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Pullman is a qualified atheist


Philip Pullman is an author of the renowned His Dark Materials Trilogy. The series begins with the Northern Lights (1995) followed by The subtle knife (1997), and finally The Amber Spyglass (2000). Pullman is expected to release the first of a f...Read More


~Posted on May 2019

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Pullman is a qualified atheist

Philip Pullman is an author of the renowned His D...

Philip Pullman is an author of the renowned His Dark Materials Trilogy. The series begins with the Northern Lights (1995) followed by The subtle knife (1997), and finally The Amber Spyglass (2000). Pullman is expected to release the first of a follow-up trilogy from His Dark Materials going as The Book of Dust. The book is anticipated to be published on the 19th of October 2017 going by the name La Belle Sauvage (Thornes, Robin).

The author who has time after time been able to combine various elements into his novels attracting attention from all sorts of people. Among the components, Pullman puts together include wizardry, where he adds the medieval assumption of witches and wizards owning “familiars.” Familiars are animal-like creatures which can be able to undertake duties like carrying messages from its owner the anywhere they are directed. Another element that Pullman includes is the use of human in the flesh, a soul that is represented by a daemon. In this case, he uses creatures that shift from one animal to another when one is a child and finally settles to one animal that correctly represents the personality of an individual when one gets to adolescences and lasts him or her the rest of his/her life (Pullman, The Golden Compass, The Decanter of Tokay). There is also the third representation of an individual as a ghost which may be understood as the spirit and only appears after one has died. In a way, one can interpret this as it is recognized in Christianity as an individual having the body, soul, and spirit after death. The only difference is that, in Pullman’s fiction, these human being and the daemon exist as two beings that can even communicate, agree or disagree on issues. The other difference is that the spirit comes to life when one dies and one can converse with it like in the case of Lyra and Roger (Pullman, The Golden Compass, Lyra's Jordan). The existence of these three elements is present in the Catholic theology which points out that a human being has three forms, the body, soul, and spirit linked together but distinct from each other.

Pullman’s books have been classified as fiction and fantasy. However, there is more meaning to them than the surface meaning derived. We see this when Pullman introduces Dust in the picture. We first hear of dust when Lyra with her daemon are hiding in Lord Asriel’s closet at the point where he gives a lecture on the subject. Lyra gets curious on why people are so much interested in the matter. Later on, the story when Asriel kills Lyra’s friend Roger and moves to an alternate world, her explains into details what Dust is to Lyra who follows him to this world. Asriel explains that Dust makes her alethiometer (truth meter/golden compass) work. The Dust assembled around adults and not around children because children are innocent. He explains to her about the story of Adam and Eve saying that Dust is another name for original sin or the knowledge of oneself that was first experienced by Adam and Eve (Pullman, The Golden Compass, Lord Asriel's Welcome).

It is clear that Mrs. Coulter Lyra’s mother as we later come to learn is an evil woman who does scientific experiments on young children by trying to separate them from their Daemons which kills the children. In her understanding, by severing the children from the daemons, she would be saving the children from the original sin. When Asriel separates Roger from his daemon, and the portal to a new world opens, Mrs. Coulter appears, and Asriel asks her to come along. Lord Asriel’s goal is to find the source of the Dust and obliterate it. Asriel was hoping that because their degree of hatred for the Dust is similar, she would come but she declined the offer. In Lyra’s understanding, her parents (Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel) were evil, and they both hated the dust which could only mean that dust was not evil but instead a good thing (Pullman, The Golden Compass, Bridge to the Stars). Pullman’s association of the narrative on Adam and Eve, and the original sin is a clear indication of where the story derives various elements from, and the inclusion of the dust is not by any chance accidental. Pullman apparently wanted to include God in the narrative as he is described in the bible hence intentionally using dust to represent Him.

 

In a quote from Amber Spyglass, “The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty— those were all names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves—the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are, and Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself.” (Pullman, The Amber Spyglass, Balthamos and Baruch), Pullman through a character by the name Balthamos, who is a rebel angel states that God is the same as the Dust because it is through matter that Dust is formed. The statement also presents how Pullman sees God as just matter that came together to form the dust that formed first. It is in no doubt that this is a clear illustration of Pullman’s stand as an atheist. Balthamos words limit the freedom of a reader even to consider that the use of dust to represent God was unintentional.

In the same book when Asriel sets out to destroy the dust Ogunwe says, “I am a king, but it’s my proudest task to join Lord Asriel in setting up a world where there are no kingdoms at all. No kings, no bishops, no priests. The Kingdom of Heaven has been known by that name since the Authority first set himself above the rest of the angels. And we want no part of it. This world is different. We intend to be free citizens of the Republic of Heaven” (Pullman, The Amber Spyglass, Midnight). Ogunwe is an ally of Asriel. God rules heaven according to the scriptures, and therefore dust which rules over the republic of heaven only means destroying God who rules over the heaven we know.

Pullman’s work has always been compared to that of Tolkien who also has a deep conviction of his own work. The difference between the two is the fact that Pullman talks of various worlds and even religion. Tolkien does not talk about this but instead offers reality and truth embodied in his vision. Tolkien is a devout Catholic while as Pullman is a proclaimed Church of England atheist. Their difference goes beyond ideologies.





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