The Rede states “As it harms none, do what you will.” In simple terms this means “do what you like as long as no one gets hurt, including yourself.”
The Threefold Law states that whatever energy one puts forth (in words, thoughts, and/or actions) will be returned after being multiplied by three.
The concept behind the Rede is not unique to Wicca. In fact, every other major religion teaches a similar ethic of reciprocity.
There are two reasons the Rede feels like truth to me. First, it guides one toward living a sacred life. If we view ourselves and all we encounter as sacred, we’re more likely to use the reverence that results as a basis for the decisions we make (decisions that would likely involve “harming none.”). Second, it’s based on the universal law of cause and effect (simply put, we reap what we sow). We can see evidence of this law all around us.
The Threefold Law does not resound as truth however. First, I see it as an unnecessary over-elaboration of the Rede. Second, in the words of attorney, activist, and well-known Wiccan Phyllis Curott,
“[The Threefold Law is] not ethics, [it]’s expediency. [It’s a] remnant of Biblical patriarchal thinking. It’s a rule based on punishment and fear. What it says is, if I do something wrong, I will be punished, and therefore I will behave. Expediency, self-interest, and this is the weak cousin of an ethical norm. It’s bad morality and it’s not the basis upon which we should conduct ourselves and our lives and our spiritual practices.”
(Expediency means basing current action strictly on a future desired outcome.)
I understand and accept that how I experience life is a direct reflection of the choices I make – I don’t need the Threefold Law hovering over my head to remind me. Also, when I do good I endeavor to do so based on genuine desire -not because I expect to receive a triple bonus of good in return.
It’s important for adherents of all religions to use discernment and to constantly ask questions. Digesting everything one reads or is told without first passing it through these filters is inconsistent with the value we as Wiccans place on personal responsibility.