Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Harry Potter is a Saint - literally


Is Harry Potter a Saint?

The answer is a clear and resounding yes!

By the end of The Deathly Hallows, Harry is indeed a Saint - indeed the seven book series is an account of the making of a Saint who can save the world from the personification of evil.


Of course Harry does not start out as a Saint when we first meet him as a 10 year old boy - but following his numerous trials and tests, symbolic deaths and rebirths, and actual death and restoration to life, by the last pages of the last book Harry really has become a Saint:


In saying that HP is a Saint I am aware I appear to be contradicting both JK Rowling and John Granger (aka The Hogwarts Professor), both of who have categorically stated that Harry is 'no saint'.

Who am I to go against the author and the premier Potter Scholar?

My understanding is that JKR and JG would not disagree with my explanation of why Harry becomes a Saint, but in saying HP is 'no saint' they were trying not to be misunderstood by the average reader - because the average reader profoundly misunderstands what is a Saint.


JKR and JG are also probably trying to be clear that for most of the series Harry is not a Saint, indeed nothing like a Saint.

But that applies to many real Saints too - for much of their lives they were not Saints.


The corrupt and secular (legalistic) mainstream modern definition of a Saint is (roughly) a person without flaws, who never does anything wrong.

But by this kind of 'zero-tolerance' definition - not only is Harry no saint, but nor was any real-life saint a real Saint. All real Saints were fallen humans (except perhaps the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to recent Roman Catholic doctrine), lived in this world, and had flaws when their lives as a whole are surveyed.

(Except that some Saints probably did achieve a 'flawless' perfection after long struggle and shortly before death.)


In what follows, I hope I am simply sticking somewhat closer to the idea of a Saint being someone who, while still living on earth, has their deepest being turned-toward God, their soul in communion with God (feet on earth, head in heaven).


Real life Saints are a result of a long process of 'theosis', sanctification, of purification - this is what is happening to Harry in the first six and three quarter books.

Harry is tried, again and again, and comes through these trials a better and braver man: indeed, by the end he is the best and the bravest (as Dumbledore tells him in King's Cross).

Then Harry accepts death in a spirit of loving self-sacrifice, is killed and chooses to return to life.

Thus he becomes a martyr-Saint - which (sadly) is the most abundant type of Christian Saint: but unlike most martyr-Saints, Harry is restored to life to intervene in the world, to save the world.


(Harry is not 'resurrected', which would suggest a new and perfected body - but Harry's soul, having vacated the body and been endowed with greater wisdom and sanctity, then returns to and reanimates his briefly-dead body.)


Harry's loving self-sacrifice renders immune to the enemy not just himself but all his loved friends, all the good forces defending Hogwarts - after Harry returns to life, from that point onwards nobody among the defenders of the castle is killed, nobody is injured nor even hit by a curse.

This means that Harry is a miracle-working Saint - a wonderworker.


Harry returns from death by martyrdom as a wonderworking Saint, a saviour and messenger.

Only a great Saint could save the world from Voldemort - who has become, by his choices, not so much a human but more a kind of demonic servant of (implicitly) Satan.

(Satan is, of course - but implicitly, the source of Voldemort's extraordinary powers, the source of all 'Dark magic'; although Voldemort himself does not realise it, since Voldemort's pride is such that he will not acknowledge any other will, but claims everything to himself.)


'Saviour' because Harry's self-sacrifice enables him to save the world from Satan's emissary Voldemort; returning from death Harry immediately realises that is now immune to the Cruciatus curse (cough cough - symbolism alert).

Harry is given power (uniquely, nobody else could do it) to kill the un-dead Voldemort - but pauses in order to offer him a chance for remorse/ repentance.

Voldemort cannot even comprehend the offer.

And it is through his invincible pride in persisting in trying to kill the invulnerable Harry that Voldemort kills himself with his own rebounding death curse.

A beautiful, deep parable.


(Harry knows, because he has seen Voldemort's soul and because Dumbledore has told him, that Voldemort almost certainly cannot be helped. Humans can always repent, but Voldemort - with his multiply-fragmented soul - is hardly human, almost a demon. (And for various theological reasons, fallen angels/ demons cannot repent). Why then does Harry try to bring Voldemort to feel 'remorse'? I think it is 'just in case'. Since Voldemort is an unique kind of maimed being, Harry is not sure of what he is capable. Harry knows (from Dumbledore in King's Cross) that Voldemort cannot be saved by another person's will. Repentance cannot be done by others. So Harry offers Voldemort a final choice to repent and 'save' his remaining fragment of soul (although it is unclear what that might mean) - because Harry cannot be sure that such a choice is impossible to Voldemort.)


Harry is a 'messenger' because he has learned about ultimate reality - beyond death - from Dumbledore in the King's Cross chapter; Dumbledore himself has become a prophetic messenger from the other side.

When restored to life, Harry brings this divine revelation back to earth for the benefit of the world.

This is typical of great Saints - they are divine messengers and intermediaries; explaining, clarifying, amplifying revelation.

Indeed, only Saints can really understand Christian teaching. So far as we know, by the end of the series, only Harry, in the whole world, can really understand the nature of the world.

Harry thus takes over the role of 'Spiritual Father to the wizard world' from Dumbledore, but as a greater - because better, albeit less magically powerful - man than Dumbledore.


So, I would say that, at a deep and mostly implicit level, the Harry Potter series is precisely about 'the making of a Saint'.

And is not that a remarkable and wonderful thing?

That the best-selling and most widely-read book series of recent decades (in some respects, of all time), this in a modern world apparently without any living Saints, should ultimately be about the making of a Saint?


Note: the above analysis is built-upon the work of John Granger

And his vastly-documented insight that the Harry Potter series is, without any doubt, an essentially Christian work: both by intent and in achievement.