Harm None   Leave a comment

Commonly viewed as the oldest of Laws, the Pagan/Witch community possibly expresses this belief more than any other principle.

A philosophy defined by just two words…and yet…such a concept can be readily devalued when treated as a common idiom.

Regrettably, our use of the word law implies that something is “illegal.” This misperception veils the reality that our primary tenet is the ultimate achievement for which we should continually strive.

The purpose of any goal is to have something to work towards for self-improvement or self-worth, and Harm None is no different. But the journey is just as important as the destination, because that it is what allows us to learn and to grow. And our path is a never-ending sojourn of knowledge, wisdom, and growth whether we are the newest novice or the most venerable Arch-High Priest.

Reincarnation itself is such a process. Our lives are not mere sessions of recidivism, like a boomerang that simply comes back after being tossed into the air. Each incarnation gives us opportunities to grow, to be better than we were…than we are. Harm None is the guiding attitude that helps us achieve this.

Sadly, there are misconceptions as to what Harm None is.

To start, let’s look at some examples of what Harm None isn’t:

  • It’s not re-definable to self-justify our actions, behaviors, and thoughts.
  • It’s not blaming others for our own shortcomings and mistakes (avoidance).
  • It doesn’t mean foregoing our own health: mental, emotional, or physical.
  • It doesn’t mean being oblivious to reality.
  • It doesn’t mean being 100% selfless.

Harm can come in many forms: verbal, physical, emotional – whether by word, deed, or attitude.

Albeit so does Positivity, Joy, and Fellowship.

Attacking, escalating or perpetuating a conflict, enjoying another’s dismay, gossip-mongering, disregarding the rights of others, or seeking revenge…revenge, the most useless of all causes, willfully embraces negativity and are examples of the seeds that destroy. Such is contrary to our ways and beliefs, and these harmful distractions blind us to our own failings and bind us to our own fates.

To those who feel they have a nature’s right to inflict malice upon another, I say for shame, for such is self-serving.

To the detractors who ridicule others for doing their best to uphold our principles and ideas, I say tend to your own hearth before criticizing others for tending theirs.

To those who think they are immune from reciprocity, I say you are deluding only yourself. What we freely give will be freely returned to us, to think otherwise is a mere illusion.

Unfortunately, some wield our philosophy like a weapon, pointing fingers – “hypocrite,” denying our human nature to others, while others protest, declaring impracticality – it is too lofty a goal to even possibly be obtainable, citing the Nth-degree of absurdity.  Such individuals demonstrate a willingness to bring others down to their level, as well as a misunderstanding of the objective our greatest teaching has, which is to…

not intentionally cause harm to others or to ourselves

It also involves taking responsibility when we do harm, and to positively improve ourselves for the better and bring those lessons with us into the next life. The purpose of Harm None isn’t merely warm & fuzzy intentions. It is a proactive approach to life, promoting positivity and fostering harmony and balance – a state of existence commonly said to be valued and desired by our community. And a community cannot be built, let alone stand upon a foundation of negativity, harm, or apathy.

Now let’s look at some examples of what Harm None is:

  • Accepting others as equal to ourselves.
  • Accepting that our rights & freedoms end when they interfere with someone else’s.
  • Helping others as best we can, when and where we can.
  • Looking after ourselves, tending to our needs.
  • Treating others as we ourselves would like (if not expect) to be treated.

Does this mean that we must only think of others?   No.   We have an obligation, if not the right, to look after ourselves, for if we do not take care of ourselves how much help can we be to others? How much harm are we inflicting upon ourselves and possibly to those around us if we ignore ourselves? But, there is a balance between our needs, and how we react towards others.

Yes, we will occasionally stumble – we are human, but that is an opportunity for us to learn from our mistakes and a chance to do better and not repeat past missteps. And we can also learn from others, from their experiences, avoiding their misjudgments or gaining from their wisdoms.

And we should not deny our emotions, for that is, in essence, denying part of ourselves. Discussing how we feel with friends or loved ones is important, because expressing our feelings is a healthy part of being human – particularly when things bother us. Yet, it can be detrimentally overdone, especially when it is accomplished immaturely or continued with little room for abatement (obsessing).

So being realistic is important, not only in how we approach daily aspects and issues in our various lives, but in looking inside and being honest with ourselves.

To those who panic over the random, stray, “bad” thought, thinking it violates Harm None, I say self-reflection is one of the greatest capacities we have, but fear not, for the occasional moment is a fleeting instant with neither energy nor intent.

Doing our best to follow Harm None makes us neither elitist, perfect, blindly happy, nor weak. And yes, we are permitted to defend ourselves. But…the operative word is – defend.

Does following Harm None violate Free Will?   No.   But for every choice made there is Individual Responsibility…for each choice, there is an action, for every action there is a reaction…negative or positive. We call this the Law of Return, therefore to harm another is to harm ourselves, to help another is to help ourselves. And no one is accountable for the choices we make except for us. Hence, we need to think before we act (continually reducing the knee-jerk reactions) and ponder how our intentions and choices will affect ourselves and affect others.

Common courtesy, civility, decency, acceptance, and a general respect for ourselves and for others are the foundations of Harm None with the underlining concept of help others as best we can, where and how we can.

1) Law of Return: commonly referred to as the law of 3, rule of 3, or 3-fold law.


Posted January 1, 2012 by Dave Yost in Personal Essays

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