Jewish date: 28 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Toledhoth).
Today’s holiday: Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).
Worthy cause of the day: “Support the Breast Cancer EARLY Act! - The Petition Site”.
Today’s topic: The last nine chapters of The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman and the trilogy as a whole.
WARNING: SPOILING WITHOUT SHAME OR REGRET.
Having completed reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, I have concluded that the author concentrates on depicting Christianity as evil to such an extent that he is careless in other aspects of creating a story. As such, there are a number of serious problems with no evident solution. Some of these are difficulties in the way Metatron, a megalomaniacal angel who has taken the reins of power, behaves. To point these out, I have been inspired to compose this list:
The Top 18 Things I Would Do If I Ever Became an Evil Angel Overlord in His Dark Materials:
- I will not take 300 years off my age. It does not impress anyone.
- I will have an official representative in every world and will not tolerate the sort of illogic and incompetence demonstrated by the Magisterium of Lyra Belacqua’s world. I will not tolerate my servants creating public relations nightmares through torture and experimentation which no ethical review board would ever approve. Neither will I tolerate infighting. I may be evil, but I can do without power-hungry megalomaniacs as servants.
- I will have a thoroughly modernized spy network present in all worlds so my enemies cannot do anything behind my back.
- I will keep up-to-date on all prophecies, and I will act on them early and often. I will not give twerps, such as Lyra Belacqua, a chance to become dangerous.
- I will take possession of all items which are a potential danger to me, such as the Subtle Knife, and not allow them to remain in mortal hands any longer than absolutely necessary.
- I will have a well-funded research and development program so I can smite my enemies with superweapons they have never even dreamed of and have no defense against. This includes finding new ways to kill rebel angels.
- I will not doom the dead to a miserable existence in the dark being insulted by harpies. The idea of suckers rotting there is amusing, but if word ever gets back to the living about it, all mortals will realize they have no reason to obey me since they will end up in the same place no matter what they do. Therefore there will be a real Heaven and a real Hell, and whoever obeys me will go to Heaven and those who disobey me will go to Hell. And I will make sure everyone knows about this to put the fear of me in them.
- The waiting area to take the dead to the afterlife will have a staff of friendly angels who will return home living people who reach there by accident. This makes for good public relations.
- The boatman who takes the dead to the afterlife will be armed and given standing orders to kill immediately anyone still living demanding to go to Heaven or Hell and take their soul straight to Hell.
- Given that Lord Asriel’s plan is to wait for me to attack him and that I am immortal and he is not, I will not attack him but rather will wait for him and the rest of the mortal contingent of his forces to die. A few decades is nothing for a being several thousand years old.
- I will have the Magisterium of Lyra Belacqua’s world deliver up to me everything they can find of Lord Asriel’s. That way, if Lord Asriel gives even the slightest hint that he will attack, if possible I will take advantage of Pullman’s misinterpretation of quantum entanglement and blow Lord Asriel and everyone in his fortress straight to Hell without ever having to get anywhere near him.
- If Lord Asriel gives me even the slightest hint that he will attack and I cannot obtain anything I can use to blow him up through quantum entanglement, I will land the Clouded Mounted on top of his fortress and press it down, literally crushing the opposition.
- I will not trust Mrs. Coulter under any circumstances. Her heart is full of deceit and lies, and while she may be exceedingly desirable, there are myriads of women out there who are just as desirable who have no desire to kill me.
- If for any reason I do go off with Mrs. Coulter, under no circumstances will I go off with her alone. Rather, I will take a dozen heavily armed and well-trained troops with me so I have a fighting chance of dealing with whatever she has planned.
- I will not send off a small number of unarmed angels to hide the Authority. I have the Clouded Mountain, a massive fortress. If Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry want to kill him, they will have to penetrate the Clouded Mountain, which will be staffed by heavily armed and well-trained angels with standing orders to shoot on sight all mortals who do not have a valid pass.
- I will strike down and send straight to Hell all beings who make use of any device powered by rebel angels, e.g., an alethiometer or Mary Malone’s device to talk to Dust.
- I will strike down and send straight to Hell all people who suddenly decide there is no God for absolutely no reason, e.g., Mary Malone.
- I will strike down and send straight to Hell Father Gomez for his idiotic idea that the mulefa moving about on seedpod wheels is evil, Satanic, and against the will of God. Nowhere in the Christian Bible is there any such sentiment, and in fact Ezekiel 1, which includes a description of the four-wheeled Divine Chariot, should be proof enough that moving around on wheels has Divine sanction. I will take credit for the idea of wheeled creatures and bask in the approval of everyone finding them cool.
Image of theologically incompetent atheist author Philip Pullman via WikipediaPhilip Pullman keeps the theological train wreck plowing a path of destruction until the very end. Metatron walks into an obvious trap, lured by Mrs. Coulter, and she and Lord Asriel have a Darth Vader moment and redeem their sorry selves by fighting him and dragging him down into the Abyss. Lyra Belacqua/Silvertongue and Will Parry accidentally kill the Authority by opening his crystal capsule in and attempt to save his life; he literally falls apart and is blown away. What happens to Metatron and the Authority, of course, does not even vaguely resemble anything that could possibly happen to the God of Christianity. Mary Malone “plays the Serpent” by sending Lyra and Will off on their own to look for their missing dæmons; the adventure turns into a picnic/date. They definitely end up falling in love, kissing, and cuddling, with implications of sexual intercourse. (I cannot make this up. I would not dare make up anyone doing it that young.) This apparently has the beneficial effects helping healing the worlds, but as the Fall goes, it is lame and untenable. There is no disobedience of any direct order from the Deity not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, nor does Mary ever suggest violation of a such a direct order. Nor is making love mentioned in the original story as prohibited. The botched equation of angels = consciousness = Dust/dark matter = original sin is never resolved. The utter stupidity of Mary Malone and Father Gomez has already been mentioned in my list. The reward of the dead remains to go happily(!) on to oblivion. The Magisterium never rises above the vaguest resemblance of actual Christianity. And very importantly, the ultimate source of prophecy is never revealed. In short, religion in His Dark Materials is a poor reflection of religion in real life. Final theological grade for the trilogy: F, with a strong recommendation that Philip Pullman be banned from theology until he recants and stops making up paranoid fantasies.
I would also like to note that His Dark Materials is supposed to be the atheistic answer to The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. It is not. The Chronicles of Narnia is a set of seven books in which the characters and situations are used to discuss and present Christian ideas. There is no atheism-bashing in Narnia. His Dark Materials, on the other hand, is full of religion-bashing. Furthermore, The Chronicles of Narnia is actually set in a Christian world, e.g., Aslan is Jesus and Tash is Satan. His Dark Materials, however, is not truly set in an atheist world; it is set in a world run according to militant atheist conceptions of Christianity, only rigged so that divine beings can be killed. By focusing on the alleged perversity of a transparently fraudulent Christianity, Pullman utterly fails to show us what beauty there may be to atheism or show us that Christianity is wrong. While The Chronicles of Narnia can be easily read as “just a story”, ignoring the Christianity, His Dark Materials is so filled with hate that reading it purely as entertainment is difficult, to the point where I was glad that at the end young lovers Will and Lyra would be separated forever. The great atheist story may yet be out there, but His Dark Materials is not it.
Also: More commentary on His Dark Materials is available at “His Dark Materials - Television Tropes & Idioms” and “The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked”.
Next up: I made a decision to write a review of the Matrix Trilogy after His Dark Materials, so I am in for some serious self-torment very soon. There are a few items associated with His Dark Materials which I may review (almost certainly negatively) at a later date, though I have to get my hands on copies first.