We finish our week of Potter mania on a personal note. The sound file (m4a, 10MB, click to listen or right-click to save) in the graphic is something that would get me sued by J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., Scholastic, the RIAA, and god knows who else. But since I currently have $91.51 in the bank, I think I'm safe. The fact is, however, that I have recorded every single chapter of every one of the six Potter books. My daughter listens to them every night on her iPod to help her sleep; they have been bedtime stories for her all of these past five or six years. To make it interesting for myself, I tried on some of the characters' accents, both as I imagined them myself and as we heard them in the films. This part is one of my favorite scenes: the encounter with Mr. Ollivander in the wand shop of Book One.
The Outcasts of Hogwarts
There are many wonderful themes among the sub-stories and characters of the Potter universe, and one of my favorites has to do with all the marginal people and creatures who populate the wizarding world. These include:
All of these characters have been fully ostracized from mainstream society or else pushed to the margins , either as individuals (Harry, Luna, Trelawney, Black) or by virtue of their connection with a demonized group (Hagrid / giants; Dobby / house-elves; Firenze / centaurs; Lupin / werewolves).
The question that comes up for the reader, and that Rowling surely had to work through herself, has to do with the path of return and growth that these characters must take to discover their identities, their true selves. Must they each take the solitary path of self-discovery through autonomy, or can they find themselves through a validation of their group, as many gays, women, minorities, and immigrants must do in our Muggle world?
The answer, of course, is that it has to be both. A group identity may be a necessary part of acculturation, depending on the time and circumstances of one's world.
Necessary, perhaps, but never sufficient. The self gains its internal unity, its connection to the undivided whole of life, through autonomy. The family, community, nation, or other group is best furthered when each individual who comprises it is allowed the full and free expression of his or her (or, in Hogwarts, its) autonomy.
When self-rule becomes the guiding principle within the individual, then government happens as if by itself; there is no effort to it, and order becomes as natural and ordinary as breathing or walking.
This occurs through the influence of one of the universal principles of the mind and of democracy: equality. When self-government happens within the individual, heart and brain; body and mind; feeling and intellect all work as single, undivided, co-equal functional units. The remoteness and the medieval prejudices of hierarchy are unknown to such an ordering of the personality. Lao Tzu expressed it this way:
Equality is the Cosmic Way:
Good and evil are born of fantasy.
The Sage is neither partisan nor punishing:
No one is special, no one excluded.
Expands and contracts.
It never varies, and each moment is unique.
Now when Lao Tzu referred to "the Sage", he meant the quantum teaching energy of the cosmic consciousness. The Sage guides each of us to the right action in whatever line of work we're cut out for. It manifests itself in everyone, uniquely in every person, but the Sage is always there.
To make such an affirmation in a culture like ours is to risk the same kind of marginalization as Luna Lovegood endures at Hogwarts. Now since I've never seen or felt a nargle, I can't comment on her experience; but I can tell you something about how I and many of my counseling clients have experienced the Sage.
The Sage is not a Lord or an executive type of God. It does not demand obedience, but inspires trust instead. Can you see the difference? Trust arises from love—the attraction between equals. Obedience is born of fear.
So religions speak of cultivating the "fear of God." This is not the way of the Sage. The Sage works through the force of attraction—quantum gravity, if you will, in the field of Mind—and inspires trust. It never asks either faith or obedience of us. If you can understand this with your mind and feel it in your heart, then your Sage is alive in you.
How we make equality breathe within ourselves is very much an individual matter: each person's experience will be unique. How we make equality breathe within our nation arises from the path that each of us travels, and from the vision and planning
of leaders who never cease in the search for honesty, accountability, and above all, humility in their actions. But whenever, as now, power becomes either the means or the end of such leaders, we must call them down and demand that they cease using power, or else leave.
Back at Hogwarts, we find that whenever Harry and/or his friends must make a great journey or perform a particularly difficult feat, they are helped by some object or energy that dissolves the hard shell of form and its resistance. A web of light may form to protect Harry during an encounter with Voldemort; a magical bowl of gaseous light may take him through time and space toward a great realization; or the characters may wrap themselves in a cloak of invisibility.
In the closing paragraph of The Tao of Hogwarts, I ask the reader to don the invisibility cloak within, and feel himself as both form and light:
Think of yourself again as energy: the ceaseless movement whose order and disposition define the seeming matter of your body, and indeed of all form. You breathe out your excess into the Whole from which you came and to which you will return; you gently inhale the nourishment of renewed life-force—what the Chinese refer to as "chi". You can feel waves of movement, as of water or wind, passing through you with each breath—gently dissolving what is manifest but only derivative, while the energetic core of your personal inner truth is gradually revealed and strengthened. You are not, after all, your race, your gender, your occupation, your material possessions, your marital or family status, your sexual orientation, your socio-economic class, your political, national, or religious affiliation; nor are you what the voice from a television says you are. All these ingrained self-images dissolve with every breath, as the life-force enters and moves through you—dispelling the false, peeling away the appearance, revealing the core and center of your being, whose inimitable perfection dances in joyful separation from the realms of pride, guilt, and opposition.
If you're in Brooklyn tonight, stop by the Community Bookstore on 7th Avenue and say hello. On this lovely evening, I have one wish for all my fellow Potter fans (and the rest of you as well): Felix Felicis.