Magical Ethics

Magical Ethics
There’s been a lot of interesting things going on in the occult and magical community as a whole in the past couple of decades. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Most of it is just mediocre run of the mill pains of a changing culture and community. I want to address some of the worse issues and maybe come up with alternatives to these practices and try to not only explain my position but try and see the other point of view. I want to define a few terms first before we start to try and get as many semantics out of the way as possible. Arguing terminology takes away from the debate so, I want you to know where I’m coming from.
Ethic – A set of moral principles.
Moral – Of relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior.
In addition, morals usually connotes an element of subjective preference, while ethics tends to suggest aspects of universal fairness and the question of whether or not an action is responsible. I’m going to further simplify the definitions of morals and ethics. A moral is a personal set of values and ethics are an external set of values. For example here in the states it is considered ethical to tip for service especially at restaurants. Morally some people may feel differently about that issue. “Why tip when we can force the restaurant to pay their servers a living wage?” “I shouldn’t be expected to pay my servers paycheck.” “I shouldn’t have to tip if the service was bad.” “Tipping should be a privilege reserved only for excellent service.” These are all moral arguments. When one feels shunned by their peers for expressing this philosophy or made a pariah because of it then they truly know the difference between morals and ethics. In this article I am not going to argue for or against certain magical morals but instead try to point out magical ethics that are not necessarily a positive representation of the magical community as a whole. Beyond trying to define specific terms this article is going to be a philosophical opinion piece. I’m intending to start a discussion about these practices, not make an outright carved in stone statement.
How to Spot a Fake Expert
I know I’m going to ruffle a lot of feathers with this one but let’s get something cleared up first, I am not in anyway saying that I am an expert and that you should take my advice or opinions as gospel.
   1. Real Experts focus on their field and not themselves. Beware of the occultist or spiritual leader that throws around their many accolades. I’m not saying don’t vet your leaders and the people you are seeking spiritual advice from, I’m saying that if they start spouting off about their many accomplishments most of which aren’t provable and you didn’t ask them in the first place, be wary.
   2. “I don’t know.” A real expert will tell you that they don’t know. A fake one will have an answer every time and will make something up at the drop of a hat. Knowing where to find information is another sign of a true expert. This stuff is impossible to memorize but knowing exactly where to find information is a good sign of a true expert.
   3. Intellectual Honesty. A real expert will accept views that challenge their own. A fake one will combat you or just change the subject. A real expert is even skeptical of their own view points with the understanding that the “facts” will inevitably change at some point. A fake one does not accept change.
   4. Intellectual Curiosity. A real expert is always learning something about their field. Always up to date on all the new changes. A fake expert is still focused on the same dry and old concepts with no interest in updating their thoughts or positions.
   5. Sharing. A real expert will give you insights about the field in which they are experts. A fake expert will demand money before any information is shared. Not that you shouldn’t pay real experts, you absolutely should but the real expert will reveal the value of their information for free.
   6. Real Experts Improvise. A fake expert can only follow a set script while a real expert can talk freely and fluidly about their subject matter.
   7. Real Experts Teach. When you meet a real expert and start talking about their field, they can’t help but get excited to share their love of the material with someone new. They’ll talk your ear off for hours about their subject matter if you let them.
So why do we need to spot fake or real experts when talking about magical ethics? These people tend to develop huge followings that help to protect them from criticism for practices that they advocate that are morally grey at best and immoral all together at worst. Anyone who takes your money first before offering any information or guidance is not necessarily a fake expert, there are many practices where this is the accepted way but one should remain wary when this is the first response. It is upon you to do your due diligence and read reviews not from other experts in that field but from customers of that spiritual leader or occult expert. If there aren’t any reviews or you don’t know of a customer of theirs you can question, then the gamble is yours to take. If you keep these principles in mind though, you might save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run.
A Glass of Water
I have a glass of water. The total volume is close enough to eight fluid ounces that no one can argue that it is not a full glass of water when filled nearly to the rim. When poured completely out into a measuring cup after filling the glass, the measuring cup reads eight ounces. I drink the entire glass of water and I am not sated. I am still thirsty. I fill the glass up a few more times, maybe two or three depending on how thirsty I am, and when this is completed I am maybe one fourth of the way to completing my daily water intake. Now let’s use this situation to talk about magic. I am looking for general healing. My current health isn’t great but it’s good enough that I can work and get my job done and pay my bills. The pain is steady enough that it’s starting to affect my performance at my job. The doc-in-a-box told me that what I was dealing with was in my head, even though the pain is very real. They prescribed me ibuprofen. In looking for alternatives I found somewhere that I could dress or get dressed a candle that would act as a foci for my particular problem. I get the candle and perform the ritual as expected. The candle burns out after almost a week and I dispose of the candle respectfully. I notice a slight uptick in how I’m feeling. My work performance has stabilized instead of declined and I am not sated. I do this particular candle several times, maybe two or three more, and I feel much better. If the pain was in my head producing very physical symptoms and the candle worked to alleviate that pain, I’ll take it. Though, just like the glass of water, I am only maybe a quarter of the way done. Magic, just like your daily intake of water, requires constant persistent energy towards the completion of that goal. Unlike your daily water intake, once the goal is achieved you can shift your energy to another goal.
I can pay someone to pour me a glass of water. It is also typical to pay someone to dress a candle for my particular reasoning. So, if one glass of water does not sate my thirst and one candle happened to not complete my final goal then I must go back for more until satisfied. What if someone offers a candle where I can pay a small sum, let’s say five dollars, to add my name to a candle that will have many other peoples names on it? It surely is cheaper than the cost of the dressed candle. Can you sate the thirst of many with one glass of water? What if we all paid to drink from the same glass of water. Let’s assume no diseases are present for this argument. If I can fit thirty names on the glass then those thirty people drink from the same glass. You are seventh in line. Everyone is informed to not drink more than their allotment. Seeing as all thirty people paid to have an equal portion from the glass. Person number one is dying of dehydration which is why they made sure their name was on the glass first. They take four portions instead of one on accident. Person two gets upset at this and deems it fair that they get the same amount, they too take four portions. Person three was worried watching the first two drink. They drink too fast and accidentally take six portions. Person four being fair only takes one portion. Before person five can place the cup to their lips, person number twenty realizes that the glass is already half empty. They yell at the front of the line, “Save some for us! We paid for a fair and equal share!” The rest of the line starts getting agitated and person five out of fear gulps down ten servings. As person six grabs the glass hoping to get the last bit of water, the people at the back of the line rush forward and the glass gets dropped. This entire situation is easily alleviated by having the water bearer evenly divide the glass for all participants but, how can you divide the energy of a candle in the same way? Is it possible to light the candle for a known time while chanting the name of the person during that time only to secure everyone’s even time? Maybe. Is everyone that offers a service where you pay to have your name on a candle with a bunch of other customers performing this type of practice? I don’t know.
The person placing multiple names on a single candle for a fee is no better than the Televangelist asking for a few dollars from you for a brief prayer of prosperity.
I’m well aware that there are cultures where the accepted energy exchange is money for spiritual services. The idea is that since you paid, you receive your service. If this is your cultural practice then I am not talking about those shops or you. Culture is unique and should not be compared here. If you are offering a spiritual service and want to be paid for your services, I don’t see any issue with that. A specifically dressed candle as a foci for positive thinking for the customer is very different when compared to having dozens of people “receive” energy from the same source and that source is broadly defined. In other words thirty people can’t drink from the same glass and have their thirst quenched. It is unethical to claim anything further. Just as it is unethical to tell that customer that the only thing they needed was that candle for healing. The candle in that example was a positive foci for the customer to utilize to help combat the negative feelings associated with the health problems. Sometimes the doctors are right and if you seek them for expert advice, listen or get a second opinion.
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