Cosmicism is the literary philosophy developed and used by the American writer H. P. Lovecraft in his weird fiction.[1][2] Lovecraft was a writer of philosophically intense horror stories that involve occult phenomena like astral possession and alien miscegenation, and the themes of his fiction over time contributed to the development of this philosophy.[3]


The philosophy of cosmicism states "that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as a god, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence."[4] The most prominent theme is humanity's fear of their insignificance in the face of an incomprehensibly large universe[5][6][7]: a fear of the cosmic void.[8]

Cosmicism and humanism are incompatible.[2][9] Cosmicism shares many characteristics with nihilism, though one important difference is that cosmicism tends to emphasize the insignificance of humanity and its doings, rather than summarily rejecting the possible existence of some higher purpose (or purposes); e.g., in Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories, it is not the absence of meaning that causes terror for the protagonists, as it is their discovery that they have absolutely no power to change anything in the vast, indifferent universe that surrounds them.[citation needed] In Lovecraft's stories, whatever meaning or purpose may be invested in the actions of the cosmic beings is completely inaccessible to the human characters.[10]

Lovecraft's cosmicism was a result of his complete disdain for all things religious[citation needed], his feeling of humanity's existential helplessness in the face of what he called the "infinite spaces" opened up by scientific thought, and his belief that humanity was fundamentally at the mercy of the vastness and emptiness of the cosmos.[11] In his fictional works, these ideas are often explored humorously ("Herbert West–Reanimator," 1922), through fantastic dream-like narratives ("The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath," 1927), or through his well-known Cthulhu Mythos ("The Call of Cthulhu," 1928, and others). Common themes related to cosmicism in Lovecraft's fiction are the insignificance of humanity in the universe[12] and the search for knowledge ending in disaster.[13]

Lovecraftian characters notably become insane from the elimination of recognizable geometry.[14] Lovecraft's work also tended to impress fear of the other onto the reader, such as in The Dunwich Horror and Dagon, often portraying that which is unknown as a terrible threat to the rest of humanity. This is possibly a reflection of his own personal views, which were often insular and paranoid.

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