Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Morality and Magic

One of the trends of the last century is the de-linking of morality and magic. Crowley of course was the biggest and most viable leader in this, but there were many others from Spare to Dadaji as well as many others. This was a necessary phase for magic to undergo because by the turn of the century the concept of proper moral behavior was tied to many practices that were harmful (civilizing "savage" cultures, child labor, etc), hateful (racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc), and in some cases not really about ethics at all (Forced closures on Sunday etc.)

I mention all this because one of the formspring questions that I did not answer started out by praising me as someone who sees that there is no link between magic and morality, and for essentially being a "shoot first and ask questions later type of guy. Although this person was praising me, that is not praise that I want because nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that when I teach protection magic or combat magic I do get into the subject of cursing. I even have my own ritual: "Inominandum's Shock and Awe Fuck Your Shit Up to Death Curse". I have not however actually used the ritual. I invented it as a teaching exercise. I feel that deliberately not covering cursing and harmful sorcery damages the tradition of magic overall and ill prepares people for what they may encounter in real life.

The part of the classes that everyone seems to miss however is when I say that there is almost always a better way. I try never to jump to harmful magic when I can avoid it. Even if someone or something is deliberately attacking me, I rarely attack back, preferring to let defense be my offense. In fact I usually try to make supplicating offerings on behalf of the person or spirit in question, that they let go of their anger. I also sometimes try to rein back some of the protectors that surround me because honestly, they can over react a little. I have regretted overzealous protection magic more than once.

I have used jinxes to confuse or dominate people in the course of business dealings where not doing so would cause greater harm. In a few cases I even did so just because I wanted my side to win and theirs to loose. These were not morally clean actions however and I would not pretend that they were.

The truth is that I do see a link between magic and morality. Compassion, truth, love, kindness, etc are all natural products of understanding and gnosis. Hatred, Violence, Lying, Theft, Selfishness, etc are products of ignorance. While in a state of pure contemplation it is true that actions have no Karma, however, most of us are not existing in that state all the time. One set of actions drives us towards realization, the other set away from it. I have seen this happen over and over.

Yes, you can draw power from negative emotions to fuel magic, but it is nothing compared to the power that you can effortlessly produce by cutting through those emotions and understanding the basis of reality itself.


Rufus Opus said...

Well said. I'm struggling with how to write things lately because there are things I know how to do that are harmful, and I don't want people to do them, but at the same time, I feel obligated to include everything.

I think my responsibility as an author is to equip the reader with the useful information they will need while pursuing the topics I cover.

Brother Christopher said...

That seems like an odd comment, because I think you are very ethical just based from reading the sorcerer's secrets.

I have often sought to engage other practitioners of magic in discussions about ethics and morality, but it does seem to be a subject that they run away from, usually in two different ways. One seems to be the camp that talks about Karma and the Rule of Three, and the other one seems to ignore all ethical considerations completely.

Grey Catsidhe said...

Excellent post! It's really helped me to articulate my thoughts on curses. Thanks for that!

Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood said...

Having recently taken your workshop, this person's comment leaves me puzzled. I certainly didn't come away from it with the opinion that there was a blurring of the line between morality and magick.

If anything, I felt that you presented the benefits of having a good line of defense rather than a "curse in a heartbeat", or lack thereof, approach.

Psyche said...

I'm not sure I agree about the distinction between morality and magickal practice. Prior to the twentieth century it was assumed in most "Western" countries that you were some denomination of Christian.

However, after Darwin, Nietzsche, Crowley and others of this ilk, this assumption was no longer valid. Indeed, Crowley set out to create his own religious philosophy based on the individual over the collective. This necessitated creating a new moral standard.

Not a separation, but a change in the assumptions made.

Harold Roth said...

Oddly, one of the things I have noticed about magic in history is how often it is NOT linked to morality. I was just reading about French witchcraft in the 17th C ("Jasmin's Witch" by Emmanuel Le Roy Redurie). He describes the conception of French townies and folk that a witch's farm could prosper because it took from other farms--like there was a limited amount of goodness and fertility, and witches did not play fair because they sort of dipped into that stream of goodness and took other people's share. And at the same time they could also do good stuff. I've run into this conception of witchcraft as composed of both taking from others and giving health in other countries and histories too, and when you look at grimoire magic, most of it does not even touch on the morality question, just go ahead and force a woman to come to your house nekkid or kill people from afar, etc. So if anything, I would say that the idea that a magic worker should abide by some morality is new and delinking of morality and magic is actually old.

Rufus Opus said...

Harry, you're referring to specific grimoires that have lists of what kind of spirit, exactly? Angels? Kind and benefic lesser deities of the terrestrial sphere? Or is it...


duhn duhn duhn!

See Agrippa and Iamblichus' specific treatises on Goetia Work for the opinions of magicians on that kind of immoral Work.

Jason Miller, said...


This kind of work exists today as well. It reminds me of the Dugma cult that exists near the Pemako region of Tibet. This cult of women offer poisoned beer or soup to travelers that they feel are important or wealthy. They die a week or so later and the belief is that the "merit" is transfered to the Dugma.

Please note this has nothing to do with the "dugpa" insanity preached by Blavatski and others.

These examples are the exception however, not the rule.