Ethics vs. Morals Within Magickal Practice

Warning: 
Some of the examples given in this discussion are going to be extreme. They are designed to make you think, because ethics are a grey subject, coming out of a grey world; decisions are made in grey moments by grey people. Ethics are deeply personal, and ever-shifting, as are the circumstances of life. This post is solely intended to encourage you to really think, deeply, about yourself, your life, your views on your own history, and the resulting ethical standpoints that you now apply to present and future actions and expectations of others. It is not meant to tell you right from wrong, or what good and evil are, but to get you to recognize what you believe should be right or wrong, good or evil, is not always the case, and to consider alternate perspectives when traditional definitions upheld by morality fail to align with reality.

The Man and the Dog
A man bludgeons a dog to death. Was he wrong? Was he right? Was it an act of mercy, or an act of evil?

Perhaps you need more of the story.

The dog had been hit by a car on a train track. It was in so much pain, moving it made it panic. It began to bite, and struggle, causing itself more pain. The man had no tools, no money for a vet, no phone, and no way to get the dog off the tracks, wild with pain as it was. It was dying, and it was in pain. He found the heaviest piece of railroad tie he could find, and he put the dog down.

He then came over for a large drink of whiskey, and a good cry.

Was he right? Or was he wrong?

The Woman and Her Love
A woman who had been sold into sexual slavery as a child by her mother finally escaped. The first man she met offered her a place to stay, but nothing more. Desperately afraid she would lose the only stability she’d ever had, she seduced him. She used the only power she believed she had in her life, black arts, to make him fall in love with her. She stole his hair to do the spell.

When his friends found out about her history, they tried to help her escape the hell she was in, they tried to show her another way. They also tried to break the curse. She became violent. She summoned a demon, and tried to kill three members of my Grove.

Eventually, when we had tried everything we could… I accepted that I could not help her without risking my Grove mates further. I bound her, permanently. If she deserves her freedom ever, only a God will be able to break the binding. She can’t hurt anyone else with magick, anymore.

Do I feel bad about taking her only sense of personal control over her life away? Sure. Would I change my mind? Not even if the entire Divine crew of the Universe showed up on my doorstep asking me to set her free. Man-eating tigers get put down. Murder is unacceptable to me, especially by magick, even when someone’s life is such a trainwreck that starting over for them would be the kindest option… so binding is the next best option, and when things get that far round the bend, binding is what we do. If you can’t behave, you don’t deserve your Power.

Be warned… we’re talking ethics… but there are plenty people out there who know how to do basic bindings… do your best, when deciding what your ethics are, that you don’t make those people a little… ribbon happy.

What ARE Morals and Ethics? 
Morals are the black and white rules of society. They are not flexible, but instead are unchanging. “Thou Shalt Not” is a moral system. In our moral system, no matter what your reason or circumstances, stealing is wrong, murder is wrong.

Ethics are rules you constantly adjust. You have a vague notion that killing people is bad, but if you discover someone attacking your child, you’ll do your best to protect them from their attacker, using as much force as necessary to terminate the attack, without concern for consequences. You have a vague notion that stealing is frowned upon, but if your family were starving, desperation would lead you to stealing, to provide for them.

In other words – ethics are flexible and adaptive, and an ethical world-view sees a landscape of consequences you can, or cannot, live with, and therefore your actions are adjusted accordingly. Morals, in comparison, ignore the emotional consequence, and merely tell you what to do rigidly. Sometimes, to be ethical, you must break a moral – however, do try to remember that you are still within a moral society, and you will still be judged and punished by that society, by those morals – thus any truly ethical decision must consider the morals of the world you find yourself in, as well as your own.

What is Karma? 
I often read of people in the western world who talk of karma like it’s a battering ram of consequence – kill a cricket, stub your toe; break a friend’s heart, lose your favorite car. That is a very simplistic view of Karma. The literal translation of Karma is ACTION. Karma is the law of cause and effect – but not in any simplistic way at all. The world is hugely complex, and “what goes around, comes around,” doesn’t even begin to describe Karma in effect.

Karma is Action – and every action you, and every other acting being in existence, makes, is like dropping a stone into the still waters of existence, creating waves of causality – effect. Those ripples spread out, and intersect with the ripples created by other actions, other dropped stones… sometimes waves cancel each other out, sometimes they come together and make a bigger wave – sometimes they rebound on the caster or casters, sometimes, they hit some random stranger just wandering along.

Sometimes, what’s happening in your life has absolutely nothing to do with your personal actions… it’s just how Karma washes out.

In other words, as you walk through the hallways of life, there are choices presented to you, doorways opened onto your path. You can step through these doors – which will lead you to come out in another location, with an adventure in between. You can choose to ignore the door. This, too, will cause ripples in the fabric of life. We are all connected. Every choice ever made affects the decisions placed before you, and also the decisions you make. Those decisions, in turn, affect every other decision made by every other being experiencing existence on this plane. Ripples that have been in the water for thousands of years are still potent, and your ripples will last forever. Sometimes, you come back, and run into other people’s ripples. Sometimes you run into your own. Sometimes your Karma affects others, sometimes theirs, affects yours.

The Threefold Law – History, and a Modern Perspective 
In the early 1950’s, when the anti-witchcraft laws had just been repealed, the decision was made to bring the Craft back out into the open. However, for hundreds of years, people had been told that they were evil and needed to follow rules to make themselves safe. They had been taught not to choose, but merely to obey. They had been taught to be powerless. Practitioners of the time believed that releasing the Craft as it has always been practiced would have a twofold effect – people who were downtrodden but not ready to be responsible for their actions would learn the ways of Power and become dangerous to themselves and others; and there would be a massive backlash in the general public as frightened people under the yoke of moral strictures panicked at the idea that “evil” people would have their hands on Magick again. So it was decided that new witches should be hobbled, and the public soothed, by inventing a “rule” that allowed everyone to think that people who had the power to change the world were really just harmless, because if they changed too much, they could suffer, just like everyone else. It was a simple concept that everyone could understand, and since most people moving into the Craft were previously Christian, it was easily accomplished. They already believed in sin and consequences – telling them that they wouldn’t go to hell, but that hell would come to them, was obviously the least complicated path.

It was also a lie.

Karma doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work in threes. It works more like a fibonacci sequence of EPIC proportions – so mind-bogglingly huge that no human could calculate all the repercussions, or comprehend the map. If you trip a friend, you don’t break a leg later. If you break a heart, you don’t get betrayed by three people. Plenty of horrible people exist in the world, and they get along just fine – and while we can always salve our pride by saying, “They’ll get theirs later, afterwards, in the next life,” or whatever adage you want to append that statement with, the truth is, there is no such thing as time… there is only now. All consequences to all actions happen right now. There is no other moment. See those consequences happening? Sometimes, running into the corner of the desk while vacuuming your home office is just you paying more attention to the vacuum… that would be Karma, but not the type you’re thinking. You were unaware of your surroundings, so you ran into something. Cause = Effect. There’s no blame game going on.

Let’s Talk About Do No Harm
Do No Harm is a lovely idea… in theory. It was put out and about to make Christians think that we witches would never, ever do anything even SLIGHTLY naughty… because of course, right after Do No Harm, there’s our fictional Threefold Law to back it up. “See? We’re harmless… if we hurt anyone with our phenomenal cosmic powers, we’ll end up with itty bitty living spaces… chill, man, we’re just mice like the rest of you, really…”

Yeah. Only that’s not true about ANYONE. Not to get religious, but when was the last time you remember a religion that did no harm EVER? That’s what I thought. Not only that, but witches have always been taught… you have to know how to hurt in order to know how to heal. “A witch who can’t hex, can’t heal.” The two are both sides of the coin. It’s like a doctor who knows where all the arteries are, and where all the nerve points are in your body. A doctor CHOOSES to use that knowledge to heal with… but every doctor knows how to cut someone open and make them bleed. They all know how to kill, and they know how to do it more efficiently than a soldier on a battlefield…. albeit probably more kindly.

Take a deep breath, right now, and let it out. Go on.

Congratulations. You’re now a mass murderer. Billions of anaerobic bacteria just died, because you had the temerity to breathe.

When you hand someone a tea or tisane, when you apply a poultice to a wound, when you cast a spell for healing, for love, for prosperity… you are changing the world. That tea, tisane, or poultice, while healing the good parts of a body, is destroying the unwanted parts – and those parts, however foreign, are as alive and conscious as you. When you cast a spell that changes yourself, your love vibrations, your prosperity vibrations, your healing vibrations – something must die in order for that change to occur. Transformation from one thing into another always involves an in between state that is death of some kind.

There is no getting around the fact that to do what we do involves change… and that involves harm to something. Just as surgeons cut into flesh to remove issues and repair damage, so, sometimes, must a witch cut into the fabric of the universe, and make it what it must be, and not what it is. Admittedly, stasis is just as deadly as change – in most situations, it is actually more evil to make something stay the same than it is to change it.

As you see… Do No Harm is a pretty myth. Either way you cut it, you will lose.

To further the mystery, here are a few questions you should really consider, when you are ready to create your own ethical system.

What qualifies as pain, personally?
How do you define harm, personally?
How do you define bad, personally?
How do you define evil, personally?
Are any of these definitions the same as anyone elses?

Natural Laws 
Rip off the veil of “civilization” and you will see exactly what kind of grey world we really live in. We practice a religion that worships nature. We should probably know the neutral perspective our Deities hold about those lofty ideas about pain, harm, bad, and evil, don’t you think?

A lioness is hunting. She discovers a herd of gazelles. They scent her on the wind, and they begin to fidget. The closer she gets, even though she’s moved downwind and they can’t smell her anymore, the more restless they become… they know something traumatic is about to happen. The lioness settles down at a good vantage point to watch her intended prey, and waits. Soon, the herd forgets that they had ever scented the lioness… and they settle down and go back to grazing. They’re huddling closer together now – there’s safety in numbers – but they trust their outside edges to stay aware while they teach their fawns which grasses are the most tasty.

As the gazelles relax, they start to lose focus, and spread out. Soon, a gazelle wanders far enough away from the herd, and close enough to where the lioness waits, to be too perfect to miss. The lioness starts her run… and the end is inevitable. Chaos and fear erupt in the herd, and they flee… but the damage is done, and the buck is down. The pride will eat well, tonight.

Violent? Vicious? Cruel?

Perhaps.

But look at it from another perspective. Remember, with ethics, perspective is EVERYTHING. From the dead gazelle’s perspective, it probably kind of sucked. From the live herd’s perspective, their herd is stronger. A less-intelligent member is gone, and so is his genetic potential. The weak have fallen, so the strong may live. This means that the herd may survive longer, waste less resources, and grow far larger – especially in intellect. If the gazelle taken was ill, or elderly, the herd has also gained speed.

From the lioness’s perspective, her king will eat tonight. Her fellow pride mates will eat. Her cubs will live another day. They will grow strong, so that they can continue to take the weak and the foolish, and eventually, to their benefit, even perhaps someday take on prime meat, strengthening them even further. Someday her cubs will live past their first summer drought because of this one gazelle. The cycle is stable, and it is healthy, and it is right.

From a moral perspective, it’s a horrific, tragic disaster – except that we’re talking about animals, and an awful lot of western philosophies hold that they are bestial, and soulless, and do not matter either way.

I think there’s a lot to learn from lions. I think there’s more to learn from people who have no regard for the terrible beauty of the cycles of life and the natural world, and think that there’s absolutely no soul, no heart, within it.

Death and The Tower – Pain as a Doorway to Transformation: Pruning as a road towards aesthetically pleasing worlds
I haven’t had a long life, compared to some, but it’s been a rather busy one… and a rather silly one. I’ve brought a lot of trauma on myself and on others. It took me a long time to understand that the things that hurt the most, the things that are the hardest, the things we struggle with, the things that challenge us the deepest… those are the things that truly forge us into what we will become. I’m not a masochist. I don’t think suspension looks fun, I have no tattoos, and the only piercings I have are in my ears, and those were done long enough ago that I don’t remember if it hurt to have them done… but it was rather pointless as I never actually wear anything in the holes, because I’m allergic to almost every metal on the planet.

However… I believe my current life is, to me at least, an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece. Like any true work of art, I know I’m not finished. The world still has more to throw at me, and life has more to prune from me – but I’ve grown to accept the wisdom of these experiences. I’ve stopped labeling them as catastrophic nightmares, I’ve stopped calling them bad, or evil. I call them Challenges, and I gather myself, and I KNOW without a doubt that when I jump, there will be a place to land, or I will learn to fly.

When your world completely falls apart… it’s because it wasn’t yours to begin with… and now you have a clean slate with which to start over, start fresh, start REAL, and make something that IS yours – something that is, in fact, YOU. Death is simply a transformation from one state to another. It is the ending of the old way of being, and the beginning of a new. Every moment dies, and every moment births the next. If you resist the changes that need to happen for long enough, the world takes your choices away from you, and the Tower comes and pops your bubble GOOD…

When that happens, people so often BLAME. They play victim. “Why does this always happen to me? This is so bad! I must have done something terrible! The universe hates me. It’s my fault. It’s your fault. Someone attacked me.” Even when people blame themselves, it’s a way to avoid action. The consequences for resisting the gentle change in place of the violent one are, if you are seeing them from the perspective of blame and victimization, imposed from without – not triggered from within. They’re not really yours, and you don’t have control over what’s happening, why it’s happened, or how you deal. You just sit there, a limp lump, crying about how much everything sucks. It’s never your responsibility to get up off the floor and face the challenges and trust that they wouldn’t be your challenges if you weren’t perfectly made to overcome them… there is only fear and powerlessness. That’s not exactly the best way to cope with the Towers of life – it’s not the best attitude to have when coping with change.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a witch of some kind – psychic, practitioner, shaman, spiritualist, what-have-you. It’s probably time you let that belief in being a victim go and accepted that you actually ARE in control, and you can choose to make your pain stop any time you like. You can go with the flow. That’s a choice. You can fight against it and love your damage. That’s a choice. You can lie on the floor and flop like a fish. That’s a choice.

The question is, ultimately, who do you want to be?

Me? I’m a personal control freak. I want to accept my Power over my reactions to the situations happening in my life… and I want to choose to either go with the flow, or fight like hell and take the pain… because it suits me to do so at that time. No regrets. I like to be pruned. I like who I’ve become. I love my damage… it’s made me strong. Every challenge I have overcome, no matter how emotionally and mentally troublesome and traumatic, has forged me… and while sometimes being strong is ABSOLUTELY exhausting… I’d rather be strong and respect myself, than lie on the floor and wonder why the world hates me, especially when it’s never personal. The world just needs to give you the choice to stand up. It’s that simple. It will keep offering every time you fall down. Sometimes, it will help you to fall, just so it can offer you the choice to stand up anyway.

To those ends…

Changing Definitions 
A vocabulary shift needs to occur if you are to truly claim your power and become an ethical practitioner. Words like “evil,” “bad,” and “problem,” need to become words of the past. They need never enter your mind. Replace them, over and over, with the thoughts that it may look bad now, but there will be a benefit later even if you can’t see it yet, thoughts of these experiences merely being challenges, tests, that you can overcome. Issues you consider to be harmful or worrisome need to become experiences, teachers, places from whence growth occurs. Accept pruning as a natural part of life, and always know – the roses pruned by something as skilled as the Universal Source is… become the source of the most magnificent blooms – flowers known far and wide for their beauty, strength, perseverance, and ability to defend themselves.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot decide whether an action is wrong or right for you personally… or that you cannot accept that certain actions are judged wrong or right by social standards. This isn’t a clarion call to raise up your blooded black candles and inflict every bit of frustration and rage you can onto your ignorant human compatriots. We are talking of ethics here. I rather like the line, “Do no harm, but take no s#it.” Or better yet… don’t go out of your way to make trouble… simply always do what is necessary. Do what is needed at any given time… and let yesterday go, let tomorrow resolve itself. What you do right now is all that matters… make sure the ripples you are putting into the world are worth putting there, because they MUST be put there. I don’t hex unless I must. I don’t heal unless I must. I don’t cast for anything else unless I must. I do what is necessary… and mostly, the universe comes to me instead. Consider that.

A year and a half ago, I experienced a Dark Arts demon. I attacked him (and I truly do plead ignorance… for some reason every now and then society gets into my head and messes with me, and I react without stopping to ask questions first… call it a life lesson that hasn’t always worked out so well, but is too precious to put down)… and not surprisingly, he attacked back. It was a MESS.

However… after all the pain, trauma, after all the mess was cleaned up, the land was re-sanctified, my aura was cleansed, my friends were all safe, and the demon had thankfully moved on to less prickly assignments… as we recovered, we discovered that I and those others who also suffered from his tender affections had received a tremendous boost in power, ability, gifts, and luck. Essentially, despite his reception, he did his job… he made us stronger. There was no bargain on our side. He just came to us, sent by someone else… and he made us stronger. It was ugly, it was painful, it was unfortunate, it was messy… and it WORKED. All that pain, all that harm, all that bad, all that belief that what we faced was evil…

And we were completely wrong. He wasn’t evil. He was helpful. Sure, it hurt, but the pain, the harm, the bad… was mostly our own reactions because we didn’t understand what was happening or why. We didn’t go with the flow… we thought we were attacked, we saw him and made a judgment… and we were WRONG. All that negativity really came from US. Ultimately, he made us better as practitioners, and wiser. I’m not sure it’s possible to find him and thank him. It’s probably not even a good idea… But I see the good in the bad… and I appreciate the aesthetics of pain now. Sometimes it has to hurt to heal. Sometimes you have to rip people open to make them see the truth.

How, now, do you define pain?
How do you define harm?
How do you define bad?
How do you define evil?

The Story of the Chinese Farmer
I always loved this legend. It absolutely epitomizes the dichotomy presented between different ideas of good and bad, and how useful suspending judgment until you know which side you prefer to be on can be.

Among the people who lived close to the border, there was a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : “what makes you think this is not a good thing?”Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb barbarian stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: “what makes you think this is cannot be a bad thing?”The family was richer from a good horse, his son enjoyed riding it. He fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: “what makes you think this is not a good thing!”One year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the valid men drew their bows and went to battle. From the people living around the border, nine out of ten died. But just because he was lame, the old man and his son were both spared.

Again, we see how the definitions of good and bad are based purely on the subjective perspectives in the moment. Another tale explains why perception in the moment is the only place to put any import upon.

Three Questions

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone.When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.The King went up to him and said: ‘I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?’ The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.’You are tired,’ said the King, ‘let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”Thanks!’ said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:’Now rest awhile — and let me work a bit.’But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:’I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.”Here comes some one running,’ said the hermit, ‘let us see who it is.’The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep — so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.’Forgive me!’ said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.’I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,’ said the King.’You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!’The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.The King approached him, and said:’For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.”You have already been answered!’ said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.’How answered? What do you mean?’ asked the King.’Do you not see,’ replied the hermit. ‘If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!’

Ethics, based on the circumstance you are in at the moment, require nothing more from you than that you do the best you can – and that you never judge a situation before the outcome becomes apparent. It can always change… and sometimes the true outcome is not obvious for years.

Non-Judgment: The need for Awareness of multiple perspectives 
When making an ethical decision, it is always wise to try to step into another person’s shoes. Even everyone’s shoes. The universe’s shoes – the universal perspective. What’s the pattern there? When dealing with personal issues, stepping into the shoes of the others involved can show you things you are missing in the heat of the moment. However, be careful that you don’t just try to understand them in the moment… true perspective means you try to understand their history, their philosophies and moral codes, their religious perspectives, their education, their community, their family history, and who their friends are… and how all these influences come together in that person to make that unique perspective. Do it without being emotionally attached to what you try to experience. You don’t want your feelings and thoughts… you want theirs, without your brain translating. Do this with more than one perspective, too… take on the perspectives of everyone and anyone involved, standing on the sidelines, in positions of authority – even take the perspective of the Observer, seeing all perspectives, but part of none and above them all – heck, taken on the perspective of a random cricket!

Consult your spirit, your intuition. Meditation and divination can assist you in stepping out of your head and into the method of viewing multiple perspectives in a truly challenging situation. You may need to work with your divination tool of choice during trance several times to accrue the necessary knowledge to move forward, but at least you’ll be moving forward in a balanced and fair way, instead of an emotionally reactive way. Problems are seldom repaired by reactions… they are fed more fire. Don’t use a pendulum. This kind of work is too complex for a tool as easily manipulated as a pendulum that typically only gives very simple yes/no answers.

Taking Appropriate Action – Making Your Move
When finally making a decision, do your best. Ultimately, that’s all you really can do. You’ve chosen to be both ethical and moral to the best of your ability. You recognize there are consequences to both kinds of action. You know you always have the choice how to respond to a situation, even if you don’t have a choice about experiencing the situation. You can change your perspective, your language, and you can go with the flow, and appreciate the challenge you have been provided with in order to grow towards perfection – OR you can rage against it like each experience is a terrible monster sent to destroy you – and either way, you own the decision totally. You have removed the desire to blame yourself, another, the world. You have added as many perspectives as you could, into every solution, so that all the issues that helped create the current challenges are addressed to the best of your ability.

You decide to act, and you decide how… and then you follow through.

From that moment, you can do no more. You’ve done your best. And that will be good enough. No guilt, because it was your best. No need for that rubbish anymore – having reached a place of non-REaction and non-judgment, you will find you already know the answers you seek as to how to resolve your issue. You will not need to ask for confirmation. You will not desire attention. You won’t wish for support, or look to people to tell you that your decision is wrong. You will simply know that you have arrived at the correct solution to the problem because there will be no regrets, no guilt, and no need to request others either pass judgment, or pat you on the head. You will be doing what is NECESSARY – not what you thought you wanted to do, not what you thought was needed, but truly only what you know MUST be done.

Taking Appropriate Responsibility 
Often times in modern faiths, taking responsibility means two rather dissonant concepts. On the one hand, you don’t have to take responsibility, because all things that happen are dictated by some god out there somewhere, some fate, and therefore it’s not your fault, what’s happening to you, and thus your decisions are all forced and you can blame someone else. On the other hand, you don’t have to take responsibility because you can always count on your god to forgive you later. There’s always someone else to blame, when things go wrong. When things go right, it’s because you deserve it. Taking responsibility can also mean owning not just your own culpability (real or imagined) but also the faults of others (again, real, or imagined).

Truly taking responsibility in an ethical manner means leaving behind the crutch of blame and victim-hood. It means standing up for your choices… even when you screw up and someone (most likely you, but there’s always collateral damage – this is life, and the heart is not a pretty thing) gets hurt. That doesn’t mean you take on the world’s problems. If you’ve made a mess, clean it up as best you can… but accept that everyone else’s choices about how they react are their own. Those choices may impact you, but blaming them or yourself, or others, doesn’t make those choices change or go away. Everyone is in the position of Choice, always – and no matter what the circumstances, they all still have to choose SOMETHING… even when the choice presented locks you in a box, there’s STILL the choice of how you handle being backed up into that corner. You are ultimately in charge of your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. You rule your reality, you rule your perspective, just like everyone else. Don’t like the way the world looks? Change how you look at it. Change yourself.

The Ethics of Change 
Everything She Touches, Changes – Everything She Changes, Touches. The Power to change yourself; the Power to change the world – Power changes everything, everyone you touch. If you change yourself, you change how the world perceives you, and how people react to you. That changes how the universe treats you. It changes your life – but it also changes, in smaller ways, everyone else’s lives, too. What are your ethics about going against the will of the universe, or more personally, against another person? Where and when might it be appropriate?

A friend of mine has a rather crazy neighbor. There’re no beds available at the local hospital, and no real support for mental health issues down here. He’s attacked them violently twice, and set himself on fire. He’s clearly a danger to himself and others. The cops are encouraging their neighbors to just shoot him next time he causes problems. It’s not his fault he’s like that. He needs help. He also needs to stop attacking people and himself. The two are not necessarily unrelated. My recommendation to my friend was to create a witch-bottle made specifically against him… but I also suggested that she use her contacts through Mental Health to find him someone who can help him get stabilized again, become safe again.

My personal ethics don’t go so far as to doing anything permanent to someone who cannot choose… instead, my ethics support making paths available, and encouraging people nearer to him to help him choose wisely, since he’s not stable enough to choose for himself. I think that’s fair. I also think that in the meantime, protection and defense in a no-holds-barred kind of manner is probably not a bad idea. The last time he broke in, he nearly killed someone. That needs to stop.

There is, of course, a very delicate balance… but I will admit, I have taken the free will of another away for their own safety temporarily before… and I would do it again. It stopped that friend from being raped. I’m ok with that. I lost a friend… but I saved a life. I think I’m even.

Final Notes: The Legalities of the Battle Between Morals and Ethics 
It is important to consider, when framing your personal ethics, how they fit within the fabric of social morality codes. If your ethics give you carte blanche to break the laws you disagree with… recognize that there is a price to pay, and be prepared, every step of the way, to either defend your ethics, or accept the morals of the society you have placed yourself within. Their words are law. They might have a few grey ones… but you break any of them at your inconvenience, and their not inconsiderable displeasure. 5 years for a piece of bread to give to your wife for supper, or ten to twenty for killing your daughter’s rapist caught in the act may, or may not, be worth it to you. Know the laws of your area. Know them better than the enforcers do. Know which ones you approve of completely, which ones you disagree with and whether they apply to you or not (and if so, whether it’s really worth it to cause all that trouble for yourself), which ones you find are morally rigid, but ethically grey, and which ones don’t, and probably will never, apply to you.

Ethics don’t happen overnight. Know society’s morals – know the law. Know who you are. Find a balance between it all. I don’t advocate breaking laws. I don’t advocate spending years in a cage for anything. I don’t advocate vigilantism. I advocate the use of logic in all choices related to how you weave ethics and morals together into a code that works for you.

I have a very simple ethic. I’m a pacifist – and don’t look at me like I sprouted horns… I have a phobia of guns, and I’m an empath. If I hurt you, I hurt myself. Tell me why I should hit idiots for being idiots again? I’m somewhat liberal, but mostly a centrist. However, magick is something the law doesn’t regulate and doesn’t track.

We practitioners DO… and we protect our own.

I am the friendliest horror you have ever met. I give every practitioner three chances to bite me in the ass. The first time, I simply ground their casting. The second time, I strengthen it, and send it back to them. If they’re dumb enough to attack me a third time… I go after them and wipe the floor with them.

If they get realy silly and try for me a fourth time… I bind them. It’s a special binding. A family blend. Only a god, as far as we know, can break it. We never have issues with them ever again, after that. After awhile, they forget they were ever witches. They think it was just a moment of insanity – make-believe fun. They go back to being muggles in normal lives. They seem happy enough, comfortable – my bindings do provide protection… can’t take a fool’s power from them and not do that as well, really… never know what they were doing before you had to step in and clean up the mess, and what might come after them when you’re not looking… and once you’ve bound someone… whatever ripples of Power they run across afterwards, they are YOUR responsibility. Binding someone means you are leashed to them, and bound yourself, to protect them forever afterwards.

I’m fair. I don’t attack until me or mine is attacked. And I fire plenty of warning shots.

That’s my ethics in a nutshell.

What are yours?

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2 comments on “Ethics vs. Morals Within Magickal Practice

  1. A very in-depth look at the issues involved in magickal morality. Well thought out and definitely thought provoking. We agree with some of the points you make and disagree with others….then again it would be pretty boring if it were otherwise.

    One things that has always struck us, is the way some people differentiate between their physical activities and their magickal work when it comes to their moral/ethical standpoint. In attending a job interview, they would think nothing of a having a CV professionally drawn up, take care with their appearance, research the position and the company, name-drop if they know a mutual friend of the interviewer and even tell a few little white lies. However if it’s suggested to the same person to apply their magickal knowledge to gaining an advantage by employing spells, talismans etc, then they may well do it, but not before a period of hesitation so they can deliberate over, is it right to do this? is it not cheating? might there be adverse consequences? Most of, if not all, of our actions in the physical affect other people. They didn’t go into that interview seeking to send someone else home disappointed and jobless, but that is going to be the consequence of them getting the job whether they employed magickal assistance or not.
    In response to such examples we’ve heard people say, “Well yes, but when you are using magick then it’s different from everyday actions.” Is it? If your philosophy includes deity/deities, are they going to respond differently to the morality of actions defined as magickal than to the morality of actions thought of as everyday and non-magickal? If your philosophy is deity free and instead you hold more to a model of laws operating along a line of ‘action and reaction’, then again why would these laws operate differently in relation to magickal/non-magickal actions?

    We’re surprised there isn’t more of a response to this in the form of likes and comments. It’s a good post on an intriguing topic and deserves to be read by as many as possible in the occult/pagan community. Even if they don’t sit pondering the whole matter of magickal ethics and morality, they might at least be led into contemplating how their personal morality ties in with their own magickal work.

    Like

    • I actually completely agree with you – magick and the so-called “real” world are kept oddly separate in most people’s minds, even seasoned practitioners – and ethics show that attitude, quite clearly. If people don’t completely think magick is real, or if they consider it just an edge you have over everyone else, not something that everyone has at their fingers, then they tend to hedge whether or not it should be used – but while they think quite seriously about magick, they don’t often think about their everyday actions and those consequences at all, something that I consider a gross level of ignorant malfeasance. Either you are an ethical person who considers the ramifications of every action, or you are a robot. Magick shouldn’t be the only area where you are ethical.

      The issue there is that if we considered every action, from every aspect, in every moment… we would freeze. No one would act, ever. As I said – the very act of breathing kills. In that situation, necessity must define your actions, not a vague idea of what harm or evil might be defined as. If wearing a nicer shirt than a compatriot means that you get a job, and someone else’s family starves, whether you hedged your bets with magick or not (and you better believe that most people are hedging their bets with at the very least some kind of prayer – magick in its basest, although admittedly frequently least effective, form), morally you’ve done that person, and their family, harm, by most standards – so do you do nothing? No one could get anything done. This is why I believe that necessity should drive your ethics, along with a willingness to accept that sometimes, necessity means doing something ugly and living with it. Most people, however, cannot cope with the responsibility that implies… they’d rather stick their heads in the sand and ONLY consider ethics from one perspective… such as this one, the valid use of power in a given situation.

      My magick and my life are so intertwined, I don’t distinguish – they are not separate to me – so my ethics are the same everywhere. If I am willing to use perfume to get a job, then I’m willing to use aromatherapy, or spelled oils and incenses, to do so, too. I don’t just go to a doctor – I use herbs, energetic healing, spells, altogether. If you’re hurting me, I’m likely to hit you with the thing that’s handiest at that moment to get you to back off – words in a verbal situation, a good heavy book in a physical altercation – but in both cases, I back it up with Intent and Will.

      As for the lack of traffic… sadly, I am one small person in a very, very large pond, and I’ve yet to make enough bubbles for the bigger schools to notice me. This particular blog isn’t very old, and combined with my lack of connections, that means I am casting my whispers into the gale – on the top of a mountain no one has ever seen.

      Perhaps time will change that.

      Perhaps not.

      I am content – at least my whispers get said…

      I’m curious as to what you disagreed with – a debate would be most educational and stimulating…

      Deepest blessings, and my gratitude for your appreciation and comments…
      Nycto

      Like

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