“The oldest and strongest emotion is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” So wrote H.P. Lovecraft, one of the great masters of American horror literature in the opening sentence of his 1938 essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Lovecraft explains further …
Man’s first instincts and emotions formed his response to the environment in which he found himself. Definite feelings based on pleasure and pain grew up around the phenomena whose causes and effects he understood, whilst around those which he did not understand—and the universe teemed with them in the early days—were naturally woven such personifications, marvellous interpretations, and sensations of awe and fear as would be hit upon by a race having few and simple ideas and limited experience. The unknown, being likewise the unpredictable, became for our primitive forefathers a terrible and omnipotent source of boons and calamities visited upon mankind for cryptic and wholly extra-terrestrial reasons, and thus clearly belonging to spheres of existence whereof we know nothing and wherein we have no part.
Hence the fear of the unknown. If you’ve read Lovecraft then you know that this is at the heart of his work. That sinister powers lurk beyond the realm of our senses — in the realm of the unknown — the very knowledge of which would twist the human mind to insanity. It is a fascinating approach to horror, and so we are going to spend this year’s Halloween-themed conversation talking about this idea of fear of the unknown.
The key question is the most basic one: Do you agree with Lovecraft that the greatest fear is fear of the unknown? Do you think that is true of most others? What fears do you have, supernatural or otherwise? Is fear the strongest emotion?
Join us for the discussion this evening starting at 7pm at 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion. We’ll talk about fearing the unknown and other spooky stuff!