Friday, November 4, 2011

Magickal Ethics

So I have been thinking about the ethics of magick. Jason Miller lamented in this post about why people who write about magick have to have "a fucking graduate degree in applied ethics". After all, chemistry books and other subject material doesn’t seem to fall under the same category.

I must again respectfully disagree. Since he responded directly to my post on Mastering Witchcraft in the same way, I think it is okay to assume I was the spark for that statement, which does not accurately capture what I feel on the subject. While every book on a given subject may not include such considerations, every professional organization I know of has a code of ethics, even lawyers. Well, maybe that is a bad example. The point is they have one.

There are many college courses on ethics in various fields as well. I have also see college text books containing little “for discussion” bubbles which pose an ethical question on what was discussed. Where there isn’t an ethical standard a legal one applies. In California a mechanic must give you a written estimate in writing in advance of working on your car.

So to me, not talking about magickal ethics makes what we do seem less serious than other endeavors and less professional. I am not saying that every book needs to mention ethics but I am saying discussing the ethics of what we do, challenging the ethics of certain magicks and living by own’s own ethical code is important. No one has to agree with anyone else but I see little harm in discussing ethics. No do I see harm in taking an personal ethical stand. It doesn't demean the other fellow to say, "I am not going to do that."

Most codes of ethics refer to what happens to the other guy. For instance, a lawyer breaking client confidentiality hurts the client. A doctor discussing your medical tests at home may jeopardize your ability to be employed, if her husband interviews you for a job the next day. Usually, the result of a violation only hurts the offending party when caught or so he thinks.

In magick, an ethical violation can harm others but also reverberate within at harsh levels. Let us use that love philter we have been discussing. A friend of mine once stated that he doesn’t care who has magickal links to him because he can use them in reverse. I agree. Though, I’d prefer not to have to do that sort of thing. So what happens when someone consumes a link and it is part of his or her body for the seven years it takes our cells to recycle? What happens if that hot chick that has this dropped into her drink is bipolar or schizophrenic? What happens if she is not only those things but a talented witch who finds out what you did? Good luck, Pal.

So now we have to add a discussion on how ethics violations impact ourselves. Is it just a wee bit of guilt or a major life altering tragedy?

I try to think about ethics before a situation occurs not during. During a tempting period one’s emotions are all in an uproar. Before a situation occurs you can calmly consider ramifications.

For instance, if someone asks me to do magick for them, I have examples of how magick works in ways that they may not be expecting. Doing magick to get that perfect guy, well, he lives in Toronto. Have a nice trip! In my book, I am obligated to tell them things like that in advance no matter how skilled I am at avoiding those problems. I do that every time and amazingly some people say no thank you. I don’t blame them. Then again, I don’t run a business at it either. Many business associations have rules of ethics that are more to protect the business then they are protecting their clients. 

Even magickal groups have rules of ethics. Many magickal groups have oaths you must take upon admission. Some of these include ethical boundaries. I have seen people take those oaths, forget them and end up breaking them routinely. This does not end well.

Initiation oaths notwithstanding, even magical associations have ethical standards. Check this out from the Association of Independent Readers & Rootworkers, of which I am not a member.

I can give you one more example of the benefits of these types of discussion. My stance on dropping something magickal into someone’s drink was absolute, black and white, no way. Then Jack gave me alternate scenarios in his excellent post. Now, I can see a situation where I just might do that. I still seriously doubt that I would but you never know.

That is the real value of ethics discussions. It is one more way to expand one’s horizons. It can also be a way to recognize your own lines and therefore live within your virtue. To me, those are pretty good upsides. I see no harm in discussion magickal ethics in anyway unless you are demanding others follow your ethics. I am very open to the fact that others may see the world differently than I. I am okay with that. I just ask that you be okay with me following my rules as well. I do not feel that is unreasonable.

On a side note, I am always amazed that when I post about my magick my readership grows in a predictable pattern. The moment I take a stand on anything, no matter how nicely I put it, people stop following. I find that most silly. I read the works of people that I know disagree with me and even personally do not like me. If someone isn’t wise enough to consider another person’s ideas, disagree and still find value in other things they do, I don’t think much of them. I certainly don’t think they have the flexibility to mature as a human, magickally or not. I wonder how many drops I will get with this post.


Jason Miller, said...

Dude. I never said that ethics were not important.

I SAID that ethics did not have to be covered to death in every book on magic. There is a difference.

You pointed out that you don't mind when I talk about curses and such because you know where I stand, whereas Huson gives the impression he is ok with things that you find unethical. My point was that to demand that the writer of every book state their ethics is silly and takes away from getting down to the business at hand.

Where you got the idea that I do not believe that organizations or individuals do not need an ethical code is beyond me.

In fact, you took my course and there is a pretty large section on Ethics in at least one lesson.

Anonymous said...

That was a cheap and unnecessary shot at lawyers. I work in law and also in ceremonial magic -- I find there is far more prejudice against me as a lawyer than as a magician. Sheesh!

What is it, personally, that makes you dislike lawyers? Sure, they make a lot of money, OK -- is that all it is? Do you hate doctors the same way?

Anonymous said...

I'm not hugely invested in the argument about magical ethics that's going on in the magical blogosphere right now, but I am going to let you know that I've started reading your blog recently, and I plan to continue.

So maybe you're simply shifting your readership around from new (pro- ) readers from old (con- ) readers!

I am part of a "local" group of magic workers, though (local in that they're all within a 3-state area!), and I thank you for the link to the Association code of ethics. I think we're going to have to give some thought to a code of practice in the next few months... This will be useful.

Robert said...

Anonymous, my brother-in-law is a lawyer. He has been both a public defender and a DA. I find the ethical rules they work under as a not so much ethics but business practices that I would rather not be subject to as a defendant. If I could come up with an example at the moment I would.

Mostly though, I was just kidding.