18

I was watching Order of the Phoenix today and during the Occlumency scene I wondered if Legilimency is a Dark Art or even legal at all? Snape says to Harry:

‘Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord!’ said Snape savagely. ‘Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked so easily – weak people, in other words – they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!’

Order of the Phoenix -- page 473 -- Bloomsbury -- Chapter 24, Occlumency

Snape presents Legilimency to Harry as if it were almost a predatory type of magic; he makes no mention of how Legilimency might be used in a positive way.

Is Legilimency a Dark Art?

Pursuant to the question about Legilimency being a Dark Art, I also wonder, is performing Legilimency even legal? Does J.K. Rowling address any legal issues regarding the use of Legilimency? For example, is a Legilimens required to register with the Ministry like Animagi are? Is there any canon source that addresses any guidelines regarding Legilimency?

Please no HP Wikia answers; subjective answers in the spirit of canon are fine.

  • 2
    Aren’t humans constantly trying to gauge their interlocutors’ emotions? For me, legilimency always was a logical extension of that, and the ability to gauge emotions seems to be a basic skill in modern society; people who can’t do it are severely limited in their social abilities (to the point of being considered disabled). Of course that’s not proof that legilimency isn’t Dark Magic but it’s indicative. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 13 '12 at 10:31
  • 2
    Possible positive usage: Psychology. "So tell me, why are you here today?" ~ peers into subject's mind for the truth ~ – Izkata Jul 6 '13 at 13:19
  • @KonradRudolph: isn't that a theory about telepathy that Asimov mentions somewhere in the Foundation universe? – b_jonas Jul 6 '13 at 15:20
  • 1
    I'll repeat a comment someone made on a recent answer. If Legilimency is a Dark Art, then Occlumency would be taught in Defense Against the Dark Arts. – Blackwood Aug 30 '17 at 22:47
  • “I will make it legal” — every dark lord ever. – Paul Nov 15 '18 at 13:41
17

"The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing... It is true, however, that those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain conditions, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly." -- Severus Snape

Severus's use of the word victims suggests a sinister connotation with the use of this magic, but this may just be Snape's pessimistic viewpoint on life.

Considering Dumbledore is a skilled Legilimens it probably isn't considered a Dark Art. However it is likely to be regulated in some way. The Harry Potter lexicon makes this observation:

However, we know that the use of Veritaserum is legally restricted, and we have seen Snape and Dumbledore cooperate in using it in an emergency (GF35) without apparent reference to such regulations.

Given the invasive nature of the spell, it is highly likely that the use of Legilimency is considered unethical unless deemed necessary. Snape and Dumbledore come up with a fake reason (remedial Potions) to teach Occlumency (through the use of Legilimency) to Harry, and asked him to be discreet about what is really going on. Maybe this was because it was shady to teach a student, or maybe they just didn't want Voldemort finding out they were trying to safe guard him.

If Legilimency is illegal (or restricted by law) then it is possible Snape is guilty of abusing his skill in the art. Throughout the books Harry is under the impression that Snape can read his mind, it is possible he WAS reading his mind.

  • 7
    The reason for saying Harry was taking remedial potions might not be that Occlumency/Legilimency is unethic. It could just be that they don't want anybody asking Harry why he needs to learn Occlumency (since the reason is that they don't want Voldemort invading his mind) and giving a fake other class is a natural alternative. I think the alternative class being remedial potions is partially something that Snape threw in for his own enjoyment. – Dason Aug 13 '12 at 4:21
  • From everything we know about Dumbledore (locking away his sister, the extent he went to for the elder wand, best friend growing up was a dark wizard, etc), I don't think the mere fact that he used it means it isn't dark arts. But that's why I don't like the binary view of light and dark. No one is purely good or bad. Hell, Gandhi was a (presumed) racist who (definitely) beat his wife. – user88476 Aug 30 '17 at 19:56
13

Dumbledore himself was a accomplished Legilimens. In regards to getting information out of Kreacher about Sirius going to the Ministry of Magic Dumbledore had this to say

"He did not wish to tell me," said Dumbledore. "But I am a sufficiently accomplished Legilimens myself to know when I am being lied to and I --- persuaded him --- to tell me the full story, before I left for the Department of Mysteries."

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - "The Lost Prophecy"

Now one could speculate that there are different laws regarding the use of Legilimency on creatures that aren't human but I think this at least shows that there are uses of Legilimency in canon that aren't depicted as "dark". Dumbledore himself is an "accomplished Legilimens" so I highly doubt this is the first time he has had to use this skill.

This is highly speculative but I would assume that Legilimency would be a valued skill for Aurors to have as well. All of this leads me to believe that I don't think Legilimency is necessarily viewed as a Dark Art. It can be used by dark wizards but it can be used for good as well.

2

Because Dumbledore also claims to practice it, it's probably not a Dark Art. As to why Snape was framing it in a predatory context, I think it's a combination of two factors:

  • Who he was training Harry against, (and all of the presumptions that go along with that,)
  • The fact that he's trying to teach Harry how to protect himself from a specific usage of Legilimency. It's pretty clear that these lessons aren't about Harry becoming a master of Legilimency, but merely about him learning to protect himself from attack.

Those would both inform his word choice.

  • I for one think that Dumbledore being an accomplished Legimens isn't a very strong proof about it not being a Dark Art or forbidden. Think of Stone chapter 1 where McGonagall states that Dumbledore has powers that he's too noble to use – though it's not specifically stated whether these powers are Dark Art or forbidden. We also know that Dumbledore was interested in the Dark Arts at one point. – b_jonas Jul 6 '13 at 15:25
1

It is unlikely that Legilimency is a Dark Art or illegal

In one of their private sessions in Half-Blood Prince Harry and Dumbledore have the following conversation about retrieving Slughorn's memory:

"But surely, sir," he said, keeping his voice as respectful as possible, "you don't need me — you could use Legilimency... or Veritaserum...."

"Professor Slughorn is an extremely able wizard who will be expecting both," said Dumbledore. "He is much more accomplished at Occlumency than poor Morfin Gaunt, and I would be astonished if he has not carried an antidote to Veritaserum with him ever since I coerced him into giving me this travesty of a recollection.

If Legilimency was a Dark Art or illegal we might expect Dumbledore to mention that as an objection to employing it on Slughorn. And it would certainly be rather brazen for Harry to tell Dumbledore to do something illegal.

Furthermore, Dumbledore admits to actually having used Legilimency on a fellow human being:

"Yes, but it took a great deal of skilled Legilimency to coax it out of him," said Dumbledore, "and why should anybody delve further into Morfin's mind when he already confessed to the crime?

And finally, Dumbledore even indicates that the Ministry would have no problem using Legilimency if there was a purpose:

"So the Ministry called upon Morfin. They did not need to question him, to use Veritaserum or Legilimency. He admitted to the murder on the spot, giving details only the murderer could know.

It sounds like the Ministry simply didn't bother with Legilimency because Morfin had already confessed to committing the crime, but had it been an open investigation they would have had no problem using it.

-1

No, legilimency is not considered a Dark Art since it has been used by many wizards and witches, such as Dumbledore, for good.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site ! Your answer will have a better chance of acceptance if you can provide some specific examples of where Legilimency has been used for good. – Stan Jul 6 '13 at 10:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.