Tag Archives: northern lights

“Northern Lights”, (“His Dark Materials”) by Philip Pullman – The Liberty of Thinking 2

2. On Mind Tricks, Lyra’s Oxford, Northern lights, Daemons and Dust

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“The trick […] is not minding that it hurts.” David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia”

I must confess I haven’t seen this movie, “Lawrence of Arabia”… The quote caught me from within Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, and wrote it down -as soon as I could- on one of Pullman’s Trilogy’s first cover pages, without knowing at that time the “rational” reason for doing so. It just felt right, as some sort of meta-communicative bridge between worlds hiding within their cores the same thought-old questioning of our own origins. And even if clarity/ transparency may lack from the wrapping crust of these worlds, or even if the movie quote may fail to show at first glance any bridge-likeness, the fact remains: mankind has become a conditioned mass of cyborg-like creatures, endlessly repeating irrelevant but more and more convincing mantras aimed at numbing the hurtful obsession about “why does it have to hurt”? Because you see, facts demand factual explanations, and since hurtful pain IS fact, it cannot be dealt away by tales made in the twilight shadowed rooms from above Vatican’s even darker archives…

Lyra’s Oxford resembles way too much to the labyrinthical corridors of all earthly powers, where feverish minds decide what’s “heaven’s” best for us, somehow always forgetting to ever ask for some sort of delegation of interests and authority, from those in whose names they pretend to be acting.
Interesting enough, Lyra’s private “little” world seems to have stretched from grim sculls hiding catacombs, through servant swarming kitchens and robe hanging wardrobes, to her favourite heights, innocent little fiddler on the rooftops of unseen -soon to be cut open- new dimensions…

Northern lights have been my life-long favourites, being utterly convinced of their angelic origins. They were -all through the religiously devoted period of my life-, dimensions transcending robes of angels, standing guard at the gates of forbidden worlds. The more time went by, and the more I watched pictures and documentaries about them, the more my convictions became stronger, in spite of condescending looks from my rather scientifically trained friends and colleagues. Regardless of my own theological training, little have I known prior to reading Pullman’s trilogy, that in Lyra’s Oxford “experimental theology” is the equivalent of science, with a seemingly clearer understanding of the much more personal -than thought- forms and identities of the unseen…

It is truly relevant to notice that Pullman settles the first part of his Trilogy in a world he seems to be knowing more about than his/our own “scientific” one, shown throughout in the detailed understanding of the intimate relationship between men and their daemons, which must be stemming from depths where few have ventured, and even them, fringe-landers of a rather psychoanalytical sort…
Humans, witches and armoured bears, all have in common either their daemons, or as revealed about armoured bears, their longing for them…
Pullman’s lexical choice for naming the soul-entity of these characters, bears the true mark of any revolutionary with a cause-flag worth bringing its bearer right in the middle of ecclesiastical crossfires, because nothing rings a more unpleasant set of bells than the word “daemon”, archenemy of any New Testament heaven daydreamer, even though the original benevolent concept gained its ill famed “contemporary” meaning in the inquisitorial crucibles of Christianity…
The daemon is one’s very own, inner being, that part of all of us from where sometimes congruent, other times divergent thoughts emerge, usually our “opposite sex” side, with which we should learn to communicate in a much more intelligent manner than the occasional curses thrown following a missed hammer hit… Lyra’s horror reached its climax every time she saw a person without a daemon, exactly because of the tormenting thought about the loneliness awaiting anyone without this perfect, most intimate match for their souls, soul-mate(s) indeed…
Unfortunately, humans have forgotten to communicate with their own depths, arriving at the (painfully well-known for many) dead-ends of themselves, condemned to what some have called “cosmic loneliness”, desperate remoteness of psychotic existences, treasuring what’s left to them: scattered anti-depressants smelling of dirty sock and condoms used long ago, desperately stuck to bottoms of filthy drawers…
Pullman has done what not many dared before him (except for denominational protesters and others alike…), that is to free himself and all those ready to follow his heroic example, onto the liberty of thinking his own (not anyone else’s) thoughts about both his private and also his collective existence…
Lyra’s second name, Belacqua, regardless of any Dantesque echoes, means “beautiful water”, which makes an absolute portrait of not only Lyra’s translucent, “heart on sleeves” character, but also of its adaptability to extremes, impossibility of containment outside something truly suitable, with metaphoric hints at this beautiful water’s vital role, to become much clearer by the Trilogy’s end.
Having said these, I’ve arrived at this all important, yet utterly secretive meta-existent entity called Dust. I apologise for the rather more confusing than clarifying just-previous attempt to pre-define Dust, calling to my defence nevertheless, no other than the Trilogy’s author himself, who in a recent interview about an approximate date for the publishing of his next, final follow-up volume, confessed that in this volume everything concerning Dust, shall become clear…
And if the author’s own life-line thrown unto all who still struggle to understand this all-important entity/concept still lays half-length in his hands, I shall do no more than stating for now, that Dust is existence itself, both before and after it rose to different levels of consciousness, cause and effect shaper of everything seen and unseen.

(to be continued…)

Philip Pullman, “His Dark Materials”, “The Golden Compass” – The Liberty of Thinking 1

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1. Introduction

his Dark Materials”, would have been my original title’s twist on Pullman’s own naming for this centuries changing, monumental trilogy.
It’s always rather complicated to explain emotionally driven decisions in a world where “law” has become a pathetic replacement of politically correct mathematics, yet the twist is something imposed by our deliberate reduction to a child’s limitations; but by who?
Milton’s famous line bears the mark of a both personal and -for that time- social respect for a divinity inherited far and remote from any “sacred” text, agnostically unknown therefore, feared and revered not for anything “he” has provenly ever done, but for something “he” could supposedly do if hurt in his quest for his own “glory”, built all over nearly any earthly religion upon the blood, sweat, agony and death of infants, children and adults, high on monstrous pedestals of an ever unmerited, torturous attitude, called “god’s love”; and as for such, I decided to refrain my majuscules respect within the use of “his…”.
Hoping by now to have been forgiven by my reader for the rather lengthy preamble, I shall disclose the dichotomy forcing me to write what I hope to progress into a longer series eventually leading to a book, about what I -again- hope to become a -as much as possible- comprehensive attempt to make Pullman’s trilogy clearly understandable even to those who by the nature of their own allegiance to systems of thought uprooted by, would hopefully be drawn to reading it (or about it, as it often happens first…), and thus be given the chance to exercise their true, liberty of thinking…
This dichotomy of mine stems from my own, former theological training combined with two decades of (hyper)active Christian faith, shattered to painfully sharp slabs of hurting memories; all these and my newly discovered liberty of thought…
“The Golden Compass” (originally published in the UK as “Northern Lights”), is not a compass at all, to begin with…
Lyra’s “instrument” is truly less than a north-pointing compass, yet so much more; it is as it’s Greek borrowed name reveals, a measurer of truth.
Yes, I know, have mercy on me by forcing me not to derail into the age-old dilemma of what exactly is “truth”, because I don’t want to end-up establishing the hot-bed of some new religion of “love”, providing incentives of fertility for the always ready seekers of holy reasons to behead, chop, cut ‘n further punish “heretics”…
The alethiometer is a worlds transcending pointer into the true content of anything asked about, regardless of who the inquirer, and who or what the object of the inquiry, is.
Made by “people”, incapable of choosing between inquirers, allowing access to otherwise hidden truths to either the skilled by “nature” or to those by “trade”, this strange tool isn’t at all the central theme of the trilogy’s first book, as suggested for some by its title.
The alethiometer is nevertheless a first clue into what the book is all about, namely the standard for truth. Pullman’n genius resides in a rare capacity of transforming stereotypes into the measurable reason for acting them, as brilliantly shown later in the trilogy by Lyra’s astonishing reassurance at finding out through her velvet wrapped “toy”, that Will is a “murderer”, judging as all should do, with a child’s remnants of innocence, that this truth combined with her own heart’s analysis of Will’s “that something” about him, means she should trust him in spite of all circumstantial facts and appearances.
For those of you who hopefully haven’t have had the chance of seeing the movie before reading the book(s), please refrain from doing so -in spite of its awesome cast, play & all-, because unknown to many, the producers, probably driven by some unusual religious tolerance, decided to emasculate the movie of the novel’s clear and healthy anti-Christianity message, reducing thus the whole, to a eunuch’s attempt to join a male choir’s baritone stand, before he’d open his mouth… The trilogy’s clear message is exactly this: that men are nothing less than victims of an ongoing, cosmic conflagration, where the parts fiercely compete over exclusive ownership rights of a species wrongly thought of as slaves, having no other inter-dimensional rights and duties besides the glorification of the one(s) to be found at the end of the boot(s), eternally smashing the broken teeth from behind their bleeding, boot(s) kissing lips; and where Christianity’s magisterio-inquisitorial boards are supposed to be the agencies translating all these as “god’s love”, ultimately leading to a redemption of which everyone knows everything, yet actually nothing…
Having -quite lengthily- said all these, let me remind my honourable readers, that even though my writing might resemble a rather academic book revue, it’s never been my true intention to write any such, regardless of how much -given it’s nature- should it look like one.
What you are about to read, is actually a manifesto calling for a new, well deserved liberty of thinking, based upon the very first literature wrapped philosophic attempt to provide humans from all existence’s dimensions with the field guide to regain a dignity so deeply lost at the bottom of their lives’ depths, that nothing else less than the utmost desperate attempt to destroy the “authority” usurping their throne within, would be just the pathetic carrying out of a death sentence involuntarily signed with the blood spilled from the severed ends of their own, umbilical cords…

(to be continued…)