8. Morality

Magic has often become polarised into the concepts of white magic and black magic. Some philosophies attempt to reconcile the opposites and propose grey magic or rainbow magic as alternatives. I believe that such classifications are unhelpful. Magic is a practice at the fringes of society. It is commonly associated with madness, fantasy, fraud, and deception. Even many who accept paranormal phenomena link magic with evil spirits or great dangers. It is the intent of the individual that is appropriate or not, and labelling it black, white, grey, or octarine is irrelevant. It becomes rationalisation and justification based on preconceived notions and beliefs. Magic, and transformation as a concept in general, is both destructive and creative. The existing form of a thing must be broken down, or re-patterned, in some way for it to be transformed. Synthesis can be considered the merging of the best parts of something, while the less useful, or counterproductive, are discarded. The butterfly is often used as a symbol of transformation, as it has changed its form from the original caterpillar stage. The old form is destroyed, and the new form arises. The process is embodied by the birth-life-death-rebirth cycle, a process that is creative and destructive. So it is too simplistic to say that destructive magic is black magic or evil magic And just because something can be created, it is also too simplistic to call it white magic or good magic. Consider for example the use of magic to kill a dictator like Hitler or Stalin. Would this be an act of black magic, especially if it was to save the lives of millions of people? Would the use of magic to heal such as tyrant, should he be sick and dying, be an act of white magic? Morality becomes blurred on these points, and philosophical arguments arise around the notions of good and evil, and whether interfering in the lives of others is good or bad karma. These arguments are based on beliefs. That is unavoidable. For the most part, your concern as an individual magician is your own welfare, health, and personal evolution. This may be best balanced by aiming to find solutions and manifest situations and outcomes that are best for all people involved in the events that follow. The difficulty is in knowing what is ‘best’ for others – we do not know this (although we can imagine, guess, or believe we know). However, the intention of involving only those who are ‘best’ served by our mutual experiences would seem a sensible compromise to our not knowing what is best for anyone else. The simple solution, from a magical point of view, is to work with your Higher Self, to create solutions that are holistic and balanced, and serve the “greater good” so to speak (keeping in mind that all transformation comes with creative and destructive aspects). Morals and ethics derive from beliefs, and are certainly not universal. Killing someone is wrong, unless it is sanctioned by an authority such as church or state. The age at which two people can have sex varies from 14 to 18 years of age in most countries, so would it be bad, wrong or evil for someone from a country where the age of consent is 18 to have sex with a 14 year old in a country where it is legal? Is homosexuality good or evil? Are the use of drugs a good or a bad thing? Should someone who kills another human being have their life ended as a punishment? Is using magic to heal someone, without that person’s permission, an act of white magic? Is using magic to kill or harm an enemy an act of black magic? Answers only indicate beliefs, not universal truths. Moral and ethical laws, codes, and guidelines may be useful to the integrity of the society or group that holds them, but they may be limiting to personal growth and magical development (for example laws forbidding the practice of magic). For magical development, breaking down existing beliefs, and synthesizing new beliefs, will eventually lead to a confrontation of the moral and ethical beliefs you hold. This is unavoidable. The consequences of your magical workings will lead you to question many things you unconsciously believe about fairness, truth, rights, and wrongs. What I propose is a following process that is stripped of all moral and ethical obfuscation. In any situation you make a choice. This leads to an action (or inaction if you choose to do nothing), which will provide you with an experience that has consequences. You can expand these four concepts and add in other concepts, but basically that is the sequence of events. A fifth stage could be defined as reflection and synthesis of what was learnt from the events that occurred. I believe that this simple formula is what karma is about, the law of cause and effect. It is amoral, simply observing that all actions have cause, and all actions have an effect. It is inescapable, at least in our physical existence. What you are left with is personal responsibility. This is primarily an understanding and willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions – magical or mundane. Working outside of your societies moral and ethical codes and laws is not a licence to “do whatever you want” without any form of responsibility. It is about accepting the responsibility for all your actions without rationalising and justifying them as “it was okay because the law allows me to do so” or “I was just following orders.” What I am suggesting may sound like an aspect of Anarchism, and it may well fit with some anarchist and libertarian philosophy. However, I don’t like to label and confine such concepts with an –ism. Doing so starts to enforce limitations and may slow the progression of the way that beliefs and understandings need to progress, mature, and develop into new ways of understanding and doing things. How you define or label the concepts and beliefs I discuss is your choice, but I suggest keeping all these things in your mind as mere starting points for exploration.

Exercise 1 – Exploring Beliefs About Morality

I recommend repeating this exercise several times over the next week. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for the duration of the exercise. Read through the instructions several times before performing the exercise.

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes
  • Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax
  • Allow your mind to focus on the concept of morality.
  • What immediately comes to mind?
  • What feelings and emotions are present while you think about this concept?
  • What experiences do you recall relating to this concept and the beliefs you hold?
  • Where did you learn about these beliefs?
  • Who are the people who have influenced the development of these beliefs?
  • What things do you believe to be ‘good’?
  • What things do you believe to be ‘evil’?
  • Allow your mind to focus on various physical sensations relating to morality. What tastes, sounds, smells, physical sensations, and images do you relate to this concept?
  • What do these beliefs and thoughts tell you about yourself?
  • When you are ready, open your eyes, and write in your journal about your beliefs and thoughts relating to this concept.
  • Close your eyes again.
  • Take some time to think about the concepts again, and see if anything else comes to mind.
  • Allow a single image to form in your mind that summarizes your current understanding of morality. See it vividly in your mind’s eye.
  • Open your eyes and draw the image you saw relating to this concept.
  • Write any final thoughts into your journal.

Exercise 2 – A New Morality

This exercise is based on the Synthesis of Opposites exercise from lesson 6. You need to use the symbol from Exercise 1.

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes
  • Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax
  • Bring to mind the symbol from exercise 1.
  • Concentrate on the symbol. See it clearly in your mind’s eye.
  • Bring to mind what this symbol represents to you?
  • Set this symbol aside for now.
  • Allow a symbol to come to mind that represents the opposite of all the beliefs and associations of your symbol for morality.
  • Concentrate on the symbol. See it clearly in your mind’s eye.
  • What does this symbol represent?
  • Explore what concepts and beliefs this symbol represents (and how those things relate to you).
  • Keep scanning the symbol for concepts, words, thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and how they relate to you.
  • (Optionally, you can stand up to perform the next part of the exercise – try it standing and sitting)
  • Now, imagine that you are ascending high into the sky on a cloud, rising up, higher and higher.
  • Once you are high above the ground, you can now see a bright, luminous being – your Higher Self.
  • Take a moment to get a sense of the energy of your Higher Self.
  • Now, imagine an equilateral triangle before you, with the single point at the top.
  • Visualize the two symbols, representing the two polarities of morality, at opposite points of the triangle’s base.
  • Talk to your Higher Self, explaining that you seek a synthesis of these two opposites, and ask it to assist you.
  • Imagine the two symbols from the base moving up the sides of the triangle until they merge and become a new symbol – the synthesis of the opposites.
  • Concentrate on this new symbol. See it clearly in your mind’s eye.
  • What does this symbol represent?
  • Explore what concepts and beliefs this symbol represents (and how those things relate to you).
  • Keep scanning the symbol for concepts, words, thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and how they relate to you.
  • Talk with your Higher Self, seeking its assistance in learning about this new holistic symbol.
  • When you are finished, open your eyes and draw the symbols at the relevant corners of a triangle, and write about this experience in your journal.

Last modified: 10 August 2014