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Written by Polly Barbour
Nicholas Dyer is an occultist whose view of both religion and those who practice it is rather dim. He is taught by Mirabilis who is the leader of an underground occult sect called the Enthusiastiks. His teachings involve the satanising of Jesus and the portraying of him as the embodiment of the devil who was not a miracle but a serpent who entered the Virgin's womb himself. As well as the Enthusiastiks the author brings in other pagan and occult beliefs ranging from ancient Druidism to the ancient Jewish Kabbalah. In keeping with Dyer's secret practice of ritual sacrifice Miribilis also introduces the sacrifice of young boys because they believed that this was necessary in order to protect and preserve the life of humanity as a whole. This theme of occultism also illustrates that the central belief systems of all religions, including those that fall under the umbrella of the dark arts, are formed on basically the same tenets and with the same figures or "gods", manifested as good or evil depending entirely on the teachings of the particular leaders or guru.
Occultism Versus Enlightenment
This is a more philosophical version of the light versus darkness argument that is as old as time itself. Dyer believes that man needs to embrace his acquaintanceship with evil and his own potential for darkness whereas Wren, the exponent of light and rationalism, believes that man shouldn't let the potential for evil into his heart and instead follow a path that will ultimately lead to the vanquishing of those evil voices; Dyer is seen as the throwback to Medieval times and Wren as the more intellectual and civilized.
The Passage of Time
Ackeogd does not believe in time as we know it - that is, time that moves forward in a linear fashion. His viewpoint is directly opposed to other writer's perceptions of time. L.P. Hartley, in his novel "The Go-Between", states that "the past is a different country; they do things differently there", presenting time as a definitive linear things that one can only move forwards away from. Ackriyd's time theme goes to great lengths to disprove this and shows time to be a series of parallel temporal zones experienced simultaneously by the different characters in the novel despite the centuries of time that separated them. It is what he calls "the perpetual present in the past" and the theme shows time to be a constant series of repeated experiences rather than linear one-off events.
One of the lesser themes of the novel is the churches of London and the way in which they were structured, not in a random way that allowed for buildings to be constructed where there was physical space for them, but constructed Jim a way that made mystical sense. For example, Dyer's churches are constructed in the shape of a pentacle star, a symbol of great importance to occultists and Medieval mysticism. Whilst Wren's churches and cathedrals were architectural wonders in their own right, built predominantly after a circular fashion, Dyer's are either mystically-shaped in of themselves or arranged in a geographical pattern that from above, seem on a map, would appear occultish and filled with symbols resonant with mysticism.
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