A New Twist on Potter and Popular Psychology
by Berit Kjos
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
At the first glance, the new analysis of the Harry Potter and Pokemon phenomenon looked great. Posted on Chuck Colson’s website, BreakPoint Online, it began with some wise observations showing the occult nature of J. K. Rowling’s books. Chuck Colson has changed his mind about Harry’s influence, I thought.
But my relief didn’t last long. Not only does the article, Pokémon, Harry Potter, and the Magic of Story, use the psychology behind the consensus processas an argument in favor of popular pagan fantasies. Its author, Mark Filiatreau, who is doing graduate work at Regent [Christian] College in Vancouver, also muddles the Biblical view of truth. Like Eugene Peterson, a Regent College professor who wrote the popular paraphrase of the New Testament called The Message, he seem to put a “feel good” and politically correct spin on Biblical truth.
Yet, Mr. Filiatreau does show us some good reasons to be concerned about today’s Harry Potter and Pokemon craze. His insights and observations merit appreciation:
- “Magic power is what both Pokémon and Harry Potter are about.”
- “The Pokémon fight each other with supernatural powers.”
- “Harry Potter is the humble star-student of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry. He gets trained in magic powers too…. [A]dolescents in this school daily learn to do the kinds of things for which the God of Mount Sinai commanded the death sentence.”
- “Magical power gets exerted over nature and other people. They also share many of the same trappings—clothing, spells, herbal potions, even contacting the dead.”
- “As our kids rise through the school grades, they may well meet peers exploring actual witchcraft or even Satanism. Harry Potter could easily become an imaginative bridge connecting them to these dangerous interests.”
- “It all begins in the imagination.”
- “Adults and adolescents who are alienated from or ignorant of the love and power of the Holy Spirit often get involved with “New Age” religions—including neopagan forms like Wicca and witchcraft—out of the innocent, or at least naïve, desire to experience something transcendent.”
- Human “intuitions may be diabolic and deceptive (like the versions presented lightly in Harry Potter and Pokémon and more seriously elsewhere).”
This insightful list provides ample grounds for warning our children against fascination with the mythical worlds of Potter and Pokemon. But that’s not Filiatreau’s conclusion. “So what should we do?” he asks.
Laying a foundation for his solution, he lists “three important truths that Christians should reflect on.” Each of the “truths” deals with feelings, wants and longings — the “felt needs” that most people in America today want to satisfy.
This is significant, for “felt needs” have become very important to educators, politicians and church leaders today. Most institutions around the world that use the Hegelian dialectic (consensus) process  — these include churches and schools as well as business and government — are finding ways to measure(through polls, surveys, questionnaires…), manipulate and meet these felt needs in order to change beliefs and conform public values to a more politically correct standard. (See Reinventing the World)
This psycho-social strategy for changing people and cultures brings its own set of visions, ideals, words and meanings. Many of those words and concepts have already become part of the public consciousness. They fit right into Filiatreau’s psychological reasoning. See for yourself, as you ponder his three truths.
“We love story, and so we should.”
Should we? Any kind of story? In contrast to his earlier warnings, Filiatreau now gives the impression that any well told story would be beneficial:
“Kids especially love stories. The Potter books (I’ve read two) move quickly and have exciting climaxes…. It is not an accident that the center of the Christian faith is a story (a true one, of course), not ideas or ‘rules for living’…. Christ is, as Madeleine L’Engle  creatively puts it, a ‘god who told stories.’ Scripture says he ‘never spoke to the people without a parable’ (Mark 4:34).”
This Scripture was taken out of context. It only referred to a particular day. The description of that day begins in Mark 4:1-3 and ends with verses 33-35. At that point, He is explaining the messages to His disciples and has stopped speaking in parables:
“…He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: 3“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow…”.
“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. On the same day, when evening had come….”
“The visible world is not enough for us…. We may try to suppress it, but the longing for something beyond—for the supernatural and wondrous—will have its day.”
Will it really? Does this longing “for something beyond” refer to a relationship with God or with any supernatural and mystical power that humans can imagine and manipulate? Why will it “have its day?” Filiatreau offers some psychological, not Biblical, reasons:
- “… the supernatural can be fun. Kids recognize intuitively that you can have more fun with the universe when you allow your imagination to stretch beyond the things you see and touch every day. This is true even if a given use of the imagination is just an extension of the everyday reality….”
It may be normal for our human nature (which the Bible calls the “flesh”) to crave occult fun, but we don’t have to follow those wants and feelings. The strength He offers us is greater by far than the world’s seductions, and there are plenty of other fun activities within His beautiful creation. We would be wise to heed His Word, not our flesh. By His grace and through the cross, He sets us free from bondage to all those contrary cravings. (Romans 6:1-13) Yet, Filiatreau tells us that,
- “…adults long for a supernatural element too.… they were all attracted to séances because the church down the street no longer taught them how to relate to God as a real yet supernatural presence. And even if it did, who would be so credulous as to believe it?”
The answer is simple: those who truly seek God and His ways will “believe it.” They may be few in number compared to the masses that choose the world’s wide and popular roads, but God always has a remnant of people that love and follow Him. They delight in His nearness and trust His truths, no matter how incredulous they seem to the rest of the world.
This faith and delight isn’t based on human dreams, imagination or intuition. They are based on Spirit-given faith in God’s unchanging Word. Yet, Filiatreau believes that,
- “Each of us holds intuitions of a realm that exists beyond the senses, or at least of a realm beyond the senses that we feel couldor ought to exist…. These intuitions of other realms may never be understood or proven. God has revealed very little about heaven and hell. Like the ‘mystery of iniquity,’ like God’s grace working in us, our intuitions of the spiritual realm are mysteries of the heart.”
Actually, God has revealed more than enough about heaven and hell (and about good and evil) to show that the world’s assortment of spiritual counterfeits bring immeasurable and eternal grief. In fact, those intuitions of “other realms” have — throughout the world’s history — led blinded masses of people toward an end that will be anything but fun. That’s why God warned us repeatedly not to imagine, experience or even think about them. Filiatreau seems to know that, as demonstrated by his third truth.
“Story can deliver and plant truths—or lies—within us more deeply and effectively than can any other mode of expression…. Over time, they can change our affections and so form our characters.”
That’s usually true. But Filiatreau seems to turn this sobering reality into an argument in favor storytelling in general — with its potential for deceptive manipulation of feelings and affections — rather than a warning against stories that might lead in the wrong direction:
“The best stories do this by showing us the good and leading us to desire it instead of simply knowing about it.”
“Pictures can make us feel. Expository writing can make us understand. But only story is intrinsically able to do both at the same time. In story, feeling and understanding can combine with synergistic power. Theologians may argue ad infinitum over how salvation works. But the story of the Prodigal Son can make us feel and know what it is.”
Filiatreau’s logic contains an alluring blend of psychological truth and Biblical error. Strategic pictures do “make us feel.” That’s why symbols have always been important to people — and why totalitarian leaders use symbols and other images to manipulate the feelings of the masses.
Stories, like images, have power to stir feelings and guide the understanding. But all too often the feelings they produce bring a presumptuous sense of knowing — a baseless certainty which is subjective, not objective. Grounded in emotions rather than fact or truth, it can be altered or modified by the next well-told story. That’s why today’s leading change agents — in the pulpit as well as the classroom — prefer to tell fun and feel-good stories rather than facts.
Yes, Jesus told many parables, but they illustrated — never substituted for — the foundational truths He wanted His disciples to learn. But that seems insignificant to Filiatreau, for he puts “modern novels” into the same category as Biblical parables:
“The sensory properties of stories make them not only moving but memorable for the long term. …For it’s not only biblical parables that move us to action. Modern novels can too, both culturally and individually.”
That’s right. The world of imagination and fantasy creates sensory and virtual experiences that plants memories and stirs all kinds of desires and choices.That’s why Harry Potter does lure kids to witchcraft.
In his concluding summary, Filiatreau pulls his three psychological “truths” together:
- “First, stories are both honorable and inevitable.”
- “Second, so-called ‘realism’ is not enough for us; we like and need stories that may bring us truth about the supernatural realm that we have such kinship with.”
- “Third, stories can plant truths—or lies—within us more deeply and effectively than can any other mode of expression.”
“Where does this leave us regarding Pokémon and Potter?” he asks.
At this point, the article takes a strange turn. Ignoring his earlier arguments against these popular occult trends, the author states his bewildering conclusion:
“I don’t think Pokémon or Harry Potter are going to do much to plant seeds of evil and deception deep in kids’ hearts. I don’t see the Antichrist being shaped here. Unlike prophetic parables, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and What Must Be Done, they are not very earnest enterprises.
“And even if they do plant seeds, the news is not all bad.
“In the Harry Potter books that I’ve read, good and evil are painted pretty much in traditional black and white and not in shades of gray after the modern fashion. Children’s fiction holds worse and more subtle dangers today than the exterior trappings of magic. For that matter, the Harry Potter books themselves hold worse and more subtle dangers. These include the ego-stroking of Harry’s messiah-like specialness—he’s born as a wizard of wizards (of course, he’s humble about it)—and the derision of non-magical people as “Muggles.”
Do you see the contradictions? Not only do the first two sentences contradict the third, they also clash with earlier statements. Both Potter and Pokemon reach far below the “exterior trappings of magic.” Harry may be “the humble star-student of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry,” but his view of himself and his pagan world matches the attitudes of the public masses who trade God and His will for a supernatural force that — for the moment — seems amenable to manipulation through their own human will.
In the end, Filiatreau seems to ignore the power of the occult images, the contrary values, and the potential fascinations with forbidden realms. He suggests that parents go ahead, read and discuss Harry Potter. “Frankly,” he says, “if Christian parents can’t or won’t talk their children through such negative aspects in these books—and in games like Pokémon—then I would say their family has worse, more internal problems to work out.”
Then his tone and message changes again. Filiatreau honors the Potter fantasy with redemptive value through the image of a mother loving her baby — a theme that threads through the history of many a pagan civilization:
“But getting back to the redemptive side, the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, has a rather moving and life-affirming denouement as a mystery in Harry’s past is solved. We learn that a mother’s love for her baby (Harry himself) became externalized as a sort of magic power. The power was strong enough to protect the baby even from his world’s most powerful evil sorcerer, who, after killing Harry’s parents, tried to kill their baby too … but this magic killed him instead. My gut does a little pinch just remembering it.
Filiatreau reminds us that “Jesus is a realist… His reality is different than ours… [and He] commands our reality to become like his.”
Yes and no. Those who belong to Jesus do share His reality, for “we have the mind of Christ.” Our perspective and understanding are increasingly conformed to His as we delight in His Word and focus our hearts on His eternal ways. In contrast, filling our minds with enticing images and ideas from Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will do the opposite. (1 Cor. 2:16; Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:16-18)
The power of an unbiblical story to create values and build character will drive the reader away from, not toward, the God who loves us. Nor will a family discussion led by sincere parents erase the occult images and ideas planted in a child’s mind through his or her “creative” imagination.
But never mind those contradictions. Let’s move on. Take a look at the author’s new approach to eternal life. According to Filiatreau, there are at least three ways “to get it”:
- “Reading and obeying his teachings and parables is one way to get that life within us
- “…holy communion is another. There are many more still.
- “…develop an imagination that is redeemed and ready for Christ’s reality.”
“Develop an imagination that is redeemed”? What does he mean? The Bible doesn’t explain. But if it did, I doubt it would include mental exercises in Harry Potter’s world.
Finally Filiatreau asks, “Are there any stories that can help do this—that can effectively help plant and nourish Christ’s new life within us and our kids?” He mentions the Bible as a possibility, then leaves us with the promise that his next article will introduce C.S. Lewis’s mentor whose stories will serve the purpose: “I will introduce one writer who I think is best, after C. S. Lewis, at channeling living Christian truth deeply and effectively into the human heart. In fact, Lewis referred to him as his master.”
He may be referring to George McDonald, author of The Light Princess and many other fairy tales. C.S. Lewis referred to him as his guide and inspiration, his model for mythical-occult storytelling. “What George MacDonald does best is fantasy,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “And this, in my opinion, he does better than any man.” Even so, it takes a big stretch of the imagination to see McDonald’s fantasies as Biblical truth-telling. They may have seemed good enough back when most church people knew the Bible well enough to discern and compensate for some of MacDonald’s strange suggestions.
We need not be surprised by these post-modern rationalizations and re-interpretations of God’s wonderful truths. God told us this would happen. His Word also shows us His way — that narrow, unpopular and politically incorrect way to walk and live with Him in a world that demands continual compliance with its changing standards, spiritual compromises and public consensus.
“Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:2-5
2. Author of Newberry winner A Wrinkle in Time and many other books filled with occult imagery and psychic practices such as kything – a form of mental telepathy and communication between people, trees and any other part of creation. Kything is growing in popularity within God’s churches, especially among women.
4. “The world of imagination and fantasy can help pass on to the child cultural and social messages [and] function as a way to experience vicariously things an individual could not do first-hand.” Aminadav, C., International Journal of Adolescent Medicine & Health (April-June 1995)
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
by Berit Kjos, July 2005
“Malfoy’s hex missed Harry by inches, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him; Harry threw himself sideways, thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the jinx…. “Sectumsembra! bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly. Blood spurted from Malfoy’s face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword.”
“The story of Harry Potter is an allegory: It is written and packaged to look like fantasy when, in truth, it is a carefully written true description of the training and work of an initiate in an occult order…. The story line aligns with real occult books written by Gavin and Yvonne Frost, who, themselves, run the foremost school of witchcraft in the British Isles.“ Peter, a former member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. 1
‘I’m a fanatic. I love reading them. They get you hooked.” Ashley, age 14.
As Potter-passion soars to new heights, it’s time to take another look at the young wizard’s influence on Christian beliefs. After all, the sixth book in Ms. Rowling’s spine-tingling adventures into the world of the occult has broken all records. Almost 7 million copies were sold in the United States in its first 24 hours – averaging better than 250,000 sales per hour! What is happening? Why is Harry’s virtual world so enticing? Could this new mythology become the great equalizer of religions — fusing Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Christian communities with 21st century paganism?
An anonymous visitor to our website illustrates its enchanting power to deceive “Christian” youth:
“Harry Potter is merely a work created for readers to enjoy. It teaches children to read and to imagine. Our society has really overreacted to this, especially the church. I myself am a faithful follower who does enjoy reading…. Harry Potter encourages magic and I hope you all have the good sense to celebrate what gods gives [sic] us through wonderful stories like Harry Potter…. Are these evil? Are we not to celebrate halloween? When do you draw the line?”
Actually, our wise and caring God has already drawn some very specific lines for us. To guard us from dangers we can’t even grasp, He has given us clear boundaries that we would be wise to heed. For example, He tells us that anyone practicing witchcraft, sorcery, spell-casting, necromancy or divination (all occult skills that Harry learns and practices at Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry) is an “abomination.” [Deut 18:10-12] What does that tell us about God’s attitude toward spiritual models such as Harry and Dumbledore? How does it relate to His warning in Romans 12:9: “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”
If those questions offend you, you may want to stop reading right here. I’m not trying to “impose my beliefs” on you or force you to hear what you don’t want to know. But if you want to understand the power of a tantalizing story and how to guard your children’s minds from the almost overwhelming pressure to conform and compromise, please join me in examining some timeless strategies of the mastermind behind all the corruption in the world.
Using the imagination to create virtual experience
The human imagination is key to transformation. Impressionable and gullible, it asks few questions and rarely resists deception. Through it, occult images and suggestions take on life-like dimensions that can distort and change our values as effectively than can facts or actual reality. It’s no coincidence that educational change agents want to train children to use and follow this popular alternative to rational thinking. Conditioned to respond to exciting suggestions with their imagination rather than intellect, children can easily be led and manipulated. [See “Brainwashing in America“]
Dr. Donald A. Cowan, president emeritus of the University of Dallas, summarized the strategy well. “What will take the place of logic, fact and analysis in the coming age?” he asked. Then he gave the following reply to his own rhetorical question:
“The central way of thought for this new era will be imagination…. Imagination will be the active, creative agent of culture, transforming brute materials to a higher, more knowable state.”
Our wise Maker is well aware of our imagination’s thoughtlessness. He told us that “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” [Genesis 8:21] And in Matthew 5:28, He equates the moral impact of imagining something with the actual deed. (“…whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”)
The fact that enthusiastic Potter fans “merely” imagine the spell-casting, hexing, and deadly cursing doesn’t nullify the impact of the mental images. So, for the peace and safety of our hearts, we are told not to entertain these things in our minds! That may sound intolerant to those who have reinvented a more positive or permissive god for our times. But our unbelief doesn’t change the heart or will of our sovereign God. It only shuts Him out, leaving us to rely on our own futile resources. [Proverbs 1:27-33]
God has good reasons for warning us to shun virtual as well as actual occultism. Our minds may be able to separate the two, but our emotions blur those divisions. Think about it. Potter fans are saddened by the deaths of fictional heroes as well as real-life heroes. In their minds, they cheer each winning spell cast by Harry — just as they cheer a homerun by a favorite athlete. In the imagination, fantasy and reality flow together.
So do the light and dark forces of the occult. Harry’s adventures lead you to imagine that the young wizard’s magic is good and Voldemort’s magic is evil, but in reality, the seductive power behind both remains the same. Both rely on (1) a focused, intentional command of the human will and (2) some kind of occult formula designed to invoke a supernatural force. While the “dark side” seems more deadly, the “light side” is far more deceptive. People let down their guard, because it feels good, not evil. It seems exciting, not frightening.
Look with me at the following scenes from the latest book. They illustrate the kinds of encounters that readers enter into vicariously with Harry and his friends and enemies. What kinds of belief and values do they plant into “open” minds? What worldview do they seal in the reader’s memory?
In the first encounter, you meet Professor Snape, Harry’s hostile old “Potions” instructor, who has now been promoted to teaching “Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“You will now divide,” Snape went on, “into pairs. One partner will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will attempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on.”
…A reasonable amount of cheating ensued; many people were merely whispering the incantation instead of saying it aloud….
“Pathetic, Weasley [Harry’s friend, Ron],” said Snape, after a while. “Here — let me show you —“
He turned his wand on Harry so fast that Harry reacted instinctively; all thought of nonverbal spells forgotten, he yelled, “Protego!” His Shield Charm was so strong Snape was knocked off-balance and hit a desk. The whole class had looked around and now watched as Snape righted himself, scowling.
“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing nonverbal spells, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry stiffly.
“There’s no need to call me ‘sir,’ Professor.”
The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying. Several people gasped, including Hermione. Behind Snape, however, Ron, Dean, and Seamus grinned appreciatively.
“Detention, Saturday night, my office,” said Snape. “I do not take cheek from anyone, Potter. . . not even ‘the Chosen One.”
“That was brilliant, Harry!” chortled Ron, once they were safely on their way to break a short while later.
“You really shouldn’t have said it,” said Hermione, frowning at Ron. [179-180]
The key character in the next scene is Ginny Weasley, Ron’s younger sister and Harry’s secret love. Some will remember that in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, she was possessed and controlled by the evil Voldemort after finding his old diary implanted with a portion of his soul. What kinds of values might it transmit to the reader?
“How come you ended up in there, Ginny?”
“He saw me hex Zacharias Smith,” said Ginny. “You remember that idiot from Hufflepuff who was in the D.A.? He kept on and on asking about what happened at the Ministry and in the end he annoyed me so much I hexed him — when Slughorn came in. I thought I was going to get detention, but he just thought it was a really good hex and invited me to lunch! Mad, eh?” 
Stirring emotions and creating memories
Our minds are far more receptive to contrary values than we like to think. And the more these occult images and suggestion arouse our emotions — whether love, laughter, fear, hate or rage — the more effectively they plant new values in our minds and seal those values in our memory. As a result, youth around the world have learned to love evil and despise truth — just as God warns us: “You love evil more than good….” Psalm 52:3
The anticipated release of Book 6 illustrated this principle well. The date, July 16, 2005, stirred excitement and fierce loyalty around the world! At 12.01 AM, huge crowds of children from America to Australia were lined up at their nearest bookstore to receive their coveted copy of Harry’s latest adventures. Dressed in black capes, glasses and pointed hats — and with scars on their foreheads and wands in hand — they celebrated the Potter domain of tantalizing power and mystical thrills.
‘I’m a fanatic,” announced 14-year-old Ashley, who apparently has read each of the first five books about five times each. “I love reading them. They get you hooked.” Her sister Lauren, 10, confirmed Ashley’s zeal. “She takes them everywhere,” she said.”
Of course, Harry Potter is not the first character — real or fictional — who learned how to excite the masses through evocative imagery and clever words. China’s revered leader Mao Zedong knew well the power of “emotion work.” That’s why he so effectively won the hearts of the people. He knew how to stir “bitterness” against landowners, hatred toward Christians, love for communism, and a sacrificial spirit that would give its all to his totalitarian reign. By identifying and isolating the key “enemy” as the most threatening evil, the new evils no longer seem so bad.
Some of Mao’s strategies, now seen in churches as well as other organizations, were described by Elizabeth J. Perry in a report given at Harvard University in the spring of 2000. Referring to the manipulative effects of myth-making fantasy (here expressed through community theater rather than books, but with similar effect), she said,
“The growth of the revolutionary movement was marked by increasing attention to the importance of ’emotion-raising’ in the process of mass mobilization.
“Theater was a critical means of eliciting an emotional reaction that was used intentionally to solidify popular commitment. … Staged public performances have constituted the very heart and soul of the Chinese Communist revolution…. This is not to imply, however, that the emotions expressed in such contexts are somehow phony or inauthentic. A distinctive facet of human feelings is of course their ambivalence and malleability; the genius of the CCP approach lay in its capacity to appreciate and capitalize on this fundamental reality.”
When Ms. Rowling wrote the first book, she could neither foresee nor plan the influence she would one day wield. The story, she said, came to her mind long ago as she was riding the train.’ But many others are intentionally riding on her coattails. Her U.S. publisher, Scholastic, has prepared public school curricula based on its pagan world view. Churches have designed Harry Potter Sunday school lessons and small group dialogues — a growth-producing “carrot’ for engaging children and youth in fun “learning” activities. Much of the learning takes place in small groups through the dialectic process as students share and blend their feelings about Harry with each other. Led by a teacher/facilitator, they are trained to think dialectically — for the sake of unity and tolerance, they practice reconciling relevant opposites.
But how do you reconcile opinions dealing with Christianity versus paganism, unity versus separation, good versus evil, etc.? What attitudes would the children learn from each other concerning good and evil in the Harry Potter books?
It would be natural for them to reconcile the conflicts between pagan myths and Biblical truth by redefining traditional words, find more tolerant interpretations of the Bible, rationalize away Biblical boundaries, and cheer the group consensus. They might even celebrate their new-found “freedom” to “think outside the box” of the increasingly offensive Bible. But none of those “solutions” can counter the truth of Scriptures such as these:
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness….
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and prudent in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:20-21
Consider the next example. Harry and his classmates are listening to the effusive Professor Slughorn, the potions teacher who replaced Professor Snape. He shows them a bottle of golden liquid, which Harry soon “won” by somewhat dubious means. What similar confidence-building, highly addictive “potion” is available to thrill-seeking youth today? (This year, Meth has captivated about 1.5 million users, but next year it could be something else.)
“Well, that one, ladies and gentlemen — is a most curious little potion called Felix Felicis. I take it,” he turned, smiling, to look at Hermione, who had let out an audible gasp, “that you know what Felix Felicis does, Miss Granger?”
“It’s liquid luck,” said Hermione excitedly. “It makes you lucky!”
“Quite right….Yes, it’s a funny little potion, Felix Felicis,” said Slughorn. “Desperately tricky to make and disastrous to get wrong. However, if brewed correctly, as this has been, you will find that all your endeavors tend to succeed… at least until the effects wear off.” 187-188
[Later in the year] “So, Harry — you going to use the Felix Felicis or what?” Ron demanded.
“Yeah, I s’pose I’d better,” said Harry. “I don’t reckon I’ll need all of it…. Two or three hours should do it.”
“It’s a great feeling when you take it,” said Ron reminiscently. “Like you can’t do anything wrong.”
“What are you talking about?” said Hermione, laughing. “You’ve never taken any!”
“Yeah, but I thought I had, didn’t I?” said Ron, as though explaining the obvious. “Same difference really….”476
“Well, here goes,” said Harry, and he raised the little bottle and took a carefully measured gulp.
“What does it feel like?” whispered Hermione.
Harry did not answer for a moment. Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through him; he felt as though he could have done anything, anything at all…. He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence.
“Excellent,” he said…. I’m going to Hagrid’s, I’ve got a good feeling about going to Hagrid’s.”
“You’ve got a good feeling about burying a giant spider?” asked Ron, looking stunned.
“Yeah,” said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag. “I feel like it’s the place to be tonight, you know what I mean?”
“No,” said Ron and Hermione together, both looking positively alarmed now. …
“Trust me,” [Harry] said. “I know what I’m doing… or at least” — he strolled confidently to the door — “Felix does.”477-478
“Sensory immersion helps learners grasp reality through illusion,” wrote Harvard Professor Chris Dede, a global leader in the development of education technology programs.
Of course, the “reality” these “learners” grasp through “sensory immersion” is not true reality, but a pleasing illusion — a pseudo-reality designed to please our human nature and change the way we think. These illusions seduce adults and children alike. Knowing the difference between truth and fiction doesn’t really matter. We may be perfectly aware that a carrot or piece of chicken will serve our body better than a piece of candy, yet our feelings drive us to choose the latter. [See The Power of Suggestion“]
Through television, movies, music and ads, most Americans are immersed in a sensory environment that bombard their minds and emotions. Without any effort of our own, we are trained to be receptive and “open-minded.” Yet, we are poorly prepared to resist these cultural pressures. Today’s postmodern ideas — which mock facts, truth and certainty — have stripped away the mental tools needed to make wise choices. And with each repetition, the deceptions become more believable.
“…till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind,” wrote Aldous Huxley over seventy years ago in Brave New World. “And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too — all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides — made up of these suggestions.”
When children are so enchanted by Harry Potter’s world that they read each book again and again, discuss it among their friends, dialogue in classroom groups and write “fan fiction” based on the myth, they “make it their own.” Their minds and emotions are so “at home” in the story, that their old familiar home might even seem strange and foreign in comparison.
A former student at Clinton’s Governor’s School in Arkansas, who had happily read and played in an unreal learning environment isolated from his family, summarized it well: “The students. . . say, ‘This is the perfect place. I never want to go home.’ I caught myself saying that several times.”
This Governor’s school for future leaders had embraced several key brainwashing techniques that help us understand today’s strategies for change:
- Isolate students from family and friends (who cling to the old values)
- Discredit or undermine former authorities (parents, pastors, etc.)
- Reinforce new beliefs and values (those that fit the vision for pluralism and unity)
- Emphasize feeling-based learning
- Immerse learners in a desirable fantasy world
“It would be impossible for me to describe to you just how exciting and unusual this educational adventure is,” said former president Bill Clinton back in his days as governor of Arkansas. That was before one former student became so depressed that he committed suicide.
Immersing children and youth in a wildly exciting pagan belief system will change their minds, memories, beliefs and values. “Christian” fans who find the story irresistible will facecognitive dissonance, a form of mental and emotional confusion. To social and educational change agents, this intentional dissonance is an essential step in the process of “unfreezing” minds and “opening” them up to a new way of thinking. It occurs when the child tries to reconcile the shocking new suggestions with the beliefs they learned from their parents.
The next scene involves three characters so obviously evil that Harry and other “good” occultists seem almost saintly by comparison. The three villains serve Voldemort, the ultimate evil in the story. Narcissa is the mother of Harry’s taunting classmate Draco Malfoy. Her sister Bellatrix, a member of Voldemort’s cruel army of Death Eaters, killed Harry’s “godfather” Sirius Black and tortured to death the parents of Harry’s friend Neville using an excruciating spell.
“Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow,” he [Snape] said quietly. “Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder.”
Bellatrix’s mouth fell open. Snape lowered himself so that he was kneeling opposite Narcissa. Beneath Bellatrix’s astonished gaze, they grasped right hands.
“You will need your wand, Bellatrix,” said Snape coldly.
She drew it… and placed the tip of her wand on their linked hands.
Narcissa spoke. “Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfill the Dark Lord’s wishes?”
“I will,” said Snape.
A thin tongue of brilliant flame issued from the wand and wound its way around their hands like a red-hot wire.
“And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm?”
“I will,” said Snape.
A second tongue of flame shot from the wand…
“And, should it prove necessary… if it seems Draco will fail…“ whispered Narcissa… “will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?”
“I will,” said Snape. 36-37
This vow, made early in the book, was fulfilled at the end. The hateful Professor Snape — who turns out to be the mysterious Half-blood Prince — did what Harry’s hostile classmate Draco Malfoy failed to do: kill Albus Dumbledore as the revered schoolmaster lay injured near the top of a staircase. But this fictional tragedy will probably strengthen Harry’s influence in the real world. For — just as terrorism justifies increased government surveillance — this evil deed helps justify Harry’s use of dark magic to finish his unbiblical mission.
Isolation and uncertainty
Though millions of children around the world are now absorbing the message in Book 6, most of them make this dark and disturbing journey into the occult realm alone. Unless the book is read aloud in a group setting, each reader encounters Harry, Dumbledore, Snape, and the Death Eaters through their own minds and imagination. Even if parents discuss the action afterwards, each individual reader must face the ominous atmosphere, the lighthearted spells, the cutting remarks, and the murderous cruelty alone. No one else shares their personal reactions as they turn each page.
Once planted in the mind, those memories will continue to color a child’s view of God. They will probably stir cravings for more occult thrills. Each new book and reading will reinforce the person’s growing familiarity with forbidden realms. Few realize that the actual world of the occult is far darker and more frightening than they can conceive. And few know God and His Word well enough to discern the spiritual distortions. Vital Scriptures needed for spiritual warfare seem alien to those who have embraced the postmodern mindset.
I have received many letters from children, youth, parents, pastors and teachers who all claim to be Christians yet love Harry Potter. Their emotional arguments show that their understanding of God’s Word has been compromised beyond recognition. In many cases, their expressed faith fits right into the spiritual transformation I described in The Rising World Religion.
They had learned to love the occult and to justify their rejection of Scriptures such as Jeremiah 10:2: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.'” That last word refers to the pagan nations that surrounded His people. They were not to learn the occult beliefs and practices of the heathens who worshipped other gods and lived in bondage to demonic forces. Yet, Israel ignored that warning and was destroyed.
God alone can lead us safely through the tempting lures and illusions that bombard our children in this thrill-seeking culture. And He proves His faithfulness again and again to those who trust Him.
I was speaking at a Sunday School Convention about 15 years ago on the topic, “The Unholy Power of Charms and Symbols.” Parents and teachers were still crowding into the small auditorium, when I began showing transparencies of simple symbols such as the yin-yang, the peace symbol, and the ankh. We discussed their meanings — and why their popularity has skyrocketed today.
I showed my compound symbols, but had not had time to prepare a transparency with the multifaceted Theosophical symbol. So I began to draw its many parts on a clear transparency: first, a large circle, then two overlapping triangles forming a hexagram, then a small pentagram and swastika…. Suddenly, something large and dark hit me hard in the chest. For a moment I lost both my balance and my breath. Then, in a flash, I knew what was happening. I had made myself vulnerable by unwittingly performing what might have been a ritual with mediaeval alchemy and other religious traditions.
Still in front of the crowd and the microphone, I cried out, “Forgive me, Lord! Cover me with your blood. In the name of Jesus Christ, I declare Your victory over the evil one. In You, we are ‘more than conquerors!’ Thank you, Jesus, my Lord and my King!”
As fast as it came, the entity disappeared. I apologized to the startled audience, asking their forgiveness for foolishly, though unintentionally, opening the door to this evil. Then we all thanked God for His lesson and protection.
Among the people gathered around me afterwards was a woman who said, “I think I know what happened to you. While you were drawing that symbol, the man sitting next to me was moving his hands in strange ways and murmuring something as if he was casting a spell. He may have come to bring occult interference.”
Only our sovereign, omniscient God knows exactly what happened that day. I may not fully understand the details of the ongoing and intensifying spiritual war operating in the unseen, but He impressed on my mind three important lessons:
1. The reality and power of the evil one operating in the physical as well as the spiritual world we inhabit.
2. The victory we have in Christ who makes us “more than conquerors” when we know, love and follow Him.
3. The importance of living each moment in this warring world ready, with “the sword of the Spirit… the Word of God” at hand to wield against any assault on mind or body.
“Therefore keep watch… be ready,” Jesus warned His disciples. “Be on guard! Be on the alert!”
Today, more than ever, we must be alert and ready. We need to be “hidden in Him,” wearing His armor — the protective covering of our Lord Himself. We can’t afford to be presumptuous; we must not forget that whenever we choose our own way rather than His, we “take off” the “breastplate of righteousness” and stand defenseless in the raging battle. But walking with Him, in His ways, we are safe.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand….” Ephesians 6:10-13
For an in-depth study on the Armor of God, see A Wardrobe from the King
See also this chart: Opposing World Views
1. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc., 2005), page 522.
5. Spoken at a 1988 forum address at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. This address formed the nucleus for his book Unbinding Prometheus: Education for the Coming Age.
6. Elizabeth J. Perry, “Once Again –With Feeling: The Chinese Revolution Revisited.” Report given at Harvard University CBRSS Events, Spring 2000. (Apparently the article is no longer available online.)
7. God tells us that “the whole world is under the sway of the evil one” (1 john 5:19). We don’t know all the ways he “sways” the people of the world, but his goal has always been to “free” minds from true devotion to Jesus Christ and manipulate our thoughts and feelings so that we serve him rather than God.
8. Chris Dede, “The Transformation of Distance Education to Distributed Learning.” While this and other papers by Professor Chris Dede focuses on education technology, it emphasizes the value of sensory immersion into synthetic environments as a tool to mold minds by instilling a programmed perception of “reality.” http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwitr/docs/distlearn/index.html
9. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: HarperCollins, 1932), page xvi, 28
12. Mark 13:9, 22-23, 33, 37; Matthew 24:42, 44; 25:13.
A review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By Berit Kjos – July 18, 2011
“I have been encouraged by my pastor at my CHRISTIAN church to read the Harry Potter books, because even though they have references to magic and sorcery, they can teach us more about the values of Friendship and Bravery than he can…. I am no longer Christian. Somewhere along the way my beliefs changed. I practice Wicca.” A young visitor to our website
“Days before the release of the seventh and final novel in the series, youth leaders are being told they could use the popularity of the Potter books and films as a ‘launch pad’ for exploring Christian themes.”
“In its early years, ‘Harry Potter’ was a litmus test of orthodoxy for some conservative Christians, who expressed concern over its portrayal of witchcraft….The hysteria has largely died down, and not many religious leaders asked their flocks to avoid the final movie….Many Christians have cheered the portrayals of loyalty, courage and love.”
“[They] practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord….” 2 Kings 17:17
I had plenty of company last Saturday morning as I hurried into the movie theater to see the final film in the Harry Potter series. Several families with children walked in ahead of me. Others followed. One little girl couldn’t be more than three years old! How would she react to this scary movie?
For more than two hours, the audience sat immersed in a mystical world filled with frightening shrieks, explosive sounds of death and destruction, and enticing suggestions certain to appeal to power-hungry youth already attuned to the forces of evil.
If you are a parent, please don’t take your children to see this movie!
By its end, it had exposed the two sides of today’s popular evil. Like the yin-yang symbol, there is an obvious dark side and a more subtle “light” side to occult deceptions. To resist their mind-changing allure, we need to understand both.
The Dark Side of Evil
This last part of the Harry Potter sequence promotes everything God bans in this warning:
“There shall not be found among you anyone who… practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead…. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord…” Deuteronomy 18:10-12
During the last three centuries, Americans have enjoyed relative freedom from the occult forces that have tormented many other parts of the world. From the beginning, the pilgrims and a significant number of other believers trusted God and built this nation on the foundation of His Word. Therefore God protected their land. Few were exposed to words and actions that led to the occult.
But times have changed and God’s actual truth is rarely heard in public places. We can no longer shut out the well-marketed forces of evil that press into our lives — even in churches. That’s all the more reason to prepare for the spiritual warfare ahead. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the occult practices listed in the above verses from Deuteronomy. Each practice is featured in this movie.
1. WITCHCRAFT: Trusting the occult spirit world for power to perform all kinds of magical spells and wonders.
Witchcraft was common in Old Testament days. Back then it was already a “normal” part of life in cultures around the world. Finally, in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, such practices faded in the West. More recently, that trend has been reversed. The mind-changing fantasies spread by Rowling and her admirers have sparked a rapid revival of interest and delight in occult empowerment.
2. SOOTHSAYER: A fortuneteller, diviner or seer in communication with demonic spirits.
3. INTERPRETING OMENS: Receiving messages and interpretations — usually ominous – from the spirit world.
4. SORCERY: Performing magical feats through occult forces.
If witchcraft and sorcery sound like fantasy and fairy tales to teens and children today, the devil must be very pleased. He is constantly on the lookout for those who will follow his ways — even if “just” in their imaginations. As God warned long ago,
“They…walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart….” Jeremiah 7:24
5. CONJURE SPELLS: Manipulating occult forces according to mental formulas and projecting the spell through a physical object.
“To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol,” explained Starhawk, the wiccan author of The Spiral Dance. “Spells… require the combined faculties of relaxation, visualization, concentration, and [mental] projection.”
Most spells in the movie were cast through magically empowered wands. The powerful Elder Wand apparently had a mind of its own and could choose whether or not to serve a new master. Wikipedia explains its bizarre history:
“In the preceding movie, Voldemort…opens Dumbledore’s tomb and claims the wand as his own. Assuming incorrectly that Snape is the wand’s current master, Voldemort slays Snape, not realizing that the wand’s allegiance was to Draco….Harry had subsequently disarmed Draco and taken his wand. …the Elder Wand’s allegiance had since shifted to Harry….Voldemort uses the Elder Wand to cast his final Killing Curse against Harry’s Expelliarmus charm. But since the wand’s allegiance is to Harry, Voldemort’s spell backfires and kills him once and for all.”
Spells were also essential to the creation and destruction of the horcruxes used by Voldemort to secure his own immortality. “Invented” by J.K Rowling, they only exist in the imaginations of those who are captivated by her tales and by the additional “information” they inspire. For example, Wikipedia adds this gruesome description:
“…the creation of a Horcrux requires one to commit a murder, which, as the supreme act of evil, ‘rips the soul apart.’ After the murder, a spell is cast to infuse part of the ripped soul into an object, which becomes the Horcrux….Both inanimate objects and living organisms have been used as Horcruxes, though the latter are considered riskier to use, since an organism can move and think for itself….
“To be destroyed, a Horcrux must suffer damage so severe that repair through magical means would be impossible….Once a Horcrux is irreparably damaged, the fragment of soul within it is destroyed.”
These dark fantasies share a common consequence with actual occult realities. Both stir cravings for new and ever darker occult thrills and knowledge. The natural consequences of pursuing such a path is spiritual bondage and torment. Listen again to God’s warning:
“They would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.” (Proverbs 1:30-31)
6. CALL UP THE DEAD [Necromancy]: Invoking the spirit of a deceased person through occult formulas.
Here the story gets more complicated. Harry himself was one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, since a piece of Voldemort’s soul was hidden inside him. Therefore Harry had to die before Voldemort could be killed. That realization made Harry’s life bleak indeed. The months of hiding from Voldemort and his armies had taken their toll. Choosing to face his inevitable death rather than fight it, he walked unarmed into Voldemort’s forest camp.
But first Harry wanted to see his dead parents and friends. His magical Resurrection Stone enabled him to call up the spirits of his father and mother as well as Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. They promised to stay with him until he died.
During his brief time in the state of “death,” Harry was visited by the spirit of Albus Dumbledore who suggested that he return to life. Since “dying” had freed him from bondage to Voldemort’s horcrux, he chose to return.
Many have equated Harry’s death with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are way off track! Any such comparison is a mockery of God’s actual Truth.
The “Light“ Side of Evil
Surrounded by Hogwarts ash-covered ruins, Harry wins his final battle against Voldemort. Later, as he stands on a high ridge with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he pulls out his Elder Wand, the most powerful wand known to wizards. He breaks it in two and throws the pieces into the canyon below. Apparently, there’s no need for it anymore.
Did he really believe that all warfare ended when Voldemort died? Would peace now prevail in the region cleansed of its cruel leader? What about Voldemort’s surviving army of ambitious, murderous “death eaters”? Might not some of them fight for his lofty, tyrannical position?
Harry doesn’t answer those questions.
The movie concludes with a brief glimpse of the three friends nineteen years later. Ron, of course, married Hermione. Harry married Ron’s sister Ginny. Now the two couples are standing with their children on the magical railroad Platform 9¾, ready to send their older children off to school on the Hogwarts Express.
When Harry’s middle son admits his fear of being “sorted” into the Slytherin dorm rather than Gryffindor, his father comforts him:
“Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin [Severus Snape] and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
He was? The sour, sullen, ruthless Severus Snape was no friend to Harry during his school years. Nor was any other member of the Slytherin clan. Most of them were deadly enemies. Many joined the Death Eaters. In light of the previous Potter books, this sudden emphasis on peace, harmony and reconciliation makes no sense!
George Orwell would probably agree. His familiar book, 1984, sums up such strange contradictions with these words: “War is PEACE. Freedom is SLAVERY. Ignorance is STRENGTH.“
We might add this lie: Evil is Good! In a world that despises God’s Word and moral guidelines, it’s not surprising that a series of books based on witchcraft and wizardry has won the hearts of the people. Occult themes, whether in books, movies or computer games, have become one of today’s most effective tools for social transformation. Even churches are promoting the change. The “light” side of evil could hardly be more deceptive!
As God’s Word tells us, “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) That’s reality today! But the consequences for those who believe his lies will be severe:
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” Isaiah 5:20-21
God’s Ultimate Victory
Today’s rising world system has called for unbiblical peace and a prescribed form of solidarity that has little tolerance for Christians who refuse to compromise. Yet, if we stand firm in Jesus Christ, our sovereign Lord, He will surely meet all our needs — and much more! Those who resist the world’s tempting lies in His name will be safe in Him — now and forever!
This world system denies the message of the cross. That’s why the name of Jesus is banned from all kinds of public places. But we cannot be silent! What Jesus prayed to His Father almost 2000 years ago is now His message for us:
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one…. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:14-19
1. “Use Harry Potter to spread Christian message,” The Telegraph [a British newspaper], July 18, 2007. This link is now obsolete: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;?xml=/news/2007/07/17/npotter217.xml
2. Sarah P. Bailey, “How Christians Warmed to Harry Potter,” Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303812104576441641674217076.html. See also John Granger’s message at www.crossroad.to/articles2/04/harry-granger.htm
3. Starhawk, Spiral Dance (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1979), 25.
4. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horcrux#Deathly_Hallows
5. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horcrux#Horcruxes
6. George Orwell, 1984 at George Orwell’s 1984