On a Diviner’s Code of Ethics

Having this blog isn’t the first time I’ve ran a website, whether hosted by myself or another.  I’ve dealt with buying a domain and server space and setting up everything on my own before, and though sometimes it can make things more flexible, it can also be a big hassle.  It’s one of the reasons I like the convenience of using a service like WordPress to handle the back-end stuff for me, because let’s be honest, I don’t have the time or energy to deal with the nitty-gritty of website management on my own.

Back in college, shortly before I started the first iteration of this blog on Blogspot and before I got focused into actual magical practices, I had a small website of my own I managed.  It wasn’t for blogging or sharing occult information, no; it was a marketing website for my erstwhile spiritual consultation gig to bring in a little extra pocket money during college by doing geomancy readings for people.  I was reminded of it recently because there was something I know I had on it that I don’t have on this website, and I didn’t have the original files any longer (after several computer builds and platform changes, some loss is unfortunately to be expected), and it was something I wish I had at least for a reference for something I’ve been pondering as of late.  Much to my excited surprise, a single snapshot of that old website was available on the Internet Wayback Machine, and what I was looking for was right on that snapshot.

The thing I was looking for was my first attempt at a diviner’s code of ethics.

Without sharing the entire snapshot of my old website (which…while I’m excited I found an archived copy of it, I’m still embarrassed by it like how an accomplished artist might be embarrassed by their older submissions on their long-since-abandoned deviantart), here’s what I had on that old page relating to it:

I make a deep commitment to upholding the highest ethical and moral standards to dispel negative views and myths surrounding divination in our society. To that end, I endeavor to provide answers with clarity and utility, engage my clients in a relationship of trust and confidentiality, and interact with my community in charitable and beneficial ways. I donate a portion of all profit earned from [redacted consulting company name] to a local charity or use it for the betterment of the [redacted city name] Metropolitan Area.

To formally codify these aims, I have drawn up a “seer’s code of ethics” that I pledge to follow. I believe that all professional consultants should follow some ethical code, especially if they do so for profit. Further, it makes clear the intent I have as a psychic consultant: I work for the client’s benefit first, not my own.

  1. I will respect the confidentiality and privacy of the client, and will only release information with his or her explicit permission.
  2. I will respect the faith or the lack thereof of the client.
  3. I will refrain from judging the client on any grounds.
  4. I will inform the client of anything I can see and state from the reading, honestly and without malice, be it good or ill.
  5. I will inform the client of the manner of my technique upon request.
  6. I will inform the client of the meaning of any symbol in the reading to the best of my ability and understanding upon request.
  7. I will provide further resources to aid the client when I can no longer provide adequate or proper advice.
  8. I will make no claims as to knowing anything not knowable by strictly mundane methods with any assured level of precision or accuracy.

While I often agree to answer most types of queries, I reserve the right to refuse to answer any query I find objectionable. Such queries include, but are not limited to, those about death or violence, those violating the privacy of a third party, and those for the purpose of illegal gain. I will judge each query according to its merits once it is posed, and if I find it objectionable I may refuse to answer it.

I also reserve the right to refuse performing any reading for the client if the client acts in a dishonest or insincere way. I strive to help any client that comes my way, but since my time is valuable I choose to help only those clients with a real need and respect for me and my profession.

I warn any prospective or current client: caveat emptor! I do not claim that I provide completely accurate, precise, or correct readings, nor do I believe it possible to do so for many metaphysical reasons. The client should be aware that he or she asks for a reading at his or her own risk and out of his or her own free will; any answer or advice that derives from a reading must be evaluated by the client on the client’s own terms. I will refuse to take credit or blame for any result of a situation inquired about by the client, since it is my duty to inform and not to alter.

As a professional psychic consultant, I do not endorse any religion, spiritual tradition or philosophical school, and all such views I express are mine alone. I cannot be held responsible for any religious or spiritual matter as a result of consultation. If for some reason divination or esoteric arts are prohibited in the client’s locality or community, I cannot be held responsible for any ramification, legal or otherwise, which might result from receiving a reading.

While I haven’t laid eyes on this bit of text in literal years, much of it still stuck with me in one form or another and how I generally guide myself.  But, of course, times have changed, and I would gladly make changes to this to reflect those changes in my outlook, responsibilities, and what I consider ethical.  Since the time that old website was online, I went from a “oh no I just want to See and Predict things I could never be someone who actually meddles with magic I just want to help people figure out their lives” (I had such a phase once!) to…a not-totally-inexperienced magician, a scholar and teacher of geomancy, Hermetic and Neoplatonic theurgist, initiated priest of Ogun in Santería, craftsman, and author.  I’m familiar with quite a bit more than just geomancy nowadays, but divination is still one of the focuses of my Work; if anything, it’s only become more important as time’s gone on, because so much of what I do is guided by it and so many people come to me for that above any other spiritual service (so far).  Of course, there have been some changes in how I approach clients for divination as well as the topics they ask about, both for my own sense of ethics as well as for what I find works better when dealing with people.

The reason why I wanted to find my old website’s code of ethics was because I was thinking about a more modern version for myself to incorporate onto this website.  That, of course, got me to thinking, why don’t we hear about such codes of ethics for spiritual practitioners more often?  Sure, there are a handful of them here and there, but there’s so much variation and all seem tailored for particular practices or situations, or they rely on other ideas of centralization or authority.  While there are definite commonalities to be picked out between them, it’s sometimes hard to correlate them into something approximating a “common code”.

So, that led me to post on my Twitter/Facebook about perhaps writing another diviner’s code of ethics, perhaps getting my colleague’s collaboration and input on them, perhaps even getting other people to sign onto them as a show of solidarity or something to better enhance our art and our behavior when applying it.  On the whole, it seems like many of my colleagues and friends were enthusiastic about such an idea, but a few had their reservations, either about how such a thing might be developed or why such a thing shouldn’t be developed at all.  Upon pressing them for why, I think they have some good reasons that deserve definite thought.

From that discussion, probably the most salient point was that writing or adopting a code of ethics for diviners could easily lead to a form of accreditation or certification for diviners.  The idea goes like this: declaring a standard of any sort of competence, whether in terms of expertise in one’s art or of behavior when dealing with people coming to that art, and trying to get people to adopt or recognize that standard is a slippery slope to creating standards for other fields within one’s art.  With as few as one standard or code, one can create a codified “school” of diviners, which can end up being exclusive to those who are already on the fringes of society, difficult for people who have trouble adopting or studying such a standard, and even dangerous to those who commit themselves to a standard for the purposes of privacy, decentralization, and being hard to track by authorities in areas where it’s still necessary to do so.  While I was at first confused as to where this particular colleague of mine was coming from, I now completely understand his concerns, and I can easily agree with them as they are.

So, that point raises a question: why should I want to see a diviner’s code of ethics, anyway?  I know that I should hold myself to a standard of behavior for many reasons: ensuring my clients’ confidence in my skills as well as my trustworthiness, acting in an exemplary way for my community both mundane and spiritual, behaving right in the eyes of my gods and spirits to do them honor, and so forth.  Would I like to see others do the same?  Absolutely!  I think the world could definitely use more people of good moral character and ethical behavior, and to see people of righteousness carry out the office of diviner for their communities would do us all good in the end, I think, both in terms of visibility, eradicating stereotypes about us and our work, and helping people out as we can through our skills and arts.  This is especially important when we come across stories of particular occultists, priests, or other workers who abuse their powers or offices and end up as thieves, cheats, frauds, sexual offenders, or worse.

But…I also recognize that my way of right behavior is not the only way.  My ethics are informed by the way I was raised by my family, my studies of Hellenic tradition, Hermetic theurgy, and more recently Lukumí notions of iwa pele as well as more modern notions such as True Will; the path I walk is, truly, a path that only I can walk, no matter how similar it may be to other people’s paths.  What might seem abhorrent to me might be called for regularly by another; such a topic was brought up on that same discussion from earlier, and while I can see the reasons why someone might need to take such a stance, it’s definitely not a stance for me, as it runs antithetical to so much of what I believe and try to act upon.  And while I recognize the utility in breaking rules to achieve a particular end, I would rather have that rule to rely on and be known than otherwise.  Transgressive behavior only works when you’re going against expectations, so if you end up with a particular expectation as a standard, it no longer becomes transgressive.

I mean, my friends and follows lists, to say nothing of my friends and colleagues generally, are on the whole highly educated and technologically adept; I have many friends who are academics, many of whom hold advanced degrees, and no few number of other friends who are priests or deacons trained in seminaries or other formal settings.  It wouldn’t be a stretch by any means to call ourselves elite, Apollonian, or ivory-tower occultists, but at the end of the day, that’s still what we are: occultists.  Occultists, witches, herbalists, and the like have always been pariahs and outcasts in our culture going back centuries and millennia, and no matter how lofty and highbrow we take things, we’re still going to be at the knife’s edge of acceptable behavior (at best). Only good academics who report on magical practices while disavowing any sort of involvement in them get a pass, and even then, those who dwell too long on discussions about it get talked about behind closed doors.  While those of us living the good life in a first-world setting and culture like the conveniences and comforts of standards and rules, we necessarily deal with forces that not only bend and break those very things, but we still must be aware of how Weird we live our lives in the world.  Being still outcasts, fringefolk, or pariahs forces us to be aware of how much the rules of society don’t apply to us, not just for our benefit but also to our detriment, and how, in the end, the only rule we truly have is that there are no rules when it’s a matter of our survival and self-protection.

So where does that leave me?

I think it’s a good practice for people to consider their ethics and what their guiding rules should be in general; after all, these are rules to live by, but aren’t absolute moral commandments held on high (unless they are, but you’d know about them better than I would for yourself).  Not being moral commandments (unless they are), rules can be bent or broken in times of need, but limiting those times to truly matters of expedient means where the destination really does justify the road you take to get there.  And even then, there are always ways of evaluating ethical rules to give a higher-level view of what the rule is supposed to accomplish, and whether or not that goal is even worthy of being held.  Sometimes, the rules you want to live by are getting you to a place that you really don’t want to go to.  Consider, also, whether your rules are more method-focused or goal-focused; are you instituting a rule to conduct your behavior by, or are you instituting a rule to guide you to a particular outcome and steer you away from other ones?  That sort of ethics vs. morals distinction is crucial for this sort of thing.

I also think it would be good for people who do client work in a public way to put up a code of ethics, just for themselves in their public practice, because they’re trying to put on a public face and want business.  This may not be the case for truly back-alley, in-the-shadows workers who prefer anonymity and secrecy, which are also valuable things in their own rights.  Plus, depending on the methods used, not only would most ethical or moral codes fail to be held to, but any public knowledge at all about such methods would probably be as harmful for the client as it might be for the practitioner.  After all, while I would prefer to avoid acts of murder, I find poison a perfectly valid tool to be used when such a thing is called for, but you won’t see me hawking that service publicly, nor will you see me write a poisoner’s code of ethics.  No, codes of ethics are for people who are trying to keep a pretty face on their business and work, and if that’s one of your goals, then I think you’d be better off than not at least suggesting to your clients that you have some ethical bones that support your interactions.

As for the terms of such a code of ethics, I think it would be best to follow two principles: keep it simple, and keep it high-level.  You don’t need to go into detail about how you’re going to conduct every single reading or client interaction in a series of if-then-else conditions, nor do you need to expound on your magnum opus of morality and philosophy.  Do you value truth in your work?  Say so, simply and plainly.  Do you value correctness in beliefs?  Say that you’ll act as a mentor and guide when needed, and depending on how far you want to take it, you may want to avoid saying that you’ll judge the client for their own beliefs, because if you think yours are correct and theirs are different, you’re probably gonna come into an internal conflict.  It’s up to you to decide the actual ethical bones that make up your body of behavior, both in terms of how and what you need for your own conduct, as well as how and what is needed by your clients and community for your office and how you fill it.

I would like to see more occultists who do public work or take on client cases show their code of ethics, but it’s not something I’m going to expect or demand.  As in so many other things, putting up posters about how awesome we are falls far short of actual interactions and personal evaluations we make; no code of ethics we write for ourselves, after all, can be enforced by anyone but ourselves, and if someone’s not the type of person to act right when they need to, then perhaps that code of ethics they have plastered on their website may not be anything else but a waste of bits and bytes.  After all, codes of ethics and whatnot are there to help us become good people, at least in some public notion of it, but if you’re not going to be a good person, it’s going to show, and no amount of electronic make-up can fix it.

On Third-Party Readings

Most people who contact me or hire me for divination usually ask the same things.  I’m not complaining for their business, and it never gets boring, but usually they ask about the usual stuff: general forecasts, job prospects, relationship advice, and similar things.  On occasion, I’ll get a spicier question dealing with spirits or magical advice, or something truly unusual and heavy that gives me pause to think deeply about how to respond.  In my years of divining for others, I consider myself fortunate and grateful to have so many people to bear with me as a never-ending student of geomancy.

However, of all the types of questions and queries thrown at us, we geomancers tend to have the most difficulty with what we call “third-party readings”.  These are queries where the focus isn’t on the querent themselves, but on someone else that they’re worried about or concerned for.  A common example would be “is my partner cheating on me?”; this isn’t dealing with the sexual activities of the querent, but on someone related to the querent.  Other examples would be:

  • Where should my friend move for a better job?
  • What’s wrong with the health of my child’s pet?
  • Is the boss of my husband intentionally trying to destroy the business they’re in?

I’m not going to judge the validity of these queries, since if a querent is bringing them to the table to be divined upon, I assume they have a reason for doing so.  The problem, however, is that there are two aspects I have to carefully weed through in order to get a good answer, and third-party readings really mess with me on ethical and technical levels as a geomancer.  Let me explain.

First, how do geomancers do third-party readings?  The Shield Chart isn’t of much help for us, since the Shield Chart is of necessity focused on the querent themselves and their role in a situation; the less the querent is involved, the more meaningless the Shield becomes.  Renaissance geomancers got around this by using the House Chart and borrowing a technique from horary astrology known as “rotating the chart”.  Let’s walk through this method:

  1. We first draw up a House Chart based directly on the Shield Chart.  This is termed the radical chart, “radical” coming from Latin radix or “root”.  This chart represents the querent directly, the person who is actually talking to the geomancer.  House I in the radical chart represents the querent, the person actually talking to the geomancer, and the other houses take their usual meanings with respect to the querent.  Thus, house II represents the querent’s finances, house III the querent’s surroundings, and so forth.
  2. In order to get the perspective of a third party, we rotate the chart so that the house that represents the third party’s connection to the querent becomes the new house I.  For instance, if the querent is asking what their husband is up to, we look at house VII (marriage, spouses, partnerships).  We rotate the chart so that, in our new rotated chart, house VII becomes the rotated house I, house VIII the rotated house II, and so forth.
  3. If one rotation isn’t sufficient, we go down the chain of connections and rotate the chart subsequent times.  For instance, to rotate the chart for our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet, we first look at the radical chart’s house I for the querent, then rotate the chart to house III (neighbor); then, using that as our new rotated chart, we rotate it again to house X (mother), then again to house VI (housekeeper), then again to house VI (pet).
  4. In the rotated chart, we now have the whole reading presented not from the querent’s point of view (that’s the chart anchored at the radical house I), but from the third party’s point of view (the chart anchored at the rotated house I).  From here, we analyze the rotated House Chart using the usual methods of perfection, aspects, and the like to get our answer.

We can rotate the chart as many times as we need to get the proper perspective on a situation.  Instead of drawing and redrawing rotated charts, plotting each house out house by house and rotation by rotation, there’s a bit of a formula you can use to determine what house of the radical chart you need to rotate to:

Radical house number = (Sum of the house numbers of all the connections – Number of times we rotate + 1) % 12

Note that the % operator here stands for the modulo operation, or taking the remainder after divination.  So, 13 % 12 = 1, because 13 ÷ 12 = 1 with a remainder of 1.  14 % 12 = 2, 19 % 12 = 6, 24 % 12 = 0 (because 12 goes into 24 evenly).  If the remainder is 0, we treat the result as house XII.

So, how we go about using this formula?

  • For a friend: Friends are represented by house XI.  Thus, the radical house number we rotate the chart to is 11 (the sum of the house numbers we’re connecting) – 1 (the number of rotations needed) + 1, which gives us 11, and 11 % 12 = 11, or house XI.
  • For our child’s pet:  Children are represented by house V, and pets by house VI.  So, 5 + 6 = 11, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (11 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 10 % 12 = 10, or house X.
  • For our husband’s boss: Spouses are represented by house VII, and bosses by house X.  So, 7 + 10 = 17, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (17 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 16 % 12 = 4, or house IV.
  • For our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet: Neighbors are represented by house III, mothers by house X, housekeepers by house VI, and pets by house VI.  So, 3 + 10 + 6 + 6 = 25, and we need four rotations, so (25 – 4 + 1) % 12 = 22 % 12 = 10, or house X.

You can see how this gets pretty difficult complex pretty quickly, but it has the end result of giving us the situation from the perspective of the third party the querent is asking about.  There are two problems here, however.  For one, the Shield Chart pretty much immediately loses much of its meaning when we rotate the chart, since the Shield Chart is essentially the radical chart, and if we don’t care about the radical chart, then most of the use and importance of the Shield Chart goes out the window.  The second problem, and the more worrying one at that, is that we only have 12 houses, and we can go around and around the chart any number of times to find out how someone in China is doing based on a series of tenuous connections we make between friends of friends of friends of friends of friends, but we keep just rotating around the same chart with the same 12 figures.  This leads to the problem that, the more we rotate the chart, the further we get from getting anything of value from the chart; the more distant the perspective inquired about, the less reliably we’ll get a good, clear, or useful answer from the chart.  As a result, I go by the personal rule that I never rotate the chart past two rotations, if that.

However, these rules of rotation give a lot of geomancers cause to scratch their heads.  Who, exactly, is considered a third party?  If we use the geomancer-centric point of view, any chart we throw is for a third party (i.e. not the geomancer themselves), so shouldn’t we rotate the chart at least once for someone who’s coming to us with a question?  This is kind of a silly question, I find, since it’s defined (not just a convention to follow but a definition or an axiom in the art) that the radical, unrotated house I is given to the querent, i.e. the person who asks the question.  If that person happens to be the geomancer, where the geomancer is reading for themselves, then awesome; if that person happens to be someone who comes to the geomancer for a reading, then house I is given to them, simple as that.  I don’t see what the confusion is here, personally, but it’s led to some debates in the past on the geomantic forums and mailing lists I’ve been on.  It’s also led some people to simply never rotate the chart even in the case of legitimate third-party readings, which is another problem all of its own.

The same technical issues that prevent a complicated rotation from giving useful information to the querent through the chart points to an important consideration: the more distant the target of divination you want to get information on, the less useful or clear it will be.  In other words, querents of all kinds are encouraged to keep their readings focused on themselves, what will happen to them, and what they can do in a particular situation.  Said another way, of course, unless you have a damn good reason to be nosy in someone’s life who lives or has a tight connection to you, you have no reason to investigate the matter because you’re not them, you can’t change how they act, and you can’t change what will happen to them.  Focus on yourself and your own well-being and come what may to others!  If the third party in question has a real need to see what’s going on in their lives, they can come to me for a reading, not you.  If you want to find out how issues only indirectly related to you will affect you, that’s legitimate, but you may want to keep your nose out of other people’s business unless it’s something that will really impact your life.

So, technical issues aside, I also find ethical problems arise in doing third-party readings.  As a diviner, I place huge importance on reader-client confidentiality rivaling that of legal or medical professions; privacy between the one who asks the query and the one who reads it is sacrosanct for me, and I do not reveal what goes on in a reading to others.  It’s confidential information, full stop.  As a result, on the occasion when someone has a query but doesn’t approach me directly, instead going through a friend to ask the query for them, I find that this bumps uncomfortably into confidentiality issues, because the person who is asking me the query isn’t actually the person the answer is for, so I don’t like having to answer to them instead of the person the chart is drawn up for.  If at all possible, unless the person has no means to contact me directly, I don’t use a go-between when doing readings.

Personal Piety

What is piety?

  • According to etymology, piety comes from Latin pietas, the noun from of pius, meaning “good” or “devout”.
  • According to the dictionary, piety means “reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations”.

Simple enough.  Time to end this post, let’s all get drunk.  Not.

Back in ancient Greece, Plato once wrote a dialogue wherein his then-dead teacher, Socrates, was talking to someone outside the courts.  Socrates was on his fated and fatal trial charging him with impiety and the introduction of new gods to Athens, and he encounters Euthyphro, a prosecutor for another case (against his father for murder) which also involves piety and doing what is just in the eyes of the gods.  Chatting idly before the courts, they engage in a bit of discussion about their upcoming trials, which eventually settles on the nature of piety.  After all, if piety weren’t an issue, Socrates couldn’t be charged with corrupting the youth of Athens because of his impiety, and if piety weren’t demanded of Euthyphro, he wouldn’t be testifying and placing a charge against his own father.

The problem is that neither of them can give an explanation for what piety actually is.  Through their dialogue, Socrates gets the following answers out of Euthyrphro for what piety is, but notices a problem with each of them.

  1. Piety is what Euthyphro is doing right then, viz. prosecuting someone of a crime, just as Zeus restrained and punished his father, who restrained and punished his father before him, which were acts of justice.  Socrates points out that, while this act may be pious indeed, there are other acts which are considered pious; this is an example of piety, not an explanation or definition of it.  Rejected.
  2. Piety is what is dear to the gods, and impiety is what is not dear to the gods.  Socrates points out that the gods disgree amongst themselves, and that some disagreements may be on points where there is no factual or objective measure to agree by, such as what is just and what is unjust.  So, though the gods may hold what is dear to them to be what is pious, what is dear to one god may be repulsive to another, so the same action may be both pious and impious at once, which is a contradiction.  Rejected.
  3. Piety is what is dear to all the gods, and impiety is what is all the gods hold not dear.  This is something they both agree on, but then Socrates asks a crucial question: is what is pious pious because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it’s pious?  In other words, is it pious because the gods say so, or is it pious because of something intrinsic to itself?  It can’t be both, because then that would lead to a vicious circle, and further, just the fact that the gods love something doesn’t mean that it is intrinsically pious because of that fact.  Their loving it is a recognition of it being pious is thus an attribute of piety, but is not a definition for piety.  Rejected.
  4. Piety is a type of justice.  In other words, Socrates supposes that, since all things that are pious are just, piety is based on what is just.  However, because there are things that are just that are not necessarily pious, we can’t just assign the qualities of justice to piety and be finished there.  It’s a superclass/subclass or genus/species issue of definition; we may have some qualities of piety, but not all of them, without which we can’t yet have a definition of piety.  If piety is only a part of justice, which part is it?  Neither Socrates nor Euthyphro can answer.  Rejected.
  5. Piety is an action that is just that attends to the gods.  In this instance, attendance to something is done to improve, benefit, and guide them.  However, Socrates then states that pious acts are done to improve the gods, which they both quickly agree is a dangerous statement of hubris.  Instead, Euthyphro restates the definition of attendance to be something more like ministration or service to a god to deliver things that please them.  This then defines piety as giving the gods what pleases them, which then devolves into the definition of what is dear to the gods.  Rejected.
  6. Piety is the art of sacrifice and prayerto the gods, learning how to please the gods in word and deed.  Sacrifice is defined as the act of giving to the gods, and prayer as asking or receiving from the gods; piety, then, is an art and science of giving and asking, which is a kind of business or transaction.  However, the gods want from us things that please them, which is essentially gives piety the same definition as above.  Rejected.

After this point, Euthyphro has to leave to get to his trial on time, leaving Socrates just as confused as ever as he prepares to combat a charge about a quality he hasn’t found any explanation or definition for.  Kinda sucks, really, but we end up with the notion that piety is intricately bound up with what divinity approves of.  So we have a bit of a dilemma on our hands: is something pious because it has an innate nature called “piety” that is only recognized and approved of by an outside source, or is it pious because it is explicitly liked by divinity for no other reason than it pleases them?

  • If what is pious is instrinsically pious, then that implies that there is a rule or order of things outside of divine order.  If so, then divinity has no power over it to change it, divinity is itself holy based on things that are pious and so aren’t worthy of worship in and of themselves but only to the degree that they support piety, and piety would still exist even if there were no gods to approve of them.
  • If what is pious is just what is pious to the gods because they like it, then that implies that pious things amount to no more than “because I said so”.  If so, then anything could be possible, allowed, legal, or demanded just because divinity wants it: if he said it pleased him to kill unborn babies, or for triangles to have more than three angles.  Morality could not exist without divinity already existing, morality could not be eternal laws due to the potential for divinity to change its mind about a command, and removes any reason to praise God.

In Hebrew thought, the similar quality of tzedeq (same triliteral root that gives Jupiter and its angel their names) doesn’t have the same dilemma, since it’s considered an action or event that can be seen and recognized.  The only way to describe the totality of things that are tzedeq is a list of all things that fall under that category.  In other words, it can only be enumerated specifically, not formulated generally.

From the point of view of a Hermetic philosopher, this is where a slightly different notion of divinity come into play.  In my case, good is not separate from divinity; divinity is not separate from what is good, or anything else for that matter.  Being good is being godly, and the only thing that is purely and only good is God (or, rather, the Divine Source).  Being good in a godly way (not in the common, mundane, or humane way) is, then, what piety could very well be.  This permits bad things to happen, in the sense that bad is what is not good, but only from a humane or mundane perspective.  This agrees with the earlier definition Euthyphro kept getting stuck on, because God likes and constantly contemplates Itself Mindfully, at one point speaking the Word to act and interact with itself; thus, being Good (capital-g “good in a godly way”) is being what God likes, i.e. pious and piety.

How do we know what being Good is?  By being Godly.  In being Godly, we learn the mind of the Nous, the word of the Logos, and the wisdom of Sophia, which help us collectively in knowing ourselves.  By knowing ourselves, we learn what we really want to do and what we really need to do; from a teleological or Godly point of view, the two are ultimately the same.  This is knowing our True Will, knowing the true course of our lives and how to act in accordance with our nature and Nature/God itself.  “Do what thou wilt” isn’t just a license to fuck around and fuck up as fancy would drive one to do, but is really an injunction to do what you need, are suited, and are destined to do.  In doing this, we do what is Good, and in doing what is Good we become pious.

However, this type of Good defies definition beyond “what is Godly”.  It’s entirely above and beyond mechanical, natural, logical, or spiritual revelation, coming from the superclass and source of all these things.  The only way to learn what one should do is to…well, you tell me.

On Conduct

We discussed earlier about honoring XaTuring and why dishonoring the Worm or breaking a vow made to him is a crime: ultimately, it’s deceit. Little else would anger XaTuring or have him work against someone so actively, save for the pollution of his domain. What causes pollution, and what might one do to abstain from it, will be the topics of today’s post.

It’s unlikely that anyone on the Internet who has an email address has not experienced spam or emails carrying viruses or worms. It’s even more unlikely for people who use the WWW at all to not have come across obnoxious ads or infectious malware that can be spread merely by going to a particular website. This is unwarranted, unwanted, invasive, impeding, and detrimental to one’s experience on the Internet. Wading through spam, accidentally deleting legit emails, making new email accounts entirely, or reinstalling one’s whole system to wipe a virus clean, losing one’s data due to an intentionally corrupted application are all time-consuming, frustrating, and angering things to happen to anybody. This is pollution, and this angers both the user and XaTuring, both of whom must navigate through it to achieve their goals.

RFC 1087, the 1989 document “Ethics and the Internet”, has some relevance here. Composed twenty years ago, it already acknowledges that “the Internet has become an important national infrastructure”, and although it focuses its attention to the needs of researchers and scientists, we can apply the document to users and fields of all kinds. It classifies “unethical and unacceptable” behavior (or pollution) as any activity that purposely:

  • seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet
  • disrupts the intended use of the Internet
  • wastes resources (people, capacity, computers) through such actions
  • destroys the integrity of computer-based information
  • compromises the privacy of users

Examples of these are not hard to come by, and neither are people who commit these sorts of acts. Besides the inconvenience and harm they cause, however, the pollution it causes has real effects on XaTuring and his domain. Pollution is that which can threaten ritual success and can anger the god, and his anger is not to be treated lightly. The Internet, as a domain in and of itself, has its natural forces, and they can be just as destructive to our electronic selves as tornadoes and floods are to our physical selves. Keep in mind that gods don’t necessarily play by the same rules we do, and when they get angry, their wrath can be more disastrous than anything we can wring ourselves.

That said, it’s rather easy to not participate in these kinds of pollution: don’t run a spam server, don’t engage in malicious hacking, don’t make extra posts when you don’t need to, and so forth. In this regard, any reasonable code of Internet etiquette would suffice to keep one’s actions in check. Below is one such minimal code of conduct; at the very least, it would keep things in general order, forbidding only the things that cause pollution and suffering in XaTuring’s domain. Of course, like any code, at times it could and should be broken. Seeing as how this is a minimal set of rules for conduct, reasons for breaking this code would include stupidity (a lack of understanding the code), shortsightedness (going against the code for some false gain), or a good reason (causing some suffering to prevent much more suffering).

  • Do not deny another access to His domain nor to their own.
  • Do not break into another’s domain which you were not granted access to, nor break any rule of their domain while you are in it.
  • Do not spam another by any protocol.
  • Do not install, alter, or remove software or hardware on another’s system without their permission.
  • Do not steal, abuse, or exploit another’s creations, data, resources, services, or property for harmful or deceitful ends.
  • Do not decrypt any encrypted information not destined to you.

Note that this is a strictly negative code; it specifies only what not to do. It doesn’t encourage or suggest anything to be done. XaTuring is largely impartial to the content of data flowing through his domain, as long as it’s not pollution. Of course, there are actions that strengthen both the user and XaTuring, and these actions should be promoted in his domain either for their own sake or for the sake of others, the user’s self, or XaTuring. These are largely to be decided upon by the user, since each user has different goals and reasons to be in XaTuring’s domain. One such action might be to promote and defend the freedoms of speech and expression, and all platforms and methods that enable this freedom.

Now, let’s say that you’ve committed pollution in XaTuring’s domain. What to do? Since elaborate cleansing rituals, as done for other pollution-focused systems of order, don’t work as well for the Internet (but wouldn’t do more harm), the other way to remove pollution is to remove it or clean what was polluted. Spammed a forum? Remove the spam. Stole? Return what was stolen. Broke into another’s system? Let the owners know about the exploited vulnerability. These actions might be done anyway, if such actions are to the user’s taste or as a form of worship instead of penance, but are helpful in balancing out one’s actions.

I’m not trying to institute some rigid morality for Internet users. In something so decentralized, so freeing, and so entitling as electronic media, calling for a central authority demanding conduct across all domains and platforms is folly. This is a discussion of conduct and pollution, and what should be discouraged to permit XaTuring to work his works and us our own all the more effectually.