Magic, Science, and Man

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the ‘wisdom’ of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious.

CS Lewis
The Abolition of Man

Harry Potter and sympathetic treatment

As I have blogged twice about Harry Potter, both with qualifications for Rowling’s greatness, I think I should add something that has struck me recently and which I consider one of her great powers: the ability to engage sympathetically with the inner workings of the human mind.

Probably my favorite magical device in the whole series is the brilliantly named Pensieve.  She introduces it perfectly. The tone is set in the gravity and secrecy and soberness of Dumbledore’s office. Harry enters it and is surprised by its function. Then Dumbledore quietly draws Harry out of it and back to his office. The quietness and sensitivity of the scene and the actions shows an inner warmth in Rowling toward the secret workings of the mind: the memories, the challenge of keeping them ordered, the yearning to make them objective and understand them.

Perhaps the best chapter in the fourth book.