Is His Dark Materials Gnostic?
Maybe if Metatron has a lion head people would like him more.
His Dark Materials is often brought into the fold of “Gnostic” or “Gnostic-inspired” modern works, as the likes of The Matrix and Don’t Hug me I’m Scared. Putting aside that Gnosticism is increasingly seen with skepticism by academics as an umbrella term for wildly disparate early forms of Christianity, the books do have features of the “Gnostic stereotype”:
- The Biblical God is an impostor, literally just someone saying he is God when he is low on the cosmic totem pole. If a real God exists in HDM remains to be seen, but you can see Dust as a more abstract take on God, more in line with the esoteric religious texts branded as “Gnostic”.
- Knowledge is highly prioritized, both in the form of truth over lies and acquiring information over the nature of the universe. If you see Dust as the real God then the fact that knowledge is obtained through objects that interact with Dust makes the parallels more clear.
- A curious underrated parallel: in some “Gnostic” texts, Archons are weaker than enlighted humans. In HDM angels, being made of Dust rather than flesh, are weaker than human beings period.
However, a major theme in His Dark Materials, primarily in the final book/season, is to live your life to the fullest, to embrace the physical world and its experiences. This runs counter to the Gnostic stereotype, which instead goes the opposite way and advocates extreme aesceticism and rejection of the physical. While not universal, I think its safe to say that most historical “Gnostics” would probably shake their heads at this ethical hedonism take on life.
In conclusion, I don’t think His Dark Materials is a “Gnostic” work, but there ar einteresting parallels and Pullman was almost assuredly aware of this.