By Michelle Belanger
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Michelle Belanger, founder of House Kheperu (www.kheperu.org). I’ve been an active and influential member of the vampire community since 1991. I’m the author of the Vampyre Codex (Sam Weiser Press, Fall 2004) as well as the revisionist of the Black Veil, a list of guidelines for behavior fundamental to the Sanguinarium. In addition, I’m a vocal advocate and practitioner of ethical psychic vampirism.
Definition of Ethics
Ethics deals with grey areas and touchy decisions like abortion, murder in self-defense, and death with dignity. Although religious people and moralists will attempt to define ethics in shades of black and white, a true ethicist recognizes that we do not live in a black and white world. Sometimes the right decision is crystal clear. Sometimes, as in your worksheet, it is very, very hazy.
Basically, an ethical choice acknowledges the rights of the individual while also acknowledging the rights of others as individuals. An ethical choice may also be defined as “the greatest good” – a decision that allows for the protection and well-being of all individuals involved – both the self and others. A final way of looking at it is that ethics takes an ideal and applies it as workably as possible to the hardly ideal real world.
Now, it’s been my experience that a lot of Pagans, Wiccans, and Otherkin have serious issues with psychic vampirism. In general, most non-vampires consider any exercise of vampiric abilities to be inherently wrong. However, if someone is a true psychic vampire, taking energy is not a choice. It’s part of who and what they are. To simply condemn the practice of psychic vampirism out of hand is to show utter disregard for the problems psychic vampires wrestle with every day of their lives. This sort of short-sighted condemnation is akin to demanding that a homosexual just choose not to be gay.
Before I jump into the different ethical approaches to psi-vampirism, let’s briefly discuss what psi-vampirism actually is. A lot of you probably know this material already, so bear with me if I’m covering familiar ground.
Anyone can take energy. In fact, everyone actually does. Each and every person in this room at this very moment is engaged in a complex interchange with the energy of the environment around them. This includes the energy of the people around them – with my energy, with your energy, with your energy and with yours. This is an intricate dance of give and take that is influenced by mood, attentiveness, physical and mental health, physical proximity, emotional connection and a variety of other factors.
Taking energy is a perfectly natural process. The ratio of give and take varies from person to person, but in most cases, it evens out to a balance. The distinction for psychic vampires is that they have a need to consistently take more than they give. I would also specify that true psychic vampires need to take primarily human, vital energy (where human loosely applies to all of us running around on two legs.)
A need to take in large quantities of energy can arise from physical or subtle illness, imbalance, or damage – however, this is not true vampirism, as the conditions are temporary and the heightened intake of energy will cease once the underlying problem has been resolved. True psychic vampirism is inborn, and it is frequently carried across incarnations.
A psychic vampire’s need typically arises from a difficulty in energetic metabolism, digestion, or connectedness, all of which are strongly determined by soul origin. Souls that have come from a reality outside of this one may not be compatible with the natural energies of this place. They may also operate at a much higher frequency than is typical to this place, thus accounting for higher energetic “metabolisms”. Furthermore, foreign souls often lack the connection to the Source that sustains souls that are native to this place. This is why you will very frequently see a high concentration of psi-vamps who are also Otherkin. Illness, damage to the subtle body, or intentional alterations can also cause psychic vampirism. Of these last three, illness and subtle body damage are generally only temporary, though the subtle body often heals in terms of lifetimes, not just years.
Right and Wrong
So now let’s address ethics. If each and every one of us naturally takes energy at some point in our existence, when is it actually wrong?
I’ve divided attitudes and applications of psychic vampirism up into five main areas that fit upon an ethics continuum. We have Darwinian Vampirism, Robin Hood Vampirism, Pragmatic Vampirism, Sustainable Vampirism, and Vegetarian Vampirism. Let’s take a brief look at each.
Adherents of Darwinian Vampirism hold that taking energy is a right. This is pure survival of the fittest. Darwinian Vampires do not ask for energy – they simply take it because they can. This can include individuals who take energy out of legitimate need as well as those magickal workers who have learned techniques for the taking of energy.
All right. If an ethical choice acknowledges the rights of the individual while also acknowledging the rights of others as individuals, then what can be said of the ethics of Darwinian Vampirism?
This is the least ethical attitude on vampirism. These are the people who attack you at clubs and other public places without provocation, and they are the very visible minority that gives the rest of us a bad name. I do not endorse Darwinian Vampirism, and in fact, I have devoted many years to combating this attitude within the community.
Robin Hood Vampirism
The next approach to psychic vampirism is Robin Hood Vampirism. Here you rob from the rich to sustain the poor. Robin Hood vampires don’t take from just anyone. They target people who have an abundance of energy, justifying this through the notion that these people have “more than enough” and won’t really miss it in the long run.
Weighing the good of the individual against the good of others to find the balance of the “greatest good”, what do you think of the ethics of Robin Hood Vampirism?
Otherkin and other high-energy Awakened are frequently targeted by Robin Hood vampires. But this is hardly justification to “steal” from you, as you are no more responsible for your energy largesse than a psychic vampire is responsible for their need. While “theft” from those with an abundance of energy can be justified in truly extreme circumstances, such circumstances are in fact rare and typically this approach is just an excuse to victimize others.
Next up is Pragmatic Vampirism. This is all about grey areas. The basic goal of a Pragmatic Vampire is to feed only from willing and capable donors. However, the Pragmatist acknowledges that some circumstances give a vampire no other choice but to feed from someone without their permission or suffer terribly him or herself. Self-sacrifice is balanced against infringement upon others.
Again, if an ethical choice acknowledges the rights of the individual while also acknowledging the rights of others as individuals, what can be said of the ethics of Pragmatic Vampirism?
When a Pragmatic vampire has no source outside of unwilling targets, they engage in a weighing of needs. The Pragmatist will consider the potential discomfort of the target, their likely recovery time, as well as the invasion of privacy constituted by psychic attack. Next, the Pragmatist considers his own discomfort and potential loss of well-being if no energy is forthcoming. Further factors include the danger the psi-vamp places himself in as well as those around him if his need deepens, as well as the likelihood that an opportunity for consensual feeding will present itself within a certain window of time.
All these considerations are weighed against each other, and the ultimate decision differs from case to case based on the balance of needs.
After the Pragmatist comes the adherent of Sustainable Vampirism. Sustainable Vampires make the “noble sacrifice” of enduring hunger and privation in order to protect others from their needs. Practitioners of Sustainable Vampirism will feed only upon consenting donors even though these are rare and hard to come by. When donors are not available, Sustainable Vampires will limit themselves to ambient feeding, a technique which draws in the loose, free-floating energy given off by crowds. This energy is plentiful but not very sustaining, and over a long period of time, it fails to support anything more than minimal functionality.
Given that ethics seeks to find the greatest good for both the self and all others involved in a situation, what can be said about Sustainable Vampirism?
There are two main problems with Sustainable Vampirism. One, consenting donors are very rare. This leaves most Sustainable psi-vamps to feed only upon ambient energy. This is the second problem. While ambient energy will suffice for basic survival, this comes at a high cost of mental, spiritual, and physical well-being and functionality. This means the follower of Sustainable Vampirism protects the rights of others at costly sacrifices to themselves.
Vegetarian Vampirism (also, The Reluctant Vampire)
This is the complete ideological opposite of Darwinian Vampirism. In this schema, taking energy is seen as being fundamentally wrong. The Vegetarian Vampire will not take from sentient beings (a.k.a. sentients) – willing or otherwise. Frequently, this includes ambient energy as it ultimately has its source from sentients.
Given that abstinence in psi-vamps eventually brings about very real, and sometimes debilitating, physical ills, what can be said of the Vegetarian approach to vampirism in terms of the greatest good?
Vegetarian Vampires struggle against their nature and take the high road of abstinence. The problem with this of course is that vampirism is a part of some beings’ natures, just as some animals are meant to be carnivores. Vegetarian Vampires open themselves up to a host of physical, mental, and spiritual problems. It is not uncommon for a vampire who abstains entirely from feeding to be hospitalized for these problems. While an abstaining vampire will probably not die from lack of energy, they most certainly compromise the quality of their life.
If you are still of the opinion that a psychic vampire should “do the right thing” and sacrifice their needs for the protection of others, there is another consideration that must be added to the equation. As mentioned before, in true psychic vampires, a need for energy is inherent and their ability to take energy can be exercised whether they are conscious of this or not. If a psychic vampire does not consciously feed, then at some point when their need becomes great enough, survival instincts will kick in.
What does this mean? This means that whether they intend to or not, a psychic vampire who is in deep need will suck in energy indiscriminately from their environment. Anyone they come into contact with will be fair game, and since there is no conscious exercising of this intake, there is also no conscious control. Starving psychic vampires will unintentionally dream-walk to others, especially those they have a significant emotional, mental, or energetic connection to, and they will also pull energy down through any connections or links they have to others.
Essentially, a starving psychic vampire becomes an energetic black hole, and as nature abhors a vacuum, any person the vampire has contact with will have energy taken away in order to fill this.
Thus, as noble as they might sound, Sustainable Vampirism and especially the more severe Vegetarian Vampirism are actually short-sighted approaches to ethical behavior. In the short term, they serve the “greatest good,” but in the long term, this service falls apart. Control over a potentially destructive habit is only worthwhile as long as it can be maintained, and if a particular approach puts you in danger of losing control, then the ethics of that approach are compromised.
Conclusion: the Middle Path
As defined at the outset of this presentation, an ethical choice acknowledges the rights of the individual while also acknowledging the rights of others as individuals. Ethical behavior, then, is essentially a balance between selfishness and selflessness that allows for the greatest benefit and protection of all involved.
Through different periods of my life, I have tried all five of these approaches. Darwinian and Robin Hood Vampirism trample the rights of others, while Vegetarian and Sustainable Vampirism sacrifice the rights of the self. Although self-sacrifice has long been forwarded by our culture as the most noble of ideals, when applied to practical reality, it remains an ideal only. Self-sacrifice devalues the worth of the self just as purely selfish behavior devalues the worth of others as individuals. This leaves us with the Middle Path, that of the Pragmatist Vampire, a path which I support and currently uphold.