Religion is a theme in many of Golding’s novels, including The Inheritors, The Spire and Darkness Visible.
The Neanderthal group worship Oa, a matriarchal goddess. Mal explains the origins of their world: ‘There was the great Oa. She brought forth the earth from her belly. She gave suck. The earth brought forth woman and the woman brought forth the first man out of her belly’.
Despite there not being any archaeological evidence that Neanderthal people followed any religion, Golding explains this by having the Neanderthals worship Oa in the form of ice women, which of course wouldn’t leave any archaeological trace. When Mal becomes ill, Fa is sent to the ice cave to ask Oa (in the form of the ice women) for help. Men are forbidden from entering the ice cave but Lok follows her and is frightened. Fa says: ‘it is too much Oa for a man’.
The child, Liku, carries around the ‘little Oa’, a root shaped like a woman with an enlarged stomach.
Matty, the central character in Darkness Visible, is physically scarred from the fire which opens this novel, but this outwardly damaged appearance hides a character of inherent goodness. He is deeply religious and in his isolation from others, he obsesses with the words in the Bible. He seeks refuge in the church and tries to pray to absolve himself of the sin of desire. Later, in Australia, he undergoes a strange baptism alone, and he seems to communicate with nature.
Matty believes that he is visited by spirits – servants of God – and is afraid, but takes comfort in their presence. The spirits tell him that he is ‘near the center of things and all things will be revealed’ (141) and he follows their instructions carefully, abandoning food and drink, and speaking. He is told that he must protect a child and in his final encounter with these spirits, he is shown a new ‘white’ spirit, which causes him to faint away. Matty, like Christ, must make the ultimate sacrifice.
Dean Jocelin, believes in, and is indeed part of, traditional Judeo-Christian religion. He is certain that he has been chosen by God because of his meteoric rise in the church and therefore, has every right to build this seemingly impossible spire. Despite Roger Mason’s insistence that the cathedral will not support the spire, Jocelin dismisses him by saying: ‘It’s God’s will in this business’. Such is his belief, he is delighted when he discovers the Bishop is sending him a Holy Nail for the spire.