THE STANDARD OF THE REDE
When we realize the kinds and orders of results, both expected and unexpected, both knowable and unknowable, which eventuate from almost every human action, it would seem the better part of both valor and wisdom to never do anything at all, especially not anything which is done with spiritual power guided by no more than human wisdom! Unfortunately, to do nothing is also a choice, and the results of inaction are often far worse than the results of even ill-considered action. This is why the second half of the Rede demands that we make a decision and act upon it, as well as conforming that decision to the requirement that it harm none.
THE STANDARD OF THE REDE. Please note that the Wiccan Rede contains no loop-holes whatsoever. The Rede does not say, “An it harm none to the best of your knowledge.” The Rede also does not say “An it harm none to the best of your ability to discern whether it will harm
The Wiccan Rede does not say these things, or anything similar to them. It simply says “An it harm NONE, do what ye will.” This means that YOU, once you have committed to live by the Wiccan Rede, are committed to be solely and totally responsible for any harm resulting from ANY ACTION YOU TAKE, MAGICKAL OR NOT.
Paul Seymour’s forthcoming book begins with some strong cautionary notes concerning the use of magick. One of the examples he gives is particularly tragic, and concerns a young man who worked a simple and apparently harmless “money spell”. The spell worked, and the young man got his money–he inherited it, when his parents were both killed in an accident shortly after he worked the spell.
Paul does not say in his book if this young man was a Wiccan initiate. If he was, then in addition to his sorrow and loss, he has had to live with the fact that, by the standard of the Rede, he is ultimately responsible for the death of his parents.
When you commit to live according to the Wiccan Rede, you commit to conform your entire life, not just the magickal, mystical and religious aspects of it, to the standard set by the Rede. Never
again will you be able to act impulsively or without considering the results of what you do. Never again will you be able to act or even speak in thoughtless irritation or anger. Instead, you will come to consider the implications of every word you speak, and of every routine action you do. For it is not just by magick that we can harm ourselves or others; everything we do, and everything we say, has the potential to help or harm others, and to help or harm ourselves.
It is also important to note that the Rede sets up a standard which prevents us from harming ourselves as well as others. Other religions, including Christianity, regard it as virtuous to suffer
harm for the sake of another, even to die so that another person might live. The Wiccan Rede does not permit this. You are to harm none, and this means that you are not to harm yourself, even for the sake of doing good for someone else. To some, this may seem like a selfish standard. But think about it. Would you wish to benefit by someone else’s injury or death? Of course not! If you did derive some benefit, such as an inheritance, from the death of another person, would you feel good about this? Well, some people might, but probably you would not. Therefore, in a very real sense, you yourself are harmed by a benefit you derive from the injury or death of another. True, the harm is emotional, but it is entirely real.
Wicca recognizes that human beings are social creatures. What does harm to one, does harm to all in varying degrees. Therefore, it is imperative that each person strive to harm no one, himself or herself included.
Finally, it is significant to note that word “ye” in the statement, “Do what YE will.” This is the ancient plural form of “you”, and it means that your individual will is assumed to be in accord with some other will, instead of acting entirely on its own.
What is this other will which, together with yours, comprises the “ye” in the Rede? Well, if you are working in a coven, it could well be the combined will of the members of the coven. But this would not apply to those who are working on their own, and it is not the highest or best meaning, even for those working in coven.
How does one act, so as to be certain to harm none? Not by refusing to act, since inaction is itself a decision, and often causes far more harm than even rash action. Not by delaying action until the
time for it is past, because that is the same as inaction. And not by relying solely upon your own human wisdom, either.
The best way to act, so as to be certain to harm none, is to call upon the Goddess and/or the God, and to hand to Them the power you have raised, together with the situation you have raised the power to deal with, and say, “You are holy, good, and wise, and know how to use this power to help and not harm. Do Your will in this situation. That is my will, that Your will be done.” And thus the Rede is fulfilled: For the “ye” who will are yourself and Them- selves, who are good, and love humanity, and who always act for the highest good of all.