A reader writes in to ask three questions:
1. What is the right way to answer the accusation that the fantasy genre turns kids into satanists/gnostics/pagans? One sees this argument most used against Harry Potter, but in recent years I’ve come upon people who believe that the inclusion of magic in a work is so evil they won’t even let their children read Narnia.
2. Related to this, I’m curious what your opinion is in regard to what the proper way is for a Catholic author to handle magic in their work.
3. What would be your response to those who say that all magic ought to be portrayed as evil or only used by characters who are stand-ins for God (Aslan) or who are agents of God (as I have seen some argue that Gandalf is)?
The second question would require another lengthy essay, as will the third. Perhaps another day I can address them. For now, I will address but the first, and I warn the patient reader this is rather a long answer, because the topic is one I have much pondered.
And it is a topic that has been very much on my mind of late, because in the manuscript under my hand at the moment, I have to decide whether the witchcraft used by one of the characters will be portrayed in that background as lawful or unlawful. (I will have to speak to what I decided in the promised next essay.)
Had you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said that the best way to answer the accusation was with a belly laugh.
No doubt I would have uttered some snark, along the lines of: “If your biggest worry in the age of dictatorship of relativism in the ever-more socialist dystopia of the culture of death during a global war on terror, faithful Christians, is that a witch flying on a moonless night above your chimney pot will cast her Evil Eye on your milk cow, then you must live a pretty stress-free life.”
But in good conscience, I can no longer be so dismissive. Experience has corrected me.
It is bad form to begin with a digression, but a kind reader will indulge me.
One of my best friends in the world is Willy the Witch.
Willy is a perfectly nice fellow in every respect, kind and generous, funny, clever, a good father, a loyal husband, an honest man, big-hearted to a fault. I love him like a brother.
But he is convinced that occult powers are his to command, and the gods and spirits of the unseen world are manifestations of a mystical force that he, by his rituals and disciplines, can harness to work his will on the world.
I met him in college. We would spend all our free time together in role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons and the like: sometimes we would stay up until dawn rolling dice and pretending to be half-elves or superheroes. At least once we stayed up from Friday night until Sunday morning, role playing nonstop. Ah, youth.
At that time, he was interested, nay, fascinated by the occult, but he did not think it was real. He was in the ‘openminded’ camp. He was merely bemused by occultism, interested in the fashion of an anthropologist. He wished it were real.
After graduation, he got his wish. He fell in with a coven of like-minded students of the occult, and he saw things and did things which convinced him that the unseen world was real, and that magic rituals were the proper and lawful way to approach the unseen and to control it.
These days, my friend the witch believes in ghosts and spirits and in every god in the book except for Christ. There is only one god he will not bow to nor serve; the God of Abraham.The only spirit on whose name is does not call is Holy.
As far as I know, he has never used his magic for malign ends, only to cure the sick and call down blessings and the like. The only malignancy I ever detect in his house is a deep and abiding hatred, paranoia and contempt for Christ. So if there is anything like a Good Witch in real life, it is he.
I visited him after graduation to find him converted from the openminded camp to the openly practicing Witchcraft camp. I asked him a few questions about good and evil and life and death and the afterlife; and I found him utterly unprepared to answer.
I should add that he and I were both young at the time. He may have pondered and discovered answers to my questions in the years since then, or even the next day. But at that time, his worldview was mostly fog.
He might not even remember this talk, but it made a very deep impression on me: I was forced very grudgingly to admit that even those Christians least well instructed in their faith, had a coherent metaphysics, ethics, philosophy and theology. Christianity comes from a living tradition. It is workable: you can live your life by Christian principles.
Occultism has none of these things. It is not a religion properly so called; it is a technology, a means for winning power over the elements. It comes from no living tradition. It is not workable. It is frivolous.
It had all the bad point of organized religion, exception that it was disorganized. It was chaos: a random grab-bag of half-formed ideas and longings. It was like Christianity, but worse in every department.
(This was an admission grudging to me because I was then a lifelong atheist and a hardened skeptic, and to make any admission that Christianity was not the most false and most pernicious of all false systems is nigh impossible for atheists. Atheists pretend they hold all faiths in equal skepticism. I am now a faithful Christian and a hardened skeptic: I am merely skeptical about a different class of claims. For example, I am skeptical of the pretenses of atheists.)
My friend Willy is not the only witch I know. I know more witches than I know Catholics, enough that my opinion is not based on hearsay and not based on a first impression.
When I say they are frivolous, I mean that they follow the boutique shop approach to the supernatural, where the shopper merely picks up whatever shiny idols as may appeal to him at the moment, and arranges them on his mantle like bricabrac.
It is a belief in ghosts without believing in an afterlife. A belief in gods without really believing in them, gods who neither demand chastity in women nor charity in men. Instead, with no sense of irony, the Witches call upon fertility goddesses to bless lesbian marriages.
(For those of you educated in modern state-run public school, let me explain my gibe: fertility refers to the ability of a mating pair to mate successfully, that is, to reproduce sexually. An alliance between two individuals of the same sex cannot be a mating pair, hence lacks this ability, hence can never be fertile.)
When I say neopaganism is based in no living tradition, I mean real pagans sacrificed to their forefathers and revered them and obeyed; they were patriots in a day when patriotism was a religious duty, a duty to love the little gods who inhabited the beloved streams and fields and groves of their city, and the idols of the citadel.
The neopagans I know have contempt for their ancestors. I suppose that is for the best. If your great-grandfather were a Puritan from Massachusetts, he might be taken aback if you erect a shrine to him to burn incense to his likeness.
As for patriotism, it is between lukewarm and cool. I have never overheard my Witch friends asking the Horned Consort or the Green Mother to bless America. One or two are veterans, but by and large the Witches don’t feel at home in their nation, and don’t have much love for it.
In sum, neopagans are not pagans, they are Postchristians: Witchcraft is Christianity as it would be if Christian virtues were expunged from it, intellectual rigor and logic were thrown overboard, and the whole were revised to fit modern multicultural moral-relativist nihilist liberal values.
Witchcraft is not like an honest religion, like Buddhism or Shinto, and it is not even an honest heresy like Arianism or Mohammedanism. These sects and religions teach an elevated moral code, selflessness and self-control, purity and virtue. Witchcraft is lust for hidden powers.
So whether magic is real or not, either way my friend has not been well served by his youthful fascination with the occult.
I see only three possibilities. It is real, and the Christians are correct that it is diabolical; it is real, but but the Christians are incorrect and Witchery is harmless and innocent; it is not real.
If it is real and harmful, then my friend Willy dabbles with forces he does not understand and cannot control and invites diabolic influences to descend upon his house: he bows to idols of wood and brass, made by the hands of man, and serves them, and cheats himself of life eternal.
If it is real and harmless, so that the Witch calls up only non-deceptive and non-satanic spirits or spiritual forces, then my friend has adopted a world view utterly lacking in any finer or higher sentiment. Lust for occult power emphases power over contentment, selfishness over selflessness, secrecy over frankness, it therefore cheats the practitioner of the virtues needed to live life well. It cheats him of happiness.
If it is not real, then he bows to idols of wood and brass, made by the hands of man, and serves nothing, taking coincidences for proofs of his beliefs, and he cheats himself of reality.
The point of my tale is that I think my friend and his friends would be better off being a Christians even if Christian teaching were false and hypocritical and intolerant and bogus and even if neopagan, occultic and esoteric teachings were true and their spells actually worked.
What role did our mutual addiction to D&D and other role playing games play in his conversion to witchcraft? What role did his love of fantasy books play?
That I cannot answer, not knowing his soul. I was not even present when he converted, I merely saw him months before and months after.
All I can say is that the argument of the fringe Christians who eschew fantasy now strikes me as a sober argument, not a contemptible one. It cannot be dismissed out of hand.
To argue that reading books and playing games which glamorize magic has no effect whatever on a boy who becomes fascinated with the occult is a naive argument, on par with those that argue pornography does not darken society’s attitude toward women, or that television violence does not influence impressionable children.
So the question is a sober one. My experience is that the accusation that fantasy lures the unwary (not just children) toward occultism is a true accusation in at least some cases. Is there any clear answer to it?
I suggest that specific way to answer depends on the specifics of the accusation, that is, on how well the case can be made.
To make their case, the phantasmophobes (if we may stick a convenient if slightly sarcastic label on them) to prove their case should show (1) the child is vulnerable to the allure of occultism (2) the book, intentionally or not, is promoting occultism (3) the use of magic in the story has no other redeeming characteristics–the magic elements are in the story for no reason others than to glamorize the occult.
Regarding point one, much depends on the child, and on how vulnerable the child is to the seductions of occultism. My friend Willy the Witch probably would have turned to Witchcraft no matter what he read, or played, or studied. He could have read JANE’S MILITARY REVIEW or PROSSER ON TORTS and ended up involved in witchery.
On the other hand, to use myself as an example, no fantasy book I ever read inspired in me the least desire to attempt casting spells like a Witch any more than they inspired a desire to forge the Ring of the Nibelungs like Alberich, or battle with Python like Apollo, because such things are impossible.
(Are witches real? I think we can all agree that there are people these days who like to call themselves witches, and to pray to the gods worshiped by the selfsame pagans who used to hang witches back in the B.C. years — a hatred of Black Magic is by no means a Christian invention — but I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether their spells and charms are effective, or merely snares and limed twigs.)
To use a third example, and one more the point, let me digress to speak of another very dear friend of mine. Let us all her Erin the Enchantress. She was a Witch when first I knew her, but after moving to Alaska, and falling in love with a stalwart young man, they resolved to celebrate and consummate their love by marriage and childrearing, the young couple realized, thunderstruck, that they had no desire at all to raise their children as neopagans, and both joined the Roman Catholic Church without any more ado. The gravity of motherhood impressed upon my dear friend the levity of worshiping the Mother Goddess, or pretending to, and so they returned to the bosom of the Mother Church. Praises to Mary, Mother of God!
In her case, reading fantasy led her back churchward. The beauty and magical imagery in fantasy stories won the heart of the Enchantress over to the idea that the real world was beautiful and magical: the splendor of the Church seemed the only fitting response, the only place real magic dwells.
Regarding point two, this is the core concern: does the book or role playing game promote occultism?
Here we need to make clear a distinction which the phantasmophobes seem never to make, but which is so obvious (even if it is hard to put into words) that the accusations that fantasy leads to occultism so often stirs us to laughter. There is something more than a little ridiculous about the idea that fairy stories promote occultism. But what? Can we put our finger on it?
Let me propose a radical and paradoxical theory: occultism has nothing to do with magic.
What is magic? We all have moments in our lives, such as meeting our true love for the first time, or seeing a beauty-haunted sunrise, or witnessing a child’s first footstep, or hearing the laughter of a young girl, or remembering a mother pulling us into her lap with a book to hear a bedtime story, or seeing a butterfly take wing in delicate splendor like a living flower, when we know, and know in a way we cannot name, that life is magical.
The springtime in the sun, the winter whiteness in the moon, everything which is not merely quotidian or dull or mundane holds a reflected glint of the silver starlight escaped of worlds beyond our own, an echo of the horns of elfland dimly blowing.
That is what the word ‘magic’ means. The real magic in real life is, at its root, a religious or mystical insight which tells us this grim world of entropy, decay, disappointment, treason, cowardice and death cannot be the whole story, the whole world there is: there is some unseen profound beneath the seen and shallow surface.
The way magic is used in fairy stories and in old myths are meant to be figures or concrete images of this elusive, elfin quality.
When the fairy godmother grants Cinderella her dream come true, and her escape from her unjust imprisonment as a servant in a house rightly her own, this reflects that mystical feeling all normal men harbor in their breast that the supernatural must break into the natural world with the suddenness of the thunderbolt of Jove and the beauty of that same rainbow which neither giants can climb to Valhalla and which marks the spot where the treasure of the leprechauns is hid in a field.
The reason why we tell tales of thundering Jove and shining Valhalla and elusive leprechauns and their gold is that these are figures of a reality which cannot be captured in any other tales.
No other form of story save myths and epics and fairy tales have the form and dignity and conventions needed to weave the chain made of women’s beards and fishes’ breath and mountain roots and nine other impossible things needed to capture the moonbeam of this mystic insight all healthy men know lurks at the heart of fairy: the supernatural must break into the natural and set things right when all human hope is lost.
Professor Tolkien dubbed this literary form ‘the eucatastrophe’ the good catastrophe, the sudden reverse at the climax of the tale where joy breaks in with an emotion as lofty and soaring as grief is deep and still, so that indeed we shed tears, but not tears of sorrow.
To abolish this literary form in the name of saving children from the lure of occultism is madness.
I know yet another friend of mine, let us call her Kirsten the Christian Maiden, who was so firmly confirmed in her Christian faith that she never wavered, even amid all the temptations of the world: and the image in her imagination that gave her strength (for the imagination, not the soul and mind, can either be loyal to the kingdom of God or otherwise) was the great and golden figure of Aslan, a character from a children’s story. Had her parents forbade this faithful girl of that prop to her imagination, that figure and metaphor of Christ, she would have lost half her strength.
Again, real magic leads to and supports real faith as surely as does real philosophy, real science, real beauty, or anything else that is real and honest.
Occultism has nothing to do with real magic. I say again, it is not tangential, it is not related at all: it may even be an opposite or antithesis. Magicians are not concerned with the laughter of babies and the unlimbering of butterflies. Alchemists want gold. They want victory in battle, fertility in crops, freedom from disease. Occultists want to cheat at life the way a hacker uses cheatcodes at a computer game, to learn the secret rules to allow him to elude or escape the laws of nature, or to bribe the spirits and demons who are the cosmic bureaucrats so that the magician himself will have some special pull or influence or ‘friends in high places’ to let him skip out on rules that bind all other folk. As I said, it is a technology, even if it is an abortive technology, a tech that produces no reproducible results.
Satanism is this abortive technology taken one step darker. The thought behind all devil worship is that by doing acts horrid or shocking or mocking or bloody or erotic, that the higher power behind the visible universe, or, rather, the lower powers, will perform specific acts in a workmanlike way. Men make deals with the devil not out of worship or reverence, but out of the cold calculus of a merchant seeking a deal. He wants this, he will sacrifice that to get it. A Satanist is merely a man who hires a contract killer to murder his victim, or an arsonist to burn a house, but instead of a Mafioso, the man he hires is a spirit from the darkness, and the arson is done with hellfire.
There is nothing of the elfin magic of the fairy tale in the heart of the diabolist. He is man who hates God, and does uncouth, dangerous, disgusting, or deadly acts as if daring God to punish him: and in his heart he laughs and thinks God weak.
Gnosticism in its various forms is nobler than either the technological approach of occultism or the defiance of goodness and godliness of Satanism. Gnosticism is too complex and dreary a topic to sum up justly in a phrase, therefore let me sum it up unjustly: Gnosticism is the conceit that Thou Art God, and all of life is a trap to escape or a test to pass, so that you, by yourself, by your own unaided powers, will shed the falsehoods of material life and return to splendor in the Pleroma, the heaven beyond the utmost sphere.
Gnosticism is entirely selfish and self-centered, and despises all ordinary joys and pleasures with the despite of a Puritan, and yet it also despises all austerities and purity with the hatred of a Playboy Mansion sybarite.
Those of you who have never paged through the dreary minutia Goetia, or read the mind-numbingly dull and disturbing trash that passes for Gnostic writings can be excused from thinking that the magicians who read these things want magic in their life.
Not at all.
The demons in the Goetia, to be sure, promise one or two glamorous things like invisibility or the power to speak to birds, or to throw down towers, or the ability to see to it that an enemy’s arrow wound will turn gangrenous and putrefy, but by and large they promise very mundane and practical benefits to accrue to the practitioner: instructions in the liberal arts, the restoration of lost dignities and reputations, worldly wealth and worldly power. Reading the Goetia is about as magical as reading the paperwork requirements and legal regulations surrounding a visit to the loan officer of a very large and very soulless financial institution.
Gnostic works consist of list of aeons and emanations and formulaic minutia about as interesting and about as magical as reading the warnings on a bottles of pills the doctor has proscribed. Gnostics differ strikingly from diabolists in that they despise worldly things and seek to escape and transcend them rather than control and conquer them: but they are no more interested in the lighting of Zeus or the rainbow beyond which the lovely Land of Oz is said to rest than the demon-summoning technician.
Some Gnostics seek enlightenment and to overcome certain sins and evils in themselves the way an athlete recovering from a sports injury seeks to return to the strength naturally his. In this regard, he is working out a type of self-centered and godless salvation. He is seeking an admirable goal. But what has it to do with magic?
If I have correctly characterized the point and the appeal of fairy stories, fantasy stories, epics and other tales where magic and magicians and supernal powers play a role, then we can see that, except for the rather shallow surface feature that magicians in stories cast spells, and occultists in real life perform rites and rituals, the two have nothing in common.
I suggest that the type of story which actually glamorizes occultism or Gnosticism is the type of story that glamorizes the defiance of convention, glamorizes self-centeredness, and tells the moral that you are a special person from a higher world, and says sex is an act of self-fulfillment with no possible bad side effects: in other words, the movie PLEASANTVILLE.
Now, to be sure, there are stories which quite deliberately reflect the Gnostic world view and preach the Gnostic message. In truth, such stories are a more alluring introduction to Gnosticism than real antique Gnostic writings: I mean AEGYPT by John Crowley, VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by David Lindsany. However, I have never known anyone to convert to Gnosticism, or even to develop an interest in it, from reading their books. They are entertaining and interesting, but, as with all Gnostic philosophy, the ending is ultimately disappointing. Gnosticism is a bitterly pessimistic form of heresy, one which makes both God and the world God made the enemy. If heaven and earth alike are the enemy, the only retreat is to within one’s own self.
Let my point here not be lost in my maze of words: I mean simply that if a parent wishes to spare his child from the lure of occultism and Gnosticism, then let the parent comb through the child’s books and comic books and role playing gamebooks not to see which ones have wizards and unicorns on the cover — it is shallow to judge a book by its cover — but to see which books preach selfishness and promote suspicion and contempt for wholesome things. That is the motive and the leitmotif of occultism: the promise of hidden powers and the contempt for conformity, reason, normalcy.
The books with no wizards on the covers can do the work of glamorizing what real occultism is all about better than fairy stories can, be they detective novels or adventure tales or pirate stories or planetary romances or spy thrillers or space opera.
The movie THE MATRIX is a fine and fun action-adventure wire-fu flick with a cool sci-fi idea behind it. STAR WARS is the best beloved film of a generation, and the movie that singlehanded brought science fiction out from the ghetto into the mainstream. But the first teaches a comic book version of Gnosticism which, if taken seriously, is appalling, and the second glamorizes a pseudo-oriental New Age-ish type of nondenominational spiritualism which is the prime poison of our age, and it might as well be the official established religion of the tyranny of relativism.
This leads to the final point. Does the story use magic in any way that redeems it from the accusation of glamorizing occultism?
This point is easily and quickly discussed, if we accept the conclusion of the last point. I have read a healthy share of fantasy books in my time. In my youth, I often consumed two novels a day, every day. (Novels were both shorter then, and my reading time more generous.)
I can state unequivocally that I have never read a fantasy novel that actually taught or promoted the principles of real occultism for the simple reason that real occultism is boring.
I will mention one possible exception that is not really an exception: a favorite author of my youth based her magic system on a principle found among primitive peoples who, even to this day, believe in hoodoo and witchcraft. It is called the rule of names, and it is the idea that if you know a man’s secret and true name, you can cast spells on him: by knowing the secret names of elements and spirits you can command them.
Modern occultists, seeking among primitive peoples for secrets of their alleged esoteric art, have also come across the same principle, and use it in their rituals.
It would be dishonest to conclude from those facts that this author was glamorizing occultism. Her attempt, or so I suppose from the shape of her theme, was to promote Taoism, a concern for the mystic balance of all things, including balance between the light and dark halves of the self: with this theme the story is principally concerned.
I have also read books which made nods in the direction of real occultism, but, again, take their inspiration more from anthropology, such as THE GOLDEN BOUGH by Sir James George Frazer, rather than from the Esoteric tradition, from Paracelsus or Trismegistus or the Order of the Golden Dawn and their ilk.
Occasionally such books will make mention of real occultic principles, such as the law of sympathy and contagion, but this always an attempt by the author to introduce limits to what his characters can do my means of magic so that all the obstacles facing the hero are not solved by magic: I defy anyone to tell me of children getting interested in, say, astrology or tarot-cards because he read a story where Randall Garett’s D’Arcy solved a crime or Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever committed a crime, using the entirely invented and fictional magical systems of their invented worlds.
I say again that the way to answer accusations that fantasy lure children to occultism depends on the specifics of how well the accusation is made.
I will add here that the accusations I have against books I have read heard merit the same kind of dismissive abruptness which I said I would no longer use.
In other words, there are books, such as INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, which portray a worldview and an emotional or overemotional attitude of self-pity and interest in the dark side of the supernatural where I think the accusation cannot be dismissed without weighing the case. I would listen to a man warning me that those books are not good or my kids.
Those are not the accusations I ever hear. By and large the books I have heard accused are not only not occultic, they are the best defense against the lure I can imagine. Let me mention half a dozen famous examples:
1. Both Tolkein and Lewis were careful beyond the normal care most authors take about such things, to make sure their handling of magic was theologically correct. The witches and necromancers are evil creatures of hell, without any redeeming characteristic or excuses. Lewis gives good magical powers to divine stand-ins, creatures like incarnated stars or lion-shaped messiahs, and perhaps a saintly power of seeing visions in a pool to a holy hermit. The magic in Tolkien is very clearly and very forcefully depicted as corruptive, with the one exception that Gandalf, who is an angelic messenger from divine powers beyond the circles of the world, acts as a wise man who never casts spells or summons up spirits from the vasty deep. I think his most blatant act of magic is to throw a pine-cone like a hand-grenade, which speaks more of pyrotechnics than Paracelsus. To say that reading tales where such wonders occur might lure the unwary to an unhealthy interest in the occult is foolish: one might as well say that to read about the signs and wonders performed by Moses or the Messiah might make men lust to learn Black Magic to curse his neighbor.
2. The charming and refreshing Oz books by L. Frank Baum have good witches and good fairies in abundance: we such things as the magical walking Tic Toc Man or the magic picture which allows the beautiful girl ruler of the fairyland to see her friends or the magic powder which brings inanimate sawhorses or patchwork girls or pumpkin-headed figures to life. There is nothing supernatural in any of this, if by supernatural we mean it calls on the powers of hell or heaven to suspend the laws of nature. The magic here is treated much the same way as the magic beans in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk: plot contrivances or vehicles to move the story to where it needs to be. I note with my careful adult eye that the practice of magic is strictly forbidden in Oz by the decree of the girl ruler, who is a fairy: with the exception of Glinda the Good Witch of the South, and her nameless compatriot to the North, and their apprentice Oscar Diggs, all use of magic is portrayed as unwise, unlawful, if not outright malignant. Dorothy and her friend never solve their problems by magic, but always by honest and forthrightness and devotion to their friends. Okay, sometimes they solve problems with buckets of water, or eggs.
3. Let me say an unnecessary word in defense of Dungeons and Dragons. Many a year ago you young whippernasppers will not recall there a bit of tempest in a teapot and a drive by some television evangelists to eschew D&D, on the grounds that it might lure the youth toward Satanism. What it lured the youths I know toward was number-crunching.
Gary Gygax, whose memory I will ever bless for endless idle hours of innocent entertainment I might have otherwise occupied by entertainments less innocent (such as learning about astrology and tarot-cards) was not the most imaginative of men. His magic system was Jack Vance’s from this THE DYING EARTH books, even down to the names of the spells. And when he established the parameters of the character class ‘Cleric’ where you play a man in holy orders in the Roman Catholic Church of the Make Believe Middle Ages, or something nearly like it, you get to the powers of the saints. Sorry, kids, but all Mr Gygax did was leaf through the New Testament or the Golden Legends of the Saints and write down the abilities he saw men of faith using. Cure Light Wounds is the lying on of hands; Elijah and Saint Peter both had the resurrection spell; Jesus and Elijah had Create Food and Water, one with the miracle of the widow’s oil, the other with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Cleric can also repel vampires with crucifixes and bless and curse and perform exorcisms.
While I can understand the objection of Protestants toward all this Popery, I cannot understand the objection of Christians toward this harmless faux medievalism.
If you want to say that Gygax’s use of Michael Moorcock’s conceit of using law and chaos the poles of the horizontal axis of his moral ‘Nolan Test’ to establish character alignment, there I will not disagree that this can plant a bad idea in tender young minds: but I will point out that the notion has nothing to do with playing pretend that your half-elf magic user can casting fireballs on an Umberhaulk, and everything to do with moral relativism, the idea that good and evil are either not objective, or are optional. But that problem goes far afield from whether fairy tale stories lead to occultism.
4. There are comics where make believe sorcerers, even called things like ‘Master of Black Magic’ do cast spells to solve problems, perform astral projection, and call on extradimensional beings with sinister names to perform their hoodoo. I am thinking in particular of Doctor Strange, Mandrake the Magician, Zatanna, Doctor Fate, and the like. It is all hokum, innocent fun, and make believe, with the one single exception of PROMETHEA by Alan Moore, which promotes Gnosticism and occultism and therefore becomes very boring very quickly, despite Mr Moore’s unparalleled and even titanic talent in his field. So, yes, Christian parents, if you see your child reading Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, go ahead and snatch the comic from his hands. In fact, I am not sure I would leave anything by Mr Moore lying around for a child to read.
Even his famous ‘American Gothic’ run of SWAMP THING was overlaid with a Gnostic theme, and, as I said above, Gnostic stories always end with an unconvincing disappointment. In this case, all the powers of heaven and hell combined to halt an invasion from the chaos of non-creation, and the final result was that the hand of chaos, larger than mutliverses, reached up, and the hand of God reached down, and they shook hands, invasion plans were canceled for no reason, and some oracular figure announced that from now one Good and Evil would be different, or spicier. Or something.
You see, Gnostics don’t believe in Good and Evil, not really, they believe in Self and Self-Deception. But no author can do real drama without Good and Evil, or something much like that. The victory over Evil is dramatic. Overcoming Self-Deception is just a matter of saying to yourself, ‘Snap Out of It!’—whereupon you are copacetic, the problem turned out never to have existed, or to have been self caused, so your hero is either a fool for flinching at shadows, or a moron for shooting himself in the foot. Gnostic endings are about as satisfying as ending a story by having the hero fall out of bed and realize ’twas all but a dream.
5. The Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher star a practicing magician in a film Noir version of Chicago. He deals with vampires and crime bosses, punk kids, punk werewolves, and an evil fairy godmother. Again, the author occasionally makes up some mumbo jumbo to explain why the hero cannot solve all his problems by magic, but the stories do not promote occultism. Far from it.
I have no idea what the author intends or what his faith or philosophy might be. But if he is not a Christian, he is the most fair-minded non-Christian anyone can imagine. These books win my admiration because they are the first ‘superversive’ books I have ever seen. In the world of demons and vampires, the author very slightly at first, and then with more confidence, inches on stage the idea that there are also powers of light who oppose the darkness, and the powers of light are not some undefined Force nor some Taoist Equilibrium.
Again, while I can understand the objection of Protestants toward Popery, since in these books crucifixes repel vampires and the exorcisms expel demons, I cannot understand the objection of Christians toward a rather imaginative story where the Christian view of heaven and hell turns out to be right, and not just right but righteous, and God and His Church on Earth are unambiguously the good guys. The books are pitched to appeal to the same crowd that buys Anne Rice novels, but once the reader is hooked on the action and the supernatural horror, these little superversive elements begin to creep in.
Again, I don’t know if this what the author intends, and since it adds to the story rather than detracts or subtracts, I suppose it does not matter. This is the way, O ye authors in service to the Light, we should do our work, if we want to gain ground lost to the pagan during the Culture Wars. Get them while they are young, and hook them by their imagination. This is the way to do it, not by means of ‘Christian fiction’ such as the LEFT BEHIND series.
6. The final and most egregious example that springs to mind is Harry Potter. The magic portrayed in the book is so far from what real occultism is and does that my considerable powers of exaggeration and overstatement fail me.
The author decided that the ‘killing curse’ which is one of the three ‘unforgivable curses’ is ‘Abracadabra.’ She decided that the witches and wizard not only zip around on broomsticks, they play aerial rugby.
Oh, come on. Do you think this would lure anyone into the arms of Anton le Vey?
Alastair Crowley is spinning in his grave. In fact, if I were the archangel in heaven assigned the task by God Almighty to lure people away from occultism, the first way I would do it was by making it seem ridiculous, such as by putting moppets in pointy hats and having them wave twigs at each other shouting ‘Expelliarmus!’; and the second way I would do it was to have the would be novice of magic practicing ruby in the air and shouting Abracadabra — a term that comes from the vaudeville world of stage magic, not from the real esoteric tradition of the Renaissance.
You are far more likely to lure the youth into the circle of Anton le Vey by having them read ATLAS SHRUGGED, which promotes a self-centered and God-scoffing worldview, than by having them read Harry Potter, which is a story about how love, self-sacrifice, and redemptive suffering can overcome the last enemy, death.
The Christian themes in this seven-volume story are so blatant that it requires truly inspired self-imposed blindness not to see them. I will not dwell on this point: the author herself has confirmed it. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1572107/jk-rowling-talks-about-christian-imagery.jhtml
So it is far more likely that the HP book will lure your child to a theme park than to an circle of occultists.