Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Subtle Advice

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)
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Read Shelfari page here.
I had read Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights, for you Brits out there) when I was in sixth grade. Even at this time, I aware that many Christian groups slayed the book because of its antagonist, the Magisterium, supposedly having great similarities to Christian churches. Pullman describes the Magisterium   as capable of using both murder and spiritual murder to achieve what it desires-its main activist, Mrs. Coulter, has a certain affinity for killing others, and the organization establishes a camp of sorts where children are mechanically separated from their souls. Being a child with copious respect for authority, I decided not to continue with Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy after Golden Compass. Time has given me a more rebellious streak, however.
      And because of that rebellious streak, I have been able to come  a conclusion: As far as the second book of his trilogy, The Subtle Knife, is concerned, His Dark Materials does not concern modern Christianity in any manner whatsoever. It deals with something else entirely
     But first, the plot: Lyra Belacqua has done a hell of a lot in her twelve years on Earth. She's helped armored bear Iorek Byrnison attain his rightful place on the throne of Svalbard Island, flown over the frozen North with aeronaut Lee Scoresby, escaped near capture by the Magisterium, and walked into another world by means of a window her Uncle Asriel forged. Said window has transported her to the world of Cittágaze, where amorphous beings called Specters haunt the streets, stealing the souls of humans below (they almost resemble dementors from Potter). Here is also where she meets Will Parry, who happens upon Cittágaze by chance after fleeing from our own world. Together, they find themselves in the middle of the greatest war ever fought, a war described by explorer Stanislaus Grumman as such:
"There are two great powers, and they've been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side from the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit."
       Many claim that "those who  want us to obey and be humble and submit" are the Christian churches. As you may imagine, there are multiple problems with this proposition, the first being that if a Church simply wants its followers to "obey and be humble and submit", why in God's name would one defend it so? Keep in mind that if this was all humanity ever did, I'd probably be learning how to hunt rather than use logarithms (I honestly can't decide which is more fun...). Yes, I'll agree that churches did make their followers obey and be humble and submit  for an epoch in history, but that was when Charlemagne, Galileo, Newton, and Copernicus lived, not Pullman and Einstein. That was more than a century ago. Additionally, the Protestant denominations openly supported science and other "heretical" phenomena during the Scientific Revolution, when the aforementioned oppression was most apparent.
      No...a force that wants its people to obey and be humble and submit would look more like this.

       Yes, Totalitarian  Rule.
       Rule where information (as in this case, the concentration camps where thousands of Jewish, Catholic, and disabled individuals perish each day) is held from the people at all costs. Such is a society where insubordination to the ruling power means death or an experience just as pleasurable as death. Such is a society where opinions contrary to the reigning are silenced in the most barbaric way possible-burning the papers that carry them. In modern times, quite a few countries in the Middle East still hold to this form of government or a variation of it. China and other Communist states also by some measure participate in such oppression.
     Additionally, a war between these forces does not just occur in the political world. Many people hold the belief that if certain knowledge does not exist, the problems that said knowledge concerns do not exist as well. Some do not read the newspaper each day to attain an ignorant mirth. "No news is good news." Well, that is not the point of life. The point is to acknowledge that there are problems in the world, whether they concern you or not, and try to live as happily as possible within their limitations. Pigheaded it is to block the true problems of the world from one's mind, because even in your little microcosm of earth, problems will still exist....smaller problems on top of the haunting knowledge that the larger problems indeed exist
     Problems will exist in the world of obeying and humbling and submitting, so it is better to know more and be wiser and stronger.


  1. I don't typically say I refuse to read a book because of religious themes or something like that. But I won't read this series. I am sure it is a good one, but when it comes with an agenda- I am not interested.

    This time- the fuss was based on fact. I usually stay out of this stuff, but the author was interviewed as saying this was his purpose in writing the books:

    I am sure it is a well written series, but one that comes with too much baggage for me.

  2. Good for you Umo!I also refrained from reading those due to all the hype around them. I recently read them this year and I think they are amazing. Also, I beleive that the 'churches' huge campaign against them (I am a Christian) is a bit ironic. Aren't they proving that they are how Phillip Pulman says they are; and acting as the books protray them? Kind of funny.

  3. @Coranne No matter what the author's intention was, The Subtle Knife didn't seem like a crusade against Christianity to me. I honestly don't think, in any case, that an author's intention is solely what determines the message readers extract from his books. Isn't it ironic? Also, I think reading books with that kind of "hype" is a good thing for all of us. If the books we read challenge what we believe, then our belief can only grow stronger. In that spirit, I can't wait to start The Amber Spyglass!

  4. I haven't read any of those books-not becuase of hype, up until reading this i was unaware of any hype other than seeing a comerical advertising the movie. I actually just couldn't focus and did not have the patience. but that was about 4 or 5 years ago. I might try again. Now that i know it's controversial, well, anything banned by authorties is good.

  5. Hmm..sorry to dissapoint you. When I read the trilogy, several years ago, I honestly believed, like you, that the author's criticism was unbiased and only directed at totalitarianism and theocracy. But Pullman himself put me off when he said "his books were about killing God". Some have called his books "atheism for kids", I'd call it "Nietzsche for dummies"
    Of course, on can it interpret it in different ways, but the author made no effort to conceal his point.

  6. Ah but as Plato said, "Books are immoral sons defying their sires."

  7. Logarthrims are more fun than hunting. PETA never got mad at anybody for math.


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