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You are watching: Do what thou wilt but harm none


Thelemites live by the Law of Freedom, “Do what thou wilt shall be the totality of the Law.” Is this a moral code? For comparichild there is the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would certainly have actually them execute unto you.” Witches, Wiccans and Pagans can draw on the Rede, “An it harm none carry out what ye will certainly.” Do these codes serve the exact same function?

The Golden Rule is instantly recognizable as a ascendancy of thumb for humale conduct. A variation reflects up in the Bible, Matt. 7:12, and Confucius taught it to his followers centuries previously. The “silver rule” adds the corollary, “don’t carry out unto others what you wouldn’t have actually done to you.” The meditation below is to reflect on how you would certainly choose others to treat you and also what you wouldn’t desire them to carry out, and also then to analyze that collection of ideas into positive conduct. I don’t favor being shouted at, so I attempt not to shout at others; I favor pleasant conversations, so I attempt to be cheerful.


The Golden Rule carries a whiff of moralism about it, prefer a Sunday school kid’s comic, an unrealistic appropriate. This is the way we understand we’re expected to behave actually however we don’t. That Republican-bashing meme feels excellent once we post it yet the liberal-bashing meme appears choose an unfair dig. Fairness is the crucial right here – “others” implies everyone, the world we like and the people we don’t. The Golden Rule directly challenges sexism, racism, class distinctions, and various other forms of inetop quality. For that reason probably it deserves a new look.

The Wicdeserve to Rede claims, “Eight words the Wiccan Rede meet, An it damage none perform what ye will.” Versions of this couplet present up in various poems by Doreen Valiente, for example The Witches Creed, and also it is primarily (though not universally) attributed to her. Jason Manvital explores the background of the Rede in The Rede of the Wicca.

What does “harm” mean? I’ve had many kind of a late night conversation hashing out the ramifications. Too strict a meaning of harm makes the preeminence imuseful. Does that intend I can’t swat a mosquito? For a Jain this could be true. Suppose I have to shoot someone who’s trying to kill my family? One problem is that the prescription “if it doesn’t hurt anyone” is an unfavorable. A quick interpretation can attract on the silver ascendancy, don’t do anypoint you wouldn’t desire done to you.

The various other fifty percent of the Rede is proscriptive, “Do what you will certainly.” This sounds comparable to the Thelemic expression from the Publication of the Law, “Do what thou wilt shall be the entirety of the Law.” Because the Rede and the Law are similar some insurance claim Crowley “wrote” the Rede. He certainly did not, but just as absolutely Valiente was familiar through Crowley’s version (as Mankey points out).

The difference between them is the qualifier “An it damage none.” As a young esotericist I was familiar through both Rede and Law but I was vastly even more comfortable through the Rede’s expression “An it damage none”. “Do what thou wilt” appeared harsh and also also lawmuch less.

Just this week a BBC short article hosted up the phrase as an example of lawlessness. In A Point of View: Why not caring about anything is only for the young, Will Self quotes Dostoevsky:

Ivan maintains that without belief in the possibility of an afterlife, one in which we will be judged for our sins, tright here can no much longer be any ethical stricture limiting our Earthly behaviour – we might fornicate, intoxicate and also murder as much as we want. If we were to paraexpression Ivan’s contention, it’s that in a godless civilization, “Do what thou wilt” constitutes the entirety of the legislation.


It is exactly the misconception that “Do what thou wilt” condones violence that leads to the impulse to qualify the phrase via somepoint like “if it doesn’t harm anyone”. In Living Thelema David Shoemaker explores Crowley’s essay on Duty, “A note on the chief rules of handy conduct to be observed by those who accept the Law of Thelema”. Shoemaker notes that the core unit of any kind of group – marital relationship, family, nation – is the individual, and it is the individual that bears duty for their very own individual behavior.

For Crowley, the Law of Thelema calls for not only that an individual exercise personal obligation, yet that eextremely individual respects the Will of eexceptionally other perchild. To injury an additional directly restricts the flexibility of the one that is hequipped. “Crime being a direct spiroutine violation of the Law of Thelema, it should not be tolerated in the area,” he says plainly. The Law likewise extends to eincredibly being and object in the world; children, animals, plants, whatever need to be aided to its true function, and any type of misuse is a “crime against nature.”

Thelema excels at presenting challenges. The obstacle of the radical formulation “Do what thou wilt shall be the entirety of the Law” is to understand also Will, which is our feature in the universe. It places obligation squadepend on the individual to assure not only their own liberty, yet the flexibility of all others, which is the same thing. When we understand that our actions interact through the actions of various other people, other creatures, various other pressures in the world, we understand also ourselves as component of that whole; this is the spiroutine component of the law.

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Each of these codes represents a spiritual allude of check out. It’s illuminating to meditate on the differences and similarities both in their messeras and also in just how they function for the human being guided by them.