Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Harry Potter an Alien?

Whoo-hoo, the boy wonder is grown up!

I saw an interview with the actor on TV the other day -- in his real persona, he's scrumptious.

Teens everywhere have throbbing hearts. (so what else is new?)

I haven't read the final installment in the saga yet, though I will. I did see the Phoenix movie as I mentioned last week.

And I've been following all the hype in the media -- and the reporting on the hype.

Boiled down, the media sees the Harry Potter saga as "good vs. evil" and says that accounts for the popularity. (i.e. if it didn't have "good vs. evil" at the core, it wouldn't be popular - they say.)

So since today is Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew Month of Av), the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and subsequent to that, a day when major blows have fallen on the world, (not a superstition, but historical fact if you look at the dates via the Hebrew calendar) I wanted to explore this "good vs. evil" theme that is so very popular that it lies unquestioned as a model of the real universe we live in.

The premise is that there's more true "Evil" in the world than "Good" and it is the job of "Good" to fight "Evil" even though "Evil" is terrifyingly strong.

And it must be a fight to absolute destruction.

Where "Good" encounters "Evil" there must be combat to annihilation (not Love, not Romance, not persuasion, not understanding, not empathy, not compassion, not problem solving, but COMBAT TO THE DEATH.)

Good vs. Evil is the conflict in Dresden Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural -- maybe not Forever Knight so much -- but many Fantasy novels focus on the vision of the universe in which there is a thin crust of "good" over a seething cauldron of "evil" and it's the plight of a certain few humans to keep "evil" from breaking through.

Potter's fight gets personal, so does the fight of Harry Dresden (who jokes about having Potter's first name, then points out he was named for Houdini.)

Why is Harry Potter such a success when these other shows and novels (which many would say are better written, better crafted, or better backgrounded) have not had similar play?

And where does that view of the universe as floating on a seething cauldron of Evil come from?

Frankly, I don't know any answer to Potter's success exceeding that of other novels except publicity.

I saw an interview on the Lehrer News Hour with a top Children's Librarian and a publisher, and their consensus was that it's the MEDIA that made Harry Potter more successful than other equally good books about the same topics.

I read a statistic that readers who gobble up Harry Potter novels, still only increase the sale of other books by barely 10%. Potter is ALL they read. For the rest of their time it's computers, games, music downloads, text-messaging, maybe Potter fanfic.

Harry Potter is a tiny (itsy-teensy) fraction of Scholastic Publishing's annual gross sales (Scholastic is the US distributor). But those same interviewees mentioned above considered that this whole set of novels will become a classic that new crops of 11 year olds will be reading into the far future. They will continue to sell.

This "Good" must fight "Evil" is a general portrait of reality that is, I think, not "believed" so much as "assumed" by the general public. It's never challenged or discussed in grammar school where you learn your view of the universe.

Here the question of whether Harry Potter is an alien (and therefore a fit subject for "alien romance" (definitely of the djinn variety)) gets really abstract.

Harry Potter taps into a somewhat new twist on a very old mythology. The prevailing Group Mind, or general mindset in the world today (including among those without the education to know what the word "philosophy" actually refers to) has changed drastically in the last 50 years -- maybe 70 or so years.

We've never been so obsessed with "Evil" since maybe The Inquisition.

To see how it all fits together, we have to be able to step back from our Civlization -- way, way back -- and view ourselves as the result of the flowering of the Greek culture.

The Greeks took over from the huge world-conquering Egyptian culture that spread mathematics, science and learning throughout North Africa and the Middle East all the way around the top of the Mediterranean. According to some archeologists, there is an odd coincidence between the bare beginning of the fall of Egypt and the best guess date for the Parting Of The Red Sea.

That's just a theory, but we're fiction writers here and we play with history and pre-history all the time.

The Greeks invented "democracy" made mathematics even more useful than the Egyptians did for building big things, and worshipped gods whose family relationships have to be described today as "dysfunctional" -- the Greek ideals included naked games, homosexuality and even what today in America would be statutory rape of young boys.

The Greeks fell and the Romans ate up their culture and made it their own -- growing bigger than Greece ever had, reaching all the way to Britain (I've been reading the lastest of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series -- this one, Ravens of Avalon, by Diane Paxton).

Rome fell -- etc -- and after various invasions and so on, Britain erupted in fleeing Pilgrims who founded what eventually became the American Colonies - and then us.

Our modern Civilization is a direct descendent of Ancient Eqypt -- if you look at it like say, Francisco St. Germain (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's vampire) might.

Ancient Egypt was ruled by "gods" who became incarnated and often produced the Heir Apparent mating with their closest sibling.

But Greek philosophy gave us a way of looking at the world which is now and always has been diametrically opposed to the MYSTICAL or MAGICAL way of looking at the world.

The Greeks laid the foundation for the later works in Britain by Bacon which promulgated the scientific method.

The notion is that the Universe is a mechanism -- a giant clock -- and nothing more. It's just a machine, and it runs by itself. There is no such thing as a "seething cauldron of Evil" and no Evil to fight. The "worst" behavior of their gods (Dyonisis comes to mind) was actually celebrated and lauded.

Almost all of science is based on this Helenistic Philosophy. Our civilization has had enormous success applying this philosophy (remember Science used to be called Natural Philosophy for a reason.)

Just skipping over the Assyrians and Babylonians -- we're looking at the invention of the Wheel as around 3,000 BCE, The Patriarch Abraham at around 2100 BCE (give or take), and Egypt invades Canaan at around 1950 BCE, and the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt around 1300 BCE -- with Moses leading the escape around 1250 (that can be argued vigorously on a lot of sides. The general figure for the length of the sojourne in Egypt is about 400 years, but slavery came at the end) And the fall of Egypt around 1065 BCE (they had a couple changes of "dynasty" in there, struggling to survive.)

First Olympic games in Greece around 776 BCE.

Founding of Rome about 753. About 509 BCE The Roman Republic is founded. 399 BCE Socrates is condemned to death for heretical teaching. 323 BCE birth of Euclid. Egypt still exists but it's not THE power in the ancient world. 170 Rome invades Egypt. (see Shakespear)

When one country invades and conquers another, the conquerer acquires a lot of the attitudes and valuable accomplishments of the conquered. The cultures blend with every intermarriage. Remember, the Romans didn't care what god you worshipped as long as you also worshipped the Roman gods and the Emperor got his due. That's cool, until it runs up against Monotheism, and the Egyptians had sun worshipping monotheists who were not a majority though.
In Israel, the monotheists were a majority.

So today's secular majority relying on a view of the universe that sees reality as an uncaring machine that can be manipulated by science if only we know enough -- that SHOULD be manipulated by science to subjugate the world to our Will -- is the direct descendent of the philosophy promulgated in Greece.

Why would the Greeks, Romans and their spiritual ancestors, the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians, have wanted so very much to believe the universe is just a mechanism, and there is no such thing as "good" and "evil?"

Just read the mythology -- how their gods handled power and personal relationships (seduction but never romance.) Those powerful, unseen, Evil Entities who diced with human lives and had to be appeased with offerings are the contents of that "seething cauldron of Evil." They became the symbol of "Evil" because they had immense power over mortals, but no love for us.

Can't you see why the Greek Natural Philosophers would think it would be so much nicer if those gods didn't really exist? Or didn't have all the power? Pythagoras comes to mind.

Running counter to the development of our "Natural Philosophy" called modern science there was the philosophy of the line of the Patriarch Avraham and all the cultures and religions that sprang from him.

Now I can't give a reprise of the Qabalistic view of the universe here. You can get a lot of the "real thing" on chabad.org if you want it. If you google Kabbalah and variant spellings you'll get all kinds of kooky nonsense mixed in with the version I'm talking about, so start at chabad.org .

But the essence of the notion is that the Creator of the Universe not only Created the world -- but continues to do so moment to moment.

Existence itself is sustained by the deliberate application of Divine Will. Every single moment and every single event in your very personal life is a miracle. All of this is a Word being spoken by the Creator RIGHT NOW. And it's a song of love.

The essence of Qabalah lies within its notion of the purpose of human existence, the purpose of Life.

The premise is that all souls were created at the moment of creation -- there are no newer souls (unlike some other esoteric traditions). Souls reincarnate enough times to master all 613 Commandments in the first 5 Books Of Moses (the first 5 books of the Bible).

The purpose of mastering the Commandments is to use them to uncover the sparks of Godliness hidden within all the elements of our material reality.

The Creator Created the world twice (this is described in Genesis). The first time the blast of the pure essence of this Divine Being shattered the vessels that held creation. The pieces flew apart and fell "down" -- chaos -- the second time, we got Creation as we know it today.

But the Divine sparks of pure good attract the flotsam of the shattered vessels and become encrusted with this dross. The dross isn't Evil and it isn't bad, it's also a result of Creation and exists by the Will of the Divine which is Good and basically pure Love.

Our job is NOT to "battle evil" or to cram it back down under the thin crust of good, because there really is no such thing as "Evil" -- there is only this icky dross clinging to and smothering the light of Goodness.

Our task is not to destroy that dross but to TRANSFORM IT INTO GOOD --to peel away the dross and uncover the gold within and send those golden sparks of divine substance winging back upward, and thus elevate the dross.

The idea is to uncover the hidden goodness within every individual and situation and to elevate the not-so-good to be better. Life is not a punishment detail -- it's what our souls were created for.

We're designed for this world and this job. So it's FUN. It's joy in its purest form to find goodness and unleash it. (classic Romance writing lesson: what does she see in him? How do you know it's "love?" -- answer: each brings out the best in the other's personality.)

Philosophically, the Qabalistic notion has battled the two other notions down through the ages with first one then the other predominating.

So there are 3 major philosophies extant today (plus a zillion smaller ones).

The "seething cauldron" model of reality. The "just a mechanism" model of reality. And the "big mess to clean up" Qabalah model of reality. (the process of cleaning up that mess is called Tikun Olam, fixing the world. You do it by love, not combat.)

Everyone HAS a philosophy, though very few know what their own philsophy is, and most deny having one at all. But it's like breath - you can't live without it.

They say "there's no accounting for taste" but that's not true. Your "taste" comes from your philosophy which resides in your subconscious and jerks your life around unbeknownst to you -- i.e. creates such things as "love at first sight".

The "taste" for the Harry Potter tale wrapped in its FIGHT AGAINST EVIL is caused by the philosophy that the world REALLY IS a thin crust over a seething cauldron of Evil and all we can do is fight or run screaming.

I saw an interview on TV with people standing in line to get the last Potter book, and one young girl in costume told the camera "yes, magic is real" (and from the tone of voice it was clear she didn't mean that metaphorically - we're talking 12 year old girl here).

Something in our current civilization has convinced a huge number of people that Evil is real and the only righteous response to Evil is to Fight it.

And thus Harry Potter is a Hero to young children who have imbibed this subconscious assumption from parents, friends, teachers, books, movies, films, DVDs, and GAMES, maybe past lives too.

I mentioned "love at first sight" -- there is (in the magical view of the universe) a certain reality to the "recognition" and "attraction" to things and people from past lives -- and who represent a subconsciously held highest aspiration.

The world today is very much like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover -- the world where there is an intransigent war between the technological civilization from Earth and the indigenous ESP based civilization of the planet Darkover. That war is on moral grounds.

Today we "believe in science" and look to our labs to produce solutions to every ill if we only throw enough money at them. But something inside says "no, that's not the whole truth" -- or "Wait! There's More! If you phone right now - " --

People reach back into prior lives (maybe from Atlantean times?) and find the dim etching of an almost memory of the Magical View of the universe -- and they want that view to be true.

Remember, in my blog entry about the Robert Heinlein Centennial, I said I learned that Heinlein had held memories of past lives even into his teens. It is common for young children of the Potter reading demographic to have echoing memories of past lives -- lived in a time when Magic was considered "real."

But that view of the universe also scares people terribly -- because in Greece and Rome, the most power over "reality" was wielded by insane entities called gods who did not know how to love.

Most of the people who are trying to learn Qabalah today don't understand the thousands of years of history that spawned these 3 major philosophies.

So they look at the world, see really BAD stuff all around, and accept the explanation that Evil has to be Fought. (to me that's like cutting starfish in half to get rid of them).

They want Magic to be REAL, so they can have a tool to Fight Evil (because Science can't Fight Evil, because Evil doesn't exist in the scientific view of the universe).

It appears, in our modern universe, those are your only choices, fight evil, condone it or foster it by ignoring its existence. (Qabalah teaches a fourth approach to the problem.)

So Harry Potter as an adult now becomes a really sexy attraction because he has acquired the Power to Fight Evil! He's become our Protector. And from the scientific view of reality, he truly is "alien" because of that Power -- and science is losing the battle against Evil because Science doesn't know it's in a battle.

You shouldn't have any trouble googling up some hot-sweaty-sexy Harry Potter fanfic on the web. Look it over and think about what these people are really writing about in their own lives. Then think about other ways to parse the problem so it can be solved.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Great post, Jacqueline.

    I have never read any of the Harry Potter books or watched any of the movies simply because I've never been interested. I wonder if the reason for that is the same reason I never found Luke Skywalker appealing. Although, Luke does have one up on Harry. He turned his father from the Dark Side of the Force back to the Good. That did appeal to me. Self-sacrifice and forgiveness - these are the purest expressions of love. If I'd been Luke, I would've chucked Vader down the shaft along with the boringly evil Emperor.

    Jacqueline said: 'Everyone HAS a philosophy, though very few know what their own philsophy is, and most deny having one at all. But it's like breath - you can't live without it.

    They say "there's no accounting for taste" but that's not true. Your "taste" comes from your philosophy which resides in your subconscious and jerks your life around unbeknownst to you -- i.e. creates such things as "love at first sight".'

    So true.

    When I was single, I had no conscious idea of what kind of man I found attractive. I only knew the man I married had to have excellent Dad Potential. There was no way in Hades I was going to risk my children being fathered by someone who wasn't going to be a Daddy to them as well. When I first saw my husband I thought, "Oh, Lord, I want that one!" Over a decade and four babies later, I finally figured out why. It was the confident presence about him, his gentle eyes, and his tall, strong body. Subconsciously, a light bulb had flashed on, telling me that this was a man who had all the qualities to be an excellent dad - confidence born of experience and wisdom, gentleness, and strength. Call it instinct, call it philosophy, but it worked!

    Love the run-down of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all that. I'll have to blog about that cultural influence in comparison to the Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures. I dig into it all the time.

  2. I don't think media hype is the primary reason for the popularity of the Harry Potter series (which I love). Remember, it had a rather small print run when the first book came out from that then-unknown author. Reader enthusiasm made it into a "breakout" book. Love your post. More later.

  3. Since I have no personal experience with Harry Potter, I can't confirm the explanation I read about. It was said that Harry's success is due to the story following the Hero's Journey and that Harry is a 'Chosen One' character.

  4. Kimber An

    Oh, Potter is definitely a Chosen One Hero's Journey story, but my point was that SO ARE thousands of other children's and adult books that DON'T get that kind of success.

    What is the one distinctive attribute that belongs to the Potter phenomenon that does not belong to any other Chosen One Hero's Journey?

    Hint: Nobody has ever solved this problem by looking at the content of a story, its structure, its theme, or anything under the author's control.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  5. Jacqueline: While I don't agree with everything in your post (also, there is still a lot that I have to reread before I can absorb it), I love the concept that God is continuously creating the universe and that God's love sustains it in existence.

    Kimber: There IS a tremendous emphasis on self-sacrifice in the Harry Potter series, esp. as it comes to a culmination at the end of the final book. From the beginning, the concept is built into the series that the reason Harry as an infant survived Lord Voldemort's attack was the power infused into him by his mother's love in sacrificing her life in an attempt to protect him. Love is the one power V., to the very end, can never understand.

    I don't know why the Harry Potter series captured the popular imagination to such an extent. I know what first appealed to ME: The "Ugly Duckling" archetype, the misfit child whose apparent liabilities are revealed to be gifts in disguise. Perhaps it's the way the series combines that motif with the Hero's Journey and the theme of self-sacrifice, topped off by Rowling's profligately inventive and entertaining magical world -- the blend of all these elements -- that caused her books to capture the popular imagination. Also, for American readers, the British "school story" genre, unfamiliar and therefore fresh to most of us, has its own exotic charm.

  6. Well, I know why Fantasy appeals to Middle Grade and Young Adult in general. That's easy. Up until that point in their lives, children are virtually powerless over the adults in their lives. They get to that point and the need to grow up kicks in with a vengence. The magic and power in a Fantasy novel feeds that emotional need in a child on the verge of adulthood. Written well, it can emotionally empower the child to make that last hurdle. Still, I hope my children go for Science Fiction more because anyone can do science, which also empowers a person. Besides empowering a child emotionally, Science Fiction can also empower a child intellectually. It's the difference between 'I wish I could that' and 'I can do that too and I WILL do that!'

  7. While some great science fiction also has the "mythopoeic" quality, fantasy is the special locus of that element in fiction. At its best, it connects the reader to something greater than the self -- in particular, to the numinous. It explores the depths of the human psyche in a way that "realistic" fiction never can. Read J. R. R. Tolkien's classic essay "On Fairy Stories" for the most comprehensive explanation of what fantasy is good for. I won't try to recap it, because he says it so much better. Also see C. S. Lewis on Myth as a mode of knowing about reality, numerous places in his works.

  8. Margaret:

    I reported, in this post, what some "experts" said on TV -- that the success of Harry Potter was due to the media hype.

    Now think about that. How many other books or series or writers do you like or even love -- that aren't as popular as Harry Potter but have the same qualities you've mentioned?

    The point the "experts" were making on TV was simply that. Harry Potter's saga has the qualities of many, many popular books and series, but that's not the reason it's popular.

    If it were the REASON, then all those other books and series would sell as well. If it were the REASON then the readers of the Harry Potter series would be gobbling up all the rest, too -- and they are not.

    The content is not the reason for popularity.

    It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition.

    What OTHER condition did Harry Potter meet that caused the gathering tide of popularity that finally lifted it to a media event for the release of the final volume in the story?

    The reason YOU like it isn't the reason for its popularity. If it were, then you wouldn't like anything but popular works.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  9. Anonymous10:32 PM EDT


    I think there's an interesting-and-yet-alternative theory that could be posed here. I would call myself first-most a scientist and tend to promote physics whenever possible. I have noticed that science doesn't attempt to explain the paranormal, for example, and so I have labored for several years to include these as well into the realm of things we can explain scientifically.

    After many years of this type of scientific distraction I find myself believing in things like a soul and in telepathy, for example. I am also quite sure that there are aliens that live here on our planet with us and they have been doing so for at least 10,000 years but more likely on the order of 200,000 years. "Why?" you might ask. One idea is that they're interested in guiding us spiritually.

    My current take on things is that four type of races were genetically engineered and were seeded this planet... and that at least three (but possibly four) types of aliens were responsible for our guidance. These encounters with the "gods" then formed the basis for gods, angels, devils and all the other religions' combined names for them as well.

    If you search through ancient religious art and texts you should see references to flying chariots, vimanas, wheels in the sky, discs and such. To me these are encounters with flying saucers.

    From what I'm seeing one of the alien races seems to have feathers and this theme appears not only in angelic descriptions but also in those for a variety of ancient Pan-american religions. Another of the alien species appears to be a standing reptilian type as seen in both Egyptian art and in the story of the Garden of Eden, for example. Another alien species appears to be the gray, almond-shaped eye variety. From what I understand there is a fourth type that looks like humans only they appear to be more handsome than average.

    It would appear that the reptilian style of alien seems to psychically feed off our fear. It would seem that they may be promoting this perhaps by controlling the media.

    It would seem that there is some intergalactic rule that would somehow govern much of their behavior toward us and yet there seems to be some discord among the types of aliens themselves. In other words, the reptilians don't necessarily like the other types of aliens.

    I was just studying some of the handed-down prophecies of the Hopi indians and it looks as though some kind of world war is predicted to happen either next year or shortly thereafter.

    And then somewhere in all this it struck me that the storyline seemed familiar. And then it clicked that what I was reading was the reality behind the Harry Potter story's metaphor. The four founding members of Hogwarts were the four alien groups. They wished to train their respective collection of "students" each in their own way. Ultimately Slytherin (the reptilians) wanted to take over everything and would wage a war against everyone else. The Death Eaters (the reptilians) emotionally fed off the fear of their victims. The other groups prepared for battle teaching the necessary skills to survive. The ultimate battle ensued and good prevailed.

    If we consider that aliens are telepathic I might then suggest that much of the idea of this story might have been pushed to J.K. Rowling in this manner. Perhaps we are being groomed to believe this reality by the introduction of stories into the common psyche.

    And perhaps the reason behind the success of the Harry Potter series is that we are quietly being groomed (telepathically) to embrace the story, to believe in our inner magic and to get ready for the upcoming battle.

    I do believe that we have untapped capabilities like telepathy that we're not using. Maybe "the magic" is what they're trying to open our eyes to. Maybe we are about to discover that our gods are not only aliens but they've been living with us all this time.