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Author Topic: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?  (Read 7288 times)

dragonfaerie

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Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« on: July 09, 2012, 06:36:12 am »
I figured I'd tag this with Neo-Paganism rather than just one of the Wicca ones because I know that the issue transcends Wicca's various forms.

I've been wondering for years... why do so many people misinterpret the Rede? We've discussed it's meaning to death here several times over the years. Those of us who didn't just read a book yesterday know it doesn't mean "Harm None" and know it doesn't generally apply to non-Wiccan paths. We know that it doesn't mete out consequences for any actions that may cause harm, or even define what harm is.

Where are people getting these misconceptions? Is it crappy beginner books? Is it misinformed Big Name Pagans? I'd like to know, because it doesn't seem to make much difference how many times I (and other Wiccans here) refute the common misconceptions... they just keep turning up like a bad penny.

Note: I'm looking to discuss the spread of the misconceptions, and not necessarily the misconceptions themselves. Like I said, we've hashed them to death, so there are lots of good threads out there discussing that part. But if the thread drifts, the thread drifts...

Karen

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 07:03:27 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63368

Where are people getting these misconceptions? Is it crappy beginner books? Is it misinformed Big Name Pagans? I'd like to know, because it doesn't seem to make much difference how many times I (and other Wiccans here) refute the common misconceptions... they just keep turning up like a bad penny.

 
Word of mouth is usually a major culprit in a lot of cases. Wrong phrasing, wrong inflection, wrong emphasis, and things go pear-shaped from there on out.
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Tana

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2012, 07:09:20 am »
Quote from: Dark Midnight;63371
Word of mouth is usually a major culprit in a lot of cases.


Or copy&paste. ;)
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HeartShadow

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 08:03:51 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63368


 
I think part of it is that it's EASY.  "Harm none" sounds wonderful and nice and non-threatening, so you say it's that instead of getting into something complicated, someone else picks it up .....

And, of course it DOES sound good.  "Harm none" .... if you don't think about it, it sounds good.  it sounds RIGHT.  arguing it sounds like you're saying you believe in punching people in the face or something.  If you're looking for soundbite philosophy, it's just EASY.

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2012, 08:22:11 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63368

Where are people getting these misconceptions? Is it crappy beginner books? Is it misinformed Big Name Pagans? I'd like to know, because it doesn't seem to make much difference how many times I (and other Wiccans here) refute the common misconceptions... they just keep turning up like a bad penny.


I'd say it's a combination of two things: a lot of lousy beginner books that spent far less time on ethics, living within a religious practice, or deity (for that matter) than on magic and spells.

And second, that many many many people are used to soundbite morality. And when they change religions, or pick up Wicca, they bring that with them and don't necessarily know how to dig deeper.

It is, in my experience, one of the hardest things to work with when working with someone as a face to face student - getting them to stop, take a step back, and build a working ethical system, rather than just falling back to a tag line, or instruction. (Which is why Robin Wood's _When, Why... If_ has long been a pillar of a number of group reading.)
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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 08:30:05 am »
Quote from: Jenett;63382
I'd say it's a combination of two things: a lot of lousy beginner books that spent far less time on ethics, living within a religious practice, or deity (for that matter) than on magic and spells.

I think this is most of it. There are far too many beginner Wicca books that state the Rede as moral law (as a command to "Harm none!) as opposed to the moral advice that it actually is ("If it [what you are thinking of doing] harms none, then you are free to do it." says nothing about what to do if it does harm anyone, but then "then you need to actually think about the morality of doing it" seems strongly implied.)

Worse, there are lots of Pagan 101 books that claim the Wiccan Rede (in whichever form they are pushing: law or advice) is a universal moral rule in all Pagan religions.
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cigfran

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 08:35:29 am »
Quote from: Jenett;63382
... many many many people are used to soundbite morality.


I think this is the heart of it. People want rules to live by, and when they've abandoned the hostile rules of dominant culture (as many who come to Wicca seem to do), they want something direct and non-threatening that reflects their hurt and their need.

To take it in full leads to the slippery slope of Incipient Crowleyism, and all the ambiguity it implies.

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2012, 08:40:44 am »
Quote from: cigfran;63385
To take it in full leads to the slippery slope of Incipient Crowleyism, and all the ambiguity it implies.

I'm not sure what you mean, could you expand on this a bit?
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cigfran

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2012, 10:55:00 am »
Quote from: RandallS;63386
I'm not sure what you mean, could you expand on this a bit?

 
An it harm none, do what thou wilt* - The Rede

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law - Liber II

Will, I think, is problematic for many people, Wiccans no less. Personal agency is dangerous and frightening.

The Rede has a vaguely 'karmic' feel to it, and a basic ethical dictate. It also implies a kind of gentle libertinism which is appealing to the postmodern Nature worshipper.

Crowley's 'Law', on the other hand, is the essence of knowing what you're about and taking full responsibility for it. It rejects all other law - the threefold law and its kind especially - in favor of an austere, almost merciless view of self and one's action in the world.

As channeled by The Beast, The Wickedest Man in the World, and the most famous hedonist of his time.


* I always really disliked the faux archaicism of the use of "An" in the Rede.

veggiewolf

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2012, 11:02:34 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63368
...

I've been wondering for years... why do so many people misinterpret the Rede? We've discussed it's meaning to death here several times over the years. Those of us who didn't just read a book yesterday know it doesn't mean "Harm None" and know it doesn't generally apply to non-Wiccan paths. We know that it doesn't mete out consequences for any actions that may cause harm, or even define what harm is.
...
Karen

 
Here's something else for consideration - the most common misinterpretation of the Rede falls in line with the most common misinterpretation of karma.

Just food for thought.  YMMV, as always.
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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2012, 11:51:08 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;63403
Here's something else for consideration - the most common misinterpretation of the Rede falls in line with the most common misinterpretation of karma.

Just food for thought.  YMMV, as always.

 
"Instant karma's gonna get you...."

Something my Celt is prone to commenting is that religions tend to be built in part addressing the particular neuroses of their origin cultures, and don't always translate well to cultures with different neuroses.

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dragonfaerie

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Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2012, 04:23:11 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;63403
Here's something else for consideration - the most common misinterpretation of the Rede falls in line with the most common misinterpretation of karma.

True. What I've always found baffling is the construct of "Harm None" as absolutist dogma in a path designed to be without dogma. And I can agree with everyone else's theories as well.

I could add in the thought that most people are happier being told what to do, how to live "right" and what the consequences are for doing "wrong". The Rede really doesn't have much of that, which is why I've found it very personally freeing from square one.

Do you all think that perhaps it's morphed into "Harm None" in so many beginner books because people want to be told what to do, or is it the other way around? Which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Karen

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2012, 05:09:52 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63706
True. What I've always found baffling is the construct of "Harm None" as absolutist dogma in a path designed to be without dogma. And I can agree with everyone else's theories as well.

I could add in the thought that most people are happier being told what to do, how to live "right" and what the consequences are for doing "wrong". The Rede really doesn't have much of that, which is why I've found it very personally freeing from square one.

Do you all think that perhaps it's morphed into "Harm None" in so many beginner books because people want to be told what to do, or is it the other way around? Which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Karen

 
Personally, I think it is that people not only want to be told what to do, but what to think. They want a convenient system that they can step into with ready made rules, and a ready made philosophy that doesn't require them to think things through on their own. This goes way beyond neopaganizm, and is a part of most modern thinking, or lac there of. If you are conservative, there are thousands of repeatable catchphrases, and books and websites to quote to back them up, the same for liberals. The Neopagan movement has simply provided the same sort of ready made catchphrase "and it harm none" were it to be explained, or fully understood, it wouldn't fit with what many people are looking for.
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Annie Roonie

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2012, 11:36:43 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;63382
And second, that many many many people are used to soundbite morality. And when they change religions, or pick up Wicca, they bring that with them and don't necessarily know how to dig deeper.

This is big with some kids I've known. And I would add to not knowing how to dig deeper, not wanting to put the effort in, and also, not being intellectually equipped to dig deeper.

Several times I've been told something like, "I'm a Wiccan now!  But don't worry. I have promised to hurt anyone," by a young one trying on a persona. No books read and probably only a couple of movies viewed. It seems like they're trying to garner an image of mysterious "bad" kid from whatever society they are rejecting, while keeping the sense they have of themselves as being "good" for the people they don't want to alienate. And those bold enough rebel this way tend to have little entourages. So things spread quickly and are embraced full force without thinking anything through as is to be expected of their undeveloped brains during teen years.

Less expected for adults but I can see why an adult who visits shops for readings and what not might have the soundbite morality association (shoot, I have heard it used to sum up the entire religion) given that many shops around here literally have Silver Ravenwolf books for sale that have gathered dust. Go to a psychic fair or gem show at some shops and all you're going to see are materials that haven't sold for years, and think that's all there is. But even outside of that, and this mystifies me, I had a woman tell me that her HP highly recommended a Conway book that I know has poor data in it date wise. She *urged* me to get it if I was interested in Wicca. So at some level, there are people very involved in these things who have not had a refresher course in ages much less thought about it themselves and are teaching it.  I'm not even Wiccan and I have more information than an HP? Sketchy betchy boo on that.

I shouldn't have the expectations about the leaders of a religion that is not mine perhaps, but I'd feel the same about a priest if he told me it didn't matter how many years since my last confession.

I wanted to add that I bought the Conway book at he woman's urging too. I did it to avoid a very awkward situation. Perhaps that dynamic comes in to play sometimes too.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 11:42:55 pm by Annie Roonie »

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Re: Why do so many people misinterpret the Rede?
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2012, 07:34:27 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;63368
I've been wondering for years... why do so many people misinterpret the Rede? We've discussed it's meaning to death here several times over the years. Those of us who didn't just read a book yesterday know it doesn't mean "Harm None" and know it doesn't generally apply to non-Wiccan paths. We know that it doesn't mete out consequences for any actions that may cause harm, or even define what harm is.

Where are people getting these misconceptions? Is it crappy beginner books? Is it misinformed Big Name Pagans? I'd like to know, because it doesn't seem to make much difference how many times I (and other Wiccans here) refute the common misconceptions... they just keep turning up like a bad penny.

 
I have, for quite a few years now (like, 20 or getting on for it), attributed part of the causality to people's faulty and superficial understanding of the mechanics of English grammar - this isn't helped by that archaic/pseudoarchaic "an", but since most sources do note that it means "if", I don't think that's a major factor.  I think it's just that far too many people wouldn't know a conditional clause if it bit them.  (Which, when it comes to ethics, it often does... come back to bite them, I mean.)

Since I've observed quite a few people who seem to be operating under the idea that, "it came first in the sentence so it must be the important bit,":rolleye:: I've often wondered if the situation would be any different if the sentence structure in which the Rede had been popularized was, "Do as you will, if it harms none."  I suspect only marginally, though (and I further suspect that a significant proportion of that margin would still be people who stopped paying attention at the comma), since I agree with the many in this thread who've situated the problem primarily in people's preference for moral rules over ethical guidelines (which require one to think!  oh, the toil and hardship!).

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