Deacon Andrei Kuraev (1963- ), professor at the Moscow Theological Academy (MDA) and popular preacher
“Some Orthodox Christians fought the appearance of the Harry Potter books. Now, another fantasy series for children has appeared. This is the Dark Materials cycle by Philip Pullman, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. The first of these books has been filmed under the North American title, The Golden Compass. These are supposedly fantasies for children with a religious undercurrent. As was the case with The Chronicles of Narnia, the books address the topic of religion, Christian life, and the Christian faith, only they take an opposite tack to that shown in the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis”, according to Deacon Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Moscow Theological Academy and popular Orthodox preacher. In this interview by Interfax-Religion of Deacon Andrei conducted by Aleksei Sosedov, Fr Andrei discusses the relationship of The Golden Compass to the trilogy Dark Materials, the thoughts from the book which were incorporated in the film version, the film itself, and how today in the West an anti-Christian ideology is being created and propagated.
Fr Andrei, what kind of impression did The Golden Compass produce in you?
Fr Andrei Kuraev
Before us lies a frankly satanic fairy tale. It is sufficient to open the last page of the book where it describes the farewell of the children to one another as they disperse, each to go their own way in the world. They sum it all up in the following words to one another. “The celestial reign is finished, it no longer exists… what shall we build (to replace it)? A celestial republic (on earth)”.
Nikolai Bukharin (1888-1938), one of the early Old Bolsheviks, executed by Stalin in the Great Purge
Why don’t we ask ourselves why English literary critics did not notice the similarity in the thought of Philip Pullman with that of Nikolai Bukharin? In the first issue of Voinstvyushchy Bezbozhnik (The Militant Atheist) in July 1924 we see an article written by Bukharin. He stated that the Soviet republic should shout the following to the skies, “As is known, the Russian proletariat toppled the crown of the tsar. It not only toppled his crown, he lost his head… In a word, do not be in doubt about the following proposition: It is a risky matter to wear the crown. Heaven is not what it appears to be… Throughout the world, the idea of God is still very strong… it must not be allowed to live further! It is time to reach for the heavenly crowns, to shout for reason to the heavens. It is necessary for us, first of all, to shout out atheistic proclamations, for our great revolution proceeds from this. True, the theists have their army, and, even, as they say, their police. The names of their leaders may vary; some say it is St George the all-Victorious, or others, the cavaliers of the Order of St George. Their hell is a real field court-martial, the Okhrana, and the torture chamber. But, what is that to us? Have you ever seen such beasts upon the earth? Therefore, comrades, we shall state our demand: we repudiate autocracy to the skies, we shall remove the gods from their temples, and we shall deport the gods to corrective labour camps, and we shall drag the main gods as the main authors of all our misfortunes before the proletarian revtribunal to face justice”.
Pullman writes his atheistic fairy tales with the same intensity and enthusiasm. It amazes me that the Orthodox commentators who sought satanic undertones in Harry Potter (and found none, I might add) did not do likewise for this frankly anti-Christian author, who, in numerous interviews, acknowledges a complete hatred for everything found in the Bible. I recall that in the case of the Harry Potter books, the author acknowledged after the seventh and final book that she was a Catholic, and that she knew from the very beginning there would be Evangelical Protestant misgivings about her books. She made no mention of her faith in order to not scare away her childish readers. This is a very important observation regarding our contemporary society. The Christian author must hide her convictions, whereas the atheistic writer flaunts his!
Is there anything you can say regarding the film version of The Golden Compass?
Fr Andrei Kuraev
Philip Pullman (1946- ), author of the Dark Materials cycle
The film version of the first book (The Golden Compass) has an important nuance. Both in the book and in the movie the main enemy of the children is the Church (“Magisterium”), but, in the movie, the church that the children fight against has frankly Orthodox signs. The church the children move through is recognisably Orthodox, with Vologda frescoes and icons. There is another difference between the book and the movie. According to the book, amongst the allies of the church, and by that it means the enemy of the “common good”, are a people called Tartars who live in Siberia. Moreover, the book divides these people into those living in “Siberia” and a place called “Moskoviya”. However, in the film they are not differentiated, and all the infamous “Tartars” who fight against reason and oppose good people speak Russian.
What we see before us is an extremely obvious example of frank anti-Orthodox and Russophobic propaganda being spread throughout the Western world. It exceeds in enormity the scene with the drunken astronaut in Armageddon. We should show these scenes to our schoolchildren, to warn them abut how anti-Russian black propaganda is done in the contemporary Western world.
I shall say that the most surprising aspect of the book was the contemptuous attitude of the author towards the children themselves. In the myth that Pullman creates, children are defective humans. That is because there is no sexual longing amongst them, they are only passive “fishing nets” until sexual passion begins to seethe in them. Pullman asserts this explicitly in The Amber Spyglass. For Pullman, the motive in his myth is a “gold dust”, clearly borrowed from Star Wars, which is the spark behind human creation and development. It is amazing to see in a children’s writer an identification of children with inanimate objects.
Pullman has not one good or objective word to say concerning the faith, history, or life of the Christian Church. In the second book, The Subtle Knife, one of its heroes gives a précis of twenty centuries of Christian history:
“Over the course of its entire history… the Church attempted to choke and take under its control all natural motivations. If it did not succeed in this, it then attempted to eradicate them… There were churches where children were cut… their sexual organs were mutilated. Da-da, boys and girls alike, their organs were cut by a knife so that they would lose sexual stimulus forever. This is how the church, any church, I say, acted. If there is a war and the church is one side, we must be part of the other, battling side-by-side with whatever unexpected allies we find (in order to win)… War is at hand. I do not know who our allies are, but, I do know who our enemy is”.
Pullman lays before us a concept of total war, one that is indiscriminate both as to allies or as to means employed. It begins with slander, pure and simple. Pullman portrays himself as a Gnostic, and here it is worthwhile to point out that the Gnostics had a fierce hatred and opposition to marriage and child-bearing. Specifically, their doctrine forbade its adepts to enter into marriage and beget children. The Church fought them on this point, defending the right of mankind to earthly love. Today, in the fairy tales of Pullman and Brown, all of this history is turned on its head. According to these modern authors, it was the Church that opposed marriage and human love, and they allege that it was the Gnostics who glorified the sexual element of human life.
It is possible for us to find much meaning in the specific slander spread in this particular fairy tale. Whenever one says something uncomplimentary concerning Islam or Judaism, the censors of the politically correct world tremble. This case of undisguised hostility towards the Christian faith and Church troubles them not at all.
As is well-known, the so-called Gospel According to Judas was written by Gnostics. Recently, a documentary film on it was shown on Russian television…
Fr Andrei Kuraev
The film you mention is anti-Christian and it is not true to the scholarly evidence. First of all, it is misleading because the viewer does not learn from it the essence of the Gnostic heresy. It does not mention the radical anti-Semitic elements in the Gnostic doctrine (for it denied the entire Old Testament Scripture), the Gnostic repudiation of all law (both the religious Jewish law and natural law), the extreme Gnostic rejection of the entire material world, the Gnostic perversions concerning the creation and end of the cosmos, and the vehement Gnostic hostility to marriage and the conception of children. According to the Gnostics, the material world was fashioned by an evil Creator; hence, it is necessary to flee from it. Thus, there is a key phrase in the Gospel according to Judas, “the world is equal to Hell”. However, this is not pointed out in the film. Without this key phrase, the request of Jesus (in this corrupt text) to Judas “to help him get rid of this body” is incomprehensible.
This film is made in an appealing style of pseudo-historical reconstruction, it implies that this was, indeed, the reality, but, later, priests distorted it. There was money to be made in making this presentation, and it passed onto the screens of televisions all over the world. What shall we call those with a hatred of Christianity who have money and access to the media, who cover themselves with the mask of “spirituality?” In the past, there were groups of this description in Western élite circles such as the Freemasons. Today, they are those who are in charge of information and media channels.
In your view, do you agree with the proposition that the cash-box determines which the “best film” is?
Fr Andrei Kuraev
Anything that hits below the belt shall always attract a wide audience. Since there is an absence of serious material on television, what remains for the average viewer is the surrogate passion of sport and Comedy Club.
4 February 2008