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Nadine
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Free Will or Destiny

[ Edited ]
Free Will and Destiny

Another important theme I see in The Golden Compass (again there may be more to this later on) is the question of free will vs. destiny. I found it curious that Pulman mentioned that Calvin had become Pope, though it was only casually mentioned in passing. But I think it might have some relevance to the story. In fact I think there are many casual and overlooked references that might have a lot of relevance.

So I did a bit of web research on Calvin because I didn't know too much about him. Some of it goes into deeper aspects than I'm really prepared for right now but I was able to find this statement that might sum up an important aspect of Calvin's viewpoint that might have strong relevance to HDM.

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Calvin and Predestination

Calvin defines predestination as "God's eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each [person]. For . . . eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others." So predestination is an act of God's will through which God elects or chooses those whom God calls to faith and thus to eternal life, and through which God chooses those who will not receive faith. Other theologians have seen in predestination only a positive calling to eternal life. Still others have seen it as God's foreknowledge of who would choose faith.
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This casually mentioned fact may be important to what seems to be one of the central themes of this book and possibly the series.

My reading of this was probably best summed up by Shakespeare:

When our deep plots do pall: and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,--

In this story, Lyra is a free and unpredictable person who acts very spontaneously and randomly. Her major goal in this book is to save her friend Roger from the Gooblers, a task that she approaches with great determination. But her actions seemed to be pre-ordained, not by an all-seeing god. Oedipus had the same problem. The more he tried to avoid his destiny the more he brought it about. Lyra has ignorance on her side and acts in her own free way.

==============SPOILERS=================

Yet, her very effort to save him and in her most random way brings about her planned destiny in the long run and her deliverance of Roger into the hands of Lord Asrial, which is necessary for his immediate needs and her ultimate calling.

An interesting question here is whether there is truly free will or if the actions of the characters are all preordained.

Message Edited by Nadine on 09-04-2007 11:47 AM
Distinguished Bibliophile
Nadine
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Re: Free Will or Destiny

The deeper I get into The Golden Compass the more important the theme of Free Will vs Destiny seems to become.

It kind of gets me thinking about the Adam and Eve story again, and this story seems to ultimately be an important part of this trilogy. Did an all knowing and all powerful God preordain (or at the least pre-know) that his creations Adam and Eve would eat the fruit of the Tree Knowledge or did they do so by an act of Free Will?
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maxcat
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Re: Free Will or Destiny

I think there is a lot of free will in this book as Lyra pushes to save the children up North. She is also destined to do that and save her uncle who is in jail.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Nadine
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Re: Free Will or Destiny


maxcat wrote:
I think there is a lot of free will in this book as Lyra pushes to save the children up North. She is also destined to do that and save her uncle who is in jail.




I am finding this a bit ambiguous and confusing as well. Harry Potter had the same situation. Both these children had a predetermined destiny as revealed in a prophecy, but it was important that their means of getting there was determined by their own free will. I think Dumbledore had some sort of explanation where a prophecy was not a certainty but trying to prevent it made it a certainty. I think his example was that by making certain assumptions Voltemort marked Harry as the chosen one and thereby made it so. I don't know exactly what he said or now remember where he said it but I think it was something like that.

I'm not sure how Lyra's situation is going to play out. Right now all we know is this little tidbit:

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And they have spoken of a child such as this, who has a great destiny that can only be fulfilled elsewhere--not in this world, but far beyond. Without this child, we shall all die. So the witches say. But she must fulfill this destiny in ignorance of what she is doing, because only in her ignorance can we be saved.
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Right now Lyra appears to me to be a random element. She has reached this place at this time purely by chance and circumstances--unless the Alethiometer is controlling her moves.



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Nadine
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Re: Free Will or Destiny: The Prophecy

I posted this in the chapter reading section for Part 2 but I wanted to bring it over here because it looks like there is lot more developing on this topic in Part 3 and I suspect a lot more will happen in the rest of the series. It now seems more appropriate for this section.
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The Prophecy

This is the second time we have heard that Lyra's destiny is significant, she is to save the world, she must not have help but must discover the way by herself. The Master first mentioned it to the Liberian. Now we have the Witch consul who knew of the the prophecy and knows that Lyra is the "chosen one." (do I see an HP parallel here?). The interesting addition is that it was foretold long before Lyra was born.

Chapt 10, page 176
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"The witches have talked about this child for centuries past," said the consul. "Because they live so close to the place where the veil between the worlds is thin, they hear immortal whispers from time to time, in the voices of those beings who pass between the worlds. And they have spoken of a child such as this, who has a great destiny that can only be fulfilled elsewhere--not in this world, but far beyond. Without this child, we shall all die. So the witches say. But she must fulfill this destiny in ignorance of what she is doing, because only in her ignorance can we be saved."

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Now it comes up again in the long dialog in Chapter 18 and it seems to relate to the free will vs destiny topic.
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Nadine
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Re: Free Will or Destiny: The Prophecy

The Prophecy, 3rd statement

On page 309-310, in the conversation between Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala, the book gives us The Prophecy for the third time--and of course with a bit more information. It still doesn't really settle the question of Free Will vs Destiny. In fact they seem very much entwined.

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Seafina says--
"This child is destined to play a part in that."

"You speak of destiny," he said, "as if it was fixed....this child seems to me to have more free will than anyone I ever met. Are you telling me that she's just some kind of clockwork toy wound up and set going on a course she can't change?"

"We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not," said the witch, "or die of despair. There is a curious prophecy about this child: she is destined to bring about the end of destiny. But she must do so without knowing what she is doing, as if it were her nature and not her destiny to do it. If she's told what she must do, it will all fail; death will sweep through all worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life...."

"Lyra is carrying something of immense value, and it seems that the fates are using her as a messenger to take it to her father. So she came all this way to find her friend, not knowing that her friend was brought to the North by the fates, in order that she might follow and bring something to her father."

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Farther along on page 315, Sarafina makes a comment to Lyra that is reminiscent of Dumbledore and Harry Potter: "...you cannot change what you are, only what you do."

I'm sure all this will clear up later on but now it seems Fate is in control because of a prophecy that predestines Lyra to do something, but it has to be of her own free will, and that act will end Fate forever!



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Eldarion
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Free Will or Destiny

In seminary this debate rages all the time. I have always been of the opinion that free-will and destiny can, and DO, exist at the same time. Lyra's destiny is laid out for her from the beginning of the book. However, no one is making her do it. She is a very free person, free to do whatever she wants. It just so happens that certain people know what is going to happen to her/what she's going to do. In her free-will Lyra can, and does, do whatever she wants; there are those, though, who know what her destiny truly is.
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