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 sin.
Neo-Pagan ethics does not end here, however. Neo-Pagan ethics can be traced to two metaphysical beliefs:
- Immanence: We are all, each of us and the world itself, in some sense, 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.
Neo-Paganism 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 non-human environment.
The immanent or pantheistic conception of divinity is a source of ethical action for Neo-Pagans. Pantheism posits that, on some level, all of nature, including human beings, are one, and that “oneness” is divine. The ecological awareness of Neo-Pagans of the sacredness of all life arises from seeing nature as an expression of divinity. The concept of immanence also prescribes a model of behavior for interaction with other human beings, expressed in the Neo-Pagan mantra, “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. According to Neo-Pagan author, Starhawk, it is precisely the transcendental monotheistic understanding of God as separate from nature that has allowed the rape of the environment. The transcendental monotheist sees themself as radically separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature, which they regards as an object to be dominated, controlled, and used. In contrast, when we understand that everything is interconnected, we are called to a politics of compassion for all living beings and the earth itself.
In general, the Neo-Pagan those celebrates the natural world, reveres beauty and pleasure and creativity, suspects authority, and encourages gratitude, celebration, humor and enjoyment.