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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: Digest urth.v030.n120
Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 08:41:05 

on 5/25/01 8:27 PM, Alice Turner at pei047@attglobal.net wrote:

> I think, though, that the Authority
> did create the world (this world--which?); he is the Demiurge, who is
> nowhere given much credit for anything good.

No.  "Balthamos said quietly, '...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....He told those who came after him that he had
created them, but it was a lie.'" (TAS, 31-32)  So the Authority is not the
Demiurge, because matter pre-existed him.

Actually, the Authority is "lower" even than that.  Dust is not the first
conscious matter, as I mistakenly stated in my earlier post; it is brought
into existence by conscious living beings.  (TAS, 451; this is the passage I
couldn't locate in my previous post about how the vanishing of Dust would be
the end of consciousness.)  So the angels, including the Authority, are
dependent for their existence upon fleshly consciousness already existing.
Angels are lower, not higher, than humans in Pullman's cosmology, reflecting
his high valuation of matter (see TAS, 375; also a passage I can't find at
the moment, where somebody talks about how much the angels wish they had

> The difficulty comes in
> then saying, with Nietzche, that God is dead. Which god, then, and if he
> is dead, is this not a good thing? (I sound like Martha Stewart.)

As far as I can tell, there is no God in Pullman's world.  The Authority
dies on pp. 410-11, and yes, it's a very good thing (even for the
Authority).  And the absence of God also seems to be portrayed as a good
> What bothers me far more is that though she makes the
> choice to part from him ostensibly under Free Will she seems actually to
> be bullied into it. And I *really* don't like the implication that
> Original Sin is averted by the physical impossibility of loving young
> sex. (Much as the kids on the fan fiction site thrill to the romantic
> sadness of it all.)
> But I
> still do not see why they must be parted except in the more distasteful
> religious terms. As an adult. I wonder what the kids who love the
> romantic sadness are thinking. If they are thinking. Pullman is such a
> good writer that I suspect he has them feeling without thinking. Just
> Say No is an awfully stupid slogan and I hate to see it applied to
> Original Sin.

Okay, now I see what you meant by saying you objected to the Eve thing on
moral and religious grounds.  But I think you have hold of the wrong end of
the stick.  The cosmic choice, the choice it is Lyra's destiny to make and
must make freely, is not the choice to give up Will.  It is her choice to
love Will and show her love.  The Church's values are the opposite of
Pullman's, but the Church can read the alethiometer; and according to the
Church, it is Lyra's giving into "temptation," not her rejection of
temptation, which will lead to the triumph of "Dust and sin." (TAS, 68)  And
since Dust is good, and the Church is bad, Lyra's "temptation" is good.
Recall also that the Dust, speaking through Mary's computer, tells Mary she
must "play the serpent," which she does by telling Lyra of her love affair
and awakening Lyra's sexuality.  Original Sin is not "averted": in Pullman's
metaphysics, it doesn't exist.  The "Fall" is good, since it leads to
greater consciousness: recall the mulefa's story of the serpent.

Granted, Pullman muddies the waters by requiring Lyra and Will to make
another decision later, in which they do have to resist "temptation"; but,
as I discuss below, if they make the wrong decision at that point, it will
not destroy the world.  And reading the end of Chapter Thirty-Five, in which
Lyra and Will express their love (TAS 470), it's clear that _this_ is when
the world is saved.

> Eli wote:
>> That didactic purpose I can appreciate, but he weakens it by forcing
> the
>> story.  He tried to set up "Cold Equations"-style plot mechanism which
>> threatens global disaster to _coerce_ Will and Lyra's decision --
> rather
>> than letting us see what their own wisdom leads them to decide.
> That's
>> a lesser story.


>> I remember that my reading experience when I hit this was not one bit
>> high-mindedly didactified, but was on the same mechanical level as his
>> setup: but but but the Dust ecology is not at risk, because brief
>> openings don't leak on the scale of the natural influx we've seen, and
>> creating Specters is no problem with a little help, since the angel
> has
>> said she can deal with those.  If it had occurred to Will and Lyra
> that
>> the obstacles were not absolute, they could have gone on to ask more
>> interesting questions: what if everybody did it?  are we special, to
>> justify it?  And the question Pullman didn't dare to ask them: even if
>> we can, should we?
>> In a way, he did quite right.  I don't know that they would have
>> answered the way he wanted.  The honest story, I want to call it
> though
>> I really shouldn't, might be a tragedy.

But the decision that Lyra and Will have to make at the end is not to close
up all the windows: the angels tell them to do this.  The decision they have
to make is to resist the temptations, first for one of them to go to the
others' world and have ten years of happiness and then death; and then to
use the extra Dust they will create to keep a window open for themselves
instead of keeping their promise to the dead.  These decisions they do make
without being coerced by threats of cosmic disaster.

(I'm not saying I find this part of the book well worked out.  Your
objections are valid.  Also, it makes little sense for Xaphania to first
tell Will that there is a way he can learn to travel to other worlds, which
will take him a lifetime to learn; and then say that they can't leave any
natural windows open because if they did, Will would spend a lifetime
searching for it (TAS, 494-495).  And come to think of it, couldn't Xaphania
leave one natural window open, and then tell Will where it is?  I'll have to
go back and look at the readerview discussion, because the more I think
about it, the stranger Pullman's insistence on their separation seems.)


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