How “Harry Potter” Saved My Spiritual Life
Have you ever fallen in love with a piece of media that you only discovered because someone you disagreed with didn’t like it? That’s what happened to me with Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, a podcast dedicated to scrutinizing the Potter books for wisdom and meaning. I started listening to this podcast after Christine Emba lamented her frustrations with it in a Washington Post article, claiming that seeking meaning in the Potter books was a “reversion to childhood rather than a real search for meaning.”
I’m not sure why these things have to be mutually exclusive. In my experience, returning to the things we loved as children can help us find truth and meaning in our current lives. Also, Potter isn’t just a part of childhood for many people. It has played a major role in my adulthood; many new friendships have arisen in my life due to a mutual love of the series. Beyond this, plenty of fans who find meaning in the series were adults during their first read-through.
“We’re here to practice faith… and to make it easier for ourselves, we’re going to practice faith with something we already love: Harry Potter,” says Casper, one of the podcast hosts. Emba asks, “Why not practice on something outside of your childhood comfort zone?”
Attempting a new spiritual practice in any capacity may very well lie outside of someone’s comfort zone. Spiritual questioning challenges our most basic assumptions and asks us to change our thought patterns. Using a book we read in childhood to guide us spiritually doesn’t mean that we won’t be challenged.
For me, leaving my religious past behind and searching for a new spiritual practice was far beyond my childhood comfort zone. During the tumultuous years of my childhood, there were two things that kept me steady: my Christian faith and the Potter books. Unfortunately, many of my pastors and spiritual mentors told me that reading the Potter novels was certain to earn me eternal damnation.
My only two sources of comfort were in direct conflict with one another, and years of horrible experiences with the church led to the loss of my faith. This sent me into a huge crisis. Since Potter was the only thing I had left for comfort, I turned to it for guidance. As I read the novels once again, seeking to put an end to my spiritual turbulence, I felt the sourness of guilt in the back of my throat. By searching for truth in the Potter books, was I dooming myself to burn in hell?
Like Emba suggests, was my search for meaning in the Potter novels a “willful infantilization”? Am I reverting to a comfortable space in my childhood “rather than seeking out something larger than myself”?
Thankfully, I got over these fears, and the Potter books helped me. By reverting to the “small, safe spaces of [my] childhood,” as Emba calls them, I was able to put my broken soul back together and move on to a new phase in my spiritual life.
The world of Harry Potter is derived from a vast pool of inspiration – mythology, Arthurian legend, Christian symbolism, alchemical imagery and structure, and much more. These are places people have drawn spiritual meaning from for generations. Perhaps Emba has issues with drawing spiritual meaning from these particular sources, but if this is the case, she never says so.
It truly irks me when people write off the Potter novels as if they have no moral complexity. Snape, Dumbledore, Xenophilius, Sirius Black, Percy, and many more characters treading moral neutrality show us that there’s always a new lesson to learn or a new perspective to take. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is one of the many wonderful places to explore these new perspectives.
Likely to the dismay of Emba, who believes that “Harry Potter is not, in fact, a sacred text,” I’ve been inspired by Harry Potter and the Sacred Text to go on a new spiritual journey using the Potter books as my guide. You can find real meaning anywhere you seek it. It’s hard to find, kind of like the Snitch, but once you catch it, you’ll see that it’s just as golden, beautiful, and valuable far beyond your imagination.
Don’t forget! Tickets to MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later are still available for purchase, and we would LOVE to meet you in Orlando for an amazing Potter fandom experience! Check out our website for details and then get your ticket to have a private, magical evening with MuggleNet and the awesome talent from the Potter films!