Friday, 14 December 2007

Philip Pullman: an odd letter

Using similar methods to those alluded to by C. S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters I have recovered the following recent letter from a senior devil to his nephew.

My dear Sneerpate,

Rumour has reached me that you are delighted that your patient’s son has started to read Philip Pullman and is going to see the film the Golden Compass. I am appalled at your enthusiasm. I see this as yet another indicator of the declining standards of the Tempters College. I suppose it is inevitable that, after generations of persuading humans that idiocy is a desirable state of mind – with some startling results – junior tempters are stupid themselves.

Do you really believe that these books or this film will ensure this child stays out of the Enemy’s hands? Oh, I can hear your pathetic answer, “Please Uncle Gnawbone, in the last book God is killed off.” And so he is. But do you really think that even the most na├»ve human child would recognise in that feeble caricature the dreadful reality about whom we can barely think without terror?

However, that is not the real issue. That is simply this; what is the price we pay for them to be tempted by such works? Oh yes, ’god’ is cast down, but those who read these books are expected to put their faith in all manner of things that human scepticism or what is called ‘rationality’ denies: magic, daemons, witches, wizards! You see what you are encouraging? Far from leading this child into the barren deserts of atheism with its insistence that the only things that exist are those that can be seen and felt, you are running the risk that this boy will develop a hunger for fantasy. Do you really not understand the danger? He may acquire a hunger for the supernatural, a longing for that which his everyday world will never provide. Fantasie is a perilous land for us. In those realms, it is all too easy for the Enemy to appear. Weren’t you strictly instructed that the safest route to the flames of our Father’s house is that wide, well populated path that shuns any hint of magic? Indeed so perilous is fantasy even when it is marketed as ‘atheistic’ that there are those amongst us who suggest that under all his many words (how these humans talk!) this Pullman is in fact an agent of the Enemy.

No, Sneerpate, keep the child from all fantasy. Indeed, better still, from reading. The Internet, with its encouragement of disorganised and incoherent knowledge and its promise of instant gratification of every whim is far, far safer. If the child must read, then let it be magazines or catalogues. A healthy taste in materialism can’t be started too early.

Your affectionate uncle

Gnawbone