23 March 2011
Harry Potter and the Popularization of Witchcraft
by Monk Innocent
The Orthodox Word 2001
Only four years ago the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, written by the Englishwoman J.K. Rowling, was published in America. It was soon followed by others in a series, all of which have become a phenomenal success. The books have been translated into more than forty languages, with over 116 millions copies in print in over 200 countries. Within the United States, a U.S. Consumer Research Survey estimated that over half of the children between the ages of six and seventeen have read at least one Harry Potter book, and that thousands of them have read the books multiple times.* One can find Harry Potter trivia everywhere: cards, video games, figurines, play sets, clothing, blankets, pillowcases, rugs, calendars, computer games, candies, etc. The trivia most frequently depict Harry Potter as an innocuous-looking boy with tousled black hair and a small lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, wearing eyeglasses slightly askew, riding [or holding] a broom and accompanied by a snowy white owl.
*Robert McGee and Caryl Matrisciana, Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged, Making Evil Look Innocent [video] [Hemet, California: Jeremiah Films, 2001
The release of the fourth novel on July 8, 2001, created the largest furor and pandemonium over a book that the industry has ever seen. Even before the release of the book, the pre-publication sales were over 600,000 copies. Lyn Blake - the general manager of Amazon.com online bookstore - commented: "I haven't seen a book like this. This is over seven times the largest pre-order we've ever had."* A movie based on the first novel in the series was released in November of 2001. The widespread popularity of Harry Potter was seen in the fact that parents stood in line for hours in order to obtain tickets for their children. With a total of over $300 million by the end of December, the movie was the top-grossing film for 2001.
*Richard Abanes, Harry Potter and the Bible [Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Horizon Books, 2001], p. 205
What accounts for the popularity of Harry Potter? The Harry Potter series is not unlike the fantasy novels that many of us have read as children. The books are entertaining and imaginative. They portray a certain struggle of good against evil. The hero of the series, Harry Potter, is an underdog with whom many children can identify. He is not popular at school. He is estranged from his adoptive parents, who only begrudgingly care for him. In short, he feels himself to be a worthless outcast. But soon in the first book, he discovers that his natural parents were witches who were killed by an evil witch [Lord Voldemort]. Voldemort also tried to kill Harry, but for some unknown reason he was unable to do so. His attack against Harry left the lightning scar on the latter's forehead. Harry's parents, however, passed on to him an aptitude for magic that entitles him to schooling at the "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." The schooling exists in a magical world that parallels the real world [contemporary England], in which Harry and his adoptive parents normally live.
The rest of the book, as well as the subsequent books in the series, revolves around Harry's training in magic at Hogwarts and his magical combat with Voldemort, who, for reasons unknown to Harry, still intends to kill him. As the plot develops, Harry not only becomes more deeply involved in the magical arts in order to protect himself, but also develops certain "heroic" traits.
The series has been enthusiastically received by many. The books are praised for diverse reasons: for their "moral soundness," their "ability to get children interested in reading," or their "just being fun." Even Christian journals, such as Christianity Today, British Christianity, The Christian Century, and First Things, have published favorable reviews. But the sincere Christian who read these books will find himself troubled in soul. In order to properly critique Rowling's work, we need to address three topics: the morality portrayed by Harry Potter, the type of witchcraft that is depicted in the books, and the role of the imagination in spiritual life.
1. The Moral Code of Harry Potter
One Christian reviewer stated: "In short, Rowling's moral compass throughout the three novels is sound -- I would even say "acute."* There is undoubtedly a moral code in Harry Potter, but what is it: Christian or pagan? Let us first look at Harry Potter's disobedience.
*Alan Jacobs [literature professor at Wheaton College], First Things, January 2000.
Obedience is clearly a central Christian principle. It is expressed in the "Lord's Prayer," which was taught to the Apostles by the Savior Himself. In this prayer we say, "Thy will be done" -- not "my" but "Thy" will be done. In order to learn what constitutes God's will, a disciple of Christ practices submitting his will first to his parents, then to his spiritual father, in the discipline known as obedience. By "cutting off the will," as the Holy Fathers describe it, in time a person comes to know the will of God, since his own will is "quiet" enough to enable him to hear God's will. This develops the virtue known in Patristic literature as discernment.
Throughout the series of Harry Potter books, Harry acts in a contrary way and breaks the rules of those in authority -- the headmaster of Hogwarts and others -- not because of some overarching ideal or principle [guided, for instance, by moral knowledge] but simply because it is convenient for him or appeals to his sense of excitement or even revenge.
Second Harry Potter routinely lies at Hogwarts in order to conceal his disobedience and avoid the consequent punishments. Yet even when his disobedience and deceit are exposed, the author does not show that Harry made a mistake, but rather validates his immorality. She does this quite clearly when describing the scoring which the children receive at the school in their competing "houses" [similar to a fraternity system]. The points that Harry receives for actions he makes in disobedience are greater than the points which are deducted for his being disobedient [and the lies are overlooked at a matter of course].
Richard Abanes, in his book Harry Potter and the Bible, summarizes four types of "morality" taught by Harry Potter:
1. Disobedience is allowable when the rules do not serve your own interests.
2. Rules are not to be obeyed if they do not make sense to one's own understanding of the situation
3. Lying is an acceptable means to achieve one's end.
4. One should return evil for evil and only treat others well if they treat you well.*
*Albanes, pp. 38, 41.
Even the supposed good-versus-evil struggle of Harry Potter against Voldemort comes from a perspective that is not Christian. It is revealed in the fourth book of the series that the source of magical power for Harry's and Voldemort's wands are the same.* This is typical of a pagan moral code, in which good and evil are viewed as being only relative; whereas it is very clearly taught by our Lord that good and evil are vastly different from each other.
*.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [New York: Scholastic, 2000], p. 697.
Perhaps the most serious immorality which occurs in the books is the dehumanizing of non-magical people. These people -- who comprise all the normal people in the real world who are not witches -- are referred to as "Muggles." "Muggles are depicted in the most ridiculous fashion and are shown to be unjust persecutors of witches. This in turn serves to justify the perpetration of numerous magical pranks upon them -- again in spite of the so-called rules of the school, which are more a matter of show than importance.
In addition to practicing revenge on "Muggles," Harry behaves in unkind ways to people at Hogwarts whom he feels are deserving of such treatment. His attitude and behavior stand in direct opposition to the supreme Christian virtues: forgiveness and love for one's enemies [cf. Matt. 5:43-48]. The moral code that Harry Potter follows could be succinctly stated as: "Be kind to those who deserve it, instead of wasting your love on ingrates." This is one of the statements of moral conduct of Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, and perhaps does not accidentally mirror Harrry's conduct.*
*Abanes, p. 167.
2. Parallels To Occult Activity
The entire Harry Potter series is filled with allusion to occult activity. The seriousness of this is usually dismissed by supporters of Rowling. They claim that Rowling creates an "imaginary world" such as J.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis created in their books, and so special concern should be given to the fact that Rowling talks about witches, spell-casting and the like. Unfortunately, her world is far from imaginary; it closely parallels contemporary occult activity.
All of the magical activity that Harry pursues in Rowling's books has a real-life counterpart. Let us begin by looking at the academy program at Hogwarts. It is a seven-year program that closely resembles the training currently offered by the Ordo Anno Mundi [OAM], an occult group which is based in London and which venerates serpents. Like Hogwarts, the OAM offers a seven-year program. The OAM general education program offers a course in "Ancient Runes." In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter is introduced to the "Study of Ancient Runes."* The OAM offers a course in Divination for those in the First Degree program. In Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter is told in class, "We will be covering the basic methods of Divination this year."** The OAM also offers a course in "Animal Transformation/Werewolf." Again, at Hogwarts Harry is told, "Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn."*** One could continue quite easily with other comparisons. Some of the other occult activities that Rowling mentions are astrology, spell-casting, necromancy, herb lore, magical potions, familiar spirits, charms, pyromancy, numerology, palmistry, scrying and the like. Rowling does not create new types of "imaginary witchcraft but only presents practices that were developed long ago and that continue to be used in the occult today. She herself admits that she did a lot of research into the occult in order to make the story believable.****
*Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [New York: Scholastic 1999], p. 57
**ibid p. 103
***Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone [Scholastic, 1997], p. 134
****Albanes, p. 23 citing Rowling in a radio interview on The Diane Rheim Show, WAMU, National Public Radio, October 20, 1999. The interview is available at http://www.wamu.org/dr/shows/drarc_991018.html#wednesday
Supporters might point to the nonsensical magic words that Rowling introduces -- "Alomohora! Expelliarmus! Rictusempra! Finite Incantatem!" -- as evidence of her whimsical and imaginative approach to witchcraft, but these few humorous introductions to her story constitute only a very slight change in the actual witchcraft that she depicts. In many other instances, she depicts witchcraft without any alteration. She does this in discussing the "Hand of Glory," which appears in Chamber of Secrets: "Ah, the Hand of Glory! Insert a candle and it gives light to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers!"* Such a gruesome "Hand of Glory" actually does exist in occult tradition. It was the hand of a murderer who had been hung at the gallows, which was cut off, drained of blood, pickled and cured. Candles [made from the fat of another murderer and with the wick made from his hair] were inserted into the hand before a burglar would enter a victim's house. The hand was reputed to have various magical properties that would protect and warn the burglar.**
*Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [New York: Scholastic 1999], p. 51
**Abanes, pp. 60-61
Rowling also depicts scrying [crystal-ball gazing] with similar accuracy and little creative imagination. The Divination teacher at Hogwarts teaches the children: "Crystal ball-gazing is a particularly refined art. We shall start by practicing relaxing the conscious mind and external eyes ... so as to clear the Inner Eye and the superconscious.* This is an exact portrayal of the process diviners use to enter a trance and thereby contact the spiritual world in an attempt to gain knowledge of the future. The most gruesome occult practice depicted is in the fourth book, wherein Harry is magically captured and transported to a graveyard, where a satanic ritual is described in horrific detail. Although the procedure might not exactly follow known rituals, the elements are all there: human sacrifice, self-inflicted mutilation, and materials well known to be essential to satanic ritual, including an "athomey" [a two-edged, sharp pointed dagger used to pierce the sacrifice].
*Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p.297
One also encounters many persons in Rowling's books who are well known in the occult. For instance, Nicholas Flamel is mentioned along with his wife Perenell. These two were actual occultists who lived in the 13th century. Nicholas Flamel practiced alchemy and was reputed to have created the "Philosopher's Stone."* The stone was supposed to turn any substance into gold as well as produce the Elixir of Life, which would make one immortal. Rowling shows no imagination by copying the character of Nicholas Flamel and his wife into her book, along with the "Philosopher's Stone" itself. Similarly mentioned are Adalbert, an 8th century archbishop of Canterbury convicted of sorcery [portrayed, of course, in a positive light by Rowling]; and Paracelsus, a Swiss alchemist.
*J.K. Rowling's book was originally titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
when it was published in England. it was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone by Scholastic Books, Inc., which is the American publisher.
One character in Rowling's books that should immediately put Christian readers on the alert is "Cassandra Vlabatsky." Richard Abanes persuasively argues that this character is named for the notorious Helen P. Blavatsky whose name is rearranged to disguise direct mention.1 H.P. Blavatsky lived in the 19th century and founded the Theosophical Society, the purpose of which was "to oppose the materialism of science and every form of dogmatic theology, especially the Christian, which the Chiefs of the Society regard as particularly pernicious.2 Blavatsky described herself, and was described by her followers and associates, as being possessed by "somebody else,"3 and she wrote in no uncertain terms that "Satan, the Serpent in Genesis is the real creator and benefactor, the Father of spiritual mankind."4
1.Rowling uses a similar anagram device when one of Voldemort's aliases
is introduced as "Tom Marvolo Riddle." This alias is exposed when the
letters are rearranged to spell "I am Lord Voldemort."
2.From a Theosophical Society brochure. Quoted in Constance Cumby,
The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow [Shreveport, Louisiana: Huntington
House, 1983], p. 45.
3.M.K. Neff, Personal Memoirs of Helen P. Blavatsky, p. 244.
4.Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine [Los Angeles:
Theosophy Co., 1925], Vol. 3, p.386.
Rowling also introduces many well-known pagan and mythological characters, using names for her characters such as Minera [the Roman Goddess], Argus [the mythological Greek giant with 100 eyes], Circe [the witch in the Odyssey], and Cliodna [the Druid/Celtic goddess still worshipped by modern neo-pagans].*
*Abanes, pp. 30-32
Rowling does not create a "secondary world" such as exemplified by Tolkein's creation of Middle Earth, but rather a "parallel world" -- one that closely follows contemporary occult activity. In fact, as Richard Abanes relates:
"Rowling's thorough understanding of occultism's intricacies is so obvious in her books that during one radio call-in show, a self-professed 'magus' [a male practitioner of magick*] excitedly asked Rowling if she herself was a member of the 'Craft' [i.e., Wicca]. When Rowling answered no, the caller seemed shocked and replied, '[Well], you've done your homework quite well.' This particular caller went on to express his love for the Harry Potter series, not only because it contained so much occultism, but because its positive portrayal of magick had served to make his daughter more comfortable with his own practice as a witch-magician.**
*Abanes intentionally uses the spelling "magick" to highlight the similarity between
the magic that Harry Potter uses and that taught by Aleister Crowley.
**Abanes, p. 24, citing Rowling on The Diane Rheim Show, op.cit.
Herein lies the danger. Her books so cleverly mirror contemporary occult activity that they serve as a natural bridge for young people into real witchcraft. The pagan Federation of England recently appointed its first youth officer [in September 2001] to deal with the increased numbers of queries from young people. Their media officer, Andy Norfolk, attributed the youth's increasing interest in witchcraft to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the other Potter books, and television shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He further stated that, after every article on witchcraft or paganism appears, "we have a huge surge in calls, mostly from young girls."*
*"Potter Fans Turning to Witchcraft," This is London [Associated Newspapers Ltd. August 4, 2000].
Why is it so hard for people to believe that the Harry Potter series could lead children into actual occult activity? Not surprisingly, Rowling and her supporters disavow any intent to lead people, especially children into witchcraft. However, let us note her reaction to the cover of edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone published by Scholastic. During an April 1999 interview about the artwork on various editions of her books, Rowling commented excitedly: "The Scholastic cover looks the most like the way I had fantasized the book would look. It looks like a spell book because of the colors and the style of illustrations."*
*Abanes, p. 123.
3. Spiritual Warfare and the Guarding of the Imagination
It is likely that Rowling herself does not fully recognize the significance of what she is doing. Her professed disbelief and simultaneous interest in occult activity makes her open to manipulation by the fallen spirits. Evidence for this is her description of how the whole Harry Potter series came to her.
J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for her books in 1990 while traveling on a train. As she recalls, without any warning she suddenly just saw Harry "very very clearly" in her mind. His visible image actually popped into her thoughts from out of nowhere as a "fully formed individual." During one interview, Rowling stated: "The character of Harry just strolled into my head ... I really did feel he was someone who walked up and introduced himself in my mind's eye."*
*J.K. Rowling, quoted in Reuters, "Harry Potter 'Strolled into My Head," July 17, 2000.
Rowling confesses that she has no idea why he chose to 'come to her' when he did.* According to her account, Harry just stood there looking very much like he now does on the cover of her books, complete with black hair and spectacles. She somehow perceived that he was a wizard. Soon afterward, she began thinking about how this could possibly be, and before long she was writing about a young boy who did not know he had magical powers.
*The Diana Rheim Show op. cit.
The alarming aspect of this, and what distinguishes this event from artistic inspiration, is that an entity introduced itself to her. She did not have an insight or intuition but rather an encounter with another being; and her professed disbelief in "magic" and the spiritual world per se made her open to manipulation by such an encounter. Without discernment she accepted whatever came to her imagination.
Bishop Augustinos Florina confirms this point: "Satan's success is greatest when he is hidden. With his agents, with supposedly educated scholars, he spreads around misinformation that he doesn't exist. And so people walk through life unsuspectingly, when suddenly he attacks. He finds them unprepared and destroys them spiritually. If they believe there is a devil who hates them with indescribable hatred, who runs around like a hungry lion snatching souls, then people would take all of the precautionary measures that Holy Scripture advises them to take to defeat him."*
*Bishop Augustinos Kantiotes, Sparks from the Apostles [Belmont, Massachusetts:
Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1992] pp. 197-98.
Our Lord revealed to men not only sure knowledge of the angelic world, but also knowledge of the demonic world, teaching us the warfare that we must wage with the fallen spirits. According to St. Nicholai Velimirovic, our Lord Jesus Christ saves us not only from sin and death, but also from "our indifference and ignorance concerning Satan, who is the cause of all sins, and a murderer and a liar."*
*Cf. John 8:44: He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is
no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it.
From St. Nikolai Velimirovic, An Offering of the Writings of St. Nikolai Velimirovic
[Safford, Arizona: St. Paisius Orthodox Monastery, 2001] p.68.
Spiritual warfare against the deceptions of fallen spirits is revealed in a clear and complete manner only in Christianity, and specifically in the Orthodox Christianity of the Holy fathers. "There are teachings on spiritual deception in other traditions," says Fr. Seraphim Rose, "but none so thoroughly refined as those taught by the Orthodox Holy Fathers; and more importantly, these deceptions of the evil one and our fallen nature are so omnipresent and so thorough that no one could escape them unless the loving God revealed by Christianity were close at hand to deliver us from them."*
*Fr. Serpahim Rose, "Letter to a spiritual Seeker," The Orthodox Word, nos. 187-88 , p. 119.
Christian supporters of the Harry Potter series invariably downplay such spiritual warfare, usually by appealing to an argument along these lines: "Rowling's world is an imaginary one. What harm is there in imagination?" But it is precisely in the imagination that much of the warfare takes place, as the Apostle Paul writes: For we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh [for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds], casting down imaginations*, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ [2Cor. 10:3-5]. Elsewhere the Apostle states: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [Eph. 6:12].
*The Greek word here is logismoi, which means "thoughts." In Patristic literature, the
word logismoi is often used to denote thoughts that are suggested to us by the evil one.
The united witness of the Church Fathers strongly opposes the misuse of imagination. The misuse of imagination can lead to severe cases of spiritual delusion or prelest. They contrast disordered imagination, which they consider to be the indulgence of idle speculation, with sobriety and repentance. St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain writes: "The devil has a very close relationship and familiarity with the imagination, and of all the powers of the soul he has this one, as the most appropriate organ to deceive man and to activate his passions and evils. He indeed is very familiar with the nature of the imagination. For he, being created by God originally as a pure and simple mind without form and image as the other divine angels, later came to love the forms and the imaginations. Imagining that he could set his throne above the heavens and become like God, he fell from being an angel of light and became a devil of darkness ... He deceived Adam through the imagination and raised up to his mind the fantasy of being equal with God. Before the disobedience, Adam did not have the imaginative attribute."*
*St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual
Counsel [Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1989[ p.149-50.
Since human imagination in its present form is subject to the effects of the Fall, a person must use discernment with regard to the thoughts and images that come to him. The Holy Fathers teach us to place no ultimate trust in such thoughts and images, but to test everything against the teachings of the Church and the counsels of those who are in spiritual authority over us.
4. A Preparation For Demonic Initiation
The Church has long recommended the practice of Lectio Divina, that is Spiritual Reading, precisely because what occurs in our thoughts and imagination influences and shapes our behavior. When we fill our hearts and minds with Godly thoughts and ideas, our behavior will conform to this. Fr. Seraphim Rose was so sensitive to this process that he noticed that, when a day passed without Orthodox spiritual reading, his soul became weighed down. Even worse than not reading spiritual literature, however, is to read things that are directly contrary to Christian spiritual life, such as the Harry Potter series! Not only do these books weigh down the soul, but they make her familiar with the occult world, opening her up to the types of occult initiation which Fr. Seraphim wrote about in his book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future: "Let it be that these 'religious experiments' are still often of a tentative and groping nature, that there is in them at least as much psychic self-deception as there is a genuinely demonic initiation rite ... But this is the aim of these 'experiments,' and doubtless the techniques of initiation will become ever more efficient as mankind becomes prepared for them by the attitudes of passivity and openness to new 'religious experiences' which are inculcated by these movements."*
*Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future [Platina California:
St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1975; fourth edition, 1996] pp. 188-89.
The attitude of passivity and openness to paranormal activity is clearly cultivated in the recent movie of the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, perhaps even more so than in the book itself. Each time an occurrence of magic happens, Harry Potter is shown with wide-mouthed fascination, acceptance and delight. Is this an attitude to the supernatural which should be cultivated in young children? One expert on the occult stated: "My greatest concern is that Godly fear, which protects mankind from dabbling in the spirit world, is being taken away from children who read these Harry Potter books. The terrors and horrors of black magic and occult practice, rituals, ceremonies and demon possession are being normalized. Alarmingly, the Potter books are engaging in pagan discipleship, disciplining our children to spiritual alternatives and also turning them away from Biblical principles and Godly protection."*
*Caryol Matrisciana, quoted in Julie Foster, "Potter Books: Wicked Witchcraft?"
A very telling comment was made by horror novelist Stephen King. In the New York Times Review of Books, King wrote that the Potter series -- which he loves -- provide children with a good introduction to his own gruesome and demonic horror novels!* To what end is our culture guiding children?
*Stephen King, "Wild About Harry," New York Times Review of Books, July 23, 2000.
The fact that the Harry Potter series is so popular and commands such respect is a telling sign of the widespread lack of Christian discernment. Fr. Seraphim, commenting on the very low spiritual state of our times, wrote: "What has brought Humanity -- and indeed 'Christiandom' -- to this desperate state? Certainly it is not overt worship of the devil, which is limited always to a few people; rather it is something much more subtle, and something fearful for a conscious Orthodox Christian to reflect on: it is the loss of the grace of God, which follows on the loss of the savor of Christianity."*
*Hieromonk Seraphim, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, p. 189.
Simply by looking at the vast popularity of the Hary Potter books, one can see a resurgence of interest in witchcraft and the occult. The very disturbing aspect of this is that most people do not recognize it as such. They have for the most part lost their feel for what constitutes Christian life.
Orthodox Christians! With the fear of God and faith, hold fast to the Church and her saving commandments. Let us see the Harry Potter books for what they are, as a preparation for initiation into the demonic realm, and let us all the more fervently cleave to our Faith, increasing our prayers and keeping watch, for Lo! the Bridegroom cometh!
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A Contrary opinion regarding this Harry Potter matter:
Here is a link to a contrary opinion held by some of our peers in our Sister Church. We make note of this contrary opinion not for debate, but so that the reader may know we have considered this opinion. Despite the researched and educated points in the essay, our view is still aligned with that of the simple monk.
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2019 Update broken Links:
http://www.hsir.org/Publications_en/OT_3-2003.pdf (Link found not working Oct 31, 2016)
The Harry Potter Phenomenon page 14
http://www.hsir.org/Publications_en/OT_3-2004.pdf (Link found not working Oct 31, 2016)
The “Uncertain Riches” of Fundamentalism page 2
Bp. Chrysostom (Gonzales) (†2019) and Bp. Auxentios (Chapman) of Etna, California
"...the counsel of the more proficient brethren..."
Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov
Email from an elder brother in the Faith
Greetings Sister Joanna: March 24/11 '11
As Orthodox, baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ and that is what being Laymen means, - in English it is a rather weak translation of the Greek and so help me I can not recall the word I want. Anyway we are all Lay members in the Church, though some of us have been set apart by the Holy Spirit to function as a "presbyter" [bishop or priest], or Deacon, or Reader, or Married or monk [and there is a big misconception by many who think monastic vows are a Mystery higher than Marriage!]. We all have a right to speak and if we differ from some bishop who may think that because of his position he is wiser than than a Lay-Member, so be it. It just might be he is wrong or can learn from the humble Sister or Brother in Christ. If we are not talking about Dogma, then there is room for different opinions and if any one of us, whether Lay or Lay who are set apart in the Priesthood, need to be enlightened; we should accept it. But we have a right to speak. And there have times in the history of the Church when the clergy, especially the bishops, are wrong and the humble Laymen and Priest have saved the day.
Look what is happening today in World orthodoxy [lower case intended] millions of souls are being deceived by their great leaders.
A non-baptized person, a heretic such as roman catholics [and that includes the pope of Rome] do not have the rank of Laymen much less that of the Priesthood. They are outside the Church.
And it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the ... "Harry Potter" books and a thousand others ... in secular society are demonic. Any clergyman of the Church who says this book is not demonic is deceived or confused in his thinking. That is my line of thought.
So put your trust in God and have no fear, "For God is with us."* I will add my poor prayers for you.
Pray for me the worst of sinners.
*from Grand Compline of the Great Fast
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Update February 2013
lt is one thing for laymen to be confused, but bishops should know better.
Speaking of the SIR bishops who defend the Harry Potter books:
These bishops characterize "Orthodox Christians who oppose the Harry Potter books as unintellectual, unthinking, ethnocentric, and xenophobic, who engage in crude religious intolerance, as well as taking their cues from Protestant fundamentalists." I refuse to accept that characterization. Truth is not a respecter of the PhD. If there is any Christian symbology in Harry Potter "fantasies" it is because Antichrist borrows on Christ and mimics Him.
Quote from here:
Also see here:
• What can cause an Orthodox Christian to think that Harry Potter books are harmless fantasies?
• What can cause an Orthodox Christian to think that Harry Potter books have an underlying Christian theme?
The answer to the first question might be very simple. Could just be ignorance. Unless a person has had the unfortunate experience of coming face-to-face with the demons that are invoked in witchcraft, it can be difficult to imagine this as a reality in our present times.
To answer the 2nd question, setting aside the obvious factor of intellectual pride, I think the likely cause is lack of study of Antichrist and end times. As our Church Father, Archbishop Averky taught us: he who ignores this teaching will not recognize Antichrist.
The Spirit of Antichrist and the Forerunner of Antichrist
But why is it so important to know this teaching?
Because, as the Holy Fathers warn us beforehand, he who ignores this teaching, considering it unimportant and not essential in Christianity, will not recognize the Antichrist and will worship him.
But is it really possible not to recognize the Antichrist?
Yes, it is possible! This is what Bishop Ignatti (Bryanchainov), who collected into one place everything said about Antichrist by the ancient Holy Fathers, says about it:
Read all of Archbishop Averky's essay here:
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More discussion on Harry Potter here: