Lupa’s Den – Thinking About Dead Animals

Lupa's Den - Thinking About Dead Animals

Over on my LiveJournal, I have a significant number of furries on my friend list; I’m not a furry myself, but I enjoy the artwork folks post, and we tend to have other things in common as well. (Lots of pagan furs, for one thing!) Something that got posted a few weeks back was some controversy over “soft taxidermy.” Basically, there are a handful of artists in the furry community who take whole pelts and stuff them like plush toys. (There are also apparently people who stick bows and other cutesy things on them, but I haven’t yet seen these pics.)

This has caused somewhat of an uproar, even among folks I know who have various hides, bones and other animal parts in their possession. Even folks who are okay with traditional taxidermy have found the real-fur plushies to be creepy, especially as they sometimes seem to be treated like toys (as though being a trophy is any better . . ?). And it’s brought about one of my periodic assessments of my own use of animal parts in my spirituality and artwork.

For those who don’t know, for over a decade I have been creating ritual tools and other artwork from hides, bones, feathers and other animal remains. It’s been an integral part of my spiritual practice because an animist, as I work with the spirits of the animals who once wore those remains. And it’s something I’ve always struggled with, ethically speaking, because I know and understand that by buying some of the things that I do, I’m directly supporting the fur industry and the deaths of numerous animals. Granted, I also support the deaths of animals by eating meat, though that’s due in part to a metabolic condition in which I need to have meat protein to maintain my health.

I always have a few options to choose from when I do this periodic questioning:

  • Keep doing what I’m doing: Obviously, this has been my choice up to this point. When I talk to the spirits of the animals themselves, they express appreciation that someone has actually taken the time to work with their remains in a respectful manner. This is especially true of things I’ve “rescued,” such as old fur coats and taxidermy mounts. What I create is intended to be respected in a spiritual manner, to include the gravity of the fact that yes, these were once living beings, and they didn’t have to die this way. I really ought to emphasize that latter part more.
  • Only use secondhand and found animal parts: In some ways, this would be a more ethical choice, because there’d be less of a direct impact overall, and I’d still be recycling. Honestly, the majority of what I work with is either old coats and other reclaimed remains, or things that other people have gotten rid of. I actually buy very little of anything new. But still, there are animal parts that I do buy new, and I do own up to that.
  • Use up what I have, and then quit: I have a lot of things I saved up over the years. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I went to one of two huge flea markets on a daily basis, and almost never came home empty-handed. Plus I do a lot of barter, and occasionally people will just give me furs and other things that they don’t know what to do with because they figure I can make something neat out of them. So I’d still have enough to keep me busy for quite some time.
  • Quit entirely: Or I could just sell off everything I have that can’t be safely buried (hides, for example, are generally tanned with nasty chemicals that we don’t need concentrated in the soil).

But the thing is — and this is the selfish part, and perhaps the biggest motivator — I enjoy my artwork. I can’t paint worth a crap, nor can I draw, or sculpt. This is really the only visual medium that I’m any good at. It’s one of my biggest stress-relievers, and it’s also a small stream of income for me. But mostly it’s the enjoyment I get out of it.

Also, it is a significant part of my spirituality, and has been since just about the beginning of my paganism over a decade ago. I have some personal skins and bones that are in my own set of ritual tools, and I work with those spirits as well as their corresponding totems on a regular basis — from the skins I dance in, to my horse hide drum, to the bear skull rattle, and then some. Maybe it’s all in my head (and maybe all spirituality is wholly subjective and used to justify personal preferences), but the spirits enjoy working with me as much as I enjoy working with them. When I dance a skin, it gives its spirit the chance to ride my body. When I create something out of remains that would have ended up incinerated or left to hang on a wall as a trophy, the spirit gets a chance to be a part of someone else’s practice — or maybe a participant thereof.

Yet I do realize the physical, real-world implications of what I do. Which is why I still mostly stick to second-hand remains, and why I donate a portion of the money I make from artwork sales to the Defenders of Wildlife and other nonprofits. I know that none of these choices will have as much of an impact as if I were to quit entirely. But I have my reasons for continuing, and I follow those reasons with the understanding of the consequences.

I’m not going to go and criticize the soft taxidermists, or the people who wear fox and coyote tails as a fashion statement, or those who wear fur coats, because in the end I know that I don’t have room to talk. My spiritual and personal reasons for what I do don’t make me a better person for it. But they do add value to my life, and I balance that out with the knowledge of the impact of my choices.

©2009 by Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 – The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 - The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Theoretically, having more than one is intended means that someone else is forced to live with less than they are intended. This leads to suffering. One must ponder: How much is enough? Or, at the very least one must consider if that new house, car, or computer that one desires so much is worth having when one understands the effect that pursuing those things will have on oneself, as well as those who already have too little to eat. The goofs1 abhor this idea, for the entire economic well-being in modern times depends on people’s greed and the disregard of their humanity for the convenience of more things. In a way, it is painful for most people to admit that their consumerism may be indirectly responsible for the 20,000 people that die from hunger in this world every day.2

Keeping up with the Joneses and identifying with one’s possessions or income is the result of an illusion that corporate interests perpetuate. Presently, we can see the rewards of following such rotten advice, as the ever increasing number of unemployed in the U.S. find very little comfort in the fact that their jobs are being outsourced to overseas companies so that corporate interests can exploit workers by paying them less, or because the laws in those impoverished countries do not require American corporate giants to provide workers with medical benefits. How nice for them. We are expected to rejoice because now those exploited workers abroad can be consumers and buy Nikes. And when people abroad can buy Nikes, then that is good for America.

But what happens when Americans can’t afford to buy shoes, much less Nikes?

Greed is and always has been responsible for most of the world’s woes, and an ethical person will not perpetuate an evil that causes war, pestilence, hunger and misery to billions of his fellow humans. Instead, he or she will conceive a way to conduct business that is more inline with his or her beliefs, and will refuse to buy into that form of legalized theft and exploitation known as “capitalism.”

Consider how modern society seems to de-emphasize cooperation. Cooperation is dangerous, and the demiurge likes to perpetuate the myth of “rugged individualism” or the idea that every man is an island. Consider to what extent we have bought into this illusion — that we would warehouse our children, leaving them to be raised by total strangers in order to free ourselves to pursue some dream that seems more and more like a nightmare. How did it get this far — that two adults would consider having children in the first place, knowing that they wouldn’t have time to raise them because of the fixation with material things. Again, we must ask ourselves: How much is enough? How much of the violence, racial and religious hatred, and other increasing social ills could have been avoided by raising and educating our own children rather than putting them away like a book we intend to read later? The excuse has always been that we are working hard for their future so that they can have more of those material things we use as a measure of success (and doesn’t this seem to vindicate us?) when what they really need is the love and attention of a parent.

Our neighbors are subjected to human rights violations. Their doors are kicked in and we watch them from the illusory safety of our homes, thanking our gods it isn’t us. We must look out for number one. We mustn’t rock the boat by holding an unpopular thought, because that might interfere with our ability to collect more things. We stand by and do nothing because we are supposed to mind our own business.

We are worker bees, all of us. If we learned to cooperate, got to know our neighbors, and protested when injustices were committed against them, then we might come to realize that we control our own flow of honey, and that the demiurge cannot exist without its honey.

In the U.S., we like to think of ourselves as free. We like to think of Lady Liberty, in New York, as a symbol of that altruistic ideal. Yet, we seem to be collectively unable or unwilling to extend that benefit to others. China does not claim it was founded as a country of the free, but America does, and it resorts to hypocrisy of the worst kind by trading with countries like China. Many Americans don’t seem to give buying goods made by forced prison labor a second thought, since they individually benefit from the exploitation of those people. The less they pay for one toy, the more they have left to buy other toys.

On a very mundane level, we exploit others when we purchase items made by prison labor, occupied territories or the underprivileged because we expect to get these items at a much better price than we would if they were not being exploited. We benefit from their poverty. We even do it to our own countrymen when we patronize stores that exploit their workers by cheating them out of reasonable pay, hours, medical benefits, or when we employ businesses that promote, or pass up, individuals based on color, race, or religious beliefs rather than a good work ethic.

This planet has a Will. It is the Little Sister of Nuit. Should we patronize organizations, special interest groups, or individual wills when their actions violate global wellness? Of course, we could argue (and often have) that since we are all global creatures, any action we make, even actions that destroy our home, are in accordance with the global will. Crowley didn’t think so, and neither do I.

Apparent, and sometimes even real, conflict between interests will frequently arise. Such cases are to be decided by the general value of the contending parties in the scale of Nature. Thus, a tree has a right to its life; but a man being more than a tree, he may cut it down for fuel or shelter when need arises. Even so, let him remember that the Law never fails to avenge infractions: as when wanton deforestation has ruined a climate or a soil, or as when the importation of rabbits for a cheap supply of food has created a plague.

Observe that the violation of the Law of Thelema produces cumulative ills. The drain of the agricultural population to big cities, due chiefly to persuading them to abandon their natural ideals, has not only made the country less tolerable to the peasant, but debauched the town. And the error tends to increase in geometrical progression, until a remedy has become almost inconceivable and the whole structure of society is threatened with ruin.

The wise application based on observation and experience of the Law of Thelema is to work in conscious harmony with Evolution. Experiments in creation, involving variation from existing types, are lawful and necessary. Their value is to be judged by their fertility as bearing witness to their harmony with the course of nature towards perfection. — Duty

Remember: every dollar is a vote. Money is a talisman.

Footnotes:

  1. Noun. From the Hebrew Goph — a reference to the physical body. A derogatory term to explain humans that refuse to acknowledge their spiritual nature or humanity because doing so would mean they’d have to inconvenience themselves with the ethics such beliefs would imply.
  2. In the time it would have taken the average person to finish reading this book, 40,000 people will have died. Tomorrow, 20,000 more will die.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #4/13 – Ethics in Government and Business

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #4/13 - Ethics in Government and Business

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
— Albert Einstein

Initially, the ethics of government and business were to be examined under separate sections. I found it impossible, however, to speak of one without mentioning the other, and for good reason: government and business, at least in the USA, are one and the same. It would not be unreasonable to think of U.S. government as a Corporate Democracy.

I wish I could have come up with another country to serve as a better example of capitalism gone awry. It saddens me to no end to see the country I love, a country founded with such lofty ideals by such great minds, and whose government has been the object of poetry as an example for all other governments and freedom loving individuals, hijacked by corporate giants and special interest groups.

In the last few years alone, we have witnessed American intervention in El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Columbia, Panama, and South Africa. In Iran, our government overthrew a democratic government and replaced it with a dictatorship. The United States government funded Saddam Hussein for years, even before he came to power, and even stood by as he used chemical weapons against the Kurds, killing men, women and children alike. Panama did not exist as an independent country until the U.S. decided it wanted to build a canal there. Then there is the matter of Manuel Noriega’s ties to the CIA and the “Company’s” involvement in cocaine trafficking. In Chile, our government overthrew another popularly elected government, although it took two tries. And this doesn’t even touch on American economic policies.

Even though most American citizens would rather not know these things, they are not secrets. No form of self-imposed ignorance, such as blind patriotism or sentimentalism, will change the fact that the horrible events, and the senseless disaster that occurred on 9/11 are (at least in part) in some way the result of American foreign policy. Our leaders know this. Those poor people did not deserve what happened to them on that fateful day, and the individuals that caused it should be hunted down like the animals that they are. Instead, government leaders have seized upon this opportunity to launch huge military campaigns for corporate interest groups. This is precisely why we must learn and use critical thinking skills and ethics, choosing freedom to deliberate rather than swallowing propaganda, logical thinking rather than sentimentalism, and individual pride in doing the right thing instead of blind patriotism if we are going to prevent this from ever happening again.

For many people1, the United States is a failed experiment. Americans are deeply divided; even the propaganda fails to cast a believable illusion of unity, and there appears to be little hope for reconciliation in the near future. The very government that pretends to be a champion of freedom has used the fear generated by the attacks of that fateful September day to convince its subjects to voluntarily surrender what is left of their freedoms. What little culture there is appears to be quickly fading under the military boots of America’s so-called “Religious Right.”2 The liberals distrust the highest political practices and this will eventually erode whatever civility is holding this country together. Dialogue is useless because most people surrender like sheep to every lie fed to them by their religious leaders, such as the myth that America’s Forefathers were champions of a Christian government. It is similarly useless to recommend that they read the works penned by the architects of this country, because they prefer a lie of their own making to the truth.

Men that loved freedom and were willing to die for it built up this country: ethical men. Their voices can be heard while reading the founding documents, personal memoirs, and the letters they wrote to their family and compatriots. The United States has not seen its greatest day, and that day is only delayed by greed, lack of critical thinking and ethics, blind patriotism and sentimentality. We must be capable of thinking beyond our own needs to observe the impact that these lies are having on our families and friends, government, and ultimately the relationship and responsibility that you share with every other human on this planet. In corporate democracies, people vote with their money. Every dollar is a vote. Think of money as a talisman, and learn to use the power it affords you wisely.

So why apply ethics to business? The Libertarian will tell you that corporations are, by definition, designed solely to make money for their stockholders. In other words, a corporation’s “True Will” is to make money, and as such, it should not be subject to the same penalties or restrictions as regular people. The stockholders, lacking ethics, lobby to make a world where their corporations rule supreme. In such a world, they can do business without any mandatory compliance to environmental restrictions, workers’ rights or unions, without paying corporate taxes, and without shame for exploiting people at home and abroad. Consider the benefits afforded to HMOs, oil companies, energy brokers, and the like. The Food and Drug Administration, which was instituted to protect consumers from harm caused by snake oil salesmen, takes donations from the very pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs it is supposed to regulate. This is a conflict of interest at best, and accepting bribes at worst. Is this ethical?

Was it ethical for the Fox Network to persuade the court that they were not obligated to report the truth in their news broadcasts? Fox thereby avoided paying damages in a lawsuit awarded to a former reporter wrongfully terminated for trying to report the truth. Where were the ethics of this company? Where were the ethics of the judge that ruled in their favor? Knowing this, what can be said of people that still tune in to get their news there?

Is a company that was fined for polluting in one country ethical when it relocates its plants to other countries too poor to demand environmental compliance? What of a rancher that introduces a cow displaying symptoms of mad cow disease into the food chain rather than lose a few bucks? Is the sole purpose of business to make money, without concerning itself with ethics? Can a business justify its disregard for public or ecological responsibility because their primary objective is to make money for their stockholders? If a business creates an environmental disaster affecting people everywhere, should that company be responsible for cleaning up its own messes, or should the taxpayers foot the bill? Is it ethical when government forces the taxpayer to pay for the logging roads that will be utilized exclusively by logging companies in harvesting our forests?3

Consider capitalism4 and how governments embracing this paradigm conduct their affairs as businesses. Capitalism, in its present form, is concerned with the accumulation of wealth to no particular end. When the few benefiting from the money-grab have milked their own country dry, capitalism must, by necessity, spread its domain to other cultures in order to continue feeding their addiction. This is why countries go to war. It isn’t for freedom or liberty. It isn’t for a love of justice, but a love for more and more things.

Reflect on the present conundrum in the Middle East. In recent memory, we can trace this problem to an Iranian “bad guy” that wouldn’t play ball with the U.S. government. The U.S. government replaced this leader with someone they could exploit. This led to the American hostage crisis, where the radical Iranians kidnapped American citizens. Back then, Saddam was a “good guy,”5 and Reagan armed him to fight against the Ayatollah, who was a “bad guy.” When Saddam wouldn’t play ball with the U.S., President Bush Sr. dubbed him a “bad guy” and carpet-bombed his country. Later, when now Vice President Cheney wanted to do business with him, he was once again a “good guy” — until, of course President Bush Jr. needed a diversion for not being able to find Bin Laden — who in turn was a “good guy” when we armed him to fight the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the ’70s and ’80s, but a “bad guy” for having the U.S. bombed in 2001. In short, people who do what we want are “good guys” — but they are “bad guys” when they resist exploitation. Government can get away with these things time and time again when citizens suffer from historical amnesia and intellectual laziness.

The simplest way to make this point is to compare capitalist or corporate governments to ancient Rome. Much like today, Roman soldiers were deployed to other countries in order to feed some emperor’s hunger for gold and other luxuries. There is an obvious difference between Rome and our present world: Roman citizens benefited from Rome’s conquests, and the Roman government only catered to the greed of the emperor rather than business interests. Like those of yesteryear, today’s emperors remind us to be “patriotic” and “support our troops” while they send our boys and girls to fight — not to liberate some country from an intolerable despot, but to capitalize the country and exploit its resources. It is surprising that more people don’t protest these maneuvers, but it is even more astounding that they can find people to fight these wars in the first place.

At the same time, well-meaning soldiers that enlisted for a love of their country, or because joining the military provides them the only opportunity to have an education,6 spill their blood and the blood of the occupied people so that the friends of the commander-in-chief can enlarge their coffers. Presently, concurrent with the call for patriotism and support, senators plot the end of military medical benefits for those very same soldiers they sent to the desert, in order to pass those savings on to the hungry corporations (HMOs and other medical insurance corporations). That’s some support.

It is typical to blame human nature for our own individual failures or our inability to exchange the things we want to do for the things we should do. Killing others over resources is often justified as human nature. It is romanticized by religion, portrayed as some lofty spiritual goal. We force ourselves into the social acceptance of war when we accept it as a form of “patriotism.” To posit that true human nature is driven by a desire for universal brotherhood is to invoke the wrath of individuals who find it easier to watch the atrocities of war than to stand against it. To categorize war as human nature without a second thought is to deny the possibility that we may one day evolve beyond our own self-destructive behavior. It denies the existence of the True Will, making all of us slaves unable to choose our own course.

It is a good scam, if you think about it. Taxpayers foot the bill for a military occupation to benefit their business interests. Soldiers are exploited and are stripped of their benefits so that they will either have to pay to for the emotional and physical injuries that they incurred while fighting for the same companies that are now discarding them like broken tools, or else join the thousands of mentally and physically handicapped vets — a large majority of whom are homeless.

Elsewhere, genocide and ethnic cleansing occurs on our little blue planet, but since there is no economic benefit to corporate interests there, “the powers that be” turn a blind eye to the slaughter. To prove this point, we must simply consider how the U.S. has imposed trade embargoes on Cuba and Vietnam because they are communist7 while China, which is also communist and is a country with a horrible record and long history of human rights violations, can be awarded “most favored trade status.” The answer is quite simple. Capitalism has spread to China, and its emperor is willing to play the capitalist game to cash in on its resources of slave labor so that huge corporate interests in the U.S. can benefit by the cheap manufacturing that slave labor provides. American government turns a blind eye to the fact that the Chinese government regularly harvests the organs of living prisoners against their will for profit, even when the overwhelming majority of Chinese prisoners have been imprisoned solely for having spoken against an oppressive government.

Again, this form of capitalism has to spread abroad, once all resources in the homeland are exhausted. The relationship between the U.S. and China is tenuous at best and dangerous at worst, since once each of these countries have exploited one another they will once again have to compete with one another for resources, and today is a much more dangerous world that it was during the Cold War. And all the while, people in Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba die every day from hunger and lack of medical supplies because they refuse to cave in to capitalist pressure. This is what we can expect to see from ethically bankrupt governments (and businesses).

Footnotes

  1. Many of them Native Americans.
  2. Must we wonder why religion is so repulsive to so many people?
  3. The same forest taxpayers pay to protect.
  4. Capitalism is not unethical in and of itself. There are ethical ways of doing business. It is what is been passed off as “capitalism” today which is without ethics.
  5. Even though he was using chemical agents to genocide the Kurds.
  6. How fortunate for the military.
  7. The “red threat” is still an effective boogieman for fear-based societies.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Naya.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #1

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #1

 

A new column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Abramelin Operation

(Magic) A magical operation described in The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage for the purpose of achieving Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel, and requiring a strict six-month period of isolation, meditation and asceticism. It is said that a person that completes this operation can compel the compliance all demons.

Assmosis

(From the author’s personal lexicon) The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement from the asses they kiss.

Bhakti Yoga

(Yoga) Gives mastery over love, and leads to the control of the powers of divine love. Devotional Yoga.

Categorical Imperative

(Philosophy) In Immanuel Kant’s ethical system, an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire.

Cynic

(From the author’s personal lexicon) A sneering faultfinder; one who disbelieves in the goodness of human motives, and who is given to displaying his disbelief by sneers and sarcasm.

Elixir

(Alchemy) In alchemy and magick, a liquid version of the Philosopher’s Stone possessing the same ability to perfect any substance. When applied to the human body, the Elixir is said to cure diseases and restores youth.

Ethics

(Philosophy) The sphere of philosophy that deals with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: What is the right or wrong thing to do? Which is more important, the intentions behind action or the actual outcome? Are there any ethical rules that can be applied universally?

Gnosis

(Gnostic) From the Greek knowledge, meaning a Divine knowledge gained by the union of Wisdom and Understanding. The word is a reference for a number of religious sects that existed around the time of Christ. They believed in two deities: one who is responsible for the creation of the Spirit world, commonly referred to as “the Logos,” and the other who created the world of Matter, called “the Demiurge.” Gnosticism underlines a return to the Spirit world via the development of mystical knowledge, which leads to salvation. Today, the term “gnosis” has become somewhat fashionable, and seems everyone wants a piece of it, but not badly enough to actually attain it or at least use the word correctly. Consequently, “gnosis” has been interpreted in a lot of silly ways, and is used in some ridiculously incorrect ways as a mundane “knowing” (e.g. financial gnosis, real estate gnosis, etc.) by those want to try to make everything they do “magical.” Also used, incorrectly, to mean the “state of magical readiness,” a definition applied by Chaos magicians.

Sushumna

(Yoga) Sanskrit. Also referred to in Hindu texts as “the sustainer of the universe,” “the path of the universe,” and “the path of salvation,” it is attached to the center of the spine, beginning at the same level as the anus and extends to the top of the head. Sushumna runs along the center of the spinal cord or spinal column, passing through the chakras, and is said to carry Prana. The real work of the Magician or Yogi begins once Sushumna begins to function.

Utilitarianism

(Philosophy) A form of Consequentialism. The doctrine that an act is right only if the consequences maximize the general happiness and/or pleasure. A popular and controversial argument of Utilitarianism philosophy is whether the general happiness must be interpreted as the happiness of the majority.

©2007 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Veiled Issues #1B – In Defense of Bunny Hunting

February 13, 2007 by  
Filed under paganism, semi-regular, veiled issues

Veiled Issues #1B - In Defense of Bunny Hunting

Veiled Issues

Over the past several weeks, there has been a lot of talk online about bunny hunting. That’s good; talk needs to happen and debate needs to happen. But it’s when talk stops that things go bad. And in this case, talk stopped and attacks began.

I am casting no aspersions. There are a lot of people to share the blame here, no one person more so than any other. This article is not to point fingers or say “you were wrong.” This article only gives the other side of the argument, the one drowned out by the strident voices.

A lot of people have made uninformed comments, judgment calls, snap diagnoses and pop-psychology psycho babble feel-good nonsense. I have seen people call all bunny hunters bullies, mean, hatemongers, guardians of morals and craft dogma, and other names. These aspersions include me, since I have been actively hunting bunnies.

Over my time practicing Wicca and Witchcraft actively, I have been seeing people say, “There needs to be someone who will speak out against these idiots,” for the last 13 years. It started with Laurie Cabot and her insistence on wearing all black, all the time, and it continued into wanting to distance Witchcraft from the excesses of Stevie Nicks. It has continued right up to present day and such people as Kevin Carolyn (and his spells to protect the Loch Ness Monster), Silver RavenWolf (and her books), Fiona Horne (and her infamous appearance on Mad Mad House), right up to the Wiccans and Witches who appear on reality TV and shows like Tyra Banks. But somebody should do something about it, right?

Back in the days of the infant online networking between Witches with America Online, Prodigy and Genie, there was a certain amount of fluff that had to be tolerated. Information was scattered and dispersed between multiple groups and communities, with few books available. Everyone was referencing the same three-dozen text articles, and reading the Riders of the Crystal Wind book of shadows (in fourteen volumes). Finding non-fluff information was very difficult, especially since most bookstores didn’t carry anything that was relevant, and when they did it was in their “Religious Studies,” “Self Help,” or the “Philosophy” sections.

It became imperative to spread the best information you could find. Books like the Big Blue Book or Cunningham’s were about as good as it got, then Doreen Valentie got into publishing her works, and the Farrars wrote their works. [Editor’s note: The Farrars started publishing their works in 1981; Valiente in 1962. They predate Buckland and Cunningham as well as being their contemporaries.] Things started turning around.

But with these autonomous isolated communities, a problem started occurring. It was whispered about in the chat rooms, referenced in one paper, shared with a few communities, and that problem was the predator. The predator would come into a community and tear it apart simply for the joy of watching it burn. They would use and take advantage of others who didn’t know any better, under the guise of the tolerance of Wicca, to take the money, the self-respect and the sexual energy of the people they were supposed to be guiding. The insular nature of the covens only reinforced this, because other covens who didn’t have that problem would look at what was happening and say, “well, that’s not my coven, I can’t do anything about it. But somebody should do something about it.”

If questioned when the different leaders got together in a community networking event, they might say there should be a council that would keep track of predators like this and warn people, a “database of the shunned.” Everyone would agree that it was a good idea and nothing ever came of it. Stories would be shared, object lessons passed on to others, the injured might be taken to those who could help them, and everyone would shrug and move on until the next time. Again, people would say that somebody should do something about it.

And in every case, the community would be ripped apart. There were coven leaders suggesting that it was okay to do illegal drugs in the magical operations and who would make those drugs a mandatory part of the ritual (if you didn’t do it you would be expelled from the group in a time when just finding a group was a monumental task). Famous authors advocated in their books on Witchcraft that it was okay for a father to carve dildos and to use them on their pre-pubescent daughters in a public ritual, or show them how to use them (by hands-on training), or to give that same virginal daughter to the head of the Circle, even if that head was her father, to be used sexually.

Every time a story like this came to light, nothing was done. Suggestions of going to the police would be met with cries of “we police our own,” and nothing would happen. There was no kind of magical or societal retribution at all. If the community moved with one accord to shun the person in question, the one who was shunned simply packed up and moved to another area and started again, destroying the new community they met and using the new seekers they found there. Everyone would agree, again, that somebody should do something about it.

I have been a victim of these kinds of actions; it has taken me ten years to recover, and my daughter still has nightmares about it. My wife and I nearly committed suicide because of the abuse of such a leader. That leader is still in her position of power, using new members of the Craft, destroying communities and moving on. She is even lauded in publications and books as a major force for good in her area. But every story I have heard about her has been negative, such as allowing rape to occur on her covenstead grounds, which she knew about, and doing nothing either before, during or after except to blame the victim.

With the widespread use of the Internet, there is absolutely no excuse for bad information. Yes, the new seeker needs guidance, and there are groups online that will help aplenty. There are multiple people they can turn to and get good resources and information from. There are hundreds of websites that have accurate history, frank discussions about the inner workings of the Covens and the Mysteries to satisfy the curiosity of any seeker. There are websites that are the gold standard for those seeking more than just basic 101 information on how to be a Witch or a Wiccan.

Those going into the forums where new seekers are, who still claim that nine million women died in a 100 year period in Europe, or that all Christians are exactly like the fundamental bigots you see in extreme cases, or that all Wiccans are vegetarians might be uninformed, but are more likely trolling for flames and people to use.

When someone like this shows up in the typical forum or e-list, three or four people will counteract their information with accurate information, decent resources and good historical facts. Normally this is ignored or knocked down with, “Well, I don’t believe that so it can’t be true.” When more good information is made available through references online and off, and it is ignored and dismissed again — when it is decried, and the person trying to give true information is repeatedly attacked, there is a problem.

It absolutely stuns me that there are still people who consider this kind of baiting to be innocent ignorance. When multiple attempts to educate are shot down and deflected and dismissed, even when they are proven as facts, it stuns me that there are those out there who still think that it is no big deal.

I recently reviewed a book that was published by a Christian Publishing house that was about Wiccans and Witches and what we believed. It was designed to be a primer for those who didn’t know who we are and how we came to be. One of the biggest criticisms that I saw over and over in this book was that “Wiccans tend to be ignorant of their own history,” and “They believe in myths that fly in the face of all factual evidence, both archeological and anthropological.” If this problem is so bad that Christians are seeing it, then something is dramatically wrong.

As a whole, society views us as freaks, fools or predators, mainly because of people like this. Because they shout the loudest, those who spread inaccurate information, those who live in dream worlds of escapism, those who perpetually are the victims of something, and who have to find other people to blame for all that is wrong in their lives — these are the public faces of Neopaganism.

There is nothing wrong with believing in fairies, unless you insist that every single houseplant has a colony of fairies living in it and you must feed them all when you have people over. There is nothing wrong with casting spells to help in your daily life, until you only cast spells and do nothing else to bring what you want to you. Acknowledging your cat as a familiar is fine, but calling your cookbooks “grimoires” probably isn’t. And there is still nothing wrong with that until you go on TV on Wife Swap or Trading Spouses, or a show to get a new house, or a talk show, and spout that as what all Wiccans believe.

I’m tired of my religion and my way of life being trivialized and demonized by insane practitioners simply to get their 15 minutes of fame. I’m sick to death of people who have less time in the Craft than the age of my roll of toilet paper telling me what I must believe and do to be Wiccan. And I’m sick of those people who play up to those stereotypes.

I had this conversation at one point, and it made me physically ill when I was done:
“You think you are a witch?”
“Yes, I am a witch.”
“You really think you are a witch”
“Yes, I am a witch.”
“You really believe that stuff?”
“What stuff specifically?”
“You know, that witch stuff.”
“Yes, I do, because I am a witch.”
“You really believe you are a witch?”
And it went on like this for ten minutes, back and forth. I wanted to ask her, “Do you really think you are a Christian?”

This trend trickles over to every aspect of life. Out in your workplace as a Wiccan? Beware that your boss hasn’t watched Mad Mad House, or they may question your competence to fix that car, because Fiona did a spell to make her car run.

These kinds of attitudes keep being replayed over and over in the community and society at large, and they are affecting everyone.

This is the stereotype that is being perpetuated by these fluff bunnies. Not the typical stereotype of the nose-wiggling, green-skinned, broom-riding, black-wearing witch who eats children. But the stereotype of the ripped T-shirt, sullen, antisocial, angry and depressed emo kid who hates everyone, is under the illusion s/he can float over the ground, who is amoral and kills without a thought simply because they can.

I’ll admit it — I had my time as a fluffy bunny. I also had my ass handed to me multiple times by Elders who did know what they are doing. I’m a better person for it. I got so tired of what I was stating being criticized that I started looking up every little fact before I posted it, and I discovered that most times I was totally wrong about what I was saying. I stopped trying to teach others since so much of my basic information was wrong at that point. I have also spent time finding those Elders who kicked my backside and I’ve made amends to them, thanking them for their patience.

Please don’t misunderstand me. New people to this path are not fluffy bunnies. Let me state this again because it doesn’t seem to penetrate the brain. New people to the path are not fluffy bunnies. They are simply new. They are ignorant. They can be educated and they are desirous of education. They come seeking education and the get it for the most part. They also get advice and a support structure.

Fluffy bunnies are willfully ignorant, they are perpetrators of lies and inaccurate information, and they take articles and information from others without ever crediting the people they got it from or even asking if they can use it. They are those who have patterns of behavior including posting something that causes a negative reaction and then continue stoking the flames with more posts, deliberately trying to keep the fight going. Once it stops for various reasons, they start it again. Or they simply pack up and move to another forum and do it all over again. Anyone who disagrees with them on factual grounds is a fascist who just doesn’t understand them. They have rights and you do too — until you disagree with them. And somebody should do something! Right?

New people to the craft will never be targeted as fluffy bunnies unless they exhibit these symptoms.

Because of the spectacular failure of various education tools, the only tool left is showing these toxic bunnies as their true selves to the public. This means exposing their hypocrisy, their opinions on others, what they are teaching, their mood swings and insanity, and basically embarrassing them off the Internet. Everybody agrees somebody should do it.

As one toxic bunny complained at one point, this could ruin his/her reputation. To which I say, “Good.” Maybe the threat of having a ruined reputation will force them to actually start researching and teaching accurate facts. Somebody needs to open their eyes.

The supreme irony here is that if they would reform, all the persecution they hate would stop. But as long as they continue to attempt to teach, spread false information, tell lies and continue to be a danger to those who are truly new to the community, this kind of behavior from the bunnyhunters will continue.

Recently there has been an escalation of sorts. A group on The Bunny Trail (dot) Net has started putting up profile information on the worst of these. Once the last tool of embarrassment fails, the only step available is to enter that person in a database and warn others away from them. That way, when others go searching for information, it will be available.

Just as others in various communities have stated, it’s been needed for some time. Somebody should do it after all.

Frankly, I hope the members of The Bunny Trail succeed in their goal: warning people away from those toxic bunnies. The Gods witness I have tried my best and failed with some, and after countless attempts to communicate, even I realize when there is no use trying any more.

As someone who worships a God of Hunting, as a significant percentage of Pagans do, it is surprising how many people object to hunting online. I realize that the Lord of Hunting is supposed to be He that helps us get food, but isn’t the King Stag, as He is oftentimes called, also the protector of the Herd? Doesn’t He also drive off predators and make sure the new babies and the oldsters and those who are educating the next generation are safe to continue on their duties? Does the doe that has lived in peace, thanks to the King Stag, object to the blood on His hoofs and horns from the wolf He killed?

His mandate to us is to protect each other, to succor each other, and those who would willfully violate the directions and oaths they swore as Wiccan should be punished. They should be driven off. And if they continue to be a problem after being given a second chance, they should be driven off and not allowed to return. After all, somebody should, right?

So I call these idiots on their insanity, and I get told I’m a bully, that I’m mean and worse than they are.

I have been hunting in this manner for several months. There are those who are absolute threats to not only Wicca, but those who will be studying Wicca in the future. There are those who sully the name “Elder” and who claim things that no member of any tradition of Wicca should ever try to pass off.

There are those who, even though new on this path, “know” more than some of these teachers, and while most of their information is laughable if you have good references, in most cases, the new and innocent can be sucked into their cult of personality. The damage done, the dupe can take years to heal, and sadly sometimes they simply don’t recover. In the meantime, the toxic fool damages others, and the cry of “Something must/should be done! Somebody must…” continues to no avail.

I have made sacrifices personally. I have had my life threatened and my wife’s life threatened and my daughter’s life threatened by one of these toxic bunnies. I have had legal action threatened multiple times, and I have been told that if I ever meet these toxic bunnies that I will have my ass kicked.

It would be nice to be told, “thank you” by those I’m trying to protect from these predators. Instead, I’m hated. Instead, I am told that I am mean and that I’m no better than those I’m hunting.

Well, so be it. If that is the attitude of the group, I can live with that. It is not going to stop me, and I will use the tools at hand to succeed in this goal.

To paraphrase The Operative from the movie Serenity: “I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. There’s no place for me there; I’m a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.”

I look in the mirror every day and I wonder if what I am doing is right. I wonder if I am going too far. I check with others who are also hunters to give me a reality check, and I also slap those other hunters who are going too far. We keep checks on each other as to how we are behaving. We don’t want those who we are protecting to be hurt by us; we don’t want the innocent to be harmed. We work very hard to prevent that.

It is still a job that somebody needs to do.

For every toxic bunny that stands up and starts posting all over the Internet about how evil Christians are, there will be 500 Evangelical Christians who will see it and use that as proof that all Pagans are evil and hate them, and that we as a group should be put down and shot or put in concentration camps.

I don’ want to live in that world. And if it takes pissing off a few dozen toxic bunnies and a section of the Pagan world as well, I’m ready to make that sacrifice.

I’m somebody — Care to join me?

©2007 by Daven. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Eric “Daven” Landrum is a Seax Wiccan and the author of Daven’s Journal.

Veiled Issues #1A – Perils of, and Alternatives to, Bunny Hunting

February 13, 2007 by  
Filed under paganism, semi-regular, veiled issues, wicca

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Veiled Issues #1A - Perils of, and Alternatives to, Bunny Hunting

Veiled Issues

Okay, first things first. We like Daven quite a bit. He’s a cool person, and really knows his stuff when it comes to magic and paganism (as his many writings and correspondences attest). We just happen to be diametrically opposed to him on the subject of bunny hunting (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s good when you have intelligent, experienced people on both sides of a debate, because then you get a clearer view of the issue). However, we perceive bunny hunting to be an extreme reaction to problematic pagans.

Neither one of us has participated in a bunny hunt, which as you may have read from Daven’s essay, is the art of proactively preventing the spread of misinformation (including dangerous ideas, such as suggesting that belladonna is good for you) within the pagan community. A bunny isn’t just a newbie, but rather is someone who has access to good information yet remains willfully ignorant. Lupa, however, was a part of an online community for several months that organized bunny hunts, particularly that surrounding Elder Ravenfire (ERF), a twenty-two-year-old self-proclaimed elder of his own Wiccan tradition.

For the record, we have absolutely no problem with making sure bad information gets curbed. The same goes for dangerous people, such as sexual predators and plagiarists (who are dangerous for very different reasons). The problem is that since the pagan community is still relatively young and is still in its formative stages, there really isn’t any proscribed way to deal with such problematic pagans. Most of what we’ve seen has been the “spread rumors and shun” method, along with written diatribes (primarily online) about specific people (usually authors). Rarely is there any moderation or oversight on these efforts, which raises a lot of questions as to the legality, particularly of the written actions taken, but even more importantly when such actions go beyond ethical considerations.

Then there is the bunny hunt itself. This is a relatively new phenomenon that appears to us to be somewhat of a mix between the “spread rumors and shun” method and a good old-fashioned witch war. It’s not intended to be as such, but in its more advanced stages it certainly resembles these. For example, a bunny hunt may start with people who have knowledge and experience enough to be considered authorities being on a forum where a bunny is spewing all sorts of esoteric garbage. Said authorities will do as most sensible pagans do and correct the bunny’s misinformation. The bunny, not being a sensible person hirself, will take offense and get all pissy about the fact that s/he’s just been pwned.

This is where things can get ugly, and where we disagree with what happens next. Rather than ignoring the bunny and letting hir stew in hir own juices (and make a fool of hirself in the process), the hunters may respond to the bunny’s bitching and moaning (albeit in a much calmer, informed fashion). This causes the situation to escalate to a point where nobody’;s going to convince anyone else of the Truth. And this happens in regular situations as well. Ever heard of a flame war? Even if you only have one side actually spewing epithets, the other is still contributing to the argument by continuing to respond to the bunny. This may carry on to other forums and message boards, as bunny hunters may follow the bunny from place to place to prevent misinformation from occurring elsewhere. At the same time, they are also harassing that bunny, to the point that s/he may be discouraged from trying to learn because the bunny hunters show no sign of moderation or restraint in their activities. If there was any chance of salvaging the bunny’s potential to learn saner ways, the experience of being hounded across the internet may kill whatever was left. For sure, the hunters have the best of intentions and may not see what they’re doing as harassment, but as Taylor has pointed out before, the intent you have and the impact it has on others may be entirely different — and does the end really justify the means?

Still, so far there’s nothing here that’s really out of the ordinary. A lot of this is just the usual online politicking. However, it’s the latter stages of the ERF hunt in particular that have caused us to really question the effect of the hunt in general. For example, when Lupa was on the aforementioned hunting community, she observed increased aggression on the part of the hunters. The thing that finally caused her to leave was seeing several people discussing, with obvious glee, how long it would be before ERF cracked, since he was showing signs of mental illness. Is this how community leaders and authorities (and -dare we use the term — elders) are supposed to act?

The Bunny Trail

Now, since this was in a private community, we can’t really show evidence of this particular instance beyond hearsay. What we can show you is The Bunny Trail. This website appeared at the end of January 2007 and appears to be the result of the ERF hunt. The site mainly seems to be composed of ERF’s personal information, as well as a couple of examples of flame wars he’s been in as a result of the hunt, emails (without headers) from people commenting on ERF, and the author’s personal opinions on what s/he has observed about ERF’s behavior.

Some of the site has been edited recently; as of the time of this writing, the address and phone number had been removed; however, thanks to the joys of Google cache and screen shots we have an older version of the site showing the address and phone number. We’re not going to post it here (since that’s one of our initial complaints), but if someone absolutely must have proof of this you may contact us about the possibility of getting a copy.

Obviously, with the help of the internet you can find anyone’s personal information within a matter of minutes. What we disagree with is placing that information in conjunction with a bunch of negative accusations against the person (lacking in sufficient evidence, we might add from an editorial point of view). That’s just begging for people to harass the target, even if it’s just for the sake of harassment. And it’s only recently been that internet defamation lawsuits have been awarded in favor of the plaintiff2 so people often have the idea that they can say whatever they like without fear of being accused of slander or libel. After all, it’s the internet — people say all sorts of things, right?

However, we’re not here to discuss legalities; we’ll leave that to the lawyers in the event ERF decides to sue. What we’re concerned with are the ethics of this practice. For example, one of the criteria of determining a “toxic bunny” is people who are involved in slander or libel.3 To our minds, what the bunny hunters doing is dangerously close to exactly what they’re trying to protect people against. The main difference is their justification: that it’s okay for them to do this because they’re protecting the rest of us from the scourge of ERF.

And it’s that justification of actions that this whole thing seems to hinge on. It seems that whoever has designed the Bunny Trail site has determined for everyone else what a toxic bunny is. While some of these (like the aforementioned sexual predation and plagiarism, as well as teaching minors without parental consent) would probably be agreed upon unanimously, others aren’t so neatly defined. For example, “Those who continually rewrite history to suit themselves and with the goal of making themselves look to be the victim.”4 What the hell does that mean? Are we the only people who think that this statement could be interpreted in any of a number of ways just to get revenge on someone the hunters didn’t like? Granted, right now it would appear that the focus is still on people who spread dangerous information and otherwise are serious problems. However, the Inquisition was also set up to protect the Church and populace from dangerous people — and we all know where that went!

This introduces the idea that there doesn’t seem to be any moderation or oversight by people not belonging to the bunny hunting community. The justification of protecting people is also worrisome, because it brings to mind the Patriot Act and other decisions made by people in power to “protect” others. The question is whether protection is really occurring, and whose agenda it serves to have this kind of protection in place. Who protects us from the protectors? That none of these details have really been addressed by the bunny hunters indicates that in their zeal to protect us from others, they haven’t instituted a means to insure that someone is placing a systems of checks on what they do in their bunny hunting activities.

Additionally, let’s look at one of the details of the fifth piece of evidence: “Those who advocate illegal activities like drug-use.”5 So now they get to make decisions on what people do with their own bodies? I suppose that means that every traditional shaman, chemognosis psychonaut, and anyone else who happens to use peyote, psilocybin and other hallucinogens in their practice, no matter how long they’ve been doing so and no matter how respected an authority they might be, is a toxic bunny. There goes Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, a number of the essayists from the Generation Hex anthology, and a good bit of Shaman’s Drum magazine, not to mention traditional shamanic practitioners worldwide! And what about the right of people to have their privacy? Will “Mabon” start knocking on pagan doors, demanding urine for drug tests? Is an otherwise respected member of the community going to be blacklisted simply because s/he likes to indulge in a little Mary Jane now and then?

Okay, okay. We are exaggerating the effects. But our point remains the same: bunny hunting, no matter how well-intentioned, has the very real potential of leading to the ostracism of people from the pagan community who aren’t actually a danger to anyone. Whether this abuse of power leads to petty arguments turning into modern-day witch hunts, or someone deciding that a practice that they (but not all pagans) find unsavory is a problem, the result is still the same: Big Brother may soon be sporting ritual garb and carrying an athame, telling us how to conduct our spiritual lives and even tell us how we must appear in public in order to “set a good example.”

The Bunny Trail isn’t alone, either. We invite you to peruse the following links:

All three of these go well beyond correcting misinformation and into what is basically trolling and internet harassment. While ERF might not be the best representative of the pagan community, are people who stoop to this sort of petty, immature behavior any better? How is this benefiting anyone? Granted, these people don’t represent all hunters, either, but if this sort of behavior is not only condoned but encouraged among hunters, how is this any better than allowing toxic bunnies to run rampant?

Ethical Concerns

What’s not clear is whether bunny hunters have any ethical constraints or moderation placed on their activity. It seems as if the only authority bunny hunters answer to is themselves, and we question the ethics in such a case, because there is no one to provide an objective examination of what they are doing or provide some moderation on their activities should they start to go overboard. The bunny hunters have basically taken it upon themselves to police the pagan community, with no thought given to how they themselves will be policed for their activities.

What motivates the bunny hunting is also of concern. Suppose a bunny hunter claims, for instance, that hir god/dess has told hir to go and take all of the bunnies out. We have to wonder how this is any different from the far right evangelicals who make similar statements for their activities. Such claims that deity made me do it leave unexamined the hunter’s personal responsibility and why s/he feels personally motivated to do the hunting. In addition, this kind of reasoning leads to the fanaticism that has caused so many wars throughout history. It leads to dogmatism that proclaims that any other way than mine is wrong. We feel that neither fanaticism nor dogma has a place in Paganism and that such activities as bunny hunting must be questioned critically to ensure that fanaticism and dogma aren’t used as reasons for bunny hunting.

The motivation behind bunny hunting must be exposed and questioned. When bunny hunters feel it’s a holy or righteous mission they are on, they need to be reined in and questioned about how they’ve determined that motivation. It’s healthier to educate people, as opposed to harassing or punishing them. The ERF bunny hunt is an example of punishment as opposed to education. While early on attempts were made to simply correct his misinformation and prevent him from convincing people of some potentially dangerous things, we believe that in the latter stages the hunt was carried entirely too far. Not surprisingly ERF lashed back, no doubt because he felt cornered by what he perceived as personal attacks. When the bunny hunters view that as harassment, we want to ask how it justifies their activities and how they feel about the result and its effects on them. Do they spare any thought to wondering if this is how they’ve made people feel when they’ve felt the need to hunt them down and force them to recant their views?

Alternatives to Bunny Hunting

“Well, okay, Mr. and Ms. Smartypants Bunnylovers,”; you might be thinking right now, “if you know so much and you think that bunny hunting is so bad, what are you going to do about the problem?” We’ve thought about this, because we do admit that there are definitely problems that bunny hunting is an attempt to solve. And we do commend the hunters for at least trying to do something about the problems. However, we disagree that the method they’ve been using is a healthy one. So here are some alternatives that we propose.

1. Get more good information out there — We are, of course, biased towards this one because we’re authors, and we like infecting people with the writing bug (more reading material!). Since we both work 40 hour a week jobs at this point along with our writing and other independent business endeavors, we’ve had to learn to be good at time management. This is why we’ve tried to limit the amount of time we spent online, other than networking and checking email. If a person spends an hour a night, five nights a week bunny hunting, that’s five hours a week that could be spent writing. Believe it or not, there’s a lot you can get done in five hours, even if it’s in one hour increments — the trick is to have the discipline to actually sit down and write rather than getting distracted (including by the shiny internet), and it does take practice.

So what do you write? Books are our favorites, but articles work, too. The advantage of writing books and articles is that you not only get to convey information to a wider audience than your average internet forum, but you also get to meet many people in person and teach classes, which can be quite useful for showing bunnies why they might want to do some research. In addition, while anyone can argue on an internet forum, the arguments on forums are mostly perceived as just opinions. Writing your book or article, and most importantly showing your research, can validate and strengthen the claims you make.

2. You can’t save everyone — So you’ve written a bunch of online articles scattered across the internet, and your book is on Amazon, waiting for orders. You’ve promoted the hell out of both, and you’ve got 30 weekends a year scheduled for gatherings and classes at pagan shops. You’re doing everything you possibly can to make your information widely available. And then it happens — there’s a bunny! You counter hir argument with one of your well-written articles and maybe even refer your book. And you get ignored. Or even flamed.

Sometimes it’s best to just accept that people have free will, and they’re going to exercise it no matter what. You can’t make others’ decisions for them, nor can you change their minds if they don’t want them changed. And often, doing anything other than presenting basic information will be taken as an attempt to convert people. After all, conversion doesn’t have to be from one distinct religion to another; it can involve differing viewpoints within the same religion. Though hunters may not think that what they’re doing is conversion, it may be perceived as such by some because of the vehemence with which debates may be made.

You know that saying about horses and water? Yup. This is one of those times. Even when we’re just talking about newbies, you can’t force people to read your words or even accept them. Chances are good that if you keep pressing the issue, you’re going to come across as pushy, and turn people off. Sure, you may have the philosophy that it’s worth it if you get through to just one person — but if in the act of saving that person you turn five more away who had originally liked your work but got disgusted with your behavior, is it really worth it? There’s also something to be said for allowing people to make mistakes. Taylor learned magic on his own and made lots of mistakes over the years. But he also learned from those mistakes. The same can be true for any person, provided they have the room to make those mistakes. Correct misinformation when it can be lethal to people reading it, but if it’s just someone who’s trying to find hir way and doesn’t want to listen to you, let it go. That person will learn best by making mistakes and dealing with the consequences, as opposed to having some bunny hunter hover over hir shoulder scolding hir for everything s/he does.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from life, it’s that you can ultimately only be responsible for your own actions. That doesn’t mean that you should shut yourself in a box and hope the world either agrees with you or goes away; we need activism in many areas of life. However, at some point you have to accept that people have free will, and that no matter how much good information you throw at them they’re simply not going to listen. This is especially true if you try to muscle your way in. Being one of a couple of people on a forum who routinely correct bad information is one thing; being one of a half a dozen or more who follow a person around the internet in order to make sure s/he doesn’t dare say something wrong lest someone believe hir is counterproductive. No matter how good your intentions are, you’re still going to come across as a bully to at least some people. Trying to force people to believe what you believe or forcing them out of the community you’re a part of will eventually result in resistance to what you do, and not just from the bunnies you hunt. You can’t convince everyone to agree with you. For example, chances are there’ll be a lot of people who agree with us on this whole bunny hunting issue, and a bunch who agree with Daven, and probably even some who either don’t care, think we’re all bitching about nothing, or otherwise have another perspective on the matter.

3. Think (and speak) positive — And this is where we get into the next piece of advice — keep it as positive as possible. No, we’re not saying be all sweetness and light and unicorn giggles. But the way you convey your information is very important. You can have the best information in the world, but if you come across as a jerk (even if you didn’t intend to) it doesn’t matter what your content says. For example, at one of the many events we presented at we had several people come up to us and make some pretty outlandish claims, the kind of thing you hear in fantasy novels and roleplaying games — and they’d apparently been believing it for a good long while. Instead of jumping down their throats, telling them that they were wrong, we politely presented our own perspectives and experiences. We even did healing for one of the people. The upshot was that they bought some books and they left a bit more thoughtful than before; we’d had really good conversations with them. There’s no guarantee that they’ll stop being fluff bunnies, but chances are that we got them to think and left to them form their own conclusions, without forcing our views on them.

People are generally more receptive to a positive tone than a negative one, especially if they’re innocent bystanders. Additionally, the newbies that you’re attempting to save from the fluff/toxic bunnies may not really have enough context to understand why people are arguing, and so may side with the person they perceive as the “victim’ (even if that person really is a predator!). They may view you as the predator because you are coming so strongly, without consideration of how your presentation affects peoples’ responses to you. Remember that most professionally published books on paganism tend to deal less with debunking bad information, and more on actually providing information. The reason we point that out is that while you can debunk bad information, providing accurate information is more important than proving so and so is wrong and shouldn’t be listened to.

If you dislike the positive/negative dichotomy, think of it as constructive/destructive instead. Destruction might be easier to do, but construction creates longer-lasting effects. You can tear anyone down, but helping a person learn and knowing when to provide that person space can do much more for you and help spread the good information around. What needs to be remembered is that people remember how you presented yourself long after they may forget the content of your message. Show people a reason to dislike you and they will remember that and tell other people, but show them that you’re professional and chances are they’ll remember and may even come back to you for advice. The impact of how you present yourself is just as important as the intent behind the presentation.

At the same time, we do need to continue dialogue about what to do when someone really is a threat to others. In some cases, such as plagiarism and violent crime, there are legal avenues in place to deal with these issues. However, in cases where the solution isn’t so simple, there’s a lot of questioning as to what the S.O.P. ought to be. As the pagan community matures, we believe more solutions will be found, effective ones. We are still a young subculture, comparatively speaking, and problematic pagans are a part of the growing pains that can’t be ignored. However, while bunny hunting may seem like a great idea, it has the potential to become a toxic well all on its own.

We have no doubt that bunny hunting will continue, but we end this article with the thought that bunny hunters may also someday be hunted down for how they treated people. They would do well to remember that the judgment they cast on others can be cast right back. When there is no moderation, no sign that the bunny hunters answer to any authority other than their own, we must question the ethics and actions of the bunny hunters. Otherwise we risk the rise of a movement in paganism which is just as virulent as the evangelical fundamentalists and just as willing to take matters to an extreme that is unwarranted. By questioning the activities of the bunny hunters and monitoring what they do we can insure that they don’t set the standards by how someone is accepted in the spiritual communities we are all part of.

Sources

  1. ERF in Yahoo cache.
  2. USA Today Internet Defamation Story.
  3. ibid.
  4. Quote.

©2007 by Lupa and Taylor Ellwood.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #3/13 – What is an Ethical Person?

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #3/13 - What is an Ethical Person?

Notice that in speaking of destruction of the intellect, nothing more is meant than recognition of the vanity of the intellect in relation to the absolute; so also for conscience. Twice two still makes four, and killing is still murder; but all this is relative, and relates to the individual in his limitations, not to the absolute. This very simple truth, that the planes are separate, is the greatest of all the discoveries of Fra. P. It is a complete key to life.
— Aleister Crowley, Equinox I:8, p. 23-4

Is a person that does the right thing due to fear of religious, judicial, or legislative repercussions ethical? What about people whose behavior is based on fear of losing societal standing? Can ethics be a part of a person’s genetic makeup? Does a person will ethics, or can ethics be forced upon a person by society? Can ethics be used as a means to discover one’s true nature?

Society can try teach ethics (via formal education), and enforce laws by exacting penalties for failure to act ethically — but doesn’t this type of society risk becoming a fear-based society because the motivation for right action will be based solely on self-interest instead of a love for Light, Life, Love and Liberty?1 Furthermore, some laws require unethical behavior. Law is concerned with what is legal rather than what is right. Wouldn’t you rather be a member of a society composed of ethical citizens? People who act ethically out of their own desire to be ethical, rather than motivated by fear? People acting out of fear are not inherently ethical. Ethics concerns itself with action.

We have seen what occurs when unethical people use fear in order to make laws in our own society. Consider how in recent days Americans have given up freedom of association, freedom of information, freedom of speech, the right to legal representation, freedom from unreasonable searches, the right to a speedy and public trial, or the right to liberty.2 The message those laws and regulations send is that it is okay to do the wrong thing, even when it violates the lofty ideals upon which this country is founded, provided that it is legal or lawful.

Right thought leads into right action. Words mean nothing. So if we are to make intelligent decisions about other people, then we must ignore what they say and pay attention to what they do. If a person complains, but makes no effort to correct a situation or condition, then it seems clear that the issue is not really serious in that person’s mind because it hasn’t driven them into action.

What shall we say of a person who is aware of corruption and injustice in government but who ignores political involvement, such as voting? Is a person who ignores their knowledge of unpleasant things, preferring instead to justify inaction by believing lies when the facts are in front of his face, being ethical?

“Nevertheless have the greatest self-respect, and to that end sin not against thyself. The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.”3

“Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!”4

Ethics and laws are often opposed to one another. This is clearly the case when we see people who sacrifice their own freedom for their fellows, principles, ideals, or even ethics by breaking bad laws. Laws are not necessarily ethical, as when regulation and licensing prevent freedom of movement, freedom of speech, or making a living, when laws based purely on religious morality force non-adherents into compliance, or when government or big business (same thing, really) can make use of loopholes (not available to all) in order to avoid responsibility for wrongdoings. In fact, law is a bad model for ethics — unless, of course, Love happens to be the Law. What shall we say of a justice system that jails Martha Stewart, whose only crime was to sell her company’s stock when she heard that the market was about to crash, but lets off criminals like Tom DeLay, who committed perjury, smoked Cuban cigars during an embargo against Cuba, took bribes from casinos, and funneled corporate contributions to state campaigns during the 2002 election cycle? What pride can we have for our modernness with all of our medical breakthroughs if the best, most sophisticated bioethical solution for a woman on a feeding tube is to allow her to starve to death? Sometimes humans seem to get more excited by the possibility of cloning sheep than they are by advancing as an enlightened species.

The law should only be a marker for minimal standards for behavior necessary for a productive society. We must never forget the fact that laws are often created so as to have an unethical end, such as the laws justifying Apartheid in South Africa. Legislators that create and support laws like these also create a social disrespect for them. It is not unlike the disservice that a zealot does his religion when he uses it to justify his own means. Nor should a law’s popularity be a marker of ethical value, since an unethical law can placate the majority of people, as occurred in Hitler’s Germany. The absence of social agreement on many issues makes it impossible to link ethics with what is socially acceptable. The same is true of Thelema, but that shouldn’t stop us from discovering our own, personal ethical standards.

Ethics, on the other hand, are something more than forced compliance. One cannot be forced into ethics; they must be willingly embraced. But today, so-called “ethics” tend to focus on rules, and this is simply another form of control. Furthermore, ethical values should be in compliance with one’s True Will. This is not to say that it is impossible for groups of people to adhere to a unified code, or agree on a codified set of ethics in order to accomplish a task that would be impossible without the assistance of others.

Aristotle tells us that the focus of ethics is on character, not rules. In other words, how one tackles problems is a measure of a person’s self-worth. It reflects an idea of one’s value. According to Aristotle, the central question is what one should be, rather than what one should do, because if good character is in place then by necessity, good action will follow. Right thought leads into right action. Therefore, he tells us, we would do well by developing our character rather than trying to fit into some moral rule or law . . . unless, again, Love happens to be the Law.

Rabelais appears to have held similar beliefs. “Do as thou wilt” is the only rule of his Abbey of Thelema, for a person with good breeding will naturally do the right thing at the right time. Consequently, you won’t find any clocks in this monk’s Abbey, since according to him it seems ridiculous that man would regulate his life in accordance to a mechanical time-telling device, because the Thelemite (being possessed of the above mentioned good breeding) can only do things at the right time.

The Ego

The Ego is a topic of both metaphysical and psychological concern, and in many instances the line that separates these two fields of human study is quite blurred and becomes important to the topic of ethics. This is especially true in present times where pseudo-intellectuals have reduced the spiritual reflex and the domain of the soul to simple but comfortable well-known psychological impulses, without offering any real solutions to the problem of living a spiritual life in a world that demands selfishness and greed. God Is Dead. More on this later.

The following example is by no means all-inclusive. There are many paths that a person can travel to find spiritual freedom. The observation that follows is what I perceive as the ideal or best case scenario, and comes in part from watching people and reflecting on my own experiences on the path to self-discovery.

This piece necessitates an explanation of how the term “ego” is being used. For the religious creature, the ego signifies arrogance, self-importance, and unearned pride. For the psychologist, the ego is the function in the human psyche that organizes the different aspects of the Self5 in order to create a facade of wholeness and integration; it is a function of deception that serves to affect the individual and those around them. It is a necessary tool for survival in the world. Both schools of thought are correct, but again, neither offers a clue as to how to use this information to create a true method for gaining access to the Higher Self.

There is a false assumption in religious types that this ego must be destroyed. Individuals that have actually had some success in this area find themselves having to go through years of therapy to get it back. In fact, the religious insistence of defining the ego as an enemy that must be destroyed at all cost may be little more than a sinister strategy to control people. The ego questions everything and insists on individual freedom. It will not readily accept unjust or destructive demands of religious groups. It is an ally of the Will. Destroying the ego in order to achieve some resemblance of enlightenment is ludicrous because it is a component of the Self, created by the Self to interact with all other aspects of the physical universe.

For the purposes of this article, I choose to define “ego” as the narcissistic, automatic, habitual desire to see oneself as separate from the universe and from people within and without one’s sphere of influence. It isn’t anything evil, but it can be problematic when it is immature. In our present state of evolution, the ego is underdeveloped in most people. The ego can often be so successful in identifying the “I” from the “not I” that it can become self-centered and behave in ways detrimental to its own self-interest, as well as the interests of other individuals.6

The following stages have been oversimplified, but they serve to illustrate the point.

  1. The unrestrained articulation of the Ego. “I do whatever I want.” In the first stage, the individual has been duped into seeing his ego as the whole of the self. He enthusiastically surrenders to every whim promising exaltation or pleasure, often believing himself capable of indulging in destructive behavior without consequence. Here we may find people with unhealthy obsessions with drugs, alcohol, sex, or material and financial gain. They may have little regard for how their actions affect the lives of others. During this stage of development, there is little hope for progress in the area of true love or understanding toward others, much less for oneself.
     
  2. The awareness of the Ego in relation to others. “Doing what I want causes unhappiness for those around me, which may ultimately alienate me from others.” Here, the ego has come to realize others as intrinsic parts of its own existence and well-being. This realization usually comes as a result of trial and error and various failed attempts to act without consequence. This is the stage of most adults. The realization that they have hurt others frequently results in feelings of guilt, then backlash when the individual attempts to find redemption by immersing himself in religious or metaphysical practices. On the surface this appears to be a desirable step in the process of development, but in some cases an individual will develop a sort of psychopathology, because he may (as a result of all that spiritual practice) begin to see himself as better than his fellows. In reality, at this stage, this is nothing more than another mask the ego has spun out of arrogance. One vice has simply been replaced with another, much more palatable vice that pretends to espouse a higher, more lofty ideal. One may be capable of seeing the Holy City from this stage, but it is an illusion projected by the ego itself. Many religious people are inadvertently caught in this direful trap. Sometimes the use of drugs is employed to escape, or one may simply stop here, feel sorry for oneself, and blame problems on everyone else, rather than taking responsibility and moving on.
     
  3. The subjugation of the Ego to the True Self. “I am more.” After various attempts to achieve some relationship with the Higher Self, or to connect with something outside of its own delusions, the ego may actually be perceived at work, and the individual may become conscious of its capacity to deceive. Here, an individual may safely offer this false aspect of himself up to some higher cause or deity. The emotional attachment to the ego provides the necessary fuel. This sacrifice cannot be offered as an act of faith, but rather as a modest, cognizant, and intentional undertaking that adheres to the magical paradigm embraced by the individual. In our particular case, this must be a sincere and total sacrifice: an act of love under will.
     
    The ego experiences an inner struggle during this stage of development, as it is only concerned with its own survival and fears its own demise more than anything else. This is where our mettle is most severely tested. Courage and perseverance are the most useful keys. Some people have associated this struggle with “The Dark Night of The Soul.”7 To succeed is to embody the Law in the flesh, and achieve the inner peace during tribulation that so many mystics have written about throughout the ages. One becomes a Lover in the Sufi sense, as the absence of the ego8 makes it possible, for the first time, to see oneself in all things, and the way to the Higher Self is opened. The longer the individual continues to hold this position, the greater the reward, and the clearer the road to the Holy Land. Many have tried to write about this experience but have failed from a lack of a suitable language.
     
    This is important: The actual act of questioning something greater (as well as the actual act of sacrifice) does not originate with the Higher Self, or God, or whatever you choose to call it, because It already knows. The Ego itself is doing the questioning. Remember: The ego’s function is to question, and now we are seeing it exert itself in order to become self-aware. In this stage, we can observe the ego actively progressing toward enlightenment.
     
  4. Union with the Higher Self. In Western Hermeticism, “I who am most like himself” or “I am that I am” — in the Sufi tradition, “I am the Truth,” “I am Love,” or “I am the Law.”
     
    This may appear to be a contradiction, or even a similar condition to what is explained in Stage Two. The difference is that the Ego (having been completely united with the totality of the Self) is in fact an integral part of that Truth which is the Higher Self. The deluded ego described in Stage Two can only make these statements while thumping his chest like a frightened gorilla. At this stage, the individual makes these statements in humility, realizing that his Truth belongs to all.

    “Remember that this earth is but an atom in the universe, and that thou thyself art but an atom thereon, and that even couldst thou become the God of this earth whereon thou crawlest and grovellest, that thou wouldest, even then, be but an atom, and one amongst many.”9

    To explain the differences between the ego and the Ego, consider the following statements, as they serve to illustrate the two stages very well.

    • “I am God.” — One doesn’t become one, or come to full realization of this in the Gnostic sense, by simply saying it. It doesn’t matter how often one repeats it. Whether “God” is really in there or not, the host will never really know it because he or she is trying to assume something without knowledge. This is faith.
       
    • “I am not God.” — By beginning here, one is forced to separate those parts of his or her makeup which are made of “god stuff” in order to examine them objectively. After one has externalized the entire idea, one can go about assimilating it as one’s own attributes. When one finds himself indivisible from the Higher Self, the Ego sees no reason to cheapen the experience by broadcasting it.
       

    Here we approach the gates and stand before the two pillars flanking the door to the Temple: Love and Law.
     

  5. The Ego is assimilated by The Higher Self. “There is only Truth.”
     
    This stage marks Freedom in its ultimate sense. One is an agent of his own Divine Force and moves through the world confidently, without fear and completely trusting his newly found Divine guidance. The individual has been reborn10 into an existence where every experience is an encounter with the Divine. Here, and only here, can a person say of himself: “There is no God but Man.”

There is an idea that has become quite popular with pop-occultists, which espouses the concept of absolute happiness once one reaches this stage. I believe that there is a tremendous joy that comes from being able to view the universe beyond the veil of illusion and deception. Suffering and sorrow, however, are still there, but you may now appreciate them (and isn’t experience what Nuit calls us to do?) without the necessity of being emotionally involved with them, because you will know that these experiences only have meaning in the duality of the physical universe. Existence is Existence, and tears of joy are no less salty than tears of sorrow.

Only Eleven?

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.” — Mark Twain

Consider the Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood and what they mean. Some of them have a more obscure, deeper meaning. See if you can get a sense of how these qualities are necessary to our own personal mission of gaining knowledge of our true nature, or our world mission of promulgating the Law of Thelema through acts of charity and service.

Valor — Right action in the face of any challenge

Valor means to be valiant, brave and strong, both mentally and physically. It is the ability to face danger with firmness11 and courage. It is the power to do the right thing, stand up against wrongdoings, and it is synonymous with courage, heroism, bravery, gallantry, boldness, and fearlessness. But its Latin root translates into “value” and “worth.”

Valor is the state one is in when one does what must be done, when one understands and accepts the consequences of one’s actions, even if those consequences are painful. It means doing something with the foreknowledge that one may be hurt, may lose, fail or not make any difference at all, and then doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do. It is the ability to accept fear, and it is possessing the inner strength necessary to undergo trial.

Valor is not recklessness, however; we must constantly consider the source of our courage to make sure it comes from a worthy place. Shakespeare once said of valor, “When valor preys on reason, it eats the sword it fights with.” He was right.

The Rose Cross is a worthy symbol to explain the idea of valor. The Rose simultaneously symbolizes a sacrifice of our desires and the blooming of our True Will.12

Nobility — Poise and elegance in both word and deed

This term is very misunderstood. Generally speaking, the word “nobility” describes a class of persons (the peerage of British society) distinguished by high birth or rank, such as dukes and duchesses, or barons and baronesses. The Order of Thelemic Knights prefers to reward members with titles for displaying a state of being possessed by superiority of mind or character, and commanding excellence, rather than acknowledging individuals simply on the notion that nobility can be inherited. Therefore, the Order of Thelemic Knights defines nobility as a quality belonging to all individuals that possess these following virtues:

Discernment — Piercing all glamour to see the Truth in oneself and in others

Synonymous with discrimination, it is the faculty of the mind that distinguishes one thing from another. It is the faculty of the mind which demonstrates keen, acute insight and good judgment. It is a skill that, when developed, enables us to view the differences in people and the relationship between us all. Discernment is the power of penetrative and discriminate mental vision, and is capable of seeing a multitude of things that escape others. A discerning person is not easily misled.

This shouldn’t be confused with the nonsense that so many blathering idiots on the internet try to pass off as “critical thinking.” In fact, discerning people will not waste their time educating individuals that already know everything.

Pride — Having a true sense of one’s worth

True pride is free of guilt and fear. It never second-guesses. Many good, deserving people are generally incapable of feeling pride. The insistence of humility over pride by misguided Christian leaders has created a social neurosis where people are afraid to exceed or take credit for their hard work.

“O be thou proud and mighty among men!”13 Pride is a wonderful thing. It is what one feels inside when one has triumphed in the face of adversity, created beauty, acted correctly and honorably, or faced his own illusions. Acting ethically leads to pride, and so we don’t view pride as a vice but a virtue. Pride is not humble, and is often confused with arrogance.14 (Arrogance is indeed a vice because it is an attempt to deceive others, but most importantly, it is a great source of willful self-delusion.) To say it another way, pride is the ability of deriving pleasure, self-respect and confidence for knowing and accepting oneself without indulging in some delusion of adequacy that does not exist. It is the willingness to reveal something within or about oneself to others as an example to one’s peers, and taking joy in personal honorable achievement or the achievements of one’s comrades.

The virtue of Pride leads to an accurate realization of one’s self-worth. Its vice is an over-inflated impression which relies on the comparison of oneself with some other person perceived to be less worthy. A good example of malformed pride is clearly visible in today’s so-called “intellectual Thelemites”15, who take great pride in pointing out the faults of others and insist on the need for dialectic and critical thinking, while they themselves are completely clueless with regard to the “scientific method” or the proper tools by which to measure a person’s worth. This is the problem with individuals that are Thelemites and intellectuals in name only — they fail because they spend more time looking for faults in others than trying to understand their own. They are therefore unable to develop the tools and social skills necessary to make the criticism philosophically valuable. Their approach only serves to placate their petty needs for external validation. These “misguided prophets” often congregate in small groups where there is always someone nearby to pat them on the back and tell them just how great they are, but are also always on the lookout for some poor unsuspecting soul to add to their collection of “followers.” They often quote the great philosophers to prove their own limited view of the universe, and are completely impotent when it comes to grasping more lofty meanings hidden in the writings of the philosophers they claim to know, or when it comes to creating something original.

When it materializes as a person’s truth, Pride is a source of ethics, an elevation of character and dignified bearing, and loathing for what is beneath or unworthy of oneself — a deep and uncompromising sense of self-respect and noble self-esteem. When a doctor puts his career16 on hold to help the poor, he or she often does so because of a deep belief that he has the knowledge, know how, and gumption to do a job no one else seems willing or able to do. It may be that the way a doctor is forced into conducting business is at odds with the Hippocratic Oath he or she has taken upon hir graduation from medical school. Perhaps pride prevents them from the hypocrisy inherent in capitalist medical practices or in the radical idea that sick people should be patients and not customers, or that hospitals should not be instituted for the generation of capital. Such actions and thoughts originate with pride.

Pride comes from a sense of purpose, and a love of accomplishing the impossible. The more difficult the obstacle, the more lofty and ethical the mission may be, the greater the sense of pride. Just ask any soldier that is willing to sacrifice his life defending his kin or countrymen if he is proud.

It is pride that pushes and gives us a sense of accomplishment, even when beginning a task that we can never hope to finish, because there will always be someone dying from hunger or a lack of medical attention. Liber Librae tells us to work for its own sake.

“Do good unto others for its own sake, not for reward, not for gratitude from them, not for sympathy. If thou art generous, thou wilt not long for thine ears to be tickled by expressions of gratitude.”17

We may become overwhelmed by this work, and we may often ask ourselves why we even bother when one person’s contribution is so small in the face of such huge problems. Support from a fellow soldier during those difficult times can provide light, encouragement and motivation in the darkest times. Working together, people can make a noticeable change in the world, and this is the position of the Order of Thelemic Knights.

A prideful person with a strong ego is not threatened by being a part of something larger than himself, because he is aware of the resources that they are able to provide for the greater good. A prideful person takes pleasure in the knowledge that while he is a necessary component to achieving a communal objective, he is no more or less important than anyone else lending their talents to the accomplishment of the goal. People have pride in something they value highly. Pride is confidence stemming from the projection of one’s personal values. Our communal values are the reason that members of the Order of Thelemic Knights are prideful.

Coincidentally, a pride is a gathering of lions. A consciousness of power (and hence, responsibility), fullness of spirit, lust and sexual desire. Interestingly, an excitement of sexual appetite in a female beast.

Compassion — The vice of Kings!

Have you ever had a deep awareness of the suffering of another living thing and wished to help for no other reason than wanting to relieve suffering? This is compassion; it is a human quality. Pity is not compassion. Compassion manifests as a sensation of sorrow provoked by the affliction or misfortunes of another. Pity, on the other hand, is the act of placing oneself above those less fortunate. Compassion is everywhere; it exists in nature, and therefore, we consider it a spiritual quality. It follows, then, that it should be integrated as a spiritual practice.

Fidelity — Loyalty to oneself, one’s comrades, and one’s word

It implies faithfulness. It is adherence to careful and exact observance of duty, truth, honesty, integrity or a discharge of one’s obligations.

You cannot have an army without fidelity. Spiritual warriors must be faithful to their obligations, duties, or observances, or they are little more than loose cannons or mercenaries. They must stand fast by their allegiance with the principles they have embraced, regardless of the circumstances.

Hamilton may have described our Order’s approach best: “The best security for the fidelity of men is to make interest coincide with duty.”

Passion — To do all with love under will

Passion comes with boundless enthusiasm, ardent love, conviction, and certainty. It is a powerful emotion. People who are unable to take a stand one way or another are not possessed of passion.

A passion can be one’s desire, such as the passion for one’s duties, art, or lover. It is the fervor and zeal with which we approach our missions, the fire that burns within us, and the driving force behind any pursuit and the enthusiastic partiality for anything.

Strength — The body is the Temple of God

In personal terms, strength is a source of mental, physical, and ethical power to resist strain or stress. It is a form of control necessary to hold firmly to one’s ethical or intellectual position firmly. It is an attribute or quality indicating worth or utility; it is an asset.

Organizationally, it is the embodiment of protective and supportive supremacy, the capacity to endure or resist attack — impregnability. It is the gumption to carry out a mission in the face of opposition, the ability to work effectively, efficiently, and to produce an effect and secure results. Or, as Rudyard Kipling puts it, “Enough work to do, and strength enough to do the work.”

Each of us is strong in our own areas, each according to his or her True Will. When we put all of our strengths to the service of Our Order; we become an army. Force19 is the application of strength.

Discipline — Perseverance, that the Work may be accomplished

Discipline is the organization of behavior subject to will. It is any exercise that is expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces ethical, physical, or mental improvement or self-control. It is indicative of a branch of knowledge, such as the discipline of martial arts, yoga, or psychology. It also alludes to the rules regulating the practice of a church or religious order. It is synonymous with education, instruction and training.

When a man submits himself to a certain lifestyle or ethical code in order to remove badly formed habits and substitute them with good ones, he is exercising discipline.

Self-Reliance — Only a free man may walk our path

Freedom begins with the recognition of a person’s sovereignty. The next step is to use that freedom to self-govern, to choose one’s course. Independence and freedom come from the reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, and resources. When a man or woman is self-reliant, he or she does not become a burden to his or her Brothers and Sisters. On the contrary, such a person is an asset that can be counted on to do his own share of the work and contribute to the best of his ability. . . each and everyone in compliance with his own True Will. A self-reliant person will never need anything because he is self-contained.

Hospitality — To share what one has with others, especially those far from home

Cordial and generous reception of, or disposition toward, guests is synonymous with Chivalry and Courtly Love. Hospitality is a lost art form. Few individuals really understand manners and a proper upbringing, preferring to lump it all in the rebellion of society and modern culture. It is a display of pride, generosity and respect toward one’s peers that is infectious. Unlike charity, hospitality is designed as a gesture of mutual recognition of one’s autonomy. It can be best described by the Sanskrit word namaste, which is to say, “I respectfully greet the divine spirit within you.”

Footnotes:

  1. Consider the motivation behind paying taxes in the absence of equal representation. Is it done as a sense of duty for one’s country or social responsibility, or out of a desire to stay out of prison? If it is the later, then is it unreasonable to think of taxation as something akin to extortion?
  2. If this seems fictional I would encourage the reader to examine the so-called “Patriot Act.”
  3. Liber Librae, Paragraph 15.
  4. The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis III:57
  5. The archetype of personal totality; the governing nucleus of the psyche, and that influence that surpasses the ego.
  6. In many ways, the Demiurge and the Ego are synonymous because both take credit for being they aren’t, or having done something they haven’t.
  7. Often encountered in magical work, this is a non-pathological condition marked by depression and a lack of mental and physical energy. The energy that is not available to the conscious is re-routed and used in other areas of the mind, usually the imaginative functions of the brain. It is symbolic of the decent into Hades, an immersion in the unconscious. The experiences of Osiris, Christ, and Dante are examples describing this state. This condition is normal and even desirable, since it often leads the individual to a break in neurosis.
  8. The use of the word “absence” is misleading, since the Ego hasn’t really gone anywhere, it has simply transcended its home in the lower places. Also, this stage is what the Sufi calls “mystical love.”
  9. Liber Librae, paragraph 14.
  10. A process usually experienced following The Dark Night of The Soul whereby an alteration of the personality has occurred. Examples of rebirth appear in the world’s mythology in the form of The Transmigration of the Soul, Resurrection, and Reincarnation.
  11. This can be done with little to no though when one knows his or her True Will.
  12. Liber Tzaddi, paragraph 16
  13. The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis II:77
  14. Unearned pride. Pride has no problems with humility, whereas vanity, on the other hand, avoids it at all cost.
  15. “Nietzschean Thelemite” might have been a better term, but it would have given Nietzsche a bad name.
  16. And financial goals.
  17. Paragraph 11.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Poor Pagan

The Poor Pagan

Ever heard of the stereotypical “poor Pagan”? The one who barely lives paycheck to paycheck, drives a hunk o’ junk around because s/he has no credit, and never seems to get ahead? This stereotype, when it comes to money, is justified by the idea that being poor is virtuous. The rationalization is that it’s okay if you’re in debt, and/or don’t have much money — you’re keeping it real by not being too materialistic or capitalistic. But this virtue of being poor isn’t really a virtue at all. For many (but not all), it’s a rationalization for why a person is poor, so that s/he can feel better about his/her decision to stay poor. Pagans aren’t alone in this, but it seems that we are pretty good at providing reasons for accepting poverty over wealth. For those Pagans who are disabled or chronically ill, poverty may not be a choice, but instead an unfortunate reality that can’t be avoided. Even so I have a suggestion at the end of this article as to how we as a community can help the members of our community who aren’t as well-off because of situations radically out of their control.

While you don’t have final say on how much you’re paid at a job, or the social situations you’re in that can negatively or positively impact your life, you can decide what you choose to do with your money. Even the debts you pay were debts that you took on, whether it was to purchase luxury items on a credit card or to deal with an unfortunate situation such as a car accident. You may never have complete control over your life or the situations you’re in. But you do have control over your reactions and how you choose to deal with a situation.

You also have complete control of your attitude when it comes to money — but you might not learn you have that control until after you’re knee deep in debt and sinking further. The problem that many people face (not just Pagans) is that they aren’t educated in financial literacy, i.e. how money works. High schools generally don’t teach many classes on finances and other real-world issues and unless you decide to take courses in college about accounting or other related majors you likely won’t get the education there. At home, unless your parents talk to you about money and how they handle it you likely will only learn how they handle it from observation. (And, of course, if your parents don’t handle money well, chances are you won’t either if you use them as examples!) Most of us learn what not to do with money, and that through hard experience, which is the absolute worst way to learn about finances.

This is because you usually have to make costly mistakes to learn. Run up some credit card bills and you’re stuck with high interest rates and struggling to pay the debt off. Don’t put money away into savings or investments and you may find yourself working a fast food job in your eighties. Spend too much on books, video games, and other luxuries and you may not have enough money for the bills, therefore accumulating even more debt. Live paycheck to paycheck and when something big comes along, such as the transmission going out on your car, or an uninsured medical emergency, you’re not going to have any way to pay for it. None of those experiences strikes me as particularly virtuous or desired.

Pagans don’t have to be poor. I suggest, in fact, that we adopt the attitude that having money is a good thing. Money is good to have because it can insure relative self-sufficiency, and it can pay for unexpected situations, such as an accident or sickness. Money can pay for education and provide security for old age, and it can allow you to travel to other countries and experience other cultures at their source. Of course, those are just a few reasons why having money is good; I’m sure you can think of plenty of others.

We first need to look at our current attitude toward money. Take a moment and look at a bill or a checkbook or something else that’s financially relevant. Take a pen in your hand and on a blank piece of paper write down your initial impressions when you look at the financial artifact and think of your monetary situation. If you find yourself writing and/or thinking of money in negative terms then you need to adjust your attitude. The reason you need to adjust it is because your attitude about finances is sabotaging the conscious choices you make when you have money.

Because most people haven’t been taught financial literacy we usually have negative experiences with money. This negativity imprints and we soon regard money as an affliction or a problem as opposed to a means of offering potential security and/or freedom from bad circumstances. Certainly this was the case for me, up until recently. I always had some form of debt that needed to be paid off and yet no matter how I tried I just couldn’t seem to get ahead or feel confident that my money would last beyond the current paycheck. But one day, having complained about money for the umpteenth time, I happened to pick up a book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money–That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki. The core concept I got from this book was that I alone was responsible for how I spent my money and that my education about money and how I thought and felt about it greatly shaped my spending of it1. This seems like such an obvious point, but to someone who felt that money was an amorphous force that controlled his life, I found it to be liberating. No longer did money control me. Instead I could take control of it.

I suspect that many other Pagans, were they to examine their attitude about money, would come to a similar realization. Although this awareness is liberating, we still need to undo the negative attitudes we have. There are a couple of ways to start doing this and I’ve found both of them have really helped me get a handle on my financial situation.

Meditation, Magick, & Consciously Loving Money

My first solution involved meditation. I prefer using Taoist meditation practices that involve dissolving internal energetic blockages. These energetic blockages usually also have emotions, beliefs, and attitudes attached to them. By dissolving the blockages I can allow myself to feel those emotions, beliefs, and attitudes, and then consciously change them so that they no longer sabotage me2. However, any technique will do provided it allows you to enter into a state of mind where you are receptive to examining and changing your beliefs on a particular subject. The reason this is important is because our everyday mundane consciousness tends to operate on autopilot, which means we don’t always examine why we are doing what we are doing. By being contemplative and reflective about the problem we can see it from a perspective outside the everyday tunnel vision. This in turn can lead to conscious change.

Once you’ve examined the attitude and decided you want to change it, you need to determine what you will change it into. For example, I changed my attitude of money from dislike into love of money. I decided that I would love money and in return invite it to love me. Using meditation, I changed my memories of bad experiences with money into positive experiences where I learned to love money. I visualized myself in the various moments where I’d gotten negative imprints about money. I then visualized myself changing the actual occurrences into ones that were more positive in terms of how I handled money and felt about it afterwards. Through these meditations I was able to undo the negative imprints and create more positive ones that helped me feel more comfortable with handling money.

To reinforce this positive attitude further I decided to create an entity that would encourage my wife and me to love money and become more knowledgeable about it. My wife made a pouch out of blue leather (we associate the color with money). In the pouch we placed a couple of coins and other personal effects that represented our desire to change our attitude and approach to money. I then came up with a phrase: “I love money.” I took out the repeating letters, condensing the phrase into “Ilvmny”, which was now the name of the entity. To bring the entity to life we decided that the energy that would feed it would be both the spending and receiving of money. Every transaction would give the entity energy to perform its task, which was to help us cultivate better financial habits. Our first transaction was to go out and buy books on money management. After each purchase and every time we make a sale, deposit a check, or invest in stocks we hold the pouch and say, “Thank you, Ilvmny.”

Although my first solution was to use magic to help me change my attitude, I also knew I needed to learn more about money. It wasn’t enough to have a positive attitude about it. Something I’ve noticed in myself and many other people, Pagan and otherwise, is a decided lack of knowledge of how money works. Living from paycheck to paycheck illustrates this because it involves using money strictly for day to day survival with little preparation for the future. My second solution was to acquire financial literacy.

Financial Literacy: Making Money Work for You

When you live paycheck to paycheck, you’re working for money. This is what seems to happen to a lot of people. We go to work, we make money and we spend it, putting little, if any, aside for a rainy day or retirement. When a situation does come up we wish we had more money to solve it, even though it’s not really more money that will solve the problem — it’s making money work for you.

First, you first need to learn how money works. If no one talked with you about money and how to use it responsibly then what you need to do is educate yourself. This doesn’t have to involve evening classes at a college (and in fact that would probably be the most expensive and least successful way to learn about money in the immediate real world). Instead, I’d suggest going to your local bookstore or library and looking in the business and finance section. You’ll probably want to get several books on how to handle personal finances because you never want to get just one person’s opinion on any situation, let alone how to handle money. I’ll list a few recommendations at the end of this article, but you might also want to see what members of your family or friends have read about personal finances. Speaking of family, if you have kids, start talking to them about money as you learn. You can never educate your children about money too early. In fact, you may help them avoid mistakes you made and come out ahead when it comes to retirement and other financial matters.

Many people don’t pick up books on money because they think such books will be loaded with technical financial jargon and hard to read. But a good book will explain the different terms and principles in a clear and concise manner. They also may think that money management is boring. While it may not be as riveting as, say, a mystery novel, once have a basic understanding you may find that it’s actually an interesting subject to learn about. Even if you still don’t find the subject fascinating, it’s important to educate yourself about it. You don’t need to know the intricacies of the daily life of a stock broker, but knowing the basics of how money works and how you can make it work for you will make your life a lot less stressful.

Making money work for you means learning how to invest in stocks and IRAs, maximize your 401k plan, and getting the most out of your bank accounts. When you know how to make money work for you, it becomes its own magic, with the result being more numbers than you had before, provided you take advantage of the systems in place. For instance, with stock investment, you don’t have to invest stocks through a broker. You can invest in a company directly. This allows you to make your money work for you and know where that money is going. At the same time the wealth that is generated isn’t wealth you had to earn. Instead you let other people (i.e. the employees in the company) earn it for you. To use another example of making money work for you, there’s a lot more to a bank than free checking or savings. Do you know the interest rates of your account? Do you know the other options available to you at a bank? Do you know the differences between a bank and a credit union? Knowing the answers to those questions can impact how much your money works for you as opposed to you working for it3.

Ideally, when money works for you, you have money to pay your bills, some set aside in savings to take care of emergency situations and some applied toward investments for your eventual retirement. You want your money to grow in such a way that a lot of the money you make isn’t even money you had to work for. Your goal isn’t necessarily to end up rich (though that doesn’t hurt) but it is to end up financially secure, without having to worry how you’ll pay off your debt or take a day off work without pay or even retire. If you do want end up rich you may have to take some risks, and that involves a different level of financial literacy, which focuses on how to take those risks and hopefully come out ahead4.

Are We Getting Too Materialistic?

I suggested earlier that the poor Pagan stereotype is not virtuous, for the simple fact that being in debt and/or having to worry whether you’ll make your ends meet each week or month is never an ideal place for anyone to be in. But is having money evil? I think, in and of itself, money isn’t good, evil, or any other moral value we may place on it. It is however a force, one that must be acknowledged and respected because it’s one we interact with everyday. Even learning how money works won’t necessarily make you more or less materialistic, though it will help you become better informed about your spending habits.

Where the virtue (or lack thereof) comes in is with you and your choices. Once you know what your spending habits are you can choose to change them. If you find yourself spending most of your money on luxury items for yourself, perhaps it’s time to stop purchasing them. Find other uses for your money such as your child’s college fund or funding for that trip to Europe you’ve always wanted to take, but never had enough time or money for.

Another stereotype that Pagans are accused of is of not offering enough public services or charities that help the community at large. As Pagans become more successful with money this perception can be changed. When you have more money to spare you can put some of it toward the charity or public service of your choice. Better yet, you can help those members in your community who are poor and have no choice in it. Adopt a Pagan family or person who’s less well off. Donate money or food or other goods to help them out. Support your community and in doing so create a closer connection so that everyone can benefit. Remember though that money alone won’t solve the world’s problems or even that of a local community. Devoting some time to public service or giving some food to food banks or doing some other form of community work is equally valuable and worth doing.

Loving money doesn’t mean you’re a materialist and out to steal from the poor. Loving money merely means that you enjoy being prosperous and prefer it over other circumstances. You won’t turn into a yuppie or a snob by choosing to love money, unless you want to. For me, loving money isn’t about putting money before everything else; it’s really loving the idea that I don’t have to worry if I’ll be able to pay this or that bill or feel guilty because I wanted to buy the latest Jim Butcher novel. There’s enough to worry about in life. Security about money or bills or buying a book without clean out your checking account is something all of us can have provided we accept that having money doesn’t equal being materialist. Remember, it’s your choices that define how you think of yourself and who you are.

Money is a medium. Without it, we can’t easily survive. With it we can enjoy what life offers while establishing financial security for the rough times and old age. Remember that it’s not how much you make that insures a good relationship with money. It’s how you use the money you do make that determines if you have a good relationship with it. Even someone who doesn’t make a lot of money can still come out ahead by using the resources s/he has wisely. And you can always help other members in the community who aren’t in as good a situation as you are. None of us have to be “poor Pagans.”

Footnotes

  1. Kiyosaki, Robert T. (2000) Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money–That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! New York: Warner Business Books
  2. Frantzis, B. K. (2002) Relaxing into Your Being: Breathing, Chi, and Dissolving the Ego Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
  3. If you don’t know the answers I’ll leave it to you to do some research. It’s worth your time, trust me.
  4. More on this in a later article, as I’m still learning and researching!

Recommended Reading

© 2007 Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #2/13 – The Source of Ethics

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #2/13 - The Source of Ethics

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” — Albert Einstein

The source of ethics is the subject of much controversy and debate, and I hope that it will always remain that way. The religionists say that ethics are divinely inspired, while the atheists insist that ethics come from being human, the ability to empathize, and a mindful recognition of the connection between himself and his fellow man. In other words, they claim being ethical is a human trait. While considering this, one might see this as a paradox: ethics as a uniquely human trait illustrate the divine nature of man on the one hand, and on the other we must question how human a quality can be when so very few humans seem to possess it. Perhaps this is what is meant by “let my servants be few and secret1.” The Western Mystery Tradition has always been preoccupied with being more than human. If we look around, we can see why this is necessary.

The atheist blames religion for the world’s woes because he generally feels that people should do the right thing out of humanity or principle, rather than fear, and yet this is a terribly unfair assessment. Not all religion is fear-based, nor are all religious people acting out of fear when they do the right thing. One must learn to take the bad with the good. Despite the many instances when evil men have used religion to justify killing and torture, a lot of good has been done and continues to be done in its name. The notable movie personality Martin Sheen once said, “We shouldn’t be critical of Christianity, because it hasn’t been tried2.” If Christianity hasn’t been tried, then how much less can we say of Thelema? Even more disturbing is the idea that 2,000 years can come and go with so very few people ever adhering to their chosen paradigm.

Adherents of Christianity have, for the most part, only given lip service to the teachings of Jesus. It is true that people are healed, fed, and taken care of in dire times, but at the cost of their soul — the motivation for this aid has always been to convert. This made me think of the hypocrisy inherent in so many religious zealots who insist on representing their sect because doing so gives them a feeling of superiority. They appear to be better than others, but their actions do their chosen paradigm a great disservice. In other words, it isn’t the religious paradigm that has failed, but the adherents (if, after all this, we can still call them that) for not being sufficiently sincere to subject themselves to the inconveniences imposed by their chosen beliefs. They are only adherents when it serves them to reach their desired goals.

The religionists blame atheism for the world’s problems, insinuating that a belief in God is necessary for ethical behavior. Again, this is misplaced blame. They believe that people are incapable of acting rightly or honorable unless they are motivated by fear. Atheists can have conviction. Neither Buddhism nor Taoism requires belief in a “god,” and yet right action is a great preoccupation for adherents of both of these religious paradigms.

The ethical atheist may be more genuine than his religionist counterpart since the atheist is generally motivated by compassion, love, and/or enlightened self-interest, while the other (at least if he subscribes to the concepts of hell and eternal damnation) is largely motivated by fear and selfish self-interest. Perhaps the best way to explain the problem with religion-based ethics is to reference the 2004 US elections, where many people voted for the person that supposedly exemplified “Christian values” such as homophobia and a hatred for anything they saw as “liberal.”3 Crowley was clearly right about the shortcomings of so-called democracy4.

While it is true that religion can advocate high ethical standards, we would err greatly if we were to identify ethics exclusively with religious conviction. If ethics were confined to religion, then we would only see them in the actions of religious people. If this were true, then how do we explain the ethics of the atheist? Ethics are not synonymous with religion.

So what are ethics? I define ethics as a standard of right and wrong that dictates what humans should do in terms of rights, duty, and commitment to society, justice, or specific virtues, such as the Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood5.

Most importantly, however, are ethics as the development of one’s personal standards. That is what an ethical person does. Feelings, laws, and social norms often stray from what is ethical, so we must constantly test our own standards to make sure that they are rational and well-founded. The study of ethics is the noble endeavor of scrutinizing our own beliefs and conduct, and the work of ensuring that the institutions we shape achieve the standards worthy of those chosen beliefs. This is an application of ethics that doesn’t seem to be getting much attention today. To say it a different way, the study of ethics is important because it will guide us away from decision making based on peer pressure and the desire for external validation, and help guide our lives in accordance with our own personal internal compass. It doesn’t get any more Thelemic than that.

Nietzsche and many of his contemporaries went to great lengths to show that there was no such thing as because all that we do, no matter how well intentioned, benefits us in one way or another. In other words, there are no selfless acts. But we already know that. Perhaps the English journalist Gilbert Chesterton said it best when he wrote:

“The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues[…] virtues gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians care only for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful6.”

Nietzsche explains that any altruistic act creates weakness because compassion and charity are insults to the individual to whom they are directed,7 and that those actions, as well intentioned as they may be, cause a sort of dependence rather than empowering the individual to rise up or fail on their own strength. Many Thelemites sincerely believe that this is what will cleanse the human race of all weakness of body and mind and create the ideal man, and that this sort of disregard to the suffering of one’s fellows is to be credited for the greatness that humanity has already attained.

Crowley seemed to subscribe to this idea as well, and if one reads through his comments on Liber Al, this is how he has chosen to interpret some difficult passages of The Book of the Law. It is somewhat ironic that very few people seem to follow Nietzsche’s or Crowley’s advice of questioning all things.

  • Crowley was rather jaded toward the end of his life. His later comments reflect an attitude contradictory to what he wrote of the text when he was young and idealistic.
  • His views were, unfortunately, very biased against every idea associated with Christianity. Given his parents’ strict, conservative household one can hardly blame him for this, but the reader should keep in mind that he obviously had trouble with this and it may have colored his interpretation of the message he was receiving.
  • Neither Crowley nor Nietzsche have considered that compassion might be a human trait8 or that there may be a very good reason why people feel good when they do things for others. Nor have they considered how compassion, reverence, and empathy have contributed to human evolution. Humans help one another. As painful as it is for some to acknowledge, no man is an island, nor would we have developed communities, societies, or anything of lasting value without cooperating with others. Strength also comes in numbers.
  • It is illogical to demonize compassion, reverence, and empathy simply because of the selfish nature of altruism, since compassion, reverence and empathy can come from other places. And as far as the “weak” are concerned — without people like Einstein, who had trouble spelling his name until he was eight9, or without Stephen Hawking we may not have dared to venture beyond already known ideas about the nature of time and the universe. John Merrick10 exemplified courage and inner strength. It is difficult to imagine never having heard a melody made by Chopin, or the teachings of Crowley himself, had they been allowed to die simply because of their debilitating illnesses. Strength comes in many forms, and often it only becomes apparent later in life. “Every man and every woman is a star11.” This is not to say that everyone has something worthwhile to contribute to human evolution, but in an ideal world, everyone would have the opportunity.
  • Christianity seems to dictate that altruism implies that a person’s primary ethical responsibility is to others first, while egoism holds that one’s primary obligation is to oneself, and toward advancing one’s own self-interest. Nietzsche, Crowley and others have categorized altruism as a “slave morality” without any redeeming qualities. I also concur. Both Nietzsche and Crowley have noted that what appears to be an altruistic act on the surface actually furthers one’s self-interest, and they say it like it is a bad thing. A person’s self-interest must come first, and there are many ways to further one’s self-interest. For example, the Order of Thelemic Knights does not engage in charitable campaigns because its members are trying to learn to be altruistic; we do so because it furthers our own personal growth. That others benefit from our work began as a wonderful coincidence we’d like to keep.

Different Ethical Paradigms, or Why Kant We Just Get Along?

The five examples listed below represent the most popular forms of ethics used today in everyday life. It will become apparent that each has its strength and weakness. There are numerous more which could not be included here due to the limited scope of this dissertation. There are approaches within approaches. To make matters more confusing, every method described below could be used to justify unethical behavior.

In the Utilitarian approach, for example, there is the Ethical Egoist, who concerns himself exclusively with his own benefit, while a Consequentialist Utilitarian works toward the good of all who are affected by an action or deliberation12. Both look for a positive outcome or opportunity, but they differ on who should benefit.

Frequently, Utilitarianism will require that one do what is best for the greatest number of people, rather than what is good for oneself — but that isn’t to say that it cannot be used to justify something considered unethical by every other standard. For example, a Utilitarian could make the case that prisoners with life sentences should be used for medical experiments, arguing that discoveries could be made which would benefit millions of people of much higher character. This treatment of prisoners would not hurt the majority, and one could justify it by making the claim that the prisoners deserve to pay for their crimes in a way that would benefit society. If a prisoner should die in the experiments, then the scientists and doctors could endorse their experiments with the statement that, had they lived, they would be a burden to society since taxpayers have to pay to house, feed, and clothe them for life.

The bottom line is that whether we understand ethics or not, we still have the choice of doing the wrong thing or the right thing. Ultimately, we have to rely on our own self-knowledge, sense of self-worth, pride, integrity, and sincere effort to get us through tough decisions. You should also keep in mind, as you read this, that no one uses one method exclusively, but that they borrow what seems most comfortable to make their own ethical decisions.

The Utilitarian Approach

Utilitarianism was conceived by the English philosopher and political radical Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Jeremy Bentham spent most of his life critiquing law and strongly advocating legal reform, and came up with the system to assist lawmakers in deciding which laws were the most ethical. In a nutshell, the Utilitarian approach dictates that the most ethical decisions are the ones that result in the least evil13.

United States politicians and lawmakers tend to be Utilitarian or Consequentialist14 in their problem solving. The most important consideration is what effect the policy will have on the average citizen.

When using Utilitarianism to look for an ethical course of action, we might approach the issue by first asking ourselves a few questions. It might go something like this:

  • What are the options available to us?
  • Who will be affected by our decisions?
  • What benefit or harm will each course of action lead us to?

After those questions have been answered, we chose an option that will cause the least amount of harm and benefit the greatest number of people. In Utilitarianism, the most appropriate action provides the most benefit to the greatest number.

One of the clear shortcomings of the Utilitarian approach is that there is a tendency to ignore justice. Apartheid in South Africa comes as a good example in recent history, when South African whites decided that all South Africans, black and white, would be better served under white leadership. Those arguing in favor of this view claimed that social conditions declined in African nations that exchanged exclusively white governments for black or mixed governance. The proponents of apartheid predicted civil war, financial decline, food shortages, and social instability following the establishment of a black majority government. These predictions did not occur when apartheid ended. If it had, then the white government of South Africa would have been ethically justified by utilitarianism, in spite of its discrimination.

The Rights Approach

The Rights Approach15 is rooted in the philosophical works of Kant, whose focus was on the right to choose for oneself. This philosophy supposes that humans have a moral right to choose freely, and that this freedom of choice is what gives humans their dignity and separates us from objects that can or should be manipulated. In other words, every human should be respected and given the choice to live their life in accordance with that choice. To say it another way, it is unethical to demand that a person act in a fashion that they have not personally chosen.

“Every action is right which in itself, or in the maxim on which it proceeds, is such that it can coexist along with the freedom of the will of each and all in action, according to a universal law16.”

Some of the rights listed below might remind you of Liber OZ. In fact, Liber OZ is so close to the human rights this ethical approach dictates that it is entirely possible it might have come to Crowley as a result of Kant’s writings. See for yourself:

  • The right to truthful information. The right to be told the truth about matters that may affect our lives.
  • The right of privacy. The right to do, believe, and say whatever we choose, provided that we do not violate the rights of others.
  • The right not to be injured. The right not to be harmed unless we knowingly do something that warrants retribution, or we choose to risk such injury of our own free will.
  • The right to what is agreed. We are entitled to hold a reasonable expectation of what is promised to us by people with whom we have freely entered into a pact or covenant.

When using the Rights Approach to explore an ethical course of action, we only need ask ourselves one question: Does our decision/action respect the rights of everyone?

We only need to look at the deceptively titled “Patriot Act17 to see how our rights are violated in the USA. With the implementation of this act, Americans lost the following freedoms and rights:

  • Freedom of association. Government may now spy on religious and political institutions even if they are not suspected of criminal activity, discouraging individuals from pursuing their right to freedom of association. Specific groups have been branded “terrorist organizations,” making membership in them illegal.
  • Freedom of information. Government has closed immigration hearings and has held hundreds of people without charging them with criminal offense, and has applied pressure to public and civil servants to withhold once freely available information from the public.18
  • Freedom of speech. Government may subpoena information from public librarians (such as individual patron records, listing books that were checked out), and may punish them if they alert individuals.19
  • The right to legal representation. Government officials may monitor once protected attorney-client conversations in prisons, as well as denying legal assistance to Americans accused of crimes.
  • Freedom from unreasonable searches. Government may search and seize property and papers without probable cause.
  • The right to a speedy and public trial. Americans may be declared “enemy combatants” and imprisoned indefinitely without a trial.
  • The right to confront accusers. Not only can Americans be jailed without being charged of a crime, but also they do not have the right to confront their accusers.

In short, under the Rights Approach, it is clear that the provisions in the Patriot Act, which circumscribe citizens rights as described by Kant and enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, are unethical. Furthermore, the Patriot Act opens the door to future legislation further limiting or completely eliminating these and other rights. Government agencies are protected against accountability by way of increased secrecy and lack of judicial oversight, checks and balances.

The Fairness or Justice Approach

This method is very similar to the Rights Approach, but has its origins in the teachings of Aristotle, who states that favoritism and discrimination are unethical and unjust, because giving benefit to someone without a justifiable reason is unfair to those denied those benefits. He teaches that discrimination is unreasonable because it burdens people who are no different than those spared from the same burdens. The fundamental moral questions for using this method are:

  • How fair is an act?
  • Does it deal with everyone in a similar fashion?
  • Does it demonstrate preferential treatment or bias?

Consider ballot measure 36 in Oregon’s Spring 2005 elections. This measure amended Oregon’s constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It is a reaction to Oregon’s gay community in general (which rightly feels discriminated against), and specifically against Multnomah County’s ruling that denying marriage licenses to homosexual couples was a discriminatory practice that denied homosexual couples the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.20 These people pay taxes, and should receive the same treatment and benefits as other socially responsible taxpayers, regardless of sexual orientation. If a true separation existed between Church and State, this wouldn’t be an issue at all.

This political issue is a good example of a violation of The Fairness or Justice Approach and the Rights Approach described above as well as the rights declared in Liber OZ21.

Rules, such as the Equal Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and the like will always exist, no matter how well we evolve, so long as someone is denied the same opportunities as others. I realize that these laws are rather arbitrary, and oftentimes when misused they can be a source of reverse discrimination.22 As a result, many shortsighted individuals have rallied to put an end to these protections, but if they succeed, we will never see the true geniuses rise up above the rest because they will not have an equal field on which to begin to prove themselves.

Consider this for a moment. On the one hand, we have the head of a corporation who had the best education money could buy, who never had to struggle with paying rent or putting food on the table, who inherited his father’s fortune and who took over as the figurehead of the organization. On the other hand, we have a foreigner (or single mother) who comes to this country with little more than a dream, who lives in one of the many shanty towns, ghettos or ‘projects,’ who attends the overcrowded and underfunded public school systems and grows up to have his or her own tailor shop. Who is the superior being? Is the accumulation of wealth the sole genetic trait for strength, or are there others?

The Common Good Approach

This approach to ethical problems began some 2,000 years ago with the writings of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. It suggests that a person’s own good is inextricably connected to the good of the community. In other words, members of a community are duty-bound to the pursuit of common values and goals. In recent times, John Rawls has defined “common good” as “certain general conditions that are…equally to everyone’s advantage23.”

This methodology approaches social problems by making certain that the policies, systems, institutions, and environments we so often take for granted are beneficial to all. Affordable health care, public safety, world peace, justice, and environmental issues are all subject to consideration.

Furthering the common good compels us to view ourselves as members of the same community and questions regarding of the kind of society, order, fraternity or neighborhood we want to develop and how we are to achieve it are the dominant considerations. This does not mean that the Common Good Approach disregards the rights of individuals, but rather, it provides us with the opportunity to look for the things we have in common instead of the things that make us different.

For example, if you feel that the children and loved ones of politicians who start wars should not be exempt from fighting those wars, or that politicians should send their kids to public schools, or that politicians should live in the neighborhoods where they work while earning the same salaries of the average citizen living in the area, then you might be using the Common Good Approach.

The Virtue Approach

The presumption made by the Virtue Approach is that some ideals that will accelerate our own personal and universal evolution, because when one of us rises up above the norm, the whole of humanity benefits from the evolutionary leap. They make us better people by helping us to develop. We begin to develop a sense of the required virtues by reflecting on our own potential.

Virtues empower us to behave and act in a manner that leads us to our highest personal potential. Virtues, once embraced, become a characteristic trait. Additionally, an individual who has accepted virtues will be predisposed to act in a manner consistent with his or her ethical principles because virtue relates to ethics. A virtuous person is an ethical person, and those few that truly and sincerely embrace The Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood can inspire amazing changes in character.

Most of the questions one might consider while using the Virtue Approach deal with the compromises one is making to their character. For example:

  • What sort of person will this action make me?
  • Will I be compromising my character or betraying my beliefs or myself?
  • Will this action reflect badly on my chosen philosophical/religious paradigm?
  • Will this choice of action promote, or interfere with, my development?
  • Is this behavior befitting of the sort of person I am trying to become?
  • Is this behavior and its consequences in line with my True Will?

The Virtue Approach concerns itself with self-worth. It holds that one’s integrity and honor are reflections of the individual’s true nature; therefore, there is an emphasis on action and works. This approach to ethics is a very popular substitute for rule-based (deontological) and results-based (consequentialist) ethics. In fact, the Virtue Approach to ethics was created out of frustration with ethical concepts of duty and obligation. It was a reactionary response to the use of convenient, but unbending and ineffective, moral rules and principles that are often used as standards to all moral situations24.

How the Virtue Approach varies, from, say, the Utilitarian and Consequentialist Approach, becomes apparent when using the following classical ethical dilemma: A man’s wife becomes very sick, and he spends an astonishing amount of money to attempt to save her life. In fact, with the amount of money he spent trying to save one woman, he could have saved ten women he didn’t know. The utilitarian would say that the man should have used his money to save the greater number of people. A virtue ethicist would argue that placing the welfare of loved ones above the welfare of strangers is essentially good because it isn’t natural for humans to make life-and-death decisions based on some mathematical moral calculation. They would also argue that few people would want to live in a world where we forsake our own spouses to save strangers.

Applied Ethics, or Ethical Problem Solving

Unfortunately, no templates or guaranteed methods provide nice, squeaky-clean solutions to ethical dilemmas. Wouldn’t that be nice? Ultimately, we are all going to have to get our hands dirty, but maybe we can arm ourselves by looking at the facts, understanding ethics and choosing to be ethical so that we can minimize damage. First and foremost, cause no harm.

At the very least, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have all the facts?
  • What are my options?
  • What option will lead to the most balanced end?
  • What benefits will my decision provide, and who will benefit?
  • Will my course of action violate anyone else’s rights?
  • Will my action show unwarranted favoritism or discrimination?
  • Which decision increases the common good most?
  • Is my chosen course of action harmonious with my own ethics?

Footnotes:

  1. Liber Al Vel Legis — The Book of the Law I:10
  2. It is a little absolutist to claim, “it hasn’t been tried,” without simultaneously discounting the work of some remarkable individuals, such as Mother Teresa, for example. But it is easy to agree since very few adherents of Christianity are actually doing the work of Christ.
  3. Such as affordable healthcare, education, and scientifically-based research.
  4. “The principle of popular election is a fatal folly; its results are visible in every so-called democracy. The elected man is always the mediocrity; he is the safe man, the sound man, the man who displeases the majority less than any other; and therefore never the genius, the man of progress and illumination.” —Liber 194 — An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order
  5. Valor, Nobility, Discernment, Pride, Compassion, Fidelity, Passion, Strength, Discipline, Self-Reliance, and Hospitality.
  6. Gilbert Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1959), page 30.
  7. The Anti-Christ. Section 7. He uses the word “pity.” Many wrongly (and conveniently) lump pity with compassion.
  8. Either as a natural occurring phenomena, something evolutionarily useful, or both. Current research may be on the verge of providing scientific data to support this view.
  9. According to his mother, didn’t speak until he was three. Little Albert was terribly dyslexic.
  10. The “Elephant Man.”
  11. Liber Al Vel Legis — The Book of the Law — I:III
  12. Always look for a way to benefit everyone… including oneself.
  13. “Evil” is an emotionally loaded term, and this is why I have chosen to use it.
  14. Consequentialism is a branch of Utilitarianism that dictates that we should do whatever increases the chances for good consequences. What one does to achieve these good consequences is irrelevant. What matters is that the good results are maximized. It’s a counterpart of deontological ethics.
  15. I have refrained from criticizing The Rights Approach by referencing Liber OZ to make this point because I felt it would be redundant. Most anyone that reads this will already have first-hand experience of the tremendous potential for abuse in that document.
  16. The Science of Right by Immanuel Kant, 1790.
  17. The Patriot Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The name was carefully chosen in order to alienate those that disapprove of the gross restrictions and violations of constitutional rights proposed by the act.
  18. The Freedom of Information Act.
  19. Librarians have rebelled against this act by changing the way they keep records.
  20. These benefits include, but are not limited to, medical benefits for their lovers, better opportunities for low interest home loans, the right to visit an ill partner in the hospital, the right to make end of life care decisions for partners, the right to inherit in cases of intestacy, the ability to adopt children, joint filing on income tax returns and other social benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.
  21. But the most important philosophical issue in this debate is whether or not the State can determine who can and cannot marry in a country where the separation of Church and State is guaranteed. If that separation truly existed, then the argument would be between the heads of the churches, and not a matter for government.
  22. Reverse discrimination takes place any time that well-qualified native applicants are overlooked for employment in favor of people of color or a certain sex just to meet some arbitrary criteria.
  23. A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. Belknap Press; Revised edition (September 1, 1999)
  24. Marriage, as it is today, would be considered unethical in this approach.

©2007 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Citations in Magic

January 27, 2007 by  
Filed under magick

Citations in Magic

One of the aspects of the occult writing industry that often puzzles me is the lack of internal citations. There’s usually a bibliography in the back of each book, but in the actual text there are rarely any internal citations, which show how the author has drawn on the material from the bibliography. Instead the reader finds a book where the author is essentially claiming all the ideas for hir own, and in that process blatantly plagiarizing the works of other authors that s/he draws from. The bibliography is a token gesture; all the references are placed in the back of the book where no one will likely bother to look at them. If a person does decide to look at the bibliography to get an idea of where the author got hir ideas, the problem that’s encountered is that without the specific internal cite reference, the person has to buy every book on the list to find out where the author got a particular idea. Not everyone can afford to do this, nor does everyone want to.

Besides that, there is the ethical issue of plagiarism, an issue that both publishers and writers should be held accountable to. The publishers should enforce and demand that an in-text citational style be used by writers who draw on sources, and at the same time the writers should be ethically responsible enough to put the in-text citations in. There is no excuse for laziness on the part of any writer who draws on the ideas of other people. There is no recommended style of citation as yet for occult works. I prefer to use APA citation, but that’s a result of my academic schooling.

Ironically, the choice to not do in-text citations not only detracts from the credibility of the writers and publishers, but also cuts down on potential sales. If I put a quote in here and you find the concepts in the quote intriguing, chances are you’ll actually consider buying the book. If I don’t, and claim the idea as my own, you might see the book referenced in the bibliography, but with no in-text citation, you’ll have no reference or reason to even consider exploring the ideas within that book further.

Besides the publishing and writing issues, however there is a magical side to using citations that most people never even consider. Using citations can be a form of literary necromancy, when you cite the works of authors who are dead. It’;s also a form of contemporary magic when you cite an author that’s read now. Let’s consider each of these ideas separately.

When you’re citing an occult book, you’re investing in the ideas and concepts that went into it. You put more life into the concepts that the book embodies, and to some degree into the persona of the author. The persona of the author is a construct, not quite the actual person, but having an existence of its own. Yes, I’m a real human being, but I also have an author persona that people imagine when they think of me in context of my writing. Whether it’s accurate to the real me or not, this persona exists and it’s to that persona that the attention, the fandom and interest of people (all of it energy) goes. This process still continues even for a writer who is no longer contemporary. So long as a book is owned, read, and even glanced through, some energy is going to the book and author. And when that work is cited, awareness is brought to the reader and consequent potential interest arises that can be directed toward the cited source.

Likewise, a form of literary necromancy is performed in the case of authors that are dead. Though these authors are dead, the books they wrote and indeed the personae of the authors live on and can be invoked, to be worked. I frequently invoke such authors when I start to write a book, to show respect to them, but also to draw inspiration from them. Every citation of a book by a dead author is an energy gateway to the ideas of that author, and indeed an offering to that author that hir ideas will be respected and drawn upon and that people might buy hir works to further honor hir.

By extension, in taking this perspective and invoking the different authors you choose to cite, you are also getting their blessings, which in turn can help you improve your ability to write, but can also increase potential sales. It may even help you with the presentations you make, if you do workshops, as again you’re drawing on their blessings. Even if you disagree with their ideas, by citing other writers, you essentially are not only giving them credit, but also making sure other people acknowledge their work. Usually my invocations involve taking a bit of text by the author that I’m citing and saying at the end that I invoke [name of author]’s blessing on my writing that it might draw attention to hir works as well as my own writing. This seems to work and is respectful to the author.

However, you can make this more elaborate, right up to making an altar to the author, with a picture, copies of his/her book (autographed are even better), and any other relevant information you think will help with the blessing of the author. I use my bookcases as altars, since that taps into their purpose of holding the books. While you’re writing a book, use the bookcase as an altar, and when invoking the writer you can even leave out some food and wine.

Using in-text citations is in and of itself a magical act, and with the invocation, it becomes even more so such an act. As writers, we stand to lose nothing by acknowledging the shoulders we stand on and can even get some magical aid. As readers, we learn more about where a given author is getting hir ideas, specifically, and we can use this to learn more about a given subject.

On the other hand, not using internal citations disrespects the author you drew the ideas from, and disrespects the writing industry you’re in. You’re pissing in your own drinking water when you don’t responsibly cite another author. To apply this principle to magic, by not citing an author, you corrupt the energy you put into the writing, harming your own efforts and the efforts of others.

It’s important to use citations, regardless of whether you perceive the use of them to be magical or just important for literary purposes. It’s your responsibility as a writer (if you write) to acknowledge where you got your ideas. To not do so is an act of theft, and as such taints the energy of your writings, stains your name, and does dishonor to occultism. While we should never take ourselves too seriously, we should make the effort to respect the work of others. It’s my hope that more authors will use internal citations or footnotes so that interested readers can benefit fully from the effort of their work.

©2007 by Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.

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