Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Morality, or why I'm not interested in discussing your thoughts on it.

I am responsible for no one's actions, but my own. And furthermore

Before you perform any ritual, spell, or trance work for an objective, there is a question you ought to ask: “Will doing this act make me a shit person?”

If the answer is no? Worry not. If the answer is yes, and you care? Don't do it. If the answer is yes, and you don't care? You won't listen to me anyway, and will probably still perform said action.

If you need more of a moral discussion than that? Go read Aristotle's Ethics. Go read Marcus Aurelius. Or the fucking Bible (depending on the section). This blog isn't about morals, though, it's about sorcery, witchcraft, and chaos magick, and anomalous “Greek stuff”. Those are the subjects I prefer write about in it. If I'd wanted a blog on ethics, I certainly would have made one.

Finally, and lastly, if you try to force your ethical code on someone else – even if you believe that you are right – then you're what we call an asshole. Assholes don't get to wear good guy badges.


Rufus Opus said...

even if it's FOR THEIR OWN GOOD!? :D

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: As I'm a filthy relativist, everything is situational, really.

Rufus Opus said...

I don't get all the concerns about ethics lately at all. I mean, really. I think it's like the map vs. the territory discussion, covered, in detail, everywhere.

Sages don't need that shit. They just do what's right because they do it, and it's right because it's done like a sage.

Jason Miller, said...

@Jack: You are right that everything is situational, HOWEVER, you also wrote:

"You ought to ask: “Will doing this act make me a shit person?”
If the answer is no? Worry not. If the answer is yes, and you care? Don't do it. If the answer is yes, and you don't care? You won't listen to me anyway,"

This is more of an ethical/moral statement than you seem to think. Furthermore the idea of what makes a shit person constitutes a moral code. In come cases I will do things that make me a shit person to some in order to serve a greater good.

@RO,Its not a sudden concern. It grew out of a blog post I made about NOT needing to hammer people over the head with ethics in books. When people started "agreeing" or diagreeing with me saying either "yeah fucking ethics is for losers" or "Jason apparently doesnt think that ethics has a place in magic or religion" I took issue.

I keep commenting on your posts specifically because you make comments about how ethics are not important when you are a sage, or enlightened, or walking with god. I than point out that people are not in that mind state often enough for it to make a difference when the shit hits the fan and you really need some kind of ethical stance. You keep saying that you are speaking only ideally and thus have no need for what you are saying to be actual, than you keep writing stuff like "Sages dont need that shit" like the previous conversation never happened.

Jack Faust said...

My last two comments were unnecessary, and have been deleted. I wasn't insulting either of you, just going off when I should ease up on my irritation.

Suffice it to say that I'm disturbed by the hand-holding and kid-gloves that certain folks (bloggers, name brand occultists, etc) tend to do, rather than giving information to adults who can and should have their own moral compass.

I'm going to shut up before I lose my temper or say something stupid again.

Jason Miller, said...

I think we are on the same page Jack. My original post which grew out of discussing Mastering Witchcarft etc was specifically against this type of silly "hit you over the head" type of ethical argument that makes its way around the Pagan materials, which is less than worthless in any actual ethical dilema.

I am also with you regarding no one set of ethics for all people. There are cases that I will not work on regarding custody of children or breaking up relationships etc, that other people do work on. Their view is that they are an advocate for their client, and I understand their argument. I can't live that way, but at least some thought was given to it by both sides.

Unfortunately you also get into cultural norms. There are areas of Africa where killing cats to sell the skulls in a fetish market is pretty much the norm. Culturally it is more or less accepted and there are those who say that is what is important. Others say that we are all in a human culture together and that some things just hit at that level. Even if you thinks it is morally wrong, when society accpts it, its hard to think of those that do it as sociopaths.

SO, sorry for thinking that you were replying to RO and I. RO keeps coming around to a "For the sage all that is meaningless" type of argument similar to the "every man and every woman is a star argument.

My point is, yeah right, how many sages and stars are out there who are living that realization 24/7? Nearly none.

Jack Faust said...

@Jason: I think you two are both making valid points, frankly. Morality is "different" for a magician, if they choose to make it so. But, no one is purely ethically consistent or purely enlightened. So, there are reasons for adopting a moral or ethical code.

I was not unaware of your discussions with R.O. following the Mastering Witchcraft discussions, I just had nothing to add at the time. I've seen more discussions and hand-holding since then, and felt the impulse to finally be an ass about the subject.

As for cultural norms, you make a good point. I am often torn on my thoughts on such things, because I reconize that I am conditioned culturally, and values change. It makes me even more reticent to take a strong stand, as I don't believe in any form of cultural superiority by any one nation, civilization, or tribe.

The best I have ever found is to abide my code as best I can, and refuse to impose it on anyone else if I can avoid it.

Jack Faust said...

As a non-blogger example: how am I supposed to feel about Hakim Bey and the Beat magicians and their involvement with NAMBLA? How do I sort my cultural conditioning from my feelings on that matter? I have never managed to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Jason Miller, said...

And you SHOULD be conflicted about. That is actually the mark of an ethical person. Someone who just says "Well thats OK because look at their Genius" is ignoring a huge ethical situation. Another person that says "Everything this person has done is WORTHLESS because of their ethical transgression" is equally daft in thinking.

On a smaller scale you saw it in the Steve Jobs post mortem. Many lauding his accomplishments in design, marketing, and technology and others screaming NO NO NO we must not celebrate any aspect of this person because he did not donate to charity and had sweatshop factory in China.

I love TAZ and Sacred Drift and Pirate Utopias. I think Nambla is detestable. Given evidence of actual molestation I would have no qualms about imprisoning anyone for life, but that doesnt mean that I have to hate everything they have ever done.

Indeed from my own Christo-Buddhist moral place I have to love that person even as I act to imprison them.

Jack Faust said...

@Jason: See, for me it's not even that clear. I'd love to say "I despise NAMBLA," but I can't. I can say "I despise predators and those that prey sexually on children," and I do. But with NAMBLA, a range of questions begins occurring to me:
- What is the age range we're discussing here?
16/17 years old? 14 and below? For the latter, I would clearly identify that as "always criminal." But for the first, I have a much harder time sayin the same. At that age, I went on several dates with a few women who were well older than I. It would be hypocritical of me to demonize someone else for doing the same, especially if we're talking about a non-abusive relationship.
- Is there mutual consent?
- Is there evidence of abuse?

The gay male community has plenty of older men who take younger men as their lovers, and plenty of consensual relationships of that sort. I have a hard time demonizing them, especially if there is no presence of abuse in the relationship.

And then, I also want to know if the person in question was doing such an activity outside the U.S. - was this event in an area where there is a cultural policy of lenience towards the activity, such as in areas of the Middle East? In that case, I know my conditioning will kick in and have to step back and examine the details like the above.

It's easy for me to want to lump all of those bits together and just say, "always wrong, the person needs to be in prison" - but I can't, because I'm aware that there is probably something I haven't considered or understood.

Harold Roth said...

With NAMBLA issues, IMO, it's a question of who has the power. In our society, children don't have any. If we want to give them the right to vote, run for office, sign contracts, drink, drive cars, work, and other adult rights, then fine, let them have sex with old men. Otherwise, no. They cannot give their consent freely because the power inequality is too great. I will say the best critique I ever saw of man/boy love was a parody of a NAMBLA magazine from the kids' perspective. It was filled with faux encomia to the sagging asses, wheezing chests, low-hanging balls, and liver spots of their aged lovers.

Teenagers I would agree with you are in a fuzzy position w/regard to this issue. They are not quite adults but not children either.

I think that looking for ethics in witchcraft is wrong-headed and IMO comes from confusing witchcraft with religion or spirituality. We can certainly learn about the effect of ethical decisions on the ground by doing witchcraft, but I think we bring out ethics to witchcraft; we don't find them there. Wicca Lite is responsible for the confusion of witchcraft and ethics nowadays, IMO. I am not trashing Wicca, but I don't think it's the norm in terms of magical practice. To me, witchcraft is a screwdriver. You can use it to fix a doorknob or jab someone in the eye. It's up to you. The screwdriver demand you use it only for certain jobs.

Sages? When I finally meet one, I will decide if they have any more ethics than the average bum.

Rufus Opus said...

@Jason, I was being funny, mostly. I was looking to tie the idea of the Sage to "Like a boss."

But seriously, my comments are coming from the Meta-Ethics branch, and you're talking from the Normative ethics branch of the idea. I had to look up ethics on wikipedia to figure that out.

What's been happening is that the prior conversations happened, and then later I get to thinking about shit. Next thing I know, I find myself right back where I started from.

You say, "My point is, yeah right, how many sages and stars are out there who are living that realization 24/7? Nearly none."

That's normative ethics vs. meta-ethics, if I'm understanding things right.

From where I'm coming from, I look at your statement and I don't see how it matters one bit. The truth is the truth, even when it happens to be difficult to apply.

And how could anyone tell if someone is a Sage, if someone is applying that state consciously? In practice, it will still look just like situational ethics, because the right thing to do is not the same in every circumstance.

The stage vs. state differentiation is useful for conversation and analysis, but in practice there is no single state that anyone reaches and remains at, ever. One state is not enough to fulfill all your responsibilities, or to make you truly satisfied. I've reached what I thought was the penultimate goal of the Hermetic Great Work a couple of times in the last few years, and each time I've found it's not the "penultimate" at all, it's just another phase of the initiation, the beginning of the process. There's so much more to do, forever.

Rufus Opus said...

LOL, I'm going through that wiki-ethics page, trying to figure out what I believe, where I fit in the general categories it provides.

I'm a non-cognitivist in the meta-ethical level.

I'm an Epicurean-Hedonistic-Consequentialist-deontological post-modern ethicist in the normative ethics level.

I also appreciate some aspects of Descriptive Ethics.

But every paragraph under Applied Ethics had something in it that made my stomach churn.

Apparently, my main issue is with codifying ethics.

Jack Faust said...

@Harold: When it comes to the disparity in power, I agree with you 100%.

I also agree that the subject of wichcraft and spellcraft doesn't exist as a vehicle for teaching virtue. People want their religious or spiritual practices to be virtuous; but it's rather hard to accept that it is the individual and their applied philosophy and living that creates virtue, not their spiritual work. Whether witchcraft is like a hammer or a screw-driver, it's a tool. And a uniquely accessible one.

@R.O.: Yeah. I have issues with codifying ethics myself. It's when I'm presented absolutes that I become the most disturbed.

Jason Miller, said...

RO: Meta vs Narrative ethics is basically just a fancier way of saying what you were saying earlier, that you are speaking ideally.

The problem is that you then proceed to NOT speak ideally. Basically you are using Meta Narrative conclusions and applying them as normative remedies.

I left the OTO over this exact issue, so yeah, to me it matters. I have seen people apply the "its my true will/ I am a sage/ I am a Dzogchenpa above the rules" crap as a way to justify all kinds of things.

Now as far as codifying ethics, it should make you uncomfortable. What people always forget is that governance of your life or the state is often a choice between two bad options. When there is skin in the game the tendency is to just fight for your side, and sometimes that is fine. But often what separates a Man from a Child is the ability to work against his own self interest in order to achieve a greater good. This is what intelligent life is all about, what any spiritual system worth a damn is about cultivating, and what is too easily dismissed.

People get upset at laws and ethics because it often restricts things that you find useful, or that you can handle personally, but when applied to society at large would cause mayhem. I get it, I am there too. That doesnt mean we can just do without and tell ourselves that we are all beyond it.

When I was in my 20s I used to laugh histerically at the Anarchists and hardcore Thelemites hanging Liber Oz on the courthouse wall. If laws were suddenly suspended, more often than not these are the folks that would be taken advantage of and marginalized instantly. It's like a geek experiencing 6th grade gym for the rest of his life :-)

Scylla said...

The discussion of ethics as ideas - even ideas gleaned from, influenced by, or applicable to real situations experienced by the members of the discussion - is great.

Moral absolutes slapped down like a giant, floppy, cock - usually on the forehead of those being spoken down to - ... is being hit in the face with someone else's big, floppy, cock.

I'm happy to slog my way through difficult topics and sticky wickets of ethics (even if I come out looking like some backward barbarian). I am not happy to have someone mushroom stamp me from their moral high ground.