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Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1941)

por H. P. Lovecraft

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1228178,636 (3.83)3
Beyond the Wall of Sleep (+Biography and Bibliography) (6X9po Glossy Cover Finish): I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences - Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism - there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking.… (mais)
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Let it be known that Lovecraft hates white trash hillbillies just as much as any other lesser race. (The man is an elitist jackass; there is no way around that.) I can't quite discern if this tale of telepathic dreaming is the first appearance of Old Gods, or if the dream beings are something else entirely.

(Moved 2015 review to the individual work Sept. 2017 to make room to review the collection under its own entry.) ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this as a concept. I thought the cosmic entity itself could have been more interesting but looking at the story more abstractly, it was pretty good. ( )
  EdwardL95 | Jan 7, 2020 |
Interesante relato de H. P. Lovecraft sobre los sueños, sus misterios y la realidad, pero algo racista. Lo recomiendo si les late este autor. ( )
  RafaTenochca | Sep 10, 2019 |
> Je t'en dirai davantage plus tard – à présent j'ai besoin d'un long repos. Je te parlerai des horreurs interdites qu'elle m'a fait pénétrer – des horreurs séculaires qui suppurent encore aujourd'hui dans des coins perdus, entretenues par quelques prêtres monstrueux. Il y a des gens qui savent sur l'univers des secrets que nul ne devrait connaître, et qui sont capables de choses que nul ne devrait pouvoir faire. J'y étais plongé jusqu'au cou, mais c'est fini. A présent, je brûlerais ce maudit Necronomicon et tout le reste… --admincb (Culturebox)
  Joop-le-philosophe | Jan 13, 2019 |


Author of the horrific, the Gothic and the fantastic, a man who lived his short life as a recluse in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island until his premature death at age 47, Beyond the Wall of Sleep is H. P. Lovecraft’s (1890-1939) classic tale of a reality less visible than our everyday earthbound material existence.

A quote from the opening paragraph: “We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.”

With this statement from our narrator, a young intern working at a mental hospital in the state of New York during the winter of 1900, we hear echoes of the shamanic worldview of many indigenous tribespeople and, more specifically, the dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines, that is, how the world of dreams is more enduring, more intense, more meaningful and, in terms of our vital spiritual life, more real than the ordinary world perceived by our senses.

However, this general philosophic reflection only sets the stage for the tale’s unfolding; specifically, how a 40-year old mountaineer from the rustic, wild Catskill Mountains by the name of Joe Slater is brought to the mental hospital after he brutally murdered a neighbor in a fit of insane rage.

Then, once at the hospital, Joe has his first episode of supercharged frenzy requiring four orderlies and a straitjacket. The narrator relates, “Slater raved for up to fifteen minutes, babbling in his backwoods dialect of great edifices of light, oceans of space, strange music and shadowy mountains and valleys. But most of all did he dwell upon some mysterious blazing entity that shook and laughed and mocked him.” Since Joe Slater could neither read nor write, nor was he ever acquainted with legends or fairy tales, the doctors remained baffled as to the basis or root cause of Joe’s visions, concluding the source to be nothing more definite than “abnormal dreams.”

Let’s pause here and explore an alternate explanation developed by psychiatrist Carl Jung. As a young doctor, Jung came in contact with a patient in a mental institution whose lack of education was similar to Joe Slater, a patient who suffered from paranoid-schizophrenia and reported seeing the sun’s dangling phallus whose motion caused wind to blow on earth.

As it turns out, this exact ‘phallus dangling from the sun’ imagery is part of the ancient Mithraic religion practiced by many Roman soldiers and having roots going back to very ancient Egypt. Jung concluded such a strikingly similar vision reported by his patient and incorporated into the ancient religion of Mithras arise from a common deep-seated psychic source we all share as humans, a source Jung termed the collective unconscious.

Within the collective unconscious there are certain primal images or motifs, for example, the image of the dangling phallus, and such primal images Jung termed archetypes. And each of these archetypal primal images have their shadow side, a shadow side that can be negative, destructive, and very, very threatening. Thus, employing this Jungian interpretation, the mysterious blazing entity that shook, laughed, and mocked Joe Slater, could be viewed as the shadow of a primal archetype from the collective unconscious.

Returning to the tale, the narrator goes on to relate how Joe Slater is not only a passive recipient of dream images, including the recurring image of some hideous, tormenting being, but when entering the dream world Joe becomes an active participant with an altered identity, that is, amazing as it might seem, Joe becomes himself a being of light. We read: “This thing had done Slater some hideous but unnamed wrong, which the maniac (if maniac he were) yearned to avenge. From the manner in which Slater alluded to their dealings, I judged that he and the luminous thing had met on equal terms; that in his dream existence the man was himself a luminous thing of the same race as his enemy. This impression was sustained by his frequent references to flying through space and burning all that impeded his progress.”

If this weird Lovecraft twist isn’t enough, the tale offers us much more: the narrator’s curiosity prompts him to ask himself if the light being inhabiting Joe Slater is perhaps attempting to directly communicate with him, the sensitive, perceptive, open-minded intern. Such curiosity prompts the narrator to unpack a long forgotten instrument he built back in his college days, a transmitting apparatus somewhat akin to a crude radio where he could, unbeknownst to the doctors or the authorities of his mental hospital, hook up to both Joe Slater’s head and his own head in order to possibly receive transmissions or some mysterious communications from the realm of light.

Of course, since the narrator will be conducting his experiments entirely in secret, he is very well aware he is crossing the line, that his hooking up his transmitting contraption to a mental patient’s head is highly unethical. But his curiosity is simply too strong for him to resist. One wonders if H .P. Lovecraft was making a statement about the moral and ethical integrity of people working with patients in mental hospitals, since, after all, when the author was three years old his own father entered a mental institution where he remained until his death five years later.

Anyway, the experiments are carried out. And the findings? I wouldn’t want to spoil by saying anything more specific, but I will note how the weirdness of this tale isn’t only ratcheted up one notch but, from this point forward we as readers are provided a triple dose of weirdness, that’s right, three more unexpected twists and bizarre turns in the unfolding of the tale’s mysterious and astonishing happening to keep any fan of fantastic Gothic horror in suspense right up until the last sentence.

Coda: I can personally relate to this Lovecraft tale since years ago I myself had a powerful dream were I encountered a luminous being. Fortunately, unlike Joe Slater, my luminous being was blazing with the energy of enlightenment and compassion. Thank goodness!

This tale is available on-line:
http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/bws.aspx ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
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Je me suis souvent demandé si la majorité du genre humain prend jamais le temps de réfléchir à la signification, formidable parfois, des rêves et du monde obscur auquel ils appartiennent.
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Beyond the Wall of Sleep (+Biography and Bibliography) (6X9po Glossy Cover Finish): I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences - Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism - there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking.

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