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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Pullman, to Adam
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 15:20:01 

on 5/27/01 2:12 PM, Alice Turner at pei047@attglobal.net wrote:

> I think he borrowed the Dark/Light thing from Mani and is playing around
> with it--it gets out of his control, though it starts really well, first
> with the epigraph and then with Asriel's photgraphs.

Well, the use of Dark/Light imagery doesn't necessarily indicate influence
from Manichaeanism--it's common enough.  In fact, I don't recall noticing
any influence of Manichaeanism in particular, though there is Gnostic

> In the Brit
> editions, apparently there are epigraphs (or maybe it's margin notes) to
> each chapter in the first two books, and he own drawings in the third.
> What a shame the US editions left these out; they might be quite
> enlightening.

Other way around; the drawings were in the first two books, and the
epigraphs in the third.  There is a website,
which has the epigraphs.  It also has the covers to the UK editions of NL
and SK, both the juvenile and adult editions (I quite like the adult
covers), but none of Pullman's drawings yet.  From my cursory scan of the
epigraphs, I'd say they're interesting but don't settle anything (a number
of them are drawn from the Blake poem at the start of TAS), but a closer
analysis might reach a different conclusion.

Incidentally, Random House didn't use his drawings because they thought it
made the book look like a children's book; and they didn't use his epigraphs
because they hadn't used his drawings, and they wanted to get the book out
in a hurry.  (The readerville discussion, message #91).  Nice to know they
have so much respect for the integrity of the books they publish.

> Adam:
>> (even if Pullman doesn't carry it through consistently:
> despite
>> the bad children in Cittagazze, most of the children in HDM are good
> and
>> most of the adults are either corrupted or at least morally ambiguous,
>> though there are some exceptions).
> Hmm. This paragraph illustrates how tangled things get. But let me
> remind you that Lee Scoresby, Will's father and the gyptians are neither
> corrupted or morally ambiguous (well, Will father is a bit strange). Nor
> are the Cittagaza adults on horseback who guard the children. The
> witches are a special case, like the angels, being simply beyond
> morality. They are certainly not corrupted, even (in the case of the
> angels) in serving Asriel or even in killing Will's father. But this is,
> once again, a place that Pullman's logic is fuzzy.

Yes, these are the exceptions I was thinking of.  But while these are all (I
think) socially marginal figures.  The adult world portrayed by Pullman is,
as a whole, thoroughly corrupt.

> I would not object to the Lyra/Eve thing if Pullman had just shut up
> about it and let us form out own conclusions. But to actually insist on
> the connection and then emphatically to seperate her from Adam as though
> THAT would simply brush Original Sin aside seems specious to me.

The separation between Lyra and Will has nothing to do with Original Sin,
since the books reject the idea of Original Sin, as I've argued before.
(Nor did the Gnostics believe in Original Sin as a yielding to temptation;
I'm surprised that you read the books as Gnostic books and still read the
ending as you do.)  And whether or not Lyra and Will have sex, they
definitely "fall"; Lyra's bringing the fruit to Will's mouth, and his
accepting it, make this clear.

> There's
> also the role of Eve as Mother of Us All, and it makes me squirm to put
> a 13-year-old in that position--see above.

Obviously Lyra can't literally be the Mother of Us All, whether or not she
has sex (and I also dislike the idea of her being pregnant).  If she and
Will are Parents to humanity, it is in a metaphorical sense: they are "the
true image of what human beings always could be, once they had come into
their inheritance." (TAS, 470)

> But for the
> sake of argument, the original Gnostic Demiurge is also mistaken in the
> belief that he was the creator. He too was messing around with what was
> already there in the pleroma.

As far as I can tell, though, the Authority doesn't even  shape the material
universe out of pre-existing, as the Demiurge did.  Our universe came into
existence by itself; the Authority just moved in and took over.

> He too lied. He was less of a creator than
> Sophia, who created *him* and who also put the divine pneuma in mankind
> so that they are greater, i.e. closer to the divine, than spirits or
> angels--Pullman follows this division, and so does Crowley. I think you
> have to admit the analogy--Pullman is not just inventing all his (dark)
> materials.

I wasn't aware of that fact about Gnosticism, and it is an interesting
commonality.  But for Pullman, humans are above angels not because they
contain the divine pneuma, but because they are flesh.  I would argue that
HDM is not Gnostic, although it's influenced by Gnosticism (of course, the
waters are muddied by the fact that "Gnosticism" was not a term any of the
people we think of as Gnostics ever used; it was applied by later

> I think this may be true, both parts of it. If cornered, Pullman might
> refer to the Alien God, though I suspect he may personally be an
> atheist, as is Crowley.

In the readerville discussion, Pullman says he personally doesn't believe in
God (message #65).  And I, myself, don't recall any evidence of the Alien
God in the books.

>> 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.
> I just can't buy that either. A young teen falling in love is not making
> a choice, she is giving in to little dancing hormones.

Agreed that Lyra is not making a conscious choice between innocence and
experience, as it seems to me that Pullman's theme really requires.  But she
does make a sort of choice, in showing her love to Will by giving him the
fruit.  And for the reasons I've given before, it is this choice which is
the cosmic choice she is destined to make.

I think the internal evidence is clear, but I have external evidence as
well.  In the readerville discussion I referred to earlier, Pullman says:
"Temptation: I've been asked this question a lot, or a variation of it. The
event is signalled as clearly as i could without making it ridiculously
overt. Mary in her marzipan story is giving them the information they need
to progress to the next stage of their development. It isn't represented as
transgressive because in the mulefa world growing up was never seen as a
loss, but a gain: their story of the snake and the wheel shows that. Mary is
told to play the serpent, and in that world, that means bring wisdom. And
next day she actually gives them some fruit, and it's fruit that Lyra lifts
to Will's mouth, knowing exactly what it will mean. The signals are all
there." (message #31)

> I'd forgotten about that
> Mary/serpent thing, but that seems entirely too muddled to me as well.

This seems pretty straightforward to me, once you recognize that here
Pullman is using a Gnostic version of the myth, in which the serpent is the
good guy because he encourages Adam and Eve to gain the knowledge the
Demiurge hid from them.

>> 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.)

Rereading the readerville discussion, it seems to me that Pullman wanted to
have his lovers tragically sundered, but didn't succeed in creating a
situation where this would follow naturally, so resorted to the dice-loading
we see.


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