This Category, *Pagan Ethics, contains a series of posts that are a commentary on a book – Living with Honour – written by Emma Restall Orr.  My interest in Pagan ethics emerges out of a need to capture in words the attitudes and behaviour that might manifest out of a person’s love of Gaia and dedication to an Earthen Spirituality.  Emma’s beautiful book, which I at first eagerly skimmed, then read slowly and carefully and now enjoy re-reading has stimulated my thinking and inspired the comments in these posts. I obviously highly recommend the book and hope that my commentary serves the spirit of *Pagan Ethics and challenges the reader to examine their attitudes and world view toward a greater reverence for our place within and among the life of Gaia.  As my one-time friend Wolf says, may Gaia bless.


Ways of knowing

Reasoning and Knowing


Emma found that the most common basis for decision-making is reason.


Well, yes and no.  It depends on the situation.  Reason can get out of hand.  Too often, people ignore what they prefer or would really like to do and choose a course of action that is the most reasonable.  They seldom honour their feelings and most often pick the “sensible” rather than the “this is what I wasn’t for myself” as if they felt that there was something “wrong” in going for their desires over what they think others would agree with them as sensible.  Why is this?  Perhaps it is partly a residue from parentage.  Parents often deny their children their right to have their own preferences and force them to behave, choose and value what they, the parents think is “right” rather than letting the child’s individual selfhood develop.  And then there is the influence from the Christian religion.  I’m not picking on Christianity but just using Christianity as an example because I know about it.  Organised religion, as opposed to spirituality, kills a child’s sense of self confidence and internal moral development by conditioning them to a live of dependency on the priesthood’s opinion as to how they should view the world and feel about the power of the church’s edicts on their behaviour. The word is control, control based on fear and fear based on the priesthood’s ability to convince people that they have the power to separate people from the love and nourishment of Spirit.  I+ won’t elaborate here.  Perhaps this is a subject for future development.

I posit that we have an inner “knowing” that we can trust.  Over the years, I have been and still am fascinated with the subject of other ways of knowing.  If I may use my own experience as an example, I will attempt to explain.  Inner knowing, as I will call it, is more than intuition.


Actually, we lack the words to convey what I want to explain because the establishment – scientific establishment – that our society has largely granted the arbiter of what’s valid and what is not valid, loads and biases the accepted language to suit a reductionist, materialistic point of view.  So, what I am trying to explain must, by default sound vague and indeterminate.  However, I will proceed to them best of my ability.


Often, but not always, when a decision point arises an image forms of an action, an inner knowing that this action is what should be followed.  Immediately following is a contradictory thought, a thought I recognise emerging out of my thinking function or what many call reasoning power. Every time I follow the first impulse and I find myself evaluating the two possibilities, I am glad that I acted on the first alternative.  Most of the time I don’t consciously ask for guidance, it just pops up.  However, I have had results when I have consciously asked – asked whom? You may say – just ask that you be able to understand whatever the mystery is that you desire to know about. Invariably, I get an answer that I accept.  I trust that it is right for me.

I enjoy playing cards, especially a game with four people called Euchre.  This game combines chance with actions based on experience of having noticed past success.  One gets a feel for the probabilities of one action as opposed to another and gradually builds up a set of habits using the action with the greatest probability of success.  From time to time, however, one suddenly feels that “ping” to do something different.

Many times I have ignored it as a result of listening to my thinking function and regretted my decision. Had I followed this “knowing” the outcome would have been more favourable.  This inner knowing has never let me down and has never caused me to carry out an action that was harmful to me or another being.  I trust it completely.  Mind you, I am not claiming that I hear voices, commands – no nothing like that.

I recall fragment from the Hsin Hsin Ming by Sengstan, the third Chang Patriarch.


“Those who do not live in the single Way fail in both activity and

passivity, assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things

is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things

is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it,

the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking,

and there is nothing you will not be able to know.”


So here we are introduced to a way of knowing without talking or thinking.  How does this work?  I don’t think I can adequately explain it but I’ll try.  It seems to me that if one stays mindful and present in every moment, every call for a decision results in an inner knowing or inner choice.  Perhaps it is the mind working at a deeper level than cognitive reasoning.  The decision seems to come up before the thinking function comes out with its answer.  It is like that we have an inner guide.  I’m sure some people attribute this “guide” as an animal guide or an angel watching over them.  Whatever works as each of us chooses or has accumulated their own worldview either adopted from their culture or modified from their experience. I attribute it as being the natural consequence of being a part of Gaia.  The total wisdom gained from experience and held by Gaia is available because what I call “my body” is the body of Gaia.  And what some call “my mind – the me” is also Gaia.  There is no separate “me” in here looking out on a separate world.  So, can you begin to see how we may be guided?  We being from the “my body and my mind” point of view.


“If you wish to see the truth

then hold no opinions for or against anything.

To set up what you like against what you dislike

is the disease of the mind.”  The Hsin Hsin Ming