Freemasonry, Part 3: Harry Potter and the Masonic Order (Russian)

It would be easy to assume that the man who made this video is a religious crank, but, if he is expert on the rites and symbolism of Freemasonry and he sees clear connections with the events and characters of the Harry Potter novels, this takes on real importance for Rowling Studies (I refer you to Nick Jeffery’s post about Rowling’s current twitter page header and the possible link to her father’s past: Freemasonry and J. K. Rowling: Strike 8).

Sadly, I do not understand Russian. I have written friends who are fluent speakers and asked them to share the high points of the video. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment boxes below.

Is J. K. Rowling “Bigoted”? Classroom Discussion Suggests Tide is Turning

Much has been made of this video as an example of a great teacher showing his students how to think critically. The instructor was celebrated in the conservative blogosphere and among the twitterati as “what pupils in schools need most;” he even landed an interview with Piers Morgan.

Only those who believe that classrooms, to include seemingly open discussions like the one in the video above, are places where ‘real learning’ happens or can happen fail to see what is painfully obvious to a homeschooling parent or to readers of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. The student whose viewpoint is transformed in the exchange offered his ‘woke’ opinion about Rowling’s supposed transphobia because he thought it was the accepted view of everyone conversant with social media trends; as soon as he realized the teacher is not on board, he has an epiphany and accepts the teacher’s view. If the teacher had been a “critical thinker” who thought that Rowling was “murdering people!” because of her gender critical views, the student would have been won over or re-established in that received opinion.

We’re a long way from “critical thinking” in either case. The student, frankly, is just a toady or he could have found the arguments of the Rowling Revilers in which they make their case that the author is indeed a danger to those people who identify with a gender that is not their biological sex.

That being said, I still find the video of the hipster Socratic teacher taking a seemingly neutral view of this controversy and all but siding with Rowling’s defenders in the end a very encouraging sign.

Not about the possibility of effective classroom learning today, alas. If the teacher were truly about fostering examination of evidence, of course, he would have insisted on finding the best possible arguments from the Neo-Harry Haters and examining them along with Rowling’s views and those of her defenders. As it is, he allows the student-sycophant to change his views to align with what he thinks his teacher’s are or with the ‘critical thinking metamorphosis’ that he is selling.

What is encouraging is that the teacher did not fear being cancelled by angry students for not being on board and cheerleading anyone afflicted with the delusions of gender dysphoria. Check out this 2019 Atlantic piece about what happened to Camille Paglia when the students at her university decided she need to be cast into the outer darkness and about the fear with which this transgender feminist’s colleagues were possessed in speaking out in her defense.

Those days are not totally behind us, of course; the internet puritans and thought police never rest on this subject. We are, however, turning a corner if men like this do not object to being filmed while teaching students not to accept the narrative that Rowling is a transphobe.

I haven’t watched the Piers Morgan interview and confess to being curious if the man wasn’t careful to distance himself from the ranks of #IStandWithJKRowling. Regardless, I think his five minutes of fame and the conjunction of “critical thinking” and the position that Rowling is not bigoted has to be considered a win in the ongoing war for public acceptance of her positions.

Merry Christmas, Serious Readers!

It is Christmas Eve on the traditional Church calendar — and I wish you all the blessings of the Feast of the Nativity!

The video above is of a concert given by the Orthodox Christians in the far north of California, the Scott Valley. The singers include students and teachers at the St Photios Orthodox Theological Seminary (SPOTS) as well as nuns from the St Elizabeth Convent and the St Gregory Palamas Monastery. Enjoy!

Nick Jeffery and I recorded the third Rowling Studies podcast this morning (to read about the theory we were discussing, click here). It was so much fun that it seemed to me that Christmas had arrived a day early.

Which is more the rule than the exception of my time spent here and at the HogwartsProfessor Substack page. After Vigil services tonight, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time in many years — inspired by Joe Posnanski — and I cried just like I have every other time I’ve seen it, tears of gratitude for the friends and family with whom I have been blessed.

You are no small part of that. Thank you for joining us here and on the Substack site, to include the new Rowling Studies podcast. Without your joining in the conversation, it would always be panning for fool’s gold rather than the solid light chrysalis of literary alchemy it often is.

Merry Christmas, Serious Readers! May Christ be born in our hearts today and remain there always.

‘How Harry Cast His Spell’ Book Launch in Moscow: A New Translation Fifteen Years Post Publication — Just in Time?

I was invited last week to do an interview with a Ukrainian radio show or podcast about the new translation of How Harry Cast His Spell into Russian, a Nikea Books endeavor. I was more than skeptical about this, maybe even rude, because I did not recall Tyndale Books saying anything to me about translation rights for the book being granted to Nikea. I searched my email, though, and eventually found a 2021 note from Nikea asking me for those rights; I forwarded it to Tyndale and my agent — and never heard about it again.

I forwarded the interviewer’s email to a friend in DC who is fluent in Russian and he sent back a link to the YouTube conversation above. He reported that one of the panelists said that she had corresponded with me and thought I was anything but aloof. I searched my email again for an ‘Elizaveta’ and once again found the person in question. I even shared one of our conversations about alchemy in a 2015 HogwartsProfessor post.

My friend in DC reported, too, that the Orthodox priest in the panel’s audience who talks in the last ten minutes of the video was receptive to my book’s thesis. That’s a relief; now if we could only get a Christian publisher in Greece to print a translation in their language, I’d have something to give my nay-sayers in most Orthodox Christian countries.

The funny thing? I couldn’t write How Harry Cast His Spell today knowing all we now do about Rowling’s core beliefs, life experiences, political and religious opinions, and formative psychological crises. There is a surfeit of Christian content in her Harry Potter novels and she was writing I believe to foster a transformed vision and imaginative experience of resurrection in Christ, but I’d have to pull way back on the suggestions just beneath the surface of that book’s pages that Rowling is any kind of traditional or ‘orthodox’ believer. She may qualify as a conventional ‘Big Tent’ Anglican Christian, but even 85% of the global Anglican Communion thinks that is well short of the faith once received for all time.

Our project at the Substack HogwartsProfessor and our ‘Rowling Studies’ podcast there is to move to the fourth evolution or generation of critical thinking of the author’s work, a perspective much less focused on the latest book or the one about to be published than on her work as a whole and on both the ‘Lake’ or biographical content as well her ‘Shed’ artistry and meaning. That’s a quantum leap in quality and perspective from the work I was doing in 2008 in the wake of Deathly Hallows’ publication; I’m proud of that work and will gladly talk about the Hogwarts Saga’s Christian content, but there’s much more to those books and to Rowling than could have been written at that time.

Copies of the Russian translation are only available to Western readers online through a book service in Helsinki (I kid you not). You can read 22 pages of the translation at the Nikea Book’s page dedicated to it (well, you can read it if your Russian is up to snuff). I recently purchased the rights to How Harry Cast His Spell back from Tyndale and hope to be publishing an updated guide to each of the Harry Potter novels beginning with Philosopher’s Stone in 2024. Stay tuned to the Substack HogwartsProfessor and Rowling Studies for more on that adventure.

Here is a machine translation of the Russian text beneath the video above in case you’re interested. Beneath it is a demonstration of what Artificial Intelligence can ‘create’ in images when given the command “Imagine a Party at Hogwarts.” Even five years ago, I think these pictures might have passed as genuine photographs. Scary.

Translation: Why today it is necessary to read “Harry Potter”

 “It is possible to find happiness even during dark times” Presentation of the book “How Harry Enchanted the World”

 980 views, 3 weeks ago,  Nov 30, 2023

On November 21, the Pokrovsky Gate Cultural Center hosted a presentation of John Granger’s book “How Harry Hexed the World.” The amazing world created by JK Rowling has not left anyone indifferent for more than twenty-five years. 

 But why? 

 The story of a young wizard is not just another fantasy book for teenagers. This is a fascinating dialogue with the reader, almost spiritual literature, in which the author, through vivid images and mysterious symbols, tries to convey important meanings to readers.

The publication of J. Granger’s study “How Harry Hexed the World” is a good reason to return to the conversation about history, which somehow helps to live in the present, even in such a difficult, dark present. Why is it possible and necessary to read Harry Potter today? 

We invited our guests to answer this question: – Elizaveta Kasilova – Candidate of Philological Sciences, Higher School of Economics, specialist in the works of J. Rowling. – Maria Steinman is a professor at the Higher School of Economics, a researcher of the fantasy genre. – Victoria Malakhova is a journalist, author of the Vitok telegram channel and the Contents podcast. 

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Christmas Thoughts About ‘Zone of Interest,’ a Timely and Timeless Film

Ten days ago, Zone of Interest, a Holocaust film, was released in the United States. It’s one of those movies that gets serious ‘Best Picture’ talk at Academy Awards time. From the picture’s Wikipedia entry:

The Zone of Interest is a 2023 historical drama film written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis. A co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland, the film centers on Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife as they strive to build a dream life next to the concentration camp. It stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller in the lead roles.

 The Zone of Interest premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on 19 May 2023 to critical acclaim, winning the Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize. It was released in the United States on 15 December 2023, and will be released in the United Kingdom on 2 February 2024, by A24, and in Poland on 9 February 2024 by Gutek Film. It was named one of the top 5 international films of 2023 by the National Board of Review and was selected as the British entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards, and was one of the 15 finalist films in the December shortlist.

If you’ve read the Amis book on which Zone is “loosely based,” I think you’ll shake your head in wonder: the plots of the two story versions share a scene and major characters — the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Commandant’s home just outside its walls and him and his family — but little of the action. The novel turns on a love triangle of sorts and involves a collaborating prisoner forced to choose between killing the woman in the dispute between two Nazis and the survival of his own wife; the movie doesn’t have a plot more engaging than the true-to-history assignment of the Commandant to Berlin and back to Auschwitz. “Loosely based,” though, may be exactly right because the two stories share the remarkably sharp message of the human capacity to be consumed with their individual lives in feigned ignorance of and real indifference to the madness taking place all around them.

The movie is making such a big splash because of the way it delivers its version of the message, a method impossible in a book. The writer and director filmed the movie with its bland plot-line — there are no scenes filmed within the operating Concentration Camp or characters trying to kill or save each other — but, post production, he added a sound track of all the noises coming from the machinery of mass murder just out of sight but not of hearing. The viewing audience, however, gets the full audio and is, as you must imagine, stunned beginning to end by the deliberate obliviousness of the story’s players in their relations with one another to the historical crimes against humanity, the scientific and systemic slaughter of more than a million people, taking place within easy earshot.

The trailer for the film can be watched via this link and the story of Glazer’s unique film-making choices can be read at How ‘The Zone of Interest’ Uses Our Ears Like No Other Film. It’s not currently showing in Oklahoma City but I hope to see the movie when it arrives, before or after next year’s Academy Awards. Zone of Interest  seems that rare film that communicates a simultaneously timely and timeless meaning, one that this medium is uniquely capable of delivering so powerfully.

After the jump, I share my thoughts in direct violation of the dictum not to talk about politics or religion over the holidays. Please stop here if you couldn’t be less interested in my ‘take’ on this film and why it is causing such a stir at Christmas time this year. No apologies will be offered to anyone scandalized by the contrarian opinions and traditional perspective which follows.

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