Monday, April 5, 2010

Still More on Paying for Spirituality: a conversation on Alchemical College

Here's an exchange between yrs. truly  and a poster on the Yahoo group Alchemical College which I think some might find interesting.  Soror MX took offense to my earlier post, stating "i don't think it's appropriate for you or anyone else to lecture me on where i should be helping."

My response follows: in the original posting I used the name on her e-mail address. She has since expressed that she wishes me to use her magical name "Soror MX" in any further responses to her. Accordingly, I've removed her given name but have left everything else intact.

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For me the question is not, "Did the community cause Isaac's problems?" The question is "what is the community going to do about Isaac's problems -- and, by extension, the problems other Pagan elders are facing?
i see this as more of a societal issue than a pagan one. i'd like to see all elders a bit better supported by family and community, not just pagan ones.
If we are going to be a "pagan community" then we need to act like a pagan community, and part of that involves taking care of our members in need. I agree with you that our social safety net is woefully inadequate. That's the reason we need to start creating our own safety nets.
why assume i'm not?
but again, my focus is more on folks in my immediate family and community who need help. all of us have limited resources and have to make hard decisions about where to expend 'em. i don't think it's appropriate for you or anyone else to lecture me on where i should be helping.
When I posted this message, I didn't believe the words "Soror MX doesn't care about Pagan elders" or "Soror MX doesn't do enough for her community" appeared anywhere in what I wrote.   I'm puzzled as to why you would think a posting that went to a group with 1,000+ members was a lecture aimed specifically at you.  I suppose I could have included the disclaimer "I am using 'you' as the rhetorical you, not you, Soror MX, nor any of the other individual members of alchemical_college." Hopefully this message will clear up that misunderstanding: I've tried to make the distinction clearer in my response below.
I believe the Feri tradition involves classes for which payment is expected, and I know that RJ Stewart and Orion Foxwood (who follow a different Faery tradition) charge for their classes,
sure. there are all sorts of different traditions with different rules. most (at least as far as i've seen) have a different system of charges for their *own* (generally initiates) than for the general public, but that's also very individual. everyone will decide for themselves what they feel is worth paying for. what i disagree with is the notion that all elders from all traditions should be supported by everyone else.
Seeing as how I never said that, and in fact was rather specific in saying that "you should support YOUR elders," I am not sure where we disagree. And again, this is a rhetorical you, although I do think that you, Soror MX, should support the elders in your traditions. (It's nothing personal, as I think everyone reading this list, myself included, should do the same)
I don't see that as a problem because the fees charged are reasonable (if your spiritual development isn't worth the cost of a month's lattes at Starbucks, then why should you or the teacher waste each other's time?)
no need to get snotty, sir. this is a discussion, no?
In the case of the people I mentioned, the cost of their classes is approximately the same as the cost of a month's lattes at Starbucks. If you (rhetorical you, not you, Soror MX) don't feel that the teaching you are receiving is worth a month of lattes, then obviously the class would be a waste of your time. And what's more, it would be a waste of the teacher's time: if you don't feel their class is worth a month of lattes, chances are you (rhetorical you again) aren't going to be willing to put in the time to do the homework and actually put what you learn in the class.  It wasn't intended as snotty, just a simple statement of fact.

As far as fees go, I know that I do readings and classes on a sliding scale and am happy to accept barter in lieu of cash. I'm pretty sure that most of the other people I work with would be happy to make arrangements for interested people who are truly in need. It's not about getting rich: it's about a fair exchange for services rendered. And if you don't think that spiritual teaching is a service, then why are you (rhetorical you) spending your time doing that when you could be doing something more productive?

I should add that in my case I assume that when I am paid for my services I have a responsibility to give the best services possible. That means I have to teach the class to the best of my abilities, and give the clearest and most honest reading I can (not always easy when you have a client who doesn't want to hear what the cards have to say... and believe me, there are PLENTY of those to go around).

The difference between an honest worker and a charlatan, IMO, is that charlatans take your money and feel no obligation to give you what you paid for.
The point was not that you need to support Isaac Bonewits: the point was that we need to start supporting those elders whose teachings have touched our lives. If Isaac's work isn't that important to your personal or spiritual development, then by all means support someone else. But don't assume that you are entitled to the Wisdom of the Ages just because you are sincere and curious, and that you bear no obligation to those who choose to share their wisdom with you.
again with the 'tude. why do you feel you're entitled to lecture? i HAVE supported isaac. i've bought and paid for his books and i've spent money attending events he's put on. that doesn't entitle me to the wisdom of the ages (nor was it provided to me) and it doesn't entitle isaac to a retirement on my dime.
I find it interesting that out of the 1,000+ members on this list, you (Soror MX, not rhetorical you) seem to be the only one who read this as a personal attack. I also find it interesting that you keep focusing on Isaac Bonewits when I have said repeatedly that Isaac is only one elder out of many who have dedicated their lives to the Pagan community and who might deserve help in their time of need.  There's no need to defend your unwillingness to support Isaac. The issue was never about Isaac but about pagan elders in general, and the sense of entitlement which leads to the "you will teach us for free, you will counsel us for free, and you will devote your life to our spiritual development with no hope of any recompense." I am not sure why you are having such a hard time with that larger topic rather than the subtopic "does Isaac Bonewits deserve support from Soror MX?"
Once upon a time poets and philosophers were supported by wealthy patrons who allowed them to do their thinking and teaching without worrying about their material needs. Today they're expected to sell their wares in the marketplace -- and that means that they have to tailor their work to what the market will bear.
when poets and philosophers (and mages) are supported by wealthy patrons, their Work is also heavily biased in the direction of the interest of the wealthy patrons (hello, virgil!). it's a system that is still in place and still works, and has its pros and cons like anything else.
No system is perfect and of course patronage means that you are going to produce what your patron wants. But at least patrons recognized the value of what they were getting and were willing to exchange something for it. And the marketplace is a patron just as much as the Lord of Windemere or the Emperor: if you have to rely on ten thousand readers instead of a few devotees, you're going to have to tailor your work to suit those 10,000.

Whatever other flaws he may have had, Karl Marx was on to something when he said that human behavior could be explained in economic terms.
the only folks getting rich off teaching mysticism are the charlatans. the truly Wise are quietly getting on with life, some accumulating wealth and some not, but the wisdom they pass on is seldom attached to a price tag.
No, but the rent they pay is attached to a price tag, as is the food they eat, the medical care they receive and the car they drive to the classes they teach.  And I am naive enough to think that it's a mitzvah to help the truly Wise to carry out their work by supporting them in whatever way you can, to whatever degree you can. In fact, I might even say it's a moral obligation to do so. I am sorry if that makes you (both rhetorical you and you, Soror MX) uncomfortable. But it's my story and I'm sticking to it.
If we're not interested in supporting a dedicated clergy, or even offering any kind of assistance to our fellow Pagans in need, then we are going to find our best and brightest have a limited amount of time to dedicate to the Craft. Their spiritual life will by necessity be reduced to a hobby, and we're going to get less of their teaching, writing, and counseling as a result.
the best and the brightest have never been easily accessible. like the rest of us, they live their lives dedicated to their craft no matter how well it pays....or they choose not to. if financial constraints force a witch, mage or master to practice their Craft as a hobby, they're not someone i want to learn from anyway.
Then you'll be learning the Craft from people who are either independently wealthy or who are willing to live in poverty to share their teachings with you.  And I think that the community (including you, Soror MX) will be poorer for that.