On the His Dark Materials series

His Dark Pharmaceuticals

By Don DeBrandt

Philip Pullman, the author of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, was born in 1946. A graduate of Oxford, he currently lives in England.

This means that in 1967–the Summer of Love–he was presumably a twenty-one-year-old university student living a short drive away from London.


Now, I don’t mean to imply he was some sort of counter-culture, tie-dyed, drug-crazed freak–but even in the cloistered environs of Oxford, he must have known a few. London was a pretty swinging place in those days, and I’m sure he spent a weekend or two immersed in the zeitgeist of his time.

From all reports it was pretty good zeitgeist . . . freely available, gave you a real strong buzz, and usually laced with all sorts of questions about the nature of reality.

The question is, did it influence his writing–and if so, how?

Light My Fire, Feed Your Head

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.”

–WILLIAM BLAKE, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Blake is one of the influences Pullman mentions in the acknowledgements for The Amber Spyglass. This quote is where the psychedelic band the Doors got their name, and was also used as a title by Aldous Huxley. The “doors of perception” are clearly the senses, but what it means for them to be “cleansed” is open to discussion. . . and if you were talking to Jim Morrison, that discussion would probably  …

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