Over the past few months for The Pagan Experience, I’ve covered the 4 pillars of magic that many spell casters and practitioners of ceremonial magic ascribe to. I’ve talked about Knowing Yourself, Willing things into being, Daring to do, and Keeping Silent about it all. In an article for the August 2016 issue of Pagan Pages, I have talked about Taking Responsibility. A comment to my blog recently brought to mind the final component that arches over every pillar. Just because you can, should you?
The question was put forward, in a comment on Morality and Will:
“Even when made with good intention and always remembering to harm none, do I have the right (cannot think of a better word) to push my will into a situation or can this be deemed as being selfish?”
When I worked as a nurse, and way back when at university when I was earning my degree, I faced ethical questions like this on a regular basis. The answer then, as it is now, is a rather wishy-washy, “It depends.”
Even so, I welcome questions like this one, and I am glad that it is being asked.
I have been reminded of a scene from Jurassic Park in which we view a conversation on the subject of ethics between mathematician, Dr Ian Malcolm and park owner, John Hammond.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now
[bangs on the table]
Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
So, let’s extrapolate this and apply it to the practice of Paganism and specifically, spell casting. One of the dangers that I see within the Pagan community is the utter proliferation of people who decide they like the shiny bauble cast a spell part of being a witch, but they don’t want to take the time needed to learn discipline over themselves or the work they do. They want what they want because they want it, and with this bright shiny spell, they can have it.
But they become so preoccupied with whether or not they can, they don’t stop to think if they should.
Now, I should make a few things real clear. I see nothing at all wrong with being selfish, as long as it isn’t at the expense of others. I see nothing at all wrong with doing spells for personal gain or benefit, as long as it isn’t at the expense of others.
Let’s take a look at the sort of spell I get requests for most often, the ever popular love spell. Can I have a spell to make X person fall in love with me?
So, we take this through the list…
- Do I have the Will? Yes, I really want this and I can apply my Will to it.
- Do I Know a love spell? Yes, I know several different love spells and I know in my heart that I am capable of doing one.
- Do I Dare do such a spell? Well, I’m already thinking about it, so yes I would say that I do Dare.
- Can I keep Silent about it? Well, yeah because I don’t really want X person to know I cast a spell.
Now, I still wouldn’t do a love spell, even though I can make each of these fit rather nicely with a bit of mental gymnastics.
Why? Because it will harm another? But, if I believe that this person is absolutely meant to be with me, maybe I’ve convinced myself that making him fall in love with me isn’t harmful.
Because it is coercing another? But, I know that if he just had the right push, he would love me without the spell. I’m just giving natural progression a little push in the right direction.
See how you can manipulate your thinking to justify your actions?
Let’s carry this harmless love spell to its hoped for conclusion. I’ve done the love spell. He’s fallen madly in love with me, and we are together in a relationship.
Then the doubts begin – does he really love me, or is it just the spell? Does he really want to be with me, or is it just the spell? Oh my God! What if he finds out about the spell?
What if the spell was so effective that it gave an outward appearance of love, but inside he hated you. What about when (because it’s never an if with these things but a when) he finds out and he grows to resent you.
What happens when the next shiny comes along and you decide well I really don’t love this guy after all. I love that guy. When you discover that making him fall madly in love with you doesn’t remove the self-doubts or actually make him someone you want to be with long term?
Would you really want to be in a relationship with someone where every day you found yourself questioning – is she with me because she wants to be or because I did a love spell and forced her to be with me?
Now, I realise that there are those people in the world who would be fine with that. The psychological term for people like that is Asshole. If you are an adult and you are going through life thinking that you can just take whatever you want, whenever you want, because you want it – you are an asshole.
If you have the will, the knowledge, the daring and the ability to keep silent does that mean you also have the right? No, it most certainly does not mean you have the right.