Title: The Republic of Heaven: A Return to Mother Earth and Ancient Pagan Religions in ‘His Dark Materials’
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Sunshine Williams, University of Texas at Dallas, United States
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is primarily regarded as an attack on religion and is thought to specifically discredit Christianity. However, the novels show no signs of the cynicism expected from an apparent atheistic venture to free humanity from its faith. Instead, the series brims with uplifting themes that are traditionally religious, such as love, sacrifice, and truth. The story’s reverence for humanity, nature, and women is unambiguous and bears strong resemblance to ancient matriarchal Earth religions. Far from condemning faith, the series implores the reader to embrace more tangible sources of awe, such as the omnipotence and grace, not of a patriarchal god, but of Mother Nature. The fervent retelling of the Bibical "Fall" is a petition beseeching that we rebuke the oppressive systems of organised religion and return instead to our origins of Earth-centric symbiosis. These practices of the past were less steeped in ideology and control dramas, revolving instead around the human body’s presence within nature and the human spirit’s connection to all that is living. Though the series appears sceptical of creation myths like The Fall, it is more important to note that it is enthralled by and insistent upon humanity’s relationship with Mother Earth. The series posits its "Dust" as knowledge and the characters' daemons as embodiments of their sexuality, thereby maintaining that we are one with nature and can become conscious and connected once again.