Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gandalf and Dumbledore
(Wizards, Mythology and Symbolism)

"And now Harry, let us step out into the night 
and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."
- Albus Dumbledore

"A wizard is never late. Nor is he early.
He arrives precisely when he means to."
- Gandalf

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, 
far more than our abilities."
- Albus Dumbledore

"All we have to decide is what to do 
with the time that is given to us."
- Gandalf

In Gandalf and Dumbledore we are introduced to two archetypal
powers whose Wisdom, courage and inner-strength beckons
us to follow them, Bond with them, and learn their ways; so that
we, too, can discover and ignite within ourselves those similar
latent forces that can empower us to pursue, and achieve, our own
noble and mystical Quests.

Gandalf and Dumbledore: They are magical...they are
adventurous...they are unbending strength-of-character...they
possess the Wisdom of the Ages...they also possess the scars
and experiences that can only be gained from numerous ancient
battles...they are admired by many and feared by some...they are
Wizards of the highest order!

However, though both are Wizards of the highest order, they
differ in their demeanors and in the ways in which they interact
with the world, its people, and its elements.

Throughout mythology we find that one of the Symbolic roles
of a Wizard is that of The Call To Adventure; wherein a powerful
Wizard presents a challenge of the highest order to an
unsuspecting, yet worthy and well-qualified, Initiate. Merlin
challenged Arthur. Dumbledore challenged Harry Potter.
Gandalf challenged both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

Let us now take a closer look at two great mythological Wizards:
Gandalf and Dumbledore.

Albus Dumbledore:

Albus Dumbledore is the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is dressed in the finest Wizard
garments, he sits at the head of the Wizard's table when
dining, and he occupies a finely decorated personal office in
a tower above the school which is protected by magical spells
and enchantments.

In addition to governing the school and keeping the teaching
faculty appeased, he must also deal with the bureaucratic
nightmare called the Ministry of Magic which consists of
fragile egos, petty tyrants, internal bickering and mindless

Yet, while being bogged down with all of these mundane and
superfluous tasks, Albus Dumbledore still finds the time to hunt
down evil and protect the world; while at the same time Instructing,
training and maintaining an Order of elite and virtuous Wizards.

As it was in the best interest of the of the community of Wizards
not to display their talents and skills to the world of non-magical
people, known as "muggles", the name and reputation of Albus
Dumbledore was known, respected and feared only within the
community of Wizards. The outside world, the world of "muggles",
had no knowledge of Albus Dumbledore.

Albus Dumbledore is constantly operating in the background.
His knowledge of magic, both white and dark, is immense. He
travels throughout the realm in order to uncover the evil secrets
of dark magic; he is aware of its implements, practitioners, and
fanatics. He possesses the power, Wisdom and magical skills
that keeps evil magic at bay.

Perhaps the most powerful and darkest secret discovered by
Dumbledore was that of the various horcrux's which Lord
Voldermort created and magically concealed throughout the realm;
each of which held a portion of his dark and powerful soul.

It was imperative that Dumbledore locate and destroy each of
the horcurx's in order to weaken the power of Lord Voldermort.
However, in doing so, Dumbledore carelessly mishandled one
horcrux and its black magic entered his hand; eventually leading
to his doom.

At  Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry there is a fellow
Wizard by the name of Severus Snape. Snape was a very close,
lifelong friend of Dumbledore. However, Snape was also in league
with the Dark Lord Voldermort; a fact of which Dumbledore was
fully Aware. And it was Snape who entered into a pact with
Dumbledore to mercifully end Dumbledore's life before the poison
from the horcrux would be too much for Dumbledore to bear.

In this friendship between Snape and Dumbledore we recognize
the ancient Archetype of "dearest friend, dearest enemy". How
often do we find ourselves confronted by this mythological
Archetype when a very painful and burdenful Decision must be
made which involves someone very near and dear to us?

Now, although Harry Potter did meet up with Dumbledore after
his demise, it was only in an afterlife realm when Harry himself
had been mortally wounded and was on the verge of his own
physical death. Dumbledore, however, did not ever re-appear in
the physical realm again.

In mythology, the death of a hero is often followed by a re-birth
in the same physical realm. This "death" is Symbolic of an
Initiation Ceremony; where the hero "dies" in a lower degree of
existence in order to be "re-born" into a much higher degree of
existence. This does not happen with Dumbledore. Dumbledore,
in fact, dies a true mortal death and can only be "re-visited" again
in the afterlife. Therefore, there is no Initiation of Dumbledore by
way of a "symbolic death" to a higher earthly degree as is often
found in stories of this type.


Unlike Dumbledore, who is involved with a myriad of
bureaucracies and whose name is known only to those in the
Wizarding community, Gandalf is a Wizard whose name is
known to all. He is a Wizard of the world and he freely Travels
through all of its realms.

The name and reputation of Gandalf is not only known to the
world of men, it is also spoken of with reverence by elves, dwarfs,
the trees of the forests (Ents), the great eagles of the air,
Elemental Beings - including the powerful, magical and
mystical Tom Bombadil, and yes, even among Hobbits.

It is almost impossible to imagine Gandalf becoming involved
with the pettiness and bickering of any bureaucracy when he
has the power to simply rid the world of such foolishness.
The concerns of Gandalf are only of issues of the greatest

Gandalf has the experience of many Ages. He has seen the rise
and fall of many empires. He has witnessed the horrific battlefields
created by man. He has observed the to-and-fro dance between
good and evil throughout millennia. His Wisdom, skills and powers
have been earned and honed throughout the immeasurable durations
of Time.

And because Gandalf is an ancient Wizard of the World, his dress
is that of a seasoned traveler. His Wizard's robes and hat are the
comfortable and protective garments that can endure any type of
weather or hardship. And, his Wizard's Staff supports him and
assists him in wielding his power and Authority wherever he
Chooses to roam.

Whereas Dumbledore experienced an actual physical death,
Gandalf experiences an Initiatory death and rebirth in the Mines
of Moria. Here we see Tolkien describe for us an Initiation Process
of the most ancient kind; and he presents it to us in a way that
only a master of mythology can.

Gandalf enters the dark, deep Mines of Moria as Gandalf the Gray,
where he battles the balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dum.
It is during this battle that Gandalf the Gray "dies", in order to be
reborn as Gandalf the White.

The color gray is a combination of the colors black and white.
Symbolically, this tells us that regardless of how powerful Gandalf
may have been when he entered the Mines of Moria - his dark
Womb of Initiation - he had still not yet achieved ultimate
transformation and power in the physical realm.

The balrog Symbolizes Gandalf's Inner Demons which Gandalf
must grapple with and subdue in order to be elevated to a higher
degree of Illumination and Wisdom. The balrog helps Gandalf
"slay" his lower-self (the gray). In turn, Gandalf "slays" the balrog
- his final Inner Demon - in order to now become Self-Initiated into
a much higher order of Wizard: Gandalf the White.

Just as Dumbledore had his Snape, Gandalf had his Saruman.
However, as Dumbledore knew his adversary Gandalf did not.
It is almost impossible to imagine that Gandalf, who is now
Gandalf the White, could be deceived by anything or anyone.
Yet, it happened. And herein is the Lesson that no matter how
Wise we may Become, deception will still overcome us should
we Choose to close our eyes to the Truth which is staring us
directly in the face.

Saruman was a White Wizard of the highest order who Gandalf
Perceived to be pure, noble and beyond reproach. And it is because
Gandalf's eyes were "glossed over" by Saruman's title of "White
Wizard of the Highest Order", that Gandalf could not see the
treachery that was standing before him; for Saruman had been
coerced into joining forces with the darkest of evils: Sauron, the
forger and controlling master of the Rings of Power.

From the moment Gandalf entered Saruman's magical  tower
we, as readers, could see that something was amiss. For
Saruman's Words and demeanor toward Gandalf warned that
he was no longer the White Wizard who was an adversary of
Sauron, but that he was now in league with this most feared
Master of Darkness.

By the time Gandalf finally realized what Saruman had become
it was almost too late for Gandalf. And it took a spectacular
rescue by an eagle, which Gandalf was ultimately able to summon,
that saved Gandalf from his doom and Middle-Earth from total

The Lesson we have here is that people, regardless of how pure
and noble they once may have been, can Change. Also, we learn
that "titles" are meaningless. A "title", by itself, does not make a
person noble, honorable, respectable or authoritative. Only a
persons steadfast and perpetual Actions in these particular areas
make him, or her, so.

Therefore, this particular Lesson ultimately teaches us that it is our
sole responsibility to be constantly Aware of all actions, interactions,
Events and conditions which confront us as we journey through our
personal Incarnation. For only unwavering Awareness enables us to
see things for what they truly are, and not for what we falsely and
desperately Hope they should be.

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Disclaimer: None of my articles should be considered to be
either advice or expertise. They are simply personal opinions
and no more. Everyone is encouraged to seek competent
advice from a licensed, registered, or certified professional
should such advice or service be required.

© copyright Joseph Panek 2013
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