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The Philosophical System of These Dark Materials

The Philosophical System of These Dark Materials

WARNING: the article contains spoilers on the HBO series His Dark Materials just aired on Sky!!

In this wild abyss,
Nature’s womb and perhaps her grave,
Neither sea, nor earth, nor air, nor fire,
But all these mixed up at conception
Confusingly, and therefore always in conflict,
As long as the almighty creator orders them
And these dark matters to create other worlds,
In this wild abyss the cautious devil
He stands on the edge of hell and in the meantime observes,
Pondering his crossing…

John Milton, Paradise Lost

His Dark Materialsthe HBO show that has just reached its final epilogue with a great series finale, takes its cue from the writer’s trilogy of fantasy novels Philip Pullman. The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife e The amber telescope are the foundations from which Jack Thorne left to write the screenplay for These Dark Materials. A complex and passionate series, perhaps too underestimated by both critics and the public. Appearing for the first time in the US and in the UK in the autumn of 2019 – it would have arrived in Italy on January 1, 2020, on Sky Atlantic -, the HBO series has just left us with a third season which confirmed all the magnificent potential expressed by the previous chapters. The story begins as the classic bildungsroman, starring a girl who goes on the trail of her missing best friend and comes across magical creatures, adventurers, talking bears, mysterious objects and sensational discoveries. The journey becomes an opportunity for look inside and put yourself to the test, feel your spirit and push it beyond the obstacles encountered on the way. Lyra Belacqua she is the heroine of a fascinating and provocative saga. She is uncomfortable too, because she invites us to get agitated and to rediscover ourselves as subversive, romantic.

His Dark Materials is not just a wonderful fantasy story designed for kids. It’s a whole sensitive world that moves restlessly and lets itself be discovered little by little.

His Dark Materials (640x360)
These Dark Materials (640×360)

It is a profession of faith that makes the demolition of dogmas its main stimulus. It may seem like a paradox, but it’s not. His Dark Materials it should be read and analyzed on several levels of reading. It is an extremely work stratified, to be decoded one piece at a time, one level after another. The extraordinary adventure imagined by Pullman is a journey towards the conquest of freedom, the strenuous search for the affirmation of free will on the barbarism of superstition. In These Dark Materials there is aAuthority who rules the world – it would be more correct to speak of worlds – and that he would like to keep individuals subjugated and submissive. The Magisterium it is a kind of political and religious entity that governs the lives of men and that exercises what is in all respects one theocratic dictatorship. The Authority demands blind obedience to its dogmas imparted from above. The investiture of power comes directly from God, it cannot be questioned and must be accepted by all without reservations. The worst obscurantism placed at the service of an entity that manipulates minds and aims at the pervasive control of the social and cultural life of society. But when it turns out that the Authority is none other than an angel like any other, who rebelled and seized power by force, the lie is stripped and made recognizable. The world is based on a great imposture, the lives of individuals are caged in a colossal deception, so that men are left with nothing but unite and rebel to regain one’s freedom and the right to self-affirmation.

The conquest of free will

The great theme of Pullman’s novels isaffirmation of individual freedom against all forms of oppression and slavery. There is no truth sure enough to justify persecutionhe said John Miltonthe author of that Paradise Lost which was the greatest source of inspiration for the British writer. These Dark Materials defends free thought, exalts doubt, takes the side of science against the rigid truths lowered from above by the Magisterium. The Authority wants to impose its vision on the various worlds, erasing free will and enslaving humans and sentient creatures. The Authority is evil and aims at the total subjection of the individual, trapped in a web of lies that he is forced to believe with blind faith. Rebelling then is no longer just a right, but becomes a duty that cannot be postponed. The champion of this rebellion is Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), a romantic figure somewhere between Tennyson’s Ulysses and Nietzsche’s superman. Traveller, scholar, explorer, Lord Asriel is the custodian of scientific thought and a staunch defender of free will. The fight against Authority has made one heretic, a subversive to be eliminated. He dedicated his entire life to the rebellion, even sacrificing his own conscience in the name of a pre-eminent and all-encompassing battle. A hero with a thousand spotsrestless and intolerant, with blood on his hands and a spirit perpetually striving for battle.

His Dark Materials (640x360)
These Dark Materials (640×360)

And yet Lord Asriel has unmasked the imposture of the Magisterium and wants to fight for the affirmation of the truth, the only one that can really make men free. There Dusta fascinating and mysterious element that settles on all the pages of His Dark Materials, is considered by the Magisterium the Original sinthe tangible cause of the evil in the world, which must be eradicated by carrying out dark experiments on children, who are deprived of their daimon and transformed into soulless automatons. Dust is actually the stuff angels are made of, what holds worlds together and stimulates human intelligence. The battle of Asriel, but also of Lyra, Will and the other characters in the saga, is aimed at defend reason against abuses of faiththe truth against the lies of the Authority, free thought against the conceptual cages in which the Magisterium wants to keep men prisoners. Our mind can make a Heaven out of Hell and a Hell out of Heaven. In Pullman’s drawing, taken from the HBO show, there is no life after death. Those who have lived embracing evil will not get the punishment they deserve, while those who have led a life of hardship and sacrifice to gain access to Heaven will not be rewarded. In this vision the declared comes out atheism of Pullman and his hostility towards forms of religious organization that aim to subjugate the individual through the diffusion of absurd and anti-scientific beliefs. Once the body dies, the human being returns to Creation in a different form. A hymn to the wildest Pantheism, which is difficult to reconcile with the theological visions of the Church.

Eve’s prophecy

His Dark Materials (640x360)
These Dark Materials (640×360)

In the Paradise Lost of Milton, a part is devoted to betrayal of Adam and Eveat the root of the Original Sin which corrupted the world. His Dark Materials starts from the biblical story for reinterpret it and overturn itprompting the viewer to wonder if that of the first humans had really been a betrayal or rather an act of rebellion to boldly assert one’s freedom. You make them of These Dark Materials they whisper the words of the prophecy he makes of Lyra the new Eve, the one who will free mankind through an act of love and generosity. With Will, the girl will defeat death by freeing the souls imprisoned by darkness and will eat the apple of the Tree, letting love triumph and free the worlds of Pullman’s multiverse. Harmony is restored through the strong bond between Lyra and Will. It will be love, more than anything else, that will save the world. The “betrayal” of the protagonist therefore consists in getting rid of the weight of dogmas and superstitions and of experiencing one’s love as an extraordinary act of courage. A subversive, revolutionary act, in which all the ideological spirit that animates this series is condensed: each individual must arm himself against the oppression and manipulation of minds and fight to build a more just and democratic societyin which every human being can find his own happiness.

The multiverse, death, daimons

These Dark Materials (640×360)

His Dark Materials is a series imbued with physical and philosophical concepts that stimulate reflection and rekindle curiosity for the questions that have fascinated man since the beginning of time: is our world the only one possible? Is there life beyond death? What will become of our souls? The depth of this show – of which you can recover all the seasons on Sky – makes the substantial coldness with which it was received even more inexplicable. The complexity of its structure, the power of its message – made even more effective by a top quality scenography, which manages to transform moods into intense and melancholic images – and the extent of the journey it forces us to undertake within ourselves, elevates this show to something more elaborate than a simple fantasy fairy tale for children. On the other hand, concepts such as the multiverse and reflections thus elaborated around the theme of death they speak above all to an older audience, able to fully appreciate them, which is why this series is a masterpiece suitable for everyone.

Along with armored bears, fairies, aeronauts, angels, and alethiometers, the most fascinating elements of His Dark Materials are the dæmons.

Each individual has one, with animal features. THE daimon – whose term comes from the Greek and indicates the demonthat is, what is halfway between the world of mortals and that of the deities – they are the closest thing to the soul that can be conceived. In children the form is not stable, but it changes because their consciousness is changeable. In adults, on the other hand, it stabilizes and personifies its true nature. kill a daimon it means devastating a person’s soul, depriving him of his conscience and his vital breath. A concept that goes beyond the simple writing of a character and that touches very deep metaphysical and philosophical meanings. It’s a shame that the true scope of this HBO series has been somewhat overlooked. Initially presented as new Game of Thronesonce landed on our screens His Dark Materials it has been almost ignored, completely underestimating its most intimate meaning. With These Dark Materials, Pullman told us a story animated by a strong ideological charge. A story that aspires to be not very comforting and that instead wants to shake, animate, inflame the souls of young readers – and then spectators – encouraged to imagine a better society to be built with patience and sacrifice, a fully secular, democratic and egalitarian society. His Dark Materials it’s a rare beautywhich therefore should be recovered immediately on Sky and saved from oblivion which it seems destined to go towards.