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C. S. Lewis’ Harry Potter and the Methods of Christianity

There’s a warning line in the second Harry Potter book, ‘never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain’.

In the original canon, this seems to be a throwaway remark that the wizards don’t take seriously. Why does the diary fall foul of this rule but not the talking portraits? Where does the Sorting Hat keep its brain, for that matter? How does the Goblet of Fire make decisions, or get confunded? And the man giving this advice even kept a talking mirror in his house giving fashion advice.

But in a hypothetical HP&MoC, this line is an interesting fit between the two worlds. What particular kind of magics does the Bible frequently warn against? Divinations. What do divinations frequently involve? Asking questions of things that look like they shouldn’t be able to think for themselves, as they have no brain.

I was leafing through my old posts and came across this again. Some more points which might be tied together for such a fic:

(Note: Harry Potter is a children’s book, where Rule of Funny trumps consistency or worldbuilding, and adults are obliged to be somewhat incompetent so the children can have plot. I’m overanalysing and I know it. Take all this with a grain of salt.)

1: Most of the ‘magic’ performed in Harry Potter is extremely un-mystical, being about as mechanistic as a compass, which also draws on mysterious invisible forces but in a mostly consistent and predictable manner. The existence of an extremely “school-y” school with large classes and textbooks and a curriculum and standardized tests of a standardized progression and a deeply teachable topic further reinforces this.

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2: The two major moments of mysticality that I recall are the Divination classes, which have a bad reputation as a fake topic and Trelawney isn’t in control of the few real prophecies happening, and Voldemort’s resurrection ritual, which he is in control of but which is clearly marked Dark Magic.

3: When Voldemort fights onscreen, he is strangely incompetent. His combat strategy against Dumbledore is to fire five Killing Curses in a row. These all fail to kill Dumbledore, because the Killing Curse is a highly-visible single-target projectile that’s slow enough to dodge or intercept. It is a wicked spell, and it is a weak spell. Voldemort might have gotten Dumbledore if he’d used a spell which was exploding, or homing, or high-penetration. Or a gun.

4: The Astronomy class is a bizarrely Muggle subject. It is emphatically not “astrology”: horoscopes happen over in Divination class, while Astronomy class covers mundane facts like the moons of Jupiter: Europa is icy, Io is volcanic. I do not recall it having any magical application at all. I do not recall it having any application, period. Why is it there?

5: Magical Britain as shown in the books has an odd hole where Christianity should be. At the one end, this is a society that split off from Muggle Britain in 1692 with the Statute of Secrecy. This is a society where people live longer, and change is slower. One of the four House Ghosts staying at Hogwarts is “the Fat Friar”, a monk with tonsure and all. At the other end, we see two gravestones in the seventh book. The one for Harry’s parents is inscribed with “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”, which is a Bible quote from 1 Corinthians 15:26. The one for Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore is inscribed with “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, which is a Bible quote from Matthew 6:21.

What sort of culture would you infer to exist between these two ends? Not the one shown, IMO.

A possible outline of plot points for Harry Potter and the Methods of Christianity, then:

never trust anything that can think for itself etc.’ is, or was originally, a warning against summoning spirits (particularly, demons) to possess you or your tools, or using objects that someone else has put a spirit in. If brainless objects give a superficial appearance of thinking it’s probably cold-reading. But if they give substantive information, that implies Something Else is working through them, and with how much casual blatant magic there is in the Wizarding World, a Something Else that still feels the need to hide while manipulating you should be presumed hostile. (This overlaps with Divination, see below.)

A lot of the funny talking items would have to go, or be made less obviously thinking, to make the setting consistent.

There is the sort of conspiracy Lewis called an Inner Ring in the Wizarding World. Due to the small size and slow turnover of the magical population, this Ring has probably retained continuity ever since the Statute of Secrecy, assisted also by the Potterverse having cursed contracts that cause any oathbreakers to contract highly visible boils spelling out their crime.

The Ring-leaders who shape Wizarding society and culture are what TvTropes calls NayTheists: they know God is real and they don’t like it, trying very hard to avoid the implications. They concede the dead to God, hence the gravestones, but the living have been working very hard to extend life and create the Philosopher’s Stone (some adjustment to the first book’s plot required here) and seeking magical immortality to avoid God’s judgment, hence the secular culture. They are trying to have it both ways as ‘materialist magicians’: supernatural power and command to reshape the world, but without supernatural entanglement to God nor the Devil, nor any other Power that may exist, such as Faerie.

Divination class is Like That because the Inner Ring gradually cleaned it of every divination by contact with a Power, and found that there was effectively no such thing as mundane divination left. Everything that remains in the class is fraudulent, but it would be embarrassing to admit, at least until there’s sufficient generational turnover and the dead can be blamed for the previous curriculum change.

Astronomy class is Like That because the Inner Ring cleaned astrology of the mystical influences of the planets back in the day when they still had worries about Jupiter possibly being a god, and once they’d swept out the Powers they were left with a real field of science that was interesting research in its own right. The Wizarding World is ahead of Muggles at Astronomy.

Voldemort is Like That because his “Dark Magic” involves pacts with the Devil for power. Both parties are naturally treacherous as Hell about this.

Voldemort thinks he can instrumentalize the Devil, take over Britain, reign as immortal wizard-god-king, pay off or wriggle out of his pacts, and never have to worry about Hell again because his full debts will never come due. Satan meanwhile is underpaying enough for Voldemort to lose and (sorta) die a few times so that Voldemort goes deeper into debt for more power and more second chances from death, to be paid off by killing more babies for Satan.

In a quip: “Satan doesn’t want Voldemort to win, Satan wants Voldemort to sin.”

At no point did Satan teach Voldemort tactical competence, so Voldemort is all “Killing Curse! Killing Curse! Killing Curse! Killing Curse Harder Why Isn’t This Working!?” and keeps trying to substitute more hellpower for good planning. People with good planning ability generally don’t make pacts with the Devil in the first place.

Because the Inner Ring has been working very hard to keep wizarding culture away from God, Magical Britain talks in euphemisms like “Dark Magic” and average witch or wizard doesn’t even know what Voldemort got up to. Voldemort has the same Inner Ring impulse of not wanting to reveal his discovery to the world, either, only his inner circle of most trusted Death Eaters.

This makes it very hard for Magical Britain to understand, research, or counter what Voldemort is doing. It doesn’t follow the normal laws of mechanistic magic, which is why such an inbred imbecile can terrorize Magical Britain with some hellpower and some curses inferior to an AK-47. Then Harry Potter shows up with the Methods of Christianity, and the demon-possessed gear of the Death Eaters promptly stops working on hearing the name of Jesus.

Bonus scene idea: The magical history of Ancient Egypt is suppressed and classified, because there’s too much content there which leads into proto-necromancy and Horcrux theory and other things the Ministry of Magic doesn’t want students getting ideas about. But the Ministry’s classification order doesn’t extend to Muggle content, so the History of Magic class at one point has a teacher (maybe not Binns) reading from the Book of Exodus.


Tags:

#Harry Potter #fanfic #story ideas I will never write #Christianity #hell cw?

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