Philip Pullman And The Republic Of Heaven
I discovered Philip Pullman eight years ago. And I so wished I had done so much earlier. My daughter was ten and she picked up his Northern Lights, the first of his Dark Materials Trilogy in the children’s section of the British Library. She was looking for something else like Harry Potter and she probably liked what she read on the back cover. She didn’t put that book down till she had finished it and then she said we had to read it too. What a wonderful discovery that was! We devoured his three Dark Materials books – the other two are The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, recommended them to all our friends when they were looking for something to read and looked for every book he’s written in the bookstores. (The movie The Golden Compass, based on his first book is very watchable too). Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy his other books as much as I did the trilogy but it’s unfair to compare. It was our first taste of this incredible author and obviously,those first books made a lasting impression.
Speaking of truth, one of the most interesting devices that the Dark Materials books feature is the Alethiometer which is rather like a compass pointing you to the truth. (That's why the film is titled The Golden Compass). The little heroine in the stories, Lyra, can read it because she does so instinctively. Does Heaven really lie about us in our infancy? She can’t do that once she falls in love with Will and maybe loses those clouds of glory trailing behind us in our innocence. It's another world, different experiences and yet, the feelings are so universal. The Dark Materials trilogy is all about the old order of heaven and earth passing away and a new order coming into being where the Republic of Heaven will have everyone equal, respecting one another, believing in what they like, doing what they like and living life fully. An idealistic world but what a tumultuous ride to get there.
It's a magical place he leads us into, a place where every person has an alter-ego, usually an animal that best personifies the person. It is this 'other' that makes the person complete, that brings about balance. When the two are separated, the person is as good as dead. The stories in his book exemplify this theme and make it come alive. The world is filled with good and evil people but there is a constant struggle to attain perfection and this is what makes it different. It is, on the surface, a simple children's story but scratch the surface and you'll find embedded within, the seeds of morality, of idealism and of quantum physics.
Then, this birthday, a friend gave me a gift – his latest book. I doubt most Christians will open this book, forget read it, once they see the title. I know my parents won’t, even though they are the most wonderful people alive. However, if you leave your beliefs aside for a while – a suspension of belief if you will, and read it like you would a story, it’s a wonderful read. It’s the story we all know, told with a twist and the thing is, it’s almost believable. If you were to go beyond that and think of the issues that are brought up, maybe we all have to agree that what has happened to the Church is a far cry from what the Saviour taught. You need to read it to fully appreciate it and you also need to go beyond the words to the deep meaning that the story contains. As an aside, the book was printed with white jackets and gold printing and with black jackets and gold printing. An advertising gimmick – but so relevant, I thought! Pullman wrote this book as part of Canongate’s ‘The Myths Series’.
There’s been so much in Philip Pullman’s writing that I’ve connected with. He writes in such a wonderful way that draws you in, makes you feel like you're a part of the book. Here are a few nuggets from his books, his essays and his talks. I hope you find them as powerful as I do.
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