Republic of Heaven
The Republic of Heaven, in Philip Pullman's philosophical fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials from 2000, refers to the idea that humans must build their happiness in the here and now, and that the official Church's emphasis on the afterlife is no more than a diversion by the powerful to repress the common people, even by the monarchical sound of its name: the Kingdom of Heaven. The idea for the Republic of Heaven was not introduced until the final volume of the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, but the reader learns of the virtues required to "build it" throughout the course of the trilogy. This results in the concluding remarks of protagonist Lyra Belacqua, when she ponders these virtues and deems them the reason for living. This idea is clearly humanistic in nature and makes the trilogy one of the few works of fantasy to dispense with spiritual themes in favor of humanistic virtues.
In the trilogy, the Republic of Heaven originally referred to the physical world that Lord Asriel was building in an uninhabited parallel universe as part of his rebellion against the Kingdom. The world was intended to be a completely free and king-less society with each person having the responsibility of creating an ideal lifestyle for themselves and others, without the control and oppressiveness of the church. After learning from John Parry that conscious life can only develop successfully in its own world, however, Lyra and Will learn that they must create the Republic at home using the ideals of hard work, cheerfulness, kindness, and patience. It is implied that it is up to each person to build the Republic of Heaven where they are, "because for us," says John Parry in The Amber Spyglass, "there is no elsewhere."
King Ogunwe once said to Mrs Coulter (in pages 210-211 in Chapter 16 of The Amber Spyglass):
|“||We're not going to invade the kingdom, but if the kingdom invades us, they had better be ready for war, because we are prepared. Mrs Coulter, I am a king, but it's my proudest task to join Lord Asriel in setting up a world where there are no kingdoms at all. No kings, no bishops, no priests. The kingdom of heaven has been known by that name since the Authority first set himself above the rest of the angels. And we want no part of it. This world is different. We intend to be free citizens of the democratic republic of heaven.||”|
Winstanley wrote (quoted in Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down):
|“||[Priests] lay claim to heaven after they are dead, and yet they require their heaven in this world too, and grumble mightily against the people that will not give them a large temporal maintenance. And yet they tell the poor people that they must be content with their poverty, and they shall have their heaven hereafter. But why may we not have our heaven here (that is, a comfortable livelihood in the earth) and heaven hereafter too, as well as you? ... While men are gazing up to heaven, imagining after a happiness or fearing a hell after they are dead, their eyes are put out, that they not see what is their birthrights, and what is to be done by them here on earth while they are living.||”|
Winstanley's ideals underpin much of the philosophy of Pullman's epic. Pullman comments:
|“||The kingdom of heaven promised us certain things: it promised us happiness and a sense of purpose and a sense of having a place in the universe, of having a role and a destiny that were noble and splendid; and so we were connected to things. We were not alienated. But now that, for me anyway, the King is dead, I find that I still need these things that heaven promised, and I’m not willing to live without them. I don’t think I will continue to live after I’m dead, so if I am to achieve these things I must try to bring them about – and encourage other people to bring them about – on earth, in a republic in which we are all free and equal – and responsible – citizens.
Now, what does this involve? It involves all the best qualities of things. We mustn’t shut anything out. If the Church has told us, for example, that forgiving our enemies is good, and if that seems to be a good thing to do, we must do it. If, on the other hand, those who struggled against the Church have shown us that free inquiry and unfettered scientific exploration is good – and I believe that they have – then we must hold this up as a good as well.
Whatever we can find that we feel to be good – and not just feel but can see with the accumulated wisdom that we have as we grow up, and read about history and learn from our own experiences and so on – wherever they come from, and whoever taught them in the first place, let’s use them and do whatever we can do to make the world a little bit better.
- The Republic of Heaven Lecture by Philip Pullman, 2000