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Harry Potter's Invitation to the World

by Vickie Ewell


Chapter 4 - The Trip to the Zoo
(HP Chapter 2)

Chapter 2 began by telling us that hardly anything had changed at the Dursleys over the past 10 years. Dudley was still the center of Mr. and Mrs. Dursley’s life, they catered to his every whim, and gave into him whenever he threw a tantrum.

Harry was asleep dreaming about a flying motorcycle. He was still spiritually unconscious, though he often longed for physical liberation from the Dursleys. Something or someone within his subconscious mind had been trying to contact him to get him to remember where he came from and wake up.

The subconscious mind is often referred to as the right side of the brain, but that isn’t accurate. Each layer of the brain (hind/lower, mid, and higher) has a right and left side. The subconscious mind is where our past lives, our mechanical programming, this life’s experiences, our beliefs, memories, decisions and choices, and everything we have ever read, heard, seen or experienced is stored.

We do not have to be conscious for the body to store what occurs in our environment because the subconscious mind never sleeps. It records everything literally. Many times, false beliefs and nonsensical programming comes from something that was said when we were physically asleep or unconscious (such as in an operating room) because our conscious self was not awake to reject or correctly interpret what was said. For that reason, many beliefs, rules of conduct, and emotional turbulence can begin in the womb.

Harry was jolted awake by his Aunt’s voice and persistent knocking on his bedroom door. She is a symbol for the creative force that is in all things and throughout all things. This force isn’t always gentle and loving. It’s gray. It has a dark, destructive side as well as a light, creative side, so it does whatever is best for us. In this case, what’s best for Harry is waking him up.

Harry heard what was going on outside of his tiny bedroom, as if that cupboard were the womb. Aunt Petunia was barking orders at him through the door, “I want you to look after the bacon. And don’t you dare let it burn. I want everything perfect on Dudley’s birthday.” She is ordering Harry to stay aware.

With the type of upbringing Harry has had, the consistent suggestion that he was second best, his insecurities, self-doubts and other mechanical programming are solidly in place.

Harry slowly rose out of bed and started looking around for some socks. He found a pair under his bed, plucked a spider from one of them, and then put them on. To me, socks represent beliefs, attitudes and the choices we have made. For Harry, they appear to be a type of armor he put on to protect himself against the cold atmosphere of the Dursleys. In the physical world, spiders pose a threat because when we are asleep, they can hurt us, poison us, and even kill.

For Harry, the spider probably represented Petunia’s suggestion that he was not okay the way he was. We are told that Harry is used to living with spiders (or suggestions) because the cupboard under the stairs where he sleeps was full of them. Since the spiders are in the cupboard with Harry and not running around the rest of the house, we know they are Harry’s spiders and that many of the Dursleys’ suggestions have taken upon themselves life.

After arming himself with socks and other clothing, Harry goes into the kitchen where he was greeted by the duality that has always been a part of his life at the Dursleys. Dudley and Harry appeared to be complete opposites. Dudley’s birthday presents filled the kitchen table to overflowing, but Harry wasn’t surprised about the amount of physical riches Dudley had received. He was just confused about why Dudley wanted particular items.

In contrast to Dudley’s giant size, Harry was small and skinny for his age, wore Dudley’s baggy hand-me-downs, and was used to being Dudley’s punching bag. He wore round glasses that were heavily taped together, so his perspective of what’s going on was somewhat patchy. Wearing Dudley’s clothing also infers that Harry was once just like Dudley.

We also learn that “Don’t ask questions” was the first rule Harry consciously made for himself in order to avoid discomfort, but the Dursley upbringing, and especially their habit of speaking in front of Harry as if he wasn’t there, had created many, many spiders. However, despite the Dursleys insistence that Harry conform to their version of normal (“Comb your hair!” or you need another haircut), Harry’s hair continued to grow all over the place. They have failed to turn him into a Dursley.

After watching how the Dursleys interact with each other, Harry suddenly found himself in the backseat of the car going to the zoo for the first time in his life. Vernon did threaten him with punishment if any funny business happened while there, but Harry didn’t believe he caused the strange things that have occurred now and then – magic things he couldn’t explain. Being a wizard is not yet within Harry’s realm of possibilities.

Another spider appeared (this time regret and guilt) when Harry told Mr. Dursley about his flying motorcycle dream, and he saw how Uncle Vernon reacted. Harry wished he had not said anything. The Dursleys hated it when he talked about magical happenings, even more so than his questions. It didn’t matter if it was a dream or a cartoon. They still reacted with hate.

We are being set up for the revelation that Mr. and Mrs. Dursley know more about Harry than Harry does, but Harry glowed with appreciation for the wonderful morning, even though the Dursleys treated him like a servant rather than a nephew.

At the reptile house, Dudley sought out the largest snake in the exhibit, but it was asleep. Like is often attracted to like. No matter what Dudley or Vernon does, no matter how much noise they make, the snake didn’t wake up. It didn’t feel threatened by them or their behavior. It isn’t our lower personality that wakes the snake up. In fact, Harry thought the snake was probably bored.

When Harry stood in front of the snake, just thinking about how awful its life must be and how the two of them were alike, the snake opened its eyes, raised its head eye level with Harry’s, and winked. It was almost as if the snake could hear Harry’s thoughts and was grateful for some real communication and sharing.

Harry began talking to the snake, but he didn’t realize they were communicating in parceltongue. While there was obviously some type of connection between the snake and Harry, it felt more like love and understanding than a magical ability to speak snake language.

Both snake and Harry were raised in captivity. Neither knew their parents. Neither knew home. Neither were free, and both of them longed for something different. However, that special connection was cut short when Dudley interrupted their exchange. Dudley punched Harry and shoved him out of the way, which resulted in Harry falling to the ground.

The shock of falling caused the glass wall that separated the snake from the man-made world to evaporate. The snake uncoiled itself and escaped. Although Dudley and Vernon couldn’t wake the snake up, Dudley was indirectly responsible for setting the snake free.

Harry had no idea he had caused the glass cage to disappear. In fact, he didn’t even comment on it in the narrative. He was more concerned with the snake. The snake was grateful he could now go home to Brazil, the country (or universe) where his ancestors came from. On his way out the door, he thanked Harry for setting him free.

In many spiritual traditions, the snake represents our carnal nature -- the part of ourselves that is attached to and loves the physical world of illusion and everything it represents. That includes our mechanical programming. Setting the snake free was similar to letting go of the world, including ourselves, and everything that keeps us chained to it. In a sense, it was releasing Satan from our Kingdom. Impure forces do have their purpose. They make us stronger and help us polish our silver and gold.

Later on, as Harry lay in the darkness of the cupboard, hungry, and waiting for the Dursleys to go to sleep so he could sneak into the kitchen for some food, he yearned for liberation.

For years, Harry had dreamed about someone coming to take him away from the Dursleys who starve him, physically batter him, and emotionally hammer on him, but so far, that yearning had not bore fruit. Harry longed for liberation from his current environment, but as far as he knew, the Durlseys were his only family. He didn’t have a whole lot of hope.

At this point, Harry was a lot like us. In the beginning, most of us long for someone to come and save us. We don’t realize that the person we are waiting for is really ourselves.

At the zoo, Harry was surprised that the snake didn’t die from loneliness, but that’s how Harry feels: lonely and miserable. His heart cried for friends, for his parents he never knew, for someone to come and set him free.