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And Now for Harry Potter
by Alan G. Hefner
Recently I have read some articles written about Harry Potter, the newest worry of these Christian ministerial writers. I write this with tongue in cheek because at my age I can remember when reading of the comic book heroes like Superman, Batman and Robin, and later Spiderman, or watching their adventures on TV or in movies would lead us straight to hell. Somehow we all escaped to become mostly good citizens and many churchgoers too; but these kids and adults involved in this Harry Potter phenomenon won't. This Harry Potter thing is something new; it involves witchcraft and the occult, very dangerous things according to these learned ministers.
Mind you, I have not read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies. This article is just on the observation of a sensation that seems to be giving Christian ministers grave concern and my own knowledge of Witchcraft. Not having read any of the book I am not justified to critically judge them, but they must be pretty exciting to keep kids reading for hours on end; reading spans on the average are currently pretty short. I excuse myself from criticizing the movies for the same reason, but movies are made to make money, so all possible thrills and excitement are added.
Further observations indicate that many of these ministers start by saying they have prayed to God for guidance in delivering their message, and you have to pray to him to help you interpret it in his discretion. This is the nice way of saying that the message is to be delivered and received in Christian terms.
One article wasted no time in saying the Harry Potter books dealt in witchcraft and the occult. Next, it is stated that the Bible forbids anyone to practice witchcraft and any of the occult activities such as a soothsaying, interpreting omens, conjuring spells, or being a medium or spiritualist, or a necromancer for all who practice these things are an abomination to God. This commandment is derived from Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
[18:10] There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, or use divination, or an observer of the times, or an enchanter, or a witch, [18:11] or a charmer, or a consulter of mediums, or a wizard, or a necromancer. [18:12] For all that do these things are a abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominations the Lord thy God does drive them out before thee.
The author carefully makes clear the statement for none shall be found among you, meaning my people, Christians, neglectfully leaving out in Deuteronomy Jews, shall not do these things. God in this message has sternly warned that he does not want his people doing these things. This means when Christians do these things they reap upon themselves God's judgment and damnation.
When discussing the dangers of the occult the author says the occultist thinks that he is summoning the neutral supernatural powers of harmless benign good spirits; but the Bible says they are Satan's demons, angels of light. According to the Bible there are just two types of supernatural power, that from God and that from Satan.
Here, not meaning to be prejudice but dealing with it, we have the Christian cosmos. When writing against occultism, few if any authors mention that most occultists, especially Witches, do not believe in Satan or a satanic power. It is doubtful if many of the authors know this or if they do, believe it. These facts do not matter to most Christian ministers. Their world, universe, is Christian, anything else does not exist or is evil.
This is the reason Christians are warned that when they seek such supernatural powers they enter dangerous territory because such powers are demonic. Once one begins using ouijia boards, tarot cards, going to fortune tellers, and engaging in witchcraft one has entered the seeking mode of the dark side and legally let the satanic powers enter one's life.
Again it should be recognized that powers of prophecy which the occultist call good or favorable many or most Christians call evil. This must be recognized in doing any analysis of Christian work such as this. It seems to be an insurmountable difference. If one is familiar with Christian history, especially early Christian history, it is immediately recognizable by the term seeking mode. This was bitterly disputed between the Gnostics, who claimed that Jesus told them to seek the truth until they found it and then seek no more, and the early orthodox Christians who claimed the truth only came through the Church.
The Harry Potter books and movies as discussed here present a similar situation. They are compared to bait which a fisherman uses. Once children and some adults read and see them they will want to reenact to what they read and saw. It is said these books and movies are different in two ways than previous ones. Before witches and wizards were depicted in the usual way, those grimly and evil creatures. One is doubtful if one tries to see Merlin as grim and evil; which, as a side note, none of the criticisms that I have read mentioned Merlin. And secondly, which is the most profound complaint, that they teach one how to become a witch since Harry is in the Hogwarts School learning to become a wizard.
Now the author returns to the seeker mode again. By being in the school Harry is in the seeker mode, he wants to become a wizard. One would think this would be logical, why else would he have entered the school? He performs well and is given the title of Seeker. He is given the assignment or mission of chasing someone on a broomstick that has misbehaved.
Here is where the argument that the books and movies teach kids to become witches begins to unravel. No one except in fiction rides broomsticks, even occultists and those studying the occult know that. Even the early witch hunts and the Inquisition never completely established witches rode broomsticks to Sabbaths. As far as the thinking person is concern, this is pure fiction and anyone trying it is in for a disappointment.
Now for the reason that Harry did this flying act; the obvious reason is that he was testing and perfecting his newly acquired skills. No one is immediately perfect at anything; it requires practice. If you want to be a wizard you must practice the skills of a wizard. The same applies to becoming a witch. The student Harry practicing the skills of wizardry seems as natural as a student practicing the skills of arithmetic; one doesn't become a witch or wizard overnight just by wishing for it or reading some books.
In the Harry Potter books and movies the students of Hogwarts School are there to learn to cast thaumaturgic (this is explained further in the description of thaumaturgic and theurgic magic) spells. Female students learn to be witches, and males learn to become wizards. In Paganism, however, there is no distinct gender separation; witches and wizards can be of either gender. However, wizards are thaumaturgic spell-casters usually associated with alchemical practices and research, Thelemic and Qabalistic studies.
The apparent crux of the complaints against the books and movies is that they promote the sale of how-to-do books on witchcraft, magic, and other occult activities. There seems to be over 1800 such books listed on just one website. In stores some of these books were displayed next to or close to the Harry Potter books. This is claimed to be the work of Satan, or is it just good business?
Accompanying the complaint concerning these books is the complaint that kids and adults, gullible Christians they are called, read and see things they can imitate. One thing mentioned is the ability to physically move things by mental powers, indicated as evil. Let us examine this momentarily, universities are discovering people that seem to possess such powers and with practice it strengthens. Such power is evil; why, because not everyone can do it? You ask any athlete if he does not have to get his mind in the right place--the proper mindset--before any sport contest he enters. Or ask any physically disabled person if he does not have to concentrate when trying to do any task. No, these activities may not spectacularly move objects around on surfaces or up in the air without the physical aid of human hands, but nevertheless, it is a form of mental power which humans currently use.
Complaints also are launched against subjects taught at Hogwarts School, notably one, astrology. This is a continuing curiosity coming from Christians because in the Bible Magi are said have visited the child Jesus in the stable. The Magi are said to have been led to the stable located in Bethlehem by following a star from an Eastern country from which they came. There is some speculation about just who these magi were, but it is generally conceded that they were very wise men, frequently called the Wise Men, who studied the skies, astrologers. If these men were astrologers, those who studied astrology, and God is supposed to have led them to his son Jesus by a star, then the obvious question becomes why is the study of astrology considered evil by Christians today?
Before answering that question another question should be considered because as it will be shown the same answer answers both questions. Among the earliest known magi were the Charldeans of who Daniel is thought to have been associated. The activities of the Charldeans included those of astrology, stargazing, and prognosticators. It is known some rendered monthly prognostications. Such magi had been and were active in Babylonia and Egypt. At the time the Charldeans were considered religious men, but impostors later infested their set and this caused them to be scorned among the Hebrews and Romans. The Hebrews called them soothsayers and forbade any of their people from being a soothsayer or having dealings with one. Soothsayers foretold future evens and so did interpreters of dreams; and both activities were forbidden because they were claimed to be premonitions produced by the powers of idol gods and not Jehovah.
Oh, but one protests asking about Joseph's interpretation of the dream of the pharaoh. Yes, it is written that Joseph did interpret the pharaoh's dream (Genesis 41:6-49). And, one may wonder why this is not soothsaying because Joseph, as the Bible records, had previously interpreted another prisoner's dreams when imprisoned. A good Bible believer would readily tell you no, believing Joseph was of God's people and as the Bible states God was with him. Joseph interpreted the pharaoh's dream, prognosticating that Egypt would experience seven good years and seven lean ones. Winning the pharaoh's favor, making him ruler over the land and giving him a wife, Joseph prepared for the lean years during the good ones.
Joseph became a hero even though he had interpreted dreams and prognosticated the future, things which Jehovah forbade. As a reward the pharaoh welcomed his family, even the brothers who betrayed him into Egypt from Canaan. The question is why, why when Joseph did things that were forbidden by Jehovah was he rewarded? Here one is faced with a similar question, if not an identical one, as the reader was previously faced with; which was, simply stated, if the Magi who visited the child Jesus were astrologers, then why is the study of astrology evil today to some Christians. The answers to these questions seem simple, who does it and who says it is right or wrong.
First, Joseph, those knowing his Biblical story know he was the son of Jacob of Canaan and was sold into slavery by his brothers out of their jealousy of their father's love for him. Those buying him eventually sold him as a slave in Egypt to the pharaoh whose wife had an eye for him. He would not submit to her sexual demands so she lied about him and he was imprisoned where he first interpreted dreams. Biblically he was of God's people and God was with him, so God favored his actions. Anyone not a Bible believer might say Joseph just got lucky and was a good fortune teller. Or, they might ask, was it Jehovah or the Egyptian gods that helped him.
Second, the Magi, although astrologers, they have been Biblically called wise and holy men. God led them to the child Jesus, therefore approving of their profession. This raises the question, why was the study of astrology approved of in this case and not now? Cannot God still influence people by the actions of stars and planets? It is a wonder that Christians are still worried about astrology after the Catholic Church's bad experience with astronomy and Galileo; he was right and they were wrong. Many Christians say planetary influences come from evil forces. How do they know? Have they examined astrology and received proof for their convictions? If not, then are not Christians blindly accepting these convictions the gullible Christians? And, no one mentions that one does not become an astrologer just by reading a book or two. It requires practice and study, by then the novelty has worn off and most will have forgotten it.
The same can be said about fortune telling or the many other divinations mentioned in the Bible and more. Joseph did it, he was of God's people, therefore God approved it and sanctioned it, but God does not do that today. That is the claim of many Christians today plus such divinations are of the influence of evil forces. This is just leading to circular arguments; divinations are evil, because the Bible says so. Such arguments cannot be refuted because most presenting them will not listen to any argument that refutes the Bible.
As for Harry Potter books and movies encouraging Witchcraft, those belonging to Witchcraft traditions or have studied the religion would say if they do, the do a poor job of it. They, the Christian writers who are at least familiar with Witchcraft, know there is much more to the religion than performing magic but they are not letting their readers in on the secret. This, to them, would be describing a false religion. One might ask, as a side point, what are they afraid of; if Christianity is the only true religion, then why not through description expose Witchcraft, a false one? A genuine article will survive any condition.
A brief consideration of Witchcraft would definitely answer the question of whether the Harry Potter books and movies promote Witchcraft. Taking a very general and liberal view, perhaps they promote a portion of it, but only a small portion. This is evident when considering the scope and breadth of Witchcraft; it is a polytheistic religion which honors/worships gods and goddesses as well as worshipping nature. The brevity of this article does not permit a description of these gods and goddesses, but for those interested a review of Greek and Roman mythology will suffice. The important point to be made is that according to Witchcraft tradition either the goddess, god, or both are the creator of the world, and power comes from them, often through their manifestations as various gods and goddesses instead of Jehovah. Now, anyone not believing as such can say that he or she believes these to be false beliefs, but they have no right to try to hide, deny such beliefs, nor condemn others who hold them.
Reflecting on this brief description of Witchcraft one can readily see that the Harry Potter books and movies do not promote the religion. If they did, surely somewhere within the Hogwarts School there would be a magic circle or some sort of sanctuary where Harry and the other students would gather to invoke the divine help of the god/goddess to do their magic. This would be real promotion of Witchcraft and this does not seem to happen.
This indicates the type of magic portrayed with the books and movies, thaumaturgic. Within occultism there are two types of magic, not black and white as frequently indicated by those presuming to know, but thaumaturgy and theurgy. Thaumaturgy is magic in which the magician or practitioner endeavors to perform a magical feat by physical means as previously mentioned, young Harry flying after another student on a broomstick or whatever. Generally thaumaturgic magic seeks physical change. Theurgy magic, however, usually involves the invoking of divine assistance from the gods and a transformation of the magician. In theurgic magic the magician usually believes the gods assist him to perform the magical feat or work through him to perform it. Examples of theurgic magic are casting of spells for healing or good fortune that can be performed within a magic circle by a group or by the solitary magician or Witch alone. The terms Witch and magician must not be confused; a single person can be both, but often this is not the case. An example of the transformation of the person in theurgic magic is when the magician knows the spirit which he is invoking works through him to accomplish the magical feat. This brief description does not do justice to either type of magic but only serves to justify the observation that only thaumaturgic magic seems apparent in the books and movies. As one person commented it may take hours to cast a spell, they don't come shooting out of wands.
Of course whether this magic is black or white, good or evil depends upon the judgment of the reader or observer. If, for example, anything not from God, as Biblically stated, is evil, then such magic would be deemed evil. However, many magicians and Witches do not believe in black or white magic, to them magic is magic, the result, good or harmful, depends upon the intention of the magician. This is the reason why many Witchcraft traditions, namely the Wiccan, have creeds forbidding harmful practices.
It is interesting that most of these Christian writers have not personally attacked J. K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter books by saying she has deliberately promoted the evil which they complain about. It is said that Rowling intensely studied mythology in preparation of her books. She also studied alchemy as is indicated in her first book where Nicolas Flamel is said to be partner with the Hogwart's School headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Then the criticism goes on to say Harry and friends look up Flamel's name in the library and discover that he is the "only known maker of the Sorcerer's Stone" which can turn metal into gold and gives immortality through producing the "Elixir of Life." In this book Flamel achieved immorality by being 665 years old.
As Christian criticism this sounds very good, one must admit, and it does not take any genius to see where it is going: metal cannot be turned into gold, only God has immortality, and so on. But let us separate fact from fiction. The real Nicolas Flamel is reported as being born in 1330 and dying in 1417. He was a French alchemist reported to have become wealthy by allegedly discovering the Philosopher's Stone. Incidentally any one studying or even reading anything about alchemy would say that they never heard of the Sorcerer's Stone, in alchemy it is properly called the Philosopher's Stone; the author changed its name. Flamel's immortality and this changing of the Stone's name seem to indicate the fiction of the book. The Elixir of Life in alchemy is also associated with the Philosopher's Stone and supposedly is/was a drink containing properties to restore youth. Did it become a reality? The answer might be why aren't all the alchemists rich and still alive? Furthermore, if one was to ask what the Philosopher's Stone is, one would probably get as many different answers as the various persons he asked. Many think no one really knows because the Stone has only allegedly been discovered or made, so Rowling is justified in calling it the Sorcerer's Stone, perhaps it is. When various parts of the story are objectively examined the moral criticisms appear frivolous. A comparison might be saying the devil lead Ponce de Leon to search for the Fountain of Youth, pure speculation.
Yes, young minds are impressionable and it is agreed that Harry Potter books should not be read to the very young. But this author recalls that the words "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman!" were very thrilling to him as a young radio listener; however he was old enough to realize that there was something more to it than a man flying around in a blue suit and read cape as seen in comic books. He knew people just didn't fly around that way. Accompanying Superman was the Green Hornet, Batman and Robin, plus several other characters doing things not done in normal everyday life. As he grew older he recognized them as comic book characters. Superman came from the planet Krypton, wherever that was. He heard some say these books were evil to read, but others kids read them, even adults read them. He attended church and knew right from wrong; even though you might read in the comics about people killing other people, you knew better than do it yourself.
The point is children today just as then soon recognize fact from fiction. Just as then we soon knew no one could fly like Superman, now one knows you cannot go to a school and learn how to fly a broomstick, or become an over-night astrologer, wizard, witch, or magician. As previously stated it requires study to be proficient in astrology. This in itself will eliminate the curious. Much the same can be said for the other occult aspects within these stories and movies. It would seem the author herself eliminated the concept of immortality with the death of Harry Potter.
One must wait and see the effect of Harry Potter has on history. Many are uncertain whether it will be good or evil, though many more seem certain of the latter. Time will only tell. It seems that Harry Potter is one of those events that test our youth's moral fiber. From past evidence it has withstood the past events and at times became stronger as it may do again despite of all of the demonic prognostication.
Batty, Miles. Harry Potter and Wicca--A Comparative
Bradley, Michael. Harry Potter, Bible, Witchcraft. <http://www.bible-knowledge.com/Harry-Potter-and-witchcraft.html>
Cline, Austin. Does Harry Potter Promote Wicca or Witchcraft? Is Harry Potter a Pagan Book? <http://atheism.about.com/od/harrypotter/i/witchcraft.htm>
Is "Harry Potter" Harmless? <http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/harrypotter.html>
Mitchell, Adrienne and Rolanda Ward. Harry Potter: A Theological Analysis. <http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/theo1/projects/2001_mitchellward/index.htm>
Montenegro, Marcia. Harry Potter, Sorcery, and Fantasy. <http://cana.userworld.com/cana_harrypotter.html>
Unger, Merrill F. Unger's Bible Dictionary. 3rd. ed. Chicago. Moody Press. 1985