The Monkey’s Paw is a 1902 short horror story by author WW Jacobs with the theme that there is always a price to pay when you mess around with magick. In the story, a paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes. When Mr. and Mrs. White obtain the paw, they use their first wish to ask for a modest sum of $200. Unfortunately for them, the wish is seemingly granted when the couple’s son is killed at work and they are awarded a compensation of $200. The story continues as the parents grieve for the son until they decide to use their second wish to ask that their son be brought back to life. Since he had been buried for ten days, this results in a terrifying, mutilated and decomposed body of their son to arrive on their doorstep that begins knocking on their door to be let in. Finally, the couple uses their last wish to wish their son dead which causes the knocking to finally stop.
The moral: “It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.”
One of the lessons in the Monkey’s Paw is that though the wish may seem trivial on its own, the path toward the fulfillment of that change can be potentially fraught with unintended consequences. How many of us can state confidently that we knew all the possible effects that our action might have caused when we performed magick? How many completely anticipated the path that was taken to fulfill this change?
Most Pagans use magick as an important part of the spiritual practice. Magick, in the broadest sense, is any act designed to cause intentional change. Crowley defined it as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.” Those who practice magick recognize that there are often many possible paths that may be traveled to manifest this change. Some of these paths may seem obvious and expected, but more often than not, we are surprised with how our intent is manifested.
Quantum Physics gives us a theory that tries to explain the existence of these many paths. The multiverse theory of quantum entanglement states that all possible events transpire in all conceivable combinations and that every outcome occurs in one dimension or another. It has been suggested that magick may not be about remaking the world to bring about a specific outcome, but rather propelling consciousness through an act of will into a dimension or realm where this has already been accomplished.
Every action you take will cause change and most of it will not even be realized by you. These changes radiate out from you like ripples in a pond. Sometimes these repercussions create unintended harmful effects. Christopher Penczak, in his book Instant Magick, states that “Every thought you think is magick.” Buddhists’ teach the concept of mindfulness and karma that teaches every action we perform, everything we say, is planting a seed based on the nature of that thought, act, or word. If we act out in anger, for example, we are planting the seed for future anger to manifest.
Back in Wicca 101, I was taught the Wiccan Rede of “‘An it harm none, do what thou wilt” but how does this apply to these unintended manifestations? The answer given to this dilemma is that even though these unintentional manifestations will occur, each person that practices magick must be willing to take responsibility for their consequences. You must accept that there will be times when harm is unavoidable. If fact, some might say that harm is unavoidable no matter what you do. If harm is unavoidable, how is it possible to harm none? You don’t. Instead, you cause as little harm as you can and take responsibility for what harm you do cause. If you do something that harms another, take responsibility for the action. You then take the responsibility for trying to set things right which usually means more than a simple apology. Sometimes you won’t be able to. Perhaps that was the lesson you were supposed to learn. There are times in everyone’s life where there just is no right answer, only the lesser of two evils. Sometimes you might not recognize is as a wrong, but should not the affected party decide whether it was harmful?
Knowing that these unintended manifestations are possible, you might want to consider some preventive measures:
1. Take time to think through and consider how your actions might impact others and yourself, especially if you are faced with a situation you have never encountered before.
2. Learn to determine how much energy to use. Will a kind word have as much impact as a harsh yell? Will a simple mundane action have as much impact as a complex ritual?
3. Learn to control the energy. You need to practice and strengthen the powers inherent within you. Learn how to perform magick with skill. For instance, when invoking or evoking a deity, make sure you know the strength, weakness, character and personality of that deity. When using herbs (ingested or in balms or incense) be sure you know the pharmacological and combination effects of each.
4. Learn to visualize the path as well as the final destination. Not only will this possibly reduce the unexpected, but it often stated that “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” (Ursula LeGuin).
Magick can allow you to control your future and not be a victim of chance. Magick can be used to obtain a spiritual connection to Deity. Magick allows you to escape the bounds of your mundane existence and enjoy the limitless bounty of the universe. Magick is rarely is a substitute for hard work but it can help increase the probability of success. Magick is a choice and it does have responsibilities and unintentional manifestations. Alfred A. Montapert stated it well when he said that “Every person has free choice. Free to obey or disobey the Natural Laws. Your choice determines the consequences. Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.”