Ms. Rowling’s ‘Real World’ Wizards and Witches: 17th Century Christian-Hermetic Magi ‘Seekers’

[This is the second part of a two-part post on Muggles, Seekers, and their real world 17th Century counterparts. For the first part on Muggletonians, go here.]

Real quick: Name three events of English history that took place in the 17th Century. That’s the 1600’s, right?

My best friend in High School took a year off from college to travel through Europe. As a ‘Harvard man,’ he soon found that German friends at parties after a few beers liked to joke about how ignorant even the most intelligent Americans are by asking him questions about when certain things happened in their country’s history, questions that any French, English, or German child would know. Bob said he realized one night, when everyone thought it was funny that he couldn’t name the date of the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the Unification of Germany, that they weren’t so smart either. He asked them auf Deutsch what had happened in the United States between 1860 and 1865. No one had a clue.

So don’t feel bad if you didn’t very quickly say, when prompted by the words “English history 17th Century,” ‘English Civil War,’ ‘Restoration,’ and ‘Glorious Revolution‘ as most Brits would. How many American high schools offer European History and how many colleges require a Homer-to-Hitler Western Civilization sequence any more?

I bring this up, though, not to congratulate you on being as history-challenged as most of us, but to point out that not knowing even the time-line political benchmarks of 17th Century England makes us ill prepared for understanding why Ms. Rowling places the key event in Wizarding World history in 1692. It isn’t arbitrary and the date really does help understand why non-magical folk in the Hogwarts Saga are disdainfully called “Muggles” and why Quidditch heroes are “Seekers.” And, yes, it’s largely about alchemy.

To refresh your memory, the defining moment in magical history is the conference at which the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy is written and accepted. From the Harry Potter Lexicon Master Time Line:

1692: A summit meeting of the International Confederation of Wizards takes place. The discussion about magical creatures lasts seven weeks and includes delegations of goblins, centaurs, and merpeople. The result of this summit is the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, which effectively hid the Wizarding community away from the Muggles. (FB)

Why does Ms. Rowling put this event — and remember, the Int’l Statute creates the Muggle/Magical divide that defines the lives of every witch, wizard, and magical creature, like it or not — at the tail end of the 17th Century? It’s a reflection, I think, of what the Glorious Revolution (1688) meant for the non-conformist Christian sects, especially the Seekers, Quakers, and other Christians with hermetic beliefs from the Renaissance and Radical Reformation. In a word, it meant “persecution” and the suppression of all but “inner light” hints of alchemical transformation and divinization in Christ. Her Witches and Wizards are Christian-hermetic magi that go underground at the same time as their real world counter-parts, the Seekers.

Reading John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire, we learn that the translations by Ficino of the Corpus Hermeticum in Renaissance Florence (think ‘Firenze’ and Dante…) became a template for the Reformation Protestants known as ‘the Seekers:’

The Renaissance brought the full articulation of hermetic philosophy, as lost ancient texts were suddenly discovered and translated. Hermetic philosophy, or, more precisely, theology, reached a powerful synthesis at the late fifteenth century court of the Medicis, as Florentine intellectuals turned their attention from civic humanism to an other-worldly occult philosophy. Two central figures, Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94), adapted ancient hermeticism and the more recent Judaic Cabala to Christian traditions of mysticism, prophecy, and natural magic in an intellectual system that would be widely influential throughout Europe for centuries to come. (p. 10)

During the Reformation, among small but important groups of radicals and spiritualists, the doctrines of dispensational restorationism and hermetic divinization began to interweave. Conditions for such a fusion were optimal in the early sixteenth century as the Protestant assault on the Roman church immediately followed the dissemination of the Florentine synthesis of Christian hermeticism. The two traditions had a common impulse. If the Protestant impulse was broadly primitivist, seeking to return to first principles, so too was the hermetic impulse….

But the impact of hermeticism on the Protestant Reformation was highly selective. It was among the radicals — not the magisterial reformers — that the ideas of Adamic, paradisial restoration and hermetic perfectionism emerged. And only a minority of the radicals were caught up in hermetic doctrine; it was the Spiritual thinkers who took these ideas the farthest…(page 14)

Before we get lost, let’s take stock here. 15th Century Florentines translate and disseminate alchemical literature and hermetic theology on human divinization. In the 16th Century their work travels as far north as England where the ideas are sufficiently common place because of Boehme, John Dee, and the Rosicrucians that they become, via Shakespearean drama, what we call ‘literary alchemy.’ But the bigger influence is on the Seekers, one of whose leading lights is a Christian alchemist named John Everard.

The works of other Continental Spiritualists and occultists – Weigel, Agrippa, Niclaes, Franck, Eckhart – also made their way into English print in these years. Many of these were translations made by John Everard (1582? – 1641?), an Anglican minister in London who turned to Spiritualism in the 1620s. Reaching further back, Everard translated the central text of the hermetic tradition, the “Divine Pimander” of Hermes Trismegistus, which was published in 1650, nine years after his death. … (page 10)

Everard was a leading figure among a broad group called the Seekers, individuals who hoped for a new dispensation, the coming of the New Jerusalem. Never organized, except in occasional meetings of like minded persons, the Seekers collectively shaped many of the major doctrines of the sects that followed. Everard, with Giles Randall and John Portage, can be seen as a bridge linking the Familist movement and Continental mysticism to the Seekers and the revolutionary sects. Early in the 1640s Randall and Portage preached the Familist ideas of a new dispensation and human deification, with a new emphasis on hermetic themes drawn from Boehme and other Continental sources. Randall argued that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost would allow a person to gain universal knowledge. Less concerned with the prospect of a literal New Jerusalem, Everard preached a mystical individualism informed by Familist doctrines of divinization and by a deep immersion in alchemical hermeticism. (Refiner’s Fire, page 22)

The Seekers are not an insignificant sect by any means — and John Everard is a big part of their hermetic and borderline anarchist theology. The short course on Seekers from the Encyclopedia Brittanica online:

Seekers: member of any of numerous small groups of separatist Puritans in 16th-century England who sought new prophets to reveal God’s true church. Seekers subscribed to the principles of Caspar Schwenckfeld of Lower Silesia, Sebastian Franck of Swabia, Dirck Coornhert of the Netherlands, and other reformers who denied the effectiveness as a means of salvation of all external forms of religion, such as the sacraments, baptism, and the Scriptures. Their services were silent meetings at which members spoke only when inspired to do so. The Seekers gave rise to the Society of Friends (Quakers). Persecuted in Europe, many settled in Rhode Island, whose founder, Roger Williams, professed Seeker ideas and advocated religious freedom for all.

Because of the foundation that Seeker beliefs give Latter-day Saint Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., historian Dan Vogel’s much longer discussion of what it meant to be a Seeker in the American colonies and England, with more on John Everard and the Quakers, is worth citing here:

Many [in 18th and early 19th century America, especially New England] who believed that there had been an apostasy from primitive Christianity remained within the traditional denominational churches, convinced that the corruptions were not sufficient for separation. These persons advocated a more conservative reform, as opposed to the liberal reform sought by Jones, O’Kelly, Stone, and Campbell. Others, on the fringe of American society, often referred to as Seekers, looked for an even more “radical” restoration. Seekers suspended the performance of ordinances until the time when God would restore authority to perform them. Seekers therefore withdrew from organized Christian denominations and impatiently awaited a new revelation.

In its most narrow meaning, “Seeker” refers to a small, “radical” sect which arose out of the mystical and spiritual elements in Puritanism and, more or less, associated with the Independents in mid-seventeenth-century England. “Seekerism” more broadly refers to a movement or tendency beginning with Luther, momentarily culminating with the Seeker Sect in the Commonwealth (1649-53), and persisting afterwards in the beliefs of various individuals and groups. It is from descriptions of English Seekers that one finds the most detailed information about Seeker philosophy, however.

Seekerism in England developed slowly after the ecclesiastical ferment of the 1590s. Among the early advocates of Seekerism were brothers Walter, Thomas, and Bartholomew Legate, and John Wilkinson (d. ca. 1620) and Edward Wightman. Both Edward Wightman and Bartholomew Legate were burned at the stake in 1611 for heresy. Seekerism began to flourish during the ecclesiastical and spiritual turmoil of the 1640s and expanded rapidly during the Civil Wars (1642-48) in the northern counties of Yorkshire, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, and in the west in Bristol and even London. It reached its peak in the English Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, who remained uncommitted to any particular sect but exhibited some Seeker sympathy. The Seeker sect grew to such proportions that by 1646 army chaplain John Saltmarsh apparently considered it the fourth most important sect in England. Presbyterian Thomas Edwards feared that he would see all other sects “swallowed up in the Seekers.”

English Seekers were spiritual heirs of the sixteenth-century “spiritual reformers” on the Continent. Hans Denck, Sebastian Franck, Kasper Schwenckfeld, Sebastian Castellio, and Dirch Coornhertz were some of the important leaders of radical reform on the Continent. The writings of Coornhertz inspired the Seeker attitude of the Amsterdam-based Collegiant (i.e. “gathering”) movement in seventeenth-century Holland. Many Continental Seekers followed Coornhertz in the belief that the visible church was only temporary and the saints should wait for the true apostolic church, a purely inward church, to be divinely commissioned.

As early as 1560 John Knox found it necessary to refute a book written by Sebastian Castellio. Even during the reign of Elizabeth the ideas of the radical reformers were already drifting across the channel into England. During the reign of James I (1603-25), John Everard, a Cambridge scholar who preached a curious blend of Seekerism and spiritual alchemy, translated into English selected works of Denck, Frank, and Castellio. It was during the period of Everard’s preaching that Seekerism as a movement was born in England. Everard, together with Roger Brierly (or Breirly), a minister at Grindelton, John Webster of Clitheroe, an ordained priest, and John Saltmarsh, rector of Heslerton in Yorkshire and an Antinomian with Seeker leanings and eventually one of Cromwell’s army chaplains, were the “fathers” of English Seekerism. But actual communities of Seekers did not form until later.

[50. Everard published Hans Denck’s Confession of Faith, Sebastian Franck’s The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Sebastian Castellio’s Theologia Germanica. See Jones, Mysticism and Democracy, 64-66. Everard also translated and published several alchemical works, including Hermes Trismegistus (London, 1657). See Robert M. Schuler, “Some Spiritual Alchemies of Seventeenth-Century England,” Journal of the History of Ideas 41 (April-June 1980): 308-18.]

There were basically two types of Seekers. The first followed in a direct line from the radical reformers of Europe and conceived the restoration, the church, the ordinances, the Second Coming, and the millennial kingdom as spiritual notions. These spiritualistic Seekers needed no physical church or ordinances but sought a restoration of God’s spirit and power among the true believers. …

The second type of Seeker waited for the reestablishment of the visible church, the return of authority to perform the ordinances, and the Coming of Christ to destroy the ungodly and establish the political kingdom of God. These literalistic Seekers also awaited the restoration of apostolic authority, though they were unsure about its exact nature or precisely how it would be returned….

As early as 1641, fifteen years before the arrival of the Quakers, several religious groups in Newport, Rhode Island, were expressing views which one historian found “extraordinarily akin to those later held by the Society of Friends.” In 1641 Jonathan Winthrop described the Seeker attitude of some of the leading inhabitants of Newport, stating that they “maintained that there were no churches since those founded by the apostles and evangelists, nor could any be, nor any pastors ordained, nor seals administered but by such, and that the church was to want these all the time she continued in the wilderness, as yet she was.”

In America, as in Europe and in England, two kinds of Seekers existed. Roger Williams, for example, waited for a new dispensation of apostolic authority, to a return to the practice of baptism and communion, and the anticipated literal return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. The Quakers, who began entering the colonies in 1654, quickly gathered the spiritualistic Seekers. Quakers eliminated all distinctions between clergy and laity, downgraded scripture in favor of direct revelation, eliminated the sacraments of baptism and communion, and rejected the physical and organizational structure of established churches. Contrary to Roger Williams’s view, Quakers believed the return of Jesus Christ was figurative, referring only to the reception of the Inner Light by converts. The Puritans of New England found both Williams and the Quakers distasteful and banished them from their colony….

Two quick notes before we take a break from the history and theology (phew).

First, The Seekers are not a rock group or a generic term for anyone not tied down spiritually. They were a large and important if necessarily amorphous Protestant sect with strong hermetic beliefs about human divinization in Christ and who held as strong convictions that organized religion and church authority were not conducive to theosis. John Everard, his writings, and his translations are the glue of this movement without clergy or walls.

Next, they become the Society of Friends during the prosecution of non-conformists consequent to the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution. In America, they appear in Williams’ Rhode Island as Puritan separatists and arrive in the second great wave of immigration to what are now the Mid-Atlantic States with the Quakers and Anabaptists. They walk among us today most obviously as either Latter-day Saints, if Mormons are not anti-church anachists, or as the omnipresent crowd of “spiritual, not religious’ true-believers.

Remember Everard? The name has to sound familiar.

No, Everard is not a link to Guy Fawkes. (Everard Digby was Catholic; as we’ll see, it’s not likely that the Everard we’re after is not a Protestant.) Get thee to the Harry Potter Lexicon:

Everard: Former headmaster of Hogwarts whose portrait now hangs in the headmaster’s office. Everard is particularly famous and as a result his portrait hangs in many famous wizarding institutions, including the Ministry of Magic. Everard is a sallow-faced wizard with a short black fringe (OP22).

Note: ‘Everard’ is probably a first name, since Dumbledore refers to other former Headmasters by their first names (‘Phineas,’ ‘Dilys’).

Another Potter site online says the Headmaster’s name is ‘Everard Proudfoot.’ Tolkien hints of the Shire in ‘Proudfoot’, no?

Anyway, here is the relevant Everard passage in Order of the Phoenix, chapter 22, to refresh your memory. Harry is reporting his “I attacked Mr. Weasley” vision to the Headmaster:

But Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry jumped, and addressed one of the old portraits hanging very near the ceiling.

“Everard?” he said sharply. “And you too, Dilys!”

A sallow-faced wizard with short, black bangs and an elderly witch with long silver ringlets in the frame beside him, both of whom seemed to have been in the deepest of sleeps, opened their eyes immediately.

“You were listening?” said Dumbledore.

The wizard nodded, the witch said, “Naturally.”

“The man has red hair and glasses,” said Dumbledore. “Everard, you will need to raise the alarm, make sure he is found by the right people – ”

Both nodded and moved sideways out of their frames, but instead of emerging in neighboring pictures (as usually happened at Hogwarts), neither reappeared; one frame now contained nothing but a backdrop of dark curtain, the other a handsome leather armchair. Harry noticed that many of the other headmasters and mistresses on the walls, though snoring and drooling most convincingly, kept sneaking peeks at him under their eyelids, and he suddenly understood who had been talking when they had knocked.

“Everard and Dilys were two of Hogwarts’s most celebrated Heads,” Dumbledore said, now sweeping around Harry, Ron, and Professor McGonagall and approaching the magnificent sleeping bird on his perch beside the door. “Their renown is such that both have portraits hanging in other important Wizarding institutions. As they are free to move between their own portraits they can tell us what may be happening elsewhere….”

(snip — Dumbledore divines Harry’s two natures, then –)

Dumbledore replaced the instrument upon its spindly little table; Harry saw many of the old headmasters in the portraits follow him with their eyes, then, realizing that Harry was watching them, hastily pretend to be sleeping again. Harry wanted to ask what the strange silver instrument was for, but before he could do so, there was s shout from the top of the wall to their right; the wizard called Everard had reappeared in his portrait, panting slightly.


“What news?” said Dumbledore at once.

“I yelled until someone came running,” said the wizard, who was mopping his brow on the curtain behind him, “said I’d heard something moving downstairs – they weren’t sure whether to believe me but went down to check – you know there are no portraits down there to watch from. Anyway, they carried him up a few minutes later. He doesn’t look good, he’s covered in blood, I ran along to Elfrida Cragg’s portrait to get a good view as they left -”

“Good,” said Dumbledore as Ron made a convulsive movement, “I take it Dilys will have seen him arrive, then -“

You may think the name ‘Everard’ is a bit of a stretch to be making any kind of link between the beloved Headmaster whose paintings are everywhere in the Wizarding World and the Seeker/Hermeticist John Everard of the 17th Century. There are three notes in this Phoenix Headmaster’s Office scene that make me think it’s actually quite a good link. The first is that it is a very unusual name and the second is that Rowling gives it special emphasis in the one scene in the books where Albus Dumbledore works hermetic magic of spirit discernment (and arrives at the Christian formula of one person with two natures about Harry, the Christ figure). See How Harry Cast His Spell‘s Phoenix chapter for that discussion in full.

The more obvious link, though between Ms. Rowling’s Everard Proudfoot and John Everard, Seeker and Christian Hermeticist, is his hair cut.

He’s a ‘Roundhead.’ Everard’s “short, black bangs” are the signature haircut of 17th Century radical Protestants. I think we have a match.

The linch-pin to the conclusion I want to draw, though, between Muggles/Seekers-Everard and Muggletonians/Quakers requires a better connection between Seekers, Quakers, and Everard.

The Quakers inherited the world of the radical sects. Beginning in the north of England in 1652, by 1660 they had gathered perhaps 40,000 people into their meetings. Quakerism became the refuge of many – perhaps most – of those who, during the revolutionary years, had seen the possibility of a religion of equals, universally saved by their recognition of a pervasive, internalized divinity.

The sum of Quakerism lies in the Inner Light, the presence of the divine in the human soul. This inner divinity was “the comin gof Christ in the spirit to save his people from sin”: it was an internalized millennium, a new dispensation superseding all church ordinances and sacred texts. The revelations, or “openings,” that came to George Fox in 1647 provided the central inspiration for Quakerism, but the evidence suggests to many historians that Familist doctrines of divinization and Jacob Boehme’s and John Everard’s writings were important in shaping the ground for both Fox’s vision and the reception of his message.

The very dimensions of early Quakerism and its antiauthoritarian strain meant that diverse interpretations and influences were at work. If the coming of the Inner Light brought an internal millennium, James Nayler in 1656 acted it out in a very external way, riding into Bristol dressed as Christ and with a following of worshiping women. One Quaker went so far as to claim to be “above St. Peter & equal with God.” George Fox himself may have hoped that he could achieve perfection and a hermetic “unity with the creation.”

He was reputed to have worked as many as one hundred and fifty miracle healings of lunatics and exorcisms of the bewitched. His healing powers rested in his claim of having been “renewed into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell,” exactly the aspiration of the hermetic magus. And the very name of “Quaker” derived from the tremors and shaking that ran through the early meetings, “outward manifestations of the inward workings of the power of God.” The radical sects, in sum, briefly realized the promise of divine perfection and of an optimistic participation in the cosmos, synthesized in the Renaissance figure of the Christian-hermetic magus. Refiner’s Fire, page 25)

The end of the 17th Century with its post Restoration and Glorious Revolution persecutions of nonconformist sects sees the assimilation of the Everard-ian hermetic Seekers into the Quaker movement of George Fox. George Fox dies in 1691 and the Quakers begin their determined efforts “to establish and maintain a firm boundary between their theology and the story of occult influences deeply embedded in their early history” (Refiner’s Fire, page 29). “Inner Light” Logos soteriology is dicey enough, frankly; it’s roots in Florentine cabalistic alchemy and Eastern Christian traditions aren’t sufficiently PC for the Ministry.

Ms. Rowling chooses the word “Muggles” to describe non-Magical people because the Muggletonians were the enemies and rivals of the Quaker/Seekers. She calls the key player on the Quidditch pitch a “Seeker” and her hero a “natural Seeker” because her Witches and Wizards are the nonconformist Christian-hermetic magi of the Radical Reformation who went underground at the end of the 17th Century. The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, again, the defining piece of legislation that sets out the way of life parameters for Magical Folk everywhere, is written and passed in 1692.

In a nutshell, Ms. Rowling’s Wizards are Hermetic-Christian magi. No wonder she thought the books would have a “cult following” but wouldn’t sell that well. Outside of New Age alchemists, Renaissance historians, and Latter-day Saints, who could she have expected to connect these dots?

But she obviously hoped someone would pick up on the literary alchemy bread crumbs she left behind her as she walked into the Forbidden Forest. Alchemy is the heart of traditional hermeticism and its Radical Reformation assimilation into Christian faith and practice via Shakespeare and the Metaphysical Poets. Having broken the Muggle/Seeker code, we can see now that Wizarding history parallels English religious history. I’ll leave it to you to explore what this tells us about Ms. Rowling’s non-conformist leanings and comments about Christian “fundamentalists.”

Her two biggest clues? The title of her first book, Philosopher’s Stone, and the William Penn epigraph with which Deathly Hallows opens. Nothing especially subtle about those road signs (like 1692, Muggletonians, Seekers, and Everard must seem).

If you want to read more on these subjects, I urge you to pick up Deathly Hallows Lectures, in which I discuss the alchemical meaning of the finale as rubedo, Hog’s Head Conversations, in which I explain how the Quaker William Penn epigraph that opens Deathly Hallows is the key that opens up Harry’s conversation with Albus Dumbledore at the palatial ‘King’s Cross,’ and John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844, a book I’d bet Ms. Rowling read in her research on alchemy before writing Philosopher’s Stone.

As always, I covet your comments and corrections.


  1. So, I got the Glorious Revolution & the English Civil War on the first guess. The Restoration kind of follows from the Civil War. So, I didn’t feel too bad. But then again I was a history major & spent my youth reading history textbooks for fun.

  2. Arabella Figg says

    Holy cow! The name Everard kept tickling at me; thanks for saving me the search. This is fascinating, John, even though my foggy brain is grappling with it. I was wondering if the name Ludo (Bagman, materialist wizard) might be a riff on Ludowic.

  3. John said: “But about the subject of the post? Any thoughts?”

    Not yet. Don’t take this as a criticism, but oftentimes you write really deep stuff that takes a while to sift through & digest.

    I also thought of the Great Fire too. 🙂

  4. Perelandra says

    Isn’t 1692 the date of the Salem witch trials?

    I knew about the Muggletonians before I read HP. (How could one forget that name?) There’s also a village called Muggle in England which may be ultimate source of Lodowick’s surname.

  5. I wanted to add Great Fire, Great Plague, death of Elizabeth, death of Shakespeare, and the King James Bible but figured the Commonwealth, Cromwell Protectorate, and consequent changes to the monarchy post Charles 1 and 2 were the big deals politically. You certainly get high marks for having a UK history time line in your head that is this detailed.

    But about the subject of the post? Any thoughts?

  6. Maybe a simple score card will help people see this in a way that the long form argument has not:

    Muggle = Muggletonians, Protestant sect opposed to Seekers/Quakers, i.e., Christian hermetic magi

    Seeker = Christian hermetic magi, nonconformist dispensationalists waiting for a restoration of the primitive faith, i.e., Christian wizards that become Quakers during persecutions

    Everard = John Everard
    , preacher and translator of the hermetic Pymander

    William Penn Epigraph in Deathly Hallows = Pointer to Quaker “Inner Light” hermeticism underlying Wizarding World magic

    1692 = Int’l Statute Wizarding Secrecy consequent to George Fox’s death and persecution of Radical Reformation nonconformist sects (Perelandra notes it is the year the Salem witch trials begin, which reflect the Puritan backlash after the Glorious Revolution, albeit in Plymouth Bay Colony and well removed from the Wizarding World)

    Sum it up = the pivotal event of Western Wizarding History, the Int’l Statute, is a fictional analogue corresponding in time to the 17th century move underground of Christian hermeticism or ‘magic.’

    Ms. Rowling’s time line crosses historical reality here at its beginning the way it does with Grindelwald/Hitler, but here making the point that her magic is Logos based and esoteric Christianity.

    Your thoughts?

  7. amazing insights, wow that is a lot to take in…

    …so to recap as I understand the point being made:

    Wizard magic = the “inner light”, communicated directly to the individual soul by Christ “who enlightenth every man that cometh into the world”. Divine power exists within each individual.

    …whilst Muggles adhere to the outward signs; creeds and churches, councils, rites, and sacraments and reject the idea of personal spiritual power, all such power rests entirely with the divinity and those who believe otherwise are heretics.

    However some Muggles acknowledge the inner light and are taken to Hogwarts.

    Please someone correct me if they think that I have got the wrong end of the stick!

    John’s interpretation seems like a great fit, and the reactions the HP books have engendered amongst certain groups of Christians in this day and age, seems to parallel the reactions of 300+ years ago, suggesting these same arguments are alive and well (but you knew that)

  8. Bingo! The reaction of Magisterial Reformation Christians today to fantasy fiction magic is what it was three centuries ago to the Radical Reformation Seekers and Quakers. Which reflects their distance from Logos focused Christology, epistemology, and soteriology.

    I am not arguing against sacramental Christianity or traditional ecclesiology; I am saying that Ms. Rowling’s Witches and Wizards are intentional historical analogues with 17th Century English Christian-hermetic magi.

    Thank you, SeaJay, for making the effort it took to cut-and-paste this together worthwhile.

  9. Um. John, I’m just not convinced by the Quaker part of your argument, and I’m saying that as someone who went to Quaker schools and whose father is a committed Quaker. I think if you told George Fox to his face that he was a “Christian Hermetic Magus,” he’d have been appalled.

    I think you are conflating two very different definitions of the “light within”: the hermeticists, like Ficino, della Mirandola, and Giordano Bruno, who thought of themselves as co-creators with God; and Friends, who have a fairly anti-intellectual approach to the “inner light,” and who are radically egalitarian in their outlook. This is why Friends historically lived in peace with American Indians and also why they were terribly persecuted: because they placed everyone on the same equal footing, regardless of birth, gender, or intellectual achievement.

    I think I do understand why Rowling chose that particular epigraph, but in all honesty, as a person who has lived among Friends, something about this argument doesn’t quite resonate for me. I’ve sent my father a link to this page; he is a very well read and wise person and much more deeply involved with the Society than I ever was. I do think that more than many religious groups, you really can’t “get” Friends by reading about them.

    Just out of curiosity: is your primary source on the Society of Friends *Refiner’s Fire*, or have you looked at some other books, like Christopher Hill’s *The World Turned Upside Down?* My sense from the passages you quote is that *Refiner’s Fire* is reading “Quaker” history backwards from Mormon spirituality and not quite getting it right.

  10. The Quaker piece is not important, MoonyProf, its the Seekers who are assimilated into the Society of Friends during the persecutions that are the subject of the post. As you know from your time among them, the Quakers are very far removed from their radical, nonconformist roots and have done everything they can to separate themselves from their sect’s occultic origins and their fellow travelers, the Seekers.

  11. Arabella Figg says

    Sorry about ‘Ludowic’ rather than Lodowick. I was on iPod and couldn’t go back to check while commenting.

    I’m most grateful that you’ve summed this up in a way more graspable to me, John. And thanks, also, Seajay. With these summations at hand, I’ll reread both posts. I think you’ve really hit on something key. It resonates well with the story symbolism in the series, also the alchemical structure.

  12. Ken Abbott says

    Point of clarification, sir? The magisterial Reformers were the Lutherans, Reformed/Presbyterians, and Anglicans. I’m not aware there’s a lot of reaction against fantasy fiction magic coming from those communions. Doesn’t most of the criticism come from fundamentalists, who tend largely to be independent Baptists and Pentecostals?

    Can you expand on what you mean by “Logos focused Christology?” Are you referring to the Logos theology developed by some in the early church (2nd-3rd centuries) in interaction with certain strands of Greek philosopy?

  13. Ken Abbot:

    You have the Magisterial and Radical Reformation divide right — but why raise the current issue of who likes and who hates the books? The “fundamentalist” (sic) Harry Haters you mention are not the heirs of the Seekers, the Muggletonians, or “Inner Light” Quakers — and the post is about the 17th Century disappearance of these groups corresponding with Ms. Rowling’s “going underground” event of witches and wizards.

    On Logos focused Christology, I should have either used the more common “Incarnational” prefix (Christ as Incarnate Logos rather than “Jesus of Nazareth, God”) or specified the Lewis/Barfield/Coleridge idea of the logos within us being continuous with the “unity of existence” and “Cohesion of all things” (Colossians) that is Christ.

  14. Arabella Figg says

    I’m not sure this fits in here and don’t wish to divert discussion; simply an honest question. Where does, if it does, the late 17th century “divorce,” in the wake of the Galleo affair, between science and religion, dividing the world into natural and supernatural, fit in with this?

  15. It doesn’t fit in here, except as a footnote.

    The conflict of science and religion thesis is the Enlightenment boogie championed by positivists like Cornell’s Andrew Dickson White. Modern Science springs from Christianity, if more from the Radical Reformation and its Magic World View than the Magisterial. Some of the tension that existed between the millenialist “myth of progress” champions who become the 19th century’s empiricists and materialists with the devotional Western faiths can be traced to the latter’s discomfort with the hermeticism of the 17th Century Christian magi — but the Galileo “event” isn’t really a landmark until the anti-Church crowd take him on as their martyred champion in the late 19th Century.

  16. Ken Abbott says

    Thanks for your response, but I’m afraid you’ve confused me now.

    Up above you wrote, “Bingo! The reaction of Magisterial Reformation Christians today to fantasy fiction magic is what it was three centuries ago to the Radical Reformation Seekers and Quakers. Which reflects their distance from Logos focused Christology, epistemology, and soteriology.” In my first post I was looking for clarification on the two points of “the reaction of Magisterial Reformation Christians today” and your reference to “Logos focused Christology.” I wasn’t attempting to draw a correlation between contemporary critics of the HP books and the groups mentioned in your essay–rather, I was trying to sort out why you appeared to describe the contemporary heirs of the Magisterial Reformation communions as opposed to fantasy fiction magic, because that hasn’t been my experience at all.

    But at least I’m clear on the Logos reference now. Thanks.

  17. Ken Abbott says

    By the way, I take great exception to your thesis that modern science owes more to the Radical Reformation than to the Magisterial Reformers. If anything, the lion’s share of the credit for the development of western science goes to medieval Catholicism, but John Calvin’s fully-orbed theology of revelation and the ideas regarding vocation that he shared with Martin Luther lent tremendous impetus to the scientific endeavor.

  18. Whoops! You’re right, Ken Abbot, and I’m wrong in having written “The reaction of Magisterial Reformation Christians today to fantasy fiction magic is what it was three centuries ago to the Radical Reformation Seekers and Quakers.” Almost all of the Oxford Platonists (19th Century) and Inklings that were Protestant were at least nominally Anglican — and they constitute the heart and foundation of the High Fantasy tradition. I’d suggest that Coleridge and his intellectual progeny are closer in logos cosmology and epistemology to George Fox and the non-conformists of the 17th Century than they are to the exoteric positions of Calvin, Zwingli, and Luther, but Anglicans they are.

    And Ms. Rowling, in my experience, too, has many more supporters among Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans than she does among non-denominational and “free church” protestants, to include Fundamentalists and Bible literalists. I was way off; please accept my apologies both for the original mistake and for my dismissive response to your well-founded objection.

    John, grateful for your charitable correction

  19. On your “great exception,” I will yield if you will allow that Bacon is a key if not the key jump from traditional natural science to empiricist investigations of nature — and that Bacon owes more to the Radical than to the Magisterial Reformers or the Scholastics.

    What’s curious is that most folks would believe us both bonkers because the accepted wisdom is that science and religion are and have always been at war. And we are disputing not that modern science springs from Western Christianity but from which stream of the Catholic/Protestant innovations to Christian faith that it comes

  20. Note the Cambridge Platonists of the 17th Century, please, as the bridge between Seekers, Anglican faith, and the hermetic Christianity of Coleridge and Lewis. William Stoddart calls them the “one miraculous exception to [the] cascading downward” course of Western ‘history of philosophy’ “from Descartes through Kant to the present day” (Remembering in a World of Forgetting, page 47).

  21. mark francis says

    William Everard
    was a reputed conjuror who was held responsible for the goings-on at Bradfield Rectory as guest of Dr John Pordage in 1649.
    A “dragon with an eight-yard long tale” was seen in Pordage’s chamber as well as a roof-full of spirits.
    Everard was committed to Bedlam in 1651.

  22. John, this was a fascinating read, thank you. Have you done any work on the Picatrix and Voldemort’s “soul-division” magic via Horcrux? Honestly I think everyone reading Rowlings’ works ought to be informed about this. A good translation of the Picatrix was recently published by Attrell and Porreca.

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