Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone It’s More than Just Fantasy
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1999|
|The grand objects of alchemy were (1) the discovery of a process by which the baser metals might be transmuted into gold and silver; (2) the discovery of an elixir by which life might be prolonged indefinitely; … (Lewis Spence, An Encyclopedia ofOccultism, p. 10)|
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: It’s More than Just Fantasy
- ThePhilosophers Stone[Sorcerer’s stone] was supposed to contain the secret not only of transmutation, but of health and life, for through its agency could be distilled the Elixir of Life. It was the touchstone of existence. (Lewis Spence,An Encyclopedia of Occultism, p. 322)
- Nicholas Flamel,… continuing his researches discovered the elixir of life, which enabled him to prolong his life—and accumulate gold—to the venerable age of 116…. his followers believed that he was still alive though retired from the world, and would live for six centuries. (Lewis Spence,An Encyclopedia of Occultism, p. 162)
Poor Harry. His mum and dad are killed by an evil wizard. He is left with a scar from an attempt on his own life. Somehow, in the process of this attack, baby Harry manages to defeat the evil dark wizard—something many adult wizards had been unable to do. There is something special about Harry. He must be kept safe! Where better to hide him than in the care of his non-magical aunt and uncle!
The delivery of baby Harry to his safe haven is monitored by Albus Dumbledore, who appears suddenly, as though “he’d just popped out of the ground,” and by Minerva McGonagall, who has been watching the street all day in the form of a cat. Harry arrives on a flying motorcycle, accompanied by a giant named Hagrid.
For the next 10 years Harry lives with the Dursleys, sleeping in the closet under the stairs (because cousin Dudley needs the spare bedroom for his toys), wearing Dudley’s cast off clothes (which are four sizes too big), celebrating Dudley’s birthday while his own is ignored, and getting in trouble any time something happens that is slightly odd—in the Dursley’s minds. Then, too, “The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he’d never been allowed to eat as much as he liked.” (p. 123)
The Dursleys tell him that his parents were killed in a car crash—which is where he got his scar. Of course, they never hint to him that there might be such a thing as a wizard, let alone that he might be one: “We swore when we took him in we’d put a stop to that rubbish,” said Uncle Vernon, “swore we’d stamp it out of him!” (p. 53)
But then, on his 11th birthday something odd happens. A letter arrives from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry telling Harry that he has been accepted as a student. Harry finds out he is a wizard—a famous wizard!
And suddenly he gets to escape his miserable existence among the non-magical people—Muggles, as they’re called—and find a fun, exciting life, filled with friends and lots of food and great adventures in the magical world.
The giant, Hagrid, who had delivered Harry to the Dursley’s door, now takes Harry to buy the equipment and books he will need for school. They go to a place in London called Diagon Alley, which can only be reached by magical means:
- Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the trash can.
- “Three up…two across…” he muttered. “Right, stand back, Harry.”
- He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella.
- The brick he had touched quivered—it wiggled—in the middle, a small hole appeared—it grew wider and wider—a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway onto a cobbled street that twisted and turned out of sight. (p. 71)
The items Harry needs for school include a wand, a cauldron, and an owl OR a cat OR a toad. (pp. 66-67)
Checking Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s,The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, we find that these are things that witches actually use:
- Wand. The wand is the instrument of invocation of spirits. It represents the element of fire (in some traditions, air) and symbolizes the life-force within the Witch. (p. 380)
- Cauldron. Some traditions use a cauldron to represent the fifth element of Sprit and the Mystic Center. (p. 380)
- Familiars in contemporary Witchcraft. Many modern Witches have animal familiars, usually cats, which are their magical helpers. (p. 120)
Students reach Hogwarts by way of the Hogwarts Express, which leaves King’s Crossing station from Platform 9 ¾. The problem is, there is no Platform 9 ¾.
- He stopped a passing guard, but didn’t dare mention platform nine and three-quarters. The guard had never heard of Hogwarts and when Harry couldn’t even tell him what part of the country it was in, he started to get annoyed, as though Harry was being stupid on purpose. …
- He wondered if he should get out his wand and start tapping the ticket inspector’s stand between platforms nine and ten….
- At that moment a group of people passed just behind him and he caught a few words of what they were saying. “–packed with Muggles, of course–” (p. 91)
Harry has found other students going to Hogwarts! He watches closely: “Now the third brother was walking briskly toward the barrier–he was almost there–and then, quite suddenly, he wasn’t anywhere.” Harry finally approaches the family to ask them how to reach the proper platform:
- “Not to worry,” she said, “All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don’t stop and don’t be scared you’ll crash into it, that’s very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous. Go on, go now before Ron.” (p. 93)
Harry takes a run at the barrier—with his eyes closed!—and sure enough, when he opens his eyes, he is on the other side of the solid brick wall, standing on Platform 9 ¾.
Harry arrives at school where he is assigned to the house of Gryffindor by means of a “Sorting Hat”—”a pointed wizard’s hat. This hat was patched and frayed and extremely dirty.” (p. 117) The hat is placed on the student’s head, and “reads” the student to determine which of the four houses suits him.
He encounters ghosts, including a poltergeist named Peeves and Nearly Headless Nick, the “Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower,” who had been nearly beheaded 500 years earlier. One student asked him:
- “How can you benearlyheadless?”
- Sir Nicholas looked extremely miffed, as if their little chat wasn’t going at all the way he wanted.
- “Likethis,” he said irritably. He seized his left ear and pulled. His whole head swung off his neck and fell onto his shoulder as if it was on a hinge….” (p. 124)
The door to Harry’s dorm is guarded by “a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress. “’Password?’ she said. ‘Caput Draconis,’ said Percy, and the portrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall.” (pp. 129-130)
There are other unusual things about the Hogwarts castle. For example:
- There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn’t open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren’t really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the coats of armor could walk. (pp. 130-313)
Then there are the classes. “There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.” (p. 133). He has lessons in Astronomy, Herbology, History of Magic (taught by a ghost), Charms, Transfiguration (turning one object into something else), Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions.
A check of an encyclopedia on the occult or witchcraft will reveal that many of these are practices used by modern day witches:
- Herbs are medicinal and magickal plants that may be employed in Wicca and Witchcraft…The herbal plant is a living vessel for a spirit or entity….Herbs may also be used in a spell for their physical properties, such as in potions and the like…” (Raven Grimassi,Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft, p. 180)
- Charms Magical words, phrases, chants and incantations used in spellcraft. (Rosemary Ellen Guiley,The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, p. 53)
- Metamorphosis Witches, sorcerers and other magically empowered persons have been believed to have the power to transform themselves and other humans at will into animals, birds and insects… (Guiley, p. 226)
A frequent theme throughout the book is that “rules are made to be broken.” As examples, even though “first years are not allowed their own broomsticks” (p. 67), Harry is a “natural” at flying, so a teacher gives him one. (p. 164)
Hermione has been a pest, quoting rules to Harry and his friend Ron. But “Hermione had become a bit more relaxed about breaking rules since Harry and Ron had saved her from the mountain troll, and she was much nicer for it.” (p. 181)
The adventure in this story is based on an object called a Sorcerer’s Stone (or philosopher’s stone). The evil lord Voldemort, the dark wizard that was nearly killed during the attack on Harry, is trying to make a comeback. He needs to get a body, and he wants the Sorcerer’s stone to help him accomplish that.
Voldemort is obsessed with finally defeating this upstart young wizard. He does not understand how a mere baby could have survived his attack. Once he gets a body, he plans to finish what he started. We are told at the end of the story that Harry survived because:
- “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark…. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” (p. 299)
This “mother goddess” theme is an important part of many modern witchcraft beliefs. It comes up again in later books in the Harry Potter series.
Harry, of course, must keep Voldemort from getting the stone. This involves a series of encounters with charmed (possessed) objects.
He is given an invisibility cloak that had belonged to his father. (p. 201)
He uses the cloak to access the Restricted section in the library where he encounters possessed books: “Maybe he was imagining it, maybe not, but he thought a faint whispering was coming from the books, as though they knew someone was there who shouldn’t be.” (p. 206)
He discovers the Mirror of Erised (Desire spelled backwards) that reveals “nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” (p. 213) In it he sees his parents and family. Later in the book he finds and recovers the Sorcerer’s Stone with the help of the mirror. (p. 292)
He encounters a creature that sucks unicorn blood (p. 256) and centaurs that practice astronomy: “we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?… Have the planets not let you in on that secret?” (p. 257)
He has to use skills honed on the Quidditch field to catch a flying key (p. 279); he plays a game of chess with life-sized, charmed pieces (p. 282). And finally, he encounters Voldemort, who has possessed the Dark Arts teacher, Quirrell.
- Petrified, he watched as Quirrell reached up and began to unwrap his turban. What was going on? The turban fell away. Quirrell’s head looked strangely small without it. Then he turned slowly on the spot.
- Harry would have screamed, but he couldn’t make a sound. Where there should have been a back to Quirrell’s head, there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake. (p. 293)
In the end, the Sorcerer’s Stone is safely destroyed, ending Voldemort’s chances of getting it. But in choosing to destroy the Stone, Dumbledore (headmaster of Hogwarts) has also chosen to end the life of his friend Nicholas Flamel. Flamel (an actual historical figure) is supposed to have discovered the Sorcerer’s Stone, and lived off its power to the age of 666 (according to J. K. Rowling). In actuality, he died at the age of 116 in 1414 A.D. But in the bookThe Sorcerer’s Stone, the destruction of the stone also means that Flamel’s life would come to an end. Dumbledore comforts Harry by telling him:
- To one as young as you, I’m sure it seems incredible, but to Nicholas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very,verylong day. After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. (p. 297)
While the bookHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stoneis well-written and entertaining, it contains elements of occult philosophy and descriptions of occult practices that are completely unsuitable. Parents, especially Christian parents, should be alarmed at having their children read a story that promotes the idea that they can escape a painful situation by going to the occult; that demonically-possessed things or people can help them or protect them; that a mother’s sacrificial death gives protection; that death is nothing to be afraid of—in fact, it is an “adventure.”
Harry practices divination (p. 121); interprets omens (p. 264); engages in witchcraft (p. 138); and consults the dead (p. 124) in this book. Each of these is a practice God has commanded His people not to be involved in. Please read the companion article onGod’s Warning About Witchcraft: Definitions of Terms from Deuteronomy 18.