With the voice and bearing of a guide
who has discharged his duty, she began: ‘We have issued
from the largest body to the Heaven of pure light,
‘light intellectual, full of love,
love of true good, full of joy,
joy that surpasses every sweetness.
Paradiso, Canto 30, lines 37 – 42
In our little excursion through centuries spanning medieval classic to contemporary literature we come now to an end that is really the beginning. Piccarda explained as early as Canto 4 of Paradiso that everywhere in Paradise is Paradise. Yet as a concession to the limited human understanding Dante is introduced to a split up version where the blessed are categorized like in a lexicon.
One could also say the blessed were planted like lovely flowers into different beds of the same garden. The original Hebrew version of the Bible speaks of the Paradise as ‘gan’ what means garden. Only when translated into Greek gan became paradeisos. And as already stated in the very beginning the Greek word paradeisos deceives from a Persian word meaning ‘walled-around place’.
So, the question remains: Is Hogwarts just another ‘walled around place’? Or is Hogwarts Paradise?
‘You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago – by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age. The four school houses are named after them: Goderic Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. They built this castle together, far from prying eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution.’
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall
The information ‘over one thousand years ago’ places Hogwarts early years right into the deepest darkness of the medieval, a time not really connected with light, love and joy. Yet it was a time when alchemy was seriously considered by many smart men. And it was also around this time when Dante was allowed his glimpse of Paradiso.
Hogwarts was erected as a school, a place to learn the basics of witchcraft and wizardry. The students allowed are unique in their inborn ability to do magic. As imaginative as the subjects taught sound however, the teachers are no forerunners in the field of modern teaching. It is not only the ghost, Professor Binns, who sticks strictly to the facts and who requests of his students pure memorization of facts.
Memorization is the basic method of teaching at Hogwarts and it is what is asked for in the exams as well. None of the teacher ever asks the students to research the origins of the magic ability or the foundation of spells and hexes. But this would be the basis for creativity, research and development.
The closest we get to discover the basis of magic is when Professor Snape teaches the properties of herbs and fungi and how to mix them for a potion. Yet, as his stay lone efforts it is no wonder that most of the students fail completely when Slughorn introduces Galpalot’s Law.
When we then realize that the house system adds tremendous tension to the daily atmosphere at school, Hogwarts is far from a paradisiacal place. However, Hogwarts isn’t what it seems at the first view.
There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn’t open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren’t really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was so very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other and Harry was sure the coats of armour could walk.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 8: The Potion Master
The school alone tickles curiosity. It holds legendary chambers, hidden pathways to the outside and a Room of Requirement that is where for you in times of need equipped with everything you lack. And it is home to many very curious folk: speaking and meandering portraits, walking armours, ghosts, house elves, other students and teachers, who all have their own stories to discover.
If that isn’t enough the library is filled with thousands of books that contain the knowledge of millennia. If you want to discover and research, as a student of Hogwarts you have your space to move. Other as with the Dursleys, where questions and imagination were forbidden, explorative behaviour isn’t discouraged at Hogwarts. In the case of Harry with his invisibility cloak and the Marauders Map it is even actively encouraged.
Furthermore, the castle is thoroughly protected against invasion by ancient magic and every spell available. A constant and direct threat from the outside that could realize every second would be too much as opposites clash constantly in the inside due to the house system. Walled up, hidden and protected as it is, Hogwarts establishes a temenos – a place where individuation can take place.
What Jung called individuation, the miracle of self-realisation, is called in alchemy ‘the squaring of the circle’ – the mysterious is ‘squared’ with physical reality.
Physical reality? Since Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle we know that subatomic particles can’t be accurately defined in time and space. They have, as physicists call it, only a tendency to exist. Hence, as everything existing is build up of subatomic particles, our physical reality and ultimately we humans as well have only a tendency to exist. The physical reality is therefore understood as a constant evolving process and each little thing is a whole world itself. And so the whole universe is in each of us.
The experience of the Self brings a feeling of standing on solid ground inside oneself, on a patch of inner eternity which even physical death cannot touch.
Mary-Louise von Franz, C.G. Jung, his Myth in our Time
Hogwarts is the solid ground that gives the students a home in the outside world as well as in their mind. Only if the students lower their protection and that of the school, Voldemort and the ideas he stand for have a chance to cling to the minds. Otherwise, Hogwarts and his inhabitants are a patch of outer and inner eternity, a temenos, a gan, a paradeisos, the same place Dante saw on Good Friday 1300. Was Dante perhaps truly magical?