If It Harm None, Do It, The Wiccan Rede

I have to admit that I did not watch the Presidential debate.  I had a headache and went to bed.  I did see a small portion, but soon realized that neither candidate was saying much.  They simply said the same things over and over again.  It made me think of the Wiccan Rede and I wondered how that might change things.

If it harm none, do it.

Right off, I have to make a disclaimer.  I am not Wiccan and so if I quoted the Rede wrong, forgive me.  I have seen it written many different ways and this is just on of them.

Anyway, you get the just of it.  If what you intend to do does not harm anyone, then go ahead and do it.  I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  A story I was reading used it frequently.  The question I have is how easy would it be to live by this Rede.

I think that there needs to be some real work on defining just what the Rede means.

The big issue, at least for me is the word harm.  If it means strictly physical harm, then it becomes much easier.  If what I want to do doesn’t cause anyone bodily damage, then I am free to do it.  That would mean that, since I am a nudist, I should be able to walk down the street naked.  It might offend some, it might disgust some, but I don’t think it will cause anyone to start bleeding.  Wait, what about the little old lady that dies from a heat attack because she was so shocked at seeing my stellar physique?

If by harm, we include not only the physical, but emotional and economic harm, then it gets harder!

In the above example, my walking naked down the street would cause some emotional harm.  They are so ingrained with body shame issues that they would suffer real emotional harm.  What about that? Could we say they are not really harmed, but simply offended?  Who decides the difference?

If I decide to start a business, that competes with someone else and I put them out of business, haven’t I done them harm?

Going back to the President debate, If Romney taxes the middle class and keeps the tax breaks for the rich, doesn’t he harm the middle class?  If Obama takes away oil subsidies to the oil companies, doesn’t he harm those in the oil business?  Sure, it’s easy to not feel sorry for those fat cats making millions and to side with the middle class.  That’s where most of us live.  The thing is, the Rede does not distinguish by class, gender, or anything else.

Who decides what harm is?  If it were up to the individual, then it is anything goes unless it causes immediate physical harm.  If we say that harm means hurting someone else in anyway, then we become immobilized with fear that we might “harm” someone.

I love the Rede. I think it is right up there with Jesus’ summary of the law.  Can I walk down the street naked or not?  Can I grow marijuana in my garden (No! I don’t, just in case you’re wondering.) or not?

Sometimes I think that if we all lived by the Rede it would be a much happier world.  What’s in my garden again?  Then I think, perhaps it would lead to chaos.  What do you think?

If it harm none, do it.

Let me know what you think.


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13 Responses to If It Harm None, Do It, The Wiccan Rede

  1. Pingback: All-Nudist » ‘The Wiccan Rede’ – Nearly Nudist!

  2. I think that if everyone adopted this creed, no matter how how far they took the interpretation towards literally avoiding harm to others, the world would be a far better place, Unfortunately, ‘everyone’ is the key word. Like turning the other cheek, it’s a great idea as long as there aren’t people around who LIKE to slap cheeks!

    There was a MUCH longer response here but rather than post a comment longer than the article, we added it to the link to THIS article on our website. If there’s anything better than sharing a good article, it’s getting to write about it too!

    • VNP says:

      I agree with what you say about everyone. There seems to always be someone who enjoys slapping. I wonder how that might be worked into the creed of if it harm none…?

  3. Well, the Church used to kill those who disagreed… How about, ‘Harm none, and if you do we’ll kill you!’ 😉

    That brings to mind something I once read that might be related; ‘Government is that entity which reserves for itself the right to kill those with whom it disagrees.”

  4. Tom says:

    I think that sorting out harms in a world in which we are beginning to have a global, systems, or ecological understanding, in which individual goods and social goods are often antagonistic, and in which we are in danger of overshoot as a civilization is so complicated that the answer has to be religious. You can’t do the math. Gregory Bateson said that in spite of minor insanities (inquisitions, superstition, snake handling) older epistemologies at least preserved a respect for unity, with gods standing for the cybernetic or circuit nature of existence. The materialism dominating traditional Christianity seems to me to say that it has run out of time. The pagan, earthier religions are tempting, but my experience with them is of a kind of vapid suburban self indulgence. The myth of our time is big bang, evolution, and ecology. I’d like to say I’m its John the Baptist waiting for his Christ, but I’m really not even John. Guess I’m waiting for the electrician or someone like him.

    • VNP says:

      I agree with what you say. My reason for asking the question was really to get people thinking. What does it mean, in today’s world, to do no harm. The answer is so convoluted that there really isn’t a simple one. It would mean some very drastic changes in the way the global economy and cultures are lived.

      I also agree with what you say about religion. In my opinion, Christianity has become a social/economic/political force. It no longer senses god in any meaningful way. It is about power, not god. Paganism, or should I say neopaganism, is in its infancy. It must move from being a foo foo carnival side show to being a honest expression of an earth centered religion. One that recognizes “the gods” as something more than a ouija board game. I’m not saying that all Pagans are like that, I’m certainly not, but many are. Then again, how many Christians, Muslim, Buddhists, or whatever, are in the same category?

      I believe that we must understand ourselves to be part of the whole organic life that pulses around us. We must begin to move ourselves from a place of greed and corruption to a place where something like the Rede just might work. Will that come easy? Not a chance. Will it come at all? Without major changes, never. Am I a spiritual romantic thinking it could? Yep!

  5. It would seem that the Roman Church lost its way a long time ago, right about the time when one man sat down and decided which campfire stories about JC would be included in the Book as God’s Word and which would be considered heresy. Prior to that the stories were at least somewhat connected to the source via word of mouth; once it was determined that this one is the Word and that one is BS based on personal and political reasons, Christianity became a political tool for control, not a means to help folks find salvation.

    The basic concept of Christianity and the most important message JC left, love for others, was lost long ago and reduced to lip-service while the materialistic aspects have been exploited to control congregations and populations. Like the Rede, were that simple idea of service to others the main focus of everyone’s life, the rest would be unnecessary.

    Love for all people, real selfless love, means that you can do no harm to them, you must do all you can for them, you must forgive and cherish them no matter what, as you would the most beloved person in your life. That’s what JC and the Rede and many others throughout history have tried to instill in people, and it fails every time.

    All it takes is one person in a group who doesn’t subscribe to that belief and everything collapses as the defenseless are exploited through their ‘weakness’. The ‘true believer’ who remains true to their belief of love for all is easily used, cast aside, or eliminated by those seeking power, effectively making that philosophy impossible in the physical world. Few people will stand still and die rather than defend themselves. So the idea is watered down to something which includes self preservation, then self-service. Not the same thing at all.

    Judaism (an early form of social order) and Christianity (the beginning of social conscience) have both succumbed to the influences of both non-believers and their own leaders who lost the original message by dwelling on the details rather than the basic idea. It matters not whether some god gave Moses the Commandments or not; what the Commandments SAID is the important part. How many sects of Judaism have there been, disagreeing on petty points?

    Similarly, whether God impregnated Mary so He could be born of her then die to save us from Himself is immaterial to the message JC left; Love one another. But what do we dwell on? Whether Mary was a virgin and if JC had a girlfriend! Others refuse to hear the message because they don’t like the messenger!

    The Rede is a modernized attempt to get the same message across without the hoo-hah which worked for Iron Age peasants, instead using comfortable images and compassion instead of divine punishment as motivators. Like the Golden Rule, it’s a good guide for social behavior yet need not be adhered to strictly to be effective. Every little bit helps, but to do so it must be foremost in everyone’s mind.

    Unfortunately, the Pagan and Wiccan faiths are already falling into the same trap that others have in the past; egos are competing for control of the concepts and squabbling over details rather than celebrating their shared belief in social and personal harmony. In that regard, they are far ahead of Christianity on the road to religious insignificance by losing sight of the purpose for their existence mere years after coming into being as ‘modern’ religions.

    When someone has to tell you how and what to believe, it no longer comes from the heart; it comes from someone else’s mind. It’s been said that the one true religion is that which when you find it you say, “Why, I knew that!” That entire concept fails when someone then tells you what it’s really supposed to mean! Those folks will always be around, and we always let them screw things up!

    Ya know, this was a very long comment so I deleted it down to the first paragraph… then went back at it again from a different direction! Sorry about that. I talk too much, really ought to get a blog or something… 😉

    Tom – You might be just a little bit nuts in your ideas about John and the electrician, but I won’t be the one to say so! I met a very sincere man years ago who was convinced that he was JC resurrected. I wasn’t so sure about that but I didn’t disagree with him. In my life I have come to learn that a lot of things aren’t true, much as I might like them to be, but I have yet to know all of the things that might very well be! Give me a call when the Electrician shows up! 😉

    • VNP says:

      It seems to me that we people allow “others” to tell them what to do and how to do it is when things fall apart. Now certainly, we need to follow rules or society collapses. What I am talking about is people allowing others to tell them what is right and wrong in life. If we all lived by the Rede or the Summary of the Law, and society looked down on anyone who strayed from that sort of life, then it begins to hang together.

      What we have now is a culture of apathy. We think the politicians or the corporations are looking out for our best interest. We don’t vote, we don’t speak up, we just let life happen and we are reaping the benefits of such an apathetic view. We like to blame the leaders, but it is us, the followers who are to blame. It has always been this way. People get comfortable and sit back letting someone else do the job. Suddenly we find that things have turned to shit and we have a revolution of some sort and try to get things back in line.

      I still have some hope for Paganism only because it is more accepting of differences of opinion as to what to believe and in what. Are there people trying to gain power within the Pagan movement? Sure. Will it degenerate into the same mucky mire that the other religions have degenerated into. Could be, but it is a certainty if those within it take on the apathy mode and don’t stand up for living in a moral way.

      I said in my post in in replying to Tom that I don’t think the Rede is livable, at least not in today’s world. It is, however, a starting point. I think the Summary of the Law as given by Jesus is the same, a starting point to look to a future that does not end with the destruction of the planet and those who live on it.

      Maybe the Electrician will come. Praise to the circuitry!

  6. A starting point is certainly better than no point or giving up entirely. There are plenty of people in the world who would love nothing better than to live in peace and harmony; they’re just ‘outnumbered’ by the minority who, lacking such ideals, are more inclined to be movers and shakers, or mere takers. But that needn’t stop one from trying!

    From a spiritual standpoint, does it really matter if the world ever reaches a higher state? It’s our attempts towards that higher goal which will be the measure of our lives when we depart this world, not how others have put their own lives to use. Nicht wahr?

    May the Spark be with you!

  7. Hey, late’s start a new religion based on selflessness and sharing! I’ll be in charge and you can share your money with me to be second in charge, then you can get someone else to share their cash with you (I get a cut), they they can do the same, etc., etc.! Everybody wins! We’ll call it, Pyramid Love! 😉

  8. Congratulations, you’ve been nominated for the Super Sweet Blogging Award! Check out the details here http://wiccaandpaganism.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/super-sweet-blogger-award/

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