Posts Tagged With: Karma
When You Mess Up—Clean up: Action, Inaction, and Consequences
There is a saying that goes, karma simply is. Karma is not an external force that imposes justice; it is a system of checks and balances that has no particular time frame. Karma also has no agenda other than illustrating the principles of cause and effect, action and reaction, total cosmic justice, and personal responsibility. It is as impersonal as physics. It is the universe’s way of balancing itself out in any direction.
There are several types of karma. The first comes from all actions in previous lifetimes. Think of this like a cosmic debt or bonus that you add to, or take away from, based upon your daily behavior. The second type of karma is from actions in this life. Third is what might be called “instant” karma, things that manifest daily, such as a person getting arrested for breaking the law. In this last example, we can see where karma’s lessons come through experience; linking our action or inaction with results and responsibility.
Returning to my previous example regarding using magick for personal gain or revenge, karma asks questions like the following:
Can you live with your choice? Can you look in the mirror and be comfortable with what you see?
What kind of person do you wish to be?
Are you ready to accept the responsibility for what you’re doing, plus all possible repercussions?
These are three good questions to ask any time you’re feeling uncertain about your motivations, and how best to proceed. However, in talking about action, inaction, and consequences, I think there are several other points to consider:
Sometimes life simply happens. Say you’re in an accident and someone dies, but you live. Unless you purposefully and willfully had some hand in creating that accident, or in speeding that person’s death, there’s no karma involved for your current incarnation. In fact, there was very likely no karma involved in the accident. Death is a natural outcome of living! I only mention this because all too often people look for deep, spiritual meanings to things that have none.
There are many situations in which we do have some level of responsibility. In that case, it’s time to take steps to ameliorate the damage. Being “sorry” is not enough. Apologies do nothing to fix things, other than perhaps making the person who did wrong feel a little less badly about it. Until we’re ready to act on those things for which we’re responsible, we have learned nothing. It’s comparable to a child who continually engages in bad behavior because he or she thinks that mom and dad will either (a) give them positive or negative attention for it, and/or (b) forgive them. When they’re old enough to understand the consequences of their actions, kids need to know better. They mess up, they clean up. This is a philosophy that applies very nicely to Wiccan situational ethics. If you’ve messed up, fix it to the best of your ability.
There are going to be some things you cannot fix. Say you initiate a huge fight with a family member. Afterward, you do everything in your power to seek out forgiveness and improve communications. If that person rebuffs your efforts, the karma is no longer yours to bear. Leave the door open and move on, knowing you’ve diligently and honestly sought peaceful closure.
Despite the power of magick, there are many things for which one must work physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to remain as a cocreator with the divine. Within the broad Neo-Pagan community, there seems to be a creeping sense of entitlement. People expect magick to move mountains even when they’ve invested very little personal effort. For example, the creator of a ritual strongly suggests beginning at sunrise for the greatest amount of success. Well, to heck with that! We want to sleep until noon. Is it any wonder that such a ritual would go awry? While not all rituals require strict timing, in this illustration a timing was strongly advised. Without proper intent and honest effort, there’s no reason for manifestation to happen. There was no real energy invested to begin with. The old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies to magick, too. Be ready and willing to work for magickal manifestation.
Finally, what about those moments when our back is, indeed, up against a wall? A soldier will tell you that when shooting is about to start, you do something. This isn’t the time for indecision. Such hesitancy on a regular basis creates the victim mentality in which you will remain on the sidelines of life as a proverbial wallflower. Yes, it’s possible to make people angry through action. It’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason, but to constantly do nothing isn’t the perfect answer either.
A Witch’s 10 Commandments: Magickal Guidelines for Everyday Life
Is your past-life karma spoiling your love life?
What is love karma?
By Stephen Petulli
Live a happier love life without expensive therapy, stress, or more heartache. Why do some people always seem to be happy in love and others attract one negative love life experience after another? Is it just a coincidence? From the perspective of reincarnation and karma, there is no such thing as a coincidence; everything happens for a reason. We experience heart break or heart bliss because of our love karma.
What is love karma?
It is the result of one’s actions in the past, both in this life and past lives, whether or not the current personality remembers or believes in past lives. Someone with good love karma may have acted in past-life relationships more often with integrity, love, and compassion. Someone with bad love karma may have acted in past-life relationships with dishonesty, selfishness, jealousy, or greed. But before you feel guilty for any bad love karma, it is important to realize that we have all been good and bad in past lives. Furthermore, because of guilt or resentment, it is possible to have bad love karma without having done anything wrong.
Is it possible to overcome bad love karma?
Yes, by discovering and releasing the root cause, whether it happened last week or 2000 years ago. This will help you gain awareness and understanding, which will lead to forgiveness; the key to letting go of the past.
Turn your bad love luck into a happier love life (and reach other personal goals) with the following three steps:
- Discover and release the blocks.
- One of the most effective ways to discover and release the root cause of any bad luck is through meditation and/or past-life regression. This can work even for those who don’t believe in reincarnation. Simply gaining awareness, whether it’s real or symbolic, about the long forgotten karmic reasons for any negative love or life experiences can be enough to break the pattern for good.
- Forgive yourself and anyone else involved with the root cause.
- Forgiving someone is for you; it doesn’t let anyone off the hook because of the law of karma. Guilt or resentment, which we are not always conscious of, sabotages our love lives.
- Take the appropriate action at the appropriate time.
- Learn how to track your personal love cycles. All our love lives follow predictable cycles that can be accurately outlined by the metaphysical science of numeric analysis, which does not cause the cycles but is simply symbolic of them. This awareness can help you be prepared and ride the waves of opportunity rather than be submersed by them. With more awareness of yourself and your relationships, you’ll be able to live and react with less fear and more love, make better choices in love and life, organize your efforts toward a happy and harmonious love life, and eventually live the love life that you may have only hoped for up until now.
Most of us concentrate on the physical, mental, and emotional sides of relationships, but few of us know how to investigate or repair the spiritual side. This lack of awareness and balance leads to expectations which create heartache and disharmony. You can improve your love life on your own and all your answers really are inside of you. Past-life regression and meditation will allow you to gain the awareness and balance you need to let go of what isn’t serving you any more and welcome a new beginning.
Popular Misconceptions of Karma
Karma means “deed” or “action” in Sanskrit. However, action is not substituted for karma, as karma carries much more weight than the simple understanding found in action. Karma is one of the most popular and perhaps least understood concepts in Buddhism. Karmic actions can be behaviors as well as thoughts and emotions.
There are multiple ways to consider karma. One way is “local” karma; actions in the present (including mental actions) have an impact on future experiences. Another is “remote” karma; actions performed in this lifetime have an impact on future rebirths. Remote karma, of course, depends on the idea of rebirth, which may be an alien idea to many people in the Western world. From a scientific perspective, there is no evidence for rebirth. However, your own direct experience can reveal the working of local karma. What you think now will affect how you feel later. What you do now will bear fruit at some future point in time. This is different from a universal balance, that is, “you reap what you sow,” which is a common misconception of karma.
Consider local karma like this: You can’t kill someone in the morning and then have a peaceful meditation in the afternoon. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about karma.
Misconception: Karma Is Retaliation from an Outside
Force How many times have you heard someone say, “She has bad karma,” referring to someone who has had a run of bad luck. In the West, karma has often been interpreted as equal to the principle of “an eye for an eye” — the retaliatory principle that you are punished with the same punishment you inflict on another. However, this is a misconception and misunderstanding of the Buddhist meaning of karma. According to the Buddha’s teaching, you are not made to pay for past mistakes, nor are you rewarded for your past good deeds — but you are, in fact, what you do or intend to do. More to the point, karma is the process by which your actions shape your life.
Since the Buddha did not acknowledge the presence of a theistic power, karma would not be associated with an external, objective judge. In the words of Shantideva (an eighth-century Buddhist teacher), “Suffering is a consequence of one’s own action, not a retribution inflicted by an external power…We are the authors of our own destiny; and being the authors, we are ultimately…free.”
Misconception: Karma Involves All Actions
Karma only involves intentional actions. Therefore, if you were to step accidentally on a spider, you would not invoke karma. You unintentionally stepped on the spider. There was no intent to hurt the spider.
However, if you decide beforehand that you are going to kill the damn spider that is living in the garage and stomp on him with malice aforethought, you will experience the karmic ramification of an action that is laced with hatred and aversion (remember, one of Three Poisons). If you understand karma as one moment conditioning future moments, you can see the interdependent chain of cause and effect. When your mind is clouded by aggression, this will generate particular effects. When your mind is occupied by peace, this will generate its own particular effects. This effect will be on your own mind moments and on your behavior that, in turn, affects others.
It might be helpful to set aside notions of “good” and “bad” karma because this distinction just creates confusion and reinforces misconceptions. Instead, think of skillful and unskillful actions. When remembering that actions include behavior and also mental actions (thoughts, feelings, and images that you intentionally engage with and nurture), you will discover that certain actions lead to beneficial results, that is, you feel good and others around you feel good.
If you walk down the street smiling, you will feel good and others around you will feel good. This is acting skillfully (“good karma”). You will also discover that certain other actions lead to harmful results, that is, you feel bad and others around you feel bad. If you yell and criticize and kick the dog, you will be lost in feeling bad, later experience regret, and adversely impact those around you. This is acting unskillfully (“bad karma”). Acting from the Three Poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion is unskillful, while acting from their opposites — generosity, kindness, and wisdom — is skillful.
Karma as the Ethical Center
Effects of Actions
You can taste the effects of some types of karma right away, but other karmic actions will bear fruit at some point in the future. Karma points to the realization that everything is interconnected in some way.
But your actions have much greater effect than one day’s span. Karma is a process of constant change. If you do skillful acts now you can change your later karma. For Buddhists, the belief in karma is a guiding moral compass. However, do not worry or obsess on past actions. Take care of your life today. Live in the moment and change the present. Thereby you can change the future as well.
Traditionally, Buddhists would undertake their lives in a way to maximize their skillful karma by generating merit. They do this by donating food to begging Buddhist monks, donating money to the monastery, and doing good deeds. If you live your life in accordance with the Buddhist teachings and moral principles, you will automatically be on the way towards generating merit and limiting unskillful or destructive karma.
Whatever the ultimate truth of karma and rebirth, it can’t hurt to live a good life that seeks to limit harming others and seeks to be less selfish and more generous (in fact, research suggests generous people are happier). Another important consideration about karma is that not all suffering is the result of karma. Local conditions such as temperature and internal conditions such as a virus have nothing to do with your karma. It is only through deep wisdom (prajna) that you would be able to know which bits of suffering are due to past karma and which are due to local conditions. Uncertainty winds up being the order of the day.
Basic Candle Magick
Here is a taste of magick you may use as soon as you complete the Self-
Dedication period. This type of candle magick is very basic, yet quite
effective. Lesson Four will deal solely with magick, but this being an
introductory lesson, it is only fair to include a taste.
This is a good time iterate how closely Karma and ethics are intertwined. If
you cast an evil spell, you may be in for some Karma even though you might call
yourself a white witch. You choose your own color of magick, not once, but each
time you practice. Some traditions believe in Karma as “What you do comes back to you”. Do you? This is your own moral choice. The magick you will learn
from this course and the magick you will learn to create on your own can be used
for any purpose.
Keep in mind that for any magick it is best (though not necessary) to do calling
magick, such as money, love, health, luck or anything that brings something to
you, during the waxing moon (first quarter) to the full moon. Banishing magick,
such as bindings, quitting bad habits, curses or anything pushing energy away
should be done during the waning moon (last quarter) to the new moon. These are optimal times, but you cannot always base your magick around the moon.
Basic candle magick deals only with two colors, white and black. Envision the white candle as the waxing to full moon and the black candle as the waning to new moon. For any calling purposes, use the white candle. For any banishing purposes, use the black candle. (Note: Always use candles that are one solid color throughout. Scratch some wax off to test this if you are not certain.)
You will need:
One white or black candle
Matches or lighter
Olive oil (a small amount)
Basic Candle Magick Spell
Perform STEP ONE, Meditation.
For white candle:
Rub oil from the tip of the candle towards the base while humming and
visualizing your reason for doing this spell. Continue humming and visualizing
for about five minutes.
For black candle:
Rub oil from the base of the candle towards the tip while humming and
visualizing your reason for doing this spell. Continue humming and visualizing
for about five minutes.
Continue for either candle:
Place the candle into the holder and light it.
Chant your chant for as long as you can while visualizing your purpose.
To chant, use a monotone humming voice.
(You should create a specific chant for your purpose. It can be as simple as
one word or as complex as you wish.)
(Examples: “Money, money, come to me”, “bring love”, or “Protection surround me, complete serenity”.)
When you cannot chant and visualize any longer,
put the candle out and repeat the spell the following night (or day).
After you see the first glimpse of the results of your spell that night or day,
let the candle burn all the way out.
Remember, after the completion of any spell or ritual, always say:
“So mote it be.”
(This simply means “It is over.”)
Karma is a Hindu concept that has been adopted by many Westerners, especially those in the New Age and Pagan communities. While many people talk about karma, not everyone fully understands it. Its effects over several lifetimes are also often misunderstood.
What Is Karma?
Karma is the Hindu law of cause and effect. For every action you take, there is a reaction, although it’s not equal and opposite. When you take beneficial action, you receive a beneficial effect. When you take baneful action, that will come back to you, too.
Your karma is a part of your soul, and it determines, in part, how your life will play out. If you live a just life, you will receive more just benefits. If something negative befalls you, look to your history and see what might have caused it.
Leftover Karma from Past Lives
The karmic backlash or reward for your actions is not always immediate. Sometimes it takes years to feel the full karmic effects of any action. The span of time between an action and its karmic effect can actually stretch over more than one lifetime. The actions you took in your past lives affect your current life to some degree. They might decide your role in this life, or how your life is lived. You can rest assured that really evil people will receive appropriate punishments in their future lives. Hopefully, you weren’t a terrible person in your past life, but if you can’t see any reason why so many things in your life seem to be going wrong, you might be dealing with retribution for mistakes you made in a previous life.
The Hindu concept of time is not strictly linear, so there can also be a karmic influence for an action you’ve not yet taken. Living the best life you can in order to balance out the negative weight on your karma is the best solution for dealing with karmic effects you had no role in creating in this life. A Hindu’s goal in life is to carry out his dharma (duty). If you attempt to serve your life purpose, it will benefit your karma and counterbalance the mistakes of the past or futureSource: Author: Selene Silverwind
Responsibility, Free Will and the Craft
Author: Rhys Chisnall
Responsibility is a byword of Initiatory Craft and as Craft initiates we are expected to be coping adults and be able to take responsibility for our own actions. We don’t believe in the Devil and so can’t pin our own shortcomings at his ‘supernatural’ door; nor indeed do we seek as Vivianne Crowley says in ‘Wicca: the Old Religion in the New Age’, an unrealistic sainthood. Rather we seek to take responsibility for our own world. I was told during my training that ‘Witches happen to life, life does not happen to Witches’. Sure, ‘sh*t happens’, says another much quoted real world centred Craft saying, but we have a responsibility in how we deal with life’s inevitabilities. This article examines whether we can have responsibility.
Responsibility seems to imply free will, after all most people would agree that we need to be free to make choices and decisions about our actions in order to be held responsible for them. It seems intuitively unfair to lay blame and responsibility for a crime if the perpetrator had no choice in committing it. An individual could hardly be blamed for holding up a bank if they had a bomb strapped to them by a criminal who told them that the device would be exploded killing them (and others) if they deviated from the plan. We would not hold them responsible, as they had no choice; they were coerced in to doing what they did. Likewise if a person was brainwashed or hypnotised into committing a crime we would be loath to blame them as we would we feel that they were not responsible. They were forced to do things against how they would have normally acted. The opposite is also true, when someone chooses to do something particularly brave or good, or copes with a debilitating disease with dignity and grace we praise and admire them. We view them as responsible for their actions. When someone chooses to put others needs before their own, again we either praise them or consider them mugs for the responsibility for their choices.
Responsibility need not have a moral aspect as it can also be seen as self-empowering. If we take responsibility for something then it comes into our sphere of control; we can do something about it. If we blame other people or events for our misfortunes we are effectively saying that we are powerless. We are putting ourselves in the role of the victim and that is not something that sits easily with Witchcraft. Looking at responsibility in this sense also seems to imply free will. Responsibility seems to suggest that we need free will to make the choice to take control of our own lives, to influence where life is taking us thus making us powerful individuals. It is in this meaning of responsibility where we find one of the empowerment sources of the Witch and a fundamental cornerstone of Initiatory Craft thinking.
Free will is an important concept in many different religions. For example in Christianity free will is a doctrine and is required for someone to either accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and be saved, or reject them and be damned. It is viewed as a gift from God and without it God would not be able to pass judgment, as sinners would not be responsible for their actions. It is a foundation of Christian belief and causes those Christians interested in philosophy huge headaches. Likewise to believers in the New Age movement and popular Wicca, who adhere to the simplistic morality of Western Karma, free will is an important but self-contradictory concept. Free will is required to make choices on actions which will later go on to influence what happens to that person in terms of fortune or misfortune caused by the accumulation of negative karma from bad acts and positive karma from good ones. I am sure you can see the potential for contradiction.
But does free will exist? This is a subject that metaphysicians have explored over the ages and although there is not a complete consensus (such a thing does not exists on anything in philosophy) , free will seems extremely unlikely. What is more it is extremely unlikely in any possible view of the world. It seems that free will could not exist in a deterministic universe as revealed by scientific method nor even in a ‘possible’ universe were random non caused events could occur.
First let us take the scientific, deterministic paradigm of how the Universe operates. British Post Feminist Philosopher Dr. Janet Radcliffe Richards explored this in her book ‘Human Nature after Darwin’. If we ignore the Quantum world for a moment (where random events do occur and where probability rather than determinism rules) science works on principals of determinism, effects have causes and those causes have other causes all the way back to the Big Bang or Quantum world. This means anything that you choose to do has to have a cause, which itself must have also been caused. As such any action you perform has causes that extend back way before you were even born. There does not seem to be any room for free will as everything was set in motion by the big bang. Your choices are subject to a chain of causes extending back beyond your existence, so how could you be held responsible, how could you choose freely to do anything?
Science makes no assumptions of free will. A recent example is an article on teenage responsibility in the ‘New Scientist’ (25th Sept 2010) . Jessica Hamzelou discusses recent research into the growth and development of the brain in young people with its implications on responsibility. In particular the research looked at development of White Matter in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the area that deals with being able to understand the long term effects of one’s actions. The argument being that as this part of the brain does not fully form until a person reaches the age of about 20 this explains why teenagers often make very poor decisions. Although they know the difference between right and wrong they cannot be held fully accountable for their actions, as they do not yet have a full understanding of their behaviours consequences. Isn’t it funny how biological psychology has reconfirmed the old idea that a person isn’t an adult until they are 21?
This report implies that there is no free will and the causes of behaviour in young people are determined by their biological development. It is not hard to make similar arguments based upon hormones, education, social influences, poor parenting, genetics, influence of peers, environmental factors etc. These in turn are caused by evolutionary pressures, which operated on the person’s gene pool millions of years before they were born. There seems to be no room at all for free will in the massively complex interplay of the huge amount of various layers of causes on an individual’s behaviour. Young people and by extension ourselves have no real choice or free will in what they or they and we do.
But if you think that it is looking bad for the existence of free will in a deterministic universe so far, like they say here in Suffolk, ‘you ain’t seen nothin’; it gets even worse.
Consider the fascinating research done by the American Physiologist Benjamin Libet and others. Libet discovered that when we believe we are making a decision our conscious awareness of our decision-making is a relative latecomer to the game. It turns out that we have already unconsciously/pre-consciously made the decision. We don’t become aware of our decision until a fraction of a moment after we have made it.
Think of it this way: You know the opening titles of the ‘Simpsons’ where baby Maggie thinks that she is steering the car, but the camera pans back and we see that it is Marge who is actually driving? It turns out that our conscious awareness of making decisions is actually like little Maggie, and is reacting to decisions made pre-consciously rather than making them itself. However, we should also remember that the pre-conscious makes our decisions based upon our beliefs, which goes to show just how important beliefs actually are. However, it is important to point out that this research is not without its critics. The American Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist Daniel Dennett is not convinced by the methodology of this research and another philosopher (also a supporter of determinism) Alfred Mele is not convinced by its form. However none of these concerns doubt the difficulties of free will in respect to determinism.
Come to think of it you don’t need to be a physiologist or a cognitive scientist to view other people’s behaviours as having causes. We often interpret people’s actions in everyday life and circumstances as the result of causes. For example, we might say that John was late to work because he was lazy, or that Bill shoplifted because he fell in with bad company after having a deprived childhood. Looking for causes in our own and other people’s behaviour was called Attribution Theory by the social psychologist Harold Kelly. Two parts of which are known as Fundamental Attribution Error and the Actor/Observer effect. In the west, we are culturally determined to explain other people’s behaviour in terms of internal causes, e.g. they are lazy, they are hard working, they are selfish, etc. When it comes to our own behaviour, we tend to explain it in terms of external causes, for example: I was cross because he annoyed me, I lied because she put me in an impossible position or I was late because the traffic was bad. In either case, we intuitively seek to explain behaviour in terms of deterministic causes.
Those who believe strictly that all our actions are determined in a continuous chain of cause and effect and believe there is no such thing as responsibility are called ‘hard determinists’. This is a view similar to those who believe in fate. That everything in life is already determined and we are living a kind of script. The American philosopher Professor Theodore Sider has devised a simple test to find out if hard determinists really do have the courage of their convictions. The test is simple: punch such a person on the nose and see how convinced they are that it wasn’t your responsibility. Tell them that the act had been pre-determined since the big bang. My guess is that they will not be too keen to practise what they preach and accept your reasoning. Mind you there is a way around this as they could claim that your actions caused them to deterministically retaliate in kind.
There does not seem to be much room for free will in a deterministic universe as described by science. Is this a reason for rejecting scientific determinism? Does free will and responsibility do any better in a spiritual world, or a world were random events occur that are not caused?
Both Sider and Radcliffe Richards along with many other philosophers have dealt with this problem and have come up with the same answer. If a random event occurred then surely it can still no longer be free will. To demonstrate this point Professor Ted Sider uses this colourful example in the book ‘Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics’. Imagine the following scene: In a Universe where random uncaused events occur, Mother Teresa is working with the poor of Calcutta. While working away she randomly picks up a hand grenade, pulls out the pin and throws it into an orphanage killing hundreds. The event was completely uncaused and random. The question is was she responsible? Remember that the event was completely uncaused as there was nothing in Mother Teresa’s past, personality or mind that caused it.
Surely as Mother Teresa did not intend or have anything within her that caused the mass murder she can’t be responsible and therefore she was not exercising fee will. Randomness and uncaused events cannot be the product of free will, because and for free will to exist it needs to be caused and causal. Without cause, there can be no free will as in a non-causal universe free will could not cause anything. Random events that happen in the Quantum world also do not save free will, as randomness is uncaused and nothing can take responsibility for randomness. If nothing causes free will, then it does not come from the person so the person cannot be responsible and free will can’t exist.
It seems that free will simply can’t exist either in a random universe or a deterministic one. Besides a random universe is problematic as it just does not accord with our observations of nature beyond the quantum level. As Crafters, we ought to be suspicious of the concept of a world of random non-caused events as this does not fit with the idea that magic can be effective. After all magic, while not clearly understood, seems to works by a variety of mechanisms all of which are deterministic. The Magician or Witch performs the spell that causes, via complicated processes, the desired outcome.
What about free will existing in a universe in which souls and spirits exist? After all, religious people often see the source of their free will as residing in their souls, these being a gift from God to see whom he can trust to let into Heaven. Radcliffe Richards points out that if such was the case then the spirits and souls would still be either existing in a deterministic world where they would be subject to cause and effect (why should spirits be free of determinism?) , or in a random world where there could be no responsibility as nothing is caused. Both are equally problematic for free will and responsibility.
Radcliffe Richards goes on to claim that free will is a necessary nonexistent. By this philosophers mean that there are some things that don’t exist in an ordinary way (weird as that sounds) , for examples fairies, spirits, hobgoblins, nice tasting American beer, etc. These things are not real but they could exist in metaphorical ‘other world’. Some other things just cannot exist in any world, they are just too contradictory, and these are necessary non-existent. For example, things like four-sided triangles, round squares, two plus two equal five and so it seems, free will. In other words, there is just no such thing as free will as it is assumed to exist in normal discourse; it is completely impossible for it to exist in any possible world.
So is Craft philosophy with its emphasis on personal responsibility completely scuppered? Perhaps there is a third option that we could explore.
There is a branch of the freewill/determinism metaphysical debate that could come to our rescue. It has a revised concept of free will, which is still part of the deterministic world in which we live; in fact it is compatible with it. This is a view that is held by most modern philosophers and is called, funny enough, compatiblism or ‘soft determinism’. The Stoics championed it in ancient times and more recently several major philosophers of the Enlightenment, including the famous 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume, supported it.
Although a hugely complex web of events that extends back beyond our existence causes everything we believe or know or do, soft determinists believe that we have ‘free will’ when we act without external coercion from another agent according to how these causes have made us. By ‘coercion by another agent’ we mean being forced into doing something such as being brainwashed or hypnotised, etc. Essentially this is what the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer meant when he famously said, “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. So although who we are is determined through cause and effect, soft determinists see us as acting freely when our actions are consistent with that tapestry. In Initiatory Craft we call this massively complex pattern Wyrd.
To be fair it isn’t the traditional free will of common discourse, but it is the situated agency of humanistic psychology. It is when we act in accord with how we have been determined to be, in accordance with our personalities, beliefs and character within the constraints of our situations and context.
Soft determinists claim that we are the product of hugely complex causal forces. These include evolutionary forces, physiology and biology, our culture, education, experiences and the beliefs that they form. It can be successfully argued that part of this rich tapestry of causal personhood is responsibility. In other words, the concept of responsibility, a belief in taking responsibility and being responsible for our actions is a causal part of our makeup. The idea of responsibility, all things being equal with other causal factors, makes us take responsibility. However this only holds true if we have been exposed to the concept and have the kind of character and experiences that causes us to take these beliefs on board which in turn enables us towards self-empowerment. In other words we have been caused to take responsibility, which makes good education in my view extremely important.
Taking responsibility will influence our decision-making processes as much as anything else, making it part of the soft deterministic world view. It makes us act as we are determined to be, having situated agency or what the soft determinists refer to as liberty. It is taking responsibility for the unfolding process of Wyrd through self-knowledge that is relevant to the Craft view of what a Witch is. It empowers us in shaping our lives in accord with the deterministic forces that have in turn have shaped us. If we have been determined to accept this responsibility then we can do nothing else, it is our Wyrd. Responsibility gives us a degree of agency.
In the end, despite there being no such thing as free will in any possible universe, there is still an important role for responsibility as it is viewed in the Craft. Taking responsibility, which is so important to the Initiatory Craft and to self-empowerment in general, is part of the vastly complex tapestry of causal forces that include concepts and beliefs that goes into making a person. Therefore the Initiatory Craft view of taking personal responsibility stands up to the philosophical scrutiny and refutation of free will.