Reading as a Spiritual Practice: Harry Potter
Two warnings as we begin:
- If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series and you don’t want to read a spoiler, stop here. Come back tomorrow.
- If you believe that all who read Harry Potter are going to hell because they are about witchcraft, you can save your digital “ink” and not comment. I will delete any comments like that. I have a firm grasp on fantasy vs. reality. Thank you for your concern.
With those out of the way, let’s talk about Harry! One of the hardest things about writing this post is deciding what to include. I am a fanatical fan of Harry Potter. I have read all seven books multiple times. I have seen all eight movies multiple times. I have read the books aloud to my children, bought them magical wands of their own, dressed each of them up as a Harry Potter character for Halloween, and I know my Harry Potter character MBTI type. In fact, this is not the first time I have blogged about the series either. Did I mention that I am a fan?
One of the reasons that I am a fan is that there is so much material about the spiritual life! The importance of community is displayed in the deep friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Our need for a wise mentor is brilliantly shown in the character of Albus Dumbledore. The human tendency to judge a person based on our limited knowledge of them becomes crystal clear as the character of Severus Snape is fully developed.
The element I want to offer here today is an overriding theme in the whole series: there is light and darkness in each of us. Sirius Black tells Harry in the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, “The world isn’t divided in good people and Death Eaters. There is both good and bad in each of us. Light and darkness.” That is one of those statements that rings true all the way through my body.
Draco Malfoy is a wonderful example of one character that JK Rowling plays this theme out with. Malfoy hates Harry. Malfoy desires power and status. Malfoy will seemingly do anything to achieve his goal. But, when push comes to shove, Malfoy won’t commit murder. His darkness doesn’t overwhelm him completely.
Harry himself, our hero, feels the darkness growing in him. Not only is there the whole “he’s a living horcrux issue” but there is his own personal darkness as well. Harry feels natural anger that he was orphaned and then left to live with people who hated him. He wants revenge on his own personal agenda. Harry lashed out in frustration that Ron and Hermione have kept secrets from him over the summer he is 15 years old. He allows this frustrating anger to isolate him from his friends for a season and evil, or Lord Voldemort, fed off of that anger. There is darkness that lives inside all of us.
Harry needed a “horcrux-ectomy” in order to only deal with his own inner darkness. I don’t think they offer those at your average ER!
However, you and I know the darkness that lurks. We know the places where we choose darkness over light. We know the ways that we even prefer the darkness. Harry makes a heroic choice to snuff out the darkness. Yours probably doesn’t need to be so dramatic but we, too, must make sacrifices to follow the light.