Sunday, July 22, 2007

Caveat Emptor: Harry Potter

I can remember as a child going crazy over Tarzan, Samson, Robin Hood, Hercules, Superman and the Filipino Tarzan Kulafu. Many other heroes both real and fictional kept me fascinated, no, fantasizing even when I was already studying college Calculus. In my fanciful moments, I became the idolized character. I took up his persona as immortal hero: I thought like him, or so I thought. I even tried to talk and walk like he did. And, most pretentious of all, I treated people the way he did.

And so it is that, at all ages, we, I think, model our lives in the mould of our chosen heroes. Those heroes not only had extraordinary or superhuman abilities, they also had noble qualities. Take for instance, Robin Hood. The epitome of the glorified outlaw who was driven to the forest by a wicked ruler, he vowed to serve the oppressed. Excellent in the ancient skills of the hunter-warrior, he saved the day for the peasants with his gang of merry-men in green suits. His hands and his heart were his tools of trade as a social change-agent. His high calling required uncommon virtues and great challenges to the human spirit. Is it possible that rebels today, like the NPA and MILF, are grown-up kids unable to outgrow Robin Hood?

Greatly idealized through comics and novels, those heroes defined adventure – and life itself -- for me in simple and understandable terms. Much more sophisticated than the fairy-tale characters in grade-school, they also gradually lost their appeal as I got immersed in the world’s descending cloud of cynicism, indifference and liberalism.

Thus, when writers like Nick Joaquin redefined our history by calling many of our national heroes “anti-heroes” and Hollywood released counter-cultural films that sometimes portrayed Jesus as less than the perfect person that He is, something happened to our minds and our behaviors in ways society was not totally prepared for.

From music to fashion, from commerce to governance, from education to technology, the counter-cultural tide soon washed away the “civilized” world that took many centuries to form – the one I was born and grew up in. The once stable institutions of government, religion and society itself rocked violently and got displaced from their former foundations. Chaos ensued. And even now, we still reel in the aftermath of these cataclysmic events that keep coming back to haunt us, if not in ginormous (hurray, I’ve used the new word) tsunami waves, then in tiny splashes in the basin.

Are the heroes of the new generation any different from the ones we had then? Are they any better or worse? Or just the same?

Hercules and Superman were both quintessential man-gods caught in the constraining arena froth with human frailty and folly. The former hero showed how much the Greeks had comprehended their own world and conveniently painted that world-view on mythical canvases. The latter hero did the same for our generation, though not worshiped officially as a god but admired as a shallow novelty. Nevertheless, they both provide an alternative world where order could be had in the sanctity and sanity of the imagination. At least, in the child’s mind.

But much in the same way that these characters never grew old or died, they have evolved not only into sophisticated characters but eventually resembled more and more the people that we are. In the process, these heroic stories we now gorge on have been humanized and weaned away from their fabled or mythical aura. All for the same purpose of whiling us away from the painful realities of our existence. The bored pencil-pushing clerk and the over-pressed president both constantly need role-models to lift them up to higher planes of existence, albeit temporarily. To some, the search goes the other way.

Books and movies – the life stories of heroes or villains – do this to us. Harry Potter is then just another phase in the history of recasting for ourselves a symbol that could effectively give some meaning and direction to our lives. Or so it seems. For this time, however, beyond the requisite virtues required of heroes and instead of mere extra-human skills to meet challenges, three kids have been made to harness virtual powers of darkness – black magic, that is -- to fight the wicked enemy. And they are only a few among many who do so blatantly in media.

A series of novels based on the magical secrets practiced by warlocks and witches of ancient and medieval times, Harry Potter has captured the minds of millions of readers and viewers unaware of the dire consequences in store for them. What!? How can it be so?

Superman, for all his mythic abilities, was a mere cartoonist’s daydream founded on childish fantasies and pseudo-scientific notions. Batman, on the other hand, banked on his Bruce-Leean martial skills and McGyverian creativity to defeat his enemies. But this innocent-looking bunch of young magicians utter ancient incantations and magical formulas (some fictional perhaps) once used by devil-worshipers. This is no secret even to those who know the fact that horoscope and feng shui -- although appearing like sciences -- are based largely on superstitions and are mere garden varieties of the same magical arts founded by the wicked spirits of this world. (Note: Although the word “magic” denotes incredible feats, it derives from the ancient practice of astronomy. The “magi” -- learned men -- who came to Bethlehem, charted the stars to find the baby Jesus.)

Here is a case where the lines between fact and fiction blur. Whereas the Potter novels and the movies appear like fiction, their foundation is historically and patently real. Not many know it or really accept that; but ignorance does not change the record. Witch-hunts, the real ones, came about because those culture-crushers bedeviled and plagued society. Glamorizing their practices and feeding our children’s minds with them would be like adding a game in the Olympics where we pit wrestlers against hungry lions.

This subtle onslaught of evil disguised as entertainment is in truth counter-cultural. When people focus on the enticing powers of darkness instead of the re-creative enlightenment of the eternal truths upon which creation has been established, we open the floodgates of destruction. And yet not many even know about it, least of all, shudder at the thought.

The Bible advises us to answer a fool with his foolishness. Let us apply the principle to discover hidden messages behind the name Harry Potter that Ms. Jane Rowling may have unwittingly hidden in her dark, mysterious, mental chambers. Check out these many anagrams and their terrifying meanings:

Her Troy trap (Captivity/Destruction; Remember the Trojan horse)
Her Troy part (Spiritual adultery; Remember Paris and Helen)
Her art to pry (Dark, sinister and mysterious schemes)
Her tarot pry (Occultic practices)
Pry rot heart (Corruption is the game)
Th’ prayer rot (Spiritual decay)
Party to Herr (Connivance with Satan – “Herr” is German for Mister, as in “Der Herr Fuehrer”)
Hr. to try reap (Time to harvest evil)
Hr. to try rape (Time to pillage society)
Thy error apt (Blasphemy/Deception)
Try hero trap (Invitation to idolatry)
Pa, thy terror (Rebellion/Evil worship)
Threat to pry (Enslavement or control of the mind and soul)
Trophy r tear (Bringer of anguish and sorrow)
Pry other art (Prohibited magical practices/Counter-culture)
Terra trophy (The prize - Earth, fr. Latin terra/The goal - world domination)

For such an unassuming name lies numerous deep and horrible thoughts we rarely deal with and yet unconsciously toy with in our mind. Harry Potter awakens detestable desires until they bear fruits of sin. Ostensibly, behind the innocence of three children used for commercial and sinister schemes lie many concepts and images that would truly terrorize the unwary individual. Unless we set our minds free of these enslaving thoughts, we will fall easily into the many snares set by God’s arch-enemy.

Don’t think that these battles against witches and underworld spirits happen only on paper and on screen. In reality, they occur in the mind and in the soul. The media are mere screens upon which evil spirits reflect their powers to entice the untrained. The final targets are the souls of ignorant and weak individuals who are led away from the source of genuine spiritual power from heaven. We think we simply watch entertaining wars between virtual images or spirits? Think again. We unwittingly involve ourselves by cheering those who wield such dark powers, no matter how innocent or noble they seem.

Today, we simply watch but in the future we take sides. Many already have. Many have fallen. And when we eagerly push our kids ahead of us in the fray, how can we expect them to survive? How can the future be any brighter?

Those who die from terrorist attacks still have a chance to save their souls. But this war of real, spiritual terrorism does not spare the soul – it is the main target. Next to false religion, it is the best strategy Satan ever invented in his plot to conquer the world.

Cheap doomsday warning? Perhaps, but it is one we desperately need to remind us and to make us aware of what is happening and what will eventually happen if we persist in walking blindly the dark paths. Some things – like the sea and the mountains -- may be trod innocently and safely by kids and adults without dire effects; but a few things – like the realm of the dead and evil spirits -- God forbade humans from ever entering.

Finally, God warned the early Christians not to revile or to deal directly with angelic beings. We simply do not have the facility and authority to do so. Even the Archangel dared not do it. A “hero” then who puts himself or herself before or above God is not a real hero but an enemy of God.

God alone has the authority to rebuke or judge wicked spirits. (Jude 8-11) For our own good, let us heed the warning.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Unraveling the Mystery of Creation

Is it possible to make something out of nothing? This is what God did in the beginning. But why? Why indeed if not to “make life”? Is there anything worth having. Or giving? If you were God, would you not give it?

Again, the question pops up: Why didn’t He make us like angels? Or why did He not place us in heaven where there is no death at all? The question brings on very interesting thoughts that could help explain the human predicament.

The idea of making something out of nothing seems basically illogical (see the scientists nodding their heads?), for God, in creating, would have to have some kind of resource to use in creating something, a part of Him perhaps or a force that emanates from Himself. In that sense, there may not be such a thing as “nothing”.

Thus, in creating the Universe out of that “nothing”, we can take it to mean that there was no Universe then and God put one into existence. The chaos that resulted from the initial creation was apparently not satisfactory. Hence, the point when God said “Let there be light” was the moment when God “gave of Himself” – God being “light” or the source of it, as we are told. And when He created humans “in His image”, He essentially reproduced Himself.

If God had made us like angels, we would all be mere spirits without bodies. We would be free, glorious and powerful but have no ability to reproduce just like God Himself, in the sense that He created us in His image. God had to create “something out of nothing” – the physical world – to enable Him to accomplish something new, something better perhaps. Furthermore, conditions in heaven required it as we will see.

What that new thing points to is this: Humans, like angels, are children of God. But unlike angels, we have body (from nothing?) and spirit (from God). Likewise, we not only can reproduce; we can rule over angels and over other humans like God does. This was no accident. Behind the heavenly plan are reasons we can try to unravel.

The rebellion that Lucifer had begun in heaven caused a cataclysmic event that led God to consign the rebellious angels down in the “depths of the Earth”. There are two possibilities here: First, that God had created the Universe before the rebellion and, second, that the rebellion occurred before the creation and that He might have created the Universe to serve as a kind of prison for those rebels.

In the first instance, we see a couple of issues. One, why would God allow Satan to dwell in Paradise if He had meant it to be only for humans? But think of it: If rebellion can occur in heaven, how much more on Earth? Why didn’t God just create another world to imprison devils?

These questions miss the point that whether a being exists in heaven or on Earth, spirits have the ability to visit either. Hence, in the Book of Job, we see Satan before God’s throne. Satan may not “live” in heaven but he seems capable of going there. Why should God fear his presence? What harm can he do to angels who know what Satan has done? Hence, the idea of creating another world serves no purpose.

In the second case, we might see the Universe as a halfway house for rebellious spirits who have been bound for a final destination: Hell. The initial chaos seems to support this idea. Yet that did not stop God from creating Paradise on Earth where He put His “new” creation.

With this two creations – one new and the other condemned -- existing at two different levels – physical and spiritual realms -- and yet close to one another, we have what we see “in the beginning” in the Garden of Eden. Paradise was man and woman’s home. God walked with them in the Garden, to show that God related with humans freely on a spiritual level even though they also lived on the physical plane. It comes as no surprise then that Satan, in the form of a serpent, could also interact with humans. Satan certainly knew (and knows) how to manipulate physical realities to suit his schemes.

Yet, we often fail to realize how much God had done in the beginning that proves His power, wisdom, compassion and love in preparing the Universe to benefit humans. The light, the seas, the mountains, the planets, the stars, the plants, the animals, the seasons and His spirit of life in us – all of those He gave plus freedom and the inheritance of heaven itself. Still, many of us dwell on the one negative thing: The forbidden fruit or the downfall of humans. And from that, people proceed to question the wisdom of creation; no, the goodness and the intentions of God. Sometimes, the very existence of God: “There is no God; God is nothing.”

We question God’s wisdom when we should accept His grace and justice in doing what He does and what He has done. He promised to solve the problem (death arising from sin) and did solve it (Christ’s resurrection) and yet we still reject Him. Just as angels rebelled, just as Adam and Eve rebelled and so with countless others, we continue to reject the testimony of His truth.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil therefore showed that even in Paradise, rebellion was a possibility. He has given humans that much respect and trust that they could roam freely in the Garden except around that dreadful tree. Whatever the real case was then, Satan had entered Paradise but not without God providing a way for humans to beware and to be aware. God did not have to ask permission if humans wanted to live or not; but He did give them and us a choice whether to die or not.

Once eaten (or seen, for the sight alone led to a weakened will), the forbidden fruit would give them the real experience of good and evil. That is, just like Satan who tasted the goodness of heaven (good) and rebelled (evil), eating of it gave humans the same knowledge and the resulting punishment -- death. Separation from God (real death) is worse than “dropping out of life” (physical death or annihilation).

How appropriate then that humans, now fallen, corrupted and bound to die, would now live outside Eden and in a world that seemed to match our idea of a prison for evil spirits. For that is what this world is, the kingdom of Satan. The lord of rebels and sinners has enchained us all under his dominion. We live in sin and in constant fear of death because Satan rules over us. (Satan’s worst fear is his own death. To keep us from believing in God, he poisons us with his own dread of death.) Of course, that is true for those who have not taken complete hold of God’s saving grace through Christ. “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Yes, Christ, has prepared a New Earth and a New Heaven. This final creation will be the final home for humans but not rebellious spirits. This corrupted world may well remain as the abode for demons or it could be, as prophesied, burnt in fervent heat and sent to that place of eternal fire. Who would want to remain here then?

The physical world may have come from “nothing”, whatever that means, and will return to “nothingness” but the spirit in us came from God and will remain forever (see the skeptics rolling their eyes?). But God has assigned a place for our souls and spirits, whether we believe it or not. We don’t have to choose. Our actions will determine God’s ultimate judgment. And He does have the right to do so for He created us.
(Photo above: Guess: butterfly or shell? Click on photo for a closer view.)