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Exhibition: Immortality

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.
German occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

Throughout the novel series, Harry Potter makes crucial decisions about the fate of all living things as he attempts to thwart the villainous Lord Voldemort’s quest for a racially-pure wizard state, ultimate power, and eternal life. Although Harry struggles with fear of becoming an evil wizard like Voldemort, he 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.

  • Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Theodor de Bry, 1645

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Like the fictional Harry Potter, many Renaissance alchemists, naturalists, and physicians struggled with the responsibilities that came with their attempts to understand the world. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535), a noted occultist, alchemist, lawyer, and physician 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.

  • De occulta philosphia libri tres… (Three books of occult philosophy), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    The 16th-century occultist Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535) 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.

  • De occulta philosphia libri tres… (Three books of occult philosophy), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

  • Paracelsus from Philosophiae Magnae (Great philosophy), Paracelsus and Balthasar Flöter, 1567

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Paracelsus, who appears as a sculpture in Harry Potter, was a 16th-century Swiss-German physician and alchemist who held the then unorthodox views that medical treatment should be a basic right and that nature should be protected, not exploited.

    Paracelsus was notorious for criticizing the medical practices of his time. For example, he argued that bloodletting, a popular medical cure-all, would do more harm than good to the patient. Paracelsus’ own treatments were less invasive than those of his fellow physicians and, therefore, less likely to cause fatal infections.

  • Aurei velleris oder der Guldin Schatz und Kunstkammer (Golden fleece, or golden treasure and art cabinet), Paracelsus, 1598

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Paracelsus (1493–1541) was among the first to use chemicals and minerals in his remedies because he believed that the body was a microcosm of nature and needed substances from the earth to maintain good health. Unlike most of his fellow physicians, Paracelsus appreciated what other cultures could teach about healing. During his countless travels, he sought advice from diverse sources, including barbers (who sometimes performed surgery) and wise women.

  • Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Theodor de Bry, 1645

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Like the fictional Harry Potter, many Renaissance alchemists, naturalists, and physicians struggled with the responsibilities that came with their attempts to understand the world. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535), a noted occultist, alchemist, lawyer, and physician 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.

  • De occulta philosphia libri tres… (Three books of occult philosophy), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    The 16th-century occultist Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535) 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.

  • De occulta philosphia libri tres… (Three books of occult philosophy), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

  • Paracelsus from Philosophiae Magnae (Great philosophy), Paracelsus and Balthasar Flöter, 1567

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Paracelsus, who appears as a sculpture in Harry Potter, was a 16th-century Swiss-German physician and alchemist who held the then unorthodox views that medical treatment should be a basic right and that nature should be protected, not exploited.

    Paracelsus was notorious for criticizing the medical practices of his time. For example, he argued that bloodletting, a popular medical cure-all, would do more harm than good to the patient. Paracelsus’ own treatments were less invasive than those of his fellow physicians and, therefore, less likely to cause fatal infections.

  • Aurei velleris oder der Guldin Schatz und Kunstkammer (Golden fleece, or golden treasure and art cabinet), Paracelsus, 1598

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    Paracelsus (1493–1541) was among the first to use chemicals and minerals in his remedies because he believed that the body was a microcosm of nature and needed substances from the earth to maintain good health. Unlike most of his fellow physicians, Paracelsus appreciated what other cultures could teach about healing. During his countless travels, he sought advice from diverse sources, including barbers (who sometimes performed surgery) and wise women.

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.
German occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1533

Throughout the novel series, Harry Potter makes crucial decisions about the fate of all living things as he attempts to thwart the villainous Lord Voldemort’s quest for a racially-pure wizard state, ultimate power, and eternal life. Although Harry struggles with fear of becoming an evil wizard like Voldemort, he 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.