HARRY POTTER: A JOURNEY TO POWER

By Marcia Montenegro (page 4 of 4)

Written October, 2001

THEMES OF DARKNESS, DISOBEDIENCE, AND OCCULTISM IN BOOKS TWO, THREE AND FOUR

Conclusions on first four books

The "bad' characters are painted so badly, even cartoonish in the case of the Dursleys, that Dumbledore, Harry, and his pals look good. But it's all relative. And that is the problem: relativism. Harry's use of the occult, Dumbledore and Harry's deceptions, Harry's many lies and disobedience are camouflaged by the extreme evil of Voldemort and Draco Malfoy. Who notices a poisonous snake in a room full of snarling tigers? When Harry and Dumbledore are examined closely, without the snarling tigers around, one can see that the behavior of these characters is far from moral.

There is the matter of Harry's connection to Lord Voldemort. Harry's scar, which he received when Voldemort murdered his parents, hurts when Voldemort is near or is planning something that will ultimately endanger Harry (Goblet of Fire, Chapter Two, 638, 652, 706). Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand each contain a feather from the same phoenix (Goblet of Fire, 697). Both Harry and Voldemort speak "parselmouth," the language of serpents. Harry has dreams and psychic visions of what Voldemort is doing. Although the idea is in all four books, the fourth book in particular presents a view that there is a psychic connection between Voldemort and Harry. What is the purpose of this connection?

As with the connection between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, the connection shows the light and dark side of magick (the Force in Star Wars). This is not about good and evil so much as it is about using power. The source for both the dark powers of Voldemort and for the sorcery of Harry and Dumbledore is the same. The indication in the books is that those who become dark wizards do so from their own will; that is, it is entirely under one's control as to whether one is a dark or white magician. The message is that as long as one chooses to use these powers for good, then one is good. [See Note B at end of article].

This raises the question: what is ‘good' exactly according to these books? If Harry is good, then it must be good to use sorcery for good, since that is what the books advocate. If Harry lies and puts himself above the rules, which he does consistently, then that must be good as well, since Harry is the hero and is presumed to be good. Many defend these books on the ground that this is a story of good versus evil; therefore, one must conclude that in order to do good, one can lie, deceive, act maliciously, and use sorcery if the intention is good, or if the results are acceptable. Is this an ethic that one can endorse? It depends on what standard one is using for the ethic. If one uses the occult as the standard, then the answer is yes. In the occult, power is the ultimate source; there are no standards of absolute good and evil. Therefore, one's intentions, the results of one's actions, and one's subjective rationalizations for the actions are the measuring rod. But if one uses good from God as taught in His word as the standard, then practices such as spirit contact, divination, casting spells, deception, and maliciousness would not be practiced by ‘good' characters without remorse and consequences.

This brings us to the crux of the problem with Harry Potter. It is not that the books present occult practices or immoral actions. It goes even beyond the fact that the books endorse these actions for Harry. The issue is what is the nature of good, and how is it defined in these books? If Harry is good, or is doing good, and if these books are about good versus evil, then what is this ‘good' based on? Where do the books present the standard for this? Where is the moral absolute? Does it reside in Dumbledore, who not only helps Harry in some of his plots, but also rewards him even when he has misbehaved? Does it reside in Harry, who has been shown in this article to lack a moral character? Does the good depend solely on intentions or outcomes, as the books' storylines suggest? Or does the good depend on sorcery itself, the neutral power that enables one to practice light or dark magick? One cannot claim the books teach a moral lesson of good versus evil if the books themselves do not present a clear picture of what this ‘good' is, or if they present a distorted picture of it.

Ultimately, it is not that the Potter books provide an immoral universe, but rather that they present one that is morally neutral.

NOTE A:

Occult sources describing divination, which is taught at Hogwarts in many forms – the Runes, arithmancy, astrology, scrying, and psychic techniques:

Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, a recognized authority on the occult and on some Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santeria, has in her Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic entries for divination on 190-254, which include astrology, chiromancy, I Ching, and tarot. On 191, she states, "Divination can best be defined as prediction of the future or the discovery of secrets by means of a variety of occult methods."

Encyclopedia of Occultism, on page 125, not only lists divination but also gives it over 4 columns (which covers over 2 pages) of very small print.

The Magician's Companion lists these pages for divination in the index: 43, 132, 138, 147, 183-4, 189, 217-19, 230, 277-9, 301-2, 466, 497, 505, 507, 515, 523, 530, 534, 536, 544, 549. Some of these pages include info on the Tarot, the I Ching, and Runes, the last of which is also mentioned in the Potter books.

Janet and Stewart Farrar, in their Witches' Bible, list methods of divination in a chapter on "Clairvoyance and Divination."

Rosemary Guiley has an entry for Divination, and states that it "traditionally is an important skill of the folk witch. In some societies, divination has been performed only by special classes of trained priests or priestesses. Divination remains an important skill for many contemporary Witches and Pagans," (104).

NOTE B:

Excerpts from article, "The Dark Side," on CANA website:

In one book, a young boy at a wizardry school (not Harry Potter) is listening to the professor explain that practicing the black arts is not really evil at all, but is just the exaggeration and twisting of normal human traits: "By ‘black,' I do not mean evil. Or wicked. I mean dark and deep, as in the black water of the deepest lakes," (Yolen, 83). This view of evil is not uncommon in occult philosophies. Evil is usually expressed in one or more of the following ways, which may overlap: the dark side is just another aspect of the good; both good and evil are needed for the balancing of energy and life (polarity); a magician must master and control all aspects of himself in order to master the spirits and forces of sorcery; evil is a force; good & evil are part of the whole, and therefore, are ultimately the same thing; and, finally, good and evil are transcended and combined in the One.

. . .[. . .] . . . One does not necessarily choose evil but goes to the dark side almost inadvertently through emotions that one has failed to control. The very Zen-like Yoda in "Star Wars" says that the dark side of the Force is accessed through fear and anger (natural emotions, not evil). This is similar to what the teacher says to the boy at the wizardry school. The young wizard is told that "[w]e are all made up of such deep and dark emotions, and as we grow more mature, we learn to control them," (83). The message is, control your emotions, master yourself, and you will keep the dark side at bay. This message is also found in the first four Harry Potter books. Harry is not taught so much to do moral good, as he is to control his powers. Even in using his powers for a heroic act, Harry practices deception and disobedience on an almost constant basis. Morality is irrelevant as a value in itself; what matters is that the ends justify the means. This kind of compromise is accepted, even lauded, in a world where there is no absolute good or evil. Of course, for a wizard (sorcerer), self-mastery is of paramount importance since self-mastery precedes mastery of the forces and spirits he believes he will be manipulating in his occult art.

In this view, man is morally neutral, like the Force. As Rabbi Cooper states, "[W]e are neither good nor evil in our nature. We are simply the product of the accumulated influences in our lives, plus the most important variable: our free will," (157).

Selected Sources:

Brennan, J. H. Magick for Beginners, The Power to Change Your World. St.Paul: Llewellyn, 1999.

Brown, Colin, ed. and trans. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan and Paternoster, 1976.

Cooper, Rabbi David A. God is A Verb. NY, NY: Riverhead Books/Penguin Putnam, 1997

Crow, W. B. A Fascinating History of Witchcraft, Magic, and Occultism. Hollywood: Wilshire Book Company, 1968.

Drake, Alison. Black Moon. New York: Ballantine Books/Random House; Toronto: Random House of Canada Limited, 1989.

De Grivy, Grillot. Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy. Dover publications, 1971.

Farrar, Janet and Stewart. A Witches' Bible. Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing, 1996.

Gonzalez-Wippler, Migene. The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies & Magic. 2d ed. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1996.

Guiley, Rosemary. Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Checkmark Books/Facts on File, 1999.

Ravenwolf, Silver. Teen Witch. 1st ed. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1998.

Sadoul, Jacques. Alchemists and Gold. Transl. Olga Sieveking. G. P. Putnams' Sons: New York, 1970.

Smoley, Richard and Jay Kinney. Hidden Wisdom, A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions. New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1999.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. Citadel Press/Carol Publishing, 1996.

Tresidder, Jack. Dictionary of Symbols. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997.

Tyson, Donald. The Truth About Ritual Magick. Llewellyn Publications, 1994.

Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. R. K. Harrison, ed. Chicago: Moody, 1985.

Whitcomb, Bill. The Magician's Companion. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1994.

Yolen, Jean. Wizardry Hall. NY: Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, Inc., 1999.

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