A most excellent article

Over on the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering blog site is an article written by a senior member of the Gathering. It addresses many of the same issues I raised in my article from last year, only with an added depth of perspective and a delightfully witty and eloquent style I could only hope to emulate.

You can read the article here.

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About des

Des is an Australian teacher, musician and writer.

7 responses to “A most excellent article”

  1. dgmattichakjr says :

    While I agree with the sentiment that magick cannot be purchased and that setting out to profit from teaching novices is not a generally accepted practice it also occurs to me that each of us must bear the cost of our own Great Work.

    From the perspective of a ceremonial magician this means renumerating the officers that attend to your initiations, contributing to the cost of maintaining a group and in most cases paying dues to any lodges that you are a member of.

    It remains true that you get what you pay for even in the world of magick and, as I was instructed at the beginning of my own Great Work; the cost of the Great Work is different for each of us and we should never so much as haggle over the price of a black hen’s egg if it is necessary for the work at hand.

    Perhaps part of the lesson for novices that have been stung by unscrupulous “teachers” is that they should choose their instructors more carefully. The lesson for the schiesters is that there really isn’t that much money in running a magick school.

    I also wonder at how many people that rail against paying for witchcraft lessons then go on to charge for things like Tarot readings? When is payment appropriate and when is it not, and who is to decide? The article in question seems to raise more questions than it answers.

  2. deryckrj says :

    “The universe will put you in the way of what you need, but it’s up to you to develop the first and most important of all the magical virtues – discrimination.” There is the first lesson to be learned from this article.
    Discrimination on the part of the seeker is, as the author points out, central to the study and practice of witchcraft. There have always been people out to make a buck from religion, but there are a hell of a lot more of them now. Witchcraft was once occult out of necessity, but now that’s not always the case. There is such an abundance of material available to seekers that they must be persistent, honest and intelligent if they hope to find their way to a true path. You can’t buy spirituality, only the appearance of it.

    I have pondered the ethics of selling spirituality at length, and at first I also saw what I thought was a hypocrisy, just as you have. I can’t help resolve this apparent disparity other than to say what I consider to be the Mysteries of my Craft are not goods and services, to be sold as one might a Tarot reading, lecture or book. “Just remember the Mystery is not now and never has been for sale, neither is the key to the Otherworld. Those people who seek to avoid commitment by turning the learning experience into a business transaction are exactly those who are grossly unsuitable for entry into the Craft” is the second lesson to be learned.

    I’ll add that it is not necessarily a financial loss at stake from these dodgy operators, either. There are far too many stories out there about people being physically, emotionally and sexually abused, for example, by these bastards. So as the author says, “A witch should live with joy and dignity in the world, doing clean, honest work, teaching those students the Gods send to her, loving our Mother Earth and serving Her in the best way possible. I was taught to aspire to a life of constant learning and the deep satisfaction that comes from doing a worthwhile task as well as you can.” That’s the third lesson.

    • dgmattichakjr says :

      Learning anything usually comes at a cost and perhaps the cost of learning to be discerning is to be ripped off by the unscrupulous. How much of the material that seekers can spend their hard earned cash on offer real value for that money? Are the celebrity witches that publish books full of inaccuracies less unscrupulous than someone who offers high priced instructions in magick? And WHY will the universe put you in the way of what you need? Don’t the Gods help those that help themselves?

      From my own perspective as a Thelemite the cost of the Great Work is not an issue. The Book of the Law is very clear- “All must be done well and with business way”. Thelemite temples are intended to be operated with a mind to building equity, students should be charged equitably for the services that are rendered to them. Magick instruction has to offer value for money and the temple is to operate using good business principals aimed at making a profit and building equity. Aiwass seems to have understood that in order to endure in the material world a spiritual practice must also attend to its material needs. You still can’t buy spiritual enlightenment but you can pay for the chance to be guided towards it.

      I don’t see that the secrets of any spiritual path have a greater or lesser value than something like a Tarot reading. In order to read the cards I have to expend my spiritual energies just as teaching a student the art of magick requires a spiritual commitment from the teacher. Shouldn’t the teacher be remunerated for their time and effort just as a diviner would be? If I take the time to pass on what I have learned shouldn’t there be something in it for me? My only business is to do my True Will so why should I care if anyone else becomes enlightened? Is the time of a teacher worth so little?

      In a recent conversation on this topic the idea that for many making payment for something equates to the value that they give it. This is especially the case with novices who are often drawn to magick in order to give them some sort of perceived power over the material world. Will they value their instruction less if it is free? How else will they learn the true value of the Great Work if they don’t first see the illusory value of money?

      People are ripped off, physically abused, emotionally tormented and all the rest in every theater of life not just in occultism. Most of the people that I know who are offering workshops and magick lessons don’t make a lot of money, if any, out of it and neither do they set out to abuse their students. As in other areas of society the ‘bastards’ are in a minority and their lack of value for money services earns them the same reputation as any business that overcharges and offers sub standard service.

      I also question what is meant by ‘clean honest work’? Who will determine that for me, and by what yardstick will it be measured? Why is joy inequitable with acquiring wealth? I find that these argument unnecessarily conflate the expenditure that is incurred by students of magick with unscrupulous operators and I don’t see that anyone should expect to be instructed for free. Spirituality that seeks to avoid understanding money is ignoring a large part of what it is to be human and real spiritual awareness extends to even the most mundane of monetary transactions or it is only partial enlightenment.

  3. Mary Lancashire says :

    And therein lies again the great divide between the Thelemite Ceremonial and the Witch, pointing out once again the differences between the two paths, something you seem loathe to accept time and again. I don’t think the author implied that joy cannot be found with wealth acquisition. We all like money, it makes life a shit load easier. However, our ethics clearly differ to that of your own stance. We don’t think it acceptable to buy spirituality-because we didn’t purchase it to begin with. We share our teaching and learning in a reciprocal arrangement. We are always both the student/mentor. You, by all accounts in your path are bound by “From my own perspective as a Thelemite the cost of the Great Work is not an issue. The Book of the Law is very clear- “All must be done well and with business way”. Thelemite temples are intended to be operated with a mind to building equity, students should be charged equitably for the services that are rendered to them”.
    We, are not a business. We are not in the business of acquiring equity, we are not in the business of acquiring equity by charging students for instruction. Old Craft, Witchraft, Wicca, Paganism forms a collection of individuals and groups who form (for easier reference of terms in your language) a not for profit organisation not a corporation with shareholders. Our path is not your path. Alicia was referring specifically to Craft David. NOT Thelema- “If I take the time to pass on what I have learned shouldn’t there be something in it for me? My only business is to do my True Will so why should I care if anyone else becomes enlightened? Is the time of a teacher worth so little?” This is a typical statement of yours-which in Thelema and your path you are entirely welcome to have. Furthermore should your students accept this as the agreed terms in order to follow their True Will so be it.
    But it isn’t ours. We derive something entirely different and view ‘whats in it for me’ as a an extremely different beast.
    You also said: “Spirituality that seeks to avoid understanding money is ignoring a large part of what it is to be human and real spiritual awareness extends to even the most mundane of monetary transactions or it is only partial enlightenment”
    How tragic! And how misinterpreted! I would re-read Alicia’s article once again to apprise yourself of the meaning written therein. Surely as you have known and lived with the author so well over 30 something years your interpretation couldn’t possibly be so divergent and warped??
    This article asks people to examine their motivations and pursuits. It asks people to learn the art of discrimination and discernment. By understanding monetary exchanges and money itself, I am largely informed as a human? What rubbish!
    Money does not open my mind. Money does not motivate me to seek understanding or question my place in the World nor discover my talents. It motivates me in as much as I require a certain amount to cover certain costs of living. Yet if I lost all money or fiscal return would I cease to understand myself as a human? Hardly.

    • dgmattichakjr says :

      At the risk of inflaming the issue still further, I never meant to imply that witches should charge for lessons in becoming a witch but at the same time the consumerism that is often derided as a refutation of the value of new age spiritual practices has become the focus of serious study in recent years. The article actually said;
      “Prosperity Consciousness” – what a disgusting concept this has become when applied to the buying and selling of spiritual guidance or development” which is a fine sentiment but it doesn’t represent the zeitgeist of the modern spirituality that is emerging. In The Spiritual Turn and the Decline of Tradition: The Spread of Post-Christian Spirituality in 14 Western Countries, 1981–2000 Dick Houtman and Stef Aupers make the observation that:
      New Age is like a religious supermarket. All aspects of religion . . . are put together on a heap and people can choose what is best for them at that moment in time. And that’s the good thing about the New Age world—that nobody claims to have a monopoly on wisdom. Whereas the old religions say “We possess the absolute truth” and “This is the only way to God”, we argue: “There are ten thousand ways” and “There are as many ways as there are people.” My point in bringing up Thelema at all was to point out that while the practice of selling the Craft might not be acceptable to traditional witches the spiritual environment has changed in the 30 years mentioned in the essay.
      Another point that this raises is that not all of the people that call themselves witches belong to or are interested in the traditional path of witchcraft and the various spirituality workshops that are available are exactly what they are looking for. According to the report that Helen A Berger presented to the AAR last year, academic studies have shown that the number of Pagans who claim to practice alone has grown from 51% to 79% in the past decade and that Parallel to the growth of solitary practitioners is the increase in people who state that their primary form of practice is Eclectic Paganism, which is the most common designation, with 53% of the respondents claiming this designation.  Additionally, 22% state that they are spiritual but dislike labels. It is clear from the work of Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West, that the general occultural influences of new age spirituality are being combined with a consumerism that is at the root of Houtman’s “religious supermarket”.
      My point is that while these sorts of courses in magick and spirituality may not be suitable to traditional witches (like the author) they are a valid part of the world of witches outside of the traditional circles. In fact they seem to often take on the same form of socializing that was once a part of being in a church community.
      I am not arguing that everybody that sells spiritual lessons is offering value or enlightenment, quite the contrary, but at the same time there are far more genuine people trying to share their spiritual knowledge, and even the most enlightened of us has to eat. I am aware of many operators that are just in it for the bucks but they are far fewer than the essay would have you believe.

      While the instructions of the Book of the Law seem to indicate a focus on material things I seriously doubt whether there are any genuine Thelemite groups offering instruction for sale at the moment. I do know that the long established lodges, especially AGAPE Lodge in Vancouver, has accumulated revenues which I believe that they use to fund new editions of the Holy Books of Thelema (for retail sale I would imagine). It was the prosperity of this temple that generated the capital to found other temples as well. Of course originally their revenue was tied up with keeping the Beast in Champagne and Cocaine (but that’s another story).

  4. deryckrj says :

    I think it’s safe to say, at least from your description, that there appears to be a focus upon materialism in the Thelemic model of education that is often regarded as antithetic to witchcraft. But if an agreed remuneration for the efforts of those people involved is an established element of a tradition then so be it. So long as it’s consensual, go for gold. At least as far as traditional Wicca is concerned (which is my experience) the only time money is exchanged is to cover costs, but never to the financial benefit of individuals or groups.
    “If I take the time to pass on what I have learned shouldn’t there be something in it for me?” I don’t know if “should” comes into it. Do you get something out of it otherwise? As a teacher in the education system I believe I *should* be financially rewarded for my efforts. I paid to gain my qualifications and I have entered into an agreement with my employer regarding the conditions of my work. In teaching the Craft, it is entirely different. My time is not worth any less, but the rewards are not of a fiscal nature. If a student is unable to see the value of their spiritual progression in terms other than monetary worth then I think they might be a little too shallow to enter into a learning agreement with me. I can’t speak for the author of the original article, of course.
    “I also question what is meant by ‘clean honest work’? Who will determine that for me, and by what yardstick will it be measured?” What is meant by ‘clean honest work’ should be self-evident, and shouldn’t require another’s determination or definition. One’s personal ethics are the yardstick, as in everything. Of course that leaves things open, to some extent, but that’s where discretion comes into play again.

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  1. Buying Enlightenment « Dgmattichakjr's Blog - January 23, 2013

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