Friday, August 1, 2008

29 Tammuz 5768: The Three Weeks/Air Force Day


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s Lovecraft story, in lieu of a weird thing for the Three Weeks, is “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.


Theological review of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”:

H. P. Lovecraft tries harder than ever for a plot this time. The unnamed narrator fails to heed warnings when passing through the town of Innsmouth, which is full of reclusive, ominous inhabitants. He gets an old man, Zadok Allen, drunk to get secrets out of him, and Zadok tells him of how their ancestors made a pact with Dagon (here a giant fish monster); they sacrifice some young people and fancy jewelry to Dagon, and he makes sure they get plenty of fish, which they use to support themselves. Furthermore, the people of Innsmouth have interbred with the amphibious minions of Dagon known as “the Deep Ones”, and when they get old enough, they turn into amphibious minions themselves and get to live forever, barring accidents. And then the natives find out what the narrator knows, and he has to run for his life and send in the government. This progress is hampered by the usual emotional manipulation and xenophobia. Not to mention a fight scene would have been nice.

Daghon (Dagon) was originally a god worshipped by the Pelishtim (Philistines) (Judges 16.23; 1 Samuel 5:2–7; 1 Chronicles 10:10). Lovecraft seems to have drawn upon a Christian idea that the pagan gods are demons, something which also shows up, for example, in Paradise Lost (Milton, book 1). Dagon shows up there, too, interpreted as a “sea-monster”. This conception is combined with Lovecraft’s system of quasi-deities to produce something new in this system: a quasi-deity in a symbiotic relationship with humans. This is a much more normal conception of deity. Oddly enough, it is also said that one day the Deep Ones and the human-Deep Ones hybrids will have to worship Cthulhu when he rises.

Also notable is that this story seems to be some of the earliest examples of a variant of the paleocontact hypothesis in which an extraterrestrial being is mistaken for a god. This idea recurs repeatedly with variations in the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises and (more infamously) in the work of the infamous pseudoscientist and pseudotheologian Erich von Däniken (von Däniken, Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past; von Däniken, Signs of the Gods).

Theological rating: C.

Scariness rating: Not scary. My pants remained on. And I wanted a fight scene!


Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 1667. Web pages. Available: 2007-07-16.
von Däniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. Econ-Verlag, 1968. Trans. Michael Heron. New York: Bantam, 1970.
---. Signs of the Gods. Econ Verlag 1979 under the title Prophet der Vergangenheit. Trans. Michael Heron. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980.

Next up: “The Shadow out of Time ”.

Shabbath shalom.

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