The Ethics Of Vampirism
Written by: Michelle Belanger
My Australian contact stopped writing to me immediately after I admitted that I was a vampire of the sort that I had been hypothetically describing to him. I got the distinct impression that I scared him off. I've seen this time and time again in various people who have contacted me. The vampire is fascinating to them in theory, but when confronted with a blunt admission of what a vampire is, they balk. It's not even a matter of disbelief. I would certainly understand if someone stopped writing to me because they thought I was just plain nuts. I won't pretend that my beliefs aren't hard to swallow. It took me a while to swallow them. But the general response I have received from those who are bothered by it is fear, not disbelief. I can certainly understand the fear. The vampire you see in fiction and film, although powerful, is still controllable. There are significant limits on his activities because of his sensitivity to light. Most movie vampires burst into flame when exposed to the sun, are repelled by crosses, garlic, and a host of other easily acquired items, and are generally pretty easy to spot in a crowd (the long, flowing black opera cloak does it every time). The thought of real people who can look just like your neighbor who have the ability to silently and invisibly go out at night and siphon the life force from anyone around them is pretty intimidating. To enter someone's dreams, to influence them while sleeping or awake by interacting with their energies - that's the stuff that real horror movies are made of. What locks can you put on your house to protect yourself from someone like that? No crosses or garlic or anything else can keep away something you can't even see. I know that I wouldn't do anything to hurt someone with what I can do, but think about it from their perspective for a moment. I have to admit, we're pretty scary.
Almost all of the vampires that I know would never abuse the people around them with their powers. But there's no guarantee of this. The only person regulating their behavior is them. And let's face it, not everyone is good or moral all the time. Even I've fed off a few people through dreams without their permission, although it was usually more out of desperation than a malicious desire to cause an "astral attack". But what do you do if you're a magickal worker who knows there are people like us out there and who knows the full extent of what we can do? And you know that the only thing protecting others from being preyed upon is the vampire's good conscience? I can forgive the Wiccans and Pagans a little for their attitudes toward us when I look at things this way.
Konstantinos, the author of "Vampires: the Occult Truth" is probably one of our most vocal opponents. From his book it is clear that he views vampires as unethical predators who selfishly bring harm upon others for their own spiritual empowerment. I think his judgments are unfair, but knowing some of the groups that he probably contacted to formulate his opinion, I can see where he's coming from. Most of the vampires I know do not maliciously feed upon people in order to cause a "psychic attack." Almost all of them prefer willing donors who are fully aware of what they are and what that means. When we feed upon people without their knowledge or permission, it's usually in a large crowd situation where it's not going to hurt or personally affect anyone in the crowd anyway, and making the group aware of what we're doing would be more harmful to all involved. But not every group operates selflessly and with the consideration of others in mind. A lot of young vampires who are just discovering what they are and exercising their powers willfully hurt and manipulate people. Few of them really understand the severity of what they're doing, and once they realize that their actions have long-term and serious effects on others, they stop. But not all of them grow out of it.
So how do we regulate our behavior? Most communities have an ethical code that goes hand in hand with their beliefs. Through a system of promised rewards and punishments, the ethical code regulates people's behavior for them. The rewards and punishments have meaning within the context of the belief system, and so members of the community are obligated by their own faith to behave. Essentially, God becomes the watchdog of their actions, and hazy areas of morality are defined for them so they don't have to make a difficult ethical choice.
Because the vampire community is so spread out and so diverse, there is no single belief system that all of us adhere to. Even our idea of "God" or divinity is vastly different from person to person. Some of us are Wiccan or Pagan, some are agnostics, and some don't believe in anything at all. And therefore there is no ethical code that we are spiritually obligated to follow. There is no easy path of morality laid out for each of us and enforced by a wrathful deity. It's not that easy. Each of us is responsible for making our own ethical decisions, and the gray areas are places that we have to wrestle with ourselves. And in a world where almost every other system regulates individuals' behavior, having a group of spiritually active people who make all those decisions for themselves bothers a lot of people.
Most individual groups of vampires, like House Kheperu, have developed a code of conduct of their own. Almost all of this is common sense behavior that comes down to the simple philosophy of "don't do something unless you're willing to accept the consequences of your actions." In recent years, as isolated groups have begun to contact one another and a true network of community has started to grow up, a couple valiant souls have tried to formulate an ethical code that holds true for all of us. I think given the vast diversity of the vampire culture, it is impossible to expect everyone to adhere to one system, but I respect the attempt.
A guideline of behavior for a community like ours is not necessarily a bad idea. Father Todd of House Sahjaza formulated one of the first wide-spread codes of conduct for the community, a set of rules he dubbed "The Black Veil." An early form of this code was in use in the New York community for several years. As Todd started to reach out to the communities outside of Gotham, he asked a few of us from other traditions to offer our input into this code. The idea was to develop something that would make sense to everyone and hold true for the entire community, whether you were a sanguine (blood-drinking) vampire, an energy vampire like those of House Kheperu, or anything in between. With the help of myself and Sanguinarius, Todd's original code of conduct was developed into the following thirteen rules to help members of the community make ethical choices for their behavior.
It's important to keep in mind here that there is still no one regulating your actions but you. Todd, Sanguinarius, and myself have formed a council of elders that represents a unification of several very different traditions among the community (kind of a vampire co-operative), but it's not like some vampire enforcer from COVICA is going to wind up on your doorstep someday and inform you that you broke rule number six and would you come along nicely so we can put you in the pillory. The accountability of your actions is your own responsibility. The Black Veil is a guideline only, and while I personally don't think it contains anything objectionable or overly restricting, only you can decide what is right and wrong for you. Contrary to the assertions of more strict ethical systems (such as Christianity) the same set of rules does not and cannot hold true for every single situation and every single individual. Morality is never black and white. You get into dangerous territory indeed when you try to separate the world into stark dualities like that. So even within this guideline, the hard choices are something you have to make on your own as each situation dictates.