C.S. Lewis’ Pretty Awful and Peculiarly Interesting Letter on Writing

How many times have you heard of the struggling writer providentially bumping into an established author or writing a letter? And then that writer on the edge of hopelessness becomes the recipient of a little piece of advice or encouragement that changes their life, setting them on the path to fulfilled dreams of their books in print?

This is not one of those stories.

Lewis wrote thousands of letters, and many of them contain advice to writers and other kinds of personal support. The Letters to Children and Letters to an American Lady collections have those sorts of letters, and he took time with people who would go on to be important writers, like Arthur C. Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien, Joy Davidman, and Roger Lancelyn Green. In 1960, however, Lewis just did not have it in him to take much time with a Meredith Lee. Many of his Q&A-style letters are desperately thin, and I wonder if he resented them a wee bit.

In this case, the letter contained all those generic questions that inexperienced or uncreative journalists ask established authors: Why did you become a writer? How do you come up with your books? Why did you choose to write fiction? and the like. Lewis gets off with the briefest possible answers without brushing Ms. Lee off altogether. Why did he turn to writing as a career? Lewis’ answer was,

“because my clumsiness of fingers prevented me from making things in any other way.”

Even Lewis must have known that almost any of us would like to know the heart and grit and vision of that calling to creation, not the clumsy reason he first picked up a pen.

Out of this clearly awful letter comes something, though, that I had suspected of Lewis but never found confirmation for until recently. Lewis admits that he carries around dozens of plans for books at any one time, but that the emerging happenstance of book ideas often thwarts his plans:

Very often a book of mine gets written when I’m tidying a drawer and come across notes for a plan rejected by me years ago, and now suddenly realise I can do it after all.

It could be that this might be the most valuable insight into Lewis’ writing that I have seen from him, from what is one of his least insightful letters. Here’s the entire letter, for your enjoyment.

As from Magdalene College,
6 Dec. 1960

Dear Miss Lee,

1. Why did I become a writer? Chiefly, I think, because my clumsiness of fingers prevented me from making things in any other way. See my Surprised by Joy, chapter I.

2. What ‘inspires’ my books? Really, I don’t know. Does anyone know where, exactly, an idea comes from? With me all fiction begins with pictures in my head. But where the pictures come from I couldn’t say.

3. Which of my books do I think most ‘representational’? Do you mean (a.) Most representative, most typical, most characteristic? Or (b.) Most full of ‘representations’ i.e. images. But whichever you mean, surely this is a question not for me but for my readers to decide. Or do you mean simply which do I like best? If so, the answer wd. be Till We Have Faces and Perelandra.

4. I have, as usual, dozens of ‘plans’ for books, but I don’t know which, if any, of these will come off. Very often a book of mine gets written when I’m tidying a drawer and come across notes for a plan rejected by me years ago, and now suddenly realise I can do it after all. This, you see, makes predictions rather difficult!

5. I enjoy writing fiction more than writing anything else. Wouldn’t anyone?

Good luck with your ‘project’.
Yours sincerely
C. S. Lewis

Posted in Lewis Biography, Memorable Quotes, On Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age as a Background to Study of C.S. Lewis

Charles Taylor has been called the leading philosopher of today. If narrowed to the questions of religion, the self, and human experience, the claim has some grounding. For students in theology, religious studies, modern intellectual history, or the philosophy of religion and secularity, it isn’t long before this book starts appearing on bibliographies.

A child through the great depression, Taylor was born in Montréal, Québec, where he spent much of his career. Completely bilingual, Taylor studied at McGill before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, receiving a doctorate from Balliol College under the famous Isaiah Berlin and philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe—one-time debate partner with C.S. Lewis. While he served as Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford, most of his career was at McGill—a seat which Taylor used to speak as a philosopher and historian of ideas in the West, as well as a Canadian public intellectual. Highlighting his academic tenure, he has won a series of awards and honours, including the Order of Canada and the million dollar Templeton (2007) and Berggruen (2016) prizes. He also received the two awards that are like the “other Nobel” for disciplines outside the Nobel’s range, namely the Kyoto Prize (2008) and the Kluge, which he shared with Jürgen Habermas (2015).

My first encounter with Charles Taylor was in the wake of his Laing Lecture at Regent College in 2001. I came to campus in 2003, and there was a residual energy from the talk—a conversation that no doubt reignited when A Secular Age was released in 2007 as his Laing Lectures were a test of one of the sectiosn of the book. This book was the culmination of 45 years of writing and teaching, from his work on Hegel in the 60s, to his noteworthy Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity in 1989, to his various public lectures where he tested out his ideas for A Secular Age. Besides the Laing Lectures in 2001, one of his most important moments was the 1992 Massey Lectures on CBC, published as The Malaise of Modernity in Canada and The Ethics of Authenticity in the U.S.

Taylor is an important philosopher of religion, historian of ideas, and Catholic public intellectual, and has reshaped the conversation about secularity and religion in the 21st century.

There are not a lot of personal connections between Taylor and Lewis. Taylor was among a group of Canadian intellectuals, including George Grant, who enjoyed Lewis’ work with the Oxford Socratic Club. Taylor studied under the one debater who bested Lewis, Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. I get the sense that Dom Bede Griffiths, a student of Lewis’ and ultimately one of the more unusual Catholic thinkers of the 20th century, has been really important to Charles Taylor’s thinking as a Catholic. Other than that, I don’t know of any conscious connections, or if Taylor was ever aware of Lewis’ work “(beyond casual reference).

I think, though, that Taylor can be helpful for students who are preparing for a study of C.S. Lewis’ works. Here are a few sketchy notes that I found helpful when putting Taylor’s magnum opus in conversation with Lewis.

“Worldviews” or “Worldview studies” are common concepts today, but this fuzzy concept was yet unnamed in Lewis’ time. Despite its popularity, there isn’t even an OED entry for “worldview”—a word I use weekly and that is standard in academic studies. Lewis anticipates this approach to thinking about cultures of ideas, using the term “model” in The Discarded Image to refer to the medieval worldview in contrast to present day. Taylor has a sophisticated conversation about what we call a worldview but what he terms the “social imaginary.” More than just a coincidence of approach, Taylor presses in on the social development of the 16th and 17th century that sits behind Lewis’ literary work of the period, setting the stage for a more sophisticated way of treating the “secular age” of today.

Narrowing in, Taylor sets the philosophical context for the early 20th century as it pertains to Britain. In particular, we get a chance to understand the instincts against which Lewis’ mentor G.K. Chesterton was pressing—not just in his Heretics and The Everlasting Man, but throughout his entire cultural critical work. Lewis should be seen has modeling himself after Chesterton, and Lewis’ philosophical instincts are similar. Lewis’ commitment to writing Miracles–somewhat of an outlier book in his corpus–makes sense when put in the context of Taylor’s reading of late 19th and early 20th century English social thought.

Something that I never properly understood but that Taylor helped me see was the quiet dialogue Lewis was having with Matthew Arnold. On the one hand, Lewis is in some sense a critic in the school of Arnold, trying to present the work of literature for the public without letting his own reading overwhelm the original (e.g., see “Addison” 166 or The Personal Heresy). On the other hand, Lewis implicates himself consistently in his work as a critic, sharing his own experience of the literature to the point where he attempts to re-centre criticism on this point in An Experiment in Criticism. In this way Lewis is offering a yes-no to Arnold.

When it comes to culture, Lewis in many ways adapts Arnold’s canonical approach and believes that literature can work on the morals of the reader. In other ways, though, Lewis rejected the “this is good for civilization” approach that Arnold was on about. This is seen in Lewis’ own discomfort with the empire-building project of England. You see this intimately in Surprised by Joy, where Lewis claims that it is to his shame that as a child he was unable to stomach the private school system. His rebellion against its brutality and his failure to be good at sports seems unusually serious to us as later readers. But as Taylor says, the school of Matthew Arnold was about creating manliness and loyalty in the public schoolboy:

“They had replaced Athens with Sparta as the ideal ancient city” (398).

Lewis was clearly an Athens man, and even when the special poetics of Sparta occurs in his literature—warfare and athletic heroism—Lewis undercuts Spartan valour in numerous ways with a new vision for what it means to be a hero.

Finally, Lewis saw a line of continuity from Matthew Arnold to the Cambridge English school that was at its core anti-God, even when it used the structures of European Christianity or spiritual experience as part of its work to create order against the threat of chaos. Lewis, apart from not being anti-God, could never accept that civilized-infused religion. Where Arnold and Lewis separate so radically is that Lewis would say that an uneducated washerwoman and a transcendental poet become spiritual on exactly the same terms; Arnold would have found this an offensive idea (see Lewis, “Christianity and Culture” 24). Of Arnold, Lewis called this approach a “most dangerous and most anti-Christian error” (“Learning in War-time” 55-56).

Indeed, it is my reading of things that part of Lewis’ overcoming his prejudices against Christianity in moving from theism to Christianity in 1930-31 was overcoming Matthew Arnold (e.g., see his 3 Aug 1930 letter to Arthur Greeves). Lewis predicted that when Arnold and Leavis and all those boys got their way—when literature finally replaced religion as religion—it would take “on all the features of bitter persecution, great intolerance, and traffic in relics” that is the religious temptation (“Unreal Estates” 93). Charles Taylor helps us see how Arnoldian and anti-Arnoldian C.S. Lewis really was—and thus how he was both in his times and outside of his times.

There are other ideas in C.S. Lewis that make better sense when Taylor’s history is considered, like Lewis’ use of the word “manly,” his essay on “Christianity and Culture,” and his careful rejection of certain “-ocracies”—like the rule of a cultural elite, the unfair social pressure against women, the creeping influence of Darwinism as a social philosophy rather than a scientific concept, a looming technocracy that threatened human identity, and bureaucracy in almost any form. A Secular Age also fills out Lewis’ argument about the development of fantasy as an art-form, but I would leave that for another day. And, intriguingly, we see in A Secular Age a reference to the precursor to Lewis’ trilemma: that Christ, given the claims he made, must have been a liar on the scale of a con man, a lunatic with as much credibility as a man who says he’s a poached egg, or the legitimate lord of the universe. While this argument is encased within G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, and no doubt it trails its way through Western history, it has a particular context in a generation that looks to Jesus as a moral teacher. Charles Taylor finds the parent reference to Chesterton in the 1988 novel Robert Elsmere by Mary Augusta Ward, who Lewis called one of the greatest bores of all history, whether ancient or modern (see 29 Sep 1958 letter to Martin Kilmer; more on this below).

Finally, Taylor is not writing analytical philosophy distinct from the stories of culture. It is true that many of the thinkers that Taylor is in conversation with didn’t interest Lewis that much or that appeared later, including Ludwig Wittgenstein, Max Müller, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Isaiah Berlin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Schiller, John Stuart Mill, followers of Émile Durkheim, John Millbank, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, René Descartes, Michel Foucault, Martha Nussbaum, Sigmund Freud, John Locke, Jürgen Habermas, Immanuel Kant, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, and Voltaire. I learned a lot reading this book, and for me it sealed in decades of reading in the Western intellectual tradition.

But Taylor also reaches for literary examples to demonstrate his ideas, speaking of storytellers and poets like George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Madonna, Henrik Ibsen, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, Walter Ong, Cormac McCarthy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, J.K. Rowling, and dozens of others. Reading Taylor, like reading Lewis, is not just reading their theological and philosophical parentage, but also the Western canon as it stands and as it transforms itself. In this way, Lewis and Taylor are drawing from the same wells.

It is difficult to provide a taste of A Secular Age that is not a whole meal. I am tempted to provide you with the extended discussion of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ work as one of the groundbreaking alternative conversion narratives of the modern world. Perhaps, though, a passage of a few pages could show Taylor’s breadth of intellectual development, his use of literary examples, the Matthew Arnold connection, and the trilemma background all in one. Taken from pp. 384-7 of the chapter “19th Century Trajectories” in the transformational section, “The Nova Effect,” the following selection gives us all of those things in a single reflection. The passage also highlights the tensions intellectuals in the 19th century were experiencing, thus showing us the climate that C.S. Lewis was born into. And that is the critical advantage of A Secular Age: with careful scholarship and attention to detail, Charles Taylor provides with creative breadth and depth an intellectual history behind the 20th century that avoids the reductionism of the narratives coughed up most often in universities and documentaries. In this way, it is a useful tool to the C.S. Lewis scholar, but make sure you leave a season for reflection on the book. It is a very, very long book.

It is worth looking at one more document here, a novel which had an immense success both in Britain and America at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The novel is Robert Elsmere, and the author is Mrs. Humphry Ward, a niece of Matthew Arnold. The protagonist, Elsmere, is an Anglican clergyman who loses his faith in orthodox Christianity. But instead of falling into indifference, or even becoming an open enemy of Christianity (or even worse, cynically carrying on a comfortable career as a clergyman, hiding his true beliefs), he struggles to an Arnoldian position. He wants to redefine the faith, free of its—now indefensible—supernatural myths, and make it once more the vehicle by which humans can accede to a higher moral life.

In a moment of great inner turmoil and suffering at the loss of his early faith, Robert sees the new vision, of a “purely human Christ—a purely human, explicable, yet always wonderful Christianity” (321). He finds that he believes in Christ “in the teacher, the martyr, the symbol to us Westerns of all things heavenly and abiding, the image and pledge of the invisible life of the spirit—with all my soul and mind!” But he cannot accept “the Man-God, the Word from Eternity—. . . a wonder-working Christ, in a risen and ascended Jesus, in the living Intercessor and Mediator for the lives of his doomed brethren” (342).

He believes in God, but this God is something like an impersonal force. He is “an Eternal Goodness—and an Eternal Mind—of which Nature and Man are the continuous and only revelation” (494). Here the author seems to have borrowed less from her uncle, and more from the philosopher T. H. Green. Green appears in the story, under the (rather transparent) name “Grey”, a fellow of Robert’s college in Oxford, who befriends him and acts as his mentor at crucial moments. Green’s philosophy emerged as well out of the same cross-pressures that I have been describing.

On the one hand, a strong reaction against Hume and Utilitarianism, as theories which deny the human potentiality for moral ascent; on the other hand, an inability to accept God as a supernatural agent, intervening in human history. Green found in the work of Kant and Hegel a way of articulating his position. God was in a sense the lodestone which draws us higher, and also the ontic guarantee that this ascent will be possible. But the ascent is towards an impersonal moral order, prefigured in Hegel’s notion of Geist, rather than in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As Robert puts it from his deathbed:

“personality, or intelligence, or what not! What meaning can they have as applied to God?” (603).

But we need God: “Love and revere something we must, if we are to be men and not beasts” (498–499). And this God is not only indispensable for personal moral ascent. We also need him if we are to find a way of binding together our society. Here he takes up a crucial theme for Arnold. We need a new religion, because we need “a new social bond”.

We need it, for

“that diminution of the self in man which is to enable the individual to see the world’s ends clearly, and to care not only for his but for his neighbour’s interest, which is to make the rich devote themselves to the poor, and the poor bear with the rich. . . . It is man’s will which is eternally defective, eternally inadequate. Well, the great religions of the world are the stimulants by which the power at the root of things has worked upon this sluggish instrument of human destiny. Without religion you cannot make the will equal to its tasks. Our present religion fails us; we must, we will have another!” (572).

In Arnoldian terms, religion is portrayed here as the essential bulwark of Culture against Anarchy.

The novel, as we can see, contains lots of intellectual exchanges on a very high level. How did it nevertheless manage to be a runaway best-seller? Because it portrays so vividly the inner conflict, the intense suffering, which accompanied this deconversion and reconstruction. It is not only that Robert is dismayed himself by the need to abandon his early faith. His marriage to Catherine is almost destroyed by it.

Catherine is herself deeply anchored in an orthodox Evangelical position. For her there is nothing between cleaving to this faith on one hand, and open, scoffing disbelief on the other. She can’t see the point of Robert’s reconstructed religion of a purely human Jesus.

“How can that help them? . . . Your historical Christ, Robert, will never win souls. If he was God, every word you speak will insult him. If he was man, he was not a good man!” (480).

The novel is set in the mid-1880s, and reflects the times. Thus Robert’s early faith follows a contemporary trend, the reaction against the “overdriven rationalism” of Mill and Spencer among many young people of the time (62–63). And again, it is clear that the crucial issues that his de-conversion turns on are not those of natural science and evolution, but those raised by Biblical scholarship. It is these that are pressed on him by Roger Wendover, the squire-scholar who is the major agent of the change. The crucial question might be said to be that of miracles, but in a broad sense; that is, not just the miracles performed by the Christ of the Gospels, but all the Christological doctrines which affirm divine intervention in history: the Incarnation, the Resurrection and Ascension, atonement and intercession, etc.

And the squire in his arguments is firmly in the space in which Trevor-Roper placed Gibbon; “My object has been to help in making it discreditable . . . to refuse to read . . . Christian documents in the light of trained scientific criticism” (318). In other words, the “same social laws” are to be applied to all historical events, including those foundational to Christianity. The assumption is that we, in our rational age of impersonal orders, know perfectly well what these laws are, and have nothing to learn from first-century Palestinian fishermen. The squire is writing a “History of Testimony”, which has a clear master narrative, in which science emerges out of earlier ignorance and irrationality (317–318).

The novel illustrates the force of this historicized framework, in which history is read as an ascent to a consciousness of impersonal orders, on which there is no turning back. Or rather, that is my reading; it would seem that Mrs. Ward accepts this framework as an unquestioned background of her own thinking. The novel, read in the way I am suggesting, can help us break free from that. But it also helps us break free of an equal and opposite simplification, and this is one which Mrs. Ward plainly wanted to challenge.

Where the Wendovers think their judgments are unproblematically scientific and rational, many of the orthodox of the day saw this kind of apostasy in equally stark terms as the simple fruit of pride. It is related that Mrs. Ward attended the first set of Bampton Lectures in 1881, at which the speaker, himself a nephew of Wordsworth, explained the abandonment of orthodox Christianity by a number of intellectual faults, including indolence, coldness, recklessness, pride, and avarice. It was this attack which spurred Mrs.Ward to write her novel, which would show that this was a caricature. And indeed, what emerges from the novel is that good faith and honesty can be found on all sides of this controversy, even though the story awards the ultimate palm for courage and integrity to Robert.

This is a place where I might clarify further my own understanding of these conversions and deconversions. I cannot accept the Whiggish master narrative that they are determined by clear reason. They look rational within a certain framework, indeed, but this framework attracts us for a host of reasons, including ethical ones. Among the ethical attractions is certainly that of the free, invulnerable, disengaged agent. Being one of these is something in which moderns take a certain pride. But to leap from this to saying, simply, that the move from orthodoxy is actuated by pride is quite invalid. In some cases, undoubtedly. But what we’re dealing with in talking of these frameworks is complex environing backgrounds of our thought and action, which impinge on our lives in a host of ways. In one respect, yes, this modern sense of impersonal orders can give us a sense of our dignity as free agents. But it also offers us powerful ideals, of honesty and integrity, as well as of benevolence and solidarity, just to name some of the most prominent. In the whole aetiological story of how these frameworks arose, pride has its place. But in individual cases, the stories can be as many and as different as there are people who inhabit them. In some cases, for a variety of reasons, the sense of an alternative was so far off the screen, that the principal response was determined by the ideals: say, honesty, integrity, and a sense of the human potential for moral ascent. This is what one sees with T. H. Green; and this is what Mrs. Ward shows us in her protagonist.

We are in fact all acting, thinking, and feeling out of backgrounds and frameworks which we do not fully understand. To ascribe total personal responsibility to us for these is to want to leap out of the human condition. At the same time, no background leaves us utterly without room for movement and change. The realities of human life are messier than is dreamed of either by dogmatic rationalists, or in the manichean rigidities of embattled orthodoxy.

But what Mrs.Ward shows best of all is the intense anguish of the cross-pressures here. As with Carlyle and Arnold, so with Robert Elsmere: the agony cannot just be explained by the rational considerations that were in play: the impersonal order pushes to deny Christianity, the need for some purpose or direction in history calls for it. There also were deep personal emotions involved, as we see in Carlyle’s exchange with his mother. The pain was often great of deserting a childhood faith. As Wilson says in describing this retreat of belief, “this is a story of bereavement as much as of adventure” [from A.N. Wilson, God’s Funeral, 4].

Posted in Original Research, Reviews, Thoughtful Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Inklings and Arthur Series Index

This series that celebrated the release of The Inklings and King Arthur: J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain has been one of the best blog series that I have ever seen. This pleases me, since nothing could compliment Sørina Higgins’ editorial work on the Oxford Inklings and their Arthurian contexts more than great public writing. The series is filled with excellent articles by leading academics, emerging scholars, and independent writers and artists from various countries in Europe and North America.

Part of the success of this series was the continued editing excellence and comment moderation by guest editor, David Llewellyn Dodds. David is no stranger to the world of “Inklings Online,” and as readers will know, is one of the important contributors to the work of Charles Williams and modern Arthuriana in the last generation. It was a thrill to have such a high-profile editor, I am very proud to have hosted the series.

Here is a list of the posts that were in the Inklings and Arthur Series:

Post #1: “The Launch of The Inklings and King Arthur” by blog host and C.S. Lewis scholar Brenton Dickieson

Post #2: “Inklings and Arthur Series Introduction” by series editor and Charles Williams scholar David Llewellyn Dodds

Post #3: “The Argument Continues: Late 20th Century Christian and Pagan Depictions of Arthur and the Grail” by Suzanne Bray, professor of British literature and vivilisation

Post #4: “A Personal Reflection on Logres and The Matter of Britain” by Stephen Winter, Anglican minister and Tolkienist

Post #5: “‘The Name is Against Them’: C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Arthur” by Gabriel Schenk, Arthurian scholar at Signum University

Post #6: “An ‘Easy to Read’ Modern Arthurian Epic” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post #7: The Signum University “Inklings & King Arthur Roundtable” with Inklings scholars Corey Olsen, Malcolm Guite, Sørina Higgins, and Brenton Dickieson

Post #8: “Wood-Woses: Tolkien’s Wild Men and the Green Knight” by King’s College medievalist Ethan Campbell

Post #9: “Inklings and Arthur: An Artist’s Perspective” by book designer Emily Austin

Post #10: “Arthurian Literature and the Old Everyman’s Library” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post #11: “Filling the Gaps in History: Mythopoesis as Deep Insight” by Inklings scholar Charles Huttar

Post #12: “Chesterton, Arthur, and Enchanting England” by Chesterton scholar J. Cameron Moore

Post #13: “Thor: Ragnarok and C.S. Lewis’ Mythic Passions” by Josiah Peterson, teacher in “The Rhetoric of C.S. Lewis” at The King’s College in New York

Post #14: “Charles Williams’s Arthurian Treasury” by Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams biographer

Post #15: “Tiny Fairies: J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Errantry’ and Martyn Skinner’s Sir Elfadore and Mabyna” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post 16: “C.S. Lewis’ Arthuriad: Survey and Speculation” by blog host and C.S. Lewis scholar Brenton Dickieson

Post 17: ““The Grail: Cup, Stone – Santo Caliz? – and the Inklings?” by David Llewellyn Dodds” by series editor and Charles Williams scholar David Llewellyn Dodds

Here are a few other Arthur-related posts on A Pilgrim in Narnia:

Posted in Reflections | 8 Comments

Why do Evangelicals Really Reject the Environmental Movement? #earthday

On Earth Day ­­­­2015, I posted about my “water woes,” and how the struggles I have with poverty and environment are really spiritual problems. I argued that Christians are to resist the curses of Genesis 3, that we are to resist poverty, alleviate toil, heal our world, and mend relationships—both human and divine. When I wrote the initial post, there were hundreds of people with flooded houses right now in my community, many of them poor or old and with limited resources to deal with the damage. I just dropped an industrial fan off at a senior’s house. She was wearing a sling and her husband was in the hospital and her entire basement is wet.

Compound that reality globaly and we see the link between the environment and poverty.

I appreciate the personal notes of support I got, as well as some toilet replacement advice—not the normal response to my blogs. But I also got some puzzled notes. If you are right, some asked, that Genesis tells us first that we will have environmental woes, and second that we should resist those woes, why have evangelicals largely resisted the environmental movement?

Good question. This blog post is a response to that question.

First, it isn’t true that all or a majority of evangelicals resist the environmental movement. In an Evangelical Alliance survey of British evangelicals, they found that 94% agree that “it’s a Christian’s duty to care for the environment.” A study released in BC Christian News shows that Canadian evangelical leaders see the environment as a growing concern, and an area where Christians can agree with the general public. In Canada, the question of the environment and evangelicals is less a right-left question, but a regional one. Evangelicals on the prairies and industrial areas are less driven by environmental concern and generally more skeptical. On the coasts and in the North we WWisee a different picture.

Even in America, the picture is more mixed than the media often portrays. This survey shows that more than half of evangelicals think the earth is warming, but they are split on the cause (human or cyclical). Still, one-third of evangelicals think humans are causing climate change; the result is higher if black evangelicals are included, and there are hints of changing mentalities in the farming community.

With due respect to the media who choose to paint evangelicals with the same brush, I cautiously suggest a diversity among evangelicals in the United States on these issues. Still, evangelicals are more cautious than the rest of America. Although most think the climate is shifting, this study by the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that actual concern among evangelicals is lower than the larger population. This Yale study suggests the opposite, and this Barna study shows the diversity of opinions among evangelicals. But it also shows that despite evangelical skepticism, evangelicals do engage in practical environmental ways.

Despite this diversity, I think we can agree that among the skeptics of climate change doctrine and resisters of environmental movements, evangelicals have a strong voice. From Rachel Carson’s Silent Springs through the almost religious response to Al Gore environmentalism to the growing public consensus on climate change, evangelicals have had doubts.

Why the skepticism? And if the Bible suggests we “tend the Garden”—as I argued on Earth Day 2015–why do they resist pro-environment measures that could help in small ways with little cost?

I think the media has really answered this question by suggesting that evangelicals are anti-science. The logic is pretty elegant: 1) scientists say the climate is changing and humans are contributing to that; 2) evangelicals disbelieve these reports; therefore 3) evangelicals are anti-science. This is an easy generalization to support. Evangelicals, after all, reject the vast agreement about evolution among scientists. Evangelicals believe that the world began 15,000 years ago and the Big Bang is bunk. Certainly, they are anti-scientific.

In the case of environmental care, this a kind of media bait and switch.

First, evangelicals are less united on the question of young earth creationism than one might think. This Pew Forum survey shows the resistance that evangelicals have to human evolution. Still, though, one quarter to one-third of self-identifying evangelicals think humans have evolved. Asked less pointedly, like “how old is the universe?,” and we see even more diversity. The surveys also fail to divide fundamentalism and evangelicalism—communities that have overlap, but are distinct in foundational ways.

Second, the media uses the issue of creationism as a symbol of what evangelicalism is like as a whole. A picture of some guy that build Noah’s ark in his backyard, or a clip of Ken Ham talking about the grand conspiracy of the scientific elite, or a teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron watching mustachioed Ray Comfort peeling a banana, and you have your story. Once we know what these guys think, we know what all evangelicals think.

This metonymic bait and switch is poor journalism with a profound effect. What it ignores is the real story of American evangelicalism. In David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me, for example, he talks about how churches and Christians struggle about the role of science and faith. It ignores leading evangelical scientists like Francis Collins and Alister McGrath. And, especially, it ignores the millions of evangelicals in the scientific fields, working as nurses, doctors, researchers, teachers, professors, engineers, and astronomers. These mothers, brothers, friends, and lovers tap into the long Christian tradition of using scientific knowledge to resist death and disease throughout all the world in all the generations.

No, what the media and pop culture miss when they say that evangelicals are anti-science is this basic fact: evangelicals aren’t anti-science; they are anti-media and sit uncomfortably with pop culture movements.

How much this anti-media taste in evangelicals have contributed to the current moment is a question for another day. As the 538 analysts argue, “Americans hate the media.” What is key now, is that what evangelicals resist in resisting global warming conversations is not so much the scientific data, but the mass culture’s blind acceptance of it. How often have you heard someone in the media say, “the scientific consensus on climate change?” Now, how often have you seen the media show data for that consensus? Or, shockingly, how often do they present the reason for the consensus? My guess it is 10:1—for every ten times someone says “consensus” on CNN they only present evidence of that once.

Perhaps the ratio is 100 media reports about the crisis for every 1 that takes the time to make the crisis credible.

For all kinds of good and bad reasons, evangelicals resist dominant culture. I was an environmentalist as a young believer. It was the blind consensus that made me doubt that my Christian commitment to environmental care was true. I doubt I am alone on that point.

I believe this consensus. I think we are in a warming cycle that is exacerbated by human activity. I think our addiction to materialism, to comfort, to the dislocation of the poor for our own pleasure has the unintended consequences of global warming. I think we should resist, making wise choices and pressuring industry, government, and consumers to make, rule, and buy differently. I haven’t joined Al Gore’s apocalyptic enviro-movement, but I am largely in agreement with his Nobel-winning powerpoint presentation.

More personally, I think that evangelicals who write off the environmental movement as a grand conspiracy are doing great damage. They have forgotten the principles of Genesis and God’s second command to humans. More than that, they have lost a chance to stand with neighbours on a moral issue that matters. And even more than that, American (and Canadian) Christians have gained the whole world in material goods, but in doing so have sold out the world.

Still, I think that evangelical culture is wise to resist media and pop culture. They are right to avoid social media shaming techniques of dominant culture. They are probably right to look for common sense solutions in their own worlds rather than just at the grand statements of the great men and women of our day. And they are right to ask for better information from media, activists, and scientists. Skeptics can often be won over.

Why do so many American evangelicals reject global care conversations? Because we as intellectuals, writers, pundits, scientists, and activists have not demonstrated with clarity and integrity the real need. It is not that we have to get through a wall of skepticism, though that is there. It’s that we haven’t made our way through the wall of mass culture nonsense—a mass culture that has no problem disdaining evangelicalism by equating it with crammed arks, abortion clinic bombers, and Dr. Ray Comfort with his banana–and reducing evangelicals to mindless Trump supporters.

There is in evangelicalism a “Creation Care” movement, represented by popular authors (e.g., John Stott and Jonathan Merritt), signalled by a Christianity Today study guide by that name, and supported by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), environmental activists since 1993, and The Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a group of prominent American Evangelical leaders. The ECI’s first claim is unambiguous:

“Human-Induced Climate Change is Real and increasing international instability, which could lead to more security threats to our nation.”

The ECI Statement continues to argue that the hardest hit will be the poor and marginalized, so it is the Christian’s moral responsibility to act. Finally, they argue, the need to respond is urgent.

Resistance remains. Wayne Grudem, is a Senior Fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation (CA), which resists the ECI and mass culture environmentalism. The Cornwall Alliance also has a statement: “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming.” They are likewise unambiguous:

“We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”

The CA response is not significant, and it is mounting its pressure upon the public discourse. A recent CA book, Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death by Dr. James A. Wanliss, drives the conversation forward. The promotional video uses phrases like,

  • “one of the greatest deceptions of our day”
  • “this so-called Green Dragon [Environmentalism] is seducing your children in our classrooms and popular culture, its lusts for political power now extends to the highest global levels, and its twisted view of the world elevates nature above the needs of people—even the poorest and the most helpless”
  • “environmentalism … is your enemy”
  • and in the context of “resist the Devil” (James 4:7) the host urges the listener to “rise up, slay the Green Dragon.”

Militant language and violent images are used throughout; the CA believes that environmentalism is the threat of a generation.

Conservative evangelical novelist and philanthropist Randy Alcorn indicates that resistance to environmentalism in evangelicalism may continue despite a shift in public opinion. In his foreword to Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World (2009) by architect and urban designer Michael Abbaté, Alcorn describe a recent speech he gave to thousands of conservative evangelical college students. He was speaking on eschatology, describing a new creation perspective, and adlibbed a rhetorical question: “of all people, as stewards [of creation], don’t you think we ought to have reasonable concern for our environment and try to take care of it?” A single person broke into spontaneous applause, and then stopped, awkwardly, apologetically. No one joined in to support the lone clapper—there was not even a token clap-along. Alcorn continued his speech, joking that one person actually applauded to “a pro-environment statement at a conservative evangelical gathering.”

Besides the lack of support for the solo clapper in Alcorn’s audience, what is intriguing is the great pains Alcorn goes to so that the reader understands that he really is theologically conservative, and generally conservative on social and political issues. This point is not insignificant, as evangelicals are concerned with avoiding a liberal label. Alcorn argues that the resistance to environmentalism among evangelicals is that it is viewed as part of “the liberal agenda.” And, therefore, “What sounds socially liberal sounds theologically liberal. And, understandably, biblical conservatives don’t want to sound liberal.”

So we see the real concerns of many evangelicals:

  1. The media and mass culture don’t understand them, so they resist the media and mass culture.
  2. There is a perception that support on this issue will mean evangelicals align themselves with the wrong people.

Evangelical environmental resisters are correct on both points. I think, though, that they miss the point on each.

On the first point, it is up to the intelligent, engaged skeptic to push through the media fog and find out if the claims of the environmental movement are true. I believe they are mostly in the right direction.

On the second point, evangelicals should never be concerned that they are connected to the wrong people. They really will be “tagged.” When an evangelical stands up and says to her church that she is an environmentalists, all kinds of images will flit through the minds of her congregation. This will include Al Gore and his million dollar speech. It will include fuzziness about Rachel Carson and DDT, failed climate accords like Kyoto, extremists like PETA covered in blood on the street, and a general sense of the “liberal” world.

But evangelicals claim to both serve and emulate the “man of no reputation.” The first concern is truth, not that our hands get dirty. Like Jesus, telling the truth may find us friends with lepers and liberals.

That’s sort of the point, actually.

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H. P. Lovecraft, C. S. Lewis, and Me.

An engaging and personal essay by Stephen Hayes, where in a journey of discovery “Perelandra restored an equilibrium in the world of my imagination.”

The Oddest Inkling

Here is a guest post by Stephen Hayes, a regular reader of this blog. It is a highly personal, spiritually-autobiographical story about his individual experience. If any of you readers would like to offer a post on Lovecraft and Williams, I’d be interested to hear a pitch.  

tree huggerCONTRIBUTOR BIO: Stephen Hayes was born in London’s East End in 1955 and studied medicine at Southampton 1974-1979. He worked for some 20 years as a Primary Care Physician and is now an Associate Dermatologist and skin cancer diagnostics educator. He blogs about skin cancer and less often about C S Lewis. He is a long-term fan of C S Lewis, and his first (Amazon kindle) novel Darwin’s Adders: A Chronicle of Pagan England 2089‘ was written after the thought came to him one July 2009 morning: ‘What if, in That Hideous Strength, the bad guys had won, and…

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“The Grail: Cup, Stone – Santo Caliz? – and the Inklings?” by David Llewellyn Dodds

As I add one last little paper to our ‘baker’s dozen’ of contributions, I look back on them, and the comments by many and varied further hands, with gratitude and delight. It seems appropriate that I return to a central part of the subject of our first contributor, Suzanne Bray, which has, of course turned upon regularly throughout the series, whether, for example, in Emily Austin’s account of her cover design, or Grevel Lindop’s of Williams’s early epic ‘treasury’ of materials and plans: the Grail. I do so in a shorter but broader, updated variant of a paper in one of the later issues of The Charles Williams Society Quarterly which have not yet been added to the trove of 127 so handily available on their website.

David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor

In a very interesting letter of 26 September 1960 to the late Father Peter Milward (1925-2017), C.S. Lewis’s writes, among other things, of

“the (really senseless) question ‘What is the Grail? ’ The Grail is in each romance just what the romance exhibits it to be. There is no ‘Grail’ over and above these ‘Grails’.”

This in the context of proposing

“The whole (unconscious) effort of the orthodox scholars is to remove the individual author and individual romance”,

after having remarked,

“We have a number of romances which introduce the Grail and are not consistent with one another. No theory as to the ultimate origin is more than speculative…. Each story is told by an individual, voluntarily, with a unique artistic purpose. Hence the real germination goes on where historical, theological, or anthropological studies can never reach it – in the mind of some man of genius, like Chrétien or Wolfram.”

To take those two, Chrétien’s unfinished Perceval and Wolfram’s Parzival, how mutually consistent, or not, may they be? Chrétien describes the “grail” as “made of fine, pure gold” set with “stones of many kinds”, “the richest and most precious” in the world, while Wolfram calls the “Grâl” itself a “stein” – but what does ‘stone’ mean, here?

What might be called the main French tradition from at least Robert de Boron on, which continued into English, most notably in Malory, saw Chrétien’s Grail as the Cup of the Last Supper. So, for what it is worth, did Wagner in his Parsifal (already admired by the 16-year-old Lewis). And, this seems Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of Wolfram in his 1909 lecture, “The European Mysteries and Their Initiates” as published in English translation in the Michaelmas 1929 edition of Anthroposophy: A Quarterly Review.

Some, however, have taken Wolfram’s ‘stone’ to have nothing to do with that Cup and to designate something quite different – such as Otto Rahn, whose Crusade Against the Grail (1933) caught the approving eye of Himmler (ultimately with deadly result for Rahn). And A.E. Waite, in typically cryptic fashion, in The Secret Doctrine in Israel (1913), discussing the stone Schethiyâ , inscribed with the Divine Name and cast by God into the abyss to form the basis and be the central point of the world, says that it is

“like the lapis exilis of the German Graal legend, for it appears to be a slight stone”.

I suspect Charles Williams is playing with this, in making his second novel published, Many Dimensions (1931), a sort of sequel to its predecessor, War in Heaven (1930). These have only one character in common, Sir Giles Tumulty, but in the former a sort of prophecy is spoken of him by Prester John in terms of the Graal Cup which seems to be fulfilled in the latter in terms of the Stone from the Crown of Solomon – a Stone which is also said to have been set in a Sword wielded by Charlemagne.

Thus Williams playing with Grail Cup and Grail Stone seems very quietly to unite the Matters of Britain and France, with Solomon in the background, as he is (in other ways) in more than one mediaeval Grail romance – notably in Malory (something Williams will take up in his Arthurian poetry later in the decade, with another relic, the Ship of Solomon).

In 2003, Michael Hesemann published a book, unfortunately not yet available in English translation, Die Entdeckung des Heiligen Grals [The Discovery of the Holy Grail] – fortunately, he has very kindly supplied me with a lucid brief English summary of its matter. He notes that in Parzival,

“Wolfram calls the Grail a ‘stein’, which can mean both, a stone or a stone vessel in mediaeval German”,

and, of a description in Book 9 of the poem, that this

“resembles the presentation of both forms of the Blessed Sacrament by a priest” – pointing to the Grâl there being “a Mass chalice of stone”.

He further argues (without neglecting unique artistic purposes) that both Chrétien’s and Wolfram’s romances are concerned with an actual stone Cup now set in gold adorned with gems which has a very good claim to being indeed the Chalice of the Last Supper.

It is housed in the Cathedral of Valencia and known in Spanish as the Santo Caliz. Michael Hesemann is not the only scholar who has recently studied it in detail: it is also the subject of St. Laurence and the Holy Grail: The Story of the Holy Chalice of Valencia (2004), by Janice Bennett. Both of them can be seen in a 2015 documentary focusing on her work: The Chalice of Valencia, in the series Raiders of the Lost Past (UK)/Myth Hunters (US), which is attached below.

The movements of the Holy Chalice in Spain over many centuries are described in detail in various sources, and it has had its adventures in recent ones. For example, on the morning of 21 July 1936, shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Cathedral authorities in Valencia decided that it was prudent to bring the Holy Chalice into hiding. Elias Olmos Canalda, the Archivist Canon of the Cathedral, together with another of the clergy, both disguised, helped a laywoman, Maria Sabina Suey Vanaclocha, to bring it, wrapped in newspaper, to her house – three hours before the Cathedral was indeed attacked, looted, and set on fire, with iconoclastic violence, but also with concerted efforts to discover the whereabouts of the Santo Caliz – a veritable “attempt on the Graal” (to apply words from War in Heaven) – meeting, however, with no success. On 28 July the Republican Government declared the confiscation of all religious property. It was open season on the ‘Grail’, indefinitely.

The Holy Chalice was variously hidden – for example, under the cushions of a sofa – and in a secret compartment of a wardrobe (!). But, when two more “attempts” were made by vigorously searching its guardian’s house, it remained undetected (and later spent time in hiding at more distant family locations). So it continued in safety until the end of the war, after which it was, once more, thanks to its faithful guardian, in the words of Professor Dr. Salvador Antuñano Alea,

“solemnly given to the chapter on Holy Thursday, April 9, 1939, and was installed in its reconstructed chapel on May 23, 1943”,

the Fourth Sunday after Easter that year, when all those using the Roman Missal were united in prayer to God Who

“callest us to have part in that One and Most High Godhead Which is Thyself”.

While the fine details were presumably not publicly known until after the end of the Spanish Civil War – with Como Fue Salvado el Santo Caliz de la Cena: Rutas del Santo Grial desde Jerusalén a Valencia by Elias Olmos Canalda only published in 1946 – the attack on the Cathedral, and quite possibly also the return of the Holy Chalice and its reinstallation, would presumably have been in the news, in England as well.

But – tantalizing question! – did any of the Inklings ever read or hear anything of the Santo Caliz?

Tolkien’s first meeting with Roy Campbell would seem a likely opportunity for it to be discussed. He wrote to his son, Christopher, on Sunday, 6 October 1944 (Letter 83), “On Tuesday at noon I looked into the Bird and B. with C. Williams” – and “found Jack and Warnie already ensconced” with someone who turned out to be Campbell. This was followed by an evening together in Lewis’s rooms on the Thursday. He says, “If I could remember all that I heard […] it would fill several airletters.” But while the details of the Spanish Civil War which he notes include Campbell finding “St. Teresa’s hand with all its jewels” on a general’s table, after it had been looted – and abandoned in hasty retreat – there is no mention of the Grail. Then again, that does not mean it was not discussed.

In any case, I have not yet encountered any positive reference to the Santo Caliz by Williams, Tolkien, Barfield, Dyson, or the Lewis brothers (or any other Inkling). But perhaps someone else has – and can enlighten the rest of us.

Meanwhile, we might recall an earlier sentence from Lewis’s letter to Peter Milward:

“I think it is important to keep on remembering that a question can be v. interesting without being answerable and one of my main efforts as a teacher has been to train people to say those (apparently difficult) words, ‘We don’t know’.”

While we can also apply this to the identification of the Santo Caliz with the Cup of the Last Supper, and as a source of Grail romances, we can recall as well Archdeacon Julian Davenant both saying (War in Heaven, ch. 3),

“In one sense, of course, the Graal is unimportant – it is a symbol less near Reality now than any chalice of consecrated wine”

and also (in a style reminiscent of the Lady Julian of Norwich) praying (ch. 4),

“Ah, fair sweet Lord, […] let me keep this Thy vessel, if it be Thy vessel; for love’s sake, fair Lord, if Thou hast held it in Thy hands, let me take it into mine. And, if not, let me be courteous still to it for Thy sake, courteous Lord; since this might well have been that, and that was touched by Thee.”

David Llewellyn Dodds has edited the Charles Williams and John Masefield volumes of Boydell & Brewer’s Arthurian Poets series, the first while President of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, living at and looking after The Kilns. His most recent publication is “‘Tolkien’s Narnia’?: Lit., Lang., Saints, Tinfang, and a Mythology – or two – for Christmas”, in Tolkien Among Scholars (Lembas Extra 2016). He is currently editing  Charles Williams’s Arthurian Commonplace Book, and an early cycle of Arthurian poetry, The Advent of Galahad,  for publication (with tortoise-like slowness, if not steadiness).

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Resources on David Lyndsay’s Cult Classic “A Voyage to Arcturus”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a scathing review of David Lindsay’s trippy SF morality tale, A Voyage to Arcturus (1920). C.S. Lewis loved this book–and so does genius actor Paul Giamatti, according to the rather peculiar, subtly hypnotic, and mildly offensive video book review by this film crew guy.

My post succeeded in getting some pushback from readers who love this book, and I’m still hoping someone will do a guest post as an evangelist for the book. Though I admitted it had its evocative moments, in the bizarre twists, unclear philosophical underpinnings, and atrocious use of adverbs, I probably underrepresented its artistic qualities.

Fair enough: if you would like to counter-argue and make a win for this century-old cult classic, my blog is open to you.

Through facebook discussions, blog comments, and a little internet sleuthing, some resources have come forward. One resource that I had forgotten about was Vakula‘s 2015 album, A Voyage to Arcturus. Vakula is a Ukrainian experimental electronic musician and composer, and interprets Arcturus with an unusual synth-pop/house melodic soundtrack including–and this is essential, I suppose–some 70s retro feel and some super-duper space sounds. Vakula has named each track after the book chapters, which helps us imagine the connections. Almost equally as weird as the book, it could be that Vakula will have more listeners than Lindsay has readers this year.

When I say the 70s vibe is essential, it is because of a resource that I had no idea existed. In 1970, B.J. Holloway directed a film version of A Voyage to Arcturus, based on a screenplay adaptation of Lindsay’s novel by himself and Sally Holloway. According to David Lindsay historical site, Violet Apple (a gem of a website), this super weird film was a student project made up of actors from the among students and faculty of Antioch College. Antioch has produced two Nobelaureates, but the filmmakers are not on that list.

This is intensely low budget, and very weird. It looks like the special effects were made by slightly disturbed children at an experimental school. There is a generous amount of nudity–and I think a rolling, tumbling love scene is meant to capture a spiritual phenomenon in the book that even a low-budget film couldn’t create special effects for–but there is less nudity and violence than the book. With the reader warned, the film really is an attempt at a faithful adaptation–though much briefer, of course–and as it is filmed in black and white, it just can’t capture the brilliant colours of this book. Props to those students–now senior citizens–who worked so hard to bring Arcturus to the screen.

As the book is out of U.S. copyright, there is a Librivox recording by Mark Nelson (who has volunteered to do a lot of fantasy reading for Librivox). You can find it here, but it is also on youtube. Rafi Simcha has also read the book aloud (see here). Props to the volunteer reader for giving voice to this obscure book from the past.

There is also a BBC dramatization from 1956 (lost? see here and here) and a couple of attempts at operas. You can see a whole list of popular and artistic interpretations of A Voyage to Arcturus in the Violet Apple index. The Violet Apple has a list of “Names in A Voyage to Arcturus,” which gives some analysis to one of the things that Lewis loved (and I was less excited about): the strange place and character names. You can also find the short article, “Four Approaches to A Voyage to Arcturus” there, since I was not able to help readers much on the meaning side of things.

Finally, a resource that makes me unusually happy: David Lyndsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus was a guilty pleasure of Yale über shock critic, Harold Bloom. As we have already seen, Bloom would not be alone as a great thinker who loved the book. Added to C.S. Lewis and Paul Giamatti is J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman. Whatever else his critics have to say about him, Bloom is not afraid of fantasy–though his canon is largely bereft of it.

In his The Western Canon, while predicting what books will become canonical in “the Chaotic Age” (the 20th c.), Harold Bloom includes A Voyage to Arcturus. And, of course, he may be right. In his criticism, Bloom says that,

[Arcturus is a] “remorseless drive to death, beyond the pleasure/pain principle… It is that singular kind of nightmare…in which you encounter a series of terrifying faces, and only gradually do you come to realise that these faces are terrified, and that you are the cause of the terror” (Harold Bloom, Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism, 208, 215).

Almost the last straightforward representative of Romantic quest literature we have is the extraordinary prose romance, A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (first published in 1 920), in which every antagonist to a Promethean quest is presented as being another form of pleasure (Harold Bloom, Yeats, 89).

And although I don’t know Bloom’s source, Vital Apple has this Bloom-Lindsay chart that’s worth sharing:

More than critical interest, though, the hint that Harold Bloom really loved A Voyage to Arcturus is that his only attempt at fiction was a continuation of Lindsay’s vision. In 1979, Bloom published The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy. According to the scrupulous editors at Wikipedia, Bloom later hated the book, paid his publishers not to print any more copies, and said, “If I could go around and get rid of all the surviving copies, I would.”

That claim alone makes me want to read it … provided Bloom’s use of adverbs is better than Lindsay’s.

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