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The four Harry Potter books that have recently taken the American publishing industry by storm are part of a projected seven-volume British fairy tale series about magic, individuation, and the mundus imaginalis. Reviewed by Gail A. Grynbaum
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ,New York, Scholastic Press, 1997.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, New York, Scholastic Press, 1999.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, New York, Scholastic Press, 1999.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New York, Scholastic Press, 2000.
This article was originally published in the San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal: Reviews From a Jungian Perspective of Books, Films and Culture, Volume 19, Number 4, 2001, pp 17-48. It is reprinted here with the expressed permission of the Editor.
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICESHIP
The four Harry Potter books that have recently taken the American publishing industry by storm are part of a projected seven-volume British fairy tale series about magic, individuation, and the mundus imaginalis. They record the coming of age of an intuitive boy, in which the traditional young hero's journey is woven through an unfamiliar hermetic world, engaging masters of liminality and wizardly sophistication in the effort to balance the forces of good and evil. Recently, a friend and I were discussing the world-wide, across-age, Harry Potter phenomenon, and how it has occasioned a rise of reading zest in kids, especially boys. He had asked his 10 year old son Sam previously an avid nonreaderwhat made him such a Harry Potter devotee. Sam's quick response was "he takes me to another world." That J.K. Rowling has been able to tap into even men's longing for the world of the imagination adds to the secret mystique of the Harry Potter series and its universal appeal.
These tales were categorized by the publishing industry as children's books. But as friends and colleagues began to talk about them, I became intrigued. Upon entry into the world of Harry Potter, I was soon enchanted, caught up like so many of us in the alive, visceral experience of reading. The real surprise for me, as an analytical psychotherapist, was the psychological and symbolic depth that emanated from the images in the books. The more I focused on their alchemical, dreamlike images, the greater was their capacity to release psychological energy. This was an alchemical reading experience, a revelation of secrets and strata previously reserved to the contemplation of the woodcuts in Jung's essays on alchemy or to the Jungian analysis of dreams.
For the uninitiated, Harry Potter is the boy hero of the tales, a recently enrolled student at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. When he was an infant, the boy's parents, both great wizards, were killed by a dark sorcerer, Lord Voldemort. Orphaned, Harry was forced to live with cruel "Muggle" (non-wizard) relatives until he was informed of his heritage and transported to Hogwarts. There he is finally able to realize his native gifts through a sorcerer's apprenticeship under the tutelage of Headmaster Dumbledore.
At school, Harry goes through his Training with two new friends, Hermione Granger, a soror mystica who is also a lively, challenging presence, and Ron Weasley, a good brother figure. There is also a student foe, Draco Malfoy. These four young people, each with a distinct and developing personality, must cope with the tutelage of the colorful adult characters, such as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Minerva McGonagall, as well as the sinister Lord Voldemort, and a few ghosts and pets. Hogwarts is evidently more than a school for wizards; it is the crucible for the development of Harry's capacity to become a contemporary shaman.
J.K. Rowling has said that she plans to write a total of seven volumes, each book intended to contain Harry's initiatory ordeals over a single academic year, ending with High School. The number seven is an apt one to mirror a shaman's journey; seven is frequently used in fairy tales and spiritual/religious texts to refer to the completion of a cycle that symbolizes dynamic wholeness. In ancient Egypt seven, which analytical psychologist's today think of as signifying initiation, was the symbol of eternal life. What Harry is undergoing in the course of these books is nothing else but the development of the ability of a mediumistic nature to survive in two worlds.
The magical parallel world that seems as if it is just "on the other side" of the everyday world is the environment in which the stories unfold, once they get fully underway at Hogwarts. The tales have the internal consistency of a dream atmosphere, in which each detail is allowed both to speak for itself and to become a signpost towards another level. The universe spun by Rowling, the Scottish woman new to authorship, resembles "The Dreaming" of the Australian Aboriginals and yet never quite loses its connection with the British dayworld of tea, sports, and competition.
Fortunately the same language is spoken on both sides of the imaginal divide, although Rowling developed a new vocabulary to enable characters to describe experiences that were foreign to dayworld "Muggles." The author introduced enough of a lexicon that one dedicated fan has developed a Harry Potter website, called the "Encyclopaedia Potteratica." Rowling has said that her neologisms came to her in the manner that she imagines colors must emerge from the palette of an Impressionist painter trying to capture a landscape on canvas: the hue is called forth by what is already there. (Diane Rehm Show, October 20, 1999, National Public Radio)
To move into the Hogwarts setting, Harry and the other students must shift into another reality. Harry and his fellow initiates come to London's King Cross Station and must cross through an invisible barrier leading to a secret platform, number nine and three-quarters, to catch the Hogwarts Express. The "non-Muggle" world of Hogwarts is one where pictures and paintings are animated, brooms fly, time is three dimensional, animals speak, owls are the mail carriers, and people can transform themselves into animals. The threshold between the Muggle and Hogwarts worlds is via the Leaky Cauldron cafe, which is located on Knockturn Alley and Diagon Alley; visitors, in other words, need to move "nocturnally" and "diagonally" into this imaginal space.
In his studies of the archetypes energizing the collective unconscious, C.G. Jung found that the individuation journey is reflected in the "operations" of alchemical processes and the dynamic motifs of mythology and fairy tales. Rowling's ingenious use of details and themes from these sources establishes the contemporary symbolic environment in which the characters undergo their ordeals. Three archetypal themes that have emerged from her tale so far are: the Orphan, the Vampire, and the Resilient Young Masculine. These forces speak to us as we read the Harry Potter stories, and they provide the key to Harry's particular pattern of initiatory individuation.
In his adventures, Harry's primary task is to learn the skills that will enable him to navigate between worlds, whether these be conceived as Muggle and Wizard, student and teacher, upper and lower, or inner and outer. As his Pilgrim's Progress proceeds, he must draw upon the resources implied by the figures of Orphan, Vampire, and Resilient Young Masculine.
THE ALCHEMY OF THE ORPHAN
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the enchanting first volume, is bathed in alchemical operations and symbolism. In Great Britain, the title was more properly, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, (it was changed for the American audience to the "Sorcerer's Stone.") Rowling simmers her characters and plot in a medieval retort that provides the perfect magical medium in which to initiate Harry's individuation process. In each of the books the three worlds of images described in alchemy, the black (nigredo,) the white (albedo,) and the red (rubedo) are present and form an essential part of the mood and energy of the plots.
The first book limns the container and the key elements that will undergo the varied alchemical processes. The story is about a search for an alchemical Philosopher's Stone that is both literal and metaphoric. From the first step into the tale the reader feels the tension of opposing forces love and abuse, community and orphan. As if embodying the transcendent function itself, Harry must find a way to survive and grow beyond the collision of opposites in his life.
As an infant Harry was wounded by Lord Voldemort during the murderous slaughter of his famous wizard parents, Lily and James Potter. A lightning-bolt scar on his tiny forehead was the only visible mark from the attack. Voldemort was said to have lost his powers and vanished after his effort to kill Harry failed. However, whenever evil is nearby, Harry experiences a terrifying, painful pull inside the remaining scar, as though he is being energetically drawn away from the upper world.
The thunderbolt, mythically symbolic of the spark of life and enlightenment was hurled by Zeus down to earth as a dramatic symbol of that god's dual capacity for creation and destruction. Harry's wound was the first evidence of a shamanic calling as well as the battleground between enormous conflicting forces within his young body and psyche. Increasingly in the stories, Harry's private experience of the opposites representing good and evil becomes reflected in the external struggles.
Harry's parents, with an aura of King and Queen, are a profound absent presence; their actual absence aches in their son's unconscious and they appear to him in dreams, visions, and visitations. Their names, James and Lily, carry mythological symbolism. St. James was the patron saint of alchemists and physicians. According to Spanish legend, St. James defeated Hermes in battle and took charge of his secret knowledge. (Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism: The Hermetic Museum, Koln, Taschen, 1997, p. 700) The lily represents heavenly purity, a promise of immortality and salvation, and in medieval iconography was seen as a symbol for the Virgin Mary. ( J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, New York, Dorset Press, 1971, p. 189)
Harry's early orphan life was spent alone in a cupboard under the stairs. The hero-child is nearly always portrayed as abandoned in myths and fairy tales, but Marie-Louise Von Franz cautions in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, that we should not interpret this through the lens of personal neurosis of the abused and neglected child we have all come to know so well from the lore of psychotherapy, but leave it in an archetypal context to mine for deeper meaning. That is, "namely that the new God of our time is always to be found in the ignored and deeply unconscious corner of the psyche (the birth of Christ in a stable.)" ( Rev. edition, Boston, Shambhala, 1996, p. viii)
Nevertheless, Harry's cruel step-family kept him in miserable deprivation, and the boy often felt consumed with anger and frustration. On the other hand, the endurance of a painful and isolated childhood helped forge his (and many readers) character. As Edward Edinger says, in reference to one of the key alchemical operations, "The fire of calcinatio is a purging, whitening fire. It acts on the black stuff, the nigredo....Psychologically... development will be promoted by the frustration of pleasure and power...." (Anatomy of the Psyche, Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy, La Salle, Illinois, Open Court, 1985, pp. 26, 27)
Harry grows up as a spirited yet lonely boy who, like many orphans and other alienated children, fantasizes about being rescued by someone special who will recognize him for his true value. It isn't just unruly hair, physical incoordination, or broken glasses that set him apart from others. Early on, Harry notices he has unusual talents, such as an ability to talk to snakes at the zoo, that position him uncomfortably between two worlds. He later learns that this linguistic gift was passed to him in the clash with Voldemort.
On the boy's eleventh birthday, Rubeus Hagrid, a messenger from the wizards, arrives with news that Harry is to come to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the next stage of his Training. In preparation for Hogwarts, Harry has to shop for his school supplies and, most importantly, a wand. In the magic shop, the wand that is to be his, chooses him. It is made from one of a pair of feathers from a phoenix tail; the other tail feather from the same bird is said to have gone into Voldemort's wand, the very wand that gave Harry the defining head scar.
Harry's instincts quicken as he absorbs into his body the energetic connection to the dark side represented by the link between these two wands and their owners. As he becomes conscious of carrying this connection, he feels his skin prickle with fear. Harry has received yet another signal of his liminal position between the thrusts of the two worlds. He must find a way to straddle yet penetrate these two opposites. The phoenix is the mythological bird known for periodic destruction and re-creation.
The boy is anxious since he knows that because of his heritage, many expect great deeds from him, even though he still lacks knowledge about wizardry. Hagrid looks at him and says, with words that nod towards the primal appeal of these stories: "Don' you worry Harry. You'll learn fast enough. Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts, you'll be just fine. Just be yerself." (Sorcerer's Stone, p. 86)
With leaden legs, Harry boards the Hogwarts Express train to School. The story unfolds with his movement towards the magical world. In one of the best scenes, Harry gets introduced to the wizard ancestor world by his new friend Ron via "animated" collectible cards. Figures like medieval French alchemists Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, Arthurian fairy Morgana, Swiss alchemist Paracelsus and Arthurian magician Merlin add their energy to the metaphysical alembic being established. The archetypal images come alive as we read.
The characters begin to cook together and the environment reflects the blackening descent into the seat of the unconscious. The train spirals from rolling plains into deep woods, carved by twisting rivers under a dark purple sky. The train arrives at Hogwarts Castle which sits high atop a mountain next to a black lake. Hogwarts is the image of the secure new home, "the place where soul and Self meet, the Home that is the heart of the new order." (Marion Woodman, The Ravaged Bridegroom, Toronto, Inner City Books, 1990, p. 205)
QUIDDITCH PLAYER OF THE SOUL
The students arrive and are faced with their first rite of passage. As in the alchemical operation of separatio, the youths are sorted by an enchanted, speaking hat. When placed on their head, the hat directs them to one of four Houses where they will live, each House known for a particular wizardly virtue: Bravery, Loyalty, Wisdom, and Cunning. The conical hat seems to represent the young peoples' orientation towards new ideas and world view. Harry is chosen for the "brave" Gryffindor House, although the Sorting Hat recognizes his dual nature, saying he would also do well in the "cunning" Slytherin House, known for producing dark wizards.
Harry begins his training with classes in History of Magic, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, and Broom Flying. He is truly a whiz on the broomstick and is quickly selected for the most important position (the Seeker) on Gryffindor House's Quidditch team. For the first time in his life, Harry is valued for his instincts, and athletic in the exercise of them. The ecstatic experience of Quidditch is the leap into Harry's shamanic training.
Quidditch, a fast game with three balls and played on flying broomsticks, resembles a cross between cricket and basketball. The Seeker needs to catch the third ball, a small gold one with tiny fluttering silver wings which is called the Golden Snitch. The arduous effort to catch the elusive golden ball is much like the individuation journey to find the Philosopher's Stone in alchemy and makes the Snitch the most important ball of the game. Like a Mayan warrior on the ball courts, Harry knows he is involved in a sacred act. We watch him become a Quidditch player of the soul.
In the air, on his Nimbus 2000 broom, this intuitive boy with his eager body finds his true home. He is an ambitious and hard working adept. Harry's studies take him to varied levels: through hidden tunnels, up in the air, or down watery pipes. When nooks and crannies get too dark, he waves his trusty wand and calls out for "Lumos," light. Sometimes he moves with the invisibility cloak that once belonged to his father, and at other times he place-shifts with the help of transporting "floo" powder. Harry embodies resilience in learning the skills necessary to move with agility through the strata.
The relationship of the trio of school friends, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, is vital to each of them, and they spend their time talking, arguing, and exploring together. They express their feelings of elation, isolation, fear, anger, and tenderness to each other. Although not competitive, they challenge each other. This related two boy, one girl family is a poignant central attraction of the series in these alienated times, a reminder to many readers who have felt alone since early childhood, of the lost archetype of comradeship.
J.K. Rowling says that she modeled Hermione on herself at eleven. Hermione has been an outsider most of her life, since she was a witch with unrecognized special talents raised in a Muggle family; at Hogwarts she initially overcompensates by studying all the time. She is certainly self-reliant, the smartest and highest achieving student, organized, focused, and filled with integrity. Perhaps this girl with sparkling, disciplined intellect, who is hard driving even though she lives in a liminal zone, has the name "Hermione" because it is the female form of "Hermes." In each of the books, Hermione is repeatedly the truth-sleuth, comfortable in the library, who finds the clue that makes sense of the mystery at hand. She is always the one standing at a crossroads pointing the way.
In The Sorcerer's Stone, Hermione researches the name Nicolas Flamel and discovers that he is an alchemist, over 600 years old and Professor Dumbledore's colleague. Flamel, it turns out, possesses the only Philosopher's Stone in existence; this Stone has the dual capacity to transform base metals into gold and to produce the Elixir of Life which gives the drinker immortality (viz Flamel's own longevity). The trio of friends learn that the Stone is hidden in the Castle.
Hermione is able to stand up for her beliefs to Harry and Ron and is not as prankish or immature as the boys. The two boys value her keen insights and persistence. She also has a close mentor relationship with Quidditch-loving Assistant Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. As the books progress, Hermione becomes more relaxed and emotionally expressive.
One of Harry's early psychological tasks is to encounter and reflect on the loss of his parents and to suffer his consequent identity as orphan, survivor, and savior. One night while looking into a magical mirror he sees his entire family, like guardian spirits, waving at him. He feels a "powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness." (Sorcerer's Stone, p. 209) Professor Albus Dumbledore comes out of the shadows of the room. The silver-bearded elder, who oversees Harry's training, tells the youth that the mirror shows the deep, most desperate desire of the heart but it does not give truth or knowledge; Harry must not dwell on his yearnings and forget to live. He must put his energy into his life.
This in alchemical terms, is a "whitening," an albedo time of reflection and discovery of the positive side of a dark fate for Harry. It is also a time to experience the transformative power of Hermes-Mercury, the trickster companion of souls to the underworld, protector of travelers, and the master of legerdemain. "The trickster is ideally suited to be an agent of transformation because he/she carries both sides of a split in the psyche. The trickster is evil and good, loving and hateful, male and female, and thus holds the opposites together while also keeping them differentiated." (Donald E. Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma, London, Routledge, 1996, p. 189)
It is time for Harry to learn more about the trickster, and author Rowling's lesson plan for him calls for greater involvement with the mercurial Rubeus Hagrid, the giant, black-bearded, unpredictable yet endearing Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts. This inhabitant of liminal space is Master Wizard Albus Dumbledore's special messenger. Hagrid has a way of getting embroiled with the incarnations of Lord Voldemort and plays a pivotal role as he weaves close to conscious and unconscious spaces stirring the energies together and agitating Harry to greater depths and steeper edges.
THE VAMPIRE AND PSYCHIC POSSESSION
Each encounter that Harry has with Voldemort or one of his avatars becomes darker. In the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid, Harry suddenly comes upon a horrific scene of a cloaked figure with blood dripping from its mouth, leaning over an open wound on the dead body of a gleaming white unicorn. It is drinking the animal's blood. Harry is rescued by a centaur who tells him that Lord Voldemort is nearby and, thirsting for immortality, is after the Stone. Von Franz, in Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche, says that anyone who earns the gratitude of animals, or whom they help for any reason, invariably wins out....It is psychologically of the utmost importance, because it means that in the conflict between good and evil the decisive factor is our animal instinct or animal soul; anyone who has it with him is victorious.... (Boston, Shambhala, 1994, p. 89)
Killing a unicorn is a desperate vampiric measure since the unicorn is a sacred creature. As the centaur says:
Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of the unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips. (Sorcerer's Stone,p. 258)
In alchemy, the unicorn symbolizes the path to the Philosopher's gold.
The vampire myth is like a deep vein that pulses through the Potter stories. The vampire as an archetypal motif and image has been present in many cultures throughout the world for over 3000 years. The character of Voldemort here represents the dark demonic energy that thrusts Harry towards his spirals of initiations. Like Lord Voldemort, the Vampire, is foremost a dehumanized shapeshifter who although appearing in a variety of guises, has the primal urge to suck the blood, soul and libido of others to revivify himself. His frightening visage communicates an overpowering doom and depressive despair. Harry is terrified that if Voldemort gets the Stone he will come back to power. He decides he must fight him. Ron and Hermione worry that Harry will be expelled. But Harry operates out of a far deeper level of fear:
don't you understand?... I [have to get the Stone] If I get caught before I can get to the Stone, well, I'll have to go back to the Dursleys and wait for Voldemort to find me there, it's only dying a bit later than I would have, because I'm never going over to the Dark Side! (p. 270)
Descending into the sinuous bowels of the School through a series of traps set by different teachers to protect the Stone, the three friends figure out how to navigate the dangers, each time passing through another door. Harry goes into the last dark chamber alone, knowing he must face the danger ahead. Inside he encounters his Defense against Dark Arts teacher, who declares that he has allowed his body to become possessed by Voldemort so they can get the Stone. Afterwards, he and Voldemort plan to kill Harry. The teacher confesses: "Lord Voldemort showed me...there is no good or evil, there is only power." (p. 291) As the teacher removes his hat and turns his back to the boy, Harry is face-to-face with a monstrous, chalky, snake-like visage: Voldemort. He hisses
See what I have become?...Mere shadow and vapor...I have form only when I can share another's body...but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds....once I have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own.... (p.293)
Like a vampire, he needs another body on which to feed. Harry feels the heat of his rage and terror rise. The "man with the two faces" tries to strangle Harry. The emboldened boy fights back, seeing how the creature can't touch him without receiving scalding burns. In a power coniunctio of conflicting passions, both desperately fight for their lives, and suddenly Harry blacks out. This is the alchemical rubedo stage of his journey, in which libido, heat, and opposing elements melt together to form the Gold of the boy's ripened consciousness. This is the moment of death for the old attitude of helplessness in the orphan, and a birth of the new seasoned strength of the Initiate. Harry revives. Headmaster Dumbledore has rescued him and explains that the creature couldn't touch Harry without getting burned.
Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. ...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.... It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good." (p. 299)
Like Merlin who trained the orphan King Arthur, Dumbledore is a master wizard overseeing Harry's training. Helping Harry to move through the doorways into deeper chambers of his growth, Dumbledore is the alchemist who maintains the perfect balance of temperature and pressure in his adept's retort. Dumbledore doesn't under or over-manage Harry's training; he keeps the youth on edge to encourage the development of his self-reliance and skills. Understanding more about the sacrifices in his past, Harry develops a special relationship with this wise "Headmaster" and grows in his understanding of the real nature of the Elixir of Life.
The second volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, takes the reader into yet deeper layers of the archetypal themes of the Orphan and Vampire. The Dickensian Dursley stepfamily return as characters and continue to treat him as though his magical powers were a disgusting anomaly. The outsider experience of personal isolation, the xenophobic threat of "the foreigner," and the projection of the shadow are all viscerally portrayed in this volume. A notion of elitist superiority was hinted at in The Sorcerer's Stone, in comments by Slytherin Draco Malfoy to Harry such as "You'll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others..." (p. 108) By now the whispers have turned to threats. When Harry returns to School there is a growing movement led by the Slytherins to intimidate all the Hogwarts students who were born into "impure" Muggle families. They are considered to be "Mudbloods."
The sense of danger is everywhere. A puzzling force is loose and attacks students by turning them into stone; they are being petrified. Harry hears a horrifying, bone chilling voice that seeps out of the walls saying "Come...come to me...Let me rip you....Let me tear you...Let me kill you." (Chamber of Secrets, p. 120) And Harry is the only one who can hear and understand it.
The curse of petrifaction weaves the Medusa myth into the fabric of the story. "Medusa's eyes were so glaring that they turned to stone whomever looked into them."(Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionary of Symbols, London, Penguin Books, 1994, p. 940) A highly polished shield like a mirror, was used to kill her. The mirror allows reflection, with the light of consciousness, on the unseen power in us that is enlarged and projected onto another.
In a heightened state of anxiety, the students go to their History of Magic class. Prodded by ever-curious Hermione, Professor Binns describes how Hogwarts was established over one thousand years ago by two wizards, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin, and two witches, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. "They built the castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution." (Chamber of Secrets, p. 150)
We learn, along with the class, that an ideological controversy developed between Slytherin and the others around "magical" superiority. Slytherin wanted to restrict sorcery education to heirs of pure-blood wizard families and to reject all students from mixed or "Muggle" families. Ultimately, Slytherin left the school but before his departure he built a secret chamber, which housed a horrific serpent whose power only his true heir could unleash. It would then be used to purge the school of all unworthy mudbloods. Somehow, the Chamber of Secrets, last opened fifty years earlier, has been re-opened. A new chapter in "Muggle cleansing" has arrived .
Harry realizes that he alone understands the special "voice" in the walls because he can speak snake language. Apparently this linguistic talent, one of the marks of a dark wizard, was one for which Salazar Slytherin was famous. Like the phoenix feather on his wand, Harry once again is reminded that he has one foot in the Darkness of the underworld and the other in the Light of the upper world.
Harry finds the secret diary of Tom Riddle, a boy who was a student at Hogwarts fifty years ago, when the Chamber was last opened. Riddle, like Harry, came from "mixed" parentage and was an orphan. Riddle, who hates his parents, is like a dark mirror image of Harry. The Riddle boy brings Harry into his memory through the diary, to show him the Hogwarts of fifty years earlier. This revenant tricks Harry into believing that he is trustworthy. Rowling's four dimensional, cyberspace-like use of time in this section is an imaginative move into another reality.
Like the scapegoating and projection of evil throughout history, the movement towards ethnic cleansing of Hogwarts gains momentum. Ron's younger sister, Ginny, gets abducted into the Chamber. Harry and Ron decide they must go and attempt her rescue.
Towards the climactic endings of each of her tales, Rowling uses evocative body-based images, involving the senses, breathe, eyes, and sound to heighten the mounting pace of the instinctual-archetypal battle ahead. In this story, the boys descend into the dank catacombs of the School. They pass a massive twenty-foot snakeskin shed by the serpent and come to a solid wall on which two emerald-eyed entwined snakes are carveda horrific caduceus. Again, echoes of Harry's initiatory ordeal are audible in the dark tunnels; the snakeskin that is shed yearly recalls the process of death and rebirth.
Alone inside the darkened Chamber, Harry sees Ginny, nearly dead and lying like a sacrifice, at the foot of a massive stone statue of Salazar Slytherin. Then, he observes a black-haired boy whom Harry recognizes as Tom Riddle. Riddle coolly reveals that he is the young Lord Voldemort; while a student at Hogwarts fifty years ago he changed his name to Voldemort and vowed to become the greatest Dark Wizard. He preserved himself as a memory in his own diary and now has become freed to be the rightful heir to Slytherin.
The cunning Riddle/Voldemort describes how lonely little Ginny, who found the diary well before Harry, poured out her heart and soul into its pagesand into Tom. He boasts how he was able to "charm" Ginny and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted....I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her....[[She] daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods....(p. 310)
In other words, this Hogwarts anima became possessed by a psychic vampire, to whom she gave the goodness of her young soul while he filled her with venomous hate, to become the poisonous soul of the psychological catastrophe currently haunting Hogwarts.
This penetrating description of psyche/soma possession and projection is one of the strongest and most chilling images in the book. It is both a vision and physical sensation of a terror to which both children and adults can relate. Ginny is the youngest sister of six brothers in the Weasley family. She was lonely and fearful about attending Hogwarts and used the secret Riddle diary to find desperately needed connection. Her soul was ideal "bait" for his hunger and his false responsiveness was seductive to her need to feel visible.
The mythic vampire can exist only by exploiting othersit is a parasitic beast that dies in isolation. The vampire archetype is essentially the shape we give to a dark potential in all human relations, an ominous shade that creeps over us when we feel (or imagine) the absence of love and settle for exploitation. (Barbara E. Hort, Unholy Hungers: Encountering the Psychic Vampire in Ourselves & Others, Boston, Shambhala, 1996, p. 33)
Having hid in the moldy diary for fifty years, Riddle's unlived life energy has distilled into pure Voldemort poison. The dark fury towards his abandoning Muggle father fueled his determination to retaliate against all Muggles. Unable to see his own self-hatred Riddle tells Harry that annihilating Mudbloods no longer interests him; he only wants to kill Harry.
Ginny and Harry, still inexperienced with recognizing and battling evil are not yet strong enough to fight it on their own. They need help. Unearthly music begins to flow into the Chamber, and, as it grows louder, Harry feels his heart expanding and hair rising on his head. Then he sees flames. A golden-beaked phoenix appears and flies to Harry. As its golden claws land on Harry's shoulder, he recognizes Dumbledore's pet, Fawkes. He is carrying the magical Sorting Hat. The arrival of the Hat augurs the imminence of yet another process of separating distinctions (the alchemical separatio.)
An infuriated Voldemort screams for the giant serpent to kill Harry. The terrified boy shuts his eyes as the phoenix dives at the serpent eyes, puncturing them with his golden beak. The red blood of death, giving Harry life, spurts everywhere. Thrashing blindly, the snake manages to bite Harry, impaling him with a poisonous fang. Amidst the turmoil, the serpent sweeps the Sorting Hat to Harry, a ruby-handled silver sword falls out, and Harry plunges it deeply into the reptile's mouth and kills it.
These images of the serpent suggest a penetrating visceral connection with the unconscious in its death dealing aspect. In killing the serpent, Harry is a hero able to transform the evil eye of the snake monster within, where monsters are created with "looks that kill." Though not yet fully revealed in this story, Harry has internal mother images of the loving spirit of Lily Potter and the cruel stepmother, Petunia Dursley. In Symbols of Transformation, Jung wrote about the relationship between the mother imago, the unconscious, and the developing instinctual life of the son. In order not to fear life, the boy needs to deliver himself from his unconscious mother complex:
The demands of the unconscious act at first like a paralyzing poison on a man's energy and resourcefulness, so that it may well be compared to the bite of a poisonous snake. Apparently, it is a hostile demon who robs him of his energy, but in actual fact it is his own unconscious whose alien tendencies are beginning to check the forward striving of the conscious mind. (Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 298-299, par. 458)
As Harry pulls the fang from his arm, Fawkes flies to the adept who is rapidly becoming weaker from blood loss and spreading poison. The bird lays his head onto the wound and begins to cry thick tears. In alchemy and homeopathy there is a relationship between the poison that kills and the elixir that heals. The phoenix too, has a dual nature; it can be a killing force but its' empathic pearly tears can transform it to a healing remedy.
Young Voldemort begins a sarcastic eulogy for Harry but the youth regains consciousness. Fawkes flies to the diary and drops it into Harry's lap. As in killing a vampire, Harry grabs the serpent fang and plunges it into the heart of the diary. There is a piercing scream, ink spurts out of the diary, Voldemort writhes in agony on the floor, and once again disappears.