Book Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

At 317 pages, the third book in the Potter series is twice the length of the first two. While the first book started very slowly, and was a rather tedious read, this book has a very well-developed plot. There are the usual inclusions of charms, magic words, etc., but to a much lesser degree, numerically and proportionally, than either of the first two books.

I find it curious, but the body of the story notably lacks much reference to the basic witchy stuff found copiously in the first books. Moreover, after early introduction of nasty concepts, there is very little of this beyond sightings of the Dementors and events with the Divination teacher, until the last 1/5 of the book. By around page 235, the tension mounts tremendously, and we are taken from one high-stress crisis to another until page 307. Most of the situations are “nightmare material”, and the impression of being “stuck” there becomes oppressive.

Each of the three books has been handled with a totally different literary approach. I expect this is done partly to draw the reader to continue reading the series, not knowing what to really expect next. I would suggest that book three should reasonably be intended for an older audience than the first two, but it certainly does not indicate that within the text. (This is not a statement of endorsement for older children; I categorically oppose it as reading material for any children.)

Occult concepts introduced in this third book include levitation, divination, demonic possession, trance mediumship, “positive force”, omens, the third eye, altering reality through concentration, and ability to communicate with animals. We learn how to read tea leaves on page 80. The concept of zombies is introduced through the Dementors, which are not really alive, and which “suck the soul” out of people, who then remain alive without their soul. There is also a scene towards the end which resembles a common trance-deepening exercise: that of descending a set of stairs which are accessed through the base of a huge tree. The story does not use this in a trance-related context. However, the correspondence is there, complete to arriving in a secret passage which takes the traveller to a hidden place.

Another idea subtly shown at the end is that we all have a bit of everyone else inside us, especially those we love (p. 311-312). This is a basic occult concept, that we are all interconnected with one another, and with everything else, as we are all united in the “God – force”. Our benevolent attitude towards others brings them into our environment, and increases our power.

On page 45, the author of one of the school books is “Cassandra Vablatsky”. I find this is a little too close to the last name of the founder of theosophy, and the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky to be an unintended coincidence.

Blasphemies are up from volume two, along with other swearing. There is also a lot of focus on alcohol consumption, including excess. We find flippant references to killing enemies (p159-160), reflection on the vulgarity of spanking (p. 24), ascribing opposition to wicked things as a product of fear (p. 1), and the typical twisted logic about rule breaking that permeates the books. (p. 29) One of the young people is found taking bets, which are also beyond his means. (p. 190). There is also a significant increase in interpersonal conflict throughout the story, including among the friends. At the end, we have two different pair of characters engaged in a drawn out consideration of killing an enemy character. “Magi” are said to be wizards; historically they were astrologers. (p.83) This misinformation could have significant implications for how children reading the book view the account of the magoi who visited Christ as a young child.

Another “bad judgement” item on p. 149 is a candy called “Acid Pop”. Now, the name refers to its ability to burn the mouth of the eater, but why would Rowling think it appropriate to make light in a children’s book with a supposedly-comical reference to dropping acid?

Christian concepts or terms which are misused in Prisoner of Azkaban include being born again (p. 164), and a cross as a symbol of suffering (p. 81). This latter is particularly offensive, as it is seen in a crystal ball. Since the cross only became a symbol of suffering as a direct consequence of Jesus’ crucifixion, this is one more cheapening of our Lord and His things.

We see a new character, Professor Lupin, who is the embodiment of Christian character: gracious, poised, gentle, polite, honest, careful, considerate, forgiving, etc, etc. He is the professor for Defence against the Dark Arts. He is a werewolf, and he is a “good” guy.

I found two curious trends in Prisoner of Azkaban that I did not see in the previous two books: a notable portion of the magic done is simply ludicrous, such as “teaching doors to recognize” someone (p.199). Until this example, I made no note, but this one was the crowning nonsense. Also, the references to divination throughout the book tend to be mocking. From the tone, a reader might get the impression that the author holds it in low esteem. (see p. 219) I doubt that this is the case.

On page 238, an episode of demonic takeover in trance mediumship is clearly described. This is an ugly image to put before children, and is open demonization. Later in the story, it is referred to as the second “real” fortune-telling done by the teacher in question!

The latter 60 – 75 pages of the story are frightening, violent, and often bizarre. It seems that all the exclusions of witchy-ness were to make room for this final, mega-dose of evil weirdness. Pages 251 – 252, we find Harry “feeling …. empty” because he had not killed a man – his nerve had failed him! Thirty pages later, a Dementor attacks Harry, and the scene is described in painful, terrifying detail; the kind of scene children have nightmares over.

Further research reveals the terms “petroma / patroma” in the writings of both Alice Bailey and Helena Blavatsky. Amongst other things, Petroma “was the name of the double set of stone tablets used by the hierophant at all initiations during the final Mystery” (see term sheet for reference) A ‘hierophant” is “official expounder of sacred mysteries or religious ceremonies esp. in ancient Greece; initiating priest” according to Oxford[1]. In other words, it is someone considered to be the wise one in an occult context, who is able to tell all the secrets of the system to which they adhere. The Petroma is their written table of “secrets”, and appears to be an occult mimic of the stone tablets given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Prisoner of Azkaban introduces the concept of a “Patronus” (petronus). The meaning of the word is the former master of a slave, but as explained on page 312, the story has a “patronus” for Harry of his father appearing to him. The explanation is that his “father is alive in you, Harry … you found [your father] inside yourself.” Everyone being a part of the other is an occult concept rooted in the idea of universal energy that contradicts the Scripture.

Many of the problems with this series are subtle inclusions, such as the Acid Pops. Are they harmless? Is it only “fantasy”? If it didn’t happen with such frequency, and cover the spectrum of occult, misbehaviour, and abuse of Christian symbolism, some might be persuaded. I am not. But the culmination in open demonism and occult violence should end the debate; this book is not suitable for the well-being of children, and we who claim to know Christ are obligated to ensure that we raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not in the mentorship of the devil. Christian parents in particular will give account for introducing their children to this evil.