Magick should only be used for good?

The perspective that ‘magick should only be used for good‘ is everywhere, even in episodes of Bluey! It’s almost always presented as a dogmatic rule. It is, however, an ethical question cannot be addressed with anyone’s rules but your own sense of what’s right.

Why is this question even here?

The Australian cartoon, Bluey, inspired me to write this.

In the episode Magic (season 3, episode 10), Bluey teaches her sister Bingo how to use magic. In doing so, she’s pretty cheeky. She uses it to make her parents play with her and Bingo. She defies the one rule her mum taught her, which was not to use magick to be cheeky.

In attempting to make the grown-ups do what she wants them to do against their wills, Bluey and mum Chilli end up in a battle of sorcery. Along the way, they argue about how and why magick ought to be used:

Chilli tells Bluey, ‘Magic should only be used for goodliness.’

Bluey replies something along the lines of, ‘I am. I’m making Bingo happy!’

Bluey, ‘Magic’, Season 3, Episode 10.

Is Bluey wrong?

Here’s the problem with assigning a moral value to magick

Magick is playing with chaos. Chaos is everything and chaos is nothing. Chaos has no moral rule or moral judgement. And yet there are boundaries.

One author, in discussing this issue within chaos magick, points out that the Wiccans have a rule that is ‘do no harm but take no shit’. They write that just because chaos is dizzyingly open and freeing, it doesn’t mean that you can just do whatever you like. There are always repercussions, in five-sense reality and in chaos realms. They point out that we are social creatures, and that our communities have a shape and sense of moral reason: That this is what helps us to thrive.

The social elements of morality are themselves open to question. Yolessa Lawrinnce argues that there is a tension between personal desire and social ‘success’. They point out that morality could well be established by the leaders of a society, and thus it is forever shifting and changing. This is what then creates that tension: A place in which the actions that create success are demonized as being unethical.

One could ask whether morality even exists outside of a religious context. In this discussion on Quora, which I include because of the input by ‘regular people’ and not just media or publishers, consensus is that empathy supersedes morality. However, it’s also acknowledged that discussions about morality are only possible because of the groundwork laid by religious institutes.

It’s important to remember that the notion of being ‘religious’ at its root is about reverence. However, the etymology of religion is well debated. It could be careful, it could be re-reading, it could be respect for what is sacred.

Magickal practice itself is fraught with the inheritance of dogmatic and religious frameworks. Of interest is the work of John Dee and Edward Kelly. Referred to now as Enochian, Dr John Dee was using it to communicate with God in order to ‘obtain the secrets of the natural world’.1 For example, one early publication of Dee’s ‘spirit diaries’ (A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed of Many Years Between Dr John Dee and Some Spirits, by Meric Causaubon in 1659) attempted to construe Dee as having been misled by demons, even though he was a pious man.

Ultimately, the question is one of selfishness and ‘free will’.

In the context of the Bluey episode, the fable is a dual-sided lesson in why you can’t just make people do what you want them to do. This comes down to the notion of ‘free will’.

free will, in philosophy and science, the supposed power or capacity of humans to make decisions or perform actions independently of any prior event or state of the universe. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Even the notion of free will isn’t cut-and-dried, nor is it crystal clear. If you are a determinist, for example, then you see that every thing that happens is causally inevitable. Libertarians take the view that a purely random event cannot be controlled, and nor can anything that is deterministically inevitable: Free will does not exist.

Selfishness, however, this comes back to empathy. And empathy brings us back to social morality. The internet, being what it is, wouldn’t be complete without the opposing voice, however. One author, contends that apaths are just as compassionate as empaths, despite effectively wanting to burn empaths at the gate.

The philosophy of morality is one of life’s Big Questions. It’s not going to be answered here.

Instead, I’m going to offer an opinion about magickal practise, from the perspective of someone who’s never bought into a religious dogma like Wicca.

Magick is a practical art

When it comes down to it, you can learn about life, nature, and World by communing with spirits. Or you can use magick to handle practical issues. Or you can do both. There are some people who believe that using magick in a practical sense is degrading. There are others who believe that using magick to create what you want is going to negatively affect other people, and thus you shoudn’t do that yourself. And then there are still others who think that ‘manifesting abundance’ (abundance of what exactly?) isn’t magick or isn’t witchcraft. It is.

I’ll share with you a quote from Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy that is concise on the matter:

The bottom line is that there is nothing virtuous about suffering, and there is nothing wrong with using magical powers to set up your life so that you are richer, happier, and more successful.

Scott Michael Stenwick, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy

Stenwick goes on to write:

‘Even from a purely theurgic point of view a stress-free life contributes positively to the successful pursuit of spiritual illumination. You can spend a bunch of time meditating to lower your stress, or you can set up your Enochian temple and conjure away the root of the problem. Better still, you can do both.’

The thing you have to remember is that everything has consequences.

If you conjure up a situation in which you get your perfect job, but the person who was ahead of you is hit by a tram, is that your fault? Was it going to happen anyway? You can’t know either way, so just do your thing and be done with it.

A great example was a situation I was in a few years ago, in which a neighbour (who was a drug dealer known to the authorities) began taking his own merchandise. He became terrifying to live next to. One day he even began attacking our garden with a chainsaw, in a fit of ice-driven cleaning frenzy. After months of being woken up by prostitutes, and parties, and revving cars; after erratic behaviour that had everyone in the street terrified, I decided to work a binding on this guy so he couldn’t harm himself or anyone else any more. Within 48 hours, his house was empty; a bunch of people turned up at random, and then he disappeared. He never reappeared. Because he was dead.

Now, is that my fault? Was it going to happen anyway? You decide.

Magick is not white or black; like life it is grey

While there are many practitioners in many traditions who will talk about black versus white magic; good versus evil; etc. I am not one of them. I don’t worship gods; I don’t have a religious framework. Instead I have an individual practice and relationships with entities of all kinds. I also have a strong personal moral compass, and I trust my knowing.

If you’re a decent person (yes, that’s my morality speaking!) you will never intentionally harm someone else unless you have a really fucking good reason. How you construe that good reason is up to you.

For example, you may define a ‘good reason’ as evidence of someone abusing children or others; of harming people intentionally; of raping, murdering, causing pain, etc. Be aware that hexing is not a black practise. But hexing requires genuine and intense emotion if it’s going to work the way you wish it to, so if you’re a little bit pissed that’s not exactly going to work.

Clearly, anything that is a despicable practice is something that you should avoid. If you conduct a ritual to counter the horrific acts of someone else, then go you. So long as you know what you’re doing, and you’re aware of the consequences, far be it from anyone to stop you.Nevertheless, there is a good reason why many practitioners never engage in pain, blood, or death magick. It requires obtaining blood, inflicting pain, or inflicting death. You’re better off choosing sex magick (which you can easily do on your own; go here and search ‘orgasm’ to find the relevant passage).

Back to the question: was Bluey wrong to make Bingo happy?

Leaving aside the lesson inherent in the children’s cartoon, let’s look again at the question of Bluey choosing to make Bingo happy.

In Bluey’s universe, making her sister happy was a mark of goodness. She considered that she was doing the right thing. By the movement of her own moral compass she was bang-on, and long may she continue.

Observers of Bluey’s actions, however, could see that eventually she became wrapped up in her own doing. She failed to notice that Bingo wasn’t impressed with her cheeky behaviour. She couldn’t see that she was making people uncomfortable. She didn’t understand that she was getting more and more wound up in her own ability to make things happen.

This is the actual lesson. It has as much to do with Life as with Magick, but it is particularly pertinent to any practitioner. You have to be self-aware, and you have to be observant. If you are neither of these things, then you will inadvertently limit your practice through your own blindness.

Thus, if you choose to walk the ‘crooked path’, at least do it with your eyes open.

‘Eyes open’ means being able to spot your own programming and to witness your own behaviours; to understand the impact of your actions and behaviours on others; and the ability to track and understand your work.

References

  1. Stenwick, Scott Michael, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy

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