What Does it Mean to ‘Harm None’?

“These eight words The Rede fulfill

An’ ye harm none, do what ye will”

But what does it mean to harm none? The world is far from being a black and white place and the situations we may find ourselves faced with reflect this. We may be in a situation where, no matter the decision we make, harm will befall someone by either our action or inaction. Is it even possible to live by these words at all times?

The best way to ponder this question and attempt to reach a conclusion is to examine a hypothetical situation. The situation is as follows: You are out with a friend when a man approaches and holds a gun to them with the intention of shooting them. This requires you to make a decision; whether or not to intervene. If you fail to intervene, your friend will be harmed. If you do intervene, assuming you must use force to disarm the perpetrator, they will be harmed.

No matter how you decide to react, you will be causing harm. If you choose not to intervene, you will not directly be harming your friend. However, your failure to act will result in them being harmed. When you have the ability to prevent harm from occurring, but choose not to prevent it, you are still causing harm by way of your inaction. Because you had the ability to prevent harm, but actively chose not to take action, this is no different from directly causing harm as you would be doing if you choose to intervene and attack the perpetrator. The end result is the same, it matters not if you were the direct or indirect cause.

Now that this is established, it becomes clear that no matter what you choose to do in the aforementioned hypothetical situation, you will be causing harm. If this is the case, you must now base your decision on new criteria. Because the perpetrator actively chose to put himself in a situation in which his intention is to cause harm, he becomes responsible for any harm that befalls him as a result of his decisions. Essentially, your friend is an innocent whereas the perpetrator is not. Under such circumstances, attacking the perpetrator to save your friend, an innocent, is the morally correct decision. Innocents must always be held in a higher regard and harm that befalls them seen as worse than harm that befalls a perpetrator of injustice.

In a complex world of complex situations and dilemmas, ‘harm none’ must sometimes be understood to mean ‘cause the least harm possible’.

The Importance of Not Giving a Fuck

Many things are worth caring about. There is one thing in particular, however, that requires us to actively participate in not paying it any mind; what others think of us. When someone criticizes our interests, lifestyle, or things that bring us happiness, it becomes necessary for us to raise our middle fingers high and choose to genuinely not give a fuck.

The most self destructive thing we can do is compare ourselves to others. Everyone has different life circumstances. Problems arise when people choose to use their particular individual life circumstances to form a view on how others should be living their lives. The issue, of course, is that others are living under different circumstances, and therefore the life circumstances of one can not be applied to another.

For example, a lawyer who is married with the standard 2.5 kids (ok, we’ll just say 3) expects everyone else to live a similar lifestyle because this is what is right for him. What is right for him, however, will not be right for someone else. Perhaps another person is an unmarried artist who chooses to forgo marriage and children, as well as choosing to live a generally ‘unconventional’ lifestyle. This is what’s right for him. Neither of these lifestyles are superior or inferior to the other, they are simply different. Moreover, they are the correct path for those who follow them.

Ideally, everyone would realize this reality. Unfortunately, the world is filled with cynics and pessimists who view anyone adhering to a lifestyle different from their own as inferior. For this reason, it is important that we know how to properly react to their opinions of us. This proper reaction can best be described as not giving a fuck. When we say ‘not giving a fuck’, we mean truly, in the most genuine way, not giving a fuck.

It is important to realize that when someone has a negative opinion on your lifestyle or the things that bring you happiness, it is a reflection on them, not a reflection on you. They are often very insecure, and to put it quite frankly, miserable individuals. Their cynical opinions have no bearing on you. The best thing you could learn to do is completely disregard them as they truly hold no merit whatsoever.

It takes a very strong will to truly live by this philosophy. The best way to develop the strong will necessary is to begin an active practice. The next time someone says something unnecessary and cynical to you, choose to not give a fuck. Tell yourself ‘I truly do not give a fuck about this bastard or their opinion of me. I am secure in myself and do not need the validation of a miserable cynic.’ Do this until you genuinely believe what you are telling yourself. Before you know it, it will become second nature.

If you are an unmarried 45 year old man who enjoys spending his free time reading comic books, do it. If you are a 15 year old who enjoys spending your free time with your nose in a book, do it. If you are a 70 year old man who enjoys skateboarding, toilet humor, and playing Pokémon Go, do it. These are things that make you happy; you need no other reason to do them. When a cynical pessimist tells you that you’re a ‘loser’, that you ‘have no life’, or that you are living your life incorrectly, stick your middle finger in their face, tell them to fuck off, and go back to whatever it is you were doing. Think no more about it for their opinion truly does not matter. Do not give a fuck about them or their message of ignorance and cynicism. Keep doing what makes you happy and pay no mind to those who only wish to belittle you and make you as miserable as they are.

Lessons from Paranorman

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Paranorman tattoo

There are several lessons, both magickal and mundane, to be learned from the 2012 film ‘Paranorman’. The setting, Blithe Hollows, MA, is clearly based off of Salem, MA, with the witch trials and subsequent unjust executions as a central theme. The story follows a boy, Norman, who is ostracized from his community for his interest in the paranormal and his ability to communicate with spirits. The people of his town, along with his own family, bully him relentlessly for being ‘weird’. Like so many in the real world, they are simply afraid of what they do not understand. It is not until he uses his abilities to save the town that people finally celebrate him and his gift.

For those who are deemed ‘normal’ by mainstream society, Paranorman teaches acceptance and respect for those who are deemed ‘weird’. For the purposes of this article, however, I will focus on lessons that can be learned for those who are themselves the ‘weird’ ones.

First, Paranorman teaches self-acceptance. Unique abilities, style, and worldview are gifts that should be embraced. They may even be used to serve the community as a whole by doing something no one else is able to. You should have confidence in yourself and not allow others to dictate how you think or act.

This brings us to the next lesson, forgiveness and understanding. It is important to understand that those who act in a hostile manner toward you because of your differences are doing so only because they are fearful of what they don’t understand. By understanding this, we realize that their actions are often a reflection of their own insecurities, rather than a reflection on you. This understanding can lead to forgiveness. It is important to remember that forgiveness is best when it is done for your benefit. When you forgive, you are releasing negative feelings that do not serve you, such as anger and hatred. In this way, forgiveness is in your best interest, not only in the interest of the other party.

Finally, we learn that it is best to act kindly to others, even if they act unkindly to you. When you treat someone poorly, you are only giving them further reasons to treat you badly. However, when we treat others with unconditional love and kindness, we show them that even though we are ‘weird’, we are not bad people. This is especially important for those of us in the magickal community. There are still many people under the unfortunate and false idea that we are evil devil worshippers. By treating these people kindly, we are showing them that we are good people. We are taking fuel from their fire; their accusations of us being evil become even less reputable when we display acts of love and kindness.

Others, while perhaps not considering us evil, will still consider us weird. It is our job to show them that being ‘weird’ is not a bad thing. It just means that we have our own styles, ways of thinking, abilities, or spiritual practices. Showing these people that while we are different in some ways, we are not dangerous or threatening. We may look and believe differently, but we are still humans who treat others with kindness, and there is no reason to fear us.

This is not to say that we should be pushovers and not stand up for ourselves, quite the contrary. We must remember to be proud of who we are and continue to be ourselves. However, when confronted with hostility, we must combat it with love. Understand that these people are only attacking us because they are afraid of what they don’t understand. Prove to them that you are not a bad person. Fighting fire with fire only burns the whole world; fighting fire with water will eliminate the destructive force and bring peace. Be the water and extinguish the hate with love. And above all, never be afraid to be who you are.

Ahimsa & Wicca

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Ahimsa is a philosophical concept that translates literally into ‘not to strike’. It is also generally interpreted as meaning ‘non-violence’ and ‘compassion’. It is mostly associated with Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Of these three, Jainism has the most strict interpretation and adherence. For many Jains, this means not even perpetrating violence for self-defense, and certainly not in war. Of course, one does not need to be a follower of these religions to practice Ahimsa.

Ahimsa means practicing compassion and non-violence toward all living things. In even the loosest interpretation, very few, if any, exceptions can be made. Humans are not held at a higher regard than non-human animals, thus the killing of animals and consumption of meat is strictly forbidden. Violence toward those who themselves perpetrate violence is also prohibited. For example, a follower of Ahimsa shall not endorse the death penalty or any other violent punishment for any person convicted of committing a violent act. The only time an exception may be made is in the case of self-defense or the defense of another innocent person.

The theory behind Ahimsa is the belief that all life is sacred and connected. No one individual is more or less important than another, and therefore you shall cause no harm to a fellow living being. All life is also connected, so when violence is perpetrated against one, it is committed against all. Violence harms everyone, which is why we must refrain from it.

Wicca teaches a deep respect and reverence for nature and life. The most prominent line of the Wiccan Rede, ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will’, only furthers this point. In this way, the philosophy of Ahimsa is compatible with the religion of Wicca. In order to have a respect for nature and life, we must refrain from harming it by practicing compassion and non-violence. The practice of Ahimsa promotes the greatest good, as violence has no positive outcome, as its only purpose is to cause harm to what we hold sacred.

Sex & Spirituality

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. (I will be spending the day posting goofy Valentine cards on Facebook and waiting for the day after when candy will be sold at a discounted price). The holiday’s name comes from that of a martyred saint, but actually has roots in Paganism. To learn more about this subject, I recommend reading the following: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/imbolcfebruary2/p/ValentinesDay.htm

This article, however, will focus on sex and spirituality. I felt that this time of year would be an appropriate time to write it.

Duality of Sex

Sex is both a physical and spiritual act. It is one of the most intimate acts that people can engage in with one another; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When we have sex, we are not only sharing our bodies, but also our core energy. Even when we have an intimate conversation with someone, we are connecting with them on a spiritual level, becoming closer both emotionally and spiritually. Sex is even more intense than this, as it is one of the most intimate acts we are capable of in the physical world.

This is why we must view sex in both a physical and spiritual sense, as we are both physical and spiritual beings. By rejecting one or the other, we are not a complete person. If we view sex as only a means of having physical pleasure, we will be left spiritually empty. Similarly, if we completely reject the physical pleasure aspect of sex, we will become physically frustrated and deprived. As with everything else, it is important to have a proper balance of both.

Sexual Morality

Because sexual activity does not positively or negatively affect anyone but the individuals directly involved in the act itself, I do not believe it is logical to argue whether or not sex is ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’. As long as it is between consensual individuals, it would not be right to label it as ‘immoral’. This being said, I am disheartened by the way in which society as a whole views sex. We are moving toward a ‘hookup culture’ in which it is viewed as completely normal and acceptable to have one night stands with complete strangers. While I will not label this as immoral, I will argue that there is nothing positive about it.

As stated earlier, sex is a very intimate act, both physically and spiritually. When people choose to ‘hookup’, they are only viewing sex as a means to obtain physical pleasure. They do not care about the other person. In fact, in this way, sex is a very selfish act. Sex should be something that enhances an already existing relationship and with someone we have  a strong connection to. When we have sex strictly for physical pleasure, we are rejecting the spiritual aspect of ourselves and our partners.

This is not to say that physical pleasure is something to be avoided or that there is anything ‘immoral’ about it, quite the contrary. Because we are both physical and spiritual beings, we should pay attention to both aspects of our being. But when we reject one or the other and strive to ‘feed’ only one of them, we are not a complete person.

Wicca & Vegetarianism

*It is not my intention in writing this article to ‘force’ vegetarianism on anyone, but only to explore the relationship between Wicca and vegetarianism.* 

Many Wiccans are vegetarians; many are not. Some claim that one cannot be Wiccan while continuing to consume meat. Others argue that Wiccan principles support and justify omnivorism. I do not believe either of these to be true. For a period of time, I considered vegetarianism to be a tenet of Wicca, a core teaching that could not be deviated from. However, I realized that by doing so I would could risk alienating many who did not agree with this idea. I will always consider vegetarianism to be an important part of my life and practice, but no longer hold the idea that one MUST be vegetarian to identify as Wiccan.

I’ve been Vegetarian longer than I’ve been Wiccan (or at least formally identified as Wiccan). I chose vegetarianism based solely on ethical grounds. Health was not part of the equation, as I believe this to be an incredibly selfish reason to become vegetarian, and neither was spirituality. However, in the coming years the two would become increasingly intertwined. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the relationship between Wicca and Vegetarianism, and less so on purely ethical issues.

The Wiccan Rede and Vegetarianism
I am a strict follower of the Wiccan Rede. I realize that others are not, but will write this through the perspective of someone who closely abides within the Law.

“Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.”

“Live you must and let to live” clearly states that while we live, we must not take that right away from anyone else.

“Fairly take and fairly give” is a line that many use to justify the consumption of meat. They argue that this justifies taking animals from the earth for the need of survival. However, I would argue that doing so is hardly ‘fair’. We are no longer living in the wilderness fighting to survive by any means necessary. We live mainly sedentary lives and get the bulk of our food from supermarkets. Eating meat is no longer a necessity, thus does not qualify as ‘fairly taking’.

These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will'”

Perhaps the most important line of the Wiccan Rede, “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will” states that we are free to do as we please and to live our lives the way we choose, so long as doing so does not bring harm upon anyone. Eating meat causes harm to animals, there is no way around this. The methods used to slaughter animals are far from ethical (if any means of slaughter could ever be ethical); and by purchasing and consuming meat, we are contributing to this. Because eating meat is not a necessity, I do not believe that we have the right to cause harm on another living being in order to produce it. Again, this is my interpretation and strongly held belief. Explore this issue on your own and come to your own conclusion.

Vegetarianism and Spirituality

Everything carries with it energy, meat included. When we consume something, we are also consuming its energy. I will not go into details of how meat is produced, as this is not the point of the article. But when such a high level of negative energy is generated, it will be attached to the product of what caused its generation. When meat is consumed, the negative energy associated with its production is consumed as well. This is not good for the spirit and will only hinder spirituality.

Many claim that once they stop eating meat, they become much more spiritually aware. This is because they are cleansing themselves of all that negative energy. This is not to say that those who eat meat cannot be spiritually aware or are somehow inferior as practitioners, but simply to suggest that vegetarianism can enhance your spiritual life.