Thursday, 5 September 2013

Lucifer

In Poul Anderson's "Kyrie" (Going For Infinity, New York, 2002), human beings have named a space-dwelling energy being "Lucifer." The woman who telepathically communicates with Lucifer, thinks:

"They named you better than they knew, Lucifer, she wanted to say, and perhaps she did. They thought it was a joke; they thought by calling you after the devil they could make you safely small like themselves. But Lucifer isn't the devil's real name. It means only Light Bearer. One Latin prayer even addresses Christ as Lucifer." (p. 351)

I did not know about the Latin prayer. When I was Master in Charge of Religious Education at Bentham Grammar School in the single academic year, 1980-81, an English Teacher asked me why the Devil should be called the Light Bringer. I added, "...when he is also called the Prince of Darkness?" A Geography Teacher who was a Bible-reading man was present but did not comment. My only answer at that time was that "Lucifer" was supposed to have been his name before he fell. (I have since come across "Samael" as a pre-Fall name.)

The answer that I realized later was that, in a sense, darkness is the light bringer because light is recognized as such only by contrast with darkness. "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it..."

It is appropriate to compare Poul Anderson with other writers of powerful fantasies. In a work by Alan Moore, male witches conjure the Original Darkness that was before the Creation, believing that it will destroy Heaven, but, when the Hand of the Darkness emerges from Chaos and advances through Hell, fomenting demonic civil war, a Hand of Light descends to clasp it and the Taoist symbol for the interpenetration of opposites appears in the eye of the psychic witness to these supernatural events.

In Neil Gaiman's sequel to Alan Moore's work, Lucifer Morningstar retires as Lord of Hell and, amazingly, Mike Carey, presents a series about his subsequent career. But, returning to writers of prose fantasy and sf, James Blish tells us what Satan does after the death of God. As before, I urge fans of Poul Anderson also to read James Blish.

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