I’m reading Ethics and the Craft by John Coughlin. It’s a good read and its gotten me thinking about the metaphysics of ethics, or if you will, how ethics are enforced. Consider for example the idea that if you do something you’ll get back three times what you put out. So if you do harm to someone, you’ll get 3x the harm back on you and if you do good you’ll get 3x the good visited on you. I’ve never subscribed to this particular law, but as Coughlin notes, there are people who believe it to be a literal reality, while there are others who teach it, but relate it to three degrees that are part of Wicca. I understand the latter interpretation, but the former interpretation strikes me as unrealistic. Nonetheless I could also see how it could be a reality for the people who believe in it.
So why it is a reality for those people (and no one else)? It’s a reality because they believe in it, and because they will subjectively find proof to support the belief that they will get 3x the benefit or harm, they put out. This is especially true when it comes to harm, and the reason for that is that typically harm is emphasized, in order to discourage people from doing magic for harmful purposes. That emphasis consequently encourages a fixation on the experience of 3x harms moreso than 3x the benefit.
Belief is a powerful tool in magic, but it is double edged, and the beliefs we hold can sometimes cut us, precisely because we believe them and give them power to effect our lives. This is why it is important to examine our ethics (whatever they are) carefully to really determine how those ethics impact us.
I’ll admit that I am not the most ethical magician out there. I think one of the reasons I am more “ethical” in my life these days boils down to doing the internal work and working through the dysfunctional beliefs I’ve held that contributed to the chaos in my life. Doing that work has helped me realize how much the rules we hold ourselves to can be helpful or harmful depending on what we believe. Perhaps this is why I base my ethical decisions on situations as opposed to an overall code for living life. I look at every situation and evaluate how I will respond based on the situation and the contexts and variables effecting the situation. That makes me ethically flexible, which some people would frown upon, but I’m satisfied with that flexibility, and it allows me to factor in my beliefs in, in a way that causes me to examine how those beliefs will impact me.