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JK Rowling uses universal symbols which are very ancient and resonate in the collective unconscious. Many of the symbols were used in the ancient civilisations which gave their ideas to our western world. We will therefore recognise Greco-Roman and Egyptian symbols.
< Return to main symbols page.
By clicking on the name of the symbols below you can read a summary of their alchemical interpretation. Each summary shows links
to a fuller explanation in the
Yahoo discussion group.
The skull with the snake in its mouth is the symbol for eternal life. It plays a role in both Harry Potter and The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross, though in totally different ways. Voldemort wants to defeat death above all other things, and will go to any lengths and sacrifice anything other than himself to gain eternal life. In The Alchemical Wedding the skull with the snake is present during the alchemical process which transmutes a mortal earthly person into a Child of the Universal Spirit. Such a reborn human being will have eternal life in the perfect universe in absolute joy and rapture.
What Voldemort seeks at the cost of indescribable suffering for countless other people, and which will not provide any joy for him, Harry will attain by the opposite means: by his love, his willingness to sacrifice himself for others, and his loyalty to Dumbledore: the Divine Spirit.
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The little golden ball with wings symbolises the New Consciousness which is the ultimate aim of every seeker, because it brings the great Enlightenment of the Buddhists, or the descent of the Holy Spirit in Christian symbology. This consciousness is achieved when the unification has taken place of the Spirit, the Soul and the transmuted personality.
We can see this golden winged sphere on top of the Caduceus, which is the staff carried by the Greek God Hermes, or his Roman equivalent, Mercury. This God was the messenger between people on earth and Mt Olympus, where the Gods dwelt. Hence when we have grabbed the golden snitch it means we have achieved the Mercury Consciousness. We can perceive the Divine Plan and help to carry it out. And when we have caught the snitch, the dialectic interplay of opposites ceases. The game is over and Life starts.
See newsgroup post 207
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The Gate of Saturn is symbolised in Harry Potter by the archway with the veil in the Department of Mysteries. Anyone who passes through this gate enters the world of the dead. It is called the Gate of Saturn because the Roman god of that name was the god of the harvest - the harvest at the end of life. This is why he is often depicted holding a scythe and an hourglass. He is often referred to as The Grim Reaper.
Every mortal human being passes through the Gate of Saturn at the end of every incarnation. The harvest of his life is gathered into the storehouse of the microcosm as the personality dies. The microcosm then prepares for a new incarnation, ready to pour the harvest into a new personality about to be born.
However the whole purpose of life on earth is to learn to go through the Gate of Saturn for the last time. This is what Harry Potter is really about. By going the Path of Alchemical Liberation a seeker can make the Philosopher's Stone. In Part 7 Harry will achieve the ultimate triumph: he will symbolically obtain the Philosopher's Stone, with which he can make the Gold of the Spirit and the Elixir of Life. With this, Harry will be able to pass through the Gate of Saturn for the last time, and then return, showing that he has been able to triumph over death.
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Book 5 contains these famous words, as Dumbledore tells Harry: There is a room in the Department of Mysteries, that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. Dumbledore is referring to love.
A story with similarities to Harry Potter is The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross, published nearly 400 years ago. Exactly the same room appears there, called the Sepulchre of Venus. Venus was the Roman goddess of love. Christian Rosycross finds the room accidentally unlocked, and sees Lady Venus, lying asleep, uncovered.
What's behind the symbolism of this mysterious room?
In the heart of every human being, even the most evil, there is a secret "room" that is locked at all times. It contains the mightiest force in the universe, the deepest core essence of life and of the whole of creation: love. When the Original Spirit of God created Man, He put His own essence into this very centre of Man's being.
When a seeker goes the Path of Liberation as demonstrated symbolically by Harry and by Christian Rosycross, the Room of Love is unlocked and the wonderful and terrible force is seen in its unveiled reality, perfect and indescribably beautiful, unearthly and untouchable.
Once a seeker has opened this door in his heart, he will be so overwhelmed with compassion for suffering humanity that he will delay his own progress on the Path of Liberation to help others. This is the symbolism behind Hagrid's expulsion and his role of Hogwarts' Keeper of the Keys.
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The human being is essentially a spherical force field which extends several metres beyond the physical body. Without this force field the body would have no life. The force field is usually referred to as the microcosm .
The purpose of Harry Potter is to describe to the world the alchemical process that converts a mortal, flawed human being into an eternal, perfect Child of the Source of all life. This process consists of a gradual dissolution of the mortal human, and the reconstruction of the imperishable human being to replace him. The old microcosm with its old physical body is called "12 Grimmauld Place" in Harry Potter. This is an extremely apt name, for the old, fallen microcosm is a grim old place compared to the refulgent and glorious star like angelic being who lives in God's Eternal Universe. The number 12 refers to 12 magnetic focal points in the perimeter of the microcosm, which determine the quality of the forces operating within the human being. They determine all his desires and talents; they are his spiritual treasury.
The grim old place is the home of the ancient and noble house of Black: ancient because the microcosm is many millions of years old, noble because it was originally created by the Divine Spirit, but black because it has fallen out of the Kingdom of Heaven into an infernal universe full of death, suffering and anguish.
Four people are intimately connected with No. 12 Grimmauld Place:
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Dumbledore personifies the Holy, Sanctifying Spirit which invites every seeker to come to "Hogwarts" to learn the Alchemy which will turn him or her into a "Master of the Stone". When the seeker has learnt to defeat his inner Voldemort many times, he can start to become a leader in the struggle against the forces of darkness which imprison humanity.
"Dumbledore's Army" symbolises a group of earnest seekers who are loyal to the Divine Spirit and are led by a person in whom the New Immortal Soul has reached an advanced degree of maturity. Such a person is always surprised to be chosen as leader. Because of his selflessness and compassion he is not aware of the power he has in defeating the dark forces. When Hermione and Ron ask Harry to become leader of Dumbledore's army, he says he defeated Voldemort through luck, and with the help of others (forgetting they helped him because he'd earned it). By saying that, Harry is proving that he is a true leader, for such a leader should have no ambitions in that direction. A real leader does it because there is no one else, and because he sees that someone needs to do it. Becoming a leader on the Path of Liberation is called "the Jupiter Initiation". Jupiter was the leader of the gods in Roman mythology.
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It was as though the potion was illuminating a few steps at a time: he could not see the final destination, [.] but he knew that he was going the right way to get [what he needed]. - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 22.
This quotation, and the events that occur after Harry takes Felix Felicis, describe in a sublime and precise way the effect of prayer. Not prayer itself, but the effects of humble, pure-hearted prayer in self-surrender to God’s Will.
When a seeker goes the Path of Liberation, he is often unsure of what to do. If he is able to empty his heart of all self, and to surrender his whole being to his inner God, his next few steps on the Path will be illuminated as a result of fervent prayer.
The seeker must begin his prayer by feeling an overwhelming love for God, and giving Him the seeker’s whole heart, his whole mind, and his whole soul. He must then focus all his attention on examining the purity of his motives, with the absolute longing: Thy wish, not mine be done. He can then ask God: What do you want me to do, o Lord?
His answer will be an inner knowledge of what the next few steps are, just as described in this chapter of Harry Potter. The seeker won’t see the final destination, but he’ll know he’s going the right way to get what he needs (i.e. what God wants him to do). Harry was acting on Dumbledore’s (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) urgent request to get Slughorn's memory and he also knew that what he needed was essential in defeating the Dark Lord. And so he succeeded in getting it.
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The Chamber of Secrets is a place in the human body. Deep down, at the bottom of the spinal cord, there is a place known as the sacral plexus. This contains the root-force which keeps our human existence imprisoned in this universe. This force is coiled up like a snake and is called the kundalini. When we go the Path of Liberation, and the alchemical process that changes our whole being begins, the New Soul-fire, symbolised by Harry, travels down the right string of the sympathetic nervous system, until it reaches the sacral plexus. There it confronts the kundalini, which contains our total karma; the karma from all our previous incarnations and the collective karma we've built up with humanity in general. When our New Soul confronts the kundalini, it uncoils and tries to attack the New Soul. However if we as alchemists are loyal to God (personified by Dumbledore) the Harry within us will succeed in destroying the kundalini. All the karmic ties are broken, and hence the fallen, dualistic universe loses its hold on us. Our 'sins are forgiven'. In the New Testament this victory is symbolised by Jesus overcoming the three temptations in the wilderness.
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A Horcrux in Harry Potter is an object in which a wizard can conceal part of his soul by means of a murder and an accompanying spell. We know that Voldemort has torn his soul into eight pieces by means of seven murders.
Every one of us has a Voldemort ruling our lives. He is our friend as long as we just do what he wants, but when the eternal spark of the Divine Spirit begins to glow again in the heart, and Harry is born as the wondrous divine soul that will lift us into eternal life, Voldemort becomes our mortal enemy. He tries to kill the beautiful new soul, but, just as Herod failed to kill Jesus, Voldemort cannot kill Harry. Harry is predestined, as the "chosen one", to destroy the Voldemort living in our microcosm.
Voldemort is our "higher self" or microcosmic consciousness, that is the result of our disobedience of the laws of God's original universe. Liberation consists of an alchemical process of transmutation and transfiguration in which everything earthly and temporary ("lead") is converted in a divine and eternal ("gold") counterpart. As soon as we begin this process, we find that our microcosmic self becomes our Satan ("enemy") who tries to tighten his hold on us. We discover that we have to destroy not only him, but that he has six other places in our being where he controls us. We have to seek out each one of these and destroy the domination of our personal Voldemort through them.
Voldemort himself symbolises a mighty concentration of astral ("emotional") energy in our aura. It is bigger than the mortal personality and keeps on living after we die. It radiates part of itself into a new baby after our death, and so we can say that Voldemort is truly immortal - until Harry is born in the heart of the personality.
One of the most powerful ways the higher self controls the personality is through the subconscious mind. CG Jung said that the subconscious mind is more powerful in its effect on our lives than the conscious mind. In fact the subconscious mind is a record of all the previous lives we have lived under Voldemort's domination - hence this is symbolised by a diary, a perfect symbol for a record of events.
The sacral plexus at the bottom of the spine is the place where the subconscious mind influences our "tree of life", the spinal cord with the brain as its crown. This is also the place where our karma lies rolled up like a coiled basilisk. The sacral plexus is symbolised in Harry Potter by the Chamber of Secrets, and this is why Harry was able to destroy both the basilisk and Tom Riddle's diary there. Harry destroyed the diary Horcrux by intuition. Without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the Basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book.
Our ordinary physical body is surrounded by a magnetic sphere several metres in radius. This sphere has a boundary, which alchemists call "the ring". This magnetic ring has concentrations of astral or "desire" energy, which radiate into the personality and cause all our interests, desires and talents. At the same time this ring keeps out divine energy. This is why we are mortal. If we were to be able to receive the indestructible energy from the divine universe, we would be immortal.
In Harry Potter this microcosmic ring is symbolised by the Ring of Peverell, which Voldemort took from his grandfather's shack. This shack symbolises the ruined microcosm we have become since the Fall. The Horcrux was destroyed by Dumbledore, personifying the healing, sanctifying spirit that comes into us to do the work of alchemical transmutation. The microcosmic ring is made impotent and is "demagnetised" by the process of transmutation, so that all the alchemist's earthly interests and desires fade and are replaced by an intense desire to return to the Divine Fatherland. He wants to do nothing but God's will again.
We all know that we feel our emotions and desires in our heart. That's because we have a centre of consciousness there, called the emotional ego. A person's heart can be a cesspool, a murderer's den or a fire of love, depending on our desires. That emotional ego is put into the heart at our birth by our microcosmic self.
At the same time our heart also contains the eternal flower put there by God. This is symbolised by Lily. The emotional ego is symbolised in Harry Potter by Slytherin's locket. It's a perfect symbol, as it is hollow and hangs in front of the heart. Harry and Dumbledore make a great effort to steal the locket from a cave (the heart) where Voldemort has hidden it, only to find that Regulus Black, Sirius' brother, took it away before he died.
This cup was stolen by Tom Riddle from Hepzibah Smith. Voldemort turned this golden cup into a Horcrux. This immediately brings into mind the Grail. Part of the process of alchemical transmutation that the candidate for liberation has to put into practice is to make the Holy Grail for himself. This means that he has to purify the whole region around the heart. All the organs in the chest, especially the 21 plexuses in the throat and chest region, and the thyroid and thymus glands, must be purified by the soul-fire born from the Lily in the heart.
This soul-fire is personified by Harry, and so in effect Harry has to remove Voldemort's soul from the golden cup, which turns it into a Grail. It is then worthy to receive the Blood of Christ. This Blood is the holy astral fire which will accomplish the process of transmutation and transfiguration, turning lead into gold.
The tiara symbolises the head. We know that Rowena Ravenclaw was very fond of clever students, emphasising the head again.
The head of the normal human being is filled with a fiery etheric/astral light which is concentrated in seven areas around the brain. This light is a force that belongs to the fallen universe, and is given to a foetus by the microcosmic consciousness (Voldemort) before birth.
In Part 7 the tiara is destroyed by a great alchemical fire. This symbolises the extinguishing of the 7 lights around the brain. They are replaced by the divine light of the new consciousness.
Voldemort tore his soul when he killed Lily, and he unwittingly created a Horcrux when he cursed baby Harry. This Horcrux was Harry's scar, therefore. This explains why there was such a link between Harry and Voldemort. Harry has a piece of Voldemort's soul in his head! We know that Harry achieved a victory each time in upward order in one of the planes in which the human being manifests himself:
In Part 7 Harry liberates himself on the plane of the consciousness ego. This ego just happens to be situated in the head, behind the forehead just above the spot between the eyes - behind where Harry has his scar in fact.
In the spinal cord there is a fiery force known as the serpent-fire. It is clearly shaped like a snake. This fiery force is the column on which the I-consciousness rests. We're not conscious of having it, but without it we could not be conscious. If we were to strip the human being to his absolutely basic core, we could visualise the serpent fire as the essential soul nucleus, and the I-consciousness as the snake's head.
This is the first thing that the microcosmic consciousness thrusts into the foetus it's adopting for a new incarnation. As soon as that happens, the foetus is alive. In Harry Potter this is symbolised by the snake, Nagini. As it's the first, most basic force put into the personality, it is also the last Horcrux to be destroyed. In true life it is the Holy Spirit who enters the personality through the medulla oblongata, and then destroys the old serpent fire, replacing it with the fire of God. The medulla oblongata is symbolised by Neville Longbottom. His head is covered with the burning hat of Godric Gryffindor, giving us the same image as that of the apostles having tongues of fire on their heads as they receive the Holy Spirit, in the New Testament. Neville then decapitates the serpent, symbolising the death of the old serpent-fire, and hence of the old soul. The mortal, earthly soul is dead.
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