Why the 3 Fold law doesn't work for me

I'm reading When, Why...If by Robin Wood. It's a book on magical ethics and I thought I'd finally read it as I've had it for years. She mentions the 3 fold law which states that what you do, good or bad, comes back to you 3 times over. In Wicca, in particular, this specific "law" is observed. The author treats it as a natural law of reality and notes that if you harm someone you need to make it up to them three times over in order to avoid the consequences. I've never been Wiccan, and I've never agreed with this kind of "law".

I definitely would agree that there are consequences for one's actions and sometimes those consequences aren't fun to deal with, but I've never really seen anyone get three worse or better what they did, and indeed if the 3 fold law is a natural law of the universe then who ever is enforcing that law is slacking off majorly (especially when it comes to politicians). Similarly I don't agree with the concept of harm none, and do what you will, because the reality is that life is just not that clear cut. Lets say you do magic to find a job. You are harming the chances of other people getting the job you get by using magic. You may not intend to harm them, but nonetheless by choosing to do magic to help yourself, in just about any circumstance there is a potential for harm. For that matter simply walking around or taking a breath is harming life you may not see or be aware of.

I don't advocate going out and harming people maliciously. And there are consequences for your actions and choices, including ones you may never be aware of. The ones you are aware of are the ones you have to take responsibility for. How you take responsibility for them is up to you and thus it can be valuable to put some time into creating your ethics, as well as exploring ethics in general. Nonetheless, it's also important to recognize that there's no deity or law that's going to hold you accountable or keep tally of your actions and who those actions have effected. The only being responsible for that tally is you, just as you are responsible for what you choose to do or not do about the consequences.

In my approach to magical work, I advocate not just being clear about your desired result, but also the consequences could occur. If you are comfortable with those consequences, then do your magical working. If you aren't comfortable, then its time to do some internal work and discover what is making you uncomfortable. You may end up choosing not to do the working and that's perfectly acceptable as well. Whatever choice you make should be one done with conscious awareness and intention and acceptance of your responsibility.

Time Experiments, Ethics part 2

On Friday, my group and I did some work with time magic. The first two experiments we did were based off of Jean Houston's book The Possible Human. We did one experiment, where we would experience our consciousness as a unit of time, such as a second, minute, year, 100 years etc. Eventually you lose track of the units of time and enter into a non-linear state of experience with time. Each of us who did this exercise experienced a very similar state of mind.

The second experiment was one where we worked with three segments of time on a yardstick, as it were, but altered which segment of time (past, present, or future) was more prevalent during the meditation. It was an interesting experiment, again because of the state of mind it put us in, moving us out of a linear state of mind and into a non-linear state of mind.

Both of these exercises are useful ones to do, to put you into a very receptive state of mind for doing time magic. They don't take very long to do, but they condition your mind to push itself outside of the constraints of linear time.

The final exercise was done with the Goetic Daimon Purson. In the mythology I've created around my own use of time magic, Purson is a guide on the silver strands of time. I introduced him to my group last night, partially as a way of thanking him for his services and patronage and partially as a way of helping the people I work with learn a bit more about my own approaches to time magic. We used the tesseract board to evoke him and my experience with was of two trees twisted together. I thought that rather odd until late that evening, I came across Ipos, another Goetic Daemon of I'll be contacting him soon.

So an update on the Ethics book. I've started working on chapter one and it's coming together nicely. I got some responses on the first post, both from commenters on this blog and from a blog entry by Augogeides along the lines of arguing that magic is a technology and puzzlement that there's a need to write about ethics as it pertains to occult culture. It was also argued that ethics as they applied to magic boiled down to being able to determine if an action was ethical or not, regardless of whether it was a magical action or a non-magical action. That's the gist of it, or at least what I got from what was said.

When I talk about ethics and magic, I'm talking about taking a proactive approach to ethics, which incorporates practical magical techniques into how one approaches ethics in his/her life. However, I don't think merely determining if an action is ethical or non-ethical, and then making your choice to follow through on that action or not, is really ethics...or rather I think of that as reactive or cover your ass ethics, ethics utilized as a way of making sure you aren't doing anything wrong (or aren't getting caught). I don't really think of that as a useful approach to integrating ethics into one's life because it doesn't make ethics part of your life process and growth. Instead it's just a convenient code to check on occasionally to make sure you are in the clear. I have a lot more to say about this, but I'll save it for the book. Suffice to say my and Vince's approach and outlook on ethics and their role/integration in magic is decidely different from what I've usually encountered in the occult community.

Book Review: The Evolving Self by Mihayli Csikzentmihayli

I wish I could say this book really represented an evolution in psychology or how we conceive of the self, but the truth is, it really doesn't. If you read this author's other works, then this work can be thought of as half a step beyond those works. At times the author is judgmental, condescending, and whiny, and he doesn't offer much in the way of a concrete definition of self. The final few chapters predictably focus on flow, but don't  provide anything significantly new to the theory that he hasn't offered anywhere else.

Two out of five


Ethics and magic Pt the one

I've recently started work on another co-written book project, since the project with Bill W is temporarily at a lull and I've been meaning to get started on this new project for a while anyway. This new project is an interesting one for me as it deals primarily with ethics and magic. I'm working on the first chapter and poring over the very few books I know of that deal with questions of ethics and magic (including your work Gerald) to any degree of length. It's rather odd to realize just how few books there are on ethics and magic, and to note as well that most of what I have come across is rooted from a Wiccan perspective on ethics. I've found a couple other works that deal with ethics and magic from other perspectives, but the majority of western occult texts mainly seem to deal with practical applications of magic, with little concern as to the ethical ramifications of said practices. Chaos magic tends to take a fuck off attitude to ethics and magic, and a lot of ceremonial magic seems to be far more concerned with pomp and pageantry than examining the ethical underpinnings of what's being done by who. Even where I have found some focus on ethics, it's been written in a rather vague way, which speaks to a decision to abstract the issues, as opposed to dealing with them concretely.  It confirms quite a bit to me, in terms of some of the concerns I have about the occult subculture and where it is or rather isn't going in terms of evolving.

Is there such a thing as ethical magic? That's a rhetorical question by the way. I actually think there is such a thing as ethical magic...but how to define it or explain what it is...well that's the subject of a co-written book I and Vince Stevens are working on. Stay tuned for more information, as I'm sure I'll be posting more details and considerations as I continue this work.


Ethics and the Development of Will

"The Will" is an important component of Western Magic, if often ill-defined in practice and discussion. I have defined it as a personal coherence, wherein ones self is so unified that its directives and activities produce clear results - be that in magic or other activities. I consider it essentially the same as "Te" in Chinese culture, the Self of Jungian psychology, or the Freudian ideal where an aware Ego replaces incoherent Id and mechanical Superego.

Building Will, exploring Will, etc. is of course something important to a Magician - that quality is what lets us achieve results as well as personal well-being. There are meditations, exercises, goal-directings, banishing of demons internal and external, etc. that people apply to clear their minds and develop that curious, important quality.

One technique I find useful in developing the Will, is ethical self-analysis and adaption of ethical stances.

Our initial ethical stances and beliefs do not come to us by choice, of course. If we are lucky our parents, peers, and culture provided us a useful ethical system and encouraged us to analyze, understand, and improve our stances. Or if we're unlucky, we get something, to put it charitably, that is less than ideal and is more pure imprinting than anything else.

Unfortunately I think a lot of us aren't overly fortunate in our ethical upbringing and experiences. Ethical situations and issues can be unpleasant, constricting, and confusing because of our pasts and our culture. Trying to imagine a sane discussion of ethical issues on American News, for instance, is something I put in the realm of "extremely unlikely".

So, let's work on our own ethics. When one examines ethical situations and choices, when one decides ones stances and decides on ones codes, one can actually have very profound experiences:

  • To understand why one holds beliefs is very informative - even if at times one discovers unpleasant truths.
  • To confront unpleasant situations and analyze ones beliefs and actions is informative and strengthens one's resolve.
  • To make conscious decisions as to how one can and will behave - and why - is to take responsibility for oneself, providing freedom from unconscious imprinting and making choices conscious.
  • To understand how ones magical system(s) affect and recommend ethics helps one connect themselves to that paradigm.
  • The exploration of ethics allows the exposure of deep psychological structures so they may be leveraged, addressed, or healed.
  • Exercising and developing one's ethics also lets one be "inoculated" against surprises in the future where one can be paralyzed by an unexpected ethical conflict.

I myself find a good sit-down with ethically stimulating literature to be great for personal growth - a little Confucius, a book of classic tales and legends, etc. can provide wonderful fodder for consideration and analysis.

Working actively on my ethical development and contemplation has been helpful to my magical work, especially that of a psychological nature and in my energy work (obviously). I'm more comfortable with myself, more sure of my choices, and better able to rally my resources, and feel more 'in place' in the magical systems I work within. In short, it helps develop my Will.

So next time, before that meditation or work at banishing that personal demon, consider a read of a good classic on ethics or similar.