The Art of War arose from the Daoist reflection on warfare, strategy, and tactics. Daoist analytical methods emphasize the power of holistic frameworks. Placement of soldiers cannot influence the outcome if the soldiers starve due to broken supply lines. Sun Tzu and the classical commentators who expanded The Art of War brought together logistics, psychology, and martial experience to provide a holistic analysis of warfare. While not a Buddhist tradition, Daoist philosophy harmonizes with Buddhist philosophy as evidenced by influence on the Zen Tradition.

Later Zen-influenced reflection on the martial arts echoes both death imagery in Zen and the holistic analysis characteristic of Daoism. Like The Art of War before it, The Book of Five Rings holistically reflects on warfare and dueling. It describes a warrior philosophy of detachment from both life and death, liberated from fear to enter battle but forsaking glory found in murder. While Buddhist ethics discourages combat, its analytic methods have been successfully applied to the practice of violence.

Despite rhetoric that glorifies the free market as the guarantor of ownership rights, late stage capitalism is marked by a concentration of ownership. As wealth flows toward the owner class, the working class becomes less able to acquire ownership rights in property and durable goods. Where a professional class family might have owned their home in a prior generation, their late stage descendents find themselves doomed to tenancy. Possessions of significant value become inaccessible outside of lease or subscription. Ownership narrows in the late stage because capitalism chiefly invents means to extract further capital from resources and transactions. As processes are fragmented and outsourced, opportunities for rents appear at points of transaction, expanding the set of facilitators obstruct what might otherwise be a frictionless process in order to extract rents from both sides. In the tenant society, consumers pay for the privilege of use but remain empty handed.


Just War Theory outlines conditions under which the use of force by a state actor can be morally justified. Philosophical traditions have addressed the moral justification for war since ancient times, all over the world. The problem can be easily framed. Morality in general forbids harming another being due to a simple reciprocity of duty and obligation. Moral duties derive from universal principles, commands that are applicable in all situations no matter the participants. A moral duty against causing harm can be readily derived from this configuration of shared desire and the universality of moral duty.

All moral agents, indeed all sentient beings, desire to avoid pain and therefore violence and harm that can cause pain. Given this shared desire, an agent avoids being the cause of harm to others because they want others to avoid being the cause of harm to them. An agent who desires to harm others but not to be harmed themselves must embrace an inconsistency that explains why they are permitted to harm while others are not. The two desires are considered inconsistent because, with respect to a desire to avoid harm, the agent who wants to harm is the same as other agents. One must articulate a reason that they would be permitted to harm while others do not share the same privilege.

A successful Just War Theory must provide an account of circumstances that suspend a general moral duty to some extent. A Just War Theorist must argue against the grain of morality and identify a configuration of conditions or events that render immoral acts morally permissible. In fairness to Just War Theorists, the circumstances identified are generally fairly narrow. When facing an invading force, when other paths to resolution are exhausted, and when violence now will not preclude a peaceful resolution later, Just War Theorists will generally agree that the use of force can be morally justifiable.

When one compares those conditions to the causes of war over the last two hundred years, one labors to find a “just war.” World War II often enjoys the status of a morally justifiable war, but the designation becomes more fragile in light of the atrocities committed by all parties, the imperialist motivations that motivated war in Europe, and the Iron Curtain that divided erstwhile allies in the aftermath. For the most part wars prosecuted by so-called “great powers” find their justification in greed, in power, and in revenge.

The wars familiar to a 21st century person are the wars of empire, of colonization, of hegemony. An examination of the Roosevelt Corollary and the Bush Doctrine readily shows motivation to assert sovereignty beyond national boundaries. While the overt reasoning includes preserving security or preventing worse consequences, the actions that follow from those foreign policy frameworks reinforce the dominance of one group by the subjugation of others. Just War Theory serves only to identify heroes and villains in propaganda in service of imperialist ends.

In the clash of empires the proper protagonists are the people trapped between clashing villains. Imperial governments act out of disregard for people other than their own, and even then often only their own wealthy and privileged citizens. The interests of the owner class become the interest of the imperial state. If a foreign country is not a peer considered either ally or enemy, it is merely a collection of resources and territory, both prize and battlefield of proxy wars. For all the good intentions of scholars, Just War Theory fails to safeguard against improper violence. Instead, it advances a contradiction to support imperialist interests and transmute violence into a noble duty.


If you consider the high price placed on one of a kind collectibles, you can note the value placed on being something no one else can have. Economists call items valued for exclusive possession, such as movie memorabilia or works of art, “positional goods.” A positional good has value only insofar as one can possess it and no one else can. Anyone can have a replica, but there is only one original. The difference in value between a unique item and the material that composes it can be thought of as its positional value, the value it accrues through exclusive possession.

Capitalist systems motivate the creation of positional goods because the value of sentiment is unbounded, unlike the cost of labor and materials. A merchant dealing in collectibles can turn a significant profit by purchasing from one party ignorant of the item’s value and selling it to an interested collector. Positional goods can become status signifiers, attracting increased value based on the associated status. Without producing any new material good or fulfilling any need, positional value inflates prices in favor of merchants and to the detriment of consumers.

The sentiment that enables positional value reflects some of humanity’s worse impulses. When a person enjoys positional value, they place an equivalent degree of value on the dissatisfaction of others. One celebrates not what one has, but that someone else does not have it. Embracing positional value then entails embracing another’s deprivation.

From a moral perspective positional value encourages immoral attitudes such as greed and insensitivity to suffering. The separation created between people who have and people who do not enable fragmentation of the community into factions anchored on their status and associated signifiers. Positional goods provide a perpetual wellspring of carrots for the owner class to offer workers in exchange for betraying their class interests. An anarchist should be skeptical of positional goods and positional value, and a communitarian should treat them as a pollutant.

The persuasive utility of positional value appears in the pitch for many scams, threatening the mark with missing out on something significant. The NFT market exploits two forms of positional value, inherent and external. Inherent value refers to the core concept already discussed, but external positional value refers to status signifiers associated with ownership. NFT promoters encourage adoption so that the buyer can be part of the next big movement. Owners create community around NFT collections, as if they have attained membership in a clique of Bored Apes. If you don’t buy any NFTs, you won’t have any stake in the cryptocurrency economy to come. In the end, the value of the asset will increase until no buyers remain. The price plummets, and the status withers.

Compatibilists argue that free will and determinism can co-exist as long as either concept is diminished to fit within an expanded concept of the other. Free will is consistent with determinism as long as one does not demand unqualified freedom or absolute regularity. In very deep meditation sessions, I sometimes experience volition as phenomenon separate from urges or cognition. I see a desire to end the session, and I have thoughts about ending the session. Nevertheless, the session does not end until I direct a formless push to open the eyes, bow, and stand.

The push is influenced by cause and effect. Hunger, fatigue, anxiety, and enthusiasm can lend it power. Nevertheless, between anticipation of action and acting, there is a moment of decision. I do not need a stronger concept of free will to anchor responsibility for my actions, yet I can also see how previous events direct that decision, lend it strength or present resistance. The decision moment is not absolutely free anymore than the next moment is possible to predict with absolute precision. A consistent account of causation can account for both free will and determinism in the sense presented here.

A Pagan with a bias toward scholarship tends to encounter difficulties belonging with the wider community. Founding members of the movement built their frameworks with faulty scholarship and fantastic claims. As fictions become beliefs, people hold them too dearly to revise or challenge them. When intuitive and mystical ways of knowing ground belief, academic analysis is rejected as reductive and disenchanting. Nevertheless, the scholar sees their investigation as a form of veneration. Insofar as one confronts one’s truths in the sacred space, one must acquaint oneself with the means to find truth. Studying immerses the scholar in the subject and changes them as well. While untruths of the subject are cut away, the untruths of the scholar are cut likewise. The subject and the scholar emerge more whole from this process.

Where one’s practice includes operant magick, one should have an internally consistent framework. The framework should account for the limits of magic, its necessary conditions, and how to interpret results. Logical consistency does not require a strict commitment to empirical science, but it does require that all claims made by the framework can be true without causing a contradiction. Adopting as principles poorly interpreted claims from natural science weakens a framework, making it reliant on something that can be determined true or false, and often a pseudoscience that has been determined false. Logically consistent principles allow one to draw inferences from the framework to explore the logical space it defines. Otherwise, the magician does not learn about themselves through their framework and therefore never develops.

Mystical insights and personal gnosis should be part of every practice. Through critical reflection on those insights, one engages with the divine and develops their relationship to the sacred. Uncritical acceptance does not allow the insight to take root deeply, leading to a shallow pursuit of experiences whenever the previous bliss is spent. Asserting the truth of one’s personal gnosis as binding on a third party may help a person reinforce a shallow belief, but one can only make epistemic judgments on their own experiences.

Revival of ancient Paganism requires evidence-based investigation such as archeology, history, and linguistics. While experts may offer different interpretations, they also acknowledge the limits of what we can glean from evidence and what we can only speculate based on broader patterns. Scholarship in these fields requires rigorous attention to detail, evidence, and bias. Grounding our beliefs in the on-going academic search for truth gives contemporary Pagans a firmer foundation than amateur speculation and debunked theories.

The practice should work inward, not outward. Beginning magick, ritual, or any working with the intention to create external changes results in delusion and disappointment. Ceremonial magick works change on the magician, encouraging the development of insight and understanding. When witchcraft aims for external results, it works the way nature works. Witchcraft seeks the necessary and sufficient condition, the smallest movement for the greatest change. One must first learn patience, observation, and diligence. On either path the initiate should focus on introspection and personal development and follow those paths into mastery.

While many introductory sources teach protection magick as a safe introduction, focus on wards and protection leads to paranoia. One focuses anxiety or depression on an external cause, a magical or psychic attack, and then employs ineffective external responses. The adversary is the inexperienced mind, clinging to material explanations for mental phenomenon, seeking easy answers over honest introspection. Mindful awareness in meditation serves as a safer introductory practice that teaches investigation of sensation and feelings that encourages steadiness of mind.

People tend to overestimate the persuasiveness of a message on the part of others but underestimate it on their own part. Sociologists name this dual tendency “the Third Person Effect” and implicate it in various misunderstandings about the influence of mass media. When a person advocates action based on how a message might be received by others, they reveal that they themselves have been implicitly influenced by the message. Social scientists study the Third Person Effect and its impacts on communities, media, and social movements.

The mechanics of the Third Person Effect suggest something morally relevant at work. Beneath the effect lies an implicit assumption of difference between the subject, their interlocutor, and other (third) people. One might believe that that “most people” are less educated, that their perspective is overly informed by a group stereotype, or that some other group-based difference sets the subject apart from the wider audience. Individuals tend to think of themselves as one entity and “everyone else” as an additional entity, failing to recognize that “everyone else” consists of individuals capable of doing the same with regard to themselves. Falling victim to the Third Person Effect reveals an unchecked assumption of inequality and the superiority of the subject.

In Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant argues that the principal moral duty, the Categorical Imperative, requires us to treat one another as ends in themselves and never merely as a means. Every person has the rational capacity to interpret the moral law, so all people have equal status as moral agents. A moral agent must be the author of their decisions about duty, the good life, and morality. One then has a duty to assume that others are close reflections of themselves in terms of their epistemic and moral capabilities. The Third Person Effect shows that this duty is often neglected.

Social scientists and epistemologists can agree that the Third Person Effect represents an epistemic error, but ethicists could note a moral error as well. Pragmatically, one must guard against the Third Person Effort, as one must any potential bias in belief or perception. One should also recognize the opportunity for moral reflection, to inquire about the perceived differences driving the Third Person bias in a particular case. Correcting the biases of the Third Person Effect is not just pragmatic, but a moral duty.

Since contemporary paganism lacks a singular theology, every pagan must develop their own account of gods, spirits, and other supernatural beings. A detailed ontology might enumerate hierarchies of entities and their domains, but any ontology must be grounded in a coherent metaphysical explanation of such beings. For the purposes of a general account, one can ignore the vagaries of category and hierarchy and focus only the principles that make supernatural beings possible. The term “Powers” used here will represent an inclusive set of gods, totem spirits, demons, fairies, and other unseen entities that attract veneration, supplication, or appeasement.

While “Powers” must be defined over a wide set, all members of that set share the characteristic of sacredness. Whether benevolent, malignant, or neutral, Powers belong to the non-ordinary space and time of the sacred. One does not experience Powers as one does fellow humans, animals, or plants, so a metaphysics of Powers is needed. A metaphysics of Powers does not need to prove that such entities exist per se, but it does need to address how their existence is possible and how one would gain knowledge about them.

Without some argument in favor of their existence, developing a metaphysics of Powers lacks a immediate significance. To motivate a general account, one needs only a weak existence claim such as existing as phenomena. Whether or not Powers exist as independent entities, their associated traditions and communities demonstrate that they are experienced. If one can grant that subjective experience includes entities described here as Powers, one should also grant that a metaphysical account of Powers must be possible to set boundaries for existence claims.

Assuming that Powers exist as experiences allows one to derive a few characteristics. Powers resemble thoughts, beliefs, fantasies, and other “mental” constructs in that they are experienced as immaterial substance confined to the cognitive landscape. While conventional idioms would describe such apparitions as existing “in the head,” immaterial substance lacks extension in space or time. By definition, material substance is extended in space and time and available to sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Immaterial substance contrasts as not extended in space and time and unavailable to the coarse senses. Strictly speaking, Powers have no location and take up no space.

If Powers have no location, one must also infer that the potential to experience Powers is not bounded by the individual body, brain, or mind. There is no reason to think that one person’s experience of a Power is necessarily experience of a different Power, as if each subject manifests a Power anew in each experience. If two subjects would agree that the objects of their separate divine experiences are the same, one can infer that they experience the same Power, much as one might say two people share an idea.
As the shared perspective of a power grows and changes, the power can be said to develop accordingly, containing the multitudes of its past and present. The collective creation of Powers distinguishes them from other immaterial objects. When immaterial objects find themselves available to an engaged collective that attaches significance to them, they become Powers in an apotheosis of ideas.

Taking these characteristics together, Powers represent the individual’s encounter with collective ideas. They are real insofar as they are experienced as real, insofar as ideas are real. Powers serve to remind the individual that they are also members of a collective, that they stand in the shadow of something greater, that we are waves in the ocean. The Powers reminds us that we are water.

In Indian philosophy, karma is part of the tradition’s account of causation. The word means “act” or “action” literally, but in the context of causation metaphysics it refers to the continuity between a cause and its effect. An action has consequences, and then nature of those consequences will reflect the nature of the action. Attributes that would describe the consequence indicate the attributes of the cause. One can anticipate the consequences by reflecting on the characteristics of the originating action. Any action is an effect of past causes as well as the cause of future events.

Categorizing “good” and “bad” karma reflects an oversimplification of this continuity between cause and effect. Karma can be described as beneficial or harmful depending on the kinds of effects that might follow. An action performed in anger will have effects that are marked by anger. Bringing about physical health in the future depends on taking actions that contribute to physical health. A wise person focuses on beneficial actions in order to encourage a happy future.

Beneficial and harmful karma do not negate or balance one another. Every action sits in its own stream of causation, and one cause can produce both beneficial and harmful effects. One must work through the effects of harmful karma in order to be free of its continued influence. For karma associated with guilt, one might have to atone. For karma associated with pain, one might have to forgive. The decisions a person makes based on their karma determines whether future results are harmful or beneficial.

When included in an ethical framework, karma defines a dimension of reasoning in line with causation. The normative world of moral “ought” often overlooks the complexities of the causal world. Analyzing a decision karmically requires identifying characteristics the decision inherits from its causes and potential characteristics of likely effects. Karma enables one to identify the limits of their agency in the consequences visited on them by the actions of others, such as generational cycles of abuse. At the same time, one can also identify the when their agency can be effective in transforming the future of their situation.

Race serves to divide the working class by bribing one group with privilege over the other. Membership in racial groups varies across history, widening and narrowing to serve the needs of the privileged group. Irish and Italian immigrants were granted membership into whiteness to maintain alignment against Black people during the Jim Crow era. Race is a condition inflicted on a people to make them vulnerable to the imperialist machinations of the owner class. Once one accepts that race is socially constructed, one must also accept that whiteness, the privileged identity group, is also socially constructed.

Even though whiteness is the privileged group, individuals who identify as white remain vulnerable to being denied whiteness. Just as previously distinct identity groups were admitted to whiteness, any identity group can be made into an Other and ejected from the privileged group. Any immutable characteristic can be totalized to define an identity group distinguished from the “default” whiteness. Even mutable characteristics can be leveraged as markers of degeneracy that disqualify one for the full privileges of whiteness. Any person born “white” might find themselves on the wrong side of privilege by choice or circumstance.

Across the diversity of identity groups and intersecting identities, the pattern of vulnerability remains. Conforming to the privileged group’s values and expectations may grant some share of advantage, perhaps limited by one’s ability to “pass” as the privileged identity. Such grants remain contingent on the perfection of one’s conformity and the convenience of the privileged group.

The only social grouping not vulnerable to being divested of privilege are the owner class. The owner class utilize whiteness and other divisive tools to maintain control over people and resources. Ultimately, as long as an individual retains enough wealth and influence to remain in the owner class, they are able to purchase any privilege. To align with the interests of the owner class is to abandon other identities for exploitation. Individuals who ascend to the owner class from a low-status identity group may face residual discrimination, but they leave behind fears of the martial class as long as they have wealth and its signifiers.

If one accepts these arguments, the working class vulnerability to discrimination becomes evident. While members of privileged identity groups may benefit temporarily by supporting the exploitative hierarchy, their own interests will be abandoned when they no longer intersect with the owner class. At such a time the owner class may redefine the social constructs that uphold privileged groups, and the workers now branded as degenerate take their place alongside the oppressed.

Even if the owner class extends privilege on a limited basis, workers who are so “elevated” do not share the long term interest of the owner class. As long as one can be deprived of those privileges, a worker’s interest is best aligned with their fellows, even across the boundaries of identity groups. Solidarity does not require forsaking identity, only recognizing that class conditions provide an avenue for trust across identities. Shared vulnerability to the owner class provides a basis for trust as long as one guards against the short term temptation to embrace the bribes of fragile privilege. The owner class relies on the success of those temptations to keep the workers divided against themselves.