Friday, October 18, 2019

Brian Holdsworth's take on HP

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Were the Inklings a Forbidden Society? No. · HGL'S F.B. WRITINGS : Craig Crawford's view on Harry Potter (feat. réprise of his view on Tolkien and CSL, feat. Dan Brown) · CSL Not Arian · Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : Commenting on Schnoebelen's at al:s comments on HP · Brian Holdsworth's take on HP · Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : One Good Thing about Harry Potter : Honest about School

I would begin where he concludes and endorse the freedom he pleads for as to local parents, priests, teachers knowing their children and young adults under their care and therefore doing the decisions best for them.

My main concern is not putting Tolkien and Rowling in the same bag just because both are labelled "fantasy" or involve description of supernatural events.

Catholics and Harry Potter
Brian Holdsworth | 12.X.2019

3:34 There was an argument from an Orthodox who is virulent against not just HP, but Rowling and also Tolkien / Jackson : if someone acted on stage as possessed by evil spirits, he would be dealt with a bit roughly like those normally needing exorcism.

Now, this would preclude acting the Oresteia, since Orestes was hunted by furies.

Why do we still have the text of the Oresteia? My hunch why we have 7 Greek tragedies is, the Church asked monks to copy these as mostly "the black book" of Apollo, Diana, Neptune, Venus, Hercules. By contrast, HP does not actually document the evil of "white" magic, rather it is fictitious and idealises white magic.

When I read Aeneid VI, the Latin "docent" was a man who was / is also a Catholic (Vatican II-sit) clergyman, part time my confessor. His reading of the sibyl was - this is exactly how Voodoo mediums look, and this is obviously what St. Paul had to deal with in Acts 16.

So, while the Pagan literature had some idealisation of demonic activity, it was at least documenting it correctly as to actual cases or typical situations so we could have another look at it.

This is not really the case with HP. If you want fantasy equivalent in closeness to real Paganism, take Earthsea - and while I am happy to have read Ged lost his magic later on, I haven't reread them (perhaps just once, but I don't think so, unless it was Tombs of Atuan) since converting to Catholicism. Taking a close look at the demon and then calling him your own name is precisely what an exorcist should NOT do, it's Freudian, not Christian advice. I reflected on the fact Ursula was an unbeliever and did not believe in real existence of demons, so it is arguably a logical advice from her viewpoint back then.

4:38 Plato is more comparable to reading essays by an unbelieving but more or less just person. I like Frans G. Bengtsson (a compatriote, close to Chester-Belloc in style, but non-Christian).

Plato was preserved because of the overarching themes of metaphysical and moral truth in him.

St. Thomas would typically consider such and such an error of Plato or Aristotle as "they didn't have the light of the faith, so they made a mistake here".

Can't find an example right now ... oh, wait, yes:

Reply to Objection 2. The reason alleged is according to the opinion of Aristotle who laid down (Metaph. xi, 8) that the heavenly bodies are moved by spiritual substances; the number of which he endeavored to assign according to the number of motions apparent in the heavenly bodies. But he did not say that there were any spiritual substances with immediate rule over the inferior bodies, except perhaps human souls; and this was because he did not consider that any operations were exercised in the inferior bodies except the natural ones for which the movement of the heavenly bodies sufficed. But because we assert that many things are done in the inferior bodies besides the natural corporeal actions, for which the movements of the heavenly bodies are not sufficient; therefore in our opinion we must assert that the angels possess an immediate presidency not only over the heavenly bodies, but also over the inferior bodies.

Reply to Objection 3. Philosophers have held different opinions about immaterial substances. For Plato laid down that immaterial substances were types and species of sensible bodies; and that some were more universal than others; and so he held that immaterial substances preside immediately over all sensible bodies, and different ones over different bodies. But Aristotle held that immaterial substances are not the species of sensible bodies, but something higher and more universal; and so he did not attribute to them any immediate presiding over single bodies, but only over the universal agents, the heavenly bodies. Avicenna followed a middle course. For he agreed with Plato in supposing some spiritual substance to preside immediately in the sphere of active and passive elements; because, as Plato also said, he held that the forms of these sensible things are derived from immaterial substances. But he differed from Plato because he supposed only one immaterial substance to preside over all inferior bodies, which he called the "active intelligence."

The holy doctors held with the Platonists that different spiritual substances were placed over corporeal things. For Augustine says (QQ. 83, qu. 79): "Every visible thing in this world has an angelic power placed over it"; and Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii, 4): "The devil was one of the angelic powers who presided over the terrestrial order"; and Origen says on the text, "When the ass saw the angel" (Numbers 22:23), that "the world has need of angels who preside over beasts, and over the birth of animals, and trees, and plants, and over the increase of all other things" (Hom. xiv in Num.). The reason of this, however, is not that an angel is more fitted by his nature to preside over animals than over plants; because each angel, even the least, has a higher and more universal power than any kind of corporeal things: the reason is to be sought in the order of Divine wisdom, Who places different rulers over different things. Nor does it follow that there are more than nine orders of angels, because, as above expounded (I:108:2), the orders are distinguished by their general offices. Hence as according to Gregory all the angels whose proper office it is to preside over the demons are of the order of the "powers"; so to the order of the "virtues" do those angels seem to belong who preside over purely corporeal creatures; for by their ministration miracles are sometimes performed.

I : Question 110. How angels act on bodies
Article 1. Whether the corporeal creature is governed by the angels?

5:20 Perhaps the texts extant in St. Basil's time were mostly documentaries and semi-documentaries like Iliad, Aeneid, tragedies ... written by men recalling true events as best as they could, with some patriotic fan fic extras in Virgil's case, and interpreting them as correctly as they could in the light of their religion - like I think God wanted Ulysses to get back to Ithaca and quit Calypso, but I don't think God means "Zeus and his daughter Athena" as the decision of divine providence is portrayed by Homer.

This is not really the case in Rowling.

5:29 "epics, poetry, fiction"

What fiction?

I have some experience of Latin fiction, namely a) comedy, b) Satyricon (Cena Trimalchionis).

I have trouble seeing St. Basil extending this recommendation to Cena Trimalchionis, I think the one reason to read it is linguistics and as background to what Roman life looked like, when St Peter arrived, and that is not really sth young people should be doing too early, and as to comedy, they always treat the supernatural as a "matter of course" (see Pan in one of the comedies) they don't go into detail on how you make an invocation to ... Diana Trivia. Any magician is as much a side kick to protagonist as Prospero is.

In HP the very most basic situation of precisely protagonists is studying magic. Not just one or two chapters as in A Wizard of Earthsea, but the whole seven books except when applying what they learned.

Tragedy and epic were not seen as fiction by the Church fathers. That Perseus and Andromeda were taken up to heaven and became stars is a lie of Satan, but that they lived before that and Perseus saved Andromeda could as far as Justin Martyr is concerned be fact, and in City of God Athena's non-help to Trojans and her idol getting help from Aeneas is treated as a basic historic fact.

The reasons one can have for studying The Exorcist (based on a real story) do not apply to HP, therefore, neither do the reasons one can have for studying Aeneas.

(While Tolkien's work is also fiction, he was a very avid student of Virgil and some of his works can be seen as meditations on Matthew 24 and Apocalypse).

5:37 A very young audience reading Aeneid would in Christian schools not have dwelled long on Aeneas and Dido in the cave ... and the time they did spend with it would have been little actual reading of the story and much moral explanations about it, provided by Servius, not Virgil.

Confer how much Rowling spends on - I suppose - a love triangle between Ron, Hermione and Harry.

"Your parents were thieves?"
"Why do you say that?"
"They stole stars from the sky and put them in your eyes"

Meanwhile, Ron is pining for the girl impressed by Harry's rhetoric ... as far as I have heard. AND all three continue hanging around as friends for years while no one is marrying and no one is actually very chaste either.

I think the worst thing with Rowling, except to the few who actually do become witches or warlocks inspired by HP would be what she has to say about human love.

Confer how Tolkien treats love stories like Eowyn's lost love for Aragorn ....


Hans-Georg Lundahl
6:12 Yes, indeed. I do recommend the literature actually left behind by Pagans.

No "expelliarmus" Latin for me, real Latin, real Greek, real Aeneid etc.

I have also made fairly friendly reviews of a French comic book retelling of some ancient stories (Luc Besson [edit: Luc Ferry] is less unchaste than Apollonius about Hercules' relation to Iolaus - and at that, St. Basil was arguably also recommending Argonautica, though with a young audience, I think some passages were omitted).

Medea actually descending from the Sun god is probably the one actual objection to the likelihood of Argonautica, and since Pagans knew no better, it's not a moral one.

Lexi Noel
Careful! Expelliarmus might be the real incantation..

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Lexi Noel I'm not looking for incantations.

Lexi Noel
Hans-Georg Lundahl it was just a joke. Lol people are saying that they are real..

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Lexi Noel Well, this is another difference to LotR.

I have so far not heard of anyone trying to use "mellon" instead of a door code or "lasto beth lammen" to get a door to magically open.

Lexi Noel
Hans-Georg Lundahl hahaha! Good one! I just don’t understand the problem. There have been fantasy stories like Harry Potter and lotr forever. What makes jk Rowling worse than like David Eddings?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Lexi Noel I haven't read David Eddings.

I think there are two schools. Dunsany, Rowling and a few more allow witches to be goodies. Tolkien and esp. Lewis do not.

I think the second approach is the correct one.

I also think, the first one is less harmful in proportion as it's just humorous and more if it's serious.

As I haven't read HP, I cannot comment on where HP comes in that scale.

But the thing I was commenting on was, the Pagan literature the Church kept actually is good. They were not confronting young students to Satyricon or to actual instruction books in magic (neither is HP such a thing, but it is about these being "useful" to study as a central part of the setting - which of course need not be the theme of the story : I think other themes are clear and bad, like love life of Ron).

[added link to full post here]

6:36 I think St. Basil is even the inspiring force behind "expurgated versions" "ad usum delphini" etc.

In other words, if Iliad one place says a Trojan named Kyknos (meaning swan) was killed by a man pushing his shield violently to the root of his nose, I think that passage was in fact skipped for early readers.

The idea of learning all of the Iliad by heart was probably more prevalent when Greek (esp. Athenian) citizens were formed into machos. It also involved other things St. Basil would not have approved, like pederasty (with the sodomitic action not recommended or seen as fine, but tolerated).

In the Latin West, there were books to be read before the Eneid.

Starting point was Cato, Avianus, Ilias Latina (1070 verses, absolutely not same work as Homer's Iliad), Ecloga of Theodulus.

Source, p. 67 in Teaching and Learning Latin in Thirteenth-century England: Texts
By Tony Hunt

7:13 I think his earliest drafts for Silmarillion are much more pagan than what was published after his death in Silmarillion and in Unfinished Tales, and what he published himself was even less pagan.

As to "myth" we need to distinguish.

The inspiration for Silmarillion from the start is seeing a pagan pantheon as the stories could have been before idolatry corrupted the stories of creation and so on - with angels starring as "gods" of a pantheon (like in Thor by Marvel Comics), but not being worshipped with latreia (dito for Marvel Comics Thor).

He discarded more and more as it could have been an actual invitation to the specifically idolatrous or pagan properly so called myths about gods.

As to myths about heros, they are not inherently pagan.

Hercules and Väinämöinen are told from pagan viewpoints (Homeric polytheism and Finnish Shamanism), but parts of the stories could have happened to real people (Church Fathers have held this about Hercules, Romulus and obviously the heros of the Trojan War) and the "pagan" background could be seen as how they were understood erroneously by their societies (no Christian would believe Zeus made a son called Hercules, some have said "Hercules was a strong man, not (a) g/God").

When a pagan is describing gods creating the world, he is inventing or being deceived by demons and deforming the memories people would have retained after Babel. When a pagan is describing his heros, he may be only deceived as to their invisible relation to the gods rather than to the one true God.

7:37 Gandalf is perhaps "part of a pantheon" but that pantheon can be seen as a heavenly court of the true God. He also does not accept idolatrous worship. Morgoth, Sauron and perhaps at times Saruman (from orcs and perhaps easterlings if not from free men) are expelled from it, i e fallen angels.

In literary style, you have as much a pantheon in Silmarillion (but not in LotR) as you have in Marvel's Thor. In theology, you have as little endorsement of idol worship as you have in Thor. Whether Stanley Lieberman, better known to most as Stan Lee actually believed the Torah or not, he would probably have been allergic to endorsing idol worship - including of Thor or Odin.

I do most certainly not treat everything Pagan as merely demonic for that reason alone. Idolatry is demonic, but pagans have more to say about their gods and heros than just worshipping them.

Can doctors swear by Apollo and Asclepius? Renaissance theologians argued "yes, if these were ethnic saints, not demons" = people divinised after they lived.

St. Luke had probably been part of their school for healers before he became a Christian. (I think Byzantine stories about his having been a Jew and one of the Seventy may be suspect of being Puritan "expurgation" of the real story).

Obviously, I would not share that approach when it comes to Apollo of Delphi, whom I take to be a real demon.

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