Good Friday Mailbag: A Trip to King’s Cross with Harry

In observance of Catholic and Reformed Christian ‘Good Friday,’ I thought a trip to King’s Cross was in order. I know I speak for the HogwartsProfessor staff in wishing those believers observing the Christian holidays in their various denominations an edifying experience of the Lord’s sacrifice and a joyous celebration of His Resurrection.

This question comes from a student at Augustana College who attended a retreat at Stronghold Castle where I spoke last weekend on the subject of Ring Composition in Harry Potter:

Hi, I have a couple of questions for John Granger that I did not get to ask him at the retreat.

My first question it that if the idea of rings is so prevalent in so many books, than why isn’t it taught at schools? I just think that it is weird that this idea could be in so many different books but not be taught.

The other thing is, we were having a discussion on Voldemort either being the embodiment of pure evil in the series or is Voldemort Harry’s shadow that he has to overcome in himself?

Dear [Name Withheld], if I may,

Lenten greetings!

Great questions — here are my attempts at answers:

If the idea of rings is so prevalent in so many books, than why isn’t it taught at schools?

As Mary Douglas explains in Thinking in Circles, the idea of “the inside bigger than the outside” that is the heart of this sort of speech and story scaffolding is contrary to the linear, empiricist, and nominalist world view that measures everything in terms of its quantitative, exterior aspects rather than its interior quality or value. American schools, especially, understand knowledge as only ‘subjective’ or uncertain and ‘objective’ or certain, rather than relationship driven, the coincidence of subject and object as Coleridge said, with the Logos as the Principle of this relationship.

In brief, then, Ring Composition and logos epistemology aren’t taught in schools because each is contrary to the materialist and individualist worldview the state schools are designed to deliver as “the right and only truly human way of thinking.” Sadly, they have this exactly backwards — it is an aberrant and upside down way of not-knowing — and the modern world is what it is in consequence.

Is Voldemort the embodiment of pure evil in the series or is Voldemort really Harry’s shadow that he has to overcome in himself?

He is both, I think, and you are meant to see the parallel in Dumbledore’s response to Harry at the end of their King’s Cross conversation. Note that Harry, after overcoming his interior dilemma — the Horcux scar — by dying to his selfish concerns in an act of sacrificial love for his friends is able to defeat the exterior and seemingly invincible Dark Lord quite easily. The interior victory over the foe of individualist delusion and self-pre-occupation won by a trip to the King’s Cross, that visible definition or revelation of the “point without extension and moment without duration”  which is the cause of everything existent, is decisive and final for our exterior battles over the same evil.

I hope that helps! My regards to Augustana friends!


John, hoping your Good Friday and Easter observances are a journey to the Cross and beyond


  1. Dear John,
    May you continue to have a sublime Lenten season. In regards to your comments regarding Voldemort being the physical manifestation of evil, I feel that I must disagree. According the Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP, evil is a deprivation of the good. The classic scholastic example is blindness. Blindness is an evil in the sense that the eye is not able—is deprived—of its ability to see. We know what the eye is, we know what its function is. However, for some “evil” reason, it cannot perform its task. It is depraved. Or morally, perhaps, evil is the knowledge of knowing what the good thing is, and intentionally going against it.

    I am not sure if Voldemort is the manifestation of evil as you propose. It is repeatedly said, in the books and movies, that Voldemort never knew love. Thus…if you go not know what the good is…how can you intentionally chose the bad?
    Anyway. Why is a priest writing about Harry Potter on Good Friday? Don’t I have Stations of the Cross or a something to lead?

  2. I think the Thomist definition of evil as an absence or deprivation of the good is satisfied in Lord Voldemort’s being the embodiment of the absence or deprivation of love. His increasingly inhuman appearance speaks to his departure from image or likeness of God, the greatest good, and his fate at Harry’s hands after his sacrificial death and visit to Logos Land (King’s Cross) testifies that Harry has defeated this failing within himself in imitatio Christi, Love Himself.

  3. I don’t know, John. I agree that with every murder, he becomes more serpentine, and hence more devilish. That’s a pretty easy connection. Now, perhaps I’m confusing the films with the books. But from what I remember, Voldemort does not have any experiential knowledge of love. He never loved any of his first Death Eaters, and he didn’t love Bellatrix (though StarKid would say otherwise). You must first know a thing to love (or hate) it. And he never knew love. Hence, I say that he cannot be a manifestation of a thing that he does not know. Though I know that, epistolomologically speaking, there are other opinions….

  4. Dolores Gordon-Smith says

    Surely the answer to the question of Voldermort being the incarnation of evil is that Voldermort is pulled deeper and deeper into the worship of himself. God (the ultimate good) made us in his image; ie, he shares himself with us. Properly speaking, God loves us and we love God. Voldermort is given the opportunity to reach out beyond himself (“Try for some remorse”) but chooses not to take it. His only god is himself; he’s completely “self”ish. That, of course, classically, is the sin of Satan. The scarey thing is that it’s a sin we can all fall into. Voldermort deliberately de-humanises himself.
    Do you know Dante ‘s Satan? That’s a really frightening image!

  5. PotterMom05 says

    By that definition, it could be argued that Umbridge is more evil than Voldemort, because she is confronted with the good, face to face with it multiple times, and repeatedly chooses the path of power, domination, and lovelessness. (Feel free to cite me as inspiration for this paper topic).

    In relation to Good Friday, I had this thought at our Seder Service at church on Thursday because we read from Hebrews: Jesus going to the cross surrounded by his great cloud of witnesses. Now I have read many posts and chapters about the forest walk as Harry’s road to the cross. So maybe this thought was in my subconscious and it really sunk in for the first time this year, that his parents, Lupin, and Sirius, are Harry’s “great cloud of witnesses.” As scared as he is, it brings him joy to see them, truly believing he will finally be united with them again when it’s all “over.”

    Holy Friday to you all.

  6. PotterMom05 says

    Whoops, Saturday. Sheesh.

  7. Dolores Gordon-Smith says

    Yes, it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Who’s worse -Dolores Umbridge or Voldermort? As I well know, the very name Dolores means pain, grief and suffering in Latin (I went to a school where they taught Latin and don’t think it wasn’t pointed out!). As PG Wodehouse says, there’s some raw work at the font!
    However, surely the difference between Dolores and Voldermort is that Dolores, completely horrible though she is, she’s always working for someone else, whether it’s Fudge, the Ministry or Voldermort.
    Voldermort only ever works for himself. He is utterly self sufficient. He has no god but his own good, his own survival. He can’t even say, as Grindlewald does, that it’s for “the greater good”. He has no greater good, nothing bigger, than himself. Even when that “greater good” is evil, it can be seen as a placeholder, so to speak, which the good can fill.

  8. I think it good to remember that Jo spoke several times of the benefitst of nurturing on the developing brain of an infant. She said measurable physical changes were found in babies who received loving and nurturing care. Not just psychological, but actual physical changes that impacted the future well-being of the child and most especially in the ability to develop normal healthy relationships. It creates connections within the brain that help to enable positive hormone production. The first year is then crucial. And, as Dumbledore said, it is something that cannot be taken away. It is protection against unhealthy development or twisted personality. Harry received this protection from his mother and even though she died when he was only 15 months old, and despite the rather nasty upbringing he endured at the Dursleys, this gift enabled him to love and to make good choices.
    Voldemort was, sadly, deprived of all mother love and he made all the wrong choices. The result is, for purposes of our story, pure evil. He cannot give love because he has none to give. He was never given any. Then there is Snape who likely was nurtured by his mother early on, but whose love became tainted later by the abuse she experienced from her husband. Snape grows up a bit twisted and also made some very poor choices, but was always capable of redemption because he had known love. Jo points us to this comparison when Harry thinks about the” three abandoned boys” who all called Hogwarts home. Theological themes aside, I think she wanted to illustrate the impact and far-reaching results of neglect and the irreplaceable quality of love.

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