When it all boils down to it, when I'm thinking about doing some sort of controversial magick, there are two things I think about:
- How do I expect the spell to unfold, knowing that I will likely be a huge part of the catalyst, and am I OK with that?
- If I were to imagine opening up a newspaper and reading about a person doing what I want to do--using mundane means rather than magick--would I sympathize with them?
This is how I would interpret the Wiccan "threefold law." The threefold isn't some cosmic calculator that doles out good and bad times three; that's ridiculous. Good and bad are subjective. What's really happening is that regardless of whether or not what you're doing is immoral, you will likely be a major part of the catalyst, and so you need to really think about whether or not you would be OK with that.
To use my prior example, there are plenty of things I wish would happen to the person I originally cursed, but I cannot in good conscience use magick to ask for it--and I try not to hope too hard, either--because I am not willing to be a part of those things. The original curse, though, was totally worth it.
Number two is where we get into actual questions of ethics. As I said before, good and bad are usually pretty subjective. I could go on and on about whether or not individual types of magick are ethical, and if you ask me on these subjects I will be honest about how I feel, but unless I already have the rapport with a person to allow them to trust me on that point they're inevitably going to self-reference anyway. Number two is a manner of self-referencing.
See, it's easy to get into the habit of using magick as a replacement for unethical behavior. Psychologically it's easy to see murdering somebody as less ethical than casting a spell requesting somebody die, and there are plenty of people who cast coercive love spells without considering the parallels to rape culture. We wind up completely ignoring intent, and while intent is often a total cop-out in the mundane world, in the spiritual world intent is extremely important.
That's where my newspaper exercise comes in.
In my example, yes, I cursed somebody... but were I to see somebody--myself or someone else in my situation--go through the legal channels of getting the job done without magick, I would sympathize with that person. I would see nothing immoral or irrational about it. I paid for it. I'm happy with the result.
But then I think about the types of spells I cast when I was more interested in rebelling against Wicca than actually worried about ethics. I would have hated a person who did what I was requesting without magick and am eternally grateful that I did not have the mental acuity to make those spells actually work.
The point is, remember that when you cast a spell, you are sincerely putting out a request for something. Whether or not the spell works--or even whether or not any spells work--is irrelevant, ethically speaking, because that sincere request already says a lot about your character.