Skip navigation.

Harry Potter's Invitation to the World

by Vickie Ewell


Chapter 1 - The Dursleys at First Glance
(HP Chapter 1)

At first glance, I wouldn’t call the Dursleys typical, even though Mr. Dursley kept insisting they were. Because the Dursleys know the wizarding world is there, they are more spiritually conscious than the greater portion of humanity, but they have reacted to that world by putting on a mask of normalcy and pretending it doesn’t exist. Unlike most of humanity who is totally blind to the spiritual world, the Dursleys have been made aware of its presence, but they have rejected it and labeled it evil.

Like many of us, the Dursleys care about what other people think. That flaw intensifies their fear that someone will find out about the dark side of their family and judge them inferior because of it. It seems that once we reject something, our human nature automatically paints it bad or evil, and if it’s close to us such as the Potters were to the Dursleys, we also seek to hide it.

To a certain extent, Mr. Dursley is trying to separate himself from what he has rejected, but because he has placed himself at the center of his little world, he believed that others should think or react in the same way that he would if he were in the same situation. He is literally driven by his carnal nature to be what he defines as normal. Anything that doesn’t fit into the Dursley box – duality here is manifested as Dursley versus not Dursley – is bound to jump out at him and beg him to judge and condemn it.

That’s exactly what we see in the first chapter. Everything that looked peculiar to Mr. Dursley, everything he didn’t like, and anything that irritated him he commented on throughout the day. He told us why it’s wrong to be that way. It’s not Dursleyish. He also tried to find reasons for things being as they were. He made things up. True or untrue, he used his imagination to make sense of his world – even though he claimed he didn’t approve of imagination.

The characteristics, flaws and problems the Dursleys have are typical of humanity. Vernon feared his wife’s anger, and his worry controlled his thoughts, actions and reactions. What we see is how the conditioned behaviors we learned and implemented as infants and toddlers continue to play themselves out as adults. We watch that happen as Mr. Dursley goes throughout his day. Fear controls what he thinks, says and does. We are also shown the very heart of his problem, although for the general reader, it might fly by as unrecognized as the owls were.

When an old wizard offered Mr. Dursley and the rest of the Muggle World an expression of love and joy, it surprised and stunned Vernon. Hugging strangers on the street and not getting upset when being almost knocked to the ground is not the way normal people act. Not in the Dursley world, that is. So we’re being introduced to our unloving selves by watching how Mr. Dursley acts and reacts, but we’re also being given a hint that there is something more to the universe than what we can physically see.

Mr. Dursley knows that something is going on in the wizarding (or spiritual) world, but instead of joy, that knowledge brought fear. Most people do not know the spiritual world exists. They only believe in what they can experience through their senses: what they can see, hear, taste, smell or touch. So the Harry Potter series first introduces us to a new reality. It offers us new possibilities.

While some people hope for an afterlife or believe that a power outside of their selves has designed everything the way it is, they still live at the bottom of the alchemical ladder. Belief in a deity or afterlife is not the same thing as going the Path of Liberation. There is a difference between knowing the path and walking it.

Now, the way I currently understand this is that the natural man is programmed with a strong instinct for survival. Probably, because that is the portion of the brain created first. Science tells us the unconscious brain controls our heartbeat, breathing, digestion, blood glucose control, and a host of other internal operations without our having to consciously think about them.

Internal happenings function with only one goal in mind: survival of the physical body. These internal things lay outside of our will or willpower. However, the Mystery School teachings that I have been introduced to teach that the natural man reacts to everyday happenings mechanically, and that these programs lay outside of what most people call free agency. They have been programmed into our subconscious minds.

One of the first decisions we made as an infant was to eliminate everything that made us uncomfortable. We seek to experience pleasure and avoid all forms of pain. There are several other decisions that strongly rooted themselves into place by the time we were eight, but they were just various methods we used to try to accomplish the goal of non-disturbance.

This foundational structure is referred to biblically as “the sins of the fathers,” because our parents and grandparents ignorantly helped us instill these subconscious programs. If we remain blind to their existence, this natural-man structure controls us throughout our lives. It programs us to act and react in certain ways.

The Dursleys cannot help the way they are. They cannot be something different then how they are, and neither can the other characters in the Harry Potter series. They can try to consciously change their self. They can work on their issues with will power, as many churches, religions, spiritual practices, and psychological teachings train us to do, but that generally doesn’t work.

Self-improvement programs usually result in a mask such as the one the Dursleys wear as they continuously strive to be their definition of good, yet continue to react as programmed when acted upon. These programs also result in a failure to change, which then produces guilt, depression, and insecurity.

The Dursleys do have a redeeming grace that we are introduced to in the first chapter: their son, Dudley. He was throwing food at the wall when Mr. Dursley tried to kiss him, but neither of the Dursleys judge him nor condemn him for his actions. In fact, the only thing that Mr. Dursley said was, “Little tyke.”

On a first pass through the books, Dudley throwing food at his parents’ wall or Mr. Dursley turning his back on the window where he worked (and therefore the light) appeared to be just narrative details, but when I took a closer look, they weren’t. While food won’t do anything to a wall, the potential for Dudley to throw something more destructive later on, something that might actually break through the wall the Dursleys have built to protect themselves, was being foreshadowed within the very first chapter. And it was done seamlessly.

While most of humanity is drowning in their inability to unconditionally love, the Dursleys do love Dudley unconditionally, and maybe each other. While they can’t expand that love or compassion beyond immediate family ties, and probably won’t during this lifetime, they do show more potential than most.