The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. "Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?" he asked.
"Begin at the beginning," the King said, gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
As I sat down to start writing this book, I found that the hardest part was to decide where to begin.
Ordinarily, this is not a problem. When I am working with a student, I wait until she* begins to ask questions, and then I ask my own until she understands. Ethical problems are addressed gradually, as they come up, over the course of the year or more that it takes until the seeker is ready for initiation.
With you that is not possible. Instead, I am having to sit down and give you all the answers at once, without any questions or even feedback from you. I am quite nervous about this process. It is not the way I like to teach; and if the need were not so great I would not even attempt it. But the need is great, so here we go. With your co-operation, we will make this work.
Ethics are an interlocking framework. It is impossible to truly understand one part without having at least some understanding of all the other parts. All through this book, I am going to be referring to things I have already told you, and things I am going to tell you, but haven't had a chance to yet, because that is how ethics work. An ethical structure is not a line, with a beginning and an end, but a sphere, with all parts resting on all the other parts.
So, I am going to go over the several parts that make up the skeleton of the ethics I am going to teach you in nine chapters (including this one.)
I am beginning with honesty, because I feel that the other parts will do you little good if you are not being honest with yourself about your actions.
At the end of each chapter, I will have ten exercises for you to do ten of the questions I would ask you to help you put flesh on the skeleton.
I do not expect your finished system to be exactly like mine. (After all, you probably don't look a bit like me, although our skeletons have pretty much the same form and number of bones.) My answers are not necessarily your answers. That's why we have ethics in the first place, and not just a code of laws. (Of course, you already know that, because you read the Introduction. You did read the Introduction, didn't you?)
I also do not expect your framework of ethics to be suddenly sound, and all of your actions to be the correct ones according to that framework. I, myself, am far from perfect. I constantly make mistakes. During the writing of this book, in fact, I sometimes made mistakes that seemed so bad I thought I probably should not even be writing it.
But I do my best to learn from my mistakes, and to forgive myself, try to repair the damage, and go on.
And I have been thinking about this subject for years now. I suspect that you, too, have been thinking about it, or you wouldn't be reading this. So you can add my thinking to yours, and perhaps it will help.
I recommend that you read the entire book first, skipping the exercises. After you have finished it, go back and re-read it, starting with the chapter that you are most interested in, and wandering around if you like, doing the exercises as you go.
Whether you actually do this or not, of course, like everything else in your life is entirely up to you. And that is the root of our ethical system.
If this looks interesting to you, and you'd like to read more, please feel free to visit Livingtree Grove, my pagan grove on this site, where you can learn more about Wicca in general, and the way we practice it in my tradition in particular.