by Clete Hux
There’s no way around it. Harry Potter promotes witchcraft. Those trying to draw Christian parallels with these novels seem to be straining to make a bona fide case. Instead, what naturally flows from J.K. Rowling’s book series and movies is an occultic/pagan worldview that is being glamorized and marketed for acceptance by children.
The popularity of the books is unsurpassed in the area of children’s literature. Over 250,000,000 copies have been published in 61 languages in more than 200 countries. 1 Reasons for such grand approval vary. One, of course, is the fact that the stories are exciting, humorous, and adventurous-what kid doesn’t like an adventure story involving children? But, there are other reasons that these particular adventure stories have become so popular. One is the religious pluralism of our post modern culture that allows readers to be open to the Potter worldview. Another is the fact that many people in the West have already bought into the mystical, new age worldview of the Potter series. Potter simply caters to the thirst for paganism and witchcraft already prevalent in the culture.
We’ve already had a steady diet of occultic practices in television programming. Whether it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Medium, or Crossing Over with John Edwards, America has been getting a heavy dose of paganism. Such programs have desensitized us to the occult. As a society, we no longer see the dangers we once did.
ARGUMENTS FOR HARRY POTTER
Of course, there have been many arguments given in defense of the Harry Potter books and movies. Let’s take a look at some and try to answer them. First, is the argument that Harry Potter books aren’t about reality, they’re about fictional fantasy. So, what’s the big deal? Answer. Even if these are supposed to be fantasy, it really doesn’t fit the fantasy genre. Some have tried to liken Harry Potter to C.S. Lewis’ stories which are true fantasy. In Lewis’ stories, the setting takes place in an alternate reality quite different from our own. In Harry Potter may be fictional, real occult practices are being practiced by Harry, who was born a wizard from his witch mother and wizard father who also attended the same Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry-a school very similar in setting to the modern day boarding schools found in England. It is there that Harry, like his parents before him, is in training to learn sorcery, complete with the casting of spells, learning to use potions, rituals and divination.
In addition to this, there’s an actual historical character, Nicholas Flamel, in the book and movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer s Stone. Flamel was a French alchemist who supposedly succeeded in making the Philosopher’s Stone in the late 1300’s. Students of alchemy know that the Philosopher’s Stone is a metaphor for turning our base, physical natures into our more metaphysical selves, attaining self-actualization with the Higher Self. This inner transformation supposedly produces everlasting life.2
Second is the argument that Harry Potter books are written well and the books are getting children to read . Answer: According to a number of children’s literature reviewers, the Harry Potter series is not that well written at all. Richard Abanes records renowned literary critic Harold Bloom making scathing remarks about Rowling’s books on a PBS program, saying that they’re just an endless string of cliches that doesn’t do anyone any good.3 As to the books getting children to read more, we adults should be careful what we allow our children to read. J.K. Rowling has said that it is “wrong for parents to restrict reading material from children.”4 By this line of reasoning even the reading of pornographic material would be permissible. What children read is just important as the fact that they’re reading.
Third, is the argument that Harry Potter books teach about good versus evil. This defense is often brought up because Harry and his friends are supposedly good “role models” for kids since they’re the good guys fighting against evil. Answer: Obviously, there’s a standard of morality imposed here, but whose standard? Is good defined simply by a character opposing Voldemort, even if the character engages in “bad” behavior and immoral conduct? This doesn’t do justice to the definition of good. In fact, it blurs the distinctions between good and evil. Besides, Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, consistently disobey their teachers, lie, break school rules, break wizard laws, steal, cheat, and even use profanity.5 It is hard to see how such characters could be “good” role-models. We must also keep in mind that Harry and his friends are using occult powers against the villain. So this is not good versus evil, but it is white magick or white witchcraft.
Fourth, the sorcery in the Potter series is no different than that found in other fantasy literature like Lewis Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien s Lord of the Rings. The point, of course, is that Christians typically praise the latter works. So, is there a double-standard here? Answer: There is no double standard. The problem with Potter is not so much the magic per se, but the type of magic used and the underlying worldview of the author and her characters. More about this below.
A warning sign to parents should be the vast number of pagan and witchcraft websites promoting Harry Potter as representing occultic practices and beliefs accurately. Here are just a few such endorsements:
“[The Harry Potter series], both as books and in the movie form are a wonderful metaphor of how we, as witches/Wiccans/ Pagans/ Magickal peo ple, perceive our own spirituality/works/studies, and our vision of the world. The symbolism is strong, and I have found myself reacting so many times . ..positively, mostly thinking, “this is SO right!” Even, as I think Quirrell himself has said it so plainly . .., ‘There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it . . . ‘ This might actually offend some, but it hides one of the great truths of Witchcraft, that there is no White or Black Magick, there is only Magick, and it is the use we make of it that defines its purpose, although we usually see a dark use of Magick as weakness, rather than strength.”6
“Yes, J.K. Rowling has done her homework. Her hidden references are so numerous, and her knowledge so deep, that I’m certain she has done much research on the subject of real sorcery. Many of her characters are named after famous occultists of the past, many of her fantastic spells actually exist and her magical creatures are straight out of ancient mythology. She is writing about the same witchcraft that I study at home, far away from Hogwarts!…I recognize much of J.K Rowling’s work from Middle Ages grimoires I’ve read. These charms and spells are more than just mere fantasy! They have a historical basis. And I will be more than happy to share it with you, here, on my web site.”7
“Sure, you are seeing witches in Harry Potter. ..But it is positive. They are friendly. They are good. The book might change the way people feel about us.”8
“Harry Potter happens to be one of the best things for witchcraft, and the understanding of it.”9
“The magic in Harry Potter takes us back into an ancient universe, where hats talk, pictures move, and snakes that hold conversations. This world lies just on the other side of ordinary reality, behind a door or through a seemingly solid wall. In that world, consciousness is not limited to human beings. Animals, plants, and objects all carry their own awareness and can be communicated with. Isn’t that the essence of the Pagan worldview: that the earth is alive, that all being has consciousness and that we can learn to communicate with that consciousness if we are sensitive and empathetic. Real magic is the process of learning to hear and speak in multidimensional ways. In time, I think we’ll reap a crop of future Witches and Pagans from the Harry Potter books.” 10
Harry Potter is exerting a tremendous influence upon children. Read what some have said:
“I wish I could do magic! If I could do magic I might be a parseltongue [i.e. one who can talk to snakes] or a necromancer” (Nicole, 13 years old).
“I dream about being a witch so I could get revenge on a few people” (Rebecca, 12 years old).
“Do I ever wish I could perform magic like Harry! Ever since I’ve started reading the series, I’ve dreamed about that ….I’d love to go to a place like Hogwarts” (Grace, 13 years).
I like what they learned there [at Hogwarts] and I want to be a witch” (Giora Bishop, 10 years old).
“The book made me want to go to Hogwarts …I would like to learn magic, but I haven’t gotten my letter of invitation yet” (amazon.co.uk post, age unknown). 11
THE PAGAN WORLDVIEW
The occultic/pagan/witchcraft worldview is an upside down world. One should get a sense of this from the very beginning of Harry Potter. The natural has traded places with the superstitious, the normal for the abnormal. Witchcraft is portrayed as normal while the “real” or normal (the muggle world) is portrayed as abnormal.
As a religion, witchcraft , normally seen today in Wicca, originates from the ancient fertility cults of Babylon. Though J.K. Rowling would deny any connection to Harry, it is interesting that Aruru, the Sumera-Babylonian Great Goddess, was the original potter, who supposedly created human beings from clay.12 A teen wiccan web page states there are three levels of reality : Dualism (God and Goddess), Pantheism (all is one), and “The Ultimate One.” According to the wiccan view, power at the third level is “neither good nor evil, only power. ..we believe that all is power and it depends on how the power is used.”13 The chart below should help our understanding of the pagan and Christian views of good and evil.14
Obviously, in this contrast of good and evil, the issue of authority is totally different. In the Potter series, power is effectively divorced from authority. There is no sovereign person or principle governing the use of power. Magical power is gained through inheritance and learning. It’s not given by Higher Authority, because there is no Higher Authority – at least none that Harry’s mentor, Dumbledore, and the evil Lord Voldemort recognize. This, ultimately, is what distinguishes Potter from other fantasy works like those of Lewis and Tolkien. In Potter, the impersonal magical power is itself ultimate and is available for humans to manipulate as they wish.
From a Christian perspective, authority and supernatural power are linked. God has all power and authority and is sovereign over his creation. This is why the Word of God contains this warning:
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witch craft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerers, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you” (Deut. 18:10- 12).
As parents, we are to “train up our children in the way they should go.” We are to teach them to use their imaginations in ways that reflect a biblical world and life view. Lastly, we’re to flee all appearances of evil!
|(Principle of Polarity)
|(Absolute good is defined by and based on God’s character)
|No absolute good or evil, therefore power is neutral (everything is relative)
|God is absolutely good…”God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
Satan is evil and the father of lies (John 8:44) but can masquerade as an angel of light.
(II Cor. 11:14)
|Good and evil are determined subjectively
|God is the standard for good (Matt. 5:48)
|Good and evil (or positive and negative, or light and dark) are equal forces
|Evil is not a force; it is the absence or rejection of good (Jn. 3:19-20; Matt 15:18-20)
|Good and evil are a necessary part of reality and will be joined together
|God and Satan are distinct (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9) Jesus will cast Satan into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10)
|Good and evil are part of the whole that we should embrace
|We’re to reject evil (Eph 5:11) and to overcome it with good (Rom 12:17;21).
1 See statistics at http ://childrenbooks.about.com/b/a/143082.htm.
2 Richard Abanes, Harry Potter and the Bible (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications , 2001), 26.
3 Ibid ., 233.
4 Ibid., 39.
5 Richard Abanes, Fantasy and Your Family (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 2002), 194-195.
6 Ibid., 141.
7 Ibid., 141-142.
8 Phyllis Curott, witch, as quoted in Buck Wolfe, “Witches Bless Harry Potter,” ABCnews.com. August 18, 1999.
9 quote from witchnox.net by “Heather.” Message # 1432, November 24, 2001.
10 quote from Starhawk
11 Abanes, Fantasy, 160.
12 See http://www.mothergodde ss.com/middleast.htm.
13 As quoted by Marcia Montenegro at http://cana.userworld.com.
14 Chart adapted from Ibid
Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (Harvest House)
Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism by David K. Clark and Norman L. Geisler (Baker)
Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement by Douglas Groothuis (IVP)
Unmasking the New Age by Douglas Groothuis (IVP)
New Age Movement by Ron Rhodes (Zondervan)
A Crash Course on the New Age Movement: Describing and Evaluating a Growing Social Force by Elliot Miller (Baker)
The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement by Ron Rhodes (Baker)
Gospel Truth I Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference? by Peter Jones (Winepress)
New Age or Old Lie by Kerry D. McRoberts (Hendrickson)