Lesson 1) Introduction to the Mind
I suppose you all want to be patted on the back because you’re still sitting here? If that’s what you were hoping for - to hear congratulations, to be commended for the hard work you put into the first five years of your magical education, to hear how confident I am that each of you deserves to be sitting here - this classroom is not for you. You are now N.E.W.T. students. Those things were for the first five years. Now we get serious. You will work as hard these next two years as you have for the entirety of the first five. If this scares you, you are welcome to leave. I’m sure there are other classes that will cater to your work ethic, or lack thereof.
For those of you who do wish to continue your study of Defense Against the Dark Arts, I expect high level work. Many of you learned this the hard way when you experienced the grades on your practice O.W.L. exam and your N.E.W.T. preparation essay. However if you work hard, study thoroughly, and give me your best, you will find yourself ready to sit your N.E.W.T. at the end of Year Seven. Some of you may even make half decent aurors.
I will not spend too much time on expectations. By now I expect that you know them. They have not changed much in the past five years. However, there is going to be one major change this year. I have made adjustments to the general rubric that reflect the increased difficulty of the course.
As you can see, the content of an essay is now worth more. Now, if you botch the entire essay, but apply proper conventions and somehow convince me and my PAs that you meet the word count, you will only get a maximum of 25%, rather than the usual 30%. You may have also noticed that there is no category for identifying marks as there has been in the past. This is because this is an expectation now. You will not be rewarded for doing what you are expected to do. If you include any identifying marks, your essay will be given an automatic 0.
The Mentality of Defense Against the Dark Arts
Now that we have covered the expectations, it is time to begin exploring the content of this year. As you may recall, last year we focused on physical threats. We covered spells and creatures that affected an individual on a physical level. This was important because these are the types of defenses that most people automatically consider when they think of defense. This year, we move to defending against the foes we cannot see. In some cases these will be inner demons, in others it will simply be the application of logic. In all cases, these types of defense focus around one concept - the mind.
Some of the Darkest forces in our world will forgo attacking you physically in order to break your mind; a person is not a threat physically if they are mentally broken. That is why spells such as the Memory Charm (as previously discussed in your Charms class) are so difficult to cast and should not be cast unless you have been properly trained by a certified professional. If the casting of one of these spells goes wrong, it could have dire consequences on the mind of the target individual. Therefore, in order to effectively prepare you all for the barrage of tactics that the Dark wizards of the world may employ, as well as prepare you with more defensive spells that you can now utilize, we will be following the curriculum described here for this term:
Year Six: Defense of the Mind
Lesson One: The Mind and Defensive Combinations
Lesson Two: Non-verbal Spellcasting
Lesson Three: The Shielding Charm
Lesson Four: Legilimency
Lesson Five: Occlumency
Lesson Six: Sphinxes
Lesson Seven: Hidebehinds
Lesson Eight: Dementors, Part One
Lesson Nine: Dementors, Part Two
However, before we can go too far into mental magic and the power of the mind, we must first understand what the mind is. For this, we will delve into some psychology, a field that is populated with both magical and non-magical people alike.
What is the Mind?
This question is as difficult to answer as it is vague. When you consider the “mind,” you probably think of the voice in your head, or an area within your brain that allows you to effectively think. Many people will implement the word “mind” to be synonymous with “thought.” While all of these play a role within the concept of the mind, the mind itself is not so easily defined. Here we will review four primary psychological theories that detail what it is the mind is, and from there look at the two sections that will most pertain to us: memory and the difference between “conscious” and “unconscious.”
“I Think, Therefore I Am”
The first attempt to pinpoint what the mind is comes from the Muggle philosopher Descartes. In this definition, we define the mind as something that has the capability to think; by this, we mean that, effectively, the whole of a human is a “mind” because the human is able to think. While it is safe to say that Descartes did not quite hit the mark, he did identify key characteristics about humanity and the thought process that we go through by saying this. Primarily, he identified that the human body is a complex organism that works as a whole rather than as individual parts. Each part of the body acts and reacts to stimuli, as we have seen through our application of spells to the body throughout this course.
However, what Descartes seems to ignore is that the whole body itself does not think. As time has progressed, it has been agreed upon that mental processes that develop what is considered “the mind” occur within the brain rather than the whole body. The brain sends signals to the other areas of the body - similar to the way synapses fire to produce memory as discussed in Year Four - but the full body itself does not think as far as we know at the present time. So more studies were conducted, which brings us to the more modern definition.
Mind is Intellect
The more modern understanding of the mind is that the mind is equivalent to a person’s intellect. Using the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, many people claim that Sherlock Holmes had one of the greatest minds of any literary character known. This claim was made because Holmes was vastly intelligent and able to use his intelligence and logic to effectively help him solve cases that, to the average person, would have been nearly impossible. In many ways, this theory of the mind makes sense. Much of what we do is thinking when utilizing the “mind,” so for general purposes, this can work.
That being said, there are downfalls to this theory as well. There are many times when our mind is in action, but we are not thinking. One of the best examples of this is reflex. When our body moves instinctively, this is a moment when the mind is being applied. No effort has been put into thinking about moving out of the way, or reacting at all, but it still occurs. Therefore, it can be seen that the mind is in play. So even modern studies don’t seem to quite have it right on.
I Think...That’s It
The third understanding of the mind, at its core, combines the first two theories and makes its own theory - the mind is in each person and it is “that by means of which he thinks” (Chisholm). Therefore, the whole person is involved in this understanding (which draws from Descartes), but also acknowledges that the mind is primarily a vessel for thinking, which nods to the more modern understanding. This, too, feels incomplete though because it still fails to address the part of our mind that acts on instinct.
It’s All About the Soul
Finally, the fourth major understanding of the mind considers it to be an immaterial substance, individual from the person, yet still a vital part of our ability to live and function. Often times, the word ‘soul’ is used synonymously with this idea of the mind and, to me, forms the most complete understanding. As we have seen in the previous three ideas, the mind cannot easily be pinned down - we know that it is within an individual, but cannot necessarily say that it is part of the individual. It cannot function without us, yet if it would not be working, even at a level beyond our own recognition, we would not be able to perform many of the actions we do on a daily basis, like breathing or walking. Therefore, logic says that this understanding, and while vague and bordering on spiritual, is likely the most accurate at identifying what the mind is, though it in no way addresses the full complexity of the mind.
Why the Mind?
At this point in the lecture, some of you may be wondering what this has to do with magic and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Now that you are N.E.W.T. students, you will be expected to perform spells that are increasingly more difficult. Some of these spells are meant to protect the mind, while others will allow you to peer into the mind of another. As you can see on your syllabus, Lesson Four of this year will focus on Legilimency, which is where we will cover the parts of the mind in more depth. However, as we move forward, I want you all to proceed with extreme caution. The mind is not something to be played with lightly. As such, you will never be practicing any of these spells on each other, nor will any use of these spells be tolerated outside of the classroom. Many witches and wizards spend years training to become specialized in mind magic, and even they still do not fully grasp the full effects their spell have on a person. This is why you received warnings in your Charms class against using the Memory Modification Charm and why I warn you again now not to practice these spells on another person.
The other reason that this kind of discussion pertains to Defense Against the Dark Arts, and our studies this year, is because we will be exploring many aspects of the mind, including the use of intellect, the soul, and the “thinking” part that we use for retrieval of memories and other such mental activities. Therefore, it is important to see how all of these ideas begin to tie together to form one “mind.” As our spells get more complex, so too will the application of concentration. You may not fully know what it is that you are concentrating on and, therefore, may find that many of the spells you learn during these next two years will fail to be successful before you graduate. Do not be disheartened by this. My goal in teaching you these spells is not to see you immediately succeed, but to add spells to your repertoire so that you may practice and hopefully use them should the need arise.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about defensive combinations of spells. Last year we focused on offensive combinations of spells and how to duel aggressively. This year will have less of a focus on combinations of spells, but instead will instead expect you to apply what you already know about combinations to develop combinations with defensive bases. These will occur in essays that will be given during lessons where defensive spells are taught. You will be expected to apply logic and rational thought to these essays to come to a logical conclusion. I will expect that you continue to use spells that have been taught in this class, however you are welcome to use any spells that you have learned, so long as you can justify their use within your combination. Remember, I do not expect you to be completing complex combinations of spells. Three to four spells will be more than sufficient.
If at any time you have questions or concerns about defensive combinations and would like to discuss them in greater detail, you are always welcome to message me with questions.
I hope you all are ready for this year and next year. These lessons and their assignments will not be easy; they will challenge you in ways that you never expected to be challenged. However, completion of your N.E.W.T.s will place you in full readiness for a career beyond the walls of this school. Whether it be as an auror, a cursebreaker, or other such field related to the study of the Dark Arts, the information here will be invaluable to you. Treat it as such, and your grades will reflect it.
And that brings us to the end of today’s lesson. Your assignment will be to write an essay explaining your own views of what the “mind” is in the context of the four perspectives that we have covered today. Now, off to the library with you, or your next class.
Chisholm, Roderick M. “Questions about Minds.” On Metaphysics, University of Minnesota Press, 1989, pp. 114-118.