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From: "Alice Turner" <akt@attglobal.net>
Subject: (urth) Pullman cont'd
Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 20:01:13 


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

The Dark/Light thing has been done to death in fantasy since Tolkien,
but not the way Mani did it, and not the way Pullman does it either. The
part I am thinking of in Mani is the possibility of accretion of light
particles by the elect, which they can achieve by forsaking sex, meat
and wrong-doing. *Matter,* of course, is "dark." Children are naturally
"light" (even Happy Burger-eating ones, I presume), but dark matter
(here Dust) closes in with puberty. Men can escape it to a degree by
right living (and following Mani), women hardly ever.

Pullman, the non-believer, is thus saying that this is junk. That matter
is (and sex, and maybe the Happy Burger too--he certainly puts in a good
word for whisky--yay!) worthy. That decency and kindness, not "right
living" are what count--that a witch, certainly in folklore on the Dark
side, can be noble. (Or not.)

By putting a Prot in the papacy, he is, I think, doing just what Mani
did, which is to form a syntho-religion encompassing everything handy
for him, including relevant bits of Gnosticism and Manichaeism. It's
neater for the plot. As I recall, it's the only religion on all these
worlds, except for the witches' belief in the death goddess (the real
Finnish death-goddess, slightly misspelled), but they're way out of the

This is sort of an aside, but I would think a writer like Pullman, while
imbibing his tot after a good day's work, must occasionally reflect on
his own role as Demiurge, creating worlds from the pleroma, peopling
them, and hoping that the Muse, or her daemon, will breath the divine
spark into these people.

> Other way around; the drawings were in the first two books, and the
> epigraphs in the third.  There is a website,
> www.geocities.com/the_golden_compass/index.html
> which has the epigraphs.  It also has the covers to the UK editions of
> 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
> epigraphs, I'd say they're interesting but don't settle anything (a
> of them are drawn from the Blake poem at the start of TAS), but a
> analysis might reach a different conclusion.

Thanks for this.

> The separation between Lyra and Will has nothing to do with Original
> since the books reject the idea of Original Sin, as I've argued
> (Nor did the Gnostics believe in Original Sin as a yielding to
> I'm surprised that you read the books as Gnostic books and still read
> 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.

Okay, I concede. I haven't reread even the second book all the way
through yet, and didn't take notes the first time. But wrt Gnosticism,
see above re all-purpose syntho-religion. Pullman gives us a corrupted
world, a Gnostic world, it seems useful to say, especially as he seems
so clearly concious of doing just that, and plops a barely pubescent
Adam and Eve into it, lets them have a brief honeymoon (see, I
conceded), then seperates them forever. Their coupling is somehow a
salvation, though I can't see quite how. (I'm suddenly reminded of Sev
and Apheta conceiving the New Sun). I shouldn't have harped on Original
Sin; I guess I was just annoyed at the seeming pointlessness of it.
Did you read his Liber Angelorum, up on the Random House site? I
double-checked all his references in Davidson--the man has been doing
his research!

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

I don't think Pullman wants to give religion even that much. He is bent
on sabotaging *all* religions, including Gnosticism, if we agree to call
it a religion (to be useful).

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

Yes, they are *matter.* Attracting Dust. This is Pullman's point, or one
of them.

> 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
> God in the books.

No, what I meant is if he were pressed in an interview--he has to be a
bit cagey because of the repressive nature of juvenile publishing in the
US. He hasn't yet been pressed, by kids, at least.

> Agreed that Lyra is not making a conscious choice between innocence
> 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
> fruit.  And for the reasons I've given before, it is this choice which
> the cosmic choice she is destined to make.

Conceded, or at least on hold. But what about all that pushing and
shoving by the adults?

One last thing: I saw in SFC today that His Dark Materials has been
optioned, though we all know that doesn't mean much. If -The Amber
Spyglass- beats the latest Harry Potter for some of the juvenile awards,
which it might well, there's a shot, though. In one interview, Pullman
said that his ideal Mrs. Coulter would be Nicole Kidman. Yes! Yes! Yes!
I saw "Moulin Rouge" yesterday and kept getting distracted by the
idea--she would be perfection. And what's nice is that she will continue
to be perfection for, I would venture, the better part of two decades to
come, just in case there is a delay. If you Aussies have any influence,
beg her!

(For those who care, MR is more silly fun than the critics have made it
out to be.)


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