is not. Even more of a chance for horror fiction.

Therefore I will extend my question to D&D: what spiritual benefit is gained by it? I'm glad to hear the evil is evil in it etc., but that does not automatically mean there is moral value in playing. Fun, relaxation, making friends, and learning teamwork? But is such an iffy method of doing this (pertending to do things that would be immoral in real life) really something you want to put in your life? I know I don't, but that's just me. Others can do as they wish, but I hope they inform and examine their consciences first. And don't just ask "is it ok to do this thing that I want to do?" but "is this the best thing for me to do right now, is it Your will for me, Lord."

This method applies to everything, of course, and it is not moral relativism to say that something may be fine for one person and not for another. It might be dumb for some Cistercian monks to play a game of Monopoly, but good for a family to do so. That may be the case here.

J.R. Stoodley

Sorry about the messup in italics there. I was trying to get The Magician's Nephew italic but swiched the symbols somehow.

J.R. Stoodley

Will this fix it? Sorry.

Tim J.

JR-

"A whole novel though in which evil triumphs and there is no good moral message? What is the good of reading that?"

I agree. I don't read books like that, either. I don't think most horror stories are like that, though. Some moral dimension is required to make any story interesting.

I'm not actually a big fan of horror fiction, but have been defending it in principle.

Sailorette

Stoodley--
Apparently, there's a mistaken assumption. In a role playing game, your character *is not you*. You are playing the role of a character who is generally a different species and not infrequently a different sex. It is, to my view, even less "problematic" than a movie star that plays an evil character-- I know of very few RPGers who make their characters resemble themselves physically.

If you are actually worried about D&D players, or readers of horror, I suggest you find out more about the subjects, or you'll be ignored. That is very blunt, but I can't find a better way to say it. I can only be glad my boyfriend doesn't read this blog. You'd probably set back most of the work I've done to make him *look* at the Church again. I don't even read horror and I know that there is a "spiritual benefit" to seeing an evil that is undenyably evil. ESPECIALLY in the modern world.

Frankly, doing only things that are obviously and fully of "moral value" is rather foolish. Where is the moral value of watching WB cartoons? Or are those evil as well? (Crossdressing rabbits, excessive violence, abuse of those who are not as smart, mocking of the virtue of compassion....)
Where is the moral value of putting together a puzzle? Where is the moral value of just setting around and chatting with friends about nothing in particular? Sure, it sounds nice. But what is the actual substance to the words?

bill912

Aquinas would agree with you, Sailorette. He wrote that the difference between work and play is that work has a purpose, while play does not. But he also wrote that their must be a time for play and even for foolishness.

J.R. Stoodley

Sailorette,

You may be right of course regarding D&D and horror fiction. I have tried to be honest in displaying my level of knowledge regarding the two, though I will add that I have seed many horror films. I am trying to raise questions not outrightly condemn. If I have gone too far sometimes that is my own fault.

Regarding "moral value" note that I do not have anything agaist play or recreation or relaxation. Play does not need to have a direct practical goal. Indeed this is pretty clearly the difference between play and work on the practical level, which is presumably what St. Thomas was getting at. There is a deeper level though. As St. Paul said "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" and "In him we live and breath and have our being." If you do not see what I do in these passages or your prayer life then I will leave that to you and God and me and God.

Spacemouse

It also is not legitimate to expect fiction--of any sort--to involve sin-free depictions of behavior. Drama involves conflict, and where there is conflict there is usually sin.

Amen to that. This is getting off topic, but can I say how sad I am when I hear Christian fiction described as "safe for the whole family"? Literature is not supposed to be safe. It's supposed to challenge you- and adults can be challenged in ways not appropriate to the rest of the family. Maybe the reason why the stuff published by "Christian publishing" is generally so bland and predictable is that they are choosing safety over quality. Real Christian literature is not "safe." It may be frightening, edgy, tragic, or speculative, but it isn't safe. (After all, He's not a tame lion!)

Sailorette

Spacemouse-
That is the best use of quotation I've seen in a long time.

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