HogPro Mailbag: Correspondence with Readers and Students

Yesterday I shared some exchanges I had with Augustana students last months after I spoke to their class at a weekend retreat, a retreat I should add whose three days quite deliberately and successfully mirrored the three stages of the alchemical work, and, incredibly, were something of a Ring Composition, too. Today I want to dump the April mailbag upside-down and share the exchanges I have had with virtual strangers, folks that write after reading something here at HogwartsProfessor.com, who have attended a lecture, or those who accept the invitation to write I make in each of my books.

That means this collection doesn’t include my almost daily exchanges with the other Hogwarts Professors and my longer if less frequent email to old friends and professional acquaintances (which categories tend to elide, praise God). My guess is that the ommitted writing of this sort out paces reader-audience mail at something like a 10:1 word count ratio.

I was startled when putting this together last night, though, by the number and variety of Christians who have written me and by the height and depth of the questions and comments. I note this here as fair warning to anyone not interested in Christian topics or who might be put off by Paschal greetings (Christ is Risen!) repeated frequently. So warned, please choose to peruse my April correspondence as you will. All names, of course, have been reduced to initials at the least and identities obscured as necessary. My thanks to those who write and to you for sharing your comments below.


I just started reading Michael Ende’s book Momo to my kids from the recommendation of Jeffrey Overstreet here.

I was trying to find more info on Ende and came across this quote that I thought would interest you (the English on the site is rough, so I wonder about the accuracy, but it does mention the authors overt use of alchemy):

He says “What I always try to do is very similar to the alchemists or storytellers in the Middle Age, i. e. to translate or transform the external world’s representation into the internal one’s figures… All the cultures in any region or any time are nothing but the formation of the external world by the internal one’s criteria,” telling on the problems the 20th-century culture is with that “It’ll sound you extreme, but we’ll lose our whole culture if we are unable to make the external world and internal one to be mutually-permeable and circulable with reflected figures appearing on both mirrors,” alarming the crisis we’re potentially going in for by the modern age which has already separated the external and internal ones. Aren’t we already in an urgent situation if we(especially those who live in cities) have already lost something indispensable for human beings by living surrounded by inhuman buildings?



Dear RT,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for this note. It arrives as I am reading Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe (ed., Newman, Grafton) which is definitely stretching my grasp of historical alchemy and astrology and helping to fix, less as in ‘repair’ than in ‘establish on firmer ground,’ my ideas about literary alchemy as a Romantic response to Empiricist beliefs, namely as a vitalist response to mechanism.

The last chapter on ‘Some Problems with the Historiography of Alchemy’ especially, in which the occultist frameworks (as opposed to strictly historical) of Jung, Eliade, and Metzger (if Titus Burckhardt’s work contra Jung and about alchemy is sadly neglected) is discussed at length. The conclusion of these historians is that the alchemical revival of the 1930’s is a skewed vision of the historical reality to advance criticisms of the modern, materialist understanding of the world, “the death of Nature” or a cosmological, sacramental view.

Which, in the hands of a Lewis, Williams, Barfield, and ultimately Rowling, I think is exactly right. I’m fascinated that Eliade is publishing his first work on alchemy in 1938 just as CSL’s alchemical novels, The Space Trilogy, are being printed — and that the works argue along similar Discarded Image lines.

I think this continues to be the importance of alchemy in English letters, as it has been since Coleridge at least, namely, the experience of cathartic transformation through the elision of subject and object, reader and read material, possible because of the “ensouled” character of matter (and, to the point, of poems, plays, and novels). As your citation of Ende’s comment seems to confirm?

Thank you again for sending this.



Hi John,

Have you read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness yet? Although I would probably label it a romance novel (Entertainment Weekly said there was too much ‘tracing of each other’s collar bones’), it is full of Alchemy, Witches, Vampires, and Daemons. I would like to know what you literary alchemy assessors think.

I saw black, white, red imagery; a figurative death; an alchemical wedding; Christ symbols.  Perhaps not as beautifully laid out as Ms. Rowling did, but an interesting story nonetheless.



Dear Alison, if I may,

Thank you for this recommendation. I’ve just purchased a copy and will give it a look!



Professor Granger,


First I wanted to thank you for not only the depths of these beautiful books that you’ve unlocked, but the spirit you do it with, which encourages and enlightens me so that I can do it even more myself.

I’ve read all the books, but I’ve only re-read a few of them and I’m really eager to get to that now.

I just saw HPDH-p1 in the theatres last night. Even having already read the book, and just finished your book (HHCHSpell version) which ended by going over TDH, I was still completely unprepared for how it affected me. I could tell some things I did and didn’t recognize were going on. I was opened to a firey need to conquer the evil in my own heart and own world, and yet there was something more going on, deeper down.

I noticed something about the Silver Doe scene that I wanted to share with you. It’s amazingly beautiful. But when I saw that Patronus, “Silver Doe,” wasn’t what popped into my mind; rather, “White Hart.” In KJV and old poems/etc. And you talking about the white stage – the silver, shining light could easily be seen as white, and hart being another term for a deer. Though I don’t know if that refers to a doe. I think it does. So, that could be “white heart,” the white, purification stage of the heart.

And that immediately brought to mind the psalm and song after it, “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee . . .”

And these are the things I knew last night. But this morning I broke down crying when I realized something deeper.

My heart – my white heart, being purified, being cleaned, longs for You. I will follow You. You will lead me to the water of life so I can drink. The only power that can defeat the evil in the world and the evil in my own hart, lies in that water. But there is a barrier I have to break through. I have to strip away the things I’ve covered myself in. I have to break through the barrier. And it may put me in danger. It may cause me great pain. But it is the only way to destroy the evil that wants to distort my mind and blacken my heart. I long for this water.

The second thing may be off, but I’m not sure. And it might be hard to explain through an email, but I’ll try. Seeing the symbols, and hearing followers (or just one in the movie so far) talk about the deathly hallow, and the search to put all the artifacts together and find immortality . . . it all reminded me so much of the show, Alias, and the ancient inventor on there, Rambaldi. He created these complex artifacts and texts, that did a number of things from incinerate people from the inside out to controlling emotional responses to a lot of other destructive uses. And his followers, who searched for the ancient artifacts, and thought assembling them could mean eternal life, wore his symbol, often as a tattoo. This was his symbol:

And you are familiar w/ the deathly hallows symbol, though I can’t re-create it here.

But imagine:

You have a line inside of a circle inside of a triangle.
Remove one side of the triangle and put it off to the side.
Now remove the wand from inside the stone.
Connect the wand to the discarded side to form a 45 degree angle.
So you have:

two sides of a triangle,

a circle,

and another angle.

in that order they form:

< 0 >


I wonder if Rowling watches Alias. Maybe you know. In my short searches so far I haven’t found out.

I also saw an ad on HogPro for your book about the Twilight series, which really gives me hope. I’ve always seen something great in those books, and been saddened that an obscene media campaign has trivialized them in the eyes of most. But you are the perfect person to champion that cause.

Thank you, again, for your great insights and encouragement,



Dear EJ, if I may,

Thank you for your great letter!

I try to explain the alchemical meaning of the Silver Doe in the alchemy chapter of Deathly Hallows Lectures. But I think I like your ‘white heart’ interpretation, as personal as it is, much better.

My book on Twilight is probably the best thing I’ve written, according to Pepperdine’s James Thomas at least, but it is certainly the least read book I’ve written. Please do let me know what you think if you join the chosen few Twi-hards to pick up a copy.

Thank you again for this great letter — you made my day with Silver Doe and White H(e)art!



Post: I don’t know anything about Alias or Ms. Rowling’s viewing habits–

Mr. Granger

I’ve often looked to your site as a source for authoritative background information on Harry Potter related issues.  I frequent SF/Fantasy Q & A site where a recent question piqued my interest and I have been unable to find any definitive source for the answer.  The question can be found here: in short, where did the name Voldemort originate?

There is a reference to a pre-Arthurian antagonist, Voldemortist.  My non-exhaustive search found several similar references without any actual source.

I am hoping that you could provide more substantial background on this topic and I’m sure that the Stack Exchange community would be happy to hear from someone of your knowledge and stature.

Thank you.


Dear Mr. O —,

Thank you for the flattering note.

There are two interpretations of Voldemort I’m familiar with, though I like the Edgar Allen Poe ‘Voldemar’ connection mentioned on the Q&A page. If the Arthurian ‘Voldemortist’ is authentic, it deserves serious consideration because of the important Morte d’Arthur echoes throughout the Hogwarts saga. I’m not schooled in this particular field of arcana so cannot give you a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

Anyway, the two I have heard are the usual “flight from death” or “of death” from the French which has been attributed to the author by the Lexicon and “willing death” derived from the Latin. Ms. Rowling is both classicist and Francophile so I doubt that this is an either/or definition but a matter of overlap and degrees. the Dark Lord is a character who becomes almost the living dead, embracing the death of what makes hum human, to paraphrase Hagrid, in his flight from death.

I hope that helps!



Dear John

My name is M— and I am currently on the last year of my degree at The University of W—- in England. I am writing my final ten thousand word project on (here is my question) ‘Whether the view of evil and morality within the Harry Potter books are Christian’.

I am half way through your book Looking for God in Harry Potter and it is extremely interesting , I only wish that I had studied in America so I could have seen some of your lectures. I have discussed your books with my Religious Education Tutor and she suggested that I give you an email to ask for your view on the question I have asked; do you think the perception of evil and morality is Christian ? and could it be used as a tool for teaching young children today morals and values that they may not otherwise learn from Television ?

I understand that you must be very busy so any time you could spare giving me a response would be extremely helpful. It’s always good to hear someone else’s perspective.

Many thanks and best wishes,


Dear M —–,

Do you think the perception of evil and morality is Christian ?
What else could it be, really? The author is Christian by confession, she writes in a literary tradition — English fantasy, with roots in Schoolboy fiction and Gothic romance — that is whole heatedly Christian in orientation, and the predominant themes and symbolism are Christian. It’s also postmodern, as I explain in Unlocking Harry Potter but a very baptized postmodernism at that.

Could it be used as a tool for teaching young children today morals and values that they may not otherwise learn from Television ?
I suppose it could but what would be worse than that? The only way to kill the pleasure and edifying quality of the Hogwarts Saga will be using it as a didactic blunt instrument to hammer the heads of young people with academic vanities and emptiness like ‘morals and values.’ They’re in the book and have their power on readers in their subliminal undertow; bringing them to the surface will make the magic evaporate in the artificial light of any classroom.

Looking for God was written in 2003. I have updated the book twice since then, most recently as How Harry Cast His Spell (Tyndale), and written three other books on the subject: Harry Potter’s Bookshelf (Penguin), Unlocking Harry Potter (Zossima), and The Deathly Hallows Lectures (Zossima). Please check out those books, all available in the UK via Amazon, to get a clearer idea of my thinking on Potter than what I was writing eight years ago when the series was only four books old!



Dear John,

Since homosexuality is one of those issue which cannot be written about honestly in public, for fear of attracting dangerous hostility; I wondered whether you had privately noticed the way that this question is handled in the HP books.
I find it very plausible and consistent to accept that Dumbledore was indeed conceived of as homosexual from the start (and that this was not merely a frivolous comment of JKR’s, nor merely an attempt to curry favor).
But the public discussion of Gay Dumbledore has been (understandably) confused on this issue – because the truth of the situation as portrayed in the books is unacceptable in mainstream discourse.
Surely, Rowling is stating clearly in the HP books that Dumbledore’s homosexual infatuation was harmful, led to actual worldly harm and preventable suffering and loss of life (due to Dumbledore’s excessive delay in tackling Grindlewald); and that Dumbledore repented of it, and henceforth lived a celibate life?
And that this is exactly what happened to homosexual Christians in the past – for example Fr Seraphim Rose who (apparently, probably) led an ‘actively’ homosexual life as a young man and was by disposition homosexual – yet rejected this decisively and became a celibate monk.
Traditional Catholicism never was hostile to the small minority of people who are of homosexual disposition, but did state that they should try to be celibate, and should not defend or advocate homosexuality.
As such, people of homosexual disposition sometimes attained the very highest levels of spiritual advancement, of holiness. (As did, for that matter, eunuchs during the Byzantine Empire.)
And surely this was precisely the path followed by Dumbledore!
So the fact (which I accept) that Dumbledore is indeed by disposition a homosexual in no sense whatsoever endorses a homosexual lifestyle (especially not a modern homosexual lifestyle of wholesale causal promiscuity, sexual experimentation and boundary transgression; of advertisement and advocacy, of – indeed – assertions of the superiority of this lifestyle over conventional family-based heterosexuality or celibacy) – but quite the opposite.Do you think my reading of this is correct?

Of course JKR could not say this in public (without considerable risk to herself) and she may not even perceive that this is implied by her work (since her work seems quite sharply detached from he explicit views, in some areas).
But surely it is there in the text – quite plainly?

With best wishes, Yours, B —

Dear B—-

As much as homosexuality is in any of the canon text, your reading is correct, which the author all but confirmed, I think, in her interview with the Scottish student on her return home (the one in which she spelled out that he was celibate).

Unfortunately (?), given her ‘inclusive’ spirituality or at least ‘excluding the anti-ecumenical exclusivist view,’ and her liberal politics this will never be stated positively by the author  in the form you have given it — and pressing the point might even bring her to deny this is the implicit text message.

Ah, political correctness…


Dear Mr. Granger,

I discovered your book Harry Potter’s Bookshelf this weekend at my local library and finished it yesterday. I’ve begun tracking down your other books as well. You invited emails and so here I am with a question. But first a little explanation.

What you write is amazing and a bit head-spinning for me. I’ve always had an almost physical reaction to the Harry Potter books and have been puzzled about it for years. I have a combination of both good and sad feelings upon reading the stories, a strong yearning I couldn’t explain (until now). Your chapters on literary alchemy help me understand this reaction.

While the Christian themes were obvious to me, I wasn’t aware of how deeply she wove the symbols and other meanings into her stories. Just as FYI, I am in my forties. I had a similar reaction to the Twilight books, though not quite as intense. From reading your blog postings about Twilight today, I understand the reason for that, too. And having lived in Utah for a while, I agree.

I was raised in a non-denominational home and my parents became charismatic fundamentalists. In my late-twenties I broke from that tradition. In fact, my parents are very anti-Harry Potter. They also never understood my love of books such as A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (given to me by equally religious relatives), though they didn’t forbid me to read them. Those books spoke to me as a young Christian girl alone in a secular world, which is how I saw myself at the time.

But I’m very aware of the religious arguments people make against these books that are intended by their authors to present a Christian message.   But I do have a question about Rowling’s motivation. Maybe because I have not yet reconciled my pre-HP Bookshelf image of her with this new evidence.

What do you think is her reason for writing books with such a strong Passion message? Is she a member of a group that believes that putting this message out into the world is what they are meant to do? Is she an individual who believes this is her mission in life? Does she believe in it so strongly she would dedicate her life to it (or however long it took her to plan and then write the complete series)?

Maybe I’m too cynical but in my experience the only people who try to go out and save the world with the message of the gospel are those like I knew growing up and with ulterior motives. Or those like Tim LaHaye in his Left Behind series. I know C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle purposely wrote stories with Christian messages. But I get the sense now that Rowling is a more enthusiastic practitioner than they might have been.

I work in academic publishing and find it hard to picture a first time author thinking “ah, now this is how I can ensure my literary success,” and not realize what a risk she is taking by writing books with such an obvious theme.   Thank you for your time. I appreciate if you can give me any insight into what motivated her to take this particular risk as a writer. I realize it paid off but she could not know that it would when she started. Could she? (Maybe I am revealing my ignorance of English publishing successes.)

Thank you,


“Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.” –A Wrinkle in Time

Dear C—, if I may,

Thank you for the wonderful letter! One suggestion, one attempted answer.

(1) I’m startled that the Christian content of Harry Potter came through Harry Potter’s Bookshelf; it’s less than the half the book I wrote for them (135,000 words cut down to 60,000) and it was supposed to be a relatively secular treatment, even if English literature is as Christian as Tibetan Literature is Buddhist. If you want to read about the Christian content in depth, read How Harry Cast His Spell (Tyndale) or Deathly Hallows Lectures from which I attach an excerpt. And I’ve written a book on Twilight, too

(2) I am confident that Ms. Rowling is not evangelical by intention and suspect she regrets in some way the Christian message and stamp her books have. Harry’s school boy life and victory over the Dark Lord are largely a wish fulfillment journey-narrative of her overcoming depression consequent to her mother’s death and her hasty marriage’s dissolution. Christianity had a large place in that — but she is not pushing it for others and seems to have no little hostility for the Church Ladies who fostered the Potter Panic and Harry Hating ten years ago.

I hope that helps! Thank you again for your kind words about Bookshelf and, in advance, for writing me to share what you think of the attached chapter —



Dear Sir:

Till I read your book I didn’t understand why another any other would attack a fictional person.

In your attempts to tear down Harry Potter and the real J K Rollings, you’ve only served to make your self smaller than you already were.

Dear little Dobby who gave his fictional life for his friends, he who wasn’t even a quarter of Harry Potters size; he would have been a giant compared to you.

You can brand it any way you chose and call your self anything you like.

Before you try to tear down J K Rollings down, look at all the good she’s done with her money; Look Before You Leap.

Since you quote scripture as you see it to be;

” Judge not, that you be not judged.”




Dear JAC,

Thank you for your note!

If you had read more than the title page of my book How Harry Cast His Spell, you would know it is an explanation of the artistry and meaning of the Hogwarts Saga with a special emphasis on its traditional Christian content. If you had read the title page closely, you would have learned how to spell the author’s last name.

Thank you again for the morning wake-up!



Subject: I who see more than most, saw what you described.

Dear Sir:

As I’m a history buff and have belonged to several Bible Study groups over the years, I who read in more than one language have read the myriads of the copies of the Bible.

Before you stomp in a mud puddle make sure that your sheets are clean.

I believe that this acquaints to the phrase I  already sighted Judge not that yea be not judged, least you too be found wanting when your debt is due. As it comes like the thief in the night, no advance warning; no way to prepare, be it Life or Death.

As stated I am a history buff it has been said about me I have a policeman’s eyes, very little escapes my sight.

You’re a poor fisherman as you cast your nets on dry land instead of in the sea; you seek fish where there is none.

You attack a child’s hero and try to make him appear to be the villain, all because of a make believe the casting of spells and curses.

In that I’ve answered the ministers around me to the degree that they worried that it might be real, and the children might fall pray to such as that, only to be told that it isn’t real.

I told them that there’s more in their own books, their own versions of the Word. The curses and blessings of that of the Creator than ever a mortal man could fathom, unless you’re one of those who believe that He is really a she.



You have not read my book, JAC. Your supposed facility with languages, policemen’s eyes (!), and familiarity with scripture, consequently, are of no use to you in criticizing my work on Harry Potter.

Write me, preferably with an apology, when you have read something I have written.

But, please, do not write again not until you have read one of my books, anyone of which would reveal to you the absurdity of your charge above. You’re embarrassing yourself and wasting my time.

Dear John

HogPro has prompted me to become a more serious reader. I recently read Genesis by Bernard Beckett and would be eager to discuss it with the HogPro community.

Just a book suggestion!


Wow! Genesis sounds pretty depressing —  something like Hunger Games meets Planet of the Apes.

I’ll run it by the other Hogwarts Professors.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Grateful John

Ce Yo wrote:
I would love to buy your books for my Kindle.  Any chance you guys will have the Kindle version any time soon?


Dear Ce Yo,

I’m working on new books for Kindle and my books published by Tyndale and Penguin (Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and How Harry Cast His Spell) are already available in this format.

My books with Zossima Press are not available in this format because that publisher doesn’t think it is a good idea. Please go to www.zossima.com and use the contact form to tell him how wrong he is!

Thank you for this kind note — and look for Harry Potter Smart Talk in Kindle format soon —



I have been working on an Hunger Games fanfiction which incorporates some literary alchemy. It follows Gale after Mockingjay. I would love to hear the opinions of some readers who might catch some of the symbolism. If you get a chance it is located at this site.




Dear R—-, if I may,

Your prayers.

I have bcc’d the six serious readers I know who are Hunger Games fans and out-of-the-closet literary alchemists, the kind who explain the symbolism I’ve missed on first and second trips through a text. I’m neck deep in projects now or I’d dive in myself — and I hope the hermetic crowd will let me listen in to their feedback to your work!

Thank you for writing with this link —



Dear John,

Thank you for sharing your chapter from the Deathly Hallows Lectures about the “Seeing Eye”.  I am saving it for future reads as it was a little mind-bending for a guy who hasn’t had much theoretical reading in quite some time.  But I will attempt to give you my response, perhaps from a different perspective, as my specialty is in family therapy rather than philosophy or literature.  I hope you will forgive my rudimentary understanding of your chapter.

There were several points that struck me during my reading.  Primary among these is the concept of knowing God by knowing how we know.  This is very fascinating to me on a number of levels.  Obviously, on a theological level it is challenging, but in so many ways more rewarding.  Having grown out of a need to see God as some guy with a white beard living in the clouds, this concept is much more satisfying. Its more process oriented and relational, which is something I seek, spiritually.  I think many Christians might not find this way of thinking unappealing because they prefer to make their faith something concrete rather than fluid.

I was reminded of something I read in grad school that talked about how fairy tales were a way for children to not only understand relationships but work through their issues with mother or father symbolically.  Rather than taking on frustration they might feel towards mom or dad directly, which is a scary proposition, they enjoy stories about witches and ogres or wolves with diminutive protagonists like Jack or Little Red Ridinghood taking them on a defeating them.  The proposition was that these stories were appealing, not because of their narrative but rather because of the symbolic process.  Similar?

Speaking of narratives, there is an approach to doing family therapy that is called Narrative Family Therapy (Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends by White and Epston).  This approach to therapy is built of the work of philosopher Michele Foulcout (sp?).  For therapy, the authors state that the stories we tell about ourselves and our relationships not only describe how we see things, they shape how we see things.  A stuck family, then, is one that has a “problem saturated narrative” (so descriptive!) and the therapist’s job is to help the family identify “unique outcomes” (events, etc, that exist outside of the narrative) that can be incorporated to help the clients “re-story” their relationships into stories that are more strength-based and healthy.  I thought a lot about this approach while reading this chapter.

Finally, I was reminded of a story from my own life while reading the chapter and thinking about the Eye-I concept.  I had just started as  a therapist at the agency where I still work.  In grad school, I had hand-written my case-notes.  Here, I dictated notes that were later typed by a secretary and put in the case file.  Well, I had been working with a couple on communicating more effectively by looking at each other while they talked (rather than having these “parallel conversations” couples so frequently have while watching t.v. or driving in a car.

They were missing so much information.  Well, when I dictated it, for some reason our secretary typed “eye contact” as “I contact”.  When I reviewed my notes before the next session, I had my next intervention!  We were working on so much more than simply looking at a set of ocular organs.  We were attempting to have them make contact with their spouse’s “I”, their deeper person, their soul.  Funny how “mistakes” can so often lead to deeper meaning.

So, thank you once again for sharing your chapter with me.  Very deep, dense stuff that I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of.  We’ll see what I can glean in the future.

Thanks again for sharing.


[A blog post linked to my site claiming there was no connection between the Muggletonians and the Muggles in Harry Potter –]

Muggletonian Curses, Stupidity, Nicodemism, and Harry Potter

with 4 comments

A few years back I published a brief introduction to Muggletonianism. I confess that one of the first things that intrigued me with Muggletonians was the name which bears absolutely no relation to Harry Potter! That is the only reference to Harry Potter in the post but hopefully the inclusion in the title will boost search engine results!

Reading through Andrew Bradstock’s chapter on Muggletonians a few things strike me in relation to my 2006 piece….

[I responded –]

Actually, the word Muggletonian has a great deal to do with Harry Potter. The author of the Hogwarts Saga sets the critical event of Wizarding History in 1692 — and her wizards and witches are as likely as not the hermetic Christian magi that went underground at the Restoration. Her sub-created fictional world is populated, consequently, with Muggles, Seekers, and alchemists, and notables like John Everard (complete with Roundhead haircut) make important cameo appearances.

There is a chapter devoted to the Radical Reformation echoes in Harry Potter in the book, ‘Harry Potter Smart Talk.

I’d note, too, that the historians of Mormonism, most notably Dan Vogel in ‘Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism,’ and John Brooke in ‘The Refiner’s Fire,’ make a cogent case that Muggletonian beliefs — especially about the physical God the Father — are foundational to Latter-day Saint theology.

Muggletonian progeny, consequently, are the most powerful and numerous survivors of the Radical Reformation and there is small chance that there will ever be a last Muggletonian, at least not in their beliefs’ progeny.


Dear Mister Granger,
At first I want to tell you that I am seriously impressed about how my you find out about Harry Potter and how easily to understand you write your book although the content is difficult. I am a student in Bavaria and I want to write my turn paper I need to recieve my university entry qualification about the character of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter. I have to fill about 15 pages including pictures and I have to concentrate on the seventh book because otherwise my turn paper would be too long and the content to far-reaching.

I have already read your books Unlocking Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Lectures and they are really very, very useful for me. In The Deathly Hallows Lectures you answered several questions. For me the most interesting was the one about Lord Voldemort being compared to Adolf Hitler – this is the topic I would love to write about – but  there is still one question: Is there enough information to write 15 pages?

I do not only write about the book but also about the film. But do you think this is enough content if my turn paper would be called: ‘Lord Voldemort and his regime ressemble Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime’? Then I would have to proof that heading.

Or if there is not enough information, could you think of an interesting aspect I could write about?

Thank you much!

Best regards,


Dear VR,

Thank you for your kind letter! I know nothing about University Entry Qualifications in Bavaria or the type of term paper you need to write but there is certainly enough ‘Voldemort = Hitler’ ideas in Deathly Hallows to fill 15 pages.

I’d start with the Deathly Hallows symbol, which Ms. Rowling uses as a swastika, at least with respect to how Viktor Krum reacts to it.

That would take you to the Grindlewald story, which wizard war between Albus and his former friend, concurrent with WWII, is a clear Nazi-UK parallel.

Here you can begin to explain Voldemort as Hitler, how, for example, each was obsessed with purity of blood though both were ‘mudbloods’ of sorts themselves.

You can discuss Voldemort’s rise to power through manipulation of the businessmen, weak government leaders, and media and draw the parallels with Hitler.

Resistance to Hitler was largely the French-English alliance; the opening scenes of Deathly Hallows are the wedding of the British and French families, the Weasleys and Delacouers.

I recommend, too, some discussion of Hitler’s search for the Spear of Destiny and the Dark Lord’s acquisition of the Wand of Destiny.

And their personal lives? And their sycophant fellows?

How about the Death Eaters and their Dark Mark? Any resemblance here with SS Waffen shock troops?

Here is a post from my web site listing all the Nazi WWII parallels readers found the first week after Hallows was published. Some great ones here — the Goblins as the Swiss, round-ups of undesirables, the eugenics argument in the first chapter for the killing of Charity Burbage, etc.

I hope this helps! I cc a friend in Germany in case she can help with your specific paper needs.



Mr. Granger,

My name is S — . I will be soon studying English literature at Liberty University in the fall of 2011. I plan to study creative writing and
storytelling and I was struck by your theories expressed in Unlocking Harry Potter, especially the theories of narrative misdirection and alchemy imagery.

I plan to use Harry Potter, in addition to Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lewis’s Narnia series, as examples of modern storytelling methods. I was wondering if you could recommend any additional resources that I may use to further my research? Are there any addition scholarly works written about misdirection and literary alchemy? How do you recommend I tie in these three authors as storytellers?

Thank you,
S —-
Romans 11:36

Dear S —-,

Your prayers.

Thank you for your note and for reading Unlocking Harry Potter.

Your status at Liberty is unclear from your letter; I cannot tell from it whether you are a student currently at Liberty or  if you will be matriculating this fall. If you are already on campus, I urge you to contact Prof. David Baggett who is a published authority on this subject, a good friend, and a man whose acquaintance you need to make regardless of your interest in Harry Potter. He’s a seminal thinker and virtuous man, a rare combination and an important, exciting possible teacher for you as a Liberty student.

To your questions:

Could you recommend any additional resources that I may use to further my research? Are there any addition scholarly works written about misdirection and literary alchemy?

Please do a ‘search’ of my website, HogwartsProfessor.com, on these two subjects, review the footnotes in the chapters of Unlocking you mention, and pick up copies of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and especially The Deathly Hallows Lectures. Then pick up a guide to detective fiction or to Jane Austen for ‘narrative misdirection’ or one on narrative voice for misdirection and Stanton Linden’s book on literary alchemy.

How do you recommend I tie in these three authors as storytellers?

Read and reflect! I don’t say that glibly as off-hand as it must seem. It’s what I am doing currently as I struggle to find the origin of Ms. Rowling’s use of traditional ‘Ring Composition’ in her books, which I think is in the Narniad (it certainly is in CSL’s Ransom trilogy but I don’t have any evidence beyond a shared use of traditional alchemy to suggest she has read those books). ‘Tie-ing in’ authors by the way they tell stories requires what Ruskin calls “slow mining,” i.e., careful, meditative review of how each tells stories and how mutual influences and the traditions in which they write tell stories.

No small task! But welcome to this delightful and edifying adventure! I suspect, being at Liberty, you will have excellent mentors in this work and that Prof. Baggett, an acknowledged authority on C. S. Lewis as well as Joanne Rowling and big fan of imaginative Christian literature, will be an invaluable guide to you.

Thank you again for writing!



So I have an amazing idea for the amazing author j.k. Rowling. My idea is that she begins to write an entire prequall series about when voldemorte, harrys family, and family friends went to hogwarts. And also when voldemorte came to power and began recruiting wizards and witches for his army. I think those would be amazing books to read and would give your fans such a better insight on where Harry came from. And not to mention the movies would kick ass! I hope you take my idea seriously it would be a money maker. All I ask for if u do take this idea seriously is maybe send me a little bit of profits. Not much just something for my mom to help her with all of her financial problems. My name is Danny and I appreciate your time and thank you for reading my email.

Sent by D—– from my iPhone

Dear D—–,

Thank you for your kind note and great idea.

Sadly, as ‘Hogwarts Professor,’ I have no more contact or access to Ms. Rowling than you do. We are both fans and readers of her work but our only way of communicating with her is through written letters sent by overland rather than electronic mail. Her address is available through her website, JKRowling.com.

My best wishes to you in your attempt to contact Ms. Rowling with your idea for Harry Potter ‘prequels’ and to you and your mother in your financial difficulties.


John Granger

Hello John,

It was a delight to have listened to your lecture on Harry Potter found on Ancient Faith Radio. I was so intrigued, I also obtained a copy of Finding God in Harry Potter [sic]. I think I struggle with stories that realistically convey the power of humility and love, partly because so much of our Protestant culture focuses on a quick and easy conversion. I believe that each and every one of us needs a conversion, but this image is difficult to convey. Harry Potter seems to supply these examples in the context of realistic relationships.

I teach Language Arts at a Catholic School, and most of my students have read the series at least once. I try to teach from more adult literature in my classroom: the kids love The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Hobbit. Many enjoy dramatizing Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, also. After listening and reading to your outline of Harry’s inward journey,  I am seriously contemplating replacing much of my curriculum with a study of the HP series.Do you have any teaching resources of your own, or can you recommend them to me?

I also converted to Orthodoxy after reading Dostoyevsky (followed by the healthy helping of Met. Kallistos’ works). I realize now that Dostoyevsky answered my questions about love and death. Later, I found that this is a common trend of Russian authors. I sense that most of your anaysis focuses on Rowling following the traditions of English literature, but she seems to be in the Russian tradition as well.

Also, you traced the path of growth from renunication to illumination to theosis in the HP series. You convincingly identified Hagrid as the embodyment of the last stage. If you explain this in one of your books I will stumble across it. If not, what about Hagrid makes him the most deified character (after Dumbledore)?



Dear M—–, if I may,

Your prayers.

Thank you for your kind and generous letter! Let me rush answers or attempts at answering your questions. Please forgive my haste and brevity —

I am seriously contemplating replacing much of my curriculum with a study of the HP series.Do you have any teaching resources of your own, or can you recommend them to me?

I have written three books about the Hogwarts Saga beside Looking for God in Harry Potter (revised and re-titled post Deathly Hallows as How Harry Cast His Spell) the most relevant to your curriculum needs is Harry Potter’s Bookshelf (Penguin, 2009). It’s a survey of English literature, the ten genres within Rowling’s work, and an introduction to reading at four layers of text. The original manuscript before I cut it done and before the real knives were drawn at Penguin, was twice the length of the final product. If you want that, go here.

I’m working on a revision of Unlocking Harry Potter and the most important update will be the addition of ‘Ring Composition’ to that text. You can read about that here.

you traced the path of growth from renunication to illumination to theosis in the HP series. You convincingly identified Hagrid as the embodyment of the last stage. If you explain this in one of your books I will stumble across it. If not, what about Hagrid makes him the most deified character (after Dumbledore)?
Purity of heart? Considering Rubeus did not turn out to be the ‘red’ man who was to die in Deathly Hallows (which distinction fell to Rufus and F-red), I’m not sure I’d hold to my Hagrid interpretation, if he is the Rebus and man-giant and, after a fashion of symbol of Christ, the God-man.

I attach a chapter from Deathly Hallows Lectures I’d love to read your thoughts on.

Thank you again for writing!


John, wishing you an edifying Lent and joyous Pascha

Dear John,

Thanks for your response. I’m honored that you would ask for my thoughts on a chapter. I have much more of an appreciation for the books I teach after reading your works. I can convey the deeper importance of symbolism as well as difference between it and allegory. I never realized the depth of Ms. Rowlings work, although i wondered about things like why Harry could suddenly see without his glasses. Thanks again.

I enjoyed the chapter you sent. I immediately connected your throughts to my favorite Lewis work Til We Have Faces. His point in this book, I believe, is that none of us can live real human lives until we have a face. The Greek for face (I’m sure you know) is the same as for a person. He seems to use Orual’s veil similar to the way that Rowling uses an unseeing eye. There is a “facade of ego” that Orual must overcome in order to have a real human face (and call herself an I), and so be able to “see” God face to face.

On page 179, you make a very good point about Rowling’s commentary, via Dumbledore, on those that reduce the mind to a series of chemical responses. i think this point fits in very well with your point about the Harry Potter series being about the power of choice. If all thoughts and feelings (or any faculty of the soul) is just chemistry, there is no free will, and no ability to choose love. On a more personal note in this regard, the Harry Potter stories are now for me a powerful story about how important our choices are. I think very highly of Fr. Tom Hopko, but in one lecture he said that “there was almost no hope” for those who are from a really broken family. It was a passing hyperbolic comment but it caused me to worry about certain people in my life. Rowling convincingly traces the choices that made Harry a Good and True hero , and the powerful influence of a teacher and a few good friends.

Thanks also for the resources. I am also intrigued by the Twilight series after listening to your lecture. I’ve ordered Spotlight, but the Twilight books themselves are difficult for a man to read. She did manage to make it almost halfway through before using the word “smouldering”, and I only counted three uses of “husky.”



[In response to a request for thoughts about a University level class on ‘witchcraft’ which would explore contemporary African magic and the witchcraft of the Hogwarts Saga]

Dear D—- and A—-,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for including me in this conversation, if I suspect what I might contribute is well off the page of your request about putting together a University class using Harry Potter.

Just as an FYI, I don’t think witchcraft per se is important for understanding Harry Potter, at least not relative to literary alchemy, the Romantic tradition in which Ms. Rowling works her magic. The author has said it is alchemy that sets the parameters of her use of magic and I think it follows quite deliberately the anti-mechanist and pro-sacramental agenda of other literary alchemists like the Inklings and other, earlier Coleridgeans.

I have no idea of how alchemy relates to African magic, if Eliade and Burckhardt both discuss African metallurgy as contemporary instances of traditional alchemical thinking. But the links of witchcraft as such and the magic of Harry Potter, I’m afraid, are relatively superficial if the alchemical perspective of Lewis and others into which Rowling taps profoundly is neglected.

I hope that is helpful; my apologies if it isn’t!



Hi John, I was wondering what your opinion on the plot of Harry Potter vs the plot of Twilight was.

I feel that Harry has a richer, much more thought out plot than Twilight.


Dear L,

I have written a whole book on the subject! See Spotlight at Amazon. Or you can just gor to FHSProfessor.com and work your way through blog posts there.

Thanks for writing!


Hello John Granger,
I just purchased your novel Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and I’m very interested to know more about how Everyman and Harry Potter are related (Chapter 7: Harry Potter as an Everyman Allegory). If you could give me more information, that’d be great!
Thank you,
Dear A—–, if I may,
Thank you for your note.

I’m not sure what to tell you! Do you have any specific questions about Everyman and Harry Potter that I didn’t address in that chapter? Have you searched my web site, HogwartsProfessor.com?

There is a chapter on the allegorical quality of the Chamber of Secrets morality play that might be helpful in How Harry Cast His Spell, some of which can be read online here.

Thanks again for writing!



Dear Hogwarts Professor,

You came to my school, Pope John Paul II Catholic High School, a couple of months ago, and I was inspired to read your books. I have a story I would like to share with you.

Last night–I think I may have even dreamed this–I realized something that you probably already know, but I thought that I would tell you anyway.

The story of Jesus’ passion and resurrection is alchemical! When He died, the sky turned black. He descended into Hell and emerged white and pure on Easter morning. Then, He ascended into Heaven. On Pentecost, He sent down fire, which is red!!

I was rather excited and I thought you’d like to hear about my nighttime epiphany.


Dear A—, if I may,

Your prayers this Great and Holy Tuesday.

I never have thought of it this way, but no doubt the spiritual alchemists did! You have made my day. Thank you for giving me a new way of thinking about, even experiencing the liturgical realities of the coming weeks.

Gratefully and in admiration,


Hi John,

I loved “Looking For God…” and frequently refer back to it as I try to answer others as to my great passion for HP books.

I’m about to write a book called about the friendships found in Harry Potter, and was curious about using the word “Harry Potter” in the title, or possibly any quotes from the series in my own book itself.  I saw that your book had a disclaimer in it about the Harry Potter verbiage, which I assumed you got permission from Scholastic to include Harry Potter in the title by using that disclaimer.

Is that an easy thing to request from Scholastic, is there payment necessary, and if I were to use any quotes from the series itself in my book, do you think they would allow that?  I want to write to Scholastic next, but thought I’d check your experience so I could be better-informed when I write to them.

Thanks for any input!



Dear E—, if I may,

As a rule, I never make contact with Scholastic or any part of the Harry Potter corporate franchise — and certainly not to ask their permission for anything. Criticism of work in the public square is ‘fair use’ and close to unrestricted via copyright.

Hope that helps!


Hello Professor,

I’m a ninth grade honors student with a passion for literature and deciphering the words behind the diction, particularly when it’s presented as a narrative. I was introduced to your work shortly after I finished JK Rowling’s masterpiece series and enjoy reading your analyses of not only Mrs. Rowling’s but also other popular literature. I’ve always had this love for literature and would like to make a career out of it. Seeing as that literary analysis and explanation is a field you know how to play, I was wondering what you could tell me as far as classes to take. Currently I want to major in English at the University of ——-.

Thank you!

Dear RG,

Thank you for your kind note.

I’m not sure if I’m the person to ask for advice about how to become a literature maven. The path I took has been one of private study rather than formal education — I didn’t take a single English course as an undergraduate and have not pursued graduate degrees — and I’m more than suspicious that, if you love to read and think, this avenue outside the academy is much more likely to preserve and foster your love of good books than English departments at Universities.

If you want to teach and make a safe living as an adjunct professor, however, the way of the “independent scholar” is not possible for you. You will need the credential of an advanced degree in English from a better university, UGa or better. As it seems the future of soft university positions is not bright (poorly paid and over-worked adjuncts, most with PhDs, are now the rule and tenured professors the exception), I advise you to think seriously about the prudence of laying out your life plan with a goal position that may not exist when you finish your dissertation.

I attach interviews with an educational reformer I admire, John Holt, and recommend you check out this web site page on the harsher realities of life as an academic. In brief, formal education is quite possibly demeaning rather than edifying to both teachers and students.

Sorry for that harsh bit of discouraging advice — but you asked. Thank you again for the note!




Professor Granger:

On the contrary, I found the email and the attached research & interviews very encouraging. I tend to zone out of classes (that are supposed to be Honors level!) once I’ve finished the worksheets… and then, more often than not, the teacher finishes explaining the last few questions. The avenue of private study sounds much more enticing; my only concern is about a means to make a living. While I would certainly prefer to be a Howard Roark than a Peter Keating, the reliable work is a strong proponent of pursuing the professional academic environment. Other than that, I don’t see why I need a school to tell me that I know the information. Not to mention, reciting facts is easy once you’ve been spoon-fed them, but applying them is a different matter. And is much easier when they’re learned in the context to which they relate.

I have never considered a career in education; my experience with teachers has been enough warning against the profession. The best teachers I have had rarely taught anything. They stepped back and let the students learn.

I really enjoyed the interviews and other paraphernalia you attached. I can easily relate, particularly with the disguising or omitting an age when participating in an “adult” conversation. Rarely do I mention that I’m a student, with the exception being in communities that it is accepted that you don’t need a class schedule or certified professors reading information to you to learn. “Etudiana” is the alias I’ve used to comment once or twice on HogPro, and I derived that from the French word “etudient”, which means “student”. I found it appropriate not because I’m enrolled in high school, but because I enjoy learning.

Thank you so much!!


I was reading an answer that you gave someone in your HogPro Mailbag. The one ‘On Death and Hogwarts Paintings.’ I got up to the part
where you copied and pasted J.K.’s answer about portraits. She says that “there are some people who would not come back as ghosts because they are unafraid, or less afraid, of death.”

It hit me right away. Who is the person in the whole series who is very afraid of death? Who is the person who spent a large part of his life trying to defeat death?

According to this, should Voldemort not come back as a ghost then?


Dear K—, if I may,

My guess is that coming back requires some kind of psychic integrity. The very act of the Dark Lord’s dissolution of soul — and the destruction of 6/7 (7/8?) of his soul in various Horcruxes speaks to there being very little chance of his returning from the dead as a ghost.

Thank you for the intriguing question!



Dear Mr. Granger,
I am one of those people who did not have the privilege of reading Harry Potter when I was younger. My conservative parents kept me as far away from both the books and movies as possible (The good news is, I have convinced them to let my younger sister read them). I am now a —– year student at Biola University (I heard you speak last year on Twilight, and wish I would have had the privilege to hear you speak about Harry Potter), and have just recently read the Harry Potter series.
I absolutely fell in love with the books. I remember journaling about how the books were strengthening my faith in a way I couldn’t fathom. I didn’t understand why until I read your How Harry cast His Spell. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for this book. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Harry Potter, specifically the power of transcendant love and true friendship.
I can’t wait to read the series again and see what new things I can pick up…I also await the day that I can read them to my own children. I feel like I have a lot of questions for you, but, at the moment, they’re all a blur in my head. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.
Christ is Risen!!!
S— E——-


Dear S— E——-,

Indeed He is Risen!

Thank you for this very kind and generous note. Anytime the decision makers at Biola-Torrey want me to come back, my bags are packed and I’m ready to go!

Here are the two talks I’d love to give there:

Beyond ‘The Lion is Christ’ Allegory: The Inner Heart of the Chronicles of NarniaC. S. Lewis’ “wisest and best unofficial teacher” Owen Barfield said that “everything Lewis thought was evident in anything he wrote.” John Granger, whom TIME magazine dubbed “the Dean of Harry Potter scholars” for his work revealing the traditional artistry and meaning of the Hogwarts Saga, believes this observation of Barfield and Lewis’ admission of what he learned from his friend and mentor provides an illuminating lens for a transformed vision of novels that are largely about transformed vision.

Lewis famously resisted the reading of his books as tit-for-tat allegories and yet this is the accepted, restrictive understanding of his work. Join John Granger begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting for a trip to the Narniad‘s inner heart, the medieval, mystical, even metaphysical mind reflected in each Chronicle, an “inside bigger than the outside” journey to this master’s magical imaginative kingdom.

In a fun, challenging talk, Granger reveals the Ring Composition structure of each book as well as the spherical shape of the series as a whole, the alchemical and astrological artistry of the books, and Lewis’ embedded esoteric teaching about the unity of our mind and the cause of existence.

And —

Harry Potter Chapter Rings, Character Names, and Magic Mirrors:  The Genius Inside the Planning of the Hogwarts Saga

Joanne Rowling has told interviewers for more than a decade that the secret of her success was her intensive “planning” of the series, a “boring answer” she always apologizes for. But what exactly was she planning that took five years to sketch before she began writing the books and six months prior to each novel’s composition? Potter Pundit John Granger, author of Unlocking Harry Potter: Seven Keys for the Serious Reader and editor of Harry Potter Smart Talk, believes she was working on embedding within her story the structures and symbols that would reflect her most profound meaning. Want to learn why Harry’s name as well as all the alliterative names and those with reduplicated letters are what they are? Curious about the Deathly Hallows symbol and what it really tells us about Ms. Rowling’s novels? Interested in why specific events happen in the chapters they do in each book and why there are seven novels? Come hear John Granger reveal at last the genius in Rowling’s planning and how it generated Potter-mania

Tell Prof. Reynolds you’d be interested in either one of these talks and I bet I’ll see you next fall!

Sales pitch aside, thank you again for your note. I’m neck deep in three writing projects and wondering, as always, if it means anything to anybody. A letter like yours, the proverbial wind in the sails, makes all the difference. I appreciate more than you can know your taking time to write!




I’m a Grad student of English and I came across your book while doing research for a paper I was writing. I noticed that your book, Looking for God in Harry Potter, was written before the concluding book of the HP series was written. Do you plan to write, or have you already written a book exploring the Biblical themes and motifs in the series as a whole? I loved reading your book, and there were many times I was thankful that it crossed my path only after I read the whole HP series.

I caught myself reading your explanations of Rowling’s literary allusions and saying, If I had known this when I was reading, I wouldn’t have been surprised by some of the things that happened in the ending. I was introduced to the Harry Potter series when I was a young teen and have always been skeptical of those who denounced the series as demonic. Thank you for giving me more reasons, in addition to my own, to claim that Harry Potter is not only good fiction but also good fiction that Christians can be proud to read.

thank you,

P.S. My paper relates the classical allusions in Faerie Queene to the ones in Harry Potter 🙂

Dear KL,

Thank you for the kind note!

Alas, I’m away from my computer or I’d send you the updates to Looking for God. They’re in the final version of that book, which was re-titled ‘How Harry Cast His Spell,’ and they’re in my Deathly Hallows Lectures as a chapter called ‘The Christian Content of Deathly Hallows.’ I recommend you get a copy of the latter because it has a lot about the eye symbolism and Dante echoes that are not available anywhere else.

The Associate Headmistress at HogwartsProfessor.com, Elizabeth Baird-Hardy is a Faerie Queen devotee who has spoken on the overlap of Spencer and Rowling as epic writers. She also is a lot of fun and a great and generous friend. Do write to her!

And do search HogwartsProfessor.com for topics of interest! See you there —

John, grateful for your note

Mr. Granger,

I wanted to begin by thanking you for you lecture [at Buffalo State].  I have not yet had a chance to read any of your books, but I will correct that very soon.  Your lecture was interesting and informative.  I wanted to restate my question to you (I can understand your exhaustion), as well as offer a bit of constructive criticism.

Firstly, my question was this: In light of your ideas on the spirit tryptych, and the central theme of the logos character; how do you explain the identification of the logos with the “bad guys” of the metanarrative?  In “Star Wars” for example, Luke finally accepts his identification as Darth Vader’s son; Harry finds out, similarly, that he is descended from the family that created the Deathly Hallows, the symbols of ultimate power in his world.  Both of them must acknowledge a descent from the “power” just before they enter the conflict
where they must speak their “ultimate truth.”  How does this fit into your idea of the logos moving through their journey on the ring?

Now my criticism.  I know that you lived through the time period where the word “retard” was getting stamped out of general conversation.  I am sure, since you feel so strongly about civil rights and misogyny, that you understand to use someone’s medical condition into an insult is simply wrong.  With that in mind, I will point out that you used both “idiot” and “moron” in the course of your
lecture.  These are medical designations, and to use them as insults is terribly hurtful to those that are so diagnosed; as well as their friends and family.

There were at least two such attending your lecture.  As an author and lecturer I will ask you to be more sensitive to the words that you use that can be hurtful.  You seem to be a compassionate man, so I hope you will show compassion to those with these developmental disabilities.

Thank you for your time,

T. G——


Dear Ms. G——–,

Thank you for your question and note! Question first —

In light of your ideas on the spirit tryptych,and the central theme of the logos character; how do you explain the identification of the logos with the “bad guys” of the metanarrative?  In “Star Wars” for example, Luke finally accepts his identification as Darth Vader’s son; Harry finds out, similarly, that he is descended from the family that createdthe Deathly Hallows, the symbols of ultimate power in his world.  Both of them must acknowledge a descent from the “power” just before they enter the conflict where they must speak their “ultimate truth.”  How does this fit into your idea of the logos moving through their journey on the ring?

You know, I’m fully rested and I’m still clear only that I don’t understand your question! Luke’s self-definition, though I am not a Star Wars adept, is in the difference between himself and his father, not their positive relationship, and he turns his father to the good in the end. Harry does not relate to his Pevensie heritage or Dark Lord Horcrux in that he chooses to pursue Horcruxes rather than Hallows in his identification with the logos or single eye reflection.

I attach something on this last idea that I think may help. I don’t ‘get’ your assertion that ‘speaking truth to power’ anti-metanarrative message is somehow undermined by relation of truth speaker and power-holder; forgive my dullness here, please

About your assertion that I was insensitive in my language use, I would like to read where or from whom you have come to the understanding that ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ are “medical designations.” Both come from Greek words, the first from ‘fool’ and the other for ‘private person, or individual,’ which to Greeks come to much the same thing. They are used in the same sense in English and in words derived from them (e.g., ‘sophomore,’ wise-fool). I ran this by a friend — PhD in psychiology from Princeyon and who has taught at Harvard, Upsalla, Oxford, etc, and fluent in Greek! — and he tells me these words are not medical but philosophical designations.

I said so many things that were politically incorrect while at Buff State, I confess to being startled that this choice of words was what set off your red flags for insensitivity! But if you can demonstrate to me that these words are actually used by medical professionals currently to specify mental disabilities or retardation, I will refrain from using them in the future lest I hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally.

I will add as a close what should be obvious — I am very skeptical that either is a “medical designation” and am astonished frankly at your taking offense at my use of words, usually as self-deprecating asides, that in common parlance mean ‘fool.’ If anything, this one part of your note strikes me as self-importance calling for the use of either word in its adjectival form!


John, standing by to eat crow if you can back up your assertion with citations from credible, current medical sources, grateful for your kind words, correction, and question

Okay, I think maybe I didn’t understand what “the logos” or “the metanarrative” mean.  I am sure it was a fault in me, as you explained your terms well.  I might be seeing connections where they simply don’t exsist.  I am going to go read a few of your books, and will come back to you with my question if I think that it is still valid (with a bit more common ground ,I hope, and perhaps a better way of asking).
As to the other:
“Moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard[3] from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant “dull”[4] (as opposed to “sharp”), and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale.[5] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51-70, being superior in one degree to “imbecile” (IQ of 26-50) and superior in two degrees to “idiot” (IQ of 0-25).
3.  Trent, James W. Jr. (1995). Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States. University of California Press, ISBN 9780520203570
5.   Zenderland, Leila (2001). Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521003636
I will admit that I pulled this snippet from Wikipedia, but the relevant citations were included.  Frankly, I am not on campus right now, so I did not have access to the actual works.  While some psychologists have stopped using the Binet scale, these terms are still widely used in the treatment, housing and workshops of those who work with the developmentally disabled.  My sister is one of those professionals, and my cousin is a person within that system.
Yes, there were other parts of your lecture which could be considered offensive, not least your referring to me, specifically, as a “freak” for liking Latin class; but I console myself in that you TAUGHT Latin, so you are probably a freak like me!  🙂
I am generally not an easily offended person.  I actually found you pretty funny.  I have a personal axe to grind, and I was informing you of it.  Yes, the terms are from Greek, and if you check your OED, “idiot” has been used since before Shakespeare.  Honestly, I thought that if anyone should understand that language CHANGES it would be you.  I am trying to make a change where I see a problem.
Thank you for writing back.  I hope that I will be able to contact you again with a more coherent question soon.
–T. G—–
Dear Ms. G——-,

Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response.

I look forward to your feedback and questions about anything I’ve written.

As for ‘moron’ and ‘idiot,’ my brief internet search confirmed my friend’s opinion that these words are not in current use as “medical designations” for mental retardation and have not been since Wechsler’s classifications displaced Stanford-Binet in the 1940s. I refer you to this site and this one and this one. Given the spread of Stanford-Binet testing via the Eugenics movement, I’m startled that it is being offered as a 21st Century standard.

Again, ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ as terms describing philosophical and theological ‘conditions’ go back to Aristotle’s peripatetics. That a psychometric specialist used them as categories to sort IQ test scores at the turn of the previous century really doesn’t make the case that these perfectly good and useful words need to be avoided.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this point, though I do regret having unknowingly crossed a line and given you what you feel was cause to take offense. Thank you for taking the time to let me know the reason you believe I was being unkind and for confronting me as you have. Would that all or even most of my critics were so up-front and as charitable as you have been!


John, looking forward to your Potter insights and questions

Dear Mr. Granger,

Thank you so much for your enlightening lectures at the Eighth Day Symposium in January.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed hearing your interpretation of the deeper content in the Harry Potter books.  I had thought to write to you immediately after the event, but my mind was taken up with so many other things and I never had a chance to fully put my thoughts together.  I can’t believe it’s already been two months!

Since hearing your lecture on soul triptychs, literary alchemy, and ring composition, I’ve had my eyes peeled to spot those devices in other media.  I had the opportunity of attending a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute a few weeks ago and I’m pretty sure there’s some alchemy going on in that opera (and as I was browsing the internet afterwards I found this book .  Looks like a rewarding study.)  And of course, one of the main themes of the opera is the triumph of reason over the fleshly passions which resonates with what you taught us of St. Maximus, although I think Mozart’s snowman might be a bit lopsided.  I would definitely love to study this further.  If only there were more time…

What I most wanted to ask you about is something that was on my mind even before the symposium.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fiction in general and its role in our lives as Christians, and I was wondering if you could shed some light on this issue.  As someone who obviously enjoys fiction thoroughly and in whose life books play a great role, I would very much like to hear your thoughts.  Actually, instead of trying to sort out my thoughts anew, I’m going to share with you a blog entry I made on the subject a year ago.  Ironically, I wrote this specifically with the Harry Potter books in mind.

I’ve been struggling with fiction. When you enjoy a good thing, there is always the potential for it to turn sour. There are numerous ways in which a good thing can be misused – abuse, distortion, addiction, perversion, but there is also the temptation to enjoy it too much or let it consume you without remembering to keep it in perspective. The world is a good place, full of good gifts, but it is not to be enjoyed for its own sake, right? Only inasmuch as it points us to the source, which is God. But where do you find the balance between too much and not at all? There must be a way, but I haven’t found it. There must be a way to enjoy fiction to its full extent without enjoying it too much, depending on it, without letting it consume you. How can you enjoy the good things while ensuring that you still enjoy God more? It seems like if I enjoy a good work of fiction at all, I enjoy it too much and my only other option is total abstinence. I guess, if that is my weakness, then it is better to abstain than to fall into sin. I just can’t seem to find a place between total consumption and total abstinence.

Basically, what I’m saying is that fiction, whether in the form of books or movies, tends to consume me and make me insensitive to reality.  I get so caught up in the characters and the intensity of the story that my own life begins to lose its flavor.  Have you experienced this?  In your lecture you talked a lot about our need for transcendence as humans and the fact that many people turn to these books to fulfill that need, but isn’t that idolatry?  God is the only thing/one that can fill our yearning after the transcendent, and to seek it in any other direction is simply a “chasing after the wind.”  So, if reading Harry Potter is to the lost in our society a doorway to the transcendent, then what are these books to us as Christians who have already walked through that door?

Thanks again for sharing such a wealth of knowledge with us.  May God richly bless you in your work for his kingdom.


Dear E——–,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for this kind note — and please forgive me for taking a month to respond. So much for email as near ‘instant messaging.’

Your question is a good one, perhaps the most important one for serious readers — “does my reading make more or less a person whose identity is with Christ, rather than with ego ad its attachments to other persons, clans, things, and ideas?” I think reading fiction and especially fantasy is a providential help to us, even a spur or goad as well as something of a crutch, in materialist times during which the authentically spiritually is obscured or denied in the Public Square.

Can it be overdone and become another idol in itself? I think so. as a support to the life in Christ rather than a relacement, however, it is a great help. I attach comments along this line that I made to a brilliant German scholar this morning whom I fear, because of her ignorance of or inexperience with orthodox spirituality of any kind may exaggerate the transcendent quality of fantasy fiction.

Please let me know what you think and thank you again for your note. I have a scanned copy of the Mozart work that I received by Inter-library loan. Heady work, that!

Fraternally in the Risen Lord,


New comment on your post “New Yorker: Hunger Games = High School”

Author : Tinuvielas

Insightful comments, all of them – thanks! As to John’s: “… they work at a greater depth and deliver experience of the transcendent. Novels written with the conviction that there is no transcendent, no reality greater than the material and psychological, cannot “go there” and, however well written or majestic in language, fail as literature…”: agreed up to a certain point.

I wouldn’t restrict “literature” to texts with allegorical meaning, but I would argue for the popularity of “allegorical” literature (in the best sense), be it “young adult”-fiction or fantastical literature (my field). Here are four theses I came up with while analyzing the role of symbolic space in Tolkien and Rowling (quick translation from the original German, so bear with me) using Eliades terminology. Especially the last two may be pertinent to this discussion, I think:

1. Fantasy is, as Frank Weinreich defined in his introduction to the Genre , “metaphysics with a wink”. It aims at “satisfying the need for transgression of reality rooted in the (human) psyche”. However, unlike religion and myth  it doesn’t claim to be ‘real’. While religion presents itself as belief and conviction, Fantasy is a game relying upon the Coleridgian prerequisite of the Suspension of Disbelief.

2. Fantasy utilizes the same images, codes and themes as myth and religion. Using traditional symbols, it deals with cosmogony, man’s status in the world, Free Will, death and rebirth and the power of love. Just like holy space (as described by Eliade) is an image of the cosmos, spaces in the novels mirror the fictional cosmogony and world-order – often in reference to modern, ‘profane’ existence. This includes self-reference: The reader who disbeliefs myth may experience in the playfully mythological world of Fantasy disbelieving and – in the face of evil – despairing – man. (The German has a connection between “disbelieving, doubting” and “despairing” – the latter,”verzweifeln” appears as augmentation of the former, “zweifeln”).

3. As opposed to the ‘realistic’ novel, Fantasy can display the supernatural, the holy and transcendent as well as absolute ethical values as existing within the narrated world, and thus broach the theme of the opposition of cosmos and chaos. As in religious thought, but unlike profane, contingent and relative reality, Good and Evil, the divine and the diabolical, ‘exist’ within the cosmos of the narrated world as absolutes – they are part of the reality of the novel’s heroes, with whom the reader identifies.

4. Fantasy thereby renders possible ‘crypto-religious’ experiences of transcendence. The act of reading is similar to religious absorption: We read something and experience it at the same time; we are simultaneously present in two different places, our cosy living-room and the place of the story,  just like the believer is simultaneously present in church and in the presence of the Divine. In both cases the individual experiences the condition of Flow, the total immersion in a here-and-now that is not identical with the here-and-now of profane reality. In both cases the reader transcends reality and his egocentrical perspective and gains access to another world. This goes for all novels, but especially for for the genre of Fantasy which by definition deals with ‘other worlds’. By means of the Flow of the reading-process and the immersion in the literary cosmos, Fantasy satisfies the metaphysical need of the reader.”

Dear Tinuvielas,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for this wonderful and very helpful re-statement and expansion of Eliade’s thesis about the “religious or mythic function of entertainments” with specific reference to the Fantasy genre. My apologies for being so late in responding!

I would only add that the orthodox believer in a revealed tradition has a sacramental means, i.e., a material vehicle of Grace per se, which draws his or her whole person via this Mystery into relation with the Principle of Creation. Equating a reader’s experience of ‘Flow’ and imaginative transcendence of the ego persona with sacramental transformation in the Body of Christ, in which the idea or identity of the whole distinct person, body and soul, is deified ultimately, is to overstate the effect of the best reading experience.

Lacking the one, however, and longing for it, the other is an introduction to the real thing and fostering of the soul’s disposition to turn away from the accidental, historically limited/determined self. Which is no small thing!

Thank you again for this four-step statement of how Fantasy works in the language of Eliade and of religion.



Thank you to those who write me at john at HogwartsProfessor dot com, to those who are about to write, and in advance to those who will leave comments and corrections below. I’m looking forward to May’s correspondence!


  1. Arabella Figg says

    This is an amazing post, with such a wide range of correspondence! I’m not sure I would value one of your books over another; each has its own very important subject matter.

    That said, anyone who loves the Twilight Saga will appreciate it so much more by reading Spotlight; those who don’t love it will at the least gain an appreciation for Meyer’s artistry and storytelling.

  2. Rebecca S. says

    Loved reading your amazing correspondence. I am a Faerie Queene aficiondo and I would love to read your correspondent KL’s paper relating the classical allusions of FQ and HP. Any way that can be accomplished?

  3. Elizabeth says

    I’ve asked her if she would send it along once it is complete, and she has graciously agreed. Perhaps we can make a guest post of it! Hope you’ll enjoy the FQ chapter in the forthcoming Harry Potter for Nerds collection!

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