“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

“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…)

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

  1. I read this series some time ago
    Need to take another look
    For after reading your critique
    It must have been another book

    Some chapters and pages
    I must have over flipped
    And all the hidden meanings
    Well I probably just skipped


  2. I have read the trilogy just a couple of months ago, in a very change driven period of my life, which added to my theological training, resulted in associations not easily seen at first… I know painfully well what goes on behind the secretive walls of theological establishments, this being the reason for the tone of my text.
    I am working on the next one…


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