Wednesday 22 February 2012

The web of co-inherence in Harry Potter - who saved Draco's soul?


Charles William's concept of co-inherence is strangely difficult to understand, I find.

Perhaps this is a modern phenomenon - we are all trained to think of ourselves as striving for self-actualisation - the idea that we are saved by others is alien and almost incomprehensible.

But I have found the Harry Potter series to be valuable in thinking through the idea, the way in which the books can be understood as being underpinned by a web of self-sacrificing love - in which character's save each-other, but not themselves.


The idea of co-inherence seems to be that Christians are strictly unable to attain their own salvation directly - but only indirectly.

The two greatest commandments are love of God first, and secondly love of Neighbour.

Thus, our salvation is not attained by our efforts, but given by the Grace of God, and (less recognised) by the love of others.

(Nowhere does it mention love of Self.)

Our first job is to accept this free gift of love, humbly to consent to receive this gift; our second job is to join in the great plan of salvation by loving God and our neighbour - and thus assisting in the salvation of our neighbour.

The hero Harry Potter does both; the anti-hero Draco does only the first part (the acceptance) and does not seem to give his own sacrificial love to others - at least, so far as we know.


From Charles Williams we get:

Love of God is the direct path of monasticism - the Negative Way (Via Negativa) the path of asceticism and denial.

Love of Neighbour is the indirect way, the Via Positiva, the path of affirmation. We hope to be saved by our Love of others, by Love of God's creation and creatures.

(The two paths are not separable, but more a question of emphasis.)


The Via Positiva is possible because of co-inherence. In a nutshell this is that salvation is not individual but a matter of humanity - joined in a web.

Everyone's conduct, choices, faith affects everybody else - our path affects that of others, indeed of our nation and the world; and what goes on in the world, our country, the people around us affects us. We are all 'in it together' - in Life together, in the quest for salvation together.


We depend on others, depend in a very fundamental way - and they depend on us.

So salvation is a web, but a web of not merely mutual assistance, but a web in which salvation runs one-way - runs from others to us and from us to others.

We save others, others save us; our Love saves others, their Love saves us

- we are saved by our Love for others, but only indirectly, not by ourselves 'having' Love for others, but by given Love, by self-sacrificial Love.


It is this indirect route, this web of Love which is so profoundly exemplified in the Harry Potter series of novels - because again-and-again we see Harry 'saved' by the self-sacrificing Love of others, and in the end it is his self-sacrificing Love which saves 'the world' from coming under control of evil.

In the context of the novel series, to be 'saved' carries two distinct but related meanings - saving-the-life of and saving-the-soul of.

Saving Harry's life, in particular, is seen not just as a life, but in salvific terms - since Harry is himself the prophesied saviour, who is destined to be the one who will confront Voldemort to determine the fate of the world, he is the only one who can defeat Voldemort.

So, in this fictional world, saving a life is sometimes intended to mean much the same as saving a soul.


Dumbledore is the co-inherence expert in the Harry Potter books - he is the only person who seems to understand the workings of Love.

Right from the first book up to the King's Cross chapter of the last; Dumbledore's private chats with Harry are where the reader is told about the workings of love, especially of self-sacrificing love, and indirectly informed how and where it operates between the main characters.

Almost everything we, as readers, know about love in the world of Harry Potter, we are told by Dumbledore. Although he is morally flawed, Dumbledore's comprehension seems to be definitive.


Below I will analyse a small part of the complex 'economy of sacrificial love', the web of co-inherence depicted in the Harry Potter series.

I should make clear that I do not believe that the pattern was explicitly deliberate, and I would be amazed if it was directly derived from Charles Williams.

Rather, I sense that the pattern among the characters of HP resulted from JKR having a deep, strong and secure instinctual understanding of these matters, an understanding shared with C.W as a result of similar thought processes, rather than any kind of direct influence from C.W. to JKR.


In Harry Potter, love is described much more like a physical thing - indeed a physiological change, than it is like a psychological perception.

Sacrificial love has its effects on the person for whom the sacrifice was made - whether or not the recipient knows of it or its operations.

All that is required of the recipient of sacrificial love to gain the benefit is their passive - even grudging - consent to accepting the salvation which self-sacrifice brings.


So in The Philosopher's Stone, Dumbeldore says that Lily's love is present in Harry's actual skin, such that Quirrell/ Voldemort cannot touch him.

This happens despite Harry's lack of knowledge of how such things work.

In Order of the Phoenix, Dumbeldore says that Lily's love is present not only in Harry's blood, but also in the blood of his Aunt Petunia - despite that his Aunt actually dislikes Harry.

This protected Harry from Voldemort as a child despite his lack of knowledge.

That the sacrificial love of Lily's is effective protection requires only that Petunia consents to have Harry in her home, it does not require that Petunia love Harry.

In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort uses Harry's blood - and thus Lily's love - in making himself a new body. This joins Harry and Voldemort with a new kind of protection for Harry.

(Voldemort chooses to reject love, so the protection is one way. When Harry is enabled by his self-sacrifice to offer Voldemort a final chance for remorse, Voldemort dismisses it and tries to kill Harry - this is the refusal of consent to God's love and a rejection of the salvific effect of love by a 'neighbour'.).


The way in which the Harry Potter novels describe love as effective with mere consent is seen most clearly in terns of the anti-hero character of Draco Malfoy - who is, it seems, redeemed in some way such that we feel his soul has been saved through the course of the books.

This happens despite that there is no evidence of Draco having reformed much as a character, nor to have become a 'good' person - if the Epilogue's 'curt' nod to Harry at King's Cross is a reliable guide he has merely achieved the negative state of no-longer-being-actively-evil.

But how has this happened - who has saved Draco's soul?


In The Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore's main concern is to save the soul of Draco - which he believes will be lost if Draco commits murder.

In this case, the main agent of sacrificial love is Snape.

Dumbledore instructs Snape to kill him (in a kind of euthanasia) in order that Draco does not suffer the wound to his soul which would result from murdering Dumbledore. +

My understanding is that Snape's self sacrifice (i.e. bearing the sin of murdering Dumbledore) is done for Draco - and from Snape's love of Draco, but also on behalf of Harry.

And Snape's self-sacrifice for Harry comes from his love of Lily which led him to swear obedience to Dumbledore  - it is indeed a complex web...


As a result of Snape's self-sacrifice it seems as if Draco cannot, from that point onwards, harm Harry

 Draco apparently refuses to identify Harry when Harry is captured and brought to Malfoy Manor with his face distorted and disguised by by Hermione's Stinging Jinx. Shortly afterwards Draco seems to allow Harry to disarm him, with barely a struggle and without a fight.

At this point, Draco still seems to want to serve Voldemort and to harm Harry but something he does not understand (presumably Snape's act of self-sacrificial love) prevents him from doing so: such that when Draco, Crabbe and Goyle confront Harry in the Room of Requirement; Draco wants to leave Harry unharmed (albeit to deliver both him and the diadem to Voldemort - at this point Draco is still trying to serve evil).

However, Draco ends up - ineffectually - trying to protect Harry from Crabbe; is again disarmed, and from that point he seems - passively - to accept Harry's leadership and to stop fighting on behalf of Voldemort.

My understanding is that Draco has - at last - consented to having been saved by Snape's act of self-sacrifice on his behalf; and that this consent is enough.

In a typical working of co-inherence, Snape did the work of salvation for Draco, Draco needed merely to accept it.


+ NOTE - It is interesting that here, as elsewhere, Rowling's instinct is sometimes to to have a 'good' character break one moral rule - i.e. the prohibition of euthanasia - in pursuit of a higher moral rule - i.e. to save Draco's soul.

This is, indeed, what must happen with all moral laws if they are to lead to virtue - a higher law will sometimes require the breaking of a lower law, since all laws are summaries of virtue, and not virtue itself.

In the New Testament it is fairly common for Christ to do the same - e.g. breaking the Sabbath prohibitions in order to heal the sick.


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