Ethics and Magic

Why is is that if you write a book on Hypnosis you can present the material and move on?

If you write a book on gun use, you can present the material and move on.

If you write about chemistry you present the material and move on.

If you write about cannibalism, you present the material and move on.

BUT If you write about Witchcraft or Magic you had better have a fucking graduate degree in applied ethics. Apparently if books on the craft do not have a warning to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, readers will suddenly become amoral sociopaths.

People, magical ethics are just like regular ethics. Sometimes people will do things that are less than perfectly ethical to get what they want. This is the world we live in. Get over it.

I once cursed one business so that another business could survive. Was it ethical? Fuck no. I did it because I had skin in the game. Whether I used magic to cause the health department to close them down, or released rats in their kitchen than called the health department does not effect the ethics of the situation.

If you are looking to authors of occult books to tell you right from wrong you are looking in the wrong place.

About Inominandum

Author. Sorcerer. Consultant. I have 30 plus years of experience making magic a reality for myself, my clients, and my students. For a complete background go to www.strategicsorcery.net
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22 Responses to Ethics and Magic

  1. Ocean Delano says:

    Amen!

    This topic has actually been on my mind lately. Ever since my early days as a Wiccan, I’ve always seen magic treated as something that was somehow more severe than mundane action…as if it counted more. By such attitudes, I could have punched someone in the face or set their house on fire, yet somehow throwing a curse at them was SOOOOOO much worse. Bullshit.

    Specifically around the topic of cursing, my current “compass”, if you will, is this: If I’d be willing to slash their tires or physically strike them…yeah, I’m willing to work harmful magic on them.

    I’m not even going into ethics on healing magic.

  2. Jow says:

    As someone who has a lot of gun toting relatives, I read “The Anarchist Cookbook” for the first time before age twelve. I never looked to it for a moral guideline. I looked to it to teach me how to improvise weapons, make a zip gun, and derail a train. As of yet I’ve never done any of those… Well maybe made improvised weapons, but not in a combat situation.

    Point is, I agree some knowledge is dangerous, and can be misused. But all knowledge is useful to have, especially if you want to defend against it.

  3. Brian says:

    I think that this issue is a bit silly also and usually points to something that is inside the person; perhaps something that they really should take a look at. Feeling need to inflict harm on another is a pretty serious thing whether that harm is physical, emotional, or magickal.

    I admit I’m a big peacenick but if pressed I wouldnt hesitate to punch em right in the kisser…the same follows for magickal action.

  4. Eoin says:

    Pretty much.

    I had a wee rant on this not so long ago… and again, you say it with far more eloquence that I did. Fucker. 😉

    I do disagree with the business “curse” as being unethical. It was totally ethical – it just might not have been congruent with your beliefs and values as they stand right now or then. Ethics is your personal discrimination of “right” from “wrong.” Given that you were acting in the way you felt would do the most good for you based on the information you had, it’s still an ethical act to fire off the “curse.”

    If I’m reading you correctly, you might not do that again in the same way. Fair enough – you have more/different information now (including your thoughts that the original act was somehow “wrong” through the use of the word “unethical”), and would likely do something different. Yet doing the exact “curse” again is still an option and is still a valid one – your judgment of the choice is where the ethics exist, not in the technique itself.

    So Huson’s talking about slipping someone a magical roofie. A valid technique, yet one I’d not prefer as it conflicts strongly with my value of preserving my own choices by preserving everyone else’s. If it was the only way I could do what needed to be done, I’d acknowledge my creative problem solving failure and just do it. And I’d make damn sure I watched the play-by-play on monday morning and picked every last bit of it apart so that I wasn’t forced into that situation ever again.

    My behavior in this example would be ethical. Your choice to curse a business is ethical as well. Not knowing right from wrong or not even acknowledging that there are consequences to your actions – that’s where unethical behavior exists.

    Corollary: “Psychopath’s Bible” and the rest of Hyatt’s snot-nosed tantrumist “Extreme Individualism” is hardly unethical either – it’s all about reframing everything back to “because I choose to.” The consumer wrapper is fashion self-victimization posing in black leather and trying to look cool while choking back the urge to vomit while smoking that cigarette of infantile dependence while shouting how non-conformist their conformity really is. Fuck. That. If you need to tell someone you’re a big boy now, you really aren’t. And there’s no way to teach someone that – it’s part of the mystery of sovereignty…

    TL;DR: if you need to teach someone their ethics from a book, you’ve already lost.

  5. Frater VL says:

    Jason,

    The problem is not the book, the content or magic itself; the problem is people. In the blogosphere there are some wide known sorcerers who praise themselves that they have the power to fuck anyone’s life, let alone those who I know personally.

    My family members have been attacked by some fucking assholes bad practitioners, specially those associated with ATRs and I have seen them suffer, just because some assholes have envy against my family and stupid things like that.

    Myself have been attacked by some “bad ass” magicians too, and as my skills have improved, I don’t hesitate in fight back severely against these “nice sorcerers”. So, ethics will be defined from the convenience of the user. If I attack someone with no reason, I consider that unethical; if I have to attack someone to fight back, hell, I just feel pleased in doing it.

  6. Nutty says:

    Just so’s I get this correct. You are saying that
    It is “okay” to teach someone “how to do magic” without teaching about ethics (which seems to be a corollary of Wisdom)?
    OR
    It is “okay” to teach someone “about magic – e.g., present the material and move on” without teaching about ethics (which seems to be a corollary of Wisdom)?

    The examples are not completely rhetorical.

    • Inominandum says:

      Nutty, I myself usually have a section on ethics concerning anything that I think readers will have some ethical questions or misunderstandings about. I do not however think it is a requirement, so yes it is OK to teach how to do a thing without shoving your own ethical beliefs down someones throat.

      One of my favorite books is Hoodoo Herb and Root magic by Catherine Yronwode. It has things in there that she pretty clearly thinks are ok, and which I find repugnant and would never do. I am however thankful for the info because:
      1. It is part of the magical tradition, and to whitewash it is to damage it.
      2. Clearly there are people out there who do it, and I may come accross situations where this is relevant.

      The biggest problem is that most of the books that have large swaths of ethical info throughout the book are presenting extremely simplistic ethical codes that fall apart the moment the shit hits the fan in a serious and personal way.

      I am not saying that traditions should not have an ethical code regarding magic – by all means they should. I am also not saying that ethics have no place in a book on magic – they do. It is not however a requirement. It is ok to think that you are writing for thinking adults who can make up their own minds about right and wrong.

  7. Andrew B. says:

    Loved the Sorcerer’s Secrets, at least in part (I realize) because you didn’t go deeply into the ethics of magic… and enjoying this blog now that I’ve started reading it.

    I think part of the reason it’s so important to talk about ethics and magic is that our society is so poor at talking about ethics without magic. When someone begins a magical practice, they’re breaking free of the morality that may have long ruled them — family, friends, Church (and its variants: meetinghouse, temple, mosque, synagogue, or pagan circle), tribe, culture, whatever. As part of a magical practice, one really can’t do anything except consider one’s ethical positions in the context of magic… and that leads to a larger sense in which ethics matters, both in and out of the magical circle.

    Sometimes, the ethical choice is to value one’s own investments of time and energy more highly than those of another. Yet it’s worth bearing in mind that many societies before our own (like the first Babylonian empire, the Romans and the Han Chinese) believed in magic. They also believed it was unlawful to use magical means to attack people just as it was wrong to attack them in the physical realm. Part of this is the nature of imperial governments — they want to extend their dominion and control over other realms, and this includes not only physical realms: it also realms of storytelling and mindset: what we in the Hermetic tradition might call the astral and mental realms (we have only to look at recent stories that the U.S. military is trying to find ways to control the ‘narrative of warfare’ to see how modern empires assert dominion over non-physical realms).

    Anyway, interesting article. Thank you for helping me explore the mindset of magical ethics a little more closely, and understand my own thinking of it.

  8. runeworker says:

    I think part of the asumption is that magic is, well, MAGIC!!! Fireballs and lightning bolts and charmed love slaves who will perform your every wish. Some of this comes from what I see as the fear that magic can’t do everything or that it has limits. But, if you don’t admit that it has limits, then you start thinking that magic is an unfair advantage or somehow gives you a skill set that the non magical using do not have access to. And then it becomes an issue of ethics, because if you have this unfair advantage and “you need to use it correctly” and so think more about your actions then someone who isn’t using magic. But, I think that isn’t really the case. Magic does have limits. Yes, sometimes truly amazing things happen following a spell, but most of the time, the results manifest in a way that is completely ordinary to the outside observer. It’s not going to win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket. It’s not going to get the boy if you don’t talk to him, or even make eye contact across the bar. It’s not going to get you the job, if you show up looking like a slob. The so-called “magical roofie” is not going to work if the desired paramour is not into you in anyway, and probably woudln’t be, whereas a normal roofie would have an effect whether they are attracted and interested in you or not.

  9. Well said! This idea that ethics has to be introduced into any book on the occult or even any teaching, for that matter, results from a need to have “rules” in the form of religious instruction.

    I find this very common in people who come to conjure/hoodoo from a neo-pagan or Wiccan background. I hear “hoodoo seems to be a do whatever you want system” or “are there a lot of sociopoaths in hoodoo” why? Because conjurers don’t express a three-fold law, or don’t warn against doing “darker” conjure. My response is always the same: ethics is a personally matter. Just because I know the poisonous qualities of an herb doesn’t mean I’m going to go around poisoning everyone because no one told me I shouldn’t do that. God gave me a brain, so I’d use it.

    Frankly if people need to be told what to do and what not to do as if they are children at the mercy of priests, then they don’t have the wisdom to be practicing the Art.

    • inominandum says:

      Ali,

      I am all for keeping the information on curses and things in Hoodoo for sure. Using cats book as an example, there are oodles of things in the book that I would never do and are done for what I consider terribly spiritually poisonous reasons, but I am glad they are in the book because the book is there to teach a tradition, not just the parts that I find acceptable.

      That said, you and I both know that there are more than a fair share of sociopaths in Hoodoo :-)

  10. WSA says:

    I smell a story underlying this post, and I suspect it’s funny! So, Inominandum, what prompted this post at this particular time?

  11. No more so than any other tradition. One need to only look to any nearby evocation forum to find the number of young minds seeking to kill off a rival or bind a lover. This phenomenon is not unique to hoodoo and am quite surprised that people seem to associate hoodoo with some type of amoral magical practice when in reality it is not, especially considering its undeniable Christian foundation.

  12. The Sorcerer says:

    More often than not, ethics seems to amount to “That which I like, which furthers me and / or the people I care about is good. And that which I dislike, which harms me and / or the people I care about is evil.” Ethics, when you get down to it, is tribal.

  13. ROD says:

    “Apparently if books on the craft do not have a warning to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, readers will suddenly become amoral sociopaths.”
    Yes, unfortunately in many cases seems to be.

    The case of Frater VL is quite common unfortunately. Most adherents in the ATRs are mercenaries of magic, pay them good money and will do anything, sorry if I upset anyone but it’s true. I lived with them for quite some time and the minority of the minority have some kind of ethics for certain jobs. In Cuba, Brazil, USA or wherever, it’s always the same.
    One who belongs to the ATRs must tread to go to war because for weapons, most religious Africanists have very sencible hand. And the head in very poor condition.

    • Inominandum says:

      A few points:

      1. People in ATR’s are more willing to work in a mode of representing a client – what is good for their client is good. That is not the same as being an amoral sociopath.
      2. I know plenty of people in the ATR’s who do not take jobs like this. I too have been around for 20+ years.
      3. None of that has any bearing on books about the craft. ATR people are not getting their moral ques from a Llewellyn book.

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