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Harry Potter

Magazine Article: Theosophy in Australia, March 2005

Harry Potter began his education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first of seven projected novels: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In that first novel, Harry was on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which turns base metal into gold and produces an elixir of immortality. But his real quest in that novel, as in the succeeding books of the series, is for self-knowledge. In the second book of the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry continues his education and his quest for self-knowledge during his second year at Hogwarts.

The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling are a fantastically magical phenomenon. Coming out of nowhere in the publishing world, they rapidly became the best-selling young people’s books of our time, and the movies based upon them have been equally popular.

The books are examples of three literary genres. One is the bildungsroman, or novel of the moral and psychological education of the protagonist; Harry Potter is a student at a boarding school, but is also in the great school of Life. Another genre is the quest story, in which the protagonist faces a series of trials, the passing of which results in the discovery of a great treasure--in Harry’s case, self-knowledge. And the third is the fairy tale, whose central character is often an orphan; Harry is an orphan and thus a fitting representative of every human being, for we are all, in the words of one of the great Theosophical teachers, members of “poor orphan humanity.”

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