Forty years ago, the eminent literary critic Harold Bloom published a fantasy novel titled The Flight to Lucifer, which by most accounts—the author’s included—is a poor piece of work. Evident in the book is the influence of David Lindsay’s 1920 novel A Voyage to Arcturus, a work that Bloom claims “infected me personally with more intensity and obsessiveness than all the works of greater stature and resonance of our time.” Michael Weingrad argues that Bloom’s novel might best be seen “not as a weak rewriting of Lindsay but rather as a failed struggle against” another professor of English literature-turned-fantasy writer: C.S. Lewis.
[In a 1982 book], Bloom holds up Lindsay as a counter to the [self-consciously Christian] fantasy writers known collectively as the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. [His] argument amounts to a preference for romantic rebellion to religious tradition. . . .
In The Flight to Lucifer, Bloom, [like Lewis in his Perelandra], attempts a kind of rewriting of Genesis. His planet features versions of the biblical flood, the tower of Babel, and Nimrod the hunter, but with a familiar Gnostic twist: the biblical God is actually a satanic demiurge, and the characters who defy his authority are emissaries of truth. Unfortunately, in Bloom’s hands, these Gnostic inversions are repetitive and dramatically sterile. . . .
Judaism does not come out much better than Christianity, by the way, at least if Bloom’s portrait of Lucifer’s Mandaeans, “this fearful, narrow, aggressive remnant of a people” consumed with “the common quarrel about possession of land,” means what I think it does.
All in all, The Flight to Lucifer is less of an homage to Lindsay than an anti-Perelandra. And yet, despite Bloom’s intentions, it demonstrates that what Bloom calls “Promethianism” is, well, kind of narcissistic. It turns out that Gnostic rebellion is not especially interesting, at least in Bloom’s dramatization; it seems rather adolescent and self-obsessed. . . .