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Western Magical and Religious Ethical Guides

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.satanism,alt.magick.ethics,alt.pagan,alt.religion.wicca,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
Subject: Western Magical and Religious Ethical Guides
Summary: A review of the ethical and moral guidelines of Western esotericism.
Keywords: ethics religious occult Western overview
From: (nagasiva)
Reply-To: (nagasiva)

[lost the lastest file - restructured and posted to this thread for review]



Important words to consider within my vocabulary: 'moral'; 'ethic'.  When
I say 'moral' or 'morality' or 'moralism' I intend to mean an association
with social judgement and behavior-prescription-schemes.  When I say 'ethic'
or 'ethics' or 'ethical' I intend to mean an association with personal
feelings and/or personal systems of self-restraint.  Thus 'amoral' to me
merely indicates withdrawing from judgement on another person's affairs,
while 'unethical' indicates to me that a person has no sense of what is right
for them.  I think it important to consider that some (like myself) don't
engage morality and may not construct a system of ethics, following our
intuition and the feelings of our heart.


Concerning popular ethical and moral guides within the Western occult 
and religious communities:


1. 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.' is a quote from
   _The Book of the Law_, a text claimed to have been received by Aleister
   Crowley in April of 1904.  Out of context this phrase has been used
   by all manner of individuals for a variety of reasons.  Some see it
   as an indicator of a new system of ethics of which they are proponents,
   some use it to identify themselves within a social movement given
   its initiative by Crowley, and some intend to duplicate Crowley's own
   usage of these words as what he called 'Thelemic Greetings' (that is,
   a magical commitment of energy and dedication expressed within social
   circumstances; possibly equal to self- and social-programming).

   As an indicator of a system of ethics (or lack thereof), there is no
   absolute and pre-defined meaning for the phrase, even when taken in
   context.  Crowley himself, when providing an overview and reflection
   of the phrase, claimed that all meanings are true if but the reader
   be illuminated.  I think it imperative to note that within the Thelemic
   community itself there is a quite healthy debate over the meaning of
   'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.', along with very
   many other similar and related phrases.

   To illustrate the range of possibility here, some consider that the word
   'thou' indicates the divine and that 'what thou wilt' is equivalent to
   'the will of God'.  Thus if one were to take 'do what thou wilt' as a
   dictum within these meanings, one would hear 'do the will of God'.
   Of course the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps that which is most
   popular among the *individuals* aligning themselves with these words,
   is that 'do what thou wilt' is very literal and simply implies that what
   is spoken of here is the ethic of doing whatever one wishes to do.  The
   more perspicacious among us will of course point out that it is somewhat
   important not to overlook the balance of the phrase ('shall...').  In
   any case, rest assured that, as with most religious and philosophical
   speculation and doctrine, there is no widespread agreement as to what
   constitutes the meaning of this phrase as a foundation of ethics.

   It should also be noted, however, that (perhaps expectedly) organizations
   which promote themselves as 'Thelemic' take a rather more conservative
   perspective on the meaning of that phrase when they offer any interpre-
   tation at all.

Personally, I understand that phrase as an observation of Natural Law, in
that we shall always do what we will no matter the consequences, and as we
accept this as the context of our actions so is our life made more peaceful.
From there of course we may wish to set about devising all sorts of moralistic
and ethical systems to guide and constrain us to 'proper behavior'.  I don't
choose to participate in these last, of course. :>


2. 'An it harm none, do what thou wilt' (and its variants) is often referred
   to within the Neopagan community as 'the Wiccan Rede', and it is quite
   important that it has this designated title.  While the more conservative
   will conveniently forget and the novices will perhaps be unaware, a 'rede'
   is merely a guideline, a recommendation.  It does not participate in
   moralism in the slightest, and those who use it in this way can be said
   to be interpreting the rede as a law where their predecessors did no
   such thing.

   There is some controversy about the meaning of 'harm' within the Wiccan
   community and the Neopagan community at large.  Those unaccustomed to
   philosophical speculation on the meaning of the Rede are quick to include
   all manner of damage to all of life, therefore making the guideline use-
   less except for suicidal ascetics (since we must kill to survive).  Others
   are more conservative and maintain that 'harm' need only mean unnecessary
   suffering, bringing into question what actions are 'necessary' and when
   an animal or plant 'suffers' prior to our consumption.  Needless to say,
   there are a few Wiccans who maintain that in order to abide this rede one
   must become vegetarian (if they have any ecological background), though
   I'm not aware that such is a trend among either Neopagans or Wiccans.

   Seldom is the word 'thou' used as a pointer toward 'the divine' unless it
   be 'the Goddess', since many Wiccans are formerly Christian with a dislike
   for anything resembling their upbringing, and when they accept 'God' at
   all, most are likely to identify this with the agrarian Lord of the
   Animals and Sun King and reject the transcendant divine altogether.  Thus
   'thou' is usually interpreted as implying the individual Wiccan.

I see the Wiccan Rede as one of the most useful of ethical guides, and I 
understand 'harm' to be intentional action or inaction which violates or 
coerces another being outside the parameters of the necessities of 
self-sustenance.  I have difficulties with the way humans treat other living
beings, and I think that that issue is representative of the controversy 
within the Wiccan and perhaps Neopagan community over what actions need be 
taken in order to completely follow the Wiccan Rede.

Judeochristianity and Beyond

3. 'That which you would have done unto you, do also unto your neighbor.' or
   one of the many variants on this phrase (the Golden Rule) is quite common
   amongst the doctrines of the world religions.  It is quite often taken
   as a moral and ethical rule, and for this reason I think it differs quite
   markedly in character from the two previous phrases.

My impression is that it is only of limited use, for our tastes from
culture to culture and even home to home may not make this a worthwhile
rule.  Example: I am depressed and want someone to kill me.  By the Golden
Rule I ought go out and kill.  Another: I take great pleasure in being
flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails (whip).  By the Golden Rule I should go
about flogging people.  Obviously these are extreme exceptions but they
do point out a problem with it as the basis for a system of ethics.

4. .  I have often thought that these and
   the teachings of Jesus Christ were the basis for the Christian ethical
   system, and that this was true *regardless of context*.  That is, it
   does not matter whether one is engaging politics or magick, these moral
   proscriptions and prescriptions are sufficient to guide one along the
   Righteous Path.

I prefer to interpret these as I'm able (which I gather is somewhat 
encouraged by Jews at least, regarding _Torah_), and to place what bits 
of wisdom I may have received directly from God BEFORE these teachings, 
so I have little use for systems of morality or ethics at all.  I 
therefore tend to see these as very important social rules which steer 
the behavior of those who do not yet have a deep relationship with Christ,
and while I tend to follow them within my daily activity (as I understand
them), I do not always think that they apply to me.


5. ' unto others as you would have them do unto you, but if your 
   courtesy is not returned, treat them with the wrath they deserve." 
   (_Satanic Bible_ paraphrase).  Anton LaVey compiled and added to 
   this book, and it has become a popular handbook for many Satanists, 
   though surely it does not encompass all varieties.

   this expression is a further development of both the moralistic or the
   the mystical systems analyzed above (10 Commands, 'harm none', or 'do 
   what thou wilt'), and Satanists usually aspire to approach some sort 
   of natural parallel with what is called 'the law of the jungle'.  the 
   latter is generally associated with the wild, though whether the type
   of justice typically associated with this by Satanists ("an eye for 
   an eye, tooth for a tooth") is truly something practiced in the wild 
   may be difficult to substantiate.

   often Satanists will associate this 'law of the jungle' with writers
   and thinkers like Machiavelli or Nietzsche, and there is indeed reason
   to do so.  their expressions as regard social power, politics and the
   'will of the strong' appeal to those who would resist the domination
   of the majority in protection of perceived weak, fulfilling a needed
   role in 'culling the herd of illness'.

while I do think that a 'the law of the jungle' is a noble ideal, I 
suggest that individuals who purport to desire this set about examining 
carefully how animals in the wild actually treat one another.  it seems 
to me that more often than not they tend to 'do what they wilt', and 
that this sometimes entails an abandonment of their normally congenial 
styles amongst kindred when they begin to feel violated (in body, 
territory or mating bonds).  

even when hostilities do escalate there is rarely true danger involved
in the conflict.  bluster, minor scuffles and quick resolution appears 
the norm, resulting in either a return to apparent social hierarchy or
a fragmentation of the community not unlike what can be seen in the 
history of countless human esoteric social traditions.  

the quickness of the scuffle and response is provided support within such
texts as _The Prince_, wherein Machiavelli urges the Prince, when faced 
with insurrection, to exercise swift remedial attention, sometimes in a 
violent manner.  yet he also warns that leaders who persist or over-
exercise this quality are likely to lose social face and trust, 
undermining their ability to persuade and serve the whole fruitfully.

in my life this principle supports showing my anger and upset to those 
who appear to be trespassing my boundaries in as tactful a manner as 
I'm able.  yet it seems best done immediately or very near the incident, 
so that my true feelings do not dissipate and the dispute is not prolonged 
beyond its necessary duration.  

resolution of personal and social boundaries can thus be effected both 
naturally and with integrity (Thelemites sometimes quote their text in 
support of such a civilized dispute: "As brothers fight ye!").  many 
counsellors for those who manage children and nonhuman animals indicate 
that this is the most effective method with the least confusion and 
disease.  showing our honest upset (wrath) is the essential mark of the 
Sage, and is exemplified by some of the most popular and widespread gods 
(as with the oft-raging Kali, the 'Mad Mother').

your comment and discussion of any of the above is encouraged.  cc me
via private email should you desire my participation. (nagasiva)
Revised kaliyuga 49960824 (c)


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