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Author Topic: Ethics & The Use of Magic  (Read 18274 times)
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« Reply #15: September 16, 2007, 06:10:05 pm »

The Hex thread touches on ethics and the use of magic... what's considered appropriate under what circumstances, what guidelines we as individuals use in choosing to use magic, and what limits we place on ourselves magically.   It seems to me the subject deserves its own thread, so here it is!

Let's look at this from the standpoint of teaching someone young and new to magic.
  • If you were the teacher, would you include ethics in your lessons? 
  • Do ethics even have a place in magical practice? 
  • What ethical principles, rules, and guidelines are important in magic?
  • What ideas are nice guidelines, but not really rules to live by, in your opinion?
  • What should be magically taboo, if anything? Are there circumstances when a normally taboo spell might be acceptable?
  • What words of wisdom would you give to a novice in helping them make decisions about what is ethical and appropriate?
  • Related but not directly about ethics, is there an appropriate escalation of action or spells when dealing with a problem?  Is there a specific sequence of steps that you take when confronted with a problem?
  • If you are young and new to magic, what questions or concerns do you have about ethics as they relate to magic use?


These are just a few questions to get everyone thinking.  Please add others to the thread as you think of them.




Great Questions! I think that it's important for people to be very honest with themselves and carefully examine their motives in both mundane and magical activities.

I believe that everyone has a personal code of honor that they live by. Some people are rigid and others are more flexible.

People can be destructive without using magic and sometimes that destruction affects more than they originally planned. So, I believe that magic should not be taken lightly. I don't advocate being a doormat but I wouldn't recommend taking revenge for every offense you encounter.

I've observed people in and out of magical practice who were mean spirited and took great pleasure in revenge and destroying anyone who "crossed" them. They invalidated the other person and felt no remorse in harming them or those close to that person. To me, this is crossing the line. I guess I feel that there needs to be some balance. Like the punishment fitting the crime, but that would take extraordinary skills that may be best left to the "higher forces".

I prefer to work in positive energy but feel that sometimes a person may not always have that choice. Society seems to tolerate more bad behavior these days and even rewards it. So attitudes about magic and taboos are bound to change as well.

I do agree with the old saying, "be careful what you wish for- because you just might get it". Remember the story, The Monkey's Paw ? If not well thought out and done with proper intention, magic can go terribly wrong. It's not just the magic, spell, etc. itself but also the effect it has on the practitioner. You become what you practice.

I hope that I stayed on topic and didn't ramble too much.

I look forward to reading other responses to this. Thanks for starting this thread.

Blessings,

Shaylee  Smiley
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« Reply #16: September 16, 2007, 06:33:54 pm »

My only ethical consideration for magic is that it should be ethical in the same way everything else in my life is. I have no separate code of ethics for magic; if I wouldn't do it  in mundane, everyday ways, I'm not going to do it magically either.

The basis for my ethics is personal responsibility. Am I willing to take the consequences of my actions? Is the cause greater than the consequence?

I have to say, this pretty much sums up my opinion as well.  My code of ethics is a little off of what most people seem to find theirs to be--for instance, I have no problem with causing harm if I feel that I need to and am willing to accept the consequences of doing so.
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« Reply #17: September 16, 2007, 08:39:57 pm »

I have to say, this pretty much sums up my opinion as well.  My code of ethics is a little off of what most people seem to find theirs to be--for instance, I have no problem with causing harm if I feel that I need to and am willing to accept the consequences of doing so.

But see, I think this is what we really can't know. You may feel you are willing to take the consequences in that moment that you believe that you need to defend yourself, and you are righteously angry and all that, but ultimately, IME, it has not ended up worth it to defend myself by manipulating other people or entities in any way, especially from a place of anger. I have learned through some very unfortunate and painful experiences with bindings and other forms of manipulation, that it tends to blow up in my face and burn off my eyebrows. Sure, I can say before I act that I am acting in self defense (which I was, when I did a binding spell on a very pesky entity last spring), but these actions have had consequences that I cannot control and accepting that has been truly awful, and not very good for me, ultimately. It is more important to me now to ask myself what I need to do to protect myself in a given situation, and turn my energy elsewhere, not giving the problem more drama. I can see certain self defense situations where doing a binding or a hex would be unavoidable, but really if you are doing adequate self protection and warding, and are not *trying to piss people off, it just seems totally unnecessary.
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« Reply #18: September 16, 2007, 08:51:34 pm »

I'm new(ish) to magic, but I'll answer what I would consider correct at any rate - I'm old enough to know enough about ethics as to have my own opinion on them (and to know it is subject to change at random and unusual intervals with discovering new and different viewpoints).

  • If you were the teacher, would you include ethics in your lessons? 

I don't teach and can't see it happening in the near future (Still expanding my own knowledge base and far too inexperienced), but absolutely. Not necessarily doling out my personal ethics as gospel, but I'd certainly include sessions on helping them develop their own code of ethicsfor dealing with everything, not just magic in particular. Life and magic are not separate, they are two parts of a whole, and you should only have one set of ethics (To do otherwise would be called hypocrisy, I believe).

  • Do ethics even have a place in magical practice? 

Just as much as they have a place anywhere else in life, yes.

  • What ethical principles, rules, and guidelines are important in magic?
 


This is a very individual question and only the individual can determine what they are willing to do. For me, if I wouldn't want someone casting a certain type of spell on me, then I wouldn't cast it on them (read: love spells). Messing with free will is, generally, a nono. Like everything, there may be exceptions, but as a very good article someone here wrote says (I'm sorry, can't recall who right now, but it was a good one on ethics), identify the mundane equivalent and then determine if you'd be willing to do that. If not, the spell probably isn't going to fit your ethics.

I'm also big on being aware of the possible consequences and taking responsibility for them (And this makes a big difference to my ethics - I might be willing to cast a spell for money, but if the consequences of using a certain spell involved me receiving an inheritance... let's just say the spell would be changed, or not cast at all).

  • What should be magically taboo, if anything? Are there circumstances when a normally taboo spell might be acceptable?
 

I'd put torture of innocents and spiteful, petty revenge spells on this list, of course, that's just me.

  • What words of wisdom would you give to a novice in helping them make decisions about what is ethical and appropriate?

Read everything possible - including fiction (there are some great things in fiction which can help shape ethics, believe it or not). Consider the consequences and be prepared to accept them. And for gods sake, use the mundane alternatives first! No point casting a spell for money if you don't have a job and are too lazy to get off your backside and go looking for one!

  • Related but not directly about ethics, is there an appropriate escalation of action or spells when dealing with a problem?  Is there a specific sequence of steps that you take when confronted with a problem?

Haven't encountered this issue magically yet, but probably will in future. Whatever it would be, it would include mundane equivalents to spells I'm sure.

  • If you are young and new to magic, what questions or concerns do you have about ethics as they relate to magic use?

My main problem is wording of spells to try to mitigate any 'unpleasant' consequences. Ie, making sure the money I may get from a money spell doesn't come in the form of an inheritance from one I love, for example... Or my spell to increase confidence doesn't turn me into an arrogant a$$!  Grin
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« Reply #19: September 16, 2007, 09:05:47 pm »

I've thought of something else.  I tend to think of aggressive magic in terms of physical activity, and judge whether I'd do a magic spell based on whether I'd do an equivalent physical action.  Like, would I slap the face of someone spreading nasty rumors about me, if given the opportunity?  Hell yes!  In that case, I might use a targeted "stop gossip" spell, with nastiness graded to the nastiness of the rumors, and how hard I'd slap.  *g*  Would I take a baseball bat to the head of someone who broke into my house?  Yes!  So the house protection spell I'm working on now is the magical equivalent of "baseball bat to the head" and then some -- we were robbed last year, and I have *lots* of rage.  So, baseball bat to the head, back, and testicles.   Cheesy 

LMAO! Actually Catja, your ethics make quite a lot of sense to me as well! For some reason, whenever I think of magical ethics I automatically go to the 'peace, love and prosperity' spells version...

But your examples have certainly given me a few ideas to mull over... I particularly like the house protection ethics idea (since I don't have a baseball bat, I'll substitute golf club - and I do have the physical strength to inflict serious injuries with that item... you break into my house, you'll get beaten 'til you're unconscious and you'll stay that way until the police get here! Grin).
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« Reply #20: September 16, 2007, 10:12:08 pm »

Most of your questions are somewhat "meaningless" to me as I don't see any difference in the ethics of doing something based on how you do it. The answer to the question "Is it ethical to do X?" is the same to me no matter how you choose to do X -- mundanely, magically, psychically, by prayer to a deity to do it, or whatever. There is no separate "magical ethics" in my worldview.

Agreed, actually, that one single set of ethics should govern all of an individual's actions, regardless of the form they take. 

Meaningless, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  Wink For those of us have that same-ethics-across-all-actions standard, the questions may seem a little pointless as we already know there shouldn't be a distinctive set of magical ethics.  However, I do hope that by asking these questions that the thread itself will be meaningful to someone who perhaps hasn't given the subject due consideration or who hasn't yet codified their own ethical standands (magical or otherwise). 

(Yes, everyone, I am trying to lob lightbulbs again.  If you already have a lifetime supply of the 75 watt variety, might I suggest trying a halogen bulb as well?  Grin)
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« Reply #21: September 16, 2007, 10:18:55 pm »

LMAO! Actually Catja, your ethics make quite a lot of sense to me as well! For some reason, whenever I think of magical ethics I automatically go to the 'peace, love and prosperity' spells version...

But your examples have certainly given me a few ideas to mull over... I particularly like the house protection ethics idea (since I don't have a baseball bat, I'll substitute golf club - and I do have the physical strength to inflict serious injuries with that item... you break into my house, you'll get beaten 'til you're unconscious and you'll stay that way until the police get here! Grin).

okay...here is my problem with this attitude...how does that help your house from not getting broken into in the first place? Isn't that what you really want, for your space to be inviolate? As a person who has had her grandmother's pearls stolen when someone broke into our house (actually just walked in...if you really want people to not break into your house, please remember to lock your doors *and windows...*all the windows) I was not doing any magick at the time, but i can tell you for sure that even though I was very angry, and violated and done wrong by, I fail to see how setting it up so the person would be injured would ultimately prevent the robbery in the first place. Or do me any good. Seems to me that setting appropriate protection around you house would not need that kind of violent intent, in fact it would really be superfluous. And for magick to be really effective, ime, it is better if it doesn't have a lot of unnecessary, emotional additions attached to it.
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« Reply #22: September 16, 2007, 10:47:00 pm »


 Embarrassed I think I need to add a disclaimer/apologia/further explanation to my own thread: 

On a personal level, I don't have different ethical standards for magic vs mundane.  If I'm ethically unwilling to take a specific mundane action, I won't do its magical equivalent (and vise versa).  Typically, I don't categorize my own ethics into specific groups (magic, mundane, social, etc.) because there's no need for me to do so. 

When I talk about "magical ethics" vs any other sort of ethics, the reason is two-fold: 
1.) to focus the discussion on ethics as they apply to our magical workings (just as "business ethics" implies that you're talking about ethical standards within a specific context) and...
2.) to allow for the viewpoint of those who do differentiate between magical and mundane ethics. 

By using the term "magical ethics", I'm not trying to imply that magic should be treated as ethically different (or special or separate), but rather, trying to get everyone thinking about how ethics apply to magic specifically. 

Just wanted to clarify that, because looking back at the thread, I don't think I explained this sufficiently and was probably as clear as mud in my reasoning.  Sorry if I caused any confusion!
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« Reply #23: September 16, 2007, 11:14:48 pm »

okay...here is my problem with this attitude...how does that help your house from not getting broken into in the first place? Isn't that what you really want, for your space to be inviolate? As a person who has had her grandmother's pearls stolen when someone broke into our house (actually just walked in...if you really want people to not break into your house, please remember to lock your doors *and windows...*all the windows) I was not doing any magick at the time, but i can tell you for sure that even though I was very angry, and violated and done wrong by, I fail to see how setting it up so the person would be injured would ultimately prevent the robbery in the first place. Or do me any good. Seems to me that setting appropriate protection around you house would not need that kind of violent intent, in fact it would really be superfluous. And for magick to be really effective, ime, it is better if it doesn't have a lot of unnecessary, emotional additions attached to it.

I think I'd better clarify myself too, and not try a tongue in cheek post for a change.  Smiley

When I jokingly said what I did about the home intruder, what my intent was, is indicating that my personal ethics are the same as my magical ethics. I would be prepared to defend my home and the safety of its occupants to the level where I whalloped the intruder with a golf club and contacted police. What I didn't mention was that said intruder would have plenty of notice from me yelling to get their backside out and save their hide.

In terms of this relating to a home protection spell (if I chose to do one - I haven't yet, but am planning to soon, probably at the same time I plant out my garden with herbs), I guess the magical equivalent would be to create a spell with that level of deterrence. Not necessarily one to injure the intruder, but if you were a thief and knew that you'd get beaten silly if you tried to break into a certain house, would you try to break in? Not unless you're very determined, or have a gun up your sleeve.

I suppose it equates to me creating a house protection spell that might function similar to a guard dog. If you take the warning of the dog growling and leave, you'll be fine. Ignore the growls, and it's your own darn fault if you get bitten. But, if you were doing something wrong in the first place, that's your fault.  Tongue But the intent isn't to cause injury, but rather to deter potential thieves/wrongdoers from coming in in the first place (rather like with a guard dog).

I do live in Australia, where we DON'T tend to get sued if someone injures themselves trying to break into our property. They generally just go to jail instead, and the injury is tough luck. Grin

Would this have karmic repurcussions? Probably. But I'm not planning on putting a spell on the thief AFTER the fact, but putting the spell on the house of equivalent strength as a deterrent, to stop them coming in in the first place.

Does that make any more sense?  Huh
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« Reply #24: September 16, 2007, 11:48:23 pm »

And for magick to be really effective, ime, it is better if it doesn't have a lot of unnecessary, emotional additions attached to it

I'm going to stay out of the overall debate on the subject of house protection ethics, but I do want to address this particular statement as it seems to be about general magical practice. 

First, what is or is not necessary is very subjective.  What you view as an "unnessary emotional addition" may be just the thing that someone else needs to give their spell power. 

Also, most complex situtations require spellwork that is multi-faceted in order to be truly effective (just as a mundane solution to a complex problem would need be).  Drawing on additional, related emotions can be one way to add that depth.   

Let me give an example:  If I'm doing magic work to heal someone, I draw on healing energies primarily.  I also draw on several of my own emotions at the same time such as love, compassion, hope, and warmth to help in comforting the person.  Often, I'll  ask the person to draw on their "negative" emotions relating to the problem (anger, fear, frustration, disappointment, etc.)  so that we can re-direct those energies toward fighting the problem. 

Could the work be done without bringing in the additional emotions? Most definitely.  Would it be as effective without the additional energies?  Not at all, as adding these energies helps the person to establish a sense of wellbeing which will help in the healing process.   
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« Reply #25: September 17, 2007, 02:45:43 am »

Most of your questions are somewhat "meaningless" to me as I don't see any difference in the ethics of doing something based on how you do it. The answer to the question "Is it ethical to do X?" is the same to me no matter how you choose to do X -- mundanely, magically, psychically, by prayer to a deity to do it, or whatever. There is no separate "magical ethics" in my worldview.

You're quite right, but I think "magical ethics" happens to be an issue because of the lack of foreseeable negative consequences attached to one's actions in that vein. (And it's not exactly an issue with prayer, because people tend to assume that most gods wouldn't answer unjust requests.) And one's actions, if one is mature enough to keep quiet about it, can always stay under wraps. In the privacy of your bedroom, one could do any number of things without anyone ever knowing that the thought entered your mind. And the fact that the actions are symbolic probably allows people to feel that they are not personally responsible for what happens. They didn't "really" get someone fired or evicted or hurt - the magic did it. Then, when the concept of karma is taken out of the equation, people don't need to worry about what might consequently happen to themselves. Though I don't think that's a good enough reason to subscribe to the idea of karma. As Einstein said, if people only did good for fear of punishment and for chance of reward, then the world would be a very sad place.
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« Reply #26: September 17, 2007, 03:15:49 am »

The Hex thread touches on ethics and the use of magic... what's considered appropriate under what circumstances, what guidelines we as individuals use in choosing to use magic, and what limits we place on ourselves magically.   It seems to me the subject deserves its own thread, so here it is!

These are just a few questions to get everyone thinking.  Please add others to the thread as you think of them.

The witches rede - first quoted by Gardner "An it harm none, do what ye will" seems to offer some guidance.  Clearly not doing harm is essential, but there are issues with this simple statement.  Firstly, it does not say much about the moral aspects of failing to act to prevent harm - should you intervene magically to prevent person A harming person B.  Second, what about cases where you have to do harm to prevent worse.  For example should you use magic to harm a serial rapist and thus prevent him from harming others.

I am inclined to have some sympathy with Crowley's statement "Do what you will shall be the whole of the law".  This is not a simplistic justification of bad behavior.  By "will", Crowley was talking about your true will or destiny.  A bit like Taoism - act in accordance with the way of nature or existentialism - act authentically.   Using magic authentically and in accordance with your destiny may be the best ethical test.
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« Reply #27: September 17, 2007, 08:45:37 am »

You're quite right, but I think "magical ethics" happens to be an issue because of the lack of foreseeable negative consequences attached to one's actions in that vein.

Many ethical theories in philosophy (that is, attempts to provide methods for deciding if an action is ethical) do not depend on negative consequences to the actor for the decision). That is, the "rules" of the ethical theory provide an answer to whether the action is ethical regardless of the consequences to the actor. After all, some actions that most people would consider highly ethical could have very negative consequences for the actor (trying to save a child in a burning building, for example) so "has negative consequences for the actor" is not really a very good way to decide whether something is ethical or not.
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« Reply #28: September 17, 2007, 09:21:29 am »

But see, I think this is what we really can't know. You may feel you are willing to take the consequences in that moment that you believe that you need to defend yourself, and you are righteously angry and all that, but ultimately, IME, it has not ended up worth it to defend myself by manipulating other people or entities in any way, especially from a place of anger. I have learned through some very unfortunate and painful experiences with bindings and other forms of manipulation, that it tends to blow up in my face and burn off my eyebrows. Sure, I can say before I act that I am acting in self defense (which I was, when I did a binding spell on a very pesky entity last spring), but these actions have had consequences that I cannot control and accepting that has been truly awful, and not very good for me, ultimately. It is more important to me now to ask myself what I need to do to protect myself in a given situation, and turn my energy elsewhere, not giving the problem more drama. I can see certain self defense situations where doing a binding or a hex would be unavoidable, but really if you are doing adequate self protection and warding, and are not *trying to piss people off, it just seems totally unnecessary.

As I said, my ethics apply whether I'm doing magic or not.  Being willing to accept the consequences of my actions does not require me to know beforehand what those consequences are.  If I feel like I should do something harmful to someone, I'm just as likely to punch them as work magic upon them.  Curses are unpredictable in their results.  Fists, less so.

Some of the most powerful magic can be worked from a place of anger.  Especially righteous anger, I've found.  Some of my best non-magical work has come from anger as well.  "I am going to finish this [expletives] paper if it [expletive] kills me!"  Anger can lead to determination as well as fear or aggression.
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« Reply #29: September 17, 2007, 09:27:29 am »

Many ethical theories in philosophy (that is, attempts to provide methods for deciding if an action is ethical) do not depend on negative consequences to the actor for the decision). That is, the "rules" of the ethical theory provide an answer to whether the action is ethical regardless of the consequences to the actor. After all, some actions that most people would consider highly ethical could have very negative consequences for the actor (trying to save a child in a burning building, for example) so "has negative consequences for the actor" is not really a very good way to decide whether something is ethical or not.

As we're actually discussing in my ethics class currently.

On the other hand, "has negative consequences for the actor" is often an acceptable concept for use in an argument.  For instance, in the aforementioned burning building, you and the child are already inside.  If you try to save the child, you will escape but be horribly injured (some sort of permanent disability), if not, you will escape with mild burns.  It is morally permissable for you to not save the child.  It's not a very nice thing to do from the child's point of view, but blame should not rest upon you.
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