Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

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Curt Sunshine
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Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Dec 2012, 11:45

I work in education and have the week between Christmas and New Year as a paid holiday break. Over the last week, I have re-read the Harry Potter books in my relax time - and a parallel hit me about this forum and we who participate. If you haven't read the books, it might not make as much sense, but here it is:

There are two specific instances where suffering is tied to unique abilities - one positive and one negative.

The first is possessed by those who have been touched directly and profoundly by death (who see people they love killed violently). They have the ability to see creatures called "thestrals", while those who have not experienced death that closely are unable to see them. These creatures pull the carriages that the students ride to get to school, so the students who can't see them believe they are being transported by the use of a magic spell. Those who can't see the thestrals are positive they aren't there, and nothing said by those who can see them can change the minds of those who can't see them. For those who can't see them, they simply don't exist.

Thestrals can fly, and knowing they exist and how to "cope with them" can lead to being able to fly with them - and, in at least two cases, escape danger. Those who are able to navigate faith crises by seeing new and amazing things actually can experience joy and happiness in ways that others simply can't - because those new and amazing things are invisible to the others.

What struck me is that intense grieving often opens "our spiritual eyes" and makes us see things that we were unable to see previously - things that those who have not grieved in that way remain unable to see. I believe this has direct application to faith crises - and the more intense the crisis, the more difficult it can be to explain to those who have not experienced anything similar. Just like the thestrals that are so obvious to those who can see them, everything about a faith crisis can be "invisible" to those who have not experienced what causes a faith crisis. It is frustrating to those who see the thestrals to realize others don't believe that they exist, and they quickly give up trying to explain and simply go on knowing that what they see so clearly (their own reality) literally is unknowable to others (isn't part of their reality).

The second is a disability, of sorts, and deals with dementers. "Demeters" are foul creatures that take away happiness and warmth - ultimately, by destroying the soul (spirit, in Mormon terms) through the "dementer's kiss", while leaving the body alive and functioning in a living Hell. Those who have experienced extreme grief are more susceptible to dementers, since it is harder for them to let go of their grief and focus on the only thing that drives away the dementers: intensely happy memories that produce a protective force manifested in animal form called a "patronus". It is instructive that it is not the existence of grief, even incredibly deep grief, that robs the person of the ability to focus on the memories that will fight the dementers; rather, it is the difficulty of focusing away from the grief and concentrating on the joy.

Likewise, "boggarts" are spectral creatures that take the form of one's worst nightmare - the thing that each person fears the most. For those who have not experienced deep grief and personal pain, that might be something as "normal" as a huge spider or a scary teacher; for those who have experienced extreme grief and pain, that might be something as terrible as a dementer. The key to fighting boggarts is humor - thinking of something so ridiculous that laughter is inevitable and altering the boggart to include the ridiculous image. (eg. the scary, male teacher in an old woman's dress and silly hat or the spider on roller skates)

I don't mean to imply the extreme or automatic extension of what I am going to say, especially about online communities, since many of them offer excellent support for people experiencing a faith crisis of some kind, but it struck me hard as an analogy that might provide perspective in a new way.

One of the problems that many people who experience a faith crisis face is the tendency to focus so much on the "issues" that they end up "wallowing in grief" in one way or another, including the classic manifestation of anger that accompanies feeling like everyone has been lying to them, and being unable to see any humor in their lives or with regard to their situation. When a tidal wave of such grief washes over someone, it can be very hard to remember, much less focus on, the very real happiness and even joy that was experienced previously or look at their crisis in any way that allows them to laugh - and it can be very easy to minimize that happiness and joy as somehow "false" or "naive". It also can be easy to turn to sources, especially online, that, in practical terms, are filled with human dementers - people who are dedicated to sucking out the former happiness and joy that existed prior to the faith crisis - and/or see nightmares all around them that they never imagined previously. The human dementers might see their roles very differently (even as "saving" people), but, again, in practical terms, what often results is people who are left with nothing in which to believe - nothing that replaces the happiness and joy they have lost.

The example of boggarts also can fit the way some members interact with those who are struggling. Sometimes, the only option when some things are said is to laugh internally and accept that some things that are profound to some people really are absurd to others. The key is to recognize the personal absurdity of any particular idea and not attach it to the person who believes it, since, to that person, it is not absurd and often is powerful in a real and important way.

There are two "lessons" I took away from my pondering about this:

1) A faith crisis often can open one's eyes to new things, and those things can be beautiful and fulfilling OR dark and terrifying - real or imagined - frightening or laughable. The difference isn't in the newly seen things themselves but in the way each person reacts to them.

2) Prolonged immersion in grief and anger leads inexorably toward the dementer's kiss - not because true joy and happiness never existed, but because NEW happiness and joy cannot be experienced and created. Intense grief doesn't have to be denied or forgotten; it simply has to be over-ridden by memories of old and new joy and happiness. The danger of a faith crisis lies not in the grief and suffering it causes; the danger of a faith crisis lies in the forgetting or denial of the joy and happiness that once existed and still can exist - and it lies largely in the tendency to push away real friends who were part of that joy and happiness and replace them with associates who aren't focused on helping create new joy and happiness - who really are focused on deepening grief and separation.

There are no easy answers in the book or in this post. Fighting dementers and boggarts is not easy, and someone would be naive and a bit addled to ask for the type of experiences that allow thestrals to be seen. I don't have canned advice in this post. All I have is an analogy that I hope touches someone in some way - that perhaps can lead to the type of individual pondering that I experienced and some kind of personal insight that will help.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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cwald
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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by cwald » 29 Dec 2012, 13:49

I like this concept and analogy.

I have often taught my own kids about the dangers of spiritual vampires...people with negative energy that just suck the life out of you. And, I will be honest...well, first I want to reread this portion...

I do want to add one point to this paragraph.
...One of the problems that many people who experience a faith crisis face is the tendency to focus so much on the "issues" that they end up "wallowing in grief" in one way or another, including the classic manifestation of anger that accompanies feeling like everyone has been lying to them, and being unable to see any humor in their lives or with regard to their situation. When a tidal wave of such grief washes over someone, it can be very hard to remember, much less focus on, the very real happiness and even joy that was experienced previously or look at their crisis in any way that allows them to laugh - and it can be very easy to minimize that happiness and joy as somehow "false" or "naive". It also can be easy to turn to sources, especially online, that, in practical terms, are filled with human dementers - people who are dedicated to sucking out the former happiness and joy that existed prior to the faith crisis - and/or see nightmares all around them that they never imagined previously. The human dementers might see their roles very differently (even as "saving" people), but, again, in practical terms, what often results is people who are left with nothing in which to believe - nothing that replaces the happiness and joy they have lost.....
I think that is often the case. However...in my experience...I turned to the online community to escape the dementers...to find folks who were searching for something "more" than what I was finding within the LDS faith. Most of the dementers and spiritual vampires in my life have been family and other church members.

So yes. Many people fall into this category. This is also why some folks must leave or at least minimize their church activity. It does become destructive to some folks, and the only option is to back off and limit the amount of time and involvement in the very thing that is causing the dementers to begin with. Sometimes that might be online communities...and sometimes it might be real life church communities.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Dec 2012, 15:41

Amen, cwald.

It was specifically the online community part on which the following line from the post was focused:
I don't mean to imply the extreme or automatic extension of what I am going to say.


I went back and reworked that paragraph to make its target more clear. I also added a paragraph about the similarity of some members' responses and boggarts - that, sometimes, we simply have to recognize views that work for some people as absurd / ridiculous for us individually.

I hope that makes it clearer.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by johnh » 29 Dec 2012, 21:02

Great analogy, thanks for sharing. The part about thestrals hit home as my wife and I just had a little tiff.

I am part way out of the spiritual closet and my TBM spouse is a little nervous..she doesn't want to be one of the women going to church alone.

Anyways we were discussing blacks and the priesthood in relation to the women's pants day..I said sometimes it takes protesters to get things fixed...many were excommunicated for pushing the blacks in the priesthood issue and I stated my belief that those people likely helped push the church to do the right thing. She said it was in the Lord's time...of course I then pointed out the church has said that the Lord never wanted to take the priesthood away from blacks in the first place...it was an unfair unrighteous policy.

This upset her a bit ...then a few minutes later I read your post.

I now think...I need to be careful..no need to take away the magic pulling her spiritual wagon..yeah..I know what I know and I feel freer knowing thestrals exist...but she is happy believing in the magic and she will likely never see the beasts..so at best the most I will accomplish is leave her in a world devoid of magic...and I don't want to do that.....so thanks

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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Ann » 30 Dec 2012, 01:34

Food for thought. Thank you.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Thankful » 30 Dec 2012, 21:25

I LOVE this! Thanks Ray!

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Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by wayfarer » 31 Dec 2012, 05:22

great discussion.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Roadrunner » 31 Dec 2012, 19:30

Ray,
This was a very interesting way to think about crises of faith. Thanks for posting.

Similar to what you and others said, one thing I like about the Harry Potter series is his core group of friends who support HP even though they don't fully understand him and haven't had the same experiences. I think of this forum as a similar group of supportive and helpful (although sometimes bickering) friends. :)

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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 31 Dec 2012, 20:36

As long as I'm not Mrs. Weasley or Hermione, who probably are the primary moderators in the books, I'm cool with that, roadrunner. :P
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Thestrals, Dementers, Boggarts and Crises of Faith

Post by mercyngrace » 01 Jan 2013, 11:34

Roadrunner wrote:Ray,
This was a very interesting way to think about crises of faith. Thanks for posting.

Similar to what you and others said, one thing I like about the Harry Potter series is his core group of friends who support HP even though they don't fully understand him and haven't had the same experiences. I think of this forum as a similar group of supportive and helpful (although sometimes bickering) friends. :)
Exactly how I feel. Thanks for posting this, RoadRunner.

I've long since come to peace with the inexact nature of my theological framework and the limits of what any of us know for certain in this life. I no longer feel the need for "answers". What I need are devoted friends who walk through life at my side, as I attempt to live what I believe, personal differences notwithstanding. I find that here every time I come. It is a well of fresh water for my soul.
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. ~ Luke 7:47

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