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Traditional Symbols in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike: A Perennialist View
I’ve written in the first posts here at Substack that my weekly posts will turn on a traditional or ‘Perennialist’ view of classic and contemporary story-telling. The plan is to explore the work of J. K. Rowling and other Greats in light of their allegorical content, structure, and symbolism, explorations and explanations that I think are best facilitated through the critical lens of the Perennialist school.
Symbolism is at the heart of this, so today’s post is from a draft chapter of my PhD thesis on just this subject. It refers to introductory and methodology material that preceded it in that draft, but it works as a stand-alone piece on what symbolism is as well as a survey of Rowling’s use of the most important symbols of sacred art — light, eyes, heart, mirrors, Easter — and the Estecean ideas of imagination in the Hogwarts Saga and the Strike mysteries. The endnotes are included; write me if you want the Works Cited pages (it’s already too long for an email, alas). I hope this sample chapter challenges and delights the readers who have written me about the thesis and Coleridge!
Next Monday, look for a post by Nick Jeffrey which will launch our twice weekly posting here. Thank you to all the subscribers and especially those who have let me know what you want to see in these posts; as with today’s chapter, future posts will include Potter material, though they won’t be as ‘heady,’ I promise. See you next week!
A Perennialist Reading of J. K. Rowling’s Work, Part One: Symbolism
Before beginning a Perennialist survey of Rowling’s use of symbols in her work, it is best to review the defining beliefs of this school as such and with respect to art and then to introduce their ideas about symbols. The heart or substance of the chapter follows this review with a discussion of the traditional symbols and ideas Rowling deploys consistently in a Johannine or esoteric logos fashion: eyes, heart, mirrors, Easter, and imagination.
II. Perennialist Ideas about Symbolism
Perennialists per se, as discussed in the methodology chapter, are traditional, not modernist, intellectual instead of rational, and 'from above, downwards and from within, outwards' rather than the reverse. Qua traditionalists, they hold that Tradition is "timeless, formless, and immutable wisdom revealed at the beginning of time," that exists in the world as "the formal embodiment of this wisdom which is transmitted through time," "the living process of the transmission itself," and its "channels of transmission" (Oldmeadow 2011, 60-61). They believe that the highest human faculty of perception and understanding is the intellect or nous, a transpersonal capacity continuous with the Logos fabric of reality. It perceives the intelligible archetypal ideas or logoi that are the essence and cause of everything existent. The intellect is greater than reason, whose working are restricted to judgments made consequent to sense perceptions. Coomaraswamay's touchstone aphorism was Duo sunt in homine, "there are two things in man," both "an immortal spirit" or Intellect and "the mortal soul," the distinction of which he thought "the fundamental doctrine of the Philosophia Perennis wherever we find it" (cited in Perry 1986, 21).
Their orientation, consequently, is "from above, downwards," holding that the material world is a shadow-creation of the spirtitual realities, and "from within, outwards," seeing these realities with the 'eye of the Heart,' the personal intellect. Sacred art is in essence "intellectual rather than aesthetic," human creativity in service to "the attainment of metaphysical Knowledge" (Pallis 1949, 351-352). The artisan's success in this regard is gauged in its audience's being reminded of their divine origin and end and by its engaging and fostering their noetic perception.
Symbols, according to the Perennialists, are the joint of the greater Reality of the spiritual realm and the sensible shadow of it in the created material realm; they exist at and as the intersection of above and below. Symbols are the Forms observed in sacred art, to include the literary or imaginative extra-liturgical arts outside of painting, sculpture, architecture, and music; the "method of operation" in nature to which the artisan deliberately conforms are representations of the Forms in image or word symbols. It is through the intelligible aspect of sensible symbols that human persons noetically perceive and understand the created world and life itself as well as the meaning of sacred art. Symbolism is consequently synonymous on at least one level with knowing and knowledge; the universal language of sacred art is heavy with received traditional forms about the elements of knowing, i.e., the heart, the eye, the mirror, light, imagination, and sacrificial love and the death of individual ego existence.
A. Key to Understanding World, and Life
Just as 'tradition' is today misunderstood as 'convention,' 'intellect is used as a synonym for 'reason,' and 'art,' be it representation of nature or an exercise in abstract expression of emotions or sentiment, is anything but 'sacred' in character today, each contemporary use being almost exactly the opposite of the Perennialist understanding of the word, so with 'symbolism.' In modern parlance, a 'symbol' or 'icon' is an equivalent of a 'sign,' one sensible thing 'standing for' another thing as a mechanical allegory, alieniloquium, whose meaning is a matter of custom or more or less arbitrary assignment. "The 'symbols' of semiology, psycho-analysis, symbolist art, structural anthropology, and current post-modernist theories of architecture are 'signs,' since their referents are knowable by the senses or conceivable by the [rational] mind" (Snodgrass, 49; quoted in Scott, 24).
A symbol as understood in traditional culture, in contrast:
is not based on man-made conventions. It is a matter of the ontological reality of things and as such is independent of man's perception of it. The symbol is a revelation of a higher order of reality in a lower order through man can be led back to the higher realm. To understand symbols is to accept the hierarchic structure of the Universe and the multiple states of being (Nasr 1972, 88; quoted in Oldmeadow 2011, 104).[i]
Every thing, action, or idea, from this view is a symbol, a transparency through which or a shadow from which the observer with a "pure heart" can make out its archetypal origin and cause.
Everything that exists, whatever its modality, necessarily participates in universal principles which are uncreated and immutable essences contained, in Guenon's words, in 'the permanent actuality of the Divine Intellect.' Consequently, all phenomena, no matter how ephemeral or contingent, 'translate' or 'represent' these principles in their own fashion at their own level of existence. Without participation in the immutable, they would 'pure and simply be nothing' [Guenon].... The analogies between the archetypes or 'Divine Ideas' and the transitory material forms of this world... give to phenomena certain qualitative significances which render them symbolic expressions of higher realities (Oldmeadow 2011, 103-104).[ii]
Inured as moderns to consider symbols simply ciphers or synonyms, Eaton notes, "we have to avoid two common errors" that befall those who confuse symbols and signs; "firstly that of mistaking the symbol for the thing symbolized" and "secondly, that of supposing that there is no real and objective relation between the symbol and that which it shadows forth" (Eaton, 187). "The symbol differs from the 'sign' per se in that the symbol partakes of its referent, whereas in contrast, for a sign the signifier and the signified are necessarily and by definition distinct.... It cannot be stressed enough that the symbol is not arbitrary" (Scott, 24, 22).
Schuon all but defines the traditional or theocentric perspective contra nominalism[iii] as having a "symbolist mind:"
The symbolist vision of the cosmos is a priori a spontaneous perspective that bases itself on the essential nature – or the metaphysical transparency – of phenomena, rather than cutting these off from their prototypes... The symbolist mind sees appearances in their connections with essences... This means that it sees things, not "superficially" only, but above all "in depth," or that it perceives them in their "participative" or "unitive" dimension as well as their "separative" dimension (Valodia, 144).
B. The Language of Sacred Art
Everything existent being inherently symbolic from this perspective, what causes one to be chosen over another as more symbolic or a more powerful representative-shadow in image or word is its relative 'connected-ness' with its subject-archetype:
All Created things are both disconnected projections of their creative Principle while being at the same time Its connected radiations. On this basis the symbol could be defined as that in which the relationship of connection predominates over that of disconnection, whereas the predominance of disconnectedness precludes, as it were by definition, any outstanding power to connect us with the Archetype, and it is that power which may be said to confer, on its possessor, the status of symbol (Lings 1991, 8; cf. Scott, 25).
Sacred art, the means by which a traditional culture both reminds its people of the nature of reality and fosters noetic perception in each person (a symbol's referent only being 'visible' to the 'eye of the heart'), speaks in the language of symbols. It is because "the symbol partakes of both the Transcendent and the Immanent," that "it participates in both the Divine and human domains," that it fulfills "its function as the intermediary – the mode of communication" (Scott, 22, 24) between these domains in sacred art. "The content of a symbol is not irrational, but supra-rational, that is to say, purely spiritual.... [The symbol is consequently] is above all a 'key' to supra-rational realities" (Burckhardt 1987, 117). Sacred art is 'sacred' and 'art' precisely because its medium and idiom is symbolism.
C. The Symbolism of Symbolic Perception and Knowledge
To the Perennialists, knowledge had by intellectual perception of the archetype through or in one of its manifestations is sure or true knowledge because it is an understanding of what is fixed and immutable; knowledge had by modern materialist science, because it begins in doubt rather than in the surety of perception, works through discursive reason based on sense perceptions and ideas abstracted from same, perceptions of what it is ephemeral rather than eternal, is relatively groundless and subject to endless correction. Even the valid conclusions of traditional formal logic are little better than a shadow of noetic awareness and recognition of the archetypes.
As foundational, then, as symbolism is to the traditional worldview and the cultures of which it is a hallmark, it is not surprising that there is symbolism that communicates the means of grasping the meaning-at-depth of symbols, the actions corresponding to perception through a transpersonal faculty, and of symbolism itself. The 'Heart' and the 'Eye of the Heart' or just 'Eyes,' as already noted, are word-transparencies for the Intellect as such and its reflection in the person as a lower-case intellect or nous. Light, as in "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), too, is a symbol in picture and written sacred art of the "Christ-Intellect" or Logos.
A mirror is "the symbol of the symbol" because "symbolism can best be described as the visible reflection of ideas or prototypes that cannot be fully expressed in conceptual terms" (Burckhardt 1987, 118); the heart's purification, the cleansing of the personal fallen or atrophied intellect, is described as the "polishing of the mirror" in which the Intellect and its forms may be seen (cf. Matthew 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12). Coleridge's axiom that all knowledge is founded in "the coincidence of an object with a subject" (Coleridge 1817, 336) turns on the defining quality of a mirror, the elision of knowing subject and known object, and the logos of the imagination perceiving the logoi in everything created.
Knowledge of this kind as well as love for an ‘other’ requires a death of sorts, a sacrifice of the individual or egocentric mind in order to identify with the transpersonal logos and its cardiac perceptions. The symbolism of sacrificial death, especially when chosen to save a beloved person or family, is, while certainly an echo of Calvary, also and simultaneously about the "Christ-Intellect" within.
The remainder of the chapter is an exploration of Rowling's use of the symbolism of eyes, heart, light, imagination, empathy, and sacrificial death, the last in part as Easter from the Perennialist perspective. Rowling, as in the symbolism of the mirror, seems to be writing stories about the symbolism of stories.
III. Stories About Stories, Symbols of Symbolism
In her Harry Potter novels at least, Rowling’s stories are laden with traditional Christian symbols. Whole books have been devoted to explaining their meaning, which is to say, their allegorical referents.[iv] There are so many symbols of Christ and of Satan in the adventures of The Boy Who Lived that there is a hint of parody, of Rowling’s teasing the Christian touchstones of English High Fantasy: the Gryffindor Golden Lion (of Judah!), Salazar’s Basilisk, the Dark Lord’s Nagini, and the Slytherine Serpent (the Garden!), the Hippogriff elision of eagle and lion (King of Heaven and Earth!), Dumbledore’s Phoenix (the Resurrection Bird!), the blood of the Unicorn (1 Corinthians 11:23-29!), the White Stag (Bane of Serpents and Resurrection Emblem!), the Philosopher’s Stone (Eternal Life!), and the Bond of Blood (the Eucharist!).[v] Which is to neglect King’s Cross (Calvary!). These images are not only significant in their number but via their place in the story-line; in each of the first six books, an animate symbol of Christ appears at Harry’s near-death when all seems lost in his battle with Voldemort or evil wizards, an appearance coinciding with his ‘rising from the dead.’[vi]
Rowling was not asked explicitly about the Christian content of the series until 2007 during the Open Book Tour of North America after the publication of Hallows. Her response, perhaps a shot at the Christian critics who claimed the witchcraft of the books made them a “gateway to the occult,” was that, to her at least, the Christian symbolism was “obvious” (Adler, 2007).
This is true, as far as it goes, and there is no consequent need to include here a glossary of symbol and referent for Rowling’s often animate Christian images. For a Perennialist reading of the traditional symbols in her work, though, a review of the traditional forms that touch on symbolism, sacred art, and noetic perception, an exegesis of her spiritual artistry overlooked by Rowling's Christian readers to date, is in order.
A. The Eye of the Heart
In conventional postmodern understanding, the heart is a pump and the eye an organ of perception. The two in traditional symbolism are sufficiently related that they become one, that is, ‘the eye of the heart,’ the faculty of noetic perception, the intellect or logos within, that Jesus of Nazareth calls “the heart.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he says that “the light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). Christ introduces this symbolism of the eye as the light or logos within us with a note about the heart or nous where the light-logos resides: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). This last is one of the only two Bible verses quoted in the Hogwarts Saga, which verses Rowling has said “epitomize the whole series” (Adler).
The point of literary art in the Coleridgean vein is defamiliarization with the “lethargy of custom” and the fostering of the imagination, i.e., providing metaphorical oxygen to the spiritual heart, which transforms the reader’s vision of or eyes on the world and his relationship with it. References to eyes and heart, as well as light, consequently, are hallmarks of English imaginative fiction in and post Coleridge. An esoteric Christian fluent in the language of traditional symbolism, Coleridge crowds Rime of the Ancient Mariner with this single eye.
The single “glittering” eye of the ancient Mariner, for example, is what captures the Wedding Guest (cf., Part 1, ll. 3, 13), a feature making him “bright-eyed” there-after (ll. 20, 40). The sailors on the boat curse the Mariner as they die with a singular eye: “Each turned his face with a ghostly pang, and cursed me with his eye” (Part 3, ll. 73-74). The Wedding Guest, as noted, fears “thy glittering eye” at the opening of Part Four (Part 4, l. 5) in echo of the poem’s first stanza and in anticipation of it’s penultimate stanza’s “bright eye” (Part 7, l. 103). In his despair at his companions’ deaths, the Mariner talks about his eyes as his heart (Part 4, ll. 21-29). After confession of his sins on returning to land, the Mariner is guided by his heart (Part 7, ll 68-71).
Coleridge in Rime uses light, the “single eye” of the Sermon on the Mount, and the heart as figures of the human noetic capacity as future writers in English High Fantasy to include Rowling will use them. The heart is beyond reason and sense experience and, in the character whose heart is cleansed and becomes his means of vision, a single eye casting light as much as seeing by it, is the protagonist undergoing the transformation in discernment or illuminating chrysalis that the author as sacred artist is hoping to foster in the reader.
The predominant symbolism of Deathly Hallows is that of eyes. In addition to the headstone citation of “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21) over the grave of Ariana Dumbledore, we have throughout the final novel of the series the single and double or evil-eyed images of the scriptural verses which follow immediately after the headstone “treasure” (Matthew 6:22-23).
The single eyes of Deathly Hallows are the discarnate ‘Mad Eye’ of the late auror Alastair Moody, the “triangular eye” of the Deathly Hallows symbol, and the eye of Dumbledore that appears to Harry in the fragment he has kept of the magical mirror given to him by his godfather, Sirius Black. The first two are discussed in the Quadriga chapter that follows, but have another meaning as “single eyes” per the Perennialist reading; the single eye of Dumbledore, though Harry mistakes Aberforth’s eye for that of his brother Albus, delivers the prisoners trapped at Malfoy Manor which escape and Dobby’s sacrificial death ends Harry’s doubts in the Headmaster’s orders to destroy Horcruxes (chapters 23 and 24). This eye appears again in the ‘mirror’ and ‘Easter’ entries that follow.
The “evil” disembodied eyes of Hallows are the two eyes of the Dark Lord that are enclosed in the Locket Horcrux. When Harry opens it in the Forest of Dean, the eyes speak specifically to the troubled heart of Ron Weasley who is supposed to destroy the Locket with the Sword of Gryffindor. Voldemort’s “dark” eyes “hissed out from the Horcux,” “I have seen your heart, and it is mine.” The satanic voice torments Ron with a description of his “dreams” and “fears,” exteriorizing his fallen state first in words and then in images. “Out of the eyes, there bloomed, like two grotesque bubbles, the heads of Harry and Hermione, weirdly distorted (376, highlighting in original).
The “bubbles” extend to bodies and embrace, and, taunting Ron, they reveal all of the insecurities and fears that darken his heart. His eyes momentarily turn scarlet and Harry fears the Dark Lord has somehow possessed his friend just before Ron succeeds in swinging the Sword and destroying the Horcrux. In this cathartic moment, Ron’s eyes and heart are made “single.”
Harry’s vision, too, is transformed in his otherworldly journey to a netherworld King’s Cross. He has worn glasses all his life and Hermione notes, after becoming Harry via Polyjuice Potion on Privet Drive, that his “eyesight really is awful” (52). He wakes up, though, after sacrificing himself to the Dark Lord’s killing curse in the Forbidden Forest, “naked,” “unscathed,” and “not wearing glasses anymore” (705-706). At this supernatural King’s Cross Station, he creates without incantation or wand using only his thoughts to will robes into existence and Harry, never the smartest wizard in the room, suddenly is near omniscient; Dumbledore uses variations on “as you know, Harry” seventeen times in the ‘King’s Cross’ chapter.[vii] He has traveled to an alocal ‘place’ akin to Logos-land. And it is here that he sees clearly for the first time, literally and figuratively. Rowling has said this scene is “key” to the entire series and is discussed at much greater length in a chapter that follows as are the “green eyes” of Harry Potter and their Dante-esque meaning.
The Cormoran Strike series, written in playful parallel with the Potter books, have only reached their fifth installment at this writing so it is only a possibility that the seventh book in this septology wil be as crowded with eyes as is Deathly Hallows. There are several allusions in the fifth book, Troubled Blood, however, to the single and evil eyes of the Sermon on the Mount and Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Strike, for instance, is a private detective rather than a policeman, a significant departure from contemporary Rowling favorites Ngaio Marsh, P. D. James, and Ruth Rendell whose investigators all work what are known as “procedurals,” police using all the tools and methods of the government agency. Rowling explained in a 2018 interview with the BBC that she did this because “I wanted to explore a far more small-scale, human operation and a far more personal relationship” (BBC 2018).
Strike consequently introduces himself as a “private detective” which Metropolitan policemen in the novels as a rule call a “dick” and readers and civilians often refer to as a “private eye,” if not so far in the Strike books.[viii] There is in Troubled Blood, however, evidence that Rowling continues to use a single eye as a token of special wisdom and two eyes as a marker of evil.
The third of five illustrated pages from Talbot’s ‘True Book,’ for example, the picture in the fourth and central part of Blood, has a large inverted triangle in which are enclosed a reversed triangle enclosing another inverted triangle, the last of which at the drawing’s center and focus is a single masonic eye reminiscent of the “triangular eye” of the Deathly Hallows triangulated circle symbol. The page, as with the second and fourth illustrations from the ‘True Book’ can be read as a three-card tarot card spread, Talbot’s preferred method of divinization.[ix] The single eye in the center of the innermost triangle is identical to the third eye or God’s eye in the center of the forehead of ‘The Devil’ Thoth tarot card’s long-horn goat, the figure at the center of the horoscope Talbot drew for the time and place of Bamborough’s disappearance. The head with horns at the apex (bottom) of the inverted triangle is Talbot’s copy of ‘The Fool’ trump card in this same deck. Just above this head is the word ‘BAPHOMET’ in a hermaphrodite circle, one with both Mars and Venus markings. Both the booklet that comes with the deck that Robin has in her hotel room (Blood 539; Wasserman 21) and The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley she refers to most often (Crowley 67) describes ‘The Fool’ as the “Baphomet.” These cards, ‘The Fool’ and ‘The Devil,’ are represented in the ‘True Book’ page as significators,[x] which is to say Talbot was trying to find the Baphomet, his name for the Essex Butcher.
The central image of the embedded book’s pages that appears in the fourth part of seven in Troubled Blood is a single eye, then, which is described as what the occult or spiritually-minded investigator is seeking. This easily over-looked placement is at least as subtle and important as the burial of Mad-Eye Moody’s single eye in the shadow of the oldest tree in the forest in Hallows but the meaning is the same anagogic one to be discussed in the following chapter.[xi]
Two despicable characters in Blood, both suspects as the man who murdered Margot Bamborough in 1974, also have eye issues. Robin interviews Paul Satchwell in a Warwick pub in 2014; he was Margot’s first lover and a man who abused her physically and emotionally during their relationship. The now seventy-five year old Satchwell is described as “an elderly man with his left eye in surgical dressing,” a consequence of cataract surgery (545, 548). When Robin confronts him with information that surprises him, she notes “the slightly comical, crêpey-faced charmer had been replaced by a mean old one-eyed man” (560).
Mass murderer and psychopath Dennis Creed is similarly at once bi-focal and almost one-eyed. Strike notes at their meeting in Broadmoor that the killer’s signature feature is “the jagged scar which ran from temple to nose, dragging at his left lower eyelid, a relic of the attack that had almost taken half Creed’s sight” (848-849). Robin had learned from the father of one of Creed’s victims that another convict in the first prison he had been in had “tried to stab Creed through the eyeball. Just missed” (616). Strike remembers during this interview that Creed “had dug the eyeballs out of Noreen Sturrock’s face while she was still alive and manacled to a radiator” (848).
Two of the bad guys in Troubled Blood, then, are almost one-eyed, that is, they have the appearance or suggestion of wisdom about them which is false. Satchwell’s paintings are described in gallery promotional material with almost glowing psychological and aesthetic terms: “Paul’s Hellenic-influenced exploration of myths challenge the viewer to face primal fears and examine preconceptions through sensual use of line and color…” (514). Robin describes these mythologically-themed oil paintings, though, as “lascivious” if there was any doubt they were not sacred art (542). Creed, too, sounds like an adept of defamiliarization, in his interview with Strike. He claims that sharing his contrarian understanding of himself as a victim “does people good” because hearing “novel points of view” might “wake them up, if they’re capable of it” (850).
Robin contrasts the formalist killer, a “genius of misdirection,” with the occult seeking of DI Talbot, a man who in the throes of mental illness put all his efforts to solve the disappearance of Bamborough into his hermetic “belief in signs and symbols” (639). Both Creed and Satchwell are sophists, then, seeming men of one-eyed knowledge or wisdom that are just beneath the surface amoral monsters and misogynists, each with the evil eyes of traditional symbolism.
B. The Heart
Eye and heart symbolism as noted are closely linked in the Perennialist view. A traditional reading of Rowling through this lens, then, is sensitive to references to character’s hearts as the residing place and physical marker of logos/noetic capacity within and, per the Sermon of the Mount verses through which this symbolism enters Christian tradition specifically, of love and light as well.
In Hallows, the critical moments in the transformation of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter are described with repeated references to their hearts and the light and darkness within and around them.
Ron Weasley abandoned his two friends on their Horcrux destruction quest. He immediately regretted his decision but had no way to find them. His means of return, however, had been given to him by Albus Dumbledore in his will;[xii] he left Ron the Deluminator, a magical device that can capture the light in any space and return it at the click of a button. To Ron’s surprise, it works in the loving heart as well. As he explained to Harry and Hermione after his return in the Forest of Dean and his providential rescue of Harry from the Locket Horcrux, on Nativity safe at the Burrow he had heard Hermione call his name, a voice calling from the Deluminator in his pocket. When he clicked the device, a “ball of light appeared” outside, which when he approached it entered his heart and took him to his friends.[xiii]
Ron, in brief, surrenders in selfless faith to the light in his heart on Christmas morning,[xiv] the love he feels for his friends, returns to them, risks his own life to rescue Harry in the pool, and confronts in the Locket Horcrux the eyes of Lord Voldemort who tell him, “I have seen your heart, and it is mine” (375). Having been literally illumined, however, Ron’s heart is no longer dark or the Dark Lord’s and he is able to muster sufficient will to destroy his worst fears and insecurities the Eye-Bubbles incarnate.
Rowling said repeatedly after Deathly Hallows was published that the most meaningful chapter in it, a “key” to the books, was chapter 34, ‘The Forest Again’ (cf. Bloomsbury, Cruz, Vieira). It is not an especially long chapter at 14 pages; ‘King’s Cross’ is 18 pages, for example, and ‘The Silver Doe,’ another favorite and the chapter Rowling chooses for public readings, is 25 pages long. It is, however, laden with references to hearts, light, and “the mind’s eye.” “He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered” (691). “His heart was leaping against his ribs like a frantic bird. Perhaps it knew it had little time left, perhaps it was determined to fulfil a lifetime’s beats before the end” (694). “[The Death Eaters] seemed as scared as Harry, whose heart was now throwing itself against his ribs as though determined to escape the body he was about to cast aside” (703).
Harry thinks, too, of his “bounding heart” (692) and his “mind’s eye” (693), and he frightens Neville Longbottom sufficiently that he complains, “Blimey, Harry, you nearly gave me heart failure” (695). In addition to these explicit cardiac references, Harry, in something akin to Ron’s experience with the Deluminator, feels the light within him give him the strength he needs to face death as a willing sacrifice. He summons the departed souls of his parents, godfather, and favorite teacher with the Resurrection Stone Dumbledore had left him in his will (698-699).
The soul-memories that present themselves to Harry, all of whom died to protect him from the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters, tell him “We are part of you” and “they acted like Patronuses to him” (700) with respect to protecting him from Dementors in the Forest. A Patronus is “nothing but light” (366), an exteriorization or “projection of… hope, happiness, the desire to survive” and “it cannot feel despair” (Prisoner, 237).
Harry had been saved only an hour earlier than this walk into the Forest from Dementors in the Battle of Hogwarts. Despairing and unable to cast his protective spell of exteriorized inner light, his friends in Dumbledore’s Army protect him with their Patronuses (648-649) as he had taught them to (Phoenix 606-607). The repeated references to his heart and “mind’s eye” as well as this spectral light within him, the souls of three men and a woman who died in sacrificial love for him, are markers of the sacrificial love Harry exhibited in order to die in order to save his friends.
Troubled Blood has more opaque references to spiritual hearts than those found in Deathly Hallows. Valentine’s Day, most notably, is the literal half-way mark and turning point of the fifth Cormoran Strike novel, the central chapter of the fourth of seven parts. What is supposed to be a time for celebrating romance and conjoined hearts, though, is here the occasion of three exploded relationships: Nick and Ilsa Herbert have argued and separated in the agony following her miscarriage and lost child, rock-star Jonny Rokeby for the “first time ever”(721) calls his son and Strike bellows at him to “GO FUCK YOURSELF!” (476), and Strike and Robin have a screaming match in the street outside her flat due to his outrageous drunken behaviors at a dinner party there (494-498). This Valentine’s Day avalanche requires discussion of the embedded Cupid and Psyche mythology in both Blood and Faerie Queen, the Eros/Anteros distinction, and the Shakespearean symbolism of soul and Spirit as lovers, all of which are discussed in the Psychomachia chapter.
A central tenet of Coleridge’s logos epistemology, as noted above, is that all knowledge is the elision of subject and object, i.e., that one knows anything by the logos within the knower recognizing its logos reflection in the logos created object it observes or understands. The only naturally occurring object in which the knowing subject and known object are the same is a mirror and it is because of this quality that mirrors play such an important role in English High Fantasy. One thinks immediately of the mirror in George MacDonald’s Lilith, Lewis Carroll’s Looking Glass, and the font of Galadriel in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.[xv]
Titus Burckhardt called the mirror “the symbol of symbolism” because “symbolism indeed can best be described as the visible reflection of ideas or prototypes that cannot be fully expressed in purely conceptual terms.” In the human person, the imagination and the heart or intellect if purified capture this reflection thereby grasping the symbol’s intelligible aspect as form. “The heart, centre of the human being, is therefore like a mirror, which must be pure, so that it may receive the light of the divine Spirit…. When the heart has become a pure mirror,… [it] reflects the Divine Truth more or less directly, firstly in the form of symbols (Burckhardt 1987, 117, 120). Rowling uses mirrors in her work as traditional symbols along these lines.
Rowling’s use of mirror symbolism in Philosopher Stone’s Mirror of Erised and Hallows’ Mirror Shard reflects the Perennialist understanding of heart and logos. In both, Harry Potter, a symbol of the heart,[xvi] sees not what he would expect to see, the image of his external existent self or ego-persona, but the logos or Christ within him.
The climax of the series’ first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, finds the Boy Who Lived “miles beneath Hogwarts” in pursuit of the Stone which Dumbeldore has tried to protect from Voldemort’s grasp behind a series of magical obstacles. Harry with Ron and Hermione’s assistance clears all these hurdles invented by Hogwarts faculty members but winds up alone to face the ultimate test set by the Headmaster himself. As Dumbledore explains to Harry later in the Hospital Wing, the Stone was concealed in the Mirror of Erised, an exteriorizing magical object that usually reveals “the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts” (Stone, 213), in such a way that “only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life” (300).
In Half-Blood Prince’s “Horcrux” chapter, the Headmaster reviewed Harry’s achievement in Stone’s battle with Quirrelldemort before the Mirror five years before. He congratulated Harry for remaining “pure of heart” and how his achievement in front of the Mirror should have revealed to the Dark Lord what an extraordinary adversary he had in this eleven year old. “You stared into a mirror that reflected your heart’s desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror?”[xvii] Voldemort cannot grasp what Harry is because “he was in such a hurry to mutilate his own soul, he never paused to understand the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole” (Prince, 511).
Read through the Perennialist lens and the Christian tradition specifically, Harry the Pure Heart stands before a magic mirror in which is hidden a symbol of Christ, the Philosopher’s Stone, which has this meaning because the Elixir of Life that flows from it is a guarantor of eternal life (immortality) and spiritual riches (gold or solid light, symbolic illumination or enlightenment) (Abraham 1998, 145). Christ is the incarnate Word or Logos of God the Perennialists equate with the Intellect. Unlike the Dark-Lord and his minion also standing before the Mirror of Erised in the last chamber, Harry has a pure heart.[xviii] Consequently, Subject and Object, noetic logos and Christ-Logos, unite and the “pure of heart sees God” as Jesus Christ promised in the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God,” Matthew 5:8). How? Harry’s noetic faculty, his heart, who he truly is and what is reflected in the Mirror of Erised, sees the Stone as the Logos it is. The God who is Love (1 John 4:8) lives within Harry’s pure heart and recognizes Himself in the mirror. This divine-other within him reflected there “smiled” and “winked” at the boy, put the Stone in His pocket, and Harry feels it “drop into his real pocket” (Stone 292).
The last book of the series, Deathly Hallows, reflects the first as a series latch in many ways but perhaps in no one correspondence greater than the magic mirrors in both. Harry’s experience with the fragment of his godfather’s Magic Mirror parallels his capacity to see God in his own reflection at the end of Philosopher’s Stone.
In Hallows’ second chapter and Harry’s first appearance, he finds while cleaning out his school trunk the fragment of the mirror Sirius Black had given him in Order of the Phoenix to facilitate communication between them when he was at Hogwarts; the mirror was one of a pair and looking into one of them made the person visible and audible to the person looking in the other (Phoenix 58). Harry had never used the mirror in Phoenix, however, because his godfather had only told him to “Use it if you need me” and he was determined not to give Sirius any reason to put himself in danger (Phoenix 523).
His consequent inability to communicate with Sirius leads indirectly to Black’s death in the Ministry at book’s end. When Harry realizes his mistake, he “hurled the mirror back into the trunk, where it shattered” (Phoenix 858). It is only as he cleans his trunk before he leaves Privet Drive in Hallows that he finds the mirror fragments. After reading an excerpt from Skeeter’s Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, a piece that angers him, he thinks he sees “a flash of brightest blue,” Dumbledore’s single blue eye in the largest mirror fragment Harry had put on his bed. He looks again, checks the wall behind him, and only sees “his own bright green eye looking back at him” (Hallows 28-29).
When Harry first looks in the mirror on finding it in the trunk, he had seen what he expected to see—his own eye looking back at him. In Perennialist language, he sees his façade-self or “I” that is not sacred. The second time, he is more than half-convinced, however skeptical, that he has seen an otherworldly eye, rather than his own. He denies such a possibility. “He had imagined it, there was no other explanation; imagined it, because he had been thinking of his dead headmaster. If anything was certain, it was that the bright blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore would never pierce him again.”
Still, as the only keepsake of his godfather, he treasures the mirror shard. Hagrid gives him a Moke skin bag on Harry’s birthday, a bag in which he can secure his most valuable items.[xix] Harry puts in it the Marauder’s Map, R.A.B.’s locket, and the mirror shard (132). The fragment does not appear again until after Harry and Hermione’s disastrous trip to Godric’s Hollow on Christmas Eve, during which adventure Harry’s wand was broken in the battle with Nagini. Harry sees nothing in the shard then as he rages to himself about how little direction or information Dumbledore had given him (351).
Harry forgets the mirror fragment thereafter until his moment of greatest need. A troop of Snatchers led by Fenrir Greyback capture the trio when Harry breaks the Name Taboo. They are delivered to Malfoy Manor where Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange imprison Ron and Harry in a dungeon and torture Hermione for information. Agonized in their helplessness as they hear Hermione’s tortured screams, Harry and Ron run about the stone room, seeking a way out. Desperation drives Harry to empty Hagrid’s Moke skin bag that hangs around his neck. The mirror shard falls out and Harry sees the single blue eye again. This time he cries out to it for help: “‘Help us!’ he yelled at it in mad desperation. ‘We’re in the cellar of Malfoy Manor, help us!’ The eye blinked and was gone (466).
The eye delivers the help requested. Dobby, once the Malfoy’s house-elf, appears in the dungeon ex machina, apparates with the prisoners other than Ron and Harry, and returns to save them and Hermione as well. The house-elf, however, is fatally wounded by a knife thrown by Bellatrix at Harry Potter. At Shell Cottage and while digging a grave for Dobby by hand rather than with magic (480), Harry struggles with what the mirror did or did not do. “A piercing blue eye had looked out of the mirror fragment, and then help had come. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it” (483; italics in original reflect its being a quotation of Albus Dumbledore, cf. Chamber of Secrets 264, 266).
Harry’s logic is sound, if it requires his choosing to believe Albus Dumbledore was somehow still alive when Harry had witnessed his death and burial. Just as when Fawkes had appeared in the Chamber of Secrets in response to Harry’s profession of faith in Dumbledore to Riddle’s shade, so his eye had appeared in the bedroom when he was angered at Skeeter’s lies about the Headmaster. The eye had not appeared at Christmas when Harry fumed at Dumbledore’s failings. As Dumbledore had promised and delivered on more than once, however, the eye had appeared and sent help to Harry when he asked for it. Ergo, he must trust in Dumbledore, obey his instructions, and pursue the destruction of Voldemort’s Horcruxes rather than the collection of the Deathly Hallows.
The logic is good; it’s only failing is that the first premise in Harry’s syllogism, that the eye is Albus Dumbledore’s, is false. Aberforth, Albus’ brother, had bought Sirius’ mirror from Mundungus Fletcher, a thief who had pillaged the House of Black after the Order had abandoned it. Albus had explained to Aberforth what it was and the barkeep tells Harry after rescuing the trio from Death Eaters in Hogsmeade that he has “been trying to keep an eye out for you” (560). Curiously, neither the revelation that the eye in the mirror was not Albus Dumbledore’s nor Aberforth’s painful tale about his brother’s role in their sister’s death shakes Harry’s faith: “He had no desire to doubt again, he did not want to hear anything that would deflect him from his purpose;” he had decided in Dobby’s grave “to accept that he had not been told everything that he wanted to know, but simply to trust” in what the Headmaster had told him (563).
This decision or choice to believe in the face of contradictory facts is not a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. A Perennialist reading of the symbols in play at Harry’s experience with the eye in the mirror fragment makes his choice to believe in and obey Albus Dumbledore’s direction a function of what he knows.
There is a joke or pun in the mirror reflection, the humor of which is lost, as always, in being explained. Looking into any mirror, the knowing subject expects to see his or her image or ‘I’ in reflection. Because the fragment is small, all Harry sees when he first looks into as he cleans his trunk is his eye. He then sees Dumbledore’s single blue eye where his ‘I’ or his green eye should be.[xx]
As with the Mirror of Erised at the end of Philosopher’s Stone, Harry is seeing a symbol of the Logos or Christ in the mirror fragment. The “single eye” is from the Sermon on the Mount passage discussed above that is the “light of the body,” the “glittering eye” of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. Harry sees this exteriorized image of his inner principle and knows who he is, the living symbol of the Perennialist heart, because the knowing subject elides with its known object in the mirror. His decision in the Malfoy Manor basement to speak to this reflection in the mirror as a valid likeness, a decision confirmed by the salvific appearance and sacrificial death of Dobby, marks Potter’s acceptance of his identity (eye-dentity), an acceptance that ultimately enables him to embrace his destiny in Dumbledore’s plan. Harry becomes a man prepared to die for others when he accepts the reflection he sees in the mirror fragment as valid about himself rather with respect to whose eye it may be.[xxi]
This idea of the logos within coinciding with the logos without as the cause of all knowledge in a mirroring fashion is echoed in the magic involved with wands. Rowling has said that she thinks of wands as “quasi-sentient:” “Essentially, I see wands as being quasi-sentient. I think they awaken to a kind of- They’re not exactly animate, but they’re close to it, as close to it as you can get in an object, because they carry so much magic. So that’s really the key point about a wand” (Anelli-Spartz).
The heart of a wand is its magical core, a substance that can be almost anything magical; the Elder Wand, for example, has a Thestral hair core and Fleur de la Couer’s has a Veela hair. Ollivander, however, uses only three substances for his wand cores, which he explains to Harry at their first meeting: "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr. Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons" (Stone 83-84).
From the Perennialist view and Coleridge’s logos epistemology, these substances are inherently “quasi-sentient” and “powerful magic” because they are logos-laden. Unicorns and phoenixes are traditional symbols of Christ and dragon’s blood, which saturate heartstrings, are an alchemical cipher for the Philosopher’s Stone’s elixir of life, a synonym in turn for the Eucharist or Christ (Abraham 1998, 29, 165).
Wand lore is the key to Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord in their final duel in Deathly Hallows. Ollivander had explained to Harry in Shell Cottage that “where a wand has been won, its allegiance will change” and affirms Harry’s suggestion that wands “can think for themselves…. the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand’” (494-494).
Harry is able to defeat the Dark Lord in the finale though Voldemort has the Elder Wand because, despite killing Snape to become its master, the wand is obedient in the end to Potter. Draco Malfoy had disarmed Dumbledore, the previous master of the wand, on the Astronomy Tower at the end of Half-Blood Prince. Harry had, before Dobby’s return to rescue him, taken away Draco’s wand at Malfoy Manor, which theft won him that wand’s allegiance and with it mastery of the Elder Wand.
It is not explained in the text when or how Harry realizes he has this power over Voldemort’s supposedly unbeatable wand that all but guarantees his victory in their duel. After discussing the Dark Lord’s pursuit of the Elder Wand with Dumbledore at the mystical King’s Cross, however, and how his plan to make Severus the Deathstick’s master, Harry and the late Headmaster “sat without talking for the longest time yet. The realization of what would happen next settled gradually over Harry in the long minutes, like softly falling snow” (721-722). “What would happen next” might only refer to his choice to return to the Forest from King’s Cross and fight Lord Voldemort.
A Perennialist interpretation of the symbols in play here is that Harry’s limbo King’s Cross is something like Logos Land. Harry knows all there and is able to bring things into existence with just a thought. Given the logos wand cores involved and the reflective relationship of wand and wizard described by Ollivander, as Harry has assumed his Christian Everyman or Christ figure reality via his sacrificial death, it seems only natural that he realizes at King’s Cross all that can be known about the logos wand cores.
· Cormoran Strike
There are no magical mirrors in the real-world detective stories featuring Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin Ellacott. These novels, though, have their own symbolic content. The mirroring element in them, for example, is found in the lead characters’ capacity for and reflex action of self-reflection or mental watchfulness, the Greek virtue of nepsis in which a person discerns his or her own thoughts and chooses the good and refuses the bad. “[Nepsis] signifies an attitude of attentiveness (prosuchi), whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, maintaining guard over the heart and intellect (phylaki kardias/nou; tirisis kardias/nou)” (Ware, et alii trans. 1984, 365). Hierotheos Vlachos, citing St. Gregory Palamas, defines nepsis as “the oversight of the nous” over “the rational part” of man (Vlachos 114). Cavarnos writes that the nous is “the faculty not only of knowledge, but also of inner attention or observation (prosochi)” and that “through attention, nous observes evil and undesirable thoughts, images, desires, and feelings, and opposes them” (Cavarnos 2008, 13-14).
This interior mirroring ability, thinking about thinking, a watchful self-consciousness, is characteristic of Strike and Ellacott. When they think this way, Rowling-Galbraith highlights it by italicizing the voice within that notes their thought pattern and demands a shift, which demand is uniformly obeyed. Strike, for example, in the first part of Troubled Blood, is in Cornwall to spend time with his Nancarrow Aunt and Uncle because Aunt Joan, Strike’s de facto mother for much of his childhood, has been received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Thinking about one of his emotionally painful departures from Cornwall as a child when his flighty biological mother had torn him once again from something like a stable home life, he auto-corrects: “Don’t think about it, Strike told himself, and he lit a second cigarette from the tip of his first” (32, italics in original).
This can be read, of course, as a man simply wishing not to recall or dwell on painful memories. Strike and his partner, however, are both persons in recovery from psychological and physical trauma. Ellacott has been trained to use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques, in essence, awareness of one’s thoughts and thought patterns with reflex coaching to re-direct thinking and mollify panic, ‘practices’ that Strike is familiar with and makes weekly checks with Robin to see if she is doing the necessary exercises (cf. Lethal White 541, 550, 646). Each is an accomplished Occulomens, a Rowling Wizarding World neologism for a magical person able to shield their thoughts, literally a “mind closer” but with the suggestion too of “eye-on-the-mind-er,” both of them able to “discipline [the] troubled mind back into obedience” (Lethal White 532).
Robin Ellacott, raped while in college, stabbed by the Shacklewell Ripper in Career of Evil, and held hostage at gun-point by a suicidal psychopath in Lethal White, has panic attacks which are triggered by her being approached from behind.[xxii] She practices CBT exercises to minimize the number and depth of these attacks. Her consequent mental self-awareness showed itself at the end of Troubled Blood while she waited for Barclay outside the Athorn flat. Three times on a single page she successfully audits and redirects her thinking from negative to different topics with an impatient ‘message to self:’ “Think about something else” (867, italics in the original).
This capacity to look into the psychological mirror, the looking glass of the mind, even of the soul, is not a tick or mental trick. Rowling-Galbraith clarifies at the end of Troubled Blood that it is central to the human ability to change behavior. When Strike arrives at Broadmoor to interview Dennis Creed, mass murderer, he first meets with Dr. Ranbir Bijral, the psychiatrist who leads Creed’s “treatment team.” Dr Bijral explains to Strike that treating Creed, though he is “a classic sociopath,” “a pure example of the type” who “scores very highly on the dark triad,” is not pointless. “People’s behavior can change, if they’re motivated, if they’re given the right help. Our aim is always recovery.” Creed remains “devious, sadistic, unrepentant, and extremely egotistical,” but the team continues to look for “a pathway to accountability and remorse,” what Bijral describes as “an important part of the therapeutic process.” The patient has not responded, however, to the usual approaches; “Dennis feels no remorse” (845, 847).
This incapacity to feel guilt or remorse is a signature quality of Rowling villains; the ability to self-reflect and change behavior, in correspondence, is the mark of her heroes and wise men. Dumbledore, for example, explains to Harry at their meeting in the other-worldly King’s Cross that his experience with Grindelwald as a young man, the death of his younger sister that resulted, and his consequent “guilt”, “grief,” and “shame” taught him that he was “selfish” and “not to be trusted with power,” hence his refusing repeated offers over many years to be made Minister of Magic. He tells Harry that “They say [Grindelwald] showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that it is true. I would like to think he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done” (Deathly Hallows 715, 717, 719). As the Headmaster explained to Harry after the death of Sirius Black, Harry’s ability to feel grief and remorse for his own responsibility in that death is not only “part of being human” but “that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength” (Phoenix 824, 823). Harry recalls this exchange as he mourns for Dobby in Deathly Hallows, that profound grief was proof against unwanted thoughts and that “Dumbledore, of course, would have said that [such grief] was love….” (Hallows 478). Empathy and remorse, as with nepsis, are both signature activities of the spiritual heart and its capacity to see and know its logos reflection in others.
This is evident in Cormoran Strike in his ability to self-reflect. Throughout Troubled Blood, Strike has struggled to give his partner appropriate gifts. While he gives her flowers she hates on her birthday and last second chocolates at Christmas, she gives him thoughtful gifts and cards at his birthday and at Christmas, presents reflecting her having made a serious effort to find something he needed or would enjoy. At the end of their screaming match in the rain on the street outside her apartment after the Valentine’s Day dinner disaster, she reveals to him as he departs how much she resents the paucity of attention and consideration reflected in his gifts. “And don’t,” Robin bellowed from behind him, “buy me any more fucking flowers!” (Blood 498, italics in original).
At the end of Troubled Blood, Strike takes Robin to ‘Liberty in London’ for her birthday. He asks her to choose a perfume that she likes as the present he will buy for her (a mutual friend had told him she was looking for a new scent). She is flabbergasted at this new “thoughtful” behavior (italics in original). “‘Yeah, well,’ said her partner, with a shrug. ‘People can change. Or so a psychiatrist in Broadmoor told me’” (925).
Strike had noted Dr Bisral’s lesson about the value of “accountability and remorse” to a person willing to change behavior and acted on his obvious failing with respect to showing appreciation for Robin in his gifts. He had noted in his conversation with Robin in Skegness about Scottish independence that changing behaviors is hard work that is rarely done: “But people who fundamentally change are rare, in my experience, because it’s bloody hard work compared to going on a march or waving a flag.” She shares that she thinks she has changed and he observes, “Yeah. But you’re exceptional, aren’t you?” (810, italics in original).
He buys Robin three gifts on her thirtieth birthday, a donkey balloon[xxiii] and champagne at the Ritz in addition to the perfume, all evidence that he had self-reflected, felt remorse for his failings, and made a deliberate change in his behaviors to become a “thoughtful” rather than a thoughtless person. Strike has not seen a single eye in a magical mirror but he has identified with his interior, cardiac, and neptic ‘eye/I’ on reflection as did Harry and made his choices accordingly.
D. Easter: Sacrificial Love, Empathy, and Death to Ego
Rowling’s twist in each of the Potter novels on the formulaic hero’s journey is to add a resurrection scene in every book’s finale during which Harry all-but-dies in his self-sacrificing combat with the Dark Lord or his minions. He rises from this seeming death or near-death experience in the presence of a symbol of Christ, in Hallows as a Christ-figure himself. Though it escaped the series’ several Christian critics, the so-called ‘Harry Haters,’ the symbolism here is, as Rowling noted, “obvious.”
A review of what happens on Easter day in Deathly Hallows and Troubled Blood through a Perennialist lend may seem, then, something like overkill. It is warranted, however, by how it is on Easter Sunday, the only day reserved for observance of Christ’s resurrection or victory over death remaining on the postmodern calendar,[xxiv] however nominal this observation is, Rowling has her heroes come to terms with the essential choices of their lives. In brief, it is on Easter day that both Potter and Strike rise from the living death of their ego identities and the logos or heart returns to life in each.
On Easter in Deathly Hallows, Harry has just arrived at Shell Cottage, the home of Bill and Fleur Weasley, after his miraculous escape from the Malfoy Manor dungeon and the Death Eaters holding him captive there.[xxv] His first task there is to dig a grave for Dobby the House-elf, the magical creature who had died sacrificially to save all the prisoners at the Manor where he had once been a slave. Harry shows his respect for the most despised of Wizard servants by digging the grave manually, that is, without magic, “for every drop of his sweat and every blister felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives.”[xxvi] His scar burns throughout the payment of this life debt, but Harry, who has never been able to block out the Dark Lord’s thoughts when Voldemort is enraged, finds that his grief for Dobby, as it had at Sirius Black’s death, has enabled him at last to shield his mind. “Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out ... though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love.” “Understanding blossomed in the darkness… he felt as though he had been slapped awake again” (478-479).
This burial scene is, in brief, Harry’s victory over death that will only be revealed after his rising from his sacrificial death in the Forbidden Forest at book’s end. The interior conflicts that have tormented him throughout Deathly Hallows, even since his first disagreements with Dumbledore in Order of the Phoenix, are resolved in Dobby’s grave. When he climbs out of the grave of the one creature who had always revered Harry as a messiah of sorts, Potter has, in his grief that is the purest form of love, become the savior that Dobby alone had recognized and served. He adopts consciously the heart identity that makes one the master of mind and thoughts[xxvii] so he is able effortlessly and at last to screen Voldemort’s intrusions into his head. The “understanding that blossomed in the darkness” of the grave is the wisdom of Dumbledore's instructions to pursue Voldemort’s Horcruxes rather than the tempting power of possessing all the Deathly Hallows. He is “slapped awake” from the delusions of his adolescent ego-identity to the greater reality, might, and surety of the logos light and love in his heart.[xxviii] Harry’s subsequent sacrificial death for his friends in the Forest and his rising from the dead after his meeting with Dumbledore at the mythic King’s Cross are consequences of this Easter epiphany and his embrace of it.
To make the Paschal symbolism complete, Harry’s decision to be obedient to his interior wisdom rather than go his own way and acquire the Elder Wand, the last Hallow he does not possess, is a choice he makes at sunrise, a decision between his “instinct” and “brain,” between “knowing” and “seeking,” in traditional terms, between contemplation and action. Harry elects for instinct and contemplation, cardiac over cranial intelligence; “Harry stood quite still, eyes glazed, watching the place where a bright gold rim of dazzling sun was rising over the horizon” (483).
This light of dawn, the victory over darkness and death, had appeared in Phoenix during Harry’s tumultuous interview with Dumbledore in the Headmaster’s office after the battle in the Ministry’s Department of Mysteries.[xxix] It was in that light that Harry learned from his mentor about the power he needed to embrace, the power of his heart. Dumbledore tells him about “a room in the Department of Mysteries,” one that “contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature.” He says it is “also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there.” Harry “possesses” this “power” in great quantity while Voldemort has none of it. It is the cause of Harry’s “saving people thing” as Hermione had put it, and what “saved you from possession by Voldemort,” because he detests and is unequal to this power.[xxx] Dumbledore concludes, “In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you” (Phoenix 843-844).
The light of St. John’s prologue, the Logos light that comes into the world in “every man” (John 1:9), the “heart” Dumbledore references here, has its victory over darkness and death in love (“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,” John 1:5). Dumbledore’s lesson in Phoenix, Harry’s comprehension of it on Easter morning as he rises from his grave at dawn in Hallows, and his victory over Voldemort and the Death stick in the finale of the Battle of Hogwarts and of the seven book series, also at dawn’s first light, are the traditional symbolism of the intellect or heart reflected through the Christian prism of the Christ-Logos victory over death at Easter dawn.
Harry’s final confrontation with his nemesis takes place as “a red-gold glow burst suddenly across the enchanted sky above them, as an edge of dazzling sun appeared over the sill of the nearest window. The light hit both of their faces at the same time, so that Voldemort’s was suddenly a flaming blur.” Harry’s victory and the Dark Lord’s death occur as “the fierce new sun dazzled the windows as [his friends] thundered towards him” (743-744). Rowling concludes the Hogwarts Saga, then, in light’s victory over darkness; Deathly Hallows is in large part the tale of Harry’s conscious embrace of the logos light and love within him. The message to the reader, by symbolism and imaginative experience, is, as Rowling said of Casual Vacancy, “all about how the light of God shines from every soul” (Wagner).
Again, the relatively disenchanted world of Cormoran Strike, charged as it is with mythological and allegorical depths, has only lighter shades of the Harry Potter Paschal symbolism. In Troubled Blood, however, Strike has a parallel experience on Easter morning akin to Harry’s in his manually dug grave. The detective has returned to St. Mawes in Cornwall for the spreading of his Aunt Joan’s ashes at sea, her last request of her nephew before her death. He arrives on Holy Saturday and he, his uncle, sister and her family, and a few friends, plan on sailing on the Jowanet, “Ted’s old sailing boat.” In a book filled with references to St. John, it seems pertinent to note that Cormoran’s Aunt is named ‘Joan,’ the feminine of ‘John,’ and that ‘Jowanet’ is the Cornish equivalent for ‘Joan.’ The dying Joan, Cormoran noted on a previous trip that year, was a changed person, “an unfamiliar Joan was emerging” in her slow death, one “who asked open-ended questions” and listened to the answers rather than making “thinly veiled requests for comforting lies” (348-349). Before she died, this truth-telling Joan had shared her funeral wishes with her nephew, told him that he needed to reconcile with his biological father, rockstar Jonny Rokeby, and that he should marry. “Pretending you don’t need things… it’s just silly” was her sage advice (356).
At 4:00 am on Easter morning, though, Strike is startled awake in Cornwall by a call from Charlotte Campbell-Ross, his beautiful but mentally erratic lover of many years and one-time fiancee, now married to another man and confined to a luxurious mental hospital, Simmons. She tells him in direct parallel with Holy Saturday’s harrowing of Hades by Christ that she is “in hell” before abruptly hanging up (663).
Strike sends her only an avuncular text message in response. She responds with three messages he receives on the Jowanet and as the boat returns to port. The last is a farewell message: “Never forget that I loved you goodbye blues x” (667, emphasis in original). Strike calls her, finds out that she is still at Simmons, but “drunk, or very stoned” (668). He contacts the private clinic via a phone box, and, after a Keystone Kops exchange with the desk and attendants, convinces them that their patient has intentionally over-dosed and needs to be found. They find her only just in time to save her life, resuscitating her, which is to say, “raising her from the dead.”
Charlotte is as unlikely a Christ-figure as was Dobby the house-elf. As with Dobby and Harry, however, she inspires in Strike in the light of Easter morning a selfless love that finally allows him to put his relationship with the neurotic super-model beauty behind him. In Troubled Blood’s penultimate chapter, the recovered Charlotte texts a long message Strike to thank him for saving her life, to congratulate him for solving the Margot Bamborough case, and to let him know she is separating from her husband. Her gratitude for his intervention is not without reservation; she expresses her disappointment and begrudging admiration that “you’d have done what you did [for me] for anyone. That’s your code isn’t it?” She allows that she had always wanted from him what he “wouldn’t give anyone else” but admits “I’ve started to appreciate people who are decent to everyone” (907).
Strike considers not responding, but finds at last that this is at last “the time to cut that last, thin thread” connecting him to the great love of his life. He texts, “You’re right, I’d have done what I did for anyone,” while allowing that he’s glad she lived and that she needs to take care of herself now because he is changing his phone number (907).
Much earlier in Blood, when Strike was contemplating his feelings for Robin, he had wondered “whether Charlotte had not stunted his ability to feel deeply” (245). To anticipate the Redcrosse Knight discussion to come, in the confrontation with his interior dragon, Charlotte, in contrast with his chess match with Creed, Strike writes in his new selfless love for her, “I’d have done what I did [for you] for anyone.” Only now, consequent to his Easter experience, in conformity to what Charlotte describes as his “code,” a nod to chivalry, is Strike able to love and act dispassionately as St George in traditional iconography kills the dragon.[xxxi] It is this transformation, one born in the light of Easter morning in St Mawes on the Jawonet and its Johannine freight, that frees Strike at last both to end his attachment to Charlotte and to give Robin-Una the tokens of his heart, his new thoughtfulness, in his three birthday gifts to her. The Perennialist and Paschal symbolism may not be as bald as the finale of the Hogwarts Saga in Rowling’s longest work, Troubled Blood, but it is the same imagery and experience for the reader.
E. Imagination and Morality
It would be difficult to overstate the place of imagination in Rowling’s thinking. It is, she says, the human faculty not only in which she is inspired and by which she writes her books, her Lake and Shed, but also where she meets her readers. She describes this meeting as a “miracle” and as “magic.” “This is the miracle of literature to which no other medium can compare — that the writer and the reader’s imaginations must join together to make the story, so that there are as many different Harrys, Hagrids, and Forbidden Forests as there are co-creators, each one personal to the reader (Rowling 2010). “No film, no television programme, no computer or video game can ever duplicate the magic that occurs when the reader´s imagination meets the author´s to create a unique, private kingdom (Rowling 2003).
This interior “creative” capacity, though, as Rowling made clear in her Harvard Commencement talk in 2008, is more than the human means to share stories. While not denigrating imagination’s visionary aspect, “the fount of all innovation and invention,” what she most celebrates this capacity for is that it enables us to empathize with other human beings. “In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, [imagination] is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared” (Rowling 2008).
Rowling does not claim that her stories achieve significant exterior or measurable social or political change akin to Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but what interior effect they have, fostering this faculty of “compassion,” while “the best you can hope for is a tiny incremental shift in thinking,” is no small thing. “One shouldn’t undersell it” (Wagner, E.).
Rowling does not “undersell” it but, as was evident in the Harvard talk, thinks this interior “incremental shift” is the fulcrum by which social change is possible. She urged her audience of elite students and faculty to help those less privileged than themselves, “to change the world,” change, she argued, possible not with Hogwarts magic but through imagination. “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality…. [I]f you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages,… we do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better” (Rowling, 2008).
As noted in the introduction, this definition of imagination is in essence Coleridge’s. Rowling cited Plutarch for her argument that interior change necessarily precedes exterior, a comic misattribution and revelation of her thin background in Classics beyond mythology,[xxxii] but her ideas of imagination as a creative force, our “most transformative and revelatory capacity,” and as the origin of our ability “to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared” are Coleridgean and Perennialist both with respect to the specifics of her understanding and the importance she places on the right use of this human faculty for the quality of our lives.
Coleridge believed, after the esoteric teachings of Christianity, that is, its perennial wisdom, and his own epistemological reflections contra Hume, Locke, and Kant, that it is the logos-light within each person that allows us to love another as oneself, because that Other is also logos illumined and logos created in essence. The Estecean signatures of selflessness especially as represented in the Ancient Mariner’s repentance as self-sacrificial death, rue or remorse, and the decisive quality of conscience all derive from Logosophia and the human cardiac intelligence transcending cranial calculation of individual advantage.
The engine of imagination as empathy is, as Coleridge explained, only comprehensible when the interior power is understood as the ‘Creative I AM’ or personal Logos-within that recognizes itself in the logos or shared inner essence of the Other. As the Logos creates everything material and immaterial into existence each moment, so readers and writers “create” and “co-create” in story, and in their exercise of the logos-within that is imagination, they foster their capacity for “empathy” and “compassion” for others. The defining quality of ‘good’ in Perennialist imaginative fiction after Coleridge, the before and after picture of the hero or heroine’s story arc, is in the acquired ability to identify with alter, the Other, via a transcendence of self. Evil, in correspondence, is the inability to interpenetrate or empathize with man or the world, a failure caused by an unwillingness to change or by blind narcissism.
The critical events of Rime of Ancient Mariner exemplify this understanding. As Abrams noted (1973, 273), the ballad is a story of an interrupted wedding, the sacrament of communion with another in love. The Mariner teaches the Wedding Guest the esoteric meaning of marriage, ritual interpenetration of self and other, through his tale of how his “weary” eyes became single, “bright,” and “glittering.” Guite qua Christian environmentalist describes this transformed vision as a change from an “instrumental” view of nature to a “sacramental” one (178). Less topical but more in line with Coleridge’s thinking is seeing it as a conversion from sight restricted to physical perception to metaphysical understanding and selflessness.
Rowling echoed Coleridge point to point on imagination in her Harvard address, albeit without his explicit metaphysical language of logos cosmology and epistemology. Her Potter and Strike novels reflect Perennialist ideas of imagination, love, and responsibility which ideas are also the core and cause of her “obsession” with “morality.”
To get at the connection between imagination and Rowling’s “morality” obsession, an effort to find Rowling’s relatively direct reference in her works to imagination per se is appropriate. The worst of Muggle and Wizards in her Wizarding World stories, for example, the Dursleys and Lord Voldemort, are as empathy-deprived and unloving as they are because they disregard their imaginative faculty.
Mr. Dursley, the reader learns in the first chapter of the first book, doesn’t care for it at all. After an unexpected hug from a wizard on the street, “He hurried to his car and set off home, hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped before, because he didn’t approve of imagination” (Stone 5). Similarly, in Harry’s Wizengamot trial in Order of the Phoenix, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, reveals the government position of imagination in his dismissal of Harry’s story about being attacked by dementors in Little Whinging. “‘I would remind everybody that the behavior of these dementors, if indeed they are not figments of this boy’s imagination, is not the subject of this hearing!’ said Fudge” (147). Dumbledore summarizes the Dark Lord’s failings in Deathly Hallows’ otherworldly King’s Cross: “Of house-elves and children’s tales of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped” (709-710).
The “children’s tales” specifically to which the late Headmaster referred there are The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and in it, ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers,’ in which the story of the Deathly Hallows is told. Dumbledore clearly means more here than that the Dark Lord’s failure to read one book attentively kept him from the information he needed to learn about the three Hallows. The “power beyond his own (magic), a power beyond the reach of any magic” that love, loyalty, and innocence “all have” is transpersonal identification with an Other, a story description of Coleridge’s Primary Imagination and his Perennialist ideas of the logos-within.
The same is true of characters described as lacking imagination in the Strike mysteries. In DI Richard Anstis, it is a matter of mental acuity rather than malice (“Anstis had neither the wit nor the imagination,” Silkworm 369). In Roy Phipps, poor imagination means an incapacity to re-decorate or to disconnect from the past (Troubled Blood 421). True Dursley-esque failings in this regard are found in Robin Ellacott’s husband, Matt Cunliffe, whom his wife realizes “had very little imagination” and the author notes “was not usually imaginative” (Silkworm 268, 139), an incapacity that makes discernment, change, and selflessness very difficult for him (cf., Troubled Blood 812).
What connects imagination and morality, the judgment and teaching of what is good and evil? Cunliffe is pathetic, even pitiable, in not having an imagination; he gets his just desserts in losing his “exceptional” wife. Does Voldemort’s atrophied ability to imagine mean he is guiltless? In one respect, at least, Rowling pardons Voldemort for his crimes; the Dark Lord had an unhappy childhood. “He was conceived by force and under the influence of a silly infatuation, while Harry was conceived in love; I think the conditions under which you were born form an important fundament of your existence.” So much as he retained a capacity for choice, however, he retains a degree of agency and responsibility. “But Voldemort chose evil. I’ve been trying to point that out in the books; I gave him choices” (deRek).
Rowling clearly puts a great deal of stock in choices as the measure of any person’s worth. Perhaps the most quoted words of Albus Dumbledore by his admirers in Harry Potter fandom are the Aesopian moral the Headmaster draws at the end of Chamber of Secrets’ adventures: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (333).
Choices are not value neutral, of course; it is not decisiveness that is Rowling’s core virtue. What makes a choice – and the person making it – good rather than evil in her moral universe is where that decision of one option over another lies on the spectrum of altruism with its poles of absolute empathy and compassion on one end and, on the other, of utter narcissism and sociopathy. Rowling’s texts have specific markers, character choices and behaviors, that signal being on either side of this selfless-selfish spectrum, with logos light and love, the end of logos imagination, defining the good and heroic pole.
The first is the simple practice of courtesies,[xxxiii] most important of which is the kindness of being prompt and attentive in making apologies. Though the word “sorry” is used many times in a sarcastic fashion and even in Uriah Heep style (cf. John Bristow’s obsequious apologies throughout Cuckoo’s Calling), it is a default behavior expected of white hats and never said sincerely by the black hats. “Sorry” is said in the Hogwarts Saga just short of 330 times, 90 of which are in the finale, Deathly Hallows. The Strike books are well ahead of this pace with 434 “sorry”s in five books with almost 150 in Troubled Blood, an average of one apologetic note every six pages. Strike’s calling Robin Ellacott to apologize for his unthoughtful behaviors at a Valentine’s Day Dinner Party in Blood is a turning point in their story, perhaps in his life; Strike had been trained by the mercurial Charlotte that it was best to wait out a row rather than apologize: “While Strike wasn’t in principle opposed to offering an unsolicited apology in the event that he felt himself to have been in the wrong, in practice his apologies tended to be delivered late, and only when it became clear that resolution would come no other way” (500).
He decides, however, to call Robin after receiving texts from Charlotte at Symonds House, that “he had to make things right before he set off for Cornwall and Joan” in near hurricane conditions. He apologizes to her for talking about rape over dinner with near strangers, he says he is sorry for “being rude to your brother and your friends,” and “If I’ve taken you for granted,” he allows, “I’m sorry. You’re the best I’ve got” (512). This is a turning point in the case as well as in their relationship because, immediately after they hang up, Robin, “savoring the sudden feeling of lightness that had filled her” at their reconciliation, finds ex machina the location of Paul Stachwell, a suspect who had up to the time of this great shift in Strike eluded the Agency.[xxxiv]
A Perennialist reading of Rowling's esoteric symbolism that goes beyond the host of traditional symbols of Christ in her work reveals a foundation of cryptic messaging contra modernist ideas of thinking, love, and imagination. The repeated eye, heart, and mirror references and the corresponding character traits and actions of empathy and remorse (or lack of same), are the ground upon which she builds her message about the meaning of life, namely, the power of love to transcend all difficulties, even death, because of its being continuous if not identical with the logos fabric of reality.
Rowling seems, too, to be writing about traditional symbolism in addition to using it, as seen above in her use of mirrors, "the symbol of symbolism." The next chapter is a Dante-inspired look at her embedded symbols, the "triangular eye" of the Deathly Hallows and the Cross of St John in Troubled Blood, and how her characters work to interpret them at four levels, a signature of Perennialist thought.
[i] Cf. Coleridge’s definition: “a symbol (ho estinae tautigorikon) is characterized by a translucense of the special in the individual, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in the general; above all by the translucense of the eternal in the temporal. It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible, and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity of which it is the representative” (Coleridge 1816, 437-438).
[ii] Gai Eaton explained this ontic relationship between archetype and symbol: “Now a symbol may be defined, in a general sense, as a reality of one order which corresponds to (and so participates in) a reality of another, higher order; a true symbolism is therefore inherent in the nature of things, and the use of a particular symbol to denote a particular reality of the divine or ‘principal’ order is in no way a matter of choice. When, for example, we say that such and such an object symbolizes a particular divine aspect, we mean, not that a number of human individuals once agreed to use this object to denote the aspect in question (in the sense of an algebraic equation: ‘X’ = 10), but that the object is a direct, although limited, expression of the divine aspect and that, using it as a tangible support of contemplation, we may reach awareness of its supernatural prototype” (Eaton 1949, 186).
[iii] i.e., Perennialism.
[iv] E.g., Connie Neal’s The Gospel According to Harry Potter, Francis Bridger’s A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld, Leslie Barnhart’s The Christian Guide to Harry Potter, Nancy Solon Villaluz’ Does Harry Potter Tickle Sleeping Dragons? and Greg Garrett’s One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter. My Hidden Key to Harry Potter (2002), now How Harry Cast His Spell, was the first book to explore and attempt to explain the Christian symbolism and meaning of the Hogwarts Saga.
[v] Stratford Caldecott, Catholic traditionalist and Tolkien scholar, shared his disappointment after the publication of Beedle the Bard that Rowling had not managed to include a Pelican in these Wizarding World children’s stories, the only remaining animal in the ‘Symbol of Christ’ menagerie she had not managed to squeeze into the Potter books.
[vi] Cf. Granger (2008) How Harry Cast His Spell, 23-25. In the seventh book, Hallows, Harry rises from his death consequent to Dark Lord’s death curse in the Forbidden Forest as a symbol of Christ himself, albeit as a Christian Everyman.
[vii] The only thing he does not learn or realize in his conversation with the late Headmaster is the answer to the question of who killed Ariana Dumbledore, an answer “he did not want to know” (716).
[viii] The only use of the phrase thus far has been mention of stories from the UK journal ‘Private Eye’ which bracket the action of Cuckoo’s Calling (6, 455).
[ix] The three Thoth tarot cards in the third page’s spread indicated by symbols and marginalia within and around the three circles at the points of the triangle enclosing the significator ‘eye,’ are The Hierophant (Taurus, V), The Emperor (Aries, IV), and Lust (Leo, XI). The third card, the “solution of the problem” in Talbot’s abbreviated spread reading key, is the Babalon card pictured in full in the last illustrated page which points to Janice Beattie, Margot Bamborough’s murderer. Though Robin notes that “Talbot had copied many motifs into his notebook, presumably from those cards which had come up during his frequent attempts to solve the case by consulting the tarot” (535), Rowling’s pointer to the reader about how the page can be read as a spread, neither she nor Strike once attempt to interpret Talbot’s Celtic Cross tarot card spread (249) or the spreads embedded in his arcane pages (537, 632); all their efforts are focused on the astrological chart Talbot drew and the marginalia on other pages rather than on the pictoral or iconic evidence Rowling has deliberately placed on Talbot’s pages. Cf. Granger (2020r).
[x] It is a commonplace of tarot spreads to choose a card from the deck representing the question or problem to be addressed in the reading, a card known as the “significator.” Having been removed from the deck, the other cards are laid upon it and it is not interpreted in the reading beyond its being the point of the spread.
[xi] The page’s marginalia also include “Solve et Coagula/No resolution without/BREAKING DOWN,” the alchemical signature formula Rowling had tattooed on her writing wrist. This is the only place it occurs explicitly in her work.
[xii] When Ron laments that he was only given the device because the late Headmaster had known he would leave his friends at some point, “He must’ve known I’d run out on you,” Harry counters with the observation that the gift was made because “He must’ve known you’d always want to come back” (391).
[xiii]‘It sort of floated towards me,’ said Ron, illustrating the movement with his free index finger, ‘right to my chest, and then – it just went straight through. It was here,’ he touched a point close to his heart, ‘I could feel it, it was hot. And once it was inside me I knew what I was supposed to do, I knew it would take me where I needed to go. So I Disapparated and came out on the side of a hill. There was snow everywhere’ (383-385).
[xiv] N.b.: The re-birth of the Light of the World in Ron’s heart takes place at dawn on “Christmas morning,” which is to say in Estecean synchronistic symbolism, at the appearance of light on the day dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the incarnation of the Logos. See the Easter light discussion below and the Christmas Pig exegesis in the thesis conclusion..
[xv] This mirror is also about heart and light because Galadriel’s reflecting pond, the waters of which not only show what might be but contain the light of the Evening Star that gives her gift to Frodo, the Star Glass or Phial of Galadriel, the scourge of those with black hearts.
[xvi] To be discussed at greater length in Psychomachia chapter’s section on the exteriorizations of the soul in Potter and Strike.
[xvii] It is worth noting, especially in anticipation of what Harry will see in the Hallows Mirror Shard, that Dumbledore is another such person. The headmaster not only set the Mirror obstacle but is indifferent to the allure of the Philosopher’s Stone, though as an accomplished alchemist (103) he can presumably make one himself; he destroys at book’s end the one that was concealed in the Mirror lest the Dark Lord find it. The Headmaster expresses something like disdain for those who long for riches and endless life (297).
[xviii] Harry has passed through a purifying fire, Snape’s obstacle, before entering the Mirror chamber, just as Dante does as he is about to leave Purgatory for Paradise (Commedia, Purgatory XXVII, ll 49-52).
[xix] Hagrid says when giving this gift: ‘Here, Harry – couldn’ think what ter get yeh, but then I remembered this.’ He pulled out a small, slightly furry drawstring pouch with a long string, evidently intended to be worn around the neck. ‘Mokeskin. Hide anythin’ in there an’ no one but the owner can get it out. They’re rare, them’ (120). Rowling had previously noted in the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that “Moke skin is highly prized among wizards for use as moneybags and purses, as the scaly material will contract at the approach of a stranger, just as [Mokes, up to ten inches in length, have the ability to shrink at will]; Moke-skin moneybags are therefore very difficult for thieves to locate” (Rowling 2009 , 55). Harry’s bag, as with Hermione’s, is another instance of the Perennialist ‘insides bigger than outsides.’ Rowling, J. K. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. London: Bloomsbury/Obscurus Books, 2009 (2001).
[xx] Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books has Descartes shot in the eye with an arrow along the same lines; the French philosopher, most famous perhaps for the dictum “I think, therefore I am,” is appropriately wounded in his solipcistic center, his eye/I of sensible sight, rather than intelligible vision of the eye in the heart.
[xxi] Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress includes a magical mirror of just this kind in which a Christian may see the inner person or divinity within us reflected or exteriorized. Mercy begs Christiana if she might have the mirror in the Shepherd’s Palace, and, given its power, no wonder she leans so heavily on the generosity of her hosts (Progress, Part 2, Section 7). “Now the glass was one of a thousand. It would present a man, one way, with his own features exactly; and turn it but another way, and it would show one the very face and similitude of the Prince of pilgrims himself. Yes, I have talked with them that can tell, and they have said that they have seen the very crown of thorns upon his head by looking in that glass; they have therein also seen the holes in his hands, his feet, and his side. Yea, such an excellency is there in this glass, that it will show him to one where they have a mind to see him, whether living or dead; whether in earth, or in heaven; whether in a state of humiliation, or in his exaltation; whether coming to suffer, or coming to reign (James 1:23, 1 Cor 13:12, 2 Cor 3:18)” (Bunyan 395).
[xxii] Rowling revealed in her website essay explaining her opposition to transgender women having access to spaces previously restricted to biological women that she is similarly affected by being approached from behind (Rowling 2020). As Strike says to Robin when she tells him that “people coming up unexpectedly behind me – that’s a major trigger” for her panic attacks, “Don’t think we need Freud to explain that one” (Lethal White 549).
[xxiii] Robin had shared in the Skegness conversation just quoted that her fond memories of the town came from her riding donkeys at the beach as a child. The donkey themed gift is both a marker that Strike was listening to her then and of Rowling’s Redcrosse Knight parallelism to be discussed in a subsequent chapter (Una rides a donkey in the first book of Faerie Queene).
[xxiv] It merits noting that in traditional rather than in nominalist Christian culture every week is observed as a symbol of Holy Week that ends on Sunday which is celebrated as a ‘little Easter;’ the Russian word for Sunday, even after eighty years of atheistic Communist attempts to eradicate Orthodox faith in Russia, is Voskresne or ‘Resurrection Day.’ Friday was a traditional day of fasting for Roman Catholics until Vatican II and remains so today for the Orthodox because Friday is the day of the Crucifixion in Holy Week (the Orthodox also fast on Wednesday because it is the day on which Christ was betrayed).
[xxv] Witches and wizards do not celebrate Easter as a holiday beyond a school vacation and the exchange of chocolate eggs. That Potter’s arrival at Shell Cottage was on Easter day in the year in question has only been deduced from textual clues (e.g., the note that Hogwarts students were on holiday at the time because Hogwarts observes an Easter break in the Spring, the weeks before and after Pascha, cf., “my son Draco is home for the Easter holidays” 457 and “lucky that Ginny’s on holiday” 482) and from readers who have created chronologies of each year’s adventures and wiki pages for Hogwarts minutia (cf., the Harry Potter Lexicon’s ‘Day to Day Calendar of Deathly Hallows’ [https://www.hp-lexicon.org/calendars-harry-potter-novels/day-day-calendar-deathly-hallows] and the Harry Potter Fandom wiki page for ‘Easter’ [https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Easter]).
[xxvi] Unknown to Harry, Griphook the goblin witnesses this show of respect, Wizard to house-elf, which proves crucial in his decision to help in the otherwise hopeless attempt to break into Gringotts bank to retrieve the Hufflepuff Horcrux from the LeStrange vault in its depths.
[xxvii] Severus Snape’s singular ability as an Occulomens, his capacity to close his mind even to the master of Legililimency, the Dark Lord, is only here at last revealed; the Potions Master’s life was defined by his grief for Harry’s mother and this love created a cardiac barrier impregnable to thoughts.
[xxviii] It should be noted again here the importance of Rowling’s mother’s death and her consequent grief in the conception and writing, the Lake and Shed, of the Harry Potter series. As she said to the BBC in 2017, “The Potter series is hugely about loss," said the author. "If my mother hadn't died, I think the stories would be utterly different and not what they are” (BBC 2017a).
[xxix] Rowling detailed the sunrise repeatedly throughout the meeting: “Dawn was approaching” Phoenix 820; “The sun was rising properly now” 826; “Harry watched the sunlight, which was sliding softly across the polished surface of Dumbledore’s desk” 828; “The sun was bright inside the room now” 834; “The sun had risen fully now” 840
[xxx] This is an echo of Harry’s effect on Quirreldemort at the finale of Philosopher’s Stone, when the Dark Lord and the minion whose body he had possessed were unable to touch Harry’s flesh without burning themselves.
[xxxi] It is revealed to the Redcrosse Knight before his three day battle with the dragon that he is to become St George, the patron saint of Britain.
[xxxii] The quotation is from Freudian psychoanalyst Otto Rank not Plutarch. Her misattribution was due to a misreading of an online quotations page about ‘success’ in which a quotation from Plutarch is above the one from Otto Rank. See QuoteInvestigator.com (2016) for my part in discovering this misattribution in 2008.
[xxxiii] Or “manners,” what Dumbledore thinks is of such importance that he is still teaching them by word and example to the Death Eaters gathered to kill him on the Astronomy Tower in Half-Blood Prince (593).
[xxxiv] Strike makes a similar find consequent being more thoughtful with Pat Chauncey, the cranky older woman who is the Agency’s office manager. Robin had yelled at him in her litany of accusations during their Valentines Day street confrontation that “I remember to say please and thank you to the secretary, when you don’t give a toss” (496). Strike took this criticism to heart, making an effort to be polite to Pat, which, because of an insight he has consequent to letting her play the radio in the office, leads to his discovery of Steve Douthwaite in Skegness, the best concealed of all the case’s suspects.