The Questionable Ethics of Buying and Selling Souls

The Questionable Ethics of Buying and Selling Souls

Let's talk about the purchase and sale of souls tonight. Recently I offered to buy some people's souls on Twitter. I even wrote a contract and sent them $10 to sign it, after they gave me proof of ID.

Let me start by saying that while I 100% anticipated the very predictable response I've gotten to this whole little adventure (both in terms of people willing to sell and people upset by it), I'm a little surprised at how much it blew up. 

It's been an extremely fun experience so far in spite of the little battles it's dragged me into, and I'm learning a lot about how people feel about religion, souls, risk, and evil.

I did not anticipate how incredibly angry some people got, which was probably dumb on my part. 

Originally, this was a throwaway tweet (as most viral tweets are) and I put about 20 seconds of thought into it because I thought it would be funny to buy some souls and make people think about how they feel about metaphysics.

Then I spent 4+ hours writing the contract. 

That was mostly a for-fun exercise for myself. It involved a lot of thinking, "How would I try to get out of a deal with a demon?" and "What am I not thinking about that could screw me over here?"

I'm pretty proud of the results. The contract I wrote covers almost everything. 

I won't say that I didn't really expect people to sign it, because I did. People are notoriously bad at making decisions and understanding the possible Nth order effects of getting into contracts.

I myself have been accused of this today, and the accusation isn't wrong. 

But it was a calculated risk on my part, and that's kind of my thing anyway. Roll those metaphysical dice! I trust that my motives are pure and rooted in playfulness and love, so I'm not really too concerned about the consequences of purchasing souls. 

I mean, let's be real. If we're going by conventional social Christian morality, I've probably got plenty I was already going to hell for anyway. Or not! Because I was baptized Catholic and raised Lutheran, and I seem to recall that there's some salvation rules in play here. 

And frankly by Christian doctrine, we're all going to hell by default anyway, and we often sin without understanding that we're sinning, which is why Jesus had to come sort out our mess and give us an out. IDK, this heavily depends on YOUR flavor of Christianity. 

Which was another point I was trying to make with this little stunt! Your feelings about all of this are heavily influenced by your own beliefs. I've been both praised and attacked today by Christians, Atheists, Occultists, Rationalists, and many other worldview flavors. 

Some people thought this was horrifying and demanded I give the souls back. Some people thought it was childish (or foolish) and that I couldn't buy souls in the first place, but the Atheists and Christians differed as to why. Some people called me a grifter (despite me paying the sellers). 

Many, MANY people wanted to argue the finer points of contract law and most of them not only weren't lawyers, but hadn't even read the contract. The amount of times I had to type "READ THE CONTRACT" today was very tiresome. 

Of the lawyers who did read it, most of them seemed to be amused by the whole thing and seemed unsure at best as to whether it would hold up given my very careful provisions about choice of jurisdiction. 

The enforceability of it is kind of a silly concept to argue about anyway since the contract covers courts you have no possible way of knowing about and really comes down to how you feel about the transferability of souls, which is arguably even sillier to argue about. 

The number of extremely different VERY bold claims that were made to me today about the nature of souls and the nature of good and evil was amusing, considering none of you can speak authoritatively on these matters.

I'm content to let God sort this one out. 

That said, I suppose MY beliefs are kind of important to the discussion here because they'll probably shape how YOU feel about what's happened.

My metaphysical beliefs are, as I've always maintained, very loose, open, and based in curiosity rather than conviction. 

I do believe in some kind of extra-material soul-like essence analogous to what's being brokered by the contract, but I have very little concrete to say on the purpose or boundaries of it. I have no idea if its purpose is to be judged or recycled or what. I'm okay with that. 

If I didn't believe in souls, I'd have no business being on the buying side of this contract. It would be entered into in bad faith.

As for my beliefs, hopefully the Christians out there are slightly relieved to hear that they're heavily Christianity-flavored. 

This seems unfortunate for the one Satanist who sold me his soul (or perhaps fortunate depending on your POV), but on the whole I feel like these souls are probably better sitting in my care than in the care of the people who sold them to me. Probably. Maybe. 

I'd be lying if I said it didn't make the the tiniest bit nervous to be hanging onto these souls anyway, but I'm trusting in my non-harm loving-kindness intentions to do a lot of the heavy karmic lifting here. Your souls are (probably) safe with me as the steward. 

But the Steward (or Stewardess) of what, exactly?

Well, once again, this depends on your POV. If you think souls don't exist, I still bought the right to CLAIM I own their souls, which is tangible and material in the physical realm and has real-world value. 

If you think souls exist but they're non-transferable, then you're probably not too concerned about any of this (I hope). At best, I'm guilty of a little irreverence maybe, and as the scale of sins goes playful irreverence can't rank very high on the bad things list. 

It may even be a net positive considering how many people have re-evaluated their relationship with their spiritual side as a result of these conversations. I've already had two people tell me directly that they realized they were more attached than expected and back out. 

If you think the whole exercise is stupid because I tricked people into selling the ability to claim their souls and I'm some kind of grifter, I'd like to reiterate that this language was VERY CLEARLY spelled out in the contract and everyone who signed did so willingly. 

If you're just mad because you're a hardcore atheist and you think I'm a Christian trying to trick or scare people into what you think are stupid or damaging beliefs, I mean, okay... you can think that. But I'm not "trying" to do that either. I'm making no threats here. 

But things get a little more interesting if you're part of the crowd that believes in souls and thinks my contract is enforceable as to the transferability of ownership in souls. I think I saw the MOST hand-wringing from this crowd today, although articulating why was hard. 

A lot of people seem to think that selling your soul period is bad and dangerous and evil, but this is far from clear. Most of the cultural baggage we have around this arguably comes from the story of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. 

But to be clear, in spite of the flaming AVI and jokes about how I'm a clever occultist, I'm neither devil nor demon. I'm just a mostly well-meaning gal who lives in the desert and has a peculiar and at times dramatic sense of humor. 

If we look at historical deals with the devil (or demons), they tend to be described as "a pact between a person and Satan or a lesser demon. The person offers their soul in exchange for diabolical favors."

Well, I have no diabolical favors to offer--just the $10. 

And in fact, according to the terms of the contract, I don't HAVE to do anything with the souls I purchased. You could make an argument that as long as these souls end up in good hands or good states, I might have saved these people from far more sinister deals. 

There's even a healthy tradition of this in Christianity! We're often told to look to Christ as a role model. Christ literally purchased everyone's souls for God through his sacrifice. I don't know what you could call that but an exchange.

This is very differently obviously. 

But it's not at all clear to me that it's in any way evil and once again may in fact be a net good. Your squeamishness around this, to the degree that you have any, comes from the idea that selling your soul is bad when in fact the buyer seems much more important to me. 

Now there's an argument to be made here that maybe it's a bad idea to let someone else control the rights to reselling your soul (what if I become very evil, after all?), but again, these souls were sold over Twitter for $10. Is it really that much more of a risk? 

Honestly this whole section is really just for the benefit of the religious people throwing me a bunch of nervous side-eye and to try to limit the damage if this discussion wanders over to mainstream religious Twitter, and I don't know why I'm even trying to mitigate that. It's hopeless if it happens.

And ultimately none of this matters, because regardless of how you feel about it I either have stewardship of these souls now or I don't.

I like to think that I do, so we're gonna go with that because it's fun, and you can choose to disbelieve that for any reason you like. 

Great. So you may as well quit this thread now if you think the whole thing is stupid or pointless and that all I did was send some people $10 for the right to claim I own their soul in the material realm. 

But if you agree that I own these souls (as I maintain) and can use them as I like (as the contract states), the next question becomes really interesting: What do I do with them?

Furthermore, what CAN I do with them?

This is a very fun question. 

We love trolley problems around here and I now have a classic trolley problem on my hands. A lot of people say I shouldn't do anything at all--that it's safest to just leave the souls where they are and not exert any influence over them whatsoever. 

However I know for a FACT that I own the soul of at least one serious, committed Satanist and some number of atheists committed enough to their worldview that they were willing to sell me their immortal souls for $10.

Is it ethical to leave these alone? 

It seems like it would be spiritually reckless not to try to protect these souls from the hellfire of damnation and that if I subscribe at all to a Christian framework, I ought to do everything in my power to get them redeemed instead (assuming they haven't already been). 

But through another lens, I'm hardly a model Christian over here. My "Christian-ish" views are muddled by a lot of Chaos Magick and occult practices and interest, which we know mainstream Christianity frowns heavily on. Merely being in my possession might put them at risk. 

I suppose I could transfer them to some other more proper Christian to dispose of appropriately in the eyes of God, but I have no intention of being as reckless as the people who sold me their souls. I have no way of knowing what's in someone else's heart. 

I'm also intimately familiar with the reality that people are often very different than the public persona they project, no matter how religious or holy it might seem. We're all sinners in this framework. So it would be reckless to do anything but do my personal best by them. 

On the other hand, it's very unclear to me how to use a soul at this point, and especially a soul other than my own. Any attempt to do anything with these souls would be fumbling around... not quite in the dark given my background, but definitely in shadows. 

Furthermore, by keeping them in my ownership, am I robbing these individuals of the chance to repent and seek salvation on their own terms? Maybe by purchasing their souls and attempting to cleanse or redeem them, I'm subverting God's plan. This seems bad. 

But maybe by abdicating my newly purchased responsibility and returning them to people who are arguably making bad decisions around the handling of their souls, I'm failing in my duty to God to deliver these souls into his hands when it may be within my power! 

It's not at all clear to me how I would do that, though. Can I do so without taking possession of them? What would possession entail? I arguably have the right but I'm not sure if I have the means. I might have the means!

Which brings us to another question... 

What might good and bad uses of these souls look like in the meantime while I mull on my responsibilities and the appropriate actions to take with regard to these souls?

Once again, we're dipping into weird, heavily belief-dependent metaphysics. 

Lots of people are encouraging me to make NFTs out of these souls or to launch a crypto coin around them, and that seems fun, but I don't feel at all comfortable selling the souls to anyone else. They're mine. I bought them. I intend to protect them and care for them. 

This doesn't preclude me from making NFTs around the art capturing the souls, though--I could certainly sell the contracts themselves or the right to CLAIM ownership of either the souls or the artifacts of my little stunt and just make the language very clear in the sale. 

Or I could sell them with much more stringent limits on what a purchaser could do with them that allows me the right to reclaim them easily or limit the possible harm that can be done to them, given that this framework assumes these contracts are binding anyway. 

I could lease them for specific purposes or use them for my own purposes.

I'm not sure what the karmic weight of imbuing someone's soul temporarily into a gem that I use to adorn a hat would be, but it sure seems fun. 

Nor is it clear that I'm doing anything especially evil (beyond irreverence again) if I choose to place the souls in objects around my house and charge them with specific duties.

Is this ridiculous? Is this witchcraft according to Christian tenets? I have no idea! 

I'm pretty sure no one else can speak authoritatively on this either since "purchase souls and turn them into cute vases for happy plants" isn't covered by the Bible to the best of my knowledge. 

In this instance, I'm not even doing anything especially questionable. I'm just moving a soul around without changing or harming it, really, according to the terms of the contract (as any karmic weight from the original owner's actions is still accruing to it). 

If you're having a horrified reaction to these musings, I doubt you're alone. It makes me feel a little weird too. But... shouldn't we consider these questions? They seem important if you believe in souls and an afterlife. Is moving a soul around bad? If so, why? 

From an occult perspective, is any of this especially dangerous? I'm not sure. I'm maybe "buying in" to the metaphysical scene slightly more than I was before, so you could argue that I've exposed myself to more spiritual attacks. But that was happening anyway. 

And again, it's not clear that spiritual attacks on me have any effect on the souls under my ownership anyway since I was clear in the contract that my use of the souls was the important bit. MY soul is distinct and separate from these souls in this framework. 

I'll have to think more about all of this to come to any solid conclusions about this, and it's unlikely I'll take any serious action with the souls any time soon without a lot of consideration, as much as I enjoy teasing people. 

No doubt some people will be horrified by all of this and will rush to attack me or try to coerce me into giving the souls back or giving them to someone else, and for those people (who clearly both believe in souls and the validity of the contract) I want to be very direct! 

Do not do this if you have any regard for the souls in question! If you acknowledge the validity of the contract and you acknowledge the reality of souls, then this clause from the contract is binding on me:

By attempting to force my hand via shame or threats or even annoyance, you may actually TIE my hands and prevent me from being able to take any appropriate action on the souls in question, which both makes things worse and gets YOU muddled in this moral maze as well. 

If you think that clause doesn't apply for whatever reason, you should assume the whole contract doesn't apply and you have nothing to worry about except maybe MY mortal soul... and that was already in question (probably) in your worldview, though not in mine. 

For all the people who haven't seen any of the other places I linked it, the contract in question is here for everyone to read.

This is exactly what everyone signed. 

At this time I have purchased exactly 11 souls, 9 men and 2 women, and I have 2-3 more open offers that I will honor if they come back with signed documents. I only intended to buy 10 but some people came back with signatures I didn't expect.

I'll likely end up with 13. 

This will be fun, as 13 is both an "unlucky number" and also the initial number of apostles Jesus rounded up, so there's some symbolism here for everyone who was complaining that 10 was a dumb number of souls to buy. 

This also happened to be my cubby number in school for years as a child.

Coincidence? I'm not sure. Do you believe in coincidences?

In any case, I pledge to do my best to do right by these 13 souls, although I'm also going to have some relatively harmless fun with this. 

I can't promise that you'll think it's harmless fun, but I assure you I'll do my best not to imperil these mortal souls and not to leave them any worse off than I found them.

I don't expect I'll be buying any more souls after this, and I have no intention of selling them. 

Finally, I hope everyone has taken important lessons away from today's events. Notably, even if you don't believe in souls, signing lengthy contracts regarding anything without consulting a lawyer is almost certainly a VERY BAD IDEA. 

Just because you got lucky with me (probably) doesn't mean you should go around taking risks like selling your soul, kids.

It's just not very smart for many, many reasons (and plenty of them are in no way spiritual). Lots of them are perfectly mundane. If you can't think of any downsides, I promise it's a lack of imagination on your part. I'd encourage you to read my piece on the possible risks of occult practice for curious materialists to get your brain in the right headspace.

If you insist on selling your soul anyway, even just to prove a point, maybe don't sign a contract, and especially not such a one-sided contract as the one I presented you with. It appears I need to do a whole series on why you shouldn't sign one-sided contracts. 

Please don't contact me for the purchase, salvation, or redemption of these souls and ESPECIALLY don't contact me if you just want to yell at me about this.

I don't care, and it's unlikely to have any impact here. It might even have a negative impact as I mentioned earlier. 

Relax, people. I'm fine. The souls are fine.