Most discussions of Neo-Pagan ethics begin with what is called the “Wiccan Rede”: “Do what you will so long as you harm no one.” This maxim expresses an ethic of freedom to satisfy individual needs and desires and pursue personal growth and happiness, while avoiding harm to others. Neo-Pagans reject any notion of a divinely prescribed moral law or
Neo-Pagan ethics does not end there, however. Two beliefs form the foundation of Neo-Pagan ethics:
- Immanence: We are all, each of us, and the world itself, divine.
- Interconnectedness: We are all, on some level, connected to each other, to all forms of life, to the Earth, and to the entire universe.
The immanent or pantheistic conception of divinity is one source of ethical action for Neo-Pagans. Pantheism posits that, on some level, all of nature—including human beings—is one, and that “oneness” is divine. The Neo-Pagan belief in the sacredness of all life arises from understanding nature as an expression of divinity. The concept of immanence is expressed in the Neo-Pagan greeting, “Thou art God” and “Thou art Goddess.” Neo-Pagans honor the diversity of life, and eschew sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of intolerance.
The concept of the interconnectedness of all life is another source of ethical action for Neo-Pagans. Some believe that the transcendental monotheistic belief in a God who is separate from nature has allowed the desecration of the environment by humankind. Transcendental monotheists see themselves as children of that same God, and therefore radically separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature, which they regard as an object to be dominated, controlled, and used. In contrast, when we understand that everything is interconnected, we are called to an ethic of compassion for all living beings and for the Earth itself. Because of this, Neo-Pagans revere the natural world, celebrate beauty, pleasure, and creativity, suspect authority, and encourage gratitude, enjoyment, and respect.
The Neo-Pagan ethic does not prescribe how these principles should be translated into individual behavior, but does dictate that our actions, collectively and individually, be informed by these beliefs. In general terms, these principles translate into care and responsibility for other people and for our more-than-human environment.