Monday 28 March 2011

Heart, Mind and Body - Harry, Hermione and Ron


When reading John Granger's excellent exposition of the underlying spirituality of the Harry Potter series - How Harry cast his spell - I was struck by his use of the traditional (although now regarded as obsolete) division into Heart, Mind and Body; and by his equation of these with the characters of Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Granger points out that the Heart is properly the leader of the trio; and when Harry follows his Heart he almost always makes the right choices and does the right thing and the trio do the right thing (even when the Head says it makes no sense or is suicidal and the Body objects because it generates immediate unhappiness and suffering).


Harry is the hero because he is quick-witted, self-sacrificing and brave. And he is a good hero because he is motivated by love not power. Harry is certainly not stupid (although slow on the uptake) but neither is he a brilliant intellectual, nor an abstract thinker, nor a magical expert, like Hermione.

But Harry cannot behave with instinctive spontaneity and naturalness like Ron - he cannot 'lose himself' in parties and feasts and celebrations, always standing somewhat apart; instead Harry continually pursues aims which diminish his happiness and comfort (something which Ron does only seldom, and under the inspiration of Harry's leadership).

Harry is, indeed, a natural Gryffindor - the House of leadership (being characterized by courage and loyalty and having chosen love over power - hence rejecting Slytherin), but Hermione as a single person is a natural for Ravenclaw, while Ron is clearly a Hufflepuff - except that he is not hard-working. Presumably, however, the Sorting Hat somehow recognized that the three needed each other for the greater good - and needed therefore to be in the same House...


'Yet' Harry is the proper leader, and the times when he (and the trio) go wrong are usually the times when Harry follows Ron or Hermione's lead against his own Heart, or when the trio is broken, hence unbalanced.

Things work best when Heart, Head and Body are present and in harmony; but the Heart must lead.


This difference between the three can be seen in terms of attitude to the magical creatures House Elves.

Ron simply accepts the subservience of the House Elves and simply takes them for granted, regards them as a ludicrous joke, or regards them as inferior and beneath consideration. He would like his family to have House Elves simply because they would make life easier, pleasanter and more comfortable.

Hermione, on the other hand, adopts a politically correct attitude to House Elves, that sees them as if they had the same ('equal') nature as Wizards; and presumes they want the same things as Wizards. She forms the pressure group SPEW (a title which she stridently asserts is 'not funny!') - the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare - and sets about 'freeing' House Elves as a matter of principle, and despite their own wishes. Indeed Hermione goes so far as to try and trick the Hogwarts Elves into freedom without their consent and against their expressed wishes, by hiding objects of clothing where Elves might accidentally pick them up and thereby become magically freed. Hermione thinks she knows better than the House Elves what they really want. House Elves have, she implicitly believes - although not using this vocabulary, been indoctrinated with a 'false consciousness' that makes them act against their own interests - and therefore require to be liberated for their own good by a quasi-Bolshevik revolutionary vanguard of enlightened Wizards, in the form of SPEW (of which she just happens to be founder and leader). A typical modern intellectual, in other words...

Harry sees the House Elves as individuals, and recognizes the unusual - perhaps unique - case of Dobby who is a House Elf who really does want to be freed. On the other hand, he acknowledges the tragedy of Winky who is freed against her wishes, and is completely lost, and takes refuge in perpetual drunkenness. Harry's attitude is that House Elves are different and should be treated differently, according to their nature, and should properly be treated kindly, politely and respectfully.


When considering this division into Heart, Head and Body; and the natural and proper heroic leadership of the Heart with the subordination of Head and Body - I was struck by the fact that it is the Heart which has been abolished from modern mainstream socio-politics.

Modernity as it has unfolded has given us leadership by the Head but pandering to the Body - and the Heart is absent.

We have rule by intellectual abstractions and indulgence of bodily appetites - but the heroism of the Heart is regarded as irrational nonsense from one point of view, and foolishly puritanical killjoy-ism from the other.


We have an elite of politically correct and intellectually-gifted Hermiones leading an army of comfort- and sensation-seeking Rons, but Harry is nowhere to be seen.

Yet it was Harry who saved the world - ultimately by his faith and self-sacrifice; neither Hermione nor Ron could, nor would, have done it.



dearieme said...

And they taught a generation to pronounce "Hermione". What more could you ask?

The Crow said...

Brilliant commentary :)
But what is Heart, really?
Intuition perhaps?
That thing never trusted by contemporary society, and relegated to the oddball world of mystics and faith-healers.
Some martial arts depend largely upon intuition. The right action arises by itself. And, with practice, it does.
Heart is a good choice of description, though, since it still has warm, fuzzy connotations, even if those connotations are inaccurate. We still are able to see Heart as a good thing.
We have Mind and Body in full measure. Now how do we put Heart back into the whole?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow -

My feeling is that the Heart cannot be had by wanting it: it arises from a grounding in reality. Reality then generates choices, and it is 'our choices' which determine whether the Heart grows or shrivels.

(To paraphrase Dumbledore!)

Question: do you, Mr Crow, personally, regard the supernatural as real (whether or not you 'believe' it, or know anything about it)?

The Crow said...

Nothing worth having can be had by wanting it. The wanting changes the result.
Re: your question:
My idea of "supernatural" may not be that of anyone else. Whatever it is, I stand in awe of it, for its mystery. My inclination is to be unconcerned with understanding it.
Only with being aware of it.
I am aware of it.