Article on Harry Potter by R J Rowling
- an unpublished literary critique by
with his permission
Presented to foster literary and social discourse
So you thought you knew and understood what your kids are reading?
Guess again. What you might hear when you ask them
"Whacha readin' ?"
The Magical Journey:
Symbols of Transformation and the Occult Foundations of the Harry Potter Books
By Ken McCormick
Certain Christians have publicly criticized J. K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter" series of children’s books as being founded in occultism. This charge has met with general incredulity and outright ridicule from literary critics and the vast majority of the public. I believe it is possible to show, however, that the criticism is not only quite correct, but that the truth of it should be fairly obvious to anyone who will compare the books to the writings of certain occult religions. Several occult religions seem to have gained considerable momentum from a connection with the feminist movement, and so the Harry Potter books might properly be seen in the context of the ongoing "culture wars."
I have communicated with a few people who have expressed the opinion to me that the Harry Potter books exert a strong spiritual pull on them. It may in fact be an unacknowledged spiritual pull rather than excellence of style or characterization or skillful pacing of plot that may account for much of the books’ wild popularity in a spiritually-starved world. Many commentators have likened the books to the strongly Christian-influenced writings of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and a July 2, 2000 article on "Potter in Perspective" in The Philadelphia Inquirer asserted that J. K. Rowling "shares those two writers’ concern with faith." An article on "Pottermania" in the June 22, 2000 issue of The Daily Local News of West Chester, Pennsylvania reported on critical praise for the books’ "search for truth" and emphasis on "personal choices." Critic A. O. Scott, writing in Slate, opined that fictional head wizard Dumbledore’s "benevolent but strict theology, involving the operations of free will in a supernaturally determined world, is classically Miltonian." Miltonian, indeed!
Some of the statements and ideas in the Potter series deal with spiritual issues. Here are a few examples:
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (The Chamber of Secrets, page 333.)
"The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution." (Think about this statement from The Sorcerer’s Stone, page 298.)
"You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore…." (The Prisoner of Azkaban, page 247.)
"There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it." (The Sorcerer’s Stone, page 291.)
"To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." (The Sorcerer’s Stone, page 302.)
The objection might be raised that the statement "there is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it" is put by the author in the mouth of a "bad guy," and so is not a valid expression. But the author speaks for all her characters, not just the protagonist, and the statement is nowhere specifically refuted, so this idea that is a spiritual issue is put forward in the books, is it not?
If parents and teachers are going to trust an author to deal with such topics as the soul, death, good and evil, and free will for our kids, it does not seem unreasonable to examine the nature of the author’s earnest "faith" and the direction of her Miltonian "theology."
Many parents and commentators have objected to the books’ use of witchcraft and magic, asserting that it is an advertisement for Wicca, the modern witchcraft religion. Witchcraft and magic have been the stock in trade of children’s stories from time immemorial, and it is clear that these past stories, although they may have once been influenced by a genuine belief in witchcraft, have not been intended to promote Wicca. It is the blending of magic with spirituality which has aroused suspicions. C. S. Lewis did the same blending in his children’s books known as the Chronicles of Narnia. His symbolism was strongly Christian, however, and so was not a challenge to the dominant culture. Most of those who object to Rowling’s stories are not really objecting to the use of witchcraft and magic in the storyline, then, but rather to the way in which it is used. They have the impression that beneath the patently silly, make-believe, stereotypical, juvenile occultism of the stories lies a foundation of real occultism.
Several what might be called "occult" religions plainly assert a belief that magic is real. By "magic," they do not mean flying on broomsticks, waving magic wands, wearing invisibility cloaks, and so on. (J. K Rowling, by the way, is quoted in a review by Lindy Beam for the organization Focus on the Family as saying "I don’t believe in the kind of magic that appears in my books…." This might tend to make one wonder, if she doesn’t believe in that kind of magic, then what kind does she believe in?) They do believe that magic can be used to cast spells to gain power over others and to win success in attracting romantic interest, for example, or career benefits, or to wreak revenge through a curse. They believe in and practice divination, some using such methods as astrology or tarot cards. Most important for the evaluation of the Harry Potter books, however, is the fact that many of the occult religions practice magic for the express purpose of inner transformation, or what they may refer to as "becoming." The ultimate and highest goal of such "becoming" is a spiritual or psychological self-deification.
In a traditional understanding of magic, this transformational magic was thought of as "high magic," and was regarded as a spiritual discipline. Dr. Philip G. Davis explains the traditional understanding of high magic on page 105 of his Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality. It was thought to involve the mastery, through the work of much of a lifetime, of the hidden, or "occult" forces which were supposed to govern events in this world. This involved the knowledge of the supposed mystical powers behind such things as numbers, the stars, chemical elements, personality traits, et cetera. Such knowledge supposedly gave the high magician control over these hidden forces, and consequent spiritual power. Perfect knowledge and complete power would result in the deification of the magician.
With the advent of depth psychology, the work of the traditional high magician was viewed as having been a projection of subconscious, internal processes onto the external world by the magician. Now, the goal of high magic became the knowledge of and mastery of the hidden forces within the magician’s own being. Magic now took on the overt purpose of psychological transformation. Self-deification became a sort of ultimate narcissism which sought to place the self at the center of the universe. This was viewed as a largely subconscious process, not the result of a logical thinking through or an intellectual learning process, but a completely experiential, emotional development which would result in a final event similar to religious conversion. I will say more about self-deification as I proceed.
It seems to be a failure to understand the transformative purpose of magic that has caused such Christians as evangelist Charles Colson, the editors of Christianity Today magazine, and reviewer Lindy Beam of Focus on the Family to mistakenly conclude that there is no real occultism underlying the Potter books. Rowling is certainly aware of the transformative purpose of magic as currently practiced by the witchcraft religions, Wicca, Neopaganism, and Goddess spirituality, and also by Satanism, which I think might be properly classified today as a form of Neopaganism. For example, she describes the history of her arch-villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, on page 329 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this way:
"Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle…. He disappeared after leaving the school… traveled far and wide… sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable."
The vast majority of Rowling’s Muggle readers, however, having very little knowledge of true occultism, are unaware that her books provide a symbolic representation of actual religious belief, and so take the above description as merely another example of her brilliant "originality."
"Magical" or "Occult" Religions
In order to evaluate the Potter books regarding the question of whether or not real occultism underlies the seemingly playful exterior, it is necessary to first examine real occultism. I am therefore going to launch into what may seem to be an overly long exposition of occultism which will contain only a few overt indications of any relationship to the Potter books. I must beg the reader’s indulgence. I will tie all this together in the last part of this paper.
I think part of the reason for the ridicule of Christians who have objected to what they see as occultism in the Potter books has been the refusal of the general public to take occultism seriously. The non-religious reader, especially, will probably be inclined to regard all religions as nothing more than wishful thinking, ignorance, and mumbo-jumbo, and will think of occultism in particular as nothing but a few insignificant, silly people who stick pins in Vodou dolls or prattle about delusional "past lives." I hope the reader may come to perceive that there are real issues here, and that there are some intelligent people engaged in serious pursuits in occultism as well as in mainstream religions.
"Occultism" includes several real religions whose adherents appear to take their religions at least as seriously as Jews, Christians, and Muslims take their own religions. I have pretty much learned to treat other people’s religions with some respect. What may seem like foolishness to the outside observer seems to often be the result of that observer’s own ignorance of what he or she is observing. If any of my descriptions of these religions seem at all derogatory, bear in mind that many adherents of these religions regularly attack and ridicule my own religion, Christianity, and turnabout is fair play.
There is no substitute for experience, and so the curious reader is urged to use the Internet search engines to locate some of the many websites of these religions, and let the adherents of these religions, themselves, explain their beliefs. I am not an expert on occultism by any means. My interest only extends so far as trying to keep my kids from setting out on the wrong path in life. Unfortunately, it seems as though I often have to fight against the efforts of the schools and the cultural mainstream in order to do so. There is only one document on the Internet that the reader really must examine in order to understand my case, and that is the "Church of Satan Youth Communiqué." Thorough and honest consideration of the positions of some of the more toxic forms of occultism such as Satanism may prove disturbing to some people. I trust the reader will follow his or her instincts in deciding how deeply he or she wishes to investigate the occult religions. Occult religions which practice magic include:
Vodou. Practitioners of Vodou, one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, for some reason consider the older spelling of "Voodoo" to be demeaning. They seek to work magic through the intersession of spirits. I use the term to refer to all American versions of the indigenous religions of West Africa which have acquired a few syncretic elements of Christianity, and I don’t have the space to draw fine distinctions between Haitian Vodou and, say Macumba, which is a closely-related religion. In these short descriptions of occult religions, I am forced to generalize about very diverse beliefs.
Santería is a type of Vodou which has acquired somewhat more terminology and concepts from Roman Catholicism, such as referring to the spirits as "saints," for example. This religion is practiced mainly by Spanish-speaking people from the countries in and around the Caribbean, especially Cuba.
Wicca. "Wicca" is the new name for witchcraft. Wicca as a full-blown religion was invented by a British gentleman named Gerald B. Gardiner in the early 1950’s. Gardiner claimed that the information he published in his 1954 book Witchcraft Today was learned from a coven of real witches into which he had been initiated in 1939, but as has been pointed out by Aidan A. Kelly in his 1991 Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964, Wicca was, in fact, cobbled together by Gardiner from such published sources as Margaret Murray’s fanciful Witch-Cult in Western Europe, the writings of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and above all, the books of the notorious Aleister Crowley, with whom Gardiner had been personally acquainted. Gardiner placed Wiccan lore and incantations in a mock-archaic English in order to lend them an air of antiquity. One example is the "Rede," the central law of witchcraft: "An ye harm none, do what ye will." This appears to be an archaized modification of Crowley’s antinomian maxim " ‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the law."
Despite these inauspicious beginnings, Wicca is now a bona-fide religion with tax-exempt status and its own military chaplains. According to the article "Witches are charmed by Harry Potter" in the June 18, 2000 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer, there are an estimated 300,000 to 1,500,000 practitioners of Wicca in North America. The number of Unitarian Universalists in the United States, for the sake of comparison, is 502,000, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses is 976,000, and the number of Quakers is 104,000. There are 401,000 Buddhists in the US, 527,000 Muslims, and 227,000 Hindus.
A survey has found that a large proportion of Wiccans in the northeastern U.S. are women of either Jewish or Roman Catholic background. The religion has no church hierarchy and no official dogma; its organization consists of small groups which may be referred to as covens or circles, and beliefs vary according to the consensus of each coven. Practitioners tend to be upper middle-class whites. Wiccan web sites bitterly recount the persecution of the Wiccan religion by Christians in the form of witch burnings during the Middle Ages. Well-off whites can thus experience a sense of righteous victimhood as members of a persecuted minority by joining this religion.
Wiccans believe in an earth goddess, a sort of a Mother Nature, and usually describe their religion as a nature religion. The other major spiritual figure is a horned god sometimes described as being similar to the Greek Pan. As part of the "Charge of the Goddess" originated by Gardiner, the priestess incarnating the Goddess addresses the devotee:
"Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown."
Wiccan rituals have been adopted by other witchcraft religions described below. The rituals may be quite elaborate. Some groups prefer to perform them outdoors at night. Ritual nudity may add a bit of spice to religious services. The Witches’ League for Public Awareness of Salem, Massachusetts has been good enough to post an introductory self-dedication ritual on the Internet at www.celticCrow.com/craft/dedication.html . I am reproducing a little of the ritual here to give a bit of the flavor of the religion. The reader is invited to visit the site and read the entire ritual.
After a purification bath and period of silent meditation, the devotee establishes a purified ritual circle, walking the circle clockwise with sea water and incense, reciting:
"I consecrate this place of rite,
by salted water, smoke, and firelight.
So mote it be."
The devotee then goes to the center of the circle to the altar space to visualize energy filling the ritual space for a few minutes, then redraws the circle with a black-handled knife, a wand or the right hand. This is done either starting in the North or the East, reciting:
"This Circle is cast
as in days of old
to welcome the Old Ones
and make the Old Ways retold.
So mote it be."
A white candle is anointed with oil and lighted, and a further verse recited. Then holding aloft a pentacle, the four Quarters are called to witness the rite, starting with either North or East. The God and Goddess are then called upon to witness the rite with a recitation that concludes with:
"By the powers of the Old Ones
and the magick of their ways
I embark on my journey
May they bless all my days.
So mote it be."
The devotee then adopts a "craft name" and makes a long prose pledge to the gathered spirit witnesses. This pledge is to come from the heart, but a suggested example includes "I…, within the circle of the wise to symbolize my rebirth, do pledge to honor the God and the Goddess in all areas of my life. I will strive to understand their great mysteries, and the mystery of myself. I will share this knowledge and this path with all who sincerely seek such enlightenment. I will protect and guard the Old Ways from those who would desire to destroy them…."
The devotee introduces himself or herself to the Quarters. Further verses thank the God and Goddess for their witness, release the Quarters, bless the Old Ones, and close the ritual circle.
Ed Sullivan, a senior librarian with the New York Public Library Connecting Libraries and Schools Project writing in the October, 1999 issue of the School Library Journal recommends a few nonfiction books on witchcraft to serve the wants and needs of teens in school libraries. He notes that there is tremendous interest in Wicca on the part of young people, basing this view on the frequency with which books on the subject are checked out of libraries and never returned, or are simply stolen outright. He says: "Adolescents often feel out of control – emotionally, physically, and psychologically – and the idea that they might control aspects of their lives or the lives of other people through spells is particularly appealing. Wicca offers young people the opportunity for personal empowerment they deeply crave." A good book, according to Mr. Sullivan, about the Wiccan religion "that can help teens decide if it is right for them" is Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation (Llewellyn, 1998) and two more adult books by the same author that go more deeply into practices and rituals, To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft (Llewellyn, 1993) and To Stir a Magick Cauldron: A Witch’s Guide to Casting and Conjuring (Llewellyn, 1996). Also recommended are Jennifer Hunter’s 21st Century Wicca: A Young Witch’s Guide to Living the Magical Life (Citadel, 1997) and Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Llewellyn, 1990) and Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Llewellyn, 1993).
Neopaganism. This religion encompasses various groups who draw on pre-Christian pantheons of the Norse, the Celts, the Native Americans, among others, and Mediterranean gods such as Baal and Ishtar in order to, according to the belief of the practitioner, either approach some underlying ineffable unity of which these pantheons represent aspects, or, if the practitioner is an atheist, which is often the case in Neopaganism, use the mythology of the pantheon in a quest for self-deification.
Neopaganism grew out of Nineteenth Century Romanticism, but through the last three-quarters of the Twentieth Century, it was very heavily influenced by the writings of the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. Indeed, psychologist and Harvard lecturer Richard Noll argues in his books The Jung Cult: origins of a charismatic movement and The Aryan Christ: the secret life of C. G. Jung that Jung's school of Analytical Psychology is in effect Neopagan religion masquerading as science. Jung saw organizing principles in the subconscious which he termed "archetypes," of which pagan gods were often representations. His therapy aims at inner transformation for the ultimate purpose of "self-actualization." From notes suppressed from 1925 until the 1990's in which Jung describes his own self-deification, it would appear that "self-actualization" is really self-deification.
In any case, Neopagan Eric S. Raymond in his Internet FAQ on Neopaganism says of Joseph Campbell's four-volume The Masks of God that "the theoretical framework of these books is a form of pragmatic neo-Jungianism which has enormously influenced the neopagans; we can accurately be described as the practice for which Campbell and Jung were theorizing." More information on Neopaganism is available on Raymond's FAQ at www.tuxedo.org/~esr/faqs/paganism.txt .
Neopaganism has since the 1960's borrowed magical rituals from Wicca. Within both religions, there are practitioners who choose to employ "black magic," or the so-called "Left-Hand Path" instead of the friendly "white magic" that the religions prefer to present as their public faces. In Jungian terms, this would involve a faustian use of the archetype of the "shadow," the hidden, rejected, dark impulses of the subconscious, as a guide to knowledge of the subconscious and ultimate "self-actualization."
The Pagan Family: Handing the Old Ways Down, by Ceisiwr Serith, a book for Neopagans "who want to blend their alternative spirituality with child rearing" reveals that the Bible is a source of neopagan belief in this little ritual honoring the moon:
"Since the Bible forbids kissing one’s hand to the moon (Job 31: 26-7) it’s a pretty good bet this was a Pagan custom. Form the horned hand with your main hand by making a fist and extending your index and little fingers. Kiss it, and then extend your arm towards the moon so you can see the moon cradled between the horns."
A sample Neopagan ritual is a girl’s puberty ritual. The girl, naked or in neopagan terminology "skyclad," is led by other significant women in her life to a sweat lodge, wigwam, or darkened tent to spend 24 hours in meditation. The women recite:
The butterfly enters the chrysalis,
The seed enters the ground,
The child enters the womb,
To be transformed,
To be transformed.
You are becoming a woman
And now you must find your way.
Go deep, daughter.
The only way out is through.
The girl is later led to a beach by the skyclad women where they stand in the water with their legs spread apart, and the girl, after choosing her name, swims between the legs of each woman in turn who each recite:
"(Her new name) is born.
A woman is born.
Goddess spirituality. Also known as "feminist spirituality" or "women's spirituality," this religion is often classified as either Wicca or Neopaganism, but is distinguished from them by the belief that the God of Israel is an instrument of patriarchal oppression, and that women need to get in touch with "the goddess within" in order to achieve wholeness. As the feminist professor of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa Naomi Goldenberg has stated in her book Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions, "We women are going to bring an end to God. We will change the world so much that He won’t fit in anymore." Goddess spirituality also enjoys the distinction of being the only religion actively promoted at this time in the coursework of publicly-supported institutions of higher learning. Many university Women’s Studies departments use a Prentice-Hall textbook by Marianne Ferguson entitled Women and Religion that not only promotes Goddess spirituality, but also dismisses critiques of that spirituality as the work of "jealous, threatened male clergy who wish to maintain their control over women’s sexual activities" (quote from Dr. Philip G. Davis in Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality regarding pp. 207-208 of Women and Religion). Many schools of nursing have incorporated aspects of this religion into nurse training as "women’s spirituality" and "alternative medicine." Techniques taught include such methods as "therapeutic touch," in which hands are passed over the patient’s body without actually touching it in order to manipulate the patient’s "aura." According to the very influential Goddess spirituality writer Carol P. Christ, this religion now has hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide.
Goddess spirituality is essentially Wicca in which female sexuality has been made the central focus. One of the more colorful aspects of the religion, for example, is the treatment of menstrual fluid as a holy substance, somewhat like, I gather, holy water. Wiccan magical rituals are retained.
Some Goddess spirituality writers report finding themselves attracted to the transformational power of the dark side of the Goddess. Says Carol P. Christ on page 97 of Rebirth of the Goddess:
"I find myself drawn to the darkness, viewing it as a place of transformation. Going into the dark has become a metaphor for going into the unknown, the unshaped, the unformed. I understand that just as a seed must stay in a dark cool place to sprout, so I must embrace the darkness at the center of myself if I am to find healing, transformation, new life….
In Jungian ‘archetypal’ psychology, in the ‘history’ of religion, and in some feminist thealogies (sic), the warrior Goddess is identified as an aspect of the "Dark" Goddess. Warrior Goddesses such as the Mesopotamian Inanna and Ishtar, the Egyptian Sekhmet, and the Hindu Durga and Kali are invoked as images of the "Dark" Goddess. It is said that these Goddesses allow women to express the full range of our anger at patriarchy…."
Dr. Christ makes an annual pilgrimage from her residence on the Aegean isle of Lesbos to join other devotees of the Goddess in caves on Crete, where one of the rites they perform is to sing over and over again the words "Light and darkness, light and darkness, light and darkness."
Demetra George, in Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess makes it clear that the dark goddess is a feminine representation of the Jungian shadow archetype, just as the Christian image of Satan may be a masculine representation of the shadow. On page 29, she explains that the dark goddess has been known by many names in different lands over time, as Kali, for example, as Hecate, Lilith, and Morgana. There can thus be seen a certain amount of crossover from the witchcraft religions to Satanism, the next occult religion to be discussed.
A couple of feminist writers point to the supposedly militaristic nature of the God of Israel, and make the seemingly nonsensical assertion that if Christians will just abandon faith in the Prince of Peace and follow the Princess of Darkness instead, there will be peace and universal brotherhood, or at the least, universal sisterhood.
* * *
In To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, the Wiccan feminist writer Jade draws a useful list of distinctions that she sees between the old, Piscean (read "Christian") Age that we are now leaving, and the new, Aquarian Age of the witchcraft religions: Wicca, neopaganism, and Goddess spirituality. I reproduce the list in part below:
Duality ……………………………………... Equality
Spirit outside ………………………………. Spirit within
God as authority figure ……………………… Oneness with all life
Good vs. evil ………………………………. No need for blame
Following orders …………………………… Honoring inner truth
God vs. Devil ………………………………. No concept of external evil
Allegiance, nationalism, patriotism …………... Loyalty to self
Hierarchy, monarchy, and bureaucracy ……... Government by inner authority
This list illustrates some important theological distinctions between the witchcraft religions on the one hand, and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, on the other. First, there is moral relativism that results from the traditional magical scheme of establishing continua in which opposites are united. This results from the desire to be able to balance all the opposing forces of the universe, interior or exterior, for the purpose of control by the magician. Good and evil thus become as much matters of opinion as such concepts as warm and cold, rather than mutually exclusive opposites as seen by the mainstream religions.
There is the conflict between the immanence of deity on the part of the witchcraft religions, and the transcendent Deity of the mainstream religions. This is to say simply that witches see deity as residing within matter, while the God of the mainstream religions is seen as outside or above the material world.
There is also extreme antinomianism which results from the placement of the self at the center of the moral universe. The term "antinomianism" originally referred to the early Christian doctrine that Christians are in a state of grace and are thus freed from Mosaic law, being led in their actions instead by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine was interpreted by some later heretical groups such as the Gnostics in such a way as to invite moral anarchy. Popular antinomianism can be seen today in the saying, "Love, and do what you will," in which love is seen as the guiding principle for moral action. In the case where the self is the source of moral authority, self-interest will be the guiding principle for action. Perhaps this is why in the Ten Commandments which are the foundation of the Judeo-Christian moral code, the commandment "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me" is given first place, for without it, all the others are called into question.
Are all these issues involved in a series of lighthearted children’s books? Yes, they are, but not in an overt way. They underlie the action.
The final observation that I hope the reader will make from the list is the need in the witchcraft religions for a search for truth and the importance of personal choices. Please recall that the critics have celebrated these elements in the Potter books.
Jade on pages 156 and 157 of the same book points out some interesting problems that face the occult religionist who is also a parent:
"Since the beginning of time, through both the matriarchal and patriarchal eras, women have been primarily responsible for teaching children about the culture in which they live. Women today are no exception; within the women’s spiritual community there is growing interest in passing along Craft philosophy and tradition to younger generations. However, making the decision to include children in a non-traditional religion is not without its hazards. Children who participate in celebrations and activities can pass on information to ex-husbands, teachers, and grandparents who may be less than enthusiastic about having a child taught Witchcraft. In a few cases, this has even instigated custody battles from frightened parents or partners. Including a child in Pagan activities means either the parent must be willing to educate individuals her child might choose to confide in, or the child must learn at an early age the value of keeping the silence….
* * *
Satanism. Satanism has been recognized as a religion by the courts. Forget Hollywood images of mobs of glassy-eyed Satanists dressed in Halloween costumes and mumbling chants like "Hail Satan, Prince of Darkness!" The two major Satanist denominations decry the image they have been given by the media. They are quick to point out that they are not about animal mutilations, animal sacrifice, or even cruelty to animals, and they publicly urge their adherents to obey the laws of the land. Our knowledge of real life Satanists usually comes from press reports of occasional tragedies that occur when groups of disaffected high school kids get their hands on some Satanist literature and begin to play at being serious Satanists. The leading Satanist churches do not accept members under eighteen years of age.
The attitude of the press towards Satanism is curiously reticent. When it was thought that black churches in the Southeast were being targeted in a wave of arson in the late 1990’s, the issue was front-page news and deemed worthy of presidential attention. When it was noticed that white churches were also being burned, and that the motivation of the arsonists was therefore anti-Christian rather than anti-black, the national media’s enthusiasm for the story cooled noticeably. When a self-described Satanist confessed to burning at least 26 of the churches in Satanist rituals, sometimes assisted by his stripper girlfriend, apparent interest in the story hit rock bottom. Police confiscated about 50 contracts signed in blood from the man’s home, in which teen-agers had agreed to give their souls to Satan and commit "all types of evil" in exchange for wealth, power, and sex. One might think this whole scenario to be at least as lurid as that of redneck white supremacists burning black churches, but the press barely followed up on it. It might appear that the racist scenario would have supported the world-view of many members of the press in which they, themselves are the embattled allies and defenders of the downtrodden black man, while the true scenario was an embarrassment in that the victims were Christians, whom the press seems to prefer to identify as members of the oppressor majority.
For obvious reasons, it is impossible to get a reliable estimate of the size of the Satanist movement. A handbook for military chaplains, Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 165-13, published in April, 1978, estimated the number of members of the Church of Satan, the only organized Satanist church at that time, at 10,000 to 20,000. I myself have in the course of my life met only three avowed Satanists who were not high school or college kids trying to be shocking. As a teen, I was once given a scolding by Upper Merion High School principal Jay Smith, whose red devil costume and rec-room dungeon you may have read about in connection with the Reinert murders and the disappearance of Smith’s own daughter and her husband. Joseph Wambaugh’s Echoes in the Darkness and a couple of other books have been written about the bizarre circumstances surrounding the murders. There was even a TV miniseries. So I guess that makes four that I’ve met, although I don’t know that Smith ever stated that he was a Satanist. The three that I did meet had a presence about them that was enough to make one’s blood run cold.
The two most important Satanist denominations are the Temple of Set, with a website at www.xeper.org , and the Church of Satan, which may be found at www.churchofsatan.com . Other important Satanist churches are the Church of Satanic Liberation and the Temple of Nepthys. Satanism eschews the practice of so-called "white magic," and instead follows the Left-Hand Path exclusively. Satanists are straightforward about seeking self-deification. The Church of Satan’s "Welcome" page, for example, states that "individuals who resonate with Satan have always been an alien elite, often outsiders in cultures whose masses pursue solace in an external deity. We Satanists are our own Gods, and we are the explorers of the Left-Hand Path."
Carl Jung claimed that the archetype of the shadow was by far the most accessible of the archetypes, and so was useful as a guide to the unconscious. This is why Goethe’s Faust took up the practice of magic and struck a bargain with Mephistopheles to gain knowledge of absolute truth. In his autobiography, Jung expressed a strong preference for Faust over the Gospel of John. In following the Left-Hand Path, then, Satanists are probably employing the most powerful means to self-deification.
Satanists can explain themselves more clearly than I can, and the reader should be convinced that I am not just making things up. The Temple of Set offers an excellent and highly literate introduction to its religion at www.xeper.org/pub/tos/infoadms.html . The reader is urged to visit that site to learn what Satanism is about.
Finally, I would suggest that the curious reader might want to visit www.xeper.org/maquino/nm/DS/Docs/Preface.html to read some authentic Satanist fictional literature by the leader of the Temple of Set, Col. Michael Aquino. I think a little of the vaunted "originality" and "inventiveness" of the Harry Potter series may result from a lack of familiarity with occult literature on the part of the critics. J. K. Rowling’s prose is usually better than that of Col. Aquino, but there is, I think, a certain affinity of imagery. Certainly, Aquino’s science fiction has a lot of the secret passage – alien temple – dark experiments- magical rites sort of setting that one finds in the Potter books. This all grew out of Nineteenth Century Romanticism, by the way. And consider this passage of Aquino’s: "What may I say about Krel Atlan, the sorceress with the crystalline eyes? There are women who flourish in the brilliance of sunlight and those who can be seen only in the delicate shimmer of the stars during the hours of darkness." Two things I might mention are the name made up from allusions and fragments of other names, and the image of the bright eyes and piercing gaze of which Rowling is so fond. Finally, one will find a similarity between Aquino and Rowling in the generally cheerful bitchiness of the characters’ dialogue. Perhaps Col. Aquino ought to try his hand at children’s books instead of science fiction.
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The quest for self-deification in the occult religions disproves Gandhi’s assertion that if one goes to the heart of one’s religion, one goes to the heart of all religions. Buddhism and Hinduism seek to extinguish the self. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity subordinate the self to the Will of God. In Christianity, at least, it is only through giving away one’s life that one gains life. Awareness of a transcendent reality and acceptance are central features of the mainstream religions. Power, will, and control are central features of occult religions. Self-deification, then, is a kind of antireligion which seeks to glorify one’s life rather than give it away.
The Setians describe themselves as a consciousness-worshiping religion. Wicca, on the other hand, presents itself to the public as a "nature religion." A forerunner which contributed heavily to both religions as practiced today, however, was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was quite clearly concerned with what the Temple of Set calls the worship of consciousness, and not with nature worship. We therefore find a current of high magic and consciousness worship within Wicca, also, but it is less explicit than in Satanism. One can only hope that the numerous teens now dabbling in Wicca will content themselves with such relatively superficial folderol as anointing spooky black candles, divining the future through tarot cards, and brewing love potions, and will never discover the real dangers of transformative magic before losing interest.
Wiccans, Neopagans, and J. K. Rowling make much of the difference between white magic and black magic. Australian "alchemist" Helen Glisic describes white magic on pages 11 and 12 of her little book Spellbound this way:
"White magic is the use of natural forces and spiritual realms. It is a way of life for many people that involves meditation and exploration of the elements of the self. This relates to one’s beliefs about the way life takes different turns and how events shape our world, and how we as individuals create our own reality. Always remember that you are in the driver’s seat: if you think you are not, then who is?"
Who is in the driver’s seat is an excellent question. The "exploration of the elements of the self" is, I believe, what the Temple of Set is involved in, and whether white magic or black magic is used, it is hard to see how occult seekers will not ultimately wind up in the same place. The big problem with transformational magic is the nature of the shadow, the first, most accessible of the archetypal structures of the subconscious, and its projection-making faculty, a problem that will be described later in this paper. Any success with transformation through so-called "white magic" will quickly bring about a confrontation with the shadow. This is a major element in the plot of the Potter books, as Harry’s magical journey brings him into contact with the shadow-figure Voldemort.
There are little wax dolls with a candle wick running through them available from an occult materials supplier. The idea is to drive a couple of pins into them all the way down to the wick as part of a spell, and then to think of the person whom the doll is to represent while watching the wick burn and melt away the doll all the way down to the pins. This is, of course, a violation of the sacred "rede." One wonders why, since everyone practicing the witchcraft religions is so firmly committed to white magic, and using their magic only for "good," these wax dolls need to be mass-produced. It may be helpful to remember that according to witchcraft’s antinomian moral code, what is good and what is evil are for the individual to decide, and also that there’s no particular demand that the truth is always to be told.
The Challenge to Christianity
Anyone who thinks that because these religions do not presently enjoy a large population of adherents, they are insignificant in their influence ought to consider the example of the history of Neopaganism in Germany. Neopaganism as a major movement was rooted in Nineteenth Century Romanticism, but was most clearly seen in the Volkisch movement of the 1890’s. By that time, the Romantic fascination with biological heritage, especially in the noble blood or special blood of the individual, had become transmuted into the mystical allegiance to the blood of the whole people, or volk. The Teutonic gods were thought by many to be the proper spirit of the volk. Sun worship, as exemplified by the primacy of Wotan, became a large element of the Volkisch movement and later Neopaganism.
One offshoot of the Volkisch movement was the occult secret society founded by Lanz Von Liebenfels, an associate of Adolph Hitler in Hitler’s Vienna days, called the New Templars. The flag of the New Templars displayed the swastika, which is a solar symbol, and the program of the New Templars, described by Austrian journalist Ken Anderson on page 42 of Hitler and the Occult, foreshadowed that of the Nazi Party: the abandonment of Christianity, the embracing of Neopaganism, the desire to become or to create the Nietzschean superman, and the affirmation of Aryan racial superiority.
Nazi leaders were influenced by Neopagan ideas in varying degrees. Heinrich Himmler was strongly Neopagan, and instituted Neopagan ritual in his S.S. Many Nazis were simply atheists. Naziism was in itself a pseudo-religion. Adolph Hitler’s own occult beliefs played an ironic part in the Allied victory. In the later stages of the war, he took the advice of astrologers over that of his generals with disastrous consequences. Also, under Hitler’s guidance, the Germans attempted to locate Allied naval vessels by having dowsers, also known as "water witches," wave pendulums over nautical charts. When the British were seen to have a degree of success in locating German U-boats far above what might reasonably be expected, the Germans were prevented from reaching the obvious conclusion that the Allies had broken their naval codes by Hitler’s ridiculous belief that the British success was due to the use of more highly-talented water witches than the Germans possessed.
After the Nazi takeover of Germany, a gradual campaign to compromise and then eliminate the Christian churches began. People were pressured into leaving the churches through the "Church Secession Campaign." There were demands that church altars be draped with swastikas, and that Mein Kampf be placed on altars next to the Bible. Children were given a new version of the Christmas carol "Silent Night" to sing, in which the words had been changed so that instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, it celebrated the birth of Adolph Hitler. Many churches were grossly compromised. One church that was approved by the government was the neopagan Church of the Third Reich. By 1939, it had enlisted five per cent of the population.
One example of the hostility towards Christianity that was fostered by the Nazis was a song sung by the Hitler Youth at the 1934 Nuremberg party rally:
"No evil priest can prevent us from feeling that we are the children of Hitler. We follow not Christ, but Horst Wessel. Away with incense and holy water! The Church can go hang for all we care. The Swastika brings salvation on earth. I want to follow it step by step."
In 1936, Hitler Youth membership became obligatory for all boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18. The Hitler Youth organization ran a summer camp program in which kids, without the knowledge or consent of their parents, were given Neopagan religious instruction.
Seven hundred Protestant clergy in Prussia were arrested for issuing condemnations of Neopaganism from the pulpit. A couple of thousand nuns, priests, and Protestant clergy went to concentration camps rather than compromise their faith. All this was, of course, very small potatoes indeed as compared to the truly horrendous persecution of the Jews.
As has already been said, the Volkisch precursors of Naziism felt themselves to be participants in a mystical movement of the Teutonic blood. Christianity was seen as an alien intrusion imposed on the true nature of the northern Europeans. This same idea is put forward in the writings of anthropologist Margaret Murray, already mentioned as a contributor to the foundation of Wicca. Those Volkisch enthusiasts who did not abandon Christianity altogether for Neopaganism sought to "cleanse" Christianity of its "Jewish elements." The Nazis moved to "cleanse" Europe not only of Jewish religious and intellectual elements, but also to "cleanse" the population of the "alien" Jewish blood in pursuit of "Aryan purity."
Racism continues to be a feature of Neopaganism today. Neopaganism is almost exclusively a white person’s religion. Although the majority are not racists, there is within the religion a controversial contingent of white supremacists who of course align themselves with the Teutonic pantheon.
Although Neopaganism never accounted for more than a few per cent of the German population during the Nazi period, it is clear that Neopagan ideas played an important role in the Nazi horror. Those who think that occultism is just harmless silliness with no real consequences ought to think about this.
Another instance of the surprising influence of occult religion is the present-day penetration of mainstream Christian churches by Goddess spirituality. A conference of some 2000 participants was held by several major American churches in Minneapolis in November, 1993 for the purpose of "reimagining" Christianity to make the religion more responsive to the needs of women. As recounted by Philip Davis in Goddess Unmasked, conference participants decried the "patriarchal idolatry of Christianity." The Rev. Dr. Lois Wilson, past president of the World Council of Churches, announced at the conference that "Christianity as practiced in today’s world demonstrates more a nightmare than a vision."
Conferees, almost all women, developed prayers and liturgies to the Goddess, whom they addressed as Sophia, meaning in the Greek language "wisdom." Consider the following prayer. As an article of Goddess spirituality, it is perhaps not at all striking, but please consider it in the light of the fact that major funding for the conference was provided by the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church, who each contributed 400 or so participants, and that the conference was attended also by large contingents of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, and members of the United Church of Christ. Here is their prayer:
"Our sweet Sophia, we are women in Your image. With nectar between our thighs we invite a lover, we birth a child. With our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations."
Do the conferees strike anyone else as being just a wee bit self-absorbed, or is it just me? This is really a rather far cry from traditional Christian religiosity, but the influence of this "women’s spirituality" continues to spread among nominal Christians.
As described by Dr. Davis on pages 24 – 29 of the work cited, serious inroads into Christian churches by Goddess spirituality began in the late 1970’s when the Unitarian Universalist Association decided to create educational materials for illuminating gender issues in religion. The result was a ten-session feminist workshop entitled "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" which has been adopted for use in numerous larger mainstream churches. The workshop includes an essay by Carol Christ and deals with witchcraft as an aspect of "contemporary feminist spirituality." The senior minister of the Ottawa Unitarian Church explained to a reporter for the Toronto Star why witchcraft rituals were being performed in his church. Witchcraft, he said, was "a way in which, using pagan sources, women own their own strength. It’s a form of feminism, if you will."
I checked this out with an old friend who is a Unitarian, and he confirmed that his fellowship in Iowa includes a Wiccan contingent. He added the assertion that "witches have been much maligned." This last bit made me feel a little like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Roman Catholicism has also seen Goddess spirituality enter liberal reform movements within the Church. The diocese of Toronto, for example, found it necessary in 1991 and 1992 to ban a "Celebrate Women" festival from the church premises because of its elements of witchcraft. Pope John Paul II has warned American bishops against the substitution of pagan mythology and nature worship for Catholic teaching and sacramental worship within the Church. This has had little apparent effect, according to Dr. Davis, in slowing the advance of Goddess worship.
The anti-Christian goal has remained as a continuous thread in all the occult religions, and not just in Goddess spirituality. For example, Michael Aquino, co-founder of the Temple of Set wrote in 1971, as reported in Satan Wants You by Arthur Lyons, that the goal of Satanism should be
"to destroy the influence of conventional religion in human affairs. I understand that to mean not so much that we want everyone to be converted to Satanism as an "institutional religion," but that we want to unravel the web of fear and superstition that has perpetuated all formal beliefs."
This would include Judaism and Islam, too, but the prominent position of Christianity in Western Civilization has made it, as far as I am aware, the only target of attack thus far. If the occult religious movement continues to grow by leaps and bounds, perhaps one day all the people of the Book will have to set aside their differences and stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of their common religious tradition.
Film critic Michael Medved notes in a column in the October 5, 2000 issue of USA Today that Hollywood is practicing "a rare form of religious bigotry" in systematically portraying vicious serial killers as having been "warped by traditional Christianity." He notes that the films Cape Fear, Seven, Copycat, and Just Cause connect torture and murder with "flamboyant displays of Christian religiosity." The most recent example of this Medved sees is the Summer, 2000 feature film starring Jennifer Lopez entitled The Cell. He notes that the serial killer in this film flashes back repeatedly to a seizure while underwater during a baptism ceremony as the root of his "monstrous cruelty."
I’m glad a major critic has finally taken public notice of Hollywood’s Christianity-is-evil campaign, but I’m afraid Mr. Medved still doesn’t know the half of it. He does take note of the baptismal scenes, but he thinks they could have been left out of the film so as not to needlessly insult Christians. This shows that he missed the point of the film. He missed the symbolic crucifixion scene at the film’s climax. He missed the brief appearance of the pan-like god of Wicca. He missed the abbreviated Wiccan drawing down the moon ceremony. He missed the water motif that runs all through the movie, the theme of both literal and emotional drowning, and the water goddess of the feminists. The Cell symbolically equates Christianity with patriarchal oppression, racism, vicious child abuse, and the control of women’s sexuality. It symbolically overthrows Christianity and replaces it with Goddess spirituality.
To be fair to Mr. Medved, the symbolism and meaning of The Cell are so esoteric that only someone familiar with both Wicca and current feminist thinking on the problem of raising male children to, as they see it, properly identify with their mothers instead of with harmful masculine figures could be expected to understand the symbolic message of the film. Medved thinks film-makers advance these unpopular themes in order to raise their status within the Hollywood establishment. In this case, he appears to be right.
Only one review of the dozen or so I read on The Cell commented on the "heroic defiance" depicted therein. Heroic defiance is what Captain Ahab offers God in Moby Dick, and what Satan offers God in Paradise Lost, so one reviewer out of twelve got the point.
There is just no accounting for film critics’ failure to understand the underlying meaning of the hit film The Truman Show. The Truman Show is about heroic defiance. Its symbolism is so heavy-handed as to be outright corny, but the critics still didn’t get it. They almost all bought the studio’s cover story that this movie was about the intrusiveness of the media - an altogether unlikely case of the media protesting against itself. The character Truman is confined by fear to a flat earth, domed universe in which every aspect of his life is managed from a control room located above the dome of the sky by a TV director named CHRIST-of (Get it?). But since he is a TRUE MAN (Get it?) he values the search for truth so much that he is determined to break out of his comfortable and secure but phony environment in order to experience the world for what it really is. He even draws a picture of himself in a mirror with horns, but to be fair to the critics, they could pass for antennae.
If you doubt my interpretation, dear reader, take this test: borrow the film on video and wind the tape to the last ten minutes. Look at the scene where True Man is on a wrecked sailboat on the sea around his island. A blinding light breaks through the clouds. A voice booms out of the heavens: "I AM THE CREATOR…OF THIS WORLD." If you had walked into the theater during this scene without first being distracted by the studio’s cover story, wouldn’t you have concluded that this was a religious movie? The "I am the creator" scene is almost like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille film. And if you still doubt the obvious, get a look at a film written and directed by The Truman Show’s screenwriter entitled Gattaca. You’ll see the same theme of heroic defiance, but this time in a much deeper moral quagmire which includes murder. That film also won critical acclaim. As for The Truman Show, only one critic out of the dozen or so I read got it, and he let discussion of it go with the observation that the film dealt with "existential issues." The rest, bless them, will apparently go to any lengths to ignore religious issues, even if they’re staring them in the face.
Here then, are some examples of the far-reaching influence of occult religion on society at large. I hope that it is clear that occult religions have from time to time been strongly and successfully promoted by their adherents. This brief examination of some of the salient features of occultism will permit an examination of the Harry Potter books to see whether or not those same features are present there.
Robert Knight, author of The Age of Consent: The Rise of Relativism and the Corruption of Popular Culture, told USA Today in the June 15, 2000 article "Some want Harry to vanish till kids are older" that "the problem with Harry Potter is the problem with junk food. It fills children’s minds with a substitute vision of the good which is not derived from God." Echoing this thought about the moral dimension of the books is Lindy Beam, youth culture analyst for the public interest group Focus on the Family, who writes in the article "What Shall We Do With Harry" in Focus on the Family’s files that "the spiritual fault of Harry Potter is not so much that it plays to dark supernatural powers, but that it doesn’t acknowledge any supernatural powers or moral authority at all. Rowling does not write from the basis of Judeo-Christian ethics. So her characters may do ‘the-wrong-thing-for-the-right-reason,’ often lying, cheating or breaking rules in order to save the day."
Writer and educator John Andrew Murray told USA Today in a July 7, 2000 cover story that Rowling does not link moral authority with supernatural powers. The result of no Higher Authority behind morality, he said, results in "a morally confused world."
David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise, on the other hand, finds the lack of a moral tone in the books refreshing, according to "Series’ clever simplicity works magic on kids of all ages" in the June 8, 2000 issue of USA Today. Brooks says that kids today are "awash in moral instruction to an extent unprecedented even at the height of the Victorian era." Not so in the Potter books, he thinks: "It’s much more of a dog-eat-dog world. They fight it out."
J. K. Rowling, however, insisted in an October 17, 1999 BBC News report entitled "Harry Potter fights back" that her books were "very moral" in depicting the struggle between good and evil. Prof. Alan Jacobs, writing on "Harry Potter’s Magic" in the January, 2000 issue of First Things, finds Rowling’s moral compass not only "sound," but indeed "acute." It seems fair to say that the vast majority of Rowling’s readers either see no moral problems in Harry Potter, or agree with critic Bobbie Combs in her July 8, 2000 review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for The Philadelphia Inquirer that Harry Potter is "at once an ordinary boy and a force for good."
John Andrew Murray has said in the article "Harry Dilemma" in Teachers in Focus magazine that the only way the Potter books are moral is if witchcraft itself is moral. I agree with him. To say that Rowling is not writing in the context of the Judeo-Christian moral code leaves unanswered the obvious question, if it’s not the Judeo-Christian moral code, then what moral code is it? It’s not possible not to have a moral code. Everybody values some things and devalues others. In Western Civilization, even the non-religious are normally conditioned to the Judeo-Christian moral code; it is embedded in our culture. One important step on the road to self-deification is the de-conditioning of the individual from the learned moral code. This may be accomplished in much the same way de-conditioning from cult beliefs is accomplished: by the individual’s consciously and deliberately performing actions opposite to the conditioned ones.
I once wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in which I questioned the moral values put forward in the first of this series of children’s books. This earned me a local reputation as a "book-banner" and led to a number of debates with Potter enthusiasts, who seem to comprise a large segment of the local population. One of the aspects I chose to question was Harry and his friends’ lying. I thought the lying ought to present a clear instance of a moral lapse, since the author describes the lies in such a straightforward, unambiguous manner, as in:
"What’s up?" said Hagrid.
"Nothing," Harry lied.
That’s not "Harry said," or "Harry replied," or "Harry responded," but "Harry lied." I thought this kind of in-your-face frankness on the part of the author ought to make it easy to identify a moral problem here. Not so. Most people’s reaction was "Lies? What lies?" One lady wrote back to the newspaper claiming that in the 309 pages of text in the first Potter book, Harry only lies three times – replying "Nothing" twice to "What’s up" and once to "What are you looking for."
Actually, Harry and the other "good guys" lie far more than three times in the course of the first book, but I didn’t keep count, and I’m not about to re-read it just to tally up the lies. I can cite six instances of lying by Harry and his friends in that book, but I don’t think they would comprise an exhaustive list of deceptions. I did keep a tally when I read the second book, though, because I read it as I was writing this paper, and I can report with confidence that the "good guys" lie eleven times in the course of it. The bad guys lie too, of course, and everybody engages in various deceptions. But it’s not the number of lies that is the issue. It’s the way lying, as well as other immoral acts such as, for instance, murder, is presented in the complete absence of moral conflict. Lying exists in the plot lines of many, many children’s books, but there is normally an at least tacit recognition in those books that lying is a moral problem of some sort. One of those stodgy old books that the aforementioned author of Bobos in Paradise finds so tiresome for its efforts at moral instruction might even depict the consequences that flow from the lie to be troublesome in order to put forward the idea that lying is not a good thing.
Harry Potter is not so old-fashioned as to suggest that any troublesome consequences necessarily come from lying, however. Lying is not a moral problem in Harry Potter books, and no discernable bad consequences flow from the lies in the book, except to keep the plot flowing. Looking at the first book entirely objectively, one might even interpret lying as a virtue in that book.
As the lady who wrote the rebuttal to my letter to the editor pointed out, the first few of Harry’s lies really don’t amount to much as far as heinous acts go. The author takes care to provide sympathetic motivations for the lies. She makes them so easy to excuse, but then describes them so frankly as lies that it is almost as though she is daring the reader to answer the question, "what’s wrong with a little lying, especially when it’s in a good cause?" On page 198 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, after lying about what he had been looking for in the library, Harry expresses the wish that he had the ability to come up with better lies. Here is the basic problem with the Harry Potter books as seen from a religious perspective. Traditional children’s books will normally treat lying as a weakness of character, or perhaps even as a necessary evil, but there will be at least a desire for truth. Harry Potter expresses a desire to lie.
Then at the climax of the book on page 292, his lying ability is put to the extreme test as he must lie convincingly in order to save the day and to save his own life. "I must lie," he says to himself, "I must look and lie about what I see, that’s all." Some people apparently have missed the fact that Harry is lying in this instance, but just to confirm that he is, the wicked Voldemort cries "He lies…He lies…" Hey, far be it from me to suggest that little Harry ought to be such a stickler for adherence to the Ten Commandments that he gets himself killed and allows the evil Lord Voldemort to triumph all for the sake of sticking to the truth, but even the most rabid Potterhead ought to be able to see that this might just appear to some kids as saying that lying isn’t always such a bad thing. Adults may be slow to perceive this because they have been thoroughly conditioned to the Judeo-Christian moral code, and so they assume as just natural that the issue of lying is being presented in a traditional manner, from the perspective of traditional morality. In doing so, however, perhaps they are rationalizing away that which the author is really saying.
Several people have told me that none of what Ms. Rowling so boldly identifies as lies really count as such. My boss, a well-educated and highly intelligent lady, tells me that the final lie doesn’t count because who wouldn’t lie if their life depended on it, and all the other lies are just instances of children’s not wanting to tell the truth. It is true that kids often don’t want to admit to the truth, and according to my boss, they then have a tendency to "dissemble." And since there is no commandment that says "Thou shalt not dissemble," that’s quite excusable.
It may be excusable, but lying, or if one prefers, "dissembling," is a quite clear violation of the Judeo-Christian moral code. There is just no getting away from that fact. That’s not just my opinion; that’s as close to objective truth as I can come. It is evident. I think that my boss and most other people who read the Potter books tend for whatever reason to feel a strong sense of loyalty to the fictional protagonist, and are determined to see him as a "force for good," so they tend to see all his actions as being good. The author’s insistence on calling Harry’s "good" actions by the bad word "lie" creates a certain dissonance which Muggle Potter enthusiasts must rationalize, employing such self-deceiving subterfuges as believing that dissembling is not lying. This is one reason the author repeatedly expresses such contempt for Muggles. As she says on page 38 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, for example, "Bless them, they’ll go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if it’s staring them in the face." Practitioners of most of the occult religions pride themselves on their search for truth.
The argument has also been put forward that kids lie a lot in real life, and so the books are simply reflecting reality. I have worked with a lot of teens, and I find that it is more and more true that they regard lying, at least to their elders, as a virtue. Some can do it with no perceptible sign of guilt, but guilt will normally become apparent when they are presented with either a sure sign of the elder’s knowledge that they are lying, or in hard cases, incontrovertible proof that they are lying, so guilt-free lying does not seem to have been achieved on a wide scale as yet. It is not possible to say what the fictional characters of Harry Potter might be supposed to feel, but it is clear that they are presented to young readers as if they felt no guilt in lying, and so this is not a case of reflecting reality, but of creating a reality.
Stealing is another area of concern. The good guys in the Harry Potter books steal. The author makes no bones about it – she calls it stealing. The "good guy" Hagrid steals Harry’s relatives’ boat on page 64 of the first book, leaving them stranded on a wind-swept isle with no food and no fuel. This is apparently supposed to be funny, since the relatives are depicted by the author as complete obnoxious jerks who richly deserve to be marooned. However much the author might make us despise the victims of the theft, the stealing of the boat will probably be recognized, at least by children, as stealing. But the author is saying that this stealing is just and this stealing is funny. It is a moral problem that should lead to cognitive dissonance in most readers, though, because the Judeo-Christian moral code contains no commandment along the lines of "Thou shalt steal only from complete obnoxious jerks." The code only forbids stealing, period.
The Sorcerer’s Stone contains three other minor thefts by Harry and his friends. Two of the references to stealing wouldn’t necessarily be problematic were it not for the author’s peculiar treatment of them. On page 227, Harry is told "Everyone’s waiting for you in the common room, we’re having a party, Fred and George stole some cakes and stuff from the kitchens," and on page 299, he learns that his father used to use an invisibility cloak "for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food" when he was a student at the school for witches and wizards. If the author had used the more ambiguous verb "to take" rather than the verb "to steal" to describe the food acquisitions, there might not be any issue here.
Potterheads say there’s no issue here in any case. My boss came up with elegant rationalizations for the thefts in the first book. She said that a chapter or two after the taking of the boat by Hagrid, we learn that Harry’s relatives have made it home safely, so we should not consider the taking of the boat to be stealing. Perhaps, she suggested, the boat was magically returned to the island after Hagrid was done with it, even though the author neglected to mention the return. As for the food thefts, the kids’ families pay for the kids to board at Hogwarts, so they are entitled to the food.
"Then why does the author describe it as stealing?" I countered.
"Well, I think that was just a poor choice of words."
"It doesn’t seem to me as though the author fails to consider which words she will use. I think this is a very deliberate choice of words."
"Do you mean you think she’s saying it’s good to steal?"
What possible purpose could the author have here other than to say "Hey, kids, isn’t it fun to be naughty?" And to adult readers, there is the same challenge as there was in the case of lying: the author seems to be daring the reader to answer the question "What’s wrong with a little harmless stealing?" My answer to that, by the way, would be that lying is lying and stealing is stealing, no matter how small the lie or how cute the theft, and it will be a sadder world in which parents fail to convey those simple truths to their children.
There are plenty of things I can find to complain about in the first Potter book. There is the supposedly humorous episode of the uncle who pushes his little nephew off a pier, and later drops him out of a second-story window in order to see if he has the magical power to save himself. There are the mandrake roots, presented as sentient beings in human form by the author, who are chopped up and stewed to make medicine for witches. There is the fact that so many characters hate each other and behave viciously to each other. There is the persistent disobedience and rule-breaking by Harry and the other "good guys," which is more often rewarded than punished. There is Harry’s desire for revenge. But Potterheads find reasons to excuse, even to laud these things, so I’m trying to stick to examples that can be more or less objectively demonstrated to be violations of traditional morality, so I’ll just mention one other little problem: murder.
The murder of Harry’s parents is recounted with a blessed lack of detail, and there is the attempt by a teacher to murder young Harry, but I am referring now to an incident that hardly anyone recognizes as a murder, and that is Prof. Quirrell’s apparently being done in by head wizard Dumbledore. I say "apparently" because we are only told that Quirrell was "left to die" by Voldemort and that Dumbledore pulled him off Harry, and there’s enough room left for the author to spring a surprise in a sequel, but she certainly leaves the impression that it is Dumbledore who killed Quirrell, so we have to judge the implications of that appearance. Dumbledore is the chief "good guy" of the whole first four books. If this killing were to take place in real life rather than in a fantasy, Prof. Dumbledore might very well find himself before a judge at some point, no matter how depraved a fiend Quirrell might be agreed by all to have been, because even if the readers of fantasy books do not recognize a problem here, our system of laws still recognizes that the taking of a human life involves a moral problem.
Potterheads raise the objection to this observation: "But it’s only a fantasy!" My boss told me that Dumbledore had to kill Quirrell in order to save Harry. I said that the law would probably want some sort of proof that lethal force had been necessary. She replied that anyone who would try to kill a child probably deserves to die. Maybe, but I find it ironic that this should come from someone opposed to capital punishment.
Reading fantasy literature entails suspending disbelief of such fantastic elements as the ability to fly on brooms or to sneak about garbed in invisibility cloaks, but as fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien has pointed out, some things should remain constant in fantasy, such as, for instance, the rules of conduct for human interaction. It would appear that in our society we have been exposed to so much fantasy and so much violent entertainment that the bounds of what is considered acceptable have been stretched to the point that many people no longer even recognize breaches of the traditional moral code in entertainment. This may be especially troublesome in the case of children, for whom it is more the case that fantasy constitutes a rehearsal for real life. I don’t mean I think that children will necessarily kill someone someday because they read about it being done in a fantasy novel, but I do think that such things contribute to a general lowering of humanity in the culture at large.
When I was a kid, the Lone Ranger or Ramar of the Jungle or Roy Rogers or any of the various kid show "good guys" would subdue the "baddie" by maybe shooting the gun out of his hand or by knocking him to the ground, and then they’d march him off to turn him over to "the authorities." Who are "the authorities" in Harry Potter? It seems as though if the head wizard decides somebody ought to die, he just goes and kills him. So, to recall Jade’s table of differences between the Piscean and Aquarian Ages, other than the Ministry of Magic’s rules governing the use of magic and relations with Muggles, there does not appear to be any "hierarchy, monarchy, or bureaucracy" enforcing a code of laws for adult wizards. There appears to be "government by inner authority." Yet, this is what J. K. Rowling calls "very moral." I do not mean to suggest that there is any contradiction here. Those who have read the Temple of Set’s introductory literature know that even the dreaded Satanists are concerned with ethics, but it is with ethics based on their own antinomian moral code.
The lying, stealing, and killing of the books’ plots may indeed be judged "very moral" if the self is seen to be at the center of the moral universe. An objective consideration of the moral code of the Harry Potter books will show a violation of the principles of the Judeo-Christian moral code. There is no moral problem, however, if the books are seen as being written from the standpoint of an antinomian moral code typical of the witchcraft religions and Satanism.
Symbols of Transformation
Rowling’s invention of a school for witchcraft and wizardry is not an altogether original idea. Such a thing already exists in the real world of occultism. Rowling’s version is only different in that she describes an actual architectural edifice which is for the instruction of children rather than adults. As we have already seen, though, there is growing interest in the witchcraft community in the instruction of the young.
An analog to Hogwarts can be seen in the Temple of Set. The NEA waxes rhapsodic over the fact that the Harry Potter books celebrate study and book learning. Scholarly study is a standard method of seeking self-deification in Satanism and the witchcraft religions, if not in Vodou and Santería. The Temple of Set employs "an extensive reading list of published works" as well as newsletters of general and specialized interest, and a series of encyclopedias entitled The Jeweled Tablets of Set. They seek initiates with "a willingness to learn, to go to school" who have "access to the best scholarly data" they are intellectually capable of handling. After completing two years of study, Hogwarts students are to choose areas of specialized study in the magical arts; within a year of achieving Second-degree Initiate status, the Setian is to affiliate with an Order of the Temple specializing "in one or more particular fields of the magical arts and sciences." There are 24 specialized fields of study. Hogwarts does not admit all applicants, being in fact quite exclusive; The Temple of Set seeks to exclude aspirants who are "unstable, immature, or otherwise emotionally or intellectually weak-minded people." Hogwarts may expel students who prove unsuited to the pursuit of witchcraft and wizardry; the Priesthood of the Temple of Set has the "authority both to evaluate and recognize Initiates’ competence, and if necessary, to suspend or expel individuals who have proven themselves incapable of maintaining Setian standards of dignity and excellence."
The Temple of Set explains why care must be taken in relations with the Muggle world:
"The Temple is a forum for the investigation of many subjects which conventional society finds odd, mysterious, and even extremely frightening. The Temple will be tolerated only to the extent that it is known to be pursuing its interests carefully, expertly, and responsibly. It occupies a delicate position in a world which is largely unhappy with itself, and which is ceaselessly searching for scapegoats. Hence the Temple must take care to maintain its social balance with prudence and dignity."
The Priesthood of the Temple of Set therefore performs the same basic functions as Rowling’s Ministry of Magic.
Initiates of the Temple of Set are grouped into Pylons, associative groupings of Setians providing fellowship and cooperative forums for individual Initiates. Students at Hogwarts are grouped into houses providing cooperative networks for competition, fellowship, and learning. Finally, the executive authority in the Temple of Set is held by a Council of Nine, which appoints both the High Priest of Set and the Executive Director. The twelve-member board of governors of Hogwarts appoints the school’s headmaster, who is to the school what the High Priest is to the Temple.
As long as I’m describing the Temple of Set’s introductory literature, I’ll just point out in passing that the Temple seeks aspirants who have come to a realization that "the world isn’t fair or loving." Although this is not an explicit feature of Hogwarts, I think it is fair to say that considering his prior school experience and his relations’ treatment of him, young Harry can be expected to have reached that conclusion.
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can thus be seen as a sort of an imaginary cross between an English boarding school and the Temple of Set. I do not mean to say that I think that Ms. Rowling necessarily took the Temple of Set for her model. I only point to that Satanist church as an example because they have explained themselves publicly so well. As for which specific religion I think the Harry Potter books’ underlying structure most closely resembles, I can only answer vaguely that it is one of the occult religions. The books are solidly grounded in the Western tradition, so I would rule out Vodou and Santería. The adherence to "good" or "white" magic over "dark arts" would seem to place the Potter books in the camp of the witchcraft religions rather than Satanism.
The introductory material for the Temple of Set describes an institution devoted to the purpose of its members’ quest for self-deification. Similarities to the imaginary Hogwarts School are not entirely coincidental. The basic plot of the whole series of Harry Potter books is the symbolic depiction of a self-deification quest on the part of the protagonist.
The Temple of Set literature gives some idea of the nature of a self-deification quest, but in order to understand the subconscious, non-rational nature of self-deification, the reader is directed to Carl Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and Richard Noll’s quite excellent The Aryan Christ, which publishes the more sensational material dealing with the visionary self-deification ceremony which had been suppressed for decades, and puts Jung’s self-serving autobiography in much-needed perspective. Sorry, but I don’t have any easier answer. Pay special attention to Jung’s tortured explication of his Number 1 and Number 2 personalities in the second and third chapters of Memories, and to his comparison of the Gospel of John with Faust. When he says he was the answer, since he was referring to the book title instead of the character Faust, it is unclear whether Jung saw Faust or Mephistopheles as the answer.
Lord Voldemort, evil arch-villain of the series, represents Harry’s archetypical shadow, Harry’s hidden, unseen face. Remember that Voldemort is presented is a face on the back of Quirrell’s head in The Sorcerer’s Stone, and is hidden by Quirrell’s turban. Harry and Voldemort are presented as strangely linked: They use the exact same type of wand, and when Voldemort uses his wand to murder a Muggle with a flash of green in the first chapter of the fourth book, Harry feels the pain in his lightning-bolt scar, which had been placed on his forehead by Voldemort. On page 333 of The Chamber of Secrets we learn from Dumbledore that Voldemort had transferred some of his own powers to Harry when he gave him that scar. "Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" asks Harry. At the climax of The Chamber of Secrets, Voldemort points out to Harry a number of similarities between the two, and wonders aloud how the two may be linked. He points out that:
"There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike."
Theresa Fagan, author of A Mother’s List of Books, has pointed out in a letter to the July 15, 2000 Washington Times that the "good" characters in the books don’t model virtue to the same extent that the "bad" characters model vice. Harry is not intended by the author to be a "good" counter-balance to Voldemort. Harry represents the conscious personality. Sometimes he hates people and wishes they would die. The author is usually noticeably silent about Harry’s feelings and ideas, and even his outward reactions, so that there’s almost a vacuum in Harry’s personality that draws in the feelings of the reader. The reader is therefore inclined to impute "goodness" to Harry that the author didn’t necessarily put there. Harry is, aside from his position as a great wizard, an ordinary kid. It is Dumbledore who is the "good" figure, perhaps best viewed as an archetypical figure of the Jungian "self," or perhaps as a white magic spirit guide.
Jung said that the encounter with the shadow presented the most profound moral problem imaginable, but that he was unable to offer any guidance to the person confronted with that situation. In the first two Potter books, at least, the professors who teach the "Defense against the Dark Arts" classes are totally incompetent, and able to provide no meaningful information to Harry which will help in his confrontations with the shadow.
At the climax of The Chamber of Secrets, Voldemort has sicced the dreaded basilisk on Harry, and Harry is being killed. "You’re dead, Harry Potter," gloats Voldemort. "So ends the famous Harry Potter." But then, Harry is bought back to life by the magical tears of Dumbledore’s phoenix. The phoenix is an ancient symbol of rebirth through enlightenment, the enlightenment in this case being that Harry has chosen the "good" Gryffindor over the evil Slytherin. The phoenix is a symbol of transformation, a difficult passage in the magical journey.
Another symbol of the self-deification quest is the philosopher’s stone. The first Potter book was originally published in the United Kingdom as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The stone’s name in the book was apparently changed for marketing, rather than artistic, reasons. The philosopher’s stone is a well-known symbol of transformation. It was the starting point, the agent of transformation, and the ultimate goal of the alchemical process. The alchemical process is generally thought to have been the sought-after process for the transmutation of base metal into gold, but many alchemists made it clear in their writings that the gold that was sought was not material gold, but a kind of spiritual gold. Carl Jung, one of the world’s leading authorities on alchemy, claimed that alchemy was a forerunner of his school of psychology. In it, inner, subconscious processes were projected onto the physical world, and the alchemists sought, by manipulating matter, to produce spiritual transformation within themselves. It may be seen as a discipline intended to promote what Jung called self-actualization.
Rowling’s fictional characters Nicolas Flamel, the discoverer of the "sorcerer’s stone," and his wife Perenelle are actual historical personages in the history of alchemy. The real Flamel was supposed to have learned to transform mercury into gold and to have discovered the elixir of life. He enjoyed a great reputation in the fifteenth century as a magician, and his followers believed he would live for six centuries. See former astrologer Marcia Montenegro’s article "Harry Potter" on this at http://cana.userworld.com/cana_harrypotter.html . The story of the real Flamel is followed quite closely in the first Potter book. Many Potter enthusiasts I have spoken with who have followed news accounts of Rowling and her books have somehow gained the impression from statements that they think Rowling has made that she actually has very little knowledge of the occult, and that she made up the Potter stories pretty much out of whole cloth while seated in an Edinburgh café.
Ms. Montenegro’s article discusses several other classic occult elements in the first Potter book. As Jacqui Komschlies has pointed out in the November, 2000 issue of Lutheran Parent magazine, Ms. Rowling’s amusing witchcraft and wizardry book titles are closely approximated in real world bookstores, where Rowling’s Standard Book of Spells can be found as The Book of Spells, A History of Magic can be found as The History of Magic – Its Procedures, Rites and Mysteries, and The Dark Forces – A Guide to Self-Protection can be found as Battling Dark Forces – A Guide to Psychic Self Defense. It should be clear that the Harry Potter books constitute a veritable Child’s Primer of Traditional Witchcraft Lore embedded in a fictional plot. All of the witchcraft lore might be taken as yet another indication of real occultism if one considers these things to be examples of real occultism. This paper seeks to deal with more fundamental problems, though. It is my thesis that Ms. Rowling appears to have gone rather more deeply into occultism than was necessary to incorporate these examples of stereotypical magic in her novels.
A deeper connection to the fundamental ideas of real occultism can be seen in the correspondences between the Potter books and occult literature. Please compare Rowling’s children’s books to the "Church of Satan Youth Communiqué" at www.churchofsatan.com/Pages/Youthletter.html . I find several striking similarities there which I have numbered 1 – 10 and described below. For the reader who does not see things quite the same way I do, I have included in parentheses the numbers of the paragraphs in which I perceive these ideas. The numbering of the paragraphs skips over section headings and one-line statements such as "That said, let’s address some of your most commonly asked questions." Here are the basic ideas I find in both this document and the Harry Potter books:
J. K Rowling says she receives a lot of mail from kids begging to be accepted into Hogwarts School. They refuse to believe it is just an invention. Imagine what the reaction would be if one of these desperate, befuddled little Potterheads were to stumble upon the Church of Satan’s website. Here is the closest thing to a Harry Potter adventure that may be found in real life! Adult Potter enthusiasts may bridle at the suggestion that there is a connection between the Church of Satan’s literature and the Potter books, but I believe a thorough and honest examination will show a close correspondence of the salient ideas in each. The cause of this is that both speak from the heart of occultism.
In Jungian psychology, the human personality is formed through the action of personal choices in which some impulses are valued and others are devalued. Normally, a person’s undesirable impulses are rejected by a subconscious censor and are not accessible to the conscious mind. The person’s conscious personality, then, is composed of the dominant traits, to which there are opposite, recessive traits in the larger, subconscious personality. As I said before, evil, unpleasant impulses gather about an inherent structure in the subconscious called by Jung the shadow. According to this dangerously misleading theory, in entering into a relationship with this hidden shadow personality, we gain access to a larger portion of our total personality. We integrate previously closed-off parts of ourselves into a stronger whole. We discover truths which had been filtered out of consciousness by our internal censor, and so become more fully self-aware. This is the symbolic meaning of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. As a result of transformative magic, the magician supposedly enjoys a sort of expanded consciousness which leaves him or her open to a wider range of experience than the Muggle is aware of. Muggles only eat the sweet jelly beans with pleasant flavors, symbolic of the filtered consciousness of the normal personality. Wizards open themselves to all of life’s experiences, according to theory, even the flavors of ear wax, vomit, boogers, and since every flavor is to be encountered, even more unpleasant substances which are left un-named.
The mouth is probably a highly emotionally-charged area of experience for many writers, and what underlies this symbol of the Every Flavor Beans appears to me to be an abnormally strong subconscious fear on the part of the author concerning an unacceptable tendency to take something unpleasant into the mouth, or to expel something unpleasant from the mouth. This can also be seen in the author’s undue emphasis on the act of vomiting. The Chamber of Secrets, for example, describes the vomiting of slugs about a dozen times, and various characters either are "heartily sick," pretend to vomit or fear that they will vomit. Green is the color of evil to Rowling, and green is the color that traditionally describes bile. A potion to be drunk by Harry and friends is described as being like thick, dark mud, but later it turns yellow. It tastes like a booger. Ingesting it is like "swallowing live snakes." On page 237 of The Chamber of Secrets, people seem to be in danger of being "force-fed poison." Moaning Myrtle the ghost lives in a toilet – not just in the room, mind you, but in the hopper. We learn on page 230 of The Chamber that when people throw stuff in the toilet, it goes right through her head or right through her stomach. This pathological ideation on the part of the author does not offer a very eloquent testimonial to the benefits of personal transformation.
Psychoanalysis lends itself so handily to character assassination, doesn’t it? If it seems as though I am oppressing Ms. Rowling in pointing out such shortcomings, please bear in mind that to my way of thinking, she has made an attempt on the lives of my children – not their physical lives, but their spiritual lives. This is not something I take lightly. She has also gone out of her way to, just like the Church of Satan, say nasty things to kids about Muggles and especially Muggle families, and I’m a Muggle. My family is a Muggle family. That’s me she’s running down! Turnabout is fair play.
A symbol similar to the Every Flavor Beans is the Mirror of Erised, which is "desire" spelled backwards. When a character looks into this mirror, he or she sees what he or she most deeply desires. According to the story, the danger is that a person may become enraptured and waste away before the mirror of desire. Only the perfectly happy man may look into the mirror and see things as they really are. Harry is advised that "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." This clearly illustrates the fact that what Harry is engaged in is a spiritual discipline. The occultist’s "search for truth" is paramount, and there is, as in Bertie Bott’s Beans, a rejection of the purely pleasant in favor of "reality."
If magical transformation aims at greater self-knowledge, an expanded consciousness, and a wider range of experience of life, isn’t that a good thing? These all sound like noble goals, but there is a rather large fly in the ointment of magical transformation. The problem is the nature of the first and most important archetype encountered in the magical journey, the "shadow." Here’s how Carl Jung described the shadow on pages 9 and 10 of his book Aion:
"Although, with insight and good will, the shadow can to some extent be assimilated into the conscious personality, experience shows that there are certain features which offer the most obstinate resistance to moral control and prove almost impossible to influence. These resistances are usually bound up with projections, which are not recognized as such, and their recognition is a moral achievement beyond the ordinary.... Let us suppose that a certain individual shows no inclination whatever to recognize his projections. The projection-making factor then has a free hand and can realize its object-if it has one-or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power. As we know, it is not the conscious subject but the unconscious which does the projecting. Hence one meets with projections, one does not make them. The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into the replica of one's own unknown face. In the last analysis, therefore, they lead to an autoerotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable. The resultant sentiment d'incomplétude and the still worse feeling of sterility are in their turn explained by projection as the malevolence of the environment, and by means of this vicious circle the isolation is intensified.
The more projections are thrust in between the subject and the environment, the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions.... It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course-for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him."
Jung thought that with the help of his winged visionary spirit guide Philemon, he had arrived in his self-deification ceremony at a universal realm of human consciousness perhaps transcendent in nature, the collective unconscious. Richard Noll has presented a strong argument, however, that the details of Jung’s self-deification ceremony were based entirely on published sources of the time which were probably known to Jung. The self-deification ceremony was, therefore, almost certainly fabricated by Jung’s personal unconscious, and was not some eternally-true manifestation of a collective unconscious. So even the brilliant psychoanalyst was caught in a web of illusion. What hope, then, has the average tarot-dealing, horoscope-casting, spell-working occultist of achieving a victory over the illusion-spinning faculty of the forces of darkness? The path of magical transformation leads not to an expanded experience of life, but to a separation from life.
It’s interesting to note, and it tends to support Jung’s theory, that such a powerful illustration of the shadow appears in literature in the character of the cannibal harpooner Queequeg in Moby Dick that one might think that Herman Melville had been influenced by Jung’s theory, had not his book been written before Jung’s birth. It is Queequeg’s paganism, his fierce aspect, his outlandishness in the eyes of the Christians of New Bedford, and his participation in such dark and questionable interests as the sale of shrunken heads that mark him as a shadow figure. The narrator of the book, Ishmael, represents the conscious personality in his relations with Queequeg. Melville stresses his inseparability from the cannibal. The conscious mind is indeed yoked to the shadow. They are like logical thought and emotional feeling, two aspects of the total human personality.
The narrator relates a dream or vision he had had of an invisible, fearsome presence that once had clasped his hand as he lay in the dark; the sensation is likened to that of awakening at the inn in New Bedford to find the arm of the sleeping Queequeg over him. Queequeg and the phantom presence are exemplars of the invisible, unseen self. Melville, like Jung, saw the shadow’s closeness to the wellsprings of life energy in the subconscious. He has the outcast Ishmael drawn to the water for the same reason the ancient Greeks told the story of Narcissus, "who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all." It is Queequeg, the shadow, who paradoxically is able to grasp the phantom of life, as symbolized by his diving beneath the water to grasp a drowning Christian on the ferry to Nantucket. So here is the attraction of the shadow to the occultist. It is this approach to the wellsprings of life that the practitioner of high magic hopes to attain.
Melville, like Jung, though, warns of the treacherous and destructive nature of the shadow. Writing from the perspective of a Christian worldview that is today in a state of ongoing disintegration, Melville sees a transcendent dimension to the mind; that is to say, he sees reality extending beyond the individual person into some eternal realm. Melville has Ishmael and Queequeg both attend a church service to hear a sermon that sets out the major problem of the novel; it is a sermon on Jonah and the whale. The problem is the acceptance of God’s will. Ishmael and Queequeg leave the church service early and return to the inn where they fall to worshiping Queequeg’s little black idol. The idol later makes it known to Queequeg that the novice whaler Ishmael is to choose the whaling vessel for them both to sail on, "inasmuch," explains the narrator, the idol "purposed befriending us; and in order to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which if left to myself, I, Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it had turned out by chance." And so the black idol helps the boys aboard Captain Ahab’s ship to hell and sends them off to perdition. So for Melville, as for other Christians, there is some deeper transcendent reality that may operate through the shadow.
Melville’s description of this higher power’s manipulation of reality "as though by chance" echoes Jung’s description of what he called "meaningful coincidences" in Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. An acausal connection is like this: One suddenly thinks of a person whom one has not seen in years, and just then, the telephone rings, and the caller is that very person. The events seem to be connected, but there is no causal agent involved. Thinking of the person did not send out some sort of hypnotic brain waves to that person which caused them to call. A skeptic would say there are no meaningful coincidences, but only mere coincidences which people imagine to have been connected. Meaningful coincidences are matters of faith; they can be neither proved nor disproved. Acausal connections are not only seen, but required in quantum mechanics, however, being illustrated in such ineffable mysteries as the Einstein – Podolsky – Rosen Paradox. So, even though there is no possible conceptual framework to hang them upon, they do seem to exist. Whether they exist outside of quantum mechanics is, as I said, a matter of faith. They would seem to imply an inconceivable level of organization above perceived reality, and to make the whole universe a sort of a grand dream in the mind of God. I assume that meaningful coincidences are what occultists are referring to when they profess a belief in magic.
In my own life, there have been many coincidences that have seemed too highly coincidental to be explained as mere coincidence, so I’m a believer. It definitely does seem to be the case that some people seem prone to experiencing meaningful coincidences, and others never do. This is to say, some people seem to have a talent for magic, while others are what Ms. Rowling would call "squibs." If it is true that there are meaningful coincidences in life, and that some people experience them more than others, I think that that is probably due to the psychological state of individuals rather than to the "special blood" posited by the occultists.
Whatever the reader’s faith, be it religiosity or atheism, the example of Melville’s insight lends support to Jung’s having described a universal truth, and the description of the shadow as essentially treacherous and destructive is seconded. One must take Jung’s theories with a grain of salt, though. Richard Noll has pointed out that Jung appears to have falsified some of his data. Another peculiar point about Jung: according to an associate from his earlier days, Jung was incapable of uttering the word "church" without also uttering a curse. This is hardly an eloquent testimonial to the enhanced mental health that is to result from the application of Jung’s psychotherapeutic method.
The artist is like a little god creating an imaginary world, and so it is instructive to examine the nature of the world created by the author. Someone once said that a person will be known by the deeds he or she does, not by the things he or she does. So never mind the fine sentiments expressed in the Harry Potter books about the power of love, about only choosing to do "good" white magic, and so on. What sort of environment is projected from the author’s mind onto the page? Is it a malevolent environment which shows the handiwork of the shadow, or does it show the hand of a benevolent creator? What is the nature of these witches and wizards who are so much more open to life’s experiences than are Muggles? What do they feel? What do they do?
I was a little suspicious of the author after reading about the boa constrictor incident in the first book of the series. It was when I reached page 59 of The Sorcerer’s Stone that I was sure I didn’t want this writer teaching my children about good and evil. On that page, Harry’s friend Hagrid, one of the "good guys" of the series, becomes quite exasperated with Harry’s uncle Dursley, and so Hagrid performs a spell to permanently transform Uncle Dursley’s son Dudley into a pig. The spell is not entirely successful, and only results in the child’s sprouting a pig’s tail. Hagrid remarks that Dudley was such a pig to begin with that there was not that much left to be done.
Isn’t this supposedly humorous episode really rather nasty? I mean, isn’t the idea of changing a child into a pig a bit of an affront to human dignity? Traditionally, it’s the sort of thing done by an evil enchanter such as Circe, but here it’s done by one of the "good guys" of the tale with the obvious intention on the part of the author that the reader should approve of the act and concur in the judgment passed on young Dudley.
"But it’s only a fantasy!" roar the Potterheads when I raise this issue, "and besides, Dudley deserves to be changed into a pig!" I’m sure if Ms. Rowling had been a patriotic German writing this book in 1937, the Dursleys would have been Jews instead of Muggles, and Dudley would have been portrayed in such a manner as to indicate that he deserves to be sent to a concentration camp, but no matter how he is portrayed by the author, would it ever be right to send a child to a concentration camp? Would it ever be right to transform one into a pig? That’s a bit "dehumanizing," isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better if authors of children’s books, instead of creating situations to permit the reader to vicariously participate in vicious actions against others without ever losing a conscious sense of justification, instead create a human face and human motivations even for the enemies of the protagonist? I mean, it seems as though the expanded consciousness of the wizarding community doesn’t include an expanded appreciation of other people’s humanity. It certainly doesn’t seem to expand one’s love and compassion even for children.
Our penal system has historically been strongly influenced by the very Christian notion that even the most vicious, depraved criminal may find redemption through contemplation and penitence. This notion is still seen today in a form more congruent with current religious beliefs as the faith that the criminal may experience rehabilitation through psychotherapy. So where is young Dudley’s chance for redemption? This pig business is more than a comeuppance; it is a judgment, but of course when one is a god or goddess, it’s perfectly natural to pass judgment on others. Here, we see another example of the moral code in which the self is at the center of the moral universe. Let me suggest that this is the kind of public fantasy that, to borrow a phrase from the writer Alison Lentini ("Harry Potter: Occult Cosmology and the Corrupted Imagination," Spring/Summer issue of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, www.scp-inc.org/body.html ) corrupts the imagination of the young.
If you found this vicious little put-down amusing when you first read it, dear reader, maybe you need to take Dr. McCormick’s Three-Step program for resensitizing one’s basic humanity. It’s easy. First, turn off your TV for a couple of years, or better yet, heave it out a window. Next, limit your intake of Hollywood movies. Finally, quit reading trashy novels that entertain by playing upon your fears and aggressions – you know the ones I mean. Oh, wait! I forgot! Nothing anyone says or does in a fantasy book, TV show, or movie counts, and kids aren’t influenced in the least by public fantasies. At least, that’s what the kids, themselves, assure us. They can handle it, they say, even if the statistical link between violent crime and exposure to television is as strong as any connection seen in the social sciences.
I find a deep current of nastiness running all through the Potter books. I could point to any number of examples. Let’s consider the following rollicking adventure from The Chamber of Secrets. Harry and his friends are at a party for ghosts. Harry’s friend Hermione says she really would rather avoid the self-pitying ghost Moaning Myrtle, who lives in a toilet. Peeves the Poltergeist, his eyes "dancing" and with a broad grin on his "wide, wicked face," overhears this and so loudly calls Myrtle over to join Harry and his friends. Peeves confides slyly to Myrtle that Hermione has just been talking about her.
Hermione, glaring at Peeves, hastily says to Myrtle that she had just been remarking how nice Myrtle looks tonight.
Myrtle eyes Hermione suspiciously and then, "silver tears welling rapidly in her small, see-through eyes," accuses Hermione of making fun of her.
Hermione denies it. Myrtle says "Don’t lie to me. D’you think I don’t know what people call me behind my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle!"
"You’ve forgotten pimply," Peeves hisses in her ear.
Myrtle flees the party in anguished sobs, Peeves in pursuit and pelting her with moldy peanuts, yelling "Pimply! Pimply!"
Myrtle retires to her toilet to contemplate suicide, but then realizes that this is not an option since she is already dead.
What might we entitle this sordid little episode? A Child’s Primer of Sado-Masochistic Relationships? How about Ironic Observations Which Only a Complete Psychopath Would Find Even Remotely Funny Concerning Obscenely Neurotic Personalities? Well, I ought to lighten up and stop over-analyzing everything, say the Potterheads. Any nastiness in the Potter books is simply a creation of my uptight Christian censoriousness. I ought to just relax and go with the flow, they say.
Let's look at what the people and other creatures do at a typical day at Hogwarts. The wonderful, interesting, exciting, highly self-aware wizards and witches seem to always be at each other's throats. People are "fearful." Professor Snape makes "waspish" remarks about Harry and his friends while other kids in the class "snigger appreciatively." Snape "sneers." Snape "bullies." Harry's friend Ron expresses the wish that two unpopular professors should kill each other in a duel (Hey, nice kid, huh?). Snape bares his teeth. Professor Lockhart is blown off a stage by an explosion, and Hermione wonders aloud if he's okay. "Who cares?" chime good guys Ron and Harry (Hey, nice kids, huh? Just the kind of kids I'd like my own kids to be. Very self-aware. Very authentic.). Now Snape is looking "murderous." He smiles coldly. He struts over, "smirking." His black eyes glint. He glides around "like a large and malevolent bat." Malfoy smirks, too. Malfoy taunts Harry. After Harry saves Justin from being bitten by a snake, Justin shouts at him and storms out of the room (Oh, cruel world! So unfair! Poor Harry!). Hermione is "exasperated." Professor McGonagall is shouting at someone.
All through Hogwarts, the air is "thick with rumor and suspicion," and people are grinning "wickedly," speaking "sharply," speaking "curtly," sticking their tongues out, gossiping, pointing accusing fingers, trying to strangle each other, speaking "darkly," speaking "irritably," bullying, "muttering," "hissing," chortling derisively, making snide remarks, looking at others with a "reproving glare," vomiting, of course, "revolted," "uptight," staring "blankly," doing things "feverishly," "desperate," "furious," yelling "spitefully," speaking "distractedly," "grumbling," "gloating," frequently "snarling," feeling "disgusted," glancing "witheringly," wanting to throw books in Professor Lockhart's "stupid face," wanting to throw things in Myrtle's face, snapping, going about in a foul temper, faces "contorted with fury," being sarcastic, holding others up to ridicule, being "mutinous," "eyes flashing," scowling darkly, and when they're not "sniggering," they're "snickering." This is all in addition to breaking the rules, lying, stealing, hating, deceiving, hoping people die, and seeking revenge. Do you know, dear reader, what it is that drives a person to write a thirty-some-odd page paper that will be read by almost no one, and will be ridiculed and dismissed by many of those who do read it? It is the frustration of seeing one's children's world going mad, and being unable to halt anyone's lemming-like rush to self-destruction. It is the frustration of pointing out the obvious to people, and then finding them unable to perceive it. How am I to show people that something is not right here when they find all this sneering, bullying, and snide remark making so positively delightful? How about if I actually quantify some of the nastiness? I’ll tally up some of the nastiness in Chapter 11 of The Chamber of Secrets. There's nothing special about Chapter 11; it's just the chapter I happened to be reading when it occurred to me to do this.
What I will do is to list all adverb phrases of manner which refer to the actions of human characters or parts of their bodies. Verbs and nouns are more strongly dictated by considerations of plot. Perhaps the way a writer chooses to characterize actions is the most revealing guide to the writer's intentions.
I don't know anywhere near as much about grammar as I would if I were an English teacher. There may very well be mistakes here. I may have omitted adverb phrases, and I may have misidentified other phrases. My apologies to grammarians. However, I'm sure I have got enough right here to make my point. The reader may note that some prepositional phrases are listed. Prepositional phrases may serve an adverbial function. After I’ve listed all the adverb phrases of manner for the record, I’ll categorize them in Table 1, which is the real point of this exercise. Here below are all the adverb phrases of manner together with their verbs and some of their subjects, and followed by their page numbers for the convenience of anyone inclined to nit-pick:
1. he clumsily fed (182)
2. Harry dressed as quickly as he could (182)
3. Harry, with difficulty, locked (183)
4. Hermione and Ron listened with their mouths open (184)
5. Harry privately felt (186)
6. Harry and Ron looked nervously (186)
7. Harry smiled feebly (186)
8. Deliberately causing (186)
9. Slytherins sniggered appreciatively (186)
10. Harry ducked swiftly (187)
17. Hermione began to stir feverishly (188)
18. she said happily (188)
19. said Ron reassuringly (188)
20. he read with interest (188)
25. he flew backward (190)
26. Hermione was dancing on tiptoes (190)
27. she squealed through her fingers (190)
In Table 1, attached to the end of this paper, I have divided all adverb phrases into categories depending on my interpretation of their context. Potterheads will of course disagree with my interpretations. They will say someone’s jaw jutting "aggressively" doesn’t indicate "aggression," but is only a description of a person’s appearance, and appearances, after all, can be deceiving, and so on. One of them has already tried to tell me that the description of something’s being done "feverishly" does not denote anxiety. Use common sense, dear reader, and decide for yourself. Again, I’m sure I got enough right to make my point. The category "anxiety" refers to anything indicating, arousing, or resulting from anxiety. Hence, when Harry "clumsily fed himself," "clumsily" was put into the "anxiety" category. The reason is, were one to have a dream in which one were not able to perform the usual functions, such as running as a common example, with normal facility, the result is an anxiety dream. Not being able to do normal tasks arouses a low level of anxiety. When things happen "suddenly," anxiety is aroused, and so on. "Aggression" refers to all phrases indicating, threatening, or resulting from anger or aggression. Things that threaten aggression also arouse anxiety, but if the anxiety is the result of a threat, the phrase goes in the "aggression" category. Not many of these terms relate to extreme anxiety or aggression. This is, after all, a children’s book, and not a Stephen King mad slasher tale.
To summarize, there are :
25 phrases related to anxiety
35 phrases related to aggression, and
13 phrases related to all other human experience
in Chapter 11 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
As I said before, there’s nothing special about Chapter 11. It’s just another day in the life of Hogwarts. Adverbs relating to anxiety and aggression are far less frequent in the chapters which relate to confrontations with tribes of 10-foot tall man-eating spiders or descents into the chamber of secrets to face the dread basilisk, or descents into the dungeons for a confrontation with Voldemort. Presumably, the action itself is sufficient at those parts of the plot to sustain the desired level of anxiety and aggression.
The wellspring of creativity lies somewhere below the level of consciousness. I don’t know where all the words that I use when I write come from, for example. I don’t use as wide a vocabulary in speaking. Sometimes, I have to go look words up in a dictionary after I have written them because my conscious personality is not completely clear about just what they mean, but such words always prove to be used quite accurately to convey the desired meaning. I may not know what they mean, but my muse does.
So here I am on the verge of yet another personal criticism of dear Ms. Rowling. I’m sure she is really a perfectly charming, very nice lady. It’s not her I’m criticizing. It’s her muse I have a problem with. Her muse has got a decidedly nasty streak. From it flows a veritable flood of fear and aggression. The source of this black tide is a highly active shadow. It feeds and titillates the shadow of the reader, who may not be consciously aware of its blandishments. Fear and aggression feed fear and aggression, shadow to shadow.
Consider Rowling’s description of the relationship of the shadow figure Tom Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort, and the young girl Ginny in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Tom has made a magical diary with no visible words in it. When someone writes in the diary, their words vanish and a reply from Lord Voldemort appears on the page. The troubles from the chamber of secrets begin when Ginny fids the magical book of Tom Riddle. Tom explains to Harry:
"’The diary,’ said Riddle. ‘My diary. Little Ginny’s been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes…. It’s very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl,’ he went on. ‘But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one’s ever understood me like you, Tom…. I’m so glad I’ve got this diary to confide in…It’s like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket….’
‘If I say it myself, Harry, I’ve always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted…. I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her….’"
Ginny responds by, without realizing what she’s doing, strangling roosters, daubing threatening messages on the walls of Hogwarts, and finally releasing a monster of the id from the chamber of secrets to attack people. As far as I am concerned, this could pretty well describe the relationship between Rowling and her young readers, except that probably not many of the real-life kids will start strangling roosters. One might guess that the extensive input of the shadow into the Potter books indicates an expanded consciousness resulting from the real-life practice of the transformative magic of the occult religions.
Other Occult Themes
The Potter books treat other themes that are real issues in the world of the occult religions. One has already been mentioned. It is racism. In the nationally notorious case of the black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck, the two accused perpetrators of the crime were widely described as being white supremacists. What was less well described was the fact that one was also a Satanist.
As has been noted, a sizeable group of Neopagans who adhere to the Teutonic pantheon is also white supremacist. Certainly not all Neopagans who adhere to the Teutonic pantheon are racist, but there is that controversial contingent that is. The connection of Neopaganism with Naziism has also been noted. Perhaps the Romantic interest in special, noble blood that has historically been a strand in modern occultism promotes racism.
The racial issue in the Potter books concerns the purity of one's wizard blood. It seems that one must have the wizard gene in order to do magic. The worst insult that can be hurled at a wizard, we learn on pages 112 - 116 of The Chamber of Secrets, is to call him or her a "Mudblood," meaning Muggle-born. It means, according to the character Ron on page 116, "dirty blood" or "common blood." This is racism. That racism should be a theme in the books is not in itself a particularly strong piece of evidence for occultism, since many who are not occultists are also racists, but it is interesting that it is an issue in the real world of witches as well as in the make-believe one.
No occult book or web site would be complete without a bitter complaint about the persecution of witches by the Christian church in the middle ages, even though the only real conflict between Christians and occultists in modern times has been the persecution and martyrdom of Christians at the hands of the neopagan Nazis. The Goddess spirituality movie The Cell even made an all-too-graphic reference to the horrors of the Inquisition in a scene in which a character's intestines are wound onto a sort of a spiked reel. This was an actual Medieval torture not confined to the Inquisition. Rowling also makes the obligatory reference to the former persecutions. On page 150 of The Chamber of Secrets, for example, we learn that:
"Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago – the precise date is uncertain – by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age…. They built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution."
Modern witchcraft did not come into its own until the repeal of the law against witchcraft in the United Kingdom in the early 1950’s. No doubt Parliament felt it was silly to have a law against something they were sure did not really exist.
The issue of slavery is treated in the second and fourth Potter books in the form of the slave status of house elves. One might wonder why slavery should still be an issue in the year 2000, but with the interest in will and power in occultism, fantasies of slave-owning are present even in this enlightened age. The Church of Satan’s page on "Pentagonal Revisionism: A Five-Point Program" at www.churchofsatan.com/Pages/PentRev.html gives us a vision of the brave new world of occultism that would displace the old-fashioned ideas of Christianity in society with the placement of the self at the center of the moral universe. The document describes goals or guidelines of the church for producing what would be to their way of thinking beneficial changes in society. The church hopes to accomplish such goals as ending the idea of "equality" and setting up a more stratified society in which the strong are no longer dragged down by the weak. It wants the churches taxed. It wants people like Charles Manson released from prison because he was a scapegoat for the people who actually committed the crimes he dreamed up. What is to me the most colorful of the church’s goals, though, is Point No. 4, the "Development and production of artificial human companions." The Church of Satan calls this "An economic ‘godsend’ (sic) which will allow everyone ‘power’ over someone else. Polite, sophisticated, technologically feasible slavery. And the most profitable industry since T.V. and the computer."
Critics marvel at what they insist on calling the "low-tech" world of castles, torches, candles, and owl messengers at Hogwarts castle. Surely, they must be able to recognize the medievalism that has been a feature of occultism ever since the days of nineteenth century Romanicism. Rowling presents it in a tongue-in-cheek manner, as she does everything else having to do with overt occultism.
Joanne Rowling once told an interviewer that her favorite time of year is Halloween. More often called Samhain by adherents of the witchcraft religions, Halloween is the holiest day of the year for witches. In the good old days before the Romans and the killjoy Christians came along to ruin everybody’s fun, the practitioners of the glorious "old religion" of northern Europe used to, among other things, burn human sacrificial victims to death inside wooden or wickerwork cages on this day, and use the ashes to fertilize the fields. A remnant of this is still seen in the United Kingdom as Guy Fawkes Day, in which an effigy of the hapless Catholic plotter is burned atop a bonfire to promote fertility. I suppose that all the people who scoff at the idea that there is any real occultism expressed in Ms. Rowling’s books thought that she was just trying to be cute in saying what she did.
A September 20, 1999 Time magazine article on the Potter books includes a photo of Ms. Rowling on page 72. She is pictured in her home holding a cheesy-looking statuette of a winged gargoyle. She and the gargoyle inhabit the right half of the photo. The left half is devoted to a mirror of a rather flamboyant design which hangs on the wall of her house. The thoughtful reader may have wondered in passing what it was about a mirror that warranted as much attention as the face of the author, herself.
The mirror is a representation of the sun, with ten long, swirling, curving rays extending from the perimeter of the disk. The same symbolic representation of the sun is displayed on the back cover and the title page of Helen Glisic’s book of magical spells and rituals, Spellbound. It is a classic Neopagan symbol of centering, continuous re-creation, and deity. In the case of Ms. Rowling’s mirror, the face of the sun is replaced by a reflective surface, so the mirror becomes a visual pun on self-deification. Very tongue-in-cheek.
Just as a test, I showed the photo to a neighbor who, in contrast to myself, who have read a few of Carl Jung’s books, has plowed through the entire 18-volume Collected Works from cover to cover. I asked if he recognized this as any sort of symbol. It only took him long enough to focus his eyes on the page to reply that it is a common solar symbol with the same basic meaning as the swastika.
Now, if Joanne Rowling had posed with a wand or a conical witch’s hat, it would have been cute, and everyone would have recognized the symbols and been in on the gag. In the case of the mirror, however, only Ms. Rowling and the photographer and whatever employee of Time Warner, Inc. cropped and selected this particular shot for display and, of course, all those readers familiar with the symbols of transformative magic could be expected to be in on the gag. As for the rest, bless them, they’ll go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if it’s staring them in the face.