Phillip Pullman is such a Gnostic

Forget atheist.  Seriously, this is a work about mysticism and Gnosticism. It's not anti-religious at all.  He might be against the idea of the Church, but the spirituality he evokes is much deeper.

Here are some connections I've come across recently while looking deeper into Gnostic Christianity:


1. The Alethiometer – While reading a book on esoteric Christianity, I came across this sentence, which seems to support the whole "ladders of meaning" thing that Lyra did when she read the compass.

"A symbol has a chief meaning, and then various subsidiary meanings related to the chief meaning."

2. The very first picture from the North – It showed Dust flowing directly into the man through his daemon, just as mystics/Gnostics believe Wisdom and Gnosis flow directly into a person, with not mediation by the Church necessary.

3. "God" is not who we think he is – In the story, God was actually an angel, the first of its kind, who set up the world(s) the way they did.  This matches up almost perfectly with the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge.

4. Metatron – I wondered where that name came from.  It seemed so–odd.  But I found it last night in my reading:

"According to one accredited tradition alluded to by St. Stephen, the law was delivered 'by the disposition of angels'; according to another this office was delegated to a single angel, sometimes called the Angel of the Law (Gal 3:19); at others Metatron."

5. Will and Lyra – Lyra and Will represent the new Adam and Eve, as Pullman makes ridiculously clear.  Check out this verse from the Gospel of Phillip:

"When Eve was in Adam, there was no death; when she was separated from
him, death came. If she enters back into him, and he accepts her, there
will be no more death."

I know there is a whole lot more and I could go on and on and on, and I haven't even touched on how the concepts are the same, but this will have to do for now, because I need to get back to work. 🙂

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  1. I think you're right on the money. I've been saying this about Pullman for years…

  2. I just recently read the books. I spent almost the whole time completely enthralled by them for their spiritual implications, seeing as I heavily identify with mysticism in general. But I just started learning more about Gnosticism in particular and I keep noticing all these little tidbits of information that, for me, started when I read His Dark Materials. 🙂

  3. Milton, whom Pullman imitates and subverts, was a quasi-Gnostic himself. If you've ever read Paradise Lost, you'll notice that the Son has been demoted from being the Second Person of the Trinity to the status of some sort of demiurgic creator. I wonder if Pullman chose Milton to pick on because he was an easier target than the more orthodox poets like Dante.

  4. So you think Pullman was actually subverting the message of Gnosticism? Or am I reading you wrong?

  5. No, just that Pullman's apparent Gnosticism isn't very far from the source. He's subverting orthodox Christianity, and using some of Milton's tools to do it.

  6. Ahhh I see, thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  7. He's clearly drawn from a range of esoteric sources to create a deeply thought provoking allegory and a terrific story all in one. Why I never read this stuff before now I don't know, all three in three weeks – awesome. And…as a bloke I had to really control the lump in the throat and the teary eyes on the bus when reading TAS…how did that happen!! I can't walk past park bench now in the same way…

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