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“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
Illustration of an alchemy workshop from Johann Mylius, Opus Medico-Chymicum, 1618 Illustration of an alchemy workshop
Johann Mylius, Opus Medico-Chymicum, 1618

Harry Potter’s World

Throughout the seven-book series, Harry Potter makes crucial decisions about the fate of all living things as he attempts to thwart the villainous Lord Voldemort’s unending quest for a racially-pure wizard state, ultimate power, and eternal life. Although he struggles with fear of becoming an evil wizard like Voldemort, Harry is reminded by friends and mentors that his compassionate and unselfish use of magic sets the two apart. Time and again, the young wizard appreciates all the natural world has to offer, develops friendships with ostracized creatures and racially “impure” wizards, and uses his power to help others, even at the risk of his own life. Harry’s desire to do what is right helps him to defeat Lord Voldemort, keeping all the young wizard loves safe from harm.

“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
 

The History of Science

Agrippa: 1486-1535
“Magic comprises the most profound contemplation of the most secret things, their nature, power, quality, substance, and virtues, as well as the knowledge of their whole nature.” Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia, 1533

Like Harry, many Renaissance alchemists, naturalists, and physicians struggled with the responsibilities that came with their attempts to understand the world. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, a noted 16th-century occultist, alchemist, lawyer, physician, and, in Harry Potter, a wizard trading card, wrote one of the most famous works on magic, De Occulta Philosophia. Agrippa often criticized the politics, culture, and religion of his time and felt that the ancient magic included in his writings could benefit humanity. The scholar hoped that De Occulta Philosophia would show that ancient magic could be manipulated like a practical science, though he cautioned that any use should be sacred. Agrippa believed that only those with respect for nature could successfully control it and that those who used magic for selfish or immoral reasons would risk their very souls.

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia , 1533 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia, 1533