This started out as a discussion of whether Albus Dumbledore was a psychopath. I didn’t think so and I still don’t but my blog has expanded to the larger question of who in Harry Potter was a psychopath and on basic questions of theology/metaphysics. This is by no means an exhaustive discussion of the topic. I haven’t even touched upon Snape. Oh, well… — Yours truly.
James, blogging on No Psychos, No Druggies, No Stooges, wrote Psychopaths Are Awesome/Psychopaths Are Terrible. In the comments section, James suggested something that seemed very far-fetched to me at the time…
As an avid fan of Harry Potter, I had thought a lot about Dumbledore and even wrote a post about him on another blog, House of Slytherin. The blog was called The Big Picture. It is based almost entirely on the last book of the series, Book 7, HP and the Deathly Hallows. As I said in that post, finding out that Dumbledore wasn’t a perfect saint certainly made him more interesting to me. I can well relate to his intellectual gyrations with Grindelwald. Wizards certainly did have more power than muggles and why should they have to hide instead of using the superior power that they naturally owned to choose how they wanted to live? Dumbledore insisted that wizards take power For the Greater Good instead of just for their own self-interest. In this way, he showed narcissistic traits. Narcs always want to see themselves as great benefactors in one way or another. Although grandiosity is more readily associated with narcissism, in a way, ‘paths are more grandiose in that we don’t need the world to admire us. We can admit to not giving a damn, including not caring what people think of us. James mentions Dumbledore acting “when he thought his interests (his status as most powerful wizard in Britain / Europe) threatened.” Dumbledore really cared about his status in the eyes of others. Of course, even Voldemort showed some interest in how he was perceived or else why did he insist on fighting Harry one-on-one to prove his might? It’s hard to be completely indifferent to how the world sees us. Even a blog like my own reveals an interest in how I look to the world.
But more significant is how one relates to guilt or the absence thereof. When Dumbledore drank the potion that was guarding a horcrux, he broke down
…he sank to his knees, shaking uncontrollably.
“It’s all my fault, all my fault,” he sobbed. “Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I”ll never, never again … ” … “Don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them, please, please, it’s my fault, hurt me instead…”
Of course, the very fact that he insisted on drinking that potion instead of letting Harry drink it showed a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the world. This was the mature Dumbledore whose idea of what that term really meant had developed far past his youthful vision. As I discussed in my other essay on Dumbledore, he and Aberforth represented two different approaches. Aberforth’s kindness, his nurturing empathetic approach was highly personal. He could love his sister in the flesh. It was kind of motherly, the ability to focus so much energy into meeting the needs of a actual person. Albus focused on the larger picture. Freeing the world from the tyranny of Voldemort certainly helped more people than Aberforth ever could. Each cared for others in his own way. Neither was a psychopath.
Grindelwald was more likely a psychopath. Not only did he show no conscience, he was a joyous person. “Harry could still see the blond-haired youth’s face; it was merry, wild; there was a Fred and George-ish air of triumphant trickery about him. He had soared from the windowsill like a bird…” After he lost the dual with Dumbledore, Grindelwald was imprisoned in Nurmengard. Prison hadn’t been good to Grindelwald. When Voldemort finally caught up with him,
The emaciated figure stirred beneath its thin blanket and rolled over toward him, eyes opening in a skull of a face. . . . The frail man sat up, great sunken eyes fixed upon him, upon Voldemort, and then he smiled. Most of his teeth were gone…
“So, you have come. I thought you would … one day. But your journey was pointless. I never had it.”
Ravaged by time and hardship, Grindelwald was defiant and unbroken.
There is an irony involved with the whole issue of wizards dominating muggles. Although, individually, wizards were a lot more powerful, there was also the question of power among wizards. As a group wizards could control muggles as a group. But the wizards had to decide how to go about it. The Elder Wand could make immense difference in what wizard reigned supreme over the other wizards. The struggle for power among wizards got all tangled up in issues like horcruxes or deathly hallows. In the end, only one person could reign supreme. Voldemort was forced to kill the man he thought was his most loyal follower in order to get the Elder Wand to obey him.
Rowling depicted Voldemort’s spirit after his death in pathetic terms.
It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been left, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath.
He was afraid of it. Small and fragile and wounded though it was, he did not want to approach it. Nevertheless he draw slowly nearer, ready to jump back at any moment. Soon he stood near enough to touch it, yet he could not bring himself to do it. He felt like a coward. He ought to comfort it, but it repulsed him.
“You cannot help.” [Dumbledore said.]
Here, I find a fundamental difference between Rowling’s philosophy and my own. I look to a universe in which everything is reconciled. The idea that anything and/or any person should be irredeemable strikes me as a Christian idea in which “good” and “evil” are diametric opposites never to be reconciled with one and other. I reject this notion with my most basic core. Someone once asked Athena Walker if she thought she was “evil.” “Evil, for having been born?” she replied. I see “evil” as a subjective value of our finite consciousness. So much of our own self-interest is invested in our notion of “evil.”
If Voldemort ended up in such a wretched condition, what about Grindelwald? Rowling/Dumbledore provided a way out of that dilemma.
“They say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that it is true. I would like to think he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done. Perhaps that lie to Voldemort was his attempt to make amends … to prevent Voldemort from taking the Hallow …”
“..or maybe from breaking into your tomb?” suggested Harry, and Dumbledore dabbed his eyes.
Precious remorse! And, without it, I suppose we are irredeemable? Well, Rowling probably believes so. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, if “God” exists and “He” damns a single soul, “He” is evil. I can’t accept a wise and “loving” God whose love is weaker than our human categories. There is more in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy. It’s was good enough for Shakespeare and it’s good enough for me.