“Judge not least ye be judged!” is not a part of my spiritual paradigm. I understand, and generally agree with the intention many have behind the sentiment. Mind your own business. You don’t have the full story all the time. Don’t assume a harmful motive of someone’s behavior. If something causes a reaction within you, think about the part of you that is wounded in the same way and reacting to it in the outer world. Use the work as a mirror to heal yourself. I think those things are also good to reflect upon if you yourself feel the need to tell someone not to judge.
Ideally for some, it is a call to tolerance through love. Yet when many people use the phrase, drawn from the Gospel of Matthew, they accuse someone of being judgmental, they are often using it to absolve someone else of responsibility for their actions, and often coming from a deep Christian paradigm, even if they are Pagans and Witches, about how the divine is the sole judge and this is not for humans to do. I disagree. Many of us have to unravel and examine our pre-Witch Christian heritage. We carry a lot of baggage and often assume perspectives are “witchcraft” because we are Witches and we hold them, but esoterically they have other roots. Doesn’t mean you can’t have them, but you should be aware. Many use the idea of not being judgmental to shield bad behavior for themselves or others, or to deny the mechanism of personal accountability.
I think there is resonance, but differences, between the concepts of judgement and being judgmental. To judge is to make considered conclusions in light of the evidence. Those in a societal position of a judge are guided by rules, laws, and precedent, and have obviously tangible result in the world. Those of us who are watching and making judgements in our own life have the most tangible force in the conclusions we draw and the actions that result from it. If we are observing and the situation doesn’t directly involve us, and we change no behavior, then it has very little tangible result. There is certainly an unconscious level and an energetic result on some level, but usually nothing visible. I might continually experience a friend being late for meeting me, and eventually conclude that my time is not being respected and take the action to not make future plans. I might observe that same behavior between two friends, and make the same sort of conclusion, but if that behavior not directed at me, they are always on time to meet me, I can hold it in awareness, but there is no tangible consequence stemming from my actions.
To be judgmental is to be excessively critical in light of the evidence, often assuming motivations without clear evidence of the motivation. Being judgmental is considered a lack of empathy and compassion. And that can certainly be the case many times when our feelings our hurt. Yet, even without direct knowledge of someone’s motivations, if the harmful behavior is continually repeated after critique, one can consider that the harm is intended, or at the very least, doesn’t matter.
The key to the divide between judgement and being judgmental is discernment. While I’ve used the term a lot as a Witch, it is also a part of Christian theology though not as talked about as much as judgement. One seeks discernment, meaning that the evidence of a situation and the conclusions are not disregarded, but discernment calls for humility and a deeper understanding, often from a divine perspective.
For the Witch, it is the lessons of air, of the sword of truth, and the alchemical operation of separation. One must use the evidence to decide on the best possible action. One can divide and separate from an unhealthy situation and hold compassion. As I often say in classes and healing sessions, unconditional love is not unconditional relationships. You can have compassion for a perpetrator of harm and hold solid boundaries against bad behaviors. You can also call for accountability. If the evidence shifts, your discernments, your judgements, can change, but without something new, the old perception will stand.
Recently I was called out by someone I didn’t know, for being “dark” and “judgmental” under the guise of trying to wish well. It was in reference to the President’s diagnosis with Covid-19. We have had many calls for “spiritual” people of all kinds to wish him well and pray for his healing, and many responses wishing for his death. I saw both sides of people tryin to shame others for not sending him healing and prayers, and shaming those who were holding compassion, even if they were not denying the harm done by him. I think somewhere between were the comments that this is his karma or wyrd for all of his actions around the misinformation about the virus, along with a multitude of poor decisions, questionable actions, and out and out crimes he hasn’t be held accountable for or fully investigated. It’s an example of cause and effect in a way that can be visibly seen.
I started in reaction to the comment and stopped, reflected and let it sit for a while, to understand where I was coming from, where she was coming from, and what could be said or done that is the most helpful. At the time, I was posting to gain clarity about my own feelings and have been told such posts are often helpful to others, so rather than just journal it, I posted it on social media. In the end, I hope I helped this critic gain her own greater clarity.
For me, it’s not disingenuous to be able to separate the personal and the transpersonal. I can wish you well on a soul level and deeply dislike you as a person. I think “bad” things can forge “good” changes, so often not getting what you want, but getting what your soul needs, is well wishing. Not getting your way, your personal desire, particularly when your way harms others and yourself, is a blessing. I believe when its not a matter of life and death, to wish an enemy well in the hopes that their wellness, on all levels, will resolve their need to be an enemy. But we are also literally in a situation of life and death brought to us by the failures of our current government. I also believe we have to take action to minimize harm whenever possible, in accordance with our magickal will. To wish someone to gratify their ego and escape the consequences of their actions is not wishing them well. It’s enabling them for more bad behavior. If you are calling out someone with little systemic power for being unkind to someone with great systemic power doing great harm and not equally calling out the perpetrator of great harm, you are excusing and enabling, and have lost sight of discernment.
I believe in the interdependence and interconnectivity on all things. As a healer, I know there are times when balance being restored is a slow process, and other times when something needs to be cut out or destroyed. In lore and literature, from the Anne Rice character the Vampire Lestat to Illyana Rasputin of the X-Men, I believe that the worst of us can be redeemed, eventually. Isn’t that the nature of so many of our occultist paradigms? Yet in my personal life, I need to see evidence of the conscious desire for redemption and the actions taken to move towards it to engage. If I don’t see it, I have to establish a hard boundary. On the societal level, I don’t see it, but I can’t choose to not engage in my country. I can’t wall myself off. I must engage.
I think of the initiatory path as embodied by the Tarot. We have the whole suit of swords to teach us how to communicate, to speak, to listen, and to discern the truth in others, and in ourselves. It’s not a pleasant or easy group of fourteen cards. Some consider the swords some of the worst cards of the deck. In the major arcana, we have Justice and later Judgement, with a whole lot in between the two. Judgement is often framed as the Christian Final Judgement with angel horns blasting and dead bodies coming out of their coffins, reanimated and alive. I love Crowley’s Thoth Deck title for the card, Aeon, for Christian judgement is the end of an epoch and the start of a new, be it the Age of Aquarius or the Age of Horus (and Maat). Judgement indicates not a personal end and rebirth, like Death, but a larger transpersonal/societal/cosmic end and new beginning. When we collectively learn the power of discernment and make a judgement call, we are ending a cycle and starting a new, fresh, hopefully wiser one. I encourage people to use their best judgement without being excessive.
Part of my critic’s argument was to not judge and let “fate” decide, yet Witches know we are part of the tapestry of fate, and a truly wise Witches become agents of fate in the process of being free from fate. Everyone is, just hopefully we realize the depth of it. That is the essence of magick. Fate is another card of the Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune. Things come up and things come down in cycles and seasons. Our eternal self is in the center of the wheel observing it all. Fate is the most likely result of our actions, individually and collectively. Deciding to not take an action is an action itself. We are in constant process, even when sitting still and being. Every thought, every word, and every deed is potential magick. So yes, let fate take care of it, by expressing your true will in the world. If fate it what is most likely to happen based on all that has happened, yes, invoke justice and change your fate, and the collective fate by thinking, speaking and doing!
I keep thinking about the rollercoaster of this year, this month, this week, with the rapid news cycle and shocking scandal after scandal, all minimized as something even crazier comes along and we lose attention. I think of what I learned as a Taoist parable of the farmer. Have you heard it? Essentially the the old farmer loses his horse, who runs away. His neighbor sympathizes saying “Such bad luck.” the farmer just responds with “Maybe.” The horse returns with three other wild horses and the farmer now has four horses. The neighbor thinks it’s wonderfully good luck. The farmer just says, “Maybe.” The farmer’s son tries to ride a wild horse, gets thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor sympathizes, expressing it as bad luck again. Again the farmer says, “Maybe.” The next day, the military comes to draft young men into the army. The son can’t go with a broken leg and the neighbor congratulates him on his good fortune. You can probably guess what the farmer said. In the moment, when we judge part of the situation, that judgement can quickly change. As circumstances change, the evaluation changes. We don’t always know in the moment. Someone dies and their court seat opens up. Someone’s taxes get released. Someone clearly denounces white supremacy and someone does not. Some recordings get leaked. Several someones get Covid. I’m trying to take that track in evaluating all the suffering in this current moment, and just say, “Maybe.”
If spiritual evolution eventually takes you to a state of non-dual consciousness, non-dual identity of true interconnection and interdependence, the well being of the all is the well being of the self, for they are the same. The well being of another is the well being of self and vice versa. On a very human level, I can be angry, fearful, manic, vengeful and ill wishing. But I can also recognize those are things that pass if my root is in something larger. It doesn’t negate the very human experience of these feelings, but it frames it in a larger context. I struggle to frame it in a larger context, but I keep trying. Maybe one day I’ll get a clearer picture. The bigger forces, Fate, Justice, Truth, Judgement, are not simply automatic cosmic processes that happen regardless. They are embedded in our reality and experience, and we must participate in them. They don’t happen without us. If we want to see them operate on the human level, we must participate in their operation. We are all actors in the bigger picture.
So in the end, if we seek to master the cycle of the arcana, I would encourage you to judge and be judged, because it’s going to happen anyway. No one can escape it. We need to evaluate, discern and make judgement calls to function. So while you are in the midst of it, try to be as clear and as conscious as you can in the process. We are all accountable to each others. Honor your feelings, but also process you feelings. Discern and take appropriate action for you. If the information changes, change your actions. Seek truth, but balance it with compassion and empathy. Evaluate yourself, your role, your actions and use that self awareness to take the next most appropriate action on the path.