Michael O’Brien Thinks Potter is Bad News!

No surprise there. Read about his new book here.


  1. Obviously Mr. O’Brien needs a copy of How Harry Cast His Spell as a primer to symbolic writing in the Anglican Tradition. Or a classics education. Or even Dorothy L. Sayers translation of the Divine Comedy.

  2. Thanks, Inked. That made me smile!

  3. Ouch! I’m not familiar with Harry Potter or Michael O’Brien. But when the introduction was written by someone who includes “exorcist” in their job description, it’s probably safe to say that the book itself will not be supportive of pop culture. Like a hammer always looking for a nail to hit, I suppose a professional exorcist is always looking for a demon to rebuke. Though in my experience, the best way to curse the darkness is to simply turn on the light.

    I believe children are more intellectually interpretive than they are generally given credit, and are more likely to learn morality (or a lack thereof) from their parents’ example than they are from a book.

    Regardless, I have found that as a person progresses in wisdom, morally and spiritually, that over time, their life and the things they view or experience become increasingly viewed from the perspective of the meaningful and sacred. Whatever it is. Like Harry Potter, and Twilight. It all is interpreted, meaning is identified, and their life is enriched. Even the despicable (e.g., the evening news) becomes a reinforcement for the meaningful world view, stubbornly revealing the order in God’s universe (just the unpleasant parts of it).

    In contrast, I have noticed that the increasingly worldly “heathen,” ever seeking greater ignorance (the better to be irresponsible by) views the world and all within it as increasingly meaningless, and even profane. Sometimes, quite literally so.

    And so, I sometimes wonder about those who make a living out of calling to us to “come see the violence inherit in the system,” or whatever the call du jour is. And, I wonder which world view they see the world from. And why.

    Because, I think we’d all agree that oftentimes the observation may say as much about the observer as it does the observed.

  4. To all those here who have taken upon themselves to deconstruct Mr. O’Brien, my suggestion to you is to actually read one of his books, particularly, _Father Elijah: An Apocalypse_, as well as his essay on Potter,
    The Potter Controversy: or Why that boy sorcerer just won’t go away.

    Mr. O’Brien’s work can be justly critiqued like any other work. But superficial critiques and attempts at psychoanalize an author from what someone reads on a book jacket are sophomoric exercises and a waste of time.

    To discerning readers, Michael O’Brien’s work read like true literature. He’s also a painter. He’s very well-versed in the classics, thank you. At the very least his work deserves fair criticism at that level and not amateurish attempts at reducing his work, or his psyche, into this mould or that.


  5. P.S.

    Mr. O’Brien maintains a list of his literary criticisms of the new occultic genres at the following URL:


  6. Theo, as a newcomer to HogwartsProfessor, you couldn’t know (?) that we have discussed Mr. O’Brien and his opinions in re Harry Potter for a few years, hence the brevity of this post. It’s a tired subject, not indifference to the topic, that makes us say “yet again, Michael O’Brien.”

    It would testify to your sincerity, however, in chastising readers here for not researching Mr. O’Brien more thoroughly before rolling their eyeballs at his Harry Hating assertions sans argument to have searched this web site for previous discussion of ‘Michael O’Brien.’

    Here is a bit of what you would find there, this from August, 2007:

    [Mr. O’Brien’s] essay also is a textbook illustration of defamation by analogy and by assertion rather than with arguments made using text as evidence. It is masterful sleight of hand to link Ms. Rowling with Catholic touchstones for decadence and moral error; note especially the effort to make Harry a gilded Apostle for the “culture of death” and for the advance of “secular humanism,” “gnosticism,” and relativism, efforts made without the substance or courtesy of argumentation.

    It is painful reading when a man of extraordinary gifts and who has sincere concerns about the demise of Christian culture goes to such lengths to demonstrate through sophistry what cannot be proven discursively, namely, that reading Harry Potter is corrosive to the soul and to culture in general. I hope you will read Harry Potter and “the Death of God”, nonetheless, and share your thoughts about it here, especially if you think I have been uncharitable in my comments. I marvel that an intelligent reader and a man of evident devotion can be so far out in left field about the merits and failings of the sort of counter-cultural literary event that I think a culture warrior and artist should be celebrating.”

    Thank you for joining the conversation here. Please, though, next time you visit, try to avoid doing exactly what you condemn others for having done and learn a little more about the subject at hand before criticizing or dismissing those with whom you disagree.

  7. Well, John, that kind of says it all. I don’t think people who are critical of Harry Potter really understand that those of us who have read and discussed the books for the last five to ten years are not doing so out of some infatuation with popular culture. Harry Potter readers who fit that catagory have really moved on. Those of us who are still around have found something deeper in the books, something that mirrors our own spiritual beliefs, and it’s not paganism.

    While Rowling was still writing the series, I constantly read all the nay-sayers, but now that the books are finished and it’s been a few years, I do roll my eyes and dismiss them. And I suppose I shouldn’t, but more often than not, I just don’t feel that they are really adding to the discussion. I’ve not read Michael O’Brien’s works, so I do fit that group of people that Theo speaks of. But, John, I know that you don’t randomly comment on anyone’s work without reading it thoroughly first. Thanks for the links to the past posts. I’ll have to go back and do some re-reading. Or it’s possible that I didn’t read them at the time. After Deathly Hallows came out, I was quite satisfied with the ending and stayed away from some of the negative discussions that were going on. So I may have skipped Mr. O’Brien’s view back in 2007.


  8. Sandra Miesel says

    Although I’m not read Michael O’Brien’s fiction (and doubt that he’s read mine), I have studied his essays. In fact, I’ve collided with him several times over the past decade. (Google our names together and see.) This got a bit awkward after he blurbed my book with Carl Olson, The Da Vinci Hoax. That being said, I see a fundamental and continuing problem with O’Brien’s narrow understanding of symbols and how they work. The great symbols of human culture do not constitute a static code. O’Brien has also at times misrepresented the content of what he’s criticizing and shown a lack of understanding of the history and context of fairy tales and fantasy. I have been particularly annoyed by his condenscending attitude towards Rowling in recent essays. After implying an “outside” source of her sudden inspiration about Harry, he tries to absolve her of satanic intent by saying that she just didn’t understand what she was writing about. Sorry, JKR is a highly conscious artist and a careful researcher. But then, O’Brien condescended to CS Lewis, too. I don’t want to say more until I’ve read his new book.

  9. Karen_St_Louis says

    I have read a number of Michael O’Brien’s novels, as well as his Landscape With Dragons. I do believe that he is an incredibly gifted artist both as a painter and as a writer, and I am sympathetic to his ideas about the importance of respecting the traditional meanings of symbols. However, it seems to me that he suffers from an overly rigid form of orthodoxy motivated by fear, which drives him to spot the devil under every bush. None of us are perfect, but God is able to work through us anyway, and I believe that He is able to work through literature that doesn’t pass Mr. O’Brien’s strict guidelines for symbolic orthodoxy.

    I also believe that Michael O’Brien is on the verge of being a truly great writer, but that the rigidity of his thinking gets in his way. (Although Father Elijah, and especially Sophia House, blew me away.)

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