Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Golden Compass and Da‘ath Torah


Jewish date:  7 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Lekh-Lekha).

Today’s holidays:  Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of Gerard Encausse and Feast of Karl Johannes Germer  (Thelema).

Worthy causes of the day:  “Change We Can Believe In” and “Reject Torture and Support the Closure of Guantanamo Bay!”  Also relevant is Names of the Dead.

Topic 1:  Chapters 16-20 of The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman.  Pullman’s notion of the soul gets even stranger.  Mrs. Coulter, the primary antagonist, temporarily has heroes Lyra and Pantalaimon in her clutches, and she gives some explanation of what the point of intercission (separation of human and dæmon) is supposed to be.  Allegedly at puberty the dæmon gives the human bad ideas and thoughts, and intercission, cutting the bond between human and dæmon, prevents this.  This suggests that the dæmon includes the libido.  This is further confused by Mrs. Coulter’s contention that the severed dæmon can be kept as a sort of pet and Lyra’s suspicion this is the actual situation of some of the staff of the General Oblation facility; this does not seem to correspond well to what happens in real life when someone is subjected to surgery which may greatly impact libido.  There is also a bear who is interested in acquiring a dæmon of his own in an effort to become more humanlike and even be baptized by the Church.  I really hope Pullman clears up these difficulties, because so far his conception of the soul is very confusing.

Topic 2:  “Interview with Professor Lawrence Kaplan”.  This interview deals with da‘ath Torah, a(n Orthodox) Jewish view which in its extreme form holds by blind faith in rabbinical authority—even beyond Jewish law—especially blind faith in the authority of specific rabbis.  Such a view is very controversial and arguably very recent.