Monday, July 23, 2007

Back home...

And one thing I noticed while traveling: there is a real need for Chesterton out there. So we've got to keep on leading people to read his work, so that they--and we-- learn (or continue to learn) how to think.

So many of today's arguments aren't really arguments. They aren't reasoned responses to actual differences, they are opinions thrown left and right and no one listening to anybody else because they don't agree. And if one side can't "win" then frustration abounds.

An argument doesn't always mean that we'll get someone to come around to our point of view. An argument, first of all, is listening to what the other person has to say. Secondly, thinking about what that person has to say. Then responding to that person in a calm and peaceful way. "I understand that you are saying this....but have you ever thought about that?"

So many of today's arguments are just "You can't possibly be sane! Anyone who thinks that is crazy! This is the only way that anybody should think about x!" and reasonableness, we can see, is not employed.

36 comments:

  1. But the problem I often have is, first of all, is knowing where to jump into a closed loop system of thinking and second, of trying to decide if it's worth it to engage the person.

    If I tell some people that I am Catholic, I've actually had people ask back, "Small c?" "No," I say, "big C." Two friends have actually insisted that it has to be "small c" because I couldn't possibly believe in Catholicism. When I do, the conversation drops off. I love GKC's approach to defending Christianity (to broaden the topic here) by depending on both faith and reason. I think I can hold my old (and even concede points for the failures of not so much Christianity but of Christians themselves) but as you have pointed out, too many people will not engage because of a closed system that insists that one cannot rationally hold opinions different from their own. At many points along the way I really don't find much of a point to engage those people.

    For those interested, try a book entitled, "Kindly Inquisitors" by Jonathan Rauch. It's an exceptionally good and cogent defense of processing of defending truth. He points out that in an economy of information, the validity of the information is paramount. If you cannot accurately pursue and identify truth, the economy itself is threatened.

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  2. Nancy, your comments anticipate an editorial in Gilbert Magazine some three issues hence. Watch for it.
    ~ Gramps

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  3. Reminds me of the Monty Pyton Argument Clinic sketch:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-572077907195969915

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  4. "So we've got to keep on leading people to read his work, so that they--and we-- learn (or continue to learn) how to think. So many of today's arguments aren't really arguments."

    Amen, Mrs. Brown. Would the same reasoning apply to Harry Potter argumentation.

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  5. Would the same reasoning apply to Harry Potter argumentation.

    Yes. The approach taken by anti-Potterites in condemning HP and his creator, J.K. Rowling, smacks of an effort by people who do not know how to think, who do not make reasoned arguments to actual differences, and who throw opinions left and right.

    HP7, for instance, which I am nearly finished with, features a cross and a quote from the Gospels, but I wonder if anti-Potterites would just dismiss such imagery as further evidence that Rowling is in league with the Lord of Darkness?

    The HP books are expert, witty, and insightful Christian-oriented tales, but I have found that getting anti-Potterites to understant that to be endlessly frustrating.

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  6. I've found that the people who condemn the HP books haven't actually read them... which really blows my mind.

    No doubt they make arguments like "I don't need to look at Playboy to know it's wrong," but that's a demonstrably false comparison (if they'd listen to reason). Sigh.

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  7. "The approach taken by anti-Potterites in condemning HP and his creator, J.K. Rowling, smacks of an effort by people who do not know how to think, who do not make reasoned arguments to actual differences, and who throw opinions left and right."

    Chestertonian, this is a rather heavy and serious accusation, which you better be prepared to defend. You find defending HP frustrating, and anti-Potterites claim that same about arguing your side.

    Mrs. Brown wrote: "An argument doesn't always mean that we'll get someone to come around to our point of view. An argument, first of all, is listening to what the other person has to say. Secondly, thinking about what that person has to say. Then responding to that person in a calm and peaceful way."

    Mrs. Brown, There is a deep rift and neither side is willing to give an inch, so no compromise solution seems to be possible, as there rarely is in any such serious argument. One side is right and the other will have to accept that it is dead wrong! So far almost all exchanges between the two sides have been calm and peaceful, as one would expect from Christians and Catholics, but eventually frustration will grow in both camps. That is another good reason for the Magisterium to step and prevent a serious problem in the Church, and by the looks of it, it will have to. Than it will be up to the loosing side to humbly admit that it was wrong. I just don't see how the Potterites can win this conflict, because the solution would have to be the "Christianization" of black magic and witchcraft.

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  8. What about the good witches in the Oz story?
    ~ Gramps

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  9. I've been lurking for a while here, and reading this discussion without participating (that is, the one on Harry Potter).

    I thought that some words by Catholic apologist Mark Shea warning against Phariseeism would be worth posting:

    Well, the funny thing about the gospel is how often, in the history of the Church, the Church has fulfilled Jesus promise, "if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them" (Mark 16:18). The Church has drunk from all sorts of pagan wells, ranging from Plato and Aristotle, to the various ways in which Norse, German, Druidic, Roman, Indian, and other forms of pagan culture have been baptised and turned to the service of Christ. The Pharisaic approach is to reject--as the Pharisees rejected Christ--the possibility that he really holds power over the devil. It is a mentality that never considers the opposite possibility: namely, that Christ has power to conquer what defiled us under the old law and turn it to his glory.

    Think about it: it must drive the devil... *nuts* to see imagery that has long been his property now being co-opted by this insidious Rowling person and turned to the service of Christ, inspiring people with Christ-like models of love and self-sacrifice and with a story of divine grace and mercy that clearly draws on the Christian tradition. I think God must be laughing his head off at this consummate work of jiu-jitsu. To have even the image of the *witch* bow the knee to Christ. Old Scratch must be mighty frustrated. If only Christian Harry haters could figure that out.


    [SOURCE.]

    For my own part, I haven't read Harry Potter myself so cannot recommend or condemn the works. But I remember my Church History professor once commenting, during our study of St. Basil the Great's treatise on Reading Greek (Pagan) Literature, that Basil might give a cautious endorsement to Rowling's work.

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  10. I need clarification Anon,

    Have you read any of the Harry Potter books?

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  11. Chestertonian, this is a rather heavy and serious accusation, which you better be prepared to defend. You find defending HP frustrating, and anti-Potterites claim that same about arguing your side.

    Oh, I am prepared to defend it, Anon, believe me. Anti-Potterites do throw opinions left and right, and you folks do not know how to think.

    Exhibit A: you ended your last post by writing, "I just don't see how the Potterites can win this conflict, because the solution would have to be the "Christianization" of black magic and witchcraft."

    This is an example of throwing an opinion left and right. It betrays the basic gap in nearly all anti-Potterite ranting: that you have not read the books, for that which you criticize, fear, and loathe is not in the books.

    The HP books do not contain what we in the real world recognzize as witchcraft, the New Age, the occult, or whatever you want to call it. There is no summoning of spirits, or demonology, or any of that nonsense. The one exception, Divination, is in the books only to be ridiculed. The one lasting lesson the children in the books learn in Divination class is that it is an unreliable and even dangerous method of deciding a course of action.


    There are two ways of viewing the "magic" in the books, which I see as complementary. One (which I got from Sandra Meisel, to give her proper credit) is that it functions as technology does in our world. We flick a switch to turn on a light. Characters in HP flick a wand to do the same thing. We use a dishwasher to clean our dishes. Characters in HP charm scrub brushes and water to wash dishes. We communicate using the Internet. HP characters communicate with fireplaces and "floo powder" (love that pun).

    The other way of viewing the Magic in HP is to see it as similar to how the Elves in The Lord of the Rings use magic. Tolkien wrote that the "magic" in his imaginary world was really a greater capacity for art than that posessed by mere mortals. A mortal paints a picture. An Elf makes it come to life. A mortal has his imagination and memory. An Elf has these too, but he can live in his memories as if they are the present. That is all. "Magic," this greater capacity for art, is an element of the Elves' nature, given to them by their Creator, who endowed mortals with other gifts, but not that one.

    And this is the key to understanding the "magic" in the HP books: Rowling's characters do not "learn" magic, they are born with the ability, the gift. It is part of their nature (bare with me, anon -- we are talking about a STORY here, fiction, not real life; an imaginary world with certain rules and laws of its own), and nothing that is part of our nature is inherently evil.

    The need to eat is part of our nature. Just because the sin of gluttony exists, does not make eating sinful. Our sexuality is part of our nature; it is how we reproduce and we'd die out without it. But the possibility for rape does not make relations between a husband and wife sinful or evil.

    I have laid out this explaination more times than I can count, in numerous blogs and numerous forums, and in published essays and reviews in Gilbert Magazine. I could repeat it in my sleep if I have to. And I may as well have not said it at all, becasue anti-Potterites still come back with, "Well the Bible says that witchcraft is evil so the HP books are products from satan," or some variation of that. Why do I even bother? I am not writing in code or Swahili, but plain English, yet anti-Potterites gloss right over it as if it weren't even there.

    That's what I mean when I say that anti-Potterites do not know how to think, do not make reasoned arguments to actual differences, and throw opinions left and right.

    This post is already too long, but I can come up with an Exhhibit B if you like.

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  12. Addendum: don't whine to me about how "it will be up to the loosing side to humbly admit that it was wrong." Your side can't even be bothered to humbly read the damn books.

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  13. "I am willing to be persuaded that the HP books are morally bad..."

    Gramps, I am not really concerned about the immorality of HP, although that is certainly a factor, and if Harry and other wizards & witches were found doing or condoning or approving of immoral things, that alone would make them unsuitable for Christian children as role models.


    "It seems your bottom line contention is that magicians (wizards, sorcerers, elves, and so on) are okay in fiction so long as they are portrayed as evil."

    Yes, that is the only way Chesterton approved of magic and witchcraft in fiction. All the other kinds of magic - white, colorless, Celtic, magic for magic's sake, haphazard or frivolous representation, contrary representation, misrepresentation as religion, or fairy tale fantasy magic, cabala, cryptograms, ouji board - are all NOT a suitable topic or representation in a Christian novel of fantasy book ! Chesterton wrote that there is no reason why even black magic or satanism couldn't be written about, as long as there is a clear understanding about they really are. Otherwise the writer is adding to the confusion, and the readers may and many will find in such works justification for even magical and witchcraft practices.

    Rowling herself is a good example of this. She learned and became to enjoy magic at an early age, by reading her mother's trashy books about witchcraft, )her mother was an avid reader of such trash), Rowling, as a child, was the moving force behind the witchcraft play among the neighborhood children, later she turned into a morose Gothic teen and young adult, wearing black clothes, etc. It is just too bad she didn't have enough reason a learning to turn her vast knowledge of the trashy witchcraft knowledge into something deeper that would actually condemn magic, instead of glorifying it.


    "But if a practitioner of magic is the hero, and is portrayed as good, then the story is morally bad and should not be read, especially by youngsters."

    Not exactly. The fact that the practitioner of magic is "good" is a contradiction and misrepresentation in itself, and if s/he is also immoral, that is even worse.


    "But I can tell you from the inside out that having good people in stories use magic for good purposes is in no sense immoral."

    Again, the very fact of using such a hero confuses the meaning of magic and witchcraft, gives wrong impressions about magic and witchcraft, leads to their acceptance and glorification. This is the bottom line, or the root of the argument.

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  14. "Church has drunk from all sorts of pagan wells, ranging from Plato and Aristotle, to the various ways in which Norse, German, Druidic, Roman, Indian, and other forms of pagan culture..."

    Joey, Boy, are you or Shea mixing up the problem and the argument! If you are trying to defend magic & witchcraft by this conglomeration of arguments about what is good or bad magic in each of these "wells", a book wouldn't be enough to answer all the misconceptions you and Shea have brought forward. Luckily, Chesterton has answered all of it, or most of it, so keep reading...

    Just to answer the common misconception about pagans and magic. Chesterton specifically mentions the witch Medea, and that the pagans portrayed her as an evil witch for a reason. He also mentions the story of Apuleius, and how Apuleius "literally feels that the witches have made an ass of him". The pagans understood magic and witchcraft, and it seems it is many confused moderns who are like Apuleius. The joke (of the evil Jolly Joker) is on them.

    (see story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apuleius)


    "I remember my Church History professor once commenting, during our study of St. Basil the Great's treatise on Reading Greek (Pagan) Literature, that Basil might give a cautious endorsement to Rowling's work."


    No way St. Basil would have endorsed Rowling's work !!! That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard ! If you have more to support this, other then a hearsay opinion of your confused professor, let's see your argument supported by evidence...


    "Christ has power to conquer what defiled us..."

    The notion of Hell is often dismissed by the moderns, but, do you know what Christ was referring to with respect to Gehenna, a new concept of eternal punishment He introduced? Gehenna is a New Testament concept with respect to getting angry and calling your brother a "fool" (Matthew 5:22); it is a place reserved for sneaky serpents, poisonous vipers and hypocritical Pharisees (Matthew 23:33), etc. Jesus tells us not to be afraid of physical destruction (Luke 12:6), for unrepented sin is the stuff of Gehenna. Eternally burning garbage is a perfect metaphor for the everlasting hell, but Gehenna Jesus warned us about has a deeper meaning yet. Ge-Hinnom (or Ben-Hinnom) was a valley outside of Jerusalem where the idolaters practised all sorts of depravity and witchcraft, with cults of female and male prostitution, and where children were offered as sacrifice to Moloch (2 Kings 23).

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  15. "I need clarification Anon, Have you read any of the Harry Potter books?"

    Adam, Yes, and I read a number of crucial passages and chapter several times, just to be sure, trying to give Rowling the benefit of doubt. And I also tried to look at the writing quality and her style, but, as I said earlier, that is a personal preference. I also saw the first two HP movies several times.

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  16. Adam, Yes, and I read a number of crucial passages and chapter several times, just to be sure, trying to give Rowling the benefit of doubt. And I also tried to look at the writing quality and her style, but, as I said earlier, that is a personal preference. I also saw the first two HP movies several times.

    In other words, you cherry-picked quotes to buttress your point of view. Without reading an entire book, how do you know what consitutes a crucial passage or chapter?

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  17. Anonymous, rather than arguing about HP on a site where you will not change anyone's opinions, why don't you spend your time doing something more profitable, such as reading the Bible?

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  18. Susan Weisone7/25/2007 10:28 PM

    Anon said: f Harry and other wizards & witches were found doing or condoning or approving of immoral things, that alone would make them unsuitable for Christian children as role models.

    I guess that leaves the parables out then as unsuitable for Christian children, since in some of them, people are murdered, in some, younger sons live debautched lives, in some there are sinners...

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  19. "Anonymous, rather than arguing about HP on a site where you will not change anyone's opinions, why don't you spend your time doing something more profitable, such as reading the Bible?"

    e.p.o.,

    Reading (and understanding) the Scriptures is a good thing, it never hurts to refresh one's memory and gain new insights. It seems you are reading the Bible a lot, but may I suggest a guided Scripture study? I think you would greatly benefit by a good in-depth approach. Ask your instructor to focus on the passages about magic and witchcraft, and about God's punishment for such abominations.

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  20. Anon: Please cool your jets.

    This isn't about the movies. At all. Can you understand that? I am equally appalled that an actor who should show responsibility for the place he has been given to be a role model, but I can't control a boy who is not my son. The movies provide no role models for me or my family. We are talking about the books.

    Thank you. We are not discussing the movies. My book is not about the movies. What hollywood has done with the story is what the latest Gilbert magazine is all about. Read about it in this current issue.

    We are discussing the books. Let's keep on topic.

    Thank you.

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  21. Anonymous,

    I did not say whether I am for or against Harry Potter. I merely stated that you are wasting your time on a blog where everyone is already pro-Harry Potter and that you should devote your time to more profitable endeavors.

    I'm sure that your intentions are good, but rather than helping anyone, you are merely infuriating the other people on this blog. There is a reason for the phrase "Pax Christi."

    Eponymous

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  22. My only gripe about HP7 (which is a dozen times better than the last dreary three, though not as good as the first three) is the derivative nature of practically everything in it, especially the ending - no, I won't do a spoiler, except to say that JKR has clearly been reading CSL and JRRT: odd reading for someone who's trying to entice our youth into the demonic arts.

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  23. Anonymous, you're mixing up Daniel Radcliffe with the character he portrays, Harry Potter. His dramatic performances in other plays do not change the Christian content (or lack thereof) of the Harry Potter books. Yes, it's sad that he chooses to perform in these productions, but that's him, not J.K. Rowling.

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  24. May I again remind people that we are or were talking about the books. Not the movies.

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  25. My last three replies have been removed, so it's difficult to maintain continuity.

    "May I again remind people that we are or were talking about the books. Not the movies."

    Trying to be understanding and compromising, in my previous reply to Mrs. Brown, (which was removed), I conceded too quickly that the movies should have nothing to do with books. However, I realized that this is not really true. We are discussing the whole HP phenomenon, and the movies are an integral part of it. The HP movies visually present the atmosphere which the books cannot really do. And their dark & scarry tone is actually better presented visually than in the books.

    "Yes, it's sad that he chooses to perform in these productions, but that's him, not J.K. Rowling."

    As I wrote previously, JKR and her agents have had a lot of control over the distribution of the book, their promotion, advertising, etc., including the movies, which are an integral part of the promotoim of scheme. You cannot simply separate and ignore the movies and the actors who popularized the HP as if they didn't exist. Whose face appears on millions of items around the world, from notepads, coffee cups, to Halloween outfits? How do children visually relate to HP if not through the portraits of the actors, and especially Radcliffe? Millions regard Radcliffe as their role model and hero, and the association to Harry is via the actor Radcliffe.

    And, if the immoral young actor goofed, why wouldn't the parents whose kids have Radliffe's face and pictures all over their houses and in their kids' rooms object to it?

    So let me repeat again, if I were a sincere and devoted Harry Potter fan, who is trying to show how Christian Harry Potter is, I would scream very loudly that I don't want to support either the immoral actor or the young Harry Potter fans who support him as their teen idol, or even JKR if she indeed condones the Radcliffe situation.

    As a sincere Harry Potter fan, who is trying to purify & Christianize the whole phenomenon of magic and witchcraft, I would be gravely concerened about the association to the movie actor who may be more popular than the books!

    (Example: Although my friend's wife has read all HP books, my friend, who is not a book worm by any means, has not read any HP books, except a few chapters and excerpts. Same with their kids. The older one has read a few books, but by and large the dad and the kids are familiar with the saga ONLY through the movies, which they have all seen in the movie theater and watched again on the DVD's they have bought!)

    Therefore, as a Christian HP apologists, I would petition Rowling, (who is supposedly a good Christian), and demand that Radcliffe be publicly condemned and a different actor be found, if his further portrayal of Harry Potter may lead to the moral corruption of millions around the world. From JKR's point of view this may cause a scandal and cut into the profits, but this would be a good test of JKR's Christian character. (Besides, being a billionaire, she doesn't really need any more money, does she?) Otherwise the cynicism of the critics of HP would be justified, and the status quo only proves that it's all just about popularity and money.

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  26. Anon: you are quite persistently attempting to make us aware that the actor in question is acting sinfully.

    I am aware of that. I agree with you. It is sad.

    Where we disagree is on what to do about it.

    Since this is a discussion about the books and yet you persist in discussing the movies, let me say this:

    JKRowling, author in question, has NOTHING to do with the movies. I repeat NOTHING. Your naivete in this regard is frustratingly obvious. She SOLD the rights to the movie, signed a contract, accepted a check and that was the end of it. She has no hand in picking actors, she doesn't write the screenplays. Once the contract is signed, she's OUT of it. Now in some interviews, you see that she was consulted, this was more out of niceness than necessity, as technically, she's OUT. The movie people kept her involved in hopes of making everybody happy with the films truthfullness to the books, but the films are NOT the books.

    Radcliffe has already signed the contract on the last two movies. It is a done deal. No amount of wasted time now will change that, and I don't consider it a good use of a Christian's time to make a big deal out of this. Radcliffe is not Harry. He plays him in a movie. He plays a fictional character in a movie. His personal life has nothing to do with whether or not he plays Harry Potter well or poorly. People can watch the movie, and unless they become obsessed with Radcliffe and begin searching the internet for more information on him, they could just be pleasantly entertained by his on-screen performance. An actors personal life need not interfere with the enjoyment of a movie. If it does, than maybe someone has become a fan of the actor, and then become disillusioned with his personal life. This is the case with so many of our actors and actresses, and certainly not unique to Daniel Radcliffe.

    If you have a problem with Daniel Radcliffe, or any of the other actors (hardly any of whom haven't been involved in less than stellar movies, if you do the research, I don't know why you pick on Radcliffe, he's only one of many) then DONT SEE THE Movies. The End.

    We aren't discussing the whole Harry Potter phenomenon. We ARE discussing the books.

    My children do not associate Radcliffe with Harry Potter. Ms Rowling doesn't associate Radclffe with Harry Potter. Those are two cases which prove that your generalization isn't always correct.

    If YOU associate Harry Potter with the movies, as you so obvious do and make the assumption that everyone else in the world does too, I ask you to please, examine that assumption.

    Now, since you've caused me to take up so much time talking about something that we weren't even talking about, I think you should make a nice big generous donation to the Chesterton society. ;-)

    Here's the handy link:
    http://www.chesterton.org/donate.html

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  27. http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jul/05071301.html%22

    Life Site News says the Pope has condemned the Potter books.

    ~ gramps

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  28. Life Site has it wrong, Gramps. And this is old news, too. First of all, he was a cardinal. Second of all, he was writing a private letter to a private person and they don't report the whole situation--but publicized it to suit their agenda. Third, Harry Potter is not a matter of faith or morals, it is a fiction book, and this isn't an ex-cathedra pronouncement. Fourth, the pope has not read the Harry Potter books himself. If you want a good look at the situation in its entirety, please read Regina Doman's article here:
    www.zossima.com
    Scroll down and see "Harry for Catholics?" a guest essay by Regina Doman.

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  29. "We aren't discussing the whole Harry Potter phenomenon. We ARE discussing the books."

    Fine, let's stick to the books, no more movies, although, for a comprehensive discussion and understanding, it is next to impossible to separate the other aspects.

    "Now, since you've caused me to take up so much time talking..."

    Well, I don't know what else would we talk about so much if not not about something important that divides us so sharply. Your time is undoubtedly precious, like mine, and everybody else's. Considering the bulk of the HP saga, and all the discussions and disagreements since the very first book, and all the collectively "wasted" time of all those who got involved in prasing & defending & criticizing & arguing, the discussion on this blog is line a drop of water in an ocean.

    "...a nice big generous donation to the Chesterton society."

    My generous donation would be like a drop in an ocean compared to what Rowling could easily afford to donate to support the Chesterton Society. Incidentally, since you seem to have an inside track, and since the Chesterton Society is defending her and HP so staunchly, has she ever contributed anything at all to the Chesterton cause?

    "Life Site has it wrong, Gramps. And this is old news"

    So it may be old news, but the issue of what the pope really thinks about Harry Potter hasn't been settled, has it? We won't know for sure until there is official statement of some sort, either by the pope or by the Magisterium.

    "please read Regina Doman's article here"

    Read it long time ago. Why is Regina Doman an authority on HP?

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  30. We won't know for sure until there is official statement of some sort, either by the pope or by the Magisterium.

    No need to wait. This will never come.

    Can you imagine that will all the dissenting priests and bishops out there writing/speaking anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and dogmatically confusing theological books/tapes/appearances on tv that the pope has time to think about or care about a novel?

    Why is Regina Doman an authority on HP?
    Why are you an authority on HP?

    has she [Rowling] ever contributed anything at all to the Chesterton cause? Yes.

    And why is that an excuse for you not to donate? This blog wouldn't exist without donations, and therefore you wouldn't have a forum to vocalize your objectsions to my writing. As it is, you do, and if you value that at all, then donate.

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  31. GKC's Autobiography needs to be brought back into print. GKC is more like Augustine than Aquinas, & knowing his mind is important to knowing how to interpret themes in his early work.

    Chestertonians may pick up a lot of magic/ fantasy/ fancy in his work... because before he was Catholic he was a Theosophist! [source: Autobiography]. The Autobiography is important because GKC exposes the early roots of the New Age/globalist phenomenon. He was one of them, and left. Kind of explains how he secured such a good job.

    I recently read the original typewritten proofs at the Notre Dame archives. It's fascinating. Like all literary figures, GKC has "phases"-- it is a mistake to read all of his work as if he were a Catholic prophet from day one.

    Also, perhaps his prophetic ability stems, in part, from the fact that he knew that the Age of Aquarius was being planned by his old friends. Fascinating.

    I think that the more we know about GKC, the more likely it will be that he will be canonized.

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  32. Gkc's autobiography is back in print, see the Ignatius edition available at the ACS here:
    http://www.chesterton.org/acs/autobiography.htm

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  33. Ellen, could you please cite the page in the Autobiography where you see GKC claiming to be a Theosophist? It's curious - perhaps I misread something, as the text seems to indicate the precise opposite:

    There had already appeared in that world the beginnings of a reaction against materialism; something analogous to what has since appeared in the form of Spiritualism. It has even taken the yet more defiant form of Christian Science, which denied the existence of the body merely because its enemies had denied the existence of the soul. But the form it took first, or most generally, in the world of which I speak, was the thing commonly called Theosophy; also sometimes called Esoteric Buddhism. It is probable that I must here allow at least for the allegation of a prejudice. If it existed, it was not an orthodox or a religious or even a pious prejudice. I was myself almost entirely Pagan and Pantheist. When I disliked Theosophy I had no Theology. Perhaps I did not dislike Theosophy, but only Theosophists. It is certainly true, I am afraid, whatever the failure in charity, that I did dislike some Theosophists. But I did not dislike them because they had erroneous doctrines, when I myself had no doctrines; or because they had no claim to be Christians, when in fact they would have claimed Christianity, among other things, much more confidently than I could myself. I disliked them because they had shiny pebbly eyes and patient smiles. Their patience mostly consisted of waiting for others to rise to the spiritual plane where they themselves already stood. It is a curious fact, that they never seemed to hope that they might evolve and reach the plane where their honest green-grocer already stood.
    ... A sort of Theosophist said to me, "Good and evil, truth and falsehood, folly and wisdom are only aspects of the same upward movement of the universe." Even at that stage it occurred to me to ask, "Supposing there is no difference between good and bad, or between false and true, what is the difference between up and down?"
    [GKC Autobio CW16:145-6, 154, emphasis added]

    On the larger matter, I think we must be very careful to keep distinct the use of magic in fiction - a good thing when done well - and the use of demonic power in our own world, which has nothing whatever to do with the magic of fiction, as it has nothing to do with prestidigitation, sleight of hand, forensics, technology, or large sable-colored pens with thick points ("Black Magic Markers"). The two belong to different systems of being. One might as well conclude that square roots of negative numbers are to be classed as fiction (or as a mental illness) because they are termed imaginary numbers! GKC knew this, and warned against this odd view of forbidding magic in fiction - he spent a whole essay in his Sidelites calling for the return of GOOD magic to fantasy. Indeed, it might easily be argued that Fairy Tale, as part of the classic (and Catholic) paradigm, formally opposes "New Age" and all its pomps. Also, his delight in the Fairy Tale far antedates all his other efforts, and is in some way the foundation-stone on which all the rest are built... perhaps because for GKC the Creator is also a Story-teller.

    One more thing. We've got several centuries before the vernal equinox gets out of Pisces. Of course no astrologer would ever be caught dead looking at REAL stars.

    --Dr. Thursday

    PS I would like to hear more about your comparison of GKC with St. Augustine - this may be quite fruitful, and perhaps worth a talk at a future conference! He certainly has an affinity for him, though it is far less apparent than that for St. Francis or St. Thomas Aquinas.

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  34. I remember reading this passage you cite. I also remember that his literary crowd was the Theosophist crowd. Is it possible to locate and quote the Autobiography's passages about Yeats and Blavatsky? I don't recall them [I read the original typewritten, archived Autobiography and am going on memory] and they will reveal whether or not he had a formal alliance to a belief system before he was a Catholic.

    My impression is that before his conversion, he was close, very close, to the esoteric magicians of the early 20th century.

    It would be interesting to plot, year by year, which fiction works were published when.

    Sorry if I did not have quotable quotes; the book is out of print & I was using my best recollection.

    One of the biggest problems with magic is our loss of context. In Wizard of Oz days, did most people believe in the Wicked Witch of the West? No. Yet, in Harry Potter times, many will leave their fanciful books and go get their palms read.

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  35. And, thanks, Nancy. Last time I looked, it was out of print. Good news!

    Thanks

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  36. Ellen, please be aware that:

    1. Ignatius Press reprinted GKC's autobiography in 1988; they have been available for nearly 20 years now.

    2. Even a casual view of almost everything GKC wrote before 1922 would strongly indicate his intellectual (if not total) commitment to Roman Catholicism. In particular one can consult Orthodoxy (1908) and The Ball and the Cross (1910), and the Father Brown stories.

    3. GKC's autobiography leaves no room for doubt that he was an enemy of theosophism.

    4. Talking about loss of context - if there's one action that any Harry Potter reader would be inspired to perform from having read the books it would NOT be any form of divination or fortune-telling.

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