One of the most important methods of the alternative historian is to seek correlations between far-flung locations in order to postulate a common source, whether this be Lemuria, Atlantis, another “lost civilization” (Atlantis in all but name), or extraterrestrials. The most notorious of these supposed correlations is the existence of pyramids worldwide, but the same method has also been applied to mythological figures and themes. To illustrate how easily spurious correlations can occur, let’s consider two texts written in very different contexts.
The first text is from Japanese scholar Okakura-Kakuzo in his Awakening of Japan (1904):
"[The dragon] is the spirit of change, therefore of life itself. We associate him with the supreme power or that sovereign cause which pervades everything, taking new forms according to its surroundings, yet never seen in a final shape. The dragon is the great mystery itself. Hidden in the caverns of inaccessible mountains, or coiled in the unfathomed depth of the sea, he awaits the time when he slowly rouses himself into activity. He unfolds himself in the storm clouds; he washes his mane in the blackness of seething whirlpools. His claws are in the fork of the lightning, his scales begin to glisten in the bark of rain-swept pine-trees. His voice is heard in the hurricane which, scattering the withered leaves of the forest, quickens a new spring. The dragon reveals himself only to vanish. He is a glorious symbolic image of that elasticity which shakes off the inert mass of exhausted matter. Coiling again and again on his strength, he sheds his skin amid the battle of elements, and for an instant stands half revealed by the brilliant shimmer of his scales. He strikes not till his throat is touched. Then woe to him who dallies with the terrible one!" (pp. 77-79)
Now let us take our second text, from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” (1928), relating an imaginary fragment of the dreaded Necronomicon:
"Nor is it to be thought (ran the text as Armitage mentally translated it) that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraver, but who bath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again."
Both of these passages are remarkably similar, using the same nature imagery, the same specific details about the inability of supernatural creatures to be glimpsed directly—even the very same image of the wind serving as the voice of the entities (“the wind gibbers with Their voices” vs. “his voice is heard in the hurricane”). What’s more, the final lines of Okakura-Kakuzo’s text clearly anticipate the climax of the “Dunwich Horror,” where the son of Yog-Sothoth is briefly glimpsed in a lightning storm.
All in all, if we were alternative historians we would have to conclude that these two passage must be derivative of a truly ancient primal text about extraterrestrial lizard people visiting the earth. But not only is this wrong, so far as I know Lovecraft had never read or heard of the Japanese scholar or his work. And even if he had, it would hardly presuppose the existence of an archetypical text on which these two later writers drew. Sometimes humans just strike upon the same idea more than once by accident.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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