Gnosticism, Harry Potter and the Faith
Father Alfonso Aguilar's essays “Gnosticism and the Struggle for the World's Soul" and “Into the Gnostic Wonderland" (March 30-April 5 and April 6-12) were excellent and entirely correct. I believe he has truly understood and emphasized the Holy Father's increasing concern with this phenomenon.
I can personally attest to the accuracy of his analysis of The Matrix. Following the release of the DVD version of the film, in an online forum with the creators of The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski), I put this very question to them, and received the following answer:
Me: “Have you ever been told that The Matrix has Gnostic overtones?
Wachowski Bros: “Do you consider that to be a good thing? I would.” (Source: http://whatisthematrix.warnerbros.com/cmp/lar ryandychat.html)
Father Aguilar makes the strong case that neo-Gnosticism (pun intended) is one of the dominant ideologies in popular culture today. From The Matrix to the Harry Potter series to Memento, there is a renewed effort to sensitize the masses to this un-Christian philosophy.
May God continue to be with Father Aguilar in his exercise of Christ's prophetic office!
ALBERT GUN via e-mail
Father Aguilar's writing on “Gnosticism and the Struggle for the World's Soul" was very well done — and very much needed in today's world.
As one who was a part-time teacher in general psychology, child and adolescent psychology, marriage and the family, sociology, etc., I discovered how grateful the students were to learn the truth.
If one were to make a syllogism to prove “There is no such thing as truth,” it becomes obvious that, if one believed the statement to be true, it would be ridiculous — or what is called an “internal contradiction.” If it is not true, and contradicts itself, then what Father has written is supported — and the world needs to turn to the Person who said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light" and “He who believes in Me shall never die.”
Those who think they can make up their own truths and deny the laws of nature and nature's God will pay the consequences. I would recommend C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia stories for children looking for interesting reading material. As a young child, I was taught that it is important to learn how to swim upstream even [when] it is difficult and against the current. As my father told me, it is garbage that floats down the stream.
In today's world, I believe parents need to teach their children the eternal truths that will lead to productivity and happiness on the spiritual as well as material level. They should read the books that their children do and provide a critique that will point out the silliness or flaws.
The Register provides much food for thought in its many recent articles on the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, etc. Keep up the good work, and thank you, Father Aguilar, for giving parents a good analysis of the Harry Potter stories, etc., when they see their youngsters get drawn into the latest trends.
Just as students are grateful for good teaching, children will be grateful for good parents even if they have high standards — and this was shown at many family get-togethers on Mother's Day.
BARBARA BRAUN via e-mail
Father Aguilar's articles on Gnosticism were a wakeup call for me: I had swallowed the red pill dissolved in water.
A few years back, I developed some interest in New Age ideas. I was drawn to the emphasis on doing good and “self-improvement through self-discovery.” It sounded like Catholic spirituality. However, for some reason it just didn’t feel quite right for me and I soon lost interest in it. But all along I still thought that the New Age movement was a positive one since it promotes the well-being of self and society.
It was not until I read Father Aguilar's articles that I realized how misled I was. Thank you so much for shedding a light on this for me.
AGNES CHAN Vancouver, British Columbia
I am a non-Catholic reader who very recently re-discovered the Register after a lapse of about 20 years. I am very grateful for Father Alfonso Aguilar's two-part series on Gnosticism and its strong influence in modern society.
I have long been concerned about the popularity of some insidious ideas embedded in popular culture, viewed by many as “spiritual" or “religious” and, therefore, generically classed as a good thing.
Such attitudes are evident in talking with professionals whose otherwise outstanding educations have left them in philosophical, ethical and moral kindergarten — resulting in many of today's teachers and opinion leaders who lack the insight to recognize the false values present in the “warm fuzzies” of the New Age pseudo-philosophers.
Then there's the ignorance of much of the secular press at all levels. I have worked in small-town newspapers for 26 years. The secular media uncritically treats all “spiritual" ideas as equal, so even persons who are considered well-educated often look at all things “religious” as having equal value. The question is not one of treating all viewpoints and traditions fairly, and allowing them equal access to the media, but the depiction of things religious as a personal spiritual buffet, where one can graze and sample without discernment, because, hey, it's all really the same thing, isn’t it?
Such relativism has found a home in sincere Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, who lack understanding of the core of authentic Christianity. They’re often left wide open to the appealing and very logical sound of much of the New Age movement.
My wife and I have two young children who both caught the reading bug early. My 8-year-old son is basically an independent adult reader, and his sister is not far behind. Yes, they love Harry Potter. They also have been introduced to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They can and should enjoy these terrific stories. But literature can also be a place where parents and family challenge them with questions and engage them in thinking about choices they will face.
I know that, as a child, growing up in a pastor's household, I would come upon dozens of strange and fascinating volumes lurking in my father's study, from Lives of the Desert Fathers and the Confessions of St. Augustine to Rufus Jones Speaks To Our Times. I believe we must bequeath to our children the exciting discovery of the whole world of great minds and ideas, because I believe that is the best way to prepare them to think critically in religion, in politics, in personal and societal values.
A few years back, when Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II was published, my wife and I purchased our copy in the mass-market paperback section of the local Kroger supermarket, alongside the mystery novels and magazines. I thought that was a small but potent symbol that there is still hope for our culture. I strongly suggest that the best response caring Christians can make to the concerns addressed in Father Aguilar's articles is to raise children who have been exposed to the best minds of the 20 centuries of the Christian world.
HARRY M. FOX New Albany, Indiana
- May 18-24, 2003